Category Archives: Background

40, Love: Justice Jo(h)n Paul

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul unearths an old letter from Judge Buchmeyer and pays tribute to Justice John Paul.

As I explain in Alphabet City’s Episode 14: Happy Soul, I have always disliked jokes about my name as it relates to other famous faces.

People making jokes about my name exhausted me.  The next line was usually, “Oh, like John Paul Jones?”  Or John Paul Sartre.  Or John Paul George and Ringo.  It’s just one of those things I’ve heard my whole life and am prickly about.

But one man was always an exception—legendary (and retiring) Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.  It wasn’t often that people conjured up his name when they met me, but when they did it was a pleasure.

Justice JP became an important figure in our house, when in 1986, he opposed the court’s decision in Bowers v. Hardwick—a case challenging Georgia’s law criminalizing homosexuality.  That decision by the Supreme Court to allow such laws to stand effectively reversed my own father’s decision in Baker v. Wade to strike down Texas’ similar law.  My father was crushed, and so was I as a young teenager kid struggling to make sense of my sexuality—and the highest court in the lands opposition to it.

First page of the note my father sent me about Hardwick/Baker v. Wade

At the time of the decision, I was in Brazil as a high school exchange student.  My father broke the news to me in the first letter he wrote me.  I discovered the letter among my father’s papers after his death.  Here’s an excerpt of the hand written note on my father’s judicial letterhead; capitalization is true to Dad’s original:

8 July [1986]

Dear Paul—

First letter. Bad news.

On the day you left the United States, the Supreme Court decided the Hardwick case (the Georgia sodomy case) by a 5-4 vote.  If you remember, my opinion in Baker v. Wade was deliberately written to hold that a state could not condemn sodomy between husband and wife (or unmarried heterosexuals), so therefore a state could not prohibit private, consensual homosexual conduct.

Well, in Hardwick, the Supreme Court held that it was constitutional for a state to condemn sodomy between husband and wife—and that the Georgia statute prohibiting all heterosexual and homosexual conduct was enforceable.  Hell, they even indicated that a state could constitutionally prohibit adultery.  Powell, the swing vote, allowed that it might be O.K. to fine people who engage in sodomy, but you couldn’t put them in jail because that just might be cruel and unusual punishment.

Blackmun and [John Paul] Stevens wrote excellent dissents—which has been described as “his greatest moment on the Court,” and I agree.  Copies of the opinion and the New York Times coverage are enclosed.

Hardwick sounded the death knell for Baker v. Wade.  At first, I was very upset that Baker had not been the first case to the Supreme Court…later, I realized that it would have made no difference—since the majority would have ignored my findings, just like the Fifth Circuit did.

To conclude, Chris [his wife, my stepmother] and I were watching Lawrence Tribe (who handled both Hardwick and Baker in the Supreme Court) debate some Nerd Guy from a Right-Wing Group in Washington, DC, on the McNeil-Lehrer show.  The Nerd made the telling point that, if a state could not condemn sodomy in the bedroom, then it would have no right, “to prohibit two businessmen from agreeing to fix prices in the privacy of their own bedroom.”

Well, Tribe and Chris came Totally Unglued, at the same time and to the same extent.  Tribe nailed the Nerd with a sarcastic point about someone trying to equate private sexual conduct to economic decisions.  Chris cheered “ALRIGHT.”

Later in the show I whispered to Chris: “Would you like to go into our bedroom and fix prices?”  After some delay Chris responded: “I love it when you talk economics to me.”

Better news in letter 2.

Love—Dad

Justice JP—thanks for fighting the good fight, and always lending honor to our name.  And for giving my father the opportunity to teach lesson in sex & economics.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 40 Love, Background, Uncategorized

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 FromMe-ToYou.Tumblr.com

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Alphabet City Excerpt, Background, East Village

Caught in Rehab

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul goes to Celebrity Rehab and finds a new boyfriend.

It was just a matter of time before I got caught cheating, again.  This time, I clumsily left the evidence right where Chef could see it.  Usually he doesn’t pay much attention.  But home sick with the flu, Chef was lounging on the couch, and as he picked up the remote, I twitched nervously.  I was about to be found out.  He punched on the TV, called up the list of shows recorded on our DVR, and turned to me suspiciously.

“What’s this Celebrity Rehab?” he questioned.

I gulped.  How to explain it?  He stared in disbelief at the short summary listing down-on-their-luck “celebrities” like Mackenzie Phillips who signed up for a little publicity while getting clean.

“Oh, that?  Believe it or not, my new TV boyfriend is on the show.”

“Dennis Rodman?”

“No, silly, Dr. Drew!”

Immediately, I relaxed.  It felt good to come out and stop hiding.  As much I resist, I can totally get sucked into trash TV, and my first time with Dr. Drew had me hooked.  How could I look away from a train wreck that included Hollywood Madame Heidi Fleiss and country music start Mindy McCready.  Presiding over this hothouse of madness was the serene Dr. Drew with the sexy glasses and compassionate face.  Would he be my Daddy?

“You don’t want to watch that,” I said to Chef, wanting to keep this guilty pleasure to myself.  Then Chef hit play and I watched it happen—he was signed up in a matter of minutes.

I knew that watching the show with Chef was going to be a very different viewing experience—he doesn’t really pay attention to much in the way of pop culture, outside of music divas like Madonna and Lady Gaga.  Thankfully, the program rolls a video mini-bio of each participant as they are introduced, so I knew Chef would be okay.  But I wasn’t prepared for Chef’s confusion over the detox process.

“So in order to get off heroin you have to become addicted to meth?” he asked after listening to Dr. Drew counseling a former member of Alice in Chains.

“What? No, they give you methadone to get off heroin. And it’s highly addictive. Didn’t you just listen to Dr. Drew’s lecture?”

“I thought it was the same thing.  So what does crystal meth stand for if not methadone?”

“Methamphetamine.”

“The same thing that’s in ecstasy?”

“No, that’s MDMA.”

I realized then that Celebrity Rehab, while a guilty pleasure for me, was going to be a much more educational experience for Chef.  Like a cracked-up Sesame Street.  My boyfriend Dr. Drew and I have our work cut out for us.

2 Comments

Filed under Background

Speed(o) Demon

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul confesses that his love for bikinis has lead to some painful experiences.

Somewhere along the way I developed a deep appreciation for Speedos.  And I don’t just mean tingling excitement from seeing a hunky guy parade down Fire Island letting it (almost) all show.  No, I mean that I, myself, much prefer to don a bikini than baggy board shorts.

It’s not like I can chalk it up to a European upbringing.  In Texas, I was raised to wear much more modest pool attire.  And it’s not like I have a toned torso that I love to show off.  I have battled weight my entire life.

Maybe it started when I was 14, and just coming to terms with my body and sexuality.  I used flip through GQ magazine pulling out pictures of models in revealing swimwear, creating a collage on poster board of my ideal man that I hung in my room.  Remind me again how my Mom was surprised when I came out officially several years later?

In my "couture" bikini going snorkeling in Tahiti...so butch

At the time, the only place in town I knew sold actual men’s bikinis was Neiman Marcus—they catered to men with more of a “special” fashion sense.  I saved up my pennies and steeled my courage to purchase one for myself.  When my father and stepmother were away, I’d put it on and lay poolside.  I also doused my hair with special Sun-In to bring out the highlights.  Oh I was a vision.  And felt so sexy and like such a rebel.

My fetish flourished when I took up residence on Alphabet City.  There was no shortage of places catering to men wanting to display their package.  Over the years, I’ve acquired quite the menagerie of swim attire.  Flashy red floral for Puerto Vallarta’s gay beach.  Cheeky green plaid for Provincetown.  Understated deep purple for more family oriented resorts in the Caribbean.

Last year for my 40th birthday, I even had a “couture” suit designed by swimwear designer Keiko—something to show off my Green Lantern tattoo placed high on my thigh.  I needed something with just the right colors, and cut so as not to ride up my butt—I was going to be entertaining friends on a boat in Sydney, after all.  A little modesty was required, after all.

As I’ve aged, it’s taken more work to look “presentable” in a bikini.  I’ve lost weight, pumped up my legs and trimmed the unruly hair on my thighs.  When I started noticing some odd patches of hair growing on my back, I immediately booked my first waxing treatment at men’s spa Nickel.

After disrobing and laying prostate on what looked like a sacrificial alter, Latin American aesthetician Monica gave me a once over.

“Ay papi, it’s not just your back.  That hair on your butt needs to go, too.”

“Why?  It’s mostly covered up.”

“No, no baby.  From looking at your tan line, some of that hair is poking out.  Monica gonna take good care of you.  Just relax.  You want inside as well?”

“Um, I don’t know what that means.”

“Sweetie, you watch porn?  How you think those boys have no hair there?”

Holy Christmas!  Just the thought of it made me writhe in pain.  Turns out, there’s a male equivalent of the female Brazilan wax.  I’ve named it after Monica’s home country—Ecuadorian Torture.

“Well, okay, I’ll try anything once.”

Famous last words.

Yesterday, as I dropped my towel in front of my gym locker, I noticed my tan line fading, along with memories of the warmth of Mexico.  But the cute guy next to me winked, and told me he liked my tattoo—and my tan line.  Nice.  Just the reaction, and boost of self-esteem, I’d been looking for.

Time to book my next trip to a sunny locale.  But what Speedo will I take?

2 Comments

Filed under Background

Feliz (Nervioso) Navidad

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul gets nervous about guest starring on a Mexican tele-novella.

No matter how you slice it, Mexico makes me nervous.  Not the country, mind you.  But my in-laws, Chef’s family.  I should explain that I use the name of the country as an endearing term referring to my in-laws in general, much in the same way that I use the name of my partner’s profession to refer to my beloved Chef.

My nervous condition has a long history.  When Chef and I first became an item, my Catholic mother-in-law refused to meet me.  So the stakes were high once Chef and I were living together and she finally agreed to stay in Alphabet City on one of her twice yearly visits.

On the day of his parents arrival, I was rushing back from a two week cross-country trip for Condé Nast Traveler and was working myself up into a frenzy of anxiety.  My boss Publisher wasn’t helping matters when I confessed to why I was so fidgety.  She leaned across the mini-table separating our First Class seats.

“I certainly hope you have a game plan.  This first meeting is big.  Very big.  You gotta have a game plan,” she said.

“Game plan?”

“You’re not just planning on letting them see you in your robe and slippers are you?  Not to overstate the matter, but this meeting is make it or break it.  You better be ready with your game face on.” Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Background

40, Love: Small Packages

Today on Alphabet City: JP learns during his first Christmas in NYC that handsome wrapping can’t make up for small packages.  Viewer Discretion Advised.

My first Christmas in Alphabet City turned out to be rather disappointing.  Although I was alone, I wasn’t sad exactly.  Living thousands of miles away from my Texas family finally provided me with a terrific excuse for not suffering through their dysfunction.  On top of that, I didn’t have any money and someone needed to take care of the menagerie of animals living in our apartment.

While my roommates trotted off to warmer climes, I stayed behind and decided to keep myself busy building new Christmas Eve rituals and memories.  All bundled up, I set out for a big walk filled with iconic New York moments: watching couples ice-skate in Central Park, smirking at Barney’s holiday/pop-culture window displays, pushing through crowds gawking at Rock Center’s Tree.

Everything was going fine until the Titanic.  A tradition I imported from Texas was my Christmas Eve enjoyment of movies with a non-traditional holiday theme—nothing sappy or sweet for me.  I prefer something really off-kilter like Misery or even Monster’s Ball.  But 1997 was in short supply of depressing features and so I thought a movie about hordes killed aboard a huge shipping disaster might be okay.  Boy was I tricked.  The doomed love story brought to life by Leo and Kate sunk me into a sea of loneliness.

As I walked the eerily empty streets of Alphabet City, I decided to drown my sorrow with a few drinks at my go-to dive The Boiler Room.  Surely I wasn’t the only lonely East Village gay boy?  And this seedy joint had always been good for some guaranteed pick-ups.

Let’s just say it was slim pickins’ that night—maybe about 7 sad souls nursing beers and watching the animated version of The Grinch That Stole Christmas on the TV over the bar.  Really?  What kind of cock tease buzz kill is that?  I almost turned around and left when I noticed a handsome Latino fellow at the bar.  I figured I had nothing to lose, and hopped onto a stool next to him.  He smiled and leaned over to me.

“I’m visiting from Argentina and never seen this funny show before.  Can you explain to me?  Is this the way you celebrate Christmas?”

I smiled and gulped my beer.  Things were looking up—if I played my cards right, the night might not end so badly after all. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under 40 Love, Background, East Village

Postal Guilt

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul laments the guilt brought on by the Christmas (card) season

‘Tis the season for guilt—and I’m blaming the US Post Office.  Every day, tucked between the mounds of catalogs and discount Broadway ticket offers are the neatly addressed offenders—Christmas Cards.  Or Holiday Greetings if you prefer the PC term.  I’m not really sure when the feelings of guilt first set in, because I used to be Christmas card person.  I took great pride in picking ornate Crane’s stationery every year and personalizing notes to everyone on my list.  I even saved  the project for my regular late-November cross-country flight to Los Angeles and set up an assembly line in my trusted seat 38A.  My seat companions always looked on in awe of my organizational skills.

But then one season something in me snapped, and I just stopped.  I couldn’t bring myself to pick up a pen or even pick out printed cards.  And that’s when the guilt set in.  Every card that arrives causes a flood of questions to run through my head.  Here’s a sampling brought on by yesterday’s mail:

Who’s this from?  The signature is intelligible.  On Lexington Ave?  Chef and I don’t know anyone who lives on Lex, do we?  Think.  Think.  Think.  Oh, right.  It’s John.  My tennis buddy.  Wait, isn’t he Jewish?  What’s he doing sending me a card with a Christmas Tree?  And that cute dog.  Did he pick this out special for me?  Great.  He’s not even the right religion and he got up the energy to send a card.  What’s he going to think of me?  Am I supposed to send him a clever Hannukah note?  Isn’t it over by now?  Maybe he’ll just think it got lost in the mail.  When do I see him next?  Hope he’s not one of those people who asks, “Did you get my card?”  I hate that.  How am I supposed to respond?  That I was too lame and thoughtless to return the gesture?

You can see how I drive myself crazy.

Sometimes NOT getting a holiday greeting from someone is even worse.  There are people who I know have their assistants prep the cards—like Tyra or the Billionaire I worked for years ago.  I’ve been on their lists forever.  Then one lonely December, nothing.  What did I do to get taken off a list?  Not send a card?  Maybe their staff is cross-referencing received cards in a database and assigning a point system—and I lost.  Great.  Hope I don’t need them for a job reference at some point.

Lots of people complain about those “update” letters that people.  I kind of like them—I’m fascinated by the kind of minutiae that people include in those.  But I am noticing a steep drop off in the number of those special missives.  Maybe there’s no need in the age of Facebook and Twitter since we’re kept in a constant state of personal update.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s a good rationalization for me not sending cards.  Consider this blog post my holiday greeting to you.  I can feel the guilt lessening already—until I open tomorrow’s mailbox.

Oy vey.

1 Comment

Filed under Background