Page 1

Cuomo, Gillibrand HRC Gala “Auditions” 04

More Wedding Cake Mishegas 06

“Darker, Gayer” Olympics 16

www.GayCityNews.nyc c

SERVING

G AY,

LESBIAN,

BI

AND

TRANSGENDER

NEW

YORK

A FINE BROMANCE AGILE BLOKES GO FOR BROKE Page 28

Charlie Wheeller in the Cyr wheel and fellow Barely Methodical Troupe members Louis Gift (l.) and Beren D’Amico in “Bromance,” at the New Victory through February 25 only.

CHRIS NASH

© GAY CITY NEWS 2017 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

FREE | VOLUME SEVENTEEN, ISSUE FOUR | FEBRUARY 15 – 28, 2018


In This Issue COVER STORY A fine bromance at the New Victory 28

PERSPECTIVE A dyke abroad: Revolting Lesbians 17

CRIME Videos in Cedeno case spark rival claims 05

TELEVISION A hate murder in the spotlight 30

COMMUNITY Burt Lazarin takes the reins at CB4 12

THEATER A splendid McNally, “Bright Colors” wraps 32

RELIGION Queer, Asian & a pastor’s daughter 14

MUSIC Brandi Carlile’s “By the Way, I Forgive You” 35

Tennessee at the Morgan 26

PRESIDENTS’ DAY

SALE

LOOK FOR OUR CIRCULAR IN TODAY’S PAPER!

VISIT PCRICHARD.COM FOR A STORE NEAREST YOU

Ready for the Ultimate Car Buying Experience?

Only woman owned and operated Auto leasing company in the Tri-State area.

Gem Auto Leasing is happy to provide this free service to consumers and businesses to keep your auto buying experience fun and hassle free.

We Do The Work For You. Bring in our competitors price quote in writing, and Gem Auto will beat it!

ONE STOP SHOPPING ALL MAKES & MODELS ,%! !3%s s&). .!. .#%s42!$ $% )).3 3

GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

3


POLITICS

At HRC Gala, Resistance and an Informal 2020 Audition Andrew Cuomo, Kirsten Gillibrand offer contrasting visions for rousing the opposition BY PAUL SCHINDLER

I

n its annual New York City Gala this month, the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign presented a program that focused just enough attention on the dangers created since Donald Trump became president to press the urgent need for the community to engage in productive resistance to the now one-year old administration. “We are living in a very different world than we were just a couple of years ago,” said Chad Griffin, the group’s president, in brief remarks amidst speeches from three high-profile New York politicians. “Living through this moment can be truly exhausting. It’s tempting to want to simply give up… But you know what? That’s exactly what Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and the entire cabinet of deplorables are hoping that we do.” But even as the February 3 gathering at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square offered compelling arguments for staying engaged, it was also a showcase for two potential 2020 Trump challengers. Appearances by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand offered distinctive profiles in political rhetoric and the different paths each might take in rallying support should they choose to make the race. Cuomo, the evening’s first speaker, blended his trademark boasting about New York’s storied progressive past with a showy display of the executive power he has wielded for nearly eight years and a subtle reminder that as Washington goes, he’s been an outsider — at least since he served as Bill Clinton’s Housing and Urban Development secretary. “These are dark times in this country,” the governor said in opening his remarks. “What’s even more shocking is how far we have gone from a period of outstanding accomplishment in the pursuit of justice to a place of regression, anger, and intolerance… Yesterday, we had President Obama, we passed marriage equality, we had record LGBT progress, we were defeating intolerance.” In contrast, now, Cuomo continued, “We have this president and this Congress who have brought us to the exact opposite position. We know what they did, and we know how they won. They won by fanning the flames of anger, they amplified people’s anxieties, they appealed to people’s worst instincts to fear people who are different.” Cuomo placed primary responsibility for resisting the changes Trump’s ascendancy threaten on members of his own party — at least those serving in the nation’s capital. “The Democrats in Washington must join forces and they must stop the administration’s attempts at reversals by any means possible,”

4

COURTESY: HRC

COURTESY: HRC

Governor Andrew Cuomo emphasized the example New York can provide to the nation.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, in passionate terms, identified her mission with that of the Democratic Party’s left-leaning grassroots.

he argued. “And whatever the Democrats have to do — stand up, speak up, lay down, shut down, I don’t care. Whatever is necessary to do we must do because you cannot compromise with hate and prejudice.” Then, pointing to New York’s pivotal role in movements including LGBTQ rights and women’s suffrage, Cuomo pledged relief he would deliver as governor here — legislation to bar any “gay panic” defense in the courtroom, not “one penny of state money” for “any school that refuses to protect transgender students,” “an executive order prohibiting New York State government from doing any business with any entity that discriminates against any New Yorker, period.” In capping his argument that New York can lead the way for the nation, Cuomo noted expected declines in federal funding on HIV and AIDS and pledged, “We’re going to redouble our efforts here in New York and assure people that we’re going to reach the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic by 2020, and we’re going to get it done and we’re going to show it can be done, and then we’re going to say to every other state across this nation join us in ending AIDS.” For those hoping to see a Cuomo presidential campaign in 2020, effective executive action is the winning argument against an administration beset by chaos and divisiveness. Gillibrand’s remarks, which followed closely on the governor’s, opened with less fire, though she immediately tied herself to the most significant advance in LGBTQ rights to have come out of Congress, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, “a monumental task,” she said, that came during her first two “green” years in the Senate, when a majority of Americans still opposed marriage equality. Gillibrand, in fact, was a key player in getting Democrat Carl Levin, who then led the Senate Armed Services Committee, to hold hear-

ings that proved a pivotal moment in the repeal drive. But having pointed up her own advocacy, she then gave credit to the activists on the ground. The experience, she said, “taught me a fundamental lesson that I will never forget: Washington only acts when courageous people… stand up and demand it. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell didn’t end because of lawmakers like me. It ended because of the protests, the calls, the activism of people like you.” Through much of the rest of her remarks, Gillibrand identified herself with the passion of those activists — at a time when there is more street activism, as her New York colleague Chuck Schumer would later remind the crowd, than at any time since the Vietnam War. Talking about the pride she had in a local youth’s gender transition in a school her child attended, she said, “So when President Trump looks at our transgender troops as valueless and when his party tries to demonize this boy and every other like him, this arrogance and bigotry provokes a fury in me that will not subside.” Gillibrand then talked about the grassroots opposition to neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, to the immigration crackdown (noting that an estimated 75,000 Dreamers identify as LGBTQ), and to the failed effort to replace the Army’s out gay Obama era secretary, Eric Fanning, with the virulently anti-gay Mark Green, a Tennessee state senator. “I promise you not until we pass a bipartisan bill that I introduced with Senator John McCain we will stop fighting to protect these transgender troops,” Gillibrand pledged. “In 2011, John McCain was one of our most ardent opponents of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. in 2017, he added

HRC GALA, continued on p.18

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


CRIME

Both Sides Claim Vindication in Cedeno Video Evidence Defendant’s lawyers call for charges to be dropped in fatal 2017 stabbing of Matthew McCree in Bronx high school BY ANDY HUMM

A

brief cell-phone video released two weeks ago captures a harrowing September 27, 2017 assault on gay student Abel Cedeno in his Bronx high school class by Matthew McCree, joined by his friend Ariane Laboy, as Cedeno defends himself with a knife, fatally wounding McCree and slashing Laboy. But a second video that surfaced after the first one puts the matter in a different light, McCree’s mother maintained. (Both videos can be viewed at bit.ly/2sejg46.) In the first video, McCree, in a white T-shirt, can be seen charging across the classroom and pummeling Cedeno, in a pink shirt, with his fists, and Laboy joining in the fray, as well, while students are screaming in horror. As the nine-second video concludes, McCree is still standing and an adult in a red shirt has pulled Cedeno away. Attorneys for Cedeno, Christopher R. Lynn and Robert J. Feldman, are calling for the manslaughter charges against Cedeno to be dropped in light of the evidence in the first video, which backs up what Cedeno told the grand jury as well as what student witnesses told police. Neither video was presented to the grand jury, nor is it clear how much of what student witnesses told police was. The first video was turned over to Cedeno’s defense team by the district attorney at his February 1 court appearance before a new judge, State Supreme Court Justice Armando Montano, who will rule on multiple motions on March 6. A week after the February 1 hearing, McCree’s mother, Louna Dennis, obtained a second video of the incident — or perhaps a longer version of the video defense lawyers were given — that she said shows Cedeno to be the initial aggressor, though witness statements to the police dispute that. Even prior to the first video surfacing, Lynn and Feldman had a motion pending to drop the charges against Cedeno, Lynn telling Gay City News, “The case presented to the grand jury did not establish the crimes charged — manslaughter, assault, and criminal use of a weapon.” Assistant District Attorney Nancy Borko told the court on February 1, “We don’t believe it [the first video] is material” since it was received anonymously. She insisted it was turned over to Cedeno’s attorneys “in a timely manner,” though her office had it since Christmas, according to Lynn. Patrice O’Shaughnessy, director of public inGayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

ANDY HUMM

Abel Cedeno, now out on bail pending his trail on manslaughter charges in connection with Matthew McCree’s death.

formation for the Bronx DA, said that the office did not come into possession of the video given the defense attorneys until after the grand jury indicted Cedeno for manslaughter, adding that they promised to turn it over to the defense at the next court date, which they did. In response to the Cedeno defense team’s call for charges to be dropped in light of the video, she said, “We can’t comment on evidence. He was indicted because he used deadly physical force.” Cedeno has testified and told Gay City News that he acted in self-defense and thought he was going to die when McCree rushed him since he believed him to be a member of the YGZ 800 gang who could have had a weapon. Lynn said, “It is clear to me that McCree is throwing these punches with his right and his left furiously at Abel Cedeno, who is obviously terrified and putting up both his hands in defense of McCree.” Lynn said that the video will be admissible once Cedeno and other witnesses “authenticate” it as a recording of what happened in the classroom at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx, which has since been closed by the city Department

of Education due to this incident and other reports of chaos in the school. According to a police interview with one of two teachers in the classroom at the time of the incident, that teacher “states that Matthew suddenly stood up at the back of the class and began to walk toward the front while yelling at Abel” and the teacher unsuccessfully “attempted to hold Matthew back.” He stated that McCree was joined by Laboy “and they both met Abel at the door simultaneously” and “all began throwing punches” before someone shouted “knife.” The teacher, according to police, said that when he saw all the blood “he started to go into shock” himself. In the police summary of their interview with Laboy, when Cedeno demanded to know who had thrown a pen or pencil at him, Laboy “states that Matthew stood up and said, ‘Sorry,’” and that Cedeno “responded for Matthew to stand up, ‘I want to fight.’” The summary of Laboy’s account continues that Cedeno “swung at Matthew but Matthew slipped it and punched the subject in the face.” Laboy said he then saw Cedeno “punching Matthew in the chest and walk away” and that he, Laboy, “jumped over the desk, grabbed the subject to prevent him from following Matthew and attempting to grab the knife” only to be “sliced” several times, at which point he “felt a pain in his chest.” Lynn called Laboy’s version “laughable.” A student witness told police that before the fight, McCree, Laboy, and others were throwing things around the classroom. According to the police summary of the student’s statement, “Something gets thrown at Abel. He believes it is a pen or pencil. Abel turns around and says, ‘Who the fuck threw this paper? You guys are pussy.’ Matthew stand up and replies, ‘I threw it. What’s up, nigger? I threw it.’ Abel then replies back and says, ‘What’s poppin.’ Matthew approaches Abel by the front door, close to where he was sitting. Mr. [Paul] Jacobi [one of the teachers] tries to intervene and gets in front of Matthew, but Matthew gets around him, and [Jacobi] tries to pull Matthew back but Matthew pushes Mr. Jacobi up against the wall to get to Abel. He then punches Abel in the face. Ariane gets up and tries to pull Matthew back by pulling his arm. Mr. [Nicholas] Kennedy [the other teacher] now comes over and tries to get in between Abel and Matthew and is holding Abel back. He [the witness] sees Abel with his right hand in his pocket pulling out an object. He does not see what it is but sees Abel lunging at Matthew and striking him in his chest

CEDENO VIDEOS, continued on p.13

5


CIVIL RIGHTS

Unprecedented Ruling Favors Anti-Gay Baker California judge departs from consensus about nondiscrimination protections for same-sex couples BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

B

reaking the consensus among courts developed over the past several years that people with religious or moral objections to same-sex weddings are not entitled to exempt their business from selling goods or services for such events, a California Superior Court judge has ruled that a baker has a First Amendment exemption from complying with that state’s law banning sexual orientation discrimination by businesses. Judge David Lampe, who ruled in a February 5 decision in favor of Cathy Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, was the first judge to find for a business in such a case. Miller refused to make a wedding cake for Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio, who came to her bakery in August 2017 to plan for their October wedding celebration. The couple selected a design of a cake in the display case, which they wanted Miller to prepare specifically for their event. “The couple did not want or request any written words or messages on the cake,” wrote the judge in his opinion. Despite that fact, Miller told the women she had religious objections to same-sex marriage and offered to refer them to another bakery in town happy to make wedding cakes for lesbian and gay couples. The Rodriguez-Del Rios filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, charging Miller and her business with a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination by businesses. The department, in turn, filed suit against the bakery, asking the court to issue an injunction requiring that Miller’s business not refuse to make wedding cakes for samesex couples. Miller’s defense relied on two provisions of the US Constitution’s First Amendment, one forbidding laws that abridge freedom of speech and

6

FACEBOOK.COM

Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio, who sought to order a wedding cake from Cathy Miller’s Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California.

the other forbidding laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion. Judge Lampe decided the case could be resolved most easily on free speech grounds and did not address the free exercise of religion clause. Lampe accepted Miller’s “cake artist” argument, the same position taken by Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado in his case pending before the US Supreme Court. Miller and Phillips argue that when they contract to produce a cake for a specific event, they engage in a creative effort that communicates a message endorsing that event. Under this theory of symbolic speech, they argue, requiring them to make the cake when they do not approve of samesex marriage compels them to voice a message they do not agree with. Both bakers relied on past decisions in which the Supreme Court has found that government officials had violated free speech rights by compelling people to voice particular messages with which they disagree, such as the famous “flag

salute” cases decided during World War II. There, the high court notably reversed direction, overruling its own prior precedent to find that the government cannot compel a student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. There are circumstances where courts have held that government requirements did not impose a substantial burden on free speech, but the compelled speech argument has taken on particular weight in several important LGBTQ-related rulings. In the 1995 Hurley case, for example, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Massachusetts civil rights authorities could not compel the organizers of the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade to include an LGBTQ contingent with a banner proclaiming their identity. The court said this would unconstitutionally compel parade organizers to include a message in their event that they did not want to include. More controversially, the court, in 2000, ruled that the Boy Scouts of America were not required to al-

low an openly gay man to service as an adult leader because that would compel the group to implicitly send a message endorsing homosexuality which it did not want to communicate to its members or the public. Unlike the unanimous parade decision, however, the court split 5-4 in the Boy Scouts case, with a minority rejecting the contention that the BSA’s free speech rights would be unconstitutionally burdened. Despite these rulings, the court concluded that Congress did not unconstitutionally burden the free speech rights of law schools when it required them to allow military recruiters equal access to their facilities, reasoning that the schools were free to communicate their disagreement with the anti-gay policies then followed by the Defense Department and that hosting the recruiters was not necessarily sending a message of agreement with those policies. And the high court concluded that a state university law school was not violating the free speech or free exercise rights of conservative Christian students when it required a Christian Legal Society chapter to allow gay students to be members if the group wanted to be an officially recognized student organization. It is difficult to follow a consistent thread of reasoning through these cases, each of which presents a slightly different factual context, which is why there is some suspense about how the Supreme Court is going to decide the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. So far, however, lower courts have been unanimous in ruling that bakers, florists, photographers, videographers, and non-religious wedding venues are all required to comply with public accommodations laws — in states where they exist, which make up less than half of the 50 — and provide their services and goods to same-sex couples celebrating their unions. Lampe, the first to depart from this consensus, accepted Miller’s

ANTI-GAY BAKER, continued on p.7

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Mayor Presents Increased Budget With Big Asterisk De Blasio lays out $88.57 billion plan, but warns of huge unknowns regarding federal, state funding

oned since taking office four years ago. While the city’s tax base has swelled and the city is expecting to collect $27.6 billion in property taxes in the 2019 fiscal year, it relies on state and federal dollars to pay for roughly a quarter of city spending. In some city agencies, federal or state dollars fund nearly half of their budget and nearly all of certain programs. In his proposed budget for the state fiscal year that begins on April 1, Governor Andrew Cuomo

proposed cutting state aid to the city or shifted costs of programs to the city by $400 million. State dollars could be reduced by as much as $700 million, according to the preliminary budget. While the city is claiming that as much as $700 million in federal dollars are at risk in the 2019 city budget, it is not at all clear how the city knows that. Republicans have been in charge of the White House and Congress for over a year and have yet to produce a budget for the current federal fiscal year, which began on October 1 of last year. Since September of last year, Republicans have used a series of continuing resolutions to fund federal spending. Other federal actions could also threaten the city budget. The federal tax reform law, which was signed into law in late December, allows taxpayers to deduct only the first $10,000 in state and local taxes on their federal returns. That could prompt some of the wealthiest New York taxpayers, who pay a large portion of city and state income taxes, to leave for lower tax states. “The federal tax bill has made things worse all around,” the mayor said. “Fundamentally broken policy and mistaken policy have

very negative ramifications for the country and for the city before you even talk about what it means for the individual taxpayer or homeowner.” That law will add at least $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years and that could prompt Republicans, who have long wanted to attack Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, to take a budget axe to those entitlement programs. That could impact city agencies — such as NYC Health + Hospitals, which operates the city’s 11 hospitals and other facilities — that rely on Medicaid funding. All of the budget concerns have implications for non-profit organizations that serve the LGBTQ community and rely on Medicaid or contracts funded, directly and indirectly, with city, state, or federal dollars. “I think we can safely say we’ve never seen anything like this before,” de Blasio said. “There’s a lot we are worried about.” Corey Johnson, the new speaker of the City Council, spoke with reporters prior to the mayor’s presentation and voiced similar concerns. “There are a lot of questions about loss of money from Albany, loss of money from Washington,” he said.

to sell a cake. The State asks this court to compel Miller to use her talents to design and create a cake she has not yet conceived with the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of a marital union her religion forbids. For this court to force such compliance would do violence to the essentials of Free Speech guaranteed under the First Amendment.” Lampe acknowledged that there was a clash of rights here, and no matter which way he ruled, somebody would feel insulted. “The court finds that any harm here is equal to either complainants or defendant Miller, one way or the other,” he wrote. “If anything, the

harm to Miller is the greater, because it carries significant economic consequences. When one feels injured, insulted, or angered by the words or expressive conduct of others, the harm is many times selfinflicted. The most effective Free Speech in the family of our nation is when we speak and listen with respect. In any case, the court cannot guarantee that no one will be harmed when the law is enforced. Quite the contrary, when the law is enforced, someone necessarily loses. Nevertheless, the court’s duty is to the law. Whenever anyone exercises the right of Free Speech, someone else may be angered or hurt. This is the nature of a free so-

ciety under our Constitution.” Lampe acknowledged that the case is more difficult if it is treated as a free exercise of religion case, because the Supreme Court has ruled that neutral state laws of general application do not include within them a constitutional exemption for religious dissenters. “Whether the application of the Unruh Act in these circumstances violates the Free Exercise clause is an open question,” he wrote, “and the court does not address it because the case is sufficiently resolved upon Free Speech grounds.” Interestingly, the judge’s ap-

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

W

hile Mayor Bill de Blasio is proposing to increase spending by roughly $2 billion in the city fiscal year that begins on July 1, cuts in federal and state support for the city may force the mayor to curtail those plans. “This budget proceeds against a backdrop of tremendous uncertainty,” the mayor said during a February 1 presentation of the city’s 2019 preliminary budget at City Hall. The proposed budget will spend $88.67 billion, up from the preliminary budget presented last year of just $86 billion. The mayor said the new spending was paid for with savings worth $900 million by city agencies in the current and coming fiscal years, reduced healthcare costs of $1.3 billion for city employees in both fiscal years, and $300 million in savings in both fiscal years resulting from a “partial hiring freeze.” The city also recouped just over a $1 billion in taxes from audits, de Blasio said. The new spending will upgrade infrastructure in some of the city’s public housing, expand the signature mayoral Pre-K and now 3-K programs, and fund additional efforts that de Blasio has champi-

ANTI-GAY BAKER, from p.6

compelled speech argument. “No public commentator in the marketplace of ideas may be forced by law to publish any opinion with which he disagrees in the name of equal access,” the judge wrote. “No baker may place their wares in a public display case, open their shop, and then refuse to sell because of race, religion, gender, or gender identification.” On that latter point, however, this case is different, Lampe asserted. “The difference here is that the cake in question is not yet baked,” he wrote. “The State is not petitioning the court to order defendants GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

DUNCAN OSBORNE

Mayor Bill de Blasio presented his preliminary budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 at a City Hall event on February 1.

ANTI-GAY BAKER, continued on p.11

7


COMMUNITY

In Time For 2018? Cuomo’s “efficient” way of settling on an LGBT Memorial design BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

I

n a process that one commissioner described as “efficient,” the consultants and 10 commissioners who were charged with presenting Governor Andrew Cuomo with a panel of choices for the LGBT Memorial to be erected in Hudson River Park in the West Village took less three months to choose three proposals out of the 40 submitted. “I think we selected three finalists,” said Scott Campbell, the executive director of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and one of the 10 commissioners. “We winnowed it down to the ones that met all the criteria and we thought were the most compelling.” Cuomo announced the memorial on June 26, 2016, just 14 days after a gunman killed 49 people in an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The memorial is intended to honor those 49 people and to “stand as an international symbol against ignorance, hate, bigotry, and gun violence,” read the executive order that created the commission. The LGBT Memorial Commission, which included Christine Quinn, an out lesbian and former speaker of the City Council, and Eunic Ortiz, then the president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, an LGBTQ political club, had to include “individuals with a range of perspectives, interests, and specific knowledge concerning the LGBT community.” Cuomo required that the commission complete its work by December 31, 2016. The work began when HRPT hired historian and architect John Reddick as the project’s art consultant and Studio Hip Landscape Architecture, a three-person Manhattan firm, according to records obtained by Gay City News under the state Freedom of Information Law from the Cuomo administration, the state parks department, and the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT), which operates the park that extends from West 59th Street to Battery Park. The contract for the art consultant team was worth $75,000, with Reddick apparently earning $48,000 and $14,000 going to the firm. Another $10,000 was paid to “staff” and $3,000 was paid out in “reimbursables.” Two other firms bid on that contract. Reddick, who is openly gay and serves on the

ANTI-GAY BAKER, from p.7

proach mirrors that of US Solicitor General Noel Francisco in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before the Supreme Court. In briefing and argument, the solicitor general placed the government’s support for Jack GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

A rendering of Anthony Goicolea’s design for the LGBT Memorial planned for Hudson River Park, showing the glass prisms in the rock design as well as the rainbows they cast on the surrounding grass.

board of Harlem Pride, and Studio Hip began work in September and signed their contract with HRPT in early November. They were charged with soliciting proposals from artists and developing the process that the commissioners would use to make their selections. The commission’s first meeting was on September 20, 2016, and requests for proposals to design and build the memorial were issued just eight days later. Artists who wanted to bid had until October 10 to ask questions and get answers from the art consultant team during what the documents called the “artists question period.” Final submissions were due by October 28, with artists limited to 10 pages in their response. The response had to include the artist’s qualifications, a statement of intent, renderings and elevations of the work, and a budget. The budget for the memorial is $800,000 and the artist’s fee could be no more than 20 percent, or $160,000, of that budget. The art consultant team was supposed to develop a “short list” of 10 to 12 designs for the commissioners to consider by November 11. The commissioners would score the designs on the “short list” on nine criteria, such as “Interpretation/ Clarity of Theme,” “Creativity & Originality of Depicted Theme,” and “Site Compatibility,” on a scale of 1 to 5, with four of the nine referring explicitly to the LGBTQ community. The commissioners were expected to deliver five choices

Phillips’ right to refuse to make the wedding cake entirely on free speech grounds, and disclaimed taking any position on his right of free exercise of religion — despite the Trump administration’s more general position, expressed in a “religious freedom” memorandum by

to Cuomo by November 18 who was to select the “Winner, Runner-Up, and Honorable Mention” by December 5. The public announcement was to come some time between December 5 and December 31. “I thought it was extremely well done and efficient,” Campbell told Gay City News. The other commissioners either declined comment or did not respond to requests for comment. The commission received 40 designs. Of that number, only 25, by Gay City News’ count, complied with the submission instructions. It is unclear if the 15 that did not comply were disqualified. While the state parks department released the 40 submissions, the agency did not release any documents indicating how many of the submissions were scored. Of the 25, the commissioners received “15 or so,” Campbell said. The commissioners were free to review all the submissions on a state parks department website. They presented Cuomo with three choices — a design by Jordan Eagles and Spilios Gianakopoulos, another by Moshe Yehosuoua, and what would be the winning design by Anthony Goicolea. One of the fabricators of a component of Goicolea’s design said the memorial has a planned opening this spring. In a written statement, the state parks department said the “three finalists spent six months, January 2017–June 2017 enhancing their designs for final presentation before members of the LGBT Memorial Commission and representatives to the Governor in mid-June 2017.” Gay City News received the original and revised submissions only for Goicolea and Eagles and Gianakopoulos. In both, the page count increased from eight pages to 14. Yehosuoua’s revised submission was 10 pages long. The original submissions were limited to eight pages. The three finalists were informed of their status by Reddick in a May 8, 2017 letter. Other documents suggest that the commission met once or twice and had one conference call during the first six months of 2017. Cuomo announced the winner on June 25, 2017, the day of New York City’s annual pride parade. Announcing on that day guaranteed Cuomo the maximum press coverage.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that religious free exercise rights should be treated as superior to just about any other legal claim. Lampe’s decision may truly be an outlier in the ongoing controversies stemming from the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015 that same-

sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, but on the other hand it may be an accurate prediction of how the Supreme Court will deal with the issue, at least in cases where the goods or services at issue could be plausibly described in terms of expressive content.

11


COMMUNITY

Burt Lazarin Takes the Reins at CB4 Longtime pioneering gay Chelsea activist reflects on 40 years of community work BY WINNIE MCCROY

A

fter more than 40 years living in Chelsea, including many serving as a member of Community Board 4, Burt Lazarin has moved to its top ranks. He was recently voted in as the new chair of CB4, taking over for exiting chair Delores Rubin. “I don’t think of myself as a leader in the traditional sense, because we’re a board of 50 people with lots of skills and expertise,” the out gay community activist said. “I have no problem if we’re at a meeting and the head of the Housing Committee — who knows a lot more about that than I do — takes the lead. My function is to make sure that person is supported, and then to speak for the whole board.” Lazarin said he won’t be a micromanager who dictates what should happen at every meeting, noting, “That creates problems with members.” Instead, he said, he will let people bring their own expertise to the table. His own field of expertise lies in urban planning. Born in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx, Lazarin earned his bachelor’s degree at City College, followed by graduate study in Seattle. He has lived in Albany, London, Chile, and Peru, working as an urban planner in South America for two and a half years while in the Peace Corps. When he first returned to New York, he lived in Brooklyn and worked in consulting with labor unions on contract negotiations. After five years in Brooklyn, he followed a wave of friends migrating to Chelsea, which was emerging as a one of the city’s newest gay enclaves. Thirty-seven years ago, he began a relationship with Frank Ireland, whom he married last June. “When I moved here in 1977, people asked me, ‘Is it safe?’ — because everything between Ninth Avenue and the river was abandoned,” Lazarin recalled. “There were the hookers and there were the meat trucks but that was it, because the whole area was built in the early 20th century as support for the

12

JAY LAZARIN

Burt Lazarin and Frank Ireland’s daughter-in-law, Julie Villa, Ireland, Lazarin, and Ireland’s son Ben, a Universal Life minister who officiated over Burt and Frank’s June 2017 wedding.

WINNIE MCCROY

Burt Lazarin at at CB4’s West 42nd Street offices, with the emerging Hudson Yards neighborhood in the background.

docks. But by the early ’70s, the finger piers went away, some warehouses became taxi garages, and the whole south side of 23rd Street, which is now expensive townhouses, was abandoned.” Lazarin fondly recalls the early years of Chelsea’s emergence as a gay neighborhood, speaking wistfully of the Meatpacking District bistro Florent with the framed maps of different cities — many imaginary — that lined its walls. By then, he was a fixture in the neighborhood and ready to invest in its future. “I’ve always been involved, always been a group person,” said Lazarin. “One thing I did when I first came back was I got involved with a group called Identity House, which at the time was fairly revolutionary.” The group does peer counseling for the LGBTQ community. “The personal was political,” Lazarin noted, “and we knew that as we worked helping people come out or with relationship problems, we were changing things. It was a selfgoverning organization that started in ’71, and I served as coordinator, executive director, and clinical director because for many years I did psychotherapy in addition to contract negotiations.” Upon his arrival in Chelsea in

‘77, Lazarin banded together with his friends to form another gay organization. “That’s the time when mostly gays were moving into Chelsea and we wanted to have a presence, so we started an organization called the Chelsea Gay Association,” Lazarin recalled. “It was to meet your neighbors, with small breakout groups for safety, theater, and the like. We had regular meetings and connected with block associations, to make allies. We wanted straight allies going to City Council to help pass the Gay Rights Bill, and we got people from the neighborhood to testify in favor of the bill.” That group lasted until 1982, he said. Identity House still offers walkin counseling at the LGBT Community Center on West 13th Street. In the late ’80s, Lazarin also joined the Chelsea Waterside Park Association, where he is currently treasurer. Over time, his activism on community issues would grow. “I have always been involved, so when I saw the announcement for CB4 members, I took a deep breath, thought, ‘It’s time to shit or get off the pot,’ and sent off the application with two recommendations,” Lazarin said. He was appointed to CB4 in 2005, later serving on its Business Diversity Task Force. One of the first things he recalls the task force doing was conducting a “windshield survey” — walking block by block

to tally up the number of bars and restaurants in the area. “We wanted to get some idea of what people meant when they said the area was ‘saturated,’” said Lazarin. “Your saturation might be my fun or my opportunity.” The task force came up with its own definition and kept tabs on new liquor license applications to make sure the community had the chance to weigh in at public hearings. By that time, Lazarin had already become co-chair of the Business Licenses & Permits Committee. “We advise and provide opportunity for people in the community to voice objections to specific aspects of a licensee or their method of operations,” Lazarin explained. “Over the years, we have developed a format of ‘deny unless’ the business meets all of our stipulations. If Albany accepts those stipulations, they become legally part of the licensees’ method of operations. Then, if they are not following those stipulations — often things like no amplified music or an earlier closing time — then they’re liable.” During his time as co-chair of that committee, several businesses have faced community opposition, and Lazarin particularly recalls a fight over the gay sports bar Boxers attempting to move into a standalone building on Tenth Avenue

BURT LAZARIN, continued on p.39

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


䉴

CEDENO VIDEOS, from p.5

with a ‘poke’ so he realizes that Abel has a knife but doesn’t actually see it. He then sees Ariane coming at Abel and Abel swinging the object in his hand at Ariane’s shoulder. This time Abel’s right hand came above his shoulder and in a downward motion strikes Ariane’s shoulder. Matthew at the same time just drops to the floor and lands on his stomach. Ariane retreats back and sits in a chair. Abel runs out of the classroom through the front exit door.� On February 9, Louna Dennis said she obtained her video in a Facebook message from someone she said was a student witness. At a news conference with her attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, she said that Cedeno was acting like “a Tasmanian devil� and that the video “shows Abel charging at the boys with the knife from the hallway.� The video does not show Abel charging from the hallway, but does show him crouching and moving from right to left across the video screen toward McCree. Eyewitness testimony, however, has McCree charging from across the room and striking Cedeno before Cedeno pulls out the knife to, in his telling, defend himself. Lynn said, “The expert we hired to review the autopsy found that the deceased has extensive bruising on both hands indicating he was hitting someone. He also had body bruises which show that whoever he was punching was punching back, but not with a knife. The autopsy also shows one knife wound. The amount of PSI [pounds per square inch] needed to inflict that single blow had to be inflicted by someone fighting for their life, according to our expert. That’s the science of the matter. Our expert saw the video and said it shows McCree throwing haymakers right and left. It also shows Ariane hitting Abel on the side of his head and Abel, in response, pushing Laboy’s arm away with his entire arm and shoulder in a single swinging motion — again in a defensive act. Our expert said the district attorney must know this as well because they see a lot of this in their experience.� It will be up to a judge and jury to sort out all this evidence in court. There were 20 students as GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

well as the two teachers present in the classroom when the fight took place. Immediately following Cedeno’s February 1 court date, Louna Dennis said, “Matthew was not a bully, Ariane Laboy was not a bully, and with [Cedeno’s] lawyers going around saying they’re in a gang? None of my kids was ever in a gang. And with them saying that, they have gang members approaching my older son‌ There are going to be consequences if anything happens to my son.â€? Rubenstein, her attorney, quickly added, â€œâ€Śfrom the criminal justice system.â€? Rubenstein, on behalf of McCree’s family, has filed a $25 million suit against the city for his death. Cedeno attorney Feldman responded, “I have nothing but sympathy for that mother. She is defending her son like all good mothers. But we have proof he [McCree] is a gang member.â€? Cedeno, who is out on bail, told Gay City News before the court proceeding, “I’ve been anxious. I’m going to focus on school. I’m anxious about going back to jail. I trust my lawyers who are saying everything is going to be okay. I’m concerned about the threats I’m getting. I’m going to therapy for the mental health help I need.â€? He was led from court on February 1 by a police escort. The McCree family was there in court as were LGBTQ community supporters of Cedeno, including members of the youth-led advocacy group FIERCE. Also on hand was Michelle Fine, a professor of psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center, whom Cedeno’s defense intends to use as an expert witness on anti-LGBTQ bullying and how to create safe and “justâ€? schools for all students through having out LGBTQ teachers, inclusive curricula, staff training, and restorative justice practices aimed at mediating reconciliation between bullying offenders and their victims. “It’s not difficult to create a context that supports everyone around race, gender, and sexuality,â€? Fine said. The defense team also wants transgender activist Sophie Cadle, who has interviewed many of the students at Cedeno’s school, to testify about what she learned about the environment there.

FAMILY

PRIDE     !      !   I  

        

             

                                      

FAMILY PRIDE SECTION TO ADVERTISE CONTACT: GAYLE H. GREENBERG 718-260-4585 GGREENBERG@CNGLOCAL.COM GAYCITYNEWS.NYC 13


RELIGION & LGBTQ LIFE

Queer, Asian, and an Evangelical Pastor’s Daughter Moving on from fundamentalism, Sarah Ngu looked to affirming church, Christian peers BY NATHAN DICAMILLO

I

t started with a text: “How would you guys feel if I married a woman?” Alarm bells. Sarah Ngu’s parents called her in for a meeting “to get this under control and stop this.” But by this point, she already knew she was headed in a direction of self-acceptance. After the church she grew up in told her it would be wrong to marry a woman, it had taken another church to change her mind. Ngu, now 27, grew up as a pastor’s kid. Her father pastors in a nondenominational Asian movement focused on evangelism and church-planting in communities not served by the movement. “Looking back, it was probably a little fundie [fundamentalist], a little pentecostal,” Ngu said. “They were very much interested in multiplying churches, so they sent my dad to America to start a church.” As the oldest of four kids, Ngu was often helping her dad. She sat in on strategy meetings held on Sunday evenings, listening to her father and other church leaders discuss attendance and what went well in the service. “It was more business-oriented,” she recalled. “Like what are your sales metrics? Just like people do in sales, people say conversion metrics.” Ngu grew up in Malaysia, where her father planted two churches. Evangelical Christianity does not have the same political conservatism in Malaysia as it does in America. “Malaysia has socialized healthcare, no guns,” she said. “It’s more about: Do you support the corrupt incumbent party or do you support the opposition? And it’s very divided among racial lines, whether you’re British or not. Technically, we would be on the opposition, the radical side. But when it comes to abortion, sexuality, and gender, [my family] would be on the conservative side.” At age 10, Ngu’s family moved to the US and settled in California. At 17, she and her family came to New

14

COURTESY OF SARAH NGU

Sarah Ngu (at r.) with other members of Forefront Brooklyn Church’s Queer Communion in last year’s Pride March in Manhattan.

COURTESY OF SARAH NGU

Sarah Ngu (foreground) with a friend at Brooklyn Pride last June.

York City so she could study American Studies and Political Science at Columbia University. Studying at Columbia meant that Ngu had to split her brain into two parts — the Christian conservative side and the secular progressive side. While her friends were talking about Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, Ngu was wrestling with the apostle Paul’s epistles. At Columbia, she was a part of a group called InterVarsity, a Christian campus ministry. The ministry gave Christian students a space to pray and worship together. It also held debates between Christian and atheist professors. “InterVarsity is a little pious,” Ngu said. Active in mental health and socialist organizing activities on campus, Ngu was closer to her secular liberal friends than her InterVarsity friends. “When that divide collapsed, it all came together,” she said. During her time at Columbia, Ngu had a number of closeted relationships, though she recalled, “It’s hard to call them relationships because there was never a commitment in mind.” Sometimes the other woman was Christian and had her own hang-ups about sexuality and faith. The secrecy made it difficult for meaningful bonds to

form. “I’m in a relationship now,” Ngu said. “You do things together, plan for the future, introduce them to extended family, make collective decisions together about the collective unit you’ve formed.” When Ngu was forced to keep her relationships hidden, she couldn’t turn to friends for dating advice. “Any criticism of the relationship becomes a criticism of the existence of the relationship,” Ngu said. “The struggle becomes less about ‘let me examine if this is a healthy relationship,’ but more about ‘I need to figure out if this is moral.’” After graduating from Columbia, paying off her student loans and moving out of her parents’ house, Ngu, in 2014, began to look for churches that affirmed gay marriage. That’s around the time she found Forefront Brooklyn Church, a Boerum Hill LGBTQ-accepting church. Talking to the church’s pastor, Jonathan Williams, was a turning point in her journey of theology and self-acceptance. Ngu’s experience didn’t line up with what she found in scripture. “It seemed to me that this love thing was actually forcing me to be a better person, to incorporate another full person into this singular ego of mine,” she wrote on her blog, postfundy.wordpress.com, an outline of her movement away from Christian fundamentalism. “Love seemed to be the best spiritual an-

tidote to the Cartesian isolation of the ego. It felt like sanctification, a kind of death-and-resurrection holiness to me.” Ngu didn’t know why her relationship felt more like holiness than it did sin. Being around other LGBTQ Christians also gave Ngu a different experience about what it meant to be queer. “Everyone is gay at Forefront,” she said. “It was a total other psychological experience.” It was because of her experience at Forefront that Ngu decided to attend the annual conference of the Gay Christian Network, which has since changed its name to Q Christian Fellowship. At the conference, she heard stories from other LGBTQ Christians about their families rejecting them and the psychological pain it caused. Ngu worried about how her own parents might react. They already knew she was gay, but she had so far remained conservative about her sexuality. In fact, Ngu spent nine months studying the question of gay marriage within Christianity at a fellowship called Trinity Fellows Academy. “I felt like if I were to switch a position in my faith, it would have to be intellectually justified,” she said. Her roommate at the time, Cat

SARAH NGU, continued on p.15

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


SARAH NGU, from p.14

Ricketts, was surprised by how personal Ngu’s research topic was. “I remember a lot of times praying with Sarah,” Ricketts said. “At points where it was really painful, she would cry because she was in the middle of really honest wrestling.” At the end of the nine months, she still was in a conservative position. It took the influence of Forefront Brooklyn Church and the Gay Christian Network to make her think about the issue differently. Once Ngu knew that her thinking and feelings were headed toward self-acceptance, she got a counselor to help her with telling her parents. “I felt like I was cutting off my own arm,” she said. “There was no boundary between my parents and me. The pain I was causing them, I would cause myself.” On top of her parents being conservative Christians, Asian culture has also made things difficult. She believes her coming out has been the biggest stressor in her parents’

COURTESY OF SARAH NGU

Sarah Ngu lectures about colonialism and her own family history at Forefront Brooklyn Church last month.

lives. “In Asian culture there is no identity,” Ngu said. “There is just behavior and duty. You feel things, but you can only act a certain way.” But after a lot of “theological back-and-forth,” things are looking up for Ngu’s parents.

Since 2016, Ngu has been working with her parents about being affirming. In the past six months, they met her partner, Abby Shuster, and they like her. She’s trying to find other Asian Christian women with LGBTQ children to talk with her mom. “We’ll see what happens,” Ngu said. “I don’t think my parents will be affirming any time soon, but I want to get to a point where they have a less black and white view of things.” When Shuster met Ngu at Columbia, she realized that Ngu herself had a lot of “black and white” thinking. A Reformed Jew, Shuster hadn’t met many fundamentalist Christians or Christians in general. “A lot of those early months were about me trying to figure out how to relate to that,” she said. “She had to learn the right language to talk about her faith or how her faith intersected with other parts of her identity.” Now Ngu splits her time between ghost-writing and helping with various LGBTQ Christian projects like Queer Communion, a group

associated with her church. She also hosts the Religious Socialism Podcast. “For her, things start as personal and become work or work and then a personal project,” Shuster said. “She figures out ways to get paid to do things she cares about.” Ngu also helps run ChurchClarity.org, a website that scores churches’ websites on how clear they are about their attitudes toward LGBTQ people. “I think that’s one of the projects that stands out; it has Sarah written all over it,” Shuster said. “She cares about what happens to LGBTQ people in other Christian communities, [the impact] the deception and duplicitousness of being quietly unaffirming has on individual people.” For Ngu, being queer is now a political identity that she is committed to with pride. “The marginalization and persecution of the church has only increased my identification with queerness or being gay,” Ngu said. “Because I’ve had to fight for it. Or wrestle with it in a way that I wouldn’t have had to.”

OVER 4 MILLION WEEKLY WINNERS ©2017 New York Lottery. You must be 18 or older to purchase a lottery ticket. PLEASE PLAY RESPONSIBLY. For help with problem gambling, call 1-877-8-HOPE-NY or text HOPENY (467369). nylottery.ny.gov

GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

15


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN

Bigotry and Bullshit

jgoodstein@cnglocal.com FOUNDING EDITOR IN-CHIEF & ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER PAUL SCHINDLER

editor@gaycitynews.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR DUNCAN OSBORNE

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS DONNA ACETO (Photo Editor) CHRISTOPHER BYRNE (Theater), SUSIE DAY (Perspective), BRIAN McCORMICK (Dance)

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

ART DIRECTOR

ADAMRIPPON.FIGURESK ATERSONLINE.COM

Adam Rippon, the out gay US Olympic figure skater who refused Vice President Mike Pence’s insistent requests for a meeting.

MARCOS RAMOS

ADVERTISING AMANDA TARLEY PH: 718-260-8340 AMANDA@GAYCITYNEWS.COM

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES GAYLE GREENBERG ANDREW MARK JIM STEELE JULIO TUMBACO MIRIAM NIETO JAY PELC LAURA CANGIANO KATHY WENK JEANNIE EISENHARDT LENNY VIGLIOTTI

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

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

© 2018 Gay City News. All rights reserved.

FOUNDING MEMBER

16

TWITTER.COM

Pita Taufatofua, the taekwondo champion and cross-country skier from the Polynesian nation of Tonga who did make time for the veep.

BY ED SIKOV

S

peaking of bigotry and bullshit — we’re always speaking of bigotry and bullshit here at Media Circus — we can thank Erik Wemple and the Washington Post for catching Fox News in the act. The headline reads: “Fox News eliminates column by network executive blasting Olympic diversity as ‘Darker, Gayer, Different.’” I don’t know about you, but I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I read a headline like that — sickness combined with smugness, since it

confirms everything I know about Fox News and I love to be proven correct. Wemple writes: “John Moody didn’t like what he was reading in this Post article: ‘Trying to make Team USA look more like America.’ Written by Rick Maese, the story notes that officials with the US Olympic Committee are ‘pleased’ that this year’s squad in Pyeongchang ‘includes more African Americans and Asian Americans — and even the first two openly gay men — than recent winter squads.’ “In an op-ed for FoxNews.com,

Moody, who serves as the executive vice president and executive editor for Fox News, took issue with the focus on diversity in a competitive context: ‘Unless it’s changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” It appears the US Olympic Committee would like to change that to “Darker, Gayer, Different.” If your goal is to win medals, that won’t work,’ he wrote. The headline of the piece is ‘In Olympics, let’s focus on the winner of the race — not the race of the winner.’” Nice, huh? Wemple goes on: “Some synapses apparently failed to connect here. [To put it mildly.] Unless something changed overnight, the USOC continues choosing its teams the way it has in the past. Those who skate the fastest, jump the farthest, perform the best — they’re the ones who end up making the trip. The quite admirable goal of Olympic officials is, apparently, to ensure that those who so qualify come to represent the country’s diversity. “A different interpretation altogether prevails in Moody’s op-ed. ‘For the current USOC, a dream team should look more like the general population,’ writes Moody. ‘So, while uncomfortable, the question probably needs to be asked: were our Olympians selected because they’re the best at what they do, or because they’re the best publicity for our current obsession with having one each from Column A, B, and C?’ Well, Mr. Moody: You’re the executive vice president and executive editor for Fox News. If this ‘uncomfortable’ question needs answering, why don’t you deploy some of the nearly $1.5 billion in Fox News profits and send some reporters to investigate?” It’s at this point that I started laughing. Wemple writes frequently about Fox; he’s done his homework. He quotes Gabriel Sherman’s book “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” a biography of the late and unlamented head of Fox News, Roger Ailes, on Moody: “A ‘conservative journalist’ [Note: I love the fact that Wemple found a way to put that in quotes] who had ‘topped out’ as the New York bureau chief at Time magazine, Moody carried forward Ailes’ instructions to ‘fight’ against the prevalence of liberalism in the ranks of the country’s journalists. Sometimes that fight rankled

OLYMPICS, continued on p.18

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad

Lezzie at Large: Revolting Lesbian Jo Macellaro BY KELLY COGSWELL

A

young Special Ed teacher, Jo Macellaro, knew she had to do something when Donald Trump was elected and her students came to class in tears, afraid Trump would deport or even kill them. So she joined the mostly queer Rise and Resist, kicking off her trouble-making career with a direct action focused on immigration, “No ban, no wall, no raids.” In R&R she met a lot of experienced lesbian activists, including veterans of ACT UP and the Lesbian Avengers. They’d hang out after meetings and talk about the predictable joys of working with guys who interrupted them regularly and took credit for their ideas, when they weren’t actually silencing them. They jokingly called themselves “revolting lesbians.” After a particularly frustrating episode, they decided to start their own direct action group, embracing the joke as their new name, Revolting Lesbians. Their purpose, “following the money, exposing the right-wing agenda, and taking back power.” Their first public appearance was at the January 20 Women’s March in New York City. They hadn’t planned on doing anything until they heard how four black lesbians — Kaladaa Crowell, Brandi Mells, Shanta Myers, and Kerrice Lewis — and three of their children had been brutally murdered in the space of a week in late December. “We’re Revolting Lesbians. We’re a lesbian group. We felt like we had to do something about this,” Jo explained. “Friends of some of the women who were murdered were saying that it really hurt them that one of them was burned alive in the trunk of a car and the [mainstream] media didn’t even really cover it.” (The complete video of my interview with her is embedded in the online version of this story at gaycitynews.nyc/revolting-lesbians-macellaro). The group also wanted a stronger lesbian presence at this year’s Women’s March. Some of them had GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

marched the year before in New York, others in Washington. And they’d found it was mostly straight white women. The response to the Revolting Lesbians was amazing. “We had people write to us who weren’t there thanking us for doing it. We had people at other Women’s Marches print out our signs and have their own #SayHerName contingents.” The group’s current mission is to remove Rebekah Mercer from the board of New York’s American Museum of Natural History. Those who had been in Rise and Resist were tired of just reacting to Trump. Every day he and his Republican administration were responsible for a new atrocity. Every week they’d take to the streets in response. They wanted to do something more strategic and achievable, and began researching the money behind Trump. Soon they discovered how the Mercer family stepped in and bankrolled Trump’s presidential campaign when it was faltering, and that Rebekah Mercer conveniently lived and conducted a lot of her business in New York. What shocked the Revolting Lesbians most was that she sat on the board of the Museum of Natural History. Jo tracked down the Mercer family’s foundation tax returns for 2009-2015, and discovered she donated almost $43 million to groups promoting climate change denial. This included several millions to the Heartland Institute, which claims responsibility for convincing Trump that climate change is fake. “Climate change affects everybody,” Jo said. Lesbians included. The group decided that getting Mercer off the museum board was a fight that they could actually win. They drew an enthusiastic crowd to their first demo, even though it was held the day after the Women’s March. And eager tourists snapped pictures of one dyke dressed as a raptor with Mercer’s face, and someone else as her holding a bloody earth. They also got a lot of media attention. Maybe because the museum’s security panicked and called the cops.

While the press used photos of their action and quoted their research, most of the outlets didn’t mention the name Revolting Lesbians. They preferred to cite the group of scientists who wrote their own letter denouncing Mercer, even though the scientists were spurred into action by, and used the research of, the Revolting Lesbians. This didn’t surprise members that had been Lesbian Avengers. When that group was formed in the early 1990s, people were afraid of using the word lesbian — and they still are. “When I was making our Facebook page for Revolting Lesbians

REVOLTING LESBIANS, continued on p.18

KELLY COGSWELL

Jo Macellaro was at first active with Rise and Resist in the wake of Donald Trump’s election but has now helped found Revolting Lesbians.

SASKIA SCHEFFER

On January 21, the group picketed the American Museum of Natural History, whose board includes Rebekah Mercer, whose family has donated millions to climate change denial groups, Trump’s campaign coffers, and Breitbart News.

ANNE MAGUIRE

Revolting Lesbians marched in the January 20 Women’s March in Manhattan.

17


OLYMPICS, from p.16

folks, as Sherman documented: In an instructional seminar for new hires, Moody distributed examples of New York Times stories that, in his view, leaned to the left. ‘Pointing to an article about a book fair in Zimbabwe with a gay and lesbian booth, Moody grumbled, “How is this news? Why does anyone care about this?” Adam Sank, a gay producer, told Sherman: ‘There would be a lot more homophobia that’d come my way later on.’” As a side note, one reason that an LGBTQ booth at a Zimbabwean book fair might technically be considered newsworthy is that male same-sex sexual relations are illegal in Zimbabwe. Stefano Gennarini surfaced again this week, this time complete with a JD in his byline (I’m not impressed), with an article on Lifesitenews.com. “Fewer people support the LGBT agenda, survey shows,” the headline bleated. Gennarini is in ecstasy: “The survey also found a decrease in Americans who identify as strong sup-

REVOLTING LESBIANS, from p.17

I had to change the name in our url. Because Facebook doesn’t let you use the word “lesbian” in a url.” Though, weirdly, dyke was accepted. Jo explained that it was important for the name Revolting Lesbians to appear, even in something focused on climate change, because lesbians and queer women, women

HRC GALA, from p.4

his name to my bill to protect those same troops.” Turning to the poisonous political climate and spiraling hate violence unleashed by Trump, Gillibrand embraced the politics of intersectionality championed by many grassroots progressives, saying, “If you live at the intersections of any of these communities, if you are a black lesbian or a trans woman, the rates of violence are even higher. This hatred has no place anywhere in our great nation.” Gillibrand’s remarks reinforced the widespread perception that she

18

porters of the LGBT agenda in all situations, as opposed to only qualified supporters of LGBT issues in certain situations. This may be a reaction to the intransigence of LGBT extremists in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before the Supreme Court.” By LGBT extremists, Gennarini is referring to anyone who believes that public accommodations laws apply to all the public, not just to straight people. Gennarini goes on: “In Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) just elected an openly pro-family judge María Elósegui Ichaso to the European Court of Human Rights... There were also pro-LGBT candidates in the running, but the vote was not even close, with 114 votes in her favor and the next runner up only garnering 76. This, even though María Elósegui Ichaso has written and spoken out against gender ideology in conservatives [sic] publications and environments. While the Court has always been more conservative than most human rights bodies, the sheer bluntness of María Elósegui

Ichaso’s writings, one would have thought, might have disqualified her. Instead, it seems to have worked in her favor. “Here is a zinger from María Elósegui Ichaso’s writing: ‘Those who build and express their sexual behavior in conformity with their biological sex develop balanced and healthy conduct. Those who commit themselves to going against their own biology develop several pathologies. This is clear.’” So she’s a nutcase. This is clear. Here’s some of the Wikipedia entry on María Elósegui Ichaso, who has no formal training in biology, chemistry, or medicine. Most amusingly, Google Translator periodically renders “she” as “he” and “her” and “his”; so much for the strict gender binaries that Elósegui Ichaso holds dear: “After the publication of his book ‘Diez temas de género: Men and women before the productive and reproductive rights,’” the entry reads, “Professor Elósegui granted an interview in which she affirmed that, if the identity is built apart from the gender that marks the DNA, pathologies de-

velop, such as sexually transmitted diseases: ‘Those who build and perform their sexual behavior according to their biological sex will develop a balanced and healthy behavior, and those who insist on going against their biology will develop different pathologies. [In the book “Ten Gender Issues”], I do not manifest myself explicitly and as a starting point against gay ideology. What I do explain is the scientific basis of sexuality, from which we derive the healthy and desirable behaviors and what science shows us the homosexual lifestyle carries higher risks of sexually transmitted diseases. But even with this, each individual must be free to develop their sexual identity as they wish, although they cannot avoid its consequences.’” The entry goes on to report, however, that last month, the same one in which she was elected to the European Court of Human Rights, she said, “I do not think that homosexuality produces pathologies.” So in addition to being a crank, she’s also a liar and a hypocrite. I’ve got to hand it to Gennarini – he sure knows how to pick ‘em.

in general, have made huge contributions to every social movement, but almost never gotten credit. So far their results on the Mercer push are mixed. They’ve succeeded in calling attention to the issue, but the Museum of Natural History has so far refused to remove Mercer from its board, claiming that she doesn’t influence their programming. The Revolting Lesbians are determined to keep up the pres-

sure and are optimistic that the board will change its position or Mercer herself will resign because she shies away from the media. “If you look her up online, there are only three pictures of her. So, we’ll see. With all this attention, hopefully, she will want to back off.” Besides the actions focused on Rebekah Mercer, Revolting Lesbians are planning to do more to

bring visibility to lesbians who have been the victims of violence. The best way to reach them is through Facebook at facebook. com/RevoltingDykesNYC/ or Twitter @RevoltLesbians.

has decided the Democratic Party’s future lies with its left-leaning grassroots activists, many of whom were aligned with Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries. During his remarks, HRC’s Griffin also spoke in intersectional terms, noting an alliance with the NAACP in Alabama’s special US Senate election, pointing to the “epidemic of violence” against transgender women of color, emphasizing the group’s common cause with immigrants’ rights, voting rights, and women’s rights, and name-checking Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement, and the new Time’s Up initiative to combat sexual assault

in the workplace. The results from November’s legislative elections in Virginia — where Danica Roem, a transgender Democrat, beat the House of Delegates’ most anti-trans incumbent — and the Alabama Senate race, Griffin said, proved that “the days of attacking our community to scare up votes are over and a reckoning is coming this November.” Schumer, for his part, kept his remarks short, theatrically ripping up his speech to talk about how his political hunger was first stirred at Harvard in 1967 when he was recruited into Senator Eugene McCarthy’s insurgent challenge to Presi-

dent Lyndon Johnson, who bowed out after a win that was humiliatingly narrow in the New Hampshire primary. Seeing the same sort of activism he experienced then, Schumer sounded upbeat about big Democratic victories in November — enough to flip both the House and the Senate. If his party gains Senate control, Schumer said, “I will have the sole power to determine what goes on the floor of the Senate, and that will means we will not get another backward, right-wing justice of the Supreme Court, period. And we will stop the anti-LGBT cascade of things that come into the Senate.”

Quotes used in this article have been edited for clarity and length. The full interview is embedded in the online version at gaycitynews. nyc/revolting-lesbians-macellaro.

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


S Y! D A EN SD E TU

PRESIDENT’S DAY SALE

FIRST. TIME. EVER. Get a king mattress for a queen price plus a free adjustable base.

Save up to $1800

FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE

**

UP TO AN $1198 VALUE FREE when you spend just $500+ on a mattress.

PLUS

THE BIG PRICE DROP

King mattress for a queen price. Queen mattress for a twin price.

MF20_NYC_WRAP_2.16_COMMUNITY_1

GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

19


+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

THE BIG PRICE DROP

PILLOW TOP MATTRESS

PLUSH MATTRESS

ONLY $449

ONLY $499

QUEEN NOW FOR TWIN PRICE.

QUEEN NOW FOR TWIN PRICE.

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

PLUSH MATTRESS

MEMORY FOAM MATTRESS

ONLY $699

ONLY $799

QUEEN NOW FOR TWIN PRICE.

QUEEN NOW FOR TWIN PRICE.

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

PILLOW TOP MATTRESS

PLUSH MATTRESS

ONLY $899

ONLY $899

QUEEN NOW FOR TWIN PRICE.

QUEEN NOW FOR TWIN PRICE.

WAS $499

WAS $699

QUEEN MATTRESS. TWIN PRICE.

WAS $799

WAS 999 $

WAS $899

WAS $999

MF20_NYC_WRAP_2.16_COMMUNITY_2_3

20

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

PILLOW TOP MATTRESS

PLUSH MATTRESS

ONLY $499

ONLY $699

KING NOW FOR QUEEN PRICE.

KING NOW FOR QUEEN PRICE.

WAS 599 $

PRICE DROP. ALL BRANDS. KING MATTRESS. QUEEN C PRICE.

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

PLUSH MATTRESS

MEMORY FOAM MATTRESS

ONLY $799

ONLY $899

KING NOW FOR QUEEN PRICE.

KING NOW FOR QUEEN PRICE.

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

PILLOW TOP MATTRESS

PLUSH MATTRESS

ONLY $999

ONLY $999

KING NOW FOR QUEEN PRICE.

KING NOW FOR QUEEN PRICE.

WAS $1299

WAS 1299 $

GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

WAS $999

WAS $1099

WAS $1499

21


0% APR FOR 6 YEARS* Minimum purchase of $3999 with your Mattress Firm credit card. 72 equal monthly payments required.

OR

DS Y! EN DA ES TU

PRICE DROP. FAMOUS NAME BRANDS.

NO CREDIT NEEDED See store for details.

QUEEN MATTRESS. TWIN PRICE. +FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

CUSHION FIRM MATTRESS

FIRM MATTRESS

MEMORY FOAM MATTRESS

LUXURY FIRM MATTRESS

ONLY $399

ONLY $599

ONLY $599

ONLY $799

QUEEN NOW FOR TWIN PRICE.

QUEEN NOW FOR TWIN PRICE.

QUEEN NOW FOR TWIN PRICE.

QUEEN NOW FOR TWIN PRICE.

WAS $449

WAS $699

WAS $699

WAS $899

KING MATTRESS. QUEEN PRICE. +FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

+FREE ADJUSTABLE BASE**

CUSHION FIRM MATTRESS

FIRM MATTRESS

MEMORY FOAM MATTRESS

LUXURY FIRM MATTRESS

ONLY $449

ONLY $699

ONLY $699

ONLY $899

KING NOW FOR QUEEN PRICE.

KING NOW FOR QUEEN PRICE.

KING NOW FOR QUEEN PRICE.

KING NOW FOR QUEEN PRICE.

WAS $549

WAS $1199

WAS $999

WAS $1399

1-800-MAT-FIRM | MATTRESSFIRM.COM 0% APR: 5 years* with a minimum purchase of $2799, 4 years* with a minimum purchase of $1999, 3 years* with a minimum purchase of $1299, 2 years* with a minimum purchase of $999 on your Mattress Firm credit card. 60, 48, 36 or 24 equal monthly payments required. *Offer valid 2/14/18-2/20/18 and applies only to single-receipt qualifying purchases. No interest will be charged on promo purchase and equal monthly payments are required equal to initial promo purchase amount divided equally by the number of months in promo period until promo is paid in full. The equal monthly payment will be rounded to the next highest whole dollar and may be higher than the minimum payment that would be required if the purchase was a non-promotional purchase. Regular account terms apply to non-promotional purchases. For new accounts: Purchase APR is 29.99%; Minimum Interest Charge is $2. Existing cardholders should see their credit card agreement for their applicable terms. Subject to credit approval. **†All monthly payments are rounded up to the nearest whole dollar. Monthly payment is based on purchase price alone excluding tax and delivery charges. Credit purchases subject to credit approval. Other transactions may affect the monthly payment. Total to pay amount reflects total for queen mattresses. **Free Adjustable Base Offer: Offer valid 2/14/18-2/20/18. Receive a free LP50 adjustable base (up to an $1198 value) with select mattress purchases of $500 and above. Free adjustable base offer valid on same-size mattress purchased. Free adjustable base offer valid to complete mattress set, has no cash value and cannot be used as credit. Offer not valid on Beautyrest Black Hybrid, Beautyrest Black Memory Foam with Black Ice, Serta iComfort or any MAP products. Limited quantities available; offer valid while supplies last. See store for complete details. †The Big Price Drop: Get select king-sized mattresses for the price of a queen-sized mattress. Or get select queen-sized mattresses for the price of a twin-sized mattress. Savings applied to our low price. Savings vary by mattress set and model. Product selection may vary by store. Not valid on previous purchases. Offer not valid on Beautyrest Black Hybrid, Beautyrest Black Memory Foam with Black Ice, Serta iComfort or any MAP products. Limited quantities available; offer valid 2/14/18-2/20/18 or while supplies last. See store for complete details. ††120 Night Low Price Guarantee: We will beat any advertised price by 10%, or your purchase is free, if you find the same or comparable mattress set advertised for less than your invoiced price within 120 days. Our 120 Night Low Price Guarantee does not apply to Serta iComfort, clearance merchandise, floor models, vendor rollbacks/rebates, special purchases, promotional items, doorbusters, discontinued merchandise or any MAP products. Some products are at the manufacturer’s minimum selling price and further reductions cannot be taken. Merchandise offered for sale on auction sites (e.g., eBay, Craig’s List, etc.) is excluded. See store for details. *†*120 Night Sleep Trial Guarantee: If you are not comfortable with your new mattress, you may exchange or return it within 120 nights from your original mattress delivery date. Guarantee is valid for up to 2 exchanges (excluding product warranty exchanges) which must occur during the 120-day period from the original mattress delivery date. If exchanged, guest is responsible for redelivery fee of $79.99. See store for complete details. In-store savings range from $10-$1898. We invite you to ask about any individual prices. Product and selection may vary from store to store. Photography is for illustration purposes only and may not reflect actual product. Mattress Firm, Inc strives for accuracy in our advertising, but errors in pricing and/or photography may occur. Mattress Firm reserves the right to correct any such errors. Store hours may vary by location. Unless otherwise indicated, offers valid 2/14/18-2/20/18 or while supplies last at your local Mattress Firm. See store for complete details. MF20_NYC_WRAP_2.16_COMMUNITY_4

22

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


HEALTH

Rosenthal Takes Lead in Drug Policy Rethinking Upper West Side assemblymember sponsors bill for safe drug consumption spaces BY NATHAN RILEY

U

pper West Side State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal is emerging as a principal player among legislators aiming to unravel New York’s decades-old, counterproductive War on Drugs. From her influential post as chair of the Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Committee, she is lead sponsor on a bill offering care for drug users while they are using. “They need help, not our punishment nor our judgment” is the principle behind her proposal to legalize safer consumption spaces, facilities staffed by overdose prevention workers able to administer naloxone should a person using drugs bought on the street experience an overdose. “No one ever died in a safer injection site,” Rosenthal said at a January 29 Albany press event. “Let me repeat that again, no one ever died in a safer consumption site.” Safer consumption spaces extend the logic of needle exchange programs, which provide injection drug users with clean syringes to prevent the transmission of HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne infections. Naloxone is a public health wonder. It restores normal breathing, and if you have guessed wrong and a person is drunk rather than high no harm is done. Users will overdose at safer consumption spaces, but they come out of the episode alive. Most importantly, naloxone is easy to use. It’s a nasal spray, so those aiding an overdose victim

MELISSA MOORE/ END OVERDOSE NY

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal speaks as a January 31 press conference in Albany on reforming state drug policy.

need merely stick the spray in that person’s nose and squirt. Only an hour of training is needed to administer it correctly. The drug is, already, New York State’s response to the surge in opioid deaths. Emergency responders, homeless shelter staff and residents, and drug users and their friends and family can carry this kit to halt an overdose. That response, however, remains haphazard, depending on the lucky coincidence of a person carrying naloxone encountering the person overdosing. Cities all over the world have implemented a more organized response, allowing drug users to shoot up in clean, quiet surroundings using sterile equipment and having an overdose prevention worker steps away. These facilities conform to basic public health advice about heroin: “Don’t do it

alone.” US criminal law, however, largely makes it unthinkable that drug users could legally meet up to shoot up. Their conduct is illegal, and landlords hosting such space could lose their building and health care workers could go to jail. There is no freedom of assembly for drug users even in a health facility. That is what Rosenthal’s bill, A.8534, would create by authorizing public spaces beyond the reach of the criminal law. It is macabre commentary on drug prohibition that proven public health policies are illegal without special legislation. There is an urgent need: By every measure deaths are going up. “Nearly 65,000 Americans died” — more deaths in one year than the total for the entire Vietnam War — Rosenthal said of the nation’s record level of opioid deaths, before decrying the drastic escalation of deaths locally in recent years. “Here in New York State, the overdose death rate increased by 32 percent,” she said of the increase from 2015 to 2016. “In New York City, it increased by an astounding 46 percent.” The city health department’s final count for 2016 overdose deaths was 1,347 — the sixth consecutive year of rising deaths from unintentional “poisonings.” “Safer consumption sites are neither controversial nor new,” Rosenthal noted, pointing out that the first one opened 32 years ago

SAFER CONSUMPTION, continued on p.25

Drug Reformers Fault Cuomo’s Approach to Fentanyl End Overdose NY Campaign favors harm reduction over further criminalization BY NATHAN RILEY

T

he End Overdose NY Campaign blasted Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to add fentanyl, a powerful opioid, to the list of controlled sub-

stances. “It will not save a single life,” warned Jeremy Saunders, co-director of VOCAL-NY, a leader in the coalition. “We won’t end the overdose crisis by filling up jail cells,” Daniel Raymond, a senior policy planner for the Harm Reduction Coalition, added in the campaign’s statement. He advocated instead giving drug users fentanyl strips that would allow them to test their drugs for the highly potent painkiller that is sold by Chinese companies over the Internet. GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

The campaign is demanding a public health approach to stemming the constant increase in overdose deaths. In 2011, an advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta warned of an alarming increase in deaths from opioid-related overdoses. Since then, the deaths have increased every year in New York and in the nation. “NYC Health in 2017,” an official city publication, said one New York City resident died every seven hours and the number had increased every year for six years. Fentanyl is involved in about half of these fatalities. In contrast to the governor’s law-andorder approach, the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins issued a study showing that even among hardcore drug users, 42 percent who had witnessed a person dying from

an overdose wanted to test their drugs and didn’t want fentanyl added to their drugs. The study concluded that using the strips to check for fentanyl would help users inject smaller amounts over a longer period of time. St. Anne’s Corner of Harm Reduction, a Bronx needle exchange, has posted a YouTube video demonstrating how the strips work: youtube.com/watch?v=gIovAAV-Amg. (Full disclosure: I used to be chair of that program.) Banning fentanyl “does not make people less likely to come in contact with the drug” said Kassandra Frederique, the New York State director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Criminalization has never shut off the supply of drugs. But allowing drug user to inject slow-

FENTANYL, continued on p.39

23


COMMUNITY

  

         

New LGBTQ Center Opens in Queens Long Island City’s Q-Center launched on Northern Boulevard



           



             

                                !  "      # $    %   %     %      %       $    % % # $   &        ' (  "  # $       &  (%           

                     

          & %               )           %

*%    )     +  %  # $     %# $       %    " &   )    %              ,%       # $     )     %        %       -  %       # $ .      /  /%  ! *      # $ %                         )       %          %# $       0       %   %    -% +   1          %   %        ' 2 3    4&       &     5!   /  /%  ! *     &   # $ 6     )    , ,      %     # $ %  )                   %              %        

 24

COURTESY OF COUNCILMEMBER DANIEL DROMM’S OFFICE

Those on hand for the Q-Center’s ribbon-cutting included (l. to right) Councilmembers Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer, David Kilmnick of the Long Island LGBT Network that established the center, Public Advocate Letitia James, Borough President Melinda Katz, Matthew McMorrow from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, Congressmember Joseph Crowley, and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the city health department’s deputy commissioner for disease control.

BY BILL PARRY

T

he Queens LGBTQ community gathered on February 1 with elected officials to celebrate a new safe space in Long Island City that will offer health and educational services. The LGBT Network, a Long Island-based nonprofit organization now in its 25th year, cut the ribbon on its first full-service queer community center in the borough. The Q-Center, as it is called, is located at 37-18 Northern Boulevard at 38th Street. “We’re going to have everything from education to support to advocacy to organizing,� LGBT Network president and CEO David Kilmnick said. “We’re going to be able to provide HIV testing on site and we’re going to have fun arts and cultural stuff for people to celebrate. We need to celebrate our community. We need to work across all different groups, and this center is going to provide that home and safe space.� The Q-Center will serve all ages and offer programming such as the Safe Schools Initiative with more than 60 schools to establish gaystraight alliance clubs and offer educational workshops for students and faculty. The Q-Center will also work to protect the community against hate crimes, which are up

30 percent in the city since 2016, in a program with the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD. “Today the LGBT community is facing challenges we didn’t think we would have to after eight years of progress under the Obama administration,� Kilmnick said. “Our new center is responding to these challenges in front of us.� Hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals now account for one-fifth of all hate crimes committed, Kilmnick added, which Congressmember Joseph Crowley, a Jackson Heights Democrat, blamed on the era of Trump. “In these trying times when so many communities, including the LGBT, have come under attack from this administration, people feel helpless,� Crowley said. “The support group is here now where they can feel safe and feel accepted and appreciated for who they are. No one should be picked on or brutalized. This center will go a long way toward helping people come to terms with who they are.� City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, a third-term Democrat from Sunnyside, spoke to the importance of youth getting support by offering a personal story of having grown up just a few blocks away

䉴

Q-CENTER, continued on p.25

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


䉴

SAFER CONSUMPTION, from p.23

in Berne,Switzerland. “Since then they have opened in nearly 100 cities worldwide.� Rosenthal originally introduced her measure in 2016, but this year it is part of a concerted push to move legislation in the Assembly that will help the state break free from the shackles of a prohibitionist policy, which has failed, while giving users a hassle-free space for consuming drugs safely. Rosenthal was joined at the press conference by several Assembly colleagues, including fellow West Sider Richard Gottfried, who chairs the Health Committee, and Crystal Peoples-Stokes from Buffalo, the lead sponsor of A.3506, which permits adult-use of marijuana as is currently the law in a growing number of states. A fourth member of the Assembly on hand created a stir when she told the audience, which included public healthcare workers, advocates, and families whose children had overdosed, that safe consumption spaces would offer comfort and support to people who today are shamed and isolated — and therefore at increased risk for fatal mistakes. “It provides a positive touch point,� said Brooklyn Assemblymember Diana Richardson. “We are being progressive and providing a safe space for guess what? Something they will do anyway.� Noting she had visited

䉴

Q-CENTER, from p.24

on 31st Avenue in Astoria where he went to Bryant High School. “When I was in high school I was extremely depressed, I was suicidal,� Van Bramer said. “I stopped going to school for months at a time. I was afraid that if I spoke in class people would hear my voice and automatically know I was gay. That’s how terrified I was of being who I am today.� A youth program offered at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan helped Van Bramer come to terms with his identity and to come out. Today he is the only out gay married member of the Council. “At Bryant High School today, while the world has changed so much, I’m sure that there is a student or someone at that school who is discovering his sexual orientaGayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

such a space, Richardson said, “The individual came through the door and they were actually able to interact with someone. The person didn’t judge them, the person welcomed them.â€? Then, with a sly smile, she added dryly, “A person using many substances isn’t welcomed in many places.â€? After the friendly greeting, Richardson explained, a user is “given clean materials‌ now we are talking about preventing hepatitis and a whole other host of diseases.â€? The concern such facilities show for the health of drug users is unique and increases the likelihood that healthcare workers will establish vital bonds of trust with those users. This approach contrasts sharply with the tough love prohibitionist approach, which relies on the notion that substance abusers must hit bottom before remedial steps will be effective. Safe consumption spaces, based on the harm reduction philosophy behind needle exchange programs, instead aim to break the grip of hopelessness weighing on this stigmatized group, helping users identify personal competencies that could increase their sense of agency in taking charge of their lives. Charles King, the CEO of the AIDS services group Housing Works, told the press conference that safe consumption spaces are “about saving lives, but just as important are about offering hope.â€?

Z]QOZ[SRWOa^]\a]`

tion or gender identity,� he said. “And he’s struggling to talk about it.� That student would be helped by friends and allies at the Q-Center, Van Bramer said. Councilmember Daniel Dromm, an out gay third-term Democrat from Jackson Heights who is a former public school teacher, agreed with Van Bramer’s sentiments. “It’s great to finally have a fullservice LGBTQ community center in Queens,� Dromm said. “I look forward to working with the LGBT Network on the many desperatelyneeded programs that they will bring to the borough and to fill the gap in the LGBTQ community.� Queens Pride House, an LGBTQ community center launched in 1997, continues to operate out of its facility at 76-11 37th Avenue near 76th Street in Jackson Heights.

25


GALLERY

Tennessee at the Morgan The ultimate gay drama queen’s world revealed TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: NO REFUGE BUT WRITING

COURTESY: MORGAN LIBRARY

Williams (r.) with his longtime lover Frank Merlo.

COURTESY: MORGAN LIBRARY

COURTESY: MORGAN LIBRARY

Irving Penn’s 1951 photo portrait of Tennessee Williams.

BY DAVID NOH here it is in a glass case, Marlon Brando’s little black book, tiny and very worn from obvious usage, which he had and then lost during the run of his 1947 star-making “A Streetcar Named Desire,” with an accompanying caption stating that inside he wrote, “On bended knee I beg you to return this. I lost eight others already and if I lose this, I’ll just drop dead!” The actor had left it at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and it was found by stage manager Robert Downing, but somehow never returned to Brando. And this is but one of the gems in the exhibit “Tennessee Williams: No Refuge But Writing,” which just opened at the Morgan Library. Such is Williams’ enduring legacy, as exemplified by the endless revivals of his plays, not just here in New York but across the country and, indeed, the globe, he should have an entire museum permanently devoted to him, or even a

T

26

few, located in the cities he loved and — being complexly Tennessee — also hated: New York, New Orleans, Provincetown, Key West. The fact that he was uncompromisingly gay while his language was and is completely universal is but one of the miracles of his genius. He does, however, speak particularly loud and clear to his fellow gay men, probably more than any other writer, save Shakespeare. Hardly a day goes by when some life incident I experience — big or small — causes me to immediately flash on pertinent lines he wrote: “I don’t want realism. I want magic!,” “When monster meets monster, one monster has to give way, and it will never be me!,” “Most people’s lives, what are they but trails of debris?,” “I’m just a lewd vagrant,” “Mendacity!,” “No-neck monsters!,” and, most often, “Young, young man…!” His words obviously also deeply affected Laurette Taylor, whose performance as Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie,” is considered by everyone who saw it

Karl Malden, Marlon Brandon, Jessica Tandy, and Kim Hunter in rehearsal for the 1947 Broadway production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

simply the greatest ever. There’s a photograph of her, in costume as Amanda, but she signed it with a quote from the play, instead of a signature. Indeed, Williams’ spirit, as well as his words, haunt our lives, too. What is New Orlean’s French Quarter but one big Tennessee Williams set designed by history? In Manhattan there are all those Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters that housed his work, the Hotel Elysée (nicknamed “The Easy Lay,”), where he lived and died, the YMCA, where he stayed in his early New York years, making full use of the men-only nude days at the swimming pool, and other amenities later extolled by the Village People in popular song. Contained in one not-enormous room, “Tennessee Williams: No Refuge But Writing” is a small but surprisingly comprehensive exhibit, including journals, letters, poems, scripts, posters, programs, and photographs, which only takes the playwright to the time of his last stage hit, ‘The Night of the Iguana” (1961). Curator Caro-

Morgan Library 225 Madison Ave. at E. 36th St. Through May 13 Tue.-Thu., 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri., 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. $20; $13 for seniors & students morgan.org

lyn Vega perhaps discreetly decided not to cover the years that followed before his untimely death in 1983, which occurred when he choked on the cap of a pill bottle he was trying to open with his teeth. Those years saw him experimenting with new, more abstract forms of playwriting, all of which were both critical and commercial failures, as well as sinking deeper and deeper into a morass of drink and drugs that had him taking up with a succession of questionable characters and hanging out at hustler bars on East 53rd Street, and even more louche dives like the Haymarket, on then down-market Eighth Avenue, the kind of a place where the minute you entered, the bartender would scream for your drink order. Unlike, Edward Albee, whose long years in the wilderness, persona non grata on Broadway, finally ended with the comeback triumph of “Three Tall Women” and other new plays until his demise in 2016, Williams was never able to redeem himself. In 1980, I remember being church-mouse poor and yet managing to scrape up enough funds to get a ticket to the opening night of his “Clothes for a Summer Hotel,” because I knew in my bones it would be his Broadway swan song. A phalanx of fabulous, old school boldface names attended to watch the spectacle of an old and fat Geraldine Page, garishly accoutered in a saggy tutu and ballet slippers, impersonate

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, continued on p.27

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, from p.26

Zelda Fitzgerald. It played 14 performances, and the real end was near. I had only one encounter with Williams, and it was very brief and completely silent. I’ve always lived on Christopher Street and my first apartment there was, appropriately, on the corner of Gay Street. I was in the habit of getting my Sunday Times from the newsstand around the corner on Sixth Avenue. One gray and drizzly day, I was headed back to my place, Times in hand, when I spotted my idol, alone and huddled in the doorway of the Jon Vie bakery that used to be there. He looked at me and gave me one of those Tennessee Cheshire Cat grins. “Oh God,” I remember thinking. “It’s him! But it’s raining and my paper will get wet! I’ll meet him some other time.” Of course I never did, and it was a lesson forever to me not to be shy if you want to meet someone: seize whatever chance you get to do so because there really may never be another. The 1970s-80s were hard times, but the Morgan show eschews them in this decidedly vivid celebration of his life, covering his childhood and family background in St. Louis, with an afflicted sister, Rose, and redoubtably strong mother, who would inspire the characters in his 1945 breakthrough work “The Glass Menagerie.” There are some pencil-scribbled letters which, like most of his correspondence are deeply revealing on a personal level. For me, the show piece of the exhibit is the portable typewriter he used throughout his life to send out so much thrillingly vivid communication to a world that often seemed either unready or too hostile to truly accept him for everything he adamantly insisted upon being. Seeing it stirred up thoughts of the sounds it must have made when its owner was in the eye of the storm of creativity, the clattering of the keys being tapped, the whir of the carriage return, and the tiny bell ringing. For him, the typewriter was a weapon, as well as a tool, with which to confront that world. I was glad to see a beautiful portrait of Miriam Hopkins, the now little-remembered actress from GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

COURTESY: MORGAN LIBRARY COURTESY: MORGAN LIBRARY

Williams’ self-portrait.

