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St. Pat’s for All 04 Craig Lucas’ “Ode to Joy” 16 ENDA Exemptions After Arizona 03 Youth Culture’s Birth 19

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March 5, 2014 |






In Texas, seventh consecutive federal marriage win


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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR In St. Pat’s dispute, free speech is not the issue





| March 5, 2014



Will ENDA Religious Exemptions Be Revisited After Arizona Furor?

hen the federal Employment NonDiscrimination Act (ENDA) was proposed last year, leading LGBT legal groups said the religious exemption in that legislation was too broad and would allow discrimination by too many employers. Proponents of ENDA, which bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, were silent and refused to engage in that debate as the legislation won a 64 to 32 vote in the US Senate, then went on to likely death in the House. This year, a bill that passed the Arizona Legislature granting protection from lawsuits for people and businesses that deny services to others based on their religious beliefs prompted furious opposition across America and was quickly vetoed by Jan Brewer, Arizona’s Republican governor. The groups that opposed ENDA’s religious exemption are now pointing to the furor over the Arizona law and saying that Americans do not support such broad religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws and ENDA must be changed. “While the scope of the religious exemption language in the current draft of ENDA is nowhere near as all-devouring as the bill we just defeated in Arizona, it still is far broader than the comparable language in the Civil Rights Act and most state laws, and must be fixed,” Evan Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry, a gay civil rights group, wrote in an email. “There should be no license to discriminate when it comes to employment, other than in truly religious offices on the part of truly religious entities. And discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity should get no greater leeway than other forms of discrimination.” The Arizona bill changed the definition of a “person” in an existing religious exemption law to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.” If sued, a person or one of these entities could assert in a defense that their religious beliefs were burdened by having to, for example, serve a samesex couple. Proponents of the Arizona law said it was intended to protect religious liberty, but opponents said it targeted LGBT Americans. While ENDA’s language does not go as far as the Arizona law, those groups concerned about it said it goes beyond the religious exemption in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and allows religiously affiliated hospitals, schools, and other entities to discriminate. “We’ve been very critical of the scope of ENDA’s religious exemption,” said Ian Thompson, a legislative representative in the ACLU’s Washington, DC lobbying office. “We’ve repeatedly pointed out that this exemption would be unprecedented in federal law.” ENDA’s religious exemption was also opposed by Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center. A number of state legislatures are weighing laws that are similar to Arizona’s, though several appear to have abandoned the bills in light of the ferocious response to Arizona’s law.

“If there’s one thing that the uproar over [the Arizona law] tells us, it’s that the American public does not see discrimination against LGBT people as acceptable,” Thompson said. “I think it’s time that ENDA’s religious exemption reflects that reality... I do not think that the American public favors blank checks to discriminate against LGBT people.” The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the country’s leading gay rights lobby, supported ENDA and called for a veto of the Arizona legislation. HRC saw a world of difference between the Arizona law and ENDA. “Bills like Arizona’s go far beyond the exemption in ENDA and many similar state nondiscrimination laws to provide any individual the ability to undermine nondiscrimination protections and refuse employment and services to anyone, including an LGBT person or family, based on his or her private religious beliefs,” HRC said in a statement. “This would make a law like ENDA, with or without an exemption for religious groups, vulnerable to any person who expresses a religious objection to being bound by it. That is an incredibly dangerous precedent to set.” Tico Almeida, who heads Freedom to Work, also an LGBT civil rights group, authored ENDA’s religious exemption while a congressional staffer. He has defended the exemption as no different from the language in the Civil Rights Act, though he conceded at a forum last year that it would allow discrimination by some religiously affiliated non-profits. He did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson is among the critics of the current religious exemption language in the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

DOUG IRELAND MEMORIAL RESCHEDULED FOR MARCH 27 A memorial service for Doug Ireland, a journalist, activist, and New York political insider dating back to the 1960s, has been rescheduled for Thursday, March 27 at 6 p.m. (from an original date of March 12). The gathering will be held at the CUNY Grad Center’s Proshansky Auditorium at 365 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street. Ireland, 67, whose radical political instincts were honed during the cultural upheaval of the 1960s, died at his East Village home this past October 26. His fierce commitment to his work — both in politics and journalism — was a hallmark of his entire life. Throughout the 1960s, Ireland worked with labor unions and Democratic campaigns, including ’68 anti-war presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, then a Minnesota senator. In 1970, he ran feminist Bella Abzug’s winning campaign for a House seat from the West Side and six years later headed up her US Senate run, in which she was narrowly edged out by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Ireland’s journalism career included work for the New York Post (in its old liberal days), New York magazine, the Nation, the Village Voice, POZ magazine, LA Weekly, and the French publications Libération and the online Bakchich. During his last eight years — while he suffered chronic pain, at times debilitating, and frequent hospitalizations related to diabetes, kidney disease, severe sciatica, and weakened lungs — Ireland served as the international contributing editor at Gay City News. Among those remembering Ireland on March 27 will be his New York magazine editor John Berendt, author of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” former City Councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge, Pete Hamill, a former columnist at the Daily News,





LGBT legal advocates warn of dangers in broad language, but key advocates remain mum

Doug Ireland.

the Post, and the Village Voice, longtime gay activist Ethan Geto, Manhattan gallery owner Valerie Goodman, and attorney Norman Levy. It is suggested that attendees RSVP at rsvp@getodemilly. com. — Paul Schindler


March 5, 2014 |


Irish Internet Drag Sensation Joins Record Inclusive St. Pat’s

Mayor Bill de Blasio amidst young participants in the Queens St. Pat’s for All Parade.



Mayor, who won’t march on Fifth Avenue, wins cheers at annual Queens parade

Panti Bliss in the Queens St. Pat’s for All Parade.




or the first time since its founding in 2000, the St. Patrick’s for All Parade this year played host to a New York mayor who traveled to Sunnyside, Queens to march, but will not be on hand March 17 when the big Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade — which excludes openly gay participants — steps off. On March 2, Mayor Bill de Blasio joined a group that included this year’s grand marshals, former State Senator Tom Duane and Terry McGovern, founder of the HIV Law Project. A last minute addition to that contingent was Irish activist, entrepreneur, drag queen, and recent Internet sensation Panti Bliss, aka Rory O’Neill. Preceded two nights before by a gala benefit concert at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan, the parade opened with speeches and music from a flatbed truck. Words of support from de Blasio and other politicians and comments by Duane and McGovern were punctuated by reels and jigs performed by Irish musicians and dancers. Panti recently sparked an international conversation on homophobia and exclusion with her “Noble Call,” delivered from the stage of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin — an event viewed more than half a million times on YouTube. Irish Americans led by Aidan Connolly brought her over to the US to march in Queens’ inclusive parade, where she fit right in. “You have answered exclusion with

Freshmen City Councilmen Corey Johnson of Chelsea, Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn, and Ritchie Torres of the Bronx.

inclusion and acceptance, met hatred with love and hospitality,” grand marshal McGovern, accompanied by her partner and her son, told the crowd from the flatbed stage. “We march today for human rights, we march against discrimination, and we honor that complex, living, evolving, beautiful landscape called Irish culture. I am so certain that what we are doing today, resisting exclusion, is cultural.” Duane, her fellow grand marshal, recalled his own journey to the latest parade, from the days when the Irish gays and lesbians who wanted to march on Fifth Avenue were turned

away and arrested, to his career in the City Council and State Senate, where he introduced the legislation that created marriage equality in New York. “We are here to honor the extraordinary Irish heritage of this city and we want to do it in a way that respects all people and all communities,” de Blasio said to a roar from the crowd. “This is exactly the way I think we should celebrate in New York City — in an inclusive way.” This year’s was not the new mayor’s first St. Pat’s for All — he marched as public advocate and participated in the very first Queens parade as part of Hillary

Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign staff. The mayor has won praise for his decision to return to former Mayor David Dinkins’ tradition of not participating in the discriminatory Fifth Avenue parade, but has faced pressure to bar other city workers from marching in uniform and with banners identifying their municipal government affiliation. Just days before the St. Pat’s for All event, when Police Commissioner William Bratton announced he would march with unifor med of ficers on March 17, de Blasio said, “I absolutely respect his decision.” Since the first march in 2000, which Brendan Fay founded “to celebrate Irish heritage and culture regardless of race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation,” he, co-chair Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, and a team of volunteers built the event into an annual party that has expanded to include the Irish Arts Center concert, produced by Irish musician Brian Fleming. Smaller, more informal Irish music fests have also popped up in bars and restaurants throughout Sunnyside and Woodside, the neighborhoods the parade traverses. This year’s contingent of elected officials was the largest to date, according to organizers. Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli all said a few words, along with three members of the Queens delegation to the US House of Representatives — Joe Crowley, Carolyn Maloney, and Grace Meng.


IRISH, continued on p.29


| March 5, 2014

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MCTKW-9144 Gay City News • March 5, 2014







March 5, 2014 |


Out of Prison, CeCe McDonald Experiences Empowerment BY PAUL SCHINDLER


eCe McDonald, a 25-yearold African-American transgender woman from Minneapolis, speaks with considerable and informed passion about the ignorance too many people in society have about the transgender community. How that leads to dehumanizing stereotypes. How harassment and violence threaten transgender women, particularly those from communities of color. How the media sensationalizes transgender lives, especially in an obsessive focus on questions of surgical transition. And how transgender people can become victims of what she calls the “prisonindustrial complex.” What McDonald — in a February 20 interview at the Midtown offices of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) — did not reflect, however, was any hint of bitterness. Which was very surprising. In January, she was released from a Minnesota correctional facility, 19 months after her sen-

tencing for a second-degree manslaughter conviction that resulted from a 2011 confrontation in which she was attacked by a group of white men and women coming out of a south Minneapolis bar. As the crowd of whites taunted McDonald and her companions with racial and homophobic slurs, Molly Flaherty, whom Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman described to Gay City News as a “biker woman,” smashed a glass against McDonald’s face, causing an injury that required 11 stiches. A melee ensued and one of McDonald’s attackers, Dean Schmitz, 47, who had a criminal record and a swastika tattoo on his body, ended up dead, stabbed by fabric scissors McDonald, a fashion student, pulled from her purse. Last April, Flaherty was convicted of third-degree assault and sentenced to six months in prison. In contrast, McDonald initially faced second-degree murder charges, and in the end agreed to a plea deal on second-degree manslaughter charges. Her 41-month prison sentence took into account the months


After manslaughter sentence in case where she was assaulted, Minnesota trans woman assumes her platform

CeCe McDonald in GLAAD’s offices on February 20.

she spent in jail between the incident and her sentencing almost a year later. Hersch Izek, McDonald’s attorney, told Gay City News that Freeman “absolutely” overcharged the case in order to compel his client to accept a guilty plea — an assertion the prosecutor contested in speaking with Gay City News. McDonald’s friends and supporters, as well as transgender rights advocates in the Twin Cities and nationwide, condemned her treatment in the criminal justice system. Mara Keisling, who heads the National Center for Transgender Equality, released a statement saying, “Here we have a justice system that’s criminalized CeCe for surviving… And this is a painful truth for so many other transgender women of color who’ve been victimized by hate and fear.” In pre-trial hearings prior to McDonald’s plea, the court imposed limits on what an expert witness could testify to regarding the transgender community, a point Freeman conceded to Gay City News. The expert could offer a definition of the word transgender, but evidence from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects that of half of all LGBTQ hate murder victims are transgender women would be barred. McDonald served her sentence in a men’s prison, and in response to concerns that as a women she risked becoming the victim of violence from male inmates, officials attempted to isolate her from the general population. How, after enduring a violent assault and then nearly three years of prosecution and incarceration, did McDonald avoid being bitter? “I was there,” she acknowledged in the February 20 interview. But she quickly learned that rage was an emotion she couldn’t afford.

“The system wants you to be this bitter person,” she explained. “People who went in for petty drug charges, came out bitter and they went back as murderers. You go in as a sponge. You can soak up all this evil.” The experience she endured on the streets of Minneapolis had impact beyond her physical scars. “I had trouble trusting people,” McDonald said, before relating how she overcame that barrier. “I chose not to be that person,” she said. “I chose not to let this situation break me down… You can fly above that.” Being punished for what she felt was survival self-defense did not deter McDonald from standing up for herself during her time in prison. When officials in the Minnesota Department of Corrections tried to put her in solitary, under the cover of protecting her, she called on her supporters to lend their voices. “We called DOC on their bullshit,” she said. That doesn’t mean McDonald didn’t face problems in the prison’s general population. “I dealt with a lot of discrimination,” she recalled. “Prison is just like the real world, but condensed into one building. I dealt with people who were ignorant, and others were accepting.” During her 19 months after sentencing, however, McDonald remained unharmed. “I did not face violence,” she said. “I know how to take care of myself.” While in prison, McDonald received a visitor who undoubtedly changed her life — Laverne Cox, a transgender actress and activist who has a starring role in the Netflix prison series “Orange is the New Black.” Cox interviewed McDonald there, and with the collaboration of filmmaker Jacqueline Gares, is now producing a documentary film ( exploring McDonald’s case, her advocacy work now that she is free, and the broader context of violence against transgender women of color. “I am hoping the film will help people see a trans woman as being human,” McDonald said about the film. “The media likes to sensationalize stories of trans women, and so people just see us as drones or robots or less than human. It’s important to show me interacting with my sister and with my friends and doing speaking gigs. I am a real human outside of the incident , outside of being trans.” Many people, she said, carry stereo-


MCDONALD, continued on p.10

| March 5, 2014



Signing Anti-Gay Law, Ugandan President Tells West: Butt Out East African nation follows Nigeria, as homophobic hate sweeps sub-Saharan Africa BY ANDY HUMM



gandan President Yoweri Museveni defied Western pressure February 24 and signed into law a measure — with broad popularity in that nation — criminalizing all forms of homosexual expression, aid to gay people, and even failure to report knowledge of those in violation. The existing penalty for homosexual relations was life in prison under the British colonial-era law. The new law also covers lesbian sex for the first time. As the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights pointed out, the law “now forces parents, teachers, and doctors to report LGBTI persons to authorities” under threat of seven years in prison. The Red Pepper, a right-wing Ugandan newspaper, published a cover story this week titled “Explosed! Uganda’s Top 200 Homos Named” Another tabloid there, Rolling Stone, did a similar front page story in 2010, drawing attention to gay activist David Kato, who was subsequently murdered in his home. Ugandan activist Pepe Julian Onziema, a transman who was named in the Red Pepper story, told the Associated Press that many of those identified this week are “scared and they need help,” including to leave the country. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, a lesbian activist also named, said, “The media witch-hunt is back.” The hue and cry over the law has been loud from the West, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying in a written statement that it “blatantly violates human rights obligations that Uganda’s Human Rights Commission itself has recognized are enshrined in Uganda’s constitution.” Indeed, the one hope Ugandan LGBT activists now have of stopping the law is a court challenge. Kerry said, “As President Obama stated, this legislation is not just morally wrong, it complicates a valued relationship. Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.” That is as far as Kerry would go. Over the past two weeks, groups from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to Human Rights Watch to the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) — citing appeals from Ugandan LGBT activists

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

to take bold action — called for the United States to recall its ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria, which also recently enacted harsh anti-gay legislation. Timi Gerson, director of advocacy at AJWS — which works with Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an LGBT advocacy group in that nation, and is supporting its suit against American evangelical Scott Lively, whose agitation in Uganda inspired the move toward the anti-gay law — said, “Our ambassadors should come back to Washington and have conversations about what this means for our relations. Serious conversation needs to be had and this would be a strong gesture. It rises to a different level.” Gerson emphasized that the group only made this call for a recall of ambassadors at the urging of Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights & Constitutional Law, which on February 19 called for worldwide demonstrations against the bill, statements of condemnation from government, religious, and corporate leaders, and recall of ambassadors. The Ugandan coalition also pleaded for “technical and financial support” for its court challenge to the measure. The coalition did not advocate cuts in aid to the country “because of the detrimental effects this will have on our national budget that supports all Ugandans.” The Dutch government, however, has moved to curtail aid. And the British government confirmed to Pink News that it stopped sending aid to the Ugandan government last year due to corruption and that all UK aid in that country is now channeled to multilateral aid agencies and non-governmental organiza-

Last week’s cover of Red Pepper, a right-wing tabloid in Uganda.

tions, or NGOs. UK gay human rights activist Peter Tatchell is calling for governments around the world to issue travel bans on and freeze the assets of principal leaders behind the anti-gay law, including Museveni, David Bahati, its primary parliamentary sponsor, and Lively. Tatchell called them “the ideological inheritors of Dr. Goebbels’ hateful propaganda methods.” Asked whether a complete break in diplomatic relations with the Ugandan gover nment was appropriate, Charlie Joughlin, HRC’s deputy press secretary, wrote in an email, “The US needs continued diplomatic engagement in Uganda and Nigeria, but our US ambassadors should be temporarily recalled to Washington for consultation. We need a better strategy in these countries and we need to make it clear that we will not go on with business as usual. There must be consequences, real consequences for enacting legislation that deprives LGBT people of their human rights.” In his speech at the bill signing, Museveni welcomed the reproach of the West. The Daily Monitor of Uganda reported that the president stressed, “Uganda is a rich country that does not need aid, because aid is in itself a problem.” Back on February 18, Museveni said, “I would like to discourage the USA government from taking the line that this law will ‘complicate our valued relationship’ with the USA as President Obama said… Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody. We do not want anybody to impose their views on us. This very debate was provoked by West-

ern groups who come into our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality. It is better to limit the damage rather than exacerbate it.” Museveni also emphasized the sexual modesty of Ugandan culture, saying, “Are we interested in seeing your sexual acts — we the public? I am not able to understand the logic of the Western culture. However, we Africans always keep our opinions to ourselves and never seek to impose our point of view on the others. If only they could let us alone.” Human Rights Watch’s executive director Kenneth Roth tweeted, “In the name of African culture Ugandan Pres will sign anti-gay law pushed by US evangelists toughening British colonial ban.” Museveni had earlier indicated he might not sign the bill if it could be proven to his satisfaction that a homosexual orientation was inborn. He commissioned a study from his Ministry of Health on the subject, but the Daily Monitor reported that he listened to Ugandan members of parliament on the task force who “falsified the information contained in the report given by medical and psychological experts, twisting it to show that homosexuality should indeed be further criminalized.” In one instance, the report from the ruling National Resistance Movement said, “Presidential Adviser on Science Dr. Richard Tushemereirwe stated that homosexuality has serious Public Health consequences and should therefore not be tolerated.” Tushemereirwe was actually not a member of the scientists’ panel. And the


UGANDA, continued on p.30


March 5, 2014 |


Seventh Consecutive Federal Marriage Equality Win Judge ruling against Texas ban follows pattern set in wake of 2013 DOMA decision BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


ince the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Edie Windsor’s challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act eight months ago, no federal court has ruled against equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. So, it is perhaps no great surprise that a US judge from the Western District of Texas in San Antonio has laid another brick onto what has now become a solid edifice of pro-gay decisions. On February 26, Judge Orlando L. Garcia ruled that Texas has shown no rational basis for depriving gay and lesbian couples of the right to marry or for refusing to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Garcia’s preliminary injunction against the state’s ban on allowing or recognizing samesex marriages — based on his finding that Texas would be unlikely to prevail in a trial on the merits of the question — is the seventh consecutive marriage equality victory in federal court since a district judge in Ohio, shortly after the DOMA ruling, ordered that state to recognize an out-of-state same-sex marriage (for purposes of data required on a death certificate). However, in light of the Supreme Court’s January ruling that a district court decision striking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage the previous month would be stayed pending that state’s appeal, Garcia stayed his injunction as well, as have other recent federal judges ruling in favor of marriage equality. The Texas case, just one of several pending there, was among a large number of lawsuits filed in the wake of the DOMA ruling, which found that the 1996 statute’s ban on federal recognition of lawful same-sex marriages violated the right of gay and lesbian people to “equal liberty” under the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The high court, of course, did not directly take on the question of whether samesex couples have a constitutional right to marry, instead ruling that the US government could not discriminate between different-sex and same-sex marriages authorized by the states. In light of the other six post-DOMA decisions — in Ohio, Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia, and Illinois (where just two weeks ago a federal judge found the Cook County clerk could not delay the issuance of marriage licenses until that state’s marriage equality law takes effect on June 1), it would have been astonishing had Judge Garcia ruled the

Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss were rebuffed when they tried to get a marriage license in San Antonio.

Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman.

There was little Garcia could say in his opinion that was new unless he was prepared to depart from what has become the now familiar approach. other way. By this point, a ratchet effect has emerged, with a right repeatedly being recognized and becoming established. That right will not be fully secure until a definitive ruling comes from the Supreme Court, but every additional district court decision adds more weight to the growing body of precedent. With the latest victory and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s immediate pledge to appeal, there are now appeals court proceedings pending in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, and 10th Circuits. Oral arguments in the Utah and Oklahoma cases have been scheduled in the 10th Circuit for April, and the Ninth Circuit is poised to announce its date for oral arguments in a case in Nevada, where marriage equality lost at the district court in a ruling predating the DOMA decision. At least one of these circuits is likely to rule by this coming summer, which means it’s a safe bet the Supreme Court will face the underlying constitutional question — which it sidestepped last summer in the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases — by the time it convenes its 2014-15 term in October. The suit Garcia heard was brought by Texas attorneys Barry Chasnoff

and Neel Lane on behalf of Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, who are seeking recognition of their out-ofstate marriage, and Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss, who were rebuffed when they sought a marriage license from the office of Bexar County Clerk Gerard Rickhoff in San Antonio. There was little Garcia could say in his opinion that was new unless he was prepared to depart from what has become the now familiar approach to the issue. Like several other district judges, he toyed with the question of whether a marriage ban, when facing an equal protection claim of sexual orientation discrimination, should be subjected to a heightened level of judicial scrutiny, under which Texas would have to show a compelling justification for its policy. As did the other judges, however, Garcia concluded that resolving that question was unnecessary since the state’s arguments in defense of barring same-sex marriage failed to meet even the most lenient or deferential standard of review. He found that none of Texas’ justifications — similar to those made by state after state — was even rational. “There is no doubt that the welfare of children is a legitimate state interest,” Garcia wrote in examining one typical

justification. “However, limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples fails to further this interest.” In fact, he found, the marriage ban “causes needless stigmatization and humiliation for children being raised by the loving same-sex couples being targeted.” Texas’ policy, Garcia wrote, “is not connected to any legitimate interest that justifies the denial of same-sex marriage or recognition of legal out-of-state samesex marriages.” Regarding the plaintiff couples’ due process argument, Garcia did hold Texas to a judicial standard of strict scrutiny, since the Supreme Court has on numerous occasions identified the right to marry as a fundamental right that cannot be abridged without some legitimate compelling interest. The judge rejected Texas’ contention that the case was about some new “right to same-sex marriage,” finding that the right at issue was the same one now enjoyed by different-sex couples in Texas. “Defendants have failed to identify any rational, much less a compelling, reason that is served by denying samesex couples the fundamental right to marry,” he wrote. Garcia also found that Texas is not free to do what the Constitution prohibits the federal government from doing — denying recognition to legal samesex marriages from other jurisdictions. Even though the portion of DOMA that purports to allow states to deny recognition to same-sex marriages from elsewhere was not struck down last summer, the judge found that “Congress does not have the power to authorize individual States to violate the Equal Protection Clause.” Texas, he concluded, had provided no justification for denying such recognition “that is not related to the impermissible expression of disapproval of same-sex married couples.” As have all the federal judges who have recently ruled on marriage equality claims, Garcia, in no small irony, found support for his conclusions in recent dissenting opinions of Justice Antonin Scalia in gay rights cases — most notably his dissent in the 2003 Texas sodomy case. Scalia argued that the reasoning behind the sodomy ruling eliminated the ability of states to rely on tradition and moral disapproval as grounds for denying same-sex couples the right to marry. Garcia agreed, finding that Texas could not cite tradition as a justification for its marriage ban. Garcia was appointed to the federal bench in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.

| March 5, 2014


Marriage Equality Arrives Early in Chicagoland US judge, in suit against Cook County clerk, finds Windy City same-sex couples need not wait until June 1 BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


The Radical Legacy of Magnus Hirschfeld and the Fight for LGBT Equality


federal judge who ruled in December that the Cook County clerk could not delay issuing marriage licenses until Illinois’ marriage equality law takes effect in June in cases where one of the intended spouses was critically ill has moved the situation there an important step further. On February 21, District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled that the clerk, who serves the city of Chicago and several million more suburbanites, must implement the new law immediately for all same-sex couples seeking a license. David Orr, the county clerk and a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, quickly announced that the downtown Chicago Bureau of Vital Records would remain open two hours longer that day to accommodate expected long lines. Licensing became available countywide on February 24. The Illinois Legislature gave final approval to the state’s marriage equality bill on November 5 of last year, but since the action did not take place during its regular session and the measure did not win three-fifths approval, it could not go into effect until June 1 of this year. After Democratic Governor Pat Quinn signed the marriage law, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, which had been collaborating on marriage equality litigation in Illinois, went into federal court on behalf of Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert, seeking an order compelling the Cook County clerk to issue a marriage license for the couple given Gray’s fragile health and likelihood she would not survive until June 1. The ability of a couple in their situation to marry is significant both in emotional terms and with regard to the potential rights, survivor benefits, and inheritance tax liability of the widow or widower. US District Judge Thomas M. Durkin on November 25 ordered Orr to issue Gray and Ewert a marriage license. The two legal groups next filed another case seeking to have the relief won by Gray and Ewert extended to any other couple in which one partner faced a lifethreatening condition. That relief was granted by Judge Coleman on December 10. Since that time, at least one of the new spouses among the couples allowed the freedom to marry has passed away. On December 24, Lambda Legal and the ACLU made the next logical move, asking Coleman, on behalf of a new set of plaintiffs, to order the Cook County clerk to ignore the June 1 implementation date and begin issuing licenses at once to any


US District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman.

qualified same-sex couple seeking one. “There is no dispute here that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and infringes on the plaintiffs’ fundamental right to marry,” Coleman wrote in her opinion in the latest case, pointing out that both the county clerk and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan hold that same view. “Since the parties agree that marriage is a fundamental right available to all individuals and should not be denied, the focus in this case shifts from the ‘we can’t wait’ for terminally ill individuals to ‘why should we wait’ for all gay and lesbian couples that want to marry.” Quoting from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coleman added, “The time is always ripe to do right.” She noted that “the public policy of this State has been duly amended to reflect” the conclusion that “marriage is a fundamental right to be equally enjoyed by all individuals of consenting age regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation.” However, given that the only defendant in the suit she ruled on was the Cook County clerk, Coleman wrote, “this finding can only apply to Cook County based upon the posture of the lawsuit.” Though roughly two-thirds of Illinois residents live in the Chicago metropolitan area and so can easily access Cook County clerk’s offices, the distance presents some hardship for those in central and southern Illinois. On February 26, Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulte announced his office would begin to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as well. Champaign, the home of the University of Illinois, is about 130 miles south of Chicago. It’s unclear how much success Lambda, the ACLU, and other advocates — who filed suit only against a marriage equality-friendly county clerk — will have in their effort to persuade clerks in more conservative parts of the state that Coleman’s order means they too have a constitutional responsibility to grant gay and lesbian couples licenses.

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March 5, 2014 |


What to Make of Heroin Deaths Stigmatizing of users, crackdown on prescription pain meds aggravate a problem for which progress is possible BY NATHAN RILEY


hilip Seymour Hoffman’s en d wa s n o a n o ma l y . Overdose deaths have risen dramatically in New York City and the nation. He is one among thousands. The fact that he was the object of critical accolades was also not unusual. Hoffman was a high-performing heroin user — Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, John Belushi, and Robert Downey, Jr., are other celebrities who spring to mind in that regard. Famous yes, but perhaps more to the point, they have all been acclaimed for their exceptional artistry. Hoffman’s death reminds us that drug use cannot be attributed solely to poverty. It’s not just a Bronx problem. It may affect homeless members of the transgender community, but it also has its impact on affluent gay white men. In fact, the rate of drug poisoning deaths involving heroin among white New Yorkers (8.9 per 100,000) in 2012 was higher than among Hispanics, at 6.2, or blacks, at 4.6. Well-to-do neighborhoods in the city experienced a 300 percent increase in heroin deaths between 2010 and 2012. It is a racist myth to say that the black and brown are plagued by drug use, which in turn drives crime. People — including criminals — like their drugs, regardless of skin color or socioeconomic status. Nor is it unusual that Hoffman’s death is used to reinforce the misleading legend that heroin causes misery. It is likely that Hoffman took drugs seeking relief from some form of misery in his life. You will seldom read a word about the pleasure Hoffman might have found in heroin or the attractions of opioid use generally — an allure that persists in the face of government sanctions and social hostility. Ignoring the pleasures people find in taking drugs hampers drug education. The relentless focus on the harms doesn’t really help the group that matters the most — those individuals who experience a revelation when they use drugs, a moment that tells them this is something they want in their lives. The exclusive focus on harm makes it harder for users to relate those warnings to their own experiences and, in turn, to devise


strategies for coping. And it makes it harder for the rest of us to understand the pleasure these individuals experience and to develop any feeling of solidarity with them. For health workers, Hoffman’s death offers a chance to talk about Naloxone. That drug is to overdoses what a defibrillator is to heart attacks. Take it and in a matter of minutes breathing is restored. Opiate poisoning leaves a person incapacitated, so typically a bystander must inject the antidote. An ingenious innovation now permits injection without using needles. A piece of plastic with a foam tip, attached to a syringe, fits into the nose. Injecting half the solution into each nostril allows normal breathing to resume within two to five minutes. With training anyone can use Naloxone, and Dr. Sharon Stancliff, a physician at the Harm Reduction Coalition, believes the treatment should become more easily accessible. That’s the goal of new legislation in Albany that would allow people who might observe an overdose to have Naloxone at the ready and be trained in its use. According to a memorandum prepared by the bill’s legislative sponsors, the measure would make Naloxone available to “a family member, friend, or other person in a position to assist a person experiencing an opioid-related overdose and allow them to store and dispense” it. People close to drug users are in the best position to be on hand when an antidote needs to be administered. Unlike the uncertainty that surrounds so many efforts at drug law reform, it’s a good bet this bill will pass. Even before Hoffman’s death brought heroin overdose foursquare before the public, Republicans and Democrats had reached agreement. “Strengthening access is the best tool we have to prevent overdose deaths,” according to Bronx Democratic Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, the measure’s sponsor. Dinowitz is optimistic; the Senate sponsor is a Republican and the chair of the Health Committee, Long Island’s Kemp Hannon. But the bill is not a panacea; barriers remain. Methadone and buprenorphine are highly regarded substitutes for heroin, but patients using them are typically

MCDONALD, from p.6

types about the transgender community simply out of ignorance and lack of exposure. “We are normal, a different kind of normal,” McDonald said. “Hopefully, people will take the initiative to understand who trans people are.” Using a term that describes those who are not transgender or gender-variant, she said, “Cisgender

drug-tested. If other drugs are found, they might be forced to leave the treatment program, an irrational response similar to a weight control program forcing a person out for going off their diet. In general, the obsessive search for drug abstinence creates difficulties for programs offering services to users — and a person cut off from a heroin substitute is likely to become an injecting user once more. The use of drug testing also generates suspicion between the program and its clients, making it difficult for them to take charge of their health. Program members typically want to be non-judgmental but the rules may force them in the other direction. Another significant factor in the current heroin picture is the recent crackdown on prescriptions of Oxycontin and other drugs containing opioids. From 2006 until 2010, overdose deaths declined an average of 22 percent a year, but after 2010 a dramatic reversal occurred. By 2012, deaths had risen from 541 to 730. By then, Staten Island had become the center of the Oxycontin epidemic, with the highest rate of overdoses in the five boroughs. Education meetings in the borough were welcomed enthusiastically, but the level of ignorance, while understandable, was scary. Audience members had no idea that Oxy was related to heroin. That a “good drug” prescribed by a doctor shares traits similar to those of a “bad” drug like heroin was a revelation. Supplies of such prescriptions have since been restricted. This may reduce overdose deaths from Oxycontin, but it also means users will switch to heroin, use of which was already on the rise when the prescription curbs took effect. Shutting off access to Oxycontin no longer seems an obvious solution. A drug that is created in an underworld where potency varies radically and is injected by users replaced a pharmaceutical pill that delivers a uniform dose. And, going from pills to injection is a social initiation into a community of hard-core drug users. The newbie has to identify suppliers and then be taught how to inject. According to Joyce Rivera, the executive director of St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction in the Bronx, this pro-

people, for the most part, think: If it doesn’t affect us, why get involved?” McDonald, who moved to Minneapolis after growing up in Chicago, admitted that despite experiencing discrimination in the years prior to her arrest, she too was among those who did not get involved in activism. That’s changed. “I do want to be active as an advocate for trans women because so few have a platform,” she said. “It’s

cess changes a person’s social life and increases their health risks. The displacement of prescription opioids by heroin may be undercutting the drug education efforts and outreach in Staten Island. An effort that was directed at pill users must now be adapted for needle users. Staten Island is already the part of the city where needle exchange programs are least available. Though trading reduced use of opioid prescriptions for increases in needle intake of drugs has little to recommend it, greater heroin use is something that must now be confronted. St. Ann’s (where, full disclosure, I formerly served as the chair of the board of directors) has drafted a report called a drug users’ need assessment that found injecting users in the Bronx no longer have access to abandoned buildings. With economic conditions improving in the borough, users are once again shooting up in public — in hallways, alleys, and parks. The conditions are unsanitary, infections are up, and a hazard is created from needles being discarded in public places. St. Ann’s is asking the New York State AIDS Institute to support safer injecting facilities (SIF), rooms with a nurse present where a user, after purchasing their drugs in the illegal market, can inject in a peaceful and sanitary environment. Rather than being rushed, a shooter can use the alcohol wipes and clean syringes that reduce infection. SIFs are entry points for education and assistance in helping drug users manage their lives. More than 90 SIFs are in place in Europe, Canada, and Australia, where they are a part of the overall repertoire of harm reduction options, as discussed in a publication by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Abuse available at According to the Centre, “the facilities reach their target population and provide immediate improvements through better hygiene and safety conditions for injectors.” “Immediate improvement.” How often can we say that about a drug program? No one is saying Hoffman would have been saved, but if somebody in his situation had the opportunity of using such a facility, an overdose might turn out to be an incident not a fatality.

important for transgender women to understand that they can be successful. That’s a lot of progress from the months immediately following the violent incident in Minneapolis when McDonald experienced suicidal thoughts. Did the ordeal of the past few years, then, make her stronger? “Oh, definitely,” McDonald said, without skipping a beat.

| March 5, 2014



Preservationists, Backed by Pols, Press LGBT Historic Site Push Johnson, Chin step up in effort to explicitly recognize Stonewall Inn, Julius’, GAA Firehouse



upport is growing for an effort by preservationists to secure stronger and more specific landmark protections for three local sites that played key roles in the city’s LGBT history. All three sites — the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street, Julius’ Bar at 159 West 10th Street, and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse at 99 Wooster Street — already lie within landmarked districts, the first two within the Greenwich Village Historic District and the third within the Soho-Cast Iron Historic District. Changes to the buildings at the three sites, therefore, already require approval from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The story of the June 1969 riots at the Stonewall is known around the world, but few recall that Julius’, the city’s oldest gay bar, was the site of a 1966 “SipIn” protest that helped in overturning a state law that banned serving alcohol to “homosexuals.” The Wooster Street site,

a firehouse in the 19th century, served from 1971 to 1974 as the headquarters of the Gay Activists Alliance, a dissident group that splintered off from the Gay Liberation Front, the original post-Stonewall LGBT group in New York. The LPC designation reports for the two landmarked districts date back to the late 1960s and early ‘70s — the Greenwich Village report, in fact, written months before the Stonewall Riots — and they do not cite the significance the three buildings have in LGBT history. As a result, preservationists are asking the LPC to either individually landmark each building or to update their historic district reports with information on their roles within the gay rights movement. “This is long overdue, and it’s a vital step toward further preventing future changes to these sites that could compromise their history,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), which is leading the push. While Stonewall was named a national landmark more than a decade ago and is also listed on New York State’s Register

of Historic Places and Julius’ has been cited as eligible for both the state and federal registers, Berman stressed that the Wooster Street site has not to date been considered for any commemorative status or protection. GVSHP is building support among elected officials as well as LGBT advocacy and other preservationist groups. Those backing the effort now include City Councilmembers Corey Johnson and Margaret Chin, State Senator Brad Hoylman, State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Public Advocate Letitia James. “It would be a tragic loss to the city’s history and communities if we do not act to protect these sites from future development and give them the recognition they deserve in the designation report,” Johnson and Chin wrote in a joint February 20 letter to LPC chair Robert Tierney. The LPC has also heard from leaders of both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation League of New York State as well as from Glennda Testone, executive director of

the LGBT Community Center. To date, the only response from LPC is executive director Kate Daly’s acknowledgement that all three sites will be included in the group’s ongoing, citywide study of culturally significant buildings that already lie within historic districts, a process that makes them potential candidates for individual protection or for inclusion in amended district designation reports. Berman said he is “perplexed” by the LPC’s inaction. “This should be a no-brainer, and it’s really surprising to me that [LPC] hasn’t been more receptive and given a clear ‘Yes’ on this,” he told this reporter. Saying he doesn’t believe Tierney, first appointed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002, will remain at the helm of LPC much longer, Berman added, “So now we’re looking to see who the new chair will be, and hopefully that person will be more receptive to this.” When asked for comment on whether Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the preservationists’ push, his office did not respond.


March 5, 2014 |

DJ Weiss, 22, demonstrates the make-up of a lifestyle



DJ Weiss’ make-up is not a mask, but a heightening of his features. When completely dressed, the skateboarder who can’t skate instead walks on a globe.



itting on the set of “Legends,” the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus that is per for ming in the New York area through March 23, DJ Weiss was carefully applying the clown makeup that he would wear through media appearances and two performances. “A lot of people think it’s a mask,” the 22-year -old out gay clown said. “It’s really not. It’s to accent your natural features.” The make-up is applied beginning with lighter colors then darker colors, with occasional applications of talcum powder to keep it from smearing. Then comes a red nose that is held on with two-sided sticky tape, then a wig. And finally, his brightly colored costume and Weiss becomes DJ, the skateboarder who cannot skate. After winning the job with Ringling in 2012, Weiss developed the character with production staff. The look and costume have small touches, such as a single rhinestone on one cheek, that will never be visible to the audiences he plays to in very large spaces. Even the make-up cannot be easily seen from a distance. It is the complete look and the physical comedy that make the clown. “We have to play all the way up there,” said Weiss as he pointed to the highest tiers in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center that seats nearly 12,000 people for each performance. His character and appearance are “more traditional,” Weiss said, adding, “It was very important to me to have that look.” In each two-and-a-half-hour show, Weiss will wrangle goats, juggle, stiltwalk, walk on a globe, and engage in the pratfalls, sliding, and broad humor that are associated with clowning. “We’re very physical,” he said. “I want to make a connection. I want you



to feel joy and excitement.” Recent media reports of a clown shortage notwithstanding, there is stiff competition for clown positions. Hundreds, even thousands turn out when Ringling holds an open call, as it will do on March 12 in Newark. The calls are not for jobs, they are for an opportunity to participate in a further evaluation. Weiss has wanted to be a clown since he was a child. His mother was a Ringling clown in the 1980s and now runs a clown school in Minnesota, where Weiss was raised. His sister is a clown in Ringling’s other major circus unit. Each unit has roughly a dozen clowns. “Since I was five years old, I wanted to be a Ringling clown,” Weiss said. “We grew up with clowning, but we didn’t grow up in the circus... I plan on staying with Ringling for as long as I possibly can.” The circus, which is owned by Feld Entertainment, has two major units and a third that plays in smaller cities and towns. Every show has a theme, such as “Legends.” The two major units alternate the cities they play in so that in any given year audiences in a particular city are seeing a new show. The circus will give 400 performances in 43 to 47 American cities in one year. The performers and crew travel in a mile-and-a-half-long train that is their home for the entire tour. They get meals in the “pie car.” Some performers travel with their spouses and children so there is a nursery and a school. It is a tough schedule. Weiss and the other performers work six days a week and do 11 to 12 shows a week. When not performing, they may participate in promotional or charity events. “I always say circus isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle,” Weiss said. “We play games with each other, we play jokes on each other. It’s all morale. There’s always a different show going on backstage.” Weiss clowned or worked crew for smaller circuses before his Ringling job. He worked backstage for Ringling before moving into the role he has wanted for his entire life and that is a central feature of the circus. “Clowns are such a staple for the circus,” Weiss said. Remaining “Legends” dates in the New York area are at the Prudential Center in Newark, Mar. 13-16; and at the IZOD Center East in East Rutherford, NJ, Mar. 19-23. Complete information and tickets at


| March 5, 2014

With 9,000 competitors headed to Cleveland, isn’t it time to think about August on Lake Erie? BY PAUL SCHINDLER


hen as many as 9,000 athletes gather in Cleveland August 9-16 for Gay Games 9 (GG9), at least one New Yorker will be able to say he’s seen it all. Charlie Carson, 59, attended the very first Gay Games in San Francisco in 1982. Since then, he’s returned to San Francisco and also competed in New York, Chicago, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Cologne, and Sydney. Carson was among 300 swimmers in the ’82 Games — 18 of them from New York but the lion’s share Californians. It was a very good start for his Gay Games career. He came away with six medals — including three golds and two silvers. Four years later, again in San Francisco, this time with 400 swimmers, Carson medaled but picked up no gold. His career in competitive swimming is emblematic of the explosion in the Games and in opportunities for orga-

A gold medalist in cycling at the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Out Cycling's Dieter Klemke gives an un-dislocated thumbs up.

The 2014 jersey for Fast & Fabulous, the city's other LGBT cycling club.

nized LGBT sports generally. When of roughly 35. Carson first heard about the Gay Carson attended the first San Francisco Games, he and his 17 fellow New Games via word of mouth. In 1981, he Yorkers were freelancers of sorts. It was joined the New York City Gay Men’s not until 1987, a year after the second Chorus, during that organization’s Games, that they formally organized earliest days getting off the ground. T:9.381” The chorus was, he said, the first gay Team New York Aquatics, with a roster

group he ever joined. It was from one of his fellow singers that Carson learned about the Games planned for San Francisco the following year. “I didn’t know what to expect but I had never been to San Francisco,” he recalled, “so I figured even if the Games weren’t that good, at least I’d get a visit to San Francisco out of it.” Carson’s doubts proved unfounded. “It turned out to be fantastic,” he said. “It jump-started this network of contacts — people who before that had given up the idea of competing in sports as adults.” Carson soon showed himself to be a joiner, an organizer, and a leader. Based on meeting other New York athletes at the ’82 Games, “I began to compile lists,” he said. After helping to launch TNYA in 1987, he oversaw the aquatics competition at the 1994 Games in New York, which coincided with the city’s mammoth celebration of the Stonewall Riots’ 25th anniversary. Carson has also been involved in build-


GAY GAMES, continued on p.14


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March 5, 2014 | swim with us,” Carson said. “We have really changed the world in this way.” When Carson participated in the 2013 off-year international swimming competition in Seattle, he was at the high end of his five-year age bracket and came home with no gold medals. Because he turns 60 in this calendar year, he will be kicked up into the next age bracket in Cleveland this summer. Being the kid in the competition again, he harbors hopes for some gold. “It’s silly how important that seems,” Carson said, in a tone that made clear there is nothing unserious at all about his plans for August.


GAY GAMES, from p.13

ing an international swimming organization that hosts competitive LGBT events in each of the three years when the Gay Games are not held. He has promised himself that this year will be his final one as a member of the board of the Federation of Gay Games. As he became well-known in the LGBT sports world, Carson also took on other athletic pursuits. As a way of keeping himself in shape for his swimming, in 1982 he joined Front Runners New York, an organization of running enthusiasts started in 1979. He remained active in FRNY for 17 years, though something had to give so he could keep juggling his growing sports responsibilities. By 1986, Carson left the Gay Men’s Chorus and has not sung in any group since. When he leaves the Gay Games board next year, he hopes to rejoin the singers he left behind nearly 30 years ago. LGBT swimmers in New York no longer have to depend on fortuitous conversations with those in the know to learn about organized competition, Carson said. The youngest swimmers in TNYA, he said, for the most part learned about the group on the Internet. TNYA membership now tops 500, competing in swimming, diving, and water polo. The group will send roughly 70 swimmers to Cleveland, and 15 water polo players from New York are also expected to participate. With so many members, the group has exploded beyond the confines of its original practice space at John Jay College on the West Side and now holds workouts, as well, at the Dwight School on the Upper West Side, Baruch College on the East Side, the Chinatown Y, Hostos Community College in the Bronx, and Long Island University in Brooklyn. If big-time professional sports are getting their first taste of out gay competitors with Jason Collins now playing on the Brooklyn Nets and Michael Sam expected to be a top pick in this year’s NFL draft, the rise of organized gay athletics clued in the amateur sports world some time ago. “We have Olympic medalists who will

Anyone who has participated in the LGBT sports world in New York for

any amount of time has probably met Jeff Kagan. Fifteen years ago, he founded the New York City Gay Hockey Association. By that time, he was already playing in the city’s adult division amateur hockey league, which competes at Chelsea Piers, on a team called the Ugly Americans. More than half the Uglies, it turned out, were gay, something not known to all of the team’s players. Kagan and a few other gay players decided to call a team meeting after one of their games so that those who wanted to could come out. “ We s a t t h e r e a n d m a d e t h e announcement,” he recalled, “and everyone said, “Okay,” and then we showered.” Based on the interest he saw among gay hockey players for organized competition, Kagan pushed to organize the Gay Hockey Association. Its teams originally played only amongst themselves, but in a league with just a few teams and varying degrees of skill across them, the opportunities for spirited contests were limited. Today, the gay teams, half of whose members, Kagan guessed, might in fact be straight, play against each other and versus the other teams who compete at Chelsea Piers. Hockey is by no means the only sport that has engaged Kagan over the years. After the successful launch of the Hockey Association, friends of his who played basketball asked for his help in starting a league of their own. He figured he’d lend a hand — and ended up serving as the league’s commissioner for several years. Perhaps stubborn about learning from his mistakes, Kagan recently helped start a gay bowling league. Kagan has also been instrumental in a variety of efforts aimed at coor dinating activities among the city’s mushrooming number of LGBT sports gr oups. For several years, Balls, Boards, and Blades was a periodic sports social aimed at addressing a problem the new leagues were encountering — the tendency of too many

teammates to hook up with each other. “The idea was ‘not with your teammates,’” Kagan recalled with a laugh. “Treat your teammates like brothers. Hook up with guys from other sports.” Kagan was also one of a number of athletes who helped organize an annual LGBT Sports Ball in New York. As New York’s LGBT athletics scene grew and individual leagues expanded, organizing events across all the sports became more than anyone realistically had time for. That doesn’t mean Kagan isn’t still pitching in. Today, he is the board president of Out of Bounds New York, an umbrella group that coor dinates activities among more than 40 sports groups and also works to encourage acceptance of LGBT participation in team and individual competition. Fundraising to sustain individual sports organizations is left up to each league, but Out of Bounds will raise the roughly $4,000 to pay for Team New York uniforms that the city’s athletes will wear in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at the Cleveland Games. Kagan explained that Out of Bounds’ work in promoting acceptance of LGBT athletes has led the group to join forces with the You Can Play Project, a nonprofit effort that has actively sought high school, college, and professional teams’

game, the grace of the game.” Then perhaps concerned that his meaning had been misunderstood, Kagan added, “Though I do enjoy competing.”

One athlete who doesn’t hedge in the slightest about his view

of taking on his rivals is Dieter Klemke. “I am very competitive,” he said flatly, flashing a sly smile and offering a small laugh, when asked to explain his love of cycling. A n a t i v e o f H a n o v e r, G e r m a n y who came to New York 28 years ago, Klemke, who is 46, entered his first Gay Games competition in Cologne in 2010 and won a gold medal in the criterium, a 12-lap, 17-mile race on a closed rectangular course that places a high premium on technique. In winning, he bested a field of 40 cyclists. Klemke has not always been a serious cyclist. He took up the sport only seven years ago as he faced his 40th birthday. “I needed to do something meaningful,” he explained. As child, he was a competitive swimmer — “I fell in the water when I was five,” he said. He gave up the sport, however, when he was 16 after discovering “cigarettes and girls.” It was later — in 1994, when he was enthralled by the spectacle of the Gay Games and the

“We have Olympic medalists who will swim with us,” Carson said. “We have really changed the world in this way.” endorsement of inclusionary policies. In January, You Can Play announced that every team in the National Hockey League has now been represented by a member speaking out on behalf of LGBT participation in sports. Reflecting on the new moment in sports that the NHL’s posture and the emergence of Collins and Sam represent, Kagan said, “Once upon a time, I thought within five years there will an out gay player in pro sports, no question. Now that it’s five years, I’m amazed.” Having participated in past Gay Games, Kagan, who is 45, will head out to Cleveland come August. This year, however, there’s a difference. During the past year, he’s gotten married and moved from Manhattan back to his hometown in New Jersey — and the time he once dutifully devoted to hockey has suffered. He readily conceded he’s more out of shape than is customary, but he also bragged that he’s lured his new husband onto the ice. The couple will compete together in Cleveland, though at a less competitive level than Kagan has in the past. “I don’t play hockey for the competition,” he said. “I do it for the love of the

Stonewall 25 celebration in New York — that he gave up girls and came out. In the years after those Games, he briefly toyed with competitive bodybuilding, but found both the diet and the discipline daunting. For three consecutive years starting the year he turned 40, Klemke, who is 6-foot-4 and weighs about 235 pounds, did the San Francisco-Los Angeles AIDS Ride, experiences that sold him on cycling. Around the same time, he helped found Out Cycling, one of the city’s two LGBT bike clubs. The Fast & Fabulous Cycling Club is the older and larger of the two, but while Klemke readily acknowledged that it has some of New York’s strongest LGBT cyclists, it also focuses a greater share of its efforts on recreational and social biking. Out Cycling, Klemke explained, is more focused on competitive events. It is also predominantly a male club, while Fast & Fabulous draws more evenly from across the community. Explaining that he has no “winter gear,” Klemke said, “I ride in warm weather.” That doesn’t mean that his skills have gone dormant in recent


GAY GAMES, continued on p.15


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Jeff Kagan, founder of the New York City Gay Hockey Association, has been a key organizer in the local LGBT sports scene for the past 15 years.


GAY GAMES, from p.14

months. Twice a week — increasing to three times a week this month — Klemke trains at Endurance Werx on West 37th Street, “pedaling against the computer” for 60 minutes. During the spring, club members will do training rides of 35, 60, and 100 miles, some of the most challenging of them crossing the George Washington Bridge and proceeding up the Hudson overlooking its west bank. And in June and July, those cyclists headed for the Cleveland Games will be in Central Park every weekday morning to train. “Everything you hate you learn to love,” Klemke said about what he can promise any new Out Cycling member. One thing any athlete hates is injury, but when that misfortune befell him it was not in competition but rather while simply tooling around Manhattan. Hit several years ago by another cyclist, who was at fault, Klemke was thrown over his handlebars — to which he clung, dislocating both thumbs — and passed out briefly when he hit the ground. The offender fled before he came to, so there was nobody to send the bill for a very expensive replacement bike to. Klemke did get back up on the proverbial horse, however, once his thumbs had healed. As he talked about the challenges of keeping a 100-member club organized and establishing a training routine for the half-dozen Out Cycling members going to the Games, it was clear that Klemke is in fact the “goal-oriented” sportsman he sees himself as. Still, for all his emphasis on a love of competition, he is motivated as well by the camaraderie cycling offers.

“I am very social,” he said. “I love challenging myself and training. And helping others in training.” In nearly three decades since first arriving in New York, it’s apparent that the ’94 Gay Games, even though he was not yet competing, represented a high point for him. He also attended the Games when they were held in Chicago and in Amsterdam, and recalled the friends he made, from Australia and New Zealand in particular, in the Olympic Village in Cologne four years ago. The six cyclists heading to Cleveland plan to rent a van, which will bring the cost of their week at the Games down to about $1,600 each, hotel included. Klemke urged other New Yorkers to seriously consider making the trip, athlete or not. “If you’re even a little bit interested in sports, go,” he advised. “And you can participate. Remember, you don’t have to qualify.” Then acknowledging that some New Yorkers might turn their nose up at spending a summer week in the industrial Midwest, Klemke said that with nearly 10,000 athletes and another 15,000 spectators, the Games are a defining gay event under any circumstance. “Even if it’s in Cleveland,” he said. “We have to present. Out and proud, you know.” And again, that sly smile. For more information about Out of Bounds and the New York area’s LGBT sports leagues, visit For complete information about the August 9-16 Gay Games 9 in Cleveland, visit

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March 5, 2014 |


King of Pain

New Craig Lucas play sifts through the wreckage of addiction BY DAVID KENNERLEY



Arliss Howard and Kathryn Erbe in Craig Lucas’ “Ode to Joy.”

raig Lucas is not one to shy away from tough topics. The out gay dramatist was among the first to tackle AIDS in his screenplay for “Longtime Companion” and more obliquely in “Prelude to a Kiss” and “The Dying Gaul” (both plays he later made into films). In “Prayer for My Enemy,” he contemplates scars from the Holocaust and other miseries. Lucas wrote the libretto for the recent Met opera “Two Boys,” about one teen’s attempt to murder another. The list goes on. And now, in “Ode to Joy,” the prolific playwright expands on a pair of nagging themes in his works: alcoholism and substance abuse. But as the upbeat title suggests, this is no finger-wagging screed against the perils of addiction. Rather, the pleasures of vodka and ecstasy-fueled romps are on prominent display, and even when the highs come crashing down, as they always do, a perverse glee can be found among the

ODE TO JOY Cherry Lane Theatre Rattlestick Theatre Company 38 Commerce St., west of Seventh Ave. S. Through Mar. 30 Tue.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $21-$66; Or 866-811-4111 Two hrs., 30 min., with two intermissions

shattered glass, blood, and vomit. It’s this uneasy clash that gives this darkly comic melodrama an urgent resonance, like two tectonic plates grinding against one other to create an earthquake. Unlike many of Lucas’ works crammed with too many ideas and inflated with fantasy, “Ode to Joy,” which he also directs, is surprisingly focused. There are only three main characters, each deeply flawed in some way. The bisexual, angst-ridden painter Adele meets a sobbing Bill, a cardiac surgeon who may have cancer, at a


PAIN, continued on p.30

Two Hits, One Miss

The Mint, NYTW Workshop engage in different ways, while “Bikeman” falls flat BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

LONDON WALL Mint Theater Company 11 W. 43rd St. Through Apr. 13 Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $55; Or 866-811-4111 Two hrs., 30 min., with one intermission



he Mint does it again. With its smashing new production of “London Wall,” the company delivers the perfect gift of warmth and humanity in a long and frigid winter. John Van Druten’s 1931 romantic comedy, set in a small law office, concerns the trials and tribulations of women in the typing pool as they go about their business, fall in love, and come to their senses. The two central characters are Miss Janus, a senior office worker unsure of her future, and new arrival Pat Milligan, whose favor is sought by a junior partner as well a clerk from another firm. Everyone in the office is adjusting to a changing world, where

Elise Kibler and Julia Coffey in John Van Druten’s “London Wall,” at the Mint through April 13.

women are now in the workforce and once predictable futures are no more. It is a rich and wonderfully told tale, and under Davis McCallum’s detailed direction there isn’t a moment that isn’t fully realized or a character who isn’t in some way sympathetic. Julia Coffey as Miss Janus gives one of the most exciting performances of the year as a woman who loves too well if not wisely, and so faces a crisis. The power of her performance comes in its

understatement, yet despite Miss Janus’ British reserve her inner workings are crystal clear. Elise Kibler plays 19-yearold Pat with freshness and vulnerability as she negotiates the rocky waters of work and love. The supporting cast also helps bring this world to life. Matthew Gumley is the cranky and charmingly underhanded office boy. Stephen Plunkett plays the firm’s junior lawyer with a passion for Pat and just the right amount of sunny manipulation. Christopher Sears is outstanding as the clerk who is in love with Pat and seeks advice — and courage — from Miss Janus. Jonathan Hogan as the head of the law firm is surprisingly hilarious, and Laurie Kennedy as the crazy client Miss Willesden is endearing in a batty British way. The story is complex, but it’s easy to get absorbed and lost in this world — and to wish the ending didn’t mean a return to cold, contemporary New York.

C a r y l C h u rc h i l l ’s new piece “Love and I n f o r m a t i o n ” is v e ry like ly

to be polarizing. The nearly two-

LOVE AND INFORMATION New York Theatre Workshop Minetta Lane Theater 18 Minetta Ln., btwn. Sixth Ave. & Macdougal St. Through Mar. 23 Tue.-Wed. at 7 p.m. Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat. at 3 p.m.; Sun. at 2 p.m. $65-$85; Or 212-279-4200 One hr., 50 min., no intermission

hour, inter missionless evening is comprised of roughly 60 playlets. The overriding themes are the ways love is expressed and how we receive and process information, each piece featuring characters in some form of love relationship at an important or transitional moment. They are diverse — from funny to banal to heart-wrenching — and Churchill’s use of language and economy of expression are sensational. What makes the evening so fascinating, though, is its meta structure and how the audience is soon trained to gather information in very short scenes, some less than a minute.


NYTW, continued on p.20


| March 5, 2014


Deconstructing “Cruising”


Travis Mathews, James Franco interrogate heterosexual unease at entering the foreign turf of gay sexuality


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Christian Patrick and Val Lauren in James Franco and Travis Mathews’ “Interior. Leather Bar.”



ilmmaker Travis Mathews gar nered considerable attention for his debut feature, “I Want Your Love,” and not just because it featured explicit gay sex. It was a poignant, intimate drama about a gay man facing a crossroads in his life. The film caught the attention of actor, writer, and director James Franco, who contacted Mathews about a project he wanted to do that plays off “Cruising,” the controversial 1980 William Friedkin thriller starring Al Pacino set in New York City’s gay S & M scene.

INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR. Directed by James Franco and Travis Mathews Strand Releasing Opens Mar. 5 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St.

Their collaboration, “Interior. Leather Bar.” re-imagines 40 lost minutes from Friedkin’s film. Actor Val Lauren, a straight friend of Franco’s, plays the Pacino role and his anxiety about being on set and shooting a gay film forms the arc for the hybrid documentary-drama. “James wanted to compare and contrast where we were with graphic sex in 1980 and where we are now with sexuality on screen,” the softspoken filmmaker recounted in a Skype interview. “I wanted the texture of the film and the way it was constructed to reflect Val’s experience, and [his] second guessing [his] boundaries — a constant

feeling of unease. I wanted to play with boundaries that played with what queer means.” Before Mathews agreed to make “Interior. Leather Bar.,” he spoke at length with Franco to confir m they shared the same politics and temperaments. “That we were approaching something controversial from a similar point of view,” he said. When they decided to co-direct the film, Mathews recalled, the question arose, “How are you actually going to do this!?” He explained that Franco’s approach was very much “We’ll figure it out and go with the flow.” Mathews was far more structured, with shot lists and scene numbers despite having a skeletal treatment of the project. The approaches complement each other. Franco is mostly seen counseling his friend Lauren, often telling him to just go for it, despite the actor’s obvious reservations. Mathews focuses more on directing and establishing the supporting characters’ roles and actions, such as their body language in the leather club and in an explicit sex scene. One thing determined early on was that the filming would take place in Los Angeles. While “Cruising” was set in New York and the co-directors could not recreate 1980s Manhattan, they made the decision, Mathews said, “to expose the apparatus and drive home the fact that we are in LA and this is the making of a movie.” Scenes set outside in the parking lot feature a helicopter overhead, and other telltale LA signs. Mathews said he first saw “Cruising”


CRUISING, continued on p.19

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March 5, 2014 |


Twin City

Jake Gyllenhaal battles himself as Toronto plays itself BY STEVE ERICKSON

ENEMY Directed by Denis Villeneuve A24 Opens Mar. 14 Angelika Film Center 18 W. Houston St. at Mercer St.



p until now, I thought I had Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s career figured out. After two films made in his native Quebec, which I haven’t seen, his excellent “Polytechnique,” a depiction of a real-life Montreal school shooting targeting women, got a brief run at MoMA. After that, the director would be marginal no more. “Incendies,” set in an imaginary Middle Eastern country, won him a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination. That led to Hollywood, where he made “Prisoners” with Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman last year. On the way there, he made “Enemy” in Toronto. Though

Jake Gyllenhaal is both Anthony and Adam in Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy.”

shot before “Prisoners,” it’s getting an American release after it. On the sur face, it’s every bit as much an example of global cinema as “Incendies” — a Gyllenhaal vehicle made with Spanish co-financing and a script by Spanish screenwriter Javier






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Gullón, adapted from Portuguese writer José Saramago’s novel “The Double.” Yet it’s explicitly Canadian in surprising ways. Many, if not most, films shot in Vancouver and Toronto use these locations as anonymous Everycities. In the w ak e of T hom Ande rs e n’s documentary “Los Angeles Plays Itself,” I’d hoped it would inspire an answer film: “Toronto Does Not Play Itself.” “Enemy” goes against this grain by using explicitly Canadian phone numbers and addresses. Villeneuve’s vision of Toronto is highly stylized, but I think the city’s residents will find it recognizable. He also draws heavily on Canada's most iconic director, David Cronenberg, particularly his doppelgänger classic “Dead Ringers.” “Enemy” begins by concentrating on history professor Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal), who lives with his girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent) in a dead-end relationship. Watching a film r ecommended to him by a colleague, he notices an actor playing a bit part who looks exactly like him. Becoming obsessed by the desire to track down his double, Adam goes to the agency representing Anthony (also played by Gyllenhaal), who lives with his pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) in a Toronto suburb. After Anthony and Helen treat Adam’s initial phone calls with hostility, they let him into their lives and Anthony quickly takes control. When I read Saramago’s novel, I didn’t imagine the actor looking as young and handsome as Gyllenhaal. Vi l l e n e u v e a n d G u l l ó n h a v e p u t their own personal stamp on the material, taking it away from the Portuguese writer’s Dostoevsky-

inspired vision. They push hard on surrealism and sexual power games. The film is obsessed with spiders, which get crushed by a woman at an underground fetish club in one of its earliest scenes and later climb over Toronto skyscrapers. In the finale, they seem to represent the possibility that women might get back at men for toying with them, but ultimately all this imagery points to one of the film’s weaknesses — an emphasis on weirdness for its own sake. The look of “Enemy” is dingy, with many early scenes set at night. Adam’s world seems to be tinted the shade of the brown suit he wears to class. Anthony lives in a brighter atmosphere, which fits a man who goes out jogging and fills half his refrigerator with organic blueberries. Toronto itself looks somewhat smoggy in the many long shots of the city’s skyscrapers and highways that Villeneuve favors. Villeneuve finds unusual-looking locations amidst suburban sprawl — a key scene is set near two buildings that resemble bowling pins. Adam isn’t particularly interested in film. From the tone of his lecture about Romans distracting the masses with bread-and-circus entertainment, one gets the impression he might even be slightly hostile to it. Yet one could say that cinema is interested in him. The most interesting aspect of “Enemy” is the way it speaks indirectly about fandom, stalking, and the pitfalls of celebrity. The resemblance between Adam and Anthony leads to a degree of entitlement that spills over into both men’s lives. Eventually, it’s hard to say which one is being a bigger jerk, especially when they use each other’s likeness to get laid. This theme comes across with more force here than it did in Saramago’s novel simply because Villeneuve is using the same medium whose power he’s critiquing. If “Enemy” is the weakest of the three Villeneuve films I’ve seen, the problem is its reliance on gratuitous weirdness to do its heavy lifting. The avant-classical score evokes Jocelyn Pook’s cello-driven work, particularly her music for “Eyes Wide Shut,” but it too seems to be trying too hard for impact. Still, the film’s tale of dueling doubles has some resonance beyond the plot’s sur face: Quebec versus English-speaking Canada, anyone? Or Canada as a whole versus the US? I hope such resonances don’t entirely vanish from Villeneuve’s work if he gets absorbed further into Hollywood.


| March 5, 2014


Rediscovering Youth Culture’s Birth Matt Wolf documentary examines defining styles of early 20th century teenage life would be a Jitterbug, because there was a political dimension to them — celebrating African-American culture and integrating social spaces. And they had incredible style and verve. In the 1930s, I’d be involved in politics and I’d be fighting for a different kind of future because that’s what I did as a teen in the 1990s.




penly gay filmmaker Matt Wolf’s illuminating documentary “Teenage” is a fantastic mix of found footage, still photographs, and re-enactments of individual stories. The narration — representing the words of British and American boys and American and German girls — are supplied, respectively, by out gay actor Ben Whishaw, Jessie Usher, Jena Malone, and Julia Hummer.

TEENAGE Directed by Matt Wolf Oscilloscope Laboratories Opens Mar. 14 Landmark Sunshine Cinema 143 E. Houston St. btwn. First & Second Aves.

Wolf, who wrote and directed the film, adapted gay author Jon Savage’s book “Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture” to show how teenage culture emerged during the first half of the 20th century. One common theme through those years for youth 16 to 24 was freedom. They found it in cars, clubs, clothes, music, and even work, which empowered them. “Teenage” opens in 1904, when children as young as 12 years old would work in factory jobs up to 72 hours a week. Labor laws, the film explains, soon changed that, and adolescents were suddenly free to roam the streets. They formed gangs and created a problem for the authorities. Youth groups like the Boy Scouts were launched to control kids and in time


CRUISING, from p.17

as a 20-year-old on VHS and had viewed it at least three times before Franco contacted him about making “Interior. Leather Bar.” His reaction to the film was mixed, not unlike the ambiguous feelings many gay men had about it when it was made. “It felt problematic to me,” he explained. “I understood why it was protested and why it was a lightning rod. But it remained an intriguing film to me as a young gay man because it exposed me to a subculture I didn’t know.” In working on the project with Franco, Mathews dug down deeper in his thinking about the film. “One of the things that I have unpacked since doing this project and having to re-watch it was the bar

Flappers with guns from Matt Wolf’s documentary “Teenage.”

ready them for war. When World War I came in 1914, it decimated the young adult population of Europe and was also felt in America. After the armistice, teens reinvented themselves as Bright Young People and attended Freak Parties, where males and females would dress androgynously. Later, they began using drugs and became politicized, working for social change. “Teenage” also chronicles the rise of Hitler Youth in Germany, as well as youth subcultures elsewhere, including the Swing Kids, Zoot Suiters, and In-Betweeners. Gay City News spoke via phone with 31-year-old Wolf about “Teenage.”

political teenager. I grew up in the Bay Area, and I got involved with other young people to protect gay and transgender teens in high schools. That was my whole world — the politics I was involved in. GMK: Music is very important in “Teenage.” What did you listen to as a teen? MW: A big part of my identity was music. I chose albums because of their artwork. I got into the Smiths and the Cure. I lightly identified with punk, even though I didn’t look punk on the outside.

GARY M. KRAMER: What were you like as a teenager? MATT WOLF: Well, I was a very

GMK: What group of teenagers do you identify with or would you want to belong to if you had been a teen between 1904 and 1945? MW: It depends on the decade. I think I

scenes — they were real venues, with real patrons,” he said. “It was docufiction. Friedkin instructed the [gay men] to do what they did — drink, smoke, do drugs, fuck. If you look at the bar scenes in ‘Cruising,’ they were important representations of the bar scene in New York City pre-AIDS. The fact that the film is so homophobic eclipses the fact that the B-roll bar scenes and montages create a really inter esting and r eally important document of that time.” W h i l e “ I n t e r i o r. L e a t h e r B a r. ” re-creates that bar scene feeling, with naked actors being spanked with a paddle by a hot guy in chaps, the focus of the film is the journey Lauren’s character must travel in making the film-within-a-film. Mathews explained, “When you strip

down ‘Cruising’ to its bare elements, it’s a straight man going into a gay culture and it changes him. We created a parallel arc in our film, by having our actor going on to a set.” From this perspective, “Interior. Leather Bar.” is less about what might have been in those missing 40 minutes of “Cruising” and more a docufiction about creating that sequence. Mathews’ aim was to forge a space that shifts between reality and fiction. One terrific moment has two actors conversing candidly and then one is suddenly fed a line. But the sex is a storytelling tool, too, as Mathews and Franco discuss in the film’s opening scene. Late in the film, Lauren observes an erotic coupling between real life partners that has an effect on him.

GMK: Can you talk about the Bright Young People? M W: I was sear ching for a gay youth movement. The gender play and queer material in the 1920s provides a striking resemblance to the Warhol Factory era. I felt queer teen experience was explored in this part of the film. It was hard to find gender outlaws in the early 20th century amongst youth. I wanted to highlight that. GMK: How did you discover Jon Savage’s book? MW: In college, I read “England’s Dreaming,” his definitive history of punk, which analyzed culture in a broader way. But it wasn’t academic — it depicted a time and a place. When I heard about “Teenage,” I was intrigued. I also love hidden histories and stories we think we know about but are told from a more obscure angle. We assume youth culture originated in the 1950s, with rockers and beatniks, and there was this whole pre-history. GMK: What was your approach in adapting the book for the documentary? MW: At first, I thought it would be narrated by Jon as an essay-style film. But that didn’t work. Jon was older, British, and spoke with the


TEENAGE, continued on p.30

One of Mathews’ goals in the film is for the audience to identify with Lauren’s character, who is confronting something that makes him feel uncomfortable. While gay men might find his character a bit irritating, according to Mathews, straight men who have seen the film find themselves checking their own homophobia in ways that Lauren does. “Interior. Leather Bar.” cannot be considered a mainstream film. Mathews made clear his intent was “to make a queer film that was challenging and provocative in the ways it was constructed — what we bring up and what we show. To me, that’s queer, and I don’t use that word lightly. It became clear to me that that was the project we were spearheading. And I embraced that.”


March 5, 2014 |


A Touch of the Poet BY ELI JACOBSON


assenet’s “Werther,” an intimate music drama focused on interior emotion rather than overt action, has never been a natural fit for the grandiose Metropolitan Opera House. Audiences haven’t flocked to it despite the presence of many distinguished singers over the decades. Usually it is mounted as a vehicle for a superstar tenor divo (hopefully in tandem with a diva mezzo or soprano), as in the 1894 Met premiere starring matinée idol Jean de Reszke and the revival in 1971 with heroic Italian heartthrob Franco Corelli. With its onenote, melancholic, suicidal hero, unconsummated romance, somber tone, and lack of dramatic action, “Werther” has remained more of a succès d’estime than a crowd pleaser. The Met unveiled a new “Werther” on February 18 as a vehicle for superstar Ger man tenor Jonas Kaufmann, staged by Richard Eyre (following his successful Met “Carmen”). The Met originally cast diva Elina Garanča as Charlotte, but her pregnancy made way for the Met debut of distinguished French mezzo Sophie Koch. Eyre and the designer Rob Howell update the action to around 1910, which doesn’t add anything but does no harm since provincial European mores changed little over the two centuries that elapsed. The production’s visual style is an uneasy mix of stylization — tilted architectural frames and heightened perspectives — and well-stuf fed, artfully detailed period realism


NYTW, from p.16

The structure of the play engages our own associations, biases, and feelings about love and relationships so that each of us unconsciously fills in the context for the scenes we all witness together. Discussing it afterward with my companion, we disagreed strongly about a particular setting and then realized we had each interpreted a few chairs and a couple of interactions based on our own background. The 15-member company plays more than 100 roles and under James MacDonald’s direction, the piece is both sharp and fluid. Miriam Buether’s scenery and Peter Mumford’s lighting are critical in providing both literal and evocative meaning for the audience. It takes a few scenes to recognize the unique mode of dramatic engagement

reminiscent of “Downton Abbey” or Merchant-Ivory films. Eyre attempts to compensate for the lack of action in the first two acts by adding projections onto the front scrim and mimed tableaux during orchestral preludes and interludes. Before the first act even begins, we see the death of Charlotte’s mother, her funeral. and a montage of ravens flocking on tree branches that looks like an outtake from an animated Tim Burton reboot of “The Birds.” Overkill is mixed with sentimentality — a quality shared by Alain Antinoglu’s slow, detailed but ponderously loud conducting. In the more dramatically concentrated third and fourth acts, Eyre minimizes the fussy cinematic flourishes and sharpens the focus on the principals — which is a good thing. This is a distinguished cast, though Koch is the only authentic French stylist. The light, pointed brilliance and spring-like freshness of Lisette Oropesa’s coloratura soprano embodies the high-spirits of little sister Sophie. Oropesa’s Sophie acutely perceives the suffering in her family and is earnestly trying to counteract it. Serbian baritone David Bižić debuted as Albert, displaying warm tone and good French diction. Bižic’s smooth, earthy baritone effectively contrasts the grounded, virile military man with the moody, fatalistic Werther. Veteran Jonathan Summers sounds overly crusty as the Bailli but is energetic. Koch’s plangent medium-weight mezzo-soprano, native diction, tall slender figure, and thoughtful facial expressions all contribute to a positive initial impression. However, her timbre

Churchill has created. That may make some with more traditional tastes uncomfortable, but if you strap in and go for the ride, it is fascinating, exciting, and rewarding.

The essential moral question regarding “Bikeman, a

9/11 Play” is whether one can inject oneself into a life-threatening situation and then claim to be a hero for not dying. The play is based on Thomas F. Flynn’s poetic memoir of 9/11 about how he grabbed his bike and pedaled down into the chaos of the World Trade Center. In a stream of free verse, Flynn sings his own praises and drapes himself in a dusty mantle of nobility for surviving the day. It is discomfiting, even repellant that Flynn never actively helps another person or focuses on anything but his own experience and observations and


Jonas Kaufmann proves himself a star in new Met Opera “Werther”

Jonas Kaufmann sings the title role in the Met Opera’s new production of “Werther.”

has a generic, opaque color that dilutes emotional engagement. The high climaxes in Charlotte’s third act monologues emerged with congested strained tone. Koch’s interpretation of Charlotte as an emotionally repressed woman teetering on the brink seemed studied, lacking in spontaneity, the emotions applied to the surface instead of arising internally. Kaufmann’s acting, in contrast, comes across as spontaneously lived in the moment. His darkly brooding good looks, long tousled curls, and slender, lithe frame enhanced by a long black coat and white scarf are the ideal visual embodiment of a tormented romantic hero. Kaufmann’s voice, though, with its idiosyncratic darkened, backward production, is not a natural fit for French opera. French-style tenors favor a bright, forward, narrow

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yet portrays himself the metaphoric Everyman of this tragedy. Worse yet is the terrible poetry. Flynn has the ego of Walt Whitman and the talent of Rod McKuen. He writes like an adolescent with a head full of Sylvia Plath and a pathological dependency on the thesaurus. From the opening, where Flynn seems upset that the impatiens in his garden gave him no indication of what was to come, to an extended piece on being trapped in a parking garage filling with dust while he refuses to let go of his

placement fixed high in the facial cavities emphasizing softly floated head tone (voix-mixte) in the upper register. Kaufmann’s sound is open-throated but covered. With iron control, he shifts from darkly smoldering baritonal sounds to backwardly crooned pianos and then in the emotional outbursts will take the lid off the voice for heroic high notes — suggestive of the mood swings of a manic depressive. He resembles a mini-Jon Vickers — with similar incipient mannerisms but also the same mixture of intellectual calculation and unbridled emotional intensity. Kaufmann’s spinto tenor sounds no more authentically French than the volcanically Italianate Corelli’s but vividly evokes an angst-ridden depressive with a death wish. He carries the production as a star should. The fourth act is played in a tiny spare room placed downstage. Kaufmann’s death scene displays masterful control of vocal half-tints and inspires Koch to real eloquence — less really is more and the audience is drawn into their heartbreaking private world. Would that we had spent more time there earlier. The Met Live in HD presentation ( is scheduled for Saturday, March 15 at 12:55 p.m. at various local venues. The HD cameras will bring you up close and personal with Kaufmann, enhancing the intimacy and emotional focus. In a web extra at gaycitynews. com, Eli Jacobson writes about Jonas Kaufmann’s Carnegie Hall recital debut in a program devoted to German lieder.

bike, to his watching people falling from the buildings while “the frail, flawed tower vomits its guts out,” the laughable amateurishness of the writing demeans the real human suffering even as he uses it for self-aggrandizement. Director Michael Bush has made this more a pageant than a play, and he has enlisted Robert Cuccioli, no stranger to outsized performances, to play Tom. To be fair, Flynn’s doggerel doesn’t give Cuccioli many opportunities for subtlety, but his pompous performance makes the character every bit as irritating and overwrought as the verse. In all the stories I’ve heard about 9/11, one constant has been the concern and heartbreak for others who faced much greater challenges than many of us. I have never seen this tragedy used as a “song of myself,” and if that’s not strictly speaking immoral, it is deplorable.

| March 5, 2014



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436 Hudson St. in New York, (212) 229–0272, New York City’s premiere custom floral designer for events, corporate accounts, and same day delivery.

Ariston Flowers & Boutique

110 W 17th St. in New York, (212) 929–4226, Ariston Flowers is an award-winning and familyowned business that has been in operation since 1977. It stocks an array of fresh flowers directly imported from France, Holland, Hawaii, and from other parts of the world. It also has accessories such as vases, pottery, and baskets.

Edible Arrangements

(718) 535–7909,

242 E 77th St. in New York, (646) 234–4840, InTouch NYC is a New York City-based healing sanctuary providing acupuncture, Chinese herbs, nutritional counseling, bodywork, and pilates.

Mind Over Matter


240 W 47th St. in New York, (212) 201–7650,, The Edison Ballroom was originally opened in the 1930’s and was constructed in the classic art deco design. The venue can be rented for all kinds of events, including a wedding.


Multiple locations, Fairway offers seasonal, signature catering packages with the highest-quality, happy-making eats with zero work. Have Fairway cater your engagement, bachelor, or bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner or wedding.

Grand Oaks Country Club

125 W 21st St. in New York, (212) 255–0844, Print icon New York offers modern and heritage printing, including laser engraving, indigo press, letterpress, thermography and debossing accompanied by custom design services.

200 Huguenot Ave. in Staten Island, (718) 356–2771, Formerly the South Shore Country Club, this new and improved Staten Island venue can provide the perfect elegant backdrop for your reception with prime dates still available.


Hornblower Cruises & Events

Greenwich Jewelers 64 Trinity Pl. in New York, (212) 964–7592, In search of something classic, contemporary, or completely eclectic? Greenwich Jewelers is your source for exquisite adornments that are designed to last — and make your life brilliant.

Little King Jewelry 177 Lafayette St. in New York, (212) 260–6140, Little King Jewelry is a contemporary jewelry boutique in Soho that offers an eclectic mix of jewelry such as classic 21st century heirlooms, indie, rock and roll, to one-of-kind couture jewelry for all occasions.

LIMOUSINES M & V Limousine Ltd. 1117 Jericho Tpke. In Suffolk, (800) 498–5778, M & V has the largest selection of antique and exotic limousines in the world. Its main focus is providing you with an elegant and stress-free experience on your wedding day.

REAL ESTATE SERVICES Brooklyn Accurate Building 1860 Bath Ave. in Brooklyn, (718) 265–8191, Inspectors Accurate Building Inspectors is a full service home and building inspection firm servicing New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and the nation since 1961. It provides inspections, consulting, assistance, and testing services for homeowners It has and will continue to serve and support the LGBT community.

Modern Spaces Multiple locations, Modern Spaces is a real estate firm that manages

40 N. River Piers in New York, (212) 206–7522, / Hornblower New York specializes in New York dinner cruises, harbor cruises, yacht charters, sightseeing, events, birthday parties, and weddings. It has exceeded guest expectations for over 30 years by maintaining impeccable comfort and safety standards with a large fleet of private yachts in California and New York.

Hotel Giraffe

365 Park Avenue South in New York, (212) 685–7700, Hotel Giraffe would be honored to host your rehearsal dinner, special day, or to arrange guest accommodations. Its experienced staff will ensure that all of your expectations and special requests are surpassed.

Hotel Pennsylvania

401 Seventh Ave. in New York, (212) 736–5000, The conveniently located Hotel Pennsylvania has all the ingredients for a perfect reception. It has flexible ballrooms that provide an elegant, functional Manhattan setting for weddings of all sizes.

Millennium Broadway Hotel

145 W. 44th St. in New York, (212) 768–4400, The Millennium Broadway Hotel’s fully functioning Hudson Theatre has recently received a 3.5 milliondollar renovation. It offers flexible and moveable seating as well as Broadway-quality lighting and sound, making it the most extravagant wedding and reception facility in New York City.

Museum of Jewish Heritage

36 Battery Pl. in New York, (646) 437–4202, The Museum of Jewish Heritage’s unique facilities are perfect for galas, receptions, conferences, weddings, other life cycle events, and more.

The Picnic House in Prospect Park

95 Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, (646) 393–9031, The Picnic House in Prospect Park is a 4,000 square foot brick-and-glass enclosed pavilion with a terracotta tile roof. Built in 1927, it has been praised for its light and sweeping views. The natural setting makes it a perfect choice for a wedding and the French doors gracing the rear balcony create a charming focal point for the exchange of vows.

Hotel Plaza Athenee

37 E. 64th St. in New York, (212) 734–9100, The Upper East Side’s Hotel Plaza Athenee is a stunning European-style venue with antique furnishings in the lobby, a beautiful marble entranceway, and Italian tapestries on the walls. It is the perfect backdrop for your wedding photographs. It has an elegant ceremony space and the hotel’s dazzling, gold-domed Arabelle restaurant provides a great reception site.

The Provincetown Business Guild

3 Freeman St. in Provincetown, (508) 487–2313, In 2004 — when Massachusetts became the first state to extend full marriage benefits for same-sex couples — Provincetown quickly became the number one destination for LGBT unions. The inclusive, gay-friendly spirit provides the perfect place for all couples to host a wedding, commitment ceremony, or spend their honeymoon. In addition to the charming seaside splendor that Provincetown provides, there are a plethora of party planners, caterers, venues, and other helpful businesses that make it easy and comfortable for future newlyweds to plan their special day. Contact the Provincetown Business Guild for additional help!

reBar Brooklyn Gastropub

147 Front St. in Brooklyn, (718) 766–9110,, Located on the mezzanine of an 19th century tea factory, this hip, Brooklyn gastropub’s seasonal New American menu, 120 bottled beers, sustainable and organic wine list, and its extensive scotch selection.

Queens Russo’s on the Bay

162-45 Cross Bay Blvd. in Queens, (718) 843–5055, A beautiful, waterfront wedding at Russo’s On The Bay is a truly royal experience. It offers unwavering commitment to detail that you can sleep easy knowing that the valet will provide excellent service at the door, the food will be superb, the linens will be pressed, and the venue will be running like a well-oiled machine.

Tio Pepe

168 W. Fourth St. in New York, (212) 242–9338,, At Tio Pepe you have a choice of atmosphere. The skylight dining room supplies a touch of romance while the enclosed sidewalk cafe provides a room with a view of Greenwich Village.

Villa Russo

118-16 101st Ave. in Queens, (718) 849–0990, The Villa Russo has celebrated engagements and weddings for more than 50 years in its spacious wedding venue. The hotel invites you to experience the true radiance of this elegant Italian-style villa. The food is delicious and the certified wedding planners will assure a day you and your guests will not forget.

TRAVEL Ace World Travel

8320 13th Ave. in Brooklyn, (347) 915–4287,, Ace World Travel is a full-service, independent, home-based travel agency. Its goal is to help you explore the world however you desire, and make that experience as unique and memorable as possible.

WEDDING MINISTRY Celebration Ceremonies

(646) 322–6743,, Reverend Francesca Fortunato has been an ordained Interfaith minister since 2003. Rev. Francesca creates and performs beautiful, personal, meaningful ceremonies for couples of many different faiths (or none). She is proud and delighted to now perform legal marriages for members of her own LGBTQ community.


March 5, 2014 |


Beth Levels

Leavel, Harada, Groff, Maggart, McKay make debuts; one French john’s woes e truly are living in a marvelously varied Golden Age of Broadway Divas and, even if starring musical roles are scarce, these gals are still going forward, knocking us dead by strutting their awesome stuff in thrilling cabaret acts. The latest to do so is the dynamic Beth Leavel, who killed the people in her just-wrapped solo debut appearances at 54 Below. Her overall flair and coiled-spring intensity, born raconteur’s easy, natural wit, and forceful belting make her our closest modern-day equivalent to the great Kay Thompson, and she lavished these gifts on an uproariously fun act. She sang everything from a cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Get So Emotional” (again proving she’s the most soulful white girl in the biz) to a derbysporting “City Lights” tribute to Liza, with whom she is oft-compared in physical resemblance, to a deeply personal “Bill,” which turned us all into those weepy Irish cleaning ladies who sniffle on the sidelines during Helen Morgan’s immortal rendition of that song in the 1936 “Show Boat.” Leavel also performed what she refers to as her “greatest hit,” “As We Stumble Along,” from her Tonywinning “Drowsy Chaperone,” self-deprecatingly recalling how her unquenchable efforts to shamelessly milk certain moments in it would result in the inevitable after-show announcement, “Beth Leavel to the stage manager’s office, please.” Offstage, she puts the lie to the often so-true stereotype of funny showbiz people being miserable in real life, as she is every bit as delightful in person. “I’m a happy-funny miserable person,” she confessed. “But, you know, it takes a lot of courage to get up there and give yourself permission to take an hour out of someone’s life and make it worthy. I don’t have a wealth of catalogue, but I’ve got great stories and songs no one’s ever heard, and I’m thrilled to be in a place where people with appreciative ears can hear them!” Leavel looks inspirationally fantastic at 58 and said, “People always say, ‘Don’t tell the year you were born!’ But that’s what’s interesting. I’ve earned these 58 years and started late coming into this whole showbiz mishegas. I have a degree in social work counseling from a small school in Raleigh, North Carolina but I did this musical 30 years ago and had no idea where to put that energy. I had a mentor who told me to do every play, musical, black box environmental piece just to see if I felt the same way after four years. She then told me, ‘I think you have to go find your passion.’ I got my master’s and, although terrified, moved to New York a year and a half later in 1981, and have been working ever since.” I told Leavel that she also deserved the Tony for her sparkling portrayal of the recording industry pioneer Florence Greenberg in the way under-appreciated “Baby, It’s You,” which, Shirelles classics aside, also daringly featured her interracial love relationships. “I’m gonna lick you so much right now!,” Leavel said. “I worked so hard and just wish I’d had more to sing in it. But I’m vey proud of that show and, even though it wasn’t a commercial hit, a lot of people believed in it and wrote checks, so we ran from March through September. By the end of it, we had started to find




Beth Leavel with the writer.

our momentum with people coming back, as we were speaking to a demographic which wasn’t represented by ‘Mamma Mia,’ and it was a great story.” It was “Drowsy,” with one of the cleverest books in the entire musical canon, that really made her: “I got that part literally three weeks before the show opened. They had gone all over the universe to find that voice, which was not really on the page. [Director] Casey Nikolaw, I think, just gave up and said, ‘Just give it to Beth — we gotta go!’ When I landed in LA for the first rehearsal, a lot of people already knew its history and language and I was like, ‘What am I doing here?’ “Eventually we started layering the role and then I tried on Gregg Barnes’ costumes and a light bulb went off: ‘I know exactly who I am now!’ She just flew off that page, but it’s amazing how transformative the costumes were. Gregg [who admiringly described to this writer how Leavel ‘stalks the mirror’ while trying on a costume] had that vision of who she was and it completely taught me, and he has such a dear place in my heart. “I didn’t base Beatrice Stockwell on anyone. The script, which had originally been written for [star and co-writer] Bob Martin’s bachelor party, was so brilliant, and every morning we would figure out the characters, watching movies, playing theater games, and talking about stylistic things so we were on the same page. One game Casey did was called ‘Hot Seat’ in which you sit on a stool and the other cast members ask you about your character. When I did it, there was an announcement, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Beatrice Stockwell!,’ and, as I walked in, the entire cast started applauding and screaming in character. I took a bow all the way down the floor and thought, ‘There she is!’ “I so want another ‘Drowsy’ to give birth to and pee all over and make it mine, with a delicious creative team. Tony Night was out of body for me, terrifying. We had just opened the show, and I was so full, anyway, but you do all the press stuff. Tony Day we had to perform the show to be taped, at 7 a.m. Sixty-four jade

beads which Gregg had concocted for my costume broke apart and spilled all over the stage of Radio City just before Patti LuPone went on and I thought, ‘I’ve killed her,’ while scrambling to collect those beads!’ “Then we got on the bus to go back to the Marriott Marquis for our Sunday matinee. I tried to take a nap, which didn’t happen. I don’t remember that matinee at all, and thought if I write a speech that would be so egotistical, but what happens if I win? You have just 90 seconds from the time your name is called, and I don’t know why, but I so had it in my head. So if you look at the tape, I set a speed record in pumps and my Escada gown, not like I had that much to say. After that, the night was a joyous blur and I thought, ‘Please remember this, because it’s magical and once in a lifetime.’ Leavel, who is divorced and with a nice boyfriend now, said she’s up for some TV pilots, “but theater is where my heart is. Still, just to have a series under my belt and the paycheck to send my sons [24 and 18] to college would be nice. I will be doing ‘Hello, Dolly’ in St. Louis at the Muni Theater this summer, just a small production for 12,000 people! I did that role in college and to revisit it with the wisdom I carry now is great. The music is wonderful and the book’s so well written — no air in it. I’d like to think I put my own stamp on it. “I’m like a sponge and learn from everyone. One of my first inspirations was when I saw ‘The Music Man’ in fifth grade. We never went to the movies — my dad worked all the time — but one Friday night I saw Robert Preston and that did something to my heart. When River City transformed into that marching band, I was crying and my parents were wondering what was wrong. That magic spoke to me. The name of my autobiography will be either ‘A Life of Belting,’ ‘Belting Til I Die,’ or ‘Have I Belted Enough?’ One song Leavel belted was “Home,” by Charles Strouse and Susan Birkenhead, from the highly anticipated, still-aborning musical “Minsky’s,” in which “I play Maisie, an older stripper and a variation on the theme of all the roles I’ve ever played, the sidekick with the heart of gold who gets to sing the anthem.”

A tribute to performing, with all of its all-too-evident grit and occasional glamour, “Home” bears a strong resemblance to another stirring theater anthem, “Now” (Brad Ross/ Joe Keenan), which focuses specifically on the life of the character actor. Ann Harada sang this electrifyingly, at her solo debut with Lincoln Center’s American Songbook (February 22). Harada, who like me is from Hawaii, has made the 50th state proud with the impressively enduring career she has carved out, since her attention-getting performance as Christmas Eve in “Avenue Q.” In concert, she had a quite adorable, dishyfun persona, as well as attractively strong vocals, encompassing both an insouciant lilt (on “If I Were a Bell”) and the requisite, impressive belt on a winning Judy Garland medley and also on a song I find tiresomely bombastic but many singers just adore, Cole Porter’s “I Happen to Like New York” (which did make the most of the Allen Room’s spectacular c

IN THE NOH, continued on p.23



| March 5, 2014

Kirill Emelyanov, Daniil Vorobuov, and Olivier Rabourdin in Robin Campillo’s “Eastern Boys,” at Lincoln Center March 11 and 12.


IN THE NOH, from p.22

59th Street backdrop). She amusingly recalled her mystifyingly recurrent yet negligible appearances on “Smash,” singing her basic one line “Ten minutes! And that doesn’t mean lunch, people. Ten minutes!,” which composer Marc Shaiman set to music for her. Her warbling it one day on the set made co-star Anjelica Huston suddenly realize that she was not really a stage manager and her name wasn’t “Linda.” Harada played daughter to the great Harriet Harris in “Cinderella,” and rather owes Harris for the song “Now,” which she introduced her to, as well as for some hilarious shtick, based on Harris’ observation that any Rodgers & Hammerstein song can be turned into a country twanger. This last notion was particularly funny on “Edelweiss” and “In My Own Little Corner.” Harris loves Harada, too, and recently confided her desire to play Mame opposite Harada’s Gooch, something I’d definitely pay to see.

Jonathan Groff, whose HBO

show “Looking” (the gay “Girls”) has our community furiously buzzing, pro and con, was also an American Songbook debut contender (February 15). Extremely garrulous, he had the bounding energy of a puppy and was blessedly out and proud in a charming way that was definitely precocious, without being obnoxious. Songs like “I Got Lost in His Arms” and “The Man That Got Away” made the point bluntly, and hilarity ensued when, at one point, his expressed fantasy of marrying his long-time idol Sutton Foster was met by an audience hoot. “Calling me out, huh?” he laughed. He was not at his best on “Something’s Coming,” was strangely his strongest vocally on a Stevie Wonder medley, and displayed

true bravura showmanship doing a wacky Britney Spears/ Sondheim mashup medley that made the audience roar with delight.

Find the Relationship oF a liFetime

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At her Café Carlyle bow,

Maude Maggart (February 25) delivered a romantically pensive set, which exhibited her admirable archaeological digging into the rarer recesses of the classic songbook repertoire. Her plangent voice gets stronger with every outing and had a shimmering loveliness on “Give Me a Heart to Sing To,” “In a World of My Own,” “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking,” and in a rare, “modern” moment, “Where Do I Go?” from “Hair.” Her ethereally wafting gestures are also as bewitching as ever, but I wish she’d change things up with a few more upbeat numbers, for she has a whimsical comedic gift as well as deep ballad-savvy. Mack Gordon/ Harry Revel’s “It’s the Animal in Me,” originally introduced by Ethel Merman, would be a good, fun fit for her.

Nellie McKay continued

in her own indefatigably eccentric way for her Carlyle debut, bizarrely yet endearingly channeling some unnamed ancient Broadway diva during her show entitled “Nellie with a Z” (February 18). She went so far as to carry a cane onstage, frugally tipped the waiter who brought her a drink onstage, and, at one point, even dedicated a song “to my arch-nemesis, Barbara Cook.” Wearing a sparkling gown her mother found for her on eBay — they’re both vintage experts — her first number got me totally in the mood, for it was one of my all-time favorites, “Did I Remember?,” by Harold Adamson and Walter Donaldson. This snazzy love song was introduced by Cary Grant and Jean Harlow in the 1936 film


IN THE NOH, continued on p.29 4.85w X 5.6375h inches 2.indd 1

30/09/2013 4:35:40 PM


March 5, 2014 |


The Fire that Forged Bravery

Kelly Cogswell recounts the Lesbian Avengers’ brilliant visibility and her own emerging confidence



unlike a Pride parade, is a lesbian-led protest without a permit, in the evening, without distinct groups in a prescribed order. It’s just a sea of queer women, in all shapes and sizes and colors. On the other hand, some actions fell flat. She describes, hilariously, attempting to stink-bomb St. Patrick’s Cathedral in a “Homophobia stinks” campaign and realizing she was hopelessly undersupplied:

n the first day of school in 1992, when broke poets could still afford loft shares on Avenue B, Kelly Cogswell scrounged a subway token to get to the first-ever Lesbian Avengers action in Middle Village, Queens. Right-wing groups in New York had raged for months about the Rainbow Curriculum, a Board of Education-approved teaching resource with a few optional pages of gay-friendly content. In Middle Village, the epicenter of the rage, the newly organized Avengers appeared outside an elementary school with a brass band and lavender balloons imprinted “Ask about lesbian lives.”

“The space was too enormous for a little stench to penetrate. We needed a crew of twenty and a crate of stink. We decided to go ahead anyway. I dropped a couple of glass vials on the floor, but when I stepped on them with my tennis shoes, they wouldn’t break. Melanie finally crushed them with her big Doc Marten boots. But in the big cathedral, the vials barely had the impact of a fart.”


In her memoir “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” Cogswell describes how awkward she felt, even as she pretended to act cool, like she did this kind of thing three or four times a week. She still cringed at the word “lesbian” and wouldn’t wear the T -shirt that said, “I was a lesbian child.” “Eating Fire” goes on to narrate a lifetime passion for street activism, performance, and lesbian visibility that often transforms the performer as much as the audience. The Lesbian Avengers literally ate fire — an alternative circus performer taught a small cadre to tie kerosene-soaked rags to long poles, light them, and take the flames into their mouths while carefully exhaling to extinguish them. Used for the first time at a nighttime protest memorializing a gay man and a lesbian killed in their home in Oregon by firebombing, fire-eating was a breathtaking visual statement of fearlessness. The Avengers chanted, “The fire will not consume us. We take it and make it our own.” The Avengers burned brightly for a few years in a cityscape that included a beleaguered ACT UP, the Women’s Action Coalition, and the Women’s Health


By Kelly Cogswell University of Minnesota Press $19.95, paperback $60, hardcover 256 pages

Action Mobilization; unlike the other groups, they were focused solely on “issues vital to lesbian visibility and survival.” Eventually they fizzled out, as creative directaction groups often do, with infighting and an inability to transmit the principles of direct action to newcomers. “Eating Fire” chronicles almost two decades of Cogswell’s life, including, after the Lesbian Avengers, editing the online news magazine Gully, and traveling to Kentucky, Cuba, and Paris, all with her longtime lover, Cuban-American playwright Ana Simo. The headlines of those decades become part of Cogswell’s personal history, from Elian Gonzales to 9-11 to riots in the Paris banlieues. The heart of the book, though, is those few dramatic years with the Avengers, when Cogswell, now a Gay City News columnist, found her voice as an activist. Cogswell nails some of the Lesbian Avengers’ signal accomplishments and failures. In a creative partnership with Latina lesbian group Las Buenas Amigas, a group of Avengers briefly took over New York’s most-listened-to Spanish-language radio station, Radio Mega KQ, replacing its usual racist, homophobic shock-jock jokes with demands for an end to hate radio. The Lesbian Avengers Civil Rights Organizing Project effectively mobilized working-class people and people of color against anti-gay legislation in Idaho and Maine, while more mainstream groups pursued ineffectual assimilationist strategies. The Lesbian Avengers also had the fabulous idea for the Dyke March, which began in DC the night before the 1993 March on Washington and drew an unexpected 20,000 marchers and has since become a refreshing counterpoint to Gay Pride parades in cities all over the US for almost 20 years. The Dyke March,

Cogswell writes a bit about her performance art: the full-body shaving episode that apparently got her kicked out of NYU, the installation in her apartment involving a giant caduceus made of 2 x 4s and barbed wire, a treadmill, and a hospital gown. She also writes about how she intentionally took on roles in the Lesbian Avengers that forced her to get comfortable saying the world lesbian. In describing the first Dyke March, though, she really gets at the impact of performance on the performer: “The message of the Dyke March was in our bodies. All twenty thousand of them there together in front of the White House, lit up with flame. We were disorderly, raucous, happy to be behind our own lesbian banner for a change… I suppose that would be my Lesbian Dream if I could describe it now. To be big enough to count. To take up space in the great brain of the country, for even ten minutes a day. To be free.” The fire has not consumed Cogswell, but she definitely has a few burn scars. Her voice, though humorous, is charred in places with the disappointment and frustration of shattered alliances, imploded organizations, continuing discrimination and violence, and the difficulty of raising a strong voice of protest in a society that so easily co-opts or silences any real dissent. A thorny, uncomfortable awareness of race and racism crops up on almost every page. In places, Cogswell comes across as self-conscious and defensive in response to anti-racist critiques (was it really a good idea to call the Lesbian Avengers bus trip through New England a “Freedom Ride”?). She is brutally honest, however, about the paralyzing shame that can keep white activists from having forthright discussions about race, class, culture, and power in their own organizations, and sometimes even from acting at all. “Eating Fire” is a sometimes entertaining, sometimes painful read. It recounts an important chapter in queer history along with some useful principles of direct action: it’s good to be brave, it’s all right to be silly and playful, it takes a lot of work and planning, you will fight with the people with whom you take risks, and you will also love them with a great tenderness. And sometimes it’s worth acting for your own transformation, proving to yourself that you’re not afraid of the flames.



| March 5, 2014

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March 5, 2014 |


In St. Pat’s Dispute, Free Speech is Not the Issue BY PAUL SCHINDLER



Christopher Byrne (Theater), Susie Day (Perspective), Doug Ireland (International), Brian McCormick (Dance)

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Seth J. Bookey, Anthony M.Brown, Kelly Jean Cogswell, Andres Duque, Michael Ehrhardt, Steve Erickson, Andy Humm, Eli Jacobson, David Kennerley, Gary M. Kramer, Arthur S. Leonard, Michael T. Luongo, Lawrence D. Mass, Winnie McCroy, Eileen McDermott, Mick Meenan, Tim Miller, Gregory Montreuil, Christopher Murray, David Noh, Nathan Riley, David Shengold, Yoav Sivan, Gus Solomons Jr., Tim Teeman, Kathleen Warnock, B enjamin Weinthal, Dean P. Wrzeszcz






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If you work for a major bank or retailer or airline, it’s more likely than not that you have to get corporate approval before identifying yourself as an employee while par ticipating in a public event. That sort of approval would typically be required, for example, if you and a group of fellow workers wanted to carry a banner with your employer’s logo on it in a parade. In many cases, that’s not a problem. Corporations welcome opportunities for branding themselves in a wide array of public settings they view as favorable marketing opportunities. The annual LGBT Pride Parade down Fifth Avenue has, in fact, become a riot of corporate logos and colors, with runners stuffing branded tchotchkes into the hands of often unsuspecting spectators. Corporate America, for the most part, loves to create customer loyalty within the LGBT community. Employers, however, won’t approve the use of their name or logo in every event. Employee groups would encounter trouble winning approval for identifying themselves at demonstrations over controversial issues — say, abortion rights — whether it was a pro-choice or an antichoice message the event was promoting. Corporations see little downside today in standing with the gay community, but most see reproductive freedom as an issue that still splinters public opinion. Ther e is no clear winner in that debate from the marketing perspective of most businesses. Approval would almost certainly be denied if an event wer e widely deemed as unpopular or patently offensive. It’s hard to imagine any major business

allowing its name to be used in a march promoting bigoted or racist views. Nobody would argue that, in denying their employees the authority to use their corporate identification or logo in a public event, a company was impinging on the free speech rights of their workers. Employers likely — and rightly — have little or no ability to control the right of their workers, on their own time, to participate in even offensive public events, but they can certainly control what events

by significant public safety resources — and so its organizers have the right to control its message. The city, however, bound by its human rights law, does not have the right to lend its authority and stamp of approval to that discrimination. And it does have the right to determine when its workers can use their uniforms and other symbols of their employment in public settings. The city, in fact, has made precisely that argument in

That’s the nut of the argument made by several hundred LGBT activists and their allies in a February 3 letter to de Blasio — that in co-signing the discriminatory practices of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, uniformed city employees, the bulk of them police officers and fire fighters, are compromising the clear message of equal treatment under the law that LGBT New Yorkers, like all their fellow citizens, deserve to hear. De Blasio has been widely and rightly praised for being

“The NYPD has a strong interest in controlling the use of its symbols, including its uniform. When an officer marches in uniform with a particular group, the clearest message sent to the public is that the NYPD — not the particular officer — approves of that group.” — 1999 brief filed by the City of New York in the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals their corporate names are drawn into. All of this is relevant because Mayor Bill de Blasio, in saying city workers have the right to march in unifor m in the discriminatory March 17 St. Patrick’s Day Parade and that he “absolutely respect[s]” the decision by Police Commissioner William Bratton to do the same, suggests that the right to free speech or free expression is somehow at issue here. It’s not, and the mayor should know that. The right of the parade’s organizers to deny participation by openly LGBT groups — to discriminate against them — has been upheld by the US Supreme Court. The parade is deemed a private event — even if one facilitated

a federal appeals court. In a 1999 brief filed with the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals in a case involving police marching in uniform and with an identifying banner, the city argued, “As a quasi-military organization, the NYPD has a strong interest in controlling the use of its symbols, including its uniform. When an officer marches in uniform with a particular group, the clearest message sent to the public is that the NYPD — not the particular officer — approves of that group. If members insisted on the right to march in uniform with the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazi Party, the NYPD’s credibility with the community would be seriously under mined and its ability to per form its mission irreparably damaged.”

the first mayor since David Dinkins to refuse to himself march in the parade. It’s unfortunate, however, that he has chosen to obfuscate the bigger issue at hand. As mayor, he has the potential to forge an historic breakthrough in the city’s sad St. Patrick’s Day history by insisting that the parade organizers either end their bigoted practices or risk losing the colorful participation of uniformed police and firefighter contingents. LGBT New Yorkers have the right to expect de Blasio to lead in this fashion. And they should also be able to hope that our new progressive mayor does not accord misplaced “respect” toward those who choose to join the nar row-minded crowd that controls Fifth Avenue on the 17th.


| March 5, 2014


Jesus Quits As Evangelical Savior: My Biggest Scoop Ever!



t 11 p.m. EST last night, Jesus H. Christ interrupted regularly scheduled programs on every TV channel across the Western Hemisphere with a stunning simulcast announcement. Effective immediately, Jesus stated, “I resign My post as Lord and Savior at every evangelical church or Christian organization that sponsors anti-gay legislation or seeks to deny civil or human rights to LGBT communities.” Attired in a tasteful three-piece suit discretely covering his stigmata, Jesus spake in sonorous, well-modulated tones as He listed each of the 38 African countries with draconic anti-gay legislation, including Uganda, whose recently signed “kill the gays” bill warrants life in prison — though, now, not the death penalty — for “aggravated homosexuality.” Jesus also described Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, which, besides imprisoning people for “homosexual acts,” may soon lead to government seizure of children from their LGBT parents. What is striking about these international “pro-family,” anti-gay campaigns, Jesus continued — miraculously preempting commercial after commercial — is the fact that almost all have been influenced, guided, and funded by predominantly white, right-wing Christian groups based in the United States. “Woe unto you hypocrites, you purveyors of hate,” thundered Jesus, citing in particular Scott Lively of the newly

formed Coalition for Family Values and Larry Jacobs of the World Congress of Families. “For ye hast founded thy leprous movement upon the immoral, yea illegal use of My image.” His luminous eyes seeming to follow millions of TV viewers around their living rooms, Jesus concluded, “I hereby revoke from said movement all intellectual property rights to Christian logos, including but not limited to Jesus throw pillows, Last Supper lunchboxes, fatuous musicals, glow-in-the-dark statuettes of Me, and, retroactively, all usage of the Jesus trademark to justify slavery and/ or colonialism. Further, I rebuke and cast into the sea every one of those God-HatesFags pamphlets and T-shirts made by the Westboro Baptist Church. P.S., Fred Phelps, you can kiss my rapturous ass. I’m not coming back for you, EVER.” So saying, Jesus wafted somewhere off camera. Such an astounding “Divine Intervention” might be expected to change the course of Western religion. Strangely, however, no one seems to care, and leaders of Jesus’ evangelical target groups are unperturbed. “OK by me; we just get another martyr,” said Lively when reached by telephone. “Maybe this time a broad, or some kid who’s been to heaven. Actually, this is a relief. I always found it hard to engender homophobia by asking people to open their hearts to a guy in a robe and loincloth, who hung out with 12 other similarly attired guys talking about love. I mean, how queer is that?” Another evangelical pastor who

preferred to remain anonymous also expressed relief. “Maybe this time we can find some figurehead who isn’t Jewish,” he said. “It’d sure make it easier to tell those backroom Holocaust jokes.” But this reporter — ever in search of the proper journalistic balance — decided to get Jesus’ side of the story. I caught up with the unemployed Messiah at the Washington Square Diner on West Fourth Street. This time, He appeared in jeans and sandals, his long hair covering his eyes like so many dudes from the West Village. Jesus sat down and ordered a chocolate egg cream. “Sorry I’m late,” He said. “I stayed for a group hug after my Codependents Anonymous meeting. You see, Susie, I’ve only just become aware of my problem. I have this centuries-old addiction to dying for other people’s sins. “ This reporter, though aghast, managed to ask objectively, “How does that make you feel?” “I’m struggling with guilt, Susie. But, I’m in recovery. As people in my TwelveStep group remind me, I’m attracted to narcissists. It was Superman who made me see that.” “Superman is codependent?” gasped this reporter. “Yeah, big time — uh-oh. You’re not going to repeat that?” This reporter assured Jesus that she was a professional. “I’ve heard rumors that you were on Scott Lively’s payroll. That you waited to resign until your Christmas bonus check cleared. True?” “Lies, Susie, all lies,” sighed Jesus. “Although I will say they never let me

Missing the Boat on LGBT Rights Abroad BY KELLY COGSWELL


utin’s right up there as an evil genius, planning the invasion of Ukraine while all the nations of the world were sitting in his living room blissed out on ice skating and tsarist pomp and ignoring human rights abuses, not to mention the outright targeting of queers. Now his former guests are shocked and surprised at how the Russian troops

celebrated the closing ceremonies of the Olympics with their own little fête on the Crimean border. I mean, it’s one thing to strip LGBT Russians of their human and civil rights, beat the crap out of them, toss them in jail just for whispering the word “gay,” and quite another to decide that Ukrainians don’t have any rights to their own territory. How dare he? I hope the International Olympic Committee has a collectively red face and particularly twisted knickers. They awarded Russia the Games in the first

place, then papered over the graft and corruption, while officially banning protest and squelching anybody trying to disrupt one of their events or even raise a sign about human rights conditions. No doubt they’re hoping this doesn’t go down in history as another 1936, when the Olympics were held in a Berlin downplaying the German anti-Semitic agenda and plans to invade most of Europe. We like to pretend history moves in the direction of progress, more civil rights, more peace, but in fact that little trajec-

observe casual Fridays.” “For years,” Jesus explained, “I forgave Christian leaders as they shored up their power in the US by blaming queers for the world’s ills. I forgave them as they took their campaigns to countries like Uganda and Russia. Maybe because I, as a lower-middle-class, many-gender person of color, was vulnerable to being manipulated by a bunch of straight white guys.” “Do you ever get jokes about being born in a barn?” asked this reporter, eager to trump Jesus’ playing his Identity card. But He seemed not to hear. “Then Scott Lively wrote a book called ‘The Pink Swastika,’ about how gays inspired the worst Nazi atrocities. I hit rock bottom. I felt dirty, so used. One day in the marketplace, I ran into Krishna. He suggested I come to a meeting and surrender to some so-called higher power.” “That saved you?” “Ha, good one, Susie. Yes, it did,” said Jesus, swiping a couple of sugar packets. “I had the chance to hang out among other heroes and avatars with the same problem. I learned that we can’t fix people.” This reporter started to cry. “You can’t?” “You especially can’t fix people who aren’t broken, like queers. But you can stand up and say No.” “No to who?” “No to whom, Susie. You can say No to anyone who uses any religious icon to perpetuate fear and hatred.” “What are your plans now, Jesus?,” I gulped through my tears. Jesus stood up and put on his Mets cap. “Me, I’m going to clean out the garage, sit with my pain, maybe write that novel…” And He was gone. Leaving this reporter and her readers to face yet another deadline — and so many more demagogues. One day at a time.

tory has more ups and downs than a cardiogram. So who knows, really, who’ll die before this whole thing is over? Not that the US was better. Just like in ‘36, our government responded to complaints about human rights and demands for action with little more than a deep and serious frown, while flirting with a tiny boycott. Not of athletes, of course. They sent plenty of athletes to Sochi, but not the VIP’s they had slated to sit in the stands. Even at the time, you could practically see Putin rubbing his hands and muttering, “Suckers!” The American LGBT response was sadly pathetic, too. We of all people should understand the stakes. Nevertheless, all we did with our gay millions was buy American Apparel rags splattered


COGSWELL, continued on p.29


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A contingent of City Council members, hosted by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, the local representative and the majority leader, included Daniel Dromm from Jackson Heights, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, two newly-elected members from the borough, Costa Constantinides and Paul Vallone, and three out gay freshman members, Corey Johnson of Chelsea, Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn, and Ritchie Torres of the Bronx. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was joined by her Manhattan counterpart, Gale Brewer, and both stepped up to the microphone to voice good wishes to the crowd. Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny and his wife Hanora have hosted receptions for the parade and marched in it for the last several years, and this year the Irish government sent cabinet member Ciarán Cannon. Members of the Irish Dáil, the nation’s parliament, sent a recorded message of support. “The Ireland I live in, the Ireland I represent is changing, it’s evolving,” Cannon said. “It’s slowly becoming a place where regardless of your sexual orientation, regardless of your ethnicity, regardless of your religious beliefs, you are treated as an equal citizen.” Panti, who stood nearly as tall as New York’s mayor in her heels and blonde bouffant wig, told the crowd, “I’ve come all the way from Dublin to be here today, unlike our previous speaker not at the request of the Irish


IN THE NOH, from p.23

“Suzy,” and McKay echoed some of Billie Holiday’s wondrously suave phrasing in her rendition. H e r “ I C o v e r t h e Wa t e r f r o n t ” was, in its more Blossom Dearielike, crooning way, the equal of Patti LuPone’s version heard at 54 Below, and it was great to hear another, marvelously contrasting interpretation of this terrific song,


COGSWELL, from p.27

with rainbows or whatever and sign a few more online petitions. In an article in Slate, Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen, an out lesbian, said our LGBT reps at the Games partied in Sochi’s gay bar, abandoning the Russian queers who risked their lives out on the streets to demonstrate, having expected their foreign LGBT peers to support them with their own acts of protests. Don’t worry, oh you anti-homonationalists, she’s not asking for queer nationalist troops to arrive on the ground and “liberate” Russian queers. Though if anybody has a couple hundred tanks and a billion dollars, I’m willing to give it a try.

government, but at the request of the St. Pat’s for All organizers, and I’m prouder of that. This crowd in front of me reflects the open and inclusive Ireland that I’m from and that I recognize and the one that I want to see reflected around the world.” Panti then repaired to a red convertible and joined the dozens of groups from all the boroughs and from cities including Boston, Washington, and Dublin. Girl Scouts marched alongside Sunnyside dog owners, giant puppets, half a dozen marching bands of all ages, pipes and drums, Irish athletic associations, the Irish-American Writers Association, the Gay Officers’ Action League (GOAL) and FireFLAG/ EMS, and members of the Sirens Motorcycle Club, the so-called Dykes on Bikes who lead of f the Heritage of Pride parade each June in Manhattan. Organizers estimated that about 90 groups turned out to march, and the sidewalks along the route down Skillman Avenue were lined with locals and visitors from across the East River and beyond — many of whom appreciated the fact that the feared snowstorm caused the MTA to cancel scheduled track work, keeping the #7 train running from Manhattan. In addition to fans waving Irish and rainbow flags, the parade, as usual, drew some protesters, who carried signs condemning gays and lesbians. One small elderly man with a downturned mouth held up a sign reading “SODOM AND GOMORRAH!” Panti


| March 5, 2014

Activist John Francis Mulligan protesting the participation of uniformed city workers in the discriminatory March 17 Fifth Avenue parade.

called out to him, “Sodom and Gomorrah? There was a fellow with the same sign a few blocks back… Is that a common name in Queens?” Panti was more often met with cheers and whistles, as she waved, blew kisses, and posed with people who ran out to the car for a photo. She had reprised her “Noble Call” at the Irish Arts Center concert two evenings before, getting three curtain calls from the full house, whose members swarmed her afterward.

“I’ve had thousands of emails, cards, and letters from all over the world, many fr om gay people, of course, but also from women, people in wheelchairs, people with Asperger’s… anybody who feels on the outside,” Panti told Michael Musto in Out magazine. “What started out as distressing and difficult in the end turned into something so positive. It’s been amazing and exhilarating and exhausting.” Toward the end of the parade, Panti’s convertible caught up with the flatbed truck, on which a band consisting of concert producer Fleming, guitarist and singer Dave Barckow, fiddler Vonnie Quinn, and Gerry Arias on drums were playing everything from Britney Spears to Black Sabbath to classic Irish jigs and reels. “The truck tur ns a cor ner and comes to an unexpected stop,” Fleming recalled. “We’ve run into the back of the parade. There, facing us, perched on her convertible, waving presidentially is Panti! Dave switches songs to Madonna’s ‘Material Girl.’ Vonnie pitches in with an Irish reel and Gerry never misses a beat. Panti lights up and sings along. Donna and Dana, her drivers, jump out of the car and dance in the street. The Keltic Dreams Irish dancers, Hispanic and African-American girls from the Bronx with their teacher Caroline Duggan, in their colorful Irish dancing costumes, bust out their Riverdance moves, and just when you thought the day couldn’t get any better, it does.”

with a strong lack of sentimentality and quite a bit of terrifying darkness. The lead characters’ actions may strike you as either infuriating or believably, erringly human, and it’s a good, compelling date movie that will give you plenty to discuss afterwards.

“Rendezvous with French Cinema” is Robin Campillo’s “Eastern Boys” (Mar.

11, 8:45 p.m.; Mar. 12, 1 p.m.; filmlinc. com/films/on-sale/eastern-boys). It focuses on impoverished immigrant guys hanging around Paris’ Gare du Nord depot, specifically a young Ukrainian (Kirill Emelyanov) who seduces a middle-aged Frenchman, Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin). What starts off as an utter humiliation for Daniel develops into something more than your typical john-hustler deal, and the city’s immigrant population is depicted

No, what she wanted is what most people want when they’re trying to demand basic human and civil rights in an authoritarian state that has turned them into convenient scapegoats — a watchful eye from abroad so that they don’t “disappear” when they get snatched up by the cops. They could also use a little money if you have it so they can pay the enormous fines Putin’s kangaroo courts use to crush his opponents. Vigilance and money are even more important in deteriorating places like Uganda, or Nigeria, where there’s plenty of danger from the state, which has criminalized homosexuality, but far more from the lynch mobs that have been told queers are responsible for

everything from the spread of malaria to struggling economies. LGBT people have to organize from the closet and often have to flee their homes. Queers regularly end up dead. From what I hear, plenty of LGBT folks would rather have plane tickets and visas than computers or activist resources, so they can get the hell out before it’s them beaten or killed in the street. We have to do something, anything, to support those who remain. Not forgetting that dykes and trans people have double and triple problems. There’s a war against women as well. We can start by sidelining those few, but loud, “useful idiot” queers echoing the arguments of homophobes when

they denounce Western outsiders who try to help as homonationalists or colonialists. To me, they’re the ones with the problem. How dare they counsel inaction? Sit by while LGBT people are imprisoned and killed? So I’ll say it again. It’s time for American LGBT people to act. Not only because it’s people like us being targeted in Russia, Africa, and other points, but because our inaction is not neutral — it emboldens the queer cleansers. And because in Africa, particularly, we’re responsible for amplifying local gay-hating: the money funding these bigots across the globe is coming from our own American (fundamentalist) pockets

a favorite of Tennessee Williams. As she passed my table for her encore, I whispered the name of her own subversive signature, “Mother of Pearl,” and was overjoyed that she took my request, so different from the rest of her vintage set.

One striking entry in Film Society of Lincoln Center’s

Contact David Noh at Inthenoh@aol. com, follow him on Twitter @in_the_noh, and check out his blog at http://nohway.

30 c

March 5, 2014 |

PAIN, from p.16

deserted bar, and the two hit it off, generously lubricated with multiple scotches. Within minutes they foolishly plan on adopting a wire-haired dachshund together. The initial thrill is intoxicating, but it goes very sour very quickly. Adele’s other serious relationship is with Mala, a miserable, bossy pharmaceutical exec who is in dire need of a heart transplant (the symbolism is a bit heavy-handed). Mala is repulsed by Adele’s tormented paintings, but for some reason is drawn to the equally tormented artist. For a few years, anyway. Lucas makes things interesting by toying with the structure, jumbling the narrative with flashbacks and fast-


UGANDA, from p.7

Scientists Consensus Statement took a much more nuanced view than Museveni and other politicians claimed, concluding “that homosexuality is not a disease or an ‘abnormality.’” Museveni said at the bill signing, “Can somebody be homosexual purely by nature without nurture? The answer is: ‘No.’ No study has shown that. Since nurture is the main cause of homosexuality, then society can do something about it to discourage the trends.” Anti-gay campaigns are sweep-


TEENAGE, from p.19

authority of an expert. So I thought, how can we match the intensity and quality of the subject matter? I recorded some first-person voices from the material. And I told the story from the point of view of youth in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany. And the second part of the coin was that this would be a panorama, and I wanted to give emotional beats to the story to break up the march of time. Jon’s book is littered with obscure figures for a

forwards. The piece is set in New York over a 15-year span. The play’s opening line helpfully encapsulates its intent. “This is the story of how the pain goes away,” says an agonized Adele holding a paintbrush to a canvas, clearly in some sort of physical pain (she has shingles). We later learn it’s the emotional pain she’s more concerned about. The actors do their best to elicit empathy for the vile trio. As Adele, Kathryn Erbe, known for “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” reveals flashes of regret for her selfish, cruel behavior. Arliss Howard invests the smarmy enabler Bill with a suave char m that makes Adele’s attraction to him totally convincing. Roxanna Hope is exceptional as the shrill, nasty Mala

who mellows considerably after her surgery (and after walking out on Adele). If “Ode to Joy” pulses with an edgy authenticity, that’s because it’s inspired by Lucas’ personal struggle to get sober — his own spin on “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Part cautionary tale, part catharsis for the playwright, the drama is awash in AA-style catch phrases like blame and making amends and forgiveness. Defensive about her boozing and pill-popping, Adele calls Mala’s pleas to get help “relentless Twelve-Step bullshit.” And if you’re wondering why a play titled “Ode to Joy” is obsessed with pain, it’s partly because, as Lucas sees it, pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin. Plus, he’s intentionally being ironic — a prominent theme in the piece

(the codependent couple debate the definition of irony, with Bill arguing that it’s a “discrepancy”). Of course, the title is also a nod to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which, come to think of it, has its share of sharp, strained passages. Lucas even sneaks in a snippet of the iconic symphony when Bill and Adele first meet at the bar. By play’s end, after the lies and breakups and reunions, we realize that Adele and Bill are not just addicted to booze and pills, but to each other. As this provocative if arduous “Ode to Joy” suggests, perhaps trading one addiction for another is part of the human condition, and we should stop trying to fight it. As Adele says, “True joy is acceptance.”

ing sub-Saharan Africa, with similar legislation signed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in January triggering mob attacks on people believed to be gay and in the north, where Sharia law rules, public whippings of those convicted of homosexuality. In Cameroon, Richard Kwa Bette, the vice president of the LGBT group Alternatives-Cameroon, was arrested in Doula. In a statement, the group said Bette was on a list of activists prepared by a man arrested for theft. In Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh said, “We will fight these vermin

called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively. As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhea, Bacteria, and Tuberculosis, all of which are detrimental to human existence.” The new anti-gay laws enacted have resulted not just in the scapegoating of gay people, but in a poisonous witchhunt atmosphere where anyone can be accused of homosexuality and persecuted. In Gishri, a village outside of the Nigerian capital, 12 gay men were rounded up and beaten by villagers in

front of police, who did not intercede. When the mob of 40 went to torch the homes of the men, a woman stopped them and accused the attackers of trying to cover up their own crimes of having robbed these homes. According to AJWS’s Gerson, the assault on Africa’s LGBT community is part of a broader crackdown on free expression. “The anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda is one of a series of violations in the past year, including curbing freedom of assembly, an anti-miniskirt law, and one banning low-cut blouses,” she said.

paragraph or pages. So I created portraits of teens that were balanced in race, class, gender, and personality — from larger than life Brenda Dean Paul and Tommie Scheel to rebels like the Hitler Youth and to the Boy Scouts.

his voice was incredibly cool. He brought Keats poetry to life in “Bright Star.”

newsreels and home movies. Jon and I set out a rule that any story we told had to have a basis in archival footage. We were surprised that we found footage of so many of the youth cultures we depicted. I always privileged moving image material, but there are such remarkable photos from these decades that I had to honor the power of those images when I could find a purpose for them. An image of teenage flapper girls carrying guns is intoxicating. It had to find its way in to the film.

GMK: What about choosing the voiceover talent? Did you have specific actors in mind? MW: I wanted to work with really good actors. Jena Malone did a voiceover in “Into the Wild,” and there was a singerly performance quality to her. I had a mutual friend with Ben Whishaw and

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GMK: You mix still photographs with moving pictures and re-creation. What can you say about the power of the images? MW: I worked with re-creations before with “Wild Combination” [his film about gay musician Arthur Russell]. I wanted to bring the characters to life, but they wer e obscure figures, with no footage or photos. So I used this device but in a more involved process, recreating


| March 5, 2014 kin present “Legendary: A community Discussion on the Evolution of the House and Ball Scene,” with panelists Britney Ebony of the House of Ebony; Tex St. Laurent of the House of St. Laurent; Hector Xtravaganza, a ball scene Hall of Famer; Aisha Diori of the House of Prodigy; and Dominique Crisden of the House of Prodigy and Luna Ortiz of the House of Khan, both also from GMHC’s Community Health Department. GMHC, 446 W. 33rd St., seventh fl. dining room. Mar. 6, 6-8 p.m.

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THEATER The Passions and Anxieties of Tchaikovsky

Eve Wolf’s “Tchaikovsky: None But the Lonely Heart,” directed by Donald T. Sanders, delves into the unconventional relationship between the great 19th century composer and his patroness Madame von Mack, interweaving a dramatic script performed by actor Simon Fortin (Tchaikovsky) and actress Ariel Bock (von Meck) with live chamber and vocal music performed by violinist Rachel Lee Priday, cellist Adrian Daurov, tenor Blake Friedman, and pianist Wolf. By extracting Tchaikovsky’s own words from these letters, this production, by the Ensemble for the Romantic Century, illustrates the composer’s doubts about his music, his torment over fear of exposure of his homosexuality, and his unquestioning love for his patroness. BAM Fisher, 321 Ashland Pl. at Lafayette Ave. Through Mar. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Mar. 8, 2 p.m.; Mar. 9, 3 p.m. Tickets are $70-$95 at or 718-636-4100.


The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Immigration Equality, Queer Nation, ACT UP, Housing Works, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, amfAR, All Out, and other groups hold a demonstration demanding that U. Joy Ogwu, the Nigerian ambassador to the United Nations, urge President Goodluck Jonathan and the Nigerian government to rescind the harshly anti-gay law recently enacted. Consulate General of Nigeria, Second Ave., btwn. 44th & 45th St. Mar. 7, 11 a.m. For more information on the demo, contact Felicia Carroll at


BENEFIT Art in Support of Gender Freedom

“Small Works for Big Change” is an art benefit for the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which works to guarantee that all people are free to selfdetermine gender identity and expression without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence and regardless of income or race. Trans and gender nonconforming artists, particularly those who are low-income and people of color, showcase their work and increase their voice and visibility. Jack Studios, 601 W. 29th St. Mar. 8, 5-9 p.m., with bidding closed at 8 sharp. DJ Precolumbian spins and the Sisters of the Perpetual Indulgence entertain. Admission is free, but registration at is advised.


Brooklyn-based rock and roll band Workout recently premiered its video “Life is a Nightmare” on Baeble Music, featuring a Cher lookalike, and its sophomore album “Rockit Science.” Tonight, the band is at the Stonewall Inn, 53 Christopher St. Mar. 6, 9:30 p.m.

The Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance presents its 14th annual BAAD!ASS Women Festival, celebrating the empowerment of women through art, culture, and performance. The three-week festival includes evenings of dance, theater, film, poetry, and performance, and opens on Mar. 8, 8 p.m., with “Sole Sisters,” a full-evening of dance featuring eight choreographers. The festival closes on Mar. 29, 8 p.m. with an intimate evening with the legendary Cherrie Moraga, the revolutionary feminist, scholar, thinker, activist, and artist. BAAD!’s new location, 2474 Westchester Ave. at St. Peter’s Ave., Westchester Sq. For a full schedule of events and ticket purchase (events range from free to $20), visit

POLITICS Corey Johnson Speaks

MARRIAGE Your Big Day Starts Here

MUSIC A Stonewall Workout

City Councilman Corey Johnson, who represents the West Side of Manhattan and chairs the Council Committee on Health, appears in the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership Speakers series. TD Bank, 655 Sixth Ave. at 21st St. Mar. 6, 8:30 a.m.-10 a.m. RSVP at or 212-741-2323.

HEALTH HIV and the House Ball Scene

In 2013, Gerard H. Gaskin published “Legendary,” a collection of color and black-and-white photographs that take readers inside the culture of house balls, where gay and transgender men and women — mostly African American and Latino — come together to see and be seen. At balls, high-spirited late-night pageants, “houses walk,” competing for trophies for costume, attitude, dance moves, and “realness.” In 1989, as many houses were losing members to AIDS and had HIV-positive members, Gay Men’s Health Crisis launched the Latex Ball, part of its effort to link members of the ball scene with health resources regarding HIV and other STDs. This evening, GMHC and Gas-

“The Love Affair Showcase” is a chance to meet top wedding professionals, learn about fashion trends and décor ideas, and sample from food tastings. Renaissance, 27-34 21st St., btwn. Astoria Blvd. & 28th Ave., Long Island City. Mar. 8, 1-5 p.m. For more information, call 718-274-4590 or email


COMMUNITY Kitty Genovese & Lesbian Loss

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the murder of Kitty Genovese, LuLu LoLo performs a staged reading of “38 Witnessed Her Death, I Witnessed Her Love: The Lonely Secret Of Mary Ann Zielonko.” Based on interviews with Zielonko, the one-act play

explores the killing in Queens, the reckless claims by New York Times city editor A.M. Rosenthal that 38 witnessed the murder and did nothing — a headline that blackened the city’s reputation for decades — testimony by the man convicted for the killing, and Kitty’s lover Mary Ann recalling lesbian and gay life in the ‘60s after 40 years of silence. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at Cage, 83A Hester St., btwn. Orchard & Allen Sts. March 12, 7 p.m. More information at

Living With HIV

The AIDS services and research group ACRIA continues its series of “Living with HIV” workshops with “Hepatitis C Treatment Update.” 575 Eighth Ave. at 38th St., Suite 502. Mar. 12, 1-3 p.m. To register, call Elizabeth at 212-924-3934, ext. 234. Metrocards and snacks provided. Future topics will include “HIV Transmission and How Treatment Can Prevent It”; “HIV Disease: What Is This Virus Doing To My Body?”; “How To Talk To Your Doctor and Get The Care You Need”; and “Aging With HIV: A Long, Healthy Life.”


PERFORMANCE Justin Vivian Does Tennessee

In “The Drift,” Justin Vivian Bond creates a free associative collage of spoken word and song inspired by Tennessee Williams’ novella “The Roman Spring of Karen Stone” about a retired actress who drifts from one space to another through couture, bed, and her own mind. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Mar. 13-14, 27-28, 7 p.m.; Apr. 10, 9:30 p.m.; Apr. 11, 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 at or 212-967-7555.

BOOKS Fire Eaters


Kelly Cogswell reads from her new memoir, “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” reviewed on page 24 by Beth Stroud, and Argentinean icon Susana Cook presents “Queering the Classics: Hamletango, Dykenstein, and We Are Caligula,” a new collection of her theatrical work. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at Cage, 83A Hester St., btwn. Orchard & Allen Sts. March 15, 7 p.m. A donation of $5 is suggested to support the work of the Lesbian Avenger Documentary Project. More information at


COMEDY Wait, Wait… Paula’s Got One More Joke

Twenty-five years ago, high school drop-out Paula Poundstone climbed on a Greyhound bus and traveled across the country — stopping in at open mic nights at comedy clubs as she went. Today, as one of the nation’s great humorists, she can be heard regularly on NPR’s popular weekly news quiz show “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me.” City Winery, 155 Varick St. at Vandam St., welcomes Poundstone on Mar. 19, 8 p.m. Admission is $40-$45 at or 212-608-0555.

BOOKS Combat and Coming Out

Rob Smith is an openly gay Iraq war veteran, journalist, lecturer, and LGBT activist. He served in the Army as an infantryman for five years, earning the Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantry Badge. He will read from his new book “Closets, Combat and Coming Out” at Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at Cage, 83A Hester St., btwn. Orchard & Allen Sts. at 7 p.m. on Mar. 19, the 11th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. More information at contact@


March 5, 2014 |

Profile for Schneps Media