A FUNKY LOWDOWN CHRISTMAS: Salty, soul diva Millie Jackson serves up a ghetto-fabulous holiday buffet
BY DANIEL KUSNER
Clap your hands, everybody.
And everybody, clap your hands.
Millie Jackson is back.
And she still ain’t taking no crap.
Millie Jackson, the 56-year-old ferocious first lady of rap, has released Sex and Soul, a salute to her explicit and empowering career with hits from 1974-1979.
Although she never really went away — Jackson's released more than 25 albums in the last three decades — she seems to be having a resurgence of mainstream interest.
Her controversial “bedroom rap” style is now recognized as the wellspring of hip-hop.
“I just got a fax today from a film company working with VH-1 for a show hosted by Quincy Jones called The History of Black Music in America. They say I’m responsible for the hip-hop movement, and they want me on it,” she beams.
Jackson takes great pleasure be being honored.
Back in the ’70s her sassy and lubricous sense of humor was Jackson’s trademark.
She told epic-tales with sensitive songs about love triangles over the course of two very successful albums (Caught Up, 1974 and Still Caught Up, 1975).
“But Jessie Jackson was trying to get folks to clean up their acts. And Jessie was raising hell. The record company was afraid of him. So they insisted that I clean up my act. But the more I cleaned up my act, the less records I sold,” she grumps.
“So in 1978, I refused to tell the record company what I was doing. And I went back in the studio. And recorded the best and biggest album I ever had. I just said, 'Fuck it! Tear up the contract! I’m not changing anything! And we put out Feelin’ Bitchy.”
Feelin’ Bitchy reinforced Jackson's popularity with audiences.
But her bedroom raps had become longer and even more bawdy. The album required warning stickers for broadcast.
But during this period, Jackson was timidly invited on Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas’ television shows.
They all loved Jackson's soulful ballads and outstanding voice. But they were afraid of what else might come out of her mouth.
“My reputation was so bad that nobody wanted to talk to me. I remember I sang Merle Haggard’s ‘Back in Love by Monday’ on Merv Griffin’s show. When the show was over, Merv said he was so surprised. Because I didn’t curse. He wanted me on the show again — to talk to me. He finally interviewed me. But ended up answering every question he asked,” Jackson laughs.
Many critics say Jackson's risqué style limits her "true-diva potential."
In the ’80s, she released Back to the Shit with an album cover featuring Jackson sitting on a toilet.
But she’s proved herself as a safe on-air personality and broadcasts a somewhat down-and-dirty three-hour radio show for Dallas audiences weekdays on KKDA 730 AM.
“I took the job because I got tired of radio stations being afraid to put me on the air. So finally I took the job in Dallas. Just to prove to them that — if I can talk for three hours without getting anyone fired, then I’m sure I can do the two-minutes you gonna give me,” she says.
Jackson's improvisational monologues and smooth-as-malt-liquor anthems are now draq entertainment staples.
“The drag queens do me better than I do me. It’s amazing. They do all those stupid rap songs of mine. When I put them on the album, I just did this long rap off the top of my head. I couldn’t do those songs word-for-word if my life depended on it. They do it exactly like it is on the album.
I’m blown away,” she says.
Her famous “Phuck U Symphony” was featured in the documentary Wigstock, with Lady Bunny acting as a choral director to a dozen or so female impersonators who lip-synched the foul-mouthed classical orchestration.
Jackson's improvisational monologues and smooth-as-malt-liquor anthems are now draq entertainment staples.
“The drag queens do me better than I do me. It’s amazing. They do all those stupid rap songs of mine.
When I put them on the album, I just did this long rap off the top of my head. I couldn’t do those songs word-for-word if my life depended on it. They do it exactly like it is on the album. I’m blown away,” she says.
In 1985, Jackson teamed up with Elton John for “Act of War,” a duet which reached the Top 40.
“Elton wanted to do the song with Tina Turner. And she turned him down. So they got in touch with me to show her it would be done without her,” Jackson explains.
This holiday season, Jackson will be in the kitchen.
“Christmas is the only time I have folks over and cook,” she says.
She’s making a holiday spread that will include:
• Emeril Lagasse’s Funky Turkey recipe,
• duck with a cranberry brandy sauce,
• chicken sausage with smoked-oyster stuffing,
• candied yams,
• turnip greens,
• miniature pies,
• apple crumb Amaretto cheesecake,
• shrimp-and-crabmeat lasagna,
• seafood corn chowder,
• pea salad
• and a rib roast.
