back in veet land

Monday 31 May 10

I am back in Cape Town.  There is so much frenzied construction and general sprucing up going on in readiness for the World Cup. It was amazing to see the changes in the drive from the airport today: trees have suddenly appeared along the roadside and there are little yellow boxes saying something about the beautiful game in parking lots.  Everyone is very excited, including me. It's also actually very exciting to be back here and to have my head filled with things such as high heels and which fabric hangs best on me instead of war and famiy drama through the ages.  Desrae is well and truly back in the building, people.  And after I finish this blog entry I am going to veet off the few weeks' growth of body hair I have accrued.  Then my descent in ladyboyness will be complete.

For those of you not in the know, Veet is the name of a product which I know as Nair.  It actually dissolves the hair off your body.  Dissolves!  Imagine how toxic that must be! And women do this all the time!

A nice person called Vox sent me this picture and asked if my scene in Eyes Wide Shut was influenced by the final scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure! Looks like it could be! I often get mistaken for Paul Reubens actually, and he does for me too. I saw him recently when he did his live Pee Wee show in Los Angeles. The person who took me backstage to see him said they all had a joke that they had me on speed dial in case Paul misbehaved!  I think he is a total genius.  We were actually in a movie together once, Buddy, though not in the same scene alas.

The other day when I was at the swanky new Kings Cross/St Pancras terminal waiting to get on the Eurostar I went into a shop and hd an overhwlming urge and made an impulse buy.  It was a Noddy doll.  Noddy and his friend Big Ears were a big part of my childhood and perhaps it was all the Who Do You Think You Are delving into the past but I found myself shelling out for a 3D cloth version of him and he is sitting waiting for me on my bed as I type.  This is him for those of you not in the Noddy know. 

And finally, a few of you have been enquiring after Honey and Leon and wondering who is looking after them in my absence.  Well, recently, because both their dads have been globe-trotting, Honey has been staying with her favourite uncle Eddie, and Leon has been in chihuahua heaven, boarding at Charlie the dog walker's pad.  Now they are back home and this picture was taken of them today, on the trail of something or someone on their morning constitutional.


Eurovision

Sunday 30 May 10

I am in the British Airways lounge.  Again. I went down to the gate to board my flight to Cape Town and they told me the crew hadn't turned up yet!!  I hope I am not going to be a victim of the strike action.  Much as I like a good protest and love a union, I really need to get to where I'm going.  But whatever people, let's talk about the Eurovision Song Contest.  What an amazing night I had last night!

I had a new projector installed in my London flat a few days ago and I thought what better way to celebrate its arrival than by inviting a few friends over and watching the Eurovision.  I hadn't seen it on British soil for years.  In fact the last time I saw it I wasn't on soil at all, but on a yacht moored in the Bay of Monaaco a couple of years ago when it took place in Russia. (Did you see how easily I dropped that little luxurious nugget?)

Last night seems to me to have been a vintage year.  We had a man invade the stage during the Spanish entry's performance, wearing a cooky hat and swaying along to the collection of dancers dressed as ballet dancers and harlequins.  It was only his Tshirt that made us realise he was not part of the show, as he was swaying in a very convincing way.  Because of this Spain got to go AGAIN at the end!! Talk about unfair advantage.

My particular favourite was a song about an apricot stone from some Slavic land.  Yes really, a song about an apricot stone.  And there was interpretive dance too.

Britain had a cute boy singing a song by the latest incarnation of Stock, Aitken and Waterman that was terrible, a sort of B-list Kylie B side.  Come on, people!!

I thought the hosts Norway were going to win as their song sounded like something from Les Miz and I sort of thought that Susan Boyle fever might take over Eurovision. But no, the winner was Germany with a song that has already been released and been number 1 in many countries which I feel is totally cheating.  Also hello, you'd never know the girl was German, even when she spoke she had no accent and actually used the word 'Awesome' in her victory speech.  Uggh! I would like to see a return to the days when everyone performs in their mother tongue.

But roll on next year!!!


a day off

Saturday 29 May 10

Yesterday I didn't do a blog entry.  Twice in one week.  Ooh er.  But I have to say that I had huge extenuating circumstances which included travel, traffic delays, the Eurovision song contest and revelations about my family during filming for Who Do You Think You Are that left me reeling and exhausted.  I mean, we are talking an episode of Dynasty here.

I was packing my bags earlier and saw that there is still some mud on my boots from a field in France where I was filming last week. It reminded me of a line from a film I was in decades ago, my debut feature in fact, Prague. My character went to Prague to try and find a piece of film that had his grandparents in it, a way to connect with his past.  In the course of his odyssey he meets a young woman played by Sandrine Bonnaire.  At one point she takes him to an apartment in the new block of flats that has been built on the site of his grandparents' home and tells him 'These are ths sounds that your family heard, this is the air that they breathed'. I have been breating a lot of family air this week.  You could say that I have almost hyper-ventilated on it.

Here I am in 2005 on Fuse plugging Reefer Madness. Check out my hair!


Sat navs are shit

Friday 28 May 10

Here is a little video from today.  I have had yet another mind-blowing series of meetings and revelations on Who Do You Think You Are.  I am going to be processing for some time.  In the meantime, here is me and my new friend Ben, today....


the sparkly new version of...

Friday 28 May 10

the honey and leon www.itsasickness.com video


woops

Thursday 27 May 10

I didn't do a blog entry yesterday.  I have actually dropped out of life a little over the last few days. I am immersed in this TV show, and I haven't been paying attention much to the world.  I've also been just exhausted. There's a lot of travel involved and a lot of energy is expended by my brain!  I have new respect for sleuths.  I am not able to talk about the details of my story but it is surprising and scary and shocking and amazing. This far. I've got ages to go!!!

Anyway, more later but here is something that I think i the most important message I can give as I come out from my burrow of genealogy, blinking like a little mole.  Weat a condom, people!!


Hercule Poirot et moi

Wednesday 26 May 10

The thing about doing this Who Do You Think You Are show is that you just don't know what's going to happen next.  Of course you suspect, and if, like me, you have a vivid imagination, your mind flies to many and varied outcomes and the possible circumstances you will find yourself in next in your quest.  But, because of the unfolding nature of the narrative of the show, you're not privvy to the next step until you're just about to take it (or in some cases, make it).

So today when I was told I was about to get on a Belgium-bound train, I was immediately Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie's avuncular detective, sniffing round the carriages for clues, twiddling my waxed moustache as I mulled over a still smoking cigarette or a discarded piece of stationery with a mysterious number scrawled on it.

Naturally tonight I find myself not in Belgium and waiting vainly for room service to arrive in a Crowne Plaza hotel.  Hercule Poirot I ain't.

This past day has been mostly travel, a lot of trains, which I have enjoyed, and also a lot of time to mull over the first two days that have opened the magic chest of my family's secrets.  It's amazing to find out how much information was actually available to me had I only known where to look, and now I am able to take that information and have experts aid me piece together a narrative, and characters.  It is fascinating, completely all-encompassing and utterly frustrating that I cannot do it twenty-four hours a day.

Room service has just arrived.  It's slim pickings for a veggie.  Infact, it's a lot of cheese and salad.  I am sure my dreams cannot get any more vivid or infused with what I am finding out every day though.  So what the hell, hang the mucus membranes, I am off to pig out.

Randon video of the day.... That Sunday, a short film I made in 1993 with Minnie Driver.


flashback

Tuesday 25 May 10

I am having a flash back to years ago:  I am about thirteen. It's one of those spring nights where everything is still apart from the birds tweeting and maybe a distant cow or sheep. I'm at the top of the house. I've been dealing with my family all day. I'm exhausted. I want to go to sleep but I know I have things to do. My nails are slightly too long and when I scratch myself they scare me, like I'm going to slash my face. I have all the windows open and it's almost too cold, but not cold enough to stir me to move.
I wonder if I stay here I'll just disappear.

