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All the shade, none of the heart: Has ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ fucked it up?
03.14.2013
12:22 pm

Topics:
Queer
Television

Tags:


 
Isn’t it sad to see something you once truly loved dissolve into a lacklustre parody of itself, right before your very eyes?

Last year I went on record here at DM to state that RuPaul’s Drag Race is the best reality TV show ever. I mean, seriously, how can a show about competing drag queens not be!? So that’s why I am forced to write this blog post today. It’s depressing, yes, saddening, for sure, but I have to be honest. I think RuPaul’s Drag Race has fucked it up.

Let’s rewind a little first. If you have never seen Drag Race, let me explain just why it has been the best thing on TV, and still may be. First of all, the challenges the contestants face on Drag Race are harder than on any other reality show. Which other competition would ask its contestants to excel in acting, singing, dancing, stand-up comedy, design, clothes-making, catwalk presentation, make-up, hair and character creation?  You have to have genuine talent to make the grade here,  and in a number of areas.

Secondly, seeing as this is drag, there is a streak of irony a mile wide running through this show. It almost acts as a satire of the whole idea of reality TV competitions. Drag Race knows that you know how reality TV works. RuPaul delivers every product placement with a knowing wink, and certain tasks the queens face are direct parodies of tasks from other reality competitions.

Thirdly, and this is where it really strikes out of the ball park for me: Drag Race, whether unwittingly or in full knowledge, has done more than any other show of the last decade to make a set of gay people usually viewed as stereotypes appear actually human. The straight world generally sees drag queens as mentally unsound weirdos, obsessed with something they will never be, as easy to ridicule as to just simply ignore. They are either prostitutes or delusional, walking clichés. Well, guess what, Drag Race makes them people. Living, breathing, crying, lusting, funny, sad, flawed, brilliant people. This show has done as much for gay acceptance in the mainstream (it has been Logo TV’s break-out hit) as it has for a consistently marginalized art-form. And yes, hunty, drag IS an art form.

Last year’s Season 4 of Drag Race was unadulterated TV gold. It was pure televisual magic, the kind that simply cannot be planned or forced, the kind that unfurls organically, much to the viewers’ and the producers’ delight. Perhaps it was the larger-than-life personalities, and the strength of character of all he queens involved (not to mention the level of genuine talent on display.) Maybe it was the kindred sisterhood that formed among the queens that brought a lovely solidarity to the show that was unexpected and genuinely touching. Or maybe it was just the fact that some of the fiercest bitches in the world were there, in one room, trying to outdo one another. Whatever it was, it’s something that you simply CANNOT buy, and I urge anyone who has even a slight interest in television and/or alternative culture to seek out RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 on Netflix or iTunes. You will not be disappointed.

But that was then, and this in now. It seems crazy to think that a “golden age” of TV could have started and finished less than a year ago, but that is indeed how it feels. The current season of Drag Race is but a pale imitation of itself, with queens who have been cast seeimingly because of their resemblance to last year’s crop, but who sadly cannot deliver the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent needed to become the next drag superstar.

Whereas last year the tension between the race’s two front-runners (well, one front-runner and one sore loser) was affecting because it was so obviously organic and real, this year the producers and editors are spending way too much time trying to create drama where none exists, rather than just letting it happen. Instead they are opting for the George Lucas-school of heavy handed, “kill a kitten” emotional engagement: half an hour of bog-standard bitching followed by a story about an absent parent and two or three minutes of hanky daubing and maybe even some actual tears. It’s boring as hell, and that’s something I never thought I would say about Drag Race. This might work on some other shitty reality shows, but as I have already stated, Drag Race is no ordinary reality show.

But you know what? If that was the main problem, then I could live with it. Sure, editing and production values get changed up every year, it’s par for the course (though they seriously need a brand new set!) but that’s not it. What I really miss from Drag Race this year is any kind of warmth. This seasons’ queens are too interested in themselves and “playing the game” (poorly, I might add) to actually connect with the viewers. Sure, after 5 series, I guess it was expected that contestants might be a little more savvy upon entering. But really, it’s as if these queens watched the last series, thought “I could do that,” yet truly didn’t understand what made that season work, what took it far beyond the ghettos of drag and gay culture, and made breakout stars of the contestants. And that was the heart. It wasn’t pretending to be a stone-cold “fierce bitch” all the time. That schtick gets boring very quickly, and the truth is that none of this year’s contestants have enough charm to pull off being a likable bitch. It’s just annoying.

This year Drag Race has been christened “the year of the fish” (fish being a term to describe a very feminine looking queen.) In retrospect, I feel last year should have been called “the year of the mother.” There were some awesome caring drag mothers in there looking out for everyone, and you can tell that some of those children are themselves gonna grow up to be fierce mothers. The caring, mothering aspect of drag is rarely seen outside of the drag community, and it seems obvious to me that it was a very strong pull for a non-gay audience. Seeing drag queens who actually care, and are not just bitches, is a novelty to a straight audience, and one they can connect strongly to. But who are the house mothers this year? There’s maybe one or two future mothers in there, but they have yet to bloom.

In essence, I would gladly show my own mother Drag Race Series 4, and while she might blush at points, she would come away with a lot of respect and admiration for these people, and a bit more of an understanding of her gay son’s life. But this year? Forget it! Many of these queens are the kind of people that re-enforce the stereotype of the bitchy, backstabbing, insecure homo. They’re taking up all the screen time, and it’s making Drag Race a chore to watch.

So yeah, you probably think I am overreacting, writing a huge blog screed about a goddamn reality competition show. But the fact is, if this show didn’t mean so goddamn much to me, I wouldn’t have even brought this whole rant up. But it needs to be said, it really does. Put a lid on the toxicity Drag Race, it’s off-putting.

In lieu of Monday night’s “sob story means a bully stays” Drag Race episode, I’d like to end with a clip from another reality show, Naomi Campbell’s The Face, in which the supermodel (and Queen Bitch) has to choose between two models, both with heartbreaking back stories of neglect that will bring a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat. This is how you deal with weak contestants who use their personal stories as an excuse for failure, and it’s highly entertaining. This clip is specifically for you, RuPaul. Learn it and learn it well:
 

 
Note 1: Well RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 WAS on Netflix, but it appears to have been removed. I still can’t recommend it highly enough though, so here’s a link to watch/buy the show on iTunes, and here it is on Amazon.

Note 2: Jinkx or Alaska FTW!

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Gorburger talks cock with Flea (Kinda NSFW)
03.13.2013
12:27 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Television

Tags:

aelfregrubrogaelfhkjh.jpg
 
Gorburger has tea with Flea, where the foul-mouthed, alien/monster/talk show host asks the musician/writer/actor about his cock, its sock size, and what to do about unrequited love.

From The Gorburger Show season 2, episode 1.
 

 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Doctor Who ‘Weeping Angel’ toilet decal
03.12.2013
01:06 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Television

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Do I need it? No. Do I want it? That would be a resounding YES!

This Doctor Who-inspired “Weeping Angel” toilet decal might teach the gentlemen folk to aim better! Or else…

You can purchase this from Etsy shop Walking Dead Promotion whose motto is “Brilliant decals for fantastic people!” It’s $17.99 + shipping.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Amazing Doctor Who ‘Weeping Angel’ costume

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Twin Peaks’ Cherry Pie recipe
03.12.2013
11:35 am

Topics:
Food
Movies
Television

Tags:


 
Via Lynch Net:

The Recipe

8 inch Crust: 1-1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. Crisco, 1/4 c. ice water

Mix flour and Crisco with fork. Add ice water. Mix with your hands. When blended, roll into ball and refrigerate overnight. To roll out: flour both rolling pin and flat surface, split ball in two, roll out 1/2 to fit pan and 1/2 for lattice.

Filling: 3 c. cherries (pitted, sour frozen); 1 c. water; 1c. Baker’s sugar; 4 T. cornstarch; 1/8 t. salt

Thaw cherries at room temp and strain (yields 2 c. juice). Taste for sweetness, more/less sugar may be needed. Add 1 c. water to make 3 c. juice (reserve 1 c. juice for cornstarch mix). Dissolve cornstarch in 1 c. juice, stir with whip. Combine 2 c. juice, 2/3 c. sugar, salt, and bring to a boil. Add cornstarch mix, cook until clear, about 5 min. (if cooked to long, syrup gets gummy). Remove from heat, stir in 1/3 c. sugar (blend thoroughly). Pour mixture over cherries, fold with wooden spoon, cool (stir mix while cooling to prevent scum from forming on top). Pour mix in pie shell. Top completed pie with lattice crust.

Bake @ 425 degrees for 35-40 min.


 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Kind of Spicy: Miles Davis’ recipe for ‘South Side Chicago Chili Mack’

The Freddie Mercury Chicken Dhansak

George Orwell’s recipe for Christmas pudding

Via The World’s Best Ever!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Be mesmerized by the juggling skills of Rudy Cárdenas
03.10.2013
08:51 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Games
Sports
Television

Tags:

sanedracydurgnilgguj.jpg
 
It’s been said that Mexican juggler Rudy Cárdenas rehearsed 9-5 everyday, then went on and performed his act in the evening. Now that’s dedication.

During his long career, Cárdenas was a major star of stage and TV variety shows, from the 1950s-1980s, and he was regularly considered the world’s greatest juggler. But don’t take my word for it, judge for yourself.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ behind-the-couch wall decal
03.08.2013
04:04 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Television

Tags:


 
This is something I wish I had thought of: A Mystery Science Theater 3000 vinyl wall decal by Etsy shop Walking Dead Promotion.

It’s $34.99 + shipping.

Via Geekologie

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Donald Sutherland gives a brief history of his career: Rare interview from 1979
03.06.2013
07:52 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Movies
Superstar
Television

Tags:

dnalrehtusdlanodhair.jpg
 
Donald Sutherland’s big break came in Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen, when co-star Clint Walker refused to play a scene—as Sutherland explained to the Daily Telegraph:

‘...Clint Walker sticks up his hand and says, ‘Mr Aldrich, as a representative of the Native American people, I don’t think it’s appropriate to do this stupid scene where I have to pretend to be a general.’ Aldrich turns and points to me and says, ‘You — with the big ears. You do it’....It changed my life.’

“Big Ears” was born Donald McNichol Sutherland in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, in July 1935. He moved to England in the late 1950s, where he briefly studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, leaving after 9 months to start his professional career as an actor. Sutherland was soon acting in various BBC plays, and guest starring in episodes of such cult TV series as The Saint and The Avengers. Sutherland also co-starred with Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Michael Gough in the classic Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, where he played a newly-wed doctor who suspects his wife is a vampire. After a stint in repertory theater, including 2 disastrous productions, Sutherland’s career seemed stalled. The Dirty Dozen changed that.

During the 1970s, Sutherland made some of the most iconic and seminal films of the decade, including M*A*S*H (a film he originally hated), Kelly’s Heroes (which nearly cost him his life), Klute, Little Murders (a cameo), the unforgettable Don’t Look Now, The Day of the Locust (as the original Homer Simpson), 1900, Casanova, The Eagle Has Landed and National Lampoon’s Animal House.

When asked on the set of Bear Island, in 1979, if he considered himself a star, Sutherland replied that Peter O’Toole is a star, as he has that certain something, while he just makes a lot of movies. Personally, I’d beg to differ. Sutherland gives a brief history of his career, discussing the highlights M*A*S*H, working with Fellini on Casanova and the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Some man, some talent, some head of hair.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous MInds

Donald Sutherland’s hairstyles throughout the years


Donald Sutherland: His Films and Hairstyles


 
With thanks to NellyM
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Fine literature on the set of Star Trek (‘What us worry?’)
03.06.2013
10:02 am

Topics:
Pop Culture
Television

Tags:

Shatner and Nimoy
 
That’s a Mad magazine they’re holding up, if you can’t tell. It doesn’t surprise me that Leonard Nimoy reads Mad, but the “Shakespearean” actor William Shatner taking a break with a little “low culture” humor mag? I am unnerved!

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Mind control, time travel & Nazi gold—is The Montauk Project the weirdest conspiracy theory of all?
03.05.2013
07:35 pm

Topics:
Kooks
Television

Tags:


 
In January of 1999, I started to put together the pilot episode of what would become a two series run of a show called Disinfo Nation if you lived in the UK, and Disinformation in the rest of the world. The very first day of shooting was so outrageous that it was really never topped during the subsequent two years of production, 24 zany months that saw me going to fetish clubs, listening to the sounds of plants communicating and “investigating” behind the scenes of various ludicrous conspiracy theories.

A film and video producer I knew by the name of Chica Bruce—known around New York for her work on Yo! MTV Raps—had become an aficionado of the “Montauk Project” conspiracy theory book series and when she heard about the TV pilot order I’d gotten from Britain’s Channel 4 network, she strongly encouraged me to do a segment on her new obsession. I thought this was a good idea, having read five of the Montauk Project volumes myself, books I considered to be mind rot at its absolute finest.

Chica had become acquainted with the key players in the conspiracy, as well as several “Montauk experiencers,” as she put it, young men who had “feelings” that they too were a part of the nefarious goings on at a disused Air Force base on Long Island. How this generally occurred, she explained to me, is that they would read the Montauk Project books and their own repressed memories of working on the project would resurface. There were more than ten “Montauk Boys” and fewer than twenty. Chica, a very attractive woman, was apparently the sole female traveling in such a circle, for reasons that would soon become pretty obvious. She scheduled interviews with two of the main Montauk players—and possibly a third—during a weekend shoot on Long Island. I also planned to interview Chica herself and have her show me around the site of the former Montauk Point Air Force base. I found her innocent willingness to buy into the obvious tall tales these clowns told added an entirely new layer to the story I wanted to tell. Chica could put herself through metaphysical logic loops that would have left someone with a less hardy appetite for weirdness feeling dizzy. Having a photogenic character like her to play off Jabba The Hutt-like Preston Nichols and Stewart Swerdlow—a campy goateed married man who told me on camera that he was sent back in time to assassinate Jesus Christ—was pretty perfect.

I always endeavored to present the conspiracy theory material with a completely straight face. I was heavily influenced by American Movie and the films of Christopher Guest. I wanted to make “real” mockumentaries. The goal was to produce something that lived up to a conceit of a title like Disinformation (meaning a mixture of truth and lies used as an information smokescreen) and the show’s cheerfully snarky tagline: “If you’re not wondering if we made this stuff up, we’re not doing our job right.”

The idea was to make the audience ask themselves if it was real or if it was scripted—several times—during the course of each show. For that to work, it had to seem like I believed it, too, no matter how preposterous or insane what the subjects were saying was. I also had to convince the interviewees that I bought into their reality, too.

I hit upon my interviewing style on the first day and it really worked for me: I’d ask extremely detailed questions, designed to elicit extremely detailed answers and then I’d have plenty to work with in the edit room. But there was an additional, less obvious psychological benefit to this approach. Here’s an example of what I mean by that: In the case of my interview with Preston B. Nichols, I went through every single page of his totally crazy books and instead of asking broad questions like “So tell me about your involvement with the Montauk Project...” I’d ask something more along the lines of “How were you recruited for your first job on the base or did you apply for the job? Was it a friend or a family member who told you about the job? I guess I’m a little unclear about how you found yourself there in the first place” and then he would be obliged to clarify it for me.

I’d follow that up with “Did you have to pass any sort of top secret security clearance before you started work there?”

You see what I was doing, demonstrating a better than usual familiarity with the backstory—I’d clearly done my research, which showed respect—but not getting it quite right so he’d be obliged to correct me on a small detail. I was a TV guy slickster in an expensive suit on his turf, so it was imperative that I disarm whatever nervousness my persona presented him with and get him on my side from the start or I wasn’t going to be able to get the sort of footage I needed. This little trick—and the fact that I can keep a straight face with the best of them—worked wonders for me.

Nichols’ home was a tiny old house that looked extremely incongruous among the million dollar McMansions that surrounded it. As we drove closer and saw the weed-covered yard and modified school bus in the driveway, it became obvious to us that we were indeed in the right place. Nichols lived there with his father, a morbidly obese old fellow who watched football perched on a La-Z-Boy® recliner. He reacted to the crew and myself like Gollum would after being exposed to light for the first time in years. He was so fat that it was hard for me to tell if he had any bones. He didn’t even bother moving as we tried to set up around him and he passed gas frequently, without any shame.

Their home was one of the filthiest places I’ve ever seen and a huge stack—and I do mean huge, there were at least 500 cans—of Spam (yes, the processed meat product) sat piled in one corner. Semi-eaten cans, with spoons dried and stuck to them, were seen all over the place, as if it was all the pair ate. There was junk everywhere. The bathroom was a rusty, pissed-covered scandal. The toilet seat had been cracked completely in half and then put back together with several rolls of tape. Preston wore a sweatshirt that had food spilled all over it. It was not pretty and it smelled real bad, too.

Although he was obviously quite suspicious of me—and not without good reason, of course—I got exactly what I needed from the interview (Except for one thing: Preston’s dead mother had constructed a memorial shrine to the actor Yul Brynner, an entire wall of framed photographs and magazine articles next to the massive pile of Spam. Afterwards, in the van, I asked the cameraman if he’d gotten some good shots of it, but alas he had not, thinking it had nothing to do with the story. No Spam pile, either).

Next up was Stewart Swerdlow, a curious fellow who told me in great detail, not only of his involvement with the project, but of his time spent in federal prison for a crime he told me that he’d been brainwashed to commit. I also met his new wife who explained that she’d been introduced to him while he was in prison by a psychic who told her that Stewart was her soul mate, so she divorced her husband for him. Stewart himself was uh, manually “deprogrammed” by Preston Nichols, as he quite self-consciously alludes to during the interview.

Lastly there was Chica Bruce herself, valiantly trying to convince me that I had not seen what I had just seen with my own two eyes—that Preston was a fat fibber/closet case using conspiracy theory for ulterior motives and Stewart being an extremely unconventional New Age con man (he was purveying “color therapy” at the time and offered to “do my colors” for a discount. I passed). I did an interview with her and then she took me on a tour of the decommissioned base (now a state park).

As we walked around the park—it was fucking freezing—she kept asking me things like “Don’t you feel that? C’mom man, you don’t feel ANY like inter-dimensional weirdness going on here? NOTHING?

“No, nothing.”

Chica was earnestly looking for the Montauk Project conspiracy. There was a conspiracy all right, just not the one that she was looking for…

With this background, have a look at “The Montauk Project”:
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Sympathy for the Devil: The Truth about Satanism in America (NSFW)

Brice Taylor: Mind-controlled Sex Slave of the CIA, Bob Hope and Henry Kissinger

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘The World According To Wonder’: Saluting the pioneers of alt and gay TV
03.05.2013
10:46 am

Topics:
Books
Queer
Television

Tags:

The glorious RuPaul
 
Chloe Sevigny
 
Los Angeles-based World Of Wonder productions are marking 21 years in the business of televisual entertainment, and to celebrate they have just brought out a new coffee table book, The World According to Wonder featuring exclusive portraits of practically every person they have ever worked with; from stars like Pamela Anderson, RuPaul, Dita Von Teese, Elvira and John Waters, to many of their behind-the-scenes crew, and even the staff at their popular The WOW Report blog.

The list of portrait sitters for The World According to Wonder‘s photographers Idris & Tony and Mathiu Andersen is huge, and the book (which has been a few years in the making) is very impressive indeed. When I say “coffee table book,” I mean if you stuck legs on this thing, it would be its own coffee table. (It weighs 8lbs!)
 
James St James and companion “Harvey”
 

Chaz Bono and ex-partner Jennifer Elia
 
World Of Wonder have brought us some of the best television of the last 20 years, shows and documentaries like RuPaul’s Drag Race, Becoming Chaz, The Adam & Joe Show, The Divine David Presents, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Inside Deep Throat, Pornography: The Secret History Of Civilisation, Jon Ronson’s Crazy Rulers Of The World, and Party Monster: The Shockumentary (not forgetting Party Monster the feature film, starring Macaulay Culkin as Michael Alig, the murderous king of the NY club kids, which has gone on to influence a new generation of club kids and become a cult classic in its own right). 

Interspersed among the pictures is the story of World Of Wonder itself, eloquently and entertainingly told by the company’s founders Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato; from its beginnings in 80s New York, its early work with upcoming drag legend RuPaul and British TV station Channel 4, through expansion into full-length documentary features, all the way up to the present day, a slew of coveted awards and its position as brand leader for all things queer/drag/alt on television.

As an early 90s TV junkie, glued to late night BBC 2 and Channel 4—oh those really WERE the days!—this book brings back a lot of good memories (and reminders of forgotten but influential shows like Shock Video and Manhattan Cable) and it is inspiring and instructive to read how these shows came to be, directly form the people that made them. If there’s any message, here, I would say it is “believe in your vision and never take no for an answer” and The World According to Wonder is testament to how dreaming big, and thinking outside the box, can ultimately pay off.
 
Pamela Anderson
 
Sharon Needles
 
You can download the first chapter of The World According to Wonder as a pdf here.
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
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