guilty of gordon ramsey-ing

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m kind of a reality television junkie. Mainly competition shows and my favorites are ones revolving around food. Top Chef, Iron Chef, Master Chef. Basically anything with chef in the title and an elimination at the end of each episode. Yeah it’s not Deadwood or Game of Thrones but it’s also not Keeping up with the Kardashians or some crap about pregnant teenage girls either. We all have our television crack and mine just happens to feature people cooking trying to win money. In addition to being totally enthralled with Master Chef this summer, we found another show starring Gordon Ramsay on Netflix called Ramsay’s Best Restaurant.

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Ramsay, if you don’t know is this floppy haired, super tall chef who likes to yell at people and who has roughly 17 million reality shows both in England and the US. Depending on who you ask, Ramsay is either a total jackass and buffoon or the best thing to happen to reality television. I happen to think he’s a little of both. Anyway, this show features Ramsey travelling around England to find the best restaurant and holding mini-competitions where two restaurants of the same genre (French, Indian, Chinese, etc.) compete against one another. One of the segments in every episode features Ramsay observing a dinner service and criticizing the head chef and owners. It’s pure entertainment and totally ridiculous. During this segment in French episode, Ramsay looks in the camera and talks about how the kitchen is falling apart and how they’re disorgranized and how basically this restaurant is going to a bouillabaisse soaked hell if they don’t do what he says. However, upon closer look, Ramsay’s full of shit. The employees are happy, the food looks incredible and the head chef is relaxed. Ramsay invented some non-problems to make things interesting and more dramatic. It struck me as I chuckled at the whole silly, overblown affair, I do the same damn thing.

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Drama was my first drug of choice and cooking it up was something I could definitely win a reality show at. Naturally walking in with a perception that things are bad and everything is going wrong, like Ramsay did, is kind of how I lived my life for along, long time. But as I watched the French chef smirk at Ramsay’s histrionics, I realized my perception that things are horrible or dramatic or going to hell in a handbasket is usually way off. Ramsay, at least has an excuse. He’s on a television show and he’s trying to keep his job. I have no excuse in making life more dramatic than it actually is.

So as I go out into the world on this Friday, I’ll try to accept things the way they are and not make things harder on myself. Mainly, I’ll try to adopt the relaxed attitude of the Frnech Chef instead of yelling and acting a fool like Ramsay. Vive la France! 

The Real World Sucks

I went to detox on Friday night. But unlike the handful of near death survivors who sat in the little community room at the city hospital with me, I got to go home. I was asked to speak and anytime anyone asks me to speak at a detox or rehab, I jump at the chance. Not only because they’re such captive audiences or because I’m a lot more hilarious to people in hospital gowns but because it is an honor. For some reason my daily drinking and rabid drug use didn’t kill me so I’ll happily show up for people who really need a laugh or little bit of hope. Too bad Joey Kovar didn’t get to live to do the same thing.

29 year-old  Joey Kovar, a cast member of MTV’s Real World: Hollywood and Celebrity Rehab, was found dead last Friday near Chicago. He was found with blood coming out of ears and nose. Drugs, of course, are suspected to be the cause of death. The real, Real World is a brutal place and checking out of it must have seemed like the only option for Joey. And that’s just how it ends for a reality star whose drug addiction and binge drinking made for great TV. No scads of celebrities Tweeting about how wonderful he was and no video montages of his finest moments. Just a big story on People.com and lame statement from MTV,who profited from his demons and then tossed him aside.  Kovar soon becomes the answer to a trivia question and the world at large moves on to talking about bigger things like Oprah’s interview with Rihanna.

Now I’m not saying that we should have a moment of silence for Kovar or name a street after him but his death does make me stop and think about how we honor the lives of addicts. For big stars like Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston, we dance around the fact that they were drug addicts and focus on their careers instead. For z-listers like Kovar, we act like we do when anyone dies from alcoholism or addition, like it’s a shame but we saw it coming. Really what pisses me off about celebrities who die from drug addiction is the missed opportunity we have to really talk about the disease at hand. We don’t honestly say to kids or even adults, “This famous person died because of their alcoholism and drug addition. It wasn’t heart problems or drowning or because an evil doctor gave them a prescription. They died because they were addicts.” Yeah I realize things haven’t changed since I bitched about this same issue when Whitney died a few months ago.

But what I can do is not shut up and not sit back and watch any more. Having watched the Real World in the past and Real Housewives and any other bullshit show that pretends to be real, I can safely say I’m over trotting out hot messes, giving them wine and letting the cameras roll for our amusement. Being a disaster isn’t entertaining or inspiring. I’m done contributing to the culture who awards drunken idiots by giving them TV shows. This isn’t to say I don’t love my Chopped or RuPaul’s Drag Race but I’m just not interested in sacrificing dignity for entertainment anymore. And besides making a meal out of sheep’s stomach or performing in 6 inch clear heels requires some actual talent.

Anyway, it’s a shame Joey didn’t get the chance to hang out with my friends on the fourth floor detox of the county hospital. No there wasn’t any cameras or designer gift bags or journalists from Extra. There was just a group of people fighting for their lives and hoping they could change. Talk about real. We’d never tune in to watch such a thing on cable TV.

The Last Time I Saw LA Gay Pride

Throughout the month of June, all over the country, in cities big and small, gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered men and women are flocking to their local pride parades and festivals. If you’ve never been to one of these events, I can tell you that if you do attend you are likely to see a musical act from yesteryear performing on one of the stages (Belinda Carlise! The Village People!), you are likely to see fried food on a stick (because corn dogs and churros cross all lines of discrimination) and you will certainly see a lot of people who are really, really intoxicated.

Now I’m not saying that everyone who attends a gay pride festival is going to get fucked up but let’s be honest here. The only thing gays like better than half-naked people in booty shorts at 11am wandering the streets is half-naked people in booty shorts at 11am wandering the streets drinking. Gays are so fond of daytime drinking in the streets, gaggles of them often appear at random festivals solely for that very reason. I’ve personally attended everything from Cuban festivals to an abysmal non-New Orleans version of Mardi Gras all in the name of drinking in the streets. As citizen of Los Angeles for 15 years, I could bore you with dozens of drunken tales from the West Hollywood gay pride festival. In fact, as I read blogs and saw pictures of this weekend’s celebration, my mind took a trip down memory lane. I recall line dancing in a country music tent with a drag queen. I remember drinking vodka and watching what remains of the Mary Jane Girls perform near a baseball diamond. And how could I forget seeing Cyndi Lauper wave from a hot pink convertible as a dance remix of ‘True Colors’ thumped in the background? Yet it’s my last time at gay pride in Los Angeles that solidifies the gay pride experience for me.

A friend and I went over to the parade in 2007. With cocktails to go, we headed over to West Hollywood. Perched from a cozy alcohol adjacent corner inside Rage, a parade route- friendly watering hole, we watched as the rainbow of topless men and aforementioned booty shorts pranced by interspersed with floats sponsored by  Gieco and local erotic bakeries alike. This being a Los Angeles event, “celebrities” pimping their latest reality shows or albums were on display too. We cheered as famous hot mess and former America’s Next Top Model judge Janice Dickinson floated by with a bevy of shirtless models. Dickinson claims to be the world’s first supermodel but I would contend she may also be the world’s first celebrity with Tourette’s syndrome. I however always admired her frank nature and the fact that here was a famous person who was shockingly more wasted than I was. She made me feel like, “Gee, maybe I’m not a total disaster.” Dickinson, like any good addict, had moments of sobriety followed by moments of hot messiness. During this particular celebration, it would be safe to say she was experiencing the latter. As the parade wrapped up, we plotted our next move. Do we pay $20 bucks to get into the festival or do we go drink somewhere else? Well, clearly our Jacksons would be put to better use at a bar so we headed over to the Abbey. While you’re unlikely to find nuns at this Abbey (unless it’s Halloween), you were guaranteed to find strong cocktails, more naked men and on that day even Janice Dickinson. Along with a thousand or so of our closest friends, the partying really started to happen. More beers, more shots, and a pill that someone told me was “kind of like Ecstasy.” I wanted my picture taken with Janice but her tanned trio of bodyguards politely shooed my wasted ass away. The rest of the afternoon was a slurry blur and by 4pm I was home and napping off my daytime drunk.

I share this story because in my mind the preceding events had nothing to do with being proud of being gay. I wasn’t drinking and dancing and harassing celebrities because I loved being gay and loved who I am. Quite the contrary, in fact.  Yet that’s how I always celebrated gay pride: by getting absolutely shithoused drunk.

While in LA and newly sober, I stayed away from gay pride. Not because I was worried that I would relapse. But because I felt like it I had no business being there. Like a vegan at Outback Steakhouse. Everybody else was going to be drunk so why bother? A few years later, I’ve lightened up. My recovery is such that I can attend this kind of stuff  without feeling like I’m the only one not wasted. But also I know when not to go too. Like even though its been over 3 years, there are times that I can’t go to places where lots of drinking will be going on. And this is okay. Gay pride means being proud of who you are and today I can honestly say that I am just that. I’m proud to be gay, sober and positive. And I can celebrate all of this without drinking, booty shorts or Janice Dickinson.

Jamar Rogers of ‘The Voice’ is My Kind of Hero

By now, readers of this blog have picked up on the fact that I’m kind of a reality TV whore. And by kind of I mean a  total reality television junkie. I’m especially into things that are competitions. Chopped, Top Chef and Amazing Race are among my favs. After years of watching American Idol and drunkenly yelling at the TV when the wrong person won, I thought I gave up on singing reality competitions. But last year, The Voice roped me in with the mere promise of Cee Lo Green’s funktacular presence and the program enticed me yet again this season. Unlike last year however, I’m really invested in the outcome this time around. Because this time around The Voice has a contestant who’s an awful lot like me.

27 year-old Jamar Rogers is an addict in recovery who also happens to be HIV positive. He rocked his blind auditions with a rollicking cover of the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army.”  As I watched his interview and his triumphant ass-kicking performance, my eyes welled up. Here was this cool kid with mad amounts of talent saying to America “Look you can recover from drugs and alcohol and be HIV positive and still rock out.”  His dream came true that night when  the aforementioned Cee Lo picked him for his team. Last week, Rogers secured a place in the finals after defeating his friend Jamie Lono in the battle rounds. Again, more tears were had both by Rogers on stage and by me at home. Jamar’s story has moved me from moment one not just because of how similar it is to my own but because of how The Voice has embraced him as a modern hero and an inspiration. And if you think about it, us ex-drunks and recovering junkies are heroes. In an era where musical legends are routinely taken out by addiction and alcoholism without so much of a raising of the eyebrow, stories like ours are rare and heroic indeed. We’ve honestly tackled our addictions and gone after the lives we want.

Well,except for that reality TV addiction. I’m not giving that up anytime soon. Not at least until I get to see Jamar Rogers win The Voice. I’ll be, unabashedly, clapping and crying the whole way.