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Monday 08 November 2010


Works For Me

26th April 2008

Twelve Views Of The Auckland Harbour Bridge [FICTION]

Posted by: David Herkt

1: ‘I Am Furious’

I am furious but I am also trapped here in the car with him as we begin the climb up the Bridge from Curran Street. He is driving. It is a summer afternoon. I am wearing sunglasses. I will not look at him now. I refuse. It is the only act of rebellion available to me, seat-belted in the passenger seat of his car. With my elbow on the window ledge I look out across Watchman’s Island and the Upper Waitemata towards Whenuapai, all sunshot in the glare. I flick my cigarette butt out the open car window, viciously. ‘Mmm, Pollution’, he murmers from the driver’s seat.

2: ‘Bouyant, Optimistic’

Buoyant, optimistic, we are headed for Takapuna for a long night night out. I know we won’t get home until 4 or 5 am. I know I will probably drink too much. I know I’ll probably eventually behave badly. I know there will be both of us in the mix of his friends, circulating in that crowded Hurstmere Rd bar, standing outside on the street smoking, arguing and making-up, listening to the DJs, coming together at intervals to share observations or just standing together companionably. ‘Do you know, I say, as we reach the Bridge’s ultimate height at speed , ‘that this is the only place in Auckland where you can somehow feel yourself lifting off and being launched.’

3: ‘In The BMW’

In the BMW, he turns the radio up so we have a Christmas song filling the car while the balmy air of the mid-December night is coming in through the open windows and the lights of Auckland at night are stretched out to our left - the Sky City Tower, Westhaven - broken into shuttering frames by the girders of the Bridge.

And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun…

4: ‘It Is 5:00am’

It’s 5:00am and we are driving home and the dawn is warm. I’m sulking. ‘I can’t keep on going on like on this. This week has been too much.’ I’m saying. ‘You’ve been impossible to be with,’ I add. ‘ Poor Baby,’ he responds, automatically, with no consideration for his words, or mine, as we curve in from Esmonde Road onto the deserted motorway, moving smoothly towards the Bridge.

5: ‘I Thought I’d Told You’

‘I thought I’d told you,’ he says, sounding absolutely sincere while knowing full-well that he hasn’t mentioned anything about it. And from Onewa Road, in a stream of red-brake lights, across the Bridge in the midst of the midnight city-bound traffic, all the way to the Cook Street off-ramp, he haltingly explains the story, gradually revealing to me a series of incidents that I find do not want to know, facts brought home to me that destroy the comfortable equilibrium I thought our relationship had become, opening up everything again, and rousing emotions in me that I know will take us both weeks to overcome.

6: ‘In The Drizzly Morning’

In the drizzly morning, I am still in yesterday’s clothes, unbreakfasted, unshowered, but light-loined from the night’s long sexual encounter, his small nipples and neat buttocks easily recalled. We are trapped in the stream of North Shore commuter traffic. Even on the Bridge there is no real flow. ‘Is this working for you?’ he asks, flicking on the windscreen wipers. ‘No, I have to say it isn’t,’ I respond, knowing I’m going to be late for work.

7: ‘His Car Has Overheated’

His car has overheated and it wouldn’t restart. We are both tired from the long night. We call a cab and leave the car near Tristam Ave in Forrest Hill. He makes the cab-driver pull into an all-night service station to pick up the Sunday papers. I’m so drowsy I can’t read them. And in the back seat as we are driven through the clear dawn light across the Harbour Bridge, we’re both finally falling asleep, my body pleasantly sensual from the night’s dancing, my knee resting against his.

8: ‘Play It Again?’

‘Play it again?’ I ask and he leans across to the car CD player, flips back a track and pushes play and The Cranberries singing ‘Dream’ begins again. It is one of those radio-play tracks from our shared past. I do not know why or even how it has become significant. It’s like ‘Colourblind’ by Counting Crows or ‘Let The Sunshine Thru’ by Richard F Featuring Samantha Stock, tracks that niether of us have chosen from the great body of music that surrounds us but have come to mean something to both of us. And ‘Dream’ by The Cranberries somehow takes us back to a contented period in our involvement when things were still young and fresh.

Oh, my life
Is changing every day
In every possible way…

‘I just wanted to hear it as we crossed the Bridge,’ I say in explanation as if explanation is necessary.

9: ‘He Used to Take a Break’

‘He used to take a break from work and he’d just get in the car and drive across the Bridge, turn around, drive back across the Bridge to his office, and then start working again,’ I say, describing a self-employed friend’s former habits as we are heading towards Birkenhead. ‘Really?’ he asks, frowning as he lights a Dunhill with my cigarette-lighter. ‘He used to keep a bottle of amyl in his glove-box so he could snort it as he got onto the Bridge,’ I add helpfully, ‘just to make the whole experience more profound.’

10: ‘As We Are Driving’

As we are driving into the City again, I reach across the space between our seats with the intent to push my hand into the warmth between his thigh and the seat and leave it there companionably as he accelerates up the slope of the Bridge. ‘Don’t be so gay,’ he says, with pretended annoyance.

11: ‘Already I Am Exasperated’

Already I am exasperated. I have only been in the car for five minutes and already he’s pushed all my buttons. It’s not boding well for our night out in Takapuna. I’m already contemplating a $40 taxifare home. I pick up his packet of Dunhill and pull out a cigarette. ‘Why do you smoke?’ he asks, as if he is annoyed. ‘Because I can,’ I say nastily, lighting my cigarette with his lighter. I look broodingly out the passenger-side window over the Bridge railings at the rich Auckland evening and the lights on the calm Harbour water below us. We are both silent. ‘Anyway, hi there,’ he says. I exhale. ‘Hi there,’ I answer, and somehow, by this exchange, a balance is restored.

12: ‘Sometimes I Do Not Know’

Sometimes I do not know why I still want to be with him. Looking at him in profile as we cross the Harbour Bridge I want to tell him how I feel, but I know it will not come out right. It also will not help. He exists in action rather than introspection. Words are useless with him. We’re reaching the Bridge crest in the winter afternoon. ‘Why are you so quiet?’ he asks, one relaxed hand on the steering-wheel, looking not at me but straight ahead. ‘I’m thinking,’ I say. He doesn’t respond as we go over the top and nor does he say anything as we begin the long downward slope back towards the city.

———————————————————————
An anthology of recent New Zealand Gay and Lesbian Fiction can be found at http://lipsyncer.blogspot.com/

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13th April 2008

Power-Bottoms: A Possibly Ironic Fantasia Upon Gay Themes

Posted by: David Herkt

In the On-Off, Top-Bottom world of the sometimes too-linear gay male psyche, I have always been rather interested in the somewhat anomalous concept of the ‘Power-Bottom’.

But then a number of encounters over the years with Power-Bottoms in positions of influence in our society gradually narrowed my curiosity into suspicion and then, ultimately, hardened it into prejudice.

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Generally, a Power-Bottom is a gay male who enthusiastically and aggressively embraces bottoming in anal sex. It is, however, not a simple process of enjoyment. It is an in-your-face ‘fuck me’ demand that is driven from underneath. It is a world-view where, apparently, the Top is a manipulated sex-toy to service the needs of the Power-Bottom - it’s all “faster, faster” and “harder, harder” in the Power-Bottom’s solipsistic world. And if one Top doesn’t suffice, another can be found, cornered, and taken. It is an ultimate ‘it is all about Me’ stance on life and nothing is permitted to stand between the Power-Bottom and his satisfaction. And never mistake it for hedonism - it is far more complex than that.

It is also an attitude that is not limited to the bed or the sex-on-site venue. The Power-Bottom extends his outlook into the totality of his human existence and inevitably, as we might extrapolate from the ‘power’ part of the equation, into our social, cultural, political, military and business structures.

Power-play was always an important part of gay erotics - the who tops and who bottoms is a frequently fascinating foreplay where power and sexuality are mingled in a spirit of play for mutual satisfaction. But there is always a place where the play stops and things become serious – and a Power-Bottom’s fundamentally solitary and duplicitous nature, when given an organizational structure in which to work, is quickly revealed for what it is.

Personally, over the course of a lifetime, I have had frequent problems with gay men in larger bureaucratic organizations - multinational corporates, government departments, service organizations, or media conglomerates. When I had contact with any of these men problems seem to multiply. I discovered layers of complexity and hints of deeper schemes. I saw power accruing to a Dark Star in the organisation’s universe that no-one else seemed to notice. Any involvement, I found, with these men was less than straight-forward. Then I discovered that these men were almost invariably Power-Bottoms. And they were not there to serve anything other than themselves.

An honest Bottom in an organization, I discovered, will selflessly service the hierarchy. A Top will want to surf it. But a Power-Bottom wants it both ways and this dual demand contains the seeds of destruction – for the organization’s integrity, those who work within it and for all of those who engage with the Power-Bottom in his professional role.

The call-centre and delivery ends of the business are fine - it is honest and human at those levels. Things are given and taken with transparency. It’s when we get to the middle and upper management levels, that we find the much darker natural home of the Power Bottom. It is there that we can frequently observe an air of mingy and hungry Power-Bottom-hood, magnified by bureaucratic desperation and thwarted ambition, that doesn’t do healthy things to a gay character.

Power-Bottoms seek to dominate from below, whether in a sexual or an organizational world, because it is the only way they know how. So give a Power-Bottom a corporate suit and you’ll create a Machiavelli of The Water-Cooler, a Goebbels in the Communication Department, and an Attila The Hun in Human Resources.

It is a world of shadowy designs and blacker intentions. It is a world without loyalties or trust where all allegiances are strategic and temporary. There is no sense of reciprocity. Everything is sacrificed to the Power-Bottom’s fundamental needs and basic character-warp.

Character-warp? The Power-Bottom’s will to power is self-contradictory. To be victorious actually means the defeat of one component or the other of the Power-Bottom’s basic urge. To succeed in the Power part of the equation is to negate the Bottom aspect. To win on Bottomhood is to defeat the urge to dominate. True satisfaction is impossible for the Power-Bottom and the personality twists and splits under the strain.

In corporate terms the pent-up frustration of an aggressive Power-Bottom trapped in a middle-level management position moves outwards to encompass anyone who has dealings with them. Never straight-forward, Power-Bottoms are inevitably social and personally amoral. It is all about them and their needs. They’ll betray you as soon as it is convenient. Never approach one with the attitude that you’ve found a fellow gay man who will understand. You haven’t.

Instead think J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, one of the ultimate Power-Bottoms of history. He was gay, in a subordinate position, but he dominated half a century of American Presidents. He also used the weight of the FBI to gather sexual information that could be used for political blackmail, and he persecuted his fellow gay men relentlessly for duration of his career.

Think Roy Cohn, an amoral American lawyer whose personal history has been recently revived for the contemporary world in Tony Kushner’s play, Angels in America. Cohn could and did sacrifice everything, including the lives of others, to his own hunger for influence. He was capable of attending conservative events with his boyfriend and make the anti-gay after-dinner speech. Unscrupulous in business, he was even more cavalier about moral and ethical questions in life - every human contact was strategic and it was a definite case of the end justifying the means.

So never trust a Power-Bottom in a position of influence in an organization and, if at all possible, steer clear of any involvement with them. There will be no honesty in your dealings and you will be sacrificed as soon as it is convenient. Be prepared for what you might term hypocrisy but the Power-Bottom will consider to be expediency.

If you work in an a hierachial business structure and you discover a Power-Bottom in your midst, work immediately to isolate him. Transfers to places like Invercargill or Hokitika should be considered as possibilities. If you don’t manage to firewall the Power-Bottom, you’ll suddenly find things are not as they seem, the office-politics have new layers, customer satisfaction is down, and your own position in the structure is somehow being undermined in strange ways.

Always avoid a Power-Bottom whose superior is a woman. In the modern world, where women are frequently in positions of power, and where the role of the ‘gay handbag’ has moved into corporate society, no worse position for a Power-Bottom could be imagined. No matter the amount of innocuous and unthreatening signals the Power-Bottom might wave about - where gal-pal and gay-friend seem sweet over an after-work chardonnay - this is all an illusion. The frustrated power-bottom is lethal in this context. No-one, including the power-bottom’s female superior, is safe.

And never ever mate with a Power-Bottom. You will simply be a living vibrator for their sexual needs and a plastic pawn in their schemes. And because of the Power-Bottom’s basic contradiction in character, every time you think you have satisfied them you will have only further sowed the seeds of their resentment.

In a time when it seems all gay men are picture perfect and any critique is either homophobic, if it comes from a straight person, or betrays internalised homophobia, if it comes from another gay man, we are actually denying human nature. Not all gay men are good. Not all gay men are honest. And in the gay world, the category of Power-Bottom should give us all cause for consideration of the silence we have imposed upon ourselves. If we cannot transmit what we know, if we can’t communicate our experiences in an advisory way, then everything is lost…

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8th April 2008

In Praise Of Fragrance

Posted by: David Herkt

My job has been hard of late and so I have been doing serious aromatherapy - at the luxury end of the market.

I have found it quite fascinating how over the last ten years my sense of smell has become important to me. I mean I always knew that I was sensitive to fragrances and odours. I have always had to go to the bathroom and scrub if I’d used a fragrance that I didn’t like. I’d always known that if met someone in a bar in the days when bars were thick with cigarette smoke, the smell of years of spilled alcohol on a fermenting carpet, and the mingled colognes and fragrances of a hundred people, they’d always be someone who naturally smelled good to me - and not everyone does. I’d always known that I judged people on the basis of the fragrances they wore. I’d always known that the cheap end of the fragrance market - particularly supermarket underarm deodorants - were usually really offensive to me.

But over the last decade I’d developed my sense of smell. I paid attention to it. I began to try and describe what I scented. I slowly started to teach myself the mysteries of the world of odours whether it was real life or manufactured fragrances. I began to get very fetishistic about my visits to Smith & Caughey’s, which has Queen Street’s largest array of perfumes. I started knowing the staff there by first name. And perfumes presented a whole history for me to explore - it wasn’t just this year’s releases because there was a whole century of fragrances available. I could discover what 1912 smelled like with L’Heure Bleu. I could do 1947 and Christian Dior’s Miss Dior. Or I could fast-forward through Opium, Angel and L’Eau d’Issey to get a sense of the last decades of the Twentieth Century.

It has, I regret to say, become an addiction. Not the least because of the physical response I experience when sniffing a great fragrance. I am frequently off-my-face on perfumes. I have stumbled out from Smith & Caughey’s onto Queen Street just like an all-night party-goer leaves a venue in the dawn. Sometimes I am almost swooning on a great dense scent, incapable of speech. Sometimes I am sharpened by some of the recent maritime releases, my clear mind filled with clean ozone. Frequently I find myself sexually-aroused, particularly by some of the Guerlain and Caron range, and then I have often been caught surreptiously smelling myself just like a guilty four year old boy who has just discovered his own dick. I can spend a whole evening in a haze of sensuality. I will use a perfume before bed. I wake up in the morning and head for the shower with speed because after this I know I can select and apply a fragrance for the day. And in between I can somehow enjoy the spaces where I just smell of me, like a clean sheet.

I have also discovered that when stressed or overworked, a scent will revive and fascinate me. My home desk is now a small litter of perfume bottles and samples. I am now packing fragrances for my work day too so, after travelling the length of my first morning’s application through its dry-down, I can then reapply it and do it all again. I keep a bottle within range so that I can go for a sniff of the cap after a difficult meeting or a long work call, just to get an undiluted blast of the top notes again.

I’m not sure what my workmates think of this fixation. The one thing you are never aware of is the sillage or wake of your fragrances - just how they fill a room. You can ask in the spirit of research but you seldom do. I’ve been doing some fairly rich products of the 1920s of late and I do wonder how everyone else experiences them around me. It’s not that I douse myself. I usually err on the side of caution - I don’t really need much to get off anyway. But sometimes I do have visions of myself, at the corner desk, emanating complex odours like a Ralph Steadman illustration for a Hunter S. Thompson novel.

But more than anything, in my task-orientated day, these scents somehow get me through. They revive my flagging spirit. They may send me momentarily into some sort of anyl-nitrate thing where for thirty seconds I am useless for anything else, but ultimately they sustain me. I am buoyed aloft upon them. They give me a temporal unfolding to follow through hours as I chart a fragrance’s rise and fall. They make my day bearable and they make it rich.

Smell is our most unexplored sense yet more of our brain is devoted to dealing with it than our sense of sight. We have virtually no vocabulary to describe it. Children are not taught its physics or culture in schools. We are not aware of the great physical reactions that can accompany a scent. We are seldom aware of the way it can influence our lives whether the choice of a partner or the selection of a home. It is a wonderful New World that we are somehow free to construct.

So pass me that original 1944 formulation of Robert Piguet’s Bandit or that 1906 Jacques Guerlain Apres L’Ondee or that Serge Luten’s 21st Century Iris Silver Mist soI can begin to link them up in starry points to form constellations as I construct a fragrance history of our times. Let me dress with Comme De Garcon’s Patchouli Luxe or Bulgari Black to be companions to take me through my nights. And pass me that Chanel 31 Rue Cambon or that Caron En Avion so that I can care for my soul.

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1st April 2008

Impossible Works Of Art 1

Posted by: David Herkt

Andy Warhol’s 1964 movie Empire consists of one stationary shot of the Empire State Building taken from the forty-fourth floor of the Time-Life Building. The shot was filmed from 8:06 p.m. to 2:42 a.m. on July 25-26, 1964. The passage from daylight to darkness becomes the film’s narrative, while the protagonist is the iconic building that was (and is again, since 9/11) the tallest in New York City.

Empire consists of a number of one-hundred-foot rolls of film, each separated from the next by a flash of light. Warhol eventually would lengthen Empire’s running time by projecting the film at a speed of sixteen frames per second, slower than its shooting speed of twenty-four frames per second. Non-events such as a blinking light at the top of a neighboring building mark the passage of time. According to Warhol, the point of this film—perhaps his most famous and influential cinematic work—is to “see time go by.”

One of the chief works of cinematic minimalism, Empire runs for 8 hours and 13 minutes.

Underground filmmaker Jonas Mekas served as cameraman. Originally Warhol conceived the film to be accompanied by the sound of conversation in the background. A group of people - Andy Warhol, Gerard Malanga, Jonas Mekas, Marie Menken, and John Palmer - ascended to the 44th floor headquarters of the Rockefeller Foundation, to be met by Henry Romney, a Vice-president of the Foundation, whose office offered an unobstructed view of the Empire State Building, 16 blocks to the southeast. But eventually Warhol would choose to offer Empire as a silent movie. However, Gerard Malanga recorded in a notebook a snippet of the conversation omitted from the movie:

John Palmer: Why is nothing happening? I don’t understand.

Henry Romney: What would you like to happen?

John Palmer: I don’t know. Is the Foundation going to know that you did this?

Henry Romney: I have a feeling that all we’re filming is the red light.

Andy Warhol: Oh, Henry! Jonas, it’s your turn to say something - you’re being written down.

John Palmer: Jonas is changing the films just like me.

Henry Romney: Andy, now is the time to pan.

John Palmer: Definitely not!

Henry Romney: The film is a whole new bag when the lights go off.

John Palmer: You have to go to where the action is.

Andy Warhol: Henry, what is the meaning of action?

Henry Romney: Action is the absence of inaction.

Andy Warhol: Let’s say things intelligent.

Gerard Malanga: Listen, we don’t want to deceive the public, dear.

John Palmer: We’re hitting a new milestone.

Andy Warhol: Henry, say Nietzsche.

Henry Romney: Another aphorism?

John Palmer: B movies are better than A movies.

Andy Warhol: Jack Smith in every garage.

Marie Menken: Someday we’re all going to live underground and this movie will be a smash.

John Palmer: The lack of action in the last three 1200-foot rolls is alarming.

Henry Romney: You have to mark these rolls very carefully so as not to get them mixed up.

John Palmer: Why, are we getting sloppy?

Marie Menken: I read somewhere that art is created in fun.

Jonas Mekas: Did you know the Empire State Building sways?

John Palmer: This is the strangest shooting session I’ve ever been in.

Gerard Malanga: We should set up windowpanes for the audience to look through.

Andy Warhol: The Empire State Building is a star!

John Palmer: Has anything happened at all?

Marie Menken: No.

John Palmer: Good.

Henry Romney: The script calls for a “pan” right at this point. I don’t see why my artistic advice is being constantly rejected. [To Andy:] The bad children are smoking pot again.

Andy Warhol: It’s like Flash Gordon riding into space.

John Palmer: I don’t think anything has happened in the last hundred feet.

Gerard Malanga: Jonas, how long is this interview supposed to be?

Jonas Mekas: As much as you have.

Andy Warhol: An 8 hour hard-on!

Gerard Malanga: We have to maintain our cool at all times.

John Palmer: We have to have this film licensed. I wonder if Ivy will look at this movie?

Gerard Malanga: I thought you said “I wonder if Ivy [Nicholson] will look this good.

John Palmer: That’s your hang-up.

Andy Warhol: You’re supposed to be writing things down.

John Palmer: Nothing has happened in the last half hour. The audience viewing Empire will be convinced after seeing the film that they viewed it from the 44th floor of the Time-Life Building and that’s a whole bag in itself.

Jonas Mekas: I don’t think the last reel was a waste.

Henry Romney: [to John Palmer:] I think it’s too playful.

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30th March 2008

Dear Jim Anderton…

Posted by: David Herkt

Dear Jim Anderton,

I once had a dream of New Zealand as the Amsterdam of the South Seas, a place where tourists could come and smoke marijuana in cafes with a Polynesian ambience, experience mild psychedelics while watching sunsets over West Coast beaches, get ramped up on stimulants for all-night parties, and experience meaningful encounters on a variety of empathogens.

I figured it would be a better selling-point and attract a better and more interesting standard of tourist that any amount of “100% Pure” posters - unless of course we were talking the purity of substances here.

New Zealand, I thought, could turn itself into a niche marketed paradise. Factor in our legalised sex-work, our network of casinos, the sheer quality of New Zealand contemporary music, and all this - once added to our beaches, bush, mountains and all the standards - and you’d actually have an attraction that would be worth traveling halfway around the globe to experience.

It would have a follow-on effect on New Zealand that could only be beneficial.

We’d have to think about aesthetics, about making our country more attractive. We’d have to think about our culture in a more stimulating way. We’d have to get creative. We’d lose some of the rigid thought-structures of this, the most provincial country of them all. Our conversations would begin to sprawl in tune with our overseas’ guests. We’d become a Country of Refuge from a world that seems to be governed by the obese nastiness of modern consumerism and the last gasps of growth-orientated final-stage captitalism before it eventually sinks us. A certain service-mentality coupled with the pace of altered consciousnesses would relax us. Our rhythms would change. And at last we’d be entering a Pacific Century where the times and tides of our ocean-surrounded islands would somehow make us free…

But you’ve fucked it, Jim.

This is the final weekend before your party-pill ban takes effect.

And then it’s all over.

Now I didn’t even particularly like benzylpiperazine (BZP). Like everyone I did a short stint on them for a year or so but they didn’t work for me. Yes, they did get you up and going. Yes, I did enjoy a few events because of them. ‘Are they easy on the come-down?’ the obviously drug-familiar Marc Ellis is recorded as asking in a police-intercepted conversation as he made a more serious drug-purchase now somehow PR’d out of existence. Well, BZP wasn’t, for me. And ultimately the come-down wasn’t worth the minor sparkle and the staying power of the pills.

But I could see the beginnings of something bigger in New Zealand’s small party-pill industry. Given time and Kiwi ingenuity and the wonderful world of psychoactive substances I could see a growth industry. This was confirmed with Stargate International’s non-therapeutic trial of ‘Ease’. This wasn’t a BZP-based pill. It was methalone - methylenedioxymethcathinone - a substance media-commentator Russell Brown referred to as ‘ecstasy for adults’.

Like many Aucklanders I was a member of the Ease trial group. I can attest that Ease were a sweet, subtle, gentle way of enjoying things without the boom-crash-opera of other illegal substances. It was civilized. I admired out party-pill industry for finding a perfect substance . And I thought, standing under a palm-tree once at a party in an early summer evening, that this indeed was the way of the future.

But you fucked that too, Jim.

The dour weight of your electorate in Christchurch fell upon us all and the Ease trial was closed, officially, on some clumsy logic based upon analogues of analogues of banned substances and even the Police weren’t quite willing to prosecute. I thought it was going to be the first step in a wonderful evolution of an industry that had the possibility to create a new New Zealand, a boutique marketed nation, disentangled from a world that seems increasing bent on relegating us all to financial cogs in a grim universe, but you didn’t see that.

You obviously disagreed with me, Jim.

And now with the party-pill ban finally in effect, it might all be over, baby-blue.

It was a triumph of irrational hysteria. Note the Christchurch doctor who got a taste of media-fame in a hyperbolic study of BZP admissions to a Christchurch hospital. It was often a triumph of media hypocrisy where the savvy, socially-adept, drug-consuming reporters for a variety of organisations abandoned personal principle.

Note TV3’s overkill on the son of an employee who allegedly went into a coma based on BZP ingestion - where we never ever quite got the results of the blood-work on what else may have been ingested.

Note the repeated BZP shock-horror stories through 2007 on John Campbell’s Campbell Live which marked the beginning of the end for my respect for the program as ‘current affairs’ - a respect which was to finally die with a later uncredited faked ‘interview’ with an actor mouthing words whose verbal relationship to the alleged protagonist of the interview is still somewhat murky. Honest John? Nuh.

The New Zealand Herald climbed upon the bandwagon with a condemnatory series, as it has done repeatedly in the past, where research was abandoned in favour of slanted reporting. And I noted your paid medical professionals, Jim, who queued up with unnecessary hyperbole and an absence of facts.

Despite the fact that New Zealanders had consumed millions and millions of doses of BZP and anyone phoning around hospitals found a paucity of BZP related admissions, Jim, it didn’t matter to you. There was a bandwagon to join. You were the face of Ilam and Fendalton’s vicious pensioners. You were the voice of the ugly, repressed New Zealander that we had all hoped had died a death some time back.

New Zealand’s entertainment-drug industry was about to be suppressed and you were going to do it.

Jim, you were going to take a generation who were enjoying an above-the-board legal tip of a huge recreational drug industry and send them back to the gang-controlled unpleasant world of really problematic illicit drugs. You were going to remove a bit of harmless Saturday Night fun and replace it by infinitely more risky substances in an infinitely more risky commercial environment.

The door was opened to drug-use in New Zealand a very long time ago. We are amongst the world’s highest consumers of illicit substances. It was about time we had a bit of vision and a bit of hope.

But instead we got a Christchurch MP’s dour last ditch stand on pleasure - a Minister who’d be better off focusing on his other portfolios, Fisheries where he seems determined to make sure we are the last generation to enjoy seafood, Agriculture where he hasn’t even managed to free battery-chickens….

So party-pills are gone and in a number of New Zealand minds it is going to figure as a background to their vote choice this year. It might note be the number one priority when they walk into an election booth but it is going to rankle, way down.

The fickle media - note Campbell Live again - is doing a reversal on the law-change. Was it right? What about people now forced into usage of even more dangerous substances? And they’re all obviously going to have an orgy with the next drug-related death of a former-BZP using teenager from a more serious illegal substance. The headlines are easy to see: ‘Did Jim Kill This Kid?’

No drug is ever entirely free from problems. Everything we put into our bodies is dangerous in excess whether it be salt or alcohol. More people die from paracetamol poisoning in New Zealand every year than die from Ecstasy or methamphetamine. But the answer at this late stage is not more repression. It never was. It always was assimilation and education. Drug-use has been a constant in all known human-history. It always will be. We don’t deal with it by denying it.

And so, Jim, you were given an opportunity and you fucked it - again and for everyone.

Congratulations.

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23rd March 2008

Easter Sunday

Posted by: David Herkt

Saki

At 10:00am, I convinced my partner to go to Hard-To-Find Books in Onehunga because I didn’t have anything new to read. The day was bright and clear. As we were driving he was talking but I didn’t listen to him much. “I do not know why I bother talking to you,” he said, changing down gear on Mt Albert Rd, “because you never listen.” There was a strange bearded man in the bookshop listening to Bob Dylan on the shop sound-system. Usually there are only women who look after the shop. Having a bearded man there was odd. I purchased Susan Sontag: The Making of An Icon which was about America’s premier woman intellectual who was lesbian and in a relationship with Annie Leibovitz, the celebrity photographer. I got David Wojnarowicz’s Memories That Smell Like Gasoline about gay sex-encounters. I got Saki’s The Unbearable Bassington in a 1947 Penguin edition. My partner got Graham Greene’s Our Man In Havana in a Reader’s Union edition with a dustwrapper that only cost $5. When I got home I began reading Saki. Saki was the penname for H.H. Munro. He was an Edwardian writer and he was killed in 1916 in World War 1. Saki was also gay. I have really enjoyed his short-stories in the past because they are so subversive. I have never read any of his novels. The Unbearable Bassington was a revelation. If I hadn’t already thought he was a genius, this novel would have confirmed it. Each of the chapters completely and climactically ends with a reversal that takes the traditional order and breaks it. His writing is witty and under-stated.  If I didn’t know I already liked him, his lines on page 28 would have convinced me: “One canot effectively scold a moist nineteen year old boy clad only in a bath-towel and a cloud of steam.”

Perfumes

I have been doing a Chanel Exclusive for the last two weeks. It is is Cuir De Russie, Chanel’s 1927 perfume, composed by Ernest Beaux, as a tribute to Chanel’s lover Grand Duke Dimitri. It is one of my favoured leathers, with smoky notes. I have been experiencing it solidly for a fortnight. I like its intimacy. I like the way it is a perfume you, the wearer, can smell. I like its deep, deep notes towards its end. I like its hint of tobacco. Today, as Cuir De Ruissie ended its end, I reached for the bottle which has been beside me on my desk this time to renew things, and then I thought ‘no’ and went to the bathroom and chose Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleu and, oh my goodnesss, there is the diference between a great perfume and an amazing perfume. L’Heure Bleue, a favourite of Catherine Deneuvre, was launched in 1912 and, oh my god, from its first sparkling blast which settles so quickly to the depths of that beautiful Guerlainade base, it is unbelievable. Perfume reviewers are quick to call it powdery but me, nuh, it isn’t powdery. That sensual spicy amber and the glide and lick of it on your skin is profound. It hasn’t a dryness that I can perceive. The only thing I missed, at 7:05pm was a lover to smell it and me together. But then my own nose gliding along my wrist so frequently since I applied it?  Well a lover doesn’t matter….

Explosions In The Sky

In the quiet day I have wanted music but the thousands of tracks on my hard drive and the CD’s didn’t offer any hope. I was bored with them, I grumpily thought. Then, almost at random, I chose Explosions In The Sky, a Austin, Texas, based post-rock band. I have always enjoyed their cinematic sprawl. I love their fuzzed guitars and in the middle of a fractious afternoon suddenly everything was OK. I worked my way through all their four albums, stretched, extended, roaming, in some Texas dream of long roads and eternity. I was happy.

She is Dying

She has had a stroke and they’ve taken her off her medication. I cannot imagine her dying because she is so young and beautiful. ‘What am I going to say to her?’ he asked when he called me in distress. I do not know. What do you say to the dying that has any meaning to them? You can only be there, I think, dumb and alive, and keep them company for a moment. I have held the hands of men as they’ve died. I have touched their empty bodies afterwards. She is dying. I cannot say or think anything. I would bring her scents, of tuberoses and violets, because they say that the sense of smell is last to go. I would bring her love.

“Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkels will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us.”

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21st March 2008

Mansfield, Ohio, 1962

Posted by: David Herkt

In 1962, the police in the American city of Mansfield, Ohio set up a survelliance operation in a men’s restroom located below a city street. Installing a camera behind a restroom mirror, the police filmed the sexual activities of the men who visited the facility.

The resulting series of 16mm films were used in court to prosecute at least 38 of the men filmed and to make a short instructional movie

The resulting edited and voice-overed police film is an horrific indictment of the sexual attitudes of the time. Connections between the murder of children, pedophilia and same-sex acts between adults are quickly made. The relentless voice-over condemns each of the men in turn: ‘Sex-deviancy’, ‘perverts’… Their prison sentences are related in gloating terms. There is no doubt in the narration. There is contempt for any hint of leniancy or possible law-changes.

It is a world of sexual hysteria translated into a survelliance society.

The movie also documents a straight-laced America of button-up shirts, horn-rimmed glasses and ubiquitous cigarettes where fleeting moments of sexual expression can be experienced in hidden places but within a context of fear. Even during the sex-acts, the eyes of these men are often focused on the restroom doors and the possibility of an intrusion that could mean arrest and imprisonment. There is an urgency of need for contact that overcomes the weight of law and self but cannot quite overcome the awareness of possible consequences.

There is also a poignancy as each of the men is observed - smoking, washing hands, straightening attire in a mirror, involved in brief sexual contact, wiping semen from the floor - because, for them, these moments mark their last instants of freedom from restraint by the state or confinement in a treatment facility.

Each of the men filmed was found guilty under the State of Ohio’s sodomy law and sentenced to between one and twenty years imprisonment or confinment in a State Hospital as a ‘psycopath’. The film is a litany of destroyed lives, families and careers.

It is a dehumanised America in which you wouldn’t want to live. It is an indictment of attitudes that make a mockery of the concept of the ‘land of the free’. It is a glimpse of lives lived in circumstances with an uncanny similarity to Stalinist Russia. In every move, in every flicker of the eyes, it is possible to see the terrible consequences of a sexual attitude as it marks a human existence.

Filmmaker William E. Jones has acessed the original Mansfield police footage now archived at the Kinsey Institute and, in 2007, released a movie entitled Tearoom.

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20th March 2008

The Endless Sounds Of Summer

Posted by: David Herkt

The sound of summer is everything from a marketing wet dream for the music industry to something that is personally important for each of us. In this Music Age our lives sometimes seem to be nothing more than compilation albums, from birth to death. There are tracks that say ‘childhood’, ‘first love’, ‘drugs’, friends’, ‘dance’, ‘marriage’ and all the way to that wrap-up ‘funeral’ track. And interspersed with regularity is ‘the sound of summer [insert year here]’.

We’ve all got tracks that say ‘beach’, ‘waves’, ’sunlight’ and ‘warmth’ to us no matter when and where we hear them. I’ve got tracks that were just getting intense radio-play at the time like the Beach Boys ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ when I was ten.

Cher’s ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves’ was on high rotate the summer I lost my virginity. Then there are the self-discovered tracks, like ‘Piha’ that wonderful, sparse, spiralling, cicada-laden piece by German musician Ian Pooley I had on repeat one year, that I used as a time-marker, rolling over as I sunbathed when one play of the track ended and before it began again.

And this year the first of my summer tracks was ‘Bros’ from Panda Bear’s ‘Person Pitch’ album.

It was an accidental discovery. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Animal Collective. I have always found it odd that ‘Grass’ from Animal Collective’s ‘Feels’ album was amongst my most played tracks when I react to most of Animal Collective albums with either annoyance or a wish they’d put all the great bits together on one track and ditch the rest. When they’re good they’re very good, but when they’re bad, they’re experimental. And I also knew their drummer Noah Lennox had a solo effort going under the name ‘Panda Bear’ but his first album didn’t prepare me for 2007’s ‘Person Pitch’.

The words ‘Sistine Chapel’ and ‘Beach Boys’ are overused in contemporary album reviewing but this was the Beach Boys in the Sistine Chapel. Noah’s sparse minimalist behaviours documented on 2004’s eponymous ‘Panda Bear’, didn’t prepare anyone for this. All of a sudden the Beach Boy’s 1960’s psychedelic harmonised surf merged with Allegri’s Misere and soared with the able assistance of modern recording techniques. Noah might have done it all himself but Noah was choirs…

‘Comfy in Nautica’ might have been the ultimate opening track with its drum-beats of dense sound and vocals that were harmonising in the stratosphere somewhere. ‘Take Pills’ might have been the anthem that modern tri-cyclic anti-depressants had been waiting for. But it was the 12.36 of ‘Bros’ that really got to me. It was a track that developed. It rolled and rotated. Noah’s harmonies with himself swooped and soared.

I played it in the evening when I’d settle down to a cold vodka with the summer day crashing towards sunset over Mt Albert and the overgrown deck of our house. I had it in the warming, clean morning after stumbling home from an all-nighter. Brad Renfro, Sir Edmund Hilary, and Heath Ledger might have died but ‘Person Pitch’ and ‘Bros’ was there in the cluttered evening bouncing towards its climax in the loungeroom with the French doors open to the air… I sunbathed listening to it, sun-stunned thoughts free to follow the music. My skin was touched and I touched others during its multilayered span. I had it in the mid-background when I was drunk and stoned with friends who were all wearing shorts. It is a track that will forever say ’summer 2008′ on replay.

And then, of course, there was M.I.A, ‘Kala’ and ‘Paperplanes’…

I knew Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasa. I found her sometime during a fixation I had with Dizzee Rascal in 2003 or 2004 when I was downloading lots of grime. I loved Wonder and Plan B’s ‘Cap Back’. I had the essential compilations. I liked Wiley. M.I.A’s ‘Galang’ fitted right in. I looked her up. I knew about her Dad the Tamil revolutionary. I knew the refugee status in London. And I knew she was hot. She looked great and that complex accent really worked on some sort of sexual level. And like all great albums on first listen I didn’t like ‘Kala’ on first play.

Then ‘Jimmy’ crept in.

Based on an old Bollywood track ‘Jimmy Jimmy Aaja’ it might have meant a complex of things to Maya from childhood memories and a journalist covering genocide making a pass at her, but for me it was almost a gay love song. But it was ‘Paperplanes’ that really hit home. Best Use of Gun-Shot as a Rhythmic Device. Yoko Ono ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ Award for superb lyrics including that great ‘Radio On’ reference to keep the music historians happy. It was a Twenty-First Century blend of ethnicity, globalisation, cultural reference, politics, and great music writing.

I was disturbing carfuls of middle-aged media-people by demanding, from the backseat, that the radio replay got turned up loud when we were caught in a sweaty Eden Park cricket traffic grid-lock in Sandringham. I was topless at home on hot Saturday nights going ‘bang bang bang bang’ while dancing on the carpet. I was relishing Maya saying ‘wireless’. I was getting off on that sudden dreamy ‘M.I.A/ Third World Democracy/ I’ve got more records than the KGB’ line. I loved the gun-cock and the cash-register ring echoing through the burn of the cloudless afternoons.

But deep, deep, down in the sounds of this summer, underlying everything, linking everything, was Christian Fennesz.

Fennesz’s early works, particularly some of the tracks off Field Experiments 1995 - 2002, had got to me. The sheer discontinuous textures, the white noise fuzz broken into glitches, and the nerve-searing arc-welds of tracks like ‘Menthol’ and ‘Codeine’ were somehow my mental fingerprints as well. They agreed with me. They slotted into my own rhythms as if they were genetically designed for it. Then when ‘Endless Summer’ came along in 2001, it was just the masterpiece I’d been waiting for. Fennesz had taken the structures and the sounds of summer pop, deconstructed them to fragments, and reconstructed them in a new way. At a time when electronica more often means the meanderings of self-obsession, Fennesz gave us ambient glitch-pop.

It was West Coast beaches at sunset. It was the broken and shuffled fragments of modern consciousness listening to cicadas at Anawhata. ‘Endless Summer’ had textured hooks that jumbled and layered the sharpness of perception with the almost-pain of attachment under pouhutakawas. It was beer and BBQs under the invisible uplinks and downlinks of iridium satellites above the Pacific. And it just wasn’t one summer, somehow the music of Fennesz, the later album ‘Venice’, were condensations of all my summers. It was shivered mirages on hot, black sands. It was the vibrations of summer light itself. It was a grey-green maraam-grassed nostalgia made physical in the real scratched and fuzzed tones of life.

We all construct our musical pleasures. Our plays and replays sit a track in the midst of our lives. Music gets associations from us that will forever attach a time and a place to the sound. And in futures to come I know that it will be Fennesz that will ultimately recover all the gone summers, when I was different, when I was younger…

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15th March 2008

A Short Romance [Fiction]

Posted by: David Herkt

Sud

Peeling off the kilometers down the Nationale Sept. He is playing Georges Delerue’s themes from the movie Le Mépris on the Renault’s CD player because I asked him to but he is not speaking to me. He is moody. I smoke a Marlboro Lite. The long black liquid reach of the road sizzles in the heat, the plane trees going shush-shush-shush through the open windows, the folded Michelin between us, and the midges pocking the windshield. I look at his eyes.

Fragrance

We are at Caron in the Faubourg St Honore because I want to smell the Tabac Blond. He was indulging me but he laughed at my French as I asked for the scent. In 1919 Ernest Daltroff created a perfume he wanted to resemble the smell of undried blond tobacco. I sniff the sample bottle. He looks at me supercilously as if he is a thoroughbred horse, his head held high. The Tabac Blond is somehow a blend of leather, tobacco leaf and vanilla. I spray the perfume on my bared wrist. He looks away. ‘Just humour me,’ I say in English. I smell myself. It is a dry fragrance. There is a heavy amber undertone. A smoky hint, almost like Lapsang Souchong tea, quickly appears and strengthens. I can sense his impatience. I sniff my wrist again. ‘Je l’achèterai,’ I say abruptly to the salesgirl, nodding my head firmly. He snorts with exasperation.


Strategies

‘I cannot seduce you,’ he said to me in the beginning. He has always been seduced. It is such a part of who he is that to change it would be to lose his essential being.

Brussels in the Rain

The aproned waiter brings us two Hoegaarden Grand Cru and places them on the thick card coasters. Outside on the rain-wet cobbles of the Grand Place the tourists move in bewildered groups. The large fire in the corner makes the room hot. He has taken off his scarf and it hangs over the wooden back of his chair. I have a rain-spotted copy of the Guardian. He has the menu. ‘I suppose you are just going to order frittes,’ he says darkly.

Star Guitar

Between Lille and Paris on the Eurostar, he is talking to Aimee, a seven year old Algerian girl who has been seated next to him. He is laughing. I am listening to Star Guitar by the Chemical Brothers on my Ipod. He is using his hands animatedly as he speaks. He is taller than I. He cannot stretch out comfortably in the seats. As he explains something to her, he jiggles his long thighs. Her mother watches them both with tolerant amusement. Aimee giggles shyly, her hand covering her mouth. I feel at my jacket pocket to check I have both our passports. He turns to me and says something but I have to take the ear-buds out to hear him.

Designer Stubble

He only shaves two or three times a week. ‘It is in my genetics,’ he says. He also claims that the water of Northern France is responsible for the quality of his skin. I like feeling his stubble with my underlip, at the corner of his mouth. When we are kissing I always pause to do this, the prickle of his slight stubble rasping against my lips and some sort of satisfied murmer always caught there in the air.

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7th March 2008

From A Director’s Notebook

Posted by: David Herkt

[You wake up in New Zealand after 5 days in Australia for the 30th Annual Gay and Lesbian Sydney Mardi Gras and you try and put it all together in your head, ordering the thousands and thousands of impressions and reactions, trying to get a handle on your own experience of it, not only the event itself but as the director of a documentary about it which gives you a somewhat different perspective on everything that occurred because not only were you there and seeing it yourself but you were simultaneously trying to record what was happening as it happened]

The Team

Xavier is Camera 1. His footage is going to form the basis of everything. He’s got a bigger, better but necessarily slower cam. He is going to get the great wide visuals and the interviews. Andy is Camera 2. He’s going to be my mobile unit. He is going to get the quick shots, the details, and he’s going to be running lots. He’ll also be away from me focusing on things that I won’t see until later. Amid 300,000 people watching the Parade, the 10,000 people in it, and the 18, 500 people at the Party, they are going to be my eyes and my ears. We’ll be working amid human chaos a lot. I need to know what they are doing when they are doing it. My awareness through most of the weekend is going to be split between my own eyes and them and their cameras. I will have to rely on them and because I am me, I will also like and love them for what they are doing. We will merge as a unit. We will become psychically attuned to each other. We will know each other’s rhythms Then there is Matt - Associate Producer, Shoot Manager and Production Runner simultaneously. He is going to ground things. He’s going to perform an organisational function that we’ll all need. He’s going to be Comms - organising the punters and knowing where everyone is. And then there is Glenn - Producer. He’s going to give me overview. His Charm-Offensives are going to get us entry into places and get us services. He’s going to solve bureaucratic problems. I’ll go to him for advice. He’s going to keep tabs on everything. He’s going to nudge me into other directions. He’s going to anchor everything.

Why Can’t Aircrafts Always Be Like This

Late on the Pink Flight, I’m standing beside Xavier in what would be Business Class normally. Anne Spier has a drink, a magnolia in her her hair, and is sprawling in a seat talking to a Drag Queen. A boy without a shirt is standing behind her talking to another boy without a shirt. James Leuii, the DJ, is standing talking intently to someone else. The pink-stetsoned 42 Below guys are still handing out cocktails. Kids are running amid the streamer-litter on the floor. Xavier is getting views of clouds out the ports just to illustrate the fact that we are 10 kms above the earth’s surface. The cabin has a slightly pink glow from all the pink stuff - pink plastic leis, souvenir pink flight bags given to everyone - lying around being reflected by the white bulkheads. It is relaxed, not at all like the frenzy that was depicted on the Campbell Live item about the Pink Flight. At this moment it feels like a pleasant gay and lesbian bar and I wonder why flights aren’t always like this. I’ve roamed the length of the plane. I’ve stood in the crew areas. We’re seated in Economy and that is just the same.There is no real disorder, just people enjoying themselves. We could always be having a New Era in Flight, I think, freed from seating constraints, an easy party in the stratosphere, drinks in hand….

Sydney Light

There is a softer more reddish glow to Australian light when it is compared to New Zealand’s sharp white-edged brightness. I’ll try several times in the weekend to get this light as it falls on the Sydney sand-stone walls, as it is absorbed by the old brick and rusted wrought iron of houses in Darlinghurst, and the dapple of gum and palm-shadows on old-painted walls and steps.

Hotel

Like most New Zealanders at Mardi Gras we are staying at a hotel. I’m sharing with Matt and Andy. Sometimes I’ll wake up from four hours sleep and put on my sunglasses straight away, while I’m still in bed. I’ll learn the lengths of Andy’s showers and Matt’s ability to somehow limit his mess to his suitcase. We’ll live in amid camera-equipment, discs and tapes, a broadband-connected laptop, and Matt’s production folders - and clothes, two copies of The Butt Book, a bottle of Chanel’s Cuir De Russie, Andy’s hair-straighteners, and Matt’s collection of gay Sydney magazines. The great view out over Wooloomooloo, Darlinghurst and King’s Cross will sustain me in the few minutes I have alone here to sit and think. The air-conditioning is always being adjusted. I like frigid. Matt likes warmer. Andy alternates.

One-Two-Three-Four-And-One

They are rehearsing ‘I Am What I Am’ with Carlotta. This is to be the second show. It went on first in 1988, then it was repeated in 1998, now it is being repeated in 2008. The great spaces of the Royal Hall of Industries, the RHI, are cluttered with equipment. Tomorrow it will be filled with 10,000 dancing gay men. The dancers are dressed in civvies. ‘One-Two-Three-Four,’ the chereographer chants into a mike in an Australian accent. I’m pissed off a little because we aren’t being allowed to shoot it and I’m pacing up and down while Xavier sits in a plastic chair near the back-stage with his camera on the floor. I have an unexpected encounter with Peter Dragecevich, former editor of express and the Sydney Star Observer, also here on a media-pass, which is fun. Then five minutes later we are given permission to shoot, just in time for the rehearsal to end…..

Oxford Street - Friday Night.

I think for many New Zealander’s Mardi Gras is almost a ritual sequence of events: Travel - Arrival in Sydney - Friday Night Oxford Street Bars - Saturday Morning Shopping - Saturday Afternoon and Evening Mardi Gras Parade - The Mardi Gras Party - Recovery. To me it is like the Stations of The Cross and I’m trying to capture this sense of an ordained journey. Oxford Street on Friday night is busy. There are queues for Midnight Shift and Stonewall and the Columbian. Oxford Street is filled with gay visitors - no longer quite the gay centre that it once was, but for a moment it recaptures a past. We shoot inside Stonewall. Xavier is getting boys dancing. Andy is doing barstaff, cash registers filled with money and glasses being filled. It is Twink Heaven. Three floors of Twinks. Jam-packed. Outside the footpaths get more and more crowded. It is possible just to stand there and within a few minutes you’ll meet scores of New Zealanders you know.

Parade Leaders

Craig Gee and Shane Brennan were attacked and savagely beaten up three months ago - for holding hands. They are amongst the the Parade leaders. Standing out in Hyde Park after the Mardi Gras Media launch there is a small media scrum around them. The Channel Ten reporter is pushy and pisses me off. I really don’t like him. We are coming in on the middle of a story that has been extensively reported in Australia. I ask Shane to just tell me what happened. For me it is a devastating recital of the details of the attack - from Shane turning around to see Craig on the ground getting stomped in the head to the text-messages - “We killed your faggot son” - sent to Craig’s parents on his stolen cell-phone. Standing there in the Park I can feel my eyes prickle with tears. Shane’s level delivery of the story, its content, and his reactions to it all get to me big-time. I think it is his precise and matter-of-fact delivery of the events that really does it to me. The moment when he turns around to see Craig on the ground is almost visceral to me. I have to haul myself together to do the next question. Two day’s later when I’m tired and I’m trying to tell a friend the experience of doing that interview, I will actually have tears rolling down my cheeks.

Carmen

Interviewing Carmen is like interviewing an ancient Aztec Goddess.


Eye-Candy

For every New Zealander, Sydney seems full of unimaginable eye candy. It is boompf! and there is another one. There is ‘Oh he works for me.’ There is ‘Did you see that hottie?’. I’ll speculate on whether the fact that Australia’s immigration policy post World War Two letting in so many Italians and Greeks has helped the gene-pool. I’ll contemplate the fact that a larger gay population will mean, statistically, that there is a greater chance of attractive males appearing. At all events this plethora of eye-candy is one of the constants in my weekend. ‘Xavier, get that one,’ I say to Xavier, figuring that if anyone does watch our product, eye-candy is some part of the parcel they’ll want.
Views of a Producer

In sunglasses, full-face, talking on his mobile. In sunglasses, profile, talking on his mobile. In sunglasses, walking, talking on his mobile. In a white hotel bathrobe, with a laptop, talking on his mobile.
Random Surrealism

It is chaos in the Parade Assembly area. Floats are being assembled. People are getting dressed. There are bizarre mixtures of Greek Warriors, drag-queens, rugby players, soldiers, the chaperoned New Zealand Safe-Sex Posterboys, gay NSW Volunteer Firemen, boys in hotpants, and Asian Princesses…. Everywhere you look there is a bizarre juxtaposition. Asian tourists on the other side of the barrier are flashing enough cameras to illuminate several streets. It is our first taste of the crowded chaos that the night will become. I’m getting my first ‘Whr r u?’ txts. I’m also learning about moving a crew through this environment. It helps that we’ve been assigned Ryan and Arthur, two late-twenties, worked-out, good-looking Sydney gay-boys (except Ryan was originally from Christchurch) as our Media Liaisons. They are in pink Mardi Gras volunteer T-shirts. At first I think ‘Fuck, another two people I have to haul around’ but they quickly prove their worth. Arthur lugs our heavy camera tripod and Ryan leads. They are alert to our needs and they take us places. They are a couple and they work on all sorts of levels. They almost look like the ideal gay relationship. In fact, looking at other media crews, I think we’ve got the hottest ones…. Music merges: drums, ‘I Am What I Am’, more drums, whistles, ‘Go West’… More Asian tourists flash their cameras. Extras mingle. Drag-queens in huge self-sewn feathered costumes twirl. Make-up is applied. Loincloths adjusted. Sirens sound.

Parade 

This is the moment that it is going to be clear what we face. It is like being marooned on one of those desert islands in cartoons. We are on the parade route, hemmed in by 300,000 people. I feel as if I have every one to look after as well as having to know where they are and what they are doing. Xavier and Andy are falling into the right routine. Andy is getting in there, right to the middle of things. He’s alert and fast. Xavier is getting the lovely wide-shots from front and side as well as going in to get the detail when he can. The crowd is screaming when the 78ers, those people who were the instigators of the first Mardi Gras riot in 1978, come out, thirty years later, to lead the parade. They’re followed by Margaret Cho, and then there is Craig Gee and Shane Brennan, our beaten-up boys. ‘Them,’ I yell to Xavier and Andy, and Craig and Shane get out of their convertable surrounded by our cameras and hold hands and begin to walk up Oxford Street, and in a weekend when the hairs on my arms will rise often at certain moments, I’m prickling and a shiver goes up my back as Craig and Shane are cheered by thousands and thousands of people….

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