Monday, June 11, 2012

It Was The Summer Of 1982...

    I was just nine years old when I got my first look at a Reese’s Pieces eating guy that was afraid, totally alone and three million light years from home. It was the Summer of 1982 and his name was E.T.

    E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was released into the movie theaters on June 11, 1982. Happy 30th Birthday E.T.

    E.T. was not the only character that we were introduced to that summer that left an impact on American culture. We also met a barbarian, a madam, a red headed orphan, disgruntle ghosts, some fast moving teenagers, a couple of androids, some mice and rats and another alien that was not quite as nice as E.T. We were also reunited with some of our favorite characters from past films. We saw the return of Rocky, Jason Voorhees, Captain Kirk and Spock, and Mad Max as the Road Warrior.

    Several critics have said the Summer of 1982 was the best summer of movies ever. If anything, it took audiences on a whirlwind tour of locations, from the Antarctica in The Thing, to the inside of a computer program in Tron and then into outer space with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

    Here is a list of movies that kept audiences in the theaters that summer compiled by John Sanchez , a Yahoo contributor, in an article published May 1, 2007. Now grab your popcorn, Goobers, and a large coke and enjoy!

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (Universal; Director - John Milius) This action packed adventure film gave Arnold Schwarzenegger his name in movies before he became a superstar with his next film "The Terminator." Here Ah-nold plays the title character, a warrior seeking revenge on those who destroyed his village and enslaved him. This was a violent and brutal R-rated film with terrific photography and a terrific musical score that critics dismissed but clicked with audiences. The film wasn't a major hit but made a respectable $22 million and spawned a lesser sequel.
DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID (Universal; Director - Carl Reiner) Those of us old enough to remember know that Steve Martin was a hugely successful film comedian in the late 70's through the late 80's. This was Martin's first comedy after his successful starring debut in 1979's "The Jerk" and his disastrous serious turn in the musical "Pennies From Heaven." Here director Reiner fashioned (along with Martin) an interesting gimmick to go with a story of a private detective trying to solve a totally uninteresting mystery. The gimmick was having the detective interact with clips from several film noir and mysteries from the 40's. The film was shot in glorious black and white but the one joke note starts out fun but gets old quickly and without an interesting original story the film runs dry, especially in its last 30 minutes. Die-hard Martin fans came out in droves but the film only appealed to true film buffs and the film only grossed a disappointing $17 million.
ROCKY III (MGM/UA; Director - Sylvester Stallone) The third film in the enormously popular series saw our title hero take on nasty Mr. T while former foe Apollo Creed became his manager after the death of Mickey (Burgess Meredith). The winning formula for the series was starting to wear a little thin here but audiences made it another smash at the box office as it was one of the highest grossing films of the year taking in $66.2 million.
ANNIE (Columbia; Director - John Huston) The smash Broadway musical made it to the big screen with veteran director Huston an odd choice to direct a musical, a genre he had never before attempted. Huston made the immediate mistake of casting a little girl in the title role who came off as cloying and annoying and Carol Burnett as the villainess who comes off as cartoonish instead of threatening. Albert Finney nearly saved the day as Daddy Warbucks but the film faltered because the musical numbers were mostly forgettable while being lifelessly directed by Huston. Critics weren't kind to the film but audiences showed up to the tune of $37.8 million. The problem was the over inflated budget crept up to $50.5 million making this musical a flop.
AUTHOR, AUTHOR (20th Century Fox; Director - Arthur Hiller) Al Pacino found himself in his first career slump having bombed in 3 consecutive films (Bobby Deerfield; And Justice For All; Cruising). Pacino decided to take a different path in his career by playing in this comedy in which a playwright suddenly finds himself a single parent of several kids (all of hers from a previous marriage) after his wife walks out on him. The film wants to be a funny version of "Kramer vs. Kramer" while still trying to make serious points about parenting and marriage but fails in all counts. Pacino is hopelessly miscast in the role after having become one of our great actors playing brooding, dark characters. Critics and audiences agreed and the film bombed taking in only $10.6 million.
BLADE RUNNER (Warner Bros; Director - Ridley Scott) No film has divided audiences more then this Sci-Fi adventure/thriller starring Harrison Ford (fresh off the original "Raiders") as a futuristic former cop assigned to hunt down androids who have made their way to Earth. Based on Philip K. Dick's story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? "Blade Runner" is a triumph of visuals and music but has a difficult script that makes the film hard to follow. While the film did make a respectable $27.6 million and is now a cult film, there are as many detractors as fans. Director Scott released a director's cut in the 90's that eliminated Ford's narration (which was added by the studio to try and eliminate some of the confusion), added deleted scenes and included a vastly different and very abrupt ending. True fans of the film hail this cut as an improvement.
E.T. (Universal; Director - Steven Spielberg) How many of you guessed that this was the film that supplanted "Star Wars" as the highest grossing movie of all time? Spielberg's classic about the relationship between a stranded extraterrestrial and a little boy warmed the hearts of children and adults alike with seemingly each screening ending in wild applause. The film would play in first run right up to the Christmas movie releases and played in second run until the following spring. The final box office take was $228 million.
FIREFOX (Warner Bros; Director - Clint Eastwood) The Clint film of the summer was this espionage thriller about a pilot who is hired and trained to go into Russian territory and steal its new prototype plane. This was an unusually silly but action packed Eastwood movie and back then most Eastwood movies made good money no matter what the reviews. The reviews for this film were generally negative but the box office take was an impressive $25 million.
GREASE 2 (Paramount; Director Patricia Birch) Don't you look at the title and just how this film turned out? Birch, the choreographer on the original made her directorial debut and promptly returned to choreography never to direct again. The film is filled with mostly unattractive and lifeless characters (remember the dynamic that John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John brought to Danny and Sandy?) with Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield (who?) taking on the leads. The musical numbers are forgettable and the paper-thin story simply borrows from the original. Critics and audiences could smell this turkey months before its release and it bombed with a $6.5 million gross.
HANKY PANKY (Columbia; Director - Sidney Poitier) Gene Wilder starred in this comedy/thriller about an everyman who is mistakenly accused of murder and has to go on the run to clear his name. Richard Pryor was originally signed to co-star with Wilder (it would have been the third time) but had to bow out after his tragic burning incident and the part was re-cast for comedienne Gilda Radner, who would fall in love and later marry Wilder. The film was a pleasant mix of thrills and laughs and received generally positive reviews from critics. Oddly, despite the good reviews and the popularity of its two lead stars, the film tanked at the box office earning a mere $10 million. The film had the bad luck of opening the same weekend as "Poltergeist" and "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" and one week before "E.T." It is generally acknowledged that the film simply got lost in the shuffle of three big hits.
POLTERGEIST (MGM; Director Tobe Hooper) This adult ghost story was surprisingly rated PG to attract a bigger audience and the results show it worked. It's the simple story of a suburban family whose lives are turned upside down when their youngest daughter disappears seemingly at the hands of vengeful spirits. With Steven Spielberg's name on the film as producer audiences flocked to see the film and see if they would be frightened out of their seats. The film fell somewhat short of ultimate scares but provided good entertainment. The behind the scenes story seems just as interesting as the film itself. Though it has never been officially admitted to it is widely known that Spielberg was unhappy with horror master Hooper's humorless direction of the film and took over directing duties himself while Hooper remained on set as more of a consultant. Spielberg cannot ever confirm this as he was also directing "E.T." at the same time and had to split his time between the two films - an official no-no with the director's guild. Hooper has never publicly commented and has never taken part in any programs in regards to the movie. Spielberg's touch is seen throughout the film, especially in the first half as we see the suburban family life. The film went on to gross over $38 million and spawned two lesser sequels and a television show.
STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN (Paramount; Director - Nicholas Meyer) The second in the successful series was considered a major step up to the 1979 original and is regarded as one of the best films in the series. "Khan" (note that in its release there was no "2" in the title) tells the story of Khan (Ricardo Montalban) taking his revenge on Captain Kirk, who was left abandoned on an isolated planet by him in the original television series. The film appealed not only to the most fervent fans (Trekkies) but also to general film fans and became a hit making over $40 million.
THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS (Universal; Director - Colin Higgins) Based on the hit Broadway musical, director Higgins wisely chose superstar Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton (fresh off her smashing debut in "9 To 5") to head the cast in the story of a sheriff being pressured to close a local Chicken Ranch whose madam is his love interest. The musical has its moments but suffers from not being quite naughty enough considering its title and being based on the bawdy play, and the fact that its two appealing leads have much less screen time then expected. This fact is a bigger shame when you consider that the few scenes Reynolds and Parton have are the best in the film. Despite this and mostly negative reviews, the film was a big hit grossing over $47 million.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY (Orion; Director - Woody Allen) A Woody Allen movie opening in the heart of summer? Allen's films are designed for specific audiences and summer is the last place you'd expect to find one. He did have marginal success in 1979 with one of his masterpieces, "Manhattan," but this is one of his minor films that is fun but no classic. The film centers on 3 couples spending a summer weekend in the country circa 1900. Still the older crowd came out and took a film with a $2 million budget and grossed $9 million.
AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (Paramount; Director - Taylor Hackford) The sleeper hit of summer was this love story for adults that seemed better suited for a fall release but found its audience with a terrific set of reviews and leading performances by rising stars Richard Gere and Debra Winger. This hard and properly R-rated film told the tale of an outcast who dreams of being a fighter pilot and goes through training to become an officer while falling in love with a local girl who wants to make him a gentleman. The film clicked on all levels and received a terrific set of reviews and would receive 6 Academy Award nominations including one for Winger and a win for Best Supporting Actor for Lou Gossett, Jr. as the drill instructor. The film also features an Award winning song (Up Where We Belong) and one of the best endings to any movie ever made. The film came out of nowhere to be a smash hit and grossed $55.7 million.
THE SECRET OF NIMH (United Artists) The only animated family film of the summer was this non-Disney film about a young widowed mouse that comes across a society of rats of advanced intelligence. The film was created by a group of former Disney animators who left to form their own company and the result is a film that is nice to look at but thin on story. Children (along with most critics) appeared bored and frightened by the film and it grossed a disappointing $14.7 million.
THE THING (Universal; Director - John Carpenter) "The Thing From Another World," (1951), was remade by "Halloween" director Carpenter into this stylish and bloody tale of a group of scientists in the Antarctic where a creature comes in the form of a dog and soon starts to take over the humans one by one and makes monsters out of them. The theme of trusting your fellow man is illustrated well here and the reviews were mixed, mostly due to Carpenter's excessive use of violence. Universal decided to release this film in July instead of October and, sadly, this film bombed at the box office despite having a huge cult following today. The film grossed $13.8 million.
TRON (Walt Disney; Director - Steven Lisberger) In 1982 Walt Disney pictures announced its intention to become hip with today's audience by creating this PG-rated adventure about a computer programmer (Jeff Bridges) who gets sucked into one of his video games while trying to save his programs from being stolen by a greedy businessman (David Warner). While inside the game he has to fight for his life playing on various levels as he tries to escape. This was the directorial debut for 32 year-old Lisberger who announced himself with this film as a director to watch. Sadly he has never lived up to that billing. "Tron" was a sleeper hit that critics mostly adored and the film grossed over $33 million.
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (Warner Bros; Director - George Roy Hill) If any film belonged in the fall releases and not in summer was this adaptation of John Irvin's novel about a young man's unusual journey through life - a life made all the more unusual by his mother (Glenn Close). Along the way Garp bites the ear off a dog that has bitten him, witnesses a plane flying into a house he then insists on buying, becomes close friends with a transsexual former pro football player (John Lithgow), and becomes a novelist only to see his mother write a book that becomes a phenomenon. Robin Williams showed his true talent in the dramatic role of Garp in this brilliant adaptation directed by George Roy (Butch Cassidy; The Sting; Slapshot) Hill. Both Close and Lithgow were nominated for Supporting Oscars but the film failed to find its audience no doubt due to the odd marketing ploy of trying to make it look funnier then it was and for releasing it in July when it should have come out in October or November.
FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (Universal; Director - Amy Heckerling) One of the earliest successful teen sex comedies was this surprisingly smart comedy based on the novel by Cameron (Almost Famous; Say Anything) Crowe, who wrote the script. The film tells multiple stories of teenager in a California community and uses frankness in covering such issues as teenage pregnancy, sex, masturbation, drugs and abortion. The film introduced us to the talents of such future stars as Sean Penn (priceless as Jeff Spicoli), Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Nicolas Cage, Judge Reinhold, Anthony Edwards and Eric Stoltz among others. Crowe based his book on events he witnessed when enrolling in high school in his 20's and being able to pass himself off as a student. The film clicked with its intended audience and grossed $27 million.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 (3-D) (Paramount; Director - Steve Miner) The third installment in the never ending series with mass killer Jason Voorhees stalking his human prey on a campsite benefited from the recent re-birth of 3-D. The 3-D effects in this film turned out to be some of the best of all the films made in the process at this time and the film was a big hit amongst the teenage crowds clamoring for murder and mayhem. The film, with a $3 million budget, went on to gross an amazing $33 million.
NIGHT SHIFT (Warner Bros; Director - Ron Howard) Howard left Happy Days to become a film director and brought along co-star Henry Winkler for this comedy about a city morgue clerk forced to take the night shift and soon relishes the quiet until his new rambunctious assistant comes in and livens things up by scheming for them to become pimps. Michael Keaton made his film debut as the new assistant and promptly stole the movie and became a star in the process. Winkler gives his best big screen performance here in the subtler role wisely allowing Keaton his space. The film had more negative reviews in a mixed batch but the film still eeked out a mildly respectable $23.6 million but nowadays there are few people who admit to not having seen it and even fewer that dislike it.
THE ROAD WARRIOR (Warner Bros; Director - George Miller) This high powered, action packed sequel to the cult hit "Mad Max" starred still relative unknown Mel Gibson as Max who, in this film, aids an oil producing community against a band of baddies out to steal the oil. The film is filled with amazing stunts and chases but failed to find its potential audience in 1982 despite strong reviews. The film only grossed $11 million but soon became a cult hit on video and would lead to another sequel in 1985.
SIX PACK (20th Century Fox; Director - Daniel Petrie) This was the film fans were clamoring for that wanted to see country singer Kenny Rogers as a stock car racer who winds up with a clan of kids. This is strictly family fare for those not minding an unoriginal script and seeing children's antics over and over. The film received mostly scathing reviews but still made a respectable $20 million.
SUMMER LOVERS (Filmways; Director - Randal Kleiser) Kleiser, director of two previous smash hits (Grease; The Blue Lagoon), finally got tripped up with this ill-conceived and mostly sexual teasing drama about three friends on summer vacation on a Greek island who constantly hint at having a threesome and then spend 90 boring minutes consistently teasing the audience. The photography was stunning but there was little else to enjoy, as audiences dislike being frustrated for longer then a few minutes at a time. The film was a bomb at the box office.
THINGS ARE TOUGH ALL OVER (Columbia; Director - Thomas Avildsen) Believe it or not but back in 1978 Cheech and Chong, two comedians whose forte was drug comedy, became movie stars with their film "Up In Smoke." From then on moviegoers were treated to one movie a year from C&C until their humor became a thing of the past. This was their fourth and least successful movie and indicated what was about to come when each subsequent movie would gross less then the one before it. Here C&C play duo roles, their usual roles plus Arab brothers (with make-up so convincing you barely recognize them) in the story of two idiots who drive a Cadillac from Chicago to Las Vegas not realizing there is $5 million in the car. Not surprisingly there is little more to the story that depends on the two leads to carry the humor with stupid comments and situations. Not surprisingly critics savaged the film but it still made a nice $21 million considering the budget was just over $3 million.
YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE (20th Century Fox; Director - Garry Marshall) "Airplane" in a hospital is the best way to describe this comedy that is all over the map with gags flying at you left and right. Depending on your mood probably depended on your opinion of the film. Yes it is stupid but in the right frame of mind you might never stop laughing. This film really divided critics with some lauding its audacious humor and some resentful at its silliness. A bonus for moviegoers was that many soap opera stars (including a pre-fame Demi Moore) make cameo appearances throughout the film. With its meager budget, the film turned a healthy profit grossing over $30 million.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Continuing Confessions Of A Twirly Boy


Yes ma’am, I do know how to handle my pole.

    This is becoming one of my responses when I am asked if I am any good at pole dancing. In addition, you should see the faces I get from people when I tell them I pole dance.  Some people look at me like I am an alien and I have had a few the look as if they would like a private pole dance from me. Regardless of how they look at me, none of them ever expects it.

    Pole Dancing has become a way for me to have fun, get exercise and push my boundaries. I am doing things on a pole that I would never thought of being able to do just a few months ago. I am actually even starting to get inverted on the pole and just did my first hand stand ever a couple of weeks ago. With that being said, I do not get too surprised by some of the looks I get, because I am a little surprised that I am pulling some of these moves off myself.

    One thing I have noticed is that when most people learn that I pole dance, I have just thrown their whole image of pole dancing off kilter. While pole dancing has been rapidly growing in popularity as a great form of exercise, most still think of a topless girl spinning around a pole in a seedy strip club. Now they are looking at a man who is almost forty and far from having the physique of Channing Tatum and… well, they are not sure what to think anymore. It is now that they are interested and want to know more and start asking questions.

    “Do you like it?”

    “How long have you been doing it?”

    “Where do you go to do it?”

    “Have you lost weight?”

    And, of course, “Are you any good at it?”

    Now if it is a guy I am taking to, I also get the questions like, “Isn’t that for girls?” and “Are you the only guy in the class?”  I inform them while male pole dancer are outnumbered by women there are several that take pole dancing and even compete in pole competitions. I also have been the only guy in my class for a couple of months but a couple of other guys have joined in the last month. If a guy tries giving me a hard time about pole dancing, I just tell him I spend my Monday evenings with a group of fine ladies working out some hot and sexy moves. I then ask them that do they do with themselves on a Monday night.

    I also think that I get some strange looks from people that know me, because this is a little out of the norm for me. A lot of people have come to expect me to be out with my husband, Dale. I guess in a lot of ways, I have always let him take the lead on things we do together. So, now people are seeing me do something without Dale and that I think, kind of surprises them.

     I know I have sparked people’s interest. I can see in their faces that they are even thinking about if they can do it. Still, most respond, I wish I could do that or I don’t have the strength to pole dance. I respond if I did it you can do it. In a few months, I have gone from hardly getting any exercise to being able to get myself into an inverted position.

    At the end of the day though, it does not matter what others think or what kind of looks they give me. This is about me, this is about me bettering myself and doing something I enjoy. The sore muscles, the bruises, the sweat is all worth the end result. It all shows that I know how to work my pole.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More Confessions of a Twirly Boy...

    I Won! I won the Pole Dance Off against Lori!

    Wait, I better back up a little here. You may not know what I am talking about. 

    I was challenged to a Pole Dance Off by my friend Lori to win the heart of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. We had been going back and forth, for a while on which one of us The Rock wanted. Lori thought that she would be able to seal the deal by challenging me to a Pole Dance. She had two years experience on the pole and I had none. Well, I was not going to let that stand in the way, so I accepted.

     The Pole Dance Off was set to happen at the Lovely Rita Fundraiser, which only gave me nine weeks to get in shape and learn to pole dance. I got signed up for my first class at Twirly Girl Pole Fitness and my instructor was…. Lori. Crap, I am going to lose The Rock forever!

        So, let me get back to my pole training. I had a great instructor in Lori! She had me doing sways, fairies and lotuses in no time. I cannot forget Bel either. Bel is the owner of Twirly Girl Pole Fitness. She is an amazing person and was so patient in her teaching. At any rate, after some sore muscles and a few bruises (aka Pole Kisses); I had the basics down and was on my way to being a Twirly Boy.

    Next, we had to pick a song to dance too. Lori was gracious enough to let me choose and I went with Pink’s F**k’in Perfect.  Then we had to choreograph the number. At this point, I started going to Twirly Girl twice a week so we could rehearse the number. Again, this great group of ladies was there to help in the process, from suggesting movies to filming us while we worked on the number. Rita, as in The Lovely Rita, was a big help and so encouraging to me.

    At one point, I found that I was able to climb the pole while it was spinning. Lori and Rita said that I should use that in my solo part of the dance off. I worked on the climbing and then on the decent. I ended up with letting my legs swing out and slowly slide down the pole. I also continued to work on a few parts of the routine that I kept getting hung up on.

    Finally, the big day arrived. Surprisingly I was not nervous about the performance. However there was one little glitch in the day. The air conditioner had gone out in the studio. It was hot!
Amazingly, nobody let that hold them back. I watched every performer give it their all. Then came time for Lori and me to do our performance. We were given an introduction by Bel and Rita and we took to the poles.

    We nailed it! I loved hearing the audience cheer when I climbed the pole, but my favorite part of our routine is near the beginning. After walking around the pole a few times, Lori and I would come face to face. At that point, Lori would always get a big grin on her face. It is at that point you realize that the most important part of the routine is to just have fun. And that is what we did.

    After we finished our performance, we were greeted by The Rock! Ok, it was Rita’s husband holding a Rock mask in front of his face. Then both Lori and I were given photos of The Rock that Rita had photoshoped us into.

    So, I had won the pole dance off, but here is the real thing; I had already won in several bigger and better ways by just signing up for pole dancing. One of the wins, or should I say loses, is my wait. I have lost around twenty pounds. That is a good ego boost right there. The biggest win is that I have made new friends thru this whole process. I have found that everyone at Twirly Girl Pole Fitness is really supportive and encouraging. I was treated just like one of the girls. I have gotten to meet or know better some amazing people. I am even going to keep on taking pole classes.

    There is that old saying; it is not the destination that is important but the journey there. It’s true, and I am continuing on in my journey.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

You are annoying me...

So, my last blog was a list of things that most people may not have known about me. Here is a list of things that annoy me. Mostly this is just venting for me, but if you happen to find yourself doing one or two of these things listed below, I will let you know directly that you are annoying me. So, here they are, in no particular order.

1. Leave a voicemail. I am a receptionist at a law firm and I am always getting people that call for an attorney or paralegal and do not want to leave a voicemail when they are not available. They then get upset after trying several times and then find out that the person has left at the end of the day without speaking with them. Even if you are unreachable, leave a voicemail so that the person you are calling knows that you are trying to get hold of them and why you are trying to reach them.

2. Telemarketing automated phone systems. Ok, telemarketing is annoying in general, but I get really annoyed by the ones that do not connect a person onto the line until after you answer the phone. I just find it really tackles and it guaranties that you will not be getting through to the person you are trying to get hold of.

3. Facebook will offend you at some point. If you are easily offended, then I suggest you just delete you Facebook account. That is all I am going to say on that subject.

4. Westboro Baptist Church. Ok, this group is more than an annoyance. They are a disgrace.

5. Litter Bugs. Please do not litter! Just look around and you will probably find a trash can close by.

6. Magic Mountain?!? Are you kidding me? People really think that Magic Mountain is better than Disneyland? That is almost blasphemy!

7. Use your blinkers!!! No, wonder your car looks all beat up.

8. Taking behind your back. I honestly think the world would be a better place if you expressed your issues with someone face to face. Usually you will find that there was not really an issue in the first place. Anyways, it does not matter how far behind their back you are talking, it will get back to them.

9. People that mix politics with religion. It is just as volatile as mixing fire and gasoline. If you look at most wars, you will find this at the beginning.

10. Those people that make lists of the things that annoy them.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Twenty-Five Things You May Not Know About Me...

    So, my friend Lori blogged about twenty-five things people may not know about her. I decided to do it myself in my blog. I came up with the list before I wrote this introduction and found it hard to come up with a list of twenty-five things. I mean there are a few things that I left out; a boy has to have a few secrets about him self. I am also now thinking of other interesting things that are not on the list that that I could put on there. One thing was about my Opa, grandfather, on my dad’s side. He served in the German Party during World War II in which he was killed. Now, this is something one really does not boast about, but it is part of my family history.

My Opa in his German Party uniform. He was declared missing in action in 1943 in the Cape Falcon area of Algeria while serving under German Commander Rommel in World War II, leaving my Oma to raise five boys on her own.

Here is the list of twenty-five things in no particular order.

1. I was in Special Ed. From second grade to sixth grade, I would spend part of my school day in Special Education. I am dyslexic and I would spend that part of the day learning to adjust my thinking process to counter the dyslexia.

2. I have had the opportunity to photograph a few celebrities including Will Smith, Ted Danson, Bruce Vilanch and Leslie Jordan.

3. I am a published photographer. I have had a couple of my photographs published in newspapers and print ads that were in magazines.

That is my photo of Holotta Tymes used in the print ad for Sunday's A Drag.

4. I was JROTC during most of my Junior High and High School years. I reached the level of Cadet Captain before I dropped out and started taking drama. JROTC will be the reason for some of the other things on this list.

5. I have flown in a Huey Helicopter and got to see the damage of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake from above.

6. I have scored expert level in shooting an M-16 military rifle.

7. I own a Remington Bolt Action Long Rifle. It is stored at my parent’s home and has not been fired for many years.

8. When I was a kid, I was attacked by a Pit Bull. Ok, it was more like “bit” by a pit bull. It had jumped a fence, ran up to me on the sidewalk, and bit me on the knee. I am actually pretty luck, because if my response was to jerk back, the pit bull would of probably ripped my knee-cap off.

9. I have a hereditary issue that causes my knee to dislocate easily. While it is not a big issue right now, it may require surgery in the future, but hopefully not.

10. I was stung by a bee. I know, you are saying big deal, who hasn’t. The thing is, the bee was already dead! I was walking barefoot and stepped on it. I have also been stung eleven times at once when I was caught in a swarm of yellow jackets.

11. Continuing with the insect encounters, I was stung three times by a scorpion. It somehow got under the covers while I was staying at my parent’s house. It stung me twice in the leg and once in the hand when I reached down to see what was stinging me.

This is the actual scorpion that attacked me.

12. I do not have a gallbladder. I had to have it removed when it decided to start producing a bunch of gallstones. I actually had so many gallstones that they had to cut me wide open instead of laparoscopicly. I just tell people that the scars are from a knife fight.

That is what it would look like if I still had one.

13. I have been to Germany. I don’t remember a dang thing about it. I was only a baby.

14. I can make little origami paper cranes. It is hard to come up with twenty-five things!  

Pretty Small? 

15. I have an interest in Native American history and lore. Specifically, the plains Indians, like the Sioux, Lakota, Crow and others that lived with the buffalos.

16. I am bisexual. I bring up anything sexual and they say “Bye”.

17. When I was a kid, I drank a bottle of Dimetapp. I liked the grape taste, but I got really sick from it and can not stand anything grape flavor now. I didn’t tell my Mom what I did either; she just thought I had the flu. Sorry Mom! 

18. My first boyfriend was ten years older then I. I later learned that he also had dated my husband’s brother at one time, too.  In all, my path had crossed many ways with Dale and his family before I ever met him.

19. Although I have not done it for a long time, I like to go fishing. Oh, the memories of sitting on the bank of some pond or creek with a line in the water.

20. I have had Ludwig’s angina. Wikipedia it to find out what it is, but it sent me into emergency surgery and kept me in the hospital for a few days and out of work for a couple of weeks.

21. When I was in collage, I use to do AIDS/HIV prevention out reach with the Contra Costa County AIDS Foundation. That organization is no longer around, but the Rainbow Community Center in Concord does a lot now with outreach programs and testing.

22. I have four different jobs. My primary job is a receptionist for a law firm in Oakland. I also work for Karen’s Flower Kottage at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery location on Saturdays. On most Sundays, you can find me at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room for Sunday’s A Drag where I work as a spotlight operator or dresser. The last job is being a Door Whore for Holotta Tymes’s drag show, Un-Boy-lievable, at Club 1220 in Walnut Creek.

23. My right testicle is a little bigger then the left. Oh, and I lean to the left, if you were to be fitting me for dress pants. (Really, it is hard to come up with twenty-five unknown facts about me.)

24. I was in Boy Scouts. I quit when I moved up to Oakland at the beginning of Junior High School. I learned a lot from the time I was in there, but glad I did not waste any more time with them then I did when I see how homophobic the organization is. I am glad that Girl Scouts are not the same way, because I don’t know what I would do with out my Girl Scout Thin Mints!

25. Ok, this is not really an unknown fact, but I am taking a Pole Dancing class at Twirly Girl Pole Fitness. In fact, my friend and instructor, Lori and I are having a Pole Dance-Off at the Lovely Rita Fundraiser next month. The winner gets to claim the heart of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. You better watch out Lori! I am so going to win!!!   

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Confessions of a Twirly Boy

    “The Rock is mine!” I said.

    “No, He is mine!” Lori replied.

    Well, that is how it all started. That is what started me on this path with poles, booty shorts, bruises and Twirly Girls.

    The first time I met Lori while she was sitting on a large pumpkin. Our mutual friend Jimmy had invited her to join in on one of the Rainbow Community Center outings, which happen to be a trip to the pumpkin patch. Then after that, I would see Lori every first and third Sunday of the month at Holotta Tymes’s Un-BOY-lievable Drag Show at Club 1220, where I am the Door Whore. Over time, Lori has become a good friend and part of our close-knit little group.

    Now, add Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson into the mix. Lori and I have been bickering back and forth, for a while on whom The Rock belongs to. She just cannot except that The Rock wants me. Well, at any rate, the bickering has been slowly escalating and crossed over into the usage of social media, including tweeting The Rock himself. (For which some reason he has not yet responded to.) Finally, Lori called me out. She challenged me to a Pole Dance Off to determine who wins the heart of The Rock.

    I then figured that this Pole Dance Off should take place in front of a good size crowd. I knew that every year that Lori was part of the fundraiser for the Lovely Rita Foundation that raises money for the National Kidney Foundation. Therefore, I asked Lori if she wanted to do the Pole Dance Off at the coming fundraiser on April 22, 2012. “Yes!” was her answer. We were set then, I had nine weeks to get in shape and learn to Pole Dance.

    With a quick check in with Lori on Monday morning, I was signed up for my first class at Twirly Girls Pole Fitness Monday night. Now, I had to take care of a couple of things to make sure I was ready. First was to find a pair of booty shorts. I ended up at A-1 Dance & Theatrical in Castro Valley where I got great service and a cute pair of black booty shorts. The second thing was to trim the leg hair. I was informed that longer leg hair could be pulled while spinning on the pole.

    Twirly Girls Pole Fitness is located in downtown Pleasanton. It looks like it use to be an old auto mechanics’ shop from the outside. Inside, it is an inviting set-up with several dance poles. The class I was taking was a Taster Class, a great way to see if pole dancing is something that is for you. I of course was the only guy signed up for the class.

    I did feel a little self-conscious about being the only guy in the class. Pole Dancing is usually only associated with women, all though there are some amazing male Pole Dancers, like Philip Deal, who I recently got to meet. Anyways, I felt a little awkward, as if I was invading the girls’ clubhouse. Lori and Bel made me feel comfortable right away, just as if I was one of the girls. Bel is the owner of Twirly Girls and Lori was our instructor.

    Lori was a great instructor (even if I have to make sure she does not try to sabotage me for out Pole Dance Off).  She got us warmed up and was very good at teaching us the beginning moves of pole dancing. Lori taught us how to make sure our pole was ready to spin on while still looking sexy and then some basic moves to entice out viewing audience. Next, she moved on to teaching some basic spinning moves along with some moves we could do to relax while still dancing at the pole.

    Let me tell you, pole dancing is one major work out. I was feeling it muscles I did not even know I had. The next morning I was really feeling it! Every muscle in my body was aching. I was walking like the Tin-man. Then I notice the bruises on my inner thigh from where I was wrapping my legs around the pole. Lori called them pole kisses, hell it looked like the pole got up and swung itself at me. The thing is, even with the bruises and muscle pains, it was all worth it.  I had a great time in the class and I am looking forward to the next class.

   Win or lose the Pole Dance Off, I am excited about taking the pole dancing class. It is a lot of fun and I will be getting the much-needed exercise my body could use. I also have the feeling that it is going to be a great group of ladies that I will be taking the class with. Which reminds me, I first got laughed at by some of the other guys at work when I told them I was taking a pole dancing class, but when they learned I was the only guy dancing with these ladies… well, jealousy did not look good on them. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Book of a New Beginning By Robert Carstensen

The Book of a New Beginning

By Robert Carstensen

    I had a dream. I was sitting on top of a hill under a big old oak tree. Sunlight filtered its way down thru the branches and leaves to come rest upon my face. I sat there watching the golden grass sway in the warm breeze of a summer afternoon.

    “I’m sorry,” said a voice behind me.

    I looked over my shoulder and there stood a Man, leaning against the trunk of this noble oak tree. If asked to describe him, all I could say is that he looked like a simple man. Even as I try to recall his face now, I cannot. I remember that he seemed ageless to me, not young, but not old either. There was life though; it radiated out of him, a love for life, a giver of life and in the slight shadow he cast, a taker of life.

    “Are you G…?” I started to ask. “God? Yes, I am” he finished.

   “Excuse me, but what would you be sorry for?” I said to him.

    He tilted his head slightly and a slight grin came to his face. He then stepped away from the tree and took the few steps it took to reach me. With a slight gesture from his hand he said “May I sit with you?” “Please” I replied and with that, he sat next me. He crossed his legs and leaned back slightly to rest on his elbows.

    “I’m sorry for the… the pain. The pain that I have let too many cause and in my name none the lease” He said. 

     I looked at Him with a confused face, “I am not sure I know what you are talking about.”

    Again, that slight grin came to his face and then a slight chuckle. “What?” I said. “I like that you are confused by my words and admit it. So, so many that are confused by my words and instead of asking for clarification, they make up something they think is what I meant. Most times they are way off target.”

    God then looked me directly in my eye, “I made you.” “And I love you” He continued. He then rose to his feet and extended a hand to help me up. I took it without hesitation and smiled to myself, and as if reading my mind and chuckling again, he said, “Yes, let God raise you up.”

    He looked out over the vast valley and said more too himself then me, “I made you all.”  He stood there for a moment, silent. “I love them all, whether they love me or not. My love is unconditional.”  

    Then it clicked, “the pain… being gay… you made me gay, brought me into this world gay. Yet so many people cannot see that. That you wanted me to be gay.”

    “Yes” he said.

    “Why don’t you tell them then?” I asked.

    “They don’t listen anymore.” He said as he looked at me. “Let’s be honest, if you were to walk down there now and say that you have a message from the Almighty God… well, they would laugh at you. They would call you crazy, label you with some kind of schizophrenia and want to medicate you.”

    I looked at him for a moment. “I’m sorry,” I said. That got me the look of confusion from God this time. “We all can learn to listen a little better,” I continued to clarify my apology.

   “It’s not you that should be apologizing, it’s… it’s those buffoons down there that need to be apologizing… and not to me, but to you! Buffoons, ha, maybe that is what they need! To be kicked back a few notches on the evolution scale! That would knock the hate out of them!” he said, glaring into the valley. I couldn’t help but laugh. God then turned his glare to me and it only stopped my laughing for a moment. And as they say that laughter is contagious, God began laughing himself. We both shared the image of primates sitting in the pews of his houses of worship.

   “It’s changing though,” I said. “The old ways are dying. The old view of the way the world should be is slowly being buried each passing day.”

    “I know, but there is still so much hurt and pain that is going on and it shouldn’t be. I am getting tired of bring home my children way before their time.” God said. I saw a brilliant tear run down his cheek as he continued. “I bringing each one of them home myself. Those fools say they go to this so-called purgatory, but no, I go to each one and hold them… cry with them. I bring them home.”

    “The ones that could not take the bullying anymore” I said.

    “Yes” he replied. “All of them, everyone that has died out of hate… by their own hands or by the hands of others.”

    We stood there, shoulder to shoulder for several moments without saying a word. The warm breeze continued to come up the hillside, the grass swaying this way and that way.

    “I’ll have to find a way to make them listen, that is all there is to it” again, saying more to himself than to me. “I will find a way.” He looked at me and continued, “You have the same ability to love like anyone else! You deserve to love without barriers. I made marriage as a way of expressing your love to the fullest. It had nothing to do with this marriage is for procreation only bullshit! I want everyone to be able to fall in love and know what it is that I feel for them!” God then turned to the valley and yelled, “I made you all equal! None of you are better then another! You fools need to learn to live your own lives before you try to control others!”

    God then looked at me and a big smile came across his face. He raised his hand and pointed at me as he turned his head back to the valley. He yelled even louder, “I made this man in the likeness of Me! You hear me you homophobic hate mongers? Like Me!”

    “Whoa… Did you just say that you are gay?” I said, staring in disbelief.

    “I am gay… I am straight, I am all,” he said.

    “Wait; wait… what about that stuff in the bible? Man should not be with another man and all?” I said.

    “Never said it,” he said bluntly.


    “Their bible,” he said, pointing into the valley, “is written by man, not by me. Trust me when I say that there are many things that are wrong in that book. Especially the first part!” He continued, “There are some good rules to live by in the bible. Sadly, it has changed so much over the eons. It is used more now to try to control people then actually help guide them.” God then turned again to me and said, “Do you know that Aesop’s Fables were supposed to be part of the bible?” 

    “No,” I said.

     “He didn’t like some of the ways that other stories were being changed, the way my word was being changed, so he decided to pull out of the project and put his stories into his own book.” God smiled as he continued, “Probably for the better, I would hate to have seen what that fool King James would have done with them.”

    “The consumption of grapes would be an abomination and swallows would be the barer of doom most likely,” I said. At which God chuckled.

    Once again, we stood there in silence, not awkward, but more of an understanding silence. I found it comforting. Then without warning, God reached out and took me into his arms, his face pressed into the nape of my neck.

    He cried. God cried.

    I wrapped my arms around him and hugged just as tightly back. I then felt it… his pain. It rushed into me and filled my body whole. I wanted to drop to my knees but I knew that I could not. I needed to stay strong at this moment and support him, support God. As I felt the pain, I realized that it was not just his pain. It was everyone’s pain. God takes on everyone’s pain. It did not hurt, but was heavy, so very heavy.

    God then raised his head, with his arms still around me, looked me in the eye and said, “I am sorry.”

    “I forgive you,” I said and I then cried myself.

    “I will make them see. I will show them the errors in their ways. I will make them listen,” he said. God then let his arms fall from me and he took a step back. I could still feel his pain, but no ware as intense and slowly fading. He then raised his hands to my face and wiped the tears from my eyes. “I am sorry you had to feel that, but the burden had become too much for me alone and I knew you would understand. I knew you would be able to bare it.”

    “I must take me leave of you now,” God said. “I know it will be hard, but I need you to carry my word to them, to those in the valley. It will take time but all beginnings do.  You just need one to listen and it will grow from there.”

    I turned to look into the valley and said, “Yes, I will.” I then felt warmth grow on the side of my face. I turned to look back at God and he was gone. All I could do was smile at myself and then I woke up. I rose to my feet and reached to brush the lower braches on the old oak tree. I took a few steps and saw the foot prints of where two people were standing. I smiled, “Time for a new beginning,” I said aloud to myself, “It will get better.”

    I walked down the grassy hill into the valley.