Starvoice • 12.31.10

By Jack FertigMel-Gibson-fourth-rant-audio-released

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Mel Gibson turns 55 on Monday. After riding years of box office success, karma bit the actor/director in the ass hard. His homophobia and anti-semitism are no secret, but charges of domestic violence and racism throughout 2010 hurt his career. He was dropped by his talent agency and his film Edge of Darkness was considered one of the bigger flops of the year. Mega-ouch.

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THIS WEEK

Sun squaring Saturn adds the weight of age and responsibility, but Venus enters Sagittarius, leading affections and aesthetics toward new adventures. She gets in the middle of that square offering frivolous escape that can too easily complicate problems at hand, but she also offers creative solutions.

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CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
You’re at the top of your game, but what’s next? The answer to that is not as urgent as it may seem. Relax, indulge in a romantic or sensual retreat and the hard questions will gain perspective.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
The world’s troubles are not necessarily your own. Discussing global and personal worries with friends help balance it out. For answers, look across borders and oceans.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Put your deep, dark imagination to work. Even in a bleak future there are opportunities. Even if the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train, you can ride it out.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
The responsibilities of work and relationships feel oppressive. A romantic adventure is needed. If partnered, plan a getaway. If single, a stern attitude is sexy, but balance it with playful warmth.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
As hard as you’ve been working, you’re entitled to a much-needed release. If you really need to beat someone, there are eager victims. Just keep it safe and consensual.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Play only for funsies. Take a chance on love or a passionate facsimile. Incredible sex is no basis for a solid relationship. Take it one day at a time and see what else there is.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
A strong sense of responsibility at home can be a millstone or a motivator. Go with the latter. Once you drag your tush into action, momentum will make the rest of it a lot easier.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Even you have inarticulate moments. Take them as a creative challenge. Playfulness boosts morale and productivity. Too much, not so good. Turn up the jokes and your dazzling smile.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Your best investment of time, energy and money is in your own home and community. Think ahead before taking on responsibilities. Spreading good will at home will help build your standing.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
The weight of the world seems to be on your shoulders. Opportunities can be hard to find, but they’re there. A lighthearted chat with a sister (genetic or otherwise) can help you get perspective.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Life is tough, but don’t let troubles wear you down. When you find yourself worrying, channel that into constructive thought toward a solution. Stick to basics and remember what’s important.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
You may be worrying too much about money. Focus on your personal assets, the kind you’d have even if you were penniless and naked. You almost always fare better than most.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Harry Potter’ and the deathly bore

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Now playing in wide release.
One star

I have struggled for the better part of a decade to make sense of the appeal of the Harry Potter books and movies. Now, as the film series nears its conclusion with the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2 comes out in July), I’m more befuddled than ever. As it somersaults uncontrollably toward a necessary resolution, the series must contend with its greatest burden: 4,000 pages of characters and intricately plotted (but nonsensical) events — collectively, it all requires a scorecard to keep track.

Sadly, Part 1 comes with no such primer, and the director, David Yates (this is his third Potter film), has made no effort to remind us of who these people are. He should, as couching motives in shadow seems like the raison d’etre of the series. The first half-hour, in fact, feels more like the star credits that used to open The Love Boat: from forgotten Weasleys to Dobby the House Elf (who, to my knowledge, hasn’t been seen since the second film), the parade of former denizens of the Potterverse is mind-numbing.

But not nearly as numbing as the plot itself. Know what a horcrux is, or how it’s make — or, for that matter, how to find and destroy it? You’d better before entering this film. (I’ve seen the other movies and read the mythology and still feel flummoxed.) Like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the Harry Potter films have given over to infernal navelgazing. They are not interested in winning new converts, but catering to the obsessions of their core. It’s the GOP strategy writ in celluloid.

Of course, there are those who have a rabid enthusiasm for the series and who will flock to it, as well as some just caught up in the pop culture excitement of a Thanksgiving blockbuster. But I can’t worry about those. I’m just trying to make heads or tails of the story and the storytelling, and here, it’s nonexistent. (I’d tell you the plot, but have no idea what it was.)

There are long, boring parts in the middle where nothing much happens that fill in the short, boring parts that begin and end it, though seeing a cross-dressing Daniel Radcliffe as Harry in the opening scene is pretty funny. What’s not funny is Harry’s sincere

selflessness: He’s always saying, “I don’t want anyone to suffer just because of me.” You, you mean the only person who can kill the Dark Lord Voldemorte? You, who all of creation has put its faith in to rescue them from eternal darkness? You really think they want you to be in harm’s way? Harry seems not so much noble as indulgent. Accept your lot, and live with it.

Part 1 is among the shortest of the Potter films, but feels longer, even though the ball doesn’t move very far down the field. Or the snitch across the Quiddich court. Or something. Frankly, I’ve given up caring. Apparently, the filmmakers have, too.

