Archive for March, 2010

Malachy McCourt and I discuss aging . . . and fawking.

March 23, 2010


Malachy McCourt and Perry Brass at Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble

Malachy McCourt and Perry Brass at Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble

Last night, Monday, March 22, 2010, I took part in an event at the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble called—of all things—”Nifty After Fifty,” sponsored by the Greater New York Independent Publishers Association and produced by Francine Trevens. Fantastic evening. We got about 175 people there, mostly eager to hear Malachy McCourt, our guest of honor, talk in his sweet-and-salty Irish-tweed spun voice about the simple things of life that usually aren’t. He compared same-sex marriage to Adam and Eve—an idea that would make many Fundamentalists croak. Because . . . when Adam “lay” with Eve, she had all of his DNA in him (who else’s?) . . . so “he was just about fawking himself, right—now how different is that from same-sex love and marriage?” Malachy talked about “fawking” pretty often. “Fawking,” the Irish version of carnal knowledge, always sounds so much more picturesque than the American reference to it which sounds . . . OK, vulgar. There were also scenes from a few short plays that deal with getting older and hating it (let’s be honest: you don’t have a choice in this, but you can make the most of it) from Francine’s new collection of plays, Short Plays Long to Remember. “Short Plays” contains “Bar None,” my one-act about the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights group, opening the bars in New York to gay men in 1966: something most have long forgotten.

Prior to this, a bar owner in NYC could have his license revoked simply for serving booze to anyone who even appeared queer. Of course this law was rarely enforced because so many bar-keeps routinely paid off the cops, which in turn kept the Mafia happily in the bar business.

Other readers on the program were Norman Beim, Kat George, Francine L. Trevens, Andrea Troy, Marni K.Connellyand Kay Williams.

Norman is a playwright and Kay was an actress before becoming an author (not that you can’t do both) so they read from two of Norman’s plays wonderfully. And Malachy read from “The Rocking Horse” by Daniel P. Quinn—I think you could hear Malachy McCourt read the Yellow Pages and get a kick out of it.

There was also a song, or two, from singer/lyricist Michael Colby and pianist Annie Lebeaux on a sparkly new hybrid Yamaha piano (does this mean it’s also a car?). 

As my part of the evening, I gave a talk entitled “The Erotic Life After 50.” It was actually more about The Manly Art of Seduction, but, hey, shameless self-promotion is something that gets most authors either on the bestseller list or somewhere in author hell where the company is Shakespeare and Voltaire. Why complain?

So, if you didn’t make it to B & N on a really crummy, rainy but fun night, here’s what I said.

If 30 years ago someone had told me that at 62, I’d be publishing a book called The Manly Art of Seduction, How to Meet, Talk to, and Become Intimate with Anyone, I would have said . . . of course, what else would I be doing at 62?

I came from a generation where seduction—that is, real seduction, not the TV Jell-O version of it—was a way of life. And I grew up in the Deep South where we not only depended upon the kindness of strangers, we invited it whenever we could find it.

The truth is seduction has been a wonderful part of my life, but it took me a while to figure out how it works, and how I can explain it to others so it will work for you, too. We live in what I call the “culture of rejection,” and often older people feel the sting of this. We’re overlooked, we feel rejected, and sometimes it feels that even attempting to initiate any kind of action is futile. This leads many of us into erotic shutdown: we feel that we are either too old or too “smart” to be seductive or allow ourselves be seduced.

This is sad, because the loveliness of your own inner self, which has no actual age, is being denied. Much of the Manly Art of Seduction is about being open to this authentic self inside you, and letting it open you to the seductiveness of the world—and of yourself. In other words, the seductive you is waiting to come out, and it—or you—will be successful at seduction, once you connect with it.

First, some definitions: Seduction—that’s simple: an invitation to intimacy.

Intimacy: a real closeness energized with the deeper aspects of yourself, and of someone else.

The Manly Art of Seduction gets you in contact with this deeper self through mind exercises and actual experiences. You will use this contact to give you the confidence to achieve closeness and go as far with it as you want to, or circumstances allow you to.

The world is not perfect—and neither are you—so you may strike out sometimes. But—and this is very important, so stay awake—as you become better at the Manly Art, you will find more men attractive and also attracted to you. Therefore, as you become more open to the inner beauty of yourself, a lot of other men will become attractive as well, and many of them, as you follow the techniques of The Manly Art of Seduction, will start to approach you now.

The Manly Art, using scenarios and exercises, explains how to approach men, speak to them, what’s really happening in a seductive conversation, and how to touch men physically and emotionally, becoming more intimate with them, negotiating possibilities. It also shows you how to keep rejection fears away, and maneuver a relationship into warmer and more satisfying waters.

