Sunday, December 30, 2007

Click! Click! Click!

I watched a lot of television when I was a kid. In addition to the usual suspects like The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, and Bewitched, I was especially drawn to That Girl starring Marlo Thomas.

This may have been partly due to the story-line echoing my Mom's life before she married my Dad and I was born. That Girl ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971. It was the story of Ann Marie, a young woman who has moved to New York City to be an actress. In the mid-1940s my Mom had moved to New York for the same reason. So Mom could tell me stories about living in New York, eating at the Automat, the subway, Central Park, Summer stock, dating, roommates, having pre-marital sex, all the things one does when one runs away to New York City to be in the theatre. Indeed, I did much the same stuff when I went to New York to do theatre in the late 1980s.

That Girl also shot a lot of location footage in NYC, so each episode was story-fodder for Mom. In the last couple years That Girl has finally been coming out on DVD. And since I had pretty much not seen it since the mid 1970s, I have been buying and rewatching it. It holds up quite well, the writing isn't bad, the cinematography is especially good, and the production and costume design is great! It truly is a little time capsule of fashion and fun circa late 1960s.

On rewatching the series I encountered a two part episode called "It's a Mod Mod World!" in which Ann gets a job as a fashion model after being discovered eating that old actor's treat, ketchup-and-hot-water soup, at the Automat. I had not particularly remembered this episode until I resaw it. But it immediately brought back a torrent of nostalgic glee. Because back in the summer of 1970 it set my little mind to working and got me all fired up to join the world of fashion. Mod Squad, move over! I got out my Instamatic camera, corralled my three-year-old sister, and decided that I simply MUST do a fashion shoot!

Now, of course I had
much empathy with Marlo Thomas and her character Anne Marie. And perhaps deep down I wanted to be an actress, model, fashion-plate. Perhaps I still do! Yet this being 1970, me being seven years old, and my not being able to both click the camera and do drag at the same time—I enlisted my little sister.

I set up my photo-shoot in front of the sliding glass doors that led from the living room to the dining room (they looked sort of like store windows to me). I asked my sister to go put on her best dress, or as my grandmother called it, her "Sunday-go-to-meeting" clothes. And we were ready. I demonstrated the classy poses Marlo Thomas had used. A look of coy surprise!
Click! Hands up and out so as not to cover the dress! Click! A big smile! Click! Sell it, sister, sell it! Click!

And then one has to take the film to the Skaggs Drugstore to be developed and wait and wait and wait. But eventually they were developed and I was the Fashionista of the Second Grade. No digital, no Polaroid, just a Kodak Instamatic, a box of blue flash-cubes, my three-year-old sister, and me.

Copyright © 2007 D. H. Maxine. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Food for Thought

These days I do not make a habit of giving thanks to imaginary deities.

When I was four my grandmother came to live with us and she always said "Grace" before eating. This was something my parents did not do. My grandmother explained it as thanking God for the food we had been given.
I pondered this for a time.

When we moved to Albuquerque when I was three-and-a-half we had very little money. Mom was starting on her Masters degree at the University of New Mexico. Dad didn't have a job yet since the move, and we were dirt poor. The state did not give out Food Stamps to the hungry back in the mid-'60s. They gave people food. We went down to the "food place" and they stocked us up.

This was not a "food-bank" as one might know them today. It was all food packaged by the State or Feds. So no name-brand foods, and no processed "junk food" either.

On that Fall day in 1966 the state of New Mexico gave us something like the following:

    10 pounds of flour
    5 pounds of sugar
    10 pounds of Pinto Beans
    5 pounds of lard
    4 cans of some meat-product called "Bulgar"
    A large container of Peanut Butter

This was supposed to last us a month. Next month we'd get another batch of the same. One should remember that this was Albuquerque and the vast majority of the poor were Hispanic. Also, most people still cooked at home. Pinto beans were a nutritious staple. The flour and lard were meant for making tortillas.

But what was our family going to do with all this flour, sugar, lard, etc that we had? My dad learned to bake!

All of a sudden the house was filled with the smell of yeast and baking bread. We now ate fresh homemade bread every day. We had Cinnamon Rolls. Dad even came up with a use for all the lard. He made doughnuts! There is nothing on earth quite so wonderful as homemade, lard-fried doughnuts!

Dad eventually got a job with the Microbiology Lab at the County Medical Center. But he baked bread and rolls and cookies for the rest of his life. Later that year we moved into a bigger house and my grandmother came to live with us. This helped with the rent, and my parents decideded to adopt a little sister for me.

So, as I mentioned above, my grandmother had explained "Grace" as thanking God for the food we had been given. Ever a smart little boy, I finally asked, "If we thank god for the food we have, do we blame him when there isn't any food?"

My dear grandmother had no answer for that.

Today I am thankful to loving parents (now gone), a wonderful boyfriend, a slightly-deaf Boston Terrier, and the 1960s government of the State of New Mexico who gave us so much flour and sugar and shortening that my dad had to learn to bake bread. Now I do the baking of bread.

My Father, who art in the kitchen ...


When you talk about this blog later, and you will - be kind.
Copyright 2007 D. H. Maxine.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

If I Were a Gay Man, Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum!

The following blog is VAGUELY EXPLICIT!
If you are uncomfortable reading about a summer romp between two men - well, skip this blog.
Another one will be along in a little while.


At this point in time I had been out for a little over a year - and been a non-virgin for about nine months. Happy little gay boy, la la la la la.  A good friend was stage managing a summer stock season in the midwest somewhere. The last show of the season was FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and she asked if I could come down and serve as an additional ASM (Assistant Stage Manager.) It was a big show, and the actual theater was a thrust-type stage with audience on three sides. My friend begged. She said she REALLY needed two ASMs backstage. Ever the genial fellow, I obliged.

When I got down there, all was good and the other ASM was nice. He was in his mid-20s, kind of cute, Jewish, had a moustache, and he was engaged to be married two weeks after FIDDLER closed. Oh, yes, ASM (as I'll call him from here on) was the only Jew involved in the production, on stage or off! It was basically the "Viking production" - starring Leif Erickson as Tevye! Oy!

Tech period went fine - except that I was nearly killed by a dry-ice fog machine. But the show duly opened to thundering applause. The opening night party was held at a beautiful home on a lake. We were tired, happy the show was open. We could now relax, do five shows on the next couple weekends, and otherwise have fun.

Well, after a few drinks the other ASM and I were sitting on a staircase drinking gin-and-tonics and he starts asking me about my coming out, what it was like, hadn't I ever been attracted to girls (No!), and other typical questions.

Then he says, "Would you?"

"Would I what?"

"You know! Would YOU . . . ?"

"Would I what?" I repeat.

He seems VERY uncomfortable! "You're really gonna make me ask this, arent you?"

"What are you talking about!" I ask, utterly baffled.

"Will you . . . have sex with me?"

Now, this is a spit-take moment if ever there was one! I recover myself and say, "Aren't you supposed to get married in two weeks?"

He explains that he is getting married, he loves his fiancee very much, but he's always thought he'd like to try sex with a guy just once. And this seems like his only chance before he gets married.

What we have here is an ethical dilemma  . . .

Is it wrong to have sex with a straight boy who is engaged to be married in two weeks?
Am I doing him (and his future wife) a favor by helping get this out of his system? 
If I say "No," am I denying him the chance to discover he REALLY is gay, and that he should call off the wedding before he messes up his and his future wife's lives?

Big inhalation of air . . . "So, you really want to do this? You're really serious?" I ask.

He stands up, takes me by the hand, and says, "Let's go!"

He takes me out to his car. We get in and he asks, "Where should we go?"

"Look, ASM, this was YOUR idea! Where do YOU want to go? Why don't we just go back to the Techie House?"

He explains that we can't do that, someone might get suspicious or figure out what was going on, or something.

I think, "Silly boy! Who cares! We're theater people!" We're still sitting in the car pondering locales and I put my hand on his upper leg and . . .

"Oh my God!" he says. "You're actually doing it!"

Now I'm TOTALLY confused. I ask, "If you don't want me to touch your leg through your pants, how are we gonna have, ummm . . . sex? Any time you want to stop, just say so. This was YOUR idea."

"I know where to go!" he beams and starts the car. I leave my hand on his leg and his breath corresponds to my hand as it moves higher up, onto his lap, and into the warm space between his jean-covered thighs.

He parks the car across the street from the theater.

"The theater!" I say. "You want to do it at the theater?"

"I have the only set of keys!" He smiles.

We go inside. He's REALLY nervous and sits down on the vinyl-covered couch in the Green Room. "Do you really want to do this?" I ask again.

"Yes! Stop asking that!"

I kiss him on the lips. He closes his eyes and kisses back, really well, too. We break apart for air. "Whoa! I've never kissed a guy before," he says. "It's different. It's rougher."

"Well, I've never kissed a moustache before; and THAT's what's rougher!" I make a face, and we go back to kissing.

"I don't like it here," he says. "This couch doesn't feel right. I want a bed. Come with me!"

He takes me by the hand and I wonder where he's taking me this time! I see, and smile; and know I've got a fabulous story for the future. In the corner backstage, under the blue running-lights, is Tevye and Golde's bed from the "Dream" sequence in Act One. We jump into the wacky-looking bed, strip off our clothes, and go at it: kissing, touching, rubbing, getting sticky.

Before we finish, I have a vision that as we orgasm a bunch of gay ghosts are gonna appear at the head and foot of the bed, crawl out from underneath, and after a lovely harp glissando they will all break into a chorus of A blessing on your house! Mazel tov! mazel tov! And I pray that the spirit of the fiancee won't appear to curse me for coming all over her future husband.

The next day we had two shows and ASM barely mentioned our one night of love. Sunday we had the afternoon off and the production staff went to the nearby lake and I learned to water ski.

After the Sunday night performance ASM volunteered to lock-up. He asked me to stay behind and help. When everyone else was gone he asked me to come out on the stage with him. He'd turned on all the work lights so the stage was very bright.

"What?" I asked, following him out to the middle of the stage.

"Stay right there," he said positioning me dead center front on the thrust stage. He jumped off the front of the stage, crossed the shallow orchestra pit, and climbed out into the auditorium. He sat down fifth row center, smiled, and said, "Strip!"

Well, as I said at the beginning of this blog, I am a genial fellow, and I obliged. It was one of the hottest, sexiest things I've ever done, too. After I was properly unclothed we switched positions. I went out into the audience and he hopped onstage and stripped.

Let me entertain you, indeed!

Over the next ten days we did just about everything you can imagine. He didn't feel up to being topped - he thought I was too big. Silly boy! But pretty much everything else was tried at least once!

When the show closed he departed for home to prepare for his impending marriage. I never heard from him again and have no idea if he married the girl or not. That was twenty years ago!  OH MY GOD!  How time flies!

It was just about the best sex I've ever had. It was the first time I didn't feel like the newbie, the novice. I was now the expert. It was so uninhibited, so free, so very hot.

And to him, wherever he went, and whatever he chose -



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Memories

Photo from Christmas 1964 - Arlington, Texas - Two years old

I've been thinking a lot about my childhood Christmas memories. Fearing they will one day fade I started writing down details I remember or have knowledge of, from my first when I was six days old, on up to last year's Holiday. I have some memories of Christmas 1965 when I had just turned three. And quite good memories of Christmas 1966 when I was four. The earlier Christmases are reconstructed from notes in my baby book, our home movies, and family anecdotes. Happy Holidays!

1962 - Six days old
This was probably an odd Christmas. Of course I don't remember any of it. I'm not even sure whether I was at home or in the hospital on this first Christmas. My mom had had a C-Section but I suspect we were home by Christmas. I'm sure she would have wanted out of the hospital as quickly as possible. At this time my parents lived with my grandmother in Arlington, Texas. My grandmother had a heart attack the day I was born. No doubt it was a combination of stress, subconscious jealousy, and needing attention from my mom. Sigh...

1963 - One year old
The next year I had just turned one. We were still living in Arlington with my grandmother and great grandmother. For Christmas that year I got a red wagon, a marvelous pull-toy called the Happy Hippo, a set of blocks, and a corduroy suit. I remember all these toys well. I had them for several years afterward.

1964 - Two years old
Now we are two. Same living situation as before. This year I got a Santa's Work Bench, a toy train, a toy mail box, and a little table and chairs. It is this Christmas morning featured in the photo at the top of this blog-post. We also have some great color home movies of this Christmas but alas they aren't digitized yet.

1965 - Three years old
Three years old and all is much the same. But it would be our last year in this house. My mom was about to graduate with her BA from University of Texas at Arlington and she was looking for Grad schools.

This year I got a bright red toy car that I could ride in. It had a push stick. So my Dad would push me down the sidewalk or street with something that looked like a pool cue. This little red car was made by Marx Toy Company. My parents noted with glee that I had a little RED car made by MARX. Perhaps to balance my early introduction to leftist politics I was also given a toy gas pump, and a cash register. My parents also surprised me with a Christmas puppy. When asked what I wanted to call the puppy I said, "Nuffin ..." So Nuffin became the puppy's name.

1966 - Four years old
This is the first Christmas I remember in vivid detail. In the Summer of 1966 we had moved from Arlington, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico so my mom could get her Masters degree at the University of New Mexico.

A couple months before we moved Nuffin disappeared. My mom accused my Dad of "getting rid of Nuffin" to make it easier to move. Years later he admitted he had. I knew nothing of this at the time of course. Just before the move my great-grandmother passed away at the age of 92. My grandmother stayed in Texas, taking an apartment in Fort Worth. And we traveled back to Texas to spend the holidays with my grandmother.

We drove back to Texas in our white Corvair van: Mom, Dad, me, and our new pet basset hound, Zeb. I remember we drove straight through - which is a long drive. We put my mattress from home in the back of the van for me to play on and for me to sleep on once we got to Texas. In the middle of the night driving Zeb the Basset had a very smelly accident in the back of the van. We stopped, my dad cussed, and the van got cleaned out. We stayed at my grandmother's new apartment. I think she slept on the couch in the front room and my parents took her bed, and I slept on my little mattress we had brought with us.

I remember being very happy we were going to see my grandmother; and remember, too, that it seemed strange to see her in a new apartment. The apartment was a fairly big one-bedroom. My Grandmother was a pianist and she still taught at this time so she needed room for two pianos. She had downsized to one baby grand and one console.

There was also a neighbor lady who had a boston-terrier named Inky which I absolutely adored! I was also fascinated with my grandmother's red finger nail polish. I was thrilled when she painted mine red, too! Such a nice and obliging grandmother!

I don't remember much about the tree that year, but I'm sure we had one. I do remember my presents!

Model Tramway Car

This was a toy tramway car that I suspect my parents fot at the Sandia Mountain Tramway just out side of Albuquerque. We had gone to the Crest of the Mountain right after we moved and I had wanted to ride the Tram but it was too expensive. So I think this is why I got the toy one. I wanted to play with it and my Dad cleverly rigged it to run between two of the legs on the grand piano.

Creepy Crawlers
This was a very popular toy, probably considered too dangerous for today's kids. It came with a little heating plate and metal molds of various insects. You filled the moulds with liquid rubber which you then "baked"on the little hotplate. When the rubber became cooked and opaque you plunged the metal into cold water and peeled out the rubber insects. I really did like Creepy Crawlers a lot!

Cheerful Tearful
I had also asked for a baby doll. Well, my grandmother gave me one named Cheerful Tearful. I don't remember getting any flack from neighbor kids either. I've wondered what my grandmother thought of giving me a baby doll and of painting my little fingernails red. Maybe grandmothers always "know what's up" on some level. But this WAS 1966 and she was a straight-laced methodist lady, so who knows, but she was very supportive of my off-beat interests!

I also got $9 in pennies from my grandfather (who stored up pennies all year long in a big glass jar). I got a Remco Mouse House; and perhaps the most lasting of all the presents, my Dad built me a playhouse in the backyard of our house in Albuquerque. I was there when it was being built so I know it wasn't a surprise. But I don't remember if it was built before Christmas or right after we got home. David's Playhouse needs a blog post of it's own!

More Christmas to come ...

When you talk about this blog later, and you will, be kind.
Copyright © 2007 D. H. Maxine.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Little French Emo-Boy

People go to France for many reasons. I went to France most recently in October because Eric the Boyfriend had been invited to Quai des bulles, la festival BD de St Malo (The Saint Malo Comics Festival.) Yes, the BF draws a comic book series called AGE OF BRONZE which is doing very well in France.

Our adventure began when we arrived in Paris. We went to the hotel and took a short nap and made plans to have dinner with our friends Virgine and Laurent. Virginie cooked us a wonderful dinner. The next day we made our usual trip to the Louvre for culture, a trip to FNAC for off-beat and obscure opera CDs, and then to the ALBUM comic store at Bercy so Eric could do a signing event.

The next day the mini-tour began. We left Paris in the early AM to travel by train to Rouen where we met the comic store owner and were taken to our hotel. We met soon after for lunch and Eric was interviewed by two French journalists. Rouen, like most of the towns we visited this trip, was badly damaged by bombings in WWII. During the interview the subject of WWII came up and I mentioned that my Dad had been in this area of France during the War. One of the journalists thanked me for what my Dad gave to France. That has NEVER happened to me here in the US.

The next morning we arose and traveled by train to Caen where we were met at the station by Jean-Marie and his wife Sophie who own a wonderful comic story called Le Cour des Miracles. We again dropped off our stuff at the hotel and then headed off for an incredibly tasty lunch. Then Eric went to do his signing at the store and I went to explore the remains of William the Conqueror's castle a few blocks away. Jean-Marie helped me track down the spiffy new French comic book version of SIEGFRIED I wanted and later presented me with a large 3-D plastic poster for SIEGFRIED. A review of RING graphic novels will be coming along soon.

The next morning we had breakfast with Jean-Marie and Sophie at their home and we were introduced to the music of Serge Gainsbourgh, ate croissants, talked about SHORTBUS, ate more croissants, and finally headed to the train so we could travel to Rennes and do essentially the same thing yet again.

Rennes was ok - but neither the store or the town had the charm of Rouen or Caen.
On to Saint Malo!

The walled town Saint Malo.

Saint Malo was charming beyond belief. It is an old walled city that was the home of the Corsairs (something like pirates hired to defend the Bretagne coastline). After acquiring our convention badges and stuff we checked into the hotel (inside the walled city!) and were given a couple hours to go find lunch and walk around the town. Our Parisian friends Virginie and Laurent had mentioned that the French writer Chateaubriand was buried on a little island, the Grand Bé, off the coast of Saint Malo - and that one could walk there at low tide.

So Eric and I bought a baguette, a Camembert, and a bottle of red wine; and when we saw the tide was out we walked to the Grand Bé to picnic at the grave of Chateaubriand having only the vaguest notion of who he really was. Was he related to the expensive beef dish? We had also heard that the previous year at Saint Malo, another cartoonist friend of ours got stuck on Grand Bé becuase he wasn't paying enough attention to the tides. Thus I wasn't absolutely sure we were in fact headed toward Grand Bé because it seemed hard to believe the ocean would come in to sequester this island. So off we trekked to the rocky little island. We walked to the top and there was the grave of Chateaubriand.

The grave of Chateaubriand on Grand Bé.

We found a nice rock to sit on, ate our bread and cheese, drank our bottle of wine, and felt worldly and sophisticated. But when one has purchased a bottle of wine one has little choice but to finish it. Thus by the time we had finished lunch and began the walk back to Saint Malo, well ... nous étions tres pompette! My French gets better when I'm a little pompette, too! Quand j'ai été pompette j'ai pensé ma Français était meilleur. Hien? . . . donc, comme je disais ... Well, Saint Malo was a wonderful experience. We stayed for three days and three nights. I walked around the city walls one afternoon and watched the tide race in and, indeed, it not only cut off Grand Bé from the mainland it completely smothered a number of other little islets and rocky outcroppings until the ocean was lapping at the walls of Saint Malo itself. Eric and I also had our best meal in France this trip when we discovered we liked mussels - a specialty of the region.

We left Saint Malo and headed back to Paris. But Eric had one more thing on his schedule. He was to be interviewed on a popular "live" radio program (sort of the equivalent of "Fresh Air" on NPR) called Minuit/Dix which starts each night at ten past midnight. We arrived at the Radio France studios around 11:30, met the host, and the show began.
It was very interesting. And I was allowed to sit in the studio during the broadcast.You can hear the interview by clicking the link below and clicking on the little red "Ecoutez" button. There is a little SLIDESHOW of PICS of the interview on this page, too.

The next morning Eric went to the airport to fly home to San Diego. Actually he missed his flight and he had to spend the night at Charles de Gaulle/Roissey Airoport. But I didn't find this out till later, as I was off to Belgium to visit my mySpace friend Katerine and her family. One of the best things I did was visit Breendonk, the Nazi Concentration Camp/POW camp in Belgium. I also visited the Mechalen Deportation Center which processed all of the Belgian Jews on their way to the Concentration Camps in the east. This will all get a blog of its own but it was quite over-powering. We also went to see SIEGFRIED, the Vlaamse Opera's latest installment in their new RING cycle. The next day I returned to Paris and flew home the following morning.

Now, I know what you're wondering ... where's that French Emo-Boy David promised! Surely there is some brooding and intense, floppy-haired, dark-eyed, tight jean-clad boy for you somewhere in this blog! Where is the Emo-boy?

Well, you have already met him. The Emo-boy par excellence,
François-René de Chateaubriand. After I got home I decided that if I had gotten all tipsy at his grave, the least I could do was track down one of his books and read a little about him. It turns out Chateaubriand was the founder of French Romanticism. He was a lonely little boy, born in Saint Malo where he wandered the beach with his little mates. He was born in 1768 and he lost a number of family members in the French revolution and Reign of Terror. He came to America to find material for his writings and later produced his two best-known works from this material: Atala and René.

