Category Archives: life


It’s been said that the only constant in life is that it is ever-changing.. And in that vein, comes an exciting announcement from My Writings and Me, Inc.

As of this Friday, I’ll be taking a leave from the fantastical Chicagoist. In the year-ish since I came on board the site, I’ve written 101 posts and enjoyed an incredible opportunity to reach a new audience with my writings on Chicago’s queer communities while dabbling in a bit of witchcraft – er, music coverage – too. (What, you haven’t!?) Dreams came true when I interviewed Mink Stole. I had an outlet for what turned out being a love letter of sorts to Courtney Love and ’90s nostalgia. And, more importantly, I had the opportunity to work closely with a talented bunch of hyper-motivated and hardworking fellow writers who I’m sure will continue to shock and amaze. So, if you haven’t already, please bookmark and follow Chicagoist religiously, as though it were the cult you almost joined in college. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

While you’re bookmarking things, be sure to add the Windy City Times’ home page, where you will shortly find news coverage written by yours truly. As of this week, I’m coming on board the incredible enterprise, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary of publication. I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to work with such a legendary paper. As I described in my interview with publisher Tracy Baim for, I think the paper provides not only invaluably attentive coverage of this city’s LGBT community, but also crucial visibility. I very much encourage you to check out last week’s special issue commemorating the paper’s silver anniversary to learn more about the paper’s past, present and future.

My work will also continue to be featured on and Edge Media Network. Follow me on Twitter to stay on top of my latest pieces, and also be sure to visit my blog, which will continue to feature various run-off — most recently my response to former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee who, for some reason, is really obsessed with some article I wrote earlier this year.

Thank you all for your support through clicks, retweets, e-mails, “likes,” Facebook postings, comments, etc. etc., etc. As a good friend of mine, Brittany Julious pointed out in a recent interview with ch!cktionary, these are challenging times for freelance writers and every nugget of encouragement is fuel for our passions. Both that and news like this. And songs like this.

Dear Mike Huckabee…

I must say, it was a puzzling honor to realize my article – “The ’Ick’ Factor: How Gay Sex Plays in the Equality Debate” – hit your radar following the backlash ignited by your comments in your Ariel Levy-penned New Yorker profile. In fact, my sense of flattery left me feeling like you deserved the benefit of the doubt. Maybe all us sinful gay folk were being a tad harsh on you with their “icky” accusation.

I read the New Yorker article, your statement and all the news stories I could get my grubby mitts on with the hopes of better understanding your position toward LGBT equality and why the “ick factor” had manifested itself, but I’m afraid that I can’t quite wrap my queer head around it.

Yes, you’re partially correct: The “ick factor” is a not new term, and it is not yours. But to say that the term has been co-opted and accepted as an “established notion” to the gays is a complete misrepresentation on your part, having nothing to do with the actions of so-called “same-sex marriage advocates and militants.”

In my piece, the “ick factor” became a sort of catch-all phrase under which I spoke with some community leaders and academics, including Dr. Martha Nussbaum, on their perspectives on the concept. For many of the people I spoke with, the “ick factor” was an idea they had never before heard and many well-established LGBT leaders declined to comment. It is not a commonly uttered phrase among gays and lesbians – just a quick perusal of Google search results will find references to shows like Friends and Sex and the City, diet aids and ice-dancing siblings, colon cancer home-screening and bad ’60s pop songs. No other articles from LGBT media, previous to your PR flap, mention the phrase.

That aside, I cannot understand how the fact that the phrase is not new renders your comment justifiable in the first place, particularly when all the words surrounding it spew injustice.

But this is more important than a discussion about etymology or ethics. Or completing the research you feigned doing yourself. This isn’t about attacking you or raising funds – although you, yourself, have attempted to capitalize on the matter by asking for campaign donations at your statement’s end. And this isn’t even really about the New Yorker statement itself – you yourself have said far worse things previously.

This is about the livelihood of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans – including those you banned from adopting children in Arkansas – and the damage you willfully inflict on our lives with practically every damning word you utter through your bigoted laughter.

This is about your deliberate arrogance to deny full equality for an entire class of mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. Though we might “ick” you out, Mr. Huckabee, we are here to stay. To consistently condemn us while at the same time calling yourself a Christian is, in my mind, deplorable,  indefensible and hypocritical for a self-described man of faith.

If you’re going to pretend to know our community and the phrases we use, at least do your homework first, Mike.

