alan bennett ilagan

Documenting the written work of Alan Ilagan. Published and non-published works included. Most articles were written for newspapers and magazines and are thus geared towards the mainstream reading audience.

Ask what the hottest accessory of the day is and you're likely to get a few answers: the iPod, the Moto Razr V3 cel phone, the Blackberry, or the Sony Clie PDA. All of these are electronic items with a futuristic edge, and fine for what they are, but the alarming trend is that these hi-tech gadgets are becoming fashion accessories at the expense of traditional sartorial accoutrements.

All we ever wanted was for her to dance and sing, get up and do her thing. After years of skirting the issue with forays into Kabbalah, movies, politics, motherhood, and a world tour. Madonna finally gets down and boogies, going back to where it all began ~ the dance floor. What could have been a sad attempt at recapturing past dance splendor is instead a glorious return to fine form.

M' Lady—how we have missed you. Fleeing the English countryside, Madonna regains her throne as Queen of the Dance Floor, returning to the music that started it all. The woman who was once considered a flash-in-the-pan has released her tenth studio album (not counting soundtracks, singles, and greatest hits compilations).

Even the most ardent and dedicated of Madonna fans have had it rough of late. Those of us who loved her for the ballsy, devil-may-care courage and rebellious defiance she peddled in the 80's and 90's have had our patience tested since she got all Kabbalistic and matronly. I could forgive the cow-tow to Britney and Christina at the MTV Movie Awards ~ she still managed to steal the show.


When last we saw Madonna in a documentary, 1991's Truth or Dare, she was going down on a water bottle, flashing her boobs, and simulating masturbation. No such thrilling antics are on display in this year's documentary I'm Going To Tell You A Secret, but the film shows she's still got quite a bit of entertaining showgirl in her.

A preface of defense: I am a huge Madonna fan. Normally the woman can do no wrong in my eyes. People hated her American Life album ~ I loved it. People scoffed at her efforts at children's literature ~ I rather enjoyed the books. People poked fun at her British accent ~ I listened with rapt fascination. Part of what made me love her was the hell-bent determination she displayed in never repeating herself.

Amidst the fad of funderwear and the throwback to underoos, the current state of men's skivvies is a gaudy, garish affair reeking of 70's excess and Y-front color-block madness. For the more subtle and sophisticated among us, it seems that elegance and simplicity have gone by the wayside. Thankfully, a classic is always in style, and for those who yearn for understated, chic subtlety, Marc Adamson is offering a selection of undergarments and swimwear that returns to the basics.

What is the hottest piece of yoga apparel today? Your birthday suit. Bring your mat and towel, and leave the clothing and cologne behind. Aaron Star's Hot Nude Yoga program takes the ancient practice of yoga and strips it bare ­ quite literally. Since 1998, Mr. Star has been offering nude yoga sessions—from the beginner to the advanced yogi—and all are done sans clothing.

There is a paradisiacal place on this earth where the sun both rises and sets over the ocean, where sexuality is irrelevant, and where a pizza party begins at 1AM every morning. It's a place where one can lay on the beach, bask in the sun, drink in the sights (and the cocktails), and dance the day away on the beachfront. The sky is more blue than anywhere else, the light enchants artists and lovers of beauty, and the atmosphere is one of easy acceptance, warmth, and love. The place is Provincetown ~ that magical point at the very tip of Cape Cod ~ where the ocean surrounds, protects, buffers and belts the sandy shores of a world unlike any other.

A blonde-haired, blue-eyed crooner with the charm of a Southern gentleman and the talent of accomplished singers twice his age, Shawn Ryan serves up a sophomore album of standards that is warm and fuzzy and perfect for the holiday season.

When all things post-modern, retro, and ironic are the rage, it's a welcome jolt to hear an earnest standards singer performing without irony or (too much) affectation. In a world of manufactured pop acts and thin-voiced, talentless lip-syncers, a performer like Shawn Ryan seems to stand little chance. A solid vocalist with talent belying his age, Mr. Ryan represents the seemingly-soon-to-be-lost art of cabaret singers.

Returning to Oz is tricky business. From failed updates like "The Wiz" to far-less-than-worthy pseudo-sequel movies such as "Back to Oz", the land of the Wizard magically lends itself to only a select few. The movie starring J udy Garland was one, and the novel Wicked by Gregory Maguire was another. Both took the premise of L. Frank Baum's original story and expounded on various aspects, each making it their own. Now Mr. Maguire attempts a revisiting of the land that first brought him adult-novel prominence ten years ago.

His canvass is the human body. He paints the skin, with all of its underlying curves, muscles, and pores. His brush caresses the cells of our outer shell, simultaneously hiding and revealing its secrets, releasing its latent beauty, and renewing its age-old palette. His artwork is transient, fleeting, and quintessentially of-the-moment. It cannot last. It is evanescent, elusive, illusory magic. It enchants and casts its ephemeral spells, only to fade with the elements. This is the realm of bodypainting master artist Anthony Larissey.

The memory of my high school days is a dim corridor of sporadic, whispered longings, none of which came to fruition. It is mostly empty ~ a fractured crackling of loneliness, shot through by some insanely undying sense of hope, of something better. A yearning for more ~ for knowledge and answers and, inexplicably, a want and desire for formulated questions. If I only knew why, or what, or who ~ would it all make sense?

writing_wedding (3K)A WEDDING STORY
It is official: all of my friends are getting married. Kristen, Tommy, Janet, Missy, Joe ~ all are tying the knot. Even my best friend Suzie, long a sensible bastion of anti-marriage philosophy, has succumbed to matrimonial-mania (courtesy of a man with an antique ring and a Parisian proposal). Is twenty-six suddenly the proper age to be married? I thought that people were waiting until later ~ at least 30 ~ to take the proverbial plunge. Suddenly I feel like the last single person left, in spite of my long-term relationship.

With all the turmoil swirling around the Catholic church these days, it seems a rather one-sided affair of trashing the priests without an even-sided look at the many good people who don't go around putting their hands on innocent boys. I am not saying that there isn't a problem - and it's one that should have been dealt with long ago - but I do feel the need to tell the story of an altar boy who wasn't molested or abused, someone who took the lessons he needed from the church and made them into his own.

writing_attitude (2K)ATTITUDE
It's a little after 10 PM ~ early enough to escape the crush of the crowd, but not so early that the place is empty. Having lucked out and found a decent parking space, you turn the engine off and let out a deep breath. Here you are again, outside the gay bar, waiting forÖ something. Maybe you want to reach out and find the next special someone in your life, maybe you want to dance and flirt and party, or maybe you just want to sit and have a drink and a smoke. Whatever the case, you have come here and now you sit, trying to summon the courage to walk in. It seems so easy - it's such a familiar scenario -why should there be such hesitation and trepidation? The reason is simple: gay man's attitude.

writing_backtoschool (3K)BACK TO SCHOOL
The ominous signs have been up for months. The days are shorter and crisper, the sun more intense as it slices through a deep blue sky, and everything is more vibrant, more alive as the summer's stifling hold releases and the first frosty nights snap us into awareness. It's the time for those three words that still have the power to fill me with dread and fear: Back-To-School. It makes no matter that I graduated from college over five years ago, I still cringe and quiver with foreboding when the big yellow and black signs go up in the stores.

Like any good gay boy, I have a healthy obsession with the Backstreet Boys, ëNSync, and any other cute-fronted boy band (or vocal harmony group, as they long to be called). And, like many other gay boys, I have often wondered, questioned, and obsessed over whether or not a certain one of their members is in fact gay. I realize that in such politically-correct, enlightened times, it shouldnít matter, but it does to me, and so I look for clues ~ a gay sparkle of the eye, an effeminate enunciation, or a certain swing to their step. I stare deep into their Tiger Beat eyes, searching for a glint of recognition, a hint that they are part of the brotherhood.

#10 ~ Don't mope. So you haven't had one in five years, so your last three lied, cheated, and dumped you, so you are finally proving what you long suspected - that you will never find a boyfriend or happiness or live that fairy-tale ending ~ snap out of it! You may get a few who fall for the sympathy ploy, but these rarely last. Besides, why would you want to go out with someone who loves you when you're miserable

writing_lostboys (2K)THE LOST BOYS
When I was about ten years old, the Boy Scouts tried to recruit me. A persistent troop leader refused to accept my polite rebuttals, cornering me at church every Sunday and kneading his fingers harshly into my shoulders in a way that seemed simultaneously a threat and a sign of camaraderie. Eventually my brother succumbed to his insistent advances and became a Cub Scout. I, on the other hand, held my ground and consistently refused. The organization held no allure for me.

The first member of my family to whom I came out as a gay man was my brother Paul. We were at a family wedding in San Diego in late 1996. I'd had a debilitating (and hopeless) crush on a guy who had let me down easy a few days before my flight West, and I was despondent over this latest love fiasco. In my sadness and loneliness, I turned to the young man who'd been my best friend throughout childhood ~ my brother.

writing_butch (3K)BUTCH
My boyfriend is butch. That is to say, he has the qualities traditionally (and stereotypically) attributed to "macho" men. A few of these traits are as follows: an interest in cars and automobiles bordering on a sick obsession, a propensity for uttering phrases like "I feel like I've been ridden hard and put away wet", and a general disdain for any and all fashion that goes beyond T-shirts and jeans. He doesn't know the first thing about home decorating, Broadway musicals, or accessorizing (which is, in my humble opinion, the one thing that separates us from the animals).

writing_coupledom (1K)COUPLEDOM
Being in a couple isn't cool these days. Even though finding a boyfriend is the life-goal of many a gay man, it is also seen as the kiss-of-death for the days of free-wheeling single excitement and hanging out with your single friends. Taking our cue from the protagonists of 'Sex and the City' (who are, at their hearts, gay men) and the lead sluts of 'Queer as Folk', it would appear that being single is the only way to live a life of fulfillment and happiness. Relationships are processed and discarded in lightning-speed time, suitors are sized up and dismissed as soon as the slightest flaw surfaces, and "falling-in-love" is a mushy cliché to which everyone is too cool to succumb.

writing_party (2K)PARTY ON
Dancing, we move as one ~ a collective crush of bones and flesh, sweat-streaked skin, sinewy muscular curvature ~ forming a single gigantic mass ~ an immense organism flailing and undulating beneath flashing colored lights and pounding dance music. The night is ours, and for this one brief moment nothing else matters. Caught up in the heady atmosphere, we breathe in the heavy vapors of club life ~ thick smoke, biting liquor, and the razor-sharp wisps of amyl nitrate. A cacophony of cologne clashes and does battle with the cigarette smoke, as the music predictably crescendos and subsides ~ the lone held note of the latest dance diva cutting through a sudden quick stay of silence before the monotonous throbbing begins again.

writing_datingagain (1K)DATING AGAIN
You've just broken up with your boyfriend and you think it is the end of the world. Before you drown yourself in booze, pills, meaningless wanton sex, and other delightful forms of degrading debauchery, stop and see if you can come through it without the need for rehab.

writing_whatitfeels (2K)WHAT IT FEELS LIKE FOR A GIRL
The lights go down on the audience. A sense of heady anticipation pervades the atmosphere. Something spectacular is about to happen. A single spotlight slices brilliantly through the smoky air and the excited whispering comes to an abrupt stop. The striking visage of a beautiful lady strides flawlessly into view. Rays of light ricochet off rhinestones and sequins, catching and throwing off a dazzling rainbow of beams. Her beaded dress is tight, accentuating every curve of her body.

Where does one go to find built boys with bubble butts clad in tight pants and sequined shirts, spinning and jumping with athletic abandon? They are not in the suspended cage of some dark sleazy bar, but right in plain sight on ESPN or the ABC Sports Sunday Special ~ in the fabulously fruity world of figure skating. The days of Scott Hamilton are over ~ today's crop of ice skaters executes quadruple jumps while wearing outfits that are unabashedly queer and displaying hand gestures garnered from Varla Jean herself. Figure skating is one of the only sports where it's okay ~ nay, expected ~ for its performers to be gay. Even when it's not the case, the aesthetics of the sport appeal to many a gay man's thirst for sparkle and glamour, or at the very least our appreciation of a fine male form.

There comes a time in every new relationship when you will be faced with the prospect of going away for your first vacation together. It's the fastest way to get to know someone, and while it has the potential to backfire spectacularly, it can also be well worth the gamble. A good vacation is magical - a time to look lovingly back on years later. Whether it's a quick trip to a nearby shore, or a more lengthy holiday excursion to another country, there are a few things to consider to make the trip an enjoyable one.

hot to frotHOT TO FROT
For years I've been doing something that I've always considered a little odd, perhaps even subversive. It's a sexual act that I thought had no official description or wording, and it's something I've had a hard time describing to my friends. It turns out that what I've been doing my whole life, and constituting as sex, is frottage, or "frot" for short. Finally, a sophisticated name (of French derivation, no less) for a difficult-to-fully describe practice. I just never knew I was so commonplace.

For a long time, the center of gay life has been the city ~ New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Miami, etc. ~ and we have sought and found comfort in those cutting-edge hubs of cultural activity. Gay men and women have congregated in the metropolis ~ a polished, sophisticated, fast-paced world where we feel at home being outsiders. Lately, however, we seem to be moving out of the "gay ghettoes" to the suburbs for our own slice of American life. Are we losing some sense of gayness in our migration into mainstream America?

writing_game (3K)THE GAY GAMES
We are a society that loves to play games. On television, reality game shows have come to dominate ~ look at the current collection of reality game-shows: Survivor, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Weakest link, Fear Factor ~ all are essentially games, requiring strategy and cunning to win. Gay men and women are not immune to all the game playing. In fact, if there's one thing I've learned as a gay man, it's how to play the dating game.

writing_geisha (3K)GEISHA
A fluttering of bamboo leaves brushes the paper window screen in the light breeze. Beams of late-afternoon sunlight fall onto the honey-hued wooden floor. A man slips into a silk kimono ~ a pattern of cranes and bamboo stalks, yellow and light green on an aqua background ~ the colors of early summer ~ rich, sumptuous, elegant, refined. He pulls it loosely around his naked body ~ fresh from a recent shower ~ luxuriating in the folds of sensual silk, and looks languorously out the window.

writing_happyholidays (4K)HAPPY FREAKING HOLIDAYS
It is the most wonderful time of the year, and nothing could make me unhappier. How can I possibly begin to convey the abhorrence I feel for all the mindless merry-making that is transforming otherwise-sane people into Santa-worshipping holiday freaks? I'm not saying I hate Christmas like I hate kids and dogs, but I wouldn't be deeply disappointed if the whole holiday season went the way of the dodo bird. Sadly, I have an inkling that I may very well be in the minority here, but so be it. Some of you may call me a Grinch, and I consider it an honor to be so named. Here was a misunderstood and much-maligned character who wanted nothing more than to pass a bleak winter in quietude and peace, and was instead hounded by holiday-happy Who's. I feel his pain and empathize with his plight: "We must find a way to stop Christmas from coming!"

renovation revolutionTHE RENOVATION REVOLUTION
Renewal, rebirth, renovation. Lately everywhere one looks there is a new way to improve one's life. Like all self-respecting self-obsessed gay folk, we are starting with ourselves and our own homes ~ the places in which we spend much of our waking (and sleeping) lives. Recent years have seen society flooded by all things to do with home improvement, from the do-it-yourself superstores to the influx of home and garden television programs.

There comes a time in every gay man's life when he must step up to the proverbial plate and throw a holiday party. It's a terrifying rite-of-passage for the uninitiated, and the thought can send even a seasoned veteran of party-giving into fits of high-hysteria and worry-plagued doubt. The guests, the food, the decorations, and, a gay man's worst enemy ­ the judgment ~ these all play a part in making seasonal celebrations such serious business. For those setting out on their first entertaining adventure, and perhaps a gentle reminder and hint for those whose idea of entertainment includes Chex snack mix and a pile of beer on an unheated porch, we offer the following compilation of holiday party advice.

writing_internet (3K)THE INTERNET: FRIEND OR FOE?
Want to hear about the newest, most comfortable, guaranteed-to-find-you-a-date gay pick-up place? A few hints: there is no nasty smoke to fan away, no shady drug-dealing corners, and no chance of being caught on the eleven o'clock news. It doesn't offer drinks or food or fancy lighting, and there is no loud thumping dance music or soft lounge-like jazz. It's not a bar or a cafe or a bookstore or the supermarket. It's not even Home Depot. Would you believe that the easiest place to pick up potential gay mates is right here in Amsterdam, New York? Even closer than your backyard, the most happening place for us to meet is in our very own homes: on the Internet.

There are a lot of articles out now concerning the marriage rights of gays and lesbians -- many from gay writers who claim that marriage is not even something in which they themselves are interested. A few years ago I wrote one of those articles, opining the outdated, antiquated nature of marriage, and stating that I would never want to get married. At the time I thought it was clever ~ going against the grain, taking the opposite stance of what people expected a rebellious thinker like myself to take. I wondered why people would fight to get married when marriage was clearly not the answer to societal problems or relationship issues. I viewed the fight for gay marriage with a weary and apathetic eye. It didn¹t concern me directly, and I skipped over the growing number of stories and articles dealing with the topic. Having had little interest in politics and social activism, it was easier that way.

writing_masquerade (3K)MASQUERADE
Halloween has long been a favorite holiday for many a gay man and woman. It's a time to be someone else for a day ~ cloaked in a new identity and hidden by a socially sanctioned costume. Everyone gets to be a freak and no one is judged or condemned for it. Yet it's not only Halloween that finds us shrouded in such assorted attire. We wear masks and costumes every day - for work or play and everything in-between.

Judging from the current crop of fashion ads and male models out there, the embodiment of sexy masculinity is either an androgynous, pubescent, hairless youth with the raw skin of a freshly-plucked chicken, or the collegiate, well-built, tanned and shiny frat boy with the initials of A&F. Neither rings quite true to life, and while both may appeal to certain sectors of the fashion world, where is this trend taking us?

writing_ringout (3K)RING OUT THE OLD, RING IN THE NEW ... 2004
My New Year's Resolutions are pretty standard stuff I suppose ~ maybe even unduly dull for anyone else to read. But it's the idea of a new beginning that appeals to many of us and brings about such hopeful intentions and promises. The long-talked-over plans and ideas finally have their moment to shine. Most of the holiday mayhem has concluded, there's no excuse to eat badly or over-indulge in drink, and it's the perfect time to start anew. Our resolutions may differ in detail and design, but in the end it all comes down to this: a resolve to be a better person.

resolutions 2005RING OUT THE OLD, RING IN THE NEW ... 2005
Another year draws to its close, and with it the hopes and resolutions that have not yet found fruition. It was a rather difficult year for many of us, and the frivolous resolutions of New Years past have given way to something deeper and more serious. The Presidential election alone was enough to send terror and dismay into the most stalwart of hearts, and the current administration and path of our leaders suggests more difficulty to come. Still, there is hope, and that was apparent in the record number of voters who turned out for the election.

When the commercial excess of Provincetown gets to be too much and the ports of South Beach and San Francisco are too far away, there's a place where the quaint and the queer happily merge ~ the enchanted land of Ogunquit, Maine. It is a spot where each person truly matters ~ every one an integral character of the storyline and a vital component of what makes the town tick. There is drama and the occasional hometown political bickering intrinsic to any place where the inhabitants care passionately, but a powerful thread of unity weaves throughout the population, with nary a glimpse of uppity New England coldness in evidence.

writing_onenightstand (4K)ONE NIGHT STAND
It is the winter of 1998. I am in Rochester, NY visiting friends for the weekend. A frigid January has descended. Ice sparkles and cracks on the sidewalks while dirty snow lines the roads. The sky is blue and the sun shines brightly, glaring off the white barren landscape. The air is clear ~ cold, brutal, jolting ~ but any water vapor has long since crystallized to the ground. It is a day of sunglasses or squinting, so I bide my time until the night.

Have you ever entertained the idea of cheating on your significant other? Have you ever encountered some cute guy or girl who made eyes at you, and then wished, if only for a moment, that you weren't in a committed relationship? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to have someone steady, and still have the permission to openly give in to temptation and lust, and not get in trouble for it? Such is the province of the open relationship ~ a growing part of the gay landscape.

writing_talesfrom (2K)TALES FROM THE OUTSIDE
"We know you're gay, but why do you have to talk about it all the time?"

"Gay people would be tolerated more if they would just shut-up about being gay."

"You don't see straight people making such a fuss and shouting that they're straight."

These are just a few of the comments I hear on a regular basis in regards to my column and my writing.

There comes a time in our lives when we inevitably feel a little lost. The plans we made for ourselves may not be unfolding, or the way in which they have unfolded may not be how we originally envisioned them. It's a time of losing our way, a time of disenchantment and disillusionment ~ and without our illusions and enchantments, life can get rather dull and meaningless. For many of us this time comes in the no-man's-land between our early 20's and early 30's ~ the mid-to-late-twenty-something moment. As a 28-year-old guy, I have arrived here.

Once upon a time I was a raging slut. I did it anywhere, anytime, and pretty much with anyone. At the height of my whoredom I bedded three guys in one afternoon ~ separately of course, but still. There was a steady stream of sex partners, and I reveled in the freedom to have at it at will. That's not to say it was some glorious Bacchanalian feast of flesh all the time, and there were some definite moments of loneliness, but they had less to do with promiscuity and more of my own emotional crap. Would I be happy continuing along this vein indefinitely? Probably not, but that's my own personal preference.

Sex. With that one simple word a thousand conflicting ideas, thoughts, and visions are conjured. With a single syllable the entire earth was populated, wars were fought, and our president was impeached. With those three tiny letters we find an underlying common desire as human beings, along with a division between differing sexualities. And because of that little word you and I came into existence.

writing_forgive (3K)TALES FROM THE OUTSIDE
Father forgive me, for I have sinned. It has been... an eternity since my last confession, and these are my sins... Okay, so there's not enough room in an entire encyclopedia set to list all of them, and not even enough room here for the highlights, but that's irrelevant, and so are my supposed sins. It is a sad fact that because of my homosexuality I am immediately deemed immoral and sinful, regardless of what I have or have not done. And for many of those who outwardly feign acceptance of me, the truth is that they would forsake me in an instant if I stumbled from the ideal, sterile gay role-model they want me to be. In other words, it's fine for me to be gay, as long as I don't have sex with men, or at least if I don't talk about it.

writing_teamspirit (3K)WHAT BECAME OF TEAM SPIRIT?
On a seemingly typical spring day at Amsterdam High School, two students pull up to the side entrance. The car skids to a quick stop at a clumsy angle, the motor still running and the doors flung open. Entering the school with an arsenal hidden beneath bulky coats, the two kids stride purposefully inside. Passing a few students in the hallway, they make their way down the corridor unbothered and unnoticed; they are saving their guns for maximum destructive impact.

fag-stagTHE FAG-STAG
A few weeks ago I found myself in the most unlikely scenario ~ drinking beer out of a bottle and watching a basketball game in a bar, surrounded by heterosexuals. The bar part was familiar, as was the gaggle of heteros around me, but a basketball game? And beer?! I've always prided myself on being able to butch it up when the situation called for it, but this was a bit too much. Middle-aged women with bad make-up were eyeing me, some jock bartender was trying to exchange sports banter, and I was drinking a beer with a lime in it ~ wasn't this some circle of Dante¹s Hell?

I am writing this on Good Friday ­ the day Jesus died for our sins. As winter fades to black and spring gushes in amid wind and rain, my thoughts turn to the guilt of the Easter season. Long-buried feelings of shame re-surface, buoying disgrace in their muddy wake. My memories are a curious mixture of Catholic guilt, religious fervor, and childhood innocence, all woven into the slow awakening of being gay.

I confess: I have an underwear fetish. It goes above the simple appreciation of comfortable undergarments and beyond the fondness for fine skivvies. This is a full-blown, obsessive, find-a-treatment-program-and-a-scientific-name problem. Of course I don't see it that way. For me, underwear is a necessity ~ the basis of what we will present to the outside world. It provides the support and underlying confidence that will bring us personal triumphs, or at the very least a secret smile as we bounce along on the highway with all the ignorant tighty-whitey-wearing masses.


reviews_cheersCHEERS REVIEW
While we continue to grieve over the passing of Friends and Sex & the City, there is some consolation to be found for those looking for great ensemble comedy in the Season 4 DVD of Cheers. As Will & Grace limps into irrelevance with its non-stop parade of guest stars and complete disregard for its core characters, Cheers is a welcome reminder of when NBC proudly ruled the Thursday roost with a solid collection of sitcoms.


reviews_abnatomy (3K)ABNATOMY REVIEW
Review of fitness video "Abnatomy: The Ab Workout for the Entire Body" Featuring David Sloniegura


reviews_aida (1K)AIDA REVIEW
It was supposed to be Chicago's theatrical claim to fame for 1999. Christening the newly-renovated Cadillac Palace Theatre, Aida was set to take the Windy City by storm in its 'World Premiere Pre-Broadway Engagement.' There was no reason why she shouldn't ~ a potent romantic story and an impeccable artistic pedigree (including Elton John, Tim Rice, and Chicago's own Robert Falls as director) ~ but she unfathomably fails and, like the title character herself, seals her dismal fate.

reviews_amore (3K)AMORE BREAKFAST
It is rare for me to frequent the same restaurant twice while on vacation ~ usually I want to try a little of everything. However, after spending one morning at Amore Breakfast I couldn't help but go back for more ~ more of the delicious food and more of the gregarious staff. Owner Leanne Cusimano, she with the perpetual smile and unforced friendliness, has created a sumptuous selection of breakfast treats, all served in a warm, welcoming atmosphere, perfect for the cool mornings of Ogunquit.

Gary Glickman's Aura deals with the disenchantment of growing up and older, and offers an unflinchingly vivid portrait of artists struggling for their search for meaning. It is a story of ambitions ~ blind and otherwise ~ for fame, for love, for artistic merit ~ and how those ambitions prove elusive, even when seemingly met.

While Five-O and Joe Allen's duke it out down below, a quiet winner has emerged just a bit further up US Route One. Bintliff's Restaurant was one of the highlights of this past season in Ogunquit, offering what may be some of the best steaks in town, and a comprehensive wine list to match. Where other places bow to what's trendy or tried, Bintliff's presents simply excellent food, flawlessly cooked, and served with elegance and panache.

Believe it or not, gay men do have long-term, loving, monogamous relationships. And those relationships, like those of our heterosexual counterparts, can run out of romantic steam. The fiery passion of first getting to know someone, the initial thrill of discovery and excitement, and the desire and stamina to have sex five times a day do eventually wane. In place of these things, something much deeper usually appears, something that has grown through time and understanding. Of course, most of us would like to keep that early spark and fire going, but it¹s not always easy to find the time and effort. Carlos Marrero offers some simple tips on how to do just that in his book Wake Up Romeo: Tips to Rekindle Your Romantic Life.

reviews_fiveo (3K)NO. FIVE-O SHORE ROAD
This past season, the jewel of Ogunquit's culinary tiara undoubtedly belonged to No. Five-O Shore Road. Situated in a prime spot, Five-O boasts a sophisticated bar, an elegant dining room, and some of the friendliest service in the area. The owner, Wayne, and his staff go out of their way to make one feel at home, and their dedication to their craft shows.

It seems silly to write my usual fluff at such a moment in our history. As the known alignment of power is shifting, as forces are being unleashed that will forever alter the world, how can I write anything that will have meaning or merit? The plight of a gay man - not an ignoble topic - seems somehow irrelevant in our current state of affairs.

The most surprising thing about American Life, Madonna's new album, is that it isn't the incendiary piece of anti-war sentiment we have been led to believe through over-hyped media reports, but rather a remarkably tender musical rendering of one woman's ongoing journey. In fact, for perhaps the first time in her career, it is the music that is the shocker ~ Madonna has gone folk, though she tempers most of the cuts with an electro-sensibility that merges acoustic guitar with cutting-edge techno sounds, courtesy of co-producer Mirwais.

Sitting in Seat 4 - Row 4 in Section LOGE10 of Boston¹s Fleetcenter, I am awaiting the entrance of the world¹s most famous woman ~ the one-name wonder who is going to make my life-long dream come true ~ Madonna. A curious phenomenon occurs a few moments before she is set to take the stage: the janitors, cooks, cleaning staff, and behind-the-scenes folk of the facility have all come out of the woodwork and assembled on the floor to witness the arrival of a married mother of two ~ such is the effect of a living icon, and proof of her enduring ability to fascinate and enthrall almost everyone.

She is, quite simply, the undisputed Queen of Entertainment. For over twenty years she has entranced, enraged, and engaged our collective interest and fascination. Madonna has always been about more than mere appropriation and re-invention. She is the pre-eminent Entertainer ~ a Lady of Renaissance whose artistic output has included books (of wildly different genres), acting (of wildly varied success), and, of course, music (of wildly consistent triumph). It also includes what is perhaps her greatest role ~ live performance. A Madonna concert is no ordinary rock show, and she proves this once again on her current Re-Invention Tour.

reviews_cho (3K)MARGARET CHO
She is our woman warrior of the new millennium. Slicing through racial and sexual boundaries with a razor-sharp sword of wit, she's transcended the traditionally-unremarkable trajectory of most stand-up comics, single-handedly transforming herself into a cultural force to be reckoned with. A self-described "Korean-American fag-hag, shit-starter, girl comic, trash-talker," Margaret Cho is one of those great artists who has taken the personal and made it universally recognizable, turning her own pain into the pleasure of our collective perception.

reviews_rufus (4K)RUFUS WAINRIGHT - WANT ONE
As one of the most innovative and uncompromising of singer-songwriters in our generation, Rufus Wainwright has also been one of the most unappreciated. With his whimsically eclectic musical styling and unique voice, he's never been a pop darling, though his latest album, Want One, is one of the year's most tuneful and melodious.

reviews_sissy (3K)THE SISSY DUCKLING
Every child has a favorite book ~ one that shapes their character and impresses itself indelibly upon their youth. Fairy tales and fables have long entertained kids, offering an amusing moral lesson cloaked in fantastical make-believe or conjuring a simple world of much-needed escapism. For the ostracized gay child, such escapism is often a matter of mental survival. Previously we had to search deeply for any sort of gay subtext in these tales, and then it was largely a matter of made-up Freudian psycho-babble. Now we have our very own gay fairy tale with the hatching of The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein.

The goal of life for most of us is a simple one: to be happy. How we get there and what constitutes true happiness is a question we will spend our lives trying to solve. Some will delve into empty substitutes for happiness ~ drugs, liquor, meaningless sex and similar vices. Some will look to religion and spirituality in an effort to find a loftier realm of contentment. Others may search for happiness in art and beauty. The one place where we never think to begin our search, however, is within ourselves. Like Dorothy, we are forever trying to find the elusive Oz ~ that magical place of true happiness and joy, and more often than not it is closer than our own backyards.

reviews_showqueen (1K)THE SHOW QUEEN MUST GO ON
Every good gay boy should know his musical theater history, or at the very least be able to hum a few bars from a classic musical (that is, something prior to the invasion of Cats, Phantom, and Les Miserables.) John M. Clum's latest book, Something for the Boys, is a fascinating study on Musical theater and Gay Culture, and how the two have had such a strong connection.

reviews_wicked (3K)WICKED REVIEW
"Popular - it's all about popular. It's not about aptitude, it's the way you're viewed, so it's very shrewd to be very, very popular, like me!" So sings Galinda, the "good witch" of Wicked, in the new musical that opened this past year. The show too is proving popular, from good word-of-mouth to sold-out audiences. (The past few weeks have found it filled to capacity.) All this despite mixed reviews is further proof that what is "Popular" may be more important than what is actually worthy of artistic merit. In this case, it's not as bad as mean-spirited critics would have you believe, nor as wonderful as Wicked fans would like you to think.