Georgia, who was superior in my opinion to her more celebrated contemporaries, Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn. She was one of fellow Southerner Williams’ earliest real patrons, as well as his first leading lady, starring in his playwriting debut, “Battle of Angels,” which closed after a disastrous two-week run in Boston in 1940. Actresses like her would inspire him all his life, and it was seeing the great Alla Nazimova on tour in Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts” that inspired Williams to become a playwright, just as he later inspired Tony Kushner. Kushner, in an interview for the house publication of the Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, which has a huge Williams collection this show has drawn upon, said, “Williams, much more than any other American playwright, succeeded in finding a poetic diction for the stage. I immediately identified with that ambition, with the desire to write language that simultaneously sounded like spontaneous utterance but also had the voluptuousness in daring, peculiarity, quirkiness, and unapologetic imagistic density of poetry. Also because it is a written language, the tension between artifice, naturalism, and spontaneity in art has always been exciting to me. I felt that I experienced it really viscerally in terms of American playwriting first in Tennessee’s writing. As moved as I am by Tennessee’s clarity about sexuality and his refusal of the closet, I also think it’s very evident that he couldn’t write gay characters. As a result, we have Blanche DuBois, who’s a

An early, signed incarnation of “The Glass Menagerie.”

spectacular female character. But I’m sure it would’ve been salutary for him to write about gay men and gay women as well. Who knows, maybe he wouldn’t have been Tennessee Williams if he had had the freedom to do it. Trauma does produce extraordinary things.” The playwright embraced a peripatetic existence, fleeing trauma and boredom like his Princess Kosmonopolis in “Sweet Bird of

Youth” — and didn’t the man come up with the best titles? — from hotel to hotel. Indeed, on display is a cache of hotel keys from all over the world the playwright had somehow forgotten to return at checkout time. But my favorite piece in this wonderful, do-not-miss show is a 1945 formal typed letter from one hotel manager who accused him of being “in the habit of doing considerable entertaining in your room,” adding that his establishment did not allow “entertaining in the rooms after twelve midnight.” “‘That’s my Tennessee,” I chuckled to myself when I saw that, in total appreciation of a soul who absolutely lived life to the max, unhindered in his homosexuality even in a time and place where that could get you killed, and always going by the motto “Less is more, but more is more.” He was living proof of the truth expressed by reversing another hoary maxim, “The unlived life is not worth examining.” Happily, the Morgan Library, forever one of the real gems of our city, has decided to examine his, in the perfect setting and in the most wonderfully welcome and welcoming way.

MAKE THE CITY YOUR CLASSROOM

OPEN HOUSE S AT U R D AY, M A R C H 2 4 , 2 018 ( 21 2 ) 2 2 0 -1 2 6 5 Start Here. Go Anywhere. www.bmcc.cuny.edu/cng

27


COVER STORY

Agile Blokes Go For Broke UK circus dance troupe serves up exhilarating lifts, eye-popping flips, and sweaty bro hugs BY DAVID KENNERLEY hen best buds Beren D’Amico, Louis Gift, and Charlie Wheeller graduated from the National Centre for Circus Arts in London a few years back, they were faced with a thorny dilemma. The Barely Methodical Troupe, as they are now known, had the chance to craft a piece to showcase their distinct talents, yet needed a hook to make them stand out. Would the piece explore political, literary, or fantasy themes? How about a retro circus act? Their answer came about organically. The show would embody a subject dear to their hearts — themselves. In between tech rehearsals, I sat down with the adorably spunky troupe, which now includes newcomer Arthur Parsons (he alternates with Louis, not quite recovered from shoulder surgery), to chat about the genesis and resonance of their hugely popular show “Bromance.” The adrenaline- and testosterone-fueled spectacle has landed Off-Broadway at the New Victory Theater, after a tour of their native UK, other parts of Europe, Brazil, and beyond. “We wanted to identify what’s interesting about us to potentially evoke onstage,” said Charlie, the most gregarious of the group. “The physically demanding closeness, especially between these two [points to Louis and Beren] performing hand to hand and being on top of each other, and the emotional intensity, it just spoke to us. We realized, ‘Oh yeah, this is something we want to talk about.’” “We decided to strip it back and talk about what we know,” Charlie continued. “Being friends and caring for each other and trusting each other. We spend our lives saving each other’s lives. And then putting them in more danger,” he added with a devilish grin. According to Charlie, “Bromance” is a bold departure from ordinary acrobatic fare. “Usually there’s a base, a really big guy who throws a tiny lady or tiny guy. That’s cool,” he explained. “But it’s not as interesting as watching these two big guys do it. Dancing across the stage, being as agile as the small performers. That is supreme.” The daring, frolicsome “Bromance” tests the limits of platonic male affection through an extraordinary, magical mix of performance styles, fusing traditional circus acrobatics with contemporary movement and wry humor. Charlie, now a dazzling master of the Cyr wheel, started out with b-boying, Beren with tricking and taekwondo, and Louis with parkour and freerunning. All of

BROMANCE

W

28

Barely Methodical Troupe New Victory Theater 209 W. 42nd St. Through Feb. 25 NewVictory.org for schedule, tickets $16-$43 60 mins., with no intermission

CHRIS NASH

Barely Methodical Troupe saving each others’ lives and then putting them in more danger.

them were essentially self-taught. “When we started in school, everyone else had a formal background in dance or gymnastics or circus,” Beren recounted. “We didn’t know the names for any of the tricks. We came from backyard disciplines where we would just throw ourselves around. We saw the tricks we wanted to learn and went off on our own and naturally put on our own spin. We invented a new discipline, in a way.” “We didn’t care so much about perfect lines or pointing toes,” added Louis. “So when we trained together, we naturally had a spark. A bromance, you could say.” But when Louis was sidelined with a shoulder injury last year, they needed to replace him yet retain the special chemistry. So they tapped Arthur, a year behind them at the circus school. “It was crucial to find a replacement for our beautiful Louis that we knew,” said Charlie. “And that we cared about and who cared about the show. We wanted to make sure the intimacy wasn’t fake. That we are real friends is a big part of it. With the four of us here now, we’ve got the Dream Team.” “The intimacy stems from doing acrobatics together,” said Beren. “It forces us in close proximity. We are comfortable touching because we have to, that’s how we achieve our tricks. When we hold hands, it sparks the idea of: Why are males holding hands? It’s not a very common thing, but why not? It’s nice giving someone a hug, being close. In the male world, there’s a weird stigma about it.”

So why are so many folks uneasy with such male intimacy? “We haven’t been asked that question before,” Louis said. “It’s baffling that people are so uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s because, as a man, you might not want to show sensitivity or softness because it implies weakness or lesser male status.” Directed by Eddie Kay and first seen at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2014, “Bromance” starts by depicting how these guys met, then explores the idea of close interactions like holding hands. As it progresses, we witness their journey of becoming relaxed with such intimacy. Although “Bromance” is about the joys of friendship, it also depicts the flip side, like competition and jealousy. The piece illuminates the vulnerability that comes along with getting close to someone. It also plays with the idea that three can be an awkward number. The classic quandary of threesomes. “It sets off a two-versus-one dynamic,” said Louis. “Everyone has a one-on-one connection, but there’s also a group identity and a duo identity. When you are the person left out, is it okay to be over here but still part of the group?” “There are these three egos flying around on stage,” added Charlie. “A clash of the egos.” While the response to the show has been overwhelmingly positive, do these straight guys ever get pushback from people who think they are acting, well, too gay? “We’ve never been accused of that,” said Charlie. “The closest vibe to negativity is when we see a male friend and go in for a hug and realize he’s not comfortable. They’re like, ‘Ugh, I never hug guys.’ I’m always surprised about that.” One of their most gratifying responses they received was a Facebook message from a gay man who was guarded about his sexuality and really loved the show. “He said he was straight-acting, no one really knew,” Louis recalled. “When he told certain friends he was gay, the relationships cooled like

A FINE BROMANCE, continued on p.29

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


“More Parks Sausages Mom!” “Please!”

CHRIS NASH

Three years into performing “Bromance,” the Barely Methodical Troupe continually tweaks the show to keep it fresh.

A FINE BROMANCE, from p.28

that [snaps his fingers]. He said it was gratifying to see a show where three straight guys can have that intimacy. It’s not about sexuality, it’s about friendship. It normalizes the closeness.” Now that “Bromance” has been touring for well over three years, there is a danger that the show might start to feel perfunctory or too polished. Wary of such pitfalls, the award-winning troupe makes an effort to tweak the show and keep it fresh. “We try to surprise each other onstage,” said Charlie. “There are lots of little moments of improvisation throughout the show. We take the opportunity to make the other guy laugh.” “I’ve cracked up at the worst moments,” Arthur said, as they all erupted in guffaws. “I get really upset with myself. But I power through it.” “If it feels real, you see the friendship come through,” Charlie said. “If I see Arthur laughing, then I’m probably going to laugh. It’s just a beautiful snowball from there.” “It’s more amusing to see a spontaneous joke than something rehearsed to be funny,” Beren said. “It’s just raw humor.” According to Beren, each troupe member strives to push himself, adding in a trick from his distinct discipline from time to time. “It keeps us on our toes, even if the audience GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

doesn’t know it’s new.” In fact, for the run at the familyoriented New Victory (this show is recommended for kids as young as seven), they had to modify a few moments to make the show more “kiddie friendly.” The New Victory, it should be noted, must be commended for bringing such an unabashedly inclusive, forward-thinking show to young audiences. And the kids absolutely love it. When I suggested they consider an after-hours, adult-centric version, the guys seemed keen on the idea. “It might be easier for us to go in that direction than toning it down for family audiences,” Charlie said half-jokingly. Perhaps Arthur best summarized the gorgeous, heart-pounding ethos of “Bromance.” “There is an intensity when working in a group with acrobatics,” he said. “When you are coming so close to danger, you can make really big mistakes. But when you do something amazing, you feel so close. There’s so much adrenaline and camaraderie. It does feel a bit like love.” When the interview ended, I got up to say my farewells and stopped myself from instinctively reaching out to shake hands. Lucky for me, it was emphatic hugs all around. For a taste of the bromance, check out m.youtube.com/watch?v=vcbUSEZAFY.

by Maurice W. Dorsey More than his ad, Henry G. Parks, Jr. was a man before his time. Pioneering in the American free enterprise system he embarked on a journey leading to a multi-million dollar industry. After many endeavors in business, The H.G. Parks, Inc. trading as Parks Sausage became a reality in 1951. With strong aggressive leadership, brilliant marketing and advertising, Mr. Parks build a business that never posted a losing year under his ownership. Park’s Sausage was the first African American owned business to issue stock publicly. Mr. Park’s success caught the attention of some of the leading corporate boards in this country along with national organizations, city, state, and federal leaders. They sought to bring him aboard to share his knowledge, leadership skills, and ability with other leading American business, government and non-profit leaders. This is the story of a businessman who was African American and was optimistic and determined while achieving ultimate success. Available on Xlibris.com or Amazon.com mdorsey10 @mdorsey10 Maurice W. Dorsey Maurice W. Dorsey

29


TELEVISION

A Panic Defense Abandoned TV explores a transphobic murder and the attitudes surrounding it LOVE AND HATE CRIME: DOUBLE LIVES Directed by Ben Steele Airs Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. Investigation Discovery TV

INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY

Josh Vallum, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to the murder the year before of his transgender girlfriend.

BY GARY M. KRAMER he chilling ID TV documentary “Love and Hate Crime: Double Lives” chronicles Josh Vallum, a 29-year-old man in Mississippi who murdered his girlfriend, Mercedes Williamson, in 2015 when, he said, he discovered she was transgender. The film features interviews with Vallum in prison recounting the crime. As director Ben Steele’s documentary unspools, however, evidence comes to light that put both Vallum and his crime of passion in a different light. “Love and Hate Crime: Double Lives” includes interviews with Destiny, who was Mercedes’ best friend, and Margaret Baker, an investigative journalist from the Sun Herald in Biloxi, both of whom provide interesting details about the victim and the perpetrator. Vallum’s description of the violent crime, which involves the multiple stabbing and the bludgeoning of his victim with a carpenter’s hammer, is truly disturbing. What is most interesting is what drives the murderer to plead guilty. He chose a life sentence rather than face a jury in a county where his “penis panic” defense just might have acquitted him. These details are what make this episode compelling.

T

30

INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY

Mercedes Williamson was 17 at the time of her killing.

Gay City News chatted with Steele about his documentary. GARY M. KRAMER: What prompted you to make this documentary? BEN STEELE: Hate crime is something that is on the rise in America, and with the rise of Trump — who has given the veneer of respectability to people who hold hateful views — it’s been concerning. We went into production before Trump won the election, but not before he’d had an impact on public discourse and the way hateful comments were echoing around the Internet. That was part of our motivation for the series. The other motivation was that I’d made a film about gay rights in Russia in the lead-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics. I realized how receptive audiences were to expressing great concerns and horror that a country like Russia could have such anti-gay, homophobic practices. I thought there was a disconnect between that horror and that the culture wars have not been won in America. There are pockets on the two seaboard sides where gay people have been accepted and embraced, but that’s not everywhere. Going inside the belly of the beast was something I wanted to do to in this film.

GMK: How did you gain Vallum’s trust to tell his story? He’s almost sympathetic. Almost. BS: I’m glad you found him almost sympathetic. People who do these kinds of terrible crimes justify themselves by thinking they are doing the right thing. That’s a horrible thing we have to engage with. Calling someone a monster in a tabloid kind of way is simplistic, reassuring nonsense. I wanted to paint an honest portrait of Josh, which is that of a very conflicted human being. Josh talks directly to the camera. It’s a device that makes you more likely to like him. I warmed to Josh; if he were born in New York or London, he would have had a very different life. And while he is responsible for the decisions and actions he took, we as a society, we’re responsible for creating a society where some things are shameful and some secrets are best left buried. We tell the story in that way. It is about allowing the audience to go on the journey that Josh claims he goes on. We want the audience to confront their own prejudices and think deeply about this. We don’t say that these are good guys or bad guys. I think that’s a better way to make an impact. If you preach, it’s either to the converted or you put people off.

GMK: How did you understand the relationship between Josh and Mercedes? BS: There are parallels between Josh and Mercedes. They each have an inner voice of sexuality, and it is very different from what society is telling them what they should be. There is a heavily dogmatic version of Christianity and male and female roles. Mercedes’ father told her, “You’re supposed to be my football player not my cheerleader,” and Josh came from a family, like many families in that part of the South, where homosexuality is sinful living and something to be deeply ashamed of. They choose very different ways of being. She left her family — they pushed her away — and she bravely embraced her true self. That meant she became very vulnerable. Josh embraced this very conservative sense of himself, and doubled down on his homophobic views. GMK: Do you think the police acted appropriately in handling the crime? BS: The law enforcement community does the right thing while some of the people on the ground never feel comfortable with the transgender lifestyle, which is part of the problem. I was impressed with the DA, Tony Lawrence, and his team, who referred to Mercedes as a woman, which balances her parents and grandparents wanting to refer to Mercedes as Michael and never honoring her choices.

HATE MURDER, continued on p.31

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


FILM

A Void Inside a Void Andrey Zvyagintsev explores a crisis holding together an empty marriage BY STEVE ERICKSON t’s very fitting that Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless” opens in the US in winter. An arctic chill runs through this film, which begins and ends with images of snowcovered tree branches over a pond. In between, it tells the story of a marriage dissolving as the couple’s child disappears. The cinematography is notably dim, even in indoor scenes where the lighting should be brighter. Russian coldness, measured in terms of temperature and emotion, runs through “Loveless.” The director may have lifted his title from My Bloody Valentine’s classic shoegaze album, but it also just sums up the world in which his characters live. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) are a middle-aged couple with a 12-year-old son, Alexey, going through an ugly divorce. Both of them have found other partners, with whom they spend a lot of time having sex. They can’t wait to be set free from each other, but Alexey’s existence makes that difficult. Then, one day, he disappears into the street. Boris goes on search missions through rotting, waterlogged houses looking for Alexey, but his vanishing forces them together at a point where they can’t stand spending time with each other. Zvyagintsev’s previous film, “Leviathan,” delved into overtly political territory, examining Russian corruption and the connections between the state and conservative religion. It did not win him a lot of friends within the country. For the most part, “Loveless” concentrates on the private arena. There are one or two pointed moments, as when

LOVELESS

I

HATE MURDER, from p.30

GMK: Do you think this film will change attitudes toward transgender people in the South? Might it possibly prevent similar crimes GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev In Russian with English subtitles Sony Pictures Classics Opens Feb. 16 Quad Cinema 34 W. 13th St. quadcinema.com City Cinemas 1, 2, 3 1001 Third Ave. at E. 60th St. citycinemas.com

SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Maryana Spivak in Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless,” which opens February 16.

Zhenya ignores a TV news report about war as she runs on a treadmill, but they could take place just as easily in Sweden or even the US. In fact, all explicit references to the political realm in “Loveless” come secondhand, through the media. The private pain its characters are going through seems to shut out everything else. Still, it’s tempting to give “Loveless” a political reading. One can take it as a conservative statement that divorce and marital hostility are dooming children to a condition where, for adults, they may as well not exist. But I think that’s a bit too literal, even if Zvyaginstev’s public statements suggest that he blames Zhenya and Boris for hastily latching onto new partners and not caring about what happens to their son. One could also read “Loveless” as a metaphor for Russia as a country where the future is so uncertain and shaky that even middle class people, like the couples we see here, don’t know what to expect from it. They can’t even raise children in it because the future feels like a void.

Following in the footsteps of Ingmar Bergman, many filmmakers, from Zvyagintsev’s compatriot Andrei Tarkovsky to Michael Haneke, have aped his ability to capture the pain of breakups and sense of metaphysical doom (and the way he often linked the two). “Loveless” gets it right. It helps that the look of the film is every bit as gloomy as its narrative. There’s a sense of fatalism expressed in the slow zooms Zzyvagintsev sometimes uses, especially the one that winds up peering through a window that gazes upon children playing outside in the snow. He also has a haunting sense of how to stage scenes in order to bring out their maximum amount of pain without necessarily having his characters spend five minutes screaming at each other. A good example is a scene where Boris is driving Zhenya. The casual cruelty with which they treat each other is astonishing. Zhenya tells him she never loved him and only used him as an escape route out of her parents’ house. She also says she wishes she had an abortion. He agrees with that. While he keeps a steely expression on his face, look-

ing ahead at the road, he eventually throws her out of the car. One remarkable thing about this segment is that the director never shows the two characters in the frame together. The sense of two people reacting to each other was put together entirely through editing and, for all I know, the actors were not actually in the car at the same time. Last month, MoMA gave Zvyaginstev a retrospective that included the first theatrical engagement in New York for his film “The Banishment.” Although he has been controversial in Russia for his generally grim view of the country, his star is clearly rising. “Loveless” offers the sort of critique of modern European life that directors like Haneke, Ruben Östlund, and Yorgos Lanthinos are aiming for, without going overboard on misanthropy. As unpleasant as Boris and Zhenya are, it’s not in this film’s temperament to play their dilemma for black comedy or to turn Alexey into a miniature villain the way Haneke’s “Happy End” does. While clearly about life in 2017, this plays like a film from the golden age of European art cinema that ran from neo-realism to New German Cinema.

from happening, especially given the kicker that Vallum was the first person convicted of killing a transgender person under the federal hate crimes law? BS: I’ve made a film that isn’t

an issue-driven film, but it’s about an issue. What I hope that this film will make people understand is why people have such bigoted views. That doesn’t make them evil; it’s complicated.

But on the flip side, people who are transphobic. Hopefully, they will think of all the damage that low-level prejudice can have. And that creates a situation in which murder can occur.

31


THEATER

Art Isn’t Easy Terrence McNally in top form, a good reason to go back to SoHo, a dark, dead-end comedy BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE errence McNally’s spellbinding new play “Fire and Air,” now at CSC, is ostensibly about the impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the fate of his Ballets Russes, and his artistic and sexual relationship with dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. As a chronicle of early 20th century art and a study of a complicated genius, it’s fascinating on its own (in the vein of his “Master Class,” which gave similar treatment to opera star Maria Callas). McNally, however, has deeper issues in mind, some incredibly timely. Or rather, one should say, timeless, reflecting the age-old complicated relationships of artists to one another, to their art, and to the culture. McNally’s study of Diaghilev beautifully examines whether passion in art can exist separately from the people involved or that passion, by its very nature, consumes lives and souls. Diaghilev the man is inseparable from the art, and that is his genius — and his tragedy. A failure as a composer himself, Diaghilev found his métier as a producer, his mission with Ballets Russes to introduce Russian art to Western Europe while also pursuing efforts to revolutionize dance, music, and painting. Although Diaghilev was instrumental in the careers of Picasso, Stravinsky, Cocteau, the relationship between Diaghilev and Nijinsky is central to the play. Was it love? Certainly for Diaghilev, who was overweight and covered with painful boils. For Nijinsky, whether the sexual relationship was love or opportunism is unclear, but the creative partnership was the pinnacle of each man’s career. When Nijinsky marries a dancer from the corps on a South American tour, Diaghilev cuts all ties — only to have the role of lover and muse filled by a young dancer, Léonide Massine. The story also chronicles the collateral damage suffered by others in Diaghilev’s

PARTY FACE

T

32

City Center, Stage 2 130 W. 56th St. Through Apr. 8 Mon., Thu.-Sun. at 7:30 p.m. Thu., Sat. at 2:30 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $38-$128; citytix.com Or 212-581-1212 Two hrs., with intermission

RUSS ROWLAND

Jeff Hiller in Drew Droege’s “Bright Colors And Bold Patterns,” directed by Michael Urie, at the SoHo Playhouse through February 25 only.

JOAN MARCUS

Douglas Hodge and James Cusati-Moyer in Terrence McNally’s “Fire and Air,” directed by John Doyle, at CSC through March 2 only.

FIRE AND AIR Classic Stage Company 136 E. 13th St. Through Mar. 2 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 Two hrs., with intermission

inner circle, including his cousin and manager Dima, his childhood nurse Dunya who still attends him, and his friend and benefactress Misia. They are the scorched moths around Diaghilev’s candle, loyal to the end though each suffers for that loyalty. John Doyle’s economical direction on a mostly bare stage with only a large mirror and gilded chairs is the perfect counterpoint to the complexities of conflict and emotion at play. This spare theatricality keeps the focus on the characters and their internal lives. It doesn’t hurt that the cast is out-

BRIGHT COLORS AND BOLD PATTERNS SoHo Playhouse 15 Vandam St., btwn. Sixth Ave. & Varick St. Through Feb. 25 Fri.-Sat. at 9 p.m. Wed., Sun. at 7:30 p.m. $14-$89; sohoplayhouse.com 80 mins., no intermission

standing. Douglas Hodge leads with a galvanizing performance as Diaghilev, filled with excess and drive while always remaining sympathetic. James Cusati-Moyer plays Nijinsky with an equally impressive range and beautiful, understated movement. There are no recordings of Nijinsky’s dancing, aside from one film referenced in the play but never seen by the audience, and Cusati-Moyer doesn’t dance. Rather Doyle places him in poses that perfectly evoke the period but underscore the fact that while Nijinsky is world-famous his dance lives only in our imaginations. It’s a brilliant touch. The rest of the cast is outstanding, including John Glover, in an

understated and moving performance as Dima, and excellent work from Jay Armstrong Johnson as Léonide, Marsha Mason as Dunya, and Marin Mazzie as Misia. Fire and air create combustion. Diaghilev lived to be only 57, but in that time he burned bright and challenged and changed art, bringing both dramatically into the 20th century. McNally’s play reflects so many of that light’s colors that it is every bit as dazzling as its subject. If you haven’t yet seen “Bright Colors And Bold Patterns,” there’s still time. The comedy, written by Drew Droege and directed by Michael Urie, now stars Jeff Hiller, one of my very favorite comic actors, in a tour de force lead role. Hiller plays Gerry, one of a bunch of friends who have gathered at a tacky house in Palm Springs before the wedding of two of their gay friends. Hiller, who replaced playwright Droege, is in perpetual motion as Gerry goes off on one thing after another, bitches about the wedding invitation, drinks, drugs, barfs, and more. It also has a heart, and Hiller nails every laugh and every poignant moment. Though I knew what was coming, I found myself in stitches all over again as hilarious Hiller makes this part completely his own. Go see it. You’ll have a blast. (My review of Droege’s star turn can be found at gaycitynews.nyc/boysband.)

ART ISN’T EASY, continued on p.36

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


How do you speak to the LGBT community? Through the publications they know and trust.

Representing the “best of the best” in LGBT media, with over a million readers weekly in print and online.

212-242-6863 info@nationallgbtmediaassociation.com www.nationallgbtmediaassociation.com

Atlanta | Boston | Chicago | Dallas/ Ft Worth | Detroit | Los Angeles | Miami/ Ft Lauderdale | New York | Orlando/Tampa Bay | Philadelphia | San Francisco | Washington DC

GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

33


Great American Songbook’s Re-Tooling Lena Hall brings a rock edge to everything she does BY DAVID NOH ew York can be such a small town, especially if you’re in the business of show. It had been a hectically busy week and I’d had to reschedule an interview with actress/ singer Lena Hall, who then coincidentally popped up that same day performing with John Cameron Mitchell at the opening night/ birthday party for Trudie Styler and her film “Freak Show” at the Public. With her genius, electrifyingly high range, and emotional immediacy, Hall did a killer version of that modern classic Radiohead’s “Creep,” which drew cheers from the crowd including Styler and her husband, Sting, raptly listening to her while embracing as if on their very first date. I mentioned this to her when we did finally meet, and she said, “Thank you. I love that song. The whole thing happened so randomly. John asked me to do it, and I’ll do anything for him pretty much. Trudie and Sting were awesome and I got to talk to him afterwards, and he was very sweet and said I inspired him, which is all I could ever hope for, to inspire someone like that, and they sent me flowers. “I had first sung ‘Creep’ at the Café Carlyle, and I felt that was a good place to do it. I always feel totally outside the musical theater world, and to be in this very fancy place and be doing rock’n’roll instead of Cole Porter, that song I felt was very appropriate to sing at the very end of my show. The club, by the way, has been very nice and supportive of my bringing new music in, telling me, ‘Just do your thing because we want you to bring a new crowd in.’ I still wanted to be classy — I wore a gown — but I wanted to bring a rock’n’roll edge to it.” Despite having won that “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” Tony — playing a male roadie named Yitzhak — and accepting it in a gorgeous Zac Posen gown (“all a blur, and that Sunday we had a matinee, so I changed sexes like six times, as did Neal [Patrick Harris], only he

LENA HALL

N

34

Café Carlyle 35 E. 76th St. Mar. 13-17 at 8:45 p.m. $40-$130 cover charge Food & drink minimum is $75 $25 at the bar bit.ly/2qpp9GV

DAVID NOH

Lena Hall at the Signature Theatre on West 42nd Street.

did it in reverse), Hall, amazingly, describes still feeling like a creep in the musical theater world. “I guess you wouldn’t know it unless you were in the audition room, for that’s where I feel most like I don’t belong. Because when I walk in I realize that when I sing it’s such a different sound from what people are used to, and they can’t grasp it or understand that this is really not my scene. Obviously, I can sing anything and can manipulate my voice to be clean and pretty, but I want to bring my personality. I’m a bit of an edgy person, and I don’t want to play the stereotypical ingenue. That’s not something that interests me or would bring me joy, and I would be bored with it. There are people who are amazing at it, like Kelli O’Hara and Laura Osnes, but I’ll never be that. “I had this idea for a new Great American Songbook, taking all the old standards, which are great but for an older generation, and throwing them by the wayside, saying, ‘This is the new songbook for our generation,’ which we recognize as classics, our Gershwins and Porters. ‘Creep’ certainly is one, Beck, Nirvana, The Cranberries. It’s our turn to recognize them as classics and I’m doing this on my new EP series and very excited about it.” “Obsessed” is the name of Hall’s

new music project: “A monthly album series: every week there will be a new song with video until the end of the month, 12 albums in all. ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ is the first in the series, as it was the most impactful thing that ever happened to me musically. I listened to its original cast album endlessly, and it was the first show I ever saw that represented how I felt, with the sound I like, heavy punk rock. It was ahead of its time — ‘Hair’ and ‘Rent’ just weren’t quite grungy enough. And, being in the show obviously changed my life, all these people I met through it. “The series is basically a love letter to these artists or bands that affected me personally, done in a very loving way. Each song by each artist represents a memory of mine, something very important and very specific in my life: Peter Gabriel, Beck, Elton John, The Cranberries, Nirvana. “There were so many I wanted to do but we were limited to 12 artists, one for each month, and four or five songs from each, depending on how many weeks were in a month.” If there are more male artists represented than female it is because “although I’m a huge fan of so many females, I really feel that I am so much like them that when

I do a cover of their songs, they’ve already done it better. What could I possibly add? I think there’s more to a female telling a male storyline. But we are doing Pink! “They are all acoustic, very pared down and simple, so it really showcases what I have, and I rock out with my voice. It’s all very stripped down to introduce people to new artists they maybe have never listened to, from Bowie to Beck to now, a cross-pollination of various artists.” Incredibly, Hall completed both recording and video-making of the entire series in three days. “It was crazy, but really easier to do that way. They are all basically live performances — I was getting kind of sick of the over-production of albums these days, which loses the emotion and a real sense of the performer. Some people love that, but I think it takes away from what is important about the song and the performer. “Here, I wanted to make sure people got the feeling of a live performance and they recorded it so well. I sang 150 songs altogether. Sometimes it’s better when you don’t have a big budget, which forces you to be more creative. I’ll be doing a real rock show at Rockwood [the Carlyle]. It sold out, so we’re planning to add another.” At the moment Hall isn’t slated for any new plays but her plate is quite full. “My TV show, ‘Snowpiercer’ [on TNT] is based on a French graphic novel set in the near future about class wars, when the earth has become uninhabitable. The only habitable spot is a train that goes

LENA HALL, continued on p.35

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


MUSIC

Lushly Produced to Its Own Detriment Brandi Carlile’s new album doesn’t trust her own voice and power BY STEVE ERICKSON he nebulous sub-genre of Americana often comes across as a version of country music for progressives who don’t want to deal with the celebrations of gun culture and sexist attitudes often found in mainstream country. Perhaps its listeners just don’t want to encounter any Republicans. Brandi Carlile’s new album “By The Way, I Forgive You” fits squarely into that sub-genre, recalling artists ranging from Lucinda Williams, Neko Case, and Carlile’s fellow lesbian k. d. lang, to Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt. Its first single, “The Joke,” is rapidly becoming a hit on Triple A radio, and it’s the album’s best song. Carlile has found a fair amount of commercial success, although her 2007 album “The Story” took 10 years to go gold. Her albums “Bear Creek” and “The Firewatcher’s Daughter” have debuted in the top 10 of Billboard magazine’s album sales chart. “The Joke” is also the most politically pointed song on this album. It implicitly addresses the way humor has been weaponized by Trumpists and the alt-right, but it asserts that “the joke’s on them… let ‘em laugh while they can.” The first verse is about a boy who is being bullied, and although Carlile never specifies that he’s gay, her description of him strongly implies that. The second verse is addressed to a young woman who lives in “her brother’s

BRANDI CARLILE

T

LENA HALL, from p.34

around the world and it’s an enclosed world with the dilemma of how to go on living with everdepleted resources and still keep people in their respective place. I play a complicated character who is sort of the eyes and ears at the back of the train, and I connect everyone. I even get to be girly, which is nice because I’m so used to playing a dude or a butch lesbian with no makeup or glamour.” Hall’s butch lesbian appears in the indie film “Becks” (just finishGayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

“By The Way, I Forgive You” Elektra Records Feb. 16 release bytheway.brandicarlile.com

world” and deals with blatant misogyny. The swooping strings that close the song sound like a victory march. Carlile often begins her songs with acoustic guitar and builds to a more complicated production from there. On this album, she worked with Paul Buckmaster, who did string arrangements for all of Elton John’s ‘70s music. (She credits John with inspiring her to learn to play the piano.) On the album’s third song, “Hold Out Your Hand,” her vocals and quick acoustic guitar strumming almost get drowned out by loud backing vocals and piano 30 seconds into it. Her songs are generally more effective the simpler they sound, but Carlile never heard a piano/ strings/ backing vocals arrangement she didn’t love. She some-

times seems to be trying to bury her own voice. This album’s production goes against the strengths of its songs. The prominence of backing vocals, in particular, is intended to give the album a feeling of community often missing from music made by singer-songwriters who base their albums around their own guitar or piano playing. Instead, it just feels heavy-handed. “Fulton County Jane Doe” is one of the album’s most countryoriented songs, but it’s addressed to an anonymous woman found murdered in a field in Georgia and acknowledges the frequency of violence against women. Some of Carlile’s lyrics address the specifics of being a lesbian. Her second single, “The Mother,” is addressed to her daughter Evangeline. It points out that she was deliberately conceived, not the product of an “accident” that heterosexuals might have, but also acknowledges that Carlile and Evangeline might run into hostility from people who don’t think it’s legitimate for lesbians to raise children. “Party of One” is about her experience marrying after living most

ing up a week-long run at the Village East) in which she plays the titular role of an aspiring singer songwriter who, after a nasty breakup with her hot New York girlfriend (Hayley Kiyoko), returns home to live with Mom (Christine Lahti), a forbidding former nun, in St. Louis. “There’s a disconnect between her being gay and her mom’s values, and it’s just a story about self-discvoery and finally growing up and doing things for yourself, getting out of that need for co-dependency. It’s so exciting because

this is my first big film, playing the title character. Lahti was fabulous, and she’s very good in this film and so much fun to work with. We filmed St. Louis in Brooklyn, a race to finish in two and a half weeks, but Elizabeth Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell directed it and did an excellent job on their first feature film. They knew exactly what they wanted and we all had a good time: Hayley; Mena Suvari, who plays my new love interest, is amazing; Dan Fogler plays my best friend who never left home after high school. We all came together

ELEKTRA RECORDS

Brandi Carlile’s new album is “By The Way, I Forgive You.”

of her life never expecting that she wouldn’t be able to. It tells the story of her meeting her wife and falling in love instantly as well as her anxiety that her wife might divorce her after they spent so much effort fighting for the right to get married. But the song also acknowledges that tensions exist in any marriage. Carlile complains that her wife drinks too much and repeatedly emphasizes her own exhaustion. Here, the gradual build-up from piano to strings proves powerful, in part because it takes several minutes to happen. But in the end, she keeps saying, “I am yours.” This is the one song on this album where the interplay among lyrics, vocals, and music really seems to have been carefully thought out. Its last minute is purely instrumental and dominated by strings. “By The Way, I Forgive You” is fatally marred by its tendency to bury Carlile’s folk and country roots — which are hard to reconcile with her love for Elton John — beneath a sea of overblown production. I think the demos for this album would probably be more successful than the finished product. “The Joke” and “Party of One” still hold up fairly well, but listening to the entire 45 minutes of “By The Way, I Forgive You” soon creates the sensation of getting lost in an ocean of blandness. Despite her talent as a songwriter, I’d rather listen to Lucinda Williams’s selftitled album or Neko Case’s “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.”

and it became this magical film. “Alyssa Robbins wrote all of the music and it’s rather based on her life. I love the music which is very folksy and it’s a new kind of musical, very intimate and personal, like ‘One,’ with characters that are great because they’re all flawed in ways that everyone is.” Hall confessed that she is actually straight. “I’ve had so many people ask me if I was gay. I want to say, ‘I’m sorry. I know, I know.’ It’s funny because

LENA HALL, continued on p.39

35


THEATER

Off-Putting Topic, Terrific Show “America Is Hard To See” explores the invisible world of sex offenders

sugar cane fields that are now harvested by machine. They spent several years gathering their stories and the patient and creative effort pays off in an intimate show about people many want to write off as irredeemable monsters. The residents opened up on everything from their crimes to their regrets to their prospects, but mostly how they are meeting the challenge of living and developing community on the margins

of society. The story unfolds gently through what their portrayers tell us and what they sing to us through music composed by Priscilla Holbrook. There is Chad (Ken Barnett), the young gay teacher who crossed the line with a high school student, almost avoided prosecution, but was done in through participation in an ex-gay program. Chris (David Spadora) at 20 had been dating a girl with the full knowledge of her parents only to find out too late and unbeknownst to him that she was under age. Older Thomas (John Carlin) owns up to a grievous offense, doesn’t make excuses for himself, but hasn’t given up on life or the possibility of redemption. In a show with strong religious themes, salvation comes in the form of Pastor Patti (Amy Gaither Hayes), a local Methodist minister challenged by the existence of these pariahs and what it would mean to welcome them. No pious preacher, Pastor Patti, who has her own dark secret, is just trying to live her faith as she deals with these newcomers and the rest of her congregation which includes her young adult daughter, Lexi (Gareth Tidball). The uniformly excellent ensemble is rounded out by Joyce Cohen who, like the rest of the cast,

seamlessly takes on multiple roles in a story that by turns surprises, informs, and moves. There is even some humor along the way, but never at the expense of the victims. The lyrics and dialogue are based on interviews with those portrayed in the play. The current laws, which have consigned more than 800,000 Americans to state sex offense registries, barely concede that people who commit these crimes are capable of rehabilitation or may be able to earn re-entry into society. “America is Hard to See” questions that assumption and helps us engage with some people we have given up on. Even if you think they fully deserve every restriction that they live under, you may be inspired by their ability to cope, live, and love despite all their manifold challenges.

sledgehammer to her new marble counter and her husband left her. Her passive-aggressive mother, Carmel, hosts a welcome-home party that includes sister Maeve as well as Chloe, an irritating woman from down the block. Nearly halfway into the party, Bernie, Mollie Mae’s germophobic roommate from the mental hospital, arrives. For no particular reason, the party devolves into fights and shouting, with not so much scenes as eruptions that include New Age exercises, a discussion of obscene topiary, a sink springing a leak, accusa-

tions of husband poaching, and long-buried resentments bubbling to the surface. Since this is Dublin, everyone drinks a great deal. That’s a lot of plot for 100 minutes, and it feels like Mollie Mae’s sledgehammer has been used to get it all in. Even lovely Hayley Mills as Carmel can’t elevate this amateurish mish-hash. Mills is charming and elegant, but playing a borderline nut of a parent she’s trapped in the script. Gina Costigan is fine as Mollie Mae, though she doesn’t get to do much more than be depressed,

and Klea Blackhurst (a wonderful cabaret artist) is wasted as Bernie, who spends the second act covering things in Saran Wrap. At the performance I saw, understudy Alison Cimmet went on as Chloe, and she was the highlight of the piece. It’s not that her part made any more sense than the rest of the play, but she’s a sparkling comedienne in the classic sense and gave the show what life it had. Trying to make sense of this play nearly gave me a nervous breakdown, so it’s one party I’m glad I won’t have to face again.

BY ANDY HUMM e have embraced shows about killing people and turning them into meat pies (“Sweeney Todd”), domestic violence (“Carousel”), and suicide (“Dear Evan Hansen”). But when you hear that there is a new play with music about an enclave of people on the sex offense registry, the tendency might be revulsion or demurral. If you can’t get past that initial reaction, you will miss out on one of the finest theatrical experiences of the season, “America is Hard to See.” This is a show that dares to humanize people who we literally do not see because they have been sentenced to a lifetime of living far away from anywhere near children. Their employment opportunities are extremely constrained. They have little access to the Internet where we all live now. We learn that there are 72 rules that they must follow while on parole or risk being sent right back to prison. Director and playwright Travis Russ and researchers from his Life Jacket Theatre Co. went to Pahokee, Florida (in the “wrong” end of Palm Beach County) and its purposely isolated “Miracle Village” of 131 souls on the registry, living in dwellings built for migrant workers amidst miles of

W

ART ISN’T EASY, from p.32

You will need to bring your game face if you venture to see “Party Face,” the new dark comedy by Isobel Mahon. And when I say dark, I mean obscure. At best, it’s a grin and bear it experience because the characters are unfathomable and the plot doesn’t have twists so much as incomprehensible jerks that are simply bewildering. Mollie Mae is back from the sanitarium after a nervous breakdown during which she took a

36

T. CHARLES ERICKSON

Ken Barnett as Chad with the high school student (David Spadora) with whom he crossed a line.

AMERICA IS HARD TO SEE: A PLAY WITH MUSIC Life Jacket Theatre Co. at HERE 145 Sixth Ave., enter on Dominick St. Through. Feb. 24 Wed.-Sat. at 8:30 p.m. $35–$45 at here.org Or 212-352-3101 90 mins., no intermission

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


ADVERTORIAL

TOP DRIVER DISTRACTIONS Using mobile phones Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell

phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.

Daydreaming Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per-

GayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.

Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person’s hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting. Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at

a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.

Reading Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.

37


38

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


LENA HALL, from p.35

the Out 100 wanted to include me in their annual round-up, but I had to tell them I’m not gay. ‘Bisexual?’ they asked. ‘No, I’m sorry, but I’m flattered you asked.’ I can’t lie — I would rather just live my life and not deny anything. I did try it at one point, thinking, ‘Well, maybe I’m a lesbian, maybe someone’s telling me something.’ But it’s definitely not my thing, so I just go for what is natural to me.” Hall is very happily partnered to Jonathan Stein. “He’s a total white boy, tall and handsome and also edgy, rides a

FENTANYL, from p.23

ly and in the presence of overdose prevention workers would prevent deaths from overdoses. Should an overdose occur, naloxone, a spray squirted into a person’s nose, promptly restores normal breathing. End Overdose NY advocates harm reduction rather than criminalization that leave users stigma-

BURT LAZARIN, from p.12

near a schoolyard. “The whole thing was about the 200-foot rule, which means no bars within 200 feet of a schoolyard,” he recalled. “The school was set far back, but people were measuring from door to door, questioning if the emergency exit counted. It became like ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.’ The full board in October 2011 voted to deny Boxer’s application because of ‘proximity’ to the school, which was the real issue — not the exact footage — though we did list stips to be incorporated in a license just in case State Liquor Authority approved it. Boxers litigated the 200-foot rule and subsequently lost and gave up the site.” They bar eventually moved near Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen. More recently, the committee has faced controversies like the drunken brunch crowds at Il Bastardo (whose Seventh Avenue and West 21st Street location has since closed), and a proposed two-level, 20,000-square-foot Meatpacking District Starbucks Reserve Roastery. In the case of Starbucks, LaGayCityNews.nyc | February 15 – 28, 2018

motorcycle and has tattoos. He’s not in my business, a real estate agent, and amazing at what he does. It’s really nice because we do not have to talk about showbiz 24/ 7, but things we mutually know nothing about, and it’s so much fun to have that conversation, and also very healthy. “It’s my first real adult relationship in that we’re our own people but then we come together at the end of the day and it’s just wonderful. What’s great is we’re going slow, which I’ve never done before. I’m usually in a relationship where I move in right away with that person, always way too fast

and you never get to really know them or become friends, had you taken the time in the first place. I always wanted to change my boyfriends into what I wanted them to be, instead of saying, ‘Wait. This isn’t going to work, and it’s not because you’re a bad person.’ This is the first time I’ve been with someone where I just loved everything about them, and we are not living together. Slow. He’s so positive and my number one fan who comes to everything I do, a first. I always had very critical lovers, and a lot of that has to do with the way we feel about ourselves. We attract people according to how we want to be

treated, and the ones I attracted before didn’t treat me very well because I didn’t treat myself very well. Once I found that out and opened my eyes and started being better to myself, I had this gem come out of nowhere. It’s amazing, and now life is completely easy and drama-free. I feel much more supported and that I can accomplish anything. But I’m still doing everything on my own and that’s crazy, finding someone who makes me feel more independent and less co-dependent. It’s almost like we’re each other’s power source, lifting each other up, and it makes me stronger.”

tized and feeling helpless. “We need universal access to harm reduction tools,” said Frederique in the campaign’s statement. The reform advocates’ plan calls for medical-assisted treatment, especially with Buprenorphine, a pill that calms users and curbs their craving for heroin. It should be available in jails, emergency rooms, and syringe exchange programs, the reformers said. Rather

than jailing users, they should be sent to harm reduction programs and the homeless offered housing. In Portugal, which discourages police intervention, when a user is arrested they are taken to a harm reduction center for counseling. The most immediate relief sought by the coalition would be funding and legal permission for needle exchanges to offer users a safe place to use their drugs (see story, page

23). Turning needle exchanges into safer consumption spaces and expanding their services would allow for post-overdosing support. Summing up their complaints about Cuomo’s law-and-order approach, Raymond said he “boasts about giving law enforcement the tools they need to make more arrests, but says nothing about providing people at risk of overdose with the tools they need to survive.”

zarin said, the company essentially ignored CB4’s stipulations process and instead went directly to the State Liquor Authority. To him, the Business Licenses & Permits Committee’s work is all a balancing act. “We want to make sure [new businesses] are compatible with existing businesses,” Lazarin said. “We are trying to find balance between both the residents and the people who come in for ‘regional recreation.’ You have to balance it out, so people who live there are not crazed and abused by the people who come to recreate.” As Chair of CB4, Lazarin now faces an even broader responsibility to maintain balance and deliver a fair deal to Chelsea residents. He was unfazed by the recent announcement that Google would purchase the Chelsea Market building, saying that if he were a businessman he too would see the property’s appeal, given that the rezoning battle was resolved four years ago. He added, however, that he “would hope they honor [seller] Jamestown’s promised community commitments,” and assumes Google will keep the

retail portion intact. “It would be a pretty stupid public relations move to eliminate the Chelsea Market,” he said. Lazarin said he looks forward to working with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who chaired CB4 from 2011 to 2013. “This is [Johnson’s] district, where his feet are and where he lives, where his New York roots are,” said Lazarin. “We have our priorities, most of which are probably aligned with his, so I don’t see any problems. Not that he isn’t going to be speaker for the whole City Council — but he may have a softer spot for Chelsea.” Lazarin voiced support for extending the Special West Chelsea District where necessary to protect historic buildings, and said he will spearhead efforts to landmark or otherwise acknowledge buildings like the Federal Houses and the brownstone in the West 20s where Gay Men’s Health Crisis was founded. Lazarin is also focused on making sure that CB4 gets its promised seat on the board of the Culture Shed, the large performance space

being built the middle of Hudson Yards. He also noted the importance of the 7 train extension to the development of Hudson Yards and said the subway need not terminate at 34th Street. “The tunnel already goes down to 25th Street, so it’s just a matter of extending it down and bumping it up next to 14th Street and Eighth Avenue, and having a cross-platform exchange,” Lazarin said. “It’s time to start thinking and planning for that, as we have that new community integrate with existing neighborhoods.” Asked his view on the new push for congestion pricing as a solution to Manhattan’s gridlock, he noted that the idea has worked in London, Stockholm, and Singapore. “There are costs of driving a car into Manhattan — not only individual costs but costs to the community,” Lazarin said. “We often quote that CB4 has one of the highest asthma rates in the city, because of the traffic, the tunnels, the backups, and the tour buses. So, it’s something that could be useful, something that could benefit our district.”

39


FEBRUARY 17–19 l 4PM–8PM

40

February 15 – 28, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc

Gay City News  

February 15, 2018

Gay City News  

February 15, 2018