Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Well of Saabliness

Saab is not dead yet. The clock is ticking on GM closing down our beloved brand—a tragic development, which the Sapphist Gazetteer reported on back in April. But there is interest from Spyker, an obscure Dutch manufacturer of high-end sports cars. We think this possibility would be highly appropriate. The New York Times reported yesterday that the Spyker deal is not attractive to GM because the plan relies heavily on Russian loans. I've also read some reports that the Chinese are interested. But nothing is close to final, apparently. I am saddened at the prospect that Saab could be no more, especially since—as one cruel but not entirely inaccurate friend pointed out— we have built a lifestyle around this particular make of auto. Go ahead, mock me. I admit: I am like a 16-year-old boy when it comes to cars. This one resembles my first (of four). And you never forget your first.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Notes on Drag

I meant to write about this topic back in August, after just returning from Provincetown where I saw a disappointing drag show. What, you ask, could possibly be disappointing — much less disturbing — about a drag show? Isn’t camp intended to be fun, and, according to Sontag, meant to be “playful” and “dethrone the serious”? I know that some tiresome people tritely poke fun at so-called humorless lesbians, but, I have to be honest here, these drag queens in Ptown were the most bitter and mean-spirited girls I have seen since I unwillingly saw a promo for “The Real Housewives of [somewhere].”

Now, I don’t want to be too serious here about drag queens. As Sontag herself in her famous “Notes on Camp” pointed out: being “solemn and treatise-like about Camp… runs the risk of having, oneself, produced a very inferior piece of Camp.” Taking that risk into consideration, I sally forth.

The drag show I saw in Ptown in August 2009 was terrible for several reasons: 1. The drag queens were lip-synching. Simply inexcusable. Drag should not be karaoke-with-sequins — it should be a true performance; 2. They were raunchy. I know, I know, I know that I bring a bit of Miss Jean Brodie with me wherever I go, but still. Let’s strive for excellence, shall we? Raunch is where performers go when they fail to entertain and are left with no choice but to hold an audience’s attention with shock; 3. They were malicious and demeaning toward women, which I suppose could be a definition of raunchy, and this, again, strays from the realm of true camp. “Camp proposes a comic vision of the world,” says Sontag. “But not a bitter or polemical comedy.”

Now, you may be wondering, does camp = drag? No. Because I would argue that drag kings are entirely different from drag queens. Drag kings are sexual, drag queens are asexual. I mean, just look as this sexy one in Girl King. But that is a topic for another day. Nonetheless, a drag show featuring drag queens should be an exercise in camp. Otherwise, it’s just a man in a dress.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The lovely Meredith Baxter comes out gracefully

Meredith Baxter has come out in the most admirable way: On her own terms, as a positive act, and with her dignity and gorgeousness intact.

The image of Meredith Baxter, or Meredith Baxter Birney as we knew her, is about as wholesome as it gets. But the appealing thing about her characters was they always seemed to have something serious going on beneath the distracting beauty and the soft voice. In a scene from Family, the 1970s TV drama, Meredith's character Nancy says to her mother, "You've always had my number, haven't you?" Honestly, you could watch this scene and be convinced the topic is Meredith's lesbianism. By the way, Meredith starred in Family with Kristy McNichol. Sapphic coincidence?

Meredith has been famous for a long time, which is one of the fascinating elements to her coming out. Everyone knows who she is. And everyone knows her as wholesome and extraordinarily pretty. Unbelievably, she's 62 (!) and still hot. I love her particularly for her role in All the President's Men, in which she played the wife of Hugh Sloan, one of Nixon's money men. When Woodward and Bernstein show up at her door, she says, "This is an honest house." And you believe her. You believe deeply that she and her husband are good and decent people even though they are Republicans.

According to the photos, Meredith's girlfriend Nancy Locke is blond, tanned, and ruggedly handsome like a field hockey coach. According to Meredith on the Today show, the girlfriend is a general contractor and drives a truck, in case anyone had any doubt that Meredith's GF is butch.

Baxter said she came out in part because she wants to help fight anti-gay legislation. "I'm not a political person, but this is a political act," she said. Baxter was visibly uncomfortable but admirably brave during the interview and said the decision to come out in a public manner was hard for her because she considers her personal life private. "To come out and disclose stuff is really antithetical to who I am," she said.

