I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last posted on this here Hiss Fit.
I also can’t believe it’s been three years since singer Amy Winehouse passed away. I wrote the article below, which was published in the X-Meth section of Frontiers Magazine (uh, that would be the old Frontiers mag–not to be confused with the new one).
Anyway, it’s kerazy busy up in here, so I figured this would be worth a re-post in remembrance of Amy’s death.
Her legacy lives.
FADE TO WHITE: GOODBYE AMY WINEHOUSE
BY PAULO MURILLO
My ass was in rehab when Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” song came out in 2007. She gave the world her middle finger with a defiant no-no-no to recovery, while I had surrendered to a suffocating “OK. Fine. Yes.”
Rehab seemed to be all the rage in ‘07. It was the year that a bald Britney Spears went bonkers before checking herself into a recovery facility. There were the news caps of Paris and Lindsay partying their panties off (literally) before being busted under the influence and then whisked away to a fancy dry house in Malibu. It was also the same year that Anna Nicole Smith died from an accidental drug overdose. And it all went down while I was in The House.
We weren’t allowed to listen to music in rehab. Music got us into our crazy heads when we needed to be in the present moment for those miserable first steps of recovery. However, we still got snippets of current music from passing cars, grocery stores and so forth. Of course, the “Rehab” song did not go unnoticed with its annoying message about how they tried to make her go to rehab, but she won’t go-go-go, which felt like a twisted joke for those of us on the mend.
I hated the song. And it wasn’t until I transitioned from The House that my friend gave me a burned copy of Amy’s Back to Black CD. I was shocked to find the “Rehab” song in that collection, which I always thought was sung by a black man with a big voice, and not some scrawny British chick. I fell in love with that album. It was like a using dream. I understood this woman’s journey. Hers were the sort of songs I would play after coming down from a mean run. The power of her voice was from another time and her lyrics were too close to home with their dark themes about drinking, drugging, loving, sexing, cheating, fuck me pumps and being no damn good. You had to live it to truly appreciate the value of her art and the emotion in her scratchy voice. She was raw and edgy and rough and messy and brilliantly talented. And she broke my heart.
She was one of us without a doubt…just another alcoholic/addict in the grips of a continuing and progressive illness whose ends are always the same: jails, institutions or death. It’s so sad Amy met the latter fate. I guess no big shocker for most. And yet, it’s still so heart wrenching to lose somebody young and talented to the disease that is addiction.
The twisted joke inevitably gets turned on her. If Karen Carpenter had eaten that damn sandwich, she and Mama Cass would still be alive today—And if Amy H. had only said, “Yes-yes-yes…”
For the addict/alcoholic who still suffers, we offer you a moment of silence. Maybe/hopefully Amy Winehouse didn’t die in vain.
HAPPY PRIDE FUCKERS!!!
Here’s a little throwback to LA Pride from the early crazy years. This has been published in the latest TLBG Pride issue of The Fight Magazine. I wore some pretty scandalous getups throughout the years as a big F.U. to anyone who had any problems with my being out and proud.
What are you wearing for this year’s TLGB Pride 2014? Or better yet, what are you NOT wearing?
Anyway, below is the article. A big thank you goes out to photographer Steven DeFalco for taking such a sassy photo of me from back in the day when sass was my middle name.
If the old West Hollywood Sports Connection (Erection/Infection) used to be a gay club back in its hey day in the 80′s and early 90′s (now it’s just a public gym known as 24-Sour Shitness), then The Athletic Club gym was pretty much an upscale gay oasis with its men-only policy that also lasted well into the mid-90s.
I remember The Athletic Club in West Hollywood back in the day.
The Athletic Club was located on the south-side corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Huntly Drive, next door to The Palms lesbian bar (closed, ya know) on the same block as The Sports Connection.
The place was smaller, more private and personal with a very pretentious setup. They offered a towel service when you walked through the door, which made a bitch feel mighty fancy back then. I recall the pool in the backyard being mostly for show. It was surrounded by palm trees and other greenery, which gave it some sort of gay resort appeal. The no-women rule allowed the place to offer rooftop sunbathing in the NUDE, so you best BELIEVE there was some serious splatter of man chowder on that poor, POOR sundeck.
That whorie little gym was notoriously known for its private little rooms with tanning beds, but mostly because the doors had locks on ‘em, which allowed some privacy when gays engaged in some man-on-man fornication. I believe the trick was to leave your door unlocked and pray that the right kind of man made his way inside and locked the door behind him. There was also a Café that was $5.00 too highly priced for the microwaveable crap they sold, and–oh yeah, they also offered some workout equipment…if you were into that sort of thing.
My co-workers from the Sports Connection and I would take our lunch break at the Café inside The Athletic Club when we could afford it. The bodies seemed to be way hotter at that smaller gym up the street. Buff gays walked around in their mesh spaghetti tank-tops during a time when brownish, fake-n-baked bleach blonde bitches ruled West Hollywood Land.
Of course, I’ve heard many different takes on the history of the two WeHo gyms located on what is now the heart of West Hollywood’s Boystown. The sports Connection used to be called The Beverly Hills Gym way back in the olden days. It used to be a men’s only club and there was a separate, smaller gym for women up the street. Somewhere along the historical lines, the gyms sort of switched roles; the men’s Beverly Hills Gym became the unisex Sports Connection and the women’s smaller gym would later became the men’s-only Athletic Club—or so the story would go according to word-of-mouth from some of the old members who used to give us a West Hollywood history lesson at the front desk.
The members also started rumors about how the gyms used to be owned by mobsters and they had gambling casinos in the gym’s basement where the men’s locker room is now located. One member told us that Bugsy Seigel came up with the blueprints for the development of Las Vegas in that basement, but I’m not so sure I believe all that nonsense (much).
I actually worked at The Athletic Club for a short while in a feeble attempt to jump ship after hearing rumors that the Sports Connection was sinking. One of the first things I was taught during my training, was how to dip into the register and pocket some money on the side from those daily workout passes and not get caught. The employees robbed that place straight out of business.
I remember the best part about working at that gay oasis, was washing those disgusting workout towels. The guys at the front desk used to fight over who took turns doing the laundry. I can explain: The washer and dryer were located in the basement. What the members didn’t know, was that there were open air vents that offered a very clear view into the men’s showers from the ground up. It was like that pervy Porky’s movie from back in the 80s, only waaayyy gay. I never felt too bad about seeing the members naked, because these guys were clearly putting on a show, judging from the deliberate lathering that went into their junkage, while facing the center of the main entrance so that everyone could see their private business–including those of us who were hiding in the basement. It got to a point where we stopped pretending to do laundry and the owners could never find us doing our duties at the front desk—peek-a-ru, I see you.
I hate that my flashbacks to these gyms always lead to stories about secret anonymous sex, but that’s just how the shit went down back then (don’t ask me, I don’t make the rules). I’ve shared about this before, but since this is a blog dedicated to The Athletic Club, I must share this again (in case you missed it). I’m talking about the time I walked in on two guys in a compromising 69 position. We were closing; during my walk-through, I ran into these two fools going at it inside a tanning bed (they forgot to lock the door). It was an older white guy (I was way young, so the gay seemed way old in his early 30′s) and this younger Latino trash (just kidding, but yeah, he was kinda trashy). The white guy was on his back. He had this ballsack hanging over his face when he looked up and saw me standing there with my hands on my hips. BUSSSTED!!! The other guy had his back turned to me, so he kept going at it–completely oblivious to being freshly busted by the penis patrol. The gringo tapped him to make him stop. They both climbed out of that polluted tanning bed (it wasn’t even on) and walked past me without saying a word. I was shocked, disgusted, embarrassed and turned on, all at the same time. I played it cool though and didn’t tattle on them. Boys will be boys.
The gym struggled to stay open. It was a little too exclusive for its own good. I remember the owners were friends with everyone, so everyone demanded discounts and free entries for their tag-alongs. Desperate times called for a lift on the ban on female members–not that women tore down the doors to join; they were only allowed to use the workout facilities, but would have to change into their workout clothes in a bathroom the size of a closet. The presence of women meant no more nudie sunbathing, which also meant no more gay oasis, and before too long the Athletic Club was no more. It became a World’s Gym in the mid-90′s. That shit show went out of business and stayed closed for a while and then it opened again as a World’s Gym, only to close down again–this time permanently. I vaguely remember some controversy surrounding the last owner and how he sold yearly membership contracts to the very last day it was open. The guy was cute and he was sweet, so the big stink was that he somehow took the money and ran with no legal prosecution. I’m not sure of the details, so don’t quote me on it.
Anyway, most people don’t really give a shit, but the old Athletic Club gym is one of those tiny specs of West Hollywood history. I certainly remember hanging out there, I was employed there, but for some reason I don’t remember ever working out there, which is telling as to why that space never heard the dropping of a single dumb bell again.
It remained empty for almost 15 years until it was bulldozed completely a few years ago.
And the rest as they say, is herstory.
PS: A special thanks to thehissfit reader Alan Light for allowing me to use his photos for this here blog. He’s a photographer who used to vacation in West Hollywood back in the 80′s and 90′s He documented his visits here and captured a lot of vintage West Hollywood moments. I can’t wait to share them with you in future blogs.
In case you missed it, here’s a piece I wrote about two boys who met via social media, fell in love, got married and then joined forces to help raise money for a good cause.
Luke Austin and Marcus Paglialoga are so annoying on account of they’re these super talented creative types who are young and good looking, they know it, they flaunt it, and they make no apologies about gratuitously losing their shirts (and their pants on occasion)–especially if their selfie will help raise money for their AIDS/LifeCycle campaign.
The boys are part of Wolf Pack, a “group of ambitious young professionals, dedicated to raising funds and awareness for exceptional life-changing organizations through adventure.” Being hot is not a prerequisite to join Wolf Pack, but hotness never hurt nobody, no how–especially when it comes to their common goal: ENDING HIV/AIDS.
Click here to donate and check out their individual stories.
Anyway, the Article “Mordern Love” came out in last month’s issue of The Fight Magazine.
Check it out.
BY PAULO MURILLO
THIS IS THE STORY of how Luke Austin—a male fashion and portraiture photographer from Sydney, Australia, and Marcus Paglialoga—a fashion designer based in West Hollywood, fell in love, via social media.
They first met on Instagram—the picture and video sharing social media application where you’re free to capture and share your most intimate images with the world.
They documented their courtship, using Instagram as a digital scrapbook, allowing themselves to be very public and vulnerable throughout their relationship—from the moment they met, to the times they’ve been apart, to their exchanges of wedding vows, to their date nights—it’s all been posted for public consumption.
As a result, they captured the hearts and the imaginations of thousands of young men from around the world, who follow their romance and are inspired by their messages of hope for true love, and living out and proud as gay men. Of course, being a hot young couple and posting shirtless selfies doesn’t hurt their following much either.
“Luke was planning a world photography tour which was set to start in Los Angeles,” Marcus told THE FIGHT. “He intended on staying in LA with me for three weeks—that quickly turned into eight weeks -and us falling in love. He continued on his trip around North America and then hit Europe for two months. It was during this time away from each other that we realized how much we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Six months ago he returned to me, and one month later we were married in West Hollywood.”
“People feel like they know us,” reveals Luke. “It’s like a reality show. People come up to us on the street and just start chatting about stuff that they would only know from Instagram.”
“We regularly receive fan mail, drawings of us, paintings, etc. Neither of us ever expected any of this, but are both extremely proud to shine a positive light on the community and young gay men trying to cope with the difficulties that can come with coming out of the closet and finding themselves in our community,” says Marcus.
To top it all off—these guys aren’t just shirtless hotties who merely flaunt their half-naked torsos and their love for each other down our Instagram accounts; they also use their social media powers for a good cause.
In 2013 Marcus and his friend Levi Foster formed Wolfpack—a group of friends who team up to raise money for AIDS/LifeCycle-a nonprofit event that stages a 7-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money, bring awareness and provide services to people living with HIV/AIDS.
This year, Wolfpack has doubled in size and has gone bicoastal with Foster now living in New York. They claim to have 160,000 Instagram followers combined. They already surpassed their goal of $50,000 in a month and now have their bare chests aimed at raising $73K.
“We offer shoutouts and post events we’re participating in and places where we’ll be and this is just the beginning of our fundraising,” Marcus reveals.
“This year, we’ll be holding a New York City benefit and a West Hollywood benefit in addition to hosting smaller events… We hosted an event at Fautline the other day, which turned out to be really good. We had a guy come bring us a $1,000 blank check for the cause. We’re going to utilize social media to push our funding as much as possible. It’s a group effort.”
In addition to raising money for AIDS/LifeCycle, and posting photos on Instagram, Mr. and Mr. Austin-Paglialoga also have demanding careers.
Luke is in the midst of putting together a book of portraits called the “Beau Book” with 200 photos he took over the summer last year at 12 cities across the world. The book is currently being pitched to several publishers.
Marcus is in the middle of showing his fall 2014 line for his label “Gypsie Junkies”—his women’s clothing line. The newlyweds have also been approached to do reality TV but the right project hasn’t come along.
“I feel extremely lucky that I’ve been able to find love so easily—and that it’s worked for us,” says Luke. “I’ve always really wanted the husband, the dog and the baby.”
“I’m such a home maker—it’s not even funny,” Marcus added. “I’ve always wanted the security and foundation of my own family and now we do have it and it’s pretty rad.”
AIDS/LifeCycle 2014 takes place June 1-7, 2014. For more information visit aidslifecycle.org.
To donate to Marcus Austin-Paglialonga’s AIDS/LifeCycle fund, visit: tofighthiv.org/goto/mpaglialonga.
To donate to Luke Austin-Paglialonga’s AIDS/LifeCycle fund, visit: tofighthiv.org/goto/lukeaustin.