"the only way to be quiet is to be quick, so I scare you clumsily, or surprise you with a stab." — Frank O'Hara
Ennis SmithAbout

Ennis grew up in Cincinnati, the sixth of ten children. In his first life he was an actor and singer; embarking on his second, he completed his BA at Empire State College, where he was a Richard Porter Leach Fellow.

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Latest Publication

Creative Nonfiction cover 2014-10-16 at 1.19.36 PM copy

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Twilight in the early 90s

The snakes. They were the surprising aspect of the Hugh Steers show on view this week at Alexander Gray (closing this Saturday April 3). I hadn’t seen them before. Later, when I read that this was actually late work I was no longer surprised; at the time Steers made them, the snakes all but shout…

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Criticals, Dance, Film, Music, My back pages

Crazy Rhythms in a Night of Love

Last night I enhaled the glorious mise en scene of Steve McQueen’s Lover’s Rock, one of the five short films that comprise his Small Axe series (Amazon Prime). All that polyester! Sweaty dancers and swigs of beer redolent of high school parties in the basements of classmate’s houses! It’s the power of film, and its…

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Criticals, Deep Songs, Writings

Becoming an Actor Taught Me How to Write

When I was a 10 year-old boy soprano, a choirmaster proclaimed, “Music is a picture painted on a background of silence.” It was an abstraction that stuck, as first lessons of craft tend to do. Others I’ve heard: Show, don’t tellA cliché is a cliché because it’s trueAlways hold something backAvoid passivity in your attackThe music…

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AIDS, Deep Songs, Gay, History, My back pages

Dread aught

A few nights ago at dinner out with new friends, our getting-to-know-each-other small talk circled around to coming out to our families. Our stories all had variants, but one thing seemed universal: how the presence of AIDS smoked the edges of each instance. Mine came at the end of a most challenging year, one spent…

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The Master

Joe Jackson’s music feels like home to me, so I felt lucky to attend his Town Hall Four Decades tour in support of his new album, “Fool.” He’s someone I know primarily through his recordings (I’d seen him live only once before, at Radio City Music Hall in support of the 3-sided “Big World” from…

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Art, Criticals, Deep Songs, Gay, Literature, Museums/Galleries

Man on Fire

I was finishing a late-aborning BA when a professor introduced me to the works of David Wojnarowicz. No doubt she fathomed that he could be a model for the writing I was attempting—autobiography of a frank, sexual nature that also had very much to do with loss and the times in which I came of…

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Music, My back pages

Fordham’s Road

She’s older now, I thought. The blonde bob, the square jaw with a complexion that’s classic English rose, still radiates but the eyes were wearier: less Lulu, more Julie Christie after a wild night. Seeing her made me wonder if her most recent engagement at Joe’s Pub would be 1) a shoe-string affair (only a…

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Art, Film, My back pages

Jonathan Demme, Film Director 1944-2017

A few hours or so spent in the company of a great film is akin to falling in love. A spell is cast; like a lover, the images on screen evoke a flipbook of feelings. That was what it was like to experience a Jonathan Demme film. I won’t soon forget the unbeatable elation I felt…

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Cat and Mouse

The Name of the Game. It Takes a Thief. Mission: Impossible. In the late 60s/early 70s, those shows were the gold standard of a genre I’d coin as adventure capers. Its ingredients are irresistible: charming do-gooders and con men (or women) with fabulous wardrobes and looks to match. Always in play was a large sum…

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Music, My back pages, Vespers

Al Jarreau 1940-2017

Back when I sang professionally, I could think of no greater compliment than when some trade paper critic or a fan would say, “he reminds me of Al Jarreau.” No worries I’d be puffed up with delusions of greatness. By then I’d been listening to the guy long enough to know I’d never be that…

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