Inspiration Comes When You Need It

I had an amazing, uplifting, rejuvenating experience yesterday. A co-worker of mine I'd only met once or twice before and I were talking at our big annual meeting and she, totally out of the blue, said she had stalked me on the internet and was watching Happy Hour with Cameron Stiehl (#HHWCS)! I don't usually talk about it much with my day job people so that alone was pretty cool. Then she got kind of teary and said she thought her daughter might be gay and that before watching the show, she didn't know how to handle it or have any language or experience to draw from. But now she feels like she gets it, loves our guests (especially Lonnie Haley!) and how we talk openly, and has been able to have good talks with her own family. I have to tell you, I just about cried right there. She was thanking me but I am the grateful one. If we can help just one family be happier and stronger, we are headed in the right direction.

The #HHWCS team and I are taking a short respite from filming to get the rest of our Season 2 episodes up and make plans for Season 3. There are so many wonderful opportunities opening up for us, we're super excited and want to make sure we take the time to handle it all in the best way possible. Stay tuned! And please do reach out to us if you're interested in being a guest on the show. We'd love to have you.

Huge thanks to everyone who has helped make this happen from that first moment through these first two seasons. Cheers to the future! Can't wait to continue sharing stories and building true community with you all - one cocktail at a time. <3

The Whirlwind Continues...Next Stop, Fundraiser Happy Hour!

Season One's wrap up has been a crazy tornado of activity. Our team has filmed a finale highlighting our work over the past year (coming soon!); thrown a super-fun beer bust fundraiser at the Mix; performed, filmed, and edited a wedding ceremony for two wonderful young men/friends of the show; and traveled to New Mexico to produce and film the inaugural Mr & Miss Gay New Mexico United States Pageant. Wow. OK, I admit it, that might have been too much to take on in one month.

But here we are in November and, what's the expression? The horse has left the barn? Whatever it is, the ball is rolling. Our next fundraiser is scheduled for next Saturday, November 9th at the Lookout at 4:00. More details will be coming soon (see Facebook/HHWCS for an invitation!) but do note that you'll want to wear spicy colors as the theme will be RED HOT! (I'm sensing some Fireball in my future...)  

Hope to see you all there!

 

Jason Belo, the Trevor Project, and Season Two News!

This week we bring back Jason Belo’s episode. It’s perfect timing, as he just finished up months of hard work with his Trevor Project team putting together a lovely fundraising party last weekend. The best part was the setup time before the event. You should have seen the two of us: working with a couple of our fellow volunteers to figure out how to make balloon bouquets. While none of us will be hired to decorate a birthday party anytime soon, we had a fabulous time. 

As for the event itself, it was fun. There was music, raffle prizes, an open bar, and a very cool photo booth. I’m sure they raised at least some amount of money to further the project’s work, but I haven’t heard the final figures. And now that hateful bi— I mean, *ahem*—Jason is in Maui having a well-deserved mini-vacation while I am here writing about him behind his back. I couldn’t be happier for him. Really.

Actually, we all need to rest up a bit because we are about to embark on some major events. Our own Happy Hour fundraisers are coming up fast! Save time on the afternoons of October 13th (at the Mix) and November 9th (at the Lookout) for some serious happy hour fun. On Saturday, October 12th, we are planning our first season-two shoot date as well. I’m eager to get rolling again. 

Even more exciting, beginning October 24th we pack up the entire Front Window Productions crew to go on location—to Albuquerque, New Mexico! That’s right, the gang is headed to the land of Breaking Bad to produce the Mr. & Miss Gay New Mexico United States Pageant and shoot the behind-the-scenes documentary about the making thereof. And that’s only one of the three documentaries we have planned in addition to the regular shows of season two. (Thus the intense focus on fundraising—we need all the help we can get.)

More news and details to come soon!

 

OMG! It’s Raquela!

I knew the shoot-day at Postrio would be different. This was a classy joint where we actually filled out paperwork and signed waivers to be there. Well, it seemed organized – and it was – on OUR end. (Ahem. Whatever. It was awesome. Even when the busboy dropped a huge bin of silverware during the filming.)

The guests could not have been more diverse. Friends all, yes, but a real variety. I’ve known and worked with Mark forever. I am just getting to know Misty well after a couple of years of happy hour acquaintance. And then there’s Raquela: professional singer, songwriter, dancer, Broadway star, hardest working woman I have ever met. I didn’t know her well…but I wanted to as she is amazing. And I’ve been lucky enough to kiss her once. (Yup, bragging. That was awesome, too.)

