Dispatches From My Unfinished YA Novel

June pulled out a pack of Marlboro Lights from her backpack and opened the window that faced the woods. “Smoke?”

“Don’t mind if I do!” I said. She and I had been sneaking smokes for a few weeks now, inspired by how glamorous people in old movies seemed. She passed me a cigarette and lit it for me, then lit hers. We both inhaled, but only June started coughing.

“I can’t believe you don’t cough,” she said, wiping away tears. “Everybody coughs the first time they smoke!”

“Maybe this is what I’m good at,” I said. “Mrs. Wallis was telling us about resumes. Maybe I should put this under special skills.”

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The Troubles of the Lucky

“I am sick of the troubles of the lucky. I never liked them, really have tried to live without them. They have no true seriousness.” —Lillian Hellman

Inexplicably, autumn makes me think of Lillian Hellman. Perhaps it’s explicable, after all: I first read Scoundrel Time early in the school year my freshman year of high school and I read Peter Feibleman’s memoir Lilly, about his tempestuous relationship with Hellman, in October 2004.

That particular book is a vital read if, like me, you fell in love with Lillian Hellman’s much vaunted honesty (mostly vaunted by herself but no matter) and then fell into disgust when you realized how much she embellished, exaggerated, stole, or just plain fabricated. What Feibleman’s book does better than any biography I’ve ever read of Hellman—even her biographers can’t help but reveal their dislike by the time they’re finished—is present a woman who is difficult, capricious, and captious, but still gallant, kind, and fascinating to be around. We tend to forget that the people worth something are usually not the gentlest souls; I’m not sure why Hellman suffers more from this than the rest, but I will cling to the picture Feibleman paints of her in Lilly and try to reconcile it with the rest of the truth.

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Returning Again and Again to ‘Closer’

I couldn’t possibly begin to tell you how many times I watched the trailer for Closer a decade ago, but please note that I still routinely watch it. The clips! The songs! Those lines! In honor of the film’s 10th anniversary (!), please watch it for yourself and remember where Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen all were a decade ago.

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Just an Old-Fashioned Girl, Like Eartha Kitt

We could just enjoy the lyrics to this song and Eartha Kitt’s way of sending them up. But let’s also talk about the fact that, in mid-20th-century America, some TV show put Eartha Kitt in antebellum, Southern belle costumes.

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Lauren Bacall Wrote the Book

When Lauren Bacall left us, all I wanted was footage of her performing “I Wrote the Book” in Woman of the Year. And here it is! Never mind Wayne NEwton (I don’t know what that’s about), but here it is, delivered with peerless comedic timing.

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Tales of Former Glamour Gals

When I was 20 years old, I was bright enough to understand that my schtick had an expiration date on it. That’s pretty impressive, given that my schtick at the time was being precocious for older gentlemen. “This can’t last, Peacock,” I said to myself (I call myself Peacock). “Your time as a bright young thing has a shelf date, and judging by the way you’re aging, it’s fast approaching.”

As it happened, I slid from the Gay List’s newest member to ostracized to bitter hard drinker (I once screamed “You’ll all die alone” in the middle of a bar) to someone who just shrugs and works harder. That’s where we’re at now.

The problem with working hard is that I am now at an age where everyone’s administrative assistants are up-and-coming twinks working for the same older men I once worked so hard to impress. There was a period in my life when I would fervently wish that my looks would fade so that people would take me seriously, which is the dumbest fucking wish one can imagine. Why wasn’t I wishing to be surrounded by better people?

I was talking on the phone with an old friend from those days. “I have a new assistant,” he said. “He’s 21 and wears big ol’ cowboy boots just like you. I call him Twinky Boots.”

I once wore cowboy boots a lot, but it’s been a very long time and I have never considered them to be one of my defining characteristics.


Jill Soloway’s Craziest Moments in the NYT Magazine

So Jill Soloway was profiled in the New York Times Magazine this weekend regarding her Amazon Studios series Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor as a middle class, white trans person. Here are the craziest, most God-I-really-can’t-stand-her, and Is-she-really-getting-a-pass-on-saying-that? moments from that story.  Continue reading

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