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Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Sophisticated Soul of Billy Strayhorn: Song of the Week

Lush Life
by Billy Strayhorn, 1949

I used to visit all the very gay places,
Those come what may places.
Where one relaxes on the axis
Of the wheel of life
To get the feel of life
From jazz and cocktails.

The girls I knew had sad and sullen gray faces
With distingue' traces
That used to be there, you could see where
They'd been washed away
By too many through the day.
Twelve o'clock tales.

Then you came along with your siren song,
To tempt me to madness.
I thought for a while that your poignant smile,
Was tinged with a sadness of a great love for me.
Ah yes, I was wrong
Again I was wrong.

Life, is lonely again
And only, last year
Everything seemed so sure.
Now life, is awful again
A trough full of heart
could only be a bore.

A week in Paris will ease the bite of it.
All I care is to smile in spite of it
I'll forget you, I will
While yet you are still
Burning inside my brain.

Romance is mush
Stifling those who strive.
I'll live a lush life in some small dive.
And there I'll be while I rot with the rest
Of those whose lives are lonely too.

Johnny Hartmann and Coltrane's recording of Strayhorn's musically lush "Lush Life" ranks among the best, if not the best.

The expression of melancholy in art is easily one of the most valid. Certainly at this time of year it is apt to be right there when one least expects it. The catharsis afforded by Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" is sweet and sad expression at its sophisticated best. Strayhorn is one of the more important artistic vocies of the twentieth century. Pictured is the cover of David Hajdu's loving biography of Ellington's associate. Hajdu wrote for Jazziz in 1996: "Strayhorn lived in the singularly gigantic and mobile shadow of Duke Ellington, a hiding place so accommodating that Strayhorn could do a great deal there in the dark and elude sight in comfort ... I was ultimately engaged by the extraordinary story of Strayhorn's life -- a certain secret history of not only jazz but also gay culture, Harlem life, Paris and the civil rights movement."

Strayhorn, one of the musical giants of the last century which itself will stand up -- certainly -- in history as one of the musically significant, was a black, gay man. His close relationship with Lena Horne brought forth from her this: "He became my brother, but I also fell in love with him, and he loved me ... I never knew a man like that ... There will never be another man like that. It's so hard to talk about him, but it's so good to remember. People need to remember."

It is good to remember via the sweetly sad, beautiful, sophisticated soul of his music that he was one of the world's greatest secret angels. That beautiful secret need not be a secret anymore.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saturday Beefcake: Lentils, Angels and the New Year

Jacob who became the father of Israel by virtue of a bowl of lentils, which he'd been preparing, and used to buy his elder brother's birthright (and, by the way, went on to wrestle an angel) filtered that patriarchal event through many centuries so that the food became an Italian New Year's tradition: a required item on the New Year's menu -- Eve or Day, their shape brings to mind tiny coins and people eat them in the hope that they won't want for anything for the coming year.

Lentils are very versatile, and, not to mention, nutritious. Therefore, two recipes are offered -- one more traditional than the other along with young gentlemen who seem to be quite versatile themselves. While it wouldn't be right to refer to them as nutritious, it seems they may know a thing or two about nutrition and wrestling angels

Zuppa di Lenticchie (Lentil Soup)

2 tablespoons fruity Olive Oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 small fennel bulb, diced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup lentils, rinsed, etc.
2 teaspoons sea salt
pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1. Heat half the olive oil in large pot.
2. Add garlic, onion and fennel. Saute until soft [5 minutes]
3. Add the broth and lentils. Bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are tender [about 45 minutes]
5. Serves 6 people. Drizzle olive oil over each serving and garnish with fresh basil.
[Romano or parmesan cheese]

Lentil Tapenade

One Cup Lentils
20 ounces of Broth
Chopped Garlic, 2 tablespoons
Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, dried and slivered
Aromatic Olive Oil
Anchovy paste
Capers, three tablespoons
Olives, any Mediterranean type, pitted, chopped, 1/2 cup
Fresh Lemon Juice, two tablespoons
Sea salt and ground pepper
Chopped Italian Parsley
One Lemon Slice

