Lauren Bacall, RIP

Lauren Bacall died today. I’m not easily star-struck. As a young gay about town along Chelsea’s Kings Road, I worked in Habitat during its heyday. Stars and celebrities were ten a penny. I even had a ding dong with a famous actor once. It was no big deal. But one day, during a frenetic Saturday afternoon on the tills, Miss Bacall breezed in from the street and stopped the traffic. Her name spread through the building like flu and the store froze, jaws dropped and cash registers fell silent. Now that’s what I call a Hollywood moment.

 

When Did You Choose to be Straight, Evander Holyfield?

For as long as I can remember, there’s been idle speculation about how and when someone’s homosexuality is established – nurture or nature, a bit of both? Who knows? Certainly not me. Nor do I much care. To my way of thinking, identifying the ‘cause’ of something tends to suggest there should be a ‘cure’ and I’m not in the business of being cured. Why would I be? I’m not sick. What is blindingly obvious is that, whatever the reason, the sexual and romantic attraction to a member of the same sex is not a choice. If it was, many gay people might choose to be straight. After all, it’s so much safer to run with the pack rather than against it. Of course, this doesn’t stop many (almost exclusively straight) people claiming that sexuality is just a lifestyle choice like nipple piercing or kerb crawling. Or smoking, as Evander Holyfield claimed after being the first to be kicked off Celebrity Big Brother here in the UK. This gives a whole new meaning to giving up the fags. Really, Mr Holyfield, it’s time to shut up, bank the cash and go home. This whole ‘choice’ smokescreen is just an easy and convenient excuse to oppress and eradicate, and is used to hateful and sometimes deadly effect across the world, even in the so-called socially advanced West. It’s just lazy thinking from the pond life, the bigots, the politically hoodwinked and the religiously deceived. No, sexuality is not a choice. The only choice an individual has is whether to express their sexuality in a meaningful way. And that isn’t a walk in the park in far too many communities and societies. Who wants to be cast out onto the street by their families, get terrorised at school, end up with twenty years hard labour or get lynched from the nearest olive tree?

No doubt the sterile navel gazing about alleged lifestyle choices will rumble on across the airwaves, in the press, the pub and from the pulpit, long after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. Let me leave you with this little video* that debunks the entire myth in a deliciously simple and effective way. Please take note Mr Holyfield. 

*Thank you to my old friend Richard who posted the video on Facebook and who is lucky enough to live out his dotage with his partner, John, on the gorgeous Greek island of Kefalonia (the venue for my first late deal with Liam). Lucky sod. The clip was also featured on the liberal social media site Upworthy

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Saving Mr Banks

Saving Mr BanksAnother Monday tea time, another free film preview from Virgin Media. This time it was Saving Mr Banks, a Disney flick that chronicles the fandango between Walt Disney and PL Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. The story goes that the snooty Ms Travers refused to entertain the Disneyfication of her book for nearly twenty years until flat-lining sales and looming penury dragged her kicking and screaming to the studio lot. When she got to La La land, she loathed the entire Disney concept – the jolly sing-a-long tunes, Dick Van Dyke as the prancing sweep with the dodgy mockney accent (she got that one right) and dancing cartoon penguins. In fact, she hated animation of any kind. In the end she caved in to the corporate pressure and the rest, as they say, is history. No doubt the bucket-full of cash helped the medicine go down. If anyone offered me a wad of used fivers for the rights to my book I’d bite their hand off and let them do whatever they liked with it – turn it straight, drop it into Benidorm, make me a lap dancing serial killer, whatever. I have no scruples.

The smart and witty film captures the Technicolor Sixties extremely well and the attention to period detail is superb. Emma Thompson as the haughty author and Tom Hanks as Walt are excellent. Ms Thompson does no-nonsense nanny with imperious style and Mr Hanks shines as the folksy charmer with a ruthless streak. Throughout the film there are flashbacks to the author’s childhood Down Under (she was, in fact Australian, not British) and another performance of note came from Colin Farrell as the author’s dipsomaniac father. I’ve always liked the look of Colin (particularly after seeing his saucy sex tape on the internet) but I never thought he could actually act. Actually, he can. And why is the film called ‘Saving Mr Banks’? Well, it seems that Mary Poppins is really all about saving the father (Mr Banks in the story), not his children and the book was inspired by the real father that the author could not save. Who knew? Certainly not me when I was eight and singing along to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

The film went on general release (here in the UK) yesterday. I feel an Oscar coming on.

The Emotionally Resilient Expat

The Emotionally Resilient Expat

For many more months that she cares to remember, Linda A  Janssen (Adventures in Expatland) burned the midnight oil and poured her heart and soul into her book, The Emotionally Resilient Expat. It was time well spent because she’s really pulled it off.

Emotionally Resilient ExpatThis is what the pro had to say:

“A practical guide in the art of managing the risks of overseas life in ways that will promote endurance and effectiveness. Full of honest and hope-filled stories from the lived experience and life-long learning of Janssen and her dozens of expatriate contributors. An invaluable companion for expats who want to know that they are not alone.” 

Duncan P. Westwood, PhD, (C)OACCPP Clinical Director of Expatriate Care & Development, International Health Management.

This is what the amateur had to say:

“What’s it like down your neck of the expat woods? Exhilarating? Challenging? Tough? Isolating? Life-enhancing? Alienating? All these things wrapped up in a bow? You are not alone. We live in a global village where it has never been easier to pitch your tent in a foreign field. But, it’s a sprawling village of brain-aching complexity and diversity, which can stump even the most adventurous and resilient. Janssen has managed to capture the very essence of what it means to try a different culture on for size, assembling an exhaustive toolkit to help the expat explorer adapt and prosper. It’s quite a coup.” 

Jack Scott, Author

And guess what? Liam and I have cameo roles. Fabulous!

Check it out on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Hyde Park on Hudson

Hyde Park on Hudson

Hyde Park on HudsonAnother free ticket for Cinema City and another viewing: ‘Hyde Park on Hudson.’ We were enticed by the promising trailer, but I’m afraid the trailer contained all the best bits. Given the context – the first official visit of a British monarch to the USA, desperately trying to drum up American support on the eve of World War Two – and the salacious depiction of President Roosevelt as a serial philanderer with a First Lady who liked to lick the lettuce, the movie was disappointingly flat. The narrative was plodding and the dialogue lacked depth. Laura Linney put in a fine performance as ‘Daisy,’ the President’s distant cousin and reluctant paramour, Bill Murray as Roosevelt did his best with an average script and Samuel West made a suitably terrified King George VI. But ‘The King’s Speech,’ this ain’t.

Watch the trailer and skip the film.

People Shaped Travel

Expedia, the giant American online travel company, is the latest corporation to step up to the plate in support of same-sex marriage in the States by commissioning a short promo video called ‘Find Your Understanding.’ When it was released, the video caused quite a stir across the pond with the religious right getting their bible belts in a twist. Say what you will about big business gate-crashing the equalities party and cashing in on the pink economy, but the more the merrier I say. It all helps the cause. I can’t help wondering though, where does Expedia stand on dispatching its customers to those far-flung places across the globe with abysmal records on human rights (including those where being opening gay can be extremely detrimental to your health)? Fancy a souk-fest in Saudi or a gorilla safari in Uganda? Book through Expedia for ‘people shaped travel.’ I can taste the hypocrisy.

Going Once, Going Twice…

Earlier today I suffered from a premature slip of the wrist and mucked up the publication of Going Once, Going Twice. So, I’m re-blogging the post. Please ignore this if you’ve already seen it. Apologies from knackered of Norwich.

Perking the Pansies

The National League of POW/MIA Families is an American organisation incorporated in 1970 to obtain the release of all prisoners, establish the fullest possible account for the missing and secure the repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died during the Vietnam War. Each year there is a fundraising event in Washington DC. I was recently contacted by a member of the League asking if I would donate a signed copy of Perking the Pansies to be auctioned off to help raise some cash. I have to admit that I was surprised and not a little intrigued. How did a book about a couple of old homos living in a faraway Muslim land (and written in a peculiarly British carry-on style) come to the attention of a Yankee society with serious business on its mind? I was told that someone specifically requested it. Good enough for me I thought…

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