Dirty Looks: On Location is a film series created Bradford Nordeen. Tonight (Wednesday 1st July) he has enlisted Sam Ashby and Ginger Brooks Takahashi to curate the first screening for 2015. Sam Ashby is a London based artist, designer, writer and he has been a long time friend to GAYLETTER and we can vouch that his taste is unique, and impeccable. He has a great talent of sniffing out under-appreciated queer films that are worth re-watching. His film publication Little Joe has been around since 2010 and is a wonderful “forum for the discussion of film around subjects of sexuality and gender within a queer historical context.”
The event takes place at White Columns on east 13th street. If you’re unfamiliar with the space here’s a little backstory: White Columns is “New York’s oldest alternative art space. It was founded in 1970 by Jeffrey Lew and Gordon Matta-Clark as an experimental platform for artists.
Ginger Brooks Takahashi is the “co-founder of LTTR, a queer and feminist art journal, and projet MOBILIVRE BOOKMOBILE project, a traveling exhibit of artist books and zines. She received her BA from Oberlin College, attended the Whitney Independent Study Program, and is a member of the touring musical act MEN.”
The event sounds super interesting, the films being shown are drawn from Ashby’s archive of movies made on Fire Island, and is “activated through Ginger Brooks Takahashi’s live modular synthesizer soundtrack, Fire Island Film + Sound is an audio-visual experience that explores the Island as a site of queer exile, utopia, sexual liberation and trauma.”
We just got back from Fire Island last night. While there, it’s almost impossible not to be conscious of the incredible queer history of the place. It’s kind of a Mecca for gays, and it’s important that we honor its history. Tonight’s event does just that. We suggest you all take a trip through the Meat Rack, grab a drink at Low-Tea and then get on a ferry back to the city and head on over to White Columns on 13th street for a night you won’t soon forget.
8:00PM, White Columns, 320 West 13th St. (Enter on Horatio St.), NY, NY.
Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini break down the powerful documentary
Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini met at a party in the West Village about 8 years ago while they were both attending NYU. Dan Sickles is 26 from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Antonio is 25 from San Juan, Puerto Rico. They are the directors of the film Mala Mala, a documentary about the transgender community of Puerto Rico that’s now playing at the IFC Center in NYC. We were drawn to this powerful story and decided to reach out to the directors, to shoot them and ask them some questions.
Tell me about when you first met?
Dan Sickles: It was at a party in the West Village?
Antonio Santini: Yeah…I walked in and he was wearing a sombrero, and the party was really boring. It was my birthday the next week, so I sent him a Facebook message and was like “hey, you want to come to my party? As my date?”
DS: He asked if I’d come and I went and I don’t know, we just started hanging out after that.
AS: And we became friends.
Did you guys date right after that?
DS: No, we’ve never dated.
When did you start working on this film?
DS: Almost three years ago, December 2011.
So how did you become interested in the transexual community in Puerto Rico?
DS: That’s a bit of a long story. Antonio and I had met this drag queen Maggie, in Austin, Texas. It was at a competition at this club, and she was incredible, but a terrible drag queen in most senses, like she wasn’t a good dancer, she wasn’t into the whole lip singing thing, she had props that were like used almost like weapons. She was in her own stratosphere. She lost the competition that night and Antonio and I went up to her afterwards, and we were like “Hey, you are fabulous, and we like love your spirit, can we hang out tomorrow and like, whatever,” and she was like “yeah totally!” So she invited us to her house in Northern Austin, in the suburbs right outside the city. We went there, and we ended up spending the entire day with her.
Leaving her house, it was like an experience that had a huge impact on both of us, in similar ways and also some very different ways. Talking in the car on the way back, it was like “Oh, there’s no platform for voices like hers.” You don’t often hear from people who are experiencing what Maggie’s experiencing. In that car ride we decided to continue pursuing the themes of gender, and transgendered and transsexuality. We discussed a few different locations and we decided that Puerto Rico, was by far the most interesting one to continue with and to turn into some sort of feature length project. Yeah, I think that’s it.
What was the criteria for selecting the subjects for the film?
AS: The process for finding them was really organic. We started off with April Carrion, who was this girl I went to high school with and when I went to high school she was just like a boy who was there, who people like made fun of and called gay, and yelled at during assemblies but then when we were at the office, discussing what we were going to do, we put it on Facebook and someone sent us this video of her, and she was like this rising star in the island and she was doing this impersonation of Liza Minnelli, and we were like “woah, she’s amazing.” So, we were like we have to go down. So the first day we went down there, we drove up to her house with a camera and started shooting her, and she asked “Why do you guys want to film me?” and we were like “We are trying to figure it out.” Through her we met all her drag friends, from her house (the Doll House), and then Dan was getting a haircut at Bumble and Bumble, and got put in touch with Sophia who is another one of the subjects, who’s actually from New York but moved to Puerto Rico to open up the biggest gay club on the island. Which closed.
DS: Yeah it closed unfortunately. But then there was a certain point where we were definitely looking to fill in certain gaps that we hadn’t found in the drag community. So at some point we were hanging out in the area, and it’s Sandy and a lot of the transexual workers work right outside the gay clubs where the drag queens are performing. So we’d see them every night and finally we were like, we need to get them in the film. We need some people who work the streets, like that’s a whole aspect of the community that we haven’t covered yet. Once we were tapped into that community, we realized we didn’t have contact with anybody who was on the opposite end of the spectrum — someone who was born female and identifies as a guy. We actually found Paxx Moll, through Instagram.
AS: He was a fan of the movie. Which was interesting he had been following the project, and then Dan saw this guy who kept liking all the photos, like all of them…
DS: So it was like holy shit, we gotta go back right away. He was someone who we didn’t know would make it in the final product, but we knew we needed to talk to him.
Why was he the only F to M in the movie?
DS: None of the people at the outreach centers who we talked to, knew of anyone else. They didn’t even know of Paxx, he was purely through Instagram. In terms of anyone who’s actually transitioned to male, they aren’t in contact with any of the outreach centers in Puerto Rico. So there’s no real organization or structure to kind of get in touch with that specific element of the community.
AS: And like in terms of the language on the island, F to M doesn’t really exist. If anything that’s just like a butcha, like a butch lesbian. If they’re like “I feel like a guy,” it’s like no “you’re a tough girl.” The other side with the girls, its like that’s a woman. It’s very clear it’s not a gay man, it’s a woman. It just doesn’t work the same way on both sides.
They’re not used to that yet.
DS: Well I think generally, universally speaking there’s this roar between butch lesbians and trans men, and where that line is drawn within the community is always up for dispute, I think somebody like Paxx is very well aware that nobody sees him as a trans man, rather just as a butch lesbian, which to her seems reductive.
It is reductive, he needs to come to a place like New York.
DS: He’s also someone that uses the term gender queer too. He operates on a vagueness that not many people can understand, because the term is so broad.
AS: He doesn’t really want to be a man. He wanted to transition, but he doesn’t want to say “I am a man.”
Can you tell us about the title, Mala Mala.
AS: “Mala Mala” is what girls use when they get their period, like “estoy mala.” And then the drag queens have repropriated it and they use it when they are excited, it’s almost like in cartoons when a chicken gets excited and she drops an egg. (Laughs)
DS: (Laughs) I actually love that image.
So when they are fierce and they are painted – It’s like “Ooh Mala, Mala girl” kind of thing.
AS: For example if an article comes out about them, they’ll say “estoy mala,” like they’re in heat, they get so excited, it’s like an attitude, an energy that they feel.
DS: Alberic Prados, specifically in the film, he was using that all the time, basically for anything. We always had this idea that we’d hear the title for the film from one of the subjects, like we’d hear it while we were filming, because up until then we had working titles like “Sexy Tropical” was the working title for a bit.
AS: We were drunk when we came up with that one so…
I think Mala, Mala is great, it’s very Almodovar. Was any member of the cast helpful in finding the other subjects?
DS: Ivana Fred specifically led us to the transexual sex worker community, she’s the most famous transexual on the island. Everyone knows who she is, she works with one of the outreach centers, so she knows all the girls on the streets, she knows all the girls in the clubs. Anybody could turn to Ivana and ask her, what’s happening in Santurce tonight, she’s going to know. As soon as we were connected to her, through one of the outreach centers, she opened the door to the transexual community.
What was it like filming the prostitutes in the streets at night?
DS: It was really hard because I’d say that Antonio and I are more interested in shooting narrative stuff, which is obviously more controlled, you’re in an environment that you’ve created and you are providing this safe space to have all this magic happen and on the street you’re kind of working in the opposite direction. We tried all different things, there were lots of different ways that we tried to shoot Sandy on the street, there was one night where our cameraman Adam Uhl, and I just camped out in the back of Sandy’s car for three hours and she had a mic attached to her clutch, we were just trying to pick up some audio between her and the johns to see what that dynamic was like. We tried that once, we tried being on the street with her with the camera, but that would have stopped business.
Who would want to come up to a prostitute with a camera crew?
DS: Yeah, exactly.
AS: They would just drive away.
So you killed business for them?
DS: And that’s the difficulty too, because Sandy was down to like — here’s my life, you guys come with me whenever you want, however we can make use of this time, let’s do it. Which was huge and awesome, but at the same time, she’s working that job because she needs the money.
You never paid any of your subjects?
DS: We had to compensate some of them for time that they lost while working to film with us. If there were certain events that we needed them for, and they had jobs that day we would be like hey, if you’re making 60 bucks, we will give you $60 just so you can be on this shoot with us. But other than that, no.
AS: It was hard to get in touch with them because they don’t have their phones on them while they are working, so we would literally wait in the car because they are used to getting jumped. So we would drive around the area, there’s this club that we would go to just to wait for them and then we would just drive until we would be like “Oh, there’s Ivana on the corner, there’s Sandy over there,” and even though they were down to film, if they saw us when they were working it wouldn’t be that easy. To Sandy we would be like, “Sandy! Oh she didn’t hear us because she’s working.” No she could hear us, but she was avoiding us.
DS: A lot of the shots that we ended up using, those are the shots that we grabbed in the span of three minutes, like at 5:30, 6:00am in the morning, at the very end of her night. Like literally, we would grab the car set everything up, get the shot, get back in the car and then just wait. That’s the kind of footage that’s in the film.
It felt very real, I lived in Santurce for one year. I remember my father driving me around that area when I was little, and asking him what those ladies doing, I knew they were prostitutes and I just thought they were biological women. That’s what they looked like to me.
AS: I think most people on the island have the same experience as you, they just drive by and see this stuff happening. We got so used to people being like “Oh, tonight we want to hang out with you, where are you going?,” we’d be like we are going to this street and this bar, and they’d be like “What, you go there?” It’s just like the worst street, you know what I mean, it’s the best street and it’s the worst.
What’s the name of the street?
AS: Calle Condado.
DS: It’s such a vibrant area, yeah it’s amazing.
AS: Everyone ends up there, that’s the thing.
Was your intention at the beginning of filming for the film to have such a strong political focus?
DS: No, I mean with a documentary, it’s always changing. So you have to modify your goals and aspirations for it, as it’s happening. The political stuff happened, I’d say the last quarter of production, we had a lot of interviews. We had over 275 hours worth of footage at the end of all of it. But the political aspect of it really really took off, that was last may, and we had been filming for three years, so if that’s any indication, this whole thing kind of blew up. I think it was one day Ivana, called Antonio and was like “hey so we are speaking at the senate,” and Antonio was like “hey, what? You have to let us know these things.” So we rushed back down to Puerto Rico to cover everything and all those things that led up to it.
It added such an amazing creative element to the film. To cover her outfit, to see what she wore. (Laughs)
AS: She killed it. She knows what she was doing.
DS: And that’s her conservative look.
Oh yeah that’s what I mean. She was incredible in the doc.
DS: All of them are, and that’s the whole political thing, it really became like a main element of the film, because it was so compelling, you have Sandy who is showing up at the senate at the courthouse and then later that night going to the street, selling her body to make whatever money she can.
AS: The thing with them is that they showed up. If they don’t show up, no one else is showing up. So what you saw in the film, that was the only trans representation that was there, and if they’re not there then they don’t exist. So you know Ivana, is very aware of that, and Ivana is the one that wrangles them and is like “Yo, you have to get it together, you have to come. Wear something nice.”
I mean, she’s everything. She’s brains and body.
DS: She is.
So have any of you have done drag before?
DS: Only on halloween and I love doing drag on Halloween.
AS: Tell them about your Marie Antoinette.
DS: Marie Antoinette, who else did I do? JonBénet Ramsey one year. I kind of look at Halloween costumes as all drag, whatever your gender.
The Dauphine of Bushwick's monthly has a new home at Wise Men — Music by DJ DeSe and Gio Black Peter
I’ll be honest with you I don’t necessarily think we should be proud of being gay. Should straight people be proud of being straight? It’s not like we’re curing cancer by being into dudes. Liking dick instead of pussy isn’t a great achievement — we shouldn’t be ashamed...indifferent maybe? But whatevs, Pride weekend/week/month is an excuse for us to party, and we looooove to party. This Saturday there’s only one place you should be, and that’s at the Wythe Hotel for the 3rd edition of our Pride Ball. Expect the hottest, horniest and friendliest boys in New York City and a one-hour open tequila bar. Yes God! There’s performances by House of LaBeija, House of Mugler, Jay Boogie, and a super special performance by Mikki Blanco. Guest DJ sets by Michael Magnan, Joey Labeija and UNiiQU3. Our guest hosts include Frankie Sharp, Leo Gugu and more… It’s going to be a voguing extravaganza. Plus it’s for a good cause! You better sissy that walk. See you there!
The second installment of our green device reviews
Let’s recap: Vaporizing heats herbs to a temperature that is hot enough to release active ingredients, but cool enough to avoid combustion (which is smoke, which is filled with toxins, which we’re supposed to avoid.) The magic part is: different temperatures result in completely different medicinal and buzz properties. Most portable vaporizers have one temperature setting — it decides your high and you’re stuck with it — until now.
Enter Crafty: I didn’t know quite what to expect when he appeared. He’s a bit coy and hard to pin down on first impression. Tall, dark, and mysterious. Let’s start with the face pic. I would describe him as early Star Wars meets Black & Decker chic with a future norm cordless look we’ve yet to see in 2015.
Crafty is comfortably hand-sized and portable, but not quite suited for carrying in your pocket — he’s packing a little too much meat for that. He’s not for movies, he’s not for concerts and he’s not for walking to work. Crafty hosts. He is to a vape pen as a Roor is to a joint.
Aside from pulling so smooth it feels like you’re breathing oxygen, Crafty offers precise temperature control ranging from 104F to 410F. It’s an invitation to study advanced technique and Crafty completely flattens the learning curve.
311-316F is for the daytime. It also helps with your ADHD and any pain relief. 320 – 334F is great for the anti’s. Anti-septic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory. 365F is where we get calm, cure our insomnia, and is right for nighttime, or come-downs. 385F is maxing out for medicinal properties, which is great for bed-time, but is also apparently the “club favorite.”
There is a single button on the device, leaving complications enjoyed by complicated people elsewhere. It turns him on, it gives him a little boost, and it turns him off. So how do we get precise control? An iPhone app. Yes, Android too. You set the temperature and he shows you his real-time heat. He keeps a tab the hours you’ve smoked, helps you track battery life, and even gives advice on temperatures for different herb blends. When he’s ready for you, he’ll give you a buzz, send a phone alert, whatever you’d like. This eliminates a lot of wasted material. He can take up to two minutes to heat up, so if you need your hit fast, you two are not a match.
But there’s more. Crafty is not only for your greens. There are plenty of other herbs that have plenty of other great effects and benefits. Many blend well with the greens to enhance flavor, take the edge off, or add to the calm. Alternate herbs include peppermint, thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender, lemon balm, chamomile, green tea, yerba mate (yes, the caffeine comes through), and even hops. Apparently damiana was used by the Mayans as an aphrodisiac. Each herb has its own temperature ideal, making a single-temperature portable device incompatible.
And so there you have it — a whole new world to explore with a clean, safe, perfect companion. He’s Crafty and you’re welcome.