So I tracked down a paperback copy of Atala and René which kind of go together, and they each contain some of the same characters. Atala involves a love relationship between two Native Americans in 1669. The story is told by Chactas to a young Frenchman, René, as a memory about 75 years after the events have unfolded. But the true charm of the book is Chateaubriand's vivid descriptions on what is now the southeastern United States. The European descriptions of the surging rivers, mountains, wild life, and Native American culture are truly fascinating. Occasionally Chateaubriand goes a little over the top, but always with the most vivid results: "Down avenues of trees, bears may be seen drunk with grapes, and reeling on the branches of the elm trees." Contemporary reviews made fun of Chateaubriand's "drunken bears" too. But so much rings true - especially the details of how Chactas was captured and tortured by the Muskogee. It reminds me much of several books I've read on the early Iroquois. The book is also about the difference between a modern civilization gone awry (France in the revolution) and the Noble Savages of the Americas. It was most enjoyable.

The sequel, René, is a different sort of beast. In it, the brooding René finally tells his pitiful troubles to his American friends. René has become almost paralyzed with grief, woe, and misery and after unloading his troubles at last, Father Souël gives René some advice:

"Nothing in your story deserves the pity you are now being shown. I see a young man infatuated with illusions, satisfied with nothing... Know now that solitude is bad for the man who does not live with God. It increases the soul's power while robbing it at the same time of every opportunity to find expression. Whoever has been endowed with talent must devote it to serving his fellow men, for if he does not make use of it, he is first punished by an inner misery, and sooner or later Heaven visits on him a fearful retribution."

Wow, is that David's prescription for happiness or what! Hmmm...

Interestingly, René had an odd effect on French society by inventing the French Emo-Boy of the early 1800s. In typical romantic tradition Chateaubriand came to regret the monster he created. He later wrote:

"If René did not exist I would no longer write it; if I could destroy it, I would. A family of René poets and René prose writers has been swarming about. We can hear nothing now but pitiful and disconnected phrases; they talk of nothing but winds and storms, and mysterious words whispered to the clouds at night. There is not a scribbler just out of school who hasn't dreamed of being the unhappiest man of earth, not an upstart of sixteen who hasn't exhausted life and felt himself tormented by his genius, who in the abyss of his thoughts, hasn't given himself up to his vague passion, struck his pale and disheveled brow, and astounded men with sorrow which neither he nor they could describe."

Sigh ... thousands of little René-wannabe emo-boys wandering the French countryside, flopping their hair, oozing attitude, and looking for love. J'aime ça!

A+ David

When you talk about this blog later, and you will, be kind.
Copyright © 2007 D. H. Maxine
Quotes from ATALA and RENÉ translated by Irving Putter, University of California Press, Copyright © 1952.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Let them eat Gingerbread

Is that the Eiffel Tower
or are you just glad to see me?

Well, my dear readers, on Saturday, December 1st, the BF and I had our annual Holiday Party. We began these festive romps six years ago. We have our friends over for tasty food, assorted beverages, and my infamous "Wonder Nog" which contains nothing but sugar, cholesterol and alcohol! Eighteen egg yolks! It's very good stuff!
For this year's edibles I made a ham with pineapple and cherries; Swedish meatballs; green potato salad with red pepper bits; a tropical fruit salad; Gruyère quiche for the vegetarian crowd; two kinds of cookies; and hot mulled cider on the stove.

This year we had thirty-one guests and the party went till a little after three AM! Guests often bring presents of wine or something but a couple years ago one of our guests gave us a gift of a little gingerbread house kit. It was fairly rudimentary and in the end we never put it together. But we did eat the gingerbread and other stuff from the kit.

But this little present got me to thinking "Hmmm . . . why, I think I could make a better gingerbread house than the one in that kit!" I puzzled over the idea of a gingerbread Victorian House? a Gingerbread Castle? ... hmmm ... but after I got back from France last month I finally made up my mind and started baking.

The Gingerbread Eiffel Tower

Thus Le Tour-Eiffel du Gingerbread was born. It is a bit over three feet tall and has an electric light at the top. Now ... what on earth am I gonna do next year?

Cheers, David

David's Wonder Nog Recipe
12 large egg yolks
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of dark rum
1 cup of whiskey
8 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups of cream
1 Tablesppons of vanilla extract
1 whole nutmeg (grated)
2 to 4 cups additional rum or whiskey
(2 cups of milk to thin out nog is desired)

Beat yolks and sugar until thick and sugar is dissolved. Add 1 cup each of the rum and whiskey. Refrigerate over night.

A couple hours before serving beat the egg whites and salt until until mixed but still very soft. stir into nog mixture. Add cream and vanilla and stir well. Add in ground nutmeg. Add additional liquor and or milk to taste.

This recipe is my version of an Egg Nog Punch recipe in Sheila Ferguson's SOUL FOOD; Classic Cuisine from the Deep South. Her recipe calls for beating the egg whites to soft peak stage and for whipping the cream. But whenever I've tried it her way the egg whites and whip cream keep rising to the top of the punch bowl and it needs to be stirred before serving each time which is a big bother. So I suggest only slightly beating the egg whites, mixing them well into the nog, and then adding the cream straight from the carton.

It is very good, but be careful; it is very smooth and very easy to drink but is also very potent!

When you talk about this blog later, and you will, be kind.Copyright © 2007 D. H. Maxine. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 14, 2007

La Planète des Singes

Monkey See, Monkey Do

As you may have gathered from some of my other postings I have been studying French for the last year or so.

The BF and I had a private tutor for the first year. But since then we've been working on our own. We have two weekly self-taught classes. We quiz each other, try to do homework, etc. And we've gone to France twice this year.

Still, one thing we don't get enough of is listening to fluently spoken French. So I've started watching movies and TV shows we have on DVD with the French soundtrack on. One of my favorites is of all things the 1970s
Planet of the Apes TV series.

Why on earth, you might ask, does
Planet of the Apes adapt so well to French study? Hmm, why indeed...

Reason No. One: the scripts aren't that good. But the simple, flat writing means that the characters speak in a simple, flat and straightforward manner. And luckily apes use little colloquial slang.

Reason No. Two: Since half the cast is wearing ape makeup the dubbing isn't very evident. General Urko moves his muzzle and whether what comes out is French, English, or Swahili you really can't tell. It's also a good dubbing job. The voices fit the characters very well!

Reason No. Three: The TV series and the five films are after all based on a 1963 French novel La planète des singes by Pierre Boulle. So, with a little twisted logic, these apes are SUPPOSED to be speaking French, no? I have also recently obtained a copy of the French edition of the novel and plan to work my way through it. I'm sure the French is a little beyond my current comprehension. We'll see.

A+ David

When you talk about this blog later, and you will - be kind.
Blog copyright © 2007 D. H. Maxine

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Seventeen or So

Eric and David around seven or eight years old.

On this fine June 1st 2007 Eric and I celebrate seventeen years of living together. Oddly, it took us a long time to settle on a date for our anniversary. The big problem was what to use as a starting point.

Eric and I met on July 15, 1983. It was at an Oz convention being held at the Wawona Hotel in Yosemite National Park. Eric was nineteen and I was twenty. We hung out together some, and with hindsight I must admit I was sorta smitten, but we really didn't become friends. Thus the day we met isn't a good day for our anniversary.

We didn't see each other again for two years. Our paths next crossed at another Oz convention in 1985 - this one in Zion, Illinois. Now, by this time I had just discovered I was gay, but I was still a virgin. Eric was flirting with his bisexuality (oy!) and we hit it off much better. I was very tan and I had a bright yellow shirt that caught Eric's eye.

David and Eric Meet again in June, 1986 in Zion, Illionois

Eric and I (and our friend Alice) stayed up all Saturday night after a party at this 1985 Oz Con; and we watched the sun come up and then went into the hotel and had pancakes. Eric invited me to come visit him in Dover, New Jersey. Yes!

Well I went to visit him six months later at New Years 1985-1986. And sometime around midnight on January 1st we ended up in bed together. But we were basically just frinds at this point - and it's unclear whether we consummated the friendship on January 1st or January 2nd since we started in a bit before midnight and finished sometime after midnight. So these "dates" aren't so hot for an anniversary either!

Well, after about a year and a half of "friendship-plus" Eric and I decided to try having a "relationship." This was sometime in March of 1988. No exact date is recalled; and by this time I had moved east and was going to NYU and Eric had moved from New Jersey to San Diego. Thus with 3000 miles between us we labeled ourselves "in a relationship" and introduced each other to our respective families. But this all happened kind of gradually over a couple months and there is no specific date to choose for an anniversary.

When I was about to graduate from NYU it was time to move in together. The phone bill was getting enormous! So since I wanted to get my Masters degree and had been accepted at Yale University, I convinced Eric to move from sunny San Diego to the arm-pit of America - New Haven, Connecticut. And thus we arrived in New Haven, and found a wonderful apartment, and we moved in together, spending our first night together in our own place, on June 1st, 1990!

Summer 1990 - At Another "Oz" Convention in Asilomar, California

In front of our house on Humphrey Street in New Haven, Connecticut 1991

The "Happy Husbands"

Blog Copyright © 2007 D. H. Maxine
Photos Copyright © 2007 D. H. Maxine and Eric Shanower

How high the moon

On the evening of July 20, 1969 my family was out in the backyard of our house in Albuquerque. We were gazing back and forth between our black-and-white television (which my dad had brought outside!) and the moon up in the sky. Neil Armstrong was walking around up there. It seemed so incredible! I was six.

A month before the moon landing Judy Garland had died. My mom had come into my room to tell me. I only knew of Judy Garland as "Dorothy" from THE WIZARD OF OZ at that point, and I wondered if we could still watch the movie on television if she was dead. I was assured we still could. A couple days later the Stonewall Riots took place an event that had a certain effect on my life since it was the birth of the Gay rights movement.

The world was so full of promise! Everyone wanted and expected equality! Blacks, Women, Native Americans, Gay people! My parents were sure equality for all (and socialized medicine!) were right around the corner. Hah!

I was sure that one day I would go to the moon, too. I didn't much imagine I would go as an Astronaut because my parents were anti-military and most of the astronauts came out of the Air Force back then. But I DID think I could probably go to some space hotel or visit the moon colony as a tourist by the time I was grown up.

It seemed SO certain! This was the era of LOST IN SPACE and STAR TREK! There was such a steady build up of moving humanity into space! One month it's men on the moon! Then it's a dune-buggy on the moon! Then Skylab! I drank Tang. I ate Space Sticks! I made toy space ship models. I wanted to build a full-size lunar lander in the backyard!

Then it happened. Or rather, "nothing" happened! The space race fizzled into nothing but a boring, old, problem-laden, Space Shuttle that looked like a normal airplane on steroids. The space race was over, they quit making Space Sticks, and little David will never get to the moon.


When you talk about this blog later, and you will - be kind.

Dancing Naked with PUFNSTUF

In 1971, when I was eight years old, I was taken to see the then new PUFNSTUF movie. I already loved the psychedelic television show of the same name. But the movie appealed to me for many reasons. I wanted to escape, I thought Jack Wild was cute, it was a movie musical that resonated of many things I loved including a similarity to the plot of THE WIZARD OF OZ. I adored Jack Wild's peculiar British accent, and now as an adult, I can see other reasons that the film spoke to me.

For those of you too young, too old, or too foreign to know the film, the story goes thusly:

A boy named Jimmy is picked on by his classmates and teachers. Jimmy plays the flute and one day his flute comes to life and starts to talk. A nasty old witch named Witchiepoo wants Jimmy's talking flute for herself and she tricks Jimmy into boarding a beautiful boat which traps him and brings him to Living Island. Jimmy escapes the witch's clutches and befriends a yellow dragon named Pufnstuf who wore little white cowboy boots and a Stetson. Jimmy wants to get back home, protect his flute from Witchiepoo, and in the end finds peace and love with his friends on Living Island.

There's an interesting Freudian interpretation of the film that I've heard about. Our boy hero Jimmy is about to enter puberty and his "flute" which had been inanimate suddenly comes to life. Witchiepoo (the mother figure) wants to take away Jimmy's "magic flute." For protection, Jimmy seeks out an even bigger phallic symbol, Pufnstuf himself. I wonder what PUFNSTUF creators Sid and Marty Krofft think of this interpretation. Pufnstuf himself does look pretty phallic. Look at his "head" in the photo at the top of this blog.

Okay, back to being eight years old... Well, I loved the movie and I loved my copy of the soundtrack album. I played it to pieces, played it for my friends, and being a little gay boy I had as big a fascination with Witchiepoo as I did with Jimmy.

Soundtrack album cover for PUFNSTUF (1970)

In the movie Witchiepoo hosts the Annual Witch's Convention in her castle. Witches are quite "political" it seems; and there is a power struggle to obtain the title of "Boss Witch." The current Boss Witch was played by Martha Raye; and other contenders for the title included Witchiepoo, and another witch named Witch Hazel who was played by Mama Cass Elliot. Witch Hazel sang a song called "Different."

"When I was smaller and people were taller
I realized that I was different.

It's kind of an ode to being gay (from a little gay kid's point of view anyway). It's not unlike Cass Elliot's big hit "Make your own kind of music." On the soundtrack album, this song is followed by a spectacular production number called "Zap the World!" which is what the witches want to do. I lapped it all up!

My best friend at the time lived next door. One summer afternoon while we were playing my PUFNSTUF album we decided to make "magic wands." In the movie the magic wands look kind of like striped pencils. And indeed that's what we made. We took some unsharpened pencils and carefully wound them with colored tape making spirals about the pencils. We also made them "magic" by putting spells on them and saying magic words and stuff. At some point my best friend said, "You know if we want to make them really magic, we're supposed to be naked."

"What are we supposed to do then?" I asked in my best naïvely coy eight-year-old manner.

My friend said, "We have to dance with them."

It sounded like a good idea to me! So we locked my bedroom door. We put on the PUFNSTUF album, and played "Different" as an invocation while we got undressed. When we were both naked we stood on my twin bed and waited for "Zap the World!" to begin. At which point the eight-year-old, wand-waving, naked, wannabe-witches began dancing excitedly, jumping up and down on the bed!

So what do you do when the music stops?

Well, you put on your clothes, you put the magic away, and you grow-up. You try to make friends with other people, hoping for a friendship like Jimmy's and Pufntuf's. And you long to find a Living Island where you attempt to avoid the witches, where you can play your magic-flute, and when the planet gets too obnoxious, you can …

Zap! Zap the World!


Blog copyright © 2007 D. H. Maxine.

Below, you can enjoy "Zap the World!" from PUFNSTUF the movie!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Waffles & Walkyries

Eric waiting at Gare du Nord to catch the Thalys to Brussels

So we were off at last to visit our myspace friends Katerine and Mark in Ghent, Belgium. We took the Metro to Gare du Nord and boarded the Thalys (TGV) to Brussels where we changed to a different train to take us the last bit of the way to Ghent. We arrived about 20 minutes late and there was no immediate sign of Katerine. But I soon spotted her - looking exactly like her photos. It really seemed like meeting an old friend instead of an "internet friend." I think we were both what we each expected. Except that Katerine was surprised I didn't have a thick American accent. I'm not quite sure whether she was expecting me to sound like Clint Eastwood, a surfer boy, or a Valley Girl.

Eric had gone to search the other end of the station but he soon joined us and we were all happy and ready to depart to Chez Dynaction, or as some folks call it, The International House of Waffles. Katerine and Mark live only blocks from the Train Station and we were at their place in no time. We met Mark, whom I had forgotten was British. He welcomed us, too. Though I secretly feared that Mark thought, "Uh-oh, what's that crazy wife of mine done now!"

The Waffles have a beautiful four-story row-house style home. Their daughter Eva had kindly given up her room for us; and we took our luggage up to her room on the fourth floor. On returning to the kitchen Katerine made us a snack and brought out a bottle of red wine. Katerine now mentioned that she and Mark had been so busy that they forgotten to go to the opera a few days before. They'd had tickets to see Wagner's DIE WALKURE at the Vlaamse Opera which they had purchased after reading of my Richard Wagner enthusiasm. Katerine pulled out the opera schedule to see if they were going to be able to reschedule and there was going to be a performance the next night - while Eric and I were still in Ghent. So we decided to all go to DIE WALKURE together!

Katerine next offered up a small bottle of very spiffy champagne. And once we were properly sauced, Katerine told us her plan. We were going to go out on a tour of the old section of Ghent on bicycles! Now I have not been on a bicycle since 1995. It sounded like a good idea though, and once I made clear I was likely to fall off or end up in the river, we were all set to go.

Mark, Katerine, and David tour Ghent on Bicycle

I was astonished at how beautiful Ghent was. I often would find myself looking at a building or some-such and nearly run off the road. Biking on cobblestones was a new experince. I suspect women enjoy it more then men do. Our first stop was the Cathedral of St. Bavon where we saw the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan Van Eyck.

Ghent Altarpiece by Jan Van Eyck

The moment Katerine mentioned it I remembered it from Art History Class. It was quite impressive. The Cathedral was nice, too. Off we went down the cobblestone streets, across beautiful bridges, we saw houses Katerine had lived in, where the kids were born, and much else. Soon it was time to stop for beer. We each had two. So now after downing the bottle of red wine, the champagne, and two dark beers, we came out of the pub to find it snowing lightly. To be tipsy in the snow in Ghent is a wonderful experience. To be tipsy in the snow in Ghent on a bicycle is another thing all together! It was getting cold and I loaned Katerine my hat.

We returned safely to Chez Waffle and Katerine prepared some hot soup to warm us up. The three kids (Calvin, Lucas, and Eva) had now come home, too. I asked Katerine what kind of soup it was. I was told Courgette Soup! Ah, I wondered, what on earth is a courgette? Or is it a place? An herb? I worried, "Uh oh, Cour means heart in French. I hope it's not Heart Soup." So began the process of Katerine and the Waffle kids trying to explain what a courgette was. Finally, Lucas very sensibly went to the refrigerator and produced a courgette for me. "Oh," I cried, "a zucchini!"

We had more red wine, the kids played music for us, we looked at stuff. Mark built up the fire, and Katerine began preparing dinner. It was a dinner I might have made at home myself: salad, green beans, and salmon. After dinner we sat around and talked, drank more wine, and Katerine and Mark showed us a couple episodes of a British sit-com called BOTTOM.

A little before midnight Mark went up to bed and Katerine wanted to dance. I do not dance if I can help it. I am too self-conscious. But that did not stop Eric and Katerine. And do you know what one dances to in Ghent at midnight? The Bee Gees! We eventually finished out the evening with a sweet white wine that Katerine especially liked.

The next morning after a little breakfast Eric and I went back to the old part of Ghent to do some sight-seeing. We went to "the Castle of the Counts." Katerine had told us to make sure and see the dungeon and torture implements! Hmmmmm...

Eric in front of The Castle of the Counts

Eric and I had a nice lunch at a Belgian pub and then went to look at a Belgian comicbook store. We ate a waffle on the street, Eric bought some chocolates for his mom, I bought a few more things at FNAC, and we headed back to K&M to prepare for our Night at the Opera!

DIE WALKURE at Vlaamse Opera in Ghent

DIE WALKURE was wonderful. I will blog a review of it soon. And Katerine and Mark seemed to be very pleased with Wag's music. Even Eric enjoyed it. After Wotan put Brunhilde to sleep and the opera was over we went down the street and had a couple beers. Then we went to a beautiful artsy, leftist, bar with a most handsome crowd and had two more beers. We got back to the Waffle Iron about 3:00 AM

When we got up there was about 5 inches of snow on the ground and Ghent had been transformed into a sugary ice-frosted fairyland. We drank coffee, packed our bags, and all four of us went out to a delicous lunch. We were taken to the train station and said farewell to the Waffles.

Eric and I arrived back in Paris about 4:30 PM and rechecked into our hotel. Eric went out to buy a few more French comics, and we headed to the Paris Opera at Palais-Garnier to see two one-acts: Janacek's JOURNAL D'UN DISPARU and Bartok's LE CHATEAU DE BARBE-BLEU. We had most unusual (if inexpenive) seats up on the Fifth Loge in little alcoves above the boxes where we could peek out at the opera. I'm glad I saw these two operas but was not blown away by either. But it was nice to see Willard White as Blue-Beard.

The next morning we arose, got some breakfast, packed and left for the airport to fly home.

David and Katerine in Ghent

A Bientot, mes amies...

When you talk about this blog later, and you will, be kind.
Copyright © 2007 D. H. Maxine

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The last time I saw Paris

Alors, mes amies, I had the divine pleasure of visiting France twice this year. This is the report on voyage number one.

As some of you know, the purpose of this trip was for my boyfriend, Eric, to go on a signing tour to promote the newest volume of his AGE OF BRONZE comic series in France.

The adventure began with a drive of 525 miles from San Diego to San Francisco so we could leave the dog-child with his grandparents. Then Eric's dad kindly drove us to the airport and sent us on our way. Twenty-four clock hours later we arrived at Roissey-Charles de Gaulle airport just outside Paris.

Eric's French publisher met us at the airport and drove us to our hotel near the Luxembourg Gardens in the Latin Quarter. We checked in and promptly fell asleep until mid-evening when we arose to go find dinner. We ate at a small but wonderful restaurant that a friend had recommended called Le Petit Pontoise, at 9 rue de Pontoise. I began with an artichoke tart followed by a small rack of lamb. Eric began with a succulent sort of ravioli followed by a main course of caille which Eric discovered was French for quail. It seemed a grand success. We had a bottle of wine, both ordered dessert, and I had coffee. We walked slowly back to the hotel, stuffed full of French food and drink.

I spent the first few hours the next morning looking for a new coat. I had decided my bright yellow Nautica parka looked stupid and was too hot. I finally found a great looking coat. I was looking at it in the mirror and thought, "Now this is a fine coat!" Then all of a sudden Eric says: "David, did you see the back of that coat?" I take the coat off and for some unfathomable reason there is a picture of a geisha girl showing her bare butt, silk-screened onto the back of the coat. So off it came and I never did find another coat I liked and I suffered through the trip in my puffy yellow marshmallow suit. Eric and I went to lunch at La Tourelle, a very small and very old restaurant not far from our hotel. I had the most extraordinary tomato soup imaginable followed by a turkey curry.

You may have noticed that this report describes much eating and drinking. But there was also much wandering around, simply absorbing the sights.

Me by a fountain near our hotel.

I truly love walking down the Seine. In addition to the usual architectural, cultural, and atmospheric sights, there were also innumerable beautiful French boys everywhere we went. Once, my eyes followed a pretty French boy and my body continued in another direction and I tripped over the sidewalk! Paris can be dangerous!

We then walked over to Album on Rue Dante. Album is a chain of comic-book stores in France. Eric signed books and drew sketches for several hours.
Then we went out to dinner with another American cartoonist; this time to a small Indian place.

Eric Signing books at Album Rue Dante in Paris

The next morning Eric and I walked over to the Centre George Pompidou in the hopes of seeing the Hergé exhibit. Hergé is the Belgian cartoonist who wrote and drew the Tintin books. Alas, the Pompidou was celebrating its thirtieth birthday and was closed to the public! Hmmm.… So we walked over and spent a few hours at the Louvre. Then Eric and I headed over for signing number two at Album Bercy. After which we went out to dinner with the French publishers and Ted Naifeh, a fellow American cartoonist.

The next morning we caught a train to Chartres for another signing - this time at a store called BD Flash. BD is the French slang for comics. It is short for Bande Dessinee (comic strip). The comic store sent someone to meet us and we were taken to lunch (pizza and beer) and then a short walking tour of Chartres and the cathedral. Then Eric went to his signing and drew pictures in people's book for a couple hours. I went out and bought opera CDs at the local FNAC and found a chocolate shop where a nice woman made me a stupendous cup of hot chocolate. This fine concoction was just melted chocolate, a bit of steam, and then more chocolate dropped in. It was incredible! After the singing we went out to a Japanese restaurant in Chartres and then returned to the store owner's home to spend the night. It was really nice to get to stay in someone's home instead of a hotel. It was a nice closer look at how people live, etc. Especially cool was their having to close some immense shutters for the night. We had hot chocolate and croissants for breakfast and were driven to the train to travel to Tours for another signing.

After arriving in Tours a couple hours later we were again met at the station and taken to lunch. Again, we had pizza! Really good pizza, mind you, but this was starting to seem like a trend. On entering the restaurant we were met by a long table of about twenty or so French cartoonists who were out for their monthly luncheon. After lunch we headed to the signing, this time at a lovely store called BéDéLire.

At BéDéLire in Tours, France

Eric did his thing and I walked around Tours, looked at BD and books, and then we all went out to dinner and drink, and eventually back to our hotel. Eric and I both really liked Tours and I think it is on the short-list of possible future homes one day.

Next morning it was back on the train to return to Paris and the last signing event of the trip at FNAC - St. Lazarre. This one was kind of overwhelming. It went on and on and eventually the store seemed to be closed and Eric and Ted were still signing books and drawing pictures and the FNAC staff seemed to be getting a little testy. Seems to me FNAC should have controlled the crowds a little better if they wanted to get home on time. After the last picture was drawn, we were shown unceremoniously out the back way. Eric and Ted and I took the Metro back to the hotel and then went out to dinner. We found a great little restaurant called Au Phil… Du Vin at 23 Frederic Sauton. We began with the Cocktail Maison, which I think was a mix of grapefruit juice and Chartreuse. I had soupe à l'oignon, I ate a couple of Eric's escargot, followed by my magret du canard, and ending with dessert, coffee, and cognac.

At last the signings were over and we had Paris to ourselves. Next morning we got up and walked down the Seine and then over to the Bastille to meet our friends Virginie and Laurent for lunch. Eric and I sampled fresh French oysters for the first time and we all walked back to Virginie and Laurent's apartment for a while.

Laurent, Virginie, and Eric

Towards late afternoon they walked us over to Gare de Lyon to help us buy our TGV tickets to Belgium. We said good-bye and headed back to the hotel for a short rest. That evening we went to visit another friend (also named Laurent) and his wife Sylvie. He and his wife made us a wonderful dinner of cabbage with sausages and ham and pork. We were joined by another French cartoonist named Dominique. Laurent and Sylvie had a wonderful roof-top view of Paris, too.

The next morning we got up and went down to Opera Bastille to buy opera tickets. And then took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower to take some artsy black-and-white photos. We walked back down the Seine, took more photos around the Hotel de Ville and Notre Dame, and finally got into the Hergé TinTin exhibit at the Pompidou. We got back to the hotel about 6:30 PM and fell asleep. We woke up about 10:00 PM we were still exhausted, and not at all hungry, so we never had lunch or dinner that day.

The next morning we packed up and headed for the train station to get the Thalys (TGV) to Gent, Belgium.
And THAT deserves a blog of its own!


When you talk about this blog later, and you will, be kind.

Copyright © 2007 D. H. Maxine

Monday, December 10, 2007


Final Design Painting TURANDOT - Act II, Scene 2

A number of you have asked me about my days as a Set Designer and so I thought I'd post a few things.

For my thesis at Yale, where I was getting my MFA, I chose to design Giacomo Puccini's opera TURANDOT. Some of my fellow students thought I was a bit fool-hardy to choose an opera set in China when the head of the design department was the highly respected Chinese/American Set Designer, Ming Cho Lee. Luckily he was pleased with my design and I got my MFA. Oh, I did get into trouble on ONE little thing. The Emperor's hat (in the costume sketch) is from the wrong period based on most of my architecture. I told Ming I'd change the hat.

Below are presented various steps in the design process. The "thesis" design had to include paintings, a 1/4" scale model, full architectural drafting, lighting sketches, and costume designs. We also had to design the set as if for a "real" opera house - so I chose the MET. I also used this project for my "union exam."

Below you will see the initial watercolor sketch for each set followed by a photograph of the 1/4" scale model. For reference a person is only one and a half inches tall.

I began months before by absorbing every note of TURANDOT via CD. I also read everything about the opera that I could. I wanted simple and elegant - not over-the-top Zefferelli. I chose a red-lacquer motif for almost everything. I started out doing quick paintings of the big moment in each act.

First watercolor sketch TURANDOT - Act I

1/4" scale model of TURANDOT - Act I

Act II - scene 1 "Ping, Pang, Pong" trio
For the opening of Act II I wanted the "Ping, Pang, Pong," scene to be intimate and small. It's a lovely little lyrical scene and it contrasts wonderfully with the huge spectacle of the "In Questa Regia," and "Riddle" scenes of Act II - Scene 2. I set the little scene in a small red-lacquered room - just the size for the three-person scene.

First watercolor sketch TURANDOT - Act II, Scene 1

Act II - scene 2 "In Questa Reggia," and "Riddle" scene.
As the first scene ended the little red room appeared to slowly shrink into blackness and just as it completely disappeared it reopened with the the big fanfare of scene 2 revealing the great staircase, emperor, et al.

1/4" scale model of TURANDOT - Act II, Scene 2

Act III - scene 1 "Nessun Dorma" and "Death of Liu" scenes.
A fairly barren scene with the unknown Prince out in the Gardens while he is cajoled, bribed, and threatened into revealing his name. I also like his appearing small and lonely and a little vulnerable among the giant statuary. Often the chorus would enter from upstage as if the garden was at the top of a terrace.

First watercolor sketch TURANDOT - Act III, Scene 1

1/4" scale model of TURANDOT - Act III, Scene 1

Act III- scene 2 "Turandot Guesses Correctly" scene.
We revert to the Act II - Scene 2 set. As imaginary director I also opted to use the full-length Franco Alfano ending. It's wonderful AND it gives me another forty seconds of set change music.

Down below are my costume sketches of the main characters. As a set designer I was not required to go beyond the "sketch" stage for this project.

I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into David's designing days. Iif the MET calls, I'm their boy! Actually, if ANYBODY calls I'm their boy! If you have any questions about the project, please feel free to ask in the comments section and I'll try to oblige. Thanks for looking.


All images, photos, and designs copyright © 2007 by David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

When I think of Tom

I discovered a couple months ago that my first love, Tom Ladd, died on January 22, 2006. I found an obituary on-line and it said only that he had died of unknown causes. He was 44.

I fell madly in-love with Tom in January 1985, when we were both working at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. I was 22; Tom was 23. Tom gave me my first real kiss, too. I hadn't seen or communicated with Tom for about twenty years. But I thought about him often and really wanted him to know how my life turned out. Tom was cute; but his magic power was that he just radiated sexual energy. One simply HAD to look at him, his face, his movements, he flirted with everyone, slept with many, and he just oozed sexiness. Here is our story.

"Anything Goes!"

In January 1985, I was working as a stagehand at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. On this particular day we were beginning two weeks of "tech" rehearsals for a large-scale production of Cole Porter's ANYTHING GOES! It starred legendary belter Karen Morrow as Reno Sweeney and featured Broadway veteran Justine Johnston as Mrs. Harcourt. Johnston may be best remembered today as "Old Heidi" in the original production of FOLLIES in which she sang "One More Kiss."

I was one of about five permanent stagehands - but this production was bigger than anything the Guthrie had ever done - and they had hired an additional ten people to fill out our ranks. On this first day, we had an orientation meeting up in the balcony of the theatre; the stage was a-buzz with saws and screw-guns where the Carpentry Shop was building a three-story ocean liner! I was paying only slight attention when . . . my eyes scanning over the new stagehands when . . . "Who's that boy!"

And thus, Cole Porter struck me gay! Well, maybe I was always gay, but I certainly didn't know it until then. And I didn't know it as an irrefutable aspect of my being for another few weeks.

I was twenty-two, I'd never been on a date, I'd never had a girlfriend, and I was waiting for the "magic" to happen when I'd meet the right girl and feel like a grown-up. But really, "Who's that boy!"

This was Tom. He was almost exactly a year older than I was. He was about 5' - 8" and 140 pounds. He had sandy brown hair, blue eyes, a stunning smile, and he simply glowed with sexual energy. I know now that I was in love. But at this point, I was probably falling back on a repressed gay-boy's safety-emotion - "I want to BE him" instead of "I want to have sex with him."

Over the coming days I discovered that Tom was gay. OH MY GOD! And that did the trick. I had to become gay, too, so I could have him. I didn't say anything about my new feelings; I didn't know how. But I quickly discovered that not only Tom but another couple stagehands were gay, too. As was the entire gang of chorus boys. And this was a Cole Porter show! My soul was suddenly being informed by Porter's double-entendre lyrics, scads of young men in sailor suits dancing their asses off from eight till eleven then changing into t-shirts and jeans so they could go dance at some gay bar called The Saloon in downtown Minneapolis for several hours more.

"Blow, Gabriel, Blow!"

During a break in the Green Room one-day, Tom was just beginning to eat a banana when one of the other gay stagehands said, "Is that for practice?" Tom, without batting an eyelash, said, "I dont NEED to practice." And Tom expertly deep-throated the entire banana and slowly pulled it back out. I was speechless, awestruck, and insanely in love.

I became a love-sick puppy and followed the poor boy around. Luckily many of our assignments kept us together during the run of the show. One of my favorite moments was during Act II when Tom and I would have to wait in one of the Guthrie's downstage tunnels during the song, "All Through the Night." It's a beautiful song, and all this blue light would spill down the tunnel shaftway, and Tom and I would sit and wait for our cue - sometimes whispering to each other. I was nearing a point when I felt I could say, "Tom, I'm gay, too. I don't know what to do."

"Break a Leg!"

On Valentine's Day 1985, after the show had been open for about two weeks, we were presetting the stage about 6:00 PM and someone said that we needed to find a replacement for Tom. My heart stopped. Why isn't Tom gonna be here? In a few moments I heard the dreadful news. Tom had been hit by a car on the way to work that night. He was fine - save a broken leg. But he would not be back to the show. My ticket to homosexual joy was snuffed out by a speeding motorist on Hennepin Avenue.

I was appointed by the cast and crew to assemble Tom's "get well" package. Yay!! I knew his favorite candy, drinks, and also added in the SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE cast album. I visited him in the hospital a couple times. Then he went away to recuperate.

Tom did make it back to work the last few weeks of the show as ANYTHING GOES! proved so popular the run was extended. On Memorial Day 1985, I went home with him to talk and have a drink. I desperately wanted to sleep with him. Tom felt it was a bad idea - since I was so clearly in love with him - and for him it would just be sex. But he walked me part way home and gave me my first boy-kiss. I always thought it was a cliché about floating on air. It isn't! I wouldn't brush my teeth that night, either. I didn't want to lose even a molecule of Tom from my mouth.

"But if, baby, I'm the bottom, you're the top!"

About a year after we initially met, Tom and I finally had sex for the first and only time. It was okay. It simply meant too much to me - and not enough to him. I was so scared that it be wonderful that I made it mediocre. But he was glorious naked. He had arguably the most beautiful penis I have ever seen! Tom wanted to screw me but we didn't have any condoms and I wouldn't let him. God he was hard to turn down that night! I wanted him SO much. But I was a very good boy.

"It's Delightful, it's Delicious, it's Delovely!"

So I've now known I was gay for twenty-one years - slightly less than half my life. You know, I had an incredibly painless coming out. My family was cool with it. Within a year I would meet Eric, my lover, whom I've been with for a little over seventeen years. Eric's family is fine with everything, too.

I wish I had tracked down Tom so I could tell him how I turned out. I miss him. I remember signing in on the Guthrie Theatre's call-board and suddenly Tom appeared, put his hands around my waist and said, "Hi, sailor, can I buy you a drink after the show?" Instant hard-on time, instant adrenaline rush, instant puppy love.

Tom and I both loved musicals, too. He was jealous I'd just seen SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. We both jokingly talked about how we could have "saved" MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG. Tom introduced me to Carly Simon's TORCH album which had a stunning version of "Not a Day Goes By" on it. He introduced me to the the cast albums of BABY and LITTLE SHOP.

I remember Tom's 24th birthday party and how he wore this incredible football jersey he had gotten from a previous boyfriend whose last name was Savage and whose number was 69. The very real football jersey said "Savage 69" on it. It was the hottest "get laid" clothing I ever saw! After ANYTHING GOES! Tom got a job as manager of the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis. The Uptown was an independent movie/art house/revival house sort of theatre. Eventually he moved back to Chicago and we lost touch.

Tom and I wouldn't have worked out. I was freshly out, a virgin when we met. Tom had been fuckin' like a bunny since he was sixteen when he'd been picked up by an old man of thirty-five at the supermarket. But I joked to him that someday, in twenty or thirty years, he'd be tired of screwing boys and he'd come to me like Frederick to Desiree in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. He laughed and said it sounded great! It was a fun fantasy.

I always look for personal angles into songs and music I love. In "Hello, Young Lovers," from THE KING AND I, in which Anna is singing of her past, she begins the song with the line, "When I think of Tom . . ." and continues to tell of her memories and past love as she watches and sings "hello" to the newer, younger lovers. It's a melancholy song, full of ennui, full of love, full of gratitude and regret.

"When I think of Tom . . ."

Tom Ladd in front of the UPTOWN THEATRE, 1986
Thomas Ladd 1961 - 2006

Copyright © 2007 D. H. Maxine. All rights reserved.