If you are offended, go fuck yourself

 

 Like everyone, I post those things to Facebook and my blog that interest me. Some of those interests are controversial to at least someone. But I’ve learned not to care too much. If you do, then you censor yourself for the most sensitive.

I’ve been involved in Chicago politics since 1995, and for that long I’ve been fighting for our rights as LGBT citizens. I helped, along with Greg Harris, Ellen Myers and Kelly Cassidy, to pass the first County domestic partnership registry way back in 1999, giving equal benefits for all LGBT County workers. I’ve also written about politics In the gay media for that long. 

Some people think I’m too hard on religion. The way I see it, the fight right now is against religious organizations, mostly Christian. They are our chief opponent in our struggle for equality. When Pat Robertson backs off, I’ll back off. And not until all my LGBT family have equal rights will I back down.

Scary Indiana, Scary Indiana…

For those morons who think Indiana’s religious nut law is “just like” 19 other states, let me educate you: there are federal protections against discrimination for race and sex, but not sexual orientation. A gay person can legally be fired in any state that doesn’t have a non-discrimination ordinance like we do in Illinois. The state law in Indiana supersedes local non discrimination laws, like the one in Indianapolis, making the refusal to hire or service gay people legal throughout the state. The whole reason the law was enacted was to give permission to bakers and florists to refuse service to gay couples. The law is the direct result of animus against gays. It is hate.

People with low IQs can’t imagine that similar laws may have different effects in different states depending on what other laws are also in effect. For example, each State has a constitution that may limit the scope of any law subsequently passed. Illinois’ Anti Discrimination Law gives statewide protections to LGBT in hiring, housing and public accommodations, excepting “ministerial” employers from the law. The Illinois Religious protection act doesn’t strip away these protections. In Indiana, where there were no protections to begin with, except at the local level – which this new state law now overrides, LGBT are further disadvantaged because the State has given explicit signals that gays are the real subject of this act.

To those bigoted businesses owners who think they should be able refuse service based on their freedom of religion, I ask you: who paid for the the road leading people to your business? Who paid for the sidewalk? The Police, the Fire Department? The taxpayers in your community paid for the infrastructure that allows you to prosper, including gays and divorcees, and people on their 5th marriage. Public accommodation laws respect this arrangement. Indiana’s law turns this polite concept on it’s head.

I could imagine begrudgingly supporting a version of Indiana’s pro discrimination law if it required businesses to display on their windows and websites which taxpayers in the community they refuse to serve. That way no one would have to suffer the indignity of being turned away from a public business for violating the owners hateful religious beliefs.

I’m definitely gonna join this boycott. But I HAVE to travel through Indiana a few times a year to visit my Mom in Ohio. Should I call ahead to inform them of my new religion, The First Church of No Speed Limits? I’d hate to have my religious beliefs infringed on the Tollway. #boycottindiana

Richard Foley as The Marlboro Man

image The title of the “Most Interesting Man I‘ve Ever Met” would go to my old friend Dr. Richard Foley. He’s also the leading candidate for the “Craziest Man I‘ve Ever Met”.

Richard was a recently retired college professor when I first met him at one of his infamous after-hours parties. I was writing a nightlife column at the time for the Chicago Free Press, so our paths were destined to cross. He was holding court around his sprawling couch, a cigarette dangling in his hand, ashes going everywhere but in the amply full ashtray in front of him. I still remember his booming laugh as he concluded an elaborate “dumb blond joke”, a funny joke that was all the funnier for his dramatic re-telling.

Richard had been a tenured Professor at the University of Illinois, and a well-known expert in the psychology of education. A brilliant man from a humble and chaotic blue collar childhood, he studied hard and received degrees from the University of Chicago and Roosevelt University. A lover of both psycho and drama, (his favorite movie being “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”)  Richard relished getting friends or strangers on his proverbial couch to spill their guts or to take one of those standard personality tests, which he’d administer like he was reading you your fortune.

Richard loved telling the story about one of these late night psychotherapy “patients”; a young man who confessed to Richard that what he wanted most in the world was to become a fashion model. Richard thought the guy was over estimating his attractiveness. Not one to hold back on dashing dreams, Richard explained to him that professional models all tended to have certain ratios and symmetries to their facial features; and then proceeded to whip out a tape measure to assess the degree of the bad news, which he delivered with a sympathetic shake of his head, “Pity.”

He was a great listener and a mentor to many, but, alas, a terrible role model. He drank Skyy vodka from morning to, well until the next morning, while also using stimulants to mask his intoxication. He had a good excuse for his drinking and drug abuse though. For over twenty years he had walked around with a grapefruit sized hole in his leg, the former home of a cancerous tumor – whose removal left a giant radiated, un-healing wound, the sight of which would make a battlefield doctor vomit and go AWOL. The radiation rendered the wound incapable of healing over and un-bandaged you could see bone and a good place to smuggle things through an airport. So, he had an excellent excuse to drink – the alcohol and pills kept him mobile, until the pain became unbearable and he had to lay down.

Richard had a terrific sense of humor and a hearty laugh to go with it. He loved a good joke or even better, a good insult. Because of his leg, he preferred hosting in his large Edgewater condo overlooking the lake. When the bars let out, there was always a place to hang. I saw many a sunrise from his balcony. I also got to learn about condo boards from his various run-ins with them over his late night extravaganzas. He was actually forced to sell one of his old places after too many complaints. That condo board had a dossier on him thicker than Bin Ladin’s – which he loved to bring out and read a loud from.

His funniest condo board run-in happened one morning around sunrise when some of his departing guests discovered there was a swimming pool on the roof of his high rise building. Richard sent me to shoo them out, but the water did look refreshing and I confess I may have been negligent in performing my duties.

Unfortunately, sunrise is also a great time for old people to swim laps.

The resulting condo board complaint indicated there was “noxious sexual activity” going on in the pool, which was untrue; as I argued to the board, it was merely two people innocently rubbing against each other rhythmically in order to keep warm in the chilly pool. I think we got the fine down to $600 that time.

He died a few years back. The cancer came roaring back in his leg and he refused his doctor’s advice to amputate. I begged him too lose the damn leg – I even offered to lop it off myself. But he let the cancer take him. I hope when I go, my friends will think as fondly of me as they do of Richard.

Now, may I present a never before seen video of Richard as the Marlboro Man  –  in a home video filmed by his Polish ex-boyfriend who I’ll call Jack. (As Jack is a doctor now living in a conservative country, he wants to remain anonymous). It took years for me to track him down for this video. A copy of it disappeared from Richard’s safe after he passed, along with the notorious “Sketch Book” a diary in which visitors would write interesting things or tell jokes or draw cartoons.

Fifty Ways To Plagiarize

I’ve been plagiarized !

A long time ago, I wrote a steamy, erotic story about a naive, young window blind salesman caught up in a sado-masochistic relationship with one of his wealthy clients – after carelessly signing a contract to install drapes and blinds without noticing the kinky sub-clause allowing him to be severely punished if the blinds are in any way unsatisfactory.

I  called it “Fifty Grades of Shade”.

I’ll have to consult my sexy lawyer, who is also into contracts.

image

Is it Ebola or a Bad Hangover?

Is it Ebola or a bad hangover?

   A. Have you been to Liberia or Texas recently?
   B. Were you out drinking last night?

If you answered YES to A but not B, you may have Ebola.

If you answered NO to A, but YES to B, you probably have a hangover.

If you answered NO to both questions, and you still feel sick, you may have that other virus that’s killing people in America, but no one talks about because EBOLA. Boo!

Goodbye Eileen Brennan

Eileen Brennan and Karen 001
by John Smith

Eileen Brennan, the Oscar nominated actress/comedian, always makes me think about my Aunt Karen, a former dancer on the old Mitch Miller TV series who got her start in theater touring with Eileen Brennan in summer stock.

While Eileen Brennan went on to win Emmys and an Oscar nomination for “Private Benjamin”, Karen retired from the business to marry legendary jazz drummer Frank Garisto, who was then the drummer on the “The Tonight Show” – as well as the bongo player heard on the original Star Trek TV series theme song!

Having a successful dancing career was nice, but Karen got more pleasure raising babies on Long Island, living in a fancy home next door to Bill LaVorgna, Judy Garland’s Carnegie Hall drummer and Liza Minnelli’s long time conductor.

Karen wasn’t really my aunt – but she was my very own Auntie Mame growing up in rural, redneck, homophobic Ohio. We called her our Aunt, although I wanted her to be my Mom! Her years-ago stint on a famous TV show gave her an unbelievable glamour factor to me as a child. She was also a great beauty.

When I met Karen, she had divorced her drummer husband and moved back to her parents home in Akron, Ohio with two boys in tow.  She found a job and became a co-worker of my also divorced Mom in the Photocopy Department of the United Rubber Workers Union. The two divorceés quickly  became close friends. And I instantly developed a crush on Karen from the moment I met her as an impressionable 5th grader.

Karen once took me to audition for a part in “The King and I” at our local equity theater company called the Carousel Dinner Theater. For kicks, Karen decided to audition too. She knew she couldn’t accept a part due to her work schedule. (The concept of flex schedules hadn’t caught up to the Rubber Workers that would have allowed Karen time off for Wednesday matinees.)

It was magnificent seeing her glide across the stage like the pro she was – still. I couldn’t believe it. She owned that stage and the producers were visibly impressed. Later, it was hard not to be jealous when Karen got offered a part and not me!

You would think after years of living a storied life among New York’s show biz elite, the transition to the photocopy room at the United Rubber Workers would be a bummer, but she never let on around me. She was the most upbeat person I’ve ever met.

I loved hearing Karen’s show biz stories. She had worked with a lot of famous people . She was also good buddies with Liza Minnelli’s conductor, Bill LaVorgna, and that got me backstage for a one-on-one meeting with Miss. Minnelli.

Actually, I got her reunited with her old pal. I was 20 and had just moved to Chicago when I read that Liza Minnelli was playing the Chicago Theater. When I told Karen I bought tickets for Liza, she suggested I send a note bakstage to Bill dropping her name. Which I eagerly did.

At intermission, I checked with the stage doorman, who informed me Mr. LaVorgna had not responded yet, and suggested I come back after the show. When I returned, there was a huge crowd gathering at the stage door waiting for Liza to exit. I made my way thru the throng of people back to the doorman, who sadly informed me there was still no response.

Dejected and feeling sad for Karen as well, I made my way back thru the crowd to go home, when suddenly two security guys came running after me calling my name! They escorted me back thru the crowd and thru the stage door to meet Bill LaVorgna, who was thrilled to hear from his old friend he hadn’t spoken to in 10 years. I was then taken upstairs to the green room to meet the legendary Liza Minnelli! She couldn’t have been nicer, though I was a nervous wreck.

Afterward, I made my way back out the stage door where a large crowd was waiting for Liza. When the door opened, I heard a “There she is!” Followed by a collective groan of disappointment when they saw it was only me.

Karen would talk wistfully about her early days when she performed with Eileen Brennan as a dancer in a touring theater company. It sounded like the most fun a person could have.  I also remember Karen being really upset when her old buddy, at the height of her “Private Benjamin” success, was hit by a car and critically injured while crossing a busy Los Angeles street. We both sent get-well wishes to her and Eileen responded back to me with a sweet thank-you note quoting the “Irish Blessing” with a message “love to Karen”.

It sucks that awesome people have to leave us – Karen died a few years back from cancer. I was so angry at the universe for taking her. The world needed more people like her, not fewer.  But I’d like to think that Karen – and now Eileen – are dancing again in the heavenly equivalent of  summer stock.

Eileen Brennan and Karen on-stage crop

 Eileen Brennan (left) and my very own Auntie Mame, Karen Conner (right)

ImageEileen Brennan 2nd from right and Karen on the right

ImageKaren was also a gorgeous model!ImageKaren Conner (her inscription: “An Aardvark in the making!” was an inside joke)

Eileen Brennan autograph

What’s Killing Old People?

image

 

 

 

 

    Something or someone keeps bumping off the Oldest Person in America.

The death of 113  year old Elsie Thompson, of Clearwater, Florida, marks the second time this year that the person certified as the “Oldest Person in America” has died while in office. This seems very suspicious. Yet the liberal media is silent. So it is up to me to ask:

What was the 2nd Oldest Person in America doing at the time of Elsie’s death?

I tried to raise the alarm about this back in January with the mysterious death of Besse Cooper (116). Back then I suspected Elsie, who had the most to gain as the runner up. But now I suspect 3rd runner up Jeralean Talley, 113 of Michigan – who now leapfrogs to the title.