Realistically, I tell you don’t expect clear weather all the time—there are some horses in fact who don’t want to be led to any kind of water. And I’ll tell you how to dive out of a situation just as I’ll tell you how to enter it. But there is one lesson I want you to keep no matter what: as you get closer to the real you that our relentless commercialism works so hard to keep you isolated from, you’ll learn not to reject yourself. So you’ll never beat up on yourself, feel hurt inside, and walk away.

This is at the core of the Manly Art. Now how you go from your inner self to your outer one, and then from you to him, or her, or her to her, or . . . well — seduction is universal — is laid out clearly with questions after most chapters for you to answer. So that the book also becomes a journal for your progress in Seduction.

One of my main goals is to open seduction up to everyone, especially people who feel left out, who often end up spending the night alone and feel self conscious about themselves because they are either too shy or have some aspect of themselves that they feel ashamed of. So I have a chapter on disability and seduction, as well as on weight and how we deal with that in a society obsessed with youthful slimness. I also included chapters on seduction across race lines and class lines, which sometimes feel like an even tougher barrier. And also issues like erectile dysfunction, penis size, seduction and married men, straight men, threesomes, and seduction within a relationship where sex has either become stalemated or nonexistent.

Since one of the keys to successful seduction is making yourself available, I have a chapter on seduction over dinner at your place, even if you can’t cook and your home looks like a gang of Neanderthals just left it, or what do you do when you go to his place and he’s acting like romance is just not on the menu. Turning cold potatoes into a hotter dish is at the meat of the Manly Art, but the most important thing is knowing that you are at the center of it and can bring someone else into it and love every moment of it.

If you’re intrigued about the Manly Art of Seduction, I’m co-leading a workshop on it with Jerry Kajpust on April 29, and will be happy to talk with you more about the workshop, too

PS. I want to thank Bart Greenberg from the Lincoln Center B & N’s Community Relations staff for making this event possible. Bart is the friend of many communities, and a great pal to have in the book world.

Discovering Manhood and the Work of Branden Charles Wallace

March 10, 2010

Image of two men from "The Comfort of Men" series by Branden Wallace

(Note: the following is the text of a piece I read at a panel discussion on Tuesday, March 9, 2010, at the LGBT Community Center in New York on the work of the painter Branden Charles Wallace, as part of the Center’s Second Tuesday Cultural Program. The other panelists were Philip F. Clark, who blogs about art @ BlogSpot; Peter Drake, Dean of Academic Affairs at the New York Academy of Art; Bruce Donnelly, filmmaker working on a documentary about The Comfort of Men; and Jerry Kajpust, M.A., co-leader of the Manly Art of Seduction Workshops, staff member at the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation.)

Discovering Manhood and the Work of Branden Charles Wallace


            I first saw Branden’s paintings at an Erotic Art Fair at the Center at least a year ago. I thought of all the artists in the room, his work stood out. What attracted me was the sense of casual male power in it, especially in his paintings of men wrestling or playing rugby. They had that feeling of a suppressed, muscular strength that at any moment would unleash itself and bring the viewer along with it. I think it is that sense of a casual even diffident power that so often attracts us to men and the world of men, this secret world in which male intimacy, strength, and vulnerability mix and sometimes collide. Branden and I started talking, and he revealed he was a fan of John Singer Sargeant; of course this too excited me. Sargeant may be the greatest American painter who ever lived—or is certainly in a narrow field of greatest American painters—he was hugely classical, constantly fresh, and also queer as the proverbial 3-dollar bill: something art historians have tried to hide for years. Many are no longer hiding it. But I thought Branden had some of Sargeant’s freshness and that luscious, sexually-energized power waiting to embrace you and invite you into its more private, beautiful regions.      

            Later, I learned that Branden had experience working with the military as an Army contractor; I’d also had 3 years of a similar experience as an “Air Force wife,” when, living with my ex-partner, an Airman, got to experience that paradoxically tender and hard environment of the military—suppressive, disciplined, aggressively egalitarian, at once. The “Comfort of Men” series reminded me of that; in the environment of war, men allow feelings to come out, from heroism and almost bottomless love to extremes of grief that they suppress in everyday life. I felt Branden wanted to take these feelings, which are allowed, even nurtured in a gay environment, and expose them to a larger, more menacing world.

            In a contemporary America, any male efforts toward other men are either identified as gay (and trivialized as such); or desperately try to sneak out of the gay category, often through compulsive commercialism. In other words: if it really sells, it can’t be all queer since selling is what real men do to put food on the table.

            This is sad to me, not because the “normal” man has contracted himself to fit into a narrower range, but because the gay environment itself has become so much bigger, so heroic, that the TV sitcom stereotype that tries to explain us to the world only comes out more moronic—and even teenagers are seeing that.

