Page 1

Big Gay Win in US Court 06

PrEP Insurance Blacklistng Pushback 10

Bernadette Soars as Dolly 21

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ABOUT GUNS Pages 4 & 5

DONNA ACETO John Grauwiler called for continued civil disobedience at a Lincoln Center rally.

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In This Issue COVER STORY Again, America’s talking about guns 04-05

CIVIL RIGHTS Religious B&B owner can’t discriminate 12

POLITICS No gays need apply in Staten Island 07

MORSELS Gigi Café overlooked no longer 14

HISTORY Edie’s win — and much more — in an hour 08

FILM Isabelle Huppert as a triva stumper 27

FAMILIES Another lesbian couple wins in New York 10

GALLERY FIT has gone all Norman Norell 30

John Kelly’s stardust memories 20



March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc

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GayCityNews.nyc | March 1 – 14, 2018



Targeting Key NRA Funder and Its GOP Tools Gays Against Guns mobilizes one day after Florida school slaughter BY ANDY HUMM


ne day after the latest major US gun massacre that killed 17 students and teachers in Parkland, Florida, more than a hundred demonstrators joined Gays Against Guns (GAG) to march on Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater on the evening of February 15, protesting the plutocrat who is one of the big funders of the NRA’s massive “dark money” political spending. Jay W. Walker of GAG — founded in response to the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre that killed 49, mostly LGBTQ Latinx victims, in Orlando — said, “Congress is bought and paid for by the NRA,

and this building is bought and paid for by David Koch.” While GAG is out on the streets after every one of these atrocities, he added, “We work to keep the focus on gun violence non-stop between the mass shootings.” Cathy Marino-Thomas, another GAG veteran, said, “People need to get off their asses, out into the streets, and get to their legislators.” She encouraged people to join GAG at its biweekly meetings at the LGBT Community Center on West 13th Street, the next several of which are March 1, 15, and 29 at 7 p.m. Marino-Thomas pointed to tweets from students in the Florida school calling out Trump “as


Gays Against Guns marched on the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, named for a major NRA funder.

a piece of shit” for his offer of “prayers and condolences.” “Kids are the ones who are going to make a difference,” she said. Plans are in the works to hold nationwide student walkouts on March 14 and 24 and April 20 to protest gun violence and demand meaningful action such as a ban on assault rifles, the brutally lethal gun of choice in these mass killings. Hal Moskowitz of GAG joined fellow GAG members the day before the Manhattan protest in Washington for a sit-in at the offices of Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a reliable NRA tool. “There were 23 of us sitting in while the massacre in Florida was happening,” he said. Six of them were arrested and fined $50 each. GAG was in Washington to put pressure on the Senate not to ad-


Activist Tim Murphy being arrested in the US Capitol on February 14.

vance a measure already passed by the House, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow Americans to carry concealed weapons from jurisdictions where concealed carry is legal into states which otherwise ban that practice. In Manhattan the following day, at the kick-off rally in front of LaGuardia High School near Lincoln Center, GAG’s John Grauwiler called for more civil disobedience. Lisa Byrne of Rise and Resist said, “I’m looking forward to the midterms and getting the Democrats back in control.” Kevin Hertzog of GAG said that because of the Florida catastrophe, “there does seem to be a renewed sense of horror.” He hopes it will swell the group’s numbers as well as those of its allies enough “for us finally to break through the malaise” that sinks in when nothing is ever done to control weapons of mass destruction.


Two victims of last year’s Las Vegas outdoor concert massacre are remembered in New York.


Jay W. Walker (left) and Cathy Marino-Thomas (center), GAG leaders, at the February 15 protest.


GAG marchers in Washington on February 14, the day of the Florida murders, called out NRA leadership and its stalwarts in Congress.

March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


More Guns Not the Answer Standing up to the NRA’s efforts to add to the proliferation of killing machines BY NATHAN RILEY


acts contradict the National Rifle Association’s belief — shared over the past week aggressively by President Donald Trump — that arming more citizens will curb gun violence. Real-life episodes disprove this movie Western version of reality, and Gays Against Guns, a group that emerged after the Pulse nightclub tragedy two years ago, is working to help the public understand that. In Dallas on July 7, 2016, an armed man shot five police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest about police shootings of civilians. The cops didn’t go near the shooter; they were able to send a robot with a bomb to blow him up because he had holed himself up in an isolated location. This would not, of course, be the recommended response to a chaotic school shooting scene. The following year in Las Vegas, a huge crowd attending a country western concert, many no doubt supporters of the NRA, were helpless when a millionaire shot them from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel. He fired at will, sending more than a thousand bullets into the crowd and hitting 909 individuals, 58 of whom died. Even if a concertgoer last October 1 were packing a side arm, they would have been helpless against the shooter safely ensconced in his high perch. On June 12, 2016, less than a month before the Dallas massacre, 107 revelers were shot at Orlando’s LGBTQ Pulse nightclub, which was hosting a Latinx night, by a man with an assault rifle. Fortynine people died. No police officers

charged into the nightclub to save the wounded and stop the shooter. They assembled a swat team, and three hours after the slaughter started they killed the gunman. Omar Mateen 29, the Orlando shooter was the son of Afghan immigrant refugees and Muslim extremism may have led him to target the LGBTQ community, but we won’t know because the police killed him. Micah Xavier Johnson, the Dallas shooter, was a veteran of the Afghan war. In addition to the five police officers he killed, 11 others were wounded including two civilians. Like Mateen’s, his motives remain obscure. Police were everywhere at that Dallas Black Lives Matter protest, but they never stopped the shooting. They never even approached Johnson directly. For the first time ever, law enforcement in the US decided that a robot could best do the job for them. During the six minutes police say it took Nikolas Cruz to shoot 31 people in a Parkland, Florida, high school, there was an armed deputy sheriff on duty. He didn’t play Wyatt Earp and approach the gunman. He ran toward the location of the shooting but stayed safely outside away from the gunplay. That officer, Scot Peterson — who has since resigned and been slammed by Trump as a “coward” — never realized the shooter fled the school with panicked students in a headlong rush to get away from the gunfire. Once other officers arrived, it took them 20 minutes to realize there was no shooter on the school grounds. The other solutions that the NRA and its supporters talk about — beyond arming everyone to the teeth — are similarly unpromising. It’s

not likely that metal detectors would have stopped the slaughter. Cruz allegedly appeared as the school day was ending when the halls were crowded and non-students had already arrived to provide transportation. Nor will early identification of “mentally ill” people necessarily prevent future slaughters — you don’t have to be mentally ill to kill. The website visits of the Pulse shooter had come to the attention of authorities. Cruz, during his time at the Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was the subject of constant attention and eventually expelled. We now know that both local police and the FBI had received actionable warnings about him. Yet he had no trouble buying an assault rifle. Researchers have established markers for the early identification of violent juvenile offenders and can make reasonably accurate predictions. But they have never found a way to stop the behavior they predict. Nor, we need to acknowledge, is it likely that the conservatives talking about mental health interventions are really interested in providing the social services —standard in European social democracies — that would be needed to get a handle on the pathologies out there in society. In Finland, psychologists are part of the faculty at its schools, providing daily assistance to teachers and students. For the US to provide these supports, far greater educational spending would be needed. The only answer the NRA is really interested in is selling more guns to more people. The group, incredibly, has no agenda to prevent mass shootings. Instead, it advocates a

violent response after a shooter has already begun his — and it’s essentially always “his” — carnage. But unlike the Hollywood movies the NRA hopes the American public will keep in mind (the president certainly does), the recent history of mass shootings shows that even armed peace officers confront them only with extreme caution. Prevention, in the NRA’s book, is possible only if we infringe on the “freedom” of assault weapon owners. Removing assault weapons from civilian hands is not a ban on guns. It doesn’t infringe on the right of households to own a gun, but it will make our movie theaters, concerts, schools, and streets safer. But for the NRA, that is “socialism.” At this critical juncture in the gun debate, Gays Against Guns is warning that the NRA might be on the verge of a major victory in the proliferation of guns. H.R. 38 is a bill in Congress that would make it legal for a person to buy a sidearm in Texas and then carry it in concealed fashion on the streets of Manhattan, thereby gutting sensible and needed gun control measures at the state and local level. GAG is urging people to write to Federal Express demanding the company end its discount program for NRA members who ship guns. GAG is also targeting John Faso, a gun-slinging Republican member of the House and a loyal NRA supporter. He represents all or part of 11 upstate counties, including places like Kingston, Peekskill, Delhi, and Kinderhook. H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, is not just an NRA dream. It passed the House of Representatives in December on a 231-198 vote. John Faso voted for it.


Protesters in Washington on Valentine’s Day, which proved to be a very bloody day.

GayCityNews.nyc | March 1 – 14, 2018


GAG protesters in Senator John Cornyn’s office in Washington.



Big Gay Rights Win in Second Circuit US appeals court says 1964 Civil Rights Act bars sexual orientation discrimination BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


he Second Circuit Court of Appeals, with jurisdiction over federal cases from New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, ruled on February 26 that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination because of an individual’s sex, also makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against a person because of their sexual orientation. The ruling in Zarda v. Altitude Express was not unexpected, as the questions and comments of the judges during the oral argument held last September 26 suggested general agreement that it was time for the circuit to bring its case law in line with the evolving understanding that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination. The Zarda ruling widens a split among federal appeals courts, with the Second Circuit joining the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit, which ruled the same way last spring in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, in departing from the consensus of all the other circuit courts previously addressing the issue. Although the Supreme Court recently refused to review a three-judge panel decision from the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, which had decided the other way, the Zarda ruling makes it more likely the high court will soon take up the issue, especially if an employer on the losing end petitions it to do so. The Zarda case dates from the summer of 2010, when Donald Zarda, an openly gay skydiving instructor, was fired by Altitude Express after a female customer’s boyfriend complained that Zarda had come out to her while preparing for a “tandem skydive” during which they would be strapped together. Zarda complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that oversees Title VII compliance, which at that time had not yet accepted the idea that sexual orienta-



The late Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor whose estate won a landmark gay rights victory in his discrimination suit against Altitude Express.

tion claims qualified. Zarda asserted that he suffered discrimination because of his gender, complaining he was fired because he “honestly referred to [his] sexual orientation and did not conform to the straight male macho stereotype.” The EEOC did not then take a position on his claim’s merits but issued a letter authorizing him to bring a lawsuit, which he did in New York’s Eastern District. Zarda’s court complaint cited Title VII, alleging sex discrimination (including discrimination because of his failure to conform to gender stereotypes), and the New York Human Rights Law, which explicitly outlaws sexual orientation discrimination. The district court, following existing Second Circuit precedent, rejected his Title VII claim but allowed his state law claim to go to trial, where a jury ultimately ruled against him. By the time of the trial, Zarda, unfortunately, had died in a skydiving accident, but his estate maintained the suit. In July 2015, the EEOC changed its view on the application of Title VII to sexual orientation discrimination, issuing a decision in a case brought by David Baldwin, a gay air traffic controller suing the US Transportation Department. The EEOC reasoned that when an employer discriminates based on a

person’s sexual orientation, they are unlawfully taking account of the person’s sex. Zarda’s estate then sought reconsideration of its Title VII claim from the district court, but was turned down, and encountered the same rejection from a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit last spring. In a another case also decided last spring, a different three-judge panel also relied on the Second Circuit precedent to reject a sexual orientation claim in Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, but, in a concurring opinion, the circuit’s chief judge, Robert Katzmann, taking note of the Hively ruling out of Chicago and the EEOC’s Baldwin decision, suggested the Second Circuit should reconsider its precedent in a rare “en banc” review by its full bench. The Zarda case, decided shortly after Christiansen, provided that opportunity. The panel that heard arguments on September 26 included the circuit’s 11 active judges plus two senior judges, Robert Sack and Gerard Lynch, who were part of the original three-judge Zarda panel. The 10 judges in the majority agreed with the proposition that individuals can bring a sexual orientation discrimination claim under Title VII, but only five judges agreed to base

their decision on the three different theories that the EEOC and the Seventh Circuit had embraced in their decisions. Judge Katzmann wrote what the court described as the “majority opinion,” essentially reiterating the analysis from his concurring opinion in Christiansen. “Logically, because sexual orientation is a function of sex and sex is a protected characteristic under Title VII, it follows that sexual orientation is also protected,” he wrote explaining the first of three theoretical bases for the ruling, continuing that “because sexual orientation discrimination is a function of sex, and is comparable to sexual harassment, gender stereotyping, and other evils longs recognized as violating Title VII, the statute must prohibit it.” Relying on the Supreme Court’s standard for deciding whether an employment practice is sex discrimination, Katzmann referred to the “comparative test,” which “determines whether the trait that is the basis for discrimination is a function of sex by asking whether an employee’s treatment would have been different ‘but for that person’s sex.’” In the Hively case, the Seventh Circuit found that a lesbian college professor would not have been fired if she was attracted to men. “But for” her being a woman, her attraction to women would not have led to her discharge. “We can therefore conclude that sexual orientation is a function of sex and, by extension, sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination,” Katzmann wrote. The second theory backing up Katzmann’s conclusion involves gender stereotyping. “Specifically,” he wrote, “this framework demonstrates that sexual orientation discrimination is almost invariably rooted in stereotypes about men and women.” Finally, Katzmann turned to the associational theory, noting that the Second Circuit accepted this

DONALD ZARDA, continued on p.18

March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


No Gays Need Apply in Staten Island


Borough’s Pride Center denied the chance to apply for St. Pat’s Parade BY PAUL SCHINDLER


wo years after organizers of the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan ended their resistance of a quarter century to participation by openly LGBTQ Irish contingents, leaders of a far smaller St. Patrick’s Day event in Staten Island continue in their refusal to even consider allowing that borough’s queer community center to march. According to Carol Bullock, executive director of the Pride Center of Staten Island, she and longtime Irish-American gay activist Brendan Fay were rebuffed in their effort to even fi le an application for the March 4 event when they visited the parade’s registration site at Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church on Manor Road on February 18. Fay, the founder of the LGBTQ Irish group Lavender and Green Alliance, was among the earliest advocates of opening up the Fifth Avenue parade and later launched the inclusive St. Pat’s For All Parade that traverses a route from Sunnyside to Jackson Heights in Queens. In a written release, Bullock and Fay said that once at the registration site, they were told by Larry Cummings, president of the Staten Island parade, “It’s in our rules we don’t allow that marching here because it’s not compatible with the Church and the Catholic tenets.” According to the two, Cummings also asserted that by an “overwhelming” vote last year, the Staten Island organizers rejected participation by any group “promoting sexual identification or political agendas.” Bullock and Fay said they emphasized that the proposed contingent would be made up of Pride Center members and allies and

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Carol Bullock, executive director of the Pride Center of Staten Island.

would espouse “no advocacy or political agenda.” “All we asked was for our Pride Center to march like every other community group — with our banner which has the Pride Center logo and reads Pride Center of Staten Island,” Bullock said. “Our First Amendment, freespeech rights, as well as our desire to march as Irish members of the LBGTQ community, are once again denied. The Ancient Order of Hibernians official motto is Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity, none of which seem to apply to the LBGTQ community. They are in fact, creating a culture of segregation and division. Members of the LBGTQ community work, live, worship, and contribute to the Staten Island community. Staten Island should have a culture of inclusion and unification.” Because Cummings would not even accept the Pride Center’s application, the organization will receive no written explanation for the denial of their participation.

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Edie’s Win — and Much More — In Barely an Hour Filmmaker Donna Zaccaro places DOMA’s demise in context of a half-century’s progress


Edie Windsor as seen in Donna Zaccaro’s “To A More Perfect Union: United States v. Windsor.”



onna Zaccaro accomplishes a whole lot in just 62 minutes. Her new film, “To A More Perfect Union: United States v. Windsor” — which just screened as part of the Winter Film Awards 2018 International Film Festival — not only tells the personal story of the remarkable woman who triumphed over the Defense of Marriage Act, and the legal strategy behind that victory, but also deftly encapsulates key threads from the past half-century of LGBTQ history in the process. As Roberta Kaplan, the attorney who, working pro bono from a major Manhattan law firm, took on Edie Windsor’s challenge to a large federal tax liability on the estate of her late spouse Thea Spyer, says at the film’s outset, “Edie and Thea, their lives really tell a story about the history of gay people in this country through the 20th century.” The telling of that story is advanced by informed commentary from the likes of Lillian Faderman, a leading scholar on LGBTQ history, and Evan Wolfson, who first at Lambda Legal and later as founder of Freedom to Marry, was essentially the godfather of marriage equality in the US and now worldwide. Top-flight legal observers, including Jeffrey Toobin from


CNN and Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio, also lend their insights. The real stars of the film, however, are Windsor herself as well as Kaplan and Kaplan’s wife, Rachel Lavine, who offer touching testimony about how lack of legal recognition of that couple’s marriage affected events immediately surrounding the birth of their son Jacob in 2006. Windsor, who died this past September at 88, is captured in all her trademark utter candor, talking about her confusion in marrying her big brother’s best friend, only to figure out her mistake within a year; her early courting of Spyer, when “I was crazy about her but she was not crazy about me”; and her fear of wearing an engagement ring to her job as a mathematician at IBM in the late 1960s, knowing everyone would ask, “Who is he?” “It used to be scary to be a lesbian,” she tells Zaccaro. Kaplan, too, is frank about her fear of coming out 25 years ago, having no interest as a brilliant young lawyer in having “a life on the margins.” “I was no revolutionary,” she says. Kaplan relates, almost as though she remains exasperated to this day, the difficulty of keeping Windsor from exulting in her sex life with her late spouse Spyer as she met the press at various

Filmmaker Donna Zaccaro with attorney Roberta Kaplan and Judith Kasen-Windsor, Edie’s surviving spouse, at a February 25 screening at Anthology Film Archives.

stages of the litigation. “I don’t want the Supreme Court justices or Americans having an image in their heads of you and Thea having sex,” she recalls emphasizing to Windsor. “I frankly don’t want them having an image of anyone having sex.” The interviews with Kaplan also hint at her skill as a quick-witted and articulate litigator able to parry the intense questioning involved in a Supreme Court argument, taking viewers into the deep weeds of her legal thinking in highly accessible fashion — her admiration for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s description of the “skim milk marriages” offered by civil unions and Justice Elena Kagan’s cross-examination of opposing attorney Paul Clement regarding DOMA’s 1996 passage, and her own pivot during the argument from a discussion of “moral disapproval,” a constitutionally impermissible grounds for enacting DOMA, to Americans’ changing “moral understanding” of the rights and dignity of gayand lesbian-headed families. In comments from Kaplan and Lavine, herself a longtime lesbian activist involved in city and state Democratic politics, Zaccaro’s film takes the issue from the tax inequities that Windsor faced to the insult to the dignity of lesbian parents visited on Kaplan when a nurse stopped her from taking Jacob, whose birth mother was

Lavine, out the door of the hospital. Zaccaro, a former “Today Show” producer who also made a documentary about her late mother, Geraldine Ferraro, draws on an impressive range of archival documentary footage and photography (including work by Gay City News’ Donna Aceto) to explain the arc of LGBTQ legal and social progress since the late 1960s. Such a long time horizon, of course, necessitates a certain degree of glossing over at points; the handling of the AIDS crisis largely in terms of its catalyzing a sense of solidarity and the need for everyone to come out will no doubt leave some activists who spent decades fighting the epidemic a bit cold. There were also moments where tougher questioning was called for. Richard Socarides, an advisor to President Bill Clinton when he signed DOMA, talks with wonderment about how that could have happened, without acknowledging his role in creating talking points for the president on the issue or specifying which “political advisors” felt the Republicans had successfully boxed him into a corner during a reelection year. Faderman, an excellent historian, unfortunately repeats a common misconception about what the

WINDSOR, continued on p.17

March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


Rosenthal Takes On Insurers’ PrEP Blacklisting Penalizing those taking precautions outrages Upper West Side assemblymember BY NATHAN RILEY


pper West Side Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal has introduced legislation to bar insurance companies from discriminating against people who take the anti-HIV treatment intended to prevent infection known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP. Its introduction was a major step forward in preventing the spread of the AIDS virus. Known by the brand name Truvada, this drug cocktail, if taken correctly, is highly effective in preventing infection, providing what many view as bullet-proof protection against the virus. “Several studies have shown that


Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal is moving to block insurance companies from denying coverage to people using PrEP.

users who take the drug daily are at nearly zero risk of HIV infection,” Donald G. McNeill, Jr., the top medical reporter at the New York Times,

wrote in February. McNeill’s story (nytimes. com/2018/02/12/health/truvadahiv-insurance.html) created considerable buzz when he reported that some insurance companies — primarily those providing life, disability, and long-term care policies, rather than health insurance itself — were denying coverage to persons who were taking the pills. One tart-tongued researcher voicing amazement about this said such coverage denials “really are silly — it’s like refusing to insure someone because they use seatbelts.” Rosenthal, who is the chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, argues insurance companies following this practice

will have a pernicious impact by discouraging the use of PrEP. The companies, she said, “are trying to deny coverage to good risks, people who are taking every precaution to prevent themselves from getting sick with HIV.” PrEP isn’t popular with fundamentalists and others looking to compel gay men to change their behavior, rather than pursue sex with prudent precautions. Just as the birth control pill lowered the risk of unwanted pregnancies for heterosexuals, PrEP is a medical advance that stops HIV infection even when condoms aren’t used. Even at the height of the AIDS crisis, there were always some men

