Handsome is as Handsome Does

I’ve been thinking a lot about celebrity worship lately. Every so often when I’m at the gym I catch a glimpse of the Michael Jackson trial—and people think the characters in Diva are bizarre! MJ’s family seems to be a lot more concerned about his welfare now that he’s dead. When MJ’s videos were in constant rotation on MTV, I remember being struck by how comfortable he seemed in his own body, at least when he was dancing. Although none of us realized it at the time, he was the opposite of comfortable—pathologically unhappy with his features and his skin color. And then you see his family, who all seem equally odd and plastic in their own way. The sight of his doctor, who is basically being paraded in the streets on his way to execution, is also a tragic figure. His expression—utterly defeated and numbed by grief and regret—makes me pity him, even while I know he didn’t need to be the one to say “yes.” (Someone would have, sooner or later, I think we all know that.) But it’s like the hit man who refuses to feel any guilt over accepting a job: “As soon as someone put a price on that guy, he was a dead man.”

Michael Jackson’s image, for a while at least, was orchestrated in the same careful manner as the Hollywood stars of old, the ones I fantasized about as a child—especially Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, and Stewart Granger. They weren’t the ones I was supposed to be mooning over at the time—Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Robert Redford. These guys were dead, for one thing, or at least retired and basically out of the limelight. When I was a kid watching Saturday morning matinees by myself in the basement with our beloved family dog—who was always thrilled whenever anyone spent extended time on the couch—Errol and Cary still had their reps pretty much intact. My mother assured me that Stewart (star of my favorite movie, King Solomon’s Mines) had been a macho brute and insanely jealous, and that Errol (Robin Hood, Captain Blood) had been into under-aged girls and binge drinking, but I didn’t care about the reality. She was always trying to burst my bubble. (“Handsome is as handsome does” was a favorite saying.) At that point Cary remained a jovial, charming figure, and the insinuations about his past—that he was bisexual and into LSD—didn’t come out until later. Hollywood used to be a lot better at managing its stars’ images.

I hate to think of how much my crushes on these mostly pretty messed up Hollywood hunks influenced my own choices. Fortunately I did eventually grow out of the handsome bad-boy stage. Besides, they were never all that bad—no criminals among them, at least not that I know of.

When Diva first came out, my father’s ninety-plus cousin—who is amazingly smart, a voracious reader and looks a lot like I will look if I live that long—told me she didn’t think Reade was a worthy partner for Debbie. I was taken aback. What was wrong with Reade? He was handsome, rich, generous, heroic. In her mind, as in the mind of my mother, this type was suspect. Their own experience had taught them that good men didn’t come in the handsome-rich-guy packages. (I also realize that Reade could use a little fleshing out, which he will hopefully get in future episodes of the Diva series. Of course there is no guarantee that he and Debbie will stay together.)

I started to wonder if, by perpetuating the tall-dark-handsome-rich-hero myth, I wasn’t carrying on the dubious tradition of making women want what wasn’t good for them.

I dated a few rich guys. One of them made more in a month than I make in a year, and payroll kept hounding him to deposit his checks in a timely fashion, since he couldn’t be bothered. I asked him once why he didn’t get direct deposit, but that’s a whole ’nother story. We were together for a long time (at least by either of our standards at the time). I was ecstatically happy for about two months and then mostly miserable for the rest of the years we spent together, although I wouldn’t have acknowledged it at the time. One of my friends is fond of saying, whenever I mention this guy, “We all hated him.” The rest of my friends weren’t exactly shy about giving me their two cents at the time, either.

One thing I never considered until recently—women weren’t the only ones searching for Cary Grant and coming up empty-handed. I have a male friend who is not exactly the epitome of exciting. However, he is presentable looking, kind, funny, and comfortable financially. He has never settled down, though I’ve seen him with several attractive women over the years. He finally told me how much he admired Cary Grant, a “eureka” moment for me. I believe his admiration is more akin to idol worship. Who wouldn’t come up short in comparison? (Cary Grant himself said, famously, “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant; even I want to be Cary Grant.”) In this guy’s case, his disappointment with himself has taken the form of self-loathing, one of the main qualities that makes satisfying relationships impossible. No wonder he can’t settle for a real woman; he dislikes himself too much. He aspires to be a paragon of male excellence—charming, handsome at any age, funny, warm, athletic, self-deprecating—in other words, a man too good to be true, who never existed beyond the silver screen. Woody Allen drove this point home in the heartbreakingly funny The Purple Rose of Cairo by splitting his leading man into two. The nice one was the screen character, of course.

So this is the interesting challenge for the writer. How do you create a man who is worthy of your heroine in the eyes of most? Most readers wouldn’t be too happy if you let your heroine walk off into the sunset with an Ernest Borgnine lookalike, even if he were the greatest guy ever. (Mr. Rochester, do you say? Has anyone noticed how Mr. Rochester never gets played in screen versions by ugly actors? Timothy Dalton! Okay, maybe Orson Wells, but he looked pretty good in that movie to me, and that voice … of course, I do have a weakness for beautiful voices.) Most of us prefer to shamelessly play into our readers’ (and our own) ridiculously unrealistic fantasies. Who wants her hero to be a solid but practical beau? I think of Jane Austen and the nice young men some of her heroines ended up with, after discovering the nasty truths behind the dashing soldier exteriors. I appreciate her novels now more than I did when I was younger. Hmmm … dashing soldier versus village minister, which would you choose? (Although Mr. Darcy was also a rich guy, and a snob to boot, and none of her heroines ended up exactly penniless.) At the same time I was reading The Complete Jane Austen, I was also devouring Rosemary Rogers’s latest opus. You can’t get much worse than Steve Morgan. Romance novels were largely bodice rippers at that point, with virginal heroines getting “ravished” upfront by the guy who would later turn out to be the hero. Talk about your unworthy protagonists.

Perhaps the key is giving the solid white-cake type of man a thin layer of devil’s food. Now that I’m older, I’m happily settled with a very nice guy who is far from being in the top 1%—you know, those insanely rich men who are so reviled these days by the OWS Movement but still the main quarry of the ambitious young single woman. Smart, talented, and especially kind, my beau is mostly white cake with a sponge-cake center and a top layer of devil’s food—a wicked sense of humor, a quality I could never compromise on. And he does, perhaps, bear a slight resemblance to Stewart Granger.

