Thank you for visiting my blog. I am incredibly flattered that anyone would want to read anything I’ve written, would want to hear anything that I have to say.
There appears to be something wrong with my website and people are not able to access any blog page after number one, so I am sharing all of the links to all of my blog postings, for future reference, for anyone who cares to read what I have written over the years.
Thanks for reading, all this time. I appreciate your support and interest.
On Stopping Time
On The Final Days
On The Story Teller
On Liza Minnelli
On Hallmark Christmas Movies
On Christmas Music
On The Clock
On Self-Created Illness
On the Mosaic
On Elizabeth McGovern and Time and the Conways
On the DVD Collection
On The Hotel
On Being a Role Model
On Gym Etiquette
On Being Supportive
On Staying Alive
On The Yo Yo Waistline
On Bernadette Peters
On The North Wind
On The Sunglasses
Free—And it feels so good
The Found Weekend –I Once Was Lost
Proactive Summer – Keep it Fit
5 Rules When Picking Out a Gym – Shop Right
The Buddy System – Workout Together
The First Goodbye – When a Friend Dies
Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jonathan Groff and a Life Lived in Service – I love them
Resolution Time – Make it worthwhile
Gymless Training – Who needs a Membership?
5 Tips On Keeping That Swimsuit Body – It’s Cold Outside
The Thought of Training – Health and Fitness is Paramount
An Ambitionless Life – Enlightenment
RX for Pride Panic – Gettin’ Ready for Love
The Gay In the Light – That be Me
Christmas Day 2014
Confessions of a Broadway Stay-Put – Well, most of the time, anyway
Gee, Thanks – Another Thanksgiving?
The Cancer Dust Up – I hate cancer
Defending Keira Knightly – I love her
Fatblaster Fucking – Can YOU Think of Better Way to Burn Calories?
The Gratitude Project –Thanks
My Favorite Broadway – I just love it
The Proust Questionnairere at Fifty – It is Worth re Examining
Sexy Is As Sexy Does – In My Opinion
Back to Basics – Work It Out
Damn! How did you Get That ASS?! — It’s All in the Title
Get Fit With Frittatas – Yummy
For Optimum Health Eat, Sleep, Relax and Have Great Sex – Nuff Said
Leg Day – An Inconvenient Truth – Don’t Skip It!
Alternative Weight Lifting with BOSU – It’s All About Balance
No Gym? No Problem – Do it Anywhere
This Photographer’s Focus on The Bridges of Madison County – Why It Was The Best
The Bridges of Madison County on Broadway – The Best Thing I Ever Saw
Breaking, Bad—Handle Your Shit
Gun Control – Blast those Arms
Fitness in the Palm of Your Hand – Get the App!
Healthy Recipe Tips to Compliment Your Workout – It’s a Two Pronged Attack
An Every Day Guide to Resolutions –Happy New Year!
Plan Ahead for New Year’s Partying – Be Safe
Breaking the Holiday Habit – No Gains
Play Yourself Fit – Alternate Exercise Programs that are Fun
Break the Crash Diet Cycle – You can do it
Thanks a Lot and Out with the Garbage – On the Death of a Friendship
The Thanksgiving Day Story – Grateful Grateful Truly Grateful I Am
Broken – On Alcoholism
Still Gatsby – No I’m not an expert
The White Light – On Choosing Joy
Broadway’s Jekyll and Hyde Revival Revived Me
Helen Reddy Welcome Home – It’s about my favorite Pop Diva
Hug it Out Bitch – Why I never fight with friends
Maggie Smith and The Sweater Book – The title says it all
Anita Gillette After All – The nightclub act of Show Business Royalty
The Birthday Party in Action – It’s Showtime
The Birthday Party – The work of a Party Planner
The Thousandth Like – I’m not mentioned, I’m exposed
The Story of Rachel – Where my Inner Child Lives
Lights, Please –Christmastime Is Here
A Modern Family Christmas Memory – Christmas with a Modern Twist
Dreaming of Diane Lane in Sweet Bird of Youth – My favorite On Stage Live
Reverie – On the importance of Dreams
Twenty Twenty – Seeing one another
Nate – On the Life of an Angel on Earth
Abdication – On the Death of the Drama Queen
There But For the Grace of God – Accountability in Life and Death
Food For Thought: Baba Ganoush and Pomegranate – Amazing
Food For Thought: That Delicious Complex Carb –Sweet potatoes – Yum
Food For Thought: Cabbage Raisin Recipe – One that I really love
Food For Thought: Green Bean Recipe – Sharing a Healthy recipe
Intro to Healthy Eating Part Three – Wrapping it up
Intro to Healthy Eating Part Two – Let’s keep going
Intro To Healthy Eating Part One – Let’s get Healthy!
It Gets Better – Our It Gets Better Video
Creationism – The Creativity spawned by the Internet
Be Still My Beating Heart – Celebrity Crushes
The (Not so)Giving Nature Center – Disgruntled Customer
Being Fat Was Over – about my change from fat to fit
Blogging About Blogging – My first blog on Stephen Mosher Com
Before I started my blog on my website I had blogs on blogspot and live journal – not to mention Myspace and Facebook notes!!. Here is a link to my Blogspot blog and all the stories are archived there , for anyone interested:
I went into my files and found the link for my LiveJournal blog and it is still active!! So, for posterity and for anyone who wants to read what I have written over the years, here they are. There’s no real theme, it’s just what struck my fancy at the time. The dates are on the blogs so you can pretty much follow who I was and what I was into at what stage of my life. At one time I was just blogging Christmas cookie recipes. My own son said “Dad I can’t read your blog, it’s nothing but recipes” — but then my mom told me “I can’t look at a computer screen long enough to read one of your stories” – so that tells you how verbose I can tend to be. It’s all up to you, the reader.
Here I am providing the links and a word or two to let you know the theme of each sotry.
On Kathleen Turner
On the musical The Fantasticks in my life
On quitting a job
On New York City
On Peggy Lee
On the nature of Friendship
It’s a Scandal It’s an Outrage
On the TV show American Family
On managing Anger
On life and death
On Kate Mulgrew
On the end of a friendship
Musings on Life
Memories inspired by TV watching
On the movie Stepmom and our Parents
Out of the mouths of babes
Jesus in NYC
Mouse in the House
On the life of an artist
Reflections on Life
Musings on Living
On my first retirement
On the success of friends
Nancy LaMott part one
Nancy LaMott part two
Nancy LaMott part three
On The Boy From Oz
On The Boy From Oz part two
Nancy LaMott part four
Nancy LaMott part five
On the death of the Artist
On a failure to communicate
On Agnes of God of film
On waking up early
One of those ‘get to know your friends’ surveys we all used to do
The time I shared all my friends’ website links
Those surveys we used to do? We could make them too. This long one was mine.
The Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe
Deborah Cox and AIDA
Marilyn Monroe, Poet
Musings on a Treadmill
On Mario Cantone
Golden Raisin Rosemary Muffin Recipe
On Carrie Bradshaw
On Annette Bening and Being Julia
On my love of Music
Orange Pecan Muffins
Cranberry Almond Sour Cream Muffins
Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipe
Great Christmas CDs
A Christmas Carol The Movie
On Being Gay (not by me – this was a share)
Peanut Butter Cookies
On Steel Pier and Kander & Ebb
Katharine Hepburn Brownies
On Politics and Apathy
On celebrities coming out
I was spring cleaning. All this stuff is gone. But it’s fun to see what I had.
More spring cleaning. Boy I spent a lot of money on stuff
Spring cleaning again. It’s all gone now.
On Oscars 2005
On Beautiful Women
Dream Casting Follies
I am all Random
Happiness is a Choice
On Growing Up
On the futility of hatred
On Broadway Theater and The Glass Menagerie
On the Loves of my Life
That time I passed The Dalys on the street
On The Light in the Piazza
On Bad Mannered People
On Movies that feel like Old Friends
On the most Horrendous Celebrity I have ever met: David Suchet
On Standing Up Karen Mason
Another of those Survey Things
On Naming My Body Parts
What’s in an Ipod?
