A Gay Man’s Prostate Cancer Battle 06
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Playwright, author, and activist Larry Kramer.
Vornado Realty Trust chief Steve Roth.
BY ANDY HUMM
ost people opposing Donald Trump figure his supporters are beyond conver sion therapy and are focusing on getting out the vote for their side. But Larry Kramer, not usually known for his diplomacy, made a heartfelt and passionate appeal in an open letter to billionaire developer Steve Roth, whom he calls a friend, to resign from Trump’s group of economic advisers, especially given the Republican presidential nominee’s promises to roll back LGBT rights if elected — and his refusal to meet with LGBT and AIDS activists. The letter — which Kramer posted on Facebook on August 9, almost 35 years to the day after he convened a group of gay men in his Manhattan apartment to
launch what would become Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the first New York response to the crippling AIDS epidemic — quickly went viral with 1,327 shares on Facebook, drawing praise from voices including California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and feminist writer Erica Jong, among many. “I don’t know why but I was incredibly shocked and disappointed when it was announced that you had become one of Donald T rump’s billionaire brain trust,” Kramer wrote. “I could not believe that you could support a candidate, a vice-president, and a party that threatens many of the things that you hold most dear.” Perhaps it should not have surprised Kramer that Roth backs Trump. Though the two men have been competitors, they’ve also been partners in the real estate industry where
Roth’s Vornado Realty Trust is the largest commercial player in New York. As reported in CrainsNewYork.com, T rump, at his New York primary victory party in April, called the Vornado chief, who was in attendance, “the great Steve Roth,” using an adjective he typically reserves to himself. According to Crain’s, Trump and Roth share owner ship in a Sixth Avenue tower that is the second-largest in Vornado’s portfolio — and one of only three in Manhattan in which the presidential nominee, who regularly thumps his chest about being a real estate macher, actually has an ownership stake. But Kramer also knows Steve Roth well, and is especially close to his wife, Daryl Roth, who produced the Tony-winning revival of Kramer’s searing AIDS play, “The Normal Heart,” in 2011. H i s t o r i a n H a r o l d H o l z e r, a
prominent scholar on the subject of Abraham Lincoln — about whom Kramer has written, as well — responded to Kramer’s Facebook post, writing, “Whose heart can be abnormal enough to support Trump?” “I know how proud you now are of your gay son Jordan,” also a big Broadway producer and the majority owner of the five-property Jujamcyn Theaters group, Kramer wrote. “I know how impressed I was with you at Jordan’s wedding to his husband Richie Jackson. They now are fathers to two wonderful boys, your grandsons. I was so proud to be at that wedding with my own husband David Webster.” Trump calls on Steve Roth to leave Trump’s “orbit.” “You could be a leader in all of this,” Kramer wrote. “As it is, your own extended family is severely threatened by Donald Trump. Their health, their legality, their safety, their friends, their coworkers in the theater. I cannot accept that such an intelligent and gifted man as I know you to be can believe that Donald Trump is anything but strange and scary, an indigestible cauldron of rotten and poisoned ingredients.” Describing Kramer’s appeal to Roth as “an incredibly powerful and personal letter,” AIDS activist Peter Staley wrote, “We all need to start sending letters like this to those we know who are walking blindly during this election.” Jong wrote, “As usual, Larry Kramer is brave & brilliant.” Activist, writer, and SiriusXM Radio host Michelangelo Signorile credited Kramer for “once again calling out the hypocrisy and the greed.” Writer and jour nalist Kevin Sessums, well known for his color ful celebrity dispatches for Vanity Fair, commented simply, “Larry Kramer writes. And always, always we listen.” In an August 16 email to Gay City News, Kramer wrote, “I have not heard from any of the Roths. I did not expect to. It’s not their style, certainly not Steve’s.” Roth’s assistant at Vor nado said they were aware of Kramer’s letter, but she did not know of any response from Roth. A message requesting comment received no response. August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
In Wake of Student Suicide, Dromm Demands Long’s Ouster Council Education chair say Conservative Party chief should not lead school board BY ANDY HUMM
ut gay City Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who chairs the Education Committee, is calling for Michael Long, who heads the state’s Conservative Party, to step down as board chair of Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Brooklyn after a 13-year-old student there, Daniel Fitzpatrick, hanged himself on August 11. The suicide came, the Daily News reported, after the youth was relentlessly bullied about his “weight, grades, and innocent heart.” The boy’s suicide note said the school did nothing to stop the bullying despite his pleading with school authorities. “I gave up,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “The teachers, they didn’t do anything.” “Michael Long has been negligent in his duty to protect Daniel from bullying and, in fact, holds some responsibility for his death because of his long standing, staunch opposition to anti-bullying education,” Dromm said in a written release. “Mr. Long should not serve on any school board because of the hatred and malice he has shown toward many groups of people in our society but especially against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.” Dromm cited Long’s opposition to the state anti-bullying bill, the Dignity for All Students Act, that passed in 2010 over Conservative Party objections to including LGBT protections. An opponent as well of the Harvey Milk High School for LGBT youth, Long, in 2003, wrote, “What next? Maybe we should have schools for chubby kids who get picked on.” Dromm called on Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn to remove Long from his post at the school. Calls to the GayCityNews.nyc | August 18 - 31, 2016
school were referred to the diocese. Calls to the diocese’s press office were sent to a mailbox that was full and not taking messages. Long, in an extensive inter view with Gay City News, said that Dromm “doesn’t know what happened here — all the work and care the teachers and principal gave to little Danny. We were aware Danny was a troubled kid. I’m not blaming him. We took him back. Thought we could help him. He was a good boy, but he really had lots of issues. Guidance counselors made recommendations that he get professional help and the family wouldn’t follow them. I’m not blaming them. Principal spoke to me. I’m not saying some kids didn’t make a face at him or there weren’t incidents. He was searching for someone to like him. He would latch on to someone and then they might push him away. He was failing badly and the principal called me in and said, ‘I’m going to call his father in and recommend he go to another school.’ The father agreed. He wasn’t coming back. Even his note he says he was happy he was leaving.” Long said the school “has a whole anti-bullying program. We brought in the precinct. The teacher’s handbook includes it.” As for his opposition to the state’s anti-bullying law, Long said, “I have opposed legislation that I believe sets up separate categories of people. We don’t need special legislation for skinny people or fat people. Bullying happens in every school. These teachers and this principal reacted to every incident with Danny or every other kid. The principal does intervene. She is caring. She knows every kid by first name.” The boy’s father posted an anguished 18-minute video on
DROMM, continued on p.28
An Invader in the Pleasure Dome
First in a series on a gay man facing prostate cancer
BY PERRY BRASS
COURTESY: PERRY BRASS
his past March, I received a call from Dr. Art Rastinehad, the young urologist who had just performed the latest prostate biopsy on me — the fifth done on me over the last decade — informing me I have prostate cancer. Though for years I had faced the possibility of this diagnosis, no one ever is really prepared for it. For a moment, I stopped breathing. It instantly brought back to me my father’s horrible, painful death from colon-rectal cancer when I was 11, and the fear that my life, with all of its routines and pleasures, was really going to change. How was I going to handle that? At 68, I learned I was going to be a cancer patient. The thought terrified me. I could barely speak when I hung up. I managed to tell my husband, Hugh Young, then Ricardo Limon, my closest friend. After that, I could barely talk about it for days. I just held it inside me, or tried as best I could to deny it. In truth, I’d been expecting this diagnosis (while at the same time hoping against it), due to my having a chronically high PSA level. PSA, or Prostate Specific Antigen, is determined by a blood test that tracks a protein in your blood released by infections in the prostate. These infections can range from more treatable forms of prostatitis to cancer itself. A “perfect” PSA is a 0, meaning no infection at all. After 0, a number spread is given to the readings. For a decade mine had ranged from a 6 to an 8 — without any indications of prostatitis. So I didn’t have a prostate infection, per se, but did have this high PSA. I was also taking Finesteride, a drug normally prescribed for an enlarged prostate — the problem that causes men to have to pee over and over in the middle of the night — and Finesteride itself halves your PSA. In other words, my 6 was actually a PSA of 12, my 7 a 14, my 8 a 16. Any PSA over a 4 makes urologists take notice, and my first biopsy, done in Brooklyn, was performed with almost no anesthesia other than a local in the form of a crème. I was literally bent over a table, and told by the urologist that I’d experience only a “slight pinch.” I screamed loud enough to be heard in Manhattan; it was like having a rattlesnake shot up my ass seven times. The reality is a small needle sent up your rectum to get to your prostate. Like a harpoon, it retrieves minute samples of prostate material to be analyzed by a pathologist. A few weeks later, it came back negative. What a relief! I was off the hook. Still, my PSA never got lower than the safety of 4, and that in itself bothered the next several
urologists I saw. One of the indicators of cancer is a bouncing PSA; it veering from one number to another too fast suggests there is an infection, possibly cancer, working through you. For years, mine was doing that, rarely settling in on one number. I had three other biopsies over the years — by then I insisted I be knocked out by anesthesia for each. And each came back negative, puzzling both me and my doctors.
“You are,” Dr. Rastinehad explained to me in March, “a Gleason 7. Or 3 + 4.” In treating prostate cancer, your Gleason number, derived by a pathologist from your biopsy, is important; it describes where the cancer is located and in what density. A “3 +4” meant that my cancer was located in two areas, and is aggressive, but not as aggressive as a “4 + 3.” Gleason 6 means that your cancer is manageable. There are men with that number who do nothing: they are in “Active Surveillance” and may submit to a biopsy every few years, get their PSA’s taken often, and hope for the best. At 7, you are already in the territory of risk that your cancer can spread — metastasize to your bones and pelvis — thereby progressing to a Gleason 8, or, worse, a 9, which is called “Stage 4 prostate cancer.”
So getting this diagnosis when I did was fortunate; I even describe it even as a “stroke of luck,” in that I finally found out where my cancer had been hiding. Rastinehad told me exactly where the cancer was, and why it had not been found in earlier biopsies. Exactly how this happened is also part of my story. Last October, Mark Horn, a long-time friend, revealed that he’d had prostate cancer — PC for short — for eight years. His Gleason score was a 6, qualifying him for Active Surveillance. I told him about my struggles with repeated biopsies, which in themselves can be risky procedures, doing possible harm to the prostate, and, at a minimum, usually resulting in bleeding in your urine, feces, and semen for a week or so afterwards. Mark strongly suggested that before my next biopsy I get an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of my prostate. The MRI would show areas of the prostate that are questionable due to having a lighter density, an indicator of infection or cancer. Using this MRI, it’s easier for a urologist to focus exactly where to aim the biopsy needles. I went to my urologist, Dr. Craig Nobert, who felt that I was due for another biopsy, and asked him for an MRI. He responded, “I can get you one, but they’re not very conclusive.” Mark had told me to insist, and I did. Very generously, Nobert referred me to his colleague Rastinehad, a younger urologist at Mt. Sinai who has been working with the use of MRI’s and prostate biopsies for several years. I immediately felt a great deal of confidence being in Rastinehad’s hands, even though this use of MRIs and biopsies is still considered experimental by some insurers. I completed the MRI, and in March went to Beth Israel to have Rastinehad do the biopsy, not under a general anesthesia but rather using an effective local. To target the biopsy needle with even greater specificity, he used an Ultrasound at the same time — a procedure that required me to have my legs raised in stirrups, something I’d never experienced before. Half-dozing through the procedure, I felt occasional slight, but unsettling pinches. I received more anesthesia when I asked for it, but when my legs were removed from the stirrups they were very wobbly. For the next nine days, while the samples were analyzed by a pathologist, I really didn’t want to think about the whole business, deciding I would be negative again; it just had to be. Then Rastinehad called with
PLEASURE DOME, continued on p.7
August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
PLEASURE DOME, from p.6
the results, and told me that the problem all along had been that the cancer was located extremely close to my urethra; any urologist not using an MRI and an Ultrasound would never get that close for fear of permanently damaging that urine duct. The truth was that I might have been positive for years, the cancer simply being missed by all my previous biopsies. My luck was in having used an MRI; without it, I could have gone undiagnosed until I became symptomatic enough to have bone pains and bleeding and had landed squarely in Stage 4 prostate cancer.
Predicting the progression of prostate cancer — how fast it is growing, and where it will end up — is difficult. Its location and other factors, including genetics (very important), age, and lifestyle, all play a part. Smokers and men who are heavy, for example, are in more danger. Some contributing factors regarding diet have not been fully confirmed, but there are doctors who suggest that men with a raised PSA level eliminate all red meat, a source of testosterone, from their diet. Yet one friend my age, a life-long vegetarian, came down with PC five years before I did — and his case raises other questions. He’s been in a long-time domestic relationship with two other men; all three of them were diagnosed with PC within the space of three years. Can PC be, in any way, transmitted sexually, or can chances of developing it be accelerated by sex? There has been some evidence that prostate massage can be good for you, and even anal sex, if done carefully, can be helpful to your prostate. But there have been no scientific studies done on this or other ways in which sexual life experiences (including contracting STDs) affect prostate cancer. Being a gay, older man facing prostate cancer, I was not alone: I have about a dozen friends who’ve fought this disease, and there is a somewhat loose network of support for us — gay men confronting a battle with a cancer that can kill. Each year, approximately 33,000 men die of prostate cancer; it is hard to tell GayCityNews.nyc | August 18 - 31, 2016
how many are gay, but gay prostate cancer has become an issue in a community that is both aging and accepting its aging. Youth, however, is no barrier to the disease. In recent years, the average age of prostate cancer patients has declined, with men as young as 40 now being diagnosed with it. Why? It could have to do with prescription drug use, intake of testosterone additives, fat-laden diets, stress, and other co-factors including genetics. For example, African-American men today are experiencing higher than average rates of prostate cancer, and with more of them uninsured they are dying from the disease at a higher rate than men from any other ethnic background. Among young men diagnosed, one co-factor is more rapid progression of the disease, making it all the more important that younger men start getting digital examinations — a doctor per forming a finger probe of the prostate through the rectum — earlier than most physicians are willing to offer them, and also have their PSA levels checked. PSA’s in themselves are controversial. Some studies have shown that they are inconclusive and lead to biopsies that don’t need to be done or to faulty diagnoses. I’ve yet to meet a urologist who discounts them, however, all of those I’ve seen saying they are an extremely effective tool for flagging cancer that is coming.
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After my diagnosis, when I returned to my original urologist, Craig Nobert, he quickly read my mind. “Most men, when they hear that word ‘cancer,’ the whole conversation stops,” he said. “It shouldn’t.” Norbert took me through all the “options,” with their pluses, minuses, and possible complications. Initially, I intended to go with radiation beam therapy and the “seeds” — small radioactive particles surgically implanted in your prostate to target the cancer. This option was certainly less threatening to me than having my prostate surgically removed. Hormone therapy — aimed at reducing my testosterone level to zero to starve the cancer of male hormones, the element
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PLEASURE DOME, continued on p.10
Supreme Court Blocks Virginia Trans Boy’s Bathroom Access Injunction against Gloucester County School Board stayed with help from a liberal justice BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD
he US Supreme Court, in granting a Virginia school district a stay of a federal district court’s June 23 preliminary injunction, has blocked, for now, a transgender boy’s access to appropriate restroom facilities at the high school he attends. The August 3 decision by the high court freezes Judge Robert Doumar’s order that the Gloucester County School Board allow Gavin Grimm access to the boys’ bathroom while the trial court determines whether a policy denying such access violates Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. What was unusual about the Supreme Court’s action was the brief concurring statement from Justice Stephen Breyer explaining that he had voted — along with the four conservative justices — to grant the application as a “courtesy” to those colleagues. Breyer’s liberal colleagues — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — were prepared to deny the school board’s application for a stay. Without Breyer’s fifth vote, the conservatives — Chief Justice
John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas — would not have been able to issue the stay. The lawsuit involves the hotly disputed question whether Title IX’s ban on discrimination “because of sex” by educational institutions prohibits a school from denying transgender students access to restroom and locker-room facilities consistent with their gender identity. Nobody is arguing that when Congress enacted Title IX more than four decades ago it contemplated this issue. And for much of the intervening period, courts in cases brought under various federal sex discrimination laws have rejected claims that they extend to gender identity discrimination. It was not until relatively recently — as more teens identified openly as transgender and began transitioning while still in high school or earlier — that the issue heated up. Last year, the US Department of Education, charged with interpreting and enforcing Title IX, took the position that the ban on discrimination “because of sex” included discrimination based on gender identity. The Department’s of Education’s interpretation, expressed first in
response to litigation over restroom access in a suburban Illinois school district, was not entirely unprecedented, since several lower federal courts in recent years have ruled that discrimination because of gender identity is a form of sex discrimination. These include the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit, in a case under the Violence against Women Act,, the Boston-based First Circuit, in a case under the Fair Credit Act, the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, in a case interpreting the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and the Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit, in an employment case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Those challenging DOE’s interpretation argue that, in staking out its new position, the department failed to undertake the necessary formal steps under the federal Administrative Procedure Act. In the Gloucester County case, Grimm had been using the boys’ facilities without incident after his gender transition until some parents complained and the school board adopted a policy requiring him and other transgender students to use either the facilities consistent with the gender indi-
cated on their birth certificates or a single-user facility, such as the bathroom in the school nurse’s office. Since medical authorities will not perform sex-reassignment surgery on minors, it is impossible for a transgender youth to alter the gender designation on their birth certificate in most states, with some ruling out such amended documentation altogether. Grimm sued, claiming that the school district’s new access rule violated his rights under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. Judge Doumar initially rejected his Title IX claim, disagreeing with DOE’s interpretation of the 1972 law, and reserved judgment on the Equal Protection claim. Doumar, however, was reversed on April 19 by the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled he should have deferred to DOE’s interpretation of its own regulations and the statute. Doumar then issued the preliminary injunction and refused to stay it. On July 12, the Fourth Circuit also refused a stay request. The school district’s application to the Supreme Court indicated it will seek review of the Fourth Circuit’s
VIRGINIA, continued on p.10
Texas Denies Trans Man’s Request for Legal Gender Change
Appeals panel finds petitioner, born out of state, has no recourse in local courts BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD
Texas appeals court, finding no specific state law or regulation authorizing the “gender designation change” requested by a transgender man, has upheld the trial judge’s original denial of his petition. Justice Martha Hill Jamison’s August 2 opinion for a three-judge panel of the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals in Houston concerned a petition filed in January 2015 by Alex Winston Hunter to have his legal name changed from his birth name of Aidyn Rocher as well having his “sexual designation” changed from female to male. At a hearing to consider his petition, which was held prior to the Supreme Court’s marriage
equality ruling last June, Hunter’s attorney pointed out that under the Texas Family Code “proof of an order relating to a sex change could be used to prove identity for purposes of an application for a marriage license.” The trial judge granted Hunter’s name change request, but denied the request for a “change in gender designation,” finding the court had no specific authority under Texas law to do so. Like most, but not all, states, Texas allows for changes in gender designations on birth certificates, but Hunter was born in Pennsylvania, and the Houston court had no authority to order that state to change the birth certificate. Nor can Texas issue a new birth certificate for someone born out of state. Hunter argued that
trying to get a new birth certificate from Pennsylvania would be unduly burdensome, and that since Texas law recognizes the reality of gender transition in its policy for allowing such changes on birth certificates, the court should be able to issue the declaration he sought in the context of his name-change case. Even though Hunter cited two past Texas court opinions that suggested recognition of sex designation changes, Justice Jamision’s opinion concluded that neither answered the question whether a Texas court has authority to do such a thing. The three-judge appellate panel was unwilling to take that step without some direct prior precedent or statutory authorization.
TEXAS, continued on p.16
August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
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PLEASURE DOME, from p.7
VIRGINIA, from p.8
April 23 reversal of Doumar, but in the meantime wanted to preserve the status quo until there was a final ruling on the merits. Most pressingly, it wanted to ensure that its existing access rule would be in place when classes resumed this fall. At the heart of these kinds of disputes is a fundamental disconnect on the part of those who reject, based on religious or other grounds, the idea that a transgender man is actually male and a transgender woman is actually female. Based on their political rhetoric and the arguments they make in court, it is clear such critics believe gender is fixed at birth and always coincides with anatomical sex, rejecting the whole idea of gender transition. Some premise their opposition on fears about
I spoke again to Mark Horn, who by this time had completed another biopsy, in which his Gleason had jumped to 7. “I’m going to do a robotic radical prostatectomy,” he told me. “And I want to do it as fast as I can. I’ve had a great run on Active Surveillance, but I can’t take a chance with this. Also, I’m in good shape, and I want to do this while I’m still young enough to get through this operation without problems.” The conversation with Mark suddenly crystalized everything for me. I did not want to undergo radiation if the result would be that dreaded “grilled cheese” effect — I would not risk having major erectile dysfunction for the rest of my life. And hormones scared the crap out of me, as did any form of chemotherapy — certainly at this point. Mark also told me that he was getting one of the best prostate cancer surgeons in the country to do it: Dr. Ash Tewari, the head of urology at Mt. Sinai, the man who basically oversees Art Rastinehad and Craig Nobert’s work. I asked Mark if he thought there was any chance I’d get Tewari to do my operation, and he warned he was very booked. I quickly called Tewari’s office and made an appointment for a week later. Very anxious, I arrived to find a warm and supportive doc-
safety, while others emphasize privacy, arguing that people have a “fundamental” constitutional privacy right not to confront transgender people in single-sex facilities. On the other side of the issue are those who accept the experience of transgender people and the findings of scientific researchers who have found evidence that there is a genetic and/ or biological basis for transgender people’s strong feeling that their gender has been miscategorized at birth. The Gloucester County case is only the most high profile of several pending lawsuits regarding the application of federal sex discrimination laws to bias based on gender identity and sexual orientation. A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that precedent there required the dismissal of a
COURTESY: PERRY BRASS
that it grows on, and carried out in tandem with chemotherapy and radiation — was also a disturbing prospect. Several of my friends had gone that route, and been basically pushed into a menopausal state of hot flashes, breast enlargement, mood swings, depression, and skin outbreaks. I dreaded that. Nobert suggested a “second opinion”— which is standard for patients facing the sort of life choice I was confronting. In the end, I got four, after first returning to Art Rastinehad, basically for moral support. He told me I was in great physical shape and should consider a radical prostatectomy. It’s major surgery but, still in my 60s, I was strong enough to stand it. The payoff is that it would simply cut the source of the cancer out of me. Then I went to a wonderful radiologist at Mt. Sinai West, Dr. Andrew Evans, who told me that with a Gleason score of 7, radiation and the seeds provided a good prognosis, with basically no pain and little recovery time. He also, however, underscored a warning Nobert had earlier given me: Once you do radiation, if the cancer has spread and you need to do a radical prostatectomy afterward, the burn damage from the radiation makes it difficult to salvage those very important nerves in the prostate that lead to sexual response; as a result, getting an erection can be difficult. If that weren’t strong enough medicine, he added, “It’s like taking apart a grilled cheese sandwich after it’s been grilled.” Going outside the Mt. Sinai system for another perspective, I saw Dr. Jim Hu, an excellent urological surgeon with a great reputation at Weill Cornell Medical Center who had performed a large number of prostatectomies. By this point,
any denial I had was crumbling. I was a cancer patient; I had to face it. Still, I was falling apart every time I went into a PC discussion in a medical setting. I would start crying without any warning, barely able to contain myself. Though I let a few more people know about my diagnosis, I was still mostly keeping it to myself. My husband Hugh suggested psychotherapy, but I found that even the energy to do that was missing: I needed to get my treatment resolved, and each “second opinion” only hammered that in. Perry Brass at age nine, with his seven-year-old sister Nancy and their father Louis.
tor, who asked me, “What can I do for you?” I answered, “You can do this operation on me, like you’re doing for my friend Mark Horn.” He smiled. “Mark’s my friend, too. I’ll be glad to do it.” Next installment: “An Invader in the Pleasure Dome — Support and the Operation.” A gender rights pioneering and award-winning writer, Perry Brass has published 19 books, including poetry, novels, short fiction, science fiction, and bestselling advice books (“How to Survive Your Own Gay Life,” “The Manly Art of Seduction,” “The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love”). A member of New York’s radical Gay Liberation Front, in 1972, he co-founded, with two friends, the Gay Men’s Health Project Clinic, the first clinic on the East Coast specifically serving gay men that is still operating as the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. Brass’ work, based in a core involvement with human values and equality, encompasses sexual freedom, personal authenticity, LGBT health, and a visionary attitude toward all human sexuality.
sexual orientation employment discrimination claim under Title VII, and the plaintiffs are seeking rehearing by the full circuit sitting “en banc.” There are also two appeals pending in the New York-based Second Circuit seeking to reverse dismissals of sexual orientation discrimination claims under Title VII, as well as an appeal in the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit by an employer seeking reversal of a district court that refused to dismiss such a claim. There are, as well, multiple lawsuits pending in North Carolina and Mississippi, where plaintiffs are challenging the so-called “bathroom” provisions of new state laws, as well as cases in Texas and Nebraska where plaintiffs are challenging the Obama administration’s interpretation of “sex discrimination” in either or both the sexual
orientation and gender identity contexts. The district court in Mississippi refused to stay its injunction against the new anti-LGBT Mississippi law, and has been backed up by the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Mississippi will seek a Supreme Court stay, and in light of the Gloucester County stay, seems likely to receive one. Justice Breyer, in explaining his “courtesy” vote, cited a 2008 case, Medellin v. Texas, where the four liberal members of the Court were frustrated in their effort to grant a stay of execution of a Mexican national while important underlying issues were resolved because no conservative justice would provide the necessary fifth “courtesy” vote. Breyer was apparently willing to extend a courtesy he himself had not received eight years ago. August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
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3/25/15 3:56 PM
LGBT ANTI-GUN ACTIVISTS TARGET ASSET MANAGER BLACKROCK
LGBT activists affiliated with Gays Against Guns (GAG) took their message to the headquarters of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, to protest its holdings in two gun manufacturers, Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger. The August 15 protest, that drew dozens to the BlackRock offices on East 52nd Street, focused on the role guns produced by those two manufacturers played in the 2012 massacre at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in which 12 people were killed and another 70 were wounded. Twelve protesters, dressed in white veils with each holding a picture of one of the fatally wounded Aurora victims, occupied the lobby of the building for about a quarter of an hour before leaving at the request of security. Other protesters, carrying signs that read, “Black Rock #Drop the Gun $tock$,” staged a die-in while the veiled demonstrators stood vigil, and outside protesters lay down in chalk outlines of shooting victims. According to BlackRock’s most recent financial disclosure, its funds hold more than $8 million in Smith & Wesson stock and more than $7 million in Sturm, Ruger stock — investments it categorizes as “leisure products.” According to GAG member Ken Kidd, the group notified BlackRock of its demands that it divest its gun-maker stocks last week, but has heard nothing back, “just excuses in the press.” In public statements to the media, BlackRock
Chalk outlines representing the Aurora, Colorado, shooting victims.
GAG demonstrators demanded that BlackRock divest its firearms stocks.
asserted that the index funds it offers are put together using a portfolio created by a “third party,” and the composition cannot be changed. It also noted that it offers separate financial vehicles for investors who do not want to own stock in firearms, alcohol, or tobacco companies. Challenging what it characterizes as BlackRock’s assertion that “their hands are tied,” GAG is critical of the asset manager’s statements that its gun manufacturer investments
“contributed meaningfully” to its fund’s performance and that “Firearms manufacturers benefited from strong demand in the US.” The roughly $16 million it owns in firearms dealers represents a miniscule amount of BlackRock’s $4.9 trillion dollars under management. In its public statements, BlackRock emphasized its “history of supporting the LGBT community” and condemned “senseless acts of violence” such as the gun siege of an Orlando
LGBT club that killed 49 in June. GAG formed in the wake of that tragedy. The group pledged to continue its pressure on companies with ties to the gun industry in “the weeks and months ahead, especially those that court the LGBTQ community.” “It’s us or them,” said John Grauwiler, a GAG founder. “End your relationship with the death business or the LGBTQ community ends its relationship with you.” — Paul Schindler
Gay Jamaican Immigrant Gets Deportation Reprieve
Federal appeals court slaps down Board of Immigration Appeals’ conclusion BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD
gay immigrant from Jamaica, who was subject to deportation based on state law convictions in Connecticut, now has a second chance to win a reprieve based on an August 9 federal appeals court decision. A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that included Judges Pierre N. Leval, Reena Raggi, and Raymond J. Lohier, Jr., found that the Board of Immigration Appeals misapplied the law and failed to consider strong evidence from the US State Department’s Human Rights Report on Jamaica as well as from a former leader of a gay rights group there about the dangers facing men known to be gay. The court sent the case back to the BIA for reconsideration of a relief claim under the international Convention Against Torture (CAT). The court’s “unpublished summary order” does not include a detailed account of the petitioner’s description of his experiences growing
up gay in Jamaica, but mentions his claim that he was raped by an uncle, who allegedly threatened to “slit his throat for revealing the rapes and spreading rumors” that the uncle himself is gay. The uncle’s son allegedly threatened to kill his cousin “for levying accusations of homosexuality” at both father and son. The petitioner, who claimed he is widely known to be gay in Jamaica, blamed his uncle and cousin for “his childhood sexual traumas,” according to the summary. Because of his criminal record, described only as “an aggravated felony and a controlled substance offense,” the CAT claim is the petitioner’s only recourse in avoiding deportation. In order to win relief under CAT, a petitioner must show that “it is more likely than not that he or she would be tortured if removed to the proposed country” and that “government officials would inflict such torture, or otherwise acquiesce in it.” In addition to his claims of sexual assault and threats from his relatives, the Jamaican man also introduced the State Department’s 2013 Human Rights Report, which states, according
to the court, “that, in Jamaica — where laws criminalize ‘acts of gross indecency… between persons of the same sex’ — lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (‘LGBT’) individuals suffer ‘serious human rights abuses, including assault with deadly weapons, ‘corrective rape’ of women accused of being lesbians, arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment… by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings.” That report “further states that ‘brutality against [gay men], primarily by private citizens, was widespread in the community,’ and that ‘gay men hesitated to report such incidents against them because of fear for their physical well-being.’ Moreover, ‘although individual police officers expressed sympathy for the plight of the LGBT community and worked to prevent and resolve instances of abuse, the police force in general did not recognize the extent and seriousness of violence against members of the LGBT community, and failed to investigate such inci-
JAMAICAN, continued on p.13
August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
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JAMAICAN, from p.12
dents.” The appeals panel also referred to a letter from “the former director of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays (‘J-FLAG’),” which stated that while “there have been improvements in the overall response of the police in the past year, the police frequently refuse to investigate crimes against gay individuals… Gay Jamaicans are not simply subject to violent persecution, but also are understood as safe targets for robbery, extortion, and murder because of their outcast status.” The BIA accepted the Immigration Judge’s original conclusion that the petitioner failed to show “government acquiescence” because there was “insufficient evidence that the Jamaican government ‘indirectly condones the torture’ of gay individuals,” but the Second Circuit found that this statement “appears to have ‘totally overlooked’ the contrary record evidence.” It is not necessary for a petitioner to show that the govGayCityNews.nyc | August 18 - 31, 2016
ernment wants people to torture gays or intends to leave gays at the mercy of the mob; it is enough to show that government officials “know of or remain willfully blind to an act and thereafter breach their legal responsibility to prevent it,” the appeals panel found. The ruling is an effective benchslap against the BIA for ignoring the strongly-worded State Department Human Rights Report on Jamaica — a report that is regularly confirmed by press accounts of antigay activity in that country — and a major victory for the petitioner’s appellate attorney, Jon Bauer of the University of Connecticut School of Law’s Legal Clinic. It is worth observing that during the Bush administration the State Department itself seemed willfully blind to anti-gay persecution in many of its Human Rights Reports, while the Obama administration, with Hillary Clinton and John Kerry heading the State Department, has provided much more inclusive and accurate reporting about anti-gay conditions around the world.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump took a break this week from his daily routine of outrageous unscripted outbursts to make something of a serious — read: teleprompter-assisted — speech, this one about national security. His mission, though, was much the same as with his spontaneous utterings — to stir fear among voters — but in this setting, his remarks were organized, fleshed out in full sentences (at least in the official transcript), and, crucially, vetted by advisors. A primary aim of the speech was to lend some intellectual coherence to his past frightening — and clumsy, from a policy perspective — demands that immigration be closed off to Muslims, or to people from Muslim countries, or to people from countries affected by radical Islamist terrorism. The coherence, he and his campaign now explain, comes from a new approach of “extreme vetting” of immigrants trying to enter the US. A linchpin of the new approach would be evidence that prospective immigrants share allegiance to American values, expressed in rosy
PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad
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terms by Trump as a commitment to diversity and tolerance. America’s immigration system, he said, must safeguard such values, and the country must be prepared to wage “ideological warfare” against political systems that stand opposed to them. To draw that distinction, Trump returned over and over again to the threat radical Islamist ideology poses to gays, to women, and to young girls. The problem here is that Trump’s celebration of these liberal democratic values is disingenuous. And, regarding LGBT rights, it continues an offensive effort he first launched in the immediate wake of the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, when, claiming, “I’m much better for gays than [Hillary Clinton] is,” he said, “We want to live in a country where gay and lesbian Americans and all Americans are safe from radical Islam, which, by the way, wants to murder and has murdered gays.” Let’s check the record. First, remember that Trump is running on a platform, adopted at his convention last month, that even the Log Cabin Republicans have judged “the most anti-LGBT” in the party’s history. That platform calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn last year’s Supreme Court marriage equality ruling; it endorses conversion therapy for LGBT minors; it advocates unprecedented religious
carve-outs for businesses, individuals, and even government employees from LGBT nondiscrimination requirements; it opposes measures to allow transgender Americans to access bathrooms appropriate for their gender identity; and it denounces the judicial and legal trend toward treating sexual orientation and gender identity as forms of unlawful sex discrimination. Trump is no unwilling hostage to that GOP platform. He has embraced Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, Jr., he’s put forward a list of potential Supreme Court nominees noteworthy for their hostility toward LGBT rights, he’s lavished praise on the late Justice Antonin Scalia and sitting Justice Clarence Thomas, the two most antigay court members in recent years, and he appointed as his running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence — the champion of his state’s odious religious exemptions law last year and who once urged the diversion of HIV prevention dollars into LGBT youth conversion therapy programs. As with LGBT rights, the GOP this year affirmed its longstanding hostility toward women’s rights — and their healthcare and right to choose, in particular. Earlier this year, in his zeal to prove himself a true believer, Trump even suggested that his preferred ban on abortion could lead to women being jailed. Trump and his Republican Party’s attitudes toward women and the LGBT community are already despicable enough without their adding insult to injury by having their cynical show of tolerance be used as cover for their ugly xenophobia.
The Politics of Fear BY KELLY COGSWELL
t’s time to quit blaming poor white people for the rise of Donald T rump and his immigrant-hating, misogynist, racist, antieverything minions. No, according to a huge study by Jonathan Rothwell of 87,000 Gallup poll responses, Trump supporters include a lot of white men with blue-collar
jobs, but they aren’t poor. In fact, their incomes are a little bit above average even if they don’t have college degrees. Trump’s not particularly popular in manufacturing areas either, even those affected by, for instance, the migration of jobs to China. Trump’s main supporters are white men working in occupations like construction, repair, and
transportation — all of which, Max Ehrenfreund and Jeff Guo of the Washington Post noted, “are protected from Chinese competition. Chinese workers might be assembling semiconductors, but they are not adjusting the thermostat or changing the oil.” So why do they respond to Trump’s anti-immigrant message? Why do they come across as poor and precarious, clamoring about the
denial of opportunities, stolen chances, when they’re actually doing somewhat better than most of us? Probably their family history is a little like mine. Probably they had grandparents somewhere back there who, to keep from starving, left the countryside for the nearest big city and a factory job. With a little bit of luck— and white skin that allowed access to decent mortgage rates — they were able to buy a house in the suburbs and,
DYKE ABROAD, continued on p.15
August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus
BY ED SIKOV
traight men can be so oblivious! This, of course, is not news. What is news is the sheer arrogance of Nico Hines, the Daily Beast writer who thought he’d be clever and report on Olympians’ sex lives by going on Grindr and arranging dates with whoever responded. Giving absolutely no thought whatsoever to the consequences of outing athletes from gay-unfriendly countries, Hines justified his actions by saying that he “didn’t lie” to anybody. No, he just didn’t tell them that he was straight, married, and a father. At first, the Beast defended him. But as the uproar grew and showed no signs of fading, the website’s editors took the column down and issued a fairly abject apology. As newnownext.com reported: “Calling the piece a ‘dangerous disaster’ and ‘wildly unethical train wreck,’ Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern outlined the potentially violent repercussions of Hines’ actions.” Here’s Stern himself: “The offensive purpose of Hines’ article is really the least of its problems. Far worse is the actual damage it will likely cause to real, live human beings — inevitable consequences that Hines blithely ignored. “Several athletes who are closeted at home (and possibly to their own teammates) will wake
DYKE ABROAD, from p.14
after 20-odd years, pay it off. Their kids did it, too. No shame in wearing that blue-collared shirt with your name stitched over your heart when it meant you could get ahead, take care of your family. And when you retired there was a pension and Social Security, and maybe enough savings to ride around in an RV for a while, then go into some kind of retirement home if you had to. This fairytale of an American Dream shaped my expectations, led me to imagine that ordinary decent-paying jobs would always be there for the taking. Like most girls, I’d actually learned to type in high school because it was “something to fall back on.” And after graduating from college in ‘88 with a liberal arts degree, I temped as a secretary, which gave me enough money to pay my share of the rent. Only a few years later, there were GayCityNews.nyc | August 18 - 31, 2016
up on Thursday morning to the news that the Daily Beast has outed them. Their teammates could ostracize and alienate them; their families could disown them; their countries could imprison them. And for what? A homophobic article about how a straight guy conned gay Olympians from anti-gay countries into hitting on him through Grindr?” That none of this occurred to Hines isn’t surprising; writers tend to be a self-centered lot. That’s why we have editors. The disgusting piece apparently sailed through the Daily Beast’s editorial process with no one asking any pertinent questions about the ethics of such a story. Only when the uproar started did these editors actually edit the piece with an eye toward its morality; they removed some names and retitled the piece, changing it from the obnoxiously boastful “I Got Three Grindr Dates in an Hour in the Olympic Village” to “The Other Olympic Sport in Rio: Swiping.” Newnownext.com caught an angry Tweet from the Olympian Silver medalist Gus Kenworthy, a freestyle skier who is out: “So @NicoHines basically just outed a bunch of athletes in his quest to write a shitty @thedailybeast article where he admitted to entrapment.” John Avlon, the Beast’s editor-in-chief, initially appended an editor’s note defending the piece, though he also said he was “sorry for any
less jobs of this kind because by then PC’s and email began to make letters and the people who typed them nearly obsolete. Like jobs on now-automated assembly lines. A few years later, journalism changed too. The financial crisis hit and the market was flooded with A-list journalists from newspapers who were consolidating and downsizing. Sites like the Huffington Post popped up that managed to get writers to work for free, claiming the experience and exposure were good for them. Free labor pushed down rates in the pro market, and as a result, independent journalists work for a fraction of what we used to get. Without a trust fund, you’re screwed. And don’t get me started on how many job descriptions now require an MA because what’s experience next to a brand-spanking new graduate degree? I’m kin to these Trump’s supporters who grew up with these expectations, which aren’t real-
Back to Rio’s Daily Grindr, This Beast Goes Ugly The Daily Beast, apparently finding too little to report on from the Olympics, took the Grindr angle on the story.
upset the original version of this piece inspired.” “Upset” is a mild word, especially when it is applied to a situation like this; as Slate’s Stern observed, the consequences could be dire: ostracism, family rejection, and even imprisonment. PinkNews put the matter succinctly: “Due to the small number of athletes competing in each sport from some of the referenced countries, the story potentially identified closeted athletes — including at least one from a country where gay sex is a crime.” Before being taken down completely, PinkNews reports, the piece was “extensively re-written to de-emphasize the focus on gay sex [and] now only references ‘a track star, a volleyball player, a record-holder in the pool, a sailor, a diver, and a handball player.’” Nico Hines should be ashamed of himself, and so should John Avlon, who is ultimately responsible for this piece of shit being published. What remains mysterious is why so many Olympic athletes were so eager to, um, meet the decidedly not-cute Hines in the first place. I know I wouldn’t fuck him. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.
istic anymore. And now they’re angry and afraid. Maybe not even for themselves, but for their kids or their community. They’re afraid of the poverty they heard about, with no shoes and no food. They’re afraid of difference. And of change. Afraid of you. Of me. And when we’re afraid, we feel helpless and weak. We need something to fight against that is more tangible than the passage of time, or a changing economy that we feel doesn’t have our best interests at heart. Any canny politician can take that fear and find a target for it. Blame other humans for what is not in our direct control. If our crops fail, it was our neighbor’s evil eye. AIDS is the fault of The Gays. Those “beaners” are taking our jobs. Scapegoating is so easy when you don’t personally know the target. One unsurprising result of the Gallup study is that a great many of Trump’s anti-immigrant supporters live in white neighborhoods
that are more segregated than others populated by white people of their same background and class. Exposure means everything. A lesson queers have long known, and why Coming Out Days make such a difference. Which is why it’s not enough to vote blue to defeat Trump. He’s unleashed a huge wave of fear and hate and anger that job growth won’t cure. And neither will more outrage at each new Trumpian atrocity. Queers and people of color, immigrants, women, other social minorities have got to find other ways to bridge the gap. If not knocking on terrifying doors, then supporting artists and writers, pushing our way into American culture, and introducing ourselves again and again until we’re known. Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.
PERSPECTIVE: Snide Lines
Police Shoot Another Rich White Man BY SUSIE DAY
arien, CT — Only days before he was to enter Yale Law School, Trey Von Der Brown, 22, was mowed down behind the wheel of his powder-blue 2016 Mini Cooper convertible in a hail of police bullets. In the passenger seat, Wentworth MacFarquhar, 19, a second-year student at Yale Business School, was critically wounded. Rich-white-people rights activists have expressed shock and outrage at the shooting. Mr. Von Der Brown’s mother, Cecily Bullion Von Der Brown, smartly clad in an Armani pantsuit and size 8½ Manolo Blahnik pumps, screamed into news cameras the words so often heard from her benighted community: “Why, oh why is it always rich white people who suffer at the hands of bigoted, trigger-happy cops?” Details of the shooting were not immediately clear, largely because officers on the scene had “tragically un-remembered” to switch on their body cams. The Von Der Brown family and wealthy Caucasian leaders in the area have demanded an investigation into what some are calling an overreaction by the officers. Central to the investigation is a graphic video of the event, livestreamed onto Facebook by MacFarquhar, only moments before police bullets tore through his right shoulder. Mr. MacFarquhar was taken to Cashflow Medical Cen-
ter, listed in critical condition, and handcuffed to his bed. No guns were found in the car. According to police accounts, around 11 o’clock in the morning, officers began receiving complaints from residents in the area that some wealthy-looking Caucasian males were cruising the neighborhood in a “thug-like” fashion, sporting Yale jerseys and similar gang apparel. Police easily spotted the vehicle and pulled it over in front of a convenience store, giving the reason that its taillights were suspiciously “not busted.” The Facebook video shows Officer Derrick Henderson asking Trey Von Der Brown for his license and registration. Then, as Mr. Von Der Brown reaches into his back pocket, the officer sprays a random barrage of bullets at the young man and his friend. “I was following the official police regulation handbook, Section B, paragraph 12,” Officer Henderson explained to reporters. “I didn’t like the guy’s looks — so I shot him. What’s the fucking problem?” Mr. Von Der Brown, who was to have checked in at his New Haven dor m next Tuesday, was shot in the neck, shoulder, and right arm. He was taken to Our Lady of Aetna Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. With emotions swirling around this case, and a long history of no criminal indictments for police who kill rich white people, legal experts say it will be difficult to determine if the shootings were justified.
TEXAS, from p.8
On appeal, Hunter had argued that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling would support a claim that the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment would include a right of self-determination in matters of gender identity, out of respect for individual dignity. However, since the trial court hearing took place before the high court’s decision, the appeals court refused to consider that argument in reviewing the trial court ruling. The timing here was unfortunate, particularly since Hunter might have been able to rely on earlier high court rulings — the 2013 Windsor decision that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and the 2003 Lawrence ruling
“Let’s be honest,” said Police Commissioner Betty O. Johnson. “As a well-to-do white male, Trey Von Der Brown was part of a minority community. Those people don’t understand that cops confront danger every day and have to react in seconds.” Commissioner Johnson went on to explain that if police officers coincidentally shoot the same minority people from the same minority community again and again, then “that’s a simple mistake — not a systemic pattern of brutality and injustice.” It is widely agreed that investigating this case will prove controversial, since, for some reason (possibly genetic), people from wealthy white minority groups tend to become easily outraged. “And when rich white people get mad, honey, it’s scary,” said Commissioner Johnson. “That’s why the department has optimized that equal-opportunity thing. With our multi-ethnic, fully militarized teams, we’ve got it fixed so nobody can say we’re racist — even if we only shoot white people.” On-the-street interviews, however, indicate that pr ejudice against the “well-heeled honky” or the “affluent ofay” may be hard to eradicate. Byron Metcalf, on line at a soup kitchen, said, “A rich white dude bought my apartment building and now I have to live with my sister and her kids in Section 8 housing. I know all rich white folks aren’t like that, but
that found sodomy laws unconstitutional — to make the same argument. The advent of marriage equality nationwide, of course, eliminates any problem Hunter might face in obtaining a marriage license, but gender designation remains a crucial issue, particularly for legal identification documents such as a driver’s license and a voter identification card for non-drivers. The unavailability of a mechanism in Texas for transgender residents born in other jurisdictions to obtain a gender change declaration from a state court, therefore, is another unnecessary stumbling block to getting on with one’s life. In 2003, a more empathetic court, the Maryland Court of Appeals, ruled that a state trial court there could draw upon its general equita-
every time I see one of them, I can’t help it, I sense danger.” Barbara Grigsby, professor emeritus of Wealthy Caucasian Studies at Redhook Community College, has devoted her life to studying this subject. “Rich white people own the multinationals, they break unions, they’re behind environmental degradation, they got us into Iraq and an endless war,” said Professor Grigsby. “They caused and profited from the global economic meltdown. You know, by law, I had to let them sit in my classroom, but they always tried to run things.” Rich-white-people rights activists say this anti-rich-white-people prejudice has wormed its way into the police force. One of the plainclothes officers working undercover in the neighborhood on the morning of the shooting spoke on condition of anonymity. He said he thought there might be trouble when he saw the expensive car filled with “clean-cut” college types. “You never know with these people,” said the officer. “They go around gentrifying everything. That cop who shot those guys? He was just doing his job. Protecting the community. Hey, that’s why I joined the police force — I wanted to help.” “People criticize us for busting these thugs,” the officer continued. “But they don’t know what it’s like. This is a dangerous neighborhood. Rich white people are capable of anything.” Susie Day is the author of “Snidelines: Talking T rash to Power,” published by Abingdon Square Publishing.
ble powers to declare a change of sex designation for a transgender applicant who was born, coincidentally, in Pennsylvania. Interestingly, as of August 8 of this year, new regulations in Pennsylvania allow a transgender person born in that state to obtain a new birth certificate by providing certain documentation to the Health Department, including a declaration under oath by a doctor that the individual has received appropriate clinical treatment to be considered male or female, without any requirement to demonstrate surgical transition. Hunter can now download the necessary forms from several Pennsylvania state websites. Unfortunately, not every state is so accommodating, and some still refuse to issue new birth certificates for this purpose. August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
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The Fog of Desire Joe Seo is a gay Korean American discovering his sexuality in Andrew Ahn’s “Spa Night” BY GARY M. KRAMER
GARY M. KRAMER: Andrew, What prompted you to tell this story? How much of it reflects your upbringing? ANDREW AHN: Emotionally, David aligns with who I am and my coming of age. My Korean and gay identities were separate when I was growing up, but when I heard of a friend hooking up at a Korean spa, I knew this location would be a great location for setting a film that talked about a gay Korean’s identity. GMK: Joe, How did you identify with the character of David? JOE SEO: It was a difficult character because he is more reserved than I am. His fight is internal. I related to it as an immigrant story that parallels with mine. Your parents expect and want things for their kids, and the kids can’t cope with what their parents want and how the [kids] want to live in America. My parents want me to
GMK: What observations do you have about Korean parents and their expectations for their children? AA: As I developed the screenplay, David’s dilemma becomes harder because his parents love him so much. Because he wants to preserve that relationship, his sexuality is scary. This fear that he is not going to give his parents what they expect and want. For me, it was that the parents love him and he loves them. JS: In Asian families, no matter how old you are, you don’t talk back to your parents. You can’t tell Dad that he is messing up. You can’t say that without being hit. It’s taboo. GMK: Andrew, Can you talk about creating the hothouse atmosphere in the film and what or how much you wanted to show? There is casual nudity, but the gay sex scenes are more sensual than explicit. AA: I was talking to my cinematographer, Ki Jin Kim, about this. When we wanted the Korean spa to be a cultural space, we would see a lot of nudity, in a very matter of fact way. As the film got more sexual, we would see less and less and less, and more of a subjective point of view: parts of bodies, looks, or see things through steam. We wanted to suggest a lot, and I think that that helped in many ways. Sex scenes are difficult to direct and for actors to be in. To break it up made it easier. It allowed us to craft these moments and play with the pacing and make sure the erotic moments could stretch the time, so it stands still. As for the space itself, we were gunning for the location, which had this fantastical quality — the blue neon is very evocative. Many of the spas in Koreatown are beige. They
pa Night” is a complex, quietly powerful drama about ethnicity and gay identity, written and directed by Andrew Ahn. David (Joe Seo) is a shy, closeted young man who lives in LA’s Koreatown with his father Jin (Youn Ho Cho), and his mother Soyoung (Haerry Kim). When Jin loses the family restaurant, David secretly takes a job at a Korean spa. The experience transforms him. He witnesses naked male guests engaging sexually with each other and slowly embraces his own sexuality. In the process, he becomes more independent of his family. Ahn’s film is a minor master piece that benefits immensely from Seo’s extraordinary performance. He conveys David’s shame, his pent-up desires, and the emotions they unleash with just the slightest expression and body language. Ahn and Seo spoke with Gay City News about their hot film.
“stop the acting nonsense and go into medicine.” This struggle transcends Asian American-ness. It goes to every immigrant American family.
Joe Seo in Andrew Ahn’s “Spa Night.”
are calming, relaxed spaces, and this one felt electric. GMK: Joe, your poker face and body language are very expressive. Can you talk about how you approached playing the character in this other, physical sense? JS: That’s all Andrew. He would tell me — “That’s not David.” The character couldn’t get angry. Andrew led me the right way to keep it internal and made me remember why David is here at that moment and why he wouldn’t be this way or that way. He made sure that I was playing David’s developing. AA: I wanted David to be a real person, and I feel that means having sexual desires and urges and being a son and wanting to do right by your parents. I love the juxtaposition that he’s having dinner with his family in one scene and then being cruised in the spa in the next. We have different sides and are one way in one space and another in another space. GMK: Andrew, what can you say about the issue of homosexuality in Asian culture in general and Korean culture in particular? AA: I think actually, homosexuality is becoming more accepted in Korean culture. It’s more progressive in Korea than in the Kore-
an-American community in LA, which hasn’t progressed much. It’s changing, and I’m excited that “Spa Night” can help that dialogue. When I looked for other gay Korean people growing up, I could only think of Margaret Cho. It took time for me to realize and find a queer Korean-American community. GMK: What can you say about your experiences in spas? AA: When I heard about the gay cruising from my friend, I had to see it for myself. It really does happen in a blatant way that is shocking. I had to prove it to people while I was trying to make this film. It’s a really insane kind of environment, and what makes it crazier it can be very erotic and the next minute can be Korean cultural. The space continually changes and morphs and that fascinates me. JS: I did not go to Korean spas in Los Angeles until I made this movie. I hate hot r ooms and humidity!
SPA NIGHT Directed by Andrew Ahn Strand Releasing Opens Aug. 19 Metrograph 7 Ludlow St., btwn. Canal & Hester Sts. metrograph.com
August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
Bow Ties and C-Sharps Aaron Weinstein wields a violin that sings, not to mention a rapier wit BY DAVID NOH
GayCityNews.nyc | August 18 - 31, 2016
’ll come right out and say it, although he’d hate it: Aaron Weinstein is a genius. The first time I saw the musician enter a stage — the ultimate long, lean, bespectacled, bow-tied, and quite adorable nerdling — whip out his violin, and proceed to share his intense, elegant, and drily witty love affair with the Great American Songbook, I knew I was in the presence of a truly original artist, not to mention completely hooked. It took me a while to catch him in a full show — not one of his typically sparkling guest appearances as one among a roster — but that finally happened on my birthday in July at Pangea in the East Village. Along with cabaret’s premiere piano accompanist, Tedd Firth, and a Bobby Short-eulogizing Linda Lavin, he filled that intimate parlor of a club with music and ultra-smart patter entirely worthy of that Kay Thompson accolade — pizazz. A nimble virtuoso on not only the fiddle, but also the quite wonderful and rare mandolin, Weinstein as well happens to be the drollest and most surprising of comedians, and you can easily see that his literate, super-dry, and sometimes downright bizarre verbal accompaniment is every bit as much of a drawing card to a devoted following. For me, the arresting highlight of the set was his string arrangement of songs belted by the theater character he most aspires to play, Mama Rose in “Gypsy.” As his pale, divinely etiolated fingers flew about the fretwork, uncannily drawing out every musical — and lyric — value possible, in a way to evoke Merman, Lansbury, Peters, LuPone, and Weinstein (but definitely!), I thought, “Holy crap, his violin sings!” We finally met for one-to-one sitdown on a brutally hot afternoon at the Hudson Diner, where he greeted me from a back booth. Covered in sweat from a two-block walk, sartorially, I was basically Mr. Hawaii, but Weinstein, ever true to formal form, was a haberdasher’s idea of heaven, in his natty navy and gray ensemble, consisting of signature bowtie, button down shirt, and I swear to God, a wool sports jacket. Our paths had crossed before, when we were guest judges at the Metrostars annual cabaret competition, and, champing at the bit to discuss a favor ite subject with a real aficionado, I’d made the severe faux pas of asking this sheet music connoisseur what his favorite songs were. The subject came up again when we were discussing another droll violinist, Jack Benny, and Benny’s suave theme song, “Love in Bloom.” “Benny could play better than he let on,” Weinstein observed. “Bob Hope said, ‘Jack Benny is a great violinist. And I am a great actor. And it takes a great actor to say that Jack Benny is a great violinist.’ That song was written by Leo
Robin. It’s actually a very good song, although he never made it to the bridge. “I say that I have no favorite songs — or composers — because it is the right thing to say, just like the right thing to say is ‘I have no favorite children.’ But, of course, every parent has a favorite child and everyone actually has favorite songs. Really, for me, it’s all about the performance. I mean, there have been second-rate songs that have been handled brilliantly. Also, there have been essentially perfect songs that have been performed in a way that would make you never want to hear them again. And I can’t honestly say that anyone is the best. Ranking in that way turns music and performing into a kind of athletic event. Not my bag. But you mentioned Judy Gar land… well, there was no one better.”
Aaron Weinstein, a violinist and raconteur of astonishing talent.
I adore talking to talents who have a deep love for what they do, especially a special one like Weinstein, who has such a fully formed aesthetic and compellingly authoritative take on things. I wasn’t sure, at first, if he’d be this pretentious, willfully eccentric time warp sage, oozing attitude and judgmental about others’ perhaps differing tastes. Not so at all: he actually asked if I was sure I wanted to interview him, and said he didn’t want to be a disappointing subject and thought he might be. That very uncertainty clinched the genius — or, at least, true artist — idea of him for me, and bespeaks the melting sensitivity which informs his beautiful playing. Our two hour-plus interview encompassed everything from the living hell that cabaret can be, living legend drummer Warren Vaché, Garland’s “A Star is Born,” and Dick Cavett’s ego to perhaps my favorite singer, Lee Wiley, and the
brilliant Tedd Firth. Even if I may be unfamiliar with or none too enthusiastic about some singer I am going to see, the minute I see Firth’s slightly saturnine mien over the keyboards, I smile, knowing that, whatever the grade the vocalist may be, I am assuredly going to hear some fine music. Weinstein said, “He is amazing. Again, I will not say he’s the best anything, but I will say there is no better pianist. Aside from the brilliant musicianship, there is no drama: he shows up on time, always with a positive and easy attitude. The absolute musician, he tolerates me, and I like that. One of the things I really value is that he is a great reader with the fairly intricate arrangements I do. At sound check, we run through it one time and that’s it. He is able to do anything, and his limits are only those of my imagination. No wonder he is so in demand.” I mentioned to Weinstein how much I enjoyed his between-songs patter, delightfully absurdist, often cryptic, and, at times, toweringly pretentious. Deeply thoughtful about everything, Weinstein told me, “I have, at times, been called a cabaret performer. But I don’t really understand the term. I think it’s a bit of a catch-all, like calling something ‘world music.’ It’s a label that doesn’t actually describe very much. “But I suppose, in the broadest sense, the core of cabaret is about a performer communicating with an audience in some way, which can often lead to shows with a fair amount of talking. And at its best, you get something like what Steve Ross would do at the Oak Room or ‘Elaine Stritch At Liberty,’ for that matter. “But at it’s worst, you have what I personally try to avoid — which is to take advantage of an audience that’s probably there to enjoy some nice music. And when I say ‘take advantage,’ I mean to hold an audience hostage with personal anecdotes that should be heard only by one’s therapist. “I once saw a show where someone spoke for what seemed like days about going to their Grandma’s house for tea every week and how Grandma got sick and died and then the funeral, and it was all a lead in to the song ‘When I Take My Sugar to Tea.’ And I’m just thinking, ‘Did they really think that story did anything for our understanding or enjoyment of the song? Or was that just an exercise in narcissism?’ I mean, maybe I'm missing something but Nat Cole sang that same song without any preamble, and it was pretty great. “In fact, all the giants — Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan — um, I’ll include the instrumentalists, too, like Stan Getz and Zoot Sims — they’d do a whole evening without speaking very much, if at all between songs,
IN THE NOH, continued on p.31
A Stale Immigrant Narrative Philippe Faucon’s story of French Arabs refuses to challenge audience expectations BY STEVE ERICKSON
n the “Musings” blog, critic Ryan Wu recently pondered why there have been so many films about the white immigrant experience and so few about Latino or Asian immigrants. He came to the conclusion that a film like “The Namesake” is expected to speak for all Asian immigrants, while “The Immigrant,” despite its title, is free to veer off into left-field tangents in its depiction of Polish immigrants. There have been dozens of films made about French Arabs, but the perils of depicting the experience that Wu described are alive and well in France, judging from Philippe Faucon’s “Fatima.” Strict, conservative parents. Check. Good, studious girl. Check. Bad, rebellious girl. Check. All the clichés about immigrant life are present here. Fatima (Soria Zeroual) is a middle-aged cleaning woman and single mother. She’s taking care of two daughters: 15-year-old Souad (Kenza Noah Aïche) and 18-year-old medical student Nesrine (Zita Hanrot). The girls see their father periodically, but he’s not a major part of their lives. Fatima speaks French badly and has difficulty interacting with her employers; she suspects one of leaving money around to test whether she’d steal it. Her job becomes much more difficult when she slips on the stairs and hurts her arm. She goes on medical leave and begins writing in Arabic.
Integration is a funny concept, one that implies that the country immigrants have moved to is superior to the one they came from. In truth, their presence changes the country they move to (just look at the number of Yiddish words present in American English), which scares enough people to fuel xenophobic politicians’ campaigns. Fatima can’t express herself well enough in French to speak at a parent-teacher conference — a point brought home clumsily by Faucon keeping her in focus and the French parents out of focus — but she writes poetry in Arabic beautifully. In fact, Fatima is inspired by the writings of a real French-Arab female author. It’s not unrealistic that Fatima’s daughters would turn out like they have, but there’s something painfully facile about Faucon’s script. Nesrine tries her best to avoid the attention of young men on the train so she can concentrate on studying for an exam. Apart from skipping school, Souad really doesn’t seem that bad. Her rebellion lies in wearing mini-skirts, not smoking crack, planning school shootings, or even shoplifting. Her father’s hypocrisy and double standards are blatant; he claims that it’s “less okay” for girls to smoke cigarettes because it’s vulgar. I’d be happier if I didn’t get the feeling “Fatima” was pandering to white spectators’ expectations about Arab conservatism.
Soria Zeroual and Zita Hanrot in Philippe Faucon’s “Fatima.”
FATIMA, continued on p.29
Directed by Philippe Faucon Kino Lorber In French and Arabic with English subtitles Opens Aug. 26 Film Society of Lincoln Center 165 W. 65th St. filmlinc.org
A Mother’s Voice Eclipsed In directing debut, Natalie Portman adapts Amos Oz’s memoir of his Israeli youth BY STEVE ERICKSON
F FOCUS WORLD
Natalie Portman and Amir Tessler in Portman’s directing debut, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” which she adapted from a memoir by Amos Oz.
or her first feature, actor/ writer/ director Natalie Portman took on a very ambitious project. Working in Israel, she adapted the childhood memoir of Amos Oz, an author often seen as the conscience of liberal Zionism. While Portman takes a large acting role in “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” playing Amos’ mother Fania, the story belongs to Amos. At heart, it’s a male coming-ofage tale. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Fania is depicted as so fundamentally lost and mysterious that I wondered if even Portman understood her. (Granted, she wrote the
script and physically incarnates this troubled soul.) Portman views Fania through the eyes of Amos, who’s depicted as a child and, briefly, as a teenager and elderly man. “A Tale of Love and Darkness” begins in 1945 Jerusalem, shortly before Israel became a state. Amos Oz (played as a child by Amir Tessler) lives with Arieh (Gilad Kahana), a scholar who has just published a book on the novella in Hebrew literature, and Fania. Their background is Eastern European — Fania is reprimanded by relatives for cooking borscht improperly — but they escaped the Holocaust just in time. Fania finds everyday life tedious,
LOVE AND DARKNESS, continued on p.31
August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
GayCityNews.nyc | August 18 - 31, 2016
Madonna and Michael’s Main Man The choreographic genius of Vince Paterson celebrated at SVA Theatre BY DAVID NOH
he director and choreographer Vince Paterson may not be known to you by name, but you definitely know his work. The dazzling dance moves you’ve seen in the most iconic music videos — from Michael Jackson and Madonna to films like “Dancer in the Dark,” “Evita,” and “The Birdcage,” among countless others — were the work of this man, who is going to be spotlighted at a special Dance Films Association event at SVA Theatre on August 25. Paterson will appear in conversation with film expert Joseph Berger, and clips of his work will be shown. Excerpts from his forthcoming autobiography will, as well, be read. I first met the handsome, charmingly modest, and whip-smart Paterson a few years back at the Lincoln Center premiere of his career documentary “The Man Behind the Throne.” I was eager to chat with him again on the eve of this most deserved tribute evening. “The funny thing is they requested a lot of the same things from the documentary,” he told me. “The fun part is I recently wrote my autobiography so I will be reading excerpts from my book with the clips that Joseph Berger has selected. It will be about my working process on some of those projects and I think it’s gonna be fun. “I co-wrote my book with Amy Tofte, an award-winning screenwriter. She’d seen the documentary about a year ago and had approached me, saying, ‘I think this needs to be put into book form.’ I said, ‘I don’t think about myself as a writer,’ but we started playing with it and it took about a year to go back and forth. “As far as getting it published, we spoke to someone, a great literary agent — I don’t want to say his name yet — but I think it’s going to be a very good fit. He said, ‘This is exactly what people are interested in,’ and it’s right up his alley so we’re excited about it. I think it will have something to say to peo-
ple, even if they’re not in acting and dance and other artists, about the ups and downs of the business so people will know it’s not all a beauty pageant. It’s a lot of damn hard work and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you have to keep on.” Dancers are amazing creatures, right there in the trenches, sweating to make something wonderful, whether in a huge MGM musical or a small music video. Paterson agreed, saying, “This will not be a slander rag but about the process of taking the people I’ve worked with and maybe showing a more human side of the superstars. I’ve been doing some directing as well as choreography, and dancers have the kind of focus that actors generally don’t — except for the very greatest. Acting is a more amorphous pursuit, whereas being a dancer is like being a musician — you either can or you can’t. There is no fooling anybody.” One of the most iconic dances of his career has got to be Madonna’s “Vogue”: “That was her Blond Ambition tour, and what happens was I was hired the day before they were going to shoot the video. She had hired Luis [Camacho Xtravaganza] and José [Gutiérrez Xtravaganza], who basically had the movement but it wasn’t a dance. I basically put the movement together into a form that made it a dance, and there were three versions of it: the video, the tour version, and the Marie Antoinette version when she asked for something for the MTV Music Awards a million years ago. So yeah, I’ve played with the ‘Vogue’ several times [laughs]. “I just choreographed and directed a new physical version of ‘Evita’ in Vienna, and with the aristocracy, I wanted to put them on these tall boxes so they’d be seen to tower above everyone else, and rather than give them gestures I had them vogueing as a kind of language of the aristocracy. It actually was quite fun to get back into vogueing [laughs].” To me, Madonna owes Paterson a huge debt because of the way
Vince Paterson with Madonna and designer John Paul Gaultier.
he presented her, as a true star in a style so simultaneously elegant and funky that it has become timeless, and endlessly copied by lesser artists, not just “Vogue,” but my favorite, “Keep it Together,” with its genius steals from “Cabaret” and “Clockwork Orange.” “With her, as with every superstar, they’re filled with insecurity because they have a huge reputation to live up to. But once they trust you, it can become a good collaboration. Whether it was the tour, movies, videos, or her appearance on the Academy Awards, she was always so open and anxious to get the information I had. She would always challenge me but I think that’s what a good artist does. “On the Blond Ambition tour, especially, we had an incredible collaboration because she had hired someone who didn’t work out. I came in and had to put everything together in a very limited amount of time. The good thing about that was she didn’t have the opportunity to say too much [laughs]. She came, and I said, ‘Here’s the next piece and here’s the next piece, okay?” But I always had a great time with her. I haven’t seen her in years but it was a special time. “Before I met her, she called herself a dancer and I had never really seen her, so it was like, ‘Girl you can say you can dance, let’s see,’ and all the years I worked with
AN EVENING WITH VINCE PATERSON Hosted by Joseph A. Berger SVA Theatre 333 W. 23rd St. Aug. 25 at 8 p.m. $20; dancefilms.org
her, she was like that, very open. I believe that the vocabulary I created for her body for her worked really well. I’m not so sure the choreography today really suits her. It’s not my taste, and personally I think she has a different kind of knowledge about her body and it would nice to do something that showed that off.” Another icon crossed his path with his first Broadway musical, “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” “To have Chita Rivera as your star, well, it doesn’t get any better. She had had a lot of surgery and knee problems at the time, a triple threat of course but in her heart she’s a dancer and thinks she was born dancing. In her 80s, and still doing her act, just incredible. “With [director] Hal Prince, it was the situation that I discovered had happened on other productions: when things went wrong, Hal tended to blame the choreographer, as
PATERSON, continued on p.23
August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
PATERSON, from p.22
GayCityNews.nyc | August 18 - 31, 2016
TICKETS ON SALE NOW! LIMITED U.S. TOUR SVATHEATRE.COM
he had with Michael Bennett and Susan Stroman. She is one of the high priestesses of Broadway, and she had done a workshop of ‘Kiss’ at Purchase just before Broadway and he called me and said, ‘She wasn’t really able to do it,’ and I thought, ‘Wow,’ and then I found out he had said the same thing about Michael Bennett, so I felt I was in good company [laughs]. That was pretty much it. I didn’t have a hard time, although I tended to work a little differently. He was a little shocked that I worked as fast as I did. In LA, you work very fast as opposed to Broadway where you have a week to put a number together. We have an afternoon or a day and it’s like working at a different pace anyway, but I’m grateful to have that opportunity.” Paterson has now conquered the operatic world, as well. “It really is another set of challenges, but when you deal with amazing people like Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón, this is the new world of opera. Prior to them coming onto the scene, people stood in place and didn’t move and sing. But having this kind of talent at your disposal, these people can run around and sing at the top of their lungs, and it’s just mind-boggling coming from the world I come from where any time anybody moves it’s prerecorded and lip-synched. But in opera, Anna can stand on her head just about and still hit every single note. She’s mind-boggling, a tremendous talent. I knew very little about opera before I met her, but hearing her voice there was something about her that hooked into the rock-pop world, somehow, and was also beautifully operatic. That’s what connected me with her and opera. This was a voice I could really love. “She touched me when she said, growing up, all she would listen to was MTV, my music, although she would never sing that music. It’s crazy when you think what inspires some people. She loves to move onstage and that’s very exciting.” Paterson has had history as well with Diana Ross: “I did several things with Diana, the video ‘Pieces of Ice,’ was really fun because I got to partner her. She was someone I had had a crush since I was a kid — the Supremes! Ohmigod, she was the most beautiful and sexy
Vince Paterson at work with Michael Jackson on the video “Smooth Criminal.”
woman on the earth for years. I was supposed to do her concert in Central Park but I got sick at the last minute and a friend filled in for me. “I was going to direct a tour for her, and I had worked out the whole thing together while she was out of town. All her people around were very excited because this would have resuscitated her career and shown her in a new way and positioned herself in the stratosphere in real competition with some of the younger female stars. But she changed her mind at the last minute and decided she was just going to go back and do her old show, which was a shame because it would have been nice to see her stretch and do something new. “You are right, David, it’s a comfort zone thing, and that’s why, when you work with certain people at an early stage in their career like Madonna or Michael Jackson or Anna or Rolando, or even a little later on, like Bjork, these are people who are brave and want a challenge to show something that’s never been done before. For me, that’s the most inspirational collaborator, because God knows, by my work you can tell I don’t like to do things that have been seen before, so I was really lucky that way.” Major inspirations for Paterson include modern choreographers like William Forsythe and — always — the movie “Cabaret” because, although he was not as steeped in Bob Fosse as a New York kid would have been, he responds to the sheer beauty of his dance presentation.
PATERSON, continued on p.28
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The Fur is Flying Aerial felines and warring Trojans create two exciting — and very different — evenings
ish pop star Leona Lewis as Grizabella has the potentially daunting task of making this iconic role her own, and she does. Grizabella doesn’t really have much to do, other than sing the most famous song from the show, “Memory.” In the first act, we get a taste of it, as Grizabella appears for the first time. In the second, though, she gives us the full-throated version. What’s remarkable about Lewes is that although she has the pipes to do it, she doesn’t go all diva on it; she inhabits it. I’ve never really been a fan of “Memory,” but in Lewis’ beautifully rendered performance, the nuances of character are present in ways I’ve never heard before, and, for the first time ever, the song brought tears to my eyes. If theater is to remain vibrant, it can never be “what it was.” It must accommodate contemporary tastes while pushing beyond them to entertain and astonish. No one could be more surprised than I that the current instrument for this dynamism is a revival of “Cats.”
I have always been fascinated by “Troilus and Cressida” and its awkward, hard-to-deMATTHEW MURPHY
Leona Lewis in the revival of “Cats,” now at the Neil Simon Theatre.
BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE
s Gus the theater cat sings in the splendid revival of “Cats” now back on Broadway, “The theater is certainly not what it was.” Aging Gus’ glory days were a highpoint in art, quite lost in all the modernity of a world that, not incidentally, has passed him by. When he wrote these words, T.S. Eliot was being satirical. Yet in the case of “Cats,” it’s completely true. When “Cats” first arrived in 1982, the virtually plot-free, dance-heavy spectacle was relatively new, but it changed Broadway and paved the way for the now-common jukebox musical. More significantly, Gillian Lynne’s choreography transformed dance on Broadway in a way not seen since Agnes de Mille integrated dance into storytelling in “Oklahoma.” This little foray into theater history is important because the new production of “Cats” enters a culture where mass market entertainment is less tied to linear narrative, and dance is more mainstream than ever before thanks to successful TV shows that put dance on a par with other competitive sports and, not incidentally, made it acceptable for boys in ways that it previously was not. In other words, the time seems ideal for “Cats” to come back to Broadway. It arrives looking fresh and exciting with an exuberance and precision that is dazzling. The cast is fantastic and includes stars of the above-mentioned TV shows, a pop star, and more traditional Broadway performers.
CATS Neil Simon Theatre 250 W. 52nd St. Mon.-Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed. at 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat at 2 p.m. $59-$149; ticketmaster.com Or 800-745-3000 Two hrs., 15 mins., with intermission
The score, largely settings of poems from T.S. Eliot about cats, is still every bit as infectious and tuneful as it always was. You’d think after decades the songs wouldn’t get stuck in your head for days again. But you’d be wrong. The costumes by John Napier are appropriately feline, and his sets litter the stage with oversized rubbish that the cats can slink through and around. Yet what really transforms this production is Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography. Based on Lynne’s original work, Blankenbuehler has amped up the athleticism and offers a synthesis of styles and techniques that is thrilling. The result is immediate and contemporary, and suggests that a simple museum-quality reproduction of the original wouldn’t have worked. Among the excellent cast, Tyler Hanes as Rum Tum Tugger, Andy Huntington Jones as Munkustrap, Ricky Ubeda as Mr. Mistoffelees, Eloise Kropp as Jennyanydots, and Georgina Pazcoguin as Victoria the White Cat are all standouts. Brit-
fine genre. Neither history nor comedy nor tragedy, the play has elements of all three and swings widely back and forth between them. Jaundiced views of love, politics, heroism, and war give the play a dark edge, even when juxtaposed against lyrical poetry about passion and faith. It’s as if Shakespeare is both celebrating and satirizing these concepts, which as challenging as that might be on the page could be daunting in production. That’s probably one of the reasons the play is so rarely produced. But as Shakespeare has young Henry V says of “sporting holidays,” “When they seldom come/ they wished for come,” and Daniel Sullivan’s recent gripping production at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater was pretty much everything one could wish for from this play. The play begins well into the war between the Greeks and Trojans, touched off by the abduction of Helen from Greece. Prompted by ego and ginned-up conflict, the war has gone back and forth with tremendous loss of life. Whether the war is even worth fighting is an issue that comes up early on — subdued by cries of nationalism and honor. Sound familiar? Sullivan aptly gives the play a contemporary setting. It might be the Green Zone in Baghdad. As the armies clash over honor, Troilus and Cressida fall in love, brought together by Cressida’s uncle Pandarus, and pledge themselves to one another — at least physically. Unlike “Romeo and Juliet,” there is no talk of marriage in the play. Cressida is ultimately given as ransom to the Greeks and in her bid to survive what is essentially a gang rape, appears inconstant to Troilus. Meanwhile, the great Achilles has forsworn fighting as a promise to his Trojan fiancée Polyxena and instead lounges with his male lover Patroclus, a move that to the other Greeks weakens him. To move him back to bat-
FUR, continued on p.28
August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual / Transgender / Queer Travel Research
Forgotten Treasures of Bel Canto
A major transportation company is conducting a market research study about past year travel. If you are 30-42 years old, employed, traveled in the past year, and identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer, you may be eligible to receive $200 to participate. Some additional requirements apply.
At Caramoor, US premiere of Will Crutchfield’s critical reading of early Rossini opera
This group will be held at 4:00 PM on Aug. 30, 2016 in NYC – Near Grand Central in Manhattan. BY ELI JACOBSON
GayCityNews.nyc | August 18 - 31, 2016
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ne of the ironies of music — and art in general — is that today’s popular sensation may be tomorrow’s historical footnote in an academic journal. This summer several operatic dead letters reemerged from two centuries of oblivion, shook off the dust and strutted their stuff. Will Crutchfield led Gioachino Rossini’s opera seria “Aureliano in Palmira” at the summer 2014 Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro in his own critical edition (the autograph of Rossini’s opera has been lost). That production won the Inter national Opera Award in 2015 for a rediscovered work. Crutchfield scheduled “Aureliano” for its US premiere at this summer’s Caramoor Festival with an all new cast of youthful American singers. “Aureliano” had all the earmarks of sure success when it premiered at La Scala in 1813. The 22-yearold Rossini was white hot coming off of the twin megahits “Tancredi” and “L’Italiana in Algeri” in Venice. The libretto was by Felice Romani, and the cast was headed by the last great castrato, Giambattista Velluti. Unfortunately, the tenor singing the Emperor Aurelian came down with smallpox shortly before the premiere and a mediocre substitute had to be found, necessitating unfortunate cuts and simplification of his music. Though the opera played out its run in Milan, it was considered a lesser work and seldom revived. Rossini recycled the score into several new works, including “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” which reused the “Aureliano” overture in its entirety along with a chorus, a trio, and the cabaletta to Arsace’s Act II scena, which became Rosina’s pert “Io son docile” from her entrance aria, “Una Voce Poco Fa.” The Caramoor concert revealed that the score of “Aureliano” is a dazzling jewel box of bel canto beauties — many familiar in different settings. Crutchfield’s research restored a crucial Act I duet
Georgia Jarman and Tamara Mumford in Will Crutchfield’s production of Rossini’s “Aureliano in Palmira” at Caramoor.
between Aureliano and Arsace that was cut from the La Scala premiere. Romani’s libretto works on two levels — the first as an 18th century Metastasio-type baroque opera seria plot concerning an enlightened ruler showing clemency to his vanquished foes. Queen Zenobia of Palmyra (modern day Syria) and her general Arsace have been defeated by the Roman Army of Emperor Aurelian but refuse to submit to imperial authority or betray each other and their country. The second level is a psychological study of the price of defeat in a Eur ope that saw nation after nation conquered by Napoleon — including Italy at the time the opera premiered. The audience’s sympathies are directed to the defeated royal lovers — the indomitable Queen Zenobia and her devoted and loving protector Arsace, who vow to die together rather than live in slavery. The classical subject thus comments on contemporary events in Italy and abroad. Crutchfield’s youthful cast featured lighter voices that lacked heroic grandeur but communicated the musical beauties of the opera. Mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford, familiar from secondary roles at the Metropolitan Opera, took the starring role of Arsace — the role created by the legendary
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BEL CANTO, continued on p.29
PHOTO BY FWEE CARER COURTESY FLAME CON
FRI.AUG.19 COMMUNITY A Trans Gala in DUMBO The Hetrick-Martin Institute for LGBTQ youth, in tandem with Brooklyn’s HEAT Program and the South Bronx’s Destination Tomorrow, presents “Trans Celebration of Life,” the first annual gala for people of trans experience 21 and older. This free evening will be hosted by model and journalist Tiq Milan and TV personality Londyn De Richelieu and feature performances by singers Michell’e Michaels and Courtney Dream Balenciaga. 26 Bridge Loft, 26 Bridge St. at Plymouth St. in DUMBO. Aug. 19, 8 p.m.-1 a.m. For more information, visit goo.gl/lbC5QI.
MUSIC Toshi Reagon & BIGLovely For three decades, Toshi Reagon has moved audiences with a big-hearted, hold-nothing-back approach to rock, blues, R& B, country, folk, spirituals, and funk. Tonight, Reagon and her band, BIGLovely, perform at Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd. at Linden Pl. Aug. 19, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 at bit.ly/29ROhil.
SAT.AUG.20 THEATER The Latest from “Careening…” Hostess Kathleen Warnock TOSOS, New York’s oldest LGBT theater, presents Kathleen Warnock’s “The Further Adventures of…,” which follows Maggie Day as she uncovers the story of Commander Zoron and Prince Kal in the ‘50s sci-fi serial, “Atlantis, 1 Million Years B.C.,” and the lives of actors who portrayed them, Drake Darling and Frank Gallagher — following their paths from a classic sci-fi show to the age of the Internet, revealing hidden secrets, lost loves, and things people couldn’t say then (and maybe even now?). The cast includes Tim Burke, Mark Robert Finley, and Jamie Heinlein. Teatro LATEA, 107 Suffolk St., btwn. Rivington & Delancey Sts. Aug. 20, 7:15 p.m., Aug. 24, 5 p.m., Aug. 27, 9:15 pm. Tickets are $18 at fringenyc.org. For more information, visit tososnyc.org.
POETRY In Support of Book Publishing Nine poets from Nine Sibling Rivalry Press read from their work in a fundraiser for their newly nonprofit press. Darrel Alejandro Holnes is a poet and playwright from Panama City, Panama; Matthew Hittinger is the author of “The Erotic Postulate” (2014) and “Skin Shift” (2012); Joanna Hoffman is a poet and teaching artist based in Brooklyn; Michael Klein is a
SAT.AUG.20 & SUN. AUG.21 GEEKDOM: Flame Con Reignites Flame Con is a two-day comics, arts, and entertainment expo showcasing creators and celebrities from all corners of LGBTQ geek fandom. It features discussions, exclusive performances, screenings, costumes, and more. Geeks of all types are invited, and this year the event moves to a bigger venue after last year’s event drew 2,200 participants in just one day, making it the largest queer-focused pop culture expo ever held in New York (#FlameCon trended on Twitter for a full five hours!). Marriott Brooklyn Bridge, 333 Adams St. opposite Borough Hall. Aug. 20, noon-8 p.m.; Aug. 21, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tickets are $25/ day, $40 for the weekend at geeks-out.ticketbud.com/flamecon. two-time Lambda Literary Award-winner, whose new book is “When I Was a Twin”; Stephen S. Mills is the author of the Lambda Award–winning “He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices” (2012) and “A History of the Unmarried” (2014); Sam Sax is the author of the forthcoming “bury it”; Robert Siek is the author of the poetry collection “Purpose and Devil Piss” (2013); Christopher Soto, aka Loma, is a poet based in Brooklyn; and Jane Summer’s latest book is “Erebus.” BGSQD, at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., rm. 210. Aug. 20, 7-9 p.m. Tickets are $10 at bgsqd.com.
TUE.AUG.23 COMEDY Without Adam, We’re Sunk There once was a time when you could catch comedian Adam Sank and his “Electro Shock Therapy Comedy Hour” on a weekly basis at Therapy Lounge. For those of you who thought those days were gone for good, take heart. Sank is returning — for a special one-night-only engagement. Sank is joined by some “Shock Therapy” favorites — Robin Fox, Karith Foster, Chris Doucette, and Keith Price — as well as newcomers (Adam, is the word “virgin” really appropriate here?) Sergio Chicon and Jess Miller. 348 W. 52nd St. Aug. 23, 10 p.m. There’s no cover charge, but you must be at least 21.
BOOKS Edmund White’s Latest Young Man Literary lion Edmund White’s new novel, “Our Young Man,” follows the life of a gorgeous Frenchman, Guy, as he goes from a small industrial city in France to the top of the modeling profession in New York, becoming the darling of Fire Island. Like Wilde’s Dorian Gray, Guy never seems to age, something he uses to secure both wealth and love. Surveying gay amorous life from the disco era into the age of AIDS, White explores the power of physical beauty — to fascinate, to enslave, and to deceive. LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St. Aug. 23, 7 p.m. Tickets are $10, which benefits the Center, at gaycenter.org/centertalks/edmundwhite.
THU.AUG.25 FILM Texas Justice After being wrongfully convicted of gang-raping two little girls during the Satanic Panic witchhunt era of the 1980s and ‘90s, Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez — four Latina lesbians — fight against mythology, homophobia, and prosecutorial fervor in their struggle for exoneration in this riveting true crime tale. Deborah Esquenazi’s “Southwest Of Salem: The Story Of The San Antonio Four” is the winner of the Outfest Documentary Grand Jury Prize and the Frameline Outstanding Documentary Jury Award. Tonight’s screening includes a postshow talkback with producer Sam Tabet and a reception. LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St. Aug. 25, 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 at gaycenter.org/ southwestofsalem.
SUN.AUG.28 FILM Love & Hurt Writer and director Cedric Thomas Smith's “Unimaginable” is a powerful story that begs an answer to the question of how much love has to hurt before it’s no longer love. A devoted Antonio (Carlos Camacho) struggles with this question as past demons of domestic violence resurface at the hands of his partner, Kirk (George Cisneros). As Antonio continues to live in his abusive relationship, an incident with one of his patients, who is in a “love hard, fight hard” relationship, forces Antonio to confront his own situation and reevaluate the “magic and tragic” of his life with Kirk before it is too late. Today is the film’s East Coast premiere at the Hudson Valley International Film Festival, Monroe 6 Theater, 34 Millpond Pkwy., btwn. Lake St. & Stage Rd., Monroe, NY. Aug. 28, 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 at hudsonvalleyinternationalfilmfestival.com.
August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
Top driver disTracTions Using mobile phones
Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell
phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.
Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per-
GayCityNews.nyc | August 18 - 31, 2016
haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.
Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and
chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person’s hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting. Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at
a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.
Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.
PATERSON, from p.23
Paterson is decidedly less a fan of the kind of hip hop choreography flooding TV and dance movie franchises. “The greatest loss in dance today is the removal of all of the story and characterization from the movement, and making it all too aerobic. I lose interest if I can’t find some kind of emotional attachment to it. If a choreographer can bring that to a dancer then I think it’s great. But if dance is just hit the number, hit the number, hit the number, it’s just aerobics. And it’s all starting to look alike. I won’t mention names but recently I was looking for a choreographer for a project I was directing. My agent sent me seven different reels and I called him and
said, “I hate to tell you this, but I can’t tell one from another.’ I’m hoping that there will be someone who will bring back some of the old with the new and create a new form.” Michael Jackson’s collaboration with Paterson on all of his most iconic videos has immortalized both men forever, but what I wanted to hear about was the more personal side of the enigmatic, troubled star. Did he ever just chill with this legend at home? “When working with him, I would hang out a lot with him because he was so shy, and I would try to get him to sit and talk to people. But it was tough to get him involved there, so I would go into his trailer and talk to him and try to get him out of there to talk to the dancers.
“We’ve been together for eight years and married for two. René is from Montreal and is about to record his first 10 songs, dance music, which we co-wrote under the name of Edward Edon. I don’t know how people live without love or a partner in their life. This business is so difficult, even wher e I am in my position and I’ve been so fortunate. But I’m still auditioning every day, it never stops. It’s not really easy on the ego so it’s nice to have someone to come home to whom you really love, after a 14-hour day. I wouldn’t be able to bring the kind of heart and soul into my work you say you admire, David, if I didn’t have this kind of loving.”
FUR, from p.24
DROMM, from p.5
Facebook (at goo.gl/OTCEVj) mourning his son’s death and demanding that bullying end, including against gay kids. Long, who tangled with this reporter over the city gay rights bill which Long as a councilmember opposed in the 1980s, said, “We have our differences. But no anti-gay stuff is going on in the school. If it was, it would be corrected. We won’t tolerate it.” Howie Katz, who headed up the
tle, the manipulative Ulysses shoots Patroclus and blames the Trojans. The lies, reversals, and gamesmanship pile up as the blood flows, hearts are broken, and the pointlessness of love and war reverberates through it all. The play, in fact, has no real resolution other than the death of the Trojan hero Hector, King Priam’s son and Troilus’ brother. Sullivan’s messy and uncertain ending seemed perfect for our unstable and our irresolute political landscape. Sullivan’s keen direction kept everything wonderfully clear, and his cast was up to the physical and emotional demands of the roles. Corey Stoll was perfectly unsettling as the nefarious Ulysses. Alex Breaux was wonderfully dim and aggressive as Ajax, the man sent to fight Hector when Achilles bows out. Louis Cancelmi was outstanding as Achilles, and Andrew Burnap was passionate and youthful as Troilus, the better to be destroyed through disillusionment. Bill Heck was simply fantastic as the heroic Hector, and the entire company sent chills up the spine in the climactic gun battles. John Glover bookended the play as the
Once he started to talk to them, he really opened up. “I never went to Neverland, but I was at Hayvenhurst, watching things like ‘The Third Man’ with him. Michael liked popcorn and always had it, and Bubbles, his chimpanzee, was going crazy because we started throwing popcorn at him. He wanted to play and was really funny, but Michael wanted to watch the movie and kept saying, ‘Bubbles, be quiet! Bubbles be quiet!’ Finally, he took his slipper and threw it at him, and said to me, ‘Vince, if you tell anybody, the ASPCA Is going to come and take him away!’” Paterson also talked about the vital importance of his relationship with his husband, musician René Lamontagne.
Corey Stoll and Alex Breaux in the Shakespeare in the Park production of “Troilus and Cressida.”
prologue and Pandarus, there playing a man wracked with disease, to the point of lesions on his chest. He was the perfect reflection of the play’s grim and existential themes.
push for the state’s hate crimes law, said in an email message, “Mr. Long has consistently been the driving force against any piece of pro-LGBT legislation that we tried to pass in NY State. Fortunately, once the first bill (Hate Crimes) passed, his influence in blocking other bills became less and less effective. But he never stopped trying. Despite his comments about Councilmember Dromm, it is clear that no educational institution deserves to have this bigot on their board, especially as a chair.”
Taking on a difficult story that is cynical and upsetting, the Public Theater delivered a rewarding and historic production that was surprisingly timely, exciting, and bold.
Asked about how the school community is feeling in the wake of the boy’s suicide, Long said, “We’re getting a lot of hate mail and threatening phone calls — including to any teacher they can identify. Every teacher has been intimidated. We’re organizing meetings with parents and teachers and hopefully pupils. Have social workers coming in.” He charged it was “unconscionable” for the Daily News to publish the boy’s suicide note identifying other students in it. “The sad part
is there is a dead young man here who really needed help,” he said. Dromm reacted to Long by saying, “They should have protected Danny. What did they do with the boys who were bullying him — the boys who were the problem? Nowhere have I seen what they did to punish the bullies. He seems to be re-victimizing Danny. Who is going to be held accountable for this failure?” Dromm said in his release that he himself was bullied in his Catholic school growing up. August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
BEL CANTO, from p.25
Velluti. Mumford lacks the bravura coloratura technique or contralto thrust of a Podleś or Horne. She did not ornament the music as freely as Velluti could and did. (Crutchfield has found published anthologies of Velluti’s arias which preserve Velluti’s own ornaments. According to Stendhal, they were so extensive that Rossini didn’t recognize his own music and began to write out ornamentation for his singers. Crutchfield’s research revealed that Rossini actually co-opted Velluti’s ornaments, writing them into Rosina’s “Io sono docile,” when he reused Arsace’s cabaletta in the “Barber.”) Mumford is an expressive, musical singer with an affecting dark alto-colored timbre that is inherently noble and tragic. Her scale is even over a wide range, and her phrasing emphasized restraint and classical proportion. I would love to hear her as Gluck’s Orfeo. Mumford got a star reception from the audience. Georgia Jarman’s brightly generic coloratura soprano initially seemed too soubrettish for such a resolute and brave queen as Zenobia. The slender blonde soprano displayed bold attack and secure florid technique, bending coloratura display toward dramatic expression; precise staccato technique suggested defiance or rage, roulades expressed regal grace. The ecstatic florid duets between Zenobia and Arsace were the evening’s highlights.
Mumford got a star reception from the audience.
Young tenor Andrew Owens made a strong initial impression as Aureliano, with bold declamation and vigorous tone. As the performance progressed he lost his vocal poise, pushing too much in the middle register and tiring in the middle of the second act. Perhaps Owens would have fared better if he had been able to sing the florid higher music composed for the originally scheduled La Scala Aureliano (lost with the autograph), including interpolated high notes and runs. Owens needs to stress head voice, higher placement, and lightness in his vocal production. Chrystal E. Williams sang the dramatically extraneous role of Publia with dignified presence and a fiercely communicative if occasionally unsteady lyric mezzo. Crutchfield’s conducting brought out the proto-Romantic grandeur of Rossini’s majestic score, savoring all of its individual beauties of orchestration and melody. In a web-only feature at gaycitynews.nyc, Eli Jacobson reviews other lost bel canto and opera buffa works from the era, performed in the West Village and Brooklyn.
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FATIMA, from p.20
If the broad outline of “Fatima” is often full of crap, the details are penciled in with more care. It’s clear that Fatima and Souad love each other, no matter how much they argue, and that their dif ferences stem in large part from the language gap between them and the fact that Souad has grown up with more open French attitudes toward sex. Just when the film seems to be taking a turn toward sadism, it allows Fatima to find her own voice, even as she still has to put up with physical pain. I don’t know Faucon’s own ethnic backgr ound — and his last name GayCityNews.nyc | August 18 - 31, 2016
doesn’t sound Arabic — but he claims that the film was inspired by his grandmother’s struggles with the French language. Fatima’s alienation from the country she lives in, stemming first and foremost from her inability to speak its dominant language, comes across loud and clear. If the film has a happy ending, it comes in large part from Fatima’s rediscovery of Arabic. I just wish “Fatima” was able to express all this in a way that didn’t make me think of a Paul Haggis script. The film won the 2016 César, the French equivalent of the Oscar, for best film. Sadly, it’s guilty of the kind of ideas we call “Oscar bait” in American cinema.
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For more news and events happening now visit GayCityNews.nyc August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
IN THE NOH, from p.19
and you could make an argument that all of that was cabaret because they were certainly communicating and connecting with an audience. It’s just that everything they had to say was done in the music. “But there is something to be said for good material. I mean, when I’ve played with Annie Ross, she would always sing ‘Lush Life’ and introduce it by saying something like, ‘Here’s a Billy Strayhorn song that Billy taught me when we were both living in Paris.’” I also got Weinstein to talk about his inimitable sartorial style. “Why do I wear bowties? Well, because I’m a bow tie rights activist. As far as clothing in general, Dick Cavett once asked Diana Vreeland, ‘Do clothes matter?’ And she said something like, ‘Clothes should only matter to the person wearing them.’ And that’s kind of how I feel. I mean, I’m going to dress the way I want. But I don’t really care how other people dress. Moreover, I think dress codes are absurd. Why not just announce the event and let everyone dress in a way they personally feel appropriate for that event.” Coming out was not really a problem for Weinstein. “I had hippie parents, who would show us films like ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Pink Flamingos’ [laughs], although while I remember being able to watch Divine eat the dog shit, I wasn’t allowed to see the guy fucking the chicken. I didn’t come out until I was in my early 20s. I sat my parents down and told them, ‘Before I tell you anything, be very careful to gauge your reactions, so as not to embarrass yourselves.’” That sounds just like Weinstein. “When my mother found out I had a boyfriend, her first words were, ‘Is he Jewish?’
LOVE AND DARKNESS, from p.20
compared to the horrors of war and the shock of uprooting herself from Europe to the desert of Jerusalem. She makes up adventure stories to entertain herself and Amos but has no real outlet as a writer, while her husband starts to cheat on her. She begins to suffer from awful migraines and slips into depression. The Arab/ Israeli conflict — and the war that launched Israel’s existence — is dealt with gingerly. Portman obviously didn’t have the budget to stage elaborate battle scenes, so she filmed Amos wandering through some of the uglier outskirts of Jerusalem while smoke wafts in the distance and the sounds of gunfire are heard. She also uses newsreel footage to fill in the blanks. As a child, Amos sounds like a GayCityNews.nyc | August 18 - 31, 2016
“Regarding being gay, as I think I mentioned, I just didn’t see a need to send out a press release about it because I don’t see how it’s relevant to what I do as a performer and musician. But then again, I don’t post pictures of my lunch on Facebook, either, so maybe my info sharing sensibility is a little conservative. “But saying I’m a jazz musician or specifically, a jazz violinist — that makes sense to me. I mean, I play jazz on a violin. But tacking on something about sexuality seems kind of goofy. And maybe for some people, it’s immensely important. But as I see it, and this is just me, to say someone’s a gay jazz violinist — does that mean they play gay jazz? Perhaps with gay musical notes? I mean, if that’s the case, I’d like to hear what a homosexual C-sharp sounds like. “This speaks to a larger issue and it’s the reason I’m bothered when I see these jazz festivals pop up that feature, say, only women, or a friend of mine told me about a jazz festival in Europe that featured only Jews. And, actually, I think there’s a jazz fest in Philly that features only gay musicians. And I’ve no doubt that great music is being made at all these events. But the concept seems a little strange to me and a bit at odds with jazz itself because, at least ideally, the identity of the person holding the instrument shouldn’t matter. All that matters should be the music coming out of that instrument. Benny Goodman kind of showed us that in the ‘30s when he integrated his band with Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton.” The time I spent with Weinstein was wonderful, only slightly marred by my techno-ineptness that left me with no space remaining on my digital recorder and no clue as to how to erase old material to make room. Weinstein remained cool as a daiquiri as I frantically ran next door to the Korean stationery shop for a pad and pen with which I old-
present-day Berkeley student when talking to an Arab girl about the prospects for Arab/ Jewish coexistence. As history has shown, things aren’t so easy, something demonstrated later in a scene when Amos inadvertently injures an Arab boy with a swing. The older Amos takes a more measured view of the Arab/ Israeli conflict, realizing that a common history of suffering doesn’t make Arabs and Jews natural allies. There’s a touch of cheap irony to the way that scene plays out. The irony gets cheaper later on when Arieh tells Amos he’ll never again be bullied for being Jewish. Sure enough, Amos gets his lunch stolen from him by tiny creeps at elementary school. Predators still pounce on prey, only now some of them are Jewish. Fania’s family seems to mean well toward her, but she
school scribbled his words. Ever the perfectionist, however, he did send me this email follow-up: “Have you found your decoder ring to read those pages of legal pad notes? I often get little nervous about that. I once talked to someone who was scribbling away and then when the thing was printed, I learned all sorts of interesting facts about myself, like my father was an ethics professor at the University of Chicago (I mentioned going to an event at U of C with my father) and that going to Israel was the most meaningful trip I’d ever taken (I’d mentioned being there for a jazz fest and having delicious seafood). :) “I just wanted to clarify what we discussed about the idea of talent. I’m not sure how well I articulated it. But what I was trying to say is that I feel that the word ‘talent’ is too often misused — maybe cause it’s misunderstood. But I hear people use the word as though it was a coveted prize that some people got and others didn’t — and it’s that idea that I disagree with because it gives no consideration to the work that’s needed to learn how to do whatever the so-called talented person is doing. “And of course, it’s true that certain things come more naturally to some people. But to say that someone has talent — to me — what that really means is that they have the ability and a desire to sit in a space for a long, LONG time and figure out how to do their thing. I mean, I don’t know, it seems that people are not really supposed to WANT to spend an absurd amount of time working on one thing by themselves in lieu of actually being in the world with other humans. And I know there’s people who disagree with me on a lot of this. But it’s just my opinion.” To keep tabs on where you can next catch Aaron Weinstein, visit aaronweinstein.net. Contact David Noh at Inthenoh@aol.com and check out his blog at http://nohway.wordpress.com.
winds up as prey as well, although she could have benefited from the existence of feminism or effective antidepressants. Portman’s direction and Slawomar Idziak’s cinematography do a better job of conveying the characters’ moods than her storytelling. While she relies heavily on voiceover, Fania’s depression is better evoked by the way Idziak seems to bleach much of the color from the image at times. Elsewhere, he uses outlandishly bright yellow filters for fantasy scenes. Portman often shoots from a child’s point of view, using low angles. It’s difficult to criticize this film without calling for an entirely different one; after all, Amos wrote the book it’s based on, not Fania. Yet it hints at another story, one more original than yet another tale
A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS Directed by Natalie Portman Focus World In Hebrew with English subtitles Opens Aug. 19 Landmark Sunshine 143 E. Houston St. Btwn. First & Second Aves. landmarktheatres.com
of a young man finding his voice as a writer. In that other tale, Fania becomes a writer and lifts herself out of depression. That’s perhaps more optimistic than the sexual politics of ‘40s Israel warranted, but I’ll give Portman’s film the credit for letting one imagine how differently it could have turned out.
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6/14/16 9:59 AM August 18 - 31, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc
August 18, 2016