Beyoncé’s How To Make Lemonade: My Top 20 Photos

As most people know, Bey just dropped her epic photo book chronicling the Lemonade era. The unboxing alone…

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IMG_9758IMG_4490FullSizeRender 15IMG_8170On first flip, these are my Top 20 faves (in no particular order):

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Craig in XY Magazine

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Elegy of Clubland by Craig Seymour

Once Upon A Time. It’s a phrase we’re all used to from children’s stories. Words meant to conjure a past so distant that it’s imbued with mystery, myth, and magic. It’s a phrase that I never thought would apply to my own work. But as I sit looking at old photos, remember the young, shining faces coming alive in long-gone, twilight-lit spaces, I can’t help repeating that phrase in my mind: One Upon A Time.

The feelings I experience while looking at these pictures are wildly mixed. There is joy from the memory of all the wild, ecstatic fun. But there’s also melancholy from the realization that what once was will never be again.

See, I started seriously taking pictures in nightclubs around 2006. But my relationship with nightclubs, particularly strip clubs, goes back much farther. The first gay club that I ever went to was a strip club, La Cage Aux Follies, in my hometown of Washington, D.C. As soon as I stepped in the door and entered the dark club where godly hunks danced under warm, red lights, I experienced a feeling of safety that came over me like a wave. It was the first time in my life that I felt fully secure in publically exhibiting my desire for other men without fear of reprisal, whether verbal or violent.

Throughout the ‘90s, I worked in many of the D.C. clubs as a stripper in order to help pay my way through grad school. This gave me another perspective on the strip club experience. I learned through my friendships with other strippers that behind every gyrating, g-stringed body was a unique story, a journeyman’s tale about what led them to the club and a hopeful vision about where life might one day take them.

By the time I started taking pictures, my relationship to the strip clubs had changed once again. This change reflected a phenomenon once described by author Andrew Holleran: “And the only way you know you’re growing older is that you (once loved by older men) now find yourself loving boys younger than you…” Looking back, I think what I sought to capture in those pictures was the youthful freedom that marked my experience and the experience of many of the strippers that I worked with in the clubs. I wanted to capture that time before life choices hardened into identity, and when sex—and public sex performances—could still be considered play. I wanted to capture the innocence that wasn’t about naiveté or moralistic notions of chastity, but rather the situational suspension of guilt and shame.

Often, people think it’s ridiculous when I talk about innocence with respect to strippers. But that has more to do with our societal hypocrisy about sex than it does with what goes on at the even the most permissive strip club. As Pat (now Patrick) Califia once asked: “Why is sex supposed to be invisible? Other pleasurable acts or acts of communication are routinely performed in public—eating, drinking, talking, watching movies, writing letters, studying or teaching, telling jokes and laughing, appreciating fine art. Is sex so deadly, hateful, and horrific that we can’t permit it to be seen?”

My photographic work, from its inception, has been committed to the idea that sex can be public and should be seen. But more and more, there are obstacles to this idea that don’t simply hinge on hypocrisy and moralism. Increasingly, spaces where gay men could engage in public sex—which runs the continuum from voyeuristically ogling a go-go boy to getting full-on biblical in a back room—are disappearing. Some of this is due to factors that have long impinged upon nightlife: sententious zoning laws; rising rents due to gentrification; homophobic alcohol board practices, etc. But some of this we are doing to ourselves.

There has been article after article about how apps like Grindr are killing gay nightlife because people no longer have to go out to hookup. And this idea has always bothered me because it reduces the raison d’être of nightlife to simply hooking up. But back in the day, in the “Once Upon A Time” of many of my photos, “hooking up” wasn’t the only point of going to a gay club. Rather, it was the gratifying endnote of a sexual public experience, a mise en scène of gay desire that was like nothing else in the known, straight world.

Losing these physical spaces has led to another loss, one that is more metaphysical, that cuts to the core of the modern gay experience. “Gay life is about being open, being unlimited…Why would anyone—bisexual, gay, whatever—want to be trapped as a photo, as an internet profile in an app? That’s a different kind of closet, a box.” This was said to a New York Times reporter by a gay man in Cuba, where spotty internet service has made Grindr slow to catch on.

I think what I mourn most about the death of gay nightlife is the idea of innocence that I talked about with respect to the dancers. It’s because, when nightlife was at its best, this feeling of innocence, of freedom from judgment and expectations could be accessed by almost anyone. The same way that churchgoers have Sunday mornings to congregate and collectively grow closer to God, we—as gay men—had Friday night, and Saturday night, and just about any other night to come together and rejoice in the desire that set so many of us free. Once Upon A Time.

 

The Craig Report: 5.20.17

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Hey everybody. I’m back!

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I hope you had a great week. I’m writing this from NYC, as I sit in an Uber racing from LaGuardia airport to JFK. I accidentally went to the wrong airport for my return flight to Miami. I flew into LaGuardia, and when I checked in for my return flight, the American app confusingly displayed this:

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Anyway, I thought that writing would help me pass the time in this stressful situation.

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I had a great few days in New York, going to see The xx and Sampha in concert, checking out the Comme des Garçons exhibit at the Met, and, of course, eating. I’ll tell you all about that stuff next week.

But I also had a pretty cool time before I left for NYC. As you might remember from my last Report, American Crime Story was recently filming in my neighborhood. Well, Hollywood came back to the beach the very next weekend with the red carpet premiere of Baywatch.

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I thought about going because it was open to the public and, well, Zac Efron.

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But instead I went to the R&Bae party at Gramps in Wynwood.

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It was a chill outdoor event. The people were cool, the margaritas got me nice, and the music bumped. I head-nodded to flashback joints like Ashanti’s “Only U,” Dru Hill’s “In My Bed (So So Def Mix),” and Janet Jackson’s “If (Kaytranada Remix).”

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And in more South Beach news, I saw this as I came home from Wynwood.

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The next day, I had the opportunity to see a concert by two of my all-time fave singers: Karen Clark-Sheard and daughter Kierra “KiKi” Sheard. Don’t ever let it be said that you can’t get anything good from Groupon.

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Karen Clark-Sheard is a member of the legendary Clark Sisters, who Mariah Carey calls her “favorite gospel group.” (The Clark Sisters’ “Unsung” episode, btw, is a pearl-clutching, drama-filled must watch.) Kiki is also counted as “great” by Mimi.

In 2013, Karen sang “Anytime You Need A Friend” as part of a tribute, when Mariah received a B.M.I. Icon Award. Of course, Karen slayed the performance.

Afterward, Mariah tweeted this:

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Seeing Karen and Kiki in concert was a spirit-lifting revelation. You can see some of my photos below. And here’s a playlist of 10 of my fave songs by Karen and Kiki, solo and together.

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O.K. y’all, I’m at JFK. But this is my Uber bill.

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I’m glad I made it to the airport, but this bill got me like…

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Anyway, let me run see if I can catch this flight. I’ll let you know what happens and give you some “faves” I’ve been saving up in the next Report. Until then …

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Be cool, be kind, be creative, be yourself. Love, Craig

CLOSING THOUGHT

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P.S. If you know someone who might like this Report, please do me a favor by forwarding it to them and asking them to subscribe. Thanks!

CRAIG 101

Who I Am:

I’m a writer whose work has been featured in The Washington Post, the Chicago TribuneEntertainment Weekly, Vibe, Spin, and other publications. I have a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

My Books:

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Who’s Your Daddy

Providence-based photographer Michael Allen, a gay man on the cusp of 40, thinks he’s found love with a 19-year-old, mohawk-sporting artist named Ziggy, only to discover that the two may already share a bond that neither can imagine. This plays out as Michael’s best friends-Sidney, a 50-ish art dealer and Bruce, a cop in his 30s-deal with their own sexual trysts and romantic travails with dramatically younger guys. The result is a novel that explores the fragile yet enduring ties of sex, love, and friendship.

All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C.

“Unafraid to bare it all…readers will feel they’re in the hands of an expert.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“…a bare-assed, neon-lit tour de force…” –The Bay Area Reporter

“Raunchy splendor…somehow both bawdy and sweetly nostalgic at the same time.” – Dallas Voice

FREE: Download the All I Could Bare audiobook read by me.

Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross

“Seymour’s brilliant book is like a great Luther song: elegantly written, effortlessly executed and eloquently delivered. A majestic tribute.” – Michael Eric Dyson

“Full of juicy anecdotes, fast-paced writing and interesting analysis, the book paints an intimate portrait of the beloved balladeer.” – E. Lynn Harris

The Craig Report: 5.12.17

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Hey everybody. I’m back!

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I want to first wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. None of us would be here without you. Thanks for all you do, especially offering life lessons…

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…posing rhetorical questions…

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…and stating simple truths:

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I hope everybody had a good week. Mine was made a little more interesting because they were filming The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story outside the former Versace mansion in my neighborhood on South Beach. The show, which will be shown on FX in 2018, is being done by Ryan Murphy and his cohorts, who are also behind The People vs. OJ Simpson, American Horror Story, Feud, Glee, and so on and so on…

I didn’t see any of the stars like Edgar Ramirez, who plays Versace, Ricky Martin, who plays Versace’s boyfriend, or Darren Criss, who plays murderer Andrew Cunanan and was spotted on the beach in a Speedo.

I mostly just took pictures of production stuff as I passed by on my daily beach run and my subsequent walk to the office, where I sit writing this.

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Some of my shots were jacked, because I was passing by in a rush.

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And one day, I was taking a photo of the fake Darren Criss/Andrew Cunanan “Wanted” poster, and a prop supervisor raced over to me and yelled, “Don’t take a picture of that!”

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I clapped back: “It’s a public street!” Then I stood there like…

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Anyway, here are my fave behind-the-scenes shots:

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CRAIG’S WEEKLY FAVES

1)  National Mama’s Bailout Day

A group of social justice organizations, including Black Lives Matter, are joining together to bail out mothers who are in jail but have not been convicted of a crime; they simply can’t afford to make bail. The bail-out campaign is inclusive of mothers who–as the following video explains–are “queer, trans immigrant, young, elder, and disabled.”

And because I don’t ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself:

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2) Yujia Hu‘s insane sushi creations (s/o @sethclark for the tip)

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3) Model Carson Aldridge apes a lot of ’80s leading man tropes in this short video. More important, he does most of it in short-shorts and tighty whities.

O.K. y’all, until next time…

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Be cool, be kind, be creative, be yourself.

And Happy Mother’s Day again!!!!

Love, Craig

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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P.S. If you know someone who might like this report, please do me a favor by forwarding it to them and asking them to subscribe. Thanks!

CRAIG 101

Who I Am:

I’m a writer whose work has been featured in The Washington Post, the Chicago TribuneEntertainment Weekly, Vibe, Spin, and other publications. I have a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

 

My Books:

Daddy cover3

Who’s Your Daddy

Providence-based photographer Michael Allen, a gay man on the cusp of 40, thinks he’s found love with a 19-year-old, mohawk-sporting artist named Ziggy, only to discover that the two may already share a bond that neither can imagine. This plays out as Michael’s best friends-Sidney, a 50-ish art dealer and Bruce, a cop in his 30s-deal with their own sexual trysts and romantic travails with dramatically younger guys. The result is a novel that explores the fragile yet enduring ties of sex, love, and friendship.

All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C.

“Unafraid to bare it all…readers will feel they’re in the hands of an expert.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“…a bare-assed, neon-lit tour de force…” –The Bay Area Reporter

“Raunchy splendor…somehow both bawdy and sweetly nostalgic at the same time.” – Dallas Voice

FREE: Download the All I Could Bare audiobook read by me.

Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross

“Seymour’s brilliant book is like a great Luther song: elegantly written, effortlessly executed and eloquently delivered. A majestic tribute.” – Michael Eric Dyson

“Full of juicy anecdotes, fast-paced writing and interesting analysis, the book paints an intimate portrait of the beloved balladeer.” – E. Lynn Harris

The Craig Report: 5.5.17

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Hey everybody. I’m back!

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Hope you had a great week!

Mine flew by. I spent most of my time:

I. Reacting to this

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I was like

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See, I’m not only a fan of Tevin Campbell; I also have to thank him for playing a pivotal role in my career. The first piece I ever wrote for The Washington Post was a review of his self-titled ’99 album. You can read the review here, And below is my Tevin Campbell Top 10 playlist.

Also, this is my fave Tevin remix. It really gives a hard, hip-hop thump to “Can We Talk.”

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II. Another thing I’ve been doing this week is obsessively listening to the new Mary J. Blige album, Strength of a Woman. It’s so great to see her come back from her various troubles (the dissolution of her marriage and otherwise) like the warrior that she is.

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I like the whole album, but in particular, I’ve been dancing around to “Telling The Truth,”

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…and the summer anthem “Glow Up.”

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And I’ve really been feeling her testimony on “Set Me Free” and “Thank You.”

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I also couldn’t get enough of her performing “Love Yourself” with The Roots on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

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Lastly, I’ve been deleting from my hard drive every song by Starshell.

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The one-time Mary protégé is allegedly “the other woman” behind Mary’s divorce drama.

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III. I also did a few artsy things this week. I went into the city to check out some of the street art in Wynwood.

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O.K., I actually went there to get some charred octopus tacos from Coyo. But while I was in the neighborhood, I took in some of the murals.

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On the way home, I drove through Overtown, which was once called “Colored Town” because of its large black population. Back in the Jim Crow days, acts like Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday stayed in Overtown after their Miami Beach gigs because they weren’t allowed to dine or sleep where they played.

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Like many historically black neighborhoods throughout the country, Overtown has seen better days for a variety of reasons. One of these being that the city decided to run interstate 95 straight through Overtown, destroying homes and displacing longtime residents. Now, it’s the so-called “hot zone” of South Florida’s opioid epidemic.

But there are attempts at revitalization, including the reopening of the Lyric Theatre where Sam Cooke, Redd Foxx, and Aretha Franklin, among notable others, once performed. There’s also been the recent installation of outdoor paintings by the Pérez Art Museum.

I went to look at some of these works, which were located around what looked like an abandoned building.

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[Ed Clark: Pink Wave, 2006]

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[Emilio Sanchez: Untitled (Miami Storefronts), ca. 1980]

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[Guillermo Kuitca: Mozart-Da Ponte, VI, 1996]

The next day, I headed to the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum to see Dandy Lion: (Re) Articulating Black Masculine Identity. (My mom was in town, so we needed stuff to do.) The exhibit compiled works by an international body of contemporary photographers that documented “the black dandy,” who is defined–as curator Shantrelle P. Lewis states–“as a self-fashioned gentleman who intentionally assimilates classical European fashion with African Diaspora aesthetics and sensibilities…His style and identity generally contradict the stereotypes, boxes, categories, or ideas that society typically apply to him (and in some cases, her).”

I enjoyed the entire exhibit, but I was particularly taken by the work of South African photographer Harness Hamese, who often includes female dandies in his work. Here are three of my favorites from the show:

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You can see more of Harness’ work on the ‘gram.

While I was at the museum, I also saw some other stuff that I really liked, including Freedom Trap (2013) by Cuban artist María Magdalena Campos-Pon.

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I also saw Christopher, South Shore High School, 2003 from Dawould Bey’s The Chicago Project, which combines Bey’s portraits with the subject’s own words describing themselves. Here’s the photo and an excerpt from Christopher’s profile. (You can read the whole thing here.)

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I think I come off as a bad person, ’cause when I get around people I don’t know I kind of ball up into a shell and don’t really voice myself when I should, ’cause I’m so affected by what people think of me that I don’t wanna, like, give them the stereotype of a young person my age. Stereotype would be: don’t know nothin’, probably ain’t goin’ to be nothin’…

But that’s why black young people in America use rap as a voice for us, as people to put out… you know what I’m saying… ‘Cause they have like certain messages. Like, people think all rappers is, “they’re bad, they do bad stuff,” but they’ll tell you in their songs why they do bad stuff, like they had nothin’ else to turn to, so that’s the only way they can do it. But they tell you, like, “man, you shouldn’t do it, because it’s a bad thing and this ain’t goin’ lead to nowhere.” Only reason they had to do it was ’cause it was the last choice they had to use.

