Monday, September 29, 2008

"Sometimes I Wonder..." Where the Heck Creativity Has Gone?

Okay...NOW I know that the world is really ending--at least the creative world as we've known it! Earlier today, I had the misfortune of seeing a copy of the press kit for the new FAME movie. Have you heard about this? Are they serious? A remake of FAME? How is that possible? I don't even want to hear that Irene Cara is appearing in the new movie. I want to remember her how she was. What else could they possibly tell us about these characters? I want to continue to fantasize about the paths they took without having someone shove contrived crap down my throat, and I DON'T want to see the whole "next generation" of fame performers because that type of thing has been run into the ground. Shhh! Did you hear that? It's the sound of "dull" and "uninteresting" coming out to do a tapdance! How can a filmmaker be so bold as to think that he or she could recreate any of the characters, storylines or the New York City that many of us remember--the gritty New York. It was the Pre-Disney New York, when you could see a prostitute pee in a cup in Times Square (True story! Me, my classmates and the Milford Plaza. The year was 1986 and I was 16 and living in Texas. I had NEVER seen such a thing in my life.).

Not only did seeing the prostitute pee in that cup change my life, but so did FAME. I've never been so moved by a film in my life. I didn't know it at the time, but I was able to see elements of my future self up there on the screen. I saw myself in so many of those characters. Back then, my closeted homo-ness in my suburban Texas world, filled with my OCD need to have the latest Broadway cast album and sing show tunes all the time, as well as my insistence that I, too, would "live forever," would all be validated by this film. What kid with talent didn't want to be up on top of one of those cabs hoofing away to the beat? I didn't even like to dance for Heaven's sake!

When I was in high school, I went so far as to to write a letter to Anne Meara (Ben Stiller's mother, for those of you who are too young to remember) to let her know how much her performance of Sherwood meant to me. I still have the autographed picture that she sent me along with a sweet note. Imagine the irony, when at age 32, I ended up in the same benefit concert with her and her husband, Jerry Stiller of Seinfeld fame, at NYC's Off-Broadway John Houseman Theatre. Stuff like that in the Universe is cyclical and beautiful. FAME remakes are not!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Somewhere Over at The Rainbow Room

Anyone interested in seeing how New York used to be can take a visit to Rockefeller Center’s The Rainbow Room, which is now owned by Harry Cipriani. Although I have been to the event space at The Top of the Rock, where I was involved in “A Tribute to Nelson Mandela,” I have never been to The Rainbow Room. I have always wanted to go, especially since it is basically the setting for one of my favorite gay monologues from John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation—one of my favorite plays that I had the fortune to see during the 1990-1991 Broadway season at Lincoln Center in 1991 with Stockard Channing, Courtney B.Vance and Anthony Rapp. There is a whole description of two men dancing together at The Rainbow Room and then getting thrown out for it. For a 20 year-old in the closet, it was scintillating!

This past evening, I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for the new, spectacular Manhattan magazine from the folks that brought you Angeleno and others. This new publication features the best in art, design, fashion, and culture that NYC has to offer. To my elation, my friend invited me to attend with her, and the venue lived up to all of my expectations—from the vast dance floor, to the old world charm, to the fantastic finger foods and never-ending Bellinis, and of course the almost 360 degree stellar view. The view overwhelms you even when you’re in the bathroom. Now that’s luxury!

Speaking of stellar, we decided to hang around until 8:15 to see who the special musical guest was. It turned out to be Robin Thicke, who entertained the crowd with some great tunes. I’m not really a fan, mostly due to not being familiar with his music. I did, however, meet his dad Alan years ago, back in my hometown in Texas. He had been there for a hospital ribbon cutting ceremony. Anyway, I always thought Alan was good looking, but Robin is so ridiculously delicious, that you could spread him on a cracker. The only thing that confuses me is that he is the son of a Canadian, so why does he sound like he just took the train down from way Uptown?

So, yea for me, since I’m no longer a Rainbow Room virgin. In spite of the grumpy bartender who had a chip on his shoulder and the over-abundance of people, including some really “interesting” fashion plates, the kickoff for Manhattan magazine’s premiere issue was one swell party!

Still Time to Read for the Love of Harry Potter in SoHo

If you were in SoHo, New York anytime in the last week or so, you might have noticed the giant throne and the Harry Potter setup in the window at Scholastic’s Global Headquarters at 557 Broadway. No, the throne isn’t awaiting an appearance by J.K. Rowling, but it is the throne she read from at Carnegie Hall to celebrate the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series. Today, however, the throne awaits the public as part of Harry Potter “Cover to Cover Day,” for which Scholastic is inviting Harry fans of all ages to stop by Scholastic’s lobby to take a stab at reading a passage from the 10th Anniversary Edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the phenomenally bestselling series by J.K. Rowling. Fans and celebrities will be reading the book from cover to cover until the last page is read. The event is expected to last until 6 p.m. EST this evening. It is also being streamed live at Participants will receive a small parting gift.

Harry Potter Cover to Cover Day commemorates 10 years of keeping the magic alive. The special anniversary edition, published by Scholastic, will feature exclusive bonus material from J.K. Rowling as well as new cover art and a four-color frontispiece by Mary GrandPré that depicts 11-year-old Harry looking into the Mirror of Erised, which Harry comes across in his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and learns that the mirror shows you what you most desire.

What are you waiting for? Celebrate Harry’s 10th birthday by taking the R train to Prince Street. Scholastic’s Global Headquarters is located at 557 Broadway (Between Prince and Spring).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What's Up With the Brotherly Love, Dude?

What's up "Bro's?"

This morning was a gorgeous start to a gorgeous day as I woke up at the Courtyard Marriott in Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love.” It’s hard to believe that a city that is filled with so many friendly people could actually have a high murder rate. I feel super-safe there, at least in Center City.

Last November, I made my first visit to Philly to do a live segment on classic toys on Fox 29. I totally fell in love with the city, at least the parts that I got to experience. In February, I made another overnight trip there, and this weekend, I decided to drag my friend Kate along to experience my favorite Philly things, including food, discount shopping and art.

Here’s the rundown for anyone visiting Philadelphia:

Fabulous Food:

New Harmony vegetarian Chinese restaurant—My new faves--the vegetarian sesame chicken and vegetable wonton soup. So good and lunch special is only $6.95!

Valanni—Check out the herb crusted rack of lamb with creamy potato and asparagus “risotto” and wild mushroom jus. Fantastic! One of my new Philly favorites.

Mixto—The tostones Bruschetta and crab empanadas...Increíbles! Melissa the bartendress made some kickass drinks like the Tamarindo margarita. The food is always good there and if you like Colombian and Cuban food, you'll be in Heaven.

Marthon Grill--Whole wheat apple cinnamon pancakes and turkey sausage. The service was slow but food is delicious.


Ross, Burlington Coat Factory, antique stores on South Street, and dollar stores in Chinatown.

Cool Places:

The National Constitution Center

South Street—Awesome $1 per 1 minute massage here (glutes and legs too!).

We stumbled upon this George Segal (My favorite sculptor) sculpture, "Woman Looking Through a Window," in in the entrance to an office building (southside of Chestnut Street between 6th and 7th.)

This is a very cool cemetery in Society Hill. Look how the camera picked up the sunlight casting a very eery but calming hue on the whole scene.

This display window creeped me out, so had to take a picture. It reminded me of Seattle in the 1990s.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Finding Your "Bedroom" Eyes at Cheryl McGinnis Gallery

It seems these days, I never make it to the Upper East Side as much as I used to. Nonetheless, I’m always willing to travel to see art, especially if it’s good. So this past Friday night, I traveled way Uptown to 91st and Madison with my friend Kate (a featured model in the show) to the quaint Cheryl McGinnis Gallery to check out the new exhibit of photographic works by Tony Gonzalez--a photographer, who seems as much of a nice guy as he is a thoughtful, brilliant artist.

The exhibit, entitled “The Bedroom,” features nude works that take inspiration from his previous series from 2004-2005 called “The Bathers.” Some of the pieces actually evoke memories from "The Bathers." Far from gratuitous, Gonzalez's "The Bedroom" series juxtaposes traditional nude imagery with the contemporary world as is seen in “Kate/Mirror.” Here we see a young woman with a timeless face and figure applying mascara counterbalanced by her bold Celtic love knot tattoo. Like “The Bathers,” “The Bedroon” is full of interdependent voyeurism, taken to a higher level of intimacy, in which the subjects know they are being photographed and are part of the collaboration with the photographer. Collaborative or not, the photographs, which portray women in the style of historical genre paintings going about their personal business in their homes, burst with their subject’s quiet indifference to the fact that there is a photographer present. The works almost say “Look how much we’ve changed, and yet, we’ve stayed the same!” The spectator sees this in pieces like “Mimi/Closet” and “Rachel/Towel” where traditional daily moments are paired with the contemporary as evidenced by Mimi’s 21st Century wardrobe or Rachel’s laptop. It’s as if the subjects have one foot in two distinct time periods.

Continuing the metaphor, Gonzalez’s photographic process also brings two different periods together. One of ten artists in the world using the vintage technique of Gum Bichromate (a nineteenth century printing process which combines Gum Arabic, Ammonium Dichromate and water color pigments), Gonzalez combines this with modern-day digital technology to create full color images that “are rich with meaning.” At the opening night reception, Gonzalez hinted that this will likely be the last show in this genre photographed with film as it is no longer manufactured, so see them while you can.

“The Bedroom” is on exhibition at the Cheryl McGinnis Gallery located at 1287 Madison Avenue (between 91st and 92nd Streets) in Manhattan through October 11.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Batik Royale: New Exhibition Packs Artistic Punch in Chelsea, NYC

("El dia de los Muertos" by Lenore Mills)

It’s no secret that art is a very personal, subjective thing and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That’s the wonderful thing about people and art—there’s plenty to go around and one can find almost anything to strike his or her fancy.

As a mask maker, I love the dramatic. I also love diversity in art—diversity in styles, diversity in materials and most especially, diversity in subject matter. So, when I received information in my e-mail box about a new show going up at Pleiades Gallery of Contemporary Art in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood that will feature the works of Batik artist Lenore Fiore Mills, I rushed to review all the details and put this opening on my calendar. “Celebration and Ceremony” opens on September 30.

("Lion Dance" by Lenore Mills")

Batik is one of the oldest art forms in the world, with its roots going back to approximately 206 BC-24 AD in China. Traditionally, Batik artists utilize a special wax-dipped knife with which they paint designs and patterns on cloth. When the wax dries, it cracks, and during the dyeing process, the dye enters the cracks creating lines. The signature Batik patterns are revealed on the cloth once the wax boils away. To create what she calls “harmonious compositions,” Mills uses material as her canvas on which she first does a pencil drawing. She then alternates layers of wax and dye to completion. The wax is applied with fine brushes and the fabric is submerged in dye.

For more than 40 years, Lenore Mills has been honing her craft and finding inspiration in a variety of subjects that find their way into her work such as her fascination with festivals, ceremonies and street scenes ranging from the Giglio in Williamsburg, to the Black Cowboys at the Manumission Day commemoration, to St. Augustine's on the Lower East Side. Though her earlier works were much simpler, Mill’s Batik has grown up since she now incorporates more intricacies into her pieces.

Among the new works to be featured in her upcoming show are the Moko Jumbie parade, a Phillipe Petit performance at Washington Square Park, and the Chupacabra from the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Lenore Mill’s works have also been shown at DaVinci Art Alliance in Philadelphia, the Artspace in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, as well as New York City’s L'Atelier Gallery and Framing and the Photo District Gallery, in addition to the Dutot Museum, Delaware Water Gap. A woman whose works are sought worldwide, Mills' Batiks are held by collectors in the United States, Japan, and Brazil.

"Celebration and Ceremony by Lenore Fiore Mills" The Art of Wax on Fabric - Ancient Form Depicts Contemporary Life runs through October 25 at the Pleiades Gallery of Contemporary Art, Chelsea, New York City (530 W. 25th St., 4th Floor). An opening reception will be held on Saturday, October 4th from 3 to 6 p.m.

For more information, contact Lenore Fiore Mills at 570-947-7942 or Please see for sample paintings and more information.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Things That Don't Get Old in New Mexico: Part II

("Watching the New Ponies, Yellowman/ At Kiva Fine Art)

So, after a relaxing morning of the hotel gym and swimming in the rooftop pool at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, my friend Michael picked me up, and we headed out to the Jemez mountains to see the red dirt. Michael was kind enough to stop at Allsup's to pick up some very tasty bean and cheese breakfast burritos (I'm quite sure they were lowfat...NOT, especially considering they were deep fried, but at least they weren't dripping in grease.)

Jemez was so so beautiful. We stopped at the tribe's cultural center on the way to the mountains so that I could pick up some souvenirs for my co-workers and use the loo.

After our pitstop we headed up into the mountains, which was spectacular. As we got higher up, I could hear the sound of a river below and we began heading through short tunnels burrowed into the rocks as the road wound up the mountainside. When we got out of the car, it was so peaceful. The warm sun beat down on us, but there was a cool breeze and the river below calmed me as it rushed against the rocks on the ravine floor. Next to Chimayo, this was probably my favorite place.

After a soothing afternoon between a rock and a hard place (get it???), we headed for Santa Fe, but not before we stopped off for a wine tasting at the Ponderosa Valley Winery and bought a bottle of the delicious Jemez Red wine.It was so good, and the gaggle of dogs and geese there kept us company. This guy couldn't wait to push his head under the fence to pose for me.

We also popped in at the home of pottery makers Sal and Flo Yepa. Flo told us her very moving tale of being involved in bringing healing to families of victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. This is a lovely woman--big talent and big heart. I wanted to give her a hug goodbye, but felt a little weird about it. I bought this beautiful and symbolic pottery box which tells of a journey much like the one I am going on in my life at present. I will cherish it.

Finally, we made it to Santa Fe. It was a lovely day for Zozobra and Fiesta was well under way in the central plaza. All the food vendors were setting up and shouts of "Que viva la fiesta!" could be heard everywhere. It was all actually very civilized, in spite of the fact that it was mostly young people doing the reveling.

After checking into the quaint, and unexpectedly small and rustic Hotel St. Francis right off of the plaza (Can SOMEONE please explain how I managed to get a hotel for $100 per night with $5 parking next door during Fiesta in Santa Fe? Pretty incredible!), we headed out to dinner at La Casa Sena, which features fine dining indoors or out on the front plaza, which is situated in the middle of what was once a home built circa 1860. We opted to head into the cantina, which features singing waiters in a cabaret-style review, excellent, world-class cuisine, a LOT of retirees singing along to "On the Street Where You Live" and fantabulous Silver Coin and Cointreau margaritas. (Note: Food is excellent. Service is excellent. Prices a tad inflated, even for NYC standards, but worth it for the ambience, and what the hell...I was on vacation!).

After dinner we headed back to the hotel to change for Zozobra. We joined the droves of people walking up the hill towards the festival site just before the sun went down. By the time we got there, the field was full of thousands of people who had been waiting for the burning since late afternoon. They apparently were entertained by a variety of bands. Kids swung fake lighted plastic swords and vendors were also selling devil ears that lit up. Family after family made their way into the grounds, baby strollers and all, many full of sleeping children who just petered out. What was cool was that the city has turned this into a very nice family event by banning alcohol on the premises. It seems that about six years ago someone was shot and it was linked to alcohol. It was very peaceful, though I definitely smelled pot behind us.

We stood waiting for about an hour and then the burning of Zozobra began with this guy coming out (almost high-priestesque) and talking about the woes of the past year. Then dancing ghosts came out, followed by flame dancers, fireworks and the subsequent burning of the 3-story white puppet with moving eyes, mouth and arms. As he flailed in anger, he growled, which egged the people in the crowd to yell back at him. Imagine a crowd of, what was thought to be 45,000 people, shouting "burn him!" One woman yelled "You're just like a typical man!" I told Michael to yell "Shut your piehole!" an office favorite in my department at work, and he did to the confusion of the native New Mexicans around us. Then, as soon as it started to burn, Zozobra was no more and I suddenly felt a sense of peace. The ceremony, as pagan as it seemed, definitely appealed to my spirit. Definitely a life-altering experience and one I will never forget.

After Zozobra, we made our way down the hill to Fusion, where "Jacks" the sexy and bustier-clad bartendress made us the best cosmos ever. Later, we made our way down to Vanessi's, where we enjoyed great bar service, beautiful art on the walls, the song stylings of Charles on the piano, and I got to bring the house down with my rendition of "Bewitched" from Pal Joey.

The next morning we were off to satisfy our craving for blue corn tortilla huevos rancheros at the Plaza Cafe, while an Albuquerque-based mariachi band Mariachi Nuevo Sonido played. I couldn't get enough of their music. So much so, that we followed them outside to listen to them on the concert stage on the plaza. Everything about them was perfect--from pitch, to being in sync with one another, to the costumes they wore. I'd pay to sit and listen to them for hours.

The rest of the day was spent drooling over art and jewelry. The jewelry in the plaza was way over-priced, but some of it, like the gorgeous hand-tooled and layered silver pieces made by Jeremy and Eileen Rosetta of the Arts of Santo Domingo, caught my eye and had me wishing I had $4k in my pocket. Here is an image of some of the pieces they had for sale. Notice the detail, not only on the outside, but on the inside of the cuffs. Incredible!

We also traversed down another street where there were other vendors hocking jewelry, sculptures and art. One of the most special moments was meeting a New Mexico artist who arrived there by way of Brooklyn by way of Cuba. Her name is Ariela Boronat, and I want her to adopt me! She is an artist and a printmaker and her work is lovely. I decided to buy an original piece from her titled "Dulzura" because the painting's subject has such a wonderful expression on her face. She explained to me her printmaking process, since I had tried to make some linocut prints in the past and had some difficulty. My absolute favorite print was one of women washing clothes in a plaza. I told her that it reminded me of the time I photographed women in Antiqua, Guatemala, who came down from the mountains to wash their rugs and blankets before selling them in the markets. It turns out that she onced traveled all over Latin America for her job and had photographed these women as well in Northern Guatemala. It was a cathartic experience to share a similar sweet memory with a complete stranger, though I hope we don't remain strangers and that I can buy more of her art!
That day was art, art and more art! We visited my new favorite gallery,The Frank Howell Gallery which specializes in the works of master painter Frank Howell and others, including sculptor Bill Worrell, who makes some inspiring clay masks.

There, I also found the ring that I'm going to buy when my ship comes in. It's by Ray Tracy, and it's made of gold, silver and turquoise. I think it was more than $3,000. This photo doesn't do it justice...believe me!
After all the drooling, we headed back to Albuqerque and the Hyatt Regency. Boy, were we exhausted! So many things, so little time to see it all in. Que viva la fiesta!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Things That Don't Get Old in New Mexico: Part I

The Southwest is one of the most beautiful places to visit. I first had the opportunity to experience its natural beauty when I was on choir tour with the SMU Concert Choir in 1988. We visited Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, and Santa Fe. This past week, almost twenty years later, I returned to the Southwest to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. In March, I had the pleasure of going to Albuquerque for a project I was working on with NBC’s The Today Show, and I made a friend who works in the wholesale jewelry business there. He told me that I ought to return the first week of September because Santa Fe would be celebrating “Fiesta.” As part of Fiesta, on the first Thursday of September, the city celebrates leaving the past behind by burning “Zozobra” or “Old Man Gloom” on the grounds of a school about five blocks from Santa Fe’s main plaza. My friend assured me that this was an experience not to be missed and surely not to be forgotten. That would be an understatement!

My trip started with checking into the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, which is located downtown on NW Tijeras Street. It’s centrally located between Old Town, the main art and shopping district for tourists, and Nob Hill, a quaint, but lively area bustling with activity from the University of New Mexico college students who frequent its many coffee houses, bookstores, restaurants and funky shops (My new favorite store is Masks y más, which is located on the main strip and sells every possible type of artesania from Mexico, Guatemala, Indonesia and Africa. It made me very happy to walk in since, after I lived in Latin America during college, I wanted to open just such a shop!).

Afterwards, we drove to el Santuario de Chimayó in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains where we toured this little church built in the 1800s. We also saw the holy dirt, which you can take with you, in the church floor, dipped our feet in the brook out back and planted our own homemade crosses with important information on them in the far corner of the grounds, just a few feet from the vast pasture behind it that leads to mountains. Chimayó felt completely holy with a mystical air to it. We brought home some beautiful little stones from the brook to remind us of our little day trip.

On the way back to Albuquerque, we stopped at María’s in Santa Fe for some New Mexican-style carne adovada and delicious French vanilla margaritas, which is just one type of margarita on their menu of one hundred! While New Mexican Mexican food is not as tasty as the the Tex-Mex that I grew up with, the drinks were fantastic. Then it was back to the hotel for some sleep to be ready for our trek to Santa Fe and Zozobra on Thursday.