Short Stuff: Performance Art & Video Reviews

Including: Jill Scott, Lynn Hershman, Tom Marioni, San Francisco International Video Festival (Doug Hall, Tony Labat, Tony Oursler & Les Levine), Squat/Love Theater, Karel Appel/Min Tanaka, Nancy Blanchard, Phranc.

Jill Scott, "Sand the Stimulant," at 80 Langton St., San Francisco
ArtForum, September 1982

If there's another artist with whom performer Jill Scott has an affinity, it's writer Jorge Luis Borges. Both create poetic, archetypal dream pieces. Both utilize timeless and metaphorical images of nature and primordial existence, in the process enveloping the world in myth. And both are rooted in the geographic peripheries of the Western cultural tradition.

Born in Australia, Scott left there in 1972. For ten peripatetic years, she has studied and produced art, making videotapes and performances, traveling and exhibiting widely. As I write this she is performing in Europe, en route to an indefinite stay in Australia. Before leaving San Francisco--her longtime American home--she performed Sand the Stimulant. It constituted a poignant farewell, both summarizing Scott's artistic concerns of the last few years and pointedly referring to her imminent homeward journey.

A non-narrative series of actions, Sand the Stimulant unfolds, rather than progresses in linear fashion. Each action employs a smorgasbord of aural and visual elements, en masse comprising a sprawling, sculptural installation. Instead of speaking Scott manipulates objects and makes sounds--in short, activates the installation.

She dishes up chameleons, crickets, and birds--seen and heard live, audiotaped, videotaped, and amplified. She also brings us the sounds of curious machines with curiouser names (like the "Revolving Desert Simulator"), large percussive instruments fashioned from pipes and tubes, and a didgeridoo (an Australian aboriginal instrument created from a eucalyptus branch, and requiring circular breathing). Prepared visuals include videotapes of animals projected on twin monitors, rear-projected slides, and atmospheric lighting. On a small, sand-strewn performing area this collection of objects and images resembles a garage sale where the handmade and the high tech amiably coexist.

Sand the Stimulant functions simultaneously as environmental installation, coded autobiography, sound piece (Scott cites Terry Fox as an important influence), and allusive ecological statement. Images of potential disaster, such as slides of power stations, are visible briefly, but they quantitatively pale in relation to images bearing circular and spiraling forms, suggestive here of natural cycles. Perhaps the most potent moment of the performance comes when Scott holds shoulder-high two battery-operated revolving discs on which sand drops from spigots mounted above. As the sand overflows the discs and piles up at Scott's feet, her identification with the landscape is concretized.

Literary description hardly does justice to this hypnotically fragmented piece; Sand the Stimulant lingers in the mind with the dissociated power and persistence of a dream. Or, as Borges noted in the appropriately name Book of Sand (which Scott quoted in her book, Characters of Motion): "If space is infinite we may be at any point in space. If time is infinite we may be at any point in time."

Who is Roberta Breitmore?
San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 4, 1978

Consider the strange case of Roberta Breitmore: Is she Everywoman or just another lost soul washed up on Ocean Beach? Decide for yourself. The facts (?): Born August 19, 1945. Educated at Kent State University where she majored in English. Five years of marriage (to Arnold Marx, 1969-74) in Cleveland Heights, end in divorce and subsequent flight to San Francisco (1975). Unemployment, depression, EST, Weight Watchers and psychotherapy follow. If Lynn Hershman is not Roberta Breitmore--the title of Hershman's show at the de Young Museum through May 14--then just who is she?

More facts (?) about Roberta: She is fearful of pregnancy, inaudible of voice, prone to accidents and memory loss. Heavy makeup conceals her features. While visiting San Diego (February 1976), her personal ad in the Tribune is answered by a man who agrees to meet her for a date at Belmont Amusement Park. He arrives with five friends and asks Roberta to join a prostitution ring. Roberta is suicidal.

Ultimately, facts are only raw material for detectives (not to mention conceptual artists and art critics.) More important, Roberta Breitmore is an artistic/literary creation whose first cousins are several schizy fictional characters we've come to love/hate in recent years. Roberta is Isadora Wing, the heroine of Fear of Flying grounded, only Roberta never gets the guy or the Gucci sandals. She's Mary Hartman, without hysteria or a family. She's spiritually closest to her almost-namesake Roberta Bright, the letter-writing heroine of Joyce Carol Oates's Passions and Meditations, but nothing seems to arouse her passion. Dullness blankets her. She's the numbed victim of the American dream, and her plight is all the more alarming for her apparently advantaged origins.

Roberta Breitmore is also a character whose existence and identity are tangential to those of artist Lynn Hershman. Roberta's physical existence begins where Lynn's leaves off. A series of elegant, heavily altered photographic blowups à la Warhol charts this physical transformation, but soon Roberta and Lynn part ways. Roberta opens a checking account, gets a driver's license, seeks a roommate through newspaper ads, keeps a diary, buys a wardrobe, sees a therapist and finally rents a room. (You can see it at Baker's Acres, 3000 Jackson St., Room 111, open 4-6 pm daily.)

Evidence of these acts--and many others--is on exhibition. Roberta's plight is viewed from several perspectives: A therapist's, a journalist's, a photographer's and even a cartoonist's. (Hershman and Spain Rodriguez have collaborated on a marvelous comic-strip depiction of Roberta's adventures.) This collage technique is not unlike filmmaker Robert Altman's multiple-character/multiple-viewpoint treatment of the fictional populace of Nashville. And just as Altman presented Julie Christie and Warren Beatty not as fictional characters, but as Julie Christie and Warren Beatty, the "real" stars they are, Hershman rents a room, uses the mails and purchases classified ads just like everybody else.

Besides bending reality to create Roberta Breitmore, Hershman is doing something far more significant: she's creatively demolishing the time-worn barriers separating performance and literature, photography and conceptualism.

Tom Marioni, "Studio," at the University Art Museum, Berkeley
Images & Issues, Spring 1981

Like Terry Fox and Joseph Beuys, Tom Marioni prefers the term "action" to "performance." Studio, an action presented on November 5 at the University Art Museum, suggests why. Marioni, in not overly dramatic fashion, was the artist-at-work interacting with his materials, both visual and audial. Private and public activities were economically and satisfyingly fused. Studio reminded this viewer of Yves Klein's public art-making events of the early sixties (an association conditioned by Marioni's recreation of Klein's Le Vide at Galerie Paule Anglim).

An audience arrived at the museum to find a schematic studio set up in a gallery space. A roll of brown paper, approximately eight feet high, mounted on a panel, stood behind a loudspeaker on which a bottle of beer, a wine glass, and a tray of pencils had been placed. A round mirror, angled toward the audience, had been positioned in front of the speaker. The size and shape of the mirror corresponded to a spot of yellow light trained on the brown paper. (The color yellow was chosen because of its connections with intellect in alchemical theory and because of Marioni's desire for telepathic communication with the audience.)

Marioni's activity consisted primarily of drawing--in controlled, but rather nervous, cross-hatching strokes--the image of his shadow. (A piece of black velvet, suspended between the two yellow spotlights, altered his shadow's form.) As is typical of Marioni's recent actions, the audial element proved the most satisfying component of his work. Microphones were placed behind the paper at approximately head and heart levels. Wonderful percussive sounds were produced, sometimes suggestive of the flapping of birds' wings. The drawing sounds were augmented by short selections of jazz and classical music, which reinforced the illusion of the artist at work in his studio.

The 25-minute meditative action ended when Marioni slowly moved away from the paper; his shadow became increasingly thin and attenuated, evoking Giacometti's sculpture. It finally disappeared altogether: Process and product seemed to merge, and a surprisingly handsome, life-sized drawing resulted.

The San Francisco International Video Festival
ArtForum, October 1982, pp. 78-9

The San Francisco International Video Festival's third incarnation--like the first two--was characterized by a dizzying variety of viewing venues, a secondary emphasis on video within the context of performance and installation art, numerous film-festival-style tributes, and the decidedly political bent of many of the works screened. Three videotapes received their public premieres--Doug Hall's The Speech, Tony Labat's Ñ, and Tony Oursler's Son of Oil; each directly targets matters of social consequence.

Doug Hall's best-known works are his mid-'70s collaborations with the T.R. Uthco and Ant Farm collectives. Such stunningly orchestrated, made-to-be-documented events as Media Burn, in which a souped-up Cadillac was driven through a wall of flaming television sets, attest to Hall's longstanding fascination with media presentation as anthropological rite. In The Speech, Hall, on camera, conducts a practicum on political speech-making. Sitting between two flags, he intones a deadpan, Boy Scout oath of a litany of the virtues required to enhance a candidate's image. The gamut is run from the sublime to the ridiculous, from honesty and self-reliance to good health and virility, with Hall providing handy tips for the enactment of each. Honesty is communicated to an audience when "he [the candidate] appears relaxed and in control," and confidence "allows him to avoid difficult questions while seeming to be a nice guy." The evangelically oily recitation of such dictums as "Obey the laws of the land, they were made with you in mind," reminds us how similar are the rhetorical ploys of Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell.

Hall's satiric touch is deftly Swiftian. The Speech is unpretentiously straight-forward and free of tendentiousness. The question "Is the ultimate victory one of form over content?" is asked twice on the tape; the eliptical answer, of course, is that they are synonymous.

Cuban-born Tony Labat came to the United States as a teenager. He has used his outsider status to confront the issues of cultural disorientation; his sometimes belligerent humor is tempered, however, by his quick wit and subtlety. Ñ is a revelation both for its artistry and its complex texture of ideas.

The title Ñ (pronounced enn-yay) refers to the Spanish tilde sign over the "n" in written Spanish indicating a fluid pronunciation alien to English speakers. Labat has said in interview that this symbolized what is "lost or left behind" by the immigrant in North America. Throughout the tape, Ñ is referred to as a "victim of circumstances."

Structurally Ñ is a nonlinear tapestry, mostly of talking heads. Characters appear and reappear, voicing their yearnings and sometimes their demands. First up is a Norteamericano businessman/bandit, head encased in a stocking, tensely striding through woods. He gruffly announces: "I give you something, you pay. That's it. This is business." A meeting of revolutionaries is mentioned and Costa-Gavras-style intrigue suffuses the scene, but never materializes; nor does any semblance of a conventional narrative. Instead we are introduced to a cast of disparate speakers, including a glamorous white newswoman, a black male boat person, a blonde little girl, and miscellaneous urban types both black and white. All but the newswoman are isolated from any social context, making the normally cool, cinema verité-technique seem dream-intimate.

Labat's visual inclinations are abstract. Staccato rhythms are established by repeated quick cuts to shots of the sweat-drenched artist straining at a rowing machine, the galley slave at his labor. Sound is similarly varied to dissociating effect: the newswoman's crisply spoken dissertation about the miseries of modern existence is truncated mid-stream, contrasting sharply with the romantic reveries of the boat person, which drift off like a dinghy at sea.

Ñ's conclusion finds several members of this mysterious group on a tropical bluff overlooking the ocean, where they reverently kiss the ground. The liberating expansiveness of this shot, as well as the action, proclaim some sort of paradise found. Labat's gloss on the myth of America dialectically juxtaposes (and sometimes blends) the poetry of desire and the realities of sociopolitical conditions. It is an elusive--and allusive--coupling.

Tony Oursler is the current wunderkind of video, a maker of tapes whose imagery is manufactured in the manner of such German Expressionist films as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the fabricated pictures of such contemporary photographers as Ellen Brooks and Sandy Skoglund. Son of Oil--like the earlier Grand Mal and The Loner--is comprised of state-of-the-art video animation and painted sets. But the fingers and arms with faces limned on them of those tapes have been replaced by actors seen full figure. Otherwise Oursler's whimsical sensibility operates with its familiar elements intact: the droll, pun-laden narration; the rambling vignette-based structure; the schlocky, Gothic-thriller ambience; the protagonist's soap-operatic mission; the luscious palette of saturated, sherbety tones and the flavorful painted sets suggestive of Bad Painting reflected in distorting mirrors.

There is a startling difference, however, between Son of Oil and the previous works. Onto this charming, fairy-tale format Oursler has grafted a cautionary tale of ecological disaster. A picture is painted of an "empire where the sun never sets at a party that never stops." Not only does an overreliance on oil threaten our consuming lifestyle, but tugs at the social fabric. A voice whispers, "If you kill the president are you as important as the president?". Big issues are ubiquitous.

Unfortunately, however, hypnotic images and ingeniously crafted effects make such issues virtual distractions from the main event. Structurally unhinged, the tape's episodes lack connective links and the concomitant possibility of sustained polemic. With The Loner and Grand Mal, loose-knit, psychologically oriented tales redolent of archetype and cliché, this didn't really matter, because we "knew" the stories and responded to individually memorable sequences and to Oursler's intoxicating atmospherics. Son of Oil's laudable attempt to formulate a thesis is sabotaged by a structure incapable of supporting one. We're left with sensibility as a substitute for ideology.

Les Levine's "Einstein: A Nuclear Comedy" at the San Francisco International Video Festival
ArtForum, February 1984, p. 85

Media artist Les Levine once described TV as "easy magic." In his videotape Einstein: A Nuclear Comedy, 1983, he performs the conjurer's trick of resurrecting the great scientist through the process of "deep television," a technique enabling Levine to interview individuals dead up to a hundred years. (As the narrator relates, "Small details such as the noses may change.") Played by the bulbous-nosed Eli Delauro, Levine's Einstein is the quintessential Italian- or Eastern European looking grandfather of socialist persuasion; we discover that his secret fantasy was to have been a music hall comedian. As the plaintive strains of the Walt Disney standard "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" swell on a single violin, Einstein appears and delivers his shtick: timeworn jokes of the cops-delivering-babies-in-cabs genre segue into a monologue about nuclear power and politics.

Meanwhile, Levine superimposes a second, transparent layer of video imagery over Einstein. Comprised mostly of footage of Hawaiian volcanoes erupting and lava flowing, these images of fiery destruction function as a recurrent, almost subliminal backdrop to Einstein's commentary. As his observations wander from nuclear power to paeans of praise of his own abilities as cook and handyman, or to punning asides about the nature of relativity, low comedy becomes a metaphor for low--or at least everyday--consciousness.

Levine's masterstroke is to make Einstein not a genius, but Everyman; he is a figure to whom we can relate. For the first third of the 22-minute tape, Einstein is an impassioned advocate of nuclear power. "They say [nuclear] plants cause trouble for people who live in the area. They should move out of the area," he pontificates. Yet a few minutes later he urges people to speak out against the Indian Point, New York, nuclear facility in as large numbers as possible. The transition between these opposed viewpoints seems effortless, and surely mirrors a path millions of Americans have traveled as disaffection with nuclear power has grown. Like the rest of us, this endearingly muddleheaded Einstein is a victim of corporate and governmental double-speak.

Levine has been criticized in the past for a certain awkwardness in positioning his own viewpoint within the dialectical tensions he generates. Here, he authoritatively lets the musical, visual, and spoken elements speak for themselves. The resulting interaction is subtle and often humorous. As I write, the nation is reeling from that televisual presentation of nuclear holocaust, The Day After; this chilling phenomenon--one wonders if a few network television executives are determining all public-policy discourse--aptly illustrates the thesis of Levine's essay "Media: The Bio-Tech Rehearsal for Leaving the Body." In it, he astutely observes that "media fosters disbelief in everything except itself. constantly generating anxiety in fear that we may believe in something other than it." The difference between The Day After and Einstein: A Nuclear Comedy is the difference between propaganda and art.

Squat/Love Theater, "Ambition," at La Mama E.T.C.
High Performance, Issue #40, 1987, pp. 72-3

In the beginning (1977) was Squat Theater. Six years later came a breakup and now there is both Squat Theater (performing at BAM later this season) and Squat/Love Theater, which premiered Ambition at La Mama E.T.C. on September 25. Both groups involve original Squat founders and utilize elements of the original Squat sensibility. Based on Ambition, however, the price of breaking up for Squat/Love was high--the near loss of the former ensemble's considerable chemistry and dynamism.

Ambition--written, directed and designed by Peter Halasz--is a visual theater performance piece based on Andre Maurois' Palace Hotel Thanatos. In Halasz' version of this tale from the Twilight Zone, a Chinese Wall Street broker loses his shirt following an inside tip on a possible take-over deal, and his Scandinavian(?) wife leaves him. Despairing, he accepts an invitation to the Palace Hotel Thanatos, which promises him a "skillful death, low rates and an incomparable social life." He is apparently revivified by Eros there.

The narrative was revealed through projected titles in silent-screen fashion. For instance, we read the title "Daily Wisdom" and the text of stock-broker Zhing Zheng Goa's conversation with his seven-year-old daughter Tiffany seeking advice on how to conduct his day on The Street. This inherently antidramatic technique, coupled with Halasz' tendency to dramatize the banal moments of his hero's existence and the low-key-gone-opiated style of affectless acting made for an agonizingly slow pace. The fact that we didn't hear of the Palace Hotel Thanatos until the piece was nearly two-thirds over left this viewer more confused than intrigued.

This narrative flat-footedness was complemented by impressive visual wizardry, though. The entire piece was performed between two transparent scrims, titles and occasional images on the front one. Nice visual moments included Zhing and his nubile business associate Maureen viewed from a high-rise office window on the rear scrim, while a clock and an abstract, ticker-tape-like stream of light appeared on the front scrim.

Visual effects like this one are the key to Ambition. Speculation about the multinationality of the characters' names, about greed and power-lust represented as the American/international corporate character is fruitless. Mediation was ubiquitous. Actors were sandwiched between projected images beyond our emotional reach, but it was the images themselves, that commanded our attention. (Curiously, the original Squat Theater's approach in the pieces like Mr. Dead and Mrs. Free was visceral and hyper-real, employing an actual jeep, elaborate sets and props, blaring rock music and the like.)

I'm afraid that my description of Ambition may make it sound more pleasurable than it was. Ironically Halasz' emotionally distanced and flattened approach to text and visuals backfires. How can dreamlike dissociation envelop us without both emotional intensity and nuance? The only chiaroscuro visible here was on the slides.

Karel Appel & Min Tanaka, "Can We Dance A Landscape?"
High Performance, Spring 1990, p. 64

The collaboration of Karel Appel and Min Tanaka seemed like a match made in heaven. Appel--the expressionist CoBrA painter--first gained public attention after World War II for his wild-style figurative canvases that forced viewers to confront the psychic devastation of the war. Tanaka--the Butoh dancer--has helped turn the notion of classical Japanese serenity and grace on its ear with his development of a disturbing and primitivist movement-language. In a sense, both are also children of the 1960s: Appel was a Situationist involved in the incendiary events of Paris, 1968; and Tanaka has recently gone back to the land, taking time off from a demanding performance schedule to grow rice. Despite such apparent sympatico, the disparate elements comprising Can We Dance A Landscape? generated more sound and fury than light.

The 75-minute piece featured not just Tanaka, but the on-stage contributions of live chickens, a goat, sculpted cows, Tanaka's Kaijuku dance company, and three African-American roller skaters. Appel's gorgeous, highly mobile sets provided an ambiance reminiscent of early 20th Century German Expressionist painting. Beautifully brushed renditions of the landscape came and went, though the appearance of nature was essentially a pretext for portraying the artist's nature. Like Jackson Pollock who said "I am nature," Tanaka says, "I don't dance the space, I am the space." A rumination on the human condition emerged but never struck more than a single note.

While dancers with teased hair--in overcoats, high heels, or nearly in the nude--interacted with the animals, dry ice "smoke" rose and roller skaters dipped and swooned across a sloping ramp in the background. Despite the thudding, Cagean score, this spectacle-without-a-center too frequently seemed like an MTV video directed by Ingmar Bergman.

The problem became clearer in the final portion of the piece when Tanaka danced solo. His riveting evocation of dissociation and unease gave meaning to the work of the dancers who had preceded him. It's hard to know whether to pin the responsibility on his dancers, his choreography, or on the dilemma of whether the intensely interiorized nature of this movement isn't really conducive to eight performers simultaneously enacting similar gestures. Tanaka's brilliant performance embodied the obdurate economy of an Egon Schiele drawing. It might have helped if Can We Dance A Landscape? had been a solo, without the cuddly denizens of the barnyard.

Details Reveal Details in the World of Appearances: Nancy Blanchard, "Boats Passing on the Seine," at the San Francisco Art Institute
San Francisco Bay Guardian, February 15, 1979, p. 29

Boats Passing on the Seine/Bateaux Passant sur la Seine is a romanticized, la vie en rose-tinged vision of reality, not unlike the elegantly dressed windows of Les Trois Quartiers (the Parisian answer to Saks Fifth Avenue). Although France is the ostensible setting, Nancy Blanchard's piece (a 50-minute taped narration and complementary environment) is actually located in an emotional desert, the arid terrain familiar from the novels of Joan Didion. Ennui, yearning and alienation are stylishly evoked and observation is keen. We can almost feel the clinking of ice in Bacarrat crystal tumblers, and ice water seems to flow through the veins of the characters on the tape, as well.

We're sitting in the McBean Gallery of the San Francisco Art Institute, overlooking the Bay. Boats pass. We're sitting in the French living room which Blanchard has fashioned in the McBean Gallery. We're listening to the story of Michelle, a struggling American playwright/waitress, as we once listened to radio plays. Initially, Michelle (whose part is affectingly spoken by Blanchard herself) lives in Paris with a man who is producing her play. She meets film director Eric (delivered with appropriately jaded cynicism by Gary Krakower) who becomes her lover and business partner. They split up. She struggles and success comes, but nothing really changes. She is the kind of person who files away experiences and people like a librarian cataloguing books. Plot and character, however, are entirely incidental to the meaning of the piece.

In the gallery, we're surrounded by props from the narrative. There are the Gauloise cigarettes Michelle smokes. There are the sleek chrome and glass tables of which Eric is so fond. Copies of Paris Match and Le Monde, flowers in crystal vases, snapshots of the Seine, bottles of wine and Vichy water, a silver tray and glasses litter the table in obsessively casual disarray.

The listener/viewer is inundated with superficial detail. Places and names drop like April showers from Blanchard's narration: Le Drugstore, L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, a party at Claude Lelouch's flat, to mention only a few. At first I'm reminded of French and Russian 19th-century novelists who manipulated seemingly trivial details to reveal the psychic lives of their characters. Here a network of details reveals only a network of details.

More to the point is Alain Resnais's film Last Year at Marienbad (1962), with its similarly blurry sense of time, its enigmatic atmosphere and its high chic sensibility. (Robbe-Grillet scripted this one, and Resnais never found the proper visual style to express Robbe-Grillet's aversion to the tangible, visual world.) The film turned out to be just a hollow, glamorous enigma; everyone was certain it meant something, but no one was quite sure what.

If it seems I've spread my critical net over-wide, it's because Blanchard is a prodigious medium- and genre mixer. For Still Life, her December performance piece at 80 Langton Street, she used professional actors in addition to a taped narration and sets. Despite the live performances in Still Life, Boats Passing on the Seine is the more engaging of these peculiarly reflexive pieces; perhaps inevitably since it demands that the audience participate by visualizing the events and characters and by interacting with the setting.

One might argue that detachment and distant appearances are central to Still Life, but why, then, does a similar sense of distance permeate Boats Passing on the Seine? And how can Boats Passing on the Seine, which chronicles the story of a working writer/artist, and Still Life, which tells the tale of a glamorously anonymous woman of leisure, both revolve around similarly ill-defined issues of style? (Here style is style is content.) The murkiness seems to express Blanchard's ambivalence about the chi-chi world of appearances and her apparently contradictory desires to live both parts. What a dilemma.

"May I Speak Phrancly"
Village Voice, January 4, 1994

My first hit of Phranc came when I spied the lesbian, Jewish folksinger on the cover a California queerzine a few years ago. Her flattopped, T-shirted, surfer-boy good looks made me swoon. (As did her resemblance to my junior-high heartthrob, Chuck.) Although not really a folkie, I was drawn to Phranc's witty lyrics about girlfriends, Gertude Stein, even Tippi Hedren--"Alfred Hitchcock had it easy/Tippi Hedren had it hard." During the first half of her epochal "Hot August Phranc" show, she expanded the range of her cultural crit with a valentine to Martina and an amusingly comfortless litany of childhood marching orders called "Who told you everything would be all right?" (My fave: "You're going to go blind if you sit so close to the TV set.")"

After intermission, the self-described butch bulldagger returned to Dance Theater Workshop's floor transformed into hypermasculine pop singer Neil Diamond. And I do mean transformed: silver lamé shirt, luxuriant sideburns and chest hair, a pastel-clad backup band, and a pelvis and torse so rigidly fused that in motion they defied gravity. Forget parody, homage, or even Lily Tomlin, and think instead of Stanislavski and the Ritz Brothers. Phranc/Neil remained in coolly steamy character even when suggestively fingering her crotch during Diamond's piquant "Longfellow Serenade."

She also expertly wrung the latent subtexts from such Diamond classics as "Solitary Man" and "I Am...I Said" (and wrung them bone dry). And when she sang "Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon" I yearned for her to direct it at me, not that jerk-off down the row. I felt unsure of who I was or wanted to be (perhaps the nearly nude, flower-delivery girl who appeared with a birthday bouquet for Phranc); I was under the influence of an adrenaline rush of desire. I screamed along with dyke friends who'd formed a rooting section at the top of DTW's risers. Hello macho lesbians, goodbye gender distinctions. I hadn't felt this giddily queer since cutting class to see Paul Morrissey/Andy Warhol films in high school.

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