HRC Looks “Beyond Marriage” 05 Cuomo Offers Only $5MM for PrEP 07 Digital Drag 13
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FREE | VOLUME FOURTEEN, ISSUE THREE | FEBRUARY 05 - 18, 2015
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February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
“HIV, taking my meds makes you undetectable. And that makes me unstoppable.” Aaron - St. Louis, MO Living with HIV since 2011.
Our seniors need housing & community
NYC's first unionized LGBT health center
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This is my disease. It’s in my body and I need to know everything I can to fight it. I stay informed. I talk to my doctor. I talk to my pharmacists. And I share my story through my own YouTube channel called My HIV Journey. Three years ago, when I met TR E ATME NT my partner Phil, I told him I was HIV-positive in our first conversation. He said, ‘That’s OK. There are lots of ways to protect ourselves.’ Phil takes PrEP and I take my meds every day. In this relationship, HIV ends with me.
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GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
Our Seniors Need Housing & Community
BY PAUL SCHINDLER
Edie Windsor, who won her challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act at the Supreme Court and has been active in supporting SAGE for decades, offered introductory remarks at the panel.
rawing on the active participation of other LGBT and civil rights advocates, nonprofits engaged in housing development and financing, and a top representative of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) has announced a bold plan to remake the housing opportunities and climate for older queer Americans across the nation. In a panel discussion of experts with the breadth of skills and mission to have a systemic impact, SAGE’s executive director, Michael Adams, laid out a new National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative to build new housing, improve access to and services available in existing units, and educate seniors about their rights. The February 3 panel, held in SAGE’s Chelsea headquarters, came just one week before the White House convenes a special conference on the housing needs facing older LGBT Americans. One dramatic headline to come out of this week’s panel is that SAGE is working with HELP USA, a non-profit housing advocacy and development organization founded by Governor Andrew Cuomo almost three decades ago, to construct an LGBT-friendly senior housing project in the Bronx. Adams emphasized that with financing not yet in place, it would be inappropriate to go into a lot of detail about the plan, but he did acknowledge the support the effort is getting from both Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council. Adams praised the mayor for including a focus on LGBT senior housing needs when he laid out his vision for the city’s affordable housing efforts last May. David Cleghorn, HELP USA’s senior vice president for real estate development, elaborated on the project’s underlying financing approach — relying on the federal government’s low income tax credit program, which developers gain access to through allocations made to local governments. A mixture of loans and grants, both governmental and private, would fill out the financing package. Projects like the one contemplated for the Bronx — and already up and running in Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles — are intended as affordable housing and eligibility is based on income criteria. Adams and those joining him on the panel emphasized that the community cannot build its way out of what is now a shortage of appropriate housing for LGBT seniors. The Bronx project is just one part — a very small part — of the overall solution required. The vast majority of seniors will access more conventional housing options, and SAGE’s goal is to ensure that those options are hospitable to them. And whether
Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE.
LGBT elders seek out senior housing options or instead choose to age in place where they are already living, the group is also committing to improve their access to culturally competent social and health services. Data presented at the panel indicate that the community is a long way from realizing these goals. A recent SAGE poll of nearly 3,000 LGBT Americans 45 and older found significant anxiety about financial security in retirement, about facing discrimination in senior housing options, and about engaging in volunteer work if their sexual orientation or gender identity is known. LGBT elders are more likely than their straight peers to live alone and have small support networks. And income disparities between LGBT elders and the population generally are particularly pronounced for lesbians and those who are transgender. The SAGE survey also uncovered interest in LGBT-friendly housing options, due in part to
discrimination already experienced. One in eight surveyed — and one in four among transgender respondents — said they had encountered discrimination when searching for housing. An investigation by the Equal Rights Center, however, suggested that discrimination facing senior same-sex couples may be more pronounced than that found in the SAGE survey. The group, which is partnered with SAGE in its new initiative, sent 200 pairs of couples — one same-sex, one different-sex — to inquire about rental availability in senior housing developments in 10 different states. In 96 instances — 48 percent — the same-sex couple experienced at least one type of discrimination. The same-sex couples were misled about what was available, faced more onerous or expensive application requirements, or were not told of rental incentives and amenities they qualified for. With many LGBT people facing a future in which they’re likely to seek out senior housing options in the communities where they live, changing that that picture is “desperately needed,” Adams said. The most obvious route is through changing government policies. Participation in the SAGE event by Jennifer Ho, a senior advisor for housing and services at HUD, underscored the fact that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected categories in the nondiscrimination requirements for all federally-funded projects. The same protections are absent in much of the country. Adams talked about the lack of comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation at the federal level, and SAGE has joined a broadbased coalition pushing for such a bill in Congress, an effort that the Human Rights Campaign, the community’s lead lobbyist on Capitol Hill, is now supporting for the first time. The effort is unlikely to be successful in the current Republican-controlled Congress, but at least it stakes out a more aggressive goal for the community. A majority of states, many of them currently controlled as well by the GOP, also lack comprehensive civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, though some local governments in many of those states do have nondiscrimination ordinances. Where protections do occur, SAGE and the Equal Rights Center emphasized the need to press officials to enforce bans on housing discrimination or to reach out to policy makers to enhance enforcement provisions. Informing seniors about their rights — and most importantly, how to exercise those rights — is a crucial part of effective enforcement, and SAGE is focused on that as well. Sherrill Wayland, the executive director of SAGE Metro St. Louis, talk-
SAGE, continued on p.10
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
At NYC Gala, HRC Pledges Agenda “Beyond Marriage” Chad Griffin says comprehensive anti-bias bill set for “this session,” as group faces protest outside
BY PAUL SCHINDLER
MICHAEL SHIREY MICHAEL SHIREY
GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
Protesters outside the HRC gala at the Waldorf Astoria.
n a carefully and tightly framed speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual New Yo r k C i t y g a l a , C h a d Griffin, the group’s president, laid out an agenda for the LGBT community “beyond marriage.” G rif f in , in h is J a n u a r y 31 address to a large crowd that filled the ballroom and balconies of Midtown’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, said that even if the Supreme Court affirms a constitutional right to marry for same-sex couples this year, “you could get married at 10 a.m. and be fired or evicted by 2” based on a Facebook post of a wedding picture. “There is no comprehensive anti-discrimination law in the United States,” he said. “It’s never been passed.” For the first time since the late New York Congressmembers Bella Abzug and Ed Koch introduced legislation to add sexual orientation as a protected class under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Griffin said, a “comprehensive” nondiscrimination act offering protections not only in employment, but also housing, public accommodations, credit access, and other areas would be introduced “in this session” of Congress — with both sexual orientation and gender identity covered. “Full equality, nothing more, nothing less,” is HRC’s goal, he said. “We must pass this bill,” Griffin told the crowd, though the prospects for movement in a Republican-controlled Congress that has never even come to agreement on employment protections are slim, at the very best. The shift to a comprehensive measure, as opposed to the narrower focus on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that HRC has struggled to see enacted for more than two decades, comes in response to widespread criticism within the LGBT community that ENDA was only a half measure. Grif fin did not address the thorny question of whether HRC and other advocates could successfully jettison the religious
HRC president Chad Griffin addresses the Waldorf audience.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker during his keynote address.
exemption provision in ENDA that some critics said provided “a license to discriminate.” Nor did he say whether the new push would borrow from the Abzug/ Koch approach of amending the 1964 Act. The broader civil rights advocacy community, though supportive of LGBT nondiscrimination protections, has not yet embraced the idea of reopening the Civil Rights Act at a time when longstanding protections could face right wing criticism. According to Fred Sainz, HRC’s lead spokesperson, “We are looking at all options for structuring the legislation.” To be sure, despite emphasizing the group’s priorities “beyond marriage,” Griffin was not taking a Supreme Court victory in appeals of the Sixth Circuit’s reversal of marriage equality decisions in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and
Kentucky for granted. The community’s day at the high court, he said, represents “a crucial victory that we must win.” The challenge HRC faces in pivoting to a comprehensive nondiscrimination push was reflected in brief comments that New York Senator Chuck Schumer made early in the evening. “We’re going to pass ENDA,” he said, indicating no awareness that the community now wants to pursue a more ambitious path. Griffin’s address also took on international issues, with him denouncing efforts by religiously-motivated right-wing American activists like Scott Lively to press African nations to crack down on their LGBT population. “We can’t let hate be the leading US export,” Griffin said. In talking about HRC’s expanded efforts on the international front,
he singled out the financial support of Paul Singer, a leading funder of marriage equality efforts who has drawn criticism from progressive activists for his support of rightwing Republicans and for some of the international investment activity of the hedge fund company he runs. As the nation’s leading LGBT lobbying group, HRC frequently draws criticism for political alliances it makes and on issues on which some in the community believe it is not sufficiently aggressive, and the Waldorf gala represented an opportunity for some of that unhappiness to be vented. As the event was getting underway, a group of roughly three-dozen protesters, responding to a call from ACT UP, gathered outside the hotel to press HRC on a variety of fronts. Terri Wilder, from ACT UP, demanded that HRC lend support to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Plan to End AIDS in the state by 2020, while James Robinson criticized the group for giving no weight to how companies treat their HIV-positive employees in compiling its annual Corporate Equality Index. Andy Velez, also with ACT UP, said HRC needs to focus on LGBT youth homelessness and also charged the group’s advocacy has “neuterized” a community that first came together around the issue of sexual liberation. An activist who identified himself as Angry Pacifist was critical of the group’s celebration of corporate America, including the high profile played in HRC’s advocacy in recent years by Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Aware that a protest was being planned, HRC moved proactively to address concerns in advance. A day before the gala, Sainz and Jeffrey Krehely, the group’s chief foundation officer, met for two hours with five of the protest’s organizers, including Velez and Robinson. According to both Sainz and Velez, the meeting was “very cordial,” with Velez saying HRC was open on a number of issues raised. Sainz said his group is willing to have a more “robust” presence
BEYOND MARRIAGE, continued on p.11
Forum Confronts Myriad Problems Facing Homeless Youth Advocates discuss how shelter is delivered, impacts of religion, poverty, and law enforcement, and needs past age 20 BY PAUL SCHINDLER
January 28 panel on LGBT youth homelessness highlighted familiar concerns about the right model for delivering services to that population, but also focused on the dramatic link between poverty in a youth’s family of origin and their risk for homelessness and on the urgency of better addressing the needs of youth 21 to 24 not currently protected under state law. Carl Siciliano, the founder and executive director of the Ali Forney Center, lauded the de Blasio administration for adding 100 new emergency beds in youth shelters over the past year, which he sees as a down payment on a commitment to grow the stock of available spots until the unmet need is addressed. A 2007 census by the Empire State Coalition estimated that on any given night about 3,800 youth 24 and younger — as many as 40 percent of them LGBT or questioning — do not have a roof over their head in the city. Even with the newly funded beds, the existing stock still numbers less than 400. Siciliano explained that with turnover at shelters, 100 beds can serve up to 1,000 youth over the course of the year, but he also said that waiting lists at Ali Forney have grown over the past year despite the new funding. The Campaign for Youth Shelter, a coalition effort by a number of advocacy groups, are pressing the state and city to grow the supply of emergency beds each year by 100 until waiting lists at shelters around the city disappear. It’s not yet clear, however, that the city is prepared for another injection of new money in the budget that begins on July 1. Since Governor Andrew Cuomo took office in early 2011, the state has actually reduced its commitment in this area by two thirds. As the forum was set to start, Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay West Side Democrat, circulated a letter he had sent to Cuomo urging that the state reverse course and double its Runaway and Homeless
Youth expenditure from $2.35 million to $4.75 million. That increase was not included in the executive budget the governor presented on January 21, but Hoylman is hopeful he and legislative allies can prevail on Cuomo to sign on to the increase in his amended budget due on February 20. For Siciliano, the issue is not only how much is spent but how it is spent. He was critical of the fact that three quarters of the new beds — and all 24 designated to serve LGBT youth —provided by city funding last year are located at Covenant House, which he said offers too large an institutional setting to appropriately meet the youths’ needs. “Best practices enacted into law say that homeless youth should be sheltered in smaller, homelike settings,” Siciliano said. In his remarks, Siciliano initially refrained from offering more pointed criticism of Covenant, which he often has done in the past. However, during the question and answer portion of the evening, Steve Ashkinazy who organized the LGBT Community Center forum on behalf of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, pointed to Covenant’s history of hostility and indifference to the needs of LGBT youth. Ashkinazy has met with Covenant officials recently and said he saw evidence of “good intentions” on their part, but he remains skeptical that the facility, just west of Times Square, is a safe venue for queer youth. At that point, Siciliano mentioned that 50 percent of the youth he sees at Ali Forney “refuse to go to Covenant,” citing stories about “stabbings and gang beatings.” The decision to locate LGBT emergency beds there, he said, represents “cultural incompetence on the part of the mayoral administration.” Another panelist, Kate Barnhart, who runs New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth, which provides social services, said of Covenant House, “I am still hearing the same horror stories, maybe less often, but maybe because fewer LGBT youth seek it out.” The panel’s other three mem-
bers — Lillian Rivera, who directs advocacy and capacity building at the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI), Nicole Abalone, who oversees youth services at the LGBT Community Center, and Kim Forte, who heads up the LGBT Law and Policy Initiative at the Legal Aid Society — offered no perspectives on the dominant role played by Covenant in housing homeless youth. Ashkinazy acknowledged that he did not invite Covenant House to participate in the forum, explaining that his conversations with management there had not convinced him they were being completely “transparent” about their efforts with LGBT youth. For Siciliano, the biggest problem facing the youth he’s worked with is “the religious hostility of parents. Hostility in religion needs to be challenged.” In contrast, HMI’s Rivera focused on poverty, noting that more than more than 80 percent of the roughly 2,000 young people her group serves each year are youth of color who come from families that are poor. “These kids know how to negotiate the hostility at home,” she said, “but the poverty is the tough issue.” Acknowledging that this reality demands more systemic changes in society, Rivera added, “How do we develop the political will to tell leaders this is important to us?” The Center’s Abalone also pointed to the strong relationship between family poverty and the eventual homelessness of youth. “While religion is a huge issue, there are so many issues,” she said. The Legal Aid Society’s Forte, who is currently waging a lawsuit to win a legal right to shelter in New
York for youth 16 to 20, said she is concerned about the lack of cultural competency across the youth services spectrum, particularly toward transgender youth. The result, she said, is that it is far too easy for homeless youth to fall into the criminal justice system. Forte also advocated for reform of the state’s Runaway and Homeless Youth law to provide protections up to age 24. For homeless youth 21 and older, the only shelter recourse is often an adult facility, where, she said, LGBT young people face particular risks. New Alternatives’ Barnhart said that most of the youth her organization works with are 21 and older, a population she said often presents severe problems, with years spent without stable housing and often mental health care issues that have never been addressed. Since there is little public funding targeting this group, New Alternatives relies almost exclusively on private funding. Panelists had a variety of responses when asked what change could best help turn the situation around. Rivera talked about the need to document and publicize the stories of homeless youth, while Abalone emphasized that early intervention with families before youth leave home or are thrown out is an urgent priority, especially since LGBT youth are coming out at earlier and earlier ages. Siciliano and Forte said that the criminalization of homelessness and poverty — with “broken windows” arrests resulting from “simply being in the streets” or for petty crimes like turnstile jumping — compound the problems of lives that are already chaotic. Pointing out that many of the youth New Alternatives serves are HIV-positive, Barnhart endorsed an expansion of the existing housing entitlement for those who have an AIDS diagnosis to include anyone living with the virus. “Get sick and you get housing is not a good message,” she said. The panel was moderated by Andy Humm, a Gay City News reporter who is co-host of cable TV’s “Gay USA.” February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
Cuomo Budget Includes Only $5 Million for PrEP
Effort may assist as few as 600 on preventive meds BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
he pr oposed New York state budget for the fiscal year that begins on April 1 includes $5 million for a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) program serving populations at high risk for HIV infection, but documents suggest the state will cap the number of annual participants in the program at 600, a number that by itself is too low to have a significant impact on HIV infections in the state. “Prevention is the most important element,” said Guiller mo Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, referring to a state plan to reduce the number of new yearly HIV infections from the current 3,000 to 750 by 2020. “We want more than that.” The proposed PrEP Assistance Program, which was discussed in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Opportunity Agenda, a budget document, “will help 600 persons per year stay negative, and with Medicaid and other insurance products, complete a system that will help ensure as many highest risk persons as possible have good access options.” Medicaid, the government health plan for the poor, will contribute $2.5 million to the program and the AIDS Institute, which is part of the state health department, will contribute $2.5 million, according to the state budget office. One antiHIV drug, Truvada, is approved for PrEP. Taken daily, Truvada is highly effective at keeping HIV-negative people uninfected. The AIDS Institute did not respond to an email asking, among several questions about the program, if the 600 is a cap and what the other elements of the “system” will be, though the state will clearly rely on private insurance and Gilead Sciences, Truvada’s manufacturer, to pay for PrEP for many users. “Currently, Medicaid and other high quality insurance products cover PrEP, and the drug manufacturer offers both assistance obtain-
GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
ing the medication and covering co-pays, but there remain specific barriers to wide adoption of this highly effective prevention,” the budget document said. “The PrEP Assistance Program will fill the gap among the various options by helping persons with lower grade insurance products cover the cost of services that have out of pocket costs associated with them such as HIV, STD, and kidney function tests.” People taking PrEP get quarterly tests for sexually transmitted diseases and to see if Truvada has impacted their kidney functioning. The drug is also expensive, with estimated costs running as high as $12,000 a year. Last year, Cuomo endorsed the plan to cut infections, which was sought by leading AIDS groups. Like Cuomo, AIDS groups want more dollars for PrEP, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which uses anti-HIV drugs in a person with a recent exposure to HIV to prevent infection, and treatment as prevention (TasP). Under TasP, people with HIV who adhere to antiHIV drug dosing schedules are effectively not infectious. Cuomo has emphasized the role of the three drug regimens in getting to 750, while AIDS groups have also sought, with limited success, more supportive housing and expanded access to government benefits for people with HIV. In 2012, the latest year for which the state has data, 95 percent of the 3,316 new HIV diagnoses in New York were in New York City and 55 percent of the city diagnoses were among gay and bisexual men. To get to 750, thousands of gay and bisexual men will have to be on PrEP and the number of HIV-positive people who are taking anti-HIV drugs and have no detectable HIV in their blood will have to increase substantially. The rate of new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in the city has remained stubbornly high for 13 years while ever other transmission risk category has seen declines.
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PREP, continued on p.8
Callen-Lorde Workers Vote to Join 1199SEIU January vote makes Chelsea clinic city’s first unionized LGBT health center
BY PAUL SCHINDLER
n a first in New York City’s LGBT healthcare sector, 174 staff members at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center on January 13 voted to join 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. That count includes the bulk of the West 17th Street clinic’s non-management staff, including doctors, nurses, social workers, patient care associates, and medical assistants. According to a release from 1199, Callen-Lorde becomes the first health center serving the LGBT community in New York to embrace the union. Workers at Washington, DC’s LGBT -focused Whitman-Walker Health Center affiliated with 1199 back in the 1990s. 1199SEIU, which represents more than 400,000 workers, most of them nurses and other caregivers, in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, and Florida, describes itself as the nation’s largest and fastest growing healthcare union. For a union looking to continue its rapid growth, Callen-Lorde — as a federally qualified health center providing what is known in the industry as ambulatory care — represented an attractive organizing opportunity. Economic challenges facing large hospitals that traditionally dominated institutional health care delivery coupled with specific incentives provided by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act combine to make ambulatory care a sector of significant expansion nationwide. 1199 has organized more than
Callen-Lorde staff union organizers outside the Chelsea clinic.
5,000 employees of federally qualified health centers in New York City. “Nationwide, healthcare is shifting toward community-based settings,” Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, said in a written statement. “As this change occurs, it’s essential that this sector provides good jobs to workers so they can provide the best quality of care to their patients.” Several Callen-Lorde employees involved in the effort to win 1199 representation emphasized that the organizing drive, which began last June when several staffers contacted the union, was relatively free of strife with the clinic’s management. “For me, it was fairly tension-free,” said Rachel Elzey, a patient navigator who has been at Callen-Lorde for almost a year and a half and works with HIV-positive clients, providing a range of services from case management to education. “We have such a strong mission to serve the LGBTQ population, especially those most vulnerable. We wanted to treat our-
PREP, from p.7
In 2014, the city health department sur veyed 500 gay and bisexual men aged 18 to 40 and found that up to 59 percent were unaware of PrEP. Less than five percent reported using PrEP or PEP in the six months prior to taking the survey. The city health department launched a campaign to educate doctors about PrEP and PEP in early January. Data from Gilead and the state health department suggest that PrEP use has increased in
selves with the same respect we treat our clients with.” Ariadne Brazo, a mental health patient navigator who joined Callen-Lorde full time last May after interning there during her second year of graduate study at NYU, offered a similar assessment of what led employees to look to 1199. “We felt that the staff didn't have enough of a voice in terms of our employment,” Brazo explained. “We felt the best way to do that was with a union and we felt that 1199 had a good history of social justice — which Callen-Lorde has as its mission.” Explaining that she “shed antiunion attitudes” while studying the labor movement as an undergraduate sociology major, Brazo said the “biggest barrier” to educating fellow staff members at Callen-Lorde was “misinformation” about what unions are and what they do. By this past November, organizers had collected union cards from a majority of staff, which management could have accepted as sufficient to recognize the union. Instead, the clinic insisted that staff undertake
New York and across the country since the drug regimen was approved in 2012, though no one is suggesting that New York is close to the level of PrEP uptake needed to see large reductions in new HIV diagnoses. A similar program in Washington State provides a useful contrast to the New York program. Washington, which hopes to reduce new HIV diagnoses by half by 2020, is spending $2 million annually on a PrEP assistance program originally aimed at helping 200 gay and bisexual men. That program began last year. As
a formal vote. At that point, 1199 and Callen-Lorde negotiated a “neutrality agreement,” under which which management agreed not to intervene in the organizing effort. Two months later, the union drive achieved the winning vote. “It was a really beautiful process for me to see personally, very empowering,” Brazo said. “I learned a lot about labor rights and how best to run an agency. It was overwhelmingly positive. That’s why I love Callen-Lorde. This whole process proved how dedicated to the community the staff is, just as management has always said.” The success in organizing doctors on staff at Callen-Lorde also represents the type of new opportunities for growth available to 1199, which acknowledged it is not yet that common. Dr. Roona Ray, a member of the clinic’s medical team who was among the organizers of the union effort, was the first staff member to reach out to Gay City News, several days prior to the January 13 vote. The next step for the new union will be sitting down with Callen-Lorde management to discuss the parameters of a new contract and to resolve questions of eligibility for a few employees not yet able to join 1199. Those involved in winning approval of the union said salary and benefits would be key areas of discussion, but Callen-Lorde staff now have the option of choosing a union healthcare plan if they are dissatisfied with the policy they’re able to negotiate with the clinic. According to 1199, the new union members are also eligible to participate in a range of SEIU-funded higher education opportunities. Management at Callen-Lorde, which has not yet met with representatives of the union since the successful vote last month, declined comment at this time.
Washington found that more applicants were insured and only needed help with co-pays or quarterly tests, the program may be able to cover 300 people annually for the same budget. “We will likely end up covering a lot more with the $2 million,” said David Kern, manager of the Infectious Disease Prevention Program at Washington’s state health department. In 2013, Washington reported 470 new HIV diagnoses, with 395 among men and 273 of those among gay and bisexual men. February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
11th Circuit Denies Alabama Bid for Longer Stay Unless Supreme Court alters course set in October, marriages begin February 9
BY PAUL SCHINDLER
n a brief order, a threejudge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the State of Alabama’s request that it stay two recent marriage equality rulings to give the state time to appeal them. The February 3 order, which provided no explanation, came in regard to two cases decided by Judge Callie V.S. Granade of the Southern District of Alabama — a January 23 ruling in a suit brought by a lesbian couple, Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, who married in California and sought recognition in their home state, and a January 27 ruling in a challenge brought by a gay male couple, James Strawser and John Humphrey, who wanted to marry. Unless the Supreme Court acts before February 9 to extend the existing stay — something it has
repeatedly declined to do since early October — same-sex couples will be free to marry in Alabama that day. Before her first ruling could take effect, Granade, appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, issued the temporary stay to allow the state time to seek a longer stay pending appeal from either the 11th Circuit or the Supreme Court. She made clear, however, that she did not believe that an appeal would be successful and she concluded the lesbian couple, who are raising a young son, would be irreparably harmed by further delay in having their marriage recognized. She issued a similar stay of her second marriage ruling. In examining Alabama’s marriage ban, Granade took the approach endorsed by the Fourth and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeal, noting Supreme Court precedents finding that the right to marry is fundamental and can only be abridged for a compelling government purpose.
From that perspective, any restriction on that right would have to be “narrowly tailored” to meet the government interest. She found that the ban lacked any rational link to the state’s purported interest in encouraging heterosexual couples to secure the well-being of their children by marrying. Instead, Granade found, the only impact on children was to undermine the best interests of those raised by same-sex couples. The Alabama Probate Judges Association, a professional group representing the county officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses, initially argued that Granade’s ruling did not apply to anyone other than the couple who brought the marriage recognition case, In response, Granade issued a clarifying opinion making clear her order applied statewide, something she was careful to emphasize in her January 27 right to marry decision. The State of Alabama can now turn to the Supreme Court to seek
a longer stay, though since early October the high court has not stayed any marriage equality decisions, including a federal district court ruling from Florida the appeal of which has not yet been heard by the 11th Circuit. Since its denial of the Florida stay, however, the Supreme Court has agreed to review an adverse marriage ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that reversed victories by same-sex couples in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Given that resolution of those cases is pending, it’s unclear if the high court will continue to let district court victories from other parts of the country go into effect. In a separate announcement a day after denying Alabama its stay, the 11th Circuit said it was putting marriage equality appeals from both that state and Florida on hold as the Supreme Court considers the Sixth Circuit appeals. In the wake of the 11th Circuit denial of a stay, Searcy and McKeand promptly moved to have Granade end her stay early without waiting for
ALABAMA, continued on p.11
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Affordable Housing Policy: • April 2013: Then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio criticizes former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s annual increases in water rates as a “hidden tax.” • February 2014: Mayor de Blasio increases water & sewer rates 3.6%. • June 2014: Mayor de Blasio calls for Rent Freeze (landlords wind up with 1% rent increase, lowest ever on record).
• November 2014: Mayor de Blasio calls for stricter rent regulations. • January 15, 2015: Mayor de Blasio announces a 13% increase on real estate tax assessments.
Increased Taxes and Costs + Rent Freeze = Landlords Cannot Repair, Improve, Maintain and Preserve Affordable Housing The de Blasio Affordable Housing Equation Just Doesn’t Add Up. GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
The de Blasio affordable housing policy hurts poor and middle-income families, those most in need of affordable housing – as well as landlords of rent-stabilized apartments, the largest providers of affordable housing.
It’s Time for New Solutions to an Old Problem. 9
California Supreme Court Revives Differential Sex Offender Registry Rules In cases involving 16, 17-year-olds, judges can waive when vaginal intercourse involved, but not sodomy, oral sex BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD
he California Supreme Court, in a reversal of a ruling it made in 2006, has found that there is no equal protection violation in the state’s sex offender registration law mandating registration for adults who engage in non-vaginal sex with minors 16 or 17, but giving judges discretion in imposing such a requirement on men who engage in vaginal intercourse with young women in the same age group. The January 29 decision, on a 5-2 vote, overturned the earlier ruling which held that all adults who have sex with minors 16 or 17 are “similarly situated” and therefore there is no reason to deny judges discretion in all such instances. The majority opinion was written by Justice Marvin Baxter, who dissented in the court’s 2008 marriage equality decision. In her dissent, Justice Kathryn Werdegar, with the concurrence of Justice Goodwin
SAGE, from p.4
about the way in which federal financing programs were adapted to the goal of eliminating homelessness among veterans, an effort he described as “successful.” Developing the political will to create financial incentives for LGBT senior housing is obviously a taller order, but if mainstream options can be made more welcoming to LGBT elders then focusing on expanding the overall senior sector could have significant impact on the community’s well-being. Which brought the panel discussion around to the other key piece in the initiative — training housing providers. “We’re never going to build enough LGBT-specific housing — we need to do cultural competency training for housing providers and caregivers,” said Enterprise Community Partners’ Gladstone. Wayland, whose group provides such trainings at senior housing developments in St. Louis, said staff are typically very responsive — and say they’ve never before been
In his majority opinion, Baxter asserted that the 2006 case — which found an equal protection violation in that statutory scheme — was intended to make a narrow, Romeo and Juliet type of exception for young men having consensual oral sex with teenage girls just a few years younger. Lower courts, however, ran with it, he asserted, applying discretion to cases with much wider age gaps. The result was disarray in the California courts, Baxter asserted, leading a majority of the Supreme Court to rethink its prior ruling. The 2003 Lawrence sodomy ruling by the US Supreme Court found no constitutionally protected liberty interest for adults to have sex with minors, and Baxter concluded that California law on this point could be upheld so long as the state could assert a non-discriminatory rationale. In 2006, the court found no practical difference between vaginal intercourse and other forms of sex to justify a different treatment, since all were equally outlawed if
minors were involved. But Baxter found such a justification — oddly in the fact that only vaginal sex can lead to pregnancy. As a result, the state can rationally treat it differently. Since the state is concerned with children’s welfare, it could rationally allow judges the discretion to not require registration if a child born as the result of such sex could be disadvantaged if their father were stigmatized, in terms of employment opportunities and where he could live, as a registered sex offender. Justice Werdegar countered that discretion could be appropriate for cases involving oral and anal sex as well, especially when the adult and the teen are close in age and the sex is consensual. She noted that most enforcement of “statutory rape” laws, under which otherwise legal sex is outlawed because of the age of a participant, tends to target gay men, and that mandatory sex offender registration could just as severely affect them as it might
CALIFORNIA, continued on p.11
ed about the work her group does to educate seniors about the varying degrees of protection they enjoy in the city and the many dozens of surrounding suburbs. Beyond nondiscrimination protections, government is also a player in providing financing for housing, and Cheryl Gladstone, the program director for senior housing at Enterprise Community Partners, a non-profit that specializes in financing for affordable housing, policy analysis, and the training of housing providers in a variety of areas, emphasized the need to protect those federal programs that can be used to increase the stock of senior housing and could be repurposed to provide a broader range of social services as well. Senior housing experts increasingly talk about the value of using housing as the core around which to build better access to social and health services. HELP USA’s Cleghorn talked
Liu, argued that the distinction had a homophobic origin and would disparately harm gay people. According to the dissent, the distinction in registration requirements dates back to 1947, when the sex offender registration statute listed oral sex and sodomy with a minor as registerable offenses, but did not list vaginal intercourse with a minor. At that time, the only lawful sex act in California was vaginal intercourse involving a married couple. State law was liberalized in 1975, when all consensual sex between adults, including gay sex, was decriminalized. At that time, judges were given discretion to order registration in cases involving vaginal sex between an adult man and a 16 or 17-year-old girl, but the requirement that any adult convicted of oral or anal sex with a person of that age register as a sex offender was maintained. As a result, men who had sex with girls 16 or 17 could avoid the registration requirement, but those who had sex with boys 16 or 17 could not.
Melissa Rothstein, deputy director of the Equal Rights Center, Cheryl Gladstone, senior housing program director at Enterprise Community Partners, and Sherrill Wayland, executive director of SAGE Metro St. Louis.
exposed to information about the needs and concerns of LGBT elders. In launching a nationwide training program, SAGE is starting with pilot programs run by Enterprise Community Partners in senior facilities in Washington, DC, and Kansas City managed by the National Hispanic Council on Aging. The optimistic future SAGE envisions with its new housing initiative involves a small dose of projects tailored specifically to LGBT
elders, effective legal protections for the community in housing everywhere, housing providers sensitive and responsive to the special needs of older queer residents, and the ready availability of the services and amenities that everyone needs to be safe, healthy, and engaged in life during their senior years. “We are not building buildings,” Adams said, in closing out the panel’s discussion. “We are building communities.” February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
CALIFORNIA, from p.10
affect straight men who get teenage girls pregnant. And Werdegar asserted, this targeting is an outgrowth of longstanding historical moral disapproval of homosexuality, as exemplified by a 1974 California court decision that rejected a constitutional challenge to the mandatory registration requirement and found that “the defendant’s arguments were those of ‘the congenital homosexual to whom that is natural which the vast majority of the population deems unnatural.’” A 1966 UCLA Law Review study of sex crimes enforcement practices, she noted, “found that police officers, when they had a choice of statutes under which to arrest gay men, consciously chose those
ALABAMA, from p.9
the Supreme Court to weigh in, but Granade quickly rejected that move saying that probate judges needed the time until February 9 to prepare for the advent of issuing licenses to same-sex couples In an extraordinary January 27 letter responding to Granade’s first marriage ruling, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore urged Republican Governor Robert Bentley to resist her order. “As you know, nothing in the United States Constitution grants the federal government the authority to redefine the institution of
BEYOND MARRIAGE, from p.5
GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
marriage,” Moore wrote. Noting that Alabama voters approved a constitutional amendment bar ring marriage by same-sex couples or its recognition by the state, the chief justice wrote that the state’s high court recognized marriage as “a divine institution” under which spouses have “higher moral and religious obligations than those imposed by any mere human institution or government.” Moore then asserted that state law has always “recognized the Biblical admonition stated by our Lord” that man and woman were created to be joined together in marriage. “I ask you to continue to uphold
itself was a normal one not considered deserving of any social stigma; oral copulation, in contrast, was an unnatural act typically engaged in by homosexuals.” Werdegar’s dissent is a clear call for legislative reform. In overruling its own 2006 decision, she writes, “the majority reinstates a scheme that had a disproportionately adverse effect on gay and lesbian youth and unnecessarily saddled nonpredatory offenders of either sexual orientation with the stigma and restricted liberties attendant on sex offender registration.” The California Legislature, with large majorities of gay-friendly Democrats in both houses, certainly has the power to extend judicial discretion to all cases of adult sex with youths 16 and 17.
and support the Alabama Constitution with respect to marriage, both for the welfare of this state and for posterity,” the chief justice wrote in conclusion. “Be advised that I stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority.” After the 11th Circuit denied the state’s bid to have the stay extended, Moore stepped in again, with a letter to Alabama’s probate judges, some of whom already voiced opposition to complying with Granade’s
order, urging them to join in his refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the marriage decision. In response to Moore’s letter to the governor, reminiscent of the late Alabama Governor George Wallace’s defiance of federal desegregation orders in the 1960s, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a disciplinary complaint against him with the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission. That body has the authority to discipline Moore, up to and including removal from office.
HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS HIV/AI S HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS ARE YOU POSITIVE (+)? VDS HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS HIV AIDS HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS H KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. V/AIDS HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS HIV/AID HIVHIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS HIV MICHAEL SHIREY
in New York on both AIDS advocacy and the homeless youth issue, and that it shares the protesters’ commitment to press for an end to discrimination against HIV-positive people by the nation’s organ exchange network. Krehely and Sainz prepared a detailed outline of HRC’s work on HIV issues on Capitol Hill, though Sainz agreed that the group’s website could do a better job of highlighting information about the epidemic and efforts to address it. Other highlights of the evening included a barnburner of a keynote address by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker who warned about the perils of “sedentary agitation,” saying, during a passage where he drew strong parallels between the African-American civil rights struggle and the LGBT movement, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest.” Booker earned laughs and hearty applause when he teasingly
offenses requiring registration. . ., the ‘predominant view’ being that ‘homosexual offenders should be registered.’” Differential registration requirements perpetuate the old distinction between heterosexuality as “normal” and homosexuality as “abnormal,” Werdegar wrote. “Indeed, as the majority notes, when the prohibition on sexual intercourse with underage girls was removed from California’s rape statute and designated as the new offense of ‘unlawful sexual intercourse,’ the principal goal was to eliminate the social stigma of labeling offenders as ‘rapists.’” The underlying assumptions behind the difference is “clear,” she found, “while sexual intercourse with minors was an offense, the act
Mary Lambert performs “Same Love” and several other songs.
told the crowd, “Don't forget me, I’m single.” Mary Lambert — who made an unforgettable appearance at last year’s Grammy Awards singing her “Same Love” anthem, backed up by Madonna, Macklemore, and Ryan Lewis, while Queen Latifah married 33 couples, same and different-sex — performed three songs and riffed at length, offering sweet insights into an emerging young star.
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Salt Lake Cynicism BY PAUL SCHINDLER The Salt Lake Tribune headlined it this way: “In Major Move, Mormon Apostles Call for Statewide LGBT Protections.” Here was the frame from the New York Times: “Mormons Seek Golden Mean Between Gay Rights and Religious Beliefs.” Wr o n g . B o t h o f them. In their headlines and in the stories that followed. According to the T imes, “Mor mon leaders tried to stake out a middle ground in the escalating battle between gay rights and religious freedom on Tuesday, demanding that both ideas, together, be treated as a national priority.” The Tribune in Salt Lake City offered a more accurate lede: “Top leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called Tuesday for passage of laws granting statewide protections against housing and employment discrimination for gay and lesbian Utahns — as long as those measures safeguard religious freedom.” Here’s what the Mormon Church leaders actually said in a January 27 release: “We call on local, state, and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches, and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment, and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation.” The Mormon bid to extend the concept of religious exemption beyond the narrow confines of a faith congregation to “individuals” and “families” — allowing anyone to opt out of the requirements to not discriminate in employment or housing, presumably on the basis of some “sincerely held religious belief” — is in no way, shape, or form a compromise, a concession, an advance, or a golden mean. It is an effort to interject the latest right wing tactic for resisting LGBT equality into an ongoing debate over a nondiscrimination bill in the Utah Legislature. That measure has long been stalled, but presumably it will be considerably easier to move with LDS support. But what would such legislation mean?
