Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Idol Thoughts


I have to admit that the show is getting a little anticlimactic for me now that it seems like the finale lineup is a forgone conclusion: Adam Lambert vs. either Danny Gokey or Kris Allen. (I'm hoping for Kris only b/c he's prettier to look at.)

Here's what I made of last night's show:

KRIS ALLEN: Passable, but a little wide-eyed and smarmy. And, dude, Gillette that shit above your lip!

I did like Simon's idea of Kris being " a little bit wet." I'll take Kris A LOT "Wet," preferably with an added warming sensation.


Allison Iraheta: Still my girl. Don't think she'll make it into the finals. But I'm ready to buy her album.

Matt Giraud: Oh, shit: Is he still on the show? I swear, I thought he'd been voted off. He's not improving, and he's singlehandedly setting male-hat-wearing back 20 years.

Danny Gokey: Everything Danny does lately is coming off as schtick to me. His voice is so overpowering that he needs to keep the arrangements spare. This was a big, brassy mess.

Adam Lambert: Same ole, some ole. But the ghosts of Freddie Mercury, Peter Allen, and Paul Lynde must be incredibly proud.

Drake Live @ Northern Illinois University

Here are some pics of Lil Wayne protege, Drake, performing at Northern Illinois University...








For more of my photography, go here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Creative Inspiration: Neil Strauss


Neil Strauss is one of my heroes. I love that he was a big time NY Times writer, but said goodbye to the paper in order to pursue his own writing goals, which included co-authoring books with porn stars and rockers, as well as, immersing himself into a secret society of pick-up artists. [Sidebar: His book is about picking up women, but I've totally used some of the techniques to bag guys.] Strauss' career choices made me realize that there was life beyond journalism.

Anyway, he has a new book out about survival techniques called Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, and he frequently sends out emails letting readers know what he's up to. I thought his most recent email, in response to writing contest he sponsored, offered some great advice for creative people, especially in these tight economic times.

"Remember, the no's don't matter. It only takes one "yes" to launch your career, and your life, in a whole new direction."

"If you follow the money, you can lose the money and then you'll have nothing. If you follow your bliss - your passion in life - the money can come and go, but no one will be able to take away your happiness and your excitement for what you're doing."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

LOVE is the Message


"Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do." - Proverbs 4:23

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Creative Inspiration: The Bible

As a writer/photographer/aspiring video-maker and someone who teaches writing, I know that one of the biggest issues artists deal with is fear: of their own talent, of the value of their work, of never being successful, and of the way their lives might change if they are successful. It's a daunting issue, and I deal with it everyday in my own work and when I talk to students. So I thought it was fitting that I saw this Bible verse on a billboard while driving home yesterday:

" For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." - II Timothy 1:7

ALL I COULD BARE in TIME magazine


When I found out I was mentioned in the new TIME magazine, I thought it was kinda cool. But when I saw that they included a pic of the book, I thought it was REALLY cool. Check it out.

"Idol" Thoughts


Watching American Idol is like dating multiple people at once. Some you dismiss right off the bat. Others you like at first, but soon grow tired of. And then, occasionally, someone makes you fall in love.

At this point in the season, I know exactly where each contestant stands with me.

The “Disco Show” was marred by two people, who hopefully will be saying goodbye this week: Lil Rounds and Matt Giraud. Over the past few weeks, Lil’s performances have reminded me of those shows in Vegas where one drag queen pretends to be whole slew of divas. But now Lil is becoming painful to watch because she has no artistic identity yet doesn’t know it. This was only underscored by her ironic song choice. “I’m Every Woman?” How ‘bout trying to be just one good one—yourself.

Also lacking an identity was Matt Giraud. His look is becoming more Justin Timberlake, while his performances are going the way of Joey Fatone.

The others struck me like this:

Kris Allen: Still cute. Still talented. Can’t imagine buying an album from him in a million years.

Danny Gokey: Gettin’ kinda hokey.

Allison Iraheta: My affection hasn’t been totally eclipsed. But this was way too Bonnie Tyler for me.

Adam Lambert: His pleading, slowed-down take on “If I Can’t Have You” was well-sung and emotive. But it kinda made him come off like a contestant on “Stalker Idol.”

Anoop Desai: Can’t get past this arrangement of “Dim All The Lights,” which sounds like a Muzak version of Chris Brown’s “Forever.” But the singing was OK, except for that last pubescent-Peter-Brady note.

Overall, it was a bum night. What’s the point of a disco show when nearly every song sounds like a torch ballad, an over-produced piece of 80s pop, or the musical love child between Donna Summer and Jason Mraz. Way to get the party stopped.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

FLESHBOT reviews PSYCHEDELIC STRIP TEASE


I love Brian O'Brien's review of my video, PSYCHEDELIC STRIP TEASE on Fleshbot. I especially love when he writes: "Drug abuse never looked so good."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Solange Live in Chicago


How cool: Solange tweeted that she liked the pics...









For more of my photography, go here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

PSYCHEDELIC STRIP TEASE (NSFW)



I've been experimenting with video lately. I was influenced by watching A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory and seeing the kind of lighting the unsung Williams choreographed for the Exploding Plastic Inevitable events with the Velvet Underground. (See below.)

It also dawned on me that, most often, when you see vintage videos of frenetic go-go dancers, the dancers are almost always women. I thought I'd flip the script a little.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Protecting Kids in the Amazon.com Jungle



Bill Thompson writes on the BBC News website: "A children's author I know has been in discussion with Amazon...for well over year after clearly adult titles kept cropping up when people searched for books she had written."

I think this is a legitimate concern. We don't want kids looking for The Big Book of Boy Stuff to instead find The Big Penis Book. But it's probably not wise for parents to allow their tykes to browse freely on Amazon any more than it would be wise to let them to go unsupervised through a large brick-and-mortar bookstore.

Perhaps Amazon should set up a special kid-friendly site in the same way that many bookstores have separate children's sections. With this option, the question wouldn't be which books to exclude from searches but rather which books to include on the children's site.

Why AmazonFail Was About More than Sales

On the Entertainment Weekly website, Kate Ward really captures how I felt when my book was de-ranked and removed from the search results:

Even though Seymour's sales rank was restored four weeks after he issued his first complaint, he says the shunning still stings, especially since bookstores were the only outlets to provide homosexual-centric information and entertainment when he was growing up in the 1980s. "Bookstores for me were always sort of a safe place," he says. "And now, of course, Amazon is like a big virtual bookstore, and to feel booted out of that, it's hurtful in terms of the role that books have played in my life and in the lives of a lot of gay and lesbian people."

You can read the whole article -- which also has me stating "I'm not saying [Amazon] should have a flash of me stripping across the homepage..." -- here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Response to Amazon's Statement

Amazon has just released this statement about the controversy:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.


MY RESPONSE: It's a start but insufficient. It does not explain why writers, like myself, were told by Amazon reps that our books were being classified as "adult products." It also doesn't address why they took so long to do something about it, when they clearly knew about my issues back in February. Why didn't they address and fix the problems at that time?

And exactly what does "cataloging error" mean? Was the error that they ever had an "adult" category or was the category simply applied to the wrong books? And if Amazon is going to maintain an "adult" category, who is going to determine what is "adult?" How will they ensure that it's not disproportionately applied toward books with gay and lesbian content; and will there be a way to appeal the process once the determination has been made? What is their commitment to transparency? (It took me three weeks to get any info about what they had done to my book.) Despite what some have argued (um, former Publisher's Weekly editor, Sara Nelson comes to mind), Amazon should be held accountable for these questions, largely because they tout themselves as "building the Earth's most customer-centric company."

I don't think Amazon should be let off the hook until they address some very specific questions. Enough with the generic and vague statements.

Glitch, please!

This has been happening since February. Don't let Amazon off the hook until they tell the truth about what's been going on.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My AmazonFail Timeline

Related to my earlier post, I wanted to give this specific timeline so that people know exactly how long Amazon has been de-ranking GLBT titles and removing them from searches. This is only a fraction of my communication with Amazon, because I was also calling them constantly throughout this period. (I have edited some of the emails down, because Amazon pastes a lot of generic info into their responses; but I have included everything relevant to the issue.)

February 2, 2009: It was within days of the 2nd when I first noticed that my sales ranking first disappeared for my memoir, All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C.. I also noticed that it had been removed from the search results. I know this because I pre-ordered the forthcoming paperback version of my book on this day, and I wondered if placing this order somehow cancelled out the hardcover version. I know this doesn't make much sense but I didn't know how else to explain the fact that my book suddenly disappeared.

February 9, 2009: After contacting Amazon about the situation, I got the following response.

Thank you for writing to Amazon.com.

I am sorry to learn that the hardcover version in the title search and the sales numbers have not been updated for the item title to "All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C. (Hardcover)."

As you may know that we build our web site information from many sources, and we really appreciate knowing about any errors which find their way into it.

Please note that we have separate department for authors, I kindly request you to contact the author department using the given link at the bottom of this e-mail.

Our "Catalog Guide" outlines ways authors and publishers can contact us about images and content, including listing new items, submitting corrections, enhancing the product detail page, and adding to the variety of information customers use to make a purchasing decision.

Best regards,

S.Y. Khalid
Amazon.com
We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company


February 13, 2009: A few days later, I complained again about the lack of a sales ranking and I got this response, suggesting they thought I was complaining about my rank rather than the fact that the sales rank had disappeared altogether:

Hello from Amazon.com.

While we do display a sales rank for each item on its detail page, Amazon does not disclose the actual quantity of items that have sold. The sales rank is a relative measure that tells you how each item is selling in comparison to other items.

Please contact your publisher for specific details regarding the sales of your book.

Thanks for contacting us at Amazon.com.

Best regards,

Gajalakshmi S.
Amazon.com
We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company


At this point, I was pissed, so I wrote back:

I just got a VERY unhelpful response to my email question (see below). I'm not asking about sales. THERE IS NO AMAZON SALES RANK ON THE DETAIL PAGE FOR THIS LISTING: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1416542051?ie=UTF8&tag=crspoli-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1416542051

Please take the time to understand the issue before responding. Thank you.


They responded:

Thank you for writing to us at Amazon.com.

I see that we've had a great deal of correspondence on this issue already and I'd like to apologize for the time and energy you have expended in an attempt at resolution. I want to assure you that I recognize your frustration and am committed to helping you resolve this matter.

I have contacted appropriate department regarding the sales rank and if there is any error it will be corrected as soon as possible.

Best regards,

Sathya S.
Amazon.com
We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company


February 14, 2009: The next day, I received this email:

Thank you for writing back to us at Amazon.com.

I have reviewed our previous correspondence with you, and I offer my sincere apologies for any misunderstanding thus far.

From your e-mail, I understand that there is no sales rank listed for these three items "All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C. (Hardcover)", "My Life in Porn: The Bobby Blake Story (Paperback)" and "Out of the Blue: Confessions of an Unlikely Porn Star (Paperback)."

We build our website information from many sources, and we really appreciate knowing about any errors which find their way into it.

Hence, I have forwarded your message to the concerned department, stating that there is no sales rank listed with these items. So, they may work towards resolving this matter at the earliest.

I will personally follow up with them in this regard and will write back to you in another 5 business with a resolution in this regard.

Rest assured that this matter will be resolved to your satisfaction at the earliest possible.

Your patience and cooperation are greatly appreciated in this regard.

Thanks for giving me time to find the best solution.

Best regards,

Swathi
Amazon.com
We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company


February 19, 2009: I give a reading at the University of Maryland at College Park. The moderator introduces me as the author of a forthcoming memoir, even though my book has been out since June 2008; apparently he couldn't locate the book on Amazon.

February 22, 2009: WAY beyond the five days when they were supposed to get back to me, I receive this email:

Greetings,

I am sorry to learn that the Sales Rank for the ISBN #1416542051 is not appearing on the detail page.

We have engaged our technical staff to research the issue further. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide an estimated time of resolution. We appreciate your patience while we research and resolve this problem.

Best regards,

Krishna K.
Amazon.com Seller Support


At this point, I'm totally thinking WTF and wondering if Amazon customers will ever be able to buy my book again.

February 25, 2009: I get the first email telling me that my book has been branded as an "adult product," as if it's a sex toy or something.

Greetings,

Upon following up the issue with our Technical staff, the sales rank was not displayed for the following reasons :

* The ISBN #1416542051 was classified as an Adult product and

* For new ASINs that are selling at low rates (i.e. shouldn't be in the top 100) it takes time for them to begin registering a sales rank. This is because it takes that long for us to propagate the new catalog and browse data. This depends upon the the sales made through Amazon.com.

Note: We will not be able to provide you with the sales number or the calculations due to the proprietary nature of the data.

At this point, I'm thoroughly frustrated. I reach out to my editor, who tells me that they'll get their Amazon representative to look into it. I also contact several media outlets to let them know what's going on. My concern is that, if it happened to me, it could happen to anyone. Unfortunately, I can't seem to drum up any interest. Honestly, I feel like it's because my book is about my time working as a stripper, and no one really cares about someone trying to "code" a stripper book out of existence. But I have strong feeling that it's about a bigger issue. I knew that if Amazon could decide they didn't like the content of one gay book, they could soon do it to others. But I felt like my hands were tied.

February 27, 2009: As mysteriously as they disappeared, the sales ranking and search results for my book reappeared. I never got any explanation, and, frankly, I was scared of asking because I didn't want to tempt fate. A couple of days later, I got an inquiry from a reporter, but, since my listing had returned to normal, there didn’t seem to be much of a story.

April 12, 2009: ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE!!!!

Links for My Book on Other Sites


All I Could Bare is the story of a mild-mannered graduate student who "took the road less clothed" -- a decision that was life changing. Seymour embarked on his journey in the 1990s, when Washington, D.C.'s gay club scene was notoriously no-holds-barred, all the while trying to keep his newfound vocation a secret from his parents and maintain a relationship with his boyfriend, Seth. Along the way he met some unforgettable characters -- the fifty-year-old divorcé who's obsessed with a twenty-one-year-old dancer, the celebrated drag diva who hailed from a small town in rural Virginia, and the many straight guys who were "gay for pay." Seymour gives us both the highs (money, adoration, camaraderie) and the lows (an ill-fated attempt at prostitution, a humiliating porn audition).

Ultimately coming clean about his secret identity, Seymour breaks through taboos and makes his way from booty-baring stripper to Ph.D.-bearing academic, taking a detour into celebrity journalism and memorably crossing paths with Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Mary J. Blige along the way. Hilarious, insightful, and touching, All I Could Bare proves that sometimes the "wrong decision" can lead to the right place.


In light of the continuing Amazon controversy, here are links to my book on other sites. Perhaps this is a good time to support independent gay and lesbian bookstores again.

LAMBDA RISING

GIOVANNI'S ROOM

BORDERS

BARNES & NOBLE

POWELL'S

If any other bookstore wants me to add them, just let me know.

Is Amazon.com Homophobic?


(Image from Bill T)

In the last couple of days, people have been blogging about how Amazon has been labeling gay and lesbian books as "adult" and removing the books from their search engine. I'm glad the issue is FINALLY getting attention (see links below), because I have been complaining about it since February.

Here's my story: I'm the author of a memoir, All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C. (Atria/Simon & Schuster), which is about my journey from grad student to stripper to entertainment journalist to college professor. (I'm currently Associate Professor of Journalism at Northern Illinois University.) Like many authors, I frequently check my sales status on Amazon, so imagine my shock, back in early February when the "Amazon.com Sales Rank" completely disappeared from the Product Details of my book. The book also disappeared from the search listings, so that if a customer looked up "All I Could Bare by Craig Seymour" on the Amazon home page, nothing came up.

Of course, I immediately sent emails to Amazon asking about this situation. I also placed several phone calls. But I could never get a straight answer, until February 25, when I received an email stating that "the sales rank was not displayed for the following reasons: The ISBN #1416542051 was classified as an Adult product."

I thought: An Adult product? What does that mean? Who knew that Amazon had such a category and why is it being applied to my book?

I brought this to the attention of my publisher, and they started looking into it. But, in the meantime, I also did some snooping around, and it turned out that the only books I could find without a "sales rank" had gay content like mine. For instance, my gay stripper memoir had no sales ranking, but Diablo Cody's stripper memoir, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper,did.

Memoirs by gay porn stars Blue Blake (Out of the Blue: Confessions of an Unlikely Porn Star) and Bobby Blake (My Life in Porn: The Bobby Blake Story) didn't have a sales ranking, but memoirs by straight porn stars Ron Jeremy (Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz) and Jenna Jameson (How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale) did. Clearly, there seemed to be a double-standard.

As a former journalist, I contacted many major news organizations, but no one picked up on the story. Then, on February 27th, without any explanation, the sales ranking returned for my book and I was back in the search results.

I was happy, of course. But I was still freaked out by the whole situation and worried about how it would affect other authors, especially those who aren't on mainstream publishers. Somehow, for nearly three weeks, Amazon effectively "coded" my book out of circulation, and I had no idea how or why.

I'm so glad that more people are talking about this. Let's demand some answers!!!

UPDATE: A timeline of my Amazon.com ordeal with actual Amazon correspondence.

UPDATE #2: Glitch, please!

UPDATE # 3 (4/13 8pm): Amazon has just released this statement about the controversy:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.


MY RESPONSE: It's a start but completely insufficient. It does not explain why writers, like myself, were told by Amazon reps that our books were being classified as "adult products." It also doesn't address why they took so long to do something about it, when they clearly knew about my issues back in February. Why didn't they address and fix the problems at that time?

And exactly what does a "cataloging error" mean? Was the error that they ever had an "adult" category or was the category simply overused? And if Amazon is going to maintain an "adult" category, who is going to determine what is "adult?" How will the criteria be applied to ensure that it's not prejudiced toward books with glbt contact; and will there be any way to appeal the process once the determination has been made? All of these questions need to be answered.

I don't think Amazon should be let off the hook until they address these very specific questions. Enough with the generic and vague statements.

Other Links:

Change.org Petition

A petition

Dear Author

Meta Writer

Queers United

Mark R. Probst

Twitter

In light of the continuing Amazon controversy, here are links to my book on other sites. Perhaps this is a good time to support independent gay and lesbian bookstores again.

LAMBDA RISING

GIOVANNI'S ROOM

BORDERS

BARNES & NOBLE

POWELL'S

SCP Books (A Lesbian Bookstore)

If any other bookstore wants me to add them, just let me know.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Current Obsession: Electrik Red



I've always had a weakness for R&B girl groups with attitude, whether it was Labelle in the '70s; the Mary Jane Girls and the two 6s (Vanity and Apollonia) in the '80s; or Total in the '90s. Now, I'm completely obsessed with The Dream's new girl group, Electrik Red. I liked the foursome's woozy single, "Drink in My Cup". But I'm CRAZY about the group's new single, "So Good."

With potty mouths (check the remix with Lil Wayne) and an '80s-in-Minneapolis vibe, Electrik Red do their badass fore-sistas proud!!!

HISTORY LESSON:


Labelle


Mary Jane Girls


Vanity 6


Apollonia 6


The Girls


Total

On a related note, here's an excerpt from my Village Voice review of Total's 1998 album, Kima, Keisha, and Pam:

Like fashion magazines where scantily clad women traipse alone and unscathed through exotic locales, Kima, Keisha, and Pam paints a mouth-watering, female-centered fantasy world of sexual indulgence and erotic possibility. It's the kind of world where you can fuck your best friend's man and justify it with "I know I'm wrong but I can't help it." And it's the kind of world where you can boldly say to someone else's man, if your girlfriend don't like it, "tell her she can come participate."

Creative Inspiration: Stephen Shore


Stephen Shore has long been one of my favorite photographers. I love the way his pictures force you to look closely at scenes from everyday life. In this way, I find them almost spiritual; they invite us to ponder the beauty and magic that is always around.

I really like his new campaign for Nike (see above; more images here), and I also really enjoyed this video of him discussing his work.

Self-Publishing/Print-on-Demand: An Increasingly Viable Option

I really enjoyed this CNN article on the new self-publishing/print-on-demand trend. I think authors have to really question the pros/cons of going with a big mainstream publisher these days. Sure, if you're lucky, you can get a nice advance, but you wind up sacrificing so much control, not only of the content, but of other things like the cover, marketing, and the timing of the release -- all things that are crucially important concerns if you are trying to build a brand as an author and want to maintain consistent contact with your audience.

The other thing is that you have to ask what a mainstream publisher can really do for you (again, aside from fronting some needed $$$) in light of major changes that are occurring within the industry.

1) JOB CUTS: For years, midlist authors have been complaining that they don't get enough attention from the people assigned to their projects at their respective publishing houses. This is not necessarily because the people don't care. It has more to do with them being overworked and forced, by economic necessity, to spend more time and energy on high profile books by celebrity authors. I can imagine that this only going to increase with all the job cuts that have affected most major publishers. What's the point of being with a mainstream publisher if it doesn't have the staff resources to effectively deal with your book?

2) THE DEMISE OF PRINT REVIEWS: There used to be a time when it was important to be with a mainstream publisher, because you couldn't get reviewed in major outlets if you weren't. But now, many major newspapers and magazines have gotten rid of their book review coverage altogether. (And who knows how long the remaining ones will last? For that matter, who even knows which newspapers and magazines will be in business, say, a year from now.) Most book coverage has gone to the web, and book bloggers, in general, seem a lot less snooty about the press a book is on. Also, unlike writers and editors in the mainstream press, book bloggers don't tend to mind receiving inquiries from writers themselves. There is no need to go through a publicist. So, again, what's the point of a mainstream publisher?

3) THE DECLINE OF THE BOOKSTORE: There was also a time when it was important to be with a mainstream publisher in order to get into major bookstores. But now even the biggest book chains are having problems. (In Chicago, where I live, Borders is closing its flagship, downtown Michigan Ave. store.) Plus, the space that these stores give to up-and-coming and midlist authors is very small. The idea of someone browsing through the store and somehow stumbling on your book seems increasingly unlikely. Many authors now rely on reaching their readers through Amazon.com, and according to the CNN article, you can get your print-on-demand book listed on the site for about $300.

So, while I'm not trying to completely knock mainstream publishing -- and personally, I've had relatively good experiences with the companies I've worked with -- I think the publishing game has changed so much that you can no longer simply assume that going with the majors is the best route for your book.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Creative Inspiration: Wisdom from Wayne's World


Here's an example of how writers can be influenced by other creative people. I've always loved Lil Wayne (and, let's face it, he deserves a place in pop culture history for inventing the phrase "bling bling" alone). But I really was inspired by two things he said in his recent Rolling Stone cover story.

1) As an author who has twice published with huge multinational conglomerates, I could relate to his frustration with feeling like he was put on the shelf at his record label. His response was to take his career in his own hands and work as much as possible, doing guest spots on other people's songs and recording numerous mixtapes, in order to increase his visibility.

"I said [to the label], "...[If] you're not going to treat me like your biggest artist, I must sell myself. If every artist has a thing, my thing is going is going to be my fucking talent. That's the rarity. My niche, that you're going to sell for me, is that he's the talentedest nigga ever. It's not my face, not what I wear. You're going to sell that this nigga is great every time. Every song that comes through for clearance, you clear that motherfucker. Every mixtape you hear about, you shut up. When it's time to drop [my next album]. watch what happens."

Of course, Tha Carter III moved one-milli in it's first week, including one copy to me.

2) I also liked Wayne's observations about "greatness":

"I always believe that to be the best, you have to smell like the best, dress like the best, act like the best. When you throw your trash in the garbage can, it has to be better than anyone else who ever threw trash in the garbage can. Michael Jordan is that type of person. Tiger Woods. Roger Federer. Muhammad Ali. Obama. Frank Sinatra. John Kennedy. Basquiat. I study those people. What the hell did they do to be so great? And the answer? They were just them."

For more of Wayne's wisdom, check out the issue.

Monday, April 6, 2009

What I Wrote About Matt Drudge


Recently some info from my memoir, ALL I COULD BARE: MY LIFE IN THE STRIP CLUBS OF GAY WASHINGTON, D.C., made the news, because OUT magazine used it in a mini-profile of Matt Drudge for their Third Annual Power 50 issue. They wrote that he “loved Chaka Khan, [and] The Young and the Restless,” which I talk about in the book. Matt promptly responded in New York magazine: “I liked Chaka in the eighties, and have not watched Young and the Restless in twenty years!” LMFAO!!!

For the record, I mention this stuff about Matt in a brief part of the book when I write about growing up and coming out in the ‘80s, a time when I just happened to be friends with Matt. (This was long before I became a stripper, which makes up the bulk of the book.) Because people keep asking me about it, I thought I’d post an excerpt from the book where I talk about Matt. A lot of people think that I was trying to “out” him, but really I was just trying to write about this quirky guy who I was friends with for a brief moment in time, a guy who just happened to become famous. My point was less about exposing Matt than to demonstrate one of those little truths about life, that you never know how people are gonna turn out. Sometimes the folks who you think are the least likely to succeed turn out to be the biggest successes. I actually find Matt’s story very inspiring, although I’m admittedly more of a Perez Hilton guy.

But anyway, here’s the excerpt. You can judge for yourself.

In high school, I might’ve been voted “Least Likely to Amount to Much of Anything”—that is, if I’d actually finished high school. I dropped out and worked full time as a telemarketer for Time-Life Books. When I wasn’t on the phone hawking the Old West series to retirees and shut-ins, I was hanging out with my friend Matthew, a cool-ass white boy who loved Afrika Bambaataa and Chaka Khan and had hip-hop lyrics written on his white Converse high-tops. Matthew and I were primarily obsessed with two things: music and "The Young and the Restless." That’s all we talked about as we walked around D.C. late at night or drove out to the Maryland suburbs where his mother worked behind the counter at 7-Eleven.

Once, when Matthew went to L.A., he brought me back an ornament stolen from the Young and the Restless set. For the most part, we didn’t discuss a lot of personal stuff, but one time when we were talking about gay people, I told Matthew that I couldn’t imagine kissing another guy. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Of course you can,” recognizing something in me that I wasn’t ready to acknowledge.

Not long afterward, I moved to New York City with Matthew and some friends and became a featured dancer on Club MTV, hosted by Downtown Julie Brown. It wasn’t so much that I was a good dancer as that the casting people liked my look—hair dyed blond, black leather jacket, Doc Martens, and jeans… I liked being on the show because I thought it would launch me into the limelight. Fame would solve all my problems, because when you were famous you could do anything—dance in your underwear like Madonna, show your ass crack on an album sleeve like Prince, or most important, be gay like Boy George or the dude with the high-pitched voice from Bronski Beat.

After a few months of this, though, I got bored and restless. My life didn’t seem to be going anywhere and I was pissed off about it. I got in a fight with some of my roommates...and was promptly thrown out on my ass. With nowhere else to go, I returned home to my parents, who insisted that I take the G.E.D. and try to find a way to go to college. As I agreed to the arrangement, I started to visualize my dreams of having an exciting life swirling in the basin of a sink and then washing down the drain.

Matthew and I didn’t talk much after that. He’d had his own falling-out with some of the roommates, which also caused him to flee the apartment and not tell anyone where he was going. But about six months after I moved home, I unexpectedly received a handwritten note from Matthew in the mail. “If this letter gets to you somewhere in this burning world,” he opened, “I have a feeling you can still relate.” For five densely marked pages, Matthew revisited all of our favorite topics of conversation, telling me how he was awaiting a new Frankie Knuckles remix of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody,” going through a love/hate relationship with Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time,” and incensed over the direction of "The Young and the Restless." (“That show suffered so much during the writers’ strike— will it ever rebound?”) Later, he stated: “Writing this letter to you makes me happy. Whatever happened to us? I miss talking to you, but somehow I know what you’re thinking or want to convince myself that I know.” At the end of the letter, he wrote: “213 area code soon. Call me.” But I never did. Once I started on the long path of going to school, being a good boy, and doing what my parents wanted me to, I couldn’t look back and reconnect with someone who I’d shared so many crazy obsessions and dreams with. Still, every time I entered a new situation, I always remembered something he’d told me: “Craig, people will like you wherever you go.”

The next time I heard anything about Matthew was years later while flipping through Vanity Fair. According to an article in the magazine, he had indeed moved to L.A. and transformed himself into conservative internet pundit Matt Drudge.


For more of the story, check out the book or listen to the first chapter here: