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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

‘Kings & Queens in Their Castles’ is an intimate look at LGBT lives

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

The Washington Post
‘Kings & Queens in Their Castles’ is an intimate look at LGBT lives
By Michele Langevine Leiby April
Untitled-11489608001


When Tom Atwood decided to launch himself into fine art photography, it was mostly because he wanted to see a different image of gay men. Until not long ago, most photographic images of gay men fell into one of two categories: a display of the ravages of AIDS or a paean to the idealized, sexualized beauty of the masculine form (usually nude or in advanced stages of undress).

Atwood’s new book, “Kings & Queens in Their Castles,” offers an alternative view. His style, the photographer says, is a studied melange of portraiture and architectural photography.

“I try to challenge my subjects by showing as much of their environment as possible in the frame of the camera,” he says. “I also use a wide-angle lens and a wide depth of field so that both the subject and the background are in focus.”

Atwood, 45, a self-proclaimed autodidact, has no formal background in photography or art history. His approach was honed through trial and error and a passion for his subject matter.

“I started out photographing gay people at home because I am gay and knew a lot of gay people,” he says. “And I think a lot of gay men especially have a flair for design and live in some really playful places.”

Atwood’s subjects in “Kings & Queens” include more than 160 members of the LGBT community. They’re urban and rural, famous and anonymous, beautiful and plain, extraordinary and decidedly ordinary. His work, displaying an intimacy sometimes bordering on voyeurism, captures LGBT men and women in the process of living their private lives.

Some of today’s tumultuous social movements rely on a fair amount of identity politics. This book isn’t about that. Says Atwood: “I thought it would be interesting to photograph this group of people just in everyday moments since, for most people, their sexuality is a part of who they are, but it’s not the predominant part of who they are.”

Here are six of the book’s compelling stories:






Don Lemon

When Atwood arrived at Don Lemon’s Harlem home, the CNN anchor was getting ready to walk his dog. “He’s very friendly, very easygoing, very approachable,” Atwood says. “I realized he’s just a really a social person that’s part of a neighborhood.” He shot Lemon sitting on a skateboard on his balcony, his neighborhood as a backdrop. “I really wanted to shoot people in their everyday environment and show what their private lives are like rather than focus on their public images.”

HollyTaylorAlisonBechdel1489605841

 

 



Holly Taylor and Alison Bechdel

Atwood photographed the women in the garden of their Jericho, Vt., home. Holly Taylor, a self-declared “compost maven,” and Alison Bechdel, a cartoonist and the author of the Broadway musical “Fun Home,” live in the woods. “I love this photo,” says Atwood, himself a Vermonter. “I think it really shows a real Vermont sensibility in a number of ways. They’ve got a garden. They chop their own wood. They heat their house with wood.”





Mother Flawless Sabrina

Considered a pioneer in the transgender and gay communities, Mother Flawless Sabrina ran a national drag pageant enterprise between 1959 and 1969 that put on shows across the country, culminating with an extravaganza in New York. The 77-year-old lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side surrounded by a bevy of quirky possessions: a 1980s-era telephone with giant buttons, wigs strewn about, jewelry draped on an ornate desk. “She’s a female impersonator, which I guess is a little different from a drag queen, but don’t ask me the difference because I’m not sure I know,” Atwood says.

 

James McGreevey


The former governor of New Jersey will always be famous for the 2004 news conference in which he publicly came out of the closet, his pained wife by his side. “My truth is that I am a gay American,” he declared. Today McGreevey is a Prius-driving resident of Plainfield, N.J., where Atwood photographed him, clad in shorts and a hoodie, pruning ivy in front of his house. “He did go through some difficult times,” Atwood says, “but he seems to be still happy and proud and willing to share his life through this book.”

 

 





Bruce Vilanch

Loyal viewers of the television game show “Hollywood Squares” will surely recognize the unruly mop of comedian Bruce Vilanch, whom Atwood photographed ferrying groceries back to his West Hollywood apartment. “I think this is a fun shot because Los Angeles has a lot of outdoor/indoor living spaces,” Atwood says, and Vilanch’s apartment building has hallways that are outside rather than inside.




