Saturday, October 22, 2005


On Thursday I went to "Get Drag Racy," a little benefit the Imperial Court ran for God's Love We Deliver (GLWD). This was the "kickoff event" for the Race to Deliver, the November 20 New York Road Runners fundraising event for GLWD.

Before I went though, I had a problem--what to wear. I knew that there was no way I could come close to what the queens of the Court would be wearing, so I settled for classy--well, sexy classy, with a hint fabulosity: a cleavage-highlighting top and a leather skirt, both black, with a wide silver belt made up of those big studded segments they're wearing these days--except my segments were hearts, not the usual circles. But the real fabulosity was my pantyhose--rainbow fishnets.

The event was supposed to be at Home, but for some reason they moved it across the street to Crobar. So now I can say I've been to Crobar--which seemed to be a pretty nice place. I'm not to sure how easy it would be to get served at the bar if the place were really crowded, but at $13 for an apple martini, I'm not sure I'd want to be served all that quickly. (That was before I discovered that Absolut was a sponsor of the event, and drinks with their vodka were free.)

The Crobar decor is nothing special. (Someone told me the VIP room is very nice, but I'm not a VIP, so I can't really say.) The three story height makes the place seem more spacious than it actually is. The music volume was kept at a reasonable level, though I suspect on a regular night it is a lot louder--sitting at the edge of the dancefloor is the largest subwoofer I've ever seen indoors.

I knew no one there (outside of the drag performers participating, which I'll get to.) I recognized some of the Imperial Court big wigs (figuratively and literally). None of the few people on the Court that I know personally showed up. I did have a nice conversation with one guy though, who did know all of my friends on the Court.

But basically I just walked around, drinking the free drinks, one after another (Absolut Apeach and tonic is great!), waiting for the real festivities to begin. I saw one guy in a skirt. It was a little like a "utilikilt," but he said it was custom-made. It was completely pleated, and featured an external pocket of the same red tartan material in the center at the front.

Eventually things did get going. The e-mail invitation I received described the event as "celebrity drag queens race the clock - and good taste - to turn brawn into beauty." The idea was to assign one drag queen to each of the "brawns" and dress them as drag queens. They started with the make-up, at a table supplied by MAC cosmetics (curiously, all of the make-up artists they had to assist the queens were men). Then a table for bras, and bra stuffing. Then dresses, then wigs, then accessories.

The drag queens I knew: Candis Cayne, Flotilla DeBarge, Ariel Sinclair (whom I had talked to briefly at Lips on Monday), Sweetie, Sherry Vine and Gusty Winds. I had never actually seen Candis before. She is as beautiful as her pictures--only thinner. But I've seen all the rest of them performing, and all but Sweetie know me at least by sight.

The "brawn," though, was another matter. I think most were DJs. There was one woman, a "personal trainer to the stars" named Kacy Duke. A couple of them had beards, which didn't help their chances of winning.

They started off two at a time, and in 10 minutes or so, it was all over. They handed out some prizes, but I have no idea who won what. Did I mention there were free drinks? By the time the race started I was smashed.

I didn't linger afterwards. I managed to reclaim my jacket from the coatcheck, go out and jump in a cab, and go up to Lips, as the alcohol continued to do its thing. I had a grilled asparagus appetizer, and a diet coke, and said something very stupid to Frankie Cocktail, the bartender. Did I mention I was smashed? Ariel Sinclair arrived from Crobar, and we sat at a table for the show. I must have slept though it--I have almost no recollection, other than that Jason did something as Liza Minelli, and Jesse Volt came to our table after it was over, to show off her new Cher outfit, which did look great. I presume Ginger and Frankie performed also, but I really have no memory.

I hung out for a while, as they started to close up. By then I was sober enough to find another cab to go back to CDI to change back to male mode ("de-Caprice," as I call it).

I'm really going to have to watch those Absolut Apeach and tonics.

Friday, October 21, 2005


"You shall appear even more hotter with a dazzling chronometer!"

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I have just returned from a cocktail party at the French Consulate. I'd like to thank the taxpayers of France for the excellent champagne and hors d'oeuvres.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Sunday afternoon I was back at Lincoln Center, this time for a performance of Ariane et Barbe-bleue (Bluebeard) at the New York City Opera. The City Opera is the "other" opera company at Lincoln Center, number two to the great Metropolitan Opera. It often does operas, such as this, that would fail to find a large enough audience at the Met--which needs 3800 backsides to fill all the seats in its hall. The tickets are half the price of the Met's. Usually, though, you only get what you pay for--if you're that lucky.

The music was by Paul Dukas, the French composer of the most famous piece of cartoon music not associated with Bugs Bunny: The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Walt Disney cast Mickey Mouse as the apprentice in Fantasia, and Dukas' music will live therefore forever. It probably would have lived on anyway, at least at pops concerts, because it is a cute little piece.

But, the 1907 Ariane et Barbe-bleue is not. Richard Wagner was a great enough composer to write operas where there really aren't any melodies, but Dukas was not. It also helped Wagner to have characters whose motivations were clear. Ariane's was not. I've read all kinds of things about her--it was curiosity and/or greed that moved her to disobey her husband and use the forbidden key, or that she wanted to liberate his earlier wives whom she thought (correctly) were still alive. As far as I can tell in this opera it's all of the above. (The libretto was written by Maurice Maeterlinck, the winner of the 1911 Nobel Prize for Literature. I am not surprised that this work was not listed on his official Nobel biography.)

Instead of fleeing after Ariane frees them, the earlier wives stay. They've been locked up in a dungeon, but they do not run at the earliest opportunity. They even tend to the wounds of Bluebeard, the man who imprisoned them.

So it boils down to one of your stupider opera plots. People do things for a bunch of conflicting reasons, or for no good reason. Even the scenery started acting for no good reason--a rotating wall, used to shift from scene to scene, started turning continuously at the end. Stupid plot plus tuneless music does not equal a good time at the opera for me.

It wasn't helped by the performances. The key role, of course, is Ariane, who is on stage singing for almost the entire opera. (Despite being a title character, Bluebeard is a minor role.) The Austrian Renate Behle belted out Ariane, as someone put it, as if she were Brunhilde. Perhaps Carol Vaness would have done better--this was to be her role before she got in a car accident last summer. But she would still have had to contend with the conducting of Leon Botstein, the music director of the American Symphony. More than one person said his interpretation was Wagnerian, when it should have been French.

But I survived. There was some time left before dinner, so we braved the wind and walked over to the New-York Historical Society, to see the new "Slavery in New York" exhibition. It was the last day they would be showing an original manuscript of the Emancipation Proclamation--not that it really had anything to do with slavery in New York. Slavery had been abolished here nearly 40 years previously, and the Proclamation only covered the slaves in states that had seceded anyhow.

But the manuscript was there, on loan for a few days from the New York State Library in Albany. Protected by thick glass and a pistol-toting woman state trooper (Nobody looks good in one of those Smokey-the-Bear hats), Abraham Lincoln's clear handwriting, with Secretary of State William Seward 's penciled modifications, could be seen for half a minute or so by each of the many people lined up. It was interesting that Lincoln used the cut-and-paste method. There were two sections of previous laws dealing with the freeing of slaves, that he had cut out from somewhere and pasted into his manuscript.

There wasn't much time left to see the real exhibition. I barely finished the first two rooms. Fortunately it will be there until March, because I do want to go back to finish it. It is filled with a lot of multi-media works, and seemed to be very well done, from what I saw.

Eventually it was time to go, as we had dinner reservations at Nice Matin. We were lucky enough to get a table at the far end, because it can get very noisy near the bar. I had about the best sweetbread appetizer I've ever eaten. It came with a very spicy sausage, which complemented the bland meat. The whole thing was served over a bed of lentils. My grilled halibut was good, but nothing out of the ordinary. The berries and cream, as well as the coffee, were excellent. And instead of wine, I had a bottle of Lindeman's Lambic Pêche beer. This was the first time I ever had the peach-flavored one, and I found it even better than the raspberry flavor.

Then it was home to watch the second episode of "The Murder Room," the detective Adam Dalgliesh story by P.D. James, part of the PBS Mystery! series on Channel 13. I'll never be able to watch Siân Phillips in any role without seeing Livia from "I, Claudius," though.


A busy weekend it was. It started Saturday evening with a concert of the New York Philharmonic, led by Marin Alsop. She is the controversial "first woman music director of a major American orchestra," as I keep reading. I'm not sure what qualifies the Baltimore Symphony as a major orchestra (possibly that it employs its musicians year-round). It's certainly not one of the "Big 5"--New York, Cleveland, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and I've never heard it included even among the second tier, like Los Angeles, Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Atlanta.

But she was appointed music director there a few weeks ago, and the musicians immediately put out a statement saying they didn't want her, she wasn't qualified, etc., etc. I think they were miffed at least as much about not being consulted as by any real concerns. She held a meeting with them before accepting the appointment, worked things out.

Her program here started with James MacMillan's The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, a 1990 work that is based on story of the torture, confession and execution of a woman accused of witchcraft in 1662 Scotland. Alsop is known for bringing a lot of new music to audiences, not always what the more traditional listeners are happy with--and I'm one of them.

She preceded the performance with a brief explanation the work. It's rather unusual, but not unheard of, for a conductor to do this (Leonard Slatkin does it quite a bit). But what I've never heard of was having the orchestra play excerpts to illustrate the conductor's comments at any concert aimed at adults.

Alsop's comments did help me understand the piece. It combines both the old (early church hymns) with modern dissonance--simultaneously, as she illustrated beforehand. The dissonance almost totally obscures the hymns. As a whole, the work does effectively convey the horrors of religious intolerance and persecution. But it's not something I'd care to hear again. It's not a pretty piece of music. Once is enough.

Next on the program was Prokofiev's First Violin Concerto, with Midori as soloist. I may have heard the concerto before, but I don't particularly remember it--and Prokofiev is one of my favorite composers. It wasn't one of his better pieces, and Midori's playing didn't help it any--it almost seems like she was just going though the motions.

She wore a muted sleeveless print dress that neither added nor detracted. But at least she seems to have found something really adult--she stayed in girlish dresses far too long after she left her teens. On the subject of clothes, Alsop wore a black pantsuit. The only color was the red of her blouse, extending beyond the jacket sleeves--the neckline of the jacket was so high the blouse was otherwise completely covered. It seemed a bit informal, but not jarring. The only problem was when she leaned forward when conducting--the outline of her bra was clearly visible through the thin material, which was distracting.

After intermission (they've installed additional stands to sell just wine and champagne, which speeded things up for everyone. They also have a nice new chime recording to summon the audience back into the auditorium.) they did Brahms' First Symphony. It's a popular work I've heard a number of times. Brahms wrote it as a tribute to Beethoven--one of the themes is quite similar to one in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Some people have even called it Beethoven's Tenth, but it's not that similar. For one thing, I don't get the feeling of tension that I do from Beethoven's work. Beethoven's music seems to be pushing the envelope of something most of the time. It frequently seems about to be going out of control (though it never does). Brahms' seems to be content to stay within the envelope--usually with great beauty to be sure, but nevertheless always well in control.

Alsop has a recording contract (which might explain part of the reason the Baltimore board wanted her), and is doing all four of the Brahms symphonies (with the London Philharmonic), so she is quite familiar with the music. I thought she did a pretty standard interpretation, except a couple of times a wind solo seemed significantly louder than necessary.

Alsop was the student of Leonard Bernstein, though she does not exhibit any of his excessive movement on the podium. Her feet never leave the ground. Her conducting style is clear and precise. No musicians should ever have cause to complain that they couldn't figure out what she wanted from them.

It was an OK concert, all-in-all. Then it was off home, because we'd be back at Lincoln Center for the next installment of the weekend's activities a mere 15 hours later.


"disposable choir robe costumes"

This blog was the top of the list!

Runner-up: "doubled sided tape for evening dress"


"Stallone to Star in Sixth 'Rocky' Movie"

(Oy. He's 59 years old.)