As some of you may know, my partner Toby Hobbes, aka dudley ghost is a musician / artist who frequently contributes mixed media to Jonathan Russell’s quarterly Monkeyshines zine. I have joined him in contributing to the hot-off-the-press Winter 2022 issue. Here is my contribution:
In a Queens, New York row house a mother and her infant begin their daily stroll. She pushes the carriage forward embarking on their route in these trying times.
She turns right into the kitchen then right through the living room another right into the dining room where mother and child are momentarily bathed in a sunbeam through the skylight.
Another right turn and it’s back through the kitchen again.
There’s a rhythm to the carriage wheels rolling on and off the area rugs. The mother chants along in a sing-song voice: Right turn, right turn, right turn, sun! Right turn, right turn, right turn, sun!
Around and around they go through the sunlight every 37 seconds. The child squints and laughs. The mother smiles through her song.
This moment in time she will always remember how she kept her baby safe. This moment in time she will never recount to a child too young to remember.
The mother’s efforts will not be in vain. The child will live for 101 years. Ultimately exposed by a grandson who didn’t trust the science.
Lying in an ambulance headed to Elmhurst Hospital There is some cellular recall. A flicker of a memory: Right turn, right turn, right turn, sun.
Monkeyshines | ˈməNGkēˌSHīnz | 1. pl. noun: Mischievous behavior. 2. noun What is probably the finest, best example of a zine in existence.
A little backstory…. I walk my dog in the alley behind a block of these row houses in Queens, New York. In the early months of the pandemic, I would see this woman pushing a stroller around inside her house. She would repeatedly pass by the dining room window, always entering on the right and exiting to the left, moving through a sunbeam from the skylight as she walked the stroller around and around. This image stayed with me as such an interesting symbol of the strange time we were living in…. this mother did not want to risk taking her baby outside, but infants are often calmed by the movement of a stroller, so she just kept circling around in the house, day after day.
As comparisons were made to the 1918 flu pandemic, it occurred to me that my grandmother was born in April of that year in Woodhaven, Queens. This is just a mile or two from where I live now. My great-grandparents lived in a row house and, with the birth of my grandmother, had three daughters under the age of 6. And yet there was never a single story passed down about how they made it through or what life was like at that time.
Back to the present: my partner and I see this guy around our neighborhood who lives on the next block in the house where he grew up. When the pandemic hit, he was caring for his elderly mother and was especially concerned about her health. As time progressed, it became clear that he was anti-mask and anti-vaxx. “For your mother’s sake, if nothing else,” I said; “you really should get vaccinated.” We started to avoid talking to him when we would see his stupid maskless face heading towards us.
His mother died last month. I am unclear on the circumstances.
In August of 2020, porn star Koldo Gorantweeted about three fellow performers who had recently died. In one of those instances, Goran’s tweet remains the only public notice that the performer, Dani Rivera, had been murdered. “I realize nobody talks about it, we are unprotected and forgotten;” Goran tweeted “We are humans, people, enough of contempt.”
Most gay news outlets choose to ignore the passing of all but the biggest names in the adult film industry. Porn companies also seem reluctant to broadcast the death of a performer who is still on their roster, forever young and present in their website content. An obit is a real boner killer, ya know? Why jeopardize the profit margin?
Additionally, performers who abandon their porn personas and return to life under their real name often pass away unnoticed by former employers and scene parters.
In 2021 we lost two of the biggest gay porn filmmakers: Wakefield Poole, who basically invented the genre with 1971’s Boys In The Sand; and Jerry Douglas, director of many critically acclaimed gay adult films that were story-based but incorporated hot sex scenes. Poole’s passing was marked with a New York Times article and Douglas’s death was also widely reported in the gay press.
In contrast, some of the porn star passings that we note here have no verification other than the crumbs of information posted on the IAFD database. We remember those that we lost in 2021 to prove Koldo Goran wrong – they are not forgotten:
1. Alex James, one of the most popular performers at Active Duty, passed away of a “heart attack” on 2/15/21, according to the menofporn blog. He appeared in several dozen scenes starting in 2018 with new content steadily released in the six months following his death.
2. According to the IAFD database, Eric Pryor was 38 years old when he passed away on January 12, 2021. No other details were given. The Michigan native primarily worked for Randy Blue from 2009-2013 and also appeared on Baitbus as Mikey McKenna.
Teyon Goffney with identical twin Keyon (l), and solo.
4. Flex-Deon Blake, aka Kevin Moss was a 2004 inductee into the Grabby’s “Wall of Fame” after a 10 year career in the industry. He was the long-term partner of fellow porn star Bobby Blake and founded a Dallas-based ministry to help people resolve any conflict between their spirituality and sexual orientation. He passed away due to ongoing medical issues at age 58 on 3/1/21.
5. Tattooed top Bo Dean, aka Michael Jensen worked primarily for Jake Cruise but also appeared in scenes for Raging Stallion, Lucas Entertainment and Next Door Studios between 2009-2014. In 2015, he was shot in the chest and left paralyzed from the waist down. His cause of death was not disclosed when he died on 3/30/21 at age 41.
6. Treshawn / Treyshawn Valentino appeared in films for various companies (including Bacchus, Lucas Entertainment, Titan, Thugmart and Latino Fan Club) over a jaw-dropping 15 year period. The Illinois native passed away on 4/2/21, according to his IAFD listing. No other details have surfaced.
7. Michael Watts was an Oregon security guard who also worked as a Freddie Mercury impersonator. He chose Freddie as his porn persona when he did two scenes for The Guy Site in 2019. The 37 year-old went missing on May 1st and was found in the Willamette river two weeks later. The investigation is ongoing.
8. Versatile blond Ty Thomas began his porn career at Jason Sparks in 2016 and went on to appear in 30+ scenes for Next Door Studios. According to the IAFD, he passed away on 5/6/21 at age 29.
9. The death of 22 year-old Alex Riley on 5/9/21 was widely reported in the gay press. The popular performer was best known for his work with Helix Studios but had previously worked for Men, FraternityX, RealityDudes, and Next Door Studios. Riley was nominated as Best Newcomer at the 2020 Str8UpGayPorn Awards, and he won GayVN’s Best Newcomer award. Rumors of suicide circulated but were unconfirmed.
10. Muscular Bryce Evans loomed large in the gay porn industry for close to a decade with versatile appearances in scenes for Lucas Entertainment, Men, Pride Studios, Dominic Ford, Men Over 30 and several others. The 46 year-old reportedly suffered a “heart attack” in early June but his death was not made public until three weeks later.
12. On July 22nd, Chi Chi La Rue tweeted “Tommy Ritter passed away. No details have been given. Tommy was a great guy who saved many a movie with his amazing performances, even before he decided to be fully on camera!” Ritter, a versatile Channel 1 / Rascal Video exclusive, appeared in a dozen films circa 2005-6.
14. Mel Grey, aka Elder Packer (missionaryboyz) aka Toby Muck (familydick) was only 24 years old but had been in the business for three years, working with the studios listed above as well as Treasure Island Media. IAFD reports that he was “shot by a random intruder when trying to protect other people present” on 12/11/21.
It’s that time again… due to popular demand, it’s our fourth installment of WWII-era photos featuring the jockstrap-clad pre-flight training school cadets at St. Mary’s College in California. You can view the first one here. Part II was from last Christmas. Part III was the boys of summer. And now here we are with another look at these strapping young men – many away from home for the first time – photographed as they trained to go to war during the holidays.
I first became aware of these black and white 5″x7″ triptych photos through posts on the Vintage Workingmen Beefcake Facebook group. Listings also turn up on auction sites, where the photos are often accompanied by the index card used to record the physical training progress of the cadet.
The earliest photos (from June 13, 1942) feature the men completely nude, but all subsequent photos feature the cadets in jockstraps, standing behind some sort of grid fencing to better detect posture misalignment and spinal curvature.
There is still some confusion between these photos and the Yale / Ivy League posture pics, since the Navy photos were sometimes used to illustrate stories about the Yale pics. Note that all of these images contain a visible U.S. Navy / St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School placard, even if they have been cropped out in some posts. Similarly the Yale University photos are identified as such within the frame of the photos:
Fortunately for us, multiple photos of some cadets have surfaced, allowing for comparisons of their training progress:
And while there is a lack of ethnic diversity, there are a variety of body types.
My collection now includes close to 600 jpegs of different cadets. While some of these men did perish during WWII, the largest majority that I have researched lived to ripe old ages.
Any surviving cadets would now be close to 100 years old. I recently discovered one who passed away a few months ago at the age of 103.
One thing these young men have in common, as they were documented in timeless photos of their physical prime: they were far from home during the holidays, training to fight for their country.
At this time of year, nearly 80 years later, we again salute The Greatest Generation for their fine forms and dedication.
I am not alone in saying that I always take comfort in the annual repetition of the holidays – revisiting holiday-themed music, film, television… and now internet posts as well. In fact, this post is a reworking of one I posted last year, not to get meta or anything.
I find it interesting that we immerse ourselves in certain pop culture favorites for exactly 6 weeks of the year and then pack them up in mothballs with the ornaments until next year. I mean, Bing Crosby, Brenda Lee and Johnny Mathis are rock stars from Thanksgiving through New Years. Are any of them on your 4th of July playlist? They aren’t on mine.
The film A Christmas Story has an even shorter (Elf on the) shelf life. We binge-watch the repeated broadcast for exactly 24 hours each year. I own it on Blu-ray and I’m not sure why: I have never opened it. To pop it in at any other time feels like a betrayal.
In keeping with this revisiting, blog posts of Christmas past are back to haunt you like A Christmas Carol, Mr. Scrooge:
Unfortunately, due to copyright issues all the links are broken on my 60 Degrees Girl Group Christmas piece. This also keeps me from posting other episodes of my old radio show – hopefully only temporarily. However… I have this to share:
Way back in 2002, when Limewire was a thing and people listened to music on silvery discs, I started creating Christmas CD mixes that I would mail out or give to people. These were received with a combination of feigned delight, veiled indifference and deafening silence. None of these CDs had a pressing of more than 20 copies. I’d like to call them “much sought after” – but no, that’s not really the case, although every once in a while, someone really got into them and would ask for copies of other volumes.
And so, I’m offering this simple playlist…. for kids from 1 to 92. Unfortunately many of the tracks on these dozen CDs are not on Spotify, but I keep adding songs that would be on the current CD volume… if there was one. And now the playlist is over 14 hours of holiday tunes. I recommend listening on shuffle – there’s something to irritate everyone. Enjoy!
Rita Moreno is having a great season, with an acclaimed documentary and an appearance in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, which she also executive produced. She celebrated her 90th birthday while making countless appearances on news and talk shows promoting these projects. In sharp contrast, though, the passing of fellow Shark Girl Yvonne Wilder on November 24th seems to have gone relatively unnoticed.
She was still known as Yvonne Othon when she played Consuelo in the 1961 film. Born in the Bronx in 1937 with Cuban/Puerto Rican ancestry, she attended New York’s High School of Performing Arts and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London before getting cast in the West End production of West Side Story alongside George Chikiris. According to her website, she would go on to play Anita for over 1,500 performances on Broadway and stages around the world.
Throughout the 1960’s Wilder was partnered professionally with Jack Colvin (1934-2004). As Colvin & Wilder, they were one of the most successful comedy duos of the decade, with appearances across the U.S. on stage and television, including The Dean Martin Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show, culminating in their farewell appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Over 30 years, Wilder racked up dozens of television appearances on shows including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Room 222, The Partridge Family, and 227. She was Archie’s girlfriend on Archie Bunker’s Place and co-starred in the sitcom Operation Petticoat with John Astin, Adam West and 19-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis.
Wilder is perhaps best remembered for her role as Aurora De La Hoya, housekeeper for Glenda & Ira Parks (Goldie Hawn & Charles Grodin) in Neil Simon’s Seems Like Old Times (1980).
One of Wilder’s final roles before retiring was as the grandmother of the Olsen twins on Full House. She then focused on her work as a watercolor artist and sculptor. Her work was shown at the Santa Monica Art Institute and can be viewed on her website.
Adios, Ms. Wilder. Thank you for all your fine work. And for the chicken pepperoni.
Three years ago, I posted two collections of artist / photographer Don Herron’s Tub Shots, a series of photographs featuring the famous and near famous posing in their bathtubs. This coincided with an exhibition of 65 of the images at the Daniel Cooney Gallery here in NYC. My blog posts (Pt. 1 and Pt. II) still garner a considerable amount of traffic, so I thought I would share more of these photos – ones that didn’t make it into those original posts and others that have resurfaced since that time.
Pat Loud (1926-2021) was the matriarch of the Loud family, subject of the first reality series on American television. She later recalled that she only agreed to Don Herron’s request for a photo shoot if her friend and interior designer Richard Ridge posed as well. NYC (1978)
Hard to believe that it has been 5 years since the dynamic actor/actress, performer, reality television star Alexis Arquette passed away. The youngest member of the Arquette clan was just 47 years old.
Fun fact: 12 year old Alexis was featured in The Tubes’ music video forShe’s A Beauty.
Days after Arquette’s demise, the streaming site XHamster released a statement where they pat themselves on the back for executing a “catch and kill”: allegedly paying $25k to acquire and destroy a sex video peddled by one of Arquette’s ex-paramours. In a blog post about it, KennethInThe212 points out that: a) it seemed like XHamster was pulling a publicity stunt, b) if they were protecting Arquette, why mention a video that nobody previously knew about, and c) how could a sex tape embarrass the free-spirited Arquette, a person who gave zero fucks about other people’s sexual hangups?
When I read about this alleged sex tape, I was reminded of something I had not thought about in years: Piccadilly Pickups, the 1999 hardcore gay porn flick that Arquette appeared in, and that I had seen it at a screening in New York City with Arquette in attendance.
I read an article in the November 5, 1999 issue of The New York Blade about the MIX Film Festival, which featured experimental works. Arquette was hosting a part of the festival called “The Honcho Midnight Blue Movie Series,” which featured midnight screenings of Andy Warhol’s Couch along with other titillating avant-garde fare. Next to this article was a second one detailing Arquette’s recent foray into gay porn, as the resulting film, Piccadilly Pickups would also be shown.
In 1999, Arquette was still publicly identifying as a bisexual male. He was an indie film darling – a member of Hollywood royalty who dared to push the envelope with unconventional film roles and an outspoken personality.
I was intrigued… so I went to the screening at midnight on Saturday, November 13, 1999. Surprisingly, it was, as advertised, a full-on hardcore gay porno. Unfortunately, it was not a very good one. It wasn’t particularly erotic and the attempts at campy humor fell flat. There was also an extended sequence with a character in blackface. Arquette appears in and out of drag as Henri de la Plus Oooh Aaargh, a wealthy American who wants to exploit the hero of the story. The climax of the film is a group sex scene with Arquette joining in.
Hard to stay gender neutral here, but at one point in the group scene Arquette bends down and sucks their own dick. In the audience at the screening, there is applause. Arquette, in drag, goes on to fuck one of the twinks before producing a climactic money shot which also garnered an enthusiastic audience reaction. And that’s about all I remember about this forgettable film.
A few times throughout the screening Arquette, in the audience, drew laughter with comments about the action onscreen, but I was not sitting close enough to hear this real life version of MST3K.
After the screening Alexis got up, took a modest bow and said a few words, leading off with “I know it’s not exactly Citizen Kane.. but thank you for coming.”
And then the film vanished. Although there is an IMDB listing, I was unable to find any reference to the film online for many years, which is odd, because even the vaguest whiff of a mainstream actor appearing in anything close to porn is recycled and re-discovered across the internet repeatedly. (see Stephen Geoffreys, Simon Rex or even Sylvester Stallone, just to name a few.)
Recently a cut of the film popped up on gay torrent and streaming sites. This watered down version appears to have come from a UK DVD release, which is edited like cable porn: Still an X but not XXX. The autofellatio, penetration and money shots are gone, so why bother, really?
Arquette was a favorite subject of Hollywood photographer Greg Gorman, including some nudes featured in his 2004 book As I See It.
Arquette would go on to become a vocal activist and visible leader in the transgender community. The diversity and complexities of this fearless artist should be remembered and celebrated, even if Piccadilly Pickups is not.
Every once in a while I find myself accidentally humming a Garth Brooks song called “Unanswered Prayers.” The gist of this 1991 country hit is that the singer runs into a girl he was in love with in high school. Back in the day, he prayed to God Almighty that they would stay together for the rest of their lives. Now he sees that time has not been kind to his old flame. He compares her to the hot babe he’s now got on his arm and thanks the Lord that he wasn’t saddled with that old mess for all those years. It’s really quite touching and heartfelt…. unless you are the first Mrs. Garth Brooks. He divorced her to marry Trisha Yearwood.
My life was at a crossroads when this little ditty was all over the radio. I was touring the country in a children’s theatre production of The Wizard of Oz. Previously, I had been working at Tower Records on Long Island and feeling rather lost after being cut from two different drama schools in the previous two years. I felt like I had twice slipped off the launchpad of my illustrious theatrical career. So there I was at 22 years old: depressed, living at my mother’s house, treading water in the old familiar pool of a record store.
One day at work I got a phone call from a former classmate who was now stage managing children’s theatre tours. He was calling to say that they needed a last-minute replacement for The Cowardly Lion on a Wizard of Oz tour, and could I be in Philadelphia to start rehearsals, tomorrow?
I had just come out of a meeting with my supervisor in which he told me I was doing an excellent job and if I kept up the good work, I would be moving up the record store hierarchy very soon. Now I had to go back into his office to clarify that the pro-company bullshit I had just shoveled at him was no longer relevant, and that he should start spreading the news, ‘cuz I’m leaving. Today.
I took off my polyester vest with the yellow and red name tag, headed down the yellow brick road and never looked back.
The 10 days of rehearsal were a blur. This was my first paying theatre gig, hired sight unseen and thrown in with people who actually auditioned and were cast in this show. I was a wreck. I hadn’t sang or danced in almost a year. I felt like I would be discovered as a fraud and fired before we even left Philly. Luckily I was playing the Cowardly Lion, so channeling that nervous energy wasn’t a broad stretch. I didn’t exactly transform into Bert Lahr, but I held my own. I worked my ass off to prove I belonged there. And it worked. Nobody had a clue how I got the job.
We hit the road and I soon learned that traveling in a non-union theatre tour is quite a unique experience. You get to know each other intimately in a very short period of time. Relationships develop. Alliances are formed and broken. It has all the drama of a reality show like Survivor or Big Brother, but in a van. This can be a nightmare situation with the wrong combination of people, as I would find out on subsequent tours. But this cast gelled well, onstage and off.
There were 9 of us floating from town to town – a microcosm in Glinda’s bubble. Together we weathered bad hotels, truck-stop food, common colds passed around the cast. We went to museums in Chicago, partied on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, broke down outside of Memphis, hit the beach in Miami, and got drunk… everywhere. We played venues ranging from a church basement in North Carolina to the opera house in Cleveland. I had never been to any of these places – some I still wish I could revisit, others I have no desire to see again.
The Tin Man caught my eye from the first day of rehearsal. Beneath the silver makeup was a golden boy: a blond-haired, blue-eyed dancer with a perfect rack of sparkling teeth. Truth be told, the boy couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag, and his singing voice…. well … it was kind of amazing: he had this uncanny ability to sound both sharp and flat at the same time.
But the boy had charisma. And when he started to dance, he lit up the stage. Your eyes would just go to him. It didn’t matter who else was there.
Besides his moves and physical appearance, he really was a golden boy in every way – a positive energy that just lifted me up and made me feel good. I tend to dwell in darker places, so this rather simple ray of sunshine totally captivated me.
Yes, he was simple. That needs to be mentioned. There was no deep thought process going on there. Let’s just say he was unencumbered with a lot of brain activity. I tend to get stuck in my own head so this was the breath of fresh air I needed.
It’s such a cliché – the blond hair, the blue eyes… I’m sorry but I totally fell for it. Given my dark coloring and more cerebral tendencies – not that I was curled up in the back of the van reading poetry, but I knew the difference between Proust and Juliet Prowse – the whole “opposites attract” factor worked in my favor.
My odds of nabbing the Tin Man were certainly helped by our situation. But we did have an undeniable rapport – everyone could see what was going on between us before anything physical actually occurred. And it did. Before long, The Tin Man and I decided to take ourselves out of the cast’s hotel roommate rotation and shacked up together full-time.
As the tour moved on and we passed through state after state, I began to meet different people from the Tin Man’s life. Ex-boyfriends, a potential new boyfriend he had put on hold until after the tour, the best girl-friend from home who had been in love with him since 8th grade…. with each new appearance, I’d get pushed aside until we headed to the next town. I’m afraid I did not react well to these situations, as I was reminded that the boy could have anyone he wanted, so why stick with me, other than the fact that I was on the tour?
The thing was, he played the helpless card pretty well. There was a dependence on others that worked like a charm, whether counting change or picking out clothes to wear. He needed to have someone there to pay attention, to help, to do things for him. I mistook this for a dependence on ME until I realized that this parade of people that passed through had all been in the position I currently held, and they were only too happy to jump back into that role when given the opportunity.
One day, I was having a conversation with the Wicked Witch, fairly oblivious to the feelings she may have had towards me. She was incredulous when I expressed my envy of our Tin Man. She was thoughtful for a minute and said, “Don’t you see? He is like… dessert. He’s strawberry shortcake. It’s delicious. Everyone wants it. But you can’t live on that. No nutritional value. You are……… a baked potato. It’s sturdy. A staple. It’s good for you. It’s not as showy as the strawberry shortcake, and people might not think to go for that initially – they want to go right for the dessert, but the baked potato is better for them.”
Now… I have repeated this to people through the years and it is always interesting to gauge the different reactions it elicits. Some perceive it as a total insult. Others “get it.” At the time she told me this, I got it. I understood what she was saying. It was not what I wanted to hear. I just wanted to continue gorging on the fucking dessert. But I got it.
Ah, the pain of hearing things you know are true but don’t want to hear. I remember, toward the end of the tour, we were in some Super 8 dive bar and the Tin Man slipped some money in the jukebox, which then started playing the aforementioned “Unanswered Prayers.” He was laughing and boozily sharp/flat singing it to the Wicked Witch. And she’s looking at me. And I realized that, as painful as it was to admit, the tour was ending and the golden boy would be gone. There was never any delusion that we would continue on together after the tour was over. He had another theatre job lined up and I was…. what the hell was I going to do? Go back to Tower Records?
I was scared to death. This band of friends, this lifestyle that I had grown accustomed too, making a living doing what I loved… well, a children’s theatre version of it, anyway… it was all about to go away. This trip to Oz had opened my eyes to the possibilities of my life. And very soon I was going to land back in my own black and white Kansas. I didn’t want to wake up from my Technicolor dream. Wasting time in a suburban record store was no longer an option.
The tour ended, as they do. I got an apartment in New York City with Glinda the Good Witch – you can read more about that transition here. I was hired back for a Babes In Toyland tour with the same company that fall. It was a total nightmare. But while in rehearsal, I did meet The Scarecrow from another Wizard Of Oz tour. He was not a golden boy, but he did have a certain glow… He also had a brain and appreciated the value of a baked potato. We were together for 9 years.
The Tin Man and I did end up working together again in summer stock the following year. By then, the spell had been broken. I had grown a lot and he had not. I saw him for the shallow, needy person that he really was. Yes, my heart would still flutter when he would gaze with those baby blues and smile that thousand-watt smile, but now they just seemed like tools in his arsenal: tactics to lure in the next “devotee du jour.” It was not necessarily calculated – just second-nature for him. I don’t think he had the capability to put that much thought behind it, even if he wanted to.
So he turned his attention elsewhere. And as I watched him work his golden magic on someone else, I’d hear the faint strains of a familiar song…. “Some of God’s greatest gifts… are Unanswered Praaaayers.”
Back in January of 2020, I posted an article written by Armistead Maupin for the September, 1980 issue of Blueboy Magazine. I mentioned that this magazine was part of my collection of vintage male erotica that is large enough to choke a horse – file boxes full of smut that were gifted to me by an old friend when he vacated his New York City apartment after 30 years. I was slowly selling them off on eBay, but that door slammed shut earlier this summer when the company decided that they did not need all the unholy illicit dirty sticky revenue generated by adult items. As of July, they have completely eliminated their adult section.
Sidenote: If anyone can recommend a halfway reputable website to peddle my gay wares, I would be very grateful.
As the end of this selling opportunity drew near, many vendors starting unloading their products at a discounted rate. I went in the opposite direction: Rather than listing these publications for less than their worth, I chose to buy up even MORE magazines at a discount
One of these recent acquisitions was the November, 1977 issue of Blueboy Magazine which featured an interview with The Pope of Trash: filmmaker John Waters.
This interview was conducted just as Desperate Living was about to be released.
This is the plea of a poor little tropical fish. It’s very sad and we must be very quiet, please.
Ladies and germs, it’s time once again to visit that celebrated lady of song, Madame Spivy LaVoe. To the uninitiated, allow me to get you up to speed:
Spivy (1906-1970) was a lesbian entertainer, nightclub owner and character actress, Spivy has been described as “The Female Noel Coward” – to which I add “…. if he had been born in Brooklyn as Bertha Levine.” You can read earlier posts about her here:
Today we will focus on A Tropical Fish. As with the previously mentioned Alley Cat, this song was co-written by Spivy with Jill “Billy” Rainsford. Both songs were featured on the 1939 78 record album Seven Gay Sophisticated Songs By Spivy.
As with Auntie’s Face, Spivy begins this song with her trademark “It’s very sad and we must be very quiet” spoken intro before launching into the tune, which tells the story of a tropical fish writing a letter of complaint to Fiorello LaGuardia, the Mayor of New York City (1934-1945).
A Tropical Fish
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, the clerk and the trombone player,
The child on the street and the ultra-elite all write letters to the mayor.
La Guardia’s most conscientious – he tries to grant everyone’s wish
But they went him one better when he got a letter from somebody’s tropical fish.
“Dear Mayor,” the letter began, “I’m writing as fish to man.
Our tank’s overheated and we’re being treated like common sardines in a can.
The way people watch us is quaint. Our privacy’s something what ain’t.
So be a good fella, my dear Fiorella and hear a poor fish’s complaint.
“To be quite specific, the food is terrific.
We’re on the hay diet – you really should try it.
It tastes like the hook – gee, I wish we could cook.
The service is lousy – we have no back-housey.
And it’s some spot to be in with no pot to … cook in.
“The innocent faunas are hiding in corners
Their love life is wearing with human eyes staring…
Why can’t we have covers like those birdcage lovers?
They’re hidden each night ‘til the morning sunlight
Then brought out to bath with no questions asked.
“Dear Mayor, I’ve been very frank… but you don’t know life in a tank.
Believe me, it’s hellish and you wouldn’t relish to sleep in the water you drank.
Now here’s what we tropicals wish: Some bedrooms to give us ambish.
Less public relations and more comfort stations.
A. Tropical Fish”
Lastly, here’s a syndicated article about Spivy that ran in newspapers across the country in late November, 1948. Note that her last name is mispelled “Devoe” with no mention of Bertha Levine.