Get to Know The Ladies of ‘The Real L Word’
- F ‘The Real L Word,’ from ‘The L Word’ executive producer Ilene Chaiken, is a sexy, spicy, sassy and sweet new reality series on Showtime. Produced by Magical Elves (Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, who also produce ‘Project Runway’, ‘Top Chef’ and ‘Last Comic Standing’), ‘The Real L Word’ is an unflinching glimpse into the fascinating lives of six lesbians in Los Angeles.
As an out journalist living in the Bay Area and having spent a good deal of time in LA during college, I am approaching this series with an equal serving of enthusiasm and curiosity.
After watching the first two episodes, I can say without hesitation that this is not your mother’s reality show. Be prepared for an eye-opening, envelope-pushing show that will have you alternating between picking your jaw up off of the floor at the raw sexuality and grabbing a tissue for the surprising sentimentality.
I had the opportunity to speak with series creator Ilene Chaiken, and asked if she cast specific types of women to represent the diverse lesbian community. “Not explicitly, in the sense that we didn’t have to find a Shane, Bette, someone who does this or looks like that,” she told me. “It was much more open and we cast a wide net. But like the scripted ‘The L Word,’ I was conscious of representing only a segment of one community of lesbians. We don’t purport to represent the entire world of lesbians.”
Chaiken did not have network restrictions with regard to the amount of sexuality and sex that was filmed and will air. “We weren’t asked to portray sex and sexuality in a particular way, nor did we promise that we would go here or there…nor were we prohibited from it. The premise and understanding between me and Showtime has always been – we’re telling stories, as frankly and intimately as we can. And wherever the stories go, that’s where our cameras will go.”
Before the show debuts on Sunday, get to know to the cast of ‘The Real L Word.’
Jill & Nikki: The Fashionable Femmes
Occupation: Writer and Talent Rep/Manager, respectively
Jill and Nikki are the only couple in the official cast of ‘The Real L Word,’ two nice and very stylish Jewish girls who are planning their dream wedding (tightly wound and slightly controlling, party of two). You might recognize Nikki from her appearance on ‘The Oprah Show’ a few years ago during a “Wives Confess They Are Gay” segment. Of course at the time, she declared her partner of five years to be the love of her life. Cut to ‘The Real L Word,’ where Nikki is now marrying a different partner only after dating for one year. Compared to the rest of the cast, however, Jill and Nikki appear to have the most stable relationship and least amount of baggage between them. And frankly, they share an ease and familiarity between them that my partner and I can relate to far more than with any other women on this show.
Mikey: The Tattooed Trendsetter
Occupation: Founder/Producer, LA Fashion Weekend
At first glance, you might be tempted to label Mikey as stereotypically butch. Despite her extremely driven work ethic and rough exterior, Mikey is actually a sensitive soul with an excellent haircut. Her appearance, demeanor and attitude are visibly altered and relaxed when she isn’t working. Mikey has a stunningly beautiful girlfriend, and although their jobs leave them very little time together, they just might be heading to the unofficial alter in the near future. If I had to pick a favorite among the cast thus far, Mikey would win. She is sarcastic and has a great spirit, and it doesn’t hurt that she reminds me of my best friend.
Rose: The Flirtatious Firecracker
Occupation: Real Estate Advisor
Don’t be surprised if Rose reminds you of Papi on ‘The L Word’ — because that character was based on Rose’s life. When we first meet her, Rose is feeling the pressure to settle down, both from her current girlfriend and her tremendously supportive family. She is fiercely independent and loves the party scene, so it remains to be seen whether or not she is ready for a serious, monogamous relationship. Women like Rose are equally irresistible and dangerous, but there is much more than meets the eye with her.
Tracy, The Lovely Late Bloomer
Occupation: Film/TV Development Executive
Tracy is the most recent member of the cast to have come out, and her sense of joy at that discovery, as well as a dose of healthy confidence, radiates on the screen. She is in a fairly new relationship with a woman who happens to have three young children, which is complicated – but they seem to be managing it rather well together. Tracy’s largest obstacle right now is her mother, whom she is close with despite her mom’s insistence that they don’t talk about anything related to her being gay. I have a feeling that this show just might help her mother open that door just a crack, given the illuminating and educational view into Tracy’s real life.
Whitney, The Passionate Player
Occupation: Special Effects Artist
Among Whitney’s many tattoos should be a warning sign with one simple word in bold black text: trouble. Despite the fact that many of the women she dates — often simultaneously- seem to recognize her game from the get-go, they are charmed by and drawn to her nonetheless. Whitney claims to care for every single one of her conquests, and in typical lesbian fashion she seeks resolution and friendship with all of them, but something or someone is bound to change her modus operandi.
‘The Real L Word’ debuts Sunday at 10pm ET on Showtime. You can follow the series on Twitter (@SHO_realLword) and also download the free iPhone app.
Will you be tuning in on Sunday? Chaiken encourages you to watch “because they are wildly entertaining stories, and in some ways enlightening stories. The more people we get to know, the richer our lives are.” And I agree wholeheartedly.
‘The Real L Word’ purports to show lesbian women as they really live. Really?
ShowtimeSapphic Shangri-La: The ladies of “The Real L Word.”
Within the first two minutes of The Real L Word, Showtime’s new lesbian-themed reality series, we hear the phrases “breast in mouth,” “sour cream on boobs,” and “eating…” something we’re not allowed to print. We go on to learn that “the hot bitches have arrived” (cue club-hopping scene) and that Los Angeles, where the show takes place, is full of a “more polished lesbian”—the kind who lives in Beverly Hills, shops at Gucci, and lets her woman do the cooking. We learn that “fetch” is a feminine-but-butch lesbian, that “pants and pumps” refers to whether you’re butch or femme, and, of course, the old lesbian U-Haul joke: What does a lesbian bring to a first date? A U-Haul, of course—because she’s moving in!
It’s worth a laugh, but if you think the unenlightened will learn anything about “real” mainstream lesbianism from The Real L Word, which premieres on Sunday, think again. This may be the first group lesbian reality program to hit mainstream cable, but the show is anything but barrier-breaking. Inspired by the original L Word series (and produced by its creator, Ilene Chaiken), the series is a kind of Housewives meets Queer as Folk, purporting to show the “real” lives of “real” lesbians who, as the Showtime marketing spin puts it, are “every bit as glamorous, fashionable, fabulous”—and “cutthroat”—as their hetero housewife sisters.
The show follows six women at work and at play—and all the drama that comes along with it. There’s Mikey, the show’s token butch, responsible for casting L.A. Fashion Week. There are Nikki and Jill, the Beverly Hills couple caught up in planning an over-the-top commitment ceremony. There’s Whitney, the show’s serial playgirl, caught red-handed with (multiple) women; and there are Tracy, a 29-year-old production exec, and Rose, the fiery party girl, both struggling to navigate the everyday challenges of each of their relationships. It’s dramatic, sexy, trashy, obnoxious—everything a good reality show should be, meaning “real” is actually fake and “lesbian” is synonymous with hot, horny, and willing to take your top off.
“Reality TV’s Highest Highs and Lowest Lows: Click to relive 10 memorable moments in reality television”
All of which would be totally unsurprising, if this were Jersey Shore. The problem is, The Real L Word isn’t—and it’s the only show on TV portraying real lesbians. So as lame as it is to say that every gay program has a “responsibility” to the “greater cause,” it’s lamer to pretend it doesn’t. Because, well, people are watching: a recent GLAAD survey found that a third of Americans who said their feelings toward gays had become more favorable attributed that, in part, to characters they saw on TV.
So while Chaiken may not purport to introduce America to Lesbianism 101—as she once told The New York Times, “I won’t take on the mantle of social responsibility”—between the tits and ass, the lights-out groans, and constant references to “f–king,” she does more to glamorize that tired old Sapphic fantasy (girls making out? hot!) than to teach us anything about real-life lesbians. Even an on-air discussion of “sexual fluidity”—the idea that people can be attracted to others, regardless of gender—is completely negated, as references to “pants and pumps,” Mikey’s complaint of “starving to death” because her woman hasn’t cooked her dinner, and the production’s entire undertone, which is more or less an excuse to show hot chicks making out, couldn’t be any more stereotypically gendered. It’s entertainment, sure. But if The Real L Word wanted lesbians to be seen as real people, for real—maybe it should have stripped away the pseudo-“reality” and shown real life.
Showtime’s ‘The Real L Word’ puts a gloss on lipstick lesbians in Los Angeles
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Regrettably, “The Real L Word” is not your show, then, because it clings to stereotypes of its own invention and self-regard, relying on codespeak about “pumps” vs. “pants,” and “femmes” and “futches” and the like. It’s a bunch of adult women who never got to act like 12-year-olds when they were 12, so they’re going to do it now.
It’s odd how mainstream America (and lesbian America) cannot resist the notion of the Sapphic glamazon and the idea that a “pretty” lesbian is the gold standard. “The Real L Word” has been conjured up as a way of insisting that the imaginary world of the original series is, in fact, true.
Or, at least, the producers discovered six lipstick lesbians in Los Angeles who are willing to be followed around with a camera. (Well, four, plus one named Mikey, who looks like Jon Bon Jovi’s kid brother, and a dreadlocked/tattooed lesbian named Whitney, who seems to have left her brain at a Burning Man festival several years back.)
The cameras accompany them even into the bedroom, where microphones and cameras pick up their earth-shattering ecstasies. Other than the R rating, “The Real L World” adheres to the narrative protocols of any show with “real” in the title. (“L.A.” is also an operative L-word here: This is another show that fails to solve the mystery of how so many people with so little to do can afford the full-on L.A. lifestyle.)
We follow the lesbians through their boring days and nights, guided only by the fact that they are each lesbians, who cannot stop talking about the lesbianness of being lesbian. “The thing about lesbians,” one of the women will say, prefacing a thought; “This is what lesbians do,” another declares. “Lesbians are all . . . ” and “Lesbians always . . . “
But don’t you dare stereotype them. “Do you ever ask a straight person what ‘kind’ of straight person they are?” asks one of the women, Jill, who has only recently become comfortable with applying the L word to her incredibly unique (she thinks) sense of “sexual fluidity,” even as she plans her wedding day with Nikki. (I’m sure “soccer moms” and “frat boys” and all sorts of straight people would tell Jill that there are infinite labels tossed around on the hetero side, too.)
Dreadlock Whitney, meanwhile, has more girlfriends than she can count. She drops one off at the LAX departures terminal, only to circle around and pick up the next at baggage claim — a coinkydink I’m sure the producers had nothing to do with. Then there is Rose, a hard-drinking Latina loudmouth who lives to mistreat her live-in girlfriend. Viewers are given all the insidious little cues (class, decor, petty spats) to be tempted to despise who we’re seeing on-screen, and not enough of each woman’s history — except to learn that a number of them aren’t on good speaking terms with their mothers. (Gee, no kidding.)
In 2010, everyone should know better than to look to reality television for social validation, but “The Real L Word” is particularly heartbreaking in this regard. The similarly unctuous reality show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” for example, nastily chips away at a lifetime of hetero-normative TV fantasies such as “Ozzie and Harriet” and “The Brady Bunch.” Gays and lesbians never got to see that sort of happy home on television, at least not about themselves. But here they leap ahead to fully participate in the worst kind of TV there is.
It reminds me of a particularly pugnacious argument for same-sex marriage rights that comes from the likes of Chris Rock, Eminem and other smart alecks, using a variation on the ancient “Take my wife — please”: Go ahead, let gay people get married — that way they can be as miserable as the rest of us! (Har-har.)
“The Real L Word” seems to be working from that premise: Lesbians have just as much right to be miserably narcissistic on miserably stupid reality shows. Equal misery for all!
The Real L Word
(one hour) debuts at 10 p.m. Sunday on Showtime.
Tennis: The game
It’s Wimbledon time – so get ready for racy outfits, gruntometers and behind-the-scenes bitching – as the major players spill all about what’s really happened to women’s tennis
“Who’s the prettiest?” she says, buttering a roll, her slim wrist holding up a Rolex the size of a child’s fist. “Who’s the most popular, the most fashionable, who’s getting the most coverage?” She smiles sorrowfully to acknowledge that, when it comes to these contests, she tends to do quite well. “In the men’s game, they’re all friends. But we’re not friends. You can be on the tour for 10 years and still not be friends. It’s sad.”
Everyone is being friendly today – Kim Clijsters in a spangly wool top at the end of the table and Williams, smiling at guests with the noblesse of a queen. Those present aren’t sports journalists, but the ladies of the New York fashion press, convened by the WTA to meet the top players and consider them for coverage. Any ironies in the room are smoothed away by how good we all feel about the strong-woman narrative.
Williams, naturally, is the one to make a speech. In a quiet voice, she recounts her negotiations for equal prize money at Wimbledon (“I was ready for the rejection stamp, and then they gave way”) and at the French Open (“I had the placards ready, and they gave way, too”) and outlines her general philosophy which, Allaster says, anoints her as the heir to Billie Jean King, moral leader of the women’s game: “We all have the same heart beating inside us,” she says. “We should be equal.”
Afterwards, I ask Williams about an incident that got far more coverage recently than anything she has talked about. At the Australian Open, she lunged for a ball and briefly exposed her skin-tone pants. Did it annoy her when the photo went round the world? “No.” She laughs. “I designed that skirt with the slits so it would do that.” When lesser players talk in awe about the Williams sisters, it’s not just the tennis they mean but this, the leisurewear range, and how it profits from coverage officially frowned on. It’s either brilliant exploitation of a sexist media or a complete sellout, but in any case is considered, by most players, to be the site of real empowerment in the women’s game. “Next time,” Williams says, “I’m going to put some lace in there, and maybe some light whalebone.”
But Venus, people thought you weren’t wearing any knickers. She looks puzzled. “Yeah, weird, right? I mean, who would do that?”
Spend any time backstage at a major tennis tournament and you will see the first-class players glide around like royalty while everyone else fights for space.
