Posts Tagged ‘Funplex’

Lady WordinEdgewise Visits the (Not so) Sunshine(y) State

March 3rd, 2010 No comments

In my previous post, I wrote cheerily about developments in DC and Maryland. Meanwhile, here in Florida matters are considerably less cheery. I’m down here with the kids for a short vacation. Right now, they’re at the zoo with my parents, while I’m wrapped in ice after apparently rupturing a muscle this morning on the tennis court– which caused much full-throated gloating among the seniors: “See? It can happen at any age!” Last night, I became the last one on my block to finally see Avatar (3D, of course)1 Afterwards, I ventured to a nearby gay bar here in Melbourne, there to see, first-hand, the effects of second-class citizenship.

Florida’s laws are among the most gay-hating in the US: No adoption (although this law is under review in the state courts), no employment protection, and an especially broad constitutional amendment against any type of relationship-recognition for gay couples. But what do you expect in a state so backward that it’s among only three that don’t require booster seats for pre-schoolers? Shoulder straps around the neck will do nicely, thanks!

And the kids might be smoking in those unboostered backseats, too. The choking plumes of smoke that almost bowled me over as I entered “The Cold Keg” reminded me of the state’s legislative foot-dragging in yet another area. I  had walked in on some kind of poker night, with two oblong tables peopled by the dysfunctional gay and lesbian version of my parents’ sex-segregated poker nights. I could say a great deal about this sad lot, but one example will do: a forty-something lesbian in a Metallica tee shirt, with a hairstyle that made the mullet seem a high-fashion statement. Other than that, the bar seemed not to have sensed the passage of time, with depressing wood walls, a few sorry, hanging lights, and no real sense of decor.

At least the jukebox was state of the art. When the second-form Lady Gaga hit “Bad Romance” issued forth, the patrons joined in song. (Wouldn’t “Poker Face” have  been the more obvious choice, btw?) OK: Some things, it seems, are Gay Universals. When the Lady Parade then continued with the inexplicable country sensation Lady Antebellum, I realized that it’s now “all lady, all the time.” I was half-expecting “Lady Marmalade” to follow.2 So maybe this blog needs a new name (see title of post).

As I neared the bottom of my first and only drink, the bartender approached me and asked the usual, friendly questions that the job demands. When I told him that I was in Florida with my kids, the issue turned to adoption. He reminded me that gay adoptions were illegal in the (No) Sunshine (for Gays) State, and then related a conversation he’d had with family members, where he’d defended himself by saying: “I’m gay but I’m not a pedophile.”

Yikes! I don’t know any gay person who’d feel the need to add the qualifying part of that sentence, which somehow suggests that the listener (and the speaker) might have reason to think that gays are pedophiles. But I don’t know many gays in out-of-the-way places in such homophobic states, either. There isn’t one linear gay rights movement, and last night’s visit was a depressing reminder that in some places full dignity and equality are far off.

But even here, there are glimmers of hope. On the otherwise dismal bulletin board, there was a neatly typed request for donations made by the local high school’s Gay Straight Alliance. (Yes, I did wonder whether the lack of a hyphen between gay and straight was simply poor grammar or a more disturbing distancing between the gays and their not-quite-comfortable straight allies.) Perhaps even in the remotest areas of the cruelest states, better things are only a generation away.

  1. What a visually stunning film! The plot was OK, if derivative of Pocahontas, until the final chapter which culminated in a tiresome Marine general, encased in a giant robot suit, facing off against the gone-native protagonist, in a battle that for some reason reminded me of Cameron Hodge’s last-stand from an old X-Men comics plot.
  2. “Hey lady!” “What?” “What lady?” That lady?” No!” — Funplex, the B-52’s.

Twentieth Anniversary of “Cosmic Thing”

June 27th, 2009 No comments

On this date in 1989, the B-52’s burst out of their bunker, releasing Cosmic Thing.

There’s a great story that others have constructed of the mainstream success that the album brought the band, some twelve years after they’d flattened everyone in Athens, Georgia with songs like “Rock Lobster,” “Planet Claire,” and “Killer B’s” (never released). After a string of increasingly less-successful albums since their eponymous debut, the band looked finished after guitarist and musical leader Ricky Wilson died of AIDS in 1985. The group (especially sister Cindy Wilson) went into a deep, rudderless funk.

Then, led by drummer-turned-guitarist Keith Strickland, the B-52’s decided to manage their grief by returning to the studio, and somehow managed to meld their eccentric, kitschy sound and look with their previously underused pop sensibility. The result was a totally unexpected monster hit: Cosmic Thing sold four million copies, and spun off the back-to-back home runs “Love Shack” and “Roam.”  “Love Shack” has somehow made the ranks of wedding reception staples; more than a few unlucky folks have seen me grab the microphone from a startled (but so far, not litigious) DJ and belt out the Fred Schneider vocal.

The album, which I first owned on something called a “cassette,” was the only thing playing in my car for what seemed like forever. At first swept along by my obvious enthusiasm and by the album’s sheer greatness, people soon began going to great lengths to avoid traveling with me. I would quote parts of the album at random, scarcely needing relevant provocation to do so.

The reasons for my obsession are somewhat obscure, even to me. As I sit here typing this, I’m looking at a photo of Schneider, my friend Ray, and me, taken at an after-party sometime in the mid-90s. Ray and I and anyone foolish enough to come within our gravitational field were, as someone once told me, “one step from celebrity stalkers.” Their shows were a big reason for my behavior. I’ve seen them too many times to count, and every time I go with someone new, they’re likely to rate the show as among the best they’ve ever seen.

But there was more to it than that. The album came along at a time when I needed something…liberating. It helped me deal with some personal issues (including coming out) by providing a constant, warm reminder that different was OK. Even today, I can listen to it from end to end (although I don’t do so too often) with a big smile on my face, singing along and calling back many great memories. It still sounds great to me, all these years and life events later. It’s not for everyone; if it doesn’t work for you, get your own crack.

Tracks: Cosmic Thing; Dry County; Deadbeat Club; Love Shack; Junebug; Roam; Bushfire; Channel Z; Topaz; Follow Your Bliss