Double Hunk of the Day: Christian Arno Williams & Max Wefers

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As the supporting players and ice-dumpers in Donatella Versace’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Christian Arno Williams and Max Wefers steal the show with nary a word exchanged between them. With gold ice like that around their necks and Versace underwear bands around their torsos, who needs words? In a rare Double Hunk of the Day, we offer two to double your pleasure. First up is Mr. Williams…

We’ll sandwich the video between the boys:

And now onto Mr. Wefers…

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Not Quite Dodging A Bullet: ‘Bullets Over Broadway’ Review

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With its epochal questions of the artist versus the man, ‘Bullets Over Broadway’ is a good musical that wants to be great, but falls just slightly short of that unreachable goal. Like its flawed hero David Shayne, it performs admirably enough, but misses that final pull on the heartstrings that would make this more than what it is – which is, thanks to an ensemble of sheer perfection – already a pretty good show. (When Karen Ziemba is relegated to a rather minor supporting role, you know the talent pool is deep.) Luckily for this premiere staged version, that talented cadre of a cast is what lifts it into something better than its lighter-touch would have anyone presume.

Before you consider purchasing tickets, the bad news upfront is that I saw the show on its closing day. There’s something special about the closing performance of a relatively new musical, and this one proved exceptionally powerful, with the cast and crew rising to the occasion to produce a series of show-off-numbers and comedic gold. Making his leading man stage debut, Zach Braff as David Shayne takes the helm and carries the show on his more than capable shoulders. Broadway veteran Marin Mazzie (of ‘Passion’ and ‘Ragtime’ fame) fittingly portrays Broadway diva Helen Sinclair, in a role originated onscreen by the great Dianne Wiest. Comparisons are inevitable, but Ms. Mazzie’s golden voice supersedes any messy holes in the plot – though this reveals the fatal weakness of the production: these performers are far better than the material.

Whereas the movie was more of a comedic farce, the stage version leans a bit too heavily on the artist/man hang-up at one moment, before falling into broad humor the next. It can’t quite make up its mind whether to wallow in the pathos of the moral questions at hand or gloss over it all with superb stage presence. Some shows can have it both ways, but not this one.

Talent will always rise above, however, and this show had it in spades. There’s the aforementioned Braff and Mazzie, who perform the most moving highlight of the show – ‘There’s a Broken Heart for Every Light on Broadway’ – and by the end of it, as waves of applause echoed through the St. James Theatre, you could see Mr. Braff wipe a few tears from his eyes, perhaps realizing the bittersweet ending of a dream. He need not cry about it – his performance was pitch-perfect, and his singing voice was a revelation. It’s no mean feat to go head-to-head with a Broadway pro like Mr. Mazzie, but Mr. Braff more than held his own.

Hélene Yorke snatched the bulk of the laughs with her dithering portrayal of the worst actress in the world, Olive Neal. As her mafia-man sugar daddy, Vincent Pastore brings some slithering Sopranos charm to his mobster role, while Brooks Ashmanskas brings belly laughs (literally) as the ever-expanding Warner Purcell. With charisma and charm, and equal parts generosity and menace, reaches into the rafters with his spot-on portrayal of secretly-talented hit man Cheech, whose creative relationship with Braff’s Shayne is more interesting than any of the other predictable romances. Yet not enough is made of this, and not enough is done to make this anything more than the movie version come to imitated life.

Still, there are glimmers of what could have been. In many ways, this is a throwback to a more innocent Broadway, when song and dance and triple-threat performers wowed audiences with their sheer precision and bombast. That was most evident in the raucous take on ‘Taint Nobody’s Business If I Do.’ For those of us who started off almost cringing at the idea of a dancing chorus line of mobsters, the troop quickly won most over with their exuberance, their talent, and the sheer force of their will to entertain.

As good as the actors give, the show itself fails to fully rise to the occasion. Director, choreographer, and all-around genius Susan Stroman does her best to thrill and dazzle, and several unique staging decisions (from an ingenious train to a three-sided merry-go-round of scenes) provide both spectacle and plot-points that drive the story (the climactic staging of the play features a spinning behind-the-scenes look at the play-within-the-musical), yet it lacks a cohesive arc. Part of this is due to the source material: at once a love letter and a Dear John kiss-off to Broadway, especially its critics. Ruminations of the value of art versus the value of a human being feel heavy-handed in a show that wants to delight with sheer showbiz pizzazz. Its musical reliance on a few tried-and-true standards also feels like a tepid retreading wanting for deeper resonance, something that connects more.

That said, praise must still be sung for that cast, those fine performers who carried it into the realm of something spectacular. It showcased the magic of artists at the height of their power, making the most of what they are given, and putting on a performance that made everyone in the audience a believer… even if it was the very last time.

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The Grand & Gratuitous Matthew Camp Post

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This website, along with millions of other folks, has long been a fan of Mr. Matthew Camp. He’s already been featured as the Hunk of the Day (and will likely be again) while his fragrance – 8.5 – has been glowingly profiled and reviewed. He’s got his hands, and other appendages, in a lot of pots, and that sort of Renaissance stance will always be impressive to the liberal artist in me. (As will his naked bottom.) There’s not much substance to this post, as it’s all about Mr. Camp in glorious GIF motion and some colorful photos. I sense a second crowning of Hunk of the Day in the offing, and perhaps an in-depth interview and feature… Are you ready for your close-up, Mr. Camp?

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A Belated Happy Birthday to Tom Ford

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In the fast-paced whirlwind of the end of August, I missed a post celebrating the birthday of one of the men I most admire: Tom Ford. My obsession with his Private Blend fragrance collection has been well-documented in these pages, and since a few have asked which ones I like best, I present my current inventory, with links to those which have been featured here:

Among these are a few extra-special favorites: I adore ‘Amber Absolute’ for its smoky amber richness, ‘Plum Japonais’ for its fruity exotic sweetness, and ‘Mandarino di Amalfi’ for its summery citrus freshness. I usually save ‘Santal Blush’ for the holidays, as it’s almost over-the-top in decadence (yes, I try to rein things in at quieter times of the year.) The more woodsy options – ‘Oud Wood’ and ‘Bois Marocain’ are more suitable for day-to-day wear, but make no mistake: Tom Ford’s Private Blends are special, so I only wear them on important days.

As for the man himself, he recently did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and managed to make even that messy bit of waterlogged madness look sexy. See here:

Happy (Belated) Birthday to a master of style and scent.

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Hunk of the Day: Mika

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It’s nice when an opening post leads into a closing post, and so we have another Mika moment, as the openly-gay singer-singwriter is also being named as the Hunk of the Day. He may not own up to being a model (and admits as much quite explicitly on ‘Popular Song‘) but he certainly has a certain appeal, and more than a few people are going to enjoy this post. There’s always something sexy about a singer. (See also Adam Levine, Lenny KravitzJustin Timberlake, Marques Houston, Keith Urban, Enrique IglesiasLuke Bryan, Trey Songz, and Jason Derulo.)

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The Musical Magnificence of Mika

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It’s been a long, long time since I’ve purchased an actual CD from a physically-standing store, but on my last visit to Boston I saw the new album by Mika,  ’The Origin of Love,’ in Barnes & Noble, so I picked it up for the car ride home. There are only a few artists whose music I would buy before hearing any of the songs – Madonna, Shirley Horn (sadly no more new music), and James.

On this record, the music sounds like the love child between Daft Punk and Erasure – making it both of-the-moment but also timeless. In other words, an instant classic that manages to sound both completely familiar and entirely new. Such musical magic is difficult to conjure, but Mika has managed to make it happen on all three of his albums to date, progressively revealing a darker yet still-accessible side on cuts like ‘Make You Happy’ or ‘Overrated.’ He continues to craft some of the frothiest pop out there today, as in ‘Popular Song’ (which gleefully borrows from ‘Wicked’) and the gorgeous ‘Kids.’

Such stuff might at first seem tailor-made for over-production and saccharine sweetness, but Mika wisely veers clear of such pitfalls, stripping things down for the title track. Filled with ambivalence, and shot through with treacherous questions on faith and religion, ‘Origin of Love’ is a powerful reminder of the potency of Mika at his best. It begins somewhat slowly for the bombastic guy responsible for such rousing anthems as ‘Grace Kelly’ and ‘We Are Golden’ but it grows into something richer and more lasting.

Even when he’s being snarky and sardonic, as in the beautifully blunt ‘Love You When I’m Drunk,’ the music is so light and bouncy it takes away a bit of the edge, but in doing so lends it a more sinister impact. He may cut you, but it’s going to feel and sound so good you won’t mind as much.

That’s Mika’s greatest weapon: he’s an aural assassin, and his music can slay the staunchest enemy. Any lashing out comes from a displacement of hurt, deliciously disguised as he shuffles along on marvelous melodies and resounding choruses.

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Hunk of the Day: Liam Payne

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There was a time when I would have known who this kid was, along with all his other bandmates and their various nicknames. As it stands, I had to look it all up. This is Liam Payne, the Hunk of the Day, who is part of One Direction. They’ve been featured here before for a certain Story, but I don’t believe any one of them was singled out. My days of boy-band-obsessing passed with ‘NSync and the Backstreet Boys. It’s time to let some other teenage girl pick up the slack.

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Three Augusts

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Far more than other years, I really don’t want August to end. That goes for the summer as a whole, and this is the first year in some time that I’ve felt so strongly about it. This one has just gone by too quickly. So let’s draw it out a bit, and look back over a trio of Augusts that came before.

First up is August 2010 – for which there were only two saved entries. But I’m quite fond of them both.

August 2011 found a few entries exploring the city of Boston. Much summer magic takes place in that miraculous city.

On the very edge of Massachusetts is where we spent a few days in August 2012 – when a birthday was spent in Provincetown.

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Hunk of the Day: Derek Richardson

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When one has the beauty of a male model, words are often superfluous. Today, that’s a very good thing, as I just returned from a birthday weekend in New York and I’m spent. Taking up the mantle of attractiveness to see you through to tomorrow, here is Hunk of the Day Derek Richardson.

 

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Post-Birthday Recap

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Since there was more than the anniversary of my birth going on in the last week, or so I’ve been told, here’s a quick encapsulation of other supposedly-notable posts that shared the birthday limelight.

It was the wee in which I was finally tagged on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Having previously avoided the shenanigans, it was Skip Montross who finally named me, and I accepted – well, I sort of accepted. Let’s just say they got the money, and a bucket was involved.

One thing that was not quite ready to kick the bucket was summer, as seen in some hosta shots and stargazing images.

Summer is also a time to get beet up.

My bush brings all the butterflies to the yard.

Off to Market.

Hunks on Parade marched their shirtless wares through the wind-down weeks of summer. Idris Elba proved what the bulge was all about, Matthew Paetz proved that Lea Michele has amazing taste, Noam Ash proved that adorable and sexy are not exclusive of each of each other, Duncan Mais proved that sometimes mere mortals are Superheroes, and Damien Rodgers continued his quest for the Mr. Gay World title.

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A Birthday Suit Twist

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I’ve gotten into my birthday suit so many times here already (search the archives if you don’t believe me) that I’m taking this day off and letting someone else do it. A few someones, in fact, whose bodies are better than mine will ever be.  At this age I’ve given up on the six-pack of my twenties. (I’d happily settle for a three pack.) And speaking of three, let’s get down to business with this trio of pics featuring Harry Judd, who has been cheeky enough to be featured here numerous times.

Thanks to the gratuitous male nudity clause inherent in every Attitude cover shoot, Mr. Judd has displayed his wares in fetchingly-fine fashion over the years. Here is further cause for rejoicing, times three:

Let’s continue with Hugh Jackman, whose portrayal of Wolverine in the X-Men series has resulted in a few naked sequences, as seen here in a grainy GIF.

James Franco, who recently did his ALS Ice Bucket Challenge without a pair of pants, has already flashed his flesh here, but it’s always worth another look-see.

Matthew Camp looks cool while keeping it hot. He smells good to boot, which is just as important.

Finally, bringing up the rear is Zac Efron, who has been no stranger to showing off his body in these electronic pages, and here he is again giving a glimpse of those hot buns.

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The Birthday Boy

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Today I turn 39 years old. One more to 40. That’s less frightening than I thought it would be, but we’ll revisit the scene next year and see if I still feel the same way. (I reserve the right to have a nervous breakdown at a moment’s notice.) As already mentioned, I will be spending the weekend in New York, taking in the last performance of ‘Bullets Over Broadway’, brunching at Tavern on the Green, and having a fancy birthday dinner at The NoMad. Just me and my husband.

That stays true to my traditional route of keeping birthdays relatively small. I was never one for big parties to commemorate the day, preferring smaller gatherings and destinations off the beaten path (hello Beaversprite). Some years it was only me and Suzie and my family. To this day, I tend to keep to the same format, quietly going about the day as if nothing much was different. (Some years I may have kept things too quiet; the few times I worked on my birthday I found myself rather depressed as I walked downtown Albany alone on my lunch hour. After that I would take the day off, even if I kept it simple.)

This year is an out-of-town year, like when we went to Provincetown in 2012. And while I’ve never been the biggest fan of New York, I’m sure there are ways they can show the birthday boy a good time. Tom Ford’s flagship store on Madison Avenue for example…

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A Farmer’s Market in Troy

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The Trojan Renaissance is in full effect every Saturday morning, when the Troy Farmer’s Market spills into the street with a colorful collection of fruits and vegetables and all sorts of other goodies. Andy and I made our first trip to this place a couple of weeks ago, and it’s almost time to revisit it. The fall should be especially lovely with bushels of squash and winter vegetables coming up to ease the trek into cooler weather. For now, the sun is still shining brightly, the heat can still be intense, and the sunflowers are coming into their August own. I’ll let these photographs do the rest of the talking.

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Stargazing

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Behold, the Stargazer Lily (or at least a very similar cultivar – I’ve lost track over the years.) A staple of the higher-end bouquet you find in markets and florists, this powerhouse-flower comes with a rich fragrance, and some dangerous pollen if you don’t catch it in time (many cheeks and shirts have been stained in instances where unsuspecting sniffers have leaned in a bit too close.) This beauty was an unexpected surprise. It is the one remaining lily plant that the critters haven’t yet devoured. It’s at the base of a hydrangea that never blooms, so I always forget about it until it’s sometimes passed its peak. On this day, following a rainstorm, I was making the garden rounds when I caught it out of the corner of my eye. The bright pink colors were crying out for attention, while the perfume lassoed my nose.

These are relatively easy to grow (I honestly don’t do anything for this one, as I didn’t like where it was and didn’t care to invest any extra effort.) Because of their ubiquity, and their flashy and overpowering presence both in look and scent, they always seem a little out of place in our more subdued garden. Yet it makes a fine accent plant, and a great cut flower, so I may be putting a few more in. There’s always an extra jolt of gardening enthusiasm in the weeks before we put the garden to sleep for the season, and planting bulbs (particularly when I will most likely forget about them) always provides for pleasant surprises when the summer comes again.

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