Friday, August 31, 2007

Lady Di Died

Hard to believe it was ten whole years ago when Princess Diana died, eh? I was in Saugatuck for Labor Day weekend, staying at a friend's condo when we got the news.

I remember feeling sad and a bit weird - I was wholly obsessed with the Royal Wedding back as a little pre-teen faglet ... waiting every day for Nickie McWhirter's report from London in the Detroit News (or was it Free Press?) ... clipping every article and picture that was printed and saving them in a Hudson's gift box (for ten years!) ... waking up at 5am to watch the wedding live on TV ... ah, remembering that uninhibited youthful gay exuberance exhilirates me even now.

The gay community certainly was shocked by her death as much as anyone, and perhaps mourned it a little more (or more dramatically), what with their love of a strong tragic female icon. I do have to say though, that I did not react like the guy in this video. A bunch of gays sitting around playing canasta, watching the news about the accident, and then at 30 seconds in, the news comes ...

The only better gay story I've heard goes like this: A guy was at the gay bar hanging out on a weekend night when suddenly the bartender turns down the music and shouted "OH MY GOD, DIANA'S DEAD!"

Without hesitation, some queen shrieked back, "Diana Ross is DEAD???"


Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Lately I've been staying in a lot more than usual, which really isn't me. I'm not exactly sure why, it's possible my liver finally started communicating with my brain and is forcing some much-needed R & R. But it's been nice to watch some DVD's, get a little more work done, listen to some records and contemplate life. Which is exactly what I was doing last night, admiring that beautiful sunset, doing some work into the evening with a great view of those gritty, pretty city lights, and thinking this is pretty damn cool, this Detroit life I've got going for me.

And then I wake up this morning to a call from my building management letting me know my car was broken into last night. Good Lord, I haven't even had my coffee yet! So I go check it out and there's a broken window and the steering column is all fucked up because they tried to steal the whole car, not just the 79 cents in the ashtray like you get over on Park Avenue.

Now, I've had car break-ins in every city I've inhabited in my adult life. CD's stolen from a trunk in Boston. The entire wardrobe of a drag queen friend in Washington, DC ("What was stolen, officer? Um, well, about twelve pair of size 13 heels ...."). But the kicker here is that this is the third break-in I've had this summer (although mercifully the first involving significant damage). What the fuck is the deal?

So as I dealt with the car bullshit - by the way, kudos to the city for the crime easy-report system via 311, they were super nice and professional, and to my building's security, they chased down the guys and caught them - I started to feel weird that I wasn't fully irritated and ranting about leaving the city and being someplace normal. As I was talking to my sister about it I realized that even though this is a hassle and an insurance deductible I have to pay, it is leaps and bounds better than my life was when I spent a lot of time in the suburbs.

When I first moved back to the Detroit area, I lived with my brother in an inner-ring suburb for a bit. As a result of feeling like I lived in the middle of nowhere, I was constantly driving to get somewhere. So, well, you know, sometimes you get moving violations ... an illegal turn on red in Huntington Woods, 5 over the limit on the freeway in St. Clair Shores. And of course if you don't stay on top of that administrative bullshit you get tickets for expired tags and the like. And if you get those kinds of tickets, you get that triple-indemnity extortion from the State known as the "Driver's Responsibility Fee" which requires you to pay an additional fine at the time of the original ticket and again a year later. Sure. And God forbid you move and don't get your second fee notice, because then they will suspend your driver's licence. And after you pay that, if you didn't realize that you have to ALSO go to the Secretary of State to pay $125 to get your license reinstated, you might get pulled over five months later and be driving on a suspended license. And that's a whole new Driver's Responsibility Fee, $500 bucks for two years this time.

I'm not saying this happened to me, but in a hypothetical situation like this you could conceivably pay over $2000 in fines over two years. I'm just sayin'.

So when I thought about the big picture today, it all seemed like a relatively minor hassle. I can walk to work in 20 minutes, or else I can drive in five. Ditto most of my favorite bars and restaurants. Most of my friends live close by, and most new people I meet are really, truly interesting foks with cool jobs - no customer service reps or middle managers in my social circle, thank you very much - and an individualist outlook. There are great things to do everywhere right outside my spectacular apartment. And I've reduced my carbon footprint.

Some people would have one break-in and write off the city for good, and I get that. I can't help but feel that - for me, at least - it's as minor a hassle as someone else might have with paying $70+ a week for gas, or having to pay for lawn care. No, it's not ideal that this stuff happens with some frequency in the city (it's actually pathetic and fucked up). But when I really think about the alternative, $250 and two days without my car is a "responsibility fee" I can, begrudgingly, deal with.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I saw this in the parking lot of the Lafayette Park shopping center the other day, on my way into Paris Cafe. It shares the parking lot with "Intus: Detroit's Refined Nightclub."

Refined, huh?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Gay Superheroes

I am guessing that many of you have already seen the pictures of the Gay Superhero porno shoot at the Packard Plant, but if not, check them out at the blog of Bryanboy ("Planet Earth's favourite third world fag!") Now this is someone taking "fabulous ruins of Detroit" seriously.

Also discovered at that site is a video for possibly the best drag number I have ever seen in my entire life (and I have seen a lot of drag!) As Bryanboy says, THIS is how you make an entrance!

All I can say is watch the whole thing. There is some amazing shit going on in this video, especially in the last minute!

If you're a Showgirls fan ...

... and I know that you are, you will think this is the funniest thing ever. Here's a clip from Disney's High School Musical 2 (clever name), watch the first minute or so:

Zac Efron IS Troy Bolton IS Nomi Malone!

I was waiting for the director to rub an ice cube on his nipples.

(If you need some Showgirls choreography refreshers,
watch this clip, and check in at 04:15, 06:00 and 08:25)

Watch this while the watchin's good - I am sure that HSM clip will be yanked in about a minute.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Foreign Correspondence: Chicago Market Days

I didn't make it to Chicago for Market Days this year, but friends reported in that it was a full-scale party time, as usual. Market Days is the largest of the many Chicago street fairs, and it takes place on Halsted Street right in the middle of Boystown. It's gotten increasingly popular over the years (and apparently cleaned up a good deal - I guess it used to be a little more Folsom Street Fair-ish), and this year they added the provision that bars along Halsted could serve liquor outside, so you weren't consigned to getting bloaty on beer or headache-y on wine cooler type freezy drinks. It's good that they strive to improve it each year.

My favorite part of the fair is the performance by
ROTC, the Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps. It's a performing group consisting of guys who, in their younger years, participated in the whole drum corps/color guard thing, and it's possibly even gayer than performing in drag. So of course I love it! (video link here)

It is one of the great things about being a gay man that you can participate in something like this, something you loved in your youth, and you not only don't have to apologize or be embarrassed about it, you can celebrate it! I call that Gay Privilege.

Watch the video above for their signature number (from the movie "Bring It On") as published by the group, or watch this video of the same number, which gives you a little better view of the group performing (vs. close-ups), plus has some funny candid footage at the end.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

On Gayborhoods

While I'm on the topic of gayborhoods ...

Once upon a time, Detroit did have a bona fide gay neighborhood in the Palmer Park area at McNichols/Six Mile and Woodward. As I've heard it told, this was in the 70's and into the 80's, and encompassed the neighborhoods east of Woodward full of single family homes as well as the numerous beautiful deco apartment buildings across from the park. Gay businesses were plentiful in this area, and it was completely normal for people to walk to bars and restaurants.

Still pretty: entrance to a deco apartment building in Palmer Park.

I have a few memories of this area from the early/mid-80's when I would ride the school bus through there. I remember passing The Gold Coast (in it's old location on the south side of the street ... 'where gentlemen meet') and Chosen Books, which was originally on McNichols, I think. Later when I had a car I would drive past Backstage, the gay restaurant, with its neighboring piano bar Footlights, hoping desperately to see some actual living gay people.

Palmer Park was a lot like the emerging gay neighborhoods in other major cities at the time ... Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, Lakeview in Chicago, the South End in Boston. Great housing stock in a mature neighborhood, varied housing styles, bars and restaurants and retail, walkability, density, a university in close proximity, a liberal and tolerant local population. So if these other areas went on to become major gay centers in the US, why did Palmer Park fall apart? Crime mostly. The story of Palmer Park mirrors the story of many of Detroit's other neighborhoods. By the 80's there was rising street crime, and the gay population moved a few miles north to Royal Oak and Ferndale. The Metro Times took a good look at this story back in June, and if you haven't read that article it's worth a look.

At the end of the 80's Detroit was in the same place as these other major cities. While those cities' governments managed to keep their gay areas liveable, and their citizens did not get so fed up that they felt forced to leave, and their police forces actually fought crime, Detroit did not. Well, what can you do?

"Hey, we tried!": A rally against nighttime street violence in Palmer Park c. 1980

25 years later one might ask if we even really need a gay neighborhood in the city. Doesn't Ferndale/Huntington Woods/Royal Oak suit our needs? Aren't there gay people in every Detroit neighborhood? Haven't we come far enough in terms of mainstream acceptance that creating a gay ghetto works against our better interests?

These are valid points, but I really do think Detroit needs a gayborhood. First off, the Ferndale phenomenon has not been enough to stop gay people from fleeing the area in droves. The 'Dale is probably a decent reflection of a gay community that is widely dispersed throughout the suburbs, but it is cohesion and density that so many gay people move away to find. I personally find Ferndale charming, and lived there briefly myself long, long ago. But I don't think it offers enough to be the hub of a gay community.

Secondly, there certainly are a large number of gay people in Detroit's neighborhoods. And many people will say that's a testament to the acceptance of gay people in this city, the fact that we live everywhere, and that we can go pretty much anywhere and be ourselves. And this is a true, great fact about Detroit. But the gay community is not integrated in Detroit, it is invisible. There is a huge difference. Sure, you can be gay and go to anywhere you like, and you might even see other gay people there. But where can you reliably go to meet new people, for friends or dating? What do you do when you are new?

It is my opinion that Detroit needs to get to a point where there is a visible gay center BEFORE it can get to this whole "integration" theory. I just think there are certain things that contribute to gay quality of life in a city, regardless of whether you spend a great deal of time mingling with the gay community:

* having places to socialize like bars, restaurants, coffeeshops, etc. And not like the shitholes we have in Detroit. The calibre of the gay businesses in a city says a lot about how the gay community views itself, and that would indicate Detroit's gay community is still stuck in the self-loathing 80's.

* and as an addendum to that, having activity in more than one place on a given night. When was the last time anyone found two hoppin' places on the same night in this city? Shit, you can barely find one. The close proximity of businesses with gay appeal helps promote business for everybody.

* having opportunities for networking with other gay people to promote and foster business growth

* being able to find a gay doctor (go ahead, give it a try, it's remarkably difficult) or other professionals that cater to the unique needs of gay people

* having a hub for community services for gays, lesbians and transgendered, including HIV prevention/education/testing, resources for young people, etc. Not just a hotline or a drop-in center, but a place where information is shared among people on the street or in coffeehouses.

* having openly gay people who are public figures - this includes politicians, business owners, neighborhood activists, philanthropists, educators ... all role models for young people and a sign that you can thrive in a particular city

* creating visibility for the gay and lesbian population. The GLBT community has essentially no voice in city politics, and socially is not an influence. Contrast with Chicago, where the city now recognizes how (in the words of Mayor Daley at the Gay Games Opening Ceremonies), "the gay community has been at the forefront of every quality of life issue in the city." Hell, the city even provided major funding for the new GLBT community center in Lakeview (which was an incredible historic preservation project). Detroit's community needs a voice, and that only comes from banding together

Detroit needs a neighborhood with a variety of housing options (for the young renter as well as the homo-owner), relatively intact housing stock, a commercial district with potential, one or two NICER gay bars or restaurants, a few visionary people leading the way, and an official "welcome" from the mayor's office (believe it or not, I know several suburban gay people who feel that they are explicitly UNwelcome in the city of Detroit). A gayborhood will only burnish the city's image in the eyes of urbanites around the country, and maybe we can keep some of our gay people from fleeing to greener pastures.

So where could it go? I have my ideas, but what do you think? Weigh in with a comment if you want.

Monday, August 13, 2007

My master plan for Tigers Stadium

Ernie Harwell continues his "It's a Wonderful Life" 11th-hour savior moment with old Tigers Stadium and I think it's safe to say I'm totally over it. Here is a link to a Detroit News article about his progress on his "Save Tigers Stadium" plan.

