Wednesday, February 10, 2010

alec baldwin at my gym!

Oh me gad… (OMG is sooo last year)

I’d been told that Alec Baldwin frequented my gym, but to date he’s proved to be highly elusive … until tonight!!! There he was, working out not a metre away from me, sweating and grimacing and turning purple with effort just like the rest of us mortals.

And not even the slightest attempt to don any kind of disguise – no cap obscuring his famous blue peepers, no beanie pulled low over his ears. And no fans threatening to mob him. Everyone stayed cool as a cucumber, making do with slipping him a sly glance every now and again. New Yorkers make such an effort to stay nonchalant. . . [photo: Retna]

Friday, February 5, 2010

the deception of 'reality' tv

Reality TV … what can I say? After I had just arrived in NYC, I was at first sucked into the whirling maelstrom of shows that were offered, day running into night, on American cable TV. I was appalled, yet inexorably drawn into it in a kind of horror-filled fascination – at the crassness, the catfights (consider, these were real people!), the belligerence and utterly uninhibited behaviour of Reality TV’s participants. Jerry Springer had nothing on this.

Pull out of the air any urban situation or any social-specific group of people – there’s a reality show to represent … um … exploit it. (An internet search of US reality shows trumped up a list on Wikipedia of over 200.) From bachelors and bachelorettes to rock stars to rehab; from chefs clashing knives in the kitchen to spoiled, filthy-rich progeny on a cattle ranch to nip’n’tucked housewives in their chandeliered marble mansions. Crossing territory from Los Angeles to Colorado to Dallas, Texas, to New York, New York.

Let’s see … there were curvaceous, tattooed rock chicks all vying for a notch in kohl-rimmed, baby-blue-eyed Bret Michael’s (of the band Poison) already well-notched bed. There is wide-eyed Patti (she of the big boobs and pout to match), a guileless and utterly tactless madam of millionaire matchmaking. And there’s the handful of Italian-American personalities (buxom, beehive-haired and apple-cheeked ‘Snookie’ was the firm favourite) on Jersey Shore, whose perennially wild antics incensed and captivated the American public in equal measures.

Then of course there’s my TV-viewing drug of choice, The Real Housewives of … New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Orange County. Take your pick. Eternally snippy and trippy, they spend most of their time squabbling while aspiring to greatness. In between popping into day spas and surgical enhancement salons. They throw Botox parties, for goodness sake. One blonde bimbo, a Barbie carbon copy of all the other Orange County housewives, had her staff submit to the numbing effects of the hypodermic needle (horror of horrors) one sultry afternoon, as a ‘treat’ for hard work!

And then I wised up. I got to learn that ‘reality’ TV is as carefully engineered and stage-managed as a finely honed piece of theatre. I got to recognise the formulaic scripting, the emotional elements that had to be woven into the drama (confrontation, tears, vulnerability, family interaction – or absence of it, time with parents, pets, neglected friends). When tempers flared, you’ve got to know the directors threw in a curved ball – with certain members in the know and the one on the receiving end out in the dark. Stories filtered out of the studios of filming into the early hours of the morning so that normal boundaries of interaction became blurred, equanimity dissolved, tempers frayed. Social gatherings and alcohol are used liberally to loosen tongues and unwind inhibition. And this is when the cameras move in, to capture the moment for our salacious viewing.

What is it that keeps us glued to the screen? Somehow we seem to revel in watching others’ emotional weaknesses. When they crumple into tears, the seeming ‘glamour’ of their world dissipates, they’re cut down, their elegant stature reduced to our mundane level. All the money in the world can’t buy them their dignity. Suddenly they’re human, breakable, emotionally fragile. When they hiss and snap, engage in fisticuffs, scream like a banshee, they make our own, often questionable, behaviour more acceptable. The stars that we so readily raise onto a pedestal, oh, we so love to watch them tumble … if only to reinforce the fact that, despite all the veneer of wealth and glamour, they’re as human and vulnerable as the person sitting next to us on the C-Train.

[Image: VH1]

a hiccup in gay rights

While South Africa’s far-reaching, world-acclaimed, liberal Constitution does go through a major wobble every now and again, one of the most stimulating and open-minded cities in the world – New York – is stone-walled on a Constitutional issue that really should be a no-brainer.

In South Africa’s case – well, Cape Town, actually – three gay guys whipped up a mini-gale when they pitched up at a public swimming pool on the Cape Flats, ready to shimmy in their pool-party bikinis. I just love it. How creative are their names . . . Ocean Elektra and Zulfa Pekeur Kardashian. (Anyone who watches E! TV will have surfed across "Keeping up with the Kardashians" – featuring a pretty, pouty and intensely bratty [read: brain-dead] trio of sisters Kourtney, Kim and Khloe.) Ocean and Zulfa were refused entry to the public space by the pool's resident lifeguards. Discrimination wasn’t based on their sexual orientation, the lifeguards said, rather, it was because the guys weren’t complying with the pool’s dress code. Huh? Sounds like a complete copout to me.

So back to one of the most liberal-minded cities, and states, in America. In spite of the heavily Democratic weighted senate, a recent vote once again rejected same-sex marriage. I’m gobsmacked. I am reminded again and again that the American nation is essentially a conservative one at heart. Although from 2003 on, seven states had agreed to legalise gay marriage, two of the states have since retracted their yes vote. And wouldn’t you know it, one of the two has one of the largest gay populations in the country. California. Yes, really. The other state is Maine.

And, at the other end of the world, in spite of South Africa’s liberal Constitution, gaydom is also clearly an issue that not everybody has quite got their heads around yet.