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St. Pat’s Parade to Add Second LGBT Group 05

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20-23, 25, 32 POLITICS

MORSELS

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POLITICS

Gay Baiting in Queens City Council Race

Progressive Muslim with pro-LGBT stance targeted in anti-LGBT effort BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

A

Ali Najmi (in white shirt) outside his Queens campaign headquarters on July 28.

mean the difference between winning or losing. The district is 40 percent Asian, a population that is disproportionately south Asian there, 30 percent white, 15 percent African-American, and 15 percent Latino. There are roughly 43,500 registered Democrats in the southeastern Queens district. “Probably not more than 6,000 will turn out, less than that,” Najmi said. It is not clear that these discussions are having an impact. In America, Muslims are generally not counted among the groups that oppose LGBT community interests and Muslims have plenty of issues, such as the discrimination they contend with, that are likely more important to them than same sex marriage or LGBT rights. Najmi, 31, is running as a progressive Democrat in a district that went for de Blasio in the 2013 Democratic mayoral primary. A criminal lawyer for the past six years, Najmi spent two years as Weprin’s legislative director prior to that. He talks of being a voice for a district that gets too little attention from City Hall. “It’s a big system, it’s a big bureaucracy, and people need an advocate,” Najmi said during an interview at his campaign headquarters in the basement of a Korean church. “We need to make sure that city policy and the city budget take our concerns seriously.” Najmi, who was born and raised in the district, is endorsed by the

Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, an LGBT political group, Make the Road Action Fund, several Muslim and south Asian groups, and Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University professor who challenged Governor Andrew Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary. “Rebecca must disagree publicly with what they’re saying and take a strong positon on the issues on which they are denouncing Ali,” said Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles club. “She needs to say if you’re going to vote against Ali because of his stance on marriage, then you need to vote against me, because our stances are the same.” Lynch is backed by eight unions, the Working Families Party, and the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, also an LGBT political group. Grodenchik has the support of leading Queens Democrats and is seen as the party’s candidate. He, Najmi, and Lynch lead the money race with roughly $60,000 each, while Parhar and Friedrich have each raised less than half that amount. In an email, Sally Frank, a L ynch campaign spokesperson, said the campaign had no knowledge of and did not participate in the Almontasers’ actions. In an email to Gay City News, L ynch wrote "As a lifelong supporter of LGBT rights, I was proud to earn the support of the Stonewall Democratic Club this month. Our city and state should

GAY CITY NEWS

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GAY CITY NEWS

candidate for a Queens City Council seat is charging that backers of one of his opponents are trying to smear him among Muslim voters by telling them about his support for LGBT rights and same sex marriage. “Some key supporters of other candidates have tried to use my support for LGBT rights and marriage against me in this race,” said Ali Najmi, a Muslim who is seeking the seat held by Mark Weprin until he resigned to join the Cuomo administration. “I’m very disappointed that some people will use prejudice as a political tool.” Najmi is squaring off against Rebecca L ynch, who took leave from working for Mayor Bill de Blasio to make her run, and Barry Grodenchik, a former Queens state Assemblymember. Also running are Robert Friedrich and Satnam Parhar. All are Democrats and the September 10 Democratic primary will decide who wins the seat. Two Lynch donors, Debbie and Naji Almontaser, have been using social media and approaching fellow Muslims at mosques in the Queens district and at recent Eid festivals, which mark the end of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting in Islam, and attacking Najmi’s pro-LGBT positions. Friends who have witnessed this have reported the conversations to Najmi. The Almontasers, who live in Brooklyn, have each given $175 to Lynch’s campaign. One man, who was referred to Gay City News by Najmi, confirmed that he had a conversation about Najmi’s pro-LGBT record with the couple, and that he saw the Almontasers have similar conversations with others. “They’re actively sabotaging his campaign because he supports gay rights,” said the friend, who asked to remain anonymous. Another two people who Najmi referred to Gay City News did not respond to calls seeking comment. With the turnout expected to be very low in the primary, a few hundred voters or less could

Ali Najmi on the stump in Queens.

continue to lead the way for the nation in inclusive and affirming policies that guarantee equality for all New Yorkers. At the state level, Albany must pass GENDA. At the city level, equality must be part of the mission of every agency — from providing shelter to protecting public safety. There is no place in New York City or anywhere for homophobic or any offensive rhetoric, and I strongly call on anyone who supports me to stand against bigotry and for equality." After being contacted by Lynch, Ritchie Torres, the openly gay City Councilmember from the Bronx, called Gay City News to comment. “The right thing to do is to judge Rebecca by her record rather than guilt by association,” Torres said. “I know firsthand that Rebecca is committed to LGBT equality. When I ran for public office to become the first LGBT elected in the Bronx, Rebecca was among my earliest supporters.” Debbie Almontaser promised to return a call to Gay City News, but did not. While there are undoubtedly LGBT voters in the district, it is not known as a haven for LGBT people. Najmi, who called himself “a staunch supporter of LGBT rights and proud of it,” said that he had no demographic data showing such voters there, so his championing of LGBT issues seems quixotic. “It’s because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I’m running on principles of equality and civil rights.” August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

NYC St. Pat’s Parade to Add Second LGBT Group Protesters demand it be an Irish LGBT group BY ANDY HUMM

N

ew York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which has been subject to protests for 25 years over its refusal to include an Irish LGBT group, may be on the verge of admitting such a group in the 2016 parade. The committee that runs the parade elected John Lahey, a longtime member, as its new chair man, and John Fitzsimmons as vice-chair on June 30 and empowered them to select a second LGBT group to participate in the 2016 parade, according to a July 8 report in Catholic New York. The two admitted NBCUniversal’s corporate LGBT group, Out@ NBCUniversal, to the 2015 parade. That did not satisfy Irish Queers or the hundreds of activists — including this reporter — who have demanded that an Irish LGBT group be allowed to march with

its own banner, just as Irish LGBT groups participate in St. Patrick’s Day parades elsewhere, including Ireland. It is assumed that Out@ NBCUniversal will return, though that could not be confirmed. The committee will announce its second LGBT group in September, and it is widely believed they will admit the Lavender & Green Alliance, an Irish LGBT group founded in 1994 by Irish immigrant and gay activist Brendan Fay, who has organized the LGBT-inclusive St. Pat’s for All parade in Queens since 1999. As Gay City News went to press, Fay was hospitalized and unavailable for comment. J.F. Mulligan of Irish Queers, who has been protesting since 1991, said in a statement, “We are watching with interest as this parade committee unfolds. Our demand is the same as ever: for Irish LGBTQ groups to take our rightful place in our community's parade, behind a banner that says

who we are, just like all the other contingents. We're proud that our years of protest have finally forced a reckoning, but we also know these are the same guys who were on the parade committee that insisted on discrimination until now…This year they are saying they will add a second LGBTQ group, but have never even acknowledged our application.” Irish Queers has convinced large numbers of elected officials to boycott the parade until such time as an Irish LGBT group can march behind its own banner. The Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO), a group of Irish LGBT immigrants, first applied to march in 1991, and were denied. That year, Mayor David Dinkins invited ILGO to march with him within the Manhattan Division 7 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, but they were met with derision and objects were thrown at them. The committee declared itself a

Catholic procession and won the right in federal court to exclude any group based on First Amendment grounds. The parade is known for the many government entities that march, including police, firefighters, and US military. The LGBT protests of the parade were large in the '90s — sometimes with hundreds of arrests — and continued to this decade when they swelled again in 2014 as Mayor Bill de Blasio took office. While most progressive elected officials stayed away, Hillary Clinton marched during her US Senate run in 2000, but subsequently absented herself. The inclusion of Out@NBCUniversal, blessed by the 2015 grand marshal Cardinal Timothy Dolan, did not satisfy protesters or the mayor. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito again kept the City Council banner out of the parade, leaving a handful of politicians to march behind their own “City Officials” banner.

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RELIGION

A Pastor Converted

From evangelical to Oprah, Rob Bell on his journey

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

R

ob Bell threw his arms wide for a hug upon greeting a reporter from Gay City News outside Town Hall in Midtown Manhattan, where he was scheduled to appear as part of his 31-city “Everything is Spiritual” tour. The embrace was a surprise. As the pastor emeritus at Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, Bell was once identified in some media as a leading evangelical voice. In 2007, the Chicago Sun-Times pegged him as the “heir to Billy Graham,” the internationally-known evangelist. But Bell said reports that he converted from a hellfire and brimstone preacher to a more accepting pastor are overstated. Like some of his peers in the emerging church movement, he avoided commenting on thornier social issues, such as abortion and homosexuality, at Mars Hill and was attuned to changing social norms. He was certainly successful. Bell founded Mars Hill in 1999. With the seven books he has published, videos, a film series, and national tours, his notoriety among Christians and in the mainstream press grew. Time named him one of its 100 most influential people in the world in 2011. When he left Mars Hill with his wife and three children for California that year, thousands were attending services there on Sunday. “A lot of people told me the beau-

6

ty of Mars Hill was you could make of it what you wanted,” Bell said. In 2011, Bell came under fire for “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived,” which raised the possibility that all people will find their way to heaven. This challenged the prevailing doctrine among evangelicals that holds that only the saved will enter heaven; those who are not saved go to hell. Evangelicals rejected this new doctrine and Bell. Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son and presumably his actual heir, called Bell a “false teacher” and a “heretic.” John Piper, who pastored the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis for 33 years and is now the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary there, tweeted “Farewell, Rob Bell.” Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote that Bell “uses his incredible power of literary skill and communication to unravel the Bible’s message and to cast doubt on its teachings.” Mars Hill also lost members. “I knew there were people leaving because of that book, but people were always leaving,” Bell said. Bell represents the controversy as disconcerting. Mars Hill was unaffiliated and he did not preach the doctrine of the people who were condemning him. “It almost seemed like you’re being charged with breaking the rules of tennis and you’re playing

GAY CITY NEWS

GAY CITY NEWS

Rob Bell outside Town Hall in Midtown Manhattan on July 24.

Rob Bell on stage prior to his July 24 show at Town Hall.

golf,” Bell said. Of his critics, Bell said “I don’t know any of them.” Homosexuality and samesex marriage were not topics he discussed much at Mars Hill. Gay and lesbian couples approached him at church asking if they were welcome there and Bell said he always told them they were. Mars Hill did have a ministry for people who were “struggling to make sense of homosexuality,” Bell said. If “Love Wins” caused a break with evangelicals in 2011, Bell ended all doubt in 2013 when he endorsed same sex marriage during an appearance at Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church, in San Francisco. “I am for marriage,” Bell said then. “I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.” Today, Bell’s preaching seems quite distant from his roots. He attended Wheaton College, a Christian liberal arts college in Illinois, and then Fuller Theological Seminary, a multidenominational, evangelical seminary in California. The student body at Fuller was comprised of “one of each” denomination, Bell said. He appeared with Oprah Winfrey on her 2014 eight-city “Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend” tour. Deepak Chopra was also a

featured speaker on that tour. During an interview with Gay City News, Bell praised Chopra. He had a one-hour special on the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2014 and currently has “a couple of television ideas in the works.” His work today is “probably less a precise doctrinal statement and more about life,” Bell said, adding later, “I don’t go to a building on Sunday.” And if he ever did, he does not now see the Bible as endorsing conservative causes. “These are incredibly progressive books,” he said, adding that the early Christians were not given to rigid doctrine, though those Christians would probably disagree. “It didn’t start with a bunch of head games and people babbling about doctrine,” Bell said. “I think people have completely misread the Bible.” One could ask, and Gay City News did, has anything been lost in this conversion? Franklin, Piper, and many other evangelical preachers show stunning hypocrisy as they routinely ignore those parts of the Bible that would inconvenience them, even as they demand absolute adherence to biblical prohibitions by LGBT people. Their doctrine, while flawed, is clear. Bell’s, like Chopra’s, is less clear. “Maybe the through line is now more general,” Bell said. “If Jesus said I came to bring abundant life so how do you live it...Maybe what it does is it helps you to open your eyes and look where to step.” August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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POLITICS

Slow Start on Equality Act

Comprehensive legislation begins with limited support outside Capitol Hill

HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN

L to R: Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Rep. David Cicilline, and Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, at the July 23 introduction of the Equality Act.

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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hen the Equality Act was introduced in Congress on July 23, it was a compelling setting with equally compelling champions. A large group of senators, representatives, and advocates gathered in the Senate’s LBJ room, which is named for Pres. Lyndon Johnson, who signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. Among the featured speakers was Rep. John Lewis, who represents an Atlanta district. He linked the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the 1964 law, to the earlier civil rights struggle that he played a central role in. “We believed then, as we do now, that we are a society committed to equal justice under the law,” Lewis said. “We fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” Lewis led the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement and was among those

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who were beaten when police attacked protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama during a 1965 march. That event galvanized public support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Equality Act begins with record support for a piece of LGBT legislation, with 168 co-sponsors in the House, where Democrat David Cicilline of Rhode Island is the lead, and 39 co-sponsors in the Senate, where Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon leads. But in contrast with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the now defunct legislation that only barred employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Equality Act has few supporters beyond Capitol Hill. Most notable is that the NAACP, which did not respond to a call seeking comment, has yet to take a position on the legislation. That organization, along with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR), is seen as a gatekeeper for access to the 1964 act, which has not been touched by Congress since it passed. “I think the NAACP is doing what any group should do, which is to be thoughtful and thorough with their membership about this

bill,” said Laura Durso, director of the LGBT research and communications projects at the Center for American Progress, a progressive Washington, DC think tank that took a leadership role on the Equality Act. On July 23, Wade Henderson, LCCHR’s president and CEO, issued a statement saying, “The LGBT community has gotten only piecemeal solutions to their second-class citizenship…and we stand united in agreement that the time for comprehensive federal LGBT civil rights protections is now. The Equality Act presents an opportunity to codify these protections into law nationwide and we look forward to working toward passage of this bill or similar legislation that helps to realize the promise of non-discrimination and dignity for LGBT Americans.” In a 2010 appearance at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Ben Jealous, then the head of the NAACP, said that “the spirit that caused us to support” ENDA, “I believe would cause us to be sympathetic” to amending the 1964 act, though Jealous added that the prospect of opening up the act made NAACP lawyers “nervous.” Jealous left the NAACP in 2013, and it is now head-

ed by Cornell William Brooks. When ENDA had its last vote in Congress in 2013, it had over 200 sponsors in the House, and it passed the Senate that year in a 64 to 32 vote that included “yes” votes from 10 Republican senators. As it boosted ENDA, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT political group, produced polling showing deep support among Americans for ENDA, and lists of businesses and religious groups that backed the legislation. HRC’s Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, a pro-ENDA group, eventually grew to well over 100 members. State LGBT groups were nearly unanimous in their support for ENDA. Perhaps a dozen companies have endorsed the Equality Act since its introduction, as have a small number of civil rights groups. The endorsers among rights groups on July 23 numbered roughly three dozen. P r es s e d r e pe at e dly, Durs o declined to give a number when asked about companies or groups that have backed the Equality Act since July 23. She did know how many members of the Congressional Black Caucus are Equality Act sponsors – 30 out of 46, which may be the more important number for the moment. ENDA, which was introduced in Congress in 1994, admittedly had 20 years of organizing behind it, while the Equality Act had roughly seven months, but the comparison remains instructive. As evidenced by HRC’s past behavior, the group clearly believes that these coalitions are a vital part of its political organizing so the absence here is striking. HRC did not respond to requests for comment. This introduction suggests a rushed job. “I think the timing of the bill’s introduction was really about harnessing the momentum we’ve seen on marriage,” Durso said. “This is a moment where we can’t mistake progress for victory.” Advocates also know that the Equality Act will not pass in the current Congress where Republicans control both houses. “I think this is the start of a really great journey,” Durso said. “We are definitely on a path to see support from civil rights groups…We have been talking with many groups.” August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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HEALTH

Ali Forney Expands Services for Trans Clients Hormone therapy available to limited number of clients

GAY CITY NEWS

Heather Gay, deputy executive director of programs at the Ali Forney Center.

