Grand Eloquent Thoughts

Steve Grand

The Instagram shared ’round the world. If I looked this good in a swimsuit, I’d never wear clothes again. You might think that’s pithy; but it’s the truth, baby!! P.S. to Steve — Keep the scruff; it’s adorable! |Image: Steve Grand

Musician Steve Grand took to Facebook recently to air some dirty laundry. Grand writes:

It would be nice if any other aspect of my life/work as an artist/advocate got a fraction of the press I get for wearing a bathing suit by gay media.

Evidently, it was the photo that appears at left that was the cause of the flap. Grand posted it to his Instagram and some naysayers found it inappropriate. Or too revealing. Or too gay. Or something. Just too too.

Here’s what I have to say about that: Get the hell over yourselves. Why — WHY — must people continue to cut down others to feel better? Why do you care how much or how little of Steve Grand Steve Grand’s bathing suit covers? Are you that insecure? Are you afraid that you don’t look as good, so because you can, you will cut him down? Is it okay to do that somehow because he’s in the public eye so you think he’s fair game? Do you think it’s not good for “the cause” to have handsome men in personal photos wearing tiny little red swim trunks?

We have enough going against us as out gay men; we don’t need our own jabbing at us, too. It’s just as wrong to call out Steve Grand on his choice of clothing as it is to call out Caitlyn Jenner or Ellen DeGeneres or Neil Patrick Harris. It’s wrong to tell the trans kid they can’t use the bathroom for the gender of which they define themselves. It’s wrong to kick puppies, cheat on your taxes, lie to your spouse, be a racist, text while driving, or, quite frankly, fear that what someone else is wearing somehow reflects on or diminishes you. Because it doesn’t. So just stop it.

I encourage you read the rest of Grand’s Facebook post. He’s a smart, caring young man with a hefty intellect and a spirit not yet hardened to the vicissitudes of dumbassery. I hope that he doesn’t have to develop that thick, thick skin that is often needed in order to survive. He’s a better person for not having it.

And by the way — you really should buy his album, All-American Boy, if you haven’t already. It’s terrific.

When Not Shutting Up When You are Told to Shut Up is Important

I’ve run across several articles recently that prove that I am not, in fact, alone in my thinking, mostly in regards to being vocal about being gay. Or bi. Or trans. Or just somehow perceived as different than the majority. At least there are a few people who are talking about these things now. I am always reminded of Dan Savage’s take on America: that we’re always the first to compliment ourselves about being the land of the free and the home of the brave but are always dead last with the actual freedom and the bravery.

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Michael Urie in “Buyer and Cellar.” |Image: Joan Marcus

The first of these articles is a little piece on Michael Urie in FrontiersLA. Urie is bringing the terrific one-man show Buyer and Cellar to Los Angeles after a tremendous run off-Broadway. In this piece, Urie says,

 “When I first started Ugly Betty in 2006, things were very different. I was encouraged to stay in the closet. This was before Neil Patrick Harris had come out. Even though I was playing an openly gay character, we thought we might want to keep the mystery of what I do behind closed doors. But, for me, coming out has only aided my career. It might not be good for everyone, but I have gotten to play so many wonderful roles.”

I find it so disheartening that today an actor would legitimately have to think about coming out because it could possibly damage his career. And, while I 100% get it, I also think that in 2014 you absolutely must say “No, I’m not lying about who I am so that I can be on a TV show.”

No one says you have to lead with it, for God’s sakes, but if someone’s askin,’ I’m tellin.’

Good interview. Michael Urie: Funny Girl Meets Funny Guy in Buyer and Cellar.

[As an aside, I was thinking, “What would noneofyourdamnbusiness-year-old me tell 25-year-old me about the benefits of coming out and working in or around “the business?” If I was 25 years old today, it’s a different answer than when I was actually 25 years old.]

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Matt Fishel. The singer’s refusal to “un-gay” his lyrics prompted him to start his own label. |Image: mattfishel.com

The next piece serves to validate my assumption here (Kit and Van and Cal and Thom and … Cassandra?) that we have barely moved the needle in the entertainment industry in terms of LGBT acceptance in the last three decades.

There has been some press in the U.S. recently about London-based singer Matt Fishel and his terrifically poppy single “Radio Friendly Pop Song,” which tells the artist’s side of my anecdote about “you can’t be gay on the radio.” Hell, I don’t even know that Fishel was even born when that happened to me.

But it’s still happening. Only now, alleges Fishel, artists are being told not to sing about same sex attraction. (Oh, you know it happens every damn day.) Fishel’s song — and his entire canon, actually — is devilishly clever. Steve Grand is doing a lot of the same envelope-pushing stateside.

Here’s the HuffPo article and an embed of Fishel’s video. The Music Industry Doesnt Want You To Hear These Songs Because They Arent Radio-Friendly.

OutSports’ Cyd  Zeigler wrote a great piece on Michael Sam and his acceptance of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY’s. He calls 2014 “the year of Michael Sam” and, in many ways, I agree with him.

Michael Sam and boyfriend Vito Cammasano after the 2014 NFL draft. Sam, the first openly gay man in the draft, was picked up by the St. Louis Rams.

If you truly want to make progress on acceptance in this country, I think you do have to have a sports breakthrough. A baseball or basketball breakthrough is okay, but a football breakthrough, well, that’s where the rubber meets the road. If we can change the dialogue in football — with strong allies such as Brendan Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe leading the initial drive and a well-spoken, humble and talented out player like Michael Sam taking the first watch; things will start changing. Still, says Zeigler,

Everything isn’t suddenly better in sports for gay men like Michael. There is still a wall around conversations and banter. There are still those in sports who oppose men like Michael simply because he’s gay. Two hours before Michael accepted that award on stage, an athlete refused an interview by me because I simply wanted to talk about gay men in his sport. There is still a long way to go. We must do better.

He’s absolutely right about that. Read the whole thing: Michael Sams Courageous Tears Were Real, and So Were Yours | Cyd Zeigler.

Finally, a fiendishly good essay on /Bent from Kit Williamson about how, his words, “fucking hard it is” to crowdfund a web series. In this case, the second season of his show, EastSiders. Alert readers will know that already because I have written a lot about this series over the last year or so.

Kit Williamson flanked by Van Hansis (l) and John Halbach (r) from EastSiders. Williamson writes candidly about crowdfunding the upcoming second season.

And one of the reasons I have done so is that I believe that Kit’s series is one of those projects that does move the acceptance needle a bit. Thus, I find it important. Also, it’s damn good storytelling. It’s good storytelling because it is raw and real and allows all of humanity’s flaws to be shown, just like in this piece.

I was so stressed out that I broke out in hives all over my body.  I gained ten pounds.  My health took a nosedive and I contracted a gum infection— I didn’t even know people got gum infections.  I crashed my car.  Twice.  But through it all I did my best to present an image of success and ease, both on social media and in real life.  I think, in part, I was afraid that people would take me less seriously if they knew just how fucking hard it all was.  It sounds oxymoronic until you consider that I live in LA, land of a million web series, where the majority of people you meet are looking for any opportunity to dismiss you as unworthy of their attention.  But I’m confident enough now in what I’m doing to admit that I sacrificed a lot, I rarely slept, I lived in squalor and I regularly forgot to feed my cat.

Keep a weather eye out for Williamson. He’s the stuff, I guarantee you that.

How I Raised $150,000 on Kickstarter: The Secret Is There Is No Secret |/Bent.

A Grand Time for Singing

Steve Grand makes Top 10 list of most-funded Kickstarter projects.

When out singer-songwriter Steve Grand announced his Kickstarter a little less than a month ago, I contributed on the first day. I thought to myself, I think this is a good kid; I sure hope he makes it.

I needn’t have worried: he reached his $81,000 goal in 17 hours. As I write this, he has 8 days left on his Kickstarter and he’s at $237,000 and change.

Grand says he’s determined to stay independent and to use the money he raises over and above the costs of production to make sure the need for an openly gay singer, that has been embraced by his fans over the last year or so, feeds into the needs of the mainstream music community as well.

I like him. I like his work. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s cute as hell. If you can, send him a buck or two and let’s see how far he can go.

Grand-tastic

So alert readers tuned into all things gay (and related) probably already know Steve Grand. He’s the gay Chicago musician who released a self-produced music video last summer and became an overnight gay indie sensation. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s adorable.

Since then, he’s released a second video, been on tour, and this week, launched a Kickstarter to fund his first album. His goal: $81,000 to make the album. In the first 40 hours, he had raised $125,000. And he’s got a month left.

I love to see this kind of thing. So different from the experiences of my generation of ancients. When I was working one of my first radio jobs — back, you know, when KDKA first signed on — I lobbied for, and finally received a portable cassette recorder so that I could do on-the-spot interviews and live-to-tape coverage of events. Thought I had died and gone to Heaven!

Oh, how the world has changed in 25-ish years! You go, Steve Grand! Here’s Grand’s new song, released to kick off his Kickstarter.

Last summer’s musings.

Pete Seeger, Folk Singer, Activist, Great Human, Dead at 94

The great Pete Seeger has died at the age of 94. For an extensive obituary, I direct you to the one in the New York Times.

I grew up on folk music — the activist folkies of the 60s like The Chad Mitchell Trio, the fun-loving Limeliters, the popular Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary — as my mother was an unrepentant ex-Beatnik at the time.

Also around the old Hi-Fi were pressings of Dave Van Ronk and the New Christy Minstrels and Gibson and Camp and an old scratchy album by some group called The Weavers.

I liked the way they sang “Erie Canal” — Ear-eye-Ae — I thought it was funny. I also liked the four-part mix of Fred Hellerman, Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays and the soaring tenor of Pete Seeger; it was so different from the smooth, Milt Okun-arranged blend of the Mitchell Trio.

Later on, I have a hazy memory of seeing Pete sing “Big Muddy” on the Smothers Brothers show. I didn’t get it. I was too young.

I get it now. It’s an amazing, powerful song, like so much of Pete Seeger’s music.

Pete Seeger did more than sing. He walked the walk. Thanks to Pete and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater one of our great rivers is cleaner now than it was fifty years ago — and more people understand the importance of environmentalism. People of all stripes understand the importance of coalition building and the meaning of “we shall overcome.”

In 2012, on an incredibly hot day in Bryant Park in New York City, I got to hear Pete speak. At age 92, he was completely in command and left me, and the rest of the crowd, in awe.

Stenciled on Woody Guthrie’s banjo was “this machine kills fascists.” On Pete Seeger’s: “this machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” Pete Seeger knew, perhaps more than anyone else, that when you are singing together, you cannot wage war, oppress people, mistreat animals or pollute the world’s waterways simultaneously.

So often, we find ourselves “neck deep in the big muddy” while “the big fool [says] to push on” but Pete Seeger’s legacy is that we have to have the courage to turn back, to do what’s right, to stand up for those who do not have a voice, to surround the hate and force the surrender.

Catching Up With The Multi-Talented Billy Magnussen

InDepth InterView: Billy Magnussen Talks Reserved For Rondee UK Gigs, INTO THE WOODS Movie, VANYA, 50 SHADES & More.

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Billy Magnussen brilliantly played the dim Spike in a Tony-nominated turn on Broadway earlier this year. He played Signourney Weaver’s love interest. Some gals have all the luck! | Image: broadwayworld.com

Good in-depth interview by Pat Cerasaro on Broadway World with Billy Magnussen. He’s one of my favorite interview subjects of late because he comes across as completely genuine — and more than a little bit quirky.

He’s shooting the new Into The Woods movie right now and he’s hot off his Tony-nominated turn in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Christopher Durang’s exceptional play and one of the funniest afternoons I’ve ever spent at the theatre.

Magnussen is certainly easy on the eyes — just as he was back in the day when he played Casey Hughes on As The World Turns where I first ran across him — but he’s more than just another pretty face. His band is damn good, too. Here’s a link to the iTunes pages for Reserved For Rondee.

Aaron Hicklin on Steve Grand: His success as an out gay musician couldn’t have existed decade ago

Aaron Hicklin on Steve Grand: His success as an out gay musician couldn’t have existed decade ago | Out Magazine.

There’s something infectious about hanging out with someone whose life is on the brink of change. Grand was like a boy who’d won the golden ticket — well-behaved and gracious, and enjoying every minute. It was one of his first public performances, and the fact that it was in an opulent Chicago institution that’s received every president since Harry Truman spoke volumes about where America finds itself in this particular moment.

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Out magazine’s Aaron Hicklin chatting with Steve Grand in Chicago. |Image: Out magazine.

Technology, says Out’s Aaron Hicklin, that’s what we’ve got to thank for Steve Grand and for the plethora of entertainment options from across the spectrum that are now available to us thanks to the Innerwebs.

It’s a lovely article. Read it. 

Also, search around for Hicklin’s Q&A with Grand from that event. I’ve seen it, but I can’t recall where. Towleroad, maybe? Anyhow, it’s a nice interview. The cut above has a video embed of Grand playing his debut, All-American Boy, at the Hilton.

Below is a link to a recent piece I did, featuring a video embed of his latest, Stay.

Steve Grand Would Like You to Stay