Old-Timey Gay Love, Cuban Chocolate and the Lure of the Forbidden

Things out of reach seem so much more appealing

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By David Hammond

Earlier this month, my daughter Lydia and I went to see "The Nance" at New York's Lyceum Theater. This Nathan Lane vehicle is an exceptionally well-written and -acted portrayal of an actor, Chauncey Miles, who plays a stock "nancy" character in a 1930s burlesque troupe. This flamboyant and high-camp homosexual character-type was usually, presumably, played by a straight man who was, you know, acting.

Ironically, with Lane and in reality, we have a gay guy playing a gay playing a straight playing a gay. It's complicated. At one point (and to my point) near the end of the play, Chauncey admits that he doesn't want a regular gay "marriage" (though, unimaginably, such would have been legally impossible in those oh-so-ancient times) because he prefers "illegal" assignations in, for instance, automats and gay bars.

I thought about that lure of the forbidden last week at Pralus, a chocolate manufacturer in Roanne, France. Pralus sources chocolate from a number of countries, especially South America and Indonesia. I was on a tour of the factory, eating as I went, when I spotted a bunch of chocolate bars from Cuba. I mentioned to a British man that for Americans, such chocolate would be forbidden fruit, as we are not allowed to buy Cuban chocolate, rum, cigars or anything else. He initially didn't know what I meant, and I find Europeans are regularly surprised to be reminded of this prohibition…perhaps because it seems so odd for Americans to make policy like this which seems so petty and pointless. Many think we should be bigger than that.

Anyway, this Cuban candy bar started me thinking about how it is that some things that are out of our reach seem so much more appealing for their unavailability (I'm not claiming that this is a brilliant insight – I was just thinking about it). I brought home a Cuban chocolate bar from Pralus (it was a gift, so I'm not in violation of State Department rules and regs). I plan to eat it side-by-side with Pralus chocolate from other parts of the world, just to see if there's any measurable quality difference among them.

I've smoked a few Cohibas and Montecristos, and though I'm particularly fond of the latter, I'm not sure that Cuban cigars are actually better than high-quality stogies from any other part of the world. But they are "illegal," and that, of course, is a big part of their attractiveness.

My guess is that when weed is legalized across the country, it may actually lose some users who were attracted to its erstwhile outlaw allure…which could also affect chocolate sales.


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David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 11:42 AM

Please read more carefully. I'm in no sense knocking anything related to gay marriage, and I fully understand, and explicitly state, that Lane's character is gay.

Stick to Food  

Posted: June 26th, 2013 3:22 PM

I must say, the timing of your gratuitous knock on gay marriage (in the ostensive context of a food review that never quite gets around to reviewing the food) is unfortunate. And you completely miss or mispresent of the point of the play (Lane's character IS gay.) Such stage characters were the 'Uncle Toms' of the gay world, assuming an overblown stereotype on stage and in public, embracing their own second class status, and catering to audience prejudices in order to get mainstream work.

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