Raquela bowls me over. Endless energy—seriously, if I could have just half of what she’s got, there would be no end to what I would do. So, how best to showcase her talents in an interview? There was so much story to fit into such a short time. Of course, I was over-thinking it and had no reason to worry. What a star. 

If Raquela could be my guest every single time, filming episodes would be so freaking easy. I didn’t have to do a thing but set her up with a margarita and let her go. Her vocal power almost deafened our sound person, and part of me wondered if it would have been worth it. (Sorry, Paige, but it was good, right?)

I could go on…but really. You should just watch the episode. And please support Raquela's latest project, releasing her single, OMG (I Just Keep On Dancing!). Click here to see how. Thanks!

XOXOXO

 

Challenge Yourself – and Grow!

Back to the Doctor’s Lounge we go! This week we’re bringing back Tyler Perry Tschantz for another look. Seriously, if you haven’t watched his video yet, please do so. What a character! And a super sweet guy.

But let’s talk about that day as it was all about challenges. The location was terrific and we’d been looking forward to shooting there – and hosting a post-shoot after-party – for a long time. Dear friend of the show, David Henry, is an owner of the bar/restaurant and was generous enough to really give us free rein of the place and support us with whatever we needed. He even suggested that we interview Tyler, knowing we would get something good. 

I have to admit, I was nervous. Interview a complete stranger? The thing that had made this show so personal and so fun for me so far had been that I was able to help tell the stories of people I know. Stories I am familiar with. The thought of going into an interview cold made me really nervous. As did trying to do four interviews in a day plus throwing a party afterwards. Oy. If I seem distracted in Saturn’s interview (coming around again soon!) this is why. I was kind of freaking out.

But we all got to the Doctor’s Lounge in time for brunch. And OH MY GOD what a brunch. If you haven’t tried the food there – do. Soon. Thanks to David, the newly invented “Camerontinis” started to flow, too, which helped. (If I remember correctly, it was vodka, St. Germain, a little sweet and sour, and a lot of yumminess.) We got rolling, the guests arrived, the crew set up, and all was working well. Still, my nerves! So when I heard Tyler was at the bar and had actually consented to be interviewed, I went to meet him for a little pre-prep.

Five minutes into my chat with Tyler, I had to stop him. It was TOO good. The cameras weren’t rolling yet and I didn’t want to lose that spontaneity! He was such a natural, had amazing stories, and talking with him was like meeting a long lost best friend for the first time. My butterflies began to settle and I began to realize there was nothing to be nervous about. OK, maybe when I interview Ellen…but short of that, everyone has a story to tell. Everyone just wants to be heard. All I gotta do is be there to ask the right questions. I LOVE this. I’ve been doing it in one way or another for years already and I can’t wait to do more!

I don’t want to sound like a self-help book or a cheesy FaceBook caption over the picture some stupid sunset…but really. If there’s something that you love to do or feel passionate about and it scares you? That’s likely exactly what you should be doing. Try it. Try it again. Try it again. The results will surprise you.

Sometimes Easy is Not Easy

Going into creating my list of guests for early episodes this show, I knew I had to have Will Ellis right up there. He doesn't know it (well, NOW he does) but he was also one of the inspirations for this project.

In my mind, Will's interview was going to be a slam-dunk piece of cake. He looks great on camera and we know each other well. I knew his story. We sing karaoke duets together and sometimes I let him spin and flip me around in a crazy, drunken version of swing dancing that only Will can do. Yes, he has revealed my under-things to our friends at parties. (No, there are no pics.)

Maybe the interview suddenly got hard because I knew what was coming. I knew it was going to hit me in that way that the thought of nearly losing someone important can. Maybe I was bracing myself too much.

I wish I'd had the cameras rolling a few years ago when we first had the conversation about all this. You see, Will had volunteered to help me take my son, who is a Fragile X kid on the autism spectrum, to see his special doctors at the MIND Institute in Sacramento. It's a long drive from San Francisco and the visits can be challenging, especially on our own. I was surprised when Will stepped up to join us and help with Corin that day. No one outside of our immediate family had ever been willing to take that on before. It was on the drive home that I realized why - and how much more there was to Will than just a happy hour/karaoke buddy. (He also helped take Corin trick-or-treating one Halloween although his Jackie O heels must've been killing him!)

When he mentioned his cancer, it was subtly. I almost missed it, but it sunk in and I was definitely taken aback. We talked then about what it was like, how young he'd been, how serious it was...and how once his ordeal was behind him that he became determined to help other kids facing similar challenges. He went on to talk about his work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Camp Sunshine Dreams and, honestly, I remember nothing else about the drive at all...I was just riveted. That's just a lot of life to have lived by this young age.

So, yeah. I wish I could have shared with you the hour or two long conversation from that road trip. Instead, I can offer the condensed version here. I hope you enjoy it, too.

 

If Anything Can Go Wrong...aka the Do-Over

As some readers will likely already know, Lonnie Haley (also known as Mercedez Munro) is highly ranked on the list of the most interesting, colorful people I've ever met. Gorgeous drag queen, national pageant winner, softball coach, father and mother…he was one of the first people I thought of when we started listing potential guests and I couldn’t wait to get him in front of the cameras. And so we did. So begins shoot day number two – and ends shoot day number three. (Sigh) Let’s just say we learned many valuable lessons putting this episode together.

Shoot day number two began much as the first, we had a crew together, we were booked for the morning at Trax, all was set. And look! Our guest arrived – on time and looking fabulous! He even brought his own personal assistant. Excuse me…I had no idea we were dealing with a bonafide celebrity. It was all going so well.

Then the technical difficulties started. I don’t know what all the details were and I honestly don’t want to but the poor crew members were fighting hard with sound equipment for a loooong time. Unable to wait any longer, we ended up hiding the sound recorder under Mercedez’s Miss Gay United States sash and hoping for the best. The best did not happen. The footage, while fantastic visually, was unusable audio-wise. Fortunately, I didn’t know this until a couple of weeks later when the editing process started, so we had a heck of a dress rehearsal.

Dial forward to the next shoot date a few weeks later at the Doctor’s Lounge (more on that later.) We were ambitious that day! We’d moved on from filming one interview a day to three but I’d never cold-interviewed a complete stranger before and Travis thought it was about time I gave it a shot (more on that later, too!) The thought made me very nervous and my stress level was very high. New environment, new people on the crew, a guest I didn’t know…and worst of all, earlier that week I’d had to admit to Lonnie that the sound the first day hadn’t worked out and ask him to please, please come back and film with us again. Same talk…totally spontaneous as though it had never happened before. Fortunately, we are both trained actors, so we’re used to that. He had graciously agreed and told me not to worry, he understood, it was no problem. Until the day wore on and…no Lonnie.

I called. “Hi! Where are you?”

“I just got finished with softball practice. Just having a beer. What are you up to?” he says, sounding suspiciously relaxed.

“Filming the show…we are about ready to re-shoot your interview. You’re…um…kind of supposed to be here.” This was my fault. I didn’t confirm. The lesson sank into my soul full force as my face warmed. One quick phone conversation on a Monday morning, especially while a guest is distracted at work, is not enough to make a good plan.

“What!? Where?”… “I’ll be right there.”

And that’s how you know you’re dealing with a professional – and a good friend. Within 20 minutes, Lonnie arrived, full softball practice outfit still in place but not a complaint, not even a diva moment (though I have seen Mercedez have a few.) Soon, we were on the couch with our cocktails in hand, cameras rolling, and all was right with the world. Please grab a beverage of your own and enjoy the results. We worked hard for this one.

 

Oh, the Bordello!

What were we getting ourselves into!? For shoot day number two (well, technically three, but we will get to that later) we decided we would like to try a more controlled environment. Not that we didn't like working at Trax, who wouldn't? But sound levels were an issue and, quite frankly, we were in the regulars' way. Can't have that! So we decided to rent a rather notorious space previously scouted by Travis for Garden of Eden (coming soon to an actual theater near you) known as The Bordello. And since we were gonna cough up cash for a space, we needed to make good use of it. We recruited three interviewees, Patty Dingle, Jason Belo, and Will Ellis. Could we do three in a day? No idea. One at a time seemed challenging enough at that point. But it was time to step up our game.

Patty was first up. I knew she would be great. I'd known her for years in both personal and professional settings and knew she was extremely smart and well-spoken. She is also used to working in television and radio. She made it easy. If you haven't checked out her Happy Hour interview yet, seriously, you should do so. She's awesome.

Now back to our venue. I mean no disrespect to this historic place or its owners/caretakers in anyway, but WOW. If you ever get an opportunity to see this place, do so. Just make sure your tetanus shots are up to date and you've taken your allergy medicine. It's insane. It's as though stoned hippies got together, bought a bar and thought, hey! Let's make our own Winchester Mystery House -only using found materials. The bar in the front where we shot the episodes is gorgeous. It's got a huge oak bar, beautiful glass, high ceilings, one of many pianos...but underneath that bar? The basement is filled with a variety of dark spaces with tubs, benches, beds, peep holes, and such things as will haunt your dreams for many months to come. Beyond the bar, steps and staircases stretch in all directions to balconies, rooftops, and more half-finished bedrooms and bathrooms than have any right to be there. Don't leave the group. You may never be seen again.

Come to think of it, I kind of miss that place. Maybe we should plan a visit.

Thank you all for your continued support of our project. If you can find it in your heart to help us get Season Two off the ground, head on over to the Get Involved page and make a small donation, tell us a story, or volunteer! We welcome any contribution. 


Behind the Scenes - Episode 1: Panic Brought Us Together

It was early on a chilly November morning and I was terrified. Somehow, in the space of a few weeks, this Happy Hour project went from a drunken idea exchange at Trax over 18 cosmos (apiece) to this: a whole crew of filmmakers, all set up with equipment, supplies, and a dream, and all looking at me with wide, expectant eyes. “Give me five minutes.” I bolted for the bathroom.

You see…Travis and I had done a practice run with Joe and we were pretty confident we had some idea what we were doing. I had scheduled my first actual, filmed interview with a friend who always makes me feel calm and comfortable  - but who  has a lot of good stories to tell. A winning combination for the pilot episode. The problem? Mere minutes before we were scheduled to start, it was all too clear that our guest was not coming. My mom-thoughts kept spiraling (if he’s not here, he must be dead in a ditch!) Side note: All this has since been resolved, no one died, and all friendships are more solid than ever before.

What do we do? Reschedule? I checked with my reflection to steady myself.

After hundreds of dollars and all those hours of planning, oh hell no.  Figure it out.

Emerging from the bathroom, I scanned the faces of the crew awaiting my word. My eyes fell on Nick Pugh, there as Production Assistant, and whom I had known approximately 10 minutes. The smile and color returning to my face, I plopped down on the couch next to him. “So, Nick. What’s your story?”

Poor boy looked like he’d just gotten hit by a truck full of marshmallows. But he stepped up. Nope, no time for doing hair or changing clothes…it’s go time! And he did. What a trouper.

We all learned so much that day and it brought us all closer than I ever would have imagined. And that’s how Episode One was born!

How to fund independent film

You're asking me? Let's just say I'm working on figuring that out.

Fellow filmmaker, Roun Tamaki, came to a Happy Hour shoot recently to help out. After I was done asking questions of my guests, he turned the camera on me to talk about how we manage the "business" side of making independent shows and films. There are no easy answers! Please see the video for our conversation as well as others who are even further along in the process.

Enjoy! And thanks for the opportunity and the help, Roun. You rock!

We may not be rich anytime soon, but I wish us all happy hearts and full bellies.

Hi Will! Finally, a new episode.

I can't tell you how happy I am that the new episode is finally up. Will is such an awesome person and I am so touched that he allowed me to share such personal stories with you.

That is what this is all about, I know, but it's hard, right? It's one thing to sit down and tell one friend all this stuff but put three cameras, a crew, and an audience yet to be determined into the mix and it can be a little intimidating for the bravest of souls. So far, everyone I have talked to has stepped up to the challenge so beautifully that I am impressed and pleased beyond my wildest dreams. Not that I really had any doubts. These folks are amazing. And they say the coolest things! Will made a lovely and profound statement towards the end of our conversation that I will always remember, "We ARE all one community. Love is love and people are people, and there's nothing you can do to get around that."

True that.

Stay tuned! More to come very soon.

My Drunk Kitchen meets Happy Hour with Cameron Stiehl

Finally, I can talk about it! A few months back, I saw that one of my favorite people, Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen fame, was taking her show on the road to get drunk and cook in OTHER people's kitchens. I'd been watching her show for awhile and loved every minute of it. In fact, on this very recent New Year's Day, in our bleary, slightly hung-over, well-fed, lethargic state (thanks Dad!) my father, friends, and I gathered around the projection screen for a My Drunk Kitchen marathon and laughed our champagne-laden heads off. I must say, I could see that becoming a holiday tradition.

Back to the road trip. Even before there was a challenge to "pitch your kitchen" I thought, "what if we made a video to invite them to come cook and drink here?" We were almost done with it before I realized there was an actual submission process. And while I am fortunate that we had JUST started working on HHWCS when all this happened, it was NOT about promoting ourselves. I wanted Hannah in my kitchen (and my actual kitchen is too small so we pimped out Joe and Travis's) because we are huge fans of hers and she is my personal inspiration to do what I do. So there.

When we got the email from Pearl saying that she wanted to talk to us about possibly shooting with us, I thought I was going to hyperventilate. It seemed like such a long-shot. But it happened! We dreamed, we worked, we won! And it felt like we won the lottery when Hannah and the crew came up from LA to shoot with us on their very first road trip episode. Seriously, those people are all wonderful and we had the best time. And the episode goes up tomorrow. I can't wait!

So, sure. I would like to actually interview Hannah on my show someday, but I know I'm not there yet. Soon. (OK, I have my questions written already.) Until then, I am just beyond thrilled that we got to hang out, drink wine, and make food together. Cheers to new friends!!! Here is a little video for you to share a behind-the-scenes peek at that night: MDK meets HHWCS.

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"We Are Everywhere" - Poetry from a Friend

A very dear friend of mine sent me a poem tonight, asking for my opinion. I didn't even know he wrote poetry and I feel extremely blessed and honored that he would share this with me - and allow me to share it with you. I love it and I hope you will, too.

"We Are Everywhere"

We are your sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, aunts, and uncles. We are LGBTQ.

We are doctors, teachers, politicians, clergies, athletes, policemen/women, firefighters, neighbors, and the person beside you. We are LGBTQ.

We are American, French, British, Chinese, Russian, African, Australian, Iranian, and Filipino. We are every race. We are LGBTQ.

We had been here since the dawn of time and we will be here 'til the end of time. We are everywhere. We are LGBTQ.

-Joseph Dudley Manabat

Bring on the donations!

We sure love doing this show. Yes, I know, you've only seen 3 episodes...but trust me. There are SEVEN more shot and in the editing process. You are going to love them. We should be able to release them weekly beginning next week. Ish. There's one more side project (that we also have to keep secret but could NOT be more excited about) that has come up to give us another small delay. But seriously...it's worth it. Wait 'til you see!

The break has given us a little time to assess, though, which is nice. Except that we have to admit that the show is getting more and more expensive to produce the way we want to produce it and, um, money still isn't growing on trees. Darn. Our little fundraiser parties are awesome and fun, but we need a longer term plan. Step one? Paypal. See our "Get Involved" page for details. There's a new button on there that will lead to a very easy way to support our cause! (I did it myself....I'm kind of proud. Even if you don't donate, just look at it, ok? Thanks!)

Next steps include finishing up our marketing plan to submit to businesses to form collaborations and opportunities for sponsorship. We have a few businesses already on board and are excited to get out there and WORK IT!

Love to you all!

Where are the new episodes?

We know it's been a bit since the last episode was posted. While we regret the delay, most of it is due to a really exciting, super-special, top secret project that the core of the Front Window Productions team has taken on. We can't say what it is...but rest assured that it's a worthy endeavor involving one beautiful drag queen and a whole lotta costumes, lip syncing, wigs, and champagne. I still have not fully recovered.
Once that is all done, we will be back to editing and posting the rest of the already filmed episodes for you, plus brand new ones filming this coming Saturday! The guests are unbelievably spectacular. I can't wait to sit down and tell some great stories with them at the next happy hour!
Stay tuned... Xoxo

The Supreme Court holds our future in its hands

Demonstrations have been peaceful and celebratory here in San Francisco as the Supreme Court has been listening to evidence regarding Prop 8 and DOMA over the past two days. You can feel the optimism in the air and see the solidarity building all over Facebook as, one by one, users gay and straight turn their profile pictures red to show their support for equal rights. It's time. The country is changing. 58% of Americans believe that same-sex couples should have the right to marry if they choose to do so. We've come so far, even over the past decade, that it's getting easier to feel hopeful. It is still hard to hear that many people don't see gays and lesbians as equals under the law or under God or whatever their particular beef is. There's still too much bigotry out there. The fight is not over. But by the end of June, we should have some potentially life-changing, world-changing decisions come down from those justices. I'm cautiously optimistic that they're going to give us something amazing to celebrate this Pride season! Keep wearing red, everyone! Banding together and supporting each other is the best way to show the world how truly wonderful we are. ;-)
Much love!
Cameron

And to keep up with the latest, check out the NCLR site. They know how to explain this stuff better than anyone as they're right in the fray, fighting for us! http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer

Three Episodes Up Already!

It's so exciting to see these episodes get put together. We've done a total of seven interviews at various locations so far and, wow, what fun they've all been! I feel so lucky to have an amazing crew, incredibly supportive friends, and a long list of the best guests a girl could ever hope to share a drink and have a chat with. I can't wait to share all the results of our work. I promise, it won't be long now.

What's next for us? More happy hours, of course! We are currently scouting new locations. We had a great time shooting at Trax, the Doctor's Lounge, and especially the Bordello, but we'd love to try somewhere new! If you have any suggestions for us, please feel free to send us a message. See you at happy hour!

Watch this space!

Happy Hour with Cameron Stiehl is on the move. Our first fundraising campaign was a success and we are getting the crew back together after the holiday craziness. Our next shoot date is coming up quick and we're looking forward to getting these stories to you soon.