Tag Archives: aaron krach

Mind the Gap

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul dabbles in LA’s Gay Pride before finding out what Hollywood thinks of his book.

New York and Los Angeles are two cities on opposite coasts that might as well exist in opposite worlds.  New York, the World’s Financial Capital—compact yet tall with the odor of money.  Los Angeles, the World’s Entertainment Capital—sprawling yet short with the smell of celebrity.  But cross-country flights act like an umbilical cord for these city twins separated at birth—remained inexplicably intertwined in ways that can only be comprehended by someone who lives in either, and has cause to frequent the other.  Growing up in Dallas, smack dab in the middle of the country, a three-hour plane ride to Hollywood seemed like a journey to the end of the Earth.  But New Yorkers think nothing of using the dozens of hourly trans-continental airline crossings like a commuter railway.

My own transportation to the West Coast got a little more palatable several years back with the launch of JetBlue—a company I got to know closely in my years of handing out the Condé Nast Traveler Top Airline Award year after year. So they were natural for me to approach for support of the Alphabet City Book Tour, and they nicely sent a few travel vouchers my way.  Alert: that was a full disclosure as required by FCC regulations.  But I don’t think my readers begrudge the support I get from some of my corporate sponsors.  An indie author/blogger girl has to make a living, right?  And I’m going to tell you like it is—including, quite frankly, these vouchers aren’t the easiest to use—a return trip from the West Coast requires 3 stopovers on the way back, ugh.

So here’s my take: having traveled through nearly a hundred airports worldwide, JetBlue has done a genius job of remaking its JFK terminal to look like it belongs more in Scandinavia than America.  The seat back TVs give me a chance to catch episodes of pop culture phenomenons that I have no interest in watching on the ground.  As if my standards plummet at 30,000 feet.   Just ten minutes of watching a painful Bethenny Getting Married? and I completely understood why there’s a question mark at the end of that title.  But give me a Kathy Griffin special and a few episodes of HGTV’s House Hunters International and I’ll forget that I had to pay an additional $60 to snag an Exit Row seat.

My national tour sponsor Kimpton has me staying at Hotel Palomar LA Westwood which earned my love with a just right infusion of ‘70s chic, along with a welcome basil & ginger mojito paired with fresh guacamole and chips.  They even gave me a complimentary ride to the 40th Anniversary LA Gay Pride Parade to meet up with my Texas friend Larry—who agreed to show me how they party in West Hollywood and round up some friends for a Book Party.

I highly recommend visiting any city during Gay Pride festivities—typically reserved boys turn into welcome wagons, and the gorgeous men at The Abbey were no exception.  Many guys stopped to ask me where they could buy the Aaron Krach original designed Alphabet City t-shirt I was wearing, as well as get a close-up look at my Sydney Opera House tattoo.  But the real stars were the acrobatic performers in AussieBums stretching their legs in ways I haven’t seen since Alphabet City’s Episode 13 at the Bangkok bathhouse.

The Pride spirit definitely continued into the next day as I went about spreading the gospel of Alphabet City.  The Four Seasons Beverly Hills hosted an intimate catch-up luncheon with some celebrity publicist pals.  The restaurant Culina that opened last March is a dramatic makeover of the previous space featuring rich woods and the only certified crudo spot in town.  If you’re in the mood for a celebrity helping with your meal, this spot always delivers—Smokey Robinson was in the house.

Task Force Board Member Vince Wong on right, with friends

More entertainment industry friends showed up for the Hotel Palomar LA hosted event benefitting the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.  I was honored that Task Force Board Member Vince Wong showed up since he had just finished organizing LA’s Gay Pride Parade.  Thanks to all my friends who showed their support with generous donations to my non-profit sponsor.

Then it was over the mountain and through the traffic to Larry’s Studio City abode, a drive made all that much easier in my very (eco) stylish Hyundai Santa FeLike Goldilocks, I’m usually never happy with my car situation in Hollywood—they’re either too large and garish, or too small and scary.  But thanks to the team at Hyundai (via my great friends at Ketchum), the Hyundai is just right in every sense of the word.  It has great pick up when I need to get past the irritating truck on the 405, and enough quick maneuvering capabilities when I’m about to miss a turn.  It also helpfully flashes a green “eco” sign when you are in the sustainability zone.  This is a great car for a girl on the go schlepping around books, blow-up posters, faux Oscar statues—everything you need to deliver an Alphabet City Book Club Party-in-a-Box!