1. Rinse and drain the lentils
2. Simmer the lentils in the broth
with the garlic and tomatoes
in a large saucepan from 30-45 minutes
or until they are cooked
3. Place the saucepan ingredients
in a processor for about 30 seconds,
scraping the sides several times.
4. Add the oil, a couple drops of the anchovy paste,
capers and chopped olives, lemon juice and salt/pepper to taste.
Continue processing until smooth, once again scraping down the sides.
5. Add 1/2 cup of the parsley; pulse several times to blend.
6. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with lemon and parsley.
7. This is for crostini, or fresh bread, or pita chips and the recipe is a variation of Julee Rosso's who probably knows a lot more about nutrition than wrestling angels.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Van Hansis and the Massacre of the Innocent

Soap Opera Weekly's latest had a blurb about Mr. Hansis and The Laramie Project, which pointed readers to SoapOperaWeekly.com to read it, but it's a bit difficult to find. This came up, was stolen and is reprinted here:

Luke and the Laramie Project

By Mala Bhattacharjee

As the World Turns' Van Hansis (Luke) took part in a special reading of Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project's play The Laramie Project in New York on Dec. 1. Here, he opened up to Weekly about the project and how Luke Snyder is helping carry forward the legacy of Matthew Shepard, whose 1998 murder in Laramie, Wyo., became a symbol in America’s fight against hate crimes.

"I'm shocked that I was asked to be a part of it," admits Hansis. "It's incredibly humbling. One of our publicists, Alan (Locher), called me one day and said, 'Would you like to do a reading of The Laramie Project with Moises Kaufman?' I was like, 'Uh, hell yeah, I would!'

Hansis is happy to explain his enthusiasm. "Kaufman, the director, and his theater company, the Tectonic Theater Project, went to Laramie after Matthew was murdered and interviewed hundreds of people. From those interviews, they formed a play. Everything that's said onstage is something that was said to them or something that was said on the news."

"This play is now the second most-produced play in America and it's one the most-produced plays in high schools now," cheers Hansis. "It's a testament to how art can change the world."

Those in New York that week had the chance to see an all-star lineup alongside Hansis at the Town Hall Theater in Times Square, including singer/songwriter Cyndi Lauper, Ugly Betty's Judith Light (ex-Karen, OLTL), Weeds' Mary Louise Parker and Dawson's Creek's Joshua Jackson (ex-Pacey). “The whole event is being hosted by Tipper Gore," noted Hansis. "I'm really excited to meet Mary Louise Parker, because I think she's fantastic, and Weeds has been my favorite show," he grins.

But star power and critical acclaim are not at the heart of The Laramie Project. "Matthew Shepard's story is one of the stories that changed the '90s as a decade and changed the world," reminds Hansis. "It would've been his 30th birthday on Dec. 1. It's a poignant day and it's all to benefit the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which his parents set up to promote tolerance and acceptance, especially with the gay, lesbian and transgender community."

"One thing that Judy Shepard (Matthew's mother) told me when I met with her was that there have been hundreds upon hundreds of other hate crimes since Matthew Shepard and they never get national recognition. Without recognition, there's not going to be change."

Hansis does his own part to promote recognition by playing daytime's only gay male core character. "I really feel that Luke's storyline has been groundbreaking in daytime television," he shares. "From the response I’ve gotten, Luke has become a very loved character on the show despite his sexuality, which a lot of people might have problems with. They've gone forward in telling the first part of his 'coming out' story, and that has really opened up a lot of people's eyes. I hope they'll continue to show Luke as a full, rounded person."

And the significance of that is unmistakable. "A very important part of The Laramie Project, and ATWT does this as well, is that it shows a community. In everybody's community, there are gay people. It's a fact," states Hansis. "You can't turn your back or try to hide from something just because you don't like it. People need to find a way to embrace each other and find out that, as different as people are, everyone in essence is the same."

Hansis looked forward to joining the likes of Stockard Channing (The West Wing) onstage. "I can't wait to do it," he laughed. I'm going to be so nervous, but I'll play it cool. Soaps are a great teaching mechanism for when you get something handed to you and you've got to do it as quickly as possible. Maybe I'll have a leg up on all these non-soap actors!"

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Massacre of the Innocents

Today in the Roman Martyrology is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. According to legend, it is when King Herod, the King of Israel, sent out his troops to slaughter all the male babies who might grow up to have ambitions forhis throne. It was his response, according to scripture, to the news that the messiah had been brought to light.

It seems that the inspired scriptures of the Judaeo-Xtian tradition once again reverted to a bloody story to get its point across that Yahweh's or Adonai's chosen people were here to take advantage of who they were. One more chapter in the joyous narrative of the Xmas story -- the slaughter of innocent infants. One more chapter in the narrative of those in power taking the lives of others to remain in power -- not unlike waging an unecessary war.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

And The Word Was Made Flesh: John the Beloved

Et Verbum Caro Factum Est et Habitavit in Nobis. And the Word was Made Flesh and dwelt among us. The Word that came forth from God was made Flesh. Exegesis of ancient philosophy and thought places much emphasis on the power of the word. The Word that came from God took form in humanity. That’s what Jesus is supposedly all about: God and humanity as one and the same entity.

John, the Beloved Disciple is the attributed author of the above quote which is essential to the Liturgy of the Word in Roman Catholic ritual, and is part of that ritual on Xmas. John was the one whose head rested on the chest of the Lord during the Last Supper. John was the one to whom the Lord entrusted his mother when he was dying. John is usually depicted as a young handsome man. He is the Beloved above and beyond the rest of the disciples.

A type of intimacy was attributed to and recorded about John's relationship to Jesus. Let it be said here and now that Jesus Christ, according to the accepted Sacred Gospels, one of which was accordingly written by John the Beloved, said absolutely nothing that directly condemned same sex relationships.

The theology that John’s writings exhibit has to do with the Divine inhabiting and becoming flesh and eventually overcoming the mortality of the flesh. It is the cornerstone of Xtianity.

It is John who is the only disciple who survived martyrdom and lived to a ripe old age. It is John who had numerable mystical visions that gave the world the Book of the Apocalypse, a.k.a. Revelations. It is John who points the way to overcoming the ravages of the Beast upon humanity. It is John and his relationship with the god-made-man that may very well point the way to acceptance of all human beings being exactly what God made them in all their glory.

John’s Feast is December 27th and celebrated during the Octave of Xmas.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Tuesday De-Briefing: Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

In considering the possibilities for the second Tuesday De-Briefing, a distinct possibility was one of the first undergear kings of the post-modern era, the exceptional Jack Scalia, whose lauds have been sung more than once in this WebLog. As Chris Stamp on All My Children, he was a major protagonist as La Lucci's Erica Kane's love interest and, therefore, as such his stay in Pine Valley was all too brief. He was succeeded by Walt Willey when his Jackson Montgomery took over the current male role in the Erica Web. Now it seems Mr Willey is soon to journey down Scalia's path. Willey might have been considered as a candidate, but shots of him in briefs are very difficult to find. It was thought that Scalia's near nakedness might just have to do.

It is certain that Mr Scalia is extremely worthy of de-briefing throughout every stage of his life and as yet one more tribute to his worthiness two of his ads are pictured. However, to remain au courant the focus shifted to the real life Soap Opera of the NFL after the Eagles' inspiring victory over the Cowboys' yesterday. Brian Westbrook of the Philly team used the words "enthusiasm and fire" in regard to Jeff Garcia, the Eagles' starting quarterback. He is, therefore, this week's candidate for the debriefing.

In researching OutSports.com, this tale was retrieved about Mr Garcia when he played for San Francisco:

[Jim Buzinski of Outsports.com]

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia has become the latest pro athlete to publicly declare his heterosexuality.

"I've heard the rumor myself that I'm gay," Garcia said in an interview with Matt Maiocco, 49ers beat writer for the Santa Rosa Democrat conducted the week of the 49ers' final game of the regular season.

"That is not the case. I've had girlfriends in the past and I do want to be married some day. ... Somebody saying it obviously doesn't have any clue as to who I am as a person and, secondly, speaks from a sense of having jealousy for what I've been able to attain as a person and is trying to knock me. Well, they're not knocking me."

There has been much speculation as to Garcia’s sexual orientation since he became the team’s starting quarterback in 1999. Most of it centers on his mannerisms and voice, which have set off the gaydar of many a fan. Maiocco interviewed Garcia as part of a feature on longtime 49ers trainer Lindsy McLean, who came out publicly in the newspaper and in “ESPN The Magazine.” Garcia willingly discussed the gay rumors, Maiocco told Outsports.

"I don't know if it's how I speak or what it is about me that presents that sort of label, but I don't know how many times I have to be out in public with a girlfriend to stop that from being said," Garcia, 34, said.

"Just because an individual in his 30s hasn't found true love and, yes, there are opportunities to date but it also forces you to be more particular. In so many ways, you become more adamant about finding that right person and not allowing yourself to open up to just anybody.

Garcia said he has heard derogatory words, apparently of the homophobic variety, hurled at him in opposing stadiums, especially Oakland and Philadelphia. He also said the rumors have swirled around him since his days in the Canadian Football League.

Garcia appears to be at the forefront of a nascent trend of jocks saying they’re heterosexual. In 2000, boxer Lennox Lewis, who lives with his mother and has a poodle, told a London paper that he's not gay. In 2002, New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza held a press conference to deny that he’s gay, following a blind rumor in the New York Post. And in January, Cleveland Indians minor league pitcher Kazuhito Tadano said he’s not gay, despite his appearance in a gay porn film.

If any other athletes wish to publicly declare their heterosexuality, drop us a line at Outsports and we’ll make sure the world knows.

It originated from Terrell Owens and the background can be found here, also at OutSports.

The latest chapter in this "lovers' quarrel," as it was once referred to, came last night when they played on opposing teams and Owens missed more than one pass. Perhaps Mr Garcia should have made a pass at him ... no, wait, that's not right.

Garcia has a magnetism that goes beyond male model beauty and when he said, "Merry Christmas, Philadelphia!" after last night's game, he won not only the hearts of his Philly fans who were in need of some good sports news, he also won the honour of being de-briefed. If only access were not denied, a locker room interview would have been most revealing.

We found a couple of great photos of him and it matters not what team he plays for. Let's see more of him. Let's de-brief Jeff Garcia!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Come Into the Light

As Above So Below

As Without So Within

Peace and Merry Be,


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Song of the Week

Winter Wonterland from Darlene Love and Phil Spector once again! What follows is part of Brian Rodger's Xmas Message from last year and the annual gratitude for all he does.

How We Do What We Do

Brian Rodgers is how we do it. Discovering Brian is one of the best things a body can do. Christopher Meloni discovered that early on when Brian created his award winning official website. Brian has blessed Column of Life with his magic touch. Brian is not only endowed with cyber magic he is only one of the best people in cyber town. The whys and wherefores of a personal relationship can be reduced to the concepts of goodness, kindness, humour and honesty. He doesn't even have to be in the same room with you.

The following is his Christmas message:

Remember how you used to get long Christmas letters from people detailing what had happened during the year? Well, this is the electronic version. Except it's not really all about me. Honest it's not.

Now, you have the option of skipping it altogether by quickly scrolling to the end and getting to the important thing right away. I guess that could be a Christmas present you might choose to open early.

However, you're not going to do that, are you.

What's (maybe not so) new

First, thanks to all who have enquired about my health. After getting the right medication mix, everything seems to be fine. However, it's a pain remembering to take everything and when. I now have these pill containers for various times of day, each day of the week. It's official - I have become my father. Still, I have to admit that with the blood pressure and diabetes under control I'm feeling the best I have in a long time.

Work is as hectic as ever, but I'm still enjoying it. There are times when my alarm goes off in the morning that I think, "Ya know, I could retire now and not wait 2 years," but I've learned not to listen to myself. Besides when I look out my window at home, the best I can hope for is to see the odd squirrel; at work, chances are it will be deer. What can be better than working in the middle of a forest? It's almost deserving of an opera - no, no, not "Hansel and Gretel".

... I really want to make it to join Giovanni for the AIDS Walk next year. He's been doing a great job raising money, but I figure he needs some friendly competition.

On the bright side, I haven't had to move this year. My raucous, inconsiderate, let's-party-at-3-in-the-morning upstairs neighbours are no longer around. Trust me, this old Victorian house wasn't built to take circuit party music. Neither, of course, was this old not-so-Victorian tenant.

... As most of you know, my web design hobby keeps me busy in my spare time. So ...

Giovanni's (and his ever-present companion Bernice Clifton's) Column of Life is the place for lots of actors' and musicians' photo pages, articles, opinions and musings, as well as an always up-to-date blog.

Christina's peaen to Gary Raymond chronicles an extensive career of films, television and theatre that has spanned 5 decades.

Chris Meloni's Official Home Page is my oldest site. That's not to say that it's stale or outdated, though. Chris continues strong as Stabler in "Law & Order: SVU" and this summer wowed theatre-goers and critics alike as the lead in Arthur Miller's "A View From The Bridge" at the Gate Theatre in Dublin

... Daniel Petronijevic's Unofficial Web Page. Yes, another actor, but this time a young Canadian whose portrayal of the troubled gay football player in "Playmakers" was perfect. He's not well known, but deserves to be.

Thanks to Gio for leading me to Michael Clay's Official Website. A man who follows his own path, this Austin-based singer/songwriter uses his music to explore his soul. And a delightful soul it is.

[Since that time our good admirable friend has magically put together grand sites for Matt Walton,Timothy Adams, Forbes March, Brian Halisay, Daniel Sunjata, Michael Lombardi, Alec Musser and Tristan Colton. There is no end to his magic and we appreciate him. Like the Wiccan dictum, "Merry Be."]

Merry Xmas, Brian. You are much loved.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday Beefcake: Sweet Things

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Fiercely Talented NC Winters

Experiencing NC in person is much like experiencing perpetual motion -- a rather handsome version of said motion, by the way. Creativity and energy go hand in hand within his persona. Having a gallery of his art on the main site was an easy decision to make. Supporting talented young people like Mr. Winters is definitely one of the purposes of this WebLog, among others. NC provided a mini-bio when providing us with the works we've displayed and these two sentences stand out:

"My art is figure-focused, as I love observing people; from the personal interaction to the study and love of the human form ... Trying to change the boundary between illustration and what art is considered fine or high has become a key to my art. I feel the terms are outmoded and in need of redefinition. While I don’t have the right answer, I feel obligated to shake up the concept in the pursuit of my message."

One of the last missives received from him lets the world know that he's having an art sale. It warrants a visit to his site go here

Shown here is one of his New York Xmas perceptions.

Happy. Happy. Joy. Joy
. [so to speak]

Ho' Ho' Ho'

Thank You, Televisionista

Another Xmas Present from ABC-TV and
Brothers and Sisters

"Absolute Hunk" Jason Lewis (Sex and the City) is joining ABC's Sunday night drama Brothers and Sisters as Chad Berry, a gay soap-opera actor who meets Kevin (Matthew Rhys). Sparks fly when Kevin realizes Chad is closeted and has a girlfriend.

We have seen two men (or women) fighting over a woman (or a man) many times on network television. Now, a man and a woman may clash over a man as Brothers and Sisters begins a new storyline on the January 14 episode "Sexual Politics"

ABC's official press release describes Chad as being "confused about his sexuality". The guys meet at a gym where Kevin undergoes rigorous "boot camp" style training. The storyline will run over 4 episodes and conclude on February 18 (ABC will air "Brothers and Sisters" reruns on January 28 and February 4).

Little is known about the outcome, but Kevin and Chad will have a full-fledged relationship including a passionate kissing scene.

Chad's girlfriend Michelle is played by Roxy Olin, the daughter of executive producer Ken Olin and the show's star Patricia Wettig (Holly).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Merry and Peaceful Yuletide to All

'Tis the shortest day of the year, yet it is out of the darkness that we celebrate and await the light.

We are forever on our way.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Doug Savant: Desperate House Husband

Left "Melrose Place" (1992) after six seasons because the network refused to allow the writers to explore his character Matt's love life, and left him with little to do on the show. In 1994, the network and producers cut Matt's kiss on the season finale in 1994 at the last minute after considerable ratings hype.

"During my first year on "Melrose," there was a great deal of pressure from the network (Fox TV) for me to out myself as a straight man. The producers of "Melrose" kept telling me I had to say publicly that I was a breeder. They said too many people assumed I was gay. I know the truth of my life, so I didn't have to play the network game. For three years I was the spokesperson for the AIDS rides (yearly cycle-thons) in California. I was flattered that people assumed I was gay. To me, that was an affirmation that I was doing my job."

A Christmas Present from ABC

Thanks to televisionista.net:

The show they thought would never last is coming back on January 7 and it is about to get even better and better. Brothers and Sisters returns as ABC adds 2 installments to bring the total episode order to 24. *On the January 7 episode "Family Day", the Walker family airs its dirty laundry in Justin's rehab group therapy session, and Kitty considers a tantalizing proposition from Senator McCallister (Rob Lowe). The episode airs following an all-new episode of Desperate Housewives; Tyler Posey returns as Gabriel Whedon.