You can see the 8-minute Today show clip on YouTube. Or, for even more fun, watch her in this 1979 Preference by L'Oreal commercial: Because she's worth it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Kristen Stewart/Jodie Foster Parallel

When first we saw young Kristen Stewart rolling around tomboy-style on her scooter in the opening scenes of Panic Room, we could see she was destined to grow up to be much like her co-star Jodie Foster. According to a recent profile of Stewart in The New York Times, she and Foster still exchange Christmas cards and advice. Foster's tip to Stewart for navigating her burst into adult stardom is to protect her privacy. This is sage advice in a Hollywood landscape strewn with the wreckage of overly exposed young entertainers. But is it also particularly important advice to a young actor whose private life—like Foster's—is not what Hollywood wants in its bright new star?
Shhhh. Don't ask, don't tell.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

'Whip It' is a lesbian film, no question

While Ellen Page does not actually have sex with any women in Drew Barrymore's lesbian roller derby pic, our favorite little Canadian tomboy nonetheless does do the following (and this is just off the top of my head):
- Shares a bed with her girlfriend
- Wears army boots
- Indicates she can live without a boyfriend
- Flirts with Juliette Lewis (in a particularly electric moment)
- Longs to move to a city (a universally queer desire)
- Looks miserable in a dress
As you can see, the film clearly qualifies as a sapphic cinematic event.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Linda Hunt: Oscar-winning transactor, pocket gay

Like Glenn Close in Damages and Cherry Jones in 24, major actress Linda Hunt will lend acting cred to the cast of a primetime television series. She plays Hetty Lange, a quirky M-type character, on NCIS: Los Angeles.

Hunt, a lesbian, is beloved in the queer community, or should be, for playing Billy Kwan in 1982's The Year of Living Dangerously, a role for which she won the Oscar for best supporting actress. This was the first Academy Award won by someone portraying a member of the opposite sex. It's important to distinguish that her character was not in drag, like Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie or Barbra Streisand in Yentl. She played a serious male role, and her performance was complex and deeply touching.

According to her bio on CBS.com, Hunt has been with her spouse, Karen, for 22 years. They have three dogs. It's also interesting to note that Linda Hunt is 4'9" and, therefore, may qualify as a "pocket gay."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Starbuck will up macho factor on '24'

Katee Sackhoff, who brilliantly played our beloved Starbuck (a.k.a., the screwed up boozer ace pilot Kara Thrace), on Battlestar Galactica, will join the high testosterone cast of '24' next season. The network executives at Fox must be looking to increase the lesbian viewership, because Sackhoff (who is a lesbian icon if not an actual lesbian) joins theater legend and huge sapphist Cherry Jones, who plays President Allison Taylor. And Sackhoff might be working alongside Janeane Garofalo, who, with her tattoos, hipster eyewear, and progressive politics, is popular among the lesbians even though her orientation seems reliably heterosexual; she has said, however, that she is aware that she "reads gay." After some speculation, it seems Garofalo will return in her role as Janis, a mousy but possibly diabolical tech nerd. Garofalo took some heat for accepting the role in 2007 because lefties criticized her choice to work on a series apparently written for torture enthusiasts, and, conversely, right wingers didn't particularly want her hippie ass on the show. Perhaps those folks will be reassured by Starbuck's history of extreme interrogation tactics. Anyway, according to HollywoodReporter.com, Sackhoff will play Dana Walsh, "a smart, competent, expert data analyst... with a secret past." Despite the fact that I can't stand this show—because, 1. it gives me agita, and 2. it seems like spoof; is it actually meant to be a comedy?—I will probably tune in at least once for Sackhoff/Jones/Garofalo.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

'Dyke Food Mafia'

Recently, I was talking to some sapphists unfamiliar with Tiffani Faison, one of the handful of out queers on Top Chef. I was trying to explain who she was: You know, the exacting redhead finalist from the first season. My friends had no clue, but they were curious and asked if she was attractive. My reply was simply this: Anyone doing something they are very good at is sexy. So, yes, by that definition, Tiffani is hot. Plus, who doesn’t love a big girl?

The Sapphist Gazetteer recently had the opportunity to observe Tiffani in person, in her dashing chef’s jacket, at O Ya, one of the best new restaurants in the world, according to Food & Wine magazine. Frank Bruni of The New York Times also declared it the best new restaurant in the country. Indeed, O Ya is an unlikely gem set in a grimy side street in Boston's Leather District. I was sitting at the sushi bar in my Doc Martens and vintage seersucker—enjoying the most exquisite food I've ever consumed, no exaggeration—and caught glimpses of Tiffani in the back kitchen. She is the sous chef—not the soup chef (no, I apparently cannot resist the L Word joke)— at O Ya, and looks exactly like she did on Top Chef: serious, intense, linebackeresque. But, contrary to her unfair reputation of coldness on the show, she seemed quite friendly with her colleagues.

I’m happy to report that Tiffani is one of a growing number of queer celebrity chefs who are out. A post on chow.com calls them the "Dyke Food Mafia," and suggests there are many more out lesbians than gay men in the culinary world. I believe Tiffani identifies as bisexual (okay, whatever), and she certainly seems out. Last year the Miami Herald reported that she appeared at an event for the Aqua Foundation for Women, which promotes equality and visibility for South Florida lesbians. On Tiffani’s FaceBook page (not that the Sapphist Gazetteer does FaceBook—no, no) she links to The National Center for Lesbian Rights and to musician Chris Pureka, a wonderful lesbian singer/songwriter.

Some other, but by no means all, celebrity lesbian chefs who are out include:

Elizabeth Falkner, a pastry chef from San Francisco who runs Citizen Cake, looks a little like Billy Idol, and who can be seen about every 20 minutes on the Food Network. Despite possible overexposure, we give a pass to anyone who works an Orson Welles reference into a business enterprise. (Her restaurant is also called Orson.)
Cat Cora, the only female Iron Chef!
Jamie Lauren, our favorite from last season’s Top Chef, despite all the scallops. She is also based in San Francisco, where she is executive chef at Absinthe (why oh why didn't they call it "The Green Fairy"?) Jamie is a tattooed cutie originally from New York. Without having ever actually tasted the food on Top Chef, it looked to me that Jamie was the contestant most devoted to true California cuisine, a la Alice Waters. Makes sense, since she graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America, which is located in Napa Valley (one of my most favorite places on earth.) In a 2007 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, she said she hangs out at the Lexington Club, which she said is "one of the only lesbian bars in the city. I have fallen in love with the monthly bingo night. Not only do I get to ham it up with a bunch of lovely ladies, but I get to win at bingo."
Susan Feniger, of L.A., voted “finest lesbian chef in the world” by Out Traveler.

Well, the readers of Out Traveler clearly have not eaten at my house, where the actual Finest Lesbian Chef in the World creates our magnificent meals, with occasional help from me, the soup chef.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever

Forty years ago, on June 27, 1969, the gay liberation movement began when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Sheridan Square in New York City's Greenwich Village. On that night, gay people fought back.

According to a New York Times article published on June 29, 1969, police chased more than 200 men into the street at 3 a.m., and a crowd of 400 quickly gathered. More than a dozen were arrested in the riot, and the gay rights movement was born. The Columbia Universities Libraries has a valuable online exhibition, Stonewall and Beyond: Lesbian and Gay Culture, featuring newspaper clippings, interviews, and contemporary queer scholarship.

How far have we come in 40 years? Depends on where you live and where you work. If you live in Massachusetts, you have the legal right to marry. If you serve in the U.S. Military, you will be fired from your job.

President Obama has not yet honored his very specific campaign promise to end the discriminatory and ineffective Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which prohibits gays and lesbians from serving in the military. Nonetheless, he seems to be trying to reach out to the LGBT community. The President and First Lady hosted a LGBT Pride Month reception at the White House on June 29. But nice White House receptions are not enough.

I hope President Obama will heed the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in King's famous 1963 work, "Letter from Birmingham Jail." They ring true when you think of the Stonewall rioters of 1969, and they ring true today as gay and lesbian Americans are tired of waiting for full civil rights.

King wrote: "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed... For years now I have heard the word 'Wait!' ... This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.' We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that 'justice too long delayed is justice denied.' ... We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights... Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Want You Back

The Sapphist Gazetteer does not want to hear anything bad about Michael Jackson right now, so let's just give it a rest, and, instead, celebrate his music. Those of us with sapphic orientation should especially appreciate the Jackson 5 soundtrack in one of the best-ever L Word scenes, which appeared in Episode 4 of Season 5. A video artist by the name of Iamfreetobeme has uploaded a terrific, joyful compilation of Season 5 moments, including the party during which the girls dance to Michael Jackson singing "I Want You Back." Click the link to the YouTube video and prepare to smile for the next 3 minutes and 12 seconds.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sapphist Laureate Reappointed

Those in the lesbian realm might have missed an important occasion last month when Kay Ryan, the US Poet Laureate, was appointed by the Library of Congress to a second term. The position, officially called Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, is the nation’s only federally designated position for a literary artist. Ryan—a 63-year-old poet, educator, and lesbian from California—served her first term as US Poet Laureate in 2008-09. That term ended on May 7, and her second term will end in spring 2010.

We hope this second appointment is a bright spot for Professor Ryan, who in January lost her spouse and partner of 30 years, Carol Adair, 66. Ryan and Adair taught together at the College of Marin, a community college in Marin County, California. Ryan has taught remedial English classes at the College of Marin since the early 1970s.

"She was a simply stunning teacher," Ryan said of Adair.

Ryan’s poems have been compared to those of Emily Dickinson—another person of interest to Sapphists, considering Dickinson’s infatuation with her brother’s wife. (That’s a post for another day.) But Ryan's poetry reminds the Sapphist Gazetteer of another great American lesbian poet, Mary Oliver.

Many of Ryan’s poems are published at the Poetry Foundation website. But here’s a nice one for you:

Paired Things
Who, who had only seen wings,
could extrapolate the
skinny sticks of things
birds use for land,
the backward way they bend,
the silly way they stand?
And who, only studying
birdtracks in the sand,
could think those little forks
had decamped on the wind?
So many paired things seem odd.
Who ever would have dreamed
the broad winged raven of despair
would quit the air and go
bandylegged upon the ground,
a common crow?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rachel Maddow: 'It's Better To Be Out'

Our beloved big ole lesbian tomboy Rachel Maddow has encouraged all gay folks to come out. She made the appeal during an interview on Charlie Rose on June 18. The final two minutes of the 24-minute interview were dedicated to “the sexuality issue,” as Charlie phrased it. Rachel explained that coming out is “a different degree of traumatic for everybody,” but, nonetheless, she implied that we must be brave because she said being out is better for the individual and ethically right for the community. Maddow, 36, says she came out at age 17, which means she's been out for 19 years. So, as usual, Dr. Maddow knows what she's talking about.

The entire interview is worth watching, but, for the extra busy lesbians among us, The Sapphist Gazetteer, a master typist, has transcribed the gay bits for you:

Charlie: Was the sexuality issue ever an issue?

Rachel: I wish that I had figured it out earlier than I did.

Charlie: How did you figure it out?

Rachel: I just sort of arrived at it through rational deduction. [Laughs] I literally woke up one day and was, like, ‘Oh, that’s what’s been going on.’ [Snaps fingers and laughs]

Charlie: Was it easy?

Rachel: No. Coming out both to oneself and to one’s family is a different degree of traumatic for everybody. It wasn’t easy. I figured it out when I was about 17, and I wish I’d figured it out earlier. But I am glad; I’m happy for the decision to come out publicly very soon after I figured it out myself. So my time as a closeted person, which I think is a pretty awful place to be, was a very, very short period of time in my life, and for that I’m grateful.

Charlie: And that is the advice you give to every gay person, or do you say, ‘Everybody, find your own way.”?

Rachel: Find your own way, but it is better to be out than to be closeted. And I can say that in terms of quality of life, and in terms of what is ethically right for your community. It is better for other gay people if you’re out. The more people that come out, the better. And so that’s the only thing that I encourage anybody to do, and I certainly live that.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sarah Waters in Harvard Square

Adoring lesbians of the academic variety gathered to hear Sarah Waters speak this evening at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Sapphist Gazetteer was among the attractive Cantabrigian sapphists and offers these observations: 1. Sarah Waters was adorable. If it's possible to be elfin and sexy concurrently, Dr. Waters has achieved it. Imagine the tomboy offspring of Chrissie Hynde and the Keebler Elf. That's about right. 2. Waters was gracious toward her fans, some of whom took the Q&A opportunity, to launch, it seemed, into their dissertations on the semiotics of historical lesbian fiction. Or something. Waters listened, absorbed, then kicked their mumbo jumbo to the curb with her own superior analysis. She may be a master of the sexual romp (see "Tipping the Velvet"), but she is also the real deal when it comes to lit crit. 3. She said so many interesting things, and I really should have taken notes, but, hey, I was hungry and a little distracted by the thought of my post-event cheeseburger. Nonetheless, I do remember that she cited fellow Brit author Daphne du Maurier as a huge literary influence, and she made this interesting observation about du Maurier's "My Cousin Rachel" (and I greatly paraphrase): "By choosing a male narrative voice, du Maurier could go full tilt writing about feminine beauty and desire for a woman without the restraint of hiding her lesbian perspective." 4. Waters was unapologetic, despite being put a bit on the defensive, that her new book, The Little Stranger, does not include any lesbian characters. I think we can give her a pass on this, considering that her previous four novels all prominently featured lesbians. The absence of lesbian characters in the book did not dissuade the lesbian characters in the room from lining up for Waters' signature while I went off for my cheeseburger. A lovely evening, indeed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What will happen to the lesbian car?

