Tired old queen at the movies

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

harles Laughton gives the greatest performance of his career in William Dieterle's adaptation of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).

Along with able support from Maureen O'Hara, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Edmund O'Brien, Harry Davenport, Thomas Mitchell and a cast of thousands, this is a spectacle of spectacles. A film of such rich scope, brilliant direction and bravura performances, you will be mesmerized, awed and overwhelmed by the beauty, pageantry and sensitivity of this unforgettable classic.

Steve Hayes

(Syndication is with the kind permission of Steve Hayes.)

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Use somebody

hen I first heard about Lascel Woods, it was on a friend's Facebook page: "Lacell wud luk gud in drag if he done it. Duno if dey wud let an openly gay boy win doe unfortunately."

Ah, from the mouths of babes...

Splashed across the pages of Britain's favourite tabloid yesterday was, "X Factor star Lascel Wood’s porn shame: Singer’s vile video on web."

Oh my. What could this vile video be? A group rape scene like those favoured by that tabloid's beloved football stars? Or maybe something really evil, like child rape or bestiality. That's what it sounded like: VILE.

Or, could it be no worse than the barely legal girls plastered naked across its infamous Page 3?

In fact, Lascel's "vile video" was a solo jerk-off clip, recorded on a webcam, and posted on a site "the name of which is too vile to publish" (unlike the pictures of barely legal girls with their breasts out for national consumption), made when Lascel was "18 or 19". So when he was a kid, basically - which at 20 he still is.

Still, The ScumSun newspaper had all the ammunition it needed to destroy a young gay boy, brought up in foster homes, now trying to make a decent life for himself. Congratulations - with any luck, it'll drive him to suicide, at which point The Scum will make a martyr of him.

Remember, it was The Scum who outed Britain's black gay footballer Justin Fashanu, who subsequently committed suicide.

Lascel appears on The X Factor tonight and tomorrow, where we'll discover if he makes it through to the next stages of the competition. If The Scum has anything to do with it, he'll be dead in the water by Monday's first edition.

Watch the singing here.

Watch the full audition here.

Beyond the invisible

ast Sunday night, I went cruising in the park.

Actually, that's not true. My friend "Maxey" (longtime readers might remember Maxey from our 2007 bust-up) took me on a guided tour of London's Hyde Park after dark.

Maxey is a fan of the park. In fact, at the tender age of 24, Maxey likes the park, he likes the sauna, he likes Grindr, he likes Adam4Adam. It's what comes from being brainwashed by Christianity in his native Malawi, and growing up in do anything, do anyone London.

Several years ago, I took Maxey (one of my closest friends) along to the sauna for the first time. He was extremely wary at first, but eventually, it was a curious Maxey bundling me into the dark room; I was spooked by what I couldn't see, and fled, but for him, it was an awakening. I'd created a monster!

Maxey's been keeping me entertained with his tales of the park for a while now - outrageous stories of uninhibited, all male debauchery - so, as we were drinking in the area on an unusually fine Sunday evening, it seemed like the right time for a recce...

There isn't a soul in sight as we venture into a virtually pitch black Hyde Park in central London. But as we move deeper inside, away from the boundaries, shadowy figures begin to appear out of nowhere. Men: on the moonlit paths, loitering in arbours, and disappearing into trees and bushes.

We leave the path and walk up a hill to some trees. Maxey leads me into them, telling me about the well-trodden dirt paths that he knows like the back of his hand. I should hope he does - in the dark, I'm totally disorientated. We pick our way through the trees, passing other men who attempt eye contact.

Maxey is looking for the action.

"Watch where you step," he advises as we pass some muddy puddles. "Don't want mud on your shoes. That's how you know your man's been in the park: mud on the shoes. 'Why've you got mud on your shoes if you've been on road man?' Dirty slag."

