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etween now and October 20, we want to hear from you. And we want other readers to hear from you, as well. Best of Gay City 2015 –– with sponsorship from our friends at Simple Surrogacy –– is a readers’ poll that zeroes in on favorites in 21 categories of LGBT life in New York City. Voting is simple, and you can register your choices once every single day during the contest duration if you feel passionately about the categories we’re rating. Just go to gaycitynews.nyc/ bestofgaycity2015, and you’ll be walked through the poll to register your choices. In each category,
select one of the nominees –– or write in your own nominee. We’ll let you know the same day if that nominee is approved for all voters to see. To sweeten the deal, the first time you vote, we’ll give you a free three-day pass to Crunch Gym. And every time you vote, your name will be entered into a raffle to win prizes –– an iPad Mini, Broadway show tickets, or a bottle of Absolut vodka. Let us know about nightlife –– what’s your favorite gay bar, lesbian bar, and drag performer? What’s your favorite place to dine, grab coffee, or satisfy that sweet tooth? What is the best stage show New York has to offer, and what gallery or museum is your favorite?
What part of town do you consider the best Gayborhood? As you starting thinking about redoing your apartment in that Gayborhood, what are your favorite home design stores? And once you’re settled into your new look, what’s your favorite guilty pleasure on TV? New York is a big town, and when you take care of yourself and your family, finding the very best professionals is important. Who provides the best health care services? The best legal services? What are the most reliable agencies to help you with family planning? Who delivers the very best beauty and cosmetic care? And where do you turn to ensure your dog or cat gets the attention they deserve, as well? And, of course, it’s no small mat-
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Why the Rentboy.com Raid Hit Such a Nerve Gay community attitudes toward escorts, changing views of sex work, and escorts’ own sense of self are all factors
COURTESY: CHRISTIAN GROV
Christian Grov, a CUNY School of Public Health professor.
BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
he outraged reaction to the federal government’s raid on rentboy. com and the arrests of seven staffers there, including the escort website’s chief executive, reflects the positive status that escorts and for-hire sex have in the gay community. “It’s much more socially acceptable,” said Christian Grov, an associate professor at the CUNY School of Public Health, who was the lead author on five recent studies of gay escorts and their male clients. “It’s written into gay culture in so many ways.” The US Department of Homeland Security raided the Manhattan offices of rentboy.com on August 25. The website was seized and shut down, and Jeffrey Hurant, rentboy.com’s founder and chief executive, was arrested along with
six staffers. The seven are charged with violating the federal Travel Act, which bars using the mail, a telephone, or the Internet, to facilitate interstate or foreign prostitution, among other offenses. The case is being prosecuted by the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, which is headquartered in Brooklyn. As Gay City News went to press, New York activists were planning a September 3 protest at the federal court in Brooklyn while groups in San Francisco and Los Angeles were organizing protests for September 5 in those two cities. “This is not just an attack on sex work, it’s an attack on the community,” said Grov, who was characterizing the response to the rentboy.com prosecution. “Rentboy has a float in the parade every year. They are an essential part of the community.” The political aspect of the protests arises from the community’s longstanding liberationist impulse that seeks to maximize individual autonomy and minimize government and social sanctions on that autonomy. Overturning sodomy laws, which was achieved in a 2003 US Supreme Court decision, is the best known example of that effort. Many voices that have condemned the raid have also called for prostitution to be decriminalized. Before the raid, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Transgender Law Center, and the National Center for Transgender Equality endorsed a statement that called for decriminalization. They were among at least 28 organizations, including the New York City Anti-Violence Project and the National LGBTQ Task Force, that later condemned the raid.
But it is also true that escorts are seen by some in the community as providing a valuable service in a way that is readily accessible. The few studies that have been done on sex work, escorts, and their clients among gay and bisexual men suggest that it is relatively common for such men to have paid for sex, been paid for sex, or both, though such studies indicate that a majority of the study participants have not engaged in these behaviors. “It does reflect the growing acceptance of sex work and sex workers as a field particularly among gay and bisexual men,” Grov said. In a 2012 study, the clients were asking for a range of services, with many going beyond sex. The study recruited “495 male clients… via daddysreviews.com.” It found that “Repeat encounters were significantly more likely to include non-sexual behaviors alongside sexual activities.” The non-sexual behaviors included dinners, cuddling, and taking walks or shopping. The authors concluded that “research implies that many clients seek emotional as well as physical connections with the men they hire.” And then escorts are stitched into the fabric of gay sexuality. There are “porn stars who are escorts, escorts and go go boys who are porn stars,” Grov said. In studies, the escorts were interested in “how to be a better escort,” Grov said. In a 2013 study of 418 “Internet-based male escorts,” the men were asked to choose among 14 workshops offered by Rent University, an “ongoing outreach program for male sex workers.” Sixty-five percent selected “Attracting the
HIT A NERVE, continued on p.13
When the Feds Punish Tougher for the Same Crime Use of 1961 US Travel Act exposes rentboy.com defendants to greater prison time BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
epending on the charges they eventually face, the seven defendants in the rentboy. com case could face significantly increased prison sentences under federal law as compared to the sentences for the state laws that form the basis for the prosecution of the popular escort website. “The same basic crime can have a higher sentence when federal just
because Congress said so,” wrote Samuel W. Buell, a law professor at Duke University. “The idea in part is that federal prosecutors have a discretionary docket… and can/ should use their discretion to use these statutes when serious problems are involved (e.g., national conspiracy networks, organized crime, etc) that call for stronger tools, in part to create more leverage to develop witnesses against otherwise difficult to prosecute people.” The seven defendants, including
Jeffrey Hurant, rentboy.com’s chief executive, are charged under the federal Travel Act, a 1961 statute that makes crimes that are typically, though not always, prosecuted by state prosecutors –– such as prostitution and gambling –– federal crimes when they are committed across state or foreign borders or done by using the mail, a telephone, or the Internet. In the rentboy.com case, the predicate state charges are promoting prostitution in the fourth
degree, which is an A misdemeanor with a sentence of up to a year in jail, and promoting prostitution in the third degree, which is a D felony with a sentence of up to seven years in prison. The Travel Act, which is rarely used by federal prosecutors, carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. These charges were cited in the complaint, which was authored by Susan Ruiz, a spe-
SENTENCE, continued on p.13
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
The Security Inked Deepthroat Found at Rentboy.com Tattooed young man talks about sex work’s role in moving beyond troubled upbringing BY NATHAN RILEY
ISTOCK USER TAWS13 / MICHAEL SHIREY
nked Deepthroat was with his uncle, who is gay and worldly wise, when a text flashed on his cell phone announcing the raid on rentboy. com –– and that his world had been turned upside down. One friend was among the seven arrested by agents from the US Department of Homeland Security backed up by the NYPD, and he thought, “This was not okay. I’m not going to let people I care about be arrested without a fight.” He joined a coalition trying to protect the human rights of sex workers. The tattooed young man, who is 27, was a regular advertiser on rentboy.com and met men frequently through its services. He was a satisfied customer who found the staff “sweet and genuine.” They “cared” about my having a “safe experience.” Inked Deepthroat explained that his work with rentboy was an essential part of his income and well-being. An attentive listener and blessed with a pleasant smile,
he formed connections through his advertisements that gave him a solidly middle class life. He was moving from a chaotic adolescence to a more stable life, and rentboy was one important means for making that transition. Given the prosecutorial bent of federal officials, Inked Deepthroat asked that he remain anonymous, but he was eager to recount his story dating back to high school, which he spent in a haze of alcohol and heroin with friends whose lives were similarly enmeshed in addiction. That led him to a two-year lockdown in a drug rehab program that provided the skills to claim his sobriety but also actively repressed his gay feelings. He moved from his hometown to San Francisco to come out and discovered he wasn’t just gay but was a sexual adventurer, as well. He met people who wanted to do things he had never dreamed of and after trying something new often found he felt ecstatic. “I learned I was pig,” he said matter of factly. The natural progression of things led him to work as a stripper and in porn. To be sure,
that broke him out of the closet, but it wasn't the direction he wanted his life to take. “I moved to New York to get a career and build a full life,” Inked Deepthroat explained. The porn experience was useful, however, in helping him find work at a television production company. On his résumé, he listed the production work he did for San Francisco porn filmmakers and that proved to be the clincher that led to an entry-level position. It was his first employment that offered
a career ladder, after working as a waiter and other jobs he considered dead-end. Still, at $650 a week, the TV gig was not enough to live on. He needed to roughly double his income if he were to keep current on his student loans and pay for a weekly visit with a therapist. Rentboy provided access to those funds. Rentboy, which takes no share of their advertisers’ income, offered parties and courses on health and knowing your rights. Honors were handed out, and a sense of community encouraged. These events allowed to him to meet other advertisers. People can often be hostile to those they compete with at work, but the friendships Inked Deepthroat made through rentboy, he explained, provided stability and a sense there were people who could be trusted to watch his back. If he had a new client he would provide the phone number and particulars to a friend with instructions to call the police if the friend had not heard from him with an hour and a half of an agreed-upon time.
DEEPTHROAT, continued on p.16
Raid Comes Days After LGBT Call for Sex Work Decriminalization Community’s leading legal groups, Amnesty International urge repeal of prohibitions, focus on trafficking
BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD
eading LGBT rights legal organizations in the US, on August 20, issued a joint statement supporting Amnesty International’s recent resolution advocating for the human rights of sex workers, including the repeal of laws against prostitution. Just days later, on August 25, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raided the Manhattan offices of rentboy.com, the world’s largest online escort website, carted away boxes of business records and computers, and arrested the company’s chief executive officer, Jeffrey Hurant, and six employees. Amnesty International, on August 11, called on governments to repeal laws criminalizing sex work, while asking them to move to prevent and combat sex trafficking, to ensure that sex workers are protected from exploitation, and to enforce laws against the sexual exploitation of children. In short, AI suggests that adults should be able to freely consent to engage in sexual activity for
GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
compensation without criminal penalty, and that continued maintenance of criminalization exposes all sex workers, whether children or adults, to exploitation, violence, and severe health risks. Sex work for pay is currently legal in some countries –– including Canada and the United Kingdom –– but outlawed in most. Even those countries that don’t criminalize prostitution as such generally maintain laws against promotion and public solicitation of prostitution. In the US, every jurisdiction except some counties in Nevada treats all sexual activity for monetary compensation as unlawful, though they differ in classifying the offense and in the penalties imposed. The Model Penal Code, as adopted in the states, decriminalized private consensual sexual activity between adults, but not when such activity involves a commercial transaction, and courts have been unanimous in holding that the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision striking down sodomy laws, Lawrence v. Texas, does not create a protected liberty interest extending to commercial sex or sex between adults and minors.
The LGBT organizations that joined in the statement endorsing AI’s resolution are the Transgender Law Center, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Their joint statement explains, “For many LGBT people, participation in street economies is often critical to survival, particularly for LGBT youth and transgender women of color who face all-too-common family rejection and vastly disproportionate rates of violence, homelessness, and discrimination in employment, housing, and education.” The statement goes on to describe hazards faced by sex workers that are amplified by the criminalization of their activities –– with a particular emphasis on the difficulties experienced by transgender sex workers. “Laws criminalizing sexual exchange –– whether by the seller or the buyer –– impede sex work-
SEX WORK, continued on p.16
Has Gay Broadway Couple Taken Too Much on Faith? Embrace of Hillsong church, with ugly anti-gay record in Uganda, raises tough questions about changing evangelical hearts BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
MONTY BRINTON/ CBS
t took religious conservatives six months to discover a Playbill interview with actor Josh Canfield in which he discussed Reed Kelly, his fiancé and also an actor, and noted that he was a volunteer choir director at Hillsong NYC, a Pentecostal church. The conservatives objected to Hillsong having a gay man, and one who was engaged to another man, in a leadership position. Brian Houston, who founded Hillsong in Australia in 1983, quickly said that Canfield was no longer a choir director and marriage was between man and a woman. Hillsong, which now has churches in at least 13 cities around the globe, including New York City, was only willing to welcome LGBT people without explicitly affirming them. The couple remains at Hillsong, which is run by Carl Lentz, a media-savvy and popular pastor. “We’re grateful for Pastor Carl, and we feel God has called us to be at Hillsong,” Kelly told Religion News Service in an August 11 interview. “He wants us to be a part of the church, knowing what we believe. This is our home church, and we are not leaving. It’s important for us to be there dialoguing about this.” As the children of evangelical pastors and LGBT evangelicals come out and same sex-marriage gains approval around the world, these controversies will be increasingly common. They
Josh Canfield and Reed Kelly when they appeared last year on CBS’ “Survivor.”
may place new responsibilities –– or not –– on conservative churches that have been hostile to LGBT people, including the LGBT people who attend them. “I think these problems are new,” said Sharon Groves, vice president for public engagement at Manhattan’s Auburn Theological Seminary who previously headed the Faith and Religion Program at the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT lobby. “What we’re seeing is there is more and more of a kind of openness in this country… It’s kind of toleration. As we’re seeing more of that, more of these kinds of complications are going to arise.”
A small number of evangelical churches, so called Third Way churches, and a few leaders have shifted their positions on homosexuality to varying degrees. One such church, the New Heart Community Church in California, was expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention for doing so. “The whole transition of evangelical churches welcoming is a relatively new phenomenon,” said Todd Ferrell, president of the Evangelical Network, an LGBT group. “As these things come to the forefront and evangelical churches are outed as participating, I would think that you would get more pushback.” The complications of welcoming LGBT people while at the same time defending current or former anti-LGBT positions –– complications seemingly not apparent to Canfield and Kelly, who did not respond to requests for comment –– are especially pronounced at Hillsong. In 2007, Hillsong in Australia raised $700,000 for Watoto Church in Uganda. It has continued to raise money for and send volunteers to Watoto, which is a member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Canada. Houston and his wife Bobbie attended Watoto’s 30th anniversary last year. In 2009, Watoto hosted two meetings of an anti-LGBT conference. Three anti-LGBT Americans, including Scott Lively, spoke at those meetings. The conference produced Uganda’s
EVANGELICAL, continued on p.22
KIM DAVIS NOW FACES CONTEMPT OF COURT CHARGES As Gay City News goes to press on September 2, Kim Davis, a defiant Kentucky county clerk who is refusing to issue any marriage licenses rather than authorize licenses for same-sex couples, is due back before US District Judge David L. Bunning the following morning to determine whether she will be held in contempt of court. Despite the US Supreme Court’s refusal on August 31 to grant Davis a stay while she appeals a preliminary injunction issued against her by Bunning in a case brought by both samesex and different-sex couples seeking to marry in Rowan County, the 49-year-old clerk remained steadfast for the following two days in declining to do what is statutorily required in her job. On August 1, David Ermold and David Moore, a gay couple who live in Rowan County, presented themselves at Davis’ office for the second time since the US Supreme Court issued its marriage equality decision in June. When the two men challenged her as to what authority she had for continuing to resist orders from federal courts, she asserted she was acting “under God’s authority.” The following day, the Liberty Counsel, an
anti-gay litigation group representing Davis, posted a statement from her on its website that read, in part, “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision.” She also asserted, “In addition to my desire to serve the people of Rowan County, I owe my life to Jesus Christ who loves me and gave His life for me.” In making her case before Bunning in early August, Davis argued she has a constitutional right based on the First Amendment and Kentucky’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, she asserted, constitutes “an endorsement of same-sex marriage, which runs contrary to her Apostolic Christian beliefs,” Bunning wrote in his preliminary injunction against her. Davis’ free exercise rights, Bunning concluded, do not outweigh the state’s interest
in upholding the rule of law, under which the plaintiffs were entitled to get marriage licenses. The judge 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. When Bunning ruled against her, Davis and Liberty Counsel promptly announced plans to appeal the ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and sought a temporary stay from Bunning, which he granted to give her time to seek a longer stay from the appeals court. The Sixth Circuit and later the Supreme Court, however, refused to issue a longer reprieve past the August 31 expiration of Bunning’s temporary stay. Bunning’s preliminary injunction and the refusal of higher courts to grant stays pending appeal clearly signal the view by all the courts that Davis is unlikely to prevail on the merits. Davis’ defiance has sparked raucous protests for and against her in Rowan County and elsewhere in Kentucky, and media scrutiny has brought to light the fact that she has been mar-
A meme that has emerged in the raging controversy over Kim Davis’ defiant posture on issuing marriage licenses in Kentucky.
ried four times to three different men and, according to US News & World Report, conceived twins fathered by husband number one after their divorce. She later remarried the father, but only after squeezing another marriage in between. At least two other county clerks in Kentucky are refusing to issue marriage licenses, and there are also reports of resistance to the Supreme Court marriage ruling coming out of a few counties in Texas and Alabama. –– Paul Schindler
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
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GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
Town Hall Reﬂects Growing Anger Over City STD Efforts
ACT UP, Treatment Action Group charge de Blasio administration with laggard health outreach to gay, bi men BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
GAY CITY NEWS
As ACT UP’s Jim Eigo addresses the town hall meeting, statistics on the city’s declining STD clinic visits flash on the screen above.
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town hall organized by ACT UP and the Treatment Action Group demonstrated the growing anger with the de Blasio administration and the city’s health department over what activists say is their failure to respond to rising sexually transmitted diseases and new HIV infections among the city’s gay and bisexual men. “Bill de Blasio, take public health in New York City off the starvation diet that Michal Bloomberg put it on,” said Jim Eigo, an ACT UP member, at the September 1 meeting at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. Roughly 170 people attended the town hall, which was a mix of fervent advocacy and data that was displayed via PowerPoint on a large screen above the heads of the evening’s principal speakers. Activists charge that visits to the city’s eight currently-operating sexually transmitted disease clinics have declined by 18 percent since the health department shuttered the clinic in Chelsea in March for a two-year renovation. The Chelsea clinic had more annual visits than any other clinic and accounted for 20 to 25 percent of visits to all nine clinics in recent years. With its high volume and with many gay and bisexual men using the clinic, it was expected to play a central role in the Plan to End AIDS. That plan, which aims to reduce new HIV diagnoses in the state from the current 3,000 annually to 750 a year by 2020, envisions
using anti-HIV drugs in HIV-positive people to make them no longer infectious and in HIV-negative people to keep them from becoming infected. People who test HIV-positive and HIV-negative people who have a sexually transmitted disease at the city clinics could be candidates for these anti-HIV drug regimens. This requires more HIV testing and more screening for sexually transmitted diseases, actions that the city is doing less of than in the past, activists say. Cuts in the city’s own HIV testing and its funding for HIV testing by outside contractors eliminated 400,000 HIV tests between 2010 and 2014, according to a report by James Krellenstein, an ACT UP member. Krellenstein presented some of his data at the town hall. He said that the city health department had also adopted a policy of not giving HIV tests to people who had a test within three months of a clinic visit. “It’s time that we realized that we have the ability to end this epidemic,” Krellenstein said. “The end is in sight, but we cannot do it if our community is silent… This is homophobia in terms of public health.” Activists and the city appeared to have reached an agreement in June to replace the services lost when the Chelsea clinic closed, but the town hall clearly showed that any deal has collapsed. Krellenstein and Mark Harrington, the director of the Treatment Action Group, spoke at the town hall and
ACT UP, continued on p.12
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September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
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GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
ACT UP, from p.10
GAY CITY NEWS
they had earlier endorsed the June agreement. City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who is gay, HIV-positive, and represents Chelsea and other neighborhoods, brokered that earlier deal. He said that the Bloomberg administration cut the city health department’s budget by $200 million and that money has not been restored. The city budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1, had $5 million for the Plan to End AIDS, with $1.1 million coming from the de Blasio administration and $3.9 million contributed in City Council discretionary funds. Johnson said in July that it may be possible to add more funds for the plan later in the fiscal year during budget modifications, which typically occur in November or December. “We are continuing to push and push and push,” Johnson said during the town hall. Activists said Dr. Mary Bassett, the city’s health commissioner, and two senior health department staffers, Dr. Sue Blank and Dr.
Organizers left empty chairs for health department and de Blasio administration officials who did not show up.
Jay Varma, were asked to attend the town hall as was Mayor Bill de Blasio or someone from his office. Empty chairs with their names and pictures on them sat at the front of the room. While some elected officials sent representatives, the only other elected official to attend was Public Advocate Letitia James.
“This administration has reversed the policies of the prior administration on a wide range of issues,” James said as she gestured toward the chair that held de Blasio’s picture. “The question is why not on healthcare? Crucial funding on HIV testing has been cut and never restored. The question is why?”
Following the town hall, a group of roughly 50 marched through Chelsea to the clinic at Ninth Avenue and 28th Street chanting, “Mayor de Blasio, open your eyes, STIs are on the rise” and “AIDS and syphilis on the rise, Mayor de Blasio open your eyes.” The health department did not respond to a request for comment.
72-02 Astoria Boulevard East Elmhurst, NY 11370 Contact Duane Henderson, Counselor 718-278-3240 Office • 914-714-8174 Cell
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
HIT A NERVE, from p.6
‘right’ clients and keeping them,” 64 percent selected “Escorting and legal matters,” just under 63 percent chose “How best to market yourself online,” and just under 53 percent chose “Financial planning and planning for the future.” The results suggest a degree of professionalism and an interest in what might be called career development that is also found among some female escorts. “What I can say is one of the things that was among their top priorities was attracting better clients,” Grov said. “A fair number of them were interested in their lon-
SENTENCE, from p.6
cial agent in the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The complaint established probable cause for the August 25 arrests of the rentboy.com staff and the search of the company’s Manhattan offices. The final charges they face may be different. DHS led the investigation. “That’s an unusual comparison because we don’t know much about the defendants and what kind of evidence there is,” said William Dobbs, a gay civil libertarian, of the disparate sentences. In enacting the federal statute, Congress presumably believed these were serious crimes so the lower federal prison sentence for the D felony makes little sense. Except for the interstate aspect, the predicate crimes are the same whether charged under federal or state law so the possible 400 percent increase in prison time for the A misdemeanor is similarly irrational. “I don’t know the facts of this case, but the power of Internet hubs to foster crime has been a general concern for the feds recently (wikileaks, bitcoin, silk road, etc.),” Buell wrote. “I would also expect the government to have looked at the Mann Act in this case (a federal prostitution (or anti-pimp) statute; was involved in the [former Governor Eliot] Spitzer case), except that the statute is really old and it might actually still be gendered.” The rentboy.com arrests and raid have prompted condemnations from at least 28 organizations, including the New York GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
gevity as an escort.” Escorts are also concerned about the “emotional labor” that is part of their job. They have to set boundaries with clients while meeting client needs. “What you’re talking about is the emotional labor of being an escort, managing the amount of yourself that you give in your job so you can give in your life as well,” Grov said. Sex work among men who serve male clients is also seen as inherently different than women escorting with men. “A lot of the gender power dynamics aren’t there so some of the concerns around trafficking aren’t there,” Grov said.
City Anti-Violence Project, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Transgender Law Center, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the National LGBTQ Task Force. The outcry in the community grassroots on Facebook and websites came quickly and it was loud. Activists were less interested in commenting on the disparate sentences and more interested in advancing the demand that the charges be dismissed against the rentboy.com staff. “The charges must be dropped,” said Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, an LGBT political group. “The federal government going after a victimless crime is absurd on its face… Reading the complaint, the federal government is more interested in the sex people have, which clearly makes it homophobic.” To establish that rentboy.com was aware that the escorts who were advertising on its site were exchanging sex for money, and so the site was promoting prostitution, the complaint had highly detailed descriptions of the sex being offered. “The whole case is a lot of trumped up charges,” Dobbs said. “Based on the reaction of the public, the US Attorney stepped in it.” The case is being prosecuted by the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, which is headquartered in Brooklyn, and not the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which is headquartered in Manhattan where rentboy.com was located.
UN Security Council Gets Briefing on ISIS Murders of Gays IGLHRC leads US-Chile session on “careful targeting” of LGBTI Iraqis, Syrians BY PAUL SCHINDLER
n what was a first in international diplomacy, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) appeared before the United Nations Security Council to discuss what it termed the “careful targeting” of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people by ISIS in areas that group controls in Syria and Iraq. The August 24 meeting, which lasted three hours, was held according to what the UN terms an “Arria-formula,” in which briefings are informal and confidential, allowing for what IGLHRC described as a “frank and private exchange of views.” Jessica Stern, the group’s executive director, presented evidence of 29 killings of LGBTI people at the hands of ISIS, some of that evidence based on releases from ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and other information provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As part of her presentation to the Security Council members, Stern displayed a slideshow that opened by stating, “While IGLHRC has made every effort to document every sodomy-related killing that ISIS allegedly carried out during this timeframe, this slideshow should not be considered comprehensive.” The slideshow included pictures –– some of them gruesome –– of 21 of the victims ISIS has claimed were killed for committing sodomy and related “morality” crimes. The Security Council meeting was hosted by the United States and Chile, and Stern was joined in her presentation by Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, Cristian Barros Melet, Power’s Chilean counterpart, and Deputy UN Secretary General Jan Eliasson. Stern opened her remarks by emphasizing that violence and murder aimed at LGBTI people is a part of a far larger assault on human life, but one that is deliberate and calculated. “T h e S ecur ity C oun c il h a s
Subhi Nahas, a 28-year-old Syrian refugee living in San Francisco, told his story to UN diplomats.
A picture released by an ISIS unit in Raqqa, Syria showing what the group said was a man executed for “committing the acts of the people of Lot.”
addressed other tragedies created by ISIS,” she said. “Our discussion informs that larger narrative; our concerns are not only for LGBTI people. We condemn in the strongest terms the sexual enslavement of women and girls; ISIS attacks on Christians, Turkmanis, Kurds; and its intent to destroy the Yazidi as a group. There are potential risks and potential benefits to today’s hearing. However, only by working together across the human rights spectrum will we make change.” In comments after the Security Council meeting, Stern told Gay City News that when her group produced reports on anti-LGBTI violence a year ago in cooperation with two groups on the ground in Iraq, MADRE and the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, “People said, ‘Interesting, but why would people care about LGBTI victims when everyone is under assault by ISIS?’” While emphasizing, “We’re not saying we care only about LGBTI victims,” Stern argued that ISIS’ violence is not indiscriminate, but rather informed by “careful tar geting,” which is based, in part, on existing biases in Syrian and Iraqi society. IGLHRC, she said, “has been working in Iraq for years, probably first substantively in 2007.” Stern told the Security Council, “LGBTI Iraqis and Syrians were persecuted long before the emer-
gence of ISIS.” Explaining that her group documented the 2009 killings of men perceived to be gay and the anti-emo campaigns against gender-nonconforming people in 2012, she said, “Murder is only the most extreme form of violence. LGBTI Iraqis and Syrians have been persecuted by intolerance permeating all aspects of life. It was not only the State that abdicated responsibility: some families would rather harm their own children than see their so-called ‘honor’ besmirched. Some have twisted faith to incite violence.” In her remarks, Ambassador Power echoed several key points made by Stern, describing ISIS attacks on LGBTI people as “systematic abuse” that has “received scant international attention.” ISIL, she said, using the Obama administration’s preferred term, “does not try to hide its crimes against LGBT persons –– it broadcasts them for all the world to see. Many of us have seen the videos. ISIL parading a man through the streets and beating him –– for being gay. ISIL marching men to the tops of buildings and throwing them to their deaths –– for being gay.” Power also pointed out that anti-LGBTI violence existed in Iraq and Syria prior to ISIS’ emergence. Discussing the experiences of two men who also appeared before the Security Council –– a Syrian refugee living in San Francisco and an Iraqi
who spoke anonymously by phone –– she noted, “Both faced discrimination, threats, and attacks before violent extremist groups seized power in their communities.” She added, “Violence and hatred existed well before the group’s dramatic rise, and that violence and hatred extends far beyond ISIL’s membership. The victim in that grotesque video may have been thrown to his death by ISIL, but he was ultimately killed by stone-throwing individuals who did not belong to the group.” The Syrian refugee who appeared in New York is 28-year-old Subhi Nahas, who fled his home country roughly two years ago prior to the emergence of ISIS on the world stage. Growing up gay, his life was always difficult in Syria, with his father having once violently attacked him and routinely belittling him. His situation worsened in 2011, when the nation’s civil war prompted the government to step up its harassment of LGBTI Syrians. Later militants from Jabhat Al Nusra, a rival group to ISIS, took over his town and announced in its mosques that it would stamp out “people involved in sodomy.” Eventually, Nahas fled to Lebanon and then Turkey, where he took a job with Save the Children, doing technical web-related work. In Turkey, he was identified by a
ISIS, continued on p.15
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
ISIS, from p.14
An ISIS unit in Fallujah, Iraq, released this photo showing the alleged execution of four men on sodomy charges.
GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
former Syrian acquaintance who had since joined ISIS and threatened to kill him. Even when Save the Children transferred him to Istanbul, Nahas felt he remained unsafe, and with the help of his employer and Oram, an organization that advocates for LGBTI refugees fleeing brutal regimes, he undertook the cumbersome process of winning US government approval to come here as a refugee. He completed what can take many years in about 12 months, and arrived in the US in June. Nahas now works for Oram in San Francisco, doing web, translation, and public speaking work. The anonymous Iraqi who telephoned into the Security Council meeting used the pseudonym Adnan; he fled northern Iraq after being targeted by ISIS for being gay. He is a client of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which helped arrange his participation in the UN event. Adnan, however, remains concerned about his safety, and Power requested that no audio recording be made of his remarks. Stern and others at IGLHRC expressed satisfaction with how the Security Council briefing played out. Thirteen of the 15 current members attended, with only Chad and Angola being absent. Stern noted that despite rumors that Russia might also boycott the session, its representative was present and stayed for the entire meeting, though without making any comment. Three other members –– China, Malaysia, and Nigeria –– also declined to speak. The rest of the comments, she said, reflected support for the Security Council taking up the question of ISIS targeting LGBTI Iraqis and Syrians, as did statements made during the final hour by a large number of UN members not currently on the Security Council. “The overwhelming number of states that offered remarks underscored that LGBTI people are part of the groups that are being targeted by ISIS,” she said. “ They had a very crisp understanding of that.” Stern was particularly pleased with comments from Jordan, which, she said, a diplomat present advised her were the first favorable words about the LGBTI community from an Arab country at the UN to
their knowledge. It was only five years ago that IGLHRC prevailed in a hard-fought battle to win consultative status at the UN, and there was widespread praise for the historic nature of its appearance before the Security Council this week, including a statement from the White House by a spokesperson for the National Security Council. But not every human rights advocate voiced approval for the August 24 briefing. Scott Long, who formerly helmed the LGBT desk at Human Rights Watch –– where Stern worked as a researcher during his tenure –– was scathing in a blog post titled, “Why this is a bad idea.” In an analysis focused largely on what he described as the failures and illegitimacy of US policy in the region –– and America’s resulting inability to forge an acceptable resolution –– Long wrote, “Is there a plan, or is everybody just happy to ride the panic? At best, the meeting will be useless. It’ll lead to that indolent repletion where people feel they’ve acted when they’ve actually done nothing. At worst, it’s going to cause more killings.” Saying that “power” was at the heart of ISIS’ appeal to Islamic recruits, Long concluded, “Does anyone think that, given an easy chance to affirm its law and write its defiance of the Security Council in blood, Da’ish [an acronym for ISIS rendered in Arabic] won’t take it?” One day after the Security Council meeting, Long posted a follow-up on his blog reporting on nine new ISIS killings on charges of sodomy which he titled “New killings: ISIS answers the UN Security Council.” Asked about Long’s analysis –– though one day prior to his second post –– Stern declined to respond specifically to his arguments. Overall, however, her comments were responsive to several of his major points. Stern is under no illusion that the Security Council, the UN, or the US currently has a clear strategy for addressing writ large the humanitarian and military crisis unleashed by ISIS, but she does believe that the tragedies facing vulnerable populations in conflict areas, including the LGBTI community, can be mitigated. “There are UN agencies that have presence in Iraq and Syria,” she said. “They could function like bea-
Another ISIS photograph of the alleged execution of a man on sodomy charges.
cons of hope –– if they had any idea about programming that reaches LGBTI people.” As Long correctly pointed out in his second post, that work could only be undertaken in areas outside ISIS control, but in such areas, Stern said, “The creativity and courage of LGBTI Iraqis and Syrians and a small number of treasured allies have created underground support networks, safe houses –– even if that means just a mattress. There are people who want to do this work, but it is depressing and they have no money.” For those LGBTI people who can be protected from ISIS, there is a need, she said, for “social support, psychosocial support, even reparations for those who escape from ISIS.” That, however, requires the commitment of funding from the UN and its member states and the integration of LGBTI cultural competency skills into UN and other relief organizations. Stern also addressed a factor
that Long has often emphasized in his human rights advocacy –– the critical role of leadership from those on the ground. Noting the amount of time IGLHRC has worked on Iraq issues, in particular, she said that when the opportunity to appear before the Security Council first surfaced, “we reached out to people there and in the Iraqi and Syrian diaspora and they said they were eager to have the issue aired.” In her comments to the Security Council, Stern quoted Mahmoud Hassino, founder of the Syrian LGBTI magazine Mawaleh, as saying of the UN briefing, “They have all the information. It’s time to act.” She underscored the very same point in boiling down IGLHRC’s most important goal at the Security Council. “The goal of today’s briefing was not to educate them on the targeting of LGBTI people under ISIS,” Stern told Gay City News. “It was to hold the states’ feet to the fire. They have the power in their national treasuries.”
DEEPTHROAT, from p.7
In a testament to how successfully Inked Deepthroat was able to use rentboy to establish limits and agree to mutual likes and dislikes with men who contacted him, his friends never once needed to trigger the police alert. The complaint authorizing the rentboy arrests cites informa-
tion that advertisers provided to those curious about meeting. Such communications, in Inked Deepthroat’s telling, are precisely what led to a sense of decorum with his potential customers and dramatically reduced the risk of misunderstandings that could make for unpleasant or dangerous encounters. “I’d have a client and we would
SEX WORK, from p.7
ers’ ability to negotiate condom use and other boundaries, and force many to work in hidden or remote places where they are move vulnerable to violence. Research and experience have shown that these laws serve only to drive the industry further underground, make workers less able to negotiate with customers on their own terms, and put those who engage in criminalized sex work at higher risk for abduction and sex trafficking,” the statement reads. “And as UNAIDS and the World Health Organization have recognized, criminalization also seriously hampers efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS –– efforts in which people involved in the sex trades are crucial partners.” The complaint that Homeland Security submitted to the US Eastern District of New York Court described rentboy.com as “a commercial male escort advertising site that promotes
discuss what we would do and what we would not do,” he said. A range of legal thinkers –– from the Canadian Supreme Court to Amnesty International and a group of leading LGBT legal groups that signed on to AI’s call for decriminalizing sex work –– all place particular emphasis on the ability of a sex worker to communicate, negotiate, and screen clients in order to
reduce risks of harm to either one of them. It was the special genius of rentboy that its website facilitated these negotiations. It allowed two consenting adults to meet –– with clarity about their purposes. These measure that reduce risk are seen by the prosecutors as evidence of prostitution, and not as evidence of two people trying to find games they both are willing to play.
Hurant, the complaint notes, uses the email address email@example.com, which is hardly subtle. The complaint quotes him telling one interviewer, “There is no place in this website where somebody says I’ll have sex for money because that is against the law. We can talk about what you look like, what you are, what you like to do, what people say about you in bed… People say I’m a great top, people say I fuck like nobody’s business, but you can’t say I’ll fuck you for two hundred bucks.” The website includes a disclaimer that rates quoted by the escorts on the site are only for their time, and that any sexual activity that takes place is a private matter between consenting adults. Illustrating the openness with which rentboy.com went about its business, the complaint describes how the company applied to the Department of Homeland Security for an occupational visa for one of its employees. It also describes an annual public event held by Rentboy.com, the “Hookies,” at which awards were bestowed on escorts listed on the site as the “best” in particular categories of statement were the Transgender Law Center, sexual performance. It was there the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the that Hurant gave his business card National Center for Transgender Equality. The to an undercover agent. statement came after Amnesty International, News reports indicated that earlier in the month, called for the decriminalthe prosecution may also involve ization of prostitution worldwide. charges of “money-laundering,” but In an August 25 article on the raid, Hayley that is not specified in the complaint Gorenberg, Lambda’s deputy legal director, submitted to the federal court to was quoted telling the San Francisco Weekly, get the arrest warrants. Of course, “We do not support the criminal prosecution of the complaint submitted to get the people for prostitution… Criminal prosecution, in turn, victimizes people who are often vulnerwarrant does not limit the scope of able and marginalized by society.” the ultimate prosecution. In a footActivists are divided as to what these note, it states that because the comactions indicate about Vance’s role, if any, in plaint was submitted “for the limitthe rentboy.com investigation and raid. ed purpose of establishing probable “I commend the district attorney for his cause,” it does not “set forth each desire to not be involved or associated with this and every fact learned during the ongoing war against gay consensual sex,” said course of this investigation.” Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles LiberOne might expect that the invesal Democratic Club, an LGBT political group. William Dobbs, a gay civil libertarian, was tigation would include rigorous tax more skeptical. auditing of rentboy.com and its par“This very curious development raises ent corporation, as well as the seven questions about Cy Vance’s involvement individuals arrested, and that the before his office’s name was removed,” Dobbs US attorney, acting as a prosecutor said. “Vance’s office, of course, and the other on behalf of Homeland Security, is district attorneys in this city prosecute prostilikely to assert as broad a range of tute and john arrests, thousands of them every charges as the government’s invesyear, exact number unknown.” –– Duncan tigation could support. Osborne
prostitution,” and sets out a detailed description of the website, providing graphic descriptions of the activities advertised, and asserting repeatedly that the disclaimers on the site that sexual activity was not being exchanged were meaningless and that the entire operation was set up to connect customers with prostitutes. Anyone interested in a detailed description of the online male escort business will find it in this complaint. It’s unclear if the raid on rentboy.com is a precursor to actions against similar websites as part of a general crackdown on the use of the Internet for commercial sexual assignations and whether Homeland Security is also targeting heterosexual escort sites. Rentboy.com may have been singled out for prosecution because of its owner’s brazenness in stating clearly in published interviews that the website’s purpose was to assist escorts in marketing their sexual services.
CY VANCE: DON’T BLAME ME FOR RENTBOY.COM RAID
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. at June’s annual Pride Garden Party hosted by the LGBT Community Center.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office had its name removed from the press release issued by the Brooklyn-based Office of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York that announced the raid on rentboy.com and the arrests of the gay escort site’s chief executive and six of its employees. “Cy Vance is understandably distancing his office from the nightmarish raid on an important safety tool for people in the sex trades,” wrote Rico Stone, a spokesperson for The #HookUp Collaborative, a coalition of rentboy. com advertisers, lawyers, and community members, in an email. “Whether or not his office contributed to the raid itself, it happened
under his watch.” The Collaborative organized an August 26 meeting of lawyers, the escorts who advertised on rentboy.com, and others at Judson Memorial Church to inform escorts about their rights and protections. The US Department of Homeland Security, which ran the investigation and conducted the raid with help from the NYPD, may have seized records on escorts and customers. The press office for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance first notified Gay City News that it had been removed from the release via email on August 26. That office sent a second email and left a phone message about the edited press release on August 27. The press office otherwise declined to comment. The August 25 raid was covered in New York City media, by some national and international press, and received extensive reporting in the LGBT press and blogs. It has been widely criticized by the LGBT grassroots. In separate statements, the Transgender Law Center, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Harm Reduction Coalition, the Global Forum on MSM & HIV, and the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance condemned the raid, as have roughly two dozen other groups. On August 25, Lambda Legal, the LGBT rights law firm, retweeted a statement it issued on August 20 calling for the decriminalization of prostitution. Also signing that earlier
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN
Homeland Security Must Put Up or Shut Up BY PAUL SCHINDLER
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The Manhattan raid was carried out midday, with newspaper photographers and TV camera crews conveniently on hand to record law enforcement agents exiting rentboy.com’s 14th Street office, evidence in hand. Homeland Security led the charge, and the NYPD backed them up. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was quoted as shocked, shocked, shocked such a “racket” was happening in his Casablanca. Kelly T. Currie, the acting federal prosecutor in Brooklyn who stepped in after the departure of Loretta Lynch, now the US attorney general, ripped into the “Internet brothel[’s]… veneer of legality.” Even though the Manhattan-based rentboy is being prosecuted in the US Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, rather than Preet Bharara’s Southern District in Manhattan –– perhaps he had bigger fish to fry? –– Currie thanked Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office (embarrassingly, Vance later asked that his name be removed from Currie’s press release; see page 16). Currie also thanked the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Somehow the suggestion that money-laundering might be involved found its way into some of the reporting on the raid. All we were spared by way of spectacle were perp walks, with the seven arrestees frog-marched in front of the cameras. In a 22-page complaint and affidavit
filed by Homeland Security Special Agent Susan Ruiz in support of the arrest warrants, we read an awful lot about the sexual desires rentboy.com’s customers could expect to satisfy by hiring escorts who advertised there. A page and a half listed the “primary interests” escorts chose from when putting their profiles together –– ranging from “vanilla” to “watersports” and “scat” to “diapers,” “fisting,” and “PNP.” “Brandon” offers clients who come to his Brooklyn locale a “sling and rimchair” –– items that Agent Ruiz was able to explain “based on my investigation.” Another Brooklyn escort, “Master Lebeau” offers “10 irresistible inches // long & strong.” There’s no point in challenging Homeland Security and the federal prosecutor’s assertion that rentboy did, in fact, operate under a thoroughly porous veneer of legality, but it’s also a linguistic stretch to describe the business as a brothel. Rentboy operated no physical venue and, from everything we know, took no cut of the escorts’ income and exercised no control over their lives. Instead, it acted as a broker, one that offered its advertisers a whole lot better economic deal than reports suggest Uber provides to its drivers. What are the usual arguments against prostitution –– other than the simple moral claim that trading sex for money is abhorrent? Brothels can lead to a decline in a neighborhood. Sex workers are exploited by their pimps. Children are sold into sexual slavery. None of these is a factor in the type of enterprise rentboy runs. In fact, examination of the site and conversations with escorts who
advertised there suggest that the business model offered them protection from the violence that plagues other segments of the sex industry while giving them economic independence and well-being. Clients of the escorts, too, enjoyed an unusual level of transparency in choosing which escort to engage. In place of the usual objections to prostitution, we are offered salacious details of gay men’s sexual appetites. It’s hard not to conclude that law enforcement crafted the complaint and affidavit to appeal to popular disgust with the activities described. This may have been calibrated to incite visceral homophobic attitudes or it might simply have reflected more general American squeamishness about the mechanics of sex. On top of all this, we also get the hint that drugs and money-laundering might be part of the mix, as well –– though the complaint and affidavit makes no case for either being a factor. With Homeland Security tasked first and foremost to keep this nation safe in an era when non-state actors have ready means to terrorize communities anywhere and with sexual trafficking and child exploitation true humanitarian crises, it is unconscionable that significant government resources are targeting a website that brings the security and convenience of the sharing economy to the consensual sex industry. Having put out the suggestion that drug trafficking and money laundering played a role here, law enforcement now has an obligation to come clean about those questions. Absent that, what we have here is a simple case of massive government overreach. Both the Obama Justice Department and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s police department owe the public an explanation as to why scarce government resources were squandered in this intrusive Keystone Cops caper.
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PERSPECTIVE: The Long View
Homeland Security’s Rentboy Raid All Too Predictable BY NATHAN RILEY
he raid on rentboy.com by the US Department of Homeland Security is no fluke. It follows the April passage of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking
Act by lopsided majorities in Washington. Major enforcement responsibility was assigned to the agency created to protect us from terrorism and control immigrants. Congress declared the law would stop “persons who
commit crimes relating to child human trafficking,” but along the way it increased federal authority over all acts of prostitution regardless of their connection to children. The law is modeled after the failed war on drugs. Human trafficking is caused,
Congress declared, by “the demand for commercial sex,” and it grandly insisted that “elimination” of trafficking “requires the elimination of that demand.” Everybody favors prosecution of child sex traffickers but “elimination” of prostitution is quite another matter. The effort to control the harms of drug use by eliminating demand for drugs
LONG VIEW, continued on p.23
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
PERSPECTIVE: Scorecard for Change
With Much Work Remaining, First Transgender White House Official Signals Great Progress BY JILLIAN T. WEISS
he White House has appointed the first openly transgender person to serve as a staff member there, as director of Outreach and Recruitment for the White House Personnel Office. As an attorney and a transgender woman who fights employment discrimination against our community, I am elated for Raffi Freedman-Gurspan. This is a milestone moment. At the same time, this particular appointment to this particular job –– a trans woman of color to direct outreach and recruiting for our nation’s Executive Office –– should be noted as well. Her prior job at the National Center for Transgender Equality was to make the perspectives and priorities of transgender people of color, and those who live in urban and rural poverty, part of our national policy and advocacy agenda. She worked on reforming dangerous conditions for transgender people in correctional facilities and in immigration detention, many of whom are economically disadvantaged trans-
gender people of color. This kind of intersectional approach, sensitivity to race and class, and understanding of systems of oppression is key to addressing the discrimination that so many in our country experience. The importance of her appointment lies not only in ensuring that people are hired based on qualifications, rather than job-irrelevant personal characteristics, but also in reminding us that we have far to go in reaching racial and economic justice. While white trans people are subjected to much discrimination, the amount and severity of discrimination suffered by trans people of color is multiplied by the intersection of race, class, and gender, creating a serious crisis in those communities that we have an obligation to address. Unemployment rates, incarceration rates, poverty rates, and other forms of inequality are much higher in trans communities of color. This appointment builds on the Obama administration’s established positive track record of support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights movement. Among other
accomplishments, the administration made two appointments of trans employees in its agencies in 2009. In 2011, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued guidance on equal opportunity for trans workers. In 2012, the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued regulations prohibiting trans discrimination in housing, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a decision finding that gender identity discrimination is sex discrimination under the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act. Two executive orders were amended in 2014, one addressing executive branch hiring and the other on hiring by federal contractors, to include gender identity and sexual orientation. This year, OPM announced that health insurers of federal employees must include trans health benefits starting in 2016. These are welcome changes. However, this latest White House appointment foregrounds the importance of the racial and economic issues that surround the problem of transgender discrimination. These issues must be directly addressed by policy.
In commenting about the White House appointment, the president’s senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, alluded to the crucial intersectional issues that must be addressed: “Raffi Freedman-Gurspan demonstrates the kind of leadership this administration champions. Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty, reflects the values of this administration.” Freedman-Gurspan has indeed worked to better the lives of transgender Americans, during her years of leadership as a legislative staffer in the Massachusetts State House and through her work as a policy advisor on the racial and economic justice initiative at the National Center for Transgender Equality. She helped pass Massachusetts’ Transgender Equal Rights Law, which had been stymied for years, and it was no easy lift. She has confronted obstacles facing trans Americans in health care, immigration, and the prison system, and understands well the systemic issues of race and gender discrimination that create unequal opportunity and violence in our community. Freedman-Gurspan’s seat at the White House table under scores the importance of equal opportunity for underrepresented and marginalized people in our
SCORECARD, continued on p.22
PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad
Long Live the Lezzie –– In the Post-Label Era BY KELLY COGSWELL
very couple of months, I read an article in HuffPost or Buzzfeed or some other hipster rag about how all these actresses and singers and whatnot have come out as… nothing, really… because they’re so fucking cool, they’re post-label, as fluid as their $129 lip gloss, which is perfectly applied, no matter how gender-neutral. Do I even need to say that they’re all stinking rich and nearly always white? It’s easiest to believe you’re above “labels,” which other people just call “words,” when you’re
GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
not only in the top one percent, but the top .05 percent. I’d like to announce for the record that “lesbian” is just a label in the sense that all words are. This one is offered to us by the English language to describe female types primarily attracted to other female types. There are no political qualifications, no sports certificates you must have, or clothes in your closet, or sexual acts you must engage in. Your hair can be of any length and degree of cleanliness. You can identify wherever you like on the gender spectrum. And better yet, lesbian works nicely as both an adjective or a noun.
When people say they don’t need or don’t like labels, they’re really saying, they don’t want labels. And why? They accept a great many other labels — like singer, for instance, or actress, or even writer — which serve the useful purposes of distinguishing them from plumbers so we don’t call them to fix the drip under the kitchen sink. Neither do most dispute the word white, even though skin color is actually quite changeable depending on the season, and if they tried to wiggle out of that category like the unfortunate Rachel Dolezal, or Tiger Woods, everybody would come down on them like a ton of gold bricks. You are white, they say. You are black. Get used to it. But “lesbian,” no. That’s a label you can draw the line at to general applause, pretend-
DYKE ABROAD, continued on p.22
PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus
Mennonites and Men Monday Nights BY ED SIKOV
ne evening during my freshman year at Haverford College, I was hunched over a book in the library when a most unusual vision appeared seemingly out of nowhere. I blinked hard; the vision remained. “Don’t look now,” I whispered to the guy sitting next to me, “but there’s a Pilgrim in the library.” He turned, saw the apparition, and failed to suppress a loud snort that reduced me to violent spasms of barely contained laughter. The woman was dressed in a floor-length black dress with white trim, plain black shoes, and a white bonnet. It’s not every day that you get to see a bonnet. But alas, the woman was not a Pilgrim but rather the Mennonite wife of an elderly English professor, an explanation so mundane that it killed the hilarity. Almost. I couldn’t help but think of Mrs. Edgar Rose as I was reading a fascinating piece in Al Jazeera America online about the conflict over homosexuality within the Mennonite community. Al Jazeera America is the US subsidiary of the media empire funded in large measure by the ruling family of Qatar. The article, by Kevin Williams, begins with the story of Matthew Hunsberger, a devout Mennonite who also happens to be gay. “I can go now and legally be mar ried, but it feels somehow incomplete because the church is such a part of my life,” Hunsberger said.
“I work at a Mennonite institution and go to a Mennonite church. I really would like that marriage to be in the church.” M e n n o n i t e s a r e – – a s Wi l liams puts it –– “vocal on peace and social justice issues,” but the church maintains a stubbor n resistance to accepting LGBT folks. Evidently the concept of “social justice” is strictly circumscribed in Mennonite culture. According to Williams, “a recent conference in Kansas City was supposed to smooth over some of the Mennonite church’s deep divisions over the role of the LGBT community in the church. Instead, the conference seemed to stake a compromise on a very narrow strip of ideological real estate in the middle, which left few satisfied, some churches threatening to exit altogether, and other members engaged in silent protest by sealing their mouths with duct tape.” Lucky for them, Mennonite men don’t have beards. Ripping off the duct tape at the end of the day would have been unpleasant. “The issue crosses the boundaries between age and religion,” Williams continues. “For instance, Chester Wenger, age 96, was stripped of his ministerial credentials by Mennonite Church USA after performing a same-sex wedding for his gay son. On the other end of the spectrum, Briana Thomas, 19, a Mennonite blogger on food and faith, declares gay marriage to be a sin. ‘God created us male and female and all of
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one to three years, not to mention that ever-popular modern punishment –– lashing.
I used to be a porn reviewer. That’s right. In the 1990s I earned money –– and got tons of free videos –– to separate the meat from the chaff for the readers of Inches magazine. It was great for a while, but by the fifth year I could no longer even glance in porn’s direction without feeling both bored and nauseated, so I quit the gig and –– with very few exceptions –– never watched another porn video again. But now there’s a TV show that serves an essentially pornographic function for me. I’m referring to NBC’s “American Ninja War rior.” Good grief, Charlie Brown –– those guys are hot! They’re men at peak physical condition. They’ve got much better muscles than the Speedoed boys of the Fire Island Pines, and they show them off without any of the distracting prancing that’s endemic at gay beaches and gyms. They’re at ease with their perfection. And they work damn hard to earn it. I’m riveted by “American Ninja Warrior” in the way I used to be attracted to porn before I became desensitized to it –– before the moment when I realized that I’d rather vomit blood than witness yet another shaved asshole. The head of Falcon once tried to get me fired for mocking the supposedly tough “biker” star of one video. In addition to his ridiculous shaved pucker, the guy had a bikini brief tan line, for god’s sake. A biker! My editor saved my job by pointing out to the rattled Inches publisher, who’d gotten an earful from Fal-
MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.22
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nature has always operated upon that premise. It’s common sense,’ Thomas said.” Thomas is evidently unaware of the enormous number of species in which homosexuality is common: caribou, giraffes, koalas, ravens, seagulls, chickens, and salmon, among many others (not that I’m a big fan of comparing ourselves to lower forms of life). Nor, it seems, has she ever had a dog hump her leg. In point of fact, “all of nature,” as she describes it, tends to get its rocks off by any means possible. Men are lucky to have penises big enough to prevent us from fucking electrical sockets. On the right side of the issue, which as usual is on the left, is a group calling itself Pink Menno. They’re the ones who duct taped their mouths shut –– with hot pink duct tape, of course. “Promises of dialogue have not been fulfilled,” Pink Menno co-founder Jen Yoder told Williams, who wrote, “Yoder, whose partner is transgender, founded the group with her brother. She is also a co-pastor of the Pittsburgh Peace Church, an inclusive church that is part of Mennonite Church USA. She says Pink Menno’s aims go beyond simply allowing same-sex marriage. ‘This is about Queer folks being able to live out our lives fully and completely as members of the Mennonite church,’ Yoder said, adding that there are plenty of straight Mennonites living together or having premarital sex, and those issues are left unexamined.” Williams’ article is a model of fair and balanced reporting, and for that he and Al Jazeera America are to be congratulated. At the same time, it’s worth noting that homosexual acts are illegal in Qatar and can result in prison sentences of
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EVANGELICAL, from p.8
Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which included the death penalty for some offenses and a life sentence for others. It was introduced in the Ugandan Parliament later that year. Gary Skinner, Watoto’s founder and lead pastor, took no public position on the bill. But Frank Mugisha, a noted LGBT activist in Uganda, called Skinner “one of the most homophobic people in the world” in a 2011 interview with MetroWeekly, a Washington, DC LGBT publication. While Hillsong may wish to reconcile in some form with its LGBT members, its history cannot be ignored. Members may have to ask about Hillsong’s continuing support for Watoto. “I believe there is a responsibility for any member of the church, LGBT or heterosexual, to question relationships with exclusive, violent, or right-wing groups,” said Stephen V. Sprinkle,
SCORECARD, from p.19
cities and counties across this nation, who will now have a new voice through her work and leadership as a transgender woman of color. That voice is particularly crucial given the fact that trans women of color make up the large majority of trans people who are victimized by violence. As of this
writing, at least 19 transgender women have been murdered in the US this year. Our society must address and arrest the ingrained forces of race, class, and gender oppression that plague us. It is not enough to say that our world will eventually evolve into an increasingly more understanding and accepting place for transgender lives. It
DYKE ABROAD, from p.19
ing like it’s a totally different case, because, “Like, you know, female sexuality is so fluid that we shouldn’t try to contain it at all.” I’d like to officially announce that there’s a word to describe that, too. We call it “bisexual” or “pansexual,” if you want to be fancy. No shame in those “labels” either. We can even change the words we use to describe ourselves anytime we want, in the same way that “actors” can become “directors,” though in most cases, they don’t, not permanently. I’m even okay with changing language itself. Why not? I’d take an axe to it if I could. But as limited as it is, it is how we communicate, share information. I suspect that the real reason the cool crowd of queer women don’t like lesbian isn’t because they don’t accept labels or that they want new or better ones, it’s because this particular one scares them shit-
MEDIA CIRCUS, from p.20
con’s outraged owner, that I had a PhD in film studies and therefore knew what I was talking about. No shit. I knew that degree would come in handy some day. Unlike that notorious Falcon
a theology professor at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth. “Anyone who is participating in the life of the church must question it and question it openly.” The bill languished in the Ugandan Parliament until 2013 when Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker, and David Bahati, a member and proponent of the bill, faked a vote. Despite the absence of a required quorum, they said the bill passed, though with the death penalty replaced by a long prison sentence. Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s president, signed it. A Ugandan court struck it down in 2014 because there was no quorum. The parliamentary ruse was necessary because governments, including the US and Sweden, were privately warning the Ugandan government against enacting it and, by early 2010, the Museveni government quietly promised to kill it. A few American evangelicals, notably Rick Warren of the California-based Saddle-
is, instead, incumbent upon us to take actions, create policies and laws, and bring lawsuits to effectuate them in order to lessen the suffering of transgender people, particularly trans people of color, right now. This will begin to happen as more transgender people like Freedman-Gurspan are elevated to powerful positions in government and the private sector. Her
less. It has a whole history of hatred behind it, and was once synonymous for sicko, degenerate, perv. More importantly, “lesbian” slams shut the door of heterosexual privilege and access to men, and lumps them in a terribly female category with all us dykes of the hoi polloi. Including every woman who’s ever lost her children in a homophobic court, every dyke that was ever bashed, every girl that got dragged to the preacher or kicked out of her house for kissing another girl, those dykes from New Jersey that finally fought back when they got harassed and landed in jail themselves. Some of us, like most Americans, really could stand to lose a few pounds and refuse to swipe on a little mascara to bring out our best features, which are always our eyes. I myself could use a haircut. And sometimes my personality could use a make-over, shrill and stri-
fraud, the competitors on “American Ninja Warrior” are real men with real jobs and families. They fight their way through an obstacle course designed to push them to –– and sometimes past –– their limits. They mesmerize me. And there’s nothing else in contemporary pop-
back Church, publicly opposed the bill, which points to the value of engaging conservative churches beyond joining any one church. “If they could make that stance internationally, that would make a huge difference that you’re not going to see with a progressive congregation,” said Groves, referring to a recent agreement the Mormon Church made with Equality Utah on nondiscrimination legislation in that state. Ferrell said he was not aware of “any kind of movement that is making any kind of noise” among evangelicals, but added, “I think there’s a lot of stuff going on underground.” Pastors are wrestling with how to be welcoming, perhaps even LGBT -affirming, without doing damage to their churches by appearing to contradict earlier teachings. “They’re trying to figure out how do I best go about doing this without killing the sheep,” Ferrell said.
appointment is a step in the right direction. Jillian T. Weiss is professor of Law & Society at Ramapo College of New Jersey, and the founder of the Law Office of Jillian T. Weiss, P.C., a firm that represents transgender people who have experienced employment discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
dent and so often angry I have nothing in common with these incredibly privileged females whose desire to sleep with women has never brought them anything but joy. But there’s more than grief. If you’re looking for exceptional lives, you’re tied as well to our histories of resistance and radical experiments in sex and gender and literature and art. We have outlaw lesbians, utopians, and activists. A garde much more avant than yours. You can’t imagine you’re the first, after all, to think you’re so progressive, so post-everything by announcing the demise of labels and of lesbians. Lesbophobes have been doing it for as long as I’ve been paying attention, which is a very good 25 years. The lesbian is dead! Long live the lesbian! Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.
ular culture that matches the electrifying moment when, standing atop the platform leading to another fiendishly devised obstacle, the lithe but rock hard contestant pulls his sweaty shirt over his head and tosses it to the crowd, basking in his own David-like beauty.
My only suggestion to the show’s producers is to automatically disqualify any man who shaves his armpits. “American Ninja Warrior” is great sports porn. It’s by far the hottest show on television. Follow @edsikov on Twitter. September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
LONG VIEW, from p.18
has been a failure, yet Congress is applying the same demand-centered approach to prostitution. The Homeland Security raid on rentboy fulfills this dubious congressional mandate. Rentboy has never credibly made any secret of its activities; it simply acted as a broker conveniently bringing buyers and sellers together. In other words, had city or state authorities wanted to stop this service, the evidence was always available on the website. Quotes from the website designed to provoke disgust on the part of the broader public constitute the bulk of the accusations in the federal warrant. But it is clear that these are adults pursuing their own choices, and the federal government is trying to turn the public against these choices. It is hard to envision adverse social impacts from rentboy’s existence. Men were contacted on their cell phones, their services hired, and the deeds took place behind closed doors. The men took up this work voluntarily and they paid rentboy to advertise their services. Clearly they aren’t victims of trafficking, but are instead self-employed. This is highend prostitution with virtually everyone asking $200 an hour or more. The justification for the government’s aggressive action is a new moral crusade: all prostitution is bad and must be wiped out. There is another word for such an objective: extremism. In fact, services like rentboy exist in every metropolitan city in the world. It had not provoked any concern from city or state law enforcement. And the question must be asked if federal intervention is wise or whether the locals previously had the right approach in ignoring rentboy as well as similar agencies brokering the services of women. Congress has given the federal government the power to trump the discretionary judgments of local officials. Surely one reason for the prevailing local tolerance is that the personal choices offered by rentboy, familiar to gay men, are understood by police to be one niche in urban social life. It should be a concern to every member of the LGBT community that personal preferences for foreskin, rimming, watersports, or domination should be turned by the federal government into slut-shaming and the rationale for criminal charges. In fact, the language and tone of the GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
warrant come perilously close to characterizing participants in the rentboy enterprise as “sex offenders” –– a category in law that has ballooned into a massive catchall with dangerous implications. In Indiana, a 19-year old man met a 14-year old girl on the Internet. When criminal charges were brought against the man, the girl admitted she lied about her age, saying she was 17 –– yet he will pay for that deception for 25 years. “That seems to be part of our culture now,” Judge Dennis Wiley said in rendering his verdict. “Meet, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior. There is no excuse for this whatsoever.” Wiley sentenced Zach Anderson to 90 days in jail and five years probation, but also 25 years on the sex offender registry. “It’s like I’m an outcast from society with all these things that I have put on me,” the young man told reporters. In her book “Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics,” Marie Gottschalk writes about how the sex offender category has led to tougher sentences across the board, draconian registration and community notification laws, and, in some cases, indefinite civil commitment of sex offenders who have completed their criminal sentence. It is useful to remember that “meet, have sex, sayonara” is precisely the service provided by rentboy, and the federal complaint indicates that the government’s response is to create disgust, define the behavior as deviant, and then press criminal charges. Rentboy CEO Jeffrey Hurant’s efforts to insist that sex work wasn’t involved in its business are comical, but his attorney is surely right to raise questions about government overreach, especially since his client faces five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. This federal crime-fighting initiative is just one more out of the mass incarceration model now so discredited. If meeting, having sex, and saying goodbye is now likely to create criminal liability, we’re all in trouble. Just two weeks ago, five leading LGBT advocacy groups –– Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Transgender Law Center –– joined Amnesty International in its call for decriminalization of sex work. Most of those groups have since condemned the rentboy raid.
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Breaking Intersectional The fourth annual Queer New York International Arts Festival starts September 16 BY BRIAN MCCORMICK
COURTESY: MEHDI-GEORGES LAHLOU
The work of Mehdi-Georges Lahlou (above), who performs September 25, questions Arab and queer identities in disarming and absurd ways.
hrough contemporary performance and visual art curated from around the world, Queer New York International examines and broadens current notions of queer and the geographies that define it. This year’s fourth annual festival features US and New York premieres by artists from Bulgaria, Croatia, France/ Morocco, South Africa, Switzerland, and the US. Events begin with an “ecosexual extravaganza” and film screening by San Francisco-based artists Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens. Festival favorite Ivo Dimchev returns with two shows: “Facebook Theater,” an interactive theatrical experiment with actors performing a text that will be created by a Facebook audience in real-time and a performance of 15 songs from his other shows.
Africa has been added into the mix for 2015. In this year’s pro-
COURTESY: MEHDI-GEORGES LAHLOU
gram introduction, festival curator Zvonimir Dobrović says a special block of programming will be dedicated to artists from different African countries in future fests. Marya Wethers, who has curated US and African artist exchanges through the Suitcase Fund, was invited by Dbrovic to participate in the festival, specifically by programming African artists. “The conversation,” she told Gay City News, “is to develop this into a residency that takes place prior to QNY, and also, to invite other artists to come and be here during the festival and show works-in-progress at different venues, with one or two headliners.” Wethers added, “This year is a pilot. Next year, hopefully, we’ll start to do more.” Wethers curated this year’s performance by South African artist Mmakgosi Kgabi, based on the artist’s activism. Gay City News interviewed Kgabi about her work, life, and perspective as a queer South
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African woman now living in Germany. “When Black Lives Matter erupted in the States,” Kgabi said, “I was working with Stompie Selibe, a fine artist in South Africa. He interpreted my script into paintings and in the end I wrote on one of the paintings ‘Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter,’ repeatedly. South Africa was at that moment experiencing a burst of xenophobic attacks, so in our context this made sense to me. During the Apartheid era, the phrase Black Lives Matter was also apt.” Despite guarantees enshrined in that country’s constitution, Kgabi said, “In South Africa there are certain parts of the country which have an air of unsafety for people of queer identity and for women. Government law and street law are at loggerheads. Traditionalists and vigilantes are constantly harassing and murdering people of queer orientation and it is not often that the perpetrators are brought to justice.” The US and South Africa are “further down the line” than her original home Botswana, where homosexual acts are illegal. Only last year, the gay and lesbian group Legabibo won a landmark legal case in that country’s High Court, allowing it to be officially registered. While the German government has only allowed for civil unions, Kgabi said that “socially living in Berlin is an explosion of openness on the queer spectrum. So my journey through Botswana, [to] South Africa, to Germany has felt like a personal liberation and I have let my guard down more along the way. I have walked toward myself
PERFORMANCE, continued on p.41
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
Lily Tomlin’s Lower East Side Black Eye
The New York Times
“PAUL WEITZ’S WRY AND INSIGHTFUL MOVIE. THE WONDER THAT IS ‘GRANDMA’ CAN BE SUMMED UP IN TWO WORDS : LILY TOMLIN.”
Veteran actress, comedian talks about
-A.O. Scott, THE NEW YORK TIMES
how she’s like and unlike “Grandma”
“ONE OF THE YEAR’S BEST MOVIES!” (HIGHEST RATING)
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Lily Tomlin (r.) with co-star Julia Garner in Paul Weitz’s “Grandma.”
GARY M. KRAMER: As a teenager, who would you have run to if you got into trouble like Sage did? L I LY T O M L I N : I had some adult friends, grown women 10 to 15 years older than I was. They lived in the apartment building I grew up in. We’ve stayed friends. One woman is in her 90s now. So I would have gone to one of those women. I had a quality about me — an air of independence — that made me seem probably older than I was. I would babysit their children though I wasn’t much older than their kids. GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
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BY GARY M. KRAMER s the title character in “Grandma,” now out in theaters, Lily Tomlin is sensational. The actress and comedian plays Elle, a poet who is in mourning for her partner, Violet. As the film opens, Elle is breaking up with her current girlfriend, Olivia (Judy Greer). Then Elle’s granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) arrives needing $630 for an abortion. Elle and Sage set out on a day-long journey that involves lessons on everything from the feminist movement to tattoos and fisticuffs. Tomlin chatted about “Grandma” and her experiences as a young woman, feminism, tattoos, and getting punched in the face.
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GMK: One of the points in “Grandma” is that there is a generation that does not understand — or perhaps does not want to understand — the difficulties women and LGBT people have faced in the recent past. LT: I’m sad the younger generation doesn’t know many people in the women’s movement particularly. There is more effort in the gay community about celebrating its heroes, like Harvey Milk. GMK: You have rarely played openly gay characters on screen. Was there a reason for that? LT: In “Tea with Mussolini” I played an archeologist, but not much was made of her lesbianism. I did try to get the Cher part in “Silkwood.” Nora Ephron had called me and wanted me to have the part, but Mike Nichols wasn’t
LILY, continued on p.42
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Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Life Matters
James Baldwin’s successor articulates what it means to be a black man at a critical American moment BY DAVID EHRENSTEIN
SPIEGEL & GRAU/ PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE
he girl with the long dreads lived in a house with a man, a Howard professor, who was married to a white woman. The Howard professor slept with men. His wife slept with women. And the two of them slept with each other. They had a little boy who must be off to college by now. ‘Faggot’ was a word I had employed all my life. And now here they were, The Cabal, The Coven, The Others, The Monsters, The Outsiders, The Faggots, The Dykes, dressed in their human clothes.” That passage appears roughly halfway through Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” a brief, cogent, extremely potent book about what it means for a black man born in 1975 to come to manhood, realize himself, and emerge as arguably the most important African-American voice since James Baldwin, whose “The Fire Next Time” Coates’ book is to a large degree indebted to. Baldwin, a forthrightly gay man at a time when it was highly “controversial” to be so, stood at the beating heart of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He was personally acquainted with all its major figures, and they sought his counsel constantly, no matter how much of an “outsider” his sexual orientation made him to less-enlightened eyes. First published in the New Yorker magazine in 1962, and the following year expanded into a book, Baldwin’s most memorable nonfiction work dealt with the challenge Malcolm X’s militancy presented to a movement founded on “non-violence” as well as with the hard truths about how white racism was perpetuated. For Coates, born more than a decade after “Fire” and an idolizer of Malcolm X, these hard truths were simple realities. “Why were our heroes non-violent?” he asks, noting, “To be black in the Baltimore of my childhood was to be naked before the elements of the world, before all the guns, fists, knives, crack, rape, and disease.” And that was just the start. Adulthood offered no respite or safe harbor. “I am black and I have been plundered and I have lost my body,” Coates declares. “But perhaps too I had the capacity for plunder, maybe I would take another human’s body to confirm myself in a community. Perhaps I already had. Hate gives identity. The nigger, the fag the butch, illuminate the border, illuminate what we ostensibly are not, illuminate the Dream of being white, of Being a Man. We name the hated strangers and are thus confirmed in the tribe. But my tribe was shattering and reform-
BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME By Ta-Nehesi Coates Spiegel & Grau 176 pages, $24
ing around me. I saw these people often because they were family to someone who I loved.” And the someone who Coates loved was struck down precisely in the way Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, and Eric Garner were because, as he explains to the reader, “the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body.” Coates began writing about this and other matters of import in the Atlantic beginning in 2008 with an essay questioning the politics of Bill Cosby –– before it became utterly imperative to do so –– followed by others about an America that had supposedly become “post-racial” because Barack Obama was now president of the United States. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth, and Coates is the ideal person to examine precisely why. His father, William Paul Coates, was a Vietnam veteran and former Black Panther who founded and ran Black Classics Press. His mother Cher-
yl Waters-Hassan was a schoolteacher. It should also be pointed out that William Paul Coates had a total of seven children, five boys and two girls, by four different women, and was thus scarcely a “role model.” This was undoubtedly one of the reasons Ta-Nehisi Coates (an Egyptian name his father gave him that means “Nubia,” and in a loose translation “land of the black”) found so much happiness at Howard University and the world within it he calls “The Mecca.” “The Mecca is a machine, crafted to capture and concentrate the dark energy of all African peoples and inject it directly into the student body. The Mecca derives its power from the heritage of Howard University, which in Jim Crow days enjoyed a near-monopoly on black talent… The history, the location, the alumni combined to create The Mecca — the crossroads of the black diaspora.” And it is at this crossroads that Coates comes to intellectual fruition — quite an achievement in light of his distrust of the education he had received up until then. “When our elders presented school to us, they did not present it as a place of higher learning but as a means of escape from death and penal warehousing,” Coates declares in “Between the World and Me,” going so far as to state, “Schools did not reveal truths, they concealed them.” This clearly wasn’t the case at Howard, because truth was revealed at “The Mecca” as well as by the (never named) “girl with the dreads” who helped him through an illness and introduced him to her Bloomsbury-like extended family. “The girl with the long dreads who changed me, whom I so wanted to love, she loved a boy about whom I think every day and about whom I expect to think every day for the rest of my life. I think sometimes that he was an invention and in some ways he is, because when the young are killed they are haloed by all that was possible, all that was plundered. But I know that I had love for this boy, Prince Jones, which is to say that I would side-eye whenever I saw him, for I felt the warmth when I was around him and was slightly sad when the time [came] for us to go.” And there you have it. Ta-Nehisi Coates is not gay, but he knows more about what it means to be gay than most straights. And the reason for that is his willingness to speak of a man he could have loved. What prevented him from doing so was partially circumstantial (everyone went their separate ways after college) but decisively because that man was murdered by the police — an event that brought “Between The World and Me” into being and resonates throughout it. Prince Jones was killed by an
COATES, continued on p.31
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
Gay City News presents the SPIEGEL & GRAU/ PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE
Ta-Nehesi Coates and his son, Samori Maceo-Paul Coates.
COATES, from p.30
GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
undercover policeman in Northern Virginia. The cop had tracked Jones, whom he had supposedly thought to be a criminal suspect from Prince George County, Maryland, an area notorious for deadly police “encounters” with black men. As usual there was an “investigation,” which needless to say exonerated the officer thanks to his allegation that Jones had tried to run him over with his car. Observes Coates, “This investigation produced no information that would explain why Prince Jones would suddenly shift his ambitions from college to cop killing.” But it doesn’t have to. Jones was black and therefore a criminal suspect in the eyes of the law. The fact that the officer who killed him was also black shines a light on a species of “black-on-black crime” no one in our famously free press wishes to discuss. Coates says simply, “The officer who killed Prince Jones was black. The politicians who empowered this officer to kill were black.” Blackness in “defense” of the status quo, then, becomes the cynosure of racism’s full operational power. For Coates, because of Prince Jones’ murder just the previous September, 9/11 wasn’t as compelling as it was for others. He was in New York when the World Trade Center was struck, but all he could think of was, “They sold our bodies down there”… indicating that the area was once a slave market. Bodies are of primary concern for Coates, especially that of his son, Samori Maceo-Paul Coates. In an especially vivid passage he recalls an incident when, leaving a movie theater, a white matron shoved the boy roughly aside as she came
James Balwin’s “The Fire Next Time” was published in 1963.
down a stairwell. When he protested, a white patron yelled at Coates, “I could have you arrested!” Happily this violent rhetoric didn’t escalate into violent action because Coates stood his ground. But the message was clear. For daring to protest the authority of a white woman to do whatever she wanted with his son’s body, his own body could have been confiscated by the police. “Between the World and Me” is dedicated to Coates’ son just as “The Fire Next Time” was dedicated to Baldwin’s nephew. Coates regards himself as just another black parent. “I think we would like to kill ourselves before seeing you killed in the streets that America made.” It is to be dearly wished that that won’t happen — for Coates or anyone else. But American history only renders us foolish for daring to imagine this wish easily attainable. All we can do is find our “Mecca” and do everything in our power to make it grow –– regardless of the horrors that may be visited upon those we love by a system we hate.
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When passion saves before it destroys
Lou de Laâge and Joséphine Japy in Mélanie Laurent’s “Breathe.”
BREATHE Directed by Mélanie Laurent Film Movement In French with English subtitles Opens Sep. 11 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. ifccenter.com BY GARY M. KRAMER
ominated for the Queer Palm last year at Cannes, “Breathe” is actress-turned-director Mélanie Laurent’s intense film about the fraught friendship between two high school girls in a French suburb. A potent bond develops almost immediately between Charlie (Joséphine Japy), a shy, smart, virginal teen whose father is leaving her mother, and Sarah (Lou de Laâge), a
newcomer to the school whose mom is off working in Africa. Their friendship is something like a morning glory sparkler, where the magnesium burns brightly before snuffing itself out, but the film instead uses the symbol — shown in a classroom science film — of co-dependent plants that suck the life out of each other. There’s a very good reason why Laurent’s film is named “Breathe” –– and it’s only slightly related to Charlie being asthmatic. When Sarah enters the school year in the middle of the semester, she breathes new life into the suffocating Charlie, giving her something, or rather someone, to feel passionate about. Charlie’s desires, to be clear, are less about sex than companionship. Still, the wallflower becomes free to inhale and embrace life. A beautiful, confident, truth-telling stranger, Sarah is almost everything Charlie is not. De Laâge is completely seductive in her looks, body language, and demeanor. Sarah knows how to entice folks and make them feel more confident, and works her charms on Charlie’s mother (Isabelle Carré) and a handsome guy she meets as easily as on Charlie. Laurent uses nice visual cues to show the attachment between the girls. We see them lying on a bed, legs crossed at the ankles, mirroring each other. As they dance, drink, and smoke together at a party, we see their common desire, even their unity in trying to escape the loneliness and sadness in their lives. When Charlie and Sarah take a holiday in the country with Charlie’s mother and aunt, the young girls’ relationship is heightened –– confidences are shared, as is a kiss, the only intimate physical contact between them. There are also moments of tension. Sarah feels slighted
when Charlie introduces her to someone as her “classmate” not her friend, while Charlie turns sulky over Sarah’s flirtations with a guy at the campground. Sarah has ingratiated herself into Charlie’s more stable environment, but there is something insidious about it. When Charlie catches Sarah in lie, she discovers a secret her best friend is hiding, When the girls return to school, betrayal soon becomes the basis of their relationship. Sarah begins to bully Charlie, and Laurent emphasizes the victim’s despair. As she dodges incessant harassing phone calls and sits down in a stairwell to catch her breath, we can see that Charlie mentally and physically overwhelmed by Sarah’s erratic behavior. When her former best friend Victoire (Roxane Duran) asks her why she puts up with it, Charlie’s non-response response speaks volumes. Japy delivers a very accomplished perfor mance in the film. Charlie’s nearly poker-faced expressions and increasingly withdrawn behavior belie deeper thoughts, and her pain is palpable. As she weighs forgiveness versus revenge, Japy makes Charlie’s transformation from awkward teen to someone galvanized to act credible. The power struggle between the two frenemies makes for delicious tension in the last act of “Breathe.” Viewers will be unequivocally on Charlie’s side, though it could have been interesting if viewers had been led to shift their sympathies back and forth. The film’s power lies in the characters’ inability to control their emotions. “Breathe” includes some knockdown, drag-out catfights — pretty much a given in films about female friendships, especially when things go sour — but the extreme bursts of physical violence are manifestations of genuine emotional rage. To her credit, Laurent depicts Charlie and Sarah’s escalating war as harmful, with matters culminating in a startling denouement. This smart, sharp film about female friendships is meant to leave viewers gasping. And it does.
Brazilian Dreams In 19th century German town, the unknown exotic appears utopian BY STEVE ERICKSON
HOME FROM HOME: CHRONICLE OF A VISION Directed by Edgar Reitz Corinth Films In German with English subtitles Opens Sep. 11 Anthology Film Archives 32 Second Ave. at Second St. anthologyfilmarchives.org
erman director Edgar Reitz has been exploring the meaning of “home” (“heimat” in German) for more than 30 years. He’s devoted 58 hours of film, spread across five different projects, to various installments of the “heimat” series. I’ve only seen “The Second Heimat,” which takes place in the ‘60s, and “Home From Home,” set in the 1840s.
As different as they are, both films use the imaginary town of Schabbach as an organizing principle. In both “The Second Heimat” and “Home From Home,” it’s a place to escape from; one character in “The Second Heimat” spends almost a whole decade avoiding a return to Schabbach, and the protagonist of “Home From Home” dreams of moving to Brazil. Reitz’s work is rewarding if you’re willing to give yourself up to it, but its demands are great as well –– I
watched “The Second Heimat,” which runs for nearly 26 hours, on VHS over the course of several months. “Home From Home” revolves around two brothers, Jakob (Jan Dieter Schneider) and Gustav (Maximillian Scheidt). Jakob constantly reads and dreams about becoming a jungle explorer. In a diary, he writes down his dreams and expresses the emotions of the whole town of Schabbach. His par-
HOME, continued on p.40
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
Gay City News presents the
Neil LaBute explores sexual secrets in “Dirty Weekend”
Alice Eve and Matthew Broderick in Neil LaBute’s “Dirty Weekend.”
BY GARY M. KRAMER
n writer/ director Neil LaBute’s new comedy-drama, work colleagues Natalie Havington (Alice Eve) and Les Moore (Matthew Broderick) have their LA to Dallas flight grounded in Albuquerque. Les, uptight and with his right arm in a sling after shoulder surgery, is cranky. Natalie, who is British, is cool, calm, and collected. The two, polar opposites, get to know one another during their layover, but they most certainly do not fall in love. After some routine formalities about the delay that set the stage of this talky, stagy film, the plot kicks into gear. Les is hoping to sneak away (without Natalie) and revisit the scene of a one-night stand he had in Albuquerque a few months back. He is trying to come to terms with that experience which — it is revealed over the course of the film — involved anal sex. Natalie, in contrast, who is generally as closed-up as her turtleneck, admits she has a girlfriend. Their relationship, she explains, has some peculiar arrangements, something Les tries to understand. LaBute makes these characters and their sexual peccadilloes intriguing enough for viewers to be drawn into “Dirty Weekend.” As a playwright and filmmaker, he uses words carefully and deliberately for dramatic and comic effect.
GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
DIRTY WEEKEND Directed by Neil LaBute eOne Opens Sep. 4 Cinema Village 22 E. 12th St. cinemavillage.com
We learn quickly what makes Les uncomfortable. He says, “It’s all fun and games until somebody sticks a spear in your ass,” but then has a strange encounter with a smoke shop cashier, who tells him that what he wants is “in the rear.” When Natalie discusses “sex in the ass” in public with Les, he visibly bristles. The ping-pong nature of Les and Natalie’s dialogue is well done, with LaBute employing shot-reverse-shot editing that captures the rat-a-tat-tat of their exchanges. He does less well, however, using long shots, in one instance risking the loss of a laugh line when Les, on the phone with his motormouth wife, says, “Have you heard of ‘word in edgewise?’” The script’s precision overemphasizes Les’ so-called “gay panic,” but there is a point here. He has to work hard not to use the word “gay” in talking to a cabdriver and bartender about Zorro, the bar
DIRTY, continued on p.35
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Rocking & Rolling… And Stalling
the theater, whatever you choose to pay, you will profit handsomely from seeing “Hamilton.”
“Hamilton” conquers Broadway, Everett Quinton revives classic camp, “John” is just long
“Drop Dead Perfect” starring
HAMILTON Richard Rodgers Theatre 226 W. 46th St. Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $65-$180; ticketmaster.com Or 800-745-3000 Two hrs., 45 mins., with intermission
Theatre at St. Clements 423 W. 46th St. Mon., Wed.-Thu. at 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 3 p.m. $69; dropdeadperfect.com Or 845-786-2873 Ninety mins., no intermission
JOHN Pershing Square Signature Center 480 W. 42nd St. Sun., Tue.-Fri. at 7:30 p.m. Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $25; signaturetheatre.org Or 212-244-7529 Three hrs., 30 mins. with two intermissions
BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE
amilton” has moved to Broadway with all the attendant buzz and fireworks (literally, over the Hudson on opening night). It is every bit as good as you’ve heard. Lin-Manuel Miranda, in adapting Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, has created vibrant theater and pushed the musical as a form to an important new level. His lyrics are consistently brilliant, his ability to synthesize diverse musical styles and topics into a coherent whole is thrilling, and the book is beautifully crafted. In short, like “Fun Home” and “Here Lies Love,” “Hamilton” is what is
DROP DEAD PERFECT
Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Miranda’s “Hamilton.”
making the musical relevant and exciting in 2015. In contrast to the Golden Age of Broadway musicals following World War II that pushed music into the culture and, to an extent, defined popular taste, “Hamilton” draws diverse styles from the culture, using them to draw in an intrigued and, from all one can tell, adoring audience. I reviewed “Hamilton” in detail back in March when it played at the Public. In making the move to Broadway, the show has only gotten stronger. Across the board, the actors are more grounded and precise in their performances –– and they seem genuine in their joy at being on stage –– and that has tightened the narrative and underscored the plot’s political machinations. The show, as a result, seems more immediate. Miranda is even more confident and nuanced as Hamilton than he was previously, as is Leslie Odom, Jr. as his nemesis, Aaron Burr. Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler and Phillipa Soo as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton are also reprising their roles from the Public, and both are sublime — classical singers completely at home with the score’s varied demand. There are moments when Soo in particular takes your breath away. Also returning is Daveed Diggs, who, doubling as Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, moves seamlessly among
rap, funk, and music hall-style performances. In the earlier production, Jonathan Groff played King George as a stereotypical gay fop, which to me seemed “discordant” with the other performances. Happily, under the direction of Thomas Kail, Groff is making other, subtler choices and the result is a smart, intelligent, and thoroughly engaging performance. The rest of Kail’s work in mounting the show is inspired. Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography is a blend of traditional styles accented with contemporary athleticism that is consistently fresh and vibrant. The production looks spectacular. Paul Tazewell’s costumes are very smart. I’m a huge fan of set designer David Korins, and he has outdone himself here with a gorgeous, understated, and timeless scaffolding. Howell Binkley’s lighting is sharp and dramatic. What you will have to resign yourself to, however, is waiting for tickets. Unless you want to buy resale tickets that go as high as $1,200 each or win the daily lottery for seats in the first two rows, you’re going to have to wait until March. Hamilton himself would likely have been intrigued to learn of this level of profiteering, since he championed the notion that, legally and morally, individuals have the right to profit or lose by the transactions they make. But if you love
Everett Quinton is back at the Pecadillo for a limited eight-week run. This camp comedy –– a mashup of pulp fiction, overwrought horror films, and, yes, “I Love Lucy” –– is madcap, antic, and thoroughly entertaining. Quinton plays Idris Seabright, a woman of a certain age who lives in the Keys with her ward Vivien, a would-be artist. Her lawyer, who stays in the guesthouse, plies her with pills, and then her long-lost half-Cuban nephew shows up. It all ends in hilarious disaster for everyone, except the audience, of course. I once completed a project ” for the recently defunct Columbia House writing the synopses for every episode of “I Love Lucy, so I got even the most obscure references in “Drop Dead Perfect.” I’m not sure everyone will. Many, if not most, of the pop culture allusions in Erasmus Finn’s play may be lost on a contemporary audience. Camp, cross-dressing, and sly cribbing from noir movies and tropes were once more subversive and dangerous. Much of that seems lost now, and as diverting as “Drop Dead Perfect” is –– particularly with fine performances by Jason Cruz, Jason Edward Cook, and Timothy C. Goodwin rounding out the company –– it’s missing that poke in the eye of convention and norms that once upon a time gave the genre a far sharper edge.
At three-and-one-half hours running time, Annie Baker’s “John” requires a time commitment not often asked in the contemporary theater. It also requires a bit of patience because virtually nothing happens in all that time. The plot concerns a couple who arrive at a Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, bed-and-breakfast during the holiday season. The house may be haunted. The couple, Elias and Jenny, may be breaking up. The proprietress, Mertis, may be a little intrusive, and her blind friend, Genevieve, is without question cantankerous. As Elias goes off to the battlefields, Jenny chats with Mertis
STALLING, continued on p.35
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
DIRTY, from p.33
where he hopes to reconnect with the person he had sex with months ago. The possibly bi-curious Les is not only hobbled by the harness on his shoulder, he also wears anxiety on his sleeve. LaBute never judges his characters, but they are very critical of themselves. Les and Natalie wrestle with honesty and deception in ways that raise themes of morality, shame, and privacy at the heart of their sexual hang-ups. When Les admits he can find a man attractive without being gay, he keeps talking, trying to justify his thoughts to himself and Natalie, who listens attentively, but rolls her eyes. Broderick is fine when typecast as a fidgety milquetoast, but here he is best in those few moments when he injects a bit of mischievousness into Les, such as a scene in Zorro’s men’s
room where he tries to diffuse an uncomfortable situation. Eve, who starred in LaBute’s last theatrical release, “Some Velvet Morning,” plays Natalie with considerable élan, being alternately polite, feisty, and exasperated. “Dirty Weekend” is less focused on Natalie, which is a shame since her mysteriousness and allure are appealing. She talks about a power struggle with her girlfriend, but this is a tease since we never learn much about that. Her journey, instead, is signified by her letting her hair down in Zorro and becoming warmer and softer. She is largely a foil to provoke Les into exploring his sexuality; her desires remain underexplored. Meanwhile, as Les discovers the truth about “that night” and his own sexual identity, “Dirty Weekend” throws in some kinky twists that put the queer in “Albu-queerque.”
Gay City News presents the
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highlighting the very best our city has to offer! Readers who vote will be entered for a chance to win an iPad Mini, Broadway Tickets, and more! ED MCCARTHY
Everett Quinton and Jason Cruz in “Drop Dead Perfect.”
STALLING, from p.34
and Genevieve, in rambling and disjointed ways about “love, live, anguish, angst,” as the dismissive lyric from “Nine” goes, finishing with, “Thanks to him, we have boredom at the movies.” It is nonetheless to the credit of Baker, director Sam Gold, and the cast that “John” is as engaging as it is, but given the sketchy nature of the writing, it’s hard to care about any of the characters. It’s clear that Baker is going for the kind of studied naturalism that worked so beautifully in “Circle Mirror Transformation,” but here just seems lugubrious. Georgia Engel is charming as Mertis, but her entire performance GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
is based in the idiosyncratic delivery she bring to everything. The play demeans Mertis somewhat, and laughing at her for her age, infirmities, and tchotchkes feels like a cheap trick. Christopher Abbott as Elias and Hong Chau as Jenny are virtually without affect, which is obviously a choice but one that wears thin. It’s always wonderful to see Lois Smith, but here she gives a one-note, cranky-person performance that is more grating than anything else. Ultimately, “John” feels unfinished and unfocused, as bland as Elias and Jenny and with a predictable ending that could have been reached in less than half the time –– before the characters wore out their welcome.
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The Essence of Estes
Master photorealist offers major New York retrospective RICHARD ESTES “PAINTING NEW YORK CITY” Museum of Art and Design 2 Columbus Circle Through Sep. 20 Tue.-Wed., Sat.-Sun., 10-6 p.m. Thu.-Fri., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. $16; $14 for seniors; $12 for students madmuseum.org
“Williamsburg Bridge,” 2006, by Richard Estes, on exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design through September 20.
BY DAVID NOH
he breathtakingly assured, masterfully crafted, and painstakingly detailed paintings of Richard Estes heralded the concept of photo-realism in the art world and remain among the prime examples of this genre. A major retrospective of his New York-inspired work is at the Museum of Art and Design through September 20, and the opportunity to see the collected output of this extraordinary gay artist is simply one not to be missed. I met with the artist –– whom I have known casually for years –– in his beautiful apartment in the glorious El Dorado on Central Park West and was once again struck by his miraculous youthfulness, quiet yet intense depth, and utterly refreshing modesty. He said he was happy with the show, but explained, “I haven’t been back since going to the opening. I’m sort of afraid that somebody’s going to recognize me. I should wear sunglasses like Jackie Kennedy, but then I couldn’t see the show. Maybe I could persuade someone to let me look at it when it’s closed.” Asked how long it takes him to do one of his paintings, which begin with photographs taken by him at various locations and sell for around $400,000, he responded, “A couple of months. I don’t do more than four a year. I work three or four hours a day but then there’s also a halfhour for getting ready, laying everything out and cleaning up stuff. I used to do it twice as long, but I now don’t start until two p.m. I need a lot of sleep, usually about nine hours, plus a
nap. I’m really only 50 years old because I’ve slept that much [laughs].” Estes, 83, seems to me to be the exact opposite of a flamboyant Julian Schnabel type artist –– low-key, Midwestern, down-to-earth, and sincerely humble to a fault. When I saw him at his MAD opening, the first thing he said to me was, “I want to crawl into a hole.” He added, “‘I was so drunk at my opening. It’s difficult to deal with so many people. So many old friends, and you sort of talk but then somebody else is coming up. It’s sort of awkward. At these openings, it’s impossible to really see the show because there are all these people standing in front of the paintings.” Estes was born in Kewanee, Illinois, but raised in nearby Sheffield, “a town of a thousand people. My father’s family goes back to the first Irish immigrants in the 1860s. My mother’s parents were both born in Belgium, so I’m half-Flemish, good for a painter [laughs]. “My father had a garage, and my grandfather was a blacksmith. I remember it was like a Velázquez painting: these things would be red hot in the fire and then he’d pound it on the anvil, shape the iron, and plunge it in the water. “Drawing was always the only thing I knew how to do. When I was about 14, we moved to Chicago, and I went from a class of about 12 students to 1,000. That’s where I got more exposed to art, had never even been to a museum before. I went to the Art Institute of Chicago, where there were a lot of good teachers who had escaped Nazi Germany. I was always into representational/ figurative art. Abstraction was never much of a challenge to me –– with
abstract, no matter what, you can’t do a bad painting [laughs].” After graduating, Estes began to work in advertising, doing “mostly layouts, really sketches for ads for these industrial publications. Also Popular Science and the Reader’s Digest. I started using photographs for my work, like tires skidding on the ice. I preferred to freelance, working at countess little studios, a different job every three months so I could have enough money to live and paint, and not be stuck in a 9-5 job every day.” Estes made the move to New York in the 1950s but “I never showed my paintings. A friend of mine had just started a small ad agency and I worked for him. I kept using photographs but then thought I’m not going to try to make a fake painting with all this Expressionism, I will just do it the way it is. I think I was sort of influenced by photography because there were photographers at the time doing similar street captures looking through cafe windows and cars. That was in photography, not in painting, so that’s where I began doing it. “I made a bunch of pictures, mostly of reflections in cars and windows and fenders. They had sort of an abstract quality. They used to sell these Polaroid lenses which could eliminate all the reflections, the opposite of what I was going for. I took a few paintings around to different galleries, and every place I went, they sort of looked at them, and said, ‘This isn’t modern art. What is this?’ “Ivan Karp was working for Leo Castelli and he wanted to take me on, but Castelli said, ‘Oh, no, my other artists wouldn’t approve of this!’ Almost the last place I went to was Allan Stone on 86th Street, before there was a Soho or Chelsea, when the galleries started around 57th Street. Alan was sort of a car collector, and he was intrigued by them and said he’d come over
PAINTING, continued on p.37
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
PAINTING, from p.36
GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
to look at more at my place, which was then on 75th Street between Columbus and Central Park West, in a brownstone for $110 a month. “My budget was about $300 a month and I could live on it very easily. The subway was 15 cents. So Alan said, ‘Look, we’ll have a show in the spring. I had about six months to do stuff for it, and at my first show, we sold every one. I never went back to advertising again. That was in 1968 [chuckles].” Asked if he thought he was the first artist to do photo-realism, Estes answered, “I think Chuck Close was doing it but I didn’t know him. Malcolm Morley was doing these boats, and there were a lot of others, too. Duane Hanson was doing very realistic things with figures, a fabulous painter but I don’t think he can work anymore because he has can’t see.” Surprisingly, the real reason that Estes moved to New York was not for the art, but for the boys. “It was much easier in New York than Chicago, also just to get away from my family and have my own place. I was living at home, and I had saved enough for six months living expenses to come to New York. “I was actually pretty old when I had my first experience with a man. I never had any sexual relations until I was about 20, I guess, at the Art Institute. When I made the move from Sheffield, I didn’t make any friends. I was sort of shy in that big school and that’s how I got interested in art and also classical music and opera. There was a wonderful library only a couple of blocks from where we were living and I would borrow records. “In Chicago, there was a nice park on the lake, and it was very cruisy at night, and every once in a while the police would come in and raid the whole place and everybody would see the lights flashing and run. Once, when I was in art school, I was with my friend and we were walking on Oak Street Beach and this group of guys came and said, ‘You’re faggots!’ and started attacking us. So we ran, but that’s what it was like in those days. “Even in New York, the bars always had a warning light that
would flash. You’d be dancing or doing things in the bar, and everybody would separate and the police would come in.” Estes has enjoyed a relationship with artist and musician Chris Jones, now his spouse, for 20 years. Prior to that, “I had very strong relationships with a couple of others. José Saenz was from Costa Rica and he died of AIDS in about 1992. I was with him from 1973, and we lived here and he did all the cooking. So many friends died of AIDS, and the other, Jimmy, who was the love of my life, also died of AIDS in about 1987. “I don’t know how I escaped it, frankly. It’s really weird. I don’t know what they do nowadays –– I’m sort of out of it at this point, but it was pretty wild with the baths and all of that, like in the Ansonia, where Bette Midler got her start.” Estes, is the very model of that rarest of creatures, a well-adjusted, sane, and functioning artist, who still loves what he does and is performing at full strength even at this stage. “Yeah, I’m an octogenarian, scary! I always considered myself the young person and now I’m the old person. But, my God, I wouldn’t want to go through all my money problems and doing all these things I hated doing in order to survive. I don’t have to do any of that anymore and I haven’t since 1970, for all practical purposes. That’s why I don’t have a studio because, to me, it’s so much better not to have to get dressed and go out and take the subway to go someplace else. I can just be here and do what I want and I’m home. I don’t understand these people who have these studios in some ugly warehouse and they feel they have to do these big paintings.” Estes also spearheads the Acadia Foundation, which supports the work of painters and is housed in another of his homes, a magnificent 30-room Fred Savage 1893 mansion in Northeast Harbor, Maine, once owned by Helen Roebling Tyson, whose grandfather built the Brooklyn Bridge. “Vincent Longo was there once, and this year we have one artist coming. It sort of started out very ambitious, each summer three artists coming for a month each. But then, less and less [chuckles]. It’s more or less for somebody who can do
Richard Estes in his home at the El Dorado, with his painting of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona behind him.
something with it when I die. It’s all set up.” Successful a s he i s, Estes unfairly suffers from a kind of typecasting that goes on in the more-commercial-now-than-ever art world. To me, the most impressive of Estes’ paintings is a jaw-dropping panoramic envisioning of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia
Cathedral in Barcelona, which is hanging in his apartment. “I can’t sell it. Collectors don’t want figures in my paintings. The one that’s in the show, of Central Park, nobody would buy because of the people in it. The one of Machu Picchu, too. It’s too romantic, they say. So I have to continue to do deserted streets and window reflections.”
T R A D I T I O N . E X P R E SS I O N . R E F L E C T I O N .
NOw ON STAgE
jewish culture Downtown FILM SERIES: THE LEGACY OF PARAGRAPH 175 Different from the Others 1919 German silent film with live music
THU | SEP 10 | 7 P.M. $12, $10 Members
Paragraph 175 15th Anniversary Screening WED | SEP 30 | 7 P.M. Free Free Museum admission to the special exhibition Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945 for all ticketholders.
On View Through November 1, 2015 The Nazi regime’s attempt to eradicate homosexuality left thousands dead and shattered the lives of many more. The exhibition explores the rationale, means, and impact of the Nazis’campaign. LoWEr MAnHATTAn | 646.437.4202 | oPEn SUn–fri MorE ProGrAM & ExHibiTion info @ WWW.MjHnyc.orG Public programs are made possible through a generous gift from Mrs. Lily Safra.
IN THE NOH
Antonio’s Way A character actor who pioneered gay roles in film, and also happened to be black BY DAVID NOH
as my mentor, in life as well as the business. That scene about taking off the mask was very Jason.” Did Fargas improvise any of Bernstein’s lines? “Not really. I really have such a respect for writers, without the page there’s nothing. And, to tell you the truth, Paul Mazursky knew I was doing drugs, even at that time, and we talked about that when we spoke for the last time at the Directors Guild showing of ‘Next Stop’ in his honor. He was very touching, a man of compassion and wonderful. “When I did ‘Putney Swope’ with Robert Downey Sr., he really let you improvise and got the kinds of actors who could. The reason I played so many gay roles was because I had the ability to go there and that sort of gave me a reputation. Like the group in ‘Next Stop,’ I came from hanging out in the Village and we felt empowered because of the Civil Rights Movement coming to a creative head, along with Off Broadway revolutionary plays, James Baldwin’s works, crossing color lines. We were trying to find each other and love all these characters who were coming together in this space and time, which was special. “We were groundbreakers in a lot of ways. To be a part of that is be chosen, like God chose this date to be written before we were
IN THE NOH, continued on p.42
DOUBLE XXPOSURE MEDIA RELATIONS
’m more man than you’ll ever be and more woman than you’ll ever get!” This ultimate putdown was ferociously spat out in 1976’s “Carwash” by Antonio Fargas as take-no-prisoners drag queen Lindy. The line not only became a gay cult favorite, but has forever enshrined Fargas in moviegoers’ hearts for this portrayal, as well as his other gender-bending roles in “Next Stop Greenwich Village,” “Ambush Murders,” and Millie Jackson’s play “Young Man, Older Woman,” in which he offered something of a model for Tyler Perry’s Madea. The fabulously loquacious Fargas deliciously took control of the interview before I even had a chance to ask a question and his eloquence gave him every right to, as far as I was concerned: “You know, I was just talking to an old friend about my film work and my life’s work and how they collided. So much of my history has come full circle. Did you see that unsung “Car Wash?” They talked about the problems of getting the movie done on both the racial and social levels. But somehow it came together and the symbolism of some of the characters in there, like our director Michael Schultz’s wife playing a prostitute and people thinking she was the real deal. Or Bill Duke playing the revolutionary, Abdullah, or my character, Lindy. We were out there, and what that meant to people who were watching, seeing themselves portrayed with sensitivity –– and sensitivity to their pain. “I was always attracted to characters taking chances, revolutionaries, daring to cross color lines and all those things that were going on in the 1970s, on whose shoulders today’s artists stand. It’s an amazing day today, and I’m proud to represent my people as an African
American and also the other people who struggled around the world. Although it’s still horrifying that gays and lesbians could be attacked at an Israel Gay Pride parade, people are reacting to it like we are all coming from the back of the bus or sitting at the lunch counter and having people spit at us. “This is completely synonymous with the African-American struggle. And for gays and lesbians, because of what’s going on the Internet and YouTube, the movement has moved to another level, which will further bridge the gap. In the military, it’s now beyond Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell with two ladies becoming US Rangers in the Army. When we go to war now, it’s like when I was opposed to our Vietnam involvement, people from the Bronx and Detroit were fighting alongside those from the South because none of them had college deferments, they didn’t have the money. And now, gay and straight people have to depend on each other. War brings people together; the hating better stop because my life can depend on you.” Not everyone in the African-American community makes the connection between LGBT rights and the Civil Rights Movement that Fargas, who is not gay, makes: “I remember my brother having to take the lash and being kicked by my dad because he was so frustrated because he chose a gay lifestyle. So Puerto Rican macho, my father probably didn’t even realize how much this may have contributed to that decision. It’s very interesting to watch people who are different and how they are treated. I was always attracted to the guy nodding out and playing the piano, or the transvestites on the West Side on the docks and their tricks. As an artist, my eyes were always wide open and aware of survivors like Jack Johnson. He was the champion boxer of the world, yet how could he marry a white woman in the early 1900s and
survive? It’s a very spiritual thing. “The life that I led made me sensitive to the pain of others, but also to my own pain to survive being an artist and an actor. I met people who were different, which included gay, and we had a bond, a respect for each other. In acting, I found a place where I could be comfortable because I felt different. I wasn’t a normal kind of guy from a normal kind of situation. Sometimes I think I was born president and CEO of Antonio Fargas, Inc., and I had no idea how to run a company [laughs]. “From the beginning of my life, I found salvation in the arts, in medicine, in alcohol, and all those things that made me able to deal with this hostile world. Most of all, I found it with the gift of interpreting and creating characters.” In the 1970s, there was a dearth of gay characters in films, let alone gay black characters, but along came Fargas, to single-handedly fill the bill, playing queer in two movies in ’76 –– “Car Wash” and Paul Mazursky’s masterpiece, “Next Stop, Greenwich Village.” Fargas said, “I just know that I love. Sexually, that is not me, but at the same time, I feel close. I don’t have the prejudices and I can say I love men, although I don’t have sex with them. But at the same time, in order to play something, you really have to identify with and let somebody live. I think it’s a shame when actors make fun of these characters they’re trying to play, like, ‘It’s not really me, but I’m just doing it.’ There’s that distance and that fear when actors aren’t able to go there.” Fargas’ Bernstein in “Next Stop, Greenwich Village” is searingly well-played, especially when his mask of bravado comes down and he tear fully describes his “trade” as being the only reason he lives: “What a cast we had on that film, beautiful Ellen Greene, C h r i s t o p h e r Wa l k e n , Lenny Baker, Jef f Goldblum, Shelley Winters, and our director just passed! I was channeling the Shirley Clarke film ‘Portrait of Jason’ character [a gay hustler] for Bernstein. The first film I ever did was ‘The Cool World,’ which [Clarke and Carl Lee] directed. They brought me up
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
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“The Wreckers,” Long Submerged, Sails Again Bard presents first fully-staged US production of bisexual suffragette Ethel Smyth’s story of the sea BY ELI JACOBSON
ame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) a feminist, suffragette, openly bisexual composer with prominent lesbian affairs, was a woman with a mission. The trailblazing English composer was determined to leave the world a different, better place through her own untiring public work: “I feel I must fight for [my music], because I want women to turn their minds to big and difficult jobs; not just to go on hugging the shore, afraid to put out to sea.” Despite open scorn from the male-dominated critical establishment, she composed an array of chamber, orchestral, and vocal works including six operas. One of them, the one-act “Der Wald” remains the only opera by a female composer to be performed at the Metropolitan Opera (Kaija Saariaho’s “L’Amour de loin” is likely to be the second, if reports are true). Her opera “The Wreckers,” with a libretto by her sometime lover Henry Brewster, was composed from 1902 to 1904 and premiered in Leipzig in 1906. Sir Thomas Beecham, a lifelong champion of the composer, conducted the English premiere in 1909 and 1910. In September 2007, the ever-enterprising Leon Botstein programmed an American Symphony Orchestra concert performance of “The Wreckers” in English at Avery Fisher Hall, which marked its American premiere. This concert
Jan Dieter Schneider in Edgar Reitz’s “Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision.”
HOME, from p.32
ents are farmers who earn a difficult living from the soil and try to get Jakob more involved in manual labor. Gustav is in the army when
was widely hailed as a revelation. Botstein again presented “The Wreckers” in July in its first fully-staged US production, directed by frequent collaborator Thaddeus Strassberger as part of the Bard Summerscape 2015 Festival. The Bard production revealed that the piece is extremely stageworthy and musically sound, if a bit overlong. Henry Brewster’s story, based on Cornish legend, concerns the intentional wrecking of ships by starving Cornish townspeople in order to seize the cargo by the law of salvage. They are led by their Pastor Pascoe, but the fisherman Mark, aided by Pascoe’s unhappy wife Thirza, secretly conspires to save the ships by lighting beacons along the coastline to guide them. Betrayed by the jealous Avis, the two renegade lovers are captured and are condemned by the angry townspeople to be chained to the rocks and drown in an underwater sea cave. Smyth has a strong technical command of large musical structures, including expert synthesis of symphonic orchestration with vocal and choral composition. Her style is firmly tonal and late Romantic –– I heard distinct echoes of Wagner (Act II’s extended nocturnal love duet between the adulterous lovers echoes “Tristan”) and Debussy’s “La Mer” (the French composer was an admirer of Smyth’s works). Sir Edward Elgar’s orchestrated song cycle “Sea Pictures” also comes to mind (Elgar was the god of the conservative all-male musical old guard who
the film begins, but his return from military service makes life difficult for Jakob, as the two men are both taken with village beauty Henriette (Antonia Bill.) Reitz doesn’t avoid close-ups, but he seems to prefer Steadicam long shots. The rural landscape gets loving attention. While it’s quite pretty, the village of Schabbach looks ugly. Its people’s poverty isn’t glossed over; its jail looks like a medieval dungeon. The film is in black-andwhite, for the most part. Reitz takes advantage of the uncanny glow that black-and-white digital video often has; he’s cited German Expressionism as an influence. While “Home From Home” looks nothing like the ‘20s films of F. W. Murnau and Fritz Lang, it doesn’t look like a realistic attempt to film the past either. For one thing, it occasionally throws in bits of color, usually red, orange,
were threatened by Smyth). Richard Strauss’ “Salome” was written at the same time as “The Wreckers,” and his even more dissonant “Elektra” premiered in 1909. By comparison, Smyth’s style sounds rather conventional and traditional. The evocations of the sea and the central role of a socially ostracized fisherman persecuted by ignorant townspeople also evokes Benjamin Britten’s 1945 opera “Peter Grimes” which is considered the first great modern English opera. There was a staged revival of “The Wreckers” in England in 1939 but there is no indication that Britten saw it or was influenced by Smyth. In truth, “Grimes” has more memorable melody than “The Wreckers,” and the story has greater depth and ambiguity. The 20th century revival of English opera is credited to the gay composer Britten, but the bisexual feminist Smyth should also be credited as an important predecessor and trailblazer. Strassberger did not succumb to the trendy revisionist tendencies of contemporary opera directors –– he told the story directly and honestly with no interventionist concept. Erhard Rom’s production design made excellent use of the vertical space of the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater stage, using stacked crates to suggest high sea cliffs. Evocative lighting and video projections onto scrims and scenic units further
and yellow. These aren’t simple gimmicks –– they hint at another world around the corner. Jakob is written off by many Schabbach residents as a terminal space case. He’s always got his nose in a book and seems to be trying to learn the languages of indigenous Brazilian tribes in preparation for emigration there. However, there’s a mystical streak running through the film. Despite two scenes in church, the characters’ spirituality isn’t expressed via organized religion, as Reitz notes in the press kit. Their dreams of emigrating to Brazil have something to do with wanting a better standard of living, but they also suggest a utopian vision of a land where food is easy to come by and winter never happens. From the perspective of 2015, this is a little naïve –– after all, slavery was still legal in 1840s Brazil –– but it’s
WRECKERS, continued on p.42
part of this film’s power to get us to adopt another century’s point of view for four hours. Jan Dieter Schneider’s performance helps. He seems more modern than any other character in “Home From Home.” In part, this is because most of the rest seem so primitive –– a disabled girl’s family refers to her as “Satan’s child,” and they seem to mean it literally. The fact that Jakob delivers a nonstop voice-over for the film’s first two-thirds contributes to audience identification with him as well. His romanticization of Indians –– such as taking off a shoelace when a falcon’s feather falls off to create an impromptu headband –– may seem patronizing now, but it’s better than simply writing them off as savages. (The character’s nickname
HOME, continued on p.41
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
PERFORMANCE, from p.28
On another vector of the intersectional landscape is art world mischief-maker Mehdi-Georges Lahlou, who questions Arab and queer identities in disarming and absurd ways. Through his visual and performance art, he juxtaposes potent symbolic content with his own body, achieving a burlesque surrealism, through such acts as eating a banana while balancing a Koran on his head or jumping repeatedly in a pair of red high heels. Lahlou was born in France and lives and works in Brussels and Paris. Having grown up French-Moroccan with one Muslim and one Christian parent, his daily experience was multicultural, a complex navigation through different terrains of otherness. In his performances and installations he challenges aesthetic and bodily signifiers of religious and cultural practices — both Arab-Muslim and Euro-Christian — juggling his identities with the
HOME, from p.40
around Schabbach is “the Indian.”) The other Germans who want to emigrate to Brazil seem to expect paradise to be handed to them –– learning Portuguese isn’t part of the deal for them. Jakob at least makes some effort to study the country. Not surprisingly, the “Heimat” films have overshadowed the rest of Reitz’s work. “The Second Heimat” ranks with the best of New German Cinema, but it’s been impossible to tell if Reitz’s non-“Heimat” oeuvre is in the same class. Fortunately, GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
and away from myself in a very necessary manner.” “My work comes always from a personal spring board,” Kgabi added. “I work with the background of my clown training” and the clown works with tragedy and joy — and this is the state of our lives.” “Circus arts are big in South Africa,” Wethers, told Gay City News. “Many artists find their way into contemporary performance from there.” Kgabi’s “Shades of a Queen” (September 21, 8 p.m. at Abrons) is a coming-of-age, coming-to-self, coming-out piece exploring the identity constructs of an African queer child.
South African artist Mmakgosi Kgabi will perform her work “Shades of a Queen” on September 21.
skill of a wry, if ignorant jester, subverting and obverting simultaneously to provoke shock, discomfort, and some fundamental questions, but never insult. Lahlou will present his new work for the festival, “Stupidité contrôlée or jump jump baby jump jump,” September 25 at 7pm at Merton D. Simpson Gallery.
Among the handful of New York City artists performing is Max Steele, who will present his solo “The Good Daughter,” a world premiere cabaret performance featuring songs written by women about female identity. Also on the festival line-up are these attention-grabbing titles: Joshua Monten’s “Doggy Style,” incorporating dance and sign language; John Moletress’ solo “Jarman (all this maddening beauty),” inspired by filmmaker Derek Jarman; and “Disclosures” from Croatian Bruno Isaković, who will work with performers from New York to present a piece all about nudity.
Anthology Film Archives is preceding the week-long run of “Home From Home” with two earlier, much shorter features –– 1967’s “Table of Love” and 1977’s “Zero Hour” –– and a program of shorts. Now in his 80s, Reitz may not add anything more to the 58 hours of “Heimat.” “Home From Home” isn’t the kind of definitive post-mortem on a decade that “The Second Heimat” was, but it will speak to anyone who’s ever felt trapped by their surroundings and dreamed of escape. Here, Brazil is a state of mind, not just a country.
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over it. So if Olivia can’t take Elle on her own terms, she needs to split.
LILY, from p.29
inclined toward me. I was never really offered anything. There weren’t that many lesbian parts out there. GMK: How did you find a way to create Elle so that she wasn’t “Lily Tomlin?” LT: I didn’t struggle to create a character. I didn’t have to wear a wig or anything, like I have to in big studio movies to identify the characters’ culture or type. It was my own hair, makeup, clothes, and car. I think Elle was just well created; the script was so fluid and so perfect. It is like “Grace and Frankie.” GMK: Elle ends a relationship with Olivia, brushing aside her lover’s feelings, masking her own pain and pride. How do you see her character? LT: Olivia just wants something Elle can’t give her at that point in her life. Elle’s still grieving from Violet’s death, and turning away from that is a kind of betrayal. So she seizes the break-up in her own defense. When you have a long-term relationship it takes a while to get
IN THE NOH, from p.38
born, for me to talk to you at this time. That’s how a life and career is: we’re having this conversation in our own personal journeys. I don’t know when my show is going to be cancelled and you don’t know about yours, either. I only have a few more years on this planet left, and it’s a feeling about what you’ve done when you’re finished. I feel like I’ve finally found my place of freedom and could never have had this conversation 30 years ago. It wasn’t time yet, but now I have left the fear –– what can anybody do to me? I earned this.” I told Fargas that when I heard he was available for this interview, I was almost surprised to discover that he was indeed still alive. Chuckling, he said, “I have been
GMK: Do you have any tattoos, like Elle does? LT: [Laughs.] I don’t like tattoos but I like to look at them on other people. I wouldn’t want to have a tattoo myself. I have played a lot of characters with tattoos. I had a butterfly in “Flirting with Disaster” and one in “Admission.” GMK: What about giving and getting a punch as Elle does? Have you had any notable altercations? LT: I once had a guy punch me in the face in a bar. It was years and years ago. I’m a mouthy person. I’ve mellowed somewhat. But at the
under the radar all my life and I like it that way. I did ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ for four years and have been showing up in different places.” Fargas went through a difficult drug and alcohol period, and admitted, “I’m a survivor –– been there, done that. I was chosen to be on the phone today, nothing I could have done could have avoided this day. No matter how many drugs I took or how much alcohol I drank, this was the plan for me. Oh yeah, oh yeah, before Betty Ford was popular, the only thing was the self help that’s been around for 80 years –– Alcoholics Anonymous –– and then came Sex Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous. All these things were built on those 12 steps. I have a great deal of respect for the survivors and I hang out in that area all the time.”
WRECKERS, from p.40
created the illusion that the relatively small, shallow stage contained an epic view of Cornwall’s sea coast. The singers were a strong committed crew with no weak links. Though hampered by an unflattering platinum blonde wig, Katharine Goeldner’s rich, solid mezzo-soprano and the deep conviction of her characterization created an imposing, sympathetic Thirza. The charismatic Louis Otey (in younger days maybe the most convincing Don Giovanni I have ever
GMK: Speaking of long-term relationships, how is married life with Jane Wagner? LT: Very sweet. We’ve been together a long time. We weren’t going to get married. We used to say we weren’t interested in imitating heterosexuals. But so many people asked us, so we decided: let’s get married. And we did on New Year’s Eve, 2013. We were glad that it came to pass.
time, I put a dollar in a jukebox in a bar in the Lower East Side of New York, and this punky guy from the neighborhood came in. It was a dive bar, where some low-grade mobsters might come in at the end of the night. And this guy comes in and tells someone to unplug the jukebox. When the guy came over to unplug the jukebox, he looked over at me, and asked if I minded. I said I did; I had money in it. And the punky guy came over and roughed my shoulders and said, “You don’t mind. Do you?!” And I threw a glass of water in his face. He gave me a black eye. I cried for days I was so horrified and trespassed. GMK: WOW! What was your relationship with your mother and your grandmother like? LT: I was close to my mother and grandmother. My grandmother died in the 1980s. She had a lively personality. She was sweet and docile. My mother, who died 10 years ago, was very witty and kind and everybody loved her. She was never ridiculing or sarcastic — very upbeat. I wouldn’t have gone to her with anything like Sage does, I would have taken care of it myself, or gone to my friend who was a mature woman.
Antonio Fargas in 1976 as Lindy in Michael Schultz’s “Carwash.”
I had to ask Fargas about Huggy Bear, his cult character on the ‘70s TV hit “Starsky & Hutch”: I think sometimes I should change my birth certificate because those four years I did that made me a worldwide known actor. The power of television and symbolism. Huggy Bear was another
seen at New York City Opera) made Pascoe a disturbingly attractive antagonist. Despite announced indisposition, Otey’s slightly weathered baritone voice is still an imposing instrument with range, color, and power. English tenor Neal Cooper, despite some compression at the top of his range, brought a virile attractive stage presence, clear diction, real affinity for the genre, and a ringing spinto voice to the town rebel Mark. Australian soprano Sky Ingram as Avis revealed a temperament as fiery as her coppery ringlets (she was a dead ringer for Eleanor Tomlinson’s Demelza in
survivor in a hostile world, like I was in Hollywood and the social/ racial climate in this country at that time. But I was an artist so I had a dispensation and because I wasn’t just any black guy, they respected me when I moved into this white neighborhood in Newport, Rhode Island. They respected me, because I was Huggy Bear, whereas another African American might have a hard time.” Fargas, whose most recent film work is the sci-fi adventure “Beyond Skyline,” due out next year, said, “I never stopped embracing my legacy, like some actors who feel handicapped by it and try to get away from it. I never tried to be a star and took on all kinds of roles. I was never limited, except for being the voice for characters who didn’t have a voice.”
the recent “Poldark” mini-series) and a rangy, tangy soprano with a firm top and bright steely core. Michael Mayes and Dennis Petersen contributed colorfully scruffy cameos as two of the more devious townspeople. Botstein conducted the American Symphony Orchestra with a firm sense of the score’s musical structure and dramatic focus. Hopefully he and the orchestra will introduce us to Smyth’s “Der Wald” and some of her concert works in the future. More than 70 years after her death, Dame Ethel Smyth’s message should continue to be heard. September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
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GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
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COURTESY: JOAN BEBER
Documenting Nazi Crimes Against Gay Men
In Bed With Roy Cohn
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. Through Oct. 10: Fri., 3-6 p.m., or by appointment at 718-768-3195 or info@ theoldstonehouse.org. More information at theoldstonehouse.org or brooklynutopias.wordpress.com.
SAT.SEP.5 GALLERY The Domestic Front: Everyday Queer Life
“Diamond Studs!” is Daniel Nardicio’s “Chippendales-meets-Magic Mike” all-male boylesque troupe. Led by Jett Adore, the troupe includes performers celebrated in Las Vegas’ Burlesque Hall of Fame. Highline Ballroom 431 W. 16th St. Sep. 9, 8 p.m. Also, at Whyte Hall, Fire Island Pines. Sep. 11, 8 p.m. Tickets are $20-$48 at dworld.us.
“Brunch Night! with Jamie LeeLo” is a late-night talk show that challenges the traditional late-night set up with a girly, fresh approach that has the edge only live, intimate theater can provide. Tonight LeeLo welcomes Tony and Emmy-winning actress Bebe Neuwirth (“Chicago,” among many highlights on stage; “Cheers,” “Frasier,” and “Madam Secretary” on TV). Caroline’s on Broadway, 1626 Broadway, btwn. 49th & 50th St. Sep. 10, 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 at carolines.com.
WED.SEP.9 THEATER A Terrence McNally Master Class
Gay Men in Casual Pose The work of gay artist Mcwillie Chambers is featured in a new show at George Billis Gallery, 525 W. 26th St. Through Oct. 3: Tue-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Opening reception is Sep. 10, 6-8 p.m. More information at georgebillis.com.
GEORGE BILLIS GALLERY
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. The show 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 and Lesbian Art. 26 Wooster St., btwn. Canal & Grand Sts. Through Oct. 25: Tue.-Sun., noon-6 p.m.; open until 8 p.m. on Thu. More information at leslielohman.org.
Multiple Tony-winner Terrence McNally, author of more than 30 plays –– including “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” “The Lisbon Traviata,” “Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” “Love! Valour! Compassion!,” and “Mothers and Sons” –– appears in the LGBT Community Center’s Second Tuesday Lecture Series (granted this is a Wednesday). McNally will read from his new book, “Selected Works: A Memoir in Plays,” which includes essays on eight of his most popular plays, and he will also discuss his life in the theater. 208 W. 13th St. Sep. 9, 7 p.m. Suggested donation is $10.
As part of “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 19331945,” an exhibition created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and presented in New York at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Pl. at First Pl., the museum presents two films that shed light on that era in German history. On Sep. 10, 7 p.m., the museum screens “Anders als die Andern” (“Different from the Others”), a 50-minute silent film from 1919 that exposed the injustice of Germany’s sodomy law in perhaps the first sympathetic depiction of gay life on film. The film, banned at the time of its release, was later burned by the Nazis. Composer Yael Acher Modiano presents flute accompaniment. Tickets are $12 at mjhnyc.org. On Sep. 30, 7 p.m., the museum presents the 2001 German film (with English subtitles) “Paragraph 175” titled for the portion of the German penal code that criminalized homosexuality and was employed to crush the vibrant Weimar Era gay subculture as the Nazis seized power. This screening is free. The exhibition runs through Oct. 2: Sun.-Tue., Thu., 10 a.m.-5:45 p.m.; Wed. 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Museum admission is $12; $10 for seniors; $7 for students; free admission for children under 12; free admission Wed., 4-8 p.m.
COURTESY: TERRENCE MCNALLY
In Joan Beber’s new play, “In Bed With Roy Cohn,” the colorful, controversial, powerful, and insidious closeted lawyer is at the end of life, supported only by his last remaining faithful servant, Lisette –– but visited by a host of bedfellows, including Julius Rosenberg, Ronald Reagan, Barbara Walters, Roy’s lover Serge, his mother Dora, and his own youthful self. In this wacky and surreal wonderland, Cohn’s muddled reality ultimately becomes clear. Katrin Hilbe directs a cast that includes Christopher Daftsios, Marilyn Sokol, Lee Roy Rogers, Ian Gould, Nelson Avidon, Serge Thony, Andy Reinhardt, and Rebeca Fong. Theater Row’s Lion Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St. Through Oct. 3: Tue., 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. $55-$65 at telecharge. com or 212-239-6200.
Daring to Disgust Downtown darling Bridget Everett returns to the stage with her band, the Tender Moments, and a bottle of chardonnay to sing all her favorite love songs and share the stories of the men that made her...feel? From tender moments to prison sex, come get inside the artist of whom the New York Times wrote, “Who says the city no longer produces artists who challenge, provoke, and even, on occasion, dare to disgust?” Joe’s Pub inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Sep. 10, Oct. 14, Nov. 18, 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 at joespub.com.
14 DAYS, continued on p.45
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
Piers, and Times Square from Sep. 13-15. To keep tabs on where to catch the performance, follow twitter.com/GlassCloset.
14 DAYS, from p.44
The Heart of Brooklyn’s Cultural District
FRI.SEP.11 DANCE Inside the Mind of Chelsea Manning “Whistleblower,” written, choreographed, and directed by Bessie and Obie Award winner Mark Dendy, takes place in the mind of Chelsea Manning at the moment of her sentencing in a controversial trial for leaking proof of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and for divulging State Department secrets. Layered with transcripts from Manning’s actual trial, this provocative piece delves into transgender identity and explores the mysteries of the media and government propaganda. The performance includes original music by Heather Christian. Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie St., btwn. Rivington & Delancey Sts. Sep. 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, 7 p.m. Tickets are $16; $12 for students & seniors at dixonplace.org; $20 at the door.
The Mark Morris Dance Group hosts its annual Open House, with free events –– including dance and fitness classes –– all day for guests of all ages and abilities. The day includes performances by the company, its student company, and the Next Generation BBoys street dancers. David Leventhal, former MMDG dancer, hosts a demonstration of “Moving through Glass,” a ground-breaking, augmented-reality app for Google Glass, created to provide 24/ 7 aid for people with Parkinson’s. 3 Lafayette Ave. at Rockwell Pl., Brooklyn. Sep. 12, 9:30-5 p.m. Visit mmdg.org/openhouse for complete details.
THU.SEP.17 BOOKS Wayne Hoffman Takes Us to P-Town’s Bear Week
AT THE BEACH
To Judy, From Paris With Love
SAT.SEP.12 BOOKS Message in a Fault Line
GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
With “Spartacus: Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword,” Daniel Nardicio and Cherry Grove’s Belvedere Guest House present their annual clothing-optional, gladiator-themed dance party. The evening includes the tunes of DJ Johnny Dynell as well as the fourth annual Mr. Nude Belvedere Contest, where the winner gets $200 plus a free weekend at the guest house. Sep. 12, 7-11 p.m. Tickets are $45 at dworld.us, $60 at the door. Free admission to Belvedere guests; call 631597-6448 for reservations.
“An Older Man” is Wayne Hoffman’s new novel about a very randy, very furry 40-something man named Moe Pearlman, who’s dealing with mortality, loss, and loneliness during a trip to Provincetown during Bear Week, where he’s trying to find a bit of love and sex. Hoffman reads from the novel at the Bureau of General Services –– Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., room 210. Sep. 17, 7 p.m. For more information about the novel, visit waynehoffmanwriter.com.
FRI.SEP.18 CABARET Mx Justin Vivian Bond’s Career Silver Anniversary “Dixie McCall’s Patterns for Living” kicks off a year-long retrospective, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Mx Justin Vivian Bond’s
Seth Sikes, who as a young boy in Paris, Texas, was captivated by Judy Garland, returns to New York with a revamped version of his tribute show. Conceived by Sykes and Tony-winning lyricist Lisa Lambert, the show includes new arrangements of some of Garland’s most popular songs. Liz Smith recently said, “I went off to see him last week and couldn’t have been more charmed. He’s young and handsome and enthusiastic. He doesn’t try to duplicate her sound. Sikes has boundless energy and a true, strong voice, with just the right amount of throb and drive and melancholy. The place was packed.” 54 Below, 254 W. 54th St. Sep. 18, 9:30 p.m. The cover charge is $25 at 54Below.com, and there’s a $25 food & drink minimum.
PERFORMANCE Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First International air-hostess Pam Ann is in New York with a brand new show, “Pam Ann: ‘Queen of the Sky,’” in which she introduces two new characters: transgender Quantas flight attendants Caitlyn and Gloria. By her own admission, Pam Ann is hilarious, often shocking, and totally politically incorrect. Probably best to keep your seatbelt fastened for the duration of the flight. Joe’s Pub inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Sep. 18-19, 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 at joespub.com.
SUN.SEP.13 FASHION Catch A Guerilla Performance on Twitter “The Glass Closet,” a fashion happening and performance piece out of Richmond, Virginia, has its Manhattan debut to coincide with New York Fashion Week. The experimental performance consists of 20 outfits showcased on 10 models who interact directly with viewers. The collection explores queerness in sexuality and identity through the ways we dress ourselves. Here’s the challenging part for those who wish to view the performance: this guerilla performance will not take place on a runway, but instead will travel through venues across the city, including Lincoln Center, the High Line, Chelsea
MICHAEL DOUCETTE/ JUSTINBOND.COM
Daniel Allen Cox’s unconventional fourth novel, “Mouthquake,” tells the story of a boy with a stutter who grows up and uses sound to remember the past. A coming-of-age tale that telescopes through time like an amnesiac memoir, “Mouthquake” finds its strange beat in subliminal messages hidden in skipping records, in the stutters of celebrities, and in the wisdom of the Grand Antonio, a suspicious mystic who helps the narrator unlock the secret to his speech. This is a loudly exclaimed book of innuendo, rumors, and the tangled barbs of repressed memory that asks: How do you handle a troubling past event that behaves like a barely audible whisper? Cox appears with playwright, novelist, author, and activist Sarah Schulman, who wrote the book’s afterword. Bureau of General Services –– Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., room 210. Sep. 12, 7 p.m. The suggested donation is $5.
career as a performing artist. This presentation, a revival of v’s cabaret debut, features accompaniment by Thomas Bartlett. Bond and longtime collaborator Kenny Mellman brought “Dixie,” their first official collaboration, to the spotlight on September 9, 1990 at Athens By Night, a hole-in-thewall Greek restaurant in San Francisco. The show laid the groundwork for what became the pair’s legendary signature act “Kiki and Herb,” and ultimately created the blueprint of every Bond show since. “Dixie” grew out of Bond’s obsession with the 1950s sultry glamour of Julie London, who played Nurse Dixie McCall in the 1970s TV show “Emergency.” Joe’s Pub inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Sep. 18-19, 25-26 and Oct. 2-4, 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 at joes.pub.com.
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
NO DAY LIKE AN EVENING AT 54 BELOW
Anthony Rapp performed an intimate set at 54 Below on September 1 that included a mix of popular showtunes paired with a handful of original tracks. He kicked off the evening off with “Then Again” from his album “Look Around” before covering R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” –– the song that landed him the role of Mark Cohen in the late Jonathan Larson’s musical “Rent.” In keeping with the ‘90s theme, he also sang Radiohead’s “Creep,” citing the rock ’n’ roll song’s influence on Larson, as well as on “If/ Then” writers Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. Rapp revisited songs from both “Rent” and “If/ Then,” along with selections from roles he joked he would never get to play — including “Left Behind” from Duncan Sheik’s “Spring Awakening” and “Falling Slowly” from Enda Walsh, Glen Hansard, and Markéta Irglová’s “Once.” Among Rapp’s original pieces was the first song he ever wrote, a love ballad titled “Now I Know,” which he quickly followed with a break-up song. “If you ever break up, it is satisfying to write a breakup song,” he quipped. Rapp is the author of “Without You,” a memoir that chronicles the early days of “Rent” along with his mother’s tragic battle with cancer. The book has since been adapted for the stage, which Rapp is hoping to workshop in New York. He closed his set with selections from this new musical, including his version of the title song, “Without You,” which was originally performed in “Rent.” Rapp hardly got off the stage before being called back for an encore of “Seasons of Love.” Rapp is currently preparing to reprise his role as Lucas in the touring company of “If/ Then.” –– Michael Shirey
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SILVER BUFFET PACKAGE
*MINIMUM 50 GUESTS
Cold Display WHEATBERRY SALAD BRUSCHETTA CHICK PEA SALAD TORTELLINI PESTO PASTA WITH SPINACH AND FETA CHEESE PASTA PRIMAVERA FRIED EGGPLANT STACKS MOZZARELLA CAPRESE OLIVE SALAD
choose any two
PENNE ALLA VODKA BAKED ZITI CAVATELLI AND BROCCOLI RABE LINGUINE ALLE VONGOLE RIGATONI BOLOGNESE
choose any three
CHICKEN MARSALA CHICKEN PARMIGIANA CHICKEN FRANCESE CHICKEN SCARPRIELLO SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA EGGPLANT ROLLATINI PORK SCARPRIELLO VEAL PARMIGIANA
CAESAR SALAD TRADITIONAL GARDEN SALAD ORGANIC MIXED GREEN SALAD
Choice Of Vegetables choose one
BROCCOLI W/ GARLIC & OLIVE OIL STRING BEANS & BABY POTATOES ASSORTED MIXED VEGETABLES ROASTED POTATOES YELLOW RICE
Dessert choose one
SHEET CAKE ASSORTED ITALIAN COOKIES & PASTRIES COLOMBIAN COFFEE, DECAF, & TEA
Monday through Friday & Sunday Evening Saturday Evening add $10.00 per person Must Choose Either: Wine, Beer and Soda $10.00 per person or Open Premium Bar $20.00 per person Price does not include tax and service
101 CITY ISLAND AVENUE | BRONX, NY 10464 | TELEPHONE: 347-680-3865 | EMAIL: SCAVELLOP@AOL.COM
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
u Trust us... with your TVs & Electronics...
th your Mattress.
t SteaRnS & FoSteR attReSS SetS
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inStantlY on Select SealY poStuRepeDic hYBRiD aDJuStaBle MattReSS SetS
ON SELECT SEALY POSTUREPEDIC HYBRID MATTRESSES
ON REFLEXION POWER BASES
FREE Delivery, Set-up & Removal On All Stearns & Foster, Sealy Optimum, Sealy Posturepedic Hybrid And Tempur-Pedic Mattress Sets.
$999, 12 MONTHS ON PURCHASES OF $1,000-$1,999 AND 24 MONTHS ON PURCHASES OF $2,000 - $3,499. 36 MONTHS ON PURCHASES OF $3,500-$4,499, 48 MONTHS ON PURCHASES OF
GayCityNews.nyc | September 03 - 16, 2015
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YOUR CHOICE Firm or Plush Queen Mattress*
Firm -51174051-q plush -51174151-q
*Mattress only. Box Spring Sold Separately
was $1249 -513465-51q -513466-51q -513469-51q -513470-51q
TOp 10 REASOnS
TO Buy yOur MATTreSS AT
1 2 3 4 5
The Largest Family Owned & Operated Appliance, Electronics & Mattress Retailer in the USA… The Company You Can Trust.
We Will Meet or Beat Any Advertised Price†† Complete Selection of Quality Brand Mattresses
We Service What We Sell by our very own factory-trained technicians.
Made In The uSA
All our mattresses are Direct from the Factory and made in the USA.
6 7 8 9 10
Our Friendly & Knowledgeable Sales Counselors
are factory trained and will help you find the perfect mattress…
Special Financing Available SUBJECT TO CREDIT APPROVAL. MINIMUM MONTHLY PAYMENTS REQUIRED. SEE STORE FOR DETAILS.
Great Selection of pillows, non-allergenic mattress protectors, frames and other accessories.
Our Delivery Team will deliver and set up all mattresses to your satisfaction.
Going Green Our team will remove all old bedding and recycle it according to regulations.
Discounts deducted from PP.C. Richard & Son New Low Price offers, cannot be combined with any other P.C.C. Richard & Son promotion. Percent discounts, shall not apply to and exclude: Comp Computers, uters, Monitors, Printers, TTablets, ablets, eReaders, Prepaid Cards, Video Game Consoles, Apple, Designer Appliances, select Polk, Klipsch, Weber eber Grills, Bose, Samsung TV’ TV’s, Sony TV’s, GE Cafe & GE profile Appliances, prior sales, dealers, clearances, special sale items, P.C. Richard & Son Gift Cards, or competitive ads. We reserve the right to limit quantities. ††If within 30 days of your purchase from PP.C. Richard & Son you should see a lower advertised price from any “Brick and Mortar” or “Authorized Online” retailer, we will gladly mail you a check for 100% of the difference. Only retailers that are designated by the manufacturer as authorized shall be considered to qualify within this policy icy. Our Low Price Guarantee applies to all brand new merchandise with the exact model numbe icy. number.r. Excludes: going out of business sales, one-of-a-kinds, limited quantities, discontinued items, installations, delivery, ryry, rebates, extended service, financing, free giveaways and bundle offers (See Store For Details). Effective 10/12. Intel, Intel logo, Intel Inside, Intel Inside logo, Intel Centrino, Intel Centrino logo, Celeron, Intel Xeon, Intel SpeedStep, Itanium, and Pentium are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Not responsible for photographic or typographical errors. © 2015 PP.C. RICHARD & SON †
September 03 - 16, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
September 03, 2015