BRIEF BLOG INTRO: I'm a man on a mission to convince you that music is a Super Power, and that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way. And that you can accomplish great things if you just push ahead and don't let anyone tell you no.
I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas who is "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City-- having cheated death from AIDS. (In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better.) Accepting my death changed me. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle.
In 2013, I turned 60 and I created a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album (selling 10s of copies), headlining to a sold out house at a major night club in New York City (while getting great reviews). Now I'm out to redefine theater and cabaret. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve [SHACK-lin] and we're just getting started.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Friday, June 22, 2007
Here is the open invitation.
Dear Exodus Leaders,
It is no coincidence that we scheduled the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference at the same time and in the same city as Exodus’ Freedom Conference. Although we do not wish to interrupt your gathering, we do long for the opportunity to connect with you. Many of us have spent months and years under your care in your ministries. We turned to you for help and received some good from our time under your care. Sadly our ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good, and for many of us we have needed years to recover.
We understand that this was not your intent. From knowing quite a few of you personally, we know that you have a heart to help people and to serve God. You meant to bless us.
Too often once we leave your programs, you never hear about our lives and what happens to us. Most ministries do not have aftercare programs or any formal means to follow-up on participants. Some stories you do not get to hear. If you do, our stories can be simplified by the press or infused with anger or hurt. In hopes of giving you the opportunity to hear about our experiences and the harm that we felt came to us as a result of our pursuit of an ex-gay life, we would like to invite you to join us for a private dinner on Friday, June 29, 2007.
The purpose of the dinner is to give you an opportunity to hear our stories. We do not wish to bash you, attack you or shame you. We simply desire to share our stories with you. No members of the press will be allowed into the dinner and it will not be recorded or filmed. We are hoping for a small gathering with a few ex-gay leaders and some ex-gay survivors. At the dinner a few of us will tell you our stories.
If you are interested in attending this dinner, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
On the last day I was in New York, my pal Devin (who I wrote about below) invited me to a concert he had been in rehearsal for ever since I got into town. It was produced and hosted by Scott Siegel, a columnist and author. What they do is invite the very best singers on Broadway and have the sing selections from the Broadway shows of any given year. This time they chose 1964.
The singing was spectacular. The two singers that I loved the most, though, were Devin (of course) and Scott Coulter, a guy with a fragile, soaring tenor that totally had me in thrall. He sang "It Only Takes A Moment" from Hello Dolly. After the show, at the cast party, I all but tackled Scott to get him to sing my songs. But when Devin introduced us and he heard, "Composer of The Last Session," HE practically tackled ME. He said, "I LOVE THAT SHOW." He knew we were at the 47th Street theatre. Asked me about Bob Stillman and Amy Coleman, and just was over the top about it.
Another great singer was Stephanie J. Block from The Pirate Queen, which had just closed the night before. The show didn't get great response, but everyone loved Stephanie.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Meanwhile, check out the brilliant review of Devin Richards' cabaret act at Cabaret Exchange.
Exuding as much charisma as confidence, and with a song list that celebrated composers ranging from Cole Porter to Steve Schalchlin, the devilishly handsome young singer conjured the classics, while remaining refreshingly hip and modern.
Look at that! "From Cole Porter to Steve Schalchlin!" I love that.
He blended the Carpenters' "Sing a Song" with Billy Rose and Vincent Youmans' "Without A Song," and sang Schalchlin's "I Want to Make Music," from The Big Voice: God or Merman? A scatted and multi-lingual rendition of "Fever" and Cole Porter's "Too Darn Hot" followed, which Richards, a polyglot, used to demonstrate how much sexier everything sounds in French. (It's true, but saying it in a satin-smooth bass voice doesn't hurt, either).
The reason I posted that quote was because "The Big Voice" was not mentioned in Devin's program, nor did he mention it from the stage. So, that means the reviewer KNEW it from the show! YAY ME!
As debuts go, this was an impressive one, and may this cabaret be the first of many. Mr. Richards has talent and charisma to spare, and certainly belongs in the spotlight.
I saw a video made of the show after I got here, and this reviewer is right. Devin was brilliant in his show. It was very modern and hip, but managed to include classics and his own unique spins on songs you never thought could be reimagined.
Thanks, Dev, for singing my tunes!
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I've been hunched over a computer screen.
Here's why: One of my goals on this trip was to work with my music editor Mark Janas to finish a publishable version of the score of The Big Voice for our publisher, Samuel French, so that when other theatres want to perform our show with different casts, they can have a readable, beautiful, professional score to work with.
But, you ask, haven't you already written out most of the score?
Why, yes, I have. The problem was that it was not really in the best, most professional format. Since I've never really worked as a musical director for shows, I've never seen that many scores from musicals. The ones I have seen are wildly inconsistent. Some are almost unreadable and some look absolutely beautiful in their lay-out. I wanted one that looked beautiful so that it was as professional as possible.
I was really happy when Mark Janas, my pal, volunteered to do the work in exchange for an "edited by" credit. He has musical directed all kinds of shows and would know exactly what a score should look like. The problem is that he uses a different music writing program than I do. And also, he's a complete perfectionist, something for which I'm eternally grateful.
The downside is that what I thought might be a three-hour process for him to kind of brush-up what I had done and we'd be done with it. Well, yesterday morning we worked on "James Robertson" and it took us three hours for THAT ONE SONG.
So, I've been spending endless hours converting all the songs from my old program to the new program to try to cut down on the labor hours he's having to put in. It's tedious, time-consuming and laborious.
Now, for the record, it's not that I haven't done other things. But I don't have time to download video, edit pictures or write up diary entries because all of my time at the computer is being spent on doing this music editing work. So, I promise that I will write more, post pictures and video, etc. as soon as I can.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
He had a CD in his pocket and had the wrapper off and was signing it for me before another word was spoken. I was very excited, but when he tried to give it to me as a gift, I said, "No way. I don't take free music from songwriters. Name a price."
He said, "Mmm. Okay. How about 10 bucks."
I looked in my wallet and found seven. "How about seven?"
I pulled out my video camera and we were doing shtick when we discovered that the train wasn't exactly acting right.
See, we had gotten on the Downtown Local 1 from 103rd street, planning to get off at Christopher Street where he had a rehearsal for a new show and I was working with Mark. The Local takes a little longer, but we thought, "Well, at least it will get us there even if we were cutting it close."
At 14th street, for some ungodly reason, the train decided it needed to go Express. So there we were, both almost late for our dates, when the train starts to slow down... and... speeds up again.
Past three more stations until it finally stops at Chambers Street, which might as well have been Brooklyn.
Ritt carries this HUGE, heavy upright bass. So, now we're racing through the crowded subway station, up and down two flights of stairs, to get across the track to find the Uptown Local so we can get back to -- no, not Christopher Street since it was still running Express -- but to 14th Street where we were both running down the street, him carrying that bass which is taller than he is (and he's tall), and me carrying two heavy bags and, of course, video taping the whole experience.
Finally, covered in sweat, we part ways, glad to have had a little adventure together. I wished him well in his new gig and rushed to Mark's where I grabbed the tallest glass of cold water I could find and then fell onto his couch.
Monday, June 11, 2007
"OH MY GOD! I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M HERE! What? I'm not sure where we are..."
I said, without hesitation, "Approaching Times Square."
"Oh, thanks! OH MY GOD!! CONDE NAST!! I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M LOOKING AT CONDE NAST!!"
Then we passed Times Square and I told him Port Authority was one block down at 8th Avenue.
And it hit me. I'm talking to him like I'm a native. I love New York.
Buzzed Murphy Cross. She said, "I can't believe you just called me. I was going out for coffee."
It was about 8pm. The shows would just have been starting. Since Paul (Kreppel) was now starring in an off-Broadway show, "My Father's Italian, My Mother's Jewish..." I thought she might be down there until the curtain went up.
I told her, "I don't drink coffee, but I'd love to go to the Polish Tea Room. Why don't you join me?" (The Polish Tea Room is the insider name for the Edison Diner in the Edison Hotel on 46th street.
And she did. Murphy is a bundle of energy and smiling deliciousness. By the time I go there, she was sitting behind a coffee, perched on the vinyl banquette, looking more petite and adorable than ever. (Murphy and Paul produced The Big Voice in New York, but the big news at this moment was that the other show they both produced, co-wrote and co-directed was the Jay Johnson show, The Two And Only, is nominated for a Tony.
We were one day away from the Tony Awards show, and everyone was really excited.
I saw Andy, the older Asian waiter.
"Mr. Steve! Where's Mr. Jim?"
"He's back in LA right now. I'm just here for a short visit."
"And Amy? She come?"
"Amy lives here, but I won't see her until later in the week."
"Diet Coke, right?"
"Yep. Diet Coke."
Saturday, June 09, 2007
in the twisted and cowardly world of James Dobson and John MacArthur, gay sex will bring about the destruction of an American city. It's God's wrath, they say.
In other words, what they're implying is that if another American city is attacked, God is the Bin Laden -- and He's declared a jihad against lesbians and the subsequent celebration of lesbians. Similarly, the late Stay-Puft Jerry Falwell believed that God punished America on September 11 for its harboring of gays, feminists and abortionists. Again, God is the real attacker here.
God, it seems, is an evildoer. All He needs is a video camera, dialysis machine and a pudgy, bearded sidekick and he's all set for a holy war.
But God isn't the only evildoer here. These ministers have literally admitted to God being the real terrorist, and they've admitted to praising God, so they're with the terrorists. So why haven't they been detained and shipped away to those secret torture hostels where scary interrogation contractors are mandated to electrocute their pristine scrotal flesh with those zappy sponge prods from Lethal Weapon? Why hasn't Pat Robertson been waterboarded yet?
Friday, June 08, 2007
Thursday, June 07, 2007
From Daily Kos:
In a world of strife and tragedy, with new sorrows arriving not as single spies, but in battalions, what would you do to spread a message of peace, to offer a hope of healing to those who've braved the darkest days?
What if you had been fortunate enough to purchase one of the most significant musical instruments of a generation, an instrument on which was composed perhaps the greatest anthem to peace and love of all time? Imagine if you somehow use that instrument to heal the world's broken heart.
Story continues here.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
During the run of The Big Voice here in Los Angeles, we made an appearance at the Metropolitan Community Church. It was video taped and has been included in their compendium of 2005 Pride events. You can download it here: http://www.mcclatv.org/
Lesbian, gay male, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders may approach “mainstream” aging, health, and other public and private services differently than their heterosexual and/or gender-normative peers. Every person is shaped in part by the major public events that happen during their lifetime, whether these events are tragedies like 9/11 or struggles and triumphs like the Civil Rights Movement or passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although each individual will draw different conclusions and make different life choices in reaction to such public events, knowing what was reported in the media and discussed at dinner during a person’s lifetime may help others understand how that individual’s worldview was shaped.
To offer those who work with, live with, or love LGBT elders insight into their concerns, lifestyles, and belief sets, the Transgender Aging Network (TAN) has constructed the “Living Memory LGBT History Timeline.” Divided by decade (starting with the 1920s), the timeline cross-references how old those who are currently ages 50 to 100 would have been when critical LGBT events or changes took place.
“Not all of us know our history well,” said TAN Executive Director Loree Cook-Daniels, “And even those of us who do can forget just how much change can take place during a lifetime. We can also forget how often advances are accompanied by setbacks, and the level of fear and uncertainty this can cause people who are old enough to remember losing rights that had previously seemed secure. We believe this new timeline can be an effective tool to increase the cultural competency of everyone who works with elders and who therefore may be working with LGBT people.”
The timeline may be copied and distributed in its entirety if it is used solely for educational purposes. All other potential users should contact email@example.com to discuss reprint permission.
* * * * * *
FORGE was founded in 1984 to support, educate and advocate for the rights and lives of female-to-male (FTM) transgender individuals and SOFFAs (Significant Others, Friends, Family, and Allies). FORGE is dedicated to helping move our fragmented communities beyond identity politics and forge a movement that embraces and empowers our diverse complexities.
For more information on FORGE, see our website at www.forge-forward.org.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Last night, Jim and I were watching something on the tube. I forget what because I was only half-watching. My laptop was open and I was working on some music to get ready for my upcoming trip to New York. (I'll be there from June 9 through 19).
He suddenly said, "I think Devin must be on stage by now."
This is the big concert at the Metropolitan Room that we had all been waiting for. Devin Richards, a singer and a friend we had made back earlier this millennium when The Big Voice was playing in New York, was not only making his big club show debut, but he was singing three of my songs -- including a song with lyrics by Amy Lynn Shapiro called "Lovers In Disguise." Amy had been a nervous wreck all day thinking about it. A big Broadway singer debuting one of her songs!
And to add to all the excitement, Audra McDonald would be in the audience!
A few minutes later, my cell phone buzzed. It was a message. I called through to the message and it was just noise. Then I realized it was Devin singing. Amy was holding up the phone to the show so I could hear Devin singing. Actually, what I heard was shouting and applause.
Then it buzzed again. This time I caught it live. "Lovers In Disguise." And there was laughter. The crowd was going crazy! The song ended and more screaming and shouting and applause!
About a half hour later, it was Amy. She was so thrilled. (Amy tends to be just be excitable). Not only had Devin said our names out loud when he sang our song, but after the show, Audra came up to her, told her how much she enjoyed the music and asked her for a CD of more songs. (And for those of you reading this who have no idea who Audra McDonald is, she's a 4-time Tony Award winner who's nominated yet again for a 5th Tony for "110 In The Shade" which is running right now on Broadway with Devin Richards in the cast).
Samuel French (which will be publishing and licensing our musical very shortly).
We were so excited for Devin. He's been sweating over this show for weeks. And I felt so honored that he not only sang my songs -- "I Want To Make Music" and "Beyond The Light" along with "Lovers In Disguise" (which is a very dramatic song he turned into a hilarious comic spoof) -- but he listed my name in all his press materials.
Well, according to all the reports I got, he was a smashing success. So much so that they've asked him back. And he's picking up more gigs besides. And for Amy and me, it was thrilling to have our songs sung by a genuine New York Broadway singer whose voice is truly amazing.
Hooray for all of us!
Photos from Broadway World by Mark Rupp.
Monday, June 04, 2007
On my home computer, when I leave to run errands or other stuff, instead of flying toasters going across the screen, the software uses the idle time to work on complex computational models involving molecules. Then, each month, it sends you a report of how much work you personally contributed to curing AIDS or any other disease you sign up for.
It's a terrific idea because it unleashes the power of the worldwide computer grid to work on problems they would otherwise have to wait years to do.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Saturday, June 02, 2007
You know what a true hero is? He's someone who serves his duty in the service, is more than willing to go back, but who knows what a bunch of lying thugs this administration is. Who protests the war and who lets the world know that he is a veteran STILL willing to serve, but who has been thrown out of Iraq on a technicality even though he learned Arabic and was a brilliant soldier. (The picture above is him at the Alberto Gonzalez hearing, counting how many times the chief law official in the country said, "I can't recall.")
Wonkette tells the story best.
Iraq veteran and honorably discharged Marine Sgt. Adam Kokesh has been the Pentagon’s biggest public relations nightmare this year, because he’s some kind of magical Cindy Sheehan — people actually like him!Visit Adam Kokesh's blog here. (h/t JMG)
And while right-wingers had no problem mocking the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, they have a tougher time mocking an actual living Marine male veteran who actually fought in the war they just write about on their blogs. Plus, you get the feeling he wouldn’t mind beating the shit out of, say, the entire staff of National Review Online … and that they’d probably enjoy it, too...
Kokesh and his anti-war veteran buddies have pulled several picture-perfect stunts in Washington, including a mock military funeral at the Hart Senate building and keeping score of how many times Alberto Gonzales said “I don’t recall” during his Senate grilling last month.
The funeral stunt earned the protesters a coveted “political protest” arrest — apparently it’s now illegal to protest anything for political reasons — and your favorite Marine was also charged with “Unlawful Assembly — Loud and Boisterous,” despite the fact that he was silent during the performance.
For this, the Marine Corps is now “investigating” Kokesh, even though he’s officially out of the Corps and banished from reenlistment due to bringing home an Iraqi pistol for his war souvenir — that’s against the rules if you get caught!
On Monday, Kokesh has to show up at a hearing so the Corps can re-discharge him, this time dishonorably. Why? Because even when you get out of the military these days, Rumsfeld’s “back door draft” makes you eligible for another call-up because there aren’t enough people volunteering to jump in the Baghdad Meatgrinder. But they don’t want him back, even for the Individual Ready Reserve. So what’s the point?
All the chickenhawks will have permission to call him a traitor or whatever on the blogs and talk radio if he suddenly becomes dishonorably discharged, that’s the point!
IRAQ VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR