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PrEP Use Up “Substantially” 10

Intersex Advocacy on the Map 12

Madcap Medieval Times 32

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40, 43 December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 | | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016


After ESPA, Picking Up the Pieces of Our Agenda BY PAUL SCHINDLER




eaction to the Empire State Pride Agenda’s stunning December 12 announcement that it was folding up its tent is comparable to the way people talk about the weather. Everybody complained about it, but the big question is what can be done about it. A number of people who have spoken to Gay City News — including past ESPA senior staff and board members — are now exploring specific steps to fill the gaping political void resulting from the group’s departure. Based on nearly a dozen and a half conversations with community leaders and elected officials, it’s clear it’s too early to predict what shape any successor organization or coalition to advance LGBT interests in New York might take, but most respondents agreed on basic requirements any effort would have to meet to achieve credibility and broad support. Diversity, in every respect, was the most common theme emphasized. A new organization, everybody seemed to agree, would only have legitimacy by representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender New Yorkers, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, income, and geography. The requirement that a younger generation step up to lead was frequently mentioned, and there is no doubt that credibility on issues of concern to the transgender community will be a critical factor in judging the success of any post-ESPA organization. At the same time, it also seems inevitable that transgender advocates will step up efforts to create their own political organizations to supplement and put pressure on any broader-based effort that emerges. Related to the issue of diversity, in the comments of many, was the question of vision, a point on which many critics faulted the Pride Agenda in its work since marriage equality was achieved four years ago. Over and over again, those who spoke to Gay City News emphasized that

equality was only one half of a mission that also included justice — whether economic, social, in health access and outcomes, or in the criminal justice system. Finally, many of those who spoke to Gay City News are clearly wrestling with the challenge of how to balance the interests and influence of everyone from donors, whose money is needed to carry out work on a large scale statewide, to the grassroots, many of whom feel outside of the process, especially when they are unable to afford a ticket to some of the largest events put on by big budget LGBT groups. Still, there is no precise roadmap going forward. In fact, in the view of several influential former ESPA leaders, the best path forward would for the group to reverse its December 12 decision. Four past top leaders of the group, who convened on December 14, offered the quickest response to the Pride Agenda’s decision. The group included Dick Dadey, who was the founding executive director from 1991 through 1997; Matt Foreman, who led the group for nearly five years in two stints between late 1997 and mid-2003 and oversaw passage of the state hate crimes and gay rights laws; Alan Van Capelle, who succeeded Foreman and achieved victory on marriage equality in the State Assembly before being turned back in the first State Senate vote in late 2009; and Joe Tarver, a top lieutenant to both Foreman and Van Capelle, who briefly served as interim executive director when Van Capelle departed in early 2010. The conclusion the four came to — that the Pride Agenda must rethink its decision — is not surprising given the reaction each had to the announcement, which none of them was given advance word of. A statement Gay City News received from ESPA on December 23, however, appears to rule that option out. Foreman, who now heads up philanthropic giving in LGBT and immigrant rights for the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, said ESPA’s apparent failure to reach out to anyone beyond its own board members and senior

Dick Dadey, the founding executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda.

staff “is an abrogation of a fundamental obligation that an organization has to its constituency… There was zero consultation with folks who spent their lives building the Pride Agenda. If they are going to make a decision of that magnitude, there has to be a consultative function.” Dadey, who is executive director of Citizens Union, a New York non-profit good government group, echoed Foreman’s perspective. “I greeted that letter with complete shock and disappointment,” he told Gay City News. “They were shutting down the organization that so many of us helped build into such a strong brand. You don’t do that without talking to some of the stakeholders who played that role.” According to Foreman, “Millions of dollars were spent on building up this brand, and now they are just throwing it away.” Foreman, who now lives in California, said that New York, compared to that state, has a “statutory framework that is still dismissive and silent on many needs” of the LGBT community. California has dozens of pieces of LGBT-specific laws, he said, that address questions of “lived equality.” Legislation passed there, Foreman said, is “baking in equality.” “We are dealing with a political system, and you need a political organization,” Foreman said. “Albany doesn’t just respond to good ideas.” “The issues and the needs have changed, it doesn’t mean there is not

a need,” was how Dadey explained his view that ESPA should carry on. “You cannot predict the future challenges that an issue like equality for the LGBT community will face. We need to make the political victories part of the fabric of our society.” Van Capelle, now CEO of the Lower East Side-based Educational Alliance, also emphasized the need for a statewide political voice and alluded to the crisis time when a relatively unorganized gay community first faced AIDS. “I think it’s critically important that LGBT New Yorkers remain politically active as LGBT New Yorkers,” he said, adding, “I don’t want it to take us a decade to reinvent the wheel when the next crisis comes up.” Both Dadey and Foreman, in their comments, made clear that if the Pride Agenda were to reverse course and try to stay alive, it would have to articulate a vision clear and compelling enough to win both donor and grassroots support. “They did not have the vision to see a path forward,” Dadey said. “So they took the easy way out.” Foreman said, “To the extent that maybe the donor base wasn't aware of the rest of the agenda, that’s Pride Agenda’s fault.” And both men challenged ESPA’s notion that simply keeping alive its political action committee — whose annual expenditures have in recent years been measured only in the tens of thousands of dollars — represented any meaningful continuation of its important legacy. “What has moved Albany has been community pressure,” he said. “Making donations is not the same as having a detailed policy agenda.” Dadey said that after the four former ESPA leaders caucused, they presented their recommendation — that the group try to forge “a smaller, leaner, more focused Pride Agenda beyond just a PAC” — to current board leaders. “They heard us. They respected our point of view,” he said, before adding, “I think the Pride Agenda has a very small window for stepping back into this conversation.”


AFTER ESPA, continued on p.23

December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |

ESPA Leadership Pushes Back on Charge They’ve Declared “Mission Accomplished”


BY PAUL SCHINDLER | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016


n the face of shock, chagrin, and some withering criticism both on social media and from past executive directors, top staff and board members at the Empire State Pride Agenda pushed back against the notion they had declared “Mission Accomplished” in their December 12 announcement that they were winding down major operations over the next several months. “We did not and are not declaring mission accomplished on LGBT equality,” said Norman C. Simon, chair of the Pride Agenda and co-chair of its affiliated educational Foundation. “What we are saying is that our top priorities have been completed, and that the remaining work that needs to be done we will transition to other organizations in the coming months in an orderly process.” In its December 12 release, the group said, “The Boards’ decision comes on the heels of securing the Pride Agenda’s top remaining policy priority — protecting transgender New Yorkers from discrimination in housing, employment, credit, education, and public accommodations — in the form of new regulations announced in partnership with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo at the organization’s Fall Dinner on October 22, 2015.” Saying that we was “troubled” to see the phrase “mission accomplished” in the immediate reporting and social media reaction to the group’s announcement, Simon, in a December 13 call with Gay City News — which broke news of ESPA’s decision on social media ahead of its official announcement and quoted several critics using that phrase in a December 12 article — said he would have brought that issue up had the question not been raised. State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay West Side Democrat, speaking to Gay City News roughly an hour before ESPA publicly released news of its planned closure, said, “You can’t declare a mission accomplished on LGBT rights. We have not gotten Senate consideration of an LGBT-related bill in almost five years.” Among the top priorities in Hoylman’s mind was the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act — a transgender civil rights measure that has languished in the Republican-led Senate for almost 13 years despite being passed repeatedly by the Assembly since 2007 — a bill that would bar licensed mental health professionals from conducting so-called “conversion therapy” on LGBT youth, and a measure overturning the state’s ban on gestational surrogacy. Hoylman is the lead sponsor on the conversion and surrogacy bills, while his Downtown Democratic colleague Daniel Squadron is the lead on GENDA. “It’s very, very important to have a group to

At the Pride Agenda’s Fall Dinner, Governor Cuomo accepting an ESPA award from Cynthia Germanotta of the Born This Way Foundation, with the Pride Agenda’s executive director Nathan Schaefer (l.), and Melissa Sklarz and Norman C. Simon, the group’s board co-chairs.

engage the wider public,” Hoylman said. “The Senate minority is starved of resources to promote an LGBT agenda statewide.” Jillian Weiss, a transgender advocate, attorney, and Ramopo College professor, also employed the term “mission accomplished” in criticizing ESPA’s failure to articulate a post-marriage equality vision. “Those that cannot create a vision for the new challenges that remain for trans people, for LGBT people of color and LGBT youth, will rightly say, ‘mission accomplished,’” she wrote in an email. Matt Foreman, who led the group for five years between 1997 and 2003 during which time ESPA was successful in winning enactment of state hate crimes and gay rights laws, was particularly harsh in his reaction to the group’s announcement. “We are dealing with a political system and you need a political organization,” he told Gay City News by phone. “Albany doesn’t just respond to good ideas.” Foreman, who now heads up philanthropic giving in LGBT and immigrant rights for the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, focused his criticism both on the way the Pride Agenda reached its decision and on the message the announcement of that decision sent. “There was zero consultation with folks who spent their lives building the Pride Agenda,” he said. “If they are going to make a decision of that magnitude, there has to be a consultative function. They need to talk to the stakeholders, to the communities around the state… This is an abrogation of a fundamental obligation that an organization has to its constituency.” Terming the announcement “beyond shock-

ing,” Foreman added, “And, it plays into the national narrative that the job is done.” Looking back on the group’s 25-year history, he said, “Millions of dollars were spent on building up this brand, and now they are just throwing it away.” The group’s handling of the question of GENDA in its press release was especially problematic in the view of the group’s critics. ESPA asserted it had secured protections for transgender New Yorkers, but made no mention of GENDA, except in a Q&A sheet distributed to reporters. There, the group stated, “GENDA remains a priority for many LGBT New Yorkers and some partner LGBT organizations may continue to advocate for its passage. But given the Governor’s recent action, the Pride Agenda believes it has achieved its top policy goal of protecting transgender New Yorkers from discrimination.” Asked how that statement did not amount to declaring victory before going home, Melissa Sklarz, a longtime transgender activist who is vice chair of the ESPA board and co-chair with Simon of the Foundation board, said the group would continue working to pass GENDA through its Political Action Committee, which the group plans to keep open. Simon underscored the importance the group attached to making clear that the Cuomo regulations, separate from GENDA, carry “the full force of law.” But, in seconding Sklarz’s statement that the PAC would continue to push GENDA, he several times emphasized that it would play a vital role in Albany going forward in “protecting the gains” the community has made and being its policy voice.


MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, continued on p.10



PrEP Awareness, Use “Increased Substantially,” Study Says As of fall 2014, however, uptake “remained low overall” among New York gay, bi men BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


series of surveys show that the awareness and use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among New York City gay and bisexual men has steadily increased between 2012 and 2014. Using data from the city health department’s Sexual Health Survey, researchers in the agency, who were led by Nana Mensah, found that the percentage of men who were aware of PrEP rose from 34 percent in a sample of 311 men in the Spring 2012 survey to 81 percent in a sample of 348 men in the Fall 2014 survey. The Sexual Health Survey was deployed online six times from the Spring of 2012 to the Fall of 2014. The men were between 18 and 40 in all six surveys and they elected to participate in the survey, so the results cannot necessarily be extended to the wider community. In Spring 2012 survey, 1.6 percent of the 311 men reported using PrEP within the six months prior to taking the survey, and 6.6 percent


of the 348 men in the Fall 2014 survey reported using PrEP in the six months prior to taking the survey. PrEP, anti-HIV drugs taken by HIV-negative people to keep them uninfected, was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2012, so the men in the Spring 2012 survey were probably enrolled in a PrEP study. In the Fall 2012 survey, 3.5 percent of the 347 men reported PrEP use in the six months prior to taking the survey. That increase may have resulted from the attention the FDA approval received in July 2012. In both 2013 surveys, the percentage of men reporting recent PrEP use was below two percent, then it increased to 2.9 percent in the Spring 2014 survey. Men who were between 30 and 40 and had more than a high school education were more likely to be aware of PrEP. In the Fall 2014 survey, white men were more likely than African-American men to be aware of PrEP. The data showed the only correlation with PrEP use in any of the surveys was participating in the Fall 2014


Simon said it was too early, however, to know what staffing structure would be required to keep the PAC thriving and that the group was not ready to set a timeline for making that determination. According to Foreman, ESPA’s PAC, though important, was never the prime mover of the organization’s agenda. “What has moved Albany has been community pressure,” he said. “Making donations is not the same as having a detailed policy agenda.” Data available through the New York State Board of elections suggests the modest role PAC dollars have played in an organization that in 2011 had a budget of more than $5 million. Contributions to the ESPA PAC reported on the state website amounted to roughly $185,000 and $148,000 in 2010 and 2011, respectively, at the height of the battle for marriage equality. Since then, that figure declined to about $100,000, $98,000, $52,000, and $41,000 for 2012 through 2015, respectively. The decline in PAC contributions is part and parcel of a larger reduction in overall support for ESPA, particularly for the non-Foundation, 501(c)(4) entity, Empire State Pride Agenda,


survey, which may simply mean that more men on PrEP chose to respond to the Fall 2014 survey. The city health department data is consistent with PrEP use increases reported by Gilead Sciences, the company that manufactures and markets Truvada, the only drug approved for PrEP, and with data from the state health department showing increases in PrEP use among Medicaid beneficiaries. PrEP, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which prevents HIV infection in people with a recent exposure to the virus, and treatment as prevention (TasP), which treats HIV-positive people so they are no longer infectious, are the three pillars of the state Plan to End AIDS. All three drug regimens are highly effective when taken correctly. The plan aims to reduce new HIV infections in New York from the current roughly 3,000 a year to 750 annually by 2020. The city data was presented at the National HIV Prevention Conference, which was in Atlanta in early December. The study authors concluded that PrEP awareness

Inc. That is the part of the organization which is unlimited in its political activities, but for which donations are not tax-deductible. In 2011, the year in which marriage equality was won, the Foundation had revenues of $2,333,673, while ESPA, Inc. had revenues of $2,731,607. Two years later, in 2013, the most recent year for which public figures are available, the Foundation had revenues of $2,129,832, while income to ESPA, Inc. had fallen to only $504,391. The non-Foundation unit was also struggling with a negative net asset value of nearly $380,000, with outstanding liabilities of just over $600,000, the bulk of which was money owed to the Foundation. Simon, both in the group’s written release and in comments to Gay City News, acknowledged the “challenges” facing any non-profit group after “mission victories” — particularly a win on the order of magnitude of marriage equality for an LGBT organization. Still, he insisted that money was not the driving factor behind what he characterized as a “mission-driven” decision by the group’s two boards of directors. Nathan Schaefer, who has served as ESPA’s executive director since 2012, did not hesitate

and use among the men surveyed had “increased substantially” over time, but PrEP use “remained low overall.” Roughly 95 percent of the new HIV infections in New York are in the city. 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. The plan will have to reduce new HIV infections by an ambitious 72 percent over the 2014 number and it must reduce new HIV infections among New York City gay and bisexual men substantially. Annual HIV infections among those men have been high and stable since 2001. The city is funding networks of community groups and healthcare providers to identify candidates for PrEP and get them on the drug. It is also training doctors, nurses, and physician’s assistants on PrEP. The city’s eight currently-operating sexually transmitted disease clinics will begin delivering PrEP to clients, and the health department is funding pilot projects to deliver PrEP to hard-to-reach populations. The health department recently launched an ad campaign that promotes PrEP.

to emphasize the victories that lay behind that “mission-driven” determination. “The Pride Agenda has had a very decorated 25 years of success,” he said, before acknowledging, “The boards’ decision is, I know, difficult for many people to hear.” The only elected official quoted in the Pride Agenda’s release was Cuomo, who said the group’s “impact will be felt for generations to come.” The governor’s regulations, which were published on November 4 and then subject to a 45-day public comment period before taking effect, define discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression as sex discrimination long outlawed by New York statute. They also spell out that discrimination based on “gender dysphoria” — defined medically as having a gender identity different from the sex assigned at birth — is discrimination based on disability, also a protected class under New York Human Rights law. When the Cuomo announcement was made, Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), praised the governor but also said, “Passing GENDA is still necessary and urgent, because employers and businesses must be aware of the law.” December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |

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Intersex Activism to the Fore During UN Advocacy Push

OutRight Action International focuses on global trans, intersex issues for Human Rights Day efforts BY JASON CIANCIOTTO




iriam van der Have is a married lesbian and mother of two. She came out publicly about being intersex on a television show in the Netherlands in 2003. Inspired by an out transgender participant on “Big Brother,” van der Have told me with a laugh, she thought, “If she can do it, I can do it too!” On December 9, I met with van der Have in Midtown after a press briefing on transgender and intersex rights organized by OutRight Action International (until recently, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, or IGLHRC) as part of its 2015 United Nations Advocacy Week. Co-chair of Organisation Intersex International Europe, van der Have was among the 39 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) human rights defenders from 28 countries gathered by OutRight for its 2015 United Nation’s Advocacy Week, which coincided with Human Rights Day on December 10 — the date in 1948 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Van der Have seemed shy in talking about her professional accomplishments even though she so easily shared more personal information. “If I had not had surgery when I was young,” she told me, “I would probably not need hormones now. Medical interventions later in life are to make up for problems caused by doctors when we are young.” Morgan Carpenter, president of Organization Intersex International Australia Limited, also sat with us after the press briefing. His concerns set van der Have’s personal story against a broader context. “The pathologization of intersex characteristics is extremely problematic,” he told me. “In places where medical systems are accessible, interventions are intended to make our bodies conform to social norms for a certain sex or gender. Doctors emphasize forcing peo-

ple to adhere to social norms over quality of life.” “Doctors do what society asks them,” van der Have interjected. “We have to change society to make it possible for doctors to change. I don’t expect doctors to stop if intersex is not accepted by society.” Van der Have explained that while intersex is not rare, shame and stigma prevent visibility. “You have probably met intersex people, but they have not dared to tell you,” she said. As a result, compared to the growing awareness and under standing of LGBT people around the world, comparatively little is understood about those who are intersex. “Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that don’t meet expected norms for male or female bodies,” explained Carpenter. “Our bodies don’t meet the social expectation of what males and females look like.” “Intersex is about our lives, not about our bodies,” van der Have added. “It’s about our experiences because of what other people’s expectations are about our bodies.” While asking a question about people who “identify as intersex,” van der Have gently corrected, “People do not choose to be intersex, they are intersex.” An intersex fact sheet from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights not only includes key definitions and prevalence data, but also summarizes the human rights violations experienced by intersex people around the world, including violations of the rights to health and physical integrity, to be free from torture and ill-treatment, and to equality and non-discrimination. Jessica Stern, OutRight’s executive director said, “The human rights violations experienced by intersex people are from a category that could only exist in science fiction, yet they are a reality around the world.” This is why, when asked about the goals of advocates, van der Have and Carpenter focused on the right to bodily integrity. In

Dutch intersex advocate Miriam van der Have, in New York as part of OutRight Action International’s 2015 United Nations Advocacy Week.

regions without accessible medical systems, child abandonment, infanticide, and violence against mothers of intersex children are common. Where medical care is more available, infants and children who are born intersex are still being mutilated, whether through surgery, hormone treatment, and/ or psychiatric care. “Because intersex is framed as a disorder within the medical model,” Carpenter told me, “the medical community uses the tools it has to make people fit into the definitions of sex and gender created by society.” He emphasized that the need for change includes advocacy and education work within progressive communities. “The LGBT movement falsely views intersex as a gender identity issue,” Carpenter said. “Why do we think biological determinism is good for intersex people but bad for transgender people?” In September 2015, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein brought unprecedented attention to intersex people at the first-ever Expert Meeting on Ending Human Rights Violations Against Intersex Per sons: When I started as high commissioner a year ago, I knew little about intersex people. I don’t think I was alone in this: it reflects a gen-

eral lack of awareness. Too many people assume, without really thinking about it, that everyone can be fitted into two distinct and mutually exclusive categories: male or female. In fact, human beings — like most living beings — are more diverse and complex than that. Our diversity — the differences between our experiences and perspectives, as well as the shapes of our bodies — is something that we should celebrate and protect, in all its forms. All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights. Those foundational, bedrock principles of universality and equality mean that all of us, without exception, and regardless of our sex characteristics, are equally entitled to the protections of international human rights law. Carpenter and van der Have emphasized repeatedly how critical it is for the recognition of intersex people to be rooted in fundamental human rights, beyond identity-based frameworks. Stern explained that changing her organization’s name from IGLHRC to OutRight Action International exemplifies this shift in thinking about and approaching the issue of LGBTIQ rights. “We changed our name because rendering bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer realities invisible was unacceptable,” she said. “We wanted to make clear in word and deed that our commitment is to the full spectrum of our community.” For van der Have and Carpenter, this human rights-based framework is critical to moving society beyond the complex intersections of sex, gender, and sexual orientation. Their advocacy is, at its heart, about letting people be themselves and make their own decisions about their bodies. “This is not a complex issue,” concluded Carpenter. “It’s about our fundamental human right to the autonomy of our bodies.”

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Court Bars Catholic School From Discriminating Against Married Gay Employee In ruling without appellate precedent, Massachusetts trial court rules against girls prep academy BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


ince marriage equality became legal nationwide, one question that has arisen but not been clearly answered is whether religious institutions can freely discriminate in their employment practices against married gay couples by relying on statutory religious exemptions in anti-discrimination laws or on constitutional claims. In a case involving a food service worker who lost a job with a Catholic girls school, a Massachusetts trial judge ruled on December 16 that the answer is “no,” at least when it involves a job that plays no educational role at the school.

said he could and was offered the job, which he accepted. When Barrett filled out a new employee hire form, listing his “emergency contact” as “Ed Suplee,” whom he indicated was his husband, Barnes called him into a meeting and told him he would not be hired because “he was a spouse in a same-sex marriage, which was inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Wilkins easily rejected Fontbonne’s argument that it was not engaging in sex or sexual orientation discrimination, but instead simply refusing to compromise its religious principles about same-sex marriage. As have other courts confronted with similar arguments, Wilkins did



Ed Suplee and Matthew Barrett.

Mary Ellen Barnes, who heads up the Fontbonne Academy in Milton, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Superior Court Justice Douglas H. Wilkins had to confront serious issues in interpreting the state’s anti-discrimination law before even getting to the constitutional questions in Matthew Barrett’s challenge to the Fontbonne Academy in the Boston suburb of Milton. Barrett, who has more than 20 years experience in the food services industry, applied in June 2013 to be the food services director at Fontbonne, an independently-incorporated Catholic college prep school for girls sponsored by the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Mary Ellen Barnes, the head of school, told Barrett during the hiring process that every employee is regarded as a “minister of the mission” and asked whether he could “buy into” the expectation he would “model Catholic teaching and values.” He

not accept the school’s argument distinguishing status from conduct, finding that the school’s withdrawal of the job offer involved both sexual orientation discrimination and sex discrimination, the latter because if Barrett were female and married to a man, Fontbonne would have no objection to the marriage. Wilkins then confronted a more serious interpretive problem — conflicting religious exemption provisions in the state’s anti-discrimination law. When that statute was amended in 1989 to include sexual orientation as a protected category, the religious exemption was broadened to excuse religious organizations where its actions “are calculated by such organization to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained.” Older language in the statute, however, accords the exemp-


tion only to an organization “which limits membership, enrollment, admission, or participation to members of that religion.” The record before Wilkins shows that Fontbonne does not impose this limitation in its hiring, except for narrowly defined situations that do not apply to its food services operation. In fact, the school has a formal non-discrimination policy that explicitly includes “sexual orientation,” which ironically was the basis for its argument — which Wilkins rejected — that refusing to employ a person married to someone of the same sex is not sexual orientation discrimination. Striving to “to harmonize and preserve, as much as possible, the literal meanings” of both exemption provisions, Wilkins concluded that the broader, more recent exemption applied only to “organizations that meet the limited membership clause.” Surprisingly, given that the broader exemption has been in law for more than a quarter century, Massachusetts appellate courts have not previously addressed the tension Wilkins identified. The judge, however, found some support in prior cases and from principles of statutory construction, not least the tendency to construe anti-discrimination laws broadly in support of the important public policy against discrimination. “No rule of construction provides certainty here,” Wilkins acknowledged. “They do, however, nearly all point in favor of the plaintiff’s approach.” Finding that Fontbonne did not enjoy a statutory exemption, Wilkins turned to the school’s constitutional arguments. The first — based heavily on the US Supreme Court’s 2000 ruling in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale that upheld the Boy the Scouts’ anti-gay employment policies — involved a First Amendment right of expressive association. In Dale, the high court found that the Boy Scouts were not obliged under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination to retain James Dale as an assistant scoutmaster when they learned he was a leader of the gay students organization at Rutgers University. In a nar-

row 5-4 ruling, the Court, painting Dale as a “gay rights activist,” said that requiring the Scouts to associate with him as a volunteer leader would be forcing them to broadcast a gay rights message they deemed inconsistent with their expressive function. Wilkins easily distinguished Barrett’s situation from Dale’s. Barrett is not an activist, having merely listed his husband as an “emergency contact” on a personnel form. “He was not denied employment for any advocacy of same-sex marriage or gay rights,” wrote Wilkins. “Nothing on that form suggested that Barrett claimed his marriage to have sacramental or other religious significance or that it was anything but a civil marriage relationship.” Dale’s “role as a Boy Scout leader included instilling values in the scouts themselves,” the judge wrote. “Barrett’s role would have been as Director of Food Services. That job does not include instruction, let alone any leadership role or responsibility for presenting the gospel values and teaching of the Catholic Church at Fontbonne.” Wilkins rejected the school’s argument that it was entitled to require all employees, whatever their job duties, to “model Catholic values. ” Accepting that position, he asserted, would permit “an employer to grant itself constitutional protection from anti-discrimination laws simply by saying the right words.” Wilkins found little risk that employing Barrett would mislead students and the public into thinking that Fontbonne, as a Catholic institution, somehow approved of or endorsed same-sex marriage, in light of “widespread public awareness of the civil laws allowing same-sex marriage and prohibiting employment discrimination, coupled with Fontbonne’s ability to explain its position without interference in the form of advocacy from Barrett.” He concluded that the state’s compelling interest in combatting employment discrimination against “historically disadvantaged groups” weighed heavily against Fontbonne’s position.


CATHOLIC, continued on p.22

December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |


Lesbian Mom’s Case Closer To SCOTUS Review High court temporarily blocks Alabama Supreme Court BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


lesbian mother’s quest for joint custody of the children she had adopted in Georgia and raised together with her former same-sex partner, the children’s biological mother, took a step closer to the Supreme Court on December 14, when the high court granted her a stay of an adverse ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court. V.L. is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a September 18 ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court, which refused to recognize the validity of the adoptions, having filed her petition with the court on November 16. The Supreme Court justices did not explain their grant of the stay, which is not unusual. However, as Chief Justice John Roberts explained in 2012, in an “in chambers” ruling on such a petition, a stay of a lower court decision while the Supreme Court is deciding whether to grant review is warranted when there is “(1) a reasonable probability that this Court will grant [review], (2) a fair prospect that the Court will then reverse the decision below, and (3) a likelihood that irreparable harm will result from the denial of a stay.” The high court did state that if it denies review in this case, the stay will terminate automatically, while if it grants review, the stay will be in effect as long as the case is pending before it. The Alabama Supreme Court’s refusal to recognize the Georgia adoption meant that V.L. had no legal standing to seek joint custody or visitation in the Alabama circuit court, and that an interim visitation order issued by the circuit court and affirmed by that state’s court of appeals was terminated, disrupting V.L.’s relationship with her children. Unless the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling was stayed pending appeal, V.L. and her children could suffer a prolonged period of separation, an injury for which reparation could not be made through damages or other retrospective judicial relief. Perhaps more to the point, the Alabama Supreme Court’s refusal to

recognize the Georgia adoption was a clear departure from the constitutional requirement that sister-state court judgments be accorded “full faith and credit.” The Alabama court did this by opining that the Georgia trial judge had misconstrued Georgia’s adoption statute when granting the adoption and thus that court did not have “jurisdiction” — that is, legal authority — to grant the adoption. This is a novel twist on the concept of jurisdiction, and a clear departure from the Supreme Court’s past interpretations of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. A dissenting Alabama Supreme Court justice argued that the ruling theoretically opened up to challenge any out-of-state adoption when a majority of the Alabama Supreme Court disagreed with how the courts of another state interpreted their adoption statute, leading to uncertainty in an area of the law where courts have traditionally stressed the need for certainty and stability — child custody. By granting V.L.’s stay application in this case, the Supreme Court is signaling the likelihood that it will grant review and the strong possibility that it would reverse the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling, based on Chief Justice Roberts’ 2012 explanation. Briefs from the respondent in opposition to V.L.’s petition for review are normally due at the high court a month after a petition is filed, though the court can grant an extension. Subsequent consideration of the petition at a private conference of the court would likely mean a decision on granting review a few months down the line. Review would normally have to be granted by mid-January for a case to be argued in the court term that ends in late June. Unless the justices feel particular urgency to take up this case, it might not be argued until the fall of 2016, with a decision late in 2016 or early in 2017. The temporary stay reduces the urgency, if it means that V.L.’s temporary visitation order goes back into effect — a conclusion | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016


FAMILY, continued on p.22



US Court Won’t Dismiss Sexual Orientation Claim Against College

Two former Pepperdine women’s basketball players can proceed with harassment, retaliation suit BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


S District Judge Dean D. Pregerson ruled on December 15 that two Pepperdine University students could sue the school for sexual orientation discrimination under Title IX, a federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination by educational institutions receiving federal money. The ruling — rejecting the Los Angeles area school’s motion to dismiss the discrimination claims advanced by Haley Videckis and Layana White — is the first under Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments to acknowledge an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s ruling this past summer that sexual orientation discrimination claims should be treated as sex discrimination claims under Title VII, the analogous federal law that bans workplace sex discrimination. Videckis and White are former members of the Pepperdine women’s basketball team. Their lawsuit, wrote Judge Pregerson, “arises out of allegedly intrusive and discriminatory actions that Pepperdine and its employees committed against Plaintiffs on account of Plaintiffs’ dating relationship.” The women allege that in the spring of 2014, Coach R yan Weisenberg and other team staff members “came to the conclusion that Plaintiffs were lesbians and were in a lesbian relationship.” Ryan and the staff, they say, “were concerned about the possibility of the relationship causing turmoil within the team” and so “harassed and discriminated against” them to force them to quit. Pepperdine’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit argued that Title IX does not apply to sexual orientation discrimination claims and that the plaintiffs’ allegations would not support a sex discrimination claim based on “gender stereotype discrimination.” The Title IX claims, including one for retaliation, the school asserted, “should be dismissed because they are uncertain and not legally cognizable.” Pepperdine also argued that since the


women were secretive about their relationship, they could not mount a sexual orientation discrimination or retaliation claim. “[S]exual orientation discrimination is not a category distinct from sex or gender discrimination,” Pregerson wrote. “Thus, claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation are covered by Title VII and IX, but not as a category of independent claims separate from sex and gender stereotype. Rather, claims of sexual orientation discrimination are gender stereotype or sex discrimination claims.”

gious discrimination, ‘Prove that you are a real Catholic, Mormon, or Jew.’ Just as it would be absurd to demand that a victim of alleged racial discrimination prove that he is black, it is absurd to demand a victim of alleged sex discrimination based on sexual orientation prove she is a lesbian. The contrary view would turn a Title IX trial into a broad inquisition into the personal sexual history of the victim.” The judge concluded that it “is impossible to categorically separate ‘sexual orientation discrimination’ from discrimination on the

“The line between sex discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination is ‘difficult to draw’ because that line does not exist, save as a lingering and faulty judicial construct.”

