Even though it ceased filming almost five years ago, Here TV is breathing new life into our own Butch Cordora’s Straight and Butch, his 2010 documentary capturing the process of recreating photos for an oftentimes suggestive calendar and the agony of getting straight men to do anything remotely gay. Even models. And as part of The Ritz at the Bourse’s "Midnight Movie" season, they’ll be airing Straight and Butch this Friday night at—duh—midnight.
The local legend and former pajama-clad public access talk show host responded to some PW questions about his long-lived In Bed With Butch, his film and his new life in radio.
PW: How did your show In Bed with Butch first start catching on? Ten years is a long run! What do you attribute to its success, and who were some of your favorite first guests?
BUTCH CORDORA: I think In Bed with Butch caught on mostly because of the timing of it all. My run was ’99 to ’09, and I like to call that time period “the Will & Grace era.” Meaning, everyone was working really hard to make in-your-face TV shows about the gay community. The whole Queer As Folk/The L Word/Will & Grace phenomenon defined that entire decade in a way. I was just lucky enough to be the local version of it all. Believe me, in no way did it catch on because I was good! The entire first season, I sucked! But then it started snowballing into a great show with a lot of work (and luck).
I have many favorite guests: I’m always fascinated with celebrities, so I suppose Amanda Lepore and the Heatherette boys were fun; both Randy Jones and Felipe Rose (the cowboy and Indian of the Village People) were fab. Michael Musto and Michael Lucas, Ian McKellan, Jennifer Tilly. Geez, there are so many, really. I guess the most star-struck I’ve been was—and I’m embarrassed to admit this—but I stalked one of Madonna’s back-up dancers from the Blonde Ambition tour and managed to have him come to Philly as a guest. He goes by SLAM and was in “Vogue,” “Respect Yourself,” “Truth or Dare,” all those legendary videos.
Your film Straight and Butch focuses primarily on the calendar-making process around 2009, right? But, hopefully, also attempts to come to grips with our gay obsession/fascination with masculinity? Sometimes I think it’s just debilitating.
It has nothing to do with coming to grips with anything, really. In this world, there are gay men, straight women, lesbians and straight men (and yes, of course, everything in between). When you look at the landscape of the population, and I know I’m generalizing, but no group of people are less evolved than the heterosexual male. That is to say, all women and gay men, to me, feel on the same level culturally, mentally, like-minded, etc. And then there are the straight men. This was my humble way of bridging the gap a bit and showing the world that there are, in fact, straight guys out there who are cool with the gay thing, evolved enough to do a controversial project, open-minded and metrosexual while still being 100-percent straight. The goal was really to just change one straight guy’s mind about how they looked at gay men simply by seeing the movie.
Do you think that in the past five or six years, straight models’ fears of posing for an expressly-queer project have collectively lessened? Queer people have experienced such leaps and bounds over the past few years, especially with regard to seemingly “butch” celebrities coming out.
Yes and no. Yes, in a sense that straight guys “get it” now. The fear is gone; they know they’re not going to turn gay after the photo shoot, everybody has gay friends and family, etc. However, this damn world we live in is now so politically correct that I’m still having problems finding models, but it’s for different reasons, Facebook and social media being the biggest. If you’re a teacher or professor, forget it! If you work with kids, forget it! Doctors, lawyers, forget it! Everybody’s doing background checks and Googling, so in that sense, it’s tougher.
What other images did you recreate, other than the Rolling Stone Lennon/Oko cover, the Herb Ritts’ Cindy/k.d. lang cover and Abbey Road?
I did “The Kiss” from VJ Day; I recreated that famous Arnold Schwarzenegger photo in bed that Annie Liebowitz shot, a famous Baryshnikov image on the beach, the cover of a Bat For Lashes album, the famous Janet Jackson album cover with the dude’s hands on her boobs and a famous David Beckham/Victoria Beckham Armani underwear ad. These were all done after the movie and calendar. They’re part of the coffee table book I’m finishing up at some point this year.
What can you say about Gervase Peterson? Sounds like he was one of the more willing and open models and guests? He sure is milking his reality stardom for as much as its worth. But can we blame him?
He has become one of my best friends! I don’t get why the press hates him so much. He really has gotten a lot of snarky review/write-ups over the years, and he couldn’t be a nicer guy. Yes, he is milking his 15 minutes for sure, but yes, you are right, wouldn’t you? He almost won the million dollars back in February for Survivor: Blood vs. Water! We’ve had many, many late-night chats about fame, fleeting fame, relevance, money and power. I can listen to him talk forever. He should teach courses on how to become (and stay) a reality star. It’s fascinating to hear him talk about it all.
How’s the Straight and Butch radio show going? Who’s your co-host, and what do you two talk about? What kind of guests do you typically invite, and what has been one of your most memorable guests in the recent past?
Straight and Butch is going great! Being out of the deadline-deadline-deadline treadmill of doing TV for almost five years, it was like riding a bike. In some ways, radio is harder, and in some ways, it’s easier. My co-host’s name is Desire Malone, and she’s my best girlfriend for 15 years now. It’s sort of a radio version of IBWB; it’s only an hour long (6 to 7pm Thursdays), and she and I chit-chat for the first 15 minutes, then the guest comes in for 30, then we wrap up with news. And by news, I mean Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian crap. It’s a fun-filled pop culture hour with an LGBT slant. The guests are mostly LGBT people doing good things in the community, but we keep it very light. Ironically, my favorite guest so far has been Gervase! The live finale of Blood vs. Water was Feb. 17, and he was there. He lost, however; he told me that win or lose, he would do my radio show on the 19th, whether he had to call in from L.A. or come to the studio in-person. But I basically scooped everybody and got the very first post-Survivor interview!
How’d the process of the documentary getting to Here TV work? You made the doc almost four years ago, right? And now Here’s picked it up and running it through June? That must be pretty exciting.
I actually had nothing to do with the Here TV thing. My distributor (Breaking Glass Pictures) made that deal. Here’s the rundown: I started filming in ’06, ended filming in ’09, took almost a year to edit, the movie did the festival in 2010, got picked up by a distributor in 2011. It’s been out on DVD since then. And now it’s here on Here TV, and yes, it’s crazy exciting for me! This really is my first national platform to speak of. The goal is to keep it going and have something more come from this opportunity.
Lastly, say a little something about pride. What does it mean to you? How do you see pride and the film co-existing and getting interpreted together?
Well, I know it’s cheesy and common to say this, but the “pride” thing doesn’t really get me excited too much, and that’s because I try to live every single day with enormous pride about who I am. I try to be fearless about my sexuality, matter-of-fact about being out, and in your face about being openly gay every single day. So I don’t need a yearly reminder. And I think my movie reflects that sentiment.
Sat., May 31, 12am. Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St. 215.440.118. landmarktheatres.com
Calendar: March 25-April 1
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide