5 New ABC After School Specials

The time has come to bring back the ABC After School Special.
A check on IMDB tells me that the last original one aired in 1996.
This cannot be.
For the past 15 years, kids have been left to navigate through this dangerous world alone; without the help of Scott Baio or Rob Lowe or Melissa Gilbert. And kids today have a whole new set of problems. They need the ABC After School Specials now more than ever. Being a civic minded individual, I came up with 5 brand-new After School Special ideas, all of which feature today’s unique problems. All ABC has to do is plug in some young actors (any Duff or Fanning will do) and voila! Another generation is saved from the perils of poor judgement. So ABC network execs, have at it:

1. “Grandpa’s Got A Boner”
Cheap Canadian Viagra creates strange changes in Luke’s neighborhood.

2. “Lopsided”
A trip to Mexico for unregulated plastic surgery has unwanted consequences for 16-year-old Kaitlyn.

3. “She Fried And We Cried”
Angela’s tanning bed addiction wreaks havoc on the Delvecchio family.

4. “Horse and Buggy”
Amish teen is hooked on heroin.

5. “Wary of Dairy”
A lactose intolerant boy is ridiculed by his Wisconsin classmates.


Unsung NYC Landmark: The Studio 54 Fire Hydrant

Sure we all know about The Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, The Brooklyn Bridge.

But the above photo is a New York landmark worthy of respect.
This is the very fire hydrant outside of Studio 54 that the capricious doorman stood on as he decided who was going to be allowed into its mythic environs. This famous nightclub’s infuriating and often cruel door policy inspired Le Chic’s disco anthem, “Freak Out” which was originally “Fuck You” after they’d been denied access.

Studio 54’s doorman stood on this fire hydrant and either humiliated or exalted hopeful groovers. As Disco Historians know (now there’s a History Club I’d love to see. Instead of tweed jackets, horn rimmed glasses and glasses of brandy, they’d have white polyester suits, copious amounts of chest hair, Paco Rabanne cologne, and vials of cocaine) this lowly fire hydrant helped usher in the “velvet rope” era of club culture.
Thus, it plays an important part in New York History.

Here’s to you, Studio 54 Fire Hydrant.

Not sure how many fires you helped put out, but you did fan the flames of the Disco Inferno. While this building is still called Studio 54, it is no longer what it once was. It currently hosts Roundabout Theatre productions, and any fat assed tourist can waddle past that fire hydrant to see the tired musicals within. But there was a time when only the beautiful or bizarre could enter this dreamworld:

Wishful Thinking

I snapped this photo in my neighborhood the other day.The instructions say “MAKE A WISH”. Who could resist such an offer? I made my wish. I recommend you do the same. After all, a wish made on a tiki torch nestled in the middle of a scraggly flower bed in front of an Irish pub in NYC just has to come true…

Postcard from David Sedaris

I host and produce a variety show called Mama D’s Arts Bordello in New York’s Lower East Side. I’m always looking for new acts: singers, comics, burlesque stars, magicians, hula dancers and writers. One of my literary icons, Jackie Collins, Skyped into our “Slaughtering Sacred Cows” show. We had so much fun I thought I’d contact another one of my literary icons, David Sedaris, to see if he’d be in our “Shipwreck!” show. He declined, but he did it in such a cool and gracious way that I thought I’d share it with you. If you’re a fan of David Sedaris, I’m sure you’ll appreciate this postcard he sent me direct from Paris. And if you’re not already a fan, prepare to become one:

(Click to enlarge)

Closeted Gay Characters

Today we're flinging open the closet and dragging a few fictional characters out of it's depths. For far too long these cartoons, TV characters, advertising mascots and literary heroes have remained in the closet; squished up against the holiday ornaments and unused sweaters from grandma, smelling of mothballs.
No more! Let's let some air in, shall we? I've compiled a list:

1. Mr. Clean (The earring, the commitment to cleanliness, the tight muscle T-shirt and hot gym rat body…his closet door is glass.)

2. Mr. Peanut.

3. Jon from Garfield. (Sure, he's always going out on dates. But how old is he now? 45? 50? And he's still alone, making lasagne for his cat.)

4. Velma from Scooby Doo.

5. Ponyboy from The Outsiders. (A sensitive, artistic soul who was never too keen on participating in a rumble.)

6. The Professor from Gilligan's Island.

7. Kitt the car from Knight Rider. (Kitt was clearly in love with David Hasselhoff.)

8. Alice from The Brady Bunch. (Sam the butcher was just a beard.)

9. Schroeder from Peanuts. (Repeatedly scorns Lucy's advances and has great hair. Not much to go on, but to quote Velma-I've got a hunch.)

10. The Fonz. (Sure, he hung around with packs of beautiful women. But how straight can any man be who makes the men's bathroom his "office"?)

The Power of Image

Ronald Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis just published a new piece in Time Magazine about the power of image and staging. I agree that politics are punctuated by theatrics, and it’s important to get the sets and costumes right. I feel vindicated by Ms. Davis. Back in the mid-90’s, fellow poli-sci classmates at University of New Orleans laughed at me for declaring that Jimmy Carter’s image was decimated by that tragic cardigan he wore while discussing America’s energy problems. They thought I was an idiot. But fuck ’em. I still think if he’d delivered a similar speech in a jauntier ensemble, perhaps he (and I) might not be such subjects of derision.

So today I sat down and thought about what my style inspirations are, just in case I ever have to give an important speech…

Gil Elvgren Pinups
They’re always willing to try new things (sliding down a fireman’s pole, hammering a nail, fixing a car, roasting marshmallows.) Sometimes they’re not particularly skilled at these activities. Yet they handle it all with such good natured aplomb. They look out at you as if to say, “Yeah, I fucked up. But I looked damn good doing it.”

Agatha Christie’s Detective Hercule Poirot
Because he isn’t afraid to embrace his own style, no matter what anyone else says. People routinely make fun of him for being a “funny little foreigner”. But he doesn’t let it faze him. He holds his egg-shaped head up high; avoiding mud puddles in his patent leather shoes and twirling his magnificent waxed mustache.

Andre 3000
The way this man takes classic clothes, mixes them up and makes them uniquely his own is incredible. And he never lets his clothes wear him. That’s the true hallmark of style.

Elizabeth Taylor in “Boom!”
One of my favorite style icons. The obvious go to for this list would be her starring role in “Cleopatra”. But I like her better here, the eccentric rich bitch who lives alone on an island and wanders around her mansion wearing ridiculous headpieces like this one. I also like this somewhat debauched era of Elizabeth Taylor’s life. This was the bitter end of the 60s, when Hollywood was shifting away from the dream factory to making more realistic films. It was the dawn of the “everyday looking” actor. As glamorous movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor weren’t in demand, she found a savvy way to handle the shift in popular taste. She made a string of incredibly weird, outside of the mainstream movies in gorgeous locales. Just one of the hundreds of reasons to love Elizabeth Taylor.

Oscar Wilde
He’s probably my #1 style inspiration: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

Tamara Dobson in “Cleopatra Jones”
The fact that she was one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the silver screen is only part of it. I love that she kicks serious ass in this movie, all while wearing fabulous jumpsuits, fur jackets, stacked heel boots and huge hats. People don’t get much cooler than Cleopatra Jones.

1920s Erotica
The models are so cheeky. You get the sense that everyone on the set is having a laugh together. That’s much sexier than the dead-eyed porn of today. Humor and confidence are very sexy to me.

Auntie Mame
Auntie Mame bounces back from life’s set backs and puts bigots in their place with grace and wit. She epitomizes joie de vivre…Plus she wears plenty of feather trimmed gowns and knows how to glide down a spiral staircase with pizazz.

Truman Capote’s Infamous Book Jacket Photo
It’s hard to imagine now, but in 1948 this author photo for “Other Voices, Other Rooms” was scandalous. In a time when men weren’t openly gay, Truman Capote reclines on that sofa, making damn sure you know there’s no fucking way he’s staying in the closet. The way he boldly stares into the camera is as naked as anything in the pages of Playboy magazine. It’s naked ambition, need for attention and confidence in his talent. No author before had used a photo quite like it.

Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia
The power and elegance he radiates in this film never cease to amaze me. Plus, I love people who can travel to other countries and wear the native clothes casually; without that annoying, “Look at me! I’m so multicultural!” attitude.

Dia De Los Muertos Art
Mocking death is the best way to live life.

And finally…Sharon Stone in “The Quick and the Dead”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this scene when she first strides into the saloon. Bottom line: if you ever see me delivering an important speech, you’d better believe I’m channeling this:

Live Arts Hotel of NYC: From A to Z

When Alfredo Elias moved to New York from Miami, he needed a place to stay near The French Culinary Institute, where he planned to study pastry making. But he never pictured himself standing by a lamppost on Broome Street at 2a.m., waiting for Alphabet Artist Arleen Schloss (known in her community as “A”) to escort him to her “Live Arts Hotel”.

A flight of wooden stairs led to her doorway, framed by a series of red letter A’s. The surrounding wall was plastered with multi-Colored flyers touting artistic and political events dating back to the early 1980’s. Once inside, he found that the 2,400 square foot loft was Divided into living quarters not by walls, but by Japanese screens and an in the case of his space, an overturned piano. “I don’t mind,” he told her, “I play a little piano.”

Outside the loft was the sculpture garden; a massive terrace filled with works of art, including a rainbow water sculpture by Ray Kelly and a mosaic horse purchased off the street for a dollar. Pitched amongst the sculptures he saw a couple of tents where two tenants camp out full time: one a Swiss photographer, and the other a struggling poet. Most Everyone at the loft was from another country, and most everyone was pursuing an artistic dream. Other tenants included musicians, performance artists, writers and actors.