Tonight there are no cows or sheep, just the occasional hum of traffic, heading up towards Haymarket station or down to Stockbridge.  The light here is so reminiscent of all those nights I spent lying in my boyhood room staring out of the window, seeing how still I could be.

But now it's a little too cold. I opened the windows on both sides of this attic hotel suite and there is a chilly breeze.  And I have to go eat. And the clacking of my too long nails on these keys is freaking me out a bit.

Tartan Day/Week aside, and purely artistic studio photo shoots aside, did you ever model for a fashion collection or brand? (Bonus question, does your friend Christian Siriano only design women's clothes?)  I have done a bit of modeling over the years - a GAP ad, I walked in a Tommy Hifiger show. I have done a print ad  and walked a couple of times for my friend Cynthia Rowley.  Bits and pieces, nothing too huge.  And right now I think Christian only does women's.

What would you say has been the greatest thing you have done?  Meeting Grant Shaffer.

Are there any film roles that you have been offered, but have turned down, that in hindsight you wish you had taken?  Goerge Clooney's role in Up In The Air, Meryl Streep's role in Mamma Mia,  Judi Dench's role in Elizabeth.  Seriously, though, no regrets about anything. Everything is as it should be.

I am looking forward to seeing the series that you are currently recording in South Africa, & also 'Who Do You Think You Are'. I saw the episode with Jerry Springer a while ago & it was so emotional & very moving. If you found something out that was emotional, would you feel alright about showing your emotions on camera, or are you a very private person & would feel awkward about getting upset in public ?  I have already had to think about the prospect of finding out something on camera that is upsetting, and the whole thing is very carefully designed so that you only find out stuff in the moment and whilst being filmed.  If I cry, I cry.  I will be being myself and that's good enough for anyone.

Random video of the day:  An ad I did in 2004 for Orange.


Ask Alan and Praise the Lawd!

Monday 24 May 10

 

I write this from one of my favourite places -  sitting on a moving train!  Just passed through Doncaster, heading for my homeland.  I have a little more of an inkling about what this week holds and it is more and more intirguing the more I know.  I sense there are big surprises ahead.

Hi Alan, My name is Alexa, I just wondering what do you think about the new Arizona Immigration Law? Do you think is racist?  Yes I do.  I think it is awful, and I think Sarah Palin's embracing of it only highlights how awful and heinous it is.  I agree wholeheartedly with the boycott of Arizona.

Hi, my name is Evelyn. I was just wondering if you'd ever be interested in being in a pirate fantasy film sometime in the future. Sure, what have you got for me, me heartie?

What is your favorite song on your CD? i absolutely love Shine.  Oh well, there are just so many gems to choose from.  I suppose if I had a gun to my head I'd go for Next to Me, because I wrote it about my husband and it has the special whistle we do for our dogs in it.  Aww. I know.

I'm curious - did you ever think about studying psychology before you went into showbiz? In several of your blogs, you've told stories about less than pleasant people and you always seem to find a way to give them some sort of benefit of the doubt. Not that you ever make excuses for these people or in any way agree with them, however - as in your most recent blog regarding the Newsweek journalist - you've given altogether probable explanations for their behavior. Is this a natural insight you've developed over the years or did you ever take an interest in psychology?   I am fascinated by psychology but have never really looked into it in a formal way.  I have read a few books over the years, but I think I am just interested in people and what makes them tick.  I think that comes from being an actor as well. I think it is too easy, and the cause of many of the world's problems, to just say that someone or something is evil or wrong and not question and analyse how or why.  I know myself that my behaviour and actions have been an amalgam of my circumstances and my experience past and present.  And also of course our subconcious sometimes throws a spanner into the works. So I do try and always think more holistically about stuff like this.  Also, I am constantly in situations where I am meeting people and their expectation or impression of me has a bearing on their behaviour and attitude and can often be nothing to do with how they would normally behave - so I've had to learn to always be vigilant about taking that into account when making a first impression of someone.

I was watching The Anniversary Party the other night(my fave movie of yours) and everyone seems like they truly were getting along. Is this true? Also was any of it improvised or was there a script to follow?,everybody looks so relaxed.  Everyone was getting on because mostly everyone knew each other before the film, and indeed we wrote the characters specifically for a lot of them.  And it was a relaxed atmopshere on set for the most part, despite the tight filming schedule. Jennifer (Jason-Leigh, my fellow writer/producer/director) and I both felt that it's important to make people feel good about coming to work, especially on a film with a sensibility like this, and so that meant we were very conscious of creating a vibe that was relaxed and inclusive.  And it was all scripted apart from the scene when they toast us:  we asked the actors to make up their own toasts, around plot guidelines we'd given them.

From Erin I've always been curious with most actors if it's ever awkward to watch yourself back in different roles? Do you ever think "Ugh, why did I make that face??" or "Did I really just say that??" I suppose this might be more likely when watching an interview back - where you aren't portraying someone else -, but I could be wrong! Also, you put on different accents so well! I'm always in awe when I hear you go from one accent to something completely different. I had no idea you were Scottish for the longest time! I was wondering which accent you find to be the easiest (no, Scottish doesn't count) and which you find the most difficult?   I know that some actors have trouble watching themselves but as my performances are always so amazing and I always look so stunning, it's never really bothered me.  Kidding.  I remember the first time I saw myself on the big screen (in Passing Glory in 1986), I felt my nose arrived a good thirty seconds before the rest of me!  And obvously it is hard not to be self-conscious, but I think it's really important to watch yourself and to be sure that what you were intending to come over to an audience is actually working.  I don't understand actors who say they never watch themselves.  Acting isn't accidental.  Also nowadays I am much mopre self-conscious in my real-life (because people know who I am and look and whisper and shout etc) than I am in my actual work, and I think that's a better way for it to be. And regarding accents, I suppose the easiest is English because I muck around and use it every day for fun, and the hardest I've done thus far is a Minnesotan accent for Sweet Land, purely because it was the most foreign to me and so I had to work harder to be familiar with it.

 


Arf arf

Sunday 23 May 10

I have to share with you a couple of great moments during the course of my travels this week:  first of all, overheard on a plane as it was taxi-ing the runway just after touching down and it was that time when everyone turns their phones on and you hear lots of little bells and pings and then lots of conversations starting with 'Hi, I've just landed...'.  Well, the lady in the row in front of me actually said to someone on the other end of the line 'We're just nudging onto the finger'.  What, dear readers, do you possibly imagine she was talking about?  I'm scared.

Secondly, when I got out past customs, amidst the drivers holding signs with people's names on them, there was a lady holding a sign which said simply 'Small Boy'.  Years of therapy ahead for that nipper, I'll wager.

And now, Friday's cover of the Daily Mail!!!

 

Finally my friend Eddie's latest Chic Report...

 


London calling

Saturday 22 May 10

I'm having trouble with my climates.  Or at least my expectations of them.  South Africa has been windy and stormy, and now London is sunny and lovely. WTF!!  I always think of London as drizzly and sort of mean.  Of course we're nearly in June, but I think my globe trotting is making me have seasonal amnesia.  At least in Cannes the other day the  weather was utterly beautiful and how I always imagine it to be, but of course I have only ever been there, practically, for the film festival in May.  Anyway, today I was in a car going to the doctor's to get some jabs and I was looking out at London and thinking how a city like this just transforms when the sun comes out.  The people actually blossom.  It's great.

The other night in Cannes was insane.  I mean, really.  Imagine a tent full of mega-rich people glancing up occasionally from their champagne and soubrani to see movie stars who look like beautifully-dressed rabbits caught in headlights reading out auction items from bits of paper they've just been handed.  If an auction item is something they are interested in, like spending the day with Bill Clinton or getting to fly in a fighter jet, they'd put down their champagne and start bidding.  Or maybe they'd just bid with their free hand and keep downing the hooch. Sporadically there would be a mega-music artiste like Patti Smith or Mary J Blige who'd quell the crowd and rock the house.  Otherwise it was a bit like a really posh bingo hall.  Nuts!  But it made something like 7 million dollars for amfar, which is what we were all there for.   Standing at the side of the stage all night waiting to be flung on with some unsuspecting starlet I had some lovely chats with people like Michelle Williams and Marion Cotillard, who, in this picture looks as though she is having her boobs checked out by me.  Honest gov, it's not how it looks.  The after-party by the pool was a hoot too.  I felt as though we were in a movie set in the glamorous 70s and Joan Collins would appear at any moment in a turban with George Hamilton on her arm.  Actually they were probably there.  Everyone else was.

Now I am in London and about to start a week that I think will be truly mind-blowing.  I can't talk about it partly because I don't know anything about it, but even whilst it's happening I will not be at liberty to splurge.  Oh, the drama of being a child.


My sickness

Friday 21 May 10

Here's the film I made for itsasickness.com starring Honey and Leon...


Salut!

Thursday 20 May 10

I am just about to go downstairs and walk the red carpet at the Amfar gala at the Hotel du Cap. I have to go down to the garage of the hotel, get in to Laurent the driver's car, drive out of the hotel gates and come right back in and then get out and walk the red carpet.  Why? Why do we do these things, people? Here's the hideous view form my room where I wrote this from...

Today my tummy was still very funny. I don't normally eat bread but today I think my body was yearning for something to clog up the inferno that was my intestines and so I have been downing bread rolls and butter like they've been going out of business.  I worry for Desrae's dresses when I get back to South Africa.   Here I am in the sound check channeling Keith Richards...

 

The show tonight is going to be pretty amazing. But also there are lots of surprises because literally we don't know who is going to be there and who is going to come up on stage and sing or do an auction item. It's sort of like celebrity lucky bag or rock star karaoke.  I am starting the proceedings off with 'That's Life'.  Oh yeah baby.

Okay, I am being harangued.  Must go and smile.  Chant for me.  Will spill the beans manana.  Here I am enjoying a few minutes or Mediterranean r and r/keeping an eye on all the paps that swirl around on little boats in the bay ...


ooh lala

Wednesday 19 May 10

I am so tired. I had THE worst journey from Cape Town to Nice, via London.  Everything that could've gone wrong did, but guess what, I didn't die and am here and about to take a nice little sleeping pill and head to the land of nod.  My tummy is all upset, partly from the fact that I was eating spicy rice in the Wagamama of Terminal 5 at Heathrow at 8am this morning.  Not a good idea, but when you've just got off a thirteen hour flight that didn't have your veggie meal, you're kind of desperate.

Anyway, I just had a dinner (lots of ginger ale) with the Amfar peeps and tomorrow looks like it's going to be a really great evening. There are some AMAZING surprise guests.

In lieu of a more detailed post about my journey and the horrors within, here is a little film of me backstage at an Australian TV show last November, and then the actual broadcast itself.  I know I have put up the song before but the behind-the-scenes thing is new and quite a hoot, and assuages my guilt about not doing a post today at all, cos I really want to go to bed.


Leaving on a jet plane

Tuesday 18 May 10

I am about to leave the sunnyish shores of South Afreeka and head to the French Riviera.  I feel a bit like Noel Coward, dashing from one beautiful spot to the next, martini glass in hand, scripts and flight schedules bulging out of my bag, wherever I lay my hat that's my home, Maud!

I am going to the Cannes film festival to host the annual Cinema Against AIDS gala for Amfar (American Foundation for AIDS Research) at the utterly unshabby Hotel du Cap.  The last time I was in Cannes at this event it was hosted by Sharon Stone, and indeed Sharon was originaly supposed to be my co-host on Thursday night but work committments prevented her and now I am flying solo.  So effectively I am the new Sharon Stone.  Amfar has been grooming me to fill her very big shoes for some time now.  A couple of years ago I hosted their gala at the Rome Film Festival.  Last fall I performed with my band at their big bash in Dallas.  It's been like a rites of passage, a handing on of the wisdom of hosting, haranguing and auctioning and now I emerge like Salvador Dali from the egg he came out of once and say, as he did, 'I am reborn. I am Sharon Stone'.

Actually Dali didn't mention Sharon.

I am packing and it is a very difficult thing to do because after Cannes I go to London to start the first stint of filming on the BBC show 'Who Do You Think You Are?' in which they trace my genealogy, and they don't tell you where you are going so that everything is a surprise on camera. Of course I need to pack some things that Desrae's existence has neccesitated in my life: a loofah for the daily scrub of my hairless body to prevent any ingrown hairs.  I have to leave behind things in Cape Town like industrial amounts of Veet and my internet dongle that I will not need to use till I return here at the end of the month.  I must pack a separate bag to give to my assistant to take home when I meet him in Cannes. I know this jet-setting celebrity looks easy but it's very complicated and a little stressful, and Hodges, my driver here, is going to be downstairs ere too long so I'd better not dilly dally and get cracking.

But before I go, did you know that it is Harvey Milk Day in California on May 22nd?  It's a really big deal because it's the first kind of tribute day ever for an openly lgbt person. Here's video with the lovely Dustin Lance Black telling us all about it and how you can get involved to celebrate the memory of Harvey...


A hard knock life

Monday 17 May 10

 

Today I found myself splattered in blood and with my face streaked with make-up. Just another day at the office.  I was shooting a scene in a hospital in which one of the characters in The Runaway has been shot. (This isn't a spoiler, it's about gangsters, people get shot.)

I was reminded of what a reader wrote last week asking about compartmentalising emotions so that they don't get in the way of your real life.  She meant it in regard to love scenes and having emotional attachments to fellow actors as a result of your characters having them.  But today for me was about sadness and loss.  And so yes, I did delve into my psyche and find things that upset me, or events which, were they to happen, would devastate me in the way Desrae was devastated. 

Also, between takes in scenes like these, I find it easier just to stay in that zone, to be quiet and to keep the level of emotion nearby so that when we go again it isn't such a leap to find it.  And so in some way that neccesarily extends the time you are in the dark place. And then of course people on the set pick up on the fact that you need to be quiet and so they stop engaging with you, and it's quite easy to go into a little black void.

That's whay it's so important to have fun around these dark patches!  To ensure that they are just patches, and that the stuff you've dredged up for your work doesn't hang around in your mind and start to fester and get in the way of real life.

So here's a little vid from the other day, and happier times for Desrae and me (although I had been crying in the scene we'd just shot too.  Desrae has a hard life)


Testimony: Equality on Trial

Sunday 16 May 10

Earlier this year, Americans were not allowed to watch Perry v. Schwarzenegger – the Proposition 8 federal trial – after the Prop 8 campaign appealed to the Supreme Court to block Judge Vaughn Walker's decision to televise the trial.

Through Testimony: Equality on Trial Americans will now be able to witness and participate in the most transformative trial in modern American history.

Testimony' offers you the chance to tell the story of the trial in every city, county and community across America. Will you reenact for your community the extraordinary testimony that has forever changed the American landscape in the fight for equality? All you have to do is pick your favorite script, grab some friends and a video camera and go out and reenact the trial in public.

Isdid one with the lovely Ellen Greene.  It's a great way to highlight the trial and its lack of TV coverage, and let more people know what's going on.

 


Ask Alan!!

Saturday 15 May 10

It's so nice today to not have to shave!  I have been having to shave twice a day, the first time a really uber-close one on the shower every morning at the crack of dawn. But I am not shaving for two whole days! Woo hoo!

Here is a picture of the window in Barney's in NYC that is honoring Iman, and my quote that I contributed. 

From Stephen in Lancashire: Hiya Alan, Are there any supplements/vitamins that you can get in New York or the US that will stop your hair from going grey? If not what is the best hair dye?  Stephen, bless you for your concern.  There are indeed many things you can do to hide grey hair, the best of which in my book is a really good colorist. But the reason I have been harping on about my grey so much is that I have been letting it grow out on purpose.  First of all they asked me to for The Good Wife, and now I actually really like it and am getting used to it and so I will not need to delve into the world of anti-grey supplements. 

Darbie: I want to have a career in musical theater I have been doing it my whole life and it is my one and only dream and always have been this runs in my family and i am going to continue doing this my whole life. My question is how did you cone upon your career? And what challenges did you face along the road?  One day I was walking in the woods where I was brought up in rural Scotland and I spotted a beautiful cone lying on the forest floor.  It was a magical showbiz cone and I rubbed it three times and suddenly I was the toast of Broadway!  No, seriously, I started to act in plays at high school, I liked it, I felt I was quite good at it -  the first time I had felt I was good at anything really -  and I just continued to pursue it. I went to drama school for three years and then began working professionally. Luck and circumstance have brought me to where I am today: tottering around on high heels playing a transvestite in South Africa. Thank you, magical cone.

My name is Ale Im from Tj. Mex. Im a Theater student. I know a LOT of people say you this but Im truly a Big Fan of yours.  So it would be an honor If you could give me the best advice or your personal theater philosophy that this career has gave you?  Be yourself. You are the most interesting thing about yourself.  Don't try to mould yourself into a type.  And remember it should be easy, and fun.  It's just pretending to be someone else and meaning it.

How much of Tommy's Tale relates to your real life? Do you prefer doing television shows or films? Do people ever confuse you with other celebrities? What is it like performing with people like Cyndi Lauper, do you still talk to her? What is the most important lesson you've learned in show business? Also, what was it like transitioning from living in Scotland to living in New York, is it very different? Thank you!  Wow!!  That's a bumper batch!  Ok, here goes....Quite a lot.  A lot of what happened to Tommy has happened to me or I have had some experience of at some point in my life.  But it's an amalgam of lots of people and events from lots of different times and then whisked up in a blender of fiction.  I don't really prefer anything. I really just go with my gut, and sometimes I get it wrong and sometimes I get it right.  I like the fact that I have a range of experiences in my work and each one adds to my ability to do the next one fresher and with openess and spontaneity. Cyndi Lauper is an amazing performer and I loved working with her. I see her from time to time still when our crazy schedules allow.  The most important lesson I have learned in showbiz (and life) is to be yourself, to be open and to be kind.  I didn't actually go from Scotland to NYC. I lived in London for ten years first. But New York is like nowhere else on earth I have ever been so there is really no way to prepare or transition into it. You just dive in, and the water is great!

From Holly: What is the strangest thing a fan has ever done and/or said to you? I think asking me to sign parts of their bodies is pretty out thereI've done quite a few boobs and several chests.  I think there may have been a bum or two as well. 

Rafe: Well done on all your awards! Just read about your fragrance and watched the ad on youtube and clearly I need to get my hands on some!! Also the show you are doing in South Africa will it be broadcast in the UK? or is it for local tv there?  Lastly, went to see Bent in London and was there the night that Sir Ian McKellen came too and thought you were outstanding! I was truly moved.  Thanks Rafe!  That night when Ian came to Bent meant so much because he had first played the role I was playing. I asked him if it was like looking in a mirror!  He said that that as I was saying the lines, they all came back to him, to which Martin Sherman the writer quipped 'Oh, so finally you know them!'  The Runaway is the name of the show I am shooting here in Cape Town. It's a six part miniseries for Sky TV in the UK, but will be shown around the world eventually.

Steve: I absolutely love your work. My favorite, and biggest source of inspiration is Tommy's Tale. What is your muse/inspiration/thought-fuel? Me!  And my experience!

Michelle: When you are acting in a relationship, do you have to enter a certain mindset? Do you have to compartmentalize your emotions so you can separate your professional life and your personal life? I think part of being an actor and having a happy life in general is about you being able to not take your work home.  So whatever you're playing I think you have to compartmentalise.  Sometimes that's really hard because you're away from home and the work is much more the focus of your time. If you're playing a character who is in love with someone else you have to be able to understand the attraction and the love, and hopefully you will like and feel relaxed with the person, but you learn how to discern between real-life and the story pretty quickly.

Hey, man, it's Beth again. I was wondering if you would like to watch one of my (many) Tin Man videos.  I'm sorry that it implies you're a girl :(  Here it is! And what's wrong with being a girl?!


Gay, gay, gay!

Friday 14 May 10

First of all thanks so much for the outpouring of support about my post about the Newsweek article and the ensuing controversy (below, and also available in the Press section of this site).  Maybe that outpouring and also my continued anger about how one person's self-hatred can be so damaging to so many people if it has a platform and a publisher,  today's post is entirely gay.  All things that would presumably incur the ire of Ramin Seetodeh!

Monday May 17th is International Day Against Hompophobia.  You can find out about it here .  Over the weekend there are also same sex kiss-ins taking place across the worlds to challenge homophobia.  Check on the website to find the nearest one to you and off you go and snog!With someone who has the same genitals as you!!

Pope Benedict has reiterated his stance that abortion and same-sex marriage are the most 'insidious and dangerous' threats facing the world today!  This is from a man who runs an institution where paedophilia is practically part of the job description and who has actively covered up child sex crimes.  He is a liar, a hypocrite and a criminal.  So why are people still listening to anything he or his corrupt and, yes, insidious, organisation has to say?

Today I shot scenes in which I made out with a man and then gave him a blow job, and I was wearing a bra and panties and wearing lots of make-up!

And finally here is a funny picture...


The hate of the gays

Thursday 13 May 10

There is an associate editor at Newsweek magazine named Ramin Seetodeh who wrote an article entitled Straight Jacket in which he purports the theory that gay actors can't play straight.  His article, which struck me as narrow-minded and mean-spirited but emblematic of a lot of ill-informed and thinly-veiled homophobia that exists out there in the world, has caused a huge hullabaloo.

One of the people who he singled out for derision in regard to alleged lack of conviction in playing a straight role is the recently out Sean Hayes, with regard to Sean's performance in the Broadway musical Promises, Promises.  His co-star and love interest in said show, the lovely Kristin Chenoweth, wrote an impassioned and erudite response for Newsweek.com.  This went uber-viral and was picked up CNN, Fox News, The Huffington Post and the New York Times to name but a few. Since then Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee -  whose Jonathan Groff was victim of the Ramin Seetodeh bile about his giggling and inability to convince as a hetro - weighed in in support of Kristin.

Jarret Barrios, the President of GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and Academy Award winning screenwriter Lance Black talked to Newsweek  and The Hollywood Reporter about the hoopla.  Marc Peyser of Newsweek interviewed them about their statements and thoughts therein.

Ramin Seetodeh wrote yet another article for Newsweek about the furore that his original article engendered, claiming he had only meant to open a debate about how there are no out, gay A-list movie stars.  Here, I have to say I agree and disagree with him. I agree there are not, I disagree that anyone other than he could have discerned that that was the intention of his original article.  He also told of the affects his original article had on his life: personal attacks, nasty emails, yadda yadda. Welcome to the warped world of celebrity, Ramin.

Since then...are you all still with me?...Seetodeh has gone on Joy Behar's TV show and bumbled his way though a defence of his comments and.....yawn... probably even as I write this, thousands of missives are flying across the blogosphere about this whole palaver.  Today The Washington Post  weighed in, as did The Hollywood Reporter , citing why Newsweek need not apologise for its comments. Blah, blah, blah, right?

Here's what I, Alan Cumming - out queer person, actor,  purveyor of characters both straight, gay and those whose sexuality is not defined, currenly typing this with acrylic nails and sore toes from being shoved into high heels from playing a TRANSVESTITE has to say about it all......

There are millions of gay people all over the world who convincingly portray straight people every single day. Some of them are even actors.  There are loads of gay people in the world who are effeminate.  There are loads of straight people in the world who are effeminate.  What is wrong with being effeminate?  Does Ramin Seetodeh, and indeed society in general, have a probelm with people who are too masculine? (Actually, probably yes, if they happen to be female). Calling someone out for being effeminate is a way of being negative about them for being gay without actually having to fess up to actual full-blown homophobia because our society has a tacit understanding that effeminacy is just a euphemism for faggot. Again, what is wrong with effeminacy?  Do we have articles written in Newsweek about men (or women) who display particularly jockish behaviour or exhibit high levels of testosterone?

Ramin Seetodeh has written a similar article,  and, oh yes, another similar article, and again, a similar article, all for Newsweek. One of these articles involves the murder of a 15 year old child, Larry King, who Seetodeh describes thus: a troubled child who flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon.  Sentences like that made me sick to my stomach. Compared to this one, his weirdy rant about gay actors is quite cute.

Ramin Seetodeh is gay.  He is a self-hating gay, and he is a danger to us all, not just gay people - as is apparent by the above, hideous quasi-apology for the classroom shooting of a boy - but everyone on this planet because Newsweek is allowing his dangerous and insidiously warped messages to be published and enter society to fuel the flames of shame, fear, anger and, in this case, homophobia. His words allow people to validate their bigoted and fearful views of gay people, especially because he is gay himself. Which brings me to the crux, and I promise, the swansong of my thesis...

It is my contention that Ramin Seetodeh is not happy with himself. He has particlaur shame about being gay. He sees gayness, paricularly open and unabashed gayness, or effeminacy, as a reminder of what he does not like about himself.  And so he attacks it. His own shame translates into his paralysis when thinking of others who might have his own curse and yet be able to function fully and happily within the rest of the world: a child chasing his friends around a playground in high heels; an actor who he knows is publicly gay but feels he needs to re-out to make himself feel better about his own self-loathing and lack of acceptance of his most basic needs and happiness.  As someone who is a only a decade or so immigrant to these shores, I have noticed that shame is one of America's biggest exports, imbibed more domestically than overseas, and Mr Seetodeh could easily manage its Gay division.

But sadly he is not alone.  His article has ignited a conversation that I think highlights the fact that self-hating gays operate at the highest level of the entertainment industry: casting directors, producers, directors, agents, managers, publicists, who are themselves gay willingly engage in the oppression of their fellow gay actors.  An actor who is publicly out is not heralded as a role model or celebrated amongst this dark little band of unhappy people but derided and mocked, and their exclusion from projects in which they might play straight is borne, often, by this band of their self-hating brothers and sisters.

I have been asked to comment on the Newsweek story controversy by many media outets. My fatigue from shooting a mini-series in South Africa and tottering around in high heels in some way prevents me, but more so the boredom at the question and my overwhelming belief that continuing to talk about whether being openly gay in Hollywood is a detrimental thing only sensationalises and perpetuates the issue has led me to stay up way past my bedtime and write this post.

What I think would ultimately be so much more illuminating and progressive is to ask why so many gay people feel the need to publicly deride and hold back the progress of their own?

And deal with this picture, Mr Ramin Seetodeh...

 


A child of Thatcher.

Wednesday 12 May 10

Due to a techinical difficulty last night (i.e. me being so exhausted after a long day of Desrae that I deleted the post I'd written as I lay in bed instead of uploading it, and didn't realise till I woke up ay 3am with the computer still on my lap) this post is a little tardy, but nonetheless heartfelt!

I am so sad and worried about David Cameron becoming Prime Minister.  I just feel that we have the old Guard again.  The Cabinet will be filled with old Etonians and once more the corridors of power will be full of men who have known each other since their school days and whose privilege and wealth has guided them there more than their talent or even passion, certainly not their vocation as public servants.  For all that David Cameron has placed himself as a caring Centrist, he is part of that Old Boys club and their revival as the keepers of the keys of the highest office in the United Kingdom scares me.

Hopefully the presence of some Liberal Democrats in the cabinet will defuse this Establishment monopoly slightly, and hopefully the kind of poltical/electoral reform they are harping on about will include the removal of the insane ritual that neccesitated Cameron having to go to Buckingham Palace and kiss the Queen's hand and be asked if he would form a Government.  I listened to the TV reports of this archaic incident with horror as we were reminded that Cameron had first met the Queen when he was 8 as he was a pupil of the same prep school as Prince Edward and had played a rabbit in a school play she attended.  He is so part of the Old Guard.  And what happened the last time they had their hands on the steering wheel? Thatcher. 'There is no such thing as society'. Every man for himself. Section 28. The callous breaking of the unions. A stupid needless war in the Falklands.  Support of apartheid. The ethos of greed that I believe led to the recent financial meltdown.  Nuff said. Watch out, folks. I hope Clegg knows what he's doing.  I hope he sleeps at night.

Last night I went to dinner after shooting with Elaine, an executive from Sky TV, the producers of The Runaway, and the show's two young star-crossed lovers, Joanna and Jack, aged 19 and 20 respectively.  It was fascinating to realise that the latter two's opinions of the world is formed by the fact that they have grown up during the last 13 years of a Labour government and have no muscle memory, as Elaine and I do, of the Tories and the legacy of Thatcher. They truly are Blair's children, and in the most important ways are examples of all that Gordon Brown said in his resignation speech the other night: They have an openness and lack of prejudices that has been borne of years of living in an environment in which leaders worked so hard to encourage the former and erase the latter. I am very heartened by the young and the future, despite 10 Downing Street's present incumbent.


Happy birthday Tasha

Tuesday 11 May 10

 

Today would have been Natasha Richardson's birthday.  Last night there was a memorial for her at Studio 54 in New York City which sounds both moving and fabulous, a bit like the woman herself. I'm sad to have missed the chance to be with all her friends and loved ones to properly say goodbye, but I'm in drag on the other side of the world.  I remember the moment I heard about her death so clearly. I was in Scotland, up Glen Nevis, filming the documentary Scotland on Screen for the BBC.  The night prior, as I was going to sleep in my hotel room in Glasgow, I had seen online that she had had a ski-ing accident. The next day, just after I had done an interview with some people who do re-enactments of battles from Braveheart (really) I saw that my phone had several messages from a series of people that I wasn't in contact with very often but all had a connection to her.  My heart sank. I called one of the friends, John Benjamin Hickey, who had played Cliff in Cabaret with us.  He answered the phone and said simply, 'We've lost her'.

It is always weird to go on with life as normal after you hear about something so shocking, but really weird to then see yourself in a documentary talking to camera minutes after hearing it.  But the show must go on, Tasha would surely have agreed, and her show does go on, as witnessed by the crowd and the line-up of greats who came out to serenade and remember her last night, and who will never forget her.  I'm going to have a wee glass of wine tonight as I soak my aching tootsies and remember her once more.

A little footnote about yesterday's blog via Jacques who works on The Runaway... there is in fact a South African women's soccer team called Banyana Banyana (Girls Girls!).  I love it.  I wonder if there is a gay one called Gays Gays?!


Bafana Bafana!

Monday 10 May 10

I am really intrigued by the fact that the South African football team is not known as South Africa but Bafana Bafana, which means Boys Boys!  Isn't that cute?  Imagine if the US team were called Guys Guys, or worse, Dudes Dudes!  Or if the English team were Fellas Fellas or Lads Lads. It just doesn't have the same endearing ring to it. Also I wonder if there is a South African women's soccer team called Girls Girls?!  I imagine that would be deemed a little patronising, but Bafana Bafana is used, and I imagine accepted, in a genuinely affectionate way. I also think it is a nice way of diffusing the machismo and testosterone-heavy world of sport by comparing its national team to a bunch of little kids kicking a ball about. Bravo, South Africa! It also makes me laugh to think that the translation of the Lady Gaga song Boys Boys Boys would be Bafana Bafana Bafana!  I like the latter version better.

So Gordon Brown has resigned! I wonder if Nick Clegg set that as one of his demands for a coaltion?  I have to say that I feel bad for Brown. I think he is a good man who was left to pick up the pieces after Blair and had been doing a sterling job as Chancellor of the Exchequer for years.  He may not be so media-friendly, and he may have a temper on him, but I think his stance on the important things has always been fair and kind and steeped in a Scottish sense of justice and equality.  The other week at the Point Foundation event which honored my friend David Mixner, Prime Minister Brown and his wife Sarah recorded a message praising David's activism over the decades for LGBT equality.  Can you imagine, despite his rather generalised support of equality and other issues facing the LGBT population, President Obama agreeing to record such a message for someone so radical?  No, neither can I.  That's how I will remember the man known as Irn Bru (Scotland's other national drink).

Tonight is something of a milestone.  I am typing this log entry with acrylic nails!  Yes, this afternoon, a lady named Cathy glued them onto my existing nails and now I feel like one of those girls you see in doctors' offices who click clack away on their keyboards despite the fact that they have enormous talons protruding from their fingers (sometimes pierced!). I have to say I am getting pretty nifty with them already, though I did find it rather embarassing joining the gym near my hotel and trying to negotiate signing the enrolment form with these new claws.  They aren't really long, just sort of like someone who plays guitar, except I seem to pluck the strings with both hands.

I get up picked up tomorrow at 5am. Yikes, I know! Normally when I am filming I get up fifteen minutes before I have to be in the car but tomorrow that won't wash as, playing a transvestite, I'll have to do a really close shave in the shower and also shave my armpits, which even though they were veeted under a week ago are starting to sprout noticeably. I feel your pain, girls.

So I am off to look at the script and wind down to bed.  First days of filming are always a little scary and tomorrow I have to sing and dance through a Martha and the Vandellas song, make out with two strangers as well as totter round on high heels and, oh yes, act.

Here 's a little interview I did with Entertainment Weekly about The Good Wife and the The Runaway.

Finally I just realised today as I sat in the make-up chair that my dog Honey is not ten years old, even though I have been saying she is for many months.  I got her in the spring of 2001 and the adoption people said she was about 9 months which means she was born in the summer of 2000.  And so she will not actually be ten until this summer sometime!  Poor Honey. But at least she has been getting lots of compliments on how sprightly she looks for such an old lady.  This picture depicts how I imagine she feels about the entire subject

 


An African adventure!!

Sunday 9 May 10

 

Much as I would llve to share with you the utterly scary pictures from a photo shoot I did the other day as Desrae in The Runaway, I am not allowed to.  Apparently the world is not ready for her.  No, not really, it's just the normal way of things in terms of withholding images until the series is about to be broadcast. So here is just a wide view of the shoot which took place in a school in Cape Town. Yes, a school. It was a rather bizarre experience to be pouting away a la Brigitte Bardot or Christine Keeler and hearing lots of little African kids playing in the school yard just outside the window. But that's why we get the big bucks, is it not.

Today I had a great adventure.  I went shopping.  That's not so unusual, but when I came out of the shopping mall the adventure began.  I had asked where I could get a cab from and was directed round the corner where a man whistled at me and asked if I needed a taxi.  I said yes. He asked me where I was going and I told him and so he told me to get into the front of a slightly delapidated van.  I belleve they are called people carriers, and as I discovered, they certainly are.

The other day when I was having a wander round Cape Town I had seen one of these vans, and a man had rushed towards me and grabbed the bag of shopping I was holding and began running back to the van with it.  I resisted the desire to shout 'Thief, thief' like someone from a Merchant Ivory film and asked him to give me my bags back. I realised that he was trying to get me to go into a van which seemd to be used as a sort of combo of a bus and a taxi. He was whistling and shouting and some people got in and then he was off. I remember thinking that it would be fun to actually go in one and see what it was like. And so today I did.

I got into the front of the van and the driver looked at me, gasped and held his hand up to his mouth.  'It's you, isn't it?' he said.  This is always a strange question, no matter how many times I hear it.  But the answer, of course, even on a very basic level, is yes.  It turned out that the man is a film buff and listed the films of mine he has seen, the first of which being one that seems to have been seen by practically everyone in Africa (but hardly anywhere else!) Son of the Mask.  He kept asking me where my body guards were, and I told him that I didn't have any with me and that with a hat on and a spring in my step it was actually possible to function, and if, like in a bar last night, it got too much and drunk people were kind of losing it because of my proximity, I could always leave.  He then told me he'd met Steven Segal, Jean Claude Van Damme and Lou Diamond Phillips (who he picked up after he saw him slip on the street and fall over and who he called Mr Diamond).  I felt very honoured to be in such company.  As the van quickly became packed with African workers and shoppers, I asked how the taxi service worked and he explained that basically it was to take people to and from the train station, and as we drove along his colleague in the back would regularly shout out of the window to passers-by to see if they wanted picked up.  It was raining, the seatbelts weren't working and we were regularly screeching to a stop as little ladies dashed across lanes of traffic to clamber into the back and, once, into the front with me and all my shopping.  I loved it!!

The driver was so nice, and even when we got to the train station and everyone piled out of the van and he then called over to another driver from his fleet (he was the son of the original founder of the business and in charge of three other vans like his) and began to point at me and try and remind his colaegue, in Afrikaans, about the films he might have seen me in, I didn't mind. Even when he told me my hair was much greyer than it had been in Spy Kids I still didn't mind. I was having an adventure. He dropped me off at my hotel by taking an illegal turn and then reversing up a one-way street.  It cost 35 rand (about four dollars fifty) and I felt I had really seen a little bit of how real working people live in this city.

And now, in the words of the Billie Holliday song, I've got a man crazy for me, he's funny that way.  And he went and took the picture that I lamented not getting of the posters of me and Mitzi Gaynor on either side of the front door of Feinstein's!


Howzit? Lacker!

Saturday 8 May 10

This is a little film I made yesterday in the studio in Cape Town. I think it's a hoot.  I type this squatting in high heels in a dance rehearsal room.  It's so Valley of the Dolls!!


Lacker!

Friday 7 May 10

So it's as we expected in the UK.  A hung parliament.  As it were.  I just hope that if The Lib Dems go with David Cameron and the Tories they'll demand electoral reform. Cos if there had been PR (proportional representation) last night in Britain, the Libs would have been a huge presence in politics this morning. As it is, depsite their surge in popularity and support over the last month or so they actually lost seats in this election.  It will be very interesting to see what happens now...

I have had a very fun day singing. Desrae, the transvestite club owner I play in The Runaway sings a few songs and so we had to record them today for me to lip synch next week when we shoot those scenes.  It will be fun/terrifying to lip synch in high heels. I don't know which will be the most challenging. I really have to concentrate when I lip synch because I always forget to keep my mouth open for the long notes. I think it's because my brain feels it's dopey to stand there with your mouth open when you have finished the word you were saying. Now I am going back to the studio to so some ADR (additional digital recording) for an episode of The Good Wife.  So Desrae...meet Eli. I'm not sure how they'll get on.

Is there a wax Alan at Mme Tusseaud's or equivalent? Oh gosh I hope not, and I sincerely hope there never will be. I always think those was figures of people are ugleee and scary. Once there was a life -size me in the window of Planet Hollywood in London. It was the one they used at the end of Goldeneye when I get frozen to death by computer collant, so it was not a good look for me, and I just remember the humiliation of walking past it and cringing whenever anyone said they'd seen it.

Jane in the UK writes: Is there anything that you wouldn't do in a film? Is there anything that you might be asked to do that you would feel unhappy about, or anything in a script that would make you feel uncomfortable doing or being associated with?  I think there are sometimes films that have a certain tone that I would not be able to handle - when racism or homophobia or sexism etc is very much a part of the film's rasion d'etre.  Other times there are racist or sexist or homophobic things in films and they are there for a reason so that's different. But I am very sensitive to the tone and to the message a film is sending out to the world.  I think I would never do anything that glorified religion but then I don't think I would ever be asked to!!  There are some directors' depictions of violence that I would have a problem with too.  Mostly actors have probelms with things like sex scenes and I really don't think I have an issue with doing stuff like that for any reasons of embarassment, just the ones above. 

And now two related questions that make me feel very good on a day when I am groogy from jetlag and staying up late to watch the UK elections...How did you get fabulous, I mean, how did you get as good as you are and you are only in your mid-40's? I have read your biography and get all that but, just, how??? and from Mark: You look great! How do you stay in such good shape?  Hahaha! Well, thank you both first of all.  I think you are ony as fabulous as you feel (or as people who write you help you to feel!) in that it's about feeling confident in yourself as a person and as an artist.  Like anything, when you're relaxed, you're so much better at it.  Or people think you are because they feel relaxed watching you. I just enjoy what I do and I don't try too hard. I work very hard and I care very much but I think simple is best.  Like today in the recording studio where I was doing some songs that my character sings next week in scenes from The Runaway, we listened back and realised the first take was the best. That isn't always the case of course, but it's good to not forget.  And how do I stay in shape? I eat well, I drink a lot of water, I take vitamins and I exercise.  But mostly I'm happy.  That makes you look and feel good I think.

As an open atheist I have experienced quite a bit of discrimination ( I have to say far more than I experienced as an open bisexual) I've been cursed at, had things thrown at me, told I'm going to hell, told I hate America, told I am a communist, and many other nasty things, I wonder if you've experienced the same things, and if so how do you deal with that?  You know I haven't experienced anything like that.  Sometimes people are incredulous when it comes up that I am atheist, but I don't entertain their disdain about it.  I was recently asked, in all seriousness, if I worried about burning in hell, and I thought that very amusing because of course if you don't believe in God then you don't believe in hell so why would you ever worry about burning in it!!  I would always want to reason with someone if they started to get nasty.  Despite everything we are told, God is not exclusively American. In fact, if he's the father of Jesus, he's an Arab. And a Jew.  Lob that back at those stupid people next time if they give you any grief!!

From Sally: Hey Alan. I was wondering if you ever find yourself Americanizing your accent? Like to find that your accent isn't as strong but when you travel back to Scotland its like your back again? I was reading up on an actor from Manchester, England and he said when he would go back home and talk to his mates that suddenly he has his english accent back and stronger. Sometimes I realise that I have some Americanised speech patterns, and of course I use American version of words, but I don't think I could say that my accent has been unduly affected.  But I do get what you mean in that I get more Scottish when I go home or even when I am speaking to my mum or brother or a friend from Scotland on the phone.  Recently I had a party in LA and loads of Scottish people came to it and so of course we told stories and referenced things that the other guests didn't know or understand and we all sort of disappeared into a lovely scottish vortex.  But we came out the other side and people were able to deal with us again.

From Alice: The amount of grammatical errors in the questions and comments you receive amuses me greatly.Giggling forever.  I dodn;t now wot your talking a bout, Aallis.

It's weird because I keep remembering that I have done drag bits and pieces before in films.  Once in For My Baby (so not nice drag. I looked like a not very attracive middle aged Mormon, but it was right for the scene) and also in this scene with Heather Graham in Gray Matters


Don't vote for the Conservative Party!!!!!

Thursday 6 May 10

It's the day of the UK election, y'all.  And it just reminded me how excited I am to be living in America at a time in history when really huge social change is happening, and how much I love our President.  And so here I am in at a fundraiser for him that I threw at Eastern Bloc in New York City in the days when I was able to not shave. Being a lady boy right now means I have to shave every morning and then again at lunch time (I am very hirsute and virile you see.)  Also the fact that I had to shave off the tiny amount of hair that exists in the middle of my chest means that I have no definition to  my pecs any more and have the upper body of a pre-pubescent girl.  Showbiz!!

Eleanor writes: As a first-time voter, I'm wondering what you think about this situation in terms of the gay rights front in the UK? Obviously, our problems aren't nearly as bad as those in the US currently, but we're far from finding the solution. And clearly, the Conservatives aren't the party to be voting for, considering Cameron's fall down when questioned on gay rights, and the even more ridiculous suggestion from his shadow Home Secretary who said that bed and breakfast owners should have the right to ban gay couples from their property... So, that means it's between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. I think I'm voting Labour, but it's looking like the Lib Dems might come out on top here... I don't know much about them, so what do you think? Will they be good for us? Hey Eleanor.  I think the state of gay rights in the UK is great:  we have equality.  I got married there to my husband three years ago, thanks to the law that the Labour government passed.  Labour and the Lib Dems have a great record on equality.  I feel the Conservatives, no matter how centrist and friendly they try to paint themselves, are still the old guard and still the party of Thatcher and the corruption of class and privilege. Don't be fooled!!

Max writes: I was 8 when The High Life came out, and recently revisited it (Im 24 now to save the math) by buying the DVD. Like many others, I was gutted it that we only have six wonderful episodes. I think it would fare well nowadays, decent sitcoms are fairly thin on the ground.  Anyway my question - do you and Forbes still stay in touch? Would you (time / commitments permitting) consider writing together again at any stage?
First of all, thanks for reminding me of my decrepit-ness, Max.  Secondly, bless you for your kind words.  Forbes and I do stay in touch though it's been a while.  There have been some murmurs about making the series into a stage musical but nothing definite yet.  Finally, I actually love the fact that it was only six episodes and yet it has had such an impact.  Sometimes when things are done to death they lose their potency, so I am really happy and proud of the show, and its brevity!

From Joe in Florida: I am a big fan of your fragrance "Cumming the Fragrance".  However, it does not seem like I can find it anywhere to purchase (online or in-store).  Is it still available, and if so, do you know how/where I can purchase it?  I would love to stock up on several bottles of it.  Hey Joe, we had to close down the Cumming the fragrance website because of internet fraud, alas.  But if you send an email via askalan someone will contact you about how to go about buying the product and replenishing your stocks, while they last!!  There isn't much left!

From Elliot: Lemme say I've been a fan of you for a long time and I'm pleased as punch to hear of your new album release!  My question is, do you have any plans to write another book? I read "Tommy's Tale" right before I left high school, and I really loved it.  I've read it a couple of other tmies since then, and I still adore it just as much!  I hope you are well!  My best to you and your dogs!  Elliot, I am rather shocked that you read my racy, saucy novel before you left high school!! I hope I didn't put any naughty ideas into your head.  Anyway, I am looking forward to doing more writing. Hopefully later this year I will have more time now that I am not going to be doing the Spiderman musical


i hate shitty SA internet shit

Wednesday 5 May 10

OK, I am so tired right now I might actually fall asleep at the wheel. And here I am naked just for the hell of it.

Actually my driver here is called Hodges and he is lovely and took me to a supermarket today and would not let me shop alone.   We went to a supermarket cos I wanted to pick up a few things but there had been a pipe break and we were literally walking through the aisles clambering from one piece of cardboard to another.

I had a really interesting conversation at dinner about how insane it is that in a cosmopolitan city like this that is about to welcome the world for the World Cup soccer tournament that when staying at a hotel the internet usage is sold by the gigabyte. Seriously. You don't just pay a daily amount (which I ABHOR cos the internet should be FREE and if a hotel has access to it at all then it should be supplying it FREE to its inhabitants, but never mind) but you pay for it on an as you use it basis, and by all accounts that is not in keeping with western needs or desires. I paid 400 rand on my first day here, which is more than 50 US dollars, for a voucher and seriously it was used up within three hours!! I had sent one video  - a sort of hello, here I am, this is my room, my view, I love you sort of thing - and had read some news and watched a couple of vids on the Huffington Post and the next thing you know, BOOM, done, goodnight Vienna.  The person I spoke to tonight was trying to make excuses about the fact that we are in Africa, but come on, we are indeed in Africa, but not the real Africa, this is Cape Town! I can see investment bank offices from the window of the gym where I work out, jetlaggedy, each morning. Don't tell me they are payng for internet usage by the gig!!

Anyway rather annoyingly and ironically, even during the writing of this blog post, the internet service zoned out and disappeared. Though also so did I in a sort of weird non-symbiotic moment.

The point is, get it together city about to host the world's soccer supporters who I am sure will not take kindly to having to traipse downstairs drunkenly in their underpants in the middle of the night to ask the desk clerk of their hotel to sell them another voucher in order to continue sending their loved ones the vid of thier team's winning goal.

 Now I have a thing called a dongle (and as I typed this it disconnected AGAIN) which means you buy a monthly amount of gigs, but it is still not like buying, or dare I say it being given free, unlimited internet access.

 I am tired. My legs and arms are tender from the hair having been dissolved from them. I have to get up early and look like a 60s sex kitten tomorrow, so fuck you internet of SA!


This is really bratty but quite funny youtube weather vid...


Veet, etc.

Tuesday 4 May 10

I am almost glad that the internet service in my apartment in Cape Town isn't working and I am sending this via my office on my blackberry. The reason is I might be tempted to send pictures or video of what I went through today, or what I am going to go through tonight!!

Today was my first day of work on 'The Runaway', a mini-series based on the novel by Martina Cole. It's set in Soho, London in the 1960s in the world of gangsters and I play Desrae, a transvestite who runs a piano bar. This morning I had costume fittings and had my first foray into chicken cutlet boobs (we've opted for a sizeable but not crazy 34B) and an array of outfits ranging from sequins and feathers for Desrae's big numbers in the club to more demure numbers for lunches out with her boyfriend (played by the amazing Ken Stott). It was a real baptism of fierce. I was shocked how quickly I reached heartfelt opinions about halter-necks or heel size. Then in the afternoon I went to the set and had my first make-up tests. Ow!! This meant having all the hair on my upper body removed before any slap was applied to me.

In South Africa the stuff that is used to dissolve hair is called Veet. It really is quite a horrible notion: you smear this yuckky smelling potion onto your body hair and in about ten minutes it has done something which makes the hair completely give up the ghost. Goebbels invented it, or so it seems.

Then we worked on my 'street' make-up look and I tried on a ton of wigs. I am in a strange state of jet-lag, chemical intoxication, shock and glee at this onslaught of sensations! Plus there is a huge thunderstorm going on outside and I got totally drenched getting to my room.

In a minute I will be beginning the process of dissolving the hair off the bottom part of my body. Chant for me, people!

In the meantime here's a picture of me taken by my friend Michael Angelo. It's part of an exhibition called The Lipstick Project. The project, designed to raise awareness about human sex trafficking, will be shown at 401 Projects in New York from May 8-23. 


Howzit!

Monday 3 May 10

Picture the scene: it's the late show at Feinstein's on Friday night. The audience is a mixed bag of Regency Hotel residents, various other Upper East Side denizens and odd pockets of what you'd think more as my demographic. The only thing they all have in common is that they are all pretty smashed.  The show doesn't start till 10.30pm, they've obviously been elsewhere in the evening, and let's not forget it's a Friday and a fair weather weekend is just beginning.
There is a table with two young girls who I notice immediately, not just because they are young (the majority of the Feinstein's audience isn't) and right in front of where I am on the stage, but because they are obviously a little wasted and are curled up in each other's arms and making out quite vociferously. I remember thinking how nice it was that my presence at Feinstein's might engender such displays of lady love.  They were also a bit noisy, talking to each other using their outside voices.  No, not just their outside voices, their drunk or high outside voices.  At first it was cute, but when they talked quite loudly a few times during quieter bits of songs and in the middle of some of my stories, I stopped and talked directly to them and said that I loved that they were making out but could they try and be a little bit quieter because they were putting me off, the band off and people around them were sshing and tutting.  They seemed to get it, mouthed silent apologies and on we went.
But they didn't shut up or stop making out. Sometimes they talked whilst making out.  The audience were getting very annoyed and so I stopped again and said that they really had to quiet down, and if they didn't maybe they'd like to go over to one of the tables by the entrance where they could carry on making out but not bother the rest of us. I asked the rest of the audience if they agreed and they did, resoundingly. One of the girls said they'd stop talking and I took her at her word.
But they didn't and so I stopped again and asked them to move. Other people in the audience were shouting at them now, and right at this moment they knocked over a (thankfully electric) candle on the table.  'Sorry, girls, you're still being really loud and now you're knocking things over', I said.
'We didn't knock anything' said the blonde one.
'Eh, you just knocked over a candle', said I, suddenly feeling like a suburban mother dealing with her stoned kids. A staff member approached. I told them they were welcome to stay and sit near the door but they were probably too humiliated/out of it and they just left altogether. I'm sure the air did them good. The rest of the audience cheered and we all bonded in our democratic eviction. They were mentioned often in passing for the rest of the show to much merriment too. (After I sang Taylor the Latte Boy I said the song was written by two women called Marcy and Zina and what a shame they'd had to leave before they heard their song.)
Now these girls were obviously drunk and I sense because of their over-zealous physicality with each other, high on something else. But one of them, as they got outside, got stroppy with the staff member and said her Dad was a lawyer and she would get him to sue!  The staffer gleefully thrust her business card into the girls's hand and said  'Here's my card, I would be delighted to speak to your father'!


I write this in the lounge at Johannesburg Airport.  It is a bit cloudy and rainy and there are lots of brightly coloured planes taking off.  The biggest difference I feel being in Africa so far is the light.  Even in the rain it's different. Rather annoyingly it makes my hair look grayer. I am hoping that Cape Town, my final destination, will remedy this.

I am now in Cape Town, in a lovely apartment downtown.  It's about eight years since I've been here. Everywhere there is frantic construction and preparation for the World Cup.  I have had a wander and a shop and am now about to do what I always do when I arrive in a new place where I am going to be ensconsed for a while: make some soup. 

here's a very quiet trailer for a documentary I did about Shakespeare...


Leaving on a jet plane...

Sunday 2 May 10

I am about to get on a plane to South Africa. I always enjoy being in the lounge before a flight and reading the newspapers from whatever country I am about to go to so I have been inhaling the Saturday Star.  Thus far, corruption and the World Cup are big stories as well as a new Satellite Tv channel that Al Gore has helped launch.

Last night I went out in New York and danced myself dizzy.  My biggest regret about my week at Feinstein's is that I never got a picture or video of the door to the venue which had my picture on one pillar and Mitzi Gaynor's on the other.  I am a little obsessed wtih Mitzi right now.  She seems to be everywhere.  Her show is called Razzle Dazzle: My life behind the sequins.  Seriously.  I have to say I am in awe of anyone who does a one person autobiographical show which has a colon and the word 'sequins' in the title.  Go Mitzi.

It's very early, and I must away and board my flight, but I will not be able to blog until I arrive in Cape Town at lunch time tomorrow. In the meantime, here is another film I made called Another minute at the party.  I am ashamed to admit that I misled with my first one, One Minute at the Party. It is actually one minute and one second.  But deal with it, people.

Tomorrow I am going to tell you about some noisy lesbians who I had to deal with in my late show on Friday. Watch this space.


Last night at Feinstein's

Saturday 1 May 10

I am in the middle of two shows at Feinstein's. My voice is croaky and I have had a martini. Deal with it.  It's hard out there being a pimp.

Here for your delectation and enjoyment is a film I made called One minute at the party.

I will be back bloggin from South Afreeka tomorrow.



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