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Queer As Folk Backlash, Russian Aristocrats, Jennifer Tilly And The Meaning Of Life
by Thom Fowler

It was bound to happen. Some uppity homos have taken offense to American Queer as Folk on Showtime. Since the show jumped the pond and landed in mythical Philadelphia it has been the saving grace and/or the crippling blow to gay “community”. I’m not one of these people that think there is such a thing as the gay community and that by virtue of being gay, I am automatically included in any and all gay related social life.

To quote The Smiths, “This says nothing to me about my life”. So when I found out someone had taken the time to not only organize a group called Queers Against Queer As Folk, but even send out press kits to the media so everyone else would know too, I thought that perhaps there was some hope of deghettoization. I’m glad that queers/homos/ “gays” are starting to be kind of, you know, commonplace. I get so tired of all these little boxes I’m supposed to fit in. But then again, I don’t really need to find myself in the gay world because I’m lucky enough to have room to be all that I am in the world I’ve always just inhabited.

At the recent GLAAD awards, which I didn’t go to and didn’t even know about and I’m supposed to be in the loop about these things, Queers Against Queer As Folk had a little protest at the Hollywood and Highlands Complex. One woman had a picket sign that read, “Mothers of Queers Against Queer As Folk”. Some representative from the GLAAD awards didn’t think the protest was a good idea and an altercation ensued resulting in the arrest of the GLAAD representative for assault.

GLAAD lost a few integrity points there for attempting to censor criticism. I think they exist for the right reason but the organization shouldn’t get caught up in protecting the media properties of gays and lesbians and stick to addressing homophobia in OTHER media properties, which is its stated purpose.

GLAAD should give awards to people who have seen the error of their ways and attempted to make amends. Normally, they just bully people into giving them money on the threat of being publicly scandalized as being homophobic. As if that would be a scandal. “Yeah, I know they have a malicious attitude towards gays and lesbians, that’s why I watch the show”.

On a relevant side note, any organization is only going to reflect the attitudes of those running it despite the bylaws. But I don’t want to damage GLAAD’s reputation, merely point out that they too need to be open to criticism from the people they represent.

I interviewed Jennifer Tilly recently, who, by the way, attended the GLAAD awards (one of my spies tell me) and she explained how she manages to fight depression and stay healthy by having little moments of success.

“There’s something called “success pheremones”. When people are depressed they don’t have enough success pheremones. And any time you do something, like, if you tell a joke and people laugh you get a little voltage of success pheremones. So if I’m going to make a cake and it doesn’t fall, I get success pheremones. And those things keep you healthy and if you don’t get enough, you get sick.”

The whole interview is at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/hbs.cgi?feature=562

I complain a whole lot about the place I’m living now. For some reason I just can’t find a new roomate situation so I’m sort of committed to this little hellhole of a room in a house inhabited by alchoholics. I’ve met so many recovering alchoholics since I’ve been in LA and they have come in handy when helping me understand the sometimes bizarre and irrational behavior of the people I live with now.

As angry as they make me and as much as I don’t feel like I’m at home when I’m at home I feel like there is some higher purpose for me being here. I wish I could get them to take one small tiny step towards making their lives a little healthier. Maybe they like being drunk and strung out and if they don’t see that as a problem, then I guess its not really their problem. It is my problem.

If I didn’t live here I would never have found the estate sale around the corner. There was a Russian woman who died and as I was poking through her stuff, thinking, “this is what’s left when you die, all these things that gave your life meaning become just stuff”, I discovered that this woman was a descendent of the Russian royal family, many of whom were killed in the 20’s.

Her husband had died the year before. She was 91. I found some photo albums in one of the closets and wondered why there wasn’t any family who wanted them. Inside the albums were photos from all the way back in the 1890s (I used to work in a vintage clothing store and learned to recognize clothes from different eras) to about the 1970’s. Russian aristocrats (which no longer existed after the communist revolution) posing in front of country estates in the snow. Elegant, cultured people in tasteful, stylish clothes skiing, attending weddings in the French countryside, shopping in Paris, vacationing in Tuscany.

I also found boxes of postcards. From them I learned they started out in Beunos Aires, which is where I think the family fled to, and then went to Paris and eventually LA. They moved into the Hancock Park house in 1956. I know because one post card was forwarded from the old address to the new one. 46 years later I’m going through her underwear drawer and finding all her treasures. Pure rose oil; rare, expensive french perfumes evaporated into a thick, sweet, heady paste; plastic mementos; a ring of 80 year old keys to boxes and dressers and cabinets that don’t even exist anymore. Volumes of poetry by Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Verlaine. She knew French before she knew English and I almost bought the reel to reels of their practice lessons. They must have been old for a very long time because the paint in the house was peeling off the walls and the kitchen had crusted over with grease. In the more recent photographs, they are already past middle age, the house is crisp, their parties vibrant and elegant, china, linens, semi-formal dinner dress but those were taken in 1978.


Her husband was a surgeon and I found a collection of scalpels in a purple, velvet lined box, like a silverware case, from Russia … with love. The box was falling apart and the knives were dull. But that’s what a travelling surgeon would need. These days, scalpels are all one use throw aways. Those were his tools that he proudly carried. I wonder if he proudly sterilized them.

They moved into the neighborhood when nearby Perinos was still THE spot for Hollywood royalty and the wealthy and glamorous. Studio glamour was in full tilt and parading past their door every day of the week. They came here to be part of that but over the years it all faded away. Perinos now is just a target for graffiti taggers and “Hollywood” doesn’t churn out legends anymore, just “product”. The Chokines (their last name) had excellent taste and liked being where the action was. The neighborhood now has faded. The south side of Wilshire in Hancock Park is crumbling and the once elegant homes have not been kept up like the north side. I live in one of those houses. An old, crumbling 7000 square foot, 5 bedroom house with sun faded carpet, a hole in the ceiling, a chimney that somehow lost a few bricks and doesn’t reach the roof anymore.

You can tell that in the 20’s when it was built, it was a luxury home. And I like that faded glory and the worn hardwood floors. A dentist used to live here in the 40’s. One of the rooms was converted to his office. People got their teeth pulled in this house. But nothing has been done to it and it hasn’t even been dusted in years. It just screams “renovate me” but changing the house would mean changing their life and I don’t think they will do that. But they can’t just sit here while their liver rots and the house falls in around them. Or can they?

If it were my house, I’d take out an equity loan, spend 50,000 renovating and watching the value of the house double. Right now, it’ll go for 450,000 as is, which is a steal but could easily sell for 700,000 with some structural repair. And then they can buy a house in the valley for half the money and invest the rest. The people who own the house are mostly struggling to make ends meet and in a weird way, they are prisoners of this house. I just think of them as ghosts. Mother and son, locked into some kind of dysfunctional incestuous relationship. That’s going to be a good story if I ever get around to writing it.

The collection of postcards was as amazing as the photo chronicle of their life. I love all the postcards of the new Ventura and Pasadena freeways. “Now you can take the expressway all the through the center of the metropolis without encountering cross traffic”. Such amazing advances in civil infrastructure, speeding us towards THE FUTURE. Can you hear that white bread 1950’s monotone male narrator? Aaah, post-war America. Such an idyllic, carefree time. But what do you expect from a bunch of war weary twenty somethings who wanted to get back to playtime as soon as possible.

My favorite photo is one of Red Square in Moscow during the Vietnam war. The Square is covered in enormous constructivist propaganda banners in the familiar red, white and black with a skull and crossbones next to the words USA and Vietnam. That’s like, cold war contraband, that photo. See how evil the Russians are? They only want to destory us.

I wonder if we’ll ever get a new world history. Will we ever find an adequate, universal definition of “good” and “evil” or will it always just be subjective, provincial, nationalist.

I’m still lost in the romanticism of being let into the story of their life however accidentily. I want to preserve as much as possible the artifacts of their unusual life and their secret historyin the world stage.

Makes me wonder what role fate has in our lives.

Lastly, I was recently accepted as a member of the Online Film Critics Society. http://ofcs.rottentomatoes.com/author-5527/ . You can find my film reviews, interviews and other film related features there or at Hollywoodbitchslap.com slash eFilmCritic.com. Filtering Filtering Filtering.

Next time: more celebrity anecdotes, tattoos, thoughts on “underground” culture, and whatever else the celestial clockwork grinds in my direction. I’ve already written it, but these columns are already so long that I have to just eke it out, one or two anecdotes at a time. I think I said “Indiana Jones with a laptop”. I’m just sifting through the world, holding on to not much and then telling the story, revealing the mystery, puzzling over the pieces of the puzzle.

What I really need to do is finish this novel (that’s really finished but now comes the part I don’t want to deal with … facing rejection while I try to get it published), and perhaps call an editor or two and pitch a story. I forget that some people actually make some money doing this. Man, as soon as this becomes work, it changes the whole spirit of it but I can’t live off dreams.

Or can I?

Row Row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Life is but a dream


link directly to this feature at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=563
originally posted: 04/22/02 17:36:56
last updated: 04/22/02 18:44:18
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