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Holly Woodlawn Dead at 69 08

Council Gives Religious, Private Schools $20MM 10

Dogs That Heal 48

PAGE 38 © GAY CITY NEWS 2015 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

FREE | VOLUME FOURTEEN, ISSUE TWENTY FIVE | DECEMBER 10 - 23, 2015


COVER STORY

HEALTH

14 DAYS

Gay Jamaican's epic tale of violence & sex

Cuomo, de Blasio step up on Plan to End AIDS

38

12

FILM

IN THE NOH A well-strung Christmas

22, 51, 53 FROM THE EDITOR The past's unwelcome grip

Dreams come true in Manhattan

Donald Trump and the death cult of celebrity

36

44

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GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

7


CRIME

Jackson Heights Rallies in Wake of Trans Woman’s Assault Friends, advocates question how police could conclude attack was “domestic violence”

T

he brutal beating of a transgender Latina, Kathy Perez, 35, outside her Jackson Heights home in the early morning hours of November 29 sparked an impassioned rally by transgender women and their allies led by Make the Road, a social justice organization, on the evening of December 3. The crowd swelled to almost 100 as it wound its way for two hours through the diverse neighborhood — with its reputation as being LGBT-welcoming — that was shaken by the brutal attack. Perez was left unconscious at the scene of her attack, and by the time activists gathered four days later, a report of a neighborhood sexual assault by multiple assailants on a 23-year-old gay man the day after the Perez attack was circulating, though details of that incident remain sketchy. Outrage at the attack on Perez was heightened by reports of a statement from the NYPD’s chief of detectives, Robert K. Boyce, that based on witness accounts the assault was not a hate crime but rather “domestic violence.” Friends of Perez who spoke to her when she regained consciousness in Elmhurst Hospital said she told them she did not know her attacker — and obviously

could not have told the police anything about her relationship with her attacker before the moment she spoke to the friends. Jennifer Lopez of Everything Transgender in NYC, who was with Perez when she woke up, said, “Thank God this tragedy was not another murder,” recalling how a similar attack killed Islan Nettles, a transgender woman, in Harlem in 2013. “But why is the NYPD calling this domestic violence? They do not want to do their job correctly.” “Let’s not forget the 22 trans sisters slaughtered this year,” said Bianey Garcia, the lead organizer from Make the Road, “17 of whom were African-American.” Perez was attacked as she tried to enter her home on 93rd Street near 37th Place at around 4 a.m. The assailant reportedly dragged her to the street and bashed her head into the curb until she lost consciousness. Neighbors who heard the disturbance yelled for the attacker to stop and shouted that police had been summoned. Early reports by police and media on the assault misidentified the survivor of the attack as “he” and “a cross-dresser,” angering transgender advocates and out gay City Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who said, “The police need to learn the correct language when they

speak on transgender issues.” Police have offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the suspect whom they describe at a Latino male in his 30s, 5’8” and 200 pounds. Witnesses or anyone else with information should call 800-577-8477. In a neighborhood that boasts the largest LGBT community outside of Manhattan and plays host to a mammoth LGBT Pride march each year, the attacks have come as a shock — though transgender women there and elsewhere in the city have long complained of regular harassment, including from police, and a lack of access to jobs and health care. Political leaders were on hand at the rally to decry the violence. “We need to come together and send a message that it won’t be tolerated,” said State Senator José Peralta. “If you see something happening like this, get involved.” Public Advocate Letitia James told the crowd, “We must bring Kathy’s attacker to justice. No more transphobia! Our city belongs to all New Yorkers!” State Assemblymember Michael DenDekker said, “We must do our best to educate people and stop the hate.” Carmelyn Malalis, the out lesbian chair of the City Human Rights Commission, said that “there’s a

GAY CITY NEWS

BY ANDY HUMM

A crowd of nearly 100 rallied and marched in Jackson Heights after the November 29 assault on Kathy Perez, a 35-year-old transgender woman.

lot of education that needs to be done” and encouraged the reporting of anti-LGBT discrimination to the commission. Large scale public education campaigns to reduce homophobia and transphobia are rare in New York and while the schools have an anti-bullying campaign, education about LGBT people and history is almost non-existent. Dromm, who represents most of Jackson Heights — though the assault took place in Julissa Ferreras-Copeland’s district — did manage, as chair of the Education Committee, to secure $200,000 in funding this year to examine how LGBT issues could be better integrated into curricula. Alan Reiff, co-coordinator of Queens Pride, was passionate in pointing out that the group’s annual June parade and festival were sparked by the anti-gay murder of Julio Rivera 25 years ago. “Twenty-five years later, we’re still here,” Reiff said. “All LGBT people must come together and support the transgender community.”

ANDY WARHOL “SUPERSTAR” HOLLY WOODLAWN DEAD AT 69

Holly Woodlawn in a promotional poster for Paul Morrissey’s 1970 “Trash,” where she starred opposite fellow Factory star Joe Dellasandro.

Holly Woodlawn, one among the bright firmament of “superstars” created in Andy Warhol’s Factory that in ‘60s and ‘70s Manhattan produced experimental films and other performance art, died of cancer-related causes in Los Angeles on December 6. The Puerto

8

Rican-born transgender actress and cabaret singer was 69. Woodlawn won wide attention from her appearance in “Trash,” a 1970 film produced by Warhol and directed by Paul Morrissey, where she played opposite Factory stud Joe Dellesandro. Several years later, she joined fellow Factory stars Jackie Curtis and Candy Darling in Morrissey’s “Women in Revolt,” a women’s lib send-up, also produced by Warhol. According to the New York Times, Woodlawn performed cabaret in the late 1970s at the famed Reno Sweeney nightclub in the Village. Woodlawn achieved her fame at a time when most Americans’ knowledge of transgender lives was limited to Christine Jorgensen, a Bronx-born trans woman who underwent transitioning surgery in Denmark in the

early 1950s. Even among the hip, underground set she ran with in Manhattan, her life was viewed as exotic, as evidenced by Lou Reed’s famous lyrics: “Holly came from Miami F-L-A/ Hitchhiked her way across the USA/ Plucked her eyebrows on the way/ Shaved her legs and then he was a she/ She said, ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side’…” But some were listening and watching more closely. Melissa Sklarz, a longtime transgender activist and the board co-chair at the Empire State Pride Agenda, remembers, as a high schooler in the 1960s, being “very confused on the inside” even as she “managed to conform to cultural gender standards.” Sklarz recalled, “I had heard of female impersonators, as they were called then in Club 82, but they were on

stage. But when I also heard of Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn and real people living real lives, I was very intrigued and was determined to learn more. When the movie ‘Trash’ came out in 1970, I felt that I needed to know more. I am sure that the life of Holly Woodlawn touched other young trans women the same way.” Penny Arcade, the New York performance artist and friend of Woodlawn, wrote on Facebook about Woodlawn’s struggle during her recent illness with mounting healthcare costs but also about how friends helped her to continue taking care of herself. “I know Holly deserves a star on Hollywood Blvd.,” Arcade wrote, adding that memorials will be held in both Los Angeles and New York. According to Arcade, both Dellasandro and gay author, journalist,

and filmmaker Gabriel Rotello were at Woodlawn’s side at the time of her death. “I just wanted Holly Woodlawn's friends to know that her passing was very peaceful,” Rotello wrote on Facebook. “I happened to stop by at the final moment and she was surrounded by friends, surrounded by love, and there was a great sense of calm, serenity, and acceptance in the room.” Woodlawn, he said, “was touched by all the people who contributed to her care. I am too.” Dellasandro, writing on Facebook about the requests he’s gotten to talk about Woodlawn, said, “Honestly, I am still in the process of absorbing and understanding everything that happened on Sunday so even I am not clear enough to discuss much of anything at this time. Maybe one day in the future.” — Paul Schindler

December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

9


NEWS ANALYSIS

City Council Gives $20 Million to Private Schools, Most Anti-Gay

Led by Speaker Mark-Viverito, backed by mayor, three gay members help chip away at church-state separation BY ANDY HUMM

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million in the first year — with escalator allowances for more in the future — from a $60 million request in April. While the city requires social service arms of religious groups that receive government contracts to pledge not to discriminate on any prohibited basis including sexual orientation and gender identity, no such restriction was placed on this funding. Most of the groups supporting it are from religions that teach that homosexuality is evil, restrict the role of women in leadership, and often lobby against LGBT rights. These groups include Agudath Israel of America, the Sephardic Community Federation, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn,

DONNA ACETO

ity Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and her colleagues pushed through an “unprecedented” bill December 7 to have city government pick up yet another function of private and religious schools — security — allocating almost $20 million in taxpayer funds outside the normal budget process for “safety officers” in any school with more than 300 students that wants one. Mark-Viverito had the support of the vast majority of elected officials, including three of the six out gay members of the Council: Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens, Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn, and Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, despite the fact that it is a direct subsidy to schools mostly run by anti-gay religious groups that made up the bulk of those lobbying for it. Intro 65-A was vigorously opposed by out LGBT Councilmembers Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights, a former public school teacher and head of the Education Committee, and Rosie Mendez of the Lower East Side, who said in a joint statement, “Yeshivas, private schools, and parochial schools — unlike public schools — are not subject to Council oversight or much of the NYC Human Rights Law. Too often their leaders embrace homophobia, transphobia, and other horrific ideologies, and subject our young people to them on a daily basis in the classroom. It is our duty to protect LGBTQ students in every school. We must not bankroll hate with tax dollars. Lamentably there is no mechanism in this legislation to prevent such a thing from happening.” Out Councilmember Corey Johnson of Chelsea also voted against it as did Inez Barron of Brooklyn, a staunch advocate for public education, but it passed 43-4 with the support of all three citywide elected officials — Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Tish James — as well as otherwise liberal officials such as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

While the mantra of supporters was that the legislation was for the “safety of children,” none explained why they have gone through their entire public lives without advocating for such safety officers before, leaving these kids in such ostensible peril for decades. More ominously, supporters of the bill also repeatedly refused to answer the question of what they saw as the limits to government funding for religious schools, expressly forbidden in the New York State Constitution. Indeed, the number one goal of religious schools is securing $250 million in state funds annually, an allocation that is supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo but was stopped by the Democrat-led Assembly this year.

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca and Jimmy Van Bramer, seen here celebrating the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in June, all voted for the $20 million support package for private and religious schools.

New York’s Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has vowed his church will continue to push for it. While de Blasio’s police department opposed an earlier version of Intro 65 in April as encroaching on the NYPD’s discretion by mandating police-supervised school safety officers for any school that wanted one, de Blasio worked with chief sponsor Councilmember David Greenfield of Brooklyn in crafting the revised bill to allow reimbursement for private schools that hire their own security guards, who are supposed to be trained, unionized, and paid a living wage. The negotiations did get Greenfield’s request down to just under $20

the Islamic Schools Association, and the Muslim Community Network. No progressive organization endorsed the bill, with the exception of SEIU 32BJ, which will organize the workers. In Ireland, education is carried out primarily by Catholic schools that are totally state-funded, and this week that nation’s parliament moved to bar these schools from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In New York City, religious institutions are exempt from the human rights law in most respects and not required to hire or include anyone they believe would compromise

their religious mission. Opposing Intro 65 were the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), which called it “unconstitutional,” Make the Road, the United Federation of Teachers, the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Stonewall Democrats of New York, and others. Allen Roskoff, president of the Owles club, said, “While red states fight to pass laws allowing religious discrimination, we provide special monies to bigoted organizations like the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, and Agudath Israel.” Eunic Ortiz, president of Stonewall, wrote, “Any school in NYC — public, private, charter, or otherwise — that face a serious threat will and do receive sufficient NYPD-appointed security that is funded by the city. To provide staff to all private — meaning mostly religious — schools without a proper review of which facility has a need for this kind of security is an expensive way of going around constitutional prohibitions against using taxpayer funding for religious institutions.” The Urban Youth Collaborative called the bill “an unprecedented step to subsidize private education using the public’s money,” noting in its release that according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, “New York City schools are owed $2.3 billion” under court judgements against the city and state for not providing a minimum adequate education in the public schools. The bill was also opposed by Class Size Matters, which fights for reasonable class sizes in the city’s overcrowded public schools. De Blasio called the bill “fiscally responsible,” but State Senator José Peralta told Gay City that he and other elected officials in Queens have been begging the administration for increased funding for crossing guards — something that would demonstrably aid the safety of public and private school students — only to be told that there is no money for it. Common Cause/ New York and the Citizens Budget Commission, in

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SCHOOLS, continued on p.52

December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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WHAT’S NEXT? If you “agree” with any of these, or have any other side effects, talk to your healthcare provider. Especially if side effects are making it hard for you to take your medication as prescribed. There may be something your healthcare provider can do. To determine the best treatment option for you, the advice of your healthcare provider is always best.

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GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

11


HEALTH

Cuomo, de Blasio Step Up on Plan to End AIDS Governor pledges $200 million in next state budget; mayor expands services to all with HIV

DONNA ACETO

Mayor Bill de Blasio, at the Apollo Theater Wo rld AIDS Day event, endorses HASA For All.

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

S

peaking at a World AIDS Day event, Mayor Bill de Blasio endorsed HASA For All, city legislation that would expand eligibility for rental assistance, food stamps, and other benefits for people with HIV. “We believe that no New Yorker with HIV

should have to choose between medication and food or medication and rent,” the mayor told the crowd that packed the Apollo Theater in Harlem for the December 1 event. Currently, the HIV/ AIDS Services Administration (HASA), which is a unit of the city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA), only provides benefits to city residents who have symptomatic HIV illness or an AIDS diagnosis. With the advent of powerful anti-HIV drugs, it has become increasingly rare for a person with HIV to progress to symptomatic illness or an AIDS diagnoses. This has meant that poor people who are HIV-positive do not qualify for HASA and it has led to some people with HIV skipping treatment until they are sick enough to qualify for HASA assistance, advocates say. The mayor said a change was required. “How about we try something different, how about HASA For All?,” he said to loud and sustained applause from the crowd. AIDS groups have sought HASA For All since 2007, when it was first introduced in the City Council. Seen as too expensive and just another government entitlement, it was opposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then-City Coun-

cil Speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian who represented Chelsea. The legislation was reintroduced this year by Corey Johnson, the openly gay and 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 mayor’s endorsement was expected. The City Council has been discussing the legislation since the start of the year. Dan Tietz, HRA’s chief special services officer, endorsed the legislation at an October 14 City Council hearing, a move that was most likely endorsed by the de Blasio administration. City Hall and the Cuomo administration are still negotiating the city/ state split to fund the expanded benefits. It is anticipated that the expansion will cost $99 million a year after it is fully implemented on July 1, 2017, the start of the city’s fiscal year. HASA currently serves roughly 32,000 people with AIDS and another 10,700 of their family members. HASA For All would add an estimated 7,300 new clients by 2020.

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STEP UP, continued on p.13

Despite Officials’ Embrace, Skepticism Remains on Ending AIDS Plan City health commissioner, leading vaccine advocates voice questions whether PrEP is enough BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

12

DONNA ACETO

A

World AIDS Day event featured some skepticism about central components of the Plan to End AIDS, which aims to reduce the number of new HIV infections in New York State from the current roughly 3,000 a year to 750 annually by 2020. “The thing that concerns me most is the issue of adherence,” said Dr. Mary Bassett, the city’s health commissioner, referring to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which involves the use of anti-HIV drugs by HIV-negative people to keep them uninfected. Bassett’s comments came at a December 1 event held at the Housing Works Bookstore Café on Crosby Street in Manhattan. Notably, she was joined on the panel by Charles King, the chief executive of Housing Works, an AIDS group, who is credited with

The December 1 panel at the Housing Works Bookstore Café included (l. to r.) “CBS Sunday Morning” contributor Mo Rocca, Dr. Mary Bassett, Dr. Mark Feinberg, Charles King, Gay Men’s Health Crisis executive director Kelsey Louie, and Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union.

developing the plan along with Mark Harrington, the executive director of the Treatment Action Group (TAG). King has been the plan’s leading champion. While the plan relies on providing a range of services to HIV-positive and HIV-negative people, at its core, it uses anti-HIV drugs to cut new HIV infections. Along with PrEP, the plan relies on post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), anti-HIV drugs used by people with a recent exposure to the virus to keep them uninfected,

and treatment as prevention (TasP), which treats HIV-positive people with anti-HIV drugs so they are no longer infectious. All three drug regimens are highly effective when taken correctly, and the science says the plan should work. But it is a very ambitious plan and the first of its kind. While various types of prophylaxis that pre-date PrEP and PEP have been used before, Gay City News could not find a single example of any form of prophylaxis

being used on the scale envisioned in the Plan to End AIDS. Only one infectious disease, smallpox, has been eradicated and that was done with a vaccine. Vaccines and cures have significantly reduced the incidence of other infectious diseases. TasP has worked well against some infections, such as tuberculosis, in some places. Bassett’s concerns about PrEP adherence, concer ns she has

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SKEPTICISM, continued on p.13

December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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STEP UP, from p.12

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SKEPTICISM, from p.12

expressed since becoming health commissioner in early 2014, also have some basis in science. In early PrEP studies, adherence was a problem, with any new HIV infections coming among those who did not take Truvada, the only drug approved for PrEP, correctly. More recently, a study of 200 gay men aged 18 to 22 in 12 US cities found poor PrEP adherence among the African-American men, who accounted for 53 percent of the participants. The amount of Truvada detected in their blood never rose above the level indicating they were taking the pill at least four days a week, which is the minimum dose required to obtain the anti-HIV protection. “Our Black/ African-American youth were consistently below fourplus pills per week for the entire study,” Sybil Hosek, the study’s lead author and a psychologist at the Cook County Health and Hospitals System in Chicago, said at a July press event held at an International AIDS Society meeting. The study followed the men for 48 weeks and reported four seroGayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

DONNA ACETO

AIDS groups have argued that stable housing, nutrition, and other benefits help people with HIV stay on their medication, which means they are healthy and more likely to reduce the amount of virus in their bodies, making them less infectious to the point that they cannot infect others. HASA For All achieves a goal sought in the Plan to End AIDS, which aims to reduce new HIV infections from the current roughly 3,000 a year in the state to 750 annually by 2020. Over 90 percent of new HIV infections in New York are in the city. 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. The mayor also announced that the city would dedicate more than $23 million a year going forward to fund various strategies that are part of the Plan to End AIDS. Ten million dollars will fund getting

Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Apollo, one day after announcing $200 million in new AIDS funding.

newly-diagnosed, HIV-positive people into treatment and $5 million will support efforts to keep HIV-positive people in treatment. Six million dollars will pay for preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which use anti-HIV drugs in HIVnegative people to keep them uninfected. The remaining cash will fund public education campaigns.

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STEP UP, continued on p.25

conversions during that time, for an incidence rate of 3.29 percent, which is high. The white and Latino men in the study consistently had Truvada levels in their blood that showed they were taking four or more pills a week. The state’s epidemic is driven by new HIV diagnoses in New York City. The rate of new HIV infections among city gay and bisexual men has remained high and unchanged for years. In 2014, there were 2,718 new HIV diagnoses in the city and 81 percent, or 2,194, were in men. Among men, 74 percent of the new HIV diagnoses were in gay and bisexual men. African-American men accounted for 39 per cent, or 847, of the diagnoses among men, Latino men accounted for 34 percent of the diagnoses, or 743, and white men accounted for 21 percent of the diagnoses, or 467. So the population that New York must reach with a PrEP message — African-American gay and bisexual men — to get to 750 new HIV infections by 2020 is the population that right now looks like

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SKEPTICISM, continued on p.25

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CRIME

In Killings of Two Gay Men, Very Different Outcomes

Ability to mount a kinky sex murder defense might have been pivotal BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

C

JEFFERSON SIEGEL

all it a tale of two trials. Both involved younger gay men accused of killing an older gay man. In one, the defense was that the death occurred during rough sex. In the second, the defense wanted to use that story, but was barred by the judge. The outcomes were very different. After first telling police that he killed Edgard Mercado in self-defense, Davawn Robinson, now 28, changed his story. On the witness stand at his 2011 trial, he said he accidentally strangled Mer cado to death in the 39-year-old gay man’s East Village apartment during kinky sex. After jurors failed to reach a verdict, a mistrial was declared. Jurors told Gay City News then that Robinson was “not believable,” one said, but another told the newspaper, “There was a sexual environment, but it was not clear

Edwin Faulkner and Juan Carlos Martinez-Herrera at a 2012 court appearance.

what that meant.” At his retrial in 2012, jurors heard the same evidence and again weighed second-degree murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide, which carry sentences ranging from 25-to-life, up to 15 years, and up to four years in prison, respectively. The prosecu-

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“There’s a thumb on the scale, a constitutional thumb on the scale, that argues in favor of the defendant getting to put on a defense,” Richman said.

tion wanted a murder conviction, and the defense wanted a guilty verdict on criminally negligent homicide. The Manhattan jury convicted Robinson of manslaughter after deliberating for a day. Robinson had his first parole hearing in 2013 and will have additional hearings every two years. If he cooperates with state prison rules, he is eligible for a conditional release in 2019. At the 2015 trial of Edwin Faulkner, 33, and Juan Carlos Martinez-Herrera, 30, the gay couple who killed John Laubach in 2012, jurors never heard the story that Faulkner told police — Laubach died accidentally as he choked him while the 57-year-old gay man performed oral sex on Martinez-Herrera. The prosecution never introduced Faulkner’s statement, choosing instead to rely on two short admissions to the killing by the defendants as well as other evidence. The couple killed Laubach in his Chelsea apartment, robbed the apartment, and fled to Florida where they were arrested roughly two weeks after Laubach was found dead. The defense wanted to discuss Laubach’s two suicide attempts, his treatment for depression, his HIV status, some science that links depression to paraphilias, such as erotic asphyxiation, and that the death occurred during rough sex. Without Faulkner’s statement, Bonnie Wittner, the judge in the case, barred a kinky

sex defense and dismissed the rest of what the defense hoped to introduce as prejudicial. “You can’t argue from evidence that’s not in the case,” said Daniel C. Richman, a professor who teaches criminal procedure at Columbia Law School, who was not involved in the trial. Wittner maintained her position on the defense requests even after Paul Bridgewater, a prosecution witness and a friend of Laubach’s, told jurors that Laubach had AIDS and after Martinez-Herrera testified late in the trial that “Jack liked to get choked when he sucked my dick.” Laubach had known the couple for several months before his death and regularly paid them for sex. They had a falling out after Faulkner stole from Laubach. The older man reported to acquaintances that he was afraid of the couple. On October 19, toward the end of the three-and-a-half week trial in Manhattan Supreme Court, Dr. Mark Taff, a defense expert, was disputing the testimony of a prosecution expert on the cause of Laubach’s death and he began to discuss asphyxia and sex. “Let’s call it kinky sex,” Taff said, but stopped after an objection from Lanita Hobbs, the assistant district attorney who led the prosecution. With the jury out of the courtroom, Wittner and Daniel Parker,

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CRIME, continued on p.55

December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


FREE SPEECH

Chicago Sheriff Violated First Amendment in Battling Backpage.com

Seventh Circuit says threatening letters to credit card companies were abuses of power by public official BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

T

BACKPAGE.COM

he sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, home to Chicago and surrounding suburbs, violated the First Amendment rights of Backpage.com, a classified ad business, when he pressured major credit card companies to deny transactions between the company and its advertisers, the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. Circuit Judge Richard Posner’s November 30 ruling regarding Sheriff Thomas J. Dart’s efforts to block advertising for illegal sex-related products and services is a sweeping free speech opinion. “The Sheriff of Cook County, Tom Dart, has embarked on a campaign intended to crush Backpage’s adult section — crush Backpage period, it seems — by demanding that firms such as Visa and Mastercard prohibit the use of their credit cards to purchase any ads on Backpage,

since the ads might be for illegal sex-related products or services, such as prostitution,” Posner wrote. “Visa and Mastercard bowed to pressure from Sheriff Dart and others by refusing to process transactions in which their credit cards are used to purchase any ads on Backpage, even those that advertise indisputably legal services.” Dart’s ire is specifically aimed at the “adult” section of Backpage.com, which Posner’s opinion spelled out is “subdivided” into categories including escorts, body rubs, strippers and strip clubs, fetish activities, and phone sex services. District Judge John J. Tharp, Jr., had denied Backpage’s motion for a preliminary injunction against Dart, reasoning that he was just exercising his own free speech rights by writing to Visa and Mastercard to express his disgust with the sexually-oriented advertising and alluding to the credit card com-

The home page for Brooklyn on the classified ad service Backpage.com.

panies’ potential liability under a federal money-laundering statute. But Posner and the panel’s other two members, Circuit Judges Kenneth F. Ripple and Diane S. Sykes, concluded Dart was doing more than just expressing a personal opinion. “While he has a First Amendment right to express his views

about Backpage,” wrote Posner, citing a 2002 ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, “a public official who tries to shut down an avenue of expression of ideas and opinions through ‘actual or threatened imposition of government power or sanction’ is violating the

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BACKPAGE, continued on p.17

Renewing Struggling Schools by Michael Mulgrew President, United Federation of Teachers

Cities and school districts across the country have tried a range of strategies to deal with the problems of poor children and struggling schools. Under former Mayor Bloomberg, New York City relied on a “shutdown” strategy, eventually closing 150 schools, including some that the Bloomberg administration itself had created. While Bloomberg’s cheerleaders lauded his approach, the fact is that many of our schools – both older ones and those started during Bloomberg’s tenure – continue to struggle. In contrast, the de Blasio administration has listened to teachers and members of school communities.We know that it is difficult, but struggling schools can succeed – if provided the proper support and resources, and a team approach that brings all a school’s stakeholders together.

GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

The city’s new Renewal program, created with input from stakeholders, is designed to focus on some of the neediest schools in the system. Early returns show that many of these schools have stabilized and in some cases are started on the road to improvement.

coaches, social workers and other professionals, along with professional development for the staff on the skills necessary to work with children facing these challenges. While in 2013-14 nearly one-third failed to meet targets for student achievement, the 2014-2015 School Quality Report shows that now 87 percent of the renewal schools are moving in the right direction, measured by better attendance, more family involvement and other criteria. As a group, they showed gains in both reading and math on state tests.

Students in these schools start out with deficits. Nearly 20 percent are English Language Learners and almost a quarter are classified as special education. Thousands live in shelters or are doubled up with relatives. Many are hungry, lack winter clothes, or have medical needs, including glasses and hearing aids. Many have parents who are Many of these schools have a long way to go. unemployed or who work long hours at minimumTurning them around is difficult, particularly in wage jobs. the face of years of cutbacks and systemic indifTeachers at these schools see these problems ference. These schools will require a multi-year not as excuses, but as issues that need to be strategic intervention built on sound education addressed to ensure that all kids have an equal practice, including custom-tailored supports for opportunity to learn. each school’s particular needs. With its Renewal program, New York City is taking on tough work Renewal schools are being paired with non-profit that no one in the country has attempted before agencies to deliver services like health care and on this scale. counseling to students and their families. What’s more, the nearly $400 million the administration is investing in these schools over the next three United Federation of Teachers years includes funds for hiring teachers, academic A Union of Professionals

15


FAMILIES

US Court Says Claim for Pre-Windsor Benefits Time-Barred

Former government employee cannot win compensation for denial of husband’s coverage 2004-2013

FACEBOOK.COM

Richard Neidich and Ed Horvath overlooking the White House and downtown Washington.

BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

A

federal district court has thrown out a former US government worker’s effort to win compensation for the government’s refusal, for a period from 2004 to 2013, to add his same-sex spouse whom he married in Massachusetts to his insurance plan. In a case brought by Edward Horvath, who worked for the Gov-

ernment Accountability Office (GAO) until 2014, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the District Court for the District of Columbia, on November 24, ruled that the claim is time-barred since the plaintiff did not exhaust available remedies within the six-year statute of limitations. Horvath married Richard Neidich in Massachusetts on June 23, 2004, shortly after the 2003 marriage equality ruling by that state’s Supreme Judicial Court went into effect. When Horvath tried to get the GAO to add Neidich to his employee health benefits plan, he was turned down pursuant to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of his marriage. Horvath pursued administrative remedies after the turndown, but did not take the case all the way through the administrative process, dropping his internal appeals in 2006 and never bringing the issue

to court, persuaded that success was unlikely in that forum. After the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Windsor struck down DOMA’s Section 3 on June 26, 2013, federal policy changed and Horvath was able to add Neidich to the plan, but only prospectively. At the same time, he sought compensation for the prior refusal to add Neidich, reasoning that if it was unconstitutional for the federal government to refuse to recognize the marriage, it should have added Neidich to the plan back in 2004. When his request was denied, he filed a complaint with the GAO’s Office of Opportunity, but that office rejected the complaint, explaining that the rule change implemented after Windsor “did not approve benefits prior to the June 26th date.” Judge Kollar-Kotelly concluded that Horvath’s claim for compensation for the pre-Windsor period is time-barred, agreeing with the

government defendants that the subsequent decisions in the Windsor and then the 2015 Obergefell marriage equality case “do not revive Plaintiff’s time-barred claim under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Act.” Horvath’s conclusion that he would not prevail in challenging DOMA nearly a decade ago was not sufficient to give him standing to make his claim now, the court found. “Even if equitable tolling were available,” Kollar -Kotelly wrote, “Plaintiff’s failure to bring suit within the six-year statute of limitations because of his assessment that the odds of success in court were minimal would not be ‘extraordinary circumstances’ sufficient to justify equitable tolling” ( a legal theory waiving the statute of limitations in cases where an injury is not discovered until after its expiration).

c

TIME, continued on p.25

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December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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BACKPAGE, from p.15

First Amendment.” Despite the careful wording of Dart’s letter, the Seventh Circuit panel perceived an implicit threat of a boycott and possible prosecution. Posner pointed out that if Backpage was engaged in unlawful activity, Dart could prosecute the organization directly. Dart had attempted to do that with Craigslist, but was rebuffed in 2009 by the district court in Dart v. Craigslist, Inc. “Craigslist, perhaps anticipating Dart’s campaign against Backpage, shut down its adult section the following year,” Posner observed, “though adult ads can be found elsewhere on its website. The suit against Craigslist having failed, the sheriff decided to proceed against Backpage not by litigation but instead by suffocation, depriving the company of ad revenues by scaring off its payments-service providers. The analogy is to kill-

hailed at a press conference and in a written release. Backpage was forced to make its ads free, for feiting a major source of revenue, which led to this lawsuit. The court concluded that the credit card companies “were victims of government coercion aimed at shutting up or shutting down Backpage’s adult section (more likely aimed at bankrupting Backpage — lest the ads that the sheriff doesn’t like simply migrate to other sections of the website), when it is unclear that Backpage is engaged in illegal activity, and if it is not then the credit card companies cannot be accomplices and should not be threatened by the sheriff and his staff.” Posner rejected Dart’s argument that most of the sexually-related advertising on Backpage is illegal. “Fetishism? Phone sex? Per formances by striptease artists? (Vulgar is not violent.),” wrote Posner. “One ad in the category

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“The suit against Craigslist having failed, the sheriff decided to proceed against Backpage not by litigation but instead by suffocation.” ing a person by cutting off his oxygen supply rather than by shooting him. Still, if all the sheriff were doing to crush Backpage was done in his capacity as a private citizen rather than as a government official (and a powerful government official at that), he would be within his rights. But he is using the power of his office to threaten legal sanctions against the credit-card companies for facilitating future speech, and by doing so he is violating the First Amendment unless there is no constitutionally protected speech in the ads on Backpage’s website — and no one is claiming that.” Posner asserted, “The First Amendment forbids a public official to attempt to suppress the protected speech of private persons by threatening that legal sanctions will at his urging be imposed unless there is compliance with his demands.” The credit card companies Dart contacted certainly felt threatened. Shortly after receiving the letter, both Visa and Mastercard cut off Backpage and informed Dart of their actions, which he GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

‘dom & fetish’ is for the services of a ‘professional dominatrix’ — a woman who is paid to whip or otherwise humiliate a customer in order to arouse him sexually. It’s not obvious that such conduct endangers women or children or violates any laws, including laws against prostitution.” That paragraph includes Posner’s citation to several online reference sources spelling out the activities of professional dominatrixes. The entire opinion is a delight to read, as Posner’s indignation with the sheriff’s abuse of power shines through in the writing. Backpage.com is represented by James C. Grant of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Seattle and Robert Corn-Revere and Ronald G. London from that firm’s Washington, DC, office. The court received amicus briefs from Ilya Shapiro on behalf of the Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, and DKT Liberty Project, and Wayne Giampietro on behalf of the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia.

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BOOKS Paul Russell’s Latest Novel

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Pa u l R u s s e l l , the author of seven novels, including “The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov” and “The Coming Storm” and a twotime winner of the Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction, reads from his latest novel “Immaculate Blue.” Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., rm. 210. Dec. 12, 7 p.m. A $5 donation to benefit BGSQD is suggested. To reserve a copy of the book, email contact@bgsqd.com.

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THU.DEC.10

emy of Arts and Dance, 2474 Westchester Ave. at Westchester Sq. Dec. 11-12, 16, 18-19, 8 p.m.; Dec. 12, 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 at BAADBronx.org or 718918-2110.

CABARET A Well-Strung Christmas Well-Strung, the all-male, all-gay string quartet that mixes up pop and classical in brilliantly entertaining ways presents a new holiday show, with traditional classics like “Silent Night” as well as “newly observed” versions of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Sleighride,” and George Michael’s “This Christmas.” Feinstein’s/ 54 Below, Dec. 10 & 14, 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $35-$75 at 54below.com, with $5 added for purchase at the door, and there’s a $25 food & drink minimum.

DANCE Ailey for the Holidays

FRI.DEC.11 THEATER Los Nutcrackers — Otra Vez!

RICARDO MUÑIZ

Charles Rice-González’s “Los Nutcrackers: A Christmas Carajo” is a gay, Latino comedic play that centers around Carlos and Gabriel, who have been together for 15 years and whose arguing and fighting have reached the queer heavens, from which comes a ghetto thug/ diva spirit who guides them on a trip through their lives. They travel to the first time they met back in 1986 at a White Party at the Palladium to a catastrophic trip to City Center to see “The Nutcracker,” to a dinner party with Martha Stewart fanatics, and more. Luis Caballero directs what has become a Bronx Christmas tradition. BAAD! The Bronx Acad-

22

Rated Xmas IFC Center presents a blizzard of holiday classics — naughty and nice — with shows starting before noon priced at $8. Highlights include: “White Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Love, Actually,” and “Home Alone,” as well as “Gremlins,” “Die Hard,” and “Eyes Wide Shut.” 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. Dec. 11-25. Film times at ifccenter.com.

Hanukkah’s Hebrew Hottiest Drop that dreidel and hold on to your latkes! In their ninth annual “Menorah Horah,” the Schlep Sisters heat up the holidays with Hanukkah’s Hebrew hottiest. The evening of music, laughs, latkes, and burlesque feature is the Schleps themselves — Minnie Tonka and Darlinda Just Darlinda — and Little Brooklyn, the Great Dubini, Corvette Le Face, Dangrrr Doll, the Maine Attraction, Fancy Feast, Varla Velour, and DJ Momotaro. The Hall at MP, 470 Driggs Ave. at N. 10th St., Williamsburg. Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20-$55 at thehallbrooklyn. com/events; with $5 added for purchase at the door.

DANCE Hard Nut Returns to Bklyn

GALLERY Agitprop! For the past 100 years, the term agitprop, a combination of agitation and propaganda, has reflected the intent of work by artists reaching beyond galleries and museums to create political and social change. The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art presents a series of exhibitions, including photography, film, prints, banners, street actions, songs, digital files, and web platforms, that highlight struggles for social justice since the turn of the 20th century, from women’s suffrage and anti-lynching campaigns to contemporary demands for human rights and environmental advocacy and protests against war, mass incarceration, and economic inequality. The first round of invited artists includes Dread Scott, Dyke Action Machine!, Gran Fury, Guerrilla Girls, and Jenny Holzer, among many. Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Ave., just past Grand Army Plaza. Dec. 11-Aug. 7. For hours, admission, and more information, visit brooklynmuseum.org.

SAT.DEC.12 COMEDY Paula Pounding Out the Jokes Thirty-two years after out lesbian Paula Poundstone climbed on a Greyhound bus and traveled across the country — stopping in at open mic nights at comedy clubs as she went — she is known as one of the nation’s foremost humorists, heard often on NPR’s “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me” and now the voice of “Forgetter Paula” in the new Disney Pixar film “Inside Out.” Tonight she appears at the Victoria Theatre, 1 Center St. at Park Pl., Newark. Dec. 12, 7 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $35-$45 at ticketmaster. com or 800-745-3000.

BAM.ORG

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, led by artistic director Robert Battle, hosts its 45th annual New York season with new productions and repertory favorites reflecting the holiday spirit. New York City Center, 131 W. 55th St. Through Jan. 3: 7 p.m. on Dec. 31; otherwise: Tue.Thu., 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Wed. matinees, Dec. 23 & 30, 2 p.m. Tickets are $25-$150 at alvinailey.org, nycitycenter.org, or 212-581-1212.

FILM

NIGHTLIFE

Mark Morris Dance Group’s colorful classic “The Hard Nut,” based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” and featuring the classic music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, returns to its home at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Colin Fowler conducts. BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Pl. Dec 12, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 13, 1 p.m. & 6 p.m.; Dec 16-18, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 19, 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 20, 1 p.m. Tickets are $24-$125 at bam.org.

CONCERT “Christmas Around New York” NYCHORAL, the New York Choral Society, presents a festive program of traditional, international, and popular Christmas music, including favorites such as “Carol of the Bells,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” — plus, an audience Christmas carol sing-along. New Dorp Moravian Church, 2205 Richmond Rd. at Todt Hill Rd. Dec. 12, 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 at brownpapertickets.com/event/2402416. The Lovinger Theatre at Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Blvd. W. at Paul Ave, Bronx. Dec 13, 3 p.m. Tickets are $25; $20 for those under 10 at brownpapertickets.com/ event/2403066. Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. Dec. 20, 3 p.m. Tickets are $35-$55 at lincolncenter.org or 212721-6550.

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14 DAYS, continued on p.51

December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

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December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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STEP UP, from p.13

In an apparent effort to over shadow the mayor, the Cuomo administration told the New York Times on November 29 that the number of Medicaid beneficiaries in the state on PrEP had climbed to nearly 1,700 as of September from roughly 300 in 2014. The next day, the Cuomo administration announced in the Daily News that it would propose $200 million in new spending for the Plan to End AIDS in the next state budget. The state contributed $10 million to the plan in the current fiscal year, which began on April 1. Gover nor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has sought to diminish the power and profile of other Dem-

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SKEPTICISM, from p.13

the one that is most likely to have adherence problems. Bassett was not alone in expressing some skepticism about the plan. Dr. Mark Feinberg, the chief executive at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said that the AIDS epidemic could not be ended without a vaccine. “I honestly don’t know when or if we will have a vaccine,” Feinberg said. “We’ve never made a vaccine against an infection like HIV before.” King responded quickly.

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TIME, from p.16

The judge also found that any attempt to assert the damage claim based on a constitutional theory or on the employment protections provided under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act would similarly be time-barred. The judge explained that she did examine the merits of the underlying claims due to the fact that Horvath’s claims were not timely. Soon after the Windsor case was decided in 2013, LGBT organizations advised married same-sex couples to get claims on file immediately in order to preserve their timeliness, but cautioned about the likelihood of procedural difficulties regarding claims going back more than six years due to the statute of limitations. That advice is vindicated in this case, although GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

ocrats in the state, including State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. His attacks on de Blasio have been particularly pointed. “I’m very proud to say that the first state and the first governor to respond with an action plan was the state of New York and Governor Mario Cuomo,” Cuomo told the crowd at the Apollo, referring to his father’s response to the AIDS epidemic. Cuomo, who spoke an hour before de Blasio, never named the mayor even as he saluted a number of elected officials at the event. In his speech, the mayor referred to “the state” whenever he discussed funding or initiatives coming from Albany.

“I want to disagree with my friend who I just met,” he said. “We don’t have a cure, we don’t have a vaccine, but we can end AIDS as an epidemic.” Feinberg said later that places like New York and San Francisco might see success in ending their epidemics using prophylaxis and treatment. Those cities have the money and infrastructure that could make that success possible. “PrEP can be highly effective if people take it correctly,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the reality around the world.”

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Horvath might seek review of the court’s conclusion that there are no “exceptional circumstances” here justifying equitable tolling. After all, Windsor and Obergefell were epochal decisions that totally changed the legal universe for same-sex couples in the United States. Even the most optimistic LGBT advocates were not predicting such a relatively speedy federal victory for same-sex marriage recognition back in the early years of this century when Horvath and Neidich married in the only US jurisdiction where they could. Might the District of Columbia Circuit view an equitable tolling argument with more favor? And why would the Obama administration fight it in light of its position before the Supreme Court that DOMA was unconstitutional and indefensible?

25


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN

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

Donald Trump and the Death Cult of Celebrity

editor@gaycitynews.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR

DUNCAN OSBORNE

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

CHRISTOPHER BYRNE (Theater), SUSIE DAY (Perspective), BRIAN McCORMICK (Dance)

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Seth J. Bookey, Anthony M.Brown, Kelly Jean Cogswell, Andres Duque, Michael Ehrhardt, Steve Erickson, Andy Humm, Eli Jacobson, David Kennerley, Gary M. Kramer, Arthur S. Leonard, Michael T. Luongo, Lawrence D. Mass, Winnie McCroy, Eileen McDermott, Mick Meenan, Tim Miller, Donna Minkowitz, Gregory Montreuil, Christopher Murray, David Noh, Sam Oglesby, Nathan Riley, David Shengold, Yoav Sivan, Gus Solomons Jr., Tim Teeman, Kathleen Warnock, Benjamin Weinthal, Dean P. Wrzeszcz

ART DIRECTOR MICHAEL SHIREY

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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

© 2015 Gay City News. All rights reserved.

FOUNDING MEMBER

26

FOUNDING MEMBER

BY PAUL SCHINDLER Donald Trump’s quest for the Republican presidential nomination is fueled by the outrage he can spark in voters. Unfortunately for us, voters quickly build up an immunity to their own outrage, so the stakes have to be continually raised, the rhetoric amped up daily. Mexican immigrants are rapists. Megyn Kelly asks hostile questions because she’s having her period. Thousands of Muslims in Jersey City danced in joy as the Twin Towers collapsed. Muslims are so dangerous that we can’t let any of them enter our country. Police in London and Paris dare not even enter sections of their cities because violent Muslims have overrun them. It’s politics, and — so far, in the GOP primary — it’s working for Trump. But that doesn’t mean that Trump isn’t also a dangerous demagogue and a racist. The racism of his current proposal was, of course, predicted by the racism of his slam against Mexican immigrants six months ago when he entered the race. And by his ludicrous ravings several years back about the birth certificate of that black guy who’s president. Words matter, and at a time when Americans are increasingly nervous

about enemies within our midst, Trump’s hateful words escalate the risk that innocent Muslims here in America will be victimized. As reaction all over the world has made clear over the past several days, his proposal is not only bigoted, it’s also counterproductive. The right is constantly demanding that Muslims condemn ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other Islamist terrorists and join the fight against them. Trump’s shocking demand only makes the work of building trusting alliances harder. And, as MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out, if the US were to block entry of Muslims, what would happen to Americans traveling to Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Indonesia? Or even France or the UK, given that we would presumably also be barring French and British citizens of Islamic faith if Trump set the policy. For many Democrats and others on the left, the predicament faced by the Republican Party in having a frontrunner widely seen as unelectable next November (pray that calculation — which seems safe — is correct) occasions no small amount of schadenfreude. The party that did everything it could over the past seven years to delegitimize Barack Obama — whether with talk of death panels or by grudgingly saying they’re willing to take him at his word that he is a Christian and was born in the US — now faces a radicalized primary electorate that demands more and more crazy talk.

But finding joy in the T rump phenomenon is a luxury we can no longer afford. First and foremost, because his antics and outrages are crowding out any intelligent political discourse in favor of a dangerous climate of fear and resentment. Our democracy and political culture are sturdy, but Trump is working overtime to fray the edges of our civility. Focusing on Trump’s sins also blinds us to our own shortcomings. I’m not going down the road of setting out false equivalencies, saying that excesses on the right are matched by those on the left. That simply is not the objective reality in America today. What I am instead thinking about is the way in which all of us have allowed our culture and politics to become intoxicated with celebrity. Trump’s demagoguery has been playing out for years, but as with so many famous scoundrels and bad actors these days, too many of us too often have been willing to grant him a measure of respect for his showmanship. What else does calling him “The Donald” signify? In our social media age, getting attention — for good or otherwise — is too easily given respect. “They must be doing something right” is over and over again the reaction to celebrity we can otherwise not explain. We all have to own that because it’s something we all engage in. And that’s probably not going to change. But assuming we make it through our current Trump crisis, our society would profit from a more serious conversation about how we define success in America. Being able to “disrupt” old ways of thinking and doing is the vogue today, but there is a difference between that and simply fanning the flames. We need to understand and reinforce that distinction.

PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Literal Readings

...H

BY ED SIKOV

e argued that there is no principled basis for distinguishing child molesters from homosexuals, since both are minorities and, further, that the protection of minorities should be the responsibility of legislatures, not courts. After all, he remarked sarcastically, child abusers are also a ‘deserving minority,’ and added, ‘nobody loves them.’”

What rage-filled fanatic would be demented enough to espouse these crackpot views in public? The answer is a national disgrace: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. That comes as no surprise to anyone with even a glancing familiarity with current events, though the descriptor current must in this case be stretched considerably to include modes of (for lack of a better word) thinking rooted in the Neanderthal period of semi-human history. Richard A. Posner and Eric J. Segall, the writers of the New York Times op-ed in which these quotes appeared, are clear-

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MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.33

December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Ending the Epidemic

Governor Cuomo’s Life Or Death Decision On Supportive Housing BY WAYNE STARKS

T

wo weeks ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio took a major step in combating our city’s homelessness crisis, committing city resources to create 15,000 units of supportive housing. For me, this was more than just a welcome announcement by a mayor I have been waiting to hear more from on our homelessness crisis. This was validation of a system of housing that permanently changed my life for the better. If it were not for supportive housing, I would not be alive today. When Governor Andrew Cuomo deliberates over whether he will match the mayor’s commitment here in New York City, as well as commit funding for another 5,000 units of supportive housing across the state, he must understand that his decision has life and death consequences. I know the arguments about the money that will be saved and the homeless people who will be able to leave the streets and shelters. I know that just last month a major study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that housing is an essential component to fighting the AIDS epidemic, and that even while the governor has committed to ending the epidemic in New York we still have far too many home-

less people living with HIV. It is these questions of thousands of lives that I want the governor to consider as he makes his decision. Before I lost everything, I was a city worker with a wife and a child. But I had a secret. I was gay. At that time, the social stigma was so strong I tried to fight against who I was. I led a double life, as the good father and husband, while occasionally acting on my true desires. Not being able to come out led to drug use to cover up the pain of my dual identities. Like for so many others in the mid-‘80s, the stigma and lack of health information or services led me to becoming HIV-positive through injection drug use when needle exchange was not yet available and details about AIDS were still emerging. Coming out of the closest and becoming HIV-positive was too much. It sent me into a downward spiral of excessive drug use that led to me becoming homeless after splitting up with my wife, who is still a friend today. Many nights I slept in abandoned buildings or shooting galleries where people would use drugs together, often looking out for one another. Other nights, ashamed, I slept on the floor of my mother’s house, still unable to tell her I was gay and so unable to bring my boyfriend along to provide him a safe place to sleep. And I got sick. My T -cell count dropped as

I was unable to find the stability to take my medication. All that ended when I applied for housing at CAMBA, a supportive housing program with an angel for a caseworker named Eddie. Eddie did more than just find me a place to sleep. He got my Medicaid and food stamps turned back on after my chaotic lifestyle led me to getting cut off. He placed me in drug treatment and mental health programs. And he made sure I had an understanding ear to listen to me. In six months, I was no longer using. In two years, my T-cell count jumped up and I became “undetectable,” meaning I was healthy and unable to transmit the virus to others. And I was able to come out to my family about who I really was: a father, a grandfather, and a proud, gay, black man. But while I got stable, I lost touch with Jeff, my boyfriend at the time. He is still on the streets today, unless the worst has happened and he passed away, with few people noticing. Jeff is a good man. He deserves to be able to tell his story. Governor Cuomo, please remember Jeff, me, and the thousands of others like us, when you make your decision. Wayne Starks is a board member of VOCAL New York and a resident of supportive housing. The supportive housing initiative he writes about is a separate issue from the $200 million in new state spending in support of housing and health care programs for people living with HIV and AIDS the governor announced the evening before World AIDS Day.

PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad

Selling Misery BY KELLY COGSWELL

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f you read the headlines, or read my column for that matter, you’ll want to go back to sleep, pull the covers up over your head, and stay there. The terrorists are around the corner, the world is going to hell, and despite our progress, queers all over the universe have little shiny targets on their foreheads. But how accurate is that view, even for me, who can actually see the effects of gunmen and mad bombers just down my Parisian block? I read an article the other day reminding us that in places like the US or France we were much more likely to be killed by food poisoning, or crossing the street, or falling off a ladder than we were by mur derous assholes that swallowed GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

a little too much Islamist (or Christianist) propaganda. Last December, Slate published an article called, “The World Is Not Falling Apart,” which used wide-ranging statistics to prove that the world was more peaceful than ever before in history. “Worldwide, about five to 10 times as many people die in police-blotter homicides as die in wars.” When it came to terrorist attacks, Americans, anyway, were more likely to die of bee stings or “deer collisions, ignition of nightwear, and other mundane accidents.” Even women have seen improvement, no matter that in France, one dies every three days in an act of domestic terrorism committed by their boyfriends or husbands. In Brazil, black women are slaughtered so frequently we really have to use the word femicide. Nevertheless, global rates of rape, sex-

ual assault, and intimate partner violence against women are considerably less than they were a few decades ago. And for us queers, in the last few decades many places have seen the repeal of sodomy laws, huge marriage equality wins, and major progress on trans rights. Isn’t it time to pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate? What’s the matter with me that I keep harping on violence, and deaths, and antigay campaigns? Maybe it’s my activist past. I have that saying trapped in my head that declares nobody is free until we all are. And when it comes to queers, there are plenty being left behind. In the United States, LGBT people of color, trans people, poor people. The ability to exercise our new right to marry also varies from region to region. We heard a lot about Morehead, Kentucky, but there are plenty of other places where county clerks have announced they won’t hand out marriage licenses to queers. The

only difference is things are already so bad for LGBT folks in those communities that nobody feels supported enough or safe enough to even begin to challenge them. And if we Americans lift our heads to look outside our own country, we see places like Nigeria where the war on queers is overt and institutionalized. If we dare concern ourselves with the bloody rampage of the Islamic State, we see queers thrown off of cliffs and out of windows. Stoned to death. Iran is looking positively civilized for occasionally sending us to the gallows. But still, how often does it happen overall? Isn’t this backlash an indication of how threatened some people are by our progress, our new visibility? What do I stand to gain by encouraging you to keep your champagne safely in the fridge, to be afraid? Especially in the increasingly privileged US?

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ly not strangers to the primitive functioning of Scalia’s brain, an organ that may offer the most succinct rebuttal to creationism currently available. Admittedly, comparing Scalia with a Neanderthal is grossly unfair — to the Neanderthal, whose brain was actually larger than that of Justice Scalia. Posner and Segall are intimately familiar with Scalia’s knee-jerk hate on the subject of gay legal rights, which the Reagan appointee faux-cleverly insists on calling the “anti-anti-homosexual culture.” Posner is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which includes Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin; Segall teaches law at Georgia State University. What makes their op-ed so sweet is their argument that Scalia’s vomit-like involuntary response to any legal issue involving same-sex attraction runs counter to his self-proclaimed fealty to the Constitution. Scalia is what is known as a “strict constructionist,” meaning that if the Founding Parents and their successors didn’t explicitly and clairvoyantly write the future into the Constitution itself, any interpretation of the words contained in the Constitution doesn’t hold. And as the private investigator Arbogast says to Norman Bates in “Psycho,” “If it don’t gel, it ain’t aspic.” Scalia’s intransigent position — it would be too generous to call it an argument — contains two main ingredients: most Americans don’t like homosexuals, so homosexuals don’t deserve the rights granted to the majority; and laws made by legislators can only be reviewed by legislators and not — as those of the sane persuasion generally understand our democratic system — by the judiciary. In a single stroke, Posner and Segall demolish Scalia’s claim to strict constructionism by pointing out that Scalia utterly disregards the Supreme Court’s role as the arbiter of laws, a central element of our tripartite system of government. It’s as though he flunked the civics class in which his fellow students learned that the Legislative Branch makes laws, the Executive Branch put laws into effect, and the Judicial Branch rules on whether laws are in fact legal. Scalia, the editorialists point out, dismisses the

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After September 11th, I remember that Bush and company played on our fear and anxiety to sell us censorship and spying, a Department of Homeland Security, and a shiny new war in Iraq. Probably some in the Bush administration believed these things were useful. But many just liked the new power. And a great many more stood to profit financially from new control GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

role of the very branch of the three-limbed tree on which he himself perches at a shockingly high altitude. “Not content with throwing minorities under the bus, Justice Scalia has declared that Obergefell [the landmark gay marriage decision] marks the end of democracy in the United States, stating in his dissent that ‘a system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy,’” is how Posner and Segall put it. Note that Scalia doesn’t consider us to be among “the People.”

And they end with a zinger that kills Scalia’s bizarre contentions the way a crucifix ends a stinking, blood-sucking vampire’s grotesque parody of life: “And can Justice Scalia want his own decisions to have diminished and perhaps negligible force until separate lawsuits are brought in each state to enforce them? That implies that state and local officials are free to ignore his gun-friendly decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a gun). Perhaps a few state and local officials will take Justice Scalia up on that offer.”

One “Good Book” deserves another: From

“Not content with throwing minorities under the bus, Justice Scalia has declared that Obergefell [the landmark gay marriage decision] marks the end of democracy in the United States.”

Near the end of their op-ed, Posner and Segall write, “It comes as no surprise that Justice Scalia also said that state and local officials who are not actual parties to Supreme Court cases have no obligation to obey judicial rulings that those officials think lack a warrant in the text or original understanding of the Constitution. He cited Abraham Lincoln’s remark concerning the infamous Dred Scott ruling that decisions by the Supreme Court are formally binding only on the parties to the case. That’s technically true, but few Americans will agree with Justice Scalia that Obergefell, which conferred rights on millions of Americans, is comparable to Dred Scott, which denied rights to millions by ruling that slaves were not citizens and could not sue in federal courts.”

of old oil fields or the giant machine of war. They also used fear and anger to inoculate us against their abuses, like the torture engaged in at the prisons of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. As for me, all I want is for you to stay awake, pay attention. Remain mobilized. History teaches us that trends can be reversed. Things seem like they’re getting better now, but nobody knows how sturdy our progress is, especially if you look at how

the online magazine Quartz: “With Islamophobia on the rise, a pair of YouTube hosts from the Netherlands set out to highlight the extent of the prejudice that has many in the Western world blaming Islam for the extremist acts of the Islamic State. Sacha Harland and Alexander Spoor, who run the channel Dit Is Normaal, wrapped a Christian Bible in a fake Quran cover and read several passages aloud to passersby on the street. ‘Ridiculous,’ ‘unbelievable,’ and ‘aggressive’ were some of the words Dutch citizens use to describe the verses that were read to them. The video was posted on Dec. 4. “‘To me, this sounds like they want to oppress you and force you to believe what they believe,’ one person complained, after hearing biblical passages that ordered the cutting-off of disobedient women’s hands and the killing of homosexual men. Another citizen insisted, ‘The story in the Bible is told very differently.’ From another observer: ‘The Bible is a lot less harsh and a lot more peaceful.’ “They were, of course, flustered to ultimately learn the verses were actually from the Bible — not the Quran at all. ‘It’s all just prejudice. I always try not to be prejudiced myself but apparently I am,’ one man admitted after Harland and Spoor unveiled the real book they were holding in their hands. Others simply laughed and hung their heads, embarrassed.” Harland and Spoor were wise to conduct their little ruse in the Netherlands. Had they tried it in Florida they might have been legally shot to death under the state’s Stand Your Ground law. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.

easy it’s been for the anti-abortion people to roll back women’s gains. And we are vulnerable. Not just from our enemies but from our own authoritarian trends. Squashing internal dissent. Attacking speech because we don’t agree, or it lacks nuance. Trying to get things banned. We’ve forgotten that civil liberties like freedom of speech and association are the most important weapons we have to protect the gains we’ve made, and hopefully

enable new ones. I wonder sometimes if I’ve helped fuel that whole trend, with my constant doom and glooming, making everything seem equally important, equally dire. Maybe I should try to lighten up, remember what liberation feels like, and joy. Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.

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PERSPECTIVE: Rhymes With Crazy

Are We All Sex Offenders? BY LENORE SKENAZY

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hat’s the question posed to the audience of mostly college students by Galen Baughman, a Soros Justice Fellow and the final speaker at the City University of New York TEDx talks at the Borough of Manhattan Community College a few weeks back. TEDx talks are known for introducing new speakers with new ideas on everything from tech, to teaching, to society. But Baughman was the first TEDx presenter to address the issue of sex offenders from an unusual viewpoint: He is one. And he must register as a sex offender forever. His crime? He had consensual sex with a teen when he was a teen. He was 19, his boyfriend, 14. They had sex once. It was consensual. The younger teen did not want to prosecute, but his parents did. Had Baughman and his boyfriend slept togeth-

er in another country — Canada, for instance — it would not have been considered a criminal act. But here, Baughman informed his audience, his crime resulted in a prison sentence. He served nine years. Four and half of those were in solitary. Just when he was about to be set free, well, that’s what Baughman came to talk about. “Three and a half years ago,” the 32-year-old told the audience, “I was sitting alone in a cell in Arlington, Virginia, waiting for a trial that would determine whether I would spend the rest of my life in prison.” See, Baughman had originally been handed a six-and-a-half year sentence. But when it was over and he was about to be released, the authorities informed him that they considered him a violent sexual predator too dangerous to let go. As it turns out, the state can lock up “violent predators” indefinitely. The legal term for this is “civil commitment.” The person is kept behind bars to get “treatment” — except that

treatment looks exactly like prison. Because it is. How does the state get away with keeping some people for years — sometimes decades — after their release dates? It plays on the public’s fear of sex offenders, Baughman explained. Politicians score points by keeping sex offenders locked up. It sounds so good. It is for the sake of our children! The problem is that once a person gets the label “sex offender,” the public ceases to consider that person a human. In most people’s minds, a sex offender is a monster out to rape little kids. The fact that Department of Justice reports that sex offenders actually have the lowest recidivism rate of any criminals other than murderers is not well known. What’s worse, “The label ‘sex offender’ is a made-up category,” Baughman continued. You can get labeled a sex offender for raping a toddler — or for sleeping with your freshman girlfriend when you’re a senior. There are people on the sex offender registry for urinating in public. For visiting a prostitute. For streaking. Teens even get on it for sexting.

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PERSPECTIVE: The Long View

Despite Constraints, Optimism About New Medical Marijuana Program BY NATHAN RILEY

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her e was something fiendishly clever about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s last-minute gutting of a medical marijuana bill devised by the Legislature; he transformed it into a bureaucratic nightmare. Nonetheless, medical marijuana supporters cling to a grim optimism. This is the governor’s bill — it has to work or he will be responsible was the conclusion offered by State Senator Diane Savino, a Staten Island Democrat who was the lead sponsor of a more ambitious measure that Cuomo rejected. In fact, concessions are being made: in November, the governor signed a bill to speed up delivery of cannabis-based meds to people with serious illnesses, including small children who suffer from a severe and life-threatening form of epilepsy. Savino made her comments during a December 2 forum sponsored by the Cannabis and Hemp

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Association, one of two gatherings on the issue last week in Manhattan. The public is supportive of advances in medical marijuana, with 88 percent of New Yorkers endorsing the idea in a poll last year. Forty-three companies vied for the right to be one of five selected to to grow and dispense marijuana medicines in the state. They made the investment despite absurdly restrictive rules aimed at preventing the legal crop from being diverted into the illegal market. Entrepreneurs remained interested even though the governor insisted the State Health Department set the prices. The most obvious sign of the Cuomo’s animus is the new law’s ban on smoking pot for medicine. Unlike most states with medical marijuana laws, New York will not allow the sale of the leaf to be inhaled. The Legislature, in contrast, was prepared to permit smoking it with a doctor’s recommendation. Smoking or edible pot is favored by patients, but in New York pot must be transformed into strips, pills, tinctures,

or vapes before a doctor can authorize its use. Cuomo was clearly rejecting the larger goals of the social movement that created the medical marijuana industry. Advocates want to demonstrate that marijuana use can be controlled without arrests and soothe the non-smoking public’s anxieties about the drug. By proving that pot improves the health of some users, they hope to demonstrate that the prohibition against pot is irrational. The two forums last week — the second sponsored by the group Women Grow — attracted 80 people each, many of them entrepreneurs eager to enter a new market. The Cannabis and Hemp Association’s focused on the constraints in the Cuomo law — particularly the requirement that only a “treating” physician can prescribe cannabis medicine. Given that marijuana remains a Schedule One drug — defined as having no medical use — under federal law, some doctors may not wish to “prescribe” it for fear of

running afoul of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Or the doctor may not be interested in undergoing the mandated State Health Department training. What are parents of a child in need of medical marijuana but with a doctor reluctant to engage in the new state program supposed to do? Must they find a new “treating” physician for their child? Participants in the Cannabis and Hemp forum voiced hope that the governor would not push the new program to that logical conclusion. The state commissioner of health is mandated under the law to finalize the medical marijuana guidelines by January 7 when it takes effect. Savino and fellow panelists Julie Netherland of New Yorkers for Compassionate Care and attorney Hanan B. Kolko of Meyer, Suozzi, English, and Klein, who represents one of the five companies permitted to sell medical marijuana, agreed that the guidelines are unlikely to force patients to change doctors should a “treating” physician shy away from prescribing marijuana. Though she did not know any specifics on how the regulations were progressing, Savino voiced confidence that the state would devise a workable solution for families who

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December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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“We brand all these people the same. And once they get that label we treat them all as if we know what they’re going to do next,” he said. We treat them as if they’re going to hide in the bushes and pounce on a kid walking home from school. Even if they never did anything remotely like that. That’s what the state decided about Baughman: Since he was officially a sex offender, he was automatically a menace to society. At his civil commitment trial, the state argued that he suffered from a horrible mental illness, which caused him to be attracted to sexually mature teens. At that, the audience of mostly college students burst out laughing — they probably suffered from the exact same thing. Luckily for Baughman, his jury concluded that this made-up dis-

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need access to medical marijuana. Connecticut has no such requirement in its medical marijuana program, though, according to the New Haven Register, its costs are high to patients, who must pay $100 to register with the state and then between $150 and $300 for a doctor’s appointment. Netherland expressed concerns about whether the program there might exclude some low-income patients. The Cannabis and Hemp Association meeting attracted a diverse crowd of men and women, whites and people of color, and individuals in suits and others wearing jeans. Most hoped to operate small businesses, and many were already selling legal hemp products, including oils and medicinal drops from the hemp plant that are legal because of their low THC content but do contain cannabinoids. The sellers assert that the cannabinoids provide relief for pain, nausea, and inflammation. The Women Grow meeting, on December 3 attracted small businesses like the Cannasseur Clothing Company and the Art of Edibles, a “cannabis collective” from California that carefully lists how many milligrams of pot goes into each morsel of its gourmet chocolates. Thisis270m.com offers conGayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

ease (it isn’t in the psychiatric diagnostic manual) was ridiculous. Because our laws are so overly broad and because so few people commit a new crime after release, Baughman told the crowd, a child is “more likely to be labeled a sex offender than to be abused by a sex offender.” Baughman added that he is the only person in Virginia to have successfully fought indefinite detention via a jury trial and won. Another 5,000 people nationwide are languishing past their release dates, most because they carry the label “sex offender.” But if all it takes to get that label is to be attracted to sexually mature teens, or to sext, or streak, maybe, indeed, we’re all sex offenders — who just haven’t been caught. Lenore Skenazy is a speaker, author. and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids.”

sulting services on the use of social media to expand a business. And Melissa Meyer, the New York City chapter leader of Women Grow, has her own business, Healthmj. com, to assist patients in persuading their doctors to authorize marijuana treatments. Getting doctors comfortable with marijuana as a

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The most obvious sign of the Cuomo’s animus is the new law’s ban on smoking pot for medicine.

medical treatment will be important to the new program’s success. It was lobbying by the patients — especially small children with Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy that causes constant seizures — that persuaded the State Legislature to enact medical marijuana. Last week, we heard from a different constituency — the entrepreneurs who want their businesses to grow legally but also want pot legalized.

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FILM

The Past’s Unwelcome Grip Andrew Haigh brings the intensity of his gaze to another two-character study 45 YEARS Directed by Andrew Haigh IFC Films/ Sundance Selects Opens Dec. 23 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. ifccenter.com

IFC FILMS/ SUNDANCE SELECTS

Charlotte Rampling in Andrew Haigh’s “45 Years.”

BY GARY M. KRAMER

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Ye a r s ” i s a n a f f e c t i n g drama by out writer/ director Andrew Haigh (“Weekend,” “Looking”). When Geoff (Tom Courtenay) receives a letter containing news from his past, he and wife Kate (Charlotte Rampling) are forced to re-evaluate their marriage in the week leading up to a milestone wedding anniversary celebration. How the revelation in the letter taints their lives — eating away at both characters in different ways — forms the basis for this intimate, absorbing drama. Haigh, adapting David Constantine’s short story “In Another Country,” employs superb control as a filmmaker, letting the tensions simmer before the quietly devastating ending. He recently spoke with Gay City News about making “45 Years.” GARY M. KRAMER: What inspired you to make this film and adapt this story? Have you had something from the past influence your current relationship? ANDREW HAIGH: I think the past always influences our relationships. We can’t escape our past no matter how much we want to. The story became lodged in my head. It’s a bookend to “Weekend.” That was a gay relationship looking forward and this is a straight relationship looking back. What appealed to me is that I could explore relationships, and our identities within relationships. I didn’t feel I had to put myself in the body of a 70-year-old to write it.

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GMK: Your films “Weekend” and now “45 Years” are also mostly two-handers. What is the appeal of that narrative strategy of charting the gulf between two people over time, be it a weekend, a week, or longer? AH: My interest in relationships is that for most of us, the relationships we have are the most important thing in our lives. That’s fertile ground for exploring characters and looking at people. But in cinema, they are put into romantic comedies. I’m interested in the relationship we have with other people, and I like the contained-ness of two-character stories. I was telling “45 Years” over the course of a week. The couple is long lasting, but their relationship has this fragility to it. It could crumble and be thrown into doubt so quickly, we reassess our decisions and choices, which can throw our lives off balance or off course. GMK: Was that a purposeful agenda in making a film about a straight couple? Did you feel pigeonholed as a gay filmmaker? AH: I don’t think so. Before “Weekend” had even come out I wanted to make “45 Years.” It wasn’t a reaction to being classified as a queer filmmaker — I don’t mind that label, it doesn’t bother me. I have to ignore the boxes people put me in. I just want to tell stories that interest me. I don’t only want to tell gay stories. I want to tell different stories. Sometimes gay, sometimes not, but they will always have my perspective. GMK: You create an incredible, intense intimacy in the film. Can you talk about that and how you created the film’s relentless tension?

AH: That’s the idea I like: it becomes a haunted house/ ghost story — the past has infected this house. There’s a strange growing tension and, like Kate, you are thrown off balance. GMK: How did you become so observant of human nature? Your style is to linger on the characters, so we feel, we sense their every emotion. AH: I don’t know. You look around, and in everyday life there is struggle and they are small in scale, but life is so difficult. I want to tell stories in a kind way, of us doing the best we can. I like to get up close and personal and feel that, and bring kindness to the characters as I explore that and watch them. GMK: What decision did you make in the casting of Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay? AH: We made a decision we wanted to cast Kate first, as she’s the driving force of the story. I wanted to make sure we had a strong female lead, and see her doubts and feelings crumble. Charlotte had that inner strength and she had a mystery to her, and I find that really interesting in a film — not really knowing people. The characters are trying to express their pain to each other, and Rampling can do that with a look or feeling. She has a mystery that draws you in, and you see this sympathy of emotion behind her eyes, and then she pushes you away. With Tom, it was finding someone who is supportive of that. He has a sensitivity and vulnerability. In partnerships, the partner has that missing part of yourself. As actors and characters, Tom and Charlotte had that. GMK: Do you feel that the choices we make taint our lives? Do you feel a partner is someone you should tell everything to? AH: Unfortunately, I think it’s so difficult — the hardest thing is that we all have our individual pasts and feelings and doubts and fears and anxieties. Some things you shouldn’t articulate to your partner; you

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FILM

Through a Glass Darkly László Nemes’ narrative approach to Auschwitz has its fans and ardent detractors SON OF SAUL Directed by László Nemes In Hungarian, Yiddish, and German with English subtitles Sony Pictures Classics Opens Dec. 18 Film Forum 209 W. Houston St. filmforum.org Lincoln Plaza Cinema 1886 Broadway at W. 62nd St. lincolnplazacinema.com SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Géza Rohrig in László Nemes’ “Son of Saul.”

BY STEVE ERICKSON

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here’s a shot upon which Hungarian director László Nemes’ Auschwitz-set drama “Son of Saul” could have ended that would make it one of the most tasteless films ever. Thankfully, Nemes is smart enough to let it go on a bit longer and conclude on a deeply disturbing note. “Son of Saul” has been dividing spectators since its Cannes debut last May. (Ushered into the competition despite Nemes being a firsttime filmmaker, it won the Grand Prize.) One acquaintance described it as “aesthetically, historically, and morally reprehensible.” On the other hand, the notoriously grumpy filmmaker Claude Lanzmann — director of “Shoah,” the most acclaimed movie ever made about the Holocaust — has said that it’s the first narrative film on the Holocaust of which he approves. If

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enough Americans care to see a subtitled Hungarian film and argue about it, it could be 2015’s controversy magnet, a la “American Sniper” or “Zero Dark Thirty.” In Auschwitz in the fall of 1944, Saul Auslander (Géza Rohrig), a Hungarian Jew, is a member of the Sonderkommando. The Sonder kommando are a small group of Jews who work for the Nazis and live apart from the rest of the concentration camp inmates, getting slightly better treatment. His daily rounds of brutalizing work, such as sweeping out crematoria, have made him a zombie. But one day, he springs back to life when he discovers a corpse he takes for his son’s. (The film never definitively answers whether he’s right about this.) He hides the body and searches for a chance to bury it and for a rabbi to perform the Kaddish over the corpse. Saul is usually depicted in close-

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don’t want to risk that love or have them become unsettled or disappointed or broken by something you feel. In an ideal world you would be 100 percent honest with each other, but life doesn’t work quite that way. It’s impossible to put the past to rest. Every decision we make is based on our experience, despite self-help books promoting us to move on. The past will always come back and cause issues. GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

ups or medium shots of his face or neck. The camera rarely ventures very far from him. At times, cinematographer Mátyás Erdély practically seems to have a camera track glued to Rohrig’s body. Nemes got his start working with Béla Tarr, famed for his long-take style, and he’s retained that influence from Tarr. There’s a long strain of thought about the moral implications of aesthetic choices in French film criticism, perhaps best exemplified by critic-turned-filmmaker Luc Moullet’s remark that “morality is a matter of tracking shots” (later repeated by Jean-Luc Godard) and peaking with Jacques Rivette’s attack on Gillo Pontecorvo’s “Kapo.” Since then, it’s been received wisdom for many cinephiles and critics that documentary is the only ethical way to depict the Holocaust. The kinky concentration camp antics of Liliana Cavani’s “The Night Porter” haven’t helped, nor did Roberto Benigni’s dire Auschwitz comedy “Life Is Beautiful.” Nemes is clearly aware of these debates, which have obviously informed his directorial choices. In the press kit, he says he want-

GMK: Anything you want to share from your past? AH: [Laughs] No, probably not. There is a difference between being dishonest and having a past life. Some secrets or feelings we keep you can’t share because you can’t articulate how you feel about them. Life is complicated and messy. GMK: Then let’s talk about the future. Can you report anything about “Looking for an Ending”? AH: I’m shooting at the moment. You’ll have to wait and see.

ed “Son of Saul” to avoid beautiful images and to look like a horror film. I’m not sure he successfully dodged the latter — piles of corpses aren’t so far from George Romero, even in this context. But Erdély shoots with a shallow focus allowing sound (including a Babel of unsubtitled background noise in many languages) to overpower the image. It’s as if Saul were navigating around Auschwitz without glasses; the audience shares his myopic POV. Such an approach allows Nemes to suggest all kinds of disturbing material without explicit violence. The narrative is deliberately confusing; all kinds of action, most of which only tangentially involves Saul, is taking place around him. Some critics of “Son of Saul” have compared its style to a video game. To me, that seems really off-base. For one thing, first-person shooter games generally use far more rigid perspectives than Nemes does. For another, so what? Even if it were true, I’m not sure that it’s such a damning criticism. Certainly, it would be ethically dubious for Saul to run around Auschwitz like a player in a first-person shooter game. But he’s prey here, not a predator, and he’s well aware of it. What’s more problematic is Nemes’ flirtation with sentimentality. It would be going too far to say the director is using the Holocaust as a pretext, but what really seems to be on his mind is Saul’s desire to do right by his son (whether real or imagined) via Jewish ritual. The Jewish-American market is too small — and, probably, too liberal and secular — to have “faithbased” films aimed at it (although the Israeli “Fill the Void,” made by a female Orthodox director and released by Sony Pictures Classics a few years ago might qualify); however, practicing Jews might respond particularly strongly to this film. Even in Auschwitz, Nemes suggests that there are moments of happiness. Fortunately, he does no more than make the suggestion before going back to the film’s regular rhythm of unpleasure and culminating in an emotionally devastating ending.

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Gay Jamaican's Epic Tale of Violence & Sex in His Homeland BY GEORGE DE STEFANO

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hen Marlon James won Britain’s prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction in October, it came as a surprise to many — including the 44-year-old, out gay Jamaican author. James won for “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” a long, violent, sexually explicit, and altogether brilliant novel that takes off from the 1976 attempted assassination of reggae icon Bob Marley to encompass the CIA-backed destabilization of Jamaica during the latter years of the Cold War; political warfare in the ghettos of Kingston, the island’s capital; the crack cocaine scourge of the ‘80s and early ‘90s; and sexuality — and particularly homosexuality. Of recent fiction that I have read, the only books that for me compare to James’ achievement are the Neapolitan novels of the (pseudonymous) Italian author Elena Ferrante. Both writers weave complex social tapestries that unfold over decades and span varied locales. The Jamaican and the Italian portray char acters living in impoverished, violence-ridden communities who, oppressed by corrupt political and economic systems, experience the vicissitudes of history in their daily lives, in their flesh and bones. James and Ferrante also are postmodern traditionalists — masters of narrative who combine stylistic experimentation and great storytelling. James is the first Jamaican author to win the Booker Prize, which Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, presented to him at a ceremony in London. (Nice irony there — a royal awarding one of the world’s major literary prizes to a native of one of the colonies the British empire had ruled and exploited.) He beat some tough competition; the finalists for the $77,000 prize included the American novelist Anne Tyler. Besides being critically acclaimed, “A Brief History of Seven Killings” topped the bestseller lists in the UK and the US in hardcover; the paperback edition currently is in the New York Times top 10. I recently spoke on the phone with James, who lives in Minneapolis (he moved there nearly nine years ago) and teaches writing at Macalester College in St. Paul. Our conversation covered the Booker prize, literary style, gay life in Jamaica, and the relationship between American and Jamaican gay activism, among other topics. When James won the Booker for “A Brief History,” his third novel, he said he was surprised because he considered himself “not an easy writer to like.” How so? “Well, the stories don’t necessarily end well,”

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEVEN KILLINGS By Marlon James Riverhead Books $30; $17, paperback;704 pages

James said. “The characters go into dark avenues, there’s a lot of violence. There also is a certain kind of inherently hopeful view a lot of people want from their fiction, which I just don’t deliver. I’m not interested in delivering it. It’s great when people understand or love it. But I don’t believe in making things easy for the reader, whether in terms of content or form. The only thing I owe the reader is a riveting story, while not necessarily making it easy.” There is no single voice or point of view in the nearly 700-page novel. Different char acters narrate the book’s chapters — ghetto gang leaders and their young henchmen, a CIA agent, a white rock journalist, a rebellious, middle-class Jamaican woman, a dead Jamaican politician. Although the novel is prismatic, it is not fractured; the chapters are linked by incident and theme and a narrative arc that carries the reader forward. “I’m hugely inspired by Victorian novels,” James said. “That page-turning element and

that sense of suspense are important to me, especially when I write something that is also kind of experimental. I still believe in that Dickens thing — make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait. It’s very important I don’t lose sight of that no matter how experimental I get.” James originally intended “A Brief History of Seven Killings” to be a shorter crime novel but instead it became an epic. “It changed,” he said, “because I started to really pay attention to the story. In a crime novel, in the really good ones, like James Elroy’s ‘American Tabloid,’ you realize that there are bigger things going on, a bigger story there. I started to open my eyes wider than I had before. “Some people in Jamaica got guns to shoot Bob Marley. So, I ask, where did those guns come from, since these people can’t even afford food much less guns? And if I ask where the guns come from, I’m going to end up in politics, in CIA, in global conflicts, in the Cold War. It’s one thing to have a guy get shot, but where did those guns come from, where did those bullets come from? The longer I stared at the situation, the longer I gazed at the blood, the bigger it got. “At one point, I wondered whether I bit off more than I could chew.” James used researchers for the book. He said that although he gave them an open-ended mandate, he wasn’t looking for “stuff I already knew.” He explained, “Having grown up in Jamaica in the ‘70s and ‘80s, a lot of what I wrote about I knew — I didn’t have to research it.” James, who was raised in a middle-class home in a Kingston suburb, said he had his researchers look for “trivial stuff — what brand of chewing gum would people have in 1976.” “It’s not necessarily the big things that make a story authentic,” he said. “I think it’s the little things. You can have the most riveting narrative in the world. But the minutiae, the fine details that add resonance to scenes — getting that correct is crucial.” “I did do a lot of research on the politics,” he continued. “I read all the books and all the material I could get on the Cold War, the CIA, economic destabilization, from different perspectives.” Some of the novel’s characters are, or were, real people; others are fictional. How did James decide which would be which? “One thing made it easy. Who did I know the most about? I knew the least about the guys who fired the actual shots [at Bob Marley], so pretty much all of them had to be fictitious. Some characters, like [gang leader] Josey Wales, are composite characters. Some came from my imagina-

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December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

39


THEATER

Mayhem, Madness & Misery

KING CHARLES III

Three productions designed to toy with you BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

H

New World Stages 350 W. 50th St. Mon. at 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat . at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $49.50-$79.50; telecharge.com Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., with intermission

MISERY Oliver Chris and Tim Pigott-Smith in Mike Bartlett’s “King Charles III.”

Broadhurst Theatre 235 W. 45th St. Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $69-$147; telecharge.com Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., with intermission

mercial. It is tailor-made to allow anyone who took an undergraduate Shakespeare survey course to feel smugly smart — even as it panders to tabloid appetites. It’s the kind of move that wins awards and accolades, no matter how scantily clad the emperor — well, okay, the king — actually is.

CAROL ROSEGG

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SHEAR MADNESS

JOAN MARCUS

ere’s a little game you can play as you try to resist nodding off — and you’ll have to try hard — during “King Charles III” at the Music Box: Which Shakespeare play is Mike Bartlett invoking as he tells the tale of the monarchy in crisis now that Queen Elizabeth is dead and long-waiting, presumably long-suffering Charles has ascended the throne, though is not yet officially crowned? You can divert yourself trying to figure out which of the Richards or Henrys are being invoked as the cast rambles on in iambic pentameter. If you’re a real Shakespeare fan, you can try to figure out which speech he is aping. Shakespeare has been mimicked, down to the low comic scenes and even a ghost, and while the attempt to create a modern history play in the style of the Bard is clever, the play never overcomes its conceit (in both meanings of the word) to become vital theater. The characterizations are fantasies, inspired what little is publicly known about the personal lives of the royals as well as by tabloid fodder. Now, it’s not that Shakespeare had so much more to work with for the monarchs he portrayed and, to be honest, Shakespeare is often tedious, but “Charles III” as a play never rises above an intellectual and speculative exercise to provide characters we can care about or a believable conflict. Rather, the play aims to be notorious, daring to question and criticize the monarchy while most of the major players are still alive. The plot centers on the crisis that ensues when Charles refuses to sign a bill Parliament has passed limiting the rights of the press to invade personal lives (oddly, something one might expect Charles, of all people, to favor). His contrarian posture, however, threatens to undo him. Amid policy chatter that echoes the mind-numbing discussion of succession in the opening of “Henry V,” we learn that Charles’ signature is largely ceremonial but essential nonetheless. What follows

Music Box Theatre 239 W. 45th St. Through Jan. 31 Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $37-$149; telecharge.com Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

Jordan Ahnquist, Lynne Wintersteller, and Kate Middleton in “Shear Madness.”

is a family brouhaha as William takes on his father and emerges as a populist leader, Kate is exposed as a political manipulator, and Harry is seen as a wastrel with a commoner for a girlfriend. In times, everything falls apart and Charles becomes unhinged. There is no bloody battle at Agincourt offstage, but there are popular protests — presumably the modern equivalent — that leave Charles barricaded in the castle as history seems to pass him by. The story ultimately wears thin, and the two-and-a-half hours of traffic on the stage leaves us neither caring nor enlightened.

Still, the cast is quite good. Tim Pigott-Smith does a full-on Henry IV evolving into Lear, biting into the role — and the scenery — with appropriate ferocity. Oliver Chris as William is commanding, and Richard Goulding is antic and passionate as Harry. Lydia Wilson as Kate is probably the most human of all the characters. The rest are largely “ciphers to this [would-be] great accompt,” as Shakespeare writes in the prologue to “Henry V.” Still, director Rupert Goold does manage keep the plot from plodding too much. One has to give the production the credit for being savvy and com-

If you’re in the mood for something silly and diverting, get over to New World Stages and indulge yourself in the charm of “Shear Madness,” an interactive whodunit propelled by a hair -thin plot, improvisation, and audience participation. It’s a hoot. There has been a murder above the beauty parlor where the play is set and the audience is engaged in solving it. Simply put, it’s a stage version of the murder mystery games that were popular in the 1970s and ’80s — about the time this show was first seen in Boston. Clues are dropped, the cast cracks one another up, and the audience goes along for the ride. It’s that simple. The current production is especially fun given the talents of the cast at pulling the whole thing off at breakneck pace. Jordan

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December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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43


IN THE NOH

Southern Boys Dreams Come True in Manhattan Hunter Ryan Herdlicka’s “Little Night Music” gig days after leaving college; Mel Odom’s far longer slog to solo show BY DAVID NOH

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n my circle, the most hotly anticipated show of the holiday season is Transport Group’s “Once Upon a Mattress,” with a cast that includes Jackie Hoffman, John Epperson (aka Lypsinka), Jack Donahue, Jason SweetTooth Williams, Jay Rogers, David Greenspan, and Hunter Ryan Herdlicka. I traveled down to the historic Henry Street Settlement to meet up with Herdlicka, who not only knows all the good places to hang out in that nabe, but also all about the show itself (Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand St., btwn. Pitt & Willett Sts., through Jan. 3; transportgroup.org). “I play the Minstrel,” he explained, “who is kind of the narrator of the story. He opens the show with a song called ‘Many Moons Ago,’ and I basically come out and sing a version of ‘The Princess and the Pea,” because ‘Once’ is a retelling of it, and then I say, ‘Wait, that’s not the real story. This is it!’ “When they wrote the show, they set the Minstrel up to be a narrator throughout the show, but what they ended up with was about three spots of narration. It’s like they got sick of it in Act Two and gave me another story, so it feels like an out of town doctor came in and fixed it up, saying, ‘No more narration: you need book scenes and solos and duets!’ “It’s a nice part, and the show is really an ensemble piece, with nine principles in a cast of 14. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of dancing on this small stage. Transport did a reading of this about two years ago with Jackie, as a kind of benefit in front of [“Mattress” composer] Mary Rodgers, who went gaga-googoo for it. Just before she passed away, our director, Jack Cummings, had a meeting with her, and she even left us some money to make it happen because she believed in it so strongly. She loved Lypsinka and the idea of Jackie playing Princess Winnifred. One would never have thought of her because Jackie’s older, quirky-sounding and looking, and an underdog, but that’s really the part. She’s not married and not 19 either, and shows up in this kingdom, ‘Hey, I heard you had an opening for a princess, so let’s go!’” With no small amount of excitement, Herdlicka added, “There’s word about doing a cast album. Our theater has an old-fashioned proscenium, not just a black box. We have a 12-piece orchestra — we only had nine pieces on Broadway for ‘A Little Night Music,’ and that’s an operetta! We have gorgeous new orchestrations, and the score is such an old-fashioned delight. It reminds me of ‘How to Succeed in Business’: beautiful melodies, big brassy show-stopping

Hunter Ryan Herdlicka is part of the cast of the Transport Group production of “Once Upon a Mattress” at the Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center through January 3.

musicals, with genius lyrics by Marshall Barer.” Landing the role of Henrik in the 2010 revival of “A Little Night Music” was, for Herdlicka, beyond a dream come true. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, he had two weeks off before going to a summer stock job. Against the advice of his family, who wanted him to save his money and come home to Dallas, he packed up his jeep and drove to New York, where he got a sublet. His agency called with the audition for “A Little Night Music,” which he did, thinking he’d never get it. But he was called back and, on that day, found himself in the same elevator as Stephen Sondheim, whom he’d idolized since he was nine. “When I realized who that man standing next to me was, I pulled my iPod out of my ears. We stood there in silence, until I blurted out, ‘I’m Hunter. I’m here to sing for you!’ He turns to me, pauses, and says, ‘I’m here to listen to you.’ [Director] Trevor Nunn meets me at the door with a trillion people around and introduces me to everyone until he gets to Stephen, who looks up from his New York Post and says, ‘Oh, we go way back,’ which really surprised Trevor. “I sang Henrik’s song ‘Later,’ and ‘A Weekend in the Country,’ and Stephen was laughing throughout the first song, making me think ‘Oh, it’s a funny song.’ My agent calls me the next

day, ‘You have to come in and sign your contract for West Virginia Public Theater.’ So I went in and signed it, and then he says, ‘How would you like to play Henrik in ‘A Little Night Music’? You got the job!’ I started crying, and so did everybody else.” Flash forward several months later: “We were going to close and one day, I’m at lunch and read an online announcement that we’re being extended, and Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch are replacing Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury. I went running back, ‘Did you all hear?’ Aaron Lazar was like, ‘No! What? What, dude?’ They didn’t even know that my two other all-time idols joined the show.” I told Herdlicka that, for me, Alexander Hanson, as lawyer Egerman, was the real cast stand-out, providing the show with an emotional through-line and a real, romantically beating heart. Herdlicka concurred. “Wasn’t he great?,” he said. “So underrated, and it was disgusting that the Tony committee ignored him for a nomination. He was just the driving force in that show, so good and subtle, and emotionally connected every night. He had already played it in two different theaters in England and had also done Henrik, so he wasn’t all fresh and excited about it in a country where he didn’t know anyone and no one knew him. But he was perfect in every way, although the women grabbed all the attention. “Catherine was really lovely but it was hard, because during the run she was diagnosed as bipolar. That was when the symptoms set in, plus the stress of moving to the city, raising her kids, her husband [Michael Douglas] getting the cancer diagnosis, her stepson [Cameron Douglas] being sent back to prison. I think carrying a Broadway show for the first time, fresh from Hollywood to win the Tony and prove herself, was a lot to carry. And then, to have to wake up and do ‘Good Morning America’ on a two-show day to prove herself. She was overworked. It was hard, but she was generous, always brought us gifts. Oh my God! “People always thought she was drinking because her personality did change. It was different. She was really battling something, and I don’t think she knew at the time what it was. Even when she left, there was a thing on ‘Oprah’ where she checked into a clinic. I come from a family where mental illness is prevalent and I thought, ‘Guys, she’s not drunk. This is bipolar.’ “Angela Lansbury was just a dream, always had her dressing room door open, and Bernadette was the same warm , friendly, never a

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December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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IN THE NOH, from p.44

mean moment or word, flawless. And so gorgeous — all you wanna do is stare at her body, face, and hair. If I was a woman I’d wanna look like her. Hell, I want to be her! “And Elaine was Elaine. It was only toward the end of the run that we really latched on to one another. I didn’t really seek it out because I was pretty intimidated by her, never knew what was gonna happen. We had closed in January, and I called in February. It was her birthday: ‘Elaine, it’s Hunter.’ “‘Who? Hunter who?’ ‘Later’ was her nickname for me. ‘Oh God, Later, dammit why didn’t you tell where the hell you have you been. We’ve been closed a month and you never called!’

“So I go to the funeral, and am trying to hold it all together when I see her tombstone and it says ‘Elaine Stritch Bay. Later.’”

“‘Well, I didn’t want to bug you.’ “‘Bug me? I’m living in a fucking hotel, and I’m bored out of my mind! Come over, let’s go out!’ A week later, we had dinner and had the greatest time ever. And then it became a regular thing and I talked to her every afternoon. At her very last show at the Carlyle, I helped her through whole thing and she put me in the show to create an audience interactive thing together. If her memory started to go during one of the stories, I’d help her back into it. It was the strongest bond I’ve ever had with another person. I helped her move to Birmingham, Michigan, where she died. I packed all her boxes myself.“I happened to be doing a workshop in Chicago for a week when I found out she’d died and, ‘Ohmigod, I can’t go to the funeral. I have to work in Chicago, trapped for a week, and why do we have a day off on Thursday, we should just get this over with.’ GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

“Sure enough, her family calls: ‘Hunter, you’re probably working and can’t make it but the funeral’s being held in Chicago on Thursday. And I’m in Chicago on the day off I’ve been fighting about. So I called a car and drove 30 miles to the funeral. “She always called me ‘Later,’ and one day she was yelling at me in Birdland: ‘I’ve been trying to get your attention!’ “‘Well, who answers to that name?’ I said, ‘Call me Hunter!’ And she said, ‘I’m gonna put that on my tombstone: “Elaine Stritch. Later.”’ “So I go to the funeral, and am trying to hold it all together when I see her tombstone and it says ‘Elaine Stritch Bay. Later.’ I looked down and I’m just in shock, and then somebody from the family, says, ‘Oh, funny, huh? We don’t know what she was talking about, but that’s what she wanted.’ Every time I think about it, I’m still in shock.” “Night Music” also gave Herdlicka a chance to become close with Sondheim. “Trevor was really set in his way about what he wanted, so Sondheim wasn’t around much backstage. The only note I ever got from him was during a daytime session. ‘Hunter, ’I’ve been thinking,’ he said, as he looked up from his crossword puzzle. ‘The lyrics for “Later” are, “Oh, yes, the lawyer’s son is short and boring. He’s hardly worth ignoring.” You’re not short, so I think we gotta change it. You like bland? How about that?’ “‘Bland and boring! That’s pretty great! I like the alliteration!’ I said. “‘It’s not that you’re bland, it’s that you’re not short,’ he said. ‘So, put it in the show tonight so that I’ll see how I like it.’ So I got to inspire a Sondheim lyric change! “He was a strong supporter and cheerleader for me. I just went to his birthday party last year. It’s very small and private, at Lincoln restaurant. There was Bernadette, Phyllis Newman, Oskar Eustis, Mia Farrow. No Patti LuPone, not a lot of big stars but major industry people that control New York. That was really special.” Herdlicka talked about being gay and how surprised he is at the changes in attitudes about homosexuality in Texas from when he grew up there.

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IN THE NOH, continued on p.46

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“I was not out until I went to school, had to get out of home life. Ten years ago wasn’t the time it is now. But now when I go home, there are out people everywhere and being gay is a non–issue. When I went to high school, there were 2,000 kids and one was out and he was out because he was kicked out of another school for being gay. It was a national news story, and now when I visit, they say, ‘Yeah, we have a gay-straight alliance that has 35 members. Just between you and me, the gay-straight alliance is not always the coolest kids, so there are more out people than that.’ “I asked them if they were ever nervous about being called gay or fag? Absolutely not. And the jocks don’t pick on effeminate people or lesbians. It started to change in Texas from just last year. My grandparents are 80 years old and are now thinking in an entirely different way.”

ered the most beautiful and special doll on the market today, the charismatic fantasy movie-star-inresin sports the greatest wardrobe since Bette Davis in “Mr. Skeffington.” Odom’s favorite movie star, that irresistible bucktoothed beauty Gene Tierney, was the inspiration for her namesake doll. The elegantly accoutered Gene has obsessed fans and customers who gather at Gene conventions held across the country. There, a full-on celebration of all things dolllike brings many men for whom such an event is a joyously independent rebuke to their oppressed and persecuted days as young “sissies,” which often began with the

on Gene. But he said, ‘You know, I have to go away a lot for months at a time and I carry this doll with me, because she looks like my wife. I keep it with me all the time.’ “I started crying, and he continued, ‘And I know she has other wives of soldiers and they get together and play with their Gene dolls.’ This was way more than I ever expected from this. It was during the Enduring Freedom campaign in Iraq, I believe, and he gave me patches that soldiers were given to put on their uniforms. I said to him, ‘Sometimes, in this crazy world, I’ve wondered where I fit in and you’re the first clue. Something I do makes your life a little easier.’

Ever since his first 1970s illustrations for magazines like that

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COURTESY: MEL ODOM

seminal gay milestone Blueboy, the lush, brilliantly rendered art of Mel Odom has, for me, always been a beautiful and strong comment on — and inspired vision of — not just our gay history, but our deepest personal lives, as well. This uber -sensitive, intelligent, and witty visual magician is finally having his first one-man show, “Secrets Gardens,” running through January 8, at Portraits, Inc. (6 E. 92nd St., reception, Dec. 10, 6-8 p.m.; portraitsinc.com). There are 33 exquisitely, painstakingly wrought paintings, and Odom’s lifelong obsession with dolls are what propels the show — with a daring mix of Ingres classic perfection and zeitgeist-y imagery stamped upon the placid porcelain faces of the featured poppets. I met Odom in the West Side apartment where he has long resided, which I’ll just refer to as Magic Land, if only for a doll room, watched over by a magnificent poster of Hedy Lamarr, that is pure nirvana. Prominent among the populace displayed are the always sumptuously gorgeous versions of the doll Odom invented, Gene, the very personification of high 1940s glam and insolent sexiness. Almost universally consid-

"Bombshell" from Mel Odom's solo show at Portraits, Inc., on East 92nd Street through January 8.

discovery of their affinity for this girl’s toy. The chance encounters are often intense: “I went to a signing in Greensboro, North Carolina, which is my home state, so it’s already emotional. People were telling me, ‘I love Gene so much and this one looks so much like my mother in her wedding gown. Thank you for making it so unique!’ “This one woman told me that her husband wanted to speak to me, although she had no idea what he was going to say. Well, this big buzz-cut Marine comes over and I’m thinking he’s gonna punch me for all the money she’s spent

And we became good friends. Last Christmas, he sent my husband, Charlie, and me Special Op jackets. I have never not been knocked out by people’s responses to me, this live person representing this doll they love. If you deal with Mattel, they’re all paid androids reading the same script.” For years, Odom had been banging his head against New York art galleries, none of whom would carry his work, until now: “Growing up, art was my focus, and it was always my side thing in high school, which I wouldn’t go through again at gunpoint. But college was fun, and then I went to England for a cou-

ple years and studied there. I came back to Richmond, Virginia, and made a portfolio and then moved to New York in 1975. I don’t know if it could happen today, but I got the name of a an illustration agent, found her number in the book, called, and went over that day. She lived in the Village and signed me on the spot. “I went back to Richmond, and she called me two weeks later: ‘You have a job with Viva magazine, who’s paying $300. I packed up and moved the next day. Blueboy saw me in Viva, and then Playboy saw my work there, and then Time saw my work in Playboy. So it was a real nice succession of climbing, like Barbara Stanwyck in ‘Baby Face!’ [laughs]. “Playboy was the best gig I ever had. They never said, ‘This is too homoerotic,’ but were really cool and really bohemian, even though it was a big corporate magazine. A huge budget, and they really believed in the freedom they were espousing. I liked Hefner’s daughter, Christy, but I never met him. I did send him a Gene doll, the one that looked the most like Gene Tierney. And he sent me that nice letter you were reading” on his wall. Odom recalled knowing he was gay “as far back as I can remember. My parents found out in a letter written to a boyfriend when I was in college and they were not thrilled because they thought I would be really unhappy. Dad was okay with me playing with dolls, and all my older cousins were girls, so the toys I inherited were dolls. It was in the cards from the beginning, my friend, and I was thrilled. They saw me being okay with it and what happened when they wanted to send me to a psychiatrist and I said, ‘Well, I’m mot going to do that because I don’t need it and you can be happy for me because I’m not going to be miserable for you.’” Odom was positively glowing with excitement about this new, long overdue phase in his career. “I’ve been very blessed in my career, and this show is just more of that. You’ve got to reinvent yourself. I’m good for 20 years, and then I’m at the point where I want to move on. You get to the point where you’re being redundant, and I’m so happy this gallery is cooperating with me!” December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


OPERA

Potomac Dispatch Glass and Rossini operas in Washington

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Soloman Howard as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Philip Glass and librettist Christopher Hampton’s “Appomattox.”

BY DAVID SHENGOLD

P

hilip Glass and librettist Christopher Hampton have revised their “Appomattox” — first seen in 2007 in San Francisco — to reflect contemporary political concerns. Originally, the piece’s first half dealt with the end of the Civil War in 1865. The second part showed episodically how the hopes for national reconciliation and — particularly — equality of opportunity for African Americans fell tragically short. Ironically, “the Party of Lincoln” has in recent decades led the legal charge against fully enfranchising minority voters — a battle that should have been won with President Lyndon Johnson’s Voting Rights Act of 1965. The steep challenges to voting that Republican state legislatures have recently enacted prompted Glass and Hampton to make the second act more current for the opera’s première in the nation’s capital. It tells a compelling story, admirably timely in political significance. Tazewell Thompson’s Washington National Opera production, a large, able cast, and incisive musical leadership from Dante Santiago Anzolini (replacing Dennis Russell Davies at late notice) made for a strong evening of theater, clearly attended closely by a more than GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

usually racially diverse audience. It was exciting November 21 to see performers (WNO’s splendid young Sarastro, Soloman Howard, and veteran heroic baritone Tom Fox, droll and powerful) embodying Martin Luther King and President Johnson take the final curtain calls together and embrace. So, as an event and statement, “Appomattox” proved worthwhile and stirring. The score, however, proved musically rather banal and Glass-generic, save for a few choice, effective scenes — usually those employing the fine WNO chorus and/ or an embedded text, like the opening “Tenting on the Old Campground,” King’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” speech, and Johnson’s televised endorsement of voting rights. Too often, Glass employs the same “driving rhythm of history” devices that Poulenc’s “Dialogues” borrowed from “Boris Godunov” to start a scene illustrating an historical point but then gives its participants no vocal or thematic idiolect. Largely, we see exhibits in a pageant. Besides the two leads, a few singers made strong impacts in their paired roles: young dramatic soprano Melody Moore, who led the piece’s women in a stirring, hymnlike finale; the characterful, incisive

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WASHINGTON, continued on p.55

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PHOTOGRAPHY

Sharing Matters, Too Jesse Freidin’s photographic exhibit of dogs and their HIV-positive owners tells remarkable stories BY DONNA ACETO

MADNESS, from p.40

Ahnquist as Tony is brilliant with spontaneous comedy, and he’s charmingly abetted by a company that includes Adam Gerber, Kate

Middleton, L ynne Wintersteller, Patrick Noonan, and Jeremy Kushnier. They work together with farcical clockwork, and Noonan does a great job of managing the audience participation part.

JOAN MARCUS

Laurie Metcalf and Bruce Willis in William Goldman’s “Misery,” based on the Stephen King novel.

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This is not so much a play as it is a very successful party game. It’s well done and diverting — and they sell drinks in the theater. Enjoy!

There are two things one wants from Stephen King: a great story and some chills up the spine. That’s certainly what his novel “Misery” delivered, and it’s exactly what you’ll get in William Goldman’s stage adaptation now at the Broadhurst. To ask “Misery” to do or be anything else is either unreasonable or wishful thinking. The story of writer Paul Sheldon who is rescued then imprisoned then tortured by his “biggest fan” Annie Wilkes is a classic, thanks to the 1990 movie that won Kathy Bates an Academy Award as Annie. As directed by Will Frears, “Misery” is completely entertaining and not particularly demanding. The highlight of the evening is Laurie Met-

Michelle Williams, in front of Jesse Freidin’s photo of her, her daughter Raven, and their dog Couture.

DONNA ACETO

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DONNA ACETO

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eing a lover of both photography and animals, I fully expected to be moved by stories of unconditional love, warmth, and comfort — the sort that come curled up in a lap and wrapped in their own natural fur coat — by “When Dogs Heal,” an exhibit about canines and their HIV-positive owners. The photographs are indeed lovely, but it is photographer Jesse Freidin’s generosity of spirit — in his ability to elicit his subjects’ stories — that shines through most impressively. Stories of struggles for independence, against violence, and toward sobriety and strength that all end with the same question: Exactly who did the rescuing? The answer is, of course, equal parts owner and pet. What I did not expect was finding a personal connection when I attended the exhibit’s December

3 reception at the LGBT Community Center (where it runs through January). I don’t really know why — after all the years I’ve been part of our community, why don’t I always find a connection? But just off of the elevator, there it was: a most joyous portrait of Michelle, her daughter Raven, and Raven’s dog Couture. But Couture is not Raven’s first dog. Raven’s first dog was Charlie, when she was just a little girl struggling at school with her HIV status and asking her mommy if she was going to die. I knew that beautiful little Raven and her mommy. Raven is now 25 and soon to be a mother herself. Michelle talked about getting involved with the photography project and recruiting subjects for the project. “It really took me back. Charlie was Raven’s first love, he was very healing for her,” she explained. At one time when moving into a new home, Michelle had to jump through hoops getting medical notes

to have the landlord accept Charlie into an apartment where no pets where allowed. When organizers of the exhibit had difficulty finding subjects in New York City, Michelle got right on it. The idea meant the world to her and Raven — “that’s their family and love, their life.” That sense of family is seen in the many of the stories on display. Touching portraits of pups large and small with their doting parents. One of my favorites is Sister of Perpetual Indulgence Lotti Da and her loving canine, Shiner. When I reached the end of the first hallway, I looked up and found myself face to face with a portrait of my friend Bert. On his lap were individual photos of his late partner David and their boxer Keila. With that one photo, I instantly understood the simple loving concept of the show. The photographer brought back to me the memory of a photograph I took of David and Keila that adorns David’s tombstone. I’ll never forget the insane amount of joy both David and Bert took in that dog. Every picture tells a story, and these photographs stand on their own beautifully. But Freidin’s astonishing ability to get his subjects — one after the other — to open up and tell their very personal stories is what deserves extra appreciation here. Sharing heals as well.

Andre Ward and Jason Hoffman attended the opening reception with their dog Gigi.

calf’s creepy and precise portrayal of Annie whose madness and delusion vacillate between hilarious and harrowing. She bears the brunt of the work, and it’s a detailed performance that even with the excesses of the character manages to be believable and — at times — sympathetic. Bruce Willis, who is immobile throughout much of the play, is forced to be subtler in his performance, but he captures Sheldon’s universal fear of being trapped and at the mercy of a crazy person. His search for a way out is delivered with nuance. David Korins creates an ingenious and thoroughly appropriate set that wonderfully supports the story’s dramatic tension. Ann Roth’s costumes and David Weiner’s lighting similarly create a remote and claustrophobic world. It’s not easy to create a stage thriller, and “Misery” happily delivers. December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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JAMAICA, from p.38

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JEFFREY SKEMP

tion. I don’t know if any of the gunmen were gay, but I think it complicates the story profoundly if one of them is.” In the novel, the CIA and the right-wing, US-supported Jamaica Labour Party target Marley for assassination because they fear that he has aligned himself with the leftist government of Prime Minister Michael Manley, and, by extension, with Cuba and Communism. Among the hitmen who shoot up Marley’s home (wounding him, his wife, and manager) is an ex-con gangbanger named Weeper. One of the novel’s most compelling — and surprising — characters, Weeper had a sexual relationship with a fellow prisoner, and he does not hide it from his fellow thugs. Although he also has sex with women, he comes to realize that his heterosexual exploits are just him “trying to fuck the gay out” of himself. Later in the novel, when he is living in New York and working for a Jamaican drug posse, Weeper, a hardened, macho killer, comes to accept not only that he is gay but also that he prefers being a bottom. This realization strikes him in a sexually explicit scene that, said James, some have criticized. “People have asked why the explicit sex scenes, why do we need a sex scene of a finger up Weeper’s ass? The reason it’s necessary, why it couldn’t be reported but had to be blow-byblow, or literally stroke-by-stroke, is that it is only by fully giving over to the expression of his sexuality that he can come anywhere near to accepting himself. I’m not saying that fucking is the path to enlightenment, although it might be. But his gradual coming to accept himself happens through expressing himself sexually.” Another memorable character is Alex Pierce, a Rolling Stone reporter on assignment in Jamaica. Pierce, said James, “tries to figure out Jamaica, and he fails.” “But no one could succeed, because no Jamaican can figure out Jamaica. I still can’t,” James said. “Jamaica is super-progressive in one way and very retrogressive in another,” he continued. “There’s so much creativity and yet every time you leave JA and come back, it’s exactly as you left it. It can be a really thrilling but also really frustrating country to deal with.” During our conversation, James had quite a bit to say about homosexuality and homophobia in his homeland. In a March 2015 New York Times article, he wrote, “Whether it was in a plane or a coffin, I knew I had to get out of Jamaica.” After he won the Booker, some media, including Britain’s Daily Mail, were “desperate to find information about me being a victim of some brutal attack by some anti-gay gestapo. Which didn’t happen.” He acknowledged, however, that while many Jamaicans, including family members, were thrilled by his success, “It’s not like there’s been an all-embracing acceptance of the gay guy who won the Booker Prize. Some people have been downright hostile.”

Novelist and Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James.

“It’s not like there’s been an all-embracing acceptance of the gay guy who won the Booker Prize. Some people have been downright hostile.” Although James hasn’t experienced it, violence against gay men, lesbians, and transgender people is all too common in Jamaica. But what is even more pervasive, he said, is a climate of fear. Even those who believe that being middle- or upper-class protects them from the worst abuse “still display their fears in subtle ways.” “You’re having all your friends over and they’re all men,” he explained. “So let’s make sure the shades are drawn. But why? Heaven forbid that you should try to kiss someone in your own house. You have to make sure everything is closed and the gardener is gone. If the gardener becomes worthless and irresponsible on the job, make sure you keep him because if you fire him he’s going to come back with a mob and kill you.” James drew a parallel between the fear gays have in Jamaica and his mother’s fear of crime. “It adds up to a fear to be fully in your own skin,” he said. “She hasn’t been the victim of a violent attack, nobody’s tried to break in the house and rob her. She may very well live to the end of her life never having been robbed or anything like that. But the possibility is always there. And because of that she can never be fully at ease. I think it’s the same thing with being gay in Jamaica. Even if you never experience any-

thing because you are protected by class, you will never be fully at ease.” James criticized those Jamaicans who, though not homophobic themselves, “are not actually going to stick their necks out for anybody’s rights.” Anti-gay forces are far less inhibited. In addition to violent assaults, there have been political manifestations of bigotry, including mass rallies against revoking Jamaica’s colonial-era anti-sodomy laws. Jamaica’s twice-elected Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller made pro-gay comments during both of her campaigns, but the rhetoric has not informed policy or legislation. Noting that American gay activists as well as international human rights organizations have spoken out against homophobia in Jamaica, James said that though foreign support for the nation’s LGBT community may be well-intended, “One of the problems we have sometimes is that it comes across as culturally superior.” And politically misguided, as with American gay activists’ calls in 2009 for a boycott of the Jamaican beer Red Stripe. The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) criticized the boycott, noting that Red Stripe had committed itself to not supporting concerts and other events that featured homophobic reggae artists. “Jamaica’s deeply ingrained antipathy towards homosexuality and homosexuals is a social phenomenon that will not be undone by boycott campaigns or government dictate,” JFLAG stated. “It requires the painstaking effort of confronting the society and talking to social actors who can bring change in the way society sees LGBT people.” “One of major ways feminism stumbled,” James said, “was when it tried to export itself in the ‘70s and couldn’t get past its own sense of cultural imperialism — just be like me and you’ll be free, backward colored person. But you’re not going to get very far by insulting people. “You have to allow people to define and liberate themselves in ways they feel liberated. You can’t force one view or one narrative, saying this is what being a gay citizen or a black citizen means and there’s one way to define it.” James said that he visits Jamaica every year. His father, who shared his love of literature with Marlon (and to whom “A Brief History of Seven Killings” is dedicated), is dead, but his mother and sister still live there. “For all its flaws, most of us still love our country quite a bit and you can’t necessarily sever that link,” he said. “I talk to Jamaican friends literally every day of the week on Facebook. A big part of who I am is Jamaican, and most of my sensibilities as a writer were shaped in Jamaica.” What’s next for Marlon James? He said that he is developing a pilot for an HBO series based on “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” He also is about to start his next novel, which will be set in Africa during the 11th and 12th centuries. “Think, African ‘Game of Thrones,’” he laughed. December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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WED.DEC.16. SELF-AWARENESS The Celestial Body & Divine Kink The third and final session of “Celestial Body” focuses on opening the closed doors in your psychic house — the doors leading to your deeper self, the authentic self that loves you and stays with you your entire life. Perry Brass (“The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love”) hosts this discussion, which will include Gay City News Morsels contributor and writer Donna Minkowitz talking about sex and God, and trans and polyamory activist Kyle Applegate discussing submission to self. The evening will ponder the question: “Is God a lot kinkier than you thought?” Bureau of General Services — Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., rm. 210. Dec. 16, 7 p.m. A $5 donation to benefit BGSQD is suggested. For more information about the evening, contact belhuepress@earthlink.net.

THU.DEC.17 BOOKS On a Cold Winter Night, Lesbian Erotica! In the December installment of “Drunken! Careening! Writers!,” Kathleen Warnock welcomes Sacchi Green, editor of the latest volume of “Best Lesbian Erotica,” and contributors R.G. Emanuelle, D.L. King, Annabeth Leong, and Megan McFerrin. KGB Bar, 85 E. Fourth St., btwn. Bowery & Second Ave. Dec. 17, 7 p.m.

Trolley Dolly’s Holly Jolly Airhostess Pam Ann returns to town with her new holiday show, “Downton Galley,” where GayCityNews.nyc | December 10 - 23, 2015

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14 DAYS, continued on p.53

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a joint statement, said, “Providing staff to private schools, including rules concerning salaries and work requirements, would be an inappropriate, indeed probably unconstitutional, use of government funds and regulatory oversight for non-public, religious purposes. We are also concerned about this blatant subversion of the public budget process, apparently in response to political pressures.” What might those political pressures be? Councilmember Greenfield, a former vice president of the Sephardic Community Federation, heads an outside organization that is dedicated to securing government funds for religious schools, and he boasts in his online Council bio that he has been successful in securing $600 million in tax credits for parents of school children not in the public schools. Part of his sway over his fellow Council members may stem from his chairing the powerful Land Use Committee that they all have vital business before. Most Council members had two unstated reasons for supporting Greenfield in using tax money to fund religious schools: they either have constituents who would like their choice to send their children to these schools to be further subsidized or they want to buy themselves good will with the increasingly powerful and cohesive blocs of Orthodox, fundamentalist, and Catholic voters should they decide to seek higher office. Kenneth Sherrill, an out gay political science professor emeritus at Hunter College, told Gay City News in June, “I think the decline of traditional party organizations has magnified the ability of traditionally conservative religious organizations to turn out voters, sometimes enabling them to dominate primaries with no runoffs as well as to be able to deliver swing voters in closely contested elections. Just as old line political machines controlled jobs, the religious organizations use government funding to hire people who are highly motivated to campaign for someone who will allow them to keep their jobs.” But publicly, it was all about concern for “the safety of children,” though none explained how the LGBT children will be protected from anti-gay religious teachings that fos-

52

ter self-hate and have driven many from their homes and to suicide. “Students across our city deserve a safe learning environment, no matter what community they come from or where they attend school,” said Mark-Viverito, but like all her colleagues she refused to clarify what has suddenly changed that mandates the government now stepping in where it never has before. Some cite rising fears about terrorism, but the agents hired under this bill will not be allowed to carry guns. “Claims that this legislation will protect students are specious at best,” wrote Dromm and Mendez. “The fine print reveals that security guards would still be required to contact the NYPD should there be a threat to students’ well-being. It is

grounds. Wiley Norvell, de Blasio’s spokesperson, wrote in an email, “This legislation, which applies to both religious and non-religious schools, is directed at enhancing the safety of the city’s school children and staff, and not at aiding religion. As such, we believe it is consistent with legal precedent.” That conclusion ignores the fact that any money these schools don’t have to lay out for their own security increases the amount they can spend on promoting their religious activities. De Blasio also reversed Bloomberg-era policy that banned churches from using public schools for regular Sunday worship at nominal cost — something mostly taken advantage of by the right-wing Christian fundamentalist “church planting” movement.

“Just as old line political machines controlled jobs, the religious organizations use government funding to hire people who are highly motivated to campaign for someone who will allow them to keep their jobs.” clear that Intro 65 is simply a ruse orchestrated by well-paid lobbyists.” City officials swear allegiance to the US Constitution, the New York State Constitution, and the New York City Charter, but the bill’s supporters did not talk about the explicit prohibitions on this kind of funding in the State Constitution. Article 9, Section 3, approved by the voters in 1938, states: “Neither the state nor any subdivision thereof, shall use its property or credit or any public money, or authorize or permit either to be used, directly or indirectly, in aid or maintenance, other than for examination or inspection, of any school or institution of learning wholly or in part under the control or direction of any religious denomination, or in which any denominational tenet or doctrine is taught, but the legislature may provide for the transportation of children to and from any school or institution of learning.” Th a t pr o h i bi t i o n has b een chipped away at through the funding of books on secular subjects and school nurses in private schools. Mark-Viverito insisted that the new funding would withstand any legal challenges on constitutional

Mark-Viverito’s press of fice pushed back at questions about why she was “pushing through” this bill. While she declared herself “proud” to be backing the bill, she made that statement in a release dumped late the evening before Thanksgiving, the text of the substantially revised bill was not immediately available, and the meeting of the Public Safety Committee on December 4 that took up the bill was not announced until the day before. Despite the complete overhaul of the bill, no public testimony on it was permitted at the committee meeting. Johanna Miller, advocacy director of the NYCLU, said in a statement, “The City Council’s practice of giving inadequate and untimely notice before so-called public hearings is undemocratic and virtually guarantees participation will be limited solely to professional advocates and lobbyists.” In this case, not even these professionals had any chance to offer input other than through the press. At the committee meeting, Ritchie Torres acknowledged “severe criticism” he had received from members of the LGBT community for

whom he said he has respect. “Even though I find the content that might be taught in some or many of these schools to be offensive and deeply contrary to who I am, that doesn’t mean that these schools aren’t entitled to some basic standard of school safety,” he said. “I do not see this as an issue of LGBT concern.” Dromm told Gay City that one of the real problems in the public schools is “abusive” security agents, and he said if the Council can afford $20 million for private schools they should appropriate an equal amount for “restorative disciplinary practices” for such security personnel in the public schools as well as for many more guidance counselors. This year, he was able to secure $200,000 to advance the integration of LGBT issues in curricula, far from the millions that will be required to bring all schools up to speed in this area and make them safe for LGBT students and staff. Full disclosure: In covering this bill this year, I came to strongly oppose it myself. When the Council honored me in June at its LGBT Pride ceremony I told them, “Protect religious groups from specific threats by all means. Protect all New Yorkers. But before this Council caters to anti-gay religious constituencies with something they have no right to, please show some respect to the right of our kids to a roof over their heads.” Religious institutions used to be wary of government support because it meant complying with secular regulations that they would otherwise not be subject to. The New York City Council is providing this funding with no strings attached. “This is a clear example of pork for religious communities and it is not consistent with the progressive values our Council is supposed to stand for,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. For those who feel that the Constitution’s Establishment Clause is not in danger, it’s worth considering an op-ed that Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, wrote in the Washington Times this week. It’s title: “The Wall Separating Faith and Public Life Must be Torn Down.” “Private schools have every right to exist,” veteran Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez wrote this week about this Council bill, “but not at public expense.” December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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FRI.DEC.18 NIGHTLIFE Queering the Santastic Holiday “Santastical,” a new holiday sensation that offers a fully immersive window display that pulls you into the world of six wildly different Santas, hosts a gay night event. Put on your favorite ugly sweater, sexy Santa outfit, or Nativity Scene costume, get a spiked cider drink, and sneak off to the Mistletoe Makeout Forest. The Clemente, 107 Suffolk St., btwn. Rivington and Delancey Sts. Dec. 18, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Tickets are $30 at santastical.com.

SUN.DEC.20 NIGHTLIFE Justin Sayre’s Sodomite Christmas “The Meeting*” hosted by Justin Sayre, the acclaimed comedy/variety show, presents its seventh annual holiday spectacular. At the time of press the special guests had not yet been announced, so check in at InternationalOrderofSodomites.com to learn more. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Dec. 20, 9:30 p.m.; Dec. 21, 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 at joespub.com.

CABARET The Little Sparrow at 100 Edith Piaf, the iconic French songstress, is celebrated on the 100th anniversary of her birth with stars from Broadway, London’s West End, and the cabaret, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll worlds. Elaine Paige, Marilyn Maye, Vivian Reed, Little Annie, Gay Marshall, Molly Pope, Amber Martin, Kim Smith, Aaron Weinstein, and Meow Meow are backed by Luke Frazier’s American Pops Orchestra. The evening is hosted by Turner Classic Movie’s Robert Osborne. Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St. Dec. 19, 8 p.m. Tickets are $50-$200 at piaf100.com.

Pirates & Light Opera New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, America’s preeminent G & S repertory ensemble now in its 41st season, celebrates the holidays with a production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” Artistic director Albert Bergeret is at the helm. NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Pl., btwn. Washington Sq. S. & W. Third St. Dec. 26, 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 27, 3 p.m.; Dec. 30, 3 p.m.; Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 2, 2 p.m. Tickets are $25-$95 at nygasp.org or 888-611-8183.

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54

December 10 - 23, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc


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WASHINGTON, from p.47

Richard Paul Fink; fiery lyric mezzo Chrystal E. Williams, with superb diction; and the resonant, experienced David Pittsinger, playing the ‘noble’ Lee and white supremacist Edgar Ray Killen. Perhaps Act Two should have concentrated more on African Americans; the libretto carries more than a hint of Hollywood-style centralizing lionization of sympathetic whites. Coincidentally, Boston Lyric Opera was concurrently performing — in a strong production by R. B. Schlather — his 2000 chamber opera “In the Penal Colony,” a Kafka-based work that prophetically reflects on issues of capital punishment and the legitimacy of sites like Guantanamo Bay. It redounds to Glass’ credit that he has sought subjects speaking to such fundamental socio-political issues.

Washington Concert Opera has been doing fine work of late. Its “Semiramide” on November 22 proved a nice chance to hear Rossini’s fine score — or at least much of it, since Antony Walker made some whacking cuts — but the performance didn’t quite live up to its demands or WCO’s highest standards. Both orchestra and

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CRIME, from p.14

who represents Martinez-Herrera, had yet another fight over the evidence the defense was allowed to present, with the judge again asserting that no evidence supported a kinky sex defense. Parker pointed to Martinez-Herrera’s testimony. “That’s evidence of sex,” Parker said. “The record couldn’t be more clear.” Jurors took about seven hours to find Faulkner and Martinez-Herrera guilty of felony murder, a charge based on them causing Laubach’s death in the course of committing another felony — in this case, robbery and kidnapping — and second–degree manslaughter. Jurors were not given a lower level felony charge, such as criminally negligent homicide, to consider. Whether Wittner’s limits on the defense will survive an appeal remains to be seen. “There’s a thumb on the scale, a constitutional thumb on the scale,

chorus sounded slightly under-rehearsed; Walker at times uncharacteristically drove his forces for volume and speed that sometimes covered the solo singing. Australian soprano Jessica Pratt, first heard stateside in 2012 at Caramoor, made a creditable stab at the title role, despite it being written low for her natural comfort zone. A cleanvoiced singer with a well-honed technique, Pratt reminded me in good and bad ways of Ruth Ann Swenson. Pleasing to hear save for a pallid lower register, she ventured some exciting high interpolations but didn’t invest much in the proud Babylonian’s words. The audience seemed thrilled; I wanted more fire and verbal point. Vivica Genaux, as ever a dashing, committed artist alert to keen verbal and musical phrasing, sang Arsace. Anyone expecting a Marilyn Horne or Ewa Podles sound went wanting, but on her own more lyrical terms Genaux offered a complete portrait, with astonishing agility and imaginative — usually downward — decoration. As the Indian prince Idreno, occasional Met tenor Taylor Stayton sang with style and ease at the extreme top. His tone isn’t exactly dulcet but he’s a capable artist worth hearing; he

that argues in favor of the defendant getting to put on a defense,” Richman said. “If you’re asking is this an area where judges should be very careful, the answer is yes.” Faulkner and Martinez-Herrera were scheduled to be sentenced on December 7, but that was put off until January 20 at the request of both the prosecution and the defense. A “collective of queer and trans people of color with experiences of homelessness and involvement in the sex trades” is “organizing around the wrongful convictions of Edwin Faulkner and Juan Carlos Martinez-Herrera. Until they are free!,” according to the collective’s website, freeedwinandjuancarlos.com. Eleven collective members attended the December 7 proceeding and told Gay City News that some members would send letters to Wittner arguing for lenient sentences. To date, the group has raised $541 for the couple on youcaring.com, a fundraising website.

deserved his deleted first aria. Wayne Tigges, a sturdy bass-baritone with Handel in his past, still has much to offer, but no longer in this particular repertory: his Assur too often sounded constrained and approximate. Walker would have done better to deploy the elegant bass Evan Hughes (here Oroe, the High Priest) as Assur and used stentorian, impactful Wei Wu (here Nino’s ghost) as Oroe. Hughes’ voice has grown slightly in volume and he attacked his music with style and nuanced dynamics. He and Genaux would serve this opera best in slightly smaller venues. Upcoming productions of note in Washington include WNO’s “Lost in the Stars” with Eric Owens — a superb staging and fantastic leading performance carried over from Glimmerglass 2012 — and general director Francesca Zambello’s intriguing “Ring” cycle. Catch the third cycle, starring Nina Stemme and cast with other strong singers including Christopher Ventris, William Burden, Jamie Barton, Elizabeth Bishop, Alan Held, and Melissa Citro. The finely tailored Vocal Arts series hosts recitals by David Daniels, Javier Camarena, and Julia Bullock. David Shengold (shengold@yahoo.com) writes about opera for many venues.

Being sick and hungry is an urgent crisis no one should face. Help us deliver hope, compassion and love, all wrapped up in a nutritious meal.

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