Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Everything may suddenly go wrong

Head full of pennies and an empty Advil container, weeknight television vacations. Morning meetings, afternoon coffee, hand in assignments. Drag it out, pull your cigarette, ride the bus home from work. Four walls, one bed, no food in the fridge, and canvas everywhere. Deep breaths, open window, close book and let the night fall.

Watch words jump around the city, end up in photographs and tattooed on knuckles. Drop your shoulders, stare at the pink paint stain on your shoe and repeat the mantra.

Stay calm.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The case of one too many Russes
*This is Russ Martin's butt

The headline hurts.

It reads, “Russ Martin: Paid Millions Not to Work, Bored.”

It certainly isn’t about me. I am paid next-to-nothing, always busy, juggling unpaid labour and other writing. Some guys get all the luck.

Enter Russ Martin, a 49-years-old disc jockey from Dallas, Texas. Martin grew up in a working class neighbourhood called Pleasant Grove, has a handlebar moustache, and owns a collection of replica cars from famous films. He owns two Batmobiles modeled after the 1966 live action Batman and another from Speed Racer. He even has an orange General Lee from the original Dukes of Hazzard.

Did I mention he’s paid to do nothing? As far the things Texans talk about on the radio, Martin has spit them all. Religion, sports and country music: Russ Martin has always has an opinion. At least he used to. According to NBC’s DFW in Dallas, Martin was dropped from his radio gig despite high ratings one year ago, but remains on company payroll to the tune of an annual $1.1 million. In the spring, he got a 10 per cent raise.

Now he’s bored. “I'm not really being productive. I'm pretty much a burden on society,'" he told the station’s website.

Here comes the bad stuff.

As the story goes, Martin pulled a gun while screaming threats at his wife, but never pointed the gun, or pulled the trigger. He also says he did not hit her, and the two are still together, the NBC story says. But he’s not speaking to the Dallas Observer, which reported his wife moved out of their $3 million dollar home and gave back his $30,000 engagement ring.

The Observer also says he’s faked many of his Howard Stern style gags, claims staffers on his show hated him, and reminds readers Martin is the type to say things like, “Only stupid people are poor.”

But domestic abuse and crown douchery aside, it still stings there a much, much more successful Russ Martin than me. Only in Texas, I sigh to myself, forcing my eyes away from the page.

I click close on the window and think:

You asshole, this is what you get for Googling yourself.

*This post is dedicated to Irina, queen of all that is Bizarro

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Art for the Internet age
*Sons of Parts Unknown

We were sure we had been given the wrong address. Wading past a disgruntled man wearing only one shoe and a gaggle of strangers smoking questionable substances in sidewalk shadows we stared listlessly into dark store front windows. Everything was closed.

We trekked on until we spotted a plaid shirt and an ironic moustache. Warmer, we thought. Inconspicuously sketched onto a red door we finally found the right words: Butcher Gallery. Bingo.

Up a steep staircase was a table of cheese and chips and brownies and a few mingling guests. The first door we tried led to a cluttered bed. Was it some sort of Tracey Emin sloth-like statement? No, just a bed. Moving on.

Down a dark hallway we found the actual art in its crowded, white closet-sized space; but it wasn’t what we had expected. A few collages, a mirror set sideways and covered in tiny silver balls, and a floorboard propped up with a white stick. What was this saying about the internet?

We consulted the hand-written and photo-copied single page program, which explained the show was “inspired by the Internet’s influences on identity, narcissism and voyeurism.” Hm.

Shifting my eyes around the room of “hyper-contemporary” young artists and their fans and followers I thought: “I feel self important and watched. Hey! Two out of three ain’t bad.”

With that we bought beers and settled into conversation. One of the un-artists revealed he’d picked out a hanging picture of a naked baby boy at the St. Lawrence Market. “I’m going to go put a red sticker beside it,” he grinned.

As he walked away I watched an actual handshake deal go down. One of the elders in the room beamed towards a fresh faced artist and announced she was picking up his piece. Surprised wide eyes melted into a smug smile as he followed her out the door and towards her car.

And just before we turned the other way I thought to myself: I may not be buying this, but I’m glad someone is.

*Collage by the excellent Liam Crockard

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Those boys in gym class
*photo Jason Bell for OUT

Tight lipped and eyes glued to the television screen, we waited for disaster. It was a moment we’d each been through, in one way or another. But sitting silent in a stagnant car, trembling teary-eyed at your mother just isn’t the same as slapping on that made-for-TV-smile and announcing to the nation: yep, I’m gay.

It’s not like the audience was without its suspicions. In a culture like ours, roman a clef and reality blend together, leaving us wondering which personalities we’ve made up, and which ones we’ve become. But in every television persona’s career (and every homo’s life) arrives a time to come clean. So just as we had, around dinner tables and after long, awkward telephone pauses, Adamo anted up the information.

It was an E-Talk Canadian celebrity special and big news on the blogosphere. But the attention only served as reminder we’ve chosen few gays as idols and kept countless others hidden in closets. So it was with relief we let out a breath, logging on to see the not-so-cumstained pictures on Perez, welcoming him to the Gaybourhood.

It didn’t kill Neil Patrick’s career, and it won’t kill yours, we told him. We’ve moved past that time, or at least like to think we have. And as it turns out, the ordeal meant as much to the audience as it did to him. Letters in the mail from boys like the ones we were in small-town-somewhere confirmed we still need to see ourselves on TV to believe. That shouldn’t be how things are, but it is. Now they see stereotypes, but at least know the options. We weren’t so lucky.

It’s with that I’ll extend a nod in the direction of Mr. Ruggiero, an honouree in the recently announced OUT 100.

Thanks for being a big gay, buddy.

We needed it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Looking back into the trees

And so we stayed indoors all weekend, at bars and on couches, dancing time and sobriety away. It felt like winter already, as we’d retreated despite warm weather and smart blazers to be worn. Jackets were traded in for cotton, stretched around sleeves and bathtubs and hair and toes. And as conversations ended, the street window whiplash of cars sped on and on. There you sat editing photos, full and hungry, waiting for the cold.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sunny streets again

For some reason, the sun waited until then to appear. We’d had a few summer stretches of heat, but to be honest, July and August stunk. First it was garbage and closed public pools, then cool nights and an early on-set autumn against a smog grey sky.

But out of nowhere mid-November brought perfect weekend weather. On a sleepy Sunday out came heavy sweaters and light jackets; we went to see the last of the leaves to fall. Faded colours and a long coffee breakfast, we strolled lazily through the park. Photos were taken and movies rented, then as the stars rose we fell into sweatpants, grateful to turn off fans and open screen doors.

And even if it ended with morning (which it didn’t), we went to sleep knowing our season had come.


*shot with a German Leica pocket cam. panorama, panoramic.
Problematic PR tactics

Toronto's favourite nobody is up to trouble again. It seems gossip monger Zack Taylor recently came up against an age old journalistic conundrum: under pressure, does a journo who has been sworn to secrecy reveal anonymous sources?

A few days ago Taylor got into it with Disney darling Demi Lovato over her supposed romance with her fellow D-Tween, Joe Jonas. When Lovato got wind that Taylor had posted a confirmation of her relationship with Jonas on his Toronto-based gossip blog, the Tweets started to fly.

The snap-back denial began with a Tweet Lovato posted at 3:00 a.m. on November 5, reading: There's been a lot of rumors lately that I'm dating one of my best friends Joe. I can promise my entire career that I am not.

The message was quickly followed up with another firm denial: We've NEVER dated. He's incredible, but we don't have feelings for eachother in that way. I love you guys, and I wouldn't lie about that.

And finally a shot at Taylor: It's ufortunate that some people out there are so desperate for attention that they have to make up gossip to keep their site alive.*

That’s the pressure, or so Taylor sees it. In the face of the flack he was receiving from Lovato through her public tweets, he returned to his source, who had insisted anonymity.

Word from the still unnamed source came in the form of a text message reading, “you gotta be patient cuz no rep is gonna confirm it I can assure you!” and another: “It’ll die down in a couple of days, then the truth will come and ppl will say “OMG he was telling the truth!” Then they’ll respect u even more.”

Taylor was doubtful, and faced with losing his Hollywood credibility (read: points with PR practitioners and loudmouth “insiders”) he caved.

The source? None other than Lovato’s mother, Dianna Delagarza, Taylor says.

But before the plot could take a further Living Lohan twist, Taylor jumped on the defensive. In an interview posted earlier today, the blogger told the known Taylor-haters over at Torontoist, "My emotions went from feeling pissed-off, to feeling betrayed, lied-to, hurt, confused, to finally, a clear conscience."

Can Taylor keep that conscience? Probably, as much as any gossip columnist or blogger can. Shady blind-item ethics are currently kosher amongst the celeb-dishing set, so when it comes to anonymous sources writers like Taylor are forced to either sit on the “truth” in silence, or spill the beans.

But let’s face it: if Mr. Taylor’s moral dilemma is between the shady practice of using un-named sources and the shady practice of concealing a mom-anger’s (equally shady) PR tactics, well, this is embarrassing for all involved.

Conclusion: You always lacked conscience, Mr. Taylor, that’s exactly what keeps your site’s content flowing.

Conundrum solved.

*Spelling mistakes courtesy of Ms. Lovato

Monday, November 09, 2009

Smoke ash Sundays

Whatever was left of the celebration had crusted at the edges.

The cake sat forgotten counter top, all icy and inviting, a knife jabbing into the crumbling mess. All around beer bottles glow green in mid-day whatever, lukewarm left-over brew buzzing at the bottom, waiting for flies to come.

The headaches are worse than this time last year, but the noise is about the same. It’s that same subway stretch that leads to take-out and gifts to buy come snowfall, time to take a look. The old neck’s still sore from dance floor whiplash, even after an unfaithful swim.

Hair dries with time and toweling, text messages come and go. An outfit change here and there, a switch from beer to Jack. Tables full of friends and strangers, two bed pillows, one fan.

Wake up to coffee, sing to a stranger, walk through the park, go to bed and try again.

A poet in the house

“I like that,” I say to a nod that reads: You ought to, you wrote it.
I shake my head no, shrug and snap: Found art from an unknown author.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A couture Christmas season

It’s unavoidable, and it’s already begun. The bells, ribbons, presents, and wishes. Next are the TV specials, family newsletters; picture perfect parades. But before the busy and the boastful start their culturally specific consumption, we gather in the fresh cold to watch city winter begin.

The Holt Renfrew windows, a street-side peek into the fantasy of fashion. Our alter of endless high-end everything, the team who tells the wealthy what to wear. Covered up and caged in we count down to the reveal.

It’s some mindless mix of animal heads and mirrors, penguins and pearls shown. There are igloos and ice queens an imitation of Miss Wintour. Inside the boxes are lacey legging, leather gloves, and a singing snowman choir.

We’ll stand and stare on another afternoon, decide to walk away. The crowds crawl in and we shiver off, songs still playing in our heads. If this dreadful, dreary time of year must come, at least it does with style, you think, shuffling to tune.

And with that you walk away, satisfied with the corporate song-and-dance.

Que Leslie Feist,

I feel it all, the wings are wide, wild credit card inside…

*Updated with photos taken days later, after the crowds had died down

The reception

It was our job to answer the phones. “Hello, Vault Salon and Spa, this is Russ speaking, how can I help you?” Over and over, again and again.

We were told to dress up, look good. Dick had no problems with that, even in his uniform white t-shirt and black jeans. When I took off to attend classes, he stayed to man the phones, intermittently heading to New York and Paris where he would dress up, look good.

But before he took off for his extended vacation from the city that was, they got this photo of him, looking all dapper, with his freshly cut hair.

*Photo from John Graham’s looks for the 2010 Contessa Awards. Congrats to Danille Mandap for winning Manitoba/Saskatchewan hair stylist of the year and Melissa Bortoluzzi on Student/Apprentice of the year. Vault’s Jane Tecson, Sherlyn Sampang, Desiree Tan and Graham were also finalists.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Back to the basics

To 2009, the year we went pantsless, I submit: a retro movie montage from your favourite Scientologist.

In the beginning, there was fire. It came from the apartment upstairs, some laundry dryer gone a bust. The people piled out in partial costume, smoking cigarettes and eating pizza on paper plates. Men with hoses rode on elevators and we climbed the stairs. It smelled like smoke, no bother. On goes the music, pour the first glass…

Then off come the pants. Just for the night, a Tom Cruise teenage tale. We’re outdoors near water, under the damp city smell. The torches warm the floor, where I dance in socks and underpants. The bunny jumps, the beat goes on, we move and shake. And like all the characters in nearby buildings, we pretend.

To the bar hopping, trick-or-treating participants, I say: play on.

Yours truly,
Risky Business