Randal Kleiser

“I don’t think it’s that common to keep barn animals in Los Angeles,” Atwood says of the menagerie of pets that share the home of film director Randal Kleiser. “It was an otherwise suburban ranch house.” Kleiser, known for such films as “Grease” and “Big Top Pee-wee,” enjoys a spectacular view of the L.A. skyline from his swimming pool. “I like that there’s this strong light from the side in this picture and you can see a lot in both the foreground and background,” the photographer says. (Can you find BOTH horses?)

How to Write Jokes for the Academy Awards

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Vulture
6/23/2014 at 10:30 AM 3 Comments
How to Write Jokes for the Academy Awards
By Mike Sacks

4-27-2013 3-51-51 AM

Have you ever wondered how the Academy Awards gets written every year? Bruce Vilanch is the man to ask. Starting as a writer on the broadcast 25 years ago, Vilanch has been the annual show’s head writer since 2000. What he specifically writes varies from host to host, but ultimately, everything you see on the telecast goes through him. Below, in an interview with Vanity Fair writer Mike Sacks, Vilanch dishes on trying to make celebrities seem funny, the “cock joke” that Steve Martin refused to tell, and why exactly James Franco, Ellen DeGeneres, and David Letterman each bombed as hosts of the Oscars. The conversation is an excerpt from Poking a Dead Frog, Sacks’s new book of interviews with notable comedy writers such as Amy Poehler, Mel Brooks, and Adam McKay,which he put together as a follow-up to his similar 2009 collection, And Here’s the Kicker. You can buy the book in bookstores starting June 24, or preorder it here.

What’s the joke-writing preparation for a televised awards show such as the Oscars? How much time and effort are we talking about?

A tremendous amount. People have no idea. Billy Crystal came up with the idea of creating a huge playbook, almost like a football team would for a big game. The script itself is three hundred pages. It’s a big hefty tome, and it’s kept offstage, generally offstage left. The host will leaf through it during commercial breaks. It’s most based on what might happen during the broadcast. “Suppose this happens. What if that happens?” You know, just in case. So, you end up creating a lot of material: “Oh, if that happens, we’re covered.” You study who’s nominated to win all the awards, the movies these people are associated with, everything that’s necessary to come up with jokes. A ton of research.”

How many of these jokes, on average, end up being used during the performance?

Out of the hundreds that we write — really, hundreds — if one or two are used, it’s a big deal. We’ll start the actual writing process about two months before the ceremony—usually in December for a February or March broadcast.
It must be frustrating to come up with some many jokes each year, only to have about 2 percent used.

Have there been any jokes you wished had been used but weren’t?

There’ve been a few. We had one joke [in 2003] that involved Steve Martin coming out after the monologue, and he was going to say, “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that my fly was open throughout the monologue. The good news is the camera puts on ten pounds.” But Steve wouldn’t say the joke; he said it was a “cock joke.” He just didn’t feel comfortable doing a cock joke on the Academy Awards. I said, “But it’s not a cock joke! It’s a camera joke.” Everybody loved the joke. Even the network censor thought it was hilarious. We could have gotten away with it because it didn’t cross any kind of line, but the fact that the network censor thought it was hysterical meant we had done something right.

It might very well have become a classic if he did say it.

I know, but Steve felt it was just a little too anatomically correct. You can see the visual a bit too easily. I can understand why he would come to that conclusion. The host has to decide, “Do I want to take the audience to that place?”

The Academy Awards is a strange show to work on as a comedy writer. You’re writing jokes for over one billion people, of all ages, countries, backgrounds. How do you determine what is and what is not appropriate, without sapping out all the humor?

You have to be careful not to cross that weird line. There are celebrities you just can’t make jokes about, whether because it’s cruel or because they’ll be in the audience, or just because it’s too embarrassing a situation. Keep in mind that whatever a host says is going to live with them for the rest of their career. The choice you have to make is, Do I, as a comedian, want to be remembered for this joke or not? You can’t un-ring that bell.

Can you tell me about the backstage writing process during an Oscars broadcast? How do the writers work? Together or separately? Writing down jokes? Pitching them out loud?

It’s frantic. It’s chaos. It makes the fall of Saigon look tame. It’s all happening so, so quickly. My favorite example is from 2003, when Steve was hosting. Now, this goes back to something happening just before the commercial break that you can work off of. Michael Moore had won for Best Documentary Feature for Bowling for Columbine and he made a speech against the second Iraq War. Some in the audience booed, but we also noticed that some of the stagehands started booing him, too. When we returned from commercial break, Steve came out and said, “It’s so sweet backstage, you should have seen it. The Teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo.” That was a joke that we came up with in the wings.

Who are you writing for? The live audience in the auditorium? Or the audience at home?

You’re playing to the auditorium because they’re the ones who are giving the immediate reaction that the home audience will hear. You’re always playing to both of them, really, but I think what you want most is a reaction from the live audience, clearly.

The problem is that the vibe in the room changes as the night progresses. As the night gets longer, there are more and more audience members who have not won an award. Their high hopes have disappeared. For every winner, there are at least four or five who won’t win. It gets chilly. The audience is not really paying attention. At this point, you’re getting down to the big awards; its been a long day. The audience would like to get out of there and start drinking—those who aren’t already potted, that is. So, by the end, the audience is not really paying close attention. Also, there are a hefty amount of seat fillers, because have children, have to relieve the babysitters, they get bored, they just leave. Say, for an example, there are ten supporting actor nominees and those categories are given early. Those ten faces will be gone, generally, by the middle to the end of the show. And they’ll be replaced by secretaries from Paramount who might not be too keen to laugh.

Were you responsible for some of the jokes that bombed the night Letterman hosted, such as the Uma/Oprah joke?

No. The Uma/Oprah joke was written by Rob Burnett [executive producer, Late Show With David Letterman], who lethally takes credit for it. Just lethal. I told Rob not to do it. I thought it was a bad idea to have David Letterman from New York TV making fun of these huge stars from Hollywood. Hosts are vital to the show’s tone. It’s a very specific role that the host plays. You have to bring your personality, but you have to do it in a clever way so it doesn’t feel like a retread of what you do at your other job. I think that’s what happened with Letterman. The comedy didn’t translate well. It takes a very specific type of performer to do well at the Oscars. Ellen DeGeneres [in 2007] had a different approach, and I don’t think it worked. She was very daytime. There wasn’t a sense of occasion. She was scared, I think, and wasn’t willing to go the extra mile. James Franco [in 2010] didn’t work out well at all. He was really out of his comfort zone. He’s not a live stage performer. It’s better if the hosts are comedians. They have to have a bit of an attitude. It’s easier for us writers to find words that suit a comedian’s attitude. Actors tend to act. It’s tough for them to play themselves, to have a persona. You’ll never see Johnny Depp performing An Evening With Johnny Depp.

What’s it like to write for celebrities presenting awards, many of whom are not used to performing comedy before a live audience?

It’s tough. It’s constantly a negotiation of some sort. Each of these celebrities has a flotilla of assistants who are advising them or what to say and not to say. A lot show up with their own writers, depending on who they are. And it’s hard for me to bitch about that. That kind of goes with the territory. So that doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is when you get people who don’t do this kind of performing for a living and they go into a major panic and every single word has to be edited by everybody. By their hairdressers, their yoga instructor, their publicist, their pet psychiatrist. Everybody’s got an opinion. And all of those people who are supposedly helping are really enemies of comedy, because they don’t want anybody to get into trouble. You can’t be funny by saying, “I’m not going to get anybody into trouble.” You know, that’s the risk you run. Read Freud on jokes and tell me that you’re not ever going to get anybody into trouble.

From Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers, by Mike Sacks. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) LLC. Copyright © 2014 by Michael Sacks.

Bruce Vilanch: How To Write For The Oscars

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Vulture
How to Write Jokes for the Academy Awards
By Mike Sacks

4-27-2013 3-50-43 AM

Have you ever wondered how the Academy Awards gets written every year? Bruce Vilanch is the man to ask. Starting as a writer on the broadcast 25 years ago, Vilanch has been the annual show’s head writer since 2000. What he specifically writes varies from host to host, but ultimately, everything you see on the telecast goes through him. Below, in an interview withVanity Fair writer Mike Sacks, Vilanch dishes on trying to make celebrities seem funny, the “cock joke” that Steve Martin refused to tell, and why exactly James Franco, Ellen DeGeneres, and David Letterman each bombed as hosts of the Oscars. The conversation is an excerpt from Poking a Dead Frog, Sacks’s new book of interviews with notable comedy writers such as Amy Poehler, Mel Brooks, and Adam McKay,which he put together as a follow-up to his similar 2009 collection, And Here’s the Kicker. You can buy the book in bookstores starting June 24, or preorder it here.

What’s the joke-writing preparation for a televised awards show such as the Oscars? How much time and effort are we talking about?
A tremendous amount. People have no idea. Billy Crystal came up with the idea of creating a huge playbook, almost like a football team would for a big game. The script itself is three hundred pages. It’s a big hefty tome, and it’s kept offstage, generally offstage left. The host will leaf through it during commercial breaks. It’s most based on what might happen during the broadcast. “Supposethis happens. What if that happens?” You know, just in case. So, you end up creating a lot of material: “Oh, if that happens, we’re covered.” You study who’s nominated to win all the awards, the movies these people are associated with, everything that’s necessary to come up with jokes. A ton of research.”


How many of these jokes, on average, end up being used during the performance?
Out of the hundreds that we write — really, hundreds — if one or two are used, it’s a big deal. We’ll start the actual writing process about two months before the ceremony—usually in December for a February or March broadcast.


It must be frustrating to come up with some many jokes each year, only to have about 2 percent used. Have there been any jokes you wished had been used but weren’t?
There’ve been a few. We had one joke [in 2003] that involved Steve Martin coming out after the monologue, and he was going to say, “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that my fly was open throughout the monologue. The good news is the camera puts on ten pounds.” But Steve wouldn’t say the joke; he said it was a “cock joke.” He just didn’t feel comfortable doing a cock joke on the Academy Awards. I said, “But it’s not a cock joke! It’s a camera joke.” Everybody loved the joke. Even the network censor thought it was hilarious. We could have gotten away with it because it didn’t cross any kind of line, but the fact that the network censor thought it was hysterical meant we had done something right.


It might very well have become a classic if he did say it.
I know, but Steve felt it was just a little too anatomically correct. You can see the visual a bit too easily. I can understand why he would come to that conclusion. The host has to decide, “Do I want to take the audience to that place?”


The Academy Awards is a strange show to work on as a comedy writer. You’re writing jokes for over one billion people, of all ages, countries, backgrounds. How do you determine what is and what is not appropriate, without sapping out all the humor?
You have to be careful not to cross that weird line. There are celebrities you just can’t make jokes about, whether because it’s cruel or because they’ll be in the audience, or just because it’s too embarrassing a situation. Keep in mind that whatever a host says is going to live with them for the rest of their career. The choice you have to make is, Do I, as a comedian, want to be remembered for this joke or not? You can’t un-ring that bell.


Can you tell me about the backstage writing process during an Oscars broadcast? How do the writers work? Together or separately? Writing down jokes? Pitching them out loud?
It’s frantic. It’s chaos. It makes the fall of Saigon look tame. It’s all happening so, so quickly. My favorite example is from 2003, when Steve was hosting. Now, this goes back to something happening just before the commercial break that you can work off of. Michael Moore had won for Best Documentary Feature for Bowling for Columbine and he made a speech against the second Iraq War. Some in the audience booed, but we also noticed that some of the stagehands started booing him, too. When we returned from commercial break, Steve came out and said, “It’s so sweet backstage, you should have seen it. The Teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo.” That was a joke that we came up with in the wings.


Who are you writing for? The live audience in the auditorium? Or the audience at home?
You’re playing to the auditorium because they’re the ones who are giving the immediate reaction that the home audience will hear. You’re always playing to both of them, really, but I think what you want most is a reaction from the live audience, clearly.