“I have to prove that I’m no grinch. I’ll feed over 40 people on Christmas," she says. “But I ain’t gonna sing.”
TOP MENTOR: Todd Oldham loves a good bargain. But the Dallas-reared design whiz advises against donating to or spending money at Salvation Army
By Daniel A. Kusner
The first season of “Top Design” was mediocre at best. Plugging in a different industry into the “Project Runway” formula wasn’t as easy as painting a wall a different color. So for its second season, “Top Design” has undergone a renovation.
Dallas-raised designer Todd Oldham is no longer the host. That role has been filled by India Hicks, a fashion model whose father was an interior decorator; and her godfather was Prince Charles, and Hicks was one of Princess Di’s bridesmaids.
This season, Oldham is the “mentor,” which means he has more of a Tim Gunn-like role. For the first episode, which premieres on Wednesday, the 13 designers won’t be working in a studio — like last season, when they were confined to the “Design Studio,” which consisted of basement-like featureless white boxes. This season, designers are redecorating actual living spaces.
Last season, some of the budgets were insanely extravagant — like $50,000 per challenge. This season, the budgets are dramatically cheaper. For the first challenge, designers are broken into teams. They have to satisfy “especially judgmental clients while shopping at thrift stores and junkyards in Los Angeles.
Last week, Oldham spoke about being a gay man who loves hunting for good bargains.
“Good taste and design are not dependant on money,” Oldham says. I’ve seen very rich affairs that look awful.”
But he still likes “the big parody version” of Dallas style — flashy-cash urban cowboy look.
“There’s nothing quite like Texas bigness of those houses. Wow. Those are huge homes,” he says. “But Texas is an incredible sophisticated place with all kinds of layers. At first glance, it may look like that parody — giant hair and all those things. But it’s way more than that. I think of all my friends back there, who were all really sophisitated and fun. And occasionally, I do remember some of the great old couture customers wobbling around Neiman Marcus in the ’80s and ’90s…”
But when decorating on a budget, don’t sacrifice your principals — like hitting giving your money to Salvation Army, the anti-gay evangelical organization that has widely discriminated against LGBT clients and employees.
“Do I shop at Salvation Army? No I don’t,” Oldham says. “And I ask other people not to because I’m very well aware of their policies. And any company that tries to manipulate the law to be discriminatory, I wouldn’t like to be a part of. Even though, I do think the effort of trying to bring safety and goodwill to so many people is wonderful. But when it comes fueled by hatred and discrimination — I don’t think that’s a good way. There’s lots of ways to recycle your clothing and purchase used clothing."
Can Oldham remember any good resale outlets in North Texans?
“I imagine the Fort Worth flea market is still about good as its ever been,” he says. “That place is incredible.”
Oldham says North Texas’ best place to scout for repurposed goods is the Fort Worth Flea Market, which is held most Saturdays and Sundays at The Will Rogers Memorial Center in the small exhibits building. Will Rogers Memorial Center, 3401 W. Lancaster Ave. Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free. For more information, call 817-392-7469. Or visit, FWculture.com/wrogers.htm
EMPOWERED RENOVATION: Todd Oldham invites, guides the do-it-yourself ethic into modern design for the home
By Daniel A. Kusner
The word “modernism” can often conjure images of anapestic, barren living rooms that might look sleek in music videos or glossy magazines. But who really lives like that? And if they did, where on earth do they put all their not-so-camera-ready stuff?
Dallas-bred designer Todd Oldham (who now owns a homes in Pennsylvania and Manhattan) is hoping to reclaim modernism from the impossibly pretentious with his new book, “Handmade Modern: Mid-Century Inspired Project for Your Home,” (Regan Books, $19.95).
According to Oldham, the modern design aesthetic has strayed away from its true roots — that modernism isn’t just a store-bough concept. It’s always combined “hand-kissed sensibilities with technology and automation.” And by incorporating some tried-and-true design principals, modernism can even be cozy, warm and decorative.
In “Handmade Modern,” Oldham walks readers through more than 50 projects to create or embellish the contents of a lounge-age living room, a relaxing bedroom and a book-lover’s den. With a substance-meets-style approach, he also gives tutorials on design legends like Charles and Ray Eames, FlorenceKnoll and George Nakashima — modernists who designed, not just for rich people, but styles that everyone could afford.
