Summer Reading: LGBT YA Novels

Happy Book Lovers Day!

I spent some wonderful summers as a kid reading books with specific themes. One summer was knights and squires, another was cowboys and horses, yet another was mysteries with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. In college, I read female authors in the summer to balance out the male-dominated required reading for courses in the winter. My last themed summer was black women writers, but that was years ago.

This year, I’m reading LGBT+ young adult novels. I’ve been exploring the nominees for the Lambda Literary Awards (Lammys) as well as the Stonewall Book Award. Some novels are from ‘best of” lists, usually tweeted by authors I followed after reading one of their books. There’s no particular order to my choices. It’s really down to what my library has available and what sounds interesting. Here’s what I’ve read so far, with my personal reaction to them. I always do my best to avoid plot spoilers.

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A Robert Fuller Banner

I’m still a member of Robert Fuller’s official fan group, even though I’m busy with other interests these days. A recent contest to create a new banner for the Fandom Facebook page presented a fun challenge. I got to use some newly-learned Photoshop tools, and I teamed up with my friend Jan. She provided some photos and some lively debate. We submitted several banners, none of which were chosen. That’s okay, because I get to share the best one here. A big thank you to my friend Pam for allowing me to use her recent photo of Fuller.

The biggest challenge was finding the best color photos with the different heads at just the right angle, and I wasn’t completely successful. At least one important role is not represented—I didn’t realize before that Fuller never once takes his hat off in Return of the Magnificent Seven, and the brim is almost always cut off at the top. The ears in the center photos of the banner were also a problem, and the end result is not as satisfying as I’d hoped.

Today is Robert Fuller’s 84th birthday, and he’s still going strong! Wishing him a happy birthday, with many more to come.

(l to r) Wagon Train, Emergency, Wagon Train again, Incident at Phantom Hill, Laramie, The Hard Ride, and Fuller now

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Matthew James Thomas

A gallery of screen captures from TV shows and films with British actor Matthew James Thomas. They didn’t really fit in the Pippin post that came before. Comments are appreciated!

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Life Lessons from Pippin

How to separate the drama nerds from the fantasy geeks: mention Pippin. A drama nerd will start singing Corner of the Sky.

Pippin is a Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote Godspell. It’s about a young prince’s search for something meaningful to do with his life. Pippin was the son of Charlemagne, but the musical is not a faithful historical narrative. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the original 1972 Broadway production, which starred John Rubinstein (Pippin) and Ben Vereen (Leading Player). Pippin’s grandmother Berthe was played by Irene Ryan, best known as Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies. I grew up believing the story that she died onstage during a performance of her song No Time At All. Not true, but it still makes a good “what a way to go!” story.

As a teen in the late 1970s, I was a little bit obsessed with Pippin. I knew the music and lyrics from the cast album long before I saw it onstage. A friend took me to a student production at UC Irvine in 1982, with the musical re-imagined as a futuristic space opera with loads of silver lamé. Then, in 1985, I worked with John Rubinstein at the La Jolla Playhouse (described here) which got me listening to the Pippin original cast album all over again. William Katt and Ben Vereen appeared in a filmed stage version in the early 80s, which I saw on videotape many years later.

Fast forward to 2013, and Pippin is back on Broadway. I watched the Tony Awards that year, so I was aware of the production and saw the musical number performed during the ceremony. I was also vaguely aware when the touring version came to San Francisco in fall 2014, but my budget was tight and my mind was on other things. Mostly I was busy pouting because I had to stay home while friends were at a festival in Utah.

Last summer, I finally listened to the Pippin Broadway revival cast album. My first impression was that Matthew James Thomas has a pretty voice, but it’s very different from John Rubinstein’s. I went to YouTube to see if there were any Pippin videos. And here we go, down the rabbit hole again!

I’ve now watched everything I can find with Matthew James Thomas, going back to The Bill in 1999. I was sad that he deleted his twitter account before I had the chance to follow him. I purchased his UK series Britannia High on DVD, watching it once through before my region-free DVD player packed up and died (boo). Then I actually cried when I found out that the San Francisco Pippin tour brought both Matthew James Thomas AND John Rubinstein to my doorstep, and I missed them. Thomas had given his last performance on Broadway, but he came back and filled in for the touring Pippin when that actor was put on vocal rest. John Rubinstein toured with the show as Charlemagne. Even if the tickets were beyond my budget, I could have gone to the stage door to meet the cast and see Rubinstein again. Heartbreak!

The biggest lesson learned from Pippin? Pay attention to what’s happening around me. Instead of wishing to be somewhere else, make the most of what’s right here. San Francisco isn’t perfect, and it’s way too expensive, but a lot of events are free or cheap.

(click to see better version)

Happily, Matthew James Thomas is now back on twitter. He was cast in a pilot called Shelter for NBC, but it wasn’t ordered to series. I wish him the best, look forward to seeing him onscreen again, and hope he comes back to San Francisco. (John Rubinstein, too!)

If I could have one MJT wish granted, since I can’t travel back in time to 2014, it would be to hear his Fenwick solo from the musical Diner.

Matthew James Thomas (Fenwick) in Diner. Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media

Photo sources:

San Francisco Pippin tour: Review: A masterful ‘Pippin’ showcases Paulus’ bold vision

http://www.delawaretheatre.org/diner (Fenwick photo)

Screen captures made from YouTube videos, particularly from the official Broadway Pippin channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/pippinmusical/videos

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Stage Door (8): Charles Dance, Conleth Hill, & Game of Thrones

Another in series of stage door encounters with interesting actors.

I just finished binge-watching all six seasons of Game of Thrones. A couple of years ago I tried to watch it, but I only got through two episodes before deciding it was too brutal. I’m tougher now. With so many actors I like, and all that gorgeous Ireland scenery, I wish I’d joined the party sooner.

Over the years I couldn’t avoid plot spoilers, but there were still plenty of shocks and surprises. At this point, there’s not much I can say about Game of Thrones that hasn’t been said already. I love the characters I’m supposed to love (Arya, Tyrion, Brienne, Davos, etc), hate the ones everybody hates (Joffrey, Ramsey), wonder why baby Sam grows slower than any other child in Westeros, and wish I’d counted how many times Casterly Rock is mentioned.

Years ago, I saw two of the Game of Thrones cast members perform in plays in London, and I met them at the stage door with my camera.

In early 2001, I saw Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister in GofT) in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The other cast members were Paul Rudd, Paul Nicholls, and Jessica Lange. My seat was right up close to the stage, which normally is too close but was just right for this one. Lange didn’t come out to meet anybody afterward, but the three men did. This was before gathering at the stage door after a show was popular in the West End, so there were only a few of us waiting. This was also before digital cameras, so I didn’t realize that my photo of Rudd caught him with his eyes shut.  He was very friendly, and Charles Dance was very gracious.

 

Soon after, I went with two friends to see Stones in His Pockets with Conleth Hill (Varys in GofT) and Sean Campion. We laughed so hard, our ribs ached by the end. It was fantastic, with just the two men playing multiple roles, including women. We were the only ones waiting afterward. While we were waiting, Stefanie Powers came out the stage door. She must have been in the audience. I recognized her immediately, but I didn’t want to bother her. Hill and Campion came out together, and they were friendly and fun. I don’t usually pose for photos (I prefer taking them), but my friends grabbed the camera and I got sandwiched between two fantastic actors. Lucky me!

With Conleth Hill & Sean Campion

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Back to Queen Street, Dublin

A few years ago, I shared photos from three trips to Dublin. Tanya, Chloe, Warren, Sherree, Danielle, Jamie, and many of their friends first hammed it up for my camera in 1997. It took a while, but eventually some of them found my post here, and they left comments asking to see more of their photos. My negatives and scanner are in storage, but today I found a few scans in an online album. Here they are, with the promise of more to come. Thanks for your patience!

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I made the collage below years ago for my first blog, back when I didn’t know much about Photoshop. It’s not good—too much contrast—but some of these negatives have been lost.

Queen Street collage

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Adventures in Babysitting 30th Anniversary Screening

My friend Marco and I attended a 30th anniversary screening of Adventures in Babysitting (1987) at the Castro Theatre yesterday. Keith Coogan (Brad) was the special guest, and he did a Q&A after the film. He and his wife Pinky had a table set up in the lobby where they met fans, posed for photos, and sold some merchandise.

Marco and I arrived at the Castro early, so we had some pizza slices and then wandered around the neighborhood. One of the art galleries had a portrait of Gilbert Baker in their window. He designed the Gay Pride rainbow flag, and he sadly passed away earlier this week. We bumped into Keith Coogan and Pinky outside a taqueria, so we introduced ourselves and chatted for a few minutes. They recognized my twitter name and were good-humored and friendly.

Once we got in the cinema, I enjoyed watching Coogan and his wife interact with fans before the film. Marco got popcorn and relaxed in our seats. There weren’t a lot of us at the screening, but the line at the Coogans’ table was steady and everybody was having a good time. There was a good spread of ages, too, although I didn’t see any kids.

During the Q&A, Coogan talked about the audition and rehearsal process, his lasting friendship with Anthony Rapp, filming in Toronto, the film’s journey from script to screen, cast parties, real life crushes, the AIB remake, and his current projects. He told us an early version of the AIB script had Sarah swap her toy chest for one carrying plutonium, which evolved into the backpack with the Playboy magazine.

Anthony Rapp tweeted earlier this week about the screening:

I got to meet Rapp in 2006 when he was on tour for his memoir Without You, at both The Booksmith and at his Swedish-American Hall performance.

Adventures in Babysitting holds up well after 30 years. This was my first time seeing it in the cinema. Marco and I reminisced on the drive home about what we were doing in 1987, trying to remember the movies we saw on the big screen that year. It was a good year for films, and in these uncertain times, it’s a good year to escape back into, for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

Thank you, SF Sketchfest, the Castro Theatre, and Keith Coogan! You’re lovely, Pinky!

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