Tuesday, January 27, 2009


(Originally posted on MySpace on Tuesday, June 05, 2007)

(This article refers to MySpace's ability to highlight "Top Friends")

The month of June is my birth month. In fact, my birthday is this coming weekend. June is also Gay Pride Month. So my original idea was to select my spotlighted friends this month with my favorite gay people and things, mixed with a few birthday surprises. But as I worked on it, it slowly morphed into a whole new idea. As a gay man, its pretty much known that I'm more in touch with my feminine side than most heterosexual men. Or is that just a stereotype? Whatever it is, I decided to honor a few of the women that inspired me in the early part of my life. I picked women that influenced me up until I turned a fully legal adult. That is, the age of 21. There have been many women who have influenced me in some way after that as well, a good many of them part of the punk rock movement, and I'll get to those some other time. There are also a lot of women who are current friends of mine that continue to influence my opinions and actions and I'll highlight some of those at a later date as well, although most of them know who they are.

But first, a few words about my relationship with women. Women have always kind of frightened me, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that they still do. They can be mysterious and confusing. I really don't understand what makes them tick or why they think the way they do. And I don't think it's perpetuating a stereotype to say that women think very differently from men. To tell the truth, I'm really glad I turned out the way I did and that I don't have to navigate a relationship with women any deeper than a friendship. Even a simple friendship with a woman can be a devastating mine field and my heart goes out to all you straight men who have to deal with figuring out a female life partner.

But despite all that, life wouldn't be anywhere as fulfilling without women in it and I don't understand the few gay men that I know who have little to do with the female sex except to listen to the newest diva in a gay bar. Women keep life interesting and they keep me on my toes and thinking. I may not understand women, but I still respect their opinions on things much more and feel that they understand life a bit more than most men. And despite my fear of them, women have always been amongst my closest friends.

And now that I've just placed myself smack dab into that minefield I've had to negotiate so many times, let me talk a bit about the women I choose to highlight in my top friends section.

Music has always played a big part in my life. Despite being misunderstood by the mass public, Yoko Ono was the first musician, male or female, who made me think about music in different ways. I bought her "Plastic Ono Band" album at the same time I bought her husband's album of the same title. As much as I love John's album, I found myself listening to her album more than his. I was thirteen years old and my friends thought I was insane. But I love her music and continue to be a fan to this day. Her song "Mindtrain" on the album "Fly" is one of my favorite songs of all time.

I'm cheating a bit by putting Patti Smith on this list. I was actually 22 when I first heard her. But the effect that she has had on my life and outlook is tremendous. Back in the mid-70s, I was living in a fog of confusion. I had rejected the longhair hippie crap that had come before and didn't like the selfish "me-first-and-only-me" attitude that was creeping into the 70s. I had hacked off my hair and was wearing an ill-fitting suit and tie everywhere. Once again, most of my friends thought I had lost my mind. Then I saw the picture of Patti that made it onto the cover of her first album "Horses" and I knew that I had found someone I could understand and that could understand me. In a sense, she saved my life. And the music was breathtaking. I still think that album is one of the five best albums ever made.

I really wanted to highlight Dinah Washington. I have a pending friendship claim to two sites honoring her, but neither has gone through yet. When I was very young and still growing up, my father used to listen to two records all the time. One was called "My Favorite Chopin" by Van Cliburn. I didn't like it much and use to get my dad all upset by pronouncing Chopin phonetically as "Chop In". But the other album was "Unforgettable" by Dinah Washington and I just loved it, although I wouldn't admit that to my father until much later. She was an amazing jazz vocalist and listening to this record took me to other places I didn't always understand, but I was always much happier being there. There are all sorts of genres of music that I like and I credit this album with helping shape that appreciation of the dreamy romantic sounds that I still listen to a lot these days.

The other four female singers I highlighted didn't have as much effect as the three above did, but they still helped shape the man I am. While Nancy Sinatra wasn't the best vocalist, she helped me to appreciate a sense of mysterious style in everything I do. Claudine Longet also wasn't a great vocalist, but her whimsical, fragile style also helped bring out the romantic in me. (There wouldn't be a Stereolab with her.) Sandy Denny was simply the best female vocalist that ever lived and brought a love and understanding of folk music to my life. I was devastated when she died. An album she did with Fairport Convention, "Liege & Lief" is one of my all time favorites, up there with Patti Smith's "Horses". And Suzi Quatro was the second female I can remember that I actually had a crush on. Her leather-clad, tough biker-chick persona was a real turn-on. And it didn't hurt that her pop-rock hit singles were so infectious as well.

And that probably left you asking whom the first female I ever had a crush on was. That would be Mrs. Emma Peel, from the 60s TV show "The Avengers". As portrayed by actress Diana Rigg, she was sexy, confident and she could kick any man's ass. I was only 12 years old and I never missed an episode of "The Avengers" while Mrs. Peel was on. I was depressed for weeks when she left the show to be replaced by Tara King. It just didn't work as well. I'm still trying to figure out why the leather-clad sex kitten look of Emma Peel and Suzi Quatro turned me on so much. All I know is that I wasn't even a teenager yet and I was already realizing that I was different and I was eyeing other boys with impure thoughts. But Emma Peel could whisk me away from those thoughts in a second. And maybe Suzi Quatro just reminded me of those not-so-innocent days thinking about what Mrs. Peel could teach me if she ever had the chance.

Betty Davis and Joan Crawford don't need much explanation. I saw "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane" around the same time I was fantasizing about Emma Peel and the movie just devastated me. It was only the second movie I can remember that made me cry. (The first was Walt Disney's "Bambi".) And I've been a fan of both actresses ever since, seeing most of their movies now, some of them more than once. Lucille Ball was the funniest woman who ever lived. I loved how crazy she could be, while still being sexy and intelligent. Marlene Dietrich was the first sexually ambiguous person I had ever seen. She made me question every thing I ever believed about what made a man a man or made a woman a woman. Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Fonda, especially in her "Barbarella" role, brought me a little closer to understanding the power of women. There was a innocent and not-so-smart blonde thing going on there, but behind all that, these woman held all the power over the men in their lives (at least in their movie roles) and they weren't anywhere near as dumb as it seemed from the outside. Plus, Jayne Mansfield was in "The Girl Can't Help It", which is perhaps the greatest rock-and-roll movie ever made.

In a sense, Barbara Eden as "Jeannie" (and Elizabeth Montgomery as "Samantha") also showed that "not-so-dumb" power over men that the actresses above also had. I loved both "I Dream Of Jeannie" and "Bewitched" and grew up wishing I could be like the women in these shows, with the powers they had to change the lives around them.

And that brings me to the rest of the fictional women I highlighted. "The Bride Of Frankenstein" was tragic, but the strength that Elsa Lancaster brought to the role in her determined rejection of the Monster, despite what she had become, was a great inspiration to me. Betty Boop was probably the first time I ever realized what sex appeal was all about. At a very young age. And Marcie, from the "Peanuts" comic strip, made her comics debut 1968, although she didn't get a name until 1971. I love "Peanuts" and always read it as a child. I still read it to this day. There was always something suspect in Marcie's character. She just seemed too into Peppermint Patty. Reading about her on the comics page in my early teens, I began to suspect that maybe what I was feeling was something that others may be feeling as well, even if one of those others was a comic-strip character.

The Evil Queen really doesn't need any introduction or purpose to be here, does she?

And that leaves Mink Stole as my final highlighted female friend. When I first saw "Pink Flamingos", I was 18 years old. The movie was a revelation to me and helped lead me towards the light that would later be called "punk rock" and save my life. Mink Stole was a big part of that. She was in almost every movie that John Waters made and her characters were always my favorites. She was disgusting, unattractive and out spoken, much the same way I felt as a youth and I always wished that she could be my mom. Three years ago, when Skip and I decided to get married in Oregon, we came back and had a second ceremony here in LA at a club called Drag Strip. Mink Stole, an ordained minister, was the person who performed that second ceremony for us. I was thrilled to death. Sure, it wasn't legal, but she has made me promise that if the time comes when this country will allow us to legal wed, we would call on her to perform our real ceremony. I can't think of anyone I would rather have. As well as her Myspace page, you can check her out here:


It's no surprise that in real life she isn't as unattractive or as disgusting as she portrays in her movie roles. I still wish she were my mom.

A quick comment about the song I choose. I originally wanted to put the song "Typical Girls" by the Slits up. Then I thought of "Evil Woman" by Electric Light Orchestra. But I finally settled on "No One's Little Girl" by the Raincoats as I felt this song summed up the way I feel about these women better than any other. I love the Raincoats. They were one of the first all female bands that I felt really sounded like they played music as only women could play it. All four of their albums are amazing and I heartily recommend them.

And that's that. As always, comments are encouraged and appreciated. I'll be taking this weekend off to heavily celebrate my 53rd birthday. But I'll be back the week after with a brand new tale of life on the road with Thin White Rope. Thanks for reading.

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