If you’re stuck in a decor rut or you’re still waiting for a reality show to swoop in and furnish your humble abode, Oldham inspires with a fun-and-funky way to spruce things up around the home.
What motivates you to embark on home decor projects? Ever since I was a kid, we had craft encyclopedias around. I would just pore over them because they gave you instructions on how to do stuff. And they stretched my imagination. It was fun to learn the base of something, because then I’d flip it into something new. Now it’s so easy for me to get started on projects.
When first stared out, was there a frustrating learning curve? I’ve always enjoyed it so much that, for me, the process was always the success. I’m very unattached to the outcome. It’s the doing part that makes me happy.
You highlight the legacy of so many other designers. But can you boil down your own aesthetic? I’d almost hate to. I think mine is too multi-faceted to boil down into a handful of words. It’s almost the duality of a situation that I find most intriguing. Things that don’t necessarily fit together, but in new combinations, they look good — be it a color, idea or a form.
You used to live in Dallas. Do you have any nifty household items that you obtained in Big D? Oh, indeed. There was the downtown Kennedy Museum that went out of business in the mid-’80s. A friend of mine tipped me off that it was closing. So for a few dollar apiece, I got massive sets of president Kennedy plates: Jackie and Robert plates, Jackie’s kid’s plates. I also got salt-and-pepper shakers. I bought everything I could carry out of that store. And to this day, I still eat breakfast off or Mame Kennedy’s face. And it’s nice to have toast on Nixon.
Are you good at estate sales? Very good.
How do you know which ones to bother attending? Look for the more discreet ones. An ad that’s too fancy or has a big company’s logo — skip it. Look for the handmade signs that are nailed to a post. The ones that are organized by real companies tend to have crazy prices. Take the alternative route.
How often do you re-evaluate or upgrade your homestead? Constantly. We change our clothes all the time. We change our minds all the time. Why can’t we change our house? I got away from the thought of a room being finished and just think of a room of being in a constant state of transition. It’s fun to add new things. So I set my house up to be moved around. I don’t hang a lot of my art — I have artist shelves so I can constantly change them out.
What was the last piece of furniture you got rid of and why did you toss it? Last year — a sofa. I get rid of anything that hurts. I don’t care how beautiful it is. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, it has to go. That sofa that was too hard and too worn.
Have you ever used the phrase, “That looks cheap.” Oh sure.
What does that mean? Cheap is a sum-all word for when you’ve pooped-out on your idea. Cheap is fine as far as monetary value, but when you apply the word “cheap,” it means an unrealized or unfortified idea — something that didn’t make it all the way. Lazy and cheap work together.
So many areas of the American home are neglected. So how immaculate is your garage? I have a great garage. And I’m constantly making things, so I’ve converted my garage to powertool central. It’s about 85-percent organized. In a garage, you have to have that 15-percent of exploded chaos.
I like your floating-bed platform and headboard, but I’m worried about the proportions. I really want people to take the inspiration and adjust it. But the bed platform sits firmly under the bed, so if you’ve got a bed in the room, it will fit.
What about that enormous wood-tile headboard? I always think that really big moves in small rooms are far more successful than trying to do modest-scale things in modest room. I say make it count. That’s why I stretched the headboard to the ceiling.
Your book is awfully fond of plywood. We tried to use things that were easily accessible. It
would be easy to make something beautiful out of tropical hardwood, but that’s almost impossible to get and very expensive. All these materials you should be able to curate from your local big hardware store or craft store.
But you never incorporate medium-density fibrebaord. I don’t care for it — it has off-gassing problems and the smells come off it. MDF isn’t a very earth-healthy material. And the weight is too heavy. It’s also terrible when you cut it, you have to have proper masks because the fibers are so microscopic and can be airborne in your lungs. MDF is bad material all around.
Now that it’s springtime, so many people are outside and fixing up their backyard. Do you have any cool, weatherproof ideas for the outdoors? I sure do, and I get to that in my third book. “Handmade Modern” is a series. The second is called “Handmade Craft.” And the third is “Handmade Garden,” which I’m working on right now.
BY DANIEL KUSNER
VIVA LAS VEGAS: Clockwise from top left, The Liberace Museum kicks up the musician’s"hot pants" costume; Get out of town, and take a floating watercraft trip that starts at the Hoover Dam; Krave features bootylicious go-go boys; On Sundays, Shannel takes over Gipsy for her "Illusions" cabaret show. – PHOTOS: DANIEL A. KUSNER
LAS VEGAS — San Francisco has its foggy, boho-queer scene. New York bustles with neurotic energy. In Dallas, we impress with our mixture of pretentiousness and twangy friendliness.
But Las Vegas is so fake and cheesy, they don’t even have their own skyline — instead, they borrow from other cities. And that incredible lack of authenticity is just one reason to love Vegas, baby. It’s the American dream: bedazzled, blingy and bathed in LED screens.
When visiting Vegas, let go of critical opinions and just laugh. The key to enjoying oneself is to just surrender to a city that was built to take away people’s money.
First of all, that old rat-pack myth about being a high roller who gets complimentary meals and inexpensive hotels is dead. Sin City is constantly being updated: Old hotels are ripped down and replaced with lavish mega-establishments that house restaurants run by A-list celebrity chefs. This is the other American city that never sleeps, and its run by a generously compensated service industry.
Whatever you do, rent a car. Las Vegas is puny town that’s easy to navigate, and there are plenty of affordable autos. “The Strip” (aka Las Vegas Boulevard) is almost spitting distance to McCarran International Airport, where American Airlines operates eight regularly scheduled non-stop flights from D-FW.
Where to stay
All action is on The Strip, where there are about 30 ginormous hotel-casinos. From witnessing The Bellagio’s greenhouse atrium and choreographed fountains to shopping at Caesars, hotel hopping is a major Vegas pastime — where you’ll also encounter a sea of pedestrians doing the same thing.
“Theme hotels” are a big part of Vegas culture. That’s why The Strip features The Empire State Building, the MGM Lion and an Egyptian pyramid. I recently stayed at the Paris Hotel, which has a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower built into the dollhouse version of the City of Lights design. The Paris rates start as low as $90 a night, but the mock-French Regency accommodations are upscale: king sized beds, spacious shower-and-bathtub bathrooms, 54” plasma TVs and free parking. Try to request a room overlooking the Bellagio fountains, which are right across the street.
Hoping so save some dough? Rates can dramatically drop if you look for rooms at off-The-Strip casino hotels. Being budget-minded in Las Vegas means sacrificing luxury, but you won’t have luxury price-tags either.
When planning daytime activities in Veags, one needs good suggestions. Here’s one: Get out of town! Seriously. In the daylight, Las Vegas is a dingy smoker’s paradise, where restroom stalls are often equipped with ashtrays. Want to have fun? Play “find a window” in one of the enormous casinos. And iPods in this town are redundant: You can’t walk anywhere along the Strip without hearing music coming from somewhere.
Thanks, Babs is a lesbian-run daytripper service operated by Babs Daitch. When it comes to appreciating the barren beauty of Nevada landscapes, Daitch is a treasure. On a recent visit, she was able to lure six gays and a lesbian for an 8 a.m. watercraft adventure of Lake Mohave. The trip began at the base of the Hoover Dam and glided 60 miles down the remarkable blue-green waters of the Colorado River. The views were breathtaking: families of bighorn sheep peered out from the steep canyon walls, rainbow trout and striped bass swam beneath our boat, and during a lunchtime break, our entire party plunged into the frigid 55-degree waters and then warmed ourselves as we drifted into the lake’s southern shore in Arizona. It’s a six-hour tour that Babs says is a great way to nurse a hangover.
Another surprisingly fun daytime activity is the Sunday T-dance and barbecue at Blue Moon Resort, a gay-run clothing-optional hotel that’s a few blocks away from the strip. Rooms here aren’t cheap (around $120 a night), but you can purchase a $25 day pass for the well-attended Sunday poolside bash. Blue Moon’s Jacuzzi grotto, pool and steam room aren’t skeevy at all. The T-dance is a sexy way to soak up some rays, drink beer, eat hot dogs and hamburgers, and meet some frisky men.
Thirsty for culture? The Liberace Museum traces the Queen of Bling’s historical path and brings to life her staggering excessiveness. The museum occupies two buildings in a strip mall on Tropicana Avenue (free shuttle service from The Strip). The first building houses his cars, including the rhinestone-customized Duesenberg Roadster and his hot-pink 1970 Volkswagen Cabriolet Beetle that was made to resemble a Rolls Royce. There’s also rare pianos exhibit, including a 1788 John Broadwood, one of the first piano manufacturers.