            How did American men end up where they are now: totally gelded as far as deeper feelings are concerned? Gelded, depressed, alone, often suicidal? If you look back at men from earlier times, the letters they wrote, the pictures they exchanged, and grasp the male tenderness involved, it makes one wonder how did we get to this point?

           Sam Staggs, who made a name for himself in gay porno writing as “Phil Andros,” wrote about gay life in the 1930s, when he was a friend of Gertrude Stein’s: “We existed under the protective umbrella of American sexual naiveté.” In other words, there were fewer categories because sex itself was so forbidden that it was hardly talked about.

            Several things changed this. One was the increasing popularization of Freudian jargon, so millions of people were bandying around terms without ever reading Freud.

            But a pattern of acute, dangerously popular homophobia emerged in the early 1960’s due to two figures. One was Jack Kennedy and his circle which tried to bring a razorish preppy butchness to American culture in order to hide Jack’s own queer fears and tendencies: There were many rumors floating about Senator Kennedy and he knew it. Kennedy loved sexual attention, and probably never cared that much where it came from, although his father Joseph Kennedy did. So this attitude of arrogant sexual defensiveness, with Joe McCarthy’s bigotry behind it, hardened to concrete.

            The other influence was the emergence of the Playboy philosophy, bringing “red-blooded”-American-male heterosexuality out of the closet, and nailing everything else into it. Hugh Hefner was a publishing revolutionary; he knew American men wanted to do a lot more than tiptoe through the tulips. Before Playboy, the stereotype of homosexuality was that it existed because women, put off-limits by Victorian repression, were not available. In this environment of virgin womanhood, homosexuality “swished” in. Also, homosexuality was abetted by the fear of pregnancy, so basically homoeroticism had no reason to exist except as an outlet for desperate, horny men.

            Marshal McLuan, the Media-Maven of the Sixties, declared that with the advent of birth control, women would become “the bomb” of sexuality, constantly exploding, and homosexuality would totally disappear.

            In truth Marshal McLuan has disappeared, but not homosexuality. Still, the Playboy Philosophy and Kennedyism changed the environment in the early 60s. Gay men were no longer sinners and sickos: they were losers. The Playboy brand of Reddi-Whip supermarket sex had become so pushed down America’s throat, that it would remain there until feminism exposed the fact that Playboy was exactly that: for boys. The Playboy image and philosophy would not let men grow up and become actualized people.

            So, where does this leave us?

            My feeling is that currently, gay men are authentically discovering, even inventing the male gender: that is, manhood as something distinct, the way that feminists did for womanhood. Until recently, men were still considered the colorless, odorless, unobtrusive background against which a feminine element could be identified and used. This led men to a negligible position: they could not strive for self-identity and recognition, because that was feminine. They could feel nothing but fatherhood, regular-guyness, sportsmanship, patriotism, and their own willingness to die if necessary for a cause that often they could not define.

            The old male virtues of vigor, self-fulfillment, and sexual attractiveness were in constant question. If you look at pictures from the Renaissance down the emergence of bourgeois culture you see images of fantastic male power and excitement. With the emergence of bourgeois and then consumerist culture, men are deadened to the point of oblivion.

            My favorite example of this is Gerald Critch in D. H. Lawrence’s 1913 novel Women in Love, who can only show feelings that are violent and brutal, and who finally kills himself after he is sexually rejected by a woman. His friend Rupert Birkin who openly adores him, says, “He should have loved me more.” But Gerald cannot. What this has meant in contemporary culture is that gay men are often now in the role of saving other men, of being habitually open to the needs of men and valiant about it. I talk about the male need for valor in my book The Manly Art of Seduction, and it is by pushing valor to include an admission of the beauty of men, something our own society can only merchandize but can’t really honor, that gay men are not only discovering and inventing the gender of manhood, we are saving it.

For more information about Branden Wallace, go to:

Benny Hinn Divorce: Wife Suzanne Hinn Files For Divorce From Televangelist

March 1, 2010

For some reason, I had never heard of Benny Hinn until I read about him in the Other Sheep newsletter. Other Sheep is a world-wide ministry of glbt people who have been harmed by religious orthodoxy, in this case Christian fundamentalism. The truth is that Benny Hinn’s marriage was ruined when it got known that Hinn had sex with another man, and not just once I gather. Hinn is yet another example of the hypocrisy within the upper circles of Christian fundamentalism. In other words, these men will do anything to keep their reputations and bank accounts unblemished. Hinn makes Elmer Gantry look like an amateur, and like Gantry, he is subject to the same “temptations.” Most people would call him simply “human.” But in his case, it is an example of the usual Christian closet queenery cloaked as piety.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost