Liz Smith: Lady … Madonna?! Is Gaga Using Old Tricks to Scandalize?

Lady Gaga vs. Madonna: is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

And more from our Liz: Britney Spears — this “femme fatale” loves Betty White … stars flock to a special performance of Broadway’s “The Normal Heart”

“I HAVE recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies,” said one of our great Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson believed in the separation of church and state. He was less adamant on the separation of slave and master. (Oh, you know, Sally Hemings, the beautiful slave he bedded and with whom he sired several children. Well, nobody’s perfect.)

* * *

SPEAKING OF religion, Madonna is at it again, releasing a “sacrilegious” song and video, challenging Catholic doctrines. Oh, no wait … I mean Lady Gaga and her new single “Judas” is the event raising a ruckus.

The Catholic League (essentially one guy, Bill Donohue) condemns the Lady and her music and winds up with: “Maybe if she had more talent we’d be more offended.” I feel pretty sure this is a leftover from criticism of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”

Gaga, honey! You do realize that as talented as you are, the Big M did all this way back in the 1980’s? This, and speaking out for sexual freedom, supporting the gays, etc?  I guess everything old is always new again to a new generation. But come on, Gaga — you are a smart cookie. Get a fresh idea.

* * *

SPEAKING OF Madonna, the former provocateur has been so deeply involved in putting the final touches to her film, “W.E.,” that she has hardly seen the light of day. She spends hour after hour in the editing room, mixing the music, getting it “just right.” This is typical Madonna. Even on her concert tours, she is always looking for ways to improve the show, and herself — right up to the last performance.

There is some talk that La Ciccone will return to the recording studio later this year. And just as I presumptuously gave Gaga advice, I’ll do the same for my old friend Madonna. Another album? Great. But please, no more techno-infused dance music. Just sing. Some of us remember the old songs, and soundtracks to movies like “Dick Tracy” and “Evita.”

* * *

ANOTHER MUSIC diva is making news. I do mean once-tormented, now fairly steady Britney Spears. She has a hot-selling new album, “Femme Fatale,” is planning a tour, and is recording with Rihanna.

Britney is also on the cover of Out magazine’s “Ladies We Love” issue. Asked by Noah Michelson what her idea of heaven was, she says “a trip with my kids.” Her idea of hell? “Dieting.” She might have been Audrey Hepburn in another life because “Audrey was a trend-setter, too.”  Britney’s favorite “Golden Girl” is “Betty White, because she’s so sweet and innocent.”

For Britney, fame’s big pain is the inevitable loss of privacy … kissing Madonna at the MTV Awards was “cool”… she was “confused and disgusted by sex” when her mother first gave her the facts of life. Oh, and is there a song she’s ever recorded she wishes she hadn’t?

“No” says Britney. “All of my songs are fucking amazing.”

Whatever problems might linger in Britney’s psyche, insecurity about her work is not one of them. And good for her. She’s been to hell and back.

* * *

A FEW years back, I was mighty impressed by Peter Dinklage in the movie “The Station Agent.” I wasn’t the only one. He received Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit award nominations. I kind of lost track of Mr. Dinklage, although he has worked steadily since. Imagine my pleasure then when he popped up in HBO’s fantastical new series, “Game of Thrones.” He plays Tyrion Lannister and he is so handsome, witty, debauched and charming. Sort of a medieval Addison DeWitt from “All About Eve.” As good as the series looks to be, after only one episode — so many characters, it can be confusing! — Dinklage is by far the standout player.

Mr. Dinklage stands only 4’ 5,” but he is a towering talent. I hope Hollywood uses him more. And properly.

* * *

LARRY KRAMER’S great play about the early days of the AIDS plague, “The Normal Heart” opens on Broadway April 27th. (The devastating semi-autobiographical work has had two acclaimed off-Broadway productions. Now, finally, Larry will see his work right on Broadway itself, at the Golden Theater.)

But on Monday April 25th, producer Daryl Roth has invited a slew of special guests to a preview performance and party after. Among the expected throng: Diane Von FurstenbergElton John and David FurnishLou ReedSandy GallinIngrid SischyCalvin KleinMatthew Broderick Christine Baranski Hamish BowlesAndre Leon Talley. (It’s always a gamble to print a wished-for guest list, but this one is so good!)

This “Normal Heart” has been directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe. The cast includes Ellen Barkin, Joe Mantello, Luke Macfarlane, Jim Parsons, Richard Topol, Wayne Allan Wilcox, Lee Pace, John Benjamin Hickey, Mark Harelik.

* * *

ENDQUOTE: Well, just because we were upset about Elizabeth Taylor’s death and felt news coverage of her passing was appropriate, not everybody feels that way.

Bill Maher, in a rant on the ineptitude of the nightly network news complained that they all opened up with Taylor’s death. “Please, it was not like she was struck down in her prime. They had a sandwich named after her at Cedars Sinai. She was there a lot.”

I usually agree with Maher. Not this time. I guess he just isn’t a fan of show biz history.

49 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Paul Smith says:

    Everyone knows Lady Gaga is just warmed over Madonna. Everyone knows it is open season on Catholicism.  Why not a clever song of our rich devouring the poor.  And no one going to jail. To the beat of “Like a Prayer”.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      I think “Springtime for HItler” would be a better song to reflect the times we live in – Alan Greenspan was on Meet the Press yesterday with his propaganda that Social Security never existed. Just a big Ponzi scheme. At this point perhaps it is given the trillions of dollars Congress “borrowed” from it. Leaving it a little “insolvent” at the moment. Personally I think Alan Greenspan is the devil. He just has managed to hide the horns and tail.

      Low interest rates of course were good for vulture capitalism. And for causing people who live off capital to invest more in the stock market. The people I know who did wish they hadn’t. The people who kept the bulk of their cash in T-bills and CDs of course still have their capital.

    • avatar Deborah Key says:

      Elton John, more like it!

  2. avatar Maggie W says:

    The early Beatles had many songs styled directly from Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry.   Elvis was influenced by gospel blues singers.  Clapton borrowed runs from BB  King. Musicians are influenced by those before them . What they do with that exposure determines if they will be successful. Lady Gaga grew up listening to one of the greatest entertainment icons of our time, so it comes as no surprise that she takes a nod from Madonna.  How could she not?

    The good news is she is not a corporate model like so many young singers become.   Lady Gaga plays several instruments and writes and produces her music … at age 23.  She can dance and put on an electrifying show.  As time goes on, she should evolve even more because she is tuned in to her generation just like Madonna once was.  She gets her vibe from the 20-somethings.   Madonna’s great 80’s tunes cannot carry her there, and as an artist, Gaga would not strive for that… not if she intends to survive in one tough industry.  

    • avatar Princess Rapunzel says:

      While I have respect for Lady Gaga’s work ethic and intelligence about what the young kids want, I am disappointed with how terribly unoriginal and gimicky she is.  It’s one thing to be influenced by earlier singers and performers like all artists are but to blatently copy one?  I thought she was smarter than this.  At least she could attempt to make it not so obvious.  Maybe she just got lucky with her first few songs and her luck’s run out.  Or maybe she copied someone who isn’t famous and never had a talented bone in her body to begin with.  Time will tell I suppose unless the young people just don’t care about plagerism and originality.

  3. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Bill Maher is just cognizant of the fact his passing might not be mentioned until the last five minutes of a news broadcast. I was told once by someone who really was important that importance is merely the measure of impact you have had on other people’s lives.

    Elizabeth Taylor was important. In comparison to the impact she had on our lives, Bill Maher never will be.

    • avatar rick gould says:

      Regarding Maher, is there anything worse than a self-important “commentator,” particularly of the former standup comedian variety? Somebody who isn’t actually important trying to look big by tearing down somebody who was important? That’s why I don’t watch the fatuous collection of blowhards on talk TV.

      I’m kind of meh on Gaga, but kinda agree with statements on both sides. And it must be noted that Madonna used to be accused of “borrowing” artistically from past icons and fellow artists back when she was making a name for herself.

  4. avatar jwil5423 says:

    Absoloutely agree that GAGA is second rate Madonna. It’s been done, baby. And Brittany to hell and back? It was her own doing. Crazy, unstable people whouldn’t be put into the pressure cooker of fame…it eats them alive.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      I don’t see much difference betweeen the two. Both are “performance artists” and the more bizarre the better. Beyond that, much ado about nothing. I remember Madonna when she was nobody traveling around the country doing “live” performances on stages at discos. Even with the multi-million dollar magic of technology, she still sounds like a cat in heat to me. Screeching away in the alley. And at times acting like one. Particularly on stage.

      This is not the week for me to be posting I guess. Mars is about to “make a pass” at my Venus in Aries. Gets brutal.

  5. avatar jwil5423 says:

    Funny stuff Baby Snooks. Excellent.

  6. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    There really wasn’t a Madonna before Madonna who quickly enticed a dance crowd, sang ballads (her version), was reinventing herself (a term she gave meaning to), made semi-bad movies, had a love life and stayed away from too much ‘press’. She didn’t run with a star studded crowd. As strange as it sounds, Madonna was much more down to Earth than GaGa. GagGa is merely performance and theatrical dance art. Listen to techno/trance singers now (if there is such a thing). There vocal ranges are not usually up for grabs. A monkey can sing to a good dance song, and probably has. People want to hear the beat, to move, to feel free and alive. To be noticed. To be sensual. To watch others. To connect. No one really listens to the message of the song. Dance does this. It did this is my day and still does it now. All of GaGa’s songs are so dance infused, that the subject matter is somewhat diluted away. Yes…yes….yes, we were born this way. She is more commercial, more in touch with her fans….and after all the costumes and outrageous make-up, will fade away. She is a spokes person without any direction of being such. Madonna has hung in there (in one art form or another) for 27 years. Being aloof and the perpetual diva have worked for her. Later work included Evita, children, adoption, spirituality, and directing. Now, is she doing this successfully? That is another matter. She still is truly ever evolving. In terms of reputation, GaGa is commercial and Madonna is the real deal. Just the fact that time is passing, Madonna (at 52) is trying to move along with it. Gaga is at the right time and place for her genre. Brittney Spears (to me) is the same now, “Would You Hold it Against Me?” as she was with ” Oopps, I Did it Again” a dozen years ago. A train wreck of a personal life, but nothing new or interesting as an artist. Others are standing in line behind her…waiting. She’s a mom with two small children…who has shown us that she’s rather live in a trailer park in Mississippi. To each their own. We now know her favorite ‘Golden Girl’ was Betty White. Stop the presses!!! It isn’t just Elizabeth Taylor that Maher pokes fun of; he would be just as sarcastic towards anyone whose passing has lingered in conversation. He does what he does best. That’s Bill Maher. Take him for who he is and do not be afraid to chuckle. He is funny, about everybody. The 1985 audiences of “The Normal Heart” were choked up by their reactions. People were dying left and right at that point, all around them (especially a theater bunch). I know it has opened and closed a few times since, but the 2011 audiences have twenty five years of treatment and prognosis in their hearts, so they may interpret the play (though powerful) without the same amount of passion…which is indicative of the way AIDS/HIV is going anyway.

    • avatar Paul Smith says:

      Richard, my first thought was why a restaging at all.  It will be interesting to know if people respond with deep feeling or has it become a curiosity piece. Is no one writing about AIDS/HIV as it exist for people in 2011?  The horror writing of the disease doesn’t resonate as it used to.

      • avatar Richard Bassett says:

        Paul, since no one is dying within a month of being infected with HIV…and are living for thirty years now, the play would have to be pretty long! HIV/AIDS is, now, not the health crisis that made good theatrical material, Life vs. Death. That theme will always be popular with the hopes of becoming compelling. Now, HIV/AIDS folks are dealing with drug resistance, long term medication side effects, getting on or off Social Security Income/ Disability…trying to rejoin the work force, longevity of life, aging 40’s through 60’s. And lastly, funds for supportive services drying up. That is the reality of living with HIV/AIDS today and I wonder how interesting that ‘material’ would make for a theatrical piece. “Philadelphia” would have lost all of its strength if the lead character won his law suit (without the stigma of visually living with Karposi sarcoma) and moved on to another law position…instead of dying. I do not even think that those scenarios’s make up people’s issues these days. Everyone would be asking: “Why is he dying?”…especially a gay audience. Even Elizabeth Taylor’s passionate plea would still incite never ending applause but the immediacy would be lost. She knew this too. Giving 1985 speeches in 2010.

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          Not everyone lives for 20 or 30 years and AIDS is not just another “manageable disease” as it curiously is portrayed as. Even long-term survivors have found  that “quantity of life” does not equate to “quality of life.”  The pharmaceutical companies are partly to blame with advertising that falsely painted a “pretty picture” of AIDS but the AIDS advocacy community is partly to blame as well for its complicity in the “pretty picture.” Both are to blame for the once-again increasing numbers of gay and bisexual men who who are testing HIV-positive because they did not practice safe sex because they believed  AIDS is not considered a fatal disease any longer so it doesn’t matter. 

          For many it is indeed a fatal disease rather than a managerable disease. Particularly those who are not only HIV-positive but have been diagnosed with AIDS. Some live for only 2 or 3 years in some cases. Not 20 or 30 years.  Not everyone is a long-term survivor.  Two years ago I watched someone die a horrible death from AIDS. One of the ones who was always healthy. Or so he thought. He lasted five years from the first T-cell count which was “borderline” AIDS. Not so “borderline” several months later.

          AIDS Healthcare Foundation has publicly attacked Gilead Pharmaceuticals over its clinical trials of Truvada.  Any preventaive drug will have to be tested in a population that does not practce safe sex. Which apparently all the volunteers do not. It is a tricky question ethically. Except if they are already exposing thermselves to the risk, if anything Truvada may lower the risk. For everyone eventually. In its attack on Gilead Pharmacueuticals AIDS Healthcare Foundation asks the question “Are we really ready to give up on gay men protecting themselves and thier partneres?”  After 25 years, the answer is many gay and bisexual men will not give up the “thrill” of unprotected sex. Period. 

          There is this curious attitude 25 years later that gay and bisexual men should be allowed to continue to party and everyone else should just find a cure.  Larry Kramer addressed that and was vilified for it.  But he and others have spoken th etruth. And part of that truth is AIDS is not just a “manageable disease” but a very debilitating one and in many cases, again, often a fatal one. Anot in 20 or 30 years. Often in 2 or 3.

          It’s a very selfish attitude.  The other victims of AIDS are often victims of the people at the party.  Particularly women who are married to bisexual men who don’t know they are bisexual until it is too late. 

          What really angers me is this belief that Elizabeth Taylor was fine with it. She was not. She did not say “keep on partying boys.” She just didn’t have the courage Larry Karmer did. Or maybe she feared being vilified the way he was.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            You are stereotyping that all gay men who have adopted ‘the manageable disease’ message to those who only want to ‘party’…which is the exact opposite of what gay men want their lives to be viewed as. Your post really is tainted and giving no credit to the millions of gay men & women (though you do not mention women) who dedicate their lives to their families, their careers and the ‘same’ lifestyle’ that is associated with the typical straight individual. Shame on you. You are clumping all gay men who enjoy going to a nightclub as automatically thinking that safer sex is no long needed (so we might as well do our drugs and have our multiple sex partners a night), You are mistaking the behavior of all gay men on such a misguided notion…when you really should be including the behavior of the very young, regardless of the orientation. The entire AIDS pandemic is to view it across the board and affecting all people, globally. The thrill of unprotected sex does not apply to everyone. It is an individual decision, not a group consciousness. So if you are going to make your main point a difference in ‘partying’, include everyone. Elizabeth Taylor never gave the message to keep on partying boys; it was that giving up on a cure/vaccine from AIDS should not be put on the back burner due to the fact that AIDS was now being viewed by some (especially funding sources) as a ‘manageable disease’. People may be pulled into a false sense of security and (as we are seeing) very long term use of the life sustaining medications is causing life altering problems. Maybe you didn’t read THAT part of my post when discussing what is prevalent in AIDS today. There will be people dying of cancer after two months of diagnosis as well as those with AIDS. These are rare conditions and are usually found concurrent with another infection. Factually, HIV drugs do support the immune system as they keep the virus at bay…but if you have a stroke, then all of the medications are pointless. Without interference from other medical conditions, people ARE living 25+ years. Not just a few or the rare, but the majority…and I was telling Paul what (now) faces the future. These are very potent medications that the body can become resistant to or can cause life threatening conditions on their own. We face that regarding AIDS every day, but these conditions take decades to appear and decades to treat. YOU are giving the wrong information, and awareness of AIDS Organization Services is to still being kept funded but these reality checks. As for it being cured, you do not die from the condition but by the complications of the condition…that once started a year or two after diagnoses. We are not there medically anymore. Just one more fact, all of those who have AIDS were once classified as HIV +, it is never the other way around.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            The statistics speak for themselves. As does the result of this “Living with AIDS” campaign which the pharmaceutical companies in great part funded to promote use of their “miracle” drugs which are not a miracle for everyone.

            I’ve been involved with AIDS organizations since 1986 and am aware of the distictiion between HIV and AIDS. I was horrified by the distinction being made. The HIV virus causes AIDS.  I know of no one who has tested positive who has not later been diagnosed with AIDS. But HIV sounded better than AIDS. And is misleading. That’s my opinion. And I will express my opinion without shame.

            And you need to read my post again. I mentioned women. Married to or dating bisexual men. Who don’t theri husband or boyfirend is bisexual. Who only find out once they’re diagnosed.  Victims of AIDS because of their husbands, or boyfriends, who were out partying on the sly. Not caring. Not caring if they caught it. Or if they gave it to anyone.

            The “Safe Sex” campaigns began to finally become part of the landscape ape in 1986.  And 25 years later, the statitstics, again, speak for themselves. 

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:


            I know all the statistics too and gay white men are THE LEAST population in contracting HIV. The MOST infected population are black women in 3rd world countries, excluding Asians. The reasons are not only for ‘reckless behavior’. Woman with multiple sex partner are at risk of infecting men and babies. The lack of insistence that women have their partner to wear condoms (with the preconceived notion that there men are cheating), drug addicted women are more likely to sell their bodies for a boost of their drug with an infected needle. This all stems from the fact that uneducated women feel vulnerable (globally) if left alone so do not protect themselves with conviction. This occurs with a population that you are unfamiliar with, I am sure, but I see them every day. Risk AIDS and keep their man to help raise their children, or being alone with the risk of homelessness and having their children taken away from them. You are putting this on a moral informed issue, when the reality does not reflect that. Your antidotal remarks about the sleazy bisexual boyfriend giving it to their golden girlfriend is surely a method of infection…but, again, it is moral and keeps AIDS and AIDS testing in the closet. Once we learn not to judge people but behaviors (whatever they may be), then part of the problem is solved. Safer sex has always been with us but it is finite. People practice it, they try or they don’t (on all levels) I know my statics too.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            You need to just look at the transmission rates in the gay and bisexual community in this country instead of trying to “compare” it to rates in the heterosexual community or to rates in other countries. After 25 years the transmission rate should be zero. Period. End of subject as far as I am concerned.  I don’t believe in guilty victims. But there are a lot of foolish volunteers at this point. 

            You have no concept of the reality for women when you suggest they are responsible for ensuring they are protected.  In many countries they do not have the right to say no to a man. They certainly do not have the right to demand he wear a condom. And it is not that much different in this country for many women. Particularly in minority communities where cultural “mores” dictate the “relationship” between men and in these commmunities often again the woman does not have the right to say no to a man. She may have the legal right. But she does not have the cultural right. But it’s not just in the minority communities and many fundamentalist religions take the right away as well. The woman must submit to the man. It’s a problem for many advocates who deal with domestic abuse/violence and sexual assault/rape. The woman fears retaliation within her own community. But to you, well, they just need to be educated. Well, to me, some are. And they still hesitate. And still submit. And that is the reality. Put the blame where it belongs. On the men. Who in many cases are bisexual and just using the woman to maintain a “heterosexual” image. Which makes it all the more appalling. Not all women are exposed by biseual men. But after 25 years no woman should be exposed by a bisexual man. Not a bisexual man who is responsible. But some just want to continue to party.

            I am not singling out the gay community but they were the community hardest hit by AIDS in this country until it exploded in the minority communities and they knew and know the reality of AIDS but it seems like they still don’t seem to want to deal with the reality.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            THIS is exactly where education and awareness comes in. Do you ever stop to think that there is reality in those words or do just sound good along with the rest. The men of the countries that you never seem to mention have AIDS themselves, if they are passing it on. Do you think that it is correct to allow this way of thinking to continue? Women being forced, killed or sold in slavery as a mode of infection? Of course, everything you say exists and need to change. If not, we are looking at a pandemic forever. Those dozens of AIDS Service Organizations, like Elizabeth Taylor’s, are trying to make this a global health issue. Not a moral issue. You are blaming men for giving AIDS to women, and these thoughts do not address the problem. You would make a terrible activist with pointing fingers at everyone. YOU would drive people back into the AIDS disclosure closet (gay or straight) because of your harsh judgment. Ideally, the AIDS rate should be zero…all over the world. You certainly sound like you are singling out the gay community and the rest of the world…as well. And women are not without their own infection rate. Look at drug addiction. Look at fear. Look at the false claim that AIDS is treatable. All keep the cause alive but making these people feel guilty and unworthy ADD, not subtract to the issue. Gay men have had the highest rate of transmission because they use the most optimal way to infect one another. Some won’t use a condom because it detracts from physical sensitivity. Some feels that they are being safe without one. Some feel as though it could never happen to them. Others feel their partner has a zero viral load. Drugs also clouds decision making. NONE of these are bad people…even the bisexual who STILL wants to party. Women are not defenseless and sending that message keeps the issue at hand. Women are being empowered…usually by other women. They are called advocates. Men have them too. NO one puts this issue on a moral or judgmental level. No one who actually works in the field, anyway. How dare you try to point you finger at someone saying ‘it is your entire fault’. This idea of the perpetual party USUALLY applies to the very young, gay & straight. Does everyone keep to their own target population or boundaries? Of course not, we are all human. And you have to stop thinking of this country as a separate entity because AIDS eventually finds itself back here to begin with. Put some humanity into this issue, and take away the judgment and you may have something to work with. We cannot all sit on our pedestals (especially regarding a subject that is alien to us) and read off all of the reasons and who is ‘really’ responsible. That is anti-activism that we continue to try to get ourselves away from, because it is a road block. Elizabeth Taylor did not mean ignorance (factually) was killing AIDS patients; she meant a lack of compassion. One more thought, you have the subject of ‘partying’ as being a major global reason, or at least a USA problem. Maybe there is somewhere in your past that you knowingly put yourself at risk by ‘partying’. Wouldn’t you feel a bit ashamed of yourself if people called you out on it? Blamed you and tossed you into a category. And as for drug companies hiding their cures? You must look behind your back an awful lot.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Pointing out the reality for women is not being judgemental. It is pointing out the reality. No amount of educations is not  going to change attitudes. You should know that.

            I don’t need anyone to call me out. I already did. I was lucky. As were others. But in my case it also had to do with the “epidemic” of herpes. The party is nice. But it has a price.  My party ended with herpes. Others continued with the party. Believing there wasn’t a price. Or that it was not a heavy price. A pill a day makes it all go away.  It angers me that Mr Wow takes 20 pills a day. It angers me that quite a few do.  It is not a pretty picture. 

            Straight men and women people continued the party believing it only affected gay people. Forgetting that there were bisexual men.Gay men continued the party believing “Adonis” couldn’t possibly have AIDS. Even though he did.

            Smart people no longer party. And yet that seems to be what the gay community continues to do. Party.

            Larry Kramer took the same position. And was viliffied.  So I’m at least in good company.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Baby, in support of you, may I also remind Richard that married women are especially at risk…and not just from bisexual partners. Through the act of vaginal intercourse, women are much more likely to contract AIDs than men. A man who uses intravenous drugs, frequents any kind of prostitute, or is engaging in any kind of promiscuous sex outside the marriage can easily infect his wife who is relying on the PIll, and IUD, or some other form of birth control than condoms. There has been a truly alarming rise in the rate of married women being infected in this way, particularly in the lower income black communities, in which condom use is not considered socially acceptable. Another group being hit hard are post menopausal women who have ceased to take preventative measure to avoid pregnancy, and, having stopped using condoms, are infected by promiscuous husbands or lovers. These women have no reason to suspect that a long term partner would infect them…yet the numbers are there.

            Also, you cannot ignore the epidemic nature of AIDs in Third World countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Women do not have rights there unless they are of the privileged class. End of story. Rape is an everyday occurrence, not just by men against women and girls, but also by grown men against young boys. To call these men homosexual is a misnomer…this is an unaddressed debased cultural practice of long accepted standing. Efforts to encourage men to use condoms are constantly being undermined by a combination of tribal superstition, intervention by corrupt governments that convince the ignorant, uneducated citizens that White Westerners are trying to control them via sorcery (you think I’m kidding? I am not) and interfering with their manhood, and the burgeoning power of the Catholic Church in Sub-Saharan Africa. On his last tour, Pope Benedict XV preached continually to thousands of enthusiastic cheering, new followers of Catholicism that the use of condoms was prohibited by the Church, and that they should never be used. Women are helpless in this situation, with no rights by tribal law, and chattel law and condemnation of the one solution being firmly enforced by their religious leader.

            Compare that to some parts of India, in which women who have been educated outside the country return to their region to create support and work groups for women, to educate them not only in reading and writing…but also in health and their human rights. Showing them that condoms will help prevent disease and the birth of unwanted children has empowered many women, and given them the ability to refuse their prostitute-using husbands…thus lowering the rate of AIDs infection in these regions. But in other regions, rates of infection are rising steadily…because the women are chattel.

            I am no misandrist. Most of my friends through out my life have been men. Some of them have been gay. I have two sons, and a much loved husband. But we women are more vulnerable. Just the nature of the sexual act puts us at higher risk for infection. Why would a woman guard herself against a trusted partner who has successfully hidden a sordid secret life that deeply endangers her? What about the women who truly cannot protect themselves? You cannot discount them simply because you want to do so.

            And let us please be truthful. When you choose not to wear a condom when having sex with a stranger because it feels better…then you have chosen victim-hood, whether you are a woman or a man. I was a very nihilistic and out-of-control woman in my youth…but one thing I knew was that I would not produce a child. I was fanatical about this…and I believe it helped to save me from AIDs. Otherwise, I was looking for my Mr. Goodbar. As for the gay lifestyle you would choose not to believe in…I have had too many friends who lived it, right up until the 2000’s…the restroom and alley stranger hook-ups, dirty theaters, behind clubs, trolling the Internet…no condoms, rough sex, no questions…and a test every 3 months or so. Yes, they know the risks, and no, they can’t really explain why. It certainly isn’t all gay men…it is a select, small percentage of the gay male population. And, just FYI, there is a percentage of the population of straight kids at universities across the country indulging in the same kind of senseless, high risk behavior…and the Internet hook-ups by various people continue, with the largest percentage being “straight” men seeking one-time stranger liaisons with other men.

            And so it goes. Women are the hardest hit, and far too often, the last to know. It doesn’t matter, I think, if people are intelligent or bone-stupid, never made it past the 6th grade, or have a triple Ph.D. from Harvard, are sophisticated or socially retarded. It gets down to narcissism, poor impulse control…biology and the sad facts of society and religion.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:


            I do not think that anyone is questioning anything that you said…in general; but because these practices occur through-out the world doesn’t make it right until the end of time. For any type of infection to occur, HIV bodily fluids have to have the opportunity to enter the blood stream of another person. Both the anal region and the vaginal region contain such small capillaries, rendering them easier to tear and bleed (even microscopically) and if infected HIV bodily fluid enters these torn intricate blood vessels, you can become infected. You talk about black women, Indian woman, married women, married men, tribal man, customs and beliefs while the fact of the matter is infection does not discriminate. This is the mechanics of HIV transmission. Yes, there are variations but this is what MUST happen to become infected. Learning this is done through education and awareness everywhere in the world…even your African jungles. This is the education behind AIDS prevention. If you want to think of having sex on a toilet seat as a lifestyle, so be it. Baby’s primary concern was sleazy bisexual men. And this is global. Not only indicative of the USA. In the USA, we have more resources to practice safer sex than we have in other third world countries but it is a goal to reach for. You are presenting an everyday scenario, that I am all too familiar with, and registering it as a fact that can never change. That may be the philosophy of an educated person, but it certainly isn’t in the job description of an activist or an advocate. Our roles are to give credence to the belief of every population by not judging them but by objectively educating them on a fatal disease. If you feel that there is no hope, you have a right to that opinion. But you are only contributing to the problem with your academic knowledge instead of developing methods and strategies to get through to everyone. These men (or women) who are at risk and are becoming infected are (also) being infected by an HIV+ human being, themselves…so the education does not only apply to those at risk, but to those who are already effected. We are not putting this as a morality issue, use judgments or are attempting to change basic cultural beliefs. Your post only reflects what is already known by millions of people. Billions more need to be educated in a way that makes sense for them. Everyone, gay, straight or in the middle need support in focusing on their behavorial contribution, without making themselves feel guilt or shame. Every sexual behavior, drug addiction, birth, breast feeding, occupational hazard can be termed a risk when speaking about HIV. Please never sign up for amfAR or the Peace Corp because your words will never leave anyone with a modicum of hope or the willingness to change. And this is just one aspect of the pandemic. There are many facets to this condition but what we don’t need is someone else giving their dismal (yet their own) opinion. We’ve heard it all before.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Richard, I was not saying that things cannot change, and I am sorry that you find my opinion “dismal”. However, humans are what they are, and you can spend all of your resources (I am referring to the global “your”) and time educating everyone, and I do mean everyone, thoroughly, and there will still be those who simply do not care: either to understand, to take responsibility, to change their ways, or to have within themselves empathy. I am not a pessimist, nor do I loathe humans. I find our race fascinating and flawed, and I love people. But I am also a cynic, and so I shall remain.

            Great progress has been made in the entire spectrum of the issues surrounding AIDs: social understanding and acceptance, treatment, prevention, a grasp of who is at risk and why…and yet, people are still being infected, even in this country. Because, as I said, humans are no more or less than they are. I am surprised that you would make even a veiled accusation that this is a morality issue or one of judgment for me…it isn’t. I am not going to judge someone for having contracted AIDs. However, when one abdicates all responsibility in the face of being fully educated. I do confess to being bemused…especially when that person refuses to acknowledge all accountability. I don’t think the person should be denied help, or comfort…but to call that person an “innocent victim”…is puzzling, and promotes further behavior of the same kind in others. That’s not a morality judgment…it’s common sense. And the person in question? Just a human being who, flying in the face of all reason, decided (yes, it is a choice) to make a terribly risky choice. Only human Richard…and some people will always fall that way. Not everyone will always listen. We aren’t programmed that way.

            I would make a terrible advocate, Richard, beyond a shadow of a doubt. That’s why I have never chosen that as a role in life. I believe strongly in choice, in accountability, and in responsibility. I am a former addict, and alcoholic, and I have enough diagnosed mental illnesses to fill a small text book. I spent a lot of time existing, then surviving, before I began living. I do not have any patience for the idea that people cannot help themselves (unless their mentality is that of a young child), or that one should “give it up to a higher power”…and therefore advocate all culpability in one’s problems. I am not religious, nor am I an atheist. I have no use for groups or causes, because they all to frequently become parodies of themselves.

            I find your attitude discouraging. Don’t join this, and don’t join this, because, since you don’t think precisely as I do, you’re part of the problem, not the solution. Being a realist is part of the problem…and fabricating a false reality isn’t? Of course AIDs doesn’t discriminate…but women, at this time, are the portion of global society most at risk, with greatest increase in reported new infection. Why would that fact make you so incredibly defensive? Horrible realistic cynics like me spend an enormous amount of time fighting for actual, real sex education in schools, including distribution of condoms and showing kids how to use them. Parents like me talk to their children about how STD’s work, and all of the risks. Women like me advocate against religious morons who tell ignorant people that condoms are a sin, argue hard for complete separation of government and ALL religious dogma, and for foreign aid to Third World countries to include heavy education on the prevention of AIDs and unwanted pregnancy by the easiest means: condoms. We know that AIDs has no boundaries. I know a woman who runs an AIDs hospital in Romania. I have seen the pictures of the repudiated women and their children left in a state of utter poverty and starvation she keeps there until they die. No man uses a condom in Romania, the Church expressly forbids it…but they visit prostitutes male and female, infect their wives, then force THEM to work as prostitutes until they are too weak and ill. Then they, and their infected children are abandoned to die as outcasts. This is in Romania, in Europe.

            You may maintain your sunny outlook and avoid the grim realities for the purpose of your advocacy. This woman lives with those realities every day, as she holds the hands of the demented and dying. It is like Victorian England, in which people gave generously to charities to help the sick and dying far long as they did not have to acknowledge the realities of rape, venereal disease, alley abortionists, the pox and prostitutes dying in their doorways and being left there to rot in their own cities. People like to help and to give…as long as they are presented with a rosy glowing outlook for the future, and no fear or worry in their own beds or medical exams.

            Reality is. I’ll take my point of view over rose colored glasses any day. And by the by, Richard, I’ve talked a lot of people out of sheer foolishness with compassion and understanding, most of them young, male and confused. I’m good at it. I’m a kind person. But don’t confuse me with a Pollyanna. That’s something I’ll never be.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:


            Your words are not without merit from a sociological point of view. Even the aspects of human behavior. I have had addictions, mental illness, HIV, homelessness, suicidal ideation, PTSD but saved my own life. I returned to school (leaving a medical career) for a social service career. Primary Addiction/ Dual Dx/ Crisis Interventionist & Counselor (CADAC) and life is very different, now, compared to the rough patches. But my experiences come primarily from interacting with others in or have been in similar predicaments opposed to my own personal experience. Why? Because I cannot be objective with myself and I realize that not everyone ‘gets it’ right away. But I do not stop trying. I benefit from them, but more so, others can identify with each other. My style is cognitive behavioral, and dialectical behavioral with some unstructured REBT. I understand that human’s do not all change (if at all) at the same time. Whether it is with addiction or AIDS. There is progress being made, socially and especially, medically. That we continue to get funding reflects that. It is 2011 and progress is made at a snail’s pace. In 1984, everyone was too frightened not to change. In theory, there should be no new cases of HIV (especially in the USA) but we cannot walk into a battle with THAT attitude. In addition of global education, there is medication, there is community, there is individual therapy, there is outreach and everything takes time, money and resources. Remember, the women in Romania that you speak about were given AIDS by someone who had AIDS, and that person had to have been infected by someone else who had AIDS. So the entire premise isn’t in pointing fingers, it is working with what you have to work with. When it is Romania’s time, things will change. Advancements in the disease occurs every day, you just do not see it. I do, it is my job and I (like thousands who work with me) consider it their job, too. If I listen to you as someone who understands…and leave it at that, then that is all well and good. But when I listen to actual facts, figures, actions, changes, funding…I am listening with ‘action’ on my mind. I do not need to hear the social realities because there would never be any motivation to change things. And at the end of the day, I go home and enjoy my life…very well. I just know where I belong. This started with Baby’s somewhat moral stance, and my only point was to take the morality issue, the blame issue, the gender issue, out of the equation and provide some of the solutions. Nothing in detail. On a site like this, I do not expect to find one and I usually pass it off as someone’s limitations. So, I understand your circumstances and history, on a very basic level and, as I said, your opinion belongs to you. And at times, people vent but you came from out of nowhere today on a subject that I believed Baby and I put to bed. I have just as much of a life of humor than I have a life of devotion. My transitions now that I’m getting older is focusing on philanthropic endeavors, but only with the knowledge that those who are coming after me are just as dedicated to the cause.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:


            Richard, to state a different point of view is not to “point figures”, and to state the reality, sometimes very ugly, will not halt progress, though it may save lives. I can’t apologize for interfering in a subject you considered safely “put to bed” because I don’t read visit WoW every day any longer,; the site and many of the comments have become too vapid. I just came upon the discussion, and I was frankly disturbed by your attitude. I wasn’t “venting”. You seem to have the opinion that only your methodology will work in order to make progress against AIDs on all fronts, and to have relegated my comments to the arena of mere sociological study. Also, I am not “venting”. Why o why when someone has a strong opinion that happens to disagree with another’s on this site are we now accused of “venting”, “hatred”, or “insanity”? How disheartening…

            I don’t really think that convincing people that reality is unicorns and rainbows is an actionable approach…and the increase in newly diagnosed cases seems to support that. No, I neither have to be right, or want to be. You refer to the increase in women with AIDs, and the global helplessness of women in Third World countries as “the gender issue”, as if I were “pointing a finger” at men. I already stated that I was not…do you not read other people’s words, or do you simply choose not to acknowledge that this exists? Of course the women in Romania were infected by men who “got AIDs from somewhere”; most likely from prostitutes, who do not have any legal recourse and haven’t for centuries, and are still sometimes stoned to death in the streets because, well, they’re AIDs infected prostitutes and fallen, useless, pariahs. You are the one simplifying global problems into mere, dismissible “issues” that don’t matter in the bigger picture because education and medicine will take care of them if we just pretend they’re not happening and only talk about the successes.

            But Richard. That. Is. A. Lie. More women are contracting AIDs here despite education, better medication, everything. And the plight of the women in Romania, and Third World countries in which they…Have. No. Rights. (You can call this a “gender issue” and dismiss it all you like, you can hide your head and pretend that progress is being made…but it isn’t. What about “have NO rights” challenges you? That isn’t a gender issue, it’s a centuries old global atrocity) isn’t improving. Prostitutes in those countries don’t have rights either, particularly those under the age of twelve…female or male. I told you, I am no misandrist, nor am I a feminist. I also know the cold reality of the Other Side of AIDs, the one not affecting the gay community, which is so often dismissed and ignored.

            Richard, I know about advancements in the field of AIDs. I acknowledged this. I fully support them, and I hope to see much more, socially, medically, and in the area of prevention and responsibility. But I also am fully aware of those who are not benefiting in the least. Are we to ignore them in pursuit of furthering The Cause. Which Cause? I told you I am wary of Causes…they make mockeries of themselves, and cause tunnel vision in those who become their devotees. I am concerned about humanity as a whole, and I cannot demote so many to the lowly status of a mere “issue”. You refuse to acknowledge biological and worldwide cultural/dogmatic/social facts that horribly affect a huge percentage of the world’s population. I have a hard time justifying that, in my own sociologically useful opinion, to further The Cause.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:


            Of course, your opinion is important to you. In many cases, nothing can be done to change the state of circumstances that we see today. And in many cases we are failing miserably in trying the right the wrongs of the world, so acknowledging them shows the best understanding of AIDS. Very good. There are societies that are beyond all hope/help as they have formed a way of living, and course of action that reinforces their cultural behavior and that is just the way of the world. Women are getting infected more and more. It is truly sad. People’s situation termed as “issues” are dehumanizing and there is no cause to attend to because…you do not believe in that, as it…somehow…demoralizing people. You are talking about societies instead of the rate of lowering the viral load with clinical trials of Truvada boosted by Norvir, using a protease inhibitor in place of an integrase inhibitors…thus keeping the integrase inhibitors only as a last line of defense. Have these studies proved successful in type 1 or type 2 (the more prevalent) of the viral RNA/DNA construction. Romania seems to be a middle ground to type 1 and type 2, so it is not without evidence that we already know that there is going to be drug resistance to even newly diagnosed cases. Oh, and yes…I see the difference in societal norms in such repressed countries …would a reverse transcriptase inhibitors paired with a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors along with a small dose of a fusion inhibitors decrease a patient’s viral load of 1,000,00+ (newly infected) to under 50 copies instead of using the strongest protease inhibitor, initially. Sure, the strongest PI could be used but what about twenty years down the line or cross infection. Which class of medication are the Romanians (now) most familiar with, if any? A decision that could influence what will be the next line of defense for them. Luckily, in the USA…between FDA approved and clinically tested approved medications, we have the most potential to see a zero viral load, and a high T-Cell count, very long term. A comprehensive medication history that aims to brings its knowledge into developing countries. Now, which class or combination of medications addresses HIV 2 infections in India’s Indians (mid-Asia), who have already used the convenient medicatication ‘Atripla”…to the point of geneo-typical resistance? How was the same issue handled in Australia? We could potentate Atripla with AZT (Retrovir). Oh, back to you…yes, I see your point. It is going to be difficult to reach everyone or change people’s mind, you bet. People should change their behavior.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            And on and on it goes.  In a perfect world women really would have control over their own bodies. It is not a prefect world.

        • avatar Mr. Wow says:

          Dear Richard…

          Correct!   I was diagnosed in late 1997.  The doctors who took my chest x-rays and counted my zero t-cells said, literally, “You need to make plans.”  And they didn’t mean for dinner.  But my own doctor (and B., who is a doctor) were up on the latest drug cocktails. However these smart guys figured it, my cocktail worked.  I lived on to annoy the masses.  Or at least you all here.

          I don’t even think about it anymore, not even when I take my daily 20 pills. On the other hand, I think about it every waking moment, because I gave it to B. (“I would have preferred a sweater, honey” he said.)  I’m not living with AIDS as much as I am living with guilt. 

          I haven’t seen the new production of “The Normal Heart.”  But I will.  And no doubt because I lived through that time, lived through my own illness, lost friends, saw my own reckless behavior affect the one I love most–it will still resonate.  But it is a period piece, no question.  As to your question–yes, a great theatrtical piece could be made out of “living healthy” with AIDS.  But it would a a challenge. 

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Gently *chastises” Mr. Wow because I do not do guilt and do not allow others to. Well, unless you stalk me. Then you get plastered on a billboard. Many don’t know and assume they are fine because they are healthy.  And many tested negative for some reason even though they were positive – many simply had not had an immune reaction.  I’m told that still happens even with the more exacting tests.

            I also don’t belive in guilty victims. There are no guilty victims with AIDS. Only foolish ones in some cases. But folly is part of life. Not a sin. Not something to feel guilty about.

            It’s a tough call. I get angry because some don’t take it seriously. I get really angry because some simply don’t care. I doubt you were ever one of those.  

          • avatar Mr. Wow says:

            Dear Baby…and Mr. Wow gently accepts your good thoughts.  I don’t feel bad for myself, or think I am a sinner  or that I deserved it–but when one involves others…

            As much as I would like to be free of my guilt, it is always there.  I am blessed however that in all the years since, B. has never once said, “How could you?”  Or even, “see what drinking can do!” (my indiscretions were always the result of demon run. And vodka.)  Because I have always thought so badly of myself, it is difficult to accept love.  Even when it is right there with me, every day and night. 

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            For all of us who enjoyed the “sexual revolution” some of us were just lucky. I forget the dates the CDC traced the beginning of the emergence of the virus in the general population but it was around in the late 70s. In the bathhouses in New York. And in the poolhouses in Bel-Air. And it did not discriminate.  It was exploding in the straight community at the same time it was exploding in the gay community.  The straight community covered it up. Young gay men were put in isolation rooms with “AIDS” on the door.  Young straight men were put in regular rooms with “Pneumonia” on the door.  I know. I saw it. With my own eyes. In both cases precautions were taken. With gay men to protect the nurses and doctors. With straight men to protect  the patient although the nurses and doctors were protected as well.  They just weren’t “labeled” the way gay men were.

            There was a lot of hypocrisy in the begining. I got into a lot with everyone. The AIDS organizations. The ministers waving their Bibles. The nutty doctors who wanted everyone who tested positive for the virus tattooed and quarantined. Including my dermatologist. A diocese that used an old house as a “hospice” for priessts with AIDS. Quite a hospice. No nurses. No doctors.
            There is still a lot of hypocrsisy. I stlll call it out. But not as much. Most really don’t care. Something Elizabeth Taylor I suspect realized as well as time went on. She probably dealt with that as well as I have. Shatters the heart.

            If you had known, would you have deliberately exposed Mr. B? Some would have. I know in my heart that you wouldn’t have.  That is all that matters.  

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:


            Smart people no longer party. And yet that seems to be what the gay community continues to do. Party.

            Straight and gay people (especially the young) like to go to clubs, meet people, find sex, some take drugs. All hormones. I was one of them, too though I got much more than herpes. I don’t regret a single day. To party does not have to be indicative of contracting AIDS. We’re still in the drivers seat. We are not 21 and we have seen the consequences of a ‘life in the fast lane’. It has nothing to do with being straight or gay, Baby. It has to do with the decisions that we make. Some younger folks like to stay home and invite people over for dinner. Now, if they are gay…should they be clumped in the same group as those who run wild? I think not.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Those who contracted the virus in the early 80s didn’t know about it – 30 years later everyone know about it. Of course 30 years later the message is that AIDS is a manageable disease. No big deal. That is the wrong message. Ask Mr. Wow if he enjoys the 20 pills a day. He is lucky. They do seem to be “managing” the disease. Not everyone is lucky.

            I got into this with Elizabeth Taylor and Mathilde Krim back in 1996.  The matter of “gay activism” colliding with “AIDS activism” and my feeling hasn’t changed one bit. It has been a complete disaster.

            The party. The straight community doesn’t promote it as a healthy lifestyle. The gay community does.  Sorry. How I feel.

            Everyone who can should go see “The Normal Heart.” And remember Larry Kramer’s comments about the party.  His comments from the heart. As are mine. Not cold hearts although they seem to be to some. Caring hearts.  

          • avatar Mr. Wow says:

            Dear Baby…I didn’t know.  But I should have.  And when his diagnosis came, I reached the lowest depth.  But I survived and so has he. 

            I tell myself every day I am not intelligent, sensitive, worthy of love, capable of behaving in a truly adult manner.  I pissed away, through fear and insecurity, every escape from my not so happy professional life. 

            But, each night when I come come, B. does a little song and dance to greet me, and make me feel  better.  “If that aint love, what is?!!” as Golde said to Tevye in “Fiddler.” 

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            The nice thing about love is suddenly someone thinks we are intelligent, sensitive, and worthy of their love.  Love is not really “adult” when you think about it but that is probably what’s nicest of all about love.

            We all engage the “could have, should have, would have had I known” monster. Even Elizabeth Taylor did. In the end, well, we could have, should have and probably still wouldn’t have. Not if we’ve lived life to its fullest and for the moment. As we should.

            Miistakes?  You bet. I made them. She made them. Everyone has made them. Except for Donald Trump of course. 

            Elizabeth Taylor ended up alone. I ended up alone. You ended up with Mr. B.  And have been with Mr. B how long?  She is cackling that cackle of hers in the cosmos.   Our other halves become our mirror. Mr. B is yours. A reflection of one of life’s jewels.  And you are his. A reflection of one of life’s other jewels.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            Mr WoW,

            1997 was a defining year. The promise of protease inhibitors had the ability to affect the virus in a part of the cell that could never have been touched before. In short, protease inhibitors tricked the cell into thinking it was making a carbon copy of its infected self…when it wasn’t. The virus is smart, though. Even today it is trying to find a way to infect a cell. Our only defense is to find out ‘where’ on the cell it is trying to enter…and put up a road block, or another tricking tactic. Now in 2011, dozens of medications are dedicated to this process. Too technical to get into. The infected cell can now use its own tricking devise to get into the cell at the RNA/DNA level. Science is working on this aspect of the cell right now. No doubt, your zero T-cells increased all the while the virus thought it was reproducing itself…when, in essence, it wasn’t. The drugs soon became more complicated as the virus became smarter and now other, adjacent, healthy cells are being infected…causing resistance and other medical conditions so we are working on a time element now. You know, I work, have worked, and have this condition and try to keep ahead of the mutating virus. It mutates (disguises itself) so a ‘one vaccine fits all’ process cannot occur. Twenty pills is a lot of pills these days but you must have been on many regimens throughout the years. Funding, now, is aiming for peer education (the funder’s feels that they do not need the amount of high paying professionals that the disease once had). It is hardly a portion of my day. I go to it (the resources). It doesn’t come to me. Though you say that you feel guilt, well…no one can or should take that feeling away. It doesn’t help. It is part of you. I feel guilt due to behaviors that have nothing to do with AIDS. I live with it. I own it and no one can make it disappear. As long as it is not interfering with the quality of my life, let there be guilt. Why not?

  7. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    Is GaGa stealing or borrowing from Madonna? Well, there is a finite number, albeit hundreds, of subjects and tunes that have proven to be popular. Yoko Ono with a sitar plunking one note, one sound at the same time…didn’t catch on. (No one could dance to it, hehehe) so it doesn’t surprise me that there are several blond female singers who sing dance songs. I can choose eight in one minute or dozens of alternative rock groups with the same sound that I find I cannot distinguish one from another. Maybe there really is nothing ‘new’ or have been ‘new’ for decades. A sound, a style and a visual are all interconnected to all performers. Maybe in 2000BC, all of the originals have come and gone. The rest? Just variations.

    • avatar Maggie W says:


      Great post, Richard.

      Madonna/Esther has been thrown under the bus many times. I remember when people accused her of being a Marilyn Monroe wannabe. But Gaga seems to have noted Madonna’s sensibilities when they did take center stage. She knew how to keep the mystique alive for  three decades. Quite a remarkable feat. Gaga knows thousands of 15 years old are listening to “Born This Way” at the volume of a NASA blast off. Can she keep her extravagant dance-pop style alive while experimenting with Latin sounds ( Alejandro) and rapping in French (Bad Romance). There’s also some Enya in her music.  It’s hard to consider her a passing flash when she had 2000 first day US radio spins ( an industry record).  She is so young, but then so was Jagger ( 23) when he wrote “I Can’t  Get No Satisfaction”.

      It must be difficult to be bold and also subtle in your messaging when nothing is considered either anymore. Like Madonna, she is betting that the more blunt the song/video is the better it will work, but isn’t that the norm now? There is no envelope left to push. And where does one go after donning a meat dress or arriving in an egg? Like Madonna, if she hits a lag, perhaps she can convert to a new religion.
      I think Maher is a hoot.  He also has some very interesting guests.  Well, okay, Darrell Issa did slip in there somehow. Yawn. 

      • avatar Richard Bassett says:

        Thanks, Maggie V

        I guess learning rock/electro songs in another language can be see as different and challenging…for Lady GaGa, anyway.

      • avatar D C says:

        “no evelope left to push.”  My son, at the age of 17 told me that “it just isn’t fair!  When we were kids our music made our parents mad and was rebellious.  Now, parents LIKE their kids music.  So unfair — we took away their best rebellion tool.” 

  8. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    Actually, I thought Bill Maher’s remark rather funny.  And I don’t think I need to prove my La Liz bone fides.  I was glad to see the one day of wall-to-wall coverage. I get it that others don’t get it.

    I adored 80’s/90s Madonna.  Lately?  I’m looking forward to “W.E.”   Gaga is a big talent, but maybe I am just too old to become one of her “little monsters”–or, perhaps because she is  covering so much ground that has has tilled by M, I’m yet to appreciate Gaga’s genuine gifts. 

    Eh, my iPod is stuffed with the likes of Ella and Frank and Judy and Peggy,  and Lena, the Stones and Beatles, Joan Baez, Mahalia Jackson, show tunes, all those 60’s girl groups, kd lang, the Kinks, bubblegum music, Maria callas, MM and Marlene and Madonna and what not.  I don’t think there is room for Gaga.  I’ll live. 

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      If you knew what the last six weeks of her life were like you wouldn’t find it funny. Had she come out of the hospital and gone home, perhaps it would have been. But she didn’t.

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Baby—are you kidding me?  I know more about what  her  last weeks (and years) were like than most people.  Had she not been Elizabeth Taylor, she would have died the night she was admitted to the hospital.  Without all her children around her.

        And I know enough about her to be sure she would have laughed at the idea of a sandwich named for her at Cedars.   Anything about food made her happy.

        Not everybody is a fan or has a sentimental attachment.  Certainly not an acerbic  fellow like Mr. Maher.  Thats not his function. 

        ET  had  a great life until she didn’t–and even after the good times stopped rolling, she soldiered on.  When  doctors told her nothing could be done to untwist her body, hunched by scoliosis and osteoporosis, she she said–with a laugh!–to a reporter from WWD, “this is never cheery news!”

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          I just find jokes about someone’s death to be appalling. Funny? In the frameworkof her having checked into as many hospitals as she did hotels along the way, perhaps to some it was.  She had an “episode” as they’re called.  Common as congestive heart failure as well as COPD advances. In that framework it wasn’t.

          I make jokes about my own situation. She may have as well. In the end, their our jokes to make. Not someone else’s. In the end they’re not so funny.

  9. avatar D C says:

    I was really disappointed in Gaga when Born This Way came out.  It was so obviously a stolen tune with different words — and the Madonna version was just so much better.  That said… I’m still going to dance to it if they play it the club we go to once a month.  As long as Gaga doesn’t continue the plagiarism, it’ll be OK.  Her “egg entrance” was a real disappointment as was the performance at the Grammy’s.  Costumes were a let down, etc.  I was expecting better.  But we all strike out now and then.  Hopefully she’ll bounce. 

    Bill Maher amuses me at times.  I don’t watch him enough to be offended by what he said about Elizabeth Taylor.  Those who are publicly offended by stuff like this only serve to give Maher undeserved publicity.  People today spend way too much energy being offended. 

    Wish I had the cash to dash up to NYC and see The Normal Heart.  Especially since Jim Parsons is in it.  I’d like to see him do something besides Dr. Sheldon Cooper (much as I love that character).  I’m also very interested in the story.  I remember back in ’82 when it was hitting the fan, and a good friend of mine was diagnosed.  Some of our mutual friends were afraid to have any contact with him, and I took a lot of heat for telling them that talking with him on the phone and hugging him and giving our support was NOT going to give us all AIDS.  And then my friend died.  Not terribly long after, the word got spread more and more that you couldn’t really “catch” HIV by being in the same state with a homosexual man.  None of those people every addressed it.  I wonder if they lost any sleep over their attitude toward a very dear person in his time of need. 

  10. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Ah, well, Lady GaGa. I listened, I shrugged, I said, “And so?”, and I moved on. I am not interested in another dance-music-image-driven so-so entertainer. Does she have some basic talent? Sure, but she’s out to make a scene and promote an (old) image.

    Madonna? I actually like two of her songs, “Material Girl”, which is bouncy, sarcastic and revealing…and “Like a Prayer”…not just because I am an iconoclast, but because it is the only one of her songs that I find genuinely provocative (I don’t care about the video). Madonna, ahem, borrowed a great deal of her style from Grace Jones (who was and remains much more exotic and pushed boundaries much harder than Madonna ever did) and German cabaret performers. Also, I am not a fan of her performance in “Evita”…she takes songs that are meant to be sung with passion, desperation, fear and pain…and in a voice that sounds like she just had a hit of nitrous oxide or helium, makes them into disco tracks. I am always slightly bemused when people heap praise on her Evita. Good grief.

    I am not speaking of her social contributions…just her as a performance artist. I prefer to keep the two aspects separate ( although I find her efforts in Malawai…interesting). Most dance music isn’t terribly appealing to me, and most deliberate efforts to shock and appall are, well, yawn inducing. Whether it is burning guitars, masturbating on stage, allegedly sacrificing animals or having intercourse with them, wearing missile cone bras, indulging in bondage or kissing same-sex victims, or practicing your version of satanic rites…it’s all in the name of making a name for yourself. Performance art or artlessness. I prefer music, and a show based on someone who doesn’t need quite so many props to get attention…because they have the actual, astounding talent to rivet and entrance their audience.

    Our CD collection is so eclectic, and our taste so varied that there is little that can’t be found in our stuffed cabinet. Yes, there is a Madonna CD, courtesy of R.. But very little of the current crop of Image Performers. They just aren’t listenable.

  11. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    “Pushing the envelope” is such a joke.  It’s been done to death and I’m tired of hearing about it.  I find it very sad when musicians feel the need to do so because it screams “I’m really not that talented so I must do something to get your attention”. In Lady Gaga’s case, she’s classically trained and when she first made it big, she actually did seem unique and different, particularly with her writing.  But now, she’s emulating Madonna, and drowning in crappy dance music probably all of about 3 chords.  Theatrical & different is all fine and dandy, but should be more as a complement to the music , IF the performer wants to be remembered for their music (think Elton John).  If not (and that’s okay, too), just don’t try and sell us something so that we might be enlightened.