JUST IN TIME FOR ST. PADDYS: Sweeney chronicles her funny path from Irish-Catholicism to atheism in one-woman show, Letting Go of God
By DANIEL KUSNER | Friday, March 16, 2007
She's one of the sweetest performers to ever join the ranks of "Saturday Night Live."
And when I tell Julia Sweeney that I really enjoy some parts of the 1994 box-office and critical bomb, "It's Pat," she says, "Bless your heart."
A former accountant who became a professional comedian, Sweeney created the androgynous character Pat Riely when she was a member of The Groundlings.
In 1998, she followed "It's Pat" with "God Said Ha!" a one-woman show that found laughter in the face of cancer.
Now she's unearthed the funny side of examining God's nonexistence.
But first, back to "God Said Ha!"
Shortly after Julia moved into her two-bedroom bungalow in Hollywood, her younger brother Mike was diagnosed with lymphoma.
First, Mike moved in. And then the Sweeney parents moved in.
And amid the dysfunctional-family chaos, Julia was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Director Quentin Tarantino translated the stage version of "God Said Ha" into film.
As much as the story is about Julia, it's also about Mike, who ultimately lost his battle.
And while Julia was the eldest of the five Sweeney kids, the way she described Mike, it was unclear if he was gay or not.
Was Mike gay?
"Yes. He was," Sweeney says from her home in Los Angeles.
She encouraged Mike to come out to the Sweeney parents. But while creating "God Said Ha!" the big sister protected Mike's privacy.
"The family didn't really know it. And it doesn't really matter anymore. I only kept that secret ... Well, I didn't keep it secret. I just didn't put it in the show, because Mike wasn't open about it. And out of respect for him ...
"We used to argue about it all the time. All the Sweeney kids knew," she continues. "But Mike said.. Oh, this is going to make me cry... Mike said, 'When I'm in a long-term relationship with someone I love, then I will tell Mom and Dad.'"
Mike wasn't your typical Cher-loving gay dude. He listened to the Crash Test Dummies. And during chemo treatments, he usually wore his "Reservoir Dogs" T-shirt.
"And then he died. So he never got that person," Julia says.
Now she's learning about the coming out process from a different closet. Because Julia Sweeney is an atheist.
Earlier this year, her new one-woman show, "Letting Go of God" was independently released on CD ($19.95, JuliaSweeney.com). And coincidentally, on May 5 the show will be taped for a film version during its run at the Renberg Theater at the Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles.
In her signature wholesomeness, Sweeney chronicles her journey to the land of the non-believers.
As devout Catholic, she idolized nuns who taught at her all-girl high school in Spokane, Wash. She loved movies like "The Flying Nun," "The Singing Nun" and Audrey Hepburn in "A Nun's Story."
Like most Catholics, Sweeney was inculcated with Vatican-administered rituals. And like most Catholics, she grew up not as a literalist but as an interpreter of the Bible.
"And I was never a fan of the pope," she remembers.
But one afternoon, some young Mormon missionaries rang her doorbell and asked if she "believed" in God's love.
That question became the pea under her spiritual mattress.
The Mormon boys' dedication to God inspired Sweeney to rededicate her faith.
So she joined a Bible Study class.
Sweeney began with the Old Testament and made her way through the sequel. And through the fresh eyes of an adult, she found the whole idea of a supernatural being rather unbelievable.
"If there was a God, why he would send his son to be a savior to us by telling us incredibly convoluted and vague stories? Also, Jesus was really pissed off most of the time," Sweeny says. "If there was a God and God wanted us to behave a certain way, why wouldn't he just say, "'Look, here I am in the sky. Here's what you got to do. And this is how you have to do it.'"
Through her studies, Sweeney also couldn't get past the Bible's many breadcrumbs of immorality.
"The Bible says if someone has an adulterous affair — if you're a woman — you should be stoned to death. The Bible promotes slavery. And that men should have more than one wife," she says. "The Bible isn't a good place to look for morality. It's just an archaic document."
Not that the New Testament doesn't contain some gorgeous prose.
"The Sermon on the Mount is fantastic. And there's lots of good advice for living. But that doesn't mean that it's sacred," she says.
I mention that in the Rev. Mel White's recent book, "Religion Gone Bad," that Dallas' First Baptist Church is said to be the historical birthplace of anti-gay evangelicalism. And that many gays and lesbians have been kicked out of churches because they're gay.
"Good! They should feel lucky. They shouldn't be at church in the first place," Sweeney says.
