Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

Reel Affirmations returns

Abbreviated film festival features dramas, docs and comedies exploring a wide spectrum of LGBT life

Published

on

Reel Affirmations, 1 in 10, gay news, Washington Blade

The Reel Affirmations Film Festival is scheduled to kick off tonight (Thursday) with screenings of “Kiss Me” and “I Do” (go here for reviews), but most of the films will be screened Friday and through the weekend at either the D.C. Jewish Community Center (1529 16th St., N.W.), the Goethe Institut (812 7th St., N.W.) or the Carnegie Institution for Science (1530 P St., N.W.).

Tickets start at $10 but various packages are available. Visit reelaffirmations.org to purchase or for more information. Also be sure to pick up a Blade-produced program book, which has all the information you need about the One in Ten event.

The program book contains descriptions but the Blade had exclusive access to review the films. Our critiques follow. Contributing writers are Patrick Folliard, Brian T. Carney, Robbie Barnett, Santiago Melli-Huber and Joey DiGuglielmo.

‘Molly’s Girl’
Friday, 7 p.m.
D.C. Jewish Community Center

Mollys Girl, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeEveryone has that one clingy ex who can’t take no for an answer, but there are better ways to deal with it than in “Molly’s Girl.”

Molly (Kristina Valada-Viars) is a pathological liar and a straight girl, who has her first lesbian experience with Mercedes (Emily Schweitz), whose girlfriend broke up with her for focusing too much on her job as a gay rights activist. Mercedes has a drunken one-night stand with Molly, and Molly proceeds to stalk Mercedes to the point of violating a restraining order. Mercedes then learns that Molly is the daughter of an independent state senator whose opinion on LGBT rights she has been trying to sway.

Molly, desperate for attention and affection, agrees to Mercedes’ insane proposal to go to the senator’s house for a weekend under the guise of being an engaged couple. Mercedes believes it will make the senator vote in her favor. The plan is flawless, except for the fact that it blows up in everybody’s faces. Molly’s family has been tired of her lying and delusions for years and sees it as just another cry for attention.

Schweitz’s performance as Mercedes and her character development almost save the movie, but the premise of trying to trick a senator that way would ruin anybody’s career and probably do further damage to her cause. There are some genuinely funny moments and a couple of strong performances, but between the ill-conceived plot and the character of Molly, it’s only worth seeing if you enjoy clingy exes and disapproving families. (SMH)

‘Yossi’
Friday, 9 p.m.
D.C. Jewish Community Center

Yossi, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington Blade“Yossi” is a sequel to the surprise Israeli gay indie hit “Yossi and Jagger” (2002). In the first movie, Yossi Guttman is a commander in the Israeli army stationed on the Lebanon border. When Lior joins the unit as Yossi’s second-in-command, the two begin a passionate but secret affair.

Lior (who is called Jagger because he has “the moves like Jagger”) is killed in an ill-considered skirmish. Yossi goes to sit shiva with Lior’s family, but does not tell them about their relationship.

“Yossi” picks up the action 10 years later. Yossi is now Dr. Guttman, a successful cardiologist. But, despite his professional achievements, Yossi remains in an emotional and social fog. His well-meaning colleagues try to break him out of his shell. Despite rumors about his sexuality, Nina, a nurse, asks Yossi out on a date, and Moti, a fellow doctor, asks Yossi to be his wingman when he hits the bars to celebrate his divorce.

Yossi decides to return to return the region where he and Lior met. His plans are changed, however, when he encounters a group of rowdy young soldiers and slowly begins to drop his emotional barriers.

Surrounded by a strong cast, award-winning Israeli actor Ohad Knoller offers a powerful performance as Yossi. He amazingly brings Yossi’s stupor to vivid life, offering a rich and nuanced portrayal of a man frozen in place, but bravely trying to move forward. Knoller is achingly vulnerable as he makes the journey through a disastrous online hook-up (his date berates him for sending a picture of his younger and thinner self), his meeting with Lior’s family and his heart-rending emotional and physical undressing when he finally embraces a new lover.

Knoller is given strong support by writer Itay Segal and director Eytan Fox. The taut screenplay balances moments of solitary silence with a series of tense encounters and moves the action forward at an appropriately measured pace. The direction is strong and assured. Fox lets the camera linger on Knoller’s expressive face, but never lets the story lag.

In Hebrew, with English subtitles. (BTC)

‘Lesbiana’
Saturday, 11 a.m.
D.C. Jewish Community Center

Lesbiana, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeTight (just 63 mins.) but with a leisurely feel, “Lesbiana” is a documentary about the separatist movement among lesbians and feminists in the ‘70s and ‘80s that found groups of women, to varying degrees, living in women-only communes on various beaches and rural lands all over the country.

Recounted mostly by the women themselves — some now in their senior years — this piece from filmmaker Myriam Fougere (a participant herself) is a fascinating look into a world few in the LGBT world, even most lesbians, didn’t get to experience first hand. The era comes roaring to life through evocative first-hand testimony and archival stills and video footage. The film deftly balances the more philosophical and academic side of the convictions with stories from more “everyday”-type lesbians who share the more practical and experiential side of things. D.C.-based lesbian author Evelyn Torlon Becker makes a memorable appearance talking about her Jewish identity.

While the film never lags, it suffers from being a bit too vague. About half the testimony is from French-speaking Canadian lesbians (presented with subtitles), yet the geographic connections between them and their American counterparts are not so much as hinted at. The filmmaker introduces herself into the narrative, early on saying this is her story of her travels to find out whatever happened to many of these women, yet she disappears almost entirely from the rest of the piece which gives the film a dangling feeling. She deserves credit for not forcing herself too extensively into the work, but a bit more personal context would have been helpful.

Slightly clearer but still not fully explored are the arguments for separatist living and what the women hoped to gain from ridding themselves fully from patriarchy. Hearing these women tell their stories, one does get a sense of why they felt the way they did and how they interacted with each other at various music festivals and communal gathering places, yet the film could have used a bit more structure. We get little sense of the degree, if any, to which these women felt a sense of sisterhood with either straight feminists or urban lesbian feminists who chose not to sequester themselves. (JD)

‘Difficult Love’
Shown in a double bill with ‘Lesbiana’ (see above)

Photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi takes us into her world through the eyes of her photographic lens in “Difficult Love.”

