SOMETIMES BUTTERFLIES GET CAUGHT IN SPIDERWEBS:
PAT CLEVELAND REMEMBERS PATRICK KELLY
Pat Cleveland photographed by Alice Springs in Paris. 1979
KEVIN SESSUMS: Do you ever think about that time in your life full of parties and drugs in the 1970s and 1980s and ever regret any of it, Pat – the hedonism of it all – especially because of AIDS?
PAT CLEVELAND: No. I never think of all those things in that way. All of that was just natural that people were having fun. It was like the Roaring Twenties. It was forbidden drugs and forbidden behavior. It’s always naughtiness. The naughtiness of being naughty. Everybody was naughty. But that was just another side of yourself. All sexuality is natural. Isn’t it?
KS: It’s all about light and darkness. You can’t have light without the darkness.
PC: I don’t think it’s about darkness. Life is life. What? You’re not going to live it up? You have to live it up. Sometimes there are dangerous things and sometimes butterflies get caught in spiderwebs. But it’s not about light and darkness. It’s all life. All of it.
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THE MORNING SAWYER REALLY SAW ME
The last chapter of my second memoir I LEFT IT ON THE MOUNTAIN is titled "The Addict." I begin the chapter with an interview I am conducting with Diane Sawyer on the morning after a night I had binged on crystal meth. This is an excerpt from that chapter. I bear witness to that morning; it still holds a perverse, profound power for me. If you are struggling with your own demons - whether they be the demons of addiction or mental illness or depression or financial stress, whatever they may be - it is my hope that my bearing such witness to my own weakness will make us all just a bit stronger together in our struggles to survive a day at a time. Thank you, Diane.
(Oh, she also opens up about her years with Richard Nixon in the White House and in exile with him in San Clemente.)
Gavin Creel performing songs from his CD Get Out Joe’s Pub. Photo by Monica Simoes
WILLIAM EGGLESTON’S WOMEN
“Photography just gets us out of the house,” says the seventy-nine-year-old Eggleston. “I only ever take one picture of one thing. Literally. Never two. So then that picture is taken and then the next one is waiting somewhere else … I never know beforehand. Until I see it. It just happens all at once. I take a picture very quickly and instantly forget about it … A picture is what it is and I’ve never noticed that it helps to talk about them, or answer specific questions about them, much less volunteer information in words. It wouldn’t make any sense to explain them. Kind of diminishes them. People always want to know when something was taken, where it was taken, and, God knows, why it was taken. It gets really ridiculous. I mean, they’re right there, whatever they are … I don’t have a burning desire to go out and document anything. It just happens when it happens. It’s not a conscious effort, nor is it a struggle. Wouldn’t do it if it was. The idea of the suffering artist has never appealed to me. Being here is suffering enough … Whatever it is about pictures, photographs, it’s just about impossible to follow up with words. They don’t have anything to do with each other.”
But Wiliam Eggleston did talk to John Heilpern in 2015 for Vanity Fair about his love of women. Click here to see more of his images of them and to read, yes, his words.
NO MORE STONES
IN HIS POCKETS:
HOW GIDEON GLICK GAVE UP
Now starring on Broadway in TO Kill A MOCKINGBIRD as Dill Harris, Glick talks about the queer legacy of that role, his upbringing on the Main Line outside Philadelphia, and the precept of "radical honesty" by which he lives his life and practices his art.
Gideon Glick. Photograph M. Sharkey.
Is this the gay James Franco or the straight one with me here? Or is it both? Read the story above to find out.
WELCOME TO SESSUMSMAGAZINE. COM: CULLING CONFUSION, CREATING COMMUNITY
Welcome to the latest iteration of sessumsMagazine.com. I have been building new content diligently over the last few days and I am loving this new edition of the magazine. I hope you do, too. Thanks to all the interview subjects who have become a part of our community by agreeing to be profiled here – because I do think of this as a community.
Pat Cleveland – in Part One of our conversation – remembers her dear friend Patrick Kelly, a designer who has always fascinated me because we both come from small-town Mississippi where community was important but where we felt as if we were outsiders because of our otherness. (Is this a community here at sessumsMagazine.com of others? Hmm.) I later made my way in New York when I left Mississippi. Patrick couldn’t find his footing there but stood so very tall once he got to Paris where he was celebrated in the 1980s as a preeminent fashion designer before he died of AIDS in January of 1990. Oh, and just wait until Pat talks to us in Part Two next month about her artistic upbringing in Harlem where her mother, a portrait artist, was a sort of den mother for all types of artists – from Eartha Kitt to jazz musicians to Paul Robeson with whom her mother had a harrowing experience. It is a deeply personal and deeply moving conversation. Nothing “pat” about it because it is so Pat.
Three theatre greats have joined our conversation for this iteration. Musical theatre star Gavin Creel. Gideon Glick who is a revelation as Dill Harris in the Broadway version o To Kill a Mockingbird. And the self-described “citizen artist,” playwright and director Emily Mann whose latest play, Gloria: A Life, celebrates the feminist icon Gloria Steinem. Mann, herself a feminist icon in the American theatre, is starting a next chapter in her career as she leaves her Artistic Director position at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton after 30 years at its helm. Watch for Mann’s adaptation of The Pianist next season on Broadway.
And then there are our guest columnists here this month. James Franco – both the gay one and the straight one – joins us to preen a bit even as both James prune away the subterfuge of “identity.” Christopher Bram and Scott Baldinger write appreciations of the great film critic Pauline Kael. And I have “borrowed” a bit of a John Heilpern’s interview with photographer William Eggleston from Vanity Fair to run with this month’s curated gallery here at sessumsMagazine.com of Eggleston’s work, focusing on his keen-eyed ogling of southern women. This month’s gallery is, in fact, quite dear to me since, like Patrick Kelly and me, Eggleston is a Mississippi boy – a seventy-nine-year-old one now – who, in an attempt to make sense of what Mississippi confusingly embeds in such artistic souls, creates his own kind of art by culling that confusion.
I wish Patrick Kelly were here to celebrate this issue with us and make further sense out of his Mississippi past. But I like to think his is hovering here and blessing this community we are continuing to create as we all make some sense of this world, just as Diane Sawyer on the morning I write about above helped me make sense of an awful period in my life and sent me off to seek my sobriety.
Here’s to seeking. This site has been part of mine. Thank you for accompanying me.
STARS IN BLACK TURTLENECKS
Joan Smalls in Ford's Fall 2019 show.
Richard Buckley being bussed by Ford.
IN THE COMING WEEKS ...
Mary J. Blige. Willem Dafoe. Laura Linney. Judith Light. Cara Buono. Ellen Barkin. Jane Fonda. Parker Posey. Style icon and photographer Lisa Eisner. Writers Armistead Maupin, Julia Reed, George Hodgman, Jesse Kornbluth, Joyce Maynard, Sheila Weller, Mark Childress, Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, Jennifer Raiser, Benoit Denizet-Lewis, and William Norwich.
MY TEN FAVORITE FILMS OF THE YEAR
Plus, my Two Favorite Performances, my Most Unfavorite Film and the film I thought was The Most Overrated. Here are some visual hints below for them all.
“A good movie can take you out of your dull funk and the hopelessness that so often goes with slipping into a theatre; a good movie can make you feel alive again, in contact, not just lost in another city. Good movies make you care, make you believe in possibilities again. If somewhere in the Hollywood-entertainment world someone has managed to break through with something that speaks to you, then it isn’t all corruption. The movie doesn’t have to be great; it can be stupid and empty and you can still have the joy of a good performance, or the joy in just a good line. An actor’s scowl, a small subversive gesture, a dirty remark that someone tosses off with a mock-innocent face, and the world makes a little bit of sense. Sitting there alone or painfully alone because those with you do not react as you do, you know there must be others perhaps in this very theatre or in this city, surely in other theatres in other cities, now, in the past or future, who react as you do. And because movies are the most total and encompassing art form we have, these reactions can seem the most personal and, maybe the most important, imaginable. The romance of movies is not just in those stories and those people on the screen but in the adolescent dream of meeting others who feel as you do about what you’ve seen. You do meet them, of course, and you know each other at once because you talk less about good movies than about what you love in bad movies.” – Pauline Kael
MY TEN FAVORITE PERFORMANCES OF 2018: THEATRE, OPERA, BALLET, AND CABARET
Well, really my fifteen. I cheated. Plus, read about the two critically hailed productions that I thought were the overrated ones of the year. My most unfavorite production. And my two favorite performances. Photo: Edie Falco by Nigel Parry.
This month in The Other Doll(e)y’s Other Husband, I write of James Madison, the father of States Rights, and how the concept has taken a circuitous journey from our fourth president and the Federalist Papers to such arch-segregationists as George Wallace, who used it as a racist rhetorical battle cry, and now, in its latest redoubt, as a way to resist the oligarchical theocratic fascist regime of Donald Trump in this The Era of The Big Con and its lies and its own racist tropes. Daguerreotype of Dolley Madison by Mathew Brady, 1848.
In this excerpt from my cover story on Dolly Parton for Vanity Fair, Dolly defines the term “timeless” because most of this reads as if I could have talked to her yesterday in this conversation peppered with her endearing use of the expletive “shit” even as she opens up in her singularly eloquent way about her feelings of inadequacy, her upbringing, her take on how flexible monogamy can be, and the rumors of her being a lesbian. All that, and our night on the town when she and Ivana Trump bonded at dinner and then our going to an East Village performance art piece. Dolly in the East Village is a performance art piece itself. Enjoy. (Polaroid: Andy Warhol)
World traveler, TheWrap.com’s theatre critic Robert Hofler this month writes about Bolivia and Beyond. Left, a bicyclist’s view of Bolivia’s Death Road where nature comes alive and one pedals through waterfalls that skirt the road with their splendor. Hofler writes about more splendor in this report from South America. He has a lovely way of describing his wanderlust for us all. Indeed, check out his past stories on New Zealand, Nicaragua, and his journey into Africa.
A MANN FOR
Director and playwright Emily Mann is, after 30 years, heading into her last season as Artistic Director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. She's won eight Obies. Has been nominated twice for a Tony. Been awarded the Peabody. Received a Guggenheim. Has an honorable Doctorate of Arts from Princeton University. And her play about the life of Gloria Steinem is currently off-Broadway. Here, she talks about her upcoming third act once she leaves the McCarter, how dangerous Trump is, how important diversity is to our country's cultural existence, and how Tennessee Williams was not only a poetic playwright, but also a deeply political one.
Photo by Matt Pilsner
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