Around this time, the people running the door at Cake Shop wouldn’t allow any more people in—the basement had reached capacity. Near the bathroom, 24-year-old Max Steele, a hipster with a mop of red curly hair who was stripped down to nothing but a pair of black briefs, was waiting in an impossible line.
“Gays love a recession because we hate the capitalist economy that’s found in the hetero-normative patriarchy anyways,” said the young man, a law-firm drone by day and a performer and go-go dancer by night. “I say burn the motherfucker down! Right? Fuck Prop 8! Who gives a fuck? We should burn down Wall Street and take over New York.”
He took a sobering breath.
“Gays are the only people with dispensable money—dispensable income or whatever?” he said, telling us he was a Sarah Lawrence grad. “Well, not for me personally.”
So we wondered what he was doing out.
“I’m like $60,000 in debt from school,” he said. “I’m fucked anyway.” 
New York Observer, Feb 2009.

"The recession hasn’t directly affected my art, because I never really made money from it to begin with, and that’s never been the point, and that’s not how I measure success (thank goodness!). However, the cultural shift around the recession has, I think, made it a very interesting time to make art. We’re in a period in America of having to take a hard look at what we value– and our country doesn’t provide much support for art, either institutionally or socially, though of course we very much value the art itself. I actually went and saw Courtney Love speak at the Guggenheim last weekend, and she talked a lot about how artists are more valuable dead than alive, and to simultaneously want to be an artist and want to be alive (and have a good life) are sort of contradictory impulses. I think the recession has emphasized this." 
Interview with SLC Speaks, January 2012.

Two Expediencies

Just playing catch-up, perpetually. I wanted to post about two things I wrote, recently:

- My good old buddy Jeffery Self has a new website called SELF-OBSESSED (get it?) and he asked me to write a column, so I did. About Sharon Stone. Check it out: WHY SHARON STONE MATTERS.

- The good folks over at the Lambda Literary Foundation asked me to contribute to their Banal and Profane series, which chronicles a week in the life of a queer writer or artist. Check out what I got up to here: THE BANAL AND THE PROFANE: MAX STEELE.

- Okay, for a bonus round, just a reminder that the long-lost and recently rediscovered and released video for my song "Pick-Axe & Shovel" is finally OUT. You can see the video and a cute little write-up on DLNQNT: MAX STEELE AND THE PARTY ICE: "PICK-AXE & SHOVEL"

Part of me wishes I was still performing as the Party Ice. And part of me knows that I can always do that, whenever I want, and then I feel better. Did you know that my band (consisting of me only) used to be called The Icebergs, because I wanted to sound "big, slow and cold" but it only just confused audiences. They'd ask "Where's the rest of the band?" and then I felt like I was disappointing them. So one time I opened for the Blow, and when she got onstage, she referred to me as "Max Steele and The Party Ice" and I definitely took the name and ran with it. I ran all the way to the future and now here we are.


Sunset Eaters

This past weekend I went to Seattle to visit my best friend, Bobo. She moved out there last summer to go to grad school, and I miss her dearly. I hadn't seen her since xmas, and I also kind of wanted a little spring break myself. It was a perfect and wonderful visit and time. It didn't even rain at all one time while I was in Seattle. I am taking credit for that.

The first thing we did after Bobo and her new boyfriend Babyman picked me up, was drive over to the Kurt Cobain Memorial. Which is a nice little bench, covered in decades' worth of graffiti, in a tiny little park near the house he died in.

Cute graffiti.

Newly reunited Bobo and I paying our respects:

Magickal Omens

Without putting too fine a point on it, I had a really excellent, if brief, vacation and did, yes, learn a thing or two about myself in the process. One thing I learned about myself is that, you know, this specific anxiety I've been wrestling with these last couple months is not ever going to be solved, and that might be okay. The whole trip of "getting your shit together" might just be a way of setting yourself up for perpetual disappointment. I feel like in some way I've been really waiting to become, happen upon, the person I was destined to become. And at some point over the weekend (maybe the moss moment) I realized I was kind of already that person. "She is me. I am her."

Seattle is a funky and beautiful town and I liked it a lot. Bobo and her new Seattle friends are all very cute and I had just the best time. I spent a little bit of time exploring the downtown of the city. it was sort of like, for me, Northern California. I like sprawl. I like old drugstores.

In my imagination, this is the OLDEST Rite-Aid in the world. The Oracle of Rite-Aid.

I went to Pike Place Market, as my one tourist-y thing (apart from going to that gay bar the Pony two nights in a row). It was cute! I like everything.


We went to a neato thrift-shop and I got a very cute dress, for pretty cheap:

It was apparently supposed to be $75 but the tag said $30 and even though it was underpriced, the cashier let me have it for $30. I felt like it was a sign. It's vintage Lanvin for I.Magnin which is kind of amazing. I can't wait to wear it at the upcoming B0DYH1GH Special Gala (more on that TK). The I.Magnin tag reminded me of the Justin Vivian Bond story about Joan Didion and Linda "Wheels" Casabian and the I.Magnin Wedding Dress. Cute, no? I think it is from the 1970s, and I pretty much like polyester more than any other type of fabric. I gotta say.

I did spend a lot of quality time hanging out with Bobo and Babyman in their apartment, laughing hysterically, getting excited, and running around parks. It was kind of the best ever?

Aren't they the cutest? Aren't these the best outfits? I took this photo but they dressed up. This is great. Do the hokey-pokey. Merry Christmas. 

As anyone knows me knows, I am not really that into Nature. I don't like being dirty or uncomfortable, and like most house cats, am happiest indoors (no matter what my biological nature would have you think). However, in Seattle I did get really into hanging out outdoors. There was just so much really... beautiful plant life everywhere. Tons of parks. I think exploring with Bobo (a certified Nature Buff and Crusty Wooden Witch) was probably a good move. Here we are in a public park, hanging out with this tree.

Doesn't it look like the tree has a face and is holding out is arm? It totally looks like that. 

Definitely one of the highlights of the weekend was hanging out in the park at Dusk, and then, right at sunset, running like fucking banshees through the woods, and up six flights of stairs in a circular stairwell, to the top of the old water tower, to watch the sun set over the mountains.

We were exhausted and out of breath and magickal. it was so nice. I learned this weekend about people called the Sunset Eaters, who apparently fast all day, and then, at dusk, stare directly into the sun as it sets. Apparently something about the light waves as the sun sets is enough to sustain them. It sounds nuts, right? There were a lot of other Sunset Eaters watching the sunset on Saturday night with us. It was kind of nice, and kind of scary.

Reservoir in Volunteer Park

Back home in Danielle's backyard, i got totally blissed out on Nature, giving a partial-to-mostly Fern Gully effect. (Plus ou moins).

Kate Moss

I feel rested, and also like I now have to throw myself back into the craziness of my life. I have some things I want to do, some projects. Some cute articles to work on, some ideas to finish. Maybe not so much. I'm excited to go forward, I guess. In a way that I haven't been super excited lately? Is it okay to say that? I just mean: my vacation was great, it put me back in touch with myself as a real dynamic person (as opposed to an amalgamation of the responses I get from other people). And this real person has some questions she'd like to ask.

Hey also, Bobo showed me this slide presentation she made for school, called I'LL BE YOUR MIRROR and it was fucking amazing and beautiful and I begged her hysterically and she relented to share with me the last slide of the presentation, which perfectly encapsulates the kind of casual, crackpot genius she is. I love her so much.

Okay you guys let's get back to work.


Cole made another video, this time about gender, culture, politics and pissing:

Sometimes I wish I was still in college. Like, I wish those days would never end. And sometimes those days don't ever end. Sometimes you can go back in time. This video takes me back.

Before the last QxBxRx, I remember hanging out with some guys (new friends and old friends) huddled around in the dressing room at the bar before getting too excited, where we had to go out to the street to smoke cigarettes. I was go-go dancing so I was wearing my short-shorts with a jacket. But we were all excited and standing in the little smoking corral outside the bar. Too excited to talk, even. At some point, one of us (not me, though, I wish!) started talking about how much fun we had just had, getting excited in the dressing room. How he wished we were back there. Let's go back. Anyway someone brought up the idea of time-travelling. Saying "I love time traveling." We all nodded in agreement.

It's fun to nod.

I added my two cents, saying "I think it's really glad that we're finally talking about this. About how great it is to travel through time." And I meant it. I wasn't just trying to hijack the conversation. I just wanted to record it. The feeling.

I guess I already remembered it. There's no reason to re-remember.


I don't even own a TV anymore

I adore Ellen but, in a way, I think she actually probably should not be the JC Penney spokeslady. Not because she's gay, which she is, and is one of the things I and so many other people love about her (see below). The reason Ellen is a bad spokeslady for JC Penney is because she doesn't shop there and probably never would. What kind of clothes does Ellen Degeneres like to wear?


Or hey, do you remember when she was on the cover of W Magazine? You don't? Sure you do, it was right before the Recession, in March of 2007.


(SIDENOTE: Around the time this issue came out, my apartment was known as the Soft Butch House. And for a long time, we had this image of Ellen's face on our refrigerator, as a sort of sigil/mascot/emblem of that fully-realized Soft Butch glamour and power could look like).

Here's an excerpt from the interview:
W Magazine: Do you enjoy fashion?
Ellen: I usually wear Jil Sander, or I wear Marc Jacobs, or I wear Viktor & Rolf…. I love Raf Simons, but I didn't know he was even doing the [Jil Sander] collection. I like Neil Barrett. I love clothes, so when I wear clothes, they're usually somebody's. You know, I'm not wearing Kmart.

W: Do you think that's the perception?
Ellen: Whenever Portia and I are on the red carpet, they're yelling out for her to tell them what she's wearing. But nobody cares [about what I'm wearing] because I have a suit on, even if it's a Gucci suit. That to me is frustrating, because I put effort into getting ready too. But I guess it's not as important, and I'm not as dressed up somehow. I also feel myself more of a person than a gender. When people show me clothing that seems very, very feminine, it's hard for me to embrace that, because it just doesn't feel like me…. It was fun [for the shoot] having somebody do that to my hair, and do that makeup. But would I want to do that every single day? No.
I know that this was all five years ago, kids, but come on. I think that also, unfortunately, Ellen should not be the JC Penney spokeslady because the commercials suck. Have you seen any of them?

Okay, you guys: these are commercials for a clothing store. These commercials don't actually describe or show any of the things that JC Penney sells. They don't even really give a sense of what it's like in a JC Penney or why you would go there. The only two things that these ads convey are:

a) Shopping can be such a hassle!
b) Ellen can time-travel!

These ads do not make me want to go to JC Penney. Again, I realize this might not be an okay thing to say. I just think she's not a good match. And I think she's pretty rich, right? Does she really need this job? As a matter of fact why isn't she in the new Jil Sander ads? THAT would be funny. THAT would make sense: Jil's minimalist cashmere-Soft Butchery could serve as a perfect backdrop (with a little 50s Jazz) for Ellen's good-natured studly nerd dance. She ought to do THAT instead.

I can write reviews of commercials, and I can also come up with ideas for my own commercials. I don't even own a TV anymore.

I know that the reason all those moms wanted Ellen to not have the job was because she was gay. And I know that a lot of gay people on the internet wanted to show their support for Ellen's newest advertising gig but it's not working, you guys. She should go somewhere else and spend her time elsewhere.

I don't want to make it sound like I hate Ellen though, so I want to just quickly run down a few points here.


1. She's really funny without being mean to people or making fun of anyone, and has always been like that.
2. Her talk show is good. I'm into the fact that she's like trying to be America's Sister or something.
3. She was in Finding Nemo and she was really good in that too!
4. She's gay!
5. She has really good taste in clothes, herself personally.
6. She's not about being an asshole, she's about being a rad person. In the midst of this mild controversy, the stupid homophobic mom association claimed that Ellen didn't represent "traditional families" which usually shop at JC Penney. In response, on her talk show, Ellen offered the following: "Here are the values I stand for: I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you'd want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That's what I stand for." That's pretty rad, right? Maybe she shouldn't or can't quit this JC Penney job now, because she's already won with this moral high-ground thing, huh? Anyway the ads do suck though, and you know she doesn't shop there.
7. I gotta say, this photo is one of the reasons I love Ellen:

See? Being Gay wasn't even that high up on my list of reasons.
I feel pretty okay, but everything is weird. Can you feel more than one way about a thing? Probably. I guess people feel conflicted all the time, that seems normal. I definitely feel like I am of two minds lately.

On the one hand, I'm so bummed out, you guys! Not in the sort of day-to-day being depressed or really down on myself way, which I usually am. I have been exercising a lot and trying to take care of myself and I do feel a lot less crazy and sad most days which is awesome and I'm thankful for. I feel bummed out on some weird other level though. I think it has to do with the internet maybe. Or how I use it. I feel really left out, in some ways. Like, I feel like there's a lot of exciting stuff happening in the world, a lot of queer artists who seem to be doing cool work which ostensibly speaks to me or my experiences or my community. But I feel really left out. Like it's an in-group thing, almost. I don't know. Calloutqueen's tumblr was really inspiring  to me for a number of reasons, not the least because she would straight up address the discourse she was part of, like by asking specific people she knew were reading her to respond, or by actually addressing/dismissing the viewer, etc. It's so cool to see how much of an impact she had on so many people, who didn't know her. I really admired this attitude of, like, actually just being real and right and participating.

And I sort of feel like I try, or have tried, to participate in a similar way. I guess I don't feel comfortable asking for attention outright, because I don't feel comfortable, really, getting it. I don't trust anything. But I do feel left out. Like, I wish I was friends with the cool queer kids all over the country who are making rad artwork that I like. But it's not about me. I think maybe I have unrealistic expectations as a consumer, like: if I like something, it should affirm me in some way. That's not art's job. But it's frustrating to see so much queer art which is on a surface level about self-affirmation, and have none of it project outward.

Like, I shouldn't have to know you in real life to be able to get your art, maybe? We don't need to have met. We don't need to have friends in common or have made out at a dance party. That shouldn't be a requirement. Because then, embedded in the social ties, are all these other fucked up things. Like: I've never been cool. I've never been hip and I've never been cool or particularly smart of skilled or cute. Or whatever. You know? I've always lived my life with the supposition that even though I wasn't any of those things, I was still (maybe) a valid person. And sometimes people have responded to that. And largely not. Which is okay. but I do feel like I'm not part of the underground queer revolution, and I feel like it's because I'm not cool enough. Which is fine too, I guess.

Probably feeling that you are revolutionary or feeling that you are cool are not the same as being those things.

But you know what? On the other hand, and in a very different way, I am feeling really good and plugged in. This year 2012 has so far been insanely extreme-- horrible, very sad losses and tragedy, coupled with completely unexpected and wild joy. Totally flabbergasting. I never, in a million years, thought my life would be like this. This week a music video I made for a song I wrote and made myself is out (see a cute little write up about it on DLNQNT). I get to hang out with artists who I admire in real life and I get to know a lot of brilliant people here in New York City.

It is a balm, in a way, against this powerful feeling of exclusion and isolation which I get from, say, the fashion crowd? Okay maybe what I actually want to say is that underground queer culture which just emulates mass heterosexual culture really turns me off. This attitude probably makes me uncool. Maybe it only makes me that right now.

I guess it's like, I feel kind of really pissed off and excluded and angry, but at the same time, my experiences, in the real world, are sort of affirming this whole other reality. It's just my mind and heart that need to catch up. And I think I know what to do, but I don't want to do it, because it involves potentially risking people not liking me or thinking I'm lame. But people already think that. So whatever. I'm going to say what I need to say in the way that I need to say it.

And, for those of you still reading: I am going to say what I need to say and say it the way I need to see it on April 6th, 2012 at Public Assembly, as part of Pussy Faggot. I'm going to finish a new very short except of a work and perform it and I'm scared witless but I bet it'll make me feel a million times better.

And if you're in New York, it might make you feel good to see it, too.


The Only Song I Ever Wrote

Max Steele "Pickaxe and Shovel" from Ana Veselic on Vimeo.
Artist:  Max Steele
Song:  Pickaxe and Shovel
Directed, Shot and Edited by:  Ana Veselic
Produced by:  Tate Nova

In 2002 I moved to New York to go to College and when Mirah came to play our campus, I got booked to open for her. I only had four songs (one of them was a cover of a Mirah song. "Telescope"), and so I gave myself the task to sit down one night and write a new song, which I did. I played the cello at the time, and I made a song out the sounds of plucking the cello to sound sort of bluegrass-y and the song was called "Pick-Axe & Shovel". I played the cello while I had my Casiotone keyboard (seen in the video) on the floor, playing "drums". I played this song a lot. Later on, when i started making songs on the computer, so I wouldn't have to play instruments live, I made a sort of cheesy dance-pop version of the song, which was much more portable and palatable. In 2006, I got my big break when Big Stereo wrote about the song. I got, I must say, a lot of MySpace friend requests from that. I sang the song a lot live with my band the Party Ice.

A few years later, Ana and Tate and I were in touch about making a video, and we met for drinks and talked about movies we liked, cartoons and stuff. We set a date, and one very cold day, Ana and Tate (whom I've known since college, where the song came from) came over, with my super cute video boyfriend Joe, and we made this video. I didn't know Joe before we made the video but I could not have imagined a cuter imaginary music video boyfriend. Just saying. Shooting the movie was really fun and easy. When we shot this, the song was already a little bit old, but the video also captures a time in my life when things were very different. When I wore that jacket. When we had the Nintendo in the living room.

The song was written about my first boyfriend, from high school, who I was still kind of bummed out about when I was 18. I wanted to make a song, like Mirah's on Advisory Committee, that used a simple, sort of natural or backwoods West Coast metaphor. I sort of did. It was a sad song. We made the video a long time ago and then sort of forgot about finishing it but now it is out and I am really happy to share it with you.


Super Duper Bisexuals

Last night I went to Our Hit Parade at Joe's Pub, which is of course an amazing show about popular music, featuring many of Downtown NYC's brightest and best stars. There were many very talented performers last night, but I was most excited to see fellow Leo homegirl Erin Markey, fresh from her stint in Boston. She did a really wonderful monologue and song about Whitney Houston's allegedly secret bisexual life. It was touching and funny and sweet. And then she sang, and she brought down the house (as she does). It was so much fun!

Hey speaking of Bisexuals, my gay-goth-rap-band B0DYH1GH is performing at Gio Black Peter's newly resurrected party SUPER BISEXUALS which is happening this Sunday, March 3rd at EasternBloc. A link to the event is HERE. We're opening for the hip new young NYC gay rapper Austin Dale (Straight Out Of Jail). It'll be a fun thing to go to so I will see you there, I guess.

I also got a nice shout-out on my 69th favorite blog in the world, The Awl. Modern Feminist Icon Emily Gould listed yrs truly as one of five random people she follows on Twitter. It's nice to get, you know, a nice thing said about me on that site, as opposed to the other thing. Also thrilling to be in such fancy brilliant twitterer company (Johanna Fateman! Caroline Contillo! Nico Muhly!). Anyway yeah. I'm on Twitter. Probably everyone is. Okay.

More than a few people lately have asked me about my name. What my real name is. Like it seems clear to people that Billy Cheer is a pseudonym. But do people think my actual name is a pseudonym? It's not. I don't make anything up.

If anything, I'm more of a journalist.