Tag Archives: sexy

‘Powder Her Face’ considers the fate of women of celebrity

Consider Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, the Kim Kardashian of yesteryear. 

In the mid-20th century, the wealthy socialite was considered one of the most prominent persons in Britain, a celebrity whose appearances and undertakings were followed by her social peers as well as lower classes. That celebrity status would backfire during her divorce proceedings in 1963, when her husband exposed evidence of affairs including Polaroid photographs of Campbell naked and performing sexual acts with men. 

After that, the reputation of Campbell — who was dubbed the “Dirty Duchess” in the press — would be forever linked with that scandal. Even an opera about her life, Powder Her Face, was tarred with the same brush. Audiences at its 1995 premiere immediately fixated on its infamous “fellatio aria,” which the soprano playing the Duchess hums while simulating oral sex. Subsequent productions have presented the work as a “shock opera,” amplifying the scandal by emphasizing its nudity and debauchery at the Duchess’ expense.

Viswa Subbaraman, artistic director of Skylight Music Theatre, took a different approach when he and late director Sandra Bernhard approached the material in 2011 while he was running Houston’s Opera Vista company. They took a new look at the Duchess and told the story from her perspective — as a way to make his audience consider what our society does to women of celebrity. He’ll get a second chance to do so in Milwaukee, with new director Robin Guarino leading the way, and is excited to realize his shared vision on a radically bigger scale.

Composed by Thomas Adés with a libretto by Philip Hensher, Powder Her Face opens in the 1990s as the Duchess (Cassandra Black, reprising the role she played in 2011) is being evicted from her hotel due to not paying her bill. Throughout, the story jumps back in time to reveal how Campbell lost her powerful social position, with a Hotel Manager (Joseph Beutel), Electrician (Ben Robinson, also returning) and Maid (Kaleigh Rae Gamaché) playing multiple roles past and present.

In many productions, these flashback elements are played as farce. But Subbaraman says it was important to him, as well as Bernhard and Guarino (two of the only female directors to ever handle the production), that the Duchess’ liaisons and heartbreaks be treated seriously, and that the production treat her as a complex person who was not merely the figure depicted by the press and mocked by society.

Subbaraman says the fellatio scene is perhaps the best example of what they’re going for. While it’s usually depicted as an outlandish moment with lots of nudity and mocking of the Duchess, he says Hensher may have had a different, more nuanced interpretation — referring to the scene as “the ultimate silencing of women through sex.” 

With that in mind, Subbaraman says, the Skylight’s production minimizes the shock value of the scene, leaving the Duchess a sympathetic figure. “That’s a sex act that people do,” he says. “It’s not as though it’s something we should run away from. … That one moment and the way that scene is treated completely changes the way we respond to her at the end of the opera, when she’s telling us about everything she’s lost.”

Subbaraman also believes their approach to Powder Her Face allows audiences to better appreciate the music of Adés, who he considers to be one of the most important composers living and working today. Adés is best known for his orchestral work, but Subbaraman thinks it’s easier for first-time listeners to engage with his complex work via stage productions because you can follow characters and plot as you listen. 

“The music is probably some of the hardest written — it doesn’t sound that way necessarily all the time,” he says. “In an effort to create an improvisatory feel, he over-notates the music, so it’s incredibly rhythmic. Rhythms are constantly changing … that makes it a very difficult thing for everyone.”

Subbaraman says this staging won’t simply be a retread of his Houston production, even though Guarino was hand-picked by Bernhard before her death of a rare cancer in 2015. He says the Opera Vista production was incredibly low-budget, designed to make a splash specifically because they were able to pull it off despite limited resources — the cast had no permanent rehearsal space, Subbaraman put together the set himself, Black sewed her own costumes and three days before opening they were still checking thrift stores for mattresses.

The resources of the Skylight have allowed Subbaraman, Guarino and their team to take Bernhard’s original vision and make it even better than before, he says, with exemplary design elements (including the work of costume director and fashion designer César Galindo, last seen designing Cinderella in 2014) and the ability for the cast to explore these characters in a deeper way. “It’s a different production in its whole,” Subbaraman says.

And it’s an important one, because the problems illuminated by the Skylight’s production of Powder Her Face haven’t mysteriously vanished in the modern age. Shortly after starting rehearsals, Subbaraman stumbled across an article about rising movie star Jennifer Lawrence. It decreed that the young actor, less than a decade into her career, had already used up her time in the spotlight.

“She’s 25! She’s a brilliant actor! And suddenly she’s ‘over’?” he says. “We as a society tend to discard women of celebrity very easily, when they no longer amuse us in the way we expect them to. … That’s part of what we’re trying to talk about in the way we look at this show.”

ON STAGE

Skylight Music Theatre’s production of Powder Her Face runs Jan. 29 to Feb. 14 at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, Milwaukee. Tickets range from $25 to $75 and can be purchased at 414-291-7800 or skylightmusictheatre.org. Due to explicit language and sexual subject matter, this production is recommended for mature audiences only.

What’s in, what’s out and what’s offensive this Halloween

Halloween used to be for children, but adults’ interest in continuing the fun of their youth has turned the holiday into a huge event — and moneymaker. Grownups also have turned the  outré holiday into one that strains the limits of acceptable taste and behavior, and each year ups the ante.

Estimates of what consumers spent last Halloween are as high as $11.4 billion, when you combine the costs of costumes, decorations and candy, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Helping to push the popularity of Halloween are the pop-up stores that arrive everywhere out of nowhere each fall, just before the leaves start to turn. They take over high-profile but abandoned retail spaces like demons invading bodies on the CW series Supernatural.

Operated by companies such as Halloween Express and Spirit Halloween, they give what once was the eve of All Saints Day a boost in visibility. They also provide tempting opportunities to find something clever to wear for busy adults who don’t have the time or talent to make their own costumes.

Spirit Halloween, a chain of more than 1,150 pop-up shops across the country, typifies the strategy and has honed it to a science. The company crams an impressive amount of business into a short amount of time. The staff swells from the hundreds to more than 20,000 starting in June and the company makes its revenue for the year in less than three months. The typical store takes six days to set up, opening Aug. 21 and closing Nov. 1.

“We are equivalent to an army operation in terms of the way we mobilize and move products,” says Steven Silverstein, CEO of the New Jersey-based company.

Although pop-up stores have been around for decades, they exploded when retailers got the idea of short-term rentals for holidays like Halloween and Christmas. Spirit Halloween was launched in 1983, as the holiday’s focus was evolving from children and trick-or-treating to parties for people of all ages, Silverstein says.

Planning for this Halloween began over a year ago. For example, it takes 18 months to design and produce elaborately spooky in-store displays.

Employees scout for locations throughout the year. Merchandise starts rolling into Spirit Halloween’s warehouses in May. By summer, sites have been chosen and, by mid-August, the stores are prepped to receive the goods. Trucks start arriving and the locations go from bare walls and floors to racks and shelves bursting with costumes, accessories, props and home decor.

What’s in?

On a recent gray Sunday afternoon, a clerk at Party City in Brown Deer said girls this year still are asking for costumes based on the 2013 animated film Frozen, demonstrating the deep cultural impact of the movie’s female empowerment story. 

Girls also are expected to choose a lot of costumes based on the Disney TV movie The Descendants, the story of the children of Disney characters such as Cruella De Vil and Cinderella.

For boys, another holdover is expected to dominate — in their case the reptilian superheroes of the 2014 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Expect to see a lot of Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael.

Children love the Turtles, and so do adults who watched them on TV and in movies when they were kids, Silverstein says.

Adult costumes and accessories based on TV shows like The Walking Dead and Orange Is the New Black are expected to sell well. Costumes based on superheroes like The Avengers or Batman will be brisk sellers.

From the political arena, there will be lots of Donald Trumps, Taylor Swifts and even costumes based on anti-gay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. In Wisconsin, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a scattering of Scott Walkers slithering about (to download your own Walker mask click here). 

As usual, corsets and skimpy outfits for women are likely to attract a lot of partygoers. Risqué costumes for women are always big Halloween sellers.

For adults with gorier tastes, Halloween fare this year includes bloodied zombies and ghouls and characters from slasher movie classics like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th — proving that when it comes to Halloween, some things never die.

Halloween culture wars

Taken as a group, the most popular costumes donned each year provide something of a cultural snapshot of that moment in time. The most revealing tend to be the politically incorrect.

Given that, every Halloween sparks national arguments over cstumes that reflect current events in ways that are widely considered tasteless.

In the early 1980s, drag queens dressed as Joan Crawford — holding baby dolls and coat hangers — were ubiquitous at gay Halloween parades. That was a cultural response to Christina Crawford’s tell-all memoir and the subsequent movie Mommy Dearest, which chronicled the movie icon’s allegedly brutal maternal skills. 

As critics pointed out at the time, child abuse is not a laughing matter. But that didn’t dampen the Halloween merriment that the book and movie unleashed.

Every Halloween brings a new incarnation of the Halloween culture wars. They heated up early this year. In August, petitions and social media outrage were already flying over a blood-spattered dentist’s smock paired with a Cecil-like lion head and over a replica of Caitlyn Jenner’s cream-colored corset set she wore on the cover of Vanity Fair.

“Trans is not a costume. Even though Caitlyn is a public figure and I could understand someone wanting to celebrate her as a hero and as a public figure, this could definitely take on a transphobic vibe,” said Addison Rose Vincent, an activist who started a Change.org petition asking Spirit Halloween to stop selling the costume, in an interview with Philly Voice.

“We create a wide range of costumes that are often based on celebrities, public figures, heroes and superheroes,” Lisa Barr, a spokeswoman for Spirit Halloween, responded in a statement. “Caitlyn Jenner is all of the above and our Caitlyn-inspired costume reflects just that.”

Is a Halloween costume that can be interpreted as ridiculing transgender people or one that laughs at the illegal butchering of the globally loved lion Cecil any different from Julianne Hough’s wearing of blackface or Prince Harry’s turn as a non-Halloween Nazi?

Richard Lachmann, a professor at the University of Albany who includes Halloween in his sociology of culture course, said costumes seem to be more provocative every year, with equally amped-up backlash. And there’s always a base of people who feel it’s an “irreligious pagan holiday to begin with and are ready to be upset,” he said.

Throw in a heavy dose of gore, loaded parody and ultra-sexy costumes, Lachmann added, and Halloween is now a free-for-all debate on what crosses the line of decency.

But is there a line at all?

“It seems like there isn’t,” he said. “The point for adults is to be provocative, to do something that breaks the lines of what’s considered acceptable.”

Still, one costume was yanked from the shelves of a Party City store in Waukesha for hitting too close to home.

That costume is based on the horror character Slender Man. In May, two 12-year-old girls stabbed a friend  19 times in a delusional attempt to curry favor with the fictional fiend.

When locals spotted the costume in a store just miles from where the girl was stabbed, they protested to the company, which agreed to remove the “Slenderman Partysuit” from local shelves.

“Our thoughts and condolences go out to family and friends of the victim and the entire local community,” store reps said in a statement to NBC 5 Chicago. “The local area stores have pulled the costume in question. Party City sells merchandise and costumes for all types of Halloween customers, and nothing we carry is meant to be offensive.”

The manager of a local Halloween Express also opted to pull the costume from his store, although it’s still available online at both companies’ websites, as well as Spirit Halloween’s website.

To download your Scott Walker mask, click here.

— The Associated Press contributed to this story

Las Vegas’ new ad campaign pushes ‘sexy’ watering habits

Another part of the drought-ridden West is attempting to make water conservation sexy, this time with funny ads in Las Vegas.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority this week launched a campaign on television, radio, print and social media themed: “There’s Nothing Sexier Than Saving Water.” The ads were developed by R&R Partners, the firm behind Vegas’ most famous tagline: “What Happens Here, Stays Here.”

The new advertisements depict people adjusting watering clocks as people ogle with lust. It coincides with the new fall restrictions that began this week, which through Oct. 31 limits watering to three days a week and prohibits sprinklers during the day and misting systems at businesses.

In June, San Francisco officials also unveiled sexy ads, which urged residents to go “full-frontal” and take short, steamy showers.

Spokesman Scott Huntley said the new Las Vegas campaign was developed over the last year and that Nevada officials were not aware of San Francisco’s recent ads.

He said the Nevada water agency has for years done two-week long “compliance” promotions during the seasonal transitions, using humorous messages to remind users to be complaint. Violators are first given warnings before fines start at $100, exceeding $1,000 for repeat offenders.

The advertising, which cost about $1.6 million annually, is a part of the longstanding effort to plug water conservation in the desert area that has been in drought for years.

“We were the first to the game on this. We’ve had a tremendous amount of success that’s being emulated in other places,” Huntley said.

The previous “Don’t Make Us Ask You Again” theme was used for eight years in Vegas and featured male-centric slapstick humor because research showed that the typical household water controller was, according to Huntley, a “Joe Six Pack,” or a man in his late 20s to 50s.

And perhaps as proof that sex sells to everyone, Huntley said the new ads were made to also target expanding demographics, including those who are older and more diverse and female.

“There are certainly things that grab people’s attention and humor does it a lot and one of the primary aspects of humor is the sexual humor, the sexy humor — that’s one of the basics,” Huntley said.

Ohio woman who loathed name legally becomes ‘Sexy’

In her application, Crabtree called her given name “the ugliest one out there.” She says that if the court didn’t allow the switch to “Sexy”, she’d try to become known legally by her middle name, which she has used for years.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Crabtree told a judge that her husband and teenage daughters approve of the change.

When the judge asked why she chose “Sexy,” Crabtree said she’s fun and free-spirited and thought the change would make her complete.

Gay Republicans denounce gay-themed health care video

A new holiday-themed video that features guys in underwear encourages gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to stay healthy and get enrolled in health care insurance.

The guys in briefs in the brief video have some in the community complaining about stereotypes and others humming along to the tune of “Let it Snow.”

In a statement released over the weekend, the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group, denounced the video.

“This cynical ad betrays the depths Obamacare advocates will sink to in order to pad their pathetic enrollment numbers,” Log Cabin Republicans executive director Gregory T. Angelo declared. “As a self-proclaimed ‘fierce advocate’ of gay equality, President Obama would do well to distance himself from this nonsense and denounce it immediately.”

Angelo, in the news release, also said, “This ad is also an example of the left promoting harmful stereotypes that gay men are nothing more than sex-crazed lechers. If anyone on the right made such a comparison, liberals would be apoplectic. At a time when left-wing propagandists are decrying ‘Duck Dynasty”s Phil Robertson for equating homosexuality with promiscuity and deviance, Out2Enroll and others should take a look in the mirror and ask if the truth is that they are the ones responsible for promoting such harmful stereotypes.”

Out2Enroll is a coalition of groups that have been working with the Obama administration to encourage LGBT to buy health care insurance and also get educated about the benefits provided under the Affordable Care Act.

An announcement from Out2Enroll said the holiday parody was produced by Full Frontal Freedom and aims to bring awareness to the final week of health marketplace enrollment.

Click for more information about Out2Enroll.

And click to see the video.

WiG Gift Guide: Sexy gifts

“Clinically confirmed” to be the only lubricant with anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-yeast properties, Simply Slick is manufactured on Paul Ryan’s home turf — Janesville, Wis. It also is the only condom-safe oil-based lube.

Made from 95-percent certified organic ingredients, Simply Slick is free of parabens, hormones, silicone and petroleum products. It’s designed to “stay on the surface” to which it’s applied, without being absorbed into the skin. That means a little goes a long way.

Simply Slick is available from the manufacturer at simplyslick.com or a retail outlet such as pridefactory.myshopify.com.

The aptly named Überlube takes lubrication to the next level — as a multi-purpose product. A “silky” premium lubricant made from “friendly, inert ingredients,” Überlube also is useful as an anti-chafing gel for sporting folks and can serve as a frizz-smoothing finishing product on hair. It comes in an unassuming, “nightstand-friendly” dispenser. More information is available at uberlube.com.

The gift of hotness

J&D’s Sriracha Candy Canes can turn kissing that special someone under the mistletoe into a fiery experience. This scorching holiday candy makes a great stocking stuffer individually or in boxes of 12. Visit jdfoods.net.

One of the world’s favorite aphrodisiacs, chocolate is innately hot. For amazing flavor combinations that are handmade from scratch, look no further than ChocoBella, 2474 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood.

The Tool Shed, 2427 N. Murray Ave., is Milwaukee’s first women-owned shop catering to erotic necessities. From sexy underwear and intimate apparel to sex toys, jewelry (both visible and not), condoms and leather/bondage gear, this “erotic boutique” has everything you need for the sexually active people on your gift list. There are also plenty of unique items for stocking stuffers. For more, go to www.toolshedtoys.com.

Before donning your favorite holiday sweater, Santa tie and/or Christmas tree earrings, why not add a distinctive smell to your gay apparel? Power Bacon Deodorant, created for active folks or those “who just sweat like pigs,” can be found jdfoods.net.