"It’s a whole do-it-yourself kind of thing,” says Paul Bellini of his new book, The Fab Columns. “Like the cassette tapes of the ’90s, like the Barenaked Ladies. Of course, they could perform to sell the tape; I’ll do a couple of readings.”
Bellini self-published The Fab Columns and was delighted by how easy the process was. “You upload the PDF and the cover, they approve it and you’re in business. I don’t have the ambition to sell lots of copies; I just need to cap my 10 years at fab. My columns were mostly Toronto-centric and disposable, but when I went back and read them they were very funny. I really edited — there are 300 columns and I used about a third.”
Bellini insists he’s not a journalist, just “a gay bon vivant who goes places. I’m a social columnist; I focus on the event instead of my feelings. And I always operated under the assumption that no one reads my column.” But people do read Bellini. A story he wrote after inviting some bears over to sample from Bear Cookin’: The Original Guide to Bear Comfort Foods created an uproar. “I included the letters fab received in the wake of ‘The Bear Buffet’ in The Fab Columns because it’s important to see I can be wrong. I can’t help making fat jokes. I’m a fat kid from a fat family, and that’s what we did. But I’m a softie. I was hurt and surprised. I want to do a sarcastic joke and not hurt anyone’s feelings, so I try to be funny and honest. I never want to come across as evil. But face it, bears are sensitive.”
Fortunately, other subjects have thicker hides. Bellini writes about a once-popular Canadian pop star (“I think what makes him so sexy is that he’s one of those guys who looks like he’s been hit on the head with a plank, but now part of me thinks this might have actually happened”), the Inside Out festival (“During a screening of Wash Westmoreland’s trying experimental video Squishy Does Porno, an elderly couple tottered in and sat down. This being a multiplex, it was assumed that they wandered into the wrong room . . . But they didn’t budge. It’s quite possible they were enraptured with the queer imagery on screen. Either that, or like many of us they had simply fallen asleep”), and interviewing a former Golden Girl (“It’s interesting that most gay men lower their voices in order to impersonate the great Bea Arthur”).
Most of all, Bellini, fittingly for a column originally entitled "Troll," pokes fun at himself: “From now on, we should resolve to include trolls in the LGBT acceptance circle because after all, you never know who’s on the other side of that glory hole.” He travels to spas, samples many varieties of liquor, and interviews has-beens, wannabes, pornstars and Enza Anderson’s new breasts. In a column about a new anal douche, photographer Tony Fong’s accompanying photos “horrified my boyfriend and my ex-boyfriend who said, “You just hit a new low.’ I guess I should be ashamed but after all my biggest claim to fame is being almost nude in a towel on TV. I still have that punk aesthetic, putting ugliness into a place of glory. Épater la bourgeoisie. That’s what you want to do: upset nice people. Not to get noticed or for the money but for the sheer pleasure of doing it.”
Drew Rowsome is a writer who envies Bellini’s effortless wit.
Bellini will be reading excerpts from The Fab Columns Thursday, July 12 at 7:30pm at Glad Day Bookshop.
Here's the Facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/255094041267734/
The book is available on amazon.ca and at Glad Day Bookshop, 598 Yonge St.
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