Since there is apparently an open RFP for the TS site, I've decided to come up with my own master plan. My plan - which I think will please the City, the residents of Corktown, the TS preservationists and the gay community - is to turn the area into Detroit's new gayborhood.

First of all, let's look at the economics of the whole thing. Ernie's plan relies on nostalgia to make the stadium work. Donations from foundations, selling naming rights for a stadium with no real use, museums as tenants ... that plan has more holes in it than my granny's panties. Foundations make grants based on need and Lord knows there are a lot of worthy charities out there already. And people go to museums, what, once a year?

No, nostalgia ain't gonna pay the bills.

(click for a somewhat larger version)

In my plan, we tear down a good portion of the stadium. Fuck it, it's ugly, worth more as scrap and it's taking up space. The historic corner of Michigan and Trumbull will remain, mostly because it's the only architecturally interesting part of the stadium but also for its more intimate scale, and it will house retail businesses that cater to the needs of the gay and lesbian community. Examples: Hermes, Apple, Barney's, Good Vibrations (for our lesbian sistren) and Hollister (for twinks and the men who dress like them).

Instead of a sports hall of fame and a music museum, we will just have the Madonna Hall of Fame. It's important to have a cultural aspect to any project.

In an additional nod to preservationists, a gay sports bar called "The Dugout" will open right at the corner, and will adaptively re-use the much-loved trough urinals in its restroom, as well as some lockers from the visitor's locker room for decor. And of course there would be a Starbucks, for caffeination and general cruising opportunities.

The historic locker rooms themselves will also be saved. The Tiger's locker room will be converted into part of a premiere health club facility, and the visitor's locker room will be converted into a bathhouse. Can you imagine the draw of that? Come hook up in an original MLB locker room? Rest assured, people would visit more than once for that experience! There would also be a gift shop.

The field itself would be saved - another nod to preservationists and the neighborhood - and could be used for lesbian softball leagues with a dog park way out in the outfield.

In place of the stadium there would be new, mixed-use modern construction - restaurants, service retail, condos, apartments and townhouses. I can hear the bitching now, "modern doesn't go in Corktown!" I say contextualism is for pussies. The only context right now is empty parking lots, a freeway and a giant pile of steel. These buildings will vary in size, but they should push the design envelope and make a statement. We're here, we're queer, we're fabulous, get used to it.

This will give Corktown housing for all types ... want something new and modern? Got it. Want a fixer-upper? Just cross over the freeway to North Corktown. Want Victorian charm? Hop across Michigan Avenue into the historic Corktown area. And you are a minute from downtown.

People need to start looking forward in this city, instead of rubbing one out over what used to be. It's time to rub one out over what could be. This is a solution that works, so let's get going with tearing down that stadium!

Oh, and I also propose they take down Comerica Park while they're at it. I hate sports.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Freddie Mercury and Dolly Parton have the same voice?

Well here's an interesting clip I came across while 'tubin this evening. It turns out that several popular singers are sharing their voices. Matthew Bellamy (from some group called Muse) and Gwen Stefani. Kylie Minogue and George Michael. And even ... Freddie Mercury and Dolly Parton. Scandalously good stuff.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Event Recap: Erasure Concert

As expected, the Erasure concert on July 31 was essentially the event of the summer for gay Detroit. Well, for hipster gay Detroit and white-guy-over-30 gay Detroit. And it was great fun.

Cell phone cameras ... not so great.

I'm not going to write a full review of the concert, suffice to say Erasure is always a great show. You expect their most popular songs and they give them to you. And they always pick good tracks from their latest album. Having seen them perform no fewer than seven times since the first time as a little faglet back in 1986, I can attest to the fact that they never disappoint.

The crowd at this show was really great. The Music Hall was packed with gay guys reliving their youth, young gays riding the retro electronic wave, and closeted gay guys with their girlfriends who don't know yet. (Which was me at their St. Andrew's show in 1988, a phenomenon pointed out to me by that ex-girlfriend when we attended the Erasure show together at Clutch Cargo in Pontiac back in '96 ...)