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Ripped From the Headlines

This month I am on a blog tour, which means several bloggers have signed on to review Diva. I’m trying not to pay too much attention—I’m sort of watching it out of one eye—because this stuff makes me crazy. You are ecstatic over the good reviews and devastated over the iffy ones, but the truth is, you wrote the best book you were capable of writing at the time, and people will read into it what they will, according to their own experiences and tastes. And just because they don’t “get it” (in your mind), that doesn’t mean their opinions aren’t valid for a certain segment of the population. So there. Which doesn’t mean I’m not totally grateful for the good reviews, and there have been a couple of truly lovely ones so far.

In conjunction with the “tour,” I was interviewed by two of the bloggers. I’ve been thinking about one question in particular this week, which was something like, “Have you ever gained inspiration from something ripped from the headlines?”

I don’t know why everyone has such an appetite for reality these days. Reality TV, true stories, memoirs and more memoirs. People used to understand that fiction was already pushing the reality envelope for many authors; they just didn’t want to admit how much they were cannibalizing their own lives for the sake of entertainment or catharsis.

I faithfully read my newspaper (on paper) every day, and often it feels like a major chore. War and more war, greed and more greed, violent crimes done by ugly people. (I save the comics for last—they are my palate cleansers.) I think we prefer reality, but only when everything turns out all right. Especially when the people are young and pretty.

Which brings me to Amanda Knox. Like everyone else around me at the restaurant where I was lunching during the verdict, I was relieved to see her go free. I don’t for a moment believe she committed that horrendous crime. But is my opinion based on anything substantial? No. She’s very pretty, she looks lost, she’s clueless … mostly it just doesn’t make sense. She and Raphaele (also very pretty) had been dating for about eight days, and it’s just too implausible to believe that they would both be monsters so bent on sexual pleasure that they would sacrifice the life of a girl they barely knew.

One article I read compared the story to a “bad novel.” Well, it’s a bad novel so far. The only problem with the material is that the Amanda Knox character is a complete unknown. Everyone’s been wondering who will get to publish her story. I’m mostly wondering how they are going to spin it and who will ghostwrite it. And whether the Amanda Knox character will become fully dimensional in a way that will satisfy a public who has already projected far too much onto her. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she turns out to be a normal girl, egocentric, the way everyone (especially those who are pretty or exceptionally smart) is at that age. Lots of people are falsely imprisoned in our country and others, but few of them are quite so close to “us.” Most of us (the newspaper reading public) can’t relate to the poor black man who was executed in Georgia for a crime he probably didn’t commit. But we can relate to Amanda Knox. I spent the summer of my junior year in Germany, for instance. Although I have more faith in Germany’s justice system than Italy’s, I wonder what might have happened had I fallen in with the wrong crowd. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I spent my summer working in a bank, doing next to nothing. I met some nice people but had no love affairs. Mostly I spent my weekdays sitting at a desk while the employees came by and practiced their English on me and my weekends exploring various castles and museums. At night I watched American TV shows dubbed into German and studied vocabulary lists. It would have made a very dull novel indeed. I’ll take it over Amanda’s experience, however.

The other “true life story” that put me on this train of thought was Humor Abuse, the one-man show that I just saw last night at Seattle Rep. The hero is a son of the circus. His story is fun, compelling, filled with pathos and wry humor, and totally entertaining. He’s also a very handsome guy. Now, granted, if he were just purely charming and a little bit ugly (think Robin Williams), we’d probably still eat up his story. And everyone loves a good physical stunt. His adventures are definitely camera ready. So his father was a little clueless; he still had a Harry Potteresque childhood with bells and whistles and the kind of excitement most of us only get to read about at that age. He was also unbearably cute, as the slideshow demonstrated, eliciting the kind of “awwws” usually reserved for baby animals. We like reality, but we like our heroes cuddly and our endings happy. We like neat and tidy endings where the hero ends up at Vassar, goes back to the circus, writes a successful show, and then comes to terms with it all and finds himself collaborating with his parents. Sure, these parents have a few things to answer for (treating him like an adult when he was four, telling him ribald jokes he only understood later, occasionally giving him a good whack for the sake of comedy), but all in all they were not bad in the parenting department. So, although I loved the show, I’ll reserve my sympathy for those who really deserve it.

Like most people, I want my endings happy (although I’ll put up with a lot for really superb writing, including a tragic ending). Unlike many readers today, I prefer fiction based on reality rather than reality glossed up with fiction. Most true stories—at least the ones that happen to less attractive people—don’t end so happily. Maybe the pendulum will swing back in the other direction someday, once again favoring fiction over “nonfiction.”

As long as the public keeps reading at all, I’ll try not to complain too much.

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Divas in Drag 2: The Castrati

[This is the continuation of a topic I started to write about on June 1st, if you’re wondering where to find Part 1. Eventually I will get back to how this relates to women singing men’s roles!]

In Part I of “Divas in Drag,” I had just raised the subject of castrati, those unlucky souls whose parents decided they could spare their tenth child and so had them castrated on the chance that they would be talented enough to sing for a living. Castrati have been glorified in such hopelessly inaccurate but entertaining movies as Farinelli. (Actually, I don’t know of any others.) As usual, I was more impressed by the authenticity of the sets and costumes—it seems as if set designers and customers spend much more time doing research than screenwriters.

What is also possible is that the truth isn’t quite so sexy. If you take away a boy’s gonads before he reaches adolescence, as a man he will develop a condition called hypogonadism—underdeveloped male organs, no facial hair, sparse pubic hair, fat deposits similar to a woman’s on the hips and breasts, pale and fleshy (sometimes wrinkled) facial skin, and freakishly long arms and legs. In Anne Rice’s fun novel about sexually voracious castrati, Cry to Heaven (1982), she explains her characters’ more normal appearance and sexual capabilities by having them castrated later in their physical development but before their voices changed. I have no idea whether this would make a difference, but I doubt it.

The Italian castrati were the rage in eighteenth-century London. There was quite a bit of gossip about their egos and sexuality, mostly fueled by the star Caffarelli. Only in Italy were they castrating boys to be singers, thanks to the church. The custom was started in the fourteenth century, and justified by St. Paul’s injunction to women to “keep silence in the churches.” Although this rule was not enforced in every part of Italy, it did remain in force in Rome throughout the eighteenth-century. The church choirs were entirely male, and the church did take pity on some of the less talented castrati (the ones castrated just on the chance that they would be singers!) by hiring them to do menial labor.

And so, in most of Italy, no women were permitted to be on stage—although a few are rumored to have pretended to be men (as in the movie, Shakespeare in Love). Seventy percent of opera singers in Italy were castrati, the lower voices reserved for villains and character parts. Castrati played all the heroic parts, both male and female. It was the taste of the times throughout Europe; male voices were considered coarse.

Castrati certainly had their charms. I love this quotation from Casanova’s memoirs (1762):

Though one knew the negative nature of this Unfortunate … to resist the temptation, or not to feel it, one would have had to be cold and earthbound as a German.

The general belief today is that sexual relationships are vital to a healthy psyche, so we don’t like to think of the castrati as having no sex lives; however, that does seem to have been the case.

So what about the operation? Always punishable by death, though—ahem—the punishment was rarely, if ever, carried out. At the height of the popularity of the castrati, up to 4,000 boys a year were subjected to that procedure, usually performed in a vat of hot water with the patient drugged to the gills. Their “condition” was later explained by a few standard lies—animal attacks, a fall, or illness—all almost entirely implausible. Mostly they were despised by society as aberrations.

Castrati still existed into early in the twentieth century, singing mostly in the churches, although they became passé in opera by the early eighteenth. Rossini and Meyerbeer wrote a few roles for them.

There is one existing recording of a castrato, Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1922). The recording was made twenty years into his career, so perhaps he was past his prime or had never really had a solid technique. In other words, he doesn’t sound great. In his time, he was supposedly known as the “angel of Rome.”

Historic accounts of castrati describe them as having the steely strength of a man’s voice and the beauty of a boy’s. In the last thirty years, the countertenor art has progressed to the point where some of them sound remarkably like mature women, but probably not like castrati, whose vocal cords were never allowed to thicken.

There aren’t a lot of fictional or operatic treatments that include (or even feature) castrati. I did find one, an opera called Farinelli, written in 1942. As in the movie, the star is the infamous castrato Farinelli, the equivalent of a movie star in his day. The part is played by a countertenor. The opera ends happily, with Farinelli getting the girl of his dreams. No heirs, of course.

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Dishing with Dennis & Cat, Concluded: Weird Stagings and Troubling Trends in Opera and Theater

C-Continuing on the subject of what stuff in book is true …. In an apprentice program I was in, there was a soprano who always cracked on the high notes. It was in the “Czardas” in Die Fledermaus. Every time she would get to the high D, it would crack. The part requires a heavy womanʼs voice; Itʼs like La Traviata in that way–demands a lot of different chops. Most of the aria she sang beautifully, but she did not have that one note. However, she was determined to keep trying.

D- She just couldnʼt do it?

C- She just couldnʼt do it. Most singers just pop it out. But she was determined to hold it. So every night she would come out for the party scene. Those of us in the chorus would sit there watching and smiling, and she is singing the Czardas, which is her big number, and here comes the note…

D- Here comes the note…

C- And… (Cat makes a squeaky sound). The note was all over the place. And those of us on stage are trying not to grimace. She did it three performances in a row. Each time she cracked the note, she would schlomp off the stage, without even trying to hide the fact that she had blown it. Her whole body said, “Damn it, I missed it again!”

(They laugh.)

D- So she just couldnʼt accept the fact she would never hit the note?

C- Yes. And she didnʼt even pretend that it had sounded okay. Most performers would smile broadly as if they’d aced it, and a majority of the audience wouldn’t know the difference.

D- Yeah, a lot of times you can just “sell it” and the audience gives you the benefit of the doubt.

C- I know. But this performer was just humiliated. So finally she brought the note down. I bet she was asked to do that.

D- Someone had a talk with her?

C- I think the conductor told her, “Listen, you canʼt keep doing this. You canʼt do that note. Take it down an octave.”

D- It sounds like there was an ego there.

C- Oh, yeah! Let me tell ya!

(They laugh. Cat reveals in private the name of the singer who is now quite famous)

C- Yeah … so that was before she became famous. Later on I heard her sing high Ds, so she must have worked out the technique required. That experience showed me that you really can screw up in a company like that. I modeled the company in my book after that company. I was doing an apprentice program there that summer. It was a summer festival and those festivals are sometimes able to get big names if the singers are not booked doing other stuff.

D- Or get them way ahead of time and lock them in.

C- Almost anything in the book, as absurd as it sounds, could have happened.

D- So the production of Tales of Hoffmann set in modern day in the book …where did you get that idea? (They laugh) Because I Loooooved that. I loved that because I see that so much in theater.

C- I know. I just hate the “updated” stuff.

D- I know, but if it works, it works. I have seen it work, but not very often.

C- No, not very often.

D- No. Usually it is some director who is bored and is just going to take something and change it to be edgy.

C- They have just done too many productions of that particular show …

D- …And they donʼt wanna do it again. So they do it differently to entertain themselves. What I see most often is they update a classic, and two things in the production work, but the other 27 donʼt at all.

C- Yes. They are trying to impose something that just doesnʼt fit. I saw a Hamlet set in the space age.

D- I have done a Romeo and Juliet done in the space age.

C- That Hamlet was at a pretty well known Seattle theater. The Ophelia did her mad scene in the nude. And she was anorexic.

D- Ahhhhhhhhhh!

C- And no one really wanted to see that woman nude.

D- No. No.

C- Oh, it was a long time ago, but I remember Hamlet in his space outfit. He was pretty skinny, too. Looked like Riff Raff in his space suit in the movie of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

(They laugh)

D- So do you know of a Tales of Hoffmann set in modern day?

C- I’m sure they’re are plenty, but I haven’t seen them. I totally made that up.

D- Well, I donʼt know the opera world like I know the theater world, but I could see some wacko director trying that.

C- So could I.

D- I could also see a director reading your book and stealing that idea and mounting a modern Hoffmann. I mean, honestly.

C- Letʼs hope they donʼt! For the sake of the show. Of course I, personally, would love it. I promise not to sue.

D- I would kind of like to have a couple of cocktails and SEE that production. (They laugh) When I was pulling pictures for the video trailer of Diva for YouTube, the director in the book imagines the role of Antonia being Kate Beckinsale in the movie Underworld. I pulled a picture of Kate Beckinsale from the movie holding a gun. You thought I had gone too far and told me to change it. I thought to myself, “Well, I donʼt know. I have seen some directors who would try that!”

(They laugh)

C- Well, that is true.

D- If a director is going to go for it, then they are just going to go for it. So this concept of Tales of Hoffmann is fictional?

C- Yes. I am trying to remember how I even came up with that idea. I was trying to make the craziest production I could imagine.

D- Well, you did.

C- Yeah. I just thought it would be interesting to think that a director would just put performers in these costumes they will HATE, which happens all the time.

D- Yes, I know.

C- …And you never hear the end of it. About how they hate the costume. How it makes them look fat.

D- Yes, they always hate the costume.

C- You also mention opera director Peter Sellars. Years ago, when I did my wig apprenticeship at Los Angeles Opera in 1995, he was directing a production of Pelleas et Melisande set in modern day California. It was not long after the OJ Simpson murder case and he spun the production tie into the case, casting singers who looked like the real life people.

C- I thought of him a lot when I was writing this book.

D- I remember wondering if the audience would be outraged because it was so soon after the murders and it was in Los Angeles. I watched some of the dress rehearsal from the audience, and I know I was just mortified. But in another way, I also congratulate him for taking a risk. There is a balance between risk and being foolish.

C- Yes. And Peter Sellars always skirts it.

D- That particular production may or may not have been successful, but at least he tried something. I have done so many play that are classics and crazy directors mess with them and it becomes confusing.

C- Like Seattle Operaʼs Ring Cycle many years ago. My father just hated than one.

D- That was the Robert Israel one. He designed it.

C- Yeah. Yeah.

D- They did it modern-ish.

C- And it was ugly.

D- And later they went back to a traditional Ring Cycle.

C- I love the traditional ones. The traditional one was so beautiful with the authentic-looking forest.

D- Seattle Opera did an Aida that was nontraditional, didnʼt they?

C- Oh, man, that Aida was terrible. All the soldiers were statues. So, have you ever seen any classics set in modern times that worked?

D- I saw a Shakespeareʼs Pericles that was pretty good. It was multi-period so it wasnʼt locked into any one convention. It had a tone to it that wasnʼt too specific and it wasnʼt too implausible.

(Dennis goes on a diatribe about a 1960s Kennedy era Loveʼs Labourʼs Lost he worked on that was a mess.)

C- That is interesting. As bizarre as I made the Tales of Hoffmann in Diva, it may very well work because he is retelling stories of his life. In the actual opera, he is young. It may work if you show the character as being old in the beginning.

D- It is a fine line. Sometimes I see directors get this great idea, and they run with it, but they go too far.

C- Yes, exactly. The Hoffmann would work to a degree, but I think Tales of Hoffmann will always work best in its own period, which is true of so many operas. Part of what you are showing is the sensibility of the period the piece was written in. Like in the conceptual opera in Diva, they are dealing with AIDS, but the disease in the original opera was a blood ailment that was not contagious.

D- yeah.

C- The disease is a weakness of the heart and it is an inherited thing. So you canʼt make the disease AIDS in the opera. It doesnʼt work.

D- No.

C- You are really imposing something weird. So the bottom line is some things can work and some things do not. The problem I always saw was that directors felt the rules werenʼt for them, so they donʼt try and make it logical.

D- Yes. It becomes illogical. And it is hard to know when to reel it back. I think if a director can do it, sell it, it work and be plausible, then that is great. But most of the time you cannot put a square script in a round production.

C- A lot of time Opera is about the corporation. A lot of “fans” of opera are in it for the snob thing.

D- They are in it for the status, rather than the art.

C- Itʼs like, (in a stuffy voice) “I give money to the arts, because I am important, sophisticated and I have taste!” But they secretly hate it. Many fans of opera are in it because it looks good, but they wouldnʼt know a good performance if it hits them in the head.

D- I find that to be true of theater as well. Especially the bigger theaters. Often the patrons donʼt have an artistic bone in their body. It is like they decide they love a show before they even watch it because they feel important to be an art supporter. They arenʼt sophisticated enough to know good from bad. I have seen and worked on shows that were HORRIBLE. Shows with no redeeming quality that I could see. Rampant mistakes and misfires and the audience gives it a standing ovation. You can tell by the audienceʼs body language and how they are dressed that they donʼt have any idea what they just saw or what the show was about. They want the experience of GOING to the theater and being a supporter, rather than the experience of the actual play. They want to tell their friends and coworkers at the water cooler the next day that they WENT to the opera or a play. They donʼt care about quality as much as they care about their status.

C- I used to go to the Met all the time when I was in New York and I saw some amazing performances and I also saw some real shit. For the most part, the voices were always there. A lot of the time, they didnʼt look the part at all and they couldnʼt act their way out of a paper bag. It was all about the voice, which I get at the Met because it is a HUGE theater. I think a lot of people hate opera because they saw one performance with terrible production values, bad acting …

D- and that ruins them…

C- I used to perform opera in a restaurant. We were always very theatrical. People would come up to me afterwards and say, “I didnʼt even know I liked opera!” I believe that is true of Shakespeare, too. If you see Shakespeare done by people who know how to make it accessible, then you will LOVE Shakespeare. The same is true of opera. Opera done well by someone who really knows what they are doing can be really interesting.

D- It can win people and change people. I always feel like the young artist programs and student performances of both opera and theater are so crucial but also so dangerous. If you are doing a great show, then you are inspiring people to support it or make a career of it. But if you are giving them shit, then you are turning them away and they are never going to come back.

C- It is absolutely like that.

D- When I was a student, I didnʼt have access to much of the arts. We didnʼt have opera or plays in my small town. So as an professional in the field as an adult, I try to be mindful of the students who crave the arts. I want to give the younger audience members a good show so they will support the arts. But if I am doing a bad play, I find myself angry that students and young people are going to see the show and come to the conclusion that all performing arts suck and not support us. I know that no one sets out to do a bad play or opera and student groups are invited months in advance before you know how good a show is going to be.

C- But people do shows for all sorts of reasons. Itʼs a business.

D- Yes, it is a business.

C- In some cases you owe people. In some cases you agree to cast someone because that person did a really good job with something else. However, this production demands skills or talents they don’t possess. Then you find yourself stuck.

D- Kids donʼt know the history of theater and Opera. They are a blank slate. You have got to win them over on the first show they see. Theater and Opera are dying arts. The craft is going to get smaller and smaller and smaller.

C- It is going to become a modern day baroque. It is like early music. A very small but dedicated group of fans.

D- I donʼt know the opera world like I do theater. But I know in theater there is a lot of pressure to do plays like a music video for people with very short attention spans.

C- Oh, yeah. That pressure is there in opera, too.

D- Yes. Lots of tech. Lots of recognizable images. A story that moves quickly. All the new plays written now seem like movie scripts that you are trying to do onstage.

(Cat and Dennis ponder what newly written operas are like. They discuss modern opera. Cat talks about operas Lulu and Wozzeck, which are rarely done but marvelously theatrical and thrilling to watch, despite their difficult musical scores.)

D- Opera marketing …that has got to be hard. As times become harder, people are being choosier with their entertainment dollar. I notice that opera companies are choosing safer seasons that they can sell. It seems like all the opera companies are doing the same 12 operas. If you have a choice between Magic Flute and Nixon in China, it is probably safer to go with Magic Flute.

C- Yeah. You basically have to think like that.

D- Yes, and your crazy directors are probably stifled because a company doesnʼt want to let them go crazy and risk turning away audiences and revenue.

(Dennis goes off on how he wants to see Nixon in China and his personal taste in opera and ballet and Cat talks about how much supertitles have helped bring in new fans.)

C- Most people have about a 7th grade mentality about opera. Unless there is a big star in an opera or play, they arenʼt as likely to buy a ticket. Take for example, Keith Miller, who was a football star who turned into a successful opera singer. “Hey everyone, come see this football opera star!” But opera doesnʼt have that many superstars. There has been some crossover from one performing art to another, but I donʼt know how much cross over there is now. People like Andrea Bocelli: real superstars. But most real opera fans donʼt like stars like him because they are not really opera singers.

D- No.

C- They’re pop singers. And they are good at pop, but they are not that good at real opera. Their voices aren’t big enough, to begin with. People will cast them in real opera productions, but they have to be mic’d. For most real singers, that’s cheating.

D- Well, opera is a very specific art. You have to have the chops and you have to have the training in order to do it and do it well. You canʼt just throw Justin Timberlake into an opera. However, Opera Memphis has been campaigning for him.

C- oh, no.

D- Yes. I heard about this. Opera Memphis had gone public wanting Justin Timberlake to do their Die Fledermaus. There is a Facebook page, just like the Facebook campaign for Betty White to host Saturday Night Live.

C- Oh, that is frightening.

D- I remember reading about this and thinking, “What is going on????” That is the controversy. It would probably sell out like crazy, but would it be any good or be done correctly? The money from a Justin Timberlake Die Fledermaus would give the company the revenue to do its Norma or La Boheme or Lucia.

C- I know. Exactly. But a production like that is hard on the other singers. Because everyone starts to think that your Justin Timberlake is just as good as everyone else.

D- I feel it is deceptive. The Tony Awards were a few weekends ago. I remember watching them and I was just furious. Broadway has become all about Hollywood actors who are famous and recognizable. Send them to New York between movies for a few weeks to do a play in a cast with a bunch of trained stage actors. Microphone them to death because they are not trained to do stage work. They do the show for a few weeks and they get the Tony Award and go back to Hollywood.

C- That pisses me off, too. A huge part of your art is projecting your voice.

D- Film actors donʼt have to do that. Not to say that film actors donʼt have a craft of their own; that they are not skilled and they are not trained. They have to learn to bring down the acting because they have a camera in their face. There is a skill to being understated that they have that a stage actor might not have. Itʼs not saying that one is better than they other, but the crossover is very sketchy and risky.

D- So which is better? Doing the show correctly, as it was written and honor the art; or adjust things to sell ticket, which in turn feeds and funds the longevity of the arts?

C- That is the age old question.

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Dishing with Dennis & Cat, Part IV: How Much of Diva is True?

D- I wondered throughout Ding Dong the Divaʼs Dead how much of it is you and how much of it really happened.
C- It is funny because when my boyfriend reads the book, heʼs like, “I canʼt read this. This is YOU.” But I have to remind him that it is not me. It is just stuff I know about. None of it really happened to me except the vocal issues. There isnʼt a single performer I know who hasn’t gone through hell with their vocal cords.
D- I see that a lot in theater.
C- That stuff is very much true for me. Yet with Debbie in the book, I let her heal much faster than I ever did. I went though a whole bunch of voice problems because I started out with faulty technique. I was one of those people that got by because I had an attractive natural vocal quality, was a really good actress and looked good onstage. So … there actually isnʼt that much in the book that actually happened to me.
D- Really? Well, I knew the premise of Debbie playing pants role was you. And I knew that you were stuck in that level of the opera world.
C- Right.
D- Is there really an opera company like that in Idaho?
C- No.
(They laugh)
C- There are a lot of small companies out there like that. Thereʼs Boise Opera; thereʼs Eugene Opera. Those are actually really good gigs. Tacoma Opera. There is some decent pay in those. I didnʼt really get to that level. I was offered a role at Tacoma Opera that I had to turn down because I was doing another show at the time. I really regret that. I wish I could have found a way to do the show. But … whatever. Those are good companies, but many people get stuck at that level. They keep hoping someone important will come to those shows or it will get attention for one reason or another. But for the most part it doesn’t. The company is Diva is somewhat larger—more like Portland Opera. The really big ones on the west coast are Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Los Angeles Opera. Then you have a ton of little companies. Oakland Opera and others. People work there all the time and I see people hoping and hoping. But once you are past a certain age, you are NEVER going to make it past the next wrung of the ladder. Those are great places to work when you are 18, 19, and 20 maybe through 26 and then it starts to get questionable whether you will ever make it above that. However, combine that with a teaching career and you’re going to have a nice enough life. No vacations on the Riviera, though.
D- It is like that in theater, too. It is probably easier to transition …
C- Well, it is easier in opera, too, if you’re a man.
D- Oh, I am sure.
C- If you’re a man and a specific voice type—dramatic tenor, for instance! I mean, Lyric Mezzos like Debbie in the book—dime a dozen.
D- Yeah.
C- That type of role started with Frederica von Stade. Not that it didn’t exist before that. But she was THE lyric mezzo. She defined that and she was absolutely wonderful. What an incredible actress and singer she is! She is a lovely person on and off stage. She is like the Vanessa Redgrave of opera singers. You are instantly drawn to her no matter how far back you are sitting. I have seen her live several times. She still performs some. I don’t know how often. You know, I am out of the loop.
D- Do you miss the loop?
C- No.
D- No?
C- No, I donʼt. Not at all. But I digress.
(They laugh)
C- I got off track. What is real is the whole concept of bundling performers. Agents will get someone in through someone else. They’ll be like, “Well, you want so-and-so, well you gotta take this person, too.” That does happen.
D- I wonder if that happens in theater? I donʼt know enough about the world of casting. I doubt that is the same.
C- I wouldn’t be surprised if it works that way sometimes in theater as well. But companies wouldn’t go for it unless they actually liked you.
D- Yes.
C- But if you have a name it is different. I mean, why bother with a name for a part like Nicklausse? Why pay a name salary?
D- Because it’s not flashy.
C- People aren’t going to pay money to see a big-name Nicklausse. Unless it is Frederica von Stade.
D- Who’s playing the other roles if you have Frederica von Stade playing Nicklausse?
C- Well, you would have to have a HUGE budget. And the whole idea that opera performers get locked into stuff five years in advance, that is very true.
D- I know that is true of opera and it is not true of theater.
C- Right. Occasionally a person gets locked in and becomes famous by the time they are due to perform a role. And then what happens a lot of times is that the person loses their voice. If you ever wonder why you hear terrible voices it is because that person was locked into that role years before and their voice started having problems. I’ve noticed, with the ‘American Idolization’ of Musical Theater, that that is happening more and more. This type of belting is very hard to carry off without a really skilled technique, and a lot of bodies get left by the wayside. Anyway, back to opera … that’s how a Sven ends up doing a big role in a small company when he is already a star.
D- How about the famous pop star in your book? I loved that part.
C- Yes. Well, I based that character on a famous Italian (or was he Greek?) pop star who was played all the villains in Tales of Hoffmann while I was an apprentice in a Summer Opera Festival years ago.
D- Famous, but not known in America? Huge in another country?
C- Yeah. And he had a GORGEOUS voice. GORGEOUS! His album was out in the lobby and it was called, I FEEL A SONG COMING ON. And we always used to laugh because … (Cat pretends she is just about to break into song, yet is not quite there yet)
(They laugh)

C- You have to picture the album cover.
(Cat pretends again)
Yep, you guessed it; his mouth was open, and he was ready to sing.
(They howl)
C- I was totally intrigued with him. I was so impressed by how beautiful his voice was.
D- And he was dashingly handsome?
C- No, no, no …
D- Really?
C- He was in his 40s and at the time, I was in my late 20s. To me, he seemed ancient. He looked like what you would imagine the character in the book to look like. An aging pop star. So, I told him how much I loved his performance at the cast party. I told him how impressed I was with his voice. It was such an easy, operatic sound … but he was a pop star.
D- He was really a pop star?
C- Yes. He had never done opera before. I was so impressed that this BEAUTIFUL sound could come out of him effortlessly.
D- And it was being wasted on the pop world.
C- Not just that, but he didn’t have any opera training. He just had a voice like that.
D- My goodness.
C- He may have had some training, but that certainly hadn’t been his emphasis.
D- Wow.
C- So immediately, he tried to pick me up.
(They laugh)
C- … And I didn’t know what was happening because I was pretty naive and stuff. I do remember he was married. Man … that company was a seething brothel. The book was mostly based on my experience that summer with that company. People were picking each other up right and left.
D- Summer stock is always a breeding ground for, um, “adult activities.”
C- right.
D- I did five years of summer stock and, oh, LORD. I wouldn’t have the energy to do even a week of that now.
C- That seven weeks seemed like forever. I had much more fun in the three summers of musical theater summer stock that I did–less pressure.
D- I know. I did 12 weeks in Florida. It starts to feel like you really live there.
C- I was in Ohio for 4 months.

[To be continued ….]

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Blog Tour!

In October 2011, I’ll be embarking on a whirlwind blog tour, spreading the word about Ding Dong the Diva’s Dead. Here is the link. I hope you’ll join me.

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Dishing with Dennis and Cat, Part III: Stage Lovers

C- Back in my day when I was first starting out as a performer, I always had the lead in show and I always had a crush on the leading man in the show. It didnʼt matter if he was gay or straight.
D- Oh, I know how that is. Yes.
C- It is very confusing. Anyone who is a committed actor will invest in the situation. You don’t even know you are doing it. But you are very confused by the whole situation. This sort of thing is not acknowledged enough. There are a lot of social complications to being a performer. Back when theater began, actors were considered whores and lowlifes because they did things like kiss people onstage and show off parts of their bodies that were improper. It is really hard because when you are an actor, you cannot help but embrace your character in real life. Most of those people were much more free in their personal lives because they had been freed up by playing different people.
D- Yes.
C- And the reason for the social stigma was they were disregarding the social laws in real life. Even today, you think about actors making love on camera … whenever I see that, I think, “I don’t know how you do that without an emotional connection to your fellow actor.”
D- I know. You are not really doing your job as an actor if you do not have an emotional connection to the scene.
C- I know. I don’t know how anyone stays married in that business.
D- I don’t either.
C- Because every kiss is confusing if it feels real to you in the moment.
D- Yes. If it is believable, then it is BELIEVABLE.
C- Unless the guy is gay. That is my theory. If your leading man in gay then you are better off.
D- Because it is not going to go anywhere.
C- It’s not going to go anywhere, but also there is a comfort and a trust that is actually beautiful. It can work for the character without the other confusion.
D- It is interesting. When Lynn Redgrave did her one woman show at Intiman, Shakespeare for My Father, in 1996 I found her to be a lovely, lovely woman.
C- She seemed pretty cool.
D- Yes, indeed. She had created a memoir play that she performed by herself about her childhood growing up in a theatrical family and with her famous actor dad, Michael Redgrave. She had a few great stories about her whole family would take on the role that dad was playing at any given time. They liked the comedies the best!
(They laugh)
When dad was doing a comedy, the house was filled with joy and laughter. And when he was doing a drama, the whole house was filled with THAT drama. It was very confusing for them as a child, to not know what their father’s next role would be and what it was going to be like at home a month later when dad changed into a different character. Are you familiar with Object of My Affection, the book or the movie?
C- No.
D- In the movie, Jennifer Aniston plays a woman who gets pregnant by her boyfriend. Her boyfriend is a jerk and the relationship is rocky. She decides to keep her baby and raise the child with her best friend who is gay and played by Paul Rudd. They make a plan to  maintain a platonic relationship, and her friend will be the father figure.
C- oh, wow.
D- It sounds good in theory. The gay best friend is single and they have all that platonic beauty … safety and security and trust. And then the friend gets a boyfriend.
C- oh, no.
D- Yes. And she becomes very threatened and fragile. The new boyfriend’s presence destroys that friendship. They may or may not have been able to pull off raising the child as a platonic team, but the threat makes them take a look at themselves and question whether it would be the best thing. And who is to say one way or the other? I have never read the book, but the movie ends with Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd both getting into other relationships. Everyone being happy.
C- oh, that’s nice, but you have to wonder how much that really happens. This stuff is so confusing. In my book, the character of Sven is on the fence sexually. I know people like that. They are predominately one or the other, but they are so open physically. They are so comfortable with their body that if you give them a few drugs or drinks and they will go either way. Whatever is convenient. And they don’t think about consequences, because most actors don’t.
D- No, they do not.
C- It is interesting when you are writing fiction because you know that some aspects are absolutely absurd and other aspect are not as absurd as people think.

[To be continued.]

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Dishing with Dennis and Cat, Part II: Wedding Dreams

Dennis is writing a book about gay marriage and its special significance for him. I myself have never married in real life, but was married on stage in The Sound of Music, when I played Maria in summer stock. Marriage or children was never a personal goal, so it is interesting to hear how much Dennis longed for the experience. I’ve always had trouble wanting what I could have easily.

I always thought I’d marry, but I never met the guy I wanted to spend my life with, even in the moment. I didn’t need the ceremony. I’d been the center of attention many, many times. And I’d worn the gown—even if it was velcro’d rather than buttoned shut—night after night.

Dennis speaks of wanting his mother’s wedding dress. My mother was married in a gorgeous white satin gown, totally classic. She weighed 98 pounds and was still a perfect hourglass, so I’m sure I never would have fit into that dress. I’m thin, but I’m built more like my dad. When I see the pictures I wish she’d saved it. It had belonged to her sister, so in her mind, she was wearing a hand-me-down. When my sister married her first husband, my mother told me that I would be expected to wear her dress when I married. I remember thinking, “then shouldn’t I have a say in it?!” Maybe that was one of the reasons I never married. I didn’t want to wear that dress!

It was a beautiful gown, but my sister is shaped a lot like my mom. I doubt it would have fit ….

Here my conversation with Dennis continues:

D- So, my bride doll book, it starts off with the fantasy of my mother’s wedding dress and wanting to see it. There is the tradition of a mother handing down her wedding dress to her daughter. My father came home on leave from the Korean war for a week. He proposed to my mother. My mother and grandmother only had a week to prepare an entire church wedding. So she didn’t have time to get a white wedding dress.
C- How long had they known each other?
D- They had been dating since she was 14. My mother never dated anyone else.
C- …Wow!
D- …So that was the dress she came up with (referring to the wedding picture of Dennis’ parents). It wasn’t a white, traditional wedding dress because she didn’t have time to get one. I remember asking my mother, “Where’s your wedding dress?” She said she didn’t know. And I remember being just horrified. I always had this thing growing up about wanting to get married. Yet I wanted to be the BRIDE, not the groom. That is a little bit of the “Stefeny Calvert” thing (Stefeny was Dennisʼ imaginary female personality as a child). Stefeny got to have all the stuff I couldn’t have as a little boy: a wedding and the husband.
C-Which is all so much better in theory than actuality.
(They laugh!)
D- That is where I end up in the book, through my last relationship with Oscar (Dennisʼ last boyfriend). I don’t need the wedding and the certificate. I am fine being independent. I learned that through Oscar …because he is SO independent. I learned that when we are together, we are together because we want to be. And when we are not, we are not. We don’t need the ceremony. We don’t need it legally validated by the whole world.
C- Enforced 24 hour closeness…
D- Yes. But I still want gay marriage to become legal for everyone else who wants it. Maybe someday, with a different partner, I would want that, too.
C- It gets harder as you get older.
D- Yes. I realized that it gets harder when you get older and I don’t need what I thought I needed when I was in my twenties and thirties. But when I was a child I did all these wacho things, because I had a wacho childhood. I wanted to wear a wedding dress. I wanted the whole experience of being loved and getting married. For Christmas, I had my father order for me as a gift for my mother these white negligees. “Here’s your gift, Mom,” and I would wear the nightgowns and pretend to be the bride in private.
(They laugh)
I used to set a pair of my dad’s shoes at the end of the hallway. That was where the groom was standing. And I would walk down the hallway in Mom’s white nightgown and marry my dad’s shoes as Stefeny Calvert. Then I got into the whole doll thing. I was making wedding dresses for my Barbies. I didn’t get into the bride and wedding thing in my first book, SHORN, because it was a distraction from the hair issues. So a lot of the Stefeny Calvert thing was wanting the American Dream. I wanted to get married and have a family and the whole package, but I was gay and never thought I could do any of that stuff, but Stefeny could in my playtime.
C- Yeah… and it is also that very elaborate fantasy life that I know a lot of creative people have.
D- I have a HUGE fantasy life. I went to a lot of trouble. I married Grant Goodeve. I had an elaborate wedding to Brent McMann, who was in SHORN. I remember the wedding to Grant Goodeve was in the living room while my mom was mowing the lawn. I knew as long I could still hear the lawn mower it was safe to continue with the wedding in the living room. But as soon as I heard the lawnmower stop, I knew I had to pack up the wedding and hide it back it my bedroom so I wouldn’t get caught.
C- You know I still have my Barbie dolls.
D- Ahhh!
C- I loved my Barbie dolls!
D- I loved mine, too!
C- They are in such bad shape, though (laughs).
D- But that is a sign that they were loved and they were used!
C- Boy, were they used! I was one of those kids like you—and I think this is very common with performing people—that spent a lot of time by themselves.
D- …yes
C- People think of performers as being extroverts, but I think it is the exact opposite.
D- Exactly. You know, I see that when performers as “on” they are on, but most of the time they are not “on.”
C- Yeah…
D- You can’t be “on” all the time.
C- Right. And you need a lot of alone time to refuel.
D- Yes.
C- …to get your energy back. Even though you love the performing thing, It takes a lot out of you.
D- Yes, it does. And it takes a lot of effort and energy to be backstage; to be involved and to be on the other side. It takes just as much effort, it is just a very different effort.
C- Yes. There is so much going on backstage that people have no idea.
D- yes!
(They laugh)
D- I got into the whole bride stuff because I was doing all these shows as a costume designer in college where there were brides as characters in the shows. In a lot of ways I was thinking of Stefeny as the actress playing the character in the play I was designing the wedding dress for. So I was really designing the wedding dress for Stefeny, and ultimately myself, and not the real actress in the play. I talk A LOT about my marriage in this new book. I dug in and really dissected that time of my life. I had forgotten a lot about that period.
C- Because it wasn’t a joyous time?
D- Well, yes and no. I don’t regret anything or getting married and I don’t think my ex-wife would either. Yet it is touchy. My ex-wife and I do not correspond anymore, and certainly not after my book.
C- Even though I don’t think she would be upset by it if she read it.
D- I don’t think she would either, but I don’t think she will ever read either book. She was a very large woman …obese. And you know, my weight had always gone up and down according to my self-esteem. And I just remember having great compassion for her because of her weight. And when I came time for her wedding dress, that was a pivotal moment. She had to have a wedding dress that she felt like a million bucks in. And she was a size 24.
C- mmmm….. And white just doesn’t look great and larger women.
D- ….Yes, but she found one. I mean, it was a big dress and very 80ʼs, but she felt like a princess in this dress.
C- That is wonderful.
D- Then, of course, I had to wear the dress myself as Stefeny.
(They laugh)
But things got very complicated. I hadn’t been around gay people and then we moved for me to finish my degree and there were actually real gay people I met for the first time. I got assigned to design costumes for this play called Maid of Honor. About a lesbian who is getting married to man and she asks her former lover to be her Maid of Honor at the wedding. So I had to design a wedding dress for this play. I was still married to Jessica at that time. Here I am: I am gay and I am married to a woman and designing a play about the same thing. The whole theater department was focused on me, the gay man, designing this play. That was such a pivotal moment. I realized that I had to get out of that situation.
C- You were still married at the time?
D- Yes, but we had separated.

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Dishing with Dennis and Cat, Part 1

I still plan to finish the Divas in Drag Series, but for the next month or so, I’m offering a light summer diversion …

Dennis Milam Bensie and I were introduced through my boyfriend’s daughter, who is a costume designer, seamstress and dresser. Dennis’s specialty is wigs, but he is a multi-talented guy who has also been on the other side of the footlights, which you would know if you’d read Shorn: Toys to Men, an unusual (and fabulous) memoir about growing up gay in the Midwest.

Dennis loved playing the flamboyant characters on stage and got a lot of approval for those roles; then he was cast as a soldier, the part of Fyedka in Fiddler on the Roof and was told by the director, “I need you to walk more like a man.” Although he did as he was told and was praised for his performance, he ultimately decided that he’d rather be working behind the scenes.

Here is Part I of a conversation that took place on the first day of summer, June 21, 2011. We taped it, and Dennis later made a transcript. I’ll be posting it in several segments. We decided to let it play out with a minimum of editing. I’ll also be inserting notes about things that occur to me as I go through the transcript.


(Two Seattle authors, both with backgrounds in performing arts, meet on the patio on a beautiful sunny morning to
dish about life, art, publishing, and “life upon the wicked stage.”)

[That’s a quote from the musical Showboat, BTW: “Life upon the wicked stage ain’t ever what a girl supposes …”]

D- I took voice lessons in college. I learned a lot. I did it for one quarter. I had a crush on someone in the music
C- Uh-huh
D- So it was kinda for weird reasons. I remember my final was singing “O Isis und Osiris” from The Magic Flute.
C- The bass one?
D- Yes.
C- I donʼt know Magic Flute well enough. Whenever there is an opera that doesnʼt have a role for me, I donʼt
get to know it as well.
(They laugh)
C- Magic Flute I know better, just because it is a famous Opera. I have seen so many versions of it…

[CAT note: plus some memorably bad student and amateur productions! There are several scenes that are frequently butchered in opera workshops, especially those featuring the three ladies, who mostly sing in three-part harmony. Lots of female voice students out there, and they aren’t necessarily ready to perform solo. Oh, and during this conversation I had suppressed the memory of singing one of the three spirits at the tiny and now defunct Amato Opera in New York. They put us in short togas and wigs that made me look like contestants in an Andy Warhol lookalike contest. I wish I had a photo to show Dennis!]

C- But I wouldnʼt be able to tell you about the arias the way I can when there is a role for me in it.

[CAT note: … Except for one of the spirits (usually played by boys) and either the 2nd or 3rd Lady. And then there are the arias that I have worked on with students—which doesn’t make me want to listen to them for enjoyment. I also sang “Ach ich fuhls” as a young soprano (only 18), which must have been dreadful. I have a few cassettes I saved of voice lessons from that era and they are quite cringe-worthy.]

D- I took voice, and was in a jazz ensemble for a year. I didnʼt think I could sing. But with the voice lessons I realized, “I can sing.” I always assumed I was a tenor, then learned that vocally I was a bass. I figured out what my voice could do and what it couldnʼt.

[CAT note: It’s not that unusual to assume that you’re one voice type then turn out to be the exact opposite. Although speaking voices are usually a pretty good indication. When you’re an opera singer, you want to speak in the same range and with the same resonance and support as when you are singing, because it’s far less stressful on the vocal cords and you are basically always warmed up. You hear an awful lot of opera singers—especially men—who love to hear themselves speak. And they can sound pretty hokey to outsiders.]

I know this excerpt is on the short side, but the subject changed so completely that I thought we should stop here for now. The conversation shifted to the new book Dennis is writing, Always a Bride Doll but Never a Bride, which is quite topical, considering the latest vote to allow gay marriage in New York.

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New Diva Book Trailer on YouTube

My friend, wigmaker extraordinaire and fellow author, Dennis Milam Bensie (Shorn: Toys to Men), created this hilarious book trailer for me. Dennis and I met through my boyfriend Jeff’s daughter, who is also in the biz (an aspiring costume designer but, in the meantime, a union seamstress). Dennis was the wigmaker at Intiman, which is temporarily shuttered, but we fervently hope will be open for business again soon.

Dennis and I are planning to get together in a free moment to dish about show-biz (not too different, whether you’re talking about opera, musicals, or plays), writing, and life. We’ll share the results here and on Dennis’s blog. In the meantime, check out Dennis’s blog and contact him if you need promotion or a book trailer. His rates are very reasonable, and he’s the best!!


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