No. You aren't looking at Lauren Bacall. Though she should be Lauren Bacall. Or Ann Sheridan. Or Ava Gardner. Eleanor Parker? Oh, just pick one. Just pick one of those great divas from the bygone era of the silver screen and Lindsey would fit in.
Lindsey is a friend of mine who is an actress with a beauty that matches her interests: the past. Her favourite roles to play seem to be those created for women from a different time. Ruth Sherwood. Phyllis Rogers Stone. Tracy Lord. These are the types of women Lindsey understands and portrays well onstage (so well that she won a region acting award for playing Fraulein Kost in Cabaret).
Don't get me wrong. Lindsey is a perfectly lovely contemporary beauty. There is, though, something about her look that simply harkens back to the 40s and the 50s a little more than lending itself to the 2000s.
So we decided to get together and have some fun!
And what's more fun than a period photo shoot where Jennifer Houston makes a girl look like she stepped out of a Kaufman and Hart play and Stephen Mosher (that's me) makes her look like she has been lit by George Hurrell?
I'm no George Hurrell.
I'm not even Len Prince.
I'm just me and I have limited resources. A couple of lights. A couple of backdrops. A couple of cameras (one real and one digital). And a head filled with ideas.
So in this, one of my favourite photo shoots ever, we gathered in my home (where I work) and played dress up for a few hours. When we were done there, we borrowed my husband, our friend's dog, Rhoda, and our other friend's uber glamours apartment and went on location.
The resulting photos are photos of which I am extremely proud. I'm proud that after a self-imposed retirement of 8 years, I seem to still be able to do what I spent my entire adult life learning.
I'm proud that Jennifer is such an artist with a makeup and a hair brush.
I'm proud that Lindsey is such an easy model with whom to work.
I'm proud that I have friends who will join me in the important adventure of making art.
I'm proud that my grandmother taught me about Hollywood glamour by showing me the drawings she did when she worked for Edith Head at Paramount Studios and by showing me the photos of Garbo and Dietrich that taught me how Hurrell lit people
I'm proud that my mother gave me a camera at the age of 16 and that I taught myself everything I know about making pictures.
I'm proud that I've learned a little about digital photography and computer editing of digital photos.
I'm proud that I am still able to grown
I'm proud that people still want to work with me.
I'm proud to have friends who bring their artistic eye to the table when we work together, yet who are not afraid to take direction and who are willing to play.
I'm proud to have an adventurous husband who is a go-to guy who will be there when he is needed.
I'm proud of a lot of things in this life; and I know they say that pride is a sin - but I think that is when the pride is misplaced. I don't think it is a sin to do something and have the self-confidence to say "I made this" -- particularly when it is something you made with love and with people you love.
There was a moment during this shoot when everything was perfect...
We were in Brady's living room. Lindsey was on the sofa, Rhoda was beside her. Rhoda's owner, Jason, was off left, out of frame, keeping her from jumping off the lounge and running away.
Jennifer was behind me to my right, watching Lindsey to make sure her hair and makeup were right. Pat was behind me, to my left, watching ( as he has done a million times before). Brady was somewhere behind me, for once behind my camera and not in front of it, moving around to as to take in every moment.
Rhoda, though in place, was actually looking off to the left, at Jason. We needed her to look at the camera but simply saying "Rhoda" doesn't do the trick. Pat said "Stephen, squeal."
I know how to squeeze my voicebox so that it emits a high pitched squeak.
So I did.
Rhoda turned her head and cocked it to one side, looking right in the camera.
I knew it would be one of my favourite photos ever.
We -- I and Pat had a really fun experience yesterday, along with a number of our family members, here in New York. We gathered together to make a video to send to the IT GETS BETTER campaign created by Dan Savage. A brilliant writer and public gay figure ( and the youth of America needs positive gay role models, apparently, more than ever at this time ), Mr Savage created the campaign as a response to the horrifying rash of teen suicides recently. Children in their teens and adults in their late teens and early twenties have been taking their own lives because the people of America are telling them that they are unworthy of living. The bullies in their schools are doing this to their faces, while the bullies in Washington (and in churches around the country) are doing it more publically. Everywhere, every day, young gays are being told that there is no place for them in society. They read about the battle for marriage equality, about difficulties with adoption, about all kinds of prejudice against the gays of this country. City council meetings include horrifying speakers who say that gays worthless while the religious zealots claim that gays are the cause of everything bad in our country. Fellow classmates abuse and bully them, causing in these young and beautiful people a sense of isolation and dispair. With no clear hope for their futures, with no happiness in sight, these children ranging in age from 13 to 19 (specific examples described in a cover story in PEOPLE Magazine) have been hanging themselves and throwing themselves off bridges.
Is this 2010 or what?
No, really. I mean, WHAT is going on here??!! Are the politicians and religious fanatics so scared of us that they have to focus their attentions on leading their followers to a hatred that causes young people to kill themselves?
Two of the perpetrators of recent fatal bullying are being charged with crimes like invasion of privacy - crimes that could get them fined and sentenced to jail for up to five years. I'm no politician and I am, certainly, not smart in the way that some politicians are -- DEFINATELY not smart in the way that Dan Savage is. And, usually, I think that people who aren't smart shouldn't make statements regarding socio-political opinions. But I'm going to take my not-smart ass out on a limb here and say that I think these cyber bullies should be charged with as many different charges as possible. I don't know.. reckless endangerment, maybe? I'm not up on the law. I just think that they are as much to blame for the boy who took his own life as the men who beat up the fellow in the bathroom at the Stonewall. Their actions were not absent malice; none of them - not the cyber bullies or the bathroom bullies. They should be held accountable for their actions. They should be made an example of so that the next time somebody wants to commit an act of hatred, they might think twice.
Furthermore, I wish there were a way to hold the political and religious leaders responsible for these beatings, deaths and suicides. They are inciting the bigots to riot and must be held accountable.
Like I said - I'm no politician and certainly no brain; so I think I should switch gears and not run the risk of exposing my limited intelligence any further. I also think I should talk about something more positive: help.
Mr Savage created the IT GETS BETTER video campaign so that young people with internet access could go online and see the videos of people in the real world (both famous and humble), telling the stories that might serve as a beacon of light, of hope, to lead them out of the darkness, hopefully to stay until there are easier, happier times. Many people have made their videos and posted them online and I thought Pat and I should do it too. After all, we were them three decades ago.
Raised in the South in a family of religious extremity, Pat was taught by the church that he would go to hell for being gay. Raised moving around the country, indeed, the world, I was taught by society (and aggressively mean spirited schoolmates, throughout my school career) that I was a pariah for being gay. I can actually still see the faces of the boys and girls who called me sissy, queer, homo, fag and faggot; I can still remember some of their names. My husband and I couldn't have had more different upbringings; but we were still alone and filled with self-loathing. I made three attempts on my life: one at 13, one at 18 and one at 19. My father helped me through the first one, both of my parents helped me through the last one. They have never known, to this day, about the second one. I kept it extremely private. I don't really discuss these suicide attempts in detail because they aren't what's important. What is important is that I survived them. My parents helped me get through the dark times and, about a year later, I met the man who would spend the rest of my life making me so happy that I wouldn't try it again. That's not to say there weren't other dark times - but when you have the support of a spouse with whom you share great love, you can get through it.
So we decided to tell our story on film for the gay youths, not knowing who would see it -- but at least it is out there.
In the week before we filmed this video, my friend Brady (a great director of the stage) told me "don't be depressing... the campaign is called It Gets Better; talk about the better". So we decided to be ourselves: upbeat, happy and optimistic. We decided to speak frankly about how tough it was growing up but not do a lot of detail because, let's face it, the experience of growing up gay is pretty universal, pretty communal: you get called names and you get bullied, possibly beaten up, possibly some other forms of abuse. It's the same but different for kids who are of another race, of another income bracket, of another physical build, of another intellectual interest ... bullies don't hone in on just one thing: bullies bully and they only need a chance and a half an excuse. There was little to say about being bullied that the youth of the world don't already know. So we focused on letting them know that we had been through it, we got out of it and we have a happy life.
Part of the happiness of our life together is our family. Pat and I have family in many states - kinfolk, blood relations. None of them are here in New York, so we did what people do: we made our own family out of the friends we have here. They are a major part of our happiness. So we asked some of them to join in. Many said yes, some couldn't make it.. some who could make it BARELY fit into the camera (I wish we had squeezed in tighter so Aaron and Michael's whole faces showed!) but we all gathered together for 15 minutes yesterday to shoot this little four minute video. It reminded me, once more, of how much I and Pat have in this life. You won't catch me complaining about anything soon.
I hope it finds its' way onto the computer screens of young men and women who are being bullied FOR ANY REASON and helps them see what a remarkable world it is.
But not if you're not in it.
By being on this planet, we make the world more remarkable, every day.
I had a really fun experience recently - it wasn't all fun, though; it was extraordinarly rewarding for me on so many different levels. As an artist and as a person, I could not have asked for a happier experience. My husband went back to work as an actor, after a 17 year absence from the business. He was always my favourite actor and when he retired (for reasons best known to him), it was like he took something away from me. Oh, it was absent malice; but it was taken away from me. Like when Jane Fonda retired. I took that personally. When you have a gift that God has given you, you can't take it from the world. You have to share it. Fortunately, my man decided to share his, once again.
So my husband got himself into a production of a beautiful play called 100 SAINTS YOU SHOULD KNOW. It was a one week showcase production in a small theater in New York (these kind of showcase productions happen every day - it is a way for actors to get seen, to get agents, managers, casting directors, directors .. and friends and family to see their work. This was a perfect way for Pat to get his feet wet again, to see how it felt to go back , after 17 years. It was a short commitment and the people were nice and the play is really good.
Natch, I wanted to help in any way I could, so I volunteered to do their photos.
The first step was publicity pictures. A shoot was arranged. I asked Pat what happens in the play and he told me. We had four of the cast members come to our home and I improvised photos that would look interesting but also look congruous to the storyline of the play. Some of the photos would require a backdrop while others could be done as location shots. So we started with the location photos, settig them up in our living room, our kitchen and the hallway of our building (happily, sterile enough to resemble the hallway of a very old religous hospital in New York City - the kind you see in NURSE JACKIE). It was challenging but I love a good challenge. True are requires limitation.
Once the location shots were done, we sent two of the cast members home and did the photos for the main advertising. The director had required a spacial shot in which the priest was in the foreground and the cleaining lady behind him; and that was an easy shot to envision - also to create. Just takes the right lighting. The second primary shot I wanted to do was one of the priest that was having a crisis of faith. In the play, Father Mulcahy is found with photos of naked men by famed photographer George Platt Lynes. Nobody involved with the show had a book by George Platt Lynes (they are pricey), so I used one by Bruce Weber, a famed photographer of homo erotic art.
In the end, the Bruce Weber book was considered incongruous, so the cover was photoshopped out. I was a little disappointed that it had not been able to shoot the photo with a George Platt Lynes book because THAT would have told the entire story... but like I said, true art requires limitations.
So excited by the publicity photos, I volunteered to shoot the production shots as well, which turned out to be another exciting venture. Before my on again - off again retirement 7 years ago, shooting shows in performance was one of my specialties and favourite gigs. It was so much fun to be at it again!
Clearly, the universe felt the joy I had over these photo shoots because calls have been rolling in and, apparently, I am back at work as a photographer.
But this time, it's on my own terms. On my own turf. I can decide exactly what I want my work life to be.
I control my destiny.
More than my excitement over going back to work, though, is my excitement over Pat's going back to work. It gives me such genuine pleasure, so much happines, such great joy, seeing him act again, seeing him this happy once more... it isn't really explainable. All I can say is: when you love someone, really, truly, deeply, and you see them blossom under the bloom of happiness, it is like being born, yourself.
I attended every performance of 100 SAINTS YOU SHOULD KNOW, greeting dear, sweet friends who turned out to support my husband in his new work; loved ones who wanted to show their happiness, interest and excitement at his return to the stage. I know it meant a lot to him to see so many of our friends and family at his show. I admit that I was surprised at the loved ones who showed no support at all - but that's focusing on a negativity that shouldn't be expressed publically. Best if I keep those details looked up in my heart, not forgotten but also not the focus. What's important is the people who came. Like our nieces who drove in, respectively, from states so far away that their road trips took 10 and 6 hours, each. Or a friend who rode the train two hours from South Jersey. Or all the friends who sent well wishes in the form of emails, letters and flowers. That's the kind of stuff you want to focus on. The love. That's what is important.
And the new friends Pat made while working on this show. What a wonderful group of people. Each time I saw them, all the cast and crew were sweet and friendly and hard working. And I don't know how they do it. I respect actors. I was exhausted and I wasn't even IN the play! I took two weeks off of my real life to focus on Pat and the play and all the excitement around it. (That's why there have been no blog entries from me - too tired to write!) I've magnitudes of admiration for actors and the energy they put out to entertain us all. Bravo, actors everywhere, bravo.
So. Now 100 SAINTS YOU SHOULD KNOW is over. There is no review from me. I'm not partial. I'm so proud of my husband (who received much praise from our friends and family - and it was genuine praise; everyone thought he was simply marvelous in the play) and so happy he has gone back to work in this, his chosen field.
I'm simple and complex. My friends seem to like me and strangers either want to get to know me or cannot get away from me fast enough. I think I am kind, though not always outgoing. I think I am friendly, though sometimes aloof. I am a mass of contradiction and, to quote Katharine Hepburn: "stone cold sober, I find myself absolutely fascinating." At my core is this: I love hard, I believe faithfully, I embrace honesty and if I am in your corner, you will never have a greater ally. PS. I have been espoused to the same amazing man for 20 years and, no, we are not monogamous. That's part of what keeps us so strong together. Ask me anything.
PLEASE NOTE: I discuss everything in this blog from show biz to health and fitness; from spirituality to sexuality. This is a blog for ADULTS and people with OPEN MINDS.