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The Next Three Days

Now playing in wide release.
One and a half stars

I’m old enough to remember when Russell Crowe was actually a movie star. Remember his muscled torso in a short Roman chiton in Gladiator? Or sailing the seas with bravado in Master and Commander? The volatile cop in L.A. Confidential? Heck, even his mentalyl ill professor in A Beautiful Mind has the glam of Old Hollywood “Issue Picture” all over it. So when did he become the guy whose movie all sound like dull preposition phrases? State of Play. Body of Lies. Proof of Life.

The Next Three Days is more dangling clause than preposition phrase, though that doesn’t make it any better. It’s still a dark muddle about an ordinary guy who tries extraordinary things faced with unusual circumstances. When you think about it, that’s the plot of his last film, Robin Hood, too. … another day but moodless and sincere drama.

Here, Crowe is a milquetoast husband whose wife (Elizabeth Banks) has been falsely convicted of murder. He obsesses about getting  her out, but when his last appeal (and last dollar) is lost, he decides to break her out.

Writer-director Paul Haggis veers too often into action-movie parody without the sense of fun that silly actioners can possess. Want to be earnest and deep? Then do that and leave the cheesy coincidences in the first draft. The Next Three Days isn’t a horrible film, it’s just one with so little personality, it’s hard to like.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Rainbow connection

Want viral video that’s gay and funny? Meet web star Randy Rainbow

MIKEY ROX  | Contributing Writer mikey@paperroxscissors.com

RANDY GUY  |  Internet comedian Randy Rainbow makes videos about, for instance, his romance with Mel Gibson.
RANDY GUY | Internet comedian Randy Rainbow makes videos about, for instance, his romance with Mel Gibson.

Web sensation Randy Rainbow keeps good company. He has dated Mel Gibson. He attended Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. He’s BFFs with Lindsay Lohan. And if you’re dim enough to believe any of that, he has a bridge to sell you.

Truth is, Rainbow doesn’t know any of those people. But his hilarious videos — which use audio clips of celebrities, like Gibson’s infamous hate-spewing voicemails and Dr. Laura’s racially charged radio show segment — might convince you otherwise.

Quite possibly the LGBT community’s hottest commodity since Ricky Martin popped out the closet, the NYC-based blogger talks about his Broadway roots, his appearance on PerezHilton and how you can stalk him on Facebook (phone number included!). Warning: That call may be monitored or taped for nefarious purposes.

Visit Rainbow Rainbow on his blog at TheRandyRainbowBlahg.com.

Dallas Voice: I just re-watched a few of your now-famous videos and they’re even funnier the third time around. Where did your gift for comedy come from? Randy Rainbow: I come from a very funny, very silly family, so that helps. I’m also something of a comedy junkie. I’ve been observing and absorbing it in every medium since I was a kid. I think humor is the most important thing in this life.

Your blog primarily caters to a Broadway-minded crowd, so what made you sort of veer off that track and pursue mainstream celebs in your bits? The heart of the blog has always been Broadway, as I’ve always been a big show queen. Over the years, though, it’s strayed and become more all encompassing because my interests and opinions extend beyond just theater. The new website I’m working on will include lots of Broadway, but won’t be quite as concentrated. There’s just too much material out there to pass up.

You’ve received a good amount of press from the gay blogs, like Queerty and Towleroad. How have things changed now that a massive audience has found you? Any interesting opportunities — or propositions?  Well, I’m still single, if that’s what you’re getting at. But yes, the exposure has been incredible. New and exciting opportunities are popping up almost every day.

Tell us about the day your Lindsay Lohan video was featured on Perez Hilton. The last time I wrote about Perez, I have called him a self-loathing sloth. I had no idea it was coming! Luckily, I’d washed my hair that morning, but otherwise, there was no preparation. All of a sudden, I had like 40 new e-mails in my inbox and I knew something was up. Perez had subscribed to my YouTube channel when the Mel Gibson thing really hit, so I was hopeful he’d post something of mine eventually.

You’re obviously very good at building a personal brand (I don’t believe for a second that your legal name is Randy Rainbow). For all those gays out there just trying to make a fake name for themselves, what advice can you give? First of all, how dare you?! Believe it or not, Randy Rainbow is the name on my birth certificate. It sounds like the gayest of all stage names, but it is in fact nothing but the truth. Trust me — I would not make that shit up. It’s working out great for me now, but it was a very traumatic childhood.

You know your phone number is still on your Facebook page, right? You’re kind of famous now and some crazy gay is totally gonna stalk your life if you don’t remove it. You’ll never know who it is, either, because I’ll — er, he’ll — block the calls. I didn’t realize that, but thank you for bringing it to my attention. Come to think of it, I have been getting a lot of missed calls from undisclosed numbers.

You’re all over the Internet and your fans are waiting for your next comedic masterpiece. Whatcha got for us? I’m gonna continue crankin’ out the videos. I’m even starting to get some fancy guest stars, so look out for those. Stay tuned for the new website. We’re hoping to officially launch at the beginning of the new year. Lots of other fun stuff is in the works, and I’ll certainly keep you posted. For now, everyone should check my blog regularly, subscribe to me on YouTube, follow me on Twitter and friend me on Facebook. I will sleep with anyone who does. My phone number is listed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Meth and gay men: Tweaking, no thinking

One man’s story of his journey from HIV-positive drug addict on a downward spiral to HIV education advocate has a lesson for the whole gay community, especially youth

Leslie Robinson  General Gayety

“In my brief moments of clarity I knew my life was supposed to be better than this.”

Who said that? Who had mere seconds of clarity? Yogi Berra? Dan Quayle? Maxwell Smart?

If you guessed Lindsay Lohan, you’re getting warm.

The speaker was 26-year-old Jordan Duran, who in an interview with The Seattle Times described his addiction to crystal meth. He was part of a story about young gays contracting HIV through meth use.

As happy a topic as exploding oil rigs.

There is some happiness connected with Duran’s story: He’s alive. Not long ago you’d have gotten better odds on Mel Gibson joining the diplomatic corps.

Duran struggled in his hometown of Puyallup, about 35 miles south of Seattle. By the age of 5, he knew he was different from other boys. In high school he seized on religion. Duran even went to a therapist who “specialized” in reversing homosexuality.

During his senior year, he came out.

After graduation he headed for Seattle, moving in with an older man who apparently took his role as mentor very seriously, arranging official introductions for his protégé — to ecstasy, ketamine, GHB and then meth.

“From the first time I took meth I was hooked,” said Duran. “It was about escaping from who I was, and meth was the perfect drug to wash it all away.”

Chocolate does the same for me, but oddly, it doesn’t have that effect on everyone.

On his 21st birthday, Duran drank a boatload and then scored some meth. He had unprotected sex with a stranger.

A few weeks later it became clear what he’d gotten for his birthday: HIV. And many happy returns.

Joshua O’Neal, who does HIV testing research at a local hospital, told The Seattle Times that three-quarters of those who test HIV-positive at his clinic have used meth.

Said O’Neal, “When you feel invincible, you don’t care about using a condom.”

After he tested positive, Duran’s downward spiral got a move on. By 23, he was using meth 20 times each day.

Most people don’t do anything 20 times a day — except breathe.

He had unsafe sex. Staph infections and MRSA were frequent visitors. He contracted syphilis, which spread to his brain, causing disorientation. He was homeless.

Only Dante could do justice to this circle of hell.

Finally Duran saw a doctor, who happened to resemble his grandmother. She asked if he was using meth, and told him if he continued to use he’d be dead within six months from an overdose or the HIV.

Grandma took no prisoners. Thank goodness.

“Up until that point I was afraid of living, but suddenly I was afraid of dying,” said Duran.

He went directly from the doctor’s to an AA meeting, and began the arduous task of getting clean.

“Quitting the drugs wasn’t the hard part,” he said. “Feeling my emotions was the hard part.”

Duran has been victorious in the smackdown with his emotions — he’s been sober for well over two years. Soon after starting antiretroviral drugs, his viral load was undetectable.

He now works for Gay City Health Project, which focuses on gay men’s health. When someone on the skids comes in and tells him he doesn’t know what it’s like, Duran must struggle not to guffaw.

In Seattle’s King County, in the space of a year, about 10 percent of gay and bisexual men use crystal meth. For men under the age of 30, the figure is twice as high.

Combine that with the studies saying gay men who use meth are at scary-high risk for contracting HIV, and it all adds up to a real problem: tweaking twinks who can’t think.

E-mail Leslie Robinson at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and visit her blog at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Mama knows best

Vicki Lawrence works to keep Mama up with the times in a new show she brings to Fort Worth

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Vicki Lawrence
DON’T TALK BACK | Vicki Lawrence has made Mama into such an icon that now she shares top billing in her newest show, which Lawrence brings to Fort Worth Saturday.

We like our mothers and grandmothers just the way they are: Ornery or pleasant, they are, for the most part, the only people who can get away with being themselves and remain dear to our hearts.

Tell this to comedian Vicki Lawrence. This Saturday, she’s bringing her most famous character, Thelma Harper — or as we know her, Mama — to the Laugh With a Legend Gala at Casa Manana. But it might be fair to say this is Mama 2.0.

“Mama has changed a lot,” Lawrence says. “I told myself for this run that I wouldn’t be happy going back. We need to go forward, and so we set about making Mama incredibly modern.”

Will our favorite ol’ grump be tweeting her snarky retorts? That would be a “no.” But Mama has come a long way since her inception on The Carol Burnett Show. Part of that evolution is thanks to Harvey Korman, whom Lawrence credits as really starting Mama’s growth.

“She changed between Burnett and Mama’s Family,” she says. “Korman really helped out. He made the point that people couldn’t just come home, relax and watch her be mean to everyone. She had to become a fun and silly character. I learned the most about comedy from Harvey.”

Lawrence plans to keep Mama topical because she apparently has opinions on BP and Mel Gibson. But she also has visions of Lil’ Kim in her head. For this show, Lawrence will perform Mama’s Rap to prove she’s no fuddy-duddy and knows what’s what.

Her metamorphosis mirrors Lawrence’s. As the years passed, Lawrence grew from 20something comedy ingénue into pop culture icon — and grew a little closer in age to Mama.

“She became this wonderful peacock of a character,” she says. “But I have to say, I tend to agree with her a little more as I get older. “

Vicki Lawrence
Vicki Lawrence

Through Mama, Lawrence has built her own gay fan base that surprised her initially. Her Mama’s Family co-star Dorothy Lyman was the first to show Lawrence pictures of drag queens in old lady garb. But then it all seems to make sense for her.

“Everyone has a twisted family,” Lawrence says. “And mother issues. But gay fans have been wonderful, and I guess they love that she is this outrageous female character — although probably not as much fun to dress up as as Cher.”

Lawrence is spending more time on the stage than the small screen, touring with Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two-Woman Show. But her heart sounds like it’s still in television. She’s had bit parts on Roseanne and Yes, Dear and even played against teen megastar Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana’s, grandmother Mamaw Stewart.

“That was a fun set, but if it’s television versus the stage, well that’s a loaded question,” she says. “We taped Burnett like a bat out of hell. I miss that kind of TV. Stage is like that with the live audience and interaction. I miss TV. Now, everybody’s putting their two cents in via committee.“

Lawrence sees today’s TV, at least behind the scenes, as far different from her heyday. It’s harder to have fun than when she was new to the medium.

“I wrote to Carol when I was in high school. She changed my life and told me I would have found showbiz anyway,” she says. “The funny thing is I don’t know how comedy found me. I was gonna go to college to become a dental hygienist, marry a dentist and be done with it!”
Of course, then we wouldn’t have Mama, or any of her other characters. But Thelma Harper is Vicki Lawrence’s comedic legacy — which is a duel-edged sword.

“I’m definitely in Mama’s shadow — she gets all the good jokes,” she laughs. “I need to be me before I’m not anymore. We were watching the Michael Jackson memorial and I think sometimes I wanna do that for Mama. The sad thing is, if I were gone, people would miss her!”

VICKI LAWRENCE
Casa Manana Theatre,
3101 W. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth. Aug. 28 at 8:45 p.m. $75.
CasaManana.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Word association with Melissa Etheridge before her show tonight at McFarlin Auditorium

On the newsstands now, you’ll find Melissa Etheridge gracing DV’s front page. This was to get you in the mood for her show tonight at McFarlin Auditorium at SMU. She spoke about her newest album Fearless Love and her current tour with contributing writer Gregg Shapiro for the majority of our published interview, but she also gave me 10 minutes to chat about other stuff last week. We talked about the tour and how the media has handled her with her personal life being aired for all to see. But she was also game for some word association and I was able to get her thoughts on a random list of topics. With two minutes left to go, I was surprised and definitely grateful, how much she gave me in such short time. Read our session below.

Again, Etheridge performs tonight at McFarlin Auditorium, 6405 Boaz Lane, on the SMU campus at 8 p.m. $55–$100. Ticketmaster.com. The clip above is from her show on July 22 performing “Indiana” from Fearless Love. Consider it a preview of her show tonight.

Here are Etheridge’s word-association responses:

Twitter — “I find the whole Internet fascinating. It’s both good and bad. I think it’s great that we as a people are finding ways to communicate with each other and connect with each other without having to do it on our own. The Internet is a conduit. Now, I don’t want to sit around and find out if people have eaten their toast. I think it’s a cool way to reach out for young folks. But I don’t do it.”

Lady Gaga — “She’s a very talented gal. My impression is that she’s very smart really understands the music business. She’s been able to create this image and make a splash. I wish her the best of luck in this weird pop culture world out there.”

The comeback of vinyl — “I’ve been listening to some lately. If you’re real deep music listener, there is a sound you don’t get from digital. We’re researching this album to see if we should release it on vinyl.”

Mel Gibson — “I don’t judge people and I don’t like to gossip. I believe everyone has a journey and path and I believe what you put out comes back to you. I think we’re witnessing that right now with him.”

Dallas — “I love Dallas! I have such a connection with there. I find Texas to be very gay. Yummy gay! There is a a strong out community there. I really enjoy it there.”

—  Rich Lopez