The problem is that the vibe in the room changes as the night progresses. As the night gets longer, there are more and more audience members who have not won an award. Their high hopes have disappeared. For every winner, there are at least four or five who won’t win. It gets chilly. The audience is not really paying attention. At this point, you’re getting down to the big awards; its been a long day. The audience would like to get out of there and start drinking—those who aren’t already potted, that is. So, by the end, the audience is not really paying close attention. Also, there are a hefty amount of seat fillers, because have children, have to relieve the babysitters, they get bored, they just leave. Say, for an example, there are ten supporting actor nominees and those categories are given early. Those ten faces will be gone, generally, by the middle to the end of the show. And they’ll be replaced by secretaries from Paramount who might not be too keen to laugh.


Were you responsible for some of the jokes that bombed the night Letterman hosted, such as the Uma/Oprah joke?
No. The Uma/Oprah joke was written by Rob Burnett [executive producer,Late Show With David Letterman], who lethally takes credit for it. Just lethal. I told Rob not to do it. I thought it was a bad idea to have David Letterman from New York TV making fun of these huge stars from Hollywood. Hosts are vital to the show’s tone. It’s a very specific role that the host plays. You have to bring your personality, but you have to do it in a clever way so it doesn’t feel like a retread of what you do at your other job. I think that’s what happened with Letterman. The comedy didn’t translate well. It takes a very specific type of performer to do well at the Oscars. Ellen DeGeneres [in 2007] had a different approach, and I don’t think it worked. She was very daytime. There wasn’t a sense of occasion. She was scared, I think, and wasn’t willing to go the extra mile. James Franco [in 2010] didn’t work out well at all. He was really out of his comfort zone. He’s not a live stage performer. It’s better if the hosts are comedians. They have to have a bit of an attitude. It’s easier for us writers to find words that suit a comedian’s attitude. Actors tend to act. It’s tough for them to play themselves, to have a persona. You’ll never see Johnny Depp performing An Evening With Johnny Depp.


What’s it like to write for celebrities presenting awards, many of whom are not used to performing comedy before a live audience?
It’s tough. It’s constantly a negotiation of some sort. Each of these celebrities has a flotilla of assistants who are advising them or what to say and not to say. A lot show up with their own writers, depending on who they are. And it’s hard for me to bitch about that. That kind of goes with the territory. So that doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is when you get people who don’t do this kind of performing for a living and they go into a major panic and every single word has to be edited by everybody. By their hairdressers, their yoga instructor, their publicist, their pet psychiatrist. Everybody’s got an opinion. And all of those people who are supposedly helping are really enemies of comedy, because they don’t want anybody to get into trouble. You can’t be funny by saying, “I’m not going to get anybody into trouble.” You know, that’s the risk you run. Read Freud on jokes and tell me that you’re not ever going to get anybody into trouble.


From Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers,by Mike Sacks. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) LLC. Copyright © 2014 by Michael Sacks.

Bruce Vilanch Interviews The Purrrfect Ms. Julie Newmar

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

canyon-news
ON THE INDUSTRY
Bruce Vilanch And Julie Newmar Rock!
By Tommy Garrett
Oct 23, 2011 – 8:27:30 PM

HOLLYWOOD—Bruce Vilanch interviewed Tony and Golden Globe winning actress, Julie Newmar, about her purrrrrrfect little “how to” book to place on the bedside table entitled “The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life on Earth.”

Bruce Vilanch, Interviewer?
Clearly, the don’t miss opportunity was the rage in Hollywood! The hysterically brilliant, Bruce Vilanch conducted a Q&A with the ever statuesque Julie Newmar on Saturday, Oct 15, at Santa Monica Library (601 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica CA) as part of their “Meet the Author” program. Julie signed countless copies of her new book, “The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life on Earth” after what was, without a doubt be a great Q&A.

There seems to be a lot of buzz in the media about the upcoming reincarnation of the latest Catwoman, by Anne Hathaway in “Dark Knight Rises,” and “Batman” reemerges on TV (Hub Network) for a new generation, which has made this an ideal time for the original Catwoman, Ms. Julie Newmar, to release her new book “The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life on Earth.” And it’s not only a great book, it is a must read for every American and everyone around the world who is looking for advice from one of the world’s geniuses, Ms. Julie Newmar.

A woman of great genetic stock, her father was a Chicago Bears football player and her mother a star of the 1920 Follies. Beauty, brains and a fantastic sense of humor, Julie Newmar is perhaps best known world wide for her role as the sultry Cat-woman on the hit series “Batman” or on stage for her original roles of Stupefyin Jones in Lil Abner and Vera in “Silk Stockings,” not to mention her Tony Award winning performance as Katrin Sveg in “The Marriage-Go-Round.” A contract with 20th Century Fox led to roles in films such as the classic MGM musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Making the transition to TV, Julie appeared in Rod Serling’s science fiction series the “Twilight Zone” in 1963, playing Miss Devlin (devil). As physical perfection, Julie was ideal to play Rhoda the Robot in “My Living Doll,” as well as iconic characters such series as “Star Trek,” “Get Smart,” “Bewitched,” “The Bionic Woman,” “Hart to Hart,” “According to Jim,” and, of course, how many women’s names grace the title of a hit movie – “Too Wong Fu, Julie Newmar,” a film from Stephen Spielberg’s company.

Ms. Julie Newmar Is Purrrfect!

Currently, Ms. Newmar has several books in the works, but the first to hit the shelves will be “The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life on Earth” (www.julienewmar.com) and features the wit and wisdom of Ms. Julie Newmar, to be followed by “+:First Fantasy” (www.julienewmarwrites.com). “The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life on Earth” is a book in which you read a phrase and paused…read another phrase and take a breath… read more and then cry a little. A compilation of wonderful tid-bits of information, inspirational thoughts, and practical advice for daily living that Julie has collected and experienced over her lifetime, and she is sharing with the reader. Julie was trying to create that perfect little “how to” book to place on the bedside table – the one that would empower others to be the very best I can be.

As most all individuals do, we searched for role models who defined the vision of what we would like to one day be and we set our minds on emulating them. The tall, statuesque, graceful and powerful woman, Julie Newmar, inspired many. Not only in physical appearance, but as an entrepreneur in LA real-estate and inventor, developing “Nudemar” panty-hose. In 2009, the Smithsonian Institute inducted her famous and the original Cat-Woman suit into its permanent Entertainment Exhibit collection making her one of the nine Legendary Ladies of Stage and Screen to be included (list available upon request).

Pearls of wisdom from “The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life on Earth” includes Tall girls, don’t slump. Think of how many short guys out there would love to have your offspring. Stand up for them” and Forgive yourself first. You’ll have reserves when you want others to forgive you.


Bruce Vilanch To Participate In “Fathers and Sons”

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Bruce Vilanch, Gary Dourdan, Ian Hart and Samantha Mathis in WordTheatre’s Fathers and Sons
M Bar & Restaurant (Hollywood, CA)

FULL PRICE:
$15.00

OUR PRICE:
$7.50*

Hollywood’s M Bar hosts WordTheatre Lit by Lulu’s Fathers and Sons, a night of short story readings by prominent actors. Bruce Vilanch (Hollywood Squares, Broadway’s Hairspray), Gary Dourdan (CSI), Ian Hart (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and Samantha Mathis (American Psycho) will read works by well-known authors Hanif Kureishi, Christine Lincoln, Simon Van Booy and Amy Bloom. WordTheatre celebrates the oral storytelling tradition with world-class authors and actors at literary salons in L.A., London and N.Y.

Event summary prepared by the Goldstar Editorial Team.

* Additional fees apply

To Buy Tickets: Click Here

Where’s Bruce? Fri 1/14 7:30pm, Word Theatre

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Fri 1/14 7:30pm, Word Theatre has actors Bruce Vilanch, Ian Hart and Samantha Mathis reading stories by Hanif Kureishi, Simon Van Booy, and Amy Bloom. (M Bar, 1253 Vine Place, corner of Fountain & Vine. Doors at 6pm, $10 food minimum.)