A Strange Loop

sm03This morning I woke up to starting writing. As is my habit, I first checked my email. There were two new emails; both from a singer/performer I admire and have been friendly with and worked with once in the past under a rather difficult set of circumstances. The subject line of the first one read “favor.” The subject line of the second read “re: favor.” I thought, “oh, how nice! I haven’t seen [redacted] for like 2 years and now [pronoun redacted] is reaching out to me for something!” Well, actually that was my second thought. My first thought was “I haven’t heard from [redacted] in such a long time so this is probably one of those ‘I’m-in-a-foreign-country-and-need-money” spam scams. Either way, I clicked on it and read this:

Can you please take my name off [song title redacted] video?

I bristled. This is not the first time this has happened.

2 years ago, I put on a concert at the Beechman Theater called Good Clean Music: A Michael R. Jackson Song Thing. It was an evening I put up in response to a certain amount of backlash I encountered as I prepared for a concert I put up 3 years ago at Joe’s Pub called So Fucking Gay: Another Michael R. Jackson Song Thing. In the program for Good Clean Music I explained in a note entitled Why Good Clean Music?:

In terms of why “Good Clean Music” specifically, one would need to understand the number of times I’ve been told that a.) I use so/too much profanity, b.) I write about sex so/too much, c.) my lyrics have no emotional core, or to a lesser extent that d.) I write too much pointedly gay themed material. To that last point, I will say that about a year ago, I presented “So Fucking Gay: A Michael R. Jackson Song Thing” on National Coming Out Day at Joe’s Pub and it was the toughest concert I have ever together. Not because of the administrative difficulty, which I have come to expect, but because it was the first time I encountered actors telling me that their agents didn’t want them to sing my material. Or that even though they had happily sung for me before, their agents wanted me to take their names off a youtube clip of them singing a particular song so they could reposition their brand or that they would sing one “gay” song but not another. And I get it. The ensemble of a non-Equity regional tour of Hairspray is calling. Ooh, burn.

Part of the context for that is that while I was preparing for So Fucking Gay, among the many calamitous things that happened, another singer who I had worked with on Dirty Laundry, my first public New York City concert at Ars Nova in 2008, called me out of the blue, and again, when this happened—and to be fair, this singer couldn’t have known—I was in an extremely emotional fragile state and seeing [possessive pronoun redacted] on the caller ID of my then flip phone filled me with boundles delight. We hadn’t spoken in a number of years and I thought that it was the universe’s way of letting me know that the adversity I was facing with So Fucking Gay was not for naught. Imagine my surprise when it was the singer asking me to please take down a youtube video of a song [pronoun redacted] had sung for me 4 (FOUR) years prior because [possessive pronoun redacted] agents were trying to re-brand [possessive pronoun redacted] for I dunno, superstardom—who the fuck knows? I was devastated and angry but I sweetly agreed over the phone and made the video private and then promptly unfriended this person on Facebook. Up until then, I had operated from the position that I needed to give everyone the benefit of the doubt—that I needed to stand aside and not take these kinds of things so personally because well, you know, it is commercial theater and who am I to ruin the careers of these burgeoning superstars with my confrontational material? But I decided in 2010 to take a stand. I vowed from there forward that I was drawing a line in the sand with performers who do my work. I decided: “I’m gonna be a pimp walkin’ musical theater asshole too!” You cannot have it both ways with me. Either you’re cool with my work or you’re not. And in the end, it’s like Emily Dickinson wrote:

“I’m nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody – too?”

I opened the second email:

In fact, I would rather you take it down and repost without my name in the credits. I respect your work and I was happy to participate in the performance but don’t want my name attached to this video online. BTW not singling you out– I make the same request whenever someone posts vids of me doing their work without my permission

Okay, fair. I didn’t ask for permission when I put up this video three years ago. And I haven’t been in the regular practice of doing so because all of the singers I have worked with have been friends who have been happy to be associated with my music. So I guess at this point, I know in a very real way, that that isn’t as universally true as I’d like it to be and I will make it a point to start asking more regularly.

In some ways this specific person asking me to take down the youtube video is random but not totally surprising—[pronoun redacted] had initially balked at [possessive pronoun redacted] name being in any press materials for So Fucking Gay because being associated with something so flagrant and uncompromisingly homosexual might ruin mainstream performance opportunities this performer, (who is, in fact publicly homosexual or more publicly homosexual than not from where I sit) might have in the future. That email came less than 24 hours before the phone call from my other redacted friend. But it worked out. The singer changed [possessive pronoun redacted] mind and agreed to be in the show with [possessive pronoun redacted] name in press materials. The performance happened and the youtube video went up.

I’m currently working on a musical theater piece entitled A Strange Loop. A Strange Loop is about a black gay man who trusts people so little that he’s created an inner world of disappointment that ultimately he controls. He has only himself as a reference for the pain and suffering of life and love and beyond. Like a cactus, he retreats inward for his emotional sustenance. He does not reach out his hand to you assholes for validation. He already knows you won’t give it and even if you do, you’ll just take it back somehow and knowing that fills him with a strange sense of power.

The other night I was with my White Woman and we stumbled back across this aspect of myself. With tears welling in my eyes, I told her about how I rarely acknowledge that I need nurturing beyond myself.

I am tough and I am resilient but I need nurturing beyond myself. I am not a cactus.

Uncharted: Ars Nova Kickoff Concert!

In gigs by MikeJack / February 17, 2013 / 0 Comments


Hey ya’ll!

On Tuesday night at 8pm, I have the pleasure of participating in a concert at Ars Nova that kicks off my participation in the Uncharted Writer’s Group with composer Anna Jacobs. It’s kind of an official kickoff of our collaboration on a musical adaptation of the 2007 movie “Teeth.”We’ll be presenting a song from that as well as a new standalone song that we’ll be singing together! Helping us on the other songs out are Cortney Wolfson and Brad Greer.  Katya Stanislavskaya on keys.

We’ll also be joined by 5 other awesome writers:

Julia Meinwald, Gordon Leary, James Sasser, Charles Vincent Burwell, and Shaina Taub.

Tickets are $15 and it promises to be an exciting evening!

Click here for tickets.

See you there!


Freak of Nature (A Valentine’s Day riff)

In lovesexdatinggross by MikeJack / February 14, 2013 / 0 Comments

sm03I don’t know jack about romantic relationships. I’m 32 years old and I’ve never been in one so obviously I feel like a freak of nature everyday of my life, but even more so on Valentine’s Day. The words “you gotta put yourself out there, man” are permanently tattooed on the inside of my eyelids when I go to sleep at night. When friends ask me “are you seeing anyone?” I become immediately defensive because the answer has never been “yes.” At my yearly physical, my doctor always asks: “why aren’t you dating?” One year I challenged him on this by asking him out. He said no. For this and other reasons, my experience of being a single person is different than most. I’m not just in between men wondering which one better fits the feng shui of my beach house. I am a single man. The fact that I am a single gay man even further magnifies the feeling of being a freak of nature.

I had the recent unfortunate experience of being at the most hallowed of gay white male institutions: Sunday brunch, where after several mimosas, we ended up casually chatting over our grindrs about which guys messaged us, which guys we messaged, who we met at [insert name of gay bar here], and how much they ejaculated on us once we got them home. I of course, lied as I always do, about the breadth of my experiences so that I could feel like I fit in. Since that brunch, I’ve left grindr. Since that brunch, I’ve retreated even further into my version of singlehood because I can no longer even pretend I’m “that” gay guy because I’m not. And when I do pretend, I’m perpetrating a fraud of the highest order. The truth is I’m “this” kind of gay guy: I watch a lot of dissatisfying white gay porn. I eat ALL of the time. Most Saturday nights you will find me at home drinking red wine while manically updating my Facebook status with some obscure youtube clip I found of say, a 1983 episode of the now defunct soap opera Guiding Light like this one (so good!)

But like Sophia Petrillo, I digress.

I had originally planned to post this rumination a few months ago in response to this post by blogger Rich Juzwiak because it serves as another example of the funhouse mirror I look into and feel so alienated by when I think of myself dating, sleeping around, and/or being a “successful” gay man in a relationship (even one that is unhealthy or temporary). People who know me think that I’m pretty crazy. I am pretty crazy. I’m totally weird. But I also have very simple needs. And that might actually be the weirdest thing about me. I just want to be with someone who likes loves likes loves and respects me, and whom I like love and respect in return. Over the past year, my therapist (whom I affectionately call The White Woman though not to her face) and I have determined that I don’t trust anyone. When I say I don’t trust anyone, I don’t mean that I actively distrust anyone. It just means that historically, I have been someone who has only ever relied upon himself for his own emotional needs. While this has kept me safe, it has also kept me isolated. In this way, you could think of me as an autistically high functioning lonely person.

“You gotta put yourself out there, man.” I know. But I also know that I have a friend who now lives in the Bay area where he and his fiancée are planning a wedding and subsequent life together. Before they moved, I watched him propose to the fiancée on a rooftop in Brooklyn and was completely overwhelmed and broken in two by the simplicity and the ease of their love for one another—the way in which it was so obvious to them that they should be together and that if they should ever be apart, they would be well adjusted enough to be apart and know with certainty that they could find happiness with other people. Neither of them ever experienced the chronic low grade panic that lives in the pit of my stomach that I will never get over my fear of rejection, my hatred of my body, my closet vanity, my daddy issues, my mommy issues, my self-protectiveness, my sexual inexperience, and just be a person “who needs peopllllllllle … people who need peopllllllllle …” who accepts himself as he is and trusts that someone else could do the same and not just trusts it, but seeks it out again and again as necessary until he finds and claims it as his own.

I have only recently come to the conclusion that I am not a piece of shit. And so I recognize that it’s baby steps toward whatever romantic destiny may (or may not!) lie before me. I can only hope that I am able to sustain the bravery to keep moving forward once I finally decide I’m ready to move beyond the womb of my closed heart.

The Wrong Note Parade – Wednesday November 14th @ 6PM

In news by MikeJack / October 29, 2012 / 0 Comments

Hey ya’ll!