It's time to talk about Saab. The future of Saab is in question as General Motors tries to stop the bleeding by dropping the beloved, idiosyncratic brand it had no business acquiring in the first place. But why, you ask, is Saab "the lesbian car"? Well, isn't it obvious? A high percentage of Saab drivers are lesbians. And, in addition to being the car of choice of the Sapphist Gazetteer, it is the car driven by none other than Bette Porter. (Perhaps not in the last season of The L Word, when she and Tina, in a fit of misguided parenting decisions, got an SUV...) But prior to that, Bette conspicuously drove a blue Saab convertible, possibly a lightning blue metallic 2000 Viggen, but probably a 9-3 Aero.

The sad reality is that there aren't enough lesbians to support the quirky brand from Trollhattan, Sweden. GM, in a move decried by Saab loyalists, bought the Swedish brand in 1990. Now that the world economy has collapsed, Saab will be abandoned by GM in January 2010. Saab, fighting for its high-maintenance life, has filed for bankruptcy in Sweden. Perhaps this is why lesbians favor it: high performance/high maintenance? It's a powerful beauty that, much like Bette Porter, needs constant nurturing?

Part of the problem, of course, is Subaru. That dowdy Japanese standby for some reason has siphoned off buyers from the sexier European stylings of Saab. Saab sold only 21,368 vehicles in the US last year; in its largest market. Subaru sold close to 200,000. In a word: Travesty.

Lesbians, we must rally behind our brand. We must celebrate the esoteric and the demanding. We must reject the Forester and choose the 9-3 sedan. We must stop pretending we are farmers and instead embrace the sophisticated, exclusive nature of our kind that is best reflected in none other than the Saab.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Speaking of Tomboys: A Tribute to Kristy McNichol

Our community should acknowledge the contribution of Krisy McNichol to lesbian awareness in the 1970s. She is not officially out, I don't think, but, nonetheless, can you think of another tomboy who was so prominent--and popular--in that era of Anita Bryant's shameful, mainstreamed hatred toward gays? Kristy was a mega-star of the 1970s, beloved by everyone, and everyone, unless suffering from some kind of unfortunate perception disorder, could see she was a little baby dyke.

I loved Kristy McNichol even before she starred in her Emmy-award-winning role in the late 1970s television drama, Family. (Let's not forget, her character's name was "Buddy" on that show. Have you ever known a straight female called "Buddy"?) Before Family, Kristy was in a wonderful, unappreciated show called Apple's Way, which tragically lasted one season in 1973. In my opinion (as a six-year-old), it was some of the finest television ever. Other great baby-dyke-vibe roles McNichol played were in films such as Little Darlings with Tatum O'Neal and Only When I Laugh with Marsha Mason.

Once McNichol became a star and aged into her teenage years, things started to go downhill. She was known to party at Studio 54, which we can assume involved drugs. I think her inability to cope with her lesbianism in the homophobic world of Hollywood contributed to a nervous breakdown she suffered in the early 80s. Even though she had been an enormously popular actor (and pop singer with a remake of "He's So Fine"), and even though she was the first young actress to break the $1 million pay scale, her career never really recovered from B-films and uninspired television sitcoms. McNichol retired in 1998, at the age of 36, stating that she was suffering from bi-polar disorder and needed to take care of herself. The lesbian world sends its best wishes and gratitude to our brave Ms. McNichol.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Reasons to love Starbuck

She's a tomboy, and, frankly, there just aren't enough of them on TV.

No one says "frak me" quite like her.

She does not mind if she smells, as in: "One of us needs a bath."

She is complicated.

She is better than the boys.

She winks.

President Roslin has a crush on her.

And, apparently, so does everyone else.

She looks great in a uniform.

She smokes cigars.

She drinks too much. (A good quality in a fictional character. Unfortunately, does not translate to reality.)

Moby-Dick references are always appreciated.

She swaggers in a sports bra.