My Name Is Peter

Some Thoughts on Some Things

Armed Forces Music Videos?

April 29th, 2010

This morning, two friends forwarded me these two videos that were filmed and edited by young people in our armed forces. I couldn’t help but smile and watch them a few times. Really fun, really creative, and so cool to see young people having a chance to express themselves and to show off their talents. My personal favorite is the “Tik Tok” Air Force video, but the Lady GaGa one is pretty great, too.

A few years back, when I was a budding young film student, technology was not what it is today. In order to edit video on a computer, you needed an AVID, or something similar, which consisted of about the biggest Macintosh tower you could buy along with what amounted to another computer that was just the AVID hardware. The AVID components were additional processors, memory cards, video cards, and a bunch of other things I couldn’t even begin to imagine.

Retail on a system like this was, I believe, minimum $60,000. And that didn’t even include the hard drives, video tape machines, sound system, monitors, and on and on.

About two years later, however, things started to change. Computers began to get so powerful that we no longer needed all that expensive hardware to store and edit video. Software-based systems with lots of RAM became accessible to the average individual. The “PRO-sumer” grade video camera was born – which offered rather striking high-quality video at a fraction of the cost of a traditional broadcast television camera.

And then came the very collegiate debate… Available technology would soon give everyone the opportunity to become motion picture and video artists. But should everyone have the opportunity to be an artist? Or would access to affordable, powerful technology overrun us with an endless supply of “bad” or “self-indulgent” video art?

I have always maintained that the advancement of technology is a wonderful thing. And if people are compelled to shoot a video and edit it and display it for all the world to see, then they should go for it! Listen, elitists will always be elitists, and they will have their reasons for excluding people from their little clubs. Hollywood has shown time and again that just because you have access to tons of money and the newest and fanciest tools, doesn’t necessarily mean that you that you have good taste or even the ability to produce something worth watching.

So why not celebrate the fact that the latest technology has given anyone who has a couple of thousand dollars lying around the ability to make something fun and eye catching? I think it’s great, and I also think it’s fabulous that the internet has provided a means for people to distribute their work easily and basically for free.

Keep the creativity coming!

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

March 10th, 2010

A few weeks ago, my friend Brad invited me to go with him to hear Marianne Williamson speak.

“Really?” I scoffed. “You really go hear her speak?”

“Yeah, she’s great. She speaks every Tuesday. You should come if you’re free,” he said in a tone that was neither defensive nor effusive.

It was the kind of take-it-or-leave-it statement that always piqued my interest. I wondered just who this Marianne Williamson was and how she’d managed to get the attention of Brad, someone I’d never known to be exceptionally new-agey or metaphysically feel-goodey.

Side note: Los Angeles is at its core a small town, so when one generates any amount of controversy, as Marianne had in the past, people hear about it. Before I really knew anything about her, I’d decided that she was the kind of self-help guru who sold a very commercial message of canned hope and faith to masses of desperate people, in the midst of mid-life crises, clamoring to find some kind of meaning in their lives. In other words, I had a little contempt prior to investigation.

But I digress.

Anyway, I met Brad at Marianne’s lecture the following week. The theater was packed. About 900 people quietly waited for Marianne to take the stage. When she ascended the stairs and stepped into the spotlight, she looked exactly how I thought she would. Very attractive, fit and camera-ready, with $700 hair, wearing what looked to be a $2500 suit, complete with Christian Louboutin heels. Okay, I admit the shoes surprised me. I suddenly thought she was fabulous. But again, I digress.

Once onstage, she sweetly asked if the lighting was OK and if she looked all right. The audience reassured her. She graciously blushed a little bit. “This woman is good!” I mused. Then, we prayed together. And then she started to speak.

Immediately, she caught me off guard. This was not a lecture for the faint of heart, nor was it a lecture for those who were waiting to be spoon fed something mindless and easy to digest. This was a call to action. This was a careful, oftentimes what I would call PhD level, analysis of metaphysics in everyday life, with occasional references to leitmotifs in fairytales so that her points could be more clearly understood. She even discussed Albert Einstein. I was totally blown away.

Then came the questions and answers. Some people asked about what she’d spoken about. Some people asked about very specific issues in their lives. She received each question with kindness and grace and provided a direct, clear and personalized answer, while at the same time relating the issue back to a larger theme. What struck me, though, was that she was not about to co-sign anyone’s BS. In fact, she actually said to one woman, “You are 33 years old. It’s time to stop behaving like a Ditzy Dora and start living as an adult.” Oh, yes she did.

At the heart of her lecture was a simple truth. We are currently living in fear. And fear cannot be wished away. The only way to get rid of fear is to replace it with love. Love for ourselves, love for others, and love for the world around us.

It was then that I remembered something my high school English teacher had said when asked about the rumors that a man named Shakespeare didn’t actually write all those plays. Were they written by a group of people? Was Shakespeare a pen name for a man called Francis Bacon?

My high school English teacher’s response was simply, “It doesn’t matter who wrote these plays. The fact is that they exist, that they are wonderful, and that their impact and influence continue to be felt centuries after they were first published. Whether or not a man named Shakespeare wrote them is immaterial… At least to me.”

And then I thought about Marianne. I related to her message. Thousands and thousands of people around the world related to her message every day.

So, at the end of the day, does it matter who Marianne the person truly is? I think what matters is that her message is clear, positive, full of hope, meaningful, impactful, and potentially life-changing for all those who care to listen.

Sometimes, when we get so busy scrutinizing the fallibility and very humanity of a specific messenger, we often miss the message.

Today, I went to meet my friend Joe for a late lunch at Joey’s in West Hollywood.  As we were leaving, I saw that I’d received a notice like this one under my windshield wiper. Clearly, someone wanted me to know that I had parked… like an asshole.

I had to smile because, as you can see, much to my great amusement and delight, there is actually an entire website devoted solely to asshole parkers appropriately entitled,

In the past I have been known to entertain an impure thought or two about people who park like assholes here in Los Angeles, and I usually am as considerate as possible when parking my car. Today, however, I guess I got a little reckless, and that was my bad.

And though I wish I could claim all the credit for my admittedly asshole parking, in the interest of fairness, I should give credit where credit is due. When I pulled into the parking lot of Joey’s, the entire lot was pretty much full, and I was running a few minutes late to meet Joe. Luckily, there was a woman leaving, who was occupying a space that was in reality two spaces. You see, there was a large BMW parked over the line on the right side, and a Toyota Forerunner parked over the line on the left side. Joey’s lot is really only designed for smaller cars, so sometimes these things happen.

Anyway, I had a choice: I could park in the two-space space, or I could circle the block for street parking. I chose the former. I even had a pang of guilt about it, but I didn’t want to keep Joe waiting. Then, of course, I got busted by the asshole parking enforcement team of West Hollywood, but I guess that’s the risk you take when you live on the parking edge.

Thanks for keeping our parking spaces safe, guys!

She’s Always Been a Nice Lady

February 23rd, 2010

I was digging through a box of keepsakes the other night, when I came across this old, signed photo of Paula Abdul, and memories of being an 11-year-old über-fan came flooding back to me. The Sharpie is a little difficult to read, but she wrote: “To Peter, Lots and lots of love & happiness to you! Keep Dancing! Paula Abdul”

Here’s the back story… Years ago, when I was really just a gay-in-training, I developed a healthy fascination with Paula Abdul. This was during the Forever Your Girl era. I loved her. I thought she’d hung the moon. My Mom even got me a VHS compilation of her videos, and I resigned myself to learning all of Paula’s dance steps by slowly tracking through the videos frame by frame. Please don’t tell anyone, though. I don’t want to get a reputation.

But back then, I was so brought down that this particular compilation did not contain the “Opposites Attract” video…

You see, at the time, my parents didn’t have cable, so I could only see the video in glimpses at friends’ houses where there was MTV. And I thought the “Opposites Attract” video was only the coolest thing… EVER!

I begged and begged my parents to get us MTV, which of course they would hear no part of. Finally, my Dad set out on a mission to get me a copy of the video. Well, it was more of an “I’m going to write a letter to Paula” moment, as opposed to a mission, but I digress.

Anyway, unbeknownst to me, he sent a letter off to Paula and then, as one does, subsequently developed a friendship with key members of “Team Abdul.” One day, he came home from the office carrying a large, padded envelope, which he handed to me.

“I think this is for you,” he said.

So, I opened up the package to find a copy of the “Opposites Attract” video, along with the above autographed picture from Paula. I almost fainted. Then, I read what Paula had written on the picture.

“Keep dancing?” I asked. “Why did she write ‘Keep dancing’!?”

“Well, I may have told her manager that you inch through her videos frame by frame…”

“WHAT!? You told her manager that!? Now Paula’s gonna think I’m weird! Oh my God!”

He started laughing. “Will you just put the tape in the VCR so we can see what all the fuss is about?”

And yes, after a couple of years, I’d worn that tape out, too.

Overheard in a Bar

February 21st, 2010

I just got home from my dear friend Lesley’s birthday party at Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood. Some of the funniest conversations I have ever overheard have been in bars, and tonight certainly did not disappoint. As I was waiting at the bar for drinks, I was privy to this conversation between two fellow partygoers who seemed rather taken with each other:

Guy: You know, you’re really cute in an exotic sort of way.
Girl: Yeah, I’m a Persian girl from Newport Beach.
Guy: That’s cool! You could be on Jersey Shore!

And with that, my drinks arrived and I headed back over to my friends. I can only imagine where the evening took these two crazy young things…

Politics As Usual?

January 21st, 2010

In reading The New York Times today, I, like so many people, was struck by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the government’s limitations on corporate spending on candidate elections. The majority opinion cited the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. However, I absolutely agree with Justice Stevens, who read the dissenting opinion, which pointed out that corporate speech is not the same thing as an individual’s right to free speech.

In this day and age, where corporations grow stronger everyday and are able to manipulate Congress like puppeteers, how could the Supreme Court, the institution charged with interpreting our Constitution and defending our system of government, decide to allow corporations potentially unfettered financial access to the Democratic process? In my opinion, they have simply legalized corruption. Instead of working for the people, many more politicians will begin to cast their allegiances toward the corporations that exploit the people.

Equally disappointing for me was the Obama administration’s participation in the Senate election in Massachusetts. I honestly believe that had President Obama not campaigned alongside Democrat Martha Coakley, she would have had a much better chance of beating Scott Brown. The results are very clear. Voters want change. They want action. They are sick of speeches and excuses. Obama’s platform of change was and is just that. Change. If he and his administration cannot provide it, the people will look elsewhere. That is what happened in Massachusetts, and that is what will continue to happen across this country.

In my opinion, the mistake the Obama administration continues to make is that they posture themselves as if Obama’s win and subsequent popularity are about him. It has never been about him. It has always been about the HOPE and CHANGE that he represented. Those were his campaign promises. He was the new guy in town, and he was the exact opposite of George W. Bush. And that, I believe, is why Obama won.

Days before the election in Massachusetts, I started to get the usual mass emails from Camp Obama. “We’ve got an important election coming up.” “Call here.” “Send money there.” Yet, instead of being motivated by their repeated calls to action, I couldn’t help but wonder where the Obama administration was during the important gay marriage election in Maine. Or where they were when New Jersey voted on gay marriage. Or New York. Where were the supportive emails for the LGBT community saying, “Please stand up for equality”? There were none. Obama and his administration stood silent and watched as a community of his most ardent supporters was repeatedly kicked to the curb. Take a look at Maureen Dowd’s piece this week on Gavin Newsom. He has some great observations about Obama’s position on gay marriage.

The sad irony today is that the fear-based forces who have pumped millions upon millions of dollars into the hateful doctrines of “separate but equal,” “don’t let THEM redefine marriage for US,” and “keep the gays away from our school children,” are the same people whose money bankrolled the campaign of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts. The National Organization for Marriage’s latest press release proudly announces, “The National Organization for Marriage spent $50,000 in the closing days of the campaign to identify marriage voters in Massachusetts and make sure they turned out and supported Scott Brown.”

Believe it or not, I still have a lot of hope, though! I have hope that maybe now things WILL start to change. Maybe now the Obama administration will see that when they support equal rights for all Americans, they also take a stand against the hateful PAC’s that aim to slowly undermine them, too. Maybe now, when the corporations begin pumping millions of dollars into the campaigns of various elected officials, the publicity generated by those donations will keep the politicians more honest and accountable to the people they are supposed to be serving. I hope so. It is truly time for some CHANGE.

A Perfect New York Evening

January 6th, 2010

Sunday night, I had what I would consider the perfect New York evening.  And believe it or not, my perfect evening including neither a trip to the Met to see Turnadot, nor a fabulous dinner at Picholine.  Although, as a side note, my birthday is coming up on January 13th, so I wouldn’t mind doing either or both of those things should someone feel like taking me out to celebrate…

But I digress.  On Sunday night my best friend Nicole and I shared a quiet evening at her place in Tribeca with her two-year-old daughter, Lexi, who enjoys apples, chicken nuggets, chocolate milk from a box, and of course Finding Nemo.

Lexi calls me “Uncle Peter,” which, when she does, creates in me an infectious smile that starts in my heart and then fills the entire room with joy.  Yes, I just wrote that sentence, and no, I am not on lithium.  It’s 2010, people!  Lighten up!

Anyway, our evening also included a visit from a new friend of mine, whom I met on New Year’s Eve. Lexi liked him immediately, which made me smile again because if you pass the Lexi litmus test, you are definitely good people.

And so the three of us played with Lexi for a bit, and then when Nicole put Lexi to bed, I ordered us some good old-fashioned New York Thai food. After dinner we all piled onto the sofa, hid under blankets and watched Julie & Julia.  Every moment of this movie is wonderful.  Except, we all agreed, for Amy Adams’ hair.  I mean, why?

When the movie ended, Nicole headed off to bed, and my new friend headed back uptown.  I was sad to see the evening end.  On a cold New York night, there is nothing better – at least for me – than good friends, good food, a good movie, warm blankets, and a comfy couch.  I am headed back to LA tomorrow with warm memories of cold city.

Merry Christmas!

December 25th, 2009

Today is Christmas!  Regardless of our personal beliefs, most of us are spending the day with family and / or friends and enjoying life and remembering to be grateful for all of our blessings.  I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons!

This morning, I had the TODAY show on briefly and happened to catch the tail end of this piece about a free health clinic in a place called Phoenixville, PA.  Maybe it was the holiday, maybe it was because it was relatively early in the morning, or it could just be that I am emotional and have been known to cry during certain episodes of Sex and the City, but I was moved to tears.  I actually went online, found their website, and donated to them this morning.  I hope you will be moved to do the same.  Click here to see what they are all about.

And please take a look at the video:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Happy Holidays and much love,

Last Sunday, my Dad was headed into New York to meet me at a function at NYU.  On his way, he sent me a text message that read, “Do you have an extra handkerchief?  I left mine at home in the rush to make the train.”

Now, before I continue, here’s a little background. My Dad, while actually very modern (he has an iPhone 3G-S), is still of another era. An era where scalloped potatoes made with mostly butter, heavy cream, oh and a few potatoes, along with a barely seared T-Bone steak, was considered a heart healthy meal fit for a champion.  And an era where men wore suits all day and carried handkerchiefs instead of pocket Kleenex and Purell.

Believe it or not, when we eat in a restaurant, he is still able to call a young waitress over to our table and say something like, “Can I just tell you one thing?”  She’ll nod and lean in.  “You.  Have GREAT. Eyes.” And instead of a look of disgust, he gets a smile, a genuine blush, profuse thanks, and outstanding service.

Side Note: This has yet to work for me with either men or women.

But I digress.  Anyway, without thinking, I naively texted back, “Sure! I will get you one.”  And so, I left my breakfast meeting and headed off to find my Dad a handkerchief in New York.  On the way out the door, I asked a friend where I might find one in the area.  I got a blank look and an “I don’t know” shrug.

Suddenly, I realized that I hadn’t the foggiest idea where to find one, either.  I thought back to being five, when I wanted to be just like my Dad.  I remembered my Mom giving me a lovely box of three Christian Dior handkerchiefs in different colors for Christmas that year.

Back on 15th Street, I wasn’t anywhere near Christian Dior, but I was a block away from Paul Smith.  Surely, I thought, Paul Smith would have them.  I walked in and asked for handkerchiefs.  The sales gay directed me to the back room, where amidst the scarves and the leather gloves, there sat a few beautiful, delicately folded, brightly colored, polka-dotted handkerchiefs.  For $45.  Each.

I picked one up.  It was translucent silk.  I thought, “My Dad will actually sneeze into this.  I can’t.”

I proceeded onto Banana Republic.  J-Crew.  Kenneth Cole.  Agnes B. All the same story.  Silk “pocket squares” priced between $40 and $105 each.  No cotton / linen machine washable, please-sneeze-into-me, old-fashioned handkerchiefs.  Anywhere.  Someone finally suggested Brooks Brothers, but I was out of time and couldn’t make the trek uptown.

Finally, I remembered this sort of Men’s Warehouse-type store on the Northeast corner of Union Square.  I ran over there, desperate.  I walked in, terrified.  I felt like I was in that scene in Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion where Lisa Kudrow tries to get a job at that bargain basement store and finally, pathetically says, “I need to get out of here.  Now.”

They even had a sign with an arrow pointing downstairs that read, “20 Steps to a GREAT suit!”  I’m not sure if they meant 20 steps as in the number of physical steps on the staircase or 20 steps as in the number of steps in the process of fitting the suit.  Either way, for me, I have narrowed it down to one simple step to a great suit.  Prada.

But once again, I digress.  I walked up to the woman behind the counter and asked her if she had handkerchiefs.  With a warm smile, she reached behind the counter and retrieved a rather large package containing not one, but 13 handkerchiefs.  The kind you sneeze into.  For $20.  SCORE!  I paid her, thanked her profusely, and ran off to meet my Dad.

As an addendum, once I arrived at NYU and handed my Dad the handkerchiefs, I noticed a Purell dispenser by the elevator.  “Dad,” I asked, “Did you Purell today?”

What Is Going On with the Media?

December 11th, 2009

old-fashioned-television-Over the past few weeks, I started to pay attention once again to the news.  I stopped listening to and watching news broadcasts for a while because all they would do is make me upset and angry about issues over which I had no control and for which no reasonable solutions were offered.  For the most part, all I heard were just more reasons to live our lives in fear and anger.

But now, I feel compelled to point out some things I have noticed recently.

Rachel Maddow 08.widec

First, Rachel Maddow is amazing.   Hers is one of the only news broadcasts that actually disseminates real, legitimate news in a reasonable way.  No grandstanding, no screaming at the camera, no accusing the Obama administration, without factual basis, of being both Marxist and fascist at the same time.  Rachel still considers both sides of an issue and allows for intelligent discussion of that issue among intelligent, well-informed parties.

Second.  Tiger Woods.  Here’s a question.  Who cares!?  And if you care, why do you care?  Whatever is going on in his personal life is a private issue between him, his wife, and the long line of other women who see fit to confront him with lewd text messages they have saved for years. woods Tiger plays golf for a living.  His life and career, while nice and I am sure productive on some level, do not truly affect most of us at all.  Unless, of course, your last name is Woods.  Or Nike.  So why on earth are we still talking about this man’s personal life?  It’s the same story over and over again, different day.

Third.  Adam Lambert.  Let’s call a spade a spade.  The people who were and apparently still ARE upset by him and his American Music Awards performance need to a) realize that they are plain old homophobic, and then b) get a life.  This is another story that won’t die, and it makes no sense to me.  I personally don’t find him that spectacular or even that innovative.  He didn’t WIN American Idol.  And the sad truth is he has done nothing new.  Even this picture of him on the AMA’s grinding that male dancer’s face in his crotch is nothing new. Adam Lambert

Madonna, Prince, hell even Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul were doing things that I found far more shocking and thought-provoking 20 years ago.  The difference was that their performances did not involve simulated sex between two men.   Two women are fine, though, I guess.

Look at this.  Below is an image of Madonna from 1990 with her dancer’s head up her dress.  Yes, folks. 1990.  And this performance was not only celebrated when it first aired, but it then went into heavy rotation on MTV … during the daytime.

Madonna Vogue MTV

And here are some images from Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” music video from way back in 1989.  Yes, the same Paula Abdul who used to be a judge on American Idol.  Here she is with a male dancer lying between her legs.

Paula 1

Here’s a shot of two dancers from Paula’s video, which she choreographed, by the way…

Paula 4

And, just in in case you haven’t had a chance to see the video in its entirety, here is one more shot of Paula doing what appears to be cobra pose with a male dancer.  It’s actually a pretty great video.  But as usual, I digress.

Paula 2

Back in 1989, “Cold Hearted” was number 1 for WEEKS on MTV and was played in heavy rotation during the daytime.  I guess because it was an homage to Bob Fosse, it was considered more artistic and therefore OK for 12 year olds in 1989?  Not sure.

Fourth.  Sarah Palin?  Who is this woman, really?   And why do we keep sticking microphones in her face and letting her tell lies and half truths, frighten people, and generally damage our country with her ridiculous, self-serving, uninformed and polarizing opinions? sarah-palin-book-tour-bus The reality is that she is simply not qualified to be discussing national health care, foreign policy, or the fiscal policies of the United States.  She resigned her post as governor of Alaska ostensibly to go on an extended book tour.  Really?  Aside from her complete lack of experience, do we really want to trust the opinions of a woman who would resign her post as governor to go on a book tour on a bus?  Check out this article from Depak Chopra. It is enlightening.

Look, the United States is fighting not one, but three wars now, simultaneously.  The young men and women of our armed forces continue to give their limbs and their lives for us everyday, with little or no fanfare.  Our system of health care is a mess.  Lobbyists are out of control.  The economy, while getting better, is still precarious.  Gay men and women are fighting for simple equal rights against ignorant, fearful people and the politicians who want to serve that ignorance.  These are the issues we should be working on.  Believe it or not, there are still serious people who can offer serious solutions.  Please, let’s we hear from them!  Enough of the grandstanding, enough of the smokescreens, enough of the religious zealotry that offers us nothing other than fear and heartache.

It is time to get real.