Get yours at vapeworld.com
It wouldn’t be a GAYLETTER Pride without a Paris is Burning screening. It’s also a great opportunity for those of you that haven’t seen this film. I mean if you haven’t I am not sure what you are doing on this earth, but here’s what it’s about: Paris Is Burning “is an intimate and moving portrait of the Harlem drag balls of the 1980s, which were, and are still held between rival “houses” that served at once as intentional families, social groups and performance teams. The film illuminates a world of sustenance and joy that one group of New Yorkers created in the face of racism, poverty, transphobia and homophobia, and won wide acclaim beyond Sundance.” The feature will be introduced by director Jennie Livingston and by Junior LaBeija and Dr. Sol Williams Pendavis, both of them are featured in the film. After you watch this film you’ll be ready for our PRIDE Ball at the Wythe Hotel (see Saturday). Amongst other things you’ll get to see an amazing presentation by the House of LaBeija and the House of Mugler. We are gonna have a Ball! #shedonealreadydonehadherses
Isaac Oliver lives in fear of a home invasion: waking up to the unstoppable advances of a sadistic serial-killer’s padded pitiless steps in his Washington Heights apartment, a phobia which is the turnt up version of his ever-present fear of letting men in. This inability to experience vulnerability in a stable, relational way is the premise for Intimacy Idiot, the award winning playwrights debut book, which could have been just another amusing-but-cloying collection of young-Gay-NYC-single-male stories of sassy woe, but very much isn’t. Intimacy Idiot is unfailingly hilarious, until its small, pasty white hands suddenly summoned a strength I could not have known they had, collared me, gutted me, and left me for dead on my tweed tufted couch at 5 am like one of the psychopathic home invaders the author lives in fear of. I’m still fucked up about it.
Intimacy begins with Oliver’s satirical “online dating profile,” which is witty in a way that leads us to believe we are in for a chatty, boozy picnic, as opposed to a fully realized feast. His first proper chapter, “How I Didn’t Learn to Drive” gives a preview of the darkness of the book to come when, after ten pages of charmingly varied “New York observed” banter and keep-em-coming dick jokes with the zing of a decent midtown margarita, Oliver concludes the chapter on a tragic metaphor for his relational life so powerful and chilling that it turns your stomach. You’re suddenly hooked because damn this faggot can write.
As a campy musical theatre enthusiast with a broadly sophisticated cultural lexicon, and a WASP with a profound and nuanced understanding of human pain, Oliver is paradoxical, and one of a very rare breed: a gay white male who I would happily listen to talk about Sondheim at a party. Yes, his punchlines contain the obligatory Julie Andrews and Lea Michelle references, but then he’ll describe himself walking into a bar “looking like the first person to get murdered in an Agatha Christie novel,” or mitigating his eczema on a date by layering clothes a la “Stevie Nicks meets Edvard Munch.” Oliver has an ability to marry his endlessly crass, cum-soaked sex tales with charmingly refined mise-en-scène, such that when he describes being bent over slapping his ass while staring at a picture of John Updike we feel we can know and love him, even if the headless torso watching him on the Manhunt cam doesn’t.
Oliver’s cultural allusions contain something for everyone, though I’ll admit that he won my heart when he asserted as self-evident two truths which I have always held close but never spoke out loud: that’s Disney’s “George of the Jungle” was nothing short of a “gay porn vehicle for Brendan Fraser,” and that Sully from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman was a legitimate moment of childhood sexual awakening. Oliver’s narrative of dreary days working at a box office and slutty nights spent blowing most of upper Manhattan are peppered with recurrent genre stylings, including some really good/bad poetry dedicated to the men he loves from afar, Amy Sedaris-esque “Cooking For One” recipes, and subway commute tableaux that are poignant, weird, and scream out loud funny. His Shavian turns of phrase feature the kind of cringe-worthy, True Punsters puns that arise from delight in life’s frivolity, a delight which for a long while belies Oliver’s deep understanding of how fucked up the world is; that he reveals slowly, as what starts as a book of curated essays becomes a more cohesive, personal story progressing towards an impending darkness of self-awareness in the face of loneliness.
When I finished the book it was 5 AM and the sun was rising over Harlem and I was crying. I wrote a friend the following Facebook message: “Isaac Oliver’s book affected me very deeply. It has unearthed a lot of things in myself which are hard to look at. It’s about being a gay urban slut and fearing that you’ll never be able to love or be loved in an intimate, permanent way. You don’t think the book is going to be so serious because it’s so very funny, but it is very serious, and it doesn’t have anything like a resolution at the end. It’s disconcerting. [Friend], you’ve been a gay urban slut… Have you found love also? [Me] It’s been so long since I’ve had anything I could call that. I’ve had many nice affairs but it’s been years since I’ve had something stable. My destructive habits and reckless behavior always seem to take me back to square one, where I’m alone feeling like I’m untouchable, damaged goods waiting for the weeks to pass before I can take my next reliable HIV test, wondering if I’ll ever know any kind of intimate, permanent love again in my life. I’m sad, and I look up to you, and this book kinda fucked me up.”