And maybe I'm just lightening up in general (God forbid), but it seemed to me that this crowd was fantastically happy and friendly. Reflecting on it all afterward, I had to acknowledge that Detroit really does have a good gay scene from time to time. It'd be nice if it were a little easier to find, or maybe appeared on a regular basis. But you know, until it's better, you take what you can get.

As a post script ... afterward we found out Andy Bell (the singer in Erasure, for you heathens) was at the Gold Coast, so we drove up and hung out in a casual proximity to him for a while. It was a truly Detroit moment, hanging out near one of my favorite performers of all time in a shithole bar in the ghetto watching drag queens and strippers. And because Erasure has been a favorite group of mine since before you were born, I was forced to humiliate myself by going up to Andy and telling him how much I love them and how significant Erasure's music has been in my life. I know, what a retard! I couldn't stop myself, I do love them. And he couldn't have been more gracious or kind. I was embarrassed, because usually I just ignore celebrities and watch them out of the corner of my eye. But after I did it I was secretly happy. Worship your idols.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Spirit of Detroit has a nice ass

Some guy who is doing restoration work on the Spirit of Detroit statue at Woodward and Jefferson apparently created some miniatures to test patinas (or something, I can't be bothered with the specifics). Now he is offering cast miniature models of the statue for the Detroit enthusiast you love. Love a lot, by the way, because they are $9,000 each, apparently.

(As an art-buying aside, $9,000 isn't necessarily a crazy amount for a 12" cast bronze piece. But it might be when you are talking about a relatively poor replica of a public statue vs. original art by an artist with a reputation).

That's neither here nor there as far as I'm concerned, because while this replica may have changed the very generic cute Anglo facial features of the real statue into something more Bel Ami Studios Eastern European porn ...

The original's hair is cuter too.

... and while the mesomorphic body type of the original seems to have given way to a leaner ectomorphic body, I want to simply point out this:

What exactly is he squatting on?

Now THAT'S the spirit of MY Detroit.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Come back to the five and dime, JonBenet, JonBenet ...

The pageant world is weird, as we all know, and the child pageant world is 18 kinds of crazy. That is why we love it so much. I mean hate it. I mean, well, I don't actually know what I mean.

I do know that the spinoff industries from the pageant world never fail to amaze me. Take, for example, the world of photo retouching, as demonstrated on the website for Total Makeover Retouching ("For days she doesn't feel like sitting through hair/make-up and a photo shoot.") Only in the world of child pageantry could a person with ham-fisted photoshopping skills as demonstrated below not only be proud of the end result, but find customers who actually WANT the final product!

The great thing about this website of the person who offers these services is that under each photo sample, she lists the "enhancements" that were made:

Total Makeover Retouching
his Enhancement Includes:
*Curls replaced
*Shirt colorized
*Irises replaced & moved for eye contact
*Lashes added
*Stray hairs removed
*Blush added
*Skin tanned
*Brows shaped
*Skin blended
*Dark circles faded
*Background changed
*Photo angled & shapened
*Overall color & contrast corrected

From Snapshot to Low Glamour Pageant Photo
(A more natural look.)
This Photo Enhancement Includes:
*Skin blended
*Flesh tones boosted to peachy hues
*Bow shadows removed from forehead
*Drool removed from mouth
*Eyes brightened and sharpened
*Catch lights corrected in eyes
*Dark circles gently faded, while natural eye creases are preserved for a natural appearance
*Lashes added
*Lip line corrected
*Photo zoomed, cropped, and sharpened

I am not sure exactly what the worst part of this whole thing is ... adults who want to make children look like dolls, or little girls who grow up thinking no picture of them is good enough unless it's obscenely retouched. Click through that site, there is some crazy shit on there!

Of course the gays, who can be a funny bunch, could not leave this alone. One clever boy from NYC posted his OWN photo retouching, and listed his enhancements too:

This Enhancement Includes:
*Irises replaced and moved for eye contact
*Stray hairs removed
*Brows Shaped
*Carol Channing
*Tammy Faye post hamburger and fries in heaven
*Dakota Fanning post cell phone delete
*Ms JonBenet Ramsey, formerly of Boulder CO.

Now that is a touch-up I can live with.

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