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Growing Up Gay in Greece

Posted: 08/31/2012 10:41 pm

Growing up as a gay boy in Athens, Greece, in the late '60s and '70s was not an easy experience. I had no support (for my confusing questions and desires) from family, school, or a society that relentlessly promoted (and, alas, still does) love and values based on stereotypical heterosexual relations. A tragedy, considering that I was walking on the very ground where, 2,300 years ago, Plato wrote his bible of free love, Symposium. Everything around me seemed to remind me how "wrong" I was. I felt lonely, alienated. In order to make my life more interesting and to have an adult friend I would not be judged by, I invented this figure -- a woman -- that would appear to me in moments of creative bliss or desperate loneliness. I could have never imagined that my imaginary friend, my savior, my muse, would eventually take real form and have a name. Or that now, after 40 years, thousands of drawings, and numerous exhibitions, performances, and books, that I would still be busy with her -- or rather, is she busy with me?

Mrs. Tependris -- that is her married name -- is sometimes me (or sometimes I'm her), but she can be anyone (though she is not for everyone). We can get tired of each other -- often she escapes and does not appear to me for years, but she always comes back. It is a real relationship.

Two years ago, my good friends Stephanie Danan and Justin Kern -- a young couple in love -- decided to start a fashion line with beautifully simple clothes in Los Angeles. Influenced by their backgrounds in film (she's a producer and he's a screenwriter), they promote each collection by doing a short film collaboration with different artists and directors. Last season, Thomas Bangalter -- one of the two gifted musicians from Daft Punk -- directed a hypnotically beautiful, silent melodrama, shot in Morocco and starring his wife, the sublime French actress (and co-muse) Elodie Bouchez.

Stephanie and Justin -- who have been fans of Mrs. Tependris ever since I introduced them to her -- invited me over for dinner and asked if I would be interested in making an animated Tependris movie. Although intrigued and honored, I was hesitant -- too busy and a little frightened. "She hasn't appeared to me for the last four years," I told them. "I'm not sure I can actually do it." But they were persistent, and one dark January evening, Stephanie texted me, "check your computer!" I have to admit that I am a computer addict, so I rushed to my inbox. Miracle! Mrs. Tependris was on the screen: moving, talking, living, and I immediately knew I had to do it. She had appeared to me again. I had no choice.

"Darling," she told me, "I was getting so tired of all these wars, the religious freaks, the recession, the plastic surgery vulgarity -- I simply had to hide, rejuvenate for a few years. Don't we all deserve as much?" Now I love watching my intrepid and chic-hungry Mrs. Tependris, animated and looking refreshed. Hysterical and younger than ever (after four years of cryogenic treatment. What? Didn't you know? She was buried in an ice cube.) But, what I love the most, my real pleasure, is that the heroine of my fragile childhood was brought to animated life by two straight dudes who go by the directing nom de plume, "The Pain" (aka Paul Hahn and Cedric Hervet). I felt totally safe with them as I could tell they completely "got" her (was Mrs. Tependris talking to them, too?). In fact, they wanted to make the character even campier! Mrs. Tependris and I had obviously come a long way from those difficult years in Greece.

What will be the next adventure for Mrs. Tependris? Will it be another animated comeback? An opera or a circus act? I really do not know, but I'm sure she has some ideas....Stay tuned.

 
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