I couldn't have hoped for a more engaging tour guide. To him, this is like being at the fairground, and he delights in describing its hidden secrets (and pleasures) to me. Maxey knows exactly who's who and what they're after. One fairly built guy is impatiently stomping from patch to patch, hunting. "He's a power bottom," Maxey explains. "I've seen him before. He just wants to get fucked. My boy's got lube and a condom in his back pocket ready to go." And some back story: "Last time he was pissed, man. Everytime it was on he'd get interrupted. He was getting pissed."

Another guy Maxey calls Chinos, and then there's Black Hood, and the Polish Boy. Just off one dirt path three white men are busy getting it on. Maxey goes in for a closer look, near enough to touch. I hold back, not sure if I should be looking, and if I do, might I be expected to participate? What's the etiquette? It feels rude to stare.

I ask Maxey later about that. "Shut up man," he says, mock-vexed. "If they don't like being watched they can move on." I don't ask what he does when he's being watched.

Our quarry doesn't appreciate our presence, and certainly not Maxey's close inspection. I don't think he wants a piece of the action, just the thrill of blatant, in-your-face voyuerism. The triumvirate zip up and leave, and I see one of them is grey-haired, the other two younger and at least one well built.

"He's into pensioners," Maxey says dismissively, and we move on. Next stop is a circular gravel path with well-manicured hedges. "This is where the fat people come," he says, indicating the benches. "They can't do laps of the park so they wait here." We pass an older man on a bench. "See? Too fat, man," he says, loud enough for our elders to hear. Maxey is endowed with both good looks and the confidence of youth. And, shamelessness.

I ask him how you can be sure what you're getting when it's so dark. Maxey shrugs, "Try before you buy." That seems cold - how can you give someone the green light then turn your nose up at the last minute?

Maxey leads me into a huge tree with umbrella-like branches that reach to the ground. The effect is a sort of large room with a tree trunk in the middle. Men are standing around, silently, eyeing one another up. Someone grabs my dick through my trackies. I step aside without a word. The uninvited touch isn't welcome, but I'm not offended. Outside, Maxey's exasperated by our fellow cruisers. "It just takes two to get it started then everyone'll drop their pants. People are being long tonight, man."

We're followed several times throughout the night, particularly when we venture into the dirt paths in the trees. "People think because we're together we're going to do something," Maxey explains. Ah ha, so the hunters become the hunted... We stand on the hill overlooking the orgy tree, watching guys going in. "Go and see what's going on," Maxey orders me, clearly expecting his student to strike out on his own. I hesitate, curious about the spectacle I might witness in the orgy tree, but not curious enough to put myself in the line of fire. Maxey prods me towards the tree, "Just go man, don't be a lesbian." Again, he's loud enough for people to hear, and I'm embarrassed into going. If I'm a lesbian, then he's a pushy soccer mom.

Nothing much is happening inside: guys are standing around, waiting for someone to make the first move. Black, white, Middle-Eastern, young, old, scene and closeted. They're all here. Everyone looks towards me as I step in. I can smell stale cigarette smoke, beer breath, and that unappealing stale dick smell. It's not nice. Back on the hill, Maxey calls me a frigid slut, and we do a few more laps of the route, a road everyone seems to know.

Although there's been one or two cute guys over the few hours we're in the park, I'm never tempted. Perhaps I really am a "frigid slut" as Maxey joked, or perhaps the relative clarity online hook-up sites offer (pictures, and even video, of exactly what you're getting) - and the fantasy of porn - has rendered this shadowy, uncertain world too much of a gamble. One of Maxey's rules of play is no kissing - unless someone's clearly just arrived - or you could end up with a nasty taste in the mouth. No kissing is not my idea of sex. And the quality control issue looms too large - never mind how many dicks someone's had in their mouth, I want to know they've just stepped out of the shower.

One dark-skinned guy in shorts and an anorak with the hood pulled up, who's been impatiently stalking the park as long as we've been there, has grabbed Maxey and refused to let go whilst I've been watering a tree. "The Nigerian," Maxey says by way of explanation. He doesn't seem phased by it. It's all part of the fun.

And it has been a fun night, but mainly because I'm here with my friend, who happens to be a hugely entertaining (and informative) tour guide, and because it's an eye-opening experience. I suspect I'd get bored and frustrated if I was on my own and looking for sex. Ultimately, although I like the idea of a sexual free-for-all in the park, the reality is a bit too lonely - and grubby - for me.

No one listens

always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. What do I have to do so people will listen to me?"

Those are the words of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer from Buffalo, New York, who killed himself on Sunday after a campaign of homophobic bullying.

Jamey recorded an It Gets Better video earlier this year. This is his story.

Use somebody

or the sake of my well-being, I try to avoid shamelessly manipulated - and manipulative - shows like The X Factor, but every once in a while, you get to hear (ahem... Facebook) about an audition that deserves a look.

Meet Lascel Woods, who spent much of his life in foster care due to his mum's bipolar disorder. And - I could be wrong here - but something tells me he's family.

Lascel's performance is breathtaking - I've watched it almost every day since discovering it. Gary Barlow sums it up best: "I believe every single word you sang to us."

Watch the singing here.

Watch the full audition here.

Caesar is home

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

So they can still manage it - just about. It would appear that rumours of Hollywood's death have been greatly exaggerated, if Rise of the Planet of the Apes is anything to go by.

I no longer go to the cinema - not for mainstream pictures, anyway - because Hollywood doesn't make movies anymore. What Hollywood makes are adverts stretched over two hours; glossy visuals with nothing going on underneath, peopled with banal nonentities, and overlaid with exactly the same orchestral score. The last Hollywood film I saw was Tim Burton's CGI vomit trail Alice In Wonderland, which, to quote another writer (writers, Hollywood - remember them?) was "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

That's a quote that could be applied to almost anything shown at your local multiplex over the last 10 years. But not Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a film about which barely an unkind word has been said (although someone did grumble, somewhere, that the title doesn't actually make any sense. Think about it) and I'm not going to start.

Well, okay, I do have one teeny gripe, and that's the lack of star power. The two leads - Mister Boy Next Door and Miss Sexy Asian Doctor (sorry, I know not their names) - are so dull and featureless they might have been selling toothpaste. Mister Boy Next Door is the kind of role a young Tom Hanks, or perhaps even Michael J. Fox might have played once upon a time. This guy (oh - James Franco, I see from the poster) would be better off standing at the entrance to Abercrombie & Fitch in his underwear. As for his girlfriend, well, I suppose we should be grateful it wasn't Cameron Diaz. Where are all the stars?

Cardboard cutout pretty people aside, John Lithgow and Britain's own David Oyelowo put in respectable support turns as Lovable Dad and Evil Businessman, but, of course, the real stars are the apes, with Andy Serkis' turn as top dog ape Caesar truly breathtaking. I'm not a fan of CGI and similiar tech geek fakery, but this motion-capture malarkey really works. It felt like watching real apes, not some tedious gamer fantasy.

Apes is far from tedious; it's suspenseful, surprisingly moving, and just a bit thoughtful - with one hell of a cliffhanger.

I can't do this anymore

EastEnders 12/09/11

elcome to our new (not entirely serious) - review of the day's visit to EastEnders, in which we analyse the complex sociological meaning of Walford's finest!

Our latest EastEnders returnee - Mandy Salter from the '90s - has bumped into ancient pop royalty David Essex (as antiques dealer Eddie Moon) in the cafe, before colliding with EastEnders royalty Phil Mitchell who, remarkably, remembers her character from the old days, despite approximately 5000 new characters having passed through since that hallowed decade.

"I weren't sure at first, y'know, there's so many tramps around here," Phil growls. "But it's Mandy Slutter, innit?" Oh, he's an old smoothy, our Phil!

"Salter," Mandy corrects him.

"Well you grew up just 'ow I imagined: dog rough," Phil hits back, like an aging drag queen (but with less hair. And make-up. And frills) before dropping various hints about Mandy being a prostitute.

"Nothing like a bit of gentle banter first thing in the morning," Eddie says of the exchange. A bit of brutal misogyny in the local eatery, more like. These things happens in life, kids.

Meanwhile, Eddie's three boys are in the gym; dumb Tyler's pounding the punch bag, whilst pretty boy Anthony looks on. "Unhinged" (BBC official description) older brother Michael looks on. There's various Plot Things happening here (Michael's the black sheep and he's trying to destroy the happy family he's been excluded from) but the key thing to focus on here is the homoerotism. All three brothers are hot. This is what we need on a Monday night.

Elsewhere, Zainab Massood, local Pakistani matriarch, pops into the surgery to see Evil Doctor Khan. Unlike Michael Moon, he's not unhinged; more cold, calculating. And evil. Got that? EVIL! This doesn't stop his new receptionist - aging bleached blonde Rose Cotton (ex-Eldorado repatriated expatriate Polly Perkins) - auditioning for Carry On Doctor. "Oh, Doctor, d'you think those stirrups can take me weight?" Okay - she doesn't say that, but you get the drift. Again, this is what we want: knackered tart trying to bed much younger, evil doctor.

Pretty Anthony is rooting around in the safe for cash. Oh dear. Turns out he's a compulsive gambler. Dad orders him to check out "that house clearance in Stratford". I love it when EastEnders references real, supposedly nearby locales. Helps me suspend my disbelief. Why, I feel like I could almost hop on the District line to Walford this very minute!

Oh oh. Beautiful Thing legend Linda Henry - aka Shirley - is arguing with boyfriend Phil about his former crack whore one night stand working in his club. "She's going to be hiding in them bogs with a crack pipe and vodka," she points out, failing to realise that said former crack whore - the fabulously named Rainie Cross - has made as remarkable a recovery from crack/alcohol addiction as Phil has done. It Gets Better, kids - really!

And now Footballers Wives legend Zoe Lucker - known in these parts as "Vanessa Gold" - is wobbling around the Square in her heels, and Stepford Wives barnet. Unhinged Michael grabs her and pulls her into someone's doorway - this troubled, gold-digging hussy is all part of his elaborate scheme to destroy his sexy brothers and pop star Dad!

"I can't do this anymore!" Vanessa sobs through inches of L'Oreal.

"Eddie's brought this on himself," Unhinged Michael spits at her, before adding - fresh from the Cliche Folder - "secrets and lies!"

"You can't make me do it," she says.

"You've no idea what I can make you do," he says. "How far I'll go."

What, like Stratford?

There's more sobbing from Vanessa, and more maniacal grinning from Michael, plus a fake phone call to Vanessa's daughter Jodie, in which Michael says Vanessa's a prostitute. Vanessa might be a gold-digger, but he truly is Unhinged - dammit, that BBC press release was right!



a news compendium
with a gay bias
issue 102 | September 11 2011 | FREE

||| 9/11: the 10th anniversary. Complete and comprehensive coverage from The Guardian.

|||  9/11 timeline: The story of the day. (BBC News)

||| 9/11: beyond words. "The 9/11 attacks may be impossible to quantify, but key words and figures help to explain their magnitude." (The Independent)

>>> GLAAD has a round-up of GBLT-related 9/11 news, such as the story of Father Mychal Judge, "the gay Catholic priest who was killed by debris from the collapsing World Trade Center as he was caring for victims", and Mark Bingham (right, with mother Alice), "the openly gay rugby player and 9/11 hero who helped save countless lives by giving his own in a revolt against hijackers on Flight 93".

||| The Advocate looks in detail at Bingham.

||| The children left behind. "They lost a parent in the most traumatising of circumstances. Joanna Moorhead hears some of their stories, of grief, pride and hope."

||| Ordinary lives, once. "They were just horrified bystanders, like the rest of us, as the planes struck. But the ever-widening ripples in the aftermath were to change them forever." (The Independent)

||| First responders left out of 10th anniversary event.

<<< How three photographers captured the aftermath of the attacks.

||| Above, photographer Katie Weisberger's stunning picture of the Twin Towers, seen from above.

>>> Richard Drew talks about his infamous Falling Man picture. The Daily Mail suggests America wants to forget the 200 "jumpers".

9/11 films: how did Hollywood handle the tragedy? "In the 10 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks, film directors have responded in myriad ways. Peter Bradshaw charts the rise and fall of the 9/11 movie." (The Guardian)

...And a brilliant compilation of the Twin Towers many big screen appearances, pre-September 11. Just lovely.

||| There's another variation on that theme here; again, with video.

<<< The 2,753 empty chairs honouring the 9/11 victims. Stunning.

||| How artists are capturing memories of that day...

...And the art of 9/11. "Since the drama of 9/11 overtook even the wildest of fictions, writers and artists have struggled to interpret what happened on that day and in its aftermath." (The Independent)

||| 9/11 stories: The Guardian's short fiction project "brings together writers from all over the world to examine what has changed and what has not over the course of the last decade."

||| Five must-read books about 9/11 and its legacy, that humanises the horrific events of that day.

||| Exploring musical responses to 9/11. "From mawkish ballads to pro-war pop, there have been some awful attempts to commemorate 9/11 in song. But the terrorist attacks have inspired fitting tributes too..."

>>> TIME magazine loses its iconic red border for only the third time with its 10th anniversary cover.

||| The Twin Towers still stand tall – in memory. "I remember the World Trade Center as it was. If I close my eyes, I can see it still. And I don’t mean just the towers or the skyline — everyone remembers those. I mean the insides. If I concentrate, I can take a mental walk through the public areas of the World Trade Center, from the mall at street level, down to the PATH station in the sub-sub-basement." (Irish Echo)

<<< Pictures and video from the World Trade Center mall, left largely intact after the towers' collapse.

||| Memories from the wreckage. "Six people tell the stories of mementos kept from that day - some of which were retrieved from the rubble the twin towers left behind."

||| Inside the "bigger, better" World Trade Center; video.

||| After 9/11, safer skyscrapers rise.

||| BBC News has an interactive, zoomable image of the work at the World Trade Center site.

||| View a 360 degree panorama from the plaza of the National September 11 Museum.

>>> How the twin towers were built: an audio slideshow. (BBC News)

||| 9/11 lost decade: The American dream, and the missing years. "The terror attacks of 2001 ushered in a decade of wars that shattered Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving the world's only superpower robbed of its confidence and stripped of its illusions." (The Independent)

||| America reflects...

Tired old queen at the movies

China Seas

lark Gable and Jean Harlow team up once again and make the sparks fly in Tay Garnett's action packed adventure China Seas (1935).

Wallace Beery, Rosalind Russell, Lewis Stone, C. Aubrey Smith and a cast of thousands join them for a trip through typhoon winds and pirate waters. Produced by MGM boy wonder Irving Thalberg , it's loaded with top flight production values, endless excitement and all the glamour MGM was famous for. China Seas is one voyage you won't want to miss!

Steve Hayes

(Syndication is with the kind permission of Steve Hayes.)

MORE reviews

It's ironic that a paper and plastic model outlived a huge building complex

9/11 2001-2011

Rising to seven feet tall, this extraordinary model of the World Trade Center proves that even in miniature Port Authority's special baby is breathtaking.

The model has been donated by the American Architectural Foundation to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center. It was made by Minoru Yamasaki Associates.

"As you moved around the model, the towers changed; at one point divided by a column of light, then fused together, then looking like flat slabs, then like silver-edged pinnacles. You could begin to experience the interplay that gave them an undeniable drama on the skyline," says David W. Dunlop of The New York Times.

At the time of the donation, Tropolism said: "It's significant and ironic that a paper and plastic model outlived a huge building complex. It's a powerful reminder of what was lost seven and a half years ago."

Oh, ain't it just...
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