Thursday, May 27, 2010

John Waters at City Arts & Lectures ... and other things

John Waters. He is one weird dude. Fabulous storyteller. Very funny. And I do love the kinks even when they make me shake my head to clear those stuffy cobwebs that lurk there in my brain ... leftovers from my bygone Catholic era.

His take on the Tea Bag Party: “Well, they started rioting when President Obama tried to pass his healthcare bill. I really don’t blame them. I love rioting. I used to riot all the time in my younger years. We should have been rioting during Bush’s administration. Obama is to them what Bush was to us. So, I can see why they want to riot.”

I love the man! Nobody nowadays admits to rioting or loving it. I never started any riots but I was there when the provocateurs started it. And, I must say, I felt very alive.

His mustache ... I have had a postcard of a photo of John Waters on my refrigerator for a long time. It’s a close-up of his mouth -- sneering. And there’s that beautiful mustache. When my daughters were little, they would ask: “What’s he doing?” So, I explained about sneering and gave a few examples ... can’t remember them right now. Then they’d go around the house practicing.

At Q&A time, I asked my question: “I really love your mustache. Can you tell us a story about it?”.

(Hey, if you live in the San Francisco Area, you can listen to the conversation on the radio. Go here for details. They’ll play this event on 8/29/10. They do edit it so who knows if you’ll hear my question. Although it was a clean one and his answer was clean so they’ll probably keep it in.

I asked my question. But, I was coming down from hyperventilating (nervousness due to talking in front of hundreds) so I don’t really remember his answer that well. This is what I remember: He has a ritual every day with it. Trims it. Touches it up with a Maybelline eyebrow pencil. And he’s had it since he was 19. He said if I wanted to know more there’s a whole page about it in his book. I had already bought his book so here’s that page:

Then in 1970, in a misguided attempt to steal Little Richard’s identity, I grew a pencil-then moustache. At first it didn’t work right. It’s tough for a white man who isn’t that hairy to grow one. Sure, I shaved with a razor on top and trimmed the bottom with cuticle scissors, just like I do every day now, but it still looked kind of pitiful. then “Sick,” the friend of mine from the Provincetown tree fort who had moved to Santa Barbara and changed her nickname to “Sique,” gave me some fashion advice when I was staying with her. “Just use a little eyebrow pencil and it will work better,” she advised, and then showed me how. Presto! An “iconic” look: a ridiculous fashion joke that I still wear forty years later. Surprised? Don’t be! It is called a “pencil moustache,” isn’t it? And there is only one pencil that does the trick--Maybelline Expert Eyes in Velvet Black. My entire identity depends on this magic little wand of sleaze. it has to be sharpened every time it’s applied, too--which in my case is twice a day or so. More if you’ve been making out. Believe me, I’ve tried expensive, smearproof eyebrow pencils, but they’re too thick, too penetrating, too indelible. There’s only one eyebrow pencil for me--and that’s Maybelline!

I always carry one in my pocket, keep another in my car, and have backups in each of my homes. Once I was in the hospital after being mugged and I guess because of my concussion I had forgotten to bring my Maybelline. I was so panicked that I would limp over to the mirror and try to gouge it on with a regular number two lead pencil used for writing. It didn’t work. Since I knew the only visitors I had scheduled that day were my parents, I decided to involve them. I didn’t have much of a choice. We had certainly never discussed how I did my moustache. I just remember their vaguely nauseated expression when they saw it for the first time when I came back from California. We had so many issues at that time, the moustache had to get in line. I bit the bullet, called my mother, and said, “Don’t ask any questions, just go to the drugstore, get me a Maybelline eyebrow pencil in Velvet Black, and bring it to me in the hospital.” Silence on her end. “Okay,” she finally muttered with mortified annoyance. When Mom and Dad came in the hospital room, she snuck the prized package behind her back and gave it to me without my father seeing. We never ever discussed it again.

I’ve forgotten to put on my moustache some days and I have to lurk around like Clark Kent looking for a phone booth until I find a car mirror on an uncrowded street (not easy in Manhattan!) or a public restroom where I can, unobserved, repair the damage to my image. I remember once starting out the day with a visit to Mary Boone’s midtown art gallery. Mary came out of her office, took one look at me, and blurted in a horrified voice, “What happened to your moustache?!” Instantly feeling nude in public, I realized the problem, mumbled some excuse about the lighting, and left immediately. I raced home in the privacy of a cab, drew it in, blended it, and started the day all over again.
Below is a photo of the postcard on my refrigerator. As I was taking the photo, my 13-year-old daughter said to me ... in that tone reserved for daughters commenting on their mothers ... unveiled contempt: “Oh, Ema. Only you would take a picture of a picture.”

Oh, and one more thing, John Waters has an exhibit of his art at the Rena Bransten Gallery. The exhibit is called "Rush!" -- go to the gallery web site for details.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bon Tempe Lake - Marin Watershed

A friend at work recommended a hike at Bon Tempe Lake in the Marin Watershed. So last Saturday, my oldest daughter and I went "exploring" there ... she's 17 and I dare not use the word "hiking." Exploring means you can stop and look at tadpoles or see if there are any lizards in the tall grasses. I love to hike but I'm not a type A. If I'm with my daughters, I can adapt to their quirks.

A friend asked: what type are you?
My reply: Type F.
"Type F?" she thinks I'm being risqué. "What's the F mean?"


Right away, the fun began. We had just gotten out of the car and a big ole jackrabbit with long long ears hopped by and startled my daughter. I laughed.

Besides the rabbit, we saw a tadpole (still a tadpole in May!!!), lots of deer, a lizard, and many birds. I heard several frogs plop into the lake -- I was too slow getting to the edge of the lake and didn't see them.

We really had a good time. And it was so beautiful out there. The wind was calm and it was a sunny morning.

All photos taken by our close friend K. Smokey Cormier.

all photos (c) 2010 K. Smokey Cormier

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ms. Manitoba's Fortune for Today

At one time, Ms. Manitoba was called an alien ... "legal alien." She was sponsored by her Irish uncles living in Queens. "Alien" sticks to you whether there is a "legal" or "illegal" in front of it. Ms. Manitoba abhors the use of legal alien or illegal alien. It's a manipulation by the Money Men.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Comic Book Guidelines, 1954

from Lapham's Quarterly, Spring 2010

1954: Washington, D.C.


1. Crimes shall never be presented in such a
way as to create sympathy with the criminal,
to promote distrust of the forces of law and
justice, or to inspire others with a desire to
imitate criminals.

2. In every instance, good shall triumph over
evil, and the criminal shall be punished for
his misdeeds.

3. The letters of the word "crime" on a
comics magazine cover shall never be
appreciably greater in dimension than the
other words contained in the title. The
word "crime" shall never appear alone
on the cover.

4. No comics magazine shall use the word
"horror" or "terror" in its title.

5. Scenes dealing with, or instruments asso-
ciated with, walking dead, torture, vampires
and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and
werewolfism are prohibited.

6. Although slang and colloquialisms are
acceptable, excessive use should be discour-
aged, and wherever possible good grammar
shall be employed.

7. Females shall be drawn realistically with-
out exaggeration of any physical qualities.


From the Code of the Comics Magazine Association
of America, Inc. The Comics Code Authority was
created in part from the public concern generated by
the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency
hearings that focused on the industry.

Monday, May 17, 2010

R. Sikoryak and Action Camus

Do you know about R. Sikoryak? He takes well-known comic book characters and places them in classic literature stories. For example, Little Lulu in The Scarlet Letter. Here's the cover (I'll describe in words) for Action Camus ... Lois Lane and Superman are in bed ...

Lois Lane: Do you love me?

Superman (turning to look at her): Well, it's a meaningless question, but I suppose not.

Bogdanovich about Cher

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Bogdanovich in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle .. Pink Pages ...

Q: You directed another singing diva, Cher, in "Mask."

Bogdanovich: Cher was not so much fun. [earlier he talked about Barbra Streisand being fun to work with] It was like pulling teeth. I had to resort to long close-ups, because she couldn't sustain a scene for more than a few moments ... She's great in close-up because she has all the suffering in the world in her eyes -- until you find out it's self-pity.

Eow! What a comment.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May Day

(c) 2006 K. Smokey Cormier

May Day

In memory of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder at Kent State May 4, 1970.

In memory of Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green at Jackson State College May 15, 1970.

May 1970
New Haven, Connecticut
I had gone to high school here
knew all the little side streets

but this time I sneaked into town
stayed overnight
in one of the Yale libraries

My father had forbidden me
to come home from nursing school
to attend the Free Bobby Seale and Erika Huggins rally

he never knew
he never knew how close he came to
getting a phone call

my father was afraid
and angry that
I had provoked his fear

we were new citizens
sworn in
three years before
at the New Haven court house
and now, Bobby and Erika in that same court house

the New Haven Green was multi-colored with
thousands of people
two lesbians selling the RAT newspaper
out of New York City
the shadows of blades
passing over their faces
as we talk about Lesbian Liberation meetings
a helicopter, one of many in the observing sky,
waiting for action reaction

Jean Genet snuck into town too
ducking immigration officials
he gave his May Day speech
in support of the Black Panthers
and near the end
homosexual rights
I came alive
I stood, cheered, raised my fist
remembering Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Olympics
hope of a new and open life
not many people were cheering
those were the days
when Nixon and Kissinger were called
faggots by all kinds of activists
undisguised disgust on their faces

in the evening
trouble started
agent provocateurs doing their undercover work
the city surrounded by National Guard
their trucks and tanks
their tear gas
like those days and nights in 1967

it was night
I was curious
perhaps, foolishly curious
what's going on out there?
waves of tear gas coming towards us
the group started running
wet bandanas up to our mouths
I was in the lead
I was a local
I knew the streets

we turned a corner and
in an instant
my new life
in front of a firing squad

turned that corner and
up ahead
National Guardsmen
a line of them facing us in formation
their leader shouting commands
their lifted rifles aiming at us
my breathing becomes a prayer
I was in front
… the new citizen

slowly, we backed down
went back to where we came from

two days later
four young people shot
and killed
at Kent State
nine wounded

and just after midnight on May 15
75 city and Mississippi State Police
armed with carbines
submachine guns
service revolvers
personal weapons
fired 460 rounds
on young people at Jackson State College
two students killed
twelve injured

new citizen,
your real life civic lessons
come with blood

-- K. Smokey Cormier

Note: Tommie Smith and John Carlos were U.S. Olympic runners who gave the Black Power salute at the Olympic games in Mexico 1968. When the U.S. flag began rising up the flagpole and the anthem played, the two bowed their heads and raised their black-gloved fists in a Black Power salute. Within hours, the two African-American men were expelled from the Olympic Village and were stripped of their medals.