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Dina’s Diner

| Jun 23, 2008
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Dina’s Diner HeaderThis week’s Special at Dina’s Diner is a spicy stew of many tasty ingrediants cooked to perfection and brought to your table with a smile and a “How ya doin’ hon? More coffee?” from your hostess, cook and waitress Miss Dina Amberle. Before you get to the stew, a tasty treat served with saucy Turkish Bulent Ersoy, try some of the delicious appetizers like the Arias with a Twist (just a hint of basil) or the lovely Sherry Vine. But no matter what you have at the Diner it all tastes good and is sure to leave you satisfied.

OFF-BROADWAY BABY

The June 19, 2008 New York Times Arts section had an above-the-fold article about a new off-Broadway musical featuring Joey Arias, the well-known New York drag queen. The paper also used a 5 column-wide color photo of Mr. Arias in mid-performance to illustrate what audiences can expect. Joey was dressed in a Bettie Page-type wig and a Thierry Mugler corset with garters, and black stockings. Thierry Mugler, the well-known fashion personage, is credited as the show’s costume designer.

Joey and the chorus line.The show got a pretty good review from the Times’ Ben Brantley who seems to have followed Joey’s career from downtown drag queen to her stint in Las Vegas with Cirque du Soleil. One thing that elevates the Arias show from just another drag revue is that Joey does his own vocals rather than lip-synching to popular songs. The title of the show is Arias with a Twist.

A day or two after the review appeared in the Times, there was an article in the Entertainment section headlined “Arias in the Park” and I thought it might have been a live Central Park version of Joey’s Greenwich Village theater show. But the “arias” were operatic arias and the singers were sopranos and tenors. Fooled by a drag queen again!

The other noteworthy aspect of the show is the elaborate stage designs that were the responsibility of Basil Twist – hence the wordplay of the show’s title. Mr. Twist has created a backup chorus line of “female” and “male” dancers for Joey that are life-sized marionettes. Based on the Mr. Brantley’s review, the show is a visual treat because of Joey’s over-the-top drag persona and Mr. Twist’s stage creations.

Back in the ’90s, when RuPaul was helping to make “drag queen” a somewhat respectable entertainment profession, Joey Arias was one of a handful of well-known New York queens that included Miss Lady Bunny, Sherry Vine, and Lipsinka. Apparently Joey has found a way to transcend the drag queen circuit and find success with a wider entertainment audience. Best wishes, Joey.

THEY CALLED HER SECOND-HAND ROSE

The New York Times had another interesting article in the June 12 Styles section. It was headlined “When Conscience and Closet Collide.” It dealt with the current boom that is occurring with up-market consignment shops in Manhattan. The reason for the good times in second-hand stores is two-fold: one is economic and the other is ecologic.

Even well-to-do New York fashion shoppers are beginning to realize that prices are a bit whacked. And these same women – for the most part – are environmentally aware. They know that Jimmy Choo pumps, Chanel jackets, and Balenciaga bags don’t grow on renewable trees. So rather than increase their carbon footprint by slipping into a newly minted and outrageously priced designer outfit, they slip into a half-dozen upscale consignment shops to both consign and buy (and hence recycle) our nation’s most precious resource – fine women’s clothing.

Christian Louboutin shoes.The idea of shopping at second-hand stores is nothing new to the crossdressing class. Who among us has not purchased just that right (or perhaps after getting it home, not quite right) feminine article at the local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or hospital auxiliary thrift shop? True, we didn’t expect to come away looking like an ad from last year’s Vogue, and we hardly gave a thought to the environment when we found the perfect Mother-of-the-Bride dress to wear at the crossdressers’ Ball. But, hell, maybe we were the leading edge of a “green” movement that nobody saw coming.

In terms of prices, though, these upscale consignment shops are still pretty pricey. The Times reporter visited a Manhattan shop and saw a Prada bag for $825, a D&G cocktail dress for $475, and a pair of Louboutin pumps for $325. These prices however were considerably less than half the items original prices. The Times article also points out that some upscale second-hand sellers have their own websites and there are high end consignment shops in cities other than New York, of course.

Of all the footprints we may wish to reduce (say from a manly 12 to a sexy 8), the carbon footprint is probably not foremost in our thoughts. I’m just happy that I was able to jump on the media bandwagon to implore our readership to go “green” – with envy at the fantastic bargain your TG girlfriend just scored at some musty thrift shop.

A VENERABLE NAME IN THE NEWS

Bulent ErsoyWhen I first got involved in writing about crossdressing topics for the late Renaissance newsletter/magazine some 18 years ago, I became aware of an active transgender movement in Turkey. Turkey has been trying to tread the narrow line between being a conservative Islamic society and a westernized member of the European Union. The one name who was foremost in Turkish TG politics was Bulent Ersoy.

On June 19, 2008, I saw an internet news story about a Turkish transsexual being arrested for anti-military comments made on Turkish television. Here are excerpts from the news article I saw online:

ANKARA, Turkey: A popular transsexual Turkish singer went on trial Wednesday on charges of trying to turn the public against military service. Bulent Ersoy could face more than two years in prison for saying during a live television show that if she had children, she would not want them to join the army to fight Kurdish rebels. Military service is obligatory for men over the age of 20 in Turkey, and it is a crime to speak against it. Ersoy, who underwent a sex-change operation in 1981 to become a woman, is one of Turkey’s best-loved singers. She was barred from appearing on stage during the 1980s following a military coup by generals who disapproved of her. Ersoy, 56, made the comment in February while appearing on the jury of a Turkish version of television show “Pop Idol.” At the time, the military had sent thousands of troops to northern Iraq for a weeklong cross-border offensive in pursuit of rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, who maintain bases there. In an indictment against Ersoy, prosecutor Ali Cakir accused the singer of “alienating the public toward military service” and of affecting the morale of the soldiers and their families. He asked that the singer be punished with between nine and 30 months in prison. In the indictment, Cakir cited a Turkish proverb that says: “Every Turk is born a soldier.” Ersoy, who sings a traditional brand of Turkish music and often dresses in flamboyant evening gowns, did not appear in court in Istanbul on Wednesday. Her lawyers said she had a singing engagement that was arranged before the trial was scheduled. The court ordered her to appear at the next hearing, set for Sept. 24. She could be brought to court by force if she fails to turn up.

First of all, do you mean to say that even Turkey (for Chrissakes!) has a version of American Idol on their networks? It’s like a virus – and it must be stopped. Second, why is it that Bulent, who was only a few years older than me when I first learned of her, has gotten so much older (56!) while I remained forever young?

I did a little research on Bulent Ersoy and found out that she has become a celebrity in Turkey since I first heard of her as a TG activist. She has a number of albums of traditional Turkish music out, has some spiffy cheesecake photos posted on the Internet, and has obviously risen to the pinnacle of Turkish showbiz celebrity by being a judge on their “Idol” show. Well, we can forgive that last bit. Fight on Bulent!

THAI TOILETS TEST TRANSGENDER TOLERANCES

The one topic that has always been the cement binding disparate transgender news developments has been that most necessary convenience – the toilet. Over the years, I reported on several transgender restroom items and this next item is much the same but with the obligatory new twist. Here you go (excerpted from a Fox News website):

BANGKOK, Thailand. For teen boys who prefer to dress as girls at one rural high school in Thailand, taking a bathroom break no longer means choosing between “male” and “female” restrooms. There’s now a “transvestite toilet.” The Kampang School in northeastern Thailand conducted a survey last term that showed more than 200 of the school’s 2,600 students considered themselves transgender, said school director Sitisak Sumontha. So, when classes resumed in May, the school unveiled a unisex restroom designated by a human figure split in half? Part man in blue and part woman in red, below it are the words “Transvestite Toilet.” Three transgender students praised the new restroom as they plucked their eyebrows and applied face powder in front of the mirror outside the stalls. [Does this sound like your high school restroom experience?] “I’m so happy about this,” Vichai Sangsakul, a teenager with a pixie hairdo pulled back with a pink barrette, told Thailand’s PBS news channel on Tuesday. “It looks bad going to female restrooms. What would other people think?”

Most rural Thais are conservative in many ways, but the trailblazing toilet initiative at the school in northeastern Sisaket province reflects another aspect of Thai society: its tolerance of the country’s very visible transgender community. The term describes a wide range of identities including cross-dressers, transvestites, transsexuals and those born with the physical characteristics of both sexes. “These students want to be able to go to the restroom in peace without fear of being watched, laughed at or groped,” said school director Sitisak Sumontha.

Transgenders are regularly seen on TV soap operas and throughout Bangkok, working at department store cosmetics counters, popular restaurants, in office jobs and in the capital’s red-light districts. Thailand also has transgender beauty pageants.

Go in peace, young Thai transgenders. What more can anyone say? See you all next month.


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dina

About the Author ()

I started crossdressing and going out publicly in 1988. I joined the Renaissance group in the Philadelphia area that year and later became chapter leader for two years in the '90s. I always enjoyed writing and wrote for the Renaissance newsletter and magazine throughout my membership years. I've been writing for TGForum for several years now. I also contributed items to LadyLike magazine and other TG publications before the advent of the internet. My hobby-within-a-hobby is singing live as my alter-ego Dina Sinatra and I have had the opportunity to do that with several accommodating performers and in a number of venues over the years since the mid-1990s. In the Diner column items here, I try to relate crossdressing or transgender themes (and my own pet peeves and fetishes) to the larger world -- and vice versa.

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