Friday, March 7, 2008

An Open Letter to Rufus Wainwright:

photo by Mattias Clamer, via - added to this post after original publication

After all this time, after all this waiting, after all this psychological preparation, it strikes me as numbingly unsurprising that I resort to this outlet to reach out to you. Maybe it's more appropriate than I'm letting myself think.

I didn't get to meet you, despite my efforts. I didn't get to tell you all I wanted to, which was no measly "You were amazing." Because Fate had other plans, here it is: Bare, and deeply from the heart: Everything I could ever want to say to you (though I could probably discover more), that I would never (even if given the opportunity) be able to adequately verbalize. (Apologies in advance: I am a crazy person.)

Last night, at the Marjorie Luke Theater in Santa Barbara, I had the immense pleasure of hearing you sing your own songs live for the very first time. This is no small accomplishment; after almost 7 years of loving you, adoring your music, being inspired by your lyrics and moved by your miraculous voice, Fate had always worked against me to ensure that I could not see you. Whether it was a 104 degree fever, a choir concert on the same night, being out of town, being without transportation, or just finding out too late, I wasn't sure if I'd ever get to see you. I thought I was doomed to never experience your always comedic and lovably diva-esque presence for myself -- no shoddy bootleg recording would do forever.

Even seeing you perform Judy in LA, a football field away, your face projected on giant screens was only enough to stir up teary emotions of "Oh my gosh, he's right down there"... But they weren't your songs. They weren't the words and the music that had been fixtures in my life through so many years, and so many issues. Would I ever get to hear "Foolish Love" or "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" in person??

And finally I did. And Rufus, it was everything I had expected. I didn't think it would be possible for me to love you more, and yet... it came about with a surprising lack of effort.

You don't need an ego boost, but I am not in the business of lying, and it would be a lie for me to underplay what it is you mean to me -- what feelings seeing you sing these songs ignites in me -- and truly emphasizing your brilliance, because brilliance is what it is, and you are unparalleled. How can I express this enough?

When you opened with "Grey Gardens," I thought I would bruise my friend's hand from excitement; when you followed it up with "The Maker Makes" (and thoughts of Heath Ledger flashed through my mind), the tears just started to fall; when you burst out with "Beauty Mark" I thought I would pee my pants, and by the time you hit "Peach Trees" I thought I was going to faint. Then the cycle started over; very song thereafter brought forth some eruption of emotion that the poor middle-aged man next to me was not prepared to endure. He had no idea what he was getting himself in to by sitting next to me.

With every song you sang, some extremely genuine variation of "This is my favorite!" rushed from between my lips, and I found myself effortlessly following along with every word, silently moving my mouth as I took in every Rufus-inflection and every syllable of Rufus-poetry.

Listening to your music transports me. I hear "April Fools," one of my absolute favorites from the days of my young love for you, and I am a Junior in high school again: It's winter and it's cold and I'm sitting in my car in the school parking lot, waiting to be forced into class and soaking up every moment of excitement that the simple phrase of "Oh, what a shame that your pockets did bleed" pushes through me; I hear "The Consort" and I fall into a sleepy, meditation stupor, immediately seeing myself in the passenger's seat of my father's Explorer, heading over the Bay Bridge towards San Francisco through a sheet of falling rain and wishing the moment would never end.

Listening to your lyrics, despite the poetry that is not meant to be fully understood and the personal commentaries on a life I am by no means part of, it makes me feel as though I know you and understand you. I hear "Go or Go Ahead" and I think of your struggle with drugs, and the period of your life that I followed from afar, loving you and worrying about you and hoping that you would be happy, and simultaneously feeling astounded that a song so beautiful could come out of using crystal meth; I hear "Dinner at Eight" and tears come to my eyes, thinking of how terribly complex and heart-breaking your relationship with your father must be; I hear "Matinee Idol" and I feel as though you and I unite in our sadness at the loss of River Phoenix, another idol of mine, whose loss I did not feel (in my young age) until your song for him was already available to the world; I hear "11:11" and I know what true poetry is: It touches the soul and it inspires and I know -- I feel -- that "So patch up your bleeding hearts and put away your posies, I'm gonna have a drink before I ring around the rosies with you" is being sung directly to me. (This 'lyrics' section could go on for ages, so I'll leave it at that.)

Listening to your voice transports me to the highest echelon of musical experience. The passion of your voice at the opening (and, let's face it: during every second of) "Agnes Dei" forces my eyes closed and my head to swoon in response to what must be audio-ecstasy; the swoon of your voice on the words "dove" and "surrender" and "sin" in "I'm Not Ready To Love" cause an embarrassing rise in pleasure throughout my entire body; and the precision of your voice in "Between My Legs" when you're singing "I can't fake it" and the astounding power of your range in, well, every one of your songs (whether it's high in "Vicious World" or low in "This Love Affair"!) reassures me over and over that you are, without a shred of doubt in my mind, the most skilled singer/songwriter currently alive and working today.

What a rambling, mushy mess I am. But I told you I wouldn't lie, so mushy I must continue to be, even if slightly hyperbolic.

Rufus: I have been enamored with your voice since the moment I heard you for the very first time with "Complainte De La Butte" from Moulin Rouge in the spring of 2001; I have been addicted to your music the second "Poses" hit my ear in episode 16 of the second season of "Queer as Folk," and I was a goner the instant "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" came trickling over my car speakers the first time I put in your CD.

There aren't enough of your songs to sate my hunger for them. Even with 14 -- an entire album-full! -- songs on various soundtracks over the last 10 years, from The Myth of Fingerprints to Meet the Robinsons, there still isn't enough. Even with another full album's worth of unreleased recorded songs, another of guest appearances, and another two of unreleased, bootlegged live songs, I can't get enough. You could release a song-a-day for a century and I still think I'd be yearning for more.

Your music is magic to me.

You have been with me through everything: High school and college, friendships and family, and every note and lyric has stuck with me and filled me up in ways I know I can probably never really grasp myself. Until the day I die, you will be my favorite singer and the greatest artist in my world. I don't know what I would be today without you, who I would be. I shudder to think.

I will see you in concert again, and this time I won't let you get away so easily. I, of course, want all 7 of my CD inserts signed, and the posters and my autograph book, too, as well as a picture that can capture the moment forever. But even if all I can say is a resounding "Thank You" I will feel complete and honored to have been able to verbalize even just that to you.

Something tells me I wouldn't come off too well if all of this insanity came pouring out of me, though I'm certain you've experienced crazier.

So until I can tell you face-to-face: Thank you. I am so utterly happy that you are happy now, that you have found the love you've always wanted with Jorn, and that you are off to write your opera Prima Donna that has been waiting so many years to emerge. I will be there to see it in New York when it arrives.

You have meant the world to me.

Your most loyal and far-away devotee,


  1. was my recording really that shoddy?

    oh i miss you too much! i wanna sit and listen to rufus with you! xxx

  2. that wasn't in reference to your video, hon. i was talking about all the bootleg audios i have of rufus' past concerts.

    i have many, but seeing him live is (as you know) magical.