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Sessions Attacks on Several Fronts 10

NewFest Unspools October 19-24 32

Joshua Beamish at BAM 38

TRUMP HAS NO RESPECT FOR OUR FLAG ADMINISTRATION SCRAMBLES TO ENSURE RAINBOW COLORS DON’T FLY OVER FEDERAL LAND Page 03

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FREE | VOLUME SIXTEEN, ISSUE TWENTY-ONE | OCTOBER 12–25, 2017


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October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


COVER STORY

Trump Has No Respect for Our Flag Administration scrambles to ensure Rainbow Colors don’t fly over federal land

DONNA ACETO

Lesbian and peace activist Leslie Cagan reminded the crowd that coming out is a continual process.

BY ANDY HUMM

D

onald Trump cynically held up a Rainbow Flag with “LGBTs for Trump” scrawled on it during his campaign last year and has proceeded as president to roll back LGBTQ rights and appoint virulent bigots to cabinet posts and federal judgeships. So when the administration learned that the National Park Service was going to dedicate a Rainbow Flag at the Stonewall National Monument on October 11 — National Coming Out Day — the Park Service was ordered to withdraw its sponsorship of the ceremony, certify that the flagpole within the monument commemorating the Stonewall Rebellion was technically not on federal land, take the NPS flag down, and cede the Rainbow Flag to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. What was intended as a happy celebration brought out the spirit of the Stonewall Rebellion as speakers at the dedication protested the antiLGBTQ bigotry of the administration in Washington. As more than 100 activists gathered at noon, Tom Viola, longtime executive director of Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS, which funded the event, said, “It’s a shame that on what is an extraordinary day that behind the scenes it descended into a nasty fight that reflects the vindictiveness that is at the top of the food chain, which is the White House. But all told, a great day for the LGBT community. We will prevail.” GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

Veteran activist Ann Northrop, co-host of “Gay USA,” emceed. “We’re here to celebrate the flying of the Rainbow Flag inside the Stonewall National Monument,” she said. It had been billed as the first Rainbow Flag to permanently wave on federal property, but a Newsweek story previewing the event caught the attention of someone higher up in the administration. It included a comment from Ken Kidd, who coordinated the event, saying that the Rainbow Flag will be “flying on this national monument during a time when we have a president who is not particularly kind or loving to the LGBT community.” Kidd’s comment cited some of Trump’s recent attacks. The administration insisted that the flag not fly on federal property. While the monument is 7.7 acres and includes Christopher Park and the block of Christopher Street where the Stonewall bar is, the only “federal property” is the park itself within its fence line. The flagstaff, erected by the city, the state, and the Greenwich Village Historical Society in 1936 to honor Ephraim Ellsworth, the “first man of his rank killed” in the Civil War, is still city property. (On the Park Service website, the page that had the map for the Stonewall National Monument has been taken down.) The Park Service’s Barbara Applebaum, who had coordinated the ceremony for the NPS and was scheduled to speak, withdrew on Tuesday in the wake of the kerfuf-

DONNA ACETO

As actor Telly Leung sings the Star Spangled Banner, Michael Petrelis, Ann Northrop, and Ken Kidd take a knee.

fle created by the administration, citing a schedule conflict. Joshua Laird, commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor, ended up attending the ceremony and offered to speak or have Applebaum do so. Northrop said, “We told them we love the local Park Service people, but we’re furious at the Trump administration,” and Laird’s offer was declined, though Appelbaum was acknowledged during the ceremony. The brief event started with Broadway’s Telly Leung, the out gay star of “Aladdin,” singing the Star Spangled Banner with some in the crowd taking a knee. Northrop acknowledged the late Gilbert Baker, creator of the Rainbow Flag — who died earlier this year and was celebrated in a memorial march from the Stonewall — calling his creation a flag “that embraces everybody no matter who opposes us.” Lesbian and peace activist Leslie Cagan told the crowd, “Thanks to everybody who came out — and who keeps coming out. I came out 45 years ago. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve come out. It’s not something you do once and for all. We are still part of a country that doesn’t get it. We’re here. We’re queer. And we’re not going away.” Kiara St. James, director of the New York Transgender Advocacy

Group, led the crowd in a chant of “It is our duty to fight. It is our duty to win.” She invoked the memory of transgender and Stonewall pioneers Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and warned, “If we work in our silos, we cannot bring down this system of white supremacy.” St. James added, “If you are silent, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” She called for a movement in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, saying, “It is not enough to come out, be enraged, go back, and post on Facebook.” Activism involves staying in the streets, she said. Michael Petrelis, the gay and AIDS activist from San Francisco who campaigned to get the Park Service to fly the Rainbow Flag and hold the ceremony, said, “We’re fighting for inclusion and doing it fabulously.” He cited individuals in the community who have made enormous differences — Bayard Rustin, Larry Kramer, Marsha P. Johnson, and others. “It will take people like you,” Petrelis said, pointing to the assembled, to keep making change. He dedicated the occasion to Egyptian activists who were arrested and face long prison sentences for waving a Rainbow Flag at a concert recently. The crowd moved to the flagpole as Cantor Steve Zeidenberg of Con-

RESPECT OUR FLAG, continued on p.4

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DONNA ACETO

Transgender leader Kiara St. James emphasized that activism involves staying in the streets — not just on Facebook.

Michael Petrelis, a gay and AIDS activist from San Francisco, campaigned to get the Park Service to fly the Rainbow Flag and hold the October 11 ceremony.

Council wants rescinded by Trump — just as energy companies and developers want to see large tracts of preserved federal land lose monument status similarly granted by former President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act. Trump has launched a review of recent federal designations made under that federal statute, but the Stonewall National Monument has not publicly been discussed by the administration. When Northrop first learned of

this week’s controversy, she said, “This is an unbelievably petty, sleazy transparent bit of cruelty by the Trump administration. Evidently, we are so filthy to them and their right-wing supporters that they can’t even be associated with a few yards of rainbow fabric.� Kidd said, “This is emblematic of what’s happening in the country right now to LGBTQ American citizens. We’re being told at every turn — including Trump’s first decision to appoint Pence — that actions

DONNA ACETO DONNA ACETO

The flagstaff over the Stonewall Monument no longer carries a National Park Service flag.

䉴

RESPECT OUR FLAG, from p.3

gregation Beit Simchat Torah sang “Over the Rainbow.� The Rainbow Flag has been up since September 28. But now it is owned by the city, and the parks department has indicated it would like to see a larger Rainbow Flag up on the flagpole. The Stonewall National Monument will continue, though it is on a hit list of national monuments that the ultra-right Family Research

DONNA ACETO

The crowd on hand demonstrated the spirit of the Stonewall Rebellion.

will be taken to make us secondclass citizens again. The very idea that taxpayer dollars were spent researching a flagpole on a national monument when there are so many other things at stake in the country is an outrage. They are so thin-skinned and so bigoted that they were going to spite us and not let that Rainbow Flag fly on federal property.� Obama created the Stonewall Na-

䉴

RESPECT OUR FLAG, continued on p.20

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October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


CIVIL RIGHTS

Mississippi’s Anti-LGBTQ Law at Supreme Court? Lambda champions plaintiffs’ standing; Roberta Kaplan reopens 2014 state marriage case BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

I

n one of two significant legal developments regarding challenges to Mississippi’s notorious HB 1523, which enshrines in state law a special privilege for people claiming religious and moral objections to LGBTQ people to discriminate against them, Lambda Legal has announced it will petition the Supreme Court on whether the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the case on the ground that the plaintiffs lacked standing prior to the new law taking effect. And, Roberta Kaplan, the civil rights litigator who represented the late Edie Windsor in her victorious challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, won agreement from the federal district court judge who originally ordered marriage equality in that state to reopen the case to consider whether that decision’s requirements are violated by the new law. Mississippi enacted HB 1523 in 2016. The measure offers legal immunity to people who claim their religious or moral convictions require them to oppose same-sex marriage and sexual relations outside of different-sex marriages and to reject the fact that a person could have a gender identity different from their “biological sex” designation at birth. Individuals claiming such religious or moral objections are immunized from any “discriminatory” action by the state government, and public employees responsible for issuing marriage licenses can decline to do so for same-sex couples (provided there is somebody in the clerk’s office willing to process the license application), religious organizations enjoy broad exemptions from complying with anti-discrimination laws, health care providers may withhold services, and businesses that provide wedding-related goods and services can refuse to deal with same-sex couples. The measure also includes a “bathroom bill” provision that protects entities that require transgender people to use bathrooms conGayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

LAMBDA LEGAL

Lambda Legal’s Susan Sommer.

sistent with their birth certificate gender designation, and prohibits the state from taking adverse action against a public employee for expressing views consistent with those specially protected by the statute. Mississippi’s anti-discrimination laws do not prohibit sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, but at least two municipal ordinances containing such prohibitions would be preempted by the state law. And, given pending litigation elsewhere in the country, some federal anti-discrimination laws (in particular, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Title VII employment protections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act) may apply in some of the situations covered by HB 1523. Several lawsuits were quickly filed to challenge the law’s constitutionality and keep it from going into effect on July 1, 2016. In one of the lawsuits, Barber v. Bryant, which Lambda Legal, with the assistance of local counsel, brought on behalf of a group of affected Mississippi residents, US District Judge Carlton W. Reeves granted a preliminary injunction to keep the measure from going into effect,

finding that it was likely the plaintiffs would prevail on their argument that it violates the First and 14th Amendments, specifically the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses, and that allowing the measure to go into effect would inflict irreparable injury on them and other Mississippi residents. A unanimous Fifth Circuit panel, however, ruled in June that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring suit before the measure actually took effect. The panel opined that the mere enactment of a measure alleged to violate the Establishment Clause did not tangibly harm any individual sufficiently to give them standing to sue in federal court. Lambda Legal then filed a motion for a rehearing before the full circuit sitting en banc. That motion was denied on September 29, with two judges dissenting in an opinion by Circuit Judge James L. Dennis, who explained at length why the panel decision was inconsistent with prior Fifth Circuit standing decisions, as well as rulings from other circuits and the Supreme Court. Numerous federal courts have rejected objections to standing in lawsuits challeng-

ing a statute alleged to violate the Establishment Clause through a state policy improperly advancing or privileging particular religious beliefs at the expense of those who do not share those beliefs. Dennis clearly anticipated the plaintiffs would seek Supreme Court review, noting that the panel’s ruling created a split among the federal circuit courts on the standing question. Such a split is a key factor in winning Supreme Court review. Lambda Legal, in fact, promptly announced it would seek Supreme Court review. Since the district court, to date, has only issued a preliminary injunction, the Supreme Court would presumably not be asked to address the case’s underlying merits but rather to focus solely on the Fifth Circuit’s posture on the standing question. If the Supreme Court were to find standing for the plaintiffs, it could also address the appropriateness of the preliminary injunction, but more likely it would send the case back to the Fifth Circuit for consideration of that issue. Lambda’s request that the Fifth Circuit delay ordering the district court to lift its preliminary injunction while it seeks Supreme Court review was denied unceremoniously in a one-sentence order signed by Circuit Judge Jerry E. Smith on October 3. With no emergency stay from the Supreme Court, HB 1523 finally went into effect on October 10. The attorneys of record in the case that went before the Fifth Circuit include Robert Bruce McDuff, Sibyl C. Byrd, and Jacob Wayne Howard of McDuff & Byrd in Jackson, Beth Levine Orlansky of the Mississippi Center for Justice, also in Jackson, Elizabeth Littrell of Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta, and Susan Sommer from Lambda Legal’s New York office. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union,

MISSISSIPPI, continued on p.19

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COMMUNITY

Brooklyn Pride Community Center Celebrates New Home Bedford-Stuyvesant site doubles facility’s space, with staff growth on deck BY NATHAN DICAMILLO

T

he Brooklyn Pride Community Center on Wednesday celebrated the opening of its new home that gives it twice the space of its old provisional headquarters downtown. “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re just getting started in Brooklyn,” Floyd Rumohr, executive director of the Center, said in his opening remarks. Rumohr, government representatives, partner organizations, and Brooklynites of varied backgrounds held a ribbon cutting at the Center’s new location at 1360 Fulton Street, on the ground floor of Restoration Plaza at New York Avenue. “Restoration Plaza is a fitting home for us given its remarkable history in revitalizing BedfordStuyvesant and our vision to establish a network of programs and services throughout the borough,” Rumohr said. The plaza was envisioned half a century ago to carry out a national model for community development, and has been the impetus for economic, cultural, and educational improvements in Central Brooklyn, according to the plaza’s website. At its original MetroTech site in downtown Brooklyn, the Community Center received roughly 7,000 visitors per year. With the new location, Rumohr expects that number to double before any additional satellite offices are opened. Since the Center opened on August 18, it has already seen more average daily foot traffic than the MetroTech location. The new Center is 3,136 square feet — twice the size of the MetroTech facility. By 2020, with other satellites throughout the borough, the total space will double again. The largest and next satellite to be built will be at the armory at Bedford Avenue and Union Street in Crown Heights. The Center began to build out its new space when it had only a third of the budget in hand. The project cost $550,000, and with the help GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

NATHAN DICAMILLO

Floyd Rumohr, the executive director of the Brooklyn Pride Community Center, holds the scissors at the ribbon cutting on October 11.

of a grant from Citi Community Development, the Center was able to complete a handicap accessibility ramp that brought the total budget to $600,000. Other corporate donors included Lowe’s, which contributed paint to refurbish the space. Currently, Rumohr is the Center’s only full-time employee, but in January two more full-time staff members will come on board — a program director and a development director. The core of the program director’s role will be a youth internship program that will create 20 to 40 slots for 18- to 24-yearolds to participate in eight-week internships, Rumohr said. For Rumohr, Wednesday was a new beginning for the Center as it embarks on collaborations with four community partners: CallenLorde Community Health Center, an LGBTQ primary care provider; CAMBA Young Men’s Health Project, which has an HIV program for 13- to 24-year-olds; Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), which has five other senior service centers citywide; and the Stonewall Community Development Corporation, which does elder research and advocacy. These organizations are inhouse licensees of the Center, giv-

ing them 24/7 access to the facilities there. With Brooklyn rent rising, space is at a premium for community-based organizations and the Center wants to provide quality facilities for these and organizations serving the LGBTQ community. The Center also has ad hoc partnerships for temporary projects with organizations such as UpFront, a group that works with aged-out foster kids. Metro-Plus, the health plan offered by NYC Health + Hospitals, is holding a series of workshops on access to healthcare at the Center, which also provides space for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other recovery programs. These organizations share the Center’s “big, bold vision to establish … programs and services to serve the whole borough,” Rumohr said. Rumohr’s aim isn’t to reinvent the wheel with the Center, but rather to build on its reach by advancing a model of community partnership. “Collaboration comes naturally to me,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing when it works.” SAGE’s chief program officer, Dio Gica, sees the partnership with the Brooklyn Pride Commu-

nity Center as yet another way for elderly LGBTQ New Yorkers to find resources. “We always look for strategic partners,” Gica said. According to Rumohr, the Center’s clientele is roughly 80 percent people of color, with a comparable percentage coming from low-income backgrounds. He said the top priorities are serving transgender and gender non-conforming people and LGBTQ people of color and creating a video oral history where LGBTQ new Americans can tell their immigration stories. “Our community deserves a diverse, thriving community hub,” Rumohr said. Gay and HIV-positive, Rumohr came on board with the Community Center in late 2015. Prior to that, he had been interim executive director of Love Heals, a provider of HIV/ AIDS education in New York City public schools, and a non-profit consultant. In 1994, he founded Stages of Learning, a nonprofit arts education organization to bring literacy-rich drama programs into public schools. The Brooklyn Pride Community Center is a logical next step in the organizational building Rumohr has accomplished in his career. “I want to do this,” he said. “When I was poor, when I was suicidal, people lifted me up.” Gabriel Lewenstein, the LGBTQ outreach coordinator for Public Advocate Letitia James, praised the Center staff and board members and Brooklyn residents and volunteers who made the new facility possible. “Tish often talked about it over the decades,” Lewenstein said. “That she worked here as a Brooklyn girl, she had seen the structure of LGBTQ organizations. There have been a lot that have gone up and a lot that have closed, and she is so excited to have another center open here today.” Governor Andrew Cuomo’s director of constituency affairs, David Turley, read a letter from the governor at the ribbon cutting.

BROOKLYN PRIDE, continued on p.28

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CIVIL RIGHTS

Sessions Hits LGBTQ Community on Three Fronts Attorney general champions “license to discriminate,” takes on transgender equality BY PAUL SCHINDLER

T

he Trump administration, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions leading the charge, moved on three fronts last week to curtail the rights of LGBTQ Americans, relying in part on contested claims of religious liberty and also bucking an emerging trend in how courts are interpreting sex discrimination provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. On October 4, Sessions announced that the Justice Department was abandoning a policy approved in 2014 by former Attorney General Eric Holder under which DOJ would interpret the Title VII ban on sex discrimination in employment to protect transgender people. Holder adopted that view several years after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with overseeing Title VII enforcement, came to the same conclusion. Federal courts have increasingly recognized that discrimination based on gender identity is necessarily sex discrimination — and earlier this year, the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals applied the same logic to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in ruling that a transgender high school student has the right to access bathroom facilities consistent with his gender identity. But Sessions does not accept that interpretation of sex discrimination language in federal law. “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status,” the attorney general wrote in his memo last week. Transgender rights advocates were quick to challenge Sessions’ conclusion. “The Sessions memo also ignores the weight of federal court precedents, overwhelmingly finding that transgender people are protected from sex discrimination,” Jillian Weiss, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, said in a written statement. “The idea that the federal civil rights law protects people only from discrimination on the basis of biological sex is flatly contradicted by US Supreme Court rulings.” Weiss pointed to court decisions dating back to 1989, when the Supreme Court held that Price Waterhouse violated a female employee’s rights under Title VII in denying her a partnership because she failed to meet its standards of femininity. Mara Keisling, who heads the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), issued a release saying, “The Trump/ Pence administra-

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SESSIONS.SENATE.GOV

Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved against the LGBTQ community in several key areas last week.

tion is determined to promote discrimination through a false view of the law that has been rejected again and again by the courts… The Attorney General does not get to make law, but he should at least read it. Simply: he is once again abdicating his responsibilities to enforce the law. Courts have repeatedly ruled that transgender people are protected by sex discrimination laws in employment, education, housing, and healthcare. We’ll see him in court.” Sessions’ action on transgender employment discrimination comes less than three months after the Justice Department intervened in a federal lawsuit to oppose claims by the estate of a late gay man that Title VII’s sex discrimination provision bars discrimination based on sexual orientation. In that case, the DOJ’s position is at odds with that taken by the EEOC, where appointees of former President Barack Obama continue to hold a majority. The Seventh Circuit, earlier this year, also held that sexual orientation discrimination is necessarily sex discrimination under Title VII. Early in the Trump administration, Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reversed a policy under which schools receiving federal money were directed to allow transgender students access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. That issue is likely to go before the Supreme Court in its current term. On October 6, Sessions announced another new policy — this one concerning claims of religious liberty — which has the potential to undo protections across the board for the LGBTQ community and also to undermine women’s reproductive freedom. That memo delivered on President Donald Trump’s longstanding pledge to religious conservatives that he would carve out exemptions from laws and regulations based

on an individual’s and even an organization’s religious views. The new directive instructs federal agencies to review existing policies in light of “religious liberty” considerations, and states that exemptions might be appropriate not only for government employees but also private sector individuals, religious organizations, and even some for-profit enterprises. As did other LGBTQ and civil rights organizations, the Human Rights Campaign immediately branded the religious liberty memo as a “sweeping ‘license to discriminate.’” The group warned that the memo could allow an employee of the Social Security Administration to refuse to process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork in the case of a same-sex married couple, could allow a federal contractor to discriminate against LGBTQ people in providing services, would increase the leeway for religiously-affiliated organizations to refuse employment to LGBTQ people, and could lead to discrimination by adoption and foster care agencies. When Obama issued his ban on anti-LGBTQ discrimination by contractors doing business with the federal government, advocates cheered that he did not include religious exemptions from his order’s requirements. The Sessions memo, LGBTQ groups warned, threatened to undermine the comprehensiveness of Obama’s executive order. NCTE’s Keisling, in a written statement, said, “This latest move furthers the Trump/ Pence administration’s mission to divide the nation by granting businesses, hospitals, and schools a nearly unchecked license to discriminate — and the Department of Health and Human Services is currently drafting another regulation to officially endorse discrimination against transgender people by health care providers and insurers.” On the same day Session issued the religious liberty memo, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it was weakening the contraception coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act by allowing both nonprofits and companies to withhold such coverage if they have religious objections. In a third action last week, the Justice Department urged the US District Court in Washington, DC, to dismiss a challenge to Trump’s planned ban on transgender military service, arguing that the policy has not yet been implemented. Several plaintiffs in that case, however, allege that, despite the Pentagon’s assurances that nothing will change until a new policy is formulated and put in place, medical treatments they had planned to undergo under the Obama administration’s 2016 policy of opening up service to transgender soldiers have now been put on hold. October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

11


POLITICS

Albany Too Corrupt to Change Say Change Opponents Critics of constitutional convention ballot question charge crooks would be in charge BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

I

f New Yorkers vote for a state constitutional convention on November 7, they could empower the entrenched Albany establishment to make fundamental changes to the state’s founding document. If they oppose a convention, they will be leaving the entrenched Albany establishment in charge of the state government. What is a voter to do? “We don’t believe that Albany is working for the people of New York,” said Rachel Bloom, director of public policy and programs at Citizens Union, a government watchdog group, which supports a convention. Bloom was speaking at an event organized by the Lambda Independent Democrats, an LGBTQ political group in Brooklyn, that was held at the Park Slope United Methodist Church. Speaking in opposition to the convention was Democrat Robert Carroll, a member of the State Assembly who represents Brooklyn’s Park Slope and Kensington neighborhoods. Carroll, who had nothing good to say about Albany during the two-hour event, agreed with Bloom about the condition of the state government. “I fully agree with you that Albany is broken,” Carroll said during the October 3 event. Every 20 years, New York voters are asked if they wish to convene a constitutional convention, with its 204 delegates charged with proposing changes to New York’s now 43-page constitution. The question this year has drawn opposition from the left and right, with organized labor leading the opposition. The opponents include Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts as well as Right To Life, an anti-abortion group, at least a half dozen LGBTQ groups and the state Conservative Party, Democratic and Republican party leaders and groups, and the Council of Churches and the Humanists of Long Island, a secular group. While the groups

12

GAY CIT Y NEWS

Citizens Union’s Rachel Bloom and Democratic State Assemblymember Robert Carroll, who are on opposite sides of the constitutional convention ballot question, at the October 3 Lambda Independent Democrats forum on the issue.

probably have varying reasons for their opposition, they are all likely doing the same math. If voters approve of a constitutional convention on November 7, then they will return to the polls in 2018 to elect the delegates. They will elect three delegates from each of the 63 State Senate districts plus 15 at-large delegates. Currently, the State Senate has 31 Democrats and 31 Republicans in the 63-seat chamber. The 63rd seat will be soon filled by a Democrat. In 2011, the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC), which currently has eight members, cut a deal with the Republicans that kept them in control of the State Senate. Assuming the state senators have the organizations that will elect the delegates and so their political views will look like those held by the senator who represents the district and the continued, as some would say, faithless nature of the IDC members, no one can see a path to getting what they want in a convention. Any doubt opponents have about a constitutional

convention is firmed up when they look at the current composition of the State Senate. “People who are ensconced inside of New York’s political class will be the delegates,” Carroll said. “We know what the math is. Numerically, they have the votes.” The delegates are paid up to $80,000 for their work for one year. They organize their own meeting and decide which changes to propose. Presumably, one year later — but the convention could take longer — the voters approve or disapprove the changes advanced by the convention. In 1967, the last time a constitutional convention met, the delegates offered six changes, but assembled them as a single package for one yes or no vote. The voters rejected the changes. Proponents believe that regardless of the influence of state senators in electing delegates, they can achieve a reform-focused convention, and they believe the critical needs are to impose ethical and election reforms on a state government that has been mired in cor-

ruption, to reform the state courts, to break the stranglehold that the governor and the leaders of the Assembly and Senate have on the Legislature, and to give counties, cities, and towns greater autonomy. “We are not governed by three men in a room anymore. We are governed by one man,” Bloom said, referring to the power of the governor’s office. “Those are just some of the problems.” The proponents of a convention include the New York City and State bar associations, Forward March New York, a group that helped organize the January 21 Women’s March on Washington, the State League of Women Voters, and individuals including Jonathan Lippman, the former chief judge of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest bench, and Roberta Kaplan, board co-chair at Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the attorney who won the late Edie Windsor’s case before the US Supreme Court that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages. On the money side, the proponents are outgunned. The opponents have raised more than $700,000 to defeat the proposal to the proponents’ roughly $100,000. And they are certainly outgunned on the organizing. There are 1.9 million union members in New York, and the organizing against the constitutional convention has reached down to the smallest union locals across the state. The labor groups are organizing under the name New Yorkers Against Corruption (NYAC), a name that is tinged with more than a little irony given that a “No” vote could be seen as at least a tacit defense of the current corrupt state of Albany. Jordan Marks, the NYAC campaign manager, was not above pointing to Albany as the reason to oppose the convention. “This culture permeates Albany,” he said. “This culture will permeate this convention. The folks who will hold all the cards are the same folks who run the place now.” October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

13


COMMUNITY

Embracing Our New Age First in a series on gay men experiencing their older years BY PERRY BRASS

M

y father died at the age of 42, when I was 11 years old. I was told he died of “kidney problems.” I was not allowed to visit him in the hospital the last several weeks of his life or to ask questions about him. Questions were completely sidelined by the answer, “You’re too young to understand this.” It was not until I was 38, at my mother’s funeral, that one of her brothers let this cat out the bag: My father had died of colon-rectal cancer, one of the most inheritable of all forms of cancer. Throughout my younger years, no one had told me the truth about his death. I finally figured it out: growing up in the Deep South, during segregation, the social conventions were that children should not ask questions, especially about such “sensitive” subjects as the body and its various functions. Cancer was an “adult” subject and not one for children, especially a cancer with “rectal” in its name. The rectum was a completely forbidden area, best sequestered in the bathroom behind several sets of doors. In more polite homes, there was a guest bathroom, but guests would never get to see the real bathroom where the family did what families all secretly did there. Happily, we are now in another era. The body, beautiful as it really is, has been brought out of secrecy, shame, and guilt, and this is making aging better. You no longer have to feel ashamed of the body as it ages. Men of my generation, the gay Baby Boomers, have worked hard to see this happen. We’ve been helped by living through the AIDS crisis. Many of us have seen our bodies and the bodies of our friends, brothers, lovers, and now husbands go through changes that people in other eras could not imagine. We have seen them go through a list of HIV diseases, their symptoms, and results. It has made me feel stronger and better about my own body as it has aged. There is something noble and beautiful about an older man’s body — and his mind — that the gay world is starting to understand. The Bear movement has, in truth, helped this — Bear gatherings, Bear porn, and Bear culture are very much about older men. You have Cubs, of course, but as a group Bears tend to be over 30 or over 40, at least. They are the Daddies we want to be, if we haven’t arrived there already. Feeling stronger and better about my body has also made me feel differently about aging itself: it is no longer that period once defined as being “pre-death, post-joy.” Although as the old tune goes, “Songs were made to sing while you’re young,” that does not mean that you have to stop singing when you’re old. Or, since “old” it-

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JASON SERINUS

Author Perry Brass.

self has still not been struck in our society from the Forbidden Words list, let’s just say “older.” My feeling about being “older” — and in truth I am no longer “older,” but simply, quite gloriously “old” — is that now is not the time to “act your age,” with all the usual warnings around that, but it is the time to be it. I am now 70 and know it. I have lots of memories that go back 50 years — I will soon be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, which I very much witnessed when I was 21, old enough to go to the Stonewall — but I also have a lot to look forward to in the next weeks, months, and years. One of the things I still like to grab on to is that “can’t wait” feeling of excitement, of wanting something to happen so much you can “taste it.” You need to have that no matter what age you are. When you lose it, well... that’s pretty miserable to me. We can all remember that “can’t wait” feeling from being young; the truth is I don’t want to ever let it go. So don’t let other people tell you to “act your age,” but be it — be aware of it, own it, with all the richness and hope still in it. And also the sense of humor that age has; it’s hard to take things seriously at this point, there’s too much space around them with real silliness in it.

One of the things I’ve heard about all my life is the ageism of the gay community. How unforgiving it is as far as aging is concerned. Much of this comes from the poison of internalized homophobia, from self-hatred, and a society that either still rejects us or makes it plain that any acceptance of us will have real boundaries around it. I find this to be absolutely true in the Age of Trump: we know that any advances we have made can be either hacked apart or erased by this “moron” (not my word, Rex Tillerson’s) in the White House and his toadies. What I have understood most of my life is that I am an exceptional person, as are most queer men, and we have to find other sensitive, caring, conscious, exceptional people like ourselves to be happy. The commercial images of us, which get sleeker and more packaged every day, do not include images of men like myself: certainly over 60. But neither does the mainstream, where advertising and most public relations no longer consider us part of the marketing demographic. I like to buy clothes, but I am not installing a new wardrobe every year. Men our age travel a great deal, but travel ads rarely show us, especially gay travel ones. If you are a single gay man over 60 — or over 70 — many people feel that the possibility of them finding happiness with another man is about “0.” They are either carrying too much emotional baggage with them, or too much weight (literally). What most people won’t tell you — out of a fear of offense, I guess — is that you might own a lot of baggage from your past, or even what’s going on in your present, but you don’t have to take it all out with you. The more successful older men I know have either been born good listeners or learned to cultivate that talent. Younger men are starved to have someone listen to what they have to say — most of the time people their own age are too full of themselves even to shut up for a second. So there is something wonderful about being smart enough, and wise enough, to just shut up and listen. And also, it can be really gratifying. As a writer, I am a trained listener, but socially it is wonderful to be in the company of older men who are secure enough to do it. They don’t have to bring out every opinion in the world they have; they can actually listen to yours. When I was considerably younger, I was drawn to men like this, the ones who did not have to be magpies all day. I found myself so drawn to them that I became literally hungry to be in their company. What I often found so wonderful about them was that despite having a very well drawn life of their own, they could open it up enough to invite

OUR NEW AGE, continued on p.15

October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


䉴

OUR NEW AGE, from p.14

in other people, especially someone younger like myself. Looking back on me, I can easily say I was not the easiest person to deal with, having hard opinions of my own — things that, as you get older, do start to unravel, even in these opinionated times — but I found men who could really listen to me without harsh judgments to be extremely valuable, and sexually interesting. In short, sex needs to be tied to the opening of the soul and people who are receptive to it. That question of what is a “soul� is something a lot of us older men really go through — maybe from just being closer to it in one way or another. It is not hard for me to define what I think a “soul� is (I always felt it was that place of the deepest part of the imagination, which does not mean at all that it is imaginary), but strangely, with age the route to it gets bigger and bigger. It is approachable in so many ways so that when two people share it, it opens up a vast vista. The soul can be something or someone that is physically beautiful, and it also can be something or someone that allows our own beauty to come for-

ward. Some men find that the way to it needs to be a bit rocky, involved with fetishism or leather or a more stringent view of God or a strictly shared approach to feelings. But mostly what a large number of men want is some sense of protection, of that safe harbor for themselves after the turmoil of city or contemporary life. That sense of protection you can offer anyone is a huge gift. Remember that. And you don’t have to be young to offer it. I know that. This is the first in a series of articles by Perry Brass on gay aging. Future pieces in the series will explore loss and not being alone, housing solutions, sexuality and its changing formats, among other issues. Perry Brass’ 19 books include the novels “The Substance of God,’ “Carnal Sacraments,� and “King of Angels,� and the classic gay self-help book “How to Survive Your Own Gay Life,� as well as “The Manly Art of Seduction� and “The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love.� He is currently working on a book about gay men facing the future in this uncertain time. He can be reached through his website, perrybrass.com, or on Facebook.

WEDDING & NEWFEST CENTERPIECE ALL IN ONE MONTH!

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If the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (CCRA) passes Congress, carrying a gun into NYC from out of state will be easier than ever.

T

he wedding of photographer and fi lmmaker Jordan Geiger and actor and writer Anthony Johnston was celebrated October 9 at the Topaz, a cocktail bar in Bushwick, with Geigerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s family in from Denver, Johnstonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in from Canada, and friends traveling from as far away as London and Manhattan. The ceremony was presided over by Alan Cumming, who stars in the fi lm â&#x20AC;&#x153;After Louieâ&#x20AC;? that also features Johnston who co-wrote it with director Vincent Gagliostro. Cumming plays an aging, angry ACT UP activist in the fi lm, which is getting its New York premiere on October 22 as a Centerpiece at NewFest (see page 32). Fortunately for the newlyweds, the Topaz held about a ton of love wishing the two well on their journey. â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Andy Humm

GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 25, 2017

Learn how you can help keep our city safe and stop the CCRA at CyVanceForDA.com ANDY HUMM

Jordan Geiger and Anthony Johnston at the Topaz on Wedding Day.

Paid for by Cyrus Vance for Manhattan District Attorney

15


Building

FAMILIES

K APLAN & COMPANY

Civil rights litigator Roberta Kaplan.

