Monday, December 26, 2005

a charleston highlight

if i could, i would move to walterboro to be with my uncle hiram for a long time, so he could show me how to hunt and fish and shoot things. somewhere inside of me is a true buffalo gal, a sharpshooter and a cowhand, a real frontierswoman from the 1800s. a runaway slave, probably. i would make my way to oklahoma and disappear into the black cherokee nation and become a bulldogger, like the black cherokee bill pickett. well. he invented bulldogging and he was the only one that had the balls to do it at the time, so i don't suppose i could be a girl and pull that one off...

my uncle would teach me how to skin everything, too. all i saw this time around was a bunch of squirrels. he's holding the last one of twenty. and yeah, i made a little video of him doing it. it was very martha stewart, the way he explained himself. if i stayed one more day, i would have been able to watch him skin a deer. (rats!)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

breakfast in charleston, south carolina

breakfast in charleston, sc
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
this is breakfast, the day before christmas at my grandmother's house in charleston heights. dee-lish. i hardly ever eat like this. i can't. the best i can do in the morning is usually a little fruit and some tea -- but if everyone watched me eat that palsied feast, they would have thought that there was something genuinely wrong with me. they already think i'm malnourished because i'm a size 6 -- believe it or not. i ate this to deflect suspicion and keep the peace.

i have no idea how i polished it off, but i did. and believe it or not, i didn't eat for the rest of the day. my baby brother, on the other hand, polished off two or three plates a whole lot bigger than this and later on, hit mickey dees hard on the drive back to ATL. he could always hurt a plate of food, even when he was a tot. sometimes, though, it hurts my stomach to watch him eat.

how am i going to make it back to nyc without gaining a ton of weight?

Friday, December 23, 2005

he's really home comment...
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
i didn't believe it until i actually saw him. he looked like a tree, so big and tall and strong. it seemed so impossible that he would make it back to us, after watching and reading about all the crap that's going on with the war and the military in the middle east. so many others haven't. i don't know if he'll make it back home again. then again, i don't know if any of us will. tomorrow isn't promised to anyone. life is a terminal illness. we have to pack in as much serious fun as we possibly can.

so this is my christmas present: to goof off with him like there's no tomorrow. to take lots of pictures. to look over his music set up on his compaq laptop and hear his ideas and be supportive and encouraging. to listen to the sound of his nasally voice booming through the house, laughing and arguing and thinking out loud. to not complain too much when he won't stop playing bread and america and anne murray and don henley and billy joel as we drive through the city, horsing around. to dance with him at every pit stop on our road trip to charleston, sc. to not mind at all when he makes fun of my lousy crunk dancing. to watch him down a heineken over lunch with me and little debbie and think, my God -- i changed his diapers...

it's going to be a good christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

getting there is half the fun!

so i'm in atlanta with my parents at this very moment. nothing like hanging out with the old folks at home. getting here was something of a blur. i think i slid in sideways.

after staying up all night long doing things like making bank deposits and cleaning house, i called harlem car service to take me to la guardia. absolutely everyone else i called was overbooked, thanks to the strike, including everyone's old reliable -- supershuttle. the harlem car service was on time and remarkably efficient. a tall dark slender african man was at my door before 8am, calling me "ma-ma" and taking my bags to his trunk with so much snap and energy, it forced me to attention. i actually stayed awake for most of the ride. in spite of the snags we hit with the cops and the traffic and the barricades, he got me there within 30 minutes. remarkable.

la guardia was a mob scene. the lines were endless. they snaked back around onto each other so thoroughly that you didn't really know which line you were in until it was too late. oh, the humanity. the screaming babies and bratty children and the fat people and the blue-haired old ladies being carted around. and the whiny teenagers. everyone, so badly dressed, clutching their small dogs and sitting on their luggage, eating greasy things.

i somehow mentally braced myself for all this. one thing is for certain: if i get to be a pop star with money, the first thing i'm getting is my own plane.

my plane ticket was a buddy pass, a christmas gift from my sister-in-law, whose mother worked for an airline. this meant that i would be flying stand by -- a crap shoot on any day but this was special. all the direct flights to atlanta were oversold. i took a cue from a progressive looking brother who flat-out lied his way through the first class line baggage check to get to the gate. i could tell that he was going to atlanta. in my "which-line-am-i-in" confusion, i walked up to him and asked him if he was first class. he said yes without hesitation. undaunted, i went back in line and waited for another opening. when i finally got past security and reached the gate, he was standing there like a one-man welcoming party. and of course, he talked to me like he'd known me my whole life.

"you made it," he blurted, smiling. surprise, surprise -- he wasn't first class. he told the baggage check person that his wife just stepped through security and he was trying to catch up with her, so they wouldn't be separated. "my future wife," he explained jovially. "we just haven't met yet." after i listened to him explain how he stretches the truth to get what he wants, he told me that i should reroute my ticket into greensboro, sc or greenville, nc. plenty of seats to atlanta from there. he knew. he had already checked and was on his way to south carolina. ten minutes later, i'm in a plane i had to walk outside to get to, headed for the runway, ready for take-off to north carolina -- only to be derailed for an hour while they taxied us to the sidelines and de-iced the wings. i spent the better part of an hour strapped to my chair on a crampy little plane stuck next to a pimply sleepy shaggy-haired goateed hippy-looking co-ed who couldn't remember any of what happened to him the night before after going to see "spam-a-lot" with a bunch of friends on broadway. and yes, he looked a hot mess.

i made my connection, made it to atlanta, made it to the baggage claim. lo and behold, they lose my vanity case. the one with all my beauty products in it. my perricone stuff. my z. bigetti moisturizer. my nars mud mask. my brand new oversized bottle of freakin' kiehl's creme de corp body lotion. i checked that case as an afterthought. lesson learned. frankly, i'd rather lose my clothes. they'd be a lot cheaper to replace.

my mother and my brother come to get me. on the way home, she pulls over to the side of the road and buys a huge bag of pecans from someone that's also selling chopped firewood from the back of his pickup truck. even though i know that i won't be truly comfortable until i exfoliate and moisturize, this makes me very happy.

i get my vanity case the next day. merry christmas to me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

strike one

when i woke up and realized that the mta strike was really happening, i was all set to walk to my freelance grind in union square because hey -- you do what you have to do. i figured it'd be a good morning workout for me. i left the house yesterday as warm as toast and ready for a long haul but as soon as i crossed 135th at riverside drive, a four door car pulled over and offered me a ride all the way there. the cops wouldn't let the three ladies inside get on the west side highway unless one more person got in the car. they had been driving around for the better part of a half hour, looking for someone that was headed in their direction. they literally begged me to get in. they didn't have to for long. it was sunny and blue sky bright, which was profoundly annoying because the cold had a funny way of knocking you down when you least expected it. the next thing you know, you can't feel your feet. that kind of thing. i'm a southerner, i can't take the cold. there's no shifting gears to embrace that. i just get as much wool as possible and keep on moving.

after working a 10 hour day, the powers that be bought me dinner and got me a car ride home, which was glorious. now it's 3am and i've got to get to la guardia to catch a flight to ATL by 10am. i have no idea how i'll pull it off. i'll probably walk to the corner with my luggage and pray very hard for a cab. and yes, i called three car services and the infamous super shuttle and they're all booked through tomorrow afternoon.

i also have to clean my room (because it feels so good to come home to a well-organized living space), make a deposit at the bank and oh yeah -- PACK. my little suitcase is on my bed, looking at me like an eager puppy: where are we going now? no matter how cold it is, i'm just going to wear the same thing everyday and loaf around the house like a spazz with a mudpack on my face, cooking and cleaning and playing the piano in the living room. i would like to catch up with all the movies that are out now -- they're so much cheaper down there -- and Debbie and i have to hang out. i'm even remembering to pack german kindereggs for her girls.

and i'm going to fast. a detox fast. during kwaanza. and yes, i'm totally serious.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Merry Christmas...

this is me and j. walter hawkes, relaxing at jc and shell's holiday party last night. (photo taken by his wife leslie.) i think it's probably the only one i've been to all season. maybe that's why it doesn't really feel like christmas. actually, it would feel a lot more like christmas if i had kids that were asking me about santa claus every five minutes.

i'm so "bah humbug" i didn't even put a wreath on my front door. by the time i get back from ATL with all the season's cheer i can stomach, it'll be time to take all that stuff down. and everyone's christmas trees will be turned to mulch.

still and all, it was nice to have some grog, stand near a christmas tree and touch base with people i haven't seen in awhile. and believe it or not, i actually reconnected with some folks and came up with a few interesting ideas for my upcoming projects. funny how all that stuff works itself out, somehow. funny to watch it work itself out while i'm in the thick of it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

singing at the slipper room's burlesque night...

queen esther
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
oh the fun i had, goofing off with seamus and liberty and ralph until the wee hours of the morning. we even stuck around for the burlesque show, which was tremendous. i always have a good time there. it's never been a disappointment. yipes, those gals definitely know how to work a crowd.

The Good Lord only knows what i was really thinking at this particular moment. probably sizing up a heckler, i imagine. fun stuff.

it's moments like these that remind me: i'm living my dream -- to live in new york city and to be a vocalist, a songwriter, a creative artist. there's so much stuff going on that i have to be told by a photo that i have a great life and that although it doesn't seem like it most of the time, i'm accomplishing a lot. all of a sudden, everything's fine -- especially when it's not.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

wonder woman wonderment

i've made enough internal readjustments in my time here to have some idea as to what to expect with any situation. what i can't anticipate, i can dodge until i get my wits about me and scheme my way around it. the problem is, the stress of the day-to-day bump and grind wears me out without my realizing it. all of a sudden, i wake up feeling like i've run out of gasoline.

i guess i could say what everyone else says -- "i'm sick of this crap" -- but it's really a matter of perspective. dealing with all of this nyc stress as a non-new yorker has forced me to grow muscles and backbone and stamina that i didn't think i had -- for better or for worse. i don't suppose i'll ever lose any of my superhero powers. it's official. i'm wonder woman.

my body seems to know what to do when i reach my limit. before i know what's going on, something in me has me staying home and drifting around in my bunny slippers sipping mexican hot chocolate and perfecting my oxtail soup recipie. now that the first snow has hit, i definitely don't want to leave the house. okay, okay, i go to church. and certain exhibits. and i make myself go to the gym every morning. i can't let my body turn to mush -- i'd be miserable if that happens. besides, i'm too cheap to buy larger-sized clothes. i'd rather lose weight and fit back into what i've already got. but i digress...

i keep shifting everything around on my netflix list absentmindedly so i'll be in the mood to watch whatever lands in my mailbox. i even know when the mailman is going to show up in the afternoon, so i won't have to go outside to send them back. technically, there's no reason for me to leave my place, unless the phone rings and it's money calling. i'm relieved that i've found a sensible way to deal with stress. thank God. it's a good life.

here's the problem: i'm a little manic about having something to show for my time when my days are this free and uncomplicated. so far, i've come up with a lot of song ideas, fleshed out quite a few, cherry-picked my way through a batch of relatively obscure standards for a cd project and * drumroll, please * kept off the 20 lbs. that i lost last summer. here's the kicker: my piano teacher says i'm making progress. so far, so good.

i figure if i'm going to end the year on a high note (no pun intended), i've got to do three things:
  1. do a cleansing/detox fast
  2. record 7 original country blues songs and 7 jazz standards
  3. organize all my reciepts
there's plenty of really great news that's blooming all over the rest of my life but all i can think about is that my baby brother is coming home from iraq for more than three weeks. wow.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

the day after

i spent black friday cleaning house and throwing things away. i woke up one day a few weeks ago and looked around me and wondered why i had so much stuff. it was probably my uncle horace's death that got me going in that direction. that and my space bags. i certainly can't take it with me. so i started to toss things out and shred paperwork with a vengeance. believe it or not, i'm making headway.

i'm sure that what i'm doing is completely emotional, on some level.

ralph called right as i was going to do my laundry. we went to barrio chino and ended up sitting next to patrick, one of the owners of the place, who proceeded to give us an informative mini tutorial on tequila and mescal, and a tasting of several kinds. i had the shrimp tacos, which blew my mind. i ended up floating home like a balloon and collapsing onto my freshly made bed. somewhere in there, the phone rang. it was paula pow, set adrift from out of my past, somewhere in the bronx, visiting family for the thanksgiving holidays. i knew her from waaaay back, when i would hang out with all of these freaks down in the lower east side when it was still cool, at a place called king tut's wah-wah hut. she was a wild girl, i suppose. alcohol, drugs, you name it. i thought she was adorable. and now she's a married social worker with three kids, a born-again christian that's living in a house with an actual honest-to-goodness white picket fence. all she needs is a minivan and she'd be a total soccer mom. (two of the kids are his from a previous marriage. the youngest one is four and she wants to try for another one next year.) she even went back to school and finished her master's degree. freaky.

interestingly enough, she remembered that i didn't drink or smoke anything or do any drugs even then. she said that she would often wonder why i was hanging out with all of them. to tell the truth, i was having fun. i satisfied my curiousity about drugs when i was in college. i never needed to get high to amuse myself. there was plenty of opportunity for that, clean and sober.

for a minute there, it was all about who we haven't seen and who overdosed and who's doing what. matt's a lawyer. kenny's bartending and playing bass in punk bands. e. married a stripper and moved to australia to escape a warrant for his arrest. evidently, he beat up a gay guy pretty badly. (sounds like par for the course.) and of course i still love edward, who's remarried and still on the west coast. somehow, the past is always running to catch up with you, no matter where your life is now. paula went to a seminar about drug addiction and saw her ex-boyfriend eddie and his friend nunzio in the "just say no to drugs" video presentation. he'd lost almost all of his teeth. as soon as his face filled the frame, paula jumps up and yells, i used to go out with that guy!

she sent out an email a week or so ago, for anyone and everyone that remembers her to come to a tapas bar in the lower east side tomorrow. i was going to show up without calling, just to surprise her. but it feels like it's going to be a surprise, anyway. i'm really proud of her for getting her life together and finishing school and growing a family. she's proud of me for sticking it out and achieving success with my art in nyc. i don't think i've done all that much. she says marriage and kids are totally overrated. i suppose everyone looks at what's on the other side of the fence and sees greener grass. right now, i'm grateful that i've got any grass to stand on at all. or that i'm standing. or that i'm even here, amongst the living. i'd love to want more. but right now, that's more than enough.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

bloom and grow in the dead of winter

the weather is turning cold and wet, finally. if it hadn't been so warm in the past few weeks, it would probably be snowing. for once, i feel ready for the lousy weather at hand. i love my government issue parka so much, i can't wait for the city to turn into an ice cube, so i can brave it like a native. i've been spending a lot of time uptown lately. everything i need is within walking distance. fairway. the bank. a decent movie. staples, fer cryin' out loud. the only reason why i go downtown is because i have to meet someone there and now that everyone is skipping town for thanksgiving, that's not an option.

the winter months are a time to hibernate creatively, a time to nurture some project along so that it can bloom in the spring. tracey moffatt's latest exhibit has really inspired me: it's called under the sign of scorpio. it's basically her posing as various females throughout history, all of them scorpios. everyone from mahalia jackson to joni mitchell. there were quite a few. she took the photos in the dead of last winter with an assistant in her 10th avenue apartment. she invited a few of us to see all of the photos a few months ago before they were delivered to her dealer and even made posters that showed how she did it -- standing in her bathroom with baby powder in her hair and a scarf on her head, and with ugly glasses on, pretending to be indira ghandi. just brilliant.

like the grade school teacher that asks what you did with your summer vacation, something in me always asks what i did with my winter months, when i usually have nothing but time on my hands. if you're creative and if you have your own ideas, that's ultimately what you want -- free time. the season seems to hand it to me on a silver platter: everything gets snowed over so there's nowhere to go, everyone is out of town so there's no one to hang out with and i get snowed in. there's nothing to do but workout every day and practice, practice, practice. somewhere in there, i get to go home so my parents can chew me out about what a lousy life they think i have, and then i return to the city and get back in the saddle again.

actually, i always feel the need to have something that i've done in my hands every season. i can't stomach the idea of living in nyc and not having anything to show for my time here. this mentality has turned me into an underpaid overachieving highly creative workaholic that lives in a constant state of readiness.

there are a lot of flowers that bloom in the winter. my favorite is the narcissus. by the way: it's not named after the beautiful greek boy that was transfixed by his own reflection. it's name comes from the greek for numbness. interestingly, the plant is a narcotic.

i know that daffodils are in the narcissus family but they're a little too yellow and happy and sunshiny for my tastes. seeing them everywhere is like living in a place that never has inclement weather. they belong in the spring, in someone's window box.

lets see if mine will bloom again this year. i think i'm going to try to wake them up before the end of december. heck. i've already got two projects on the front burners. there's never enough philodendrons but an indoor garden that blooms sounds pretty tantalizing. why not add one more log on the fire?

Monday, November 14, 2005

my latest meme (hmmm....)

The Keys to Your Heart

You are attracted to those who are unbridled, untrammeled, and free.

In love, you feel the most alive when things are straight-forward, and you're told that you're loved.

You'd like to your lover to think you are optimistic and happy.

You would be forced to break up with someone who was emotional, moody, and difficult to please.

Your ideal relationship is lasting. You want a relationship that looks to the future... one you can grow with.

Your risk of cheating is zero. You care about society and morality. You would never break a commitment.

You think of marriage as something that will confine you. You are afraid of marriage.

In this moment, you think of love as something you thirst for. You'll do anything for love, but you won't fall for it easily.

Monday, November 07, 2005

what i did with my extra hour

amie and me, looking alike
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
this was taken at a salon on the upper west side that was thrown a day or so before halloween by pianist/composer patrick soluri. (i'm not sure what his twin brother andre does but they're both excellent swing dancers.) somehow with all the makeup that amie is wearing and all the makeup i'm not wearing, we can make the same face and look very much alike. trippy.

the party was fun. everyone was dressed up in elaborate costumes and hairdos, and there were musicians playing and sitting in and there was poetry that was read. amie sat in on french horn. in spite of the small space and the restrictive outfits, there was swing dancing. patrick and andre's parents were there, drifting amongst the guests and enjoying themselves. whatever anyone wanted to do was fair game. lots of cheeses and varietals, lovely things to nibble on and of course a gigantic pitcher of the authentic honest-to-goodness sweet tea that he promised me. patrick has a huge box of luzerne tea from new orleans that's like contraband up here, if you're a southerner. he brews it the old-fashioned way, God bless him. it made me so unbelievably happy, to sit around sipping that sweet tea all night. i have no idea why. i didn't sit in. it was enough, just to get out of the house.

i brought a still-warm pound cake that went pretty quickly, even though the party was about to find its second wind. there were a bunch of people on the landing outside when ralph and i arrived because the apartment was too crowded and heated, and a lot of them said that were on their way to nora's, whereever that was. but they came back eventually. it was all so relaxed and chatty and cool.

so there i was, on the couch catching up with vibes player nick mancini who lives in harlem now. i did a russian-jewish wedding reception at the top of the world trade center about two weeks before the towers were decimated. i remember it well because it was so beautiful up there. bright, clear, sunny. i recall that i sang whatever standards i wanted and the wedding party fed all of us. it was just delicious. roast beef au jus with mashed potatoes, carrots and asparagus. they put us in a little room with its own bar, right next to those impossibly high floor to ceiling windows that made me feel as though i were floating in midair. it gives me vertigo just thinking about it. so i have sweet lasting memories of that top floor and of nick and my last gig there. that gig is also when i met andy sanesi, drummer extraordinaire and band whore. but that's another story.

nick and i are laughing so much, i don't even realize that the extra hour has passed but it was a great way to flip it, with him telling me stories about music and girls and the wierd things that happen to him. and me, totally forgetting about all the pain in my jaw to chime in with my own gunk when i can. God knows i've got plenty.

what am i usually doing when the extra hour and everything falls backwards? somehow, i'm never asleep.

Friday, November 04, 2005

it's time...

i'm going to renew my gym membership at the city gym across the way from me today, at riverbank state park. it's a very special place. i'm so happy that it's in my backyard. believe it or not, gym membership is only $162.00 a year. the workout area is small but the equipment is first rate and they have such great facilities that i can excuse the loud merengue that blares at me relentlessly if i show up too early in the morning. and i have to show up in the morning. if i don't, my workout just won't happen.

think about it: even when everything snows over, i've got an olympic sized swimming pool, a huge gymnasium and an ice skating rink at my disposal.

i love harlem.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


closer still
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
tonya b. and i have been planning a shoot at morris-jumel mansion for months. it seemed so appropriate to take pictures there: it's actually georgian, italian in design and probably the oldest free standing structure in new york city -- built in the 1700s. needless to say, it has so much history that it's kind of overwhelming to walk through the doors. there's pewter dishes and cookware in the basement, big square locks on all the doors that still work and beautiful furniture everywhere. the last owner of the property filled some of the rooms with napoleon's things after a trip to europe. the first time i saw the turquoise blue room upstairs, i thought it was a children's nursery! when washington fought the british in the battle of harlem heights, he stayed there, to strategize and regroup. it's much bigger than it looks and it sits on a hill, surrounded by grass with an herb garden in the back with a sun dial. from the front yard, you can see yankee stadium.

the just right sunny day didn't seem to come along and when it did, my hair and my body and my clothes weren't just right. and then the summer was over and i thought our chance had passed. but when i saw that the weather would turn right one more time before everything settled into fall, we decided to go for it.

finally -- we've finally pulled it off. no stylist. no art director. no assistants. no make-up artist. no catering. just me pulling dresses out of my bag and going, whaddya think and doing my own make-up. and tonya, directing me. it was fun and then all of a sudden, it was over. i've got a lot of cool shots to choose from for the next cd cover art or poster or whatever. i think that this one is especially nice.

what a huge relief, to have done this. but then again, there's always more photos to take, more ideas to explore.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

doesn't take much to make me happy...

...but satisfaction is something else entirely.

i can't believe the stuff in my world that's making me so happy and giving me such a great quality of life right now. can you?
  1. my Casio Exilim 5.0 digital camera
  2. Emer-gen-C
  3. my weekly sunday knitting circle at rodeo bar
  4. custom blended Prescriptives concealer
  5. my high-powered shredder (and believe me, i'm wearing it out)
  6. Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1 - 3
  7. St. Ides Swiss Formula Apricot Scrub
  8. daydreaming
  9. my iBook (i am in love with it)
  10. origami
  11. learning new chords
  12. the sculpture garden at MoMA
  13. manly vintage western wear that's especially for girls
  14. eating stupid cold cereals, like corn pops
  15. norma desmond
  16. getting lost in chinatown and then having afternoon dim sum
  17. Drawn Together (if you don't like this show, there's definitely something fundamentally wrong with you)
  18. picture frames for albums
  19. "I Saw The Light" by Todd Rundgren
  20. "I Saw The Light" by Hank Williams
  21. Kindereggs (thanks, joe!)
  22. Netflix
  23. mac intosh apples
  24. the brand spankin' new 24 hr. gym that's only a few blocks away from my place (yippee!)
  25. supercool hardback oversized out of print art books

Friday, October 28, 2005

the day before yesterday's audition

i had an audition for an industrial called NY's NY, to be directed by mike figgis. i ran into liz lewis casting like my butt was on fire. i was on time but i got caught in the picture-taking undertow at the front desk. evidently, the director requested everyone's picture and phone number on the form aside from the one they usually hand out. so once i bobbed and weaved my way through that bottleneck, i had to wait for the traffic jam to clear at the entry/door. this woman asked if she could go ahead of me. she was well-dressed and she had long dark curly hair and she had on too much make-up and she was kind of not all that attractive. it was 2:40pm and she had to be at work anyway. i'm thinking, you're not going to make it whether you take my slot or not, but i let her slide on ahead of me. heck. i know how it is. i had another audition afterwards but i had an hour to kill before it happened. the black woman i was all chatty cathy with by then let her slide, too. she had on cool boots from payless -- this season, even. and then we were off to the races about shoes, with little miss lateness pacing and mumbling in front of us. wow, i thought. she's probably waiting tables.

as it turns out, they're seeing us in clumps. all we're doing is slating, for pete's sake. i almost said it out loud: all this running around for a slate? no. not for a slate. to be seen by mike figgis.

oh and you're never going to believe who's standing next to me in the line up.

of course the one i warmed up to stays in the hall to continue warming up the bench until the next round. nice lady. married with a two year old. gets lots of commercial work. having a happy life. tall. wears a size 12 shoe. very laid back about it all. why shouldn't she be? she's got a husband with a great job. the bills are going to get paid whether she gets the gig or not.

so everyone wanders into the room. i'm in there first, for some reason. next comes the black girl that didn't speak to me. not that there's anything wrong with not speaking, but when it happens in a white situation wherein the two of you seem to be the only ones in the room, it's a bad sign. she was alternative in a very conventional way, if you know what i mean. it seemed authentic unless you were paying attention and then it seemed contrived. short girl. shorter than me, anyway. androgynous. pants, punk rock t-shirt, punk rock accessories. short hair, a real t.w.a. no make-up. she had these shades that turned her into a diva with attitude when she put them on. when she took them off, all i could see was her bad skin, which made me flinch involuntarily when i got a good look at her. she wasn't exactly a heela-monster but i mean, really. what are you doing in a commercial audition looking like that. what are you doing.

i spoke first. i'm such a nice girl that way. everyone else filed in, in short order. how little miss lateness ended up to me, i'll never know but there she was, turning on the charm. all we had to do was slate. that means smile and say your name. that's it. everyone took a turn. i was to be last. everything was fine until they got to the girl next to me. she says her name and then she pitches in that she's a new york native, born and bred -- and then she throws in a a couple of heh-heh-heh's for good measure. yeah, they're looking for new york types so i guess that means you'll be getting the part now that they know you're from new york city.

have i ever been that desperate?

i am so take it or leave it when i'm auditioning for anything. to my way of thinking, desperation is creepy. with commercials especially, what you look like is just about everything. sometimes they look at you and that's pretty much it.

when auditioning is your job -- and that's exactly what it is until you get one -- moments like that are all in a day's work.

Monday, October 24, 2005

it was "run into queen esther" night!

stew and the negro problem
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
i got an email from stew inviting me and a guest to see his show at joe's pub last monday. he had a residency there every monday for the month of october with his band "the negro problem" while he was working out the kinks in his "travelogue" show at the public theater. wonderful stuff. i did the workshop for the show at the public last december. that's my thing with everything i do creatively, folks, but especially with theater -- i originate, i don't replicate. preferrably off-broadway, where the action is. that's why i do theater in nyc. when they get stew's show off the ground, it's going to have a successful off-broadway run. i hope to be a part of it. and of course, it came in under george's regime, so there you have it.

so gina b. and i get there in time to rendevous with some of his friends and bogart the big booth in the back that's velvet roped off and always says "reserved" but somehow never really is. there were five of us -- jaime, his cool girlfriend and someone else whose name escapes me, gina and myself. before i settled in, i walked across the room to say congrats to bill b. on his recent nupitals and i ran smack dab into brian tate, greg's brother. how annoying that they don't resemble each other. i hadn't seen him since i did the brooklyn new music festival at frank's lounge in ft. greene. he said the photos and video look great. i'm like, great. can't wait to get my hands on it, hand it over. but it's got to be edited and what not. always, with the editing. then he introduces me to his friend maureen visiting from california who turns out to be the one who wrote "Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race" -- yowza. i'm in that book! she describes with startling accuracy a gig i did years ago with the brc at wetlands where everything onstage fell apart and i improvised something that brought the house down while jack sprat changed his guitar string. i had to do something. i'm the kind of performer that doesn't believe in a dead mic. ever. when i read it, i thought, this is too accurate. how did she know? was she there? did someone make a tape that i didn't know about? the scenario was that accurate and that on point.

we exchanged information. how nice to have met her, finally. i've got to get her up to speed. and then darrell mcneill appeared from the end of the bar. i've been emailing him for years and had no idea what he looked like. really big and intimidating to some, i suppose. but then again he wore glasses and as he spoke to me, he wouldn't stop touching them and it made him look so vulnerable and sweet, i thought, oh, he's just a big geek.

somewhere in the dark, a dark-haired pixie faced woman sat next to me with her boyfriend. at first glance i thought it was ellie covan of dixon place. i made a mental note to say hello to her when the lights came up.

great set. stew did a lot of songs from his show, which i'd never heard from a band set-up. afterwards, i jummped up to speak to bill about a gig at joe's for me sometime this year, maybe -- and when i came back to our magic "reserved" booth, i stumbled and almost fell on the pixie-faced lady's gentleman friend.

"i did that very same thing when i walked over here, too," she said in an unmistakable southern accent. i guessed texas, probably the panhandle.

"what's your name?" i blurted.

"michelle," she smiled.

"you're michelle shocked!" i declared. "i met you at village underground a few years ago. you were living in new orleans then and you gave me some purple mardi-gras beads that you'd caught yourself. we talked for awhile. it was right around soundcheck time. do you remember me?"

and she said a slow "yeeeaaah, i think i do." and then we were off to the races. her "sweetheart" (what a nice way to say it) was a visual artist with a gallery in soho that lives in el-lay, where she is now. funny. she was there to see stew's set because of the show she's developing with the public -- about memphis minnie, the country blues singer/guitarist. hearing her say that took the top of my head clean off. that's me, i thought. that's totally me! later that night when i mention this to bill b. he said that when the idea came up, i was the first person he thought of.

so i hear someone behind me say hello stranger and then tap me on the shoulder and i turn around. guess who? vernon reid. introductions were made all around. interestingly enough, neither of them recognized each other right away. vernon's working on the soundtrack to some movie. we should talk, he said. yeah? i countered. i'm thinking he should take me to dinner at prune. i love their osso bucco. and now's the just right weather for eating something that hearty...

over vernon's shoulder, i saw mark russell, formerly the artistic director of PS 122. he's at the apollo now, scheduling things in their smaller room. we should talk, he said. yes, we should.

as michelle left, she turned to me and said, i know we've met for a reason.

boy howdy, did we.

as vernon's leaving, we run into ken roberson who looks fan-freakin'-tastic. he's sitting with lorna (whom i adore), getting ready to see the next show. every time i see kenny, i'm like, we have to do something, we have to. and he's saying the same thing. with every conversation, we get closer to the explosive moment that's going to make everything come together somehow, the thing that's going to get it off the ground.

i have to talk to him, too.

after the show, stew and his band comes out to say hello and somewhere in there it's decided that everyone is going to swift's to nosh and have drinks. stew is a hoot. somewhere towards the end of our rehearsal process, i told him that he was my ex-husband i'd never have, and from a past life if that kind of thing were actually true, because we are way too much alike. stew remembered that and cracked me up about it, declaring that he'd write a song about it and make it the title of his next record. that's the reason why i don't date songwriters or comedians. eventually, whatever happens between the two of you -- however sordid, intimate, morose or whatever -- will end up somewhere in their material. they'll make a point of saying it's you that they're talking about. and if it's actually good, you'll never live it down.

i wouldn't want to mess with stew. his songwriting is kind of brilliant.

i like stew. we get along like a house on fire. and both of us are always saying these bizarre things that dovetail each other. it's amusing the first time it happens but after the millionth time, it becomes very disturbing. it's like that when i'm with george wolfe. he's like a little roman candle going off in every direction. and i'm so happy to be with him, i'm actually a little spastic.

so then gina and i walked to 14th and 7th and talked about nyc and alternative culture and alternative black folk. to be percieved as an individual and not anyone's stereotype is all that anyone wants, i imagine. why is that so impossible to get when you're black?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

call him mister ross

i went to my manager's place on the upper west side to pick up the sides for a movie audition tomorrow afternoon in the wall street area and decided to run them while walking back up to west harlem. i figured, why not. the weather is changing right before my eyes. i wouldn't be able to stroll home for much longer. it was a breezy night, there was still some warmth in the air. a part of me was visualizing all the snow that would be in the street and on the sidewalk soon, and kind of looking forward to it. i hadn't been out of the house all day. i knew that if i didn't let my mind wander too far, i'd know the lines by the time i got home.

i hit my stride by the time i got to w. 86th street. as i glided past cleopatra's needle a little further up, my mind was in another world -- until someone came out and waved me down. there was an urgency to his salutation that made me think we must have known each other. and we did. but he didn't know it. yet.

he came up to me like he knew me all my life and said that he said he was "digging my vibe" and wanted to invite me to a gig that was happening there this friday: "it's rhonda ross' gig. she's a jazz singer -- she's diana ross' daughter," he said smoothly. "i produced her cd." and then as if to put a cherry on the whole thing, he said, "i'm also her husband."

in a flash, it all came rushing back. where and when i met him years ago and what all that was about. of course, he had no idea who i was. typical.

after i introduced myself, he exclaimed "wow, we were just talking about queen esther the other day." like it was someone else, not the person standing in front of him. of course this made me ask if it was really me that he was referring to.

"maybe you all were thinking of queen esther marrow, the gospel singer that lives in paris? most people do, when they hear my name. she sang with dylan, duke ellington. that was probably it."

"oh, no. it was you. you're a singer and a storyteller, right?"

"i sing, i act and i write."

then he goes, "so what have you been up to?" and i could see him trying to figure out if i was anyone, if i knew anyone, if i was doing anything. and of course, where he met me. in one long sentence, i said something like:

andnowi'mshoppingfor alicencingdeal."

"oh, you've worked with james "blood" ulmer," he goes.

"do you know blood?" i asked.

"of course i know blood," he blurted, almost indignant.

"that's not a given," i said.

"it is with me," he countered defensively.

i had to hold my breath to keep from letting a laugh out in the form of a snort. the next time i'm having a bowl of rice at blood's house, i'm going to ask him if he knew "mr. ross" and i have no doubt that he will have a colorful and interesting little story to tell me. he's always good for cutting to the chase and telling me the straight dope on anything i ask. and i love him for it. "mr. ross" will not be spared.

and yes. if he's going to name drop his wife's momma's name everytime he makes an introduction as casual as ours was, he should just cut to the chase and have everyone call him "mr. ross" from jump.

he congratulated me a little too heartily. it sounded like such a condescending little pat on the head -- "aw, it's so nice that you're out here doing your thing" -- that i almost cringed. people like that don't recognize anything that you do unless you sell 10 million copies or you're rich and famous, or you know somebody, or something along those lines. such sophistry. it just didn't smell right. i looked at him sideways with a straight face. it was like a little piece of el-lay crash landed onto my evening.

the truth is that i met him at his apartment, years ago. helga davis and i went there to meet him about some project or something. i distinctly recall him putting his feet up in a large wooden chair with extended arms and slowly swinging his legs back and forth in front of us, for emphasis. the effect was not unlike a gynocologist's examination chair, stirrups and all. i remember being relieved that there was someone else sitting next to me to see that unbelievable spectacle. who would believe such a thing? i never heard from him again. and then lo and behold, he pops up in front of me on the sidewalk out of nowhere.

jack is right. you really do see them all again. eventually.

i couldn't make it to his gig. i'm planning on going to atlanta to my brother's wedding. even if i weren't, i'd be watching movies via netflix or shredding more stuff and running more lines. i'm down-nesting. i'm spring cleaning. i'm bobbing and weaving through a maze of callbacks. i'm practicing my piano. i'm throwing things away. the more i toss out, the more i find. at last, i'm emotionally ready to cut it away...

needless to say, i gave him my business card. hey, maybe he can get me some studio work. i'm willing to work with anyone, if that's what it takes to get paid. i could care less who they are. or who they're married to.

and guess what, y'all? i've got my lines down cold.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

you can't see me (and you can't hear me, either)

had an audition for a k-mart commercial on tuesday, got a callback today and now i'm trying to forget about it -- even though every so often, i can see a big sack of money hanging over my head because i know how much money i'd make if i actually got it. but i don't think i'm going to, because i didn't make very strong funny choices when i was on-camera. then again, when i'm pretty sure i didn't get something, i usually land the gig. so what do i know?

they called me around noon and told me that i had a callback at 4:30pm so there was no time to get wound up about it. actually, there's never a windup with commercials because so much is decided by what you look like. they take a look at you and it's all over.

i'm always surprised when i get a callback on a commercial audition.

for black women in this industry, it's all about whatever your hair is doing. some blacktress i know told me in passing recently that they cast natural hair for commercials and straightened permed hair for movies. according to her, television can go either way. no matter what you're auditioning for, it's important to have hair that white people recognize or feel that they're familiar with, at least.

no one that's famous has a hairstyle like mine. every hairstyle i had before now had a celebrity/famous person attached to it and so inevitably, i ended up getting told that i resembled that person. when i had extentions, it was whoopi goldberg. when i had a perm, it was whitney houston. when i cut it all off "comme de garcon" it was josephine baker. when i wore a headwrap, it was erykah badu. after awhile, i was like, wow -- no one is looking at me. if i put on a wig, i'd be invisible.

that goes double when i sing. i've read reviews on the swing cd that said i sounded like "a young rosemary clooney" -- huh? other reviews have said i sound like everyone from nina simone to carmen mc rae and back again to the likes of betty carter -- the list goes on and on and on. i've actually had people take me aside inbetween sets with the biggish band to say that i sound like billie holiday. no one can pin me down because none of it's true. i refuse to be pigeonholed. how could i possibly sound like all those people? clearly, they have a favorite in mind and that's all they can hear when i sing. you know who i sound like? you guessed it -- my very own unique self. i mean, i thought that was the whole point.

whenever anyone tells me that i sound like someone else, i think -- you aren't listening to me.

oh, by the way -- moviewise, i watched "sunset boulevard" the other night and "the lady vanishes" tonight and then i sat up and watched "all the real girls" again. i liked "george washington" a lot, so i figured what the heck.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

the libra love boat chocolate cake party

here is me The Queen Herself inbetween jc -- who, remarkably, looks grumpier and more dadlike than usual -- and sarah, the hostess with the mostest. and me? i'm completely put of lipstick (i really hate it when that happens) and i'm completely wiped out. and i left my digital camera in the car! what was i thinking? but my glee is showing, so everything's okay...

by the way: this moment of happy is brought to you by will luong, who just might be my biggest fan, swingwise.

into the frying pan

after a recording session deep in the heart of queens, a wedding gig in the lower east side and an interview on air america radio with jc hopkins and vincent chancey and flip barnes, i ended up at michael ingbar's libra love boat party at the frying pan last night. frankly, i wouldn't have gone if jc hadn't promised that he would give me a ride home. it was cold and the rain was relentless -- sometimes a drizzle, sometimes a downpour but all day coming down all around me, like the city streets were becoming little rivers. believe it or not, i forgot my umbrella. everytime i turned around, i had someplace else to be as soon as i finished up where ever i was, so i was in constant motion until the radio interview was over and done with and everyone was leaving. i promised that we wouldn't stay that long. i just wanted to put in an appearance and make myself scarce.

i had been hearing about this party for months. the weekly emails that detailed the particulars gave the party quite a build-up. costumes were optional but highly suggested. one thing was certain: to get into the festivities, you had to bring chocolate cake. there was no way i could carry one around all day, what with everything i had to do. thankfully, shell put a small tasty one from a brooklyn bakery near their place in ft. greene in the back of jc's volvo.

what a cool place the frying pan is! i'd heard about it but i'd never been there before. it's an old boat that's docked at chelsea piers. wonderful space, historic and cool, with just the right amount of rust. it felt haunted yet welcoming, somehow. i liked it immediately. there were tiny rooms labeled with the names and duties of the shipmates who slept there once upon a time. bunkbeds here, with a sink in the corner, a small framed mirror above it. a single bed in this one, with a nightstand and a solitary round window to peek out into the world. there were more -- each room clean, each bed made. perfect to make out in, if the mood happened to strike you just so. there was a perch at the front, plenty of couches and a well-lit ladies room with more than one toilet. downstairs in the belly of the little beast, there was a performance space/dance floor, packed to the gills with couples dancing to gut-bucket blues music that a dj poured on thick. i forgot -- after midnight, it turned into a blues dance. at one point, i remember hearing blood singing "ghetto child" from his sun records session and bristling with a kind of secret glee.

in spite of the lousy weather, there were about 400 people there, easily. it would have been a lot more fun for me if i weren't so exhausted but it's hard not to have a good time anywhere when there's such a great vibe and everyone is so enthusiastic and friendly and upbeat.

my only real regret is that i didn't have any chocolate cake.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

i'm getting it together. (really!)

i can't believe it. fall is here. officially. i know because i just bought a pair of boots and i took my old ones in to be resoled. i'm looking for long woolen socks and leggings and tights. i'm trying to figure out what i want to wear when it gets cold. what my winter coat is going to be when i don't have to dress up for the swing set. stuff like that. all i know is, i can't stand looking like anyone else when i get dressed. i mean, hey. like the song sammy davis jr. made famous goes -- i gotta be me/i gotta be me/what else can i be but what i am?

let's face it -- when you're an unemployed superstar on a budget like i am, having a strong sense of personal style is of the utmost importance.

i've decided that this winter, i'm going to look like a cross between a runaway slave circa 1850 and a snow bunny -- the animal, not the swinging 60's ski chick. when i get undressed, i want to look like a burlesque dancer from the 30's. hm. i'm going to need some victorian boots to pull it off. and stockings with garters. maybe a corset. actually, i'm not so sure about those.

don't worry. there'll be plenty of pictures to show the world exactly what that looks like. my digital camera is starting to like me.

we'll all be turning our clocks back by the end of the month. the weather is changing, my closet is getting revamped, thanks to space bags, the salvation army and h&m. and me, the lifelong packrat? well, i'm throwing things away like the last survivor on a leaky lifeboat. i want to get rid of all the junk, all the clutter. i want everything scrubbed down and cleaned up, from my hallway closets to the pores in my t zone. i don't know what's come over me. i really don't.

what i want to know is, where did the time go?

all of this leaves me scrambling to reassess my goals and priorities so i can shift gears and end the year on some kind of a high note. i'd love for it to be a peal of laughter and not a scream of hysteria. so here's my deal. instead of going nuts with lists and deadlines and freaking out about what i want and what i haven't done and everything inbetween, i want three things by the end of the year. just three things, three simple things to make me happy by january 1st. not much to ask, right? (riiiiiight.....)
  1. get my room organized: closet, office armoire, storage area under my bed, all of it. usually it happens in bits and pieces, in stages, here and there, or so much gets done every season. i want to wipe the whole thing out. pow, just like that.
  2. get all of my reciepts together for 2005 -- and make any donations/purchases that i can afford before the end of the year, like donating all my old books and clothes to the salvation army for a tax write off. or better yet, finally getting that printer/scanner/copier/fax machine i really need. that way, i can file in january right away and get my tax return back as soon as possible. God knows i need it.
  3. get my body back, once and for all. i've already worked off 25 lbs. since last summer -- and i've kept it off. believe it or not, i've got another 15 lbs. to go. i want to do it as a christmas present to myself. if i lost five pounds every month until the end of the year, i could pull it off.
if i can pull this off by the end of december -- and get that unbelievably smokin' chocolate suede vintage cowgirl pantsuit that i found in chelsea, of course -- i will officially be deliriously high on some kind of newfangled happiness that will keep me floating all the way through spring. and i won't pummel myself not one bit for whatever else i did or didn't pull off all year long. i won't even care. i mean it this time! (really.)

running down a dream

i had an audition today for a reading of a new musical called "barnstormer" about bessie coleman, an accomplished flying ace -- the first licensed black female to fly. it takes something like 7 to 9 years to develop a musical. i'm not sure exactly where they are in the process but it sounds like they might be showing it to investors and tweaking it regionally. i'm very interested in what happens next, whether i'm in it or not.

i didn't have to do any research on this one. i've admired bessie coleman since childhood. no one stateside would teach her how to fly planes because she was black and female so she went to germany and returned to this country triumphant, a total bad ass. (and yes, she was from the south -- a texan, to be exact.) died too soon in a horrible plane crash. and of course, when black history month comes around, no one ever mentions her. they're too busy talking about martin luther king, jr. and harriet tubman -- "safe" heroes that don't threaten the status quo. they wouldn't dare mention robert f. williams and talk about what a radical he was -- and in the middle of north carolina, no less.

don't get it twisted, people. they tell you one thing, with their racist hollywood flicks and their movie-of-the-week malarky and their jacked up advertisements. don't you dare believe the hype. if you bother to read them, history books will tell you something else. we were always inventive. we were always intelligent and gifted and heroic. we always had dignity. as slaves, we were always subversive. we always fought back.

what a kick in the head that some one is trying to tell her story. it's like the beginning of a dream come true, us telling our stories our way. telling the world what we see, the way we see it.

bizarrely enough, the audition went off without a single solitary hitch. hm. i don't know what's up with me. i've been auditioning very well lately. there was some snotty residue in there but thankfully my voice was as clear as a bell. i sang a generic broadway show tune very well, something old and classy and fun that showed off my upper range. they asked me to read something short and sweet, which i did with a real flourish. and then i skipped out to run errands and forgot all about it. gone are the days when i'd spend all week wondering how i did or if i'd get the job, thank goodness. it's all in God's hands. it's destiny. it's fate. i'm working hard on my end, believe me -- but whatever happens, happens. it's like the tom petty song says:

"there's something good waiting down this road/and i'm picking up whatever's mine"

Monday, October 03, 2005

what happened to me?

i went in for an audition today at chelsea studios for a production of "once on this island" that's going up this winter in a cool theater in baltimore, maryland. i'm thinking if i get it, that's something like 10 weeks towards the 20 weeks required for me to get health insurance through equity. twenty weeks, folks. that's five months! can you imagine? in other words, go away -- we don't want to give you any health insurance. when i joined equity in '96, it was 8 weeks. what happened?

out of the four people in the room, i already knew and worked with three of them. there was kenny roberson at one end of The Long Table, big as day. he looked wonderful, of course. the last time i saw him, i practically walked into him as i was zipping down 42nd st. to b.b. king's -- renee and i were singing back-ups for edgar winter at the moog festival. we were to rehearse with him backstage in his dressing room. of course as a child of the 70's, i already knew his music (and his brother, too) but renee had no idea who he was. all the musicians said they were him until i got there to say that no, they weren't edgar, edgar is an albino, they're all pulling your leg. it was very "i am spartacus" which was kind of hilarious after the fact. but i digress.

kenny's assistant brian was at the other end, with the director between them. and d. the longtime house pianist for the duplex in the west village also worked with us as the rehearsal pianist for harlem song (what song doesn't he know?), well, he was the accompanist. i breezed in and gagged, we laughed and chatted a bit, then i sang "on a clear day" -- it was very barbra streisand. in musical theater auditions, i like to sing with a clear tone, a strong belt and as much feeling and as little melisma as possible. melisma is a joke to me. i'm sure it meant something once upon a time, but now it's usually so over the damn top whenever anyone does it that it's become an affectation. it turns singing into vocal gymnastics. that means that when melisma is overused, singing is a sport and as a vocalist, you are an athlete -- not an artist. you are competing, for crying out loud. and that's not the point! most singers usually do this melisma thing when they want to let you know that they're emoting. that's also your cue as a listener to let you know that they can really sing. to my ear, that's usually when they're not doing anything at all. hear me, people: all that hollering and screaming is NOT singing. they're not sharing anything with you on a spiritual or an emotional level on American Idol. they just want to "outdo" each other. whoever's the most bombastic vocally, that's who wins.

good grief. i'm nothing like that.

hey. what happened to me? i certainly have the vocal muscle to sing like that if i wanted to -- but i categorically refuse to do it. where did i get this sensibility to damn the torpedoes and embrace what's really real? who taught me how to cut through the crap the way that i do, as an artist and as a person? did God put that in me or did i find it along the way? how can i be this young and this old at the same time? *sigh*

here's the kicker for the day: i transposed the song for the audition in pencil on the way to chelsea, on the subway. and it was totally correct! yippee! are my piano lessons kicking in or what??!!

my big freak-out was when i caught a cold this past weekend. i was so afraid that it would wreck my voice for the audition -- but that didn't keep me from going out to the slipper room on saturday night to see some good ol' neo-burlesque with renee and ralph. land sakes! i didn't get home until 5am...i took care of myself, though. i didn't eat anything at night, so i kept my laryngeal reflux in check. i reached into my singer's bag and took all of the medication that dr. kessler prescribed, which kept the mucus off my vocal cords and i took medication for the cold itself. i drank lots of tea, tons of water and i cranked the humidifer in my bedroom. the emergen-C helped an awful lot.

thank Jesus i don't drink or do drugs or i would have looked (and sounded) a hot mess by monday morning.

Friday, September 30, 2005

james dean was on the downlow!

i just finished reading boulevard of broken dreams: the life, times and legend of james dean by paul alexander. yipes! the writer insisted that he was gay but that wasn't the shocker. him getting molested at 13 by a Reverend DeWeere until he finally leaves home at 18 -- that was the shocker. the kicker? this same reverend (a well-respected pillar of the community and completely above reproach, i might add) eulogizes him at his funeral when he dies at 24 and again on the first anniversary of his death. how creepy is that?

there is no doubt that he had lots of sex with men but personally, i think james dean was on the downlow. i recognized his behavior immediately. when i say "downlow" i don't mean the closeted "i'm not going to tell anyone that i'm gay" approach that everyone is so familiar with these days. what i'm referring to is much more expansive than that. james dean saw sex as a commodity. it was something that he did to get work in hollywood. even though he knew that he was brilliant, he thought that's what he had to do to get "in" with the right people -- and he hated himself for it. sometimes he did it to augment a friendship. but to his way of thinking, it didn't mean that he was actually gay.

to him, sex with men didn't mean homosexuality. it just meant sex with men. this is the very definition of what "the downlow" is all about. to someone on the downlow, homosexuality is for "fags" -- at least that's the way its been explained to me, painstakingly and on numerous occasions. (it took a minute for all of it to sink in but i think i get it now.) that probably explains why he and rock hudson couldn't stand each other. by all accounts, rock hudson was flamboyant and liked to dress up in drag with his friends. james dean was something of an exhibitionist that liked to get blow jobs from men while he was speeding through el-lay. but as far as he was concerned, that didn't make him gay. that just meant that some guy was going down on him. that wasn't who he was. he was just having fun.

gee. i guess he was way ahead of his time in more ways than one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

renee, giving autographs

Originally uploaded by queenesther.
i saw last broadway performance of "all shook up" at the palace theater on sunday. i had to -- the show (a retelling of shakespeare's "12th Night" with lots of elvis presley's songs) was my friend renee's broadway debut. unfortunately, it only lasted for about a week or two for my friend, although the show had been up and running for quite some time -- they gave notice to close the production almost as soon as she got the part. when we got to the theater and i told ralph what happened about how she gets the show and then it gets cancelled, he blurted, it's like an episode of "good times"!

it was a matinee show and it was very nearly sold out, a very enthusiastic and jubilant crowd. there were barricades and cops and the usual mayhem that happens at the backstage door when the cast appears. the idea is to get everyone in the cast to sign the show poster. that can make it quite a collectible later on.

i got to sit inbetween dana ("baby girl") rainey and make a remark here and there about the dancing, and jack sprat, an elvis fan -- who honestly thought the show was over at intermission because he figured it had lasted long enough.

i knew quite a few performers in the cast. everyone gave such strong performances. it's elvis, fer cryin' out loud -- really fun crowd pleasing stuff. afterwards, we went to divine bar on 54th and 8th for a cast send-off. hanging out later on gave me a chance to reconnect with old friends -- like john eric parker -- (we did the original cast of the first national tour of RENT together).

i decided awhile ago that although i'd like to do broadway eventually, i'm way more interested in originating roles.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

oh, williamsburg...

last night, i went to williamsburg to have dinner at planet thai and spend the evening with john f. and porsche and j. willie and gina went out to eat in the city and didn't make it to meet up with us. hanging out on the weekend isn't my style. too many pseudo-hipsters and tourists and urban voyeurs. the best night to go out is wednesday or thursday when most of those people are at home in bed by 10pm so they can make it to their 9 to 5 on time.

we went to a cd release party that was actually happening in john f's former roommate shrimpei's loft space that he shares with his girlfriend. it was a bit off the beaten track but they had a lovely view of the city and some really expensive building across the way that has buses to take it's residents to the L and a water taxi service to take them to wall street. as we pressed our noses against the window and gazed at the desolate street below, shrimpei explained how the entire block changed when that building began construction. his explanation was very a basic gentrification how-to, of course. but there was something more.

i don't like williamsburg. i don't think i ever have -- although in the past, i've found a lot in it to love -- like domsey's, when it was five floors strong and filled with beautiful vintage cocktail dresses that could be had for $5 a pop. *heavy sigh* a few years ago, when it seemed that no one but puerto ricans and hasidic jews were particularly interested in living there, something seemed to be going on. there were these wonderfully ornate yet really inexpensive exotic restaurants to try, there were coffee shops to loll around in, there were watering holes that had vibe, there were a few more artists and musicians than usual here and there, making their way creatively like everyone else in every other borough in nyc. it felt a little like the haight. and then all of a sudden, everything went to hell. the streets were filled with an arrogant breed that were content in the knowledge that they were more fashionable, more talented and way more hip than you. it was almost as though there was a portal that opened up somewhere in the belly of american youth consciousness and let them out at the corner of 7th and bedford, with their trucker hats and their denim jackets and their von dutch t shirts and the like. pouty-faced girls living that sex and the city lifestyle -- high heels, cocktails and all. and that goes double for the lower east side. they are theme parks, really -- replete with four star dining options and the like, amidst the squalor of the ghetto as an exotic backdrop to the day-to-day foibles of their city lives. that ghetto element makes everything dangerous and cool, doesn't it? makes it feel more like what nyc is supposed to be, whatever that is.

they still say that there's a powerful art scene in williamsburg that rivals whatever is going on in manhattan -- or anywhere else in the world, for that matter. my problem with that is that whenever they say that there's a scene somewhere, the scene no longer exists. so what's really going on?

williamsburg seems to be a community of dillitantes, a high-falutin' collective of those who are striving to be artsy misfits, a neighborhood chok-ful of the the young and the marginally talented -- those who are so high on the surety of their talents that they don't seem to realize that they're just not that good.

take the music scene, for example. no one seems to know how to play their instruments. if they do, their band isn't so hot. if it is, they have no songs. and if they do have songs, they aren't running around in williamsburg. and the clubs. well. the sound system can be awfully sketchy, sometimes. that means that if you're a vocalist that's actually singing (like yours truly) and you're not just hollering into a mic like a wounded farm animal, you won't hear yourself because there are no monitors and you'll probably blow your voice out. (which is exactly what happened to me at frank's lounge last week.) if there's a sound system to accommodate you, there might be a busted bass cabinet somewhere out back, but there's no backline. and of course, no one pays a cover to get into your gig and everyone expects freebies all night long -- like pizza and beer and cds and whatever else you got. unless everyone splits everything fair and square, you have to pay the band.

that's williamsburg.

who knows how long it'll take you to learn how to play the drums or finish your master's degree in photography or paint something that sparks someone's interest besides your roommates? if you don't have a trust fund or alimony or well-off parents to pay your bills, you're selling pot out of your bedroom or you have to live with 5 or 6 other people or better yet, your girlfriend is paying all the bills. (at least, she thinks she's your girlfriend...) who knows how long it'll take?

all i know is, williamsburg is too young, too trendy and too gentrified for its own good. i don't have the money to live or gig there but thankfully at least i know where to eat when i visit my friends.

Friday, September 23, 2005

an audition, a callback, a showcase, oh my!

yesterday started with an audition for law and order: criminal intent at chelsea piers at noon. i got there a little late (i can never find those freaking rooms!) but they were running behind, which wasn't good because i had a callback for a regional christmas musical in delaware called winter wonderettes at 1pm. (cute, right?) it wouldn't be good to show up late for that because i was supposed to dance first and if i missed any of the choreography breakdown, i would be completely derailed. i was excited about law and order, in spite of the fact that i'd auditioned for it about a jillion times and i've never been picked to be on the show. i've come awfully close, though. but when is that ever good enough?

the part was a junkie mom -- 32 years old with a 16 year old daughter, and the daughter has got a kid already. in the scene, the cops confront me at my front door and then we're off to the races. piece of cake. i show up with no make-up on, in a plain dress. i know my lines cold. i've met/lived next door to/befriended that mother many, many times. i know what i'm doing.

law and order
is such a franchise. there's got to be at least three different ones, aside from the original. it's really cool that it's based in new york city because it gives theater actors and the like a chance to get in front of the camera without having to go to el lay and stand in line with everyone else. it's funny. everytime i watch any of them, i see someone else i know. so when i get called in to be seen for a part, i'm thinking, wow -- maybe i'll finally bust my law and order cherry. don't get me wrong. i'm not desperate. if it doesn't happen, that's fine. but if it did, it would be nice.

i finally ended up in the casting agent's office, in a narrow area walled in by videotapes and filled with chairs clustered together. there was only a nondescript looking white guy in a button-down shirt sitting there, running lines. the middle aged asian man came in from the hallway, muttering his lines to himself. he stopped long enough to smile at me. a black woman came in, wearing sweats. no make-up. stringy looking dirty blonde extentions. slim and young-looking, but bad skin. (why does anyone have bad skin in this day and age? it's called proactiv, for cryin' out loud. go get some.) she ignored me, of course. once she settled in, she started to run her lines by mouthing the words and making these facial expressions, like she was in the scene. but how did she know what her face was doing. shouldn't she be looking in a mirror to check? according to everything that i was taught about the craft of acting, this was the epitome of what not to do. and the nondescript white guy across from her was pretty much doing the same thing. everything starts internally for me. i've learned how to readjust externally but that's not my focus. after awhile, i couldn' t look at them anymore. when i tell people that i'm an actor, that's what they think i do. (yeesh.)

you know what those two actors really reminded me of? daffy duck, wearing bugs bunny's shakespearean outfit, oversized plumed hat and all, pacing back and forth nervously with a leading man's swagger nonetheless, saying "to be or not to be" in every concievable way that he can think of, until the german director yells, "brrrring in the double!" good ol' daffy strolls in, all comfy because he's selected the just-right version of "to be or not to be" to say on camera -- and has it on repeat in his head until it comes out of his mouth.

no wonder movie actors suck when they do theater.

right about then, three or four really good-looking asian men walked in, all of them casually dressed. there were plenty of chairs but they were so clumped together that we were running out of room. and i was running out of time. i went to the monitor, she got me bumped up and when the door opened, i was summoned.

she moved fast. first, a digital photo of me, a headshot check and then i read for her -- no cameras, nothing. when i was done, she said that i did a really good job and asked me how tall i was. and the next thing i know, i'm on the crosstown bus.

i don't even want to tell you about the callback: how i botched the dance section, in spite of my best efforts; how me singing my brains out didn't help at all because they cut me early and didn't hear me read; how sweet the other girls were and how great everyone looked. oh, well. whatever God wants me to have is what i'll get, no matter what anyone says or thinks.

i ended the night with a wonderful showcase for the songwriter's hall of fame -- it was the 55th new writer's showcase, to be exact. afterwards, ralph and i went to barrio chino and i had that fantastic sopa de pollo with a nice tall deliciously spicy glass of mexican hot chocolate. this is my favorite little spot right now -- the food is so good, it's wacky. and you can trust me on this one. i lived in austin texas for years and i used to work in a fairly popular tex-mex restaurant on 6th street, so i'm extremely picky about mexican cuisine.

okay. so now i'm thinking i should run in the park while it's early and cool, detangle and condition my hair, practice the piano and clean house. that's my big plan for today...

yesterday's movie: get carter. tonight's movie: comedian.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

guitar rehearsal at my place

guitar rehearsal at my place
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
usually when i'm preparing the band for a gig, i'll do at least one guitar rehearsal at my place. somehow, separating the guitars from everything else puts things in their proper perspective. and sometimes there's really good tex-mex involved when we're done.

i love the way the pedal steel guitar swirls around my feelings when i sing. i will never get enough of that.

this is a moment that happened when bob and i were hashing something out with a new song and i happened to pass jack sprat the camera. trippy stuff. who knew my little living room could be so surreal?

Monday, September 19, 2005


i'm on a mission to see all the movies in imdb's top 100 listing, to catch up on all the stuff i should have seen by now but haven't for some reason. here it is:

1.9.0The Godfather (1972)136,871
2.9.0The Shawshank Redemption (1994)165,738
3.8.9The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)120,082
4.8.9The Godfather: Part II (1974)78,827
5.8.8Shichinin no samurai (1954)36,244
6.8.8Schindler's List (1993)105,940
7.8.8Casablanca (1942)71,465
8.8.7Star Wars (1977)148,724
9.8.7Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)115,729
10.8.7Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966)35,068
11.8.7Pulp Fiction (1994)147,213
12.8.7The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)170,836
13.8.7One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)76,198
14.8.7The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)127,530
15.8.7Rear Window (1954)44,637
16.8.6Citizen Kane (1941)65,693
17.8.6Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)68,857
18.8.6Cidade de Deus (2002)32,103
19.8.6The Usual Suspects (1995)112,287
20.8.6Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)100,962
21.8.612 Angry Men (1957)32,223
22.8.6Memento (2000)99,672
23.8.6C'era una volta il West (1968)19,744
24.8.5North by Northwest (1959)38,488
25.8.5Psycho (1960)58,149
26.8.5Goodfellas (1990)75,076
27.8.5Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, Le (2001)66,016
28.8.5Lawrence of Arabia (1962)33,745
29.8.5It's a Wonderful Life (1946)44,039
30.8.5The Silence of the Lambs (1991)99,024
31.8.5Sunset Blvd. (1950)17,801
32.8.5Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)57,274
33.8.5American Beauty (1999)118,904
34.8.5The Matrix (1999)155,674
35.8.5Fight Club (1999)124,453
36.8.4Apocalypse Now (1979)70,339
37.8.4Vertigo (1958)36,653
38.8.4The Pianist (2002)34,970
39.8.4Paths of Glory (1957)15,895
40.8.4To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)32,733
41.8.4Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001)28,218
42.8.4Taxi Driver (1976)52,488
43.8.4The Third Man (1949)19,973
44.8.4Se7en (1995)96,940
45.8.4Hotel Rwanda (2004)14,567
46.8.4Boot, Das (1981)31,254
47.8.3Crash (2004)17,919
48.8.3Léon (1994)58,738
49.8.3M (1931)13,246
50.8.3Requiem for a Dream (2000)54,010
51.8.3Double Indemnity (1944)12,688
52.8.3Singin' in the Rain (1952)22,267
53.8.3Chinatown (1974)28,139
54.8.3Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)66,065
55.8.3Some Like It Hot (1959)27,521
56.8.3Rashômon (1950)12,981
57.8.3L.A. Confidential (1997)74,526
58.8.3All About Eve (1950)14,174
59.8.3The Maltese Falcon (1941)21,026
60.8.3The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)24,271
61.8.3American History X (1998)66,405
62.8.3Modern Times (1936)11,362
63.8.3Untergang, Der (2004)13,129
64.8.3Million Dollar Baby (2004)30,548
65.8.3Alien (1979)68,735
66.8.3Raging Bull (1980)29,806
67.8.3Saving Private Ryan (1998)108,428
68.8.3A Clockwork Orange (1971)71,279
69.8.3Vita è bella, La (1997)40,967
70.8.3The Incredibles (2004)38,984
71.8.3The Sting (1973)25,570
72.8.2Reservoir Dogs (1992)76,095
73.8.2The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)11,436
74.8.2Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)74,425
75.8.2Amadeus (1984)39,806
76.8.2Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)12,599
77.8.2The Manchurian Candidate (1962)15,540
78.8.2City Lights (1931)8,577
79.8.2The Great Escape (1963)22,181
80.8.2The Shining (1980)55,867
81.8.2On the Waterfront (1954)14,151
82.8.2The Apartment (1960)12,264
83.8.2Ran (1985)13,350
84.8.2The Wizard of Oz (1939)41,556
85.8.2Aliens (1986)68,921
86.8.22001: A Space Odyssey (1968)69,625
87.8.2Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957)10,851
88.8.2Metropolis (1927)13,186
89.8.2Touch of Evil (1958)12,752
90.8.2Sin City (2005)53,371
91.8.2Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)52,209
92.8.2The Great Dictator (1940)11,686
93.8.2Braveheart (1995)99,609
94.8.2Donnie Darko (2001)60,669
95.8.2Nuovo cinema Paradiso (1989)15,310
96.8.2Jaws (1975)51,506
97.8.2Strangers on a Train (1951)11,612
98.8.2High Noon (1952)13,533
99.8.2Oldboy (2003)13,657
100.8.2Finding Nemo (2003)47,734
101.8.2Fargo (1996)70,257
102.8.2Annie Hall (1977)23,535
103.8.2Mononoke-hime (1997)21,642
104.8.2Forrest Gump (1994)98,244
105.8.1Blade Runner (1982)80,157
106.8.1Full Metal Jacket (1987)52,256
107.8.1The General (1927)7,268
108.8.1Wo hu cang long (2000)55,651
109.8.1Rebecca (1940)12,417
110.8.1Yojimbo (1961)10,096
111.8.1Ladri di biciclette (1948)8,182
112.8.1Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)84,173
113.8.1The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)6,765
114.8.1The Princess Bride (1987)57,895
115.8.1Before Sunset (2004)11,549
116.8.1The Sixth Sense (1999)104,534
117.8.1Batman Begins (2005)53,668
118.8.1Once Upon a Time in America (1984)21,497
119.8.1The Big Sleep (1946)10,889
120.8.1Notorious (1946)11,589
121.8.1It Happened One Night (1934)8,655
122.8.1Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)21,972
123.8.1Duck Soup (1933)10,770
124.8.1Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)92,405
125.8.1Smultronstället (1957)5,930
126.8.1The Elephant Man (1980)18,049
127.8.1Cool Hand Luke (1967)15,501
128.8.1The Graduate (1967)30,006
129.8.1Finding Neverland (2004)24,652
130.8.1Unforgiven (1992)33,673
131.8.1Patton (1970)15,662
132.8.0Lola rennt (1998)35,571
133.8.0The Deer Hunter (1978)30,938
134.8.0Amores perros (2000)17,266
135.8.0The Green Mile (1999)66,097
136.8.0Back to the Future (1985)74,572
137.8.0The Philadelphia Story (1940)11,409
138.8.0Ben-Hur (1959)22,823
139.8.0Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)66,782
140.8.0Ying xiong (2002)28,330
141.8.0Glory (1989)23,578
142.8.0The Gold Rush (1925)7,041
143.8.0Toy Story 2 (1999)44,339
144.8.0Platoon (1986)38,560
145.8.0Stalag 17 (1953)7,786
146.8.0Bringing Up Baby (1938)10,097
147.8.0Manhattan (1979)13,516
148.8.0A Christmas Story (1983)21,311
149.8.0Life of Brian (1979)36,242
150.8.0Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)12,311
151.8.0The Grapes of Wrath (1940)8,538
152.8.0The African Queen (1951)14,740
153.8.0The Wild Bunch (1969)11,504
154.8.0Witness for the Prosecution (1957)5,604
155.8.0The Hustler (1961)9,039
156.8.0The Searchers (1956)11,084
157.8.0All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)7,545
158.8.0Gone with the Wind (1939)31,317
159.8.0Big Fish (2003)37,877
160.8.0Hable con ella (2002)14,216
161.8.0Mystic River (2003)33,837
162.8.0Die Hard (1988)63,689
163.8.0The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)8,107
164.8.0Quatre cents coups, Les (1959)7,219
165.8.0Shrek (2001)71,352
166.8.0The Straight Story (1999)16,126
167.8.0Gladiator (2000)100,723
168.8.0Roman Holiday (1953)10,420
169.8.0The Killing (1956)7,776
170.8.0Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, La (1928)3,983
171.8.0The Night of the Hunter (1955)8,367
172.8.0Mar adentro (2004/I)5,732
173.8.0Hotaru no haka (1988)8,113
174.8.0Festen (1998)13,137
175.8.0His Girl Friday (1940)7,355
176.7.9Young Frankenstein (1974)24,209
177.7.9Ikiru (1952)4,811
178.7.9The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)8,018
179.7.9Sideways (2004)24,028
180.7.9Magnolia (1999)50,254
181.7.9Harvey (1950)8,559
182.7.9Ed Wood (1994)25,272
183.7.9Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925)6,695
184.7.9Grande illusion, La (1937)5,461
185.7.9Charade (1963)10,024
186.7.9The Conversation (1974)11,205
187.7.9 (1963)8,879
188.7.9Monsters, Inc. (2001)42,627
189.7.9Strada, La (1954)5,562
190.7.9The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)11,047
191.7.9Per qualche dollaro in più (1965)10,288
192.7.9Gandhi (1982)17,234
193.7.9Sling Blade (1996)21,955
194.7.9Spartacus (1960)18,716
195.7.9Groundhog Day (1993)48,811
196.7.9Trainspotting (1996)56,633
197.7.9Trois couleurs: Rouge (1994)11,280
198.7.9A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)10,602
199.7.9Shadow of a Doubt (1943)6,342
200.7.9Brazil (1985)33,267
201.7.9Stand by Me (1986)33,593
202.7.9Twelve Monkeys (1995)67,388
203.7.9A Night at the Opera (1935)6,554
204.7.9All the President's Men (1976)13,874
205.7.9Dog Day Afternoon (1975)16,731
206.7.9Laura (1944)5,192
207.7.9Toy Story (1995)49,754
208.7.9Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)2,983
209.7.9Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)9,355
210.7.9In America (2002)9,870
211.7.9Lost in Translation (2003)49,158
212.7.9Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)7,672
213.7.9The Big Lebowski (1998)55,608
214.7.9Almost Famous (2000)42,119
215.7.9The Insider (1999)31,090
216.7.9Snatch. (2000)50,239
217.7.9To Be or Not to Be (1942)4,050
218.7.9Persona (1966)4,251
219.7.9Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)38,146
220.7.9Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)69,531
221.7.9The Lion in Winter (1968)6,399
222.7.9Network (1976)10,440
223.7.9Fanny och Alexander (1982)4,952
224.7.9The Exorcist (1973)37,512
225.7.9This Is Spinal Tap (1984)22,632
226.7.9The Terminator (1984)64,810
227.7.9Mulholland Dr. (2001)39,470
228.7.8Garden State (2004)31,766
229.7.8Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)3,956
230.7.8Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)3,825
231.7.8The Station Agent (2003)8,603
232.7.8Taegukgi hwinalrimyeo (2004)3,255
233.7.821 Grams (2003)25,913
234.7.8Heat (1995)49,258
235.7.8Battaglia di Algeri, La (1965)2,580
236.7.8Being There (1979)11,516
237.7.8Miller's Crossing (1990)16,086
238.7.8Rain Man (1988)46,452
239.7.8Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom (2003)3,898
240.7.8Barry Lyndon (1975)13,742
241.7.8Brief Encounter (1945)3,000
242.7.8Sullivan's Travels (1941)3,291
243.7.8Being John Malkovich (1999)59,620
244.7.8In the Heat of the Night (1967)7,578
245.7.8Scarface (1983)33,463
246.7.8The Thin Man (1934)5,388
247.7.8Spider-Man 2 (2004)48,069
248.7.8Diarios de motocicleta (2004)11,730
249.7.8Ray (2004/I)14,161
250.7.8The 39 Steps (1935)

i'm going to see a movie a day from now on, if i can. on sunday, i saw the movie blue starring binoche and returned part two of schindler's list because netflix never sent part one. while i'm waiting for get carter starring michael caine, i think i'll go see jarmusch's broken flowers tomorrow night.