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House of Tudor 

Callow talent Peter Cincotti, the art of Cruising, and 21st-century "DADA."

Wednesday, Apr 16 2003
I find it disconcerting that 19-year-old Peter Cincotti embodies more sophistication and suavity than all my past boyfriends and unrequited loves combined. Granted, men who wear French cuffs don't often frequent the same establishments as men who like to drop their pants in public, but this disturbs me nonetheless. No 19-year-old boy should be able to deliver a song like "Sway" with the alluring coolness and limber confidence that Cincotti displays on his self-titled debut. When Dean Martin recorded "Sway" he was approaching 40 -- he'd already been an amateur boxer, a card dealer, and a gin runner; he'd ended his bitter partnership with Jerry Lewis; perfected his laconic, heavy-eyed Rat Pack persona; and left his first wife (and mother of his first four children) for a former Orange Bowl Queen. In short, he was a man, burnished and tarnished several times over. To have some smooth-skinned, moist-eared Columbia University sophomore muscle in on that magic, after claiming he's never even heard the song before, must be a real kick in the seat for all those fellas drinking at the Great Casino in the sky. But there's no denying it: The boy has chops. Harry Connick Jr. recognized it the first time he invited Cincotti to join him onstage and play piano. Cincotti was 7. By the time he was 13, he was playing regular gigs at New York's Red Blazer; when he was 17 he became the youngest performer to play in the Algonquin Hotel's famed Oak Room. While Cincotti's polished singing voice is not immediately distinctive, musicians of every genus agree his piano playing is completely unforgettable. Inspired enough to revitalize "Ain't Misbehavin'" and inventive enough to evoke Erroll Garner on "Spinning Wheel," a tune he first heard performed by Blood Sweat & Tears, Cincotti is also intuitive enough to write songs that stand up in the company of the standards. There are three such numbers on this album -- one of them written by Cincotti when he was 13 -- and they easily shine among their more famous companions, including a silky-smooth rendition of the Muppets' "Rainbow Connection," which I can't help think Cincotti included as a gentle reminder that, as a talent, he is callow but better than any of us could ever hope to be. Peter Cincotti performs on Wednesday, April 16, at Bimbo's 365 Club at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17; call 474-0365.

In May of 1995 the Roxie arranged for William Friedkin to appear along with a fresh 35mm print of his much-maligned thriller Cruising. Friedkin was excited. The 1980 movie, starring Al Pacino as a homicide detective who poses as a homosexual and submerges himself in New York's S/M scene to trap a serial killer, had been the subject of such controversy during its making in the late '70s that there was no way it could overcome, or live up to, all the negative attention during its original release. Here was a fresh opportunity for Cruising to be viewed as, um, a movie rather than a malicious treatise on the nature of gay sex. Well, it must have been a slow season in the Swish Alps, because the day before Cruising was revived in 1995, the Bay Area Reporter published an absurd article by David Ehrenstein, suggesting that the modern gay and lesbian community was torpid and facile since no one was planning to protest Cruising, as their East Coast brethren had done 15 years earlier. To establish that Cruising was still worthy of ire, Ehrenstein attacked the film's plausibility and Friedkin's motives. The very idea that a West Village cop would have to go "undercover" to find out what was happening in the clubs was, according to Ehrenstein, "ludicrous in the extreme" (see, the cops already knew, they just didn't care). And, while Ehrenstein readily admitted that the locations and extras used in Cruising were authentic, and that gay clubs in the Village had been plagued by serial murders for more than a decade before filming began, he was upset that Friedkin didn't have an interest in the "historical truth" of the gay scene. "This is a horror film," Ehrenstein whined. "And we are the monster." Disgustingly, protesters turned up at the Roxie the very next day. I was there, buying a ticket. Friedkin stayed away, but the movie played and it was great. Now, I know a number of people who dismiss Cruising simply because they think it's a bad movie, but these are detractors of exploitation cinema at large: people who can't fully appreciate a serial killer's nursery song; people who fail to find delight in the Pacino gay-boy dance; people who think bad lighting, sweaty noses, and an ambiguous ending could detract from the cold, fishlike stare Pacino fixes on his wife after they hit the sack; in short, not my people. As my dear friend and Incredibly Strange Wrestling champion El Homo Loco says, "I respect any movie that introduces the straight world to the hanky code of gay sex. ... Wanna boycott a negative gay stereotype? Boycott Will & Grace, for chrissake!" Cruising will be shown on Thursday, April 17, at the Four Star Theatre (2200 Clement at 23rd Avenue) at 5:30 and 9 p.m., with Candy Von Dewd screening at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5-7; call 666-3488.

As part of the "Special Ops & Lollipops" Sunday afternoon art series, Elliot Lessing has curated silent films, visible audio, tactile photographs, olfactory drawings, transparent video, hushed stereo, soft surveillance, and hard inference for shows including "Pre-Post War Theatre of Embedded Silence" and "Partial Information Awareness: Surveillance Loves Me!" This week's exhibit, "World War Wobble: The New DADA," features the debut of Brendon Lott's Afraid of Virginia Who's Wolf. Aspiring to bring order and sanity to those wretched characters created by Edward Albee -- and perfected by Burton and Taylor -- Lott broke up Mike Nichols' 1966 classic into a catalog of essential statements and actions, and then rearranged the scenes, as any pathological librarian might, alphabetically. The result will baffle and disturb you. Lott is joined by video-installation artist Mombert, photographer Mack McFarland, visual artist Kristen Chappa, and a collection of antique postcards from Portugal. Attendees are asked to bring a photo of their parents -- real or imagined -- or a food-animal sculpture for the Parents and Food-Pups Table on Sunday, April 20, to Build (483 Guerrero at 17th Street) between 4 and 8 p.m. Admission is $2-10; call 863-3041.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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