Monday, May 28, 2007

VIDEO: LSU Crawfish Boil

Moscow gay pride march turns bloody, again

Peter Tatchel, the British gay activist who we met during our trip to London in February, was among those beaten by homophobic thugs and Russian Orthodox church members this weekend during an attempted march to protest the Moscow government's annual ban of a gay pride parade.

Here's some graphic footage of Peter and others being beaten and kicked. The police drag Peter and the other protesters away but leave the attackers free to give media interviews. Nearly all of those arrested were gay protesters.

The guy with the shaved head and black t-shirt is Richard Fairbass, lead singer of the British pop group Right Said Fred. Peter is the guy in the blue shirt who gets popped in the eye while doing an interview with reporters.

Rex's report on the protest is here.

I wonder if this is what President Bush has in mind when he talks about democracy building? Imagine what Dubya might say to his authoritarian buddy Vladimir Putin about these attacks: "Way to go Vlady."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day memories

It was 1992 (I think) and my then-partner Bob and I headed east with best friends Chuck and Carl for the annual gathering of Southern gay boys at Pensacola Beach.
My purchase of a scanner this weekend prompted me to dig out some of my photos from that trip.
Being on that sugar sand beach was thrilling for a small town boy who had just moved to New Orleans and still needed reassurance that being gay was OK. You could walk for miles without seeing a straight person.

Considering Pensacola's location along the Redneck Riviera, the Memorial Day gathering continues to be a powerful, defiant statement even if the main goal is just having fun.The queens in the crowd couldn't resist the urge to outdo each other by dressing up their spots in the sand. There were water fountains, yard sculptures, group skits and enough gold lamé to drape the Superdome.Here's Bob (from left), Carl and Chuck. Bob and Chuck are still in New Orleans. Carl moved to Portland with his partner Robert after Katrina.
Here I am enjoying the exquisite waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

My favorite memory from that trip came before we arrived in Pensacola. We stayed one night with Carl's mom in Mobile and went to one of those "family," all-u-can-eat places considered to be fine dining at the time by most suburban Southerns.

Chuck, a native of Arkansas, had lived in New Orleans for years and hadn't eaten a restaurant meal outside of the French Quarter or a big cosmopolitan urban core since Reagan's first term.

The Mobile buffet was a little more than he could handle.

I was at the salad bar piling my plate with lettuce drenched in transfat and bacon grease when I noticed poor little Chuck. He was standing with an empty tray in a swarm of people twice his size doing his best impression of Sissy Spacek in "Carrie," sans the blood.

Our eyes met and he yelled: "What thu HEYLL is gowen own?"

Chuck survived the night, barely, and we went on to have a great weekend.

A little piece of Cajun Country

We gorged on mudbugs Saturday at the annual LSU Alumni San Diego chapter crawfish boil. Our table included (from the left) former New Orleanian Tom, County Derry native Fergal, and Midwesterners Jim and Rex.
The boil was a sellout, as usual, with about 3,000 people filling the practice field next to Qualcomm Stadium (upper right and home of the San Diego Chargers).

Cheryl caught on quickly to the tail-biting, head-sucking routine. But Hieu, a vegetarian, stuck to the Zapp's chips and the vegetable platter.

More must be said about Tom. You'll notice in the top photo that he's wearing a surgical glove. When he encountered a live crawfish earlier in the day, he asked if the critter would sting him if he held it.

Now, mind you, Tom lived a number of years in New Orleans, and on more than a few occasions he ate crawfish with his ex-boyfriend's family in Chalmette. You have to wonder what kind of trama he went through during those trips to The Parish.
Our table at the crawfish boil

Ned and Jessica, both Louisiana natives, occupied the table next to us with a bunch of their friends.

Ned is a fellow journalist and the son of long-time Alexandria mayor Ned Randolph Jr. Jessica is a Tulane med school grad (we've forgiven her for that) who is doing her residency at the Navy Hospital here.

The crowd was tame by Louisiana standards, but a few costumed characters pushed the limits of local decorum.

Music and dancing

To make the event happen, the LSU chapter trucked in 6.5 tons of live crawfish from Lafayette, along with a cooking crew that started boiling the critters hours before the gates opened.

Here's the traveling kitchen.
The crawfish arrived in these bags.
Here they are awaiting their fate.
All cooked and ready for eating.

