Overall, a crappy year for the queer-lit biz. But Maupin, Sessums and the fall of Ted Haggard were must-reads
The queer book world took some serious hits in 2007.
The literary heartbeat of Oak Lawn flat-lined when Crossroads Books closed. But there were other casualties as well.
Perseus Books was bought by Avalon Publishing, and because of this merger Carroll & Graf died. C&G had become a key publisher of gay fiction and at least 23 other employees lost their positions during Perseus’ reorganization.
Then in August, the UK-based Taylor & Francis Group acquired Haworth Press, parent company of Harrington Park Press. For many years, Haworth has specialized in scholarly non-fiction of a queer bent, and had recently expanded into the gay fiction market as well.
Alarmingly, Harrington Park Press was expressly not part of the merger, and will supposedly be divested. Whether this means new owners, or the sudden appearance of HPP’s large backlist in discount bookstores, remains to be seen.
On a less depressing note, here are my choices for the books that excelled and the ones that failed.
“Michael Tolliver Lives,” by Armistead Maupin. (HarperCollins) For many years, Maupin maintained he would never revisit the residents of 28 Barbary Lane, but most of them are back in this “definitely not a seventh Tales of the City novel.” As the title implies, Michael “Mouse” Tolliver did not succumb to HIV, and is enjoying life in the 21st century. While the plot frequently takes a back seat to character interaction, this reunion of beloved characters is a delight.
“Mississippi Sissy,” by Kevin Sessums. (St. Martin’s Press) In this refreshingly honest memoir, Sessums recounts his childhood in rural Mississippi. The 1960s wasn’t the easiest place for a self-evidently effeminate little boy to grow up, especially one orphaned before the age of 10. Readers will empathize with Sessums’ heartfelt tale of a child who didn’t fit in, and his quest to find a safe haven where he could become the man he needed to be.
“I Had to Say Something: The Art of Ted Haggard’s Fall,” by Mike Jones with Sam Gallegos (Seven Stories Press) Simply but powerfully told, this book chronicles the moral dilemma that longtime male escort Mike Jones found himself in. One of his regular clients, “Art from Kansas City,” was in fact Ted Haggard, leader of the New Life Church and a known opponent of gay rights. Did Jones have an obligation to out this hypocrite, or should he have respected the unwritten hustler’s code of confidentiality? The palpable tension caused by this quandary makes for a gripping read.
“Naked: The Life and Pornography of Michael Lucas,” by Corey Taylor. (Kensington) While Michael Lucas and his steady rise in the gay porn industry is a topic worthy of discussion, this isn’t the way to do it. Poorly written, repetitive, and reviled by Lucas himself on artistic and factual grounds, this book represents a surprising lapse in quality from the usually dependable Kensington.
“Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr,” by David Bret. (Carroll & Graf) Nearly 30 years after “Mommie Dearest” dragged her name through the mud, Joan Crawford deserves a fair reappraisal of her life and career. This bio merely regurgitates well-known anecdotes about the ambitious actress, and comes off as petty and vindictive toward daughter Christina, with little factual evidence to back up its assertions.
“Men Who Love Men,” by William J. Mann. (Kensington) Mann is usually one of the most dependable writers out there, but this novel is definitely a case of “going back to the well” once too often. Third in a series, “Men Who Love Men” shifts its focus from lovers Jeff and Lloyd to Jeff’s best friend Henry and his quest for Mr. Perfect. Whiny, neurotic and overly fussy, Henry makes an unappealing protagonist, and many of his travails are predictable. Mann is quite capable of far better, which makes this book even more disappointing.
Support for gay Christians Many thanks for John Wright’s poignant story about James Stabile (“‘Ex “‘ex-gay’ recants,’ Dallas Voice, Dec. 21). My heartstrings were pulled by his struggle.
I’d like to call it to his attention that contrary to popular opinion Christianity and gay orientation and partnership are not incompatable. There is a splendid Web site Stabile might benefit from, www.gaychristian.net. The founder, Justin Lee, is a devout Baptist young man who began his Web site as a personal outreach about six years ago. Now more than 7,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans folk have signed on, and I’d say about 600 to 700 members post regularly. There is a good gathering of Gay Christian Network (GCN) folk who get together regularly around Austin, and doubtless some of them live around Dallas too. I’d just like James Stabile to know he is not alone, and that God loves him as he is.