The subject of her activism and photography is black lesbians living day to day in her native country of South Africa. Rampant sexism and the legacy of Apartheid are the main issues Zanele challenges in her work. Even through extreme violence and homophobia, Zanele and other lesbians manage to embrace and celebrate their lives.

Through her photographs, Zanele humanizes women loving women in beautiful and inspiring images and has become something of a role model for lesbians in South Africa. It’s quite clear that she is a hero and positive force for these women who would otherwise go voiceless. Her photography is not the only thing showcased in this documentary. Zanele’s relationships with her subjects, friends and family are explored and these segments become some of the most poignant moments of the film. (RB)

Women’s shorts, various
Saturday, 1 p.m.
D.C. JCC

‘Mosquita y Mari’
Saturday, 3 p.m.
D.C. JCC

Mosquita y Mari, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeWritten and directed by lesbian filmmaker Aurora Guerrero, “Mosquita y Mari” isn’t the usual coming-of-age story. Set against the gritty backdrop of Huntington Park, a working class Chicano neighborhood in Southeast Los Angeles, this heartening festival favorite portrays the tender friendship of teenage Latina classmates as they navigate adolescent confusion and family pressures to create an emotional refuge where they can be themselves.

Though very different, the girls — Yolanda and Mari, played by Fenessa Pineda and Venecia Troncoso — are both typical of their community. Yolanda, a promising student and good girl, is the hope of her struggling parents’ ambition, their American dream. Her mother warns her to concentrate on school, saying, “I’m not busting my ass all day so you can throw it all away.”

Mari, on the other hand, smokes weed, shoplifts, and, though smart, pulls lousy grades. But she also works hard handing out fliers on Huntington Park’s busy main drag to help pay her undocumented family’s overdue bills. But interestingly, it’s shy but determined Yolanda who doggedly strives to make a connection when bad girl beauty Mari moves in across the street, and not the other way around.

Mari nicknames Yolanda “Mosquita” (“little fly” in Spanish). Initially it’s as a comment on her new acquaintance’s peskiness; but as the girls become friends the derisive tag changes into a term of endearment. They begin meeting after school in an abandoned body shop where they share confidences and Yolanda helps Mari with her homework. Rather rapidly, a mostly chaste romantic relationship develops.

A first time feature film director, Guerrero is a subtle but powerful storyteller. Her screenplay is based on her own life experiences. And even though the tale’s events aren’t particularly extraordinary, it feels completely unlike other films based on young gay love. Guerrero combines simplicity with authenticity to deliver something both searing and quietly touching.

Most of the characters are bilingual, switching fluidly from English to Spanish (Spanish dialogue is subtitled in English) depending on time and place; the film’s gorgeous Spanish language soundtrack and its location with bodegas, quinceañera shops, and lively street life reinforce the cultural connection. Pineda and Troncoso turn in astonishingly natural performances as the smitten teenagers.

While nothing about “Mosquita y Mari” is tied up neatly with a bow, it does end on a hopeful note. (PF)

‘Carl(a)’
Saturday, 5 p.m.
Goethe

Carl(a), Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeWill she or won’t she? When male-to-female pre-op transsexual Carla unexpectedly receives a surprisingly large inheritance from her grandfather, she can finally afford the gender reassignment surgery she’s always wanted. To move forward seems a no brainer. But like everything in Carla’s life, nothing is that simple.

After a long losing streak with men, Carla (transgender actress Joslyn DeFreece) is enjoying a new and promising relationship, and therein lies the rub: Carla’s boyfriend Sam, a kindhearted, socially awkward nerd played by Gregg Bello, loves his transgender girlfriend just the way she is (anatomy and all). In fact, Sam is so opposed to Carla pursuing her life’s dream that he threatens to leave her should she go under the knife.

Carla loves Sam too, and truly wants to keep him in her life. Then again, she didn’t get this far on her journey toward claiming a true identity by doing what other people wanted.

When we first meet Carla, she is living alone, grappling with the problems that face a lot of transgender people: employment challenges, harassment and some family rejection (her parents and brother are openly hostile to her decision to transition). Fortunately, Carla finds a haven in both her understanding grandfather (feature film veteran Mark Margolis) and best pal Cinnamon (Laverne Cox), a feisty transgender streetwalker. (Cox garnered some fame a few years back as the first African-American transgender woman to appear on an American reality show when she was featured as a finalist on VH1′s “I Want to Work for Diddy.”)

Rather abruptly, Carla’s situation dramatically changes. How she deals with the newness of her life is what makes this film interesting. Directed by Eli Hershko, “Carl(a),” feels part love story, part “After School Special” for grownups, and a little P.S.A. (public service announcement). What could be too preachy is saved by leading lady DeFreece. Using her real life personal story and a light touch, DeFreece succeeds in both giving a terrifically honest performance and further acquainting audiences with the transgender experience. (PF)

‘Mixed Kebab’
Saturday, 7 p.m.
Goethe

Mixed Kebab, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeComing out to your family can be disastrous, especially if your brother is psychotic.

“Mixed Kebab” is a feature film written and directed by Guy Lee Thys. It stars Cem Akkanat as Bram and Simon Van Buyten as Kevin. The film explores the clash of religion and sexuality in an international setting.

Set in Belgium, Bram’s family arranged for him to marry his cousin Elif. Bram, however, secretly begins dating Kevin. Elif discovers this, but is determined to move to Belgium, live comfortably and marry Bram anyway. Bram’s brother Furkan joins an Islamic fundamentalist group with connections to the Taliban.

Furkan discovers Bram’s affair and exposes him to his family, who disown him when he refuses to marry Elif. Word of their son’s homosexuality spreads around the community and Bram’s parents are ostracized by those around them. In an attempt to redeem his family’s honor, Furkan plans to kill Kevin. Eventually, Bram is faced with a choice between his family and the love of his life.

The film is in about a half-dozen languages, making it difficult to follow at times, but many young gays and lesbians can relate to the choices Bram is constantly faced with. He must weigh his family’s expectations of him with what he wants and every decision he makes throughout the film hurts someone else in his life.

Parts of the plot make little sense, such as why Bram would bring Kevin with him on his trip to Turkey to meet Elif. However Akkanat and Van Buyten have great chemistry as a couple and carry the movie with the evolution of their relationship. (SMH)

‘Welcome to New York’
Saturday, 9 p.m.
Shown in a double bill with ‘Gayby’ (see below)
Goethe

Welcome to New York, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington Blade“Welcome to New York” is campy fun that plays like a pilot for a TV show that would air on the LOGO network and would fit right in with same audience that watches “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Famed drag queen Sherry Vine stars in this short film as Dr. Kitty Rosenblatt, a therapist to a bunch of whiny, young Big Apple newbies whose comedic stories of love in the city unravel during their separate therapy sessions. The amateur acting is redeemed by amusing situations. One segment has a drag queen telling Dr. Rosenblatt that she “did the nasty … with her face on,” while another centers around a character who cannot remember the name of his date. Perhaps you’ve been there?

In all, there are five stories. Though it’s only 30 minutes long, it feels as though it covers a lot of ground and leaves you wanting another episode. (RB)

‘Gayby’

Gayby, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeThe plot of “Gayby” treads familiar ground. Despite an awkward one-night stand, college friends Jenn (straight) and Matt (gay) have remained BFFs. Now single and in their 30s, they decide to have a baby. A variety of hilarious hijinks and complicated emotions ensue, starting with Jenn’s decision that she wants to conceive “the old-fashioned way” (for no apparent reason other than the comic possibilities) and ending with the challenges of juggling baby care schedules.

Fortunately, this familiar territory is freshened by a lively supporting cast, most notably Jonathan Lisecki as Matt’s flamboyant friend Nelson. Striking out on the dating scene, Nelson has recast himself as a bear, complete with a full beard, a new screen name (NellieBear8 — you can guess what the 8 stands for) and a delightfully fey growl. Beyond providing comic relief, Nelson also helps the plot lurch forward introducing Matt to online dating, teaching Matt and Jenn how to use a syringe when the “old-fashioned way” doesn’t work out, counseling Jenn through her “break-up” with Matt, and still finding time to find a boyfriend of his own.

Unfortunately, Lisecki’s work as writer and director is less assured than his work as actor. The feature-length version of “Gayby” started life as a 2010 short (a two-hander starring Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas, who also star in the full-length version) and the strain of expanding the material shows. The story meanders and the plot twists sometimes seem arbitrary. The tone is also uncertain; sometimes it’s not clear whether scenes are supposed to be comic or serious. The writing, however, is sharp, fast and furious; the zingers fly by quickly and enjoyably.

While the supporting cast is strong, Jenn Harris and Matt Wilkas are somewhat bland as the leads, a problem that is highlighted by the fact that both characters are just drifting through life. Jenn is a yoga instructor who is underappreciated by her boss. Matt works at a comic book store, blocked at working on his own comics and still not over his ex-boyfriend Tom. Harris has exquisite comic timing, but not enough opportunities for banter or physical comedy.

Their blandness is offset by the strong supporting cast and the witty writing, but Lisecki ultimately fails to bring the complex central relationship to life. He’s not alone on this. The same problem has plagued movies like “The Object of My Affection” and “The Next Best Thing” and TV shows like “Will & Grace.” It’s never easy for a gay guy and his straight gal pal.

Nonetheless, there are lots of laughs in Gayby, even if the whole is less than the sum of its parts. (BTC)

‘I Want Your Love’
Saturday, 11 p.m.
Goethe

I Want Your Love, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeFollowing in the tradition of “Shortbus” (which showed real people having real sex in a variety of situations), “I Want Your Love” tells the story of eight gay men in San Francisco in explicit and searing detail. Over the course of 48 hours, the men test the boundaries of their relationships and stumble through decisions large and small.

The central character is Jesse (Jesse Metzger), a 30-something performance artist. Still licking the wounds from his break-up, short on cash, creatively blocked and unable to get a foothold in San Francisco’s art scene, Jesse has decided to return to his family home in Ohio. (The trendy urbanites keep referring to the entire state and not Jesse’s hometown of Columbus.)

As Jesse prepares to leave the city, he says goodbye to his friends while avoiding his actual farewell party. He also avoids phone calls from his anxious family while finally settling emotional scores with his ex-boyfriend Ben (Ben Jasper) and Keith (Keith McDonald), his downstairs neighbor and a successful artist. In the meantime, his hairy hipster roommate uneasily prepares to move his younger boyfriend into the apartment and Jesse’s friend Brontez rekindles his acquaintance with Ben.

“I Want Your Love” is the first feature-length film by writer/director Travis Mathews, known for his series “In Their Room,” which documents what goes on in the bedrooms of gay men around the world. He also made the short film of the same title (2010), which also featured Metzger, but in a different scenario.

Mathews has degrees in both documentary filmmaking and counseling psychology and he puts them to excellent use here. The realistic dialogue and naturalistic camerawork beautifully capture the look and feel of contemporary San Francisco. The narrative is fleshed out (quite literally) by sexual encounters between the men. Although we see lots of body parts and bodily fluids, and although the film was produced by adult film distributor Naked Sword, this movie is hardly your standard porn flick.

The intimate physical contact details the relationships between the characters in fascinating ways and touch is often a more effective means of communication (between characters and between the film and the audience) than words.

The graphic nature of “I Want Your Love” may not be for all tastes, but it offers intriguing insights into the many ways gay men connect with each other. (BTC)

‘Entry Denied’
Shown in a double bill with ‘The Queen Has No Crown’ (see below)
Sunday, 11 a.m.
Carnegie

Entry Denied, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeThe stories of three same-sex international couples are explored in this short about the strict and unfair U.S. immigration policies gay couples face.

Seeing the personal stories of those affected shows just how hard these couples struggle to stay together while risking deportation when one is not a U.S. citizen.

For one couple, things are further complicated by an HIV diagnosis. Up until 2010 an HIV ban restricted any travel or immigration into the U.S. by those infected. Another couple makes the decision to move out of the U.S. altogether and find solace in Canada, which accepts the immigration of gay couples. Each story is both sad and frustrating, but sheds light on this tragic situation.  It’s clear the goals of the filmmakers were to raise awareness on this issue and they succeed. (RB)

‘The Queen Has No Crown’

The Queen has no Crown, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeAn Israeli man documents life with his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and their views on his sexuality, but his emotionally dependent mother is the main focus.

“The Queen Has No Crown” is a bio-documentary from Tomer Heymann that combines home movies with his own footage of his family and friends. He asks them about their lives, their thoughts on his homosexuality and his relationships. Through the years, his parents divorce and three of his four siblings move from Israel to America, much to his mother’s chagrin.