Thanks to recent ABC schedule changes, and as a vote of confidence, ABC will air encore presentations of Brothers and Sisters every Friday at 9pm, starting January 12. This will, hopefully, give an even greater exposure to this remarkable show.

Furthermore, the writers of Brothers and Sisters have announced on their ABC.com blog "Bloggers and Sisters" that ABC has extended their total episode order to 24, making this drama one of the most prominent programs on ABC's schedule.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Tuesday De-Briefing: Alec Musser

There is one thing that contemporary daytime drama still gets right and that is maintaining their quotient of fetching young men. For our money, one of the fetchingest is Alec Musser, who has been making the effort for years and it has had some mighty fruition.

Pookie, this WebLOg's high tech expert and ever vigilant researcher, discovered some photos from Mr. Musser's past. In honour of Pookie's endeavours and Mr Musser's persistently flawless physique, hereby is initiated a new Weekly feature -- The Tuesday De-Briefing.

Mr. Musser is currently starring as Del Henry on ABC Daytime's All My Children. He is a product of SoapNet's so-called reality series, I Want to Be A Soap Star. He came out of the 2005 Season. Suffice it to say, one out of three ain't bad.

It goes without saying that there's more here than meets the eye, but who would complain? The show is not using him enough much to their detriment. So, it is hereby respectfully suggested that there be more Alec, or more Del as the case may be. His scenes are way too brief. Let's de-brief the fetching Mr. Musser!

These photos are from 2003. There are more, which will be added to the Alec Musser Gallery on this website. In the meantime visit the two sites dedicated to him: the official and the unofficial -- an embarassment of Musser riches.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Report from Up North: The Moose is Loose

... And Pookie tells us:

Scottish soldiers forced to share kilts because deal to buy 1 each not finalized

Published: Monday, December 18, 2006 | 1:54 PM ET
Canadian Press

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) - More than 5,000 Scottish soldiers are having to share ceremonial kilts because defence chiefs have yet to finalize a contract to buy enough to go around, military officials said Monday.

The men, who face regular tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, have just 320 kilts among them, or one for every 15 soldiers. Combat troops wore the traditional Highland skirt in battle as late as the First World War, but now the plaid kilts are used as part of ceremonial uniform.

New kilts are needed for all Scottish soldiers following the August merger of centuries-old regiments into a single Royal Regiment of Scotland.

"A planned deployment of kilts will be agreed with the Royal Regiment of Scotland on a rollout basis with . . . the full program being completed by January 2008," a Defence Ministry spokesman said Monday.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Song of the Week: Darlene Love

From last year's WebLog:

Darlene Love continues to make her mark on David Letterman’s yearly Yuletide show with her perennial hit, “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” which made its debut in the watershed year, 1963.

It was the year before the arrival of the Beatles and the memory which serves well brings to mind “Heat Wave,” “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” “Cry Baby,” “He’s Sure the Boy I love,” and “One Fine Day” among so many other hit songs that year. President Kennedy provided the world with its first movie star world leader with his classy First Lady. The Cuban Missile Crisis and The Bay of Pigs Invasion were behind us. Oh it wasn’t idyllic but the young baby boomers at least had everything in its appropriate place and were optimistic.

Darlene Love was hard at work on what was to become a Christmas music stalwart with the above standout original piece. Here is what she herself tells us about its inception in her autobiography, My Name Is Love:

The summer of 1963 was especially hot, and we were holed up in Gold Star almost the entire time, until two, three, four in the morning. For one we all welcomed Phil’s slave-driving schedule. The more we did the songs, the more the whole project took on its own life, personality, and history. We didn’t know we were building monuments in those days, except when it came to the Christmas album. Early on we knew that this was a landmark, that once in a lifetime opportunity that God bestows on some to change the course of events.

Jeff [Barry] and Ellie [Greenwich] really delivered the goods … proving one more time that the best Christmas songs, like the best love songs are about loss … “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” was so good that I just assumed it would go to
Ronnie [Spector, of the Ronettes].

But poor Ronnie didn’t have enough circuits to handle the high voltage that Phil [Spector] wanted, and so he gave [the song] to me, and it turned out to be the record I’d been waiting to make with Phil in the year I’d known him. This song was even more powerful than “He’s A Rebel,” and this time it would have my name on it. As with all the sessions Phil didn’t want us to be too prepared, so we never even knew what keys we were going to sing in until we got to the studio … The more we worked the greater it all sounded. One night it got so late that my head just dropped behind me and my big old red wig fell off! All the musicians were happy because that finally ended the session.

…. Leon Russell was on the piano, and by the last takes he was playing so hard it was almost like a concerto. He played himself right off the bench and onto the floor and kept on playing. Cher was on background and has this to say: “Darlene started to sing and the hair stood up all over my body. It was a performance that made time stop. When she finished Fanita [one of The Blossoms] fell over with both her hands up in the air.”

… We didn’t finish the album until the end of September … Phil was going to make his first concept album a classic. It was set for release on November 22, 1963, a Friday. A little late in the game, but Phil was banking on an out-of-the-box smash that would sell for years to come.

… in the kitchen, cooking dinner, doing some ironing with the TV on in the living room … I froze over the stove, wooden spoon in hand. … And even though the reporters didn’t say that the back of his head had been blown off, I knew … that it was pretty bad. I probably picked up a napkin to wipe away some tears, and with them all thought of the Christmas album.

Darlene goes on to explain how the album was released and then withdrawn because of the dark cloud that hovered above the nation. The album, of course, has gone on to be released and re-released resurfacing every year as does Darlene’s magnificent performance. Darlene continued to work throughout the decade but those who admired her and her talent had to look hard for her. There was never enough of her.

Phil Spector's Christmas opus emerged as America journeyed across a piece of time that changed it forever. America was on the threshold of the British Invasion and the Vietnamese Escalation. Five years down the line 1968 would explode. Then as now there is the yearning for those who are far away and the loss that makes for classic artistic expression. The album and Darlene's song persist as does the loss that dogs us across generations

"Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)"

It's Christmas

Baby, please come home

The snow's coming down
I'm watching it fall
Watching the people around
Baby please co
me home

The church bells in town
They're ringing a song
What a happy sound
Baby please co
me home

They're singing deck the halls
But it's not like Christmas at all
I re
member when you were here
And all the fun we had last year

Pretty lights on the tree
I'm watching 'em shine

You should be here with me
Baby please co
me home

Baby please co
me home
Baby please co
me home

They're singing deck the halls
But it's not like Christmas at all
I re
member when you were here
And all the fun we had last year

If there was a way
I'd hold back these tears
But it's Christmas day
Baby please co
me home

Baby please co
me home
Baby please co
me home
Baby please co
me home
Baby please co
me home
Baby please co
me home

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saturday Beefcake: And the Beef Goes on

When DNA ran the article and pictorial on Brian Hansen it was his boyish good looks, as in his flawless face, that immediately caught the eye. Yes. 'Tis true.

Of course, one should not be deterred from appreciating his other attributes, for it is those that are his bread and butter and can be seen in all their glory in other media. He is, after all, a much sought after porn star. In honour of all his attributes a recipe that could very well be served with bread and butter, unless you are keeping the carbohydrate load to a minimum.

According to the Aussie Cattle Council "Australia's beef export trade began in 1880 with a world-first shipment ... from Sydney to London. This trade to the UK grew steadily and peaked with the 15 year meat agreement from 1940 to 1955. As the UK market receded, the US took its place and became Australia's dominant export market throughout the 1960s and 1970s ... In the first half of the 1990s, successive tightening of the restrictions under the US Meat Import Law (prior to its repeal in 1994), imposition for the first time of quota restraints to Canada and, in 1994/95, the substantial slump in the US beef market brought an end to the dominant position of the North American trade."

Well, one would be hard pressed to prove that beef and dominant positions have not been accorded to Australian men Stateside as it is. Certainly Brian Hansen, a product of Down Under, appreciates as well maintains dominant positions.

It is in his honour that the following recipe is featured this week, some beef that's got it goin' on.

Beef and Brew

Stewing Beef, 2 kilos
Flour, sea salt, pepper
Olive oil
Sweet Butter
Onions, medium, sliced
Dark Beer, one pint
Courvoisier, two large shots
Worcestershire Sauce, one large spoonful
Bouquet Garni: one garlic clove, some chopped fresh fennel,
five sprigs of parsley, 2 bay leaves
Tomatoes and Fennel for garnish

1. Dredge beef, brown it in a casserole (6 quart) with olive oil over high heat
2. Then melt the butter in a large skillet in which you'll saute the onions and then add them to the beef
3. In that same skillet add flour to make a light brown roux
4. Then to the skillet slowly add beer and courvoisier, stir until slightly thickened, and then add this sauce to meat and onions
5. Tie the bouquet in a cheesecloth and place in casserole
6. Stir in a large spoonful of the Worcestershire and and a pinch of thyme
7. cover and bake for two and half hours in an oven pre-heated to 350F
8. Remove bouquet garni
9. Serve in plates surrounded by fresh fennel and tomato slices

This should do fine for twelve ordinary people or six beefy Aussies, who will make sure you know which side of your bread is buttered.

