The Remains

Studio Theater in Washington, DC featured a world premiere of Ken Urban’s play, The Remains Brilliantly staged in a high end condominium’s kitchen and dining area, the play begins with two gay men sitting in the room fraught with tension. The men invited their families to their home to give them what is surely not good news. Having been one of the first gay couples to marry under Massachusetts law in 2004, they are now divorcing ten years later.

These are exciting times in the images of gay men. On Broadway, The Boys In The Band has received its first run on the great white way. Regardless if the viewer can stomach all the anguish, angst and self-hatred among many of the characters, Matt Crowley’s play and movie is a landmark in its presentation of gay men. Look at Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet, and Kaier Cutin’s We Can Always Call Them Bulgarians to understand how gays and lesbians had been represented in movies and theater through the late 1960s. Interestingly, images of gays and lesbians in Hollywood during the 1930s was different as I show in my book Hollywood Bohemians Transgressive Sexuality in the Movieland Dream 

Today Broadway is also staging a revival of Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in AmericaThis significant play captures a vital moment in gay history during the AIDS Crisis. The play featured a real crisis and the political and cultural opposition that gays and lesbians faced in the United States. However, it is not a play about realism as the playwright himself called it, “a Gay Fantasia.”

Realistic depictions of gay men and lesbian women most often appears in the form of “coming out” comedies and dramas. While self-discovery of personal sexuality is experienced by all and its importance can never be diminished, there have been numerous plays and movies capturing this moment. Whether in this year’s form as Love Simon or in the form of an older man, as Christopher Plummer’s character Hal in Beginners the plots and character arc’s become quite similar. Although these plays and movies made viewers happy, a majority have also wanted to see gays and lesbians in other stages of life. Everybody grows up and they want to see images that relate to their own experiences.

Intriguingly, over the last decade television served as the place where images of mature gays and lesbians appeared most often. With Will and Grace, Modern Family and The L Word, gay men and women appeared in relationships and sometimes, within the context of a nuclear family. Even the cable television programs made choices that often limit the kind of persons and situations it shows. Most of these relationships do not feature two or more gay and lesbian people who are career focused and facing tough choices about their relationships and careers.

Unlike a great deal of television, theater is known as a place to challenge its viewers. The Remains does that by revealing that the two men undertook marriage but combined the rite with the freedom of sexual liberation that has long been part of the gay male world. The play raises the issue of whether this choice ends up bringing about the dissolution of their relationship. One viewer thought so, saying, “It points a blame at the one character for being promiscuous.”

The play offers a hint to its own view on the situation. One character calls the impending divorce sad but not tragic. He notes that Georg Hegel’s concept of tragedy is not a battle between right and wrong but a struggle between a person driven to take one-sided action that both violates another legitimate right and plunges the hero into self-contradiction. But William Shakespeare’s tragedies often features seemingly heroic figure whose major character flaw causes the story to end with his tragic downfall. This seems to apply to this situation as both of the married men have personality quirks and weaknesses that become exasperated over the last years of their marriage when they are living on separate parts of the US.

What I enjoyed most about The Remains is its depiction of regular people in common spaces that face challenges recognizable to many.

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DC Rental Market

If you are like me, you’ve asked yourself who is renting in the buildings going up all around Washington, DC? You’ve wondered how they could afford them and maybe what they did to earn a living.

https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/young-but-not-wealthy-a-look-at-who-is-renting-dcs-new-apartments/13992

Urban turf has provided some insight into these questions. The focus of the piece leaves a few questions unanswered: specifically what is the rental price difference between buildings built before 2013 and after 2013? Are there differences in the amounts of unit types between buildings built before 2013 and after 2013?

The Shaq Brand

Tonight on HBO’s Real Sports, they focus on an athlete who has successfully created a major brand for himself in today’s culture. Athletes branding themselves was the topic of a book I wrote last year. One of the biggest sports idols to create a huge market for himself in popular culture is basketball player Shaquille O’Neal. He is on television offering basketball analysis on TNT and TBS. He has commercials for The General Insurance Company, Carnival Cruise Line and Icy Hot pain relief among others.

The man has a brand and he calls it making you happy and smile.

The big fella is following in the footsteps of another big-time  sports figure: Steelers Quarterback Great Terry Bradshaw. Bradshaw has a boat load of commercials, records, movies, and a regular perch analyzing football on Fox.

Bradshaw has the “Southerner good-old boy act” and he seeks to bring a smile and laugh to people. His brand is detailed in my book: Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality

 

DCEFF’s Ocean Focus

Tonight we saw eight short films documenting the conservation work on oceans around the world. One illuminated efforts to develop a screen that filters out small particles of microplastic from sands.

 

The fascinating discovery is that ocean currents bring plastic debris to the same coastal areas year after year. If clean up efforts are concentrated on these beaches and shorelines we would see a dramatic decline in microplastics in the ocean. Called Gyres, the currents flow as seen in the map below:

 

https://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/man-invented-a-way-to-filter-microplastic-out-of-the-ocean/

Book’s Travels

Many of you already know that my latest book Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality came out this fall. I hired a publicist who made all the selections about the people and organizations that received review copies. When I saw the list I wasn’t sure about some of the locations and figured that most of them were his friends and connections in the newspaper and web football worlds.

I did get a kick that both MSNBC and Fox News Channel received the book. It even got into the hands of producers. However, since neither responded I suppose I can conclude that the book is something that the left and the right can agree upon.

My favorite response came from a writer for Jet Nation (covers the New York Jets football team). Phil said,  “The book was excellent. I can’t write a blog post about it because it isn’t Jets related. Super Bowls are kind of a sore subject for Jets fans.”

Bradshaw Book Review

Slowly getting the word out on my Terry Bradshaw book. this is a review by a Carolina Panther football team writer.

https://www.catscratchreader.com/2018/1/20/16912228/terry-bradshaw-from-super-bowl-champion-to-television-personality-a-csr-book-review

Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality; a CSR book review

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

For Panthers fans it’s a narrative that sounds all too familiar. He’s a big guy, a quarterback with obvious talent and a canon for an arm but critics aren’t buying in. Despite early success, turnovers have been a problem, injuries have been persistent and there’s the big question, is he smart enough to run a pro offense? This was the narrative surrounding future four time Super Bowl winner and MVP Terry Bradshaw not just for the few seasons of his career but even after he had won his first championship.

The narrative that Bradshaw was a country bumpkin without enough upstairs to manage his own play calls haunted the quarterback throughout his entire playing career and well afterwards. Despite testimonies from his coaching staff, teammates and friends that Bradshaw was highly intelligent and capable, the image had stuck and he would spend decades learning to live with it. After playing through injury, enduring a constant rotation at quarterback and struggling with the ethics of labor disputes, Bradshaw forged a career that eventually ended up in the Hall of Fame.

What no one realized back then was Bradshaw had the talent to go far beyond field. When his playing time was up Bradshaw found himself broadcasting games, hosting the pre-game show and eventually pulling down a permanent spot as a fixture of Sundays in the NFL but despite even this level of success Bradshaw’s real passion was in the most unlikely of places.

In the NFL of the 1970s, player contracts weren’t the multi-million dollar affairs they are now. In fact, it was common for the biggest stars to hold day jobs in the off season to pay the bills. Bradshaw was no exception. However, as the coaches and team would soon understand, his talents in other arenas threatened to end his playing career.

Since he was a young boy Bradshaw had been a fan of country music and gospel. It was his status as a pro football player that afforded him the opportunity to begin recording albums and spend the spring and summer of his playing years touring, performing gigs and laying down tracks in Nashville. What we know as the animated, goofy sports anchor spent much of his younger years as a popular radio presence with multiple top 50 offerings. Having a voice that was untrained but resonant with fans nationwide turned Bradshaw into a household name amongst Americans who never watched sports on TV. This says nothing of his roles on TV and movies including a friendship with Burt Reynolds that earned Terry the moniker ‘Hollywood’ in the locker room.

If you thought you knew everything there was worth knowing about Terry Bradshaw from his appearances on the field, there’s a strong possibility you missed out on some of the most interesting aspects of a unique icon in the industry. With an exceptionally well researched account of the life and times of Terry Bradshaw from his birth in Shreveport, Louisiana to four rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers and his shortened career due to injury. Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality belongs in the die hard sport’s fans library as an insightful revelation from the fan’s perspective.

You can purchase a copy of Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality here.

Phantom Thread’s Hidden Gay

David Ehrenstein’s take on the new movie Phantom Threads focuses on the near certainty that the character Day-Lewis plays was a gay man. However, the movie presents him as straight. The “confirmed bachelor” as the character Reynolds Woodcock describes himself was coded language for gay man during the era. Several of the stylists I describe in my book Hollywood Bohemians such as Warner Brothers’ stylist Orry-Kelly, were also gay men who did not view women as sex objects but still saw them as muses that inspired them to make their great creations.

My favorite gay designer that I discuss in the book is excited about dressing a woman in a full-length gown while she runs around in the jungle.

Here’s Ehrenstein’s review of the movie

http://gaycitynews.nyc/heterosexualitys-phantom-stalking/

Steelers’ Fans and Terry Bradshaw

Podcast about my Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality Book: Part of the Steel City Underground Fan Group:

The discussion ranged from his playing days with the Pittsburgh Steelers to acting in Burt Reynolds movies, to his efforts today as a studio analyst with Fox and also in the television shows, Better Late Than Never and his latest movie, Father Figures.

http://www.steelcityunderground.com/podcast/2017/12/different-perspective-terry-bradshaw-author-historian-brett-abrams/

Terry Bradshaw: New Books Network Podcast

I discussed my book Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality with Bob D’Angleo, a sports reporter, on the New Book Network a few days ago. The discussion ranged from his playing days with the Pittsburgh Steelers to acting in Burt Reynolds movies, to his efforts today as a studio analyst with Fox and also in the television shows, Better Late Than Never and his latest movie, Father Figures.

Here is the link:

http://newbooksnetwork.com/brett-l-abrams-terry-bradshaw-from-super-bowl-champion-to-television-personality-rowman-and-littlefield-2017/

 

Locker Rooms and Sexual Harassment: 90s Style

The recent spate of announcements regarding sexual harassment has been amazing. We may not have been surprised by the harassment in Hollywood with its “casting couch” history.We aren’t surprised about these activities in sports, we can’t be surprised about this occurring in the halls of media organizations either. One incident from the long history of harassment appears in my book, Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality.

Fewer than three months into their jobs and co-anchors of CBS’ The NFL Today Pregame show, Terry Bradshaw and Greg Gumbel faced a major incident. Five New England Patriots players had told crude jokes and two fondled their genitals as Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson was covering their locker room after a Monday Night Football game in mid-September 1990. Olson issued a complaint.

Then Patriots owner Victor Kiam, of Gillette Razor fame made things worse. Kiam had a brief exchange with the reporter in the locker room the following week. He turned to a member of his entourage who was standing by his side and said sotto voce, “She’s a classic bitch. No wonder the players don’t like her.” Patriots’ fans piled on, showering her with obscenities and vile suggestions and statements as “If you want
to go into the men’s locker room, you get what you deserve.”

The case of Melissa Ludtke v. Bowie Kuhn, in 1978, had opened the doors, literally, for female reporters. The ruling determined that keeping the Sports Illustrated reporter out of the New York Yankees’ locker room during the 1977 World Series deprived her of the equal opportunity to pursue her profession. The NFL did not enact an equal access policy until 1985. Female sportswriters faced frequent discrimination, harassment, and fraternity-type pranks like wet towels being whipped against their behinds as they waded through the male athletes to reach the person they wanted to interview.

How would Bradshaw and Gumbel address the explosive situation? A Dayton sportswriter described Patriots fans as Puritans.
The abuse they directed toward Olson betrayed their male chauvinism, which basically said, “You are a woman; know your place.” In contrast, NBC’s pregame analyst Will McDonough rushed a quick response to the incident and claimed Olson “exaggerated her story.”

The CBS pregame show made Leslie Visser the lead in the discussions on the issue. Bradshaw described how he thought the public saw the issue, contending, “We can be as lenient and we can be as accepting to the opposite sex all we want to. But there comes an area where a man just absolutely closes his mind up and says no.” Mary Carillo, analyst for women’s and men’s tennis on CBS and ESPN, responded, “I think
that’s valid, a very valid point. Football always has been perceived as a male domain. Tennis isn’t like that—(John) McEnroe and (Ivan) Lendl
know I have the same skills, so it isn’t a stretch.”

Cathy Barreto who became the first female director for NFL games in the late 1980s, argued for female announcers in football. She thought
that for a female announcer to be accepted, “it’s going to have to be a recurring thing—not just once in a while. . . . Really no different than a
man—except people aren’t used to it.”

Bradshaw recalled growing up in Shreveport and witnessing the slow dissolution of racial segregation, another instance where people needed to get used to change. He listened to women analyze golf on television and accepted them because he learned from them. “I’m looking for knowledge. I don’t care what the sex is,” he said.

Nearly 30 years of past since this incident. The culture has only recently began fleshing out incidents of sexual harassment. Women broadcasters do not regularly in the broadcast booth for football. There is one woman appearing along the sidelines as a reporter but no more than one. ESPN did add one woman to their broadcast booth for major league baseball. As Carillo’s comment suggested, sports still seek an name athlete in the sport to appear in the broadcast booth as a color commentator. But broadcast booths can be expanded as ESPN has done to add a woman, and women can also be given more opportunities as play-by-play announcers. First, the sexism, both overt with the harassment, and covert, with hiring tendencies, needs to be contained then eliminated.