It would mean that Mormons or anyone else staking a religious claim could be exempted from the nondiscrimination measure. It would, in essence, be a license to discriminate. That the Mormons do not deserve. If there is any doubt as to the motivation or sincerity of the Mormons’ latest gambit, look to a comment from the Church leader who laid out the new policy. Elder Dallin H. Oaks pointed to “the steady erosion of treasured [religious] freedoms that are guaranteed in the United States Constitution." What is Oaks talking about? The obligation of paid civil servants to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples? The obligation of businesses that act as public accommodations — making their services generally available to the general public — to serve gay and lesbian people? Yes, that is exactly what Oaks is talking about. Nobody disputes that a city clerk must issue a marriage license to an
interracial couple, whatever their feelings about whether blacks and whites should marry. Nobody disputes that a hotel must rent a room to a Latino couple or that a restaurant must serve an Asian woman or a Jewish man. What is it about LGBT people that gives people the right to claim a religious out from the rules that govern their interactions with any other person they come across. Are LGBT people morally “spoiled” from the standpoint of civil law? No. Not if civil law and the separation of church and state mean anything. So, I for one will reject the offer the Mormons put on the table. Not because the balance isn’t quite right. But rather because they made no effort at balancing at all. The public image of Mormons took a big hit when they fell all over themselves pouring millions into the battle to pass California’s Proposition 8 in 2008. They’re trying to rebrand themselves now as reasonable folks seeking the “golden mean.” Their proposal is cynical, and frankly unworthy of an organization claiming to be guided by deep principles.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR WE’RE HEARING FROM RUBEN DIAZ JR. ON ISRAEL BECAUSE…? January 22, 2015 To the Editor: Why did Gay City News reprint Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s horrendous screed from the Gotham Gazette? (“Why I Am Visiting Israel,” Jan. 22). In which he unqualifiedly sings the praises of occupier Israel without once mentioning the word “Palestinian” — while he’s blithely holidaying there on the tab of the Jewish Community Relations Council? Is apology for apartheid a gay thing? The borough president’s disgraceful pandering to power is good for — who? Is relevant to progressive queers — how? Is worth reprinting — why? Diaz cites two mid-‘60s quotes concerning Israel’s security from Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, a disingenuous misuse of Dr. King’s legacy. If Dr. King made some pro-Israeli statements in his time, he was not without skepticism of Israeli political and military projects, like the would-be annexation of East Jerusalem. M.L. King was a civil
rights activist. It’s a very dubious assumption that he would promote apartheid Israel in the present day if he were alive. Similarly, Diaz’ Orwellian inversion of the famous Niemöller statement misquotes and distorts it altogether (the statement did not say “First they came for the Jews”). Niemöller’s often-quoted words were a warning about German society’s silence and complicity with rightist takeover and genocide — an admonition clearly not heeded by Diaz. Where does Ruben Diaz Jr. get off talking about Israel being “the only democracy in the Middle East” while Palestinians are humiliated, bombarded, and imprisoned en masse over decades? While he misappropriates the legend of Dr. King to build bridges, ostensibly, between present-day Israel and Latino communities, I wonder what Simón Bolívar, Che Guevara, or Cesar Chavez might think of Diaz’s “Community Relations”. Brad Taylor Member, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid — NYC
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
PERSPECTIVE: Embracing the Other
Digital Drag BY MICHAEL DESANTO
hen we think of video games, our minds can easily go off in many different directions. We may think about iconic figures such as Super Mario, Zelda, or Laura Croft. We may think about the amount of time children spend in these virtual worlds instead of riding their bikes outside. Or we may even begin to think more deeply about gaming and how it is actually an art form. As gaming is finally gaining recognition as an emerging consumable media, it’s also slowly gaining respect from the mass public. For someone of an older generation, there may be a cultural disconnect, a lack of understanding of why people spend hours upon hours playing or spend decent chunks of their yearly salaries on something deemed so “trivial” or “juvenile.” But this kind of critique is a fairly typical reaction to any burgeoning art form or media. There was a time when some people ignored film and later television simply because it was stigmatized by their parents. Decades later, the Internet faced a similar reaction, with the potential of YouTube vastly
The user interface for customizing Commander Shepard.
underestimated. But TVs and computers are in nearly every American home, and households easily spend $100 or more a month on cable and Internet service. Now, the apprehension is focused on the newest mysterious neighbor on the block — video games. So understand that I have grown up playing video games my entire life. Think about that statement. There are now generations of people who have never lived in a world without Game Boys, Playstations, and gaming PC’s. Gaming has penetrated our culture to such a degree that even if you don’t play yourself, there’s a very good chance you know
people who do. With that in mind, we should be thinking about the need to produce content that provides positive digital representations of diverse communities. Technological advances have allowed us to expand and redefine our tools and pallet on how we “color” a game, with profound impacts on gameplay mechanics, story development, and the types of characters who exist in these universes. But though games have now become more complex, with an inherent ability to act as platforms for cultural representation, prevailing designs remain targeted overwhelmingly to a straight white male audience.
Given the exploding array of options in the market, the homogeneity is not absolute. There are games where you can play as a female protagonist, but more often than not she must be conventionally sexy in some way — whether skinny, showing cleavage, or wearing short-shorts even in dangerous situations. You can play as an anthropomorphized hedgehog, bandicoot, or gorilla but often enough they are on a clichéd quest to save their girlfriend. Playable characters of color in video games are almost nonexistent and the few I have come across are stereotyped as having a criminal history — as in “The Walking Dead” and “The Grand Theft Auto” series. The gaming industry is clearly behind the curve on “otherness,” and as a queer white male in my mid-20s I can’t think of a single game where you can play a full-on LGBT character. For me, that’s sad — not only because it makes me feel invisible in a culture that has always felt so much like home to me, but because there are players out there who are limited in experiencing what I like to refer to as “digital drag.” Through the use of an avatar acting as a virtual extension of the self, players can experience otherness, by immersing themselves in a digital space that could challenge their self-identifica-
DIGITAL DRAG, continued on p.19
PERSPECTIVE: The Long View
Our Common Cause Is No Myth
BY NATHAN RILEY
n “The Myth of the Gay Community,” a recent college graduate concludes that given the “diverse identities and needs” of LGBT individuals there is no “monolithic” gay community. Outside of those pushing far right fantasies about a “homosexual agenda,” few would pretend that gays could be reduced to cookie cutter sameness. But for Evan Beck, writing in the Atlantic, these disparate elements are unhinged and the community is scattering. The “links” are not “strong enough,” he writes, to maintain a community “whose different interests and needs will not always align, if at all.” But this misses the point. We create a com-
GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
munity to keep diverse interests aligned. His view may provide ideological cover for gays joining the Republican Party or drifting into the pro-business wing of the Democrats without insisting that if we help them, they must support the gay community. If no community exists then personal concerns are paramount. The author has a passing familiarity with gay history, but misses a crucial point. The gay community was a political invention of gay liberation intended to influence the halls of government. It was progressive because the times were progressive and the opposition wasn’t. The initial battle was with the Democrats. Traditional ethnic and machine Democrats were anywhere from lukewarm to outright hostile. The Catholic Church was opposed as were most Protestant denominations. Parents worried their children might
be turned if homosexual practices weren’t condemned. Just as the feminist community had to work to create fellow feeling among women, so the gay community had to bring together cisgender gays and lesbians, transgender men and women, drag queens, the romantic and the backroom denizens, those who wore sweaters and those who flashed leather and chains, the snobbish and the unassuming. The movement insisted white gays can and should get along with blacks and other people of color. To be sure, racism was a problem in the community — and it remains so today. But overcoming that barrier and not allowing such differences to divide us became a cardinal principle in the movement. We were not brain dead and knew the struggle for civil rights by people of color offered sensible roadmaps for sexual minorities. And we were making moral choices
LONG VIEW, continued on p.16
PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad
War Against Queers in Nigeria
BY KELLY COGSWELL
’s been one year since an anti-gay bill passed in Nigeria banning samesex marriages that nobody was lobbying for. Membership in LGBT groups was also criminalized, along with any display of homo affection, making a handshake as dangerous as a handjob. The law goes even further, requiring citizens to report such things to the cops or face a decade or so in jail, just like the queers. So far, the general population has been happy to help rid Nigeria of these disgusting un-Nigerians, especially gay men. It seems like every day they’re picked up for no good reason and charged, often at the behest of their neighbors. Just last week, the Sharia police in the north detained a dozen men at a birthday party, claiming it was actually a gay wedding and that they had arrested the “bride.” At this point, gay men with HIV would rather risk dying of AIDS than go anywhere near the clinics that provide their ARV drugs but
Oliver Anene, a gay Nigerian who now lives in New York, moderated the January 28 panel held at Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
leave them vulnerable to stigmatization, blackmail, beatings, and the lynch mob. Unsurprisingly, new infections are climbing. And those with the means flee the country altogether. On January 28, I went to an event organized by the Nigerian LGBT community in New York City. A panel discussion was accompanied by a screening of
the 2013 documentary “Veil of Silence,” which Habeeb Lawal started shooting while the law was still in draft form and some legislators were advocating the death penalty for same-sex acts instead of a mere 14 years in jail. Lawal alternated footage of gay men talking about their lives with that of politicians in half-empty chambers inveighing against the degen-
Embedded in Queer Turkey
BY KELLY COGSWELL
was in Turkey almost two weeks for an LGBT film festival, and at first it seemed like Paris or New York or San Francisco, where out queers hold popular events, discuss how to push things forward in a resistant, but mostly democratic society. In fact, everybody smiled so much, was so fucking cheerful and effective I thought I’d landed in activist Nirvana. After a day running screenings and troubleshooting tech issues and moderating discussions, they even had enough energy to show up at the parties where they’d let their hair down and dance like joyful fiends while I crept away in exhausted shame. Then, one day, I talked to a guy who stopped smiling long enough to admit he really despised his day job, but didn’t dare leave because he could be out at work, a rare occurrence in Turkey. “It took so long to find it,” he said. “I wasn’t going to lie, like everybody else.” All the gay guys he’d known in his 20s had
caved in to the demands of their families and gotten married, to women of course. Then he counted out for me exactly how many more years and months he had to put in before his sentence was up and he could retire. Next I heard that a trans woman had killed herself in Istanbul a week earlier. And that just the previous evening someone’s trans friend had died during sexual reassignment surgery, and nobody knew if the family would allow them to attend the service. I also learned that the film festival that seemed to be going along so swimmingly actually had a film stuck in customs, delaying a screening — not surprising in this increasingly Islamist country, where censorship is gaining ground and journalists are regularly arrested. As we took the show on the road from Ankara, the capital, to Istanbul, an organizer got a phone call from some government type saying that Kuirfest didn’t have all the correct permits to show a certain film, which meant a new tangle of complications. She spent the rest of the trip on the phone to the festival’s lawyers.
eracy and foreignness of homosexuals. Which is kind of ironic, considering that this anti-gay pogrom owes so much to American preachers bearing money and hate. Nigeria’s garden variety homophobia became especially toxic after visits to Africa from the likes of Reverend Rick Warren in 2008, who compared homosexuality to pedophilia. The hate was thoroughly institutionalized by 2009, when evangelists Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Don Schmierer headlined a conference uncovering the horrors of the “gay agenda” for a mesmerized audience terrified at queers hellbent on recruiting their children. Many Nigerians clearly believe the propaganda. In the movie, one gay man described being asked by his mother if he knew any white people. She was sure he had caught his gayness from them, like a case of the clap. Politicians may spread the lies for more cynical reasons. From Russia to Cuba to Zimbabwe, there’s a long history of governments using the homosexual menace to distract everybody from the problems du jour. In Nigeria’s case, the motivation is all about how the rich get
NIGERIA, continued on p.15
Other pressures were less obvious. As we neared Istanbul on the bus, the woman next to me said that when she was in the city, she always made time to walk along the Bosphorus, the strait separating Asia from Europe, and dividing the city. She lamented that most of the women of Istanbul rarely visited the mythical water because the men in their lives all but confined them to their homes. In Turkey, the society’s so macho it makes Spain or Greece look positively matriarchal. Something like 40 percent of women face violence at home, with hundreds slaughtered every year. And in the public sphere there’s always some minister or other informing the country how obscene it is to see pregnant women on the streets, or, God forbid, see any woman at all with her mouth open, laughing. At least Turkish women don’t take it in silence. When Bülent Arinç, the deputy prime minister, came up with a choice bit last July, railing against immodesty and the horror of a woman’s laughing open mouth, Turkish women responded with snapshots and videos of themselves laughing as loud as they could. Their masculine allies tweeted, too, denouncing men
TURKEY, continued on p.15
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
NIGERIA, from p.14
richer and the poor get poorer, as well as the thin grip the government has on power, especially in the north. The Islamist Boko Haram now controls large territories, kidnapping girls and slaughtering whole villages. Human Rights Watch warns the group may entirely derail the upcoming presidential election. As the situation in the north deteriorates, international organizations may have some leverage to improve the situation of LGBT people. Clifton Cortex from the United Nations Development Programme reported that they were already pressuring Nigeria to comply with the human rights treaties it has signed, not to mention its own constitution. Even so, he didn’t seem to see any breakthroughs on the horizon. In the meantime, Marie de Cenival, from the Heartland Alliance, described how international organizations like hers were scrambling to find new terminology that would allow them to serve gay men without calling them that — or even hinting at it. Identifying them as Men Who Have Sex With Men was now almost as bad as calling them gay. One day it was “target” clients, on another they were part of the
TURKEY, from p.14
who were so cowardly that laughing women terrified them. T rans women and gay men frighten them, too. What could be more horrifying than effeminacy in a body with a dick? A man giving up his privilege? They are murdered like dogs, especially trans sex workers, and their deaths are dished up on the evening news. If the violence doesn’t come from tricks or random bigots or competition on the street, it’s fathers and brothers trying to erase the family shame. Many faced with a brutal life decide to kill themselves. Crossing a bridge into Istanbul, one trans woman told me that so many in her community had jumped from it, they’d held a vigil there, unfurling a rainbow flag. Lesbians, too, are strangled by gender, and the double whammy of lesbophobia and misogyny. I didn’t understand just how invisible and marginal we were until I started GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
“at-risk population.” Which could be anybody, really, from sex workers to housewives. Thierry A. Ekon, a Togo native and researcher on HIV/ AIDS in the African communities in New York, reported on the depressing statistics among Nigerians since the law passed — the elevated rates of HIV transmission, its late detection, and how only one or two percent of those infected said it had to do with homo sex, the rest claiming to have no idea how they got it. Olumide Makanjuola, from Solidarity Alliance Nigeria, pleaded for help. The very idea that the 12 men detained were actually trying to hold a wedding was laughable: “We wouldn’t dare.” The panel included several other members, but nobody really offered solutions, beyond supporting LGBT Nigerians who end up in New York. That is the least we can do. We also have to pay attention, keep the problem visible, and support the queers who are working on it. And we need to help them flee when it gets too dangerous and exile seems like the best solution, at least for a while. Oliver Anene, the gay Nigerian moderating the panel, was quick to point out that it was temporary. “We want to go home,” he said.
tallying up the girls I’d met in different queer projects and realized that almost all them called themselves “bi women,” not dykes. Though as one explained, “Politically I’m a lesbian.” My love affair with queer Turkey lost some of its gloss on the bus when a trans woman declared that lesbians, all of us, were “as bad as white supremacists.” Later, a rare out lesbian reinforced the familiar divide by offering a justification for the exclusion of trans women from a feminist group — if I understood her correctly. What a joke. As if most straight women or men considered either trans women or dykes “real women.” As if there was a whole strait between us, and no bridge in sight. Still, I’m not quite ready to call it quits. Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” published last year by the University of Minnesota Press.
The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
Pulling Madison Avenue Out of the Closet and into AdRespect February 19, 2015, 6-8 PM Has LGBT equality reached advertising yet? When was the last time you saw an inclusive commercial? How do corporations and Madison Avenue stack up to today’s gay-friendly world? What creative approaches work (or don’t), and why? Veteran business journalist Michael Wilke analyzes the way dozens of commercials represent LGBT people, from stereotypes and homophobia to same-sex weddings, and examines how effective they are.
Free Wine & Cheese following the presentation Price is Free for MCC members (and we’ll offer to StartOut as well)
$10 in advance for non-members ($20 at the door)
Microsoft 11 Times Square New York, NY 10036
212 473 7875 | manhattancc.org/lgbt 15
PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus
Je Suis… Blah, Blah, Blah
BY ED SIKOV
ince the last Media Circus ran in late December, your faithless columnist shattered his left kneecap and, after surgery, landed in a full-length leg brace. Also, 12 cartoonists, editors, and staff were murdered at the office of the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo. I do mean to compare the two events. For one thing, my accident caused far more long-lasting physical pain. The Parisian cartoonists only suffered for a few seconds before taking the easy way out and dying. I, on the other hand, am poised to endure months of excruciating physical therapy and I won’t kick off at the end, so agony will continue to be a regular feature of my life for years to come. Second, the dead cartoonists got all the attention. Depending on political affinities, the whole world watched in either horror or pleasure at the bloody unfolding news out of Paris, whereas nobody noticed my suffering at all, let alone cared about it. Millions of protesters carried signs and wore T -shirts proclaiming “Je suis Charlie,” superficially an expression of solidarity with the slain but actually the graphic equivalent of an employment application. The ubiquitous “Je suis Charlie” was an easy, self-serving claim to make once half the paper’s staff had been assassinated and a bunch of job openings suddenly materialized. Why did these ostentatious “mourners” have to parade around the streets advertising themselves? Why couldn’t they have just sent their résumés and portfolios to Charlie Hebdo’s office, stayed home, and not blocked
LONG VIEW, from p.13
with our alliances. Divisions continue in the community more than 45 years after Stonewall, but the LGBT community’s role as a vital part of the democratic wing of the Democratic Party has only grown as we have become an increasingly important part of the progressive movement. Beck’s musings ignore that, and their ideological underpinnings implicitly challenge that alliance. Achieving legal equality is only one part of what our community came together for. Beck maintains the imminent victory of marriage means that “the final frontier of gay rights has been reached: the ability to assimilate into the mainstream.” Put aside for the moment the fact that even with the right to marry, LGBT Americans will still lack
traffic? Why couldn’t they keep their boldfaced careerism to themselves? As for the terrorists, I have one question: Who assassinates cartoonists? Heads of state and political parties I can see. Disgruntled spouses, aggrieved children, humiliated ex-employees… these are people who have legitimate reasons to kill others. Cheating husbands, abusive mothers, dim-witted bosses, boring professors, world leaders — murdering them makes
The Western world’s support of Charlie Hebdo is at best well-intentioned hypocrisy.
sense. But cartoonists? It’s as though members of a deranged PETA fringe group shot Charles Schultz to death because they thought Snoopy deserved to live in the Brown residence itself instead of in an unheated shack in the backyard. Or some crazed barber deciding he simply couldn’t take Prince Valiant’s hairdo any more and knifing the comic strip’s artist in the heart. Charlie Hebdo is offensive. Frogs would say that’s its raison d’être, and from what little he’s seen this Christ-killing columnist agrees. Insults, often quite vicious, are its mother’s milk
comprehensive federal civil rights protections in other key areas of life. The bigger issue to consider is whether the point of decades of struggle has merely been to conform to mainstream norms. Many queers have also hoped to change the mainstream; culture is every bit as important as the law. Tolerance is the new norm, but straight concessions to how natural our lives are remain tentative. The LGBT community continues to live in a cultural atmosphere of presumed heterosexuality. The notion that homoerotic impulses are widespread in people continues to be resisted, and sexual hypocrisy remains a bulwark. Homosexuality may not be transgressive, but defying gender norms remains taboo in most cultural settings. Many of us “pass,” with a good number still embarrassed to
— milk that has turned. Scott Sayare, writing in the Atlantic, has the best analysis of Charlie Hebdo’s obnoxious mission I’ve seen: “Since its founding in 1970, the satirical magazine has delighted in transgressing the moral and aesthetic taboos of most everyone. But it has reserved a special, obsessive disdain for the world’s organized religions. In 2011, after Catholic extremists in the city of Avignon vandalized ‘Piss Christ,’ the photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in urine, Charlie Hebdo produced a cover cartoon featuring rolls of toilet paper labeled ‘Bible,’ ‘Koran,’ and ‘Torah.’ The headline read: ‘In the shitter, all the religions.’” The strictest forms of Islam prohibit depictions of the prophet Muhammad. Naturally, the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo depicted the prophet Muhammad. They put their drawing on the cover of the paper and it was extremely offensive: the prophet has a gigantic hooked shnozz that rivals any nose in Nazi illustrations of Jews. The drawing led two maniacs to shoot the staff of Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the ludicrous spectacle of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (emphasis on the yahoo) marching in support of human rights, a hilarious irony the cartoonists would certainly have appreciated had they not been dead. L’Affaire Charlie Hebdo raises difficult and uncomfortable issues for the LGBT communities. For decades, many of us have been calling on the media to cease depicting us in demeaning and offensive ways. And we have largely succeeded in shaming those who, in strikingly declining numbers, still have the urge to mock and dehumanize us — shaming them into silence. Have we defended their right to offend? No. We have argued, either tacitly or explicitly,
be associated with those who won’t or can’t. Transgender Americans, for the most part, still live perilously close to the tensions and hostility that spawned queer liberation in the first place. It is the youngest among the LGBT community who seem to understand that best — with many gay men and lesbians under 30 acknowledging that challenging gender norms is a big part of their goal of building a nurturing and egalitarian culture. It is a lesson learned over and over again in the campaigns against bullying and for safe schools. And backlash still looms — on the legal and cultural front. In response to a federal mar riage equality court win in Alabama, that state’s chief justice announced the Alabama Supreme Court would not be bound by it. Resistance on high like this will
MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.19
surely embolden those on the ground, like probate court judges who have the authority to issue marriage licenses. Like George Wallace, these nullifiers will not carry the day, but they will be ongoing reminders of the hurdles LGBT Alabamans, who enjoy no other statewide civil rights protections, face every day. Anti-homosexual animus is alive and well. With similar challenges facing people of color looking to engage in the most basic of civic rights — voting — it’s obvious that LGBT Americans continue to share common cause with other marginalized communities in the US. Surrendering our identity as a community amidst this ongoing struggle — which Evan Beck seems to suggest we’re now able to do — simply invites attack and foolishly allows our political strength to atrophy. February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
Berkeley’s Monument to the Food Revolution Chez Panisse: decades of longing, then an odd L-shaped table BY DONNA MINKOWITZ
CALTON/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
here’s a moment in Ruth Reichl’s memoir “Comfort Me With Apples” when she describes dining for the first time at Alice Waters’ Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse. There is “a forkful of silken veal in a sauce made of thick, sweet cream. ‘Try this, darling,’’ her German father tells her. “‘It tastes like my childhood.’” Transported, he recites a line from Goethe under his breath. Ruth also eats “the best bread ever served in America,” and tells how, during another dinner, her idol Waters slips a grape into her mouth. “Sweet, intense, slightly perfumed, the flavor resonated in my mouth for [an] hour… Alice Waters can offer you one single bite that blows you right away.” Chez Panisse has been called the country’s best restaurant, and it’s famous for being the first — since 1971 — to focus on absolutely fresh, organic, and seasonal food, with everything made from scratch and a close connection to the farms that source ingredients. In fact, the place began a revolution in American cooking whose repercussions have been felt in every area of the country, even in unlikely realms like fast food and school lunches. Before Chez Panisse, even the swankiest joints often relied on frozen and canned produce, meat, and seafood. I have always longed to eat there. I imagined the “mushroom soup so intense and untamed that it was exciting rather than soothing” that Reichl once imbibed, and the “lightas-air sheep’s milk ricotta” another critic, Jessica Yadegaran, once sucked down. Finally I finally got my chance. I was visiting San Francisco. I had my (hard to get) reservation in hand. I had decided years ago that the enormous amount of money would be worth it. With tax and 17 percent “service charge” but without drinks, the set four -course menu comes to $110 per person most nights. On the phone, CP’s reservationist haughtily volunteered that the service charge paid for worker pen-
The entrance to Chez Panisse on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley.
sions, which, of course, I entirely support. In fact, the restaurant is known not just for its cooking, but for the allegedly wonderful treatment of its workers. (Later, wine director Jonathan Waters — no relation to Alice — who said he was acting as a spokesperson for Chez Panisse, told me that the restaurant does not actually have “pensions,” but a regular 401(k) plan for which it matches employee contributions.) The service charge is used (among other things) to pay for all the benefits accorded to every staffer: medical, dental, and vision insurance, paid vacation, and a yearly bonus that, Waters said, redistributes most of the profits. So it was with the heart of a hopeful, progressive foodie that I appeared at Alice Waters’ temple, after a long walk from the BART rapid transit, to walk in the door of the frankly odd-looking place. It is a grotto on stilts, with blue windows. I entered. And stood getting hot in my coat and hat among the seated diners for a full 10 minutes, until someone finally greeted me. (There was no line, and the waiting area was empty; all seats in the main restaurant are by reservation only and I was right on time.) At last, one of the waiters paused from his busy duties to say, “Maurice will be right with you.” Five minutes passed before Maurice, whoever he was, finally was willing to notice me, seating me at a strange, L-shaped table facing
cheerless wood paneling. The lightless, cramped space felt like someone’s depressing basement, and the surrealness of it all was heightened when my French-accented waiter handed me a queer little printed keepsake menu with a bad drawing of squashes on front, looking for all the world like a junior high school graduation program. But when I asked the waiter to explain the difference between two of the sparkling wines by the glass, he was great. With succinctness and erudition, he said, “Oh, the Montlouis is really different from the cava, it’s much less heavy and brassy, although it’s lovely. Flowery.” Based on that description, I had it with my meal, and it was one of the best and most unusual white wines I’ve ever had, creamy and aromatic. (It is a nonvintage French wine from Francois Chidaine.) My waiter — let’s call him Henri — delivered spiced olives and bread and butter along with the glass of Montlouis. The olives were okay. The bread, however, shocked me by being tasteless, white, and cold. I have had better bread in the bread basket at the cruddiest Italian restaurant in Brooklyn. The butter might have been Hotel Bar Butter for all it tasted like anything I wanted to eat. The only time I eat bread and butter is when I go to restaurants. Here, it was so not worth it that I had a brief consultation with myself and decided not to spend the calories.
Each dinner at Chez Panisse has a new set menu, with no substitutions allowed unless a diner wants an all-vegetable meal. My appetizer for the evening was, according to my printed keepsake, “Roasted shrimp-stuffed Monterey Bay squid with garden salad.” I tried it. Somehow, chef Jerome Waag had made squid, so often in danger of rubberiness, exquisitely thin, tender, and luscious around its vivid inside bites of shrimp. The ethereal squid was like a dumpling wrapper around its lush and sexy shrimp core. I wish I were eating some right now. Next was the soup course: “Fall vegetable and Chino Ranch shell bean soup, flavored with rosemary and Parmesan.” The shell beans and Parmesan were tasty, but the soup was overpowered by an intense, overly acidic, tomato-paprika flavor. I had a few hopeful spoonfuls, but didn’t want to finish it even though I was still quite hungry. I sucked down my French sparkling wine and ordered another. At a nearby table, a woman had brought her elderly, obviously ailing mother for what was clearly supposed to be a special meal. “Isn’t it good, Mom?” “Unghh!” “MOM! ISN’T THE SOUP GOOD!” The small restaurant was full of such groups of two and three, all painfully aware of wanting this to be a great moment in their eating lives. I can understand why — the place costs so much, and my fellow diners seemed to be eco-conscious, true believers in humane meats and well-paid dishwashers, not the one percent who usually spend that much on a meal. Families spoke in hushed tones and asked the waiter to take their picture. The ones who had ordered lots of wine seemed happiest. Alas, my entrée, “Grilled Becker Lane pork loin,” was dry as dust, tough, and bland. The pork was barely touched with sauce, and I didn’t finish it, either. The chestnuts supposed to be served alongside were nowhere to be found. The “wilted greens” also on the plate
CHEZ PANISSE, continued on p.19
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
DIGITAL DRAG, from p.13
tion of race, gender, and even sexual orientation. By broadening the characters portrayed, games would not only open themselves to a larger, more diverse audience, but also give players the opportunity to step outside themselves and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Despite the lack of playable queerness in video games, there is a silver lining — the emerging trend of gaming developers giving players more options about just how they want to play. For example, in BioWare’s epic space opera “Mass Effect,” you play as Commander
Shepard, who is fully customizable — from facial features and body mass to skin color and gender. The game also encourages players to choose their own dialogue options influencing the course of the game, which can include pursuing romantic relationships. “Mass Effect” is part of a trilogy, where the choices players make in one game carry over into the next. The first game limits Shepard’s romantic interests to heterosexual human partners or, regardless of Shepard’s gender, a feminine alien. By the second and third installments, however, Shepard can explore same-sex romantic relationships with others.
MEDIA CIRCUS, from p.16
that they have no such right. At the same time, we get a good laugh out of Tom Ford’s new cockand-balls crucifix, the patently offensive piece of jewelry I discussed in my last column. What is the difference? I see none. The Western world’s support of Charlie Hebdo is at best well-intentioned hypocrisy. At worst it’s a pernicious lie. Unless you agree that the late and unlamented Fred Phelps and his herd of pigs from the Westboro Baptist Church had —
CHEZ PANISSE, from p.18
were nothing special: steamed cooked greens. The “parsnip and celery root purée,” however, had a velvety texture and an extraordinary, appealing flavor that made me want to go on eating it all night; I wished the entire meal had been like that. An “Apple-quince jalousie tart” rounded out the meal. “Jalousie” referred to the lattice crust on top. It tasted, er, like a rather bad apple pie with a store-bought crust, not buttery at all and tasting a little like cardboard. The cup of decaf I got with it was indifferent and a little weak. It was with a sadness in my step that I walked back to the BART, looking for an open artisanal deli along the way so I could get something to eat. Except for the most utilitarian venues, restaurant dining is probably always about fantasy — the fantasy of a garden of earthly delights, of almost inconceivable pleasures. The fantasy of having all your wants fulfilled, and of being treated like a honored guest (or king). A pretty good GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
Other games that incorporate this “play how you want” model include “Fable,” “Final Fantasy XIV,” “Dragon Age,” and “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” the latter two also developed by BioWare. In “Final Fantasy XIV,” players can marry other players’ avatars of the same sex, while “Star Wars” limits players to only flirting with NPCs (non-player characters) on a specific planet. By understanding otherness through virtualization, we have the opportunity to become more compassionate, and I believe video games can potentially be the quintessential art form for people doing
and continue to have — the right to hold signs reading “God Hates Fags” at American soldiers’ funerals, your support for Charlie Hebdo is self-congratulatory bullshit. And for the cretins out there who require me to state the obvious: Yes, there is a distinct difference between nonviolent protest and terroristic murder. Effective satire has a real bite. It’s meant to irritate and offend. I hope you hate this column. I hope you write a letter to the editor in protest. As for me, I take my cue from the great Lewis
percentage of the restaurants I go to in New York fulfill some of these fantasies, and some fulfill near ly all. CP fulfilled almost none of mine. I understand that it might be hard for any eatery to live up to my expectations of Alice Waters’ place, but for $110 per person I expected at least that most of the food would taste good. By my experience, at least, Chez Panisse seems to have become a museum piece, more invested in its own prestige and history than in making delicious food or making diners feel at home. In the end, Waters’ vision may have changed the American food scene so well that many good restaurants in cities and suburbs are now far better than Chez Panisse. So if you want to support the food revolution she began, donate to East New York Farms or to the Coalition for Immokalee Workers. End subsidies for corporate agribusiness, and ban factory farming. Don’t eat at Chez Panisse. Chez Panisse (chezpanisse.com), at 1517 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, is wheelchair accessible.
so in a safe, immersive, and truly individualized way (since no two players experience or play a game the same way). I am cautiously optimistic by the developments I see happening in the types of characters and the players’ freedom to make more choices in today’s games. By developers giving players the option to fully customize how they virtually represent themselves, you no longer limit them to the traditional experiences of straight white men. Instead, a player could choose to create a black lesbian who saves the galaxy. And how frigging cool would that be?
Carroll, who wrote this brilliant defense of child abuse and stuck it in the mouth of the Duchess in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”: “Speak roughly to your little boy and beat him when he sneezes. He only does it to annoy because he knows it teases.” Being annoying for its own sake is always worthwhile. Being annoying to make a political point is vital and necessary. Like the dead cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, I live for it. Follow @edsikov on Twitter
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COMPLERA is a prescription medicine for adults who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before and who have no more than 100,000 copies/mL of virus in their blood. COMPLERA can also replace current HIV-1 medicines for some adults who have an undetectable viral load (less than 50 copies/mL) and whose healthcare provider determines that they meet certain other requirements. COMPLERA combines 3 medicines into 1 pill to be taken once a day with food. COMPLERA should not be used with other HIV-1 medicines.
COMPLERA is a complete HIV-1 treatment in only 1 pill a day. Ask your healthcare provider if COMPLERA may be the one for you.
Pill shown is not actual size.
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
COMPLERA does not cure HIV-1 infection or AIDS. To control HIV-1 infection and decrease HIV-related illnesses you must keep taking COMPLERA. Ask your healthcare provider if you have questions about how to reduce the risk of passing HIV-1 to others. Always practice safer sex and use condoms to lower the chance of sexual contact with body fluids. Never reuse or share needles or other items that have body fluids on them. It is not known if COMPLERA is safe and effective in children under 18 years old.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION What is the most important information I should know about COMPLERA? COMPLERA can cause serious side effects: • Build-up of an acid in your blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious medical emergency. Symptoms of lactic acidosis include feeling very weak or tired, unusual (not normal) muscle pain, trouble breathing, stomach pain with nausea or vomiting, feeling cold especially in your arms and legs, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, and/or a fast or irregular heartbeat. • Serious liver problems. The liver may become large (hepatomegaly) and fatty (steatosis). Symptoms of liver problems include your skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow (jaundice), dark “tea-colored” urine, lightcolored bowel movements (stools), loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, and/or stomach pain. • You may be more likely to get lactic acidosis or serious liver problems if you are female, very overweight (obese), or have been taking COMPLERA for a long time. In some cases, these serious conditions have led to death. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any symptoms of these conditions. • Worsening of hepatitis B (HBV) infection. If you also have HBV and stop taking COMPLERA, your hepatitis may suddenly get worse. Do not stop taking COMPLERA without first talking to your healthcare provider, as they will need to monitor your health. COMPLERA is not approved for the treatment of HBV.
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Changes in liver enzymes: People who have had hepatitis B or C, or who have had changes in their liver function tests in the past may have an increased risk for liver problems while taking COMPLERA. Some people without prior liver disease may also be at risk. Your healthcare provider may do tests to check your liver enzymes before and during treatment with COMPLERA. • Bone problems, including bone pain or bones getting soft or thin, which may lead to fractures. Your healthcare provider may do tests to check your bones. • Changes in body fat can happen in people taking HIV-1 medicines. • Changes in your immune system. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any new symptoms after you start taking COMPLERA.
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What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking COMPLERA? All your health problems. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you have or had any kidney, mental health, bone, or liver problems, including hepatitis virus infection. • All the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. COMPLERA may affect the way other medicines work, and other medicines may affect how COMPLERA works. Keep a list of all your medicines and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist. Do not start any new medicines while taking COMPLERA without first talking with your healthcare provider. • If you take rifabutin (Mycobutin). Talk to your healthcare provider about the right amount of rilpivirine (Edurant) you should take. • If you take antacids. Take antacids at least 2 hours before or at least 4 hours after you take COMPLERA. • If you take stomach acid blockers. Take acid blockers at least 12 hours before or at least 4 hours after you take COMPLERA. Ask your healthcare provider if your acid blocker is okay to take, as some acid blockers should never be taken with COMPLERA. • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if COMPLERA can harm your unborn baby. Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant while taking COMPLERA. • If you are breastfeeding (nursing) or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed. HIV-1 can be passed to the baby in breast milk. Also, some medicines in COMPLERA can pass into breast milk, and it is not known if this can harm the baby. •
Do not take COMPLERA if you: • Take a medicine that contains: adefovir (Hepsera), lamivudine (EpivirHBV), carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol, Tegretol-XR, Teril, Epitol), oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), phenobarbital (Luminal), phenytoin (Dilantin, Dilantin-125, Phenytek), rifampin (Rifater, Rifamate, Rimactane, Rifadin), rifapentine (Priftin), dexlansoprazole (Dexilant), esomeprazole (Nexium, Vimovo), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid), pantoprazole sodium (Protonix), rabeprazole (Aciphex), more than 1 dose of the steroid medicine dexamethasone or dexamethasone sodium phosphate, or the herbal supplement St. John’s wort. • Take any other medicines to treat HIV-1 infection, unless recommended by your healthcare provider.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
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Serious side effects of COMPLERA may also include: • New or worse kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do blood tests to check your kidneys before starting treatment with COMPLERA. If you have had kidney problems, or take other medicines that may cause kidney problems, your healthcare provider may also check your kidneys during treatment with COMPLERA. • Depression or mood changes. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms: feeling sad or hopeless, feeling anxious or restless, have thoughts of hurting yourself (suicide) or have tried to hurt yourself.
GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
Brief Summary of full Prescribing Information COMPLERA® (kom-PLEH-rah) (emtricitabine 200 mg, rilpivirine 25 mg, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate 300 mg) tablets Brief summary of full Prescribing Information. For more information, please see the full Prescribing Information, including Patient Information. What is COMPLERA? • COMPLERA is a prescription medicine used as a complete HIV-1 treatment in one pill a day. COMPLERA is for adults who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before and who have no more than 100,000 copies/mL of virus in their blood (this is called ‘viral load’). Complera can also replace current HIV-1 medicines for some adults who have an undetectable viral load (less than 50 copies/mL) and whose healthcare provider determines that they meet certain other requirements. • COMPLERA is a complete regimen and should not be used with other HIV-1 medicines. HIV-1 is the virus that causes AIDS. When used properly, COMPLERA may reduce the amount of HIV-1 virus in your blood and increase the amount of CD4 T-cells, which may help improve your immune system. This may reduce your risk of death or getting infections that can happen when your immune system is weak. • COMPLERA does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS. You must stay on continuous HIV-1 therapy to control HIV-1 infection and decrease HIV-related illnesses. • Ask your healthcare provider about how to prevent passing HIV-1 to others. Do not share or reuse needles, injection equipment, or personal items that can have blood or body fluids on them. Do not have sex without protection. Always practice safer sex by using a latex or polyurethane condom to lower the chance of sexual contact with semen, vaginal secretions, or blood. What is the most important information I should know about COMPLERA? COMPLERA can cause serious side effects, including: • Build-up of an acid in your blood (lactic acidosis). Lactic acidosis can happen in some people who take COMPLERA or similar (nucleoside analogs) medicines. Lactic acidosis is a serious medical emergency that can lead to death. Lactic acidosis can be hard to identify early, because the symptoms could seem like symptoms of other health problems. Call your healthcare provider right away if you get any of the following symptoms which could be signs of lactic acidosis: – feel very weak or tired – have unusual (not normal) muscle pain – have trouble breathing – having stomach pain with nausea or vomiting – feel cold, especially in your arms and legs – feel dizzy or lightheaded – have a fast or irregular heartbeat • Severe liver problems. Severe liver problems can happen in people who take COMPLERA. In some cases, these liver problems can lead to death. Your liver may become large (hepatomegaly) and you may develop fat in your liver (steatosis). Call your healthcare provider right away if you get any of the following symptoms of liver problems: – your skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow (jaundice) – dark “tea-colored” urine – light-colored bowel movements (stools) – loss of appetite for several days or longer – nausea – stomach pain
• You may be more likely to get lactic acidosis or severe liver problems if you are female, very overweight (obese), or have been taking COMPLERA for a long time. • Worsening of Hepatitis B infection. If you have hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and take COMPLERA, your HBV may get worse (flare-up) if you stop taking COMPLERA. A “flare-up” is when your HBV infection suddenly returns in a worse way than before. COMPLERA is not approved for the treatment of HBV, so you must discuss your HBV with your healthcare provider. – Do not run out of COMPLERA. Refill your prescription or talk to your healthcare provider before your COMPLERA is all gone. – Do not stop taking COMPLERA without first talking to your healthcare provider. – If you stop taking COMPLERA, your healthcare provider will need to check your health often and do blood tests regularly to check your HBV infection. Tell your healthcare provider about any new or unusual symptoms you may have after you stop taking COMPLERA. Who should not take COMPLERA? Do not take COMPLERA if you also take any of the following medicines: • Medicines used for seizures: carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol, Tegretol-XR, Teril, Epitol); oxcarbazepine (Trileptal); phenobarbital (Luminal); phenytoin (Dilantin, Dilantin-125, Phenytek) • Medicines used for tuberculosis: rifampin (Rifater, Rifamate, Rimactane, Rifadin); rifapentine (Priftin) • Certain medicines used to block stomach acid called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): dexlansoprazole (Dexilant); esomeprazole (Nexium, Vimovo); lansoprazole (Prevacid); omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid); pantoprazole sodium (Protonix); rabeprazole (Aciphex) • Certain steroid medicines: More than 1 dose of dexamethasone or dexamethasone sodium phosphate • Certain herbal supplements: St. John’s wort • Certain hepatitis medicines: adefovir (Hepsera), lamivudine (Epivir-HBV) Do not take COMPLERA if you also take any other HIV-1 medicines, including: • Other medicines that contain tenofovir (ATRIPLA, STRIBILD, TRUVADA, VIREAD) • Other medicines that contain emtricitabine or lamivudine (ATRIPLA, Combivir, EMTRIVA, Epivir, Epzicom, STRIBILD, Trizivir, TRUVADA) • rilpivirine (Edurant), unless you are also taking rifabutin (Mycobutin) COMPLERA is not for use in people who are less than 18 years old. What are the possible side effects of COMPLERA? COMPLERA may cause the following serious side effects: • See “What is the most important information I should know about COMPLERA?” • New or worse kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do blood and urine tests to check your kidneys before you start and while you are taking COMPLERA. If you have had kidney problems in the past or need to take another medicine that can cause kidney problems, your healthcare provider may need to do blood tests to check your kidneys during your treatment with COMPLERA. • Depression or mood changes. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms: – feeling sad or hopeless – feeling anxious or restless – have thoughts of hurting yourself (suicide) or have tried to hurt yourself • Change in liver enzymes. People with a history of hepatitis B or C virus infection or who have certain liver enzyme changes may have an
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
increased risk of developing new or worsening liver problems during treatment with COMPLERA. Liver problems can also happen during treatment with COMPLERA in people without a history of liver disease. Your healthcare provider may need to do tests to check your liver enzymes before and during treatment with COMPLERA. • Bone problems can happen in some people who take COMPLERA. Bone problems include bone pain, softening or thinning (which may lead to fractures). Your healthcare provider may need to do tests to check your bones. • Changes in body fat can happen in people taking HIV-1 medicine. These changes may include increased amount of fat in the upper back and neck (“buffalo hump”), breast, and around the main part of your body (trunk). Loss of fat from the legs, arms and face may also happen. The cause and long term health effect of these conditions are not known. • Changes in your immune system (Immune Reconstitution Syndrome) can happen when you start taking HIV-1 medicines. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections that have been hidden in your body for a long time. Tell your healthcare provider if you start having any new symptoms after starting your HIV-1 medicine. The most common side effects of COMPLERA include: • Trouble sleeping (insomnia), abnormal dreams, headache, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, rash, tiredness, depression Additional common side effects include: • Vomiting, stomach pain or discomfort, skin discoloration (small spots or freckles), pain Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away. • These are not all the possible side effects of COMPLERA. For more information, ask your healthcare provider. • Call your healthcare provider for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088. What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking COMPLERA? Tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions, including: • If you have or had any kidney, mental health, bone, or liver problems, including hepatitis B or C infection. • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if COMPLERA can harm your unborn child. – There is a pregnancy registry for women who take antiviral medicines during pregnancy. The purpose of this registry is to collect information about the health of you and your baby. Talk to your healthcare provider about how you can take part in this registry. • If you are breastfeeding (nursing) or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you take COMPLERA. – You should not breastfeed if you have HIV-1 because of the risk of passing HIV-1 to your baby. – Two of the medicines in COMPLERA can pass to your baby in your breast milk. It is not known if this could harm your baby. – Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way to feed your baby. Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements: • COMPLERA may affect the way other medicines work, and other medicines may affect how COMPLERA works. • If you take certain medicines with COMPLERA, the amount of COMPLERA in your body may be too low and it may not work to help control your HIV-1 infection. The HIV-1 virus in your body may become resistant to COMPLERA or other HIV-1 medicines that are like it.
GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
• Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you take any of the following medicines: – Rifabutin (Mycobutin), a medicine to treat some bacterial infections. Talk to your healthcare provider about the right amount of rilpivirine (Edurant) you should take. – Antacid medicines that contain aluminum, magnesium hydroxide, or calcium carbonate. Take antacids at least 2 hours before or at least 4 hours after you take COMPLERA. – Certain medicines to block the acid in your stomach, including cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid), or ranitidine hydrochloride (Zantac). Take the acid blocker at least 12 hours before or at least 4 hours after you take COMPLERA. Some acid blocking medicines should never be taken with COMPLERA (see “Who should not take COMPLERA?” for a list of these medicines). – Medicines that can affect how your kidneys work, including acyclovir (Zovirax), cidofovir (Vistide), ganciclovir (Cytovene IV, Vitrasert), valacyclovir (Valtrex), and valganciclovir (Valcyte). – clarithromycin (Biaxin) – erythromycin (E-Mycin, Eryc, Ery-Tab, PCE, Pediazole, Ilosone) – fluconazole (Diflucan) – itraconazole (Sporanox) – ketoconazole (Nizoral) – methadone (Dolophine) – posaconazole (Noxafil) – telithromycin (Ketek) – voriconazole (Vfend) Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of all your medicines and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine. Do not start any new medicines while you are taking COMPLERA without first talking with your healthcare provider. How should I take COMPLERA? • Stay under the care of your healthcare provider during treatment with COMPLERA. • Take COMPLERA exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it. • Always take COMPLERA with food. Taking COMPLERA with food is important to help get the right amount of medicine in your body. A protein drink is not a substitute for food. If your healthcare provider decides to stop COMPLERA and you are switched to new medicines to treat HIV-1 that includes rilpivirine tablets, the rilpivirine tablets should be taken only with a meal. Keep COMPLERA and all medicines out of reach of children. This Brief Summary summarizes the most important information about COMPLERA. If you would like more information, talk with your healthcare provider. You can also ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for information about COMPLERA that is written for health professionals, or call 1-800-445-3235 or go to www.COMPLERA.com. Issued: September 2014
COMPLERA, the COMPLERA Logo, EMTRIVA, GILEAD, the GILEAD Logo, GSI, HEPSERA, STRIBILD, TRUVADA, VIREAD, and VISTIDE are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc., or its related companies. ATRIPLA is a trademark of Bristol-Myers Squibb & Gilead Sciences, LLC. All other marks referenced herein are the property of their respective owners. ©2014 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. CPAC0151 12/14
Hearts in Exile
A widowed African-American pianist and a white drag king seek a place to call home BY DAVID KENNERLEY
n the arena of doomed lovers in drama, Romeo and Juliet have some pretty stiff competition from Jimmie LeRoy and Claire Hicks, misunderstood misfits at the center of “Home In Her Heart,” now playing at Stage Left Studio. Jimmie is a white, Jewish, middle-aged male impersonator with a popular tap-dance act. The much younger Claire, an African-American pianist and composer who lost her husband in a car wreck, is her music director and lover. Which might not raise many eyebrows if the play took place in, say, present-day New York. But this intricately shaded drama is set in London in August 1939, just as American expats are ordered to flee Britain in advance of Hitler’s invasion. For three magical years, the duo have managed to set up house in a cozy flat, enjoying the adulation of crowds and the joys of simply being themselves. All on the QT, of course. Now forced to retur n to the States, where even the suggestion of a homosexual, interracial couple would have society up in arms, Jimmie and Claire must face up to some tough decisions. Originally from Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Jimmie was disowned by her family for being a
“dyke” (her father sat shiva for her). Claire, who comes from a large, tight-knit family, is not ready to reveal her sexuality and risk rejection. Bringing shame upon herself is one thing, but disgracing loved ones is more than she can bear. Not that family is the only issue. Homosexual acts are illegal and also seen as immoral, and Claire is unnerved. “I’m not sure if what we do is sodomy,” she says, eliciting one of the occasional bursts of uneasy laughter from the audience. Is it worth fighting to stay together? That’s just one of the urgent questions that keep us on the edge of our seats in this thoughtful, vibrant two-hander, written by the supremely multitalented Margaret Morrison, who also plays Jimmie. Sporting cropped, graying curled locks, she embodies the tormented performer with a heady mix of grit and tenderness. Her tap dancing is impressive as well. Portraying Claire, Ava Jenkins is at her best during the ecstatic, hopeful moments — wrapped in Jimmie’s loving embrace or flush with excitement after playing an impromptu concert on the ocean liner bound for New York. Female piano players, it should be noted, were a curiosity back then. A “negro” female piano player was borderline scandalous.
Margaret Morrison and Ava Jenkins in Morrison’s “Home in Her Heart.”
HOME IN HER HEART Stage Left Studio 214 W. 30th St., sixth fl. Through Apr. 19 Schedule varies $22; stageleftstudio.net 85 mins., no intermission Staged with razor-sharp simplicity by Cheryl King, creator and producing director of Stage Left Studio, “Home In Her Heart” is much more than a gripping love story. Although set well over a half-century ago, the thorny matters of racism, sexism, and homophobia still resonate fiercely today. There is no real set to speak of, just a few key props, like stacks of Claire’s music charts and Jim-
mie’s costumes hanging on the wall. Scene changes are marked by evocative audio tracks of a bustling nightclub, air raid signals, a radio announcer issuing gas mask warnings, and an ocean liner horn. Brilliant touches that immediately telegraph context. The production is perked up by well-chosen snippets of popular songs of the day, like “Embraceable You” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” by the Gershwin brothers. Recorded piano solos are performed by Cynthia Hilts. This raw, often haunting piece conjures some unvarnished, intimate moments, where the extraordinary couple, often in various states of dishevelment or undress, behave like any ordinary couple — warmly reminiscing, bickering over what to pack, or making love. Although Jimmie wears the pants, so to speak, it’s Claire who sometimes calls the shots. When Jimmie suggests she travel under the guise of her maid, for instance, Claire becomes outraged and refuses. The delicate, stunning scene where Jimmie needs Claire’s help in bandaging up her breasts to flatten her silhouette before she dons a striped, double breasted suit and pink paisley tie for their farewell performance, is like nothing you will see on any New York stage this season.
A Rushed Month in the Country CSC has a rare misstep in new translation of Turgenev classic
BY ANDY HUMM
he Classic Stage Company has cut Turgenev’s five-hour “A Month in the Country” to 120 minutes, but nevertheless left us with a long stay in the woods, unfortunately not in the presence of very compelling people. Why director Erica Schmidt felt compelled to commission a new clunky version by the actor and writer John Christopher Jones is a mystery, even he acknowledging in program materials, “This is a very modern translation and I had to do it very fast.” (There is a great English version out there by no
less than Brian Friel that I saw at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in 1992 starring Donal McCann, one of the most moving theatrical experiences of my life. Maybe the Irish are just more adept than Americans at capturing the character — especially the sadness — of the Russian spirit.) CSC, a source of much theater pleasure over the years, is committed to having classic plays speak to us today. But it makes a mistake when it tries to contemporize the text and acting. Just as Russia is a very foreign country, so is the past. I was looking forward to seeing this play again given its history. It was written in 1850 but not allowed to be performed until 1872 due its scan-
dalous subject matter: a married woman, Natalya (Taylor Schilling of “Orange is the New Black”), taking a sexual interest in a young man, her little boy’s 21-year-old tutor Aleksy (Mike Faist), while her contemporary Mikhail (Peter Dinklage) takes a sexual interest in her — all in the presence of her dull, long-suffering husband, Arkady (Anthony Edwards). The French would make a bedroom farce of it. But Turgenev wrote a comedy of manners where the laughter ought to arise out of how sadly these thwarted people lack self-awareness. Tragedy is
COUNTRY, continued on p.25
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
Scary Good, Scary Bad Wonderful vampires, low stakes Vegas, dismal Sondheim
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN St. Ann’s Warehouse 29 Jay St. at John St., DUMBO Through Mar. 8; schedule varies $40-75; stannswarehouse.org Or 718-254-8779 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission
BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE
HONEYMOON IN VEGAS
et the Right One In,” the stage adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel and screenplay is perfectly horrible — and that’s meant as the highest praise. The contemporary vampire tale manages to have an enormous heart, while delivering delicious chills. Beautifully staged by John Tiffany, it is a mix of vampire lore and teenage angst. Oskar is a lonely boy who is bullied at school. When the strange, apparently teenage Eli moves in next door, a friendship develops between the two lost souls. The staging is poetic and lyrical, even given all of Eli’s violence and the fear it instills in a small town. Oskar’s search for love and connection is heartbreaking, as is Eli’s grief at being trapped as a teenager for eternity. Despite the story’s ghastly nature, the real conflict is within the characters, which gives the piece an immediacy and tension that touches us and never flags. Cristian Ortega as Oskar is a superb mix of innocence and desperation that ultimately leads him to make a risky, grown up, but ultimately doomed choice. Rebecca Benson is simply amazing as Eli, with a ferocious economy in her performance that makes it impossible to take one’s eyes off her. This is theatrical storytelling at its finest with a cinematic sensibility and a spare, focused production that manages to be both chilling and heartwarming.
Cristian Ortega and Rebecca Benson in “Let the Right One In,” at St. Ann’s Warehouse through March 8.
“ H o n e y m o o n i n Ve g a s ” achieves the surprising feat of being both shiny and dull. Jack loves Besty, but he’s an ordinary guy who promised his mother on her deathbed he wouldn’t marry. Deter mined to overcome this “curse,” especially since mom’s nagging ghost is apt to show up at inopportune moments, Jack and Betsy flee to Vegas to wed. There, they meet Tommy who is still in mourning for his dead wife. Betsy is the spitting image of the dead wife, and Tommy seeks to replace her by beating the naïve Jack at poker and winning a weekend with Betsy. This is the set up for comedic scenes as Jack grows a pair and determines to win back Betsy. Throw in some Hawaiian idols, skydiving Elvises,
COUNTRY, from p.24
GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
INTO THE WOODS Roundabout at the Laura Pels Theatre 111 W. 46th St. Tue.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $99; roundabouthteatre.org Or 212-719-1300 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission
Then there’s the cast. Brynn O’Malley is terrific as Betsy, an ingénue with an edge. Tony Danza does his best song-and-dance routines and perfectly embodies classic Vegas charm with just a touch of sleaze. Nancy Opel does a suitably overthe-top turn as the ghost of Jack’s mother. Rob McClure as Jack, however, steals the show. With his great comic timing, terrific physical com-
HONEYMOON, continued on p.35
A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY Classic Stage Company 136 E. 13th St. Through Feb. 22 Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat., Sun. at 3 p.m. $81; classicstage.org or 212-352-3101 Two hrs., with intermission a boy becoming a man and entering the world of adult love. There are also some fine actors who do well with tiny roles — Annabella Sciorra as Lizaveta looking for a ticket out of spinsterhood and Elizabeth Franz as Anna, Arkady’s mom. It’s a very promising set by Mark Wendland — all bleached wood in a simple, clean rectangular
easy. Idiots cause it every day. Comedy is seriously harder. Schmidt lets many of her actors broadly mug through their roles in sit-com style — notably Schilling as the love-starved mistress of the house and, as the doctor Shpigelsky, Thomas Jay Ryan (who was so fine as gay pioneer Harry Hay in “The Temperamentals”). The exceptions are Dinklage, a great actor (“The Station Agent,” “Game of Thrones”) who is the director’s husband but comes across as being in a better version of the play, ably conveying the longing and pathos of unrequited love, and Faist, a veteran of the ensemble of newsboys in “Newsies,” who gives a restrained and nuanced portrayal of
and cute gangsters, and you’ve got exactly the kind of show that “The Drowsy Chaperone” lampooned. It’s all in good fun, and any weightier concerns or moral questions are skated over in the service of entertainment. The shallow, plot-driven book by Andrew Bergman and perfectly pallid score by Jason Robert Brown are the essence of Vegas entertainment, where substance is to be avoided at all costs. There’s a reason that Broadway musicals are cut down to 90 minutes with no intermission out there. Fortunately, there are pleasures to be had. Denis Jones’ choreography is outstanding, combining traditional Vegas-style movement with contemporary athleticism. Anna Louizos’ high-tech sets are fun.
Nederlander Theatre 208 W. 41st St. Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $69-$199; ticketmaster.com Or 800-653-800 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission
Taylor Schilling and Peter Dinklage in Turgenev’s “A Month in the Country” at CSC.
thrust playing area with an evocative birch forest background — but the actors don’t light up the stage the way Jeff Croiter’s lighting design does.
Showing, Not Telling In Jody Lee Lipes’ documentary, Justin Peck’s choreographic creativity calmly blossoms before us
New York City Ballet choreographer Justin Peck.
BY GARY M. KRAMER
he affectionate, observational documentary “Ballet 422” chronicles the efforts of 25-year-old New York City Ballet dancer Justin Peck as he choreographs his 2013 production of “Paz de la Jolla.” A title card explains that Peck, then a member of the corps de ballet, was the only company dancer invited to choreograph a new work that year. He had less than two months to create NYCB’s 422nd ballet.
Director Jody Lee Lipes eschews a talkinghead style approach. Rather than have Peck discuss his creative thinking, why he was chosen to choreograph the piece, or if he had planned the ballet in advance and was waiting for this rare opportunity, the filmmaker instead immerses audiences in the company’s world — an approach that will fascinate dance fans even as it frustrates other viewers hoping for more explication. Counting down the months, weeks, and days to the premiere, Peck is seen sketching ideas and focusing on
the different aspects of the production. Fit bodies are seen stretching and exercising, dancers are preparing hair, make-up, and costumes, and there are rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals. None of the folks are identified, but all of their jobs are clearly defined. “Ballet 422” gives viewers a peek behind the curtain so they can learn about how dance productions are created. The “action,” however, is as generic as the film’s title. Costume designers discuss an outfit for a dancer who wants a “long look” that will accentuate her lithe body. They are told to adjust a garment to expose more of a male dancer’s leg. The conductor works with the NYCB orchestra’s musicians, while the lighting director and his staff go through their cues. These episodes, which Lipes captures in a matter-of-fact style, amply demonstrate the collaborative nature of a dance production. They largely fail, however, to provide any true insight into the creative process. Instead, Lipes relies on Peck’s actions to provide those insights. One of the best examples comes when he remarks to a dancer that she made her mistakes look good and then incorporates something from the moment into the routine. The choreographer is also shown working out steps and timing with members of the company to make sure a turn is fluid and the dancers’ weights are balanced. Peck, who is handsome and charming, does not reveal much about himself in the film. Lipes follows his subject home at one point in “Ballet 422,” only to show him sitting at his desk studying video footage of his dancers. There is no sense of the choreographer outside of the ballet world. While this decision emphasizes Peck’s dedication and drive, it also misses
BALLET, continued on p.27
Sex Is Sex Eric Schaeffer explodes notions, labels of gay, straight, transgender BY GARY M. KRAMER
he low-budget charmer “Boy Meets Girl” depicts a r omantic roundelay that pivots around Ricky (Michelle Hendley), a pre-op transgender woman. The film, written and directed by Eric Schaeffer, is set in Kentucky, a locale the filmmaker used to tell a non-traditional story outside the usual suspect LGBT urban centers. In Ricky’s story, Schaeffer also challenges traditional notions of sexual and gender identities. As the film opens, Ricky, complains to her straight best friend,
Robby (Michael Welsh), that she is fed up with men and might start dating women if the right one comes along. Enter Francesca (Alexandra Turshen), a rich debutante type. When Ricky reveals her transgender status to Francesca via text, Francesca is unfazed, but when she in turn mentions her new friend to her fiancée, David (Michael Galante), a soldier serving in Afghanistan, he expresses displeasure. Francesca soon begins sexually experimenting with Ricky, who asks Robby for tips on how to have “straight” sex — that is, vaginal intercourse — with her new girlfriend. The request makes Robby
jealous. Schaeffer uses a variety of couplings among the characters to explore and debunk labels. Francesca wonders if she is gay because she slept with Ricky, who responds, “You’re human.” But later, Ricky and Robby wonder if the fact that Robby enjoys getting fingered during straight sex makes him queer. Everyone in “Boy Meets Girl” is learning new things about themselves, with Ricky leading the way. Schaeffer does not judge, the lead characters learn not to judge, so why should anyone judge? Sex is sex, the film is saying. But judge some other char acters do. Francesca’s moth-
BOY MEETS GIRL Directed by Eric Schaeffer Wolfe Releasing Opens Feb. 6 Cinema Village 22 E. 12th St. cinemavillage.com er, Helen (Elizabeth Ward Land), offers unsolicited — and unwelcome — advice for Ricky once she learns she is transgender. Ricky reacts to each such provocation by becoming more emboldened, something Francesca admires her for. At times, such scenes come off
SEX, continued on p.27
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
BALLET, from p.26
opportunities to humanize him. Peck never gets frustrated when a dancer fails to under stand an instruction and he has to repeat the same move over and over again. He’s similarly unflustered with the costumers, lighting designer, and conductor. He even happily takes the advice of his pianist to thank the orchestra for their efforts. The subtext seems to be that if Peck successfully carries off “Paz de la Jolla” without any mishap or animosity, he might have a bright future with the NYCB. And that future now seems to be his. Watching “Ballet 422,” one might be waiting in suspense for something to go wrong — and when someone observes that the costumes have been dyed too close to the color of the stage backdrop, it seems that moment might have
BALLET 422 Directed by Jody Lee Lipes Magnolia Pictures Opens Feb. 6 Film Society of Lincoln Center 144 W.65th St. filmlinc.com arrived. But any stress Peck feels is apparently internalized, never expressed even in a stage whisper to his colleagues. The choreographer’s grace under pressure makes him likeable; his efforts truly seem like poetry in motion. Still, the tension in the air when the evening of the performance arrives makes the experience of watching it unfold — with breathtaking movement beautifully captured on film — all the more exciting. Director Jody Lee Lipes appears at the 7:15 and 9:35 p.m. screenings on February 6 and 7.
Michael Welsh and Michelle Hendley in Eric Schaeffer’s “Boy Meets Girl.”
SEX, from p.26
as contrived, intended to deliver a message. Still, Ricky easily earns viewers’ sympathy, in part due to Hendley’s engaging performance of a character who is self-assured and likable. “Boy Meets Girl” does give its transgender heroine one millstone, however. In a “flashcard” video, we learn how Ricky arrived at a seven-year estrangement from her mother, who abandoned her because she objected to her son being a “girl.” As the video recurs several times during the film, we see that Ricky did not always have confidence. This narrative device is clunky, but it reveals powerful truths about Ricky’s character. Living one’s truth is essential to the film’s plot. Only when Robby, GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
Francesca, and David reveal who they truly love do they find the freedom to live as they are and not, as one character poignantly puts its, as “everyone told us.” In this story, it’s the transgender character who has all the common sense. Everyone else is screwed up. It’s unfortunate that Schaeffer’s message over the course of the film comes to cudgel viewers. Still, his good intentions take the film a long way. “Boy Meets Girl” does not build much dramatic tension, but it certainly has a nice payoff. As secrets and lies come to light, Ricky touches the lives of everyone she meets. “Boy Meets Girl” can be soapy and sappy at times, but this modest film aims to get points out in the open in order to prompt a discussion. In that respect, Schaeffer succeeds.
King Charles Film Forum salutes great gay actor with comprehensive retrospective BY DAVID NOH
“The Sign of the Cross” (1932)
COURTESY: PHOTOFEST VIA FILM FORUM
harles Laughton (1899-1962) was the Meryl Streep of his day. A universally acclaimed actor — many thought him the finest of his generation — with the most varied and fulsome technique, he played seemingly everything, from kings to bums. And, like Streep, when he was good, he was very, very good, but when he was bad, the hammy scenery chewing could be laughable, if not downright repulsive. Film Forum is filling February with a wonderful retrospective of his work, which should be a master class for all actors, both successful and aspiring, in how — and how not — to do it. Laughton, whom Laurence Olivier described as the only genius among actors he knew, could be transcendent (“Rembrandt,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “The Private Life of Henry VIII,” “Mutiny on the Bounty”) or unwatchable (“They Knew What They Wanted,” as the most heavily accented, unconvincing Italian until Streep in “The Bridges of Madison County,” or “Hobson’s Choice,” in which David Lean’s indulgence of a drunk scene featuring him represents some of the most excruciating moments in cinema). Though married for life to the gifted actress Elsa Lanchester, Laughton was gay, and it was something everyone in show business knew about. Writer Eric Bentley, who translated Brecht’s “Galileo” for him, told me of once seeing him dining with a beautiful, markedly younger man, having an easy-to-overhear conversation, the upshot of which was that if he wanted to order champagne, the lad’s skills at oral sex would definitely be called upon later. In her memoir, Lanchester, possibly bisexual herself, recalled a moment early in their marriage when she came home to find a policeman there as well as a hustler who wanted money, claiming Laughton had picked him up earlier in the day. Her husband torturously confessed to having a homosexu-
Charles Laughton (right) in Cecil B. DeMille’s “Sign of the Cross.”
al liaison in their home. Lanchester wrote that she realized theirs would be a different, asexual sort of marriage, “but I had the couch burned.” Laughton, forever feeling ugly and undesirable, had handsome young men wafting in and out of his life, often under the guise of an on-set personal assistant or masseur, something Lanchester bore but which at times led to heartbreak for her hopelessly romantic husband. Raised Roman Catholic, Laughton supposedly felt deep guilt about his nature, and certain ugly professional incidents did nothing to assuage that. When he directed “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial” on Broadway, an irate Henry Fonda exploded at Laughton, saying, “What do you know about men, you fat faggot?” When she married Laughton, Lanchester wrote, she had no idea of his homosexuality, explaining, “Remember, he was a great actor.” Toward the end of his life, Laughton found some peace when the couple moved next door to the Santa Monica home of Christopher Isherwood and his lover, Don Bachardy, whose open acceptance of being gay had a salutary effect on him. Here are some of the Film Forum highlights:
“The Private Life of Henry VIII” (1933) Laughton’s most famous role and the one he put such a stamp on that every subsequent actor who played this monarch paled by comparison. Henry’s insatiable appe-
CHARLES LAUGHTON Film Forum 209 W. Houston St. Feb. 4-26 filmforum.org tite, childishly incorrigible sense of entitlement, and fearsome streak of cruelty were painted in the broadest strokes. Acting this rich and florid had rarely been seen on the screen before, apart from John Barrymore, and the entire world took this actor to their hearts. (February 22)
“The Old Dark House” (1932) James Whale’s screwball hor ror film shows that, hammy as he could be, Laughton was also adept at being an ensemble player, as a brash Yorkshire blowhard trapped one stormy night in J.B. Priestley’s creepy yet hilarious nest of maniacs. It’s maybe the one movie in which he fades into the background, even Laughton being no match for the side-splitting, eccentric antics of religious fanatic and harridan Eva Moore (‘No beds! They can’t have beds!”), a grunting Boris Karloff, still very much in Frankenstein mode, as a psychopathic butler, veteran British actress Elspeth Dudgeon playing a man, the ancient, bedridden yet homicidal paterfamilias of this bizarre household, and, especially, the invaluable, desiccated Ernest Thesiger, tellingly named Horace Femm here, as Laughton’s recalcitrant, though occasionally gracious host. (February 12)
A definite must-see on the big, silver screen, Cecil B. DeMille’s delirious chef-d’oeuvre remains the definitive Christians versus Romans ancient epic, combining swoony royal court decadence with pious Jesus freak covert meetings, all of it culminating in the Colosseum where bloodthirsty crowds roar for more gore. Savage Amazon women are pitted against pygmies, crocodiles hungrily advance on chained, squirming virgins, and lions have a very devout dindin. It’s also one of the sexiest preCode films of its era, with creamy Claudette Colbert as delectably wicked Empress Poppaea bathing in asses’ milk, revealing nipplage, and an orgy featuring the bizarre performer Joyzelle (looking ready for “RuPaul’s Drag Race”) practically giving a lesbo lapdance to the impossibly pure heroine (lovely Elissa Landi). From his first scene, literally fiddling while Rome burns, Laughton dominates this film, draped in togas that often reveal a hairlessly smooth, unsettlingly soft body that has known naught but luxury and sensual excess. The big “quean” (sic) was how James Agate, an eminent gay critic of the day startlingly described Laughton’s Nero, with his fake Roman nose, naked male slave boy, and over-the-top lasciviousness (“Delicious debauchery” he murmurs, recalling the previous night’s orgy). Audiences had no choice but to succumb to this magnificently monstrous presence. Laughton, as a result, became rather typecast, playing assorted maniacs for the next two years. (February 22 & 26)
“The Devil and the Deep” (1932) Given your choice of Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, or fanatically jealous husband Laughton, a submarine commander, who would you choose? That’s the dilemma that befalls Tallulah Bankhead in this entertaining, exotic potboiler,
LAUGHTON, continued on p.29
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
LAUGHTON, from p.28
“The Island of Lost Souls” (1933) The definitive movie version of H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” this truly hair-raising, horrific thriller features Laughton, ballistically crazy, in the title role, reveling in human experimentation and the Neanderthal creatures he creates, over whom he holds complete sway. Amusingly, he based the malevolent look of his character on his dentist. (February 18)
“The Barretts of Wimpole Street” (1934) The puritanically censorious Hays Code had set in and producer Irving Thalberg wondered how the incestuous love of Edward Barrett for his poetess daughter (Norma Shearer, tremulously proffering her classic profile) could be explicitly conveyed. “Don’t worry,” Laughton assured him, “they can’t censor the gleam in my eye,” and, indeed, his portrait of an implacably evil Victorian head of the household defines an entire epoch of mutton-chopped repression. One of the legendary stage successes of its day, starring Katharine Cornell, this handsomely produced melodrama still exerts an inexorable dramatic grip, and boy! do you hate Laughton here (“Kill her dog!”). (February 8-9)
“Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935) Laughton capped his obsessively villainous period with his universally acclaimed — and infinitely parodied — portrayal of Captain Bligh, which won the first New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor. It was said that homophobic star Clark Gable (as Fletcher ChrisGayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
The second half of the 1930s, the decade in which Laughton most thrived, was marked by perfor mances of greater sympathy and an even deeper humanity:
“Ruggles of Red Gap” (1935) Leo McCarey’s film is a revered classic, but I find Laughton’s acting here erratic, twee, and sometimes simperingly self-indulgent, hinting at certain woeful excesses to come. The film and, indeed, time, itself, however, stand still with his famed reciting of the Gettysburg Address to a saloonful of Western rowdies. This scene momentarily elevates the film into something truly special, proving the actor’s unmatched oratory skills. (February 16)
“Rembrandt” (1936) This film marks Laughton’s greatest performance, in a literate, low-keyed but passionate and exquisitely designed evocation of the great artist’s life. Here, a number of Biblical passages are graced by his hushed, elemental delivery of them. This Rembrandt communicates verbally as well as he does through his paintbrush, and you recognize clearly that it takes a genius to fully portray one. A delicate-looking Lanchester plays his doomed young wife, and the tenderness they share was doubtlessly true in life, as well. (February 9)
One can only imagine the kind of ancient Rome genius von Sternberg would have concocted after “The Scarlet Empress,” his orgiastic take on Russia’s Catherine the Great. The bits of Laughton’s performance that remain are tantalizing and heart-breaking. (February 22)
COURTESY: PHOTOFEST VIA FILM FORUM
which features Tallu (who called Laughton “Charlotte”) at her most decadently beautiful, wandering in a skimpy Travis Banton evening gown through a Moroccan souk. She’s saved from ruffians by Cooper who says, “You look half-dazed.” Her hilarious riposte: “That’s my normal expression.” An enraged Laughton tries to kill them as well as himself when he sabotages the submarine they find themselves in, but Cooper’s charms do not go unnoticed by him as he observes, “It must be a happy thing to look like you. It must be a happy thing.” (February 12)
tian) couldn’t stand Laughton and, at one point, when director Victor Fleming told him to “butch it up, for God’s sake,” Laughton retorted, “That’s character work, for which I get paid extra.” (February 8-9)
“St. Martin’s Lane” (1938) This is my personal favorite Laughton performance. As a slightly dim street busker, who falls haplessly in love with a pickpocket (a ravishingly young Vivien Leigh) who rises to stardom and leaves him in the dust, he has an ineffable, innate gallantry. An obvious lost cause, you nevertheless root for him, even as he makes every wrong decision, culminating in a truly heartbreaking, smile-through-your tears finale with him bellowingly reciting Rudyard Kipling’s all-too-apropos poem “If.” For years, Tony Walton, who also loves it, has been trying to produce a musical version of this property. (February 11)
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1939) Many acclaim this as Laugh-
Charles Laughton in Alexander Korda’s “Rembrandt.”
ton’s greatest, including actor Simon Callow, who wrote the best book extant about the actor. William Dieterle directs an impressive, large-scaled vision of Victor Hugo’s tale, marred by some inevitable bowdlerization, and a makeup-transformed Laughton — who evidently possessed a considerable masochistic streak — lustily throws himself into every tortured nuance of Quasimodo’s piteous state. Co-starring a brilliant-
LAUGHTON, continued on p.33
“I Claudius” (1937) The most fascinating rarity in the series is a 1965 BBC documentary, “The Epic That Never Was,” about the making of Josef von Sternberg’s unfinished film of the Robert Graves classic. Marvelously narrated by Dirk Bogarde, it includes hypnotically lavish footage and interviews with Graves and the redoubtable von Sternberg, as well as surviving cast members Emlyn Williams (Caligula), Merle Oberon (Messalina), and Flora Robson (Agrippina). Plagued by ill-fortune, including a car crash for Oberon and Laughton’s inability to access Claudius (until Edward VII’s abdication speech inspired him), it’s a pity this was never completed.
Theater District Empire State Building Port Authority Employee Owned
IN THE NOH
Debbie and Marin
An opera diva and a Broadway diva review their lives in book and song
BY DAVID NOH
eborah Voigt, having survived weight gain, drastic loss, addiction, one marriage, a few toxic relationships, and the most recent, gargantuanly tricky Wagner Ring Cycle revival at the Met, is ready to take it easy now. She has a one-woman show, “Voigt Lessons,” coming up at the 92nd Street Y (February 26; 92y.org), as well as a memoir, “Call Me Debbie: True Confessions of a Down to Earth Diva,” a must-read for its riveting honesty about the isolation and insecurity as well as the glory that come with stardom. The seeds for “Voigt Lessons” began with a conversation she had with director Francesca Zambello about recitals and how to build opera audiences with them. Zambello suggested she do a one-woman show with the help of writer Terrence McNally. “We got a grant from the MacDowell Colony and went there for a little over a week,” Voigt said. “Terrence and I spent the first three days alone, and I had been carrying around a list of songs I liked, from a Carpenters piece to a Brahms lied to an aria. We came up with this show, ‘Voigt Lessons,’ and he was able to weave my story around these songs. We did a reading for our fellow colonists, then a couple of performances at Glimmerglass and Boston, and will finally do it in New York. I’ve been trapped in opera land, Wagner and Strauss land, not having the chance for a giggle or to show a lighter side of my personality. So this gives me that opportunity and, also to share some of my more difficult struggles in my life.” Voigt certainly shares in her memoir, which is full of startling, soul-baring revelations concerning her obsessions with food, alcohol, and the wrong kind of men, as well some very juicy backstage diva dish. Sitting in the audience you sometimes wonder about the emotional state of the star you’re watching onstage. How much is acting and how much of it turbulent reality? Voigt provides answers that are sometimes distressing, sometimes humorous, but always searingly honest. Renee Fleming is often dubbed the “people’s diva,” and though I did not mention her by name, I told Voigt that with her own earthiness, approachability, and oft-discussed weight problems, she was far more deserving of that appellation. “Well, thank you,” she responded with a chuckle. “Very much appreciated. I think it’s important to let the people define you in that way, and coming up with your own definition in that respect is probably not the best way to go.
That’s why I loved Beverly Sills, who certainly deserved that title but never proclaimed herself that way. We certainly weren’t friends, but the first time I ever saw her, she was on a farewell tour in Orange County at the Crystal Cathedral, a cavernous place. I got a ticket and knew nothing about her, but I was just struck by her voice, which even at that point was phenomenal. And she had this very real rapport with the audience, very much in her own skin, and I never forgot that. And when I later had the opportunity to meet her, that’s what she was: no airs or artificiality about her or accent picked up over the Atlantic Ocean, really refreshing. I think somehow I filed that away subconsciously in my little book of diva behavior. “I started the idea for this book many years ago, after my experience with the Royal Opera House [where in 2004 she was fired for being overweight] and losing weight, which was a story in People magazine. Then I thought about it and felt it was just not the right time. I knew that Brunhilde [in the Ring Cycle] was looming and I would have more to say artistically once that mountain was climbed. And looking back at it on a personal level, I realized there were certain issues that were starting to rear their ugly heads and I think that someone or thing up there was saying, ‘Okay, this is not the time: you have things you have to achieve and deal with before you can write an honest book about your life not only on, but offstage.” Voigt acknowledged that her food and alcohol addictions were very real, but took pains to clarify that what some have pounced on as a so-called sexual addiction is, in fact, “people interpreting as an addiction what was more a latent adolescent blooming in my mid-30s more than an addiction. But, that being said, it was certainly in that time of my life another way to avoid feeling and being with myself. It did anesthetize some feeling, so for a period of six to eight months I was very distracted in my time off stage. “There’s not a woman in the world who doesn’t want to feel attraction to and from the opposite sex, and I’d never experienced that. I just started putting on weight by the end of high school, and it went up from there. So when I found myself single, slimmer, and high on [diet drug] fenphen, it was open hunting season. It’s very hard for anybody to meet that special person that really synchs up with them, but it is particularly challenging in my line of work. A lot of the people I run into are gay, of course, or married, so you gotta catch them when they’re freshly divorced. “Then there’s that whole opera diva percep-
Deborah Voight appears at the 92nd Street Y with her onewoman show, “Voigt Lessons,” on February 26.
tion: can I approach her? How can I knock on her dressing room and ask her to have coffee? If that happened, I would faint dead away. Whatever your addiction is, it’s all in balancing things, a challenge. I’m dieting again and I’m jonesing for sugar. I’m holding out because yesterday I had a photo shoot here, so I had coffee and a big box of Danishes for the people. My assistant is always trying to lose weight, and I said, ‘I know I should send that box out to those people, but I don’t want to,’ and she said, ‘I’m not telling you what to do but you know what you should do. And I handed it over and out it went, and I satisfied myself with a health bar. But on my tour I’m going to Boston and apparently the most world famous Boston cream pie is made there so I’m holding out. I just hope I make it that long. Somehow, I don’t think I will. At one point Voigt weighed 333 pounds, “my heaviest, and that’s when I went to gastric bypass. When I look at old pictures, it’s hard to believe that’s me and I decided to take it off just before it really became a problem. I always moved well, but when I began to feel winded just walking around the block... My mother had serious orthopedic problems and I was starting to have them, and still have them, from all that weight, plus genetics plus all the raked stages I’ve performed on. When I get to the Pearly Gates, I’m going to ask the Lord, “One, why do we have to age the way we do? [ Laughs.] Two, why doesn’t broccoli taste like Boston cream pie? And, three, where was that dream man in my life? But I’m less concerned with that than I am with the Boston cream pie.” As for the alcohol, “I am in a 12-step program and I do something for my recovery every day, whether it be reading, praying, whatever that is, but it’s a daily decision and choice. No one but you has ever asked me if I ever went onstage
IN THE NOH, continued on p.37
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
From Darkness into Light, Light into Darkness Met’s delayed “Iolanta”/ “Bluebeard’s Castle” premiere yields drama, surprise winner
MARTY SOHL/ METROPOLITAN OPERA
MARTY SOHL/ METROPOLITAN OPERA
Piotr Beczala and Anna Netrebko in Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta.”
BY ELI JACOBSON
ashout though it was, at least in New York City, winter storm Juno claimed at least one victim with the cancellation of the January 26 Metropolitan Opera double bill of Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta” (1892) and Béla Bartók’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” (1918). The postponed premiere took place on January 29 with drama onstage and off. During the curtain calls for “Iolanta,” starring soprano Anna Netrebko and conductor Valery Gergiev, a protester calmly climbed on to the stage from the auditorium left. Standing downstage center in front of the assembled cast, he unfurled a banner denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin for his country’s recent military aggression in Ukraine. The banner had an image of Putin pictured as Hitler, along with photos of Gergiev and Netrebko, who were denounced for their political collusion with the Russian leader. The man silently displayed the banner to the audience and then the performers while the well-heeled audience, including many Russian émigrés, booed. He then calmly walked offstage right, where he was promptly detained by security and later arrested. Similar demonstrations faced Gergiev earlier in January when anti-Putin/ pro-Ukrainian protesters gathered outside
Nadja Michael and Mikhail Petrenko in Bartók’s “Bluebeard’s Castle.”
BAM during the Maryinsky Ballet’s residency there. Netrebko has deleted her Facebook page due to personal attacks from disillusioned fans. The two works that comprised the double bill have very little in common except a heroine’s desire to emerge from darkness into light. Tchaikovsky’s blind princess Iolanta is rewarded for her faith and love with the gift of sight, both spiritual and physical. But in Mariusz Treliński’s production of “Bluebeard,” Judith’s curiosity brings her eternal imprisonment in darkness. “Iolanta” was a Met premiere, while the Bartók has been performed in two previous productions, but in English translation. January 29 marked the first performance in its original Hungarian. Treliński updated both works to the mid-20th century, citing 1940s film noir and Hitchcock as influences. “Iolanta” took place not in a medieval castle garden but in an isolated mountain hunting lodge where Princess Iolanta is kept in seclusion so she can never know she is unlike others. Netrebko created a moving heroine who knows her life is missing something essential but doesn’t know what it is. Vocally, she was careful not to oversing but the girlish brightness and liquid ease were gone. It was a darker, thicker sound that favored louder dynamics and could sag below pitch. This new mature voice was effective as Verdi’s Lady Macbeth but lacks the
innocence and youthfulness for Tchaikovsky’s sheltered maiden. Piotr Beczala’s silvery tenor as her savior Vaudemont was like a beam of sunshine in the darkness. His smile lit up the stage and he floated a beautiful heady piano high note at the end of his entrance aria. Their love duet brought down the house. Baritone Aleksei Markov sang Robert’s big aria handsomely if too loudly, and he and Gergiev seemed slightly out of sync. The rest of the cast was less gala. Cover artist Ilya Bannik stepped in as King René, and he looked too young and his voice proved too slender and short at the bottom for a classic booming Russian bass role. Debutant Elchin Azizov as the Moorish physician Ibn-Hakia revealed a firm but dry-sounding bass-baritone that lacked authority and mystery. Matt Boehler as Bertrand fielded the most impressive deep voice onstage. Gergiev, outside of “Queen of Spades,” has never impressed me as a natural Tchaikovsky interpreter — the ravishing score lacked lyric impulse and warmth. Treliński’s update seemed self-conscious and rather jejune at times — especially during the finale. The entire cast assembled in a line downstage dressed in white wedding outfits and posed as if for a wedding portrait while a phony looking sunburst was projected in the background. Tchaikovsky’s music for this happy ending is sincere and uplifting, but the director seemed to be ironically smirking at all the naïveté. Both director and conductor were more in their element in “Bluebeard’s Castle.” Gergiev summoned brooding, dark, creepy power from the Met orchestra. Treliński’s direction and Boris Kudlička’s shifting sets evoked not so much Hitchcock as Kubrick’s “The Shining” and Resnais’ “Last Year at Marienbad.” The images were disturbing not for what they showed but for what they didn’t show — until Judith opens the final door. The last scene was so haunting, harrowing, and unforgettable it blew away any previous reservations I had about the production. No great or even good voices were to be heard here — but both Mikhail Petrenko and Nadja Michael inhabit the production fully. Petrenko has chilling blue eyes and uses stillness effectively while Michael, with her platinum blonde hair and lithe frame (briefly seen topless), writhes about the stage with uninhibited abandon. Petrenko’s bass is an empty-toned, small instrument — even when miked offstage. Michael only managed to summon consistent tone, line, and pitch at the very bottom of the contralto range — anything higher was pitchy, patchy, and ugly. Her acting tends to be externalized, all kinetic energy and generalized intensity. Judith’s vulnerability and defiance didn’t reveal themselves from within — until the final scene. It is impossible, however, to take your eyes off of her. Despite the less stellar cast, “Bluebeard’s Castle” was the real triumph of the evening. “Iolanta” and “Bluebeard’s Castle” will be transmitted in HD on February 14 at 12:30 p.m. February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
LAUGHTON, from p.29
ly malevolent Cedric Hardwicke (in his best screen performance) and, as Esmeralda, the exquisite 19-year-old Maureen O’Hara, who was Laughton’s protegee and also appeared with him in “Jamaica Inn.” (February 21-23)
“Jamaica Inn” (1939) Unfortunately, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s lesser efforts, this very liberally adapted Daphne du Maurier Gothic barnburner features Laughton as the enigmatic Sir Humphrey Pengallan, who may himself be the leader of a pirate ring in 1820 Cornwall. Laughton’s performance is so bizarre, so unsettlingly over-the-top that he resembles nothing human, which was probably exactly what he had in mind. (February 4-7)
The 1940s saw Laughton relegated more to prominent supporting roles than leads, and there was quite a bit of dross — “Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd” — in which he had little recourse but to follow his hammiest instincts and camp it up, pulling as much focus as he could. He also entered into a boring cuddlesome codger phase, playing crusty-sweet Papa Bear to the likes of Deanna Durbin twice (“It Started with Eve,” February 24, and “Because You’re Mine”) and Margaret O’Brien, mercifully only once (“The Canterville Ghost,” February 8). He is, however, memorably tyrannical in John Farrow’s clever, exciting 1948 noir “The Big Clock” (February 13-14), with his murder of his sharp-tongued mistress (the terrific Rita Johnson) perhaps his most vicious onscreen moment. Many adore Billy Wilder’s 1957 “Witness for the Prosecution” (February 19-20), and it is fun, if protracted, but I find Laughton’s performance too tediously overbearing in the Grand Manner. His Sir Wilfred is one of those characters everyone refers to as “a great man,” and Laughton acts away at this, rather than just being it. Sir Wilfred is brother to Monty Woolley’s unbearable Sheridan Whiteside in “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” Both mean old queens have cantankerous relationships with their private nurse, in Laughton’s case, wife Lanchester — and you wonGayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
der if their prickly relationship had anything to do with real life. Laughton had a nice cinematic swan song with Allen Drury’s political drama “Advise and Consent,” directed by Otto Preminger (1961). As South Carolina Senator Seabright Cooley, obese and exhausted (and perhaps already suffering from the gall bladder cancer that would kill him), all he had to do was sit on a park bench and drawl corn-pone yet canny observations about Washington to steal the film clean away. Incidentally, this was one of the first movies to feature a gay bar scene, pre-Stonewall, murky and miserable, like the closeted state of its conflicted young Senator Brigham Anderson (Don Murray). (February 26) Laughton’s gallery of great performances aside, the crowning achievement of his film career may have been a movie in which he did not appear. That would be “The Night of the Hunter”(1955), the only film he directed, and one so good it is one of cinema’s true losses that its financial failure prevented him from ever directing another (February 15 & 26). At the time, it was probably too strange and unsettling, even terrifying for the general public’s taste, but oh how times have caught up with it, taking it from art house obscurity to generally recognized masterpiece. Few films have ever managed such startling yet glidingly organic shifts of tone: the stark German Expressionist feel of Robert Mitchum’s murderous fake priest scenes, especially when he kills the dupe-ish widow played by a surprisingly lyrical Shelley Winters (one of Laughton’s acting students); the dreamy fairy tale-like quality of her corpse in the water, with hair undulating like seaweed, and her children’s escape down the river at night, nocturnal animals watching over them like Disney creatures; the abrupt change to Grandma Moses coziness in the scenes with Lillian Gish’s Virgin Mary mother hen, including her final direct address to the camera, the greatest benediction in movie history. It was as if Laughton took everything he’d learned from his work — but more importantly life itself — to play on the audience’s feelings, keeping us at once rapt and enthralled, as if we were all children again, completely transfixed by the most compelling bedtime story.
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Looking Back, Looking Forward Dublin playwright Brian Merriman recalls the LGBT heroes of 1916, pushes for the new Ireland of 2015 BY KATHLEEN WARNOCK
s the US Supreme Court prepares to take on the question of marriage equality for the final — perhaps — time, the worldwide push for LGBT rights continues on many other fronts. Marriage equality is also the topic this spring in Ireland, where it will be the subject of a national referendum. Brian Merriman, an Irish playwright, producer, and egalitar ian was in New York to attend the reading of his play “Eirebrushed” at the Irish Arts Center on January 21. The reading was a benefit for TOSOS, New York’s oldest LGBT theater company, and St. Pat’s for All, the inclusive St. Patrick’s Day Parade held in Sunnyside, Queens each year. The reading drew a sold-out audience ranging from Irish citizens, including a representative from the consulate, to Irish-Americans and LGBT activists and allies. They saw a cast of Irish and American actors portray four of the heroes and heroines of the Irish Rebellion of 1916 and how their exploits were scrubbed from the official histories of the Easter Rising. As the centennial of the Rebellion approaches, Merriman’s play depicts the dreams of these freedom fighters, and how, a century later, so much that they had hoped for has not yet been achieved. Merriman’s has a long connection to the New York indie theater community as the founder and artistic director of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, which will present its 12th edition this May. Merriman’s festival has brought groups from all over the world to Ireland for more than a decade, putting LGBT theater onstage in a country that only decriminalized homosexuality in 1993. He sat down with Gay City News on his way to the Queens Pride Winter Gala and talked about how his art and passion for equality are impossible to separate, and how
Fiona McCabe, the Irish vice consul general to New York, with playwright Brian Merriman.
both drive him to keep writing his own plays, presenting international gay theater, and working as an activist for LGBT causes in Ireland and worldwide. KATHLEEN WARNOCK: First of all, can you give us a brief recap of the marriage equality situation in Ireland as it stands now? BRIAN MERRIMAN: What your Supreme Court is doing for you, ours has found itself unable to do for us. So there’s a referendum. The courts have maintained that the Irish Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman and various court challenges have failed to change their view. So this referendum would gender-neutralize the provision in the constitution, which will then allow for lawful marriage of people regardless of gender. The referendum will take place at the end of April or early May. But even though the opinion polls are strongly in our favor, it’s easy for people to fear the invisible — and much more difficult when you’re looking at them in the eye. Gay people are out in Ireland; they are on the streets, in the media, and in the workplaces, where they are protected from discrimination. I think that open engagement and confidence in the LGBT people is probably ultimately going to be the bedrock on which this is going to be won. It’s very hard to hate someone you know.
KW: What kind of response is the anti-equality campaign putting up? BM: We are going to have everything dragged up against us, and that includes obviously, all the religious stuff, which has been funded by evangelical churches from abroad. And as a gay man I’m going to have to sit back, see drag performance artists presented as the norm of gay life by the anti-equality supporters. Drag artists are not the norm, they are special, a glorious part of our entertainment heritage, but if you’re a gay man, it doesn’t mean you have a desire to be female or are not secure in your gender, which is the message of what we’re seeing — gay men are lesser men. For the next three months, we are going to have awful things said about us. But so be it. We have had so many battles, as I said to one campaigner of my own vintage — we have more left in us. We certainly have the self-esteem and self-confidence to assert ourselves constructively and positively in the face of disrespect and intolerance. The root of that intolerance is in those who have abused their privilege for the last 100 years and created an unequal society where they were privileged and others were not. Those people have had their power base shaken by the exposure of their own hypocritical standards — the lack of child protection, the lack of respect for women in respect to the
churches, and the cavalier manner in which politics wed itself to economic well-being for a few rather than the societal good of all people. They’re not going to win this one… even if we lose, they are not going to win back that stranglehold of religion that cowed the Irish spirit as a modern nation for so long. I think Ireland has the capacity to be the first country in the world where the people will endure by their votes: that all of its people and its LGBT people will have their equal rights vindicated. And that’s going to be huge for a country that was among the last to decriminalize it; that has been the clerical dominion and the corruption of the politically conservative. I think it’s a great opportunity for the modern Ireland, which does exist, to define itself in a very public way. And I’m delighted to see the Gender Recognition Bill is also going through the Irish Parliament as is the Children and Family Relationships Bill, which will recognize and secure diverse families. I think we’re all going to get back some power through this referendum. KW: These kinds of issues go right into what your working life is about — since almost all indie theater folk have to have some kind of day job — don’t they? BM: My career has taken me mainly into the areas of equality and human rights. I’ve just finished 21 years with the Irish Equality Authority, where I was head of legal services and communications and I ended up an acting CEO. Recently, we were merged with Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission. K W: And that car eer has informed what you do as an artist, hasn’t it? BM: I actually took both a career break for six years to work in professional theater, and then a job share, so I could continue in the theater. It was a good time for me theatrically. I was involved in about
MERRIMAN, continued on p.36
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
HONEYMOON, from p.25
edy, and slightly nerdy sex appeal, he gives the show what heart it has. This really is a throwback to the 1960s in many ways, not least in that it’s another diverting musical that won’t make history but may create some pleasant memories.
ing a much beloved show — disappointment is the result. So it is with the messy, largely inept production of “Into the Woods” now at Roundabout. This production seems even more pointless given that, for a fraction of the cost, one can see the excellent movie version currently in release. The show is a collection of classic fairytales and characters who get what they want but then get a rude awakening when happily ever after collides with reality. Directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, who cast themselves in leading roles, the aptly named Fiasco Theater production is a confusing collection of elements lifted from the more tal-
When a production concept overwhelms and obscures the material — particularly in stag-
ented Alex Timbers (who helmed “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” and is known for his artistic chaos and contemporary wit) and John Doyle (whose spare Sondheim productions with actors playing instruments have been revelatory). The directors here have neither the insight nor musicality of Doyle or Timbers, and what emerges is a gimmicky, juvenile, and excruciatingly tedious production. For some reason, the show seems set inside a piano; at least that’s what Derek McLane’s rope and found object set implies. Like any number of myriad ideas in this production, this seems to have no coherent rationale other than to promote the directors’ purported cleverness. What becomes a series of disjointed set pieces robs the show of emotional heft and its deeper themes. Why is the wolf a taxidermy wolf head used as a puppet? After the initial laugh, the trope can’t sustain itself and, worse, robs the role of its sexuality and Jungian themes. All of this might be tolerable were the music well done. It’s not. The amateurish musicality is as painful
Tony Danza and Rob McClure in “Honeymoon in Vegas,” at the Nederlander Theatre.
as it is frustrating. The plinky piano reduction of the score by orchestrators Frank Galgano and Matt Castle is augmented by actors at the sides playing instruments. Worse yet, the actors for the most part can’t sing very well, and while Sondheim’s music is not about bel canto, it does require technique and musicality. Brody as the Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince had horrible pitch problems at the performance I saw; his reedy voice is unsupported and unable to hold the longer notes. Jennifer Mudge as the Witch is so emotionally disconnected from the
music that she might as well be in a third-rate nightclub. Only Patrick Mulryan offers respite. He can sing and, as Jack, he is the one cast member who seems invested in his character. His “Giants in the Sky” is one of the production’s few bright spots. The fact that the final moments of the show — when the cast is simply standing downstage and doing the material — are so affecting is a tribute to the power of the original material. The rest of this annoying, ego-saturated “Woods,” however, should be clear cut and burnt.
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Ukraine, Israel, Poland, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, the US, Canada, South Africa and Australia, Poland, Italy, and England of course.
Chris Weikel, portraying Sir Roger Casement, and Honor Molloy, playing nurse Elizabeth O'Farrell, in the January 21 reading of Brian Merriman's “Eirebrushed.”
MERRIMAN, from p.34
360 productions, and had also decided I really wanted to concentrate the brain in another place. So I took my master’s degree in equality studies at University College Dublin. When I finished the academic studies, I suppose I put what I learned about Oscar Wilde — having played him — and the theater and what I was practicing in the area of equality and human rights into a career in a country that had only decriminalized being gay for 10 years. And I felt that the visibility and identify of gay people had not been established thoroughly after 125 years of criminalization. All that went into the melting pot and out came the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. KW: As someone who also juggles my professional and theatrical careers, I know that’s hard to do. How do you balance them? BM: Terribly badly I would say! I always earned an income from theater, and since the festival that’s gone because the festival takes so much time. It is the second decade now and it’s a little bit frustrating that despite our huge success, we still haven’t attracted adequate resources. KW: From the community or the government? BM: From both. The festival does require an enormous volunteer force to maintain its standard. I work on it maybe six hours a night, most lunchtimes, six or seven days a week. It’s now, of course, an allyear process. No sooner does the festival finish than we’ve got to do all the administration, tidying up,
then I head to Edinburgh [for the Fringe.] I read about 2,000 synopses before I get to their festival. I probably see eight plays a day, five days a week. It’s grueling, but from there at least I establish and reconnect with the Irish and international LGBT theater presence. KW: Now that you’ve had a decade of productions, can tell us what kind of impact the festival has made in Ireland? BM: In making Dublin the international center for gay theater, which I think it is, at this stage, what is essential for us to achieve and keep doing is that the homegrown artistic expression matches what comes in, and we do that. It took a lot of confidence building, awareness raising, and talent identification. What I did was: those that came my way, if I thought they had a story in them, I encouraged them to write, and offer some mentorship, and of course, if it reached a standard, I had created a facility where it could go on the stage. And I wanted the Irish presence to be valid and to balance with the opportunities we were establishing to invite other voices to come to Ireland. Particularly voices that couldn’t find a stage in their country due to underfunding the arts, the laws, and lack of valuing the contribution of gay citizens or the cultural policies of George W Bush. KW: And where has everyone come from over the years? BM: The five continents have all been represented. Obviously, because gay theater is hard to sell, I’ve got to maximize its appeal to an English-speaking audience. In that way, it does rule out certain countries, but they’ve come to us from
KW: You could write a book. In fact, you have written a book! BM: A lot of the great memories of the festival are sketched out in my book “Wilde Stages In Dublin,” and the title is not just referring to Oscar, for his was the only language we had to discuss LGBT stages of development in the liberation of gay people in Ireland, acceptance of the artistic and cultural contribution we’ve made. I think you might be surprised that the book is not so much about the major plays; it’s also about the personal. It’s about a man in his late 60s who approached me one night and said to me, “I’m gay. You’re the first person I’ve ever told.” When you create a safe space in a theater and give them a story that people can relate to, it can relieve them of the constructed oppression. One year, some award-winning actors flew in just to go to the plays — Juliet Mills and Maxwell Caulfield, whose daughter was in a production of “Corpus Christi.” Nobody tells me these things until after! But then, I’ll come across a young stagehand and engage with her and realize that they have a great story, they were drawn to the festival because of it. And a year or two later their play is onstage, and that’s important. And, it’s lovely to see families come. We had our first school group in 2014 for the play “Aunty Ben,” which was a children’s play with a trans character. We’ve had children in before for productions of Wilde’s “The Happy Prince.” We’ve also had support from interesting places like the Israeli Embassy and other embassies and consulates. Of course, we sometimes had to give them a push to acknowledge the contributions of their visiting artists. I’m proud of the political engagement of the festival. It’s been spoken about in the Irish Parliament and Senate, positively. The lord mayors of Dublin have shown terrific eagerness to validate what we do. It’s important for us to be visible in places like that to assert our right, as every other citizen has, to be endorsed by the first citizen of the city.
KW: How does what you do with the festival and your activism compare with what you’ve seen in New York during your stay here? BM: As a visitor, I have to say you have a terrific network. My generation is powerful as networkers and influences here, and we’re not any longer in Dublin. The club and community scene is very ageist and rather than standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before, the older people are dismissed. It doesn’t seem to be that way here. KW: There are some who would disagree with you… BM: I’m sure! My generation is visible but there are very few of us left. Many of them found a partner and went to live in towns and villages through Ireland. The few of us that are left are certainly manning volunteer efforts with fewer numbers. I think we have a very accessible and visible gay center in Dublin. It’s diverse and creates a lot of potential for things to get done. We’ve got 184 different nationalities in Ireland now. Polish is the most spoken language after English. And the Brazilians are beautiful, and everyone wants a Brazilian boyfriend! We have a visa deal with some other countries, where it’s easier for them to come to Ireland, and many countries have certainly made a huge impact. Now the Filipinos are having a great impact in the health care professions. KW: In that respect, with the melting pot climate, it seems to be very much like New York City. BM: Well, I know it’s been wonderful to meet all these new people. I’ve heard a lot about Brendan Fay [the co-founder of St. Pat’s for All] over the years. And I really salute those who have been down the long, hard road maintaining their energy. They are continuing to work to make it better. And it’s a very positive thing for them to do to ensure the modern, diverse, inclusive Ireland is celebrated and not some romanticized notion of a miserable past. KW: I’m a big fan of St. Pat’s for All. It seems to me a positive response to resistance from groups this late in the 21st century who
MERRIMAN, continued on p.37
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
IN THE NOH, from p.30
Every bit as bracingly real as Voigt is her Broadway diva counterpart Marin Mazzie, about to appear at 54 Below (through February 7; 54below.com). She loves her new show, describing it as “so much fun! ‘Come on to My House,’ ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’ — it’s a show that focuses on the songs that influenced me early in my life, growing up in Rockford, Illinois, from when I was 10 to my high school years. My parents loved music. There were a lotta albums in my house, with all these ‘60s and ‘70s pop tunes no one’s ever heard me sing except me, with my purple hairbrush for a mic in my bedroom. It’s the Partridge Family, the Monkees, Carly Simon, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Burt Bacharach. “For people around our age these songs really do spark great memories, defining a time or event in your life. The Columbia Record Club, or your transistor or clock radio that you listened to in a simpler time when there were
MERRIMAN, from p.36
would deny the equality based on someone being LGBT. BM: There’s a lovely view of Ireland that is very heartwarming, and I hope people will come to visit the festival in May. But those who are part of the diaspora must not impose their green-tinged memories on the progress that Ireland has made as a modern European country. We have struggled to liberate ourselves. And we didn’t do that GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
drunk, but, no I never did. I never drank on the day of a performance, but the minute I was done and I got home, yes. You’re always alone in a hotel or your apartment, and toward the end, after a performance, the bottle was already open before I left and I’d take a swig of wine before I took my coat off.” Having survived, among other things, Robert Wilson’s controversial, roundly booed “Lohengrin,” in which she barely moved, and then Robert LePage’s controversial Ring Cycle, in which movement could be treacherous due to that huge temperamental machine of a set that was employed, Voigt calls opera “a blood sport. The whole experience of singing Brunhilde was so daunting, just taking on that role at the Met, and the drama with Jimmy [Levine] there and then Jimmy gone. It was difficult, no question, and I think the Machine took a worse rap than she should have. She was temperamental, no question about it, but I loved watching it from the house. Yet I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I was careful about every step I took when I was on it. But Bryn Terfel and James Edgar Morris went across that thing like it was no problem, so it was just me perhaps.”
Marin Mazzie is at 54 Below through February 7.
only three TV channels as opposed to now, where we have everything 24 hours a day and anyone can make a video of themselves and put it on the Internet.” Mazzie, one of those kids who always sang and was doing theatricals from age eight, laments the closing of her show “Bullets Over Broadway”: “I loved it and I’m sad and perplexed that it’s gone [laughs]. I was a huge fan of the movie, and it was fun to take on the part of Helen, so iconic with Dianne Wiest, whom I loved in it. [Director Susan] Stroman was very open to my interpretation of her, and Woody [Allen] was there at every preview. Not that much during rehearsals, he didn’t need to be. He would come when we had something to show him, and during previews every day he would come in with a new joke for someone and do it for them. You’d think, ‘Will I get a Woody Allen joke?’ and then ‘How do I say it?,’ because no one delivers a Woody Allen joke better than him.” Mazzie adored her glittering William Ivey Long wardrobe, loved the 1920s period, and said they’d often be jumping up and down during their collaboration with pure excitement. The role of Helen was particularly coveted and there were rumors of just about every major Broadway diva being considered for it: “That was sort of funny. I was doing the workshop of it while all this stuff was being talked about, and they just weren’t ready to announce the casting. They sort of waited, just one of those things of how they
for others to try and drag us back into some kind of land of leprechauns where all the comely maidens did their duty by the drunken Irish man, and it’s not for the likes of the Ancient Order of Hibernians to dare to define us in such a fake way. It only demonstrates how far removed they are from the heritage and legacy of their ancestors. When the Irish came to America we not only built it, but we also engaged hugely in the political movements, in the Democratic Party, in the
were going to roll it out. I don’t really pay any attention to that stuff because it really doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’m just trying to do my work — creating, that’s the most important thing to me. I try to stay away from all that stuff. It can get into your head or something, and that’s what I don’t want to ever happen.” This attitude seems typical of Mazzie, who has always seemed one of the most reliably sane and professional people in the biz. She’s been married to actor and singer Jason Danieley since 1997, and I asked if her happy home life had much to do with her grounded demeanor: “That’s definitely part of who I am. Yes, Jason and I are very definitely on the same wavelength as far as all that goes, because this business is crazy, unpredictable with its ups and downs. It’s very important to us to focus on our work and selves, staying healthy and being artists and creating. We thought about having kids, but it was all about the timing of when we met and how old I was when we got married. It wasn’t in the cards for us, which was our choice, a good one for us. We have Oscar, our dog who is our child, and I really didn’t feel like I needed to add to the surplus population… horrifying phrase.” A total Sondheim devotee, Mazzie was in the revival of “Merrily We Roll Along” 30 years ago (“I was two”), and vividly remembers her audition for James Lapine and Sondheim, her knees shaking. After she sang “Not a Day Goes By,” “Lapine said it was great, but Steve came down and said, ‘That was good, but you sang “And there’s hell to pay,” but it’s “So there’s hell to pay.”’ I slunk offstage, but I did get the job and that was my first lesson. Not that I didn’t think lyrics were important, but that’s what’s amazing about a Sondheim song, the difference between an ‘and’ and a ‘so.’” Asked if there was yet one role Mazzie still longs to do, she said, “There’s one I’m hovering around, but I don’t wanna put it out there yet. It’s in my head, certain people know, but there’s a lot to come. The road is open.” Telling Mazzie that hers was the most scorchingly definitive rendition of “Bewitched,” from “Pal Joey,” I’d ever heard, I asked her where the hell she was when they cast the last revival of it. “Just be patient,” she replied.
areas of social justice, and that was what the Irish did here then to pursue equality and social justice, because they were not free to do it at home. Now we find some of their privileged, comfortable, smug descendants trying to wrap us in a rather glowing green flag, which has papal watermarks. And that’s not Ireland. And I invite them to do what everybody should do when you want to know somebody’s accurate identity: you don’t tell them, you ask them.
And when they tell you, you listen and you respect, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade without the creativity and citizenship of the LGBT community is a fake. And I say that knowing that it was the LGBT group that won the prize one year at the Dublin parade. The St. Pat’s for All Parade steps off at 2 p.m. on March 1 from the corner of 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens. More information at stpatsforall.com.
10, 3 p.m. & 7 p.m. Admission is free, but you must RSVP at boxoffice@ amasmusical.org or 212-563-2565.
THEATER Swept Away By History
books, posters, magazines, catalogs, coloring books, maps, comic books, art books. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division, LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., room 210. Feb. 6-Mar. 15. Opening reception is Feb. 6, 7-10 p.m.
wall drag show. Backed by a fourpiece band, Ms. Cracker performs new arrangements — and some outright mashups — of songs from Prince to Crowded House, Motley Crue, and Nina Simone. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Feb. 8, 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 at joespub.com.
CABARET Sage Love at Valentine’s Day
THEATER When Brightness Vanishes Based on his young adult novel “Absolute Brightness,” J a m e s Lecesne, a co-founder of the Trevor Project, presents “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey,” in which he portrays various citizens of a Jersey Shore town where a 14-year-old boy has gone mysteriously missing and everyone is forced to examine their lives as well as the knit of a fractured community. Plastic Theatre founder Tony Speciale directs. Dixon Place, 161 Chrystie St., btwn. Rivington & Delancey Sts. Feb. 7, 9, 14, 19 & Mar. 6-7, 11, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 21, 2 p.m.; Feb. 22, Mar. 1, 6 p.m. Tickets are $18 at dixonplace.org or 212-219-0736.
Analog Collages “David Lavine: Collage” is an exhibition of the artist’s one-of-akind paper collages, hand-cut with scissors and assembled with archival tape and glue. There is no scanning, reprinting, or photocopying, or any type of digital manipulation. But all printed matter is fair game — text-
L a S h o n d a Katrice Barnett’s “Jam on the Vine” blends fiction and reality in an historical novel that charts the journey of Ivoe Williams, obsessed with newspapers as a child growing up in early 20th-century Texas, who moves to Kansas City to earn her college degree and, with her lover Ona in 1919, founds the first female-run African-American newspaper. The African-American press faced special challenges that year when the “Red Summer” spawned lynchings across the South and anti-black race riots in many Northern cities. “Jam on the Vine” is an Oprah-endorsed book that is, according to Essence magazine, “as addictive as your mom's freshbaked buttermilk biscuits, and just as delicious.” Barnett reads from her book and discusses the history of lesbian and gay literature in the LGBT Community Center’s Second Tuesday speaker series. 208 W. 13th St. Feb. 10, 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 at gaycenter.org/second-Tuesday.
SUN.FEB.8 CABARET A Grand Hirsute Queen Martha Graham Cracker, perhaps the world’s tallest and hairiest drag queen, hosts a balls-to-the-
MON.FEB.9 THEATER I Do... Re, Mi — LOL Marriage equality has catapulted the world’s oldest institution into the 21st century. Be careful what you wish for. “I Am, I Will, I Do” is a romantic musical comedy, with book, music, and lyrics by Dan Manjovi, about three diverse couples at different stages of commitment all determined to prove that “love and marriage” is not an oxymoron. Steven Gross directs three staged readings of the new work featuring Jayne Blass (“Annie,” “9 to 5”), Julia Burrows (“Greed”), Nick Cearley (“Pageant,” the Skivvies), Bill Coyne (“The Brightness of Heaven”), Ryan Duncan (“Shrek,” “Altar Boyz”) and Claire Neumann (“Triassic Parq”). Musical direction is by Christopher Scott. Shetler Studios penthouse, 244 W. 54th St. Feb. 9, 6 p.m.; Feb.
“Women of Letters” is a monthly event in New York celebrating that most civilized of activities in an era when tweets and texts are what too often pass for writing. Tonight, Sofjia Stefanovic welcomes actress, singer, dancer, and author Molly Ringwald, BrainPickings.org critic, writer, and blogger Maria Popova, comedic storyteller and author Kambri Crews, photojournalist and New York Times bestselling author Deborah Copaken, pornographic actress, writer, director, and model Stoya, and comedian, actor, and writer Sabrina Jalees. Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Feb. 6, 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 at joespub.com.
The African-American Press & the Battle for Civil Rights
Rachel Sage, a pop singer known for tongue-in-cheek irreverence, has a new album, “Blue Roses,” that features members of Daft Punk, Bruce Springsteen, and Patti Smith's bands, as well as a duet with Judy Collins. Tonight Sage, joined by her band the Sequins (drummer Andy Mac and cellist Ward Williams), sings from her new collection of songs. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Feb. 10, 7 p.m. Tickets are $14 at joespub.com.
THU.FEB.12 BOOKS Forgetting ACT UP In her 2012 Quarterly Journal of Speech essay “Forgetting ACT UP,” filmmaker, activist, and academic Alexandra Juhasz explores the idea that “when ACT UP is remembered
THU.FEB.12, continued on p.39
February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
“Women of the Wind,” written by Barbara Kahn and directed by Kahn and Robert Gonzales Jr., explores the lives of two cast members from “Gone With the Wind” as well as the fading star hired to coach some of the film’s screen tests. Butterfly McQueen (Prissy) appeared in Kahn’s first play, “Gravediggers,” co-authored with Ray Hagen and presented at La MaMa. Ona Munson (Belle Watling) had three career-protecting heterosexual marriages she hoped would deflect attention from her intimate relationships with other women. And Alla Nazimova, born in Crimea, studied with Stanislavski until it was discovered she was Jewish at a time when Jews were banned in the Moscow Art Theatre. Emigrating to the US, she introduced Ibsen to American audiences and had success as an actor and director, but was eventually sidelined from major roles. “Women of the Wind” rediscovers the lives of these women and reveals the racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia that defined both their professional and private lives. Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. at 10th St. Feb. 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 8 p.m.; Feb. 8, 15, 22, 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 at theaterforthenewcity.net or 212-25401109.
THU.FEB.12, from p.38
SAT.FEB.14 VALENTINE’S DAY
rytelling, pop music, and lots of creative license. Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Feb. 15 & 18, 7 p.m.; Mar. 3, 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 at joespub.com.
Garters & Valentines The World Famous *BOB* hosts Filthy Gorgeous Burlesque’s Valentine’s spectacular featuring steamy performances by the Five Alarm Fire, Gal Friday, Darlinda Just Darlinda, Minnie Tonka, Gin Minsky, Brewster, Essence Revealed, and Bianca Dagga. Music from Broadway Brassy and the Brass Knuckles, plus DJ Fresh Prince of Darkness. Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St., btwn. Thompson & Sullivan Sts. Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30-$60 at lepoissonrouge. com; $40-$70 at the door.
CABARET Love Songs for V-Day W o m e n s t a r s o f B r o a d w a y, including Loni Ackerman Lauren Elder, Kerri George, Melissa Rose Hirsch, Jessica Kahkoska, Hannah Kloepfer, Happy McPartlin, Marisa Miller, and Emily Tyra appear in a concert of love songs to benefit the V-Day Foundation, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. 54 Below, 254 W. 54th St. Feb. 14, 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25-$60 at 54below.com; $30-$65 at the door, and there’s a $25 food & drink minimum.
— again and again and again — other places, people, and forms of AIDS activism are disremembered.” Tonight, at the PDF Club, Theodore Kerr, a Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based writer and organizer who is the programs manager at Visual AIDS and doing graduate work at Union Theological Seminary, leads a discussion about the essay and about how the lack of remembering fits into current discussion and action around #blacklivesmatter and in present-day HIV/ AIDS work. Kerr writes that “neither the essay nor our event is a slight against ACT UP. Rather both are opportunities to ask questions: Why do histories — if told at all — often get reduced to one story? What is lost when we simplify history? Whose histories are remembered?” Kerr suggests reading the essay ahead of time (email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for a PDF copy) and suggests other works that might be relevant for the discussion (visit bgsqd. com/event/pdf-club-forgetting-act-up for a list). Bureau of General Services — Queer Division, LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., rm. 210. Feb. 12, 7:30-9:30 p.m.
guest. Plus, in a festive nerd-off, participants have a chance to demonstrate the nerdiest thing they can do (in public). Prizes to the top nerd. LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., rm. 210. Feb. 14, 7-10 p.m.
CABARET Fêting Merman To n i g h t , “ T h e M e e t i n g * ” c o m e d y / variety show hosted by Justin Sayre, board chair of the International Order of Sodomites, pays tribute to Broadway legend Ethel Merman, with guest Klea Blackhurst, Erin Markey, Nora Mae Lyng, Molly Pope, and Ben Rimalower. Tracy Stark is musical director. Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Feb. 15, 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 at joespub.com.
Ryan Rafferty Atop the Fashion World In “Ryan Rafferty is the Most Powerful Woman in Fashion,” the man who styles himself a “demented Rat Packer for the millennium” portrays Anna Wintour facing a crisis when her decision to feature a reality star and a rapper on the cover of her magazine backfires, calling her judgment into question. Rafferty uses sto-
THU.FEB.19 COMMUNITY Preserving Our History & Identity ALEINU, the 20s & 30s group at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, home to New York City’s LGBT Jewish community, hosts an in-depth look at the fight for LGBT civil rights worldwide in a 2015 discussion series: “Architects of the LGBTQ Movement.” The six-part series, held every other month, begins with a presentation by Gilbert Baker, activist, artist, and creator of the rainbow flag, followed by a brief Q and A session as well as a tour of the murals and art installations preserved in the just-completed renovation of the LGBT Community Center. Aleinu’s chair, Johanna Sanders, explains that one objective of the series is “the preservation and advancement of an LGBTQ-distinct identity, as assimilation into mainstream culture becomes a societal norm and expectation.” 208 W. 13th St. Feb. 19, 6:30 p.m. Advance registration, at $10, is encouraged at cbst. org/content/aleinu.
Cupid, channeling Freud, generously shares his authoritative advice on dreams, passion, and love. His prescriptions will be written in India ink on parchment. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division, LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., rm. 210. Feb. 14, 1-6 p.m.
Nerd Love/ Nerd Lust Opting out of the stereotypical celebration of Valentine’s Day? Bureau of General Services — Queer Division has totally got you covered with awesome snacks, hilarious comedy, and storytelling with Kelli Dunham, Tommy O’ Malley, Elsa Waithe, and a surprise musical GayCityNews.nyc | February 05 - 18, 2015
Direct from Cupid!
Happy Days Are Here Again — And Again Now in its fifth year, Rick Skye and Tommy Femia — named Best Duo of 2012 by the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (MAC) — have extended their run of “Judy and Liza Together Again,” at Don’t Tell Mama through Valentine’s Day. The mother-daughter team sing some of their personal favorites, including “Maybe This Time,” “New York, New York,” “Over the Rainbow” (sung movingly by Femia), and, in a powerhouse finale together, “Get Happy” and “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Femia, who has been performing Judy for 20 years at Don’t Tell Mama’s, is winner of seven individual MAC Awards. 343 W. 46th St. Feb. 14, 8 p.m. The cover charge is $25 and there’s a two-drink minimum. Reservations at 212-7570788 or donttellmamanyc.com.
“No matter how hard T:12.75”
I worked, health insurance wasn’t an option.” –Amanda, Bronx, NY
People are like, ‘Oh, I barely get sick, I don’t need health insurance.’ I guess my biggest thing would be like, Well, what if you break your arm? It doesn’t have to be a huge thing like you get cancer. And then you have to go to the emergency room, and it could cost $50,000. How do you ever come back from that? With NY State of Health, there are resources to help you. It would just be stupid not to take advantage of it.
Don’t waste a minute. Find your plan at nystateofhealth.ny.gov. Or call 1-855-355-5777. ©2014 NY State of Health
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February 05 - 18, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc