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August 31–September 13, 2017 |

In This Issue COVER STORY Retaining a gay Council voice for Brooklyn 04

PERSPECTIVE Nicole Malliotakis’ anti-LGBTQ dog whistle 35

ETHICS Ripped from the headlines 06

TRAVEL Autumn in New York 32

REVIVAL Gary Oldman, MILITARY Alfred Molina shine Will Mattis stand up to Trump on trans service? in “Prick Up Your Ears” 38 08 CIVIL RIGHTS New SCOTUS term could be blockbuster 12

THEATER The object of her affection 44



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Alone in the Crowd 38




Retaining a Gay Council Voice for Brooklyn Carlos Menchaca faces off against two county regulars in September 12 Dem primary BY PAUL SCHINDLER


acing two major reelection challengers in the September 12 Democratic primary, City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca explains that the spirited contest is a telling sign about “the nature of politics,” both in Brooklyn and in the Sunset Park neighborhood at the center of his district. “The reform movement is not only alive and well but I represent it as an independent and a progressive,” he told Gay City News in an interview this month. “Hence, the multiple challenges from the old guard.” Menchaca, 36, became the first out gay legislator in Brooklyn as well as the Council’s first Mexican-American member after defeating District 38 incumbent Sara González in 2013. Now, González, 68, and State Assemblymember Félix Ortiz, 57, who arrived in Albany in 1995 and is an assistant speaker for the majority Democrats, are challenging Menchaca’s reelection. Among the other contenders on September 12 is Chris Miao, a Chinese-American attorney, the only Asian candidate in a district whose Asian population, 33 percent of the total in the 2010 census, is growing. With critical support from labor unions and the area’s congressmember, Nydia Velázquez, Menchaca defeated González four years ago by charging she was largely missing in action on the Council. González and Ortiz are making much the same case against him this year. The district — which includes Sunset Park, Red Hook, industrial areas on the Brooklyn waterfront, and small portions of Borough Park, Bensonhurst, the South Slope, and Windsor Terrace — is one of the city’s leading immigrant communities, with another 44 percent of 2010 census respondents identifying as Latino. Many immigrants, according to Menchaca, are non-citizens, with a good number undocumented altogether. The area is also economically struggling. According to the In-


City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, chair of the Committee on Immigration, is proud of empowering his Sunset Park community.

stitute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, more than half of the residents work in low-wage occupations, half of all single mothers with children under five live in poverty, and a third of all households are “severely rent-burdened.” At 44 percent, the district has the city’s highest rate of adults with less than a high school education. From Menchaca’s vantage point, those statistics help explain why the district has largely been overlooked by the Kings County Democratic Party, which in 2013 supported González and this year has put its weight behind Ortiz. While careful to acknowledge that the district has always had dedicated activists, Menchaca said, “This has been, for a long time, a forgotten part of Brooklyn without a lot of attention paid to building political infrastructure… The Democratic Party, the county party has not focused on this area and instead had a particular kind of candidate-based infrastructure to keep electing a very particular person, like Felix Ortiz.” Menchaca points with pride to the record turnout in 2013, which gave him an 18-percentage point win over González. That year, more than 7,300 voters turned out in a district where Council primaries often yield fewer than 4,000 voters. (Even so, by contrast the 2013 race between Corey Johnson and Yetta Kurland drew nearly 20,000 voters.) It’s clear that Menchaca sees a link between increasing voter turn-

out in the district and empowering its communities in the city political landscape. As New York City faces severe challenges from a hostile administration in Washington — with immigrant communities like Sunset Park at particular risk — the roughly 8,000 who turned out to vote in Menchaca’s participatory budgeting allocation of discretionary funds at his disposal speaks, in the councilmember’s view, to a community “hungry” for selfempowerment. That engagement, in turn he believes, will create a “movement-based response at the ballot box in September,” allowing him to survive his challengers. Having vanquished the county organization four years ago, Menchaca, once in office, did little to ingratiate himself with the machine he had opposed, and a battle with the city’s Economic Development Corporation soon demonstrated his continued outsider status. His complaints that a proposed redevelopment of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park did too little to either incorporate community concerns or ensure the area’s survival as a working waterfront led the EDC to withdraw the $115 million plan in early 2015. The following month, the 16-member Brooklyn Council delegation, in an unexpected vote, moved to strip Menchaca of his cochair post. His critics on the Council charged he had dropped the ball on matters like filling borough vacancies on citywide boards, but he saw it as clear payback for his having stood up to the EDC and other efforts at reforming how the borough’s councilmembers carried out their business. “I instituted a lot of reforms as to how we were spending money as a county, as Brooklyn councilmembers,” he said. “What I wanted was more transparency, I wanted a sense of collaboration. Instead of splitting it up and everyone going their own way, I wanted an umbrella, so I created an umbrella for economic development to bring in economic development organizations and other groups to create syner-

gies. They were like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, that’s not how we do things.’” A particular nemesis in that battle was David Greenfield, a social conservative whose district, which includes a large Orthodox Jewish community, abuts Menchaca’s. “A lot of his young progressive Orthodox constituents who are over there doing their own thing built a coalition with me,” Menchaca said in explaining tensions between the two councilmembers. The fact that his district includes a small portion of Borough Park, Greenfield’s Orthodox base, adds to the tension. Despite his removal from the county delegation post, Menchaca was pleased with how the EDC battle played out. Everyone returned to the bargaining table and by the fall of 2015 the EDC, in a statement, pointed to the cooperation among the agency, Menchaca, and Sunset Park “community partners” on resolving outstanding issues. The councilmember characterizes it as a win. “On the economic development side, we broke the bones of EDC,” he said. “Now the EDC has a new infrastructure with leadership that is managing all the properties in Sunset Park.” That, Menchaca said, established a pattern for other waterfront challenges in Bush Terminal and the 6 million-square foot Industry City section. “I am 100 percent confident I can work with the EDC,” he said. “We have elevated this community to a position of power. Before, Sunset Park was an afterthought.” He added, “I’m the guy who is saying no to the consistent barrage of developers who continue to purchase land on the waterfront and then come to me with these massive skyscraper projects, and I say this is a nonstarter, dude, get the word out to all the developers, this is not going to fly.” Menchaca points to similar signs of empowerment in connection with housing issues, school construction, and transportation. The refurbishment of a busy local pub-

MENCHACA, continued on p.31

August 31–September 13, 2017 |



n August 2013, as Bill de Blasio was just starting what turned into a meteoric rise from the back of the pack to a smashing victory in that year’s Democratic mayoral primary, an energized crowd of LGBTQ supporters turned out for a fundraiser at the Cutting Room on East 32nd Street headlined by many queer community marquee names. This past Monday, many of the same entertainers — joined by others — returned. Though de Blasio faces weak opposition in the September 12 primary and a little-known Republican state assemblymember in the November general, hundreds were on hand for a show put together by actor Cynthia Nixon (“The Little Foxes,” “Sex and the City”) that featured Rosie O’Donnell, Denis O’Hare (“Take Me Out,” “American Horror Story”), Michael Urie (“Ugly Betty,” “The Government Inspector”), Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black”), Alan Cumming (“The Good Wife,” “Cabaret”), Mario



Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, on the Cutting Room stage at the August 28 LGBT for BdB fundraiser.

Comedian Rosie O’Donnell cracked a few jokes at Donald Trump’s expense, all in support of the mayor’s reelection.

Michael Urie, after jumping off the stage, takes it right to Bill de Blasio.

Cantone (“Sex and the City”), nightlife maven Michael Musto, Randy Jones of Village People fame, and the women’s band BETTY. Introducing the mayor, First Lady Chirlane McCray talked about her own leadership on forging a comprehensive city response to mental health challenges, citing specifically work that program is doing with LGBTQ youth and in the public schools. De Blasio opened his remarks by joking that Monday’s raucous and at times bawdy stage show was the

“toned-down, more conservative” echo of the 2013 event. That evening, he said, when the polls still showed the race a tough one for him, he could feel the sense of “cutting away the bonds of the past and believing that we could make something different for this city.” Looking to the more recent past, the mayor talked about a speech he gave at Cooper Union shortly after Donald Trump’s election, recalling that he told the crowd, “When we band together, we do change our re-

ality for the better… We were going to find a path forward, and that it was not an end, it was a beginning.” Pointing to positive signs — from the largest women’s rights demonstration in US history on January 21 to town halls in red states demanding that Obamacare be protected — the mayor said he’s found reason for those optimistic words. “I just want to affirm to everyone that the spirit we felt in this room four years ago is not only alive and well, it’s growing,” de Blasio said.


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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). | August 31–September 13, 2017



Ripped from the Headlines “Beach Rats” clearly based on Michael Sandy slaying; director points to her upbringing BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


hile the director and writer of “Beach Rats,” a critically acclaimed film, has said her story was inspired by her experience of attending high school with kids from South Brooklyn and spending time in that area, the plot is based entirely on the 2006 killing of a black gay man by four South Brooklyn teens. The indie film by Eliza Hittman tells the story of Frankie, a troubled and closeted gay teen, and his three friends — Alexei, Nick, and Jesse. Frankie is struggling to maintain a relationship with a girl while meeting older gay men for sex via an online hookup site. Late in the film, the four want to get some marijuana and Frankie suggests they find a gay man on the hookup site to steal some pot from. That man, Jeremy, first appears, but leaves after seeing that there are four men when he expected to meet just Frankie. After the four return to Frankie’s home, Jeremy gets back in touch and arranges a second meeting with Frankie alone. Frankie and Jeremy drive to a nearby highway rest stop next to a beach where the other three are waiting. When Jeremy shows up, he is attacked by Nick and Alexei on the beach. It does not appear that Jeremy has been killed, but the ending is ambiguous. In 2006, Anthony Fortunato, John Fox, Ilya Shurov, and Gary Timmins, four South Brooklyn teens, arranged a meeting online with Michael Sandy, a black gay man, to steal some pot from him. Fortunato, who had a girlfriend but was meeting gay men for sex on an online hookup site, suggested using the online site, but unlike “Beach Rats,” here Fox pretended to be gay. Sandy arrived, but left after seeing four men instead of just Fox. Sandy soon got back in touch and arranged a second meeting with Fox alone. The two drove to a rest stop off the Belt Parkway next to Plumb Beach where the other three were waiting. When they arrived, Shurov attacked Sandy who fled on to the




The thugs who lured a gay man to the same beach where Michael Sandy was killed as depicted in Eliza Hittman’s “Beach Rats.”

parkway. Fox also pursued Sandy. On the parkway, Shurov pushed Sandy into the path of an oncoming car that struck and killed the 29-year-old. Like the movie, Fortunato lived with his mother and had a younger sister, had a father who died from cancer before the violent attack on the older gay man, and had a drug problem. Unlike the Sandy story, Jeremy is a white gay man. There are other links between the Fortunato story and “Beach Rats.” In 2007, Fortunato and Fox were tried together, but with separate juries. Among the prosecution witnesses was Richie Folio, who knew the four men. In her 2013 film, “It Felt Like Love,” Hittman cast a Richie Folio. Hittman uses “nontraditional” casting. The actors who played Nick, Jesse, and Alexei were untrained and recruited from South Brooklyn. Hittman obtained a city permit from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment to film portions of “Beach Rats,” including the attack on Jeremy, at the rest stop where Sandy was killed in 2006. Fortunato was found guilty of manslaughter as a hate crime and was paroled last year. Fox was convicted on manslaughter and two attempted robbery counts, all as hate crimes. Fox is eligible for parole. After the Fortunato and Fox convictions, Shurov pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted rob-

bery, both as hate crimes. His first parole date is in 2021. Timmins cooperated with the prosecution and served four years. At an August 27 screening of “Beach Rats” at Lincoln Center, Hittman refused to answer any questions from Gay City News. In an August 29 written response, she said, “As a Brooklyn native, I’m aware of the Anthony Fortunato story as well as numerous other cases of intolerance and injustice towards the gay community. I did not set out to make a biopic or tell anyone’s personal story. Like my other films, ‘Beach Rats’ explores the fragility and danger of teenage sexuality. And it’s intended as a poetic exploration of the pressures of masculinity and an identity crisis as a catalyst for violence, which is unfortunately all too common. Growing up in Brooklyn, I’ve witnessed first-hand instances of homophobia in my own upbringing and community, all of which influenced the writing of this story.” Gay City News could not find instances where Hittman claimed that “Beach Rats” was her original work, but she has certainly left that impression by saying in multiple interviews and at screenings that the story arose from her experience of attending Edward R. Murrow High School with peers from South Brooklyn and time spent in that neighborhood. “When I was thinking about ‘Beach Rats,’ I spent a lot of time

Michael Sandy, who died in 2006 after being lured to a Brooklyn beach on a gay hookup site and then chased onto the Belt Parkway, where he was struck by a car.

in this park in Manhattan Beach that’s right on the water and observing guys play handball,” Hittman told the Village Voice in an August 22 interview. Gay City News could not find a single instance of Hittman saying that “Beach Rats” was based on the Sandy killing. The closest she has come was in an interview with Steve Erickson, a Gay City News film reviewer, in which she said the movie was inspired by gay-baiting crimes, but she did not mention any specific cases. Erickson knew of the Sandy killing, and he interviewed Hittman for another publication. In an email, Steven Maras, a professor at the University of Western Australia who has published on the ethics of screenwriting, wrote that filmmakers should disclose. “It is a good idea to either base the story honestly around an accepted set of facts or seek the consent or collaboration of the sources, or use appropriate disclaimers to properly recognise the origins of the program or use a story ‘inspired by events’ credit,” wrote Maras who has not seen “Beach Rats” and was not familiar with the Sandy case. “The film industry and film makers often have ways of just talking about their ‘material’ or their story as though it circulates in a vacuum… so they don’t always tend to the cultural side, and this can become an issue for groups who do not feel their voices to be heard.”

August 31–September 13, 2017 |


Pentagon’s Discretion in Trump Trans Military Directive As advocates go to court, Mattis’ moxie in standing by DoD’s prior study could be tested BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


nder the cover of a Category 4 hurricane bearing down on Texas — or as Donald Trump would characterize it, taking advantage of all the eyes glued to TV because of it — the president on August 25 issued a formal “memorandum” to the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security spelling out his objective of barring transgender Americans from open service in the military. The memorandum was the first official word on the issue from Trump since his flurry of tweets early in the morning of July 26, which took the Pentagon, Congress, and even many in the White House by surprise and earned the president bipartisan scorn. Though supporters of transgender service and equality rightly see the new memorandum as the other shoe dropping, in significant ways its falls short of the scope suggested in the July tweetstorm and offers hope that cooler heads at the Pentagon might yet forestall the reversal of the open service policy initiated by the Obama administration in mid-2016. But legal advocacy groups are taking no chances on the political courage Trump appointees might be willing to exhibit and are expanding the challenges already underway to any new policy. The American Civil Liberties Union on August 28 announced it is filing suit on behalf of six plaintiffs who are currently serving, challenging Trump’s proposed new policy, and on the same day Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed suit on behalf of one current service member and two trans individuals who wish to enlist. The ACLU and Lambda-OutServe-SLDN actions follow a similar suit filed jointly by the GLBT Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) on August 9. The three tweets in July from Trump spelled out a definitive rejection of transgender service and also suggested his reliance on mili-



President Donald Trump, with one of his “generals,” Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Vice President Mike Pence.

tary advice, which there is no evidence he actually received. “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow….,” the president began, followed by “….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..,” and finally “….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.” That formulation signaled a complete reversal of a 2016 policy decision made by the Defense Department following a prolonged study that included a report commissioned from the RAND Corporation, which specializes in producing defense-related policy studies, and widespread consultations within the military and with military allies that allow transgender individuals to serve. The Pentagon conclusion was that the existing ban, predicated on purported medical grounds, should be rescinded. Existing transgender service members would be allowed to remain on duty, while enlistment of new trans recruits was scheduled to begin July 1 of this year after additional study on how to adjust existing regulations and procedures to accommodate that. The policy announced in June 2016 resulted in hundreds of transgender service members coming

out to their superior officers, with some of them beginning the transition process they had previously held off on with the assurance that the costs would be covered under military health policies. Estimates of the number of transgender service members range from a few thousand to as high as 15,000, most of whom have not yet made their presence known to their commanding officers. It is widely assumed that those trans service members who have not yet come forward include officers as well as enlisted personnel. Given that Trump neither gave the Pentagon significant advance warning of his statement on Twitter nor provided officials with any details in its immediate aftermath, military officials quickly assured trans service members that there was no new policy yet in effect. Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, reacted first, immediately announcing that the Coast Guard would not “abandon” its out transgender members and that he and his staff had already reached out to them. The other military service heads as well as Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford followed in short order with similar clarification that nothing would change unless the president issued a formal directive. The August 25 memorandum from Trump opened by summarizing the changes announced by the Obama administration last June

and noting that Defense Secretary James Mattis had already extended the opening of new transgender enlistments from July 1 to January 1 of next year. The president then spelled out his rationale, writing, “In my judgment, the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments’ longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupting unit cohesion, or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year’s policy change would not have those negative effects.” That statement blithely disregarded the evidence that the hundreds of transgender service member who had come out over the past year had not produced any adverse effect on military operations and unit cohesion or any significant strain on the military’s budget. There has been no reporting that military commanders had asked to abandon the inclusive Obama policy, that Trump and his staff have actually reviewed the voluminous materials generated by the Pentagon’s prior review of the issue, or that the president was responding to any specific reports of problems. The memorandum continues, “I am directing the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the US Coast Guard, to return to the longstanding policy and practice on military service by transgender individuals that was in place prior to June 2016 until such time as a sufficient basis exists upon which to conclude that terminating that policy and practice would not have the negative effects discussed above. The Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted.” The memorandum specifically

TRANSGENDER SERVICE, continued on p.36

August 31–September 13, 2017 | | August 31â&#x20AC;&#x201C;September 13, 2017



Pride Parade Sit-In Arrestees Offered Community Service Heritage of Pride urged by other activists to intervene to seek dismissal of charges BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


hile five of the 12 activists who were arrested for blockading New York City’s Pride Parade on June 25 are facing misdemeanor counts of trespassing, obstructing governmental administration, and disorderly conduct, they were offered community service sentences in exchange for guilty pleas to disorderly conduct, which is a violation, not a crime. At their August 23 arraignment, two activists were offered a single day of community service, two were offered two days of community service, and a fifth was offered five days of community service. Altogether, 12 members of Hoods4Justice were arrested yards from the Stonewall Inn after they jumped the barriers that line the parade route. They either handcuffed themselves together or held hands inside of tubes


that covered their arms. Police had to cut through the tubes or threaten to do so to separate the activists. Hoods4Justice objected to the police presence in New York City’s Pride Parade and to the corporate sponsors that are a small number of the groups in the parade, but a more visible presence with large floats and banners. “To the police — You cannot mass incarcerate us, brutalize us, murder us, and call it pride,” Hoods4Justice wrote in a statement that was posted on its Facebook page hours before the action. “To Wells Fargo, Citi, and remaining corporate sponsors — You cannot pillage our homes, brand us, rob us of our dignity, invest in our imprisonment, and spray us with water hoses in sub-freezing temperatures and call it sponsorship. To the politicians — You cannot sit idly by and call it allyship.” The activists timed their move onto Christopher Street so that they were


A protester affiliated with Hoods4Justice arrested outside the Stonewall Inn during the June 25 Pride Parade.

blocking the parade route just as the NYPD’s marching band, which was leading GOAL, the NYPD’s LGBTQ police group, arrived. Mounting the blockade yards from the Stonewall Inn was intentional. That bar is the site of the 1969 riots that mark the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Using court records, Gay City News identified seven of the 12 activists who were arrested on June 25 and learned the disposition of their cases. Seven were scheduled for arraignment on August 23. Gay City News does not know the status of two of those seven or the five who were not arraigned on that date. Heritage of Pride (HOP), the group that produces New York City’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, is facing some pressure to intervene in these cases. Rise and Resist (RAR), the activist group that is protesting Republican policies and control of the White House and Congress, wrote to HOP on August 17 demanding that it seek dismissals and that it “actively create a more inclusive, representative, less oppressive atmosphere for all participants from every corner of the LGBTQ Community at the Pride March.” A man wearing an HOP T-shirt reading “Executive Board” conferred with police during the arrests. “Their sit-down protest was not endorsed by or connected to RAR,” the group, which was among a number of organizations given a prime lead spot in the parade to voice resistance

to the Trump administration, wrote in its August 17 letter. “However, as a direct action organization, we at RAR strongly condemn Heritage of Pride for working with the police and district attorney’s office to persecute the non-violent protest of queer and trans individuals whose action was taken in the true, original spirit of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion.” HOP will weigh a response to RAR’s demands at its next executive board meeting, which could come on September 5. The board meetings are typically public, but like all boards, HOP’s board can meet in non-public executive session. Julian Sanjivan, HOP’s march director, attended the August 23 arraignment. “We did authorize the arrests at the march as the permit holder for the march,” James Fallarino, HOP’s spokesperson, told Gay City News. “The specific charges that are being brought against the protesters are being decided by the district attorney’s office.” HOP’s longstanding policy is that it allows any group into the march as long they comply with HOP’s rules and procedures. Fallarino called the march “a free speech event” and added that HOP consistently looks at improving the march. “That’s something that we’re constantly looking at,” he said. “That’s an ongoing conversation.” Hoods4Justice did not respond to requests for comment. The activists are due back in court on October 4.

August 31–September 13, 2017 |




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New Supreme Court Term Could Be Blockbuster Key anti-gay, anti-trans discrimination, religious opt-out cases could advance BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


he Supreme Court’s term beginning on October 2 and extending through the end of June may become a blockbuster term for LGBTQ legal issues. The court has already agreed to review the Colorado Court of Appeals’ decision that the First Amendment’s free speech and religious freedom protections do not shield a baker from penalties under that state’s public accommodations law for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. In July, the high court was also asked to review a similar ruling from the Washington State Supreme Court concerning a florist who refused to provide arrangements for a samesex wedding. On August 25, the Kenosha School District in Wisconsin asked the Supreme Court to review a recent ruling by the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that the district must allow transgender high school senior Ash Whitaker to use the boys’ restroom facilities, and within weeks the court will also be asked to consider whether a Georgia hospital violated the federal ban on employment discrimination based on sex when it discharged a lesbian security guard. Since the court is likely to grant at least one or two of the petitions it has not yet responded to or received, 2017-1018 could be a term in which it decides an unprecedented number of LGBTQ-related cases. The court agreeing to hear the Kenosha case would not be surprising, since just a year ago it granted review of a ruling by the Richmondbased Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that another transgender high school student, Gavin Grimm, could pursue his claim that the Gloucester County School District in Virginia, by refusing to let him use the boys’ restroom, violated his rights under Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act of 1972, which forbids sex discrimination by schools receiving federal money. In that case, the court would have considered whether the school district should have deferred to an



Wisconsin high school student Ash Whitaker (right) with his mother, Melissa.

Obama administration regulation that schools must interpret the sex discrimination provisions of Title IX to protect transgender students. When the Trump administration later decided that the issue of bathroom access should instead be decided by state and local school authorities, the high court vacated the Fourth Circuit ruling in Grimm’s favor. The federal district court that first heard Grimm’s case is now considering whether his graduation this past June has made the case moot. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, Grimm argues that as an alumnus he has a continuing interest in restroom access at the high school, but the school district argues that this is too speculative to give him continued standing. The Kenosha petition gives the Supreme Court an immediate second chance to take up the question whether gender identity discrimination is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. The school district’s petition, filed by attorney Ronald S. Stadler of the Milwaukee firm of Mallery & Zimmerman, persuasively argues that it is important for the Supreme Court to take up this issue and resolve it for the country, pointing to accelerating demands by transgender students nationwide forcing school districts to make controversial calls. The Kenosha district argues that it and other schools are in a Catch-22 position. If they refuse to let transgender students use facilities consistent with their gender identity, they risk being sued under Title IX. But if they allow trans students to use

the facilities, they risk being sued — as some district have been — by groups of cisgender students and their parents claiming that their privacy rights are violated by exposing them to the gaze of trans students in the restrooms. None of these privacy suits has produced a final ruling against the trans-friendly school districts, but some federal district courts have ruled in favor of Title IX claims by trans students, as the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has done in this case. Perhaps more importantly, the Kenosha district cogently argues that the Seventh Circuit’s ruling — the first by a federal appeals court to rule directly on the merits that Title IX covers gender identity discrimination (the Fourth Circuit ruling in Grimm’s case centering on deference to Obama administration regulations) — opens up a split among circuit courts nationwide. A central responsibility of the Supreme Court is to resolve such splits and provide a uniform interpretation of federal statutes for the entire country. The Kenosha petition particularly notes a 2007 ruling by the Denver-based 10th Circuit involving a transgender bus driver whose access to restroom facilities along his route was the subject of an employment discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Most courts dealing with Title IX claims look to interpretations of Title VII, as did the Seventh Circuit in the Kenosha case, but some district courts have held that the workplace and the school present different issues that justify different results. A

federal district court in Pittsburgh, for example, rejected the application of Title VII precedents to a transgender college student’s lawsuit seeking restroom access under Title IX. The Seventh Circuit’s decision was also based on its view that the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause requires a public school to have an exceedingly persuasive reason to discriminate because of gender identity. Such discrimination, the circuit concluded, is really a form of sex discrimination, which is subject to “heightened scrutiny” from the courts. In the Kenosha case, the Seventh Circuit upheld a trial court’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction requiring the school to let Whitaker use the boys’ restroom while the litigation proceeds. The trial court concluded that Whitaker was likely to win his lawsuit on the merits, and the Seventh Circuit concurred. If the Supreme Court adds the Kenosha case to its docket, this will be only the second time in its history (excepting the Grimm case) that the court has agreed to rule on a transgender rights case. In 1994, the Court ruled in Farmer v. Brennan that a correctional institution had some obligation under the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishments” to protect transgender inmates from sexual assaults by fellow inmates. Apart from that ruling, the court has never opined on transgender people’s right to equal protection of the laws. The Supreme Court has been asked many times over the past quarter century to decide whether gay people can sue for sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII, but it has always denied the petitions, in each case allowing lower court decisions against gay plaintiffs to stand. Lambda Legal won an unprecedented victory, again in Chicago’s Seventh Circuit, earlier this year when a majority of the 11-judge en banc court ruled that sexual orientation discrimination claims could be pursued under Title VII. The employer in that case did not seek Supreme Court review, however.

SCOTUS PREVIEW, continued on p.37

August 31–September 13, 2017 |

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Appeals Court Sides With Lesbian Mom In Hasidic Feud Children’s best interest overrides religious obligations in divorce settlement BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


he New York Appellate Division court in Brooklyn has unanimously reversed a trial judge’s decision to take away a formerly Hasidic lesbian mother’s custody of her three children, finding, among other things, that the settlement agreement drafted by her ex-husband’s father at the time of their divorce imposed an unconstitutional requirement that she continue to observe the tenets of a Hasidic lifestyle as a condition of custody. The August 16 decision by a fourjudge bench aroused concerned comment in the Hasidic community, as it applied well-established principles of family law that the trial judge, himself an Orthodox Jew, seemed to have overlooked in giving preemptive weight to the father’s religious desires. Naftali and Chava Weisberger were married in 2002. They were brought together, according to established custom in the Hasidic community, by a professional matchmaker — called a shadchan — and were both 19 years old at the time. They moved to Borough Park from the tight Hasidic community in upstate Monsey and had three children together. The move to Brooklyn was prompted by Naftali’s desire to pursue religious studies. They raised their children according to traditional Hasidic practices and beliefs, in a home with no television or Internet, observing strict restrictions on diet and dress and speaking Yiddish. After a few years of marriage, Chava informed Naftali that “she did not enjoy sexual relations with men and that she was attracted to women.” They continued to live together, but several years later Naftali agreed to give Chava a “Get,” or Jewish divorce, and they signed a settlement agreement drafted by Naftali’s father in November 2008. Naftali married another woman a few weeks later, and has since had two children with her, prompting speculation he was finally willing to grant a religious divorce to free


himself for this second marriage. Under the written settlement terms, the parents had joint custody of the children, with Chava having primary residential custody. They agreed that Naftali’s visitation with the children would be for a two-hour period once a week after school — which would increase for the son as he grew older, for the purpose of religious studies — overnight visitation every other Friday after school until Saturday evening for Sabbath observance, two weeks during the summer, and an alternating schedule for Jewish holidays. But, Chava testified, Naftali did not exercise his visitation rights fully for the first 18 months of his new marriage, and would not bring the children to his new home for visitation, hosting them instead at his parents’ home. The central provision in the custody dispute was the “religious upbringing clause,” which provided, “Parties agree to give the children a Hasidic upbringing in all details, in home or outside of home, compatible with that of their families. Father shall decide which school the children attend. Mother to insure that the children arrive in school in a timely manner and have all their needs provided.” The settlement also provided that each party “shall be free from interference, authority, and control, direct or indirect, by the other.” Chava agreed to waive any claim to marital assets or further financial support for herself, but the agreement obligated Naftali to pay $600 a month for support of the children. Several events appear to have led Naftali to file his motion with the court in November 2012, almost four years after the divorce. He alleged that Chava had “radically changed her lifestyle in a way that conflicted with the parties’ religious upbringing clause.” For one thing, to Naftali’s consternation, Chava decided that their older daughter was mature enough to be told about her sexual orientation. He had expected that his ex-wife’s sexual orientation would be kept a secret from their children, though

that was not part of the settlement agreement. Naftali also claimed Chava had come out publicly as a lesbian, disparaged the basic tenets of Hasidic Judaism in front of their children, allowed the children to wear nonHasidic clothes, permitted them to violate the Sabbath and kosher dietary laws, and referred to them by English names rather than the names by which they were known in the Hasidic community. To top things off, Chava was not dressing according to Hasidic tradition, she had dyed her hair, and a transgender man had moved in and was participating in taking care of the children, Naftali claimed. Naftali sought sole legal and residential custody of the children and final decision-making authority over their lives, limiting Chava to a few hours of supervised “therapeutic visitation” each week, with the children behaving in strict compliance with the 2008 settlement agreement’s religious upbringing clause in her presence and at school. Naftali sought an immediate order giving him temporary residential custody, which he got from Judge Eric Prus. A few days later, the parties agreed to a temporary visitation order for Chava, giving her several days a week but providing that she “encourage and practice full religious observance in accordance with the practices of [Congregation] Emunas Yisroel in the presence of the children.” She was also required to “dress in the Hasidic modest fashion” while in the Borough Park community. Chava responded with a motion aimed at modifying the original religious upbringing clause. She sought the court’s permission to raise the children in Brooklyn, but outside Borough Park, with “a conservative or progressive modern orthodox Jewish upbringing” in a community and school that are “inclusive of gay individuals.” Though she sought the right to share in making educational decisions for the children with Naftali, she proposed that he be able

to continue the children’s Hasidic education and have visitation each Sabbath and on all Jewish holidays. She promised to keep a kosher home. During Judge Prus’ hearing in the case, testimony from Naftali and Chava suggested that during the marriage Naftali left the house early in the morning and didn’t return in the evening until after the children were asleep, leaving Chava primarily responsible for taking care of them. Naftali’s testimony also made clear he did not have extensive contact with the children after the divorce, and his decision to host their visits in his parents’ home rather than his own was presumably to shield his new wife and children from being contaminated by nonHasidic influences. He filed his motion to change custody shortly after learning that a transgender man had moved into Chava’s home and was assisting in taking care of the children. He testified that in March 2013, their younger daughter told him she had read a book about children with two fathers and that Chava allowed the children to watch movies — forbidden in the Hasidic community Naftali denied, however, he was motivated in his motion by Chava’s lesbian identity. Instead, he pointed to her failure to keep it a secret from the children, and said he wanted sole custody to ensure that they would get a traditional Hasidic upbringing without “interference” from their mother. Still, the appeals court panel wrote, “The father believed that homosexuality violated the Torah.” Naftali told the court, “There’s no place for comprising in our religion.” Chava testified she had not been represented by a lawyer during the 2008 divorce and that a rabbi guided her in negotiating the settlement, and another rabbi served as mediator. Changes she had sought in the agreement had not been made when she appeared at the Beth Din, or religious court, to sign the agreement. Chava also

HASIDIC DIVORCE, continued on p.26

August 31–September 13, 2017 |

T H E 2 0 1 7 E M E R Y AWA R D S


Monday, November 6, 2017 Cipriani Wall Street 55 Wall Street New York City Celebrating this year’s theme:



Overnight Love and a DIY Wedding Just Like Home


Chris Vasquez (left) and Lawrence Neuhauser take their vows on September 4, 2016 in a ceremony officiated by their best friends, Lisa DaSilva (left) and Janelle Junio.

BY PAUL SCHINDLER or Chris Vasquez and Lawrence Neuhauser, a late night OkCupid date produced love at first sight. “I thought, okay, probably another bad date but at least I’ll get a couple of drinks out of it,” Lawrence said of receiving Chris’ invitation to get together in January 2014. “The next day I basically moved in with him.” But for the couple, the time between their September engagement that year and their wedding on September 4, 2016 was anything but a snap. “That took forever,” Lawrence said of their preparations for the big day. Ironically, the instant connection and the drawn-out wedding planning, in important respects, resulted from the very same qualities in the two men. “We did everything ourselves,” Lawrence explained. “We picked out the flowers. We did the invitations by hand.” And then Chris interjected, “Everything but the invitation cards themselves we did ourselves. Everything we wanted, we wanted to come from the heart. After the wedding, people said it was totally us and very welcoming.” Chris added, “We wanted it to feel like home.”



Capturing the feeling of comfort and home is exactly the way the couple describe how they knew their relationship made sense from that first night. “I think we pretty much knew right away,” Lawrence recalled. “It felt right and safe and easy. We felt at home with each other.” Chris said of Lawrence, “He was like my rock right from the get-go. He is an amazing listener, and I am a very complicated person and he gets me. I fell for a guy who is quite possibly the nicest and sweetest man you will ever meet.” Explaining that Lawrence lost both his parents at a very young age and that he is estranged from his father and has difficulties with his mother accepting their relationship, Chris said, “We both had the same exact goal — to settle down and have a dog family.” With no immediate thought of raising children, Chris and Lawrence are happy dads to Meeko, a year-and-a-half old dachshund mix. The couple now have their home in Central Harlem, but their upbringing was very different Lawrence, who was 35 on their wedding day, was raised by his grandparents in Pardeeville, Wisconsin, a small town about 35 miles north of Madison, while Chris, who was 39 the day they married, grew up in the East Village, where his


Chris and Lawrence (back to camera) share a hug at the Carlyle Hotel as they get ready to dress for their wedding.


Lawrence fulfills a dream of Chris’ by dancing for him on the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park just hours before their wedding.

father left the family when he was seven. Lawrence first came to New York in 2011, with the hopes of working as a professional dancer. In a career that breaks a lot of hearts, Lawrence found success, dancing on Broadway, in touring shows, and on cruise ships. His most recent gig was dancing with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the renowned drag ballet corps established four decades ago here in New York. Ever since the company received a rave review in the New Yorker, it has toured the world to wide acclaim. Professionally satisfying as that work was, for Lawrence it had definite drawbacks.


Chris and Lawrence at Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain.

“I traveled a lot,” he explained with no hint of wanderlust in his voice. “I was only in the city one week a month.” That transience is what led Lawrence to try OkCupid — and gave him a fairly low expectation for the dates that came his way. But when he struck gold with Chris, he decided to give up his dream of a professional dance career. Lawrence now works for a private equity firm, while Chris is in human resources at an Internet-based marketing and web consulting company. When a couple live together and express the depth of connection that

CHRIS AND LAWRENCE, continued on p.18

August 31–September 13, 2017 |



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both Chris and Lawrence attest to, it may be no surprise that marriage is in the cards. But Chris managed to turn his proposal into something pretty unexpected and pretty great. Seeing a Facebook posting that the “Rachel Ray” show was looking for audience members interested in proposing, he responded. “A producer called me almost immediately, and we did it on Sept 16th,” Chris wrote in an email follow-up to our interview. Six couples in all got engaged on the show, and “RR even supplied the rings,” Chris wrote. “It was so much fun. Completely TERRIFYING, but fun.” Best of all: “Lawrence had no idea.” Those RR rings, the couple decided, would be the last thing about their wedding that they didn’t personally have a hand in. Confident in their knowledge of themselves and what they wanted, they plunged into a two-year DIY party planning slog. The biggest task, of course, was finding a venue. “We did a lot of, a lot of research online,” Chris recalled. In the end, they chose Harding’s, an East 21st Street Flatiron District restaurant whose cuisine and décor celebrate Americana. The restaurant scored the number one spot on an online survey of cheap wedding venues in New York City the couple stumbled upon. Chris and Lawrence were set, however, to slap down a deposit on another venue just at the moment they first spoke to Harding’s. “The owners were amazing,” Lawrence said. “We had dinner there…” –– at which point, Chris interrupted to say, “It was industrial, gritty but elegant, and the food was outrageous. We wanted a dance floor, and they just said we can remove the chairs.” The result, the couple said, worked out perfectly for the 85 people who attended the wedding. Getting those 85 people to the same spot at the same time was the other big hurdle Chris and Lawrence faced. Lawrence has strong ties to his family in Wisconsin, and having them at the wedding was


important enough to him that the couple briefly contemplated two celebrations — one here and one in — and why not? — Pardeeville. The solution was a holiday weekend, so last Labor Day, Chris Vasquez and Lawrence Neuhauser Vasquez finally said their vows. The bridal party included two officiants — Chris’ best friend Lisa DaSilva, in town from Los Angeles, and Lawrence’s best friend Janelle Junio, from Wisconsin. Janelle’s offer to put together the boutonnieres for the two men made for a particularly poignant moment on the wedding day. For Lawrence’s boutonniere, she included a small locket with pictures of the grandparents who raised him and the parents he lost as a small child opposite each other. Lawrence, meanwhile, had planned to surprise Chris with a similar locket with pictures of his mother and Harley, the couple’s first dog whom they had lost to a sudden illness in their first autumn together. Meeko, their current canine, made an appearance on the wedding gift bag, where the young dachshund’s snout foregrounded a picture of Chris and Lawrence. “He’s our entire life,” Chris said of Meeko. For a photographer, Chris turned to a business card he had collected more than five years before at the wedding of a friend. Impressed by the work Sarah Tew did that day, he and Lawrence quickly decided on her for their own wedding, and her work graces these pages. On the morning of their wedding, Chris and Lawrence dressed in their room at the Carlyle Hotel and posed for pictures in the nearby Upper East Side streets. Before they headed over to Harding’s for the festivities, they had one more task — a visit to the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. “I had a dream that Lawrence was dancing for me on an empty stage while I was wearing a tuxedo,” Chris said. Actually, both men were in formal wear as Lawrence danced on the iconic fountain. “The tears from me is of that dream coming true,” Chris said. “I get chills every time I see that picture. He’s a magnificent dancer.”


Lawrence and Chris dance together at their reception at Harding’s in the Flatiron District.


Lawrence tempts fate with a chambong as Chris and several of their wedding guests cheer him on.



Chris and Lawrence cut their wedding cake.

Lawrence and Chris with (from left) Lawrence’s aunt, Cynthia Neuhauser, and Chris’ cousins, Fabiola Henk and Segundo Henk.

August 31–September 13, 2017 |

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BY CAROLE HEADLEY aking a leading role in promoting LGBTQ tourism in Costa Rica while educating the broader society on an embrace of equality and inclusiveness, the ANdAZ Península Papagayo Resort on that Central American country’s northwest Pacific Coast celebrated Pride Month this past June by being the first hotel and tourism company to join a nationwide push in support of human rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. ANdAZ’s action won the praise of the Asociación Empresarial para el Desarrollo (Business Association for Development), a Costa Rican group working to integrate LGBTQ non-discrimination protections into workplaces throughout that nation. “Costa Rica is a leader in the world for its tourist attractions, its nature, biological diversity, and, es-


pecially, its hospitality,” said Victor Castro, an official with the group. “In addition, a hotel like ANdAZ is the first in signing a pro human rights agreement, placing it in a privileged place of inclusive global tourism.” Costa Rica’s scenic wonders — including beaches, mountains, and jungles — its stable democracy, and its welcoming people have long made it a beloved destination for tourists worldwide. ANdAZ, with its recent Pride season action, is communicating its commitment to serving LGBTQ travelers in ways they’ve come to expect when they spend their vacation dollars. ANdAZ and Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast make for an ideal honeymoon, and the hotel also offers full-service

COSTA RICA, continued on p.21

August 31–September 13, 2017 |

COSTA RICA, from p.20

wedding facilities. Though Costa Rica has not legalized same-sex marriage — so that couples would need to formalize their unions legally stateside — ANdAZ boasts expertise in serving the wedding needs of all couples who wish to host a ceremony there. The hotel, owned by the Hyatt group, includes 153 rooms, including 21 luxury suites, and has spa services, three restaurants, two outdoor pools, access to two gold sand beaches, and panoramic views of Bahía Culebra. And the ANdAZ Península Papagayo Resort has grabbed the attention of highly regarded travel experts. In Condé Nast Traveler’s 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards, it was voted among the top 15 Latin American hotels. The magazine wrote, “The ANdAZ Península Papagayo is a naturalist’s paradise: a series of earth-hued stone and hardwood structures that blend seamlessly into the greenery.” Named as one of Travel & Lei-

sure’s top 20 “getaways for parents (only),” the magazine wrote of the venue, “This upscale yet understated hotel ensconced in Costa Rica’s bio-diverse Península Papagayo will be nirvana for adventure-loving naturalists… You can zip-line between tree canopies and monkeys, surf, whitewater raft, hike to the volcanic peaks of Rincón de la Vieja National Park, and, without much effort, spot humpback whales, sloths, macaws, toucans, and sea turtles during your stay.” And Dujour, naming the ANdAZ Península Papagayo Resort among the world’s top 11 destination wedding locales, wrote, “For a truly breathtaking experience, host your wedding at this chic beachfront hotel.” For more information, visit https:// Photographs courtesy of the hotel. | August 31–September 13, 2017


Call It Another Day he cost of weddings continues to rise. In its 2016 Real Weddings Study, The Knot, a reliable wedding resource, found that the average wedding cost couples and their families more than $35,000. With such a high price tag, it’s no wonder happy couples look for ways to save money. One of the ways couples can save a sizable amount of money on their weddings is to tie the knot on Friday or Sunday instead of hosting a more traditional Saturday afternoon or evening wedding. Wedding ceremony and reception venues may charge considerably less to host weddings on Fridays or Sundays. Reception venues tend to be the largest wedding expenses, so reducing those rates can go a long way toward helping couples stay within their budgets. While the cost savings of Friday or Sunday weddings may be the main focus for happy couples, it’s important that couples recognize that planning Friday or Sunday weddings may require some unique considerations:


1. AVOID HOLIDAY WEEKENDS Three-day holiday weekends may seem like the ideal time to host Friday or Sunday weddings, as guests likely already have Friday or Monday off from work. But the cost of travel and lodging may be much higher on holiday weekends than non-holiday weekends. That may compel some guests to decline their invitations. In addition, many families have holiday weekend traditions and it may be unfair for couples to ask them to interrupt or cancel those plans to attend their weddings. 2. CONSIDER THE EVENING’S TIMING When hosting a Friday wedding, couples may want to start the ceremony later than they might if they were getting married on a Saturday. That’s because outof-town guests who don’t want to use more than one vacation day to


attend the wedding may be flying in on the day of the wedding. A later start time gives guests more flexibility when booking flights. Starting later also allows local guests to work a full day and still make it to the ceremony on time. Couples who opt for a Sunday wedding may want their ceremonies to start earlier than they would on Saturday to accommodate guests who need to go to work on Monday morning. 3. CONFIRM VENDOR AVAILABILITY Wedding vendors are accustomed to working on Saturdays, when the vast majority of weddings take place. So couples should not simply assume a favorite DJ, band, or catering company will be available to work their Friday or Sunday weddings. Couples who have particular entertainers or caterers in mind should confirm the availability of these vendors before booking a wedding and reception facility. It’s also important that couples getting married on Sundays confirm that hotel rooms will be clean and ready in time for their guests to make it to the ceremony. Many hotels host wedding parties on Fridays and Saturday nights, and some might not be able to turn rooms around in time to accommodate Sunday wedding parties. Tying the knot on a day other than Saturday can save couples money and help make their weddings more unique. But it’s important that couples consider more than just cost savings before agreeing to get married on a Friday or Sunday.

August 31–September 13, 2017 |

The Night Before: The Rehearsal Dinner ypically, rehearsal dinners are held after the couple and the wedding party do a trial walk-through of the ceremony. Whether you are planning that kind of rehearsal or not, a celebratory dinner the night before the wedding is a nice way to honor special friends and family members before you plunge into the big day. Rehearsal dinners are less formal affairs â&#x20AC;&#x201D; by a long shot â&#x20AC;&#x201D; than wedding receptions, but couples should still prioritize planning to ensure their dinner goes off without a hitch:

while the brideâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s parents foot the bill for the main event isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t very useful. In any event, the rising costs of weddings has made many such older customs quaint. If a couple is financing their own wedding, their parents may want to pay for the rehearsal dinner. If parents are splitting the cost of the wedding, then couples themselves may want to pay for the rehearsal dinner. Confirm who is paying and if there is a budget to work with before booking a restaurant. This way there is no confusion once the bill is brought to the table.

the rehearsal dinner, couples can ask their guests if they have any food allergies.

CONFIRM WHO IS PAYING FOR DINNER Same-sex couples, of course, throw off the whole tradition of who is paying for the wedding, so the notion that the groomâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s parents pay for the rehearsal dinner

CONSIDER WEDDING PARTY MEMBERSâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; DIETARY RESTRICTIONS Couples may not want to book a seafood restaurant if a handful of guests have shellfish allergies. So before booking a restaurant for

INFORM GUESTS ABOUT THE DRESS CODE Rehearsal dinners tend to be laid-back affairs, but members of the wedding party may be uncertain about what to wear. Couples should inform rehearsal dinner


EMPHASIZE LOCATION Couples whose wedding party includes out-of-towners should look for a restaurant thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s close to the wedding hotel or the ceremony site to host their rehearsal dinner. Ideally, one thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s within walking distance of both makes getting to and from a lot easier. Regardless of where the restaurant is located, make sure to arrange for transportation for any out-of-town guests who are not planning to drive to the wedding.

guests well in advance of the wedding if the dinner will be casual, semiformal, or formal. This gives guests the time to shop for and pack their attire for the night, and saves couples the trouble of answering wardrobe inquiries in the busy final days before the wedding. TOAST THE GUESTS The two brides or two grooms are toasted at their wedding reception, but rehearsal dinners afford happy couples the chance to thank their closest friends and family members for their love and support. Plan to give a brief toast to loved ones at the dinner. The couple may also want to say something special to each other on the eve of their big day. Rehearsal dinners typically are fun, less formal affairs. But even the least formal dinners require some planning.



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Weddings are steeped in tradition, and one of the more enjoyable ones is the custom of gifting members of the wedding party. Brides, whether lesbian or straight, may readily draw on their bridesmaids to help plan the wedding, while grooms might not be prone to do the same. But that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mean grooms donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to go above and beyond when gifting their groomsmen. The following are a handful of unique groomsmen gift ideas:


GUYSâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; DAY OUT While itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s customary to gift groomsmen with mementos of the wedding that they can keep for years to come, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no law forbidding grooms from gifting an â&#x20AC;&#x153;experience.â&#x20AC;? Grooms can book a day or night out for after the wedding, buying each groomsmen a ticket to a hot Broadway show or a concert, and paying for dinner for the whole crew. Or consider a more adventurous outing, such as a group bungee jump or whitewater rafting trip. Provide a memento by ordering a handful of specially designed commemorative T-shirts. COMMEMORATIVE PHOTO Many grooms ask relatives and friends they have known for much of their lives to be their groomsmen. So itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not uncommon for groomsmen to know each other very well. If each member of the party has known one another for years, grooms can try to find a photo of all of them together when

they were much younger. Have the photo professionally framed, noting the date of the wedding with an engraving on the frame. If each groomsman is from a different period in the groomsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; lives, then they can find a photo from early in each relationship to present as a gift. COMMEMORATIVE BEER Grooms and groomsmen often bond over beer â&#x20AC;&#x201D; especially if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re all from Williamsburg â&#x20AC;&#x201D; so grooms who have raised many a pint with their groomsmen might want to create their own commemorative beers to show their love and appreciation for their bestâ&#x20AC;Ś um, buds. Many craft breweries offer brewing classes that teach beer aficionados the finer points of making beer. The two grooms can attend such classes and create their own batch specifically for their groomsmen or â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and this might be more fun! â&#x20AC;&#x201D; pay for the whole group to attend the class together. MOVIE POSTER Grooms who love of movies â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and what gay grooms donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; can create movie posters that mimic iconic films like â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weekend,â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Love! Valour! Compassion,â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Priscilla Queen of the Desert,â&#x20AC;? even â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Boys in the Band â&#x20AC;&#x201D; or maybe go the TV route with â&#x20AC;&#x153;Queer as Folkâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; swapping out images of the stars with likenesses of themselves and their groomsmen. Have the finished products framed before presenting one to each groomsman.

August 31â&#x20AC;&#x201C;September 13, 2017 |

Suit Up: Some Tuxedo Basics rooms, if they so choose, can have it easy. A bride might invest thousands of dollars into her wedding day ensemble. Online wedding resource The Knot says that the average cost for a wedding dress is $1,469. Grooms generally have a much easier and less expensive experience with their wedding day attire. In fact, grooms often rent their tuxedos for minimal cost. Renting a wedding tuxedo has its advantages, namely in the cost savings. However, it’s easy for a guy to fall into the trap of renting something that will not help him look his best if he hasn’t educated himself in advance. Looking fabulous involves a little more than just showing up to the shop and picking a tux off the rack.


CHOOSE YOUR RETAILER WISELY Many stores sell or rent suits and tuxedos. As is the case with other aspects of wedding planning, getting a recommendation from friends or family members can help grooms identify the shops that offer exemplary service. When attending others’ weddings or special events, pay attention to the look of the grooms and their groomsmen. Find out where they got their tuxes. Price alone should not dictate where to shop. One thing to give consideration to is whether you want your groomsmen to coordinate — ties, vests, and the like — with you and your groom. Initial tux selection should begin between four and six months before the wedding. GET A PROPER FITTING Experts say that it is important to be fitted for a tux or suit properly, either where you are buying or renting or from a tailor of your choosing. Shoulders should be close to the body in the jacket but not restrictive. Sleeves

should fall so that they show a quarter- to a half-inch of shirtsleeves when arms are at the sides. An ill-fitting suit or tux will ruin your look. A shop with a variety of styles that fit various body types is your best bet. CHOOSE A CLASSIC STYLE No one wants to look outdated in their wedding pictures. By choosing a classic cut and color in a suit or tux, you will look stylish no matter the year. And remember: a lot of fun can be had with vest colors or bow ties. CONFIRM THE ORDER The entire wedding party can visit the tuxedo shop for selections and fittings. The grooms should call the store at least a month prior to the wedding to ensure that everyone has been fitted. Tuxes should be picked up a few days in advance of the wedding and tried on to ensure that everything fits and all accessories are included. This way last-minute alterations or substitutions can be made. Grooms and groomsmen can look dapper by selecting a classic suit or tuxedo, having it properly fitted, and confi rming that all wardrobe components are ready to go in time for the big day. | August 31–September 13, 2017


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testified that Naftali never provided the monthly child support payments which the agreement obligated him to make. Her decision to tell her older daughter about her sexual orientation, Chava testified, came in 2012 on the advice of the girl’s therapist at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. She testified that her transgender friend came to live with them in September 2012 and got along well with the children. When the older daughter returned from a visit with her father, however, she was confused and upset because some of his family had “teased her about her level of religious observance” and told her that Chava’s friend was “really a woman.” When the children’s custody arrangement was ordered changed by Judge Prus, with them spending half of each week with Naftali’s family, Chava “found the children would often be upset and confused,” according to the appeals panel opinion. Feeling hypocritical about obeying religious observance requirements only so that she could continue to have the children without supervision, Chava described Naftali’s custody proposal as “devastating, as she had been the most present parent in the children’s lives since they were born.” She also said she was concerned about their emotional well being in their father’s custody. Prus, saying he might have considered the case “differently” in the absence of the settlement agreement, found that its “very clear directives” obligated him “to consider the children’s religious upbringing as a paramount factor in any custody determination.” He ruled largely in favor of Naftali, awarding him sole legal and residential custody and final decision-making authority for the children. Denying Chava’s motion to modify the religious upbringing clause, Prus

ruled that she would only have limited supervised visitation if she did not comply fully with the religious upbringing clause. Chava appealed this draconian ruling, represented by attorneys from Seward & Kissel LLP and the New York Legal Assistance Group, which has a dedicated LGBTQ assistance practice. Lambda Legal, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Footsteps, Inc., which assists women seeking to leave the Hasidic community, and Unchained at Last, Inc., an organization assisting women who seek to leave arranged marriages, all filed amicus briefs in support of Chava. Chava’s appeal was argued before the Appellate Division last November, and it took nine months for the court to compose its opinion. While acknowledging that a trial court’s determinations in a custody case are normally given great weight, the appeals panel decided to discard much of Prus’ ruling. The decision to give Naftali sole legal and residential custody and decision-making power over the children “lacked a sound and substantial basis in the record” because Prus gave “undue weight to the parties’ religious upbringing clause.” New York courts do not consider settlement agreement provisions as “paramount factors” in deciding a custody dispute, with the best interest of the children taking priority. The court quoted earlier decisions holding that “clauses in custody agreements that provide for a specific religious upbringing for the children will only be enforced so long as the agreement is in the best interests of the children.” Naftali had fallen short, the appeals panel found, in showing that it was in their best interests to put him in total control of the children’s lives. “The mother has been the children’s primary caretaker since birth,” wrote the court, “and their emotional and intellectual devel-

opment is closely tied to their relationship with her. The record overwhelmingly demonstrated that the mother took care of the children’s physical and emotional needs both during and after the marriage, while it is undisputed that the father consistently failed to fully exercise his visitation rights or fulfill his most basic financial obligations to the children after the parties’ separation.” Aside from his objections to Chava exposing the children to viewpoints he objects to, Naftali “expressed no doubts whatsoever about the mother’s ability to care and provide for the children,” the panel found. And it held that “it was wholly inappropriate to use supervised visitation as a tool to compel the mother to comport herself in a particular religious manner.” The appeals panel also pointed out that the settlement agreement itself was focused on giving the children an Hasidic upbringing, and “did not require the mother to practice any type of religion, to dress in any particular way, or to hide her views or identity from the children. Nor may the courts compel any person to adopt any particular religious lifestyle.” Citing the US Supreme Court’s 2003 decision striking down the Texas sodomy law, the panel said that “a religious upbringing clause should not, and cannot, be enforced to the extent that it violates a parent’s legitimate due process right to express oneself and live freely.” The court concluded that it was not in the children’s best interest “to have their mother categorically conceal the true nature of her feelings and beliefs from them at all times and in all respects, or to otherwise force her to adhere to practices and beliefs that she no longer shares.” The appeals panel, however, was not ready to completely grant Chava’s motion to modify the religious upbringing clause in the settlement agreement. Since the

children had spent their lives in the Hasidic community, attended Hasidic schools, and visited with extended family who were observant Hasidic Jews, the court decided that Naftali should continue to exercise final decision-making authority about their education, and that he could continue to require that, at least while they were in his custody or attending their Hasidic school, they “practice full religious observance in accordance with the Hasidic practices of ultra Orthodoxy.” The court said it would be best for the children if the parents “work together to surmount the challenges the children will face as they continue on their current educational path.” Though the panel ruled that Chava should “make all reasonable efforts” to ensure the children dress appropriately for their Hasidic school, it also stated, “we otherwise modify the religious upbringing clause to allow each parent to exercise his or her discretion when the children are in his or her custody.” The court also decreed more visitation time for Naftali than was provided in the original settlement, and accepted Chava’s proposal that he have the children for all Jewish holidays and that she get the non-religious holidays and vacation time. The court acknowledged that neither party would be fully satisfied with its disposition of the case, but, it said, “courts do not always have the perfect solution for all of the complexities and contradictions that life may bring — the parties must forge a way forward as parents despite their differences.” It would not be surprising if one or the other of the parents seeks appeal at the state’s highest court, especially since Naftali testified he could see “no compromise” on his religious demands. We may not have heard the last about this case.


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MENCHACA, from p.4

lic library that will double its size while creating 50 units of affordable housing through the use of tax credits and city capital, he said, is the envy of his Council colleagues. Noting the development is 100 percent affordable, Menchaca said, “This concept of a 10 percent set-aside is not the model for this neighborhood.” He also boasts of a stronger position in negotiations with the School Construction Authority, which has slated five new schools for Sunset Park, and with the Department of Transportation, which he said paused its massive redevelopment of Fourth Avenue to accommodate a protected bike lane and more pedestrian islands. Menchaca acknowledged that he has caught flak from Ortiz on the issue of homelessness. Over the past several years, a hotel has been converted to a men’s shelter housing 150 on 49th Street near Third Avenue. Deflecting criticism, he said the Council has made strides in ensuring that such facilities also provide the social services needed

to avoid them becoming blights and dangers in the community. “I will always stand on the value that our neighbors are our neighbors,” he said when asked about the de Blasio administration policy on siting new homeless shelters. “We have to think about how our neighborhoods welcome our neighbors back, and I think with my leadership and support from the local community I can have constructive conversations.” Responding to Ortiz, he said, “I’m going to take a courageous stand, and you’re going to ridicule me for it.” Still, the fact that de Blasio’s shelter plan is still being rolled out offers Menchaca’s opponent grist for his charges, with the city continuing to place homeless people in other hotels, without services, in Sunset Park to make up for its current deficit in city facilities. Clearly, no issue is closer to Menchaca’s heart than immigration, over which he has substantial influence as chair of the relevant Council committee. He claimed a victory in having adult education programs, a big portion of which

involve teaching English to immigrants, baselined in the city budget at $12 million per year, and he said he has made the New York Immigration Family Unity Project, which provides free legal representation to families faced with being split up, a model for other cities nationwide. “I’ve be holding the line with that with the mayor, making sure he understands it and supports that kind of legal representation,” Menchaca said. This week, he and Manhattan Councilmember Mark Levine introduced a resolution calling on the US government to require all Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to wear body cameras. Politically, Menchaca’s dedication to immigrant causes could potentially yield meager dividends because the community he’s helping is unable to vote on September 12. But he sees it differently. The Lambda Independent Democrats, the LGBTQ club in Brooklyn that’s played a big role in both his campaigns, recently held a bilingual meeting with undocumented Latina transgender women. The activism encouraged by such po-

litical organizing, Menchaca said, is significant. Acknowledging that these women and other immigrants like them cannot vote, he said, “But they are going to talk to their citizen neighbors. They are doing proxy work.” Menchaca hopes this organizing will enable him to turn out a big vote again this year. If voter turnout falls back to traditional levels, he said, “I will lose. I could lose.” His consultants, he said, warn he must be prepared to chart a path to victory even in a scenario of only 3,000 to 4,000 voters. Four years ago, Menchaca was one of three LGBT candidates targeted by a right-wing group that advocates for religious groups having the right to rent public school property for weekend services. No similar hardball tactics have been seen to date this year. Asked whether he encounters any homophobia as he campaigns for a second term, Menchaca responded, “I’m going to say no because I am going to wait for it to be real.” After pausing, he added, “But there are code words like, ‘He’s a nice boy.’”



Wheelchair, companion and designated aisle seats, and assistive listening devices available by calling MSG’s Disabled Services Dept. at (212) 465-6034. | August 31–September 13, 2017



Autumn in New York Breathtaking foliage is just the beginning of a fall getaway


The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson.



t’s hard not to feel a bit of a letdown over the end of summer, the season traditionally associated with vacationing and relaxation. In New York State, we are fortunate to have one of the most beautiful seasons of the year as a kind of coda to summer. Painters, poets, and songwriters have all tried to capture the magic of autumn in New York, and the cooling temperatures beckon travelers to experience the wonders of the state for themselves. The first thing that comes to mind in connection with fall is foliage. New York not only has some of the most magnificent color anywhere in the world, but one of the nation’s longest foliage seasons. Nearly any weekend from mid-September through early November, somewhere in New York is experiencing peak color. Dedicated leaf peepers contribute to weekly foliage reports at to bring you the latest conditions. To best appreciate the changing leaves, you can travel the traditional route of driving along country roads, while antiquing in charming towns and staying at cozy B&Bs or luxurious resorts. You might also consider checking out the foliage in a wholly new way this season by enjoying the spectacular color aboard a historic railroad in Central New York, zip-lin-


ing through the Catskills, strolling across the Walkway Over the Hudson, whooshing down a mountain coaster in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, taking a glass-bottom boat tour in the Thousand Islands, or experiencing the whirlpools and churning whitewater of the Niagara gorge on a jet boat. Brilliant reds, golds, and oranges can be appreciated while sipping wine lakeside in the Finger Lakes or oceanside on Long Island. A mountain gondola in the Adirondacks offers a bird’s eye view, and the Adirondack Balloon Festival has been rising against a dazzling mountain backdrop for 45 years. The blazing color also gives a breathtaking backdrop to any outdoor activity. You can walk garden paths at grand historic homes like Olana, Lyndhurst Castle, and the Vanderbilt Mansion in the Hudson Valley. Some make a pilgrimage to visit the covered bridges of the Capital-Saratoga region. Others take to the water, whether cruising on the Erie Canal, joining a steamboat tour on Lake George, or kayaking on the Delaware or Battenkill Rivers. Residents and visitors enjoy walking among waterfalls at places like Ausable Chasm, Watkins Glen State Park, and Letchworth, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” Expansive sculpture gardens are extra beautiful, like the 425-acre


Cobble Creek Farm in the Fingers Lakes region.


The view from Mt. Van Hoevenberg in the Adirondacks.


AUTUMN TRAVEL, continued on p.55

Walkway Over the Hudson State Historical Park.

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Unfit King Questions Trans Troops’ Fitness ASSOCIATE EDITOR




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fter initially issuing a major military policy shift by tweet, Mad King Rump made it official the other day, albeit in a modified form. Transgender people will no longer be permitted to join the armed services, but those already serving may or may not be allowed to continue their service, to be determined perhaps on a case-by-case basis. This is, of course, a terrible policy. To my knowledge, our cisgender troops are not rioting and demanding that their transgender comrades either be refused admission to the armed services or be tossed out on their asses if they’d already been admitted. But that makes no nevermind to Rump, whose mental stability is increasingly the subject of open discussion. (The moron was actually photographed staring directly at the sun during the solar eclipse, despite countless admonitions on TV not to do so. Sun King II may have thought he was looking in a mirror.) Hell bent on disruption and chaos, Rump creates problems where none exists. His drag name should be All-Year-Not-Just-June Havoc. got it right for the most part. In the subhead to a piece written by A. Barton Hinkle, Reason puts the matter, well, reasonably: “Transgender individuals serve in the military, and will likely continue; Trump’s directive will be overturned in court or reversed by a future administration.” Hinkle goes on to compare the bigoted new policy to the panics generated by the prospect of samesex marriage and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: A year after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, he writes, “Time magazine reported [that] ‘The U.S. divorce rate dropped for the third year in a row, reaching its lowest point in nearly 40 years.’ Moreover: ‘Marriage rates, on the other hand, increased last year (to) the highest number of marriages since 2009, which suggests that marriage rates

may be stabilizing after decades of decline.’ “This is not exactly what gay marriage opponents had predicted. To the contrary, they had predicted utter catastrophe: the degradation — and perhaps the complete destruction — of ‘the institution of’ marriage. ‘Weakening marital norms will hurt children and spouses, especially the poorest,’ went one common argument. Let same-sex couples wed, opponents warned, and pretty soon people would be marrying their horses, pedophilia would be encouraged, and polygamy would be rampant.” Human-equine nuptials were indeed specifically predicted by former Representative J.D. Hayworth, an Arizona Republican. But alas, Wilbur still can’t marry Mr. Ed — legally, at least — though who know what goes on in the hay when the lights go off? And aside from some residual whining from the fascist right, the whole same-sex marriage issue has — what can I say? — gone poof. Hinkle continues by citing the example of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s timely demise: “Letting gays serve openly would infl ict a ‘great cost,’ warned Sen. John McCain. Others predicted that openly gay service members would destroy ‘unit cohesion’ and wreak havoc on ‘good order and discipline’ to the point that it would ‘cost... lives.’ More than 1,000 retired officers wrote a public letter to President Obama predicting that the repeal of DADT would ‘break the all-volunteer force.’ “‘Our fi nest, most effective noncommissioned officers will leave the service at the end of their current enlistment,’ fretted Oliver North, ‘and there won’t be anyone around to train the next batch of replacements — assuming they can be recruited.’ Others predicted such great losses of personnel that the military would have to bring back the draft. DADT was repealed nevertheless. Several years later, still no sign of the draft.” Hinkle then compares the inclusion of trans folks in the military

to the military’s racial integration imposed by Harry Truman’s executive order in 1948: “Anybody who thinks a racially integrated military is a problem today, please raise your hand.” This is all well and good. What I take issue with is the article’s headline: “The Transgender Debate Is Overblown.” No, it isn’t. Rump’s reactionary dictate is what’s overblown, not the so-called debate. The fight over gays in the military wasn’t a debate. It was institutionalized bigotry. One side was right and the other was wrong; it’s that simple. It took years of struggle and personal sacrifice to get DADT repealed. Similarly, same-sex marriage became legal only after the gay and lesbian community spent an enormous amount of time and money and energy on the issue. Lots of people burned out along the way. The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and OutServeSLDN are now suing Rump over the transgender ban, joining the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, which have filed a similar suit. From Newsweek: “Hurling accusations of mental illness at opponents is nothing new in politics. But on Friday, Representative Zoe Lofgren went a step further, tabling a resolution for President Donald Trump to undergo a medical and psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is fit to hold office. [Strangely, Newsweek is using the verb to table not in the sense of bringing a discussion to a close, but rather in its contradictory sense of bringing something up for discussion.] The San Jose Democrat said in Congress that the results of the test could be used by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the cabinet to determine whether Trump should be removed from office under a littleknown proviso in the constitution. ‘President Donald J. Trump has exhibited an alarming pattern of behavior and speech causing concern that a mental disorder may have rendered him unfit and unable to fulfi ll his Constitutional duties,’ wrote Lofgren in her resolution.” Robert David Jaffee, writing for huffi, cites various publications, including his own: “Of

25TH AMENDMENT, continued on p.35

August 31–September 13, 2017 |

PERSPECTIVE: The Choice this November

Malliotakis’ Dog Whistle to Anti-LGBTQ Voters

communities. And since November, I’ve never been more proud to be from New York — a city of resistance where thousands of people have stood up for justice and tolerance. And where City Hall has vowed to

keep fighting by our side. Recently, though, I was ashamed of a string of insults and fl ip-flopping coming from the leading Republican candidate for mayor. Nicole Malliotakis, a state assemblymember, does not reflect the heart and smarts that make New York strong and our LGBTQ community safe. For years, Malliotakis has tried to block our march toward equality, voting in 2011 against the landmark Marriage Equality Act that made our state a beacon for loving couples nationwide. Now that she’s running for mayor, she claims to have changed her mind. Then, she tried to explain her shift: two of her friends got married — no thanks to her — and their right to do so is, anyway, now the “law of the land,” she said. That’s not leadership — that’s using friends to cover for timid, bigoted opinions and changing positions out of politics, not principle. What’s more, Malliotakis has consistently opposed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a state bill to make gender identity a protected class in human rights law, preventing transgender New Yorkers from discrimination in job and housing markets and boosting penalties for hate crimes. And of course, she voted for President Donald Trump — the man who chose anti-LGBTQ poster boy Mike Pence as vice president, rescinded President Barack Obama’s guidance to protect transgender students

in schools, is attempting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which provides essential health services to many in the LGBTQ community, and has issued an order for the military to prevent service by out transgender soldiers. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Assemblymember Malliotakis vowed as mayor to consider reversing the city’s progressive public bathroom policy for transgender New Yorkers, claiming “perverted individuals” have exploited such protections in other states. For the record, there are zero instances of this happening. It’s a hateful myth shared by homophobic bigots. But I was surprised. Surprised that in 2017, a candidate for mayor in New York City — one of the most tolerant and open cities in the world — was actually pedaling this harmful propaganda. And scared of what would happen if she made it to City Hall. These kind of sick scare tactics and right-wing dog whistles have no place in our city and cause real harm to our community. Yet while real leaders fight bigoted fears, Nicole Malliotakis is stoking them. Let’s tell her that Trump’s rhetoric of hate won’t work in New York. We already have a president who refuses to stand up for the LGBTQ community. We don’t need someone who shares his views in City Hall.

Goldwater Rule, which officially bars mental-health professionals from commenting on the psyche of a president or presidential candidate, should be scrapped so as to allow those with the most experience and apparent expertise to weigh in on the mental health and fitness of Donald Trump.” This discussion has been going on for quite some time. “In the weeks following Trump’s election,” Jaffe goes on, “many of the unsophisticated and even those who should have known better, including a bevy of mental-health professionals, claimed

that Trump suffers from mental illness. The diagnosis typically cited was narcissistic personality disorder. Thankfully, on February 14, Dr. Allen Frances, former professor of psychiatry at Duke University and chair of the task force that wrote the DSM-IV, the Bible of mental-health disorders, refuted that diagnosis. “At that time, Frances wrote a letter to the New York Times and pointed out with his typical insight that Trump ‘may be a worldclass narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the dis-

tress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.’ The eminent psychiatrist, who has contributed to the HuffPost over the years, dryly noted … that Trump actually ‘causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption, and lack of empathy.’” Okay, so it’s not narcissistic personality disorder. Let’s call it Rump’s syndrome. What’s in a name?




ince last November, we’ve seen Trump-emboldened Republicans try to roll back many of the hardfought rights of our city’s LGBTQ

25TH AMENDMENT, from p.34

late, there has been an uptick in the diagnosing of Donald Trump’s mental health. The HuffPost ran a banner headline that hailed our nation’s solipsist-in-chief as ‘American Psycho.’ A CNN panel, following Trump’s rambling, hate-fi lled speech in Phoenix this Tuesday, openly questioned whether Trump has the mental fitness to be the country’s chief executive. And Jeannie Suk Gersen, a Harvard Law professor, just posted a story in the New Yorker, in which she suggested that the | August 31–September 13, 2017

City Councilmember Ritchie Torres represents District 15 in the Bronx.

Follow @edsikov on Twitter.



directs the Pentagon and Homeland Security to maintain the ban on enlistment by transgender individuals beyond the January 1, 2018 date Mattis had earlier specified, though that could change if the Defense secretary “provides a recommendation to the contrary that I find convincing.” The memorandum also directs the Pentagon and Homeland Security to “halt all use of DoD or DHS resources to fund sex reassignment surgical procedures for military personnel, except to the extent necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex.” Curiously, this provision mentions only “sex reassignment surgical procedures” but not any of the other costs associated with gender transition, including hormone treatment. This could reflect either ignorance by the White House staffers who drafted the memorandum or a deliberate intention to make the health care exclusion as narrow as possible, focusing only on the political “flashpoint” of surgery, funding for which has generated opposition from some conservatives in Congress. In addition, the ban on surgical cost reimbursement does not take affect until next March 23. Overall, the Defense secretary is given until February 21, 2018, to submit a “plan for implementing” Trump’s directive. The Pentagon and Homeland Security must “determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military. Until the Secretary has made that determination, no action may be taken against such individuals.” The effective dates in the Trump memorandum ease, to some degree, any panic created by the July 26 tweets, which led to some speculation transgender service members might be immediately discharged. Leaks from the White House since late July led to reports that transgender enlisted personnel would be allowed to serve out their enlistments but then be denied reenlistment while being encouraged to resign earlier, and that transgender officers could continue to serve their commissions but would be required to resign if being


considered for promotions. Based on the leaks, GLAD and NCLR, with cooperating attorneys from Foley Hoag LLP and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP, filed their August 9 lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, representing five “Jane Doe” plaintiffs, all currently serving transgender individuals. The plaintiffs, with varying lengths of service, present compelling stories about the harms the proposed policy would have on them, based on what was known when the complaint was filed. The harms included interference with ongoing gender transitions, the loss of career and benefits, and the potential that discharge could deny them of pensions for which they were close to being vested. There was also the emotional stress generated by uncertainty about their future employment and welfare. The three-count complaint asserts violations of equal protection and due process under the Fifth Amendment and invokes the legal doctrine of “estoppel” to prevent adverse moves against transgender members of the military who had been encouraged to come out when the new policy was announced in June 2016. The GLAD/ NCLR suit prompted some criticism that in filing the lawsuit before a formal policy was announced or implemented the complaint might be dismissed as premature. Given the release of the presidential memorandum, it’s not surprising that the ACLU and Lambda and OutServe-SLDN have now stepped forward with their own suits, though even now, with implementation delayed until next year, the Justice Department might seek dismissal of at least some of the grounds for challenging the Trump policy based on their being premature. The ACLU and the ACLU Foundation of Maryland filed in the US District Court in Maryland, assisted by cooperating attorneys from Covington & Burling LLP, while Lambda Legal and OutServeSLDN filed in the US District Court in Seattle, assisted by cooperating attorneys from Kirkland & Ellis LLP and local counsel Derek A. Newman. Both cases differ in some respects from the GLAD/ NCLR lawsuit filed earlier in August by. The

Lambda case not only adds plaintiffs affected by the continuing policy against allowing transgender people to enlist — whose challenge is certainly not premature — it adds two institutional plaintiffs, the Human Rights Campaign and the Gender Justice League, which are suing on behalf of their transgender members who are either currently serving or wish to enlist. This complaint asserts equal protection and due process claims, and adds a free speech claim under the First Amendment, arguing that service members who told their commanders about their gender identity and continue to serve openly will be subject to dismissal for being open, and that the plaintiffs who seek to enlist had also spoken about their gender identity and so their free speech, too, was burdened by the policy without any rational justification. The ACLU suit limits itself to equal protection and due process claims. Unlike the GLAD/ NCLR lawsuit, neither of the lawsuits filed on August 28 makes an estoppel claim based on transgender service members coming out in reliance on the 2016 announced change in policy. Reaction to Trump’s original statements on transgender service was strongly negative, with criticism coming even from reliably conservative Republicans including Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a 20-year military veteran. Where Ernst sided with the president was on the question of funding sex reassignment surgery. In fact, the greatest support for Trump’s July tweets came from social conservatives among House Republicans who had earlier waged a losing battle to amend a pending Defense Department budget measure to specifically deny funding for such surgery. Some press reports stated that the same Republicans had been threatening to block final passage of the Defense appropriation — which Trump hopes to lard with funding for his cherished border wall — unless the president offered assurances on the issue of funding sex reassignment procedures. For Trump, the solution may have seemed obvious — simply removing transgender service from the equation altogether. The fact that reviving the ban offered

another chance to overturn an Obama administration advance was simply gravy to the president. Reporting has suggested that the only collaboration with military officials regarding the July tweets was Trump’s heads up to Mattis the evening before. One suspects that Trump’s “expert” was likely Steve Bannon, a former Marine. The August 25 memorandum, then, requires no immediate discharges and appears to give Mattis wide discretion and at least six months to come up with an implementation plan. Mattis promptly assured trans service members that any policy change would come only after further study. In Trump’s typical “kick the can down the road” style, it leaves open the possibility that the Obama policies will be left in place, provided Mattis chooses to make a persuasive case that nothing is gained and much is lost by blocking transgender service members from continuing their service and preventing transgender individuals from enlisting. Mattis undertakes this responsibility against the backdrop of embarrassing news reports that the anticipated expense of covering sex reassignment surgery is dwarfed by the annual military expenditure on Viagra and similar drugs and that the replacement costs for thousands of fully-trained and productive military members would far outweigh the down-time costs for the relatively small number of individuals unavailable for duty at any given time due to sex reassignment surgery. There is no indication that other steps in gender transition, including hormone therapy, are disabling in a way that would interfere with military service. As worded, the memorandum provides the possibility that with the passage of time, after the immediate political problem that may have inspired Trump to send his July tweets has gone away, sober heads will prevail and Mattis can convince the president to allow transgender individuals to serve after all. This interpretation, of course, depends on Mattis having the fortitude and political courage to tell the president — as he had on the use of torture in interrogations— that Trump’s announced position did not make sense as a matter of military policy.

August 31–September 13, 2017 |


More recently, a panel of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a Title VII sexual orientation discrimination claim that Lambda Legal was litigating, and the full 11th Circuit denied a petition for review en banc. Lambda Legal represents the lesbian security guard in that case, Jameka Evans, and has announced it will file a petition with the Supreme Court shortly. Meanwhile, late in September the New York-based Second Circuit Court of Appeals will take up the same issue in an en banc hearing of a case involving a gay skydiving instructor who claimed he was discharged because of his sexual orientation. Don Zarda subsequently died in a skydiving accident, but his estate continues to press the claim for damages under Title VII. A threejudge panel, relying on prior Second Circuit rulings, ruled he could not sue under Title VII, but the full court granted rehearing and a decision allowing Zarda’s claim to go forward is widely anticipated in light of a concurring opinion by the circuit’s chief judge, Robert Katzmann, in a similar case earlier this year Katzmann, noting the Seventh Circuit’s ruling and a similar ruling by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which oversees enforcement of Title VII, agreed that sexual orientation claims should be accepted under its sex discrimination provisions. The trend seems to be in that direction, as several Second Circuit trial judges have bucked precedent and refused to dismiss such claims. If the Second Circuit rules quickly, the Supreme Court may soon face yet another petition presenting this issue, with a gay or lesbian plaintiff on the winning side. Either Lambda’s petition in the Evans case or a petition in the Zarda case — or both — would then likely be granted, and the court would probably take the case up in this coming term. The timing here is fortuitous, since this may be the last term with the five-vote majority that has been key to all major LGBTQ Supreme Court victories. The four Democratic appointments to the court — Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayer — appear to be most open to voting in favor of the gay, lesbian, and transgender plaintiffs. Four of the

Republican appointments — Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch — would likely oppose the Title VII, Title IX, and equal protection claims. That leaves the man long in the middle, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a Republican appointee who has emerged as the chief spokesperson for the court in major pro-LGBTQ rulings to date. He authored the opinions striking down an anti-gay Colorado constitutional amendment in 1996, striking down the Texas sodomy law in 2003, striking down the key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, and finding a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry in 2015. He was also likely the decisive vote in a June 2017 unsigned decision that required Arkansas officials to list lesbian co-parents on birth certificates in accordance with the 2015 marriage ruling. Kennedy doesn’t have a perfect Supreme Court record on LGBTQ rights, having voted against litigants in several cases, most pertinently on the question whether the Boy Scouts of America had a First Amendment defense to a discrimination claim by a gay assistant scoutmaster. There, he joined the 5-4 majority rejecting James Dale’s discrimination claim and reversing a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Still, Kennedy’s status as the swing voter provides hope that LGBTQ litigants can win some or possibly all of the cases that could come up this term. According to published reports, Kennedy, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1987, has told law students who have applied to be clerks for the court’s 2018-19 term that he is thinking of retiring. Any replacement nominated by Donald Trump — or Mike Pence — is unlikely to provide a vote for LGBTQ litigants. Our current odds at the Supreme Court also rely on two other senior justices, Ginsburg and Breyer, both appointed by Bill Clinton a quarter century ago, staying on the court. The nation may, at this perilous moment, be on the verge of a major realignment in the high court’s membership and jurisprudential orientation. Getting these critical issues about anti-LGBTQ discrimination before the justices now seems exceedingly preferable to having them come up in court terms down the road. | August 31–September 13, 2017

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Alone in the Crowd Gay Argentine actor jumps out of his life in New York BY GARY M. KRAMER poignant, compelling, character study, “Nobody’s Watching” is focused on Nico (Guillermo Pfening), a gay Argentine actor adrift in New York City, practically invisible. Caring for his friend Andrea’s (Elena Roger) baby, Theo, Nico sits with other nannies in the park. They think he doesn’t speak Spanish and that he resembles a less handsome version of the soap opera actor who ended up in a coma on “Rivales.” Nico, in fact, was that character on the soap, but he left it — and Argentina — because his boyfriend, Martín (Rafael Ferro), a producer on the show, would not leave his wife and kids. Exiled in New York, Nico, a year later, continues dodging his ex’s calls and hopes a long-delayed film project will get off the ground. To fill his empty days and earn a little money, he does odd jobs like waiting tables and cleaning rental properties, in addition to babysitting. Nico sleeps on the pullout couch in his lesbian friend Claire’s (Kerri Sohn) apartment. Most of his possessions are in a storage facility.



Directed by Julia Solomonoff Figa Films Opens Sep. 8 Film Forum 209 W. Houston St.


Guillermo Pfening in Julia Solomonoff’s “Nobody’s Watching.”

Director/ co-writer Julia Solomonoff immerses viewers in Nico’s life and world. He is rarely stopped on the street by fans, as he was in Argentina, but he also hardly works as an actor. He tries to be helpful to friends and strangers, but he also engages in self-destructive behavior. The film is absorbing for viewers not put off by Nico’s selfabsorption. Nico’s actions, good and bad, are all part of his way of testing what

he can get away with as someone living under the radar. He uses his invisibility to shoplift items from a supermarket in Theo’s baby carriage. He takes a receipt found in the rental apartment to return the goods on it for cash and a pair of headphones he wants. He also picks up guys at bars to have a place to spend the night when Claire’s couch is occupied by someone else. Nico is so unnoticed he can stretch standing naked in front of an open

window without worrying that anyone is watching. Nico’s brazenness, though, really masks his own fears and insecurities. Without a visa or green card, Nico is illegally in the US, and his actions — from getting into a bar fight to rejecting an offer for a job and a marriage proposal — all suggest he wants to get caught and be returned to Argentina. Except, he figures, “nobody’s watching.” The film is subtly political in its portrayal of how undocumented immigrants operate in an unseen, underground, often cash-only economy. The title “Nobody’s Watching” also doubles as a pun about Nico’s few acting roles in New York mostly

NOBODY, continued on p.41


Sadistic Brilliance Cut Down Young Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina indelibly evoke Joe Orton’s shocking life and death BY GARY M. KRAMER irector Stephen Frears’ film “Prick Up Your Ears” — that last word an anagram for “arse” — is getting a 30th anniversary re-release in a restored edition. The weeklong run provides a rare opportunity to see this biopic of the late gay playwright Joe Orton on the big screen. The film was scripted by another gay playwright, Alan Bennett, based on John Lahr’s biography, which drew on Orton’s diaries. It opens

D 38



Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina in Stephen Frears’ “Prick Up Your Ears,” which is being presented in a restored, 30th-anniversary edition for one week beginning September 1 at the Metrograph.

Directed by Stephen Frears Park Circus/ Zenith Productions Sep. 1-7 Metrograph 7 Ludlow St., btwn. Hester & Canal Sts.

with neighbors and police discovering the bodies of Orton (Gary Oldman) and his lover Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina), and ends, in 1967, with Halliwell murdering Orton before he commits suicide. The story in between toggles back and forth between Orton’s life and present-day scenes of Lahr (Wallace Shawn) interviewing Orton’s agent, Peggy Ramsay (Vanessa Redgrave), who has stolen Orton’s diaries from the crime scene.

ORTON, continued on p.40

August 31–September 13, 2017 |



Macho Takes It On the Chin Laughs as a trio of buddies deal with one of them being gay





Mauricio Ochmann as Raúl, Humberto Busto as Eduardo, and Alfonso Dosal as Santiago in Nicolás López’s “Hazlo Como Hombre,” opening September 1.

BY GARY M. KRAMER azlo Como Hombre” (“Do It Like a Man”) comically satirizes Mexican machismo by depicting the gay and straight identities of three buddies. Santi (Alfonso Dosal), Eduardo (Humberto Busto), and Raúl (Mauricio Ochmann) are best friends. However, the dynamic among the guys changes when Santi comes out — during a group shower, no less. Eduardo, who cuts hair at a hipster barbershop, couldn’t be prouder of his friend. Raúl, however, is much less supportive — and not just because Santi is breaking off his engagement to Raúl’s sister, Nati (Aislinn Derbez). Raúl expresses insecurity and homophobia as a result of his friend’s disclosure, and his fears are the basis for much of the film’s over-the-top humor. “Hazlo Como Hombre” respectfully depicts Santi adjusting to his new queer life, and it uses broad comedy to show Raúl recalibrating his life and emotions now that Santi is openly gay. Caught between them — and creating a kind of balance — is Eduardo. What transpires among the three friends and their love interests forms much of the film’s comedy. And along the way, macho characters find themselves deflated in the face of “maricóns.”



Directed by Nicolás López Pantelion Films In Spanish with English subtitles Opens Sep. 1 AMC Loews 34th Street 312 W. 34th St.

Taking this approach may be why the film — this summer’s box office blockbuster in Mexico from Chilean director Nicolás López — has the opportunity to change minds. Gay City News chatted via Skype with actor Humberto Busto about the appeal of “Hazlo Como Hombre.” GARY M. KRAMER: Why do you think “Hazlo Como Hombre” has been such a runaway success in Mexico? HUMBERTO BUSTO: Mexico has a long tradition of machismo. Films featuring gay people made them funny or ridiculous and not the main character. We are having a moment in Mexico where there is a lot of social change, and people want to be free. It’s gay-friendly. | August 31–September 13, 2017

COMO HOMBRE, continued on p.55

















A Doctor’s Conscience Shifting their customary style, Dardenne brothers tackle a sleuthing saga — uninspiringly BY STEVE ERICKSON ith their third film, “La Promesse,” Belgian directors JeanPierre and Luc Dardenne essentially reinvented neo-realism and made it relevant in European cinema again. Most Americans at the time probably thought they were brand-new filmmakers when “La Promesse” was released in 1997. I know that I did myself, but they had actually made two previous narrative films and a string of documentaries in much different styles. To this day, despite the critical and arthouse success of their work — which has gone on to win the top prize at Cannes twice and even earn Oscar nominations — these earlier films have only circulated in the US in the context of Dardenne brothers retrospectives. Once they settled on neo-realism — spiced with the heavy influence of French director Robert Bresson — as their house style, they stuck with it. However, “The Unknown Girl” is the weakest narrative film they’ve made so far and the first one to suggest they’re longing to escape from its bonds. Dr. Davin (Adèle Haenel) is obsessed with a dead African woman she has seen only in closed-circuit TV footage. The woman had tried to enter her office at a time when Dr. Davin was there, but she ignored the buzzer. Just afterwards, the woman was murdered and discovered as a corpse with a fractured skull on the banks of a river in Liege. Approached by police, Dr. Davin tries her hand at investigating the case



ORTON, from p.38

As Peggy describes Orton upon first meeting him, she says he had “confidence and charm.” As Orton, Oldman delivers both qualities with notable élan. It is obvious why every man and woman in the film is attracted to him; he’s fetchingly sexy in his white T-shirt, leather jacket, jeans, and jaunty cap. That


Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne Sundance Selects In French with English subtitles Opens Sep. 8 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St.

herself, which involves questioning some of her patients. She proves to be a fairly skilled detective. The signature image of the Dardenne brothers’ films is taken from a handheld camera frantically trying to keep pace with a walking person, usually focusing on his or her neck. Their scenes of actor Olivier Gourmet in their fifth film, “The Son” (my personal favorite), epitomize this. However, they’ve always been extremely talented directors of actors, and working with them has resulted in a few originally non-professional performers going on to have careers in French cinema. In their last film, “Two Days, One Night,” they worked with a fullfledged movie star, Marion Cotillard, for the first time, and the results were tremendous. I think Cotillard’s work in “Two Days, One Night” is one of the best

female performances of the best decade — it capped off a year in which she also gave a great performance in James Gray’s “The Immigrant” — so it’s not exactly a slight to Haenel to say that she’s not nearly as charismatic as Cotillard. Still, there’s a fundamental blandness to her character and to Haenel’s acting. Cotillard’s character was both incredibly willful and dependent on tranquilizers to make it through the day; Dr. Davin never seems anywhere nearly as troubled as the script sometimes tells us she’s supposed to be about being complicit in a woman’s death. The Dardenne brothers’ direction is much calmer than usual, with their sometimes wild use of handheld camerawork almost entirely restrained. But they didn’t really find an equally compelling style with which to replace it. In terms of structure, “The Unknown Girl” actually resembles “Two Days, One Night” a bit. Both films are about women frantically tracking people down while also trying to get on with their lives. Here, the Dardenne brothers show quite a bit of their heroine’s professional life, depicting her diagnosing a man

he sports a seductive, devilish grin when he is amused or is getting away with something naughty only adds to his appealing insouciance. Joe, as the film explains, was born John and had a working-class upbringing, only to have his circumstances change dramatically as he takes elocution lessons and later attends RADA. It is in drama school that he meets Kenneth, who

makes an impression when killing a cat in a pantomime acting exercise. During their school days, Joe exploits Kenneth for his car, which sets the pattern for how he will treat the man who becomes his lover, personal assistant, co-conspirator, and, lest anyone forget, murderer. “Prick Up Your Ears” captures very well the symbiotic relationship that develops between the lovers.


Adèle Haenel in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “The Unknown Girl,” which opens September 8.

with emphysema in an early scene. “Two Days, One Night” showed a much less privileged woman desperately arguing with her co-workers about her right even to have a professional life in the first place. The Dardenne brothers’ films have generally shown impeccable politics and been acutely sensitive to the nuances of class. “The Unknown Girl” is the first one that seems to adopt the perspective of a rather blinkered upper-middle-class person. White guilt seems to be Dr. Davin’s biggest problem, and although it’s not an uninteresting subject to make a film about, the Dardenne brothers didn’t succeed in coming up with anything much to say about it. I’m not the first critic to point out that “The Unknown Girl” is basically a genre film. The problem is that it feels like an incredibly halfhearted and self-congratulatory one. The Dardenne brothers have taken some tentative steps out of their comfort zone, but it didn’t really work. An average episode of the classic TV cop show “Homicide: Life on the Street,” whose general visual style was actually not far from that of the Dardenne brothers’ films, is far more compelling than the detective story outlined in “The Unknown Girl.” If they want to go further in this direction, they ought to adapt a novel by Dennis Lehane or George Pelecanos (or their French and Belgian counterparts), and perhaps try a new style much closer to film noir. I’m glad they recognized that they ran the risk of falling into formula and tried something different, but this film just doesn’t quite gel.

Frears plays up the tensions between Joe and Kenneth throughout the film, as their arguments become increasingly nasty. Joe is harsh toward the insecure but supportive Kenneth, at times denying him glory and sex, which provokes Kenneth to angry outbursts. But Kenneth largely suffers Joe’s abuse

ORTON, continued on p.41

August 31–September 13, 2017 |

NOBODY, from p.38

being ones nobody actually sees. One “performance” has Nico faking it that he’s a success when his friend and “Rivales” co-star Pablo (Marco Antonio Caponi) visits him. Nico pretends to live at the empty rental apartment, even borrowing Claire’s surfboard as a prop. Pablo sees through the charade almost immediately. Nico does get one shot at success when he meets Kara Reynolds (Cristina Morrison), a film producer who is one of Andrea’s yoga students. Kara bluntly tells Nico, “Nobody cares if you are a star in your own country.” She encourages him to not be shy or overly proud, to work out, get rid of his accent, and darken his blonde hair. The suggestions might help Nico fit in, but he is either unable or unwilling to follow them. How Nico feels about his life in New York comes across brilliantly in Pfening’s expressive perfor-

ORTON, from p.40

— likely because he is terrified of losing him. That homosexuality remained illegal and very much underground in 1960s Britain may have contributed to Kenneth’s willingness to stay with a cruel companion rather than have none at all. Why Joe stays with Kenneth is more complicated and revealed over the course of the film. Audiences, like Lahr, can piece the reasons together. Orton’s character is nicely sketched out as “Prick Up Your Ears” unfolds. Joe and Kenneth get a six-month prison sentence for defacing library books, an episode that helps launch Orton’s literary career but causes Halliwell to abandon his. Orton’s cheekiness is also underlined in a phone call between him and Brian Epstein (David Cardy), the Beatles manager for whom Joe is writing a screenplay, and in a scene where Joe gives a stagehand his late mother’s teeth as a prop for a production of one of his plays. Bennett’s screenplay includes plenty of Orton-esque dialogue, as well as a clever gag in which Orton records his sexual exploits in his diary in a quirky shorthand that Lahr’s wife and mother-in-law later decode.

mance, which has snagged him several Best Actor prizes, including from the Tribeca Film Festival. Pfening’s comfort — or discomfort — registers clearly on his face and in his body language in every scene, whether awkwardly changing Theo in a park or in a quiet moment sitting in a doorway, contemplating his next move after a setback. A natural observer, Nico mimics the actions of a bicyclist in traffic for an audition, and we see his heartache and loneliness when an exchange with Martín triggers him to have anonymous sex. Solomonoff makes effective use of choice Manhattan locations to underscore Nico’s anonymity in many aspects of his life. As Nico bikes through Chelsea or walks through Times Square, along the High Line, or outside Lincoln Center, he is both at the center of it all and lost among the multitudes. Nico is achingly sad and human, which is what Solomonoff’s film captures so beautifully.

We watch Joe and Kenneth cruising in the park and cottaging in public toilets, with Orton cocky and clever in his seductions, while Kenneth fumbles. When Kenneth wears a wig to help him seduce a man outside a public toilet, Joe discreetly pays the stranger, knowing that the tryst will boost Kenneth’s confidence. The scene also suggests, however, that if someone else gets Kenneth off Joe won’t have to do it himself. The underlying sadness of Kenneth’s life is palpable throughout “Prick Up Your Ears,” one reason the story is so affecting. The film’s star may be Oldman, who shines in a bold, sassy performance, but Molina is spot-on as the dour and hysterical Kenneth. In support, Regrave gives a sly, slinky turn as Peggy, a shrewd woman who sizes up every situation and acts in her own best interests. Buying a screen collage that Kenneth made for an art exhibition, Peggy seems most intent on keeping her cash-cow Joe’s partner happy. “Prick Up Your Ears” may shock less than viewers might expect given the gruesome facts of the story, but the film’s extraordinary writing, directing, and acting still hold up 30 years later. | August 31–September 13, 2017


THE LOFT at the DAVENPORT THEATRE 354 W 45th St (between 8th & 9th Ave) · 212-239-6200

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Celebrating Editta Sherman, Jeanne Moreau A farewell and salute to two great artists BY DAVID NOH t the New-York Historical Society right now, you can meet the best unknown portrait photographer of the last century, Editta Sherman. Although she died four years ago, her presence is very much alive here in the huge, vintage 8x10 camera with which she plied her trade (the same one the great George Hurrell used to glorify Golden Age Hollywood stars), the flamboyant hats and garments which made her such a vivid presence around town (captured on film by her great champion and neighbor, Bill Cunningham), and, especially, the glowing, ravishing records of the famous faces who traipsed through her Carnegie Hall studio to pose for her. There they are, the truly greats, the likes of which shall never be seen again, surely not in this paltry age of Kardashians and Kevin Harts: Lillian Gish, looking beyond lustrous, the Queen of the World; my favorite actor, Charles Boyer, suavely omniscient; the great, forgotten black actor, Canada Lee; Gladys Cooper, doyenne to die for; Gertrude Lawrence, proving that conventional beauty has really little to do with absolute, innate glamour; the monumental profile of Basil Rathbone; Bela Lugosi, unashamedly striking a threatening Dracula pose; Tyrone Power, a Sherman favorite, the handsomest of matinee idols; Angela Lansbury at the pinnacle of her “Mame” fame; fellow shutterbug Andy Warhol; Carl Sandburg; Leopold Stokowski; what looks to be one of Sherman’s last works, Tilda Swinton, looking an androgynous double for David Bowie in platinum pompadour and bespoke suit; and the best portrait ever, in color, of Antonio Lopez, greatest of all fashion illustrators, who elevated his métier to art. Dubbed by Cunningham the “Duchess of Carnegie Hall,” Sherman was born Edith Rinaolo in 1912, in Philadelphia, and grew up assisting her Italian immigrant father, himself a wedding and portrait photographer. In 1935, she married Harold Sherman, a sound



engineer, with whom she had five children. Her husband’s ill health from diabetes necessitated her making a living with her camera, and she began taking pictures of celebrities on Martha’s Vineyard in the 1940s, using her formidable charm to coax them in front of her lens. The family moved to New York in 1948 and lived in Studio 1208, atop Carnegie Hall, which was only 900 square feet with a bathroom down the hall. When it was discovered that the studio was not zoned to accommodate families, the children were shipped off to a Staten Island group home. Harold died in 1954, and Editta hustled even harder to make her own way as a rare woman commercial photographer. Her friendship with Cunningham resulted in his book “Facades,” which was a series of portraits by him of her dressed in their shared collection of antique clothing against the backdrop of various New York historical landmarks (reprinted and on sale at the museum). In 2007, all studio tenants were informed by the City of New York, Carnegie Hall’s owner, that they had to move. Editta was one of the few tenants who resisted eviction and continued to live there, under siege, until 2011, when she moved to a Central Park West apartment. It was there that she died in 2013, age 101. During the eviction proceedings, the wonderful filmmaker Josef Astor made a film about her and other Carnegie Hall holdouts, “Lost Bohemia” in 2011. For this exhibit, he culled various outtakes from that film and made a short movie, starring Editta. which delightfully records her flamboyant personality, entertaining friends with chatter and pasta and reminiscing about her colorful past.


Editta Sherman’s undated photograph of Lillian Gish.

The death of Jeanne Moreau last month at 89 touched the heart of any true lover of cinema, and I was no exception. Her distinctively morose beauty, cigarette smoke forever wafting from her bewitchingly sullen mouth, was often redolent NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIET Y

MOREAU, continued on p.50

Marco Scozzaro’s 2011 photograph of Editta Sherman at age 99.

August 31–September 13, 2017 |





For your chance to win visit | August 31â&#x20AC;&#x201C;September 13, 2017



The Object of Her Affection She’s got the hots for Dee — never mind that Dee is a Dairy Queen sign BY DAVID KENNERLEY f the Flea Theater’s artistic mission is to create “a joyful hell in a small space,” then with their latest production, consider it mission accomplished. “Inanimate,” by Nick Robideau, tackles a taboo topic you may never knew existed: objectum sexuality, where a person forms an intensely romantic attachment to an object such as a chair, car, kitchen implement, or building. Perhaps you remember Erika LaBrie, who grabbed headlines when she “married” the Eiffel Tower in 2007. She’s been viewed as a punch line ever since. Not that the play, though infused with comic touches, treats objectum sexuality as a joke. Erica, the shy, conflicted protagonist, has developed a crush on the towering red sign at the local Dairy Queen. She’s attracted to Dee’s warm glow



The Flea Theater 20 Thomas St., btwn. Broadway & Church St. Through Sep. 24 Mon., Thu.-Sat. at 7 p.m. Sun. at 3 p.m. $15-$35; or 212-352-3101 Eighty-five mins., with no intermission


Lacy Allen and Philip Feldman in Nick Robideau’s “Inanimate,” directed by Courtney Ulrich, at the Flea through September 24.

that mirrors her heart, and is entranced by “the way the sky and the air and the whole world is dif-

ferent under the light.” The parallels drawn between objectophiles and LGBTQ folks are

unmistakable, and they’re as fascinating as they are unsettling. Like countless gay coming out stories, Erica recalls when she first realized she was attracted to objects — it was a stapler belonging to a ninth-grade teacher — the subsequent waves of shame and remorse, and how she was forced to hide it from the world. It’s not until a woeful, aborted date with a jovial Dairy Queen

INANIMATE, continued on p.55

Songs of Myself Three shows celebrating personal journeys: one powerful and poetic; two plodding and pedestrian BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE iving Michael Moore the benefit of every conceivable doubt, his Broadway foray “The Terms of My Surrender” has an ostensibly noble intent: to encourage people to believe that even one person’s actions can have an impact on society. That’s a serious premise. The problem is that in presenting it, Moore is not serious. Rather, he uses stories about himself and his own merry prankster past to spend two and a half intermission-less hours (apparently it varies every night) indulging in self-aggrandizement masquerading as agitprop. One can hardly call this theater. Indeed, Moore has called the show a nightly political rally. If so, it’s a tremendously safe one. The Belasco




Belasco Theatre 111 W. 44th St. Through Oct. 22 Tue. at 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $29-$149; Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 30 mins., no intermission


Michael Moore in “Terms of My Surrender,” at the Belasco Theatre through October 22.

Theatre is a closed environment with a self-selecting audience willing to pony up to $150 to have their liberal bona fides stroked by a celebrity. It’s understandable that he would choose such a place, given his harrowing stories of death threats and

attacks from people who have been stirred to violence by Fox News, Glenn Beck, and others. But is it effective? Do his audiences go out into the night ready to man the barricades and fight? Or do they have a cathartic experience that validates their political angst and provides a kind of pressure valve for political anxiety? That’s impossible to know, but I suspect given that activism often takes the form of raving on social media that it’s the latter. I’m afraid Moore has merely leveraged the character he plays and his celebrity to get people to pay for the kind of rants your crazy family gives you free on Facebook. Moore’s presentation and his whole persona have their roots in the

SONGS OF MYSELF, continued on p.45

August 31–September 13, 2017 |


Carter Hudson in the Ensemble for the Romantic Centuryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Van Goghâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ear,â&#x20AC;? at the Pershing Square Signature Center through September 10.


++++ ++++ ++++ ++++







SONGS OF MYSELF, from p.44

Yippie movement of the late 1960s, which used comedy, theatrics, and then revolutionary exploitation of media to stage counterculture protests. Yet while the Yippies wanted to tear down structures to create an egalitarian utopia, Moore appears motivated by self-interest. He tells a long story about running for the school board as a result of being punished for a dress code infraction. His goal: get the assistant principal fired. His win â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and becoming the youngest elected figure in the US â&#x20AC;&#x201D; is driven by ego rather than ideology and is ultimately a smug and solipsistic account of gaming the system, the very thing he seems to decry in others. Moreover, it clouds his intended message. If gaming the system is morally right when you believe your cause is just, how can you honestly criticize those who do it now? The show is a collection of set pieces and stories. Moore is at his best when heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s telling stories of his life. There is a protracted game show piece designed to show that Canadians have more civic knowledge at their fingertips than Americans. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a hackneyed conceit, and at the performance I saw it was hijacked by the audience participant, turning it into a painful and pointless exercise. In fact, Moore is unable to contain his guests. His interview section included the librarian who rallied others to save the publicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s access to his 2002 book â&#x20AC;&#x153;Stupid White Men.â&#x20AC;? Aside from being more marketing than substance, Moore was incapable of reining her in and so she went on for a very long time. There are also plants in the audience who shout things out for Moore to respond to. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just cheap. Now, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not disagreeing with much of what Moore said. The country â&#x20AC;&#x201D; especially its political system

VAN GOGHâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S EAR Pershing Square Signature Center 480 W. 42nd St. Through Sep. 10 Tue.-Thu. at 7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $40-$140; Or 212-279-4200 One hr., 40 mins., with intermission â&#x20AC;&#x201D; is in shambles in many respects. His story about the Flint water crisis is harrowing. Yet, though he tells you that he has the â&#x20AC;&#x153;real story,â&#x20AC;? nothing in his account hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t already been covered in the Times and elsewhere. And I do not agree with his statement that everyone who voted for Trump is stupid. In his piece, Moore tries to style himself as a contemporary Will Rogers with a political bent. But his putative desire to motivate and validate his audience isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t valor â&#x20AC;&#x201D; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vaudeville. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Van Goghâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Earâ&#x20AC;? from the Ensemble for the Romantic Century, is, simply, sublime. Drawn from the letters of Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo and interspersed with art songs and chamber music from FaurĂŠ, Debussy, and other Romantic composers, the piece has a lyricism and simplicity that are emotionally potent and exciting. The story, such as it is, follows Van Gogh through his tortured quest to paint and live, the severing of his ear, and his stint in an asylum. Through it all, the passion and torment of Van Goghâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life are clear and beautifully understated, and the music stands in gorgeous counterpoint to his journey. The simple set by Vanessa James is augmented by the inspired projec-


SONGS OF MYSELF, continued on p.53


thee th

NY, NY 10019


looks & feels like the real thing

MANTA SPA FOCUSING ON MAN TO MAN MASSAGE                                                        


                ! " | August 31â&#x20AC;&#x201C;September 13, 2017



Poetic Painter The interchangeable art and life of Florine Stettheimer BY DAVID NOH nce upon a time, on the magical island of Manhattan, there lived three princesses named Stettheimer. Born to a wealthy, elite German Jewish family, their father, a banker, deserted them in childhood, but their mother, Rosetta, had enough money of her own to enable her daughters to create their own special kingdom, devoted to art and beauty in all forms. Call them what you will, dilettantes, whatever, but, with their originality, wit, divine taste, and incessant pursuit of aesthetic excellence, these girls were anything but Kardashians. Though they personified the “new woman” of the 20th century, smoking, wearing pants, avoiding romance, marriage, and children, and embracing artistic friendship above all else, they forever retained that now nearly forgotten attribute –– being lady-like. In their exclusive salon in the French Renaissance Alwyn Court on West 58th Street, Ettie had a philosophy Ph.D. and was the writer and conversationalist of the family, richly caparisoned in her red wig, diamonds, and brocade draperies, Carrie favored fashions of the past over modern wear and played hostess, planning menus and overseeing the hectically bohemian household, while Florine (1871-1944), in her ubiquitous white satin pants, painted. Oh, boy, did she paint! Great, brilliantly hued, highly fanciful and stylized portraits of her family and famous contemporaries, and tableaux — “Asbury Park South,” the hilarious “Spring Sale at Bendel’s,” “Heat,” a view of her clan, expiring from a Manhattan summer — which captured the heady, rarefied world in which she and her sisters, forever single, moved. Florine, who rarely exhibited her work publicly, especially after an unsuccessful Knoedler Gallery show in 1916, when she was in her 40s, decided to unveil her paintings at their parties, which were attended by the likes of Marcel Duchamp, Alfred Stieglitz, Carl Van Vechten, Georgia O’Keefe, Elie Nadelman, and Gaston La-




Florine Stettheimer’s “Family Portrait I,” 1915, oil on canvas, 40 x 62¼ in.



Florine Stettheimer’s portrait of art critic Henry McBride, oil on canvas, 30 x 26 in.

Florine Stettheimer, photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son, c. 1917-20.

chaise. She continued to refuse solo show offers from dealers like Stieglitz, causing O’Keefe to sigh, “I wish you would become ordinary like the rest of us and show your paintings this year!” Florine once remarked, “Having other people owning your paintings is like letting them wear your clothes!” She remains today the bestknown of the sisters, and the Jewish Museum has mounted a bewitching, deeply charming show devoted to her, entitled “Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry.” It’s a strong rebuke

to critics who, in the words of curator Stephen Brown, have long typecast her “as a lightweight feminine artist with a whimsical bent… a view belied by her powerful thinking of portraiture and her astute adaptation of European vanguard ideas, most notably Symbolism, to uniquely American imagery.” The show is the perfect summery delight: intensely feminine and with an airy, breezy layout that shows off Stettheimer’s exquisite work in a completely appropriate and very lovely light. I had always wrongly assumed


Florine Stettheimer’s portrait of Louis Bouché, 1923, oil on canvas, 28 x 18 in.

from her boldly naïf style that Florine was self-taught, so therefore was struck by the impressively confident technique she displayed at age 14 with a hand-painted set of Tarot cards, also a nude study and finely wrought head of a girl, the result of art studies in Germany, Paris, and Spain, and happy immersion in Titian, Diego Ve-

STETTHEIMER, continued on p.47

August 31–September 13, 2017 |

FLORINE STETTHEIMER: PAINTING POETRY The Jewish Museum 1109 Fifth Ave. at 92nd St. Through Sep.24 Fri.-Tue., 11 a.m.-5:45 p.m. Thu., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. $15; $12 for seniors $7.50 for students


STETTHEIMER, from p.46

lĂĄzquez, Viennese Art Nouveau, and the contemporary craze for Orientalism, triggered by the Ballet Russe, whose â&#x20AC;&#x153;Afternoon of a Faunâ&#x20AC;? she had caught in Paris in 1912. Duchamp, with whom she was quite close, was a champion of her. A fetching portrait of Stettheimer by him is included here, and there are a couple of charming portraits of Duchamp, by her, one of which has a fiendishly clever frame she created, as well, using his initials as its chief decoration. Duchamp also contributed a miniature of his groundbreaking â&#x20AC;&#x153;Nude Descending a Staircaseâ&#x20AC;? to hang on a wall of the Stettheimer Doll House, which, on permanent display at the Museum of the City of New York, was, for years, most peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s main perception of the Stettheimers. The 1947 book about this treasure â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a veritable time capsule, overseen by Carrie, of their home and lives, with other stamp-sized original artworks by Lachaise, Alexander Archipenko, George Bellows, and Marguerite Zorach â&#x20AC;&#x201D; with a foreword by Ettie, has been reprinted and is on sale at the Jewish Museum, along with a rare book of Florineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Dada-esque poetry, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Crystal Flowers of Florine Stettheimerâ&#x20AC;? (1949), edited by Ettie. Florineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most public achievement was her costume and set design for the Virgil Thomson-Gertrude Stein operatic collaboration â&#x20AC;&#x153;Four Saints in Three Acts.â&#x20AC;? Eschewing traditional sketches, she instead executed her ideas in miniature models and figurines, tricked up with paper, feathers, fabric, and beads. The complete set of them is on loan from her collection of papers at Columbia University, and, panoramically displayed, they have the effervescent, instantly smile-inducing charm of any conceit of Calderâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. Actual though silent footage from the 1934


production is screened on an adjacent wall, where one can appreciate the dazzling novelty of Stettheimerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cellophane-trimmed vision â&#x20AC;&#x201D; which certainly must have helped to put this precious divertissement over â&#x20AC;&#x201D; as well as its all-black cast, surprisingly playing saints like Teresa of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola, long before the color-blind casting of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Hamilton.â&#x20AC;? Florine lived with her mother until she was in her 60s, and became reclusive, dying at 72. She had requested that the art in her studio be destroyed, which, thankfully, was ignored by her family, although Ettie edited out all personal matters from her journals and papers before donating them to Columbia and Yale. The question about her exact sexuality remains unanswered, although she certainly welcomed gay men in her life, as attested to by the numerous sylph-like fops, famous and near-famous, in her canvases, nearly as ubiquitous as Al Hirschfeldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Ninas.â&#x20AC;? Queer scholars have long embraced her as one of â&#x20AC;&#x153;the family,â&#x20AC;? but perhaps the clearest explanation of her true nature was expressed in a poem of hers: | August 31â&#x20AC;&#x201C;September 13, 2017

Occasionally A human being Saw my light Rushed in Got singed Got scared Rushed out Called fire Or it happened That he tried To subdue it Or it happened He tried to extinguish it Never did a friend Enjoy it The way it was So I learned to Turn it low Turn it out When I meet a stranger â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Out of courtesy I turn on a soft Pink light Which is found modest Even charming It is a protection Against wear And tears And when I am rid of The Always-to-be-Stranger I turn on my light And become myself




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Desert Arts Santa Fe presents operas new and old BY DAVID SHENGOLD imsky-Korsakov’s “Golden Cockerel” has reemerged in the last two years at Sarasota, at New Opera NYC, and now at Santa Fe. On August 3, Emmanuel Villaume led his orchestra thrillingly through the composer’s superb, challenging orchestration. Paul Curran’s spectacular production — witty and visually inventive — made Rimsky-Korsakov’s oddly structured satirical work seem streamlined. Gary McCann’s designs referencing Russian cultural and historical totems and images meshed with Driscoll Otto’s outstanding video projections, including whirling sky charts for Barry Banks’s superbly voiced Astrologer and a flexible, video-only Cockerel echoing Kasia Borowiec’s incisive offstage voice. Curran — who also wrote the English titles — ensured that the story of a lazy, foolish older ruler seeking to wall out enemies and let down by even more foolish sons (apprentices Richard Smagur and Jorge Espino, singing strongly) found its contemporary resonance, with Tsar Dodon and his much younger foreign consort sporting contemporary Trumpwear (blocky blue suit with red tie, resort wear pantsuit) for the final scene. Replacing bass-baritone Eric Owens, fine baritone Tim Mix performed this definitely bass role with solidity and great good humor, lacking only linguistic finesse. Though Banks declaimed clearly, only the aptly gorgeous Venera Gimadieva offered the needed command of Vladimir Belsky’s pungent text. After a shaky two minutes, the Russian soprano showed the vocal sheen, range, and flexibility to match her remarkable music (and seductive plastique): a rare ideal match of artist to role. Though she “hammed” unduly, Meredith Arwady’s otherwordly contralto and comic impulses were made for Amelfa.


Exciting the next night to hear a sold-out crowd cheer a



Venera Gimadieva and Tim Mix in the Santa Fe Opera production of RimskyKorsakov’s “Golden Cockerel.”

world première opera and its 40year old composer (who supplied electronica from within Michael Christie’s large, gleaming orchestra). Mason Bates’ “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” — created without either aid or opposition from the late Apple founder’s family or Apple itself — marked a marketing triumph: an extra show was added and Pentatone recorded it live for audio release. Kevin Newbury’s insightfully imagined, dynamic staging made maximal use of Victoria Tzykun’s set — as shiny, multipurpose, and appealing as Apple products. Lighting (Japhy Weideman) and projections (59 Productions) coalesced superbly for a visually entrancing show. The text by justly sought-after librettist Mark Campbell combined genuine wit and poignancy with greeting card-worthy “uplift” and “life lessons,” largely dispensed to the tortured and often cruel Jobs by his Buddhist mentor (Wei Wu, a wonderful bass with superb diction) and his eventual wife Laurene (Sasha Cooke, one of our most sonorous and expressive mezzos). Campbell’s libretto does not entirely avoid the risks inherent in deploying a “Magical Minority” figure to help a white guy get his life together, and the final scenes carry a large dose of Hollywood’s “saved by the love of a good woman” trope. Wu and Cooke’s charismatic performances help (somewhat) to allay the twaddle factor.


Edward Parks and the Santa Fe Opera Chorus in the world première of Mason Bates’ “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.”

The work’s non-linear construction — 18 short scenes between prologue and epilogue — deliberately evokes a “short attention span” aesthetic mirroring the consciously “user-friendly” score. Bates’ orchestrational skill and rhythmic flair crafted something the audience clearly adored; but how would it hold up without Newbury’s dazzling production? In instrumental aura — if not so much in vocal lines — Bates managed to characterize the leading characters distinctly, a fine achievement for a first-time opera composer. Yet Jobs himself (despite a tireless marathon performance by first-rate lyric bass Edward Parks) had less interesting music to sing than his advisors and the intimate friends he deserted (Steve Wozniak — mature-sounding for the 1970s scenes in Garrett Sorenson’s fulsome tenor — and wronged girlfriend Chrisann, the moving Jessica E. Jones). Acoustic guitar and Japanese instrumental coloration surrounding Jobs proved thematically and generationally apt choices, but his musical utterances evoked neither his genius nor his bite. As throughout the week, the chorus of young apprentices proved vocally refulgent, furnishing excellent ensemble. As pre-performance speaker Cori Ellison pointed out, it’s a difficult task to present an opera about recent historical figures and still create drama (as opposed to

documentary truth). Bates’ opera moves on to cyberhubs Seattle and San Francisco: it will doubtless draw crowds — and there’s certainly something to enjoy, as one does a slick, smartly produced film — but one wonders what Jobs’ survivors, colleagues, and victims will make of it. Corrado Rovaris understands Donizetti’s architecture and respected it in opening most all the traditional (and damaging) cuts in “Lucia di Lammermoor”: even the usually shed post-Mad Scene recit scene for Raimondo and Normanno, which — done intensely with its curse and quiet ending — seemed like a source for the “Simon Boccanegra” Council Chamber Scene. Rovaris also secured the services of a brilliant glass harmonica, eerily effective in the Mad Scene. Pacing was largely swift, the singers well supported. The largely abstract sets yielded little information or nuance, unlike the fine costumes — mainly early Victorian but in the opening scene rather “Game of Thrones,” with menacing furs and dark leathers. Ron Daniels scored two directorial twists: Zachary Nelson’s semi-nude Enrico made clear his incestuous passion for his sister, and a spectral Lucia reappeared (through the same trap door that had earlier disclosed the lit turtle

SANTA FE, continued on p.50

August 31–September 13, 2017 | | August 31â&#x20AC;&#x201C;September 13, 2017


MOREAU, from p.42

of Bette Davis, but she surpassed even that great actress with a gallery of performances that positively defined the modern woman while breaking all manner of social and moral barriers imposed on her. From her twin breakout performances in 1958, in Louis Malle’s “Elevator to the Gallows” and “The Lovers,” which made her an international star, through Roger Vadim’s “Les liaisons dangereuses,” Michelangelo Antonioni’s “La Notte,” Joseph Losey’s “Eva,” Luis Buñuel’s “The Diary of a Chambermaid,” Francois Truffaut’s “The Bride Wore Black,” to Bertrand Blier’s “Going Places,” André Téchiné’s “French Provincial,” and so many others, she simply was the face of French cinema, Deneuve be damned. Her greatest achievement was probably in Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim” (1962), as the irresistibly chameleonic, turbulent Catherine, with her wondrous Georges Delerue/ Serge Rezvani song “Le Tourbillon.” That film, with repeated viewings, basically taught me conversational French in a way three years of high school classes never could. I was privileged to meet her on the occasion of “Cet amour-la,” Josée Dayan’s 2003 film in which she played cultural icon Marguerite Duras having a famous love affair with a younger man, the writer Yann Andréa. She was doing an interview with me and about five other journalists, one of those dreaded round table affairs. They always make me loathsomely feel like I’m a student

SANTA FE, from p.48

exhibit-like fountain), welcoming Edgardo to unity in death. Zack Winokur’s fiery quartet of male dancers provided the week’s most original and apposite choreography. The three leads were American singers resident in German ensembles. Like most Lucias I’ve heard (Mariella Devia the main exception), the gifted Brenda Rae’s tall, sympathetic heroine was pleasing but less than magical in her initial scenes; only with “Soffriva nel pianto” did sufficient warmth and emotional coloration enter her tone. Gaining confidence, she amazed us with her scale work and Mad


BAY OF ANGELS Directed by Jacques Demy Film Forum 209 W. Houston St. Sep. 1-7


Jeanne Moreau in Jacques Demy’s 1963 “Bay of Angels,” at the Film Forum September 1-7.

THE DUCHESS OF CARNEGIE HALL: PHOTOGRAPHS BY EDITTA SHERMAN New-York Historical Society 170 Central Park W. at W. 77th St. Through Oct. 15 Tue.-Thu., Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $21; $16 for seniors; $13 for students


Editta Sherman’s undated photograph of Canada Lee.

back in school vying for the teacher’s attention, made worse by the other writers often knowing little or

Scene staccati. She phrased musically, but greater verbal pointing would deepen an already impressive portrait. An excellent Latinate tenor with well-projected words and tone, Mario Chang sang softly enough for me to wish that he incorporated more restraint into his dynamic palette. The usually excellent Nelson was forceful but uncharacteristically rather rough as Enrico (a cold?). Christian Van Horn (Raimondo) proved enormously impressive vocally and stylistically; Carlos Santelli (Arturo) showed a light, promising tenor. Back in New York, the Armory enlivened a recital-light scene

nothing really about the interviewee and posing inane questions. Moreau, who spoke perfect English (from childhood), took a shine to me and, after everyone had disbanded, we had a special moment in which she expressed gratitude for my knowledge about her film

with a splendid evening (August 9) with Lawrence Brownlee, appearing in two of the snazzily restored intimate rooms with two young pianists already eminent in their fields. First, accompanied by the supremely musical Myra Huang, Brownlee offered a few old Italian songs, followed by selections by the three leading bel canto composers who have brought him some of his greatest worldwide triumphs. Scarlatti’s “Gia il sole dal Gange” and Rossini’s “L’esule” proved particular highlights, but all selections were marked by perfect technique, sunny tone, and excellently projected Italian. What tenor since Pavarotti has reliably offered the same pleasing virtues at his every

and Duras. And it was then that I experienced what an incredible seductress she was, for she expressed admiration of a fake fur Lindeberg coat I was wearing, caressing it and saying how she wanted one just like it. And then, she caressed my cheek, saying to the publicist, “Doesn’t he remind you of Aymeric [Demarigny, her co-star]?” As he was not only French but considerably younger than me, this took me aback a little, but I recovered soon enough when, walking me to the elevator, the publicist said, “Boy, she really liked you. I mean she really liked you!” This emboldened me to leave a photograph of her at the Mayflower Hotel where she was staying, with a thank you note. A day later, the photo was returned to me by mail, autographed by her in gold ink, with an inscription that gave me chills. I will treasure it all my life. The photo was of Moreau, platinum blonde, in one of her greatest roles, as a compulsive lady gambler in Jacques Demy’s enchanting “Bay of Angels.” Film Forum is reviving this September 1 – 7, and I urge anyone who loves her, or needs to be introduced to her, to revel in and be utterly enslaved by her magical charisma.

appearance? Jazz great Jason Moran collaborated amiably on the second part, jazz and rock standards by Duke Ellington, Johnny Hartman, Johnny Mathis, and others. “I am not a jazz singer,” Brownlee said, but, buoyed by his style-drenched colleague, he caught the idiom, again providing crystalline diction. The climactic number the two world-class African-American artists offered was a moving version of the death-haunted, all-too relevant Spiritual, “There’s a man coming around taking names.” David Shengold ( writes about opera for many venues.

August 31–September 13, 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- | August 31–September 13, 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.



Cosplay and Drag Blend at Flame Con Queer geeks offer inclusive, warm place to come home to BY CHARLES BATTERSBY he stereotypes of nerds and gays often appear at odds with each other, but, for the third year in a row, geek culture and the LGBTQ community have enthusiastically teamed up at Flame Con. The weekend convention, held this year August 19-20 at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott, gathers the artists and writers who create queer comic books, movies, games, and TV shows to unite them with fans. As with any gathering of geeks or drag queens, many of the attendees wore extravagant costumes based on their favorite characters. Cosplay was once a rare subculture for only the most ardent fans, but it has become a widespread part of any event featuring nerd culture. Flame Con bolstered the ranks of its cosplayers with nerdy drag queens who used their campy style to interpret superheroes, video game heroines, and even Disney princesses. Rachel Greeman moderated panels on cosplay and staffed the Cosplay Corner station at the con. She pointed out a few things that make cosplay at Flame Con feel different than at other cons. “My favorite thing about Flame Con, specifically, is that cosplayers here feel more comfortable in doing what they want for cosplay, and not as much what they think will be popular or what they think will get them a lot of photos taken and stuff like that,” she said, and then, referring to her own Harley Quinn costume, added, “Everybody wants their picture taken but, I think, at Flame Con people are going to take my picture because they like me, and they like what I’m wearing and how I’ve done this. I don’t think people are as nervous about wearing something that might get them called out or ostracized. Because we don’t allow that at Flame Con, and we encourage people to have their own unique sense of style.” Greeman then pointed out a cosplayer wearing a Wolverine dress, with rhinestone trim on the uniform and glittering sparkles on




One of the contest judges, Dax ExclamationPoint, as Catwoman (right) with Geisha VI.


Bearlyvillainous appears as the sea witch Ursula from “The Little Mermaid.”

their claws. “I love seeing all the corsetry, the rhinestones, the glamour that goes into it,” she said. “Because when they come to Flame Con they want to be very glamorous. In their own way. They want to define what cosplay means to them. I feel like you don’t see that anywhere else, because other places don’t welcome that kind of creativity with open arms the same way that Flame Con does, and that’s why I’m so proud to be doing this here.” Flame Con had a costume contest and costume parade on both days of the event. Speaking to Gay City News, one of the contest judges, Dax ExclamationPoint, a drag performer who dressed as Catwoman for the con, illuminated the subtle distinctions between traditional drag and drag as cosplay. “Drag is performance art, so is cosplay, but a different kind of performance,” she explained. “In the contest earlier, they did skits and voices. That’s performance.” The contests at Flame Con did have a more theatrical feel to them when compared to mainstream cons. When a “Steven Universe” cosplayer whipped out their ukulele and started singing the show’s

Rachel Greeman moderated panels on cosplay and was also on hand at Cosplay Corner.

theme song during the costume contest, half the audience joined in and knew the entire song by heart. When a cosplayer dressed as the sea witch Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” quoted the famous “Now, sing!” line from the movie, the audience once again burst into song. Cosplayer Jay Justice was a special guest at Flame Con, and spoke on several cosplay panels. She told Gay City News, “Cosplay at Flame Con feels more diverse than at other conventions, possibly because there is an overall sense of acceptance and a shared culture, an increased familiarity with the same concepts and ideals. Flame Con feels like coming home to so many of us.” Justice said she also noticed “a lot of original concept cosplay among the queer community. We like to do our own thing, make up a fantasy elven persona, or a futuristic sci-fi hero, or our own gay superhero.” Media, in general, has increasingly focused attention on LGBTQ characters, and there is no shortage of canonically gay characters in geek media, too. This year’s Flame Con saw many costumes based on recent franchises like the video game “Dream Daddy,” and the anime “Yuri On Ice,” both of which

were released within the past year. Flame Con’s ideas of inclusion extend beyond the LGBTQ community. There’s a strong focus on keeping the con accessible to disabled attendees and on ethnic diversity. During one of her panels, Jay Justice recalled a time when she was called out by a child for cosplaying as a character traditionally portrayed as being from another race. “Many of the little black children were extremely excited to see a Batgirl who looked like them and they begged for photos and autographs, holding my hand and giving me hugs,” she said. “The white children were hesitant and one of them, a little boy, gave me a look and a smirk and asked, ‘Doesn’t Batgirl have red hair?’ I could see the enthusiasm start to wilt out of the black children, and I calmly and brightly replied, ‘The cool thing about Batman is that he believes that it doesn’t matter what you look like, as long as you are a good person. Anyone can be a superhero.’ The child slowly sat back down and said, ‘That’s true.’ And then we all played and talked about video games. It was a great lesson for everyone.” It was one of many truths about cosplay that Flame Con had to teach.

August 31–September 13, 2017 |

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Nancy Opel in Bobby Goldman and Drew Brody’s “Curvy Widow,” at the Westside Theatre.

SONGS OF MYSELF, from p.45

tions by David Bengali that splash the white set with color and poignantly detail the paintings, from which Van Gogh never made a dime, by the way. To see the brushstrokes magnified even as the painter struggles is brilliantly evocative and pure theatrical magic. Carter Hudson is ideal as Van Gogh. It’s no easy feat to portray suffering, but what comes through in his finely nuanced performance is the spirit that leads inexorably to his tragedy. Chad Johnson as Theo Van Gogh has virtually no spoken dialogue (Theo’s letters in response to Vincent’s do not survive), but he is a thrilling tenor whose expressive singing conveys what we otherwise cannot know — the love and support Theo provided to his brother. Mezzosoprano Renée Tatum plays Theo’s wife and the woman for whom Vincent cut off his ear. She, too, is spellbinding in her performance. The instrumental music is performed by a string quartet and piano. Written by Eve Wolf and directed by Donald T. Sanders, this show envelops the audience in its poetry. I can’t think of any better — or more romantic and moving — way to spend a late summer evening. Oh, dear. The exceptionally tiresome new musical “Curvy Widow” is the type of dreary exercise that pops up Off-Broadway with alarming regularity, fueled by ego and a large bank account. Bobby Goldman’s song of herself describes

her sexual re-awakening after the death of her famous writer husband, James Goldman. She owned a successful construction company; he wrote the book for “Follies” and movies including “The Lion in Winter.” It’s a shame Goldman is gone because he might have given some substance to Bobby’s book, which is heavy on exposition but devoid of character and anything other than the most conventional comedy pulled directly from lesser sitcoms. The basic premise is that Bobby, now a widow, decides to jump back into dating after umpteen years. Under the moniker Curvy Widow, she sets out on her quest for companionship and coitus. (Oh, and like Dolly Gallagher Levi, she’s waiting for a sign from her dead husband that she can get back into life.) Surprise! There are a lot of creepy guys online. Surprise number two: she’s got a trio of girlfriends to comment and support her. And here’s the big shocker (spoiler alert): Bobby discovers she’s just fine on her own. Goldman’s turgid book is not helped by Drew Brody’s music and lyrics, which seem forced and a pale knock-off of Maltby & Shire, who covered similar ground with more substance in the 1980s. Small wonder this show seems like it came out of a time warp. What keeps the sandman at bay, over and above the blessedly brief 85-minute running time, are the performances of the wonderfully talented cast. Nancy Opel leads the crew as Bobby, and her fine voice and comic skill give the material what life it has. The rest of the company plays many parts, and all are very good. In particular, Christopher Shyer and Elizabeth Ward Land stand out as appealing and funny and make one eager to see them in bigger, better roles. Of course, it’s easy to sympathize with Goldman’s plight. Working out dating, especially at an older age, is a minefield, but that’s a fairly common observation. What it is not, at least in this case, is a workable musical. | August 31–September 13, 2017


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August 31â&#x20AC;&#x201C;September 13, 2017 |

AUTUMN TRAVEL, from p.32

Griffis Sculpture Park in Cattaraugus County. Nature walks on Long Island feature clouds of delicate monarch butterflies fluttering above the dunes. Fall also means harvest time, and friendly family farms and harvest festivals bring a bounty of produce — much of which you can pick yourself — including apples and pumpkins. Orchards in places like the Capital-Saratoga region often feature special events… and

INANIMATE, from p.44

manager, Kevin, that she finds the courage to come out. After an initial freak-out moment, Kevin becomes avidly accepting of her orientation, which makes sense given that he is openly bisexual, a term he despises. “That word is so 1998,” he sniffs. “I’m not exactly into labels. They’re limiting.” Unfortunately her uptight sister, Trish (Tressa Preston), a community planner in their small town in Massachusetts, is horrified and does everything she can to thwart Erica’s desires. The Dairy Queen sign isn’t the only item that gets Erica’s juices

COMO HOMBRE, from p.39

The taxis are pink. But there is a kind of macho quality in every Mexican where they joke about being a “maricón,” or say, “Don’t be a puta.” The new generation has a different idea about gay people, and the people seeing this film feel a relief to be part of a different Mexico. They have a different feeling toward the gay community. GMK: What has the reaction been from the queer community in Mexico? HB: We worried about the LGBT community not liking the film because they might think it would be bad toward their community. But gay people recognize themselves in the film. They are contacting us and saying, “I took my homophobic cousin, and he talked with me about my being gay,” or “I came out to my parents after seeing this film.” Or, “I took my parents to see

don’t forget to pick up a bag of fresh, warm cider doughnuts! Central New York offers scenic craft breweries and cideries, like Brewery Ommegang and Fly Creek Cider Mill in the Cooperstown area. The Purple Foot Fest at Casa Larga Vineyard in the Finger Lakes is one of the largest grape-stomping festivals in the US, and the Garlic Festival in Saugerties has been rated a Top 10 American food event by USA Today. For Halloween lovers, fall is like Christmas, so to speak. New York

State is the only place to celebrate Halloween in the birthplace of the Headless Horseman. Adventures in the Sleepy Hollow area range from the awesome display of 7,000 glowing pumpkins of the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze to the scary Horseman’s Hallow walkthrough at Philipsburg Manor. Nearby, the Headless Horseman Haunted Hayride in Ulster is rated one of the best Halloween attractions in in the nation, and across the state, spectral sites can be found along New York’s Haunted History Trail.

So don’t let the wonders of autumn pass you by. Whether experiencing a romantic escape for two, weekend adventures with the family or a fun-filled friends getaway, this fall, fall in love with New York State.

flowing. Not big on monogamy, she also has bonds with a lamp, a stuffed teddy bear, a can opener cleverly named Oxo, and many more. To articulate how lifelike they appear to her, actors in artful costumes by Sarah Lawrence portray the objects (yep, they talk!), accompanied by thrilling sound effects. This conceit injects muchneeded doses of whimsy and theatricality. To be sure, this ambitious enterprise would fall flat if it weren’t for the skilled, go-for-broke performances from the entire cast, under the firm direction of Courtney Ulrich. The play features the Bats, the resident acting company at the Flea.

Lacy Allen is thoroughly convincing as the glum, beleaguered soul coming to grips with being different, and who earns our empathy. Maki Borden practically steals the show as Kevin, a goofy Dungeons & Dragons geek who feels a profound kinship with Erica. They are both 30 years old, teetering on the margins of mainstream society, stuck in menial jobs, afraid to risk grabbing what they really want. The supporting cast includes Philip Feldman as Dee (with his enormous pole, Dee exudes an alluring, masculine energy), Artem Kreimer, Nancy Tatiana Quintana, and Michael Oloyede. This world premiere staging of “Inanimate,” the inaugural produc-

tion at the Flea’s shiny new complex in Tribeca, cements its stature as New York’s leading Off-Off Broadway theater company. Not only does this thoughtful, quirky drama examine following your own path even if it diverges sharply from everyone else, but it also has the distinction of being among the first plays to address objectum sexuality head-on. Yet it raises some supremely sticky questions. Should objectophilia be considered a mental illness like homosexuality was decades ago? Are these people perverts or is it a legitimate sexual orientation? If there’s an objecto pride parade in your area, will you watch it and cheer?

the film.” The film provides an intelligent way to talk about this topic of sexuality in a non-serious way. I think it’s better to make people think by laughing than being so serious about it. And the director wanted an exaggerated tone and extreme personalities that weren’t as subtle or realistic as most Mexican films. It has a farcical way of portraying the characters and situations.

what you desire is not as important as friendship. Love and friendship are above any sexual orientation, and if you don’t open or change your mind in a society about how to be and how to connect with others, you can miss an opportunity to connect in a real way. Mexico is having difficulties with violence, so it’s necessary for us to remember we need to love and respect everyone.

ily audiences. When we see Aislinn with the dildo it could be a bad image, but she’s so charming and beautiful that it was ugly and cute at the same time. We tried to make the art and sets and costume bright and colorful and affable.

GMK: Speaking of parents, what did your mother think of the film? HB: I took my mother to the premiere. She’s from a tiny town in Mexico. She was laughing so fucking loud she started to cough. I thought she was going to have a stroke! That the film was so funny to a conservative Mexican woman was good.

GMK: What I like about the film is that it is naughty, with talk about anal sex and a dildo gag, but never goes too far. Was the humor designed to make the film both risqué and family-friendly? HB: We really wanted to make a film that felt very familiar. We didn’t want to insult anyone or make them feel so uncomfortable that they wouldn’t want to watch. We made the decision to put famous Mexican actors in the film because they connect with fam-

GMK: Can you talk about the film’s ideas about acceptance? HB: The main idea is that who or | August 31–September 13, 2017

Ross D. Levi is New York State’s executive director of tourism and coordinator of I LOVE NEW YORK LGBT. More information on planning a New York State getaway is available or iloveny. com/lgbt.

GMK: What examples or experiences do you have with machismo in Mexican culture? HB: I’m not a macho in that sense. I hate that in Mexico we are still discussing gay marriage. I’ve been living in Berlin, and it’s a very orgiastic and extreme there. When I get back to Mexico, we discuss things that were discussed a long time ago in different countries. What will happen with HIV and transgender people in Mexico if we are still talking about gay marriage? We need to talk about more important things in the world. This film is like a punch in the face to speed the process of understanding things in a new or different way.



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August 31â&#x20AC;&#x201C;September 13, 2017 |

Gay City News  

August 31, 2017

Gay City News  

August 31, 2017