Ok, admit it. Every year you watch the Rankin/Bass version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and so do I. It is one of those classic Christmas flicks that we watch every year along with A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. One thing that probably didn’t occur to you though, was that Rudolph was gay.
As a child growing up I identified with little gay Rudolph. I knew I was different from the other children at a young age, just like Rudolph. I was awkward at sports, kids “called me names” and did not want me to play in their “reindeer games”. I had a gal pal, like Clarice-still do today, and I had my share of other misfit friends like Hermy. While my father was alway supportive of me, Rudolph’s father is ashamed of him and even tries to “cover up” his flamboyant tendencies. Even Santa in the beginning of the story is not supportive of poor Rudolph. Santa could be thought to represent the government, the religious right, or even mainstream society. One might even make the case that Yukon Cornelius would be known in gay culture as a “bear”. Bears are hairy, husky, usually bearded, gay men. Just as Rudolph, I have hung out with my share of Yukons.
Do I think that the creators really meant to portray Rudolph as a gay youth? Probably not, but I can assure you that the experiences and feelings that this character suffered have been felt by many a gay child. All children… whatever their difference… should be encouraged to “take flight” and express their natural “glow”.
Today John Fricke is 55. John Fricke is the world renowned author and expert on The Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland. I first met John in June of 1989 at the Judy Garland Fesival in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. He had just produced a great documentary, Judy Garland: The Concert Years, and was a featured guest speaker at the event. John was and is, one of the most personable and articulate people I have ever met. A group of us befriended him and spent evenings watching rare Judy Garland television appearances back at his hotel room using my old clunky VHS camrecorder. John would give us a history about the appearance and speak of Judy with great knowledge and reverence. Over the years John and I became friends and I have a special place in my heart for this man. Happy Birthday John!
Recommended Books by John Fricke:
What a great show! I just watched my first episode tonight of Supernanny and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t think I would with all the stupid promos I saw for it. The nanny, Jo Frost, is quite good and seems to really know her stuff. She takes a deep look at the family dynamics and is very aware of the messages we send our children. I expected a piece of fluff, but found myself fascinated by the psychology of it all. The way our parents handle the simplest things really can affect how we turn out as adults. It should be required watching for all parents and parents to be.
Tonight I saw the touring company of The Lion King, at the Providence Performing Arts Center. What can I say? I must be insane. I didnâ€™t like it. Maybe it is because I really loved the animated film and know it so wellâ€¦or maybe itâ€™s because I have seen two staged shows of it at Walt Disney Worldâ€¦one of them, even with puppets!
Firstly, I really had a hard time figuring out whether I should look at the actor or the puppet. I found myself longing for an all puppet showâ€¦where I couldnâ€™t see the actors, or an all actor show, like Cats. I also didnâ€™t like the fact that the puppet/costumes were inconsistent throughout the different characters. For instance, the lions had intricate headpieces (especially Scar); while the lionesses had faces that sat on top of their heads. I also couldnâ€™t figure out why Mufasa and Simba didnâ€™t have claws, when Scar had them on his hands, or should I say paws. See what I mean! And why do lions pull out swords when they fight, and then only sometimesâ€¦oh I am so confused!
My next gripe is that I feel that the new songs lay there like lead! For the most part, they were uninspiring and in my opinion slowed down the pace of the show. While I am on the subject of songs I would also say that there is way too much â€œSwahiliâ€ or whatever the language many of the songs were in. While the voices were pretty, I have no idea what a good portion of several of the numbers were about. Sure, give me some African flavor, but pleaseâ€¦I only know English!
From an acting standpoint, the show is a challenge. How do you act and not just come across as just indicating thought and action when you have a puppet in your hand? I think you donâ€™t. I felt that there was very little real communicating between the actors on stage, probably do to the fact that they have to concentrate on making the puppets indicate that they are the ones communicating. Puppet and actor onstage together just cancel each other out in my opinion. This splitting of focus keeps the audience at bay and we are just not pulled into the story.
There was also far too much, what I like to call, Uncle Tomâ€™s Cabin staging, in reference to the ballet in the musical The King and I. Many characters run in place, react to unseen forces and the whole time I am thinking l am watching someone act out something at a charades party.
Did I like anything? Letâ€™s seeâ€¦some of the costumes where quite clever and colorful. I especially liked the woman/panther costume, her head controlled the pantherâ€™s head and it was really a cool design. Some of the staging was interesting. The wildebeest stampede was very clever given the limitations of using a stage. The voices were fine for the most part, but the principal actors seemed to not have much emotion behind their songs. There was a lot more life and enthusiasm from the chorus. The one exception I would say was the women who played Rafeeki, she was first rate all around.
Well thatâ€™s my impression. Yes, I know that it won a ton of Tony awards and thousands have seen the show and loved it. I also know that I have seen a lot of theatre, both on Broadway and off, and that this particular show was a challenge for me to stay awakeâ€¦ and from the 3rd row no less! Perhaps if it were a different story, and not from an animated film that I know very well I might have enjoyed it more.
I donâ€™t think so.
I am in the process of transferring the entire series of episodes to DVD. I really enjoy this show. Patty Duke really gets to do a lot in this series. Who knew that she had such a miserable childhood. So may child stars have been through so much.
This is my mother’s book of poems. You can order it here.
Three Wishes. What a great show! I have tears streaming down my face.