Category Archives: Alphabet City Excerpt

Spit List XI: Tea Party Pat Down

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul sounds an alarm regarding preparations for The Spit List.

Chloe Sevigny was the original Spit List nominee 11 years ago

Confused by the kooky controversy surrounding TSA pat-downs?  Bored by the bogus buzz around Black Friday?  Then turn your attention to that imminently more critical consideration—the question that gets everyone gobbling at Thanksgiving gatherings: Who’s on your Spit List?

For those of you who don’t have time to read an excerpt from Alphabet City about The Spit List origin that includes Chloe Sevigny and the Condé Nast cafeteria, let me lay the ground rules:

  • Your Spit List nominees should be folks you so dislike that if you saw them, you would spit on them.  It is a guttural response based upon a visceral reaction, which means there’s really is no rhyme or reason.
  • You can only spit on famous people—someone that you might see on a red carpet.  It can’t be Bob in accounting.
  • Your Spit List doesn’t have to be long; people can move on and off the list over time.  Scarlett Johansson was on my very first list, but has since moved off.  Although the recent appearance of her lips on Saturday Night Live has me reconsidering.

Did someone just spit on John Boehner?

Friends have tried exporting The Spit List to overseas celebrations with varying degrees of success.  Last I heard, my friend Aimee was debating the delicacies of introducing The Spit List to Kabul based on her limited success with it in Liberia.  At last year’s Spit List 10th Anniversary Celebration, favorite choices included Lou Dobbs and Rihanna, the latter nominated because of a bad haircut that just seems to be getting worse.

WORD OF CAUTION: In a post-election daze, it’s easy to go wild with political appointees to your Spit List.  Believe me, I am all for a full on TSA pat down of the Tea Party baggers.

Gwyneth and a rain of spit?

But from experience, the game is far more fun when there’s a Spit List balance of party officials and pop-culture wackos.  So, for every John Boehner there should be a Gwyneth Paltrow—damn, her Glee appearance is throwing a curve ball at my Spit List.

Good luck, guttural speed, and may your Spit List be thoughtful and controversial.

And by all means, let me know whom made your Spit List.

Excerpt from Alphabet City’s Episode 11: Bold Faced Names

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Alphabet City’s (Re)Designing Women

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s pangs of self-doubt are eased by reconnecting with three friends.

Clouds of self-doubt would seep into my mind early every morning in Hollywood—like the June gloom enveloping the LA Temple outside my window.  My body wrestled with time zone confusion as my East Coast early-riser syndrome became certified West Coast insomnia.  Why am I here?  What am I accomplishing?  Is the exhaustion worth it?  Can I be successful and make a living as a writer by pursuing this new life storyline?  As the clouds quickly dispersed under the warm California sun, I became energized by reconnections with three friends (re)designing themselves on the West Coast.

Aimee at the Alphabet City book launch

First up, breakfast with Aimee.  Originally from Beverly Hills, Aimee walked onto the Alphabet City set about midway through its original run as Angela’s wisecracking buddy.  She was a terrific audience for my tales of celebrity foibles, always encouraging me to write down the tales.  This real life Funny Girl’s own storyline took a dramatic turn when she decided to follow her true passion for international relations and entered graduate school in Washington DC.  Honestly, the cast of Alphabet City wasn’t accustomed to characters taking such serious roles, and I wondered how it would all play out.

After an internship at the State Department, she began working for an organization that helps rebuild war torn countries and spent many months in Liberia, and now is stationed in Kabul.  Through it all, Aimee’s wit and humor comes through in every missive she sends from abroad—and she’s still a serious pop-culture scholar.  She’s the first to email me a guess on who’s the subject of the latest blind item in PageSix.  It was the makings of a “very special episode” when Aimee happened to be in LA during my book tour stop—she had some time off from Kabul before beginning her next project there.  Over breakfast, after she had presented me with outrageous gifts snagged from the bazaar in Afghanistan including the Funny Cock, I had an opportunity to tell her how inspiring it was to follow the journey of a friend who was taking big risks to follow her passion.  What I am most impressed with is that the work she is doing is so important and crucial, but Aimee does it with a genuine humbleness and a wry observation that will always make her a terrific guest star on Alphabet City.

Mila & Me at Dana's party

Next, lunch with a true designing woman, Mila.  In the tween prequel to Alphabet City set in a suburban prep school, Mila would definitely be the mysterious, artsy character with the enviable fashion flare.  Much like my friend Kathryn who I wrote previously about reconnecting with in DC, Mila and I weren’t close friends in high school but as in a small class, you pretty much know everyone and I like to think we respected each other’s artistic (dramatic?) sensibilities.  When she popped up on last season’s Project Runway, I was instantly intrigued by Mila’s story of using the show as a way to reconnect with her passion of designing clothes—basically reinventing herself as she was approaching 40.  Boy, did that sound familiar to my own journey.  What a treat then to spend time with Mila, see her holiday collection, and share our various paths.  Although we haven’t seen each in other in a decade (or two), we reconnected with the appreciation and understanding of the trials and tribulations that come with following a dream.  Mila is one talented, sincere and generous designing woman whom I can’t wait to have on future Alphabet City episodes.

Last, evening soiree hosted by Dana.  Alphabet City fans will recognize Dana for the critical role she plays in Episode 16—as a real estate impresario with a life-saving referral to therapy.  Dana’s advice, guidance, support and critical eye have played an integral role in the development of this memoir.  She has always encouraged me to be a writer giving me terrific assignments at Condé Nast Traveler and Bon Appétit.  After reading an early draft of Alphabet City I will never forget her telling me that my writing voice was so engaging, like chatting with a best friend.  It was that early encouragement that gave me the confidence to pursue my dream.   When Dana decided to push forward with her own goal of moving to the West Coast, I was quietly distraught but outwardly supportive.  While I would miss Dana’s companionship, I knew that she needed space to grow and LA was where she needed that to happen.  What a thrill then to see and experience and appreciate the beautiful life she has made for her family at the base of the Hollywood Hills.  Her friends turned out for some Alphabet City fun, and to see how an editor at Bon Appétit would entertain in style.

Sides made with Whole Foods 365 brand accompany whole roasted pig

Lucky me, she pulled out all the stops.  The centerpiece was a whole roasted pig—definitely a showstopper and crowd pleaser.  I snapped pictures and sent to Chef who was supremely jealous of the experience.  Dana took her inspiration for the serving of the meal from the serve yourself buffet at Whole Foods Market 3rd and Fairfax which provided some of the key ingredients.  Grab a Chinese food container—start with a cold soba noodle salad with peanut sauce (both can be made from the affordable WFM 365 brand), add in some of the pork, fresh cilantro—stir together and enjoy.  Dana paired with a crowd-pleasing Moscow Mule vodka concoction whose secret ingredient was fresh squeezed lemons and limes—organic from WFM, ‘natch.

After the guests departed, Dana and I laid down under the backyard lanterns laughing at her dogs desperate for a taste of pork.  And I realized that success of a journey shouldn’t just be measured in tangibles—like number of books sold and amount of money made—but from intangibles like quality connections with readers, and inspiring reconnections with friends.

Funny, the next morning, I opened my windows, and there was no June gloom in the sky, or in my head.


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Alphabet City’s Alpha-Beltway

Today on Alphabet City: While on book tour in DC, Jon Paul gets an insider perspective courtesy of old friends, while wondering what happened to a Rosalynn Carter outfit.

In my Aaron Krach original ABCity t-shirt

For one brief moment I felt like a Beltway insider—I was six years-old staring at a fabulous approximation of Rosalynn Carter.  My parents were desperately trying to tear me away from the Smithsonian’s First Ladies Exhibit on my virgin trip to DC.  But I resisted, mesmerized by the mannequin’s outfit of a smart camel colored suede skirt, jacket and knee high boots.  You see, my mother had just purchased the same outfit from Neiman Marcus, and for one special nanosecond, I thought my Texas family had arrived at the pinnacle of power and fashion—just like the peanut farming Carters.

As you can imagine, the First Ladies’ exhibit holds a special place in my heart.  Over time, the curators chose to replace Roslyn’s rather unfortunate off-the-rack fashion choice with an equally disastrous couture statement.  No telling where my mom’s version ended up.  Despite repeat visits, I’ve never been able to recapture that sense of belonging in DC—a city, that much like Los Angeles, operates as a one-industry town.  Unless you are part of the entourage surrounding personalities chosen by popular vote (or box office tallies), then you’ll have to be content pressing your nose against the electoral glass.

As a writer, outsider status never much bothers me.  It gives me a perspective to observe, comment and critique.  And I’ve learned that you’ve just got to hook-up with the right local to help you learn the secret handshake.  On this trip to DC for the Alphabet City Book Tour a couple of old friends became newly trusted guides.

Kimpton's Paige Dunn has been a dream sponsor!

My base of operations was national tour sponsor Kimpton’s Topaz Hotel, tucked away on a cute street in DuPont Circle near a couple of spots related to my tattoos—the Australian Embassy and Green Lantern bar.  Needless to say, I felt at home.  Especially since the Topaz’s front desk team greeted me like a celebrity—telling me they had been handing out lots of Alphabet City excerpts that are part of Kimpton’s Summer of Pride Package.  For once on the tour, I felt like I was the star—and not Frida.  The rooms are enormous since the building was converted from an apartment building, and smartly, the hotel has chosen refillable shower product containers as part of their sustainability initiatives.

The crowd that evening at the Topaz hosted book party was brimming with gaiety—literally.  The boys of the Big Gay Book Group turned out in force to meet me since they had just read Alphabet City.  And my Greenhill prep school posse just keeps delivering—thanks Carey & Kathryn.

Big Gay Author with DC's Big Gay Book Club

Carey, JP and Kathryn

DC has one of my favorite restaurant scenes in America, and I was lucky enough to enjoy it with Susan and my fellow alum Kathryn who had an arranged a sitter for a grown up night out.  Kathryn and I were friendly, but not close friends in high school.  But in a class of 89 people, you pretty much know everyone.  I was always in awe of Kathryn’s athletic prowess as a field hockey star—constantly wishing that I could sport a cute little kilt and whack a few balls.  Kathryn and I have kept tabs on each other over the years, though, as both of us became very out and proud—she runs a site developed by her mother out of experience planning Kathryn’s wedding to her partner. There was always a twinkling of interest and understanding between Kathryn and me about a shared experience of youth filled with complicated issues of sexuality.

During dinner at Acadiana, Susan generously suffered through our reminisces of old teachers and high school crushes, all lubricated with generous helpings of Tanqueray and Basil cocktails.  On our way from the bar to the table, Susan and I spotted someone who looked vaguely familiar to us, an overly tan gentleman who moved like a character from an SNL skit.  One of his bodyguards was so tall he could have been cast as a James Bond villain.  Like a political tour guide, Kathryn unlocked the mystery right away—John Boehner, House Republican Leader.  Instantly, I felt transported inside the Beltway—our first political celebrity sighting!  As a budding image consultant commentator, here’s my advice: lay off the tanning beds and easy on the tinted moisturizer, the orange hue makes you look like a caricature.

As Kathryn and I hugged goodbye that evening, I marveled at the continuing power of this book tour to connect me with people from past.  I’m looking forward to continuing the journey with Kathryn as a good friend, now.

Acadiana’s sister restaurant DC Coast is the capital’s answer to LA’s Ivy—guaranteed political eye candy given it’s perch on lobbyist occupied K Street.  My own insider tip: reserve a spot at 1pm—easier to snag a table at the end of the lunch rush, but you still get all the people watching.  Better yet, wander in and grab a seat at the bar.  Go local (and Southern) with Fried Chesapeake Oysters and Soft Shell Crab Sandwich.

JP & Kara

The final night took me deep inside the Beltway—right into a charming and comfortable home on Capitol Hill.  My dear friend Kara had jumped at the opportunity to gather her friends for a little Alphabet City soiree—especially since she witnessed first-hand some of the Condé Nast tales from the book.  At the time Kara came to work for me at Traveler, I had been branded the Murphy Brown of magazine publishing having run through something like 11 assistants in the course of as many months.  Publisher told me to shape up—regardless of how nice I was, I clearly wasn’t interviewing folks well, and if this final hire didn’t work out, then it might be my final hour.

For weeks, I agonized my way through interviews until Kara burst onto the scene—it was obvious from the get-go that she was a bundle of energy, intelligence and class who would fit right into the team.  Since then, Kara has blossomed even further into a grass roots PR and marketing expert, now a social work activist with an equally captivating and generous husband Matt.  Together, they transformed their townhome into a showcase of comfort—the perfect setting for an Alphabet City shindig.  On such a special night, Matt and Kara’s friends filled the backyard with generosity, transferring their love of the couple to my book and me.  Gazing out at the crowd, listening to their laughs as I read about “summering,” I knew I was experiencing a special side of DC that many don’t witness.

Kara studied for an ABCity quiz

Later, Kara handed me her well-worn copy of the book for me to sign.  I laughed at the dog-eared pages and copious amounts of underlines, circles and annotations.  She had attacked Alphabet City like a graduate course assignment—with passion, precision and an analytic eye.  She’d given Alphabet City an insider read, and given me an insider perspective on DC.

Now, if Kathryn and Kara could just find out what happened to Rosalynn’s suede pantsuit, I might finally make peace with our nation’s capital.


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Love in the Time of Grindr

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul welcomes readers with a taste of Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life, adapted from Episode 14: Happy Soul.  If you like what you read—purchase the book!

Because my partner and I “met cute” online at nearly ten years, I’ve always been a fan of technology’s romantic possibilities.  My current sex-tual infatuation is with an iPhone hook-up app called Grindr.  For many gay boys, Grindr is a cruising dream come true—a GPS-based service that locates nearby men nearby who are ready for action, serving up provocative pictures with a note of proximity—usually just feet away.

Grindr Screenshot - I'm not here...

With Grindr, you cannot only find Mr. Right Now, but Mr. Right Next Door.  As much as I marvel at the app’s clever name, niche and possibilities, I know that if today I were using it to find love, I would never have met my boyfriend.  My problem is simple: I’m geographically narrow-minded.  In 1999, I was a transplanted Texan posing as an East Village snob, and lucky that rudimentary Internet dating protocols withheld a key fact about my future lover—he lived on Wall Street.

At the time, as I write in Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life, I thought of myself as a gay Mary Tyler Moore looking for a fresh start—and a new boyfriend—in the big city.  But my globetrotting job as a publicist for Condé Nast Traveler left me exhausted at the thought of spending precious free time in bars on the prowl.  A few years on the other side of 30, and the loneliness was wearing on me.  So when the Internet as hook up engine burst onto the gay scene at the turn of the century, I signed up enthusiastically hoping that online matchmaking would prove superior to suggestive winks in disco infernos.  Convinced that might expand my dating horizons, I fished in its online pond as NYCBUCKY.

At first, real time meetings with online flirtations didn’t go well.  It took several painful dinner first-dates to learn that chances were good the guy in real life would be the opposite of his description.  DowntownHUNG was actually from the suburbs and had a widely inflated sense of himself.  STUDMuffin69 needed to lay off the pastries.  Hard4U spoke about his member non-stop—two hours of dirty talk over noodles proved too hard for me.

Some guys would have given up on the online thing altogether.  But I couldn’t resist the Internet temptation—the gigantic desktop computer in my basement living room stared me down with the possibility that Prince Charming was waiting for my charming banter in the NYC chat room.  The sound of static as the modem connected always sent a shiver of anticipation through me—Pavlov’s gay dog.

One night, as I scanned through the typical assortment of evocative screen names, one caught my eye—STARBSTRD.  Nothing particularly sexual about that.  Bastard?  A little bit off putting really.  Was that some kind of kinky sexual thing?  But his description was tantalizing, endearing and funny: “Happy soul, well endowed.” STARBSTRD seemed different.  I fretted over a good opening line for at least 30 seconds—an online eternity.  He could be deeply involved with someone else by the time I finally messaged him.

NYCBUCKY: Are you a happy soul because you’re well endowed?

Few second pause.  No reply.  I must have lost him.  Then POP—a reply.

STARBSTRD: Funny 😉  I never connected the 2.

NYCBUCKY: Really?  Most gay boys would!

And we were off.  Over the course of the next 73 chat screens, I uncovered that he was:

30 years old—finally a boy my age!

Worked as an economist—I’d never dated a banker!

From Mexico City—I loved Latinos!

Enjoyed dancing, food, yoga, rollerblading—I loved two of those things!

STARBSTRD: What’s ur name?


STARBSTRD: That’s funny!

Why was that funny?  People making jokes about my name exhausted me.  The next line was usually, “Oh, like John Paul Jones?”  Or John Paul Sartre.  While John Paul Stevens was one thing, I cringed at John Paul George and Ringo.  Or God forbid, the Pope.  It’s just one of those things I’ve heard my whole life and am prickly about.  The chat had derailed and I was ready to end it over the name game.

STARBSTRD: Wanna come over and cuddle?

NYCBUCKY: Gimme a break.

Cuddle?  What self-pronounced well-endowed gay guy thinks I’m going to believe that?  Besides, if I did drag myself all the way to his apartment, I certainly hoped we would do more than just cuddle if he lived up to proclamations.

STABRSTRD: Want to go on a date, then?

NYCBUCKY: Not really.  I don’t even know your name.

STARBSTRD: Juan Pablo.

NYCBUCKY: Not funny.

On the one hand, I gave him points for being clever—translating my name into Spanish.  English Jon Paul became Spanish Juan Pablo.  On the other, he had taken the name thing too far, and was living up to his screen name, acting like a bastard.  I was tiring of this seemingly endless banter; it was hard to stay witty and disinterested at the same time.  I was thinking of a nice way to shut down the chat, and then Pop Pop Pop—three screens in a row.

STARBSTRD: No, I’m not kidding.

STARBSTRD: We have the same name.

STARBSTRD: That’s why I thought you were kidding.

What were the chances? We had the same name—my Texan Jon Paul to his Mexican Juan Pablo. Of all the horny gay boy gin joint chat rooms in the world he had to log on to this one.

How could I not go out on a date with someone who had my same name?  So I gave him my number and he phoned immediately to make plans for the next day.  His voice was a surprise—no rolled “R’s” or deep Latin baritone; instead his speech was slightly high pitched with an odd Pan-European accent we’ve come to associate with Madonna.

“How about a stroll around Wall Street?” he asked.

As an Alphabet City hipster, I thought of the Financial District as a wasteland located across the DMZ of Canal Street.  Had he revealed his geographically undesirable locale any earlier, love on the information superhighway might have hit a speed bump.  But now, he already had me hooked, and despite my distaste for Wall Street, I was intrigued.  Besides, “a stroll?”  He sounded positively Parisian, a flaneur.  In the hustle of New York City, I rarely just wandered aimlessly, but Happy Soul (well-endowed) sounded like he had a plan.  And so I agreed to expand my neighborhood boundaries.

The next day, ten minutes before the appointed hour, I sat on a bench in the World Financial Center filled with Chinese brides in wedding dresses with bright pumps trailed by photographers.  I was worried that I wouldn’t recognize Juan Pablo from the picture he had emailed.  He said it was of him on a recent trip to Thailand, which I expected would be him in a Speedo on a sandy beach.  But the jpeg was a close shot of his sweaty smiling face next to a plate of glassy noodles with red peppers. What an odd choice.  As his publicist, I’d counsel him to get a more flattering headshot.

“Hey Bucky, sorry, yoga ran long.”

STARBSTRD was 15 minutes late, glistening from his workout.  He was dressed in some last season baggy clam diggers from the GAP, an ill-fitting graphic t-shirt from French Connection, and an orange fisherman’s hat from God knows where.  I tried shaking off my snobby Condé Nast fashion sense.

“Oh hey, that’s fine.  I just got here, really,” I lied.

I stood up and we smiled at each other, relieved that our real selves lived up to the online potential we advertised.  As I looked past the clothes, he was handsome in an offbeat way, with brown eyes and an oversize nose punctuating a broad smile that bared his happy soul—think sweet face of Sean Astin with the sexy spirit of Gael Garcia Bernal.  I was pretty charmed.

We hugged hello in that awkward way that comes when you have never met a guy in person but nonetheless know a little too much about him—like his preference for top or bottom.  Truthfully, I was a little disappointed that he wasn’t the darker skinned Latino that I imagined.

“You’re whiter than I am.  How are you from Mexico?” I blurted out.

“Thanks.  I work at this color.  My religion is sun block.”

I laughed, not knowing if he was intentionally cracking a joke, or if English as a Second Language was going to be more of a problem—or benefit—than I bargained for.  We strolled and chatted and teased about all the things you over-share on a first date in New York City—your job, your apartment, your previous life discarded to live in the center ring of the Big Apple circus.  We ambled for two hours on a walk that should have taken twenty minutes.  Proud of myself for overcoming my geographic xenophobia, I suddenly felt something funny inside—a sense that this online dating possibility was about to become an important co-star in my life.

Ten years later, I am still the Tex to his Mex, and we continue to push each other’s buttons—and boundaries.  Like many long-term partners, we face the challenge of keeping the bedroom rocking long after the novelty wears off.  Perhaps because we met under such provocative circumstances, we have always been open to exploration.  Which must be why Juan Pablo encourages my use of sex toys like Grindr.  At dull parties in Chelsea, he laughs when I pull it out, log on, and pass it around—soon even the most boring guests are transformed into tantalized voyeurs.  During flight delays at Newark, we’ve amused ourselves with surreptitious glances at Grindr.  In a romantic Montreal bistro, we challenged each other to a Grindr Duel: seeing whose iPhone pulled up the hunkier guys—there’s a quirk in the system that doesn’t necessarily duplicate the same hotties.

Despite all the titillating fun and groundbreaking advances in dating technology, I am still glad Juan Pablo and I met in simpler online times—back when screen names were mysterious and your location was closeted.  Today, I might not be adventurous enough to venture outside my comfort zone and find out if STARBSTRD comes as advertised—happy soul and all.

Click here to purchase Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life.

Below is a flipcam video of JP reading from this chapter at a book party at Kimpton’s Nine Zero hotel in Boston:

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Nominees Are

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul laments a pre-empted Indie Book Awards campaign, but delights in being called “Next Generation” .

What would Susan Lucci do?

The nominees for 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Award for outstanding performance by an author in GLBT category are…

Too late.  The race was over before it began.  And I didn’t even get to mount a no holes barred “I’m-in-it-to-win-it” awards crusade complete with glamorous schmoozing and dirty tricks—the hallmarks of any good Oscar campaign.  Nope, the Finalists (Alphabet City, Possessions, She’s My Dad, and Tomorrow May Be Too Late) and the winner (Torn) were announced at the same time.  Which means I wasn’t able to try out my fake I-Knew-It-Wasn’t-Going-To-Be-Me-Because-The-Other-Author-Truly-Deserves-It smile for the close-up.

Times like these, I ask myself, “What would Meryl Streep Susan Lucci do?”  Of course, give Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart a chin-up grin, “It’s just an honor to be nominated.”  Besides, being labeled part of the “Next Generation?”  At 41, I’ll take that any day.  That, and a special gold sticker to slap on the front of Alphabet City!  Hooray!

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Lost in Translation

Today on Alphabet City: Chef’s portrayal in the book causes trouble when his parents visit for Holy Week.

My partner, Chef, was racing around the house two days ago “straightening” up.  He picked through a stack of magazines leaving several issues of Bon Appétit but trashing some copies of Next, New York’s weekly pub about gay nightlife  featuring a couple of shirtless  guys.  He tucked away a couple of DVDs we watch occasionally to spice up our 10 year relationship.  And then raced to pull down from high on a bookshelf a questionable faux flower arrangement given to me by his mother a few years ago.

“Woah, woah, woah.  What’s going on here?  You’re in some kind of panic,” I worried.

“It’s Holy Week!  My parent’s are coming!” he replied nervously.

Typically, I am the one whose agitation level gets set to threat level Red at the thought of my Mexican in-laws annual two week visit to our house.  But after a few years of therapy dealing with my own family issues, I was feeling relaxed—dare I say—excited about their visit.  So Chef’s nervous energy surprised me.  I probed a little deeper and he confessed.

“They told that when they get here, they want to read Alphabet City,” Chef said sheepishly.

“How sweet!”

“But that means they’re going to read that part.”

That part.  That part.  That sweet chapter about how kismet brought us together—online—because I loved the way Chef described himself in cyberspace as a “happy soul, well endowed.”  Before the book was published, we had many talks about if Chef was okay with that chapter.  While he mostly worried about what his friends would say—they’ve been teasing him mercilessly—it hadn’t dawned on him that his parents might read it.  I wanted to make some cheeky comment about how no Dad would be ashamed of a son for that, but instead decided to take the higher ground.

“From my experience, parents will read into it what they want.  They love you.  It will be fine.  Besides, it probably won’t even translate.”

We were both right.  That night, upon their late arrival, his parents made a huge deal out of my book—insisting I sign a copy for each of them.  His Dad told me he would be start reading it before bedtime.  Chef fidgeted restlessly in bed all night and then left early, leaving me to face the music on my own the next morning.  And it was worse than expected—starting with the title.

“What does it mean ‘sitcom?’” my mother-in-law asked.  I made a note to change the subtitle to ‘my telenovela life’ in Spanish.

“Why are you around all the celebrities?  I don’t understand this job,” my father-in-law questioned.  This time, the “even Jesus had a publicist” line of reasoning seemed in bad taste, especially so close to Easter.

“And there’s a part about my son,” papa-in-law continued.  Now I was fidgeting with my coffee, not sure at all how this was about to go down.

“When he tells you…the name he is giving to the dog—Frida Carlota Xocitil Amarilla Buchmeyer Chavez!  So funny!”

On cue, little Frida came racing into the dining room, demanding to sit in her grandpa’s lap.  He evidently had skipped right over the problematic part, and delved into the chapter about his son and I becoming a family.  Ten years ago, when I first met his parents over a similar awkward breakfast, I never would have imagined this conversation.  But here we were, sharing a moment, my in-laws truly proud of my accomplishment, and loving me like a real part of the clan.

While I’m not sure they understand everything that’s in the book, I’m fine with that.  And so is Chef.  Some things are better left lost in translation.

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Celebrating a Sitcom Life

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul gets emotional over a celebration with co-stars, friends & family.

Stayed tuned for more pics courtesy of Jamie at

Last night, I once again channeled my inner-Mary Tyler Moore to hold it together as I thanked co-stars, guest stars, featured actors, crew members and, of course, friends and fans at the official Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life Book Launch Party.  I couldn’t have created a better set than the Alphabet City Wine Co.—featured in today’s New York Times.

As I told the group, everyone in the room participated in some way getting me to this moment.  Some in deep ways, like Susan, who has been part of so many stories, and listened and counseled me when to pull back or use pseudonyms.  Others in the room were wearing badges of honor with slogans like “My Part Got Cut from Alphabet City,” “I’ve Been Banned from Alphabet City,” and my favorite, “Who Do I Have to F**K to be on Alphabet City.”

Here’s a little Flip video of my remarks courtesy of co-star Angela.  Or read on below for a summary.

But seriously, everyone there—and reading here—has helped me get to this point because you’ve provided encouragement.  And you can’t underestimate how much encouragement means to an artist and an author.  It’s tough staying true to your work, dedicating time and following your dream.

I’ve had the opportunity to follow my dream three times now.  First, becoming a filmmaker by writing, directing and producing GayTV: The Movie.  Second, living in the city of my dreams—New York City.  And now third, being an author.

This third time has been the sweetest, really.  Because there has been someone there for me supporting me and nurturing me the entire time.  Chef has loved me and loved that I was following my dream.  Thank you, Chef, for being such a great foil and partner—after nearly ten years together, you’re the most amazing co-star I could ever imagine!

And so, a virtual toast to all of you—thank you for being such an important part of my sitcom life and helping me turn the world on with a smile.

See you on book tour!

UPDATE: A few photos courtesy of Jamie at from FromMe-ToYou.  Like a celebrity on the red carpet, folks keep asking me about my outfit.  My super cute navy blazer with the red accents–Brooklyn Industries!  Glasses by Paul Smith.  Shirt & Pants by Parke Ronen.

With my friend Clare in front of the blow-up of the cover that makes me laugh.


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Reviews Are In!

Back in PageSix!

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul solicits criticism from his fans.

The reviews are in!  Well, not yet, actually.  That’s where you come in.  Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life is recruiting “citizen book critics” to post some comments on Lulu and Amazon.  Head on over to those sites and tell the world your thoughts on my journey.  Was there a moment that made you laugh?  Cry?  Something you wish I’d done more of?  Less?  (Semi-unrelated sidebar: currently at #4 on Amazon’s Hot New Release-Gay Memoir list–just above Rita Mae Brown?!)

Email me a link to your post or a copy of your tasty morsel from now through March 17 at, and as a thank-you several chosen budding book reviewers will receive Alphabet City ephemera.  Maybe a Mary Tyler Moore DVD.  Or a Tyra “InsideOut” book (unsigned).  Sorry, no Whoopi Oscar available (currently).

And don’t worry.  I can take your criticism.  After the storm of controversy surrounding the Tyra’s Olestra intolerance, I’m pretty hardened.  In the midst of the craziness, Jamie at reminded me what Andy Warhol said,

Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.

Words to live by, in so many situations.  My ruler is standing by, ready for action.

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My Nemesis?

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul clashes with Chef over his depiction in book & blog.

Sweetly, my partner Chef insisted that he have the honor of purchasing the very first print edition of Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life.  But as he stood in our kitchen, turning it over in his hands, his proud smile turned to worried concern.

“First in the book and now the blog, I think I’ve become your nemesis,” he said.

“Nemesis?  Are we super heroes?  You watch too much Smallville.”

“No, I mean like I’m always part of the joke.”

There’s that English-as-a-Second/Third-Language issue that charmed me so much in Episode 14: Happy Soul.

“Oh honey, you mean you’re my ‘foil.’  You’re like Ricky to my Lucy!”

And so it begins—a problem most memoirists face—the feedback from loved ones about their portrayal in the book.  For the most part, I’ve tried to head off at the pass any potential issues by letting some key co-stars read early drafts.  Angela quite likes her in-book comparison to Minnie Driver, although her sister Mandy tells me the actress is on her Spit List.  Susan has always admired Brooke Shields, so I knew that one would earn me points.

The biggest concern I had was with my mother’s reaction.  Those of you who know me, or have read the book, understand that we’ve had an up-and-down relationship most of my life.  I sent her relevant chapters before the book was published just to be fair and give her a sense of what was headed down the pike.  Her reaction was surprising—she said that while she enjoyed the characterization of my father (her ex-husband) more than hers, she thought the portrayal of her visit to NYC was spot-on.

I had been focusing so much on a potential rough patch with my Mother that I wasn’t really prepared for a new issue with my partner.  And since Chef and I are both caliente for the actor I compared him to, Gael Garcia Bernal, I wasn’t sure why this nemesis-foil issue was rearing its ugly head.

“I guess it’s just hitting me that my Dad is going to read the book.  You know him, he’ll read and study every word of it,” Chef explained.

“And so?”

“That means he’s going to read the Happy Soul chapter.”

“Honey, this isn’t a surprise.  We’ve talked about it for over a year.  You said it was fine.  It’s even excerpted on the blog.”

“The blog is one thing.  He doesn’t read that.  This is different.  The book makes it so real.”

“What’s the issue?  The chapter is so sweet.  It’s one of my favorites.”

“You know…the part that goes after Happy Soul.”

“You’re kidding?  I think any Dad would be proud of that in a son!” I laughed.  Chef blushed furiously.

“Tell me you’re not going to write about this.”

“Of course I am.  You’re my foil, after all.”

Not sure what goes after Happy Soul?  Guess you’ll have to read the book and find out.  And I guess I’ll find out soon if my foil has turned into a nemesis.

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Amazon’s Velvet Rope

Today on Alphabet City: After Jon Paul’s book makes Amazon’s list of Hot New Releases (with a few caveats), he issues an appeal to fan-readers.

I’m on the list!  Well, Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life is on the list.  To what proverbial velvet rope might I be referring?  Amazon’s Hot New Releases: Gay Biographies & Memoirs, of course!  As of this morning, Alphabet City is #10, last night it was #9—somewhere below Oscar Wilde, Freddie Mercury and Rita Mae Brown, and above David Mixner and a book on Christopher Isherwood.  Not bad, I have to say.

To be honest, I have no idea how this list is put together—but hey, who am I to argue?  For a new author (with the mind of a publicist), the ranking is something I can hang my hat on and promote like hell.

Now, I’m not sure why the rankings change so quickly.  Last I checked, only 4 Kindle versions of Alphabet City had been purchased.  So if the list is based on sales, then I encourage more of you to buy Amazon’s e-version.  And those of you who have already read the book—in either print or Kindle version—help me out and write a mini-customer review of the book.  That will help my ego, if not my ranking.

Let me know you’ve posted a review—send me the link—and I’ll make sure to put you on the list—for the Alphabet City book party in late March.  You’ll whiz past the velvet rope in no time.


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