Banter M Issue 46

In this issue of Banter M:

The World Didn't Need a Guns N' Roses Reunion - "In their prime, Guns N' Fucking Roses were a goddamn profane powerhouse, the pure embodiment of everything rock-and-roll was supposed to be." writes Chez Pazienza. But fast forward to 2016, and Guns N' Roses' headlining set this past weekend at Coachella was, according to Chez, "Embarrassing. Maybe another appropriate word would be cringe-worthy." What happened?

Blinded By Love - Bob Cesca argues that social networking is allowing us to follow campaigns and candidates more closely and more intimately than ever before, leading to a distorted view of reality and a potentially unhealthy "relationship" with their candidate. 

Connecting The Dots - Tommy Christopher takes a wonderful trip down memory lane after doing some researching for a video of Hillary Clinton that took him to his childhood love of acting and close relationship with his mother.  

The World Didn't Need a Guns N' Roses Reunion

by Chez Pazienza

Every music fan has it: the dream list of bands you wish you could see live, or could've seen live, or wanted to see live but didn't get the chance. For years now I've gone back and watched video clips of Queen absolutely ripping through Radio Ga Ga and Hammer To Fall at Wembley stadium for Live Aid -- remembering watching it for the first time live back in 1986 -- and I've lamented never getting to see them in concert. I wonder what it would've been like to see the Doors at the Whisky or Sinatra at the Sands and I wonder how tragic it would've been had I not gotten the chance to see Jeff Buckley live at a tiny club on Miami Beach back in '94 or Pearl Jam in '92 (despite missing the band that spawned them, Mother Love Bone). I have my list. It changes every so often, but it's always there.

For most of my teen years into my 20s, the band that sat at the top of that list was a permanent fixture. I wished I could've seen the Sex Pistols. I was a punk/metal/alt kid and my obsession with the Pistols was pretty well known around my high school and as the time passed I never lost sight of what it would've been like to witness England's punk gods. I'd already seen the Ramones several times; their look and sound was timeless and I felt like maybe that was a go-ahead to wonder whether a Pistols reunion would be something worth taking seriously. And then, of course, it happened. In 1996, the Pistols, with original bassist Glen Matlock rejoining the band to replace dead punk icon Sid Vicious, got back together for a tour they freely admitted was a cash grab and nothing more. "We still hate each other with a vengeance," singer John Lydon said at the time. "But we've found a common cause, and that's your money." And thus, the fittingly named Filthy Lucre tour was born.

Being in Los Angeles at the time and working as a producer for KCBS, I was in an absolutely perfect position to be able to finally fulfill my musical lifelong dream and see the Pistols live. Not only were they scheduled to play L.A., but they were playing literally right next door to the KCBS studios on Sunset -- at the Hollywood Palladium. Not only that, but our entertainment producer had secured passes and offered them to me, since he wouldn't be able to go. So, ironically and in a move that was maybe way more punk rock than what the Sex Pistols themselves were doing, I was going to get to see the show while depriving the band of making any money off of me. Fuck yeah. They played on August 23rd of 1996. I was there for every single moment. And the next day my entertainment producing benefactor asked me how the show was. My answer? "It sucked. They sounded amazing." 

And that was the problem. Because the Sex Pistols of 1996 weren't the Sex Pistols of 1976. Sure, Lydon was still Johnny Rotten at heart, pouring sneering condescension over the crowd at every opportunity, but other than that they were just, you know, a rock band. True, it's easy to forget or overlook how well-produced Never Mind the Bollocks was, but live the Pistols were always an entirely different animal. They were snotty and furious and violent and insane. But guess what? Those traits tend to be the exclusive domain of youth. It's one thing to be a rail-thin teenager or 20-something raging against the system like a maniac and slamming your guitars, drums and mic stands into your amps. It's another thing entirely when you're a pudgy 40-something. For all their historic bluster, the Sex Pistols knew that going into the Filthy Lucre tour. So they replaced youthful indiscretion with middle-aged indifference and cruised through tight, perfect renditions of their greatest hits like the world's greatest Pistols cover band. 

They sounded great -- which is why they sucked. Because they weren't a punk band anymore. They weren't the Sex Pistols.

I have to imagine that there are a ton of kids these days whose dream concert lists have for years included Guns N' Roses. It makes sense when you consider what GNR meant to music in the era in which they rose to become the biggest rock-and-roll band in the world. Like the Pistols, Guns N' Roses were a band that brought electricity and volatility to pop music and while their own self-indulgence eventually made them a parody of what they started out as, there was a time when they absolutely lit up a genre that had become something of a joke. GNR ruled the roost in the era in which hair metal died and rock-and-roll transitioned into something much more potent. In the rock timeline, GNR were the bridge between bands like Poison and Warrant and bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden and Jane's Addiction and Nine Inch Nails. (It can even be argued that Axl's patronage helped Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana, since he was the biggest rock star on earth and he regularly sang the praises of both.) In their prime, Guns N' Fucking Roses were a goddamn profane powerhouse, the pure embodiment of everything rock-and-roll was supposed to be. They were, sincerely, the most dangerous band on earth.

But with success came internal discord, nearly deadly excess, and the aforementioned self-indulgence. Drummer Steven Adler was kicked out of the band for his drug use (and take a minute and try to imagine how fucked-up you have to be to get thrown out of Guns N' Roses for doing too many drugs). The band released two slickly produced, high-quality albums in Use Your Illusion I and II on the same day in 1991, a move which came to signify everything that was both right and wrong with Guns N' Roses as they were at the height of their popularity. On the one hand, it proved how successful the band was and the move turned them from an arena band into a stadium band, but likewise it highlighted their transition from lean-and-mean five piece into an unnecessarily bloated, self-important machine of a band. By the time the Use Your Illusion tour was in full swing, GNR live had basically turned into Axl Rose and his traveling circus. There were problems with him showing up on time and of course there were his extended onstage rants and fights with fans. Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin quit. Horns and backup singers were added. All that was missing by the second leg of the Use Your Illusion tour was a midget and some snake charmers.

Over the next few years, the band essentially broke up, with only Axl carrying on the GNR name and continuing to promise an album, Chinese Democracy, that was finally released to some passing interest in November of 2008. But it wasn't Guns N' Roses anymore. It was Axl and a cover band. Kind of like the Pistols, the best GNR cover band you'd ever heard, but still -- a cover band. But here's the thing: Guns N' Roses hadn't really been Guns N' Roses, in terms of being a live band, since the Appetite for Destruction tour. That was the time to see them live. That was when a Guns N' Roses show felt like a sonic earthquake, a shotgun slug to the chest, an event you may or may not live to one day tell your kids about. To see them in a theater or even an arena -- that was one for the personal history books. Put simply, once they became so massive that they just couldn't be the world's most dangerous band anymore, they should've ceased to be the kind of live draw that put them atop anyone's dream list. Wanting to see them, say, now -- well into their forties with Axl absolutely looking and sounding like it -- should be a total turn-off for anyone who considers him- or herself a fan of theirs. 

That's what makes the current Guns N' Roses reunion "tour" so horrific and embarrassing. Considering the kind of band GNR were -- that toxic, turmoiled explosion of youthful rage, excess and sensuality, not to mention the representation of an era that simply no longer exists in music, when monster rock acts could roam the earth -- they just might not be the kind of band that can pull off a respectable reunion tour. Think back to what Axl Rose once represented in rock-and-roll, with his teased hair, sinewy frame and snake dancing. He was sleazy and sexy and that was an important part of GNR's appeal. It's not his fault he grew out of it; everybody does eventually (although Axl really has let himself go, causing some to joke that the band should now be called Carbs N' Roses). But when you lose so much of what made you a star in the first place and there was never a period where the audience was allowed to grow older with you -- as we have with, say, the Stones or Aerosmith -- because you dropped off the face of the earth, trying to recapture that magic makes you appear desperate. Slash and Duff, by the way, look great. They're totally able to summon that old magic, but Axl's the focal point of the band and not only does he look and sound like hell, if the shows so far on the amusingly named Not In This Lifetime tour are any indication, he and Slash don't even interact, making the whole thing feel even more like a Pistol's-style cash grab without the decency of admitting it.

I watched the entire live feed of Guns N' Roses' headlining set this past weekend at Coachella and it was, in a word, embarrassing. Maybe another appropriate word would be cringe-worthy. True, not only do Slash and Duff look good but they sound terrific, with Slash proving to an entirely new generation why he's a guitar god and Duff sluicing his way through some of the most legendary bass parts in rock. Axl, however, singing with a broken foot, was confined mostly to a throne on loan from Dave Grohl. Grohl could pull it off because, a) he turned the use of it into a joke and he's known for his good humor, and b) Grohl plays guitar, giving him something else to do when he was forced to use the throne through a good portion of the Foo Fighters' most recent tour. Axl managed to break his foot on the very first performance for a reunited GNR, at the Troubadour here in L.A., and the sight of him confined to, basically, a glorified wheelchair at Coachella, was somehow both depressing and fitting. He bopped up and down, he sweated, he struggled with notes that would've been easier to hit had he been standing up. (Not that rock-and-roll is supposed to ever be perfect, but Axl really does sound like shit.) The Axl situation just made the whole thing feel tragic.

But more than that, there's that question of why any self-respecting fan of GNR would ever want to see them perform as a shadow of what they once were. Like seeing the Sex Pistols on the Filthy Lucre tour, sure you'll get the basic sound of the songs, but the rage, debauchery and majesty of Guns N' Roses in their prime is long gone. Put simply, some bands aren't meant to last; they're meant to die young, either literally or figuratively. If they aren't, then they need to be able to grow publicly. Guns N' Roses simply stopped existing as an entity 23 years ago and given the kind of band they were, that was probably meant to be. Reuniting now feels contrived, particularly since it's obvious there's still very bad blood between Axl and everyone else, and seeing them in this present incarnation you'd think would leave a bad taste in the mouth of any true fan. 

Now you can of course make the argument that if you're someone who hasn't seen GNR live, it's worth it to get the chance to hear Slash and Duff play those songs live -- and again, Slash in particular is still just fucking mind-blowing -- but what GNR meant, what they stood for, that's ancient history. Not only are they not dangerous anymore, there isn't even a place for them in the pop culture consciousness given that real rock-and-roll is on life support and bands that hold the collective consciousness the way GNR once did can't survive in the era of social media cultural fragmentation, Instagram taking all the mythos out of music, and streaming running the whole business into the ground. A band like Guns N' Roses almost certainly wouldn't make it out of the clubs these days, regardless of the fact that America is in desperate need of something truly dangerous and transgressive to cause a seismic event in the music we listen to. We desperately need another GNR, or another Nirvana, or another "Madchester" movement, but I just don't think it's possible anymore. The transcendent artistic iconoclasts feel like a done deal at this point. Maybe that's why Forever 21 now sells Nirvana t-shirts, because kids want something more authentic than what they're being offered now. (Of course, the irony is delicious seeing as how the fact that Forever 21 is selling Nirvana t-shirts just proves that authenticity is dead.)  

Guns N' Roses doesn't exist anymore. Whatever's playing under its name, while a fine little touch of nostalgia, isn't the band that once shook the country. Like the Sex Pistols, the band that was GNR needed to stay dead, a reminder of the greatness that once was, rather than being a mere shell of its former self. The band's legendary status was owed that.

By the way, no, I don't need to put Guns N' Roses on my dream concert list because, yes, I saw them in 1987 on the Appetite for Destruction tour. It was a hell of a show from a hell of a band -- a band that at that time was just beginning to conquer the world.   

Next: Blinded By Love - by Bob Cesca

 

Blinded By Love

by Bob Cesca

Last weekend, Susan Sarandon appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, partly to discuss the Democratic presidential primary campaign and Sarandon's candidate, Bernie Sanders. At one point, Maher, who is himself a Bernie supporter, noted that it's next to impossible for Bernie to overcome Hillary Clinton's pledged delegate lead -- which is very true, especially following the New York primary.

Sarandon's response? She grinned, then chided Maher, "Don't burst my bubble." 

She literally used the word "bubble," perhaps not realizing the epistemic closure and confirmation bias connotations. However, and more broadly speaking, Sarandon's response revealed a basic denial of reality that often goes along with being utterly infatuated with another human being. Put another way, it's possible that Sarandon and other Bernie supporters are so passionate about their candidate, it almost borders on a form of love.

(Before we continue, I hasten to note that many liberals regard me as a card-carrying Obamabot. I'm proud to say that I've generally been supportive of Obama and would've been crushed had he not won the nomination in 2008. So, take everything else you're about to read knowing that, perhaps, I have some personal insight on this matter.)

Indeed, there's an almost cult-like optimism among Bernie supporters, even in the face of increasingly insurmountable delegate odds stacked against them. And their reactions, when confronted by the cold, bitter realities of American politics such as superdelegates and closed primaries, seem eerily similar to the reactions of people who are desperately in love while careening down a path of that love not being sufficiently requited. When friends try to remind them they're dreaming and their love will never quite be fulfilled, they refuse to believe it.

Elsewhere, on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, the hilarious former Daily Show correspondent hosted a panel of Bernie supporters in order to tap into their undying optimism for the Vermont senator. After one of the panelists insisted Bernie will absolutely be the next president (numbers to the contrary aside), Bee remarked to herself, "I respect these people's willingness to dream big."

The dream is so big that the panelists refused to acknowledge the reality that a President Sanders could face the same or worse levels of GOP obstruction than President Obama has faced.

And there's no better example of this love affair and its blinded-by-love optimism than writer and Bernie propagandist H.A. Goodman, whose every headline screams with unwavering cheer regarding Bernie's allegedly inevitable success. Nearly every headline ends with the phrase, "...which will make Bernie Sanders the next president." Knowing that Sanders hasn't had a serious chance to win the nomination since, roughly, March 15, the fact that Goodman continues to publish these headlines is surely an indication of true love, and its accompanying heaps of optimism.

Oh, and by the way, it's not just Bernie supporters. There's plenty of blind love for Hillary Clinton -- especially eight year ago when Hillary supporters were more or less behaving the same way when trailing Barack Obama by ever increasing margins. By now we're all familiar with the PUMAs -- the acronym for Party Unity My Ass -- and the pledge to never support Obama in the general election. The denialism and, yes, the dissatisfaction with the superdelegate system were features of the Hillary '08 campaign, just as with this year's Bernie campaign.

What's causing this love to be so undying and intimate to the point of otherwise sensible people refusing to allow contrary forecasts to even be spoken in their presence?

A while back, we looked at the impact of Facebook and social media, and specifically how it's allowed users to generate their own micro-bubbles, each one resistant to opposition noise and loaded strictly with information that confirms what these bubble-dwellers already believe -- in some cases forming those beliefs without even realizing it. It's all about the algorithm and the cookies tracking what we like (and it's all of us, by the way) and, thus, Facebook churning out items in our News Feed that correlate to what we've already read. For example, if you're only reading pro-Hillary articles, the Facebook algorithm might give you a significant number of pro-Hillary articles in your News Feed. This is how it's meant to work.

In a less mathematical sense, social networking is allowing us to follow campaigns and candidates more closely and more intimately than ever before. Literally ever before. And it's this perpetual exposure, twenty-four-seven, which gives us a very deep and personal view of our candidate -- up close and personal, as they used to say.

We can follow their thoughts on Twitter and even tweet back to them. We see them fighting off enemies and basking in the glow of victory. We follow their minute-to-minute schedules on Facebook, complete with videos and behind-the-scenes photos. Our online lives, especially on Facebook, has become inextricably merged with our actual lives. Our "Likes" and "LOLs," which were once casual reactions, are becoming more real to us. When we click the thumbs-up Like icon under a Facebook post -- now augmented by the "sad," "happy," "angry" icons -- it's more genuine than it used to be, due, naturally, to the lengthening existence and popularity of Facebook. The personal details of our lives are related more freely now, and our expressions of emotion online are more real now.

Previously enthusiastic yet somewhat dissociated relationships with our favorite politicians (or celebrities or athletes, by the way) have grown from beyond arm's reach to the very centers of our brains -- as well as our online homes -- releasing pleasurable endorphins and hormones -- providing a sense of belonging, community, common points of reference and an indelible affection heretofore unattainable prior to social networking.

Political activism, at least on the left, is beginning to look more and more like love.

Imagine if you met someone you liked, and you spend most of your free time every day flooded with wonderful things about this new person in your life -- and those positive things were doled out on your personal Facebook nook as if it's meant for you and you alone. Your affections will likely grow stronger with exposure. After a while, you might become so infatuated with this person that your friends might try to offer a reality check. It's not meant to be, they'd say. Flame wars ensue, which only makes you love this new person more. Worse, imagine the longing that accompanies a love that will never be consummated. The more you're told it won't be, the more obsessed you become with consummating it anyway.

See the pattern here? We've all been down this road with one relationship or another, but the ongoing flood of information and day-to-day details we're absorbing about our candidate-of-choice is beginning to take on eerily similar characteristics to blind love. 

They used to say, "Democrats fall in love. Republicans fall in line." It was always this way to a certain degree, but never like it is now. Is this going to get better or worse? I don't know. I don't know whether it's entirely positive or negative. But for now, it's breeding a form of blindness that doesn't appear, on the surface, to be healthy for the future of the discourse. We'll have to wait and see.

Next: Connecting The Dots - by Tommy Christopher

Connecting The Dots 

Tommy Christopher

It never ceases to amaze me that even in this age of the information superhighway (people still call it that, right?), there are still things to be discovered by ordinary people, about seemingly well-picked over topics from our recent history. For example, last week, I thought it would be fun to revisit Hillary Clinton's awesome "No, I will not bake your fucking cookies" moment (or at least, that's how I remember it), so I started searching for background about it, and I discovered something completely new about it.

By going through interviews and videos that have been available all along, I connected the dots between something she said right after the baking cookies remark and a question some dick asked her in 1979, and determined that said dick (and probably several other dicks with similar questions after that) had more or less directly inspired the quote.

I also ran across an old interview of Donald Trump taken from Ground Zero right after 9/11, and realized that he freakishly nailed the eventual cost of rebuilding the area. There are all kinds of dots out there yet to be connected, bread crumbs to be followed.

But the bread crumbs and dots aren't always kind, and I have our own Chez Pazienza to "thank" for the third ancient penny to drop in my brain this week. 

My mom has been on my mind a lot this week, coincidentally because of that Hillary Clinton video I labored over so much. That moment of defiance had always made me think of my mom, and the struggles she faced. 

That's another set of stories for another day, but when I was very little, my mom and I were damn near inseparable, which I always chalked up to the fact that she just loved me very much, which she did, but in retrospect, it was also a function of being a single mother in the early 70s, going to college full-time and holding down several jobs. I went everywhere with her.

My mom and I were both talkers, which made me a favorite among her friends because for a four year-old, I was very good at talking to adults. She used to take me to school with her all the time, and once, she took me to see some of her friends in a theater-in-the-round play that had something to do with flowers. I liked the play, but I was really fascinated by the way the players entered and exited under the stage, and I was dying to know where they came from, where they went. 

After the play, my mom and I got to go backstage through those hidden doors, and I was thrilled by the whole thing, seeing the costumes and the props, meeting the actors, the whole thing just floored me. That was the first time I remember wanting to be an actor.

It was a quasi-passion that would stick with me for life, but not one that I would ever devote the slightest bit of energy or study to. I had a certain amount of natural talent, but mostly a desire for the trappings of performance, the escape, the applause. The lack of strenuousness was nice, too.

My first acting "gig" was when I was five or six, and I got to play Joseph in our church play. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but the entire production hinged on me. One of the pennies that dropped this week was me wondering whether I got the part because I was good, or because my mom had the bathrobe.

I'm sure it was at least 50% talent and 50% bathrobe. Everybody loved it, and during one performance, I got so into the dance I was doing that I fell off the stage, and it got a huge laugh. Unfortunately, this was, like, 1973, so there was no YouTube, and no camcorders. You'll just have to picture it for yourselves.

There wasn't much in the way of a drama program in my first three years of school, but after we moved, I tried out for Peter Pan at my new school. I was told that only fifth graders would be getting leading roles, but I held onto the dream that my extraordinary talent would win out. 

I wound up playing Nana the dog, but I killed. People loved the costume, and I was like the William Shatner of dogs. Seriously, even looking back on it now, I was a fucking great Nana, although I was still bitter at the grade-level caste system.

The next year, I scored the lead in a musical about Noah, but don't ask me how they managed to sneak that into a public elementary school. I'm sure they changed the script around a whole bunch. 

Also in fifth grade, I tried out for a high school production of The Music Man, but I didn't get the lead. Instead, I was Barney, the tuba player, and I killed in that, too. People loved the little kid hauling around the tuba as big as he was, and I was the only one who actually "played," blurting out a single deafening note in each measure of the Minuet in G.

There wasn't any drama program in my middle school, either, so it wasn't until high school that I got to act again. Our school was doing a production of MASH, don't ask me how, and I was proud to be the only freshman to score a speaking role. 

As a sophomore, I broke through the caste system again to become the third lead in Antigone, the Blind Prophet, but I got kicked off the play when I got falling-down drunk on a drama club class trip. Through lots of begging and pleading, I managed to become an understudy, and wheedled my way back on stage as a Greek guard. 

In between MASH and Antigone, I also got to audition for a movie. The film would star then-recent Oscar nominee Terri Garr, and the role was the title character in a family drama that was holding an open casting call in Princeton. It was an extremely rare opportunity, and my parents were total dicks about it.Well, it was mostly my step-dad, who was happy to let me do it as long as I did it all on my own, but they were both like "You need to be prepared for the fact that you will not get this."

So there I was, fourteen years old, taking three hours worth of buses and trains to get to the McCarter Theater for my shot at the big time. I practiced my Oscar speech the whole way there. Don't ask me how I found it, because this was way before GPS or cellphones, or anything. 

It seemed like there were a million kids trying out for the part, but I wasn't fazed. I had just starred in MASH, you know, and the part seemed made for me: defiant, angsty teen trying to cope with asshole teachers and a newly-dysfunctional home situation. 

They started cutting people just by looking at them, but I was still around when it came time for the readings. The first scene I read was one where I got to tell a teacher off for accusing me of plagiarism, and I even got to say "fuck." Yeah, I nailed that.

They cut a bunch more of us, and the handful that were left got to do another scene, this one with the evil stepfather/boyfriend character. Nailed that, too. By the end of the grueling day, they had it narrowed down to me and one other kid.

I went home and made everyone in my family stay off the phone for several days, a directive they annoyingly did not comply with, but I didn't end up getting it. That probably contributed to my bender on that drama club trip. The movie was a piece of dogshit called "First Born," which means I would've gotten to fight Robocop before he was Robocop, but I always insisted to myself that it would have been a hit if they had picked me. I mean, I really nailed that "fuck you" scene with the teacher.

After I graduated high school, I took one more shot at an acting career, scheduling a meeting with a talent agent. He took one look at me and said "Where'd you get that scar? Maybe we can get you something on stage, where no one can see that."

See, I had a burn scar on my chin from having spilled Drano on my face as a baby. I almost died. When I got a little older, my parents made a show of offering to get it fixed, but in that "Your only wise decision is to not do that" kind of way. Again, mostly my step-dad, but my mom went along with him. 

So, I instantly gave up on that, and over the years, satisfied my urge to perform in a variety of other ways. I was a stand-up comic for awhile, I did some improv, I sang whenever I got the chance. Doing TV for cable news is its own form of performance and escape.

If I had gotten that movie, it would have changed my life, and I bet I wold have been good in it, but looking back now, I didn't deserve it. The only work I ever did on my acting was to dream.

So, it was with all that in mind that I remembered my cast photo for MASH, and that I was the only actor who was photographed without my costume or makeup.

At the time, I didn't even think to ask, because it was my first cast photo, and when I saw the program, I just figured I must have been the first one to go, and they had decided to do makeup and costumes after the fact. I didn't care, it was a nice picture. I didn't really give it another thought until today.

Then, I saw Chez's rant about Scarlett Johansson and "Ghost in the Shell," and I thought, gee, I hope nobody ever digs up a picture of me in MASH. See, the role I played was "Ho-Jon," the "Korean houseboy," who had lines like this:

HO-JON Good morning, Captain Pierce and Captain Forrest.

HAWKEYE You can cut the bow.

HO-JON I have not understood what you means.

HAWKEYE (demonstrating bow) That. It's out of the act.

He and Duke remove their outer clothing during the ensuing:

HO-JON Because is not democrash? All peoples created equal?

DUKE Hey, you been sneaking some reading outside the frigging Bible!

HO-JON I have great interest for America, his peoples and his custom.

 So, of course, I did the whole play in full yellow-face and eye makeup, and amazed everyone in the 98 percent white audience who met me that I wasn't actually Korean, because they obviously were experts on Korean culture as well as democrash. 

Then I remembered that cast photo, and the penny dropped. They didn't want me in  the program in makeup because it would have been offensive as fuck. At the time, I didn't give it a second thought because I was still getting used to racism against black people. I didn't realize there was any other kind.

The adults obviously did, though, and don't ask me how they managed to know that on one hand, and yet trot me out live to stereotype my way through a whole play. There always is a weird sort of self-conscious quality to light, casual racism, like the way someone will look around before they tell the Afroturf joke.

The realization doesn't really do any good or any harm at this point, but it is fascinating how dots can connect across time like that, and how transporting they can be.