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Ghosts – Winter Romance

Published December 24, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

It is a time of despair and worry. The man at the socially distanced break room table is energetically talking with a female supervisor. Until recently he was an international sales director for a 5 Star Hotel, a position he frankly admits will never exist again. After decades of rising through the ranks, he now wipes down self-serve checkout counters and is grateful to her for the extra hours that she has allowed him to stay tonight. His dogs will miss him he jokes, but the security of another shift or two assures them of receiving the name brand kibble and chewy treats that they so expectantly crave. In the face of such inoperable, life altering changes, he is surprising resolute, upbeat…and I try to take my cues from him in the days that follow.

For despite it all, people are still celebrating. Our first pandemic dictated Christmas is coming soon and the lights and twinkly stars are disappearing from the shelves in the store’s seasonal boutique. I restock those aisles often, growing less and less surprised at everyone’s insistence on clinging to the predictable joys. I, too, start to take a distant comfort in the comical Santa’s and cheery cartoon elves that are popping up in window displays of the storefronts that I pass on my daily neighborhood jog. All those bright and glorious neon shades of red and green are comforting – but I can still feel something else lurking. Flickering shadows. Hazy specters. Seasonal ghosts.

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I am 19 and I am waiting for my boyfriend at his place. He gave me the keys to his apartment earlier and I bustled through the February frost to his one bedroom loft. Now, I am feeling suspiciously adult, like a big city mistress of some high-ranking business exec – although, I do legitimately belong here. I am not a secret. Everyone at work knows about us. They are aware that I am happily anticipating his presence as he finishes up his bartending shift. Anxious for our romantic evening to begin, I pore through his box of VHS tapes, trying to find something to distract myself. It is all porn videos. Well, porn videos and a bootleg copy of The Color Purple. But we have just recently watched that sterling Spielberg-ian example of Oscar bait…and I know better than to throw in a sex tape. I did that last week, and while I tried to resist jerking off to Jeff Stryker pounding some smooth curly haired model-type in an alley, I eventually couldn’t help myself. Thus, making for a less than receptive offering when AJ finally arrived home. I don’t want that to happen again. So, I turn on the television and settle on Saturday Night Live, already in progress. Just after the cast bow, he arrives. I greet him, happily. He receives my kisses mutely, situates himself on the couch, telling me that we have to talk. Valentine’s Day is a week and a half away and I am sure that he wants to make plans. This is the first year in what seems like an incredibly long life that I will have someone to celebrate with and I am thrilled. But instead, after a deep sigh, a Dear John monologue softly peters out of his lips.  Murmuring something about needing space and the strange curves of life and time, he breaks up with me. I am shocked, unexpectedly thrust from one extreme, anticipation…happiness. to a totally different one, shock…despair.

Of course, as I write this now, it dawns on me that this was an incredibly heartless way to break up with someone. There had been no clues, no warning shots fired before this moment. Everything had been kept close to the wrist. Therefore, he certainly could have told me in some other space…at some other time. Set a kinder rhythm, bought me coffee and a gourmet cookie as consolation prizes, taken me to some park, dark with leafless trees. The mood should fit the occasion, I believe. Obliterating a weekend dream state seems particularly cruel to me, especially in my secluded COVID state of mind now. Still, I find myself feeling a wispy sorrow for him, somehow, these days. In fact, it almost feels like maybe it is his sad face that wavers down alleys and across those amber corners as I wait for the light to change, walking to work.

I, honestly, don’t blame him for breaking up with me. I was silly, a devastatingly insecure child whose only concept for relationships was my parents frustrated, frequently violent union and soap opera romances. Once during our short time together, I “seductively” ignored him when I saw him unexpectedly at a bar. Our eyes met and I sharply turned away, dancing quickly into the arms of the female friend I was club hopping with. Purposefully calling him the next day, I innocently and insistently claimed that I hadn’t seen him the night before, a classic missed connection turned amusingly wrong. Another time, I pretended the managers at work were horribly upset about our dating, throwing him off balance for a moment until I confessed my senseless, idiotic ruse. Like my favorite daytime divas, I thought I always had to keep him slightly out of tune. To maintain his interest, I had to create drama…intrigue…social unrest.

