Sunday, November 21, 2010

What is Butch?

Butch blogger Sinclair Sexsmith has invited me to be part of the Sugarbutch Chronicles Butch Symposium #1. Since Sinclair very flatteringly included me on last year’s list (#74) I feel not only indebted, but, as you can imagine, invested in maintaining my status and credibility. Read on below for my response to Sinclair’s Symposium #1 prompt:
“What is butch? How do you define butch? What do you love about it? What does it mean to you?”
I’ve been pondering this prompt for the past few weeks and trying to muster my creativity to say something original on the topic. As the proprietor of, obviously butch is a meaningful category for me.

Though there are also times in my life where I feel somewhat jaded and tired of having this discussion.

One of the things I often say (when I am interested in talking about butch identity) is that I think both butch and femme are concepts which people have very idiosyncratic understandings of — we are not always on the same page in our ideas of what it means to be butch. Whether talking about outward characteristics and mannerisms; more seemingly internal personality traits such as qualities of sensitivity, vulnerability; what we do in bed; etc. Much to talk about, no wonder I get weary of the conversation sometimes.

I do believe that the dialogues we feel so compelled to create around butch identity arise out of a deep desire to be understood (and to understand ourselves). We have a need for community, a need for heroes. And a need for the validation that can help us retain our sanity and self-esteem in a culture that rarely offers us affirming recognition and is far more likely to give us questioning looks, overt criticism, or a hard time about using a public bathroom.

Having grown up as a gender non-conforming child, and navigating life as a gender-trans adult, my butch identity has been a way of naming myself and proclaiming who I am — so that I might embrace these qualities and think of myself as a hero instead of an awkward, self-conscious mistake of nature.

I’m writing this on the weekend of Transgender Day of Remembrance and have been immersed in thoughts of Gwen Araujo — the transgender teen who was murdered here in the Bay Area in October 2002. I have come to know Gwen posthumously through the activism of her mother, Sylvia Guerrero.

The first time I saw Sylvia speak, at the first San Francisco Trans March in 2004, I remember experiencing an indescribable feeling of sadness and joy as Sylvia publicly expressed her love and compassion and support for her daughter. She proudly praised Gwen’s unique beauty. She righteously denounced not just Gwen’s murderers, but all of the people whose ignorance and fear prevented them from appreciating who Gwen was. Thinking back on this experience I remember wishing that Sylvia (who is in fact younger than I am) were my mother in that moment.

It would have been wonderful to have felt more understood by my parents when they were alive. To make up for that particular disappointment though, I am now having the spectacularly uplifting experience of feeling understood by my children.

In the intimacy of being a parent — being seen and loved by my kids who totally get me and embrace me for exactly who I am — I feel more deeply understood than I ever imagined possible. And I’m that much more hopeful for the future, as the kids of genderqueer people come of age and make the world a place of greater understanding for us all.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chuck Gorder (May 1, 1919 — November 16, 2010)

I feel compelled to write about my stepfather, Chuck who passed away on Tuesday morning at the age of 91. He was an amazing man and had a tremendous influence on me. I am always grateful to him for instilling and encouraging my passion for classic Hollywood cinema. From a very early age I used to flip through his big stack of 8x10 movie stills from the films of 1935 (the year he worked as an usher at the University Theater — now known as the Varsity — in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota East Bank campus). *Cited in 1999 City Pages article about me and my career as a film historian.

When I went to visit him a few weeks ago I recorded some of our conversations. He was speaking very slowly because of his recent stroke, but was really philosophical and so profound. I transcribed some of it last night as I was writing his obituary. It comes off very literary — almost like it was written, but this is literally what he said as he was reflecting on how hard it was to be approaching the end of his life in such a compromised state:
“I’ve lived a pretty full life. Had some good times, and some rotten ones… And so there’s nothing to be done. We continue to love each other and there’s no help for it. But there’s to be no weeping and wailing. It’s as though there’s nothing left to do… So I suppose it’s a funny kind of business where it just kind of persists. And neither life nor any resemblance to life is there. But you still can’t write it off, can you? You still can’t put a dot at the end of the sentence. I say, you still can’t put a dot at the end of the sentence.”
May his memory be for a blessing. Period.

NOTE: Here is the link to the obituary I wrote for Chuck, published in his hometown paper, the Albert Lea Tribune.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Get "Trailers, Schmailers" on DVD!

You're wondering what to get Bubbe and Zayde for Hanukkah?

Here's a nice little tchotchke they're sure to love!

I curated this program of classic Jewish movie trailers for the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in 1997 and am finally making it available on DVD just in time for Hanukkah (yes, just barely in time it's true).

Trailers, Schmailers is an 82-minute program of more than 30 Jewish coming attractions from 1937-1997 in color and glorious black and white (these are the original trailers, transferred from original 35mm prints). From the Marx Brothers to Fiddler On The Roof, this feature-length compilation of Jewish film trailers offers a compact glimpse at the history of Jews in American cinema. These original coming attractions trailers offer a unique insight into the relationship between Hollywood’s studio marketing departments and the growing visibility of Jews in American life. Trailers Schmailers includes playful spotlights on Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand, an overview of films about New York Jewish life, a look at the evolution of films about the holocaust, and much, much, more.

Esteemed Jewish film critic Michael Fox called Trailers, Schmailers: "Terrific" on its premiere at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. At the Jerusalem International Film Festival it was hailed as: “Wonderfully amusing. Everyone leaves the film with a smile.”

Click thru to the Trailers, Schmailers website to see the list of trailers included in the collection and more details. The DVD is available to individuals for just $24.95; there's also an institutional rate option (which includes public performance rights — for JCCs, libraries and community groups) for $72. It really does make a great program to generate discussion about Jewish representation in cinema — or just to create lively dialogue about memories of the Jewish films that have been most important to each of us over the years.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Blue Diary at PFA's Radical Light

My 1997 short film, Blue Diary is screening at the Pacific Film Archive on the 21st as part of the PFA's series, "Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area." I will be in attendance and am particularly excited to see all the other work in the program — come on out! Below is the PFA program note:
Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area

Sunday, November 21, 2010
5:15 p.m. 1990–1999

Artists in Person

By the 1990s, many Bay Area filmmakers were products of Bay Area film programs, with some, such as Sandra Davis, Jay Rosenblatt, and Greta Snider, going on to teach. Dominic Angerame continued to run Canyon Cinema, a distributor of experimental cinema; Scott Stark founded Flicker, which documents alternative cinema online; and Jenni Olson programmed for the local lesbian and gay film festival. These were artists who spent a lot of time viewing and thinking about cinema, which nurtured an interest in the particularities of the medium. For Greta Snider and the collaborative group silt, this included hand processing their film. Scott Stark and Jay Rosenblatt found new meaning in footage they found or collected while Kerry Laitala recontextualized antique medical slides. Cauleen Smith fabricated a personal history in her collage film, and Jenni Olson contrasted a recollection of a one-night stand with San Francisco’s urban landscape. In their films, Angerame, Davis, and Timoleon Wilkins each beautifully evoked a specific place.

Short of Breath (Jay Rosenblatt, 1990, 10 mins, Color). Chronicles of a Lying Spirit (by Kelly Gabron) (Cauleen Smith, 1991–, 5 mins, Color). Au Sud (To the South, Sandra Davis, 1991-99, 6.5 mins, From artist). Premonition (Dominic Angerame, 1995, 10 mins, B&W). Shadow of the Son (silt, 1995, 7 mins, Color, Super 8mm, From the artists). Flight (Greta Snider, 1996, 5 mins, Silent, B&W). Secure the Shadow (Kerry Laitala, 1997, 9 mins, Color, From the artist). Lake of the Spirits (Timoleon Wilkins, 1998, 7 mins, Color). Blue Diary (Jenni Olson, 1997, 6 mins, Color, PFA print). Noema (Scott Stark, 1998, 10 mins, Color).

• (Total running time: c. 80 mins, 16mm, From Canyon Cinema, unless indicated otherwise)
Click HERE for full details and tickets!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Kids Are All Right DVD Box Art = Less Lesbionic

Look! It's the classic de-gaying marketing campaign strategy in action on the DVD release of THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. (The DVD comes out November 16th and I'm not complaining, just saying). The recipe: Add the opposite sex character into the key-art to demonstrate greater appeal to straight audiences (the original movie poster was just the image you see at the bottom here — of all the characters seated around the table). 

At least this design choice has a fully legitimate rationale behind it — Mark Rufallo is terrific and is a full lead character in the film.

Unlike the ultimate example — Samuel Goldwyn Company's original theatrical poster for DESERTS HEARTS (featuring the addition of two straight minor characters to help the lesbians in the middle seem less lesbionic). An offense rectified by the Wolfe 20th Anniversary DVD re-release box art (below) which showcases the stars, Patricia Charbonneau and Helen Shaver, alone together as they ought to have been in the first place. 

And as I always say: Please go ahead and buy your DVDs from Wolfe Video: Your trusted community source for LGBT movies since 1985.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Eileen Myles: An American Poet

a love letter and short interview by Jenni Olson that was published somewhere back in the day.
*unearthed from the archives of 1992, yet no less relevant nearly 20 years later as her, "INFERNO: a poet's novel" is about to come out from O/R Books on November 30th. Click for more details HERE.

I am always hungry
and wanting to have
sex. This is a fact.

So begins "Peanut Butter" from Eileen Myles' 1991 collection of poetry, Not Me (Semiotexte).

I fell in love with Eileen Myles in 1989 when I first read her collection of short stories, Bread and Water (1987, Hanuman Books). Her simple reflections on life and love (and her picture on the cover) captured my heart. Who could resist such temptingly cynical prose as, "A woman uses you because you let her in so naturally never expected it's just chess." 

In 1991 I got myself onto Eileen's campaign letter mailing list (she was running for president as a write-in candidate). Eileen's mailing list. Eileen was writing letters to me.  She spelled my name wrong on the mailing label, but I didn't mind. She called me "Dear Citizen." A bit impersonal, but sort of a sweet idiosyncrasy, I thought (she was a poet, after all). She wrote about all kinds of things — political, and, well, personal. And she would stick the stamp on my envelope upside down. You know what that means. After awhile I realized that the stamps she used had a picture of the White House and a big American flag on them. So maybe it was just a political gesture. She probably put everyone's stamps on upside-down. Still, I think it was also her way of saying what Ross Perot got to say on national television — that she was running for president because she loved us.

In May, Eileen came to San Francisco to do a reading. At last I would meet her… and not have anything to say. "Loved your reading. Thanks," I managed anxiously.

I finally got the chance to interview Eileen in October of 1992 during her presidential campaign tour. In person, she's more handsome than I'd expected — looking like a full-blooded Kennedy, and with an unnerving idiosyncratic (Eastern?) personality that makes me incredibly anxious. Her gestures, expressions, speech are abrupt and bursting. Like her poetry. Interviewing her I feel too eager, feel like she doesn't know what to do with my nervous intensity. I'm afraid I'm acting like a fan. The whole experience makes me feel like crying.

Throughout 1991 and 1992, Eileen merged art and politics in a fabulous propaganda trek which took her to 20 states across the country, as well as Mexico and Canada. Keeping supporters informed through her unique series of campaign letters, Eileen expressed platforms on everything from reproductive rights to the North American Free Trade Agreement. She received some mainstream media coverage (MTV even interviewed her), and although Clinton won the race, she says of her campaign, "As an artist and poet it provided tons of opportunities for me to make speeches and make my work become more political."

Discussing her evolution as a writer, she recalls, "I didn't come out 'til I was 27. My poetry really took off when I came out. Falling in love and writing poems seemed like the same gesture." Personal changes in her life led to political changes in her work, she explains, "I stopped drinking almost ten years ago. My work started to get political when I got sober."

With her sensual vocabulary and dry sense of humor, Eileen entwines the personal and the political in both her prose and her poetry. In "A Poem" (from Not Me) she touches on relationships, world views and the meaning of art:

I want my black jersey back. Realistically
you must give it to me because I will keep
talking to your machine if you don't.
Our mayor is a murderer, our president
is a killer, Jean Harris is still not
free, which leads me to question the
ethics of our governor who I thought
was good. There is an argument
for poetry being deep but I am not that argument.

Eileen identifies as a "lesbian poet" but acknowledges that she has little in common with the canon of lesbian poets that includes Adriene Rich. The pitfall of, "being labelled a lesbian artist," she notes, "is that people think it tells you something about content. But I know it doesn't. It simply tells you something about me. And there is a gap between me and my work."

Although her presidential campaign is long past, her political campaign is only just beginning. "Ending things is my favorite part—the poet part, full of death & incredibly sweet," she wrote in her final campaign letter. "At this point I can say any damn thing I want."

Eileen Myles's was born in Boston and moved to New York in 1974. Her Inferno (a poet's novel) is just out from OR books. For her collection of essays, The Importance of Being Iceland, she received a Warhol/Creative Capital grant.Sorry Tree is her most recent book of poems. In 2010 the Poetry Society of America awarded Eileen the Shelley Prize. She is a Prof. Emeritus of Writing at UC San Diego. She lives in New York.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Outfest Legacy Project to restore 1971 Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day footage

Super exciting news on the LGBT Film Preservation front — check out this Outfest announcement (especially the last paragraph — ah, the glamor and excitement of queer film preservation):

"We are thrilled to announce that The UCLA Film & Television Archive in collaboration with the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation has been awarded a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to restore historic footage recorded at the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day in 1971.
Shot by a collective under the name Women's Liberation Cinema (including feminist writer Kate Millett and artist Susan Kleckner), this footage is extremely valuable documentation of one of the earliest events of the LGBT Rights movement: one of the first LGBT Pride marches in history. The restored footage will serve the LGBT community as well as academics and filmmakers seeking archival evidence of an event for which very little moving image documentation exists.
The 16mm film was in Ms. Kleckner's storage locker until 2006 when filmmaker Jenni Olson discovered it.  Ms. Olson delivered the reels to the Legacy Project, a collaborative effort of UCLA Film & Television Archive and Outfest."
The footage is really fantastic and I look forward to eventually seeing it show up in lots of forthcoming LGBT documentaries (when the preservation is done and UCLA/Outfest are able to make it available for stock footage licensing)! It is particularly exciting that there is a lot more footage of lesbians than you often see in archival gay Pride footage. Of course that is probably because it was shot by women!

So, attention documentary filmmakers! Here are some highlights of the footage you're going to want (from my original viewing notes):

  • Woman holding "I Enjoy Being a Dyke" sign and she is also holding a can of Tab! 
  • Pan up to big banner for: Christopher St. Gay Liberation Day 1971.
  • Shot of Radical Lesbians banner (and footage of Kate Millett in peasant blouse, long hair and weird sunglasses — this is just the year after the publication of her landmark book, Sexual Politics and her coming out as bisexual; and before NOW made their official statement in support of lesbian rights). 
  • Shot of yellow "GAY" balloons being blown up.
  • Great shot of a lesbian shooting a 16mm Bolex.
  • Woman holding up a "Come Out" sign.
  • When the march actually begins there is great shot with big banner from the Gay Activists Alliance! 
  • Shot of cheering construction workers.
  • Great shot of flyer on phone pole that says: Christopher Street Liberation Day March & Gay-In Sunday June 27th. And great pan over to front of march with banner on street corner (Prudential Savings Bank). This is probably the best reel - with all the people milling about in front before the start of the march and at least some of them must be recognizable figures in NYC gay movement.
  • End of march at Central Park. So many hippies! So much hand-holding! And so many smokers!

The Back Story of Finding the Film (because I like to reminisce):

In November, 2006 while I was in New York City for the Museum of Modern Art screening of my film, The Joy of Life — read the wildly entertaining account of THAT right HERE — I literally spent an entire day in Susan Kleckner's storage locker digging around trying to find the print and negative of this 1971 documentary called Three Lives (the film had been produced by Kate Millett and I had somewhat randomly mentioned to Barbara Hammer a few months earlier that I was in search of Kate's film and she said I should contact Susan Kleckner, thinking she was the likely holder of the film's original elements). We did find Three Lives in the storage locker (it, too is now in safe keeping at the UCLA/Outfest Legacy Project Collection).

And this Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day footage just happened to be in the same pile of dirty old film cans — it was a total surprise discovery, she had completely forgotten about it. Susan proceeded to tell me about the shooting process and how they had been in the midst of production on Three Lives, they had the camera equipment and the film stock and just decided they would go shoot some of the Liberation Day event.

Sadly, Susan passed away in July, 2010. I only had the chance to meet her that one time; she was extremely gracious, helpful and full of stories about the 70s and Feminism and Art, etc. She was also a photographer and filmmaker in her own right and taught at the International Center of Photography. We are all indebted to her for hanging on to this footage all those years!

It is really exciting that the footage will be preserved. And this is one more great reason to support the Outfest Legacy Project and all their amazing work.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'm Her

Just dug up this blog piece I wrote in January, 2007 for the dearly departed (a few hundred words of my writing — along with many thousands of others from OurChart and in particular — which I mistakenly assumed would be ever-available through the miracle of the Internet). Reposting this reflection here as it seems worthy of new posterity — until the demise of Blogger or other veritable catastrophe.

Writer-director Cheryl Dunye (The Owls, The Watermelon Woman, Stranger Inside) once sagely advised me that saying you’re “in development” on a film project sounds much better than saying you’re just “working on something.”

I’ve been “developing” my latest film (Get Me Guinevere Turner, or The Royal Road) for about two years now [make that five, since it is now 2010]. Being a filmmaker with a full time day job and a family makes for a unique, and very protracted, creative process (regardless of what you decide to call it). My last film (The Joy of Life) took eight years to get to the screen – six years of working on it in my non-existent spare time, followed by two years of actual production.

Slowly but surely this new film is taking shape as I scribble ideas on scraps of paper and make time for late-night online research hours. Like my previous films it’s hard to do it justice in a written description. But I will reveal that it is primarily a voiceover film incorporating static urban landscape shots, a variety of non-fiction narrative strands that take a while to get where they’re going, a yearning butch hero and a muse.

In the last few months of my research process I’ve been thinking a lot about narrative structures and heroes and how we attach ourselves to protagonists in the stories we’re told (in books, movies, etc.) And I recall that, as a little tomboy, my strategy for coping with the drama of our alcoholic household was to escape into old movies. Starting when I was about eight years old I discovered the joy of identifying with such unique models of masculinity as: Buster Keaton, Groucho Marx and Gary Cooper.

Gary Cooper was, of course, the quintessential strong silent type, and a vastly more complex figure than that other uber-butch matinee idol, John Wayne. Behind Gary Cooper’s silence was a desire to speak, where John Wayne just plain had nothing to say. Cooper’s perennial furrowed brow and aura of melancholy seemed to speak of some unknowable past injury, a lifetime of stoic heroism, a truly sensitive soul in need of a woman’s love — yet never quite capable of getting it.

That was me all over.

I’ve recently been enjoying a series of Care Bears books with my three-year old daughter [now seven!]. Sylvie provides daily evidence of my evolving theories about our desire for heroes and how we identify with protagonists in fiction.

There are about a dozen Care Bear characters, each embodying different positive character traits to be absorbed by our impressionable youngsters. In case you’re not familiar with them there’s Cheer Bear, Share Bear, Funshine Bear, Best Friend Bear. You get the idea. Each of them is a different color and has a unique symbol on its tummy: rainbow, star, heart, and so on. I think Sylvie is attracted to their respective colors and abdominal décor, rather than identifying with the characteristics they’re meant to convey.

The end-flap of the book has pictures of all the Care Bears, and Sylvie always insists on going through pointing to her favorites and saying: “I’m her and I’m her and I’m her.” Proving also that we have the capacity to identify with multiple protagonists.

We identify with certain kinds of protagonists because they enable us to feel like heroes in our own lives. They can genuinely make us feel better about ourselves. And when we tell people about our favorite characters, we desire to tell them something more about who we truly are.

And then, of course, there’s that critical difference between identifying with and being attracted to.

It wasn’t until I was ten or eleven that I discovered Ingrid Bergman. But when I did, I understood my connection to her was different than the one I had with Humphrey Bogart.

I never said to myself, “I’m her.”  But rather, I secretly cherished the fantasy: “I’m him.”

Whenever I’m asked my favorite L Word character it’s sort of a no-brainer. There aren’t a lot of choices available for my heroes. It used to be that Shane was the closest thing to butch. And now, of course, there’s Max.

Neither of them is quite adequate; but they’ll do for now.

Anyway, that’s why I’m making my own movie.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lesbian Movie Timeline & Kids Are All Right

With the DVD release date being announced for Lisa Cholodenko's THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (it's coming on November 16th) I figured it was a good time to re-promote this project I worked on for — The Lesbian & Bi Women's Movie Timeline. Click on that link to get a fun visual and textual showcase of the history of queer women's cinema!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Gorgeous Romy Schneider Shot

romy1958-1, originally uploaded by romy1938K.

Here is a really beautiful production still from the 1958 version of MADCHEN IN UNIFORM of Romy Schneider and one of her young co-stars. This is the scene where they are gossiping like the lovelorn schoolgirls they are about where their teacher (the beloved Frau von Bernburg played by Lilli Palmer) goes on the weekends. And yes, today is finally the US streetdate for the DVD release of the film from Wolfe. Please ask for it at your local video store or buy a copy now from or elsewhere. We are still trying to get Netflix to carry the damn thing and they say there is not sufficient demand — so please add it to your Netflix queue when you have a chance.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Life of Longing and Laforgue - at

In honor of the big day today (the 150th Birthday of Jules Laforgue) the folks at the fabulous Bay Area Film site, are running a piece that I wrote which is essentially the prologue to my new film project, Grandement Triste.

Here's an excerpt:
"A lifelong engagement which could even be said to supersede our commitments to friends, family, and lovers. That is how I would characterize our relationships with those certain special touchstone writers and artists whose work shapes our own sense of self, connects us via eloquent craft to the truths we hold most deeply.

My verging on Talmudic analysis of Jules Laforgue has been just this kind of lifetime connection. He is always there. Anchor, compass point, North Star of my soul-searching and angst. Even if I have now outgrown some aspects of my original attachment to him, he remains a central muse and inspiration for me."
Please go read the rest HERE.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ventana Inn & Spa review

Julie and I had a wonderful overnight getaway in Big Sur last month which I wrote up for's GPS blog. Read the full review HERE. And p.s. if you can't afford to actually stay at the Ventana Inn, you should just go check out the Restaurant at Ventana — it's a beautiful place and they served us really one of the most flavorful and delicious dinners I've ever had.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Alison Bechdel is Watching Out for Dykes & Madchen

I posted a plea for help this week to some friends and got this very supportive post from Alison Bechdel on her Dykes To Watch Out For blog!

Remember Mädchen in Uniform? The very steamy 1931 German film about girls at boarding school? My pal Jenni Olson has been working very hard to make a DVD release happen of the 1958 Romy Schneider/Lilli Palmer remake. I haven’t seen this but now we all can! Help Jenni succeed by adding the film to your Netflix queue or ordering it online.

Please go save MADCHEN to your Netflix queue now, too! Or BUY it from Wolfe for just $13.46!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jews & Baseball at SF Jewish Film Fest

How much do I love the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (unspooling from July 24-August 9 throughout the Bay Area)? It is one of the best festivals in the city (and you know we have a lot of them here). They always have top quality programming and legendary audiences — so whether you live in San Francisco, Berkeley, Palo Alto or San Rafael you must get out to see a movie this year (the 30th Anniversary program is terrific). For starters, I would recommend one of this year’s festival highlights: JEWS AND BASEBALL: AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY.

A true celebration of its titular topic, JEWS AND BASEBALL covers all the bases and then some. Ample and excellent archival footage makes for an absorbing visual experience, supported by interviews with historians and historic figures (many of these are fairly predictable, but a few of them really rise above — especially the Sandy Koufax sequence and Hank Greenberg’s kids talking about his special connection with Jackie Robinson). Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, the film is straight-forward and uplifting and sure to please even the non-baseball lover.

If you liked Aviva Kempner’s classic THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HANK GREENBERG you’ll love JEWS AND BASEBALL (okay, this is very funny — I just finished writing this and then went to look at the Jewish Film Festival program description of the film on — it concludes with the exact same final sentence!)

JEWS AND BASEBALL premieres on Sunday, July 25th at 1:15pm at the Castro Theatre as part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival with additional acreenings on Saturday, July 31 at 2:00pm at the Cinearts @ Palo Alto Square‎; Sunday, August 1 2010, 2:15pm at The Roda Theatre (at Berkeley Repertory Theatre); and Sunday, August 8 at 2:00pm at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.

The 30th Anniversary of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival takes place July 24-August 9, 2010 at the Castro Theatre and the JCCSF in San Francisco, Roda Theatre (at Berkeley Repertory Theatre) in Berkeley, the CineArts@Palo Alto Square in Palo Alto, and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael. The first and still the largest of its kind, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF) continues to search the globe for the best and brightest cinematic gems—offering a full complement of films, festivities, special discussion programs and international guests that highlight 5770 years of culture. For ticket information, please contact the box office at 866-55-TICKETS (866-558-2453) or 415-256-8499, or visit the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival online at

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This moment of June

“The triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.” —Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Well, actually:

life; San Francisco; this moment of June.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Appreciation & Analysis of QUEENS AT HEART

Gina at Skip The Makeup just posted a really terrific in-depth analysis and appreciation of QUEENS AT HEART (the amazing 1967 archival short I unearthed which was restored by The Legacy Project and will be playing next month at Outfest). Here's an excerpt from the blog:
"Back in the mid-90's, San Francisco film historian Jenni Olson would peruse collectors magazines like the now-defunct "The Big Reel" looking for hidden cinematic treasure. She came across a 35mm print being sold by an old projectionist in Kansas City for $75. Olson was always on the lookout for queer/trans-related titles and her radar instantly went up when she saw the title "Queens at Heart" and thought it might be related to the subject of drag."

Read the rest HERE.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Times of Vito Russo teaser trailer

Documentary filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz is currently in production on this exciting celebration and showcase of one of the greatest LGBT activists of all time. Vito Russo was one of the founders of the gay liberation movement, a driving force in ACT-UP, and a pioneer in the exploration of LGBT representations in film. He was also one of my mentors and his book The Celluloid Closet basically saved my life. Take a minute to watch this trailer and then click through HERE to join the Facebook page for the film (and please contribute to support the film if you can).

P.S. I was interviewed for the film (whether I end up on the cutting room floor or up on the big screen only time will tell — but in the meantime for some reason I am—happily—listed fifth in the cast credits on IMDb! Just after Michael Musto and before Larry Kramer).

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

17 Reasons Because

Back in April 2007 I wrote this blog post for (the fabulous L Word social network site that no longer exists). It is the 5th anniversary of the demise of the legendary 17 Reasons sign and seems a good time to re-post this. If you have not seen this episode of The L Word you definitely should (the sign figures heavily in the plot). Read on to learn more and you should also check out this great new piece about the sign on — which is what reminded me to post THIS item right now..

NEWSFLASH! That wonderfully enigmatic fictional structure that helps Bette win Jodie’s heart actually exists.

The legendary 17 Reasons sign was one of the most treasured landmarks of San Francisco’s Mission District until it was surreptitiously torn down in May 2002 and replaced by a thirty-three foot square illegal billboard (which continues to be leased by San Francisco outdoor signage company Foster Media Inc.) The “Why” part of the original sign had been taken down years prior, and currently resides in a nearby design studio on Shotwell Street.

An Architectural Touchstone
Like many San Franciscans, I fell in love with the 17 Reasons sign the first time I saw it – monumental and enigmatic, perched high atop the Thrift Town at 17th Street and Mission this nostalgic beacon had the charismatic appeal and architectural grandeur of Great Art. And the whimsical joy of poetry! It’s meaning was so unclear that it lent itself to philosophical, even spiritual interpretation. It was a true icon (or as I said to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003, during the time when there seemed to be some hope of saving the sign: "It has always been inspirational to me as an artist. It's an architectural touchstone.")

In 1997, when I made my first 16mm urban landscape film, Blue Diary (now available as an extra on The Joy of Life DVD – click HERE to pop it in your Netflix queue today) the 17 Reasons sign was one of the first locations we shot. It was so beautiful in the early morning light.

Erected in 1935, the 17 Reasons Why sign was a terrific Depression era commercial advertising structure, which originally sported neon tubing and stood as a neighborhood landmark promoting the Redlicks Furniture Store (check out this Google map link for 2101 Mission Street and you can see the billboard atop the building).

1,089 square-foot spectacular
Local film archivist Stephen Parr looked out his window one fine morning in May 2002 to see the sign being cut apart and hauled away. Parr went all the way to a Benicia salvage yard to rescue the pieces and bring them back to the neighborhood in hopes of somehow restoring the icon to its rightful home. Neighborhood activists then unsuccessfully approached the San Francisco Board of Appeals in an attempt to force the building’s owners to restore the sign (and remove the billboard which was erected less than a year after the passage of Proposition G, a measure banning all new general advertising in the city). Alas, their efforts failed and the billboard continues to blight the intersection (or as the Foster Media Inc. website proudly proclaims: “This 1,089 square-foot spectacular can be seen by heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic on Mission Street, travelers heading east on Seventeenth Street and residents going through the Castro District.”)

I stopped by Parr’s office (home of The San Francisco Media Archive and Oddball Film + Video) to photograph the sign last week. The word REASONS takes up the entire wall of one room. The twenty-one-foot high 17 had to be cut into pieces for transport and is now nestled between the shelving units that hold Parr’s vast holdings of archival film prints (which also includes the Jenni Olson LGBT Film Archive).

Parr expresses little hope that the sign will ever be restored to its original home. “I’m still trying to find a home for the 17 -- preferably indoors,” says Parr. “My ultimate goal is for it to be all together in one place, here in the Bay Area. Like the lobby of a building or some large public space.”

How did it end up on The L Word?
The other story behind the story: OurChart’s Beth Callaghan (photographer and erstwhile inner-city archeologist) has been documenting San Francisco’s historic urban advertising for years — from the faded, painted ads that once covered the exteriors of Tenderloin hotels to the understated Lipton Tea and MJB Coffee promotions that once graced the windows of every corner store in town. When L Word creator Ilene Chaiken needed a piece of vintage sign art for her season finale plot device she turned to the expert, and Callaghan turned her on to the long-lost 17 Reasons sign.

My original OurChart piece had lots of images in it but I don't have time to pull that all together, so. Here is a link to my Flickr photoset with a bunch of shots. And to see more images of the sign visit the 17 Reasons Why Group Flickr Pool!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Fave Quotes: The Great Gatsby

"I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night, and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter into their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others—poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner—young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of the night and life."
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Remembering Kristen Pfaff (May 26, 1967 - June 16, 1994)

Recently discovered this great photo of Kristen via a very kind Hole fan in Italy who sent it to me. It's sweet how this shot conveys her joyful spirit — seems like almost all of the publicity shots for her work with Hole are kind of dark or sad. This image more accurately reflects my memory of her (though the time we spent together was in the late '80s and this picture is from the early '90s). She was so talented. She used to play these very melodic, incredibly beautiful little instrumental riffs for me on her bass (early on, in Minneapolis before she was playing in any bands). I have this vivid memory of a horrible, rainy New York City trip we took together — I remember breaking up with her at Dojo Restaurant on St. Mark's Place after a cockroach crawled out from under my napkin. The last time I saw her was after her last Hole gig at Slim's in November 1993. So sad, so sad.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Listen to Harvey on Harvey Milk Day

This coming weekend people all across California are celebrating the new State Holiday of May 22nd (Harvey Milk’s birthday). And people all across the country, from Alabama to Washington, are mobilizing around Harvey Milk Day as well. You can visit to find a rally or a celebration near you.

Or if you've got about seven minutes to spare right now you can take a listen to Harvey in his own words — in this little film I made called 575 Castro St.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Like, As If!

More, still more, little buttons to push. Clicking our way into imagined posterity—we crave impact, want to be recognized for our oh-so-unique individual cleverness, deeply held activist beliefs, conspicuous consumption, what have you. We will absolutely achieve our fifteen minutes of celebrity to bolster our gelatinous egos.

Andy Warhol had no idea this quarter-hour spotlight would occur on a daily basis. And it doesn't take Jean-Paul Sartre to recognize the pathos of this desperate existential flailing—making our marks on physically non-existent walls and "liking" (dog-earing) millions of "pages" when we could be, oh, I don't know, writing our memoirs in a cafe somewhere over poached eggs on wheat toast with a double cappuccino in the sharp morning light of April.

Monday, April 19, 2010 R.I.P.

The cheerful April 7th headline: "PlanetOut Has a New Family" appears to be the sole indicator on the world wide web of the sad ultimate demise of the URL (which is now re-directed to under the ownership of Here Media). The saddest thing of all has to be the fact that this moment seems to have gone past unnoticed by gay bloggers and traditional LGBT media alike.

I'm having my own personal moment of silence for this final nail in the coffin.

Okay, no, actually the saddest thing is the incredibly lame clip art image (above) that they used for the post.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Olson-Dorfs in Curve Magazine

On my way to pick up Hazel from school on Thursday afternoon I swung by the offices of Curve Magazine to pick up a copy of the new April issue which features a substantial profile of me and Julie — and a great photo of us with the kids taken by the fabulous Daniel Nicoletta. The article is part of a very nice series of profiles called Family Values. Plus there's a great cover story about the new dykesploitation movie, Bitch Slap (from the guys who made Xena: Warrior Princess). Pick up a copy today!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Real Lesbian 501s Commercial

The first short I ever made was called Levi's 501s Commercial. It was significantly more explicit than this one and was a sexy riff on the whole: "What do you do in your 501s?" campaign of the early '90s. You can possibly guess what I was doing in mine. Every time I try to submit the details for it to for my filmography they reject it — even though it played the LGBT film fest circuit and is a real, actual short film. In any case, it is nice to see that the Levi's folks have finally created their own lesbian 501s ad lo' these nearly twenty years later.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Using Google Map for my Laforgue project

My Google Map from my pilgrimage to Montevideo — tracking my attempt to find the birthplace of Jules Laforgue.