CRAIG’S WEEKLY FAVES

1)  These lit graduation caps by @artworkbybria

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2) Queen Majesty Scotch Bonnet and Ginger Hot Sauce

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Remember how I was in Brooklyn a few weeks back? Well, one day I was walking down Knickerbocker Avenue and I went into this gourmet food spot to get some coffee. The line was crazy-long, so I decided to bounce. But before I left, I saw some hot sauce bottles in the corner of my eye. I went over and found Queen Majesty’s Red Habanero and Black Coffee Hot Sauce. The coffee/hot sauce combo sounded tasty af. But I knew that I couldn’t get the bottle through airport security. Plus, I wasn’t tryna stand in that line.

I got on my phone, went to the Queen Majesty website, and immediately ordered the three hot sauce sampler pack.

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I figured that I would love the “Red Habanero and Black Coffee” and the “Jalapeño, Tequila and Lime,” and that I would tolerate the “Scotch Bonner and Ginger.” I just haven’t been a big ginger person since I was about six year’s old and my mom made homemade egg rolls for my birthday. She put ginger in the rolls, but it wasn’t cooked. And I bit into a huge chunk of raw ginger.

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Anyway, I’ve been sorta anti-ginger ever since. I don’t even eat it when it comes with my sushi. But when the sauces arrived, I was shocked to discover that the Scotch Bonnet and Ginger was actually my favorite. It has a a really zesty, energizing kick to it. I highly recommend.

In fact, I have to go re-order before I run out. Until next time y’all…

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Be cool, be kind, be creative, be yourself. Love, Craig

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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I just hung this print from Freestyle Raps in my apartment. It’s a lyric from J. Cole’s “Love Yourz.”

I don’t know how many of you caught J. Cole’s HBO documentary 4 Your Eyez Only, but it was really interesting. It followed Cole, who hails from Fayetteville, NC, traveling through the South, chopping it up with everyday folk. I guarantee that this 4 minute clip of him talking to a grandmother will be one of the most moving things you’ve seen all year.

P.S. If you know someone who might like this report, please do me a favor by forwarding it to them and asking them to subscribe. Thanks!

CRAIG 101

Who I Am:

I’m a writer/photographer whose work has been featured in The Washington Post, the Chicago TribuneEntertainment Weekly, Vibe, Spin, and other publications. I have a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

My Books:

Daddy cover3

Who’s Your Daddy

Providence-based photographer Michael Allen, a gay man on the cusp of 40, thinks he’s found love with a 19-year-old, mohawk-sporting artist named Ziggy, only to discover that the two may already share a bond that neither can imagine. This plays out as Michael’s best friends-Sidney, a 50-ish art dealer and Bruce, a cop in his 30s-deal with their own sexual trysts and romantic travails with dramatically younger guys. The result is a novel that explores the fragile yet enduring ties of sex, love, and friendship.

All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C.

“Unafraid to bare it all…readers will feel they’re in the hands of an expert.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“…a bare-assed, neon-lit tour de force…” –The Bay Area Reporter

“Raunchy splendor…somehow both bawdy and sweetly nostalgic at the same time.” – Dallas Voice

FREE: Download the All I Could Bare audiobook read by me.

Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross

“Seymour’s brilliant book is like a great Luther song: elegantly written, effortlessly executed and eloquently delivered. A majestic tribute.” – Michael Eric Dyson

“Full of juicy anecdotes, fast-paced writing and interesting analysis, the book paints an intimate portrait of the beloved balladeer.” – E. Lynn Harris

The Craig Report 4.28.17

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Hey y’all, I’m back!

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Hope you had a great week! As you might suspect from my last Report, I’ve spent much of the week recovering from my travels, doing laundry (i.e. dropping off clothes at Wash Club), cleaning the apartment (i.e. booking a Handy), and offering unsolicited advice to Mary J. Blige’s A&R man.

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Check out Kaytranada’s remix of the Mary J. classic, “I Can Love You:”

 

In addition to doing those things, I’m still working on a bunch of projects that I hope to share with you in the next few months.

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Other than that, the week was pretty uneventful. But here are a few ICYMIs:

1.  I’m still getting good feedback about my “Produced By Missy Elliott” playlist. And, of course, there was THIS

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Oh, and THIS

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You can check out my Missy-approved selections on Tidal & Spotify.

2. Tuesday, April 25th marked the 15th anniversary of the tragic death of TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. I posted a tribute that I wrote about her at the time. It was based on a Honey magazine cover story that I had written the year before.

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3. I got another FIVE STAR review of my novel, Who’s Your Daddy?

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Special shoutout to whoever wrote this! If you liked the book, please do me a favor and write a quick review. It really helps.

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CRAIG’S WEEKLY FAVES

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1) Kendrick Lamar’s Mother

I love Kendrick Lamar’s searingly introspective new album DAMN. But not as much as his momma. Here’s her emoji-laden take on her son’s masterpiece.

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IMHO, this is the best bit of homegrown music criticism since @deactivatedfatgirl’s epic review of Beyoncé’s  self-titled 2013 opus. Lest we ever forget, I’ll recap:

It’s early morning on December 13th, right after Bey surprise-released her much anticipated album and in her own words…

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Well, in those wee hours, Mrs. Carter also posted this on IG:

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@deactivatedfatgirl had the only appropriate response:

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(Btw, you should also check out Greg Tate’s incisive rumination on Kendrick’s album. Tate compellingly argues that “the truths spoken by hiphop’s prophets are…democratically applicable to all living under the reign of Mein Trumpf.”)

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2. Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill – Jerry Dantzic

Remember a few weeks back, around the time of Billie Holiday’s birthday, I told you guys how much I liked Zadie Smith’s short story that is written from Billie’s perspective. Well, the story, which first appeared in The New Yorker, was actually written for the new book Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill. The book compiles many of the pictures taken by photographer Jerry Dantzic when he was hired by Billie’s record company to chronicle her April 1957 stint at the Sugar Hill club in Newark, NJ. She was performing there because, due to a drug conviction, she was banned from performing in NYC clubs.

The pictures capture a thin but healthy-and-happy-looking Billie, who had just gotten married. Sadly, within two years, she was dead.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the book. Predictably, if you know anything about my photography, I like a lot of the blurry, soft-focus ones. Anyway, I highly recommend the book for you or the Billie lover in your life.

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Sidenote: I love this last photo because it reminds me of one of the most visually stunning films that I’ve ever seen.

ICYMI, here’s my Top 10 Billie Holiday playlist.

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3) Piano Tribute to Frank Ocean – Blond Piano

From the WTF files comes this all-piano version of Frank Ocean’s Blonde. The mysterious pianist manages to capture the intimacy and eloquent beauty of Frank’s songs, and the stripped-down quality gives the album a deeply meditative feel. Play amidst repeated streams of “Chanel,” “Slide,” “Biking,” and “Lens.”

O.K. y’all, as always, it’s been fun! But I gotta run to Target because

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and

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Until next time…

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Be cool, be kind, be creative, be yourself. Love, Craig

CLOSING THOUGHT

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P.S. If you know someone who might like this Report, please do me a favor by forwarding it to them and asking them to subscribe. Thanks!

CRAIG 101

Who I Am:

I’m a writer/photographer whose work has been featured in The Washington Post, the Chicago TribuneEntertainment Weekly, Vibe, Spin, and other publications. I have a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

 

My Books:

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Who’s Your Daddy

Providence-based photographer Michael Allen, a gay man on the cusp of 40, thinks he’s found love with a 19-year-old, mohawk-sporting artist named Ziggy, only to discover that the two may already share a bond that neither can imagine. This plays out as Michael’s best friends-Sidney, a 50-ish art dealer and Bruce, a cop in his 30s-deal with their own sexual trysts and romantic travails with dramatically younger guys. The result is a novel that explores the fragile yet enduring ties of sex, love, and friendship.

All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C.

“Unafraid to bare it all…readers will feel they’re in the hands of an expert.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“…a bare-assed, neon-lit tour de force…” –The Bay Area Reporter

“Raunchy splendor…somehow both bawdy and sweetly nostalgic at the same time.” – Dallas Voice

FREE: Download the All I Could Bare audiobook read by me.

Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross

“Seymour’s brilliant book is like a great Luther song: elegantly written, effortlessly executed and eloquently delivered. A majestic tribute.” – Michael Eric Dyson

“Full of juicy anecdotes, fast-paced writing and interesting analysis, the book paints an intimate portrait of the beloved balladeer.” – E. Lynn Harris

The Craig Report 4.23.17

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Hey everybody. I’m back!

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I’m coming to you once again from an Ethiopian restaurant. (Blog-only readers should note that the referenced last dispatch was for exclusive for email subscribers. Subscribe, yo! There are benefits and such.) Anyway, like I said, I’m waiting to tear into an Ethiopian feast again, only this time I’m coming to you, not from my hometown of D.C., but from BK, home of Biggie and Jay/Where niggas got Will Smith chips/Get jiggy all day/Bitches that boost in the city all day…

The restaurant is called Bunna Cafe, and it’s one of all time fave Ethiopian joints. It’s also vegan, so it has all the veggie options I crave. Right now, I’m here for the brunch. In fact, my food just came.
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I got Dinch Azifa, a mix of potatoes, onions, and jalapeños, and Duba FirFir, a berbere -soaked mash of of injera bread, squash, ginger and garlic. As for what’s in my glass, don’t worry ’bout that.
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O.K., so now I’m in an Uber to Newark airport and it is the most expensive Uber I’ve ever taken.
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I swear, this driver better start burning some lavender oils and offering up a foot massage to justify this price.

But anyway, back to the story, which I now realize that I haven’t even begun telling you. It involves the reasons why I’m having my own miniature and decidedly solo “On The Run” tour.

I was in the D.C. to briefly touch base with family before heading to the way-outer-Bmore area and McDaniel College, where the wonderful Dr. Sara Raley teaches my memoir All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C. in her Sociology of Sexuality class.

Every time I talk to the class, it’s interesting and engaging. The students always have lots of good questions. My only minor gripe is that the inquiries often have less to do with me than with my ex-boyfriend Seth, who figures prominently in the book. (More on him later.)

In the class, I  share some bts stuff, such as

1) My original photo of one of the clubs where I used to work. It eventually became the paperback cover. The photo now looks so retro that it’s like a still from The Americans.
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2) Vintage pics of me & Seth.
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3) An old stripper outfit.
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Laugh if you want, but I think both Bey & Rihanna copped my style for some of their past Coachella lewks.
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All in all, it was a good time. And on a sidenote, if you ever happen to find yourself 40 miles outside of Baltimore, in Westminster, MD, you should check out the food at Tim Thai.

Anyway, after Baltimore, I went to NYC and stayed with Seth and his boyfriend Johnny, who exhibits one of my most admired qualities in a human person: he makes his own hot sauce.
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Sidenote: When I got back home, I internet-ed a Jeow Som recipe. This was the first step:
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As soon as I read that, I was like
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The main point of my NYC trip was to attend the “Headlines and Headliners” event sponsored by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. I used to be the Program Coordinator for NLGJA, which, as the mission statement says, “is an organization of journalists, media professionals, educators and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBTQ issues.”

It was a really nice affair. Lots of journo celebs were in the house, including the night’s honoree CNN’s Don Lemon and NBC’s Willie Geist. My highlight was standing next to The View‘s Sunny Hostin as I ordered a Tito’s and Diet Coke from the bar.

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(image egregiously cribbed from NLGJA email)

Apparently, Barry Manilow was up in the joint too. (You know, watching Barry’s “Coming Out” narrative makes me wish that my biography subject, Luther Vandross, had lived to have a similar media moment. I think it would’ve enriched his personal life and, perhaps, led to his greatest professional success. It would’ve given the larger public a chance to get to know the man behind the music.)

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But that night,  I wasn’t really checking for Barry, because the food had my full attention. The cheese selection was on point, including this creamy mouthful this morsel of melt-in-your-mouthness.
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But the real “what the actual tasty fuck” moment occurred when a server came out with a tray hanging around her neck.
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At first, I thought she was like young Wilma from The Flintstones, back when she used to sling smokes at the Hollyrock Hotel.
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But it turned out that the tray contained three different types of chips: parmesan, kale, and beet. The tray -lady made each person a bag with their own individualized selection of chips. Then she topped it off with a generous sprinkle of salt and truffle zest.
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This was my bag.
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I’m gonna need a truffle-strapped, human chip tray to be at every party I attend for the eternity of my forever.
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On the next night, which marked the one year anniversary of Prince’s death, Seth and I had dinner at Urban Vegan Kitchen, which was having a tribute to his Purpleness.

 

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They even adorned the restrooms appropriately.

 

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The musical selection was tight. DJ July spun many faves, which led to anxiety as Seth was running late.

 

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DJ July also played a lot of dope Prince-adjacent joints like The Time’s “Get It Up,”  Apollonia 6’s “Sex Shooter,” and the soulful cover of “Do Me Baby” by Gotham’s own Meli’sa Morgan.

The food was great too. I had vegan chicken and waffles, which is interesting considering that the last time I ate actual chicken was at the legendary Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in LA right after Biggie died. I had just come from taking pictures at the Peterson Automotive Museum, where he was gunned down.

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It’s funny how food can trigger memories.

Anyway, all this leads to now, which is me on the plane back to Miami, bumping through crazy turbulence, and promising to God that I’ll do better if only I’m spared the indignity of plunging to my death while watching Steve Harvey hammily interviewing children.
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(Btw, if this was an authentically moving moment, all apologies. My TV audio is off. I’m actually listening to this.)

Usually, at this point, I start talking about some of my fave things of the week. But, honestly, I’ve been moving around so much that my favorite thing right now is just the idea of sleeping in my own bed. But I’ll be back with some freshness soon.

Until next time y’all…

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Be cool, be kind, be creative, be yourself. Love, Craig

P.S. If you know someone who might like this report, please do me a favor and ask them to subscribe. Thanks!

CLOSING THOUGHT

One of the other great places I ate while in BK was Buntopia. Seth and I split a delicious bulgogi-style, seitan bun burger.
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And I got the Oyster Mushroom Ramen, which, in a genius move, was made with tofu shirataki noodles, cutting out like 300 and some calories. (40+ metabolism ain’t no joke!)
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But one of my favorite things about the restaurant was this sign in the bathroom, which I thought was a good metaphor for life and keeping your house in order.
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CRAIG 101

Who I Am:

I’m a writer whose work has been featured in The Washington Post, the Chicago TribuneEntertainment Weekly, Vibe, Spin, and other publications. I have a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

My Books:

Who’s Your Daddy

Providence-based photographer Michael Allen, a gay man on the cusp of 40, thinks he’s found love with a 19-year-old, mohawk-sporting artist named Ziggy, only to discover that the two may already share a bond that neither can imagine. This plays out as Michael’s best friends-Sidney, a 50-ish art dealer and Bruce, a cop in his 30s-deal with their own sexual trysts and romantic travails with dramatically younger guys. The result is a novel that explores the fragile yet enduring ties of sex, love, and friendship.

All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C.

“Unafraid to bare it all…readers will feel they’re in the hands of an expert.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“…a bare-assed, neon-lit tour de force…” –The Bay Area Reporter

“Raunchy splendor…somehow both bawdy and sweetly nostalgic at the same time.” – Dallas Voice

FREE: Download the All I Could Bare audiobook read by me.

Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross

“Seymour’s brilliant book is like a great Luther song: elegantly written, effortlessly executed and eloquently delivered. A majestic tribute.” – Michael Eric Dyson

“Full of juicy anecdotes, fast-paced writing and interesting analysis, the book paints an intimate portrait of the beloved balladeer.” – E. Lynn Harris