Friday, August 30, 2019

we need to talk about skippy

"Why can't you just be normal!?"

Five years before I actually came out, I wrote two gay fan letters.  
One was to "Norm" from the first season of The Real World.  I must have been around 12 at the time and I near lost my mind seeing a chic queer person with a dog and a burgeoning career in Art on MTV.  I loved him.  I still do.  I love how he was aloof and kind and clearly got lots of dick and I love that he was an activist and he appreciated gay rollerskating nights at Limelight set to CeCe Peniston songs.  Dreamboat.  So, using my Star Wars VHS collection as a desk, I wrote him a thank you letter in my bedroom after mom had gone to bed.  He never replied.  

The second gay fan letter I wrote was written with many different colored markers.  I remember writing it in class after the Rodney King riots - the teacher was talking about football or something so I took it upon myself to be productive.  This time my letter was for Taj Johnson from Parker Lewis Can't Lose.  I loved him because he looked like a tall skinny vampire who would be mean to me - thirteen years old and already my type was already set in stone!  He never replied.

About 200 years later, I was at an opening party that TJ also attended and I just stared at him the whole time like I was watching television until he left.

As with all my significant life experiences, there's a gay horror movie about this.

Trick or Treat (1986) is a movie where Skippy from Family Ties gets bullied at school for being queer so all his attention goes to obsessively stanning a hair metal glam-rocker named Sammi Curr.   

Skippy isn't an instagram hot kinda gay like Love Simon - he's a normal, struggles with his body type and can't quite figure out what to do with his hair kinda gay (you and me both, sis').   

He lives in a converted attic with his single mom where he spends his time writing in his diary and listening to music and making mixtapes and finding new places to hide his sex toys.

Dream life. 

Basically, I was Skippy from Trick or Treat, only I didn't have the steady stream of residuals to put towards leather gear or his revolving door of stories about Justine Bateman.

Well, faster than you can say Freddy's Revenge, Rockstar Sammi Curr dies and he comes back from the dead to haunt his #1 fan.  Thus prompting a romance for the ages!  

Let me tell you, if that guy from Parker Lewis Can't Lose mysteriously died and came back to my momma's house to haunt me and started killing all the people who were mean to me in high school, you wouldn't see me complaining about it!  But Skippy's a square.  I probably would have made fun of him too.  

Like Brainscan and Christine, Trick or Treat comes from a genealogy of films where outcast high school kids unleash vengeance upon their peers who mistreated them via demon avatars only to wind up compromising everything that made them special in the end by rebuking their avatar in order to kiss girls and participate in pyramid schemes on facebook to support dead-eyed children they never should have had in the first place.
All these years, I had been operating under the assumption that Skippy from Family Ties was a gay, but the most cursory youtube search of his more recent stand-up "comedy" sets has proved he's not gay.  He's not even gay-adjacent.  Good to know.  Still, there's something unmistakably queer about this film, so I dug a little deeper.  
Behind all the hairspray and eye makeup, I couldn't help but notice a spring in Sammi Curr's step -  a wink and tone in his overall performance that could only come from a fellow home of sexual.  So, like Tom Cruise and prenatal vitamins, I did the research. 

Skippy isn't gay, but Sammi Curr was.  He was played by musical theatre performer Tony Fields who started his career as a backup dancer for Debbie Reynolds before starring in the not-good-but-nonetheless-high profile Chorus Line movie.  A Queen for the ages.

Trick or Treat proves that horror is a great catch-all for marginalized communities.  While adored by the straight horror die-hards because of a Ozzy Osborne cameo and its soundtrack (the same soundtrack that now makes distributing this movie on blu-ray nearly impossible because of rights and clearances), this movie is also super gay.  Skippy's character is clearly a surrogate for gay teens, perpetually outsiders, even in their own homes - bullied and left to hero-worship - specifically a hero in which he can see himself reflected.  Representation matters.

Who knows how many more iconic roles Tony could have created if he hadn't, like so many gorgeous and successful artists of the '80s, passed away from HIV related illness in 1995. 
RIP, legend.  Your work lives on.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

do you know what she did?

Whether you don't drive because you're gay or you drive badly because you're gay, no day in Los Angeles is complete without at least an hour in traffic. 

You either get real zen about it or you just stop hanging out with all your friends and stay home. 

When I do find the strength to motivate myself up and out of the house, I like a podcast.

With so much "content" available nowadays, I no longer try to keep up with trends.  Accordingly, I found a podcast from a few years ago that I love - perfect for this pre-autumn, late-summer moment:

Do give it a listen. 
I think you'll like it. 

captain howdy

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Mayor of Elm Street: The Life and Times of Mark Patton

"I liked to spy on Madonna and I liked to go to dinners at Merv Griffin's house."

Outfest in Los Angeles is always a mixed bag.  By that, I mean I hate it.  It's a schlep from Santa Monica.  The people border on pretentious and I hate pretension.  I don't like crowds. I don't like running into ex-boyfriends.  I don't like feeling like I'm being sized up... I could go on.  However, this year Outfest was worth the effort because they programmed a documentary that was made just for us:

Scream, Queen! is a documentary about Mark Patton, America’s sweetheart and final boy from A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (the only movie poster gay enough to adorn my bathroom wall).  

For those of you who don't know all about A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, I forgive you (but catch up).

Freddy's Revenge is a gay movie about a gay boy in high school who is coming to terms with the fact that he's gay and, as he gets a handle on all that being gay entails, he manifests Freddy Krueger from his basement to vanquish his enemies.  

An external manifestation of his internal psychosis, when the going gets tough, there’s Freddy - whether that's in gym class or when he’s trying to have a sleepover with his hot best friend and not get wood or when he's with his gorgeous girlfriend and she wants to have sex with him and he can't get wood or when he go to a neighborhood kegger and finally realizes that straight people are mostly trash and deserve to be murdered.  Freddy's always there.  I think this is a sweet story about how it’s good to let your inner demon run wild sometimes.  

Point being!  

This super-gay movie exists, and people pretended it wasn’t a gay movie and then they started making fun of it for being a gay movie and now it’s revered as one of our great queer films and studied in colleges.  

You live long enough…

When I started this blog ten years ago, it came out of a place of anger.

I was angry about the way people talked about gays in horror.  I was angry about having to fight for a seat at the table of something that I loved my whole life when other folks were welcomed in just for wearing a black t-shirt.  

I was angry that a horror film could have everything but anal prolapse and still not be considered "queer" by the masses.

It made me crazy when people would laugh at me when I suggested horror films had queer subtext.  

Interview with a Vampire is a film about two men who adopt a daughter. 
Fright Night is a movie about 2 queer kids negotiating their relationship with a doofy straight kid who becomes obsessed with his gay vampire neighbors because he doesn't know how to negotiate his own sexuality.  Facts are facts, America!

Ten years ago, the only time the populous discussed gays in horrors was when they were calling Mark Patton a "faggot" or recognizing how "fucked up" Trans people were because they were only ever presented to them as psychopathic killers (yes, I love Dressed to Kill and Sleepaway Camp, but also fuck Dressed to Kill and Sleepaway Camp). 

Gay people were seldom acknowledged in horror and when we were, it was as a punchline or used as part of a morality parable on how, by make bad choices (ie: being gay), we deserve to die.  

The villain in the Lauren Bacall epic musical-horror-fantasia, The Fan, sets a guy on fire for giving him a blow job.  Cruising opens with a gay man stabbed to death for having gay sex (complete with a "dilated anus").  

The audience is meant to root against the queers.  We get what we have coming to us.  Elm Street 2 dared to be different.  

Freddy's Revenge dared to have a queer kid front and center and, as a result of the way people responded to that queer kid, he had to leave Hollywood altogether.  That's deeply fucked and the system that allowed that to happen is exactly the same all these years later. 

The older I get, the more respect I have for boys who can't pass.  Mark Patton doesn't pass.  He reads as queer in Freddy's Revenge and that's gorgeous.  But, much like Elizabeth Berkley after Showgirls, he took a bullet.  Everyone who made the film continued to work, but not Mark - because he was gay.  The powers that be blamed him for any of the shortcomings of the film and he stopped booking roles and moved to Mexico.

I wish things had changed in the past 35 years, but nothing has.  If anything, it's worse.  The same straight bros are in charge.  Hacks are still given the keys to franchise films.  The common thread underneath everything is still homophobia and misogyny and that all comes up in this documentary.

Watching Scream Queen!, I became angry all over again.  I was angry that the director and writer of Freddy’s Revenge refused to acknowledge the queerness of their movie.  Only when it became cult and popular - only when the rumblings of queer horror fandom presented themselves in mainstream outlets like Buzzfeed and at ComicCon did they start to take credit for the film.  
Mark was left behind.

Scream, Queen! is a very good.  I wasn't expecting an Outfest movie to draw up so many emotions.  I wasn't expecting this film to be so layered and mature.  It doesn’t shy away from presenting Mark Patton as a complicated and messy figure.  As a result, it only makes him all the more admirable.  A true activist. 

Mark Patton, like Jesse, is a survivor of a lost generation.  I'm forty this year.  The entire generation of queer men that came before me, of which Mark is a part of, is dead and they died of AIDS.  That's a horror and a tragedy that no one can make sense of and it still resonates.   My generation had no mentors.  We had no one there to show us how to get older - how to end a shitty relationship or remain friends with an ex or how bad exfoliating scrubs actually are for our faces.  But Mark is still here.  He's still fighting and his story is far from over.

"I take the bricks that people throw at me and I make a firm foundation." -Mark Patton

I went to this film with no expectations and wound up an emotional mess by the end.  It hits hard.  

I didn't realize how much baggage we all carry around.  I wasn't expecting to see the director and screenwriter of Freddy's Revenge actively gaslighting Mark, thirty-five years later.  The casual homophobia in those moments is something I grapple with every single day in my job (working for a TV network) and I wasn't prepared for how viscerally I would react to seeing Mark Patton, someone I grew up admiring, put in that situation. 

This movie made me angry all over again, but it also made me hopeful for the future because there's strength in our solidarity as horror queers.  I never realized how being queer horror fans binds us all (you and me and Mark Patton).  This movie is about community and, even at my age and being the jaded queen, I am, I've never felt more seen or heard or represented.

Ten years ago, gay horror fans weren't a thing as far as Fangoria and Blumhouse were concerned, but thanks to folks like Brian Juergens and his and John&Lance at and present day icons like Michael Varrati and his Dead for Filth podcast,  we're not in the shadows anymore.  

This movie made me feel like the last ten years have all been worth it.  
We're not alone.  We're not crazy.

FaggotyAss Shout-out to Robert Rusler who has an absolutely electric moment in the documentary as he comes to Mark Patton's defense when the shady director, once again, pretends he had no idea the movie was gay.  As if Vamp weren't enough!?  Talk about an ally.  
Your grapefruit basket is in the mail, Robert.

Secondary Shout-Out to Mark Patton bringing his purse out on stage with him for the Nightmare 2 reunion like Aretha Franklin.  Icon.

Friday, August 16, 2019

ten years later

Good morning, kids

I think if you live long enough, you can start recognizing pattern behavior.  Take for example this time every year in the dredges of summer when, like clockwork, I start longing for autumn leaves and pumpkin bars.

Like a gay zombie I start roaming the aisles of target, desperate to put my hands on chintzy poly-blend vampire capes and table-runners.

August is always the worst.  As the days only get warmer (and despite my dwindling checking account), I start scouring eBay for whatever falls under "universal monsters 1991"  or "hallmark halloween 1989."  And, if I have something to say, I start writing missives about scary movies that mean something to me and don't usually stop until I get bogged down by trunks of Christmas decorations in November.

This year's no different.

Well, maybe it's a little different.  You see, this little blog - this unpublicized manifesto of my wishes and memories - the thing that kept me from going crazy in hard times and helped me find community when I felt like there was none to be had, it's ten years old.

So let's celebrate.
The world is garbage.  Straight people are trash.
The planet is finally going to kill us all (as it should).
The least we can do is focus on the important fashion choices made in Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2.