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Troy Masters Departs Gay City News to Launch LA Pub

Innovator in city’s LGBT media market since the ‘80s goes west for the next chapter Stonewall Now A Landmark 04

Philly’s LGBT50 Celebration: Insert Remembering Sidney Abbott 11


Troy Masters in Times Square.




roy Masters, a galvanizing force in New Yo r k C i t y ’ s L G B T media world for more than quarter of a century, is leaving Gay City News, a publication he founded and where he serves as associate publisher, to launch a biweekly gay publication in Los Angeles. Masters, whose departure is effective August 21, will join Mirror Media group, the publisher of the Santa Monica Mirror and five other community publications focused on West LA neighborhoods. There he will steer the launch of The Pride L.A., a biweekly newspaper that will serve LGBT-identified communities including West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Silver Lake, Echo Park, Downtown LA, and the campuses of major area universities. The newspaper will begin biweekly distribution with a print run of 20,000 in October and will also be available online at Los Angeles is new turf for the 54-year-old Masters, who was raised in Nashville, graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and has worked in New York-based LGBT publications dating back to 1989, when he joined Outweek as a sales representative. When that brash voice of the ACT UP/ Queer Nation zeitgeist went out of business in 1991, Masters launched


QW magazine, which published for 18 months until the death of his principal funder, Bill Chafin. Less than two years later, Masters was back in the game with the launch of Lesbian and Gay New York, or LGNY, a publication I first contributed to in late 1995 and where I became editor-in-chief in 1997. LGNY was relaunched as Gay City News in 2002, under the ownership of John Sutter, who also published the Villager, the Downtown Express, and later Chelsea Now and East Villager News. Jennifer and Les Goodstein bought that group of newspapers in 2012 and last year folded them into Community News Group (CNG), which has 11 other publications in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. CNG is the city’s largest publisher of community newspapers. “Not every publisher has quite as much luck as I have had over 30 years,” Masters said. “The progress for my media operations and the trajectory of gay rights have both been a sharp upward curve. I am thrilled to have this opportunity in Los Angeles.” Even as Masters recently changed his Facebook image to a graphic reading “Time to Reinvent Yourself,” however, he also voiced the tough choice he felt in leaving behind a venture now more than 20 years old. “As excited as I am about my new venture, Paul and I have enjoyed a privileged working relationship over the years and I will miss the productivity and brainpower that is evident in the pages of Gay City News,” he said. “We will continue to rely on one another. Gay City News represents my life’s work.” Having worked with Troy for just about the entire life of this publication, I know that he will be missed in New York, at Gay City News, and, in particular, by me for his grit and guts and his commitment to keep the LGBT press’ mission fresh and sharp. Los Angeles’ gain is New York’s loss, but I have no doubt

that Troy and I will continue to share our common commitment to serving the community, here, there, and across the nation and the globe.” Jennifer Goodstein, CNG’s president, praised Masters and predicted Los Angeles will soon be paying attention. “We consider it an honor to have worked with Troy and to have assumed stewardship of Gay City News,” she said. “LGBT civil rights have swept the nation in the past few years thanks to the decades of commitment and hard work by publishing leaders like Troy. He has left his mark in the New York LGBT community in so many positive ways. I am certain Troy is up to the challenge of starting a newspaper in Los Angeles and will make his mark there as well.” One important factor in the success of any LGBT publication is the support it enjoys from Rivendell Media, a New Jersey-based company that is the national advertising representative for virtually the entire gay market niche. Todd Evans, Rivendell’s president, is committed to Masters’ new enterprise and praised their collaboration to date. “I have worked closely with Troy for over 25 years and we are thrilled that he has decided to open an LGBT newspaper in Los Angeles,” he said. “Our clients universally see Los Angeles as a market they must reach.” Early word of Masters’ departure from New York sparked tributes as well from elected officials with strong ties to the gay community. “Through Gay City News, known earlier as Lesbian and Gay New York, Troy Masters has helped shape the fortunes of the of the LGBT community by providing an invaluable news and cultural outlet,” said West Side Democratic Congressmember Jerrold Nadler. ”Whether in New York or Los Angeles, Troy’s papers will continue to be the voice of the local LGBT community.” Brad Hoylman, also a West Side Democrat and the only out LGBT member of the State Sen-


TROY, continued on p.39

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |





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Kentucky County Clerk Continues to Defy Federal Court

Claiming religious objection to “ endorsing” same-sex unions, Kim Davis issues no marriage licenses at all


Karen Roberts and April Miller are one of the two plaintiff couples in Kentucky.



federal court has rejected the claim by a Kentucky county clerk that she can refuse to issue any mar riage licenses to avoid compromising her religious belief that a marriage can be only between one man and one woman. Judge David L. Bunning of the Eastern District of Kentucky, on August 12, granted a

motion for preliminary injunction against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis brought by two couples, one same-sex and the other different-sex. Bunning found that the couples — April Miller and Karen Roberts, and Kevin Holloway and Jody Fernandez — are likely to succeed in their claim that Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses to either couple violated their constitutional rights. Davis, represented by Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal defense firm, promptly said she would appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and she is refusing to comply with the injunction. Given the Sixth Circuit’s hostility last year to marriage equality, it is possible that it would issue a stay of Bunning’s ruling — if the judge himself declines to do so — while it considers Davis’ appeal. After the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling in June, the two couples sought licenses in Rowan County, but were told none would be issued to any couple. Rowan County Judge Executive Walter Blevins, when asked to issue the licenses given Davis’ refusal, said he was only authorized to do so when the county clerk is “absent.” Unlike some other states, where clerks have argued the law does not require them to issue marriage licenses, in Kentucky it is clear that

county clerks are supposed to issue licenses, so Davis rests her defense on the argument that she has a constitutional right based on the First Amendment and the state’s Religious Freedom Act to refuse to issue any licenses because of her religious objections to being seen to endorse same-sex marriages. The “authorization statement” she is required to complete on all marriage licenses, Davis argued, constitutes “an endorsement of same-sex marriage, which runs contrary to her Apostolic Christian beliefs,” Bunning wrote. Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat, tried to talk Davis out of this position, telling her she should resign if she is unwilling to perform her statutory duties. Davis insists she will serve out the remaining three-and-a-half years of her elected term. Davis also argued that requiring Rowan County couples who want to marry to go to a neighboring county did not impose any substantial burden on their newly-proclaimed 14th Amendment right to marry, as weighed against the significant burden on her freedom of religion in requiring her to issue licenses to same-sex couples. Her decision to deny licenses to different-sex couples, she


KENTUCKY, continued on p.20

Baker Denying Gay Couple a Wedding Cake Loses Appeal

Three-judge Colorado panel rejects First Amendment religious freedom, artistic expression claims BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD




unanimous three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals has affirmed that state’s Civil Rights Commission ruling against Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc., and its proprietor, Jack C. Phillips, for its refusal to provide services to a gay couple celebrating their wedding. The August 13 ruling continues an unbroken string of court decisions rejecting small business claims that they can decline goods and services to same-sex couples based on their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. According to the court’s opinion by Judge Daniel M. Taubman, in 2012 Charlie Craig and David Mullins married in Massachusetts and then returned home to Colorado to hold a wedding celebration. When they asked Masterpiece Cakeshop

to create a wedding cake for them, Phillips declined, saying he does not provide that service for same-sex weddings because of his religious beliefs. Craig and Mullins filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, invoking the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), which bans discrimination because of sexual orientation by public accommodations. After an administrative law judge ruled in favor of the couple, rejecting Phillips’ religious exemption defense, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission affirmed that decision, issuing a “cease and desist order” requiring the company to take remedial measures, including staff training, and to file quarterly reports for two years documenting all cases in which service was denied. Taubman’s decision makes no mention of any fine or damages in the Commission’s ruling.

A wedding cake Jack C. Phillips advertises on his website.

Phillips appealed to the courts, claiming he did not discriminate because of Craig and Mullins’ sexual orientation, but rather because he disapproved of same-sex marriages on religious grounds. He noted his willingness to sell the two men other baked goods and, some-

what facetiously, asserted he would also refuse to design a cake for two heterosexual men who wanted to celebrate their wedding. The appellate panel rejected this rationalization. Phillips was trying to argue he was not acting based on the couple’s status as gay men but rather their conduct in holding a wedding celebration. Taubman observed, “The United States Supreme Court has recognized that such distinctions are generally inappropriate.” Justice Anthony Kennedy’s 2003 opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down sodomy laws nationwide, concluded that a law criminalizing homosexual conduct is “in and of itself an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination.” And, Taubman noted, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s concurring opinion in that case said, “While it is true that the


CAKE, continued on p.20

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |



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3/25/15 3:56 PM

Charleston Pride’s Challenge:



Flowers left outside Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston.


Buddy Fisher was a solitary homophobe at Charleston Pride on August 1.



e was a lone wolf, delivering a message of hate to Charleston. Overhead, he held a giant banner proclaiming “God Hates Pride.” Still, that he was solo on King Street as dozens of floats and hundreds of marchers filed past him might be a sign of Bible Belt progress. Most marchers ignored him, a few got into shouting matches, while others posed with him for selfies, their own banners proclaiming God’s love for all. Charleston’s Pride is new, formed in 2010 after a smaller pride event moved to the heart of the city from North Charles-


ton’s Park Circle, the metropolitan region’s main gay neighborhood. Whether in Park Circle or downtown, though, Bible Belt sensibilities are never far off. The march was held on a Saturday, a Southern nod, locals told me, to the untouchable holiness of the Christian Sabbath. It was also strikingly full of church participation, certainly the highest percentage I have ever seen in a pride parade, undoubtedly a reflection of the deeply religious nature of Charleston, its skyline a riot of church steeples instead of skyscrapers. Families with young children added another wholesome touch. There were also the staid, well-built young women and men of the Citadel, a mark of the new gay pride normalcy since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’s demise. To be sure, there was plenty of Southern flamboyance, from rainbow fur -decked cars to leather daddies in clothing incongruous in the wilting, 90-degree humidity, more suitable for magnolias than masochism. Buddy Fisher, the solo protestor, came from several hours away, and runs a YouTube channel, Buddyfisher1. “I go to places where there is sin,” said Fisher, who targets not only LGBT events, but also Bourbon Street in New Orleans. He continued shouting against gays as we walked along King Street, claiming that at least five

Out LGBT mayoral candidate Ginny Deerin.

or six other protestors were also there, though I saw only two, lost within the well-wishers. It was another lone wolf’s message of hate that went beyond words into a massacre, which brought me to Charleston. On June 17, Dylann Roof stepped into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as Mother Emanuel, one of America’s most important historically black churches, and murdered nine church members in the downstairs community room, including senior pastor Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was also a South Carolina state senator. Pinckney’s murder meant — among so many things — that LGBT South Carolinians lost a political ally. Though he had voted against same-sex marriage, through his work on the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus, Pinckney was regarded as a progressive fighting against other forms of anti-gay discrimination.

Southern Pride in a Small City Gay City News doesn’t normally cover small Southern pride celebrations, but I viewed the timing of Pinckney’s death so close to Charleston Pride Week (which ran Saturday July 25 through the parade and festival the following Saturday, August 1) as a reason to visit. I had not been to Charleston in 25 years, but grew curious about

its LGBT community while writing an article for a major mainstream travel glossy on Southern states that had legalized same-sex marriage ahead of the Supreme Court ruling — a group that included South Carolina. The article was delayed in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling — and ultimately cancelled following the shootings — but I learned of efforts to make Charleston a major gay wedding destination center. These included the new Beau Magazine, published by Maria Rivers, which had a popular wedding issue, its cover graced by an interracial transgender couple. Timed for Charleston’s Pride was also Get Hitched Charleston, a gay wedding expo planned by straight couple and local events gurus Thomas and Becky Smith. Charleston is already one of America’s most important destination wedding centers, partly as a legacy of slavery. The city is ringed by antebellum plantations, many now used for weddings, a surprise to me as a northerner who associates them with brutality, not marital bliss. Important in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, which began in the city’s harbor at Fort Sumter, a tremendous pride exists among locals about the city’s special place in history. Rob Lewis, former chair of Charleston Pride Festival,


CHARLESTON, continued on p.9

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |

Bridging #LoveWins and #BlackLivesMatter c

CHARLESTON, from p.8 | August 20 - September 02, 2015


CHARLESTON, continued on p.14

Mother Emanuel’s new pastor, the Reverend Dr. Norvel Goff, Sr.


It didn’t rain on the parade, but it certainly rained on the festival. The soggy grounds were surrounded by tents of LGBT organizations, churches, and groups representing political campaigns, including Hillary Clinton’s, where festivalgoers huddled to escape the rain. This too was a very family-oriented space. In the intermittent hiatuses from rainfall, children, faces tattooed with temporary rainbow flags, gathered near the stage. Local drag personality Patti O’Furniture hosted, reminding performers to behave. (She and others saved foul language for the afterparty.) The raciest comment was a joke about Republican Senator Lindsey Graham — derided by some on the left and the right as a closeted gay man — from out gay local radio personality Mike

State Senator Marlon Kimpson, a headliner at Charleston Pride and a close colleague of the slain Reverend Clementa Pinckney.


Rainbows in the Rain

public accommodations and to be treated equally, and they deserve equal protection under the law, and so in that regard it’s the same.” Not everyone at the festival felt that there was enough coordination across racial lines. Among them was Dean Edwards, acting vice president of Pride Events for South Carolina Black Pride, an organization based in the state’s capital, Columbia. Originally from Bermuda, Edwards told me he remains surprised by the discrimination he has found in his new country. Edwards thought more minority representation would ameliorate racial issues within the LGBT community. He was particularly critical of South Carolina Equality, saying, “I don’t think they have any African Americans on their board at this time, and I think that’s become an issue. They went to lots of supporting agencies, and the agencies they serve are saying, ‘What do you know about representation? If you’re about equality, why don’t you have somebody, at least one person, on the board?’” He added, though, that the state’s LGBT organizations still “work together. We come support their event, they’ll come up to our event, but I think we need to come together as a whole and build some more community. When we had our Black Pride [in Columbia], we had Charleston Pride up there, we had South Carolina Pride up there.” He labeled the latter two organizations “white” and added that Black Pride has a white male board member. Charleston Pride has one mixedrace board member, Topher Larkin, of Thai and Irish descent, and one female board member, Paulette Wendell. Late June’s Black Pride was also the first South Carolina pride in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. Edwards and Pinckney were Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brothers at Allen University. Edwards, shaking his head at the loss, said, “He was such a great man, respected in this community and across the state.” On the seeming dissonance between Pinckney supporting


Inc., speaking of Charlestown at the Pride afterparty in the historic Memminger Auditorium, told me, “We tend to call it the jewel of the state.” The city’s love of art and culture, he added, “draws a lot of people who are more progressive, so it makes our LGBT community more accepted. It’s almost like it’s a non-issue.” He and Chase Glenn, Pride’s chief operating officer, told me a record 5,000 people attended the parade and festival, with 63 individual groups registered to march. Five hundred people were also at the afterparty, where out gay singer-songwriter Steve Grand was the headline act. All of this was an indication of how liberal Charleston viewed itself on LGBT and other issues. Yet with the killings receiving international attention, I wanted to see how the LGBT community was reacting. In this city where roughly 34 percent of the population is African-American and 63 percent is white, I wondered how integrated LGBT groups were. I also wondered how much outreach was done by the group behind the parade, Charleston Pride Festival, Inc., to recognize the tragedy and include the Emanuel AME church in events and programming.

Edwards, who called him “Miss Lindsey Graham.” “I pick on Lindsey all the time,” Edwards quipped. “We went out a couple times.” Out politician Ginny Deerin had one of the busiest booths. When asked about her sexuality, Deerin said, “I define myself as a proud member of the LGBT Community.” A Democratic mayoral hopeful, she had earlier participated in a Pride Week candidate debate. Deerin described Charleston as “interesting, and part of that is because we’re divers, and, it being a port city, we have a history of lots of mixing, lots of different people, lots of different cultures.” She added, “Whether you’re talking about the gay community or the black community or young people or even older black and white people, we like the mix.” Deerin called the LGBT community “a very powerful, robust group” with political power. Saying she had attended Mother Emanuel’s Sunday sermon just before the killing, Deerin recalled she was “maybe the only white person in the congregation.” Because of this, she said, “Reverend Pinckney, he embraced me.” It was the last time she would see him. Another politician who knew Pi n c kn e y wa s str a i ght, Afr i can-American State Senator Marlon Kimpson, a festival headliner. From the stage, he spoke of strong linkages in the fight for equality between the LGBT and African-American communities. Of fstage, Kimpson told me Pinckney was “a giant” in terms of his political impact on LGBT issues. The two worked together in the Senate’s Black Caucus, including fighting to keep Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel “Fun Home,” and the musical it spawned, at local universities. “In the United States of America, we believe in the bedrock principle of this country that we’re all created equal, and generations have carried this to extend in different ways,” Kimpson said. “The same is true of the lesbian and gay community. They face enormous discrimination from the choice to whom they love, and so it’s a struggle for recognition of having a spouse. I’ll say a struggle for equal access to

South Carolina Black Pride’s Dean Edwards.



What’s the Future of Workplace Domestic Partner Benefits?

After SCOTUS marriage ruling, some employers see no further need to even playing field, but no clear trend BY PAUL SCHINDLER


ver the past two decades, corporate America — in many ways, moving out ahead of the nation’s political and legal system in responding to the needs and aspirations of their gay employees — increasingly embraced domestic partner benefits, including most significantly healthcare coverage, as a way of offering them some measure of rough parity with their straight married colleagues. Now that same-sex couples can marry everywhere in the US, some employers as well as experts in corporate human resources policy are asking whether it is time to eliminate a benefit that originated out of an effort to address the unequal status they then endured. In fact, even before the high court ruled in June, some major corporations such as IBM, Delta Air Lines, and Verizon had taken steps to end the availability of domestic partner benefits for employees in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage was legal. At this early moment in marriage equality America, however, there is no clear answer as to how this debate will play out. And that raises uncertainty for any couple who have lived together as a family relying on such benefits but are not yet certain they are prepared to marry. At a minimum, they need to be alert to the possibility that the picture could change. Data from a variety of sources point up how widespread domestic partner benefits are in today’s workplace — but also suggest how such benefits now serve a broader need than they were originally intended to address, a factor that could well ensure their continued availability. According to this year’s Corporate Equality Index, compiled by the DC-based Human

Rights Campaign (HRC), two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples., relying on data from Mercer — a company specializing in providing human resource management tools and analysis — reports that among “large employers” 74 percent offer same-sex domestic partner benefits. Federal Bureau of Labor data, meanwhile, indicate that 35 percent of all private sector employees work in companies, including both large and small businesses, that offer their gay and lesbian workers the option of domestic partner benefits.

Companies that offer the benefits to all employees, gay and straight, “are not doing anything” about curtailing their availability or even reexamining the issue. Clearly, then, size is key factor in determining the availability of such benefits. According to Todd Solomon, an attorney in McDermott Will & Emery’s Chicago office who specializes in corporate compensation, pension, and benefits programs, for large companies and those engaged in industries that fight for talent — think high technology — domestic partner benefits haven proven to be an important tool for employee recruitment and retention. So much so, in fact, that in a majority of cases where such benefits are offered they are available to employees in different-sex relationships as well. Among the Fortune 500 sample compiled by HRC, nearly two-thirds of com-

panies providing domestic partner options for same-sex couples also offer them to unmarried different-sex couples as well. Mercer’s survey of large employers indicate that 55 percent provide domestic partner benefits to any couple, with only an additional 19 percent limiting them to same-sex couples. And among all employers, 30 percent of all workers have access to such benefits regardless of sexual orientation, versus the 35 percent of workers at companies that target the benefit to same-sex couples alone. According to Solomon, for the most part, companies that offer the benefits to all employees, gay and straight, “are not doing anything” about curtailing their availability or even reexamining the issue. A domestic partner benefit option, for these employers, is seen as a competitive advantage in the labor market that more than pays for itself. One reason for that is the relatively low cost borne by companies offering domestic partners benefits. Bruce Elliott, a compensation and benefits manager at the Society for Human Resource Management, agreed with HRC’s estimate that they add only about one percent to the total cost of employee benefits. Solomon also said that estimate was about right — “two percent at the outside.” That low cost is due to the fact that a fairly small number of people sign up for them, largely, Solomon explained, because they are “tax-inefficient.” An unmarried employee must pay tax on the “imputed” value of the benefit enjoyed by their partner. Over the past decade, some of the largest companies in the most competitive industries — particularly high technology and financial services — began to offer increased compensation for gay


DOMESTIC PARTNER, continued on p.11


Two City LGBT Health Centers Win Obamacare Funding

Callen-Lorde’s Bronx unit, Apicha among 266 US health centers selected to reach underserved communities BY PAUL SCHINDLER


wo local health centers that focus their work on the LGBT community have each been selected for annual funding of $650,000 aimed at offsetting the unreimbursed cost of care that they provide to lower income clients. A new unit of the Chelsea-based Callen-Lorde Community Health


Center being developed in the Bronx and the Apicha Community Health Center, which serves LGBT and other Asians and Pacific Islanders on HIV/ AIDS and other health issues out of its Lower Manhattan home, were among 266 health centers nationwide that won awards from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration under the New Access Point program established by President

Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The goal of the New Access Point program is to improve public health in underserved and vulnerable communities by expanding access to culturally competent primary health care. Callen-Lorde and Apicha were among five health centers focused on the LGBT community and HIV/ AIDS issues nationwide — the others being in Chicago, San

Francisco, and Arizona — named as New Access Point awardees. For Callen-Lorde, the funding comes at a critical time as it works to put both capital and operating funding together for a primary health care unit it is opening in partnership with Boom!Health, a Bronx-based agency that provides a broad range of health, social,


OBAMACARE, continued on p.11

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |



and lesbian employees opting for domestic partner coverage to offset the tax penalty on the imputed value of that coverage. This is probably the most likely benefit to be eliminated now that those employees are free to marry and avoid the tax penalty they previously faced. Beyond that sort of special case, both Solomon and Elliott agree that the picture remains unclear. “It’s hard to generalize,” Solomon told Gay City News. “It’s way too early to say where this is headed,” said Elliott, noting that the Supreme Court ruling is not yet two months old. Still, both experts pointed to developments that suggest caution as a watchword. In addition to IBM, Delta, and Verizon, other major employers that have already clawed back domestic partner benefits include Corning and Raytheon, and Elliott noted that among public sector employers, the cities of Cleveland and Charlotte have announced they are ending their policies. Without mentioning specific companies, Solomon said, “I certainly have clients looking at that right now, and some are in the processing of eliminating such benefits.” Elliott pointed to a survey carried out by Mercer that indicated that 44 percent of companies currently offering domestic partner benefits responded they would not curtail them, but 23 percent were examining the issue, another 23 percent planned to eliminate the option in their next open enrollment period, and four percent had


OBAMACARE, from p.10

and legal services. Boom!Health, which currently has three locations in the Bronx, is opening a new 35,000-square-foot wellness center in the South Bronx, with the borough’s LGBT community a primary focus of its planned services. The group invited Callen-Lorde to provide the primary care piece in a multi-service facility. The health care unit will occupy a 3,500-square-foot suite on the first floor of a five-story building on Third Avenue near 161st Street. For health centers that offer care on a low-cost or no-cost

already done so. Elliott and Solomon agreed that for most employers the issue would come down to weighing the small incremental cost of offering domestic partner benefits against the benefits they offer in terms of attracting and keeping talent. In a competitive labor market like Silicon Valley, Elliott explained, where the workforce is weighted toward millennials, many of whom are delaying marriage but may be in long-term relationships, the calculation is likely to favor continued availability of domestic partner benefits for gay and straight employees. LGBT advocacy groups — despite the emphasis they’ve put on achieving marriage equality in recent years — are among the strongest voices pushing for the continued availability of domestic partner benefit options. HRC — arguing that such benefits, for gay and straight workers alike, are suited to an ever more diverse workforce — warned they are particularly important in those 28 states without nondiscrimination protections in law. There, same-sex couples may hesitate to marry because the public visibility of such an act might expose them to discrimination in other parts of their lives, such as housing. Michael Murphy, a spokesman for the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s LGBT lobbying group, essentially argued that LGBT family diversity should not be a casualty of marriage equality’s triumph. LGBT couples, he said, “should not be forced into a shotgun wedding to hold onto a partner’s benefits.”

basis, unreimbursed cost of care is a significant concern. According to Wendy Stark, Callen-Lorde’s executive director, the group’s two Chelsea locations on West 17th and 18th Streets serve more than 15,000 clients and have annual unreimbursed cost of care of about $5 million a year. She could not project what the comparable figure will be for the Bronx unit, but estimated that about 3,800 clients will be served there. Using the Chelsea unreimbursed cost of care as a guideline, $650,000 could represent a meanwhile share of the | August 20 - September 02, 2015


OBAMACARE, continued on p.16



Sixth Circuit: Marriage Ruling Irrelevant to Gay Equal Protection Claim Cleveland police conduct in case where two men allege homophobic treatment is upheld BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


Sixth Cir cuit Court of Appeals panel has found that the Supreme Court’s recent mar riage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges is irrelevant to an equal protection claim by two gay men regarding the way they were treated while being arrested in 2011. In an August 3 ruling in Ondo v. City of Cleveland, the panel found that police conduct in the arrest of Steven Ondo and Jonathan Simcox is subject to “rational basis” review — a lenient standard of judicial scrutiny — under which officials demonstrated they had a rational basis for refusing to let the two wear pants for the ride to the police station and during the booking process. The ruling stated that the police’s actions were justified “even if motivated in part by sentiments regarding homosexual behavior.” The plaintiffs alleged they were subjected to hostile treatment by the cops, who told them, when they wanted to get dressed prior to being taken away, that “faggots don’t wear pants in jail.” In her opinion for the panel, Judge Alice M. Batchelder found that Sixth Cir cuit pr ecedent required that the officials’ actions be subjected to “rational basis” review rather some form of heightened scrutiny that would have required a more demanding examination of the police actions. Deficiencies in the way the two men brought their suit appear to have made the city’s case even easier to sustain. Ondo and Simcox, roommates, were returning home after several hours of drinking at about 2 a.m. on April 2, 2011 when, according to Batchelder’s opinion, they “got into a heated argument outside their apartment building.” When a neighbor came out to confront them about the noise, Simcox told him to “fuck off.” “An altercation ensued between the three men,” Batchelder wrote, “during which the neighbor identified himself as an off-duty police officer.”


Six days later, a SWAT team showed up at Ondo and Simcox’s apartment to execute arrest warrants. Ondo and Simcox were not dressed at the time, wearing only boxer shorts, and they allege that when they asked to be allowed to put on pants, the officers said “faggots don’t wear pants in jail.” One officer, they claim, said, “It’s a house full of fags here.” The two men also allege they were dragged down to the police station in their underwear and not given jumpsuits to wear until well after they were booked, an allegation the trial judge concluded was contradicted by other evidence.

motion, and Ondo and Simcox appealed. The men’s equal protection claim, according to their counsel, boiled down to the contention that the police refused to let the men wear pants over their boxer shorts because they were gay, and this constituted unconstitutional unequal treatment. The plaintiffs argued that “state actions involving homosexuals should trigger some form of heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause.” The panel did not accept that assertion. “First, Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that the state action of which

“Plaintiffs’ grievance regarding being kept in their boxer shorts until the police could issue them jumpsuits, even if motivated in part by sentiments regarding homosexual behavior, still does not violate the Constitution.”

Ondo and Simcox filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Cleveland and 17 police officers in January 2012, but their complaint was deficient in not specifying factual allegations against individual officers. Even an amended complaint fell short on this. The city got several of the defendants dismissed from the case, so that it was narrowed down to the SWAT team members, at which point Cleveland moved for summary judgment. Responding to that motion, the plaintiffs alleged further facts in affidavits based on “personal knowledge and belief.” Those affidavits, however, failed to specify which facts were based on “personal knowledge” and which were based on “belief.” Accordingly, the city moved to strike the affidavits from the court record and the court granted the motion, ruling that only factual assertions based on personal knowledge provided a sufficient basis for the plaintiffs’ equal protection claim against specific police officers.  At that point, the court granted the city’s summary judgment

they complain burdens a fundamental right,” Batchelder wrote. “When the Supreme Court held that state laws against sodomy violate the Due Process Clause, it did so using the language of rational-basis review, rather than any form of heightened scrutiny. The Court did not hold that the Constitution includes a fundamental right to homosexual conduct.” Nothing in the recent Supreme Court marriage equality ruling changes that, she continued. “Whether the Court’s recent decision in Obergefell v. Hodges recasts engaging in homosexual acts as a fundamental right is irrelevant,” the judge wrote, “because the decision by the police relevant here does not impair Plaintiffs’ ability to engage in such conduct. Nor can Plaintiffs establish that homosexuals are a suspect or quasi-suspect class. The Court has never held that homosexuals satisfy the criteria for such classification.” Noting that “the Supreme Court has not recognized any new constitutionally protected classes in over four decades and instead

has repeatedly declined to do so,” Batchelder wrote, “Moreover, the Court has never defined a suspect or quasi-suspect class on anything other than a trait that is definitively ascertainable at the moment of birth, such as race or biological gender. In Obergefell, the Court was explicitly asked by the petitioners and various amici to declare that homosexuals are a specially protected class, and thus that government actions that disfavor homosexuals are subject to heightened scrutiny. But the Court held only that the Equal Protection Clause was violated because the challenged statutes interfered with the fundamental right to marry, not that homosexuals enjoy special protections under the Equal Protection Clause.” Applying a rational basis standard of scrutiny, the court found that the police provided an adequate basis for their decision to arrest the men and take them to the police station in their underwear — concern for the officers’ safety, as the two men were agitated and were being arrested for assaulting a police officer. That action, the court found, “is presumed valid and rationally related to a legitimate public interest.” Acknowledging that there might have been some anti-gay behavior by the police involve, Batchelder nevertheless wrote, “Plaintiffs’ grievance regarding being kept in their boxer shorts until the police could issue them jumpsuits, even if motivated in part by sentiments regarding homosexual behavior, still does not violate the Constitution.” Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who concurred in the court’s decision but differed with the majority about some process issues regarding the litigation, was the author of last year’s Sixth Circuit opinion, reversed by the Supreme Court in Obergefell, that found that the marriage plaintiffs’ equal protection claim was not subject to heightened scrutiny — for essentially the same reasons that Batchelder articulated in this ruling. Ondo and Simcox were represented by Sara Gedeon on the appeal.

August 20 - September 02, 2015 | | August 20 - September 02, 2015



CHARLESTON, from p.9

Sunday Sermon

CHARLESTON, continued on p.15

Tony Williams and Rob Lewis from Charleston Pride.

It didn’t rain on Charleston’s gay pride parade, but showers did dampen the festival afterward.



A pride banner serendipitously mounted near Mother Emanuel.