He continued, “[T]he line between sex discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination is ‘difficult to draw’ because that line does not exist, save as a lingering and faulty judicial construct.” Pregerson elaborated on his reasoning, writing, “In sexual orientation discrimination cases, focusing on the actions or appearance of the alleged victim of discrimination rather than the bias of the alleged perpetrator asks the wrong question and compounds the harm. Plaintiff’s ‘actual’ sexual orientation is irrelevant to a Title IX or Title VII claim because it is the biased mind of the alleged discriminator that is the focus of the analysis. This is especially true given that sexuality cannot be defined on a homosexual or heterosexual basis; it exists on a continuum. It is not the victim of discrimination who should be forced to put his or her sexual orientation on trial. We do not demand of a victim of alleged reli-

basis of sex or from gender stereotypes; to do so would result in a false choice.” Pointing to the former players’ claim, Pregerson wrote, “Plaintiffs allege that they were told that ‘lesbianism’ would not be tolerated on the team. If Plaintiffs had been males dating females, instead of females dating females, they would not have been subjected to the alleged different treatment. Plaintiffs have stated a straightforward claim of sex discrimination under Title IX.” Acknowledging the EEOC’s July 16 Title VII decision, Pregerson asserted that his conclusion “is in line” with that. “The EEOC concluded that ‘an employee could show that the sexual orientation discrimination he or she experienced was sex discrimination because it involved treatment that would not have occurred but for the individual’s sex; because it was based on the sex of the per-

son(s) the individual associates with; and/ or because it was premised on the fundamental sex stereotype, norm, or expectation that individuals should be attracted only to those of the opposite sex.’ For these reasons, as well as for the reasons stated in this Order, this Court agrees.” The judge also concluded the plaintiffs had alleged a plausible retaliation claim, including being forced off the basketball team when they complained about their treatment by the coaches. “Pepperdine argues that because Plaintiffs tried to hide their relationship status, they therefore never could have made a complaint about discrimination,” wrote Pregerson. “This argument is without merit. Plaintiffs clearly allege that they complained to the coaching staff and school officials about intrusive questioning and harassment to which they were subjected. The fact that Plaintiffs may never have explicitly told school officials that they were dating is irrelevant to whether they complained that they were being harassed. Again, requiring that Plaintiffs disclose their sexual orientation or relationship status improperly focuses the inquiry on the status of the victim rather than the bias of the alleged harasser, and imposes a burden that Title IX does not contemplate.” The plaintiffs are represented by Jeffrey J. Zuber and Jeremy J. Gray of Zuber Lawler & Del Duca LLP, a Los Angeles law firm. In a release this month, the Human Rights Campaign reported that at least 56 religiously-affiliated colleges and universities have sought exemptions from the US Department of Education from applying sex discrimination protections in Title IX to LGBT students. According to BuzzFeed, 60 such applications were filed in recent years, 43 of them this year, and 22 have been approved, some of them dealing with employment as well as admissions. To date, no such application has ever been denied, BuzzFeed reported. HRC is calling on the Department of Education to require schools to disclose what exemptions they have received.

December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 | | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016



Kensington Austrian Newcomer Rises to Not Bad Must pre-chic Brooklyn neighb boast a “hot” restaurant?


A table set at Werkstatt in Kensington, Brooklyn.



hen I hear a restaurant called “hot,” I usually want to turn and walk the other way. There are many terrible things about our happy-shiny new food culture, but the worst may be its lust for trendiness. So when I saw that the new Austrian restaurant near where I live in not-very-gentrified Kensington had made Eater’s list of “the hottest restaurants in Brooklyn,” I grimaced. For one thing, it was going to drive the price of housing up. But I’m human. So it also made me think of visiting and trying Werkstatt’s celery schnitzel. Some of you will remember the last restaurant from this chef, Austrian-born Thomas Ferlesch. Called Thomas Beisl (that’s German for “tavern,” more or less), it was right across the street from BAM and, at least for the two scant meals I ate there, excellent. The restaurant near BAM was white-tablecloth fancy. Werkstatt actually looks much more like the kind of working-class pub that is supposed to be conveyed by “beisl,” with a dark, drab front room full of weathered wooden tables that reminds me of the two best-loved bars near my undergraduate campus. The back room is much more chic-ified Brooklyn, with a wood-burning stove and a beautiful, hip light fixture made of amber-colored bottles suspended below a skylight. There is also an unfortunate motorcycle hanging on the wall, part of a macho overlay with a Shell oil sign and a few long picnic tables where working men can presumably besport themselves. (There are twisted wire


chairs and tables for those who need a modicum of back support.) If you’re lucky, you’ll get one of the city’s most delightful waiters, who was here every evening we tried the place (and not macho in the slightest). A short, middle-aged Brit with wonderfully nerdy, no-color glasses, he cosseted Karen and me so that every moment under his care was deliciousness, even if some of the food was not. A salad of endive, Gorgonzola, pear, and grapes ($9, a frequent special) was merely pleasant, but as we ate it the Brit elf charmed us with descriptions of the wines I was interested in, wry advice about pairings, and at my request, on-the-spot translations of the metal German signage on the walls (“In this tram, smoking or carrying a light or fire is forbidden by the police”). A Köstriker black beer from Germany (on draft, $7) had little taste but looked dramatic, served in a fetish-y thin and enormously tall glass that looked a little like a stylized boot. (I can’t entirely blame the Brit. I’d first proposed the Köstriker myself for its cool black color.) Karen, however, got Strongbow hard cider from England (also on tap, $7), with a fresh flavor that nicely mixed tart and sweet, like Macintosh apples. An entrée of chicken livers with Riesling-sautéed apples and mashed potatoes ($16) puzzled my liver-loving soul. I misread the Riesling as applying to the chicken livers and expected some appealing sweetness in their sauce, but there was none. Nor did the meat have that nice liver umami that would have gone nicely with the apples and wine. Instead, it tasted mild and like not much of anything, although it did have

a faintly unpleasant organ-y texture, so that you felt the edge of every lobe, not the silkiness I had hoped for. At least the apples and the mashed potatoes were good. Karen adored the monstrous housemade bratwurst that came with the most delicious sauerkraut I’ve ever had, tasting a little sweet from (again) a few apples mixed in with the vinegared, fermented cabbage ($16). The bratwurst itself was glorious and meaty, made from pork belly and shoulder, though on a second visit it tasted a little muted. Rösti, the Swiss-German fried grated potatoes, also came on the plate and were tasty if underseasoned. Desserts ($7) continued the pattern of hitand-miss. Mine, palatschinken, a delightfully thin crêpe with a texture like noodles, had a plentiful but inedibly oversweet filling of apricot jam. I had to work around that and just eat the noodley part, because I was still hungry. But Karen’s was the best Linzer torte I ever ate, with a rich, deep crust of hazelnut and almond providing a terrific grounding for the raspberry. Dinner number two: it’s a Saturday night and the frazzled hostess, Robin Wertheimer, who co-owns Werkstatt along with her husband, chef Ferlesch, takes her frazzlement out on us. “Can’t you just wait a moment?” she screeches, though we haven’t asked her for anything. We’ve just been waiting quietly. “Um… Sure. No problem.” It casts a bit of a pall on the meal. And instead of the motherly Brit, we get a smiley ditz who has no interest in telling us the specials (“Oh, they’re on the board over there”), freshening our drinks, or aiding us in securing anything else on the menu. Surprise: that’s the night we get the best dish of all, käse spätzle (German housemade, tiny egg noodles with cheese, $14). It’s like mac and cheese made by tough-minded angels, and comes with caramelized onions and, if you wish, bacon. It also comes with a trio of lovely and lively salads: potato salad, cucumber salad, and an interesting salad made of tomatoes. (The salads are also available as a large plate of their own, along with superb housemade dill pickles, $9). Third visit: we decide to sit at the bar, where the stools have backs and are surprisingly comfortable, and where, from 5 to 7 p.m. during the week, all drinks on tap are $5. The bartender is an attractive man with great tattoos, but he isn’t terribly attentive. Even though there are hardly any other customers at the bar. He looks off in the distance at some private dream of his own, but happily before he does so, he takes our orders: I get the Werkstatt Burger with blue cheese and bacon-onion marmalade ($15, plus $1.50 each for toppings). What can I say? It’s a burger with blue cheese and something made


WERKSTATT, continued on p.19

December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |


WERKSTATT, from p.18

from bacon and onions: heavenly. The umami quality of my dreams. But it seems a little chintzy to charge $18 for it just because it has some cheese and a housemade condiment. It may not be intentional, but I found Werkstatt’s description of the burger’s sourcing a bit misleading: the chopped meat is described on the menu as “Sterling Silver beef,” which I guessed, before I did any research, was the name of some local farm, the way a menu’s chicken might be described as Goffle Road or Bobo. But it turns out that Sterling Silver merely designates a line of feedlot beef and pork from Cargill, the giant agribusiness concern that is arguably the largest meatpacking company in the US, as well as a major player in feed, fuel, and fertilizer. The Sterling Silver line is supposed to be “premium,” yes, but that only applies to its level of marbling, i.e. the number of months the animal has spent putting on fat from environmentally detrimental corn-feeding in overcrowded feedlots. Sterling Silver meat is not hormone- or antibiotic-free, and the designation does not guarantee that the animal had an all-vegetarian diet, either. Cargill boasts on the Sterling Silver website that all of its slaughterhouses are designed by humane-slaughter engineer Temple Grandin, but then again, half of all US slaughterhouses are.

Good thing it tasted so good. Werkstatt sources all its beef and almost all its pork from Sterling Silver, but the chicken is hormone- and antibiotic-free. I almost never order cocktails, because even one can make me fall in the street, but along with my delicious feedlot burg I spring for Werkstatt’s signature cocktail, an homage to the pink grapefruit, a fruit that I love. It’s made from Giffard pamplemousse (a pink grapefruit liqueur from France), Schöfferhoffer grapefruit beer, and sparkling wine ($11), and is fantastically celebratory, ass-kicking, delicious. Karen orders an odd special that combines calamari, kielbasa, and garlic aioli ($12); she finds it thrilling, but to me it is a little muddy in texture and taste. But with it she gets a glass of Baumgartner zweigelt, a marvelous, rough, and raspy red wine from Austria, one of several interesting wines on tap. It’s our best evening here. We’re having a wonderful time; we sit very close to each other at the bar. The place is definitely gay-friendly enough. I forgot to mention that the music here is great, with lots of Johnny Cash and old blues. The two straight men at the bar share the most gigantic, baked pretzel I’ve ever seen ($9, served with a crock of Liptauer cheese). Wertheimer, the hostess, says goodbye to us tenderly at the door. We will come back: it’s a lot of fun, and we live only a short walk away. But one of the hottest restaurants in the borough?

If you’re lucky, you’ll get one of the city’s most delightful waiters, who was here every evening we tried the place (and not macho in the slightest).

Werkstatt (“workshop” in German), open Monday-Friday, 5-p.m. and 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, is at 509 Coney Island Avenue near Turner Place, a short block from Church Avenue (; 718-284-5800). Cash and American Express only; there is an ATM on premises. The front room is wheelchair accessible, and there is one accessible restroom.

168 West 4th Street, NYC



A traditional Spanish and Mexican restaurant located in New York’s West Village neighborhood.



Our menu showcases the simple reflective food flavors of Spain. Using the best ingredients and implementing a simplistic technique resulting in a clean, dynamic presentation, creating memorable dining experiences through passionately created culinary dishes, many of which are prepared in the wood-fire oven, including our signature dish, Paella Valenciana.




Hello, FADA





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ere’s some holiday cheer — oh, excuse me, Christmas cheer (my liberal comrades are at war with Christianity, don’t you know, but I’m trying to promote peace and goodwill in what the right wing has turned into a season of bile and hate) — from Kira Lerner of ThinkProgress: “Six of the Republican candidates vying for the presidency have signed a pledge pr omising to support legislation during their first 100 days in the White House that would use the guise of ‘religious liberty’ to give individuals and businesses the right to openly discriminate against LGBT people. T ed Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee vowed to push for the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), legislation that would prohibit the federal government from stopping discrimination by people or businesses that believe ‘marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman’ or that ‘sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.’” That last bit is extraordinary in that it instantly provides common cause between the LGBT and straight frat boy communities. Salon’s Heather Digby Parton continues, using Donald Trump’s loony admiration for the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin as a springboard: “Apparently, Bush, Graham, Paul, and Trump have also publicly expressed support for FADA. In the name of freedom, of course, just as the old Soviets would have done. These liberty lovers may shake their fists and pretend they are in opposition to Putin’s tyrannical ways, but when you get down to it they’re all on the same page.” Apologies for the redundant “Trump’s loony.” I’m confident that 2016’s Word of the Year will be “trumpy,” defined as “monomaniacally lunatic, crazy, mad, or insane.” The paragraphs I quote above are translations, of course. In the original Fascist, the story reads like this: “Congress should act now to pass the First Amendment Defense Act. The purpose of FADA is only to prevent

the federal government from discriminating in, for example, the provision of contracts, grants, and employment against those of us who believe in the natural, historical, and biblical definition of marriage. FADA would not usurp the authority of state laws and governments or govern disputes solely between private parties, and it does not encourage discrimination against people because they identify as homosexual or transgendered. FADA simply provides protections for those who disagree with the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage.” (From an opinion piece in the Indianapolis Star by Ron Johnson, Jr., of the Indiana Pastors Alliance.)

2016’s Word of the Year will be “trumpy,” defined as “monomaniacally lunatic, crazy, mad, or insane.”

Encouragingly, there’s a squeak or two of dissent from the right. Walter Olson of the Cato Institute, the self-described “libertarian” but in fact radical right, Koch-founded DC think tank, writes in a Newsweek op-ed: “The sum of this would be to create an extremely broad new category of anti-discrimination law — retaliatory discrimination based on a certain set of beliefs or acts — which would offer protected group status to powerful institutions as well as individuals, and afford very valuable legal leverage: recipients of federal subsidies, for example, could challenge any cutoff as motivated at least ‘partially’ by political animus. Astoundingly, the protection would run in one direction only: It would cover those who favor traditional definitions of marriage, while leaving those who might see merit in samesex marriage or cohabitation or non-marital sex perfectly exposed to being fired, audited, or cut off from public funds in retaliatory ways.” Dale Carpenter continues on this

theme in the Washington Post: “This points to a constitutional problem with the bill that Olson does not discuss but that seems potentially grave. By offering government support and protection to only one set of ‘beliefs’ (and necessarily to speech expressing those beliefs) in the debate over same-sex marriage (and the morality of sex outside such marriages), the FADA draws an explicit distinction based on viewpoint. Such distinctions are among the most disfavored ones in constitutional law because they involve government partisanship in favor of a particular set of ideas. Speakers are constitutionally protected from government action that penalizes (or even simply denies benefits or subsidies) based on viewpoint. But even speakers whose viewpoints on a subject are beleaguered politically and culturally, as traditional marriage supporters say their ideas are, aren’t entitled to government action that grants them special rights, exemptions, and protections unavailable to others with opposing viewpoints on the very same subject. The First Amendment Defense Act has the special property of assailing the thing it purports to defend.” Olson again: “It would appear to establish legal protection for acts taken ‘as’ federal employees, with federal money, and even acts clothed with official authority. It’s here that FADA really does seem not just to lay down a marker on behalf of future Kim Davises, but even to go much further. Relatively few government employees have marriage recordation as one of their job duties, but many of them have job duties that involve recognizing already-wed couples as married, in the handling of joint tax returns, pensions and mortgage programs, student aid programs, and federal employee benefits, crime investigation, and on and on. If FADA is to be taken at face value, it appears to protect a federal clerk working through a stack of survivorship benefit papers who declines to process one for a gay couple.” Back to Carpenter: “This points to a second potential constitutional defect that Olson doesn’t analyze. By singling out same-sex couples in the way FADA does (although the drafters were clever enough to encompass objections to all non-marital sexual acts as well), the


MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.21

December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |


Against Gay Human Rights in Africa… Or, Activists Are Always Wrong BY KELLY COGSWELL


ctivists are always being told to shut up, sit down, go away — by people in their own movements. “Honey catches more flies than vinegar,” they say. Or, “The patient dog eats the fattest bone.” The specter of backlash is also raised, as if the black activist were responsible for racism. As if the queer ones were responsible for homophobia that would have probably gone away by itself like a bad cold if we had just hunkered down and eaten some soup. And somehow, these conservative, complicit forces rewrite history to take the credit when proven wrong. The local black luminaries who attacked MLK were practically photo-shopped in beside him there in DC, or Selma. The queer institutions that sidelined activists, and tried to discourage a certain group of rogue lawyers from petitioning the Supreme Court to end the ban on same-sex marriage, were first in line with their celebrations and press releases and demands for donations when the case was actually won. No wonder that the New York Times can still publish articles like the tendentious “Support of Gay Rights in Africa May Hurt,” which is just another argument for silence and inaction tarted up with a juicy pseudo, neo-colonial twist. We’re being told once again that the locals, in this case, Nigerian queers, were better off before activists got involved. And also that the current backlash is all the fault of Americans and their tame little proxies. For the record, local queers have been activists in Africa long before they starting getting outside help. One of the oldest being Gays And


Lesbians Of Zimbabwe (GALZ), founded in 1990. Second, Nigerian queers were not somehow okay before activists got involved, unless isolation, fear, stigma, shame, and violence don't count. And finally, are we really expected to believe that a few years of cautious US State Department reminders that queers, too, have human rights and modestly funded local queer activities suddenly spurred Nigeria into a homophobic, gay-hating mess? Really? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn’t make her famous “Gay rights are human rights” speech until late in 2011. Obama didn’t properly evolve and make his own speeches until the following year. In fact, up through the Bush administration,

Mugabe launched the campaign, telling his citizens it was their duty to arrest queers, citing the law of nature, morals, and society. Most importantly, he attacked homosexuality as “un-African,” a phenomenon of colonists and whites. This gave him a convenient domestic enemy to distract his citizens from the usual ills of poverty and dictatorship. His techniques were quickly echoed in Zambia, Uganda, and, of course, Namibia, where government ministers denounced “un-African” homosexuality and demanded our elimination. Namibia’s marginally better tyrant, President Sam Nujoma, euphemistically said we should be uprooted. He actually sent queers fleeing in 2001 when he

For the record, local queers have been activists in Africa long before they starting getting outside help.

the US was still joining forces with the likes of the Vatican, Iran, and Saudi Arabia to squish every mention of LGBT rights in global antiAIDS efforts. In 2001, we even went so far as to fight to exclude queer issues from the UN-sponsored World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. If Nigeria recently exploded in homophobia, it’s less because of specific activist groups or their meager American funders than because the entire African continent has been swept by a wave of gay scapegoating for the last two decades. In 1995 in Zimbabwe, the opposition-massacring dictator Robert

MEDIA CIRCUS, from p.20

bill excuses and protects discrimination and refusals of service to them throughout their lives and in every area of law. There’s now a very good argument based on federal precedents that discrimination against married same-sex couples is a form of sexual orientation or sex discrimination that is | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016

not only characterized us as public enemies, but called for lesbians and gay men to be arrested and deported or imprisoned. Anti-gay campaigns weren’t only in Africa’s south or west. In Egypt, in 2001, the government put 52 men on trial for “contempt of heavenly religions,” while the newspapers discussed whether homosexuals should be given a chance to repent before they were burned or stoned. The irony, of course, is that for years, in order to finance their cynical local campaigns against “foreign” or “colonial” or “European” or “American” homosexuality, African homophobes have been gobbling up the money of white,

tively unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause.” We can only hope that Carpenter’s arguments are sound enough to convince Congress not to pass this odious bill. Sometimes when I write this column I have the feeling that I’m not really covering the media but, instead, writing a sick comedy routine about a parody USA that’s been taken over by

extremist, right-wing American Christians, from Pat Robertson to the deep-pocketed National Christian Foundation. And not just the money, but also the guidance, support, strategizing, and overall clout. That is barely featured in the New York Times article, which also ignores the fact that African governments’ queer scapegoating is largely driven by political opportunism, as is the case of most state-sponsored scapegoating. The backlash the Times frets about is to a great extent manufactured — by corrupt African politicians, US Christian Right interlopers, and a local yellow press. It’s not particularly spontaneous, or “provoked” by home-grown queer activists and their meager, progressive American funding. In fact, the outsized, poisonous role the American Christian Right is playing in Africa should be, in itself, more than enough reason for other Americans to pour millions into LGBT projects in the region. The fact that the New York Times actually thinks there are any cases of LGBT abuses in which we might be better on the sidelines makes me want to puke. The only question is what exactly we should do to help, not if we should. Money, of course, is the easiest option. Nigerian queers shouldn’t have to apologize for taking American dollars, when they’d be bashed as foreign agents anyway. Americans shouldn’t apologize for giving them. Especially since, by helping queer activists, we also bolster elements of democracy like freedom of speech and assembly. If we fight violence against queers, we make Nigeria a more peaceful place. Fighting for trans women or dykes, we improve the lives of all women in a country where their status is dire. Now, more than ever, we rise and fall together. Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.

prisoners who have escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane. In this case, even I don’t find the sick joke to be funny. And the prisoners haven’t escaped. They’ve been pardoned and set free by the Republican National Committee with the support of half the nation. We’re doomed. Merry Christmas. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.



Assault as a Hate Crime Conviction in 2014 Bushwick Attack on Transgender Woman Mashawn Sonds, facing 25 years, to be sentenced January 16, while Kimy Hartman continues to recover BY PAUL SCHINDLER


CATHOLIC, from p.14

Wilkins responded similarly to the school’s attempt to invoke the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause through the “ministerial exception” that the Supreme Court has ruled must be incorporated in all anti-discrimination laws. A 2012 Supreme Court ruling recognizing this exemption involved a school employee who was formally titled as a minister by the church and whose job duties involved “important religious functions.” “The fact that an employee has been ordained or commissioned as a minister is surely relevant, as is the fact that significant religious training and a recognized religious mission underlie the description of the employee’s position,” the high court said. “Indisputably,” wrote Wilkins, “none of these considerations apply to Barrett’s position as Director of Food Services. He has no duties as an administrator or teacher of religious matters.” The school’s attempt to base this exemption on its




ashawn Sonds, a 26-year -old resident of 36 Hegeman Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn, has been convicted of first-degree assault as a hate crime, in the October 2014 attack on Kimball “Kimy” Hartman, a 29-year-old transgender woman. According to a release from Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, Sonds and others approached Hartman and a gay male friend at 11:20 p.m. on October 12 on Bushwick Avenue near Halsey Street, when one of Sonds’ group shouted, “We don’t want faggots on our block,” and other anti-gay slurs. Thompson’s statement said that Sonds then picked up a plexiglass two-by-four and smashed it into Hartman’s head, causing severe injuries. Hartman was knocked unconscious from the blow and went into a seizure, suf-

fering profuse bleeding and a traumatic brain injury. Hartman underwent surgery on her skull, but will, according to the DA, likely suffer permanent injuries. Hartman, after initially being taken to Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, was transferred to the Bellevue Hospital T raumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit in Manhattan, from which she was released three weeks later on November 3. Kate Barnhart, executive director of New Alternatives for Homeless LGBT Youth, where the victim had been a client, told Gay City News at the time of her release that Hartman would require 24-hour supervision at home while taking 10 medications and engaged in intensive outpatient brain rehabilitation. Barnhart said that as of that date, Hartman still required additional neurosurgery to replace a missing portion of her skull. Sonds, who was tried before

Mashawn Sonds, convicted of first-degree assault as a hate crime in the October 12, 2014 attack on Kimy Hartman, a 29-year-old transgender woman.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun and convicted on December 18, will be sentenced on January 16 and faces up to 25 years in prison. Thompson’s release stated that the conviction was the first by the newly-created Hate Crime Unit, which is part of the Brooklyn DA’s Civil Rights Bureau.

statement that “each of its employees is a ‘minister of the mission’” goes beyond what the Supreme Court authorized in 2012, he concluded. “Indeed,” wrote Wilkins, “to apply the ‘ministerial’ exception here would allow all religious schools to exempt all of their employees from employment discrimination laws simply by calling their employees ministers.” After granting Barrett’s motion for summary judgment and denying Fontbonne’s motion, Wilkins directed the parties to “address whether this case needs to be scheduled for a trial on damages,” which was an open invitation for them to negotiate a settlement instead. Given the lack of any appellate precedent in Massachusetts on this issue, it seems likely that Fontbonne will seek to appeal, which would put off any settlement or trial on damages. Given the nature of the case, an appeal would probably bypass the intermediate appeals court and go directly to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. Fontbonne would find

FAMILY, from p.15

that is not certain until the lower Alabama courts address the scope of the stay. V.L. is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, cooperating attorneys from the Washington office of Jenner & Block LLP, and Birmingham, Alabama, counsel Traci Owen Vella of the Vella & King firm and Heather Fann of Boyd, Fernambucq, Dunn & Fann, P.C. The lead Jenner & Block attorney on the case is Paul M. Smith, who argued the appeal in Lawrence v. Texas that resulted in the Supreme Court striking down laws against consensual gay sex in 2003.


According to the New York Daily News, on December 16, Tyquan Eversley, 18, pleaded guilty to his involvement in the attack — including hurling a can of trash at Hartman as Sonds was grabbing the plexiglass two-by-four — and was sentenced to 16 months to four years based on his status as a juvenile at the time of the crime. “I don’t know how many breaks you’ve received, but this one may be your biggest break,” Chun told Eversley, according to the Daily News. The attack was investigated by NYPD Detective Michael Diaz of the Hate Crimes Task Force. Detective James Menton, of the Bronx Special Victims Squad, assisted in Sonds’ apprehension. The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Marc Fliedner, chief of the Civil Rights Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Carlos Santiago, also a member of that unit.

no lack of free assistance from litigation groups dedicated to combating gay rights laws and expanding religious opt-outs, such as Liberty Counsel or Alliance Defending Freedom, which have appeared as pro bono counsel in numerous cases around the country. Barrett also relies on free counsel, from the Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), which is representing him. Attorneys working on the case include Bennett Klein, Gary Buseck, the group’s former executive director, and the group’s founder, John Ward. GLAD’s track record in the courts has been stellar, including winning marriage equality in Massachusetts in 2003 and successfully challenging the Defense of Marriage Act in the federal district court and at the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Wilkins’ decision in the Barrett case comes as the Human Rights Campaign reported that at least 56 religiously-affiliated colleges and universities have sought exemptions from the US Department of Education from applying sex discrimination protections in Title IX of the 1972 Education Act to LGBT students. According to BuzzFeed, 60 such applications were filed in recent years, 43 of them this year, and 22 have been approved, some of them dealing with employment as well as admissions. To date, no such application has ever been denied, BuzzFeed reported. HRC is calling on the Department of Education to require schools to disclose what exemptions they have received. December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |


AFTER ESPA, from p.8 | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016


The board leaders at ESPA appear ready to let that window close. “Pride Agenda Board leaders last week had constructive conversations with some former Executive Directors and others about the work that lies ahead for our community,” Norman C. Simon, chair of the Pride Agenda and co-chair of its affiliated educational Foundation, wrote in a December 23 email to Gay City News. “Our discussions were fully consistent with our Boards’ already-announced commitment to engage LGBT partner organizations about our transition of remaining programmatic work, and to explore how our PAC may serve as a means of having a continuing voice in electoral politics... The Boards stand by and are not reversing their unanimous decision that the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation, Inc. and the Empire State Pride Agenda Inc. will wind down major operations in 2016.” Asked a day before Simon sent that statement how he would move forward should the group decline his recommendation, Dadey said, “I am always interested in discussing the future of the LGBT community.” Simon’s doubling down on the group’s decision to close up shop will be unwelcome news to Libby Post, a co-founder of ESPA in 1990 and board member for three years after that. Like Foreman and Dadey, she complained about being given “no clue” as to what was afoot. When she sent the group $500 after attending the October dinner in Manhattan, Post, who runs both the New York Animal Protection Federation and Communications Services in Albany, received a thank-you letter assuring her of ESPA’s commitment to continue the fight. After the December 12 announcement, she called Simon and Nathan Schaefer, ESPA’s executive director, to complain about their assertion they had accomplished “the Pride Agenda’s top remaining policy priority.” Post was told, she said, “that it’s all about the money” — a direct contradiction of what the two have said publically. Post worries about who will defend the annual legislative appropriations for the LGBT Health and Human Services Network, which in each of recent years have provided just under $5 million for more than 50 non-profit service groups statewide. She also noted that with

Hillary Clinton likely to be on the ballot in 2016, a record turnout in New York could well flip the State Senate to the Democrats, opening up the chance to move on longstalled LGBT initiatives like the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and a ban on so-call “conversion therapy” on minors. “And they’re not there?,” she said of ESPA. “That’s insane.” Stuart Appelbaum, an ESPA board member since 2008, told Gay City News that he has been in conversations with other community leaders about “a new model for expressing the political voice of the LGBTQ community.” In the view of Appelbaum, who is the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said, “There has to be credibility to that voice which comes from who is represented as opposed to coming from well-meaning donors.” He explained, “We are looking for a movement model, not a corporate model. Look at what the Pride Agenda did. It spoke only for the board and was not accountable to anyone else or to the community. The board members are not necessarily people engaged on the issues. They could get resources, but that does not make them qualified to make decisions.” The type of model he has in mind, Appelbaum said, is the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, which has a small staff but, given that its constituent members include most leading Jewish organizations, it is the nation’s “most powerful Jewish voice because it has the credibility of who they speak for.” Fred Selvaggi, an entertainment industry business manager who headed up the Pride Agenda board during the battle for marriage equality, is also unhappy with ESPA’s decision. He told Gay City News, “I am committed to making sure the LGBT community has a voice in Albany and everywhere where it needs one in New York State.” Juli Grey-Owens, a former board member of six years, is now focused on advancing the political voice of the transgender community going forward. The executive director of the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NYTAC), she was part of a group of advocates that pressed Governor Andrew Cuomo, in the wake of his October announcement of new

Juli Grey-Owens (l.), Senator Brad Hoylman, and Grey-Owen’s wife Barbara.

State Human Rights Division regulations protecting the transgender community, to make GENDA a priority in 2016. Grey-Owens said she wondered what was going on with ESPA when staff members there told her at that time that “the regs were it, and the group would not keep pushing on GENDA” — something the Pride Agenda was not yet saying publically. NYTAC, Grey-Owens said, will be formalizing its structure by seeking 501c3 status from the IRS, allowing its donors to deduct donations on their tax returns. She is also involved in an effort to forge a new statewide political group, Trans Act, drawing on and amplifying the efforts of existing groups and activists. She specifically mentioned conversations she’s had with Kiara St. James, a transgender activist in New York City credited with helping push the issue of transgender women’s access to city shelters. She said NYTAC has received $15,000 in funding to hold five community forums, as yet unscheduled, statewide. Grey-Owens welcomed the opportunity to work with a broader LGBT effort should one emerge, but said, “I think it’s very important for a trans-driven group to be part of the discussion. It’s obvious.” Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, noting that “there’s still an enormous amount of work to do,” said, “It’s important that all stakeholders come together to figure out what steps we can take to continue moving forward for the trans community. When I talk about stakeholders, I am talking about upstate and downstate, people of color, trans men and women, a diversity of ages and of income.”

Carl Siciliano, the founder of the Ali Forney Center, which provides housing and services to homeless LGBT youth across the city, saying he was “ very sad to see the Pride Agenda go,” argued, “I think there is a pressing need for an inside political voice that can has political muscle and can put pressure on Albany on behalf of the LGBT community. For advocacy, you want people on the inside and on the outside. Having the Pride Agenda on the inside, I could be more critical in my statements.” Joking that one of his reactions upon hearing the news was, “Shit, I’m going to have to spend more time in Albany,” Siciliano said the burden of picking up ESPA’s slack would fall hardest on smaller upstate advocacy and service groups. From the standpoint of legislative advocates for the community, the role ESPA played was also critical. “I definitely think a phoenix needs to rise from the ashes,” said out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman, who is the lead sponsor on the bill to outlaw “conversion therapy” on minors and on a measure to end the ban on gestational therapy. “Advocacy matters.” Hoylman also told Gay City News, “It’s very, very important to have a group to engage the wider public. The Senate minority is starved of resources to promote an LGBT agenda statewide.” Hoylman’s Democratic colleague Daniel Squadron, who represents Lower Manhattan and portions of Brooklyn and is the lead sponsor on GENDA, said the group’s decision “makes me concerned about advocacy on the many outstanding critical LGBT issues moving forward,” mentioning specifically that bill, Hoylman’s “conversion therapy” measure, and statewide social service spending.



Lesbian, Transgender Themes Led the Year in Queer BY GARY M. KRAMER


Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, first-time actors who starred in Sean Baker’s “Tangerine.”

Bisexuality, blurring sexuality’s lines prominent, while gay male fiction films sagged




n 2015, the LGBT films that received the most attention ranged from the sublime to ridiculous. On the plus side, there was “Carol,” out filmmaker Todd Haynes’ outstanding adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, “The Price of Salt,” about lesbian desire in the 1950s. The film was another unqualified success for Haynes, and actresses Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett were indelible as the lovers. Another breakout hit was “Tangerine,” Sean Baker’s funky little comedy, shot entirely on an iPhone. The film featured two motor mouthed transgender prostitutes Sin-dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) wandering around Los Angeles on Christmas Eve. The film thrived on its characters’ manic energy, and it had tremendous heart. However, on the negative side, gay filmmaker Roland Emmerich’s “Stonewall” got a stoning from critics, who found the film cringe-inducing. Even before its release, “Stonewall” was criticized for “whitewashing,” having a fictional white male hero as the central character in a story that should be about the many transgender activists, drag queens, and queer people of color who fomented social change. Perhaps because of boycotts or simply bad reviews, audiences stayed away in droves. The film averaged $875 per screen on opening weekend, and closed in 21 days. There were highs and lows this year for out actors. Lily Tomlin earned raves for her performance as the title character in “Grandma,” a tough talking lesbian feminist who helps her granddaughter (Julia Garner) procure an abortion. Tomlin’s feistiness was the film’s biggest asset, and generated much of the film’s humor. In contrast, out actress Ellen Page’s passion project, “Freeheld” was met with a lukewarm reception, both critically and commercially. Page co-starred with new-

Cate Blanchett in Todd Haynes’ “Carol,” adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel, “The Price of Salt.”

ly-minted Oscar winner Julianne Moore as Stacie Andree and Laurel Hester, the lesbian couple who fought for domestic partner pension benefits when Laurel, a county police lieutenant, developed terminal cancer. The film was best in its tender scenes between the lovers, but lacked emotional pull in its grandstanding moments. One of the best lesbian films of

the year was Peter Strickland’s sensual “The Duke of Burgundy,” a distinctive, ecstatic, and arch romantic drama about lesbian lepidopterists who practice S&M. Besides “Tangerine,” films that led with transgender characters this year included Eric Shaeffer’s romantic roundelay, “Boy Meets Girl,” about Ricky (Michelle Hendley), a transitioning teen, and her

friends; the fine Australian drama “52 Tuesdays,” from Sophie Hyde, about a teenager’s (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) relationship with her gender transitioning mother (Del Herbert-Jane); and “The Danish Girl,” Tom Hooper’s handsomely mounted but impassive film featuring Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne, as the transgender pioneer Lili Elbe. Gay filmmaker François Ozon teased out a tale of transvestism in his fabulous comedy-drama “The New Girlfriend” about a cross-dresser (Romain Duris) whose secret is discovered by his late wife’s best friend. Gay men had a rough year at the movies, at least as fictional stories went. In “Legend,” Tom Hardy had a terrific dual role as the Kray twins, and yet the sexuality of the gay brother, Ronnie, was largely unexplored despite some frank discussions of his sexual interests. Robin Williams’ final starring role, as a sexually repressed gay man in the dull and obvious “Boulevard” felt contrived, rather than poignant. And while the biopic “Saint Laurent” looked as fabulous as star Gaspar Ulliel, the overlong film was all style, no substance. Bisexuals possibly had their best on screen in 2015. Desiree Akhavan’s “Appropriate Behavior” was a hilarious deadpan comedy about looking for love, having sex, and failing to connect with anyone. It was an auspicious feature debut. Likewise, the naughty couples in the adult sleepover film, “The Overnight,” were testing their boundaries with some same-sex seductions — when not participating in an unforgettable nude scene. Also exploring their queer sides were Matthew Broderick’s milquetoast character in Neil LaBute’s caustic “Dirty Weekend,” and Jack Black, whose bromance with James Marsden in Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel’s underrated and underseen film “The D Train” was both unsettling and fascinating.


QUEER YEAR, continued on p.25

December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |


Kiril Emelyanov, Daniil Vorobyov, and Olivier Rabourdin in Robin Campillo’s “Eastern Boys.”


QUEER YEAR, from p.24

One of the best queer non-fiction films this year was Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s divine comedy “The Best of Enemies” about debaters Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. Less impressive was the middling comedy, “Do I Sound Gay?” where filmmaker David Thorpe talked out of both sides of his mouth as he explores the vocal stereotypes of gay men. There were two terrific docs about gay men and hoaxes this year. “An Honest Liar,” chronicled James “The Amazing” Randi, a skeptical magician who came out at 81 and spent his life debunking fake psychics and the like, only to be involved in a real-world deception. “The Yes Men Are Revolting,” featured the openly gay Andy Bichlbaum worrying that his activist work (with his business partner Mike Bonanno) staging pranks against corporations will prevent him from settling down with a romantic partner. “Dior and I” was a fashionable doc by out filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng, a gorgeous portrait of Raf Simons as he took the helm of the Parisian haute couture house. “Tab Hunter Confidential,” adapting the actor’s eponymous book, was also enjoyable, exploring his closeted days in Hollywood and the happiness he found in his off-screen relationships with men, including Tony Perkins. Gay actors starred in some rather mediocre films this year. Queer icon Ian McKellen had a big indie film hit, as the literary sleuth in out director Bill Condon’s “Mr. Holmes,” but the film itself was mysteriously underwhelming. And while “Magic Mike XXL” didn’t take off at the box office (earning about half of what the first male stripper film made), gay actor Matt Bomer looked good taking it off. Alas, his Ken-doll character was a skin-deep as the film.

Some of the hottest nude and sex scenes in cinemas featured queer couplings. Gaspar Noé’s audacious “Love,” shot in glorious 3-D, featured a threesome with Karl Glusman (of “Stonewall”) and his coming-at-you penis, and his female co-stars Aomi Muyock and Klara Kristin. There was also an awkward encounter with a trans character. “Love” wasn’t for all tastes, but it was — ahem, in some respects — impressive. “Future Beach” by out filmmaker Karim Aïnouz, was a superb drama about two men who bond when one’s friend drowns. The film featured an elliptical narrative, raw emotion, and plenty of sex and skin. Arguably, the best films of the year had queer twists. The outstanding French entry “Eastern Boys” started out like a sex film about a Ukrainian hustler, but it become a tense and touching love story. Director /writer Robin Campillo’s film was a quietly powerful drama about exploited illegal immigrants. Writer/ director/star Sebastián Silva’s “Nasty Baby” took an unexpected (and for some, unappreciated) narrative turn when an interracial gay couple (Silva and Tunde Adebimpe) helping their friend Polly (Kristen Wiig) have a baby, got involved in something quite sinister. “Nasty Baby” may have left a bad taste in viewers’ mouths, but it was memorable. Finally, one of the most enjoyable queer-themed films this year was writer/ director/ star Lawrence Michael Levine’s delicious farce “Wild Canaries.” Levine and his real-life wife Sophia Takal co-starred as a couple, who — along with their lesbian roommate Jean (Alia Shawkat) — try to solve a possible murder in their Brooklyn apartment building. The film is a real gem, and it’s worth everyone’s while to seek it out. | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016

LeslieLohman_MOD_12-2015.pdf 1 12/8/2015 12:28:02 PM

Medium of Desire An International Anthology of Photography and Video

December 18, 2015 - March 16, 2016









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



About Women, Even If Still Not Often By Women



Viggo Mortensen in Lisandro Alonso’s “Jauja.”

Maika Monroe in David Robert Mitchell’s “It Follows.”

Charlize Theron, trans newcomer Mya Taylor standouts in year with sharp takes on Jackson Heights, Chicago, Tehran BY STEVE ERICKSON


was a good year for films about women, which is reflected on my top 10 list, but not such a good year for films by women. Increasingly, Hollywood’s inability to employ more than a token percentage of female directors is getting attention, but the problem exists worldwide. Only in the documentary and avant-garde niches do female directors come close to parity. Most of the world’s prominent film festivals showed a tiny percentage of films by women in their competition sections this year. Of course, much of the problem lies with production: festivals can’t show films that aren’t being made. The suicide last fall of Belgian lesbian filmmaker Chantal Akerman, whose “Jeanne Dielman” is one of the best films made by a director of any gender and a feminist landmark, cast a pall over this year’s New York Film Festival. At least we have the April 2016 release of her final film, “No Home Movie,” to look forward to.


1. “The Assassin” (Hou Hsiao-hsien) The anti-“Kill Bill,” Hou’s 9th century wu xia epic refrains from making its title character into a feminist role model or even a kickass anti-heroine. As storytelling, it’s both stripped-down and convoluted, but evoking the texture of ancient China seems to be the director’s highest priority. He has a long track record behind him, but this might be his most beautiful film yet. 2. “Jauja” (Lisandro Alonso) It takes guts to cast Viggo Mortensen in your film and then refrain from having him speak a word of English. “Jauja” goes back to the roots of Europeans’ arrival in South America and finds something weird and twisted. It’s the kind of anti-colonial film that David Lynch might have made; were it a ‘70s artifact, it would have become a cult classic. 3. “Tangerine” (Sean Baker) My favorite LGBT -themed film of the year is a screwball comedy about the struggles of two transgender sex workers in LA that does justice to both the humor and mis-

ery of their lives. Shot on an iPhone, it features orange-tinged cinematography — hence the title — that shows the potential of cheap technology to create gorgeous images. Something’s screwed-up when a film gets hailed as revolutionary in 2015 for casting trans actresses — including the excellent Mya Taylor — as trans characters. 4. “Mad Max: Fury Road” (George Miller) Most blockbusters feel machinemade. George Miller’s comeback is a powerful blast of visceral filmmaking, as unexpected as it is refreshing. Charlize Theron’s onearmed bad-ass heroine breaks Hollywood taboos about disability and gender, as the film sets its title character aside most of the time and pushes its characters toward the formation of a matriarchy. 5. “It Follows” (David Robert Mitchell) A post-HIV body horror film, “It Follows” exists in dialogue with late ‘70s/ early ‘80s John Carpenter and David Cronenberg. Mitchell creates a sexually transmitted monster without bothering to explain

how it came about, borrowing the notion that danger potentially hides in every person from Carpenter’s “The Thing.” The film takes place in a recognizable Middle America, but it also exists in a world of its own. 6. “About Elly” (Asghar Farhadi) Made in 2009 but released this year due to legal disputes with its bankrupt original distributor, “About Elly” might startle American audiences with its depiction of the Westernized lifestyle of Tehran’s middle class. Then it turns into a mystery and shows how much work — and how many lies — go into upholding such a life. 7. “The Iron Ministry” (J. P. Sniadecki) A graduate of Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, which brought us the instant-classic “Leviathan,” J. P. Sniadecki bridges abstraction and humanism. His documentary on train travel in China, filmed over the course of several years, offers both beauty and sociology. It has insights large and small into the rapidly changing country.


TOP 10, continued on p.27

December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |

Jacob a. Riis revealing new york’s other half OSCILLOSCOPE LABORATORIES

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


TOP 10, from p.26

8. “The Wonders” (Alice Rohrwacher) C ras h in g t h e b o y s ’ c l u b o f Cannes, Alice Rohrwacher offered up an investigation into what it means to drop out in contemporary Europe. She profiles a family of beekeepers who work too hard to be hippies yet are too disgusted by the culture around them to fit in to the world around them. Then they get an opportunity to be on reality TV, and the resulting friction speaks volumes about modern Italy. 9. “Chi-raq” (Spike Lee) After years of floundering, Spike Lee managed to hit the zeitgeist of American anger, disgust, and frustration with gun violence. Deliberately jagged and jarring, his film stops dead in its tracks for a powerful 10-minute sermon but stays raunchy and funny most of the time. Who knew Greek comedy — “L ysistrata,” in this case — could be so easily and thoughtfully adapted to present-day Chicago?

“In Jackson Heights” (Frederick Wiseman) While there are a few scenes here that I would’ve chopped if I were Wiseman, “In Jackson Heights” does the valuable work of simultaneously celebrating the diversity of the titular Queens neighborhood — including many glimpses of its vibrant LGBT community — and sounding a warning alarm about its impending gentrification. I wish that Wiseman were around filming Williamsburg 20 years ago. Runners-up: “Amy” (Asif Kapadia), “The Duke of Burgundy” (Peter Strickland), “Güeros” (Alonso Ruizpalacios), “Heart of a Dog” (Laurie Anderson), “Inside Out” (Pete Docter), “Lil’ Quinquin” (Bruno Dumont), “The Look of Silence” (Joshua Oppenheimer), “My Friend Victoria” (Jean-Paul Civeyrac), “Office” (Johnnie To), and “Unfriended” (Leo Gabriadze). Undistributed films deserving of attention: “88:88” (Isiah Medina), “Letter to a Father” (Edgardo Cozarinsky), “Le Paradis” (Alain Cavalier), and “Sorrow and Joy” (Nils Malmros).

“heart-rending retrospective” – The New York Times

Inequality remains a fact of life in America. A century later, this New York master’s photos still explode with outrage. 1220 FiFth ave at 103rd st







A scene from the Queens LGBT Pride Parade in Frederick Wiseman’s “In Jackson Heights.” | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016

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Authentic Love



nomalisa,” the title of Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s new film, stems from a monologue told by one of its characters, Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She describes her delight at discovering the word “anomaly” and realizing that it fit her. Kaufman and Johnson’s film, which I first saw at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s increasingly valuable sneak preview series, is also an anomaly in American film culture. It is animation intended for adults — indeed, it depicts puppets in the nude, masturbating and having sex, and not as a joke. In Japan, there’s a wide market for comic books and animation aimed at adults, much of which has crossed over to an American audience. In Europe, there’s the example of Czech animator Jan Svankmajer and British-based American expats the Brothers Quay. But in America, adult animation is mostly the province of avant-garde directors like Lewis Klahr and Janie Geiser, not films distributed by Paramount. It may have studio backing now, but “Anomalisa” started out on Kickstarter. The British-born Michael Stone (David Thewlis) leaves his Los Angeles home to give


As puppets, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Stone are engaged in a search for what is real

David Thewlis voices Michael Stone and Jennifer Jason Leigh voices Lisa in Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s “Anomalisa.”

a motivational talk in Cincinnati. As “Anomalisa” begins, his plane is descending into the Ohio city. He’s the author of a book called “How May I Help You Help Them?,” but he feels bored with his family life. He checks into his hotel and orders room service. Wandering the hallways, he winds up going out for drinks with Akron sales rep Lisa. Afterwards, the two go back to his room and have sex. Every other character in the film, male or female, is voiced by Tom Noonan. Kaufman and Johnson direct “Anomalisa” so that one can soon forget we’re watching puppets. At first, it looks as though everyone’s wearing glasses, but that impression is the product of visible seams in the puppets’ heads. The puppets are about a foot high and quite detailed. (Indeed, the Film Society of Lincoln Center displayed Michael and Lisa in a glass cage in its lobby after the screening I caught.) Within the limits of scale, Kaufman and Johnson manage a wide variety of camera angles, including shots from the ceiling. The lighting is relatively naturalistic for the most part, other than a a few scenes that emphasize bright sunshine. I initially thought that Michael was bisexual. His wife looks female, but she speaks with a

male voice, so perhaps she’s an androgynous man, I wondered. Then I realized that Tom Noonan was supplying her voice. The device of having Noonan voice every character but Michael and Lisa leads to an element of play with gender and sexuality. I don’t know whether or not Kaufman is gay, but LGBT sexuality was integral to his first produced screenplay, “Being John Malkovich.” At one point, Michael seems to give in to gay panic when a male hotel manager comes on to him, but he later reacts equally negatively when a room full of horny female secretaries make advances on him as well. The film keeps holding out the idea that Lisa is the only authentic person in the world for Michael: perhaps a metaphor for the sensation we often feel in the initial stages of love. Jennifer Jason Leigh is one of America’s best actresses, but Hollywood essentially threw her away when she turned 40. She appears in “Anomalisa” — voice-only, of course — and Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” this holiday season, and the two roles make an interesting contrast. “The Hateful Eight” begins by subjecting her to physical degradation — so much so that I was initially appalled


AUTHENTIC, continued on p.29

At Ugly Xenophobic Moment, Moore Swings Way Too Hard “Where to Invade Next” uncritical in its fawning over European exceptionalism BY STEVE ERICKSON


feel guilty for criticizing Michael Moore and his latest documentary “Where to Invade Next” for an excess of xenophilia, especially at this ugly moment in American politics. But I’ve long been annoyed by his tendency to romanticize Canada and Europe. In “Sicko,” his gushing over all the social services provided by the French government to its citizens somehow avoided the unpleasantness of any engagement with unemployed Arab men in Paris’ suburban ghettos. “Bowling for Columbine” talked to African-American visitors to Canada about that country’s lack of racism but shied away from


speaking with any indigenous Canadians about their run-ins with the cops. “Where to Invade Next” has a refreshing optimism regarding the state of the world, but it also views Europe (along with a token jaunt to Tunisia) via rose-colored glasses. Moore kicks off with a clumsy use of still images of military leaders calling on him to decide how to solve America’s many problems. These issues are illustrated in news clips and audio soundbites, mostly from George W. Bush. Then Moore decides to “invade” Europe in search of good ideas to bring back to the US. These range from healthy school lunches in France to drug decriminalization in Portugal to

extremely comfortable minimum security prisons in Norway. In his first “invasion” of Italy, Moore acknowledges “Italy has problems. All countries do. I’m looking for the flowers, not the weeds.” The problem with this approach is that it winds up picking over European culture solely for what nuggets appeal to American progressives. With its culture of 21-year maximum prison sentences and emphasis on rehabilitation over punishment (leading to only 20 percent recidivism, Moore says), how did Norway produce an Anders Behring Breivik — or, before him, murderous neo-Nazi rock musician Varg Vikernes and a heavy metal scene full of rockers who burned

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down churches as a weekend hobby — in the first place? The film’s low point comes when Moore interviews the father of one of the mass murderer’s victims and tries to talk him into declaring a


INVADE, continued on p.29

December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |


AUTHENTIC, from p.28

she accepted the part — before establishing her as the archetypal “tough chick.” She shows physical vulnerability throughout the film but zero emotional vulnerability. On the other hand, “Anomalisa” never calls on Leigh to do anything physically demeaning, but it asks her to voice a shy character who’s nervous around men and hasn’t had sex in eight years. Taken together, the two roles show the full range of Leigh’s talent. “Anomalisa’ has the concise bite of a short story by Raymond Carver or Anne Beattie. The fact that it takes place over 24 hours in Middle America contributes to this sensation of “dirty realism,” as Carver’s work was initially labeled. Yet it doesn’t really conform to any genre. Someone has spiked the mojitos with LSD, as Philip K. Dick’s paranoia about the nature of reality fills the film as well. Just when one can write it off safely as a mere night-

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mare, it returns at the end. This is the most conventional film Kaufman has written or directed, but that’s not to say it’s conventional. Its modesty keeps it from achieving the heights of his scripts for “Being John Malkovich” or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” but it also avoids the miserabilism of Kaufman’s directorial debut, “Synecdoche, New York.” Kaufman has gone from writing films about puppet masters to becoming one himself.


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INVADE, from p.28

desire to avenge his son. Obviously, Moore isn’t trying very hard, and resistance to revenge and the death penalty isn’t only a Norwegian — or European — concept. Moore shows German schools so devoted to the lessons of the Holocaust that a dark-skinned immigrant named Sami Ahmed, who’s only recently become a German citizen, says he feels responsible for this part of the country’s history. He doesn’t discuss the rise of the far right in Germany, particularly in the poorer regions in the former East Germany, or anywhere else in Europe. While thirsting after Amer-

ican school history lessons that would take into account our country’s foundation on slavery and genocide, he never asks the difficult questions of whether feeding millennials a steady diet of their ancestors’ sins can lead to a nasty backlash or if it’s healthy for a teenager of color like Ahmed to feel implicated in a history that ended long before he was born and that his great-grandparents took no part in. Moore is a polarizing figure on both the left and right, and not always for good reasons. Whether or not he’s a nice person has little to do with whether his films are | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016


INVADE, continued on p.30

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Mark Segal’s Dance to Equality An outspoken and uncompromising activist always able to reach across divides AND THEN I DANCED: TRAVELING THE ROAD TO LGBT EQUALITY OPENLENS/ AKASHIC BOOKS



ark Segal’s memoir, “And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality,” has to be one of the most involving, can’t-put-it-down chronicles of the post-Stonewall LGBT movement yet penned. It also provides a remarkable object lesson in about how you can be irrepressibly outspoken and resolute about freedom, yet do so in a manner that ultimately builds bridges and coalitions rather than further fortifying the walls between ostensibly opposing camps. Born in Philadelphia in 1951 and raised there, Segal was 13 when his grandmother took him to his first civil rights demonstration. Five years later, he arrived in New York City on May 10, 1969. Forty-nine days after that, he and Marty Robinson, the soon-to-be co-founder of the Gay Activist Alliance, were hanging out in the Stonewall bar the night of the raid that sparked the rebellion. From there, Segal’s activist bent took on a distinctly lavender tinge. He went on to found Gay Youth, an arm of New York’s historic Gay Liberation Front (GLF), and to participate in a series of historic Gay Raiders “zaps,” whose apex, viewed by more than 30 million people, was the zap of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite on December 11, 1973.


INVADE, from p.29

factually correct — and, for that matter, most of the fact-checkers of “Sicko” had ulterior motives far more malign than Moore’s. Many of Moore’s critics act as though fat jokes are a true riposte to his points. Even if I find his faux-naif persona grating, he’s worth taking


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What is most amazing about his journey is that Segal, rising above the contentious politics of GLF, quickly learned how to build alliances. When Cronkite later approached him privately, the Gay Raider spelled out episodes of CBS in essence censoring news about the gay community in order to explain what compelled him to sit on Cronkite’s desk during the broadcast and occupy the camera’s view with a sign that read, “Gays protest CBS Prejudice.” But even as he decried CBS’ actions to Cronkite, he did so in a manner that allowed the veteran newscaster the space to ponder his actions and acknowledge his complicity in failing to report news of the gay community. The two men eventually became friends, with Cronkite assuming the role of a major media champion of LGBT equality. My memories of Segal from those early days, when I moved to New York City to live in a gay collective with Jim Fouratt, Allen Young, and others and to participate in GLF, was of a young man with lots of positive, infectious energy who seemed to be constantly buzzing around. But then again, so were a lot of us at the time — and not because of drugs. We were heady with freedom, certain of our rightness, and cocky with optimism. But while many of us got sidetracked by divisive battles and temporarily lost touch with the essence of our power as gay men — to quote pioneering gay author and early GLFer Perry Brass, “homosexuality is magic” — Segal proceeded to channel his power as a shaman by another name. After the zaps and his work in building a string of ongoing political alliances, Segal, in 1976,

seriously if only because he put the American documentary on the map of our pop culture. However, there’s a book that does the work of “Where to Invade Next” much better. Written by Danish-based, British-born journalist Michael Booth, “The Almost Nearly Perfect People” sets out to find cracks in the social democratic uto-

co-founded and became publisher of Philadelphia Gay News. PGN is now respected as one of the most successful and outspoken gay publications in the country. Segal’s success with PGN led him to help found and lead both the National Gay Press Association and the National Gay Newspaper Guild. Ever aware of the diverse needs of our community, having begun with Gay Youth, he eventually went on to spearhead the largest LGBT-supportive, publicly-funded capital building project for seniors in the United States. Both the White House and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development spotlighted the project, the John C. Anderson Apartments for LGBT seniors, which opened in Philadelphia on February 24, 2014. That Anderson was a former Philadelphia City Council member who was both African-American and gay and died of AIDS, is a tribute to Segal’s ability to reach beyond narrow silos in his long and ongoing career as an activist. Is Mark Segal’s consistently compelling story ultimately more important than those of countless people you will never hear about, but who stood up to the police at Stonewall, distributed flyers and shouted themselves hoarse at gay and civil rights demonstrations, and eventually either drifted into obscurity or died of AIDS? Does his financial success as someone who, in 1974, traveled the country from one media appearance to the other while so impoverished that he had holes in his shoes, make him any more notable than those pioneering gay activists who to this day are able to avoid a life on the streets solely due to welfare or the support of their spouses, friends, or family? The answer to both questions is, of course, no. But that does not make Segal any less of a pioneer, hero, teacher, and magician. As his marvelous memoir ends with him joining the PGN staff to accept the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2014 Investigative Journalist Award, dancing with the love of his life, Jason Villemez, at the 2014 White House Gay Pride reception, and one week later marrying his man, all we can do is cheer for the “pushy Jew faggot” who helped push us all to freedom.

pian façade of Scandinavia; while it does indeed do so, it still winds up suggesting that the Scandinavian countries are pretty good role models for the rest of the world. Such a balanced take is alien to Moore’s film. His view of the US here is utterly dystopian — mentioning the legalization of marijuana in four American states would be rel-

evant to its Portuguese segment but would also conflict with its depiction of American life as All Prohibition, All The Time — until it tries to rally an upbeat, idealistic ending. “Where to Invade Next” winds up having a great deal in common with the Hollywood schmaltz to which documentaries supposedly offer an alternative.

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Madcap Medieval Times Jackie Hoffman wears the crown in this fractured fairytale tuner BY DAVID KENNERLEY



The Transport Group Abrons Arts Center 466 Grand St. at Pitt St. Through Jan. 3 Tue.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $45; Two hrs., 20 mins., with intermissionn


ew York’s go-to comic character actress has portrayed a boozy vocal coach in “On the Town,” a ghoulish grandma in “The Addams Family,” a meddlesome maid in “Regrets Only,” an uptight mother in “Hairspray,” and dozens more. All of them marvelously mugging and cracking wise in support of major players. So when it was announced that Hoffman would star as Princess Winnifred in the Transport Group’s revival of “Once Upon a Mattress,” I couldn’t help wondering, can she lead an entire show or will her shtick get stuck? Not to worry. Under the savvy direction of Jack Cummings III, Hoffman’s turn is the perfect marriage of talent and role — her highly physical, exaggerated, winking delivery is precisely what the show requires. The 1959 musical comedy (with music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and a book by Barer, Jay Thompson, and Dean Fuller) is a twisted retelling of “The Princess and the Pea” fairytale.

John Epperson and Jackie Hoffman (right) in the Transport Group’s revival of “Once Upon a Mattress.”

The role was originated by none other than Carol Burnett and subsequently taken on by Ann B. Davis (yep, Alice from “The Brady Bunch”), Imogene Coca, and much later, Sarah Jessica Parker. Hoffman is a worthy successor to the crown.

The bespectacled, comic dynamo nails it from her first musical number “Shy,” where she proves she is anything but. She works her highly expressive, rubbery facial features to marvelous comic effect. To see her stick her fingers in her mouth and pull it open to outsized

cartoonlike proportions is a wonder to behold. Her throaty, unpolished vocals work to her advantage here. Not that Hoffman has to carry the whole enterprise. John Epperson (aka Lypsinka) dazzles as Queen Aggravain, the devious, overprotective mother of Prince Dauntless (a perfectly schlubby Jason “SweetTooth” Williams, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Seth Rogen). Epperson borrows generously from his bag of Lypsinka mannerisms (think Gloria Swanson and Betty Davis) to ramp up the hilarity. Also on hand is the


MATTRESS, continued on p.33

Rocking, Rolling, and Playing Dead “School of Rock” proves classic musical still works; Pacino sleep walks Mamet’s “China Doll” BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE


ark my words: Twenty years from now we’ll be seeing stories about young actors who were inspired to enter showbiz after seeing “School of Rock” on Broadway as a little kid. Not since “Annie” has there been such an adorable — or more talented — gaggle of moppets on stage or one more likely to inspire performing dreams or perhaps even bring back the garage band. “School of Rock” with a book by Julian Fellowes, lyrics by Glenn


Slater, and music by none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber, is the most conventional of musicals, but that works in its favor. The show is proof that the structure that dominated the musical for most of the 20th century can be wonderfully entertaining and a true hit in the right hands. And, yes, like “Annie,” it’s likely to stick around long enough that innumerable kids will grow up in the cast. The show is, of course, based on the movie of the same name, but it was new to me. The plot concerns Dewey, who dreams of being a rock star but can’t even cut it in

the band he created. As an iconic man-child, he’s reluctant to give up his dreams even in the face of economic disaster. He takes a phone call intended for his roommate and, out of desperation, passes himself off as a substitute teacher at a tony prep school. In classic fish-out-ofwater style, he shakes up the world and ultimately transforms kids, parents, and the principal into people who break the shackles of their staid lives and rediscover the joy of living… through rock music, of course. In short, it’s a take on “Peter Pan” with a powerful backbeat. Fellowes has created characters

you will care about, and anyone who has ever given up on a dream will relate to its wholly believable conflict. Dewey’s roommate, Ned, gave up heavy metal to be a teacher, largely to please his girlfriend. The principal has pushed herself into a formal role that isn’t who she is at heart. The “villains” of the piece, such as the parents and Ned’s uptight girlfriend, are people who believe that achieving success comes at the cost of their spirit. It’s classic kid-lit, as Dewey liberates the youngsters and reminds the adults what’s really important in life. It doesn’t matter if it’s a story we’ve heard hundreds of times, when it’s as well done as this is we go for it every time.


ROCK, continued on p.33

December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |

MATTRESS, from p.32

Obie-winning downtown theater veteran David Greenspan as the mute King Sextimus, a bearded Zak Resnick as the dashing Sir Harry, Jessica Fontana as Harry’s not-sodemure beloved, Lady Larken, and Hunter Ryan Herdlicka as the adorable Minstrel. As any musical theater fan knows, the plot is exceedingly goofy, set in motion by a marriage law that states: “Throughout the land no one may wed, ‘til Dauntless shares his wedding bed.” Problem is, any prospective princess must pass an impossible test devised by the smothering Queen, who refuses to let another woman come between her and docile Prince Dauntless. Winnifred’s test is to see if her night’s sleep is disturbed by a tiny pea placed under a stack of 20 downy mattresses (only a true princess would detect it). Can the others concoct a scheme to ensure Winnifred passes the test? The energetic, 19-person cast is exceptional, though there are moments when the choreography (by Scott Rink) is not as tight as is should be, in part due to overcrowding on the small stage. Still, it is a special treat to see a show

at the historic Henry Street Settlement Playhouse at the Abrons Arts Center — once home to such legends as Martha Graham, Orson Welles, Aaron Copland, Eartha Kitt, Merce Cunningham, and Paul Taylor — which is celebrating its centennial this year. (Speaking of theaters, “Once Upon a Mattress” was born at the old Phoenix Theater, currently home to the Village East movie multiplex on Second Avenue and East 12th Street.) Granted, the vaudeville-esque musical is beginning to show its age, and the campy, puerile humor is not for everyone (The equally lampoonish “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” which premiered a couple of years later, suffers from a similar affliction). The production is greatly enhanced by Kathryn Rohe’s candy-hued medieval costumes and Sandra Goldmark’s appropriately rudimentary scenic design, featuring cartoon drawings by Ken Fallin. When the yuck-inducing yarn reaches its inevitable, happily-ever -after conclusion, Hof fman appears in a dazzling white bride’s gown. After more than two decades of being a bridesmaid, I must say it suits her remarkably well.



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Alex Brightman and the kid band from “School of Rock - The Musical.”


ROCK, from p.32

Alex Brightman as Dewey is a sensation. His outstanding voice and boundless energy drive the show, which is exceedingly well orchestrated by director Laurence Connor. Brightman’s presence is nothing short of electric, and he manages to be both a breakout star and work brilliantly with the kids. He is, after all, more one of them

than one of the adults, but it’s a rare actor who can do that so convincingly and seemingly so effortlessly. Sierra Boggess as the principal gets to show off both her classic coloratura and her rock bona fides. Spencer Moses and Mamie Parris as Ned and his harpy of a girlfriend are both talented and appealing. | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016


ROCK, continued on p.39

The Community News Group is proud to introduce BROOKLYN PAPER RADIO. Join Brooklyn Paper Editor-in-Chief Vince DiMiceli and the New York Daily News’ Gersh Kuntzman every Monday at 4 pm for an hour of talk on topics Brooklynites hold dear. Each show will feature in-studio guests and call-out segments, and can be listened to live or played anytime at your convenience.







New York Provincial Thriving rediscovery of Vivaldi operas mostly passing us by BY ELI JACOBSON



used with refined musicality. In the title role of the implacable Cato, Thomas Michael Allen is best described as a “Bach tenor” — a dry white-toned tenor with a limited upper extension. However, despite slightly “churchy” Italian, Allen commanded Cato’s declamatory music with firm musicianship and dramatic insight, emerging as an authoritative antagonist. I was shocked to see Anna Reinhold listed as a mezzo. Model thin and elegant, Reinhold movingly portrayed the anguish of Cato’s conflicted daughter Marzia, but

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Opera is presenting revivals of standard repertory with

ond performance on December 7. Chief credit must be given to James Levine, who seemed in a holiday mood in the pit, relishing one delicious Strauss waltz melody after another. When this pr oduction pr emiered I felt that the elements of a successful “Fledermaus” were there but hadn’t been proper ly assembled. This time, Jeremy Sams tightened the show considerably by jettisoning reams of Douglas Carter Beane’s too-clever -by-half dialogue. Sams’ new English lyrics and Beane’s topical gags still include some groaners but they pass by quickly and lightly this time rather than landing with a thud. The cast was far from perfect but worked well together as an ensemble. Susanna Phillips still struggles with Rosalinde’s high and low notes, but her portrayal has more sex, sass, and self-possession. Toby Spence, a tenor Eisenstein, has never fully recovered vocally from a serious illness, and the baritenor tessitura hits a vocal dry patch which doesn’t project well into the house. Yet Spence’s characterization per fectly balances boyish charm and playboy swagger. Susan Graham as Prince Orlofsky (sporting a shock of Dmitri Hvorostovsky silver hair) sang with a deliciously plummy, resiny tone and knows the humorous value of understatement. Paulo Szot is a hearty rather than suave Dr. Falke, with a warm personality and voice. Lucy Crowe’s sunny, never vulgar Adele and Alan Opie’s befuddled Frank were improvements on their predecessors. Comic actor Christopher Fitzgerald was droll and inventive in Frosch’s overlong comic spiel at the opening of Act III. There are much worse holiday entertainments in town, and I highly recommend this one.

notable role and house debuts to half-empty audiences. In the case of “Die Fledermaus,” this is a shame. After a reportedly shaky opening night, the show coalesced charmingly at the sec-

In an online extra at, Eli Jacobson reviews the most recent Met revival of Michael Mayer’s Las Vegas “Rigoletto.”


ll New Yorkers think of their city as the center of the universe and that anything and everything significant that is going on in culture, music, art, whatever, can be found here. Yet in some areas New York is a cultural backwater. In Europe, the surviving operas o f A n t o n i o Vi v a l d i a r e b e i n g rediscovered and revived at a mind-boggling rate, spurring a cottage industry of new recordings. Yet until this month, to my knowledge, none of his operas have been performed in a staged production in New York City. This past summer, the Glimmerglass Festival presented the American premiere of the surviving two acts of his “Catone in Utica” (“Cato in Utica”) directed by Tazewell Thompson. The conductor on that occasion was Ryan Brown, artistic director of the Washington, DC-based Opera Lafayette. Brown scheduled “Catone in Utica” as part of the company’s 2015-2016 season, bringing a semi-staged concert version to the Gerald L ynch Theater at John Jay College on December 1. This concert stuck to Vivaldi’s original score (unlike the Glimmerglass production that staged Cato’s suicide), including a joyful final chorus that leaves Cato’s gory fate somewhat ambiguous. Opera Lafayette usually specializes in pre-Romantic French opera — Rameau, Lully, and Gluck, but also Monsigny, Rebel, Philidor, Grétry, and Félicien David. Vivaldi was a change of pace for the company, but one they were well equipped to handle. Brown understands the importance of the recitatives, which were given equal weight balancing the da capo arias. The recitatives drove the work theatrically, with pictorial instrumental commentary and committed emotional expression. The inventive instrumentation of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” was echoed in the constantly surprising orchestral accompaniments. Vivaldi’s largely exposi-

tory first act is lost. Brown interpolated the overture to Vivaldi’s “L’Olimpiade,” during which characters paraded before us with the surtitles providing their identities and personal agendas. Then we were thrown right into the action in media res. Thompson provided clear blocking on the small stage, retaining minimal scenic elements from the Glimmerglass staging (such as a throne and a fallen pillar). The singers wore an eclectic mix of costume pieces and modern for mal attire.

Anna Reinhold and John Holiday in the Opera Lafayette production of Vivaldi’s “Catone in Utica.”

The vocal standout was the African-American countertenor John Holiday as Julius Caesar (here, a young romantic hero) with a tone of staggering size, richness, and color. Holiday, a recent Juilliard graduate, was rather better at lyrical adagio arias (the aria “Se mai senti spirarti” was ravishing) than martial coloratura allegros. The bravura coloratura showstoppers were left to mezzo Julia Dawson as Emilia, the vengeful widow of Pompey. Initially, Dawson’s slender tone seemed unprepossessing but she tackled the nearly unsingable profusion of 16th notes over a multi-octave range with fiery precision and attack. Countertenor Eric Jurenas as Caesar’s loyal aide Fulvio revealed a dulcet tone with a smooth, fine-grained finish

her small colorless tone sounded like a washed out lyric soprano with no high notes. Soprano Marguerite Krull as Marzia’s rejected suitor Arbace occasionally had an edge to her tone but used it for dramatic and musical effect, suggesting the masculine aggression and desperation of the character. Brown conducted with dramatic insight and highlighted the variety of Vivaldi’s musical inspirations.

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The Wonder of Christmas Eve Ann Harada, from Honolulu to Broadway; experience the Fabulous BY DAVID NOH




t this time of year, I can’t think of anyone more appropriate to interview than Christmas Eve herself, aka actress Ann Harada, who put her indelible stamp on this role she originated in “Avenue Q.” We sat down the day after her sold-out annual holiday Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS benefit blow-out, “Christmas Eve’s Holiday Hunkfest,” in which she surrounded herself with her usual bevy of singing and dancing Broadway actors. This year’s stud-filled stocking included Telly Leung, José Lana, Joel Perez, and John Bolton. Though understandably drained, Harada was still full of energy, detailing the career that she has admirably carved out, despite the challenges of being Japanese and never your usual Broadway ingénue type. It was clear from our talk that things have improved since my acting days, when my Stella Adler Shakespearean teacher could only see Asians in villainous roles (I got Iago and Edmund) and professionals had to wait for the next “King and I” revival, or, worse, Ito in “Auntie Mame.” “I’ve been very lucky,” Harada said. “It’s been great that people open their minds when casting me. With the exception of Christmas Eve, I have very rarely done any specifically Asian roles.” Besides theater, Harada and I share roots, both being from Hawaii and attending Punahou School (where Barack Obama was two years ahead of her). “I grew up in Kaneohe, which was still so small then, there was only one traffic light. My father was a CPA for Kamehameha schools and Bishop Estate, and my mother worked for the Bank of Hawaii and was friends with Obama’s grandmother. You couldn’t miss him in school, as he was one of only three black kids there, a stoner jock. We didn’t run in the same circle. “My parents were always very supportive, took me to shows in Hawaii, and I guess my interest started in the drama club in high school. David Schaefer was the teacher, and then he left, and was replaced by Harry Williams, who was like a guy who acted in ‘Hawaii 5-0’ and stuff like that. I loved Hawaii but realized it wasn’t my place and I wasn’t gonna find anything to do there. I love big cities so I knew I’d end up in New York, right after college,” at Brown. Not knowing exactly what she wanted to do in the theater, Harada took a job as an intern in a Broadway producers’ office, while liv-

ing in “somebody’s garage in Brooklyn.” She was thrilled to hang out on Broadway, meet people, and watch auditions, until, as cowed as she was by the thought of not being good enough to really act herself, she realized that “I was certainly as good as a lot of those I was watching.”

Ann Harada.

“I’m an unofficial dramaturg on most of my shows, always that girl who’s like, ‘You know, this scene doesn’t really tally up with this.’”

Her first job was in a Maury Yeston/ Larry Gelbart musical, “1,2,3,4,5,” after which she paid her dues, appearing in the big, tortured flop that was “Seussical,” before booking “Avenue Q.” Composers/ writers Bobby Lopez and Jeff Marx had been working on it in a BMI workshop and were looking for an Asian actress. Harada’s friend, Amanda Green, gave them her number, she passed the audition, “and that’s how it started. I just took it over and we had no idea that this weird little show which featured the puppeteers onstage with the puppets would ever make it to Broadway.” Harada loved her character from her first

read, “and they were so good about listening to me when I said, ‘Look, you guys, you don’t have to change the ‘l’s’ and the ‘r’s’ for my accent, just write the fucking words! It’s too hard to figure out what the hell you mean — I’ll put the accent on it, and try not to make every joke about that. It’s funny every once in a while, but those aren’t real jokes. You have to write character-based jokes all the time! They wanted to have me say, ‘You rook a riddle row.’ But they were fine about it, and I also said to Jason Moore, ‘Whenever I come in, is there any way to not make the music so chinky-dinkydoo?’ I was like, ‘Stop! It’s not necessary!’ “What I loved about Christmas Eve was that she was so straightforward, the most educated person on that street. So, she has an accent — a lot of people do, that doesn’t mean they’re not smart. I didn’t want this character to be just about the switching of the ‘l’s’ and ‘r’s’. I wanted her to have a point; why is she there? I’m an unofficial dramaturg on most of my shows, always that girl who’s like, ‘You know, this scene doesn’t really tally up with this.’ It’s annoying to a lot of writers who don’t’ want actors talking, but if you hire me, you have to know that’s who I am.” The stepsister Charlotte in “Cinderella” was another role that was basically tailored for Harada by writer Douglas Carter Beane. “He did this for the entire cast pretty much, so everybody who plays it subsequently basically has to be us. We all had so much input, and he was very cool if I said, ‘I need an extra syllable on this line to make it go patuppatuppatup and land.’ Jokes are rhythm, and it was great to work with comedians like Harriet Harris and Peter Bartlett, who’ve been around a million years and know what they’re doing. “I adore Harris, the smartest comedian I’ve ever known, who really has the grand style which few know how to do. We’re devoted to each other, but she said, ‘A lot of people think I look Chinese.’ ‘No, Harriet, you don’t look Chinese at all.’ ‘Really? You don’t think there’s something about my eyes?’ ‘No, Harriet, not at all.’ ‘I don’t understand, so many people have said so.’ ‘Harriet, you’re living in a dream. They don’t get whiter than you, honestly.’” Just being in an opulent, William Ivey Long-designed, newly written Rodgers & Hammerstein musical “when they’re both dead,” in a role that was better than the original was amazing for Harada. “My father saw it before he died, and I remember how he made me sit down with a TV tray and watch Lesley Ann Warren in it, saying, ‘This is gonna be special.’ He loved her,


IN THE NOH, continued on p.38

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Nathan Windsor, Jacob Mondry, and David Noh at the Hudson Diner.


WERK, from p.36

and when I met her I didn’t know what to do, I was so beside myself, and yes, she has this incredibly long neck.” Although Harada loves long runs because she can further mine her characters, the stunt casting on “Cinderella” proved a definite challenge: “The stepmother was played by Sherri Shepherd, Fran Drescher, and NeNe Leakes. They were who they are, with Sherri being probably the most okay of all of them. None of them had any theater training and had a very hard time accepting the fact that when they weren’t talking, they still had to look interested in the scene, as if the cameras were still on them.” It got so bad in one case that Harada threatened to walk: “I literally had to give notes to the director to tell them to stand still when I’m talking, otherwise the punchlines won’t land. They were stars, so none of them felt like they needed to take any remedial acting classes. And nobody could get to the theater on time. That pisses me off because then the understudy has to be readied and the costumers go ballistic trying to figure out where the spare clothes are. This is not cool.” Although she has done her share of TV and film work, including a small part in “Sisters,” Hara-


da confesses to a certain lingering unease before the camera, with the stage really being her comfort zone. She loved being in “Smash” however, even in the decidedly dialogue-challenged role of Linda, the stage manager. Her dearth of lines was so apparent that songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman even wrote a satirical song for her, based on her one ubiquitous utterance, “Ten minutes, people!” “Angelica Huston was everything you want her to be — smart, witty, always on it, down to earth, prepared, not a diva. My God, when Uma Thurman was there, she was a pain in the ass, such a diva in terms of not being ready, all about wardrobe approval, blah blah blah. The boys were completely over her, ‘We’re ready! Why isn’t she ready?’” In her personal life, Harada has come a long way from that Brooklyn garage. Married to cable TV consultant Peter Litman, she has a boy named Elvis and an enviable domestic situation on the Upper West Side, in a big three-bedroom apartment — a combo of two original ones — which her savvy parents “bought low” years ago. Her husband and mother, who lives with her, share child-rearing duties with her: “It was a big decision to have a child and I told Peter that when this baby happens, I am not going to

be the fallback caretaker. This is gonna be totally shared because my career is just as important as yours and, frankly, I’ve been working on mine longer. That’s the deal because I am not gonna be the Mom who takes them on a field trip or makes the cupcakes. It sounds so silly now, but all my girlfriends were dropping out of the business once they had a baby. They didn’t care, but I did. I didn’t want motherhood to be the reason I didn’t have a career. It had to be my choice.” Many feel Harada was robbed of a Tony nomination for “Avenue Q” (not to mention “Cinderella”): “I should have been nominated and a lot of people thought so then, so when I wasn’t I felt that I let the team down and was heartbroken about it. I feel like I’m never the kind of girl who’s gonna be acknowledged for awards. That’s not how I represent. That’s okay — some people are more out there than me and that’s the way it’s always gonna be.” I told Harada that she is so damn beloved in the theater community that she may well be surprised, and asked her what her dream role would be. “Dolly, Rose and Mrs. Lovett. Basically, anything you think Angela Lansbury would be appropriate for.”

For lovers of fusion glam rock and uber-positive transgender politics, may I present the Fabulous. This fearless glitter -bedecked duo, comprised of super-talented musician/ songwriter Nathan Windsor and the flamboyant Jacob Mondry have already amassed quite a cult following after their triumphant Sunday night appearances at Pianos on the Lower East Side, and continue to perform all around New York. I met up with them at my favorite interview haunt, the Hudson Diner, which we did in character — consider me Hedda Hoopskirt for the new millennium. It was a raucously fun meet, but its deliciously rambling nature, not to mention heavy infusions of, yes, fabulous fancy, did not exactly lend itself to coherent journalism, so I will let Windsor do the talking here: “Amerigogo was the disco-punk band that I started in 2012. The

band basically parted ways to pursue other dreams that were not music. Jacob and I stayed on because we had worked with each other for so long, since 2010. When Jacob joined, I was playing with songs like ‘Straights Go Gay’ and ‘Whiplash’ which explores themes of sexuality. Jacob had expressed interest in doing comedy work and also doing drag, and we came up with the name Essi X for her. Then we started asking questions: who was she? Where was she from? What if she was from space? What was she doing here? What was she running from? What is being fabulous/ normal/shade? “We started writing episodic ideas and based songs around main themes, like we were creating a musical alien transsexual version of ‘I love Lucy.’ We feel it’s important to support equality and self-expression, and our financial support of LGBTQ organizations puts our money where our mouth is. That’s why we’re working with Campus Pride and why we’re launching the ‘Freeman Challenge,’ which is the ice-bucket challenge for putting on makeup. “Our next move is to do our shows as exclusive happenings. We will announce the show to our fans exclusively and start surpris-

“That’s why we’re working with Campus Pride and why we’re launching the ‘Freeman Challenge,’ which is the ice-bucket challenge for putting on makeup.” ing audiences, guerilla-style.” Do check them out. In a benefit for Campus Pride (only $10), the Fabulous appear at Bizarre Bushwick, 12 Jefferson St., between Bushwick and Myrtle Avenues, at 9:15 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Their song “Whiplash” really rocks, and you can learn more about them at or by calling 413-7293222.

December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |

ROCK, from p.33

Watching Al Pacino in the deadly and pointless “China Doll,” all I could think of was “Dog Day Afternoon.” I wanted to stand up and start yelling, “Kiss me, man…” If you know the movie, you know what comes next. If not, I’ll refer you to Netflix. What you’ll also see in that film is Al Pacino at the height of his acting career, a powerfully focused performer fully inhabiting a role to chilling effect. You will not see him that way in “China Doll.” In fact, he stumbles through the role of beleaguered billionaire Mickey Ross with no clear focus and a two-note performance made up of somnambulism and whining. He’s not helped in the least by David Mamet’s bland and infuriating play that has Mickey on the phone with different people for most of the time he’s on stage. There is also a young assistant named Carson, who acts largely as a foil to Mickey and whose 11th-hour explosion comes out of nowhere. Mickey is a repellant character who thinks his money insulates him from responsibility, a kind of ham-fisted parody of a certain presidential candidate.

Winter Garden Theatre 1634 Broadway at W. 51st St. Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $79-$145; Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 20 mins., with intermission

CHINA DOLL Schoenfeld Theatre 236 W. 45th St. Tue.-Wed. at 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $72-$152; Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 10 mins., with intermission


The kids are all amazingly talented and actually play the instruments in the show. They’re all superb, but in particular Brandon Niederauer as Zack, a kid who wants to prove to his father that he should be heard; Bobbi Mackenzie as Tomika, an adopted child of gay parents who needs to overcome her shyness, and Jared Parker as Lawrence, a kid who was never cool until he joined the band, are standouts. At the performance I saw, Sofia Roma Rubino went on as Summer, the kid who wants the rules followed at all times. She was terrific, delivering an adult-sized performance that hit all the comic marks. Lloyd Webber’s score is bright, buoyant, and intelligent, both embracing and lampooning the rock idiom, and as one would expect, able to hit every conventional emotional note. This is classic Broadway entertainment perfectly targeted to a contemporary audience and clear evidence that traditional musicals can still rock the house.


Al Pacino in David Mamet’s “China Doll.”

But Mickey doesn’t even have the bravado to be entertaining in that train-wreck way. So the play just spins along, going over and over the same territory — fighting with a congressman, trying to use his money and influence to protect the young woman he wants to marry as the regulators and the law are closing in. Toward the end, Mamet tries to inject some social commentary, but it’s poorly done, unclear, and feels forced. It very soon becomes clear Mamet’s written what he hopes will be a tour-de-force for the actor who largely put him on the map some 30 years ago. Neither the play nor the star is up to the challenge. Still, the very presence of Pacino means the show is largely selling out and is consequently virtually review-proof. Turning Broadway into a zoo for erstwhile movie stars is a proven financial tactic, but judging by the number of people who left at intermission at the performance I saw, they were more than ready to move on to the next cage. | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016

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THU.DEC.31 CLASSICAL MUSIC Judy Collins In Songs For Peace Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine’s annual New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace features Judy Collins and host Harry Smith, along with the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra and soprano soloist Jamet Pittman. The program includes Vivaldi’s “Gloria in excelsis deo, Et in terra pax,” Moses Hogan’s “Walk Together, Children,” William Dawson’s “Balm in Gilead,” the traditional spiritual “This Little Light of Mine,” the world premiere of Robert Sirota and Victoria Sirota’ “Prelude and Spiritual for Mother Emanuel,” and, in tribute to Bernstein, his “Chichester Psalms.” 1047 Amsterdam Ave, btwn. 111th & 113 Sts. Dec. 31, 7 p.m. Ticket are $40-$150 at 54BELOW.COM

CABARET Miracle on 54th Street Singer and pianist Michael Feinstein, backed by a jazz band, hosts his annual holiday show — which the New York Times has termed “as much a Christmas season ritual as catching the Rockettes at Radio Music Hall or visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree” — in the newly re-named Feinstein’s/ 54 Below. 254 W. 54th St. Dec. 25, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 26 & 28-30, 7 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $85-$155 at or 646-476-3551, with a $5 surcharge on ticket purchase at the door. Food & drink minimum is $25.

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 or 888-611-8183


CABARET Marin Mazzie Makes Her Own Kind of Music



Amor Artis Chorus and Orchestra, joined by St. Lawrence String Quartet violinist Owen Dalby, performs its 31st New Year’s Eve concert with a selection of Bach’s greatest works, including “Orchestral Suite No. 3,” “Concerto for Two Violins in D minor,” and highlights from “Mass in B Minor,” which includes what artistic director Ryan James Brandau calls “the most profound plea for peace in the choral repertoire.” Johanna Novom joins Dalby on the “Concerto.” Church of St. Jean Baptiste, 184 E. 76th St., enter on Lexington Ave. Dec. 31, 8 p.m. Tickets are $50 at or 212-874-3990.

Three-time Tony Award nominee Marin Mazzie (“Ragtime,” “Passion,” “Kiss Me Kate”) returns to Feinstein’s/ 54 Below on New Year’s Eve with her show “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” featuring beloved songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s as well as musical choices for the very last night of the year. 254 W. 54th St. Dec. 31, 7 p.m. Tickets are $85-$150 at, or at the door for an extra $5. There is a $45 food & drink minimum.

Klezmer Rings Out Free in Millbrook Metropolitan Klezmer, which brings eclectic exuberance to Yiddish musical genres — including wedding dance, trance, folk, swing, tango, and vintage film



Bach’s Plea For Peace

soundtrack — to re-invent tradition with both irreverence and respect, throws a free, early evening concert in Millbrook in the Hudson Valley. The performance features Debra Kreisberg on clarinet & sax, Reut Regev on trombone, Eve Sicular on drums, and special guests Shoko Nagai on accordion and Brian Glassman on upright bass. Grace Church, 3328 Franklin Ave. near Maple Ave. Dec. 31, 4-8:15 p.m. For more information, visit

Annaleigh Ashford Rings in 2016 Annaleigh Ashford and the Whiskey 5 return to Feinstein’s/ 54 Below to make New Year’s magic with an eclectic mix of songs, stories, some sort-of impressive magic tricks, and an appearance made by a rainbow. Tony Award-winner Ashford (for “You Can’t Take It With You,” currently in “Sylvia,” and known for “Kinky Boots” and Showtime’s “Masters of Sex”) and music director Will Van Dyke reprise some of their “Lost In The Stars” favorites as well as debut some new tunes to celebrate this past Year of the Goat. 254 W. 54th St. Dec. 31, 11 p.m.; doors open at 9. The evening includes a two-course dinner, a dessert buffet, an open bar, tax, and gratuity, with premium tickets


THU.DEC.31, continued on p.43

December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |


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OFFICIANTS Alisa Tongg Storyteller & Celebrant For AisleBound Couples Ceremonies from Scratch Serving NYC, New Jersey and Pennsylvania 570-369-3955 For This Joyous Occasion Officiating Services & Seaside Ceremonies Andrea Purtell NJ Wedding Officiant Weddings, Vow Renewals & Baby Blessings Certified in NJ All Faiths/Non-denominational Traditions/Lifestyles Point Pleasant Beach Atlantic Highlands Red Bank Asbury Park Ocean Grove Island Beach Long Beach Island 848-333-9948

Mitch the Minister Mitchell S. Maged Wedding Officiant and Minister 201-410-6834 email: 70 Oneida Avenue, Oakland, NJ 07436 Ny Life Events Mary A. Carroll – Universal Life Minister 201-410-0782 – In your home or venue • Wedding/Civil Union – NonDenominational • Evenings/Weekends – NJ-NY-NYC Reverend Greg Kits, DD NY & NJ Wedding Officiant 973-220-9400 text/cell Servicing NY, NJ, & NYC Reverend Luisa’s Holistic Weddings & Ceremonies Interfaith Minister Bilingual English & Spanish Wedding Ceremonies for Tristate Couples 2014 ABC-NY Sparkle Award Top Wedding Vendor Officiant 2015 Couples Choice Award Wedding Wire 917-572-4831 Reverend Samora Smith Common Ground Ceremonies Ordained as an Interfaith Minister Specializing in all types of ceremonies 711 East 11th Street, New York 646-709-2090 Sacred Journey Healing* Reverend Kyle Applegate Interfaith Minister 212-777-1119 Stephen David DYM/WEDinNYC LGBT Wedding Officiant Creating Custom Wedding Ceremonies for you and your partner. 917.855.6830

PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO Glamour Me Photo & Video* 109-19 Rockaway Blvd. South Ozone Park, NY 11420 718-504-1970

REAL ESTATE SERVICES Accurate Building Inspectors 1860 Bath Ave. in Brooklyn 718-265-8191, Accurate Building Inspectors is a full-service home and building inspection firm servicing the tri-state area since 1961.

Rev. Kyle Applegate Interfaith minister 212-777-1119




December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 |


THU.DEC.31, from p.40

including a half bottle of Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne for each party of two and an individual dessert platter during the dance party. Tickets are $330-$350, with premium tickets at $425 at

NIGHTLIFE You Won’t Sleep Tonight

Brooklyn’s All Lit Now in its 36th year, the Prospect Park Alliance in partnership with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, presents Fireworks at Grand


The McKittrick Hotel celebrates New Year’s Eve with the truly decadent “The King’s Winter Masquerade.” The masked soiree, which follows the evening’s performance of Punchdrunk’s “Sleep No More” — Shakespeare’s classic tragedy “Macbeth” through a darkly cinematic lens — features daring, specially-created one-night-only theatrical and music performances throughout the McKittrick, as well as a full open bar, boundless live entertainment, and “Sleep No More”-inspired surprises. A dress code suitable for a royal celebration, in tones of black, silver, or gold, will be strictly enforced. 530 W. 27th St. Dec. 31, 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 at or 866-811-4111. Packages including dinner or the “Sleep No More” performance (7 p.m.) or both range from $275-$350.

Army Plaza at the park. The fun starts in the Plaza, at the intersection of Flatbush Ave., Prospect Park W., and Eastern Pkwy., at 11 p.m., with entertainment from the Brooklyn Mash It Up band and DJ C. Live. The fireworks, which start at midnight, can be seen from Prospect Park W. from Grand Army to Ninth St. and from the West Drive within the park. For more information, visit

Party Like It’s 1929 Downtown drag superstar Sweetie takes you back to the Roaring ‘20s with a Prohibition Masquerade Ball featuring booming era live music by the Holy Crow Jazz Band, with crooner Jessy Carolina. The evening also features a lusty burlesque lineup including Late Night Fly Girls, Jenny Rocha and Her Painted Ladies, 6’ 5” colossal classic allure Mr. Gorgeous,



Darlinda Just Darlinda, Tansy and her ferocious lion, Leeon Sugar, and Valora Dee as the stage kitten. DJ Spinach is on the decks playing elector-swing and hot jazz all night long. Drom, 85 Ave. A at E. Fifth St. Dec. 31, 8 p.m.-4 a.m. Tickets are $45 at; $55 at the door, with premium packages up to $195. $20 admission after 1 a.m.

This Year It’s Casablanca Housing Works Bookstore Café rings in 2016 with a “Play It Again, Sam”-inspired evening of food, drinks, dancing, music by Scratch Weddings, and other Bergman and Bogart-inspired surprises. DJ Alkaline spins. Attire is Casablanca chic. 126 Crosby St., btwn. Prince & Houston Sts. Dec. 31, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Tickets are $150; $225 for VIP at Proceeds benefit Housing Works’ mission to end AIDS and homelessness. WHITEHOUSE.GOV

On the evening of June 26, just hours after the US Supreme Court, in an historic 5-4 vote, declared that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, President Barack Obama ordered the White House to be bathed in rainbow colors to honor a decision and a day that he said embodied “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.” | December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016

New Year’s Cockin’ Eve! Big “Dick” Clark hosts Daniel Nardicio’s 13th annual Masked Ball with special guest gogo Adam Killian along with seven other dancers. DJ Johnny Dynell is on the decks at this clothing-optional party. 29 Second Avenue (formerly the Cock), between First & Second Sts. Dec. 31, 10 p.m.-6 a.m. Tickets are $50 at




Ask your doctor if a medicine made by Gilead is right for you. Š 2015 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. UNBC1848 03/15

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December 24, 2015 - January 06, 2016 | 3/25/15 3:56 PM

Gay City News  

December 24, 2015

Gay City News  

December 24, 2015