There is a space left when people go. There is a sound that continues on and that sound can reverberrate for generations. It can shake the Universe to it's very foundation. The ache of loss is measured by the amount of time passed.
I knew something was terribly wrong. There was something in the air. There was something changing and even though we all tried t pretend as if everything was the same, nothing really was. People were disappearing. I'd be at rehearsal, and there'd be whispers in the dressing rooms about Paul or Mike or Jon and the replacements needed in order to open.
I knew something was terribly, terribly wrong.
But it was 1984, and I was 23 years old. I had recently discovered a white powder that after a few inhales, turned me into Superman. I had a lover who was very rich and I was a working actress in Chicago. My head was buried deep in the sand about anything that didn't involve what was directly in front of me, so when people disappeared, I assumed they had good reason.
But the rumbling in my belly, that I couldn't seem to shake.
And then, as if swept by an unseen hand, it came closer and friends of mine began going into the hospital. Not one or two, but eight and ten. I was visiting people now. I was taking people meals to their houses because they were too sick to get out of bed. I was staying over night at friend's houses, I was fielding phone calls from family members who wanted them far away from them, and soon after, I was planning funerals. No one had any money, no one had any shelter, and no one had any help. No one was really helping. We were all in our twenties and the only thing we knew of death was an occasional grandparent. We grew up fast, our gay generation. It hit us first and it hit us hard. The Plague had come to our City, and you could smell it in the streets. In the winters, when Chicago freezes over, it seemed to reek up and down every alley. Frozen in the air like a stick slathered in ice. I can still taste it if I close my eyes long enough. The stench of hundreds of young dead people flew through open windows and out onto the pavement, locked in a vice of indifference from the outside world. We were on our own. We only had what we knew.
And as I lay with my best friend Ginger, holding her hand while she whispered to me on the eve of her death, I prayed for this thing to come and get me too. I couldn't buy one more black dress, and I couldn't stand one more eulogy. Two years later, the cold I caught wouldn't go away, and my doctor told me I had AIDS and that I most likely wouldn't live to see thirty. I saw myself trapped in a county hospital, shitting and bleeding, covered in vomit and purple lesions. My future running out the same windows I walked past during the last wave the plague created.
But strangely, and with great irony, I passed thirty and kept moving forward. I was sometimes present, and sometimes not. I did the best I could with what I knew, and I tried to keep the loss in my life bottled up and tightly wound. It sat in my belly for years, and to be honest, I don't know that it will ever leave. But it keeps me going. I see them all, my friends. I see Jon's brown eyes, and him batting his long lashes at me every time he was hungry. I see Daphne's gorgeous face, constantly smiling and constantly in wonder. And I see Ging'. I see her take my hand when I was troubled, I feel her calm me, and I hear her voice when she lay on her bed and whispered to me very gently:
"Whatever you do, don't stop living. We'll all die for sure."
So I don't.
I'm in the middle of a great sea change as I head towards 51 years old. AIDS took away an innocence but it was replenished by determination. I'm just now coming out of a very dark tunnel and I feel ready for the newness that's in front of me. I am terrified and thrilled by it all. I have ducked behind drugs, but now I feel the need to come out of hiding. I need to hear the Universe clearly and see the path before me. I am breathing and I am still speaking about my brothers and sisters and because of that, I believe they live. I don't want them to die for sure.
And now there's something in the air again.
The Plague that took us all has renewed us all. We must live in the present tense with grace and kindness. In every step and in every moment there is the sense of the Divine. We are able to release that unto ourselves and out towards each other. Sharing that gift is why we all made it past that thirty mark. And because I believe that to be true, I will not remain silent and I will not remain the dark.
I am here and I am present.
And by speaking about the people who've passed, speaking their lives out loud, I feel they are never very far away. And that gigantic space that is left, the liminal space before the transition between this world and whatever's next, is for a moment, filled with the joy and the power of who they were. They were here. They were present. And they mattered.
There is a space left when people go, and it is up to us to fill it in.
I know that what I am seems to be a choice. It seems to be something I've decided, or something that was external. It's difficult when you look at the world through gender specific eyes. Pink is for girls, blue is for boys. We still do it. We all do it. But that, in and of itself, is learned behavior. We aren't born knowing those things. We are taught them. The roles we play are the roles we've learned.
The thought of dolls in my possession sent my Mother into a downward spiral of male training, which included a disastrous fishing trip with my step dad and brother, where I set out one night to free all the fish they'd caught; a stint in the Boy Scouts where I forced all the boys to call me "Lexi" instead of "Scott"; and one memorable evening trying to sign up for a Karate class, where I demanded to wear a purple belt... (as that all white outfit made me look like a hospice worker).
I didn't do the Boy Thing well at all.
Years later, I learned my rebelling against tasks that were usually reserved for the males of our tribe was simply that...me rebelling. It wasn't that I couldn't fish, or couldn't relate to other Scouts, or couldn't chop a board in two. It was that I simply didn't want to. I was looking at the world through my eyes. The soul that had been given to me gave me the only sight I had. I am this way because I was designed this way. And now, I simply want to be treated this way.
My spirit is just as chaotic, and mysterious as anyone else's. I lose my way, I get sick, I love and I fall, all the time. I don't know where I'm going and I do the best with where I've been. I have no ability to foresee the future so I don't know how long I'll be able to navigate on this planet. I want to make my time here as peaceful and exciting as possible. I want to try new things and leap off new Cliffs. I want what you want, and I'd like it to be given with kindess.
We are not that different. And because that's true, I'd like to have what you have. That's all. If yours wasn't a choice, why is mine?
And honestly... if being Transgender were an actual choice, don't you think I'd pick something a little less expensive?
At no time does Stokes-Mitchell ever forget or ignore the book in his hand. Here's an actor, standing in the middle of a piece of music, singing about loss and regret, holding a piece of Architecture. The truly remarkable thing is that it becomes a part of what's happening to him. He adds this in to what his heart is going through. He doesn't discard it, and simultaneously, doesn't draw a big circle around it. He happens to be in this event of loss and sadness, and yet...there he stands..holding on to a book.
And for specific reasons...if you look hard enough.
There's a beautiful moment at 4:19. Brian is dreaming. He is singing about dreaming and he is truly dreaming. You can see it in his Shape. His shoulders go back, his eyes close, and his head shakes slowly back and forth. His entire Shape falls back on itself in a soft and gorgeous daydream that because he is including everything, because he is so open and so available, makes sense to all of us.
And the book in his hand suddenly changes.
It is holy. It is a promise. It is an anchor.
It it something other than a book with text in it. It is his and it belongs in his hands. This is a great artist at the peak of his powers. And a man on a journey flying bravely into the unknown. And like any great explorer of the human heart, he considers everything around him a Gift. And it is all usable.
If you haven't been following what's been happening in Russia and the upcoming Olympics, this is a must see for you. If you have been, this will merely be conformation.
I realize we live in a world that's frightening to people who already live in fear of change. As human beings we are wired for newness. It is learned behavior from others that prevent us from being present in that newness. It is what we receive as the truth from others, that forces us back into the dark instead of leading us singing and rejoicing into the Light. It is others, whose voices lie with a vengeance and a conviction that for some reason, we tend to accept as true. It is those that need the help. And it is those who lie. And so we have a large job ahead of us. We fear what we have been told is what is in front of us. It's a lie.
I realize the world we live in. But I can not keep pretending that these people who go out of their way to stop the voices of change don't deserve to be exposed.
Intent is one thing, actions are another.
I'm fine with the way you feel about me. In fact, and this has taken me a life time, but I couldn't care less. But if you try and curtail what is my given right to exist and to share whatever gift I posses with others on the planet, the voice I was born with, you tread on my very existence, and I will not stand by and allow that to happen.
We are in the middle of great change. And although we must fight the ones who try and stop us with courage and with kindness, we must also be vigilant in our ability to name them and draw them out of their caves.
By the hair, if necessary.
11-year old Sean Lew is living in the middle of his joy here. Not only a fabulous and infectious dancer, his heart is in every step and in every Shape.
Watch as the music comes to an end. Sean doesn't melt away. He doesn't shrink or retreat. The event is still happening and you can see it in him. His topography may take him away from the front but his vessel is still very much alive. It's in his face. It surrounds him and takes hold of him. Watch his Shape as he looms backward and takes a moment for one final look. Nothing has stopped. Nothing has ended. In fact, everything has energized to begin all over again. This is an artist who's art knows no bounds and who at this young age, is completely fearless and utterly courageous about sharing it.
And because he allows his Art to flourish, his dreams do as well.
You can see that, too.
Benjamin's four year old daughter couldn't sleep because she thought she kept hearing fireworks. So Dad decided it was time to bust out the Uke and the camera and try to pass the time singing one of their favorite songs. As the piece continues, father and daughter share an event and a journey that's very rare. Watch the pauses. Watch the times they both breathe together and the song stops and they hang in the nothingness. They are full and huge. They both sit in the middle of the question wondering what's next and living in the liminal space between the song and the next phrase. In those moments, you can see everything. You can see who they are to each other, who they were to each other, and most beautifully; who they are most likely going to be to each other.
In the silences, in the in-betweens, we are completely Us. We are naked and bold and fearless and filled with terror. We have no foundation because we are floating in the cracks of certainty. This is where we gather the most and release the biggest. And in these moments, these two have given us an account of how they hold on to each other, depend on each other and aren't afraid to live in that, if even for a split second.
It is the definition of surrender.
Within that, a deepening of the human existence is possible, and living in that, we are certain that we are certain of absolutely nothing. And Dad and Daughter are fine with that.
Watch Fleming's Shapes. This is an artist who not only understands there is no such thing as Becoming Another Person, but is so completely present, and so authentically there, she literally expands and contracts for each 14 second moment. She grabs her head when speaking about Miley Cyrus. She raises her fist when speaking about Hillary. And she dips up and down like a buoy in water when she's singing to the Heavens and referring to her I-Phone.
The ability to access and to release is at Fleming's fingertips. This is what she does better than most. She may be singing about the ridiculous, but for her, it's more important and more urgent than anything else at the moment. She is utterly Her and fully alive.
And when you get right down to it, that's why it's beautiful. And that's why it's hilarious.
-Erasing the first couple of minutes of the opening as NPH sat in a chair while visions of TV stars danced in his head, the Emmys hit the ground running. With past hosts coming up one by one to give him advice on how to host, Jane Lynch and Neil met in the middle of the stage, nose to nose, and threatened to tongue each other. That was worth the manic drive down the 605 so I wouldn’t miss a minute.
-Why does Al Pachino always look like someone just punched his dog in the head?
-Merrit Weaver (from “Nurse Jackie”) won last night for Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Walking up to the stage in a beautiful black and white dress with cute shoes and an adorable bouncy hair-do, her voice caught in her throat, she stood humbled and a bit overwhelmed and then in a breathy and almost too-truthful voice said very plainly to us all:
“Thank you so much. I gotta go.”
…and left the stage. It was absolutely brilliant.
-A Fashion Message for all the men in the house: If you’re going to wear a hat, don’t wear a bow-tie. You look like a fancy waiter.
-Tina Fey (who with her partner Tracey Whitfield, won for writing) is a bit of a miracle. And she always dresses like one.
-When Tony Hale won for Supporting Actor for “Veep” Ty Hurrell let out a “WHOA!” that came straight from his heart and flew directly out of his face. It was a genuine and beautiful.
-Someone straighten Mark Harmon’s toupee, please.
-There was a mini tribute to the great genius of comedy Jonathon Winters. It was given by the other great genius of comedy, Robin Williams. There’s something gorgeous about watching an artist give thanks to another artist who was not only an inspiration, but a partner in crime as well. It’s very rare that we get the chance to face our idols, and when we’re lucky enough for that to happen, we realize we are constant students. That certainly wasn’t lost on Williams.
-John Hamm should never leave the house without Alec Baldwin. They looked like the top of a fabulous gay wedding cake.
-Melissa Leo hoped that Elaine Stritch was doing well. What the heck does that mean? I can’t take it. If something’s happening to her, someone needs to tell me. And by the way…nothing can happen to her.
-Sofia Vergara’s breasts need their own zip code.
-I'm the first one to vote for a funny, hip acceptance speech. Go Jeff Daniels. Now...shave.
-Someone handed poor, befuddled Shemar Moore a microphone backstage and stood him next to comedy icon Bob Newhart. Breathe Shemar, pretty isn’t everything.
-I can literally see through Claire Danes.
-NPH did a boffo, socko number called “The Number in the Middle of the Show”, which was indeed; the number in the middle of the show. This guy’s slowly becoming America’s sweetheart. That says a lot about where we are as country.
-Reality TV has its own Emmy category. Take me now, Lord.
-The choreographed Best Series Moment was gorgeous. The dancing was brilliant. It was a great idea and an inventive use of Architecture. However, I don't know that I want to see the Angels of Death from "American Horror Story" shuffle-ball-changing on a staircase.
-Diahann Carroll: Effervescent, Luminous, Grand, Sparkling, Intelligent, and filled with light and graciousness. Class all the way.
-There was a tribute to the forward movement of television given by Don Cheadle which resulted in a various clips from The Beatles to Martin Luther King. And then of course, there’s that legendary shot of Walter Cronkite announcing the death of President Kennedy and that all-too-famous Gesture he makes as he removes his glasses and attempts to compose himself. The event is shocking because of the news that causes it, and the emotional impact of a newsman trying vehemently to pull himself together is now so rare, it’s extinct. Television was my baby sitter, by best friend, and my sometimes parent. I’ve watched it grow from its innocence to its freedom, and the news is no different. Watching Cronkite again was eye opening. It reminded me that since the advent of the Jerry Srpinger-like emotional rape that disguises itself as news, we no longer know the difference between a Fact and an Intuit. News isn’t news anymore; it’s commentary. If people on MSNBC, or Fox, or CNN aren’t screeching at high decimal levels, we aren’t interested. There’s a rage and a war and a need to be the loudest one in the room that is truly mystifying to me now. Cronkite’s Gesture is lost on a generation of people who are being raised on fisticuffs instead of facts. I know all things transform. I just hope we can meet in the middle of the argument instead of standing our ground trying to prove who’s right. Otherwise we may be going backward instead of forward.
-Why are all the women wearing their hair cascading over to one side? It looks like they slept on the wrong side of their memory foam.
-Jim Parsons presented with Bob Newhart, and announced that Newhart won his very first Emmy just last week. He then got a very spontaneous standing ovation, and I wept on the couch.
-Lisa Rinna sat in the front row, and her lips sat in the third.
-James Cromwell, probably one of the great actors we have working, thanked his wife, and then left. Heartfelt and glorious. That’s how you do it.
-The Memoriam section was lovely. There were faces that surprised me: Michael Ansara, Charles Durning, and I had completely forgotten about Alex Karras. There had been three separate tributes during the evening, one of them for Jonathon Winters, another for Jean Stapelton, and a third, beautifully done by Jane Lynch for the recently passing of Cory Monteith from “Glee”. Every time a spirit leaves the planet, we change. I think we need to keep everyone in the same category. When I see some people memorialized and some not, I have to wonder if we aren’t on dangerous ground. One path is no greater than another’s.
-Acceptance Speech of the Night goes to Michael Douglas. He won for his brilliant portrayal of Liberace.
“This was a two hand-er. And you’re only as good as your other hand. Thank you, Matt Damon.”
My wife and I spent the afternoon at the LA County Fair 45 minutes away from Hollywood. While most everyone else gathered downtown in their gowns and tiaras walking the red carpet and peeking out of their limos, Chrisanne and I munched on corn smothered in butter, downed some barbeque and saw more food on a stick than we ever thought possible. Hollywood’s evening ended with champagne and Elton John and ours with a Tribble we bought from the Star Trek Museum gift shop and a Queen Tribute band. It was irony at its finest.
Watching artists celebrate is always joyful for me. Although I’m not a big believer in the “Best of” anything, and I cringed a few times whenever I heard “Bigger than Life”, I love awards shows and I love everything that’s attached to them. There’s a certain thrill that happens when you hand someone a Talisman and allow them to breathe their own life into it. Watching it manifest is thrilling and sometimes hilarious, but always, always exciting. Now it’s the waiting game for the Grandaddy and in the meantime, I have my Tribble and my corn on a stick to help through the lonely nights.
Chrisanne and I met in 1976. I was sitting under a desk in our High School drama club meeting. Her eyes caught me off guard. I'd never seen anything like them before. She looked at me when I said my name out loud and she saw me clearly. She knew me. She and I had been old friends from the very beginning.
I honestly don't know how it happened. I don't remember the actual beginning because it seems to both of us, it simply Always Was. There was no start time. The love we had, got bigger and more monumental as the years went past us and we both clung to each other during The Plague and the addictions and the passings and the marriages and the births and the different careers and the blooming of newness in our lives. As we got older and as we tried to live our lives away from each other for a time, we found ourselves constantly drawn back. As if we were attached by some invisible string.
And then we got married. And then we proclaimed who we were not only to each other but to the Universe. And with the support of our friends and our family, our lives joined like they always had, and we've been holding hands ever since.
I can't seem to let go of her. Even if she goes off to the store I can't seem to let go of her. She'll reach for me as we're walking somewhere and all of a sudden, no matter what's happening, my heart races and I'm suddenly safe. I am never without her. I am constantly hungry for her and never bored by her. We've changed each other and we've allowed sameness. We disagree and we tussle, but there's never anything bone cracking about it. We are not brittle together. We are in contact with who we were and we're honored that stays with us. We don't forget our history.
And when things go off, when I'm lost and spiraling, and when I'm afraid of the dark and have to whistle myself calm, all I have to do is turn around, and look into her eyes. I do that, and I know I'm home.
"After the incident at the Golden Globes everything just fell apart. It literally stopped. Whatever the agenda, whatever the plan was it worked. I lost everything. I couldn't afford to have an agent. I couldn't afford to have a publicist for the crisis management to continue. I couldn't afford to continue. I went from 2 million dollars a year to residual checks. Zero. I couldn't get another apartment after I turned in my lease for my $3 million home. I had to put it in my wife's name. No one wanted to touch the name of Isaiah Washington for three years."
- Actor Isaiah Washington, on what happened to his career after he called castmate T.R. Knight a "faggot" on the set of Grey's Anatomy in 2007. Knight later said the incident gave him the courage to come out publicly.
The episode of Grey's Anatomy I appeared on was the day Washington lost his mind on set and began screaming and acting out. The next day they all went to Seattle to film a scene and Isaiah dropped his first "F" bomb. He then spent days denying it and calling T.R. a liar, and soon afterward used it again as he stood on stage with his fellow cast members holding a Golden Globe Award for Best Drama TV Series. His quote is an interesting look back at the events that transpired, as if he's recounting. But I have yet to hear from his heart. Hopefully, he's on his way there.