A view from the street in Charleston might have given the impression Mother Emanuel was deeply involved in Pride. At the time of my visit, a giant banner straddled Calhoun Street directly in front of its steeple. It was the only public advertisement in the city center about Pride, and to an outsider it looked as though the church had placed it there. Instead, as Williams explained to me, it is coincidentally the city’s only central district public banner location. The sidewalk surrounding Mother Emanuel is thick with makeshift memorials. Flowers(real and fake), as well as palmetto fronds, sprout from vases. Teddy bears, flags, and ribbons adorn the adjacent fences, and enormous boards are affixed to the church’s double front steps where well-wishers have signed their names, many taking selfies as they do so. Though the crowd was mostly African-American, it was the most diverse gathering I had seen in all of Charleston, with locals and tourists alike paying homage to the dead. At the ser mon, I found as always there is no better-dressed place in America than a black church on Sunday. Mature men served as ushers, in black suits, white shirts, and red satin ties, their hands in white gloves. As the first Sunday of the month, it was a special Communion service, with many women in crisp white dresses, their heads adorned with glorious hats. I came expecting to stay an hour, but was told instead by a pew mate — a white woman who started attending the



Board members of the group, he said, attended vigils for those killed in the shootings, though he did not know of any attending ser mons inside of the church. Williams added, “We were devastated immediately after, but seeing everyone come together in the days and weeks after was very inspiring.”


LGBT anti-discrimination laws and simultaneously opposing same-sex marriage, Edwards chalked it up to his being a pastor in “a black AME traditional church,” adding, “Deep down in his heart, he didn’t have any dislike for what the LGBT community does.” That there could be more inclusion within South Carolina’s LGBT community was bor ne out in the festival’s crowd make-up. In a city that is one-third African American, fewer than 10 percent of the pride revelers were visibly from communities of color, whether black, Asian, or Latino. Jeff Ayers, South Carolina Equality’s chair, told me, “I think that we have a lot of work to do in reaching out to the African-American faith-based community,” adding, “That’s why South Carolina Equality is forming an African-American task force/ LGBT task force that is made up of nothing more than African-American individuals, activists that are actually going to focus on strategy on how to bring the African-American faith-based community into our LGBT movement.” Rather than highlighting divisions, Ayers pointed out South Carolina’s progress, from winning marriage equality to removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds. He said, “One group that always, always, 100 percent had the LGBT back is the South Carolina Black Democratic Caucus,” explaining that is why his group stood with them on the flag issue. Still, he added, there is “a lot of work to be done connecting the dots between the LGBT movement and the African-American, faith-based community,” something he said goes both ways, with many African-American church members often not understanding LGBT issues. Anthony Beckett, president of South Carolina Black Pride, told me by phone that his group and those like South Carolina Equality must “find commonalities that exist and

that bring us together.” However, he also said, “This is something I have been arguing about and pleading with them about for two years. You have no one that looks like us on your staff, not in a volunteer capacity or in a paid capacity. When they ask, ‘How can we get more black people, how can we get more African-Americans?,’ I was blunt and very candid: you have to meet them where they are and you have to have someone that looks like them on your team.” Perhaps partly for these reasons, it was clear to me that Charleston Pride struggled in how to commemorate the deadly shootings and communicate with Mother Emanuel. The group’s Chase Glenn told me that one plan was a moment of silence along the parade route, stopping at the intersection of King and Calhoun Streets, the closest point to Mother Emanuel. However, this was logistically difficult with its location beside Marion Square Park and along two major thoroughfares. Instead, a moment of silence was observed at the festival, announced from the stage. I missed this, perhaps because it was raining and I was under a tent too far away to hear whether silence had in fact descended on the crowd. In the midst of one of the worst cloud bursts, huddled together inside the VIP tent just offstage, I asked Tony Williams, Charleston Pride’s chief executive officer, whether the organization had directly asked Mother Emanuel to be involved in Pride events. Williams' answer was simply, “No we did not.” He added that, in response to the shootings, the group made an effort to increase the number of churches marching in the parade. When pressed on why other churches were asked to participate in response to the shooting but not Mother Emanuel itself, Williams said, “We didn’t reach out directly. All of it is to make sure they have time to heal. [The shooting] was so close to the festival’s timing.”

Yasmeine Jenkins, a high school singer, reflected on the difficulties of being black and LGBT.

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |


CHARLESTON, from p.14



church before the tragedy — we would be there for two or three hours. The service lasted more than four. I found the crowd unexpectedly mixed. It was in fact, the inverse of the day before’s Pride. While the large majority of attendees were African-American, about 10 percent of the crowd was white with a scattering of other ethnicities, including some interracial couples. After the sermon, Anna Marie Goff, the wife of Reverend Dr. Norvel Goff, Sr., who took over after Pinckney’s death, told me this became the norm after the shooting, with many whites wanting to express solidarity. Reverend Goff’s sermon was rich with humor, and he often invited members to come up and speak or sing. One member reminded us that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America, with blacks and whites still divided by the churches they attend. I was struck by the intense mix of joy and sorrow. Many attendees, mostly women, had their hands in the air stretched to God, at times laughing and shouting, at other times in tears. The lowland humidity seeped through the stained glass windows, women waving it away from their faces with heart shaped fans, gifts from another church. Goff spoke of overcoming adversity, reminding his followers what to do “when tragedy stops by your house.” Triumph is waking up to see another day. Empathy over whelmed me, and I found myself, at times, crying during the sermon. The next morning, I met with Goff to talk about the church shooting, Pinckney’s LGBT rights legacy, and Charleston Pride. Only days before, Goff received the Order of the Palmetto from Governor Nikki Haley, the state’s highest honor, for his leadership in seeing Mother Emanuel and Charleston through the tragedy. Most locals credited him with ensuring the community came together despite Roof’s desire to create a race war. Goff reminded me this was possible because “our faith in God was intact. So as a result of our faith, when we face tragedy and loss, we still believe and affirm our faith in God. And secondly, we embrace it to make sure that we can journey along this path, a

Southern speak for everyone is created equal.

Charleston newcomer Jennifer Maddox, a Wisconsin transplant.

path of grief, and then knowing the results after we journey through grief, there’s healing.” Asked whether Goff would continue Pinckney’s work on LGBT rights, he said, “Most certainly. I think there’s a role for the church and other communities in terms of organization,” adding, “Everybody has a seat at the table. We don’t exclude, we include.” Staring intensely at me with deep brown eyes ringed in a halo of light blue, he pointed out that the meeting table in his office is round, a place where everyone is equal. I had previously asked the church secretary, Althea Richardson-Latham, about the church’s LGBT membership, and both she and Goff knew there are a few. Goff explained, though, “We don’t go around asking folk, ‘here’s a list of things I want you to check off.’” I asked both of them to put me in touch with LGBT members who might want to be interviewed for this article, but none contacted me. Goff expressed an interest in Charleston’s Pride, and disappointment at not being approached by the organizers. “To participate I think is important, to participate and to be involved,” he said, continuing, “But it’s hard to be involved if you’re not invited.” Still, Gof f looks forward to future dialogue with LGBT groups, explaining, “I welcome that conversation,” and then reemphasized, “But no, we weren’t invited. But at the same time, I have no reservation at having them at the table too, because everybody needs to be at the table. Because we got a lot of

things that draw right through the line. I don’t think anybody should be discriminated. I think everyone should be valued, everyone has human worth.” South Carolina Black Pride’s Beckett, however, told me many African-American churches “will not accept or condone the LGBT community. They will not come out and say they are open and affirming.” He added, however, that “the whole of the black community is rooted in the church, so regardless of gender identity and sexual expression, you will find them in the church whether they are open or not.” He believes most black churches have LGBT membership in the two- to five-percent range. Assessing the ability of largely white LGBT organizations to create a dialogue with such congregations, however, Beckett said, “It is going to be hard to get the acceptance of black churches when you have no one that looks like them on your team.” While I did not have the chance to meet with LGBT AME members, I spoke at the festival with Yasmeine Jenkins, a 17-year-old Goose Creek High School student who sings under the name Lyricc, and knew two of the shootings’ victims, including her teacher Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Jenkins said being black and openly LGBT is “kind of hard because usually in black homes, traditionally, it’s like very church-orientated and a lot of times it’s not spoken about. It’s taboo.” Coming out, Jenkins said, was difficult at first difficult for her family “because it’s just not in our cul- | August 20 - September 02, 2015

ture, but once you love, love is love. When your family loves you and they support you, then it’ll be better for all of the black community.” Jenkins feels the tragedy has changed her city, explaining, “All of Charleston came together. It didn’t matter what your life was like, it didn’t matter what you did in the past. We all came together.” She added many people from outside of the South — and she could here have been talking about me — might “prejudge about us, how we are all like churching, all that country type” — assuming Charleston is home only to racists and homophobes. Instead, she said, no one beats Southerners “when it comes to loving each other.” She added, “The love is strong, and after the tragedy, Charleston has never been the same in bad ways and in good ways as well.” The conversation with Jenkins reminded me of one I had almost immediately after meeting Buddy Fisher, the solitary antiLGBT YouTube activist. A young woman named Jennifer Maddox was standing on the edge of Marion Square Park, holding a colorful sign with rainbows and nine seashells opened and arranged like butterflies, simultaneously a remembrance for Mother Emanuel and an expression of LGBT solidarity. Maddox, a recent transplant from Wisconsin told me, “It’s a mixed message” — about the killing but also about what can come of it. “There’s hate all around,” she said, adding, “but if we try, everyone living together, we can get over our differences and have places which are just.”



Nebraska Judge Throws Out Anti-Gay Adoption, Foster Care Policy Citing marriage equality ruling, court says officials must formalize practices they insist are fair BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


county judge in Nebraska has ruled that the state’s policy for approving adoptions of state wards and licensing eligible foster parents violates the rights of gay people and same-sex couples. Lancaster County District Judge John A. Colborn’s August 5 ruling invoked the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges but did not explicitly spell out why that compelled the ruling he made. The lawsuit was initiated in 2013 by three same-sex couples who had been told during the previous several years that they could not be certified to be foster parents because of a 1995 policy adopted by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) stating that foster home licenses may not be issued to “persons who identify themselves as homosexuals” or to “unrelated, unmarried adults residing together.” The apparent intent of this policy was to institute a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy under which staff would not ask about sexual orientation or marital status apart from inquiries already included in the


licensing application and home study forms. Ever since mid-2012, DHHS appears to have acted in fits and starts over the question of whether the 1995 policy should remain in effect. It was deleted from the department’s website this past February after a federal district court ruled that the state’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitution-

He found there is evidence that the agency, despite its disavowals, imposes a higher level of scrutiny on gay and same-sex couple applicants than on other applicants.

al, but the policy was never formally rescinded in writing. According to evidence introduced by the plaintiffs — including statements by some operational officials at DHHS — there is considerable confusion within the agency and among agency contractors about the status of this policy and gay couples continue to be routinely denied certification as foster parents.

OBAMACARE, from p.11

shortfall in the Bronx. Stark pointed to other benefits from the unit’s designation as a New Access Point, including eligibility for federal malpractice insurance and cost-based reimbursement under the Medicaid program. The federal government’s embrace of Callen-Lorde’s new Bronx unit is emblematic of an evolving view of health centers serving the LGBT community. In the late 1990s, when the Chelsea clinic applied for designation as a federally qualified health center — which improves the standing of a facility in terms of Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement — it was turned down due to federal government concerns about its ability to serve the heterosexual population. As a result, Callen-Lorde has always operated as a sub-grantee of another federally qualified health center. Today, in contrast, the federal government’s understanding of the unmet and underserved health needs of the LGBT community has advanced to the point where focusing efforts


Judge Colborn rejected the agency’s contention that removal of the policy from the website and the agency’s verbal assurance to the judge that the policy was no longer in place was sufficient to make this case go away. In fact, he found there is evidence that the agency, despite its disavowals, imposes a higher level of scrutiny on gay and same-sex couple applicants than

on other applicants. “Pursuant to the holding of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges,” Colburn concluded, the 1995 policy “should be stricken as it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.” Regarding the unwritten policy which has caused so much confusion, the judge wrote that state officials “have not argued, nor have

on this population is a public health priority. Underserved communities are identified according to a strict zip code formula, Stark explained, but in determining who can serve such an area once it is identified, cultural competence is a key criteria — and it was on that basis that Callen-Lorde was selected. The new federal money to support the Bronx unit’s delivery of care comes as Callen-Lorde looks to put in place its capital funding for buildout of the first floor space. The Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz, Jr., and out gay Councilmember Ritchie Torres, who represents a portion of the borough, each recently made available $100,000 toward estimated capital costs of $2 million. Gay philanthropist Henry van Ameringen has offered a challenge grant, matching dollar for dollar contributions of up to $500,000. For Apicha, the New Access Point designation is also a sign of evolution. Founded in 1989 as an HIV/ AIDS services organization, the group in 2009 expanded its HIV delivery care model to include general primary care, focused on LGBT and other Asian and Pacific Islanders, but also reaching other

they identified, any legitimate governmental interest to justify treating gay and lesbian individuals and gay and lesbian couples differently than heterosexual individuals and heterosexual couples in this review process.” In fact, he noted, the agency claimed it wasn’t treating them differently, but the testimony belied that assertion. At the same time, the agency made the laughable argument that the extra level of scrutiny on approving gay applicants was intended to “prevent bias against those persons.” But, the judge found, only successful applications that reach the agency’s highest levels are subject to additional review, not those that are rejected. “It is not logical that a procedure could prevent bias when it does not deal with placements that were rejected, or not recommended, during one of the previous four stages of review,” Colborn wrote. “If the Defendants wanted to prevent bias against gay and lesbian couples, as well as unmarried adults residing together, Defendants would review denials of placements rather than approvals of placements.”


NEBRASKA, continued on p.20

communities of color. Like Callen-Lorde, Apicha has operated as a sub-grantee of a federally qualified health center, but the new award puts it on the path to its own such designation. In a written statement, Therese R. Rodriguez, Apicha’s chief executive officer, gave credit to LGBT health care advocates nationwide for raising policymakers’ awareness of the needs of the queer community and the success groups like hers and Callen-Lorde have demonstrated in addressing them. “This is an important moment for the LGBT community,” she said. “With these awards, the federal government is allowing us to reach out to the margins of the community — LGBT folks, immigrants, people of color, and people living with HIV/AIDS — to make sure they receive healthcare.” Rodriguez added, “Apicha CHC could not be more thankful for the support we received along the way from hundreds of community leaders, elected officials, fellow community health centers, and funders. Their advice and letters of support have been invaluable.” August 20 - September 02, 2015 |








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Connecting the Dots Creates New Leadership BY MICHAEL ADAMS


fter the Supreme Court’s decision for marriage equality in late June, 26 million friends of the LGBTQ community showed their support — at least on that issue — by putting a rainbow filter over their Facebook profile picture. Ultimately, the freedom to marry and #LoveWins became a “sexy” way for new allies to express their solidarity en masse. It was easy — by clicking a button the supporter and supported both could feel good basking in the glow of new equality and community. I won’t critique the value of the effort– – I have to admit that when I saw the rainbow over the face of my staunchly Catholic straight cousin, it meant a lot.

Stepping Out for LGBT Elders of Color in New York It’s not surprising that the country’s first full-fledged senior center for LGBT elders is located in Chelsea. The historical roots of New York City’s modern LGBT community, and of SAGE itself, are located right down the street in the West Village. Many elders from the Stonewall generation still live, as they have for decades, in the rent-controlled walk-up apartments that remain in these neighborhoods. While this is SAGE’s historical backyard, we also recognize that many of those who most need senior center services are LGBT elders of color — who live at the intersection of LGBTQ identity, race, advanced age, and in many cases poverty. Yet, for the most part, that’s not who was

We save our deepest awe and respect for leaders who put a powerful stake in the ground for LGBT elders living at the intersection of sexual and gender identity, race, age, and class. But the gritty work that forges equity at the deepest crossroads of disenfranchisement and marginalization in our society often isn’t so sexy. What it takes to be an ally isn’t as easy as momentary solidarity and the click of a button. It takes commitment and sacrifice — putting a real stake in the ground. That’s why it’s noteworthy that at SAGE in recent years we’ve seen the emer gence of true new leaders in the struggle for dignity and equity for LGBT elders. Even more importantly, some of the most game-changing new leaders have come from outside LGBT communities. These stories of new leadership are a tribute to the courage and vision of new leaders for our cause — individuals who know how to “connect the dots” of social justice and are willing to do so. The stories also reflect emerging strategies of SAGE and other diverse elder communities — strategies that recognize how systems of oppression and privilege intersect, and turn that recognition into powerful action for change and greater equity.

using the SAGE Center in Chelsea. The fact is that, apart from the valiant efforts of GRIOT Circle, the country’s only LGBT elders of color organization, the needs of LGBT elders of color have largely been disregarded. Most elders want to age in place — by continuing to reside in their neighborhoods and communities. For the vast majority of New York City’s LGBT elders of color, that means Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens — not Chelsea. SAGE’s recent advocacy efforts on behalf of low-income LGBT elders of color across New York City have attracted important new leaders to our cause. Support for our work historically has come predominantly from older white gays and lesbians and a small group of New York City Council members who make up the LGBT Caucus and understand the needs of the city’s LGBT communities. The successful advocacy for public funding for SAGE Centers across New York City broke the mold in part because the advocacy effort was led by Councilmember Ritchie Torres. True, Councilmember Tor-

res is gay and a member of the LGBT Caucus. But he’s also young (at 27, the youngest member of the City Council), of Puerto Rican descent, a lifelong resident of the Bronx, and a champion of the city’s public housing that he was raised in. As somebody who connects the dots and understands the value of services that reflect the needs of diverse communities, Ritchie Torres clearly represents an important new leader for the cause of LGBT elders. Even more striking is the crucial political support for the citywide LGBT elder initiative that came from the New York City Council as a whole, led by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The speaker is not a member of the LGBT community. But she is a progressive Latina leader who has become a powerful and visible champion for a New York City that prioritizes the needs of low-income people of color and who has argued forcefully for an equitable allocation of resources across the city’s neighborhoods. The combination of the speaker’s intersectional values and SAGE’s intersectional strategies resulted in the City Council making an unprecedented $1.5 million investment to open five new LGBT senior centers in Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.

Diverse Elder Communities Stand Up for Each Other at the National Level Fortunately, this isn’t just a New York City story. In 2010, SAGE joined with leading people of color aging organizations like the National Hispanic Council on Aging and the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging to form the Diverse Elders Coalition, a national collaborative that engages in policy advocacy and community education on behalf of low income LGBT and people of color elders. For participating people of color organizations, the formation of the Coalition represented a decision to formally embrace LGBT older people and their needs as an important part of a diverse elder agenda. For SAGE, joining the Coalition meant that issues like immigration reform, language competency in aging services, and disenfranchisement of Native American elders needed to become part of our advocacy agenda. Thus, when the National Indian Council on Aging and other people of color aging organizations confronted seri-


LEADERSHIP, continued on p.22

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |


The Young Lords Retake New York… With a Little Help from Johanna Fernandez BY SUSIE DAY


or five years, Johanna Fernandez, history professor at Baruch College, worked to set up three separate art installations around New York City, one of which she curated. She worked, without funding, to tell the story of the Young Lords, a 1960s, mostly Puerto Rican street gang that morphed into a revolutionary action group inspired by the Black Panther Party. Late this July, “¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York,” opened at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, at El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, and at Loisaida Inc. on the Lower East Side. I have a hard time with political nostalgia; it can come off as romanticized rhetoric and transform a worthy and dimensional cause into a cartoon. But there’s nothing flat or cartoonish about the exhibit at the Bronx Museum. Curated by Fernandez with Yasmin Ramirez, this wing of the three-site show is an elegant explosion of radical history. It’s also a deeply felt dedica-

tion to Puerto Ricans who, leaving US-induced poverty on the island, came to this city looking for a better life, only to become New York’s next source of cheap labor. True crime pundits are all over “the militant ‘60s.” Maybe you’ve heard about the infamous 1970 Young Lords takeover of Lincoln Hospital from the “thugs-’n-drugs” perspective of the mainstream media? Go, then, to this exhibit to see that takeover through the eyes of people who desperately needed better working conditions and medical care. Go to all three exhibits to understand the effort and heart it took to keep the Palante newspaper going, to watch footage of Young Lords — kids, mostly — occupying an East Harlem church, setting up free food programs, free clinics, giving poetry readings, teaching history lessons. Read the Young Lords Party’s “13 Point Program and Platform,” that included self-determination for all Latinos, community control, the full equality of women. Two generations later, how did Johanna Fernandez get interested enough in this slightly obscure

A painting by Sophia Dawson exhibited at the Bronx Museum of the Arts in an installation of art that tells the story of the Young Lords and was curated by Johanna Fernandez. | August 20 - September 02, 2015

The Young Lords Party’s “13 Point Program and Platform,” as displayed at the Bronx Museum of the Arts and photographed by Camilo, a 20-something man who came to New York from Colombia.

group to memorialize it in what she calls a five-year “labor of love?” Like the Young Lords, Fernandez has a history. Here’s what she told me about herself:

Johanna Fernandez: I grew up in the Bronx during the crack epidemic, at the height of the urban crisis. My parents are immigrants from the Dominican Republic, working-class people, and I became radicalized in part because of my dual identity. At home, I was in the little Dominican Republic, but even though Dominicans are among the darkest people in Latin America, they don’t consider themselves black. In the world, though, in the public sphere, I was identified as black. So the double-consciousness I had to develop at a very early age made me wonder about how these different ways of understanding the world coexist. My parents weren’t political at all. My father was orphaned when he was eight. But although he came here fleeing poverty and a dictator, my father had developed a real-

ly moral core, a sense that a few people shouldn’t have such great wealth while so many have so little. I think I decided when I was young to become a professor because it would allow me to understand the world and its problems. I knew absolutely nothing of what it would take to become a professor. My mother graduated high school, my father has a thirdgrade education, and I started work when I was like 14, as soon as I got my papers. But I interviewed my professors and asked them, ‘What exactly is this thing called a PhD and what do you do to get there?’ I didn’t even know what an Ivy League school was. But my history teacher had gone to Brown, so she recruited me to apply there. So I got to Brown, coming from the Bronx, and the class and race differences were epic. I studied black women writers, so African-American literature and history were critical to my political evolution.


SNIDE LINES, continued on p.23



KENTUCKY, from p.6

explained, demonstrates her unwillingness to discriminate against same-sex couples. Bunning rejected Davis defense, first pointing out that the plaintiffs are “long-time residents who live, work, pay taxes, vote, and conduct other business in Morehead,” the county seat, and so are entitled to prefer getting their licenses locally. He noted that 57 of the state’s 120 elected county clerks have petitioned for legislation allowing them to refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples. “If this Court were to hold that Davis’ policy did not significantly interfere with the right to marry, what would stop the other 56 clerks from following Davis’ approach?,” asked Bunning, who concluded that if the practice became widespread, it could become a “substantial interference” with what the Supreme Court has found to be a “funda-


CAKE, from p.6

[challenged sodomy law] applies only to conduct, the conduct targeted by this law is conduct that is closely correlated with being homosexual. Under such circumstances, [the] law is directed toward gay persons as a class.” Taubman also invoked the New Mexico Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling that rejected Elane Photography’s claim that it could refuse wedding photography services to a lesbian couple. “Masterpiece admits that it refused to serve Craig and Mullins ‘because of’ its opposition to persons entering into same-sex marriages, conduct which we conclude is closely correlated with sexual orientation,” Taubman wrote. “Therefore, even if we assume that CADA requires plaintiffs to establish an intent to discriminate… the [administrative law judge] reasonably could have inferred from Masterpiece’s conduct an intent to discriminate against Craig and Mullins ‘because of’ their sexual orientation.”


Taubman’s opinion also made short shrift of Phillips’ claim that designing a cake is artistic expression protected by the First Amendment. “To the extent that the public infers from a Masterpiece wedding cake a message celebrating samesex marriage, that message is more likely to be attributed to the customer than to Masterpiece,” he wrote. And Taubman noted, “Phillips denied Craig’s and Mullin’s request without any discussion regarding the wedding cake’s design or any possible written inscriptions,” so it is unclear exactly what speech he would be “compelled” to engage in when decorating the cake. On Phillip’s religious free exercise claim, the court noted that under established Supreme Court precedent, an individual is not excused by their religious beliefs from complying with neutral laws of general application. Under that standard, because the CADA — the state’s anti-discrimination act, which furthers the state’s legitimate interest in eliminating discrimination in

NEBRASKA, from p.16

The court found that the agency acknowledged that there was “no child welfare interest advanced by treating gay and lesbian persons differently from heterosexual persons in decisions regarding licensing or placement in foster or adoption homes.” That being the case, Colborn once again cited the requirements of Obergefell v. Hodges in bolstering his decision. The court ruled that the agency must treat gay


mental right.” “There are individuals in this rural region of the state who simply do not have the physical, financial, or practical means to travel” long distances to secure a license, Bunning observed. Davis’ free exercise rights, he concluded, do not outweigh the state’s interest in upholding the rule of law, under which the plaintiffs were entitled to get marriage licenses.  Bunning also disagreed with Davis’ argument that the “authorization statement” on the marriage license form implied or communicated that she approves of same-sex marriage. It is merely a statement that the applicants are legally qualified to marry, he found. Davis also attempted to assert a free speech claim under the First Amendment, which Bunning quickly disposed of by pointing to Supreme Court precedents holding that public employees speaking in their official capacity do not enjoy such individual protection. The “speech” Davis

is objecting to, he found, is state speech, not Davis’ speech. “The State prescribes the form that Davis must use in issuing marriage licenses,” Bunning wrote. “She plays no role in composing the form, and she has no discretion to alter it.” Bunning also rejected her argument that requiring her to issue licenses imposes a constitutionally forbidden “religious test” for her to be a public employee. “The State is not requiring Davis to express a particular religious belief as a condition of public employment,” he wrote, pointing out that what the state does require is that “all state officials” must “swear an oath to defend the US Constitution.” Bunning gave Davis a short deadline to file an application for a stay, and if he refuses one, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals would be the next recourse for her and Liberty Counsel. In the meanwhile, she continues in her refusal to honor Bunning’s injunction.

places of public accommodation — is such a law, no business or individual can claim a religious exemption from complying with it. The only exemption generally recognized under the law is for religious orga-

Under established Supreme Court precedent, an individual is not excused by their religious beliefs from complying with neutral laws of general application.

nizations that claim an exemption from anti-discrimination laws, for example, in their hiring those who perform religious functions. Shortly after the opinion was released, Phillips’s attorney, Jeremy D. Tedesco, announced that an appeal to the Colorado Supreme

and non-gay applicants the same, and same-sex and different-sex couples the same. Of course, in the post-Obergefell world, the state and its agencies must treat married same-sex couples the same as married different-sex couples as a matter of constitutional law. Specifically, Colborn ruled that the agency must formally rescind the 1995 policy and replace it with a memo stating a constitutionally appropriate version of an inclusive policy. The absence of a written policy clearly creates con-

Court would be attempted, though that does not guarantee that review will be granted. T edesco is fr om the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal defense group, so Phillips does not bear the expense of continuing the litigation. The Washington Times, however, reported that supporters of Phillips have launched a crowd-funding drive to defray his expenses. Craig and Mullins are represented by Paula Greisen of King & Greisen, a Denver firm, with Mark Silverstein and Sara Neel, Denver attorneys, and Ria Tabacco Mar, a New York attorney. The Civil Rights Commission is represented by the state attorney general’s office. Numerous amicus briefs were filed with the court from groups including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and groups representing small business associations and religious organizations.

fusion within the agency and may provide too much unguided discretion to lower level agency functionaries to discriminate against gay applicants, Colborn found. Given the state’s reluctant acquiescence to Obergefell and Republican Governor David Heineman’s opposition to gay rights in general and gay parenting in particular, it seems likely the state will pursue an appeal of Colborn’s decision, notwithstanding DHHS claims of acting even-handedly. August 20 - September 02, 2015 | | August 20 - September 02, 2015



Read the Riot Act to “Stonewall”? BY ED SIKOV


e’re at each other’s throats again. It happens, as John Wayne’s character says in my favorite western, “The Searchers,” “just as sure as the turnin’ of the earth.” Trans folks are up in arms against gay men, white people are angry at people of color, and this time — absurdly — it’s all because of a movie trailer. Roland Emmerich, who directed the blockbuster action pictures “Independence Day” (1996) and “White House Down” (2013) and who is openly gay, has a new film coming out: “Stonewall,” a fictionalized account of the violent birth of the modern LGBT rights movement. With a screenplay by the supertalented out gay playwright Jon Robin Baitz (“Other Desert Cities” and many more), “Stonewall” centers on a young gay man from the heartland, Danny Winters (played by Jeremy Irvine), who gets kicked out by his parents, lands in New York City, and finds friendship with street people and an awakened political consciousness that culminates with him throwing a brick at the Stonewall Riots. What’s wrong with that, you may be asking. Well, for starters, Emmerich, Baitz, and Irvine are all white. They’re also all men. And as we all (should) know, many of the brick-hurlers and cop-punchers at the Stonewall Riots were what we now call transgender and they were multiracial. Who threw the first brick? I don’t know and I don’t care. At this writing, nearly 24,000 outraged people have signed a petition urging moviegoers to stay away from “Stonewall.” As the petition puts it, “It is time that black and brown transwomyn and drag queens are recognized for their efforts in the riots throughout the nation. From the preview alone, we know that will not be happening. Majority of characters casted are white actors, cis men play the role of transwomyn, and folks who began the riots do not seem to be credited with such revolutionary acts.” For those of you who live under a rock, like I do, cis refers to people whose gender identity matches the sex they were born with. I had to look it up. But the more I think about it, the more impressed I am


LEADERSHIP, from p.18

ous threats to elder workforce programs for their communities, SAGE made protection of those programs one of our policy priorities. Similarly, people of color organizations in the Diverse Elders Coalition have strongly supported SAGE’s efforts to make the federal Older Americans Act LGBT-inclusive. Here again, new leaders from beyond the LGBT community


with the locution. For those of us who aren’t trans, it’s time to stop categorizing ourselves as normal. No! We’re a variation, just like everybody else. We don’t think twice about categorizing trans people, so it only makes sense for us to have a category of our own, one defined along the same lines. I’m fine with being a cis, as long as the plural form is cissies. Emmerich responded in a Facebook post: “When I first learned about the Stonewall Riots through my work with the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, I was struck that the circumstances that lead to LGBT youth homelessness today are pretty much the same as they were 45 years ago. The courageous actions of everyone who fought against injustice in 1969 inspired me to tell a compelling, fictionalized drama of those days centering on homeless LGBT youth, specifically a young Midwestern gay man who is kicked out of his home for his sexuality and comes to New York, befriending the people who are actively involved in the events leading up to the riots and the riots themselves. I understand that following the release of our trailer there have been initial concerns about how this character’s involvement is portrayed, but when this film — which is truly a labor of love for me — finally comes to theaters, audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there — including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Ray Castro — and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day. We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance.” Into this battle — it’s bigger and nastier than a kerfuffle — barged Larry Kramer. Never known for his tact, Kramer posted a mini-screed on the legendary Peter Staley’s Facebook page. Larry’s shift keys are apparently busted: “don't listen to the crazies. for some reason there is a group of ‘activists’ that insists on maintaining their prime importance and participation during this riot. unfortunately there seems no one left alive to say ‘it wasnt that way at all,’ or ‘who are or where the fuck were you.’ as with so much history there is no way to ‘prove’ a lot of stuff, which allows artists such as yourself (and me I might add) to take essences and attempt to find and convey meaning and truth. i sincerely hope this boycott your film shit peters out. we are

have emerged to take up the cause of LGBT elders. Dr. Yanira Cruz, the head of the National Hispanic Council on Aging, has personally championed the first-ever needs assessment of Latino LGBT elders and has participated in LGBTQ conferences across the country. Quyen Dinh and Doua Thor, the present and former heads of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, have been powerful and vocal advocates for LGBT -inclu-

not dealing with another ‘Cruising’ here. keeping your film from being seen is only hurting ourselves. good luck and thank you for your passion.” By my reckoning, only one person really benefits from all of this fighting — me. Controversies like this are gifts to a media columnist. Ahem. Calling the thousands of human beings who signed the petition “crazies” doesn’t help. It’s hardly crazy to demand that a film based on history get the history right. And claiming that “as with so much history there is no way to ‘prove’ a lot of stuff” willfully ignores (at least) two well-researched books on the subject of the Stonewall Riots: David Carter’s “Stonewall” and Martin Duberman’s “Stonewall,” neither to be confused with “Stonewall,” Emmerich’s movie. If there’s a problem here, it’s a lack of imagination as far as titles are concerned. There’s not a lot of dispute about the key roles Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, a black drag queen and a Latina drag queen, played in the riots. There’s a Marsha P. Johnson in the movie; Sylvia Rivera not so much. (A little comedy relief: On one of the numerous occasions Marsha P. Johnson found herself in a court of law, the judge asked her what the “P” stood for, to which Marsha P. Johnson snapped, “Pay it no mind!”) At the same time, it’s hardly fair to condemn a movie before seeing it. Basing a boycott on a trailer is dicey; the purpose of trailers is to get as many people as possible to buy tickets, so it’s no surprise that the “Stonewall” trailer features many shots of cute-as-a-button Jeremy Irvine, including one all too brief moment when he whips his shirt off. Gay white men appear to be this film’s biggest target market. Hollywood makes films to make money. Whether the product is artistically and politically honest is and has always been a question of the director’s and screenwriter’s intelligence and talent together with a big scoop of serendipity. So at the risk of ticking off both sides of this war, I suggest that everybody cool down and wait till the film opens before denouncing or promoting it. I know, I know — you can’t boycott a movie you’ve already bought tickets for and seen. My advice to the boycotters is to send someone in as a spy, with a notebook and a penlight to take careful notes. It’s good to know what you’re talking about, even with movies. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter.

sion in national coalition work in the aging sector. These new leaders for SAGE’s cause have emerged not only as a result of their personal courage and values, but also as a consequence of an intentionally intersectional approach by SAGE and our sister organizations in the Diverse Elders Coalition. So, we celebrate the 26 million rainbow profile photos on Facebook. But at SAGE, we save our

deepest awe and respect for leaders like Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Dr. Yanira Cruz, and Quyen Dinh, who have put a powerful stake in the ground for LGBT elders living at the intersection of sexual and gender identity, race, age, and class. Michael Adams is the executive director of SAGE, Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and T ransgender Elders (

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |


My Life as a Girl, Experiment 2: Skirting Drag BY KELLY COGSWELL


t’s been years since I’ve had to put on girl drag to go to an office, but I still throw on a skirt occasionally. My current fave: a furry brown thing that I wear with stripey tights. Once, on a kind of dare, I let a friend dress me up in his colorful wig and silvery shoes, a rainbow colored unitard so tight it exposed my femaleness more completely than any clinging dress, and I unclenched my jaw and smiled for the camera, trying to find the drag queen inside me. The worst experiment ever involved a bunch of South Asians, a New Mexico Latina, some kind of glittery sari, and me. I’ve never looked so white and dykey in my life, though in some ways, yesterday was worse, even if all I did was put on a sundress. It seemed like a good idea. The mercury hit more than ninety-five degrees in Paris and I liked how I felt half-naked underneath the flimsy material that caught the faint breeze in the apartment. But then I thought about stepping out on the street, and I started to hate that same naked feeling. So first I put a tank on over the subtle black and blue print and pinned the bottom together with a safety pin, so I wouldn’t show my knickers in a gust. Then I decided to wear my invincible Doc Marten boots. After 10 more minutes waiting around for my girlfriend to send one last email, I panicked and changed into my usual denim cutoffs and bland gray tank of urban camouflage that neither cloaks nor advertises my dykeness or femaleness, but also doesn’t scream, “Look at me,” like most girl drag, even those navy skirt suits worn with sensible heels. It attracts male eyes, and with them comments. They could be flattery, or insults. Doesn’t matter. As a female, as a woman, your body isn’t yours. You aren’t allowed to clothe yourself for your own utility or pleasure, but always and only


SNIDE LINES, from p.19

I was in Brown’s first class admitted with a “need aware” policy. But the policy was reversed because they saw it was going to cost millions to finance students who couldn’t afford to be there. So we took over a building. This was one of the largest student protests in the 1990s. More than a thousand students took over University Hall — about 250 of us were arrested. See, I was fueled by the notion that my peers

for men and the women who enforce cultural standards. And those thoughts you were having, minding your own business as you were walking down the street, will almost surely be interrupted by some man’s banal sexual fantasy — or his desire to assert his presence, masking tyranny as a compliment. Sure, some women always have an easy retort at hand, but if you shrink in the face of what men no doubt consider harmless repartee, if you don’t reciprocate or appreciate their advances, if you actually rebuff them, then the banter is revealed as what it is, an exchange of volleys in a still lopsided war that I have shaped my life and my wardrobe to avoid. So when we queers talk about how gender intersects with identity and expression (which is such a lovely word), we might consider how misleading the whole conversation can be for plenty of dykes like me. After all, growing up, I was as comfortable in my Sunday school dress as in the tight white pants of my baseball uniform. I hated my body, of course, but most young females do. My self-loathing grew exponentially worse after I hit puberty at 12, not because I was horrified by an obviously female body, but because that body was subject to almost constant harassment. Even in jeans, I had guys touching me all the time, grabbing my butt, and following me home. I quit wearing makeup even on special occasions. During college, my clothes got baggier and baggier until I practically disappeared inside. Now I usually seem androgynous or masculine “presenting” when what I really feel is… whatever. Not human at all. A girlfriend once called me a brain on wheels, and that’s as good as anything. I didn’t choose my gender expression, so much as I retreated into it out of exhaustion and fear. Sometimes I suspect the occasional desire I have for a skirt or dress is a matter of nostalgia. Other times it’s to see just how butch I really am,

in the Bronx could very well have been students at Brown, but there was this system of race and class inequality that kept people like me from getting this incredible education.”

So, from the Bronx to Brown: the takeovers continue. Because, funny thing about that “system of race and class inequality”? It’s still around. That part of history keeps repeating itself, while unknown centuries of effort by people like Fernandez and groups | August 20 - September 02, 2015

Kelly Cogswell in girl drag — in a rainbow-colored unitard and wig, and in a simpler sundress.

or am not. Or perhaps it’s a desire to break out of my androgynous or masculine reality, which I imagine is what some cisgender men feel when they pull out their enormous high heel shoes and beehive wigs, wanting to be at least temporarily whimsical. Maybe even ridiculous. Because that’s the other thing, of course. How an egghead like me is forced into serious, more gender-neutral clothes not just to create a barrier around my little dyke body, but for the street cred of an activist and journalist. Nobody takes you seriously wearing colorful, girly clothes, but especially sundresses, sequins, feathers, tapestry, and/ or furry skirts. All those toys we female types are allowed to play with, but which come at a price.

like the Young Lords to stave off poverty, overwork, and psychic erasure vaporizes in the wake of high-rise condos in the Bronx and Old Navy stores along 125th Street. The lasting accomplishment of the ¡Presente! exhibits is that they’ve captured some of that history before it could completely evaporate. Who, knows, the exhibits may spur even a little change, themselves. A few days ago, my 20-something friend Camilo, visited ¡Presente! in the Bronx. Camilo came to this

country as a child from Colombia, probably a little after Fernandez took over that building. He texted me a photo he took of the Young Lords’ 13-Point Program, then wrote: “This is terrible. Such an amazing vision. We haven’t been able to make this happen.” Look for Johanna Fernandez’s book about the Young Lords, “When the World Was Their Stage: A History of the Young Lords Party, 1968– 1976,” due to be published soon by Princeton University Press.


Sadia, a lesbian outside the Fiat Cafe, a gay hangout across from the Malecón, the broad esplanade that makes up the sea wall in Havana.


A gay couple leaving Palm Sunday Mass.

A friendly child outside of church on Palm Sunday sports a Keith Haring shirt.

PERSON TO PERSON CULTURAL EXCHANGE IN CUBA Photo Essay by Donna Aceto | Last week represented an historic milestone in the Obama administration’s drive to end more than 50 years of US policy toward Cuba by normalizing relations. On August 14, Secretary of State John Kerry and Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the State Department’s chargé d'affaires in Cuba, raised the American flag over the new US Embassy in Havana. Even though the president’s actions in Cuba marked a sharp break from the past, in recent years more and more Americans have been able to legally travel there despite the overall embargo. Earlier in 2015, Gay City News photographer Donna Aceto traveled with Sante Fe Photographic Workshops, a New Mexico-based educational center, on what is officially known as a “person to person cultural exchange.”

Under the Fidel Castro regime, Cuba had, over many years, a deplorable record on gay rights and on the treatment of people living with HIV and AIDS. The new regime of Fidel’s brother, Raúl, claims things have changed, and in fact the new president’s daughter, Mariela Castro Espín, as head of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, has claimed to be the island nation’s leading LGBT activist. Many others, however, have grumbled that her work is window-dressing for a still hostile regime. It’s likely that as Cuba opens up to American travel, we’ll learn more about facts on the ground. What was abundantly clear to Aceto as she spent several days around Easter exploring the streets of Havana, however, was that visible LGBT life is part of the world that can be discovered in today’s Cuba.

A woman tries to keep cool as she has a smoke.

A cigar-smoking man sells the national communist newspaper Granma, while bicidrivers, or bicycle cabs, fill the streets of Havana.

A boxer working out Gimnasio de Boxeo Rafael Trejo, an outdoor public gym.

A manicurist peering from her office.


Convertibles, with driver, are hired out to tourists for the day.

August 20 - September 02, 2015 | | August 20 - September 02, 2015



Fringe Frenzy A distraught drag icon, a lost Trekkie, campy spider aliens, and a serious case of penis envy BY DAVID KENNERLEY

Divine/ Intervention




You might say the late, legendary Divine is having a moment. In 2013, the documentary film “I Am Divine” drew raves, scoring a 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. “The Simply Divine Cutout Doll Book” is listed for $600 on eBay. And now the demented drag diva (alter ego of Glenn Milstead) is the subject of the fierce, fascinating stage tribute “Divine/ Intervention.” 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 stressed out performer alone in a dressing room struggling with his inner demons and his irrepressible creation, Divine. John Waters’ cinematic muse will forever be infamous for eating a fresh dog turd in “Pink Flamingoes.” But she, or rather, Milstead (played to perfection by Ryan Walter), was so much more than that. This piece honors his struggle for legitimacy and his legacy. The concept is genius: On one side of the makeup mirror sits the rotund Milstead, bald and wearing a frumpy white T-shirt emblazoned with “Smile.” On the other is Divine (astonishingly evoked by Bobby Goodrich), wearing a shiny pink-and-blue leopard print dress, bleach-blonde fright wig, and garish makeup. Milstead wants to reboot his career by performing male roles, leaving Divine in a trunk. He’s tired of being the femme of filth. Divine, however, is having none of it. After all, People magazine named her Drag Queen of the Century. Why walk away from that? If the discombobulated Milstead is addicted to alcohol, pot, and pies, then Divine is addicted to fame. Their dispute is interrupted by a host of characters that animate Milstead’s backstory, including a sexy boytoy and a defiant drag host (an excellent Terrell Green), and a

Bobby Goodrich and Ryan Walter star in E. Dale Smith’s “Divine/ Intervention,” directed by Braden Chapman.

flighty personal assistant and a diligent manager (Cosimo Mariano). My only quibble is that “Divine/ Intervention” becomes mir ed in too much of a good thing. The squabbling and squawking at the play’s climax is so excessive it’s exhausting. Which, I suppose, is perfectly fitting for the ferocious, larger than-life drag icon that is Divine. Aug. 20, midnight; Aug. 24, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 28, 4:45 p.m.; Aug. 29, 3 p.m. Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project, 45 Bleecker St. at Lafayette St. Ninety mins.

The Universe of Matt Jennings Matt Jennings is an enigma — he’s black with “white” tendencies, Christian, a Trekkie, and likes to bang dudes. But he feels lost being an outlier. His agreeable, hour long solo show, “The Universe of Matt Jennings,” chronicles his voyage of self-discovery, drawing inspiration from the classic “Star Trek” TV series. Captain Kirk is his idol — strong, handsome, and fighter of evil foes. Early on we see Jennings as the captain, barking commands on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, then jumping to Spock, Sulu,

Uhura, and the rest of the crew. Flash back to his biological family. Jennings does an admirable job embodying his mother, father, Uncle Rufus, and Aunt Sophie, though the scarf he employs to delineate characters is not necessary. Sweet portraits of actual family members are flashed in the background. Growing up a misfit was not easy. With his crisp diction and pressed clothes, black kids called him “Oreo cookie.” Efforts to act like a thug backfired miserably. Ridiculed for being painfully skinny, he hit the gym. He discovered his gay side when he popped a boner watching a hunk in a “Star Wars” movie. “I want him to ride my dark side,” cooed Jennings. At first he tried to pray the gay away; then he discovered and his dad’s credit card. The show, like Jennings’ journey, can meander at times. But under the direction of Levi Austin Morris, what the piece lacks in focus is made up with heart and conviction. The 27-year-old actor is every bit as charismatic as a young William Shatner. Happily, Jennings’ search for his true identity leads to self-acceptance — a multi-faceted persona

Matt Jennings in his “The Universe of Matt Jennings,” directed by Levi Austin Morris.

19TH ANNUAL NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL FRINGE FESTIVAL (FRINGENYC) The Present Company Various downtown venues Aug. 14-30; $18 per performance Visit for more information

can be a pretty awesome final frontier after all. Aug. 22, 8:45 p.m.; Aug. 26, 5:30 p.m. Spectrum, 121 Ludlow St., btwn. Delancey and Rivington Sts. Sixty mins.

She-Rantulas from Outer Space — in 3D! Things go horribly wrong onstage during “She-Rantulas from Outer Space — in 3D!,” but thankfully, much of it is according to director Ruff Yeager’s evil plan. This 90-minute, gender-bending satire, created by San Diego’s Diversionary Theatre and co-written by Phil


FRINGE, continued on p.38

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |


Lily’s Turn Tomlin’s take on a hard-shelled, acerbic matriarch is fiercely funny, poignant look at familial sisterhood BY GARY M. KRAMER







ily Tomlin is both poignant and hilarious as Elle, the acerbic title character in “Grandma.” This enjoyable lark, written and directed by Paul Weitz, gives the veteran comedienne a juicy role, one she was born to play. Tomlin tears into it with the gusto of a pit bull with a chew toy. The film opens with an ending: Elle, a poet and “unemployed academic,” is breaking up with her much younger girlfriend, Olivia (Judy Greer). Elle’s deadpan comment about the relationship’s failure — “I need to vacuum” — is both funny and telling, completely brushing aside Olivia’s feelings while masking the deeper pain Elle feels but is perhaps too proud to

express. The story begins in ear nest when Elle’s granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), turns up on her doorstep hoping to get $630 for an abortion. Sage does not want to tell her bossy mother, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), about her pregnancy and hopes her grandma can help her resolve her problem quickly and discretely. Elle is sympathetic, but doesn’t have the money, having cut up her credit cards after paying off $27,000 in a late lover’s hospital bills. So, Elle and Sage embark on a day-long road trip to visit several women as well as a man Elle has known over the years who might be able to help out with a loan. “Grandma” is a slight, contrived story, but it yields many pleasures, most notably when Tomlin is dis-

Lily Tomlin as the title character in “Grandma,” a role she was born to play.

pensing bracingly funny one-liners, from throwaway jokes about “rapidly approaching 50” to quips about how assholes make her angry. For Tomlin, the film is more than just a fantastic showcase. It also gives her a chance to play a lesbian character who was part of the feminist movement decades before and now lives in a world where her own granddaughter

Marcia Gay



GRANDMA Directed by Paul Weitz Sony Pictures Classics Opens Aug. 21 Angelika Film Center 18 W. Houston St. at Mercer St. Lincoln Plaza Cinemas 1886 Broadway at W. 63rd St.

GRANDMA, continued on p.39




















Darkly Funny Denial Pat Mills’ own struggles with self-image inform his comic look at lost man hoping to survive as youth leader BY GARY M. KRAMER


uidance,” written and directed by Pat Mills, is an amusing Canadian comedy about David Gold (Mills), a former “gentle voiced” childhood actor now an adult in deep denial. Broke and ignoring his drinking problem, his stage 3 melanoma, and his homosexuality, David passes himself off as Roland Brown to get a job as a guidance counselor at a local high school. His inappropriate conduct with students — he does vodka shots with the teens to boost their confidence and trades alcohol for weed — generates many of the film’s laughs. Mills demonstrates some smart — and smartass — comic talent in the film before it takes a dark turn. In a Skype session with Gay City News to discuss “Guidance,” the filmmaker revealed that he wasn’t initially going to play David. “The plan was to cast it,” Mills said. The filmmaker himself had been a child actor on “You Can’t Do That On Television” decades ago, but he stopped acting when he was 13. He

returned to the industry about seven years ago to direct several short films. After producers saw Mills’ rapport with the teens auditioning for “Guidance,” he became their choice for the role. “Sleeping with the director for 20 years finally paid off!,” he quipped. David is a troubled man, which is what makes him behave badly but also makes him interesting. He suffers from a terrible self-image, particularly regarding his penis, an obsession tied to the denial of his sexuality. In one scene, he stands naked in front of a mirror hiding his junk from himself, a visual metaphor for his repressed emotions. Mills candidly acknowledged that his own negative feelings about his penis are reflected in the film. “I had a period where I was disconnected with it because I wasn’t using it for the right reasons,” he said. When asked about his journey to self-acceptance, the filmmaker puts his head in his hands, almost hoping to avoid having to answer.

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“It’s an ongoing process,” he admitted. “I’m not quite there yet. You learn confidence by putting yourself in uncomfortable situations over and over again. I agreed to play David to force myself to deal with my own image during a long editing process. No homosexual likes to hear their voice or see how they act. That was a step toward self-acceptance. In the process of making the movie, I got used to myself and sick of myself, and once you realize you’re not as precious as you think you are, you get over


DENIAL, continued on p.29

Privilege’s Inner Demons Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, Patrick Fugit star in dark tale of sexual politics BY STEVE ERICKSON




Directed by Alex Ross Perry IFC Films Opens Aug. 28 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St.


lex Ross Perry’s four films have shown the influences of such directors as Woody Allen and John Cassavetes. But they’re equally literary, drawing on writers as different as Thomas Pynchon and Philip Roth. His debut, “Impolex,” riffed on Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow.” His previous film, “Listen Up Philip,” dealt with the relationship between a young novelist and a much older one, seemingly based on Roth himself. Roth has always been hobbled by his work’s misogynist streak, which makes books like “My Life as a Man” and “The Humbling” unpleasant reads. While Roth is self-aware about his sexism, he’s not able to fix it. Dare I say that Perry is already better at writing female characters than Roth? While mostly a tale of male misanthropy, “Listen Up Philip” took time

Patrick Fugit, Elisabeth Moss, and Katherine Waterston in in Alex Ross Perry’s “Queen of Earth.”

out to devote a large section to its protagonist’s girlfriend, played by Elisabeth Moss. Moss reappears in his latest film, “Queen of Earth,” which devotes itself to relationships between and among men and women. It’s not much less misanthropic than “Lis-

ten Up Philip,” but it breaks more taboos along the way; women are supposed to be a lot more likable than these characters. Catherine (Moss) is about to depart for summer vacation. She really needs a relaxing holiday because she’s going through an

awful period in her life. Her father, in whose office she worked, has died, and her boyfriend recently broke up with her. She heads up to Westchester County for the lake house of her friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston). Once she gets there, she becomes preoccupied with her memories of the previous year, which she spent with her ex-boyfriend. Virginia spends a lot of time with her current boyfriend, Rich (Patrick Fugit), and the two wom-


DEMONS, continued on p.29

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |


DENIAL, from p.28


DEMONS, from p.28

en’s bond starts to crumble, especially since Rich seems to resent their inherited privilege. Moss, best known for her role as Peggy on “Mad Men,” sheds all traces of vanity in “Queen of Earth.” In fact, the very first scene shows her in a fit of rage, crying, and puffyfaced. It’s a state in which the film often finds her. Moss alternates between screaming and whispering. I watched the film on my laptop and occasionally wondered if there was something wrong with the sound, since it gets extremely quiet. The role puts Moss through her full emotional range. Starting with “The Color Wheel,” Perry has explored charged material in reasonably subtle ways. In that film, he created two siblings who felt that the world was such a horrible place they could only find comfort in each other’s arms — and, even less appealingly, via racism. The word “Jew” is never mentioned in “Listen Up Philip,” but Perry cast Jewish actor Jason Schwartzmann as his protagonist, and the film explores some Jewish men’s attraction to


your bullshit.” Mills delivers a strong performance in “Guidance,” and his flair for comedy generates many of the film’s laughs. David’s flustered exit from a convenience store and his rapport as he drinks with his teenage charges are very funny. The actor explained how he “found” the character. “Once my hair got parted and I put on those glasses, I became this manic, oddly caffeinated version of myself and Pee-wee Herman. Doing those scenes, we had not a lot of time. We had 10 minutes to shoot the convenience store scene, so I was manic, and that helped the performance. Because I was behind the desk and drinking all the [fake] vodka, I had to pee throughout the movie, so that informed my performance, too,” Mills said with a laugh. As a high school student, Mills admitted, he “was as awkward as it gets. I didn’t have any friends and I had really long hair. This was in the 90s, and my voice hadn’t broken yet, so everyone thought I was a girl. My name is Pat. That put me in an interesting spot in the hierarchy of high school.” Ironically, today, Mills gets along with teenagers better than he does with adults. “At family events, I always sit with the kids!” he exclaimed, flush with a sense of pride. Mills is an unabashed fan of teen films and

Pat Mills as a vodka-swilling, bike-riding high school guidance counselor in his film “Guidance.”

made “Guidance” for people who also enjoy teen movies. This may explain why the kids are the stronger characters — far more interesting than the teachers. He wanted “Guidance” to be a broad comedy, but more “specific and dark” like the American films “Welcome to the Dollhouse” and “Citizen Ruth,” from two decades ago, and the more recent “Young Adult.” He explained he admires those films

blonde shiksas. (Indeed, Moss dyed her hair for the role.) “Queen of Earth” examines class: both its female characters are wealthy, which makes the men around them suspicious. At various points, Catherine is described by men as a “spoiled bitch” and “stuck-up brat.” Compared to the men of “Listen Up Philip,” she’s a saint, but there’s some truth to the notion that she’s been devastated by the bursting of her father’s protective bubble. “Queen of Earth” captures the | August 20 - September 02, 2015

for “taking a dark subject such as addiction and immaturity and deal[ing] with it in a light way.” By that measure, “Guidance” is a success. The film creates a character whose downward spiral is played for laughs. Or as Mills confessed, “David comes from me at my best and my worst. He’s a fuck-up who really wants to help people. I felt like that in my life.”

light around the Hudson River beautifully. Perry depicts lens flares and the sun glaring off the water. However, the bucolic setting isn’t always so tranquil. Some of Perry’s framing makes the lake house look more like a prison. Its wood panels suggest bars, especially as he blocks Virginia and Catherine against and through it. There don’t appear to be any curtains to it, making one a prisoner to the sun. “Queen of Earth” evokes several classics of ‘60s European cinema, particularly Roman Polanski’s

“Repulsion” and Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona.” Its set piece, in which Catherine and Virginia give lengthy monologues in turn as the camera shifts focus to give each character a close-up, especially recalls Bergman. But it draws on another, more American tradition: horror movies in which people go to cabins in the woods and confront zombies or cannibals. In this case, the monsters are only psychological, but they’re still very real. Perry explores the downside of privilege with a rare precision.

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Brooklyn’s Finest a West Village Survivor Character actor Everett Quinton, an Off-Broadway essential


Jason Cruz and Everett Quinton in Erasmus Fenn’s “Drop Dead Perfect,” directed by Joe Brancato.



verett Quinton, an undoubted New York theatrical treasure and char acter actor extraordinaire, has had quite the busy year. He was wonderfully on point and true to leering form in “Horse Play,” the La MaMa bio of Adah Isaacs Menken starring a luminous Molly Pope. Great reviews came his way for a relatively straight, classical role in Red Bull’s “Tis Pity She’s a Whore.” And now he stars in the revival of Erasmus Fenn’s campfest, “Drop Dead Perfect,” recreating his role of Idris Seabright, the doyenne of a Key West estate, dealing with shady characters who are after her fortune and mysterious maybe-love interests materializing out of the blue on her picturesquely Gothic estate. Quinton is a longtime neighbor of mine in the West Village and how well I remember the thrill I’d feel whenever I would see him out strolling with his partner, the late, great playwright and performer Charles Ludlam, whose Ridiculous Theatrical Company was such an integral part of New York cultural life for some three decades. Meeting Quinton at a favorite haunt of ours, the Hudson Diner, I remarked on how wonderfully busy he’s been and he replied, “I just ran


into Kathleen Chalfant, and she said, ‘Isn’t it great? They still want us!’” Originally, from Brooklyn, Quinton is the second of 12 Irish Catholic-born children: “A friend of mine said, ‘We were poor but didn’t know it.’ Well, we were poor and we knew it!” My parents didn’t really know up from down and never encouraged me in my acting. Oh, but I remember for my first audition for the Gallery Players in Brooklyn, I was living at home and so nervous. My mother gave me a Valium. She died of a heart attack two years before I really started acting and my father died afterwards of cancer. I had just gotten into [Ludlam’s Wagner spoof] ‘Der Ring Gott Farblonjet’ and my name was listed in the cast in the New York Times. I remember taking that to the hospital and showing it to him. “They were stupid to have 12 kids, not really stupid because I have my brothers and sisters, after the fact, and it’s fun. But it was a nightmare, not only never enough money but never any joie de vivre, and unfortunately I’ve inherited that. I have joie de vivre, but I have to remind myself that I have it. In that sense, I am my mother’s son, a Sagittarius. I’m pretty introverted. I know a lot of actors who are outgoing. I’m not, maybe only when I’m with my friends.”

“I always knew I was gay, but didn’t come out until I was 23 and decided no more girlfriends. It’s funny because I was sexually active as a kid and used to cruise Prospect Park, still thinking I was the only faggot on earth. It had nothing to do with my being Catholic, I was just a dope [laughs].” Quinton’s main theatrical education probably came from childhood TV viewings of the famous Million Dollar Movie, which showed vintage features over and over in the course of a week. His favorite film is the wonderfully campy women’s prison opus “Caged,” and the two actresses, both in it, he cites with particular admiration are Agnes Moorehead — he’s flattered when, while he’s in drag, anyone compares him to her — and Eleanor Parker, whom he considers one of the most underrated performers of our time. “I never finished school, got a GED. I was at Hunter College, taking some theater classes, like improv. Then, one day, I met Charles Ludlam, cruising Christopher Street old-school style, back in the day when Christopher was the place. That’s why, in front of the Lucille Lortel Theatre, his star on the Playwright Walk of Fame is right there, where we met in a doorway. “I didn’t see him for six months after that because I lost his phone number. One day, I was walking past a restaurant where McNulty’s now is. He was eating in there and he came out and said hello to me. I still live in our Morton Street apartment.” What was living with such a fecund theater genius like? “It was many things. He was always thinking and writing, his mind never stopped. It’s difficult for me because I’m not really a writer. I get these thoughts in my head but don’t take the action to write, whereas Charles did. Unfortunately, at the end, he actually had two plays going at once, neck and neck in his head, ‘Houdini’ and ‘The Artificial Jungle,’ and we had to get just one play up. Crazy, right?” Was Ludlam fun? “When he was fun, he was fun. When he wasn’t, he wasn’t. He didn’t have one of those work ethics — like a certain number of hours a day to write. He was also an actor. He died on May 28, 1987. I observe that day by praying for him in church. I’m Lutheran now, out of the fire back into the frying pan [laughs]! It just happened. The pastor of my church was a friend before I went there. One day, I just decided to go. He was outspokenly gay and that’s not the opinion of the whole church. “When [Ludlam] got AIDS, we thought we’d


QUINTON, continued on p.31

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |


QUINTON, from p.30

made it through it, because then they talked about an incubation period. If you survived five years, things would be all right. We were coming up on the five years and he went to the dentist, who discovered he had thrush. There was a rapid deterioration after that, which was a blessing because he didn’t want to live sick.” Ludlam’s death came ironically at a time when he seemed to finally be crossing over into the mainstream with film and TV roles: “At his funeral, a filmmaker came up to me and said he had just gotten a callback for another movie and the director said the first audition was so energized, but at the callback he had no energy.” Ludlam’s funeral was held at St. Joseph’s Church: “[Artist and Stonewall veteran] Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt and Charles were buddies from way back. The priest was a young, decent guy, perhaps gay, and he was going to officiate. Tommy was sitting right next to me and he looked saw the vestments the priests were going to wear. He got up and went back into the sacristy, and threw a scene, ‘Do you know who you’re burying today?! Put some better vestments on!’ “That was nice, and then one of the cars broke down on the way to the cemetery and we had to pick up all the people from that car in ours. He’s buried on Long Island in St. Charles Cemetery, in his family plot.” Quinton does not have a favorite Ludlam play, “but the one I don’t like is ‘Hot Ice,’ about a crime family and cryogenics — they get frozen. It struck me as presumptuous. But with his ‘Galas’ [a spoof of Maria Callas’ life], I got lucky with Bruna [the diva’s faithful, wacky maid and companion] because I did half the work and got all the glory. I got the role because [longtime Ludlam actor] George Osterman decided to leave the Ridiculous Theater while we were rehearsing in Toronto. By then I had proven that I could act.” Quinton had the ultimate theatrical “aha!” moment in rehearsal for the show. “We were doing the tea scene when Charles throws a strawberry in the air and catches it. Funny

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scene. Honest to God, I don’t know where it came from, but I was sitting there, looking at him, and suddenly thought, ‘This fucker will leave you in the dust if you’re not careful.’ And that’s where my whole notion of what acting is came from. I always compare it to a horse race, two horses running neck and neck to the end. Luckily, Charles was very generous and liked to encourage people to keep up with him. You’re always funnier when you’re with funny people. “I had been acting for seven years by 1983, and Bruna was the first time that I really felt I was a good marksman, firing the shot.” When Ludlam died, the company went on under Quinton’s direction for another 10 years: “It was tough because I really don’t have any entrepreneurial ability. Now I’m smarter than I was then and would have done things differently. We certainly had a bunch of hits, like ‘Brother Truckers’ [a spoof of the Warners epic ‘They Drive By Night,’ with Quinton as the shrewish Lila Ballskin], but they just barely paid for themselves, and could never quite get us out of hock. “The biggest difference for me was I was once the big cheese and now I’m a little cheese and it’s kind of painful. It’s hard to go from starring roles and not feel like a loser. That’s my constant struggle, but every now and then a [role like] Florence Wexler in ‘Devil Boys from Beyond’ or Idris in ‘Drop Dead Perfect’ comes along.” Although Quinton has an agent, he said, “I can’t get arrested — no film or TV offers. I don’t know why. It makes me sad. I’m prone to selfpity and don’t want to get into that state. The thing is to have gratitude for what I have. Lots of people in the business feel this way, but it’s especially bad for drag queens. For all of the acceptance that has come to us, we are still not considered employable, unless you got a gimmick like Barry Humphries [aka Dame Edna Everage].” | August 20 - September 02, 2015



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Desert Arts

This year’s Santa Fe Opera summer offerings BY DAVID SHENGOLD




anta Fe Opera, perhaps North America’s most memorably set opera venue, is a joy to visit even when productions vary in quality. A recent stay (August 3-7) started iffily but quickly took on substance and allure. “La fille du regiment” and “Rigoletto” both utilized junk heap-style sets that made one’s eyes seek out the gorgeous desert and skies for relief. Ned Canty, in his program essay, cited French revolutionary barricades — a strictly urban phenomenon — for Donizetti’s comedy set in rural Swiss Tyrol. Promising to mine “Fille”’s romantic side by restoring dialogue, he instead unleashed a barrage of familiar provincial shtick and “bad television” verbal delivery that sank all but the piece’s best numbers. Though wise to leave the high-lying parts behind, dynamic tenor Alek Shrader as Tonio sounded in a different vocal league than all his colleagues, with precise, musical phrasing and consistent legato. Anna Christy’s thin soubrette timbre and Chenoweth-style grating dialogue undermined her sincere efforts as Marie. Speranza Scappucci supported capably. In “Rigoletto,” Lee Blakely’s direction stumbled often, fostering orgiastic upstaging and rotating visual clutter. Decisions seemed profoundly unmusical and senseless. Two examples: Rigoletto sings the ravishing “Ah! veglia, o donna” while throttling Giovanna’s neck; Gilda, meanwhile, who responds in the same musical figure, is mystifyingly offstage. Giovanna stole focus for the entire scene. Later, when the jester reveals to the scoffing courtiers that the “mistress” they have abducted is his daughter, they guffaw — making nonsense of his desperate, “Why don’t you laugh?’ Fortunately, the two superb leads — Quinn Kelsey, a genuine Verdi baritone who welcomely focused on bound legato, not barnstorming, and Georgia Jar-

Alex Penda in Daniel Slater’s production of “Salome” at Santa Fe Opera.

man’s lovely Gilda, skilled in staccati — won deserved ovations. Bruce Sledge’s Duke, not especially seductive in manner or timbre, brought skilled musicianship and ease in high tessitura. Peixin Chen (Sparafucile) proved very capable. The Maddalena and Monterone undermined festival standard. Vocal standouts in smaller roles: Jarrett Ott (Marullo) and Michael Adams (Court Usher).

Out composer Jennifer Higdon rose respectably to the daunting challenge of a first opera — moreover, one based on Charles Frazier’s widely read 1997 Civil War epic “Cold Mountain,” already — questionably — filmed. Librettist Gene Scheer and brilliant direction by Leonard Foglia helped substantially, achieving through crosscutting flow what Frazier related in ultra-discursive, stream-of-consciousness style. Higdon’s strength lies in finely textured lyrical orchestration and punctuation. Skirmish scenes sometimes evoked Prokofiev’s dark “Semyon Kotko.” Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducted the respectable if rarely plush festival orchestra tautly. Higdon clearly relishes vocal ensembles; several scenes suggested an arioso-fueled “Dialogues of the Confederates,” though her vocal lines evoke Barber more than Poulenc. The separated central couple — the deserter Inman

(Nathan Gunn) and his quasi-sweetheart Ada back home in North Carolina — often participate in duos, plus a trio and quintet, while physically remote. Words were quite clearly set — and best delivered by two Broadway-caliber actors whose tenors tend to dryness and judder, Roger Honeywell as a strayed, horny clergyman and clarion Jay Hunter Morris as the deserter-hunting Teague. Scheer somewhat conventionalizes this obsessed figure by making him a Jack Rance-style active rival for Ada’s hand — and her farm, which in female solidarity the hardscrabble mountain-bred Ruby has helped her sustain. Emily Fons excelled as Ruby, wide-ranging, charismatic and moving. Her fellow mezzo Isabel Leonard initially failed to put across Ada’s words, and her “complicated” upper middle timbre limited the effectiveness of soaring lines. Yet Leonard grew in conviction, showing chemistry with Nathan Gunn’s Inman. Like his male colleagues, Gunn, under pressure, evidenced dry vibrato churn. But softer, less exposed passages were beautifully done and — though scarcely looking less boy-next-door or recognizable as the 1864 “shell” than in recollected pre-war scenes — he gave a serious, compelling performance of a man unwillingly steeped in violence.

Wisely, Scheer deleted nearly all of Frazier’s heavy-handed “Odyssey” references — and re-mixed the identities and qualities of the women Inman encounters on his journey home. This enabled splendid cameo turns by two excellent, individual-timbred mezzos: Chelsea Basler, as a needy single mother, and Deborah Nansteel, as a resourceful runaway slave. Lucinda — merely described in the novel — here has agency and bears witness to an African-American perspective. Oddly excluded from a New Mexico-premiered opera was Frazier’s poignant evocation of the exploited, expelled Native Americans, whose absence haunts the land — and Inman in particular. Kevin Burdette — a self-indulgent shtickmeister as “Fille”’s Sulpice — her e showed genuine commitment to building two very different characters, a blind seer and Ruby’s wastrel-redeemed-through-music father Stobrod. Though idiomatic, Higdon’s rendering of his fiddling proved less than magical; tweaking is needed. Ending an epic’s tough; some re-sorting may alleviate a sense of distension. A chilling, powerful choral scene reviving all the characters flirted with finale-hood, but then interpersonal dynamics re-commenced, leading both to closure and tragedy. A brief postwar epilogue, while faithful to Frazier, seemed pat; better simply to project — or stage — an aptly grouped period photograph of the 1874 survivors? Still, “Cold Mountain” — with Scheer’s text drawing parallels to the age of veteran burnout and Homeland Security — strikes some significant chords and makes one await Higdon’s next opera. Foglia’s accomplished production appears at Opera Philadelphia next February.

Daniel Slater’s “Salome” took chances that mostly paid off. In brilliant if too often rotating designs by Leslie Travers — costumes strictly Belle Époque Aus-


SANTA FE, continued on p.33

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |


Nathan Gunn and Isabel Leonard in the Santa Fe Opera production of Jennifer Higdon’s “Cold Mountain,” with libretto by Gene Scheer and directed by Leonard Foglia. SANTA FE, from p.32

tro-Hungarian — Slater and a strong cast enacted a Freudsteeped family drama, in which Salome psychologically identified Jochanaan with her father, murdered years before by her uncle Herod, who lusts after her. Much transpired in the cistern; walled spaces opened to show the banquet, her dance and memory scenes. Salome neither stripped naked nor died; we saw zero orientalist clutter, and for the last 30 minutes only Salome, Herod, and Herodias were onstage. David Robertson — who conducted brilliantly — cut the Jews’ cry of anguish at Herod’s blasphemous final alternate offering to Salome. Alex Penda, renamed and plunged into newly dramatic repertory, retains some of the float of her erstwhile Mozart/ Rossini Fach. Not everything was dulcet — a somewhat covered tone prevailed, and parts of the role pushed her toward semi-parlando or forcing. But she’s an arresting singing actress, phrasing thoughtfully, and a mistress of stage movement and — more vital here — its absence. Penda banished no one’s memories of R ysanek or Mattila but proved riveting on her own terms. Clarion Robert Brubaker nearly matched her as an undilapidated

Herod, for once seeming a sexual threat. Michaela Martens offered an uncommonly rich-voiced Herodias. Jochanaan — in suit and spectacles! — wrote obsessively on the desk on which he later died. Ryan McKinny — a credible object of teenaged infatuation — initially sounded grayed over, but hymned Christ’s presence in Galilee beautifully; he sounded healthiest only at full tilt, a worrisome sign. Brian Jagde’s James King-like Narraboth bespoke luxury casting. Megan Marino (Page), Tyler Putnam (Second Soldier), and Chen (First Nazarene) proved particularly sonorous.

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Music director Harry Bicket led an engaged, engaging “La finta giardiniera,” making me think more highly of Mozart’s adolescent work — though it does have longeurs, so that the cuts here were welcome. Hildegard Bechtler’s set utilized the perspective of the opening-backed theater and facilitated the frequent entrances and exits that Tim Albery had the love-besotted characters do to punctuate the many da capo structures. Altitude may have caused the otherwise very capable, stylish ensemble cast to break up long roulades. Tall, comely Joel Prieto sounded rather monochrome | August 20 - September 02, 2015


SANTA FE, continued on p.37

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Summer Lovin’, Summer Camp “Cymbeline” as you’ve never seen it, and as campy a musical as you’ll ever see BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE


Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater Central Park, enter at 81st St. & Central Park West or 79th St. & Fifth Ave. Through Aug. 23 Mon.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Free; ticket information at Three hrs, with intermission

Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe in the Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of “Cymbeline,” directed by Daniel Sullivan.





ne expects an audience of 1,800 people on their feet screaming with delight after “The Book of Mormon” or, now, “Hamilton.” But “Cymbeline?” Shakespeare’s late romance with the convoluted plot and confusing characters — though plenty of lyrical passages of poetry, as well? What’s up with that? What’s up is Daniel Sullivan’s nigh-on genius production for Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte that makes it clear that Shakespeare was, first and foremost, a crowd-pleaser. Scholars have long debated whether this play belongs with Shakespeare’s comedies or romances, and over the years I’ve seen a generous handful of “Cymbelines,” all of which have highlighted the romance, emphasizing the pageantry, but ultimately became a long slog to get through. In this production — notable for its clarity, attention to detail, and nuance of character — Sullivan clearly throws his lot in with the groundlings who unabashedly revel in the absurdity of a crazy quilt plot punctuated with lyricism that takes your breath away. What’s so refreshing about this “Cymbeline” is that in shaking off the bonds of “literature,” the play is no longer stultifying “Shakespeare that’s good for you” but instead vibrant entertainment. It is, if you will, Sullivan’s good-natured thumbing of the nose at academics, critics, or anyone who wants to keep Shakespeare rarified. Like Dickens, Shakespeare pandered to his audience, which is the essence of showmanship. It is also remarkable to see how full “Cymbeline” is of Shakespeare’s tropes — a forbidden love, a father’s rage, plotting to seize the throne, lost brothers, threats to a heroine’s chastity, a trousers role, a happy ending where all is resolved… and a

Tori Murray and Kim Maresca in to “Ruthless: The Musical” at St. Luke’s Theatre.

dance. As Oscar Wilde noted, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” Even if, as Wilde implies, happy endings are an illusion, this production still sends you out into the New York night giddy with delight. Sullivan also makes sure that the audience is in on all the jokes. He has structured the production

as though it is being performed by a company of players, which allows for some sly commentary and inside jokes as we watch the actors take as much pleasure in each other’s performances as the audience does. With some inspired doubling of roles, there are only nine actors on the stage, but they fully create and inhabit the world of the play.

Lily Rabe is magnificent as Imogen, Cymbeline’s daughter who has defied his wishes that she marry Cloten, the son of his second wife and queen, and instead chosen the commoner Posthumus Leonatus. As always, Rabe shows her Shakespearean chops, playing both the comedy and the romance in perfect balance. Hamish Linklater is both Posthumus and Cloten, equally at home with pratfalls and poetry. As Iachimo, who bets Posthumus that he can make him a cuckold, Raúl Esparza is the embodiment of vanity and villainy with a kind of oily charm that’s irresistible. Still, when he’s forced to repent at the end, it’s completely believable and touching. His song, when we first meet him, stopped the show, coming as a total explosion of showbiz. Patrick Page as both Cymbeline and Philario, Posthumus’ host while the latter is in exile in Italy, is outstanding as well. Page is such a powerful actor who so often does over-the-top roles as in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” that it’s a pleasure to see all that strength used with subtlety. Kate Burton as the Queen and the banished lord Belarius is splendid. In terms of doubling, however, one of the funniest moments of the final act comes when Teagle F. Bougere, who plays both the court


RUTHLESS, continued on p.37

August 20 - September 02, 2015 |



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Gay City News is proud to present the second annual ‘Best of Gay City,’ highlighting the very best our city has to offer. Readers will vote for their ‘best of’ through an online voting portal via August 20 - September 02, 2015 |



RUTHLESS, from p.34

doctor and the defeated Roman Lucius, does a quick change on stage. David Furr and Jacob MingTrent as Cymbeline’s lost sons are outstanding together and start the play by warming up the audience. Steven Skybell as a comic Frenchman and Pisanio, Posthumus’ servant, is the conscience of the piece, a role he serves very well. Riccardo Hernandez has created a wonderful set of two symmetrical gold frames that reinforce the self-aware artifice of the piece. David Zinn’s somewhat contemporary costumes are excellent, and David Lander’s lighting makes great use of color to give the whole production a jewel-like quality. Tom Kitt’s original music is a perfect complement to this production. So is “Cymbeline” a romance or a comedy? Well, in modern terms, it seems like it’s a “romcom.” However you define it, it is definitely delicious midsummer madness and a constant delight.

If you’re looking for a little summer camp, you could do worse than a trip to “Ruthless: The Musical,” now at St. Luke’s. This return of a 1992 cult classic may leave a younger audience scratching their heads if they don’t get the references to Joan Crawford, Shirley Temple, and mid-century musicals. Still, it’s a classic showbiz story that chronicles the dark antics of one Tina Denmark who is so determined to get the lead in the school show that she kills another little girl to get it. We also have Tina’s mother, Judy Denmark, who goes from

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being a perfect suburban wife and mother to a Broadway star when she discovers her real history — and that she has talent. And, in the drag role, we have Sylvia St. Croix, a talent agent who may not be what she appears to be. This kind of camp satire was already getting old when this show first appeared, and aside from some contemporary jokes it doesn’t seem very fresh. However, the performances are completely entertaining. Tori Mur ray as Tina, wearing a version of Shirley Temple’s “Stand Up and Cheer” costume is creepy cute. Rita McKenzie as Tina’s grandmother has the only really memorable song in the show, “I Hate Musicals.” Paul Pecorino, who took over the role from an ailing Peter Land, is fine as Sylvia and has the camp siren bit down pat. But the reason to see this is Kim Maresca as Judy. She has a stunning voice, great timing, and all the makings of a great big Broadway star. It’s a notewo r t h y O f f - Br oa d w ay d eb ut, and one hopes to see much more of her. If you’re looking for a little light diversion on a war m summer night, it’s fair to say that “Ruthless” will stop at nothing to provide it.







SANTA FE, from p.33

as Belfiore, a part aced 19 years ago at Glimmerglass by William Burden, here a clarion, amusing, and long-breathed Podestà. Susanna Phillips, caution thrown to the evening’s considerable winds, channeled Fiordiligi as his demanding niece Arminda. Lacking trills, Cecilia Hall in other respects excelled in the “pants part” Ramiro. As the titular countess-posing-as gardener, Heidi Stober gave a committed, stylish performance, fluent if not individually memorable of timbre. Joshua Hopkins’ rock-solid Nardo and Laura Tatulescu’s spirited, resinous Serpetta did the resourceful “lower orders” parts ideally.

Back at Mostly Mozart (August 11), George Benjamin’s much-discussed 2012 “Written on Skin” had an invigorating New York premiere, with Alan Gilbert leading a charged yet sensitive Mahler Chamber Orchestra. A striking score, beautifully orchestrated and set for voices, it affirmed its “instant classic” status. Martin Crimp’s brilliant

libretto doesn’t wear its post-modernism lightly; the multiply-framed narrative scarcely needed Katie Mitchell’s attractive staging to be quite so distractingly tricked out with bustling, efficient young extras in black. Though uncharacteristically threadbare in lower notes, Barbara Hannigan sang with consummate ease and musicianship and acted up a storm as Agnès. Oddly, Crimp positions her as gaining feminist consciousness, yet — as in old misogynist narratives of Eve — assigns her all the decisions that lead to ruin. As her “Protector” husband, Christopher Purves, a superb singing actor, packed meaning into every syllable of song and quasi-parlando utterance. Tim Mead, less expressive verbally than his colleagues, produced angelic tone color that suited only part of his role; the Boy’s sensuality and artistic ambition felt rather underdrawn. David Shengold, who writes about opera for many venues, can be reached at shengold@yahoo. com.



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FRINGE, from p.26



Johnson and Yeager, is a delirious if clunky mashup of 1950s B horror flicks and melodramas — think “The Bad Seed” directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Charles Busch. Set in 1957 Tarrytown, USA, the cockamamie plot centers on ditzy housewife Betty (Johnson) and her cute-as-a-button eight-year -old daughter Suzie (Tony Houck), who come to rent an apartment from Flora and Fred Fairchild (Samantha Ginn and Fred Harlow). Poor Betty is plagued by nightmares of being probed by space aliens, and there’s talk of impregnation and sex changes. “I was investigated by the business end of a red-hot turkey baster,” Betty claims, with a mix of terror and awe. When the menfolk go missing and strange gals appear out of nowhere, it becomes clear that Suzie is not as innocent as she seems. Never mind that she’s beginning to sprout hideous appendages that look like tarantula arms. What keeps this goofy spoof on track is the wry script and fine performances across the board. Special kudos to Ginn, who nimbly portrays the six female victim roles with abandon. Harlow’s Frieda, who emerges after Fred vanishes, practically steals the show. He seems to be channeling the legendary Chris Farley from “Saturday Night Live.” The witty, Technicolor frocks, by Jennifer Brawn Gittings (a glorious mélange of crinoline, taffeta, gingham, and tutti-frutti prints) and wigs by Peter Herman, enhance the proceedings. Sadly, the production suffers from the limitations of the Fringe, with minimal rehearsal and set-up

Phil Johnson, Melinda Gilb, Tony Houck, Andy Collins, and Fred Harlow in Johnson and director Ruff Yeager’s “She-Rantulas from Outer Space — in 3D!”

Mark Della Ventura in his one-man show “Small Membership,” directed by David Sirois and Gabriel Hammad.

time and venue-sharing with other shows. The set is flimsy and incomplete (the “davenport” is a just piece of metal patio furniture; there’s no physical door to the apartment). What’s more, the lighting and sound seem out of whack. During each murder that takes place behind a curtain, the moment of impact is muffled — I wanted to hear the resounding crack of the skull. My suspicions were confirmed after seeing video snippets of the San Diego run, where production values appeared top-notch. In this slapdash Fringe version, “She-Rantulas” doesn’t quite earn its exclamation point. Aug. 21, 11:30 p.m.; Aug. 23, 7:45 p.m. Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project, 45 Bleecker St. at Lafayette St. One hr., 40 mins.

unsure if he liked girls or guys or was asexual. He feared girls would find his member unsatisfying and guys would be much larger than him. “Gay” was the slur that mean kids hurled most. Under the direction of David Sirois and Gabriel Hammad, Mark’s sensitive performance is as chilling as it is riveting. What make “Small Member ship” all the more absorbing is that, unlike many solo shows that are unabashedly autobiographical, there’s a nagging question of how much of Mark is really in Matt. By using a different name, Mark is allowed extra creative license to play with the facts. No matter. Thanks to a spot-on portrayal, there’s not one moment we aren’t thoroughly convinced that Matt is real. And we yearn to hug him, despite his shortcomings. Aug. 22, 2:45 p.m.; Aug. 24, 5 p.m.; Aug. 28, 7 p.m. The White Box at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette St., btwn. Astor Pl. & E. Fourth St. One hr., 15 mins.

Small Membership Matt’s got a very big problem: a small penis. But Mark Della Ventura, the creator and star of “Small Membership,” is too smart to simply fill his 75-minute comedy with

one-note dick jokes. He’s crafted a brutally honest meditation on puberty, sexual orientation, anxiety, love, heartbreak, and celibacy — revealing a host of relatable insecurities. Make no mistake, there’s a menacing, disturbing undertow that churns just beneath the funny. And it’s a wonder to behold. Framed as a sharing session at a support meeting (presumably for men with small penises), 28-yearold Matt stands before the group and recounts his tribulations finding meaningful personal connection. See, Matt was bullied as the loser fat kid in school and his friendlessness persisted throughout college. Things got so bad he attempted suicide; he even tried to contract lead poisoning by stabbing his arm with a pencil. Matt blamed his insecurities on his puny appendage and prayed to God to make his penis grow. Apparently, God was busy. To make matters worse, Matt struggled with his sexuality,

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TROY, from p.4

ate, said, “As Troy Masters departs for Los Angeles, he leaves behind a tremendous legacy in New York City’s LGBT community. Gay City News, the paper that Troy founded in the early 1990s, has shaped the way that LGBT New Yorkers process pivotal moments for our community and has preserved an important record of LGBT history. New York will miss Troy, but Los Angeles will be well served by a maiden LGBT newspaper under his stewardship.”


GRANDMA, from p.27

does not know who Betty Friedan is. Weitz’s smart, quick-witted script mines much of its humor from Elle’s droll responses to the younger generation. Tomlin plays the irascible character as someone who struggled all her life and has little patience for anyone who is not as tough as she is. Case in point: her encounter with Cam (Nat Wolff), the teen who impregnated Sage. He is not particularly responsible when it comes to accepting his role in Sage’s situation, and Elle’s handling of him is a comic highlight. When Elle and Sage get into an old Dodge that has trouble starting, it is as much a metaphor for the difficulties confronting the women as it is a foreshadowing of car trouble later. The script is never subtle, but neither is Elle, who beats up one character and takes a punch from another. The film’s players tackle the physical comedy with relish, and the script’s verbal dexterity is an asset as well. Sage calls Elle a “philanthrope” when she means misanthrope, but the two also discuss the word slut in a way that allows them to share intergenerational female-centric bonding. The film offers some terrific supporting moments, as when Elle visits with her old friend Deathy (Laverne Cox), a tattoo parlor artist, in the hopes of collecting some cash. Their reminiscing about old times is lovely if all too brief. Cox has such a warm presence viewers will want more of her, but at a brisk 79 minutes, “Grandma” needs to keep moving. Another key episode involves

City Councilmember Corey Johnson, an out gay Democrat who represents Greenwich Village, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen, said, “With Gay City News, the paper he founded, Troy Masters truly raised the bar for journalists everywhere, providing fantastic coverage of our community’s victories, setbacks, and everything in between. He will be greatly missed, but we wish him well and congratulate Los Angeles on gaining a first-class journalist. I join many others in thanking Troy for his immense contributions to the City of New York.”

Elle paying a call on Karl (Sam Elliott), a man she once live with and loved but now dubs “the ogre.” Their conversation, about how their lives have changed over the past 30 years and what they continue to owe each another is especially touching. Weitz plays this scene for humor as well, with the pair sharing a joint as a way of remembering their past and dealing with the present. The encounter provides Elle with some soul-searching moments that Sage can relate to in ways that beautifully point up parallels in their lives. Sage’s predicament may drive the story, but she is in most respects the straight (wo)man for Elle, who bulldozes her way into every scene. A visit to a cafe where her friend Carla (the late Elizabeth Peña) works has Elle lashing out in less than admirable fashion, leaving a stunned granddaughter in her wake. “Grandma” is episodic, but remains consistently fun because of Tomlin’s success in presenting Elle’s hard demeanor in a refreshing way. It’s when Judy enters the picture — Marcia Gay Harden plays the protective momma bear role to the shrewish hilt — that we perhaps best understand how Elle came by her tough exterior. Yet we also witness a mother/ daughter bond that is real. Even in the film’s final moments, when the story threatens to turn warm and fuzzy, it never cops out. Like “Juno” and “Obvious Child,” “Grandma” manages to bring believable levity to the delicate question of abortion. The film succeeds largely thanks to Tomlin’s crackerjack timing and to its wise take on feminism and sisterhood. | August 20 - September 02, 2015



MADONNA SEPTEMBER 17th at Madison Square Garden For your chance to win, visit 39

day, 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

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 22 & 29, 8 p.m. The cover charge is $25 and there’s a two-drink minimum. Reservations at 212-757-0788 or


THU.AUG.20 GALLERY Play and Learn With Tom of Finland Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland (1920-1991) is an iconic gay artist of the 20th century. In its final four days, “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

CABARET Our Lady J: Gospel for the Godless

FRI.AUG.21 GALLERY In Search of One City: Sensing (In)equality A two-month exhibition exploring artists’ roles in investigating, navigating, and mitigating income inequality, “In Search of One City,” with a title loosely based on the mayor’s well-known campaign phrase, 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. Brooklyn’s Old Stone House in Washington Park, Fifth Ave., btwn. Third & Fourth Sts., Park Slope. Fri., 3-6 p.m., through Oct. 10 or by appointment at located at 718-768-3195 or More information at or brooklynutopias.

PERFORMANCE Whitton in Time Scare Residency With a new single, “Black and White to Color,” just released, Whitton, whose style blends Billie Holi-



Rosie Lights Fashion on Fire

Streaming From LA

“Fashion on Fire” is a dance party and runway show on Fire Island, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting Rosie’s Theater Kids (RTKids), a New York City arts education organization created by Rosie O’Donnell and Lori Klinger to enrich the lives of children through the arts. More than 20 of the runway’s hottest and most iconic fashion designers — including Christian Siriano, Michael Kors, and John Bartlett — are joining forces with top runway models, legendary drag queens, and performers from the Vogue-ballroom scene. Music is by Johnny Dynell, and the evening includes a fashion tribute to Joan Rivers. Ice Palace in Cherry Grove, Fire Island. Aug. 22, doors open at 7 p.m., with the show beginning at 9 p.m. Tickets are $25-$100 at

Based on the offerings from the recent Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival, DIRECTTV presents free online screening to official festival selections. Among the films streaming will be “The Heroes of Evil,” “Tomgirl,” “Gideon’s Cross,” “Maybe Next Season,” “The First Date,” “Caged,” “Gay Over,” “The BrocKINGton,” “No Boundaries,” “Tomorrow,” “Noah and Anya,” “Calavera,” and “Elise.” A full line-up of films will be available at throughout the rest of the year.


TUE.AUG.25 COMMUNITY Chatting With Laverne Cox

On the Domestic Front: Scenes of Everyday Queer Life This exhibition features 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. Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art. 26 Wooster St., btwn. Canal & Grand Sts. Tue.-Sun., noon-6 p.m.; open until 8 p.m. on Thu. Through Oct. 25.

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.


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 at



With her ground–breaking role in “Orange Is the New Black,” Laverne Cox became the first trans woman of color in a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show and earned an Emmy nomination in the process. Tonight she sits down with New York Times senior culture editor Erik Piepenburg to discuss her work on the Netflix original series, her co-starring role with Lily Tomlin in “Grandma,” and filming her upcoming documentary, “Free CeCe,” which takes on the culture of violence too often facing trans women of color. The Times Center, 242 W. 41st St. Aug. 25, 6:30-7:45 p.m. Tickets are $40 at

WED.AUG.26 BOOKS Bisexual Erotic Wanderings

CABARET 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

The Bi Book Club theme for August is “The Summer of Sex,” and the group will discuss Livia Ellis’ “Memoirs of a Gigolo, Omnibus Vol. 1-4,” a sexy, funny, bisexual erotic novel. In this collected omnibus edition of the first four e-books in the series, you’ll learn why Oliver turns to a life as a male escort when he is a titled English Lord — and a tabloid favorite — and you’ll follow him as


THU.AUG.27, continued on p.43

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THU.AUG.27, from p.40

FRI.AUG.28 PERFORMANCE 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. 28, 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 at or 212-352-3101.

SAT.AUG.29 COMMUNITY 15 Years of Jersey City Pride The Jersey City LGBT Pride Festival, marking its 15th anniversary, is a day long street party downtown btwn. Grove St. & Jersey Ave., near the Grove St. PATH station. Aug. 29, noon-8 p.m. A free afterparty follows at South House Bar and Restaurant, 149 Newark Ave. near Barrow St. Aug. 29, 8-11 p.m. For complete details on all Jersey City Pride events, beginning Aug. 21, visit


he travels the globe, bedding a Latin pop star, two princesses, and a beautiful Russian fellow escort as charming and duplicitous as himself. Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., rm. 210. Aug. 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m. A $5 donation to benefit BGSQD, where you can order the book, is suggested. The group usually grabs a bite to eat at the Village Den after the meeting.

bus,” where he sang song “Soda Shop” — has been writing and performing his own sweet and sad folk songs always tempered by a dose of humor. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Aug. 30, 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 at

MON.AUG.31 COMEDY Sprung from “Fun Home” One Night Only Beth Malone, a Best Actress Tony nominee for her starring role in Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home,” is an adorably insane little lesbian who takes you on a journey from Castle Rock, Colorado to the South Pacific — and from little girl crushes to grown-woman heartbreak. Tonight she offers comedy, tragedy, and that crush on Connie Chung. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Aug. 31, 7:30 p.m. & 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15-$25 at

TUE.SEP.1 PERFORMANCE The Rapp on 54th Street

SUN.AUG.30 COMEDY Desperate for Attention

PERFORMANCE Sweet Folk from Jay Brannan Since 2006, Jay Brannan — a native Texan turned New Yorker who appeared in John Cameron Mitchell’s indie film “ | August 20 - September 02, 2015


Eddie Sarfaty is a gay stand-up comedian who has appeared on Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend,” “The Today Show,” “The Joy Behar Show,” and Logo’s “Wisecrack” and is a subject of the documentary “Laughing Matters.” Sarfaty is author of “Mental: Funny in the Head,” a collection of humorous essays. Tonight he appears in his show “Desperate for Attention” at Metropolitan Room, 34 W. 22nd St. Aug. 30, 6:15 p.m. Tickets begin at $20 at, and there’s a two-drink minimum.

One of Broadway’s most celebrated rock and rollers, Anthony Rapp (“If/ Then,” “Six Degrees of Separation,” “Rent,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”) brings his new “Unplugged” evening of stories and songs to 54 Below with musical director Dan Weiss. “Unplugged” audiences can expect to hear some of the great songs that have inspired Rapp — including, of course, ones from “Rent” and “Hedwig & The Angry Inch.” 54 Below, 254 W. 54th St. Sep. 1, 7 p.m. The cover charge is $45-$55, with premium seating at $90, at, with a $5 premium for tickets at the door, and there’s a $25 food & drink minimum.


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August 20 - September 02, 2015 |

GAY CITY NEWS, AUG 20, 2015  


GAY CITY NEWS, AUG 20, 2015