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FREE | VOLUME FOURTEEN, ISSUE TWENTY TWO | OCTOBER 29 - NOVEMBER 11, 2015


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October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


In "Dada Woof Papa Hot," John Benjamin Hickey faces the existential angst of a queer moment

22 CIVIL RIGHTS

FILM

When legislators fail us, can executive action do the trick?

04-05 MORSELS

The front page

26 IN THE NOH

The real deal from Oaxaca

14 EDITOR'S LETTER Hillary's revisionism does nobody any good

Melba Moore fĂŞted as a hero

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GayCityNews.nyc | October 29 - November 11, 2015

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POLITICS

State Regs to Provide Anti-Bias Protections to Transgender New Yorkers Cuomo announces sex, disability anti-bias provisions apply to bias based on gender identity, expression

KEVIN P. COUHGLIN/ THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE

Cuomo accepting ESPA’s Silver Torch Award from Cynthia Germanotta, co-founder with her daughter, Lady Gaga, of the Born This Way Foundation, with Nathan Schaefer, Melissa Sklarz, and Norman C. Simon, the Pride Agenda’s other co-chair.

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BY PAUL SCHINDLER

overnor Andrew Cuomo used the occasion of the Empire State Pride Agenda’s annual Manhattan fall dinner to announce new regulations that will provide anti-discrimination protections in employment, housing, public accommodations, and access to credit for transgender New Yorkers. The regulations will come from the New York State Division of Human Rights, which has authority to interpret the state’s Human Rights Law, first enacted in 1945. The new regulations, which will be published on November 4 and then be subject to a 45-day public comment period before taking effect, will define discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression as sex discrimination long outlawed by New York statute. “As governor of the State of New York,” Cuomo told more than 600 guests at the October 22 ESPA event at the Sheraton New York in Midtown, “it is my opinion that in 2015 it is clear that the fair legal interpretation of the definition of a person’s sex includes gender identity and gender expression.” The regulations also spell out that discrimination based on “gender dysphoria” — defined medically as having a gender identity different from the sex assigned at birth — is discrimination based on disability, also a protected class under New York Human Rights law. “It is a sweet victory, indeed,” the gover nor continued. “New York law will be the most sweeping in the nation… Our law covers it all.” In a written release, Cuomo’s office asserted that his action represented “the first time that any governor has issued statewide regulations to prohibit harassment and discrimination on

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the basis of gender identity, transgender status, or gender dysphoria,” a claim confirmed by Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). In his remarks at the dinner, the governor emphasized that the regulations apply to all types of employment, not merely public sector jobs. Cuomo’s action ends a logjam that has existed for nearly 13 years since the Legislature enacted a gay rights law that did not include protections based on gender identity or expression. Advocates have been frustrated since then in winning approval for GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. Though the measure has gotten a favorable vote repeatedly since 2007 in the heavily Democratic State Assembly, the State Senate, controlled in most recent years by the Republicans, has only once allowed the bill even committee consideration. In 2010, when the Democrats were in charge, GENDA was narrowly rejected by the Judiciary Committee when Bronx Democratic Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., sided with a unanimous bloc of GOP senators in voting “no.” Chelsea Democratic State Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, who has steered GENDA to successive favorable votes, praised Cuomo’s action in a written statement, saying, “Governor Cuomo’s executive action to interpret New York’s Human Rights Law to cover transgender discrimination is a major step for dignity for all.” Then pointing to a 2012 conclusion regarding the status of anti-transgender discrimination claims under federal law made by the US agency responsible for employment rights enforcement, Gottfried added, “It follows the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s decision several years ago to treat transgender discrimination as a form of sex discrimination.” Daniel Squadron, the Lower Manhat-

tan-Brownstone Brooklyn Democrat who sponsors GENDA in the Senate, said, “This is a big step to correct one of the state’s great injustices. Transgender New Yorkers will now have more confidence that discrimination in homes, jobs, and public accommodations will not be tolerated.” Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay Democrat who covers a broad swath of Midtown and Lower Manhattan, said of Cuomo’s action, “It is extremely comprehensive. It covers the vast majority of the things we were concerned about in GENDA.” One component of GENDA that Cuomo’s order does not implement, however, is protections for transgender New Yorkers under the state’s 2000 hate crimes statute, which does not fall under the purview of New York’s Human Rights Law. Gottfried, in his statement, took note of that, saying, “District attorneys should apply this interpretation to apply New York’s hate crimes law to anti-transgender violence.” In fact, in the 15 years since the hate crimes law took effect, some prosecutors have said they believe that crimes in which victims are targeted based on their gender identity and expression are covered under the statute, a position that Eliot Spitzer publicly endorsed when he was the state attorney general at the time the law was enacted. Both Hoylman and Gottfried said that regardless of Cuomo’s action, it was important to keep pressing GENDA in the Legislature in order to “codify” the regulations being put in place. “The State Senate is not off the hook,” Gottfried said. “They should still pass my GENDA bill so this protection cannot be removed by a future governor’s interpretation.” Squadron took a somewhat different tack on that question, seemingly reluctant to raise any doubts about the comprehensiveness or finality of Cuomo’s action. Asked what the strategy on GENDA going forward would be, he responded, “We are still looking at it and having conversations. This appears to be quite significant and difficult to undo. I am a legislator and would prefer to always do it through legislation, and doing so that way sends a strong message to the community.” Squadron’s point that enacting explicit protections through legislation has a valuable impact in educating the public was echoed by NCTE’s Keisling, who said, “Passing GENDA is still necessary and urgent, because employers and businesses must be aware of the law.” For both Squadron and Hoylman, one clear implication of Cuomo’s action was the importance of Democrats’ gaining control of the Senate,

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October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Civil Rights Through Administrative Action: Can It Get Us All the Way? Cuomo action in New York may prove lasting, but federal courts not yet fully on board with EEOC advances BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

GayCityNews.nyc | October 29 - November 11, 2015

KEVIN P. COUGHLIN/ THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE

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hen legislatur es refuse to act on proposals to protect LGBT people from discrimination, can civil rights agencies and executive officials just go ahead and extend the protections on their own? Some recent events put this question sharply into play. In July 2014, President Barack Obama signed an executive order requiring private sector federal contractors to adopt policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He also extended protection against gender identity discrimination within the federal government’s executive branch. (Clinton administration action had previously extended those protections based on sexual orientation, again within the executive branch.) Two years before Obama moved on gender identity discrimination in federal employment, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is tasked with enforcing civil rights protections in the workplace, had issued an administrative ruling that the ban on sex discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination because of gender identity, a conclusion later confirmed by a Justice Department ruling in the same case, Macy v. Holder. There, a transgender woman, Mia Macy, brought suit after the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives withdrew a job offer upon hearing that she was in the process of transitioning. This past summer, the EEOC took a further step, ruling administratively in the case of a gay air traffic controller denied a permanent position by the Federal Aviation Administration under circumstances suggesting that homophobia influenced the decision. The man, David Baldwin, filed an internal discrimination claim within the FAA, asserting a violation of Title VII’s sex discrimination ban. That agency said Title VII didn’t apply, but the EEOC reversed the ruling,

holding, in an opinion announced on July 15, that sexual orientation discrimination claims can be raised under Title VII. This left Baldwin with a choice: he could litigate his discrimination claim administratively or he could, with the EEOC’s authorization, take his dispute to federal court. Baldwin’s attorney announced recently that he will pursue his Title VII claim in federal court. Most recently, on October 22, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the State Division of Human Rights is publishing a proposed regulation in the state register on November 4 interpreting the Human Rights Law ban on discrimination because of sex or disability as providing protection against discrimination for transgender people (see a story on page 4). The Division will treat “gender dysphoria” as the kind of diagnosable medical condition that falls within the statutory definition of a disability, and it will take the position that discriminating against somebody because of their gender identity is the same for legal purposes as discriminating because of their sex. These actions by Obama, Cuomo, the EEOC, and the New York State Division come in the face of the failure by Congress and the New York State Senate to approve pending legislation to adopt these policies. They are arguing, in the face of such legislative inaction, that existing laws already provide a basis for acting against such discrimination. These executive and administrative actions can have concrete consequences: Companies with substantial federal contracts will have to adopt non-discrimination policies if they want those contracts renewed. Employees who encounter gender identity discrimination will be able to file charges with the EEOC and the State Division of Human Rights, those agencies will investigate the charges, and if they find merit in them, may attempt to negotiate settlements on behalf of the individuals, take their claims to court, or authorize them to file their own lawsuits, as Baldwin is doing against the FAA.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, at an October 22 Empire State Pride Agenda dinner, announced that the State Division of Human Rights interprets the Human Rights Law to provide nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.

In fact, the EEOC recently reported that it had administratively resolved 846 discrimination claims nationwide on behalf of LGBT plaintiffs during 2014, the last year for which they have complete statistics, just on the basis of these internal policy interpretations. The important question now is whether the courts — federally and in New York State — will cooperate when an alleged discriminator resists the agencies’ interpretations. After all, both the federal and state constitutions give the power to make new laws to the legislatures, not to elected executives or administrative agencies. The EEOC and the State Division of Human Rights can interpret existing laws, but they can’t manufacture “new” substantive legal rules. Some defendants in these lawsuits can be counted on to raise the objection that the relevant statutes do not forbid this kind of discrimination. Courts will have to determine whether these new interpretations are legitimate, and that will turn heavily both on the judicial philosophies of the particular judges deciding these cases and on the precedents that bind them. Shortly after the 1964 Act’s Title VII went into effect, the EEOC was faced with the question whether gay or transgender people were protected from discrimination by that statute, and its unequivocal answer was “no,” in line with the response of numerous federal

courts in early cases. The EEOC maintained that position through nearly half a century, even after the courts began to evolve on the issue in the wake of a 1989 Supreme Court decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins. There, in a suit from a woman denied a partnership at Price Waterhouse because she was seen as insufficiently “feminine,” the court found that “sex stereotyping” by an employer could be evidence of unlawful intentional sex discrimination. By early in this century, several federal courts — including courts of appeals — had accepted this sex stereotyping theory on behalf of some gay and transgender discrimination plaintiffs, and a consensus seemed to be emerging among federal courts that gender identity discrimination could violate Title VII’s sex discrimination ban. The EEOC relied on these rulings in 2012 when it issued its opinion in Macy v. Holder. Over the past few years, a handful of federal trial judges have also used the sex stereotyping theory in discrimination cases brought by gay people, and the EEOC seized upon some these opinions this summer, as it celebrated its 50th anniversary of enforcing Title VII, when it ruled on David Baldwin’s discrimination complaint. One of the biggest barriers to getting trial judges to accept these new interpretations is the system of precedent followed in the court system. A trial judge is bound by the rulings of the appellate courts. A federal district court is bound by the rulings from the court of appeals in the circuit where it is located. On September 9, a sexual orientation discrimination plaintiff confronted this problem in a federal lawsuit in Florida. Barbara Burrows sued the College of Central Florida claiming that her sexual orientation was one of the reasons she was fired. She argued that the EEOC’s recent decision supported her claim that Title VII applied to her case. District Judge James Moody, however, observed that although “the EEOC’s decision is relevant and

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RELIGION

Catholic Bishops to Gays: You’re Still Going to Hell Pope will have final say, but synod a victory for reactionaries BY ANDY HUMM

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ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK

he 270 Roman Catholic bishops meeting in a three-week synod in Rome on family issues could do no better on the essence of their approach to homosexuality and divorce than the Westboro Baptist in Topeka, home of the “God Hates Fags” ministry. The bishops would not budge off their stand that homosexual activity is always wrong, marriage is indissoluble and exclusively heterosexual, and that those who divorce and remarry are living in sin and should continue to be barred from receiving Communion. Pope Francis met with recalcitrant Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis last month while the Westboro zealots have picketed her, but Westboro and the Catholics agree that her only valid marriage was her first. “Not much expected, not much accomplished,” said out gay Father Bernárd Lynch, a London-based psychotherapist and author who has tried to move his Church on LGBT issues for decades. “Some, it seems, wanted to get the language used about us — ‘disordered in our nature and evil in our love’ — changed, but not even this tokenistic Christian gesture could get approval. Imagine if we used such language about racial minorities or Jewish people. We would rightfully be taken to the World Court of Human Rights. The mind boggles as to what Gospels these people are reading.” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, founded by and for LGBT Catholics in 1969, said in a written release, “It is clear that there was deep division among the bishops participating in the Synod on LGBT issues, with many recognizing the need for significant changes in doctrine, language, and pastoral approach. That was evident in the daily reports and summaries of the language group discussions. However, it is also clear that those who refused to consider any possibility of change managed to delay any significant movement towards greater openness.”

“You will not find much about homosexuality in this document. Some people will be disappointed,” said Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna, an advocate for more openness. What’s there is mostly in Paragraph 76 (available in English online at goo. gl/rA47CN), which says, “Homosexual acts ‘close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved’… The synod hold that it is entirely unacceptable that local churches suffer pressure on this matter and that international organizations make financial help to poor counties conditioned on the introduction of laws that institute ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex.” (There is, in fact, no example of such withholding of financial aid.) The document approved also contained an attack on “gender ideology,” a dig at transgender people and an issue on which the pope is in agreement with his brother bishops. The final document not only failed to drop old, bigoted language against gay sex and orientation, it found new words to oppose samesex marriage, saying that it is not even “remotely analogous” to man-woman marriage. The bishops did dredge up words from previous teachings to try to sound like human beings, saying gay people should not be subject to “unjust discrimination,” but in cases from employment in schools to United Nations resolutions, the Church has virtually never found discrimination against gay people that it has not deemed just. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, who monitored the synod in Rome, saw some hope in the handful of bishops — including a group of Germans — open to changing some of the egregious language used to talk about LGBT issues. He also saw potential in the pope’s emphasis on “decentralization of Church authority” and on “becoming a listening Church.” Duddy-Burke sees some hope in

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, was among 13 ultra-conservative bishops, who charged that Pope Francis tried to stack the deck in choosing the committee to draft the synod’s document.

the few bishops appointed by this pope so far having “a more pastoral bent” as opposed to the hardliners picked by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. And some see a glimmer of hope in Paragraph 86 that goes into, in Vatican-speak, “the internal forum” that might open the door a smidge to more respect for the conscience of divorced and remarried individuals. No bishop openly espouses a change in Church doctrine, but the idea that the Church would even soften its tone on LGBT issues alarmed 13 ultra-conservative bishops — including New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan — so much that they wrote a letter to the pope accusing him of manipulating the synod by appointing bishops to the drafting committee who were too liberal and bent on undermining doctrine. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, considered a centrist by today’s standards, was incredulous, telling the New York Times that all the pope was trying to do was encourage the bishops “to be open, to be merciful, to be kind, to be compassionate, but he keeps saying that you cannot change the teachings of the Church. I wonder if it is really that they just don’t like this pope.”

Francis has declared a “Jubilee Year of Mercy” to begin December 8, but it remains to be seen what the quality of that mercy will be beyond easier annulments and forgiveness for abortions — not acceptance of divorce or approval of abortion under any circumstances. “The reality is that everything is hands of the pope,” Duddy-Burke said. “This is an advisory document to him, and he has a lot of freedom. He can take it and base [his statement] on its content. He can disregard it. But it is unlikely he would issue something that is totally oppositional.” If he wants to counteract the reactionary document of the synod, she said, he will have to move “quickly.” The Vatican, it should be noted, has been on an anti-gay roll lately. Even as he met with Kim Davis in Washington in September, Francis rebuffed all requests to meet with self-affirming LGBT Catholics or even include them in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia (though he did meet with an old friend who is gay and his male partner, something the Vatican chose to emphasize to distract from the Davis scandal). The pope personally refused to accept an out gay man, Laurent Stefanini , as ambassador from France, leading the French government eventually to pass on sending any representative to the Holy See before the 2017 elections. The Vatican fired a highly ranked priest, Father Krzysztof Charamsa, who came out as in a gay relationship on the eve of the synod, holding a press conference with his boyfriend and declaring that the majority of priests are gay. He was summarily defrocked by his Polish bishop soon thereafter. And while women, including heads of religious orders, were given no vote in the synod, the bishops did hear from Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea, president of the Association of Catholic Doctors of Bucharest. She told them that the solution to the world’s ills is “not an ever-increasing gov-

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SYNOD, continued on p.12

October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | October 29 - November 11, 2015

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CRIME

Plea Negotiations Slow Advance of Rentboy.com Prosecution All seven defendants in talks with Feds, but no clear indication what that means

DONNA ACETO

Demonstrators targeted the Brooklyn federal courthouse in a September 3 protest against the Rentboy. com arrests.

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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he US Department of Justice and the seven defendants in the rentboy.com case very quickly moved to plea negotiations after the August 25 raid on the Manhattan offices of the online escort site. “The raid and arrests are a huge black eye for the Eastern District’s US Attorney’s office,” said William Dobbs, a gay civil libertarian, who noted that there is nothing unusual about the plea negotiations. “Hopefully, the extended period of

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quiet means the prosecutors are trying to figure a way to drop this case, which made the [Eastern District], the Justice Department, and the Obama administration look very bad.” The US Department of Homeland Security made the arrests and raided the offices. The case is being prosecuted by the Eastern District, which oversees Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, and not by the US Attorney for the Southern District, which is headquartered in Manhattan. On September 18, the prosecutor filed an “Order of Excludable delay

CIVIL RIGHTS, from p.5

would be considered persuasive authority, it is not controlling.” He evidently believed he was not free to accept her argument, writing, “Until the Supreme Court or Eleventh Circuit recognizes the opinion expressed in the EEOC’s decision as the prevailing legal opinion, the Court declines to reconsider in light of the EEOC’s decision.” Several other federal court rulings issued since the EEOC’s July 15 Baldwin opinion have not even mentioned it while reaffirming that sexual orientation discrimination claims cannot be asserted under Title VII. For example, in a dispute between Julio Rodriguez and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, US District Judge Brian M. Cogan in Brooklyn, on September 8, wrote, “The Second Circuit has decided the question of whether ‘sex’ under Title VII includes ‘sexual orientation’ as a protected class. It has explained that ‘the law is well-settled in this circuit and in all others to have reached the question that… Title VII does not prohibit harassment or discrimination because of sexual orientation.’ Therefore, plaintiff’s argument

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form” with the federal court in Brooklyn. Federal law generally gives US attorneys 30 days to indict a person following their arrest and then 70 days following the indictment to take the case to trial. The order stopped the clock on those deadlines for 30 days. A second order was filed on October 23 that extended the delay until November 23. As in the state courts, more than nine out of 10 cases in the federal courts end in a plea bargain so the delays are not unusual nor does the speed with which they were requested indicate anything about the strength or weakness of the case against the rentboy.com defendants. “It’s regularly the case, in the districts that I know of in particular, when there is anything interesting about a case that it will end in a plea,” said Daniel C. Richman, a law professor who teaches criminal procedure at Columbia Law School. In an email, Joyce David, the attorney for Edward Estanol, one of the defendants, wrote, “We all wanted some time to see if something can be worked out. I wouldn’t read anything into that. When a case is being adjourned, that is a common reason.”

that he ‘is clearly a member of a protected class, because he identifies as bisexual,’ is wrong.” Another federal district judge in Brooklyn, John Gleeson, issued a decision on October 16 in a discrimination case brought by Steven D. Moore against Greyhound Bus Lines. Moore alleged discrimination because of his “sexual preference” and religion. While finding that Moore’s factual allegations did not meet the requirements for a discrimination claim in any event, Gleeson dropped a footnote at the end of his opinion, reminding Moore that “Title VII does not apply to allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” referring to the same Second Circuit opinion from 2000 that Judge Cogan relied on in his ruling on Rodriguez’s case. Similarly, in a suit brought by Jameka K. Evans against Georgia Regional Hospital in the US Southern District of Georgia Court, decided on September 10, Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith undertook a lengthy discussion of the numerous federal court rulings rejecting sexual orientation claims under Title VII, not once mentioning the EEOC’s Baldwin decision. To make some headway on this issue a case

The case spawned protests in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco and condemnations from some leading LGBT groups. The New York Times editorial page wrote that prosecutors “have provided no reasonable justification for devoting significant resources, particularly from an agency charged with protecting America from terrorists, to shut down a company that provided sex workers with a safer alternative to street walking or relying on pimps.” Cy Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, was initially credited with helping the rentboy.com investigation in a press release issued by the Eastern District. Vance’s office asked that its name be removed from that release, saying it had not helped, and very pointedly brought this request to the attention of Gay City News. In an email, James Roth, who represents Clint Calero, also a defendant, wrote that while the prosecutor might want the case to end, what that end will look like is undecided. “I think you are correct that they want to make it go away, but precisely what that means is TBD!” Roth wrote to Gay City News. The other defense attorneys in the case and the press office for the Eastern District either declined comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

has to go to a court of appeals. Lambda Legal announced that it has taken that step, urging the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to reverse a lower court ruling and allow a lesbian, Kimberly Hively, to litigate her discrimination claim against Ivy Tech Community College. Ivy Tech had persuaded the federal district court in the Northern District of Indiana to dismiss Hively’s Title VII case, successfully arguing that Title VII does not apply to sexual orientation claims. In a hearing before a three-judge panel of the court held on September 30, Lambda argued that the EEOC opinion, together with a handful of earlier federal trial court decisions cited by the EEOC, provide persuasive reasons for the Seventh Circuit to set aside its own prior precedents on this issue and embrace the new approach to interpreting “sex” under Title VII. A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit may consider itself bound by prior circuit precedent, but Lambda could then petition for an “en banc” rehearing by the full circuit bench, which could overrule its old precedent. Or this case could be the vehicle to get the issue before the Supreme Court. October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


CRIME

Two Felony Murder Convictions in Laubach Slaying

Faulkner, Martinez-Herrera face 25 years to life BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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JEFFERSON SIEGEL

ollowing a month-long trial, a Manhattan jury quickly convicted Edwin Faulkner and Juan Carlos Martinez-Herrera of felony murder and other charges in the 2012 killing of John Laubach. Jurors began deliberations late on October 20 and had to consider depraved indifference murder, a count that the prosecution did not emphasize in its closing statement; felony murder, based on the gay couple causing Laubach’s death while committing another felony; robbery and kidnapping, the felonies that formed the basis for the felony murder charge; and second-degree manslaughter. They returned a verdict late on October 21. Going into deliberations, the defense, the prosecution, and the judge fought over the charges and legal instructions that the jury was to consider, with the lawyers making comments that suggested they viewed the instructions as complex. The speed with which a verdict was returned suggests the jurors were not at all confused. Altogether, jurors deliberated for about seven hours. Faulkner and Martinez-Herrera were found guilty of felony murder, which carries a sentence of 25-to-life, kidnapping in the first degree, robbery in the first degree, and second-degree manslaughter. Laubach, a 57-year -old gay man, was discovered dead, gagged, and bound in his Chelsea apartment in March 2012. Police quickly focused on Faulkner, 33, and Martinez-Herrera, 30, as the suspects. Roughly two weeks after the older man was found dead, the couple was arrested in Florida still holding many of Laubach’s possessions they had stolen. The defense theory was that Laubach died from a heart attack during consensual sex with the couple in which he asked Faulkner to choke him while he per -

Edwin Faulkner and Juan Carlos Martinez-Herrera at their 2012 arraignment.

formed oral sex on Martinez-Herrera, who testified in the case. The couple claimed they panicked after realizing Laubach was dead. That they then tied him up, presumably believing that he was dead, and stole his possessions went largely unexplained. The prosecution’s theory was Laubach was killed during a robbery or kidnapping, but Lanita Hobbs, the assistant district attorney who handled the case with Juan Abreu, also an assistant district attorney, did not have to prove if a heart attack killed Laubach, as a defense expert asserted, or if he died by asphyxiation, as a prosecution expert said. Daniel Parker, who represented Martinez-Herrera, certainly appeared to have presented a credible defense that did not explain all the facts in the case, but may have been sufficient to raise reasonable doubt. Parker repeatedly clashed with Bonnie Wittner, the judge in the case. Toward the trial’s close, Parker and Lori Cohen, his co-counsel, told Wittner that they viewed some of her rulings as errors that might lead a higher court to reverse any unfavorable verdict. Daniel Scott, who represented Faulkner, was a quieter presence in the case. The defense attorneys, the Manhattan district attorney’s office, and some of Laubach’s friends either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

GayCityNews.nyc | October 29 - November 11, 2015

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HEALTH

Broader City HIV Services Eligibility May Be on Deck

Legislation rejected by Bloomberg, Quinn gaining study, endorsements in Council, de Blasio administration BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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GAY CITY NEWS

ity legislation that would expand the eligibility for rental assistance, food stamps, and other benefits for people with HIV may be getting a new life after being dormant for years during the Bloomberg administration, according to City Council records obtained by Gay City News under the state open records act. In an April 30 email from Dohini Sompura, a senior legislative financial analyst in the City Council’s Finance Division, to Ginny Shubert, a consultant with an expertise in developing and financing policies and programs that aid low income people, Sompura asked for an updated estimate of the cost of implementing HASA for All, city legislation that would allow more HIV-positive people access to the benefits administered by the HIV/AIDS Service Administration (HASA).

Shubert sent Sompura a briefing document on multiple unmet needs of people with HIV, and they scheduled a phone conference for May 1. Sompura copied Crilhien Francisco, a City Council finance analyst who covers health matters, and he was expected to join the call. Sompura noted that the most recent estimate of the legislation’s cost was $80 to $100 million a year and she asked about Shubert’s method for estimating the cost saying she was “trying to work through this in a similar manner” to her estimate of the city’s “30 percent rent cap analysis.” (The rent cap provides a ceiling on the percentage of income that people with AIDS on public assistance pay in monthly rent.) HASA, which is a unit of the city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA), grants benefits only to people who have an AIDS diagnosis. With the wider use of powerful anti-HIV drugs, fewer people with

Advocates and elected officials, including (at podium) City Councilmember Corey Johnson and Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center, at a February 26 City Hall press conference endorsing HASA for All.

HIV progress to an AIDS diagnosis. The result has been that poor people with HIV who have a real need for the HASA benefits cannot get them because they are deemed too healthy. Some advocates say this has created a perverse incentive for

people with HIV to not take antiHIV drugs so they can qualify as a HASA client, with the consequence being that they are much sicker when they enroll at HASA.

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October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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HASA, from p.10

Shubert’s analysis was that on any given night in New York City between 700 and 1,100 people with HIV were staying in a city shelter and that an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people with HIV could benefit from the additional HASA services. The agency currently serves roughly 32,000 people with AIDS and another 10,700 of their family members. Adding another 6,000 would increase the HASA caseload by about 19 percent. HASA for All was first introduced in the City Council in 2007. It was opposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian who represented Chelsea, as too expensive. Seen as dead on arrival, the legislation received little attention even in the 2013 mayoral race. It was reintroduced this year by Corey Johnson, the out gay, HIV-positive City Council member who represents what was Quinn‘s district. The bill has 36 co-sponsors in the 51-member Council, up from seven at the start of the year. The legislation links implementation of HASA for All to obtaining funding from the state and it has an income test for eligibility. In October 14 testimony before the City Council, Dan T ietz, HRA’s chief special services officer, endorsed the legislation while noting that the state support was required. Advocates have argued that stable housing, nutrition, and other benefits help people with HIV stay on their medication, which means they are more likely to reduce the amount of virus in their bodies, making them less infectious to the

Action Changes Things

point that they cannot infect others. A statewide version of HASA for All was sought, but not won by advocates for the Plan to End AIDS, which aims to reduce new HIV infections from the current roughly 3,000 a year to 750 annually by 2020. The plan relies on treating HIV-positive people so they are no longer infectious and giving anti-HIV drugs to HIV-negative people to keep them uninfected. Both strategies are highly effective when used correctly.

A measure of how advanced the bill’s prospects are may be HASA for All advocates declining to respond to calls seeking comment.

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11


LEGAL

NY Judge Finds False Claim Someone is HIV-Positive Defamatory Unpaid model prevails in case about state using her image in AIDS public service announcement BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

J

udge Thomas Scuccimarra of the New York Court of Claims has ruled that the State Division of Human Rights defamed Avril Nolan, a model whose photograph the Division purchased from Getty Images to use in advertisements informing the public that discrimination against people with HIV is unlawful in New York. Scuccimarra’s ruling in Nolan v. State of New York, reported on October 27 in the New York Law Journal, was the second win for Nolan, who had also sued Getty Images in State Supreme Court and won a ruling on March 6, 2014, from Justice Anil C. Singh, refusing to dismiss her complaint against Getty for selling her photograph without her permission. According to Nolan’s complaint against the State Division, she allowed photographer Jena Cumbo to take her picture in 2011 for use in a feature on New Yorkers interested in music for an online publication, Soma Magazine. Nolan did not sign a model release, did not specifically authorize any other use of the photograph, and was not paid for it. Cumbo sold the photograph to Getty Images, which in turn licensed it to the State Division of Human Rights. The advertisement appeared in April 2013 in print editions of Newsday, Metro, and AM New York, and was also published on several online sites. Next to Nolan’s photo were the captions “I AM POSITIVE (+)” and “I HAVE RIGHTS.” The clear implication, alleged Nolan, was that she is HIV-positive when in fact she is not. The lawsuit against Getty Images was based

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SYNOD, from p.6

ernment control, not a world government. These are nowadays the main agents imposing cultural Marxism to our nations, under the form of population control, reproductive health, gay rights, gender education, and so on. What the world needs nowadays is not limitation of freedom, but real freedom, liberation from sin.” Lynch said, “Once more, we as LGBT people are scapegoated by the Catholic Church. Women’s ordination did not even get a look in. Until it does, sexual minorities will continue to be the last, the lost, and the least in the eyes of the institutional Church.” Just prior to the synod, the inaugural meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics was

12

on the state’s privacy statute, which forbids publication of a person’s image without their written consent for advertising or trade usage. Getty argued that since the Division of Human Rights is a government agency and the ad was not intended to sell goods or services, Getty should not be held liable. This argument was unsuccessful before Justice Singh because Getty purchased the photo in order to license its use for a fee.

Scuccimarra characterized this issue as a “thorny” one given “shifting attitudes” in society.

Nolan’s lawsuit against the Division of Human Rights relied on the privacy statute as well, pointed out that the Division made no effort to determine whether Nolan had authorized the use of her photograph in its campaign, and further claimed that the anti-discrimination advertisement, by implicitly labeling her HIV-positive, can be presumed to have caused her actual monetary as well as reputational injury. Judge Scuccimarra agreed with Nolan that falsely labeling somebody HIV-positive would be

held, bringing together self-affirming LGBT Catholics from 30 countries, including representatives from Dignity and New Ways Ministry in the US. Jeff Stone of Dignity/ New York said the goal was to “develop a stronger voice globally and share resources,” but there was no immediate plan on how to respond to the intransigence of the bishops. “Those of us in Dignity feel attached to parts of the faith we feel are nourishing,” he said. “We obviously disagree completely with the teaching on human sexuality. We have a lot of company in the Church. Most Catholics agree with us on these issues — in America, Europe, and Latin America.” While the Vatican iced LGBT Catholics out of its proceedings, the US Embassy to the Holy See had two officers meet with repre-

considered “per se” defamation under New York law, presumed to cause actual injury beyond harm to their reputation. This conclusion was important since Nolan did not allege specific economic injury from the ads, which were quickly withdrawn when she complained to the Division of Human Rights. Scuccimarra characterized this issue as a “thorny” one given “shifting attitudes” in society. The “per se” defamation category has traditionally included falsely stating that somebody is afflicted with a “loathsome” disease that “arouses some intense disgust in society.” The attorney representing the state argued there is no New York precedent holding that HIV/ AIDS is such a “loathsome” disease. Scuccimarra seemed reluctant to characterize it that way either, but he did note continuing prejudice as justification for including HIV/ AIDS within this category. “Viewed under the current societal lenses,” he wrote, “the asserted defamatory content here, that Ms. Nolan is presently diagnosed as HIV-positive, from the perspective of the average person, clearly subjects her to public contempt, ridicule, aversion, or disgrace and constitutes defamation per se.” Scuccimarra concluded that it was of “no moment” that the photo was used in a public service ad rather than a commercial ad given that Nolan’s lawsuit was based on civil rights law’s privacy provision. The next step in this case will be a hearing on damages. Nolan’s attorney, Erin Lloyd of the firm of Lloyd Patel, told the Law Journal they hoped the case could be resolved without the need for lengthy litigation over damages.

sentatives of the Global Network. “We asked them to convey [to the Vatican] that the teachings [on homosexuality] are wrong and harmful,” Stone said. “It’s very hard to continue to be ignored and treated as less than fully human while people are dying,” said Duddy-Burke. “We just keep on doing our work. We’re not giving up. But I can’t buy into this idea that just having LGBT issues talked about was progress.” She added, “This Church holds up this model of a non-biological father and virginal mother and kid who had no siblings as the model for family life that is supposed to be procreative and always open to life. People have to get the irony of this thing. This document from the synod ends with this prayer to the Holy Family. If anything,

that should say we are here for the atypical families, those who do not fit social norms.” Dignity USA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke and New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo held an October 27 Google hangout with GLAAD’s director of programs, Ross Murray, and the group’s Latino media specialist, Janet Quezada, which can be viewed at glaad.org/pope . On November 14 at 2:30 p.m., a memorial service will be held for Father John McNeill, the pioneering gay theologian, activist, and author of the groundbreaking “The Church and the Homosexual” who died on September 22 at age 90 (see obituary at goo.gl/imHUo0). RSVP to Event@DignityNY.org for the service to be held at the LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street.

October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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13


MORSELS

The Real Deal from Oaxaca

South Bronx family offers rare-for-New York cuisine and their own immigrant example BY DONNA MINKOWITZ

S

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LAMORADANYC.COM

ometimes you eat something that’s blissfully unlike anything you’ve ever had before. For me, the mole blanco at La Morada in the South Bronx was one of those dishes that make you stop, get quiet, taste again, and search your senses, sniffing, almost listening for something, to comprehend the mystery. Ladled over two huge chicken legs, the thick white sauce made of pine nuts and other items had a surprisingly warm, forceful stir of habaneros underneath the sauce’s slightly sweet blandness, created, among other things, from cashews, almonds, peanuts, coconut oil, and garlic ($15). I kept wanting to taste it again and feel that warm, attractive spice calling to me from inside the deceptively homey, rather autumnal and vegetal blanket of mole. (The vegan sauce is made with 10 different kinds of nuts in total.) The dish came with a side of rice and black beans, but not just any beans: it was in fact the most distinctive, fresh-tasting, and wellspiced side dish of black beans I’ve ever had, as though someone actually cared to make the supposedly throwaway sides taste as good as entrées. If you’re from Mexico’s Oaxaca province, source of this restaurant’s cuisine, La Morada’s mole blanco may not be as much of a mystery to you, but then again, it might. The cooking at this inexpensive café run by an activist immigrant family is extraordinary, perhaps the finest Mexican cooking I’ve ever had in New York. The five adult family members are Mixteca Indians from the overwhelmingly indigenous Oaxaca, whose cooking traditions are almost entirely unrepresented in this city. (Don’t let the name of the offensively bland, hipster chain Oaxaca Taqueria fool you. There’s nothing remotely Oaxacan about its unspiced chicken, pork, and potatoes.) There are six moles on the menu, all made entirely from scratch and taking several days to make. In New York, it’s generally possible to find only a too-sweet

Antonio Saavedra and Natalia Mendez, owners of La Morada in the South Bronx on Willis Avenue near East 140th Street.

chocolate mole poblano. Most restaurants don’t have a personal motto, but La Morada has one, written in Mixteca on its website and menu: “Kushi Vaa.” According to Yajaira Saavedra, one of the daughters, this means roughly, “We want everyone who eats here to be nourished, and to grow.” Saavedra says the motto reflects a Mixteca spiritual belief that those who cook put their emotional energy and attitudes into the food, and that cooks are therefore responsible to project an intense goodwill into their product. Eating an enchilada of hibiscus flowers and leaves, grilled cactus, and other vegetables, strewn with buttery quesillo cheese and a little tomatillo sauce ($14 with rice and beans), I felt something of that goodwill. The enchilada tasted exceedingly fresh, as if the vegetables had just been picked. (Strangely, a leftover even tasted fresh two days later, in my kitchen.) Perhaps it’s because La Morada sources most of its produce from local community gardens and local immigrant-run farms. Saavedra, a recent CUNY grad in her 20s, said some even provide fruits and vegetables to the restaurant for free, or allow La Morada to plant on their land. “People help us out as much as they can.” She said they do this in appreciation for the community space for food, activism, and even literature the Saavedras have created in the poorest neighborhood in

the city. (A lending library in the back of La Morada offers a terrific selection mostly in English, from “Bartleby, the Scrivener” to W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Souls of Black Folk.”) But here’s something even more notable than a locavore restaurant in the South Bronx. All of the Saavedras (except the youngest, who was born here) are open about being undocumented, which makes eating here an interesting political experience. The food industry in this country is utterly dependent on the labor of the undocumented Mexicans who staff its most vital positions, from farmworkers and slaughterhouse workers to restaurant cooks, dishwashers, and bussers. Very few of them own restaurants, or have decided to be open about their status. Most are paid ridiculously low wages. Here, finally, is a restaurant where undocumented Mexicans come out from the back of the joint, own the place, and proudly and feelingly make their own food. Mother Natalia Mendez is the chef, assisted by her daughter Carolina. On my first visit, an entrée of camarones (shrimp) a la diabla ($15) wearing little “devils’ horns” made of chilies came with a complex sauce of chipotle peppers and herbs that Mendez makes herself. The peppers in the sauce packed delicious fruit and, again, “vegetalness,” along with their smoke and heat. The shrimp themselves were delicate.

I wasn’t expecting to find a queer-friendly place in the South Bronx, but I did. On a recent visit, Karen and I were not the only visibly queer diners in the place; another group with funky haircuts and a genderqueer aspect were being hugged goodbye by Mendez and Yajaira. In an interview, Yajaira said, “The trans community is vitally involved in the immigration movement right now. We are very connected to anyone who is pro-gay rights and pro-LGBTQ, and besides, we understand that all struggles are interconnected.” According to Yajaira, “Lots of trans folks are being detained unjustly right now” by immigration authorities. She and Marco, who both came to this country as very young children, are highly active in the Dreamers movement (young undocumented Mexican-Americans who came here as children and are fighting for legal status and other benefits available to citizens, such as education benefits). Marco, a friendly, bespectacled, 20-something poet and painter who is the restaurant’s main waiter, committed civil disobedience two years ago by returning to Mexico and then openly reentering this country as an undocumented person. He served three weeks in a detention center in Florida. Said Yajaira, “My mother has a rule now: only one of us is allowed to get arrested at any given time.” After Marco and Yajaira became very public about their status, Mendez and father Antonio Saavedra followed their children out of the immigration closet. I took a dessert home from my last dinner at La Morada, tres leches cake, the wildly popular Mexican dessert made of cake soaked in heavy cream, evaporated milk, and condensed milk, and topped with coconut and whipped cream. It was luxurious and light at once, with a custardy bottom and a slight hint of vanilla and rum, and again, far more fresh-tasting than other versions I’ve had in this city. Some have tasted heavy and dead, but this was lively.

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MORSELS, continued on p.35

October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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CUOMO, from p.4

where the GOP currently holds a 32-31 edge, in next year’s elections. “It’s a shame that we have a Republican Senate that if legislation arrives that has reference to LGBT, it is DOA,” Hoylman said. “Republicans see it as radioactive.” Cuomo’s action, he added, was “courageous and creative.” Hoylman predicted the governor would now likely face “backlash from Senate Republicans.” Legislators and advocates were disinclined to place any significance on the question of whether Cuomo’s “courageous” action could have come sooner. Nathan Schaefer, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, arguing that Cuomo is the first state governor in the US to have taken this kind of step, said, “So it’s hard to say when it could have been done.” Alphonso David, a former Lambda Legal attorney who is counsel to the governor, explained that the push for the new regulations began in August, when Cuomo, “really frustrated” at the Senate’s continued refusal to pass GENDA, called

together his top advisors. “In 2015, that is not acceptable,” David said the governor told the group. “How can we fix this?” David explained that the administration was able to move forward now because of “recent development around case law” in New York, but the cases he pointed to date back a decade and more. Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda Legal’s deputy legal director, characterized Cuomo’s action as falling within a gradually evolving view of discrimination based on gender identity and expression being a form of sex discrimination. “We’re really pleased that we have momentum that sex discrimination includes discrimination based on a person’s gender identity and expression,” she said. “While we’re pleased that that interpretation has been gaining traction, having clear direction that names people and their characteristics is preferred.” Cuomo’s action, she said, would help “educate institutions and employers.” As early as 1989, the US Supreme Court, in a case involving a woman denied partnership at Price Water-

house because she was viewed as insufficiently feminine, ruled that discrimination based on a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes could be viewed as sex discrimination. Broader application of that principle to include anti-transgender discrimination across the board, however, has evolved only slowly. It was just three years ago that the EEOC came to that conclusion regarding federal law, and federal courts have not yet embraced that interpretation universally. According to Matt Foreman, who was executive director of the Pride Agenda when the gay rights law was passed in 2002, the group received an advisory opinion from one legal advocacy group arguing that transgender New Yorkers were already protected by the state Human Rights Law’s ban on sex discrimination. When ESPA’s leaders subsequently met with then-Attorney General Spitzer urging him to issue an advisory opinion with the same conclusion, Foreman recalled, they were greeted cordially, “but the requested opinion was never produced” — despite Spitzer’s willingness to speak out on the

applicability of the hate crimes law to the transgender community. Schaefer, ESPA’s current leader, credits Cuomo for being ahead of the curve. “He has proven to be a champion of LGBT New Yorkers for years, and he once again he proved that last night,” he said. ESPA only lear ned the full details of the governor’s planned announcement regarding the new regulations at 4 p.m. the day of the dinner, about the time that the New York T imes broke the story, Schaefer said, though the group had been working on the issue with the administration for some months. For Melissa Sklarz, a transgender activist who has been in the GENDA fight since day one and is now the co-chair of the ESPA board, Cuomo’s action was in fact “sweet,” but she also knows there’s plenty more work to do. “Now it’s up to us as a community,” she said. “We have what we’ve been pushing for but cultural change takes more time. We have to show up and do the work in our own lives to show people that trans lives matter.”

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15


Letter from the Editor PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN

jgoodstein@cnglocal.com FOUNDING EDITOR IN-CHIEF & ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER PAUL SCHINDLER

editor@gaycitynews.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR

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

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FOUNDING MEMBER

16

FOUNDING MEMBER

Hillary’s Revisionism Does Nobody Any Good BY PAUL SCHINDLER If the biggest LGBT rights wins have been ending the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy, overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and winning marriage equality nationwide, an uncomfortable truth for candidate Hillary Clinton is that the first two were reversals of policies signed into law by her husband. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, waging a surprisingly robust challenge from the left, reminds crowds that he was one of only 67 “no” votes on DOMA in the 435-member House of Representatives. Some Hillary boosters argue — not unreasonably — that DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are both very old history, especially when evaluating a candidate who today embraces major LGBT political goals with gusto. But history is history and facts are stubborn things. What’s important to me about all this is how Clinton reckons with that past, allowing us a window on the candor she’ll bring to the ongoing fight for equality. Recent comments from Clinton give reason for pause. First the history. In his 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton promised to end the ban on gay and lesbian military service. When faced, in his administration’s earliest days, with adamant opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and members of Congress, including prominent Democrats, however, he backed down and accepted a cynical “compromise,”

which led to nearly two more decades of harassment and discharge. In 1996, as progress toward marriage equality in Hawaii stirred concern on the right, veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress coalesced in support of DOMA. Clinton, arguing he opposed both discrimination and marriage equality, accused the Republicans of creating a wedge issue but announced he would sign the bill. His supporters insisted to do otherwise would threaten his reelection, despite GOP adversary Bob Dole’s anemic poll standing. With reelection assured by late October — and perhaps with an eye toward a 50-state sweep — the president took to small Christian radio stations in red states to brag about how he defended traditional marriage. That last is a particularly problematic action to defend, though when Hillary spoke to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on October 23, the Christian radio chest-thumping did not come up. Clinton did, however, offer a defense of her husband’s reason for signing DOMA simply not supported by the facts: “On Defense of Marriage, I think what my husband believed — and there was certainly evidence to support it — is that there was enough political momentum to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that there had to be some way to stop that.” In other words, DOMA was that firewall. When Maddow suggested that Clinton was arguing the law was a “defensive action,” Hillary embraced that language, going so far as to apply the same expla-

nation for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The problem is that the constitutional amendment threat was not in the air in 1996; that wouldn’t pop up for nearly two more presidential terms, becoming a signature issue in George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign. I know this from my own reporting. Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson knows this because nobody knows the history of marriage equality better than he does. And Elizabeth Birch, a Hillary partisan who was in charge of the Human Rights Campaign in 1996, knows it. As for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell being defensive, that’s simply a cover for one of the most ineptly handled political initiatives of the Bill Clinton years. Hillary disavowed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 1999, while her husband was still in office. She was much slower to evolve on DOMA and marriage equality — telling me, in 2000, that limiting marriage to different-sex couples is justified by “historic, religious, and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time.” In the Senate, however, she did fight efforts at a constitutional amendment; at the State Department, she racked up a stellar record in articulating a view and a policy equating gay rights with human rights; and, today, she is a staunch advocate of the Equality Act and a critic of those who hide behind religious exemption claims to deny LGBT Americans equality. Taking the right positions, however, is just half the battle. The LGBT community needs to know that a President Hillary Clinton will fight to deliver on her commitments. If we are to gain that confidence, we need to know first and foremost that she will always level with us. In looking back at the history of her husband’s record on LGBT rights, right now Hillary is simply not doing that.

PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Deconstruction and Simple Disappearance BY ED SIKOV

K

ids today! If New York magazine’s recent cover story, “Sex on Campus,” is even remotely accurate — and I have no doubt that it is — today’s college students’ sexuality is all over the map. They’re all talking about it, some are doing it, and some have the courage to say they’re just

not all that into it. I picked up the issue expecting to find a mixed bag: a lot of attention to what’s now widely known as affirmative consent (“Yes means yes”), some prurience (the piece is lavishly illustrated with photos of youngsters in various states of undress), and more than a little handwringing — glib, anxiety-ridden, faux-urgent warnings about civilization’s decline. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The story is actually a series of articles by a variety of writers, all of whom take fresh looks at the complicated terrain of youthful sex. It has more than a few surprises, such as: • College students in 2015 are actually having less sex than their parents did at that age. I find this shocking. • Facebook offers 58 different categories of self-defined sexual and gender expression in the user’s profile section, a fact described as “much-hyped” in the article but that was still news to me.

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MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.18

October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: The Long View

Meth-PrEP Crisis Claims Simply UnTrue BY NATHAN RILEY

A

midst cries of yet another drug crisis, an inflammatory piece in a new Califor nia publication, the Pride LA, claims that the combination of meth, PrEP, and orgies is threatening to take away the hard won gains of the gay community and create a “catasTrophe.” The op-ed is by Charles Kaiser, a respected journalist, historian, and author of a new book about the French resistance to Nazi occupation. He cited little evidence other than quoting from lurid messages on Grindr, Manhunt, and A4A. His conclusion is startlingly unconvincing. After all, anybody can pull excerpts from the Internet and prove anything. Is the association of meth with barebacking a crisis or just a problem? The public health community has worked with the gay community for years, and the risks of HIV infection are reduced by modern medicine. A poz person on his meds will have “undetectable” levels of HIV and cannot infect others. Unsurprisingly

there exists (and have always existed) negative people who want to bareback with poz people. These are not people who necessarily feel “invulnerable.” Some were acutely aware of the risks and worked with groups like Fenway Health in Boston to explore the idea of taking HIV medication to preserve their negative status. From this case-by-case approach instigated by patients at LGBT health programs came the course of treatment called PrEP that cuts off a path to new infection. It is a significant public health advance that will slow increases in new cases of HIV infection. PrEP means there is no crisis. But in the LGBT community, there is a fear of an “emancipation effect” increasing the number of barebackers. Once again, we shouldn’t listen to our fears. Most new users of this drug don’t jump into the orgy scene. Those who choose relationships and those who do casual couplings and use PrEP do not change their behavior. Gay men are, of course, always joining the group-sex underground, and the growth of this population is provoking a public health concern but no crisis. It is important to remind ourselves that although many play-

ers in these arenas are positive, only a few are contagious; again, compliance with HIV treatment by those who are positive reduces their virus to “undetectable” amounts. Yet some in the gay community downplay PrEP and avidly proselytize their faith in condoms as the only answer. Condoms are excellent — and the only device that prevents STDs like syphilis and gonorrhea. Unhappily, rubbers don’t work for everyone and we have nearly a century of data to prove it. In the 1950s and ‘60s condoms were the only protection available to straight people. If condoms worked as a public health intervention — if there was buy-in across the board by those sexually active — there wouldn’t be teenage pregnancies or STDs. Unwanted pregnancies were a major problem, and medicine confronted the issue by developing the “Pill” for women, which prevented pregnancies, and giving middle class and poor people access to abortions (the rich had abortions even when they were illegal). It is not gay people who proved that condoms have only limited success, it was straight people, and the public health community is aware of the problem and should be applauded for finding solutions to difficult problems. Kaiser doesn’t acknowledge this progress and perhaps doesn’t even see it. He believes meth binges of four to five days are common, when in fact

they are the exceptions. His concern about that is part of a larger fear that PrEP users will stop their daily doses, making the medication ineffective. We have yet to see this lack of compliance, and even if we do it is doubtful that it will become a crisis. Most PrEP users do not do meth. An important step that would clarify cause and effect is to understand the nature of the problem. Meth is a drug made by outlaws. It doesn’t have the uniformity and efficacy of pharmaceutical drugs. Drug reformers remind us there is a widespread craving for stimulants in the United States. The market for energy drinks with high jolts of caffeine and for products like 5-hour Energy shows the legal side of this craving. Drug prohibition prevents the sale of medically approved stimulants. Change the laws, and the public health would improve. Legal stimulants would be accompanied by problems, but the objective isn’t life without problems. The goal is making problems manageable. Kaiser calls for a transformation and reminds us that ACT UP caused a transformation in gay lifestyles and made condom use the norm. He wants this norm restored, but the cat is unlikely to get back in the bag. Gay sex without condoms is possible, and this is an advance not a disaster. The real transformation would be abandoning our hurtful drug laws and allowing users to work with the medical community.

PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad

“Orphan Black” and the Queer Identity Game BY KELLY COGSWELL

T

hanks to that devil Netflix, I’m now hooked on “Orphan Black,” the sci-fi series in which Tatiana Maslany plays a slew of cloned women who are caught between the evil scientists who created and study them and the religious fanatics who want to see them all dead. You could read the whole show as a deconstruction of identity, or a smorgasbord of it, with plenty of nature and nurture jokes thrown in. Acting on a high level like this

always raises questions about just what a person is. Do we have some essential and immutable kernel of self that finds expression in how we speak and move and how we choose to live our lives, or is this thing we perceive as “I” an arbitrary collection of ticks that we’ve picked up from the world around us that practically anybody can mimic, if not sustain? Comics do it all the time with spot-on impersonations. In “Orphan Black,” Maslany transforms herself so persuasively into a dozen or so separate clone characters, sometimes even going all

GayCityNews.nyc | October 29 - November 11, 2015

Shakespearean in pretending to be one clone pretending to be another, that she’s an argument for the internal diversity of humans, our capacity to adapt. Technology obviously plays an important role in making all her characters seem simultaneously real, but the key is the acting that is done without benefit of the fancy make-up and prosthetics that we’ve all seen in movies from “The Nutty Professor” to” The Saint.” With just a pair of glasses, a headband, or a wig, or nothing at all, she changes the body language and accent, but goes beyond these obvious tricks to allow the intelli-

gence inside to shift, creating a new personality, a new character without getting so clever you’re pulled out of the show to applaud her craft. I marveled at a scene in an early episode in Season 1 when British con artist Sarah was meant to visit her young daughter, but asked Canadian Soccer Bitch Alison to stand in. We saw the character Alison seize on Sarah’s externals like many actors would do, embracing her lower class British accent and tougher, street-wise gestures, only failing to erase her own fakely open expression. To convey both characters at once, the actor Maslany carefully allowed Alison’s character to peek out of Sarah’s usually skeptical eyes and to reveal herself around the mouth.

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• “On average, women have four drinks before a hookup and men have six.” What does this say about men’s and women’s differing need to get blotto before taking their clothes off? I’m focusing here on only one section, “Identity-Free Identity Politics: A Report from the Agender, Aromantic, Asexual Front Line.” The reporter, Tim Murphy, begins with a lesson in contemporary semantics: “‘Currently, I say that I am agender. I’m removing myself from the social construct of gender,’ says Mars Marson, a 21-year-old NYU film major with a thatch of short black hair…. Of the seven students gathered at the Queer Union [at NYU], five prefer the singular they, meant to denote the kind of post-gender self-identification Marson describes.” Being grammatically hung-up, I initially cringed at the idea of “the singular they,” but I have to admit that it solves the problem of having to gender every sentence when the subject of the sentence doesn’t want to be gendered in a binary, he or she way. And while I applaud young Mars’ effort to self-liberate, being agender doesn’t remove them from the social construct of gender at all because their self-identification is itself the product of social construction. Say whaaa? Contemporary sex and gender studies rest on the foundation that sex is biolog-

ical, and gender is cultural. “Marson was born a girl biologically,” Murphy writes, “and came out as a lesbian in high school. But NYU was a revelation — a place to explore transgenderism and then reject it. ‘I don’t feel connected to the word transgender because it feels more resonant with binary trans people.’” Murphy goes on to point out that folks like Marson aren’t identifying with “the middle of the path” either. “‘I think “in the middle’ still puts male and female as the be-alland-end-all,’ says Thomas Rabuano… ‘I like to think of it as outside.’ Everyone in the group mm-hmmms approval and snaps their fingers in accord.” (Snapping fingers may be the new applause, but it’s not so new after all: it’s exactly what happens in the episode of “The Lucy Show” in the ‘60s when Lucy and Viv go to the beatnik café.) But what Marson and Rabuano and the mm-hmmming and finger-snapping others aren’t appreciating is that one can never be outside of social construction — that the cultural forces that produce male and female also produce them. They can no more stand outside the continuum of gender than they can stand outside of this galaxy. If the constructs male and female are socially constructed illusions, so is the sense of being outside the spectrum. A third person describes themself as “an agender demi-girl with connection to the female binary gender.” I blame Judith Butler. Murphy concludes his piece with a touching reminder of how difficult it is to figure out who

you are: “The complicated language, too, can function as a layer of protection. ‘You can get very comfortable here at the LGBT center and get used to people asking your pronouns and everyone knowing you’re queer,’ says Xena Becker, 20, a sophomore from Evanston, Illinois, who identifies as a bisexual queer ciswoman. ‘But it’s still really lonely, hard, and confusing a lot of the time. Just because there are more words doesn’t mean that the feelings are easier.’” Like a selfish trick, Roland Emmerich’s “Stonewall” came and went so fast that it may as well not have shown up in the first place. I didn’t see it. So I can’t comment on it. I’ll leave that to the exceedingly capable openly gay critic Alonso Duralde, who writes: “‘Stonewall’ somehow manages to be simultaneously bloated and anemic, overstuffed and underpopulated. It’s a story about a true historical event that spends way too much time on its fictional lead character [a cute blond boy from the Midwest]; the tone is so erratic and artificial that it wouldn’t feel surprising if the movie suddenly became a musical. And as the film gets duller and duller, you find yourself wishing these characters would break into song, just for variety's sake… It’s as if ‘Selma’ had focused on a fictional white liberal character instead of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Yikes! Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.

72-02 Astoria Boulevard East Elmhurst, NY 11370 Contact Duane Henderson, Counselor 718-278-3240 Office • 914-714-8174 Cell

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And Now for the 2015 Winners… Top prizes in 21 categories in the Best of Gay City Readers’ Choice Awards beg to differ. You can catch Ricamora Thursdays on ABC or on the Great White Way in the current revival of “The King & I.

BEST LESBIAN BAR Cubby Hole Sure, it’s primarily a lesbian watering hole, but since 1994 Cubby Hole has officially billed itself as New York’s neighborhood fusion bar — lesbian, gay, and straight friendly. And that last word is important to understanding this venue’s charm. Maybe that kind of appeal is why Cubby Hole for the second year running was voted Best Lesbian Bar. 281 West 12th Street at West Fourth Street; visit cubbyholebar.com.

BEST GYM Equinox

BEST GAY BAR Boots & Saddle Maybe it’s the new location on Seventh Avenue, maybe it’s the brunch — or, hell, maybe it is the stacked roster of drag queens that play nearly every hour of every day. But this year, Boots & Saddle Drag Lounge snagged first place for Best Gay Bar. 100 Seventh Avenue South at Grove Street. Check it out at bootsandsaddlenyc.com.

BEST DRAG PERFORMER Haus of Mimosa

HAUSOFMIMOSA.COM

MICHAEL SHIREY

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He first captured viewers’ attention in “Here Lies Love,” the concept musical about the life of Imelda Marcos. But it was his role in ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” as gay techie Oliver that launched Conrad Ricamora’s large fandom. And while he may play the “unattractive” one on “Murder,” our readers clearly

EQUINOX.COM

BIGGEST CELEBRITY CRUSH Conrad Ricamora

With 25 locations in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn Heights, Equinox was voted the Best Gym this year. This Pride Season, Equinox celebrated with #POWEREDBYPRIDE, a partnership with LA artist David Flores, who created murals in Williamsburg, San Francisco, and London, where for a month beginning in mid-June, staff, members, celebrities, and others took photos of themselves and posted them using the hashtag. Each time the hashtag was used, $1 was donated to New York’s Hetrick-Martin Institute, which serves LGBTQ youth, and the Pilion Trust, a London-based group that works with vulnerable communities. For more information on Equinox, visit equinox.com.

bingo nights, also at Boxers. hausofmimosa.com.

In this category, our readers chose a twofer, a pair of drag queens known around town for brunch performances (Sundays at KTCHN on West 42nd Street; Saturdays at Boxers Hells Kitchen) and their appearances at Monday Check out their website at

BEST DINING OUT SPOT Eleven Madison Park & Eataly Voters split on their favorite between two very different options. Eleven Madison Park, Daniel Humm’s restaurant at 11 Madison Avenue at 25th Street that offers seasonal

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EATALY.COM

Front

Scenes of Everyday Queer Life Curated by James M. Saslow runs through December 6, 2015

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CM

MY

MUSEUMOFSEX.COM

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Whether it’s “Obscene Diary: The Secret Archive of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist and Pornographer” or “Hardcore: A Century & A Half of Obscene Imagery,” the Museum of Sex never shrinks, so to speak, from erotically engaging its audience. Its Kinesthesia artist commission series — which supports artists, designers, and innovators in creating exhibitions that engage physical experience through immersive work in human sexuality — is the sort of genius that makes this museum a stand-out among many, many competitors in New York. 233 Fifth Avenue at 27th Street; museumofsex.com. CMY

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BEST COFFEE SPOT Think Coffee & Dunkin’ Donuts

THINKCOFFEE.COM

Saul Bolasni, Untitled (Portrait of man with book), Collection of Leslie-Lohman Museum.

26 Wooster St, NYC 10013 212-431-2609 LeslieLohman.org Tuesday - Sunday 12 - 6 pm Thursday 12 - 8 pm

BEST GAYBORHOODS West Village & Park Slope

BIGGAYICECREAM.COM

It comes as no surprise that Big Gay Ice Cream was voted Best Sweet Shop for the second year in a row — with shops in the East and West Villages, Big Gay caters to Lower Manhattan’s sweet tooth with a unique rainbow flare. Featuring creative concoctions with equally unique names (the Salty Pimp, the Bea Arthur, and American Glob, to name a few), Big Gay Ice Cream has something for everyone. Visit biggayicecream.com.

MICHAEL SHIREY

This year, voters went for sentimental favorites. The West Village, the heart of bohemian New York going back a century and a half, is the home of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, the site of the city’s earliest gay bars and businesses, long a magnet for youth looking to hang out on the Hudson River, and the location of the city’s LGBT Community Center. Park Slope, for the past 40-plus years, has been one of America’s lesbian hometowns, and its Victorian splendor, tree-lined streets, and cool, college town vibe has long made it a draw for gay men, too. And, as historian George Chauncey reported in his seminal “Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 18901940,” nearby Prospect Park was a gathering spot for homosexual men as early as the turn of the last century.

