*These are writings loosely ‘inspired by celebrities’ and submitted to the Blog by the authors. The authors are solely responsible for the content. These are works of imagination, not necessarily depicting real people or events. Any resemblance to real people is purely– or maybe not so purely– coincidental…
by Linda K. Sienkiewicz
Glowing from my grandmother’s television
into her steel-town flat, filling her dining room
with a rhinestone sweetness sweeter than
her iced cookies and cardamom bread,
gorgeous in sequined hot pants and so proud
that his designer said he had the legs of an athlete,
red lips swerving in song as he camped Beethoven
on his candelabra-topped piano,
sixteen feet of llama fur trailing down a staircase
in obscene opulence, upstaging the televangelists
behind their Oz curtain of costumed holiness.
Liberace had enough to hide behind his curtain,
but he didn’t lobby for anything more than
attention, the good son of Polish-Italian immigrants,
a working class diva, so sacred in his beholders’ eyes
they scoffed at The Enquirer’s slander as he
“cried all the way to the bank” when he sued them.
How could you not revere Wladziu?
My grandmother did, she believed in his virtue,
and when he opened his arms to her,
she clapped her arthritic hands in a prayer-
like swoon, her blue eyes wet
as he flowed across her screen.
(From SECURITY, Linda’s chapbook of poems published by March Street Press; 2010)
|GROWING UP WITH THE SOAPSby Melissa Rodriguez
Like you, I grew up on the 80’s nighttime soap operas of Dallas, Knots Landing and Dynasty. Sure, there were the afternoon soaps that we rushed home to watch after school. I mean c’mon, who was going to miss Luke marry Laura? And I would have done just about anything to have been treated by Dr. Noah Drake (Rick Springfield) at General Hospital. But there was something about the nighttime soaps that drew us in like moths to a flame. Perhaps it was the camaraderie that they brought to us. By the time I was in college, we’d pile into someone’s dorm room armed with snacks and pillows, taking refuge on the bed or whatever spot of carpet was available. Friendships were bonded over who shot JR or if Cybil Shepard was ever going to hook up with Bruce Willis on Moonlighting, a soap of a different genre but a soap still the same.
POPULAR ART MEETS THE PET ROCK
by Linda K. Sienkiewicz
An art dealer in LA says Thomas Kinkade’s work
is the pet rock of the art world. Kinkade says
it’s elitism when anything popular is considered trash
and critics can keep their snootiness to themselves.
I never had a pet rock. They cost $3.95, Kresge’s price
for a turtle before rocks were made into pets.
Kinkade’s fans gaze through misty eyes
at his landscapes that glow like apricot-glazed
luaus strung with florescent Christmas lights
and they swear heaven’s gate opens inside their hearts,
‘Kum Ba Yah moments,’ according to Kinkade
who considers himself a harvester of souls.
A despondent woman in Iowa sees his painting
on her doctor’s wall, a cottage surrounded
by a hedonistic riot of flowers, and claims
she’s ‘pulled back from the brink.’
The brink must be in a Salvador Dali painting.
The United Theological Society warns this feel-good
buzz only brushes the surface of faith, we need
to scratch at bigger questions, but who’s hard-pressed
to feel the love in five-thousand galleries full
of paintings, plates, ornaments and figurines?
Dali never fashioned home accessories from his art,
but I have an unlicensed watch with The Persistence
of Memory on its face. The pet rock spawned spin offs
such as obedience lessons and burial-at-sea services.
The fad fizzled in a year. My turtle lived for two.
You can’t buy pets at Kresge’s anymore.
Published in Möbius, Vol. 18, No. 1 (2003)
A TOUCHSTONE GONE
It hits me all the time when I buy magazines. Actresses like Sarandon and even Meg Ryan–once quirky beautiful and now processed packaged. True, true, true about Gwenyth.
And, yes, while true they still can act, I do feel a PORTION of what made them unique is dead.
I think what the blog posting is missing is the presence of MEN. And I can name the most egregious one (perhaps Elizabeth can find a photo): ROBERT REDFORD. God he was aging beautifully–like a fine wine, those fine lines.
But then one day, one award show, they were gone. And I could not help but to think that something (not someone, but something) had died. Just the ability to watch their faces age as I am watching the faces of the loved ones of my life age.
It’s a process, it’s a procedure, it’s not really sad because (as they old saying goes), it beats the alternative. It’s just interesting.
I WATCH movie stars age. The year I turned 43, I was aware of the fact that I was now older than Bette Davis in All About Eve. 45 was Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen. 46 Meryl Streep in Bridges of Madison County.
(Has Meryl had anything done?).
But when movie stars halt that natural process, you feel like you lose a touchstone with age. Again, not a death in the family–just a loss of a touchstone.
Case in point was a really creepy deepy reunion special for the Dick Van Dyke show. Just weird–Rob was writing eulogies for his loved ones. He had written Buddy’s (who was long deceased by the time of the show). I think Alan Brady wanted him to write one BEFORE he died.
And everyone looked as they should look–Sally had finally married Herman Glimpshire (it was lovely lovely to see them old and married as they should have been when Sally was banging her head against a wall dating him in 1963–I’ll bet his mother had to pass away before he married her–but that’s another story).
Then all of a sudden, Mary Tyler Moore comes on the screen. Not the breath of fresh air she should have been, but alarmingly tight–alarmingly taut–like the article I once read in Ms. Magazine about the woman whose facelift was so tight, she could no longer close her eyes and had to put in drops.
Eyes wide open–age denial firmly in place. The final shot of the show was her dancing with Dick (who did not look like he had had much work done, but I may be remembering that wrong).
I’m glad I don’t make my living from my face. I want to know who I am as I get old. It’s like we’ll never know how those iconic faces would really have turned out (Elizabeth–please find a really late image of Katherine Hepburn to post. She never let anything touch her iconic face).
Again–I feel their pain. If the parts dry up, the parts dry up. It must be awful. I am sorry the world cannot stand to see a woman’s face age (wasn’t there some awful quote from a talking head once about hoping Hillary Clinton would not be elected president because they did not want to have to endure watching her age in office?).
Two birthdays I am already anticipating: 51 when I am as old as Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd and 54 when I hit Bette Davis in Whatever happened to Baby Jane. Swanson’s skin was great on that insane “Ready for my closeup Mr. DeMille face–and Bette was quite natural. Looked like a real person aging.
Over and out.
Hungry Like the Wolf?…for pizza apparently
by Matthew Quinn Martin
I’ve got a little (actually two) Duran Duran stories of my own. I’ve always been a huge fan…and I mean always. The first music video I ever saw was Planet Earth, and as soon as I got a look at Nick Rhodes, I said, “I wanna’ look like THAT guy!”
Of course, I was living in a really rough neighborhood and looking like “that guy” would have been a one way ticket to ass-kicked city. So I keep my Duran fandom tucked safely in the closet next to my affinity for Prince. We were pretty poor, so going to see them in concert was going to have to wait.
Flash forward about two decades. I was working in a bar/pizza joint and we get this call. “Do you guys deliver?” No. “Would you deliver to Duran Duran.” We figured it had to be a joke…but as it turned out it wasn’t. So we not only delivered them pizza, but got to meet them and see the show for free. (side note, my wife came along and almost fainted…she was a big fan too)
Now this was the “Pop Trash” tour so at that point the only original members were Nick and Simon (Warren was there too, though…and although he doesn’t count as original, he did play on “The Wedding Album”), so as cool as it was to meet them…it still wasn’t totally there.
…so flash forward again another four years. The original lineup has reunited and I’m on the set of my movie “Slingshot.” Those two events should have been totally unrelated but as it turns out, they weren’t. I come to find out that one of the actresses playing a small role in the film was Nick Rhodes’ girlfriend. She was a real sweetheart and when the reunion tour came to MSG, she was kind enough to hook me up with a couple of tickets. And there they were, all five of them, sounding better than ever.
…p.s. (Caitlin) I have an Aria Pro II SB sitting on my wall, and I can play “Rio” just like John Taylor…provided that he’s totally drunk.
by Ingrid Mansfield
I had to throw my 15 cents in about Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Their relationship has fascinated me since they first began referring to each other in tweets….the same way we all do when infatuated with someone new, and feel the need to casually drop their name in every conversation we have. (Usually both first and last name.) It definitely ran deeper than their collaboration on *Who Killed Amanda Palmer?*, and when Neil Tweeted, “Amanda Palmer is cool. Follow her”, I thought, “Something Brangelina this way comes.” The next day, 10,000 Neil-philes were Amanda’s.
Shortly afterwards, Ms. Palmer came to Maine and performed a dreadful song for us (apologies to Dresden Doll fans, but she WAS flying solo) at Bull Moose Music store, called “I Google You”, and informed her audience that Neil Gaiman had written it for her. A couple weeks after THAT, they publicly acknowledged their relationship– during a bathtub interview. Palmer was naked. Gaiman wore a suit, and said he’d bought his jacket from a drunk man on a street corner on the way to the interview.
He was adorable.
My girlfriends comforted me.
Over the past year, I’ve read their tweets to/about each other with the same kind of eagerness that I remember my big sisters’ friends having about “Luke and Laura” in the 1977 season of *General Hospital*. The YouTube clip of them hanging out at 4 a.m., and Neil looking at her with total adoration as she butchered Radiohead’s “Creep” on vox and uke drove me mad with jealousy, while I was simultaneously excited for her. When would Neil Gaiman pop the question, and how would it all happen?
On January 15th he drew an engagement ring on her finger with a black Sharpie and they officially announced.
I had a horrid feeling in the pit of my stomach that this would be followed by Amanda “%^&ing” Palmer– her self-created moniker– doing something particularly attention-seeking and potentially lethal to their upped ante. Why? Because *I*, the girl who has been engaged multiple times, would have done something equally stupid in what I wouldn’t be certain was a celebration or self-sabotage when taking the Next Big Step. AFP’s an exhibitionist, and I kinda get that as well…though perhaps not to the same degree. Knowing the upcoming, inevitable event would happen filled me with a voyeuristic, shameful feeling of both anticipation and dread.
Plus, I wanted to see if I was right.
Surely enough, the Shit Went Down. (I know there’s a link in here somewhere which I can’t find, so I won’t rehash the story.) When Neil and Amanda attended the Golden Globes together, I obsessively checked her Twitter page for updates on What Was Goin’ Down, getting more annoyed with her smug put-downs of the event and many of its attendants. When she wrote something along the lines of “tweeting this almost got me thrown out”, as the teleprompter was in the twitpic, I thought, “Well THAT was anticlimactic” and went to bed. The next day I came across the headline “AMANDA PALMER: NAKED AND DEAD ON THE RED CARPET.” I plowed through the photos, interpreted body language (no, I’m not kidding), listened to the Huffington Post Interview, read the articles, chased down the tweets, and–though I tend not to be a “thread-chaser”– had to sift through every snarky comment written under the FUG Awards review of GG fashion. Amanda had won both best and worst dressed.
My comment is getting too long here, and I realize that I have much more of my predictions for the couple’s future, psychoanalysis of the relationship, and some self-realizations that I had around my love/hate for Amanda “F%^&ing Palmer”, schoolgirl infatuation with Neil Gaiman– and commitment to their affair– than it would be fair to post here. But I mentioned to Elizabeth that I hadn’t been so drawn in by a couple’s shenanigans since Bill Clinton “did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky”, and so I write.
Now, I’ve gotta go check their tweets and over-read between the lines.
more celebrity heartbreak, 2010
(a pre-valentines lament)
brad and angelina are headed for a fall
jay hasn’t even given conan a call
beside tom cruise, katie stands too tall
jon and kate g. make my skin crawl
john edwards and tiger woods bring
shame to one and all
more celebrity heartbreak
is surely on call
it’s only january, 2010
why do we watch it all, again and again
(and will brad ever go back to jen?)
by Angela Still
OMG. I got written up at work today because I refused to stop wearing glitter eye makeup. They told me it wasn’t “cohesive with the professional image we are trying to project.” WTF? “We” aren’t trying to project anything. This is fucking LA, dude, home of swimming pools, billionaires, movie stars. If I want to wear glitter, I will. For you, babe. Always for you.
Later— These idiots keep coming by my desk and pointing to the framed picture of you I have next to the monitor and then asking if we’re dating. Do they live under a rock? They sure dress like they do. You’d hate them. Ok, so I know the framed one is a candid shot. You’re not on stage and you’re not wearing make-up or anything, but seriously, how many people—I mean real life people—are as beautiful as you are? How can they not know it’s you, even without the sparkles and the costumes? Do they not see the 100 other photos I have of you? I mean, seriously, you’re only the biggest rock star in the entire world. Idiots.
Got fired. Over glitter fucking eye makeup. I’m going to sue their asses off. It took me nearly an hour to get all my pix of you together. I’m going to put them with the other ones in my bedroom. Assholes.
Later—OMG, OMG, OMG!! I totally just used the corporate account to run a background check on you (using your real name, of course) and I found your address. You’re super close by! I always wanted to do that, but I was scared I’d get caught, but since they fired me, who gives a shit? Too bad for them that stupid hag in IT forgot to close my Citrix account. Ha! But OMG, I know where you live. I know where you live!!!!! You’re on tour right now, but still. I’m totally going to drive by. RIGHT NOW!
Later—House is beautiful. Your street is really classy, really quiet. I bet that all changes when you’re there, huh? *wink* Oh, and you totally came on the radio when I got in the car. It is totally a sign!!
Drove by 2x today. Your landscaping people were there. The yard looks great, at least what I could see from across the street.
Just parked by your house and walked around your neighborhood a little bit. Your neighbors seem nice, especially Sheila next door. She said you were an angel, just a really good neighbor. As if you’d be anything else! She should feel privileged to live next door to you! Her dog is super cute, too. Oh, and I might of told her I was one of your girlfriends. I hope you don’t mind. It’s not like it won’t be true one day!
Ok, ok, in order, in order! OMG, OMG, OMFG! So, yeah, it’s been a few weeks. Shelia, btw, is a total bitch. She kept asking me all these questions, sneaking up on me while I was asleep in the car. Today the bitch told me she was going to have me arrested! Can you believe that? She said I wasn’t your girlfriend at all, which I suppose is technically true, but it’s not like we won’t totally hit it off when we meet, which we WILL since I totally know where you live now. Anyway, she called me a STALKER! WTF? I told her she was a stalker! She’s the one always walking in front of your house at all hours of the day and night. Nobody’s dog needs to be walked THAT much. Stupid bitch. That’s when she said she was going to call the cops.
So later, I came back and I snuck into Shelia’s yard. I just wanted to check her out, you know, make sure she wasn’t stalking you. Did you know you can see straight into your living room from her back yard? I knew the bitch was watching you. You should get curtains. Anyway, since I was already there, and I already had my gloves on, I thought I’d go over and try your house. That big window off your laundry room was real easy to pry open, but then the stupid alarm went off. Don’t worry, I was long gone before the rent-a-cops got there. Still, I’m glad you have that alarm. Who knows what might happen while you’re away? I don’t trust that Shelia one bit.
I was there, though. I wish you weren’t in Europe right now. I bet London is nice this time of year. I’ll see you soon, though. Soon.
I just killed Shelia. I totally didn’t mean to, but she didn’t leave me any choice!! I wasn’t even doing anything, just sleeping in the car and she came up and banged on the window again. Nearly gave me a heart attack. She was screaming about calling the cops, her stupid little yappy dog was going crazy. I totally panicked. I got my mace out (I keep one on my keychain in case of psychos) and sprayed her. Only once, but she totally freaked out. She came running at me with her arms all crazy, like she wanted to rip my face off. I didn’t know what to do. I got back in the car and was going to leave, I really was, I swear, but somehow, I ended up hitting her. That dumb bitch! She totally got right in front of my car! Then she tried to get back up, so I had to hit her a couple more times. I had to! Don’t worry, though, my car is barely hurt. Just a little dent. I thought I hit the dog, too, but then I saw him sniffing around her body when I drove away. I hope he had sense enough to go back home, but he was Shelia’s dog, so her stupid might have rubbed off.
I hope you understand. She would’ve told, and then we’d never meet. I know you wouldn’t want that.
Shit, shit, shit, SHIT. It’s all over the news. They keep bringing you up in all the broadcasts, saying there was a terrible crime in front of your house. No one saw anything, though, thank god. Still, I’m going to lay low for a while. I’ve got a couple credit cards that aren’t maxed out and that I’m not late on. Maybe I’ll get a job until you come back. I’m almost out of unemployment.
They keep saying how you’re in Europe and can’t be reached for comment. So far away. So far. But it won’t be long until we’re together. Maybe I’ll come over there? Yeah, maybe. Take care til then, babe. I love you!!
BRAD & ANGELINA & JEN
Brad and Angelina–I have followed it for years. Read it every time–often in the grocery line. Just one more unseemly aspect of the first decade of the new millennium has been the Brad/Jen/Angelina triangle. It has so much: Jen’s lifelong love for Brad and her abysmal taste in other men that almost seems purposeful (John Mayer? John Mayer? Making fun of her publicly and she STILL takes him back????).
I wondered how Jen felt when Vince Vaughn got married recently. I doubt if he was The Right One either, but it made me think of that great scene in When Harry Met Sally when Meg Ryan learned her ex had married someone else–and she had to confront the fact that she might be difficult to live with.
Jen dynamites each of her relationships because she WANTS no man to live up to her idealized vision of her perfect man, Brad. She ought to rip a page from the life of fellow friend Lisa Kudrow–MARRY A CIVILIAN. A guy not so caught up in celebrity living.
See–I have been following this whole thing since Courtney Cox married goofy David Arquette when Friends was still on–and Jen married Brad. Who seemed to be the winner then? But whose marriage has endured (watch–as soon as I say this, David and Courtney will implode).?
It’s like the old Buddhist (??) story about what looks like bad news being good news. Man is given a horse and it looks like good news. Teenaged son breaks his leg taming it, and it looks like bad news. Soldiers come to village looking to take men to fight and the broken leg is now good news. And so on. But I digress. What looked like GOOD NEWS for Jen (Brad) ended up being the worst news of her life. And what looked like BAD NEWS for Courtney (David) ended up being a stable life partner to raise kids with (again, I hope by saying this, I don’t doom them).
Back to Jen. The perfect man is imploding so obviously. I loved Joan Rivers’ joke on the hysterical Graham Norton show on BBC America (a never-miss Saturday night ritual of mine): “One day Brad is going to stop smoking so much pot and say, ‘Where did all these kids come from?’
Of course, the enduring tragedy of all this is that if Brad goes back to the woman who really understood him and loved him for him (rather than his celebrity cache), he will damage those poor children more than they already have been damaged.
I do sincerely believe now that he and Angelina have been raising those children together, he is more than just a celebrity trophy on her wall. But this Jen stuff is going to make her so bitter, that the non-parenting part of their marriage will just be toxic waste.
Brad/Jen and Angelina are clearly the Eddie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor of our generation. But Elizabeth didn’t let this whole thing drag out over so many years as Angelina has. No, Elizabeth was never really in disgrace. She let no grass grow under her feet and moved on.
If it were not for the kids, I would say that Jen and Angi should do themselves a favor and do the same. MOVE ON! LEAVE BRAD TO STEW IN HIS OWN JUICES. But, lets face it, the kid part of this story is where the disgrace comes in. Hope Brad and Angelina can find a way to give them some “normalcy.” Not likely.
Undying Vampire Love
By Susan Lilley
I won’t be shelling out my entertainment dollars for New Moon, the latest in the Twilight films based on novels that females around the country are sucking down like Bloody Marys on New Year’s Day.
First of all, I’m terrified I might love it. I already indulge in enough ridiculous age-inappropriate obsessions, like Mad Libs, Pee-wee’s Playhouse reruns, and rock bands for which I may well be the oldest fan. As much as I love the sound of Vampire Weekend, I am holding out for something even better, the return of Dark Shadows.
In my youth, I secretly loved vampire Barnabas Collins, the menacing centrifuge of the gloriously gothic late-60s TV soap that aired every day after school. I never missed an episode.
My best friend, Kate, and I would dash to my house in her four-on-the-floor black Chevy, with Cat Stevens or Sly and the Family Stone blaring on the eight-track. As the maudlin strains of the ending-credits theme of The Guiding Light played, we hurriedly prepared our refreshments: a gallon of Tab and a jumbo bag of taco-flavored Doritos, which our boyfriends said turned our breath to battery acid. We didn’t care – we were on our way to Collinwood, the moody estate where Barnabas lurked as a tormented, lonely, forever-old but ageless, blood-sucking anti-hero.
Barnabas was played by a borderline unattractive actor named Jonathan Frid, and although I never admitted it, even to Kate, I had a monster crush on him. It was cool to love Dark Shadows, but I instinctively knew it was not cool to love Jonathan Frid. So as my semi-erotic dreams began to form around him at night, I kept it to myself.
Girls my age swooned over Jim Morrison, Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney, my first love. I had already broken from the pack once under the spell of Burt Bacharach, but Jonathan Frid was my first experience with vampire love. Who knew it was possible to be repulsed and attracted at the same time?
I felt something of the same jolt for Frank Langella’s on-screen version of the big daddy of them all, Dracula. It was more a twinge than a spasm, but it certainly would make a more respectable infatuation. Langella’s Count was charming; Jonathan was sullen and creepy. I had been thoroughly imprinted: Jonathan Frid was my idea of a vampire. Like my own lovable hound of hell, he haunted my imagination for years and was the vision that appeared when the subject turned, as it inevitably does, to vampires. It was Barnabas, not some updated Vampire Lestat, whom I pictured in grad school while listening to a fellow scholar present a paper titled “Going Down for the Count: Sexuality in Dracula.”
Rumor has it that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, apparently longtime fans of the show, are teaming up for a remake. My spine is tingling already. In my yearning for a dose of original Dark, I found a rerun on cable TV’s Chiller channel. The low-budget production values and evocative dialogue, the scenes full of women with big hairdos wandering the spooky Collins manse subconsciously looking for trouble—these deliciously familiar elements thrilled as I waited for Barnabas’ next entrance. I could almost taste the taco-flavored Doritos.
There he came, from the shadows of the show’s title, shoulders a little hunched, eyes dimmed with lust – or maybe, now that I think about it, boredom. No matter. There may be more appealing vampires around these days, but for me, no undead man can bring on the heart-fluttery heebie-jeebies like Barnabas Collins.
REFLECTIONS ON BALLOON BOY
by Caroline Jaffe-Pickett
Julia Neal found it curious that the leading news story that day was of a boy gone missing in a balloon resembling a futuristic mushroom. The balloon appeared silver and stark against the azure sky, aimless, and strangely menacing in its innocence. A floating contradiction. This balloon boy phenomenon was apparently a backyard science experiment gone awry, led by a Colorado dad, who had a somewhat suspect past. He would, Julia thought, be guaranteed headlines in at least the next week of news, particularly since his first distress call was odd. The balloon boy’s father called the National Aviation Bureau, instead of 911, which raised red flags to news anchors like Anderson Cooper. Why would the balloon boy’s father not have called 911, all the commentators asked. Who keeps the FAA phone number on their bulletin board? They did have a point, Julia thought, reflecting on the bulletin board in the kitchen, and her life with Nate, in all its order and chaos. It reflected, like life, the urgent and the nonurgent. Phone numbers for the police and fire depts. Nail salons. Earthquake instructions. There were the local swimming pool hours, where Julia had circled “Adult Swim,” and a card for “Paul’s Schezuan,” with “No MSG” written in. Julia thought about the refrigerator next to the bulletin board, and how it was covered in fruit and vegetable magnets they had collected. There were mini fake avocados and apples, and even a tiny mock spatula from a country store they’d visited on a vacation back east, before California. Their lives back east seemed like a lifetime ago and Julia missed New York. The air was different in California, and there was too much sun.
*This Flash Fiction is an excerpt from a novel-in-progress by Caroline Jaffe-Pickett, OFFERINGS
carriewriterblog.com / carriefreelance.com
2004 The Year I saw Norman Mailer
by Richard Cambridge
The first impression was, its Norman Mailer sitting in the front booth. I was sipping a glass of Sonoma red at my favorite table, the one beside Mary, the harpist, who had just finished my request for an old Robbie Burns tune, Loch Lomond. I looked to my right— Norman Mailer in the window booth! But then I thought, it couldn’t be. He’s too small. But he looked perfectly like him, only three-quarter size, like the way a sculptor might make in a likeness, but it couldn’t be him because Mailer is, well, just too Big for the one-room, 45-seat Company of the Cauldron. If he did come here he’d have to rent it out for the night, a private dinner party (the Cauldron can accommodate such requests, just ask) for his self and his many personalities. Mailer the novelist, Mailer the Chronicler, Mailer the New Journalist, Mailer the anti-war protester, Mailer the political candidate, the mystery writer, the wife stabber, Mailer the anti-masturbator. Yes, that’s right. He’s got a whole essay assailing masturbation— for men, that is; he admits he’s not sure about women, the only time in the history of his great self he ever admitted to not knowing or having an opinion about something). There’s got to be enough Mailers inside of Mailer to sit at every table. They would argue with each other, throw food, pinch the waitress, stab the chef, write a good review about the dinner, write a terrible review about the dinner, spend the night in jail for bolting on the check, get thrown off-island.
All I wanted was to go over and say how much he meant to a boy wandering the bookstores in Greenwich Village stumbling upon a copy of “Advertisements for Myself.”
From a flash fiction/memoir-in-progress, “A Restaurant is a Necklace of Semi-Precious Stones,” based on a once-a-year dinner every June at The Company of the Cauldron in Nantucket over a 30-year period.
SUMMER ENDS IN MARTINS FERRY, OHIO
by Joyce Peseroff
(For two police chiefs charged with stealing items from a celebrity’s surrogate, with apologies to James Wright)
In East Ohio Regional Hospital
Sarah Jessica Parker and Matt Broderick embrace
newborn twins, gray face of the surrogate
exhausted as a chief of police
who dreams of celebrities
starved for love, the tabloids clucking
and whispering ways to make a buck
from contract faxes, poetry framed on a fridge,
pix of ultrasounds, and a belly cast
lifted from an undisclosed location
the chief and his partner disclosed for $1000.
All the city fathers are ashamed
of officers who risk doing time,
their mug shots in The New York Times,
time galloping terribly against the proud bodies
of birth and adoptive moms,
beautiful daughters and sons.
(Joyce’s fourth book is Eastern Mountain Time; she runs the Creative Writing MFA Program at UMassBoston. Thanks Joyce for letting us be the first to print this star-inspired poem!)
When in Roman…
by Eugenio Volpe
In a 1979 interview with British author Martin Amis, Roman Polanski made the genius observation that, “If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But…fucking, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to fuck young girls. Juries want to fuck young girls. Everyone wants to fuck young girls!”
I couldn’t agree with Roman Polanski more. The modernist painter Balthus knew this to be true. Abercrombie & Fitch know this to be true. Brittany Spears’ producer Max Martin (“Hit Me Baby One More Time”) knew this to be true. Billy Cyrus knows this to be true. Whether selling denim skirts or directing a psychological thriller, the sexual objectification of pubescent girls is good for business and makes for great art. If you don’t understand and/or accept this you are a Philistine. Just ask Debra Winger.
Winger criticized Swiss officials for their “Philistine collusion” in arresting Polanski. She also said that, “This fledgling festival has been unfairly exploited, and whenever this happens, the whole art world suffers. We hope today this latest (arrest) order will be dropped. It is based on a three-decades-old case that is dead but for minor technicalities. We stand by him and await his release and his next masterpiece.”
I take exception with Winger on two fronts. First, Polanski is not a genius. He has never created a masterpiece. Second, she and Polanski both fail to understand the art museum principle, Look, don’t touch.
The genius of Balthus and Abercrombie is that they make you feel guilty for wanting to fuck young girls while somehow making it socially acceptable and profitable while you look and ponder. You’re allowed to pay admission to see the artwork. You’re allowed to buy the denim skirt or the Oops!…I Did It Again album. You can buy the merchandise, but you can’t touch the models. The sexual objectification of pubescent girls has become one of our primary aesthetics in selling art, books, films, fashion, and music. It’s illegal to have sex with a minor, but it’s legal to profit from the desire. This is a precarious construct. It’s perhaps one of the ugliest contradictions of our capitalist society. Roman Polanski, the evil genius that he is, rubs our face in this truth while Debra Winger calls us stupid. Worse, he has makes us look while he touches—literally and cinema-graphically (Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, The Tragedy of Macbeth, and Alice in Wonderland).
The urge to fuck young girls exists, as Polanski not-so-eloquently points out, but the truer, more philosophical question should be why does it exist, and why do we let artists and corporations exploit it? Making Polanski pay will at least give the appearance that society actually cares about the issue. Meanwhile, Abercrombie will continue manufacturing skimpy outfits and record producers will keep inventing new pubescent sex symbols. Debra Winger will also continue to have her head up her ass, especially in regards to recognizing a masterpiece.
Debra Winger is wrong. The art world doesn’t suffer when male artists emotionally and/or physically abuse women. Just ask Miles Davis or Pablo Picasso. It doesn’t make paintings ugly. It doesn’t make songs cacophonous. Ovid and Shakespeare aestheticized rape. Jerry Lee Lewis married his thirteen year-old cousin. Great Balls of Fire! Artistic geniuses get away with it. Polanski just isn’t that important of an artist. In his defense, I’m not sure if a Guernica or Kind of Blue would provide immunity for an artist in Philistine America these days. If Roman Polanski wants to get away with raping a young girl in this country, he’d better learn how to dribble a basketball.
Americans are willing to forgive and forget rape and other forms of violence against women, but only for the true geniuses of sport and political punditry. The privilege of sexual harassment and rape are reserved for the likes of Kobe Bryant and Bill O’Reilly. As a film director, you’ve got to be a Spielberg or Lucas to get away with drugging and sodomizing a thirteen year-old. The Pianist is no Schindler’s List. Too much melodrama. Not enough action. Polanski’s movies are very good, but he’s not a genius, especially not here in the United States of Philistines. Personally, I find the rape scenes in his films and life to be gratuitous. He doesn’t even have the decency to aestheticize them. Therefore, he can be tried and convicted like the rest of us perverted dummies.
The great poet THOMAS LUX has given permission to post this star-inspired classic, Frankly, I Don’t Care. Many THANKS to Thomas Lux and to Linda Sienkiewicz– true stars. Elizabeth
FRANKLY, I DON’T CARE
by Thomas Lux
This miserable scene demands a groan. –John Gay
Frankly, I don’t care if the billionaire is getting divorced
and thus boosting the career
of his girlfriend, a “model/spokesperson” with no job
and nothing to promote; nor does my concern
over celebrity X undergoing surgical procedures,
leaked as “primarily cosmetic” if it can be measured
quantitatively, reach the size of the space
inside a hollow needle. Regardless,
prayer vigils are being held
around the clock n the hospital lobby.
It’s not that I wish
for a slip of the surgeon’s wrist
but I just flat-simple don’t care
although I understand and try
to empathize: as beauty diminishes
so does the bankroll. I am also indifferent
to – to the point of yawns large enough
to swallow the world – a senator’s or, say, singer’s
girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s disclosures
re the singer’s or senator’s sexual behavior – well, unless
the disclosure is explicitly detailed
and for christsake interesting!
– But does this protest too much?
We the people, day-laboring citizens, need to love
those of you larger than us, those whose teeth
are like floodlights against loneliness,
whose great gifts of song, or for joke telling,
or thespianly sublime transformations
takes us, for whole moments at a time, away
from ourselves. We need
you and from this point on we promise
to respect your privacy,
diminish our demands on you,
never to take pleasure
in your troubles or pain.
And on those cruel days when death has its way
and takes two or even three of you
at once, three or more or less equal fame, we will,
in the obituaries, the newscasts, the front pages,
we will list your departures alphabetically;
your popularity will not, on this day, be tallied
or polled. Because in death, although still not anonymous,
you will be like us: small,
equal, voiceless, and gone.
From New and Selected Poems
Copyright © 1997 by Thomas Lux
by Nancy Swan
The lights go down. A thrum of anticipation sweeps the audience, then silence as surround sound takes over. The Ronnettes cry out, “So won’t you please be my be my be my little baby, my one and only baby, say you’ll be my darling, be my baby nooowww, oh, oh, oh,oh. The night we met I knew I needed you so. . . .” Undulating bodies, pouting lips, sultry eyes with lids at half-mast fill the screen as the music crescendos. Girls ride their partners’ thighs to the rapturous rhythm, partners’ eyes only inches from lips and breasts as the wild ride continues. Skirts inch up, boys inch down, hands gliding gliding everywhere, open mouths hovering at bare bellies then traveling up to necks arched back in open invitation.
“Watch me now. Push push, work it out baby. Push, push, you’re driving me crazy. Push, push, just a little bit of soul now. . . .” Enter girl clutching watermelon wallflower-style, mouth open at the pushing and working and crazy. Now enter Patrick Swayze, not swaying but thrusting, pelvis a work of anatomical art throbbing with a life of its own, sizzling, crackling heat, and the audience begins to smolder, the ambient temperature to rise, flames not far behind. Otis Redding strikes the match. “I’m the Love Man, that’s what they call me, I’m the Loooovve Man,” he belts out, and Patrick goes to work, eyes nailing melon girl, drawing her onto the dance floor where he begins to drill. . . .
When the theatre doors open, steam explodes into the lobby. An angel-haired old woman fans her face as she exits. “What a lovely, lovely boy,” she murmurs to herself.
Thank you, Patrick, for a lovely, lovely time.
Most Sincerely, Those Who Loved to Dance. . .Dirty
Enjoy. Remember. Nancy Swan
“Confessions of a Would-Be Duran Duran Groupie”
by Caitlin McCarthy
Spring, 1984. I was on the edge of fourteen, about to graduate from a Catholic junior high school. Sporting a Princess Diana haircut, I had already graduated into my first full-blown celebrity crush: John Taylor of Duran Duran.
MTV entered my house in 1983. I immediately spotted John in the onslaught of Duran Duran videos and knew we were destined to be together. An Ouija board even confirmed this fact during a sleepover at my best friend Jennifer Smith’s house. (She was going to marry John’s band mate Nick Rhodes, so it was perfect — we could all travel the world together.)
I started sneaking hydrogen peroxide into the bathroom at home, so I could streak my bangs blond like John. My mother hit the roof when my brown hair started to turn orange and yellow (and not in a cool punk way). I blamed it on the sun.
I hung a Tiger Beat poster of John in the back of my closet, so I could see him in the morning when I put on my Catholic school uniform. (If I were of legal age, this image probably would have thrilled him!)
I scoured every teen magazine for updates on John and wondered when he’d leave dreary England and come to my dreary hometown — Worcester, Massachusetts — to support his band’s latest album “Seven and the Ragged Tiger.” We had so much in common. I was sure of that. I didn’t even mind that his first name was really Nigel.
Finally, the big announcement came over local radio: Duran Duran would play the Worcester Centrum on March 14, 1984. I had never been to a rock concert before, but I was sure as hell going to this one — even if it meant bringing my non-Duranie big sister Erin with me as a chaperone.
My tween mind immediately shifted into overdrive: How could I meet John? The thought of staking out his hotel didn’t occur to me. I was truly innocent back then, in a way tweenagers aren’t these days. I thought of sending him a letter, but I didn’t have his address. It’d never get to him on time if I mailed something to his record label.
Then brilliance struck. I’d write an editorial for Worcester’s Evening Gazette, which would be sure to attract John’s attention. Everyone reads newspapers, right? (Insert laughter here.) In the 5th grade, I had published poems in the newspaper’s “Happy Time” section for kids. But by 6th grade, I had “outgrown” that and started writing editorials in the “Time Out” section for adults (not to be confused with porn, thank you very much!). The newspaper and I had a relationship. Maybe it’d help me start a relationship with John!
During Math class, I tuned out Sister I-Forget-Her-Name and wrote an ode to Duran Duran in my notebook. Instead of making John the focus, I branched out and detailed the entire band’s fabulousness. That way, no feelings would be hurt and the guys would all support my “relationship” with John.
Below is my ode in its entirety (yes, I saved it):
Duran Duran: One of the Greatest
While reading the Time Out section of the paper I was happy to find a long overdue article on one of the greatest groups of the past four decades, Duran Duran. The music, lyrics, videos — it all fits together to form a well-balanced band.
Duran Duran has been criticized for relying too much on expensive videos and their handsome good looks. For one thing, no matter how expensive a video is or how good looking you are, it will not put you on top of the music charts. You have to have talent and determination, which Duran Duran definitely possesses.
The group has frequently been compared to the Beatles, due to the group’s large success and the reactions of their fans. The press has dubbed Duran Duran as the “Fab Five” as opposed to a certain “Fab Four.” Simon Le Bon has been quoted at a press conference, “We’re interested in writing our own history, not writing somebody else’s.” And to me, that is what makes success.
Much to my surprise, the “Time Out” section not only ran my editorial, it put a thick black box around it. I realize now that someone at the newspaper must have found my comments cute. But as a tween, I believed that a guardian angel was helping my cause by making sure the item was highlighted so the band would see it when they rolled into town. Back then, the newspaper published the addresses of people who wrote editorials. I thought John could use it when calling 411 to get my number, because he’d be dying to speak with the author of this insightful editorial. I envisioned myself meeting John backstage at the Centrum and maybe, just maybe, getting my first kiss from him. (I never thought about what else could happen with John…remember, I was a painfully naïve 13-year-old.)
Duran Duran played Worcester that March. I was there, in the Centrum’s nosebleed section with Jennifer and my snickering sister Erin. I never met John because he never called me. Sigh.
But my editorial *did* trigger responses from other people. Female tween Duranies from the Worcester area started sending me letters at home, saying they loved the band, too. I started penpalling with them, and eventually we created our own Duran Duran fan club. We’d meet at each other’s houses and watch the band’s music videos on the VCR, pausing the tapes every once in a while so we could “Ooh” and “Aah” over certain guys (John got the most requests). The “Rio” video was a particular favorite of ours.
Many years later, John Taylor married and divorced a presenter from a British TV show, then married one of the co-founders of Juicy Couture. He never married me. I’m still writing, though — for the big screen as well as magazines and blogs. So John, if you ever read this, I don’t expect you to divorce your wife. But a kiss on the cheek — after all of these years — would still rock my world.
That’s When I Knew I Loved Them
by Linda K. Sienkiewicz
My first star crush was on The Beatles– all four of them. I distinctly remember watching them on Ed Sullivan for the first time, sitting crosslegged in front of a television with rabbit ear antennae, and thinking the band looked kind of silly in their matching collarless jackets and what was considered long hair. Then they all sang “Ooooooo” in unison (I think it was “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”) and shook their moppy heads, and my mother threw up her arms and spit in disgust, saying, “They’re awful! That hair! Ugh!” I was only ten years old, but that’s when I knew I loved them.
Beatles’ trading cards were sold in packets of five with a stick of crumbly, pink, inedible bubble gum. I tossed the gum out, but put the cards in an album. Forty-some years later, I still have them! I’m so tired of their music that I can’t stand it, but I will never throw those cards out. Why do we hang on to these things? It makes me think of a few lines from poet Thomas Lux’s wonderful poem, titled “Frankly, I Don’t Care”:
“We the people, the day-laboring citizens, need to love
those of you larger than us, those who teeth
are like floodlights against loneliness,
whose great gifts of song, or for joke telling,
or thespianly sublime transformations,
take us, for whole moments at a time, away
by Ann Rosenquist Fee
My best friend Shaun Olson and I took turns borrowing Baryshnikov’s biography from the library. He was a more sophisticated heartthrob than whoever was on the cover of Teen Beat or Tiger Beat. Nobody else at Frankfort Junior High cared about Baryshnikov. He was ours.
Shaun’s mom told us if we each gave her $30, she’d write the check for $60 and mail it to the American Ballet Theater, which would make us Household Supporting Members and get us passes to an open rehearsal forty miles away at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, “champagne reception to follow.” My mom said ok, she’d write the note to get me out of school that day as long as it was my own money, and if Mrs. Olson would drive us downtown.
I wore a gray blazer and pencil skirt from my sister’s closet, and the nude pantyhose and black shoes I usually only wore to sing in choir concerts. The outfit had made me sweat all morning in school but would be great for the champagne reception: The skirt would cling just right while I stood at the bottom of the marble staircase, if there was one, probably with my back against the wall and one hand on my hip. Probably that would be my left hand, and my right would go around the glass of champagne. As an underage patron, I’d have the class not to drink anything, but I’d definitely hold the glass which would probably be a wide shallow one, not a flute. Also, when Baryshnikov arrived and moved from guest to guest to thank us for coming, I wouldn’t talk right away. I’d follow his face with my eyes, which were lined in tasteful Wet-n-Wild navy blue, and when he looked at me, I would smile (mouth closed over my braces) and possibly nod in a way that would let him know I appreciated and understood his work.
During the rehearsal, Shaun and I held hands and leaned forward over the railing of the second balcony. Baryshnikov was far away but that was fine. It was all I could stand to know I was in the same room with him, watching his actual body move and hearing the pound of his actual feet.
Today, I know that regular lust makes my thighs warm and art-love makes them shake with cold. In the Auditorium Theater, my legs were freezing. They were panty-hose popsicles bouncing up and down with readiness to make sweet art with the greatest dancer in the world. I couldn’t dance, but I was a section leader in choir and got good grades in art and writing. Something would work. Misha was known for innovation. Surely, during the champagne reception, he’d recognize the potential in me. After that, who knew. People had dropped out of eighth grade for less soul-satisfying reasons.
There weren’t any stairs at the reception. The guests were just a bunch of people who looked like they’d paid to be there, too, or else they worked at the Auditorium Theater. Shaun or I must have asked somebody with a name tag when the dancers were coming, and they must have explained that that wasn’t part of the deal at the $60 level, because on the ride home I read and re-read the donor list in the Stagebill, and thought, why would all these people give money if they already knew they’d be holding a plastic cup in a side room with a bunch of other regular people? The lining of my sister’s blazer was damp and smelly. She was going to be mad. Baryshnikov was probably toweling off backstage before he walked down Congress to the Artist’s Café, flanked by ballerinas.
I’ve seen him dance a few times since then. Once, in Minneapolis, I waited on a sidewalk outside the stage door for a couple of hours until he exited the theater, and I gave him a rose wrapped in a calla lily leaf, which he handed to his bodyguard. Once, when I had a layover in New York I walked about a million blocks with my carry-on luggage to the newly leased office space of the Baryshnikov Arts Center, so I could see what the lobby looked like. Through the glass door, I saw the receptionist, a woman who spent her days answering the phone “Baryshnikov Arts Center, how may I help you?” Envy kept me from walking through the door. Also holding me back was the fact that I had no reason to be there.
Today, if asked by the receptionist, I’d say I had some short stories that might interest Misha. I understand from a recent New York Times interview that he’s looking for new work that suits his aging body – he’s 61, and still dances but with fewer leaps and twirls.
None of my stories demand leaping. Most of them don’t even need movement. He could just stand there, slightly off-center on a bare stage, and read my work aloud, daring the audience to feel the dance in his voice. Or we could have coffee (to help keep my legs warm) and talk about the similarities in our aesthetic (my love of flash fiction, his short stature) or how we each felt about his guest appearance on Sex and the City (I tolerated the dalliance; he’d probably confide that he did it just to fund the Arts Center).
Or maybe his abilities will diminish to a point where he’s relatively level with my longtime lack of grace and agility. In which case, Misha, http://www.annrosenquistfee.com. Lots of stories. Some with thighs and sweat. Any one would make an excellent pas-de-deux.
BYE BYE GOOD GIRL…HELLO BAD GIRL
by Jamie Cat Callan
Bye Bye Birdie was playing at the Palace. I had seen it the night before and I knew one thing for sure. I wanted to be Ann-Margret. It was 1963 and I was nine years old and I wanted to dye my hair red, ooh and ahh about wanting “one boy, one special boy” and then finally drop the good boy for the bad boy and basically do whatever I damn well pleased.
Suddenly, Marilyn Monroe was dead.
Doris Day was history.
Shirley Temple was for babies.
It was a new era.
I was done with being a child. After all, I was practically a teenager!
“I’m going to dye my hair red, I told my best friend.
“You’re crazy,” she told me.
But what did she know. She didn’t believe in the power of Ann-Margret. The power of being bad. Dangerous. But then, she didn’t own a gold stingray bike with butterfly handles and a leopard banana seat and I did. She didn’t have a grandmother who spoke English with a French accent. And, she didn’t have a mother who had just been sent to the mental hospital for “a little rest.”
“Well, I’m still Connie Francis,” she said.
“That’s fine with me,” I told her and in that moment, I knew our paths had just diverged. Just like Robert Frost talked about. I would be with Ann-Margret. And my friend would be with Connie Francis. She would be the good girl.
And I would be the bad girl. The girl with the red hair.
I’m the author of “French Women Don’t Sleep Alone: Pleasurable Secrets to Finding Love” and I was a red head until 2005 when I finally decided I’d go blonde.
Confession: Star Love Affairs
By Tanya Eby
I’m thirty-six years old and so I confess I have had a string of lovers over the years. Some of them better than others, but all of them, (from the first one when I was sixteen, to my current love) have one thing in common: they are completely obsessed with me. They simply cannot get enough of me. I’m funny, beautiful, and wildly, deeply alluring. It’s a curse, really, but I endure.
My first lover: I was 16 and met him in the pages of a Teen Beat (or whatever) magazine. River Phoenix winked at me from the pages and with his messy blonde hair, and intense gaze, I knew he didn’t really belong there. He was too cool for that. Still, I ripped him out and put him above my bed where he would gaze at me for hours. I knew we’d meet someday, was absolutely certain of it, but of course, we did not, and then he died. Such sadness when you lose your first love.
That was a platonic affair.
Passion came later. With Harrison Ford first, who adored me since Star Wars, stayed with me through Indiana Jones, and even through Patriot Games. He was the first to pin me against the wall in his Millenium Falcon and say, “Please, kiss me, Tanya. Right now. There’s no fighting me. I want you.” “Oh,” I said and then opened my mouth. Then, well, he turned and said: “Chewbacca knock it off!” but immediately refocused on me and kissed the slope of my neck. I felt electricity, just like they do in good romance novels. I felt throbbing. “Don’t move,” he whispered, his words hot against my throat. “It’s against the rules.” An ‘oh’ again from me, which was really more of a breath. And then, oh, passion. And laser beams. But mostly passion.
My long-term affair is with Matt Damon. He’s my pseudo-lover. He takes me to restaurants and insists on paying. We love crispy fish ‘n’ chips, New York style pizza, sushi. He doesn’t want much from me. Just my company. Just to talk about acting and writing and ideas I have. He’s a good listener. He rubs my feet.
Lately, my lover is Gerard Butler. He simply adores me. He’s intense and moody, but sometimes soft and gentle. A little work, but that’s okay. He adores every inch of me and when he looks at me, I melt just a little bit.
Of course, my lovers aren’t real. I know that. I’m only occasionally delirious. But they do fill a little empty space in my life, a place where I exist as someone wholly desirable and witty and talented. To be loved, desired, adored, even when I’m without makeup and my hair is frizzy, well, that’s a wonderful thing. And while I have had real lovers (and even a husband) they never quite meet the magic of an imagined one.
Still, though, recently, I was standing, pressed against the wall and I actually heard the words “Please, kiss me,” and it was better than Harrison Ford. True, we were in a living room and not a starship, but Chewbacca wasn’t there, and his real kisses were nicer than the phantom touch of Harrison Ford’s. And now, when I think about it, when I fantasize, it’s the real ones I remember most. My celebrity lovers understand. They wish me well. They say they are always there for me, when I need them. They will always love me, no matter what mistakes I make. It’s a big reason why I have Netflix.
by Jeremy Finch
I probably echo every other gay man or straight girl who was an adolescent in the 90’s when I say my first teen crush was Jonathan Brandis. How can you not love Bastian Bux (talk about a regal name) from The Neverending Story? Anyone who rode Falcor is welcome for another on my disco stick.
Once I saw him in Ladybugs (I lived with a deeply religious aunt and uncle who were into the ‘family friendly’ movie rental circuit) my attraction to him became heavily sexual, even with the distraction of that gorgeous and always original Rodney Dangerfield in the other starring role.
And yes I’m man enough to admit to snatching the Jonathan Brandis cover BOP zines right off of the rack (because buying them would be too scandalous for a twelve year old boy)…and bringing them home to write….essays about. like this one.
We won’t even get into SeaQuest. Or how I almost chose Corey Haim (can anyone say License to Drive???)…but after watching that reality show The Two Coreys (which I might add is nothing less than a slice of television heaven) starring Haim alongside Corey Feldman, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. He looks too much like a cracked out, 65 yr old midwestern female prostitute. Or Tammy Faye without the makeup. Apologies to Tammy.
by Linda K. Sienkiewicz
Thirty years is a long time, Morrison—
my mantra, my shaman, my sweet
erotic nihilist. It’s too weird to think
you’d show up panting
at my back door, and I’m no longer
the lone, braless freak in a high
school full of fresh-faced cornhuskers,
no more the sweet sixteen leather-whip
whose kohl-lined, bloodshot eyes saw your face
in every Rorschach blot, who believed
she alone could light your fire.
Admit it, Jimbo, the closest I’d get
to you now is a zipless fuck with some
look-alike on your grave in Père Lachaise.
I’ve found a new bad boy—
dingo-barking-mad with your apocalyptic
intensity— ten thousand watts of it burning
night and day in my brain.
You think he likes older women? Okay,
so maybe he doesn’t, but look, Mojo, I’m sick
of microwaving Lean Cuisine, washing
my pantyhose in the bathroom sink
every night, waking up in the same bed.
He’ll be the gladiator to defend my dreams,
someone to squeeze when my day stumbles
down the stairs into the basement.
Yes, you’re beautiful, you’ll always
be beautiful — isn’t that the tragedy
of The End? And maybe asking the Antichrist
to be an angel is a lot, but, I could use your help.
What I’m saying is: please look after him.
Don’t let him die in a bathtub in Paris or
anything. I got a big load of laundry to do.
-Linda K. Sienkiewicz
Published in Main Street Rag
Linda K. Sienkiewicz
By Libby Cudmore
Ewan McGregor is standing before me. Well, sitting, we’re on Jay Leno’s couch. Jay is nowhere to be seen. Maybe he’s fetching a complimentary tee-shirt for Ewan because Ewan is naked. He is naked and beautiful, with firm abs and beautiful skin and red-gold pubic hair haloing his enormous and very famous cock. He wants me. He is telling me this. “I want you, Libby,” he says.
“I can’t,” I reply. “I have a boyfriend.”
Ewan and his red-gold pubes and Leno’s couch vanish. I do, in fact, have a boyfriend, one who was laying beside me in bed, making little weird noises in his sleep. I looked at him and sighed. When he woke up, I told him about my dream, expecting my fidelity to him to be rewarded with pancakes. No such luck.
I dream about celebrities a lot. I tend to binge on pop culture, watching four episodes of Oz right before bed and then dreaming that JK Simmons is going to rape me, but he’s trying to be really nice about it. After hearing Eric Bogosian read at AWP, I devoured a collection of his monologues and he appeared in my dreams for weeks, just hovering in the background. Or, falling asleep in front of my fourth hour of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, I dreamed that Vince D’onofrio was begging, literally on his knees begging me to go to prom with him. “I love you,” he kept saying, each time sounding more and more like he was going to cry. I gave him the same answer I gave Ewan McGregor, only this time, instead of my actual boyfriend, I gave him my friend Alex’s name. Oops. The next night, however, I was all set to go on a date with Homicide’s Tim Bayliss. Here’s hoping Vince (or Alex) never finds out.
I even use my celebrity dating status to get revenge—one night, I dreamt that I posted “Just want you to know that I’m banging the dude from Fringe,” on the facebook page of Aaron, my nerd ex-boyfriend. I can only assume I meant Kirk Acevedo, because I’ve loved Kirk since Oz and Joshua Jackson is just too pretty for me. But despite the implication of my affair with Kirk/Josh and JK Simmons’ threat of a fine and pleasant rape, only one movie star has ever made it as far as nocturnal second base:
My affection for Jeff Goldblum is well documented. I’ve been in love with him since I was 13. I dig his glasses and I can recite most of Earth Girls are Easy. I drink my coffee out of an “I’m a Pepper” mug because he wore such a shirt in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissu, which I hated every other minute of.
Jeff and I took things very slow. First he invited me to lunch at the Oyster Bar, but I woke up before we could go. I’m going to assume we had a great time, because six months later, he invited me out for some burlesque and we made out for awhile until my nerd ex-boyfriend came over and tried to get his autograph. By the time our third date rolled around, I was getting dressed for the Emmys and he walked by my bedroom and saw me topless. The next thing I knew, we were on the floor, dry-humping on a pile of discarded dresses. He hasn’t called since, but I’m looking forward to when he does.
La Dona Tonya
by Tigh Rickman
Tonya, Tonya, Tonya, mi amor
Dice hacerse mi chica, por favor
Tengo amor por Tonya Augusto or Juli
Porque! Porque! Porque Jeff Gillooly!
Encantado con Tonya y sus zapatos de oro
En todos mis suenos dulces, Tonya me tengo
Tonya, Tonya, Tonya, my love
Say you’ll be my lady please
I have love for Tonya August through July
Why! Why! Why, Jeff Gillooly!
I’m enchanted by Tonya and her golden shoes
In all my sweet dreams, she is mine
Tigh Rickman (written in High School)
by Robin Crawford
There, on AOL,
as I pilfered a look at my e-mail
a headline—bold, concise, important—
My heart skipped a beat;
a breath lodged itself in my throat
like a pretzel stick,
and the world
Oh, dear God, no,
was my silent plea,
Say it ain’t so.
As if things aren’t bad enough—
polar caps melting,
lethal quantities of lead
in Barbiemobiles, See and Says,
and the barn that moos
when you open it;
beef infected with bird flu,
birds infected with rabies,
honeybees dying off
just for the hell of it,
and Bigfoot elusive
just a mangy bear,
or a man in a mangy bear suit—
what next, I asked myself, what next?
I gathered my shattered composure,
wiped the tears from my eyes,
(oh, I weep, too, yes I do,
but not as good as Oprah do)
I heard the words
of that shortest of all Bible verses,
made famous by Mary Ellen Walton—
or was it John Boy, Or Grampa—
and I knew why.
Only in America Can a Poor Black Boy Die a Rich White Woman
by Eugenio Volpe
In regards to pop culture worship, I was never of the Michael Jackson denomination. I was eight years old when Thriller came out. 1982 was the most significant year of my life, but not because of “Billie Jean” or “Beat It.” It was the year that I stopped being Catholic. I had undergone an apostasy due to the Dead Kennedys album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables and an interest in Greek mythology.
My cousin Michael is six years older than me. As a teen, he looked like Ralph Macchio and strutted like John Travolta. I worshipped him, even when he was making me slap myself in the face with my own hand. At fourteen, Michael broke into the corner store. The register was empty so he stole six boxes of Trojans and a carton of Watermelon Hubba Bubba. The cops were waiting for him outside the joint. As punishment, Auntie Gina sent Michael to live with his father in California. The night of his flight, she had a going away party for him. While everyone hugged Michael on his way out the door, I sat on the toilet and sobbed into my palms. It was like JFK all over again. Only this time, I was actually alive when he got shot.
A year later, Michael came home with a purple Mohawk and a fistful of punk rock cassettes. The family was shocked. My aunts and uncles worshiped Sinatra, Ted Williams (if only he were Italian), and Jesus (O how the world is lucky he wasn’t Italian). My family wore the finest that Italian fashion offered working class people. They were also very proud in regards to their hair. We all had it, thick wavy locks in various shades of black and dark brown with a hairline immune to aging. By shaving his head into a Mohawk, Michael had desecrated the family curls. He had also blemished our collective persona by dressing like some sort of angry British homosexual. My uncles threatened to kick his ass all the way back to Huntington Beach. His punk rock iconoclasm only lasted a few weeks, but it was a noble stand, worthy of respect and imitation.
The entire family had dinner at my grandmother’s every Sunday. Thirty of us crammed into a small two bedroom apartment which would emit a progression of three distinct scents throughout the evening: simmering tomato sauce, cigarette smoke, and Sambuca commixing with coffee. It was Michael’s first Sunday dinner back from California. In order to evade the hostility of our uncles and older cousins, he hung out with me in the spare bedroom, formerly occupied by Uncle Paul, whose Swank magazines were still stashed in the closet. Michael and I sat on the bed looking at close-ups of glossy clitorises. I had never seen anything like it. Always an enthusiastic tutor, Michael explained to me the function and scent of a clitoris. He had also taught me how to pick my nose and how to reverse a figure four leglock. A year later, while snooping through my mother’s nightstand together, he would provide me with a graphic explanation of how her vibrator worked.
In the spare bedroom, I was deeply appreciative of his lesson on the clitoris. I was still somewhat intimidated by his new Ralph Macchio meets Mad Max look, but I wanted to prove to Michael that I was worthy of his venerable guidance. I went into the other room to retrieve my boombox. It was a recent birthday gift. He seemed mildly impressed with it, but not enough to steal his attention away from the Swank. I hit play hoping to impress him with my musical taste. Michael finally dropped the magazine, but only to whack me upside the head. He called me a faggot for liking Smoky Robinson. It was my mother’s influence. I was a mama’s boy. I liked whatever she liked, which was Motown and The Rolling Stones. Michael ejected the cassette and crushed it underneath one of his Doc Martens. He said I could still listen to The Stones, but not Motown. He wrenched my nipple and then knocked my forehead against the wall while holding me in a full nelson. He didn’t stop until I swore on the Holy Bible to stop listening to Motown music.
Michael told me to buy an album entitled Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables by the Dead Kennedys. As a Massachusetts Catholic there couldn’t have been a more disturbing name for a band. Everyone in my family adored the Kennedys, which was miraculous given how much they despised Irish people. My mother would never subsidize the purchase of such blasphemy so I double-charged a few paper route customers and bought it myself. Songs such as “Kill the Poor” and “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” rocked my working class soul. Listening to “Your Emotions” ignited a lifelong love affair with my own neurosis.
Your mommy told you this
And your daddy told you that.
Always think like this
And never do that.
You learned so many feelings
But what is there to that?
Which are really yours?
Or are you just a copycat?
Your school told you this
And your church told you that.
And don’t you dare look at that.
The Dead Kennedys were sublimely blue collar. Their songs were angry and sarcastic. As far as I could tell, they sang directly to the working man’s plight. In what ways had Frank Sinatra ever spoke to my family’s being? In my opinion, never. What did “Summer Wind” have to do with my father’s occupation of mixing mortar and throwing bricks? Nothing. What had Elvis or Jesus ever done for anyone in my family? Not a thing. Fuck them all. That was my new attitude. I realized how spoiled I had been in wanting Castle Grayskull and a new pair of canvas Nikes. I deserved Michael’s open-hand smack. I was a copycat. I was a hypersensitive mama’s boy. There were a slew of fascist forces profiting from my neurotic desire to be accepted. Jesus, Sinatra, and Mattel, would be the first colonizers that I ousted from my heartland.
I was also reading a kid’s edition of Homer’s The Odyssey at the time. I preferred the Greek gods to the Holy Trinity. They reminded me of my family members, moody and volatile, prone to drinking and violence.
A few family dinners later, I announced my disdain for Catholicism after grace. I recited the lyrics to “Your Emotions” hoping to win them over. My father smirked. My grandmother gasped. My mother smacked me in the mouth. My uncles wanted to know why I couldn’t be like other kids my age. They wanted to know what had gotten into me. Where was I getting these crazy ideas? What radio station was playing such vulgar music? I looked to my cousin Michael. He stared down at his plate of ziti. His Mohawk had been shaved. He was wearing a turquoise Izod with the collar popped. They had gotten to him. I was last man standing. I wanted to save my family while they were still worth saving. The Reagan years had commenced. More and more working class stiffs were voting republican. Once that happened, I wouldn’t have saved them if I could.
I asked what music they deemed acceptable for an eight year old. Michael Jackson was the unanimous choice. Their answer confused me. My family was never particularly fond of black people or homosexuals. In 1982, not many, if any, suspected Michael of sexual perversion, nor did they speculate on the color of his dick. That said, his overall style and manner of dance was flamboyant, if not flagrantly effeminate. But what could I say? For the first time, my family wasn’t being racist or homophobic. They were slightly put off by Michael’s multi-zippered pants and Jheri curls, but that’s what the mainstream record companies were selling and that’s what good little American boys and girls were expected to like. Sure Michael tugged on his wiener a hundred times in a three minute video clip, but Elvis had done the same thing on The Milton Berle Show. In their eyes, Michael Jackson was still that cute little boy who sang “ABC.” In my eyes, he was all pomp and show, a freaky form of entertainment that required zero thought or participation from the viewer.
I argued that Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys had more smarts and talent than Michael Jackson. My family scoffed. They resorted to the fact that nobody had ever heard of Jello Biafra and that Michael Jackson was a famous millionaire. I didn’t have an answer for that. I hadn’t fully developed my argument. I remembered The Odyssey and switched topics, alluding to the Greek gods as proof of there being more than one religion.
“Greek?” my Uncle Sal jeered. “You’re talking about Greeks? They like having sex with little boys.”
It was news to me. I had no response. I wasn’t smart enough to defend my theories. I finished my ziti and meatballs in quiet defeat. Later, my cousin Michael and Tommy beat the shit out of me in the spare bedroom for having hurt our grandmother’s feelings. My mother cheered them on from the dining room as I pleaded for help.
Had I still been Catholic in 1982, I would have certainly idolized Michael Jackson. In a pop cultural, capitalistic society, religion prepares you to worship pop idols later in life. From Hail Mary to “Like a Virgin,” from Jesus to Cap’n Crunch. Had my cousin Michael not introduced me to punk rock my fondness for Motown would have continued its natural progression towards the later music of Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. Instead, I developed the good sense of hating mainstream entertainment and the various members of my extended family. My apostasy did not solely pertain to the Christian god and his bearded son. It included corporate mascots and quarterbacks. I renounced Indiana Jones and my Uncle Sal. By the time the MTV Thriller video came out, I was convinced that Michael Jackson was nothing more than capitalist propaganda. That video was the beginning of the end for my peers. It was Cyndi Lauper and Prince next. Followed by The Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider. Atari and Nintendo. Camaros and Mustangs. Generation X has proved to be the most materialistic generation in American history, which is sort of like being the biggest loser on The Biggest Loser.
Being an iconoclast in capitalist America is next to impossible, especially when you’re eight years old and Toys “R” Us is punching you in the face every Saturday morning with commercials advertising the new Star Wars figure or He-Man doll. My first bout of punk rock Marxism only lasted a year, which was eleven months and two weeks longer than my cousin Michael’s. It was Huey Lewis and the News that got me to flip. Huey had a head of hair I could respect. My mom liked him too. She took me to the hairdresser and had them cut my hair like Huey’s. My mom really flipped when she read in TV Guide that she and Huey shared the same zodiac sign of Cancer. I was back to wearing her fashions and listening to her music. I also returned to CCD, which in my defense was as much an economic decision as it was political. My cousin Michael had made a thousand dollars at his confirmation. I wanted a Redline BMX. Believing in Jesus was the quickest means to that end. Capitalism kicked my ass until I rediscovered punk rock and Karl Marx in 1988.
When Michael Jackson died, my cousin Michael was the first to email me the jokes. Some of them were racist and homophobic. Almost all of them made light of pedophilia. As the family killjoy, it was my place to belittle and chastise him along with any other family member taking part. They see me as some snobby college professor who writes so-called “literary” fiction. I don’t like letting them down. Most of them voted for McCain. They would have voted for Tom Brady had he ran. As an elitist dickhead, it is my opinion that they deserve my disdain. My retort to Michael’s email caused an enormous email war. Michael and my Uncle Sal threatened to kick my ass. My cousin Paul photoshopped my head onto Michael Jackson’s body. I was banned from family dinners. I haven’t spoken to them since. Perhaps I was a bit hard on Michael. Perhaps I never forgave him for abandoning his punk rock convictions so quickly. Perhaps I should have thanked him. As a result of his venerable guidance, I am a free-thinking intellectual and extremely handy when it comes to clitorises.
But really, I have no regrets. It’s not easy being the family iconoclast. Its harder being an aspiring literary author. I love art and literature more than I love my family. I love art and literature more than I love myself, which was why I paid no attention when Michael Jackson died. One dead pop star makes potential room for an obscure literary author. This year, best-selling authors Frank McCourt and John Updike passed away. They both received an insulting amount of national coverage and retrospection. What news and retrospection will the deaths of literary giants Don DeLillo or Thomas Pynchon make? There is a chance that neither Brian Williams nor Charles Gibson will make mention of either. I blame the pop culture junkies. I blame members of my family. I blame Jehovah, his bearded son, and the Blessed Mother for leading us into idolatry. We feel ashamed when we lack the talent and supremacy of a Bobby Orr or Jesus Christ, and once you feel shame, it’s that much easier for them to slap you in the face with your own hand.