So it came as little surprise to discover that the proprietor, Arleen Schloss, has been entrenched in the underground New York art scene for thirty years. Although she was born in Brooklyn, she is a self-described “Mother of the Lower East Side”. Over the years, her Broome Street loft has served as a performance space for Warhol-protégé Jean-Michel Basquiat, actors Eric Bogosian and Steve Buscemi, performance artists Karen Finley and Penny Arcade and singer-songwriter Phoebe Legere. Sonic Youth lead singer Thurston Moore first performed at the loft as part of The Coachmen. Moore later met Sonic Youth’s original drummer Richard Edson at A’s as well.

Art has been incorporated into every aspect of this loft, and even something as mundane as the refrigerator has been turned into a political/artistic canvas, every inch covered with various flyers, photos and slogans. The humble bathroom has been transformed into a colorful Gallery including an eye-popping piece by mail-artist pioneer Ray Johnson.

The thirty years of interdisciplinary experimentation at A’s loft, which she refers to as “loft communication” are the result of her own eclectic artistic sensibilities. Both embracing cutting edge technology and recognizing the right collaborators have shaped her outlook. She often refers to artistic endeavor as “Chance Operations”. It can be described as collaborating with artists from various disciplines, and acknowledging the random situations and tools that inspire art. Consequently, “Chance Operations” can be seen throughout the trajectory of her career.

In the late 1970s, a new color Xerox printer at the Jamie Canvas art supplies store in SoHo made it a meeting point for artists. They were all either Incorporating this new technology into their art, or using it to create flyers to promote their art. Arleen used the Xerox to make copies of copies of the alphabet, experimenting with “the Art of Degeneration”.

The communal use of this Xerox machine also forged communication and collaboration for a new generation of artists. On October 24, 1979, Arleen opened her doors to some of these emerging artists she’d met at Jamie Canvas, and Basquiat kicked off the first night of performances at the loft.

In the early 1980s, Arleen and other artists such as R.L. Seltman developed a performance series called “A-Z at the Storefront of Art and Architecture”. In 1982, this developed into Storefront for Art and Architecture, a non-profit organization housed in a contemporary landmark building on Kenmare Street.

In 1983, Arleen and collaborators including Ray Kelly and E.F. Higgins III created 99 consecutive nights of performances at a spot called No Se No on Rivington. Soon after, a group of sculptors and welders took over an abandoned lot next door and used the space to create art out of random scraps of metal scrounged from all over the Lower East Side. Through this collective experience, they founded The Rivington School of Art. “We were all getting together and helping each other,” she says.

New laser technology in the mid-1980s inspired her to combine linguistics and light shows as she recited poetry with lasers in her mouth. In the 1990s, digital technology spurred her interest in interactive electronic arts. By the early 2000s, the Internet was intrinsic to her art forms, and she displays much of her work in a virtual Museum at http://www.nyundergroundmuseum.org

Through the shifts in technology and artistic styles, the one constant has been her loft on Broome Street. It has been a hub, a kinetic center for creativity on the Lower East Side. It’s been a laboratory of sorts, for artists to experiment with technology, mixed media and New music, exchanging ideas and techniques. The loft embodies Arleen’s favorite slogan: “Art is Action, Object is Artifact.”

But while several other artists in her collective used to have lofts in the area that they opened up as Performance spaces, she is now the only one left. When asked the inevitable Question about gentrification, high Rents and out-priced tenants in Manhattan, she is honest:
“All my friends who had lofts here had to leave…and everyone said to me ‘Sell! Sell!’ But where do I go? I love being in the center of the city, opening my doors and communicating with people from all over the world.”

While she misses her fellow artists and collaborators, she realizes the city has changed, and adaptation is the only solution. “We all work on survival,” she says.

She is right, of course. When her generation of artists started out, Technology and geography facilitated their Underground arts scene. And sitting in her sculpture garden, drinking some wine, saying hello to artists living in tents, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic for an era when rents were cheaper, time wasn’t so strictly calculated in dollar Value, and Manhattan had more room for Weird creativity.

But then again, since Arleen Schloss’ originality was born of something as uniform as the Xerox machine, maybe Young artists shouldn’t fear the uniform. Starbucks coffee shops springing up on Lower East Side corners now. The new generation will find another meeting spot, another way to make a connection. Another “chance operation.”

Alfredo Elias no longer lives at A’s loft. But he does stop by on a regular basis. His time at her “Live Arts Hotel” spurred him to create sculptures out of some of the pastry he makes at The French Culinary Institute. And of course some of it he shares with Arleen to eat. Either way, Arleen Schloss savors it with the same Zeal she has for all the artistic expression discovered at her loft.