–Joe Erbentraut

Table scraps.. A trip to the zoo with Kevin Chamberlin

Though I am relatively new to the world of writing about musical theater, there are a few patterns I’ve noticed during the past year of previewing and reviewing shows whilst referencing names like Sondheim and Fosse with ever-increasing ease:

First and foremost, when I get in touch with a show’s PR team, they usually hook me up with one of the show’s lead names. And when interviewing actors of such prominence, a certain degree of prudishness can be expected. When I previewed Legally Blonde, I interviewed Elle Woods, played by Becky Gulsvig, a very wholesome Minnesotan-at-heart who giggled anxiously when I noted the show probably attracted a lot of gay fans — “Yes, it’s awesome,” she replied cautiously. When Spring Awakening came into town, I spoke with Melchior Gabor himself, Jake Epstein (of Degrassi fame), who spoke nervously of his few seconds of partial nudity on stage. Such PG-rated responses really aren’t the stuff exciting interviews are made from, but I don’t necessarily expect actors to speak too open about sexuality in the first place.

So, when I’d been assigned to preview The Addams Family‘s pre-Broadway romp at the Oriental Theatre, I decided to aim high and get a spicy interview subject, asking for 20 minutes to chat with the very-gay Nathan Lane, who stars as Gomez.

Kevin Chamberlin, the Broadway bear.“He isn’t doing press right now” – my dismissive reply.

OK, how about Jackie Hoffman, an almost equally very-gay actress playing the role of the grandmother?

“She’s very busy promoting her one-woman show … But what about Kevin Chamberlin? He’s great.”

Now, another lesson: Usually if a publicist needs to say how great someone is, they likely are not. But, running out of options and still hoping for a shot at comp tickets to the show, I set up a time to speak with Chamberlin.

And then began the research, which revealed the 46-year-old actor’s Tony nomination and noteworthy appearances in gay cinematic classics including Trick, In & Out and the farcical’s 2007 Broadway run. But, perhaps even more interesting than those undeniably important achievements was the finding that Chamberlin is Broadway’s bear community poster boy. He is a co-founder of MetroBears NYC and appears regularly at bear events including International Bear Ren and Chicago’s Bear Pride. How could I resist bringing these key facts up?

Chamberlin, far right, photographed with AF cast for Vanity Fair.And I did. Only three questions into our half hour-long interview, the conversation turned from the macabre singing-dancing family to the politics of being a bear. A good two-thirds of our conversation had absolutely nothing to do with theater. And while I couldn’t help but include some of the conversation that ensued, the bulk did not make it to the story’s final draft, featured on EDGE earlier this month.

Chamberlin: I’ve found it interesting to watch the bear community evolve – it’s like a social experiment watching the groups that have formed because of a reaction to another group. That’s why the bear community occurred, as a reaction to the muscle boy, hairless, self-waxing gay male stereotype. And it was a reaction to the AIDS crisis, people not wanting to look thin and quiffed. We wanted to look real and blend more [into society], to be embraced with the more masculine, real man look …

But it’s interesting, because now some schisms have been created. There’s the muscle bears, the chubs, the chasers. We’ve been splintering into more and more specific groups, whether it’s based on a fetish or outside activity like the gay softball or rugby teams forming … As more people come out of the closet, they find places to go and meet people who are like-minded. That wasn’t really the case when I was growing up and that’s what drew me in in the first place.

Me: Do you feel that the schisms are harming the community’s original intent?

Chamberlin: It’s an important community to me in how it’s very welcoming. And I’m hoping it will stay that way. As some gay groups have come up, they’ve become more exclusive, but it needs to stay accepting. And there’s new terms coming all the time. Redheads are orangutans, older guys can be silver-backed gorillas…

Me: And you have otters included in that, too.

Chamberlin: Oh, of course, otters! Who knows, the monkey movement might be on the way next.

Though I’m still not sure what a monkey is – a former-gymnast-turned-otter-chaser-or-both? Whatever the case may be, the moral of this story: Never turn down the opportunity to discuss bear identity politics. Even if it doesn’t get you free tickets to a Broadway production.

Now enjoy, this bear-related jam, from one of my favorite newly-discovered bands of this past year..

Download: The Antlers – Bear (mp3)

Previous Scraps: Dragonette and the conundrum of cool

A Halloween tale, via Missed Connections


It is no secret that I love, love, love reading Craigslist’s treasure trove of awkwardness, the Missed Connections section. So, of course, as we all continue from a weekend filled with makeup, witches’ brew and masked make-out sessions, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to round-up some of my favorite Chicago MC’s to tell a little tale of Halloween lure (in addition to sharing some tunes).

Personally, Halloween has never been a holiday I associate with wild hook-ups, but maybe that’s because my costumes are usually not of the “Sexy (Fill-in-the-Blank)” variety. I’m usually in drag, covered in grotesque makeup with stubble poking through, and this year was no exception as I took on the role of Little Edie Beale from Grey Gardens. The below characters seem to have had some good luck knocking boots, even if they had a lot of explaining to do for their mother upon their return home. Here’s hoping the fates bring these lovers back together.

Missed my chance with Mr. Franzia – m4m (Belmont/Monroe)
Date: 2009-11-01, 11:33PM CST

“I had black paint smeared on my face. I admired the intricacy of your costume: Franzia boxed wine. We made some contact on the train before both getting off at Monroe. There we kissed at a street corner, where a passing driver yelled “FAGS!” at us (just in case you didn’t notice) … Sorry for not following, but, in all honesty, I was staying with my mom (who was visiting) in a hotel. That being said, I’d love to hear from you and maybe engage in some out-of-the-box conversation.”

ms wonderland left wondering? – w4m – 20 (in tinley)
Date: 2009-11-02, 2:40AM CST

“ok so i went 2 a halloween party with a gf and i was the sexy ms. wonderland girl. i was soooooooooooo wasted n u were so much fun and we ended up being naughty but i don’t remember most of it lol. u had on a dark costume not sure what it was though dah? well i have a bf so i guess it had 2 b a one time thing, just wanted 2 say if u ever read this i was the small blond who u helped have a really fun halloween!”

The outlaw Josey Wales – m4m (near loop)
Date: 2009-11-01, 6:47PM CST

“To the outlaw Josey Wales: it was so hot to watch you polishing your gun. A nice long gun, with a big thick barrel and a nice head to it. I can still taste that ammunition dripping into my mouth.”

Of course, since these are Missed Connections, after all, not all of these rendezvous were as successful. Lesson be learned: Be sure to carefully stow your beloved university-provided metro card when going home with handsome men in “dark costumes.”

Halloween Party then Your Apt – w4m (lincoln park area)
Date: 2009-11-02, 10:28AM CST

“Friday I was beligerent, I apologize. I dont remember practically anything when we got to your apt, let alone how we did till my friend filled me in. Uhh yah I lost my Upass at your place did you find it??? That would bloow if I have to find another one. Ps. “my buldge” seeing I was spider man is in your room too, white/pink soccer socks? Yeah, well I’m sorry for being a slob, im sure i was a huge one. But on the bright side I do think your adorable!”

Georgia at Halloween Church Party – m4w
Date: 2009-11-02, 5:15PM CST

“I was the Chaplin with whom you danced. I got swept up into an evening of events that now seem unreal. If you find this, please shoot me an email. I’d love to see you again and take you dancing.
Take Care

A Somewhat Silent Man”

oh, pinnochio – m4w (subterranean)
Date: 2009-11-01, 11:24AM CST

“that little boy look didn’t fool me, you were smoking hot. i never made it to the hideout, but i did spend a more than a few minutes thinking about what it would be like giving it to a puppet that wants to be a real boy, but is actually the hottest little girl in the room.”

But, I think the most important lesson from all of this is to watch out for each other. Halloween is a time for all of us to come together and bask in the ridiculousness of it all. And protect each other from violent religious leaders. Especially if you’re dressed as a pop diva.

Kid that got hit by the pope at Evil Olive – w4m – 21 (Evil Olive)
Date: 2009-11-01, 9:19AM CST

“Lady GaGa wants to make sure you’re ok.”


Download: Ramona Falls ‘I Say Fever’ (mp3) (+++)
Download: Florence and the Machine ‘Drumming’ (mp3)
Download: Crystal Waters ‘Gypsy Woman’ (Sharps Remix) (mp3)
Download: Squirrel Nut Zippers ‘Hell’ (mp3)
Download: Silversun Pickups ‘Booksmart Devil’ (mp3)
Download: Kate Bush ‘Get Out of My House’ (mp3)
Download: My Gold Mask ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ (mp3)
Download: Cold Cave ‘Youth and Lust’ (mp3)

(+++) denotes high levels of recommendation.

This one time, I… Grew a mustache

Ever since I first viewed the phrase on a souvenir t-shirt in the Wisconsin Dells at a young age, one personal mantra – that I’d “try anything once” - has stuck with me. The mantra has resulted in experiences of varying degrees of success. [On a scale of 1-10: a night out at the race track (1), dating a woman (1.5), working as a magician's assistant for a week (5), eating a fried cheese curd (10).] But no matter what the rating, each experience certainly taught me something new and did not result in life-threatening circumstances (with the possible exception of the excessive fumes and nightly crashes at the Lake Geneva race track).

Therefore, in the spirit of lifelong learning [all the rage in these recession-riddled days, I hear], arrives the latest installment of this blog: “This one time, I…” Here, I will recount something I did during that past week/month/unspecified period of time I’d never done before. With pictures. First-hand accounts. Maybe even video or animated GIFs (you could be so lucky). Finally, for you Thievy McMusicPirates out there, there will be themed music mixes. It will be fun, I promise: TAKE THE CANDY. So, without further ado…

I grew a mustache.

Well, to be completely accurate, I trimmed my existing facial hair (which tends to be quite bountiful) into a mustache. It was something that always seemed like a good idea at the time, but alas, I lacked the bravery to walk about town sprouting a cookieduster. A flavor saver. A mouth brow. Until recently.

The product of a curious Friday night trim session resulted in a weekend-long case study into the discrimination faced by sporters of the pushbroom.

The product of a curious Friday night trim session resulted in a weekend-long case study into the discrimination faced by sporters of the pushbroom.

As I stared back in the mirror at what I’d done, I wondered if friends would treat me the same. If passers-by on the street would gawk. If my family would still love me. With a deep sigh, I turned away from the mirror and headed out the door to face the world I expected to shun me and my facial transgression.

As it turned out, besides a startled baby and an overly-friendly bear bartender, my mustache did not result in any unusual treatment. In fact, I could feel peoples’ eyes look at me with a fresh curiosity, a stirring interest. Historically, commanding officers of the military; like General Lew Wallace; strangely appealing pop stars of the ’70s and ’80s; including Freddie Mercury and Frank Zappa; and eccentric filmmakers enjoyed a certain air of reverie surrounding their ‘stache-wearing ways. And the Mario Bros. had a pretty phenomenal run. Perhaps, based on the results of this study, it could be argued that the well-documented cultural enchantment with the mustache lives on to the present day. Therefore (this is the thesis):

Operation StacheGrow: A success. But would I do it again?

Operation StacheGrow = A success.

But, would I do it again, you ask? I can’t say I’d be in the quickest of hurries. In the end, my Diet Coke still tasted the same, the CTA was still dirty and the music in Boystown remained ear-bustingly loud. Despite the undeniable cult following my ‘stache enjoyed during its 2.5 days of existence, I still felt one pair of overly-large, “ironically-hip” glasses away from looking 100 percent creeptastic.

What I don't want to look like in fifteen years.

What I don't want to look like in fifteen years.

I’ll certainly keep it in mind if I ever become a pop star in need of a PR booster, a la John Oates’ “Ride the Mustache/J-Stache” campaign and its blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed and video series. Apparently Oates, er, J-Stache wants to “tame Leslie Feist’s shrew.” Which level of this statement do you find to be creepiest?

All told, I think this experiment has stirred a rediscovered admiration of the mustache to me. As the great lesbian philosopher Sheryl Concrowcious once said, “if it makes you happy, it can’t be so bad.” Despite carrying stigma in certain sub-communities, it has served as a symbol of manhood, virility and fuzziness for centuries – the first mustache – worn by a Scythian horseman – was documented in 300 BC. That’s before Jesus, therefore I believe it deserves our respect, honor and possibly its own religion. Or, at the very least, a photo montage. Below are a few of my favorite ‘staches through history, in addition to a little mini-mix for your ears (you know, the things on your face located directly to the left and right of your muzzy).

Discussion questions: Have you ever worn a mustache? Do you know someone who has? Do you plan to some day? Would you describe yourself as a Geraldo Rivera fan?

MUSTACHE MIX-A-LOT – A tribute to Nose Neighbors and Those Who Pull Them Off:

Download: Hall & Oates ‘Private Eyes’ (mp3)
Download: Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head ‘Beard Lust’ (mp3)
Download: SSION ‘Street Jizz’ (mp3)
Download: Islands ‘Creeper’ (mp3)
Download: Queen ‘Good Company’ (mp3)
Download: Patrick Wolf ‘The Hairy Song’ (mp3)

Or, download the whole mix.


fridakahlo mario