Why Donuts Are Like Sex, Plus a Letter From Jackie Robinson

Chock Full o' SomethingYes, we can be nostalgic, really nostalgic, for something we never knew.Of course, we've understood for eons that nostalgia -- a warm haze of sentimental regret for a more beneficent past -- needn't have anything to do with what we actually did or saw. My own nostalgias usually hang on something edible: a stuffed artichoke, a cold piece of buttered toast, a dripping pickle. Each of these personal -- Brooklyn -- icons kicks off an emotion-larded story, a tale whose verifiable details left the premises long ago, but … [Read more...]

Why I’ll Never Again Read the Washington Post

Speech after long silence; it is right,Ever take a really deadly poetry class, the kind where only the strongest or strangest works survive? The line above always pops up unscathed, even after Prof. X throttled, stabbed, garroted and buried it. "The word speech stands for love," he said, shooing away all other options. "What does that make silence?"Devoutly to be wished. I had never seen a poem with a semicolon. Yeats. Nice.Out There regulars know that I've been silent for a while, and it took vileness and death, the silence of suicide, to get … [Read more...]

French Dip, or Roast Beef Regret

Recently I took a short break from intense and gratifying work with 25 theater and arts critics in Los Angeles, at the NEA Institute in Theater and Musical Theater, and avoided lunching yet again at the gastronomically hypnotic Lazy Ox Canteen. Instead, I strolled on a gorgeous bright day from our Little Tokyo hotel past Olvera Street, bathed in hubbub and jacaranda light, to Philippe the Original, the not-original, post-WWII site of one of the oldest restaurants in Los Angeles. I had mentioned Philippe -- everyone calls it Philippe's -- to my … [Read more...]

Michael Jackson — There, I Said It

Never in a thousand million years would I ever have expected to write anything about him. Music was always for the others to write. Maybe I could tiptoe toward cabaret, but that's because Bobby and Blossom warbled words I had already memorized as script for my own performing life -- singing lustfully, wrenchingly, privately. You see, I have no voice, but the person looking back at me in the mirror will make you weep with his.Yet I was asked, and being just a guy who can't say no, I complied. Jackson's been dead a year. I like "death bump" … [Read more...]

Nutcracker, As It Were

Dear readers, I just received the following email ("this message was sent to Jeff"): Moscow Ballet seeks freelance writers to produce 200-400 word blurbs on Moscow Ballet and the following subjects: health, fashion, European culture, accessories, jewelry, motherhood, travel and perfume. Remuneration of $15 per accepted story paid within 5 business days. Send letter of interest and contact information to sally@nutcracker.com. www.nutcracker.com.Now, I knew this sort of thing went on, but treated the fact as if it were a faint dead-mouse … [Read more...]

My Balenciaga Moment

More than 30 years ago, the creator of "Out There" slowly strode down a beach-house staircase in a black-tulle '50s Balenciaga. It fit him like the glove his then-thin body required, deserved. Never had a shirt or pair of pants supported and caressed him in such a way, as if it were a fabric lover. Drag wasn't even close to the point; no hairy surfaces were threatened by the primal relationship between his static carcass and that mobile dress. As he descended, the gown's original partner viewed her errant garment and its new mate with … [Read more...]

Answers to ‘Out There’ Movie Quiz

At the end of the previous entry -- "Baseball Barf, Excreted Espresso, Carole Lombard" -- I asked readers to find the hidden film titles that peppered the deathless prose and send them in, winner and list to be posted. We finally have a victor, though competition wasn't exactly stiff: cinephile Bill Stern of Los Angeles, who is also director of the Museum of California Design. Upon compiling the list, however, this writer realized that the contest is inherently unfair, because almost any noun, and even some gerunds and a few quirky … [Read more...]

News Week: Baseball Barf, Excreted Espresso, Carole Lombard

Some of us in the business and out treat the unending eruption of apparently unconnected news stories as if they were dollar items in a restaurant we don't know. Most of the time, their topics pull me toward, their specifics push me away -- but not until I finish the meal. Repulsion has its attractions.This past week, for example, all that Maltese papal pap (left) in place of responsible action made my head spin in Exorcist fury. And speaking of volcanic vomit, there was the Philadelphia story of  21-year-old Matthew Clemmens (right), … [Read more...]

How to Vanquish Costco

I just bought 30 rolls of Scott Tissue for 62 cents apiece, in a bundle the size of a wheelbarrow.   Many years ago, when I became fed up, as it were, with eating out every night in order to write restaurant reviews for the Village Voice -- yes, those tribulations of modern life -- I began a column called "Consumerismo" about the history and temptations of shopping. I can't say that the effort was a complete success, but no one at the paper seemed to care what topics I approached, so even a paean to a pair of socks could, and … [Read more...]

Is “Downtown” Dead?

The art world isn't the same. New dance is derivative; fashion's faded; there's been nothing major in American theater since Albee.When one is in a graveyard mood, it seems as if all our blood has long since flowed under the bridge. Yet poets make hay from just such Margaret R U Grieving moments, and critics may too, especially with shows like the one now at New York's Grey Gallery to spur us."Downtown Pix: Mining the Fales Archives 1961-1991" took me and photographer friend Robin Holland on a melancholy trip back to the East Village and … [Read more...]