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Washington's Brave Drummer, Molly

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For George Washington's birthday, I thought I'd post some images from an old hardbound children's book in my collection called, "Molly The Drummer Boy." The book was written by Harriet T. Comstock with illustrations by Curtis Wager-Smith. Copyright is listed as 1900.
The book's colorful cover

The story is about a girl named Debby who disguises herself as a boy, renames herself Molly and joins the Revolutionary army as a drummer. The author claims the story is based on historical fact, but Comstock doesn't mention where she first encountered records of the story.
A long-haired boy before Washington

The caption to this illustration reads, "For a moment Washington eyed the boy."

Swan Macabre

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The Black Swan's red eyesBlack Swan has "Best Picture" written all over it in firehouse-red lipstick letters. If you haven't heard about it already, Black Swan is a female monster movie about a ballerina, played by Natalie Portman. I'm anticipating that this new genre will take off and that AMC will shortly debut a new series based on the ballet horror concept.

Recalling movies like Memento, The Sixth Sense and The Crying Game, Black Swan's narrative shape-changes as the movie proceeds. The viewer will find it necessary to revisit earlier scenes to determine what actually happened, and even then, reality may not appear clear cut.

Natalie Portman excels as Nina, a young, up-and-coming dancer who scores the lead role in a new production of Swan Lake. Against a background of intense female competition, Nina begins to unravel as she prepares for a role that could make her career.

The horror begins in mundane fashion, as the viewer is exposed to the physical brutality of the dancers' training. Bloody toes and routine stomach purging introduce the theme of sadism as a companion to beauty. Nina, in striving for perfection, continues the theme, with bouts of skin scratching, peeling and tearing, repeated late night practice sessions, and hallucinations.

About halfway through the film, the Cute-Little-Red-Headed-Girlfriend, who accompanied me to the theater, leaned over and whispered, "This film is terrorizing me." Later, the Girlfriend said she could feel her blood pressure increase every time Nina examined herself in a mirror, because it always meant something bad was about to happen. Looking in the mirror functioned like that scene in your average slasher film where everyone decides it would be a fine idea to split up.

Natalie Portman is to be commended for all that she has put into this role. I remember when Robert DeNiro altered his physique for the lead role in Raging Bull. The critics talked about him like he was a god walking upon the earth. Today's commentators don't seem to have the same respect for Portman's dedication to her role, but they should. The bodily permutations she has undertaken as an actor--months of ballet training, as well as dramatic weight loss--are vital to making Nina's story convincing.

Black Swan isn't just about female body horror. There are many instances where the female body and the extreme ideal of feminine beauty seen in ballet are showcased. I was mesmerized by the rippling backs of the ballerinas and mature ballet instructors as their arms imitated the movements of a swan. Also, be on the lookout for Nathalie Portman's breathtakingly muscular ass, or her quivering, flexing thighs in the first masturbation scene.

With its convoluted story line, I expect Black Swan is a movie that will benefit from a second viewing. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing this one again.

Wise Gals

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It was my friend Joe who turned me on to The Lesbian Mafia podcast some years ago. He sent me an email demanding that I listen to episode 4, "PMS and Worst Psycho Lesbian Stories Revealed," devoted to personal tales of the worst lesbian ex-girlfriends ever.

Diane Keaton in the Godfather filmsI loved the podcast and the whole idea behind it, which revolved around the host, Sandi, calling her friends across the country and asking them their opinion on a topic or question. It felt like I was listening in on a lesbian party line. After digesting episode 4, I downloaded earlier Lesbian Mafia episodes to catch up and also subscribed to the feed.

I became familiar with the show's theme song, a spoof of Melissa Etheridge's "I'm the Only One" retitled "I'm a Lesbian." I also grew fond of the juvenile but immensely entertaining prank phone calls Sandi sometimes includes on the show. On one of my favorite prank calls, Sandi called a New York gym and pretended to be a member who was upset at being ogled by a lesbian in the dressing area. The gym's response, redolent with New York attitude, would fit well in a collection of "Best Customer Service Stories."

Sandi's New York Italian background provides a certain flavor to the podcast. Show after show, I am impressed by Sandi's ability to use the phrase "fuck your mother" in almost any sentence and have it sound completely natural. The podcast isn't called The Lesbian Mafia for nothing, after all. When deemed necessary, Sandi does not hesitate to issue threats and make demands.

For example, in the most recent episode (70), "What the Hell is Going On?," Sandi takes on the reluctance of some women to label themselves as lesbians. From there, Sandi goes on to discuss the movie The Kids Are Alright and the difference between lesbians and bisexuals, a conversation she continued with listeners on Twitter.

The Lesbian Mafia has found an audience not only among lesbians but among many non-lesbians as well. The show is funny, insightful, and very uncensored, so if you haven't heard it yet, try giving it a listen.

Recently the Cute Little Red Headed Girlfriend and I went to the Autry Center for the first of four programs on the history of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in the West. The first program in the Autry's OutWest series was a panel discussion revolving around the movie Brokeback Mountain, called "Whatever Happened to Ennis Del Mar?"

One shirt covers anotherIn addition to the panel discussion and reception, attendees were invited to view the shirts featured in the final moments of Brokeback Mountain, currently on temporary exhibit as part of the museum's extensive movie costume collection. You can see the shirts in the snapshot shown at left.

During the panel introduction, members of two groups in the crowded auditorium were asked to stand: representatives of the International Gay Rodeo Association and "the Brokies" (like Trekkies, but for Brokeback Mountain), who had flown in for the occasion. I knew the movie had a fan base, but I hadn't realized until that afternoon how ardent it was.

The panel discussion ranged over a variety of topics, including whether Brokeback Mountain could be considered a gay film or a Western, the movie's representation of male friendship and masculinity, and the film's reception in the U.S. Panelist Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio, read his original published review of the film as well as his scathing post-Oscars commentary on Brokeback Mountain losing Best Picture to the movie Crash.

As a Westerner myself, I have a longstanding personal interest in the history of the U.S. West. But I was also drawn the Autry Center's OutWest series because of some documentary footage on gay and lesbian elders that I saw many years ago that has stuck in my mind ever since. In first person interviews, gay and lesbians in their 80s and 90s discussed their lives on film. One of the men discussed his life as a cowboy, describing how he moved west to escape the heterosexual expectations placed on him by family and society.

Although he was seeking a life of solitude, once this man arrived in the West he realized there were others like him who had left home for similar reasons. When I heard this story, there was something startlingly obvious about it that struck me. I think part of what made Brokeback Mountain such a phenomena is that it brings to the surface this hidden yet in some ways plainly evident history of gays and lesbians seeking freedom in the West.

According to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times about the Autry's OutWest series, the next program will focus on a female stagecoach driver who lived her life as a man.

The other day The Boston Globe reported on a new project coming out of MIT that uses social networking data to predict whether a male Facebook user is gay or not. The experiment has been given the not terribly original name Project Gaydar.

Part of a new field of study called social network analysis, Project Gaydar examines a a male Facebook user's public connections or "Friends" on Facebook in order to determine the likelihood that he is gay or not. Other analyses have attempted to predict a person's political affiliation or drawn conclusions based on favorited books and movies.

Gays and lesbians have had particular concerns about privacy rights due to the history of criminalization and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the U.S. Even gays who are largely "out" may prefer to keep their sexual preference private in select circumstances, such as applying for a job or while searching for housing.

Facebook, Twitter and other social networks do offer privacy settings that allow users some control over what other people can see. So there are some means available to protect information one wants kept private, including choosing not to post about certain subjects at all.

Several studies have shown that not posting about certain subjects--such as politics, sex, drinking, and your employer--is exactly what human resources departments in the U.S. expect from potential employees. According to a recent survey of human resources professionals, nearly half used social networking sites to help them screen candidates.

If you're gay or lesbian and looking for a job, you probably already know that you don't have much legal protection against discrimination in hiring or in the workplace. And if you're not gay or lesbian, you're pretty much shit out of luck, too. Any number of behaviors or lifestyle factors could place you on the "do not hire" list, including being overweight or smoking.

According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, potential employers can use investigative consumer reports to find out about a candidate's "mode of living." However, under the federal Fair Credit and Reporting Act, employers must notify job seekers of such background checks and some states place additional restrictions on such reports.

Now, with social networking background checks, no notice need be given. Human resources managers can log on to Facebook, Twitter, or any number of other sites and draw whatever conclusions they like about prospective employees (including wrong ones) based on friends, favorites, posts or casual comments.

In other words, your future livelihood may depend on whether you've declared yourself a fan of The Simpsons or once retweeted Pee-wee Herman. And yet, the online reaction to intrusive practices like Facebook background checks is mostly defensive advice like "don't post publicly," or "clean up your digital profile."

Freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech are rights provided for in the Constitution to all Americans. As part of those freedoms, we must demand the right to Friend and to favorite, to gather and to chat, to poll and to post without the threat of corporate surveillance restricting our ability to make a living or to participate fully in our digital public sphere.

Fringe Fiction

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When I first started reading fan fiction many years ago (invariably lesbian fan fiction), I mostly found stories at websites dedicated to a single TV series, either Xena: Warrior Princess or Star Trek: Voyager. Only a few sites I went to hosted fan fiction for multiple TV series; back then a group fanfic site might cover half a dozen TV series at most.

About a year ago I discovered FanFiction.net, an aggregator site for fan fiction sourced from TV, film, literature, comics, plays and anything else the community takes an interest in. I can lose hours browsing FanFiction.net. The site has many helpful filters, such as story language, length, genre and content ratings, to assist readers in finding the type of fan fiction she or he prefers.

I'm fascinated by many of the highly specialized fan fiction groups. For example, I was intrigued to discover a quantity of stories revolving around the Bert/Mary Poppins relationship in the movie Mary Poppins. It had never occurred to me that there was more to say on the subject. However, a glance at FanFiction.net shows that a number of dedicated movie watchers feel otherwise.

Over the years I've read volumes upon volumes upon tomes of fan fiction based on Xena and Voyager. Much of it is long, around the length of a short novel. The best of this longer fan fiction succeeds in creating a world or a universe in depth. Some examples of this type of writing from Xena uber fan fiction include In the Blood of the Greeks written by my friend MaryD, or Tiopa Ki Lakota, by D. Jordan Redhawk.

Nowadays, fan fiction writers and readers seem to prefer a very short fiction format. Perhaps it's not surprising since many forms of communication and creative work seem to be getting shorter. Today, fanfic writers jot down a few paragraphs and call it a story. There's more breadth in fan fiction today because writers can dash off a quick story based on one set of characters, then move on to the next fictional world that interests them.

Patty on the couch with her dog and Ellen

Despite the breadth of material at FanFiction.net, it's still possible to find original material that has been overlooked by fan fiction writers. For example, earlier this year I went looking for Damages fan fiction and came up empty-handed. I was shocked, not only because Damages has such a dedicated audience, but because the love/hate relationship between Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) and Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) seems so ripe for slash fiction.

After many failed searches, I eventually found an example of Patty/Ellen femslash ("I've got Patty right where I want her"), but on a livejournal site, rather than at FanFiction.net. My time spent searching at FanFiction.net was not wasted, however. While I was browsing the "D" series at FanFiction.net, I happened to look over at the "F"s and discovered Fringe femslash.

Olivia confronts Nina

Fringe is my favorite new show of last season, and I'm so happy it's going to have a season two. There are many things I love about it, like the fact that it runs with almost no ads; the character Walter Bishop, the LSD-loving mad scientist; out actor Jasika Nicole, who plays Astrid; and the fact that the most evil place in the universe, Walter's lab, is located at Harvard.

But of all the fringey things there are to gush over, the most wonderful is Anna Torv, who plays the show's lead character, Olivia Dunham. In the last year, Olivia and Torv have become very popular with the sapphic set. There's a certain brutality to Olivia's outlook that I think makes her appealing to dykes. She's a no-nonsense kind of gal, and we like that.

As the show has progressed, Olivia's toughness has been played up through a decidedly unfrilly wardrobe and increasingly intense action and fight scenes. There was also an episode where, through various plot contrivances, Olivia piggybacks onto a man's consciousness and in that state sleeps with a woman.

Olivia had a male romantic interest early in the show, but he was quickly dispensed with. Although Peter Bishop is the most obvious heterosexual object for Olivia, the show has kept her unattached. Instead, Olivia lives with her sister and her niece. However, if you watch the scenes between this little family carefully, you'll notice they play very well as scenes of same-sex domestic life. I know that sounds gross, but there's nothing sexual going on between the two sisters--it's just an undercurrent that makes Olivia's home life seem a bit more "alternative."

The fan fiction I came across at FanFiction.net explores Olivia's relationship with Nina Sharp (played by Blair Brown), an older woman working as Senior Vice President of Research and Development at the mysterious Massive Dynamic corporation. Like Patty Hewes on Damages, it's never entirely clear whether Nina Sharp is friend or foe. It's that tension between Nina and Olivia that serves up great material for fan fiction. That, and Nina's robotic hand.

"Fascination", written by Fembuck, examines Olivia's ambivalent feelings towards Nina and the corporation she governs. Olivia's anxieties are expressed through her response to Nina's prosthetic hand, which has been engineered by Massive Dynamic.

'Is it the hand?' Nina asked; her voice soft and curious as her eyes dropped to look at her fingers which were still resting lightly on Olivia's arm.

The hand was a prosthetic, a very realistic looking, extremely sophisticated bio-organic prosthetic, but a prosthetic nonetheless. In one of their first meetings together Nina had removed the malleable, extremely convincing flesh covering and showed her the mechanics that lived underneath.

In the second installment of the story series, "Worry in the Morning," Olivia compulsively seeks out Nina once again, as she often does on the TV show. This time the results are more satisfactory for both parties.

Fringe is adding a new female character into the mix in the second season. Although I like the Nina/Olivia combination, Nina's presence on the show is sporadic. Whoever the new regular is, I hope she and Olivia have good chemistry.

Random Reading

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Sometimes, when I am looking for a new book to read, I will head over to Project Gutenberg's author index, pick a letter at random, and browse. Sometimes I will run across an author I've been meaning to read, or a lesser known work by an author I enjoy.

Portrait of Elsie de WolfeNot too long ago I was browsing the letter W when I came across The House in Good Taste by Elsie de Wolfe. I was excited to find this work by the woman credited as the first interior designer in the U.S., and even more excited when I discovered that some of the ebook formats included the original book's black-and-white photos.

I loaded the Project Gutenberg ebook onto my Sony PRS-505 Reader and settled down to read. My expectation was that the prose would be whimsical and eccentric and I was not disappointed on that count. De Wolfe's 1913 text begins with a passionate endorsement of a burgeoning decorating spirit in the U.S.:

I know of nothing more significant than the awakening of men and women throughout our country to the desire to improve their houses. Call it what you will--awakening, development, American Renaissance--it is a most startling and promising condition of affairs.

I loved trying to imagine this time in history that de Wolfe was describing, when a wave of interest in interior design washes across America, bringing optimism to the land.

The House in Good Taste was intended to be used as a practical handbook, with its guiding principles being "Suitability, Simplicity and Proportion." De Wolfe uses her own grand living quarters as decorating examples throughout the book and frequently mentions--without explanation--a Miss Marbury, who shares her household. De Wolfe's biographers and society gossip columnists of the period identified Miss Elizabeth Marbury as the decorator's lesbian lover.

I often found myself persuaded by de Wolfe's strongly worded opinions on interior design. When I started the book, I held no real opinion about--to use one example--brass beds. But after reading de Wolfe's scathing remarks about brass bed frames ("For the last ten years there has been a dreadful epidemic of brass beds") I've reconsidered the matter and I agree with her they are, to borrow her words, vulgar and ostentatious.

But de Wolfe's dislike for brass beds is as nothing compared to her feelings for nineteenth century black walnut furniture, which she assures "will never be coveted by collectors, unless someone should build a museum for the freakish objects of home furnishing" and "will never be surpassed in ugliness and bad taste." After reading that, I had to go look up mid-Victorian black walnut furniture on eBay. It is incredibly hideous.

When it comes to thinks she likes, de Wolfe is big on the use of trellis work indoors. There is an entire chapter devoted to the subject, called "The Art of Trelliage." The photo reproduced below, taken from the ebook, shows de Wolfe's own "judicious use of trellis." It is an interior motif for which she became famous.
A room covered with trelliswork

This past weekend, the Cute-Little-Red-Headed-Girlfriend and I made the now annual trip to the Roxy in West Hollywood to see Lucy Lawless perform in concert. Owing to personal circumstances, we knew we could only attend one night. So we chose Saturday and decided to go all out: we wanted front row standing-room seats and we were ready to do whatever it took to get them.

What it took to get them turned out to be seven hours of waiting, including six hours baking in the sun on the utterly filthy yet justly legendary Sunset Strip. Once the Girlfriend and I realized we were engaged in an urban version of camping, we immediately became more comfortable with our situation, since camping is of course an in-born lesbian skill.

I spent my time on the Strip socializing and occasionally Twittering on my mobile phone. That morning, I had used Twitter to poll my fellow Lucy fans on what shoes I should wear to the concert. They voted for the glam-inspired silver-spray-painted Doc Martens, which can be seen resting on the pavement outside the Roxy in the photo below.

This year's Roxy show was to be different from prior years in that we were promised a stage show, rather than a musical concert. Pleasuredome is based on an unproduced musical co-written by Xena creator Rob Tapert. The script is set during the AIDS crisis and chronicles some of the highs and lows of that period. To create her stage show, Lucy developed a plot around one of the lesbian characters, named Sappho, contained within the original script.

As soon as we entered the Roxy, the Girlfriend and I rushed to take up standing positions in the front row, at the very edge of the stage. We then settled in to defend our territory until the show began. A mix of tunes consisting of 70s disco--the unofficial classic soundtrack of all gay pride events--with a few odd ball hits, like Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" thrown in, played over the sound system. The mood was joyous and inclusive, especially when Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" came on, resulting in a group sing-along.

As the waiting continued, the sing-alongs became more boisterous and maudlin, especially when Celine Dion's ballad, "Power of Love," played over the loudspeakers. Swaying in sync to the music, the mostly lesbian crowd screeched their way through lines such as "'Cause I am your lady / And you are my man / Whenever you reach for me / I'll do all that I can." There was a drunken-Girl-Scout-camp-counselor-type vibe in the air that I'm sure brought back positive memories for many on hand.

Call to confession. The evening began with a short but funny set by stand-up comic Cat Crimins, back for her third opener at the Roxy. Not too long after Cat left the stage, a stern nun by the name of Sister Mary Catherine, bearing a striking resemblance to Cat Crimins, appeared in order to deliver a message of penitence to the audience.

"Sinners!" Sister Mary Catherine called in greeting. Zeroing in on one female audience member, Sister Mary Catherine asked pointedly, "Do you have a boyfriend?" When the audience member answered that she did not, Sister Mary Catherine tried to impress upon the large crowd of women the urgent need to find boyfriends. The nun humor went over like gangbusters and everyone appreciated the nod to Lucy's role as the Mother Superior in the forthcoming film Bitch Slap.

Finally, the curtain rose on Pleasuredome with an exuberantly campy rendition of the Gloria, which gestured to the religious themes that would continue throughout the evening. It also held out to fans the promise of a reprise of Lucy's rendition of Patti Smith's "Gloria," which Lucy had previously debuted at her London concert. In addition to the band, three women dressed in religious robes were present on stage, forming a chorus.

Lucy appears on stage in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit that brought to mind the sexualized school girls of Yuri anime and manga. Her hair dressed in pigtails and swinging a school bag, Lucy launches into the show's first song, Queen's "Somebody to Love." Mixing heartbreaking earnestness with a determined naughtiness, Lucy's character Sappho sings of her desire for worldly experience and, especially, the tellingly gender-neutral "somebody" to love.

As Sappho imagines the somebody who awaits her, her fingers reach for her own nipple, only to stop short and pluck away the school cardigan instead, revealing a white blouse worn in a saucy halter style. (The outfit was actually not that risque, as Lucy was wearing a full bodysuit underneath the schoolgirl outfit, which allowed for a later costume change.) Next Sappho's hand creeps down and fastens itself between her legs.

Suddenly, Sister Mary Catherine walks on stage, calling out in dismay, "Sappho Warrior Princess! What would your parents think?" Sappho's adolescent swagger wilts in the face of religious authority, providing a launch point for the next song, Nina Simone's "Go to Hell." Sister Mary Catherine remains for the song and gets well into the spirit of the thing, busting out some dance moves and joining in for the recurrent damning choruses of "Hell!"

Despite the humorous references to the trappings of Catholicism, I found the underlying message concerning Sappho's conflicted feelings to be quite serious. Over the many years I've been out as a lesbian, I've met gay people from a variety of faiths who have been tormented by the threat of their religious sect's version of hell. I've met Mormons worried about Outer Darkness, Baptists and Pentecostals who have undergone exorcism, and still others who have submitted themselves to the ex-gay movement in an effort to avoid eternal flame.


Even more disturbing are the many secular gays and lesbians who have spoken to me of their fears. How, in the middle of the night, despite their education or modern outlook or secularism or other mitigating factors, they will waken and hear a voice in their head that says it's all true: that they will go to hell for their sexuality. My own life has been decisively and negatively impacted by the Catholic Church in ways that have left me feeling helpless, even though my own relationship to the church is to say the least tenuous. And so, the central conflict in Pleasuredome, however comically presented, struck me as an extremely relevant one to Lucy's lesbian following.

With hellfire at her back, Sappho is introduced to the discotheque known as "The Pleasuredome," where she will be sorely tempted by the figure of Gloria (interchangeably called Laura) bearing a platter of cocaine. Sappho wasn't the only one struggling with temptation. I found it increasingly difficult to concentrate as Gloria emerged from the chorus, removed her robe and began to parade about the stage in electric blue hot pants and a flimsy halter. The other two singers, who had less developed roles, also removed their robes. One singer had such an ample and inviting bosom I found it necessary to discipline myself to not look at that corner of the stage unless she was singing solo, lest I become lost in reverie.

Laura "Needs Warning Label" Sperrazza. The Frankie Goes to Hollywood song "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" became the soundtrack for Sappho's dynamic seduction by Gloria/Laura. Now, I don't want to take anything away from Sperrazza's talent as a singer, or her considerable capabilities as a dancer, or for that matter, her acting prowess. But HOLY FUCK let's talk about this woman's body for a minute or three.

In this time of homogenized Hollywood breasts, Laura Sperrazza is indeed a potent reminder of just how much havoc one woman with a full A/small B cup can cause in a room. My best attempt to convey to you the effect Laura Sperrazza's body has is to say she is the kind of woman that might lead otherwise upstanding people to commit grave crimes.

I ran into several lesbian fans in the 24 hours after the Saturday show with a dazed and absent look in their eyes, like they'd been caught staring too long at the sun. A little probing on my part revealed they had simply been gazing at Laura's gyrating ass too long. Sadly, the essence of Laura Sperrazza is lost in photos. You really needed to be there to experience the fine crease of her hot pants, savor the plushy softness of her flesh, follow the bounce and sway of those little heart stickers on her nipples.

Sappho did not stand up long to the temptations offered by Gloria/Laura. A portion of the audience hooted and hollered with glee as Sappho bent to snort her first line of coke. Once the show was over, another portion of the audience claimed to be confused by many of the drug references in Pleasuredome. None of my jaded citydweller friends had any trouble deciphering the visual cues, which I found clever and concise.

The Big Plunge. The next songs in Pleasuredome revolved around Sappho's pursuit of Gloria and the establishment of their relationship. As Gloria/Laura exits the stage at the end of "Welcome to the Pleasuredome," an intrigued Sappho begins to sing the Eurythmics' "Who's That Girl?" This song, like almost all included in Pleasuredome, was a gay club hit in the early 80s. I remember this one well from when I first started whoring around going to lesbian and gay clubs in West Hollywood, back in the day.


Next came Cyndi Lauper's "She-Bop," re-imagined as a wild and raucous celebration of girl-on-girl sexuality. As she has occasionally done at previous concerts, Lucy changed the lyrics to suit her lesbian audience, switching out "blue boy magazine" for "blue girl magazine." Wearing a blindfold over her eyes in mockery of the blindness said to be caused by certain forms of sexuality, a toppish Sappho grabs hold of Gloria's hair and guides her in simulated oral sex.

Although the oral sex scene was sexy, it was also hilarious. I was struck by how Lucy is able to convey incredible sexiness and be extremely funny at the same time. Hers is the type of humor one can laugh out loud at, but somehow the laughter never defuses the sexuality present. It's a unique quality and I can't think of another female actor who can do that. The looks on Sappho's face as she was being serviced were priceless. From our position down front, it was like we were mainlining the juiciness of it all.

The chorus of "She-Bop" was punctuated by Sappho rhythmically spanking Gloria and, sexiest of all, several segments where Sappho played air guitar. I feel certain that when I get to dyke heaven, it will be filled with large panel screens playing a loop tape of Lucy Lawless on air guitar.

Then came Jet's "Be My Girl," in which Sappho woos and wins Gloria. By the end of the song, however, it is Gloria who appears the more dominant partner. In an intensity-filled segment, Sappho sits on her knees facing the audience while Gloria straddles her legs from behind, gripping Sappho's tie as if to rein her in while driving her with a riding crop as if in slow motion.

Some fans interpreted this scene as bondage or S&M. I took the meaning to be more psychological. But whether the pussy-whipping was literal or symbolic didn't really matter to the progression of the story. I enjoyed the ambiguity and multiple meanings inherent in the Pleasuredome staging generally. Whatever was lost in terms of narrative clarity only added to the interactivity of the theatrical performance.


Following the show, some fans complained about the content of this segment, calling it "pornographic." When I told the Cute-Little-Red-Headed-Girlfriend about these responses, she replied, "They obviously haven't seen very much pornography, have they?" I thought she made a very good point. However, Pleasuredome does display some of the in-your-face sex radicalism that I associate with queer politics during the AIDS crisis. That's certainly not a bad thing from my perspective (I'm a devotee of shock aesthetics), but it's to be expected that it will alienate some people.

As far as I know, there's only been one musical that documents the AIDS era: Rent, which has been marred by accusations of plagiarism, among other criticisms. In a note dated 2/5/09 on her Official Fan Club page, Lucy states her interest in developing Pleasuredome further. Whether the show is scaled up or is repeated in its current form, it's one I would be eager to revisit. I value in particular its representation of the sexual adventurism that many urban-dwelling lesbians embraced at the very moment that the gay male community was forced to give up more libertine sex practices. It's also an interesting addition to the various Catholic-specific political and cultural protests regarding the Church's position on sexual orientation.

The Naked Soul. Having found love, Sappho revisits the meaning of faith through the R.E.M. song "Losing My Religion." But the move away from faith also signals a descent of sorts. Stripped down to a flesh-toned body stocking and under the blare of a strobe light, Sappho sings "White Lines" while she and Gloria doodle on her body with white paint, symbolizing further drug exploration.

The song "White Lines" proved a good showcase for the band, led by musical director and Xena composer Joe LoDuca, who played guitar. My one regret from the evening was that I didn't spend more time watching the band. I was aware of their presence because they were responsible for the flow of the performance, weaving a rich, seamless sound experience that left me rapt for the entire night. Besides being a great rock band, there was also an additional element of orchestration that raised the collection of songs to a level that merited the term "rock opera."

My favorite song from the show, "Gloria," was next. I was eager to see Lucy perform it, but I didn't expected her to deliver it with as much power and conviction as she did that night. It began with Sappho attempting to wipe the white paint from her body, only to leave dark greasy smudges in their place. Sappho stands there nearly naked, singing her heart out, while covered in what looks like mud or shit. Meanwhile, Gloria/Laura takes up pom-poms for a frenetic dance that reinforced the incantatory and hypnotic aspects of the song. It was completely mad and over-the-top and I just loved it to pieces.

The relationship between Sappho and Gloria deteriorates and doubts emerge in the Heaven 17 song, "Temptation." A sense of escalating crisis culminates in Soft Cell's song "Tainted Love." Although this was intended to express a moment of sadness and betrayal in the show, my reaction was led off track owing to the fact that this song--along with Pete Shelley's gay anthem "Homosapien"--always fills me with an immediate desire to shed my clothes. The dark, sexy musical arrangement and Lucy's suggestive delivery didn't help matters. Nonetheless, it was an excellent song choice in terms of plot development.

Redemption through Love. Forgiveness is asked for and extended in the duet "Power of Love," movingly delivered by Lucy and Laura Sperrazza. The song, which melds religious and romantic imagery in its lyrics, concluded with a dramatic bent-back kiss between Sappho and Gloria. Lucy's fans drew on years of pent-up enthusiasm as they cheered the kiss; meanwhile, many miles away, back at Lesbian HQ, a well-manicured hand picked up a sharpened pencil and deftly marked off one item on the collective "100 Things to See Before I Die" list.



The show ended with Hoobastank's "The Reason," further underlining the redemptive power of love in the painful journey toward one's personal truths and the acknowledgement of imperfection. I was pleased the show ended on a happy note for Sappho and Gloria, rather than an endpoint of spiritual decadence or heartbreak. For me, Pleasuredome seemed to last only an instant, and it was a show I could go back to see again and again.

She knows what girls like, she knows what girls want. I don't know if Lucy worked with her regular costumer on Pleasuredome or not. I often think of her costumer as a kind of Evil Mad Costumer occupying a basement lab/design studio where he tests out his creations on a group of test lesbians, all hooked up to the female lubricant-measuring plethysmographs used in various half-baked sexology studies. "Let's see what happens when I add silver studs to these chaps!" he cries out, a peal of maniacal laughter filling the room.

Lucy's outfit for her encore followed the existing pattern of costumes tweaked to create maximum pain impact on her core audience. Amid thunderous applause, Lucy strode on stage wearing men's trousers reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich, thick black suspenders and a skin-baring racerback camisole tank. To quote lesbian blogger Dorothy Surrenders, who has copiously documented lesbians' love of the tank top in her recurring feature, "Tank Top Tuesday," "Any woman wearing a tank top and suspenders automatically goes to the front of the crush line." Lucy's arms and torso were still smudged with black and white goo left over from when she'd been wearing the bodysuit. Her dirty and disheveled appearance combined with the menswear gave Lucy an appealing E.M. Forster-era rough trade look that made me want to reach for my wallet. Finally, just to add that little something extra that makes you lose your mind, Lucy topped off the look by removing her shoes so we could all sigh over her distinctive and adorable toes.

One of the musicians held his hands over his ears to block out the din of the audience while Lucy urged the overexcited crowd to calm down. As the opening to the fan-favorite "Hallelujah" began, the audience quickly became silent. According to information posted on her official website, Lucy was influenced by the Jeff Buckley version of "Hallelujah." Before writing this report, I assembled all the lyrics to the Pleasuredome songs (which you can download from here) and read up on some of them, especially those with multiple popular recordings. The Wikipedia article on "Hallelujah" was quite informative, providing a link out to a BBC article noting the many Biblical references in the lyrics and quoting Jeff Buckley as saying his rendition was about "the hallelujah of the orgasm." With its mixture of religiosity and sexuality, "Hallelujah" extended the themes presented earlier in Pleasuredome.

The final song was the 80s hit, David Bowie's romantic "Let's Dance." With colored lights swirling across the stage and a ceiling-mounted snow machine dispensing fake snow, the room took on a party-like atmosphere as Lucy sang and thanked the Pleasuredome cast. An evening with Lucy is always marked by a sense of fun and playfulness and "Let's Dance" captured that carefree spirit the fans enjoy so much.

After Lucy ran off stage for the last time, slapping the front-row fans' raised hands as she exited, we unglued ourselves from our positions at the edge of the stage and drifted among the crowd. Inevitably, we ran into more people we knew. And so the evening continued for us, outside of the Roxy now, but still in the company of fans, with thoughts of Lucy vivid in our hearts and minds.

Special thanks go to several of my fan buddies, Janna, Kathy and Van Lord, who let me use their photography in this report. Photo credits are as follows, numbered from top to bottom as they appear in this post: nos. 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 18, Janna; nos. 4, 10, 14, 15, 17, Kathy; nos. 5, 8, 9, 16, Van; nos. 1, 2, 3, 19, Teresa.

Carried Away

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While reading Wonder Woman #25 I became lost in these two panels, showing Wonder Woman carrying a woman to safety.
Wonder Woman flying with a woman in her arms

It's a common superhero pose, flying through the air supporting another person. Something about this rendering, though, struck me as being really romantic. Maybe it's the soft look on the face of the woman being saved, or maybe it's Wonder Woman's matter-of-factness and the strength of that supporting hip. There's nothing lesbian or subtexty about the story here. It's just a pose that captured my imagination.

A wounded Wonder Woman carried by Donna Troy.In Wonder Woman #27, my eye was caught by the image of Donna Troy carrying a wounded Diana. While this image is more pitiful, the moment of rescue depicted also appeals to my sense of romance. Here, one woman exhibits strength and fortitude as she tends to the well-being of another.

Flying gives the upper image an otherworldly aspect. The feet-on-the-ground pose in the lower image makes the act of one woman carrying another appear real. It's unusual to see one woman carry another, in real life or in art, but certainly not impossible. But because it is so uncommon, these pictures leapt out at me.

Hear from the Birthday Girl

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Frau Tottenkinder looks menacingMy old buddy Joe called me on my recent birthday (October 12, if you're wondering) and recorded our conversation for his podcast, Bored Beyond Belief.

For reasons that escape me, Joe decided to edit out all of his portion of the conversation, so the podcast is almost all me chattering, even though Joe prompted me with questions he planned for the podcast. Those questions included:
"Are you really going through menopause or are you just having sympathetic menopause with your girlfriend?" and "Have you pushed any children in public lately?"

If you don't have time to listen to the podcast, Joe did a fairly good job of summarizing my thoughts on his blog. Although we started talking about menopause, somehow the conversation drifted towards feminism and politics. We end with a discussion that reveals my secret identification with one of the witches featured in the comic book Fables, Frau Tottenkinder, pictured here.

Also, thanks to all those who sent me birthday wishes via Twitter or Facebook.

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