E. Winter Tashlin

Gay Men's Bodies, Online Dating, and Performance Art With Lucas Brooks

Filed By E. Winter Tashlin | February 07, 2013 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living
Tags: body image, gay men, Lucas Brooks, Lucky Charming, online dating, performance

Lucas Brooks is a Brooklyn-based writer, performer, and sex educator whose popular blog TopToBottomNYC features everything from sex-toy reviews to sharp-witted insight into gay life in the city that never sleeps.
In addition to blogging and being a fabulous boylesque performer under the nom de guerre of "Lucky Charming," Lucas is also the writer, creator, and star of VGL 5'4 Top, a one man show that humorously and insightfully takes on gay male body image, online dating, and of course, sex.

On the heels of rave reviews at the SF Fringe Festival, VLG 5'4" Top will be running as part of FRIGID New York later this month.

Amidst all the excitement and work of getting ready for a new show, not to mention all his other activities, Lucas spared the time to answer some questions about performance art and the subjects at the heart of VLG 5'4" Top.

[E. Winter Tashlin] Let's start at the beginning, can you break down your show's title for us? What does VGL 5'4" Top mean, and why that particular title?

[Lucas Brooks] VGL - Very Good Looking
5'4" - My height
Top - My preferred position in the bedroom.

It's a parody of the common tag lines found on gay dating profiles. The joke is also the point of the whole story: most people would laugh at the thought of a short guy being a top, but I am here to tell you that the way I look doesn't mean a thing about what I like or what I'm capable of.

[EWT] Body image in the gay men's community is a big topic, what made you want to take it on for your first show?

[LB] I first created "VGL" for my senior thesis four years ago. At that time, it's something that was on my mind a lot. Since I moved to New York, I felt like I fit in a lot more than I did in my hometown in Michigan, but I still struggled a lot with the gay community because I didn't possess the heavily worked out body that the gay mainstream finds so desirable. The summer before my senior year I was an intern at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan, and I got to see a lot of different aspects of the gay community, and discovered that there's a lot more to the gay scene then just the expensive clothes and ripped, tanned bods the media highlights so excessively. I made it my mission to show the city, and ultimately the world, that I, along with hundreds of thousands of other people, also have the ability and the right to be perceived as beautiful.

[EWT] In your mind, are all body image issues in the community connected, or are there different categories/influences?

[LB] That's a very interesting question, and I'm not sure I have an answer to it. I do believe that almost everybody suffers (or has suffered) from body image issues...insecurity is a natural human trait. I do think that differs in terms of where it comes from and how it's handled. Some take drastic measures to shape their bodies into what they think society wants, others embrace their bodies the way they. I don't think there's anything wrong with working out or dieting to attain the body that you want, I just think it's important to think about why you're doing it and whether you're doing it for you or for someone else.

[EWT] The online dating experience was a major factor in the creation of your show, do you think on the balance that sites like Grindr, Scruff, Manhunt, Adam4Adam, etc are positive or negative forces in gay dating, relationships, and culture?

[LB] I think the internet has played a hugely important role in the LGBT rights movement. It's provided a safe environment for us to connect with one another and form a community. Unfortunately, I think after a certain point we almost became too comfortable and began abusing the freedom we found in cyberspace, and instead of bonding with another we're dismissing our brethren simply because we don't want to have sex with them.

[EWT] As "Lucky Charming" you're a well known and popular boylesque performer in NYC. How do the topics you cover in VGL 5'4" Top dovetail into the boylesque world? And how's do the two different performance styles compare in your mind?

[LB] When people ask me how long I've been doing burlesque, I say it's been just under a year. But in a sense, I've been doing burlesque since I began my solo performance career four years ago. Burlesque has given me, and a lot of other people, an opportunity to be perceived as sex symbols despite having a less traditionally beautiful body type. It's essentially the same thing I've been going for with "VGL", only through dancing and stripping rather than talking for an hour.

[EWT] You've already had some great success with VGL 5'4" Top in on both coasts. Do you have any new up and coming projects that you're excited about?

[LB] This is a really big year for "VGL". After the FRIGID Festival is over, I'll be taking it to my first campus gig at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in April, and then to the Toronto Fringe Festival in July. When I get back from there, I'll probably try to get my second show "Fame Whore" back on it's feet, and/or start working on a third show. In the meantime, Lucky Charming is always growing, and will be performing in the New York Boylesque Festival in late April.

[EWT] Anything else you'd like people to know or that I didn't cover?

[LB] Despite the angry undertones of my answers in this interview, "VGL" is actually a very funny show. If you come to see the show, you aren't paying to see me stand on my soapbox and rant for an hour. It is just as much my goal to entertain you as it is to tell my story.

For more information or for tickets to VGL 5'4" Top visit FRIGID New York or call 212-868-4444

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