LSU Crawfish Boil

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Candidates lining up to become Mike VI

A new LSU mascot soon should be prowling the school's $3 million, 15,000-square-foot tiger habitat which sits between the fabled football stadium and basketball arena.
The School of Veterinary Medicine has received dozens of offers of cubs since the death of Mike V last week, according to university officials. LSU has promised not to purchase a new tiger from an unscrupulous private breeder. And the new Mike won't be delivered to Baton Rouge until after he has been weaned.
But that still won't satisfy PETA, which predictably called on LSU to make Mike V the university's last live mascot.

LSU's response: I don't think so.

UPDATE: The Associzated Press reports that LSU's top priority is finding a young tiger with an easy going personality.

The school's cash cow Athletic Department spends about $15,000 years caring for the live mascot, and the Tiger Athletic Foundation - LSU's non-profit sports support organization - pays for the upkeep of the habitat.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

North Park Festival of the Arts

We spent the afternoon roaming a four-block stretch of University Avenue that played host to the neighborhood's biggest annual festival. There were bands . . .
And circus acts . . .
And dancers . . . and zip code T-shirts . . . and face painters . . . and Polish sausages. Hmmmmm. There seems to be a pattern here. Do all neighborhood festivals in San Diego look and feel the same?

These cultural outdoor outings are fun, but they don't hold a candle to the ones held in southern Louisiana, such as the Duck Festival in Gueydan, the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival in Morgan City, the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge and the Frog Festival in Rayne (my sentimental favorite because it's held in my parents' hometown).

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mike V

Mike the Tiger, LSU's regal mascot for the last 16 years, died early Friday morning. His passing was major news across Louisiana (here and here).
While it might seem trivial to some, in Louisiana Mike was much more than simply a living symbol of the ferociousness of the school's fabled sports teams.

Like the four tigers that preceded him, Mike V was a revered member of the LSU family and a critical player in the pageantry that helps make LSU special to so many of us.
He lived out his last years in this $3 million habitat -- built with donations and decorated Friday with a memorial wreath -- in the shadows of Tiger Stadium and the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

I have fond memories of watching Mike grow into a big, strapping cat in the early 1990s.

He was an important part of my personal football game ritual. I always stopped by his cage after arriving on campus. And I usually made it to my seat inside the stadium in time to watch Mike circle the field in his golden, cheerleader-topped trailer (see next pics).

And I loved introducing people to Mike during their first visit to LSU's campus.
If I closed my eyes when Mike's roar thundered over the stadium PA system in front of the euphoric (and inebriated) student section, it wasn't much of a leap to imagine being in Rome's Coliseum awaiting the arrival of the city's heroic gladiators.

I have no doubt that a Mike VI will be there in September when the football team plays its first game.

But many of us will miss and warmly remember Mike V for years to come, in part because of his special disposition. His Web site, here, says this about him: "Of all the tigers that have served as LSU' s mascot, Mike V has the best personality and has been the easiest to handle."

Read what others have written about Mike's passing at this special memorial Web site.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Shrine of St. Jerry the Villainous

Too bad I don't believe in Hell. I'm cheated out of fantasizing that Falwell is spending eternity there.

I swear that I wrote those lines above before seeing this clip from Anderson Cooper's show on CNN featuring author Christopher Hitchens calling a spade a spade.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Generation V: Face Paint and Mowhawks

It was 1981. I had just completed 8th grade in Catholic school in Jennings, La., and my class took a graduation trip to Houston.

The highlight of the trip was a visit to AstroWorld, the city's big amusement park.

It didn't take long for us to notice fliers promoting a big show featuring Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow later that evening at the park's vast outdoor concert space.

We couldn't believe our luck. Not only was it our first pop music concert, but also a chance to see the groups perform two of the hottest videos burning up the airwaves on MTV - "Goody Two Shoes" by the Ants and "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow.

To say we stood out in our gelato-colored polo shirts, khaki shorts and deck shoes amid a sea of black leather, mascara and spiked do's would be a major understatement. It was country come to the city on steroids.

Here's a picture of my New Orleans buddy Michael and his mother taken in the early 1980s when he was doing the punk thing in New York.

It seemed EVERYONE at the AstroWorld concert looked like Michael, except for me and my friends.

Here's "Goody Two Shoes."

And my favorite Ants song, "Stand and Deliver."

Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" still pops up every once in a while in movies and TV commercials.

Wondering what happened to Michael, my former punk friend from New Orleans?

Here he is all grown up.

Thanks Michael for letting me use the pics.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Eurovision outgays itself

From the country that gave the world genocide and über-war criminal Slobodan Milošević comes Eurovision 2007 winner Marija Šerifović, whose strong voice and pseudolesbian/Harry Potteresque performance played well all across the continent. Even the BBC couldn't ignore the homo aura of the act, describing it as a "slow-motion lesbian porn film."

Find multiple versions of the winning song here, including the English version titled "Destiny."

We captured most of these images by photographing the live broadcast with Rex's fancy digital camera. This post by Rex includes a translation of a 2004 Serbian magazine article that claims Šerifović came out to her father.
Finishing second in the 52nd version of this huge cultural event, which is virtually unknown on this side of the Atlantic, was Ukrainian glam drag queen Verka Surduchka (below), whose entry was fiercely protested by rabidly homophobic conservative nationalists in her home country.
This quite possibly was one of the gayest Eurovision finals ever, an amazing feat given the event's long history of appealing to its legions of queer fans.

And the 2007 finale could have been even gayer. Denmark's DQ, the competition's other drag performer -- yes, there were two -- was eliminated in an earlier round when her song, "Drama Queen," failed to make the cut.

I love Eurovision. We spent most of Saturday afternoon watching the three-hour-plus finale live through a high-resolution Internet Webcast.

The contest, which is a kitschy mix of American Idol, Olympic opening ceremony and political party convention, has produced some of the world's best know music performers over the years including Abba (1974), Céline Dione (1988) and Lulu (1969). Viewers in each participating country vote for their favorites after the finalists perform their songs during the live show.

Most of my favorites didn't fare so well, though Serbia and Ukraine did make my top 10 list.

My picks...................................Final results
1. France.....................................1. Serbia
2. Finland....................................2. Ukraine
3. Germany.................................3. Russia
4. Hungary..................................4. Turkey
5. Latvia......................................5. Bulgaria
6. Serbia..................................... 6. Belarus
7. FYR Macedonia......................7. Greece
8. Ukraine...................................8. Armenia
9. Sweden...................................9. Hungary
10. U.K......................................10. Moldova

Go here to see all of the final results. And here for links to videos of all of the competitors and a replay of the Webcast.
Among my disappointments was France's entry, Les Fatals Picards fronted by fem falsetto Ivan Callot, who finished at No. 22.
The story was similar for German entry Roger Cicero (No. 19), who had a nifty big-band sound.
And the U.K.'s hyper-poppy Schooch (No. 23), whose high-energy performance to "Flying the Flag (for you)" could have doubled as a slightly risqué British Airways commercial.

Not all of my favorites fared poorly.

I really liked Hayko from Armenia, but his bleeding-heart prop at the end of his song was shameful even by Eurovision's schmaltzy standards.

As in past years, politics seemed to surface in some of the voting Saturday. That's the only way to explain the high finish of so many clearly sub-par entries, particularly those from eastern European countries who received big support from neighboring nations.
Take Russia for example. That country's entry was Serebro (No. 3), a talentless sexpot girl group whose song, profoundly titled "Song #1," included these unforgettable (or unforgivable) lyrics:
Gotta tease you nasty guy
So take it don't be shy
Put your cherry on my cake
And taste my cherry pie

Then there was Turkey's pitiful boy-toy entry, Kenan Doğulu, whose fourth-place finish came courtesy of first-place votes by Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands and the U.K., all of which have sizable Turkish immigrant populations.

As usual the spotlight was on the host country -- the winner of the previous year's competition.

For the most part, Finland put on an entertaining and technically flawless show despite some awkward dead spots, like when the hosts struggled near the end to fill a gap while the winner made her way to the stage.
Here's a view of the huge crowd that gathered to watch the contest on giant screens in Helsinki's central square.
We plugged the computer right into the TV to watch the show through the Webcast which came in at television quality. You've gotta love technology!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wigged out

One of the things that makes my neighborhood, North Park, so interesting is that it's both an aging working-class community of pawn stores, sleazy bars and barber shops, and a gentrifying district quickly filling with trendy restaurants, coffee shops and galleries.
This wig shop on University Avenue is part of the old world.

From the looks of the store's display window, it seems safe to assume that many of its customers, like the neighborhood, are in some state of transition.