The second building is — honestly! — shaped like a giant rhinestone with a pink-neon piano on top. Inside, it showcases Liberace’s costume designs and some personal effects. Some of Liberace’s crazy threads include a 200-pound King Neptune getup and the red, white and blue “hot pants” costume — Liberace’s fringe-sleeved and argyle socks salute to the Statue of Liberty’s 100th anniversary. In the trophy room, don’t miss Pope John Paul II’s “apostolic blessing” certificate to Lee Liberace: If only those two queens had got together to try and out-do each other with their gaudy gowns …
Don’t look for any mentions of AIDS, being gay or even images of his lover, Scott Thorson, who sued for palimony and wrote that delicious 1988 tell-all, “Behind the Candelabra.” The museum maintains the shiny Liberace facade. And in Las Vegas, you should expect nothing less.
See a show
There’s no shortage of starpower in Las Vegas. From showgirls to rockstars, this town is overflowing with night-time entertainment. Celine Dion has left Caesars Palace, but Elton John took her place in “The Red Piano,” produced by David LaChapelle. Roseanne Barr (Sahara), Toni Braxton (Flamingo), Bette Midler (Casesar’s) all appear nightly. Some tickets — like Elton’s — are sold out months in advance.
Cirque du Soleil has taken over Sin City. There are currently five Cirque productions running on The Strip: “O” (Bellagio), “Mystere” (Treasure Island), “Love” (Mirage), “Ka” (MGM Grand) and “Zumanity” (New York New York). I recently caught two shows, and they’re nothing like the traveling tent productions that visit Dallas. “Ka” is an adventure about imperial twins who are separated. But the stage is jaw-dropping star of the show. The theater floor morphs into a hydraulic engineering wonder: It changes a ship floating at sea, a steep mountainside and eventually defied notions all gravity.
“Zumanity” — Cirque’s “adult” show — gets a bad rap. It doesn’t hold a candle to artistic achievements of “Ka,” but it’s certainly charming and funny. It’s also a smaller Cirque show where the audience gets in on the act. A drag performer usually emcees the festivities where orgies, orgasms, freaky contortionists, muscle-bound studs, corpulent nymphs and pervy horn-dogs add to the fun. This show is far better than those glitzy topless productions featured in “Showgirls.”
Krave was the first gay club on the strip, but now they call it “alternative.” Whatever — it’s a West Hollywood-flavored nightclub that’s absolutely jumping with excitement: Teams of go-go boys dance on boxes while the DJ plays rump-shaking video hits. In case you didn’t know, Las Vegas is often a drinking vacation for tourists. And the women here get messy. At Krave, a stinking-drunk female accountant tried to pull up my shirt to see if I “had any abs.” While trying to fend her off, my cellphone jumped out of my pants. While walking out of the club, I realized my Motorola child was lost. But one call to Krave, and the transgendered doorwoman said someone turned it in. It was the best $20 tip I ever handed over.
The rest of the gay clubs are off the strip. There’s a cluster of them off of Paradise Road, and these clubs are called the “Fruit Loop.” 8 1/2 Lounge-Piranha is a duo establishment: Up front is funky lounge with male strippers, in the back is a dance club. When I visisted, the whole shebang was pumping out Latin disco and Tejano line-dancing. The doorway between the two clubs is actually a fish tank filled with piranha.
Buffalo, is a low-key Levi & Leather Bear bar with beer busts and pool tables.
Gipsy is a popular dance club with a sunken layout and two bars. On Sunday nite, the club becomes a cabaret where drag diva Shannel hosts her Illusions show.
If you’re hankering for a taste of country-western, Charlie’s Las Vegas is especially charming. The “lil ol’ pissant” place draws a healthy mix of friendly cowboys and boot-scooting older fellas.
KNOCK 'EM DEAD: Killer comedian Margaret Cho explains how she got so skinny and why she refuses Dick Cheney’s invitations to the White House
By Daniel A. Kusner
It’s still a few weeks away, but Margaret Cho is making her way to Dallas for two nights at the Majestic Theatre. Hew new “Assassin” tour is being touted as her most political work yet.
The last time Cho was in North Texas, she was testing new material at the Addison Improv for “State of the Emergency,” a stand-up show that toured swing-states before the 2004 election.
Cho spent most of last year so intensely focused on the presidential race. Her candidate didn’t win. So how is she carrying on?
This interview is running early so that people will buy tickets for your Dallas performances. When was the last time you actually went out and bought tickets? I usually buy on the day of the show. But if it’s Bjork or somebody, I snap them up right away. Right now my favorite band is the Dresden Dolls. And they’re sold out months in advance, so I’m out of luck.
Describe the typical Margaret Cho fan: They’re so atypical. So many different people respond to my work. Some are gay, some are lesbian. There are a lot of people who are feel like outlaws and outcasts.
A lot of married Republicans? Actually, there are a few. My work is very highbrow and very lowbrow. It rarely rides in the middle of the road. That’s part of my appeal — even for people with whom I politically disagree.
What’s the most memorable thing a fan has done for you? Years ago, this guy made me a puffy, satin, baseball jacket with my face etched on the back. Not taken from a photograph — he drew it. So I looked like Aileen Wuornos — ya know, Charlize Theron from “Monster.” It’s the best rendering because it’s the most unflattering picture. I still have it — not that I’ve ever worn it.
During ‘State of the Emergency,’ you said it was impossible for Bush to be re-elected. I know. Now I’m going to have to eat my hat.
So last year, on Nov. 3, what did you do? It was very strange, very sad.
Were you wounded? Or did you see it coming? I saw it coming. When I was in California, I was in this very liberal oasis, and I thought Bush didn’t have a prayer. Then, after going through several swing states, I saw how passionate people were about the election.
What did you notice about Bush supporters? I thought they were very brainwashed and very blinded to any of his shortcomings as a leader. They bought so much into this ‘Us versus Them’ worldview. They needed to kick some ass: Kick some terrorist ass! Kick gay marriage’s ass! That brought out the bully in people and the need to be patriotic. But it wasn’t being patriotic — it was being dumb and following orders.
Looking back, have you made great strides in shaking the world up. I don’t know.
What if John Kerry would have won? Would you have demanded an invitation to his inaugural ball? That would have been great. I’ve been to the White House, and I’ll go again. But it’s not like they’ve stopped inviting me. I still get invitations from Dick Cheney.
Why don’t you accept? They’re fund-raisers. So first you have to pay, like, $10,000, so that immediately excludes me. Now during the Clinton Administration, I could go for free. But for the Bush Administration, you have to pay.
If it was free, would you go? No.
Why? Because they’re The Big Enemy? I just don’t like the administration. I don’t want to be photographed there. I don’t want to be seen there. It’s, like, they’re the popular kids in high school, and you’re the king of the losers. You don’t want to be seen with the popular kids.
But at the end of the teenage movie, don’t all the cool kids and losers get together and dance or make out? That’s true. Maybe there’s an Andrew McCarthy or Molly Ringwald for me somewhere in there. But I don’t think so.
Is the common thread in your work about being an outsider who calls out injustice? I’d really hate to lose sight of being petty and immature. When you get too serious and go on crusades, then it’s impossible to be a comedian.
How come your new show doesn’t touch on your miraculous weight loss. I guess it doesn’t seem so miraculous to me because it’s been pretty gradual. It’s all because I got another job. I’m now a professional belly dancer.
You didn’t have the gastric bypass surgery? No. I wish.
Have you ever been this skinny? Probably when I was 11.
Was it a huge drop in a short period of time? No. I lost a lot because I really got into belly dancing. I dacne under my birth name, Moran. And tomorrow night I’m dancing at a Moroccan resturant for a big St. Patick’s Day celebration. I’ve recently gained some back, which I think looks good. But the weight loss is all due to the steadiness of physical activity, which I never had before.
So where are you in the Michael Jackson scandal? I’m over it. I feel bad for him because there’s no way he can get a fair trail. He was unstable to begin with, now he looks like Ann Curry from the Today show. But I really liked his pajama pants.
As an international celebrity, have you ever been wrongly accused? No, because I’ve done everything I’ve been accused of.
In “Assassin,” who are your targets? The Bush daughters? No. It’s not their fault. They probably hate their dad just as much as we all do. Besides, I can’t imagine the hell of being named after Barbara. But I do go after Laura Bush quite a bit. And Dick Cheney.
Do you go after Mary Cheney? No. I defend her.
How? Well, that she’s not allowed to exist. That perception of her being a freak is just awful. Deep down, I think Dick Cheney’s very accepting and loving toward his daughter. I don’t think he’s homophobic at all. He just knows it will advance him politically.
So the next time the Cheney family invites you to the White House, maybe you can bring it all together. You and Mary Cheney can bridge the chasm between Republicans, their gay children and liberal comedians. Yeah, right. If only.
Cho performs at the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm St. April 1 at 8 p.m. and April 2 at 7:30 p.m. $30-$45.50. 214-880-0961.
BY DANIEL KUSNER
CRUISING COPENHAGEN: Denmark’s gay-friendly capital fuses Old World charm and ultra-modern design
COPENHAGEN — When fanaticizing about European trips, Denmark — with its precious Little Mermaid-fairytale images depicted by Hans Christian Anderson — isn’t usually the first place that leaps to a modern gay's mind when planning a vibrant and happening getaway. But Copenhagen, Denmark’s charming capital, is a cosmopolitan city in the midst of rapid change.
Copenhagen’s instant appeal lies in its subtle blend of contradictions.
Originally a fishing colony, the town got its name from the word køben-havn or “merchants’ harbor,” when in 1157 it became an island fortress and the commercial center on the Baltic trade route.
From its humble beginnings, Copenhagen has become the largest city in Scandinavia, home to 1.5 million people. It’s the seat of the oldest kingdom of the world. And upon first glance, the ancient shell of the city retains an almost-spooky, provincial charm. But amid its maze of pedestrian-filled, cobbled streets, Copenhagen is an urban playground with a flair for ultra-modern design.
In 1989, Denmark was the first country in the world to recognize gay marriages when the Danish Parliament passed the Registered Partnership Act.
In 1999, it became possible for married gays to adopt children of their partners. With this in mind, there really is no centralized gay ghetto in Copenhagen.
Gay establishments are integrated throughout this bustling and compact city — although there is a smallish gay district near the City Hall plaza, where the first gay union ceremony took place.
First thing you’ll notice in Copenhagen is the lack of cars. Then you start to notice how these busy Danes are so fit and trim. The narrow streets and exorbitant cost of automobiles make quick-footed pedestrianism one of the main forms of transportation.
But there’s a fine bus and subway system called S-tog, and taxis are easy to hail.
There’s also a radical “city bike” program, which is totally free and terrific for sightseeing. Simply pop in a 20-kr coin ($2.60 U.S.) into the handlebar and pedal away. When you’re done freewheeling, put the theft-proof bike back into its appropriate rack, and your deposit coin will pop back out.
Copenhagen’s central spine is the charming Strøget (meaning stroll) — Europe’s longest pedestrian-only mall that encompasses five streets packed with cafes, colorful boutiques, cozy restaurants and throngs of street entertainers. Although this grand promenade is heavily commercialized (Burger King, KFC and 7-11 paid a king’s ransom for their embarrassingly centralized location), bits and pieces of historic old Copenhagen are just a short walk away.
While other Scandinavian cities have their pleasure gardens and parks, Copenhagen’s brightly-lit Tivoli outshines them all. Built in 1843, these amusement gardens were built on the site of fortifications where a total of 160,00 flowers and 110,000 electric light bulbs set the scene. Roller coasters and merry-go-rounds are thrilling for kids. But wintertime at the Tivoli is especially picturesque for any age.
The park has more than 20 restaurants, and some of them are the most stylish and expensive in the city. The sleek, upbeat and informal Café Ketchup is full of young people, plays great music and serves a mixture of European and Scandinavian food. Try the halibut stuffed with crabmeat and herbs, or the marinated duck breast served with sun-dried tomatoes and fennel salad sprinkled with pine nuts.
For a gorgeous day-trip, try making the short jaunt up the Danish Riviera coastline to Humlebaek — a small town only 40 minutes north of Copenhagen. That’s where you’ll find the Louisiana, the most raved-about modern art museum in Scandinavia. Housed in a pearly 19-century villa surrounded by a large park, the Louisiana has one of the largest exhibition spaces in Europe and mounts major contemporary art shows. Recent exhibits include a comprehensive retrospectives of David Hockney, futuristic architect Norman Foster and Danish design giant, Arne Jacobsen.
