"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, April 30, 2023

When Snoop Dogg Played Eleanor Roosevelt–Authenticity, Identity, And Diversity On The Great White Way

“I ain’t playin’ no old white bitch”, Dogg said when approached by his agent for the title role in a modern remake of Hyde Park on the Hudson, this time featuring FDR’s wife, Eleanor.  It had to be a joke, some weird Broadway-meets-AOC shit that his agent had cooked up with David Mellick wannabees in the Brill building. “Yes, massah, I’se gwine to plow dem fields o’ cotton bullshit, harness up ol’ Dogg, dress me up like a black mammy talking slave talk to de white folk.  Fuck that shit”.

Dogg’s career had been lagging for some time since his old rap days, peddling beer in be happy bonding commercials was his latter day showpiece, and he admitted he needed a boost.  “Just think of it”, his agent offered.  “Playing the whitest lady in American history, crossing the color line once and for all, burying racism and white assumptions forever.  Forget Denzel Washington as Macbeth or Papaa Essiedu as Hamlet.  Whiteface, white aspirations, white thinking.  You, my man, are the  blackest black man around, the black man who has given authenticity the attention it deserves.  Now any black actor can be Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe material when the ur- black man, Snoop Dogg, plays a fluty-voiced, bosomy, buck-toothed old woman.

Snoop Dogg | Rap Wiki | Fandom

‘You jivin’ me’, said Dogg.  Despite being brought up in Long Beach, he turned into a Compton bad boy right before his parents’ eyes (they wanted him to be a doctor).  They should have seen the genius of the boy and how he could play George Washington if he wanted, transforming the ghetto into a white Elysium. Dogg could be authentic – playing a crackhead – but could also suspend disbelief.  Black actors could play anyone of any stripe and make it real. Minority actors, the disabled, dwarfed, and LGBTQ+ were encouraged to play against type.  What was wrong with Dogg playing Mrs. Roosevelt? Good for his career and integration. Bernstein was a genius of both authenticity and cross-identity placement.

Dogg’s favorite role had been the crippled crack dealer in Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day, a street-tough motherfucker more ghetto than ghetto in a wheelchair goddamn it; but then he was typecast, locked in to street crime, jive, and bling when he preferred Picasso.  He hit the big time in the black salad years – everything black was good, street creds spiked on the market, the black experience; but the black thang had trapped him in the same cotton pickin’ wagon white people had for generations.  Maybe it was time to lose the ‘hood.

Yet losing the ‘hood meant that ‘they’ wanted you to act as white as white could be – Hamlet, Macbeth, and Alexander Hamilton – to prove your real worth.  if you could act so white, so bloody upper class English white that audiences would forget you were black, you had really made it.  Make black disappear, then turn around and make it appear as nasty, bad, and ghetto as you could make it.  A whiplash, stable boy to king and back again.

Tennessee Williams was once told by a reviewer that he created such good roles for women because he was a woman – a proud gay man who would rather be a floozy than a stud – but Williams was nonplussed.  I create great parts for women, he said, because i am a great playwright, and Sean Penn no limp-wristed Castro boy played Harvey Milk to a ‘T’.  Why not? he said.  He was a great actor.  So the only better offer from Bernstein would have been to play Vita Sackville West or her lesbian lover Virginia Woolf –gay white women played by a pimp-walking Compton banger.

Tennessee Williams - Wikipedia

In this woke age where transformation is the rule, and playing against type is A-list, where macho men turn frilly and sensitive, where girly girls go E-boots and flannel in Bernal Heights, where identity is a gender-reveal parlor game, and where race is a shell game, which black man will pop up and disappear before your eyes?

This, thought Bernstein, Dogg’s agent and master of the cross-acting authenticity phenomenon and never troubled about principle and therefore a super-agent , is what Xi and Putin see when they look at America.  America the vaudevillian, the carny clown, the side show freak, a gay Punch and Judy, a black Goodnight Moon.  They, imperialist nationalists, czarists and Mandarins, and modern day princes,  rule homogeneity.  ‘Diversity’ is a bad joke.  Rus and the Tang Dynasty are not.

The Enduring Wisdom of 'Goodnight Moon' - The New York Times

Bernstein had become known as the go-to agent for the younger generation of minority actors who saw their window of opportunity finally open.  Bernstein could sniff out diversity roles and create them where none existed.  Why don’t you put a gay actor here, a black one there, an Asian one where nobody thought to look.  My stable is filled with thoroughbreds, he said, of many breeds.  He could produce a disabled white or black man, a gay Asian or Pacific Islander, and any combination thereof.  Jerome Martin, a black, gay dwarf was his biggest money-earner.  Producers looking for a two- or three-in-one minority gesture paid top dollar for Martin, and Bernstein had two equally identified and qualified stand-ins in the wings.   Business was booming, and he was featured in a lead article in the New Yorker (‘Black Stars Align For the Genius of the Great White Way’).  According to the magazine, Bernstein could do no wrong, so attentive was he to the reformation and restructuring of Broadway and Hollywood.  ‘No one is missing from the client list of this most catholic of agents’.

As a matter of fact, wrote the New Yorker, Bernstein represents no white actors.  ‘They have had their day’, he said. ‘A good run, but their finish line has long been crossed’.  Bernstein of course felt no such thing.  The greatest actors on stage and screen were still white.  Laurence Fishburne could never match Olivier’s blackface Othello, nor could any black actor possibly match Gielgud as Hamlet; and here Bernstein played the race card – the same one played by aspiring black actors and their supporters.  British actors had Shakespeare in their blood and the blood of Henry IV, Richard III, and Margaret of Aquitaine.   Al Pacino was told by classic British Shakespearean actors that he couldn’t possibly Richard III.  It was not a matter of talent, but inheritance.

Richard III: Laurence Olivier's melodramatic baddie is seriously limp |  Movies | The Guardian

Since Bernstein was a canny, savvy agent fortunately free from the trammels of political philosophy, he willingly and happily promoted his stable of blacks, gays, women, small people, and the disabled to play any role at any time.  What better Richard III than a dwarf? Why not a gay man playing Tamora, the Queen of the Goths, mutilator of women, rape-protagonist, and viciously ambitious harridan?

When the producer of a play or movie called for authenticity – black men for black male roles, for example – he was right there.  When another producer asked for against type, revolutionary roles, he always had innovative ideas.  Be ironic, he said, and pick a lesbians to play tough, brutish kings.  Bernstein was not the go-to man on Broadway for nothing.

“Who said there’s no money in diversity?”, Bernstein – Park Avenue, Hamptons, Biarritz, Gstaad, Rimini Bernstein – opined.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

‘I’m Running Again!’–The Sorry Dotage Of A President Who Doesn't Know What's What

“I’m going to run again”, the President said, turning to his wife. "The country needs me.”

Benjamin Dixon on Twitter: "Biden is going to look like a deer in headlights  against Trump. Don't say no one tried to warn you. https://t.co/Yx2k9193TM"  / Twitter

Jill turned over, gave her husband an affectionate kiss on the cheek. ‘We’ll talk about it in the morning’.

The First Lady knew the decision was coming and dreaded it.  Poor Joe would have to enduring two hard years of insults, questions about his mind, and cruel asides about his increasingly wobbliness. She couldn’t always be there at his side, the teleprompter script was only so big, and his handlers only so loyal.  

She knew that there was dissension in the ranks – aides who wanted him to move aside and make room for a younger man or that uppity Haitian woman who banged on about gay this, transgender that and for all her sparkly credentials was out to upset the applecart and push for, well, someone of her ilk like that Buttigieg who couldn’t tell a Constellation from a Stratocruiser; but you can’t tell me he didn't want someone from his gay cabal to come out front and center and depose the President, or that claque of black….

Boeing 377 Stratocruiser - Wikipedia

Here Jill stopped her reverie. Can’t be too careful with AOC and her gang of color snapping at Joe’s heels, easy to brand him soft on diversity if he started to complain about this whining ankle-biter who had never done a lick of real work in her life and could only manage a howl about race and gender.  

I better keep my own counsel, Jill said to herself, but it was time to come out of her own closet, not a gay one, God forbid, but a conservative one.  She had always been for the black man, and felt sorry for those gay men in San Francisco who had given each other so much suffering, and felt quite at ease, empathetic towards the Salvadoran immigrants who wanted a better life.  Have you ever seen those awful slums in San Gabriel? Ten children under a leaky roof and a drunkard for a husband bringing back God knows what disease caught from hookers in the capital?

Thanks to AOC and that shameless chicken-neck ambulance-chaser Al Sharpton, Joe had gone overboard on the race thing and way, way overboard on the gender thing.  Who would have thought that in this day and age female impersonators were teaching kindergartners about sex.  A disgrace, a shameful, horrible disgrace and her husband was hauling them up on stage and showing them off to the electorate.  Joe never did know what was what, and now he was in the thick of gender wars that he could hardly understand.  Who was that gay boy in Wilmington that liked Joe so much? Sent packing, he was, a taint on Joe’s legislative agenda.

“Don’t you think it might be time for a younger man?”, Jill said to her husband over breakfast.

“Trump is a old man, too”, said the President, but he couldn’t shake the image of Trump squiring the gorgeous Miss Connecticut or his trophy wife.  Not too different from Gisele, Tom Brady’s former wife, lovely woman, not my type, but she must be wonderful draping herself over all those tanned muscles of his own gorgeousness. 

“Why couldn’t I have had that?”, the President said to himself.  Who really cares about Delaware? Or the bloody Mexicans?

Hubbard's ReelzChannel picks up Miss USA pageant after Trump flap

Just as his mind was closing in on Melanie Trump and Gisele Bundchen, Jill put her arms around him and reassured him.  ‘Don’t go comparing yourself to Donald Trump’, she insisted, although in her heart of hearts she wished that her husband had some of that man’s… maleness. She would have liked being squired by a rich, powerful, attractive man on all those yachts and in those Florida resorts.  

A quick trip to Bimini, he might have said to her, and then St. Bart’s; but no, there was smiling Joe, Obama’s yes man, his lapdog if she were being brutally honest, always watching his P’s and Q’s, hoping for a chance to sit where Obama was sitting, waiting patiently, endlessly while Donald Trump made millions, had his own TV show, had been named sexiest man in America by New York magazine when he was a bigshot in New York.

Jill refused to watch the reels and clips of her husband tripping over his lines, walking like a marionette, all goofy smile. A wife must always love and stand by her husband and God knows I have put in my time, punching the clock in bloody Delaware while Trump gadded about with arm candy, had a real following, not just Joe’s sensible shoed ladies. And being a First Lady? Nothing at all, invisible woman with a retinue.  Better back to Delaware than in this closet, kept out of the way or bustled to ladies’ teas.

Something I can't quite figure out about romance cover art ‹ Scott Edelman

“Maybe you should rethink it a little, darling”, she said.

“Rethink what?”, replied the President, still in the arms of Melania and not quite sure where he was supposed to be; but luckily his personal valet tapped on the bedroom door, announced bed tea, and opened the armoire to look for that dark blue suit which would look so good on television.  And then came his handlers, one by one, briefing him for this meeting and that, so whatever Jill had been saying was lost in a whisper.  “Oh, well, probably something about the dog”, although it was Obama who had that cute poodley thing, and the Kennedy kids were always pictured with their dog.

Bo, the Obamas' Family Dog, Dies at 12 - The New York Times

In one meeting after another, the President turned over the proceedings to one of his aides.  He was quite happy with his emeritus role and to let his advisors sort out the tangles of interest rates, Ukraine, fracking, the border, and Putin.  A President was there to mean something, not necessarily to wonk out policy.  

Although he never told anyone, Ronald Reagan was his hero – a man of principle, rectitude, good humor, and a happy goodness that people loved.  He never did anything, Joe reminded himself.  He simply was; but Joe Biden was no Ronald Reagan.  He had none of his gentle humor, lambent personality, or genuine belief in America.  Biden had trouble making sense of the fractious, angry country over which he presided.  What had happened in his eighty years of life to make the country so unknowable and, well, so unlikeable?

Ronald Reagan - Death, Quotes & Presidency

So President Biden made his announcement to his staff, the media, and the American public.  He would indeed run again for office.  He had sinking feeling when he thought about facing the fast-talking, slick, carny barker Trump in debate.  There would be no teleprompter, no mini-mike in his ear, no one to guide him through the thicket; but his smile had always won the day, and his aides were good at patching things up, spinning his words in the right way, and working the press.  Thank God the media are all for me in the first place, the President thought, having been thrown softballs by MSNBC, CNN, and the New York Times for years. 

Jill was not a happy person that day, for she knew what was coming.  A barrage of insults, innuendoes, and harsh remarks inconsiderate of the man’s age and condition; and an endless round of campaign stops, speeches, and dinners.  Even with a few pep pills and good fortune the poor man was simply not up to it; and God forbid, what if he won?  That bitch Harris would certainly take over before long, and what a kettle of fish that would be.  But she had always been there for her husband, and now was not the time to step out of line.  ‘Good luck, dear’, she said as Joe headed off for the Oval Office.