Affordable party nibbles from Whole Foods Sherman Oaks

Larry and his partner Mike earn extra credit for turning out a crowd on a Monday night, many of whom were still recovering from Pride.  Whole Foods Market Sherman Oaks East helped out with some affordable and delicious party edibles.  As someone who shops pretty much exclusively at WFM thanks to Chef being a Chef there, I know you don’t have to spend your “whole paycheck” if you plan ahead and know where to look for value.  My hosts rounded out their selection of local cheeses with WFM’s 365 brand of crackers and salsa and olives, along with some other party necessities, all for under $100.

The result?  A happy crowd that bought multiple books as gifts for friends!  That’s what I call Happy Pride.

I’m thrilled to see that Alphabet City is resonating on the West Coast.  Maybe it’s like an ambassador really, helping bridge that divide between New York and LA.

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Tex and the City: Falling Just Short

Today on Alphabet City: Tex and the City squeezes in some questionable religious training with Broadway’s Next Fall

My brushes with formal religious education have been fleeting.  As a kid, my family attended a non-denominational Congregationalist church mostly because it was expected of my climbing-the-law-firm-ladder father.  Later, as a 12 year-old, I very reluctantly suffered through confirmation classes at tony Highland Park Methodist at the insistence of my mother who was husband hunting in the over-40s single group.  Then in my teen years filled with personal upheaval, Judaism enamored me during high school at semi-Semitic Greenhill mostly because wholesome families like the Levy’s, Strelitz’s and Frankel’s adopted me into their flocks making sure I was well-fed and loved.

As an adult, I’ve tended not to be interested much in religious dogma, often holding it at arms’ length.  Even Chef’s Catholic upbringing doesn’t seem to pose many issues in our relationship—he left behind any self-loathing baggage back in Mexico.  So when Next Fall by first-time playwright Geoffrey Nauffts opened Off-Broadway last season to resoundingly wonderful reviews, I resisted the allure of a gay treatise on faith, even if Gay Hall of Flamers Elton John and partner David Furnish produced it.  But like a true show queen, a Tony nomination for Best Play after a transfer to the Great White trumps any personal trepidations.  In short order, a one-night NYC opening in my Alphabet City book tour schedule cemented the play on my squeezed itinerary.

My expectation that the show would take a Tony Kushner-like heavy handed and heady approach to questions of religious belief’s impact on the lives of a gay couple was happily dashed.  Instead, the fast-paced play is served up as a frothy living room (cum hospital waiting room) comedy with a steady mix of punch lines sure to please the hardiest Will & Grace fans.

The tightly wound hypochondriac Adam (Patrick Breen) is the latest and gayest incarnation of a familiar curmudgeon previously known as Woody Allen/Jerry Seinfeld/Larry David.  A devout agnostic, the 40 year-old worldly Adam takes every opportunity to poke fun and lay bare the inherent contradictions in the fundamentalist beliefs of his much younger aspiring actor boyfriend Luke (Patrick Heusinger).  The story reveals itself by jumping backwards and forwards in time as a collection of characters gathers in a NYC hospital after an accident.  I don’t want to give away too much here because I think the movement in the story is expertly crafted, as is the cleverly packed-in set design by Wilson Chin.  Suffice it to say there’s a motley storytelling and wise-cracking crew assembled: self-professed fag hag Holly (Maddie Corman), Luke’s Southern divorced parents Arlene (Connie Ray) and Butch (Cotter Smith), and Luke’s fellow fundamentalist friend Brandon (Sean Dugan).

Surprisingly, rather than being turned off by the accept-Jesus-as-your-savior-or-burn-in-Hell beliefs of the Luke, I was actually rather charmed by his deep hope that Adam would convert so they could meet in the afterlife.  Heusinger’s quirky laugh and shoulder shaking body movements as he tries to explain his faith makes what he’s saying palatable and cute.  Adam’s comic reaction to meeting up in the afterlife is what does it really matter—they evidently aren’t allowed to be gay in Heaven.

