Sunday, December 14, 2008

When queens collide: Ryan's last missive - and should this be mine?

This was the last email I got from Ryan Landry of the Gold Dust Orphans:

"LOOK, IF EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOW THE BOTTOM LINE HERE, IT IS NOT THAT WE DON'T ACCEPT BLOG REVIEWERS.
IT IS THE TRUTH THAT I TOLD AMY ROSE TO NOT GIVE THOMAS GARVEY FREE TICKETS. BUT ONLY BECAUSE HE IS A CREEPY, PSYCHO LITTLE ASSHOLE WHO EVERYONE IN TOWN HATES WITH A PASSION. AND NOW YOU KNOW WHY. IGNORE HIM AND BLOCK ALL EMAILS. Let the fat loser put THAT on his shitty little BLOG!!! LOL!"

I felt somehow that it was important to keep the capitalization intact, if only to give a sense of Ryan's passion on this issue. And of course it's a passion driven by truth; he's right about me - I am a creepy, psycho little asshole, and I am a fat loser; in fact, I'm thirty pounds overweight. And I'm sure it's true that everyone in this town hates me with a passion - how could they not? (Just btw, Ryan sent this note not just to me but to a distribution list, so I'm not really making anything public that he hasn't made public already himself.) I've been pointing out the flaws of artists and critics in this town for over two years, and sometimes ridiculing their bad behavior, on what is, indeed, a shitty little BLOG (that capitalization really intrigued me), so I'm well aware of the resentment boiling behind the facade of politeness all the svelte, successful people in town maintain toward me.

So should I give up? I probably should - Ryan's rants could be the last straw that finally breaks this camel's back. In truth, it's tiring doing this blog - in a way I even look forward to Monday and Tuesday, when there's nothing to go to. I have to think about it, though. I still love the performing arts - they're probably one of the few reasons I have to stay alive - but I confess as I perceive the true nature of the people who produce that art, they're becoming more and more of a - well - drag on the whole experience.

Of course all artists hate critics, I know that. I really shouldn't dump on the silly Globe critics anymore, but I always get a chuckle out of how I overheard one arts figure around here call one of them "the dumbest cunt at the Globe, and that's saying something" - and this person is actually a darling of the Globe arts page! Yet still there was a seething hatred - no different from Ryan's rant; but fear of her connections kept the bile out of sight. Only I don't have any such connections, so Ryan feels free to abuse me - on and on - and of course he doesn't have to worry about losing donors or grants or his job or what have you (in fact he'll probably get contributions out of this).

That, of course, doesn't mean what he says isn't true. I am, I think, a horrible person. In general, I don't really see how that's relevant - plenty of the best critics have been horrible people; and it's worth noting while many outraged artists and fans have written in to insult me, few have had any cogent replies to my comments; they're not up to the demands of actual intellectual rebuttal (and those that are, always treat me rather well). Still, my horrible personality is a little relevant in Ryan's case, because I was snarky towards the mistakes of his PR person - who, with a little training, would quickly learn how better to deflect requests for press tickets. Still, I wasn't all that snarky, and the point about the web vs. "standard" theatre reviewers was a good one - so beyond the horror of my own nasty personality lurks the deeper problem of the nasty, horrible personalities of the people I have to deal with.

And how long can one nasty, horrible personality deal with hundreds of others? Over the long haul, with no institutional fear keeping them in check? It's an interesting question. How long before that great debit overwhelms the great credit of the actual experience of the art? These days it feels the scales are about to turn.

But how can this be my last post? I'm actually already booked tonight - I'm supposed to see a new play reading by the Orfeo Group. I confess I don't really want to go - it's freezing out, and who knows if the play will be any good? Still, can I really call them and say, "Sorry, Ryan Landry's got me down, I'm canceling"? Somehow I think I'm going to haul my weary, fat-loser ass out there. Because if I don't, who will? (Okay, maybe Larry and Barry will be there [later note: they were there] - somehow I don't think Louise Kennedy will!) As with Whistler in the Dark, and Imaginary Beasts, I was the first local critic to pay serious attention to the Orfeo Group; now, of course, they're on the map - but there will soon be another new group out there, and if I quit, there's just one less person paying attention. And there are hardly any of us left as it is. I had a similar epiphany at the ICA's Foster Prize this year. In past years, many of the artists and winners were people I'd raved about in their first local shows; but I slowly gave up reviewing the visual arts over the past two years (the galleries still email me begging me to return) - and this year, for the first time, all the Foster nominees seemed terrible, and I suddenly felt as if Clarence the Angel were whispering in my ear "See, Tom, this all happened because you weren't around!" So I know it's not just my enjoyment of the art that's at stake - in some ways it's the quality of the art, too. Oh, Jesus H. Christ. Not that anyone else cares about that, either.