Wednesday 30 September 2009

Look what came in the mail today!


Less Sleaze – Week 1

Saturday 26 September 2009

I’m afraid to admit I nearly forgot about this entry, but they probably goes to show how disheartening this has all been. Not so much an experiment, but a horrible realisation.

This week I gave up more than usual and have enjoyed a very alcoholic Thursday (school nights are always the best night to go out), and so I was in desperate need of a Subway footlong toasted Pizza Sub and a bottle of Coke Zero the next day. Last night I comfort fooded (a new verb there: to comfort food – the act of eating yummy carbohydrate or sugar rich foods to encourage mental well-being) on chillied spag bol. I did have a pizza earlier in the week, and while I type this I’m sucking down my first beer for the night. So I’m sure the scales will not be kind, but after nine weeks of this tedium I no longer care.

I’ve spent the day with Mark picking up the last pieces for my Sleaze costume. More next week – as well as the last entry in this series, thank Gods – but as a little hint, considering the party’s theme is “Game On”, think John Newcombe. Actually, that sort of right gives it away, doesn’t it?


Get it over and done with, shall we?: 87.3

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Sleaze
87.3 86.3 85.2 85.8 86.0 85.0 86.0 86.5 85.2 87.3
-1.0 -1.1 +0.6 +0.2 -1.0 +1.0 +0.5 -1.3 +2.1
-1.0 -2.1 -1.5 -1.3 -2.3 -1.3 -0.8 -2.1

That’s brilliant, I’m back where I started. This whole two months have been a complete waste of time.

Well, fuck it then. I’ll have another beer.

Amateur theatre – Cats

Thursday 24 September 2009

As you know, Cats (the musical that is, not the four legged furry bastards with the egos) is my all time favourite musical. I love it, love it simply to bits, and even after seeing it recently for the second time 20 years later, where I realised that it’s really all just a little (read: huge) bit naff, I continue to love it. As Karen says in Love Actually (one of my favourite movies I should add) “True love lasts a lifetime”, so what sort of feller would I be if I suddenly dumped Cats and went after some new floozy, like Avenue Q?

(Incidentally, did anyone catch this? I know! Isn’t it just too horrible for words? I tell ya, I can’t work out what is worse – what she’s wearing or that it’s just the worse case of Rich Daddy Syndrome I’ve ever seen.

Actually, it reminds me of an old joke. Many versions of it but a good one goes something like: There were these two old married university professors and one day the wife comes home and finds a note. “Dear wife,” it says, “I am writing to say that after 40 years marriage I have decided to leave you. As you are aware being a science teacher a relationship is based on chemistry, which you and I no longer have, so I have gone and run off with the 20 year old head cheer leader because, being a mathematics teacher, I know that she and I add up to equal one. We will be enjoying my 60th birthday in the Bahamas. Please forward any mail to the following address.”

A couple of weeks later, the husband opens his mail and finds this: “Dear husband,” the wife wrote back, “Thank you for your letter. I was very sad to discover that you have left me, but, being a science teacher, I should have done my research better. Still, I am very happy for you and wish you and your cheer leader girlfriend well. I want you to know that I am doing well too. Not wanting to sit at home and wallow I have decided to shack up with the 20 year old captain of the football team because, as you know being a mathematics teacher, 20 goes into 60 a hell of a lot more times that 60 goes into 20.” Boom boom.

Umm… this blog was supposed to be about a show I saw so I better get back to it.)

Back in July I joined a mailing list for local amateur theatre. I’m tired of not seeing things and finding out about shows after the dates have past. I think I was inspired after discovering that there will be a production of Spamalot in October (still haven’t got tickets, have sent reminder to work to do tomorrow) and finding out there’s been a number of G&S’s early in the year (I’m sure I’ve already done this line but I always say there are only two types of musical theatre: Gilbert and Sullivan). Imagine my pure delight when I discovered there was going to be a production of Cats! I was over the heavyside layer I can tell you (Cats reference there, to all you theatre heathens! (Note to self: don’t insult the readership.)). So, a couple of Saturdays ago, Melanie, BC and I went and saw the Holroyd Musical and Dramatic Society (HMDS) production of Cats.

The HMDS is a Western Sydney based amateur theatrical society that stages four productions a year – two musicals, a play and a panto; this year they are doing Alice in Wonderland. While the plays and pantos they choose are traditional amateur theatre fodder, they have tended to punch above their weight with the musicals. Last year they did both West Side Story (a hella lot of complicated dancing) and Les Miserables (the classic story of Sir Les Patterson feeling down in the dumps… I think. I’ve never seen it). When I read they were attempting Cats I knew that there were two possible ways it could go, but also that both ways would be highly entertaining to watch.

The three of us arrived at Wentworthville (it’s about an hour by train out west of Sydney, two stops past Parramatta) and found a nice little Chinese restaurant for some dinner. We thoroughly enjoyed the classic dishes of garlic prawns, sweet and sour pork and combination chicken, and a bargain of a price at $45. Back at the theatre we found our seats and promised ourselves the option of leaving at half time if the show was really bad.

The overture started and already I was grinning ear to ear. I knew we were in for something special, and I wasn’t disappointed. There is just something kind of wonderful about the sight of someone who should know better prancing about in a unitard. As Melanie said, some of those performers faced their worst nightmares to go out publicly in those costumes. The costumes were, actually, extremely good with huge amounts of furry details, it’s just that most members of amateur theatre don’t have a dancer’s build. Or can dance, for that matter. It’s a pity that Cats requires a good deal of both.

The performers were, over all, very good, but let me highlight some of the more “special” artiste. Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer were two chunky actors who did a great job of hamming it up, though I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t end their number by performing the traditional “double windmill” across the stage. Mungojerrie (the part that I would love to play) was particularly special; not only was he equipped with his mother’s bum and his father’s belly, he also had a lisp, which meant he sung his song something like this:

Mungojscheree and Rumpleteaser
We’re a notorsczhious couple of catscz
Aschz knockabout clownsczjh and quick-jszcange comedianzchs
Tight-rope walkezsph and acrobatcszjhs.

Humour is found in many places.

The actress playing Grizabella the glamour cat was well too fed to be playing a part. She had the legs of an elephant, so perhaps it was apt that hers is the one that sings “Memory”? I did wonder if she was related to the director.

(Incidentally, I can say things like that as I spent nine great years with the Broken Hill Repertory and saw more than one production decision based on nepotism. Truth be told, sometimes it’s the easiest way to fill a play as you then know the strengths and weaknesses of the cast. I know that I got parts as I knew the directors well (not that well, but they knew I’d be perfect for the part) and I’d cast friends too knowing they’d be fun to have around during rehearsals. I should, while I’m here, thank a certain old school librarian friend of mine who gave me one of my first theatrical parts in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I played the chocolate factory Charlie). Considering she knew me through six years of school plus kindergarten I’m sure made her decision a lot easier in selecting me. After that role, and for the next nine years, there wasn’t many plays I wasn’t involved in, be in on stage or behind curtain. So, thank you Rosemary, I have a lot to you to be thankful for.)

Where was I? Oh yes.

The guy playing the Rum Tum Tugger was clearly having a good time. The three of us also had bets that he was probably the only straight actor in the whole show – BC’s gaydar was no registering. It was going DING DING DING something chronic for Mr Mistoffelees (I think the ballet training didn’t help) while mine was ringing away for Skimbleshanks, the railway cat, another favourite role of mine. Skimbleshanks had a lovely jawbone and lots of nice facial expression being trained in the school of overacting, though when singing was unable to project over the orchestra; it didn’t help that he kept running out of breath halfway through his phrasing too. I didn’t mind as I was singing the song softly to myself anyway. Jennyanydots, the old Gumbie cat, was quite gorgeous, though she was wearing this dress that was so covered in frills that whenever she moved she looked like a overzealous flapper. All the wiggling was annoying me by the end, especially when she’d do it in the middle of someone else’s song – naughty upstaging! The ladies who did most of the singing – as they mostly narrate the songs I’m not sure of their names – were all great. As BC said about the show, “I could understand every word” and I have to agree. A couple of times I realised that all these years, listening only to the original Australia cast recording, I’d been singing the wrong words!

Special mention – in fact a whole paragraph to himself – has to go to the bloke in the Munkustrap role. The black and silver tom Munkustrap is the storyteller and protector of the Jellicle tribe, and second in command after Old Deuteronomy (I stole that description from Wikipedia). Munkustrap is pretty much the most important cat on the stage and should be played like a solid wall, standing broadly, shoulders squared, with his arms ready to defend. This is a cat always on guard, always ready to protect. The ultimate Alpha Cat, that’s how it should be played. Well, not in this production. This geezer instead spent the whole play with one arm outstretched to the audience singing to an invisible scull, with a facial expression that could have been fervency or could have been trying to remember what was on the shopping list. I think he secretly wished that he was having a go at “Memory”. If that cat was the protector I’d be stocking up on insurance. As second in command he was definitely a Number Two. Alpha Cat? More like Alfalfa Cat!

(I have to that Brad for that last line. I mentioned to him that I had spent the day trying to wrack out a good joke at the actor’s expense and the best I had come up with was “Instead of Munkustrap being the 2-I-C, he was more the Pooh-I-See.” While it (sort of) works as a spoken gag it looks terrible on paper. Actually, it’s pretty bad any way you look at it.)

So, basically, the guy playing Munkustrap was crap.

But, and here’s the but…

This is amateur theatre. Those performers are probably shop assistants or teachers or bank clerks during the day and have given up three, four nights a week for the last few months to be in this show – for free! They do it because they love being on a stage and being someone else for a couple of hours, and that to me sounds like a great thing as it’s something that, at times, I terribly miss. It’s all very well for me to sit there with my choc top and scoff about how much better I would have been in that part, but it’s not me up on that stage. So, I think you have to commend all amateur theatre players because their dedication is something to be admired.

It doesn’t help if they’ve done a bad job, though.

This, luckily, was a good show and BC and I really enjoyed ourselves. “Kinda like a popcorn musical. Fun and entertaining. And sooooo camp” is how BC put it. Melanie I think had a fun time but she can be disparaging of a performance which pisses me off no end, especially if I’ve forked out for the tickets (we won’t mention My Fair Lady). I think, watching her out the corner of my eye, she enjoyed the show a lot more at the beginning but it started to grate and by the end it was a bit of a chore. But – hey! – it’s a night out in good company and on that level what more could she ask from amateur theatre?

Actually, this was a lot more professional than some professional shows I’ve seen. BC has just reminded me that halfway through the “Macavity” number every microphone – the head mikes and the positional mikes – blew. The lasses singing this very dramatic song just kept going and proceeded to project their voices in compensate for the sudden loss of volume. Their ability to come through such a disturbing “live” moment deserved the extra boost of applause. Unfortunately the mikes were gone for the rest of the show (which luckily is near its end anyway) but everyone did a great job in coping.

So that’s that then. I would encourage you to all go see the production but it finished two weeks ago. Oh well.

Less Sleaze – Week 2

Saturday 19 September 2009

I’ve worked it out, I’ve worked it out, I finally know why I haven’t lost – frankly – any weight over these last nine weeks. I’ve been walking home three to four times a week and mostly being careful with how much I eat and drink (mostly), but have so far only been able to drop a whole ONE BLOODY KILO! But now I know why and it makes so much sense I’m amazed I didn’t realise it earlier. The reason why I’m not loosing the pounds is because I’m dating a feeder!

It happened like this: Last Sunday Beautiful Creature (who shall for now on be only known as “BC”) and I were sitting in the Westfield Parramatta food court, enjoying our Muffin Break coffees – you can’t say that the two of us don’t know how to party! We’re sipping flat whites and nibbling on egg and bacon pie (me) and double extra rich chocolate brownie (he). My E&B pie was lovely and savoury, just the thing for a quick and easy breakfast, and BC’s brownie was lavishly rich with gooey chocolate icing perfectly decorated with a single walnut. BC’s offer for a taste was greatly accepted but it was the yummy pie that was doing it for my taste buds that morning. It wasn’t long before I had cleaned my plate complete of pie and flaky crumbs. BC was only halfway through his choccy treat.

He put down his fork. “Sweetie, why don’t you finish this?”

‘Thanks hon,” I said. “I’m pretty good.”

“No,” BC replied, pushing his plate towards me, “You should finish this.”

I shook my head and smiled. “That’s ok, I’m pretty full, but thank you.” I took another gulp of my coffee, which actually wasn’t that bad considering it was made by a scrunchie-wearing 12 year old.

BC put down his cup with a slight thud. He turned his shoulders slightly towards me. “No, Clyde,” he said, “I want you to finish this.” He picked up his fork and placed it in my hand. And so, more out of politeness than desire, I took a little slice of the brownie and ate it, making lots of “mmmm” noises. I put the fork back down.

“Ooo, I’m full now. That was delicious!” I said sitting back in my chair and patting my tummy.

‘But you haven’t finished it,” said BC, and he pushed the plate over further.

Well, by now I feared for my own safety. I tried to make eye contact with the Muffin Break assistant who was cleaning away cups at a nearby table, but she was too concerned with soaking up a small pool of spilt coffee to notice. Another customer smiled politely back before moving herself, her shopping trolley, her baby pusher, and her five other children to a further away table. I realised I was alone.

BC stared, grinning at me. I could see flints of madness in the corners of his eyes. I smiled back but I knew that I had lost the war. I picked up the tainted fork and heaped the remainder of the over-sweet sweet – walnut and all – into my mouth. I chewed slowly, the chocolatey icing oozing down my throat, then swallowed. Traces of the cake coated my mouth and my tongue licked madly searching to eliminate any stubborn crumbs. I washed the remaining traces of the brownie down with the rest of my coffee.

BC smiled. He lightly squeezed my thigh before moving his hand higher and patting me on the tummy. He leant closer towards me. “I like it when you eat,” he said, and gave my belly a little rub.

Then he walked me down to the train station and I went home.


Scales. Let’s see: 85.2.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Sleaze
87.3 86.3 85.2 85.8 86.0 85.0 86.0 86.5 85.2
-1.0 -1.1 +0.6 +0.2 -1.0 +1.0 +0.5 -1.3
-1.0 -2.1 -1.5 -1.3 -2.3 -1.3 -0.8 -2.1

(You may get the impression that I’m pretty much over this and just going through the motions. To that all I can say is: shame on you for being so astute!)

The Greatest Actor That Ever Lived

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Patrick Swayze died this week. He’d been sick for a some time but it looked like he was going to get better, even though the odds were well stacked against him. Even so he was gonna do everything he could to fight and keep going, and he did. When questioned about why he took on the series The Beast (which is pretty good as cops shows go) he said:

How do you nurture a positive attitude when all the statistics say you’re a dead man? You go to work.

You’ve gotta admire an attitude like that.

I found out, like most people I suppose, about Patrick’s death on Tuesday morning while reading the online papers. It caught me completely guard. I suddenly felt hollow as if my insides removed. I was miserable all day, and today I would every now and then become all sad. I been a surprise to realise that Patrick met that much to me.

He is, of course, the star of one of my favourite ever movies. Dirty Dancing – I love that film. I am guaranteed, every time, to weep for joy when he says that immortal line: “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” Ah – my heart swoons just typing it! Usually, by this late stage in the film, I am leaping for joy, hugging my pillow, and feeling such happiness for Johnny Castle – he stood up for what he believed in! Usually, I pour myself another glass and sit back, with the biggest smile, and overwhelm myself with Johnny and Baby’s wonderful dance, a routine that is has been described as “the most goose bump-inducing dance scene in movie history”. When she leaps into his arms and he lifts her into the air I can’t see the screen for the tears.

I’ve seen most of his movies; I own a few. Ghost is another great tissue box film, a joyous lovey-dove murder movie (when Molly at the end replies “Ditto” – guaranteed water works). There’s such a fine line in making films like that – too smaltzy and it turns off the fellers, not enough and it backs away the dames. But who could not love this:

Ghost could just about be the perfect date movie. I mean, it’s got Patrick Swayze in it – how can a bloke not like it! He’s tough, he’s a fighter. He was in Road House for goodness sake!

Ah, Road House.

Now is this a guilty delight! Nominated in the 1989 Razzie Awards for Worst Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Director, and Screenplay, loosing to Star Trek V and William Shatner (both as director and actor) in 3 of the 5 categories, Road House was once named the Cheesiest Movie of All Time. What can you think of a film that begins with a man stitching his own arm injury up (a scene blatently stolen from Rambo’s First Blood) and ends with the baddy being shot down by a barrage of his former employees, throwing him backwards and shattering a glass coffee table? This cinematic pleasure is a pure colour-by-numbers movie where the bad guys are soooooo obviously the bad guys, the good guys are honest hard-working guys just trying to make it in this life, and the women are honest hard-working women just trying to make it in this life without having to resort to prostitution. it is loud, violent and pointless – how can you not LOVE a movie like that!?

Sometimes, on a weekend night, I take the phone off the hook, turn off all the lights, order a family sized pizza, crack open a six pack, pull the doona over my head, and settle in for a night of Patrick Swayze playing heart-of-gold Dalton – the character doesn’t even have a first name, how fucking cool is that!

I could go on and discuss why every Patrick film is a great film. To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar is, believe it, a pretty good film and more a victim of bad timing coming out a year after The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I remember once reading that Wong Foo was actually made and was in the can before Priscilla but was delayed for whatever reason. Be that as it may, Patrick Swayze is fun as a drag queen and has two of the best pins ever to grace celluloid. In Donnie Darko (though a film I dislike immensely) he is pure self-righteous ooze – the clothes in the “Cunning Visions” informercial were his left overs from his 80’s days, the house was his too. Going way back to the beginning of his film career he was beautiful in The Outsiders, not that I remember too much. While it was a constantly-watched film in my tepid school years, all I recall is Patrick holding C Thomas Howell in a head lock… Patrick had great guns. I think that’s when I fell in love with him.

“Yes, thank you Clyde,” I hear you say, “All very good, but to call Patrick Swayze the Greatest Actor That Ever Lived? Seriously?

The thing that I love so much about Patrick is, well, he really wasn’t that good an actor, but I want you to think of it this way: Consider those that are considered the great actors, Laurence Olivier, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Maggie Smith, Meryl Streep, the list goes on. All of these actors are great, I mean, really great actors. What they have created in their times are characters you can truthfully believe in and journey with. They have continued to create some of the most powerful performances in cinema history. BUT, and here’s the but, now consider when these actors – how you say? – don’t perform so well.

Brando waddling about in The Island of Dr. Moreau. Pacino chewing the scenery in Dick Tracy. De Niro hamming it up so much that vegetarians feel naucious in, well, everything he has done for the last 10 years. Maggie and Laurence both have/had the tendancy to scene steal (perhaps a hangover from the stage days?). Meryl, on the other hand, while absolutely perfect, does do some strange things with her mouth.

My point is, and I do have one, is that all of these actors, as great as they are, have done bad work, and that, in my opinion, lessons they wattage, bringing them down the grimy levels of everyone else. Patrick, on the other hand, a man with a limited range (having the gamut of emotions from Earnest Put Upon Outsider, to Earnest System Fighting Outsider) made his crappy lines and truck-sized hole filled storylines work. He got in there and gave it a red hot go and made it happen, and, every now and then, he shone above them all. His performance – his last performance – in the TV show The Beast is phenomenal.

He could dance, he could sing. He did Broadway (both Grease and Chicago), he did the West End (Guys and Dolls). He knew when to fight for a part (, and he knew when to decline (he turned down $6M for a Dirty Dancing 2). Patrick knew what he had and pushed it to create classic characters that are powerful and iconic.

And that’s why he was the greatest actor that ever lived.

Patrick Swayze was great. That’s the only way to describe him: great. So, thank you Patrick, I’ve had the time of my life.

I think others would agree. If you’re not one of the 6 and a half million people who have already seen this, enjoy, then go here and see the feel-good moment of 2008. This is the magic of Patrick.