Skip to comments.What's up chuck?
Posted on 12/05/2005 8:13:49 AM PST by rey
What's up, Chuck? Charlie Brown provides inspiration for SF Gay Men's Chorus
By JOHN BECK THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
From Liberace to Liza Minnelli, the love of gay icons never dies. Cher, Bette Midler and Babs can't tour enough. Even Olivia Newton-John attracts hordes of adoring gay men who follow her around the country.
But Charlie Brown?
This year's Christmas miracle is a coming out, of sorts, as the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus roasts and toasts everyone's favorite blockhead in their annual Home for the Holidays concert. And it's not the only show you can go to this season that will give you a whole new take on that traditional holiday glow.
"We definitely feel an affinity with Charlie Brown," said artistic director and conductor Kathleen McGuire, who leads a hundred chorus members in concert Saturday in Santa Rosa.
"He's somebody who felt like he didn't fit in at school and certainly everybody in our chorus felt that way growing up," she said. "I know myself, there were times I felt like Charlie Brown was the best friend I had."
Charles Schulz, who drew "Peanuts" from 1950 until his death in February 2000, tackled a lot of issues in his world-famous comic strip - war, religion, racism and the indecipherable language adults speak.
Then there are the unanswered questions. Like why, for instance, does Peppermint Patty talk like a boy? Why does Marcie always call her "sir"? And those Birkenstocks? Or, for that matter, why does Linus always spurn the advances of Sally?
After all, there was the "Will and Grace" episode, "It's the Gay Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." In Atlanta, the drag show "Charlie Brown's Cabaret" has played off the name for more than a decade. Several years ago, the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C., staged a campy "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" that finally explained Lucy's desire to be a "queen."
Clearly, Chuck himself is not gay (not that there's anything wrong with that), since all he seems to think about is the Little Red-Headed Girl. But he does fancy himself a pied piper of the forlorn.
"There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters," he once said. "I could be their leader."
And he's always been very tolerant: "Happiness is anyone or anything that's loved by you."
When Ina Chun, development director of Face to Face/Sonoma County AIDS Network, first heard about the show, she called McGuire. "I said, 'OK, before I call the Schulz Museum and try to sell this, tell me if there's anything irreverent or dangerous about the program. All we need is Jeannie Schulz in the audience and there's something totally inappropriate,'" Chun recalled. "And she said, 'Don't worry, there's nothing that would offend anybody.'"
Look for giant cardboard cut-outs of Peanuts characters that one of the singers scored on eBay. During the Hallelujah Chorus, which has become an annual tradition, flashcards will be held up by Peanuts characters.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" TV special, McGuire will lead a medley of Vince Guaraldi classics, from his arrangement of "O Christmas Tree" to "Linus and Lucy." Sometimes she'll conduct "with a tutu on my head" as a nod to "The Nutcracker." And expect plenty of audience participation, especially during "The Snoopy Happy Dance."
Over the past 27 years, the booming 250-member choir - the first of its kind in the country - has paid sassy tribute to everyone from Elton John to Martha Stewart.
But it's not all fun and games. Since starting on the steps of San Francisco City Hall after Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated in 1978, the group has toured all over the world, from Cape Town to Sydney and Carnegie Hall in between. Earlier this year, the choir won the national OutMusic Award for outstanding new choral recording.
The Home for the Holidays concert, which sells out three shows every Christmas Eve in San Francisco, has taken on a very literal meaning over the years.
"A lot of people don't have anywhere to go where they feel welcome during the holidays," McGuire said. "We're not (just) giving lip service; it really is home for the holidays for many people. .. . It's amazing how many people only buy one seat. They're not there with a group. They're not there with their family. They're just on their own."
Other alternatives As sacred as it is, even Christmas needs a little tweaking now then. A B-movie twist here, a hard nut there. Try a tutu on for size.
There may be no other region of the country that revels in the alternative holidays like the Bay Area. Here's a smattering:
In the liner notes to the 2004 CD "A John Waters Christmas," the saucy director writes: "Close your eyes and imagine you're with me in my house Christmas morning listening to favorite carols."
Can you imagine?
The closest you'll get is A John Waters XXXmas, a holiday variety show at San Francisco's Fillmore. Jonathan Richman, one of the most original singer-songwriters around, opens the festivities.
8 p.m. Dec. 14. $35-$75. 1805 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco. www.ticketmaster.com.
Innovative choreographer Mark Morris stages "The Hard Nut," a ballet that starts with a nod to the original "Nutcracker" but quickly goes in a different direction: Under an edict from the Rat Queen, the disfigured babe-a-licious Princess Pirlipat will reassume her beauty if a suitor can crack, with his teeth, the "hard nut."
Friday through Dec. 18 at Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley. $32-$60. Call (510)642-9988 for a full schedule.
S.F. Opera Ballet vet Carolyn Carvajal teams up with the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band for the "Dance-Along Nutcracker" (i.e., rent or bring your own tutu), Saturday and Dec. 11 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., San Francisco. $15-$40. (415)978-2787.
Winners of the S.F. "Best of Fringe" competition, Liebe Wetzel's Lunatique Fantastique stages the family performance of "Nutcracker Nutz & Boltz," a found-object puppet rendition of the classic. Don't be surprised by unicycles, bicycles, human percussion and a good old rubber chicken. 2 p.m. through Dec. 30 at the Marsh Theater, 1062 Valencia St., San Francisco. $15-$22. (415)826-5750 or www.themarsh.org.
Leave Peanuts alone. Why don't they pick on Doonesbury?
I'd really like to know how gay icons get chosen. I mean, what are the criteria? Do they have some sort of nomination process?
I think Frosty has issues.
Definite candidate for a "barf alert."
Two words: Peppermint Patty
Next, they're going to tell us that the "Little Red-Haired Girl" of Charlie Brown's affection, was really a metaphor for a transgendered boy.
Well, that's unheard of!
What can Brown do for you???
Sell more bleach??
Sometimes, you wonder how people can get from one place to another without notes on their clothes, instructing the bus driver where to let them off?
Patty was introduced either in the late 60's or early 70's, a character added because of the hippee movement. Look at her. She is dressed like some sort of bohemian. As an adult today, she would be unwashed, with no makeup, still trying to look like she did back then. Plus, she is as dumb as a rock. Marcie, her gopher, calls her "sir" because she bosses Marcie around. Linus spurns Sally's advances because he is a typical little boy who wants nothing to do with girls. He was the "baby" of the family until his little brother came along.
I'm thouroughly homonauseated.
If they want a gay character, Hermey - the elf/dentist is perfect.
When asked to comment, Charlie Brown's teacher replied, "Waaa waaa waa waaa waaaa waaa...."