Perry Brass with 73-year-old
Bachardy, in Santa Monica, fall of 2005
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from Perry Brass, and
What I'm doing and what you're doing, too.
Updated: November, 2010
I'm going to be
in two excellent upcoming anthologies that I'm very proud of. One is
from City Lights Press, the original publisher of Allan Ginsberg, and
it is about my experiences in the Gay Liberation Front at the
beginning of the explosive first year of the modern gay movement, from
1969 to 1971. This was Ground Zero of everything that we now experience
and know as the modern Gay Rights movement. The anthology is called Smash the
Church, Smash the State! The Early Years of Gay Liberation.
It was edited by my old friend Tommi Avicolli Mecca. Smash the Church,
Smash the State is due out this June, to coincide with the 40th
Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
The second anthology is from Soft Skull Press. Hos,
Hookers, Call-Girls, and Rent Boys, Prostitutes Writing on Life,
Love, Work, Sex, and Money, edited by David Henry Sterry and
R.J. Martin, Jr. (Modern sex workers share their lives and experiences
in this candid, moving compilation.) In this book, I write about my
first year away from home, Savannah, GA, when I hitchhiked from
Savannah to San Francisco and ended up living in Downtown LA, and, at
the age, of 17 learned how to make the old Greek maxim, "a
17-year-old boy is a gift from the gods" pay off. But not very well. I
ended up in jail, and heart-broken, after losing that first
great love that can only happen to you when you're seventeen. Hos,
Hookers, Call-Girls, and Rent Boys is due in July. There will be a big
build-up for it, and I hope to be doing several readings for it.
Speaking of which, I'm always looking for more
places to read. So if
your school, college group, book group, veterans group, religious
group, coven, or whatever would like to invite me, please feel free to
drop me a line at email@example.com.
Aging and Agism, the 800-Lb
Gorilla in the Room
Last week, in response to my page on the odious Ann
Coulter, one of my readers, John, sent me this note. I thought it was
so well-put that I want to share it with you. I hope you'll find
something in it that resonates, and you'll continue this conversation
about something all of us are doing, one way or another—living, and
"Did I tell
you your definition of faggot was brilliant, vis-a-vis your application
of the word to Coulter? It was bubbling just below the surface with me
like a swarm of angry bees but I couldn't bring it up and spit it out
like you did. I am well aware of the "faggot" you defined from our
youth, the menacing queer man among us who seemed so angry at his own,
perhaps it was a form of internalized self-loathing which we're come to
hear so much about. Most of all I remember my own reaction to
these men. Craving masculine warmth and acceptance, these men with
their sharp tongues, exaggerated feminine mannerisms, and shrill voices
terrified me in the extreme. This was a case of what Matt Sanchez was
possibly referring to of gay men eating their own. Their constant
put-downs of other gay men, their unkindness, their clever jokes at the
expense of others, all these things drove me away from the gay
community of the 60's.
that community now, with its affection bears, healthy buffed bodies,
and open admiration and appreciation for every part of the male
physiognomy and anatomy, I long to be a part of it but time has passed
Which brings us to another problem we
face as older gays, the derision and rejection of the younger ones. It
matters not what we bring to the table, it isn't good enough. Youth is
all that matters. Meanwhile, instead of being called faggots we are now
being derisively labeled "trolls" and often to gales of laughter. Like
we're the most poisonous thing on the planet. I notice Larry Kramer has
just spoken out for more active participation in the gay world, but I
don't see it happening with the rift between the older and the younger
males. Yes, young men are beautiful, and yes, older men are fading
away, but we still need one another."
I thought John's feelings are open, beautiful, and
applicable to us all. Age has been a problem and issue in gay life
since the Greeks, who saw, basically, only the beauty of young men and
boys. They wrote reams of poetry about pretty young things, and the
older men who adored them, and wished only not to be spurned by them.
In many ways, for ages gay men have been frozen into a period that only
admits and recognizes youth—however, the rest of America, via Madison
Avenue, has caught up to us: the whole country is now basically frozen
this way. And so, in a strange, paradoxical way, a lot of queer men
are, again, way ahead of the curve: we are actually aging well, and
starting to enjoy aging in a way that seemed impossible 30 or 40 years
ago, when the standard song was "Nobody
wants you when you're old and gay!"
I'm not saying that queer guys have made a 180
degree turnaround, and we now revere age, wrinkles, and sagging bodies
like the gold standards of life, but we are starting to realize that we
can get old, that older men have a pleasurefulness and beauty you can
feel and appreciate—and that all desirable company is not in the 18-27 year old range.
I'd love to hear more from you about your
experiences of growing up, older, and younger, too. Please drop me a
line about this. Just say in the Subject: getting older.
May 16, 2007—Of the Dead Speak Only Good: Jerry Falwell is dead.
Falwell was an infuriating character, and I think a
lot of the anger that is coming out now from the gay and/or progressive
community is a logical extension of that. He had an amazing, homogenous
stupidity: there were very few surprises that came out of him. It’s not
like he had a good side, an endearing, kind, warm, charitable side. If
he did, then these sides were certainly kept out of the “public
discourse,” and the most that can be said of him is that he gave a face
and distinctively repugnant voice to what a lot of close-minded
Americans were thinking—that they had the answers, and the answers were
simple, stupid, and usually what they had, too, had been taught by
their families and parents.
But I think that there is another facet to the anger
that is coming from Falwell’s death: that he actually instilled fear
into the minds of a lot of gay men and women. That under that chubby,
down-home, "Ya’ll come" exterior was a really vicious man, and he could
get away with that viciousness in ways that someone like the current
Pope, Benedict XVI, can not. Pope Benedict is too transparently rigid,
cold, and uningratiating. People may look up to him because he’s the
Pope, but he’s not fooling anyone when he rails against homosexuality,
birth control, freedom of choice, and all the other ills of
“secularism.” But Falwell, whom one progessive said should go straight
to Heaven, where "he’ll be found lying between Santa Claus and the
Easter Bunny," could come off on TV as the cuddly uncle, the country
cousin who told it like it was: and that was scary. That was worse than
the skinny man in a dress leading the flock.
This country is filled with anti-Catholic people who
would still swallow every word Falwell said; they’d never believe the
Pope, but they would “Amen” with Falwell all the way to the Inquisition.
My friend Steve Parelli, the executive director of
Other Sheep, a group that helps lgbt people who have been harmed by the
effects of religious fundamentalism, had this to say about Falwell's
I am a gay
evangelical in my mid 50s. When I heard of his death there was a
bit of glee within me that I immediately began to put in check. But
upon reflection, does not the abused rejoice at his abuser's demise,
like the Psalmist of old? It is fitting that we who have suffered
under his reign of verbal infliction can now rejoice that he is
powerless to further
spiritually abuse us. We
rejoice, not that he has died, but that we, by virtue of his death, are
free from his abusive, groundless rantings against gays.
You can learn more about Steve, his partner Jose,
and the work of Other Sheep at www.othersheepexecsite.com.
Perry Gets Blog
Okay, I finally got it. I should getta blog! It
seems that everyone and his mother (and Daddy) now has one. So, I did.
You can now blog me back and like Daphne, Josephine, and Sugar in Billy
Wilder's classic comedy, Some Like
It Hot, we can spend hours cuddling, rubbing toes, buns, and
other parts with our pens and brains (I hope I'm not taking this one
too far). Anyway, I can be reached at http://perrybrass.wordpress.com/.
Come on over, and blog your heart out.
Identity Envy. Do you have it?
I am very pleased to be in the new anthology from Haworth Press, Identity Envy. For more
information on this key-hole into how many lgbt writers feel
about themselves, please visit www.identityenvy.com.
A recent Identity
Envy review by gay editor and biographer (of Glenway Wescott)
Jerry Rosco appeared in the Sept. 07 issue of that venerable queer
lierary magazine Torso, which
goes on the stands in late June. Here is the review below:
Smart, funny essays on: Identity Envy: Wanting to Be Who We’re Not
One of the pleasures of the
endless output of G&L anthologies is the chance to read so many
writers side-by-side, not just young newcomers with older veterans, but
also those from all walks of life. Edited by Jim Tushinski and
Jim Van Buskirk, Identity Envy:
Wanting to Be Who We’re Not brings together 28 essays by
writers who remember, or admit, wanting to be somebody else. John
Gilgun, who wrote so well about coming out in a working class Irish and
Italian American neighborhood in the novel Music I Never
Dream Of, returns to
that material in “Italian American Boys.” Growing up, he found
the worst of homophobia among his Irish-American peers. He wanted
to be one of the Italian Americans who were not angels but were much
more comfortable in their sexuality, and with everything from cooking
and singing to touching. Cheryl Schoonmaker has all kinds of
comic misadventures in her real life while imaging herself as all kinds
of super-hero identities in her secret life. Poet/novelist Perry
Brass remembers growing up sensitive, queer and Jewish in the deep
South when his fantasy of escape was wanting to be a Christian
girl. Andrew Rammer, although a functioning gay man, writes
convincingly of being a male lesbian in personality. Robert
Boulanger who was actually a child television star in Canada wanted
nothing more than to join the U.S. Army—and managed to do it at age
18. In all, 28 stories and writers just as interesting make Identity Envy a very entertaining
experience. (Harrington Park Press, paperback, 267 pages, www.HaworthPress.com,
May, 2006, was the 25th Anniversary of Gay Mayday (May 1 to
1971), the gay contingent of what many people feel was the largest,
most radical, and most ambitious anti-war demonstration in the history
of America, when hundreds of thousands of young demonstrators converged
on Washington, DC, from all parts of America vowing to shut down the
U.S. Government to stop the Viet Nam War. I was there as part of the
wondrous Gay Mayday tribe, and wrote about it a few weeks later for Come
Out!, the newspaper of New York’s Gay Liberation Front, of which I
was an editor and which was actually published from my apartment in
Hell’s Kitchen. (See my bio page for more
details about this period of my life)
To mark this important anniversary, Rainbow History.
Org has published a whole chapter about Gay Mayday, and has republished
account of it directly from the pages of Come Out. You can find this at
or specifically to reach my article at www.rainbowhistory.org/gaymayday1.pdf.
Also, the Summer, 2006, edition of White Crane
features a piece I wrote on the founding of the Gay Men’s Health
the first clinic specifically for gay men on the East Coast, founded in
by me and two of my friends, Leonard Ebreo and Marc Rabinowitz. You can
learn more about the founding of the Health Project, which still
today as New York’s Callen-Lorde Community Health Clinic at Gay
New, which recently published a piece by Duncan Osborne on “our
the early activists of the baby boomer generation and their enduring
I) am very proud to be a part of this, and grateful that the Gay
Men’s Health Project Clinic is now being remembered.
from Kevin Killian
Kevin Killian is a poet, playwright, novelist,
and book critic living in San Francisco, who has recently come out with
a book of some of his selected reviews on the Amazon site. As a lark,
Kevin started reviewing books on Amazon, then branched out to reviewing
everything that he felt any kind of reaction to—emotional,
psychological, or physical—well, I'm not sure that Amazon sells
everything that would stir Kevin physically. But he has amassed more
than 1300 Amazon reviews and at this moment is 7th on the Amazon most
frequent reviewer list. I wrote to Kevin about his reviews—they are
quite amazing in their frankness, spontaneity, and quality—and also
about the connection we had back in the early 1990s with queer
publishing in New York, when the gay book industry was on the outer
fringes, the real brave new world of independent publishing. He was
kind enough to say these things about my writing:
"I've kept up with your
writing as best I could, always marvelling at how sensitively you write
and with what a golden pen (and when you want to, how you get my dick
rock-hard), but I guess I had sort of given up hope that your travels
would ever return you to San Francisco, and this is the next best
I am going to try to get back to San Francisco
as soon as I can. For years I went often to the Bay Area to appear at
the wonderful San Francisco Book Fair, which for a while was the
largest gay book event in the country. The Fair has been discontinued,
I've been told, and the old days when San Francisco's Castro area was
emotional "Paris" of gay life seem pretty numbered. But I think that
for many of us, San Francisco still has a gut pull that makes us feel
like this is home, even when it's not.
I am now offering writing classes online
Story Short Writing School. The classes are one-on-one, incredably
considering how much personal time you get with me. (OK: cheap,
actually), and very useful—as my students have told me. To
up for them, go to http://www.lsswritingschool.com/FictionWithoutFear.html.
All classes are 8 weeks, and stress approaching
own basic emotions as building blocks, narrative forms, and just plain
what you want to say across.
Circles with Circles
A lot of you have been interested in getting
copies of Circles, the exciting second
in the Mirage trilogy, and, frankly, one of my favorite books. Circles has been out of print, and is a rare
book. I mean really RARE. Alibris is offering copies of it for up to
$60.00. But, luckily the press still has a few copies left, and you can
it directly from us. The price of it is $20 a copy--it's rare,
right?--but that is still really a bargain. You can get Circles by
sending Belhue Press a check (not a money order but a check, PLEASE)
through snail mail
and include $3.00 for shipping. The address: 2501 Palisade Avenue,
A1, Bronx, NY 10463. Please make out your check to "Belhue Press."
You can learn more about Circles at What They
Are Saying About Perry Brass.
always interested in hearing from you. If you have any comments about
the News, either mine or yours, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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