I wanted to post something a little lighter today. I was going to post a video of The Brady Bunch singing as the Silver Platters. But then, I found this clip of Eve Plumb on the Jenny Jones show, probably from around 15 years ago. The clip is called “Eve Plumb is NOT BITTER, DAMN IT!” It made me laugh. Jan was my favorite Brady, I actually sent her a fan letter when I was little and she sent me an autographed picture that I still count among my treasures. When I first moved to LA, I found myself standing behind her in the checkout at Ralph’s once. I so wanted to tell her what a happy part of my childhood she was. I did not say anything, I suspect any contact would have made her feel uncomfortable. Also, it could have turned out llke the time I went up to Shirley Knight at a different Ralph’s and told her how much I loved her and with each word I said I sounded like I’d breathed in a little more cocaine-laced helium. Eve Plumb still acts, she recently appeared off-Broadway, but has also become known as a painter. I’ve included a couple of her paintings. I hesitated about posting the Jenny Jones clip, I’ve seen her in several more recent interviews where she is much more gracious about her Brady legacy. I think maybe time, and perhaps her success as a painter, has softened some of the bitterness. Either way, she’s still my favorite Brady! And you know what, just because I can, I posted the Silver Platters video, too!
Like a lot of people, I try to always have a book that I’m reading. Ever since I was little, I’ve loved books. The two books I just finished, Coral Glynn by Peter Cameron and Harvard Square by Andre Aciman took me on similar journeys. Each time, I was reading the book, enjoying it somewhat, and then halfway in, something happened and I could not stop reading until I was finished. With a turn of a page, I went from liking to loving. It’s not uncommon when that happens, but it doesn’t occur every time. Believe me, I hope it will happen soon with the book that I’m currently reading, which I have been reading for over two weeks now. Not long ago, someone asked me if I was a writer and I replied, no, I’m not, but I am this delusional person who reads something and feels like he’s written it. That’s what I said at the time and I’m not saying I’m not delusional, but what I think I meant was reading is a collaboration. When you read something that affects you, you are in cahoots with the author. I’m not saying Peter Cameron or Armistead Maupin or Edmund White or John Irving write for only me, but sometimes it does feel that personal. Saul Bellow famously said, “A writer is a reader moved to emulation.” I guess that’s why I started this blog. I’ve felt so clumsy in the last two weeks trying to weave these pieces together, it’s been humbling. It’s also been intoxicating. Last week, I wrote a sentence, so well-crafted, I could not believe it came from my consciousness. I’m still congratulating myself, clearly. But with the highs and lows, I keep going in hopes that eventually, with a turn of a page, I’ll go from reader to writer.
Today is my Dad’s 75th birthday! It has not been the easiest year for him and I am among the many who are happy he’s here to celebrate. Midwestern boy that I am, Field of Dreams is one of my favorite movies and it’s the ending that gets me every time I watch it. There’s just something about playing catch with your Dad. My Father and I played a lot of catch when I was growing up and while I’m sure he knew he didn’t have the next George Brett on his hands, he always made me feel like he did!
Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you!
From the moment I heard Lorrie Mullins sing “My Father’s Eyes” at Hidden Haven Church Camp, I loved Amy Grant. My first concert was Amy Grant’s “Age to Age” tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My fourth (second and third were The Imperials and Michael W. Smith/Petra, respectively) concert was Amy Grant’s “Unguarded” tour at Sandstone in Kansas City, where I made my best friend Missy mad by making out with a girl from Topeka that I met. One of my signature songs that I used to always sing at churches was “Arms of Love.” Amy Grant was a VERY big part of my youth, and I still love her as an adult. If it had been up to me, Three Wishes would still be on television. This interview (linked above) has been touted as Amy’s first interview with the gay press. It’s an interesting read, whether you are gay or Christian or a gay Christian, or even if you are the kind of person who says there is no such thing as a gay Christian. I’m not going to dissect the interview here, I just wanted to share it.
So, I love this movie. Diane Keaton. Rachel McAdams. SJP. I have two favorite scenes, one I won’t talk about, because it’s at the end and I don’t want to ruin the ending if you haven’t seen it. This is the other one. I saw The Family Stone twice in the theatres and the third time I saw it was in 2006 in a hotel room in Pismo Beach. That fall, I won a significant amount of money on a game show, and that year, my Christmas present to my parents was a trip up the California coast, on me. As a person who has mostly worked in restaurants, up to that point in my life, I had had few opportunities to splurge on my parents. We went to Hearst castle, ate nice meals, walked on the beach, visited Mission San Luis Obispo. We brought my two dogs at the time, Lucy and Mandy, who loved running on the resort’s expansive grounds. One night, after dinner, we were in the room, I may or may not have been drinking a couple glasses of sauvignon blanc, The Family Stone came on tv. I’d seen it before, I can’t remember if my parents had seen it before, but we watched it together, The Family Barnhart. Whenever I watch gay things with my parents I notice things I didn’t notice before. I seriously didn’t know how ribald Will and Grace was until I watched an episode sitting beside my mother. When I was in my 20s, I was in a gay play where every character got naked, but it wasn’t until my parents were in the audience that I realized, hey, they talk a LOT about sex in this play! But I digress. It’s 2006 and we are in this somewhat luxurious hotel room in a resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean and we are watching The Family Stone and THIS scene starts. And I lose it. LOSE IT. Oprah’s Ugly Cry. My parents are sitting on their bed, my dogs and I are on my bed and tears are bursting out of my eyesockets and I’m trying not to shudder for fear they notice what’s going on. Why did I react this way? In as few words as possible? Maybe it’s a gay thing, maybe it’s a not so successful actor thing, maybe it’s a working 25 years in restaurants thing, but I’ve always felt like I’ve disappointed my parents a little. But here I was treating them to this wonderful vacation that they deserved, it was in fact, overdue. And suddenly, I was happy and sad and wistful and proud and ashamed and tipsy and silly and all the other things that make me me. I don’t know if they noticed my blubbering (how could they not?), but they’ve never mentioned it. And time has eased the embarrassment when I recall the evening, it’s actually turned it into a beautiful memory of time spent with my parents. Fortunately for me, one of many.
Sometimes when I am at Happy Hour with a group of friends or bored at work (which is never, because I always work very hard and the people I work with always work very hard) I like to play a little game called “Where would you go?” The rules are simple. When you get home tonight, you will find a bundle of cash ($25,000) that MUST be spent on a one week vacation and you have to leave first thing in the morning. You can’t save the money or give it away. You must spend the entire amount on your vacation. Where would you go? I love to hear people’s answers. Hawaii, New York, France, Vietnam, India, U.S. road trip, Machu Picchu. I believe the vacation we dream about says much about us. As for me, my answer is always the same, Paris. I’ve never been and have always dreamed of going. Like Carrie Bradshaw tells Aleksandr Petrovsky’s annoying daughter in the penultimate episode of Sex and the City, I’ve only been there in the movies. And television, and books, and Google Earth. I have ALMOST visited Paris a few times, but each time, a plan changes and I don’t go. It feels like I’ve been there. I’ve included the link to a movie called Paris Je T’aime. Twenty short films by twenty different directors make up the movie, my favorite being “14e Arrondissement” about a postal worker from Denver visiting Paris for the first time. It wouldn’t be the gem that it is without Margo Martindale’s performance. And every time I see it, her visit is my visit. We walk the streets, stare at the view from our hotel room, go to the Eiffel Tower, practice our French, and sit on a park bench and eat that really delicious looking sandwich. Watching the movie is a five minute vacation from my ordinary life. The reason I love my little game is it gives me a chance to close my eyes and, for a few moments, imagine myself in an exotic location. So, I’d go to Paris. But enough about me, where would YOU go?
Recently, I posted on Facebook a status update about how I never get tired of pictures of dogs, people’s parents when they were young, and cake. My friend Aaron saw the post and sent me this video tribute his brother Matt Levitz made for his Mom a couple months ago. He promised the video had dogs, cake and many pictures of his Mother. It goes without saying that it’s a loving tribute. Linda is the star of this movie and she is as magnetic as Julia Roberts, with a smile to match. From baby photos, through childhood, wedding, young motherhood, not so young motherhood, involvement in the Adelines, etc., her life is documented. At the end, I felt like I knew her and in a way, I do know her. I had a real reaction partly because the video made me think of my Mom, Theresa. Like Linda, she was born in 1944 and married in 1965 and as women who have travelled through history at the same time, they share other similarities. I asked Aaron to ask Linda if it would be okay to share this on my blog. She responded, “How sweet! I absolutely give permission, provided that he gives Matt credit.” I thought to myself, what a proud Mom. I knew that’s the kind of person she is from watching her movie, but I also know that’s the way Moms are, from knowing my Mom.
I just came back from a walk to Larchmont Village with Eric. Just today, I realized that on May 1st, I will have lived in my building and this neighborhood for 15 years. For a person who had 12 different addresses between the ages of 21 and 28, that’s a long time in one place. I have a cousin who used to tease me that she always wrote my address in pencil in her address book. I remember when I first moved to Los Angeles and would drive down my street, I would look at my building and think, someday, I want to live there. I thought it was a sign from the universe when I became friends with a person that lived here. Eventually, when an apartment in the building opened, I moved into a studio. A couple years later, I moved into the one bedroom with French windows and a view of the Ravenswood sign that I live in now. Even still, when people ask me where I live and I tell them the street then describe the building, they often cry, “I LOVE that building.” I always downplay it by saying the management never fixes anything and the hallways look like “The Shining,” but deep down, it’s a source of pride. I love my apartment, I love my building, I love my neighborhood. I love that when I run into people I haven’t seen for a few years, they ask me if I still live in Larchmont. Of course, I still live here. Where would I go? Just like being from Kansas, or the son of Ray and Theresa, or an actor, or Eric’s partner, or Lucy and Mandy and Millie and Ricky’s parent, it’s part of my identity.
It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since I posted this video. This is from a night I produced called Ray Barnhart Likes Girls. Five of my favorite storytellers (Sarah Taylor, Rebecca O’Brien, Amy Scribner, Traci Swartz and Linda Bailey Walsh) joined me to share tales of the relationship between gay men and their straight female counterparts. It was a fun night and the rush I felt at the end of the evening I still carry with me. My best friend Michele is still my best friend Michele and it’s exciting to think about how much her life has changed since 2008. She is the busy mother of two toddlers, at least one of whom has inherited his parents’ performing gene. Her husband Stan is no longer new on the scene and he has turned out to be as special as I suspected he might be. And me, my life has changed in a few ways, too, but I’m still the kind of guy who can spend a Friday night in front of the computer drinking chardonnay, eating pizza rolls and reliving a favorite memory.