Monday, June 10, 2013

Tallulah, The Original Gangsta

Originally posted in The Monthly Breeze

While doing some research on a project that I am involved with, I came across several articles dealing with the bisexual practices of an immense number of celebrities both past and present. And while there was a certain amount of adolescent blushing, giggling and awe at my initial knowledge that Marilyn Monroe and Joan Crawford actually did it once upon a time, there was also this feeling, reading story after story of lesbian and homosexual trysts in Hollywood, that maybe I and the rest of the modern world might have an unhealthy preoccupation with this whole idea of homosexuality and homosexual rights.

Not that I would suggest that the fight for LGBT equality is a moot one, but as I enveloped myself more into the world of Tallulah Bankhead, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Billie Holiday, I found myself curious beyond belief to know exactly what they would think about today's almost fanatical leanings towards gay pride and identification. In their 1930s celebrity Hollywood world, homosexuality didn't seem to be such a point of contention or accord. There were no parades, no marches, no magazine covers or rainbow flags, and they were just as out, if not even more so, than the most prevalent soap-box preaching homosexual of today. I just wonder if today's homosexual is more preoccupied with the idea of homosexuality than actually being a homosexual.

And the same goes for the homophobes. I have seen Reverend Fred Phelps and his flock give such passionate discourses about the mortal abominations associated with homosexuality over the years, and I can't help but wonder if in all this time if they actually know or even remember what that even means. In my head, I see them pillaging and marching and yelling offensive things at the funeral services for gays and lesbians and condemning their fallen bodies and fragile spirits to an eternity of hell, when someone softly taps him on the shoulder and goes, "Uh, he just did it with a couple of dudes" and Rev. Phelps goes, "Oh. Really? That's all? I thought it was so much more. Is that it? What was I thinking all this time?"



Homosexuality has just become a life of its own nowadays and we either grab a sign and march for its promotion or we grab a sign and march for it's elimination, and I wonder if Tallulah Bankhead would have even given a shit or would she be too busy getting laid. Somehow I think she would have chosen the latter and I think she would have had the right idea.

As I get older I realize that I am becoming more and more of a pacifist. Years ago, Rev. Phelps himself was scheduled to spearhead a bullhorn session on the corner of Santa Monica and LaCienega, here in Los Angeles. There was a little army of protesters ready to combat his hate mongering but there was a more predominate group (led by Queer as Folk's Peter Paige) that suggested that nobody even acknowledge that fool, to instead go about your ordinary business and donate money to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. I loved that plan. Why waste all that energy trying to combat "lifestyles": go out and just live your life.

I think Tallulah was very revolutionary in that sense, very gangsta. She didn't wait to be defined and she didn't need any outside agenda to define her. She did not march, she did not carry signs… she was just her. And like her or hate her, she got away with it.

It's definitely been on the forefront of my mind as I swoop in and out of different areas of the Black Gay movement. For the most part, any need I have ever had to be in association with any entity, group or faction has since elapsed. Though, I do sometimes feel the tug of the Black Gay agenda on my collar. 

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which I was alluding to the fact that I don't really want to be a part of those tiresome cliques that exist in modern society, particularly the exasperating ones that exist within the black gay community which can eerily resemble a suburban high school lunchroom at even given moment. My friend alluded that it was a childish sentiment to believe that the real world is divided into jocks, nerds and cheerleaders. But I can't help but feel that a certain hierarchy does exist. Within the Black Gay community there are several cliques vying for the top position of “Modern Spiritual Political Artistic Omnipotent Fabulousness.” They can be very ageist, very sexist, very classist. There are certain social circles that you simply HAVE to be "this" height in order to ride their rides.

But this could be my own paranoia, pitting myself against “them”… what I consider to be the hip-happening “Beautiful People” of the world. I could, in fact, be pushing off my own insecurities on other people that have nothing to do with their agenda but my own idiosyncrasies. Speaking with my friend, I did begin to feel that maybe there is no class system within the Black Gay community. Until it suddenly dawned on me that we had the whole conversation inside of his tricked out Mustang. He was dropping me off at Arby’s while he sped off to some posh Black Tie dinner party thrown to support an upcoming Black Gay/Lesbian center project, thrown by the self-appointed “Elders” of the community.

My braces, scoliosis brace, therapeutic shoes and bifocals never weighed so heavy.

And I wonder if anybody in attendance really understood the importance of unity and fellowship or were these buzzwords to create yet another clique. Was this an opportunity to embrace the full diaspora of the Black Gay experience (poor, rich, fat, skinny, old, young, rock, soul, masculine, feminine, HIV-, HIV+) or was this simply another photo op to show their earnestness to their Facebook friends?

Right now, I can't truly interpret if I am just being bitter or if there actually is a Gay Black Elite velvet rope that I just can't get past. In either case, Tallulah has been the one getting me through. I think she would say, "There are way too many holes in a man's body darling for you to be preoccupied with what's coming out of one when you should be putting something in the other."

She would probably go to all those parties just to get laid and move on. I aspire to do that one day. For now, I'll just write about them… and her… a just be a lil' gangsta in my own way.






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