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Letter to Councilman LaBonge
Real People as Fictional Characters
Female Actors, Part Two
One Culture Hero Award
Adelante Gay Pride Gala
Best Work of Fiction?
Tom of Finland: Sexual Liberator or Enslaver
Lying Writers
Review of The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson
Promiscuous Thoughts
A Crime of the Heart
A Letter to Michael Silverblatt
"Have you no decency, sir?"
Political Incorrectness: Female Actors and Trojans
He Hugged Moms and Dads
What is a Girly Man?
Review of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
From Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Drive
The Gay Mammies
A Writer Protests
Review of Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro
A Spirit Preserved in 'Amber'
The Supreme Court Case
Review of "Live from Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal"
Review of "Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-1951" by Christopher Isherwood
Review of "Out For Good"
Review of "Hoyt Street: an Autobiography"
Review of "Sergei Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict"
Review of "Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation"
Review of "Whores for Gloria"
Muscles and Mascara
Review of "Blonde"
Brother Paul, Sister Jan, Brother Hinn, God and the Folks
Advice to the Next Generation
Sins of the Fathers
Beatin' Around the Bush

Cruise Not Gay! The Judge Has Spoken

The Horror, The Horror
LA--a Cliché?
Dominick, Mark & Orenthal
Holy Drag!
Ms. Hill & Mr. Tom
George, Jr.
Mrs. guy Ritchie 
Supreme Court 
Tom Cruise 
New Times Article 

Sure, L.A. Is a Cliché--Let Us Count the Ways.
Note: This piece appeared in the Los Angeles Times on October 4, 2001.

Why deny repeated clichés about Los Angeles when those derided aspects, viewed correctly without prejudice, testify to the city's greatness?

     Among the entrenched clichés:

     The city has no defining center, no identifying personality. Unwound, its freeways stretch 597 miles, the distance between Los Angeles and Phoenix with 200 miles to spare. Why would such a spectacular sprawl need a center? No identity? A city of multiple personalities, it has "cities" within the city: Bel-Air, mansions, forest of trees; downtown Los Angeles, glass structures over revolutionary murals surrendering to East Los Angeles; Venice West, seven canals, pillared forums, reminders of the attempted replication of the Italian city, its beach featuring a year-round circus of jugglers, magicians, impromptu bands; Forest Lawn--a village within the city--shrugging off death with glamorous statues; Sunset Strip, a winking, blinking, moving gallery of modern art.... A city without the drama of seasons? There is the season of roses, the season of wildflowers that lace even the broad shoulders of the freeways, the season of bougainvillea that drapes everything with purple mantillas. And there is snow, when jacaranda trees shed their petals and cover the ground with lavender snow.

     A city obsessed with narcissism? Extended summers and miles of beach invite unapologetic exhibitionism that in turn invites a celebration of physicality. Exposed flesh and cultivated bodies extend throughout the city a radiant sensuality (even sad derelicts have tans), to which an influx of new immigrants adds other vibrant strains, old ways, new ways, new knowledge, old superstitions. No other modern city draws more enduring attention. In Rome, London, Paris, mention California and intrigued questions pour out, along with repeated expressions of longing to come here, where there is still the offer, at least the offer, the illusive hope, of dreams fulfilled.

     No definitive literature? That is not expected of any other city. Literature that defines all of New York, all of Chicago? The city's lack of incestuous literary associations inspires individualistic art, unpredictable, not easily categorized, urgent and cool.

     A city of extremity within which fringe cults flourish? It is a city of promiscuous spirituality; it may be viewed as a metaphoric place of exile for defiant angels expelled from heaven. Still restive, they project an urgency to live, to feel, to be.

     The resultant courtship of extremity is intensified by intimations of doom in this city of daily apocalypse--you're aware of fate swirling about you every time you're on the freeway--a city constantly preparing for yet another excitedly predicted disaster. Santa Ana winds, fires, earthquakes, floods, sliding cliffs--no tiny disasters, they're grand, dramatic, melodramatic--and the city overcomes with intact glamour, always pushing closer to the edge.

     And Southern California exists on a literal edge. The last frontier--the last chance--it gathers all the dark and bright energies of the country, which ends here. Miles of coastline emphasize that; abrupt cliffs jut along its coastline before land surrenders to the vastness of the ocean, at the edge of which, on certain twilights, lithe bodies often gather to perform a graceful dance of tai chi, motions that acknowledge, while challenging, the approaching night; and then, that graceful dance of acknowledgment and challenge seems to capture the very soul of the city of angels.

John Rechy
Los Angeles, California
October 2001

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