Sunday, September 26, 2010

Locating the source of your power

or My Weekend with Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe was October’s 2010 cover guy for “Men’s Fitness”. The guy still looks hot at 46. I have been following his career ever since I spent a male-bonding men’s weekend with him, James Belushi and 498 other guys in the early 1990’s.
The decade began with me being newly married to my second wife. I was feeling unhappy and depressed with my life. At this point, I wasn’t yet “closeted” about my sexuality. Rather, I was in total denial about my interest in men. It would be another ten years before I would come out.
I had started seeing a male therapist and he suggested I look into doing this “Men’s Weekend” that claimed to offer the “freedom to be the man you always wanted to be.” In the 1980’s, I had done an est-like weekend that was popular part of the human potential movement. While I enjoyed the dynamics of the event, I never felt like I experienced “personal transformation and enhanced power.” But a weekend of just men strangely sounded very appealing. Maybe it could help explain my total lack of interest in sports but my visual appreciation of strong/fit athletic men.
I paid my $500 dollars and was interviewed or “processed” by previous attendees (aka “sponsors”). The “Weekend” was held at a Scottish Rite Temple in Oakland. When I showed up there was quite a buzz in the registration line as it became apparent there was a significant celebrity contingent in attendance for this weekend. Not only were there two Hollywood actors but also there were several other LA entertainment insiders as well as a couple of well-known musicians. The musicians’ names didn’t make much of an impression on me but I think one was from the band The Clash.
Lowe and Belushi had starred together several years earlier in the 1986 movie “About Last Night…” that was based on the David Mamet play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago”. By the early 90’s, Rob Lowe was in the midst of rehabilitating his career after being caught in one of the early celebrity sex-tape scandals in 1988. James Belushi was still looking for a career breakout from being best known as John Belushi’s younger brother.
The weekend included an entertaining assortment of macho and fierce rituals. “est” meets “Iron John” is one way to describe it. We were yelled at for trying to manage and feminizing our relationships with women; told we were jerks and should embrace our jerkhood; shared emotional but masculine stories; smoked cigars; drummed, chanted and danced naked around a smoking hibachi. Just the usual heterosexual male bonding stuff. But for me, I will never forget being in the auditorium filled with incense smoke and dancing in a circle behind a naked Rob Lowe at the climax of a 17-hour “rite of passage” on the last day.
Celebrity EXTRA: I just came across this candid photo of Rob Lowe taken several years earlier in 2008. I love this photo too. It shows a relaxed (gut not sucked in) Rob Lowe looking like an average, happy 44-year old man. You don’t have to have hard, muscular physique to still be sexy.

UPDATE: Another Rob Lowe blog entry can be found HERE. Also, I can't resist. I found more pictures of Rob Lowe I want to post. First, he is on another magazine cover looking very sexy and hot in Architectural Digest.
The second picture is a photo montage from "About Last Night...".

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Scandinavian Vacation

We have been home for 2 weeks after spending a month in Denmark, Norway & Sweden. Our trip included visiting 35+ art, cultural and history museums, viewing hundreds of sculptures and outings to several major sculpture parks (who knew?). We learned much about Viking and Nordic maritime history. Saw recovered and restored boats and ships (remember the "Kon-Tiki"?), visited palaces with 600 rooms, sailed past 1,000s of islands and navigated more fjords than we knew existed. We were in awe of the scores of Edvard Munch paintings we viewed, including 2 of the 4 "Screams" existing in the world today (one of which was only recently recovered after being stolen and thought lost forever). We ate fresh fish and seafood galore (think fresh king crab legs a foot long, huge lobsters, mounds of shrimp piled 3-feet off the table, herring done a dozen different ways, etc.). Spent 3 days north of the Arctic Circle and were at one point further north than all of Alaska and Canada. While we did not hike trails up mountains this year because I am still recovering from my cancer operations, we did walk for hours and hours through beautiful cities and towns. And whenever possible, stopped for a daily beer (or two) in friendly gay pubs.

Things that surprised us in Scandinavia: Most people do NOT have blonde hair and blue eyes. There are a LOT of "big and plump" stores (esp. in Norway, see Dressmann XL stores) and a lot of people who obviously need to shop there. Winters are less severe than they are in much of the US due to the warm Gulf Stream (only 1 fjord in Norway sometimes gets ice, e.g.) There may be more 7-11s in their cities than in any of ours. (Wikipedia says “On a per-capita basis, Norway has one 7-11 for every 47,000 Norwegians.”)

"What's 'in' in Scandinavia?" Long, loose, cotton scarves wrapped around the necks of both men & women. Dressing up at night (i.e., sports coats). Naked mannequins in store fronts during clothes sales. Nude statues everywhere in public places (most with semi-erect you-know-what's). Irish pubs and sports bars (esp. O'Learys) on almost every block with TV watching soccer crowds spilling on to the sidewalk. Heavy-metal music t-shirt everwhere (Iron Maiden had just finished a Scandinavian tour). Long pedestrianized shopping streets. 7-11s and Burger Kings on nearly every corner.

Copenhagen highlights: Harbor tour starting from Nyhavn, 'Bike Copenhagen with Mike' tour, National Museum, Viking Ship Museum and cathedral in Roskilde, Tivoli Gardens (second oldest amusement park in the world), Danish Jewish Museum, Thorvaldsen Sculpture Museum, Round Tower and gallery, Rosenborg Castle, National Gallery of Denmark, Ny Carlsberg Glyptoek museum, climbed the spire of Vor Freisers Kirke, Royal Cast Museum, Danish Resistance Museum, National Arts Museum, Danish Museum of Art and Design. Celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Danish Navy with a parade of vessels in the harbor. Gay Copenhagen: Copenhagen Rainbow Guesthouse, Jailhouse restaurant, Oscar Bar Café, Masken Bar, Amigo Sauna, Be Proud dance club.

Bergen highlights: Bryggens Museum and walking tour of Old Bryggen, Det Hanseatiske Museum, Bergenhus fortress, Fish Market, Fløibanen funicular to the top of Fløyen mountain, 'Norway in a Nutshell' 12-hour tour (Flåm Railway and museum, Sognefjord cruise).

Hurtigruten Cruise: This cruise should be on everyone's 'must-do' list; it is considered to be the 'world's most beautiful cruse' by Frommer and other travel guidebooks. We sailed the 7-day Northbound cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes. Signed-up for 3 Excursions: Glacier adventure Svartisen (Ørnes - Bodø), Lofotr Viking Feast and museum, Birdwatching safari near North Cape/Honningsvåg. Disembarked and walked through towns of Ålesund (lost a camera when it fell in the fjord, an UNESCO heritage site of Art Nouveau architecture), Trodheim (Historic center walk, Cathedral of Trodheim, Archbishop’s Palace and Rustkammeret), cross Arctic Circle (66° 34’) and Tromsø (Polaria arctic aquarium, Mack's Beer Hall).

Oslo highlights: Edvard Munch Museum, Henie-Onstad Art Center, National Gallery, Theatre Museum, Vigelandsparken (sculpture park of Gustav Vigeland), Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, Norwegian Resistance Museum, Akershus Castle and Fortress, Norwegian Folk Museum, Viking Ship Museum, polar ship Fram Museum, Kon-Tiki (Thor Heyerdahl) Museum, Norwegian Maritime Museum, Holocaust Center at Villa Grande (home of traitor Vidkun Quisling). Gay Oslo: London Pub, Hercules sauna.

Stockholm highlights: two boat cruises (Under the Bridges and Royal Canal), Vasa ship museum, shopping medieval streets of Gamla Stan, National Museum, Modern Art Museum, Katarinahissen elevator and half-day walk through Södermalm, Millesgårde Museum of sculptor Carl Milles, Royal Palace (royal apartments, armory, treasury, Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities), City Hall tour and Tower. Gay Stockholm: bar/resturants Torget, Mälarpaviljongen and Side Track.

You will notice there is NO theater, opera, or other productions for the entire month. It is not that we did not try. We were, after all, in the land of Ibsen, Strindberg and Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus and in cities where musical theatre and opera thrive. But NOT in August, it seems. Even small, local stages were dark. As it turns out, the very next week after we were leaving Scandinavia, opera season began in Stockholm; "Cabaret" opened at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen; "Next to Normal" opened in Oslo; a revival of "Surgar" was coming to Stockholm; and a Norwegian version of "August: Osage County" was opening in Bergen.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Defying Gravity

E and I have flown many places but until our last flight, I have never seen or recognized anyone famous on an airplane before. On our flight from Helsinki, Finland to New York City, I sat next to Broadway composer, Stephen Schwartz. Sitting behind Mr. Schwartz was his librettist, Winnie Holzman. In case you didn’t know, they were the creative team behind the hit musical “Wicked”. They were in Helsinki for the Finnish version of “Wicked” that opened at the Helsinki City Theatre on August 26, 2010. Check out the YouTube videos of the event.

Cast bows with brief interviews with Schwartz and Holzman.

Helsinki City Theatre promotional video of “Wicked” sung in Finnish.

Stephen Schwartz has been one of my all time favorite composers. His musical “Pippin” is a favorite of mine. Other stage shows of his include “Godspell”, “The Magic Show”, “Baker’s Wife”, “Working”, and “Children of Eden”. Some of his animated movie scores include “Pocahontas”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and “Prince of Egypt” and the live-action film “Enchanted”.

Stephen Schwartz autographs his CD for usE and I have met him couple times before. Mr. Schwartz has worked at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto. He was in residence throughout the run of his show “Snapshots” in 2008. He and his son, Scott Schwartz, work-shopped the play “My Antonia” based on the Willa Cather novel in 2002 and staged a full production in 2004. In 2008 we also saw him performing at Broadway by the Bay in San Mateo in “Defying Gravity: Stephen Schwartz and Friends,” a cabaret revue that featured him and NYC performers Liz Callaway, Scott Coulter and Debbie Gravitte. [I took the picture of Stephen Schwartz at the “Defying Gravity” show in San Mateo.]

Mr. Schwartz mentioned that he has a new work premiering in California next summer at the PCPA Theaterfest in Solvang, on the central coast. It will be the American premiere of “My Fairytale”, a musical about Hans Christian Andersen.

I had forgotten that Winnie Holzman was a writer for some of my favorite TV shows of the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s: “The Wonder Years”, “thirtysomething” and “My So-Called Life”.
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