On Sunset Boulevard the Musical
Early Morning Activities
On Jukebox Musicals
On Sheena Easton
On Relationships on an Early Morning
On Not Voting
On Maria Friedman
On purging your stuff
On Leg Day
On Open Relationships
On a regional theater production of Hello Dolly
On the Struggle being real
On Going Home
On Childhood and the Movies
On Success and Failure
On Testicular Cancer
On Witnessing Each Other’s Lives
On Self Examination and Respect
On Seasons of Love and NYC and Me
On The Holiday Bloodbath
On Talking on the Phone
Survey by Fours
On THE HOURS
On Diane Lane
On the departure of a Teacher
On Weakness and Strength
On a New Trainer
On Plain Jane Jones
Happy Twentieth Anniversary, baby
On Getting in Shape
On Julia Roberts
On Gay Pride
On Mame Dennis
On Bad Plastic Surgery
On Peaceful Warrior
The Then and Now Survey
Today is January First. In spite of many peoples’ firm skepticism, today is my last day as an artist. I will put down my cameras and my pen and cease to create, in order that I might be able to focus time on my family and my life. For five months I have been thinking about the last 37 years with a camera in my hands. My mother gave me a Yashica when I was 16. Then there was a Pentax. After that, five or six Minoltas. There was an Olympus. There was a Sanyo. There are three Canons. I’ve been making photos with these cameras for nearly four decades. Even when I stopped working for 18 months after The Sweater Book failed, I still used the cameras in my daily life, I still took photos of friends and family. Those cameras have been the extension of my hand and of my eyes. During those 18 months, when I watched Under the Tuscan Sun and the Polish workers took photos of their goodbye moment with Franscesca, I cried. I missed my art. Whenever I see certain moments in the movie Stepmom, I feel an unspoken validation for what I have spent my life doing. Each time I walk into the homes of people who have a photo I made framed and on display, I feel I have done something with my life.
I have stopped time.
For the rest of their lives, people will look at a moment I captured for them and they will remember what they felt on that day. When they are gone, others will look at that photo and see the story of that person’s life. Strangers will see photos I made and see a little piece of history, both general and personal. The photos will keep the models, those people, my subjects young and beautiful forever. Even after they are dead, their stories will be told, their faces seen and their memories kept alive. There will be people who don’t remember my name, some who never knew my name and most who won’t care about me. But I’ll be there. I will have been the person to keep their person alive forever. I will have made the magic that kept them beautiful forever. I will have been the teller of the tale and the preserver of the past. My name matters, not one bit. All that is important is the art created, the story it tells and the emotion it evokes. I have absolutely no ego attached to my art, my work, my life… no investment in the past 37 years except for joy for the journey and elation in the execution.
I don’t know if I will miss my life in the arts. And, unless some extraordinary offer comes along to which I cannot say no, I will not return to it. I have a new life now and it’s enough.
And sometimes, in the cool grey of the dawn, I will hear, far away, the distant echo of the voices behind the faces that I have kept young, beautiful and alive forever.
The day that I stopped time.
Five months ago I announced that I was putting my cameras away. This announcement was met with a variety of responses, the most frequent one being light-hearted teasing like “what again?” – a reaction that seemed designed to 1) hurt me and 2) make fun of me. Fortunately, this year I was able to learn how to not take things personally. So that response fell on deaf ears. The other responses ranged from support to sadness, from indifference to anger. People asked me how I could give up my art, others joked that “you’ll be back behind the camera in two weeks” and my husband waited until he heard me say those words, and then he accepted my decision and my resignation.
It no longer brings me joy.
I have always loved being a photographer. I love the process, the lighting, the beauty, the resulting artwork. But I have grown. I’ve changed. I’m different now. I have to allow the new me to go out and find his way. This has been my path for a long time; it is his turn now.
So I have spent these last few months going through my computer and cleaning files off the hard drive. All the digital photos and scans of old photos and negatives have been moved to discs and hard drives and stored where I can get to them when I need them. The photos around the house have been placed in albums. The files have been deleted from the computer. And in the process of doing this cleanup I have taken time out to, daily, share photos from my life with a camera in my hands. That has been a fun process.
I’ve had time to look back on 37 years of photography. I’ve looked at my earliest work of art – a photo of my high school friend Lisa Triplet lying on a beach on a cold sunny spring day. I’ve looked at my most recent work of art — Insert Name of Recent photographic subject here, and there have been so many lately. I’ve marveled at some of the stories I’ve been privileged to tell and some of the beauty I’ve been honored to capture. I’ve swelled with pride over the moments I’ve stopped for families and the memories I’ve capture for people feeling love. I admit that I cried a little when compiling the Jennifer Houston collection of photos. And I felt sadness while scanning art I made with people who have left me – Nancy LaMott, David Campbell, David Schmittou and AJ Triano. It has been an emotional five months of looking back, of reflecting, of feeling.
But this is the only way to close this book properly.
The time has come for me to be perfectly clear: this is not a ruse. This is no fly by night decision made in haste. My cameras will be on hand for me to make photos on Christmas Day, when my husband needs me to or when I visit my mother and father. Otherwise, two things and two things, only, will cause me to pick up my camera: money and Diane Lane. And, if I can be more specific, a lot of money or a celebrity that I always wanted to photograph and didn’t get to – and Diane Lane is the top of the list. Others on that list include Angela Lansbury, Liza Minnelli, Gale Harold… and a handful more. In my life I have tried to make art and I have tried to make a difference, and all I have, successfully, made is myself unhappy. Now all I want to make is money or merry or both. That is where I stand on this, the final day. There will be one last shoot tonight, New Year’s Eve, the results of which will be shared online tomorrow, New Year’s Day 2018. But for now…
It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life. Isn’t that what the song says?
My life behind the camera has brought me as much joy and as much pain as the life of an artist should have. I could not have withstood more pain, and while the joy I have had could have been compounded, what I have had will do. I’ve done my time. I don’t work this shift anymore. But I will remember and appreciate all of the adventures and all of the faces.
Sometimes, in the cool grey of the dawn, I will raise my face to the light and remember when it was that which both shone the way and created the shadows that would burn onto film and into my mind, creating an impression for the future that will remain, forever, unforgettable.
I started writing stories when I was a kid. I would write reviews of books I read or movies I saw, draw pictures and turn them in to my second grade English teacher. I didn’t get extra credit, I didn’t need extra credit, I just needed someone to read what I wrote. I always loved words. I loved sentences. I loved the artistry of formulating thoughts on paper. I loved the poetry of creating the stories.
I always have.
My writing took a back seat to my acting. My acting took a back seat to my photography. I never, though, lost the desire to write. I simply had to tell stories in other ways for a couple of decades.
Then one day the internet was invented. I had an audience. In the early days of the internet I would write stories about my experiences around New York City and I would email them to all my friends. I did not think I was imposing on them, I thought I was a good enough writer that they would want to read them. I thought the stories, the writing, the lessons were nice enough to inspire people. I did not know that I had a wrong idea until a friend wrote and asked me, in a not particularly friendly manner, to leave them the heck alone and stop bothering them with my minutia. Another friend wrote to me and asked if it didn’t embarrass me, being so indiscreet with the details about my life. Another blocked me from emailing them. These were not subtle messages.
So I stopped.
I still wrote. I wrote in blank books, on legal pads, in the air, in the sand, in my mind and on the palm of my hand. I wrote down my thoughts, my feelings, my wishes, my dreams, my visions for the future. I kept them to myself. I never wrote fiction because I did not have the gift of creation in that way. Also, there was enough wild shit going down in my own life to feed the writing keys of the computer and the ramblings of the prose. I stored what I wrote and kept it for only myself, convinced that it was not worthy of being read.
One day I heard about this thing called Myspace. I joined Myspace. There was a Notes feature where people could ramble on, ad nauseum, about their lives. I did. I posted many things on my Myspace page, some of the quite good, I thought. One day Myspace was replaced by a thing called Facebook. It also had a Notes feature. I could do my rambling there. For a while I rambled on Myspace and Facebook and something I found called Blogger, a website where people did exactly what I had been doing all those years but they had audiences to read their ramblings. I had a community. There were people who blogged about anything and there were people who blogged with great specificity. People were being creative with words and ideas, sharing knowledge and opinions, making friends and making a new world on the internet of web loggers. It was fun and it was an outlet, and there was no opportunity for people to criticize you for expressing yourself. Well, sometimes there were trolls who made comments and sent emails but you could choose, or not, to let it upset you.
I blogged on Myspace, on Facebook, on Blogger, on Livejournal and, finally, on Stephen Mosher Com.
Only, I was doing it less and less. I had less to say. I had less I wanted to share. I had already blogged about the divas, the hot guys, the stories I had lived, the art I had seen. I had begun to live in a black place, thanks to soul sucking line of work, and I could not be the blogger who specialized in misery. The entries were happening with months in between them. I wasn’t a blogger anymore. I was just a dude who, six times a year, announced on Facebook that he had a new blog up. That’s not blogging. When you are a blogger you owe your audience a story a day. You have an obligation to your public. Some bloggers spend all their days collecting stories and photos off the internet, creating their personal comments on world events and the topic of their particular interest. There are bloggers whose lives are nothing but their work.
That’s not my life.
I have nothing left to say. I have no more stories to tell. Furthermore, I have no more desire to tell stories. I have no desire to open myself up. I’ve been doing it for many years, all the while telling my husband that “people just take chunks out of you”. It is the dichotomy of being me. I wanted to share myself. I wanted to share my stories. I believe in story telling. It is through sharing our stories that we learn one another, that we see inside each other.
Only I’m empty.
I have to refill, refuel, reexamine. I want to spend my life experiencing life, not writing about it and not reading about it on other peoples’ blogs. I loved my time as a blogger. I loved the occasional feedback that I got from my audience. It was often quite validating and uplifting. I often felt that, by sharing my experiences, I might have made a difference for some people, changed some perceptions, helped some lives. But times change. People grow. Life evolves. Things end.
This is my time of change, my time to grow. This is my evolution.
This is the end.
I would rather sing than anything.
I sing even more than I dance. And I dance a lot. Music has a big effect on me, whether dancing or singing but dance comes to me so naturally and I have, in life, tended toward, no gravitated toward, challenge. And singing has always been a challenger for me. I don’t have a strong voice, naturally. I lose my voice talking over people in a bar. The chance that I could sing like any of my favorite big voiced singers was never in the cards.
And then there were the people who told me, over and over, how great were my limitations and the obstacles. And I listened to them.
Shame on me.
So in January, right after entering rehab for alcohol addiction, I was talking to my friend Georga Osborne about how much I had always wanted to do a nightclub act and she told me ‘DO IT’. And one month earlier, while drunk, I HAD called Ricky Pope and said ‘Will you do a club act with me?’ and he replied “yes, now hang up and go sleep it off.” And I HAD also called Michael Bucahanan and asked “Will you teach me how to sing?” and he replied “yes, let’s talk again when you are sober.” So, clearly, this is something I had to get out of my system.
It’s out of my system.
I worked for months on a song list, trying to find a theme, like choosing wallpaper or the right app at a restaurant. I had two or three different song lists. Some country music. Some rock and roll music. I wanted to make a mash up of the James Bond theme You Know My Name and the Jason Bourne theme Extreme Ways. I just had to sing Put the Blame on Mame. I had to end with I Shall Be Released – because I was miserable and had to believe that, one day, I would be released. I continued to try to find ways to piece it all together for one night of singing in public, making sure the naysayers didn’t win. Checking a dream off the bucket list.
And eventually I did, indeed, have a show with a framework. Go, me.
When I asked my besties (and favorite girl and boy singer songwriters) Jen Houston and Dan Tracy to do this with me, neither hesitated before saying yes. There was absolutely no chance that they thought “I’ll say yes because he will never follow through” because they both know that I always follow through. So they meant it when they said yes, clearly.
The only problem is that Ricky and Dan travel all the time and rehearsing would be a problem. Then Ricky, one of the workingest actors I know, got summer stock work. So we worked on songs, pulling out that one, adding this one, creating arrangements that would fit my vision and also my limitations. And the thing about Ricky is that he is always supportive, never critical and he began to teach me about lifting the soft palate, placement in the front of the face and proper breathing. Jennifer helped me understand more about breathing (something I still don’t fully grasp, not being able to fully locate the muscles, as I would a deltoid or a quad). Marci and Pat both had words of advise and, eventually, Michael Buchanan and I began coaching. I wasn’t sure if any of it would work but I would have to make it work.
Because Sidney Myer had given me a spot in the Don’t Tell Mama calendar.
Georga Osborne, my cabaret fairy godmother, sent an email to Sidney and me, asking him how I could get on the schedule at DTM. He and I sat down for a deliriously delicious two hour talk about who I am and what I wanted to say with my show. I told him that I am a Story Teller. And my show was a series of stories about life, my life, what I’ve learned and where I am going. He loved it. And we loved each other. I have never met anyone like him and if he had said no to me, that two hour talk would have been worth all of it. But he didn’t say no. He said, come, spread your wings. He did not say it doesn’t matter that you are a nightclub neophyte who has never sung in public before. He said our playground is your playground.
And we began the big work.
With every rehearsal Ricky asked me “what is this song about?” .. “no what is it about for you?” .. “no what is it about in the context of your show?” He made me think. He made me work. He made me an artist.
Jennifer listened to my ideas and my backphrase heavy style (it’s how I hear it in my head) and turned them into killer arrangements. She explained what to expect from my body and emotions on the night and taught me ways to make my voice fill a room. She made me so excited that I actually believed that maybe I was a musician and not a dilettante.
Dan, out of town for a protracted time, listened to my recordings of rehearsals, emailed me to ask for charts and rehearsed his part in between gigs.
Don Kelley, Georga Osborne’s friend, came on as percussionist and, from the start, spread the project with laid back good will.
And Brady Schwind agreed to direct me. When it comes to directing, Brady and I trust each other more than anyone. I direct him when he is in front of the camera, he directs me when I try some new artistic venture and we direct each other in life. There was nobody else to look at this for me. And, out of the gate, he had questions? Why are you telling this story? Why are you talking about that instead of yourself? The audience wants to know you, not that. Tell your story and they will go with you. He told me this bit of brilliance that I will never forget: when an audience sits down they want to know 1) why am I here? 2) what’s in this for me? 3) when do I get to go home. If you let them know these things they will relax with you and go on the journey. The made me, The Story Teller, redefine the story.
Because the show was missing several key elements until Brady made me re write it. Once he had his hands on it, adding those inimitable Brady Scwhind touches, it was perfect.
It is very difficult to be a novice at something and feel, at times, like you are alone. I recognized that Ricky needed to go out of town for work. Girl’s gotta eat. And I always support him in every single endeavor. I knew that Dan’s work in the Midwest was extremely important. And I always support him in every single endeavor. And I have seen first hand how her nanny work (Jen cares for the child of a close friend because his work and his wife’s work is very demanding), her recording career and the making of her show Shut Your Cake Hole keep her hyper busy. But, if I’m being honest, there were times (twice) when I sat down on the sofa and cried because it wasn’t looking good for me. I wouldn’t have the room for my final rehearsal until 9 pm the night before the show. I wouldn’t have my entire band together until that time. I was a little panicked because that is a situation that seasoned singers must be able to handle; I was certain that I would stumble in the circumstance. I only needed, though, a couple of minutes of crying and feeling alone before I considered my long history and the closeness of my relationships with Ricky and Jen and Dan, and I realized we were going to be fine. I had enough faith in them and in my own musical instincts to know it was going to be like cutting an ice cream cake with a hot knife. I may not be a trained singer but I have remarkable instincts and a great ear. Indeed, at one point Ricky said to me “I’m trying to think of a way to get you your note since this song starts with percussion” and I said “I don’t need the note, I have it”. He stopped and looked at me and said “You do have your note. You always have it.” It’s a compliment I will always remember. So instead of feeling lost and alone, I went to work every day and when it was slow in the gym I walked around the pool, singing every song until I just couldn’t sing them any more.
Dan returned home. We had two rehearsals together that went so smoothly that I discovered something I haven’t had, anew, in a while: complete understanding. My personal relationships with certain people have lead to perfect artistic relationships – it doesn’t happen every day and when it does, you take it and treasure it. We understood each other, musically, we blended together perfectly and it surprised us both so much that we laughed joyously.
I got word from the club that my show was sold out, a month in advance. People were calling me and asking if I could get them in, which I could not. People were traveling in to see me. I had a new outfit (I buy new clothing extremely rarely) and my parents were in town to see my little play (Brady had admonished me to stop calling it a ‘skit’ and call it what it was: a play or a show). I had rehearsed and rehearsed it dieted myself down to 167 pounds (Which I hadn’t been in a long time, thanks to catering food, illness and injury).
It was time.
The team at Don’t Tell Mama nightclub is a treasure. Sidney sets so beautiful and brilliant a tone as to make it the (true) happiest place on earth. Everyone is so friendly and accommodating. Armando came in to tech our final rehearsal, the night before and gave us a seamless and graceful night of making music. Erik came in to run the show and made sure we were well cared for. Max was a kind and accommodating server who took care of my guests as though they were his personal friends. As I stood in the alcove, waiting to enter The Brick Room, packed to the rafters, Sidney Myer stood with me, reminding me to enjoy the moment, to have fun, because the audience was going to do both. He put his hand on my back and rubbed between the shoulder blades. He reminded me to be in the moment, comforted my nerves and made me feel loved.
My name, over the microphone.
Sidney opened the door and the applause was thunderous.
There were so many people I had to stop for a moment. I wanted to take a picture. I had no camera, no phone. I took a picture with my memory. There were Jason and Kenny, right in front of me. Over to the right, by the tripod where Allan was filming.. there are Elizabeth Ann and Bob. There’s Ms Dowd. I took a few steps. Tony Cointreau’s face, above the crowd. Jimmy is sitting across from him. Applause and screams. I looked right at Collette. There’s Angel, across from her. Anita Gillette is sitting next to mama, I touched Anita’s shoulder. Glen Briggs got in. Good. Anna Lively got in. I knew she would. Marci looks pretty. Daddy is smiling. Look at my band. I have a band. They’re beautiful. I stopped at the foot of the stage and looked at all of them, overwhelmed and happy. It was time to sing. My first time onstage in over a decade, my first time onstage as a singer, ever. I paused at the microphone for one last look before taking the plunge. Deep breath.
“They say times are hard for dreamers but they are not hard for me….”
I couldn’t hear myself. We had done a mic check, worked the monitor. I couldn’t hear myself. I would have to trust myself and my band. I kept on going. Remember what Brady said, Stephen. Keep your eyes open. When you close your eyes, it disconnects the audience from The Story Teller. Look up. When you look down the people in the back can’t see your eyes. Socialize with your audience. Socialize with your band. The stage has to be like a game night at Two-A. Remember what Ricky told you, Stephen. You’re The Story Teller. Don’t worry about the song, just tell the story.
“This is how my world gets maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaade.”
Arms out like wings, the way Ricky told you.
The first number was done. Right into the second one. This was a good one. Lots of melody and band.
“Ev’rybody’s taaaaalkin’ at me… I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’ Only the echoooooes of my mind…”
It’s amazing what your mind can take in while you are on a stage performing, without it messing up the performance. Look how proud Michael Buchanan is… he is beaming. There’s my best friend from High School IN SWITZERLAND, Ian Thompson, with his wife Karla, right up against the stage. He’s going to laugh when I mention Chris Kavanaugh later. Look how handsome Stephen and Will are. How nice of them to come in from Jersey. Well, why not, you go to as many of their shows as you can, they wouldn’t miss this, they’re family. Marci is chair dancing…
Second number down. Nerves settling down. Have some water. There’s a glass of room temp and a thermos of hot water with lemon. It’s time to talk. A lot. Drink.
I have a lot of experience talking to people, telling stories, getting attention. All those years as maitre d’ at the catering company, all those years of hosting parties in our home… it’s just my nature. BUT 60 PEOPLE IN ONE ROOM!!! ON A MICROPHONE WITH NO MONITOR!!
Have a little faith.
When telling a story it is good to look people in the eye. It puts them at ease and draws them in. And the lights onstage are bright but if you peer hard enough you can see Lauren Dortch’s blonde curls back there in the dark and Matthew Jenkin’s black framed eyeglasses on that wall there. After that, you just talk to them. Share your truth. Be real because they can spot inauthenticity from fifty paces.
Damn, this monologue is long. I need to hydrate. The next number is 16 minutes of singing and talking. And this is the number Michael and I worked so hard on and he is right up against the foot of the stage. Here we go.
“In life one has to face a huge assortment of nauseating fads and good advice….”
“There’s health and fitness, diet and deportment and other pointless forms of sacfrifce.
Dorian was sitting in Brady’s seat, smiling and nodding.
“Conversation, wit, I am a doubter… manners and charm, they’re not way to impress “
Look right at Tom
“SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO forget the inner me, observe the outer.”
Look straight ahead and strike a pose.
“I am what I wear and how I dress.”
The My Strongest Suit/Zip medley is what I and the band call The Epic Medley. For every verse of each song there was about four minutes of talking. I am sharing stories about my grandparents’ association with Old Hollywood. The stories are captivating and, frankly, I tell them as if I had really been there. It is too many words to remember, too many complicated sentences to sing by memory and too many minutes to go without hydration… and there is no point at which to take a sip.
But I did it. Yes, I forgot the words to the third verse of Zip. Ooops. So what. I did it. They screamed. I said “Good night! I’m going home!” and they laughed. They got it. We were together. The audience was NOT out to get me.
Time for me and Jen to duet on her self-penned theme song from Married and Counting. If this didn’t get people who knew us and our movie in an emotional state, then I had planned this out poorly. I could see Pat’s face. He was teary eyed. I could see Annalisa’s face. No tears but the emotion was out. Anita was leaning on my mother like they were old girlfriends. Yaaazzz. I was a happy, happy man. Onstage with my galpal, singing her music to a crowd of people who knew the song, the movie it came from and its’ history. It doesn’t get better.
From my favorite girl singer songwriter to my favorite boy singer songwriter. We went right into a Dan Tracy original and, looking out at the audience, I could see them melting as, one by one, everyone fell in love. Even those who already knew Dan were seeing a new side of him when, before their very eyes, he opened his heart and laid bare his soul. Also, he and I sounded fucking awesome. I hoped I would get the harmonies right. Yes. Yes. There they are. Ok, we are halfway home.
Right into Is It Ok If I Call You Mine?, a simple and sweet song from the movie Fame that I have loved for nearly four decades. Only Jen and I had created an arrangement that was more in line with what I hear in my head. During our first rehearsal we tried it once and she said “Oh.. you want this to swing”. I asked what she meant and she told me “that is how you sing, it’s how you always sing” so I figured the professional musician knew what she was saying. And swung, it did. And it went over very well with the audience. Some laughs, some swaying in seats, an impromptu mandatory dance break, a shout out to Tony Cointreau, seated halfway back. It was a fun couple of minutes leading up to the reason I chose this song, something Brady had asked me the moment I first played it for him. Why this song here, he wanted to know. So I told him. Because it spoke about the young version of me seeing the movie Fame and wanting my own fame, which I never got. That would lead to a story about what it is to live inside of a disappointed life where dreams didn’t come true – at least to the extent one wished. But the moral is that a person can live with that life and move forward. I didn’t get the success that Married and Counting and The Sweater Book should have brought me. So what. There is the story. So what. It was fun. And now what I am left with is a life out of the arts with a man who smiles when he sees me – and you can build a life around that. At least I can.
To round out the story about my failed quest for fame and fortune in the arts I shared a story from The Sweater Book. I had prepared a Bea Arthur story and a Maggie Smith story and let the audience choose who they would hear about. The noise for Bea Arthur was large but it was also largely Tom. And I had done the Bea Arthur story at the rehearsal the night before, it was only fair to tell the Maggie Smith story and to do my Maggie Smith impression, which is usually better than it was on this night! Nerves, doncha know. Still, the crowd liked the story and I was able to tell it without making anyone look bad or defaming anyone. And with a fair amount of laughter from the crowd.
Time to shift gears.
Since I had sung with Dan and Jen it seemed only natural to croon a tune with Ricky. After all we had been singing together for over thirty years and we were quite good at it. And he is the most extraordinary teacher and director, I should want to sing with the first best friend I ever had as a grown up. And what a joy to sing with him, his voice is so silky, creamy smooth and gorgeous. And we were doing the song You I Like from The Grand Tour and how MUCH do I love Jerry Herman! I had chosen, carefully, what songs I would sing on this night because I wanted to be authentic to who I am and I have loved Jerry Herman since I was five years old. I think my first record album I ever bought was the movie soundtrack to Hello Dolly. Jerry Herman is authentic to me. And such sweet harmonies Ricky and I were doing – it was such a fun arrangement.
Which I messed up. Twice. I forgot one of the harmonies and one of the lyrics. But then I had made a mistake on almost every song I had done all night – almost – I guess this was part of the experience of performing live! None of the mistakes mattered, though, because I hit the final high note for the final harmony. I viewed the number as a joyful, amazing success.
Next up was me and Dan and Don Kelly, whose presence on percussion was making the entire evening a resounding hit. I was so happy (and remain so happy) that I came up out of the pocket to engage Don to play this show with us. Such a difference. And with Don on Go Slow Johnny, Dan and I had a great time presenting this number we had worked so hard on. It’s a sweet Noel Coward tune that we had jazzed up (swung up) and mixed in with a story about the time I proposed to Pat in a public place with young people looking on. Now, for some reason, this number had me very worried. I had it in my head it was a difficult song and hard to sing and I was really in my head. But there are those days you just have to jump. And hope a net appears.
I don’t know who Annette is but she did appear and the number smashed.
And speaking of Smash.
I was and am a huge fan of the television show SMASH. I do not apologize or explain. I am a devoted Katharine McPhee fan. And I knew that I wanted my second to last song to be the song Pretender from SMASH. I searched high and low for the sheet music. I had to do this song. It makes me happy hearing it, makes me happy singing it and it was the perfect up tempo way to finish the show, even though there was absolutely no story tie in. I wrote to the composers of the song on Twitter and they were not able to give me sheet music. I implored people on Facebook. Nobody replied. Finally I did what I have always done in this situation. I asked Ricky. Justlikethat he wrote out a lead sheet. And Justlikethat I had my closing number.
Except it wasn’t going well. I was singing the song and I couldn’t hear myself and it felt clunky and slow and lacking of the joy and upbeat nature of the song that I NEEDED to close my show. I could feel it wasn’t happening, I could feel it wasn’t connecting with the audience, and I got in my head and started to worry. Then I messed up a line.
So I stopped.
I asked the band to start over and everyone came alive all at once. Don was percussing a little harder, Ricky was swinging a little jazzier, Jen and Dan were playing with a little more zip. And it worked. I was so happy with the way it went. It was a perfectly flawed human way to end my show about my perfect and flawed and human life.
“I gotta go home”
And they boo’ed. Yeah, that’s right. But I took a moment to explain why I had to do this show – so the naysayers wouldn’t win. And why I have to retire from the arts – so the Light will win.
When I began putting this show together I wanted to end with my favorite song, I Shall Be Released. I have one of the most heartfelt and original performances of the song I have ever heard (and I have Youtubed every version out there) and Ricky and I had it perfectly prepared to close out this night. Until I saw the musical Amelie. When I heard the song Where Do We Go From Here I knew Bob Dylan was in Deep Shit Arkansas. You see I Shall Be Released was a plea for help. For years I have felt trapped. For years I have been so busy taking care of other people that I haven’t taken care of myself. For years I have labored under the heavy hands of alcohol, depression, bi polar disorder, failure, disappointment and unhappiness. For years I have longed for some released. And I Shall Be Released was going to express it to the world.
Only that’s not me.
I am, at my core, an optimist. I hate it but there it is. I am. And Where Do We Go From Here is my song. Phillipa Soo and Amelie may have sung it first, but it’s my song. And singing it in rehearsals was impossible. I couldn’t get through it without crying. I felt so much while singing it and everything I felt was bigger than the sky. I was terrified of this song. But Ricky and Jen watched me perform it at a rehearsal, tears and snot running down my face, my voice wavering and my expression the ugly cry. And they both said “Yes”. So I had to trust myself, something that can be hard to do on your best day, let alone a day when you are so far out of your comfort zone you may as well have multiple personality disorder. And I did. And it worked. I sang the song, I didn’t ugly cry, I put forth my story and finished the entire show with those magic words.
White. A Blank Page or Canvas.
The applause was deafening.
It didn’t last.
I had to calm the crowd down so I could do a tiny little three minute encore.
I hadn’t wanted to do an encore. I had wanted to say white a blank page or canvas and get off the stage. But my parents flew up for this show. And my Mama has begun to suffer memory loss. And I don’t know how much time we will have with her as she is, as she has been. I had this moment to tribute her, publicly in a special way. And so I sang, right to her, the song that is our song, made famous by our favorite singer.
“You and me against the world, sometimes it feels like you and me against the world…..”
Now I was done.
“I love you, mama”
And I was off the stage.
So, when you do a nightclub act they make you stand outside the room and say goodnight. I have never been good at this kind of thing because I am a terribly shy person and I don’t take compliments well. But this night, I did. And it was magnificent. Audra Hans said so many beautiful things about my ability to tell the truth and how she wishes to tell the truth in her art. Suzan Perry simply wept in my arms. Anita Gillette grabbed me and told me she loved me and that it was EXACTLY what cabaret should be like. Sarah and Josh Price had tears in their eyes. Lauren and Rob Crozier had tears in their eyes. Colette and Angle had tears in their eyes. Bob Bowen was effusive. Ian and Karla Thompson were complimentary (I can’t BELIEVE my best friend from High School in Switzerland was there!). Anna Lively told me I styled Go Slow Johnny like Julie Wilson would have. Ellen Osburn couldn’t stop hugging me. Tony and Jim just grabbed me and wept. And the smile on my beautiful husband’s face, the entire night, and after the show told me what I already knew.
I felt like I done good.
Isn’t it funny? In my life I wrote, produced and appeared in a play in Dallas in the 80s. Flop. I conceived and created a $70,000. Photography book nobody bought. I conceived an idea for a movie that bled dry three people I love deeply and it was completely overshadowed by another movie about tragedy, while ours was about joy. I self-published a memoir that even my family didn’t read. Every artistic venture I have ever attempted has left me financially and emotionally bankrupt. Wouldn’t it be hi-ho-larious if the one artistic venture that I could succeed at were the one I didn’t want to do? People told me for days after The Story Teller that I needed to do it again. Sidney suggested, strongly, that I add performances. Dorian Woodruff told me the show was such perfection that I needed to only do it three more times and I would win a MAC award for sure. The compliments that rolled in were overwhelming. And beautiful. And the review by Bart Greenberg encouraged me to continue at this work
I love singing. And I always wanted to do this. And I loved every minute of it (except for the abject terror and the threat of failure and embarrassment). I wouldn’t take back one minute of the last year working on The Story Teller. I also wouldn’t change one thing (well, maybe one). It was a joy and treat and something I will always remember.
But I don’t want to be a nightclub singer. I don’t want to be a cabaret artist. I don’t want to be a part of an artistic life where you have to spend all your time promoting yourself. I don’t want to a part of an artistic life at all. I just want to live, quietly, exercise, hike, climb, bike and spend time with my loved ones. It’s a kind of peace I haven’t had, haven’t really thought of and one I think I’m ready for.
But it was the ride of a lifetime. I’ll remember it, the musicians, the Don’t Tell Mamans, Sidney Myer and every face I looked into until the day I day.
And When I do Die..
I hope someone will tell My Story.
I am nearing the end of my days as a blogger and as a photographer. I am stepping back, completely, from the arts. The chance that I will ever get to meet or say this to Liza Minnelli are slim. Actually, I have been in the same room as Liza Minnelli on more than one occasion. And I have friends who know her. But none of them have ever offered to introduce me to her, all the while knowing how I feel. So the best I can do is post this on the internet and hope that someone who knows her will forward it on to her.
Dear Liza Minnelli.
I was 11 years old when my mother said to me “I sure do like that Liza Minnelli” and I, a true Mama’s boy, had to examine the artist. So I looked up what I could (which, in the 70’s, took work) in books I could find at the library and in the popular magazines at the time, Rona Barrett’s Gossip and Rona Barrett’s Hollywood. Sometimes there were stories in People Magazine, once it became the magazine to read, and TIME and Newsweek. But we were living in Europe and what was available to me was limited. Also, movies and records came to Europe later than they did in America. So when I was able to find a Liza Minnelli record I bought it – usually under the guise of a gift for Mama, a gift that I immediately usurped and made my own. I bought her Liza at the Winter Garden and Liza with a Z. I played the records so much that they eventually had to be replaced. When Cabaret came to Portugal I got my Daddy to take me. I was 12 or 13 so I didn’t quite understand all of the film — mostly the political aspects, because I totally got the sexual nature of the film. There were occasional televised specials on European TV that featured an appearance from my new idol and, vhs not having been invented, I would put my portable cassette recorder up to the speaker and record these specials. I had been bitten by the Liza Minnelli bug.
A few years later my family moved from Portugal to Switzerland. I was 14 now. I could go around the city by myself. After school I would roam the streets of Zurich and go to the picture show. That is where I saw New York New York and it was one of the greatest films I had ever seen. My love for Minnelli was growing in leaps and bounds. I bought all the records, saw the movies, the TV specials and wore out my cassette player listening to my home made recordings of Lucky Lady, New York New York, Baryshnikov on Broadway, the Night of 100 Stars and more. I was definitely a fan.
The thing is I was a gay teenager. I knew it when I was five. But I didn’t know that, as gay rules went, I was supposed to love Liza Minnelli. Nobody gave me a handbook or a list and said “These are the women you must love” I just did. And I loved all the ones I was supposed to love, particularly the holy trinity: Liza, Barbra, Judy. I loved the divas.
But Liza was mine.
There is always one diva who seems to be speaking directly to you.
Liza was mine.
I was 11. I am 53.
Dear Liza Minnelli.
Since I will never get to meet you and tell you this face to face: Thank you. You have made my life different. In the darkest moments, you have lifted me out. In the most joyful of times, you have helped me to celebrate. You have inspired me, you have lead me, you have made my life wonderful. I listen to the song Cabaret every day. For a while I didn’t. There were other songs that captured my attention and Cabaret went to the back burner because, well, it had become cliche. It had over saturated my life. I wanted to listen to New York New York. I wanted to hear Stepping Out. I needed to listen to Maybe This Time and But the World Goes Round. But about seven years ago I was watching the movie Cabaret for probably the 70th time and during the song Cabaret I said “this is freaking ASTONISHING”. And I put the song in my phone and play it once a day. It is my way of making sure that, at least once a day, I am happy and carefree. These are difficult times in the world and some days it is hard to happy throughout the day. But thanks to that song being in my phone, at least once a day, I know I will be happy.
I have an entire Liza Minnelli playlist in my phone. The days I play it are super happy days. Those days happen a lot.
My first ever concert in life was Liza Minnelli in Lausanne, Switzerland. I was 15. My parents let me travel from our home in Berne to Lausanne by train to see the show. I was beside myself. It was one of my most memorable nights. Imagine my joy to discover that show was recorded at Carnegie Hall and filmed in New Orleans. Both the record and the video are still played in my home with great regularity. It was the first of 11 times I have seen you live.
I met you once, Liza Minnelli. It was a real meeting. You were in Dallas promoting the cologne Metropolis (I still have a bottle and the scent is still active, it hasn’t faded). A friend got me in the press line at the Macy’s in Dallas and I got to take some photos of you. Some of them aren’t very good but one or two are among my favorites I have ever taken. After I made the photos I was allowed to stand in line and get a signature on an 8×10 glossy. As you signed it, I was allowed to make a straight on photo of you, which I did. Afterward I looked you in the eye and said “I love you” and you said “I love you too”. I knew it is impossible to love a stranger with whom you have never shared time; but I also knew that you did, indeed, love your fans. So I was happy to take the love offered me.
I passed you at Mark Sendroff’s 50th birthday party but was not able to say hello. A propriety geek to the core, I cannot speak to people to whom I have not been given a proper introduction, especially a celebrity. But I passed by you. It was enough.
I came to New York hoping to get a photo shoot with you, my idol, my diva. I was never able to. I was never an important enough artist to get a shoot with you or my other ungettables: Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Julie Andrews, Nicole Kidman. But I did photograph you from the 22nd row of a concert hall in Dallas when you did the Stepping Out tour. Between the photos I made that night and the Macy’s/Metropolis photos, I feel like I did right by my diva.
I remember one year stating on Facebook that “The BCEFA Legend ornament really needs to be Liza Minnelli in the red sequined pantsuit from The Act” and my friend Tom Viola emailed me privately to say “This year is Julie Andrews and next year is, indeed, Liza Minnelli in the red pantsuit – this is a SECRET and PLEASE tell NOBODY”. I never did. The following year that ornament came out and is always hung right at the top of the Christmas tree, with the customary angel. Because you are a guardian angel to me, Liza Minnelli.
So before I take my life as a struggling artist, tuck it away and go to radio silence, I want to tell you something, from the deepest place in my heart: You have mattered. You have made a difference. You have made my life so wonderful. So, with every fiber of my being I want to say
Your devoted fan forever,
My husband and I love each other. Completely. We are devoted to one another. We know all the secrets, all the flaws and we are still dedicated to each other.
We watch a lot of television and movies and very often we see characters walk out on each other, turn their backs on one another and leave their loved one hanging in the wind.
What kind of love is that?
On our worst days, after our most gut wrenching arguments, when we have committed our most painful crimes against one another we lay in each others’ arms, tears on our faces, holding each other, kissing and declaring our love for one another. Our hearts and spirits have been broken and we have been in places of blackest despair and, still, we have put our lips on one another, looked into each others’ eyes and known we would stay together, accept the other’s flaws and love would continue to bloom.
Because we accept each other.
This is the only way to love.
There can be no judgement, only acceptance and love.
We recently had a bad day because I battle both depression and alcohol. Dealing with it has exhausted him and some days he just wants to walk away from me. But, then, some days it exhausts me and I think about suicide (another one of the demons I have been battling since my youth and, happily, winning). As we lay in each others’ arms consoling ourselves for the pain we both feel after our fifty plus years on earth and I said to him “If you killed someone I would help dispose of the body”. And he laughed. I told him “If he steal something huge I will be your alibi”. And he laughed. He knew what I was doing.
We watch the tv show Good Behavior. It’s about a drug addicted thieving grifter who falls into a relationship with a hit man. The two of them have lives one could only label as reprehensible. They are completely fucked up and completely in love with one another. No matter what happens to them, they continue to be there to bail each other out. They are there for each other, entirely. Each one knows the other’s flaws and secrets; and they don’t always like what they learn but they continue to be there for one another. It is art imitating life, completely. Well, maybe not completely because Pat and I have committed no crimes. I don’t really feature either of us becoming hit men or thieves – neither of us has the constitution for either lifestyle. The point is that we know each other. We accept each other. The Good, the Bad, the Ugly. Warts and all. Pick a cliche and apply it to us. Because we are textbook examples of love transcending everything.
Not like those people on TV who find out their beloved lied about their age, their family, their job or what they know about How to Get Away with Murder … and walked out on them.
Cause there is nothing you or anyone else can say or do to make me leave that man.
And vice. Versa.
I was such a believer. I was complete devout. I wasn’t raised to believe. My parents taught me there was a God. We had a bible and a book of bible stories. Other than that, we were left to our own devices. And I believed. As a child I got down on my knees and I prayed. As a teen, I asked questions. I went to church – not all the time but I went, usually when a friend asked me to go with them or when I had questions. I sought the truth.
Then one day, I found the truth. My truth.
There is no God.
That is my truth.
It started when I no longer heard the voice of God. And I did hear the voice of God. I spent my twenties and thirties talking to God throughout every day and I heard replies. I gave up conventional beliefs and followed my own spirituality, which lead me to Buddhist chant and every time I chanted I did so until God replied. And I always got a reply. Then one day I didn’t.
Had God died? Had God left me? Or was God a figment of my imagination, as taught me by society?
I could not understand the hatred of men, the deaths of children, the existence of crippling, debilitating disease. I could not understand a creator that made a place and a life filled with so much pain and misery. I thought on it for a year, meditating and writing, considering all the facts, as I understood them, and all I could come up with was that God did not create man in his image: man created God in his.
And, at a stroke, I was an atheist.
It’s Christmastime. There are a few times a year when God is really everybody’s jam and Christmastime is one of them. It always was for me. As I sit here, writing, I am actually listening to Christmas music. It is music I listened to when I was younger, when I was a believer. I remember walks taken outside in the darkest part of Christmas Eve while I was living in my parents’ home in the 80s, in the home I shared with my boyfriend in Dallas, in the home I occupy now in New York City. It was always my tradition to walk in the wee small hours of the morning on Christmas Day, to look at life and to talk to God. It was also my tradition to light a candle, to kneel and pray on Christmas Eve. As I listen to this music today I can still see the deep Navy of Night and the glow of lights in the sky and on the trees as I commune with that which was my best friend, and I can still feel what it felt like to be devout and to be communicating with the Master. The feelings are still there.
They are pure nostalgia.
I miss God. I miss the feeling. I miss the relationship. I miss the faith. I miss a lot of it, especially at this time of year when something as simple as a piece of music causes sensory recall that makes me miss a time gone by that will never return.
I don’t know what Christmas is about. The children in my life are gone so it isn’t Santa. I rarely give or receive gifts because my friends and I are at an age when we have all we need and what we want is to not clutter, further, our small New York apartments so it isn’t presents. I am a devoted atheist and will be so for as long as I life, I expect, so it isn’t God. And, even though I don’t believe in God, I do believe in Jesus Christ the man, the teacher, the philosopher – but he wasn’t even born in December! So for me it has to be about love and family and friendship. Helping others. Being kind. The outstretched hand of friendship. Although I spend my entire life in an attempt to be a good man and friend to those I encounter, it seems to mean more, to be more important at this season of giving, doesn’t it? So I suppose the best thing to do is let the music play and allow the emotions of the past to wash over me, fueling the fire in me that will lead to yet one more act of kindness, one more moment of friendship and one more day of love. And I expect that is what Jesus would want. And, if I am wrong and God really is out there, it’s what God would want. Isn’t it?
That would be enough, wouldn’t it?Details
I love Christmas movies. Even when I was down on the holiday I still watched the movies. Obviously I have my favorites among the classics – the same ones everyone else loves. My personal favorites are the original Christmas in Connecticut, The Bishop’s Wife, Miracle on 34th Street, Scrooge the Musical and Scrooged. Everyone loves A Christmas Story and I am no exception. And there are so many other great classic Christmas movies that I could go on forever.
But I have to admit to also having a thing for made for TV Christmas movies.
And that has, in recent years, turned into an unnatural obsession with Hallmark Channel and Lifetime TV Christmas movies.
And I am not alone.
I have bonded with many others over our mutual adoration of the cheesy made for TV Christmas movies that seem to always have the same stars, almost the same plotline and definitely the same Santa! They are like CRACK to me. I can while away an entire afternoon watching Lacey Chabert, Danica McKellar and Alicia Witt, the Queen of the Hallmark Christmas movie, with a healthy side offering of Brooke Burns, Lori Loughlin and Sarah Lancaster. And I would not be a proper gay male if I did not also say this: the men in these movies are adorable. They range from cute to hot, from sweet to handsome. So there is that happy by product of being a fan of these movies. And I would not be a proper devote of the movie making industry if I did not point out that there is always a part in these movies for an older actor to play the heroine’s father or an established actress that Hollywood is no longer calling to play the hero’s boss. And I love when producers remember the great actors that Hollywood has just shoved aside – this is a particular point in my home since my middle aged acting husband and this middle aged gay male have already begun to experience the sensation of being discarded by the world. So if I can turn on my TV and see Martin Mull playing Kelli Williams dad in Boyfriend For Christmas, Gregory Harrison playing Brandon Routh’s fire chief in 9 Lives of Christmas and Cynthia Gibb playing Bobby Campo’s boss in Sharing Christmas then I am all for it. So much so that my husband and I have actually discussed moving to Canada, where they shoot all these films, just in the hope that we could find work on some Hallmark Christmas movies – because, don’t get me wrong, I gave up performing when I was 24. I would totally go back to it if I could be in the Hallmark Christmas movies.
So let’s examine some of my favorites.
But before we start with the Hallmark movies I do want to say that my love of TV Christmas movies started long before the Hallmark Channel was in existence. So, to show proper history for a phenomenon in my home, I have to name the TV Christmas movies that started it all:
- A Christmas Memory. It’s my favorite of all time. It is based on the short story by my favorite author, Truman Capote, and stars one of the legendary talents of the acting industry, Geraldine Page. It is a flawless piece of film making and it is worth seeking out and enjoying.
- A Gift of Love. It stars Lee Remick, Angela Lansbury and Polly Holiday. It was made in the 80s and it has the elements of a fable. It is down home and lovely and hard to find – but I have my copy, taped on vhs when the film aired.
- Christmas Eve. Legendary Hollywood actress Loretta Young made this delightful modern Christmas movie as a wealthy eccentric looking to do some good in the world and reunite her estranged family. Trevor Howard as her devoted butler? Yes, please.
- A Christmas Carol. George C. Scott as Ebeneezer Scrooge. It’s my longtime favorite version of the Dickens classic.
- It Happened One Christmas. Marlo Thomas is Mary Bailey in the gender switched remake of It’s a Wonderful Life. It shouldn’t work but it does. So well.
There are others but these five will always be playing on my TV this season, along with the classic big screen movies I mentioned above and the modern Christmas films I love, like The Santa Clause and All I Want for Christmas.
But this story is about Hallmark and Lifetime so let’s look at some of my favorites in that genre, and this is in no particular order:
- A Boyfriend For Christmas. Charles Durning’s Santa send Kelli Williams a boyfriend for Christmas and it’s Patrick Muldoon. Secrets and lies and Martin Mull as Kelli’s daddy. It’s delicious and romantic and one of my favorites.
- The 9 Lives of Christmas. Brandon Routh is a fireman. Do I have your attention? He’s a firefighter who loves cats. Does that get you? How about this: Gregory Harrison is his boss. And there’s a down on her luck girl who also loves cats. And guess what, she loves Brandon Routh. Because doesn’t everyone?
- Sharing Christmas. A developer has got ahold of the lease for Ellen Hollman’s Christmas Shop and is going to tear down the building. The adorable Bobby Campo works for the developer and is going to save the day. Did I mention that the developer is the great Cynthia Gibb? How will it all work out?
- The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Henry Winkler gives a stranded traveler a place to stay during the holidays and the hot guy melts the icy heart of Henry’s hot niece. The hot couple are Brooke Burns and Warren Christie, Hello!
- The Mistletoe Inn. Proving that the Queen of Hallmark Christmas movies gets the best scripts, Alicia Witt is a Christmas Romance Writer (this is a thing?) who is too nervous to show anyone her work or even finish her book. So she goes to a writer’s conference where she is swept off her feet by the breathtaking David Alpay, who happens to be the world’s most successful romance novelist, incognito.
- A Holiday Engagement. Bonnie Sommerville’s been dumped so she hires an actor to play her fiancee during a holiday trip home. Her parents are Sam McMurray and Shelley Long and the actor is Jordan Bridges. I buried the lead. Jordan Bridges. Yeah, that’s right. I have a particular fondness for this one.
- My Christmas Dream. Danica McKellar works in retail and can land a position in Paris IF she impresses the big boss. The only problem is she needs David Haydn-Jones to help her impress the boss and the more time she spends with him, the less she wants to move away. The big boss is the luminous Diedre Hall. Merry Christmas!
