Friday, February 11, 2005

Change of plans

Like many gay Madisonians, I subscribe to the e-mail list of the Ten Percent Society, an LGBT organization at the University of Wisconsin. Although the list is putatively a university resource, it's also a source of news and information for the city's larger gay community.

And was the TPS list burning up yesterday! It seems Club 5, the cavernous gay nightspot on the city's far south side, booked a performance for Feb. 25 by Shirley Q. Liquor. That's the stage name of comedian Charles Knipp, a white Mississippi man who performs in drag and blackface. The messages came all morning: we must halt this show. And then all afternoon: we have halted this show.

Apparently a campaign of phone calls succeeded, and Shirley Q. Liquor will not be performing. Club 5 has, naturally, removed her picture from its web site, but I saved the site here, if you're curious. As you might imagine, Knipp has provoked controversy before. In 2002, Shirley Q. Liquor shows were cancelled in New York and Boston when protesters threatened to picket.

I must confess, all of this make me nervous. I'm uncomfortable, in theory at least, with the notion that activists of whatever political stripe can shut down an entertainment event simply because they don't like the ideas involved. I can certainly imagine edgy, important, troubling performance work that uses drag and blackface, and the fact that RuPaul endorses Knipp gives me pause.

But I'm not beyond casuistry. I downloaded some Shirley Q. Liquor material, and I must say: this is not edgy, important performance work, though it is troubling. Knipp's shtick is not only unforgiveably racist and sexist; it's also unforgiveably feeble, predictable, tiresome and unfunny. Good riddance.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Adieu Jimmy

Sad, isn't it, the passing of incomparable jazz organist Jimmy Smith. I saw him perform at Luther's Blues here in Madison a few years ago, and I could not stop watching his feet, which rocked back and forth hypnotically on the pedals of the Hammond B-3.

Something was wrong with Luther's B-3 that night (unsurprisingly; it's a finicky axe), and technicians fiddled with it throughout the set--as Smith was playing. He didn't miss a beat. Marvelous.

Now where did I put my Jimmy Smith CD?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Better give something up

Happy Ash Wednesday, everybody.
Yes, man

It seems to me there's no better gig than a seat on a corporate board of directors. The time commitment is minimal, you get to golf at nice resorts, and you pull down huge amounts of cash for--well for what, I'm not sure. But it can't be that hard. I think I could discipline the Michael Eisners of the world as firmly as anyone.

If you have a large corporation, I have some ideas about how to run it. Let's talk.
The weed of crime

Perhaps the decade I spent on the South Side of Chicago has made me dangerously complacent about the underworld in safe little Madison, Wis. But reading about the graffiti crisis here makes me think of this article in the brilliant National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook Parody (New York: National Lampoon Magazine, 1974).

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Good word

"I once asked a bright young Manhattan journalist whether he could define in a single word what made television different from theatre or cinema. 'For good or ill,' he said, 'Carson.'"

--Kenneth Tynan
Something for everyone

Worlds collide.
Ink in the co-inky

Sunday evening my dad and I were talking about country music, as we often do: he's as knowledgeable on the subject as anyone I can think of. In particular, we were discussing country accordionists--I have accordions on the brain, these days, because I'm about to buy one. So we talked about Joey Miskulin, the accordionist for Riders in the Sky, and also about Wilene "Sally Ann" Forrester, who played accordion in an early lineup of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. And lastly we discussed Sonny Day, accordionist for Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys.

So I was surprised the next morning to get a message from Dad telling me that the (Nashville) Tennessean was running an obituary for Day, who died Sunday at age 80. I can't find the Tennessean piece on-line, but here's an item from the web site of a Knoxville television station. (I love the pronunciation guide for Acuff's name.)

It's sad when these fabulous old musicians pass on, but I think they're all really just at a big hoedown somewhere. Another great country accordionist was, of course, Wisconsin's own Pee Wee King.

Monday, February 07, 2005

For wee folks

I'm reviewing a theatrical production of Little Women, and just now I popped over to St. Vinnie's, the thrift store around the corner, to see if there was a copy of the Louisa May Alcott novel. There was, sort of, but I left empty handed: the only versions there were abridged, condensed, or otherwise transformed for young readers. These books make me shudder; why mess with a classic? I don't think Alcott's prose is that difficult, except for the very youngest children, who can read other things until they're ready.

My favorite version was this one, a movie tie-in edition apropos of the 1994 film with Winona Ryder. St. Vinnie's had several copies. The front reads, "Adapted by Laurie Lawlor from a screenplay by Robin Swicord based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott." Now that's a mouthful. Do you suppose there's a videogame based on the novelization of the film of the novel?

Elsewhere in the children's section, I paused over a suspiciously slim edition of Moby-Dick, but I couldn't bring myself to look at it. Is that really a children's book?