Friday, September 23, 2005

Am I Turning into a Cartoon?

Am I turning into a cartoon? I'm not too sure. Sometimes I think I am just becoming this caricature of myself as I get older and older -- you know, the self-publicizing writer trying to get ahead in the world, the guy with a healthy fondness for cock and an equally healthy fondness for gay rock music. Some people seem to think they have me pretty well pegged. (I sure wish some of them would peg me, mmm-kay? But that's another (X-rated) blog entry entirely.)

The guys over at adult Web site certainly think I'm a cartoon. In fact, their on-site artist, Brian, was kind enough to do this animated rendering of me--for free--as I had done a story on the JapanBoyz site for AVN Online. I've always wanted to have one of these things, and it's already come in very handy. I'm going to be using for a lot of press purposes (I'm sticking a label of the pic on a bunch of portfolio folders going out to mainstream mags next week), and I'm so happy with the rendering. I have to say, I was a bit surprised how much more toned and, er, buff they made me look, but hey, it gives me something to aspire to, right? In a way, it's flattering: Maybe this is how someone else sees me. So much of my early adulthood has been bogged down with such stupid thoughts as "Am I hot or not?" that it's nice to let go of that and just be myself. Having someone else conceptualize me as being so kinda of foxy makes my day, but I'm able to walk away from it with a smile on my face but knowing that I have more important fish to fry. (Not that I eat anything fried these days! Gotta watch my boyish figure! LOL!)

So, anyway, in the few days since my emotional breakthrough with my mom, my life has taken a bit of an interesting turn. Suddenly, things that might have once bothered me seem so less important to me now. Like today, I got a rather disgruntled email from someone who was involved in the homocore scene who'd read the book who complained that he didn't feel that he'd been adequately given the credit he was due, and he pointed out a bunch of things that he felt were inconsistencies in the book. My response (not in these words): "Thanx for the email. I agree with you; the book just scratched the surface of the movement, but get over it, dude. You were mentioned."

Anyways, I didn't get to update you folks on the outcome of my interview with Liz Phair. Can we just say, WOO HOOOOO??? I haven't turned the article in to my editor at Frontiers yet, but I do want to include just a smidgeon of what it was like for me to connect with her (albeit over the phone). I really feel like we connected; like you could just tell she was thinking, "This guy gets me." Here's a snippet of our dialogue:

Me: What struck me as so odd about the backlash on your last record was that I had kind of always thought of you as somewhat of a pop singer, because your songs had a very pop—albeit an indie pop—sensibility to them. I didn’t think you were selling out at all, but rather just more fully expressing that element in your music that had always been there to begin with.
Liz: I think that’s really insightful that you would say that, because for me, my music started with the Girlysound stuff, which was pre-Exile and pre-label release, and it was very poppy and playful, ditzy, all sorts of things. Guyville was really my big moment, and it defined me, but it didn’t actually define my musical style. That was what I was for that period. And I think it’s something… if you look at any of that stuff… “Never Said” was completely trying… all sorts of pop beginnings in there. But I think what happened was Guyville represented something to a group of people that went beyond what style I was, and it became very important that I sort of maintain that for them.

There were a whole lot of neat little moments where she laughed, where I laughed, where it seemed we were connecting on a really good, mutually respectful level, and it was just a great experience all around. I can't wait to write this one up. There's talk that I might even get to interview Sheryl Crow next. Fingers are so crossed for that one, of course!

In the meantime, there are some cool things happening with the Homocore book. I've been contacted by Sirius Radio and Q TV to do spots on their talk shows, which I'm really exicted about. And a little nervous as well, but hey, that just comes with the territory.

Anyway, if you folks haven't read the way-cool interview that I did with about the Homocore book, you should probably check it out. It talks a lot about the experience of writing the book for me, and I think it should answer some of these looming questions about how limited the book is in its study of the queercore movement. (Hey, you can't please everyone, right? F#ck your rock star egos! I don't got time for it! I have my OWN ego to feed!)

I also just came across this review that was done in the Washington Blade, which I thought was pretty cool. Check it out here if you want. Thanx to Van Gower for such a fair review!

The following review is one of the more even-tempered reviews, and I think the author (Robert Morast) is very fair in his assessment:

Journalist Ciminelli and freelance writer Knox should be applauded for bringing the gay underground rock scene out of the closet-but not too loudly. Because while their book sheds some much-needed light on an interesting subgenre that's often ignored or distorted by the mainstream media, the authors do little to validate the musicians they cover. Chapters on influential figures like punk band Pansy Division or ex-Indigo Girl Amy Ray read like PR essays; this lack of objectivity diminishes the book's potential as a sociopolitical force. Still, Homocore proves its relevance with insights from Extra Fancy frontman Brian Grillo, who describes the discrimination he faced after his band was signed to a major label, and drummer Alicia Warrington, who talks about how early homocore artists gave her the strength to pursue her passion in a heterosexual-dominated music industry. Though far from a definitive account, this is a nice start. Recommended for extensive music libraries or any libraries that fly the Rainbow flag.-Robert Morast, Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, SD

Meanwhile, writer Jay Laird summed up his thoughts on the book in the following review found on the Provincetown-based paper EDGE.

So far, the press has been pretty good, if a tad mixed, which is to be expected. After all, the book really just scratches the surface of the movement, and there are many very deserving folks who got left out of it (or whose stories weren't fully told). My good buddy, drummer Bilito Peligro (one of the hottest men in all of L.A., who's also a member of the Gay-Gays), for instance, should have gotten more love out of me and Cim, but well... when you're running up against deadlines and your publisher is bearing down on you asking for the book, you kinda gotta get it done quickly. (That is a picture of Bil, in fact. Isn't he quite the hot sweaty stud? It if weren't for him and his band Best Revenge, I never would have gotten so involved in the queer rock scene here in L.A. in the first place! So thanx, Bil! And if you're ever single again... PLEASE call me! LOL!)

At any rate, I have a few very interesting things on the horizon coming up, so look for another entry to follow in the next day or so about what's been going on in my La-La Life as of late, and be sure to keep in touch with me at, OK?

Hollywood Ken

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

When Validation Comes...

So, this is my La-La Life.

It's a Saturday afternoon, and I'm walking around the Hollywood & Highland shopping complex while I'm waiting to have my car washed and detailed down the street (you know us Los Angelenos--we don't do anything ourselves!) when I decide to call my mother to pass the time. I'm not quite sure what is up with us on this particular day, but somehow, conversation just comes freely to us--a rarity in my normally non-communicative family. And somehow, my mother and I stumble upon the subject of sex. I have half a notion to tell her that my day job is working as an associate editor at AVN Online, but I really don't wanna push my luck. I do, however, manage to defend pornography, claiming that the problem lies not with those who capture sexuality on film, but with the puritanical and archaic views that the American government has shoved down our throats for the past several centuries. "There's so much guilt and shame surrounding sexuality," I tell her, to which, amazingly, she agrees. Then she says, "Well, it's nice to finally talk about this with you. I don't know why it's taken us so long to talk openly about sex."

And somehow, from somewhere deep inside me, I find the strength and confidence to say, "Well, Mom, if you must know, it's because you and Dad didn't exactly make it easy on me growing up. I remember all the times you pointed out gay people on the streets and said how digusting that was, and how you would disown me if I turned out to be gay--which you told me when I was eight." And then, a miracle: my mother didn't get angry or defensive. Suddenly, she said, "Oh, my God, I had no idea you felt that way. I am so sorry, and I regret it."

And here I am, standing outside of Hot Topic, a cheesy corporate-based punk rock store in the middle of the Hollywood tourist's district as hundreds of people mill around me, and I start to tear up. "Well, Mom, I really appreciate you saying that, because I've honestly waited all my life to hear those words from you," I finally responded. "I always felt like I'd failed you and dad by not being the son you wanted. I felt like I was a huge disappoinment to you."

"God, no," Mom said. "I honestly never knew you felt this way. I wish you'd said something a long time ago." If I'd replied right away, I would have said, "Well, so do I."

The truth is, for most of my life, I have always felt like I was this little 8-year-old boy who felt like his mother never loved him, and, looking back on most of my life choices and experiences, it's easy to see why certain things have happened to me: because I've never honestly known what it's like to be truly loved by someone, unconditionally, and it's the one thing I've been searching for all my life. In all the relationships I've pursued, I've always been the "needy one," the guy with the emotional baggage who chose guys who weren't emotionally available becuase I was setting myself up for failure and disappointment--the only things I'd really ever known in my life. I mean, really, is it any wonder that I'm still single?

Suddenly, at 34, things are changing. It began last year, when I had a whirlwind affair with an unattainable porn star who I fell head over heels in love with. And, though it didn't work out between us, I do know without any uncertainty that he and I bonded in a way that I've never bonded with anyone before or since. It's one of the reasons why I still count him among my closest friends, even though I rarely see him these days. I finally learned to love someone unconditionally--knowing that I was not going to get the outcome I really wanted. But what I did end up with is equally special in its own right, and the experience I shared with him has taught me so much about my pattern with men and the ways in which I've (not) loved those men.

In the months since "T" and I broke off our romantic entanglement, I have felt my life shifting. I've taken on a new sensibility, a new outlook, and gained a new confidence that I never knew I had before. He taught me that, God bless his tender soul. I think it's what has given me the courage to not only put F#ckhead Ryan out of my head (honestly, I haven't thought about him for well over a week now, except in fleeting, passing moments) and move past him, but to finally open up to my mother and be able to say the things I've always wanted to say to her.

When my conversation with my mother was over, I hung up the phone and looked around, half expecting the sky to be a different shade of blue, or expecting the sun to be a different hue of yellow. Of course, the world looked the same. Everthing didn't just fall into place and become easy like I'd thought it would. And now that I've finally received the "validation" from my mother that I've been seeking all my life, I realize the onus is now on me (though, in all honesty, it always has been) to live my life solely for myself and for the things that make me happy. There are no more excuses for making bad decisions (except, perhaps, sheer habit--or, of course, simple stupidity and/or stubbornness)--no more reasons that I can't do the things in life that I really want to do. There is no one holding me back anymore but myself. There never really was.

Hmmm, maybe this is growing up after all.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Lethargy of Ken

Wow. Has it really been over a week since I've posted a new entry? Gee, what's up with that? Me, who loves to talk about myself, forgetting to talk about myself? What's the world coming to, right? LOL!

I've actually been in a bit of a funk lately. Just kind of lethargic and not really energized to get much done. I think it's just the post-dating blues, trying to get myself back to a place where I am grounded in what it is that I need for myself right now. I don't know why it's so hard to get to that place, but for me, it alawys has been. I let things affect me too personally. And then there are those deep-rooted insecurity and self-esteem issues that I still wrestle with. When am I going to be good enough? Or am I, and I just don't know it? Weird how human beings let such things become so important to them, but I suppose that's our struggle, isn't it? To question and strive to be "good enough."

There's a song on the new Liz Phair CD Somebody's Miracle (I got an advance copy b/cuz I'm interviewing her Monday morning) that really exemplifies this struggle that I have. It's the title track, actually. I have to share the lyrics here, b/cuz they are too perfect.

I'm so far, so far awy from it now
That it seems like I may never know how
People stay in love for half of their lives
It's a secret they keep between the husbands and wives

Baby, there goes somebody's miracle
Walking down the street
There goes a modern fairy tale
I wish it could happen to me
But I look at myself, wondering if I'm just too weak
To have such faith in myself

Ahhhh, Liz, thanx a lot, babe. Thanx for putting it into words for me and summing it up so succinctly. It's the thing that I love so much about music, that I wish I could do. I would give anything to be able to sit down with a guitar and put a song like together and express those feelings in a three-minute song that people would sing along to and feel like they weren't so alone in the world.

Actually, Liz's music has always been important to me. She writes from such a place of honesty and truth, it's impossible not to go there with her. She isn't afraid to lay her faults on the line and say, "Look, I'm a f#cking mess, and I guess I should claim that and be proud of it, b/cuz it's who I am. But I'm working on it." I guess that's all we can do, huh? Just work on it.

Anyway, I'm really excited to be able to chat with Liz on Monday. It's an interview I've been trying to get for the past two or three years, and it's finally happening. As my editor at Frontiers said, "Liz is like the indie Madonna." Indeed, not many women out there sing about such emboldened sexuality with quite the panache that Liz does. As much as I love Alanis Morissette, I think she always wanted to try and be as "shocking" as Liz, but that's the thing: Liz isn't shocking. She just writes and sings about the feelings that she has that nobody else has the nerve to talk about. Perhaps that's why I relate to her so well. People often tell me they are shocked by the deeply personal things I reveal in my writing and indeed, here on my blog. But I don't know... what else would I do with all these thoughts if I could't share them? I suppose that's what artists do. We share, so that the rest of you don't have to. Haha.

Let's see... in other news... well, there's not a whole lot of it. Oh, I have been made the new music columnist for Lesbian News magazine. Isn't that funny? I suppose this makes me an "honorary lesbian" (just what I've always wanted). It makes sense, though: When I was first coming out, the music that I really connected to and that helpled me in my coming out process was that of Disappear Fear, Melissa Etheridge and especially the Indigo Girls. There weren't any openly gay men singning about being gay back then. Come to think of it, of the bands I mentioned above, only Dispppear Fear was an "out" band. Melissa and the Indigo Girls came out later. (But, please, we all knew they were dykes all along. God love' em!) Anyway, I turned my first column in this past week, and it was fun to write. God knows I love my female singer-songwriters (as much as I love my hot rocker studs), so this column is perfect for me.

Well, hmmmm, what else has been up in my La-La Life as of late? Actually, not a whole heckuva lot. I think the most exciting thing that I've seen or done in the last week or so was going to the wet shorts contest this past Thursday night at the Gauntlet II, where I got to drool over this totally hot guy who won the conest.

Now this guy was pretty f*cking adorable, I must say. The whole package. As most all of my friends know, I'm definitely not one to worship at the feet of muscles or anything, but I have to say this guy's body was quite flawless. I was looking at him thinking, "OK, I could live with that." LOL! And his smile? Dang! Nothing like a hot smile that lights up a room to give you a bit of hope, right? Wouldn't you agree? His name was Corey, and he was a Mormon boy from Utah. Nothing like a good ol' Mormon boy from Utah. You just know when those boys get out into the real world, they go WILD!

Anyway, I think that's about it for me today> I don't really have much else to say right now. Hopefully I'll have some great things to report after the weekend (I'm just gonna take it easy this weekend, get some writing done, work out a little bit more, and try and feed my soul with some chicken soup) and my interview with Liz on Monday.

So talk with you all soon! Stay well!

Hollywood Ken

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Homocore Healing Experience

One of the cool things about having a book in the stores is that people actually take me seriously when I tell them that I'm a writer now. Before, when I would tell that I wrote predominantly for the local gay rags, they were still pleasant and congratulatory, but you could just tell that underneath that fake smile lurked a bit of a skepticism, almost like I was writing for The National Enquirer or something.

Of course, now that my book, Homocore: The Loud and Raucous Rise of Queer Rock, is in book stores all over the country and I'm what other people now think of as a "published author" (no matter that the hundreds of stories I've had published in mags for the past four years denoted the same accomplishment on my part), people seem to regard me with a little more respect and reverence than before. Which I guess is kinda cool. I mean, we all wanna be liked and admired, right? And, baby, I am a royal SLUT for admiration. :)

But I realize that, in all this time talking about the finished product that is the book, I haven't actually really talked about what the experience of writing this book was like yet. For me, co-writing Homocore was not only a labor of love (my co-writer, David Ciminelli, and I would occasionally get into heated arguments over which bands to include), but an incredibly educational and healing experience. I'm not sure how many of you know the story, but Cim was my editor at Unzipped magazine at the time, and he had already started the book on his own.

Meanwhile, I had become immeresed in the underground gay rock scene of Silver Lake here in L.A. myself, having fatefully stumbled across a flyer for a $3 CD release party for the local queer punk band Best Revenge. (As it happened, I, in fact, only had exactly $3 to my name; I recall thinking to myself, "This is fate. I have to go see this show.") I attended the show, fell in lust with both Ryan Revenge (the lead singer) and Bilito (the drummer), and got to meet a lot of other local queer punkers who were in the audience that night. Later, when I started writing for Unzipped, I began pitching a lot of stories about these queer rockers to Cim, and he asked me if I would join him on the book.

Well, obviously, I did, and the process of writing the book was, for me, a true education in many ways. Not only did I have to finally sit myself down and commit to finishing a project (always a problem of mine in the past), but I got to immerse myself in a history that is rich and alive with diversity and self-pride. The people who were in these bands (Team Dresch, Pansy Division, Tribe 8, Fifth Column, and Extra Fancy) had been out there in the trenches doing something that nobody else had ever done--carving out their own community outside of the puritanical mainstream ideology and corporate fat-cat dealings and creating something that was unique and wholly inspirational to many.

Writing the book, for me, was a great way to re-discover a lot of that history (especially as I'd missed out on most of it, since I was in college at the time it was in full-swing), but it was also a great way to throw my energies into something that didn't have to do with which guy might want to date me or whose c#ck I might end up sucking at the sex club this Friday night. Homocore gave me a new purpose in life, and I should be extremely thankful that that purpose continues now that there are book release parties to plan and book signing gigs to line up. Plus, it's brought me closer to some of the people who are profiled in the book, like my now-great friend Daniel Cartier and these way-cool guys below. (This pic was taken after my recent book signing at A Different Light in West Hollywood.)

Another really neat thing about writing a book (or, more specifically, getting it published), is that you then get to read what other people have to say about it. There have been a few reviews published so, far. The way-cool Web site featured a great review written by N.A. Hayes, and The New York Blade ran a review by Van Gower that was equally favorable. Writer Chris S. Witwer has sold his treatise on our book to many publications, and you can read his synopsis of the book over at IN Los Angeles magazine has featured a story called "Smells Like Queer Music," and there are more to come.

Meanwhile, my friend (and former co-worker, the lovely photographer Wyoming Telford) has taken a series of publicity pics of me, and well, the pics are definitely getting me some notice. Whenever I've gone cruising around online, I've had a few guys Instant Message me say and say, "Hey, aren't you that guy that wrote the Homcore book? Didn't I just see a HOT picture of you in some magazine and read a story about you? We should meet and talk sometime about rock." Anyway, that's been kinda cool, but in the wake of F#ckhead Ryan, I think I'm gonna try to stay away from the boys for a little while, espeically the ones who see me in a picture and get excited, because, in my experience, as soon as you meet up in real life, everything changes, and really, who needs any more disappointment?

Anyway, I have some pretty cool things coming up. I think I'm going to be heading over to Phoenix to do a book signing there and participate in an event which will include several of the bands profiled in the book, and Cim and I are now planning our own book release party for Sat., Oct. 1, (plus I've already got my second book in the works), so looks like I will be keeping myself rather busy for the next few months. Which is quite fine with me. After all, who has time to sweat the small stuff in life anyhow, right? If a guy isn't smart enough to see what an incredibly thoughtful, kind, talented and attractive guy I am and how much I have to offer, and wants to go back to someone who already broke his heart once before, then who the hell needs him anyway, right?

RIGHT??? Oh, please, let me be able to keep thinking this way!!! :)

Hollywood Ken

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