His mother looks back on her life, everything she missed out on and the growing divide between her and her state-side sons. While she believes they should all stay in Israel, Tomer tries to reason with her, saying they are happy in America and she should be happy for them. Meanwhile, Tomer pours his energy into his relationship with Erez, whom he wants to marry. Erez leaves Tomer who delves into the local gay community and its nightlife, despite harsh anti-gay protests.

The film was shot by Heymann with a handheld camera over the course of 10 years and features a cringe-worthy conversation between Tomer and his twin, also named Erez, about how Tomer is selfish for being gay and not reproducing.

Every frame of the film is worth seeing. The ending does leave something to be desired in terms of a resolution but does a wonderful job highlighting Tomer’s mother’s disappointment in how her son sees her. (SMH)

‘Trans’
Shown in a double bill with ‘Mathi(eu)’ (see below)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Carnegie

Trans, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeFlawed yet fascinating, “Trans” is a 96-minute documentary that shares a wide variety of transgender experiences — everything from a young child born male who insists she’s a girl to her remarkably accommodating parents, to a trans surgeon overachiever who manages to conceive twins with her partner, to two middle-aged trans women who transition later in life to the sad story of Justin/Chloe, a California teen who commits suicide overwhelmed by what she felt were a lack of options.

While always interesting and touching, “Trans” for many LGBT viewers will feel a bit tired. That’s not a slight at all at the subjects — their stories are always engrossing. But trans issues, thankfully, are integrated enough into LGBT U.S. culture to the point that, by now, viewers, especially at an LGBT film festival, don’t really need first-hand tutorials on what it means to be trans or how these realizations come about. Most of us, again thankfully, get it — trans folks feel trapped in the wrong biological body, it’s really not an esoteric concept. So while there’s a large degree of a “preaching-to-the-choir” feel to this, if straights would give it the time of day, it would likely find a more appropriate audience.

And while its intentions are always noble — one can’t help but tear up at several of the personal accounts — director Chris Arnold often takes a disappointingly hammy approach. Arnold successfully gets a camera present for key moments in several lives — two women being wheeled into the operating room for gender reassignment surgery, a young man telling his girlfriend he’s more trans than lesbian and the surgeon’s wife giving birth. But just as often, things get melodramatic — a graphic saying “surgery” flashes while ominous-sounding cellos thud out scary chords. Other key moments meant to be narrative surprises can be detected a mile away. And did we really need to see one man’s removed testicles being placed in a vial? D.C. trans activist Earline Budd makes a brief appearance.

The film ultimately works, though, as the power of the individual stories manages to overpower Arnold’s hardworking-yet-melodramatic approach. And, as always, the stories are what make the issues come to life and resonate. (JD)

‘Mathi(eu)’

Mathi(eu), Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeA young transgender student struggles to find love and yearns for people to see him as he sees himself.

“Mathi(eu)” tells the story of Mathilde (Tomy Kleinermanns), who prefers to go by Mathieu while undergoing hormone treatment to transition to a man. He dreams of undergoing gender reassignment surgery but laments to his accepting mother that he’ll never be able to impregnate his future wife. She assures him his life will get better. Her role is minimal, but it’s clear she is a wonderful support system for Mathieu.

Mathieu develops a relationship with fellow student Laure (Valentine Feral), who is initially hesitant, saying she doesn’t date women. Soon enough, she begins seeing Mathieu as a man and the two grow close. However, her homophobic friend disapproves and threatens violence against Mathieu.

A touching scene early in their courtship shows Mathieu serenading Laure on the piano with a beautiful rendition of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.” Laure joins in despite her initial reluctance to sing. They share their present worries and their hopes for the future. Their budding romance is cute, but doomed.

The film is just under 19 minutes long and entirely in French. It accurately depicts the struggles of a bullied teenager trying to understand his body and future. Laure herself struggles to understand Mathieu. The characters’ choices are believable and the Kleinermanns gives a brilliant performance as Mathieu from the first scene to his last glare. The movie is a must-see. (SMH)

‘Stud Life’
Sunday, 3 p.m.
Carnegie

Stud Life, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington BladeBalancing relationships and friendships is tough when your girlfriend and best friend don’t get along.

“Stud Life,” a British film starring T’Nia Miller and Kyle Treslove, depicts a challenge many relationships face, but in the context of a same-sex couple. JJ (T’Nia Miller) begins dating Elle (Robyn Kerr), which puts a strain on her friendship with Seb (Kyle Treslove), leading to several fights and break-ups.

While many conflicts in the film are dependent on the characters’ sexualities, including arguments about femme and butch lesbians, anyone can relate to the dynamic of JJ and Elle’s relationship in the first half of the film. JJ struggles, with little success, to balance her commitments to her girlfriend and her best friend. The drama, however, becomes harder to relate to when it is revealed that Elle works as a dominatrix. This revelation angers JJ not because of the nature of the job itself, but because Elle’s clients are men, so they break up.

Meanwhile, Seb spends a significant amount of time cruising for men online, which leads to a nasty encounter between a trick’s foot and Seb’s stomach. Seb then immediately develops a relationship with Smack Jack (Simon Savory), a drug dealing college student. The whirlwind romance felt contrived and predictable, as Seb spent most of the movie spurning him. Also, Jack had the audacity to insult someone else’s taste in clothes, which is ridiculous considering that throughout the movie, he wears, exclusively, an all-white suit.

The dialogue is, at times, difficult to understand, given the quick exchanges and British colloquialisms, and some scenarios are implausible at best. However, the relationship dynamics are the highlight of the film. (SMH)

‘Bear City 2’
Sunday, 7 p.m.
(also Nov. 9 at 7 and 9 p.m.)
Carnegie

Bear City 2, Reel Affirmations, gay news, Washington Blade“Bear City 2” is a sequel to the popular “Bear City” (2010), a love story between Ty, a struggling actor and chaser, and Roger, a successful businessman who hangs out with the muscle bears (even though he’s not really a bear himself).

They’re surrounded by a circle of funny friends — neurotic unemployed Michael and his incredibly understanding lover Carlos, aspiring-but-unmotivated filmmaker Fred and his acerbic boyfriend Brent, and Simon, Ty’s twink friend who is confused but supportive when Ty “comes out” as a chaser.

“Bear City 2” starts out with a confusing prologue that includes cameos by Kevin Smith and Frank DeCaro and reintroduces the characters. It’s not clear how much time has elapsed between the movies. Somehow, Michael has acquired a Tony nomination and Carlos has bought a bar, and since marriage is now legal in New York, Roger has decided to propose to Ty. After a few moments of soul-searching, Ty says yes. The cast heads off to Provincetown for a Bear Week wedding.

Unfortunately, “Bear City 2” inherits some of the flaws of its predecessor and feels like it was rushed into production following the success of the first movie. Both are written and directed by Douglas Langway. The writing is frequently formulaic, relying on stock characters and situations, and the acting is uneven. There is a palpable lack of chemistry between Joe Conti and Gerald McCullouch as Ty and Roger. McCullouch is awkwardly miscast. His performance in both movies is dull and he’s not Ty’s type. Their physical mismatch does become an issue in the second movie, but it is hard to see why these two ever got together.

Despite these flaws, the film is clearly a labor of love for everyone involved and that passion shows in every frame. Partly financed by fans, their names and faces are shown in the credits and some appear as extras. And the movie is a joyous exploration and celebration of bear culture. It is wonderful (and unusual) to see guys with big bellies and fur portrayed as sexual objects. “Bear City 2” displays these bodies with pride, both in the principal cast and in crowd shots of bears on the beach. (BTC)

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Arts & Entertainment

June Jambalaya, lightly seasoned newcomer thickens mix of RuPaul’s Drag Race

Published

on

“Some are born into drag greatness, some achieve drag greatness, and some have drag greatness thrust upon ‘em.”

That iconic line, from the 1602 Shakespeare play “RuPaul’s Twelfth Night,” is as true today as when it was first spoken on the stage of London’s Globe Theatre. Back then, the female roles were played by men. Times may have changed, but the song remains the same: Those with male plumbing who plumb the depths of what it takes to play a woman find themselves doing so through dynasty, scrappy determination, destiny, or a road they have to hoe on their own.Season 14 “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant June Jambalaya found herself in the iconic workroom and runway in a very roundabout way, indeed.

“I have been in the performing arts my entire life, going to performing arts school, and I moved out to LA to get my degree in fine arts” said the 29-year-old Jacksonville, Florida native, who spoke with us just prior to the Season 14 premiere episode, in which she’s introduced alongside half of the cast. Jambalaya, whose drag name came about when a dance instructor asked for her birth month and the last thing she ate, stayed in LA after graduation but found things “didn’t go as planned, you know, just auditioning but still working my job. I worked as a visual manager for a luxury department store, so it [drag] gravitated to me because actually, I was choreographing for a co-worker. It gave me an opportunity to use my degree and use my talents—because I felt kind of frustrated with auditioning and the world of performing. I didn’t fit the stereotypical body that a male backup dancer or performer should have and so it drew me to drag because this was an art form where you got to make your own rules and really pick your narrative, which made me even more intrigued to do it for myself.”

While doing choreography for local LA drag queens, noted Jambalaya, “They encouraged me to try it [drag], and I entered a nightly competition at Revolver and won and then I did a 10-week competition at Revolver and won. So all the stars just kind of aligned. It just felt like I was doing something right with all of the talents and gifts I felt like I had.”

BLADE: What sort of style were you drawing from in those early performances?  

JUNE JAMBALAYA

JUNE JAMBALAYA: When I first started drag, my references were from the Latrice Royales and the Roxy Andrews. I looked at the queens before me that really put on high-energy, like high old school drag numbers and performances. But the more I got to experience who June was, her brand and you know my own artistry I started to really pull from my love for the modern woman and thinking about like, my mom and my sister and my aunts and how I was always inspired by women, especially minority women, because they were the strongest, most fearless, most stylish women that I got to encounter so I really drew a lot of those references into my drag. And then I also, you know, I call myself The Real Housewife of Drag because of my love for the franchise and how real women just sit there fully dressed and living their fantasy on television. That’s sort of what this is for me.

BLADE: You’re serious about the way you use fashion. Does that clash with camp elements of drag? 

JUNE: Yes I’m funny, but I don’t consider myself a comedy queen. I think it’s performance with looks, um, because I revealed myself in a Christopher John Rogers couture gown and then I added a train and airbrushed my name on there to make it, you know, it was fashion but then I made it camp and, you know, urban by airbrushing it—having my nails, have my name hang off… So I’m wearing these designer pieces that you typically don’t see from someone; I’m a size 14, 16 and you haven’t really seen a big girl pull out these type of designers this way and I think that’s interesting. So my camp comes in my love for the visual… You’ll see me inside a waterfall performing a song for a video. That’s where I think my camp comes through, in my visual artistic side. But with my fashion, I really do try to show that plus-sized women and full-figure people love and respect fashion and there is room for us there, too.

BLADE: What is an LA club experience with you like, as opposed to what we’re going to see on television?

JUNE: I have always picked things that felt good to me, but I’m learning that I still have to pick numbers that people are going to enjoy. But when you come to a June Jambalaya performance, you want high energy. You know I’m gonna have backup dancers. So like me and my girls, we rehearse these numbers for weeks on end before the show. One of my biggest inspirations is Beyoncé. I’ve been to more concerts than I’d like to admit.

BLADE: Oh, there’s no shame in that.

JUNE: (laughs) Seeing those shows, all the way down to the costumes and the choreography, all that time and effort that went into it—so I try my best, with the resources I have, to give people that live tour show experience.

BLADE: Your life will be different from the moment the show starts airing. What is the waiting experience like, and have you been given any helpful advice from other queens?

JUNE: So recently, I posted a Christmas video that took three months to film—and it’s different now, because of the [Season 14] announcement, and people know the show is coming. So I get to hear from people from Brazil and Belize message me and tell me how much they enjoyed my video, and people who don’t even celebrate Christmas, that these visuals and these packages of my art are reaching all over the world—it’s blowing my mind to think about this time last year. I had maybe 2,000 followers and I just had dream and I was making videos and taking photos like crazy, and now it’s [the buzz leading up to the show] unfolding before my eyes.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have conversations with Gigi Goode, Kandy Muse, and LaLa Ri. They have all been so extremely supportive. I think Gigi Goode gave me some of the best advice. She came to my “Showgirls” performance and she was like, “Do everything, every opportunity that comes to you. You’re going to be tired but this is going to be the ride of your life—and everything you’ve dreamt of, you can literally do right now. So whatever is in your head, let it out.”
 

BLADE: What advice would you give to those who are just starting out with their drag, and is having a formal background like yours helpful?

JUNE: I think it [education] definitely helped me, but I haven’t been doing drag that long. I started April 2019… But I think when you find something you’re passionate about you will do the work to further educate yourself on it, and I really do believe I did that. So my advice to anyone embarking on something or doing something they’re passionate about is, pull from people who are doing it really, really well. I think one of the best things that I did, I watched Roxy Andrews. I studied with Aquaria [as I was preparing my audition tape]. I saw what the best of the best were doing, to prepare myself to meet that level of excellence. When you’re in this high-pressure drag situation, and mind you, this was just a hobby for me. I had a full-time job. So I went from a part-time baby queen to now doing it full-time, 18-hour days. So it showed me there’s still so much to be done, to be in drag all day, to go from doing an acting challenge to getting ready for a runway. It’s so physically demanding, to be a full-time drag queen.

BLADE: So are you in better shape now than you were before?

JUNE: Well, we filmed it a while ago. I was in really good shape. Then I took a break and ate some food, enjoyed the holidays. Now it’s kicking back in. You know, press [to do] and outfits need to fit (laughs).

BLADE: What do you hope to achieve, as a result of being on the show?

JUNE: I’ve never been to Fashion Week. I would love to experience that or walk and be a part of it, or be part of a beauty brand or something of that nature. But when it comes down to artistry, we have a whole Vegas residency with “RuPaul’s Drag Race” now. I would love the opportunity for that—or the Werq the World Tour, to actually; Imagine if I got to take all of my visuals and put it on the stage… that’s an artist’s dream.

Follow June Jambalaya on Instagram/TikTok/Twitter: @junejambalaya. To stay up-to-date on all things #DragRace Season 14, follow along on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok at @rupaulsdragrace.

Continue Reading

Books

‘Fiona and Jane’ an enticing look at lifelong friendship

Two women bicker, fall distant – then meet again

Published

on

(Book cover image courtesy of Viking)

‘Fiona and Jane’
By Jean Chen Ho
c. 2022, Viking
$26/275 pages

“Fiona and Jane,” a new short story collection by Jean Chen Ho is an enticing New Year’s present. The captivating volume features secrets, family conflict, queerness, astute cultural observations, and above all, friendship.

We long to fall in love. So we lose our hearts to our lovers and go to pieces when our relationships break up.

Yet, especially, if we’re women and/or queer, we want a best friend as much, maybe more, than we do a lover.

Fiona and Jane, Asian Americans, grew up in Los Angeles. They’ve been best friends since they met in LA in second grade. Jane’s family emigrated to Los Angeles from Taiwan. Fiona, with her mother, came to LA from Taiwan when she was a young child.

In “Fiona and Jane,” Ho’s debut collection, the two friends over 30 years grow from second-graders to 30-somethings. Ho’s linked stories draw us into Fiona and Jane’s friendship as they become, at different times, incredibly close, then distant (both geographically and emotionally) from each other.

Ho, 41, has more writing chops than you can imagine. She is a doctoral candidate in creative writing and literature at the University of Southern California where she is a Dornsife Fellow in fiction. Ho has an MFA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her writing has been published in The Georgia Review, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, McSweeney’s, and other publications.

Ho was born in Taiwan, grew up in Southern California and lives in Los Angeles. But, “none of the things that happen to Fiona and Jane are autobiographical,” she said on the podcast “All of It with Alison Stewart,” “I didn’t mine my particular life experiences and put them in the book out of respect to my oldest and dearest friends.”

Fiona is hetero, smart  and attractive. As a teen, she earns enough money to buy a secondhand car (named Shamu, Ho writes, “after the Sea World killer whale because of the corroding white patches all over the black paint.”).

While Fiona’s mother isn’t religious, Jane’s Mom is devoutly Christian. Jane is bisexual. When she and Fiona are teens, they kiss  “to practice” – what kissing’s like. Though she doesn’t tell her Mom, Jane, when a teenager, has a romantic relationship with her female piano teacher.

When she’s young, Jane often does what Fiona does. Because Jane’s tall, she’s often thought of as “Fiona’s bodyguard.” As she grows older, Jane begins to rely more on herself.

Fiona is eager to leave LA. She goes to college, then moves to New York City with her first boyfriend. She enters law school, then drops out.

Jane stays in Los Angeles. She opts to take a gap year between high school and college. The gap year morphs into a couple of years. Jane has relationships with women as well as with Julian, a vet who has PTSD.

Though Fiona and Jane are quite different from one another, they keep circling back to each other. Despite their differences, they have one thing in common: they both have lost their fathers.

In one of the collection’s most moving stories, “The Night Market,” Jane speaks of her visit before she graduated high school to Taiwan where she has come to see her Dad. Her Dad has gone from LA to Taiwan for a temporary job. Jane learns that he’s going to stay in Taiwan because he’s fallen in love with a man there. Her Dad asks her to keep this a secret. But, in her pain at his revelation, she outs him. Jane blames herself for his suicide.

Fiona discovers as a child that she’s never known her father. Her mother raises her on her own.

Over the years, Fiona and Jane bicker, fall distant – then meet again. As teens, they help each other get fake IDs so they can drink. As adults, they help each other through moving apartments, love affairs and mourning.

 “Sixteen years since my father died, and I was still alive,” Jane thinks, “I got up, every morning. I lived, day by day. I had my best friend, Fiona Lin.”

Check out “Fiona and Jane.” Then, text your best friend.

Continue Reading

Arts & Entertainment

Lighting the way: an interview with singer Janis Ian

Veteran performer embarking on final tour

Published

on

Janis Ian takes her musical bow in 2022 with a final North American tour. (Photo by Keith Stokes)

By my count, queer singer/songwriter Janis Ian has had four distinct chapters in her musical career. The first began when she was in her teens with the release of her groundbreaking single “Society’s Child,” and the albums on Verve Records that followed in the late 1960s. By the mid-1970s, for the second chapter, Ian signed to Columbia Records, resulting in the biggest hit single of her career, the Grammy Award-winning classic “At Seventeen.” She remained on Columbia into the early 1980s, even collaborating with Giorgio Moroder on the song “Fly Too High.” The third chapter occurred in the early 1990s. Bette Midler recorded Ian’s song “Some People’s Lives,” the title track of Bette’s Grammy-winning 1991 album. Ian herself recorded the song for her marvelous 1993 comeback album, the aptly titled “Breaking Silence.”

Ian has not been sitting idle since that time, mind you. She’s released a few more albums, including some on her own Rude Girl Records label. She also published her memoir “Society’s Child: My Autobiography” in 2008 and won her second Grammy for the audiobook. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Janis in 1994, 2004, 2008, and in 2022, and it is always a revelatory experience. She was kind enough to answer a few questions in advance of the release of her flawless new album “The Light at the End of the Line” (Rude Girl).

BLADE: I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with the best way to say this, and I keep returning the fact that with The Light at the End of the Line, your extraordinary last solo studio album, you are going out with a bang.

JANIS IAN: [Laughs] better a bang than a whimper!

BLADE: What was involved in the decision to make this your final studio recording?

IAN: I think hitting 70 was a big part of it. Having the last 15 years to put together songs and wanting to make something that was better than anything I’d done before was involved. Mostly, the timing really worked out. I went into lockdown right around when I needed or wanted to start thinking about this. I had no plans until I looked up at my write board and realized I had 15 songs I was pleased with, and one unfinished. I started listening to what Randy Leago had done with “Resist,” and I began working with Viktor Krauss on “Better Times…” I had originally intended to do an all-solo acoustic album, but it became clear that I really wanted a blend of it to serve the songs. There wasn’t a sudden, “Gee, I’ll make an album now” decision. There was more a talking to people and seeing where Randy and Viktor’s schedules were. Seeing where John Whelan was. Whether we could get Nuala Kennedy to do her parts from Ireland. Finding a studio where I live, which is near Bradenton, so there’s not a huge amount of studios available. Then just winnowing down the songs and going, “Well, I think this is actually an album.”

BLADE: Among the many aspects that make The Light at the End of the Line exceptional is that for the 12 songs, you draw on the many influences spanning your five-decade career, beginning with “I’m Still Standing,” which is as personal as, say, “At Seventeen.”

IAN: I would say so. That was part of my goal for the entire album, and part of the winnowing down of songs, was to make sure that the songs I picked were as universal as possible, and also songs that would hopefully stand the test of time. I mean it’s incredible that “At Seventeen” was released in 1975. It’s 45 years later and it’s still getting lots of airplay. Lots of people still sing it. People are still affected by it, young people, not people anywhere close to my age. So, to make an album that would reach as many people as possible emotionally, and at the same time have songs that were as well-written as I’m capable of doing after almost 60 years as a songwriter; that was the challenge, really. So, I’m glad to hear you say that.

BLADE: The social consciousness of your music extends all the way back to “Society’s Child” and continues today with songs such as “Stranger” and “Resist.” Please say a few words about the role of social commentary in your music.

IAN: I was raised in a very political family. I grew up stuffing envelopes and going to marches. My parents were both politically aware. My mom did things like attend the Civil Rights Congress. My parents were under watch by the FBI. So, it was a natural part of my life. Everyone we knew was involved, in one way or another, in politics and social issues, because I would regard feminism as much as a social issue as a political one. Although the line between the two is pretty blurred these days as I’m sure you know. “Stranger” just came out of nowhere one night. I had an off night and I never write on the road, ever. I think I’ve written two songs in my life while I was touring. But I was changing guitar strings and came up with that little pattern and the song just fell out in the course of the evening. I’ve been thinking about it a lot because my own grandfather had to come into America on a cousin’s passport. None of us found out his real name or the story until we were in our 20s and 30s. So I started thinking with all these people saying “illegals should be deported, even if they grew up here, even if they were born here, even if they’ve lived here 40 years, where does that leave me? Should I be sent back to Poland or Russia or the Ukraine?

BLADE: It truly resonates and it’s an ongoing issue. That leads me to the next question, which is about the anthemic single “Resist,” which is one of the album’s most powerful statements, with its “I will not disappear” and titular chants. Are you ever shocked that you still find yourself having to write and perform a song such as this?

IAN: I’m shocked that it hasn’t been fixed by now [laughs], and that it seems to be getting worse. I think that in some ways my generation underestimated the determination of the powers that be to stay in power. We knew about the FBI and the CIA, but it would never have occurred to us that there would still be genital mutilation. That women would still be burned on pyres. That there would be revenge rape. It’s a shock that these things still need to be addressed, but it’s not shocking that they need to be written about. I also think that music cuts through the noise in a way that very few other things can. Politics becomes just noise. Social media becomes just noise. Music has the ability to touch people’s hearts directly in a way that none of those things can. I didn’t set out with “Resist” and think, “Oh, I’m going to write a protest song about this.” But I was plenty annoyed when I wrote it.

BLADE: That definitely comes through.

IAN: It’s a fine line for me because my voice only carries so far. I can’t do what certain singers can do with their voices. I have a relatively light voice. That’s one of the great things about Randy Leago, and what he did with it. Because he managed to leave all that space for the vocal while surrounding it with…oh, I think I had asked for angry drums. So, the first thing you hear is that thud of the bass drum, which to me is like a footstep coming into the room. Lines like “I cannot be your virgin and I will not be your whore” came out of my own experience.

BLADE: It really is an incredible song. “Nina” is a breathtaking tribute to Nina Simone. It made me think about her performance in Questlove’s 2021 documentary Summer of Soul, and how she’s being reintroduced to new generations. Have you seen the doc?

IAN: I have not seen that, but I did see the Liz Garbus documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? (from 2015) because she’s singing my song in it.

BLADE: What do you think she’d think of your song about her?

IAN: [Big laugh] I would not begin to wonder what Nina would think about anything. I wouldn’t go there for $1,000,000. Well, maybe for $1,000,000, but I would be pretty unsure of myself. Nina was monumentally easy and monumentally difficult to love. That’s what I tried to capture in the song. She was biologically ill, mentally ill, I would say, but I’m not sure what the correct phrase is these days. But there was such a big biological aspect to it and by the time that was really beginning to be understood and treated, she had already burned so many bridges and made so many people angry. I feel like I saw Nina at her best and her worst. Her best was so much better than any other performer I’ve ever watched. And her worst was pretty scary.

BLADE: As a gay man, I have always loved the story about Nina’s correspondence with Langston Hughes.

IAN: She and (James) Baldwin (were friends), too. We had lunch at my mother’s one day and she showed up with James Baldwin in tow. I don’t think she cared about that at all because artists tend not. It doesn’t really matter, it’s like skin color. Who cares as long as you’re doing great work. It’s the world that surrounds us that becomes the problem.

BLADE: That is very true! Album closer “Better Times Will Come” is the kind of uplifting number we all need at this time. I was delighted by Diane Schuur’s scat…

IAN: Isn’t she great? Deedles!

BLADE: Her “Shayna maidel” shout-out elevates the song to a different level.

IAN: We probably talk every couple of weeks or more often. We’re good buddies. She’s great.

BLADE: Was that song as much fun to record as it is to listen to?

IAN: It began out of the Better Times project that I started when lockdown began — bettertimeswillcome.com. That involved, in the end, 187 artists all doing their own versions of the song. We’ve got 13 versions still to put up! Everything from Japanese sign language interpretation to a Dutch version to a Mandarin Chinese version to banjo or guitar or flatfooting. When it came time to record it, I wanted to close the album with it, but do something completely different from what I’d done already. My version that everybody worked off for the project was just me singing the song immediately after I finished it into my phone, no guitar, no nothing. You can go to bettertimeswillcome.com and watch all those videos, see all those versions, listen to them, download them. It was a great way to promote other artists who had projects coming out and suddenly couldn’t tour or make book appearances, all of that through my Facebook page. The Facebook people were wonderfully generous. I didn’t want to repeat that or reuse it, so it became question of how I do this so that it’s totally different from anything on the album and it maintains that spirit of inclusivity. I reached out to Viktor and we literally both sat down with our phone books and went, “OK, this person would be great. That person would be great. Are they available?” Vince Gill wasn’t available because he’s out with the Eagles. We told Vince we had a two-month window and he literally turned it in three days before we went to mix. With Deedles (Schuur), she’d been in lockdown for a while. There was no nearby studio. It was working with her manager to find a studio and then coordinating it with her so that she felt safe, and she could do it in her own time, in her own way. For all the musicians, it became a question of me saying, “This is a step-out moment. Treated it like you’re in the (Tommy) Dorsey bands in the old days and he suddenly points to you and says “You take your solo. No preparation, no leading up to it, no ramping up. You just start max.” I was really pleased with it. John Cowan singing a verse to start off with. That’s not something I’ve ever been able to do, and I’ve always wanted John to sing one of my songs. The harmonies are great. People like Andrea Zonn, who’s normally out with James Taylor, because of COVID they were available. It worked for the piece. Viktor and Jared (Anderson), the young engineer he found, worked at assembling. We spent a lot of time on it. It felt like we just needed something to give us all a bit of hope, and yet to recognize COVID, which is why the ending is what it is. Because we keep thinking we’re good and then we’re not and we think we’re good and then we’re not. Trying to speak to that, as well.

BLADE: As a songwriter, you have a long history of having your songs recorded by other performers. If you had to choose one song from The Light at the End of the Line to be covered by another artist, what song would it be and who would want to hear sing it?

IAN: Oh, man, that’s pretty easy! I would have P!nk record “Resist.” I think she would slay that; I think she would just kill that song.

BLADE: Not only is The Light at the End of the Line your last studio recording but the multi-city tour on which you will be embarking throughout most of 2022 is your final North American tour. What will you miss the most and the least about touring?

IAN: The thing you miss about touring when you’re not touring is the audience. I have really good audiences. Everything from the male or female seven-year-old would-be guitarist whose parent or grandparent thinks “You should see a really good acoustic guitarist” to the 80-year-old person who’s been following me since “Society’s Child.” It’s a really broad range. I meant it when I said (in the album art) that “this album is a love song” because when I wrote (the song) “The Light at the End of the Line” I looked at it as what I was saying to my fans. One of the difficult possibilities that artists face in these days of social media and easy advertising is making sure that you consider your supporters. A word I prefer to fans, because “fans” has other connotations. The people who have always supported me — I go back to Facebook as an example – there’s a social media everybody said you can’t make money from. And yet, one year when we held the sale for our Pearl Foundation, 70% of the money came from Facebook followers. I have to believe that if you do as I’ve done; if you don’t accept advertising on your page, if you don’t bother people, if you just present yourself and have a good time, they stay with you. I have more than half a million followers to attest to that. There are a lot of potential pitfalls that I try to avoid because I really respect the people who support my work. That’s an absurd cliché, Gregg, but it’s true. I respect those people. I have a lot of gratitude toward those people.

BLADE: Do you have a feeling that they know that?

IAN: Absolutely! When I was staying after every show and signing, which I did for 30 years, I would hear that. That was very direct. The Light at the End of the Line also becomes a way for me to say, “You stuck with me when I was not a great writer. You stuck with me when I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I grew up in this fishbowl. Here’s our payoff. I am now a really good writer and singer, and here’s a love song for you.

BLADE: The last couple of years have been brutal, to say the least, and we lost many great friends and artists, including Nanci Griffith and John Prine. Would you mind saying a few words about Nanci and John?

IAN: Nanci was a very under-recognized songwriter, like Dolly Parton. And a great interpreter. She called me one day and said, “Janis, I need a Janis Ian folk song.” [Laughs] “I don’t know what that means” and she said, “Just let it roll around.” I called my friend Jon Vezner and I said, “Nanci Griffith wants a Janis Ian folk song and I have this idea for something that’ll begin ‘This old town should have burned down in 1929’,” and he said, “Fantastic! I’ll be over tomorrow morning.” That’s how Nanci operated. She left you to do what you do. John’s death really took me aback. It hit me very hard. It’s not that we were that close, but I had known John since we’re both in our early 20s. We had seen each other at the Cambridge Folk Festival a little short while before, or it felt like a short while before. “Better Times Will Come” literally grew out of that. I was in our house, in the garage doing laundry, thinking about John. “Better times will come” started running through my head. I wrote it, basically, because John died. I’m not sure what I would have written without that. Somebody once said to me, “You will never be able to write a three-chord song.” Gregg, this is literally the only three-chord song I have written in my life. I have to think that on some level, without getting weird about it, John was out there encouraging it. He was the king of simplicity. John was simple and direct in a way that very few of us ever get to be. (He’s) sorely missed.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular