Page 1

Appetite, Desire Mash-Up at Fancy Food Show 25

Feds Seek Jail Time for Owner 09


SERIOUSLY. Nicole Malliotakis Worries About Bathrooms... Upstate! Page 07






July 20–August 2, 2017 |

In This Issue COVER STORY The GOP’s mayoral candidate. Seriously. 07 LABOR RIGHTS Pleasure Chest workers organize 19 BENEFIT Fran Drescher says “Cancer Schmancer” 26 CABARET Linda Lavin’s back 31

PERSPECTIVE Rainbow Flag belongs at Stonewall Monument 29 FILM Creature comforts from Amat Escalante 32 THEATER Resonant revival of “Marvin’s Room” 34 IN THE NOH Hanging with artist Jeff Miller 40


No gambles on health care 20

BRINGING MANHATTAN to BROOKLYN 943 Coney Island Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11230 646.494.7227 | | July 20–August 2, 2017



The GOP’s Mayoral Candidate. Seriously. Nicole Malliotakis worries about bathrooms… upstate! BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


s she was discussing crime and the extent to which New York City residents feel safe in the city, Nicole Malliotakis, the presumptive Republican candidate for mayor and a member of the State Assembly since 2011, was asked about her continuing opposition to the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would add gender identity as a protected class to New York’s human rights law, hate crimes law, and other statutes. “If a man were to follow someone into a restroom… they’re there because they want to commit a crime against a woman and they are caught, they can use that law as a loophole,” said Malliotakis during a May 18 interview with Gay City News and other newspapers owned by NYC Community Media. “I believe there is a loophole in the law that allows it to be exploited for individuals… to commit a type of sex crime.” Reporters were stunned by that answer. New York City enacted a law in 2002 that barred discrimination based on gender identity. Currently, 18 states and the nation’s capital also ban discrimination based on gender identity. Though Malliotakis said she was aware of cases outside of New York in which criminal defendants had used such an anti-discrimination law as a shield against criminal charges, no one else in that room had ever heard of such a thing. Her campaign never followed up with promised details on her claim. “The way it’s written, it gives an individual a defense to say, ‘I was somewhere because of their identity,’” the 36-year-old candidate said. “There needs to some type of component that doesn’t allow people to use it as a criminal defense.” Malliotakis was first elected to a district representing parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn in 2010. She has easily won reelection every two years since then running on | July 20–August 2, 2017


State Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis meets the press in Gay City News’ offices on May 18.

the Republican, Conservative Party, and Independence Party lines. GENDA has passed the State Assembly 10 times since 2007, with Malliotakis consistently voting “No” during her time in office. The legislation has stalled in the State Senate where it faces opposition from Republicans and the Conservative Party, which is a small but still influential political party on the right. Malliotakis also voted “No” on 2011 legislation, which was enacted, allowing same-sex couples to wed, a vote she now says she regrets. Her regret drew a rebuke from Michael Long, chair of the Conservative Party, which has endorsed her. In some respects, Malliotakis is an accidental candidate for mayor. While press reports prior to mid2017 routinely described her as a “rising star” in the Republican Party, she remained largely unknown. She became the party’s presumptive nominee only after realtor Paul Massey, who was widely assumed to be the frontrunner for the Republican nod, abruptly dropped out and Bo Dietl, a former NYPD detective, was booted from the Republican primary. Her fundraising reflects her status as a candidate who may have been running this time just for practice. In her latest filings with the city’s Campaign Finance Board, Malliotakis reported rais-

ing roughly $344,000 since April, with about $275,000 in cash on hand. Mayor Bill de Blasio has raised $4.7 million and has $2.6 million in cash, though he has been raising money for far longer than Malliotakis. Broadly, Malliotakis’ themes are that de Blasio is not a leader and that the city is seeing crime rising and quality of life plummeting under his watch. She points to the delays in the subway system — which is run by the governor — the homeless, and certain crime statistics to make her argument. “There’s a whole host of quality of life issues in this city,” she said. “There’s an obvious problem when you walk through this city and you see poor individuals who are sleeping in the street… We cannot allow the subway stations to become a homeless shelter.” The mayor does have appointees on the board that runs the MTA, but not a majority. He should be using those appointees and the bully pulpit of his office to harangue the MTA into improving service for New Yorkers, Malliotakis said. Some crime statistics support her, though the increases she complains about began under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Rape and sex crimes are up 15 percent,” Malliotakis said. “Women in the city generally don’t feel safe… People don’t feel safe in this city.” In one instance, her claim that

“In the Bronx, reports of rape have nearly tripled” is simply wrong. From 1990 to 2016, reported rapes in the Bronx fell from 644 to 339. To date in 2017, there have been 155 rapes versus 169 in the same period in 2016, an 8.3 percent decline. Part of her response to crime will be to reinstitute stop and frisk, a practice that drew strenuous objections from many communities and a federal lawsuit against the city. Stops and frisks, which primarily targeted young black and Latino men, went from just over 92,000 in 2002 to nearly 686,000 in 2011. The practice began to decline in Bloomberg’s final term and has effectively ended under de Blasio. There were 12,404 stops and frisks in 2016. In every year except 2016, police found no evidence of a crime in 80 to over 90 percent of the stops. “I think stop and frisk, it’s a tool and it’s a tool that should be used by NYPD when used appropriately, when it’s warranted,” Malliotakis said. “They often found guns, they often found weapons, they found drugs.” In 2015, Malliotakis opposed the city’s program to issue municipal ID cards to taxpayers, a program that she now says “has value,” but she wants to see applicants vetted more carefully. She is opposed to New York City’s refusal to honor federal immigration detainers when the individuals have committed minor crimes. “He believes we should not be complying with federal detainer requests in the incidents of individuals who commit crimes like grand larceny, sexual abuse, forcible touching, patronizing a child for prostitution, identity theft, welfare fraud, all crimes in which the city will not comply with detainer requests,” she said. New York City complies with federal immigration detainers, which are not arrest warrants, only if federal immigration authorities supply a warrant signed by a judge, if the person sought has been con-

MALLIOTAKIS, continued on p.9



Sexual Orientation Discrimination Headed to High Court? With appeals courts in Chicago, Atlanta split on protections under ‘64 Civil Rights Act, issue ripe for review BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


n what could prove a pivotal step in the long road toward full equality under the law, Lambda Legal has announced it will petition the Supreme Court to decide whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans employment discrimination because of sex, also bans discrimination that is based on sexual orientation. Lambda signaled its intentions on July 6, after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, announced that its full bench would not reconsider a three-judge panel decision from March 10 rejecting a sexual orientation discrimination claim by Jameka K. Evans, a lesbian security guard, against her former employer, Georgia Regional Hospital. The argument that Title VII should be interpreted to cover sexual orientation claims got a big boost several months ago when the full bench of the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit ruled that a lesbian academic, Kimberly Hively, could sue an Indiana community college for sexual orientation discrimination under the federal sex discrimination law, overruling prior panel decisions from that circuit. The Seventh Circuit was the first federal appeals court to rule that the 1964 Act provided such protections. Lambda Legal represented Hively in that appeal. Interestingly, Title VII did not even include sex as a prohibited ground of discrimination when the Civil Rights Act got to the floor of the House of Representatives for debate. The measure’s primary focus was race discrimination. But a Virginia representative, Howard W. Smith, an opponent of the bill, introduced a floor amendment to add sex, in an apparent effort to add a poison pill making the measure too controversial to pass. Smith’s amendment won the support of similarly-minded conservatives but also from liberals interested in advancing the employment rights of women. Smith’s effort backfired when the amended bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate.



Jameka K. Evans’ discrimination suit against her former employer, Georgia Regional Hospital, could end up at the Supreme Court.

There, a lengthy filibuster over the race discrimination provision delayed a floor vote for months, but when it was eventually passed, there was not much discussion about the meaning of sex as a prohibited ground for employment discrimination. (The sex provision did not apply to other parts of the 1964 Act, so employment protections are the only portion of that statute that outlawed sex discrimination.) Within a few years, both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and federal courts had issued decisions rejecting discrimination claims from LGBTQ plaintiffs, holding that Congress did not intend to address homosexuality or transsexualism (as it was then called) in the 1964 law. That judicial consensus did not start to break down until after the Supreme Court’s 1989 “sex-stereotyping” decision in Ann Hopkins’ sex discrimination case against Price Waterhouse. There, the high court concluded Hopkins was illegally denied partnership because senior members of the firm believed she did not conform to their image of a proper “lady partner.” Within a few years, litigators began to persuade federal judges that discrimination claims by transgender plaintiffs also involved sex stereotyping. By definition, a transgender person does not conform to stereotypes about their sex as designated at birth, and by now a near consensus has emerged among the federal courts of appeals that discrimination because of gender identity or expression is a form of sex

discrimination under the stereotyping theory. The EEOC changed its position as well, following the lead of some court decisions, in 2012. Advocates for gay plaintiffs also raised the stereotyping theory, but with mixed success. Most federal circuit courts were unwilling to accept it unless the plaintiff could show that he or she was gender-nonconforming in some obvious way, such as effeminacy in men or masculinity (akin to the drill sergeant demeanor of Ann Hopkins) in women. The courts generally rejected the argument that discrimination based on an employee’s homosexual or bisexual orientation, in and of itself, was proof that their employer impermissibly acted based on stereotypes of how a man or woman was supposed to act. Some appellate courts, including the New York-based Second Circuit, ruled that if sexual orientation was the “real reason” for discrimination, a Title VII claim must fail, even if the plaintiff was gendernonconforming. Within the past few years, however, several district courts and the EEOC accepted the stereotyping argument and other arguments insisting that discrimination because of sexual orientation is always, as a practical matter, about the sex of the plaintiff. But it was only this year that a federal appeals court — the Seventh Circuit in the Hively case — came around to this view. A split among the circuits about the interpretation of a federal statute is a key predictor of a case the Supreme Court is likely to accept for review. Until now, the high court

has always rejected the invitation to consider whether Title VII could be interpreted to cover sexual orientation and gender identity claims, leaving in place lower court rulings that found otherwise. In 2016, however, the high court signaled its interest in the question whether sex discrimination, as such, includes gender identity discrimination when it agreed to review a ruling by the Richmondbased Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the district court should not have dismissed a sex discrimination claim by Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student. Grimm, who was denied access to the boys’ bathroom appropriate to his gender identity by his Gloucester County, Virginia, school, filed suit under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans sex discrimination by schools receiving federal money. The Fourth Circuit found that the district court should have deferred to the Obama administration’s Department of Education interpretation of the Title IX regulations, which tracked the EEOC and federal courts in Title VII cases and accepted the sex stereotyping theory for gender identity discrimination claims. Shortly before the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments in the Grimm case, however, the Trump administration withdrew the Obama DOE interpretation, pulling the rug out from under the Fourth Circuit’s decision. The Supreme Court canceled the argument and sent the case back to the Fourth Circuit, which this fall will hear argument on the question whether Title IX would protect a claimant like Grimm even without an interpretation from the Executive Branch. Meanwhile, the Title VII issue has been percolating in many courts around the country. Here in New York, several recent Second Circuit appellate rulings, citing existing circuit precedent, have denied sexual orientation discrimination claims. In some of those cases, judges said that the gay plaintiff could maintain their Title

1964 CIVIL RIGHTS ACT, continued on p.30

July 20–August 2, 2017 |


US Seeks Up to 21 Months Jail Time in Rentboy Case Jeffrey Hurant, shuttered site’s owner, argues against incarceration BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


he federal government has asked that Jeffrey Hurant, the chief executive of, be sent to prison for 15 to 21 months when he is sentenced on July 21 in federal court in downtown Brooklyn. “In the plea agreement, the government agreed to seek a one-level reduction based on the case being disposed of as to both defendants simultaneously,” Tyler Smith, the assistant US attorney who prosecuted the case against the gay escort site, wrote in a July 16 sentencing memorandum in reference to charges against both Hurant and the business he owned. “The guidelines range of imprisonment should be 15 to 21 months.” In October of last year, Hurant pleaded guilty to one count of promoting prostitution and one count of money laundering on behalf of his business. The government has seized roughly $1.5 million that it said were the proceeds from the business. The government argued that prison time would “promote respect for the law and the seriousness of the offense,” Smith wrote. “The defendant unambiguously operated one of the largest prostitution enterprises ever prosecuted,” Smith wrote, saying that Hurant flouted the law, his claim of having consulted with attorneys on the legality of the business notwithstanding, and knew his advertisers were selling sex for money. The government argued that earned roughly $10 million since it opened in 1997 and that Hurant earned a sal-


victed of a violent or serious felony within the last five years, or may be on a terrorist watch list. Ultimately, Malliotakis’ greatest challenge may be one she has little control over. During the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, | July 20–August 2, 2017


The September 3, 2015 cover of Gay City News.

ary of $300,000 a year. Smith wrote that a prison sentence was necessary to keep other escort websites from continuing to operate. “While the arrests in this case were covered by the press, that press has done nothing to deter the operators of prostitution websites,” he wrote. “A search for escort advertisements on the Internet turns up site after site that offer fare little different from Indeed, Rentboy. com’s main competitor is still in operation. Without actual punishment in this case, the operators of those websites will likely conclude that in the unlikely event of their conviction, they can expect only a slap on the wrist; hardly the type

of punishment that would dissuade someone from the significant money that can be obtained through this type of criminal activity.” The government and Hurant have not agreed on a sentence, and Margo Brodie, the judge who will sentence him, would not be bound by such an agreement in any case. Hurant has agreed that he will not “appeal or otherwise challenge a sentence with a term of 24 months or less of imprisonment,” Michael Tremonte, Hurant’s attorney, wrote in an April 29 sentencing memorandum. In his April 29 filing, Hurant argued that he should not be imprisoned at all. The defense conceded that Hurant had violated

the law, but it presented him as a highly ethical and accomplished business owner and as an unalloyed good for escorts, the clients they served, and the LGBTQ community. The site’s Manhattan offices were raided in August 2015 by the US Department of Homeland Security and Hurant and six employees were arrested. Charges against the six employees were dropped last year. The case is being prosecuted by the Office of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, which is in downtown Brooklyn. The raid and arrests sparked protests in four cities, including New York City, and condemnations from LGBTQ groups. The New York Times editorial page called it “somewhat baffling… that taking down a website that operated in plain sight for nearly two decades suddenly became an investigative priority for the Department of Homeland Security and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.”

she was US Senator Marco Rubio’s New York campaign chair and now she says she voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election. She is running in a city in which fewer than two out of 10 voters supported Trump. The mayor certainly has accomplishments that he can and will

cite in his campaign. And he will talk about Donald Trump and the need to oppose him. Malliotakis will have to convince voters that the city is in terrible shape under de Blasio and that having a Trump supporter in City Hall will benefit them. “Are we getting the results?” she

said. “One of the things I would like to do is look at the metrics of these programs and see what’s working, what’s not working… I tend to see this mayor as somebody who just throws money at problems instead of actually looking at the root cause of the problems and seeing how we could fi x the problems.”

FACEBOOK.COM owner Jeffrey Hurant will be sentenced on July 21.


After my diagnosis, it took me a while to accept the fact that being HIV-positive is not the end of the world: It’s just the beginning of a whole new way of life. The first meds I was prescribed gave me some bad side effects. But I       

         That list of things you wanted to accomplish before you were diagnosed? It’s still possible if you stay in care and work       



July 20–August 2, 2017 |

“I’ m here. I’ m living. I’ m happy. So take that, HIV.” Cedric Living with HIV since 2012.




Get in care. Stay in care. Live well. | July 20–August 2, 2017



Five-Year Sentence for Not Disclosing HIV Status Upheld Ohio appeals panel accepts jury verdict in case of gay man who denies contrary testimony BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


n Ohio state appeals court has affirmed a felonious assault conviction and five-year prison sentence for Jeffrey A. Boatright, a gay Akron man convicted by a jury of violating a law criminalizing an HIV-positive individual’s failure to disclose their serostatus prior to engaging in sex. In a July 12 ruling, Ohio’s Ninth District Court of Appeals upheld the verdict by a jury that heard conflicting stories about how and when Boatright learned that he was HIV-positive and decided to believe the prosecution’s witnesses. Those witnesses directly contradicted Boatright’s claim he did not know he was HIV-positive when he had sex with the victim, a gay man that Presiding Judge Diana Carr identified as M.H. Summarizing the trial record,

Carr wrote that the two men, who had previously been friends and each of whom had troubled relationships with their boyfriends, engaged in unprotected oral and anal sex, with Boatright penetrating M.H., in November 2014. Prior to having sex, the record showed, M.H. inquired about Boatright’s sexual history and was told he last had sex that September and had subsequently tested negative for HIV. According to M.H., he had last been tested for HIV in 2013. About a week and a half after the two men had sex, M.H. developed flu-like symptoms, and after another week went to an emergency room, where he tested positive. According to the trial record, when M.H. contacted him, Boatright denied he was positive but finally told M.H., ‘I’m sorry, man. I lied.’” When M.H. responded to his HIV results by “stating that he did not want to live life having HIV,”

Carr wrote, he “was admitted to a psychiatric unit for observation.” Evidence regarding blood donations made by Boatright contradicted his claim he didn’t know he was positive. In 2011, without disclosing he has sex with men, which would have barred him from giving blood, he received compensation for donating plasma at CSL Plasma. That donation tested positive for HIV, and CSL sent him a certified letter notifying him, but it was returned by the post office because it had the wrong address. The company also left him a voicemail but received no response. CSL reported the positive result, as required, to the State Health Department, which also sent notifications and made appointments for Boatright to visit, but received no response. However, when Boatright returned to CLS Plasma in December 2012 to make another donation, Bonnie Chapman, a registered

nurse there, notified him of his earlier positive test result, according to her testimony. That meeting was documented in an electronic record. She recalled that his response to the news was simply, “‘Okay,’ and he left.” Testimony from another registered nurse, identified as Mr. Osco from the State Health Department, indicated that Boatright went there in December 2014 — following his encounter with M.H. — requesting HIV testing “because he was informed that one of his sexual contacts was hospitalized with an HIV diagnosis, and because the home test Boatright took thereafter was positive.” Boatright tested positive at that time, and Osco then found the 2011 positive result in the state’s disease reporting database. According to Carr’s summary of the trial record, “When Mr. Osco

HIV DISCLOSURE, continued on p.30

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© 2017 New York Lottery. You must be 18 years or older to purchase a Lottery ticket. Please play responsibly. For help with problem gambling, call 877-8-HOPE-NY or text HOPENY (467369).


July 20–August 2, 2017 |


Under de Blasio, Bulk of Pot Arrestees Black or Latino Critics charge despite mayor’s 2013 campaign rhetoric, enforcement still racially skewed BY NATHAN RILEY


espite the fact that Democrats continue to become more dependent on reliable voting support from communities of color, groups fighting the criminalization of marginalized New Yorkers report that under Mayor Bill de Blasio virtually everyone arrested for marijuana is black or Latino. Appearing at a July 11 City Hall press conference, drug reformers were joined by advocates for communities and youth of color in demanding that the city’s five district attorneys refuse to prosecute any arrests for marijuana in public view as the fruits of “Jim Crow” enforcement. In 2016, such arrests were up 10 percent and totaled 18,121 — roughly 350 every week. Seventysix percent of those arrested had never been convicted of even a single misdemeanor, but the police pressed charges anyway. Advocates — including representatives from the Drug Policy Alliance, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Brooklyn Defenders, a legal aid group — presented academic research showing that marijuana arrests under de Blasio “have the same overwhelming racial disparities as under Bloomberg.” Per 100,000 population, the rate of arrest in Harlem’s 30th precinct was 1,116, but in the predominantly white and well-heeled Upper West Side 20th precinct it was 50. In East Harlem’s 25th precinct, it was 1,038 per 100,000, a sharp contrast with the posh Park Avenue 19th precinct that had a rate of just 6. The state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Kassandra Frederique, referred to these disparities as “staggering.” Even after a federal court order curbed the stop and frisk program, which reached astronomical highs in the Bloomberg years, racially skewed enforcement has continued. Last year, 85 percent of the arrestees were black or Latino. During de Blasio’s first three years as mayor, 60,000 arrests were made for marijuana in public view. The grand total in 20 years of discrimi- | July 20–August 2, 2017


Queens College Professor Harry Levine holds up his new report, “Unjust and Unconstitutional: 60,000 Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s New York,” at a July 11 City Hall press conference.

natory enforcement is 700,000 arrests, Frederique said. Queens College Professor Harry Levine, the sociologist who broke the arrest statistics down by precincts, was unsparing in his criticism. “It’s essentially Jim Crow police enforcement,” he said. “One set of laws for white people, one set of laws for people of color.” In 2013, while campaigning for his first term, the mayor acknowledged that “low-level marijuana arrests have disastrous consequences” and there is a “clear racial bias” in these arrests. “This policy is unjust and wrong,” de Blasio said at the time. The news conference damned him for breaking his promise that things would change. Scott Hechinger, the director of policy at the Brooklyn Defenders, accused the district attorneys from the five boroughs of “insulating the NYPD from being scrutinized for bad stops. Prosecutors don’t care about marijuana arrests,” so they allow defendants to walk, but only after they find their way into the court system. He slammed this result as a “wholly inadequate response,” resulting in cops continuing their disparate enforcement because the DAs are not really taking them on. The system operates on autopilot, Hechinger charged. In a famous 2013 court decision holding that the NYPD’s stop and frisk practices relied on unconstitutional searches, US District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin condemned city officials for adopting “an at-

titude of willful blindness” toward racial disparities. Hechinger called on the district attorneys to confront the police arrests head-on, using prosecutorial discretion to dismiss the charges right at the precincts to send a clear message that deliberate indifference toward racist enforcement is not acceptable. The statistics presented by Levine understate the impact of these current policies. Arrests are concentrated on those under 34, who are handcuffed, put in police cars, and taken to the precinct where their fingerprints enter the system for review by law enforcement and immigration officials. Hechinger scornfully dismissed the desk appearance tickets offered by police as “sham protections.” Once collared, a person spends up to 12 hours in the precinct and is then told to go to court two or three weeks later. If their prints trigger an immigration hold from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE agents have a specific time and place to serve a warrant. Hechinger was equally critical of cops writing summons, a ticket issued after they are shown identification. Those who can afford it simply pay the ticket, while those who can’t ignore the summons and a criminal warrant is automatically issued. They then get arrested the next time they are stopped. The system has undergone no fundamental reform, he argued. In his report, “Unjust and Unconstitutional: 60,000 Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s


Kassandra Frederique, the New York State director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

New York,” Levine writes that the NYPD has “never offered any serious defense of the arrests.” Levine’s reported noted that even Heather Mac Donald, a conservative commentator affiliated with the Manhattan Institute who is a defender of tough broken windows policing, has questioned the NYPD’s marijuana enforcement, arguing that the time officers spend in court reduces “patrol presence” on the streets. The continued pattern of arrests under “reformer” de Blasio speaks to the policy’s worrisome intractability. Even though the policy has been thoroughly discredited, the arrests continue. As long as the police are allowed to make arrests, they will haul in the most powerless New Yorkers. The real solution, reformers agree, is taking away the power of police to make arrests by taxing and regulating pot under legislation introduced by Manhattan’s East Side State Senator Liz Kruger and Buffalo Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes. Their legislation, however, languishes under Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is reticent even on medical marijuana, straightjacketing that program so much that it doesn’t permit veterans suffering from PTSD to buy smokable herb. Advocates support the Colorado solution. “A marijuana revolution” said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, is “just, it’s rational, and it’s time.”



Pleasure Chest Workers Win Union Representation Unanimous vote from sex retailer’s two Manhattan locations after owners’ pushback BY PAUL SCHINDLER


n a unanimous vote, workers at the two Manhattan locations of the Pleasure Chest chose to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Pleasure Chest, which sells sex toys and related paraphernalia as well as offering workshops, has locations on Seventh Avenue in the West Village and on Second Avenue on the Upper East Side, plus other stores in Chicago and Los Angeles, which were not part of the union drive. RWDSU’s success in organizing workers at the local Pleasure Chest came in the wake of the successful unionization of Babeland, another sex toy purveyor, with locations on the Lower East Side, in SoHo, and in Park Slope. According to a release from the union, the Pleasure Chest’s Manhattan employees — which one of them estimated to number 15 or 16 — are “predominately LGBTQ and women.” The vote to unionize came on June 29, with the National Labor Relations Board certifying it on July 7. According to several employees, sensitivity to the concerns of women and transgender employees — as well people of color — factored into their thinking as they considered unionizing. Sloan Eckhardt, a transgender employee of four years who prefers the pronouns they and them, said the company uses a 360-degree employee evaluation process that allows feedback to go between workers and managers in all directions. However, Eckhardt said, managers had problems “listening to us and taking responsibility for their decisions.” Workers gave feedback, they told Gay City News, but, “It was not getting us where we wanted to be.” Eckhardt described themself as having a masculine presentation, but said, “I noted the way my feedback was listened to versus that from people of color and more feminine employees.” Managers, they said, were willing to follow up on feedback on certain issues, but were not responsive | July 20–August 2, 2017


Workers from the Pleasure Chest’s two Manhattan stores celebrate their winning representation by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

when it involved “unconscious bias, the front door not being ADA-compliant, or spending money.” Acknowledging that the Pleasure Chest ownership and management is heavily LGBTQ itself, Eckhardt complained that their values are typical of “white liberal gay and lesbian people” but there is a gap between those values and management’s actions. LeNair Richardson, a gay man who is also a four-year Pleasure Chest employee, echoed Eckhardt’s contention that management, while welcoming feedback, seemed far less interested in acting on it. He added that he witnessed instances of people of color working there being subjected to unfair treatment. Richardson said he formerly worked in the gay porn industry, which he left because of the prevalence of what he termed “wrong messaging” about people’s bodies. Hoping to find a “more positive” end of the sex industry, he became concerned that similar attitudes were emerging at the Pleasure Chest. “One manager told me, ‘You’re an at-will employee. I could fire you, but you’re here because I like you,’” Richardson recalled. “Sometimes the way I was spoken to was to undermine my intellect.” The belief on the part of employees that they needed to strengthen their voice and their power in their dealings with management appar-

ently only increased when the Pleasure Chest brought in consultants to assist in beating back the organizing effort. Referring to the work of those consultants, Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU’s president, in the union’s release, said, “The harassment and categorically tone-deaf anti-union campaign lead by Jackson Lewis and Labor Relations International that the workers at Pleasure Chest faced is an outrage — I am proud that the RWDSU will be at the bargaining table to ensure that these workers never face that type of horrific transphobic behavior by their company again.” According to Eckhardt, Richardson, and a third employee, Nico Fuentes, the two consultants presented a series of five mandatory “information sessions” — a management prerogative allowed under federal labor law — that seem to have badly misfired. Richardson said that the consultants were so indifferent to the gender identities of those they were addressing that they flat-out conceded up front, “We’re going to misgender some of you.” Fuentes, quoted in RWDSU’s written release, said, “The company and their union-busting buffoons’ blatant disregard for our gender identities during the organizing campaign only further demonstrates the need for a united

voice, which is why we’ve decided the RWDSU will be a strong partner in securing safety trainings and protocols when harassment by the company or by the public takes place.” Eckhardt explained that on-thejob safety trainings are particularly important in a sex-related retail setting, where some customers may feel that the liberated atmosphere frees them from observing any rules or showing any respect for employees. Co-workers, they said, especially transgender women, were the objects of harassment, even groping. In one instance, Eckhardt said, a trans women was spit on. The company’s response, they said, amounted to a one-off safety training that fell short of what employees needed to protect themselves. Eckhardt also suggested that the consultants showed surprising political tone-deafness when speaking to LGBTQ workers who live in Manhattan. President Ronald Reagan’s take-down of the air traffic controller’s union in the early 1980s, for example — at a time when he was ignoring the emerging AIDS crisis — was pointed to as a laudatory moment in labor history. While touted as “information sessions,” Eckhardt said, the consultants’ pitch had “a very clear bias from the get-go,” with basic facts misrepresented. “They just wanted to harp on how different we were from Babeland,” Eckhardt recalled. “And they compared joining a union to gambling in Atlantic City. The antiunion campaign only solidified our commitment to organize.” In the wake of RWDSU’s press release announcing the success of its organizing effort, Pleasure Chest pushed back hard in a blog on its company website. “The Union would like to position the Pleasure Chest as blind to the conditions faced by our largely LGBTQ workforce and claim we have unfair labor practices and subject our workers to harassment,” wrote Sarah Tomchesson, the Pleasure Chest’s head of business opera-

PLEASURE CHEST, continued on p.20



Just In Case, Health Advocates Return to Capitol Hill Though GOP assault on Obamacare appears dead, hundreds stage Senate sit-in, keeping pressure up


Councilmember Corey Johnson being arrested after sitting-in at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on July 19.



ne day after efforts by the Trump administration and the US Senate’s GOP leadership to dismantle President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act collapsed, up to 500 activists descended on Senate offices demanding that Republicans work on “providing health care rather than taking it away.” That’s how Eric Sawyer, the vice president of public affairs and policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, explained the efforts of his group and other health care advocates in Washington on July 19. In tandem with hundreds of others — including about 200 New Yorkers representing Housing Works, VOCAL-NY, Rise and Resist, Gays Against Guns, ACT UP, and Positive Women’s Network, as well — GMHC staff and clients staged sits-ins at the


tions. “While these claims make for attention grabbing headlines, arguably their main aim is to help bolster RWDSU’s standing on the national stage as a Union that is putting LGBTQ rights at the center of their efforts. This Union has only very recently begun to position LGBTQ protections as an organizing priority and their claims positioning the Pleasure Chest as an oppressive work environment are simply false. I argue that we have set the standard in our industry, not only in progressive policies and protections, but also in wages and benefits for decades, long before the Union began drawing attention to


offices of the 49 GOP senators who had not yet rejected Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for an outright repeal of Obamacare without putting forward any immediate replacement. McConnell adopted that strategy on July 18, after it became clear the Republicans lacked the 50 votes needed to pass his Obamacare replacement bill. The repeal with no replacement option has been scored by the Congressional Budget Office as even worse than McConnell’s replacement bill, leaving 32 million more Americans uninsured by 2026, versus the 22 million who would be forced out of care under the measure just abandoned. Three Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — didn’t even need the CBO scoring to reject the outright repeal option, announcing their opposition just hours

after McConnell signaled his intentions. The GOP leader plans a vote next week — one he seems destined to lose — to give his members the chance to show just how little they like Obamacare. City Councilmember Corey Johnson, the out gay Health Committee chair, is unwilling to bet against McConnell’s ability to yet turn things around. “The fight isn’t over as we saw with the House, where Paul Ryan pulled a rabbit out of a hat,” Johnson said as he headed over to sit-in at McConnell’s office, where he was later arrested. “The fight has to continue until straight repeal and repeal and replace are both abandoned by the Republicans.” As New York State’s only openly

HIV-positive elected official, Johnson said he was in Washington as one of hundreds of activists with preexisting conditions that would be penalized severely under all the Republican alternatives that have been discussed. “So now we’re here to tell our stories and to fight back against any effort to curtail health care in this country,” he said. Johnson said most of the protesters favor a single-payer approach that would truly deliver universal care, but he acknowledged that the only feasible next step as long as Republicans hold the Senate and House is a bipartisan effort to steady the insurance exchanges estab-

these issues.” (Appelbaum, the RWDSU president, it should be noted, is an out gay man.) Tomchesson pointed to the company’s pioneering role within its industry in establishing full-time schedules, offering health benefits and vacation time, establishing a gender identity nondiscrimination policy, and putting in place safety training. Compensation at the company, she said, is 25 percent above the industry standard and there is widespread promotion from within to management posts, with 86 percent of all managers identifying as LGBTQ. Responding to RWDSU’s charge that the company engaged in

union-busting efforts, Tomchesson noted that the Pleasure Chest’s hiring of consultants to lead meetings with employees was within its rights as an employer. Eckhardt, in fact, confirmed that, beyond the consultants’ efforts, Pleasure Chest did not act to impede organizing. Tomchesson’s blog post was followed by a number of comments posted by employees lauding the company for its inclusive and progressive policies, though it’s unclear if any came from staff of the New York stores or if those posting hold management posts. One fiveyear employee identified himself as working in Los Angeles. A “nonbinary” employee voiced anger at RWDSU’s characterization of Plea-

sure Chest as “transphobic,” citing their own experience and noting the “high number of trans and nonbinary folx in upper management.” In an email to Gay City News, Tomchesson defended management’s response to employee feedback, noting as examples its reporting of daily commission rates to enhance transparency and its revised inclement weather policy. “The upcoming negotiation process will give us an opportunity to continue our longstanding efforts to revise our practices to better meet the needs of our customers and workers alike,” she wrote. Neither Jackson Lewis nor Labor Relations International responded to requests for comment.


Members of Rise and Resist and ACT UP outside David Koch’s Upper East Side home on July 6.

HEALTH DEBATE, continued on p.31

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The Mash-Up of Appetite and Desire Fancy Food Show proves why, especially in the age of Trump, we must jettison notions of a sexual marketplace BY DONNA MINKOWITZ


t was the last day of the Fancy Food Show, and every attendee was frantically scooping up free Italian sodas, chips, organic diced tomatoes, caramels, ginger tea premixed with kilos of sugar, and little French éclairs. I was one; my life had turned into an episode of “Supermarket Sweep,” and like the thousands of others who attended, I was now enacting the sweetest feverdream of capitalism: getting every purchasable pleasure — in every bright, fabulous color and hard, silky, raspy, or creamy texture — without having to pay for it. Never mind that so many of the offerings — Gluten-free wraps made of egg white! Squirtable red-pepper-nut sauce! — simply weren’t very good. We all grabbed them up anyway, because in capitalism more is always better. New is always hotter. And free is close to God. I don’t know who first coined the metaphor of the sexual marketplace, which equates the beautiful, intensely varied abundance of human beings available to fuck with Baskin-Robbins’ 31 (now 1,300) flavors of chemicalladen, pallid-tasting ice cream. But I know that human beings aren’t products, which is why it would be better to compare the landscape of persons who might want to touch you to… an actual landscape. There is the tall oak by the river, there is the mountain that exerts a presence, there is the deep black lake so cold it shines. There are the salt-seared sea roses that smell great if you bend your nose down into them… There is the deep, fresh mud that could be gross or wonderful, you will never know until you try. Aren’t those better metaphors for what human beings actually are? But since the 1970s, we’ve talked about our hot, roiling eros in terms of mere consumer preferences (“I don’t prefer strawberry, I prefer chocolate”) and thus inadvertently sexualized the marketplace itself. Everybody, not just queers, has so internalized the idea that | July 20–August 2, 2017

consumer goods are exciting, that the nicest-textured sheets, finestmade clothes, and, um, turmeric juice blends practically are sexual that we have a hard time breaking free of the social structures that peg our worth to how many of them we can afford. I don’t mean to single out the Fancy Food Show, which is after all a trade show meant to market costly foods to retailers, distributors, and the press. But for me what the show most highlighted this year was the poverty of the consumer imagination, which has been held out to us for four generations as the greatest source of transformation and meaning in





our lives. On the floor of the Fancy Food Show, which spread throughout the Javits Center June 30 through July 2, this is what I found: Fake Alcoholic Water: A woman was standing over a table with smallish, expensive brown bottles that looked like the sort of spirits a Dutch viscount in his 60s might share with friends at his summer house. They turned out to be $24.99 bottles of water with herbs, meant to mimic the experience of drinking elite alcoholic beverages for consumers who must avoid the stuff. I’ve had to give up alcohol myself

because it conflicts with a medication that I take, so I became happy when I saw the beautiful little bottles of SD Watersboten. (The last word is similar to one meaning “water boats” in Dutch, the name for the boats that supply fresh drinking water to Rotterdam shipping vessels. How picturesque!) I picked the flavor I would sample solely for its name and smart blue label: Blue Vervain. SD Watersboten describes all three of its “fine herbal table waters” in language intended to telegraph wealth: they are “endowed for the rarefied palate.” (“Endowed”? Have they been

FANCY FOOD SHOW, continued on p.26


FANCY FOOD SHOW, from p.25

given a permanent income?) “Each nonpareil is a distinctive therapy and beverage [sic] held to rigorous standards of purity and integrity… In the classic culinary tradition our standards of purity have resulted in timeless and enduring drink classics that are compatible with haute cuisine.” The company went on so tirelessly about how “haute” and “pure” its distinctive H2O was that it sounded like the white nationalist of beverages. Finally I tried the Blue Vervain, which the company characterizes in this way: “Relaxing Blue Vervain is full-bodied with a silky texture, an elusive musky taste and a tranquil repose.” Like the other two waters, BV is supposed to have mood-enhancing properties. I grinned in spite of myself. Could something fi nally replace the glow of alcohol for me? I tried it: hmm. It tasted like warm, flat water that had been sitting awhile, not quite as good as the stuff you get from our great New York City taps. Innocent Chocolates: I rather like the idea of innocence, which ety-

mologically has nothing to do with sexual inexperience. (In Latin, all the word means is “not harming.”) So I was intrigued to see chocolate, which I’m also fond of, described this way. I marched down to Booth 5213 to try some. A nice young man explained that these dark chocolate bars are “innocent” because they are sugar-free and contain an extract made from sea vegetables that allegedly blocks sugar and starch absorption, as well as some “plant fibers” that supposedly prevent the digestion of fatty acids. (A note on Innocent’s advertising says the first statement “has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.”) Supposedly, the chocolate bars also have “net zero carbs,” “net zero fat calories,” “lower cholesterol.” and are “ideal for diabetics,” but the advertising also notes that those claims have not been evaluated by the FDA, either. But how did they taste? I love bitter, dark chocolate, but these bars didn’t taste like chocolate at all. Was it the sea vegetables and “plant fibers” getting in the way? The stuff tasted only dull, crumbly, and burnt, a little bit like exlax but not as chocolatey and good. I have no business giving advice to

diabetics, because I’m not a doctor. But if you (for other reasons) want chocolate that has no sugar, eat raw cacao nibs, which are delicious. P-nuff Crunch baked peanut puffs: The man and woman marketing these “puffs,” which have a texture almost like Cheese Doodles, told me they were high-protein and vegan. I love peanut flavor. I tasted it: oddly sweet, but not bad. (In fact, the snacks turned out to be made mostly of navy beans, plus rice, sugar, peanut oil, brown rice protein, and a little bit of peanuts thrown in.) They weren’t a puff you wanted to keep eating, though. The sweetness got cloying after the second one; not ideal for TV. Then the man and woman found out I was from Gay City News, and got excited. Alas, it was not for a wonderful reason: “We know that gay people have high incomes, and ours is an expensive product. Most people won’t be able to pay our prices. So we want to market to the gay community!” But as several studies from the Williams Institute have found, LGBTQ people (and, separately, cisgender LGB people) actually have

lower incomes across the board than heterosexuals do. I murmured that most of us didn’t actually have high incomes, but the couple would not be dissuaded, like anti-Semites convinced that Jews, also, make the big bucks. “Where are good places to market the LGBT community?” they asked. “Do you guys have expos?” I told them about a few. Alexian Pate: If you eat meat, and don’t care about very high fat, eat this! For a party, or your birthday, the pates made from pork or duck liver (not foie gras) are satisfying, meaty, and luxuriant. Available in many New York City supermarkets. If we ever want to get out of the Trumpian disaster, our current terrifying political moment, we must break away from the idea that there is any kind of similarity between sex and shopping. (Even if the apps some of us use for them seem similar.) Remember that Trump still markets his branded steaks, wine, and waters, and that he sits on gold-painted and sometimes gold-plated toilets. Don’t you want some other kind of meaning in your life?



n June 19, Fran Drescher, of “The Nanny” and “Happily Divorced” TV fame, played host to a Hornblower Cruise dinner gala in support of her Cancer Schmancer Foundation. Drescher, a longtime LGBTQ rights advocate, is also a survivor of uterine cancer. In 2002, following her successful battle with the disease, she wrote “Cancer Schmancer,” a story about her survival but also her distressing experience at being misdiagnosed over a two-year period during which time she consulted with eight different doctors. The Cancer Schmancer Foundation takes a three-pronged approach to battling the disease, which it says will hit one out of every two men and one out of every three women in their lifetime. By encouraging early detection, many lives can be saved, and its Fran



Fran Drescher (center) with Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway, the sister team who wrote “The Nanny” theme song.

Fran Drescher with her “Nanny” co-creator and gay ex-husband, Peter Marc Jacobson.

Fran Drescher with “Love Boat” alum Jill Whelan.

Van program offers low income, uninsured, and underinsured women in New York and Los Angeles free mammograms. Catching breast cancer early can mean a 90-percent chance of survival, the group says. The foundation’s other two initiatives are prevention, in which it focuses on environmental changes people can make in their own lives and homes to reduce

risk, and policy changes, including a federal legislative effort to require carcinogenic-free labeling on food and household products. The gala’s entertainment program included Drescher’s comedy as well as music from performers including Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway, the sister team who wrote the “The Nanny” theme song, Len Cariou, Seth Rudetsky

and Jennifer Simard, Jill Whelan, who gained fame at age 10 as Vicki Stubing, the daughter of Gavin MacLeod’s Captain Stubing on “The Love Boat,” and Peter Marc Jacobson, the co-creator of “The Nanny,” who also proudly identifies as Drescher’s gay ex-husband. For more information on the foundation’s work, visit


July 20–August 2, 2017 | | July 20–August 2, 2017



As Planet Comes to a Boil, Priorities Remain Screwed




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





CO-FOUNDERS EMERITUS Troy Masters John Sutter Please call (212) 229-1890 for advertising rates and availability.

NATIONAL DISPLAY ADVERTISING Rivendell Media / 212.242.6863 Gay City News, The Newspaper Serving Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender NYC, is published by NYC Community Media, LLC. Send all inquiries to: Gay City News, One Metrotech North, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Phone: 212.229.1890 Written permission of the publisher must be obtained before any of the contents of this paper, in part or whole, can be reproduced or redistributed. All contents © 2017 Gay City News. Gay City News is a registered trademark of NYC Community Media, LLC. Jennifer Goodstein, CEO Fax: 212.229.2790; E-mail:

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ew York Magazine’s cover story, “The Doomed Earth Catalog,” by David Wallace-Wells, may be the single most frightening magazine article I’ve ever read. Check out the opening: “In the jungles of Costa Rica where humidity routinely tops 90 percent, simply moving around outside when it’s over 105 degrees Fahrenheit would be lethal. And the effect would be fast: Within a few hours, a human body would be cooked to death from both inside and out.” Lovely. According to Wallace-Wells, fears of rising sea levels and drowning coastal cities are just the proverbial tip of the melting iceberg. “Parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.” In other words, should my grandnephew, Micah, who was born six months ago, live into his 80s, his world will be a living hell. “Most people talk as if Miami and Bangladesh still have a chance of surviving,” Wallace-Wells writes, “most of the scientists I spoke with assume we’ll lose them within the century, even if we stop burning fossil fuel in the next decade.” As far as Miami is concerned, there’s always Boca. But what will happen to the 161 million people who live in Bangladesh? The political crises that will accompany these many millions as they — you should pardon the expression — flood neighboring countries to escape the rising water will necessarily lead to unimaginable turmoil. The subheads of the article pretty much tell the story in capsule form: Doomsday, Heat Death, The End of Food, Climate Plagues, Unbreathable Air, Permanent Economic Collapse, Poisoned Oceans…. It turns out that the Arctic ice contains, trapped within it, diseases that the homo sapiens species isn’t old enough to have experienced, “which means our immune systems would have no idea how to fight back when those prehistoric plagues emerge from the ice.” In the section called Perpetual

War, Wallace-Wells notes that “as nearly every climate scientist I spoke to pointed out, the US military is obsessed with climate change: the drowning of all American Navy bases by sea level rise is trouble enough, but being the world’s policeman is quite a bit harder when the crime rate doubles.” The never-ending wars in the Middle East, he writes, may in part be caused by climate change, “a hypothesis all the more cruel considering that warming began accelerating when the industrialized world extracted and then burned the region’s oil.” To say this article is sobering is to understate its effect beyond recognition. It’s terrifying. Sickening. And it is purely enraging to read even without your imaginary friend, the one who shares your political philosophy to the letter, shouting in your ear that President Rump “thinks” it’s all a hoax perpetrated by the diabolical Chinese. (I put “thinks” in quotes because Rump’s primitive brain seems incapable of producing coherent thoughts, let alone sustaining them in the way suggested by that particular verb. Sad!) He’s gone so far as to renege on the extraordinary treaty known as the Paris Agreement, which basically the entire planet agreed was the best, most practical way forward. As many commentators have pointed out, the only two nations not to sign on to the agreement are Syria, which is in the midst of civil war, and Nicaragua, which didn’t think the treaty went far enough. Rump, of course, knows better. “A man who walks with the animals, fucks with the animals...” Okay, I slightly altered the lyrics from one of Rex Harrison’s songs in the justifiably maligned 1967 film “Doctor Doolittle.” But really, people. What is with the straight world’s obsession with bestiality? I go for literally years without the thought of fucking a goat crossing my mind, only to have some sick heterosexual bring it back into my awareness. The cycle continues. From AfricaNews: “Ghana’s third most-powerful man, its speaker of parliament, says Africans are in-

creasingly becoming fed up with external forces trying to force alien cultures on them. Prof Mike Ocquaye, a seasoned lawyer and law lecturer, said it was unacceptable that foreign governments and groups were using the issue of human rights to champion acts such as homosexuality, bestiality etc.” I’m particularly fond of the “etc.” “He made the comments during a meeting with members of international rights group, Amnesty International (AI), who called on him on Tuesday,” AfricaNews explained. And then comes this from Professor Ocquaye: “It is becoming a human right in some countries. The right to do homosexuality. The right for a human being to sleep with an animal. We are tired of some of these things and we must be frank about it. I think all these matters need to be seriously interrogated.” You asked for an interrogation? Well, I have one question, Professor: In exactly which nations is bestiality considered a human right? Could we have some examples, please? Adam Liptak of the New York Times snared a terrifically pithy quote (italicized below) for his recent article about Justice Anthony Kennedy and his potential retirement. Just shy of 81, Kennedy, who was the swing vote on the court’s history-making marriage equality case, will obviously not be on the court forever. The same-sex marriage decision left gay men and lesbians in a strange position, said David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University. “You can get married, put a picture on your desk from the wedding, and then be fired because the boss sees the picture,” he said. “Marriage was certainly an important step, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is no federal law protecting against sexual-orientation discrimination in employment or housing or education or public accommodations,” Cohen said. “Only about 20 states offer protection under their own state laws.” Quote without comment: From the Washington Post: “Ramzan Kadyrov says there are no gay men in Chechnya — and if there are any, they should move to Canada.” Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook. July 20–August 2, 2017 |

PERSPECTIVE: An Activist’s View

Why Isn’t the Rainbow Flag Flying at the Stonewall National Monument? BY MICHAEL PETRELIS


rom the foot of historic Christopher Street to its head at the Stonewall National Monument, the LGBTQ Rainbow Flag should fly every day of the year. In the week leading up to this year’s Gay Pride Day, I submitted a request to the New York City parks department and the National Park Service requesting that it fly on the flagstaff in Christopher Park, site of the new national monument designation, for our annual liberation march and celebration. In the process, I was informed that while the parks department maintains the nautical flagpole — comprised of a center pole with two additional masts and three ropes from which to hoist between three and six flags — the National Park Service is the controlling government agency for the Stonewall National Monument where it sits. Out gay city parks spokesperson Sam Biederman, in a telephone chat, said he personally saw no reason why the rainbow colors should not fly on Pride Sunday and beyond but he needed to check with the Manhattan division of the agency to learn what the regulations are for flagpoles it controls. His promise to email a response to my request, from an appropriate staffer, has not been fulfi lled. I had better luck getting a response in writing from out lesbian Jamie Adams of the National Park Service, after a fruitful telephone conversation: “It was a pleasure speaking with you earlier today! I want you to know that we are currently working to address the flagpole issue at Stonewall National Monument. As of now, we are researching what can be done, but we have yet to fi nd a written regulation for the flag pole. Rest assured, we are working to fi nd a solution. I’ll let you know how things progress.” Now, four weeks after receiving that note, the NPS has not com- | July 20–August 2, 2017

municated with me any further. The current situation at the flagstaff is that four flags are displayed. From the top, the Stars and Stripes and the POW/ MIA memorial flags are on the center pole, with the New York State and NYC Parks flags on the sides. Three of the flags represent the government, and the POW/ MIA one is legally considered a private flag. I’d like to learn why the flag for the military personnel occupies a spot on the nautical flagstaff and what number of prisoners of the Vietnam confl ict, if any, are still believed to be held in captivity. You can’t challenge a policy if you don’t have it in writing, and it’s unacceptable that local and federal parks agencies either can’t produce or haven’t created regulations for who decides how flags are displayed on a critically important piece of public land. In an informal survey on my Facebook page and at the Rise and Resist page asking if folks agreed the rainbow stripes should be displayed at this location, a few commented that they thought that was already the case or wondered why there was even a question about approving a request to show our colors. Needless to say, no one disagreed with my idea. I’d like to see our Rainbow Flag, so lovingly created and made into a global force for visibility and change by the late and dearlymissed Gilbert Baker, fly at the Stonewall National Monument all year. There can and should be a vigorous debate about flexible policies allowing the public to occasionally raise other flags and to lower the rainbow colors when we are in mourning. The grassroots effort proposing the creation of a Baker-inspired monument at the foot of Christopher Street is one I wholly support. The lack of transparency from public servants tasked with preserving and maintaining the entirety of the Stonewall Monument, one that is national in scope and therefore allows for queers like

me in San Francisco and elsewhere to weigh in, mirrors to some degree the lack of public meetings and state government sunshine in creating Governor Andrew Cuomo’s LGBT Memorial commission that led to the selection of a design to be created in Hudson River Park. That body was allergic to even a hint of transparency and operated in a closet, so to speak. Not healthy for any level of the body politic, that process should be cause for alarm about Cuomo’s apparent aversion to opening up our community’s effort to design a memorial honoring our struggles and our dead. What is needed to immediately reclaim the Stonewall National Monument flagstaff are a few dedicated advocates to pressure both the city parks department and NPS to explain how we can hoist the Rainbow Flag all 365


The Rainbow Flag was raised high at the end of Christopher Street on June 14 to honor the late Gilbert Baker.

days of the year. Please make a respectful call to these numbers and ask that the agencies agree to display our Pride Flag: the parks department at 212-360-1311 and NPS at 212668-2577. If the POW/ MIA flag can fly year-round, we LGBTQ people should have equal access to the same public flagstaff and our spectrum of colors should proudly blow in the wind at Christopher Park every day.


General $15 For tickets, visit: www.thomasjohn.ticketleap. com/mgnya2017






informed Boatright of the results in early 2015, Boatright became emotional and seemed very sincere. Boatright told Mr. Osco that he had been in a relationship for two years and the only other person he had sexual contact with was M.H. Boatright declined to name his partner, but indicated that he had told the partner about the possibility Boatright had HIV and his partner had thereafter tested negative.” In response to Osco informing Boatright about the 2011 test result, “Boatright maintained that he was never contacted by anyone about it.” During his own testimony, Boatright basically admitted he lied to Osco about his boyfriend’s HIV status, stating that “his partner, who he was dating at the time he engaged in sexual conduct with M.H., testified positive for HIV in March 2013.” According to Boatright’s testimony, however, the two men waited to have sex until after his boyfriend’s viral load was undetectable and also used condoms. Boatright also acknowledged

䉴 1964 CIVIL RIGHTS ACT, from p.8 VII case if they could show gendernonconforming behavior sufficient to evoke the stereotyping theory. And in one case, the circuit’s chief judge wrote a concurring opinion suggesting it was time for the full bench to reconsider the issue. In another case, Zarda v. Altitude Express, the court recently granted a petition for such reconsideration, with oral argument scheduled for September 26. The EEOC, many LGBTQ rights and civil liberties organizations, and the attorneys general of the three states in the circuit — New York, Connecticut, and Vermont — have filed amicus briefs, calling on the Second Circuit to follow the Seventh Circuit’s lead on this issue. The timing in the 11th and Second Circuit cases makes for an interesting dynamic. Lambda’s petition for Supreme Court review of the 11th Circuit case must be filed within 90 days of the denial of its rehearing petition — that is, by early October. Georgia Regional Hospital would then have 30 days to respond, so a Supreme Court de-


that he and M.H. engaged in unprotected sex “because he thought he was HIV-negative.” The major point of contention in the case was whether Boatright could be charged with criminal liability based on the evidence that he knew about his HIV status when he had sex with M.H. His defense depended on his testimony that he genuinely thought he was HIV-negative and first learned he was positive when M.H. contacted him. Set against this was the testimony by Chapman, the CLS Plasma nurse, that she had counseled Boatright about his HIV status in December 2012, which Boatright denied in court, and Osco’s testimony confirming that a record of Boatright’s 2011 positive test result was in the Ohio reporting database. In appealing his conviction and sentence, Boatright argued first that the statute was unconstitutional, but his attorney had not raised that objection during the trial, so the appeals court found he had lost his chance to make this argument. Boatright also contended that the trial judge should have dis-

missed the case rather than sending it to the jury, on grounds of insufficient evidence for a conviction, but the appeals court rejected this out of hand, finding that in sorting through the contradictory evidence, the jury could reasonably have reached the conclusion that Boatright knew about his HIV-positive status and lied to M.H. before they had sex. The court emphasized that Boatright even admitted during his testimony to having lied more than once — including when he filled out plasma donation forms and failed to disclose that he was a sexually active gay man who should have been rejected as a donor. Boatright explained that he did this because he was opposed to the categorical exclusion of gay men as donors. He “wanted to help people and did not think that his sexual orientation should prevent him from donating,” he testified. Carr’s opinion for the court stated, “After a thorough, independent review of the record, we conclude that the jury did not lose its way in finding Boatright guilty of felonious assault. The jury was present-

ed with two competing views of the evidence.” The appeals court would not overturn the verdict “merely because the trier of fact opted to believe the testimony of a particular witness.” The court also rejected Boatright’s challenge to the length of his sentence, observing that the range provided by the statute was between two and eight years, so a five-year sentence was comfortably within the range. Nor would the court entertain Boatright’s argument that his trial attorney presented an ineffective defense by failing to raise a constitutional objection to the statute, pointing out that another appeals panel in Ohio had recently rejected a constitutional attack on the statute. Given the strong presumption of constitutionality accorded to statutes and Boatright’s failure to cite any legal authority to support the claim that it was a viable argument, the appeals court was unwilling to find fault with his trial attorney. Boatright was represented in his appeal by Akron attorney James K. Reed.

cision on whether to take the case could well not come until late October, early November, or later. If the court accepts the case, oral argument would follow in early 2018, with a decision by next June. The question then is how expeditiously the Second Circuit would move in the Zarda case. Legal observers generally believe the circuit is poised to follow the Seventh Circuit’s lead in holding that sexual orientation claims can be litigated under Title VII, but the circuit’s judges may see it as prudent to hold up until the Supreme Court either rejects review of the 11th Circuit case or rules on it. However, two veteran Second Circuit judges have recently bucked the circuit precedent, arguing it is outmoded and refusing to dismiss sexual orientation cases. A few years ago, the circuit accepted the argument in a race discrimination case that an employer violated Title VII by discriminating against a person for engaging in a mixed-race relationship. Some judges see this as support for the analogous argument that discriminating against somebody because they are attract-

ed to a person of the same-sex is sex discrimination. It’s worth noting that in the past the Second Circuit moved to rule quickly on an LGBTQ issue in a somewhat similar situation. When lawsuits challenging the Defense of Marriage Act were moving through the federal courts in 2012, there was a race among cases from the Second Circuit, Boston’s First Circuit, and San Francisco’s Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court had already received a petition to review a First Circuit case — where GLAD, the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, represented the plaintiffs — before the Second Circuit heard the American Civil Liberties Union’s suit on Edie Windsor’s behalf. But the Second Circuit moved quickly, and in the end it was the ACLU-Windsor case the high court accepted. On June 26, 2013, ruling in the Windsor case, the Supreme Court gutted the key provision of DOMA. If the Second Circuit moves quickly again, it could turn out an opinion before the Supreme Court has announced whether it will review the 11th Circuit Evans case. The timing

might be just right for that. A key concern for LGBTQ legal advocates, of course, is the Supreme Court’s composition at the time this issue is decided. Right now, the fivejustice majority in the DOMA case and the marriage equality case two years later holds. But three of them — Justices Anthony Kennedy (who turns 81 this month), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (84), and Stephen Breyer (79 next month) — represent the court’s oldest members, and there have been persistent rumors about Kennedy, who has written all the major gay rights decision over two decades, considering retirement. Donald Trump’s first appointee to the Court, Neil Gorsuch, replacing the late arch-homophobe Antonin Scalia, immediately showed his own anti-LGBTQ colors with a disingenuous dissent from a June 26 high court ruling that the 2015 marriage equality decision compels Arkansas to list both mothers on their child’s birth certificate. Another appointment like Gorsuch from Trump would seriously jeopardize the chances for any further progress on LGBTQ rights and equality in the foreseeable future. July 20–August 2, 2017 |


Linda Lavin’s Fine “Farewell” Returns Coming full circle to tell tales of an arc not yet complete

mother. “It’s the best time I’ve had in this format in a very long time,” she said of the sitcom that reunites her with Mark Feuerstein, whom she also mothered in the 1998 sitcom “Conrad Bloom.” Whether karma or coincidence, it’s one of the many full-circle moments that came up during our conversation, such as the title of that Birdland gig: “My Second Farewell Concert.” “I’ve been doing this show for close to a dozen years,” Lavin noted. “I began under the tutelage of the great Jim Caruso. He helped me write this act.” (Caruso, host of Birdland’s fizzy and fabulous “Cast Party” open mic night, gets an “Inspired by” credit on “Possibilities,” Lavin’s eclectic 2011 debut CD of 12 covers spanning everything from Richard Rogers to Cy Coleman to Donald Fagen.) “He’s my papa,” Lavin said of Caruso. “He’s the entrepreneur who gives me the room when he can, and I wanted it now,

because I want to try out this new material.” Over time, the show (once dubbed “My First Farewell Concert”) has “changed and grown,” Lavin said, to further realize “my dream to become more of a jazz singer and to really focus on the American Songbook as it applies to my history.” That history began in a house where there was always music in the air (her mother was “a great musician, a great opera singer who gave up a career”), and found an early public outlet in 1960s New York. “Jan Wallman was a great entrepreneur of cabaret,” Lavin said, of the legendary proprietor of various rooms on Grove, Cornelia, and West 44th Streets. “She was such a champion of singers and storytellers and instrumentalists. All I could afford at the time was a pianist. Now I have five great pieces behind me and around me and alongside me — and great arrangements done by [pianist and “Cast Party” cohort] Billy Stritch and [jazz violinist] Aaron Weinstein... I’ll speak about some of the shows that I was in, some of the people I’ve met along the way, some of the loves that I’ve had, and some of the disappointments, some of the losses; and where I am now. It’s a real personal exposé of me, as if you were all in my living room and I was just standing there entertaining you.”

6, dozens of protesters affiliated with Rise and Resist and ACT UP descended on the Park Avenue home of billionaire David Koch, who with his

brother Charles, funds Americans for Prosperity, which since 2010 has supported Tea Party efforts to derail the Obama legislation.

BY SCOTT STIFFLER rom cutting her teeth in the cabaret rooms of bygone Gotham to achieving sitcom icon status to her work as a commanding presence on Broadway, Linda Lavin’s career has given rise to more stories than a Midtown megatower — but she won’t be serving up that dish in beach-read form. Jazz and cocktails are this summer’s only available delivery system. Which suits her, and us, just fine. “I don’t want to write a book,” Lavin declared during our conversation in anticipation of a July 24 show at Birdland. “If you want to know me, listen to the songs; songs that are attached to the story of me. That’s what I want to present.” Afternoon binge viewers and channel-flipping insomniacs who’ve landed on the Logo network lately have come to know (or happily rediscover) Lavin as the “new girl in town” — a widowed mother and aspiring singer en route to LA, whose car broke down in front of a greasy spoon in Phoenix with a “Waitress Wanted” sign in the window. Slyly conveying a strength just about to be discovered and tapped, Lavin’s vocals (once described by Hal Prince as “wonderfully unique”) begin each episode of “Alice,” whose catchy and efficient theme song takes just un-



HEALTH DEBATE, from p.20

lished under Obamacare. Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, a tough critic of Trump on his health care initiative, wrote about the need for that type of bipartisanship in a July 19 New York Times op-ed. For his part, President Donald Trump, responding to the expected failure of a repeal-only vote, is not talking about any immediate fixes, telling reporters on Tuesday, “I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us.” Announcing that strategy out loud, however, may make it more likely that voters will come to see that | July 20–August 2, 2017

“My Second Farewell Concert” Birdland Jazz Club 315 W. 44th St. Jul. 24 at 7 p.m. $35-$45, with $10 food/ drink minimum or 212-581-3080 BILL WESTMORELAND

Linda Lavin’s “Second Farewell Concert” comes to Birdland on July 24.

der a minute to evolve the character from “sad” and “shy” to insisting, “Things are great when you stand on your own two feet.” “I think it’s great whenever ‘Alice’ can come back and remind people… I mean, she’s a very real person. She’s represented by 80 percent of all women who work in this country,” Lavin said, when asked about the 1976-1985 show’s new national profile. “She’s still looking for healthcare and benefits, and she’s still making 69, 70s cents to the dollar that a man makes for that same quality of work.” These days, various reports put that figure in the 79 to 83-cent range. “But it’s taken since the ‘70s,” Lavin noted, “for it to move up a couple of pennies.” Lavin returns to the networks this fall in “9JKL” on CBS, as a doting and occasionally smothering

the president does own any problems that become worse going forward. The success health care advocates have enjoyed in mobilizing grassroots opposition to the Republican efforts on health care is striking. This week was the third time that GMHC and other New York AIDS advocates faced arrest in Washington this month. Two weeks ago, roughly 40 activists were arrested in Senate sit-ins, with that number roughly doubling the following week. Sawyer said he expected 100 or more to be arrested in this week’s action, though no final number was available as of press time. Activists have also been at work in New York putting pressure on those calling for the ACA’s repeal. On July



Creature Comforts Amat Escalante’s queer sci-fi drama explores desire and denial BY GARY M. KRAMER here is something very peculiar things going on in Mexican writer/ director Amat Escalante’s ambitious queer erotic sci-fi drama “The Untamed.” The pre-title shot is of an asteroid-like object in space. Then a naked woman, Verónica (Simone Bucio), is seen writhing in pleasure, and viewers next get a glimpse of a tentacle encircling her body. The images are hallucinatory and dreamlike, but for Verónica the experience is real indeed. It takes a while for “The Untamed” to reveal what is actually going on, but for audiences up to the challenge there are some satisfying payoffs. But only some; the film can be exasperating for anyone hoping for a full explication of events. Escalante is being deliberately cagey here, so it’s best to sit back and enjoy the wild ride. Densely plotted,



Directed by Amat Escalante In Spanish, with English subtitles Strand Releasing Opens Jul. 21 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St.


Simone Bucio and Eden Villavicencio in Amat Escalante’s “The Untamed.”

his film features some stinging social commentary, but the creature it boasts is better understood as an apparatus than a metaphor. The plot kicks in with the introduction of Alejandra (Ruth Ramos), who is married to Ángel (Jesús Meza). They have two sons and a troubled marriage. Unbeknownst to Alejandra, Ángel is having a hot and heavy affair with

her gay brother, Fabián (Eden Villavicencio), a hospital nurse. When Fabián treats Verónica for a wound she says is a dog bite (it’s not), they become friends. As Verónica and Fabián get to know one another, each talks about the unhealthy relationship they’re involved in. Fabián describes his affair with Ángel as an addiction, and he worries about

people getting hurt. Discussing her inability to stop seeing her lover, Verónica says, “I’m not sure if it’s a he or a she.” In time, we learn that Verónica is being pleasured by a tentacled creature that “provides pure sensation.” The creature sex doesn’t work for everyone. Fabián has an off-screen encounter with it and ends up in a coma. He is found naked, lying in a pool of muddy water, beaten, and sexually abused, and Ángel, who

UNTAMED, continued on p.33

Looking His Best in Shorts Dustin Guy Defa’s “Person to Person” feels slight as a feature BY STEVE ERICKSON arrative shorts may be among the most marginal forms of cinema. It’s possible that Chris Marker’s “La Jetée” is the only one to have achieved the canonical status of avant-garde shorts like Kenneth Anger’s “Scorpio Rising” and Jack Smith’s “Flaming Creatures” or documentary shorts like Alain Resnais’ “Night and Fog” and Georges Franju’s “Blood of the Beasts.” And it could be argued that “La Jetée” — which tells a story but uses still photos to do it — too belongs with the avant-garde. All this means that Dustin Guy Defa is a very lucky filmmaker. He managed to get the Film Society of Lincoln Center to give a weeklong run to a feature-length program of his shorts. Although he has made




Directed by Dustin Guy Defa Magnolia Pictures Opens Jul. 28 Metrograph 7 Ludlow St., btwn. Hester & Canal Sts.


Michael Cera and Abbi Jacobson in Dustin Guy Defa’s “Person to Person.”

one feature before, he returns to the format with “Person To Person.” It uses a re-working of one of his shorts about a collector of vintage records as part of its backbone. It has a complex structure and large cast of characters, but this doesn’t really suggest a genuine leap in ambition: Defa simply seems to have stitched together some of his

ideas for shorts into a coherent 80-minute narrative. The move to a larger canvas includes working with name actors like Michael Cera and Philip Baker Hall, but “Person To Person” is also an archetypal New York indie. If you’re familiar with the scene Defa comes from, you’ll recognize film critic Eric Hynes and Metrograph

programmer Jake Perlin in small roles. The narrative of “Person To Person” is too complicated to fully detail here. Suffice to say that newspaper reporter Phil (Cera) and his rookie co-worker Claire (Abbi Jacobson) look for leads in a mysterious death centering on a broken watch while Benny (Bene Coopersmith) gets conned about a rare Charlie Parker record. Ray (George

PERSON TO PERSON, continued on p.33

July 20–August 2, 2017 |


UNTAMED, from p.32

had threatened FabiĂĄn for ending their affair, is arrested. Ă ngel is innocent, but the evidence presented is not in his favor. “The Untamedâ€? is not necessarily a morality play suggesting that men on the down low deserve to be punished. Ă ngel’s self-loathing stems from the machismo that permeates the culture that surrounds him; just watch how he and his coworker wrestle homoerotically. Ă ngel makes several homophobic remarks about FabiĂĄn to Alejandra, which, of course, is really a matter of him protesting too much. When Ă ngel’s effort to grab a kiss from FabiĂĄn in a nightclub bathroom is rebuffed, he channels his anger into a fight with a man Alejandra is dancing with. Ă ngel craves his illicit lover, but is determined to present a heterosexual front to his family and society at large. His successful middle class life only adds to his guilt; his parents are shamed when his arrest and the truth about his sexuality are splashed across the front page of the newspaper. Escalante is clearly making a point about the negative consequences of Ă ngel’s repressed attitudes about sexuality, love, and gender roles. Compared to FabiĂĄn, Ă ngel has less self-esteem and also lacks the kindness of his brotherin-law/ lover. He and FabiĂĄn take turns penetrating each other dur-



Semple III) is temporarily homeless after breaking up with his girlfriend and sleeping on Benny’s couch. In an attempt to get revenge on her, he posted nude photos online and now faces the negative consequences. Teenage friends Wendy (Tavi Gevinson), who identifies as bisexual but has only had sex with girls, and Melanie (Olivia Luccardi) skip school and hang out. Despite the bigger budget and mix of Defa’s friends with movie stars in the cast, there’s still something amateurish about “Person To Person.� This was charming in his shorts, but it’s annoying here. The subplots about cops and reporters are never very convincing. There’s a sense of drama club play-acting to much of this film. One problem | July 20–August 2, 2017

ing sex, but when Ă ngel has anal sex with his wife, Alejandra afterward sneaks off to masturbate in the shower, apparently unfulfilled. Though VerĂłnica seems content to have the creature satisfy her sexually, when Alejandra submits to the many-tentacled beast it manages to come off as both silly and sensual, with its phallic limbs entwining her body, caressing her breasts, and moving slowly in and out of her orifices. The imagery is surreal, and viewers who don’t suspend disbelief will find themselves struggling with “The Untamed,â€? which mixes harsh realism with strange, vivid scenes such as blood pooling around VerĂłnica’s crotch when she falls asleep on a couch. If Escalante fails to connect all the dots, his striking imagery provides some compensation — as well as one of the year’s strangest, most unforgettable scenes: dozens of wild animals paired up and fucking in a crater likely caused by the asteroid from the opening shot. That and other scenes might leave viewers scratching their heads, but they cannot help but be impressed by the brave performances of all four leads, each wholly committed to the demands of this unusual film’s eroticism. “The Untamedâ€? is never uninteresting, Escalante having crafted a film as slippery as its creature. Engaged viewers, caught up in its spell, will likely feel compelled to puzzle it all out.

may be the casting of Cera, who is a talented actor but who could still pass for an 18-year-old in his 30s. The supposed subject matter, theoretically full of mystery and drama, never seems to be the real point. Independent American cinema used to offer bold new visions, and in the hands of narrative directors like Barry Jenkins and Kelly Reichardt and documentarians like Robert Greene and Joanna Arnow it still does. But there’s something fundamentally cozy and (aesthetically, not politically) conservative about “Person To Person.� It synthesizes the New York nostalgia of Woody Allen — although, to his credit, Defa’s vision of the city has room for people of color and queers — with a very mild version of Rob-


PERSON TO PERSON, continued on p.35



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BROOKLYN The Community News Group is proud to introduce BROOKLYN PAPER RADIO. Join Brooklyn Paper Editor-in-Chief Vince DiMiceli and the New York Daily Newsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Gersh Kuntzman every Tuesday at 2:00 for an hour of talk on topics Brooklynites hold dear. Each show will feature instudio guests and call-out segments, and can be listened to live or played anytime at your convenience.








Welcome to the Nuthouse Family in crisis in an intimate revival; promising group of hopefuls launched in Broadway showcase BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE here is something wonderfully poignant about the revival of “Marvin’s Room” from Roundabout. Scott McPherson’s play about a family in crisis as a relative is slowly dying couldn’t escape allusions to AIDS in its original 1991 production. (McPherson himself died of AIDS in 1992, and his struggles with his illness were said to have informed the writing of the play.) In 2017, the piece takes on broader implications with uncertainty about American health care reminding us we all teeter on the brink, at risk of being abandoned with no idea whether we can be rescued. This is also a play about relationships, family dynamics, and how fragile the structure of our lives can be. The plot is very simple. Bessie is in Florida to care for her dying father. “He’s doing it slowly so I don’t miss anything,” she says. Bessie is also caring for her soap opera-addicted aunt, Ruth. It’s a challenge, but she manages until she is diagnosed with leukemia. Her estranged sister, Lee, and two nephews arrive to determine if one might be a bone marrow match for Bessie’s treatment. Inevitably, old wounds are re-opened and power struggles ensue. Lee’s two sons, Charlie and Hank, are struggling, as well. Young Charlie is trying to be good all the time, and Hank has been sprung from a psychiatric hospital where he was sent after he burned down the house. “If it hadn’t spread up the street, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal,” he explains to Bessie. Very little else happens. This is an intimate play about struggle and the inescapable bonds of family, replete with love, recrimination, awkwardness, and, in the end, a kind of healing. The difficult family situations, particularly the confl ict between Lee, who escaped and is working




Lili Taylor, Janeane Garofalo, and Jack DiFalco in Scott McPherson’s “Marvin’s Room,” directed by Anne Kaufman.

on her cosmetology degree, and Bessie, who stayed to be their dying father’s caregiver, are juxtaposed against more cartoonish characters — a well-meaning but bumbling doctor and a sales person from a nursing home. What makes these characters work is that their idiotic excesses nicely reflect how a family in crisis may view all the buzzing, well-meaning, but not particularly helpful people around them. Under Anne Kaufman’s sensitive direction, this disconnect isolates the family in their problems and focuses the production on the central relationships. The production’s one problem is that the play’s intimacy is almost swallowed up in the American Airlines Theatre. Fortunately, Kaufman’s direction revels in the small, human moments that happen between the lines, creating nice counterpoint to the often hilarious but mordant comedy that exists side-by-side with the darker storyline. The play’s power comes

through in the performances of an excellent cast, who balance the naturalism with the more outlandish events. Lili Taylor as Bessie gives a subtle and welldeveloped performance that quietly hits the myriad tones of a woman whose world is shaken as she confronts her own mortality. Janeane Garofalo is wonderful as Lee in an understated performance rich in the subtext of a confl icted, resentful daughter who chose to leave but struggles with fi nding a way back. Taylor and Garofalo play very well off each other, as hilarious memories reveal a connection that really can’t be broken. Celia Weston is delightful as Aunt Ruth, and Luca Padovan is solid as Lee’s younger son Charlie. Jack DiFalco is especially strong as Hank, a character written as a bit of a literary device — the story’s moral center. DiFalco makes Hank completely believable as a teenager unsure of himself and often uncomfortable in his own skin.

MARVIN’S ROOM American Airlines Theatre 227 W. 42nd St. Tue.-Sat at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $47-$147; Or 212-719-1300 Two hrs., 10 mins., with intermission

In families, there is often as much in what is unsaid as in what is said, and what does rise to the surface may often seem foreign, even inappropriate to anyone on the outside. Capturing all that as powerfully and effortlessly as this production does is no small accomplishment. “Marvin’s Room” fi nds the absurdity, incongruity, and messiness of one family’s life, and in its simplicity and honesty it reminds us of how tenuous and unpredictable life can be. The result is a rocky but deeply moving lyricism.

THEATER, continued on p.35

July 20–August 2, 2017 |


THEATER, from p.34

Nearly 65 years ago, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Leonard Bernstein, in â&#x20AC;&#x153;Wonderful Town,â&#x20AC;? wrote about how difficult it is for creative people to succeed in New York. Forty years ago, John Kander and Fred Ebb promised that if you make it in New York, then the world is yours, but they stopped short of saying how. And 11 years ago, Scott Siegel launched â&#x20AC;&#x153;Broadway Rising Stars,â&#x20AC;? an annual concert that has set dozens of newly fledged musical comedy performers on the road from their undergraduate theater programs to Broadway, the West End, national tours, and so much more. For these performers, this opportunity is a dream come true, and for audiences itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a reminder of just how much talent there is here and that, as Comden and Green wrote, â&#x20AC;&#x153;A million kids every dayâ&#x20AC;Ś come to New York with stars in their eyes.â&#x20AC;? Siegelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s latest crop of 21 hopefuls took the stage at Town Hall on July 10, and, to a person, knocked it out of the park, creating a wonderfully rich and delightful evening. Siegel has an uncanny knack for matching singers to songs, and under the direction of Scott Coulter it was easy to forget that these were people in their early 20s. They all came off as seasoned pros,



ert Altmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sprawl. This is the exact opposite of bold â&#x20AC;&#x201D; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quite familiar and frankly hampered by its own geekiness. That said, the jokes about the thrash metal band Phil plays in are pretty funny, especially when he plays their tapes â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the director actually wrote the music himself â&#x20AC;&#x201D; to his folk music-loving co-worker. Shooting on celluloid usually adds something to a film, but Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not sure that Defaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s choice to work in 16mm did much for â&#x20AC;&#x153;Person To Personâ&#x20AC;?: the hazy texture is just one more suggestion that he would have rather been working around 1973. Defa bit off more than he can chew here. The narrative is | July 20â&#x20AC;&#x201C;August 2, 2017

though perhaps that should not surprise since many of them have been performing since they were kids. While all of these performers should work often, there were, as always, standouts. Annette Berning singing â&#x20AC;&#x153;You There in the Back Rowâ&#x20AC;? had the purity of tone and sophistication of a classic ingĂŠnue. Willie Demyan, singing the Craig Carnelia song â&#x20AC;&#x153;Flightâ&#x20AC;? from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dear Evan Hansen,â&#x20AC;? exhibited depth, maturity, and exceptional technique. Anthony Massa, singing â&#x20AC;&#x153;If I Canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Love Herâ&#x20AC;? from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Beauty and the Beast,â&#x20AC;? blew the audience away with his astonishing baritone, and Mia Gerachis gave a thrilling rendition of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Maybe This Timeâ&#x20AC;? from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Cabaret.â&#x20AC;? She injected real feeling into what Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve long considered a tired torch song. Siegel didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t shortchange the comedic elements, either. Andy Kear stopped the show with an award-worthy performance of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sit Down, Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re Rockinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; the Boatâ&#x20AC;? from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Guys and Dolls.â&#x20AC;? Ryan McConville was infectious and gleeful in his song-anddance take on â&#x20AC;&#x153;Purposeâ&#x20AC;? from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Avenue Q,â&#x20AC;? and Matt Ross was hilarious in the Alan Mencken number â&#x20AC;&#x153;Pink Fish.â&#x20AC;? After all of these wonderful performances, the evening ended with the company singing â&#x20AC;&#x153;You Will Be Foundâ&#x20AC;? from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dear Evan Hansen.â&#x20AC;? For this stellar young cast, thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s already happened.

taneously overloaded and underdeveloped. It feels as though he had a lot on his mind while making shorts that could only be said in a feature-length format, yet so much of it is anecdotal and trivial. At its best, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Person to Personâ&#x20AC;? evokes the Brooklyn-set HBO sitcom â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bored to Death,â&#x20AC;? which aired a few years ago. Weirdly, current American indies can represent some of the blandest cinema being made in the world. I wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t quite put â&#x20AC;&#x153;Person To Personâ&#x20AC;? in that category, but Defaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vinyl-freak love letter to a New York that probably never existed makes one realize that it took an Argentine director, Matias PiĂąeiro, to do justice to this city in an earlier 2017 release, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Hermia and Helena.â&#x20AC;?


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All for Alla Romy Nordlinger tackles Nazimova, a towering, undeservedy obscure legend BY DAVID NOH fter seeing Russian-born actress Alla Nazimova in Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” both Tennessee Williams and Pauline Kael declared that she gave the greatest performance they had ever seen. For that reason alone, Nazimova (1879-1945) — known today for the most part only as the eccentric, outrageously flamboyant silent screen star of an outre version of Oscar Wilde’s “Salomé” (which she produced and co-directed and virtually ruined her) — should be remembered. To that end, actress Romy Nordlinger has written a play about her, “Places,” which opens July 21 at 59E59, directed by Katie McHugh. Ken Russell’s 1977 film “Valentino” really did Nazimova a disservice, with Leslie Caron hamming it up ferociously in an obnoxiously hollow caricature of this great artist. The real Nazimova and her special voice fortunately can be experienced in three films in particular. Actually a rather plain woman without all the makeup and gorgeous costumes, she ironically played the touching mother of two among the handsomest of leading men — Robert Taylor in “Escape” and Tyrone Power in “Blood and Sand.” But it’s her glowing recitation of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty in the patriotic “Since You Went Away” that may very well be her most memorable celluloid moment — so incredibly relevant in her own life and resonant today given the Trump regime’s harsh attack on America’s immigrant tradition. Nordlinger told me that her total immersion in Nazimova began three years ago when she was approached by Mari Lyn Henry of the Society for the Preservation of Theatrical History. “‘Darling,’ she said, ‘I want you to look at some of these actresses from the past because I want you to be researching and playing one of them,’” Nordlinger recalled. “A few were lovely but sort of WASPy




59E59 Theaters 59 E. 59th St. Jul. 21 & 29 at 8:30 p.m. Jul. 22 at 6:30 p.m. Jul. 23 & 30 at 4:30 p.m. $15;


Romy Nordlinger as Alla Nazimova in her one-woman show, “Places,” directed by Katie McHugh, at 59E59 July 21-30.

and consumptive-looking, but then I came across Nazimova and I could not stop reading and thinking about her. I read everything about her and as many of her journal pieces as I could find, which had been hidden away. “This play began as an excerpt and grew, and had to be cut down from hours to a one-hour play for this theater and for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, who have invited me to do this over there, as well. As a writer you have to encapsulate but I give a very good overview of her life, not a biopic as it’s very much about her soul and what she was passionate about. “It’s an absolute crime that she’s been so forgotten and I’ve become quite vociferous about that. My play has also evolved because it’s multi-media now. I needed this homage to be visual as was she, and it just lends itself to the look of those grainy black and white films, so far out but evocative and just gorgeous work. I don’t have the violet eyes that she was known for, but she once said, ‘I am neither tall nor short, ugly or beauti-

ful, fat or thin, man or woman. I am what the part demands from me.’ And that was what she was about.” Nazimova’s early years were difficult in the extreme, Nordlinger explained. “She was an acclaimed violinist and a prodigy, but her father broke her arm because of her fame. She was a prostitute to get herself out of that situation before she joined Stanislavsky and his Moscow Art Theater. She made her American debut in 1906, in ‘Hedda Gabler’ and went on to earn the Shuberts millions. By 1917, she was earning $13,000 a week, the equivalent of $350,000 today. There was even a Broadway theater named for her, the Nazimova, on 39th Street, and I wondered why I had never heard of it. It was because she was a lesbian and a woman and way too powerful. The men had to sweep her under the carpet and she was erased, which was a disgrace.” Unashamedly out, her lovers included Eva Le Gallienne, Dorothy Arzner, Mercedes de Acosta,

Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dolly Wilde, painter Bridget Bate Tichenor, and her longtime companion, Glesca Marshall, whom she was with from 1929 until her death. Jean Acker and Natacha Rambova, both wives of Rudolph Valentino, were also involved with her and, as Nordlinger said, “She called Acker ‘my last faithful lover, who hid away my autobiography and tried to lock us both in a closet with it.’ Nazimova sort of pushed both women into marriage with Valentino and says he was overwhelmed by these voracious, volcanic women: ‘Imagine being known as the world’s lady killer when in reality the ladies killed him.’” Nordlinger said that there was one man who had Nazimova’s heart, Charles Bryant, with whom she had a “lavender marriage” for 10 years. For him, she divorced her husband, actor Sergei Golovin. Bryant surprised her a few years later by marrying 23-year-old Marjorie Gilhooley. When the press discovered that he had listed his status as “single” on the wedding license, they brewed up a scandal regarding Nazimova’s deceptive relationship with Bryant that really damaged her career. “They used to call the girls who hung out at the Garden of Allah, the hotel she turned her Sunset Boulevard mansion into — after she lost her money producing films like ‘Salomé’ — Gillette Girls, because like the razor, they sliced both ways [laughs]. The hotel was

NAZIMOVA, continued on p.37

July 20–August 2, 2017 |

NAZIMOVA, from p.36

an enclave for movie stars, writers, and artists and a place of total sexual and intellectual liberty. It was torn down in 1959 and a Chase bank and McDonald’s now stand in its place.” Nordlinger counts Nazimova expert Martin Turnbull as a big source and supporter. “If there’s any foremost scholar on Alla, it’s him. He has the Alla Nazimova Society, as well as a site devoted to the Garden of Allah. He also has a series of six novels, the Alla Nazimova murder mysteries, and I was so nervous about introducing my play to him. But he said, ‘You got that right,’ and put up a teaser on his Alla site, which he said got more hits than anything. So maybe she’s not quite that forgotten.” Amazingly, in 2015, Nazimova’s trunks were discovered in a house in Columbus, Georgia, containing treasures like the iconic pearl encrusted wig she wore as Salomé, a costume that was cut from the film, a jacket from “The Cherry Orchard” (1928), a headdress from “The Good Earth” (1932), and a shawl from that production of “Ghosts,” which drove Kael and Williams crazy, inspiring him to become a playwright. The house had been the residence of Glesca Marshall, Nazimova’s sole heir, and Marshall’s subsequent partner, Emily Woodruff. “The wig is now the property of this elderly only living relative of Nazimova’s, a rich woman who’s a Republican and anti-gay. Martin feels that if he could find some legitimate institution that would really preserve it, she would let it go, but we don’t really know who to turn to. “Alla was very depressed later in life because, yes, she was exotic and flamboyant, but she also introduced Chekhov, Strindberg, and Ibsen to the American public, had starred in the premiere of O’Neill’s ‘Mourning Becomes Electra,’ and was Stanislavsky’s progenitor. It seemed that she could never do anything that captured her soul, and very few people attended her funeral in 1945. Personally, when I am able to share a real a story of the human condition, that’s when I feel most alive. The struggle, the beauty, and the horror of it all is what kept her alive and what I relate to most about her.” Raised in Richmond, Virginia, Nordlinger went to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. “Our core classes were taught by Camille Paglia, who for four years taught me the arts, history, Shakespeare, sex roles, and really helped form my thinking. Feminists dislike her intensely because she looks at things from an Apollonian perspective versus Dionysian: if women were left without men’s needing to sublimate the fact that they can’t inherently have babies, we would still be living in grass huts. “My mother, Zelda Nordlinger, was a famous feminist and president of the National Organization for Women [Richmond chapter]. She | July 20–August 2, 2017

was very strong, and as a kid I was constantly at rallies. My father was devoted to her and he’d say [laughing], ‘I know, Zelda, it’s testosterone.’ Because she would beat it into his brain that the main problem with our culture is testosterone, the male urge to kill. People were always trying to drive us off the road because of her abortion work. At a time when women weren’t doing anything, she read Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’ and had been a pixie model — when they used to hire short models — to get out of a bad marriage. Like Nazimova, she had gone through disturbing things in Greenville, South Carolina. Her brother was exalted while she was shunned,

and if she showed any evidence of thinking she was told to be quiet. So that rebellious part of me is from Zelda.” Nordlinger concluded by noting just how timely her new play is. “The last line of my play is ‘As we desperately scratch away shadows that that are closing in on us, dividing us once again, break that down! ’ When I wrote that, I had this feeling that we were going into this post-Weimar kind of place in our country, but didn’t know how far it would go. There are lots of plays in reaction to Trump, and this story was strangely apropos. She tapped on my shoulder, ‘Tell my story now! ’”







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Bel Canto at Caramoor Bids “Addio” Angela Meade’s cascades of coloratura, Santiago Ballerini’s assured sweetness highlighted BY ELI JACOBSON ill Crutchfield’s “Bel Canto at Caramoor” series celebrated its 20th and final season this summer. During those 20 years, Crutchfield has ventured through Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini with side trips into Gluck, Poulenc, Beethoven, and Verdi. Often, these operas were heard in critical editions curated by University of Chicago Professor Philip Gossett and his colleagues. Gossett passed away last month, and many attendees fondly remembered his informative and enlightening pre-performance lectures. For the farewell “Bel Canto at Caramoor” opera concert, Crutchfield chose Vincenzo Bellini’s early breakthrough opera “Il Pirata” (1827), which was performed on July 8. The gala opening night concert was held on June 17. Soprano Angela Meade and tenor Santiago Ballerini headlined both evenings. These two singers got early career boosts from Crutchfield at Caramoor. Meade debuted in the title role of Rossini’s “Semiramide” in 2009 and followed that up the following summer with her triumphant first professional performance of the title role of “Norma.” Meade will sing both Semiramide and Norma next season at the Metropolitan Opera. Argentinian Ballerini was only a few years into his career when Crutchfield chose him to sing Fernand in “La Favorite” in 2015 for his American debut. This summer, Meade reaffirmed her bel canto credentials while displaying stronger dramatic temperament and a growing voice ready to take on new challenges. Hinting perhaps at a change of career direction, she explored the spinto and dramatic repertoire in the opening night gala. In “Pace, pace mio Dio” from “Forza,” Meade used a broad palette of dynamics and colors but the musical phrasing sometimes sounded gusty rather than sweeping. She sang Isolde’s “Liebestod”




Santiago Ballerini and Angela Meade in the “Bel Canto at Caramoor” concert of Vincenzo Bellini’s “Il Pirata.”

quite audibly and beautifully with a warmer tone than we are used to (no need to temper any vocal steel in the timbre). “Ebben, ne andrò lontano” from Catalani’s “La Wally” was possibly her best work of the evening. In all three arias, Meade startled with her uninhibited use of chest tone in the lower phrases, but in the “Wally” aria it was better integrated with the rest of her voice. Ballerini, not yet 30, returned after two years a refined, technically assured artist. At his Caramoor debut, Ballerini’s Fernand was promising and sweetly lyrical but lacked finish and confidence. At last month’s gala, Ballerini strode out with a technically secure, soaring version of Arturo’s cavatina “A te, o cara” from Bellini’s “I Puritani.” The high C’s and D’s were heady but firm, blossoming out of an elegantly sculpted vocal line. Ballerini offered nine brilliant high C’s in Tonio’s showpiece “Pour mon

âme, quel destin” from Donizetti’s “La Fille du Régiment.” Stylishly shaped legato phrasing marked his contribution to the duet “Bagnato dalle Lagrime” from “Il Pirata” with the confident, bright-voiced soprano JoAna Rusche as Imogene (Rusche is Meade’s cover). Bass Harold Wilson strutted heartily through the “Air du Tambour-Major” from Thomas’ “Le Caïd,” with range and voice to burn (but without the bel canto finesse of the legendary Pol Henri Plançon). Teresa Castillo confidently delivered the Queen of the Night’s rage aria “Die Hölle Rache,” but Robyn Marie Lamp was loud and out of tune leading the sextet from “Lucia di Lammermoor” with other young artists. Overtures, choruses, and ensembles from “Guillaume Tell,” “Cavalleria Rusticana,” and “Nabucco” rounded out the concert, deftly handled by maestro Crutchfield and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

“Il Pirata” was a rousing and moving evening of Romantic music drama playing to a full and wildly appreciative audience. Though in recent decades the opera has been viewed as a soprano vehicle (Maria Callas reintroduced the opera in a 1958 La Scala revival and Montserrat Caballé took over the role of Imogene in the 1960s), it was originally a tour de force for tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini as the titular pirate Gualtiero. Meade’s commanding, dramatically engaged Imogene was equally matched by Ballerini’s ardent, stylish and dashing Gualtiero. Meade’s large flexible soprano was not without a few awkward seams and glitches. Her opentoned upper middle has a noticeably wider vibrato than the rest of the voice. Meade’s upper register still extends up to easy high D’s but her ethereal pianos sound like

BEL CANTO, continued on p.43

July 20–August 2, 2017 |


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.

Daydreaming Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per- | July 20–August 2, 2017

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.

Eating 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.

Reading 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.


Jeff Miller’s Love of Hanging Wonderful artist who makes his own way, plus Kerr fare at MoMA


Artist Jeff Miller at home.


Male nude sculptures by Jeff Miller in his apartment on West End Avenue.

BY DAVID NOH here is a terrific and quite gay as a goose art exhibit at the Atlantic Gallery on now, “Connection II: An Invitational Exhibition of Artists Selecting Artists.” I attended the opening on July 13, and it was the most convivial gathering of like-minded art lovers, both familiar and otherwise, reassuringly proving that Manhattan hasn’t been completely Chipotle’d over and still retains the right kind of verve, although rarer these days. I’ve long admired Jeff Miller’s romantic and witty celebrations of the male form and face, and positively adored his intricate sketch of a sexy, scruffy hipster, along with George Towne’s exquisitely wrought portrait of the iconic artist Robert Richards and deliciously pastoral rendering of a well-known corner — Fire Island’s celebrated Meat Rack. A few days later, in his splendid, sun-filled West End Avenue digs, Miller, who helped organize the show, poured us some lovely rosé, and observed, “The Atlantic is an artist-owned gallery, and the show was really open to members of the gallery to participate and invite their friends. There are about 70 pieces, and the artists I invited to participate are Joseph Cavalieri, George Towne, Kent Lau, and John MacConnell. In




A work by Jeff Miller on exhibit at Chelsea’s Atlantic Gallery through July 29.

terms of my own work, I like to quote Paul Cadmus, who said, ‘It’s an artist’s limitations that make his style.’ I always like to quote that because it shows why my art is so stylish.” It was no surprise to find that Miller surrounds himself with beauty, be it his adorable cat, Thisbe, or the ravishing male nude sculptures he creates in plaster which glow like marble, or parian ware at least. And, as pleasurable as the visuals is his eloquent and elegant conversation, interspersed as it is with snatches of Cole Porter’s juicier songs, or, at one point, his memorable reciting of Baudelaire’s poem “L’invitation au voyage.”

Deborah Kerr in 1947’s “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp,” at MoMA on August 9.

“I’m not that interested in clothed figures or color, “he said. “That’s why I’m really not a painter, more of a draughtsman. Most recently, I tried my hand at plaster sculpture. It starts off with this disgusting green stuff which never hardens and is built up on an armature. There’s no way to make it permanent, except to make a plaster mold of it and then replace it with plaster. The process is nightmarish as your original is completely destroyed; there’s no going back. “In my last show, I showed these four pieces involving a nude man with an overcoat and a fan. For my next show, I am working on a series of nudes using the

same model with a psychological throughline. Seven years ago, I had a show of drawings and felt stuck, as you do. I thought of doing something different — sculpture — and I signed up for a class at the Art Students League. “I had this very arrogant idea that it wasn’t going to be a terrible leap for me. And it turned out to be really easy. Although you are working in 3D, you’re still working from the line. The thing I love about this one is the vent in the coat.” Miller was born in Manhattan in a small private hospital on East 61st Street between Madison and Park.

JEFF MILLER, continued on p.41

July 20–August 2, 2017 |

CONNECTIONS II: An Invitational Exhibition of Artists Selecting Artists Atlantic Gallery 547 W. 27th St., Suite 540 Through Jul. 29 Tue.-Sat., noon-6 p.m. Open until 8 p.m. on Thu.


JEFF MILLER, from p.40

â&#x20AC;&#x153;My birth certificate says I was born at the Leroy Sanitarium, as it was called. Isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t that hilarious?â&#x20AC;? His father owned his own steel pipe distributing company. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Ideal Supply Company, where I got my ideals [chuckles]. I went to P.S. 99 in Kew Gardens but in the middle of third grade we moved to Scarsdale, where I went to public school. I went to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and after that, law school. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I went to Brooklyn Law School and am still practicing â&#x20AC;&#x201D; fractions of the day over the course of centuries. I did practically everything, but used to be principally a litigator. But you cannot devote your mornings to drawing and litigation at the same time. Litigation is a way of life â&#x20AC;&#x201D; such an investment of time and attention and stress â&#x20AC;&#x201D; unbelievable. If you have to be a lawyer, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s probably the most exciting thing to do. I sometimes feel nostalgic about litigation and these moods can sometimes last as long as 30 seconds [smiles].


THE IMPECCABLE DEBORAH KERR Museum of Modern Art Modern Matinees 11 W. 53rd St. Through Aug. 31 $12; $10 for seniors; $8 for students

â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a great deal of artfulness if thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the kind of art you want to do. A lot of it is writing, which is extremely important, and what I was very good at was written and oral presentation. In my day, I was actually very good in court. To get up on your hind legs in front of the jury, to get over all the inertia and terror and having done the work, it can be a blast and really the best thing about doing litigation. You have stories that you can dine out on for years. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Mostly what I do now is publishing-related law, prepublication, I review book manuscripts and magazine copy before it goes to print. Basically, you read it and anything thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s iffy or could be problematic, whoever is your vis-a-vis, sometimes the author, usually the editor, or sometimes a fact checker, you have to ask how do we know if this is true? Most of the time they know, but sometimes they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t and then we have to do something about it, either more research, or tweak it, or, in the worst situation, cut it.â&#x20AC;?


JEFF MILLER, continued on p.43





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    | July 20â&#x20AC;&#x201C;August 2, 2017



July 20â&#x20AC;&#x201C;August 2, 2017 |

JEFF MILLER from p.41

Miller is such a total celebrant of life I was surprised when we were talking about the dearly departed, downright wild and crazy 1970s, that he had nothing to say. “I missed the ‘70s... I wasn’t there. I was nowhere: I wasn’t out. I was one of these neurotic asexual queens forever and ever. I was a real nowhere man for a long, long time. “I was attracted to guys from junior high, but was with women in a very limited way. I actually lived with a woman for a few years and we got married, and what a fucking nightmare that was! I told her what was up with me from the get-go and she was, and would have had to have been, out of her fucking mind. Super-needy and actually seriously disturbed in a lot of ways. “The divorce was not that ugly. It took a long time to do and I had to handle it with the utmost patience and tact, but in the end it was okay. It just took a long time. But the relationship was a nightmare. Five years is a long time, until I could not bear it another second. I’d had some very, very limited experience with men beforehand. I really did not know what I was missing, and had she been a decent person, and not bat-shit crazy to a significant degree and vicious, I might have stayed with her and had a family. She had really nice qualities: very cute, smart, insightful, and funny, but I am so grateful we did not have children because I never would have been free.

BEL CANTO, from p.38

a disconnected trick falsetto. This often required her to break the vocal line before the piano note, calling attention to the effect. Everything came together thrillingly however in Imogene’s mad scene “Col sorriso d’innocenza… Oh sole, ti vela!” Meade sang the cavatina with lush fine spun tone then tore into high notes and plunged into low notes with exciting abandon in the cabaletta. She scrupulously polished each note of the wide-ranging scales. Ballerini sings wonderfully on | July 20–August 2, 2017

“I called my law partner whom I’ve known since high school, and he came over and we grabbed some stuff. He had a second bedroom in his apartment and I lived with him for the better part of eight months, as it took some time for me to just exhale and get over this. That day is my personal national holiday when I take myself out for a drink and toast my good fortune. We observe this on Presidents’ Day, that Monday. “Eventually, I was able to get an apartment of my own and get back to the gym because marriage does terrible things to a man. I picked up some cute guy at the Vanderbilt YMCA and we had dinner and he came over to my place on Saturday night, the first guy in eight years, totally cute, and I thought maybe he’ll spend the weekend with me. He had just gotten his new inline skates and had to go and try them out the next day, so that didn’t happen. But I had tickets for a Beethoven concert and during the intermission, I saw this very attractive guy and we chit-chatted and wound up having a marvelous time! My real life had finally begun!” Along with his quite magnificent art, Miller takes deep pride in another talent, hanging a show. “One of the things I do for the gallery is I’m like captain of the hanging crew. It was not too crowded this year. Last year we had something like 170 pieces as opposed to this show’s 70. That was challenging to hang and although it was too much, we managed. It’s nice to do something for my friends, and it’s a real interesting process, and a lot of fun.

“It’s this complicated aesthetic puzzle, because we come in Sunday morning, just me and two other people, and we don’t know what to do with all this art all over the place. The question is how do you take all this different stuff in terms of style and size and make it into a coherent exhibit? I have my method, and you’re right, you always need at least one gay man on a hanging crew because, to quote ‘Boys in the Band,’ it takes a fairy to make something pretty!”

the breath, applying expressive light and shade to the musical line. His upper register is easy and sweet, sailing effortlessly up to the many C’s and D’s required in this virtuoso tenor role. A little more control over his mezza voce singing is needed but at least he does attempt to sing softly. Slim and compact with a handsome face, Ballerini cuts a romantic figure onstage. Wilson as Imogene’s unloved husband and Gualtiero’s arch enemy Ernesto sang with imposing tonal thrust and confidence with a rock solid high F; for a bass he

handled this baritone role with surprising ease. Excellent support was provided by soprano Lamp, tenor Sean Christensen, bass-baritone Joseph Beutel, and the Bel Canto Young Artists chorus. Crutchfield and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s presided over a colorful, rousing interpretation of Bellini’s youthful blood and thunder score. Crutchfield masterfully used rhythm and color to point up the drama and pull the listener through a few dull passages in Bellini’s uneven score. In July 2018, Crutchfield will move down the road to the Performing Arts Center at SUNY Purchase

With her pristine beauty, comfortingly cultivated voice, and eternal, womanly poise, Deborah Kerr was the very model of an English rose, parlaying those qualities into a career of international stardom impressive for its longevity and quality. To recognize this, MoMA has organized a nifty retrospective entitled “The Impeccable Deborah Kerr” through the rest of the summer, and I can think of no better way to beat the heat than settling down with this ever-cool, yet never Grace Kelly-icy paragon of femininity on one of her explorations into the complexity of the human heart. She’s at her best, directed by the kaleidoscopic Michael Powell in the epic and deeply moving “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” (Aug. 9, 1 p.m.), personifying the ideal British woman in three different roles in the Boer War and both World Wars, and she is the ambivalent, all too human fulcrum at the center of the fervid exoticism and sexual repression of Powell’s “Black Narcissus” (Aug. 10, 1 p.m.), one of

the most visually and emotionally astonishing films ever made. She gave her sexiest performance in Fred Zinnemann’s entertaining “The Sundowners” (Jul. 27, 1:30 p.m.) in which she got to be bawdily Australian for a change and had the devastatingly alpha Robert Mitchum to sensually ooze over. As Laura, the homophobic gym teacher’s wife in Vincente Minnelli’s oftimes excruciating “Tea and Sympathy” (Aug. 31, 1:30 p.m.), she is a tortured, effeminate, and bullied boy’s solace, memorably delivering that simperingly unholy last line about remembering with kindness as only she could. She was Oscar-nominated for both Zinnemann’s “From Here to Eternity” (Aug. 16, 1:30 p.m.) and Walter Lang’s “The King and I” (Jul. 20 & Aug. 11 at 1:30 p.m.), but I find her unconvincing as a very American adulteress in the first (Joan Crawford should have done it) and plain dull and decidedly unmusical (dubbed by the ubiquitous Marni Nixon) in “The King and I.” She rather overdid the mousiness in Delbert Mann’s “Separate Tables,” (Jul. 26 & Aug. 30, 1:30 p.m.) really couldn’t do much with her thankless role in Otto Preminger’s “Bonjour Tristesse” (Jul. 21 & Aug. 23, 1:30 p.m.), and was completely defeated by the overheated tripe that was Elia Kazan’s “The Arrangement” (Aug. 2 & 24, 1:30 p.m.) — something you could hate that director for as much his despicable tattling in the McCarthy Era — but, still, there can be no denying that the world was a better place in general for her presence.

College, leading the inaugural season of “Teatro Nuovo” (teatronuovo. org), a nine-day music festival that will include semi-staged performances of Mayr’s “Medea in Corinto” and Rossini’s “Tancredi.” Next year’s festival runs from July 28 through August 5. One door closes and another opens. In a web-only exclusive at, Eli Jacobson reviews the New York premiere of “Three Way,” a trio of one-act operas with music by Robert Paterson and libretto by David Cote performed at BAM in June.


Gay City News  

July 20, 2017

Gay City News  

July 20, 2017