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

A

leading group that serves homeless LGBT youth has begun providing hormone therapy for its transgender clients at its West 125th Street drop

in center. “It felt like we were doing a disservice to our trans clients by not doing this on site,” said Heather Gay, deputy executive director of programs at the Ali Forney Center (AFC), which

helps homeless LGBT youth aged 16 to 24. “We certainly had a number of clients who expressed to us that they do want hormones.” In an indication of the demand, the program, which is roughly two weeks old, has eight people enrolled with the potential to enroll another dozen. Only those who are 18 or older can participate. “We’re going to start it small with a pilot group,” Gay said. “Many of the clients we’re starting with we’ve known for a while.” Developing the program took more than two years. The effort uses an adapted protocol for helping transgender clients that was originally written by the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the clinic for LGBT people. Callen-Lorde maintains a waiting list of transgender clients who want services. “[Callen-Lorde] does most of this work in the city,” said Elisa Wallman, Institute for Family Health’s (IFH) director of community programs, which provides care for the homeless at eight Manhattan locations, including AFC. “They have a long waiting list so there is an unmet need.” AFC has an existing relationship with IFH, a non-profit that helps “medically underserved communities.” IFH already has a registered nurse at AFC three days a week, and a doctor on site one day a week. “The idea that we discussed with Ali Forney is we’re going to roll this out slowly because we

don’t know what the burden is going to be on our staff,” Wallman said, adding that IFH anticipates increasing the service over time. For transgender clients, this is significant. It means they will have an experienced medical provider delivering their healthcare in a friendly environment. Previously, such services were available, but finding a knowledgeable and available doctor was difficult and paying for them was even tougher. New York is one of 10 states, along with the nation’s capital, that require that private insurers pay for medically necessary healthcare for transgender people. Eight of those 10, including New York, require Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, to pay for such care. New York only enacted these requirements in late 2014. Medicaid in New York will only pay for counseling for transgender people under 18. Previously, transgender people were forced to pay for such services themselves if they had a private insurer that did not cover them. Clients can buy hormones on the street or over the Internet, where the quality and safety of the product may be questionable. They can buy from friends, which may assure a safer drug, but not necessarily a reliable supply. They may not have access to clean needles to inject some of the drugs if they buy on the street. And the clients may lack knowledge about dosing, scheduling, and general care for transgender people. “We know that a lot of the young people were

c

ALI FORNEY, continued on p.17

EDUCATION

NY State Codifies Fair Treatment for Trans Students

Guidelines follow NYCLU study showing widespread discrimination in schools BY ANDY HUMM

T

ransgender students are entitled to respect for their preferred names and pronouns, confidentiality, and access to restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity under a new guidance issued by the New York State Education Department. “The purpose of this guidance is to assist school districts in fostering an educational environment for all students that is safe and free from discrimination — regardless of sex, gender identity, or expression — and to facilitate compliance with local, state and federal laws concerning bullying, harassment,

10

discrimination, and student privacy,” read the document, which was issued on July 20. The new guidelines encourage training of all staff on transgender issues and say resources should be provided to faculty to educate themselves and their students. The guidance comes on the heels of a four -year study, which was issued in June, by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) that found “pervasive discrimination and harassment faced by transgender and gender nonconforming youth in New York public schools across the state.” The NYCLU study prompted Governor Andrew Cuomo to write the Education Department four days later expressing “outrage”

over the department’s failure to protect transgender students, adding, “I demand that you conduct a review of your full DASA [Dignity for All Students Act] compliance for all protected groups” within three weeks. DASA is a state anti-bullying law that was enacted in 2010, but took effect in 2012 and 2013. Cuomo does not directly control the education department and often emphasizes his differences with it. Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the State Board of Regents, which oversees all educational activities in the state, responded in a radio interview on WCNY supporting doing more for transgender students, but saying it “would be very helpful if people would stop whacking the

State Education Department” and help fund it. Lauren Frederico, the NYCLU’s lead organizer on the study, said their call for action was prompted by a steady stream of complaints from transgender students and their parents about mistreatment in schools. “The data collected under [DASA] is not sufficient,” Frederico said. “A third of all schools did not report any acts of discrimination.” The largest category of reported incidents was a combination of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex. “Transgender youth will never report incidents to school staff

c

TRANS STUDENTS, continued on p.16

August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | August 06 - 19, 2015

11


NIGHTLIFE

Swankier Than Ever

Excelsior to reopen in Park Slope

CHRISTOPHER MURRAY

L to R: Mark Nayden and Richard Kennedy in the patio of Excelsior's new location, with the original location's sign.

BY CHRISTOPHER MURRAY

A

ugust 3 marked one year since Excelsior closed its doors on Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets. The building that housed the bar was sold. That was just days after its co-owners, Mark Nayden and Richard Kennedy, got married, making their 23-year-old relationship official in the eyes of the state. One year on, it’s 9 in the morning and Nayden, 50, and Kennedy, 52, both in camouflage shorts and paint-spattered t-shirts, are hard at work preparing for the August 15 opening of Excelsior in its new location, still on Fifth Avenue, but now between 15th and 16th Streets, the site of the former Pacheco Dry Cleaning between La Nacional Check Cashing and Shirly Nails, Inc. After some delays, the new Excelsior is set for its soft opening to welcome neighbors, friends, and regulars into the new space, completely overhauled, but with touches of the former design layered in by Nayden, who is also a theatrical designer. A splashy opening party will follow

after Labor Day, matching the anniversary celebrations that occurred at the former location marking the bar’s 1999 opening. Though still dusty and filled with workers, it’s clear the new site will be something special and new for both the new neighbors and for returning patrons, who used to thinking of the old Excelsior as “an extension of their own living rooms,” Nayden said. “I don’t think Brooklyn has something like this right now. The place so flexible.” No longer just a cozy neighborhood bar, the unique space, which was an Irish bar from the '20s through the '80s, will be a bar, a performance space, and “an entertainment destination.” And that doesn’t sound like an exaggeration. The location came with an existing cabaret license, which means it allows dancing. It has a cozy nook with stools and small tables just in from the street, and then a long copper -topped bar in the middle section, a small lounge space behind that, with a small patio out back. Most unique is a glass-walled stairway that leads

up to a mezzanine level designed as a jewel box performance space for live music, private parties, karaoke, and drag shows. “I mean, that stairway was made for a drag queen,” Nayden said. “It has an entirely new color scheme and a lot of the design came out of the unusual space — it’s not a typical box having these four distinct areas.” The second floor has its own bar, and will likely play host to performers like longtime friends drag queen Logan Hardcore and performer Susan Campanaro, with whom Kennedy and Nayden are writing a show based on her character, Lavinia Draper. Is the neighborhood ready for all this? “We looked at a lot of different spaces,” Nayden said. ”We really wanted to be on this side of the expressway…We saw this space early last July and thought there was something about it that felt right.” Noting how much Park Slope has continued to shift with gentrification, Nayden said that “this part of the Slope is a little ahead of where the other bar’s neighborhood was 15 years ago, and a lot of our clientele has moved within a five block radius” of the new location. City Councilmember Brad Lander, who represents Park Slope, is a friend of Excelsior. “It’s great that Excelsior is reopening,” Lander said. “It was a big loss when they closed. Excelsior has been such an important part of LGBT life in Park Slope and Brooklyn generally…The LGBT community and its bars are part of the diversity of our neighborhoods. Now,

there is a strong LGBT community in the South Slope — it’s a diverse and welcoming community. I’m looking forward to having my first drink at the new Excelsior.” There are four other successful bars within a few blocks, Sidecar, Black Horse Pub, Jake’s (formerly The Commissar), and Commonwealth, just two blocks down Fifth Avenue, owned and run by Ray Gish, a former bartender at both Carry Nation, (the forerunner of Ginger’s), and Excelsior in its early years. None are specifically gay bars, though all are LGBT-friendly. “I’m excited for them and for the neighborhood,” Gish said about his friends Nayden and Kennedy. “I’m happy to have another place to drink.” Invoking ear -splitting music and meat market scenes that some associate with gay bars, Gish laughed and said “I don’t really like gay bars, most of them, but I think this neighborhood needs a gay bar.” Asked if there will be a glut of bars in the neighborhood or if he has concerns about competition, Gish dismissed such worries saying that a rising tide lifts all boats. “Excelsior and Commonwealth share much of the same clientele, but there is more than enough business for all of us,” he said. Lander said that he’ll miss Brooklyn’s Pride parade passing Excelsior and Ginger’s, a high point of the parade. “But maybe the parade route should be changed next year to bend out towards the South Slope and Excelsior’s new location,” he said. “We’ll have to look into that.”

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aBuild Muscle aFighting skill aFriendship With Metro Wrestling. Located at Staten Island LGBT Center 25 Victory Boulevard, New York City. Across the street from 1st SIR stop (Tompkinsville). Wednesdays 6 to 8:30 pm August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


EMPLOYMENT

Federal Court Delivers Against UPS Judge upholds $100,000 jury award to lesbian plaintiff BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

R

ejecting motions to set aside a jury ver dict, order a new trial, or reduce damages, Judge Jack B. Weinstein upheld a federal jury’s award of $100,000 in damages to Tameeka Roberts, an employee at a UPS facility in Queens, who complained that the company tolerated a hostile environment created by her supervisor and retaliated against her when she pressed her complaint to the New York State Division of Human Rights. According to Weinstein’s opinion, Roberts lives with her wife and three sons in New Jersey. She began working for UPS in 1995. Her problems were with Donald Woodard, who supervised Roberts in 2007 and 2008, and again from 2010 through 2012.

Roberts reported these comments to her shop steward and a night manager. The manager told her “do not go to corporate” with this complaint, because “I will handle the situation.” Woodard’s comments then stopped for a while, but in the late summer of 2012 he started up again, and Roberts renewed her complaints to the shop steward, who finally brought her to human resources, where, apparently, nothing happened. In October of 2012, Roberts called the UPS Corporate Concerns hotline, anonymously. She identified herself as a lesbian and said she felt “intimidated” and “harassed” because Mr. Woodard engages in “religious rants at the job” and makes “derogatory comments about gays.” A few days later, Roberts met with the local HR representative, a manager, and her shop steward,

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“The next day, Woodard brought his Bible to work and ‘showed [Roberts] where [the Bible] says that being a lesbian is wrong.’ He told her ‘It goes against the Bible... It’s a sin.’” In 2007, Roberts first complained that Woodard made a denigrating comment about another lesbian employee to her. “The next day, Woodard brought his Bible to work and ‘showed [Roberts] where [the Bible] says that being a lesbian is wrong.’ He told her ‘It goes against the Bible… It’s a sin,'” Weinstein wrote. Woodard admitted making these comments in his trial testimony. Roberts complained to her shop steward and the head of security, but apparently nothing happened in response to her complaint. “During the rest of 2007, Woodard repeatedly told plaintiff that ‘being a lesbian is wrong’ and that she was ‘going to hell,’” Weinstein wrote. Woodard’s anti-lesbian comments continued during 2008. The problem ceased in 2009 when Woodard stopped working at the Maspeth facility, but he returned as Roberts’ supervisor in 2010, and his comments resumed. GayCityNews.nyc | August 06 - 19, 2015

and an investigation of Woodard began. The HR representative cautioned Woodard that “religion has no place in the workplace,” but took no other action. Roberts felt the company should have done more, so she sent a letter to corporate headquarters in Atlanta, claiming she was being harassed by Woodard and felt threatened and stressed. She asked, “Why is Donald Woodard allowed to Harass, Gay Bash and verbal abuse [sic] his employees and still be employed at United Parcel Service?” The letter led to a second investigation, this time by the UPS human resources operations manager for the district, Beverly Riddick. She met with Roberts and told her that UPS was taking her complaint “very seriously.” Athough Riddick learned that Roberts’ factual allegations were apparently true, Riddick did not believe that Woodward’s

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UPS, continued on p.17

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR PUBLISHER

Equality = Economic Justice

JENNIFER GOODSTEIN

jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER & CO-FOUNDER TROY MASTERS

troy@gaycitynews.com EDITOR IN-CHIEF & CO-FOUNDER PAUL SCHINDLER

editor@gaycitynews.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR

DUNCAN OSBORNE

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Gay City News, The Newspaper Serving Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender NYC, is published by NYC Community Media, LLC. Send all inquiries to: Gay City News, One Metrotech North, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Phone: 212.229.1890 Written permission of the publisher must be obtained before any of the contents of this paper, in part or whole, can be reproduced or redistributed. All contents (c) 2015 Gay City News. Gay City News is a registered trademark of NYC Community Media, LLC. Jennifer Goodstein, CEO Fax: 212.229.2790; E-mail: jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

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FOUNDING MEMBER

The introduction of the Equality Act in Congress is notable for its record number of co-sponsors in the House and Senate. Outside of Capitol Hill, few voices support the legislation, and one group, GetEQUAL, opposes it after demanding such a law for five years. GetEQUAL doesn’t understand this legislation. The Equality Act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To appreciate that law, let’s recall Martin Luther King’s mislabeled “I Have a Dream” speech, which was delivered at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Note the title — Jobs and Freedom. That speech was concerned with economic justice as much as it was concerned with ending segregation and discrimination. In the fourth paragraph, King called the Declaration of Independence a “promissory note” and said, “It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’” King understood, as did Gandhi,

the suffragettes, the abolitionists, the anti-colonialists, and others that the systems that implement misogyny, Jew-hatred, and race-hatred do more than codify prejudice into law — they are economic systems that make the oppressed pay their oppressors for their second class status. Slavery, segregation, apartheid, the Nuremberg laws, and colonialism were designed to do this. In this country, the response to the civil rights movement was to expand the economic power of people of color by dismantling the system that punished them — this is what the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other legislation did — and to increase the political power of people of color — this is what the Voting Rights Act of 1965 did. These laws have not been a perfect solutions, and they have been under attack since day one, but they have worked. Because the closet protects, LGBT people were not easily identified, and we have never been subject to the highly organized attacks that segregation or apartheid represented. But anyone who has read historians Margot Canaday or William Eskridge knows that this nation did its best to try and fit us into such a system. And as we emerged from the closet, the economic penalties arrived.

During much of the 20th century, gay men who were arrested in police stings or bar raids lost their jobs after police informed their employers of the arrests. Historian David Johnson proved that the McCarthy era witch hunts were largely interested in identifying LGBT government employees and firing them. In the early years of the fight for relationship recognition, the domestic partners of lesbian and gay employees who were receiving health insurance coverage from their partner’s employer paid taxes on that coverage. The spouses of married heterosexuals who had such coverage paid no tax on those benefits. In effect, gay and lesbian couples were subsidizing an institution they were excluded from. Today, the religious exemptions that conservatives seek that will allow them to refuse to hire, rent to, serve, or otherwise engage LGBT people are, in fact, economic sanctions that they want to use to attack us. These are just a few examples. The Williams Institute at UCLA has documented the ongoing economic punishment that impacts lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, especially transgender, individuals in America. The solution, or part of the solution, is to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which has benefited many people of color, and give us the tools to fight back against discrimination and its attendant economic penalties.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR PARADISE LOST July 30, 2015 To the Editor: The last bastion has fallen. The two-pronged crackdown on Fire Island — banning nudity on the beach between Cherry Grove and The Pines and ticketing men engaged in sexual activity in the Meat Rack — marks the end of an era. As it is, clothing-optional beaches are an increasing rarity in the US. It’s hard to see how a few nudists could spoil anyone’s fun, but we must never forget that this is a Puritan country.

And the Meat Rack? “The value of the real estate!” some will protest. To which I reply that the Meat Rack added to the charm of the island in the first place. In the second, if you don’t like it, don’t go. So much of the emphasis of gay life in America, and increasingly on Fire Island, is on making everything family-friendly, wholesome, respectable. The achievement of marriage equality is something we can all celebrate. But true equality should include much more than that, such as an acceptance of gay sexuality, including the seamier side of gay life.

What’s lost now is the carefree, live-and-let-live attitude — dare I say, a worldly attitude — that made Fire Island a gay paradise. Currently, it’s all about the real estate market and what will appeal to the greatest number of tourists, increasingly, straight tourists. This conservative climate doesn’t bother the gay revelers who flock to those Pines bars and clubs who end up supporting gay-hating Christian rightists thanks to the lavish campaign donations of their Republican owners. So, who cares about a few nudists when the fun continues

indoors, where it is penned in — and so, ostensibly, more easily subject to police raids. Fire Island is rapidly becoming an expensive theme park. So much of what was unique has disappeared. Ronald Koury NYC, NY

Please send letters to the editor, of 250 words or less, to Editor@gaycitynews.com or mail to One Metrotech Center North, Suite 1001, Brooklyn 11201. We reserve to edit letters based on legal or space considerations.

August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad

My Life as a Girl Experiment 1: Lipstick BY KELLY COGSWELL

KELLY COGSWELL

L

ast Saturday, I decided to put on some lipstick for the first time in yonks, partly in solidarity with the drag performers who were recently banned from a Scottish alternative pride event, and then re-allowed, but mostly because I've been hearing so much about women lately I've been wondering what it is like to be one. After all, I have the equipment and the resume: a decade or two of hating my thighs, all those delicious high school times getting my butt grabbed in the hallway and being followed home by creepy guys in cars, the years of harassment on the street by sullen men demanding I smile, and the fortune I've paid out in feminine hygiene products to keep from smearing my offensive blood on the seats of the subway. But I'm also a lesbian. A word that's so bright it's like a small sun, blinding many women to my membership in the club. Women of color, too, have struggled to get in — from Sojourner Truth to Serena Williams, the poor things neither sufficiently delicate nor pale to be "real" members of the weaker, fairer

sex. Almost like they were trans. Though Serena at least gets a pass sometimes for accessorizing with some good-looking guy. I proceeded to the make-up area at K-Mart and stared at the pretty shimmering colors like a toddler stares at her blocks before knocking them over. I would have preferred to be alone. You aren't just choosing a shade, but a persona. Who did I want to be? A matron? A girly-girl? An artiste? My options were limited by my paint-stained cutoffs, my tank, my imagination. I tried to concentrate, but there was the salesperson staring at me from the nearby women's section as she explained the American sizing system to some South Asian man — "Twelve is not the age." There were other female customers, too. Who ignored me, granted, but I found them distracting anyway. How they all seemed to be experts in the makeup field, decked out in blusher and eye shadow, lipstick, the eye liner that I considered buying, but don't really know how to put on. In general, I try to avoid sharpish objects near my eyes, which are already magnets for every piece of construction debris along Houston.

Kelly Cogswell in Wet n Wild Megalast HyperPink.

I also didn't know how they could afford to be real women. Even at K-Mart you could pay 20 bucks for one tiny colorful tube. God knows what you could spend at Macy's, which isn't even the high end. I found the cheapest shelf in the place, then grabbed some Wet n Wild Megalast, a liquid lip color for $2.99 in a thick Pepto-Bismol shade called HyperPink, which kind of matched my tank top. I wasn't sure if matching was good or not, so I decided to wait to put it on until I was safely home. Which turned out to be a really good idea. It seemed easy enough at first. I removed the tiny wand, smeared the color around, then tried to blot. But it was so impossibly thick and sticky all I did was adhere tissue to my lips that I had to scrape off with my fingernails. I checked the label to make sure I didn't grab nail polish by mistake. No, it was liquid lip

color all right. Which apparently didn't need to be blotted. Fine. I took a step back and stared at myself in the mirror. My face was so pink from the sun it almost matched my new lips. This was not how I pictured it, that disappointment, too, an authentic womanly experience, but not the desired effect. The color that was nice in the tube made me look weird and really old. Who knew I had lines emerging from my lips? That my lips themselves had lines? Had shrunk, become thin. I looked like Andy Warhol's Mao with his Pepto smirk, all I needed was rounder cheeks. I took a couple of selfies to record the horrible, horrible mistake. Then got more tissue. Blotted. Rubbed. It didn't come off. I tried scrubbing at my fucking lips with hand soap, but that didn't help either, or not much. The pink substance stuck in strange patches, took refuge in all the tiny crevasses. By then my thin, aging lips had swollen from all the rubbing. They looked practically bee-stung, an illusion women pay good money for. But my girlfriend stared at me like I was a freak. "It won't come off," I announced. I wondered if turpentine would work. Or nail polish remover. We didn't have either. I had to go out again, in public, and for a moment considered a bag on the head, like when I was 16. But then I shrugged, laughed. Wotever. It's not like I'm a real woman, anyway.

PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Lauding the Times, But Not Forgetting its Past BY ED SIKOV

G

avin Grimm sat quietly in the audience last November as dozens of parents at a school board meeting in Gloucester County, Va., demanded that he be barred from using the boys’ restrooms at school. They discussed the transgender boy’s genitals, expressed concern that he might expose himself and cautioned that being in a men’s room would make the teenager vulnerable to rape. One person called him a ‘freak.’ When Gavin, 16, got his turn at the podium, he was remarkably composed. ‘I didn’t ask to be this way,’ Gavin said. ‘All I want to do is be a normal child and use the restroom in peace.’” GayCityNews.nyc | August 06 - 19, 2015

This is the remarkably sane and sensitive opening to the New York Times lead editorial in support of Grimm and his legal challenge to the local school board, which has refused to let him use the boys’ room at school. As the editorial notes, Grimm’s fellow students were initially “supportive or unfazed” when he used the boys’ room for seven weeks last fall. When parents got wind of it, all hell broke loose — the parents having far dirtier minds than their adolescent children. Grimm’s federal case, which was brought with support from the American Civil Liberties Union, is moving forward despite the judge dismissing Grimm’s claim that the school board violated Title IX, which outlaws discrimination based on sex at schools that receive federal funding. As the surprisingly thoughtful BuzzFeed News

reports, “The announcement was unexpected not only because it diverges from the recent legal trend on the question of whether sex discrimination bans include anti-transgender discrimination, but also because a lawyer for the US Department of Justice who had come to argue in Grimm’s favor on the Title IX question had not yet been given a chance to speak.” The Times has run an astounding seven protrans editorials over the past three months, including Fiona Dawson’s beautiful “op-doc” (a short documentary video that makes no effort to present more than one point of view on the topic at hand), “Transgender, At War and In Love,” which profiles a military couple, both of whom are trans. The muscular airman, Logan Ireland, is one damn hot piece of, um, eye candy. When the shirtless Ireland starts flexing for the camera, the Times op-ed section suddenly turns more erotic than most Falcon videos.

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MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.16

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TRANS STUDENTS, from p.10

because they believe nothing will be done,” Frederico said. “Schools need to educate [students] about what they should do if they experience bullying or harassment.” She is “very hopeful” that the new guidance “will result in real change at the school level.” Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, who is openly gay and represents Manhattan’s Upper West Side, said he was not consulted by the NYCLU or the State Education Department in the push for the new guidance, despite writing and championing DASA in 2010 and expanding it to cover cyber -bullying in 2013. Those were the first bills in New York to pass with transgender inclusion. The statewide Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) continues to be blocked in the Republican-led State Senate. “Identifying the problem is easy,” O’Donnell said. “The question is how you fix it. We have hundreds of school districts.” He plans an October round-

table with Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan, who represents part of Queens, and Elizabeth Payne of the LGBT Social Science & Public Policy Center at Hunter College, an expert on school bullying, to come up with solutions. “The kids from our [LGBT] community are the most victimized,” O’Donnell said. He wants teachers trained on how to recognize the problem and address it aggressively. He is looking at legislation that would require teachers-in-training to master these issues “in order to get their licenses.” The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has also drafted guidelines for the participation of transgender students in school sports. Donna Lieberman, the NYCLU’s executive director, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that this is a “welcome step forward,” but cautioned that “requiring students to submit documentation confirming their gender identity will discourage many students from playing sports.”

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MEDIA CIRCUS, from p.15

For old-timers like me (I’m 58 — Methuselah territory in gay years), the Times support of LGBT issues — marriage equality and transgender rights in particular — is truly mind blowing. It was not always thus. This aging elephant never forgets. Until 1987, A. M. Rosenthal, the Times executive editor from 1977 to 1988, prohibited the use of the word “gay” unless it appeared in the name of an organization or part of an attributed quote. Rosenthal didn't think that stories about gay men and lesbians were appropriate for the Times, or of any interest to its readers. This idiocy led directly to the Times’ inadequate and morally indefensible coverage — I use the term loosely — of the AIDS epidemic. Compare the T imes reporting on AIDS with its treatment of Legionnaire’s disease. In 1976, 221 attendees at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia contracted a severe bacterial infection; 29 of them died. In two months, the Times ran 62 stories about Legionnaire’s disease, 11 began on the front page. In the first 19 months of the AIDS epidemic, the Times ran a grand total of seven stories about it. By the time AIDS reached its 11th front-page story mark in the Times, there were more than 12,000 AIDS cases and over 6,000 deaths. According to the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California in San Francisco, between June 1982 and June 1985, the San Francisco Chronicle ran 442 staffwritten AIDS stories, 67 made the front page. During the same period, the Times ran a little over half that number (226), only seven of which made the front page. In March 1986, the Times saw fit to publish an op-ed piece by William F. Buckley in which Buckley proposed that the United States government tattoo everyone who was HIV-positive at the presumed site of the initial infection in order to identify them to prospective sex or IV drug-using partners. Gay men would get tattoos on our asses, drug users would be permanently marked on their arms. Buckley — not to mention whoever approved the editorial for publication — was utterly oblivious to the proposal’s

parallel with Nazis tattooing Jews, Roma, and Soviet prisoners of war in concentration camps. He was said to be quite shocked when the New York Native called his proposal “Buckley’s Buchenwald.” The comparison simply hadn’t occurred to him, or to the Times editors, either. On the editorial page, Times readers were treated to such gems as “Don’t Panic, Yet, Over AIDS” in 1986 and “Why Make AIDS Worse Than It Is” in 1989. The former, with its ominous “Yet” bracketed by commas, suggested that because only expendable gay men and IV-drug users were dying, there was no need — yet — to worry. If that situation changed, if the Times’ strictly heterosexual and non-drug-using “we” started getting sick, then it would be time for justifiable panic. The latter contained this horrifyingly matter -of-fact observation: “In certain major groups, [new infections] seem to be leveling off. If so, the epidemic will peak, and maybe sooner than many forecasters expect. The reason is that the disease is still very largely confined to specific risk groups. Once all susceptible members are infected, the numbers of new victims will decline.” In other words, once all the faggots and junkies get sick and die, there won’t be any more of them left to become infected, so the numbers will drop off. And that would be a Good Thing. AIDS coverage in the '80s, when the Times did provide it, was often simple regurgitations of press releases or bullet points from medical conferences. So-called news stories by such prose masters as Lawrence K. Altman and Philip M. Boffey were exemplary in their bovine complacency. And the paper’s editors stubbornly refused to treat AIDS as a political or societal story. It was strictly a medical issue with a periodic human-interest tale thrown in for comic relief. Do I sound bitter? I certainly hope so. I’m thrilled that the Times has been such a steadfast supporter of marriage equality and trans rights. But for those in my age cohort, the paper has a lot of past failures to atone for. (Special thanks to Ron Goldberg, who supplied much of the data contained in this column.) August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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UPS, from p.13

comments violated the law or company policy, but were merely “inappropriate.” “Woodard was not told to desist,” Weinstein wrote. Riddick also interviewed the shop steward and two of Roberts’ co-workers. Although these interviews confirmed Roberts’ allegations, Riddick concluded that Woodard’s statements did not constitute discrimination or harassment, she testified at trial. When she learned about the outcome of the investigation, Roberts filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights early in December 2012. She informed her shop stewards and union delegate about filing the complaint. Soon after, she suffered injuries when a number of packages fell and hit her face, shoulder, arm and hand. The accident may have been caused by Woodard’s failure to follow safety protocols. The jury concluded that Roberts was subjected to a hostile environment because she is a lesbian and that she suffered retaliation after she complained both internally and to the civil rights agency. The jury awarded her compensatory damages of $25,000 for each claim and punitive damages of $25,000 for GayCityNews.nyc | August 06 - 19, 2015

LGBTQ Network

GAY CITY NEWS

buying hormones on the street, so their care was unmonitored,” Wallman said. With the expansion of ways to pay for healthcare for transgender people, the pool of doctors who can deliver such care may grow larger, but initially the early entrants into the practice may be less informed about best practices. “Now there are doctors who are doing it, but they are new,” Gay said. “My sense is that our clients are so desperate, they’re willing to participate.” The number of transgender people who seek hormone therapy or other interventions may have grown, while the obstacles to that care have been reduced. It was once true that a transgender person seeking to transition would be asked to live as their gender for some period of time and get approval from a mental health professional. “A lot of those gatekeeping

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The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce

ALI FORNEY, from p.10

Heather Gay in one of Ali Forney's two clinics.

‘Toot Your Own Horn’ Networking Event

kind of procedures are not being used anymore,” Gay said. “It’s not very long and drawn out.” AFC serves about 1,000 clients a year and 20 to 30 percent are transgender. The agency relies on what its clients say, believing that they are best able to judge their experience. “They’re not starting hormones for fun or because they haven’t thought this out,” Gay said. “They are the experts on their own identity.”

each claim, totaling $100,000, as well as awarding her the costs of her litigation. UPS filed pre-trial motions seeking to dismiss, and it renewed its motions post-trial, arguing that Roberts had failed to prove a violation of the law and was not entitled to the damages. Weinstein rejected these. “Defendant argues that plaintiff fails to make a prima facie case of hostile work environment because she presents only ‘petty slights and trivial inconveniences,’” he wrote. “To the contrary, Woodard’s continuing discriminatory comments about plaintiff’s sexual orientation, made over a number of years, show adverse differential treatment. So too do the significant failures of supervisors to protect plaintiff against discrimination.” UPS could appeal this to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, but Weinstein was careful to emphasize the 2nd Circuit’s own guidelines for evaluating such claims, and to provide extensive sections of the trial testimony to show that the jury had a strong evidentiary basis for its verdict. Also, his characterization of the damages as “modest” seems correct, in light of larger damage awards he noted in other cases. This looks like a verdict that is likely to withstand appeal.

NEW DATE Shadow Boxers August 18th, 6-8 pm 215 W. 40th St.

The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce LGBTQ Network is sponsoring a special networking event in partnership with Start-OUT. Enjoy food and drinks with other LGBT professionals at Shadow Boxers VIP Lounge. Five business professionals will have the opportunity to present their business in a 5 minute ‘Toot Your Own Horn’ presentation, and compete for prizes. If you would like to be considered for one of the ‘Toots,’ please email us at Events@manhattancc.org.

Free for MCC & StartOut members $10 in Advance ($20 at the door) RSVP to events@manhattancc.org

212 473 7875 • manhattancc.org/lgbt 17


MORSELS

The Allure of Whole Foods Big food by Superfund site proves largely irresistible to our reviewer

I

BY DONNA MINKOWITZ

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GAY CITY NEWS

wanted to not be moved. I wanted to have no feelings. But it happened: Whole Foods Brooklyn excited me. "Take the orange juice taste test," sang a man in the fruit and vegetables section, proffering tiny free samples of special Whole Foods orange juice. "What are the different categories?" I asked, imagining satsuma, Jaffa, blood, bitter Sevilla-worlds of "heirloom" orange juices Whole Foods had squeezed and readied for me to sample and compare, one by one. But the choices were organic and nonorganic. I liked the nonorganic better, which bothered me. Still, it was free OJ and handed to me by the most cheery little man. Not far from the cups of juice was a large glass globe full of reddish-yellow grapes free to all comers, like the guy who used to kneel with his mouth open in the basement of the Mineshaft. A woman grabbed one grape and pricked it between her teeth, then another. I didn't actually like that kind of grape, but the giant glass globe offering them to everyone strangely touched me. (You mean I can have as many as I want? Right now? Without paying for them?) All sorts of people stepped up to the glass globe and reached inside for the promise of sweetness. Because I didn't take a grape, I now needed some other sort of free food immediately. I proceeded to the southwest side of the store, the side with the bakery where free samples of chickpea crostini, pear chutney with crackers, and tiny delicious chocolate-and-cream cakes were offered on my first visit. No such luck. My initial visit, soon after the store's opening late in 2013, had been full of gratis cheese, soups — even two sampling stations for free Sixpoint beer! I went to both of the latter (one of them twice), and I managed to get a nice buzz on and have my appetite slaked without spending a cent. Of course, all this largess had made me want to spend, and soon. In the gem-colored juicing section with beautiful plastic bottles

The Whole Foods megastore at 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue on the Gowanus Canal.

and dixie-cup samples colored all the colors of the rainbow, there were free samples of a purple blend called Immunity Blast with beet, carrot, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, and spirulina. It tasted deep and spicy, yet refreshing, like a beer. I don't even believe in juicing. Yet I sucked it down. On another visit, Karen and I had downed cup after cup of mango juice and tangy Green Maca Blend samples, in an orgy of something-for-nothing fressing. Immediately after that, we spent about $75. I found myself going crazy with desire in the meat section, with its seven kinds of "humane" fresh sausages laid out for purchase, garlic and herb chicken, sweet Italian pork, "Buffalo" and chorizo, all gleaming. There was a rack of lamb with its beautiful little bones looking like legs thrust in the air, a large, thick, grassfed steak far more succulent-looking than the kinds Karen and I always get, and bonein short ribs! I wanted everything, walking around the city-block-long store in a kind of hypnotic stupor. Cute dishtowels from Etsy with grapes on them! Men's cologne from Herban Cowboy! Macarons! It was clear that a master designer had been at work here — an entire team of master food stylists, fruit-layout artists, coffee-bar sculptors, label-designers, and aisle-molders,

because I have never wanted to buy and consume things as much as I did at Whole Foods Gowanus. (In fact, the store employs four fulltime stylists, visual artists, designers, and marketers as well as several freelance firms and art directors who work at the regional level.) Whole Foods has described its 56,000 square foot Gowanus outlet as a national flagship store, and coming upon it from surreally quiet Third Avenue one afternoon last week, it was easy to see why. The company has constructed this market to rise on the banks of the fetid Gowanus Canal like a palace of pro-environmentalism, a garden of morally righteous and sensually fulfilling delights. Next to the greentinged canal, named a Superfund site in 2010 by the EPA and found to contain PCBs, cholera, dysentery, and even gonorrhea, Whole Foods has built beautiful paths with wooden benches, umbrella-covered tables, and gorgeous plantings of black-eyed susans, red-andyellow lilies, and marigolds. There is a canister with Whole Foodssupplied dog-poop bags, although I wouldn't let my dog eat anything that the Gowanus effluent has touched. On the Whole Foods side of the bank, there was also a large black barbecue smoker, looking like something out of a restored Colonial village. Even on a 90-degree day,

that smoker was going, and the big, 18th-century-looking oven and its smell were an immediately effective visual and olfactory advertisement. Though I hadn't on other visits, when I'd entered from the Third Street side, I now badly wanted to eat animal flesh cooked in that big artisanal thing. Wouldn't you know it, most of the meats served in the store's rooftop restaurant and prepared foods section are made in that outdoor publicity symbol. The verdict: the actual meat in "Carolina gold BBQ" pork ribs was good, though its sauce was cloyingly sweet. Something surprising and welcome happened when I tried to suck the marrow from a small pig bone: the bone was soft and delicious enough that I actually ate it along with the candylike marrow, which nutritionists say is perfectly safe to do. A smoked chicken salad sandwich on buttered, grilled bread was exactly what I wanted to eat on a rooftop bar in the summer with a beer (though Karen, who ordered it, hated it, and deemed it drowning in mayonnaise and butter). On another visit, pulled turkey meat and Kansas City chicken legs from the prepared foods table had a lovely, smoky flavor, but were dry. Vegetables prepared in the smoker, however, were hideous. Smoked ratatouille fr om the prepared foods table (green and yellow squash and eggplant, mostly) looked and tasted muddled, even muddy, and the only reason to confront more of its squishy texture was nutritional guilt. The entire hot side of the prepared foods section looked distinctly unappetizing, with meats, rice dishes, and vegetables appearing in colors of overheated brown and yellow, along with the occasional dark green. At the side of the steam table, on framed photos along the walls, on inventively painted posters throughout the store, was one message: how much Whole Foods had done for Brooklyn and the world by creating this store. Next time — Part Two: Whole Foods' environmental claims, "Brooklynitude," and the politics of a beautiful rooftop bar and community space. Whole Foods Gowanus, 214 3rd Street, Brooklyn. The grocery and its restrooms are wheelchair-accessible. August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


CHELSEA CLINIC CLOSED FOR RENOVATION

Get services near the Chelsea Clinic entrance: sHIV/STD services are available from mobile clinics located near the Chelsea Clinic entrance. sHealth Department Help Station provides updated mobile clinic hours and other full-service options. Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Or visit the Riverside STD Clinic: 160 West 100th Street (btwn Columbus/Amsterdam) New York, NY 10025

160 W 100th St

Directions: 1

2

B

C

3

to 96th St.

to 96th St.

Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also open Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. for HIV counseling and testing. Closes at noon the first Wednesday of every month.

Text CHELSEA to 877877 to find your nearest confidential LGBTQ-friendly STD clinic. Search clinics by zip code; Chelsea Clinic is in 10001. Message and data rates apply. Text STOP to quit; HELP for more information. For Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, visit nyc.gov/health.

GayCityNews.nyc | August 06 - 19, 2015

19


THEATER

Terry Baum on Lorena Hickok More than a “first friend,” Hickok was Eleanor Roosevelt’s lover

FDR LIBRARY

Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok (right) in Puerto Rico, 1934.

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

T

20

LYNNE FRIED

alking to the Oregonian last year, Ken Burns said his 14-hour documentary, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” was just that, “an intimate history, not a tabloid history." So whether Eleanor Roosevelt had a relationship with journalist Lorena Hickok (as in were they in love and having sex?) is something “We don’t know,” Bur ns said. “And the more I know about her, the more I think the answer is, probably not. She had close women friends, and close male friends. Some of those female friends were women who were committed to other women.” Terry Baum doesn’t beg to differ — she knows Hickok and Eleanor were lovers. “The evidence is out there, but people are ignoring it because they think it besmirches Eleanor’s reputation, but I think she had the guts, the courage to live her life,” Baum told Gay City News in a phone interview from San Francisco, where she lives. “It’s truly amazing, it’s an amazing story.” After a successful run in San Francisco, Baum will be performing her one-woman show, “Hick: A Love Story, The Romance of Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt,” at the 19th Annual New York International Fringe Festival, beginning on

August 14. She will have five shows during the festival. The basis for “Hick” was a play written by Pat Bond, a friend of Baum’s who passed away in 1990. Bond “had a huge crush” on Eleanor, Baum said. Baum read a dozen books on Eleanor and performed additional research at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. This included reading some of the more than 3,500 letters exchanged between Eleanor and Hickok. “I didn’t read all of those,” Baum said. “Frankly, Eleanor’s handwriting is impossible to read.” Several hundred out of the thousands are noted as being particularly intimate. Some letters were destroyed. “Hick burned a certain number, we have no idea how many, so maybe those were more explicit or revealing,” Baum said. “Hick” was the result of all this research. The San Francisco Examiner called it a “compelling onewoman show thoroughly researched, written and performed by Terry Baum.” There were similar raves from other Bay Area publications. “The sexual relationship went on for three to five years,” Baum said. “The deep friendship continued for 30 years.” The play was a departure for Baum who has typically based her work on her “personal experience, but fictionalized,” she said.

“I never wrote a historical play relations with the press and many of Eleanor’s ideas were actually before,” Baum said. In 2013, Baum toured South Hick’s ideas…Hick was really Africa performing her play, “Lesbo instrumental in teaching Eleanor Solo!” In 2008, she performed her how to utilize the media to get play, “Immediate Family,” to raise her message out. She also edited cash for the battle against Prop. 8, Eleanor’s articles for magazines.” In “The Roosevelts: An Intimate a ballot initiative that banned same sex marriage in California. Prop. 8 History,” which aired on PBS, was overturned in a federal lawsuit Burns spent a fair amount of time in 2010. She is also a founder (with discussing Franklin Roosevelt’s Charlotte Colavin and Shelley relationship with Lucy Mercer, an Fields) of the Lilith Theater in affair that led to Eleanor offering Berkeley, a women’s theatre group him a divorce. His resistance to that was active in the '70s and '80s. exploring Eleanor’s relationship With a long career in the theater, with Hickok has been noted in a number of LGBT and mainstream Baum has other credits. “I think ‘actress’ is very glamor- press outlets. To an extent, Baum ous,” Baum said of herself. “I would offers “Hick” to counter Burns’ say I consider myself a playwright denial and that of other historians. “It’s just an amazing story about first…I’ve been in the theater my two incredible women,” Baum whole life.” Baum also took time out to dab- said. “Doing the play counteracts ble in San Francisco politics. She people like Ken Burns and also ran for mayor of San Francisco in Doris Kearns Goodwin…The sum 2011, and in 2004 she challenged total of it is obvious, but there are also smoking guns. They had a Nancy Pelosi in a run for Congress. “She was shaking in her Guccis,” wonderful, playful relationship. It Baum said of Pelosi. “Both times I was deep.” was supported by the Green Party.” Hickok struck a particular chord with Baum. She is clear ly impressed by the depth of the relationship Hickok and Eleanor had, and she is just as impressed by the sacrifices Hickok made for Eleanor. “She really was the most famous woman journalist of the day,” Baum said. “That was not what she chose. She chose Eleanor. To me that’s extremely Terry Baum as Lorena Hickok. compelling. This is part of our history as the gay and lesbian comAnd Baum is not above suggestmunity. That’s important for everying that good old-fashioned prejuone to know.” Baum said that Hickok made sig- dice may be a work. “The idea that Eleanor had a lesnificant sacrifices in her career to bian relationship is fodder for tabadvance Eleanor’s career. “She is actually the first person loids,” she said. “Obviously, there’s who conceived of Eleanor as a unconscious homophobia underlypublic figure,” Baum said. “She ing that. There’s no getting around really mentored Eleanor in her that.” August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


THEATER

Accurate Building Inspectors®

From the 50th State to the Fringe “Joker” tackles closeted gays, marriage, and a fractured Hawaiian family

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XUE LI

"Joker" playwright Yilong Liu. Lawrence Ubell

BY DAVID NOH

W

hat inspired Yilong Liu to write “Joker?” “I’m interested in Asian American and LGBTQ stories, especially gay Asian stories, either in the states or in the Asia-Pacific Region,” the 25-yearold playwright said. Coming to the 19th Annual New York International Fringe Festival for five performances beginning on Aug. 15, “Joker” is a new play by Liu. Written in 2013, it was inspired by the heated debate over mar riage equality in Hawaii. Liu signed a petition card backing marriage, and then began to hearing from a pro-marriage group. “Ever since then, volunteers have been calling me for my support,” Liu said. “I couldn’t help but wonder: what if a closeted and married gay man secretly signed a petition card then the phone calls got him into troubles? What if his wife or kids picked up the phone and found out he’s gay?” The four-character play involves Joe, the manager of a Chinese restaurant in Honolulu, his wife Lin, and Joe’s stepson Ray. Things change when Frank, a former friend of Joe’s and reporter from the Philippines, arrives to cover marriage equality in Hawaii. His presence is GayCityNews.nyc | August 06 - 19, 2015

deeply unsettling to Joe, especially as Frank knows a secret from his past, and he threatens to expose it. It is an emotionally complex play. The play was also inspired by a fellow college student of Liu’s named Joker, who was from the Philippines. “He didn’t want people to call him that, nor did he self-identify as Filipino,” Liu said. “He didn’t want to speak Filipino in front of us and he pretended he didn’t understand any. I found these characteristics so intriguing and full of story potentials, so I started writing this story.” Liu wrote “Joker” for a playwriting class, and it later became his Masters’ thesis play. It was fully produced in December 2014 at Earle Ernst Lab Theatre at the University of Hawai’i. Following Fringe, it is scheduled for a one-month run at Kumu Kahua Theatre in Honolulu. Liu was born and raised in China. He moved to Hawaii to pursue his MFA. In China, he authored “short novels and screenplays.” He finds his “identity label” empowering. “It gives you a unique perspective to represent and give voice to your group, but meanwhile it could also be limiting,” he said. He is also confronted with a theater community in New York in which he is often not

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Matthew Barnett

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JOKER, continued on p.25

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THEATER

Reality Theater

The crazy-quilt that is FringeNYC is darker and bolder than ever before

CORYNN EGRECZKY

GARRETT MATTHEW

Eons before Bianca Del Rio or even RuPaul, there was one drag persona that paved the way for all the others, and her name was Divine (alter ego of Glenn Milstead).

BY DAVID KENNERLEY

A

t 19, the New York International Fringe Festival has come of age. The sprawling fest, known for zany, frivolous shows like “Silence! The Musical,” “Dixie’s Tupperware Party,” and “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” is serving up a piquant dose of realness this year with an assortment of serious-minded queer fare. “There is such a wide variety of shows, and we have more diversity in themes and participants than ever before,” said Ron Lasko who, along with Producing Artistic Director Elena K. Holy and others, has nurtured the festival for nearly two decades. This year, FringeNYC boasts some 200 shows from across the U.S. and beyond presented in funky downtown venues. A sizeable portion features LGBT themes. “FringeNYC has always had its fair share of campy drag comedy, boys in their underpants shows, revivals of Oscar Wilde, and gay takes on Shakespeare,” Lasko said. “We still have those crowd pleasers, but this year there is so much more than that. We have an array of shows that cover a broad spectrum of LGBT issues facing young and old — plus they are ethnically and geographically diverse. Where else

22

are you going to see a show about a young, gay black male proclaiming his love of ‘Star Trek?’” The queer-centric listings reveal some heavy topics like climate change, racism, abortion, murder, genocide, and suicide. Lasko observed that during the last couple of years, gay culture has been looking back at its recent history, and FringeNYC reflects this introspective trend. “We have a bio-drama about drag star Divine, a solo comedy about recently deceased gay icon Elaine Stritch, a love story set during the Cuban revolution of the 1960s, and even a drama inspired by the true story of a Vietnam vet who robbed a bank in Brooklyn in 1972 to pay for his lover’s sex change operation,” Lasko said. The most conspicuous new trend this year is the focus on transgender issues, which is timely given current media obsession with Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, and Candis Cayne to name just a few. Right now there’s even a transgender contestant on the hugely popular “Big Brother” reality TV show. “There is absolutely a new fascination with transgender people,” Lasko said. “The general public is realizing that there are a lot more transgender people out there than they had ever realized. And more are feeling comfortable coming out.

This “captivating” and “deeply emotional” solo show traces Alex Mahgoub’s unlikely rise from overweight Jersey boy geek to slick New York realtor.

Art always reflects life, so we are now seeing more transgender characters in plays and more transgender people wanting to share their stories.” This year, you’ll find a profusion of shows tackling women's issues and fewer featuring nubile gay guys in various states of undress contemplating love, sex, and fitting in. Are those works becoming a thing of the past? “We still have plays that deal with coming out and being young and gay — ‘Straight Faced Lies’ comes to mind,” Lasko said. “They are just more nuanced and realistic.” The 19th Annual New York International Fringe Festival, a production of The Present Company, runs August 14 to 30. Here’s a baker’s dozen of promising shows with a gay bent.

LGBT-themed Best Bets at FringeNYC 2015 America’s Next Top: One Top’s Hysterical Take on Life, Love, Tools and Boxes A smash hit in Provincetown, Julie Novak’s bold, riotous solo show is now poised to take FringeNYC by storm. She relates pointed, often heart-wrenching anecdotes about her coming out, facing homophobia, and growing up “gender variant” caught somewhere in

the murky abyss between male and female in a world that demands choosing one or the other. Novak co-wrote the show along with Eva Tenuto, who also directs. Sat. 22 @ 5:15; Mon. 24 @ 8:45; Thu. 27 @ 3; Fri. 28 @ 5:15; Sat. 29 @ 7:15. Under St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A). 55m.

Baba “Baba” is Arabic for father. In this case, it’s the father that playwright/ performer Alex Mahgoub barely knew, because he was murdered when Mahgoub was 10 years old. This “captivating” and “deeply emotional” solo show traces Mahgoub’s unlikely rise from overweight Jersey boy geek to slick New York realtor. "My father's death forever changed the trajectory of my life,” Mahgoub said. “I found my own path to manhood, failing miserably along the way. This story expresses the desire to fit in, shows resiliency, and restores faith in others." Directed by Armando Merlo, the show had a boffo run at Capital Fringe in Washington, DC earlier this summer. Sat. 15 @ 5:15; Mon. 17 @ 7:30; Sun. 23 @ 2:30; Thu. 27 @ 3:45; Sat. 29 @ 7. Spectrum (121 Ludlow St. between Delancey and Rivington). 1h.

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FRINGE, continued on p.23

August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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FRINGE, from p.22

Coping

Divine/Intervention

H i c k : A L o v e S t o r y, T h e Romance of Lorena Hickok & Eleanor Roosevelt Ever since Eleanor became First Lady in 1933, wags have been whispering about her curious bond with devoted travel companion, AP journalist Lorena Hickok. Now that over 2,000 eye-opening letters from Eleanor to Hick are available to the public, this solo bio-drama exposes this intimate bond for what it was: a fraught lesbian love affair. Courtesy of the Lilith Theater in San GayCityNews.nyc | August 06 - 19, 2015

Joker Direct from Hawaii comes a fraught drama about secrets and the power of promises, set against the backdrop of marriage equality. Helmed by Dan Dinero, the play centers on Joe, a Filipino immigrant who manages a small Chinese restaurant in Honolulu, and his wife Lin, whose lives are upended by an unwelcome ghost from Joe’s past. Written by Yilong Liu, who hails from Chongqing, China, with an assist from Matthew Kelty, artistic director of the Quarter Acre Theatre Collective, the politically relevant drama promises an authentic representation of gay Asian experience that is all too rare on the American stage. Sat. 15 @ 4:30; Tue. 18 @ 8; Sat. 22 @ 2:15; Mon. 24 @ 4:30; Fri. 28 @ 7. The Kraine Theater (85 E. 4th St. between 2nd Avenue and Bowery). 1h 45m.

Popesical The Tony Award winning producers of FringeNYC faves “Silence! The Musical” and “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” are back with another spoofy tuner. The musical comedy, written and composed by Adam Overett, takes aim at the Catholic Church by ripping away the velvet curtain to reveal what happens in a papal conclave in the Sistine Chapel as cardinals furtively compete to be the new pope. Features a supremely gifted cast of Broadway stars including Stephen Christopher Anthony (“The Book of Mormon”), Becca Ayers (“The Addams Family”), and Alexa Green (“Wicked”). Directed by Drew Geraci of “Forever Plaid” fame. Expect plenty of backbiting, blasphemy, and boogieing. You may even find out what really causes that billowing white smoke! Thu. 20 @ 7; Sat. 22 @ 7; Thu. 27 @ 2; Fri. 28 @ 3; Sat. 29 @ 9:45. Theatre 80 (80 St. Marks Place between 1st and 2nd Avenues.). 2h.

It’s 1957, and something frightfully wrong is happening in Tarrytown, U.S.A.

19TH ANNUAL NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL FRINGE FESTIVAL (FRINGENYC) The Present Company Various downtown venues August 14-30, 2015 $18 Visit FringeNYC.org for more information

She-Rantulas from Outer Space — in 3D! It’s 1957, and something frightfully wrong is happening in Tarrytown, U.S.A. Young Suzie has acquired a taste for brains, picture-perfect housewife Betty is having nightmares about spiders from outer space, and the town’s male denizens are going missing. Directed and written by Ruff Yeager (Phil Johnson co-wrote), this gender-bending mashup of 1950s B horror flicks (think “The Bad Seed” via Charles Busch) may turn out to be the creepiest, campiest spoof at the Fringe this year. Expect carnage, destruction, and, of course, men donning women’s frocks. Fri. 14 @ 7; Sun. 16 @ 5:15; Wed. 19 @ 4:15; Fri. 21 @ 11:30; Sun. 23 @ 7:45. Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project (45 Bleecker St. at Lafayette Street). 1h 40m.

Small Membership Okay, this play may not have a gay character, but it’s about penises, so it deserves to be on our list. It focuses on Matt’s big problem: a small package. Of course, this self-deprecating comedy is about

MICHELLE WEBSTER

Eons before Bianca Del Rio or even RuPaul, there was one drag persona that paved the way for all the others, and her name was Divine (alter ego of Glenn Milstead). Made famous in John Waters’ demented cult films, the plus-size, mascara-laden diva is finally getting the stage tribute she deserves. Hatched from the fertile mind of director Braden Chapman (known to “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fans as Mimi Imfurst) and written by E. Dale Smith, the play spotlights the performer alone in a hotel room, on the night of his untimely death, struggling with his inner demons and his irrepressible creation, Divine. Sun. 16 @ 7:45; Thu. 20 @ MID; Mon. 24 @ 7:30; Fri. 28 @ 4:45; Sat. 29 @ 3. Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project (45 Bleecker St. at Lafayette Street). 1h 30m.

DAREN SCOTT

Suicide is rarely the stuff of summer theater fests like FringeNYC, but that didn’t stop playwright Jacob Marx Rice. He uses the occasion of 24-year old Connor’s suicide to explore themes of love, guilt, blame, family, and the absurdity of death. Can Connor’s friends, reeling from the loss, find a way to come together and accept the unthinkable, or destroy the memory of the boy they all loved? This pitch-black comedy, directed by Anna Strasser, is from the creators of the sold-out hit “Chemistry,” winner of the 2014 FringeNYC Excellence in Playwriting Award. Sun. 16 @ 5:45; Wed. 19 @ 7; Sat. 22 @ 9:45; Wed. 26 @ 4:45; Fri. 28 @ 7. Teatro SEA at the Clemente (107 Suffolk St. between Rivington and Delancey). 1h 20m.

Francisco, the show is created and performed by pioneering lesbian playwright Terry Baum, based on a script by Pat Bond. Come see for yourself why Baum believes that the tenacious, cigar-smoking “First Friend” was “a bull dyke with a heart of gold.” Fri. 14 @ 5:15; Tue. 18 @ 8:45; Fri. 21 @ 7; Tue. 25 @ 9:30; Fri. 28 @ 2:30. Drom (85 Avenue A between 5th and 6th Streets). 1h 30m.

Laugh along with Matt (portrayed by Mark Della Ventura, who conceived and wrote the piece) as he ruminates on puberty, sexual orientation, anxiety, love, heartbreak, and celibacy.

more than puny appendages. It’s about those universal insecurities — whether about physical or emotional attributes — that can threaten to cripple us all. Laugh along with Matt (portrayed by Mark Della Ventura, who conceived and wrote the piece) as he ruminates on puberty, sexual orientation, anxiety, love, heartbreak, and celibacy. Directed by David Sirois and Gabe Hammad. Sat. 15 @ 8:45; Wed. 19 @ 2:45; Sat. 22 @ 2:45; Mon. 24 @ 5; Fri. 28 @ 7. The White Box at 440 Studios (440 Lafayette St. between Astor Place & East 4th Street). 1h 15m.

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FRINGE, continued on p.32

23


FILM

Documenting the Sudan European director Hubert Sauper avoids exploitation as he films exploitation in Africa

HUBERT SAUPER

Academy Award nominated director Hubert Sauper.

WE COME AS FRIENDS

HUBERT SAUPER

Directed by Hubert Sauper BBC Worldwide North America In English, French, Chinese, Arabic, Dinka, Nuer, Bari, Zande With English subtitles Opens Aug. 14 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. ifccenter.com A funeral ceremony in a village near Lafon, Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan.

BY STEVE ERICKSON

W

im Wenders told me earlier this year that he insists on framing poor people attractively; this granted them a measure of dignity, he argued. Austrian-French director Hubert Sauper’s documentary feature “We Come As Friends,” tests this hypothesis. Sauper obviously has a great deal of directorial skill that he uses it to make the ugliness of many of the landscapes he films more vivid. For instance, he shoots out of a car window as a Chinese man drives by a Sudanese village that looks more like a landfill. Sauper’s images run the risk of going to the other extreme from aestheticizing poverty: confirming Western received wisdom about Africa’s misery. Yet he also films people who know they’re getting screwed and aren’t afraid to talk about it. Many of Sauper’s subjects talk frankly about the way Americans, Europeans, and (recently) Chinese colonialists and neocolonialists have stolen Sudan’s resources and left the country poorer. They don’t seem

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self-conscious talking to a camera held by a white European. The last line of the film expresses anger about white people’s claim to the moon, of all things. Sauper draws on science fiction as a distancing device. Riding in a homemade plane, he films the African landscape from afar. Some of his images recall Werner Herzog’s “Lessons of Darkness,” which depicted the aftermath of the first Gulf War. Here, there’s only ordinary environmental devastation. The sci-fi references, enhanced by Sauper’s voice-over, also evoke Chris Marker. But some of Sauper’s subjects are conscious of them as well. He films a room full of Chinese workers watching “Star Trek” and “2001: A Space Odyssey,” discussing how they would approach space exploration. They claim they would avoid the mistakes of colonialism on Earth, and only mine uninhabited planets, oblivious to what they’re doing to Sudan. A family of white, Christian missionaries fr om T exas ar e infinitely more clueless. They call South Sudan “the new Texas.” They do try to educate the local

children, but literacy takes a back seat to Christian indoctrination. First and foremost on their agenda is getting the kids, who seem happy to roam around nude (as in the opening scenes of “We Come As Friends”), to put clothes on. It may be healthier to wear clothes, as the missionaries claim, but their stated goal is to change the parts of Sudanese culture that conflict with the Bible. The next step is requiring children to wear school uniforms. Wellintentioned as they are, they’re the shock troops for the oil companies, “We Come As Friends” has a DIY quality that keeps Sauper from coming across as another sort of missionary. Some of the Sudanese with whom he speaks can’t believe he actually flew all the way from France in his plane. A U.N. official autographs it. The plane serves as a good metaphor for the film, which comes off as a bricolage. Despite the artfulness of Sauper’s direction, one senses that the sheer nastiness of the conditions under which he sometimes worked threatened to defeat him. The most disturbing images in “We Come As Friends”

were shot by an anonymous soldier, not by him: gruesome scenes of post-independence combat between Sudanese and South Sudanese troops. Sauper makes a point — granted, not exactly a subtle one — by cutting to tourists relaxing by a hotel pool. Colonialism kept sub-Saharan Africa from establishing itself in cinema; the first feature film made there wasn’t done until the '60s. Even now, the relatively wide distribution and arthouse success of Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu” came as a surprise to many observers. Nigeria now has one of the world’s largest film industries, but Nollywood films have bypassed the festival/arthouse circuit and don’t seem to interest anyone in the West outside the Nigerian diaspora. Ideally, Africans should be able to speak for themselves in their own films about their anger towards colonialists. However, it seems like a fluke when a film like “Timbuktu” gets distributed in the U.S. At least Sauper knows when to shut up and refrain from being the kind of white man his subjects hate, instead giving a platform to them. August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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Director Dan Dinero works with Shirley Huan (Lin) and Ariel Estrada (Joe) in rehearsal for "Joker," premiering at FringeNYC on Saturday, August 15.

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JOKER, from p.21

just the only Asian in the room, he’s the only person of color in the room. “It’s funny because I had a week of culture shock, which I didn’t experience when I moved to Honolulu three years ago,” Liu said. “I attended two meetings/readings of a gay playwrights’ collective in [New York City]. Both times I was the only Asian in the audience, the only Asian playwright, and there were no Asian gay characters in the stories. From Honolulu to New York, I am supposed to be exposed to greater diversity, yet the fact that gay Asian experiences are underrepresented on stage is ironically more striking to me.” “Joker” is also very much a play about being gay in Hawaii, which Liu said struck him “as a kind of a conundrum.” It is, on the one hand, the “virtual birthplace of marriage equality” and, on the other, has “sparsely attended” Pride events, Liu said. “There is also a lot of closeted-ness, with so many Asians coming from conservative religious backgrounds, as well as the demanding economic situa-

tion there, with many still living at home, well into adulthood,” Liu said. “I think that’s the charm of Hawaii. Gay guys are allowed to make decisions they are comfortable with and not have to worry about stuff like peer pressure. I have openly gay friends, and also closeted friends. They get along with each other very well.” Actor Ariel Estrada, who plays Joe, joined the cast on the recommendation of playwright Zhu Yi, who is a member of the Youngblood program at Ensemble Studio Theater. “‘Joker’ asks difficult questions about the nature of love and devotion, set on the eve of marriage equality in Hawaii,” Estrada said. “It also explores the contemporary Chinese and Filipino immigrant experience, and how that experience intersects with the struggle for LGBT equality.” Joe is a “wonderful character” who is “ruthlessly loving and devoted toward his family, with all the unhealthiness that that description might imply. His carefully constructed world is falling apart in this play, and he is fighting desperately to stop that from happening,” Estrada said.

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25


THEATER

Crimes of the Art A dull play and a duller musical make for two tedious evenings BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

E

Nederlander Theatre 208 West 41st St. Tue., Thu. 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. 2 p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m. $65-$139 ticketmaster.com or 800-743-3000 Two hours 30 minutes, one intermission

Stanley Bahorek, Harriett D. Foy, and Tom Hewitt in “Amazing Grace.”

OF GOOD STOCK MTC at City Center 131 West 55th St. Tue., Wed. 7 p.m.; Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat., Sun. 2 p.m. $90 nycitycenter.com or 212-581-1212 Two hours, 10 minutes, one intermission

JOAN MARCUS

26

AMAZING GRACE

JOAN MARCUS

ven a cursory reading of history reveals that the story of slave trader turned evangelist John Newton as portrayed in the new musical “Amazing Grace” is incorrect. The show posits that, as a result of a spiritual experience in the middle of a near-shipwreck, Newton became a devout Christian and severed all ties to his business. Not quite. While Newton claimed to have had a spiritual awakening, he remained a slave trader. When he could no longer go to sea, he remained an investor in the slave trade for many years. That actually makes more sense, because up until 1807, the British cited the Bible as a defense of slavery. But when did a fact get in the way of religious proselytizing? Veering off course with history is not the only false element of this soulless show now at the Nederlander. Book writers Christopher Smith and Arthur Giron go to great lengths to show that slavery was bad, and that black people abetted the slave trade, so it’s not just white people who are bad. They try to show that abolitionists were good, but the whole turgid mess is a failed attempt to force contemporary sensibilities into a period drama, and it just doesn’t work. The script is heavy on pronouncements and light on believable characters. Worse, the subplot of a son at conflict with his father is predictably bland and never resolved. Cartoonish vignettes show us Newton as a rebellious youth, a would-be entrepreneur, a man pressed into naval service, captured and put at the service of African traders, and then converted on his sea voyage. While the musical sells itself on the back story of how Newton came to write the classic hymn, we only learn that Newton wrote it as a kind of epilogue to the story. Prior to the moment when the hymn is announced, we never have a clue that Newton is musically inclined, even though he sings a lot. His songs are derivative, lungbusting '80s power ballads. The

Nate Miller, Heather Lind, Jennifer Mudge, and Kelly AuCoin in “Of Good Stock.”

music, by the same Smith who wrote the book, is simplistic in its construction, immature in its lyrics, and instantly forgettable. T o the show’s meager credit, director Gabriel Barre, has created some great stage pictures, worthy of a church-school filmstrip, including an underwater sequence. Choreographer Christopher Gattelli should be embarrassed by his generic native dancing, which borders on racist stereotype, that lets us know we’re in Africa. He generally does better. Though the score is bilge, the cast sings it well. Chuck Cooper, as Newton’s friend (slave), has an outstanding baritone. Josh Young, as Newton, sings the insipid songs beautifully, though his acting is non-existent and mostly focuses on flipping his hair in the second act. Laiona Michelle, as Nanna, another slave and servant to

heroine abolitionist Mary Catlett, is magnificent, and Erin Mackey, as Mary, has a truly crystalline soprano that elevates the music way beyond what it deserves. In “Gypsy,” Mama Rose knows that if she has Dainty June wave an American flag at the end of her ghastly vaudeville act, everyone will applaud. Because who would boo the American flag, right? That’s exactly how it feels when the entire company comes downstage at the end to sing “Amazing Grace.” Who could possibly be critical of that? Well, me, for one. The powerful simplicity and beauty of that famous hymn illuminates how sinfully flawed the rest of this god-forsaken show is.

Stories about sisters in conflict have been a stock theatrical device since “King Lear,” and probably before. It’s ground trod by

Chekhov, Beth Henley, Tracy Letts, and many others. If you’re going do the strained sibling thing, you better do something original. You should at least be better at it than Melissa Ross whose new play “Of Good Stock” is now at Manhattan Theatre Club. The story of three girls whose father was a deceased literary lion of an Updike or Cheever stripe (from what little one can glean) who have gathered at the family house, now left to one daughter, for a birthday celebration. Ross proves herself inept at even the basics of exposition as the long first scene between the inheriting daughter, Jess, and her husband laboriously lays out the sisters and their relationships. It’s never clear why they want to spend time together, but family being what it is, that’s never a productive line of inquiry. The problem is they’re all boring. Cancer, narcissism, rebellion, and the bonds of sisterhood are just plain dull. Ross never develops the characters beyond sketches, and they bounce around from kitchen to beach and back again until the play runs out of steam, and we can all go home. Conflicts are alluded to but never developed.

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GOOD STOCK, continued on p.28

August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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27


FILM

“Tom at the Farm” Fails to Engage

Acting, plot, and score conspire to kill this pretentious thriller TOM AT THE FARM Directed by Xavier Dolan Amplify Releasing Opens Aug. 14 Village East Cinema 181-189 2nd Ave. citycinemas.com

believable married couple and that will have to do. Heather Lind, as the youngest daughter Celia, has an easy naturalism, but she’s saddled with clunky lines. Alicia Silverstone, as Amy, the middle sister, does Amy’s selfishness and second act

catharsis well — but who cares when the character is so shallow? The character I was rooting for was Josh, played by the alwaysappealing Greg Keller, who is engaged to Amy. Halfway through the first act, he looks around, sees

how life will be with these harpies and makes a beeline for the exit. Playwright Ross tries to punish Josh with some gratuitous plot points, but we know the truth, and we both resent and respect him for getting out while he could.

Pierre-Yves Cardinal as Francis and Xavier Dolan as Tom in “Tom at the Farm.”

BY GARY M. KRAMER

G

ay Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s fourth film, “Tom at the Farm,” was made in 2013, but it is getting a belated release now. While fans of the director’s work (or completists) may feel compelled to see this pretentious thriller about Tom (Dolan), a gay man visiting his late boyfriend’s family, most viewers should steer clear. “Tom at the Farm” is a frustrating experience. The film, based on a play by Michael Marc Bouchard, who co-wrote the script with Dolan, is heavy-handed. Dolan cannot resist seemingly ominous symbols like dead cows, creating pregnant pauses that should be freighted with meaning (but are not), and introducing an ear-splitting orchestral score by Gabriel Yared that insists on telling viewers what to feel. To its credit, the music generates more in the way of emotion than the acting or plot. Most of “Tom at the Farm” is unsatisfying. At the start of the film, Tom, whose unruly dyed-blond hair visually expresses his despair, arrives at his lover Guillaume’s family farm. No one is home, so

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GOOD STOCK, from p.26

It is to the credit of Kelly AuCoin, as Fred, and Jennifer Mudge, as Jess, that this is even remotely tolerable. They are both charming and focused actors who make a

28

CLARA PALARDY

choking Tom for sexual gratification. “Tom at the Farm” is full of such conundrums, which is why it is so frustrating. The characters are complete ciphers, and no amount of overacting, or confessional speeches illuminate why Tom and Francis (and to some extent Agathe) behave the way they do. There is no indication how long Tom and Guillaume were together, which may not be important, but Tom’s grief over his dead boyfriend is never felt. Too much of Dolan’s performance has Tom accepting the strange goings on at the farm and trying to navigate a relationship with Francis. The mercurial Francis — the film’s most interesting character — becomes involved with Tom for reasons that are ambiguous. But the character is underdeveloped to the point where viewers will not care if Tom succumbs to his clutches or escapes. Cardinal’s performance alternates between creepy and campy. Perhaps the biggest problem with the film is that Dolan never effectively ratchets up the tension. Tom frantically packs his bags to leave the farm. The music swells. He steps outside, free, perhaps…and then…nothing. Scenes of Francis

CLARA PALARDY

he enters the house, only to fall asleep at the kitchen table. Guillaume’s mother, Agathe (Lise Roy), soon discovers him and accepts Tom, unaware of his relationship to her son. She is more surprised and annoyed that Guillaume’s girlfriend Sarah (Evelyne Brochu) has not come for the funeral. Agathe mentions her other son, Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), in conversation, which surprises Tom. Francis surprises the sleeping Tom later that night, telling him that he best not disclose Guillaume’s homosexuality to his mother. Francis threatens Tom repeatedly the next day: warning Tom while he is in the shower, slapping him around in the men’s room at the church after the service, and chasing him and physically attacking Tom in a cornfield on the farm. While Tom wants to leave — and even tries to — he foolishly returns to the farm for more punishment. (Viewers are free to go, and should). Eventually Tom enters into a queer Stockholm syndrome kind of relationship with Francis. After Francis forces Tom to do some coke, the men start dancing together. Another scene has Francis, who previously choked Tom to scare him,

menacing Tom play up the homoeroticism, which dilutes the sinister power. The film’s abrupt, nonsensical ending is head scratching. About an hour in to “Tom at the Farm,” Sarah is summoned to the farm, and the film gets moderately interesting. Her arrival disturbs Francis and shows that Tom has some power over him. But as Sarah lies to Agathe and speaks some truths to Tom, the film spirals off to another scene, which takes place in a bar, where Tom learns something critical. The bar scene is well shot, and Dolan does show some visual flair here, but too often he employs cinematic tricks to impress audiences, such as shooting scenes in slow-motion, or featuring some long tracking shots of the countryside to emphasize the isolation. There are also countless close-ups of Dolan, so many that one could have quite a drinking game. If only the actor’s performance was as strong as his confidence. It is difficult to feel anything (even with the ominous music) for Tom because he behaves irrationally. Dolan never provides any insight into his character. If Tom is a blank slate, reacting to the strange, grieving characters he meets, why does he embrace their brand of crazy? When Sarah tries to get him to be rational, he resists for no convincing reason. Ultimately, “Tom at the Farm” fails to engage visually, emotionally, or dramatically.

Xavier Dolan as Tom in “Tom at the Farm.”

August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


OPERA

Virginal and Marginal: the Operatic Heroine as Outsider Strauss and Poulenc classics fully realized at Avery Fisher Hall and Caramoor

Poulenc’s “Dialogues des Carmélites” con-

STEPHANIE BERGER

Soprano Regine Hangler (as Daphne) performing in Richard Strauss’s “Daphne;” The Cleveland Orchestra, Music Director and Conductor Franz Welser-Möst.

BY ELI JACOBSON

M

ost operatic heroines are defined by their romantic relationships with men. In the 20th century, new operatic heroines emerged who did not fit into that paradigm. These modern heroines are defined by their relationships with religion, nature, politics, society, and other women. This July, two summer festival presentations featured female outsiders who scorn male-dominated society and traditional women’s roles, and suffer tragic consequences.

The titular heroine of Strauss’ “Daphne” is a virginal innocent who spurns the advances of the god Apollo and her childhood playmate Leukippos because she desires to be one with nature. She gets her wish in the finale — another musically transcendent Strauss tone poem for soprano and orchestra - when Apollo transforms Daphne into a laurel tree. As she undergoes metamorphosis, Daphne’s wordless vocalise becomes one with shimmering strings, suggesting wind blowing through branches. “Daphne” was presented locally in a staged production by the New York City Opera in 2004, and in concert at Carnegie Hall in 2005 with Renée Fleming, Johan Botha, and the WDR Symphony Orchestra of Cologne under Semyon Bychkov. The 2015 Lincoln Center Festival presented Strauss’ 1938 “bucolic tragedy” in concert at Avery Fisher Hall with Franz WelserMöst leading the Cleveland Orchestra. Joseph GayCityNews.nyc | August 06 - 19, 2015

contralto role of Gaea, Nancy Maultsby made a grainy, dull sound. Bass Ain Anger was effective as Peneios. Welser-Möst’s inspired leadership focused the complex choral, orchestral, and vocal forces toward revealing the full musical richness of Strauss’ masterpiece.

Gregor’s libretto is static and places baroque demands for onstage magical transformations. I think it works better as a concert opera where the imagination can supply the images and the orchestra is front and center. At the second performance on July 18, the Cleveland Orchestra surpassed both the Cologne and New York City Opera ensembles. WelserMöst revealed the complex inner voices within the dense orchestral scoring rather than imposing a pompous interpretation upon it. Late Strauss can degenerate into busy, empty bombast, but that was not the case here. There were discrete layers of sound with a distinct color and dynamic level that blended together into a rich harmony of nature painting and impressionistic drama. The soloists, less glamorous figures and voices than Elizabeth Futral, Fleming and Botha, were nevertheless more stylistically attuned to the piece. Regine Hangler convinced in the title role with a tautly radiant soprano, sensitive musicianship, and insightful textual delivery. Hangler’s nearly vibratoless tone is instrumental, suggesting a childlike, unworldly creature. She possessed ample cut and reach for the demanding climaxes and theatrical conviction in her phrasing. Heldentenor Andreas Schager tore into the killer role of Apollo with tireless enthusiasm and energy. The vocal line bangs away mercilessly at the upper third of the heroic tenor range, yet Schager never shied away from challenges or degenerated into tuneless shouting. As Leukippos, Norbert Ernst sang with focused lyric tone and astute musicianship. In the deep

cerns another conflicted outsider, Blanche de la Force, a sheltered French aristocrat who flees from her fear of life into the safety of a Carmelite convent. The French Revolution follows her behind convent walls, and she faces her fears and ultimate death at the guillotine with a heroic serenity bestowed upon her as a divine gift. Will Crutchfield presented “Dialogues” on July 25 in a minimally staged production (by his daughter Victoria Crutchfield) as part of this summer’s “Bel Canto at Caramoor” series. Crutchfield and his daughter clearly love this opera (despite it not being a 19th century bel canto work) expanding on the production Victoria mounted three years ago for Dell’Arte Opera. Presented in the original French, every cast member gave a full theatrical performance. The orchestra was sectioned off upstage while the dramatic action was played downstage with full blocking, props, costumes, and stage furniture. Despite being presented for one night only with several lead singers making role debuts, there was a sense of intensive preparation and complete musical and dramatic realization. Jennifer Check as Blanche and Hei-Kyung Hong as Mme. Lidoine initially seemed cast against type, and might profitably have switched roles. Check’s bright, metallic spinto suggested Blanche’s nervous intensity and expanded effectively for dramatic climaxes. Initially, Hong’s delicate lyric soprano seemed light for the Second Prioress. In Act III, Lidoine’s address to the sisters in prison possessed both tonal radiance and a creamy core conveying spirituality and gravitas in equal measures. Jennifer Larmore’s Mère Marie dramatically fell into predictable bitch-face postures (this formidable nun has both admirable and problematic qualities), but delivered a vocally assured performance with particular success in the high climaxes. As Sister Constance, Alisa Jordheim’s pure, rounded soprano tone embodied childlike innocence avoiding grating chirpiness. Tenor Noah Baetge, as Blanche’s brother, and bass Daniel Mobbs, as her father, combined sturdy lyricism with clear French diction. Towering above them all, former Wagnerian soprano Deborah Polaski triumphed as Mme. de Croissy. Now in her late career “Martha Mödl” dramatic character singer phase, Polaski acted tellingly with her eyes and entire body. Polaski realized the harrowing spiritual and physical anguish of the dying First Prioress singing with disciplined power and telling restraint. Crutchfield’s penchant for transparent, clear orchestral textures perfectly suited the spare asceticism spiked with tangy harmony of Poulenc’s score, beautifully played by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

29


IN THE NOH

Oh, Donna! The evergreen “A Chorus Line” legend at 54 Below BY DAVID NOH

W

30

CAROL ROSEGG

ith all the white hot fever surrounding the Broadway o p e n i n g o f “Hamilton,” I can’t help flashing back to another monster hit that made this same journey from the Public Theater — “A Chorus Line.” In 1976, there was no hotter ticket and no hotter performer than Donna McKechnie, who made the cover of Newsweek and won the Tony for Cassie, the role that made her a theater legend at 34. She is coming to 54 Below in her show, “Same Place: Another Time,” on August 6 and 9, and I chatted with her at Hudson Diner, one of the few remaining coffee shops in the Village. I met Donna years ago at one of the marvelous parties hosted by the late actress and writer Lila Khan in her Upper West Side apartment. I recall how astonishingly warm and candid the actress was, talking about her former husband and choreographer, the great Michael Bennett, within minutes of being introduced. “Oh my god, what did I say?” she asked of that earlier conversation before launching into a description of her show. “When I first walked into 54 Below, I had this kind of déjà vu experience and tried to imagine what this was like back in the day when I would come here at night after doing ‘A Chorus Line.’ I thought it would be interesting to do a show like a musical déjà vu and go back to the 1970s and find another personal level.” The “musical déjà vu celebrating the scintillating 70’s in New York City” includes the work of Peter Allen, Jim Croce, Stephen Sondheim, and Marvin Hamlisch, with a Josh McDaniel arrangement of “At the Ballet” that is unlike the original from “A Chorus Line.” McKechnie also keeps the revue personal. “It’s not really about a place, but an affair of the heart, so I talk about when my first apartment was on 54th and 9th Avenue, three flights up, with revolving roommates,

Tony Award winner Donna McKechnie.

when Hell’s Kitchen was really rough and scary,” she said. “I put my therapy session on stage.” McKechnie, I’m proud to say, is a Facebook friend and made me even prouder when she told me how she often agrees with my posts, which are not always in tune with the general opinion, especially theater-wise. People like her and the geniuses she worked with set the artistic bar so high for me that it makes it that much more difficult to accept mediocrity, however commercially (or even critically) successful it may be. “I was so lucky to be around people like Michael Bennett and Bob Fosse, who set the bar so high for me,” she said. “‘A Chorus Line’ never dies, it just keeps opening doors and giving back to me — but there was a time when I considered it an albatross around my neck. Enough already, I’m a funny person, not this dramatic actress! I love it now, and I loved Michael. A complicated person, I loved working with him, and that was the saddest part, to lose a friend. A marriage — that’s in and out — but losing him

as a friend was terrible.” In a highly competitive year, which also saw the opening of “Chicago,” it seems that McKechnie was the only person who didn’t feel a Tony award was in the bag for her. “When I heard my name, what a shock,” she said. “And I remember talking to myself as I’m walking to the stage, ‘Just breathe. Do not fall, whatever you do, just get up there.’ I thought about a couple of things I might say, if it should happen, and was kind of like on automatic pilot. I looked in the wings and saw our cast, because it was in our theater and they were in their finale costumes. I was able to verbalize that, and share it with them, and before I left the podium, I was clear enough to say to myself, ‘Just look and see everything, because this may never happen again. Take this moment in, so you have the experience.’” Fosse was the other great man of the dance who was a beloved mentor. “So very different from Bennett, and I loved him, too,” McKechnie said. “Michael was my heart and

soul, but Fosse did my first show [‘How to Succeed in Business’] and [his wife] Gwen Verdon was even higher than that, a goddess to me. I have her star with her name on it from her ‘Sweet Charity’ dressing room door. He was just brilliant and shy and very cute and scary, always smoking, he was adorable.” When rehearsing “Sweet Charity” with Verdon in the Minskoff Studio, she would offer McKechnie the Chita Rivera version, the Annie Reinking version, or the Debbie Allen version of the dance steps. Fosse would come in and watch saying, “Just ignore me.” Verdon and Fosse would eventually spar over the choreography. “Oh my god, I’m with my parents again,” McKechnie said recalling those disputes. “And she’d be in back of him, mouthing ‘My way!’ And I’d say, ‘Your way, of course, Bobby.’ He was so kind and complimentary, told me he never saw anyone get better like I did. I’m a slow starter and then kind of build and grow. Gwen said, ‘Once he sees a show and it leaves town, that’s usually it,’ but he came to all our cities.” Fosse and Bennett died within three months of each other in 1987, deaths that devastated Broadway and the theater world. She was rehearsing in Toronto when she learned of Bennett’s death. “I was getting ready for the tech and they came in and said, ‘You don’t have to do this.’ I said, ‘I can’t not do it,’” McKechnie recalled. She heard about Fosse’s death while in Washington. “That was the last thing I expected to hear, and I could hear the dancers were crying, he was so loved,” McKechnie said. “I remember how before he left the theater, Gwen knew something was wrong because he never left a rehearsal. As soon as he went out of the house, she followed him, and that’s when it happened. He had a heart attack on the street in front of his hotel.” One more legend McKechnie worked with was Ethel Merman.

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IN THE NOH, continued on p.31

August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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IN THE NOH, from p.30

They met during a production of “Call Me Madam” in St. Louis. “ I w a s s o s c a r e d o f h e r, ” McKechnie said. “They cast me because they were looking for a principal who could dance, and she didn’t like that. I met her when I was in rehearsal and had just finished the ‘Dance to the Music of the Ocarina’ with a big ta-da! finish. She said, in this laser voice from across the room, ‘Who did she have to fuck to get two dance numbers?’ The dancer holding me kind of lowered me down and nobody knew whether to laugh and I’m going, ‘Oh dear! Hello Ethel!’” Merman and McKechnie eventually made an uneasy peace, and McKechnie understood that the singer’s daughter, the last person to play her role, had taken her life just three months earlier. “She liked me, but could never tell me, and now I understand that

her daughter…had committed suicide three months before,” McKechnie said. “Ethel never went on tour. I think she took the tour because she was grieving and didn’t know what else to do with herself. I had great admiration for her, but she would never speak to me, just go right into her dressing room.” On McKechnie’s last night on the tour, Merman began making clucking noises and crossing her eyes. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, she’s having a stroke!’ McKechnie said. “I went to the stage manager and said, ‘I think something’s wrong with Miss Merman.’ He said, ‘No, she’s just trying to break you up because it’s your last night.’ ‘Oh, um, thanks! I never got the note!’ Isn’t that funny?” Contact David Noh at Inthenoh@ aol.com, follow him on Twitter @ In_the_Noh, and check out his blog at nohway.wordpress.com.

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“LARGER THAN LIFE”

Courtesy of the Polemic Theatre Co. in Brooklyn comes a gritty reboot of “Dog Day Afternoon.” This immersive, prescient drama follows a man who robs a bank in Muncie, Indiana to pay for his lover’s sex change operation. When the scheme gets botched, a media circus ensues, revealing America’s ever -growing obsession with spectacle. Rippedfrom-the-headlines themes about police Writer/performer Matt Jennings has crafted a deeply personal brutality, LGBT coming out story, inspired by the classic “Star Trek” TV series. rights, and racism are explored. Written by Michael DeMeo (based on Frank Pierson’s screen- the classic “Star Trek” TV series. play) and directed by Richard Mover, Directed by Levi Austin Morris, the the drama features an impressive play follows Matt’s grueling exploensemble led by Broadway actor rations of being black with "white" Dale Hensley (“La Cage aux Folles,” tendencies, a right-brain artist in “The Drowsy Chaperone”). a left-brain family, and a ChrisThu. 20 @ 9:15; Sun. 23 @ 2; Tue. tian with sinful same-sex leanings. 25 @ 7; Fri. 28 @ 5; Sun. 30 @ Noon. Farewell blowjobs and downloadFlamboyan Theater at the Clemente ing gay porn are just some of the (107 Suffolk St. between Rivington & recollections Matt brings to life Delancey). 1h 15m. with charm and finesse. Plus, he looks pretty darn comfy in Captain Kirk’s command chair. Verano Place Sat. 15 @ 2:45; Mon. 17 @ 2; The 1970s are rough for Emily. Since moving to California, her self- Wed. 19 @ 7:15; Sat. 22 @ 8:45; indulgent parents have embraced Wed. 26 @ 5:30. Spectrum (121 an open marriage, her only friend Ludlow St. between Delancey and is hooked on drugs and sex, and Rivington). 1h. her potential boyfriend seems old enough to be her father. Written Wilde Tales by Katie Atcheson and directed Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales have by Drama Desk Award winner long been dismissed as lesser Josh Hecht (“Christine Jorgensen works, yet they possess a magical Reveals”), the dark comedy is full of power that cannot be denied. Here’s outrageous eccentrics and offers an a collection of three of his best (“The unflinching look at finding love and Happy Prince,” “The Nightingale getting lost in the Me Decade. Can and the Rose,” and “The Fisheryou dig it? man and His Soul”) told with pupSun. 16 @ 8:15; Tue. 18 @ 2; Fri. pets, masks, music and, of course, 21 @ 7; Sun. 23 @ Noon; Tue. 25 @ the author’s infamous caustic wit. 5:15. The Kraine Theater (85 E. 4th These beautifully charming, evocaSt. between 2nd Avenue and Bow- tive stories remind us of the endurery). 1h 50m. ing power of imagination and love. Adapted by Kevin P. Joyce, who also directs. The Universe of Matt Jennings Sat. 15 @ 7; Wed. 19 @ 2; Sat. 22 You don’t have to be a Trekkie to love this solo show, but it sure- @ Noon; Tue. 25 @ 9:30; Wed. 26 @ ly helps. Writer/performer Matt 6:15. Robert Moss Theater at 440 Jennings has crafted a deeply per- Studios (440 Lafayette St. between sonal coming out story, inspired by Astor Place & East 4th Street). 1h 5m. August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | August 06 - 19, 2015

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CAROL ROSEGG

THU.AUG.6 CABARET Donna McKechnie Returns to the '70s Tony-winner Donna McKechnie, best known for creating the role of Cassie in “A Chorus Line” and also hailed for her Broadway appearances in “State Fair,” “On the Town,” “Company,” “Promises, Promises,” and “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” presents “Same Place: Another Time,” a musical déjà vu celebrating the scintillating 1970s in New York City — with music ranging from Jim Croce to Peter Allen and Marvin Hamlisch. 54 Below, 254 W. 54th St. Aug. 6 & 9, 7 p.m. Tickets are $50-$95 at 54below.com, and there’s a $25 food & drink minimum.

CONCERT The Pops in Forest Hills The New York Pops launches the inaugural program of concerts at its new summer home in Queens. Music director and conductor Steven Reineke presents an evening with Broadway’s Sutton Foster singing standards from the Great White Way along with some of her personal favorites. Forest Hills Stadium in Queens (at the West Side Tennis Club, entrance at Burns St. off Continental Ave.) On Aug. 6, 7:30 p.m. Tickets for each show are $10 to $129 at foresthillsstadium.com.

its head, with the shero, portrayed by Nicolette Dixon, running away to join the circus, where she stumbles and falls into love again and again. In “Imperfect Faggot,” Todd Henry Movement utilizes text, dance, and live music and sound to pose questions about what it means to be gay/queer now, the use of the word “faggot,” the boxes community members can choose to put themselves in, the redefinition of family in the context of both monogamous and open relationships, the appeal of hook-up culture, and the shallow aspects of gay life. In “Five Inches of the Edge: Versatile Buoyancy,” Anthony Alterio packs endless balloons, a chair, five-inch stiletto heels, trash bags, confetti, men’s legs, tattoos, glitter shirts, and Lady Gaga into a piece exploring how effeminacy fits into the everyday performance of gay men. 161A Chrystie St. btwn. Rivington & Delancey Sts. Aug. 7, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12; $10 for students & seniors at dixonplace.org; $15 at the door.

PERFORMANCE Whitton in Time Scare Residency With a new single, “Black and White to Color,” just released, Whitton, whose style blends Billie Holiday, Norah Jones, and Regina Spektor, returns to New York for a residency with a show that includes her own songs, as well as classics from Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, and Peggy Lee. The Celebrity Theater at Time Scare, 669 Eighth Ave. at W. 43rd St. Through Aug. 23; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. Tickets began at $39 at 212-586-7829 or whittonmusic.com.

CONCERT The Pops in Forest Hills The New York Pops welcomes Pink Martini, the “little orchestra” founded to provide more beautiful and inclusive musical soundtracks for fundraisers for causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education, and parks. Forest Hills Stadium, in Queens (at the West Side Tennis Club, entrance at Burns St. off Continental Ave.) On Aug. 7, 7:30 p.m. Tickets for each show are $10 to $129 at foresthillsstadium.com.

DANIELNARDICIO.COM

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EXHIBITION Disrupting Gender Norms in the 1990s “I-DEA, The Goddess Within” was an historic collaboration between the performance artist Hunter Reynolds, aka Patina du Prey, and documentary photographer Maxine Henryson. From 1993 to 2000, Henryson and Reynolds traveled to Berlin, Antwerp, Los Angeles, New York, and other cities creating guerrilla street performances and interventions. Spinning in a large white dress, Patina existed as a mythical dervish figure that deliberately disrupted gender norms. “I-DEA, The Goddess Within” challenged notions of queer identity, performance art, and the social landscape of the 1990s. In a new exhibition, the artists present photographs from New York’s 1994 Gay Pride, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Stonewall as well as that year’s Gay Games here. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., rm. 210. Exhibition runs through Sep. 6.

CABARET

PARTY

In a trio of shows, Dixon Place presents “Love & Circus,” which turns the traditional fairytale narrative on

Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland (1920-1991) is an iconic gay artist of the 20th century. “Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play” — which includes more than 140 drawings, rarely seen gouaches from the 1940s, over 600 pages of collages, and his early childhood drawings — is the first exhibition to examine, analyze, and present the historic role that his art plays in addressing and transgressing stereotypes of gender, sexuality, race, class, and power relations. Artists Space Exhibitions, 38 Greene St., btwn. Grand & Broome Sts., 3rd fl. Through Aug. 23; Wed.-Sun., noon-6 p.m. For more information, visit artistsspace.org.

Martha Graham Cracker, who just might be the world’s tallest and hairiest drag queen, backed by a four-piece live band, performs new arrangements and mash-ups of songs by artists ranging from Prince and Crowded House to Mötley Crüe and Nina Simone. This balls-to-the-wall cabaret is intended for mature audiences. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Aug. 8, 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 at joespub.com.

Curator Sabrina Chap will host a special two-part edition of Deadline focusing on racism. Deadline asks performance artists, filmmakers, and writers to stop posting on Facebook and create new works that engage racism on some level. As at every edition of Deadline, audience members are asked to provide short, anonymously written responses to each performance as a way of providing feedback to the artists.  Part 1 will feature: Nefertiti Asanti — poetry, Zave Martohardjono — film, Robert Hyers — personal essay, Damien Luxe — performance art, Jamie Leo — personal essay. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., rm. 210. Aug. 6, 7 p.m.

Three Queer Pieces

Play and Learn With Tom of Finland

Graham Cracker Maturity

DEADLINE: Part 1 of Two-Part August Edition on Racism

PERFORMANCE

SAT.AUG.8 GALLERY

CABARET

PERFORMANCE

FRI.AUG.7

Don't have clean underwear? Come find Daniel and he'll get you outfitted in Male Basics. At The Ice Palace Cherry Grove $15/$10 in a jock. 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. boats back to the Pines.

Dworld Underwear Party Celebrate DN's birthday weekend in style with a naked dessert table, 1000 nearly naked dudes, and DJ Johnny Dynell! With more boats to and from the Pines starting at 11:45 and massages from their "Official Rubbers" at MMX and lube giveaways by Uberlube, DN and crew make sure you won't go home empty handed.

Happy Days Are Here Again, All Summer Long Now in its sixth 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 the summer. 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.” 343 W. 46th St. Aug. 8, 15, 22 & 29, 8 p.m. The

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August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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cover charge is $25 and there’s a two-drink minimum. Reservations at 212-757-0788 or donttellmamanyc.com.

what it takes to be that "One Good Man" we're all looking for. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Aug. 10, 7 p.m. More at www.brandonkylegoodman.com. Tickets at joespub.com.

FILM Caribbean Equality Project Presents Unveil

WED.AUG.12 CABARET

COMEDY

Deadline asks performance artists, filmmakers, and writers to stop posting on Facebook and create new works that engage racism on some level. As at every edition of Deadline, audience members are asked to provide short, anonymously written responses to each performance as a way of providing feedback to the artists. Features Kate Brandt — film, Andy Archer — film, Jamila Reddy — performance, Sacred Walker — performance.  Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., rm. 210. Aug. 13, 7 p.m.

Daniel Nardicio presents Margaret Cho: The Psycho Tour

Alice Ripley Sings Sondheim Tony Award winner Alice Ripley returns to 54 Below for the firt time in over a year with “Alice Ripley: All Sondheim.” In it, the multi-talented star of Broadway’s “Next to Normal,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “The Who’s Tommy,” “Side Show,” and “The Rocky Horror Show” explores the provocative lyrics and enduring melodies of songs written by the legendary Stephen Sondheim. 54 Below, 254 W. 54th St. Aug. 12, 9:30 p.m. Cover charge $35$45, $25 minimum food and beverage. 

THURS.AUG.13 PERFORMANCE DEADLINE: Part 2 of Two-Part August Edition on Racism

GALLERY DANIELNARDICIO.COM

From singlehood to Boko Haram to Caitlyn Jenner’s transition to female empowerment, Margaret Cho tackles difficult subjects with sensitivity and razor sharp insight. A pioneer amongst women in comedy, Margaret doesn’t take anything for granted.  The Ice Palace, Main Walk Fire Island 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets at www.dworld. us, $45-65.

MON.AUG.10 COMEDY One Good Man Brandon Kyle Goodman returns to the fabulous Joe's Pub for his newest show, a comedy about the trials and tribulations of becoming an adult. Through his hilarious storytelling and wild characters, Brandon takes his audience on a personal journey revealing secrets, thoughts, and advice on dating, sex, race and

GayCityNews.nyc | August 06 - 19, 2015

In Search of One City: Sensing (In)equality A two-month exhibition exploring artists’ roles in investigating, navigating and mitigating income inequality. With a title loosely based on the New York City mayor’s wellknown campaign phrase, "In Search of One City" recognizes that artists have long been offering creative interpretations of and solutions for a timely issue now at the forefront of local and national policy debates. Viewing hours are Friday 3-6 p.m. or by appointment at (718) 768-3195 or info@theoldstonehouse.org. Info at www.theoldstonehouse. org or brooklynutopias.wordpress.com.  Brooklyn’s Old Stone House in Washington Park located at 5th Ave. between 3rd and 4th Sts. in Park Slope. Aug. 13 from 6-9 p.m.  Through Oct. 10.

FRI.AUG.14 PERFORMANCE Pope Likes Your Status! Fresh off acclaimed Off Broadway perfor-

PERFORMANCE

Miss Hannigan in “Annie,” Jane Lynch sets out on the musical comedy tour, “See Jane Sing.” In “See Jane Sing,” the Emmy and Golden Globe winner will take audiences on a musical journey through a world of songs from Broadway to cabaret that will delight the crowd. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Aug. 16-19, 7 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets $25-$75. Info at joespub.com.

TUE.AUG.18 PERFORMANCE Lady Bunny in That Ain’t No Lady!

Divas Distorted & Demented Dallas DuBois and JAWdrop present “Distorted Divas,” the seventh installment of the “Distorted” Vegas-style revue drag series. This new late night pop culture extravaganza features demented drag stars Bootsie LeFaris, Pixie Aventura, Brenda Dharling, and newcomer Monet X Change as some of your favorite legendary divas, both real and fictional — Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Selena, JLo, Karen Walker, Nene Leakes — with a twisted twist. Laurie Beechman Theater, inside West Bank Café, 407 W. 42nd St. Aug. 14 & 28, 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 at spincyclenyc. com or 212-352-3101.

GALLERY On the Domestic Front: Scenes of Everyday Queer Life This exhibition features some 70 works drawn mostly from the Leslie-Lohman Museum collection and answers the question, "What do gay people do when they're not having sex?" These diverse works demonstrate what is unique and what is universal in everyday queer life. It is an excellent opportunity to see works from the Museum’s collection that in some cases have never been exhibited. Curated by James M. Saslow. 12-6 p.m., Tues.-Sun., 12-8 p.m. on Thurs.  Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. 26 Wooster St., btwn Canal & Grand Sts. Through Oct. 25.

DANIELNARDICIO.COM

The Caribbean Equality Project, in partnership with the Queens Museum and the Pulitzer Center, presents a screening of "The Abominable Crime" at the Queens Museum’s theater. This screening is part of "UNVEIL," the daylong celebration of the Caribbean Equality Project (CEP) that will highlight the organization's budding spectrum of programs and services, focusing on the needs of the Caribbean-based LGBTQ community in New York City. "The Abominable Crime" is a Pulitzer Center-supported, award-winning documentary by filmmaker Micah Fink that explores the culture of homophobia in Jamaica through the eyes of gay Jamaicans who are forced to choose between their homeland and their lives after their sexual orientations are exposed. Queens Museum, New York City Building Flushing Meadows Corona Park Aug. 8, 3:10-4:15 p.m. (reception to follow).

mances in “Found” at the Atlantic Theater Company and “Horseplay, or the Fickle Mistress” at La MaMa ETC/ Theatre Askew, Molly Pope, a brassy belter, whiskey guzzler, and benevolent lunatic presents “Molly Pope Likes Your Status,” in which she sheds all pretense of humility and shamelessly entreats you to adore her for an hour while she prances about making loud noises. Unable to deny that she defines her self-worth entirely via social media notifications, Pope exploits her fragile ego and vocal chops for your entertainment. The Duplex, 61 Christopher St. at Seventh Ave. So., Sheridan Sq. Aug. 14, 9:30 p.m. Cover charge is $15 at theduplex.com; $18 at the door. Two-drink minimum.

This performance contains plenty of offensive language, and while there are no actual sexual situations, for a really big belly laugh, Bunny has been known to lock the doors and strip! So if you prefer polite, tame drag shows, skip this heifer. The Ice Palace Cherry Grove 9 p.m. Tickets $14.99, $16.50 with service fee at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1726894.

WED.AUG.19 THEATER DROP DEAD PERFECT Previews of the madcap comic thriller with Everett Quinton. Eight-week engagement opens on Aug 23. Theatre at St. Clements, 423 West 46 Street - btwn 8th and 9th Aves. Tickets and times at dropdeadperfect. com.

SAT.AUG.15 COMEDY Sandra Bernhard is #Blessed Daniel Nardicio presents "Sandra Bernhard is #Blessed." Bernhard, hailed by Comedy Central as one of the top 100 Greatest Standups of all time, brings her new show to Fire Island's Whyte Hall. Whyte Hall 577 Fire Island Blvd. Aug. 15 8:30 p.m. $45-100 tickets at www.dworld.us. 

SUN.AUG.16 CABARET See Jane Sing! With Jane Lynch Fresh from her iconic portrayal of Sue Sylvester on “Glee” and her Broadway debut as

THU.AUG.20 CABARET Our Lady J: Gospel for the Godless New York ex-pat Our Lady J paints the church pink with "Gospel for the Godless," an exhilarating musical celebration of original songs penned by the Lady herself, and accompanied by the Train-to-Kill Gospel Choir. Inspired by conventional Gospel music, this show is anything but traditional, promising to deliver you from your woes, sans the usual dogmatic baggage. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Aug. 20, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $20. Info at joespub.com.

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East side, west side, all around the town, there’s a Mount Sinai. Because the new Mount Sinai Health System provides exemplary care throughout the entirety of the city. In fact, our footprint even extends into Long Island, Westchester, and Florida.

traditional fee-for-service medicine towards population health management. So instead of receiving care that’s isolated and intermittent, patients receive care that’s continuous and coordinated.

The system includes seven hospitals. Approximately 6,100 primary care and specialty physicians. More than 140 ambulatory practices and 31 affiliated community health centers. In addition, it maintains more than 40 clinical and academic relationships with local care organizations and physicians serving patients in over 200 community locations throughout the region. Talk about a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Thus the tremendous emphasis on wellness programs designed to help people stop smoking, lose weight and battle obesity, lower their blood pressure, and reduce the risk of a heart attack. Across the street, down the block, around the corner, and without peer. It’s why Mount Sinai is for you, for life.

Ironically, Mount Sinai’s number one mission is to keep people out of the hospital. We are moving away from

1-800-MD-SINAI mountsinai.org/myhealth

MOST NEW YORK NEIGHBORHOODS HAVE A DELI, A DRY CLEANERS, A CHINESE RESTAURANT AND A MOUNT SINAI.

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August 06 - 19, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc

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