- Every Christmas Has a Story. Is Lori Loughlin really the Grinch people think she is after she accidentally says On Air that she doesn’t like Christmas?! Her TV producer is going to make her prove she isn’t by sending her to the most Christmas-Y town in America. With a hot co-worker. Happy Holidays!
- It’s Christmas, Carol! A new spin on A Christmas Carol with Carrie Fisher as the Ghost. It’s a Carrie Fisher Christmas, the best present of all.
- Annie Claus is Coming to Town. Maria Thayer is the daughter of Santa, Viveca A. Fox is her galpal and Sam Page is the hunk she is going to fall for. You had me at Sam Page.
- Santa Jr. FULL DISCLOSURE this is NOT a Hallmark movie. But it’s Nick Stabile as Santa’s son and Lauren Holly as the public defender who bails him out when he gets arrested for a B&E. Come on, Now!! This is the first one I watch every holiday season.
- 12 men of Christmas. FULL DISCLOSURE This is NOT a Hallmark movie. It is a Lifetime Movie. But it’s Kristin Chenoweth as a media wunderkind creating a PR frenzy in a small town by making a calendar with the hottest Christmas stocking stuffers of all time – including Josh Hopkins, Stephen Huszar, Jefferson Brown and JESSE PAVELKA. Come on, Now!
- Fir Crazy. Sarah Lancaster sells Christmas trees but doesn’t have any Christmas spirit. Eric Johnson buys a lot of Christmas trees and puts her in a Holiday Mood.
- Coming Home for Christmas. Danica McKellar manages a wealthy family estate that is up for sale. While readying the manse for it’s final days, she draws the estranged family back together and lands love with Neal Bledsoe, the gift that keeps on giving.
- Home By Christmas. FULL DISCLOSURE This is NOT a Hallmark movie. It is a Lifetime Movie. It’s heavy and sometimes quite sad. The wonderful Linda Hamilton is a woman left by her husband, then by her daughter, just because she’s too much of a doormat. She ends up homeless and has to build herself back up. Guess what? She does.
- Mrs. Santa Claus was indeed originally broadcast as a Hallmark presentation, and though it doesn’t fit the mold or the feel of the current Hallmark movies it is a cheesy Christmas classic featuring the Greatest, Miss Angela Lansbury. It has a score by Jerry Herman of Hello, Dolly! and Mame fame. It’s got Charles Durning, Michael Jeter and a delightful cast of actors who make the sugar-y sweet story of Mrs. Claus stranded in 1900’s New York absolutely divine. Just like Dame Angela. Divine.
- A Gift to Remember has a cast of complete unknowns except for Tina Lifford but I loved it. It’s kind of While You Were Sleeping but for Hallmark. And Peter Porte is super cute.
- Christmas Land. The most common theme in the Hallmark movies is the big city corporate person who comes to the small town to ruin life for the people there, only to discover the true meaning of Christmas. This is Nikki Deloach’s turn to be the meanie and to fall in love with Luke McFarlane and we get Cynthia Gibb and Maureen McCormick for good measure! Yeah!!
- Christmas Incorporated. Will the big boss, Steve Lund, shut down the toy factory? Or will his assistant, with whom he grows increasingly smitten, change his mind before he finds out she lied about who she is when he hired her? I just don’t know. But I do know that I love Steve Lund. And true love lasts a lifetime.
- Naughty or Nice. Krissy Kringle accidentally gets Kris Kringle’s book of lists and uses it to expose the wrong doers around her, which (of course) gets her in trouble. It’s a fun premise and I love it. I especially love Hilarie Burton and Matt Dallas. And Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross! Reunited!
I thought, when I started this list, that Alicia Witt would be on it more than once – and she should be because she is the Queen of the genre and she is amazing. I have loved all her Hallmark Christmas movies. And I’m sorry Lacey Chabert didn’t land on this list once. And I’m surprised Danika McKellar is on here twice but I just love her two movies I listed. There are a LOT of these movies to see and I haven’t seen them all, so I am certain my list would change if I took the time out to watch them! They are, in fact, available on DVD! I own six multi packs of Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. And there are more movies on TV every day. Why only this week I taped Christmas Connection starring Brooke Burns and Tom Everett Scott and Christmas Next Door starring Jesse Metcalf! I can’t wait to watch them. Maybe on Christmas Day.
There will be those who read this story and laugh. Or sneer. Or roll their eyes. But I don’t care. Because I’m going to watch my movies and maybe look on social media for groups of people who love these films too. Then we can all share our opinions and I can build up my list of movies to look for next year.
Only I won’t have to wait because, in truth, they show these movies all year round.
Do you know how many times I’ve had to ask for forgiveness? Because I don’t. I’m an alcoholic and a crisis magnet. In my youth I created the crises and in recent years other peoples’ crises get brought to me to handle for them (and don’t get me wrong, I still have my own crises with which to deal). I am continually asking my husband for forgiveness. I’m sorry I got drunk. I’m sorry I lost my temper. I’m sorry I can’t take you away on holiday. I’m sorry I’m depressed. I’m sorry I’m exhausted. I’m sorry we don’t spend enough time together. I’m sorry I’m always working. I’m sorry our friend’s crisis has become our problem. I’m sorry I broke your favorite wine glass. I’m sorry our friend’s drama has spilled into our lives. I’m sorry I fell asleep during our date night together. I’m sorry I invited our friend to stay with us and now we have to deal with his drug addiction. I’m sorry we don’t have a dishwasher. I’m sorry we have to babysit the person we are currently babysitting. I’m sorry you’re having trouble sleeping. I’m sorry I didn’t make it big as an artist. I’m sorry I got sick and you have to care for me. I’m sorry your parents died. I’m sorry I’m a middle aged man whose promise never paid off. I’m sorry I stopped believing in God. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to give you the life I promised you.
Actually I do know how many times I’ve had to ask for forgiveness.
Every day for over three decades I’ve apologized to my husband for something. And do you know what?
He always forgives me.
I have committed horrible crimes against my husband and he always forgives me. He always accepts my apology, holds me and tells me it will be ok tomorrow. Whatever I do wrong, whatever mistake I make he always forgives me. However many times I fall down, he helps me up and we move forward together. Daily, he teaches me by example how I should live, what I should do, who I should be. He is continually showing me his kindness and generosity of spirit and I hope that, one day, I might absorb some of it and be a better man. But I guess I can say I have absorbed some of it because I am quicker to forgive than I was when I was young.
I got a phone call from an old friend, crying and wanting to know why I’m mad at them. I wasn’t mad at them. I just stopped calling and texting and emailing. I did this because, for a while now, that friend hasn’t been making deposits in the friend bank. I would call or text or email and the friend either didn’t reply or replied with economic answers or emojis. I would find out, via social media, that the friend had come to New York and then gone back to their home state and never called me, once. All the signs were that this person wanted to distance themselves from me. It hurts to be ignored. It’s painful to be invisible. It’s sad when a friendship dies. I didn’t get mad, though. I felt hurt and sad and decided to give them their space. Over a year went by before the friend reached out to ask why I was mad at them. Instead of being angry, I opted for kindness and forgiveness; I replied with a message saying I’m not mad, I love you and am here for you, as always.
You see, I had a fight with Gary Eddelman in 1992. He died of AIDS and I miss him. I hurt AJ Triano in 2014 and he broke up with me. I angered David Schmittou in some year long past and he ended our friendship. If I had apologized to Gary I might have been with him when he died. If AJ had given me a chance to apologize I might be Godfather to his child today. If David had accepted my apology he might have been best man at (one of) my wedding(s).
Time is easily, so quickly lost.
Be the first to apologize.
Be the first to forgive.
My husband has taught me this. He taught me how easy it is to stand up, be a man or a woman and take it on the chin, say “I did it”, apologize and accept your punishment and absolution. He taught me how easy it is to let go the grudge and say “You’re forgiven” and move forward. My boss is one of my best friends and I made a mistake at work and had to do that: stand before him, apologize and promise I would not make the same mistake twice. He replied “everyone fucks up.” When I told my husband the story he said “Of course he did. That’s the way it works.” My husband has understood, much longer and much deeper than I, about forgiveness and about acceptance.
That’s the man I married.