I went to the Democratic National Convention in Boston as a delegate for The Creative Coalition. It was a really fasciniating thing for me, especially being Scottish and not totally au fait with the way American politics operate. We went to the convention center each night and heard the speeches, and the days were filled with talks and meetings with various organisations and politicians.
I had to take part in a really scary event: Art$, Education and the 21st Century Economy--a panel discussion in which I sat between Arianna Huffington and Bill O'Reilly. As you can imagine, Bill O'reilly did what he was there to do and trotted out some really contentious statements. Most peole were used to him, but I had never really watched (or wanted to) his show so I was utterly horrified and at one point, when he suggested that someone on the panel wanted to teach terrorists how to sing (or something equally ridiculous), I told him he was insane.
I still think he is.
The highlight of this week was, of course, hearing Barack Obama speak for the first time. He lit up the room.
After shooting Reefer Madness, I stayed on in Canada to shoot a small role in Eighteen, a film written and directed by Richard Bell, who I'd first met when I was shooting Josie and the Pussycatsin Vancouver in 2000.
Eighteen is Richard's first feature-length movie, and is about a young boy of 18, Pip (played by the wonderful Paul Anthony), who is given for his birthday a tape from his dead grandfather telling him what his grandftaher went through in when he was 18. The film flashes between the present and the trenches of World War Two.
I play Faher Chris, a priest who befriends Pip.
In October of 2004 I was asked to take part in an art installation by Vancouver aerist Fiona Bowie. Slip/Host features a pair of continuous 360 degree panoramic settings. These settings incorporate time-synched video to produce an enveloping dramatic narrative. These parallel installations are set as parallel universes... one cartoon-like, the other an industrial park. I play a different character in each realm: the Gargantuan Head and the Sedentary Manufacturer.
I finally saw the piece in 2007 when it had its premiere at a gallery in Vancouver and I was back there shooting Tin Man. I loved it.
I was asked to host Out on the Edge, a special for Comedy Central that was an attempt to showcase a more edgy, queer brand of comedian and performer, and I was really excited to do a bit of stand up comedy again.
Craig Chester worked with me on my material, and I blame him for encouraging me to talk about my foreksin on national television at such length (as it were) again.
For the last of my talk shows for Oxygen, Eavesdropping with Alan Cumming, I took Juianne Moore to Dumbo in Brooklyn to make chocolate at Jacques Torres' chocolate store.
Graham Norton and the lovely Vicki Gaberau...
I contributed an essay to the publication, If You Had Five Minutes with the President, an original non-partisan collection of 55+ essays by personalities who are members or supporters of The Creative Coalition. The book also features a foreword by Ron Reagan.
Considering the President in question is Bush 2, my essay is not very complimentary. Still it was fun to write. Here it is...
Mr. President: You must forgive me for my audacity in writing this. I am not one of your citizens, although I do reside in your country. But worry not. I am not one of those illegal immigrants who are so vilified at election times in your border states to scare the electorate into voting against any wishy-washy liberals who might actually allow these people in and give them rights or benefits, instead of the much more sensible alternative of letting them work illegally at raising the children and keeping the homes of America, or any of the other low-paid jobs that no sensible American would want to do.
No, be not alarmed. I am a legal resident. I am just an alien. And not one of the new breed of aliens we have all sadly had to become more wary of since the horrible events of 2001. Relax, I am not dark-skinned, though I am European. And I only wear a towel in public at the gym, and if I did have a God (I don’t mean to alarm you but I don’t think she exists) it wouldn’t be a nasty, war-mongering one like Allah or one of those other ones that demand constant kneeling and regular slashing of oneself with chains and the like.
No, no, no. I am an alien of extraordinary ability, which in spite of its rather ominous overtones of espionage and such like really means that I am an actor who was asked to work in your country and liked it and stayed.
Since I have lived here there have been two presidents, and so my understanding of your job, be it naïve and simplistic, is entirely gleaned from their examples.
So here, Mr. President, are a few tips:
You’ll have had, no doubt, a family member remove thousands of people from the electoral register to enable your ascension to power, but please don’t forget to be publicly outraged when other countries do exactly the same thing. And oh yes, don’t ever comment on the matter even when your own people admit that the margin of error involved in this “cleansing” translates into many thousands more votes than your opponent lost by.
Forgive me if I am preaching to the choir here, but remember to start a war without sufficient evidence of any just cause to do so, apart from the fact that you just don’t seem to like dark-skinned people (call them “evil folks” when you don’t want to get bogged down with specifics, by the way), and tell your public that you have top secret evidence that certain countries with really large fuel supplies are about to launch nuclear bombs, but be careful to turn a blind eye to countries like India and Pakistan when they threaten to do so because of course they don’t have much fuel to take. Actually, come to think of it, don’t mention nuclear bombs, they’re too hard to pronounce. You don’t want to look stupid.
What else? Oh yes, make inappropriate jokes whenever you can; encourage your countrymen to believe certain evil folks are in utter cahoots when in fact they don’t like each other at all; claim any minor and normal upward fluctuation in the world’s economy as proof that all your policies, not just the economic ones, are working great.
I think you’ll find it’s best to have had a drug problem of some kind in the past, or at least to admit to having had drugs but not having consumed them in the way of most mortal men. Have offspring who are either so ridiculously successful that they can inspire jealous rage, or else drunk yahoos who give stupid Americans a bad name.
