When my friends in high school were listening to Sublime and Ben Harper (my school was full of hippies) I was listening to Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Outkast. Most hip hop back then (it’s still not perfect, but it’s better) was blatantly homophobic. It was really bad, and tough to listen to as a queer kid. I guess I could have just stuck to Britney and Xtina, they weren’t calling anyone a faggot in their lyrics (don’t get me started on Katy ‘Ur So Gay’ Perry) but I genuinely loved hip hop. I got way more from a lyric like “the flower that grows in the ghetto knows more about survival than the one from Flushing Meadows. It got love for the sun, that’s where I’m comin from.” than “Hit me baby one more time.” Mainstream hip hop in 2018 is a world a way from where it was when I was in high school. Homophobia is less tolerated and we have queer artists like Frank Ocean who are universally beloved. Which brings me to Dissect. It’s a podcast from Spotify that pulls apart songs exploring the deeper meaning behind them. Season 3 is dedicated to Frank Ocean and from the first two episodes I can not recommend it enough. I have learned so much about Frank and the inspiration for his music (he has some brilliantly random influences). Each episode this season will explore a different song from Channel Orange and Blonde. Please go add it to your podcast list immediately. And Frank, if you’re reading this, shoot us an email, we should do a cover, or just hang out and watch old movies. I’m fine with either
April 23, 1961 — I wish I’d been alive to experience this unforgettable night in queer, musical, and American history. At 8:30pm — or maybe 8:45pm — Judy Garland took to the stage at Carnegie Hall where she’d go on to perform for nearly two hours, making international headlines with one of the many comebacks that would define her career. It was, and remains (at least in my book) the single most important performance of the 20th century; dubbed by critics, super fans and attendees as “the greatest night in show business history.” In the audience were Rock Hudson, Julie Andrews, Debbie Reynolds, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton and a slew of other queens you can hear hollering throughout the Capitol Records recording of the show that soon won five Grammy awards, including Album of the Year and the first-ever award for Best Female Vocal Performance.
The concert was recorded, mind you, unbeknownst to Judy herself and the evening proved once more that she was the consummate vocalist, one who could ‘wow’ for hours on end, not to mention live, and with the support of only an orchestra. Name someone who can do that today and win a Grammy for it — I can’t! You can’t either. This record, which remained at number one for thirteen weeks, pushing Elvis from the top spot, is still in print: a monumental achievement, a body of work unto itself, and something worth celebrating.
I suggest cancelling your Sunday afternoon plans, buying your favorite bottle of wine (or something stronger), and shutting yourself in to listen from start to finish — you won’t regret it. …
We love listening to podcasts here at GAYLETTER, and Sunday is perfect for snuggling up with your pillow and taking in a new radio show. We’ve recommended a variety of LGBTQQAI+ themed programs including Making Gay History, Rupaul’s What’s the Tee?, WNYC’s Nancy, and Never Before with Janet Mock. Our newest suggestion is Mattachine, a ten-episode program released on iTunes beginning January 4th. It promises the true story of a secret organization that helped mobilize the LGBT social movements of the mid 20th century. “From a spark of inspiration in 1920s Chicago, through secret speakeasy-style meetings that brought together anonymous homosexuals, the program will open FBI case files to journey through McCarthy-era paranoia and the witch hunt that pulled the communist queer activists apart, scattering the seeds of the movement.” Produced and hosted by Devlyn Camp with editorial advising from Paul Di Ciccio and Chicago theatre critic Albert Williams, Mattachine is a podcast for anybody who wants to know more about this often overlooked part of our history. It guarantees more intrigue than your typical history lesson, uncovering issues that our community still struggles with today: internalized homophobia, misogyny, political pressure, anonymity, and assimilation. Get ready for some drama!
We wrote about this podcast before, but we felt it necessary to feature it again, especially since Season 3 has just started. This season features the second part of their interview with LGBTQ human rights activist Sylvia Rivera. Sylvia (pictured) featured heavily in the current Netflix documentary on Marsha P. Johnson. It’s an incredibly illuminating look into Sylvia’s life and activism. Making Gay History is an amazing podcast. What I said about it in my last post is still just as true: “This podcast is must for everyone, and I mean everyone. Call your mom, call your dad, call your senator. Making Gay History is compulsory listening for those who want to learn about the history of our fight for equality (and that should be everyone).” The podcast is hosted, and created by Eric Marcus who has authored over of a dozen books, “including Making Gay History, Is It A Choice?, Why Suicide?, and Breaking the Surface, the #1 New York Times bestselling autobiography of Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis.” Season three contains 10 rare, never before heard interviews with LGBTQ civil rights pioneers like Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin who were the first to found a national organization for lesbians in 1955, or Perry Watkins one of the first people to fight discrimination in the military. There’s even an archival interview with Ellen Degeneres. Subscribe immediately and learn your history!
This podcast is must for everyone, and I mean everyone. Call your mom, call your dad, call your senator. Making Gay History is compulsory listening for those who want to learn about the history of our fight for equality (and that should be everyone). The podcast is hosted, and created by Eric Marcus who has authored over of a dozen books, “including Making Gay History, Is It A Choice?, Why Suicide?, and Breaking the Surface, the #1 New York Times bestselling autobiography of Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis.” The series mines Eric’s “decades old audio archive of rare interviews — conducted for his award-winning oral history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement — to create intimate, personal portraits of both known and long-forgotten champions, heroes, and witnesses to history.” I just listened to the Marsha P. Johnson interview. From what I can tell is the only recorded interview with the LGBT advocate who sparked the Stonewall riot that launched the modern gay rights movement — it was fascinating. Season 3 of the podcast starts soon. Before it does, catch up on the first two seasons. They contain interviews with such legends as Sylvia Rivera, Dear Abby and Vito Russo among many others.
It’s podcast time! This one is a tad niche, but isn’t that the brilliance of podcasts? There’s literally something for everyone! Who? Weekly is hosted by Jezebel’s Bobby Finger and former Vulture staffer and current MEL deputy editor Lindsey Weber and it focuses on celebrity culture of a very particular kind. If you’ve ever wondered who Bella Thorne is and why she has 15.8 million followers then these two will get to the bottom of it for you. Bobby and Lindsey divide the celebrity world into the “whos” and the “thems.” Thems are the legit A-listers, Angelina, Oprah, Madonna etc. The whos are the D-listers that leave you bemused when they pop up continual in your social feeds. Most people choose to block these people out while a select few MUST get to the bottom of why anyone should care about them. If you’re one of those people (sadly, I am) then this is just the podcast you didn’t know you needed. Lindsey and Bobby have great chemistry and are a lot of fun to listen to. I stopped reading celebrity sites years ago, so Who Weekly is a pleasant dip back into that cesspool. A little trashiness never hurt anyone.
New podcast alert! New podcast alert! Starring writer and trans advocate, Janet Mock, Never Before features conversations “about work, love and life — like you’ve never heard before.” The first episode features Ms. Tina Knowles. It was just a joy to listen to Tina talk from start to finish. I learned about her favorite hair product that contains actual real life ground-up hair, I learned that she never leaves the house without a red lip, and I learned that you’re never too old to snatch your waist and find a new man (Tina got divorced at 62, but has found new love and looks better than ever.) This episode was like spending 51 minutes inside Tina’s incredible Instagram account. If you are not following her, then you need to do so, right now! It’s a lot of fun. Tina clearly has raised successful, well behaved girls so it was fascinating to hear her talk about the “home training” she gave to them. She says she mainly taught them to work hard and not be brats. Great advice Tina. Not sure who Janet has planned for her next podcast, but if it’s anyone like Ms. Tina Knowles I will continue to tune in.
I know what you’re thinking, another podcast? Yes another! If you haven’t figured this out yet I love podcasts. So get with the program. If you’re into the paranormal, cults and serial killers then this podcast is for you. And when I say ‘into’ I just mean you have fascination with those topics, not like you’re looking for inspiration to go on a killing spree or shave your head and join an end of days commune in the desert. Last Podcast On The Left has been around for a couple of years which means they have a massive library of podcasts you can go back and listen to. It’s hosted by “Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and “Unpredictable” Henry Zebrowski.” It deals with some pretty dark shit, but it’s actually a comedy podcast. They are really good at offering up very detailed accounts of true crime events but keep it light by making plenty of jokes along the way. For those who a little squirmism hearing about these dark topics their humor is a great way to balance it out. I’ve listened to their series’ on the Children Of God cult (fuck that was intense) serial killer Aileen Wuornos, Scientology founder Ron L. Hubbard and the Menendez Brothers. I would avoid listening to The Last Podcast On the Left right before bed, unless you want to have a haunted night’s sleep, but for all other times of the day this is a great podcast to wander the city listening to. Man, people can be crazy!
I’m recommending a new podcast! Shocker I know, but this is a good one, and it’s gay! Like really gay. It’s called Nancy, lol, and it’s got some serious pedigree behind it. Produced by WNYC, the station behind the esteemed Radiolab, Nancy is hosted by alums of that show, “BFFs Kathy Tu and Tobin Low.” According to the bio I found on the WNYC website for the duo they are both “super queer, super fun and ready to take over your podcast feed.” I listened to episode number two “Like Two Ken Dolls Being Smashed Together.” It was an exploration of the career of Brandon Lee, who is considered the first Asian top in gay porn. It was a fascinating look into the way Asians are portrayed in gay porn and how stereotypes continue to linger. I’d never really thought about it, but Asians in porn are pretty much always the submissive bottoms. Which is ridiculous, ‘cos there’s plenty of Asian gays who top. It just makes you realize how cliched most depictions of non-white people in porn are. If you’re in the need for a new podcast to add to your feed, Nancy is it! It’s frank, fun and thought provoking. Subscribe!
If you search for this podcast on iTunes it will come up as S.Town, but it’s really called Shit Town, and for a good reason. It’s about a town called Woodstock, Alabama, that in many ways fits the profile of the kind of place, filled with the kinds of people that put Trump in the Whitehouse. The podcast starts when This American Life reporter, Brian Reed, gets an email from a middle aged gay man in Woodstock name John B. McLemore, alerting him to a supposed murder cover up by his town’s police department. Brian goes to Woodstock to meet John and investigate the cover up. It turns out that the alleged murder, isn’t a murder at all, but that’s when the series takes a sharp turn, which if tell you about it right now, will ruin all the fun. The focus of the podcast is the town, but also John, who is brilliantly smart, funny and...complicated. Shit Town is produced by the same crew as Serial, and like that podcast it’s addictive. It’s only 7 episodes long, and all are available to listen to right now.