ä&#x2030;´

MISSISSIPPI, from p.5

and numerous AIDS service organizations, liberal religious groups, and a coalition of pro-LGBTQ business groups, among others, filed amicus briefs in the case. The Mississippi government attorneys defending HB 1523 had amicus brief support from anti-LGBTQ religious groups as well as outspokenly homophobic officials from Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. Judge Reeves, who issued the preliminary injunction regarding HB 1523, also handed down the 2014 marriage equality ruling in Mississippi, and he quickly moved on the motion by Kaplan, who is counsel for the plaintiffs in that case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant. Kaplan raised the question of whether HB 1523 violates the 2014 ruling by privileging state officials who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on their religious or moral convictions. On October 3, the Jackson Free Press reported that Reeves has scheduled a telephone conference with attorneys in the case for later in October. In agreeing to reopen the marriage case, Reeves wrote that in HB 1523 â&#x20AC;&#x153;the State is permitting the differential treatment to be carried out by individual clerks. A GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 25, 2017

    !      ! statewide policy has been â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;pushed downâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; to an individual-level policy. But the alleged constitutional infirmity is the same. The question remains whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires marriage licenses to be granted (and out of-state marriage licenses to be recognized) to same-sex couples on identical terms as they are to opposite-sex couples.â&#x20AC;? Reeves must decide whether he will grant a motion to amend the permanent injunction he issued in that case â&#x20AC;&#x201D; upheld by the Fifth Circuit pursuant to the Supreme Courtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 2015 Obergefell marriage equality ruling â&#x20AC;&#x201D; to bar the state from failing to provide services to same-sex couples equal to those afforded different-sex couples by letting individual clerks refuse to provide the services. At least one other US district judge is on record on this point: Judge David Bunning, who threw Kim Davis â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky â&#x20AC;&#x201D; into prison for contempt of the federal court. The Supreme Court, on June 26 of this year in Pavan v. Smith â&#x20AC;&#x201D; regarding Arkansasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; refusal to put both women who are married on their childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s birth certificate â&#x20AC;&#x201D; made clear that the Obergefell ruling requires states to afford samesex couples equal treatment with regard to all aspects of marriage.

  I  

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CIVIL RIGHTS

Jurors’ Anti-Gay Views May Taint Verdict, Panel Finds 11th Circuit allows gay man new trial in claims against Key West police BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

A

unanimous three-judge panel of the Atlantabased 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a gay plaintiff in a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Key West and one of its police officers is entitled to a new trial because the judge in his case refused to allow potential jurors to be questioned about any anti-gay bias they might have. The October 5 ruling involves Raymond Berthiaume’s claims against the city and Police Lieutenant David Smith stemming from the plaintiff’s arrest by Smith in October 2013. The trial jury ruled against Berthiaume. Berthiaume was in Key West to attend the Fantasy Fest Parade together with his then-partner and now-husband, Jhon Villa, his friend Corey Smith, and his former partner, Nelson Jimenez. After the parade, the group remained in the area for a street party and by the early morning hours, all but Jimenez were ready to go home. Jimenez remained in a bar while the others returned to their car, parked on a side street. After waiting by the car for some time, Berthiaume went back to the bar to get Jimenez. With his hand on Jimenez’s upper arm, Berthiaume led him out of the bar, but then Jimenez grabbed the car keys and twisted out of Berthiaume’s grasp. He ran down an alleyway with Berthiaume in pursuit. Lieutenant Smith and several other police officers spotted the two men, and thinking they were witnessing a fight went after Berthiaume and Jimenez. Smith testified that Berthiaume appeared to be swatting and grabbing at Jimenez with both hands as Jimenez tried

RESPECT OUR FLAG, from p.4

tional Monument last year. In order for the designation to be made, the city had to cede Christopher Park to the federal government, which it did after a campaign led by West Side

20

to pull away, but another officer who testified said that the only physical contact he saw was Berthiaume’s grasp on Jimenez’s upper arm as he attempted to bring him back to the car. Testimony differed as to whether Berthiaume was running or walking after Jimenez. When Smith caught up with Berthiaume, he pushed him in the shoulder to stop him. Berthiaume fell to the ground, suffering a fractured wrist and jaw, both of which ultimately required surgery. Smith questioned Jimenez, who thanked him for intervening but said nothing wrong had happened and that he did not want to press charges. He also told Smith that the men were former partners and were trying to get back together. Smith arrested Berthiaume anyway, based on his belief that this was a domestic dispute. The police officer said that the standard practice in Key West is to arrest a suspected domestic abuse assailant to assure that the two parties are separated for at least one night. Smith also testified that it was appropriate to arrest Berthiaume despite Jimenez’s refusal to press charges because he had seen Berthiaume assaulting the other man. But after investigating the situation, the local prosecutor decided to drop the charges against Berthiaume, who then filed suit against Smith and the City of Key West. Taking his suit to federal court, Berthiaume claimed violations of federal civil rights laws as well as Florida state law, alleging claims of excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, battery/ unnecessary force, and malicious prosecution. There was a three-day jury trial. During jury selection, the judge questioned potential jurors about any bias they had against police, but declined Berthiaume’s request that

they also be questioned about any bias they had against gay people. After the jury returned a verdict in the defendants’ favor, Berthiaume moved for a new trial, arguing he was deprived of a fair trial before an impartial jury. He argued that many people are still biased or prejudiced against gay people. In a case such as his, involving both a gay plaintiff and gay witnesses, he argued, it was necessary for the court to inquire into prospective jurors’ potential anti-gay bias. The trial judge denied that motion, and Berthiaume appealed. The 11th Circuit appeals panel pointed to a 1981 Supreme Court decision holding that the Constitution might require judges to ask questions about racial bias during jury selection under “special circumstances” where racial issues are “inextricably bound up with the conduct of the trial” and there are “substantial indications” jurors might be affected by racial prejudice. In that criminal case, the Supreme Court said that the failure to ask such questions would lead to reversal of the conviction if circumstances indicated a reasonable possibility that racial prejudice might have influenced the jury. Building on that precedent, the 11th Circuit, in an unpublished 2014 decision, ruled that failure to inquire into anti-gay bias could also be grounds for reversing a criminal conviction. That case involved a gay man charged with possession of child pornography. Police investigators examining his computer also found evidence that the defendant sought gay men for sex on the Internet, including photos of him engaged in sex with other men. The trial judge refused to exclude that evidence, asserting it was relevant to the child pornography charges, but also declined to allow jurors to

be asked about anti-gay bias. The man was convicted, after the prosecution “repeatedly paraded before the jury” the evidence regarding the defendant’s sexual activities with other men, according to the 11th Circuit, which concluded that it was reasonably possible that anti-gay bias had affected the verdict. It ordered a new trial. “Here,” as in the earlier case, wrote the court, “Berthiaume’s sexual orientation and that of his witnesses became ‘inextricably bound up with the issues to be resolved at trial.’” Witnesses at the trial, the court continued, “repeatedly testified about Berthiaume’s romantic relationships with Jimenez and Villa. Indeed, in explaining why he felt it necessary to arrest Berthiaume despite Jimenez’s refusal to press charges, Lieutenant Smith explained that victims are often reluctant to press charges in ‘domestic situations’ such as these because they have mixed emotions about the perpetrator.” Though the judge asked if the jurors could be impartial, the appeals court thought this was “not calculated to reveal latent prejudice” regarding gay people. The jury was not informed during voir dire that the plaintiff and many of the witnesses were gay, so they would have no reason to volunteer any information about anti-gay bias in response to the trial judge’s general questions, in the appeals panel’s view. “The risk that latent, undiscovered prejudices may have influenced the jury’s verdict is substantial,” the panel wrote. The appeals court concluded that the district court “abused its discretion by failing to inquire about prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation during voir dire.” Berthiaume, the panel found, deserved to have the trial verdict reversed.

Congressmember Jerry Nadler that enjoyed the full support of neighborhood, city, state, and LGBTQ leaders. Kidd said, “What we had planned with great people from the National Park Service was a lovely, small-

town all-American celebration of our rightful place as citizens and of Stonewall’s rightful place in the struggle for equality in the USA.” Despite the controversy created out of Washington, Petrelis, in a written release, said it “is a victory

for our Community to have these symbolic colors flying majestically over our Stonewall, designated as a National Monument by President Obama, even as our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are under attack by the current regime in power.” October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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In Vegas’ Wake, Gun Violence Activists Mass in Manhattan BY DONNA ACETO AND ANDY HUMM

G

ays Against Guns was formed in June 2016 in the wake of what was then the most lethal mass shooting in modern American history — the murder that month of 49 people and wounding of another 58 in an Orlando gay nightclub holding its weekly Latinx night. On October 2, several hundred activists affiliated with the group took to the streets in Manhattan to mark the sad fact that the Orlando massacre’s record had been broken, with the tragic murder of 58 concertgoers and wounding of nearly 500 others in Las Vegas the night before. The Gays Against Guns contingent met at Union Square at 6 p.m., and a half hour later began marching up Broadway to Times Square, where the demonstrators rallied at the Red Staircase. Kevin Hertzog of Gays Against Guns told those assembled in Union Square, “We witnessed a public health crisis with AIDS” and responded with ACT UP. “We’re applying the same techniques to this public health crisis.” The chants marching up Broadway ranged from the tragi-campy (“How many kids have you killed today? NRA sashay away!”) to the angrily blunt (“Fuck the NRA!”). Terry Roethlein of Gays Against Guns spoke passionately in Times Square, saying, “There is a terror organization out there and it’s the NRA.” He warned of the bills pending in Congress to expand gun rights, including the Reciprocity Act that would let gun owners from concealed-carry states bring their concealed weapons to states with sane gun control laws. And he decried the further militarization of local police departments being promoted by the Trump administration. Public Advocate Letitia James, heralded for coming to most Gays Against Guns actions, read out the litany of mass shootings in recent years: “Charleston, SC, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Orlando, and now Las Vegas. How much more will we take before we have gun control? After you pray”

22

for the new victims, she said, “get off your knees and demand responsible gun laws. Demand action!” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer was shaking with anger as she said, “After Orlando, Newtown, and all the unspeakable tragedies we say, ‘Enough! No more assault weapons!’ That goddamned NRA is in our way! Fifteen hundred mass shootings since 2012.” Brewer added, “We have the highest death rates by firearms in the developed world.” If gun control is “not done by us as a nation, it can’t be done.” The borough president also said, “Republicans will not act to save our children from guns. Get them out of office and the Democrats who vote with the NRA.” Sonni Mun of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America marched with her son, Christian, age 10. “No child should have to live through all these mass shootings,” she told the crowd. “It is unacceptable.” The time for action, she said, “is now!” The day before the Manhattan action, as the Las Vegas concertgoers looked forward to what they thought would be an evening of outdoor music and fun, Gays Against Guns traveled by van to a gun show in Pennsylvania hoping to engage strong Second Amendment boosters on the facts of gun violence and the solutions before the American people. According to the group, it is the only gun violence group that has engaged those on the other side in this kind of direct dialogue that it acknowledges “can be uncomfortable at times.” But, the group insists, “this is what must happen if we want to change minds and save lives.” — Additional reporting by Paul Schindler

DONNA ACETO

Several hundred activists affiliated with Gays Against Guns marched from Union Square to Times Square one evening after the shooting mass murders in Las Vegas.

DONNA ACETO

Sonni Mun of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

DONNA ACETO

A sign that undoubtedly captured the feelings of many Americans last week.

DONNA ACETO

Gays Against Guns demonstrators in Times Square.

DONNA ACETO

Kimberly Russell, an organizer of the January 21 Women’s March in Washington held in response to Donald Trump’s inauguration, addresses the crowd in Times Square.

DONNA ACETO

Kimberly Russell, an organizer of the January 21 Women’s March in Washington held in response to Donald Trump’s inauguration, addresses the crowd in Times Square.

October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Educating Our Youth PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN

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DOE Must Do Better Job of Keeping LGBTQ Students Safe

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24

BY DANIEL DROMM

T

he real tragedy of the terrible bullying-related killing that occurred two weeks ago at the Urban Assembly for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx is that it seems to have been completely preventable. In the wake of this sad incident, there are numerous questions about the details of what happened. This much is clear, however: the New York City Department of Education (DOE) needs to do better to ensure the safety of all students but especially LGBTQ students, since research shows they are the most frequent targets of bullying. As the chairperson of the New York City Council’s Committee on Education, I am tasked with overseeing the DOE. I have worked collaboratively with the administration to address the DOE’s lack of resources dedicated to tackling entrenched homophobia and transphobia. The Council has allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars for an LGBTQ community liaison and other resources for LGBTQ students, yet the DOE must allocate additional resources to meet these urgent student needs. I held a hearing in recent weeks on Gender Sexuality Alliances (GSAs), organizations that provide safe plac-

es for students to meet and support each other and talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Inspiring student activists from the East Side Middle School in Manhattan spoke about the benefits of having a robust GSA with strong faculty and administrative support. Last year, I was happy to recognize the work of the primary students at the Earth School in the East Village, who launched a successful campaign to convince their favorite educational app to include LGBTQ history. Parents and students at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts on the Upper West Side took a stand to change their school’s bathroom policy to make transgender and gender-nonconforming students more comfortable. (Though the schools are making efforts to designate at least one all-gender restroom in all schools, the city overall refuses to publicize and enforce the all-gender bathroom law, which I advanced.) These successes highlight a depressing point: Why are LGBTQ students in these and a smattering of other schools allowed to learn in a secure environment with supports in place, while those at the Urban Assembly School are left to flounder in settings rife with unchecked discrimination and violence? Why must

students who are brave enough to step forward to improve their school climate not fully supported? (I know, and very much admire, a transgender boy who had to approach seven teachers before finding one who was willing to help him start a GSA.) Critically for this discussion, why do teachers not feel supported in addressing these issues? I will be asking all of these questions at a hearing at the end of the month (October 30 at 10 a.m.) to examine efforts in the aftermath of the tragedy and push for reform. We cannot solve this problem by sticking metal detectors in our schools and calling it a day. In fact, the presence of metal detectors makes the school climate worse, as it sends a powerfully negative impression about expectations of students. Metal detectors cannot stop bullying. Change must start at the top. The safety of LGBTQ students and others should never be at the discretion of skittish administrators who may be dealing with their own homophobia and transphobia. The DOE must enforce guidelines and offer resources for all schools. LGBTQ students at the Urban Assembly and other schools are forced to endure the unendurable: constant violence and discrimination at the hands of peers while apathetic adults stand by, their shameful nonresponse emboldening the students who are in reality in charge of the situation. Why does a child have to die for adults to pay attention? Why are bullied students presented with two intolerable options: suffer in silence or take matters into their own hands? Rather, all students should be provided with two options: join the strong efforts their schools are pursuing to improve school climate or, if there are problems, turn to the safe, supportive, and nurturing adults around them for assistance. City Councilmember Daniel Dromm, chairperson of the Council’s Committee on Education and a former school teacher, represents District 25 in Queens. October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Turning the Other Cheek and Adjusting His Crown BY ED SIKOV

H

ere’s your feel-good story of the week, which I first found in, of all places, the New York Post: “Transgender teen booted from Christian school is named homecoming king.” Written by Alexandra Klausner, this heartwarming item concerns a boy named Stiles Zuschlag, of Lebanon, Maine, who “took the crown Friday at Noble High School’s homecoming game — just one month after transferring to the public school.” We turn now to the Huffington Post, where the story originally ran, by reporter Nina Golgowski: “A 17-year-old boy who says he was kicked out of his former Christian high school for being transgender is turning the other cheek — and adjusting his crown — after being named homecoming king at his new school.” “Turning the other cheek – and adjusting his crown!” Brilliant! But I think it would have been better if Golgowski had called it “his formerly Christian high school,” since the school’s actions don’t strike me as being especially Christ-like.

“Stiles Zuschlag was bestowed the social accolade at Noble High School’s homecoming game in North Berwick, Maine, on Friday night, just one month after beginning his senior year at the public school. ‘This experience feels like a dream. It’s something I never thought could have happened to me,’ he told HuffPost by email on Sunday.” Golgowski continues, “The Cinderella moment followed Zuschlag making national news last week after he was told that he was no longer welcome at Tri-City Christian Academy in Somersworth, New Hampshire — roughly seven miles southwest of Noble High. It followed him transitioning from female to male in 2015, he told the Seacoast Online at the time. Zuschlag, who said he had a 3.89 GPA and aspired to be valedictorian, said he went to speak with a school administrator in August about being identified as a male but was instead given an ultimatum. He had to confess his sins, stop taking testosterone treatments, and receive Christian counseling or find a new school.” Zuschlag had the strength, courage, and — yes — faith to rise above

that sort of Christianist bullying. “Today, as painful of an experience as this has been, he sees his removal from the New Hampshire school as a blessing from God one that he hopes will raise awareness and inspire others,” Golgowski writes. “‘I’ve been degraded so much in the past, I’ve conformed to other people’s beliefs and standards just to make them happy and comfortable. I’ve put myself in situations really hurtful to my mental health just to keep peace,’ he told HuffPost. ‘God forced me out of that situation, that school, knowing that my mental health was far more important than my education. The only reason I stayed at the school for so long was for my education, for my GPA, and to just learn about God. But I was also dying there mentally and I suffered a lot,’ he said. ‘God took me away from that to help me be a better person, to breathe again, to be happy again. I’m so grateful He did that for me.’” Speaking of transgender issues (and who isn’t?), Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (whose regard is not especially beau — I’ve seen better looking Munchkins) has determined that transgender people are no longer protected under the law. Here’s what BuzzFeed News’ out gay reporter Dominic Holden

has to say on the subject: “US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed a federal government policy that said transgender workers were protected from discrimination under a 1964 civil rights law, according to a memo on Wednesday sent to agency heads and US attorneys. Sessions’ directive, obtained by BuzzFeed News, says, ‘Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.’ It adds that the government will take this position in pending and future matters, which could have far-reaching implications across the federal government and may result in the Justice Department fighting against transgender workers in court. “‘Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se,’ Sessions writes. ‘This is a conclusion of law, not policy. As a law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice must interpret Title VII as written by Congress.’” Not surprisingly, folks are calling bullshit. Holden continues, “Sharon McGowan, a former law-

MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.28

PERSPECTIVE: The Long View

Not the Time for a Constitutional Convention BY NATHAN RILEY

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ote against the constitutional convention this November. The most basic reason: it is scarcely a year since Bernie Sanders showed that a resurgent left wants sweeping reforms, but babies must crawl before they can walk. The relationship among varying factions of the Democratic coalition remains strained, with many Dems still viewing Sanders as the greatest threat the nation faces. Others, of course, are convinced he’s shown the path forward. Fears of betrayal loom GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

large on both sides of this fissure. Meanwhile, the issue of depressed turnout in African-American and Latino communities in 2016 has not fully been addressed. In other words, Democrats and voters on the left are not united, and that’s not a good posture to go into a constitutional convention with. The other big problem is step two in the con-con process. What happens after a “yes” vote? It’s almost a secret. Delegates are selected by State Senate districts — three for each of the 63 districts, plus 15 elected at-large statewide — and are paid a state senator’s salary.

Given gerrymandering co-signed by both parties over decades, the State Senate is the most Republican institution in Albany. A state senator who runs for delegate doubles their salary. Even if they wish to avoid accusations of being a double dipper, they can pump up the standing of allies running for the delegate slots. A sitting state senator clearly would enjoy an upper hand in any delegate elections based in their home district. The result will not be a people’s convention. Political insiders will become the delegates. Elected officials, lobbyists or their allies, law school experts, and others from the establishment will write a new constitution. Which, of course, is better than it being written by a crowd of Donald Trumps. But the insiders of 2017 and

2018 are a breed apart from the delegates who attended the constitutional convention during the Great Depression. The 1938 gathering introduced care for the needy and protected workers’ right to organize, offering constitutional protections for federal New Deal reforms. The New York Constitution is largely a progressive document. One potential constitutional change that has been discussed would weaken government workers’ right to organize and threaten the security of their pensions. But scapegoating government employees at a time of stagnant wages generally overlooks the fact that workers in the US economy have lost ground largely due to the decline in union representation across many industries. Our

CON-CON, continued on p.28

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PERSPECTIVE: Snide Lines

Herman Bell’s Beat-Down BY SUSIE DAY

“W

hy don’t you Americans drop the bullshit about the land of the free and the home of the brave? Admit you’re now basically a tinpot dictatorship.” This, from my playwright friend Diane in London, with whom I’m Skyping. I’ve just told her about what happened to Herman Bell, my friend in prison. He’s a former Black Panther who turns 70 this January and has been locked up since 1974. On September 5, Herman survived a “beat-down” by five to seven white correctional officers half his age at Great Meadow prison — one of the more Klan-friendly joints in upstate New York. Two of Herman’s ribs are broken; he’s lost some vision in one eye; probably has a concussion. Diane continues. “The mind fuck: ‘Everybody’s created equal?’ Please…” I find it refreshing to hear my United States besmirched by a nonAmerican (even one who shops at Banana Republic when she comes here). This means a lot when it pertains to Herman, who, after 40plus years inside, only wants to get out on parole, to live what’s left of his life with his wife and grandchildren. Herman isn’t a saint; he isn’t my hero. He is my friend, one of the kindest, funniest people I know. Now, he’s badly hurt. What happened to Herman isn’t unique in New York State, where brutal — sometimes fatal — assaults by guards on prisoners have persisted for years. As an American, though, I don’t usually hear about this, since the normalizing zeitgeist in this tinpot land o’ the free is that people behind bars — especially “convicted cop killers” — deserve whatever they get. Herman’s beat-down happened when he was out in the rec yard. There’s a bank of phones there, and he was talking with his wife, Nancy, who was coming in a few days for a contact visit — their first in almost three years. Herman and Nancy have been allowed to see one another sitting across

26

a divided table in a crowded visiting room. Recently, though, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) allowed them family, or “trailer,” visits, which is when a prisoner can actually be alone in a makeshift room with a family member for a day or two. Herman and Nancy were planning their first time in awhile being really together, when across the yard, a fight broke out. The officers announced the yard was closed, and Herman said to Nancy, “I got to hang up.” Next thing he knows, one guard yanks Herman away, drags him into a hall where there are no surveillance cameras. Then he slaps the glasses off Herman’s face and starts in punching him. Other guards pile on, punching and kicking, and somebody sprays mace in Herman’s eyes and mouth. They try to pull off his boots and break his legs. When they slam his head repeatedly onto the concrete floor, Herman thinks that he is surely dying. But Herman never hits back. He knows how to act in prison. He never hits back. I know this happened in this way because Herman is widely respected as a humble and peaceable man by the people incarcerated with him. One of them heard about the beating and called a friend outside. From there, word got to Herman’s lawyer, who managed to call Herman. Nancy stepped in. Immediately, people started working on his case… Back at the prison, the guards, after beating Herman, do the usual thing cops do: they charge him with assaulting an officer. Herman is transferred to another prison and placed in SHU — an Orwellian acronym for “special housing unit,” which means solitary confinement. About four days later, Herman and Nancy get one short, no-contact visit. Herman is brought in, beat-up and handcuffed, stumbling in leg shackles. He and Nancy have to yell through a hole in a thick Plexiglas wall. At my regular therapy session, I describe all this. “Herman must have done something,” says my therapist — a well-

SUSIE DAY

Herman Bell and (below) Bell after a recent beat-down in the upstate Great Meadow prison.

SUSIE DAY

Herman Bell and Bell after a recent beat-down in the upstate Great Meadow prison.

mannered, white, liberal American, who believes in balance, symmetry, and National Public Radio. “What did Herman do to cause this?” “I don’t know,” I snap. “Maybe he didn’t hang up the phone fast enough? Maybe he was looking too black that day? If he’d raised one finger to defend himself, those thugs would have killed him. And if he’s convicted, he’ll spend an indefinite amount of time in SHU, lose any privileges, and kiss his

last chance of parole goodbye.” “I’m curious,” continues my therapist, who really did ask this: “If these officers are so thuggish and macho, why was Herman maced? Isn’t pummeling and kicking more satisfying than spraying a chemical into somebody’s face? Wasn’t Herman convicted of something serious?” Pause. Inwardly, I reel at the de-

HERMAN BELL, continued on p.28

October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


MEDIA CIRCUS, from p.25

yer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and now an attorney for the LGBT group Lambda Legal, countered that Sessions is ignoring a widespread trend in federal courts,” Holden continues. “‘It’s ironic for them to say this is law and not policy,’ McGowan told BuzzFeed News. ‘The memo is devoid of discussion of the way case law has been developing in this area for the last few years. It dem-

CON-C0N, from p.25

society should be expanding protections for workers in the private sector rather than taking rights away from government employees. But now is not the time to open that discussion up in an unpredictable constitutional convention. The environment is not ripe for a con-con. Another topic raised for consideration at a con-con would strip away any remaining restrictions on a woman’s right to reproductive choice, something you’d think would draw the support of Planned Parenthood for the convention. But, Robin Chappelle Golston, the group’s statewide executive director, is quoted in the Buffalo News saying, “Abandoning our legislative process for a constitutional convention risks our rights.” A con-con, she warned, would be “vulnerable to powerful special interests that do not stand for New Yorkers.”

HERMAN BELL, from p.26

gree to which TV shows like “Law and Order” have permeated even the most professional, free-tobe-you-and-me brain. I blurt out something rhetorical like, “How many US Army vets who wiped out whole villages in Vietnam or Iraq do we pass every day on the street? Do they spend any time in jail?” “You have a big heart,” she counters. “But what life choices have you made that would attract you to a friendship with someone like Herman?

BROOKLYN PRIDE, from p.9

Cuomo praised the Center as one of the most important resources for

28

onstrates that this memo is not actually a reflection of the law as it is — it’s a reflection of what the DOJ wishes the law were.’ “The memo reflects the Justice Department’s aggression toward LGBT rights under President Trump and Sessions, who reversed Obama-era guidance that protects transgender students after a few weeks in office. Last month, Sessions filed a brief at the Supreme Court in favor of a Christian baker

who refused a wedding cake to a gay couple. And last week, the department argued in court that Title VII doesn’t protect a gay worker from discrimination, showing that Sessions will take his view on Title VII into private employment disputes. At issue in the latest policy is how broadly the government interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which does not address LGBT rights directly. Rather, it prohibits discrimination on the

basis of sex.” That’s funny. I thought I was having sex with men all these years! I guess I wasn’t — not real sex, anyway. I was also under the mistaken belief the reason LGBTQ people have historically been discriminated against was because of sex. Sheesh! Jefferson Grossregard (Fat Face) Sessions is teaching me something new every day.

The debate over reproductive rights has broadened in recent years to include consideration of the hurdles faced by poor women and of reproductive justice generally. The needs of poor women who choose to end a pregnancy or, alternately, choose to have a baby require policy advances, but that debate is not reflected in the organizing for the constitutional convention. Other proposed changes would explicitly add gender identity and expression as a protected class to human rights law and broaden the state’s anemic medical marijuana program. A Siena Poll shows that roughly two-thirds of New Yorkers support both initiatives. Yet, the political debate over both ideas remains stubbornly contested, and it’s not clear a constitutional convention — particularly one based on delegates chosen by State Senate districts — would reflect the popular will. In 1938, Franklin

Roosevelt had forged a New Deal consensus about reform. We are sadly lacking such direction today. This failure in part reflects an ongoing crisis in the Democratic Party, where soul-searching has not yet given way to clear answers on economic and social justice. Without such a consensus, opting for a new constitutional convention is unwise. Constitutional law has advanced considerably since the nation’s founders gathered in Philadelphia. Charters of human rights are incorporated into modern constitutions like Canada’s. There has been no comparable advances in thinking in Albany. A true human rights perspective would emphasize the dignity of the individual and their right to create a narrative for their own lives. It is pro-gay, pro-trans, pro-Native peoples, pro-people who choose to use drugs recreationally. The Canadian Supreme Court, for ex-

ample, after an exhaustive review, found that laws making prostitution criminal deprives women of their right to establish businesses and, critically, to guarantee their own safety against violence. Current American drug law fosters the cutting of heroin with fentanyl. That, in turn, made opium use a contributor in more than 59,000 deaths nationally last year. Con-con supporters raise no proposals to end this legal massacre of drug users. The reason why labor unions, environmental groups, LGBTQ political clubs, Planned Parenthood, the Working Families Party, and dozens of others progressive groups oppose a constitutional convention is that though there is opportunity for gains, the losses could be devastating. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have exposed stunning gaps in the American political consensus. Now is not the time write fundamental law.

“Why shouldn’t I be friends with Herman?” I ask. “He’s a good person.” I realize this therapeutic relationship has reached its “sell-by” date. “You know what, lady?” I say, “you just asked the kind of what’sin-it-for-me question that keeps us all in hell. It’s certainly keeping Herman in lockdown.” Then I fire her. Thing is, I believe Herman. I never had any doubt. I visited him maybe 10 days after his beating. With a “land-of-the-free” sincerity, Herman talked about the “right to remain innocent,” meaning every-

one’s need to expect justice. And here’s a fucking miracle: Evidently, DOCCS believes Herman, too. Because on October 5, they dropped his charges and moved him into general population at a prison closer to New York City. This bare-bones justice almost never happens — even to prisoners like Herman, with several hundred supporters mailing letters and making phone calls. That’s why we need to make this miracle an ordinary, procedural occurrence for everybody Herman describes as “the mass incarcerated and the

voiceless.” Because we should not have to work so hard to prove that brutality is wrong. Because incarcerated people have human rights and can be believed. Meanwhile, Herman remains in prison. “Let’s hope,” says my stalwart, non-American friend Diane, “that life will now unravel in a way that leads to Herman’s coming home.”

LGBTQ people and an effective network of advocacy and outreach. “Here in New York State we are a proud champion of social and

civil rights,” the governor wrote. “We are committed to ensuring equality and justice for all people. We will always provide a safe and

welcoming place for the LGBTQ community and reaffirm our effort to further progressive values on which our state is built.”

Follow @EdSikov on Twitter.

Susie Day is the author of “Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power,” published by Abingdon Square Publishing.

October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


Hetrick-Martin Institute’s Largest Annual Fundraiser To Support And Empower LGBTQ Youth CELEBRATING THIS YEAR’S THEME

#PRIDEIS HOSTED BY

&

Sandra Bernhard, Legendary comedienne, performer and host of Sandyland on SiriusXM Radio

Bevy Smith, Fashion maven, host of Bevelations on SiriusXM Radio and Page Six TV co-host

HONORING

& KEVYN AUCOIN

Monday, November 6, 2017 Cocktail Reception – 6:00PM Dinner And Awards Ceremony – 7:00PM Emery After Party to Follow

Cipriani Wall Street, 55 Wall Street, New York City

For tickets, please visit

hmi.org/events/emery2017 GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

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ELDERCARE TODAY

The Lessons from Hurricane Maria Catastrophe Puerto Rico tragedy points up need for best practices in serving elders at risk BY NATHAN DICAMILLO

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s the residents of Puerto Rico continue to feel the effects of the debilitating wreckage that Hurricane Maria left in its wake, many of the island’s elderly residents have taken the brunt of the impact — like 96-year-old Hermenegildo Cotte Melendez, father of Leovigildo “Leo” Cotte Torres, the former mayor of Lajas. On October 2, the Los Angeles Times reported Melendez died because the shelter he sought did not have electricity to power his oxygen tank. When disaster hits, the same issues that affect young residents affect seniors — but to a much greater extent, noted Abigail Adams, the regional communications officer for the American Red Cross in New York. Sudden, often chaotic displacement

CHUCK HAUPT/ AMERICAN RED CROSS

In a disaster situation, elderly residents experience more distress than younger residents, and the Red Cross and other relief organizations have resources to aid their bodies and minds.

not only separates elderly residents from their homes, sources of food, and vital medications, but also disconnects them from a routine that

may be vital to their mental health. That’s a lesson seniors everywhere should take to heart, given the unpredictability of natural disasters

as well as tragic episodes of human violence. “What the Red Cross does, is, we have trained mental health workers,” Adams noted. “That’s what sets us apart from any other organization.” These workers, along with spiritual care counselors, help elderly residents who may be more confused and disturbed by natural disasters than younger residents. “We work with people,” Adams said. “If they had to leave their medication behind we help them replace that medication. The people that run our shelters are extraordinary human beings.” The Red Cross does not have an option to donate specifically to the needs of elderly people. “It’s just by donating to us we make sure we can provide the re-

DISASTER RELIEF, continued on p.31

OUR PRIDE KNOWS NO BOUNDS Like anyone else, people in the LGBT community want to live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives. AARP is committed to creating a new vision for aging—one complete with diverse stories and innovative ways for everyone to pursue their passions—equally, openly and proudly.

PRIDE is ageless

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Learn more at aarp.org/pride. October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


ELDERCARE TODAY

DANIEL CIMA / AMERICAN RED CROSS

Mental health outreach after a natural disaster is a vital service provided by the Red Cross.

DISASTER RELIEF, from p.30

sources that are needed to people no matter the age,” Adams said. The AARP Foundation, however, is providing relief especially for disaster victims over the age of 50 in Florida, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean. “To meet needs, AARP, AARP Foundation, and the Miami Dolphins organization will match — dollar for dollar — contributions up to a total of $750,000,” Tara Dunion, director of media relations for AARP and AARP Foundation, wrote in an email. While there were at least 10,000 people in shelters as of October 2, there is no way to determine how many elderly people are currently being taken care of, Adams said. Elders Can Prepare For The Unexpected A preparedness plan for natural disaster is essential for everyone — especially the elderly. “Having a plan helps everybody and it especially helps first responders,” Adams said. “We have preparedness guidelines that we recommend people going through and that’s basically building a network.” The Red Cross recommendations for what seniors should discuss with their personal support network are as follows: — Make arrangements, prior to an emergency, for your support network to immediately check on you after a disaster and, if needed, offer assistance. GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

— Exchange important keys with a designated contact. — Show them where you keep emergency supplies. — Share copies of your relevant emergency documents, evacuation plans, and emergency health information card. — Agree on and practice methods for contacting each other in an emergency. Do not count on the telephones working. — You and your personal support network should always notify each other when you are going out of town and when you will return. — The relationship should be mutual. You have a lot to contribute! Learn about each other’s needs and how to help each other in an emergency. How You Can Donate Or Volunteer THE A ARP FOUNDATION is serving disaster victims, especially those over the age of 50. Visit aarp.org for more info about its work, and how to donate. THE AMERICAN RED CROSS: Visit redcross.org or call 800-RED-CROSS. SERVICES & ADVOCACY FOR GLBT SENIORS (SAGE): Visit sageusa.org or call 212-741-2247.

How a child learns to learn will impact his or her life forever.

City and Country School Keeping the progress in progressive education. Two-Year-Olds - 8th Grade

Open House: Thursday, November 16th, 6:00 - 8:00pm 146 West 13th Street, New York, NY 10011 Tel: 212.242.7802

www.cityandcountry.org 31


FILM

Queer World on Film NewFest has broad international line-up October 19-24 BY GARY M. KRAMER his year’s edition of NewFest: New York’s LBGT Film Festival features more than 100 shorts, features, and documentaries that showcase international perspectives on queer life. The festival opens October 19 (7 p.m. at SVA Theatre) with the New York premiere of “Susanne Bartsch: On Top,” a documentary about the “Queen of the Night” and equality advocate directed by Anthony&Alex. NewFest closes five days later on October 24, with a screening of “Becks,” directed by Elizabeth Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell. (8 p.m. at Cinépolis Chelsea). This American indie drama has the title character (Lena Hall), a lesbian folk singer, returning home to St. Louis after her girlfriend Lucy (Hayley Kiyoko) cheats on her. Becks’ mother, Ann (Christine Lahti), is an ex-nun, who is trying to accept her daughter’s reckless behavior. She is fine with her being a lesbian, but is less pleased with Becks’ drinking, swearing, and general bad behavior. Becks’ worst decision is embarking on an affair with Elyse (Mena Suvari), a married woman who takes guitar lessons from her. Becks felt lousy about Lucy cheating on her, but she has no compunction about Elyse betraying her husband. Despite treading well-known dramatic territory, and offering few surprises — viewers will be waiting for the lovers to be caught in flagrante delicto — the undemanding “Becks” does feature nice music as well as fine performances by Hall, Suvari, and Lahti. One of the festival’s two centerpieces is the New York premiere of the absorbing but uneven drama “After Louie” (Oct. 22, 7 p.m. at SVA Theatre). Vincent Gagliostro’s film has Sam Cooper (Alan Cumming), a former AIDS activist, facing a stalled artistic career. He has been working more than a decade on a film about William Wilson (David Drake), a friend who died from AIDS, much to the chagrin of his gallerist Rhone (Justin Vivian Bond),

NEWFEST: NEW YORK’S LGBT FILM FESTIVAL

T

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Oct. 19-24 Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 W. 23rd St. SVA Theatre, 333 W. 23rd St. LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St. newfest.org/film/newfest2017/

COURTESY: NEWFEST

Lena Hall and Mena Suvari in Elizabeth Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell’s “Becks,” which screens at Cinépolis Chelsea on October 24 at 8 p.m.

COURTESY: NEWFEST

Alan Cumming and Zachary Booth in Vincent Gagliostro’s “After Louie,” screening on October 22 at 7 p.m. at SVA Theatre.

GEBRUEDER BEETZ FILMPRODUKTION

Tristan Ferland Milewski’s documentary “Dream Boat,” screening October 23 at 9 p.m. at Cinépolis Chelsea.

and his friends Jeffrey (Patrick Breen), Mateo (Wilson Cruz), and Maggie (Sarita Choudhury). One night, Sam meets Braeden (Zachary Booth), a younger man, and sleeps

with him, paying him for the night. Braeden, who is not a hustler, keeps the money, in part because he and his HIV-positive partner Lukas (cowriter Anthony Johnston) need it.

As Sam continues to meet with Braeden for sex, he imparts his activist views on the younger man, whose generation he sees as having benefitted from sacrifices made by folks like William. “After Louie” steers an important dialogue about the battles and progress the gay community has faced and how dramatically things have changed over the decades. But the film is overstuffed with messages that, while important, are imparted in a didactic fashion. At least Cumming’s poignant turn as Sam helps the film over its rough moments. One of the highlights of the fest is the candid and thoughtful documentary “Dream Boat” (Oct. 23, 9 p.m. at Cinépolis Chelsea), directed by Tristan Ferland Milewski. The filmmaker profiles five men on a European gay cruise. The guys reveal their personal insecurities and discuss the homophobia they face at home or at work. “Dream Boat” includes plenty of buff bodies but Milewski has more serious topics in mind, and that is why his wistful doc resonates. One of the disappointments is Travis Mathews’ ambitious but pretentious “Discreet” (Oct. 20, 9:30 p.m. at Cinépolis Chelsea). Alex (Jonny Mars) returns home to Texas where his mother (Joy Cunningham) informs him that John (Bob Swaffar), a man Alex thought was dead, is actually still alive. Alex says he’s John’s grandson so he can keep company with the old, enfeebled man. The relationship between these characters eventually becomes clear. Until then, a

NEWFEST, continued on p.33

October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


COURTESY: NEWFEST

Jonny Mars in Travis Mathews’ “Discreet,” screening October 20 at 9:30 p.m. at Cinépolis Chelsea.

CURT WORDEN

Ernesto Palma and Nikolai Shpakov in Gail Freedman’s “Hot to Trot,” on October 22 at Cinépolis Chelsea.

COURTESY: NEWFEST

COURTESY: NEWFEST

Soda Voyu in “Tale of the Lost Boys,” which screens on October 21 at 12:15 pm at Cinépolis Chelsea.

Manu Guevara in “The Devil’s Magnificent,” which screens on October 21 at 9:45 p.m. at Cinépolis Chelsea.

queer characters — Milla is seen being affectionate with a female friend in an early scene — care less about what others think and more about being their true selves. The film, codirected by Marília Hughes Guerreiro and writer Cláudio Marques, does not break new ground, but it features a strong sense of place and three attractive leads. Another film about family is “One Last Thing,” (Oct. 20, 6:30 p.m. at SVA Theatre), a low-budget American drama about Dylan (Wendell Pierce), a dentist in Orlando who finally locates the daughter he has been looking for 25 years. When he travels to Brooklyn to meet Lucy (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Dylan discovers that she likes coffee, works in a bookstore, is a lesbian, and has a serious health issue. While the estranged father and daughter reconnect through handwritten letters and visits, a series of dramatic situations soon complicate their reunion. “One Last Thing” does not pay much attention to Lucy’s lesbianism, which may be a good thing, but it treads heavily into storylines that are better handled in soap operas. (One plot twist is so expected it can hardly be called a twist). Pierce delivers a low-key performance that

NEWFEST, from p.32

succession of characters, images, and scenes — some featuring gay sex — unfold without much impact. Mathews’ film may reward viewers who put the puzzle pieces together, but most audiences will be bored by this frustrating muddle. “Hot to Trot” (Oct. 22, 4 p.m. at Cinépolis Chelsea) is a lovely, graceful documentary featuring two same-sex ballroom dancing couples. The film, directed by Gail Freedman, showcases Costa Rica transplant Ernesto Palma and his Hungarian dancing partner, Robbie Tristan, in New York City. The men are poetry in motion, but a health issue sends Tristan back home, which prompts Palma to find a new partner: Nikolai Shpakov. Meanwhile, across the country in the Bay Area, Emily Coles and Kieren Jameson are winning top prizes in the April Follies, a same-sex ballroom dance competition. Freedman captures the beauty and energy of the dancers as they prepare for the 2014 Gay Games. They practice and push each other to perform. They also deal with conflicts that arise. Palma describes the relationship with his ballroom partner as being “like a fucking GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

marriage — without the fucking.” Freedman wisely allows viewers to get to know — and therefore care about — all her subjects, who discuss their coming out and family life, as well as health challenges they face. There is thankfully little emphasis on the competition until a nail-biter of a finale for one of the teams at the Gay Games. “Hot to Trot” shows how dancing provides inner strength to these men and women. Each developed a sense of pride and self-confidence that allowed them to become not just better dancers, but better people, as well. And that’s why this fine doc is such a crowd-pleaser. A compelling Brazilian import, “The City of the Future,” (Oct. 22, 5:15 p.m. at Cinépolis Chelsea) has Gilmar (Gilmar Araujo) wanting to marry his boyfriend Igor (Igor Santos) but also being a father to the child he conceived with Milla (Milla Suzart). This arrangement upsets many folks in the trio’s rural town of Serra do Ramalho, including Igor’s mother, who disapproves, and Milla’s family, who stop speaking to her. Igor also faces homophobia from the cowboys at the local horse farm. “The City of the Future” is a slow, but intriguing tale about how these

elevates this stagy and sudsy film. Smollett-Bell is fine in support, but both actors deserve better. Also depicting the fraught relationship between children and their parents is the Taiwanese/ Philippine co-production, “Tale of the Lost Boys” (Oct. 21, 12:15 pm at Cinépolis Chelsea). Alex (Oliver Aquino) is a Filipino visiting Taipei. One night, he meets Jerry (Soda Voyu), a bartender and medical student. The two strangers become fast friends after Alex, a mechanic, fixes Jerry’s car. When the pair head out on a road trip to visit Jerry’s traditional Atayal family, the two men talk about their family issues. Jerry is afraid to come out to his family, who expect him to marry and become a tribal leader, bringing his medical knowledge back to help their community. Alex, who is straight, claims his parents are dead, but in reality that’s just a way of him avoiding drama with his estranged mother. “Tale of the Lost Boys” is crudely made, but the film is a tender, engaging bromance in which each man helps the other to find the means of living their true selves. “The Devil’s Magnificent” (Oct. 21, 9:45pm at Cinépolis Chelsea)

NEWFEST, continued on p.50

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FILM

A Time of Urgency and Connection Robin Campillo’s “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” captures ACT UP’s remarkably transformative energy BY GARY M. KRAMER PM (Beats Per Minute)” is co-writer and director Robin Campillo’s urgent, cogent film about ACT UP in 1989 France. This absorbing and moving drama opens with an action by the group at a medical convention that is recounted in one of its talky weekly meetings. It is an effective approach to immersing viewers in ACT UP’s approach to its work. The film introduces Nathan (Arnaud Valois), who is HIV-negative and has started attending the meetings. He gets swept up — and viewers will, too — in the talking, the in-fighting, and the actions, such as disrupting a pharmaceutical company and demanding test results for AIDS drugs. Nathan soon finds himself attracted to Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), who is positive, and they begin a passionate relationship. On the phone from France, Campillo spoke with Gay City News about making “BPM (Beats Per Minute).”

BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE)

“B

GARY M. KRAMER: You were part of ACT UP Paris. How did you

CÉLINE NIESZAWER/ THE ORCHARD

Nahuel Pérez Biscayart in Robin Campillo’s “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” about ACT UP in 1989 Paris.

incorporate your experiences for “BPM?” ROBIN CAMPILLO: It was 1982 when AIDS hit France, and I was 20 years old. I was really afraid of what was going on with AIDS. I heard about ACT UP from a friend of mine who was touched by the disease. I went through the 1980s really frightened. I went to ACT UP in 1992. For me, it was quite a relief to be in this group. There was so much energy and electricity. The worst moments of AIDS in France were the early 1990s. I wanted to talk about the jubilation.

Directed by Robin Campillo The Orchard In French with English subtitles Opens Oct. 20 Angelika Film Center 18 W. Houston St. at Mercer St. angelikafilmcenter.com/nyc Film Society of Lincoln Center 144-165 W. 65th St. filmlinc.org The first meeting I attended, I thought that it was weird because it was so much fun. People were laughing. “Where was the disease?,” I thought. People were so full of energy, but the fear came back quickly, so I wanted to show these moments. GMK: Why tell this story now? How is it timely? RC: I made the film when I could do it. I wanted people, especially young gay men, to have a genealogy. I wanted to connect people to the emotions, sensations, and sexuality of the early 1990s. I’m not trying to lecture the audience. It’s more important to make

people feel what people were feeling at the moment. Of course, today, it’s another moment in the epidemic — I am grateful that PrEP is working — but I wanted to show there was no choice and the condom was an obligation for us. I was shocked that some of the actors, most of whom are gay, didn’t know what ACT UP was. I had to explain it to them. GMK: Like your previous film, “Eastern Boys,” “BPM” depicts characters getting a kind of renewed shot at life. What observations do you have about that theme in you work? RC: I think — as it is with the character in “Eastern Boys” —that moments of metamorphosis are rare in life. You don’t get many chances to mutate your life or reinvent yourself. For me, my position of being a director is the same as the character of “Eastern Boys”: I want to be invaded by others to change myself and my point of view. In my films, I try to show these moments of mutation — the characters change their behavior in front of you because they are confronted with

BPM, continued on p.35

Becoming Tom of Finland Dome Karukoski traces the blossoming of a shy homoerotic illustrator in post-war Scandinavia BY GARY M. KRAMER irector Dome Karukoski’s classy, enthralling biopic of the gay pornographic illustrator known as Tom of Finland is more conventional that than one might expect given its subject. But this approach works in the film’s favor; viewers get to know and understand the man behind the homoerotic images. Touko Laaksonen (Pekka Strang) is a war veteran coping with life in the repressive Finland of the 1950s.

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Living with his sister, Kaija (Jessica Grabowsky), and working for an ad agency, he finds himself a “hobby” drawing erotic illustrations of men, in and out of uniform. The images are perhaps a reaction to homosexuality being illegal at the time. Gay men, as the film shows, had to operate using sly codes of conduct to meet other men cruising at night or in bars. In Tom of Finland’s illustrations, the danger represented by authorities such as the police was exaggerated, with them made into fetishistic objects of desire. The taboo, voyeuristic

qualities of his work were a response to the “look, don’t touch” aspect of queer life of the time. When Kaija invites a young dancer, Veli (Lauri Tilkanen), to live with them as a boarder, Touko falls in love with him and the pair eventually begin a relationship that blossoms just as Touko’s artwork gains a fanbase overseas. “Tom of Finland” adroitly traces the artist’s life from his struggles in an underground society to his connection with a queer community and his success in America and else-

TOM OF FINLAND Directed by Dome Karukoski Kino Lorber Opens Oct. 13 Quad Cinema 34 W. 13th St. quadcinema.com where. At the film’s heart is a story about a shy man who wanted to fit it and was unaware of how much plea-

TOM OF FINLAND, continued on p.35

October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


BPM, from p.34

something. For Nathan in “BPM,” he’s getting a second chance. He missed this first part of his life, and his involvement in ACT UP provides a way for him to be different than he was. I try even in editing the work to create a kind of metamorphosis. I changed the climate of the scenes, like the dancing scenes in the club — you can see this particle in the air and then you see it’s plasma. I love this idea that the cinema is mutating. I tried in my cinema to reinvent myself. GMK: What went into recreating the actions in the film? RC: All those scenes are based on my memories. I was part of all these actions. I like the scene in the school, where ACT UP interrupts a classroom to talk about HIV transmission. You can see this younger student in the background and he is looking at this action like a spectator. You don’t know if he’s gay, but I love the idea he was waiting for something to happen in his life, and this group appears. He’s just a face. He’s a little sexy, but we don’t know what’s going on in his head.

GMK: There is an erotic scene between Nathan and Sean in a hospital room. Can you talk about this intimate moment? RC: Obviously, in a film about AIDS, it is important how sex is portrayed. Sean is concerned that he could transmit HIV, so we wanted to show it being very safe. I know from HIV-positive friends that they were always concerned about sex. My first boyfriend died from AIDS. I show his face when I show photos of people who died. I miss his body. I miss the fact that I can’t touch him. So it was important to put that in. When you meet someone, you know his body. Sean and Nathan are about sensuality. The hospital scene was important because you understand they stopped having sex, and it’s a sad thing. It’s a problem when you have a couple with HIV or someone is sick. You don’t know when to stop having sex, and for me that scene was important because they loved each other. You can feel how it’s sensual and sexual and caring. There was nothing dirty about it. I don’t try to shock people. I show how human we were in these situations and how difficult it was to cope.

JOSEF PERSSON/ KINO LORBER

Pekka Strang as Touko Laaksonen/ Tom of Finland in a scene from Dome Karukoski’s “Tom of Finland,” in America with the lights fully up.

TOM OF FINLAND, from p.34

sure he gave millions of gay and closeted men around the world. Director Karukoski met with Gay City News to talk about making “Tom of Finland.” GARY M. KRAMER: How do you approach a biopic of Tom of Finland? DOME KARUKOSKI: I spoke about that a lot with Pekka: that you can’t really act the image of Tom of Finland. We had descriptions from people who knew him. All the stories are from him as an

old man, and so we were told he was a kind man and good at his job and in his art. He was humble in many ways. He became a Nordic god. Pekka said it well: you find the human being, the private person. You’re not acting Tom of Finland. You’re doing a film about a man who isn’t allowed to come out with his art or his passion. There you have the conflict: how does that change your behavior, living in such a world? GMK: The film suggests sex but it is never very explicit. The

TOM OF FINLAND, continued on p.50

New York’s LGBT Film Festival October 19th-24th, 2017 Over 100 films, panels, and parties that shine a light on the LGBT experience. For tickets, information and to become a member, visit NewFest.org GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

35


THEATER

Into the Woods One plays finds a path straight to the heart; two others lose their way BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE my Herzog’s magnificent new play “Mary Jane” is powerful, deeply moving, and breathtakingly economical. The story of a single mother taking care of her desperately ill child sneaks up on you, as the mother, Mary Jane, tries to manage the health care system and her ongoing losses while struggling to put a game face on in navigating an ongoing tragedy. The tale is so compelling because it is so honest and simple, and in the larger sense it underscores how many people in our country suffer invisibly with health issues that overwhelm them. Seen against the backdrop of the tone-deaf and cynical efforts to rip insurance away from those who need it by repealing the Affordable Care Act, the play becomes as provocative as it is chilling. Director Anne Kauffman does a remarkable job building suspense and compassion for all the characters, not just Mary Jane and her son, who is barely seen. As Mary Jane, Carrie Coon delivers an unforgettable performance. She embodies, with absolute precision, the dichotomy between chaos and control that her character experiences. She keeps the audience hanging on every moment. The other members of the cast are equally focused. Liza Colón-Zayas as the doctor and as Sherry, a home aide, Danaya Esperanza as Sherry’s daughter and as a music therapist, and Brenda Wehle as Mary Jane’s landlord and as a hospital chaplain are all excellent. Susan Pourfar as a friend of Mary Jane’s and, later, as Chaya, another mother with an ill child in the hospital, is especially moving. Pourfar is an actress who is always exciting to see, specific in her performances, imbuing each moment with honesty. If her scene with Coon as two mothers in the hospital doesn’t wring your heart, I’m afraid you may be missing something in your ticker. The surprising and ingenious set by Laura Jellinek and the sensitive lighting design by Japhy Weideman contribute significantly to the over-

MARY JANE

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New York Theatre Workshop 79 E. Fourth St., btwn. Bowery & Second Ave. Through Oct. 29 Tue.-Wed. at 7 p.m. Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $45-$65; nytw.org Or 212-460-5475 One hr., 35 mins., no intermission

JOAN MARCUS

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE

Liza Colón-Zayas and Carrie Coon in Amy Herzog’s “Mary Jane,” directed by Anne Kauffman.

New World Stages 340 W. 50th St. Mon., Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 & 7:30 p.m. $69-$129; telecharge.com Or 212-239-6200 One hr., 45 mins., no intermission

CAITLIN MCNANEY

Brian Lee Huynh and Jonno Davies in the stage adaptation of “A Clockwork Orange,” directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones.

all feeling of the production. This is contemporary theater at its best, speaking to us in an era of uncertainty and conflict while touching a humanity that is timeless. There is much more concept than content in the new production of “A Clockwork Orange” now over at New World Stages. Anyone, like me, unfamiliar with either the 1962 novel by Anthony Burgess or Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film is likely to be almost completely lost. Rather than clearly telling a story, director Alexandra Spencer-Jones has instead created a performance piece, part dance, part Cirque du Soleil, inspired by the source material. Obscurity, however, is not artistry, and tedium sets in soon after the lights come up. This is somewhat offset by the nine men with seemingly perfect bodies, prodigious athleticism, and

homoerotic titillation who perform the piece, but even that is insufficient to maintain interest over the hour and 45-minute running time, sans intermission. The program provides no clues as to who wrote this piece, and therein lies its problem. The tale flounders from set piece to set piece, and it’s only over time that one picks up that one Alex DeLarge is an lowerclass English boy who, with his friends, goes on a spree of violence. He speaks in a slang language that is neither explained nor contextualized, so he and his mates might as well be speaking gibberish. Alex is eventually caught after a violent attack and institutionalized, where he undergoes a radical treatment to cure him of his antisocial tendencies. The sequence in the institution is the only point where Spencer-Jones attempts anything

like a discernible narrative, and so the piece, which is largely characterized by dramatic movement, stops dead in its tracks. The stylistic inconsistency is frustrating, to say the least. When one is finally able to piece together some of the story, it seems that the tale is in the vein of the “angry young men” of post-World War II Britain. It has echoes of John Osborne and a level of absurdity that prefigures Joe Orton. However, Spencer-Jones has negated any cultural context or character development, which would have been a great deal more engaging. The whole evening feels like an exercise, more a self-conscious graduate school project than professional theater. The company, though uniformly handsome with skilled physicality, unfortunately offers little in the way of acting. There is a lot of hollering. Jonno Davies as Alex, whom this production is “introducing,” is not well-served by the director who keep his performance presentational. One needs to have some level of empathy for Alex to give the piece any emotional impact, but it’s not there. Perhaps if one knows the original material, this is a more compelling

CLOCKWORK, continued on p.37

October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


CLOCKWORK, from p.36

AS YOU LIKE IT

interpretation. Like ballet based on Shakespeare, the abstraction of the artform can enhance and illuminate the original. That’s not the case with “A Clockwork Orange,” and the result is a pulpy mess. Speaking of Shakespeare, his plays enjoy remarkabe durability, usually no matter what people do to them. The timeless stories, beautiful language, and unforgettable characters have, over the centuries, survived any number of cuttings and concepts and gone on unscathed. Such is the case with John Doyle’s new mounting of “As You Like It” at CSC. Cut down to a brisk 105 minutes and with songs by Stephen Schwartz, the play is the thing that will keep you entertained. The production, not so much. Schwartz’s songs are pastiche Rodgers and Hart ditties meant to convey the 1930s, one thinks, and they’re charming enough. The staging in a largely open space labors to make sure people on each of the three sides can see enough. The actors play instruments, which is a Doyle trademark

GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

Classic Stage Company 136 E. 16th St. Through Oct. 22 Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 3 p.m. $61-$126; ovationtix.com Or 866-811-4111 One hr., 45 mins., no intermission RICHARD TERMINE

Bob Stillman and Ellen Burstyn in the Classic Stage Company production of “As You Like It,” directed by John Doyle.

but one that is starting to wear out its welcome. The cutting takes away a lot of the lyricism of the play in favor of being expeditious, and that’s too bad. The entire opening is rocketed through, and the actors seem to be consciously working against what is actually left of the poetry. It makes the first third fairly dull. The goal seems to be to lay out the plot as fast as possible — banish Rosalind, daughter of the Duke usurped by his brother; chase out Orlando, the young man who has fallen for Rosalind, who in turn secretly loves him; and get everyone as quickly as possible to the

forest of Arden so the fun can begin. Fortunately, it does. Rosalind is now the boy Ganymede. She teaches Orlando how to be a lover. Rosalind falls in with her father’s cohort in the forest, including the melancholy Jacques, and mistaken identities and love ensue among the country folk, all tied up cutely in a quadruple wedding. There’s a dance, and it’s done. The charm of this production rests mainly in the company. Hannah Cabell is excellent as Rosalind/ Ganymede. She plays the boy well, and her comic timing is spot on, as is that of Quincy Tyler Bernstine as

Celia. André de Shields is fun as Touchstone, and Bob Stillman plays both Dukes (and the piano) very well. Ellen Burstyn as Jacques is on stage most of the play, and it seems as if she’s telling the story, but one can’t really be sure. She wanders around a lot. Jacques has the most famous speech in the play, usually known as “The Seven Ages of Man,” but it barely registers. Still, at the end, under a group of multi-colored, acorn shaped lights, one can’t help but be charmed by the happy ending and the circuitous route it took to get there. In the end, the play just works, no matter what they did to it. That’s Shakespeare for you.

37


DANCE

Normalizing Male Vulnerability Joshua Beamish’s romantic gay view of the world BY DAVID NOH audade” is the title of the newest dance piece by 30-year-old Canadian Joshua Beamish. “It’s a Portuguese word,” the handsome choreographer, director, and dancer told Gay City News at the Hudson Diner, “that has no direct English translated equivalent. The closest I can come to is that it’s a feeling that is intangible, a longing or yearning that is not attached to any particular state or time, and can refer to the past, present, and future. It’s a feeling that someone or something is missing. “This work is an ensemble piece, with six male dancers. I had predominantly been working with ballerinas and I wanted to work with men so I could have a direct representation of what I can make on my own body. Although I never intended it this way, what emerged was something very autobiographical with the six men all representing either myself or ones I have dated and the relationships we had and what they became. Because for the last seven years, I have had all of these relationships that never quite became a boyfriend situation, which makes them all the more difficult to get over because they were never actualized. “So you live in a constant state of possibility because you never had any closure as they never really existed. I feel that gay men all go through something like this because from a very early age we are supposed to think that we will be with women but then you realize from an early age that that’s not who you are. So you are ready for a funeral for that version of your life. And these relationships which follow always hover around every new connection you make in your life. “I danced in this when we did it in Toronto and here last year only because of other dancers’ scheduling issues, but I prefer not to. I get too stressed out if someone makes a mistake. It pulls me out of my performance, for which I never have enough rehearsal time,

“S

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GERARDO VIZMANOS

Joshua Beamish’s newest dance piece “Saudade.”

anyway. I have to stay outside the dance for the longest time I can to be able to direct it, and that ends up compromising my ability to perform. I’m a director and choreographer who likes performing. But I’m not driven and don’t live for it.” “Saudade” has no set and many of its visual effects are achieved through lighting. The dancers wear a version of everyday street clothes and are, at times, shirtless. “I do this at various times, to express a degree of vulnerability, exposing or sexualizing them in a definitive way. I wanted to make a piece that would hopefully transcend to a more universal audience, that doesn’t overtly sexualize people because that’s what we do to each other. I know I want to be valued for something more.” It soon became obvious that Beamish is a true romantic and rather frustrated by the fact that, although we have gained acceptance from society and accessibility to guys is only an Internet click away, gay men are still too obsessed with surface beauty and physicality, and terrified to go deeper. “Things have become more

transactional, but there’s something missing from my generation. Before, when gay men were coming out, they needed each other because they were often exiled from families. Your friends became your family and men had to be compassionate and value one another. “Now there’s no need for that so we don’t need each other anymore. It’s fascinating to me that although we can have it all and are now socially acceptable, even men who want relationships are so afraid of them. That’s been true of every guy I’ve dated. I’m not afraid of it, but I’m also a creator in a constant state of self-reflection. When I meet someone I wonder, ‘Is this going to be my next boyfriend, which would demand a whole change of life for me?’ I’m never in the same place for more than three days which means I would have to block off dedicated time to stay wherever they are, which also requires that other person not panicking that I want to spend more time with them.” The “weird” behaviors Beamish talked about encountering while dating night seem extreme but are

really not that uncommon in this tech-soaked, confusing age. “This guy I was seeing for most of last year could not relate to me in a normal way, like two men in person — it was usually text messaging or Grindr. We would literally be standing there, talking, when he’d suddenly drop out and walk away, no ‘see you later’ or awareness whatsoever. “That was the weirdest thing for me to deal with because the electricity between us was palpable but the only way he could process the intensity was to walk away. My intention through my work is normalizing male vulnerability — which is sort of a foreign concept in our world — also gay sensitivity and compassion for one another in a romantic sense. There are all these mainstream caricatures where we are either hypersexualized or asexual, which I also think is our own fault for perpetuating some of those ourselves.” Although Beamish’s mother was a dance teacher, it was far from easy for him to come out to her.

JOSHUA BEAMISH, continued on p.39

October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc










 



 

 

ä&#x2030;´

JOSHUA BEAMISH, from p.38

â&#x20AC;&#x153;My momâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s really not okay with it. I think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that thing there of being okay with homosexuality as long as itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not right in front of you. She had gay friends but they were all the way over there. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gotten a lot better and makes an effort to ask if Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m seeing anyone. She wants to be accepting, but she was raised in a different way and this is not how her life was supposed to go without a daughter-in-law and those grandchildren. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not interested in that, at all. I knew ever since I was very young and sneaking into the locker room to stare at naked men and inviting my male friend to come over and play house with him as my wife. That was the director side of me! I did my first dance piece when I was 18, about a gay relationship, and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s how it started the conversation with my mom, when she saw it. All I wanted to do in my small town was get good grades, learn to dance, and get out. I was socially isolated after age 11. Before that I was the most popular boy in my school. After that, my only friends were girls. The guys shunned me because I danced, and I was never interested in any of them. I was more attracted to older men, like my teachers. â&#x20AC;&#x153;My father split when I was nine, and when I was 11, I asked not to see him any more. He was very Christian â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the music on the radio â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and the only gifts he gave me GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 25, 2017

JOSHUA BEAMISH â&#x20AC;&#x153;Saudadeâ&#x20AC;? BAM Fisher 321 Ashland Pl. btwn. Lafayette Ave. & Hanson Pl. Oct. 11-14 at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at 3 p.m. $25; bam.org

were Bibles. Once I was watching this PG-13 movie, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Angel Eyesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; with Jennifer Lopez, with a love scene on the beach, and he became so infuriated he threw the DVD cover across the room, left, and didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t come back for two days. â&#x20AC;&#x153;He became a missionary in Africa, came back, and I never see him now. Things have happened in my life, though, and people have showed up that made me feel it would be okay. I do believe in an awareness of the universe and connectedness but I choose not to think about that a lot, just try to stay open. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t believe in Christianity. I think organized religion disrupts a lot of Christianity, especially the fundamentalists in America: the outcry over two men in love becomes more important than love itself. How does that make sense? I think Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m a good person. If thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s any kind of religion that preaches that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m wrong then it must be wrong. I realized all this from childhood and just took whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s valuable from religion and ignored everything else.â&#x20AC;?

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directed by

LISA LAMPANELLI

JACKSON GAY

featuring

MARSHA STEPHANIE BLAKE

NIKKI BLONSKY

EDEN MALYN

(Orange Is The New Black)

(Hairspray - New Line Cinema)

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additional material by ASHLEY AUSTIN MORRIS

Photos by Jeremy Daniel

ALEX BRINSON

Choreographer, director, and dancer Joshua Beamish.

Telecharge.com â&#x20AC;˘ 212-239-6200 â&#x20AC;˘ Westside Theatre 407 W. 43rd St., NYC

StuffedPlay.com 39


CABARET

I’ll Sing ‘Em All and We’ll Stay All Night Linda Glick takes us down New York cabaret’s Memory Lane BY TRAV S.D. his month and next, cabaret fans will have a rare chance to catch up with a New York cabaret star of the 1970s and ‘80s, Linda Glick, when she plays Pangea with her new show “Teach Me Tonight.” Back in the day, Glick was a mainstay of such venues as Les Mouches, the Duplex, Triad, Reno Sweeney’s, Judy’s, and many others, when she wasn’t playing the big rooms like the Rainbow Grill or touring internationally. Her fan base was and is largely gay; she sang in bathhouses, too, and she’s been a headliner at several national Pride gatherings in Washington. She’s also shared bills and stages with Harvey Fierstein, Sid Caesar, Shecky Greene, and Rita Rudner, understudied for Eartha Kitt, and workshopped a show with Kander and Ebb. In her heyday, her appearances got mentions and plugs in Variety, Page Six, and Earl Wilson’s syndicated column. Born and raised in Forest Hills, Glick initially taught French and Spanish in city public middle schools, performing in cabarets at night. Because she was proficient at singing in foreign languages, she was hired as a replacement for Rita Dmitri at La Chansonsette supper club. Two European agents saw her perform there and she was immediately booked on an international tour, launching her career. She’s sung everywhere from Thailand to the Catskills, but she claims, “I don’t like any other type of venue as much as I like New York cabarets.” Glick recently took me on a trip down Memory Lane to some of her old haunts to talk about the cabaret scene in days gone by and how things have changed. Along the way, she shared anecdotes about many adventures from her long career.

LINDA GLICK

T

Reno Sweeney’s (126 West 13th Street, now a pasta restaurant called Gradisca): “A lot of big names played here: Diane Keaton, Manhattan Transfer, Cybill Shep-

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“Teach Me Tonight” Pangea 178 Second Ave. at E. 11th St. Oct. 18 & 25; Nov. 1 & 10 at 7:30 p.m. $20 at pangeanyc.com; $25, cash only, at door $20 food & drink minimum

ANTHONY GRASSO

Linda Glick, who appears for four evenings at Pangea, recalls New York’s cabaret scene back in the day.

herd, Holly Woodlawn, Barbara Cook, Janis Ian, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and Peter Allen, whom I later opened for at a club called Waaay Off-Broadway in Washington, DC. Reno Sweeney’s was wonderful. They made a point of always displaying these beautiful flower arrangements. It was run very professionally by a man named Lewis Friedman, a great manager. This was the first place I ever worked with my own string section. And this is where we premiered a song I cowrote called “Weekend Lady.” One time I’d forgotten my costume, I left it in the cab, and my girlfriend came to the show so we literally switched clothes so I could perform. And then at the last possible second, the cab driver burst into the club with my costume. I remember the man’s name to this day. He was a hero.” The VIP Room (120 Madison Avenue at 30th Street): “The house band was a bunch of Greek guys. I sang there three to four times a week, for several weeks. Because I sang in several different languages, one time an important patron requested I sing a song in Russian. I had heard that there were some guys doing a Russian version of “Those Were the Days” down

at one of the Ukrainian places on Second Avenue, so I sent someone there for the sheet music. I stuck the music into a book, and invented some patter and put on a shawl and sang the song from the book. The owner wanted me to ditch the book, but I said, ‘No, this has all been carefully rehearsed. I need my props!’ Then, when I did my encore on that show, a medley of Édith Piaf songs, the audience actually threw money. I gathered it all up and split it five ways with the band.” Les Mouches (559 West 26th Street): “You got upstairs in an elevator, and it was a whole complex with dining rooms, a cabaret, and a dance space with mirrored disco ball. My director was Bill Hennessy, he had been Bette Midler’s hair stylist and mentor. He was the one who gave her the funny onstage walk that she does. It was a festive, free place, with a gay clientele. I sang a song called ‘Knights in Black Leather,’ and threw ball gags and other sex toys out to the audience.” The Bushes of Central Park West (158 West 73rd Street): “This location had previously been a spot called the Pearl. The Bushes was where I got my first shot at developing a following, I played these Sunday night shows and napped in the boiler room between sets. The crowd here was mostly gay, too.” Danny’s Skylight Room (346 West 46th Street, now a New Orleans-themed restaurant called Bourbon Street): “This place was run by Danny Apolinar, a songwriter who sang and played piano.

Danny was responsible for getting me a gig at the Central Plaza Hotel in Bangkok.” Bike Stop West (230 West 75th Street): “The manager was a man known as the Emerald Queen. This venue was very small. I actually performed on the bar and the audience spilled out onto the sidewalk.” Gypsy’s (1065 First Avenue at East 58th Street, now Fusha Asian Cuisine): “It was packed to the rafters when I performed there. Gypsy was the emcee, but the owner was [Hollywood dancer and impresario] Ted Hook. There was so much freedom then. I wore this cocoacolored gown with black feathers as breastplates. Marilyn Sokol showed up wearing a boa made of rubber chickens.” Many another name came up during Glick’s reminiscences: Brothers and Sisters, Grand Finale, Steve McGraw’s (which is now the Triad), Eighty Eights (now a restaurant called L’Artusi), Trude Heller’s (now Lenwich, Greenwich Village), Tramps (now an Irish bar called Shades of Green), and of course the legendary Duplex, which is one of the few places from the old days that is still going. As to why the landscape in New York changed so much over the past few decades, Glick speculated, “You can’t make a living in cabaret now. There got to be fewer and fewer rooms and different types of venues. The rents got higher, the economics changed, and AIDS hit the gay community hard.” As that happened, Glick transitioned into acting in theater, film, and television. Notable credits include stints as Mrs. Brice in two touring productions of “Funny Girl,” the role of Nancy Pelosi in the HBO movie “Too Big to Fail” about the 2008 financial meltdown, and several shows at 54 Below in 2015. But, she said, “I really love the atmosphere at Pangea, it reminds me of the classy old supper clubs from the old days. I can’t wait to perform there.” October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


/E/@2A & >`SaS\bSRPg

CALL FOR NOMINATIONS At a gala at the Grand Prospect Hall on Thursday, April 12, 2018, Gay City News will present its third annual Impact Awards recognizing the achievements and contributions of outstanding LGBTQ and allied New Yorkers. These individuals will represent the best in a diversity of ďŹ elds, from advocacy, public service, and business to media, the arts, and literature, with a demonstrated commitment to enhancing the rights, cultural opportunities, health, and well-being of the LGBTQ community, while supporting the principle that America and the world are best served when the dignity and access to opportunity for all are respected and nurtured.

If you wish to nominate an LGBTQ or allied New Yorker who reďŹ&#x201A;ects these values and contributions in their life and work, please ďŹ ll out the attached form and mail it to the address below, before November 15 or NOMINATE ONLINE WWW.GAYCITYNEWS.NYC/NOMINATION2018.

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Please include a copy of your nomineeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bio and/ or rĂŠsumĂŠ, if available. MAIL TO: Gay City News, 2018 Impact Award Nominations, Attn: Paul Schindler, One Metrotech Center North, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 25, 2017

41


Alessandrini’s Celebrates Song; Fraser’s Dives Deep Premiere theatrical satirist, esteemed character actress chew the fat

CAROL ROSEGG

Justin Keyes and Michael Maliakel in “Anything Can Happen in the Theater: The Songs of Maury Yeston,” at the Triad through October 21.

BY DAVID NOH ’ve been wanting to do a Maury Yeston for many years,” the ultra-genial theatrical eminence Gerard Alessandrini (“Forbidden Broadway,” “Spamalot”) said to me at the Galaxy Diner, just around the corner from the theater where he was in rehearsals for “Anything Can Happen in the Theater: The Songs of Maury Yeston.” “Maury’s always writing songs,” Alessandrini continued. “He has hundreds of them, many of them unheard and unused in shows, along with those from ‘Nine,’ ‘Titanic,’ and ‘Grand Hotel.’ I first met him at the BMI workshop for musical theater when he had taken over as director after Lehman Engel died, and I also worked with him on his Biblical musical, originally called ‘One Two Three Four Five.’ “I said to him, ‘You should do a revue of your songs and introduce them. He said, ‘I don’t want to do that hosting, but I really want to feature all of these songs that have never been heard before.’ We worked on it for about two years, configuring all the material and now we’re up and running. ‘Let’s do it at The Triad,’ I told him, ‘a lovely place, we don’t have to go out of town — we’ll do it as a ‘Cocktails with Maury,’ thing,” so it’s one of those nice revues that you see at 7 p.m. in the club with a drink in

“I

42

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN THE THEATER: THE SONGS OF MAURY YESTON Triad 158 W. 72nd St. Oct. 12 at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 13, 17, 18, 20 & 21 at 7 p.m. $40-$80; triadnyc.com Or 212-279-4200

your hand. I knew the place from doing ‘Spamilton’ [Alessandrini’s hilarious spoof of you know what], and way before that when I did ‘Forbidden Broadway’ there, when it was known as Palsson’s.” The night I caught “Spamilton” was the debut night of its new replacement female lead, Nicole Vanessa Ortiz, about whom Alessandrini said, “What a voice, and now she’s really gotten into it, so beautiful and nice, only 23. She’s never missed a performance and is celebrating her 200th performance, then finally taking a vacation in November. But all my cast has been exceptional, rarely missing a performance during this long run. I’ve been really blessed, and for Maury’s show we have Robert Cuccioli, Jill Pace, who was ‘The Woman in White’ and played Scarlett O’Hara in the musical of ‘Gone

MARIA BARANOVA

Alison Fraser in Aaron Mark’s “Squeamish,” at the Beckett through November 11.

with the Wind’ about five years ago. Alex Getlin is really a find, with an unusual voice that makes you go ‘Wow!’ She’s definitely got a belt but she’s also like a Nancy LaMott or even Garland. Nobody sings like that these days. Also, Justin Keyes and Michael Maliakel, both wonderful.” The revue will include something from “Goya,” the musical Yeston wrote for Placido Domingo. “A recording was made of it, but it was never produced as Domingo couldn’t commit to it for more than five months due to other commitments. Yeston is very much a musical theater writer, in the best sense of the word. His songs propel the action, keep you interested and informed, and are dramatic. He knows how to do that, and also writes with irony. Pop music doesn’t have to do all that, and Yeston really cares about character development and can write a lyric like a character would sing it. “It was actually rather difficult to put this together because the songs are very character-specific. For instance, one of his masterpieces is the opening number from ‘Titanic,’ with everyone boarding the ship, but you can’t do that in a revue, like certain songs from ‘Grand Hotel.’ Our task was to be able to isolate certain songs and bring them forward. “What I like most is the fact that half of it is all new songs, some he

SQUEAMISH Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row 410 W. 42nd St. Through Nov. 11 Mon.-Tue. at 7 p.m. Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. $52.25; theatrerow.org/beckettnowplaying

wrote for this and some he wrote before. Before its final Jerry Herman incarnation, Yeston wrote for a version of ‘La Cage aux Folles’ which Mike Nichols and Tommy Tune wanted relocated to New Orleans, called ‘The Queen of Basin Street.’ But that never came to pass as the owners of the rights to the show wanted it to remain in St. Tropez.” Surprisingly, Mr. Musical came late to the form, having an Italian family more obsessed with opera, “so by the age of four I already completely knew ‘Aida,’ ‘Carmen,’ and ‘La Traviata.’ But by the first grade, my parents were worried because I was playing the record of ‘Die Fledermaus’ constantly. They enlisted the aid of nuns at my school who told me that, as it was Lent, I should give up that record as penance. But then they felt so bad about doing that to me, they offered me an album of “Hansel and

ALESSANDRINI, continued on p.43

October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


ALESSANDRINI, from p.42

Gretel.” That didn’t do it for me, too Germanic, but then they gave me ‘The Merry Widow’ and I became as obsessed with that as ‘Fledermaus’ for three years. And then in fourth grade I went to play at my cousin’s house and she wasn’t there, so my aunt — who wanted to talk with my mother — said, ‘Gerard, I just saw the most wonderful show in New York!’ She sat me down and got me this record, and it was just wonderful, with the paperback of the lyrics I could follow along to. “It was ‘My Fair Lady,’ and it sounded just like ‘The Merry Widow’ at the beginning, the songs were so melodic and you know composer Frederick Loewe’s father was the original tenor in ‘Widow.’ Those lyrics were really funny, and I thought, ‘I can do that — write funny words to great melodies.’ Then the movie came out, followed by ‘The Sound of Music,’ ‘Mary Poppins,’ etc., and I became obsessed with them. “We lived outside Boston, and the first Broadway show I saw was ‘Follies,’ during tryouts there, so no wonder I then became really obsessed. I didn’t know any better and when someone said, ‘Oh, there’s Stephen Sondheim over there,’ I went over and talked to him. He was very nice and I kept going back to the show every week. One night, Yvonne De Carlo skipped the song ‘Can That Boy Foxtrot,’ which had brought the house down. “I asked Sondheim about it, and he said that since she was an important movie actress, he thought he had better write one important song for her. That’s what a great theater man does, no matter how good something is, he will throw it out to make the show better. Maury is the same.” I mentioned how I thought the highlight of the movie version of Yeston’s “Nine” was Kate Hudson’s sizzlingly sexy “Cinema Italiano.” “I liked that song, too, and wanted to include it, but Maury didn’t want to use it. I think it was originally composed for just the credit crawl at the end of the movie, but somehow it got changed into a stand-alone number for Kate, and she was great in it. He’s also working on a musical version of the film ‘The Lady Eve,’ and I believe Jane Krakowski did a reading of it. The GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

songs are really funny, and the book was written by Tom Meehan who just died this summer, so that was his last rewrite.” Although raised Catholic in an Italian family in the repressed 1950s, Alessandrini never really had a problem being gay. “I never really came out, never had to, my parents just loved and accepted me. I guess it wasn’t hard for people to figure it out. I don’t remember ever hiding it in any way, but I didn’t flaunt it. When you’re in the theater, it’s different. “I’ve had three major relationships, and I was always welcome to bring them home to meet the family. I guess when I was in my early 20s, with the first success of ‘Forbidden Broadway,’ I was so driven — writing and performing and producing — I didn’t have a lot of sex and, also by the time I got to New York, AIDS was an issue, so I wasn’t having sex because of fear, too. I started dating more in my 40s, and am now in a happy relationship with Glenn Bassett. He was very helpful to me on shows, and now is playing King George in ‘Spamilton.’ He’s 19 years younger than me, takes good care of me, is really cute, and caring, and I love him more each day.” Though Vivien Leigh’s Blanche DuBois was the finest performance on film, that role took an immense mental as well as physical toll on her, literally driving her off the deep end, so complete was her identification with that neurotic Southern belle, exacerbated by the actress’ own history of mania, not to mention tuberculosis. Although I firmly believe Alison Fraser is as tough a lady as she is a fine actress, I confess to becoming a little concerned when she described her latest role in “Squeamish,” the solo work Aaron Mark wrote for her. Adorably petite and chic in a classic black cocktail dress, she slid into a booth at Theater Row Diner, and told me, in her cherishably husky voice, “Aaron is insanely talented and this is the latest in his psychological horror solo play series, which have included ‘Another Medea’ with the great Tom Hewitt as a gay Medea, and ‘Empanada Loca,’ with Daphne RubinVega, that was spectacular. Here,

FRASER, continued on p.49

BRINGING MANHATTAN to BROOKLYN 943 Coney Island Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11230 646.494.7227 | AtlasSteak.com 43


BOOKS

Andrew Evans, The Digital Nomad From a shy Mormon upbringing to a life well lived around the globe BY MICHAEL LUONGO ndrew Evans is an author, travel writer, and TV host, working in a variety of media. One of his nicknames is the Digital Nomad, especially for his work for National Geographic, reporting live from all seven continents and more than 100 countries. He has broadcast from kayak, camelback, and helicopter, from atop arctic glaciers, from the jungle, from the middle of the ocean, and from inside King Tut’s tomb. He was the first person ever to live-tweet his ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro and gained a worldwide following when he made his overland journey from National Geographic headquarters all the way to Antarctica, using public transportation. Evans holds degrees in Geography and Russian Foreign Policy from Oxford University, and when he is not traveling, he lives in Washington, DC. His website is AndrewEvans.org Evans has written for National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, BBC Travel, Outside, Smithsonian, Readers Digest, the Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, and the Times of London. He is also the author of five books, including two bestselling guidebooks, and the travel memoir “The Black Penguin,” recently published by the University of Wisconsin Press. The book details his early life growing up Mormon, coming to terms with being gay in a conservative environment, and his ultimate exploration of much of the world. Gay City News recently chatted with Evans about his book and his adventurous life.

A

MICHAEL LUONGO: What is the meaning of “The Black Penguin?” Is it another way of saying the black sheep, or about something elusive and rare, like a black swan? ANDREW EVANS: I don’t ascribe any particular meaning to the black penguin. It’s an apt description for the extremely rare bird that I spotted in Antarctica right at the end of my journey. It

44

UNIVERSIT Y OF WISCONSIN PRESS

Travel writer and digital nomad Andrew Evans.

THE BLACK PENGUIN By Andrew Evans University of Wisconsin Press $24.95; 304 pages

UNIVERSIT Y OF WISCONSIN PRESS

became the title of my book for several reasons — symbolically, yes, perhaps, but also the kind of rare prize that I discovered at the end of the road. ML: What was it like for you growing up gay and Mormon in Ohio? AE: Difficult and painful, because despite having a very loving and close-knit family, I was well aware that our religion was in direct conflict with who I was as a person. It meant that for years, I lived in secret, knowing that at some point I would reach a monumental impasse. Honestly though, the homophobia and bullying I experienced at my school in small

town Ohio was so much worse. I like to think that things have improved for kids in schools today, but based on what I read in the news, bullying and homophobia are still a huge problem. ML: When did you first realize as a child that there was a whole world out there? AE: I always knew it. When I was 15, I convinced my parents to go somewhere foreign, meaning to Montreal. I had never smelled a fresh-baked croissant until that moment, in Canada, when I realized that the whole world was full of exciting, exotic things I knew nothing about. That’s when I knew National Geographic was not a lie.

ML: How did you wind up becoming the National Geographic Digital Nomad? AE: I was the first writer at National Geographic ever to be assigned a live, interactive social media-based feature. At the time, the entire Internet fit under the category of Special Projects and so nobody paid much attention to what we were doing. My trip to Antarctica garnered a mass following, though, and after that, my editor Keith Bellows called me Digital Nomad. That became my official title and my full-time job for about four years. Sadly, after a while, the position became a euphemism for sponsored content, so I moved on. Now I’m just a writer, or contributor, and am very grateful and honored to work for National Geographic all around the world. ML: What was Brigham Young like as a gay student — was there a sense of gay life among friends? AE: Terrifying, because we had to remain closeted and we were always so scared of being discov-

ANDREW EVANS, continued on p.45

October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


ä&#x2030;´

ANDREW EVANS, from p.44

ered, outed, or turned into the administration. Based on my own experience, I would say that BYU offers the least healthy environment for LGBT college students in America today. The only gay life we did have was kept secret and underground, and I witnessed several friends be expelled after they were outed. I was forced to undergo socalled â&#x20AC;&#x153;reparative therapyâ&#x20AC;? in order to stay at the university and was spied on by the administration for the duration of my education. ML: What is the relationship between travel and exploring oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sexuality, or growing comfortable with it? AE:I think they are parallel paths that play off one another. So many of the gay men I know only truly came out of the closet when they had traveled and lived far away from home, to a place so foreign they could be anonymous. This is the whole plot of Christopher Isherwoodâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Berlin Storiesâ&#x20AC;? as well as so much gay literature â&#x20AC;&#x201D; we canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t really be ourselves at home so we leave home and let loose with all of our personality and sexuality. Home represents the confines of society and life expectations, meaning oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sexuality can be very defined before itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ever been experienced. Travel drops us into settings where nobody has any expectation from us, and where the definitions of home donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t always apply. ML: Why Antarctica by bus? Sounds crazy! AE: Perhaps I am crazy but, honestly, I was so desperate to get to Antarctica, I was ready to try anything. I had failed at get-

²5IFNFEJB TIPVMELFFQJUT NPVUITIVU³ °4UFWF #BOOPO

ting jobs there, joining trips and expeditions. I got so depressed about it, I kept studying the map. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s when I realized that I was focused too much on the destination, rather than the journey. And on the map, I saw road systems that stretched all the way from my house all the way to the bottom of South America, which was most of the way. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s how I got the idea to take public transportation and live-tweet my journey from beginning to end. ML: Travel and travel journalism sounds glamorous, but what would be surprising to many people about it? AE: Travel is exhausting, and it can also be very depressing, lonely, difficult, stressful, and downright deadly. I think travel journalism depicts the world at the highest moment â&#x20AC;&#x201D; by the pool with a cocktail or smiling joyfully next to some World Heritage Site. What they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t show is getting stuck at Newark Liberty for 17 hours, or the projectile vomiting that follows parasitic infection. I think everybody dreams of being a travel journalist, but those of us who actually do it spend a lot of time complaining about how nobody knows how difficult and thankless it can be. ML: What is your favorite part of the book â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Black Penguin?â&#x20AC;? AE: Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tough. Some of my favorite parts got cut in the final edit. I think I always love re-reading the scenes from my childhood because writing this book really helped me understand myself better. I also love remembering how crazy my trip got in Bolivia, so the Bolivia chapters for sure.

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45


OPERA

“Norma” Rises from the Ashes McVicar’s stirring production stars Radvanovsky, Calleja, DiDonato BY ELI JACOBSON incenzo Bellini’s “Norma” is considered the summit of bel canto, a masterpiece that inspired Wagner and Schopenhauer. Felice Romani’s libretto and Bellini’s music elevate the character of Norma to profound tragedy, the Medea-like druid priestess’ vengeful fury transformed into sublime self-sacrifice in the opera’s finale. Too often, however, hacks are put in charge of the direction and conducting. Bellini’s “Norma” brings out the worst in stage directors. The opera’s Romantic era vision of ancient Gaul usually results in tacky kitsch — pâpier-maché rocks, serried rows of druid choristers in fake beards and baggy robes, and a routinier beating time in the pit. (Lately, though, directors have been getting more creative as in the recent Salzburg production that reset the story in World War II occupied France.) The Metropolitan Opera opened its 2017-2018 season with a stirring new production of Bellini’s “Norma” starring Sondra Radvanovsky (replacing the originally scheduled Anna Netrebko). Sir David McVicar’s production takes the story seriously while retaining the original locations and time period in Romani’s libretto. McVicar humanized the characters, giving them specific and surprising individualized stage business that steered clear of “park and bark.” In the duet “In mia man alfin tu sei,” Norma threatens the life of Adalgisa if the captured Pollione does not renounce her, but Pollione defies Norma. At the duet’s close, Sondra Radvanovsky and Joseph Calleja as the sparring ex-partners stood together closely but each faced in the opposite direction. These former lovers were in direct opposition yet inextricably bound together. McVicar employed his usual cadre of musclebound male extras portraying druid warriors, emphasizing the story’s wartime setting, and he stressed personal drama over political or religious commentary. We were in ancient Gaul, but this was a real place with real people. Robert Jones’ stark scenery and Moritz Junge’s goth costumes evoked “Game of Thrones” with fog-bound forests and barbarian-chic costumes with hip contemporary details. The sets and costumes emphasize tones of black and gray with bright blue and red accents. Jones’ set design wisely utilized the Met’s stage elevator, resulting in seamless scene changes with no stage waits. Norma’s woven hut dwelling with its domed ceiling was full of practical domestic objects. Paule Constable’s lighting emphasized striking chiaroscuro effects, but did every scene have to take place late at night? Couldn’t Act I and II begin at dusk and end at night? Of course, “Norma” is a singer’s opera — no

V

46

KEN HOWARD/ METROPOLITAN OPERA

Sondra Radvanovsky and Joseph Calleja Sir David McVicar’s Met Opera production of Vincenzo Bellini’s “Norma.”

matter how good the production is, the evening’s success depends on a virtuoso trio of leading singers. The singers the Metropolitan Opera provided were less than perfectly cast and vocally uneven. Yet the performance as a whole was greater than the sum of their individual vocal merits and flaws. The choral and orchestral forces were in strong form. Carlo Rizzi’s conducting had admirable energy, control, and forward momentum, but lacked a spiritual quality. The Met utilized the autograph score opening cuts in the “Ah, Rimembranza!” duet and the “Oh, non tremare, o perfido!” trio that Richard Bonynge also restored in his first “Norma” recording with Sutherland and Horne. Elsewhere, arbitrary cuts were made seemingly to spare the singers rather than for musicological reasons (such as with the second half of Pollione’s “Mi protegge, mi difende” cabaletta). Matthew Rose’s rough-hewn Oroveso was more barbaric warrior chieftain than noble high priest in costume and vocal manner. Michelle Bradley’s Clotilde was sung with a strikingly rich timbre and seemed to have more at stake in the story than usual. Calleja, usually heard in more lyrical tenor roles, was an unorthodox sounding Pollione. The low declamatory phrases in “Meco all’altar di Venere” pushed the Maltese tenor’s delicate vibrato into a full-scale bleat, and the attempted high C was weak and covered. The Act I duet with Adalgisa allowed the honey to flow back into Calleja’s tone and he delivered some shapely, stylish phrasing. He shed his stiff manner in his final confrontation with Norma in Act II, singing and acting with honesty and power. Unlike Radvanovsky or Calleja, Joyce DiDonato is a natural stage animal. Her Adalgisa

benefited the most from McVicar’s direction. Adalgisa appears onstage assisting Norma in the ritual during “Casta Diva” (as a novice priestess she has to be there). DiDonato under McVicar’s guidance projected an intensely personal conception of the character: a vulnerable, impressionable young woman torn between two powerful personalities locked in deadly personal conflict. Her slender silvery mezzo sounded more youthful than Radvanovsky’s darker, hooded soprano, which is dramatically apposite. But Adalgisa was composed as a soprano role and DiDonato’s top was stretched beyond its limit too often, turning quavery and whitetoned. In the fast section “Ah! Sì, fa core e abbracciami” of the Norma/ Adalgisa Act I extended duet, she rewrote the vocal line to duck a high C that Norma had sung measures before in the identical phrase. DiDonato’s rhythmically precise coloratura and intensely expressive diction highlighted deficiencies in those respects in Radvanovsky’s Norma. Radvanovsky returned to the role she sang in the previous (kitschy, ugly) John Copley production in 2013 and has performed around the world many times since. On October 3, Radvanovsky sang with technical resourcefulness confronting all the difficulties the score throws at her. Radvanovsky displayed many of the same strengths (wide vocal range, steely power, fearless attack) and too many of the same weaknesses (lack of tonal beauty in lyrical legato phrases, mushy Italian diction, and uneven vibrato) as in her previous assumption. There was a loss of control in fast coloratura sections (“Ah! bello a me ritorna”), and her disembodied pianissimos were sung off the breath, turning tremulous and pitchy. As in 2013, Radvanovsky stressed the suffering, betrayed woman in Norma over the hellhath-no-fury Medea-like priestess — I never feared for her two little boys or Adalgisa or Pollione in Act II. However, her rather ordinary, unhappy, abandoned woman actually suits McVicar’s humanized conception extremely well. My biggest reservation was about her projection of text — when the music gets hard and intense (which it constantly does in “Norma”) — Radvanovsky stresses tone over text, which will recede into the musical line. Phrases like Norma’s searing “Nel suo cor ti vo’ ferire!” (“I’ll strike at your heart through hers...”), which Callas snarls like a tigress in various recordings from the 1950s, was sung matter of factly by Radvanovsky. In the final scene depicting Norma’s self-sacrifice with Pollione joining her in death, Radvanovsky and Calleja rose above their dramatic limitations and vocal miscasting. The fire of Bellini’s — and Romani’s — genius glowed bright. October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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October 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


FRASER, from p.43

I play a therapist who is looking for true balance and it’s all about how she finds it. She is addicted to painkillers and was an alcoholic and, as we know, there’s a disproportionate amount of suicides among therapists. “I tend to go for the seedy underbelly of any character I do, and with Aaron that is right out there on the surface to begin with [laughs]. He sees a darkness in me, which no one else does, and channels it into these plays he’s written for me, as a kind of muse to him. So what I have to do is very much normalize this woman and make her be able to function in the world. “All I do is work on this role, which is 45 pages long, a monologue, which I am learning by having it printed out as if it were music I’m learning. It’s the only way — I’ve not even had a drink in two months because for this I need every possible brain cell at my fingertips just to memorize it, as I want to get every single word right, and am so honored that he wrote this for me. “I’ve lost 10 pounds, and the only other thing I do is watch CNN and CNBC, which only makes me crazier. I spend 16 hours a day on this play and am like a nun. After the election, I went into a severe depression and couldn’t get out of bed. I started seeing a therapist, who told me that people are everywhere are being affected by this in the same way, especially in New York. “The other night I went to see ‘Hello Dolly!’ with my dear friend Donna Murphy, who is fabulous. But the show is so happy, so pastel, that I was sitting there like a nun, going, ‘What is this strange world? Why are the lights so bright and the audience so happy?’ There’s a line in my play, ‘Maybe I am some alien creature who is not fundamentally equipped to deal with this world.’ ‘Dolly’ is a brilliant show, the happiest show on Broadway, but I am not of that world anymore, not anymore.” That certain “seedy underbelly” stood Fraser in good stead when she delivered the greatest, funniest, and most tragic Tessie Tura I’ve ever seen in the Patti LuPone production of “Gypsy.” “Did you hear Patti gave me a shout-out at her Broadway Cares GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 – 25, 2017

concert?” Fraser asked. (I did.) “Ben Rimalower, whose shows Aaron has directed, told me about it, that she said I was brilliant in the show. When I was doing it, I didn’t think about that at all, but now, hey I’ll take it! “Arthur Laurents [who wrote and directed ‘Gypsy’] said in his book that I was his favorite Tessie because I was exceedingly dark. To me, she was this woman at the end of her rope, no education and fast approaching the time when she would no longer be able to do her job. What really happened was that the real Tessie went on the road with Gypsy Rose Lee as her dresser. “I begged Arthur, ‘Please, please, in the final scene when Rose comes to see Gypsy and they have the big fight, instead of the maid answering the door, have it be Tessie, her hair all grown out, wearing a house dress like Thelma Ritter, smoking a cigarette, like the guardian gargoyle.’ I could see him visualizing it, and thought if I could only figure out a way to make him think he had thought of it, himself. Some day someone will do it and get all the credit for it. You watch!” The most daunting of curmudgeons, Laurents never suffered fools, and Fraser agreed. “But he liked me, and we bonded because his partner Tom and my husband both died, while being treated by the same star cancer doctor. He called one time and asked what I was doing and would I want to have lunch with him and see ‘West Side Story?’ Uh, yeah! To sit and watch that show next to the man who wrote it? But then this poor kid who was playing Chico who comes on with the gun at the end was late for his entrance. I feel this crab claw clutching my knee and whispered, ‘Arthur, it’s okay,’ but I feared the kid was going to get the gate. “I was late for an entrance in his show once, too. ‘Ohmigod, he’s gonna kill me,’ I thought and, sure enough, there he was after the show, in front of everyone quaking for me, steam coming out of his ears. I suddenly got inspired, threw my arms out like a martyr saint, and screamed, ‘Fire me! I would fire me too if I did what I did to you! Fire me!’ “He said, ‘Goddamit, now I can’t do it!’ It was hilarious.”

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NEWFEST, from p.33

has Manu (Manu Guevara), a Chilean transgender woman, living in Paris and wanting to return home. She ruminates about love and sex, and while she talks unsentimentally about romance, she has a series of encounters that reveal otherwise. First, she rebuffs her friend Daniel (Daniel Larrieu), who wants to marry her so she can stay in France, and then meets Mathias (Vicktor Philip), a Swedish DJ, with whom she spends the night. Manu’s story offers nothing particularly new regarding trans lives; she is accosted on the street and faces adversity from those who do not accept her.

There are too many scenes of her dancing in the streets and parks of Paris, meant to signify her free spirit, and the film feels more selfindulgent than satisfying. The “Boys Shorts” program (Oct. 21 at 11 a.m. at Cinépolis Chelsea; Oct. 23 at 2:30 pm at the LGBT Community Center) is a mixed bag. “Beard” nicely captures the anxiety of Gabe (Drew Michael Gardner), a closeted teen who wants his feisty best friend, Chrissy (Jordan Spiller), to pose as his girlfriend. Their relationship features all the typical gay guy/ straight girl tropes, but this short has some clever moments and considerable heart. Less impressive is “Two Fish,”

about Max (Aurelio De Anda) who gets romantic with his buddy Taylor (Jeremy Howard). The film doesn’t invest viewers enough in its characters to feel for their awkward situation. Also disappointing is “Billy’s Blowjobs,” which features out actor Wilson Cruz as the title character who gives a monologue while being serviced by an anonymous stranger. When Billy meets Paul (Jason Caceres), a voyeur, he makes a stronger connection. Perhaps the best short in the program is the documentary entry, “Bayard & Me,” Matt Wolf’s terrific portrait of the gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin and his partner Walter Naegle. The story of their

relationship is as inspiring as it is surprising. “Time is the Longest Distance,” has Adam (Andreas Damm) visiting his father Jack (Philip Levy) so he can invite him to his wedding to Henry (Benjamin I. Myers). However, Jack has Alzheimer’s, and does not recognize Adam in this wellmeaning, but predictable drama. “Something New” is an amusing comedy about the hapless Jonah (Ben Baur) trying to date again after a breakup. His experiences, which include depression sex with a Grindr boyfriend, cause confusion, which provides the comedy. The program’s other entry, “Dinner with Jeffrey” was unavailable for preview.

TOM OF FINLAND, from p.35

drawings are more erotic than anything actually portrayed on screen. Can you discuss why you depicted the sexuality in this way? DK: Two reasons. First, regarding the fans, we wanted to tell the story behind the art. The man lived in a different society, in Finland in the 1940s and ‘50s. It wasn’t a sexual society. You have the park sex, so to give an understanding that the drawings were his utopia, his fantasia. His normal life can’t be that sexual in the movie. He may have had more sex in real life than we depict, but if you show that sex and don’t understand how the drawings were a utopia, and they came true when he went to America. It was a dramatic choice. The second reason was that there’s always a provocation when actors have sex on screen. Whoever it is, your emotions jump out during a sex scene. I didn’t want that emotion being stopped. We have a sex scene seven minutes in the film. It’s provocative because they are Finnish soldiers. That will have an effect for the film in Finland. GMK: Nevertheless, there’s a homoeroticism throughout from the naked soldiers in the early scenes to the art that comes later. There are few sex scenes… DK: Having a sex scene means something. The audience would think more about the sex and less about the story. Whatever sex we had, it would never be as good as Tom’s drawing.

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JOSEF PERSSON/ KINO LORBER

Niklas Hogner as Kake, a Tom of Finland fantasy figure in Dome Karukoski’s biopic of famed pornographic illustrator Touko Laaksonen.

GMK: Why do you think Veli, aka Nipo, falls in love with Touko? DK: Nipo was 12 years younger. He was quite young when he met Tom. He was much more fragile than Tom, who offered him a safe haven and a home. We spoke during rehearsals that Tom is a wall Nipo could lean on. GMK: Touko has incredible integrity. You see that in his advertising work and in his hobby. He does things on his terms. Can you talk about this quality of his? DK: He was a very determined man. He was 20 when he went to war, and became a lieutenant. He rose up the ranks. He has a good relationship with his parents, he just couldn’t tell them he was gay. Only Kaija knew. He went to work in an ad agency and became head of the art department. In his art, he was very determined. That integrity comes from his war. He spent four years total in war, and

he survived that. He has a slight PTSD. He’d talk about taking the life of a paratrooper, who was the most beautiful man he’d ever seen. What was interesting to me was that this film is about a gay character who is not having an inner battle about being gay; the battle is external battle. He never had a conflict about being gay. He was strong and sure about that because of the experiences he has. GMK: How do you read the way Touko went from being an artist to an activist? DK: His drawings became political. GMK: There is a voyeuristic quality to the film in that we are looking at things that are secret and furtive. What can you say about how you presented and portrayed the pornography being distributed underground?

DK: The overall plot is watching Touko become Tom of Finland, but you also want to satisfy the appetite of those people who are interested in that part of the history. We chose what happens without underlining it. So a dramatic scene, we showed the growth of his art and the gay community in a subtle way. We had three gay bar scenes. One was a hetero bar, where gay men are allowed if they are discreet and learn the behavior and bounded by a certain code. The second, in the 1950s, was a gay bar that was underground. They would have a couple of women in case the police come. But the third bar is in New York. It’s underground. There are no windows there, but you can do whatever you want. At the end, he’s out in the open and the lights are full. GMK: What turns you on? DK: I think sexually, I’m a very boring guy. October 12 – 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | October 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 25, 2017

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October 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 25, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc

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