And herein lies my main problem with the show—while the play teases out Luke’s thoughts, hopes, dreams and background—Adam is presented solely as stand-up comedian.  And no doubt, as played by Patrick Breen, he’s charming in that nebbishy way that I found so attractive in NYC guys when I first moved here.  But there are almost no references to Adam’s background—how he turned into this rather cynical character that we all know from TV, and the real streets of New York.  What’s that about his father dying and feeling bitter that Luke didn’t hold him that night?  What’s that about Adam wanting to be a writer but leaving behind those dreams to be a teacher?  Never mind, we’re onto the next set-up.

Adam was almost too funny all the time, so that when he has some heart breaking moments, it’s hard for us to understand his depth of emotion.  It actually reminded me of the early drafts of Alphabet City that included no background about my previously dashed dreams of living in NYC or complicated relationship with my parents.  My friend, writer and artist Aaron counseled me that in order for readers to root for me to succeed, they need to know something of my background.  In Alphabet City, I can’t just start as a sitcom character with no explanation.  Aaron was right then, and his advice applies here.  I needed to know much more about Adam than just accept him as a gay archetype—especially since we delve so deeply into Luke.

Oddly, most of the other supporting characters are given more of an opportunity to break out of stereotypes than Adam.  Maddie Corman endears her Holly with a terrific blend of pathos and comic timing so I audibly gasped when Adam meanly critiques her new age efforts to find love.  “At least I’m trying,” she replies.  We have to wait deep into Act 2 to get a similar sense from the mysterious Brandon, which Sean Dugan plays expertly with a proverbial bug up his butt.

Connie Ray’s turn as Luke’s on again/off again mother is mesmerizing.  She lights up the stage from her entrance, and gets the richest dialogue—becoming the emotional core of the show.  Unfortunately, that makes Butch, the stiff as a board father, come across as well, stiff as a board.  He doesn’t get to have as nearly as interesting journey as the other characters.

But for a first time Broadway outing by the playwright Nauffts and director Sheryl Kaller, this is a tremendous beginning.  Inspiring, really.  I’m excited to continue to watch and experience their various journies—you made complicated issues of faith palatable to an avowed agnostic like myself.

Luke’s greatest role on stage, as recounted by his mother and Holly, was the Stage Manager in Our Town.  Holly gives a delicious recounting of the plot, reminding us to cherish life and not take others for granted.  To me, those words, from one of America’s greatest stage triumphs, are truly my religion.

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Beantown Book Tour

Today on Alphabet City: On book tour, Jon Paul takes Boston by storm.

I  took it as a good omen when Vanessa Williams was in my room at Kimpton’s Nine Zero hotel in Boston.  After all, Tyra had accompanied me via American Way on my first leg of the journey, and now Chef spotted Vanessa peeking at me from the cover of SpaFinder touting her beauty tips.  I can tell you one of them—fresh honey, read Alphabet City’s Episode 8: As Bees in Honey Drown.

At that point in the day, I took any good sign where I could get it.  Earlier, Amtrak moved down a notch on my fan belt when chaos reigned at Penn Station.  A planned computer system outage left overwhelmed train customer service agents scrambling to help panicked travelers.  If Amtrak has all of our purchase information and emails—why couldn’t they have alerted us to the problem in advance?  Why couldn’t they have put more staff on duty?  Even the exhausted agents were snapping pictures on their phones and emailing it to headquarters.  Have I heard from anyone at Amtrak despite all my twittering?  Adding insult to injury, the engine broke down just outside of New York City, and we waited—with no A/C—for over an hour for a replacement.  The only thing that would have made the trip better was having Frida with me—oh, but wait, Amtrak doesn’t allow travel with pets.  In just a few hours, Amtrak amazingly made the airlines look like customer service geniuses.

On arrival, Chef and I raced to Cambridge for the first Beantown stop on the Alphabet City Book Tour—a party hosted by my in-laws Laura and Miguel.  They were the first members of Chef’s family I got to meet—and Laura has been a fan of my reading and blog, and now has the unenviable task of trying to translate some of the racier parts of Alphabet City into Spanish for our family back in Mexico!  Como se dice “well endowed?”  For the backyard gathering, the hurricane rains held off and I debuted my new Aaron Krach original t-shirt design!

My youngest fan and me in Aaron Krach couture

Laura not only assembled a multicultural crowd—turns out Mary Tyler Moore isn’t as iconic South of the Border—but she also pressed into service a friend with a new cupcake business.  The result had me eating my words—literally.  The behind-the-scenes story was that the owner of The Yellow Cupcake was worried she might be going a little too gay with rainbow flags—my sister-in-law told her not to worry—wait until she met me!  If you’re in Boston and would like your own image on a cupcake email gabs79(at)gmail.com.

Sister-in-law Laura makes me eat my words

In true Kimpton form, the Nine Zero hotel pulled out all the welcome stops thanks to the cute and clever concierge Thomas.  Our room had been transformed into a Princess oasis—for Frida—with bejeweled dog collar and photo of Frida Kahlo.  The only thing that kept me from missing the little goose was the spectacular view across Boston Commons to the Charles River.

The Nine Zero-hosted event was special in so many ways.  It was the first time Chef accompanied me and he had the opportunity to re-shoot the previous evening Flipcam of my reading.  Seems like I didn’t give good enough direction and ended up with video of me talking over close-ups of the cupcakes.  You can take the girl out of the kitchen…

Task Force supporters!

But it was the turnout that really made the evening so terrific.  A range of supporters of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force turned out including Kathy and Patrick from Marriage Equality Rhode Island, who drove up from Providence (this is the next state to grant gay marriage, fingers crossed!).  A new twitter friend Scott of onefoodguy.blogspot.com also attended and I interviewed him after for an upcoming Peek-A-Blog post.  And Michael Hartwig and his partner Steve came.  Michael is special in my life because for many years he was partnered with Don Baker, who passed away a few years ago.  Don was the plaintiff in Baker v. Wade, the case challenging Texas’ sodomy statute, that my father ruled unconstitutional in 1982.  Sitting in the courtroom, hearing the testimony at 13, I saw for the first time a wonderful gay role model in Don and knew that I, too, could grow up to be a loving, caring, smart, professional out gay man.  Thank you Don for teaching me that, and how lovely to have Michael and Steve in my life.

Thanks for stirring up the Alphabet City pot, Beantown.

Note: flipcam videos of Jon Paul’s Boston appearance available here.

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Tour Couture

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul unveils his one-of-a-kind, couture book tour ensemble by artist Aaron Krach.

The Alphabet City Book Tour kicks into high heel gear starting this Sunday as I crisscross the country visiting many Kimpton Hotels near their city’s Gay Pride festivities.  And I’m excited to announce that I’ll be walking the red carpet in a couture look created by Aaron Krach—the phenomenally talented artist, friend, and writer who provided much needed editorial insight on the first draft of Alphabet City.

Now, he’s paired an iconic image from the book’s cover with a question I pose at least seven times a day, “What would Mary do?”  There’s just an extremely limited run of these gems, but show up at the events, and you might just charm me into giving you the shirt off my back—for the right price, that is.

Seriously, readers, I could use your help in turning out the love at all the stops on the tour.  Surely you have a Facebook friend or two at Boston Nine Zero (6/7), Philly Hotel Palomar (6/8), DC Topaz Hotel (6/9), LA Hotel Palomar (6/14), Silicon Valley Cypress Hotel (6/16), San Fran Harbor Court Hotel (6/17) or Portland Hotel Monaco (6/21).  Check this link for more details, or become an Alphabet City fan on Facebook and you can send around the invite!

Make sure to follow along on all the trouble (fun) I’ll be getting into thanks to national sponsors Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, with local support provided along the way by Whole Foods Market (LA—3rd and Fairfax and Sherman Oaks), Hyundai (LA) and Subaru (Portland).

“What would Mary do?”  Why, she’d read ABCityblog!


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