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May 12, 2006


Move, decorate,
raise the kids

Three books take readers through everything they need to know

With the weather warming (slowly, in some parts of the state), many people begin to consider moving, packing up and heading upwards and onwards. Spring and summer are good times to do so, because there’s nothing more embarrassing than getting a UHaul stuck in a snowdrift, or falling on ice carrying Grandmother’s 100-year-old bone china.

The question, of course, is where one should move. Obviously, a city run by the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan might not be the most welcoming to LGBT people.

That is where the at times simplistic 50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places to Live by Gregory A. Kompes (Career Press, $24.99, paperback) comes in. With a deceptive 51 cities listed (Salt Lake City is noted as a “bonus city”), there is a wealth of basic information included about median incomes, property values, general nightlife and annual events.

One drawback is that much of the information is too general: under “Nightlife,” for instance, Kompes lists areas with large concentrations of nightclubs, but not specifically gay and lesbian ones. A middle-aged lesbian from Duluth might not feel comfortable at a brewery in Columbus’ German Village or a hip club in Cleveland’s Warehouse District.

Which brings us to another complaint about the book: It lists Columbus, which is all well and good. But instead of listing Cleveland, it lists the suburb of Lakewood, a conservative Democratic stronghold that nearly erupted in civil war six years ago over a proposal to offer domestic partner benefits to city employees.

Most of the things in the Lakewood listing--events, nightlife, etc.--are all in Cleveland itself. Leave it to a guy from Las Vegas to not notice that West 117th Street is the city limit.

If Kompes wanted to go for a nice suburb, Cleveland Heights has a domestic partner registry, domestic partner benefits for city employees, and the same number of gay bars as Lakewood: none.

There is also a CD-ROM included with the book, which allows readers to quickly search the entire book on their computer and print out specific information instead of schlepping around the entire volume.

Famous men in their lairs

Of course, once one moves, it’s time to decorate, and who better to imitate than the famous?

Tom Atwood’s amusing, intimate collection Kings in Their Castles: Photographs of Queer Men at Home (Terrace Books, $35, hardcover) illustrates the sublime to the psychotic, the famous to the obscure.

The cover photo (also inside the book) is of John Waters reaching for an egg, surrounding by plates and plates of food. Of course, all the food is plastic, as shown by a knocked-over martini glass whose contents remain perfectly in place.

There are some major names in this book: playwright Edward Albee sitting at his piano, looking far too lucid to have written Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf; Barney’s New York creative director Simon Doonan looking typically prissy; Edmund White eating an apple, and Joel Schumacher and two of his friends laughing over some unnamed newspaper story, perhaps a review of one his Batman movies.

There are photos that are poignant, as well: store owner Pascal Arnaud in silhouette while a friend of his stands on his apartment’s balcony looking at the smoke from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Of course, the best are the humorous photos, whether the comedy is intentional (the aforementioned shot of John Waters packing plastic food in a suitcase) or otherwise (a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer pictured with his porn and paddle collections).

A queer “Archie” comic

Once settled into one’s home, it might be time to start a family. Eventually, those screaming bundles of id will grow up and head to high school, which is where Ivan Velez Jr.’s Tales of the Closet Volume 1 (Planet Bronx Productions, $8.50, paperback) comes in.

Collecting the first three issues of Velez’ indie comic about a group of diverse queer high schoolers, originally published in 1987, it’s almost frightening how timely the book is two decades later.

All the problems these kids face are still in high schools across America, and their reactions to their triumphs and travails are surely almost identical to youth today. Of course, now there is the almighty Internet, but even having 3,254 “friends” won’t necessarily stop those feeling of loneliness.

Velez pitched Tales of the Closet as a “gay Archie.”

“By this I meant, let’s do a comic book that gay teens could look at and learn about the trials and pitfalls of being a gay, lesbian or bisexual youth.”

Velez later went on to become one of an ever-increasing number of LGBT creators in the mainstream comic world, working on Blood Syndicate, the first big-league super hero team book composed entirely of people of color.

More information about Tales of the Closet is available at


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