At the Crandon Park tennis centre in Florida, crowds gather for the first week of the Sony Ericsson Open, one of the glitziest tournaments outside the grand slams. It is on Key Biscayne, a palm-fringed spit off the coast of Miami, co-sponsored this year by Bombay Sapphire and with $700,000 in prize money for the women’s champion. Outside, it is 90F. In the warren of changing rooms beneath the stadium, it is cool and dank, there is no phone reception and flocks of tennis players fly by like the corps de ballet, wet-haired from the shower and en route to five minutes of interviews with journalists from their home countries. Over the course of three days, I will hear a former Czech champion complain of lack of respect from younger players, Australia’s No1 disapprove of Venus’s pants stunt, almost everyone bemoan the “Kournikova effect” on coverage of the women’s game and the English No1, Elena Baltacha, suspect someone of stealing her lunch voucher. Above ground, the tournament progresses and the car park fills up with Porsches.
Any discussion of hardship on the WTA tour comes with a necessary eye-roll – the plight of women legally resident in Switzerland or Dubai for tax purposes is not the most pressing in feminism today. Still, if the symbolism of what happens to women at the top of a profession trickles down to the culture at large, there remain a few anomalies to address: the nature of the coverage, the earning opportunities within the women’s game and the argument that won’t quite die, that male players should be paid more because a) their matches get more viewers and b) they play five sets. Can we settle this once and for all? The women’s final at Wimbledon is routinely watched on TV by more people than the men’s. And what has the length of matches got to do with it? As Baltacha says, “You go to the cinema and you watch a film for three hours and it’s crap. Or you watch a film for an hour and a half and it’s unbelievable. You can’t say that in a five-setter the men are doing a better job. We do the same job, so we should get the same money.”
It’s the TV commentary, however, where the discrepancies are most obvious. At Wimbledon last year, after years of incremental slippage, focus from the commentary box on women players’ clothes, style and grunting was so blatant, so incessant, that almost everyone I spoke to at the time noticed it. There was a fuss over court placement – pretty lower seeds being bumped to the show courts over plainer high ones – and while it was part of the general razzification of the tournament, it seemed to fall most heavily on women players. When veterans get misty-eyed about the good old days, they tend to mean Steffi Graf, who drew crowds by virtue of skill and not showbiz, and made no concessions to the changing nature of the game. For viewers, nostalgia goes back further, perhaps to the Wimbledon of selective memory, a place of bald grass, endless summer and the prewar vowels of Dan Maskell who, the joke in the commentary box goes, might say two words over the course of a match: “Well played.” If modern commentary is filled with trivia, says Budd Collins, 80-year-old veteran of US tennis coverage, it is a function of there being too much airtime and not enough to fill it. He blames John McEnroe. “He never shuts up!”
“And so,” Maskell said, introducing the 1973 women’s final with the gravity of a Dimbleby on VE Day, “the traditional scene, here. In a very rapidly changing world, this one doesn’t change.” Of course, that it did change was by and large a good thing, not least in the quality of the tennis. To see Venus Williams play for the first time is like watching a parallel game, regular tennis but with less gravity. Arms gangling, elbows hooked, toes turned slightly inward, she has the shambling grace of the pool shark, the virtuoso who appears not to be trying until she swoops, suddenly, for the kill. If she wears a red corset while doing it, who cares?
Justine Henin is holding a press conference in French after beating Elena Dementieva 6-3, 6-2. Outside the press bunker, photographers lounge, sniggering at the fortunes of an American player who has had to apologise after tweeting “Florida sucks” and discussing the scene that morning when a plague of umpires asset-stripped the hotel breakfast buffet. “Did you see that?” one veteran sports photographer says. “It was like locusts. I mean…” He pauses. “They even took the butter.”
In the corridor, an abandoned walkie-talkie crackles into life. “Razzano says she can go to the autograph session, but can she wear her tennis gear?” Virginie Razzano, the French No3, is prime fodder for the kind of publicity events that Venus Williams, dining tonight with her family, is too grand for. (“Bless her, she’s not Puff Daddy,” a press aide says afterwards.)
Most players are grateful to the WTA for so aggressively marketing them, although to whom isn’t always clear. After each match, players are required to hold a press conference, even when there is no demand for one, and I see journalists from low-ranked players’ home nations deciding, loyally, to put in an appearance. “We’ve nothing to ask her,” an English sports writer says, “but we feel bad if she turns up and there’s no one there.”
The rumour of locker-room bitchiness in women’s tennis plays into all the usual dreary stereotypes, but Baltacha – who was born in Kiev and moved to Britain as a child when her father, a professional footballer, was sold to Ipswich Town – says it is more or less true. There is a natural barrier to being friends with someone whom you may, shortly, be called on to destroy in public, but the men seem to manage it better. “I was chatting to one girl the other day, and she’s going through a stage where’s she’s like, you know, this is so tough to be among these girls and I’m struggling a bit. I said, oh, come on, you’ve got a good ranking. And she said: you need a medal just to be in this environment. To actually survive.”
What does she mean? Baltacha smiles. “I have had a couple of experiences, and I now keep myself to myself. I wouldn’t go out of my way to start [a fight], but if I feel someone has done or said something on purpose, then I will react. I wouldn’t just take it. I would defend myself.”
Hang on – what are we talking about here? “I’ve heard stories where one girl’s strings got cut. Even really stupid things, like we get given lunch vouchers and the other day I went to the players’ restaurant and said, ‘Baltacha’ and they said, oh, someone’s taken it for you. And I was like, have they? And I said to my trainer, did you take it? He said, no. Someone had even signed for it. Honestly, I was laughing. These things go on all the time. I think it’s hilarious. Because everyone is trying to get an edge over you. You’ve got to react in such a way that it doesn’t bother you. If you get into that – what did that person say about me in the locker room? – it would drive you mad. Totally destroy you. I’m here to do business; I’m not going to get close to any of you. I’m not a pushover.”
For now, the better players (Baltacha is currently ranked 62 in the world) want to be her friend. “Yeah. And you think, are they saying hi because they’re worried, or why? Because one week they say hi and the next they walk straight past me.” She shrugs. “That’s the game.”
The seasoned player’s anxiety dream is of the unseeded 16-year-old who swans on to court, no history, no fear, and takes them down in front of a capacity crowd. That was Monica Seles in 1989, Jennifer Capriati in 1990, Martina Hingis in 1995 and Caroline Wozniacki in 2005. The 19-year-old Dane and world No3 now herself feels under pressure. “Women’s tennis,” she says, “has improved so much that if you’re top 10, you don’t beat everyone else so easily. Even yesterday, I played a girl who was ranked 100 in the world and still I had problems. It’s very competitive.”
To older players, the girls coming up behind are a frightening bunch: bigger, stronger, mouthier, more ambitious and better attuned to getting sponsorship. There is some resentment, too, that they have so little appreciation for how bad things were for women players until relatively recently. In 1970, Billie Jean King led a revolt against the male-dominated circuit, accepting a $1 contract from tennis promoter Gladys Heldman and establishing a rival tour, which led to the formation of the WTA. In 1971, King became the first female athlete to win prize money of $100,000, but no one mentions that now. Amnesia is the privilege of progress.
“We would look up more to the top players,” says Kveta Peschke, the Czech doubles player. “We’d be like, wow! You know? I remember the first time I played Steffi Graf – the only time I played her – I was so excited. I went on the court thinking, don’t worry about the score, just enjoy the game. Now they have the attitude of whoever I play, I’ll beat you. They are very, very aggressive. Sometimes you feel as if you are in a boxing arena. Oh my goodness, they are so much stronger and taller.”
“There’s been a lot of progression from 10 years ago,” Razzano says. “Now anyone can beat anyone.”
Not Serena Williams, surely. “Yes,” she says. “If you have strong balls from Serena Williams, you can beat her easy. Not easy. But when I have a good ball, I can be aggressive with my opponent. The difficulty is with someone like Henin, where it’s more touch and spin. Or Wozniacki, when you don’t have enough punch, not such high-pressure balls. You need to find solutions for beating her; you need more patience. More tactic, je pense.”
The newest player causing sleepless nights among the top 20 is 18-year-old Melanie Oudin, an American who last year got into the quarter-finals at the US Open by defeating an astounded fourth seed, Elena Dementieva, and then smartly dispatching former world No1 Maria Sharapova. The fate of teenage tennis sensations is a notoriously grim one, and Oudin is trying to stay level-headed while adapting to her new status. “It’s a lot more pressure than I used to have,” she says. “You step outside and everyone wants your autograph. You’re like, really? You want my picture and autograph? You feel you want to please your fans, you want to please everyone who is supporting you, but the real thing is to play for yourself. That’s what I’m learning.” Her idols are “Clijsters, because she’s so nice. And Henin, because I’m as small as she is.”
The sponsorship potential for the likes of Oudin – young, pretty, American, top 15, who describes herself, winningly, as “just like a normal teenager” – is huge. If she stays in the game, she will be competing for the most lucrative and glamorous deals with immediate seniors such as Wozniacki, who is dressed on court by Stella McCartney (“She’s very nice,” Wozniacki says) and Jelena Jankovic, who comes off court, slumps in a chair and examines her well-painted fingernails like a truculent teen. There is a large, diamanté crucifix around her neck. “We are entertainers, as well, on court, in our own sporty way,” Jankovic says. “We entertain the fans, they pay money to watch us play. It’s nice to see girls who are feminine, who dress nice. Maybe in the past there were only a couple of players like that, but now players pay more attention to it. I was one of those painting my nails different colours and matching them to my dress. If you are in a nice dress you can play better, feel better. More comfortable and confident.”
Sam Stosur, the Australian No1 and world No7, who this month lost in the French Open final, snorts and rolls her eyes at this logic. “I think it’d be nice if women’s tennis was recognised for how well we all play, rather than for what we’re wearing this week. All the players would agree that, at the end of the day, they’d rather be winning matches in tournaments than being at parties and showing off their latest fashion lines. Sometimes I think it gets forgotten that’s what we do.”
What did she think about the fuss around Venus’s pants? “It’s silly. Who knows what she was thinking when she was designing that skirt.”
“Helen Jacobs,” says Budd Collins, “in the 1930s wore shorts at Wimbledon and people were aghast, although the Duke of Windsor applauded it. He said he liked seeing female legs.” Then there was the American champion Gussie Moran. “Back in 1949, she scandalised Wimbledon by wearing lace-trim pants. And the photographers were on their stomachs trying to get the shot. Ted Tinling, who was master of ceremonies, lost his job because of that. She never tried it again. And then in 1985 Anne White wore a total white jumpsuit and looked quite nice, good figure. The committee of management was shocked. She played against Pam Shriver and they had to quit for darkness at one set apiece and White was told not to wear that costume again. And in 1972, Rosie Casals came out to play a final in a dress with purple squiggles on it and they made her go back and change. But the real precursor was Suzanne Lenglen. She was French, came to Wimbledon in 1919, never lost a match there, but shocked the hell out of them because you could see her calves. She was wonderfully dressed by some French designer, so stylish. The first final she played was against Dolly Chambers, an Englishwoman who wore a skirt down to her ankles and a whalebone corset. Casals is the reason we have the new Wimbledon, because so many people wanted to see her. Everybody said, oh, it’s awful! Let’s go watch!”
Natalie Grandin, the South African No1, and Abigail Spears, her American doubles partner, are discussing the social aspect of life on tour. Wozniacki, they agree, is one of the nicest of the top 10, as is Clijsters. As for the Williams sisters, “They have a little bit of an aura around them,” Grandin says.
“I will occasionally get a hello,” Spears says.
“But they kind of stick to themselves.”
Venus and Serena are regarded with awe and caution by the rest of the circuit. I hear them referred to repeatedly by lesser players as “aloof” and “cliquey”, and by one major commentator as “entitled”. There was resentment last year when Serena got off with an $80,000 fine for verbally abusing a line judge at the US Open (as far as one could lip-read: “I swear to God I will take this ball and shove it down your fucking throat”).
“The Americans are generally bad,” Spears says.
“The Spanish keep to themselves,” Grandin says, “and the Russians. The South Africans, we mingle, because there’s only two of us. Then you have someone like Sharapova, who’s a little bit more quiet. She’ll say hello, but you’re not going to get an in-depth conversation with her.”
And the men? “They have a drink after matches. They’ll have dinner with each other the night before they play.” Don’t the women do this? Both players laugh, as if this is the best joke ever.
Grandin and Spears were both born in 1981, making them, in tennis player years, about 150. They are amused by the suggestion that there is parity of earnings with their male counterparts, a common assumption given that all the grand slams now have equal prize money.
“Ha!” Grandin says. “Well, in grand slams everything’s fine. But in terms of overall? The men earn way more. If you look at the top 100 of men and women, it’s like the women earn half.”
“They have bigger events,” Spears says, “higher prize money tournaments during the year. They have more options than we do.”
Paternalism in the women’s game, in which they are restricted to fewer tournaments than the men, is frustrating to the lower-ranked players, who must constantly move around the world to keep up their fitness and earnings. A player outside the top 50 will play around 28 tournaments a year, while a top 20 seed will play around 15. “There is a sort of protection that we have on our tour that the men don’t,” Spears says.
Cara Black, the Zimbabwean No1, says, “We average two tournaments a week, the guys four. Our goal is to get more jobs every week. It’s a long year, and if you don’t do well in a tournament, you’ve got to look for somewhere else to play – a $25k or $50k challenge – just to get the matches in, to be prepared for the next big tournament.”
Ivanovic tells me top players are so tied to their training schedules that if she takes more than a few days off, it can take her three weeks of concentrated effort to get back her fitness level.
“It depends,” Baltacha says. “Some girls need to practise six hours a day; some don’t play for a week, then turn up to a tournament and are absolutely fine. I used to find that if I didn’t play for three days, I’d be shanking balls everywhere.”
This morning, Baltacha lost in the second round to the 12th seed, Yanina Wickmayer, and is flying home to Ipswich. “You’ve got to be careful,” she says. “A few girls have got up in the rankings and all of a sudden got this deal, and they’re doing so much modelling, they’ve suddenly dropped.”
Ivanovic is reading Paulo Coelho. “It’s a bit spiritual,” she says, “but, you know.” Her manager is trying to get her to tweet, but she’s resisting. “It’s good to be a bit private.” This morning, while Venus Williams was photographed with Alicia Keys and Clijsters, Ivanovic prepared for a photoshoot with the CEO of Sony. There were higher seeds available, including Svetlana Kuznetsova, former winner of the French and US Opens and built like a model for a Soviet work poster. “Kuznetsova has won many more grand slams,” a veteran photographer in the press room said. He smiled. “But, of course, Kuznetsova won’t do.”
Outside in the swelter, the tournament goes on.
The Best Places To Find Gay Men
Finding Gay Love & Sex
By Ramon Johnson, About.com Guide
4. Online Chat Rooms/Dating Sites
Are chat rooms and dating sites about sex or about love? Well, it’s actually a little bit of both. Most chat rooms and dating sites leave it up to the seeker to let the general room population know if they are looking for Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now. Clearly state what type of man you are looking for and under what circumstances you are willing to meet. Read these Safe Gay Online Dating Tips!
3. Dance Club/ Lounge
There are arguably as many gay men that dislike gay clubs as there are that live for a weekend of dancing. Either way, for the party enthusiast, the club or lounge can be a great place to meet men. Couch potatoes shouldn’t feel left out though, smaller and less intimidating lounges can also be a great venue for gay men of all types. And of course, if you can get past the blatant displays of testosterone “heterosexual” clubs are also a good source. Many homosexuals go to straight clubs with their heterosexual friends and are often easy to spot.
2. Everyday Life
Despite what the authors of children’s fairy tales wants us to believe, there is no such thing as a knight in shining armor or a prince on a white horse showing up at your door to save the day. Of course, it is possible for you to secure a date with the UPS delivery man, but the likelihood of that happening is quite slim. However, the tales that aren’t a lie are the ones about meeting the man of your dreams at the grocery store or the record store or the coffee shop or the car wash or the park. The list is endless. Gay men do the same activities and need to run the same errands as everyone else and the odds of running into one that catches your eye is better than sitting at home alone. This method is especially effective for gay men living in small town. More than likely you will run into another gay man at some point around town. Of course, once you make contact the next step is up to you.
Referrals from friends, co-workers or family are hands down the best way to meet a guy. I’m not talking about the spin of the roulette wheel called a blind date, but an actual informal introduction arranged by a friend. Usually these begin with the standard, “I know this cute guy…” or “I think one of my co-workers is gay…” and end with “I can arrange for you guys to meet…”
Even if you are shy or don’t quite mesh with the “referral,” take solace in the fact that they have other gay friends. If you meet and it works out- great! If not, befriend them and network. Expanding your circle of gay friends can only lead to possibilities for romance.
Friends not beating down your door with referrals? Then ask them if they know of anyone. You’ll be amazed at how many times you’ll hear, “Now that you mention it, I do know a…”
Finding a Man
Despite these very effective places to meet gay men, it is important that you get out and meet people. That will always remain the best method to finding a man. If you are shy, take your time and ease your way onto the scene. In time, there is always someone for everyone. Happy man hunting!
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Rent a White Guy
Confessions of a fake businessman from Beijing
By Mitch Moxley
Image credit: Matt Dorfman
Not long ago I was offered work as a quality-control expert with an American company in China I’d never heard of. No experience necessary—which was good, because I had none. I’d be paid $1,000 for a week, put up in a fancy hotel, and wined and dined in Dongying, an industrial city in Shandong province I’d also never heard of. The only requirements were a fair complexion and a suit.
“I call these things ‘White Guy in a Tie’ events,” a Canadian friend of a friend named Jake told me during the recruitment pitch he gave me in Beijing, where I live. “Basically, you put on a suit, shake some hands, and make some money. We’ll be in ‘quality control,’ but nobody’s gonna be doing any quality control. You in?”
And so I became a fake businessman in China, an often lucrative gig for underworked expatriates here. One friend, an American who works in film, was paid to represent a Canadian company and give a speech espousing a low-carbon future. Another was flown to Shanghai to act as a seasonal-gifts buyer. Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image—particularly, the image of connection—that Chinese companies crave. My Chinese-language tutor, at first aghast about how much we were getting paid, put it this way: “Having foreigners in nice suits gives the company face.”
Six of us met at the Beijing airport, where Jake briefed us on the details. We were supposedly representing a California-based company that was building a facility in Dongying. Our responsibilities would include making daily trips to the construction site, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and hobnobbing. During the ceremony, one of us would have to give a speech as the company’s director. That duty fell to my friend Ernie, who, in his late 30s, was the oldest of our group. His business cards had already been made.
// <![CDATA[// Dongying was home to Sun Tzu, the author of The Art of War, and that’s just about all it has going for it. The landscape is dry and bleak, with factories in all directions. We were met at the airport by Ken, a young Canadian of Taiwanese extraction with a brush cut and leather jacket, whose company, we were told, had been subcontracted to manage the project.
The lobby at our hotel was dimly lit and smelled like bad seafood. “At least we have a nice view,” Ernie deadpanned as he opened the drapes in our room to reveal a scrap yard. A truck had been stripped for parts, and old tires were heaped into a pile. A dog yelped.
Ken drove us to the company’s temporary offices: small rooms with cement floors and metal walls arranged around a courtyard. We toured the facility, which built high-tech manufacturing equipment, then returned to the office and sat for hours. Across the courtyard, we could hear Ernie rehearsing his speech.
The next morning was the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. A stage and red carpet had been set up near the construction site. Pretty girls in red dragon-patterned dresses greeted visitors, and Chinese pop blared from loudspeakers. Down the street, police in yellow vests directed traffic. The mayor was there with other local dignitaries, and so were TV cameras and reporters. We stood in the front row wearing suits, safety vests, and hard hats. As we waited for the ceremony to begin, a foreman standing beside me barked at workers still visible on the construction site. They scurried behind the scaffolding.
“Are you the boss?” I asked him.
He looked at me quizzically. “You’re the boss.”
Actually, Ernie was the boss. After a brief introduction, “Director” Ernie delivered his speech before the hundred or so people in attendance. He boasted about the company’s long list of international clients and emphasized how happy we were to be working on such an important project. When the speech was over, confetti blasted over the stage, fireworks popped above the dusty field beside us, and Ernie posed for a photo with the mayor.
For the next few days, we sat in the office swatting flies and reading magazines, purportedly high-level employees of a U.S. company that, I later discovered, didn’t really exist. We were so important, in fact, that two of the guys were hired to stay for eight months (to be fair, they actually then received quality-control training).
“Lots happening,” Ken told me. “We need people for a week every month. It’ll be better next time, too. We’ll have new offices.” He paused before adding: “Bring a computer. You can watch movies all day.”
Drake at ‘beginning of journey’ to becoming hip hip’s biggest name with ‘Thank Me Later’
BY Michael J. Feeney
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Originally Published:Saturday, June 19th 2010, 10:35 PM
Updated: Saturday, June 19th 2010, 11:21 PM
Grammy-nominated rapper Drake will release his album ‘Thank Me Later’ next week.
He’s got just as much street cred as Harry Potter, but that isn’t stopping Drake from becoming one of the biggest names in hip hop.
Unlike some of his rap peers, Drake didn’t earn his stripes by selling drugs, has never been behind bars and doesn’t wear gold teeth.
Instead, he grew up in a wealthy community in Toronto. He had a bar mitzvah as a child. And the closest he’s come to being shot was when his character, Jimmy Brooks, was gunned down on the television show “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”
Now Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Drake Graham, is about to blow up.
“I can’t even believe it’s happening,” Drake, 23, said of his album release last week. “It’s crazy. It’s like the beginning of my journey, although I’ve come so far already.”
Billboard.com predicted Drake would sell more than 400,000 copies of “Thank Me Later” in the first week alone, making it one of the top-selling debut albums of the year.
Drake was the top draw on Tuesday when more than 25,000 fans packed Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport for a free concert. The event, sponsored by Paper Magazine, was canceled before Drake even got off his tour bus after some in the crowd tossed chairs, bottles and flower pots. Two people were arrested, and seven were treated for minor injuries.
The young rapper said he was humbled so many people showed up.
Drake, who got the acting bug while in high school, made the transition from acting to hip hop by releasing a series of Internet albums known as mixtapes. It was his third mixtape, “So Far Gone,” that created the most buzz with chart-topping hits “Best I Ever Had” and “Successful.”
Veteran hip-hop journalist Datwon Thomas isn’t surprised by the Drake phenomenon.
“The thing that works for Drake is he has a clean-dude image, and he runs with [Lil] Wayne,” said Thomas, editor of GlobalGrind.com. “Whatever street cred he needs, he has it.”
“The fact is he is multitalented vocally. He can rap, he can sing, he can write,” Thomas said. “I would say that we’re going to see him for a long time. I think he’s going to have one of those Will Smith careers.
“Drake is way bigger than anyone thinks right now,” he said.
But the “Find Your Love” rapper isn’t worried about sales.
“I just want [the fans] to want another one,” Drake told the Daily News. “I gotta put out a second one to get better, that’s all.”