Thursday, November 16, 2023

Queen + Adam Lambert - Rhapsodising over the ‘Rhapsody’ tour

photo: Dana Jacobs

If you know even a little bit about my books, you know my sixth novel, "Now I'm Here," is infused with Queen's music and song titles. 

But it took the reminder from guitarist-composer Brian May himself (okay, one of his staff assistants) who shared my Bay Area Reporter review of their November 8 Chase Center concert, to remind me to share it here:

Themes of science fiction, steampunk and outer space projected onto multiple screens did not upstage the musical artistry of Queen + Adam Lambert at their Chase Center concert November 8. 

With additional musicians – keyboard player and musical director Spike Edney, bass guitarist Neil Fairclough and percussionist Tyler Warren – the band performed an array of classic hits, with recorded audio and video tributes to the late Freddie Mercury.

Even before the concert, a sense of giddiness was in the air as people posed in front of the large billboard outside the Chase Center. The staff was friendly and courteous as we entered and found our seats. While they were fewer festively-dressed fans than at the recent Elton John concert, I learned quickly to not judge by appearances. Two burly men who could have been truck drivers sat in front of us and complimented my vintage Queen t-shirt and my friend’s glam garb as we regaled our tales of 1970s arena rock attendances, including Queen.

In fact, most of the patrons seemed to be in their 50s or 60s and have been Queen fans for decades. There were a few young folks who possibly had yet to enjoy the thrill of seeing guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor joined with Adam Lambert, who proudly announced that he’s been touring with Queen for ten years. His entrance in the first of several glamorous costumes took on a silver gladiator science fiction theme.

photo: Dana Jacobs

The setlist started off in the first section with a bit of “Radio Gaga,” followed by “Hammer to Fall,” a “Stone Cold Crazy” excerpt, and “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Drummer Rodger Taylor took to the mic and drums with his classic, “I’m in Love With My Car” from the “A Night at the Opera” album. Then Lambert reappeared on the extended runway atop a glistening silver motorcycle, in yet more glamorous garb. With a camera set in front of him on the handlebars, his amusing close-ups and hip thrusts brought high camp style.

 “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “I Want It All” proved to be sing-along favorites after that. 

The third section included “A Kind of Magic” (and Brian May’s “magic” sparks-shooting guitar!), “Don't Stop Me Now,” and a rousing sing-along “Somebody to Love,” where Lambert’s stellar vocals outshone any of the amusing pyrotechnics.

A highlight of that section was also Lambert’s use a close-up camera in front of a “mirror” as he primped and sipped champagne (naturally) for “Killer Queen,” yet another song where his camp sensibility and sense of humor really shined.

 As they’ve done since the 1970s, Brian May, still a master of guitar at 76, then took to a solo moment for an acoustic set with the very romantic “Love of My Life” and his futuristic folk classic, “‘39.”

photo: Dana Jacobs

Roger Taylor then banged out an impressive drum solo, which led into the finger-snapping classic, “Under Pressure.” While former bassist John Deacon was not acknowledged onstage, his presence was felt as the famous bass hook began.

The band then segued into a slightly altered version of “Tie Your Mother Down,” followed by the traditional rhythm, then the Elvis-esque “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” which Lambert  completely mastered. 

The fifth section of the concert started with “I Want to Break Free.” The song’s witty drag music video was a hit on European TV but did not work well for American audiences back in the day. Fortunately, those attitudes are long-gone, at least for Queen fans, who’ve embraced Lambert, an out gay artist.

In this concert version, some lucky (and probably wealthy) fans enjoyed box seats behind the stage as the projections turned the stage into a rococo theater.

Brian May then indulged in an expanded guitar solo as he rose up through (projected video of) outer space as a huge meteor and various planets rose and fell as he guided them. Many fans know that Brian May’s early college studies were in astrophysics, so the outer space theme was totally appropriate and visually stunning.

Originally created for Live Aid, Freddie Mercury’s song, “Is This the World We Created?,” co-written with May, offered a somber tone, followed by the rousing yet haunting anthem, “The Show Must Go On.”

photo: Dana Jacobs

And then, the bands ultimate classic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” began. As they have done since their original concerts in the ’70s, parts were recorded while the band waited in darkness to resume for the rousing finale. But with this new multimedia tour, we got to not only hear but also see excerpts of the classic music video that brought Queen to great fame.

After a pause, in a digitized version, Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS in 1991, got to make another appearance with his famous “Ayo!” call and response. And of course, everyone joined in, even the stage crew we could see from a distance.

For the rousing encore of “We Will Rock You,” the projection screens showed an animated version of the iconic giant robot from the “News of the World” album cover. The audience double-clapped along to the reprise of “Radio Gaga” and then sang along to the expected closer, “We Are the Champions.”

After the band took their bows for the traditional recorded playing of “God Save the Queen,” you could feel the sense of warm satisfaction that patrons had as they left the Chase Center. Even the packed Muni train was still full of good cheer as people commented on the show.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Fabulosa to host banned books reading marathon

Books with LGBTQ themes are under attack while anti-gay harassment is spiking nationwide. To counter the book bans, Castro district Fabulosa Books has organized Read For Filth, a 24-hour celebration of queer literature, on October 7-8.

The event is a fundraiser for Books Not Bans, the store's program to send queer books to LGBT centers and groups in red states. It's timed with the national Banned Books Week, Oct. 1-7, created by the American Library Association, with bookstores and libraries highlighting censored books.

(photos: Authors Rasheed Newson with Jonathan Escoffery at a recent Fabulosa Books event; a stack of banned books to be shipped to LGBTQ community centers. (photos: Fabulosa Books))

So far, Fabulosa Books has shipped 15 boxes to groups in Tulsa, OK, Cheyenne, WY, Charleston, NC, Ft. Meyers, FL, Hattiesburg MS, and Montgomery, AL.

Sister Roma

"We fill each box with 20 new and popular queer books that are a mix of current titles and classics," said Bex Hexagon, events manager for Fabulosa, and the creator of Books Not Bans. "It is very easy to feel powerless, but books show us a road to what is possible, and stories save lives. This event is an affirmation of hope and our resilience as a community."

Fabulosa Books owner Alvin Orloff said, "We may be far from the worst of the book bans and anti-LGBT bigotry, but we can do our part to support our community. If I can help the kids of today weather the stupidities of Ron DeSantis and Don't Say Gay, you bet I'm going to do it."

Fabulosa's round-the-clock series of events will include activities for all ages to celebrate stories with, and written by, LGBTQ authors. 

The various events begin on Oct. 7, 10:30am with Drag Story Hour for families, with San Francisco Library staff in attendance to register people for library cards. Sister Roma will guest-host part of the event.

"We'll have a parklet in front of the store for the day of the event and events in-store all night long and the next morning," added Hexagon.

From 2:30pm to 6:00pm, an expansive lineup of authors, performers and members of community groups will read poetry and stories, and musicians and attendees will perform and read as well. The celebration of books will include a diverse lineup of community leaders, Castro merchants, and other community members.

The event will also include a full group reading of George M. Johnson's "All Boys Aren't Blue: a Memoir Manifesto," which is currently one of the most banned books in America.  

For the full schedule of events, read my full article on and visit


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

'Red, White & Royal Blue's adaptive elements

Gay romance novels have never been more popular than they are today.  The most popular example is of course “Red, White and Royal Blue,” Casey McQuiston's bestselling 2019 novel. The recent premiere of its film adaptation became the number one viewed film on Amazon Prime. And it's well deserved.


Having recently assigned both a review and an interview with the film’s director for my day job with the Bay Area Reporter as Arts Editor, I was happy to receive an unsolicited complimentary press packet of not only a book, but a pair of socks as shown in the main poster, along with a bookbag, a copy of the paperback tie-in and a red white and blue blanket.


But what surprised me more than the swag package, was how well the film adapted to the book by limiting it to the most essential parts of it and combining other aspects to make it fit into the two-hour time slot.


The film is directed, co-written, and executive-produced by Matthew Lopez, playwright of the gay seven-hour Tony Award-winning opus "The Inheritance," based on E.M. Forster's "Howard's End."


Of course, some elements had to be shortened, like the extensive emails and texts that Henry and Alex, the two lovers, send to each other, as well as the expansive quotes by prominent other figures and authors that they share, which compare the two's budding romance to  becoming “History, huh?”


So instead of just showing the text to appear to talk to each other in proximity which visualizes their growing intimacy.


I noticed a few changes that paralleled my own adaptation of my first novel “PINS” when in 2002 I was commissioned to turn it into a play for New Conservatory Theatre Center here in San Francisco.


Along with reducing entire wrestling tournaments to a mere sound effect with a few characters there were very large scenes that had to be cut (the criminal trial) or referenced instead of dramatized.


The additional change of having a queen and instead casting Stephen Fry as the king of England proved a clever casting decision.


One element that happened in both “Red, White & Royal Blue” and my own script was the removal of a younger sibling that had something to do with the story but was not essential. I mean the casting of a 10-year-old sister would not have been essential in my play. Similarly, in Lopez's co-written screenplay, Alex's sister is removed and all the things that she serves in the story are combined with other characters.


And –spoiler alert– the nemesis in the book is melded into a former liaison of Alex, who is in the film also journalist. The book version where the affair was leaked was very involved and not exactly cinematic.


Adaptations of good novels have always been a fascination for me. In a few cases when I had writer's block or structural problems, I would switch to reducing my story to a screenplay in order to get to the point. A novel can ramble but a screenplay has to make sense structurally and get to the point.


I'm thinking back to my days before I was even a published writer. As a teenager, the Peter Bogdanovich film adaptation of “The Last Picture Show” is a prime example of a terrific film adaptation.


In the old days of before streaming and Netflix, when a movie was shown on network TV or a local affiliate, you watched it when you could. I remember taking a paperback version of “The Last Picture Show" and through repeated viewings, highlighting lines in yellow that were spoken in the film I was taking a screenwriting course, I guess, without even knowing it. It taught me the importance of what's essential in terms of image versus dialogue or description.


But what about the aspects of romance and sexuality? While my two romance novels, “Every Time I Think of You" and its sequel “Message of Love” are –spoiler alert– pretty graphic in terms of its sexuality, it's because those scenes further the plot and the difficult relationship between two main characters, Reid and Everett, as ever becomes a paraplegic. How they are manage to have sex is a storyline that is essential to the rest of it.


For “Red, White & Royal Blue,” the kissing scenes, romance and eventual actual sex are shown in a way that's tasteful not graphic but also informative to the characters’ development. While my book includes a museum scene, it involved a comic abruptly interrupted blow job, while “RW&RB”’s museum scene is more solemn.


But as in her novel, McQuiston dodges the graphic specifics or “plumbing” with references and ellipses that usually jump to “Afterward,” meaning after they had sex.


My own books, which are more descriptive, are probably never going to be adapted into films. But hey it could happen. I did mention that I have a few screenplays ready to go!.


One essential part would be to have sexual scenes that develop the story, not just gratuitous showing of body parts.


Despite its mainstream style, it is actually quite surprising how far “Red, White & Royal Blue” goes in terms of depicting the sexuality.


The fact that it's become such a huge hit gives me hope. Since “Every Time I Think of You" was one of my most successful books, it actually took me the least amount of time to write because it was so inspired. I'm certainly open to any adaptation that does it justice. Of course any writer would want that.


Anyway, I hope you enjoy my books as well as Casey's and check out the Amazon Prime adaptation. I don't know where you can get those socks, but I enjoy the ones that I received.