BEST SWEET SHOP Big Gay Ice Cream

BEST HOME DESIGN STORE West Elm

BEST ON STAGE Fun Home

JOAN MARCUS

Winner of five 2015 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, “Fun Home” is the musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s groundbreak-

Domestic

BEST MUSEUM Museum of Sex

menus of 12 to 15 courses for $225, gets five stars from Forbes Travel Guide, four from the New York Times, and three from the Michelin Guide, and was named by S. Pellegrino as one of the world’s 50 best restaurants. (elevenmadisonpark.com) Eataly, though just across Madison Square Park at 200 Fifth Avenue, is an enormous and boisterous Italian marketplace that offers a range of restaurants, food and drink counters, bakeries, a food and cooking supplies supermarket, and even a cooking school. It has to be seen, but try to figure out a time to beat the tourist crowds. (eataly.com)

High brow, artisan latte-slinging Think Coffee and the consistent and reliable comfort of Dunkin Donuts tied this year for the Best Coffee in town. With seven locations in Manhattan, Think Coffee prides itself not only on providing quality coffee and espresso but also in giving back to the community, donating to nonprofits including Grand Street Settlement and Hudson Guild. (Visit thinkcoffee.com.) As for Dunkin Donuts, the countless locations across the five boroughs speak for themselves — because if there is something all New Yorkers love, it's the assurance of a good, cheap cup of joe.

On the

ing graphic memoir, and it clearly struck a chord with our readers. The story follows Bechdel as she reevaluates her relationship with her father through key moments in her life. A must see. Visit funhomebroadwaycom.

BEST OF, from p.20

Born in Brooklyn in 2002, this home décor chain, a part of the Williams-Sonoma portfolio of brands, offers a wide selection in modern urban design in four city locations in DUMBO, Chelsea, and the Upper West Side,

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JOAN MARCUS

John Benjamin Hickey and Patrick Breen in “Dada Woof Papa Hot,” directed by Scott Ellis, at Lincoln Center through January 3.

In “Dada Woof Papa Hot,” John Benjamin Hickey faces the existential angst of a queer moment BY DAVID KENNERLEY

I

f “Dada Woof Papa Hot” is one of the most cryptic titles of the theater season, it’s also one of the most brilliant. Peter Parnell’s of-the-moment comic drama, now in previews at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center, considers the minefields inherent in becoming new parents, particularly when those parents happen to be a gay male couple. “Dada Woof Papa Hot” refers to the first four words uttered by the daughter of Alan (John Benjamin Hickey) and Rob (Patrick Breen). Each word is innocuously cute on its own, but strung together, it speaks to the pressing need to reconcile the schism between the couple’s past “gay” lives and their current “parent” lives. The experience of Alan, who is 50, and Rob, in his mid 40s, is contrasted with that of much younger gay dads, Scott (Stephen Plunkett) and Jason (Alex Hurt). Can you answer to Dada or Papa

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(as many gay dads are called by their kids) and still be a self-actualized sexual being? That’s the thorny question that lies at the center of this inspired new work. The play, directed by Scott Ellis, aims to capture urban parent angst at a crucial cultural moment when gays nationwide are now allowed to marry and become fullfledged legal parents. Sure, many of these issues — in vitro fertilization versus adoption, applying to preschools, making time for the gym, juggling sleeping schedules, age difference between parents, fidelity — are shared by straight couples. But when seen through the lens of gay dads, they promise to take on a fresh urgency. Hickey is a supremely versatile actor equally at home on stage and screen. In 2011, he won the Best Featured Actor Tony for his portrayal of Felix in “The Normal Heart.” For the past two years, besides guest starring on “The Good Wife” and “Modern Family,” he’s played the lead in WGN’s period drama “Manhattan” about

the Manhattan Project. He appears opposite Cate Blanchett in “Truth,” the political biodrama that hit movie theaters in mid-October. What’s more, he’s conquering the airwaves, hosting a new radio show on Andy Cohen’s Sirius XM channel called “My Favorite Song,” where he dishes about beloved tunes with celebrity buddies like Sarah Jessica Parker. Gay City News sat down with Hickey in his West Village apartment and chatted about his role in “Dada Woof Papa Hot,” gay dads, choosing sperm, and negotiating extramarital sex. DAVID KENNERLEY: You’ve been busy doing TV and movies since your Tony-winning turn in “The Normal Heart.” What brought you back to the New York stage? JOHN BENJAMIN HICKEY: What brought me back was this play specifically. As soon as we did the first reading a couple of years ago, I knew it was something very special. Peter Parnell is an insightful author who’s written brilliant

plays — highly imaginative, theatrical pieces often steeped in history. This play felt extremely personal to me, so I responded to that. More importantly, it opened up a new chapter for me in queer theater. It’s not a play about coming out or fighting for gay rights or the war years of the epidemic. I came of age when Tony Kushner was writing plays and we had urgent political reasons to be performing theater. It is not a play that asks straight people to understand, accept, or love us. It’s a brand new thing. Of course there are echoes of where we come from and how much we’ve sacrificed to get to this moment. But it’s the first play that doesn’t ask for tolerance from anyone. We are now assimilated. DK: The play is astonishing. Within the first minute there’s talk of treasure trails, crotch adjusting, cocaine, a threesome with an ex-boyfriend, and bottoming — all casually discussed over dinner at a trendy Manhattan restaurant. How do you feel about such a candid portrayal of contemporary gay dads, especially at Lincoln Center? JBH: That stuff doesn’t shock me because I’ve heard it many times before, but to a straight audience it may be pretty shocking. But what’s most shocking is how unpolitical the play is. For all the candor of that first scene and throughout the entire piece, the play is essentially about existential malaise for both gay men and for straight couples in their late 40s and early 50s. How do you stay a couple when you are now more than a couple, a family? This is a brand new question for gay guys. Now that you mention it, I guess some subscribers are going to freak out a little. DK: What are some of the themes? JBH: The play portrays the experience of same-sex couples. What does the child call each of you? Whose sperm do you use? Who does the child biologically belong to? How do you negotiate that triangle? My character is

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BOOKS

A Self-Critical View from the Sidelines Gary Indiana’s brilliantly jaundiced eye is not just watching others BY DAVID EHRENSTEIN

I

GayCityNews.nyc | October 29 - November 11, 2015

RIZZOLI EX LIBRIS

’m emotionally blocked, stupid in practical matters, and cursed with an isolating intelligence that’s worthless,” Gary Indiana self-disses roughly halfway through this improbably potent apologia pro vita sua. “I must have pretended my life was a novel, or a movie I was narrating as it went along.” But to anyone who has read the works of this scathing social critic, cultural weathervane, and crime scene adept, he is in no way “cursed” or “worthless.” That he regards his life as a species of film or novel in progress is proof of his work’s inestimable value. For Gary is what post-structuralists call a “participant /observer” of la condition humaine, and he spares himself nothing as he regards the world that engulfs him with a wryly jaundiced eye. And this is why the title of his latest tome converts the expected “can’t” to “can.” For while Gary Indiana, who has done everything from teach philosophy at the New School to co-star with Veruschka in Ulrike Ottinger lesbian avant-garde film spectaculars, wants love he knows he’d be a fool to expect to find it in a culture as bleak and soul-crushing as this one. Born Gary Hoisington in Derry, New Hampshire, his adoption of “Indiana” as a surname suggests a desire to get right to the heart of the American character, which he pegs as entirely criminal in nature. He proves this point repeatedly in such pitch dark quasi-novels as “Resentment” (his 1997 take on Beverly Hills murder-brats Lyle and Erik Menendez), “Three Month Fever” ( his 1999 retracing of the path of Versace-targeting “spree killer” Andrew Cunanan), and “Depraved Indifference” (his 2002 go at the mother-and-son murder-for-profit team of Sante and Kenneth Kimes). His unwillingness to bestow so much as a soupcon of “sympathy” on these craven creatures leaves the alleged insight of “In Cold Blood” in the dust, along with its shallow social-climbing author. Compared to Indiana, Capote is nothing more than a 10th-rate “sob sister” pimped by a credulous press into a latter day Dostoyevsky, while not up to the middlebrow pulp level of an Earl Stanley Gardner. On a personal level the contrast between these two is even starker. While Capote brandished his “feminine” affectations as if they were some species of inner truth made outwardly manifest, Indiana is eminently practical about his insipient feyness — and what might be called its “market value.” “There isn’t any roadmap to homosexual relationships,” he keenly observes. And the road he’s taken has been a hard one. His teenage years found him being used as a kind of sexu-

al appliance — servicing others orally while getting nothing in return. Reaching adulthood, he served as an anal receptacle — but never an object of affection. And his matter-of-fact acceptance of this is truly heartbreaking — though Indiana wouldn’t dream of tugging at “heartstrings’ in the standard manner. A kind of phantasmagoria set in New York and LA (“a city of false starts”), but with pit-stops in Boston, San Francisco, Havana, and Istanbul, “I Can Give You Anything But Love” finds Indiana confronting the awful truth that his love life is a sex life — at its most abject. “I pick up a new person every night. This procedure is fraught with insecurity about my attractiveness. My willowy, fey look passed out of fashion a while ago when the androgynous template slowly butched up during the disco era, becoming the preset macho clone craze. I’m put off by the leatherman thing, handkerchief signals, big hairy chests, and mustaches. If the Tom of Finland types aren’t stupid as boiled okra, they give that impression in conversation. But there are usually some available persons in my acceptable range of maleness. Then it’s down to whether or not they see me in a similar light.” Not quite as stark as “The Sex Factory,” his piece on gay orgies in the collection “Let It Bleed” (1996), it nonetheless vibrates with abjection — a state Indiana finds not exceptional but common. Flickering in the half- light of these sullen sexual recollections, one finds the recurring figures of “Ferd” and “Dane” — friends (which is to say simply that they’re nicer to him than anyone else) who are never fully fleshed out as they would be in a conventional piece of writing. Here they’re simply points on the graph of what is less a memoir than what the French call a “recit” — or “account.” The primary practitioners of this form are French — Michel Leiris, George Bataille, Hervé Guibert — though they also have an American cousin in Dennis Cooper (most markedly in his collection of stories “Ugly Man”). “The rapes seemed more ridiculous than tragic,” is Very Dennis. But it’s pure Gary, too. It typifies a text that recalls everything from the heyday of New York’s Mudd Club (where he held forth as a diseur) to Los Angeles, where for a time he lived in the same apartment building as neopunk pop star Exene Cervenka. “The shoot-out that turned the Symbionese Liberation Army into French fries had happened only twenty blocks north,” Indiana recalls, adding, “If I hadn’t been high at the time I would have been petrified.” But he’s never petrified. He is in fact eerily calm about it all. It’s how he’s gotten though life up to now, and he has no intention of changing. “I clung to the sidelines, watching. I admired

I CAN GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE By Gary Indiana Rizzoli Ex Libris $25.95; 240 pages

the club people. They weren’t dumb. They knew time was roaring past.” But so did Gary Indiana. And rather than simply “clinging,” he writes about what those “sidelines” meant. Toward the end, he recalls an accident — his Volkswagen spinning out of control and crashing into the underpass of the Hollywood Freeway “somewhere between the Rampart District and Echo Park.” After “trudging down the dark road, thorough endless nothingness,” he finds a gas station, with no personnel present, and calls the police. When they arrive, “There’s a lot of rough language conveying their anger and disgust at my irresponsibility. There’s a pinch of homophobic ridicule, but not as much as I expected.” Eventually a tow-truck driver arrives. “You lucked out,” the driver tells him “on account you got the insurance. No insurance, you’d be spending the night in the holding tank.” And then the best part: “‘Plus you’re white’ the driver adds. ‘With cops in this town that’s a lucky plus.’” Yes he may be “stupid in practical matters,” but at the last Gary Indiana is a very lucky guy.

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THEATER

Crimson Persecution Immersive historical drama exposes a secret homosexual purge at Harvard

JAN WANDRAG

Amir Wachterman and Christopher Harral in The Representatives’ production of “Veritas.”

BY DAVID KENNERLEY

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hen I saw the poignant, bare bones staging of “Veritas,” the historical drama about gay men banished from Harvard, at the 2010 New York Fringe Festival, I was enthralled. I remember thinking it deserved a more polished production in an Off Broadway venue with a proper set, lighting, seasoned cast, and adequate rehearsal time. The latest version of “Veritas,” courtesy of The

Representatives, is not that production. Instead, the gutsy troupe, known for its site-specific, “radically intimate” theater, has reworked the drama, adding a thick, rich layer of directorial flourishes. It’s a bit like dunking a Milky Way bar into a deep fryer. Is the result superior to the original? Adventurists might say, yum, I’m in heaven. Purists might argue, no, you mucked it all up. Co-directors Stan Richardson (also the playwright) and Matt Steiner (who also acts in the piece), with an assist from dramaturg Jordan Schildcrout, have let their imaginations run wild. Richardson and Steiner, by the way, are co-founders of The Representatives. For starters, they chose a nifty nontraditional space — the rusticated basement of St. George’s Church, built in 1846 — which not only evokes a hallowed institution like Harvard but also intensifies the dread. Upon entering the lobby, you are handed a glass of wine and a card with the portrait of a character in the play, who magically appears and escorts you down a winding ramp to your seat. More wine is offered, which comes in handy during a “bitch party” scene where you can toast the perverts of Perkins 28 (the dorm room where weekly gay soi-

rees took place). Never mind that the year is 1920 and Prohibition is now the law of the land. The patchy plot revolves around the nervous breakdown and tragic demise of Cyril Wilcox, a student unable to come to grips with his homosexuality. His brother (DeLance Minefee) discovers, among his effects, steamy letters written by Harvard chums and shows them to the dean. Members of Cyril’s circle, who attended the debauched parties, which featured men in drag and uniformed sailors, must submit to a secret court. Throughout the piece, the audience moves from room to room and encounters more surprises, like a black-and-white Mary Pickford movie and a demented game show featuring a live dog. “Veritas” is at its best during the interrogation scenes. Thanks to some clever blocking and audio-visual trickery (Paul Hudson designed the lighting), the testimonies of three men appear spliced together, magnifying the torment and absurdity of the court proceedings. The students are bombarded with questions like, “Did you ever engage in any homosexual acts? What were their names? How frequently do you masturbate?”

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Two Hits and a Miss A great new play at the Public, a wonderful revival, and one bad trip BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

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JOAN MARCUS

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hen Robert O‘Hara’s “Bootycandy” opened at Playwrights Horizons last year, it seemed like a bunch of sketches in search of a play. Yes, there was a theme in the challenges of being black and gay in a largely unwelcoming culture, but despite some fine writing and incisive observational comedy it was an immature, largely one-note work that wasn’t a coherent play. Let’s call that piece an anomaly and move forward because O’Hara’s newest play “Barbecue,” which just opened at the Public, is about as tightly constructed and substantive as it could be. While maintaining O’Hara’s skewed and biting sense of humor, this hilarious social satire of race and class cuts a wide swath

through many levels of the culture and takes aim at the high and low. The play opens with a white family planning an intervention on their sister Barbara, whose wild drinking escapades have earned her the nickname “Zippity-Boom.” The family is what can only be described as trailer trash, and at one point there’s a blackout and the white family is replaced by a black family playing the same roles, but with a distinctly different cadence and attitude in their speech and attitudes. Clearly these are the same people, but what’s up with that? Well, I’m not going to tell you because to do so would be to unfairly reveal the first of the delightful and surprising twists and turns that keep the plot rocketing along, and the audience gasping from laughter. The flawless direction by Kent

Heather Alicia Simms, Benja Kay Thomas, Kim Wayans, and Marc Damon Johnson in Robert O’Hara’s “Barbecue,” directed by Kent Gash, at the Public Theater through November 1 only.

Gash doesn’t miss a comic opportunity and yet somehow allows the characters to be both types and real people. It’s one of the reasons the comedy works. Paul Tazewell’s costumes are spot-on — the genius in the details becomes even more pronounced as the plot points are revealed. The cast is uniformly great, but the performances by Tamberla Perry, Samantha Soule, Kim Wayans, Heather Alicia Simms, and Benja Kay Thomas deserve special mention.

“Barbecue” demonstrates without a doubt that the well-made theatrical comedy is alive and well. Going into it I wouldn’t have said this, but I can’t wait to see what O’Hara does next.

“The Gin Game,” is not really much of a play, but in the star-driven and stellar revival now at the Golden, you wouldn’t know it. With James Earl Jones and Cic-

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October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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Sadly, most were found guilty of “homosexualism” and their lives ruined. I was reminded of a similar fact-based drama, “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde.” Not all goes smoothly. Staged in the round in close quarters, the unwieldy ensemble of 10 has precious room to navigate around the audience members. The night I attended, there were technical glitches and missed cues, and the pacing was erratic. The performances are a mixed bag. Amir Wachterman brings a smarmy boisterousness to the role of Ernest Roberts, the unflappable party host at Perkins. Chris Harral delivers the most consistent, understated turn of the evening as the closeted, boastful “ladies man” Kenneth Day. John McGinty does an admirable job portraying Eugene Cummings, the aspiring dentist who has the courage to face Cyril’s distraught brother. McGinty, who is deaf, often uses sign language, and others attempt it as well, which adds yet

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VERITAS The Representatives The Cave @ St. George’s at Gramercy Park 209 E. 16th St. Through Nov. 7 Mon.-Sat. at 8 p.m. $18; therepresentatives.org/veritas Two hrs., 20 mins., with intermission

another element of complexity. Ashley Walch’s handsome period costumes go a long way to help ground the endeavor. Talk about spunk and conviction. Snafus aside, what comes through loud and clear is a passionate, creative group of artists doing their best to offer a fresh take on a nearly century-old story. In that sense, this ambitious, fascinating yet flawed production of “Veritas” lives up to its name. To continue the immersive experience, audience members are ushered to another room for an after-party to mingle with the cast. The hot topic of conversation? How to convince Harvard to issue posthumous degrees for these unfairly persecuted young men.

NEW MEMBER JOIN TODAY! GET UP TO

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See Genting Rewards for details and to sign-up.

HITS & MISS, from p.24

ely Tyson in a two-hander about forgotten people in a down-at-theheels retirement home, this heartfilled and sensitive production is completely charming. Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey have been parked, for want of a better word, in this home. As the play opens, Weller is alone on the porch rifling through a deck of cards. When Fonsia appears, as if she’s wandered out on the porch by accident, Weller sees the opportunity for a game of gin. Fonsia agrees, and the couple begins a series of games over several weeks. Fonsia, however, turns out to be quite the card player, which frustrates Weller and provokes several arguments. His outbursts become quite terrifying to Fonsia. That’s pretty much the play as written. As presented here, however, Jones gives one of his most subtle performances in years. He is a man who has been disappointed in business, made some terrible choices, and spends his days

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GayCityNews.nyc | October 29 - November 11, 2015

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FILM

Losing and Finding Herself in the Dominican Republic Geraldine Chaplin superb as aging French woman in search of new life and love BY GARY M. KRAMER

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CREDIT

and Dollars” is a sensitive and authentic romantic drama, loosely adapted from JeanNoël Pancrazi’s autobiographical novel that depicts the relationship between Anne (Geraldine Chaplin), a much older French woman, and Noeli (Yanet Mojica), a young Dominican woman. Noeli, who frequently asks Anne for money, often explains that the cash is for her brother, Yeremi (Ricard Ariel Toribio). Viewers, however, know that Yeremi is not Noeli’s sibling, but actually her boyfriend. Then Anne makes the decision to return to France with — or without — her beloved. Chaplin is remarkable in the lead role. She is particularly expressive with her eyes and smile, as when Noeli asks to take Anne’s picture after delivering bad news. In a recent Skype session, Laura Amelia Guzmán, who co-wrote and directed the film with her husband, Israel Cárdenas, spoke with Gay City News about the racial, class, and sexual politics of “Sand Dollars.”

Yanet Mojica and Geraldine Chaplin in Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán’s “Sand Dollars.”

GARY M. KRAMER: What are the attitudes toward people like Noeli who participate in these kinds of relationships in the Dominican Republic? LAURA AMELIA GUZMÁN: Noeli is not gay, but she’s there for company. It’s another kind of prostitution. She has fixed clients — “friends” like Anne, who come every year. Pancrazi’s book was about him and a Dominican man in Samana — where we shot the film — who had a wife and two kids. This area of the country has developed in a very different way than other tourist points in the DR, which are more all-inclusive hotels. People who go to Samana — Euro-

peans, North Americans, Russians — want to stay there and live there. They don’t judge anyone. Anne is 69 and Noeli was 20. You see that kind of gap between people in relationships here. In the countryside, where people don’t have education, they don’t get too moral. In the city, it’s another story. GMK: What can you say about the practice of sex tourism in the DR? “Sand Dollars” uses the women’s relationship to reflect issues of colonialism, capitalism, and globalization in a country that disenfranchises women and the poor, especially. LAG: When Anne goes out with her European friends, it is to a

The Front Page

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om McCarthy’s “Spotlight” is the kind of film that’s likely to be both underrated and overrated. It’s not hip or flashy, and it doesn’t have much visual style. McCarthy’s films have always been actors’ showcases, and that remains the case here. On the other hand, “Spotlight” is likely to appeal to people who wonder why Hollywood doesn’t make the kind of film it made in the ‘70s anymore and whose most prized possessions are their boxed sets of “Mad Men” and “The Wire.” In fact, the former’s John Slattery pops up here. “Spotlight” is a deeply nostalgic film, and if you’re reading these words in newsprint

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GMK: Can you talk about the casting and the way you developed the intimacy between the characters? LAG: We decided when we were casting we wanted a foreigner to play Anne in the film. We didn’t care if the actor didn’t speak Spanish, because we do have that here: relationships that go on for ages, but the couple do not speak the

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SPOTLIGHT

Old school film about an old school newspaper investigation into the most explosive of stories BY STEVE ERICKSON

plantation house. You have that diversity of moneyed people. Anne rejects it. She doesn’t want to go back to that, it bores her. That’s what her life was like in Europe. She’s come to the DR to make herself anew and be in love again, to reinvent herself at 70 and feel desire and sexual attraction. Anne’s cross-migration is to find a place to belong and live better than she did in Europe. It’s paradise, but she’s very conscious that it’s not paradise. She’s aware of Noeli’s poverty. For our film, we changed [Pancrazi’s] story and decided to keep Anne in her space and not show where Noeli lives. Her village is miserable.

you’ll probably feel its pull. After a brief prologue set in the ‘70s, “Spotlight” begins in July 2001 as a now-defrocked priest is accused of having molested at least 80 boys. While the Boston Globe has largely ignored the case, new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) brings it to Spotlight, a four -person team within the paper headed by Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton). Robinson works with Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), who concentrates on the legal front, Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), who interviews victims and keeps trying to talk to attorney Eric MacLeish (Billy Crudup), and Matt Carroll (Brian D’Arcy James), who discovers a new method of tracking likely pedophile priests in church documents. Baron

Directed by Tom McCarthy Open Road Films Opens Nov. 6 AMC Loews Lincoln Square 1998 Broadway at E. 68th St. amctheatres.com

and the Spotlight team butt heads with Boston’s cardinal, their own paper’s negligence in covering the story, and the difficult personalities of some of the victims, but their ultimate findings prove to be explosive. “Spotlight” is set at a time when the Inter net had yet to decimate print journalism. Boston Globe reporters discuss the declining readership of the Boston Phoenix, their city’s alt-weekly. Within a decade, it would be out of business. The Spotlight team has the luxury of devoting months to researching a story

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October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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same language. What can they say? What do they have in common? Anne knows she’s being lied to — she doesn’t care. She needs company. Money can’t buy love, but it can buy the illusion of love. We worked with close-ups to get the emotion in the characters’ eyes. That was something Geraldine and Yanet gave us. They were so comfortable in their skin. It was natural having them hang out. They never knew when we were shooting or not. We’d never said “action” or “cut.” Geraldine was very maternal to Yanet. For Noeli, we wanted someone with wildness, that look that says, “I have no ambition.” Geraldine and the crew took a class in Bachata [Dominican music that originated in the shantytowns], and afterwards, went to a disco to show what everyone learned. It was embarrassing, so we sat down, and we saw this girl [Yanet] dancing, and we asked her to audition the next day. She made up this amazing story about a scar and driving a motorcycle that put me in a sit-

SAND DOLLARS

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Directed by Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán Breaking Glass Pictures English and Spanish With English subtitles Opens Nov. 6 Cinema Village, 22 E. 12th St. cinemavillage.com

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uation where I didn’t know what was true and what was a lie — just like the character in the film. Geraldine was happy we chose her.

Joy BehAR RoBeRT CuCCioli lARRy gATlin JAy JohnSon DAiSy JoPling miChele lee luBA mASon aNd More!

GMK: Speaking of music, the song that opens the film could be describing the relationship between Anne and Noeli. I’m guessing that was deliberate? LAG: What I like about the song is that it’s a sad song about despair and love, but you can dance to it. It’s happy in that respect. It tells a lot about how Dominicans are. They have a hard time economically and everything that comes along with that — child mortality and teen pregnancy — but everyone is happy all the time. It’s a way of surviving. Just like the characters do.

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Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Mark Ruffalo in Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight.”

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while drawing full salaries. Their bosses trust that their investigations will pay off in the long run so they allow them to pursue possible dead ends. That kind of freedom has gone the way of international bureaus and the Boston Phoenix. McCarthy’s direction suggests that he’s seen a few Dardenne brothers films, although his style is more subdued: he shoots people from the back with a Steadicam as they walk through hallways. He also uses montage to convey the tension and excitement of getting a

scoop. Usually, it’s effective. However, “Spotlight” could pass for a made-for-HBO movie. McCarthy shows more attention to his cast. All of the small handful of actors who play the priests’ victims do a remarkable job of portraying damaged goods — one man’s arm bears the scars of either IV drug use or self-harm — in a minute or two. The film avoids the cliché of the self-righteous Catholic priest or nun. The one pedophile priest who does speak is oddly honest about his deeds, although

GayCityNews.nyc | October 29 - November 11, 2015

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FILM

The Dark Recesses of the Austrian Soul Ulrich Seidl brings his art to disturbing finds in people’s basements BY STEVE ERICKSON

STRAND RELEASING

T

hese days, it’s tough to get anyone to come and physically protest your movie. Although boycotts were declared against “Stonewall,” I don’t think anyone went to the Angelika and picketed it during its one-week run there. Austrian director Ulrich Seidl’s “Paradise: Faith” managed to anger a conservative Catholic group so much that they showed up at the City Cinemas Village East with protest signs. Ironically, the scene that upset them, in which a woman masturbates with a crucifix, is preceded by material that actually might have bothered them more, such as an orgy featuring unsimulated oral sex. Seidl’s work is just as capable of ticking off liberals; one critic I know thinks he’s a master of cruelty who gets his rocks off laughing at the harsh scenarios he devises for his characters. When I saw his first narrative feature, “Dog Days,” that was my take on Seidl. He struck me as a combination of the worst qualities of Todd Solondz and Michael Haneke. (To be fair, he began working well before Solondz.) Then I saw his documentaries “Animal Love” and “Models” and realized that there’s pathos amidst the considerable pain in Seidl’s work. At his worst, there’s little but artfully framed schadenfreude to it; at his best, he’s capable of Sadean cruelty modulated by compassion. His latest film, the documentary

“In the Basement,” takes a look at the contents of Austrian basements. Many of them would probably be illegal in a country without America’s First or Second Amendment: guns galore, Nazi memorabilia. There’s even an underground target range. While not illegal, the BDSM dungeons he finds would raise a few eyebrows, even in a culture where “Fifty Shades of Grey” was a blockbuster book and film. There’s a huge difference between its “pornography of tastefulness,” to lift critic Kevin B. Lee’s phrase, and Seidl’s images of a man’s testicles being lifted by hooks in a grungy basement. Seidl’s wife Veronika Franz, a director in her own right (and collaborator on the scripts for his work), has said that all Austrian films are horror films. Seidl’s oeuvre bears this out, although the horror is more often emotional than physical. The country seems more damaged by the historical experience of Nazism than Germany — a German director like Christian Petzold doesn’t seem nearly as angry as Seidl or Haneke, even when he addresses World War II directly in “Phoenix.” As it happens, Seidl depicts a subculture of Nazi fetishists who also happen to play in a brass band in “In the Basement.” He never questions any of his subjects on camera, and his attitude toward them is entirely nonjudgmental, even when judgment seems called for. The Nazi fetishists seem almost harmless; while they talk about traveling through Germany

A brass band trombonist and Nazi fetishist practices in his basement.

IN THE BASEMENT Directed by Ulrich Seidl In German with English subtitles Strand Releasing Opens Nov. 6 Anthology Film Archives 32 Second Ave. at Second St. anthologyfilmarchives.org

to visit Hitler’s castle, they never express any fascist ideology. That’s left to the guys in the gun range, who practice in case of an Islamist takeover. Actually, they believe that Muslims, especially Turks, are already invading Austria, and they’re dumber than white Europeans. One of them seems slightly more liberal than his buddies: he argues that Islam is only 300 years behind the West. All this would be only slightly more edifying than watching an evening of Fox News or listening to right-wing talk radio if not for

A Place Apart Alice Rohrwacher casts a female gaze on Italian lives off the beaten track BY STEVE ERICKSON

I

talian director Alice Rohrwacher’s “The Wonders” isn’t a documentary, but it has an immediacy and flux more common to non-fiction films than narrative ones. The actors who play the family at its center aren’t

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related, yet they’re completely convincing together. The fact that the two youngest daughters are so small that they may be very difficult to direct — for the most part, they seem to be running around, yelling, and having a good time in front of the camera — makes Rohrwacher’s accomplishment all the more impressive. She brings

Seidl’s direction. His work, in general, suggests reality TV freakshows like “Strange Sex” and “My Strange Addiction” raised to the level of art. His framing is impeccable. Most of his beautifully lit, carefully poised images could be used as still photos in a gallery setting. He rarely moves the camera; even when following people through their houses, he tends to cut as they walk from room to room. There’s a pleasurable quality to Seidl’s direction even when what he’s filming is repugnant. As with Haneke, it makes his provocations go down easier. “In the Basement” suggests that Austria’s basements are a repressed subconscious for the country. They represent the material it doesn’t want to acknowledge: racism, violent potential, the legacy of the Nazis. The film finds a kind of redemption in sex. It’s guilty of cheap irony at times, when it has a prostitute talk about how she felt abused in her previous retail job as if the audience would be astonished that anyone could like sex work. But even though Seidl leaves himself and his voice off camera, he manages to get a real dialogue going with a domestic violence survivor who’s now working for a charity that serves abused women. She’s also a masochist in a relationship exploring consensual BDSM and states her preference for men who do their share of housework but like to objectify her sexually. The film ends with her locked in a cage. Only in Seidl’s world could this be a sign of hope.

up her themes — such as tradition vs. modernity — subtly. Reality TV represents the latter here, but “The Wonders” doesn’t demonize it. It even manages to see what’s appealing about it and presents a TV star played by Monica Bellucci as a vulnerable person under her glamour. A family of beekeepers lives in a ramshackle house in the Tuscan countryside. Their house is too small for the six of them, as one can see from an early scene in which a girl is interrupted while using the toilet. The oldest daughter, Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu), has passed puberty and is on her way to becoming a young woman. While she’s not yet sexually active, her libido is

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October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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OPERA

Just like Old Times Met revives Zeffirelli’s production of “Turandot,” Schenk’s “Tannhäuser”

MARTY SOHL/ METROPOLITAN OPERA

Eva-Maria Westbroek and Johan Botha in the Met’s revival of Otto Schenk’s production of “Tannhäuser.”

BY ELI JACOBSON

I

n the first decade of James Levine’s artistic era at the Metropolitan Opera, two directors emerged who dominated the Italian and German wings with a traditional production style. The Italian director-designer Franco Zeffirelli created a series of visually spectacular Puccini productions in the 1980s that wowed audiences, though critics demurred. The Austrian actor-director Otto Schenk’s neoromantic 1977 production of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” established him (in collaboration with scenic designer Günther Schneider-Siemssen who died this past June) as the go-to director for Wagner at the Met, culminating in the “Ring” cycle. Peter Gelb has systematically replaced these traditional productions with decidedly mixed success. Gelb has vowed to preserve Zeffirelli’s “Turandot” and “La Bohème” (both are revived this season), but this season’s revival of “Tannhäuser” may be our last look at Schenk’s lovely old production. The Zeffirelli “Turandot” returned on September 23 with the three lead singers making house role debuts. Dramatic soprano Chris-

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tine Goerke’s attempt at the titular anti-heroine proved a mixed bag. Her darkly expansive middle and lower registers are topped by a narrower but penetrating upper register. The role of Turandot centers on the upper third of the soprano range, requiring a laser-like tone that expands on high. For Goerke, it was an uneasy fit. The opening aria “In Questa Reggia” was marred by out-of-tune attacks and tentative high notes, but the three riddles were powerfully projected. In Act III, Goerke’s tone took on a more womanly coloration. Goerke’s variety of tonal color enlivened many phrases, and her acting was authoritative with a telling economy of gesture and movement. Marcelo Alvarez as Calaf sounded covered in Act I, with a tendency to puff up the tone at the expense of real legato. In Act II, his warm latin tenor gained a modicum of ping and projection, and he phrased more like a big scale lyric tenor with better results. He was intermittently engaged in the action, with a rather casual stage manner. Hibla Gerzmava’s Liù, conversely, was rather formal and reserved in demeanor but unleashed a lush full lyric soprano that had lift and float. She was ambitious, with dynamic effects shading from loud to soft and vice versa — mostly with success. James Morris had a good night as Timur with some of the old juice restored to the tone. Paolo Carignani’s tempos seemed rather arbitrary, with many of the Act I choral sections taken faster or slower than usual; the more singer-driven later acts cohered better. Zeffirelli’s production looked as fresh as ever after 30 years, with the audience again gasping at the reveal of the glittering Act II throne room set.

Schenk’s production of “Tannhäuser” r etur ned in October after mor e than a decade’s absence, with the original conductor James Levine in the pit. The production, though certain elements look dated, has held up better than the conductor. Earlier in the week Levine had announced he was withdrawing from the new production of Berg’s “Lulu” to concentrate on “Tannhäuser” — this during the season that was to mark his comeback as full-time music director of the company. Conducting from a motor ized wheelchair, Levine seemed to have less mobility in his upper body, with spasmodic slashing motions of his arms. The pilgrim’s theme during the overture unfurled in slow motion, almost grinding to a halt, and the Act I finale was barely held together. In Act II, the introduction to

“Dich, teure halle” revealed a return of the vivacious old Jimmy, and he seemed to gain energy and control through to the end of the long evening. Johan Botha has drawn criticism for his bulky and immobile facial and physical acting (by this critic, especially for an Otello compromised by vocal indisposition). His vocal virtues cannot be denied, and his account of the title role was impressive. Tannhäuser is written awkwardly for the heroic tenor voice, requiring stamina in the fragile upper middle break where the tone wants to contract rather than expand. Botha maintained a clear bell-like tone all night, despite the occasional squeezed nasal shout. He sang rather than declaimed the lengthy Act III Rome narration with textual point and coloration. Botha’s acting was not without detail and his experience in the role showed. Peter Mattei’s Wolfram also evoked golden age comparisons with a heady lyric tone, aristocratic phrasing, and deeply empathetic acting. He seemed the conscience of the opera — a passive witness who becomes our viewpoint for the story’s conflicting issues. As Landgraf Hermann, young German bass Günther Gröissbock had his best Met outing so far — the tone firm and focused with an impressive stage presence. The male leads were cast from strength but the two ladies representing the opposing poles of fleshly and spiritual love reflected the ravages of long service in the Wagner wars. Michelle de Young returned as Venus with her warm tone compromised by prominent vibrato and squally top notes, and her acting was by the numbers vamp. Eva-Maria Westbroek’s committed acting made Elisabeth a real woman and not a symbol. Her emotional generosity and feminine grandeur evoked the production’s first Elisabeth — the legendary Leonie Rysanek. Sadly, Westbroek’s tone also was marred by widening vibrato under pressure and edgy high notes, but her phrasing was beautiful. On October 15, her voice settled down and the top was better controlled. Ying Fang as the Shepherd Boy sang with jewel-like purity of tone. Schneider-Siemssen’s sets for “Tannhäuser” evoke the landscape paintings of Caspar David Friedrich. The colors have faded slightly, giving them an antiqued old master quality but the Act I transition from the Venusberg to the deserted plain and the high domed Hall of Song set in Act II are still impressive. “Tannhäuser” will be transmitted in HD on October 31 at 11:55 a.m. for those who can’t see it in the house. October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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31


IN THE NOH

Melba Moore Fêted as a Hero Broadway, recording veteran, on wings of a comeback, honored for HIV work BY DAVID NOH

O

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WENDY CONNETT

n October 26, Tony-winning, Grammy-nominated star Melba Moore was honored by the HIV Experience Resource Organization at the group’s second annual Broadway and Ballet HERO Awards. The honor recognized this versatile performer’s work over the years in the fight against HIV/ AIDS. Having caught Moore earlier this year in a spectacular engagement at the Metropolitan Room, in which she paid thrillingly sung tribute to various lady singers who’d inspired her, I was eager to catch up with her again, and she showed up in the Village, still as adorable, petite, and stylish as ever for a lunch interview that went on delightfully for hours. I told her that I was a serious fan of hers as a kid in Hawaii, aching to graduate from high school and hightail it to Manhattan, where I could maybe catch her, if not in the by thenclosed “Purlie” (for which she won the Tony), then possibly in another show. I already owned the “Purlie” cast album, as well as two quite fierce solo albums of hers. In 1972, I was delighted that she starred in a summer replacement TV variety show, along with her then paramour Clifton Davis, hot off “Two Gentlemen from Verona.” So, the first question I asked was about that show, radical in its day for having two black performers hosting. Typically down to earth, she laughed, “I never thought about that because nobody knew who the hell I was. But that helped make me a star — all of the industries can: TV, Broadway, records. What happened was that Tony Award opened the door. Everybody respects that, and then will give you a chance. I keep getting royalties from it. ‘You have all these satellite stations,’ my daughter was telling me. It plays a lot on certain stations with specific genres. And it was great to see Clifton again at the Metropolitan Room after all these years.” I said, “He looked terrific. You’re both such showbiz survivors, what an achievement! You were involved once, weren’t you? I think it’s so great that you are still buddies.” Moore shot me a swift, wry look, “That is even more of achievement, I promise you! [Laughs.] But as far as surviving goes, you really have to love what you do, so you don’t give up. “As for winning the Tony, on the night itself, I didn’t understand the categories and had never really heard of it before [Featured Actress in a Musical]. I still have this clipping that has a photo of me standing between Helen Hayes and Lauren

Bacall! I had heard of them [laughs]. I’m there smiling, but thinking, ‘Where the heck am I?’ “It was so exciting. I really don’t remember what happened, though I later watched the tape. I remember Jack Jones called my first name and someone else’s last name, so that confused me even more. I didn’t know the categories, so I guessed they had already given out the award, and was getting ready to leave when I heard the audience screaming, “ Melba Moore! Melba Moore!’ Ohmigod, what’s wrong now? One of the stagehands said, ‘Don’t go, come back!’ And I went to the stage and they said I had won one. It was exciting but radical.” In the 1970s, Moore’s place in the black diva firmament was somewhere in the middle between Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and the glamour queen, Diana Ross. She cites both stars as among her greatest influences. “‘Lean on Me,’ which is my signature song I got from Aretha, and she knows this. I was listening to her records like anybody else, and she liked to cover songs like ‘Rose of Spanish Harlem’. On the other side of that single was ‘Lean on Me,’ and I just loved it. I got my own arrangement of it, and after ‘Purlie’ I think my first concert was at Lincoln Center and it got a standing ovation. Long after that, I met Van McCoy and reminded him that he wrote that song, but I made my own arrangement of it and it’s been mine ever since. “[Franklin] requested that I sing it. She knows I can’t sing nuttin’ like her and can’t be compared to her. She knows me and the way I sing, and also knows I just love her. She invited me to both her Christmas and birthday parties this year and asked me to sing. I like to say I took a few crumbs from the queen’s table.” Franklin is well known for not suffering many people — fools or otherwise. She notoriously dissed Bette Midler, a former huge fan of hers, causing Midler, in her book “View from a Broad,” to give herself a maid named Aretha. I asked Melba if they really got along. “She’s wonderful to me. Oh, Miss Ree Ree — she don’t take to everybody. We all have those feelings, being scared to meet your idol. I have people saying to me now, ‘You’re the reason! I saw you and thought I will try to perform, too. Maybe you can do something I can‘t do, but I’m gonna try!’ “And certainly, also, there’s Miss Diana Ross, still a wonderful standard for beauty and style. Oh, you know Miss Ross wouldn’t wear that! I’ve met her, and she was very cool. I haven’t seen her recently but she was a good, strong actor,

Melba Moore performs at the October 26 Broadway and Ballet HERO Awards, where she was honored.

as well, and stayed in shape. I don’t care if she’s showing some tummy now in her skintight Bob Mackie gowns, like you say. I’m a fan for better or for worse.” Flamboyantly beloved Geoffrey Holder recently died, and I had to ask Moore about him, whose show 1978 “Timbuktu” she starred in with Eartha Kitt: “He was just a sweetheart, bigger than life, always on. What you saw was what you got: a beautiful, gentle guy, always full of ideas and shows he was going to do and costumes he was going to design, dances to choreograph. ‘Timbuktu’ was his brainstorm. It was beautiful, and we need more of that kind of beauty today.” And Eartha? “I just made sure I stayed in my ‘corner of the sky.’ Unbelievable to watch her work, just so strong. Sometimes she just floated across the stage, beautiful, graceful, and strong, like a dancer. I was not enamored with her voice. She just really knew how to make herself a caricature, an entertainer! She was a genius about that. That’s what they want to see.” The two stars famously did not get along, and I asked Moore if Kitt could have been threatened by a younger, talented diva. “Are you joking? No one could threaten Eartha. She was just mean. And high. If anything, she was probably too comfortable and did everything she felt like. No one could tell her no or even yes, you know. “ Along with her Broadway career, Moore was one of the top female vocalists of the disco era,

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IN THE NOH, continued on p.34

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HITS & MISS, from p.25

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JOAN MARCUS

steeped in anger and regret. His attempts to be civil are often undone by his upset at losing at cards, but, of course, there is more going on. Jones, still at the height of his craft, gives a sympathetic performance as a man whose power and control are slowly ebbing away while he is helpless to stop it. Tyson as Fonsia is every bit Jones’ match. She is clutching her past as tightly as she clutches her white purse — as if it contains her entire identity. Slight as she is, Fosnia comes across as strong and proud but, like Weller, losing all the things that defined her. Jones and Tyson play marvelously together. Amid the pathos — and borderline bathos — there is plenty of comedy as the relationship develops, and the richness of the moments combined with the economy of their choices fills even the smallest moments with believable life. This is fortunate indeed

Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones in "The Gin Game."

because the second act doesn’t offer very much in terms of plot or even resolution. Yet the chance to watch such fine work from two accomplished veterans should make you more than happy with the hand you’re dealt.

“Trip of Love” is the new Off-Broadway revue of 28 hit songs from the 1960s performed

IN THE NOH, from p.32

with such 1970s hits as “You Stepped Into My Life,” “Standing Right Here,” “Pick Me Up, I’ll Dance,” “Make Me Believe in You,” “This is It,” and “Miss Thang.” She cited that period — along with her Broadway debut in “Hair,” in which she sang “White Boys” and then replaced Diane Keaton in the lead role (“Everybody was so young and crazy; the dressing rooms were so much fun, everybody high”) — as the time when she was most happy onstage. She would dazzlingly perform in legendary clubs like the Paradise Garage for hundreds of dance-mad fools who, along with her Broadway fans, still cherish her to this day. “I didn’t know [mythic DJ] Larry Levan all that well,” she said. “But going there to dance was like a workout at the health club. You’re happy, dancing, and when you hear the music, your troubles are gone, or at least you think they are.“ Moore’s dance records are all on YouTube, accompanied by glowing nostalgic comments as well as a younger generation’s praise for what music with a beat really could be. Asked if she was aware of how loved she is in the gay community, Moore responded, “I’m a little aware of it. My manager, Ron Richards, keeps me abreast of those comments. It was just fun at the Garage. Everybody liked to party, and I know everybody was high. But at the time I was married with a little girl. So when you tell me about a certain fabulous night there when Larry played ‘Standing Right Here,’ and the whole club

34

by a super-amped-up cast of 23, and they kill every last song. Kill, in this case, is as in class A felony, scrawl “Helter Skelter” on the wall. This misbegotten show has been created, directed, and choreographed by one James Walski, and it is intended to tell the story — a la “Alice in Wonderland” — of a girl who takes a psychedelic drug and has all kinds of crazy experi-

seemed to elevate, that was my high — getting people elevated. “Those songs were more than just dance songs, like a lot of what you hear today — repetitive lyrics and just hooks. I gotta give credit to my former husband [Charles Huggins], because he went out and got those songwriters and producers like McFadden & Whitehead and Van McCoy. He found them all and helped me shape my style, songwriters who actually wrote for me. I’m not blues or a Broadway singer so I had to develop my own style. “‘You Stepped Into My Life’ was written by the Bee Gees! Their sound wouldn’t have worked for me, but it was produced and arranged by Gene McFadden and John Whitehead, who totally transformed it. The song had a full orchestra, with those inner hooks, and at the beginning there was the bass line. [Sings] ‘Don don don” — you’re already hooked and, oh, here it comes … [Sings] ‘You stepped into my …’ The only part of the song that I think sounds a little Bee Gees is when I come in again, after the instrumental break, ‘You will never know…’ Moore is on the comeback trail big-time, after some stalls and setbacks over the years. A decade ago, we met when she returned to New York for a concert at the Henry Street Settlement, and I applauded her moxie, going out on the stage of that small theater and singing to a tape. Flash forward to earlier this year, which found her selling out — and then some — the Metropolitan Room. With her adored father (with whom she sang), family, friends, and fans galore

ence. Yet Walski and his cast seem to have no idea what they’re singing about. How did “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” become a story about two young people falling in love? And how does “If You Go Away” become about two soldiers about to be killed in Vietnam while a third, a war protestor, is leaving for Canada? And how does that segue into a bouncy rendition of “Downtown?” This show is tone deaf to the period and the music. One song is more misconceived than the next, and the whole undertaking has the feeling of a stilted variety show. One can’t fault the energetic cast for singing and dancing their hearts out. They’re all fairly generic, with the exception of Kelly Felthous in the Alice role. Her shrill singing reminds one of an abused housecat, and her rendition of “Where the Boys Are” is truly terrifying. Someone, somewhere must have thought this trip was worth taking, They were wrong.

in attendance, she blew the roof off that sucker with total commitment and a voice that seems twice as powerful as it was 30 years ago. “I do believe my voice is stronger now, with more colors,” she said. “I just started seeing a vocal coach, after years of just using my own technique. I needed to develop my technique for Broadway and learn that repertoire I’m not that familiar with, because I was doing other things. She taught me another way to breathe, ‘Just relax, let the shoulders go.’ I used to know that, and I also know that the breath is the presence of the Holy Spirit. If you forget to breathe, you lose all these treasures that are right here inside you. I had to teach my daughter that. “I think I’m a late bloomer. My voice wanted to do things but it wasn’t stretched, powerful enough. My range is bigger now — if you take care of your voice, like with good leather polish, it gets more flexible. It’s getting there.” Moore is currently single and has been that way for a while” “It sure keeps me on my diet. No romantic dinners to turn down, no flambés! I’m good with it.” Asked if she ever got nervous before performing, Moore said, “Yes, because I know how everything is supposed to be. I have no entourage around me. I have to stay focused without people around to distract me. Right now I have to do everything myself, where once my husband and I had our own producing company, with a full staff. Once I get to that point where things are again taken care of for me, like they once were, and all I had to do was be the diva 24/7, maybe then I can relax.” October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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asks, although I have every reason in the world to be happy, what’s wrong? Any human being in the world can appreciate that existential paradox.

WOOF, from p.22

DK: Tell me about your character, Alan. JBH: I was deeply attracted to this character because he is not entirely ready. He always wanted to be monogamous, but he never thought he’d ever live in a world where he could be married and be a parent. It’s a play about growing pains and a huge shift from who we were, signaling a new paradigm, a new normal. As somebody who has done a lot of gay parts — and a gay man myself — I was incredibly excited by it. DK: At one point, Alan says, “I just don’t feel gay anymore.” What does he mean by that? JBH: It’s an amazing speech he has halfway through the play, describing coming out in the early ‘80s. He says he wanted faithfulness, he didn’t want to tart around. But he never imagined he’d get married and become a parent, and now he doesn’t feel gay the way he used to feel. Becoming like everybody else isn’t exactly what he wanted either. I think that’s where we are right now. How do we move forward with an identity that separates us from everybody else? It’s nice to be different. We’ve celebrated this difference for many years. DK: Alan pines for the good old days with Rob before parenthood. He misses not having to compete with his child for his husband’s attention. He is brutally honest,

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JOAN MARCUS

not the biological parent, and he feels slightly on the outside. That’s really interesting stuff to bring up. We face some of the same challenges [as straight couples] and yet we are different. A child will ask questions like, “Where is my mommy? Where did I come from? Who do I belong to?” A friend’s child put it very beautifully, “Oh I get it Daddy, your sperm just got there faster.” Alex Hurt, John Benjamin Hickey, Stephen Plunkett, and Patrick Breen in “Dada Woof Papa Hot.”

wouldn’t you agree? JBH: I am not a parent and hadn’t thought about that. You live as a couple on this beautiful island of love. Then along comes this miniature person who demands all of your attention. You co-parent, and hopefully do it equally. But in this specific situation, one wanted a child more than the other, which happens with straight couples also. And two of them share DNA. My character misses being the center of his husband’s universe. In some ways, the play is about the end of narcissism in gay culture. We love the gym, we love our bodies, we love each other’s bodies. We celebrate that. But in many ways, parenting is about forgetting about all that. You don’t have time to do that stuff any more. You have to give up the old notion of self. DK: One character feels that gay marriage is duplicating heterosexual normative behavior. Is that such a bad thing? JBH: One of the characters says, well, you asked for it, so you are getting all the problems that go along with it — good luck with that. It reminds me of that New Yorker cartoon with an elderly couple [watching the news on television]. One says to the other, “Gays and lesbians getting married — haven’t they suffered enough?”

MORSELS, from p.14

The restaurant is painted purple and decorated with a Bosch-like anti-globalization poster and many of Marco’s paintings, including one of Michael Brown’s family. If you search your Spanish dictionary, you may conclude La GayCityNews.nyc | October 29 - November 11, 2015

DADA WOOF PAPA HOT Lincoln Center Theater Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater 150 W. 65th St. Through Jan. 3 Tue.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $87; telecharge.com Or 212-239-6200 One hr., 40 mins., no intermission

DK: The script is so sharp and authentic. I’m not even a gay dad, but it feels like playwright Peter Parnell is secretly recording conversations I’ve had with gay dads. Do you feel that way? JBH: I agree. The minute I read the script, it struck me that it sounded like me, like a lot of people I know. A couple of friends read it, and it scared them in a beautiful way. It was so perceptive about the melancholy attached to the liberation. Once you have all of your rights, now what? We are a group, a tribe, and for our entire history we’ve had to bang on the door — the closet door, the door of marriage equality, a door of a club you want to get into. Now, a lot of doors are open. What do you do now? Also, the play is not whiny. It

Morada was named from the word for purple, but it actually comes from a Bible verse Antonio thought had special resonance for immigrants, Yajaira said: “In the house of my Father, there are many dwelling places. As I told you, I am going to prepare a place for you.” Thankfully, La Morada has become a dwelling place for many.

DK: The play depicts couples negotiating rules about extramarital sex. Do you think that’s authentic? JBH: That’s one of the great moments of the play. The younger guy, Jason, goes through this long list of do’s and don’ts and then ends with something about licking ass. My character, Alan is gobsmacked and says, “Wow, that last one must have taken a lot of negotiating.” Jason replies, “You have no idea.” DK: Your long-term partner, Jeffrey Richman, is a writer and an executive producer on “Modern Family,” the first hit network TV show to feature gay dads. Do you ever talk with him about the unique challenges of gay parenting? JBH: He talks to his gay parent friends all the time, he’s that voice in the show. We’ve talked about Mitch and Cam over the years, I love those characters and those actors. Alan and Rob are different from those guys, so we haven’t compared the two. Jeff has read the play and loves it so much. He is a huge champion of me doing it. DK: Do you ever get questions like, “So, when are you guys gonna get married and have kids?” JBH: A lot of people ask it. I realize they have the best intentions, but it seems like something your grandmother would ask. Sometimes I feel like, “It’s none of your fucking business.” If it’s a close friend, it’s a good question. Jeff and I have talked about it, but we are in such a good place and love where we are right now, there hasn’t been a push forward as far as that goes. I’m so grateful that we can now be asked that question. It’s a wonderful problem to have.

La Morada (lamoradanyc.com), 308 Willis Avenue near East 140th Street, is open daily 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., except Sundays. (The restaurant may resume Sunday hours in the next several months.) The restaurant is wheelchair accessible, but the bathroom is narrow and lacks a handrail. Reservations accepted but not necessary.

35


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For the second year in a row, our readers have selected Callen-Lorde, a health center whose roots go back more than 40 years to the first health initiatives in New York’s LGBT community. Callen-Lorde serves more than 15,000 patients yearly, more than a third of whom are uninsured. Providing primary care, oral health service, and mental health care to men and women, with specialized expertise in serving the transgender community, Callen-Lorde has also distinguished itself in stepping up in special circumstances — whether vaccinating large numbers of gay men when a meningitis vaccine broke out in late 2012 or in the early dispensing of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, as an HIV prevention treatment. 356 West 18th Street; callen-lorde.org.

BEST PET CARE ASPCA First incorporated right here in New York State, in 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was the first humane society in North America and is today one of the largest in the world. The group is dedicated to nonviolent approaches to addressing problems faced by at-risk animals and victims of animal cruelty. For information about how to adopt a dog or a cat, where to report knowledge of animal cruelty, or to volunteer, visit aspca.org/nyc.

BEST WEDDING VENDOR/ VENUE 54 Below

BEST LEGAL SERVICES Lambda Legal A true pioneer at the time of its founding in 1973, Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization working to achieve full equality for LGBT Americans and those affected by the HIV/ AIDS epidemic. All of its work is done on a pro bono basis, with its cases selected to have significant impact on altering the legal landscape, while it carries out educational and public policy work, as well. For more information, visit lambdalegal. org.

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One of New York’s premiere cabaret venues, 54 Below, in the heart of the Theater District, was voted Best Wedding Vendor in this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards. La Marina, a sprawling Hudson River outdoor restaurant, meanwhile was named

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BEST OF, continued on p.37

October 29 - November 11, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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BEST OF, from p.36

Best Wedding Venue. 54 Below, with the ambience of a 1920s supper club, can seat 150. (254 West 54th Street; 54below.com) La Marina, a seasonal venue (April through October) that has been called South Beach in Manhattan, offers a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces accommodating parties of 50 to 1,500, with decks overlooking the river. (348 Dyckman Street at the river; lamarinanyc.com)

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BEST GETAWAY Israel & New Orleans Call this category a Creole/ Kosher tie. The Big Easy, with its exuberant nightlife and historic cultural diversity, has always been a favorite for LGBT travelers — whether for Mardi Gras or that Queer New Year’s of a Holiday, Halloween. NOLA’s official guide for LGBT travel is at neworleansonline.com/neworle-

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ans/lgbt/. Israel is a haven for LGBT people in the Middle East, and Tel Aviv has, in recent years, become a major world gay destination. That city is probably where you want to start in your thinking about a trip to Israel. For more information, visit gaytlvguide.com.

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DYKE ABROAD, from p.17

Afterwards I wondered about the relationship of our bodies and brains. How one shapes the other. How life shapes us. How society does. From the acceptable expressions on our faces to the ways we dress and walk. Maslany of course is an exceptional actor. But all of us are malleable to some degree. We don’t just “perform” gender, but class and race, as well. Culture, nationality. We go to work speaking Standard White English in Standard White America, but at home suddenly become more black, or Latino, or Asian, or white, rural working class with a ferocious twang. We code-switch, shifting word choice, accent, even tone of voice not to mention our clothes. Of course, some of us become more butch. Some more femme. Here in France, I’ve discovered that I keep my face more still like Parisians do. I sit differently on the subway. Speaking a different language, even my gestures change. I become some other version of my self that seems equally true. I think this malleability is why we like to play so much as kids, trying on roles with Halloween costumes and our parents’ clothes. Bit by bit we construct something we can live with, a premise that “Orphan Black” plays with, joking about the fake happiness of the sub-

urbs, but also dressing up Sarah in Clash T-shirts for a little rock and roll street cred. In fact, the show is also a kind of mediation on acting and identity, and socially imposed norms. The clones weren’t just created in a lab, but by the languages and neighborhoods and societies that shaped them. And of course, their own choices, as well. I consider it a reminder to be wary of any homo or trans activist claiming that they deserve rights because they were born that way. Because the only true response is, kind of. “You were kind of born that way, but so what? We all contort ourselves to survive.” The only argument about rights that really persuades has to do with that old-fashioned thing, democracy. It doesn’t matter who I sleep with, what clothes I wear on what body. Either we’re equal and we’re free, or we’re not. And yes, I know, that by asserting our “fluidity,” I seem to be contradicting my usual pitch to accept intransigent labels like lesbian. But I haven’t changed my mind. Organizing for social change requires broad strokes and words large enough to make multitudes visible. More than one thing can be true. Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.

GayCityNews.nyc | October 29 - November 11, 2015

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WONDERS, from p.28

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SPOTLIGHT, from p.27

he insists that he just “fooled around” with boys and didn’t molest them. In fact, there are relatively few scenes where the clergy appear at all. The film seems determined to keep its focus on the victims, but also to remain anti-pedophilia and anti-institutional corruption instead of anti-Catholic. Baron may not exactly be the film’s conscience, but he brings an outsider’s perspective to bear on Boston’s affairs as a Jew whose previous job was in Miami. He experiences a few instances of subtle anti-Semitism. All the reportGayCityNews.nyc | October 29 - November 11, 2015

OSCILLOSCOPE LABORATORIES

stirred by the arrival of a taciturn teenage boy who helps out at the farm. Simultaneously, a TV show films at a nearby lake and starts a competition among traditional farms to showcase themselves on the show. The irony that such a show is the antithesis of what the local farms represent is not lost on the characters, particularly father Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck), but most of them are enthusiastic about it anyway. Rohrwacher alternates between busy shots in which the frame is filled with people and action and quieter images focusing on one person. In one memorable moment, the camera seems to be held about six inches from a camel’s head. (The camel squeals irritably, but it never spits or gets aggressive.) She’s attentive to the passing of the seasons and changes in weather. The film begins in a colorful summer and ends in a darker, drizzly climate. The cinematography captures all this beautifully. “The Wonders” poses some tantalizing questions about how one can live off the grid. Wolfgang’s family is a group of dropouts from corporate culture, but as Rohrwacher notes in an interview in the press kit, they work far too hard to be hippies. Their political ideology is implicit. They work for themselves, without a boss overseeing them. At several points in the film, disaster seems to strike: the town imposes new regulations on their beekeeping business, and one of the girls injures her hand in a machine while Wolfgang is away. “The Wonders” is a film with a high tolerance for its characters’ penchant for failure. To lift Leonard Cohen’s phrase, they’re beautiful losers. As far as I can tell, Italian cinema has been on a downward slide the past few decades. “The Wonders” may have escaped this fate because it is an intensely local film that reaches out to the rest of the world: dialogue is spoken in several languages. It speaks about isolation and living in the sticks. The family does own a TV, but it’s notable how different they seem from American children and teenagers: they’re not addicted to technology. Cell phones are missing from their lives, as well as the Internet. When two of the girls listen to hip-hop (in Italian) on the radio, it seems to emanate from an entirely different world than the one they live in. Rohrwacher’s characters work in parallel to her own modest enterprise. She even cast her sister as

The family of beekeepers at the center of Alice Rohrwacher’s “The Wonders.”

THE WONDERS Directed by Alice Rohrwacher Oscilloscope Laboratories In Italian, French, and German with English subtitles Opens Oct. 30 Lincoln Plaza Cinema 1886 Broadway at E. 63rd St. lincolnplazacinema.com

the family matriarch. They don’t care much about obeying the rules, even at the cost of breaking the law. Rohrwacher says, “Often good movies cannot comply with all narrative and production rules. Sure, there is the risk that audiences, a bit like the sanitation department, will shut you down.” One of the rules broken by “The Wonders” is the unspoken one that cinema is a boys’ club. Rohrwacher managed to get into the very exclusive Cannes competition section last year and win its second-highest prize, the Grand Prix. “The Wonders” speaks about female coming-of-age, among other subjects. In and of itself, that’s not particularly groundbreaking, but it does so without sexualizing its heroine. Rohrwacher sees even the domineering Wolfgang through a female gaze. “The Wonders” manages to examine its entire cast of characters, male and female, in a loving but clear and pitiless light.

ers on the Spotlight team are present or former Catholics, so the vulnerability of the victims hits home for them. Robinson feels lucky for having escaped the grasp of one pedophile who coached his hockey team. When it comes to reconstructing the past, “Spotlight” makes do with a few clips of 9/11 on the monitors of the Boston Globe offices. The visual imagination of Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs,” which uses 16mm, 35mm, and digital video to represent three different time frames, is beyond it. Yet in the end, the film’s prosaic quality doesn’t really hurt it. It’s as blunt as a page of newspaper, bleeding ink.

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October 29, 2015

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