Archives for posts with tag: Brokeback Mountain

Liberace Scott Thorson

I was asked to direct this movie, or a movie like it, ten years ago.

It was a script based on the autobiography of Liberace’s lover Scott Thorson.  I read the script, I met the producers, I met Michael Keaton who was, at that time, attached to the project.  Now, I don’t remember the script, I don’t remember the producers.  I remember meeting Michael Keaton in an obscure room in Santa Monica. Michael was very quiet, not at all enthused.

I remember asking myself why he would want to make this movie. I remember sharing ideas about performance and parameters.  He didn’t want to do an ‘impersonation’.

Another script about Liberace arrived, a more dynamic, dramatic and excessive script. It piqued my interest.  It began with Liberace’s final moments in the back of a limousine.  Liberace is often damned for claiming he wasn’t gay, for never admitting to his HIV status. That those around him at the end of his life went to extraordinary lengths to hide that he died of AIDS.

Of course, there are still people, (living people) who never admit they are HIV positive.   Such is the shame around HIV and AIDS.  But equally there were many people at the time of Liberace’s death who went to extraordinary lengths to reveal that he died of AIDS.  They exhumed his already buried body to prove their point.

There were too many people eager to shame him. For that’s what they wanted to do. Shame the gay man.

Liberace never said publicly that he was gay. He denied it. Again and again.  I sympathise with his denial. It was his choice, a choice we now condemn.  In these prescriptive times if you are not willing to say you are gay… someone else will.

Liberace was a brand.  Like Posh and Becks.  When David Beckham was caught cheating… they went to extraordinary lengths to protect their brand.  It’s understandable that Liberace lied on oath. He had everything to lose.  In those miserable homo-ignorant times there were plenty who would have delighted and profited from his downfall.

Lonely?

Reading the reviews for this film a theme emerges: Loneliness.

Mary McNamara LA Times: ‘A darkly moving look at two lonely men who briefly found something like love.’

Michael Thornton The Telegraph: The Lonely Liberace I knew.

There are countless other references to this ‘lonely’ man Liberace. His ‘lonely’ mother, his ‘lonely’ boy friend Scott.  Scott was ‘damaged’, Scott was a ‘gold digger’, Scott was a ‘lonely soul’. Scott was ‘played too sympathetically because he’s in jail for burglary’.  It seems like the prophecy of fearful mothers comes to pass in this movie, that their gay sons with end up alone, abandoned, unhappy.

The relationship between Scott and Liberace may seem familiar to any powerful, older man who lets a younger man into his life:  “They establish a bond that is a blend of romantic love, father-son affection, brotherly playfulness, and prostitution.”

Liberace, like Brokeback Mountain before it brings into hard focus the lives and loves of queer men.  There is the obligatory delight and revulsion (in equal measure) of the kissing. Two men kissing.  Two men kissing seems to remind many straight men that a tender intimacy can exist between men and that may very well interfere what they imagine we do.  The gay butt fucking they imagine… immediately… after meeting one another.

Men kissing, like men getting married, seems to inflame the homophobe.

I’m wondering why Steven Soderbergh wanted to make this movie, why a gay director wasn’t chosen?  Did he do it because it seemed like a cool thing to do? A straight man, so comfortable in his own skin that he can work with queer subject matter?   It still feels to me like straight boys (actors and director) getting together to prove a point.

With so many talented and extraordinary gay directors in the world how did this end up being made by a bunch of straight guys?  Was Liberace too difficult and distasteful and potentially divisive for a gay director?  When ever I have stood before a queer audience with my queer films (confirmed by other queer, male directors) the audience who have the most problems are those who want to say: I didn’t see me.

Gay man are desperate to see themselves and their lives as they live them in TV and film. It is perfectly reasonable for them to expect this.  Rather than the gay freak, the gay priest, the comedy gay… they, understandably, want to see themselves fairly represented. They want to see gay detectives, gay wedding crashers, gay teachers, plumbers, gay undocumented workers.

Many reviewers of Liberace: Behind The Candelabra smirk at the foolishness and naivety of the straight women who swooned at this obviously gay man.  I once researched a documentary about fag hags. All the women I spoke to who identified as fag hags felt adored and listened to, appreciated, respected by a man. Even if that man was gay.  Those women provide the clue to Liberace’s denial and downfall.  Liberace wasn’t lonely. He was a performing artist who found solace and validation, like many do, on the stage.

Every night he performed he bathed in the glory of his screaming fans. The unconditional love of his audience.  An adoring audience of many thousands will never be any match for the love of just one man.  I remember saying that to Michael Keaton as I sat there in that small room realizing who Liberace was.

I am in Whitstable.  It is really cold.  The water-butt is frozen.  I slept under two comforters.

Carol woke me this morning with a fresh lemon and ginger infusion and a big plate of steaming porridge.  Ate another breakfast at Copeland House with Georgina.

It’s later on Saturday morning and I am laying under a blanket at George’s house.  Feel very beaten up.  I managed to wear myself down so badly that I now have bronchitis.

Terrible cough, phlegm, headache.  Best thing is: I am at home so everything seems very dealable with.  I am so glad that I don’t own anywhere here.  It’s so much nicer crashing at Carol’s or laying here on George’s sofa.

My head is too painful with real pain to concentrate on anything else.

Whitstable.  Last night.  Sitting with Georgina and her grand-daughter Poppy eating shepherd’s pie.  Do you remember Poppy?  Poppy!

Carol and Marc dragged me out to a small town on the other side of Canterbury to watch a ska band.  Even though I felt pretty bad it was nice to be included.

Feels safe here.  I arrived from Paris on Friday morning.  I rented a car, drove to Calais on the A1 toll road (20 euro).  Ferry to Dover (120 euros) then drove to Whitstable.  Dropped in at Wheeler’s, Dave’s and Carol’s place.

There is a cute gay boy running the new coffee shop.

Dumb man that I am…I decided to watch Brokeback Mountain again on the flight to Paris.  I could scarcely get through the first few moments without having to change channels and watch Friends reruns.

Went back to it and still cried buckets.

I left New York the night of the 25th.  I’m good at that…finding half empty flights to Paris when everyone else is settling into American public holidays.

Remember when we left for Paris on July 4th?  That seems like it happened decades ago.

Why did it take me so long to leave NYC and why didn’t I write about it?  Well, we didn’t go because the Little Dog wasn’t well and vomited all over the place so it wasn’t prudent to go anywhere.  Anyway, the vet advised me not to.

I was offered a very kind room in a very beautiful hotel to rest my weary body…for free.  They really looked after me.

I stayed on 10th St for a few nights.  During the day I would practice what it would be like to live in NYC again.

I sat with friends outside Mud, I hung out at the Derby and Joe’s Pub with Amelia.  I made many, many new ‘friends’ on line and met with them at obscure locations.

After a few days of being in the city I totally forgot about Jake unless, of course, I found myself on 1st Street or outside the Judd Foundation or on the roof at Soho House which is cleared away…just like the memories I have to clear away.

I no longer thought that any man who resembled him was him and instead marveled at how many men there were who might be him.  Cute, short, hairy men with winning smiles.  On occasions, as the days passed, I realized that I told too many people about him…that it was obvious to them that I was having difficulty letting him go.

When they asked if I was still in love with him it was difficult to say no without crossing my fingers.

The emotions are far more complex and seem to exist on a far deeper level than I ever planned which is why I took time away from my blog because it just riles me and I find myself posting things that I regret.

I had a number of dates with really extraordinary men but one in particular made my heart sing.  I ate dinner at Mary’s Fish Camp in the West Village and met some good gays.  A producer, a stockbroker, a TV anchor and a journalist..I found myself thinking: Jake would like these men.

He would get a kick out of these intelligent, ambitious men.

The anchor  (Don Lemon) was a cool black dude who said that in his opinion Obama was frightened of white people.  Which explains, he said, why Obama is such a loser.   The anchor’s bf of 3 years was 20 years younger.

I don’t know how I felt about that.

Aleksa P and I had supper in Chelsea.  She talked candidly about how much fun it is for her making Boardwalk Empire.  I told her that I get hundreds of people a week looking for references in my blog to her hairy armpits.  She showed me how shaved they were with a wry smile but lamented how she must start growing them again soon.

We talked about our absent dads and how this shapes our view of ourselves.  We talked about her gorgeously happy marriage.  We laughed a great deal.  She showed me the pictures of her in Vanity Fair and I felt as proud as any dad could ever be.

We talked about Jake.  She was sad for me.

Brokeback: I had forgotten that Ennis and Jack had that fight.  That their fight had more to do with their love and their frustration and how much they would miss each other.

Dressed as cowboys their fight seemed more romantic than ours on the King’s Road.

The last night in NYC I met a man who I could imagine being with.  Just like that.  I have no idea if it will turn out like I want it…but we connected.  I am excited to see him again.  One thing is for sure:  I ain’t writing about him. Not any time soon.

TSA pat-downs are really thorough.   At JFK the rather good-looking man who inadvertently (or maybe not) held my balls whilst looking for what ever they are looking for looked up at me and I said seductively, “My balls have been held by a lot worse.”

At night.  On my own.  One more time.  By myself.

I am lip-syncing Judy Garland torch songs around my drawing-room.   After Judy I shall perform for the little dog a medley of miserable break up songs.  But actually I am not unhappy.

I am having rather a good time.  Listen, it’s all OK.  I am pretending that I have long hair that I can twist into a chignon.  I am pretending that I have long smooth legs and perfect breasts.

I got a bit irritable today.  Christ what was I thinking?  Trying to hold on..that’s what I was doing.  At least as one gets older and the break ups happen the fall out is less toxic.  I am trying hard not to be mean-after all he was totally out of his depth.  I might try to con myself into thinking that I did all the work but that simply isn’t true.  He fell into a snake pit-unwittingly.  Poor lamb.  Falling in love with me is like biting into something that smells wonderful but is actually totally rotten.   Like an old pineapple.

His life was really just how it was meant to be before he met me.  An ordinary gay man in an ordinary closet just about to have a cast of extraordinary characters unleashed upon him.  It must have felt like he was walking around a movie studio.  The freaks and the clowns and the whores.  And me, the most freakish, clownish whore of them all.

I only told him one lie whilst I was with him.  Just one.  When whoever wrote to me chastising him for leaving her.  I didn’t tell him how vicious they had been.   I didn’t tell him because he was being so brave.  He was already in such torment.  I know what it is to live a lie.  To live in the dark.  I know what it is like to be scared of who you are.

And as I unravel the short time we spent together I have to ignore that he hates me writing this-but that’s how we met.  The blog.

Sad note from a friend of Kristian’s today.   There’s no getting over some people.  Kristian, Dione and Justin will live on in my heart forever.

What a fucking palava!  If I died right now (and I think about that all the time) if I died right now I have had a fucking blast!  Actually, I hope that there is one great passionate love affair before I die.  Some one with as much flair and enthusiasm as I have. As brave as I am.  As magnificent!  Someone who is as anarchic and as manly and womanly and I am.

What a surprise, who could forsee? I come to feel about you what you felt about me.  Why only now when I see that you have drifted away, what a surprise what a cliché.

I am not wearing a black velvet jewel encrusted gown.  I am not wearing a wig.  I am not wearing makeup.  But I wish I was.   When I think of my totally uptight male film industry friends (like the fat pig agent) I take time to wonder how many of them could express themselves like that?  With verve?

You know what?  Every person I have ever fallen out of love with has come crawling back to me.  Every one.  They never somehow forgot what they were first attracted to.   Arrogant huh?  I don’t care.  Not tonight.  Look, my first boy friend was Fred Hughes.  One can’t get more glam than that dear.  He had his chance dear.  He had a moment in the fucking sun.

Maybe just one never came back to me and that was Matty but he was oddly like the last one.  A kind of blank canvas.   An ordinary boy hankering after a bigger life but not brave enough to take what was on offer.  The fact is-I am not a civilian.  Never was and never will be.  The ups and downs are all part of the deal.  Emotional Boom and Bust.  And fuck it I would rather have that than the parsimonious, mediocre life on offer to most.

Nobody expected anything from me and look what they got!

I’ve been to paradise but I’ve never been to me..

Ranting on a Friday night before I go out to dinner.   Perhaps I might take other risks tonight.  Perhaps I might take the truck and cruise the streets.  I have a parking place now.  A Hollywood parking place.  I can go where I want and a have a place to park when I come home.

Take my hand, let me take you love to love land..float on..

Now I am smiling and jigging about to the Doobie Brothers.

No Joni tonight.  It’s toooo depressing darlings.  Not Joni nor the Brokeback Mountain theme.  Not tonight.  Now, it’s time to flush this toilet and go out for dinner.

Thanks everyone, thanks for being there.  I don’t know what I would do without you.