If you aren’t really charismatic and sexy, with a series of messy public extramarital affairs behind you and willingly lie under oath that a love affair with a young, impressionable woman never happened, then go the other way altogether and cultivate a look that is more prairie dog than horn dog, talk a lot about Texas and if possible—but this might be milking the Jock sympathy vote a little too far—try asphyxiating on a bar snack whilst watching sports alone.
Make sure you either court the gay vote by allying yourself with lots of queer causes and maybe even putting out a rumor that your wife is a lipstick lesbian OR completely alienate them and hopefully ensnare another group of minority voters (they being fascists) by denying gays the same basic rights and benefits as all your other citizens.
Finally, Mr. President— - and by the way, thank you, I know you don’t have to listen to anyone, least of all someone like me, for this length of time— never, ever admit you are wrong.
It’s always their fault.
Don’t ask why, ask how.
Oh, and have the same name as a previous president—even if it’s your dad.
Reefer Madness is a movie musical based on a musical based on the 1936 propaganda film!
I had seen the original movie a long time ago and didn't remember too much about it (I wonder why?!), but I did remember it being hilarious. I also remeber thinking how alarming it was that people would go to such lengths to demonise and misreprsent something (in this case pot). This is what Dan Studney and Kevin Murphy highlighted so cleverly in their musical - the way we are ruled by fear, and how it is in our governments' interests to keep us in this state.
The film is an absolute hoot and we had a blast making it. It was great to be able to sing again, and also act with such an amazing group of performers: Christian Campbell, Kristen Bell, Ana Gasteyer, Steven Weber, Amy Spanger, Neve Campbell, Bob Torti and John Kassir, and a hilarious director, Andy Fickman.
I play the lecturer who come to the town to warn the parents of the evils of marijuana, but then in the film within a film parts I take on lots of different disguises including President Franklin Roosevelt and Goat Man!!
Reefer Madness premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on 27th January 2005 - my 40th birthday! I know it sounds like a great thing to have a film premiere on your birthday, but actually having an entire audience sing me happy birthday and then having the after-party come to a halt whilst a massive marijuana leaf-shaped cake was wheeled towards me followed by a phalanx of photographers was really very embarassing!
The film was then shown on Showtime, who incidentally supported it from its early incarnation onstage in LA and were really amazing to work with, especially considering they were funding a political satire about a propaganda film about drugs!!
I co-produced and appear in Showbusiness, which premiered at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival and was released in 2007 by Regency Pictures.
Showbusiness is directed by my friend Dori Berinstein who I previously worked with when she served on the board of The Art Party, and also when she directed me in Eavesdropping with Alan Cumming for the Oxygen network. The film follows a year in the life of Broadway, focusing on the personalities involved in four shows - Caroline or Change, Avenue Q, Wicked and Taboo.
Find out more at showbusiness-themovie.com
I wrote the the foreward to Andy Warhol Men, a book which contains hundreds of rarely seen illustrations, paintings, drawings, silk screens and photographs of men, and their various body parts, by Andy Warhol. The book was published in late 2004. If you'd like to purchase a copy, visit Chronicle Books here.
Here's what I wrote...
Andy Warhol Men Introduction by Alan Cumming.
I have always maintained that the mark of a great artist is their ability to draw a good bum - a bum that stirs our loins, be we man or woman, attracted or repelled by the idea of a real, naked, honest to goodness bum in such close proximity to us.
But a great, great artist, I have realised, is one who can evoke such a bum and cause such stirring in a line drawing only. No rococo shading and texture, or Botticelliesque nonsense, just a simple collection of lines on paper that magically produce a sense memory of something so visceral it can actually arouse.
Aubrey Beardsley could do it. Picasso could do it. Cocteau could do it. And Andy Warhol can do it.
Leafing through the pages of this book was a revelation for me. I knew Andy was a genius of that curious and now much-copied fusion of art, pop culture, celebrity and kitsch, but – and I am feeling like my mother even writing this – I hadn’t ever realised he was so good at drawing.
I have already cited my criteria for greatness in this area, so let me just say that Andy Warhol is truly great: he can do brilliant bums.
Whether it is his longing for them, or indeed the sheer volume that passed so close to his dark-glassed eyes that makes his reproduction of them so evocative I know not. All I know is they float my boat.
But this book is not just a celebration of the anus. It takes a more holistic view of man seen through the Warhol prism.
His male nude photographs are at once intimate and raw, the subjects’ faces rarely seen. Of course, that makes it easier for the focus to stay with what Andy wants us to concentrate on: the member, the pudendum, the cock.
(I feel it is my duty to warn you there are a lot of cocks in this book, and whether you are a fan of them or not, you must agree Andy shot some quite nice ones.)
But just as he became famous for pointing out the beauty and weirdness of material objects we had previously thought mundane, here we have a collection where Andy can fascinate and mesmerise us with not just the beauty and weirdness of that absurd muscle we boys all have in our underwear, but the faces the owners of those muscles choose to project to the world.
The series of pictures of drag queens is so endearing - partly because it differs from the slightly detached, objectifying feel of most of Warhol’s photography - and we share the joy these boys feel at having someone simply take an interest in them.
Desire is big in this volume: Andy’s for the men he shoots and draws, the men’s to please him.
But an even bigger emotion is joy, Andy’s that is. He obviously loved men. And like his pictures of soup cans and brillo pads he forces us to reconsider that men, and all their essences, are pretty extraordinary.
This is a fascinating collection from a man who understood the value of capturing the everyday for tomorrow. How lucky we are. Enjoy!