Labeled as “organic functionalism,” Danish design implies simplicity and clean lines where form follows function. The viability of and brilliant talents of Danish design is in constant renewal, and the Danish Design Center — located across the street from the Tivoli — celebrates the endless possibilities of furniture, technological products and everything associated with the inventions of the modern world. Opened in January of 2000, this five-story building contains a tremendous exhibit dedicated to the winners of the annual Danish Prize Design years. Winners include everything from the U.S. Army’s cotton T-shirt, to the egg-like shape of the transparent iMac, to mod-style lamps, holistic chairs and minimalist cutlery.
When it comes to filmmaking, the Danes even have their very own deliberate approach. "The Dogma 95" film movement is mainly the brainchild of Danish director Lars Von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark), a strict “anti-musical” discipline that prohibits use of artificial light, music scores, make-up, sets props and costumes.
The Danish Film Institute — an enormous library and institution that celebrates and conserves cinema — is also the host organization for the annual nine-day Copenhagen Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which is held in October. Year-round, it’s is worth checking out the DFI programming schedule for interesting matinees and evening films. There’s also a bookshop with an impressive supply of film criticism, literature and vintage film posters. For visitors with a thirst for film and a hunger for something a bit more victual, the complex’s own restaurant SULT offers creative cuisine for that post-show dinner date.
Copenhagen’s “Black Diamond” library is a striking glass building leaning over the harbor at the edge of the palace Christiansborg Palace complex. It’s a breathtaking marvel of geometric architecture that’s placed right alongside the city’s distinctive dragon-like spires of 1639 Old Royal Stock Exchange.
Peppered with hip restaurants, raunchy sex clubs and bohemian wateringholes, exploring Copenhagen’s nightlife is a thrill-seeking adventure. The gay-owned restaurant Kelleren is two-level establishment: The second floor is a candlelit escape gaining a solid reputation for its Bloody Brunch Buffet. But the first floor is an acoustic-listening café that’s great to cruise collegians and check out Copenhagen’s plentiful and stylishly designed free publications.
Oscar Bar & Café is a laid-back pub that lures a solid crowd of friendly, stylish boys who like to sit on leather couches, smoke in comfy armchairs and sip chilled draft beer. Heaven, located near the City Hall and run by a young gay couple, is a crowded and energetic pub on the street level with an affordable and quiet restaurant on the second floor. For a large-scale night of dancing, Pan is the gay club where straight people like to boogie as well. And Cosy Bar is where you want to stop for pre-dawn nightcap.
For those truly seeking a rare Viking adventure, the Scandinavia Leather Men club is like a gay-sex outtake from Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. Only open on Friday and Saturday nights, it’s totally worth checking out. A private club located in an unassuming old building (you are buzzed into a courtyard and need to find the stairs that lead to the basement), SLM is a wild joint. Occupied slings, S/M chairs, a crazy back room with an acrid scent wafting near some old bathtubs … Up near the front bar, you can also watch TV and easily strike up a conversation with some leathery locals. You might want to ask them about these mysterious-sounding “bird boxes” filled with lube and condoms at the outdoor-cruising hangout, Ørstedparken.
There’s another erotic playground — the Amigo Sauna, which is three stories high and in need of a decent cleaning crew. A visit at the Amigo can be a drafty experience — a place where a nice warm steam could do a weary traveler a lot of good. If that’s the case, see if your hotel has a well-lit and powerful sauna.
Peak season for Denmark is summer, so during wintertime is a good time to cash in on cold-weather discounts. Right next to the Planetarium, the Scandic Hotel Copenhagen is a full-service 18-floor hotel with a restaurant, bar, café, fitness center, sauna and solarium. The top floor has a stretch of rooms that are elaborately modern — some complete with original Warhols hung over the bed, futuristic wooden cabinets and Bang & Olufsen entertainment centers.
If shopping is your bag, then the Royal Scandinavia retail center — a dizzying multi-level shopping smorgasbord — should be home base. Royal Copenhagen has come to symbolize quality in hand-painted porcelain throughout the world. The retail center specializes in various porcelains, hand-blown glass and exquisite craftsmanship in silver and stoneware, which can all serve as souvenirs or reminders to return and discover all over again. On the top floor is a huge selection of bargain-priced castoffs and irregulars, and unless you’re an expert, you probably can’t tell the difference.