When in New Jersey

From today's New York Times on the approval of same sex civil unions from the New Jersey Legislature:

"The 2000 Census found about 16,000 same-sex couples living together in New Jersey, though the Urban Institute, a research organization, says the true count is as much as 50 percent higher; nearly one-third of them are raising children."

The article titled "In New Jersey, Gay Couples Ponder Nuances of Measure to Allow Civil Unions" goes on to say that two couples interviewed say they have no interest in marriage per se. It seems to emphasize the notion that marriage is a religious institution. Perhaps marriage should be banned for everyone and everyone could be equal under the law with civil unions. Render under to God the things that are God's or the gods'as the case may be.
This would be legal in Montclair, by the way.

When in Rome: From Yesterday's Page Six

December 15, 2006 -- BRITISH actor James Purefoy doesn't open up to Out magazine on why he quit halfway through the production of V for Vendetta - but he does open up about his sexuality. Purefoy told the mag that while he's straight, he will "never say never" when it comes to having sex with a man. "Anyone who went to an English [private] school in the 1970s will have had some kind of a gay experience," he said. "You bang 500 adolescent hormonal boys together at exactly the time when they're exploring their sexuality, and don't be surprised if some shenanigan comes out of it."

Purefoy is Marc Antony in HBO's Rome

Friday, December 15, 2006


Montclair, a suburban town in Northern New Jersey may very well become the balloon capital of the world should the Altmanesque ensemble feature of the same name become well known. An actual balloon salesman is weaved throughout the narrative expressing praise of the versatile balloon.

Montclair, the film, is about the pursuit of happiness if nothing else and the balloon seems to provide the perfect prop and symbol. The cast, under the direction of Mike Ramsdell, with Alecia Hurst, Justin Barrett, Jeremy Schwartz, Bruce Sinofsky, Jenni Tooley, Matt Walton and Chad Benton puts exceptional effort into depicting the connected lives of the suburban town’s inhabitants who in their respective daily endeavours appear to miss the mark sometimes in that pursuit.

Matt Walton, who has quickly become one of this WebLog’s favourite talented actors, participates as well as an Associate Producer, and is also a denizen of the Garden State. The private screening with the entire cast and crew in attendance gave the distinct impression that the film was a labour of love bringing all of these people together. As a result it captures vividly the eccentricities and proclivities of the flawed, yet sympathetic characters as part of what is now called the middle class, but whose roots are firmly planted in being working class. Still they are not without goals.

The goals here range from promotion, procreation, emotional fulfillment, resolution of grief to cleaning up the neighbourhood. "The Giant Killer," a former baseball player, portrayed by Matt Walton puts it in perspective by saying at a pivotal moment, “I’m tired of goals” at the conclusion of a recitation of milestones in his career.

Much of the story has to do with Jay, who has a radio sports talk show with "The Giant Killer," and his wife Amy’s issues around adding to their family and moving up in the world. The other plots and stories have to do with memorable characters in their network of friends and acquaintances.

The opening sequence portrays the family with their young son in a swimming pool and, indeed there are three stories here that have to do with offspring, which perhaps is what the pursuit of happiness is all about: survival in the form of surviving subsequent generations.

This is one of those films with texture, feeling and warmth -- humanity, if you will. The finished product seems to come from experience and that puts another layer on the definition of cinema verite. The viewer doesn't mind participating, because the depicted humanity, if quirky, is easily recognizable.

The acting here is top notch and the production values make it easy to go into
Montclair even if it means confronting an unpleasant happening or two. It’s about the pursuit of happiness and the operative word here is pursuit.

[Montclair comes from Under the Hood Productions, with Justin Barrett, Mike Ramsdell and Jenni Tooley as Executive Producers]

Buce Sinofsky, independent documentarian and Spirit Award winner is part of the ensemble.