On November 14th @ 6PM, I’ll be holding court at the Cornelia Street Café with the help of the awesome Rachel Peters for a double billed concert called “The Wrong Note Parade.” We’ll be presenting some of our solo works as well as pieces we’ve written together. We describe the show as such:

Two composer/lyricists: Michael R. Jackson and Rachel Peters: He’s a down-to-the-marrow confessional singer/songwriter. Her unique mix of soulful and cerebral walks the line between opera and musical theatre. Their merry ensemble of performers will sing all the thoughts you’re afraid to say out loud and set your moral compass spinning. Not for the faint of heart–for mature audiences only.

Featuring: Alex de Suze, Karla Faggard, Liz Lark Brown, Onyie Nwachukwu, Jonathan Raviv, Jared Joseph; Katya Stanislavskaya on keys, Colter McCorkindale on guitar.

Cornelia Street Café

29 Cornelia Street

New York, NY 10014

$10 cover + $10 food/drink minimum

Call 212-989-9319 for reservations!

Doors open at 5:45PM.

Click here for a link to the Cornelia Street Cafe site and click here for directions to the Cornelia Street Café.

See you there!

Welcome to thelivingmichaeljackson.com take two

In personal by MikeJack / October 29, 2012 / 0 Comments

Somehow I knew this was going to happen.

About 2 months ago I left Facebook because I started to consider it one of the many ruts I’d fallen into in the last 31 years 6 months for a number of reasons, some of which were artistic, some of which were personal (as if there’s any difference!). I got it into my head that if I left the site, my internal paradigm would shift and I would suddenly become more prolific and creative than ever, generating musical after musical, song after song, blog post after blog post, and thus shift into the true adult phase of my life where I was making the bold artistic contributions I was born to make.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. Nature abhors a vacuum. Without the microphone and instant audience response of Facebook, I didn’t so much write musical after musical (or update this site) as much as I watched hours and hours of barebacking porn, which of course I had already been doing along while religiously updating my Facebook status over and over again. Le sigh.

I had an epiphany recently that while I can now identify where I stand artistically, I have only become less clear about what kind of career is available to me. I love music and I love theater but the industry just depresses the fuck out of me. Given the kind of art I want to make, it often seems futile to try to storm the gates due to how well guarded they are by those who endlessly, endlessly champion and/or produce musicals that may stir all of two emotions in you, (happy or sad) and rarely attempt to capture a single brain cell.

And it’s so funny because you could go to fandango.com and find such diversity in movies you might want to see that your head would spin clear off its shoulders. You could walk through the Met and see everything from Native American clay pots to Salvador Dali surrealist paintings and beyond. Meanwhile, google “heartfelt” + “new musical” and see what you find. For shits and giggles, add the word “fun” and see what that turns up.

And just to be clear, I take no exception with a musical being “heartfelt” (though what a broad and all encompassing word!) but I do find it puzzling the extent to which it seems to be essential to advertise it as such as if to do otherwise is to suggest to audiences that the shows they will be seeing are going to rape and murder them in the middle of the night.

I don’t know why I find this so infuriating depressing. Especially since I know that it’s all motivated by money.

But by hook or by crook, I’m back at it. The down side is that I’m sure to alienate scads of people with my art making (which includes this space as well so visitors to this site be forewarned: I do not censor and I do not mince words).  The up side is that I will excite at least one person with the boundaries and envelopes I plan to push musically, lyrically, and artistically overall: myself.

Oh, and for good or for ill, one of the places I push envelopes the best is Facebook, to which I have gleefully and crackheadedly returned today. Find me if you dare.

Welcome to thelivingmichaeljackson.com!

In blog by MikeJack / July 4, 2012 / 0 Comments

Well, hello … and welcome to my home. Notice the slit?

Wocka wocka.

Happy 4th of July! Welcome to thelivingmichaeljackson.com!

I am so happy to be finally declaring my Independence from Facebook Earth today and making a second little home here on the moon in cyberspace.

Introduction: Unlike the deceased, I am the Living Michael Jackson, AKA Michael R and I am, in no particular order: a composer, lyricist, playwright, Afro ‘merican, sodomite, and all around troublemaker.

I decided to launch thelivingmichaeljackson.com in order to centralize how I share news about myself as a musical theater writer and playwright but also to provide a more comprehensive outlet for me to share whatever is on my mind, so on this site, you will find in no short order: news about upcoming shows I’m presenting or a part of, links to other artists and collaborators that I endorse, music I’m writing, shows that I’m writing, shows that I’m NOT writing, bloggy (and warning: occasionally NSFW or frankly, not-safe-for-LIFE) thoughts and feelings that I’m having about myself and/or the world, some light trash talking about celebrities and God knows what else.

May thelivingmichaeljackson.com also be a safe space for all the world’s Michael Jacksons to gather and commiserate about how liberated we all feel to be able to reclaim our identities without our most prominent citizen in the way. And now it can be told: I initiated the plot to get rid of old Wacko Jacko. Dr. Conrad Murray was nothing more than a convenient patsy. It was all me.

So armed with that knowledge, I invite you to take a look around, look at pictures, read my words, comment on stuff, fight with me, and buy sheet music! Let’s get this party started!