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Monday, June 2, 2014

Groovy Guy of the Month: Matthew Rettenmund

This month's Groovy Guy is Matthew Rettenmund, the creator of one of my favorite blogs, Boy Culture, which he has been writing since 2005. He is also the author of two novels, Boy Culture (which was made into a film) and Blind Items: A (Love) Story as well as the non-fiction books, Encyclopedia Madonnica, Totally Awesome '80s and Hilary Duff: All Access. Matt was the founding Editor in Chief of the teen-entertainment magazine, Popstar!, for nearly 14 years, and, more recently, he has worked as a Web Producer on the talk shows, Anderson Live! and Bethenny. And last but certainly not least, the guy has one of the most photogenic smiles I've ever seen.

I am delighted to have the fabulous Mr. Rettenmund here on the Dish to answer a few questions about his life, pop culture and, of course, Madonna.

What inspired you to write your debut novel, Boy Culture?
As a kid, I was obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock's book series, which led me to obsessively write short stories with "twist" endings. I had dozens of them by the time I went to college at the University of Chicago, feeling destined to be a writer. In order to get into the highly competitive fiction-writing course run by the esteemed (and terrifying) Richard Stern, I had to submit a short story, but I only had a day or so to complete it.

While I had not yet written a mature story, I was really excited by the idea of bending the rules in writing, inspired by things like Larry Kramer's Faggots (the obnoxious, arch style) and A Boy's Own Story (the unflinching depiction of sex) and was feeling very confrontational about my sexuality in such a sterile environment. Add to that my friendship with a fellow Michigander whose pal back home had been turning tricks with his dentist, and it all kind of came together. I had very little sexual experience and knew zilch about hustling, so I filled in all the blanks with the main character's bravado, which one of my classmates saw as borderline sociopathic — I loved that note.

Short answer: No, I wasn't a hustler myself.

How did Boy Culture: The Blog begin? And what have you enjoyed most about writing it?
What's funny is that many people who read me daily still haven't connected these dots, so I receive a-ha! e-mails and Facebook messages every week: My novel had been turned into a film of the same name by Q. Allan Brocka, and I wanted to help plug it. I had always wanted to blog (and was fascinated the first time I ran across a blog — it was Pink is the New Blog, followed by Perez and Towleroad), so I figured a blog would be a great way to offer my thoughts on the film and to report how it was doing on the film-fest circuit. It just great from there as I learned what I wanted to write and what the audience wanted to read.

Probably the most enjoyable aspect is when I post a longer essay that gets a lot of feedback. You didn't ask, but the least enjoyable aspect is that it sucks up so much time I often debate whether I'm just using it as an excuse not to be more productive in other ways. I was pretty neglectful of my now ex-partner all those years, and often stay up late prepping posts. It can be a bit like dog-paddling in the middle of an ocean. But again, the feedback and the shares are my lifeline.

What have been three of the most memorable celebrity moments that you've experienced?
Hands-down, the most memorable was when I finally got a photo op with Madonna. I'd interacted with her on a red carpet and then had sat next to her at an intimate roundtable interview session for her film, W.E., but being singled out by her generous publicist, the brilliant Liz Rosenberg, for a proper pic-with was fantastic. I had to wait on a red carpet between online media and print until Madonna arrived. When told she'd be posting with me, she said, "Not in that light!" and my heart sank. Then she said, "You come over here." So I was helped over the rope and stood shoulder to shoulder with her for our pic. She was fabulous and flirty and looked flawless — it just could not have been better.

Meeting Obama was a blast because it was so high-stakes! I'd told no one that I was set for the photo-op at a fundraiser because I simply didn't believe it would happen. I told him I was a gay blogger who hadn't lost faith in him and he cockily replied, "You shouldn't have." Big smile, friendly, warm. Loved it.

Then probably meeting Betty White, either at a gay screening of The Proposal (when we got to pose with her in the movie theater) or on the set of Hot in Cleveland (which resulted in a great photo op, though I didn't really interact with Betty). It was such a kick because I'd stupidly allowed myself never to meet a Golden Girl until then.

It's probably telling that I chose the highest-profile names, but honestly, all three were perfection...just what you'd want each to be like!

Do you remember the moment when you first became a fan of Madonna?
I do remember coming back from a Dungeons & Dragons game (don't judge!) in my dad's car and "Holiday" came on right after "Let the Music Play" by Shannon. I absolutely loved the song, figured it was a black singer like Shannon and started trying to find the record. I just loved her. I wish I'd made Stacey Q my #1 idol back would've been a lot less time-consuming and money-gobbling!

Always loved Madonna, but probably at her 1987 Who's That Girl Tour was when I realized I was a total nut; I bought every single item for sale and managed to talk the guy behind the counter into also selling me the gold "Merchandise" poster with her eyes on it, even though those were supposed to be used at every tour stop. Fandom is a mostly positive condition, but you need to keep your brain turned on at all times so as not to become a zombie.

What are your three favorite Madonna songs and your three favorite Madonna albums?
1. "Into the Groove": Perfect pop, tied to the adorable Desperately Seeking Susan, an '80s classic.
2. "Vogue": This exploded when I was in college and defines Madonna fandom. Jesus, how did she almost relegate this to the B-side of "Keep It Together"?
3. "Like a Prayer": Still one of her finest musical moments.

1. Madonna: The first is still the best to me, totally pure.
2. Ray of Light: Brilliant throughout, this record is why Madonna had a career beyond the mid-'90s.
3. Like a Prayer: Smart, creative, infectious pop music, and contains some of her very best singles.

I really liked MDNA, by the way, though I wouldn't put it at the top of her output.

Below you can watch Matt discuss his book, Encyclopedia Madonnica, on Good Day New York in 1995.

What are three of your favorite things about living in New York City?
I love living in NYC because of the limitless opportunity here, whether you're talking about living situations, diversity of people, entertainment, the arts, history — anything you can think of. The men are amazing — a type for every taste and in abundance = eye candy. And I love the energy. I have grown to really like L.A., but the NYC hustle-bustle is more my speed.

What are your three favorite TV shows of all time?
1. Seinfeld: I have seen every episode so many times, yet still watch it daily.
2. The Golden Girls: Ditto. Can't get enough of the humor and the performances.
3. The Brady Bunch: Terrible TV, yet classic. I absorbed it on a genetic level as a kid to the extent that I can hum you incidental music to any scene you show me.

But Antiques Roadshow is right up there because I'm a nutty collector.

What are three of your favorite films?
I think this answer changes all the time, and I'm not sure I could rank them, so I will say — on this day — that my favorite (as opposed to absolute best ever made) films are Desperately Seeking Susan, The Breakfast Club (I wrote an essay on this as part of getting into college) and Strangers on a Train. Or All About Eve. Or Sunset Boulevard. Or Mildred Pierce. Or What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

If you were asked to choose the Sexiest Man Alive, whom would you select?
This also changes on a daily basis. Since I'm a believer in diversity, let's ask Joe Manganiello to top me and Matt Bomer to bottom for me. And then each other.

If you could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at your dinner party, what three people would you invite?
Madonna, duh. Jon-Erik Hexum (I have a lot of things to ask him, and not all of them would be proposition-related). And George Platt Lynes, who I would love to talk to about being gay all those decades ago and because I love his photography and am very interested in getting better at that myself.

What's next for Matthew Rettenmund? Will we be seeing a memoir in your future?
Funny you should ask that — I have an announcement about a book in 2015 coming up very soon. I'll be working on the book this year; I'm about 1/3 done. All I can say for now is to expect it to be funny, or I will have failed.

I'm also getting into photography and enjoying it so much. In high school and college I was very much into drawing, so I thought I might become an artist or at least that it would always have a large place in my life. Writing took over, as did a hectic job as a teen-magazine editor that lasted about 15 years. So getting to have this new-old outlet for expression has been a creative relief.

Work-wise, I just wrapped a year with Anderson Cooper and then Bethenny Frankel...and I'm wide open to whatever comes my way next, hopefully something creative involving the arts on or off the Web: music, TV and/or film.

Thank you, Matt, for being such a groovy guy!

To learn more about Mr. Rettenmund, follow him on Twitter and Facebook and at

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