Of course, I didn’t need to manufacture such moments. Tension was beating there, sharply, all along. There was an ex…another young, blue eyed blonde. We could have been brothers I ascertained, the one time that I saw him picking up his remaining belongings from AJ’s closet. It was unnerving. Months later, I would catch AJ in the restaurant’s staff bathroom, crying…not over me, but him. The other one. The original angel. The truly loved. My twin.

But there was one day. One gloriously perfect day. Its ectoplasmic embers float around me as I move throughout this month. January 1st, 1988. My roommates were still away on their holiday adventures. AJ and I lay in bed, recovering from a joyous night of public reveling, ignoring any burgeoning breakfast hunger pains. Instead, we pawed through my vinyl collection, taking turns deciding what to play. We talked and cuddled…slept…eventually heading down to the neighborhood greasy spoon. Returning with burgers that tasted inordinately of grease and that venue’s overused grill, we watched The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful on someone’s tiny TV. Later, we trekked across town to catch The Running Man at one of the city’s notoriously chilly, ill kept second run theaters. We held hands as Richard Dawson taunted Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Conchita Alonso bravely plotted an escape.  We brought in that new year with fries and sex and Stephen King and it felt like a miracle, like the life I had dreamed about for so long was finally beginning. It was the first ideal afternoon I had ever experienced and it seemed to finally confirm my worth to the world. My importance to the universe seemed completely sure. In that moment. I would have never recognized myself as that soon-to-be tremulous lover who needed emotional games to feel in control. And for a moment, perhaps he too, thought his sorrow was over. My doppelganger banished from his mind in that still glittery seasonal glow as the world reset itself…bringing not only a new year, but a new sense of hope…a heart completely reborn.

So, maybe it is not only just his silvery outline that whispers to me slightly out of frame, as of late – but my own, as well. For that momentarily confident version of me belongs to this year, somehow, just as much as that unburdened version of him – though I have not regarded this past self seriously for decades. This year of hopes dashed so unreservedly, a year where light’s dearth has blinded us all, if only for smaller pockets of time, most assuredly would be the one to bring his essence back, unchecked – that past, very wishful, soon to be obliterated self. He worries me again beneath the piped-in carols…besieges me bittersweetly upon restlessly waking.

But perhaps he also teaches me that all this current sorrow, much like that old, old hurt, is survivable. He fills me with understanding, and most beautifully I think, compassion. Compassion for the person that I once was and, perhaps most importantly now, for the person that I am soon about to become.

Halloween Chills: Nicholas Pryor Remembering Damien

Published October 31, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

For those growing up in the era of pre-technological ease, the most exciting thing in the world was being able to catch a horror flick on the Movie of the Week – say something like Damien: Omen II. While The Omen (at least the original) is regarded as a classic by many, Damien: Omen II was a fast paced gore fest (that even the often unreliable IMDB reviewers proclaim as “An excellent sequel to The Omen!”) that titillated many a thrill deprived youngster. Those at an impressionable age upon viewing will never forget the sight of Elizabeth Shepard being pecked to death by a pack of venomous crows, Meshach Taylor, a long way from Designing Women, enact a blood strewn death by plummeting elevator or the slow path of a one teen’s drowning beneath a pool of hard ice (perhaps one of the most hauntingly tense deaths captured on film). Neither will they forget the cold, stomach crunching demise of Dr. Charles Warren, director of the Thorn Museum, portrayed by celebrated actor Nicholas Pryor. The friendly and responsive Pryor, whose other genre-type credits include Brain Dead with Bill Paxton, the thriller Pacific Heights and comedy spoof Airplane!, upon hearing of my love for Damien, years ago, generously gave me a detailed account of his filming experience. Pryor’s kind, nostalgic gift to me is now mine to present to all film trivia buffs seeking an extra Halloween chill or two! Enjoy.

“Filming in Chicago – we did a good deal of Damien there! I think I will never forget the sequence in the train yards when Bill Holden and I were poking around in the boxcars before one of them grabbed me and squished me. When we shot, it was early in December of a usual Chicago winter – which put the temperatures in the train yards at about -20. I was running around in a light polo shirt and jacket because I wanted to be able to shake with fear, but I didn’t want to think about it or do it, and I figured if I was cold enough it would take care of itself. Well. It worked, but the catch was we were there for three days. The first day it was kind of cloudy and overcast, but that night it snowed. The next day was snow on the ground and bright blue sky, so what we shot the first day couldn’t match and we did the first day’s work over. Then finally finished the next day, our third, and by that time I had become aware of a little woman from the wardrobe department who was wrapped in so many layers of clothing she literally had no face, just kind of a slit in all her head scarves. She kept wondering up to me and peering at me, and finally I asked her what she was doing, and she said, “Just looking to see if you have frostbite yet.”

As a postscript to the file “Its Not All Tinsel and Make Believe”, while we were shooting my getting squished, I noticed the sound guys listening to their tapes and shaking their heads. I asked what was happening and they said the snow on the ground was soaking up all the noise of my screaming and I would probably have to loop it later. I did.

Four months later, I spent all afternoon in the basement of a recording facility at 20th Century Fox screaming my lungs out for a director who kept saying, “Let’s do another and see if you can make this one more helpless!”

(In his correspondence with me, Pryor signed one shot with his Port Charles’ character name as he thought the photo was more representative of the role than himself. Pretty remarkable difference, right?)

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Scott Free

Published September 6, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

On the rare moments when one is able twist a thought or two away from the many social disasters that are plaguing us, it’s easy to remember that the world is actually populated with a ton of cool people. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you got to associate with one or two of them. LGBTQIA musician and activist Scott Free has been a longstanding voice for queer artists in Chicago, hosting a decades long performance showcase called Homolatte and being a very loud reminder to queer festival organizers that actually booking gay acts is a necessity for their events to be a true source of pride and awareness.

A few years ago, we spent a lot of time together working on a show called Zombie Bathhouse: A Rock Musical. To this day, friends still tell me how his lyrics for that project totally nailed aspects of their own lives, a true testament to his empathy and talent. His latest work, The Last Revolution, is a social call to arms that has deservedly gotten tons of praise and attention and, as with the majority of his work, really raises an eye on the tremulous circumstances that we are now facing as a nation.

Obviously, it almost goes without saying, that It’s truly been my honor to know Scott as a collaborator and friend and it’s truly my pleasure to welcome you to visit more of his fine output at http://www.scottfree.net/ and http://www.zombiebathhouse.net/.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan

Review: BETTE Xmas at the Continental Baths

Published December 15, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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Bette Midler is many things. Her repertoire of songs alone includes rock and roll, MOR pop ballads, girl group classics and new wave energizers. Her role as the hysterically vengeful Winifred in Hocus Pocus also imbues her with a strong horror pedigree, allowing generations of outsiders to delightfully engage in their inner wicked witches.

In BETTE Xmas at the Continental Baths, Chicago theater goddess Caitlin Jackson invokes many of those Midler personalities while also remaining uniquely herself. Based upon the Divine One’s ‘70s showcase at a NYC men’s club, this production is full of goofy energy and go-for-broke silliness, making it not only a seasonal delight, but one of the year’s best stage offerings as a whole, as well.

Jackson’s desire to make this a sort of performing arts fever dream is perfectly realized. For example, the corny jokes in Jackson and David Cerda’s fun script are often so obvious that they don’t land with the audience…at first. But the performer’s skilled reactions to the theater’s radio silence are truly hysterical, making the presentation as a whole an unmitigated delight from start to finish.

Of course, Jackson’s softly anguished takes on songs such as Superstar, River and I Shall Be Released are the evening’s master points. This go-for-broke yet subtle emotionality is her forte as a performer, making one pity those who will never experience this kind of brilliance in their lifetimes.

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Nicely, Jackson is ably assisted here by Terry McCarthy as Mr. Gerard, Midler’s game hairdresser, and Sydney Genco and Allison Petrillo as Laverne and Trixie, Midler’s backup singers. Genco and Petrillo get a chance to shine on their own during the show’s intermission/costume change. Their pert energy and spot on timing ultimately prove that they deserve a show of their own one of these days. Hmm…maybe next season!!!

But until then… give proper kudos to Jackson and co-director Marc Lewallen, by checking out this year’s festivities before closing night on December 31st.

https://www.facebook.com/events/570448403729627/

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan

Review: Who Killed Joan Crawford?

Published November 4, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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William Castle fiends take note. If Strait-Jacket era Joan Crawford is your thing then you better rush your cult film worshipping selves to the Athenaeum Theatre for the final performances of Glitterati Production’s beyond fun Who Killed Joan Crawford?

Taking place on Tony Awards night in 1993, this engaging and campy thriller revolves around the backstabbing antics of a group of longtime friends. Of course, the fact that all the players are dressed in various forms of Crawford drag does eventually limit their mobility as various weapons are brought out for purposes of bloody dispatching. There is also the small problem of their mysteriously missing host.

Directing Michael Leeds’ cattily inventive script with flair, director John Nasca highlights the material’s expected, much loved murder-mystery tropes with zeal. He and Lana Whittington, who designed the show’s more physical interactions, also skillfully help denote the fact that this ensemble of characters are not experienced drag performers, but grown men indulging a friend’s grand birthday wish.

Importantly, those various versions of Joan, focusing on everything from her early treks into stardom to her latter day romps in psycho biddy territory (note the Straight-Jacket reference above), are delivered with exquisite, recognizable skill by Nasca. He is grandly assisted by Robert Hilliard, who puts a definite, celluloid stamp on the wide variety of wigs used.

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Bringing this brisk 75 minute romp fully into the pleasure zone, though, is it’s very agreeable cast. Compromised of newer talent and seasoned veterans of Chicago’s professional theater scene, the ensemble joyfully gives their characters a sense of specificity as a whole. It’s truly a nice balance of personalities, with John Cardone and Patrick Rybarczyk, in particular, giving an arch urgency and playful verve to their calculating, frequently divisive interactions. Nicely, Michael Hampton, as the seemingly loving and emotionally convincing Stewart Fry, truly commands attention here, as well. His character is perhaps the most well rounded of the lot, and he makes the most of every occasionally contrary, frequently whimsical moment.

More information on the show, which runs in Chicago until November 10th, is available at https://www.facebook.com/events/2804610532934028/.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan

Review: Cabaret

Published October 24, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

Cabaret

Examining the impact of the Nazi party on Berlin in the 1930s, Cabaret is a much loved musical with elements that are distinctly horrific.  Nicely, in Cowardly Scarecrow Theatre Company’s current production, directors Marc Lewallen and Brad Younts highlight this fact by adding a decidedly Mary Shelley slant to If You Could  See Her, one of the show’s most amusing, ultimately gut crushing numbers.

In keeping with that spirit, this show genuinely smashes expectations across the board. The naive protagonist Cliff, usually rendered as a bland collegiate soul, is given life and personality by Scott Sawa’s engaging portrayal here. He even gives this frequently colorless figure a sense of soft humor, allowing the show’s devastating ending to reflect not only the murderous intent of Hitler and his minions, but the loss of personal innocence, as well. Meanwhile, Anthony Whitaker not only sings the role of Herr Schultz with ecstatic sweetness, but gives him a delightfully romantic heart, as well, providing an endearing ingredient that other revivals have overlooked.

Of course, all of this would mean nothing without the perfect Sally Bowles and Caitlin Jackson is damn near that. Giving the character the expected oomph and sass, she also provides her with a lived in aura that makes her distinctly believable. Merging her natural sexiness with a sorrowful sense of humanity, she gifts audiences by revealing a character who is truly a victim of her own reckless desires, providing another contrast to Schultz, The Emcee (a fine Kevin Webb), Bobby (a joyful Josh Kemper) and the other members of the Kit Kat Club who are all finally victims of a sadistic regime. Jackson’s take on the title number, as well, is not only in earthy contrast to the assorted ingénues who usually brightly perform it, but a great indicator of the complicated emotional underpinnings of Bowles, as well.

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The decision to stage this version in the upstairs bar at Chief O’Neill’s in Chicago is also a wise move, allowing audiences to revel in the atmosphere that is being skillfully created here. One can truly feel the punk energy in band member Aaron Smith’s rhythmic drumming and deliciously partake in the motivations behind every wicked arch in Sydney Genco’s seductive eyebrows as she happily manipulates as the determined, vengeful Kost.

Cabaret, which obviously comes highly recommended, runs through Friday October 25th at Chief O’Neill’s in Chicago. Tickets are available at https://cstccabaret.bpt.me/.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Japanese CARCRASH

Published September 1, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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In the late ‘80s there wasn’t a more significant way to spend a weekend night in Chicago than dancing at Medusa’s nightclub. Spiraling into the witching hour as techno and new wave tunes throbbed seemed as close to an alternative heaven as any wayward, creative youth could get. Interestingly enough, Japanese CARCRASH, a band based in Southeast Texas, makes music that radiates with the black lashed urban mythology of those times.

Rise of the MACRO-VIXEN, inspired by the beautiful and strong heroines of the Russ Meyer films, seems particularly fit for gothic thrashing in some long lost, three storied warehouse building.

More information on JCC’s retro fused style is available at https://www.facebook.com/Japanese-Carcrash-179246925425149/ and https://japanesecarcrash.bandcamp.com (where you can purchase 1978, the excellent release that contains MACRO-VIXEN.)

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Cowardly Scarecrow Announces Cabaret

Published August 27, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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The Chicago theater community has, as a friend likes to say, “Huge News!!!” Cowardly Scarecrow Productions has recently announced its fall production of Cabaret, beginning on October 5th, 2019. Renowned for their long running production of Musical of the Living Dead, this version of the Kander & Ebb classic is sure to be filled with this production house’s finely tuned sense of the gothic. No macabre essence of this piece is sure to go unexplored here.

This version is also armed with the undeniable talents of Caitlin Jackson (above), this site’s choice as the Midwest’s premium diva of the silver tongued boards! Jackson, who was recently nominated for a Jeff Award for her skillful performance of Cheryl in (last year’s hysterically fun, progressive version of) Evil Dead: The Musical, is sure to create a Sally Bowles for the memory books!

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Local enthusiasts can help CSP achieve their ultimate creative intentions by attending a benefit for them on August 31st: https://www.facebook.com/events/2426383007409353/.

Others, meanwhile, can hum charmingly off key versions of Tomorrow Belongs to Me while checking out the show’s growth at https://www.cowardlyscarecrow.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/CSTCINC/.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Windy City Horrorama

Published April 12, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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Chicago is home to many amazing film events. From the multiple festivals originating from the Terror in the Aisles crew to the Music Box Massacre, there are a wide variety of genre happenings for cinema enthusiasts to embrace. One of the newest and most exciting homegrown productions is The Windy City Horrorama, now entering its second year.

Last year’s activities included an anniversary screening of Jason Goes to Hell, with director Adam Marcus in attendance, along with a multitude of premiere screenings. The upcoming edition will also feature special guests including indie legend J.R. Bookwalter, appearing with a celebratory screening of Robot Ninja, and Rodman Fletcher, the director of the much beloved terror comedy Idle Hands.

But WCH is truly making its mark as being a special place for outrageous indie and foreign splatterfests. If titles like Straight Edge Kegger, The VelociPaster and Mutant Blast catch your gore seeking eyeballs, then you won’t want to miss this enthusiastic celebration, which begins a three day residency at the historic Davis Theater in Lincoln Square on Friday, April 26th.

More information is available at https://www.facebook.com/pg/windycityhorrorama/ and www.windycityhorrorama.com.

I hope to see you there and until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Dagger Cast

Published March 8, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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Stevie Nicks may have celebrated the Edge of Seventeen, but as I stand on the verge of 51, I have to laud Dagger Cast! Initiated by Jared Olsen, one half of edgy production company nite smoke, this podcast looks at horror from the sense of the other. By the celebrating the LGBTQ, Black, Latinx and female (etc. etc…) viewpoint of horror, this podcast aims to reach into the hidden depths of the horror community, gazing far past the straight white gaze that has dominated it for so many years. DC Logo

As my co-host, the dynamic Lindsey Charles (lead singer of The Cell Phones), has often asked of our guests, we want to find out what you, that special and unique force in society, needs from this genre – a genre that can so beautiful express the hopes and fears of outsiders everywhere. Of course, we aim to do this with a sense of fun and irreverent punk rock spirit, as well!

To determine if we’ve succeeded, you can check out our first few episodes at https://soundcloud.com/daggercast.

Meanwhile, more information is available at https://www.facebook.com/daggercast/, as well.

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Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan