Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned

Indeed for anyone who caught a firsthand earful of the chants of "slave" and "faggot" that exile protesters greeted Los Van Van concertgoers with, it's transparently obvious the most virulent critiques of cultural exchange with Cuba have as much to do with race and sexual identity as they do with feelings for Fidel. It's a theme that's sure to become even more prominent in the days approaching Fornes and Carbonell's gig. "Fornes was very protective of gays in Cuba, and gay people haven't forgotten that. They're going to play a big part in this concert," Casals says. He adds warmly: "I have friends who are making special dresses so they can go to the show looking just like Fornes."

Here's a cautionary tip to any of el exilio's would-be Falangists planning their protests: Be very careful who you start tossing eggs at outside the show. Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned.

Rosita Fornes, the Cuban Judy Garland, heads for Miami as el exilio warms up its megaphones
Rosita Fornes, the Cuban Judy Garland, heads for Miami as el exilio warms up its megaphones

Buena Vista Disappearing Act: Few groups better personify the rise of Cuban chic than the Buena Vista Social Club, whose leading lights are currently working their way through a sold-out tour that takes in virtually every city in America. Every city but Miami, that is. After the Los Van Van public brouhaha, a February 2000 date at the Jackie Gleason Theater featuring Buena Vista singer Ibrahim Ferrer and pianist Ruben Gonzalez was pulled by that band's ringleader, Juan de Marcos -- at the elderly musicians' insistence. Explains Debbie Ohanian, who had originally booked the show: "Even if nothing happened, the older band members just don't want to be playing in a police state with security everywhere. It makes them uncomfortable, especially if there's a mob of protesters outside. They don't want to put themselves through that." As a consolation though, de Marcos has promised to bring the Afro-Cuban All Stars (the other Ry Cooder assemblage, and Buena Vista sister act) to the Beach next April. The unspoken thinking seems to be that should all hell break loose at a Miami performance, the much younger All Stars can do something the Buena Vista octogenarians can't: run away.

This post-Van Van "two steps forward, one step back" mood means city officials shouldn't hold their breath on the Latin Grammys being held here anytime soon. Grammy officials (who are insisting on the inclusion of Cuban artists in both the awards process and ceremony) are unlikely to go for the compromise offer of "We'll let you sleep in Miami, but you have to schlep up to Fort Lauderdale for the show."

MIDEM also seems to be a victim of this attitude, with the music-industry conference currently in limbo for the year 2000. A self-censoring booking policy on Cuban acts may have appeased the exile community, but not the conference's international attendees, who seem confused about MIDEM's resulting lack of focus. (It's a Latin-music conference! Without any Cubans -- one of the hottest trends in Latin music.) Ironically protests about Cuban participation in MIDEM may end in an economic windfall for ... Cuba. As Alberto Segua, president of the Madrid-based Manzana Discos label, complained to Billboard magazine: "If [MIDEM] does not get a move on to sort this out, then the focus for Latino music is likely to move to Cuba, with its annual Cubadisco trade fair."

If you screen it, they will come. Several weeks ago Kulchur wished aloud for the Gables's Bill Cosford Cinema to open up the floodgates to the "new" French New Wave, and the onslaught of wonderful films taking on the aesthetic challenge originally laid down by auteurs such as Godard, Truffaut, and Eustache. Prayers are thankfully answered over the next month, when the Cosford screens a host of truly stellar French pictures. This weekend sees the return of Benoît Jacquot's A Single Girl, easily one of the decade's best, with Virginie Ledoyen's breathtaking turn as a young woman crashing through her first day as an adult on the job in a high-rise Paris hotel. In terms of voyeuristic attention holding, A Single Girl easily trumps The Real World, and its trance-inducing camerawork builds to a sublime payoff. Ledoyen returns the weekend of November 26 in 1997's Jeanne and the Perfect Guy, a dreamily surreal musical that more than one critic has likened to a cross between The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Rent. Neither of those productions, however, had anything like Jeanne's sly and pointedly cutting attitude toward sexual candor. Also slated is Claude Chabrol's 1960 classic (from the first Wave) Les Bonnes Femmes, with its bittersweet portrait of four young women yearning for transcendence from their bourgeois plodding, as well as this year's cult classic in the making, Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train. For more information call 305-284-4861 or hop over to the Cosford's Website at www.miami.edu/cosford.html.

Send your music news, local releases, and general gunk to Brett Sokol at 2800 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137. Fax to 305-571-7678 or e-mail brett_sokol@miaminewtimes.com

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