The Rev. Michael Edwards-Ronning, pastor, St. Luke Lutheran Church Willingboro, N.J.
Disgusted with interview When I read Daniel Kusner’s interview with Tegan and Sara this past November, I was justifiably upset with the newspaper’s decision to print (and conduct), such an offensive article (“Attack of the clones,” Dallas Voice, Nov. 9).
The questions were not the typical probe into a “star’s” private life. Questions such as: “Have you and Sara always shared the same menstruation cycle?” and “Have you ever seen gay-twin porn?” were not only awkward for Tegan, who politely responded with one-word answers, they were uncalled for.
Fellow fans have emailed Kusner, only to be confronted with the same ignorant type of message. For example, he provided a friend of mine with a link to a “study” that analyzed the sexual appeal of gay twin incest.
Kusner’s article was directly antithetical to what I believe is the purpose of the Dallas Voice that is, to provide a supportive community and news reports that appeal to the GLBT community of Dallas. Further, Tegan herself mentioned the Voice interview in a later interview, recounting how she tried to send the message that she was uncomfortable. I really hope Kusner, who claims to be “joking,” realizes that the subject of his joke might not be a bigoted homophobe. Since Tegan is far from that, the stereotypical oversexualization of twin gay sisters, I guess, did not appeal to Tegan or to Tegan and Sara fans.
Berenice Villela Dallas
Editor’s Note: While responding to the e-mail Ms. Villela’s friend sent, I simply suggested that she try lightening up instead of sending the Dallas Voice-mails that include this kind of language: “You are the kind of gross human being that makes me wish I was a homicidal maniac. I’m not. But I can change. Keep up the good work! Jackass.”
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From the ENDA debacle to Larry Craig’s bathroom toe-tapping, the news from the past year did not shine a complimentary light on us
As a member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists’ Association, I got to vote on the top LGBT stories for 2007. The guys over at CBS News on LOGO asked us our opinions, compiled the info, and then released their findings on Dec. 8 during their “2007 Year in Review” special report.
From a purely news point of view what got the most play on broadcast, the most column inches in print, the most pixels on blogs the top 10 stories weren’t that surprising. A quick run-down reads like this:
10. Gay Pride violence
9. Susan Stanton fired from her job as city manager of Largo, Fla., after transitioning from a male to a female
8. Elizabeth Edwards breaks with husband John and supports same-sex marriage
7. Jerry Sanders, San Diego’s Republican mayor, tearfully comes out in favor of our marriage rights seems his daughter is a dyke
6. The “Grey’s Anatomy” drama-rama
5. Gays are nonexistent in Iran, according to the country’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
4. We’re declared immoral by Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Peter Pace (he’s now the former Joint Chief although he didn’t step down because of furor around his remarks)
3. The LOGO presidential forum
2. ENDA drama-rama-rama-rama
1. Larry Craig’s toe-tapping
Looking at this list, most are stories that impacted us negatively, not stories that really tell what we as a community are doing to move ahead.
The ENDA catastrophe showed just how fractured our activist community really is. The Human Rights Campaign was painted as a big, bad liar, while 350 or so other LGBT groups banded together to kill legislation that didn’t include the transgender community.
Various polls have shown we’re all over the map on this one some of us want to wait until the political climate is right for trans inclusion, some say to pass the legislation now.
What all this really said to me was that those 350 groups now need to step up to the plate and educate, educate, educate the public and the politicians on trans issues. Now, if that really happened next year, it would be a top story for 2008.
The LOGO presidential forum gave us just a taste of what is to come. For me, the big story is how early the race started and how fatigued voters may be when we actually get to Nov. 4, 2008.
There’s no clear radical Christian right candidate. The GOP seems to be in disarray.
If we, as a community, keep our priorities straight (no pun intended) and work for whomever the Democratic nominee is, we’re bound to elect the next president of the United States.
We did it in 1992 when Bill Clinton came into office. We can do it again in 2008.
Now, I’m no Pollyanna. I know the Dems aren’t perfect. The failure of the Matthew Shepard Act is indicative of how fragile their majority in both houses really is.
So, one of our top stories in 2008 should be the work we did as a community to widen that majority.
Just imagine the stories that will be written when a Democratic president comes into office and our legislation is passed and signed into law.
Larry Craig’s toe-tapping has once again painted the community as just a bunch of sex-focused guys who would do it anywhere just to get off not the kind of picture I want for our community, and not the kind of picture that reflects the diversity of who we are, and that many of us just want a comfortable life with the person we love.
The Williams Institute at UCLA, the think tank that is helping to write the real story about the LGBT community, has taken a good look at U.S. Census data and found that the 777,000 same-sex couples living together in the United States are really no different from the country’s millions of married, straight couples.
We’re demographically and geographically diverse, just like they are. Other similarities? Both types of couples are actively involved in the economy, have similar economic resources, and are raising children.
When the media start focusing on the reality of our lives rather than focusing on how we’re different, the story of who we are will finally be written. But the big story will come when there’s no story at all when we will be considered equal to heterosexuals in all facets of our lives, and when being lesbian or gay is a nonstory. I don’t know about you, but that’s the story I’m waiting to read.
Libby Post is a political commentator on public radio, on the Web and in print.
With the freshly released complete series of “My So-Called Life” still in the DVD players of fans like us, nostalgic for brilliant-but-cancelled TV shows, it’s easy to remember how gay actor Wilson Cruz broke new TV ground as the outcast queer high school student during that series’ brief life. Since then, Cruz has appeared in independent projects and keeps working for queer causes, but a triple scoop of new films looks very likely to raise the still-young star’s profile.
He’ll appear in the gay indie drama “The Ode,” about a young Indian man who runs off to Hollywood; the basketball drama “Green Flash”; and speaking of flash the all-star comedy “He’s Just Not That into You”, alongside Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston. Nothing “so-called” about that gig at all. All three movies should be out in the coming year.
Russell ready for “‘Bedtime’ After her winning turn in this past summer’s indie sleeper hit “Waitress,” it was inevitable that Keri Russell would finally make the jump from TV stardom (“Felicity”) to a solid film career.
Now she’s been cast opposite Adam Sandler in “Bedtime Stories,” the latest film from gay director Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”).
The high-concept movie takes the mojo of “Night at the Museum” and runs with it, as Sandler, telling his niece and nephew bedtime stories, finds those fairy tales coming to life.
Russell will play, naturally, Sandler’s love interest. But here’s hoping the role won’t be reduced during editing to anonymous, personality-free “girlfriend,” a trap many actresses find themselves in as they rise up Hollywood’s male-oriented ladder.
After proving she could carry a film on her own, Russell’s too interesting for that kind of treatment. “Bedtime” goes before the cameras in February.
Verraros and Paige visit “‘Copacabana’ Say what you will about the raunchy gay sex comedy “Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds”
(the sequel to, yes, “Eating Out”), it had the nerve and energy to be as lowbrow as the subject matter demanded. And part of that energy came in the form of a go-for-broke performance by the only openly gay runner-up from “American Idol,” Jim Verraros.
The singer is proving himself a likably funny screen presence, so it’s good to see him signed on with former “Queer as Folk” star Peter Paige for the new feature “Copacabana, Of Love and Shadows.”
The story revolves around a British artist’s relationship with a Brazilian street kid, and the drag queen that complicates things for both of them. Paige stars as Miranda, while Verraros takes on both male and female roles for the film.
Shooting in Rio de Janeiro, look for this Copa eventually to shake its way onto the gay film-festival circuit.
Saunders from “‘Ab Fab’ to play “‘Doctor Who’ As Edina on the queer-centric Brit-com “Absolutely Fabulous,” comedian Jennifer Saunders wore an almost mind-bending array of unusual outfits.
But her least expected costume is just one or two fittings away as she prepares to step into the role if only for a one-off episode of the perennially popular UK sci-fi series “Doctor Who.”
Currently a big hit both across the Atlantic and on BBC America, resurrected for modern audiences by “Queer as Folk” creator Russell Davies, the show about the time-traveling doctor currently stars David Tennant, who may be leaving after this season.
It will be the first time a woman has played the Doctor, and, with Saunders’ built-in queer fan base, may just open up a whole new audience to the beloved series’ odd pleasures.
Dr. Rodger Kobes is the honorary co-chairman of DIFFA/Dallas Collection 2008. He is a psychiatrist with a private practice in Oak Lawn, and he is a consultant for Pfizer Pharmaceutical. He is also a clinical professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern. He grew up in Michigan, and his first profession was as a biochemist, working for the Chiron Foundation, a major biotech firm. He later went to medical school and became a doctor. He spent one year in South Africa as a doctor before returning to the U.S. and completing his psychiatric residency in Washington, D.C. His education and professional pursuits have taken him from one coast to the other. He moved to Dallas in 1982.
Why did you want to become involved with the DIFFA/Dallas Collection? I’ve always had a real passion for architecture, art and fashion. And I have always been very concerned about people with AIDS. It was my passionate love of art and fashion and volunteering. It was a good match for me.
Why did you decide to become a psychiatrist after initially becoming a biochemist? I was successful as a biochemist, working in a lab and giving presentations. But I found out over a few years that I loved people more than test tubes. That was my reason for switching to medicine over the objections of my mentor, the founder of Chiron. I decided to go to medical school because I loved people. I’ve never been dissatisfied with the decision.
Tell me about your private practice. I have a small private practice. About 30 percent of the patients are gay or lesbian. I mostly see people with depression and anxiety disorders. I don’t see patients with severe schizophrenia. I do have some patients who are bipolar.
How do you treat depression and anxiety disorders? It’s usually a combination of drug treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy. I don’t always prescribe medications. It depends on the severity and patient preference.
What changes have you seen in psychiatry during your 25 years of work in the field? One of the most important advancements has been the development of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. They are more effective, and they have almost no side effects. They are very safe. The old anti-depressants used not to be very safe to give to suicidal patients. A second major advancement has been the development of atypical antipsychotic agents. They have less side effects than the older ones. But the development of Thorozine for the treatment of psychosis in the 1950s was the most important discovery. Before 1952, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington had a population of 12,000 patients. By the 1970s that fell to 1,000 patients. It allows people to hold down jobs. Before, they were just warehoused in hospitals.
Soundout is a weekly column featuring people whose jobs and interests have an impact on the daily lives of members of the LGBT community. It features those who often go unnoticed by the press and community. If you’d like to recommend someone to cover in this column, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chinook is a 1-year-old brown-and-white Maine Coon tabby available for adoption from Operation Kindness. He’s a big boy, weighing in at 15 pounds. Chinook is calm, laidback and somewhat aloof around strangers and other cats. He’s neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and negative for FeLV and FIV.
You should add a pet to your household as most gay folks do
Now, there are two survey results confirming what I already thought LGBT adults are more likely to own a pet than straight people.
A nationwide survey of 2,455 U.S. adults, including 158 gay and lesbian people ages 18 and over, was conducted Nov. 7-13, by Harris Interactive, a market research firm. The survey was undertaken with the support of the LGBT public relations and marketing firm Witeck-Combs Communications.
The survey showed that seven out of 10 gay and lesbian adults own pets, compared to 63 percent of heterosexual adults. Ninety percent of the LGBT respondents said they considered their pets part of the family, and 64 percent said they had bought their pet a holiday present in the past.
A spokesman for the marketing company noted that “Americans have well deserved reputations as animal lovers and pet owners, and our latest findings underscore that LGBT Americans are among the most avid.”
I thought as much, but I decided to confirm their data by surveying the Dallas Voice’s staff.
Of the newspaper’s 17 full-time staff members [16 of whom are gay and lesbian and one of whom is a straight woman] 12 or, 75 percent, share their lives with a pet. Of those 12, nine of them, or 75 percent, said they had given their pets holiday presents in the past. And how many of the 12 full-time employees in our office consider their pets to be part of their families? An overwhelming 100 percent responded yes.
When I was doing my survey in the office I quickly learned just how important pets are to the staff not only to the pet owners but also to the five non-pet owners. All of the ones who do not currently live with pets tried to get me to put their names in the yes column because they have owned pets in the past. They even tried to sway me by pointing out that they had hung Christmas stockings for their previous pets in years’ past. They pointed out that they didn’t currently have a pet because of circumstances beyond their control, such as not being able to give a pet enough of their time.
With regret, I refused their pleas to be included on the yes side of the column in the interest of keeping my survey totally scientific.
The only concession I made in my survey was to include the straight woman in my results with the gay men and lesbians. She told me she was willing to pretend to be a lesbian if she could take part in it.
Now, that’s what I call devotion to a pet.
If you’re wondering where I fell in this survey, allow me to tell you about my two little darlings: Queenie, a white female schnoodle [a cross between a schnauzer and a poodle] who rules the house, and Butch, a silver male schnauzer.
They are the most important individuals in my life seriously. You see, when I’m home with them I never feel like I’m alone.