Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Music Box: 'Desperately Seeking Susan'

UPDATE: Just wanted to wish everyone a very safe and Happy New Year! If you read this post earlier (or downloaded the ZIP file), please note there have been substantial changes throughout, including the addition of the actual demo version of "Into the Groove" that was used in the film but never released. Enjoy!!

While the story of a bored suburban New Jersey housewife getting knocked unconscious and waking up into the life of a new wave goddess in Lower Manhattan circa the mid-'80s was more than enough to land on my Top 10 all-time favorite movies list (and trust me when I say you would NOT want to watch this film with me -- I've seen it more than 100 times and I recite every line before it's said), the unsung hero of "Desperately Seeking Susan" was its eclectic soundtrack -- which, some 24 years later, has yet to see a proper release. When I completely gave up hope, my friend Jesse reminded me that it took more than a decade for the "Valley Girl" soundtrack to make it to CD, but getting a soundtrack that never really existed produced? I wasn't holding my breath.

Naturally, I was ecstatic when Thomas Newman's stellar score was finally released in 1987 ("New York City by Day" still gives me goosebumps -- the guy is a musical genius). It was packaged along with Chas Jankel's music for "Making Mr. Right," director Susan Seidelman's followup, and along with the Gershwin "Manhattan" soundtrack, is one of the few instrumental collections I play over and over again. As wonderful as it was, though, the film's complete soundtrack -- with its timeless lineup that included contemporary and classic tracks by Betty Everett, Junior Walker, Carly Simon, Iggy Pop, Aretha Franklin, Marshall Crenshaw, Run-DMC, Dee Dee Sharp, the Fixx, and, of course, Madonna's ultimate dance song, "Into the Groove" -- needed to be compiled in its entirety to be fully appreciated.

Finally in 2004 I decided I'd waited long enough. I was in the midst of converting all of my vinyl that never made it to disc with a DJ friend of mine when I got the idea to produce "The Definitive DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN Film Soundtrack." It wasn't easy. Junior Walker's R&B take on the Foreigner classic "Urgent" -- used to great effect in Madonna's opening scene where she's taking Polaroids of herself while waiting for the room service boy to deliver -- was seemingly nowhere to be found until I stumbled upon it as a bonus track on a Motown Legends compilation. (You'll recall that Junior plays the killer sax on the original Foreigner smash from '81.)

"Good going, stranger" ...

And the original "Into the Groove" -- with its iconic opening and without that inappropriate ragtime piano that was added to every version out there -- was culled from the import CD single of "Angel." sent to me TODAY by a reader in New York. It turns out all this time I thought the version that was on the b-side of my "Angel" 12-inch single was used in the film when in fact it was an unreleased demo recording that's now been added to my soundtrack. (A HUGE thank-you to Stefan for that!)

There were other challenges along the way, but in the end it was well worth the effort. You can judge for yourself with the links below, including a complete MP3 DOWNLOAD of the results.

And because I'm feeling rebellious as this monumental year reaches its end, I'm uploading the complete soundtrack for a limited time so you can download it to your computer HERE. or an iTunes-friendly version is HERE.

(Artwork by Greg Jelinek)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fake Jan Day

Mark your calendar, kids. Jan. 2 is Fake Jan Day! To celebrate, invite your friends over for a cheese ball, the official food of Fake Jan. To learn more, visit Don't know the Fake Jan story, click HERE.

  • Previously: Real Love for Fake Jan
  • Fat Chance at Happiness

    My friend Jesse accused me of writing THIS ARTICLE on looking your best in The New Yorker under a pen name (Step 4: Refrain from consuming food), yet for the life of me I can't imagine why ...

    Cheering Section: Hugh Jackman

    The Knicks may be the crappiest big-budget basketball team around, but New York still has the hottest fans ...

    Paws to Give Thanks

    Larry and I want to send out a big thank-you to everyone who voted for him in the photo contest. Although I still don't completely understand how it works, voting for him has ended and so far Larry won his "day" and "week." I guess we'll soon find out which pet racked up the most votes to win the whole month, but I think it's already pretty obvious who the cutest critter is :-)

    Prince Harryless

    Despite everything I know to be true, Prince Harry has proven that a redhead on a beach can be hot. Meantime, the jury's still out on the balding one's new beard. (Source)

    Up in Smoke

    There's only ONE THING I hate more than smoking -- it's talking about quitting smoking. Yes, I know, I know. It's HARD to quit. It's harder than quitting heroin. Got it. But isn't it enough to pollute your lungs, your loved ones' lungs, the streets, the rivers, the lakes, the oceans and the beaches? Must we also pollute our conversations and our newspaper inches talking about this? I'm not interested. This isn't news. This isn't new. This isn't anything the surgeon general hasn't been telling us for decades. And I don't want to HEAR the words "bum a cig" associated with the leader of my country -- EVER. If someone wants to smoke, then smoke and shut up about it -- and do your best not to walk in front of me blowing it in my face when I'm trying to enjoy some "fresh" air. If someone wants to quit smoking, then get your shit together and quit. And shut up about it. (And NO. It's not that I think I'm so perfect. But I also don't yammer on and on about my flaws to try to engender sympathy from people.)

    Last fall when the whole world was jumping on the Barack Obama bandwagon one of the main reasons I wasn't willing to join in was because of his smoking. I'm fairly certain most people I told thought my saying I have issues with his being a SMOKER was a euphemism for his being BLACK, when in fact it sort of was -- I have issues with his having BLACK LUNGS.

    Here's the way I see it. When someone is a gym and health-food nut WHO SMOKES, it makes me question everything about their judgment. And it raises serious questions about their propensity for ADDICTIVE behaviors. (Bill Clinton was obviously a food ADDICT and we all know that other addictions lurked within.) For Barack Obama to religiously go to the gym (I've read that he didn't miss a single day for two years on the trail -- working out for something like 90 minutes a pop -- and finally took his first day off on Christmas) AND be a longtime smoker indicates to me that he's got some serious issues with making sound decisions (example to follow).

    To me, Rick Warren at the Obama inauguration is the same thing as a gym bunny with a cigarette. Let's hope this isn't a two-pack-a-day habit with our new prez ...

    The Paper Trail

    Gay City News asks the question on everybody's minds: Has Obama turned his back on gays?

    Morning Wood: Cam Gigandet

    More pictures of the "Never Back Down" and "Twilight" star HERE.

    Sen. Moon Unit Zappa (D-N.Y.)

    I was beginning to think I was the only one who noticed that Caroline Kennedy says "you know" before, during and after every one of her thoughts. Not so. The Daily News counted more than 200 of 'em during a 30-minute(!) interview with the paper over the weekend. I guess growing up in the spotlight doesn't ensure that one has the innate ability to be a polished "public" person, you know? I'm not sure if Caroline's speech problem is a deal-breaker or not. God knows George Bush doesn't have any sort of grasp on the English language and he's a two-term PRESIDENT. But I'd like to think the bar for our political representatives was a set little bit higher than that. When I used to bring up Bush's problems with communicating my mom used to say it didn't really bother her and point out that some people have great analytical minds but lack verbal skills. That may be true, but I'd argue that those people are better-suited in behind-the-scenes roles as advisers and planners because a HUGE part of being a president or senator IS the ability to verbalize your plans and objectives. (How I'd KILL for a president who could thoroughly explain the financial mess we're currently in. Sadly, not only do I feel Bush is unable to communicate it to me, I don't think he KNOWS, either.) After many years of Hillary Rodham Clinton as my senator my feelings are this: If Caroline can't coherently talk to the residents of New York without coming across as a Valley Girl, then perhaps it's best we not hear from her at all. Seriously, dude.

    Monday, December 29, 2008

    'Desperate' Living

    Well, it's the end of an era. Love Saves the Day, the beloved East Village vintage clothing and bric-a-brac shop where Madonna famously traded her leather pyramid jacket for rhinestone studded boots in "Desperately Seeking Susan" -- setting in motion the greatest new wave amnesia screwball comedy of all time -- is going the way of neon rubber bracelets. (Merciless rent hikes and the founder's recent death are to blame. Her surviving hubby says the store is now missing its "soul.") My coworker who has lived near the store for about as long as I've been alive and I were lamenting what a cool neighborhood the East Village used to be, but how it's quickly becoming what he calls a combination "college campus and tourist trap." He predicts another Starbucks will move in, something I'm sure Gary Glass would have much preferred.

    Although I'm a sworn Chelsea dweller, the East Village has long been one of my favorite places to hang out. I picked up a best friend and a boyfriend at the Boiler Room in the late '90s. And spent about five years (nonstop) in the bars along Avenue A (may Starlight rest in peace). These days, the E.V. still has its charms. Michael and I dine and see movies there nearly every weekend.

    So after reading about the impending closure of Love Saves the Day, we decided to have head over to the East Village to have our Christmas dinner at my new favorite bistro, Lucien. Waiter Brandon always makes sure the meal is perfect, and Jesus' birthday was no exception. Lucien's cassoulet is to-die-for, but Michael and both opted for the Steak Frites (how's that for a new Christmas tradition?). Michael got the shell steak while I had the (extra bloody) fillet. The fries have to be the tastiest I've ever eaten, and the steak was too. (And what is that sauce? YUM!!!)

    After dinner we took advantage of the quasi-tropical weather New York was enjoying and strolled by Love Saves the Day to pay our last respects. Much to my delight, the shop -- along with all of nearby St. Marks Place --was open for business and bustling with activity.

    I picked up a couple copies of Dynamite magazine (my subscription ran out in 1979) and we even managed to snap a couple of (highly prohibited) photos inside the store.

    Das boots

    Spying on Susan

    Downtown train 1985

    As some of you know, it was my teenage love affair with "Desperately Seeking Susan" that helped seal my fate for a life in New York. I was in high school working as an usher for AMC Theaters when Susan Seidelman's much-underrated indie classic was released in 1985, and while it opened at the Lakes theater in Tempe (where I saw it opening week), it quickly moved to the Fiesta Village in Mesa where I worked making it easy for me to see it on the big screen dozens of times in addition to sneaking into the theater to watch bits and pieces throughout my shifts. So taken by the film's star -- Manhattan -- it also led my friends Greg (a fellow Dobson High student) and Nina (a Detroit friend) and me to make our first pilgrimage to the city to retrace Susan and Roberta's footsteps in the winter of 1985. (My brother Terence joined us for part of the trip, too.)

    Battery Park by Day 1985

    Village idiots

    "Gorham, please"

    Teenagers in love (with the city -- and hair dye!)

    The trip almost didn't happen as my mom was apprehensive about her young son traipsing off to New York ("Why would he want to go there? What's in New York?" she quizzed my older brother Bill). In her defense, she's of the generation that prides itself on NOT having to live in the city, so it escaped her why anyone would choose to go there on purpose -- never mind the world-famous art, theater and architecture. (FYI: upon arrival in New York on her first visit to see me here in 1998 she -- without missing a beat -- announced that she still doesn't "get it." ) Meanwhile, Greg didn't have enough money saved to cover his share, but then came through with an 11th hour job at Burger King, working there just long enough to save up enough and quit.

    The second we arrived I thought I would burst with excitement. The sight of all the highrises, taxis and people was like a scene in a movie -- and like nothing I'd seen before in surburbia. On Nina's "cool sister" Claudia's recommendation, we stayed in the Theater District (at the recently renamed Gorham Hotel). Although looking back '80s Downtown was obviously the place to be, we were all underage and weren't looking to explore clubland, so it worked out quite well. We spent hours touring Rockefeller Center (visiting the Christmas tree and ice skating rink were childhood fantasies of mine come true), Central Park (freezing our asses off -- Greg had never even seen snow before!), the Museum of Modern Art and shopping on Fifth Avenue. We also ventured downtown for hours of exploring Greenwich Village. Back then, record shopping was almost the No. 1 priority on my vacation to-do list, and this trip was no exception. (And boy did we all clean up. Greg and Nina were music-collecting freaks as well.) I've been to some record stores on and around Bleecker Street since moving here and I'm nearly certain one of them was one we raided way back when.

    Showing off some of my finds

    We had always been told that New Yorkers were "rude," yet everywhere we went we were greeted with smiles. (Looking back, I think we were so young and excited that even the most jaded New Yorker couldn't help but be swept up in our enthusiasm.) By the time the week was over I was 100 percent certain that New York was for me. Still, it took me nearly a decade to get back for a visit -- I moved to Los Angeles and then D.C.-- and 13 to finally finally call it home. But 10 years later and now a bonafide New Yorker, I must confess that I still get the same butterflies in my stomach I did back in '85 every time I return home and see the city skyline from the airplane window. I definitely "get it" ...

    How much did "Desperately Seeking Susan" mean to me? Well, I got these kickass Roberta and Susan dolls for Christmas on Thursday from my brother Bill (seriously!!!).

    Michael and I stopped by the building that once housed Danceteria, where Gary Glass and Susan had their first encounter. I understand it's about to become (yet another) condo building ...

    On the Rag, Vol. 18

    A weekly look at what's making news in New York's free gay rags:

    HX highlights the year in gay ...

  • View all On the Rag posts HERE.
  • I Think He Showed Great Restraint

    Hopefully THIS will deter future inconsiderate assholes from talking during movies. My only qualm with this whole scenario is that he didn't kill the guy because you just know he'll be talking again next time he's at the show.

    Sunday, December 28, 2008

    Sunday Worship: Matthew Morrison

    Here's hunky Matthew Morrison as Lt. Joseph Cable, in the Broadway revival of "South Pacific," Rodgers and Hammerstein's iconic musical about the lives of U.S. military men, nurses and the residents of the Polynesian island they occupy during World War II. (Credit)

    Saturday, December 27, 2008

    Quote of the Day

    Not-so-sweet Caroline

    “Have you guys ever thought about writing for, like, a woman’s magazine or something? I thought you were the crack political team.” -- Caroline Kennedy, after being asked by reporters this morning to describe the moment she decided to seek the Senate seat.

    Knowing that she probably stands for most of the things her famous relatives did AND is in favor of same-sex marriage, I was warming to the idea of Caroline Kennedy as my new senator. But if she's already THIS cranky a week or two into the political process, something tells me this isn't going to be a smooth ride. And you thought Hillary got in hot water with her "staying home and baking cookies" comment. (Does this mean Ms. Kennedy wouldn't go on that "woman's show Oprah?")

    Rambo: First Beard, Part I

    Polaroid rage

    Was digging through some old boxes of stuff for some fun pictures to post on Facebook last night and came across this self-Polaroid of the first time I grew a beard -- in 1988! The past 20 years have seen a variety of facial hair -- and clean -- offerings. But in the end this look devised by a 21-year-old me would (essentially) prevail.

    And speaking of Polaroids, did you know they're going the way of the dinosaur?

    Thursday, December 25, 2008

    Playlist/212: A Very Kenny Christmas

    I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas. In keeping with the holiday spirit, this week's playlist is comprised of songs I included on a "Christmas card" CD I mailed to all of my friends and family a couple years ago. (The disc had 23 but I was only able to upload a dozen.) It's one of those rare projects about which I have no regrets -- comprised of what I believe the best holiday-themed songs of all time. I hope you enjoy ...

    You can listen to the whole mix below or in a new window HERE.

    1. "Mistletoe and Holly" by Frank Sinatra
    Forget about Andy Williams and Bing Crosby, Frank's is the best Christmas album of all time. This is will show you what I mean.

    2. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid
    I'll never forget being a student at Dobson High when this song came out and what an eye-opener it was for this stupid middle-class kid that people are still starving elsewhere in the world. The Who's Who of the New Wave was such a thrill though, and I always thought (and still think) Boy George's vocals were by far the most moving. (And I'm still not completely convinced that's Jody Watley in there and not my beloved Sade!)

    3. "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love
    There's no competing with the Phil Spector Christmas album. And even though I'm more of a Ronnie Spector fan, Darlene's instant classic is without question the album's highlight.

    4. "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
    Who'd have thunk a holiday song from the perspective of the downtrodden could be so compelling and wonderful? (Kirsty always could turn water into wine.)

    5. "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses
    This has to be the only song that makes it seem all right to be single around the holidays. I sure miss ya, Patty. The reference to A&P always made me smile because it made me think of my stepfather's dad who was a truck driver for them when I was a kid.

    6. "Hey Santa" by Carnie and Wendy Wilson
    This should have been one of those new Christmas songs that became a holiday staple (a la Mariah's "All I Want for Christmas Is You"), but sadly it didn't happen. This song is adorable.

    7. "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" by Annie Lennox and Al Green
    A beautiful arrangement of a great song by two class acts.

    8. "Frosty the Snowman" by The Ronettes
    Ronnie's contributions to then-hubby Phil's Christmas album are pure delight. Michael and I try to see her Christmas show at B.B. King each year, but sadly this year our calendar was triple-booked that night. Luckily we'll always have the album to fall back on.

    9. "Feels Like Christmas" by Cyndi Lauper
    This might not really be a Christmas song, but Cyndi's simile is sure to sweep you off your feet, too.

    10. "Christmas Day" by Beach Boys
    I live for Brian Wilson's complicated arrangements and multipart harmonies. Yet it's the utter simplicity of this one that makes it so special.

    11. "25th of December" by Everything but the Girl
    Ben Watt wrote and sang this holiday gem, perhaps the only to examine father-son relationships and what it means to be "a man" in such a raw yet tender manner.

    12. "I Was Born on Christmas Day" by Saint Etienne
    This song makes me deliriously happy each time I hear it and has the word Christmas in its title, so that's good enough for me. (BTW: Is it just me, or does EVERYONE know a fistful of people who were born on Christmas Day? I know it's easier to remember than other people's birthdays, but it is kinda strange.)

  • View all Playlist/212 posts HERE.
  • Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    Deck the Halls!

    OK, so I'm a little lazy this year. (I've had a cold!) But I finally decorated my apartment this afternoon, mainly because I needed to get Michael and Larry's stockings out of the closet in order to fill them with presents. If you'd told me I would grow up to be one of those people with a tabletop tree (and even that's stretching it here) I would have never believed you. But when you live in tight quarters, there's not a lot of room for expansive decorations and such, so this suits me just fine. All I really need room for is Michael -- and Larry!

    Of course it wouldn't be the holidays without me getting a little sentimental, like seeing this ornament (from my sister) from my first Christmas with my guy in 2003:
    Or this totally cool Easy Bake Oven ornament from my brother Bill. It's hard for me to believe this, but I actually never had one of these things, although I sure wanted one. I'm not sure why it never happened seeing as all of my other "girl" toy fantasies were willingly fulfilled ...

    Here's Christmas 2004 with Mikey, carrying home our (to-scale) tree ...

    Of course all Larry cares about are the big boxes that arrived in the mail from Grandma. Scratching post/lookout-perch central!