Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Rains of Ranchipur

Well, it's high monsoon season here in the east and while the rest of the nation is digging its sorry ass out of neckdeep snow, we here in lovely, tropical New Jersey are enjoying the 60 degree temperatures and 90 mile per hour winds. Not to mention the 4 inches of rain per hour. And thunder and lightning (which are "Donder und Blitzen" in German, in case you didn't know that.)

I had to travel on the Turnpike last night, to an from a gay 12-Step meeting I attend in Pennsylvania, and the traffic, even at those late hours, was horrific as every university student in the east who lives in Boston traveled home from DC and vice-versa. Don't they have universities for hometown kids in those cities?

I thought about going to the malls yesterday and today until I saw the traffic reports. Fuggeddaboudit.

Tomorrow afternoon I have to drive to my sister's in Delaware where I'll be in hiding until Wednesday. Ordinarily I'd take the turnpike but I have a sneaking feeling that this time I'll be taking the best kept secret in the Garden State, I-295, which runs parallel to the turnpike for about half it's length AND IT'S FREE!

It's not a perfect solution, it gets quirky at times, but it's better than sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for 60 miles on Christmas Eve.

I saw "Atonement" yesterday. I thought I was on the verge of becoming bored with it, but it turned out that I loved it, cheesy ending and all.

Other than that, nothing much to report except that I'm looking forward to being OFF for the next week and a half.

So while I think of it...

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! (whether or not you believe that some teenage virgin got inseminated by a dove 2000 years ago and had God's son, which I don't personally believe, but hey, it's a free country until the fucking THEOCRATS take over and slam all us queers into concentration camps, but hey, that won't happen this week, so what the fuck, enjoy yourselves, eat too much, be nice to each other, buy some presents for OTHER people for a change and DON'T DRINK (too much) and drive.)



Friday, December 21, 2007

Inside Job

My sponsee was sprung from rehab on Wednesday. He spent that night with a friend of his in Philly. She was good enough to find out times for 12-Step meetings in her neighborhood. Naturally, he didn't go to one that night.

But, he did allege that he went to one yesterday.

He showed up, with the friend, at my doorstep last night, at a pre-arranged and agreed upon time in order to collect his house keys. I could tell that he's on shaky emotional ground right now. The reality and enormity of his loss has finally started to sink in.

It's a funny thing about "bottoms." Everybody in recovery has one. Some were gentle bounces and some were full-fledged thuds (mine was one of the later). The point is that soft or hard, a bounce or a thud, everyone in recovery was absolutely, positively, 100 percent


when they came stumbling into their first 12-Step meeting with a giant neon sign attached to their foreheads that flashed "NEW" and "PLEASE HELP ME" and with a "deer caught in the headlights look" upon their frightened faces.

When they show up it's my job, and the job of others like me, to do what we can, within boundaries, to offer all the love and support we can until the newcomer finally learns how to smile again after which we set them on the road to more permanent contentment and serenity through the 12-Steps.

That transition happens, usually, around day 50. After 49 days of showing up looking like they'd stayed up all night sucking lemons, one morning they'll come in in and the misery will be gone from their faces. They'll look refreshed because they actually slept all night. They'll smile because they're actually glad to be in the room where they know they are safe, a room full of people who genuinely care about them (and aren't after something).

After nearly 10 years of recovery, I live for moments like that now. I look around the room at my Friday morning beginner's meeting and I see a half dozen people just like that.

A few months ago they were hopeless, miserable, soulless wretches. Now they're ready to become productive members of society again.

When I'm asked why I do what I do to help newcomers my response is the same response I got from MY sponsor, when I had 45 days of sobriety and asked him the same question.

"Because one day you'll do the same for somebody else."

The feelings of fulfillment and joy I get from helping fledgling recoverers fills me with indescribable happiness.

I hope and pray that my sponsee, fragile and delicate at the moment, will someday find what I have found.

That happiness is an INSIDE job.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


For all you non-Paultards out there, that's Ron Paul over there on the right. He's a Texas Libertarian who's really caught on with a certain segment of the population.

That segment would be the segment I call "I'm crazy as fucking hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." You know the type. Real Howard Beale's (for more information look up the movie "Network" -- then rent the damn thing and watch it, you illiterate couch-potatoes).

Some folks are getting real scared because Ron is raising so much money on the internets. Carloads of cash, so I hear. Mountains of moolah!

I have a theory about that. I think that the people sending him bushels full of money know perfectly well he hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell of winning. But he DOES have a snowball's chance in hell of scaring the shit out of the mainstream politicians --- enough so that they might actually start taking one or two "real" stands on the issues, as opposed to focus-group approved positions regarding the price of pablum in Paducah. Or whatever is politically safe to espouse these days.

Ron Paul believes we should arm six year olds. He also believes that gay people should be able to get married. He's a refreshing blast of left, right and everything in between.

More will be revealed regarding him, as we say in the recovery racket.

Over on the right-side of LaLaLand we have Mike Huckabee. Isn't he enough to make you move to Canada? Jeebus-freak, anti-abortion, anti-queer preacher man and physician (sort of). Every evangelical Christian Republicans dream candidate.

Unfortunately, he's not the dream candidate of all the saggy-assed, neo-con, right-winged, rich white guys who currently call the shots at the head of the Gay Old Party, like Dubya and Chainy. The one's who routinely pander to the same rabid, gun-totin', string up the niggras, Jews and queers (say "AMEN, JEEBUS!") base that Huckster might actually be a part of! God forbid! (If we actually did what we promised to do then who would bring us cocktails at the country club ... or arrange our loans, or decorate our homes or take our wives out to lunch and listen to their mouths for hours on end?)

And suddenly all those years of pandering to the crazies on the right is starting to look like it was a really bad idea, thank you Karl Rove.

So we are now nearing the time when we must start separating the wheat from the chaff, the extremists from the statespeople and the people who might actually get "something" done from the maniacs who'd just go to DC and piss everybody off.

I don't have any dream candidates yet. To be honest, I think they all suck.

But at least I know who I won't bother voting for.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Look, I had a good excuse....

I had a nuclear (or "nukalar" as George W. Shitforbrains, who has an Ivy League education, might pretend to say) stress test yesterday.

This was a half-day affair. I had to be at the cardiologists office by 7:30 a.m. The technicians finally got their acts together by 8:15 and they inserted an IV line into the top of my left hand. Then they started pumping in the first dose of radioactive thallium.

After that I wolfed down 4 cups of water (to get the crap moving through my system) and then sat around for an hour until the dye had permeated my blood stream.

Next, I was strapped into a chair that went up and down and rotated from side to side. They bound me in place so that I couldn't budge during the 15 minute x-ray scan of my midsection. The chair makes these lateral micro-movements, about 1" every 30 seconds, until they have an entire cross-section of your chest on film. I had a nice nap.

Then it was back into the hallway to wait some more.

Next I was called into the torture chamber, er, treadmill room where they shaved my pitifully unhairy chest and attached about a dozen electrodes to the same. The technicians placed me on the rack treadmill, Dr. Mengele checked my bloodpressure (110 over 80), and I was off to the races. Literally. 10 minutes later, with my heart pumping away at 145 beats per minute, the technician unloaded another dose of radioactive dye into my coursing veins and the doctor announced that I'd done real good. A minute or so later they stopped the treadmill, unhooked me from most of the electrodes, sat me down and waited until they were sure I wasn't going to die on the spot.

Then it was BACK to the waiting room for another 40 minutes of sitting around reading MDWeb because that was all they had, then back to the x-ray movie machine for another go-round, this time with my heart really pumping away.

Everyone assured me that I was doing real good.

I was glad.

The last time I had one of these tests done was December of 2003. Two months later I was getting a cardio-angiogram at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and 2 weeks after that , in the same hospital, I was being cracked open like a Maine lobster in order to have quadruple-bypass surgery.

So, nearly four years later, I left the doctor's office under the impression that that won't happen this time.

And that's a very good thing, for which I am truly grateful.

It's a good time of the year to be grateful.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Where the F*ck Have I Been???!

Well, nowhere actually. Last week I was a cranky bear. I blamed it all on a sponsee who is in rehab. I had a telecon with him (and his counselor) Wednesday morning and all I could think of, for the rest of the week, were the things I wish I'd said, but didn't.

Then, of course, there were all the things I should've been getting done in time for Festivus, but wasn't. Oh, I'd bought cards and made labels, but they sat on the living room floor like so many paint samples for Jake & Justin's dining room.

I could feel the clock ticking all late last week, the self-imposed pressure mounting (gee, I love being an adreneline junkie!) until I thought I'd explode by Sunday afternoon.

Then I did it.

I pulled the bag up onto the Ottoman and got the labels out of the manila folders.

A measly two hours later I was done (I don't go ape-shit with the cards --- mostly my nearest and dearest family and friends). I had two which were going overseas. The rest were domestic and I actually had enough "Holiday" stamps for those.

The cards all got mailed this morning, including the two to Europe.

I have a real sense of accomplishment today. It won't last, but it feels nice right now.

Oh, and I still don't know what's happening with the sponsee. I haven't heard a word out of him or the rehab since last Wednesday morning.

I hope they're curing him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Crossdressing for Fun and Profit!

Somebody said that the photo I posted yesterday of Rudy Giuliani, in full drag, reminded them of Dame Edna Everage (Barry Humphries - red-blooded Australian heterosexual, just like Hugh Jackman).

Well, damned if he doesn't! It's the eyeglasses... and the makeup... and that gown ... AND THOSE SHOES!!! UGH.

Speaking of drag queens, Joe, over at JoeMyGod, went to the theater last night to see a live production of Charles Busch's silver-screen triumph, "Die, Mommy, Die!" As Joe himself finally admitted, he's well on his way to becoming a Show Queen (I think he's already there).

Joe mentioned seeing CB in "Lesbian Vampires of Sodom" when he first moved to NYC back in the 80's. My ex and I caught that one, too. I don't remember too much about it, but I do remember an over-the-top performance by Busch who seemed hell bent on bringing out his inner-Norma Desmond at every opportunity.

But for my cross-dressing money, nothing could ever beat the late, great Charles Ludlum in a succession of wildly insane farces at the Ridiculous Theatrical Company's world headquarters on Sheridan Square.

One of the first plays I saw when I landed in NY in 1978 was their production of "Camille... a Tear Jerker." I, and the rest of the audience, was in stitches from the time Charles first (literally) flounced onstage in an empire gown whose hem was coquettishly held aloft by a circle of helium filled balloons, revealing a lovely set of pantalettes beneath, until he drew (one of many) last breaths in a death scene that just wouldn't quit. ("Nonette... I'm cold. Throw another faggot on the fire." "I'm sorry madame, but there isn't another faggot in the house!!!" "Not another faggot in the house??? TELL ME ANOTHER ONE, NONETTE!!!") His plays were loaded with cultural references from life, art, opera, theater, books, street talk and ballet. The zingers, sarcasm and puns flew. To see Charles and his company of fellow lunatics perform was exhilirating and inspiring.

But their crowning glory, in 1984, was a 2-man production of "Irma Vep" a gothic horror story and cross-dressers delight. The two people in the cast were Charles and his lover Everett Quinton. It was a tour de force and my ex and I saw it several times, and dragged out-of-towners to see it whenever we could.

Charles passed away from AIDS 20 years ago this past spring, but I have never forgotten this brilliant man of the theater.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

If They Held a Gun to My Head....

as I was standing in the voting booth and they said "vote for a Republican" I have to admit that I'd probably pull the trigger, er, lever in favor of Rudy Guiliani.

I'm no fan of Rudy's. As far as I'm concerned he ripped out the heart of New York City when he cleaned up 42nd Street, got rid of the video arcades, street whores and crack dealers (and their plainclothes counterparts) and turned the whole thing into friggin' DisneyWorld-North.

I'm also no fan of how he cleaned up the rest of the city under the campaign slogan of "Cracking Down on Quality-of-Life Crimes" (i.e. spitting, drinking, playing your guitar on a streetcorner, urinating on police cars, etc.)

And I'm REALLY no fan of how he single-handedly saved New York City on 9/11. Most New Yorkers I know feel exactly the same way. He makes it sound like everybody else was out of town that day.

This past Sunday, on some talking-head yakfest on tv, somebody asked him about the Queer Issue (like I'm an "issue" to somebody... which also pisses the fuck out of me) and he got all flustered (keep in mind that a gay couple sheltered him when his wife threw him out one time) and he started hemming and hawing about the difference between "being" something and actually "doing" something. He skated dangerously close to the old "love the sinner, not the sin" bullshit.

So, naturally, I had to go in search of some photo evidence of Rudy "doing" something.

Like drag.

More than once.

In fact he seemed to really dig the shit out of dressing up in women's clothes and makeup.

A lot.

Just sayin'.

He's a New York Style Politician. And when push comes to shove, if it simply MUST be a Republican, then I'd rather have a New York Style Politician in the White House than an Arkansas or Arizona kind.

Because they all look like shit in drag (can you imagine Huckabee or Cain in full regalia?)

But Rudy looks pretty good. For a Republican.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Deck Them Halls!

I resigned from the Codependency Society on Saturday and took myself to the movies instead of driving hours in order to spend hours having the rehab staff give me the thrice-over to make sure I wouldn't be smuggling Crystal Meth into the place when I spent hours on Sunday driving back to spend an hour visiting with my sponsee.

Earlier in the morning I'd spent a fruitful hour having coffee with the sponsee's former boyfriend. Boy, did I get an earful. I got the keys to my sponsee's apartment (which was the original purpose of my visit with his ex), drove over there, picked up the mail, tried to tidy up a little and took out the trash.

I spent a lot of time this past week on the phone with MY sponsor, trying to sort out my feelings, needs, character defects and knee-jerk reactions to needy people which I learned growing up with a bunch of needy people called "relatives" who, incidentally, were alkies like me.

So instead of angrily traipsing off to the wilds of Southern Pennsylvania, I drove to the AMC 24 in beautiful Hamilton, New Jersey and saw "The Golden Compass" which, for my money, was a golden snore. It's so derivative it's not even funny. There's hardly an original idea in the whole thing. It has one or two good effects, and that's it.

Time was I thought Nic Kidman was one of a handful of the most beautiful women in the world. Now I just think she's one of the most heavily-botoxed women in the world. That woman's forehead qualifies for it's own exhibit at Madame Tussaud's Museum of Wax.

The child is utterly charmless and, on occasion, brassy, brazen and more than slightly annoying.

Everyone else was pretty much wasted in their roles.

My opinions were vindicated by less than sterling box-office results for the weekend.

Let's hope that something comes along... and soon... to salvage our entertainment needs.

I spent Sunday reading the NYTimes, shopping, putting away laundry and doing some chores. I clean 1/4 of the kitchen at a time. I found the Faux Christmas Tree and the Genuine MOMA ornament bag and dragged them into the living room. With any luck I'll get the tree up sometime this week since there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on television for the next couple of weeks.

In fact, the only bright spot on my television viewing horizon is the fact that Season 3 of "Lost" is now shipping. This is good news since it's highly unlikely that there'll be anything worth watching after the first 8 (new) episodes this year (that's where they stopped shooting when the writers went on strike).

It looks like slim pickens from here on out.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Codependent, thy name is Alcoholic!

One of my sponsees collapsed a week or so ago and wound up back in rehab. The counselors there determined that he really needed to go to a slightly longer-term facility (28 day). I'm all for that. They packed him off to the new place yesterday. He's in a temporary blackout from the world, but can have visitors starting Sunday IF they've spent Saturday in some sort of training session, first.

One of the gifts of getting my brains back is that I recognize when someone needs more help than any mere 12-Step Program can offer. Sometimes people need to be locked up for their own good.

Which is not to say that they totally give up their old ways.

Such is the case with "Mr. X." Mr. X was in a long-term relationship with someone prior to getting sober. Prior to that he'd been in another long-term relationship. The problem with both of these relationships was that Mr. X didn't have a "real life" of his own. His life was lived with and through his relationship to his two partners. Their's were the real lives. His was merely an adjunct to theirs. They provided the housing. They provided the career. They provided the friendships (pretty much).

It wasn't Mr. X's fault. He'd been raised by Mittel-European Jewish couple who kept him away from the world, mistrustful of everyone and then, when he was in his 30's, they both died within 6 months of each other.

He was very much like Chance the Gardner in "Being There." An innocent abroad in the world. He didn't know, really, how to make a living or to have friends or to stand on his own two feet.

Well, eventually both lovers grew tired and bored and eventually Mr. X. sensed that something was awry and he started drinking. A lot. Lover #1 left him. Lover #2 got tired of co-sponsoring his bullshit and, after repeated attempts to get him sober by sending him off to detox centers and rehabs, finally just threw him out a couple of months back.

That's when I came into the picture. Mr. X, who'd dabbled in AA for a couple of years, asked me (out of desperation) to be his sponsor. I agreed. I didn't know how extensive his codependency issues were.

And now I'm finding out.

The ex boyfriend has put his foot down and told Mr. X that he will no longer continue to be a source of support and comfort to him. Mr. X has turned around and nominated ME to be his next victim ("Would you please call xxxxxx and arrange to get the house keys from him? I'm going to need some stuff from the house if I'm going to be here for awile.") As though these were my problems. Which they are not.

This goes right to the heart of my childhood ACOA, CODA issues. I have to set boundaries with him.

He's incredibly needy. I cannot allow that neediness to force me into doing things I do not want to do. Mr. Codependent needs to learn to ask others for help and to do it humbly and gratefully and not with a sense of entitlement.

And both of us needs to grow up. I'm not his daddy and he's not my needy child.

Male Sex-Toy Update!

You've got to see this. It's hysterical (and more than just a little intriguing).

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I spoke at length about my maternal grandmother yesterday and about how she sacrificed to give me what she could in my childhood.

I should elaborate a little on some of the circumstances surrounding that. Long story short, my mother couldn't be bothered raising me as a single, 19 year old, parent. Hence I wound up being cared for by her sister (my aunt) her mother (my grandmother), her grandmother (my great-grandmother) and a succession of her girlfriends, many of whom would've made her a fine husband, if you catch my meaning and get my drift.

But my grandmother drank. A little at first, then more after her mother-in-law, my mom's grandmother, died. I was six when that happened. Then her other daughter, my aunt, married and moved out. After that I eventually became my Nana's confidante, son and best friend. I also became her bartender ("Ronnie, get me a beer while you're up, please and take this empty with you.")

Sometimes I became her ambassador to the neighbors. I remember once being told by the drunken man next door that there was "going to be trouble" if I didn't do something about a tree that was about to fall on his car. I was 11. Another time a beer bottle went horribly awry in the middle of the night and visciously attacked my Nana. I had to go wake the neighbors and ask them if they could drive us to the Emergency Room so Nana could get stitched up.

I hated Christmas Day. I hated Easter, too. And Thanksgiving. These were big drinking days in my family and I knew that no matter how much resolve they all showed before the big day arrived, when it did it was almost guaranteed to end in screaming, arguing and acrimonious verbal exchanges.

One of their biggest sources of contention with each other was, surprise, me. They would often drink and fight over me. Matters of custody, mostly. Like I wasn't in the room, or couldn't hear them from upstairs where I was shaking under my covers in fear that they might hurt each other for real... or me.

I lived a life torn between two women I wanted to love, my mother and my grandmother, but both of whom seemed to do everything within their power to make sure that I would grow up hating their combined guts, instead.

They had their good moments, as I wrote about yesterday regarding my grandmother, but those times were almost always outweighed by the self-centered evil of their uncontrollable anger and self-pity which emerged when they were drinking.

I know now that they were not bad people, but merely sick people.

I got something they never got, though.

And that was "better."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

a la recherche du temps perdu

The photo is of the intersection of 8th & Market Streets in the sleepy little burg of Wilmington, Delaware, sometime prior to 1959, which is when they took down the last of the overhead electric trolley lines. I missed the electric trollies because they didn't belch out diesel fumes and they were quiet, unlike their replacements.

The picture was taken near the holidays because the Christmas lights are up, hanging from the lamposts all along Market.

My mom worked in that Kresge's on the corner, before I was born. She worked behind the lunch counter. When I was little my aunt would sometimes take me there for a soda treat. This was back when they actually drew the Coca-Cola syrup from a fountain pump and mixed it with the requisite amount of fizzy soda to make a real fountain Coke. They were far better than bottled Cokes.

Way off in the distance, on the upper right-hand side of the picture, you can see the top of the Hotel DuPont, at 11th & Market.

Market Street was turned into a pedestrian mall in the 70's which killed off what little remained of downtown. To this day they keep trying new ideas to revive downtown, but nothing seems to work because they can't restore the one thing that is irreplaceable.... the era. I grew up in Wilmington in post-war America. Things were good. Jobs were pretty plentiful. There was always meat and vegetables and potatoes on the table. Nobody (it seemed) went hungry. Everybody had a job and was buying a car or a house or a "hi-fi" or a tv in those days. Appliances flew off dealer floors. You could buy things "on installment" in those pre-credit card days. TV sets were as much pieces of furniture as they were something you watched. They had to "match the decor" of your living room.

Bargains were still to be had at places like Wanamaker's or Strawbridge's or (for the real bargain hunters) Wilmington Dry Goods.

And around Christmas time Market Street got transformed.

I have never forgotten the year I wanted a toy so badly I could taste it. I kept asking and asking if "Santa was going to bring it" and I got shot down every time. It was some sort of "Astro-Lander" thing that had lots of flashing lights and a side door that opened so a lunar rover could be lowered to the ground and then it would run around. Look, don't knock it. It was the cat's ass when I was a kid.

Anyway, on a snowy December night, I left my grandmother shopping at the Wilmington Dry and started walking up Market Street, through the crowds (I was all of 9 or so). Suddenly I stopped. There, in the window of a novelty store or drug store or something was the toy of my dreams. I RAN back down the street, slipping on the snow-covered sidewalks, to tell my Nana that I'd just saved Santa a lot of hard work and that I'd found it myself.

That good woman just sighed. I knew right then, in that brief moment, the truth about Christmas and Santa. Selfishly, I clung to the illusion, resolved to hang onto it long enough to get my wish.

Nana was not a rich woman, you see. And this toy was not cheap, probably more than $10 (1959) dollars.

But that present was under the tree come Christmas morning.

Of all the toys I got in my childhood, from American Flyer trains to Erector Sets, I have never forgotten that one because for the first time in my life I knew just how much someone who loved me was willing to sacrifice in order to give me a few, brief moments of happiness.

My Nana passed away in 1968, a few months before I entered the Navy. I was 19.

She may have been a drunk. Her alcoholism probably consummed a lot of my childhood and made me the co-dependent ACOA I am today. But when push came to shove, my Nana loved me.

And I loved her.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Queen of MGM

No, not me. Norma Shearer. And she was, too! (Although there was a point, years later, when the Arthur Freed musical unit was alleged to have entered the commissary one day, en masse, only to have Ethel Barrymore announce at the top of her lungs, "WELL, HERE COMES THE ROYAL FAMILY." -- one assumes she was referring to Vincente Minnelli, of course, or one of the many other queens in the musical unit).

Norma came by the title in good old-fashioned Hollywood Style. By marrying the 2nd in command at the studio, Irving Thalberg (yes, THAT Irving Thalberg, whom the award is named after).

She was no great beauty, but she did light and photograph beautifully. Her acting was stilted and forced and more reminiscent of the highly-stylized acting style of lower East Side Yiddish melodramas than of the more naturalistic style that the talkies had ushered in. She tended to "indicate" with her hands.... a lot.

Nevertheless, I've always like Norma. She was fun to watch and, being Irving's wife, the studio lavished her with huge productions and spectacular sets and costumes. They spared no expense in making her one of their top 10 stars.

Until Irving unexpectedly died, of course. And that was pretty much the end of that. No more lavish productions (her really big movies never turned profits, even though they were very popular), and no more painstaking photography and lighting to cover up for her "lazy eye" condition.

One of her most stupendous roles was as "Marie Antoinette" produced by MGM in 1938. I only ever saw a bowdlerized print of it, when I was a kid, on the Early Show in Philly, circa 65-66. But I wanted to see the whole thing. A year or so ago I read that Criterion (I think) had come up with a beautifully restored print, complete with the original overture, entr'acte and exit music, plus a lot of deleted scenes. I wanted it, so I added it to my wish list on

And there it languished, like Norma, for a whole year. Until this past weekend. A friend of mine (a very good friend of mine) had raided my Wish List and not only ordered it but also a director's cut version of Altman's "Nashville" which I've not seen (because it's so long) since it's original release back in the 70's.

Wouldn't you know it, the cable went out for the weekend. So I had NO choice but the watch it (Marie). It's long by 1938 standards. Over 2 and a half hours. For a black and white film it's humongous (the additional material on the DVD quotes statistics like "10,000 costumes, 5,000 extras, 98 huge sets). I was mesmerized. Tyrone Power plays the Swedish Count who is the real love interest of the frivolous little Queen. Robert Morley (in his 1st Hollywood role) is the Dauphin/Louis XVI to whom she is married off, John Barrymore plays his grandfather, old Louis, and Joseph Schildkraut plays the smarmy Duc D'Orleans who is secretly in cahoots with the revolutionaries.

I love movies like this. I could watch 'em all day long (although I must confess that during some of the revolutionary crowd scenes I half expected Cloris Leachman to burst in and to plead with the people of Fraance, er, Fraahhhnce to storm the Bastille).

What was utterly amazing to me, though, was that Norma, near the end of the movie when she's a prisoner in the Bastille awaiting execution, allowed herself to be shown on camera looking run down, dowdy, careworn and, frankly, just plain "bad." Her hair is a mess. Her face all wrinkled. It looks like she's not wearing any makeup and her skin shows it.

This movie was filmed at a time when even the most beat up harridan/heroines were always shown looking like a million bucks just before they got strapped into the electric chair up at Sing-Sing. It took a lot of courage, I thought, for Norma to allow herself to be seen in the last minutes of the film looking so bad. That's how people would remember her after they'd left the theater.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm extremely grateful to my friend for her thoughtfulness. It was a timely gift and exactly what I needed to pick me up given some of the events this past week.

So thank you, Bev!

And more on the rest of my weekend anon.