Sweeney says she has gay friends who struggle with anti-gay Christianity.
"And I keep saying to them, 'What are you trying to do wanting to be in a church? Why is anyone trying to be in a church? It's like complaining, 'Why can't I be in the KKK? They kicked me out!'"
Just because Sweeney has "let go of God" doesn't mean she doesn't have a spirituality.
"I have a fond appreciation of life. I have enormous appreciation that I exist," she explains. "It's just that supernatural connection to 'spiritual' that I don't think exists."
So why has a gay and lesbian center in Los Angeles become the venue to film her next show?
Because Mike was gay?
Because of the androgynous "It's Pat" character?
Sweeney says the connection to a gay audience might somewhat indirect.
"First, you think you might be atheist. You don't know. Then you do know. Then you consider whether or not you tell your family. How does your family react? How do you reconcile with your family? How many people need to know it?" she remembers. "When I was going through it, I thought, This must be like what it would be like to be gay."
Earlier this week, I phoned Sweeney again to see how the very Irish former Catholic will celebrate St. Patrick's day.
"That's really a secular holiday. It's not like anyone is really revering Saint Patrick," she says. "He probably never existed and never drove the snakes out of Ireland. I've always thought it was just a day to celebrate Irishness and drink."
WHO NEEDS AN ANTI-GAY GOD ANYWAY?
Julia Sweeney made an excellent DVD recommendation for gays who feel rejected by Christianity: "The God Who Wasn't There" ($24.98, TheGodMovie.com)
Written and directed by Brian Flemming, the sharply edited, funny documentary questions the literal history of Jesus and chronology of early Christianity.
There's plenty of evidence of gay-hating Christians who worship violence.
And by using unauthorized clips from Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ," Flemming examines the connection between blood sacrifice and transubstantiation.
While illustrating the way things are told so often they become fact, Flemming coincidentally happens to be the guy who's responsible for the term "spam" when referring to e-mail spam. (So weird!)
Great music by David Byrne and queer band LeTigre compliment the nifty soundtrack.
"The God Who Wasn't There" is so hilariously blasphemous, it just might scare the bejesus out of you.
— Daniel Kusner
Lone Star literary lion LARRY MCMURTY is confident that his gay cowboy movie is stronger than Gov. Rick Perry
By DANIEL KUSNER | Dec. 12, 2005
A tragedy about lost opportunity, repression, finding love and never letting it go, “Brokeback Mountain” is a powerful drama. And the momentum behind the film builds on a day-to-day basis.
Critics groups in Boston, Los Angeles and New York recently named the cowboy romance as the year’s best film. And on Tuesday, it dominated the Golden Globes with seven nominations, including one for best screenplay, written by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana.
A lifelong Texan, McMurtry is the Pulitzer-winner who created “The Last Picture Show,” “Lonesome Dove,” “Hud” and “Terms of Endearment.” A few hours after the Golden Globe nominations were announced, McMurtry conducted phone interviews while in Austin.
Based on Annie Proulx’s 1997 near-perfect short story, “Brokeback” is about the doomed bond between two men who fall in love while herding sheep together. It’s also partially set in the Lone Star State.
Just as the film’s marketing campaign was gearing up, Texas was hit with two historical anti-gay blows: the overwhelming victory of a state amendment to ban same-sex marriages and Governor Rick Perry essentially telling gay soldiers returning from Iraq that — instead of Texas — they should consider a more “lenient” state to settle down.
"If there is some other state that has a more lenient view than Texas, then maybe that's a better place for them to live," the Lone Star State's longest-sitting governor, Rick Perry.
“If the governor wants to say foolish things, I can’t stop him. And it’s too bad about the proposition. But that’s not forever,” McMurtry says. “Five years from now, Governor Perry won’t be there. And we’ll see about the rest.”
When it comes to statements on Western culture and history, McMurtry is perhaps the most qualified authority. Even Governor Perry seems to agree.
In 2003 and 2004, Perry declared May as Texas Writers Month and, fittingly, McMurtry’s image emblazoned the campaign’s commemorative posters for those years.
But in 2005, is Texas’ image shifting toward intolerance and homophobia?
“I don’t see it that way. I’m not pessimistic. I’m from the plains of Texas — the part that connects the Midwest with the Rocky Mountains,” McMurtry says. “I think there’s more decency in the great American middle class than most homophobic legislation would indicate. Sure, right now these are hot-button issues, but these things are not permanent.”
Raised in Wichita Falls, McMurtry became familiar with gay cowboys when he was 8 years old. That’s when he was introduced to his gay cousin’s boyfriend.
Coincidently, McMurtry’s cousin resembles Jack Twist, the fictitious “Brokeback Mountain” character played by Jake Gyllenhaal: Both worked the rodeo circuit and both were from the same area of Texas — near Childress, a small town not far from Wichita Falls.
His cousin came to mind while working on the screenplay.
“I was supposed to say ‘gentleman friend’ when referring to my cousin’s lover,” McMurtry remembers.
McMurtry’s parents encouraged him to be nice to his cousin’s partner.
“We had no reason not to be nice to him. He was a perfectly nice man,” McMurtry says. “There might have been a little awkwardness, maybe. But my parents were never angry about my cousin. Everyone’s lives went on. And they went on for 20 years.”
That’s the attitude that shapes McMurtry’s vision of Texas.
“Many American families, millions, have a gay member — like our vice president,” he says. “I’m not going to give up on the capacity of Texans to deal with controversy in a fair and compassionate way.”
The big challenge for the film is for people like Governor Perry and the folks who voted for Proposition 2 to actually watch “Brokeback Mountain.”
“I absolutely believe the film will challenge their views,” McMurtry says. “If they go see it, it will have to give them pause.”
Even with a truckload of film awards, McMurtry says the success of “Brokeback” depends solely on one thing: word of mouth. That word is already spreading.
Some right-wing critics have blasted the film, saying it should win an Oscar for promoting the “gay agenda.”
That type of criticism fuels McMurtry’s ire.
“I know what I’m confident of. And I’m totally confident,” he says. “The right wing will not win on this issue. This movie is stronger than they are.”
Even if “Brokeback Mountain” wins an Oscar for best picture, is it strong enough to play in Crawford, Texas?
“Well, the screening room is actually in the White House,” McMurtry says. “The president and his wife have gay friends. In fact, they have gay friends who stay in the White House. So I’m sure they’ll see it.”
POSTSCRIPT: A one-time exclusive...
KUSNER: Press conference apologies are so en vogue.
It seems you and Kathy Griffin have much in common this year.
If your bestie gal pal — let’s say Ann Coulter — tearfully crossed some controversial line in the sand, would you call her up and express your public support?
Or would you dare denounce (and probably abandon) her ... like Anderson Cooper?
MILO YIANNOPOULOS: If you ever compare me to Kathy Griffin again, you’re dead to me.
I’ll forgive you this time because I love Texas.
The difference of course is that I apologized for being wrong, while Kathy Griffin did a weepy fake apology to try to save her career.
Ann Coulter is always attacked for the truths she tells, she isn’t insane like Kathy Griffin and the rest of the unhinged looney left in Hollywood.
Just look at Johnny Depp!
Everyone should know I would stand with Ann both publicly and privately.
Anderson Cooper may be mostly unhinged, but he is smart enough to disassociate from a ginger harpy holding the President’s head in effigy like some kind of ugly and unfunny ISIS hag.
KUSNER: Speaking of Kathy Griffin — and being all “dangerous” and outrageous and fond of American free speech — is it okay for people to recreate her infamous art project for 2017 Halloween costumes?
Or will Milo be clutching his pearls at such a thought?
MILO YIANNOPOULOS: Kathy Griffin costumes should be a hot item this year, she’s mortifying even without the fake severed head.
Of course Kathy hasn’t bargained on the young mischief-makers of the new right, who are likely to dress up holding severed Kathy heads moreso than recreating her Trump pose.
I only clutch my pearls when my boyfriend gets rough… in fact I’d be fine with Halloween costumes involved severed Milo heads, as long as I look really hot and the sunglasses are accurate.
The ebony mistress of soul Erykah Badu was in Oak Lawn on Monday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new Tower Records.
Resplendent in enormously jeweled rings and one of her signature chapeaus, the Dallas-based singer graciously signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans.
The Grammy-award winning vocalist took a moment to express a kind message of love and peace to her queer devotees.
"Be who you are forever and ever. And just hold onto yourself. Because a lot of times, that's the only thing we have to hold onto," Badu said. "I thank all my gay fans for their support. Just continue to send the love to me — but mainly to each other. Peace."
Badu is up against celebrated diva Lauryn Hill for two awards at this year's Grammys: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Album.
When asked if she's going to let Hill (who has 10 nominations) walk away with all the awards, Badu said, "Oh, that's okay if she wins them. Because she's my sister."
This is a picture of my sister Amy with her nose taped up.
Pretty, isn’t she.
Thanks for taking the time to interview me the other day.
I’ve probably done at least 60 of them so far on this tour, but I really enjoyed talking to you.
They were good questions.
Sent from Boston, June 25, 2000.
DALLAS DIVA: Homegrown soul siren Erykah Badu on how AIDS and closeted sexuality affects Big D’s black community
By DANIEL KUSNER
The same way Detroit claims Diana Ross and Madonna as hometown heroines, Dallasites can proudly declare Erykah Badu (a.k.a. Erykah Wright) as their own supreme homegirl. Raised on the South Side and a graduate of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Badu is a haunting R&B chanteuse who’s forever being compared to Billie Holiday and constantly appearing in fashion magazines for pulling off some funky-ass headgear.
The 30-year-old Grammy winner and Cider House Rules star is lending her gorgeous voice and transcendent stage presence to benefit AIDS Arms LifeWalk on Aug. 27. Badu is also leading off the 5K walk, which will be held downtown on Oct. 5.
“Oh, I’ll have on my little tennis shoes and everything,” she giggles after also telling me that she’s pigeon-toed.
But community work is nothing new for this mystical ebony goddess.
“When I was 14, I was a junior counselor at the YMCA-Park South. And that’s where I found out that I had a gift for teaching,” she says without sounding like a raving egomaniac. “I love to counsel and help. And I don’t always say the right things, but I try to say the real thing.”
When it comes to AIDS, Badu doesn’t pretend to be clairvoyant or omnipotent. But it’s a heavy issue that affects her viscerally.
“I was a young girl when I watched my uncle deteriorate and die of AIDS in the ’80s. There were so many myths back then — how it spread throughout the world. When I visited Africa this past year, I just saw so many people dying from the disease. Children’s parents who died and now they’re orphans. And it’s not only in Africa but all over the U.S. And since I’ve been working with AIDS Arms, I’ve learned that Dallas has over 12,000 new cases a year,” she says.
With this alarming news, it’s refreshing to hear Badu discuss links between closeted sexuality and AIDS, instead of sweeping the still-controversial topic under the floor.
“I’m surprised at how many closeted gay or bisexual men there are in Dallas. I think that’s one way AIDS is being spread. By being secretive and not by being up-front with sexuality — for both men and women,” she says. “Then in the black community, a lot of brothers go to prison, and they do what they have to do to survive. And they come out, and the women are waiting for them, and they carry on with their lives. That’s another way [AIDS is spread]. There are just so many ways, and it’s becoming such a prevalent disease that people are becoming used to it. And that’s not a good thing.”
Known for her empowering lyrics steeped in Egyptian philosophy, Badu doesn’t see any conflicts between sexuality and spirituality.
“I have many gay friends and many people who are honest about their sexuality. Sometimes people venture off and do different things, but they shouldn’t fear judgment. To me, it’s not that kind of a world. It’s about being happy and about coming as you are. And that’s what the Bible says. It says come as you are,” she says.
But no one wants to trip over a soapbox when hearing Badu perform. For her, Dallas gigs are always special. But she’s kinda of tight-lipped about upcoming movies or even describing the flavor of her new music.
“I read scripts all the time. I just happened upon “Cider House Rules.” I have to find what’s right for me because I love performing, but I also want to have some kind of meaning for the things that I do. If I find one that helps me do both of those things, then I’ll jump on it,” she says.
This week, Badu is in New York shooting a video for the song “Love of My Life,” a track from “Brown Sugar,” a new film about hip-hop and romance starring Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan.
“I’ve written over 25 new songs,” she says. “But [my albums] just kind of happen. I think critics describe it better than I do. They give their opinions of what it is, and that’s what it becomes.”
“Just come out to the show,” she pleads. “I’ll start putting energy out there. So just come get it. Feel good. Because it’s not going to be the same as it was last time. And if you came the night after that, it won’t be the same as it was the night before. When I perform, it’s always different.”
MOTHER EARTH: Erykah Badu performs a benefit concert for AIDS Arms LifeWalk on Tuesday at the Gypsy Tea Room.
GLAAD IS KINDA IGNUNT: Drag comedian Shirley Q. Liquor condemned for racist stereotypes while never accused of defaming gays
BY DANIEL KUSNER
It was a prisoner exchange.
Last week, GLAAD denounced Charles Knipp, the polarizing Texas-bred comedian who created Shirley Q. Liquor, a drag character who parodies African-American culture and speech patterns.
Some people find Shirley’s ebonics-laced monologues side-splittingly hilarious. Some can’t get past the idea that Knipp is a white dude.
Why did this suddenly happen last week? Not because it’s Black History Month.
Los Angeles-bases political commentator Jasmyne Cannick pointed out a compelling contradiction: GLAAD slammed “Grey’s Anatomy” star Isaiah Washington (a black dude) for using the word “faggot ” when referencing fellow cast member T.R. Knight.
So Cannick pressured GLAAD to condemn Knipp — a white gay dude — because some people think Shirley’s jokes are racially offensive.
GLAAD caved and issued a press release.
The words “blackface,” “offensive caricature” and “harmful depiction” leapt off the release. So did this sentence: “While our work at GLAAD is about promoting fair, accurate and inclusive media representations of the LGBT community, this issue has risen to a level of visibility and importance that we feel compelled to add our voice.”
Oddly, GLAAD never accuses Shirley Q. Liquor of defaming gays.
This past weekend’s episode of “Saturday Night Live” featured the wonderfully talented Darrell Hammond in Jessie Jackson drag arguing about Barack Obama’s blackness. Is anyone screaming “coon minstrel show” at Hammond?
No one is that stupid. And Hammond is entitled to comedic license.
Not granting the same license to Shirley Q Liquor is just ignunt (Shirley’s trademark pronunciation for “ignorant,” which Margaret Cho uses in standup routines).
If GLAAD wants to police the funny business, then we’ll all have to re-consider laughing at the pioneering work of Lenny Bruce, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, Sascha Baron Cohen and RuPaul, who hired Shirley Q. on her last album.
Last week, Knipp, who performed at Wigstock 2005 (as church-lady Betty Butterfield), responded to a Dallas Voice e-mail, seeing if he had a response to GLAAD’s press release.
“Honestly, I think it's always a bad idea to deconstruct or defend comedy. It's either funny or it's not. The artist's job is to put it out there and let the audience make up their own minds about what it all means,” he wrote. “Amazing how much shit one Texas drag queen can stir up, ain't it?”
“You’ll forgive me for saying this. But only a gay periodical in Dallas would publish an automobile guide. However, I loathe cars and have plenty of evil things to say,” Lypsinka cackles about the topic at hand.
When it comes to cars, John Epperson — the architect behind the enchanting, supernatural seductress, Lypsinka — knows what he’s talking about.
Growing up in a small town in Mississippi, at 14 Epperson had his learner’s permit, could change his own oil and got busted by his parents for sneaking into a drive-in movie to catch "The Killing of Sister George," which, at that time, was an X-rated feature. But the drive-in was where he got to see many of his favorite films ("Myra Breckenridge," "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," "Rosemary’s Baby," "A Clockwork Orange").
Cinema is the essence of Lypsinka.
Epperson is a undeniable film historian who scholarly discourses about early RKO movies to glam-a-thon campy delights like "Showgirls."
He avoids nearly every television program (“I don’t watch anything with commercials, except for 'Saturday Night Live.'”), but his immersion in all-things-Hollywood is impressive.
And in Lypsinka’s imaginary world, her car’s vanity mirror is bathed with klieg lights.
Epperson admits that he has mixed emotions about cars. When he lived with his family in Mississippi, he had to depend a car in order to get around.
“But I’m totally self-absorbed. And taking care of a car is like taking care of a child,” he complains. “I even resent having to put gas in the tank.”
When he decided to move from away home to pursue a career in entertainment, he knew it meant relocating to either L.A. or New York.
“So I chose New York because you don’t need car. And it’s an enormous relief not to have one,” he huffs.
But traveling is a big part of Lypsinka’s life. Currently, she’s touring her latest show, "Lypsinka: The Boxed Set," around the country. For this interview, Lypsinka is on the phone in Los Angeles.
“And when I’m in L.A., I rent a car,” she says. “If I ever lived here, I don’t think I’d buy one — I’d rent one because then, if the thing breaks down, you’re not responsible for it. You can call the rental company and say, ‘The thing fell apart. Get me another one!’”
The drag performer (“I find the use of the term ‘drag queen’ derogatory — like ‘nigger’ or ‘faggot.’ So ‘drag performer’ sounds more politically correct, if you don’t mind”) is currently tooling around in a rented, silver Buick Regal.
“My friends from Houston came to visit me and laughed at my car. I didn’t pick it myself. I’m just happy that it has power windows, air conditioning, a CD player and a tape player,” he says. “However, I will not drive a little Geo Metro — that little tin can on wheels — it just feels too dangerous.”
When she’s motoring in her rental, she relishes exploring country roads with the stereo on full-blast cranking out early Barbra Streisand hits.
“So you see, like everything else in life, I’m a contradiction. And I have contradictory feelings about cars,” she admits.
She knows that a guy can look like a supreme dream machine if he’s in the right car.
“I’ve made friends with Morrissey, the singer. And he drove up here the other day in a black BMW convertible. And I must say he looked very dashing. He has black hair, and I’m into color coordination. The black hair matched the car and probably matched his mood. He looked great in that car,” Lypsinka swoons.
And when it comes to vintage cars, Lypsinka reaches into her Obscure Film Knowledge file and whips out her grease-monkey smarts.
When choosing a mechanic, she looks for a man who resembles Catherine Deneuve’s dreamboat mechanic in "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1964).
Of course, when hiring a chauffeur she prefers the Max von Mayerling-type (played by Erich von Stroheim in "Sunset Boulevard").
“Norma Desmond’s leopard skin-lined car was an Isotta Fraschini. ‘Cost me $28,000. All handmade,’” she mimics with vampy Gloria Swanson-like precision. “Max gets that old bus off its blocks, and they go to Paramount Studios who want to rent it for a Bing Crosby road movie. She drives up to the gate, and she goes ‘Jonesy! You there, Jonesy.’ I also think Isotta Fraschini would make for a great drag name.”
All this talk of vintage cars leads Lypsinka on a dissertation about a classic Bugatti connected to the first lady of modern dance, Isadora Duncan.
“Vanessa Redgrave starred in the film version of Isadora's life. Her performance is unbelievable — the best thing she ever did. Anyway, in the movie she keeps seeing this sexy guy driving a Bugatti — she doesn’t know his name Every time she sees him drive by, she screams, ‘Bugatti!’ Finally she meets him at a party, and she gets in his Bugatti and they drive away. And her scarf, which she’s famous for, her long scarf gets caught in spokes of the wheels and chokes her to death.”
As for Lypsinka’s driving skills, she claims she’s an expert driver and especially talented parallel parker.
“I’m also a musician. I worked at American Ballet Theaters and was a rehearsal pianist for 13 years before my career took off. Musicians are very mathematical, and parking is basically geometry. Once you’ve figured it out, it’s just done like a mathematical equation,” she boasts.
What’s inside Lypsinka’s glovebox?
“A tube of Chanel lipstick, insurance papers, a Valium and a gun!” she shrills.
And if she was in a drag race, she imagines she’d be decked out in some "Fast and Furious" ensemble, à la Thierry Mugler.
“Thierry’s usually dressed in clothes that look like racing-car clothes. And since he’s designed stuff for me before, I think I would go to him and have something custom-made,” she says.
Before she finishes the interview, Lypsinka wants to make sure she hasn’t offended any readers with her jabs at the automobile industry.
“I certainly don’t want to stop any car lovers from coming to my show if I ever make it to Dallas. And I know that if I ever get there, I’m going to want to rent a really nice car.”
When NBA superstar John Amaechi announced he was gay, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban got in the game.
Cubes told the Fort Worth-Star Telegram that any basketball player who comes out in 2007 should do so — because if they did, they’d able to cash in. And the idiot who scoffs at gay b-ballers had better watch their back.
Then retired player Tim Hardaway kept it real — really homophobic.
With shocking candor, Hardaway told a Miami radio interviewer that he “hates” gay people. And before you could scream, “Michael Richards in rehab!” Hardaway delivered a half-assed apology.
When asked about Hardaway, Cuban told The Dallas Morning News, “What the hell was he thinking?”
Cuban is fairly accessible via e-mail. Earlier this week, I dispatched four questions. Cuban responded in less than five minutes.
Play devil’s advocate: As a modern-thinking team owner, name one thing Tim Hardaway could start doing to save himself.
CUBAN: Donate 10 hours a week for a year to a local community center or organization that focuses on gay and lesbian issues.
Your comments about urging pro basketballers to come out echoed around the world. Have you completely ignored any negative feedback? Have you heard any rumblings of discomfort from corporate sponsors or fans?
CUBAN: I heard from a couple weirdoes that called me a “sissy” and some other choice names. But so what? I’ve heard worse.
Without naming names, how good is your gaydar? Can you say whether or not any Mavs players are or have been gay — but just not out?
CUBAN: [My gaydar is] not as good as it used to be when I would go dancing with friends at The Village Station on Wednesday nights. So I don’t know if we have had any gay or bi players.
With you’re reaction to Hardaway’s comments, you’ve officially been knighted as a hero to the gay community. Any chance the Mavs — or at least the ManiAACs [the Mav’s corpulent all-male dance team] — will be a presence at Dallas’ gay pride weekend: Sept. 23, 2007?
CUBAN: I don’t know if we've been asked. Anything is possible.
Next home game: The Dallas Mavericks play the Miami Heat Feb. 22 at 8:30 p.m. at the American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave. Tickets start at $9. Mavs.com
ALEXIS — THE ARQUETTE DYNASTY'S GAY STAR: Pioneering out actor recalls first role as underage MTV darling caught in a tornado of cocaine and pedophilia; Describes balancing Hollywood royalty and being a gay queen
BY DANIEL KUSNER
From the Baldwins to the Zappas, nepotism and Hollywood go together like plagues and locusts.
Check out the Arquette line, which extends across three generations.
Clifford Arquette was a vaudevillian-raised comedian who regularly appeared on Jack Paar’s “The Tonight Show.”
Clifford’s son Lewis acted in “Waiting for Guffman” and” “The China Syndrome.” Lewis also produced a litter of talent: Rosanna (“Desperately Seeking Susan”), Patricia (“Flirting with Disaster,” “Lost Highway”) David (“Johns,” “Scream”) and Richmond (“Seven.”)
But Lewis' son Alexis (birth name: Robert) is the dynasty’s successor who brings queer roles to the silver screen.
His newest — the gay romantic comedy “I Think I Do” — premieres tonight at the USA Film Festival.
Alexis’ path to leading-man status is laced with stardust. His first on-camera gig seems like it was lifted from the teenage-wasteland novel “Less Than Zero.”
The role was for the music video “She’s a Beauty,” the 1983 hit song by The Tubes.
At the time, Toto’s 1982 hit “Rosanna” — which is named after Alexis’ sister — was climbing the charts. Rosanna heard that The Tubes needed a young boy for a video. So she brought Alexis to the casting call.
“And I got the part. I was 11 years old. I’m the little kid in the car that goes around the amusement park ride while sitting in some S&M lady’s lap. That’s why I’m so distorted,” Arquette laughs.
“I remember Rosanna being on set with me. So was the girl Jenny, who inspired Tommy Tutone’s song ‘867-5309/Jenny.’ When they met, they squealed with laughter because they both had trendy radio hits named after them. And I thought, ‘Wow, this is a pretty big moment — when Jenny meets Rosanna,” he continues.
“But that video shoot was the first time I saw anybody do cocaine. It was the chick who’s dressed up like the mermaid in The Tubes video. She was with the makeup crew, and they were all just snorting rails.
“They did a lot of cocaine during that shoot — right in front of me, very boldly. And the choreographer — or ‘ballet dancer’ — was hitting on me. Again, I was only 11 years old,” he says.
Was the choreographer a man or a woman?
“He was a man. And he kept ‘fluffing’ himself right in front of me. He’d do a little pirouette and then, like, grab himself. He also kept trying to dance me into a corner while they were waiting to get the next shot,” Alexis remembers.
That sounds like an intense memory to process.
“You’re right. But you know what? I was such a cool kid that I was just, like, whatever. I always pretended that I’d seen it all. I’d just slyly turn my head away. I think a lot of kids do that,” he says.
Maybe exposure to haute dissipation at a tender age enabled Arquette's hardworking career.
After The Tubes video, Alexis made his first gender-bending role.
He had a bit part in the 1986 Bette Midler and Richard Dryfuss vehicle “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” — as one of the young character Max’s flamboyant friends.
But at the age of 17, Alexis’ star brightened considerably when he landed a role in the excellent but depressing period-piece “Last Exit to Brooklyn.”
He played Georgette, a sassy drug-fueled transvestite hooker who chases rough trade.
While Patricia Arquette was considering the film's lead role of Tralala — a streetwalking tough who’s brutally gang-raped — Alexis struck up a conversation with director Uli Edel.
“I told him that I read the book in college and that I loved the role of Georgette. We talked about the script adaptation, which I thought made Georgette seem like a victim. I thought Georgette was cooler than that. She was someone people would want to sit in a circle and listen to. The next day, he called and asked if I’d like to read for the part. Patricia went home [the role went to Jennifer Jason Leigh]. But I stayed and got the job,” he says.
Was Arquette worried that a gay role would pigeonhole his career thereby making it tough to land mainstream work?
“When ‘Last Exit’ came out, there was a buzz about me. And that was good. People assumed that I was straight because they thought, ‘Wow. A straight actor playing this gay role?’
“This was 1987, and ACT-UP was huge. People were coming out left and right. And somebody asked me about my sexuality. I felt it was important — not that I’m a gay role model or that I wave a flag. But I just wanted to be honest.
"So I was honest.
"But once they know you’re gay, they’re afraid to let you play anything but that,” he says.
Arquette didn’t have to worry about securing work. At the age of 28, he says he’s appeared in, “Including the crappy ones? Probably 30 or 40 films.”
His credits include “Of Mice and Men” with John Malkovich, “Grief,” “Threesome,” “Frisk,” “The Wedding Singer” and “Pulp Fiction.”
Has his last name helped his career?
“People don’t understand. They think that the Arquettes are all joined at the hip.
“David and I had the same agency. At a meeting, they were talking about my career. But since they just cast David in the second biggest movie of the winter, somehow that meant they did something for me. Which is total crap.
“I know for a fact that I’ve never gotten a job because my of siblings. I mean, who gets hired because of their sibling? Who wants to work for a director that hires somebody just because you’re Corey Feldman’s little brother?
“It hasn’t worked for Bruce Willis’ brother or for Frank Stallone,” he says.
Weren’t Rosanna and Alexis both in “Pulp Fiction?”
“I knew Quentin Tarantino because I met with him for ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ And I stupidly didn’t show up to my callback,” he admits. “It was for role of the cop who gets his ear cut off. I was young and stupid. A friend of mine read the script and told me it was shit.’
“And I listened to my friend. Don’t ever listen to people.
“When ‘Pulp Fiction’ came around, Quentin said, ‘Come on. I really wanted you in the last one, and you weren’t there for me.’ So that’s how I got ‘Pulp Fiction.’”
Alexis also flexes his chops as the drag artist Eva Destruction.
In “Wigstock: The Movie,” Eva serves as the documentary’s roving commentator who interviews Joey Arias and Patricia Field boutique’s wigmaster.
Arquette says his sisters enjoy Eva’s drag performances. But he admits that drag — and even being gay — can be challenging for the Arquette clan.
“My family is very artistic and liberal. But Mom always hoped that I’d marry and have kids,” he says. “Patricia was a little upset that I didn’t tell her [that I was gay] first. At the time, I was 15 or 16. This was before I even acted on it. But it did set me apart from the rest of my family — in an alien kind of way.
“Years later, they felt like they hadn’t gotten to know me as well. And all of them sort of came at the same time and wanted to be a part of my life and know more about me.”
Arquette’s acting has earned “I Think I Do” critical acclaim — singling out his comic flexibility, “physical goofiness” as well as his “awesomely pendulous lower lip.”
His performance is being touted as his best since “Last Exit to Brooklyn.” But “I Think I Do” is more upbeat.
“It’s ’30s-styled screwball comedy with smart-and-quick dialogue. It’s about a group college students who were involved in little love triangles. Years later, two of them get married. And when they come back, all kinds of hijinks happen. It’s really sweet and cute. And it’s a gay movie without AIDS, without bashing. It’s light, which is rare for a gay film. It’s the gay movie you could take your nephew to,” he says.
He says already he’s wrapped 10 more films — including “Fools Gold,” which was filmed in Austin, AND “Love Kills” with Mario Van Peebles in which Arquette and Donovan Leitch play boyfriends.
But Arquette warns “Don’t go see ‘Children of The Corn: Part V’ just because I’m in it. I really respect the horror genre. And I always think that I can somehow can elevate these horror scripts with intelligent and outrageous campy humor. But I’ve had to fight for every funny line in horror movies.
“Humor and camp always wins in horror movies. ‘Carrie’ is one of my favorite movies. They were nominated for Oscars because they didn’t take themselves too seriously. They enjoyed the humor. You’ve gotta have gags and jokes in there. Otherwise, what are people in Harlem gonna scream at? They really enjoy their horror movies. And they want them to be funny.”