PREP, continued on p.11


Another Victory for Married Lesbian Parents Brooklyn appeals panel bars sperm donor’s efforts to win parental recognition BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


ollowing a precedent set on January 25 by the State Appellate Division’s Albany-based Third Department, the Second Department, in Brooklyn, has dismissed a sperm donor’s attempt to establish legal parentage and win visitation rights with a child born to a married lesbian couple. The February 21 ruling from a four-judge panel was unanimous. As in the earlier case, the sperm donor in this case, Joseph O. v. Danielle B. & Joynell B., was not seeking custody but wanted his biological parentage legally acknowledged as well as visitation rights with the child. Following the earlier ruling, and overruling Orange County Family Court Judge Victoria B. Campbell, the Second Department panel found that Joseph O.’s lawsuit was barred by a legal principal known as “equitable estoppel,” even though the parties did not comply with a provision of the New York Domestic Relations Law that would have created an “irrebuttable pre-


sumption” that the married couple, Danielle B. and Joynell B., are the child’s only legal parents. That Domestic Relations Law provision was adopted years ago in response to the growing practice of donor insemination to ensure that when a married different-sex couple has a child using donated sperm there will be no question that the mother’s husband is the child’s parent. Under the provision, when the insemination is carried out by “a person duly authorized to practice medicine,” there is an “irrebuttable presumption of legitimacy” of the child that bars the sperm donor from any attempt to establish legal parentage or seek custody or visitation. Unfortunately, the Legislature has not revised the statute to reflect the existence of same-sex marriages and the ease of carrying out the procedure at home without professional assistance. Danielle and Joynell married in Connecticut in 2009 and used the Internet to find Joseph, a sperm donor who agreed in writing that he would have no parental rights or responsibilities.

The child, a girl, was born in April 2012. According to the mothers, they’ve had only sporadic contact with Joseph, who saw the child a few times each year since her birth, including some birthdays, but who was not treated as a father by either the women or their daughter. The child’s birth certificate listed the two women as parents. Claiming that he wished to assure that he would have a continued right to visit with the child, Joseph filed suit in Orange County Family Court in September 2015, naming Danielle, the birth mother, as respondent. This lawsuit was dismissed on the ground that Joynelle should have been named as a “necessary” party, since she is also a legal parent of the child. Joseph filed a new lawsuit in June 2016, naming both mothers as respondents, and seeking two things: legal visitation rights and a declaration that he is the child’s father. Joseph claimed that he had an established relationship with the young girl and that it would be in her best interest for him to have visitation rights. Danielle and Joynell moved to

dismiss the case, claiming that both New York common law and the Domestic Relations Law provision governing donor insemination stood in the way of Joseph’s claims. They also raised the equitable estoppel argument, claiming Joseph had no meaningful relationship with the child and, in any event, waited too long to assert parental rights — more than three years after her birth. Judge Campbell appointed an attorney, Kelley M. Enderley of Poughkeepsie, to represent the child’s interest. Enderley sided with the mothers, affirming that “the child recognized only” them as parents. Campbell, however, denied the women’s move to dismiss, finding, based on Joseph’s allegations of biological parenthood, that the burden was on the mothers to show it was not in the child’s best interest to have a paternity test ordered to confirm he is her biological father. The judge reasoned that by allowing Joseph to have contact with the child over the time since her birth,

LESBIAN MOMS, continued on p.11

March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


PREP, from p.10

who didn’t use condoms and in time clinicians began to experiment with giving healthy men anti-HIV drugs, hence the name pre-exposure prophylaxis. After years of fine-tuning and conducting efficacy tests, PrEP works like a vaccine. Daily users don’t get HIV infections, but they are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases if they abandon condoms. Some gay men use PrEP and condoms to feel completely safe in their sexual encounters, while others are willing to assume the risk of STD infections as long as they are comfortable that they won’t become infected with HIV. Significantly, PrEP plays a critical role in the New York State plan to end HIV as an epidemic by 2020. Public health officials exult in being able to offer people at the highest risk of getting infected with HIV


LESBIAN MOMS, from p.10

the mothers had lost entitlement to the “presumption of legitimacy� of the child, and also that the question of equitable estoppel required a trial. The Appellate Division found these rulings to be erroneous. Although the parties had not complied with the donor insemination statute, the court followed the earlier Third Department decision holding that the law was “not intended to be the exclusive means to establish the parentage of a child born through artificial insemination.� More importantly, the court reaffirmed the emerging consensus among New York courts that married lesbian couples who have children through donor insemination are entitled to enjoy the presumption — codified elsewhere in the state’s Domestic Relations Law and in the Family Court Act — that the child is the legitimate child of the birth mother and her wife. That presumption is not irrebuttable, the appeals panel found, but an attempt by the sperm donor to rebut is blocked under the equitable estoppel doctrine to “preserve that status of legitimacy for the child� to “protect a child’s established relationship with another who has assumed the parental role� — here, Joynell, the wife of the child’s birth GayCityNews.nyc | March 1 – 14, 2018


a medicine that prevents transmissions. Data from the city health department show a trend of declining new infections, but a step-up in PrEP use will be needed to reach the state and city’s ambitious goal over the next three years. McNeill’s reporting on insurance companies balking at PrEP use has state regulators investigating insurance companies for engaging in illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation. Rosenthal’s bill would flat out prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage, she said in an email to Gay City News. “Insurance companies manufacture myriad reasons to deny coverage,� she wrote. “These coverage decisions are based on tired old tropes from the ‘80s about gay people and HIV that not only reinforce stigmas we worked for years to reverse but also the discourage the use of lifesaving drugs.�

mother. On the question of equitable estoppel, the facts clearly supported dismissal of Joseph’s case. He agreed when he donated his sperm that he would not seek any parental rights, he was not named on the birth certificate, and although he was certainly aware of the child’s birth, he did nothing to assert his legal claim for more than three years. “During that time,� wrote the court, “the child has lived with and been cared for exclusively by the respondents, each of whom has developed a loving parental relationship with her.� By contrast, although Joseph had occasional contact, he can’t claim to have developed a parental relationship with the child, and he “acknowledges that he does not actually seek a parental role� — he is only interested in making sure that he has a legal right to continue seeing the child in case her mothers decide to deny him access. “It would be unjust and inequitable to disrupt the child’s close parental relationship with each of the respondents and permit the petitioner to take a parental role when he has knowingly acquiesced in the development of a close relationship between the child and another par-

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LESBIAN MOMS, continued on p.15



Religious B&B Owner Loses Bid to Discriminate Hawaii appeals court rejects free exercise, privacy rights to deny lesbians service BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


he Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii has affirmed a ruling by the state’s First Circuit Court that an owner-occupied bed & breakfast violated the state’s public accommodations law by refusing to rent a room to a lesbian couple from California seeking vacation accommodations. The opinion for a three-judge panel of the court by Chief Judge Craig Nakamura rejected the defendant’s argument that her constitutional rights were violated and also rejected her argument that because the B&B is owner-occupied it is entitled to an exemption under a law governing residential real estate transactions. Diane Cervelli emailed Aloha Bed & Breakfast to determine whether a room was available for a planned vacation, then followed up in a phone call with the owner, Phyllis Young, about making a room reservation for herself and her partner, Taeko Bufford. Everything went well on the telephone until Cervelli mentioned that she was reserving for herself and another woman. Young asked if Cervelli and the other woman were lesbians. When Cervelli answered, “Yes,” Young said, “We’re strong Christians. I’m very uncomfortable in accepting the reservation from you.” Young then hung up on Cervelli. Bufford then called and received the same treatment. “Apart from Plaintiffs’ sexual orientation,” wrote Judge Nakamura, “there was no other reason for Young’s refusal to accept Plaintiffs’ request for a room.” Each of the women filed a complaint with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, alleging a violation of the state’s public accommodations law. The Commission found “reasonable cause” to believe that Aloha B&B had violated the statute, but bowed to the plaintiffs’ desire to file a court action rather than pursue the matter administratively, issuing them a “right to sue letter.” After the lawsuit was filed in the circuit court, the Commission intervened as a co-plaintiff. The law’s definition of “public accommodation” includes “an inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment that provides lodging to transient guests,” and lists “sexual orientation” as a prohibited ground for discrimination. A different statute, governing residential leases, however, provides an exemption from anti-discrimination requirements for “the rental of a room or up to four rooms in a housing accommodation by an owner or lessor if the owner or lessor resides in the housing accommodation.” Aloha B&B argued that it was entitled to the owner-occupied premises exemption, but both the circuit court and the court of appeals disagreed, finding that the exemption was intended



Chief Judge Craig Nakamura of the Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii wrote the opinion in a case where a lesbian couple successfully asserted that they faced discrimination from a bed & breakfast operator.

to govern residential leases creating a landlordtenant relationship in which the tenant resides in the premises for an extended period of time, not for “transient” customers staying a few days at best and are not establishing their residence in the rented rooms. The court said that it was “clear based on the plain statutory language that Aloha B&B is a ‘place of public accommodation,’” and noted that the defendant had admitted in its pretrial statement that “it offers bed and breakfast services to the general public.” Reviewing the defendant’s advertising practices and data showing that the overwhelming majority of its customers — running up to 100 or more individuals a year — stay for only a few days, the court found Aloha was not eligible for the residential lease exemption. The court noted that Aloha generally rented rooms to anybody who applied, denying services only to gay people and smokers. Aloha raised three constitutional defenses. First, it argued that requiring it to rent a room to this lesbian couple violated Young’s right of privacy. “Aloha B&B argues that the right of privacy is ‘the right to be left alone,’” Nakamura wrote. “However, to the extent that Young has chosen to operate her bed and breakfast business from her home, she has voluntarily given up the right to be left alone. In choosing to operate Aloha B&B from her home, Young, for commercial purposes, has opened up her home to over one hundred customers per year, charging them money for access to her home. Indeed, the success of Aloha B&B’s business and its profits depend on members of the general public entering Young’s home as customers. In other words, the success of Aloha B&B’s business required that Young not be left alone.” Nakamura continued, “The privacy right im-

plicated by this case is not the right to exclude others from a purely private home, but rather the right of a business owner using her home as a place of public accommodation to use invidious discrimination to choose which customers the business will serve. We conclude that Young’s asserted right to privacy did not entitle her to refuse to provide Plaintiffs with lodging based on their sexual orientation.” Next, Young claimed a violation of her right of “intimate association,” but the court rejected this claim as well. “The relationship between Aloha B&B and the customers to whom it provides transient lodging is not the type of intimate relationship that is entitled to constitutional protection against a law designed to prohibit discrimination in public accommodations,” wrote Nakamura, again taking note of the large volume of customers passing through the premises for short stays over the course of a year. “The hundreds of customer relationships Aloha B&B forms through its business is far from the ‘necessarily few’ family-type relationships that are subject to constitutional protection. With respect to the purpose for which the relationship is formed, Aloha B&B forms relationships with its customers for commercial, business purposes, and it is only the commercial aspects of the relationship” that the public accommodations law regulates. Young testified that the “primary purpose” of the B&B is to “make money,” wrote Nakamura, and, “She also admitted that if she could not make money by running Aloha B&B, she ‘wouldn’t operate it.’ Young does not operate Aloha B&B for the purpose of developing ‘deep attachments and commitments’ to its customers.” Finally, Young made a “free exercise of religion” claim. This was doomed to fail under the US Constitution, since the Supreme Court has held that individuals and businesses do not enjoy a constitutional exemption from complying with a “valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribe (or proscribes).” Young, as a result, sought to base her argument on the State Constitution, arguing that the court should depart from federal constitutional precedents and “impose a compelling state interest requirement, and apply strict scrutiny in deciding its free exercise claim under the Hawaii Constitution.” The court was unwilling to take the bait, stating, “We need not decide whether a higher level of scrutiny should be applied to a free exercise claim under the Hawaii Constitution than the United States Constitution. This is because we

ALOHA B&B, continued on p.15

March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc



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A Refuge Too Long Overlooked Upper West Side’s Gigi Café offers taste treats, uncommon companionability BY DONNA MINKOWITZ


wo months ago I moved out of the city. That is a string of words I never thought I would put together. I was born here and I grew up in the fullycolored, art- and rebellion-bursting ‘70s, before each neighborhood had a sickening timestamp inked on it “ONLY FOR THE SUPERRICH NOW.” When I come into the city these days from my sublime but distant tiny town (how weird it is to write that!), I need inexpensive refuges. Gigi Café had hidden in plain sight all the years I’d been going to see my shrink, Violetta, on the once majority-poor people Upper West Side. It was plunked down next to the old 72nd Street subway station whose grounds had — a whole lifetime ago — been known as Needle Park. When I was still a New Yorker — that is to say, way back in November — I had turned up my nose at Gigi Café. It looked like every other Manhattan deli with premade panini sandwiches, “yogurt parfaits,” giant bowls of salad you could have mixed and mingled according to your exact specifications. The seating room in the back had no decoration, just white walls with young and old people huddled in winter coats, reading and talking, and you could only see the outdoor light from the front if you sat in one of three particular seats. All the chairs were a weird bright green, and the lighting when you walked in was too cheery and florescent. I would only let myself be seen in there when I was thirsty and worried about immediate dehydration. What a difference six weeks makes. Now, commuting back to the motherland just for therapy (insert New York joke here), my commute is so long and hard, the wait between Metro North trains so protracted, that I need a place to sit in, sometimes for hours, where the staff will smile at me, the food will be healthy, cheap, and good, and there will be a clean bathroom. Where the chairs and tables will be comfortable and not crowded, and I can sit my tuchas down and not feel unwanted shoulder-bumping, or any pressure to move. Where nearly every employee will greet me kindly, no matter what I buy. Gigi Café is, to put it mildly, not hot. It is not sharp or stylish or even new, and it most certainly does not have bone broth, house-fermented pickles, or artisanal butcher meat. Here is what it does have: a staff that cares about the people who come, including many elderly and disabled neighborhood residents. Though there are no waiters, only counter service, I have seen a worker, with great warmth and friendliness, ask a senior with disabilities, already seated in the back, exactly what she wanted, and then take care to get it to her as quickly and deli-



Gigi Café’s charms were right under this writer’s upturned nose for years.

ciously as possible. Some seniors even take care of other seniors here, making sure those who are more disabled than they are have everything they need on the table. (“Here’s some more napkins and a knife, Mary!”) Checking in on those who are frailer than themselves. In that way, the place reminds me of an informal community center with really good soup. There are also, like I mentioned, younger people in the seats. There are high school girls of color doing homework together; straight couples hanging out; gay activist couples on (very) cheap dates. (Or as one uncomfortable Yelper put it, “There were some dubious characters loitering there nursing their coffees.”) Loads and loads of people reading physical books and newspapers. Friends of all colors, looking not very moneyed, hanging out or killing time together. About that soup: there are four changing, homemade soups a day, and the kale and chicken was deep and nurturing, the brown lentil warm and spicy. The chicken cemita (the hot sandwich from Puebla, Mexico, with avocado, jalapeños, Oaxacan cheese, chipotle, and onions, lettuce, and tomato, $8.99) was exciting and filling, as deeply satisfying as the splash of stars on a clear night in Beacon, my new home. It was big and oomphy enough for dinner. The milpero panini (chicken, toasted cheddar cheese, and lifeless cooked onions and peppers) was wan by comparison. But the salad bowl was like a kind of religious mystery: after I chose from among several kinds of supremely

fresh organic greens as a base, the man mixed up a huge, huge stainless steel bowl for me full of everything I wanted: tuna, blue cheese, peas, sun-dried tomatoes, shredded carrots, olives, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, cute pickled beets, salt, and pepper, and it was the freshest and tastiest thing I’ve ever had in a Manhattan deli. ($10.99, enough for a dinner big enough to keep you going all the way home.) There is also a lovely coconut parfait with coconut yogurt, preternaturally tiny pieces of apple scattered throughout, and a sprinkling of almond slivers and cranberries on top ($4.49). I can’t think of a more delightful healthy snack. It’s hard to convey how happy, sad, surprised, and strange at once I feel on leaving the city. Now I live in an inexpensive place where a high mountain curls tenderly around the town like a hot-blooded animal, where other mountains stick their humps out of the Hudson River like prehistoric creatures. To me, there is more possibility here than in the five boroughs right now, more possibility for art, beauty, maybe even friendship in a place where people don’t have to fight so hard just to pay the rent. There is more breathing room and less pressure, and as I take a deep breath, I find I want more and more places like Gigi Café. Gigi Café, 2067 Broadway between 71st and 72nd Streets, 212-501-7500; gigicafe.com. Daily, 6 a.m.-11 p.m. There is one all-gender restroom. (I have not been to Gigi Café’s Chelsea location.) March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


ALOHA B&B, from p.12

conclude that [the public accommodations law] satisfies even strict scrutiny as applied to Aloha B&B’s free exercise claim.� The state of Hawaii, the court concluded, “has a compelling interest in prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations,� and that the law is “narrowly tailored to achieve Hawaii’s compelling interest� in prohibiting such discrimination. The court’s ruling affirmed the circuit court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of the lesbian couple and their Civil Rights Commission co-plaintiff on the liability phase of the case. Unless the


LESBIAN MOMS, from p.11

ent figure,� the appeals panel concluded. Justices Reinaldo E. Rivera, L. Priscilla Hall, Betsy Barros, and Valerie Brathwaite Nelson made up the appellate panel. The mothers are represented by Yetta G. Kurland and Erica T. Kagan of the Kurland Group and the

case goes up to the Hawaii Supreme Court, the next step would be to send it back to the circuit court for a determination of damages for the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs are represented by Lambda Legal staff attorney Peter C. Renn and local Hawaii counsel Jay Handlin and Lindsay N. McAneeley of Carlsmith Ball LLP. Robin Wurtzel, Shirley Naomi Garcia, and April L. Wilson-South represented the Civil Rights Commission in the case. And — no surprise, here — Aloha B&B is represented by attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, a litigation organization that opposes LGBTQ rights at every opportunity.

LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York through its legal director, Brett Figlewski. The American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys filed an amicus brief written by attorneys from Seyfarth Shaw LLP and Rumbold & Seidelman, LLP. Joseph O. is represented by Paul N. Weber of Cornwall, New York.


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Bob Mueller’s Leaks Versus Mike Pence’s



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Special counsel Robert Mueller, the man who doesn’t leak, because, admit it, you’d rather see a picture of him than of Mike Pence.



obert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election,” Stephen Colbert announced the other night, “charging them with conspiracy to defraud the United States. First of all, no one saw this coming. There were no leaks. Mueller’s office does not leak. That place is tighter than Mike Pence’s sphincter.” Of course I laughed. It’s a funny line — at fi rst. But then my guffaws suddenly stopped. Colbert had forced me to think about Mike Pence’s sphincter, and the joke was no longer amusing. The fi rst question: to which of Pence’s sphincters was Colbert referring? The answer may seem obvious, but we strive for precision at Media Circus; it’s important to get things right. We can rule out the pyloric sphincter — the one at the lower opening of the stomach that leads to the duodenum and opens

only when a peristaltic wave passes through the region. Why? Because the pyloric sphincter is just not that funny. Also out of the question is the sphincter of Oddi; it, too, is associated with the duodenum. This little beauty regulates the flow of bile and pancreatic juices through the ampulla of Vater. Frankly, before researching this column I didn’t know I even had an ampulla of Vater, let alone a sphincter of Oddi, both of which sound like locations on a map of Mordor. This is a lack of knowledge I’m sure most of my readers share. Thus we can rule out the sphincter of Oddi as the subject of Colbert’s joke on the grounds of obscurity. Two other important sphincters function in the human body — the cardiac sphincter, which curiously is not located in the heart, and the urinary sphincter, which is really a faux sphincter, for reasons even I see no need to explicate here. So we can safely conclude that the Pence sphincter to which Colbert was referring was indeed his anal sphincter, the one that regu-

lates the flow of the vice president’s faeces. This knowledge only made Colbert’s attempt at humor all the more disturbing. The late-night talk show host was actually forcing his viewers to think about the passage of Mike Pence’s shit through his ascending colon, his transverse colon, his descending colon, his sigmoid colon (my favorite of the various colons, because it functions as shorthand for Sigmund Freud), and his rectum, stopped mercifully by his anal sphincter so that the vice president doesn’t spew forth shit in random squirts at, say, the Winter Olympics at PyeongChang, where Pence was a fairly pointless guest, or the White House, where is also a fairly pointless guest, but rather into a convenient toilet at the vice president’s pleasure and control. Now I, for one, would rather not think about Mike Pence’s faeces, especially when the reference is to leaks or the lack thereof. I dwell upon it here simply because I am a media columnist, so when a comedian of Stephen Colbert’s stature uses the vice president’s sphincter as the subject of a one-liner, I would be thoroughly remiss if I didn’t explore every aspect of the story. Had Colbert delved into the quality of Pence’s shit — its texture, color, and water content — then naturally I would have been obliged to comment on those aspects as well. Lucky for all of us, he didn’t. “UN ‘Sex Education’ Standards Push LGBT Agenda on 5-YearOlds” blares the headline of a particularly crankish column on thenewamerican.com. Written by Alex Newman, the piece reads like a broad parody of a gay-hating windbag with a malfunctioning sphincter. (Don’t worry; I’m merely providing a bridge from the fi rst part of the column to the second.) “In yet another bid by the United Nations to sexualize and indoctrinate your children at younger and younger ages,” Newman writes, “the UN Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) just unveiled a new set of ‘Comprehensive Sexuality Education’ standards for humanity. Among other controversies, the UN’s planetary sex-ed scheme advocates masturbation, abortion, gender confusion, homo-

LEAKS, continued on p.17

March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


According to their release, Fay reminded Cummings that Cardinal Timothy Dolan raised no objections to the integration of the Fifth Avenue parade in 2016 and noted that the Church does not sponsor the event and it is not a “religious activity.” Fay also pointed to the widespread acceptance of LGBTQ groups in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Ireland, which now has an out gay prime minister, Leo Varadkar. According to Bullock and Fay, were the prime minister to fi nd himself in Staten Island this coming Sunday he would be allowed to march but not identify himself as gay, Cummings said. “The exclusion of the Pride Center of Staten Island from the St Patrick’s Parade is wrong,” said Fay, who continues to organize the annual inclusive Queens event, which is also happening on March 4. “Irish people are known

WINDSOR, from p.8

US Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause does and does not have to do with the question of marriage equality. Rosie O’Donnell appears at sev-

LEAKS, from p.16

sexuality, homosexual parenting, contraception, fornication, and more. The document, which cites abortion giant Planned Parenthood almost 20 times, represents a full-blown assault on parental rights and traditional morality that critics say could devastate a generation of young people. But the UN wants it to be mandatory for every child on the planet, starting at age five.” It’s highly unlikely that UNESCO “advocates… gender confusion.” More likely, it advocates the healthy resolution of gender confusion. Newman plunges on: “The UN document, dubbed ‘International technical guidance on sexuality education,’ purports to provide an ‘evidence-based approach’ to teaching young children all about sex, homosexuality, gender confusion, and more. But as the document itself makes GayCityNews.nyc | March 1 – 14, 2018

for our spirit of hospitality. A cultural event in honor of the Irish and St. Patrick himself, a refugee and immigrant, ought to be welcoming and inclusive. I honestly believed we crossed the threshold on this issue when I marched with Lavender and Green Alliance [in Manhattan] in 2016. In 2018 our work continues. We need to make our cultural gatherings more welcoming and inclusive.” State Assemblymember Matt Titone, an out gay Democrat who has represented part of the borough since 2007, told Gay City News, “Nowhere in New York State, or anywhere else that I am aware of, are LGBT groups prohibited from celebrating Irish culture and heritage by marching in a parade. It’s sad that a small band of a few Hibernians would keep Staten Island from being in step with the rest of the world and more particularly with the leadership and teachings of the Archdiocese.” In the years since Irish

LGBTQ groups launched the push to march on Fifth Avenue, activists have skirmished over numerous parades around the city, including for a number of years an event in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx that received City Council funding. One person familiar with the situation in Staten Island said they don’t believe public funding is involved there, but none of the borough’s three councilmembers responded to Gay City News’ question on that point. Cummings did not respond to a text message seeking comment and an answer about that. Cummings’ comments to the Irish Voice on the question of the Pride Center’s participation tracked what Bullock and Fay said he told them. “Our parade is not for sexual identification agendas,” the Voice quoted him saying, though the newspaper reported that he claimed the vote on LGBTQ participation happened several years

ago, not last year. He also maintained that the Pride Center “applied and was turned down,” while Bullock and Fay said Cummings refused to take their paperwork. Bullock told Gay City News that the Pride Center will instead march this Sunday in Fay’s St. Pat’s For All Parade in Queens, but vowed to keep applying each year until the Staten Island organizers relent. “We continue to work for the day when we can celebrate Irish culture and heritage on Staten Island,” she said. The Queens event kicks off from 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside at 1 p.m. on Sunday and ends at 58th Street and Woodside Avenue. A concert and reception will be held two evenings earlier, on March 2 at 6 p.m. at the Irish Arts Center at 553 West 51st Street in Manhattan. Tickets are $60. Complete information on the parade and concert are at stpatsforall.org.

eral points in the film, presumably to add the celebrity power that is often conflated with “relatability,” but Windsor’s story and the parallel story of Kaplan and Lavine’s family are far more instructive and inspiring than the comedian’s

observations. These reservations aside, Zaccaro made very effective use of limited screen time to relay a vivid and triumphant tale, the details of which many of us witnessed firsthand but have not before seen so

cogently wrapped into an effective history lesson. If you missed your chance to catch it at the Winter Film Awards, keep your eye out for it (at perfectunionfilm.com) in theaters this coming Pride Season.

clear, much of the ‘evidence’ comes from extremist organizations that promote abortion, sexual ‘liberation,’ fornication, and more. Planned Parenthood, for instance, provided much of the alleged ‘research’ and ‘evidence.’” Fornication? Two times in the fi rst two paragraphs, no less. Somebody ought to point out to Newman that the word went out with high-button shoes. And I love the way Newman puts quotes around liberation. The whole thing only makes sense when one glances to the right-hand column of ads that accompanies this inane screed and espies an ad for the John Birch Society. Talk about going out with high-button shoes! For those of you who are too young to remember the Birchers’ heyday, here’s its entry on RationalWiki: “The John Birch Society was a radical right-wing organization founded by candy manufacturer

Robert W. Welch, Jr., in 1958 as a wingnut red-baiting propaganda machine last line of defense against the massively ongoing, clandestine Communist takeover of the United States. An early book by Welch, ‘The Politician,’ became controversial after it became widely known that an early manuscript included the accusation that President Dwight Eisenhower was a ‘conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist conspiracy.’ It’s basically the KKK but with a thin, stringy veneer of political theory (read: more fears of fluoridated water controlling their brains).” A little more history, along with a personal touch: In the 1940s, public water authorities began adding fluoride to the water supply to help prevent children’s teeth from rotting. But by the late 1950s and early 1960s, wingnuts across the country decided the whole thing was a communist

mind control plot. At the time (and long thereafter), my father was the solicitor for the local water authority. My mother asked him whether they’d ever considered adding fluoride to the water; my father calmly replied that they’d been doing it for years. Shocked, my mother asked why there had been no community uproar, as there had been everywhere else in the US. “Simple,” my father replied. “We just didn’t tell anybody.” From the DailyMail.uk website: “EXCLUSIVE: ‘Wasted’ Heather Locklear, 56, arrested after almost biting her boyfriend’s nose, calling cops ‘f**king a**holes,’ and kicking one in his privates — all in front of her 20-year-old daughter Ava.” Nothing more needs to be said. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.



DONALD ZARDA, from p.6

theory in a 2008 race discrimination decision involving a white man who was discharged because he had married a black woman. The court there found this was discrimination because of both his race and the race of his wife and so violated Title VII. Applying that reasoning and quoting from the EEOC’s Baldwin decision, Katzmann wrote, “If a male employee married to a man is terminated because his employer disapproves of same-sex marriage, the employee has suffered associational discrimination based on his own sex because ‘the fact that the employee is a man instead of a woman motivated the employer’s discrimination against him.’� Katzmann specifically rejected the argument that Congress’ repeated failure to add sexual orientation protections to federal law should defeat Zarda’s claim. Zarda’s case is unusual in that the federal government filed amicus briefs and made arguments on both sides of the question. The EEOC filed a brief supporting the Zarda estate’s claim that Title VII

covers sexual orientation claims, consistent with its ruling from the Obama administration in the Baldwin case, but the Justice Department filed a brief and participated in the oral argument on the other side, reflecting Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ position that Title VII does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity claims. A large portion of Katzmann’s opinion, which runs more than 65 pages, was devoted to refuting DOJ arguments. Several of the concurring judges limited their agreement to the associational discrimination theory, finding it consistent with the circuit’s 2008 race discrimination case. Judge Dennis Jacobs went further, explaining why he was not convinced by Katzmann’s other theories, while Judge JosĂŠ Cabranes concurred without signing on to any of the other opinions, characterizing this as “a straightforward case of statutory construction.â€? “Zarda’s sexual orientation is a function of his sex,â€? Cabranes wrote. “Discrimination against Zarda because of his sexual orientation therefore is discrimination because of his sex, and is prohib-

ited by Title VII. That should be the end of the analysis.� Judge Lynch’s dissenting opinion was actually longer than Katzmann’s majority opinion, providing a detailed history of Title VII’s enactment to support his agreement with Judge Diane Sykes, who dissented in the Seventh Circuit Hively case, that the court must confine its interpretation of Title VII to what the legislators thought they were enacting in 1964. The role of the court in statutory interpretation, Lynch and Sykes argue, is relatively modest, and does not extend to “updating� statutes to embrace new legal principles that are not clearly logical extensions of what the legislature intended to address. Lynch’s dissent was joined by Judges Debra Ann Livingston and Reena Raggi. New York, Connecticut, and Vermont already have state laws banning workplace sexual orientation discrimination, but Title VII can provide a broader range of protection than the state laws. At the Zarda trial, the judge gave a jury charge that required finding that Zarda’s sexual orientation was the motivating factor in his discharge.

Under Title VII, a jury could find a statutory violation as long as sexual orientation was “a factor,� even if other factors contributed to the decision. Zarda’s estate, then, could prevail when the case is returned to the district court, despite its loss on its state law claim. New York City solo practitioner Gregory Antollino has represented first Zarda and then his estate throughout the proceedings, with Stephen Bergstein of Chester, New York, as co-counsel. Altitude Express, which must now decide whether to petition the Supreme Court for review or instead defend the case back in district court, is represented by Saul D. Zabell of Bohemia, New York. The case attracted many amicus briefs, including from the EEOC, Lambda Legal, and the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York. On the other side were arrayed the Justice Department and conservative groups including the Christian Legal Society, the National Association of Evangelicals, the US Justice Foundation, and the Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


A Moment at the Fence The power and challenge of a “Laramie Project” where Matthew Shepard is present BY ADAM DAVIDSON or the past 10 months I’ve had the privilege and responsibility of representing Matthew Shepard in the Wandering Theatre Company’s production of “The Laramie Project.” As far as we know, this is the first time Matthew has been part of “The Laramie Project Cycle.” To add someone we lost almost 20 years ago now not only comes with the challenge and responsibility of paying tribute to a real human being — one who had no voice in the wake of a hate crime that led to his murder — it also adds a gravity for a new generation of audience members who are now used to the quick and often harsh intake of information and social media communication. The show my fellow ensemble members perform moves me every time I experience the show, and the feedback we have received has been both gratifying and humbling. Matt and I have a lot in common, more than I originally anticipated. More in common than I think I’ll ever be comfortable with. I was born and raised in a picturepostcard kind of town, just off the cape of Florida, and grew up safely ensconced in your average middle-class American family. I grew up white, with an overwhelming amount of blonde hair and eyes that change between gray, green, and blue. I grew up very privileged — something I wouldn’t have even understood at the time had you tried to tell that to a closeted teenager. It was a town like a lot of others, that lived by the time-worn motto of “live and let live,” a phrase repeated by several individuals in “The Laramie Project.” I also grew up hiding with all my might that I was gay — and later realized how my family must have known early on. I look back and I’m confused how something could ever have made me question their



GayCityNews.nyc | March 1 – 14, 2018

Access Theater Black Box 380 Broadway at White St., fourth fl. “Part One: The Laramie Project”: Mar. 2 at 8 p.m. “Part Two: Ten Years Later”: Mar. 1 & 3 at 8 p.m. $32: thewanderingtheatrecompany. org/laramie/production


Adam Davidson appears as Matthew Shepard in the in the Wandering Theatre Company’s production of “The Laramie Project Cycle.”

support and love for me. But the signals we get from our communities, schools, churches and often families send the message of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Jonas Slonaker, a Laramie resident, puts it even more bluntly in the play: “What it boils down to: if I don’t tell you I’m a fag, you won’t beat the crap out of me. I mean, what’s so great about that? That’s a great philosophy?” Hard to argue with him. So, we grow up as wallflowers, mimicking others’ motions, absorbing anything and everything you can to smother the feeling that you are different. At that age, microaggressions and passing normative phrases such as “That’s gay!,” “Don’t be a pussy,” “He can’t have the pink one,” and more can turn to more vicious forms of hate, from name-calling to violence to the ugly signs displayed at Matthew’s funeral and the rhetoric from the Westboro Baptist Church’s Fred Phelps: “If God doesn’t hate fags, why does he put ’em in hell?” All too often the words spoken

by real people around us — teachers, friends, and family — can create mountains that we will either climb or they crush us. I watched my best friend in high school maneuver around comments like “You’re the whitest black girl I know,” “You’re hardly black,” “Can I touch your hair?” She was even given the nickname “TBO, token black one.” Comments that as two confused kids who knew nothing more than this world we had absorbed as our normal. Luckily, most of the kids who were different made it out and moved on to a life that celebrates their differences. She and I both admit to this day that we wouldn’t have survived those years without the other one by our side. Even 20 years after Matt’s death and what seems like a lot of progress, there are far too many LGBTQ youth who don’t get to find a light at the end of a bleak tunnel. Some face a darkness worse than their heart can hold and they give up on the hope of a life worth living. Too many end up on the

streets, rejected by family or escaping that rejection, the targets of exploitation and violence. I think about how Matt’s story is still so relevant, as hate crimes not only continue to happen but have actually spiked since the 2016 election. Many of the actors in our company — and so many audience members — were children or not even born yet when his murder happened, which is part of why it is so important to continue to tell this story, to perform this play, and, as our company decided, to give Matt a role in “The Laramie Project.” He was a very real young man filled with hope and promise, and the role I play, wordlessly, makes Matt a real presence, not simply a photo on the Internet. So I stand watching across from the fence and I think of the boy who was scared to death to tell his mother who he was. I think of anyone who has lost anyone from this form of hate. I think of all the other kids out there who are hiding inside themselves, who still experience this hatred day to day as their normal. I think about Matt’s parents, who are still working to make a difference after all this time has past, not just for Matt but for all the thousands of other victims of hate — gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, immigrants, people of color, anyone targeted simply because of who they are or who they love.

AT THE FENCE, continued on p.20



Stardust Memories A genderqueer survivor running out of time BY DAVID KENNERLEY ttention New Yorkers of a certain age nostalgic for the 1980s avant-garde East Village arts scene. It’s time to rejoice, for a supreme survivor is back to evoke those glory days, and beyond. I’m speaking of none other than the master of mélange John Kelly, the multitalented, genderqueer artist who in 1981 began performing in downtown dives like the Pyramid Club and later made his way to Carnegie Hall, belting out arias in fractured falsetto and high drag. The introspective impresario has returned to his East Village roots, at the storied La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, to mount his latest piece, “Time No Line.” The multimedia work, based on his meticulous journals, is at once a wistful and penetrating survey of his career spanning four decades, though, as the title suggests, defiantly not in chronological order. “Well, the past is not linear,” he says, sitting at a little desk, his androgynous face lined with worldliness. “In retrospect, it’s a patchwork of emotional triggers — how hard has it been to go back into these journals. I see my missteps — and I see my experience, whether I like it or not.” In classic Kelly fashion, this solo show integrates readings, anecdotes, dance, song, live drawing (in chalk on the floor), and projected images and video to bring his jour-



AT THE FENCE, from p.19

“The Laramie Cycle” for me has always been about a lot more than Matthew Shepard’s story. This is not only the first time since BAM’s production in 2013 that “The Cycle” has been presented professionally in New York City, but also the first time presented in such an innovative way. The addition of a Matthew Shepard in the cast is unique and done with the greatest respect — with his memory, his spirit, his soul moving like “the ever present Wyo-


La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club Ellen Stewart Theatre 66 E. Fourth St., btwn. Bowery & Second Ave. Through Mar. 11 Thu. – Sat. at 7 p.m.; Sun. at 2 p.m. $25; lamama.org or 212-352-3101 70 mins., no intermission


John Kelly’s live chalk drawings on stage.

nal entries to life. If you look closely, the screen is actually comprised of white pages that appear to be taken directly from his journals, giving the projected images a textured, fragmented feel. Not that these are ordinary journals. The pages are bursting with screeds, scribbles, lists, doodles, diagrams, sketches, and cartoons, many of them worthy of framing. In fact, a selection of Kelly’s journal transcriptions and memorial portraits is on view at Howl! Happening from February 28 through March 25 (6 East First Street; howlarts.org/event/john-kelly-sideways-into-the-shadows). The gifted performer, sometimes

in drag, covers an astounding amount of territory in just 70 intermission-less minutes. Predictably, he traces key milestones in his career — a flirtation with the American Ballet Theatre, a stint drawing self-portraits at Parsons, trapeze and tightrope lessons, and inspiration drawn from the infamous gay den of sin, the Anvil. Not to mention the birth of his Dagmar Onassis character (the fictional love child of Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis) and his character studies of Egon Schiele and Joni Mitchell. All of this is framed by the AIDS pandemic, which decimated so many gay men of his generation, including innumerable fellow artists.

ming wind” through the series of interviews. Each rehearsal and at every show, I watch the town of Laramie, much like the one I loved growing up, from a fence. My heart is filled with the hope that every audience member — family, friends, strangers, straight, male, female, gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans, all races and ages — is moved to action. To learn. To understand. To begin erasing hate, in and outside the LGBTQ community. Before these past 10 months, I had no clue how to express my

voice amongst the erupting divisiveness and hate, because words spoken out loud for me don’t come easy, but I’m finding my voice. My hope is to extend the same hand to hold that Matt gave me. It’s important to continue to talk about Matt, it’s important to talk about the media, it’s important to talk about the crime — and all the hate crimes that have happened since — and it’s important to talk about how things can indeed change. In a courtroom statement, Matt’s father Dennis said, “Matt’s death

Kelly reveals that an HIV diagnosis in 1989 left him energized, not despondent. This just two months before his friend Keith Haring died of AIDS-related KS lesions on his lungs. Despite a predilection for drag, it would be a mistake to label his character portrayals as camp. They are too reverential, too sophisticated. Throughout the show, Kelly makes costume changes in full view, so we can witness the process of transformation. Dressed in a sheer red scarf, his plaintive rendition of the French transgender anthem from the 1970s, “What Makes a Man a Man,” is vintage Kelly. His signature embodiment of Joni Mitchell was both a highlight and a letdown. He chose the relatively obscure song “The Last Time I Saw Richard” when I was hoping for a crowd favorite like “Woodstock.” If anyone is stardust, if anyone is golden, it is the ethereal, timeless, consummate creator John Kelly.

has sparked a worldwide conversation about hate… good is coming out of evil.” And the words of Matt’s mother Judy are always with me: “Bring light where you see darkness. Bring freedom where you see fear and begin to heal.” Adam Riggs has been with the Wandering Theatre Company’s production of “The Laramie Project” for its three runs to date. He is a New York-based performer and artist with a BFA in Commercial Dance from Pace University. March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


Hanging, Hanging In, Just Hanging On Bernadette Peters, Martin McDonagh don’t disappoint BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE he’s back where she belongs. The magnificent Bernadette Peters has stepped into the role of Dolly Levi in the wonderful production of “Hello, Dolly!” still going strong and looking as fresh and sparkling as it has since it opened. I ponied up for a ticket last week because I couldn’t imagine not seeing Bernadette in the role. Not surprisingly, the role fits her like one of the elbow-length gloves she wears for her triumphant return to the Harmonia Gardens restaurant during the title song. She’s a comic genius, to be sure, and she brings real heart to the role. Like Bette Midler and Donna Murphy before her, she’s a generous performer and a bona fide star who nonetheless fits seamlessly into the ensemble when required. She’s pure magic. Victor Garber has taken on the role of Horace Vandergelder and is charmingly curmudgeonly. Charlie Stemp has stepped into the role of Barnaby Tucker, and I mean that literally. He’s an amazing dancer taking on turns that were performed by the ensemble previously, and his comedy is completely endearing. I have loved Gavin Creel as Cornelius each of the other times I’ve seen this production, but at the performance I saw understudy Christian Dante White and he nailed it. (Santino Fontana takes on the role in March as Creel recovers from back surgery.) Kate Baldwin remains dazzling, no matter how many times I see this. The ensemble continues to be the most exuberant on Broadway right now, and the whole production is delightful. If you love musical comedy, this is why. And with discounts and good availability most performances, it’s well worth the trip… even for the third time.



In his creepy-wonderful new play, “Hangmen,” Martin McDonagh returns to topics he knows only too well — venality and vengeance in small town life. McDonagh has an unerring ability to ilGayCityNews.nyc | March 1 – 14, 2018

Shubert Theatre 225 W. 44th St. Through Jul. 15 Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $39-$169; telecharge.com Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission


Atlantic Theater Company 336 W. 20th St. Through Mar. 25 Tue. at 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat.- Sun. at 2 p.m. $70-$129; ovationtix.com Or 866-811-4111 Two hrs., 15 mins., with intermission

Bernadette Peters in “Hello Dolly,” at the Shubert through July 15.



59E59 59 E. 59th St. Mar. 1-3 at 7:30 p.m. $25; ticketcentral.com Or 212-279-4200 One hr., 45 mins., with intermission

Mark Addy and Johnny Flynn in Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen,” at the Atlantic through March 25 only.

luminate the ego-driven pettiness of his characters that takes hold in claustrophobic, remote environments. Here, we’re in remote Oldham in Lancashire. As in “The Cripple of Inishmaan” or “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” these awful people are nonetheless appealing partly because of their comedic excesses but more because of the incisive way in which McDonagh explores the darker aspects of human nature. When England ended hanging in 1964, the hangmen lost their jobs. One in particular, Harry Wade, who considered himself the “second best hangman in England,” can’t help but crow about his accomplishments when a newspaper reporter shows up at the pub he now owns.

Yet, Harry’s perhaps inflated sense of himself is challenged when it’s suggested that his last hanging was of an innocent man. Still, Harry rules the roost where he holds court among the local inebriants who make the pub their home. When a sexy, young, and definitely menacing stranger shows up, Harry’s dominance is threatened. Mooney, the stranger, flirts with Shirley, Harry’s mopey 15-yearold daughter… and danger. When Shirley goes missing for a day, Harry instantly blames Mooney and mayhem ensues. Of course, Mooney has done nothing to allay Harry’s fears and like a character out of Joe Orton or “A Clockwork Orange” has been playing mind games with everyone

in the town. That it’s not exactly clear why Mooney is doing this is part of the intrigue of the play. Harry in time turns desperate and murderous. McDonagh surrounds the central conflict between Mooney and Harry with lots of colorful characters and details that give the world of the play depth and texture. No contemporary playwright does that better, nor does any playwright create such tension from the foibles of similarly quotidian people and circumstances. Under the taut direction of Matthew Dunster, the cast is superlative. Mark Addy as Harry is the embodiment of aggressively defensive weakness and spiritual bankrupt-

HANGING, continued on p.35


Ute Lemper’s Tribute to Dietrich The German songstress takes on the ultimate icon BY DAVID NOH he minute I heard Ute Lemper’s new show at the Café Carlyle was about Marlene Dietrich, I knew I had to talk to her. For me, that German superstar could very well be the most important woman of the last century. Her life spanned nearly all of it and took her in so many directions, to so many worlds: two World Wars, the latter of which saw her playing an important role, as an entertainer who performed near the front lines, imperiling herself, having refused offers to return to Germany to become a Nazi movie star. Her films spanned the silent and sound eras, and she worked with the finest movie talents of her day. Her close friendships included so many celebrated names, from Ernest Hemingway, Erich Maria Remarque, Jean Gabin, and Jean Cocteau to Edith Piaf, Burt Bacharach, and the Beatles. And, finally, she remains vital because of the revolutionary, deeply influential way in which she lived her life, setting styles, defying convention, and going through it more as a man than a woman, with an open marriage to one guy all her life, numerous love affairs with both sexes, wearing masculine clothing and behaving in an androgynous way that make her among the most important, immortal gay icons. She has been portrayed through the years a number of times, on stage and screen, but I have never seen a wholly satisfying interpretation of her, especially as I had never seen a German attempt it, which made me all the more interested in seeing Lemper essay it. Lemper and I bonded warmly in the Upper West Side penthouse she uses as a studio, with living quarters on a floor below. Like Dietrich, she possesses the essential qualities of both ineffable elegance and pure gemutlichkeit, or cozy friendliness, immediately offering me a beer and worrying about her very lovable dog’s farting (which resulted in him being placed outside on her spacious terrace).




Café Carlyle 35 E. 76th St. Mar. 1-3 at 8:45 p.m. Cover charge is $40-$130 Food & drink minimum is $75; $25 at the bar bit.ly/2gYZa4Z


Ute Lemper with her 12-year-old son Julian in their Upper West Side home.

Describing her show to me, she said, “This is the first time I’ll be doing it, really a workshop, and it’s more of a theater piece than a cabaret show. It’s based on a three-hour phone conversation I had with her in 1988 when I was living in Paris, doing the show ‘Cabaret.’ She was living on the Avenue Montaigne, a total recluse by that point. I had contacted her, knowing she knew of me because I had won a theater award. She called me back — yes it was late, after 9 p.m. — and she talked and talked. “For some reason, I waited all this time to conceive a show about these memories and their impact on me. I never intended to play her; although it was an honor to be compared to this legend, her style was very different from mine from another generation, and musically very different. But through the years I kept being asked to play her, in different plays, about her relationships with [Jean] Gabin and [Edith] Piaf. I always refused because I didn’t want to play her as she had been played as a stereotype too often, drag queens did all that shtick and I didn’t want to go there. She was this incredible femme fatale with these incredible eyebrows, but then I thought I would tell the story of what I really felt about her. She was this expatriate who fell in love with Hollywood and vice-versa, presenting this emancipated image of a wom-

an, living like a man when women did not have the last word. “She remained professionally busy until her mid-70s, and I’m taking this journey of who she was and how she lived, with all the strange love affairs with men and women she had in her house, with her husband living there. But behind all that, there was this solitude, and that was important. She was unloved and unwelcome in Germany; even 20 years after the war she was treated as a traitor. I’m an expatriate, too, left Germany so many years ago during the Cold War and my career really began in foreign countries. I was celebrated in Paris as La nouvelle Marlene and went further in England and the US. But the Germans were always testing me in different ways: ‘Why did she win the Olivier Award? She’s not that good.’ “The work offered was simply more interesting in foreign countries. Why should I stay in Germany and maybe land a TV series when I could play in Carnegie Hall or the Royal Albert in London? My international record sales through Decca did very well, even in Asia. The world was calling me. But they were saying in Germany that I was a little bit of a traitor. My boyfriends and husbands had always been Jewish and I received some very anti-Semitic letters — that was prevalent in the 1980s in Germany. “When Marlene went back to Germany in the 1960s, there were threats of bombs in the theaters. It was difficult for her because she was a proud German, but also clearly anti-Nazi, that’s how she felt morally and politically. It was just a natural instinct with her because

all of her friends were Jews who had made it out before the rise of Nazis — Thomas Mann, Frederick Hollander, Stefan Zweig, Billy Wilder — great Jewish artists who made Hollywood at that time. That’s why German cinema was nothing then, because they had all left.” Lemper’s show includes Dietrich’s famous songs, of course, “but there’s a lot of text. I talk about that telephone call and slip into her persona, talking about her life. In 1992, I was in rehearsals of the play of ‘The Blue Angel,’ in Berlin, playing Lola Lola, the role which made her a star. Six days before opening night, she passed away, and she had told me, ‘The next time I go back to Germany will be in a coffin.’ There was a huge funeral in Paris at l’eglise Madeleine, with hundreds of celebrities and politicians. In Berlin, it was nothing, in a funky little cemetery because she wanted to be buried next to her mother. Ten years later, she was finally celebrated with a square named after her, but it took a long, long time. “She wasn’t an outspoken political thinker, not somebody who was subversive or looked for attention to define herself in that way. Germany knew it had given her a hard time but also didn’t really confront that. They didn’t want or like her, and she kept all that to herself, all her doubt and feeling and pain about Germany. “There was this strong sense of deeply embedded nationalism after the war. I was born in 1963 and when I grew up, it freaked me out to realize that I had been surrounded by a very unconscious society which had never properly confronted what it needed to. That anger fueled me incredibly and empowered me to do what I do.” Lemper said that in their phone conversation Dietrich talked a lot about Germany and also about the biography of her written by her daughter, Maria Riva. Although critics raved about it, I found much of it very dubious, especially sections in which Riva posited her

LEMPER & DIETRICH, continued on p.23

March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


LEMPER & DIETRICH, from p.22

eight-year-old self, sitting in on studio conferences with her mother and director Josef von Sternberg, who would supposedly take her advice regarding costumes, like the iconic tuxedos which adorned the star. Even more troublesome were those repeated, unnecessarily salacious observations, like Dietrich’s dusting her knees off after meeting the artist Giacometti signifying she had performed oral sex on him, and the graphically gruesome details of the legend’s last pitiable years, in which she was extremely frail, both mentally and physically. “Marlene spoke about this ugly, fucking nasty book that her daughter wrote. She had to beg her not to publish it until she was dead: ‘When I’m dead, I don’t care what people read or say about me.’ And the very year she died, 1992, the bitch daughter put it out. It’s so full of hatred — she blames her mother for everything. I hate when kids do that, it’s so ungrateful, blaming your parents for your screwed up life. And to employ that in a financial and public way like she did, disgusting!� Lemper was born in Muenster, “in Westphalia, and when I was 18, I went to study at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna. I learned maybe diction and some internal visions to discover myself, but ultimately the best acting teacher is the pain and suffering of life, which comes with the years. Only then can you really connect to the universe that inspires art. “I was in ‘Cats,’ and then went to Berlin where I was ‘Peter Pan’ and in ‘Guys and Dolls.’ Berlin has always been a very special place, and how it was when I moved there in 1983 defined me, a very important time when I studied music and dove into the repertoire of the cabaret, Weill and Brecht. It’s an ugly city, because it was destroyed in the war and then built back so quickly. But now it’s glamorous and, like in New York, the money shines it up, and we wonder, ‘Where is the real Berlin we remember from the old times?’ But it’s still special and fearless in a way that has nothing to do with the rest of Germany, like Munich which is so clean and charming but so Republican and conservative, so proud of its GerGayCityNews.nyc | March 1 – 14, 2018

man heritage. “The charm of Bavaria is very far from my comfort zone. Vienna was even worse, because they were never taken to task over their friendship with the Nazis — ‘Come on in! Take our country!’ When I was in Austria, it was a very scary dark place, with lots of suicides and the people were violent, cruel, and judgmental, not kind and definitely anti-Semitic. It was very rough but when I came to Berlin I thought, ‘Finally, here are some real people I can understand!’ “Now, Vienna is different, with things like the Life Ball [the biggest AIDS charity event in Europe], started 25 years go by Gery Keszler, an incredible guy. I performed there and sang ‘The Lavender Song,’ written in 1928, a gay anthem, and also Marlene’s beautiful [take on] ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone.’ I’m singing that at the Carlyle, and also Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind,’ which has a beautiful German text. Also a lot of schmaltz songs like Cole Porter’s ‘The Laziest Gal in Town’, ‘One for My Baby,’ and ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face’ [which Dietrich always sang boldly without changing the pronoun to a masculine one]. Also a wonderful song Philippe-GĂŠrard wrote for Piaf, ‘Le chevalier de Paris,’ which was translated into ‘When the World Was Young.’ Lemper has two grown children from her first marriage, and two sons, 12 (adorable, I met him) and six, from her second. “I know, I was insane to have a baby at 48, but I wanted him. So now I have a daughter and three boys, and boys demand patience which I have so much less of now. I can talk with my daughter quietly, about world matters and such, but boys want mindless action, all the time, like bank robbers [laughs]! It’s a lot of responsibility, and I’m the family breadwinner, because my husband [a drummer] doesn’t make a dime [laughs]!â€? Lemper’s two years playing Velma Kelly in the Broadway production of “Chicagoâ€? may have raised her profile publicly, but she found it an artistically wanting experience, doing a role that was pretty much set in stone, directorially, and playing a character she feels was a “caricature.â€? I had to ask if


LEMPER & DIETRICH, continued on p.32




AB37<6/@2B ;S\O\Re][S\eWbV^`SRWOPSbSa eO\bSROa^O`bWQW^O\baT]`<SeG]`Y C\WdS`aWbg2S^O`b[S\b]T<cb`WbW]\ O\R4]]RAbcRWSa`SaSO`QV^`]XSQb All participants receive a $20 Visa gift card and entry into a rafďŹ&#x201A;e for an iPad! B]^O`bWQW^ObSg]ceWZZ\SSRb]Q][^ZSbS]\SabcRgdWaWb O^^`]fW[ObSZg$%[W\cbSab]bOZbW[S 2c`W\UbVWadWaWbg]ceWZZ\SSRb]Q][^ZSbSOaS`WSa]TP`WST _cSabW]\\OW`Sa]\g]c`RWSbO\R^VgaWQOZOQbWdWbg[SOac`Sa ]TVSWUVbO\ReSWUVbO\R]\S!\cbSW\bS`dWSe

For more information, please call New York University, 631-268-6931 or email aml836@nyu.edu 23


Folk Art Museum’s “Newfangled Epic” “Vestiges and Verses” celebrates art’s narrative meanings BY PERRY BRASS lot of people have a hard time with the American Folk Art Museum at 2 Lincoln Square near the Mormon Temple and a short walk from the glories of Lincoln Center. When they see the word “folk art,” they think quilts, decoys, weather vanes, and other bits of Americana they can live without. This is not your grandma’s folk art museum — although it does have quilts, decoys, and weather vanes in its collection of 7,000 items. In truth, the American Folk Art Museum is a repository of brilliant, gorgeous, almost blinding stuff ranging far beyond the usual folk canon into what is referred to as “outsider” or “self-taught” art. The only limit it has is the sheer talent — even genus — of this work. Its great glory is its huge Henry Darger (1892-1973) holding of about 160 separate works by this reclusive Chicago janitor sometimes referred to as the “American Van Gogh,” but there is an array of other important work, too. Intensely visionary art, the art of crazy geniuses and queer seers, and science fiction imaginings the way they used to be, filled with hand-painted dreams and hallucinations, not computerdriven images, although some of the work in the museum foresaw computers by half a century, converted by these very spun-out minds into their own unique visual languages. The name of the current big show at the Museum is “Vestiges and Verses: Notes from the Newfangled Epic.” I asked Valérie Rousseau, curator of the show and of Self-Taught and Art Brut at the museum, what “Newfangled Epic” meant. “It’s a life-long narrative, with egos and alteregos; they have the styles and profiles of epics. We have a sensibility today that can relate to this art, with symbols, emojis, and a depth of content linking images—” “Like hieroglyphics?” I suggested. She agreed: “Yes, like hieroglyphics. You see patterns in these works, you see narrative structures in them.” As a writer, I wanted to dive right in, since the narrative aspect of art, rejected for decades in favor of pure formal or structural aspects, is important to me. For many critics in the past, formality was everything because if you actually looked at what the artist was saying, it was too “queer,” too threatening, to be acknowledged. Instead you avoided it, and just went “Oooh!” and “Ahhh!” over the arrangements of colors or lines. You don’t do that in this show. You want to know what these artists are saying: What do all these strange but wondrous images mean?




A close up of Henry Darger’s “Untitled / Untitled (double-sided),” c. 1950–1960; watercolor, pencil, carbon tracing, and collage on pieced paper.



Curator Valérie Rousseau in front of “The Living Klein Bottle House of Time” by Paul Laffoley (1935-2015).

For many people, Darger, whose work has become extremely popular, almost obsessional, will be a point of entrance into this kind of art. I myself went through a Darger obsession when I was almost in love with his work. Like many fans, I wanted to be suffused with his colors, patterns, and images, his extreme naiveté verging on a queer saintliness, all those little girls with penises and horns, the radiantly innocent boys out of your deepest childhood dreams, and those menacing adults out of nightmares. “The Newfangled Epic” presents 22 Darger objects and paintings, including one of those

American Folk Art Museum 2 Lincoln Square W. 66th St. at Columbus Ave. Through May 27 Tue-Thu. & Sat., 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Fri., noon-7:30 p.m. Sun., noon- 6 p.m. Free admission folkartmuseum.org Or 212-595-9533

rare showings of his great epic (full title) “The Story of the Vivian Girls in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion,” usually shortened to “The Realms of the Unreal.” At close to 2,000 typed pages, it may be the world’s longest piece of fiction, with an ending that says, “to be continued.” It is pure, direct-from-the-brain stream-ofconsciousness with no real plot or character development. Darger’s paintings are often seen as illustrations of “The Realms,” but in truth

NEWFANGLED, continued on p.25

March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


PEN American Center Fêtes Edmund White Gay novelist, memoirist, biographer hailed as among American literature’s “highest rank”

mund White employs a deceptively light touch.” White has published 13 novels and is working on his next, to be titled “A Saint in Texas.” He is also the author of nonfiction works including 1977’s “The Joy of Gay Sex,” four memoirs, and

biographies of three French writers — Jean Genet, Marcel Proust, and Arthur Rimbaud — for which the government of France named him Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1993. He has also received the Publishing Triangle’s Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime

Achievement, among many other honors. “In these politically correct days, I suppose it helps being gay,” White noted after being informed of the honor, “although the latest surveys show that the American public, after having been for gays, has now turned slightly against them. I don’t know. But anyway, I’m glad it’s happening. And I think it is, for sure, partly a recognition of my minority status.” Following the PEN ceremony, White told Gay City News he was gratified by the award but he took the opportunity to acknowledge the current politic and cultural climate as well as the legacy of AIDS. It seems strange to be gay and to get this recognition in America,” he said. Asked what other gay writers he would like to see receive more acclaim and support, White pointed to writers from “all that generation that was cut off by AIDS.” HIV-positive and one of the founders of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, White specifically mentioned “a gay writer from the ‘80s who died [in 1991 from AIDS-related causes] after his first book, Allen Barnett,” as well as Paul Monette, who died, also from AIDS-related illness, in 1995. “There are scores of them,” White concluded.

focal point or narrative climax. Instead, things are seen as a vast plain of information that can be entered from any direction. What is important is to understand, or accept, a series of clues, codes, and languages, which become a condensation of the past and the future together. So time, in a very druggy way, becomes flattened. In “The Newfangled Epic,” art and reality expand infinitely, so that what you are seeing on the walls, and in the work of the 21 artists

presented here, is merely a “crop” or cropping of this far-extending reality, an immediate slice of it. Each cropping, or piece of art, encompasses a field of experiences, ideas, and beliefs. The artists represent a range of periods and origins. Some are Spanish, German, Canadian, French, and American. Some were born in the late 19th century, others in the mid-20th century and are alive today. Some, like Malcolm McKesson (1909-1999) whose work

both visually and in his own epic — a novella called “Matriarchy: Freedom in Bondage” — centers on children, female dominance, and male cross-dressing, are transgressive and reside easily within the often secretive shadow of the queer umbrella. As they used to say back in the 1960s and ‘70s, this is a place to get your mind blown, and you can do it for free: there is no admission charge at the American Museum of Folk Art, only a short block or two from Lincoln Center.

BY CHRISTOPHER MURRAY t its annual awards ceremony at NYU’s Skirball Center on February 20, pioneering gay author Edmund White accepted the PEN American Center’s 2018 Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. The award, which was announced on February 8, comes with a $25,000 stipend and is given each year to “a living American author whose scale of achievement in fiction, over a sustained career, places him or her in the highest rank of American literature.” In choosing White for the award, this year’s judges — Louise Erdrich, Adam Johnson, and Porochista Khakpour — praised White, 78, “for his honest, beautifully wrought, and fiercely defiant books, and his body of work including the autobiographical trilogy: ‘A Boy’s Own Story, ‘The Beautiful Room is Empty,’ and ‘The Farewell Symphony.’” “Unsentimental tenderness, sharply observant wit, and an unsparing examination of the self mark the fiction of this year’s winner,” the judges said in a written statement. “To the age of AIDS, the age of loss, the struggle against evangelical Christian hatred, the explosion of gender identities, Ed-


NEWFANGLED, from p.24

they are not. They are more like condensed stories on one page; they came later than the novel that he began in 1910, and Darger, who was very influenced by movies and print comics, used his intense, often disturbing paintings more as cinematic narratives frozen in place. In Darger’s work, as in the work of almost all outsider artists, there is no sense of hierarchy, of GayCityNews.nyc | March 1 – 14, 2018


Edmund White on the evening he received the PEN American Center’s 2018 Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.



Latin American Cinema’s Frontier Lincoln Center, Cinema Tropical offer avant-garde peek BY STEVE ERICKSON eighbor ing Scenes” ends on the day the 2018 Oscars take place, when the Chilean transgender melodrama “A Fantastic Woman,” which unfortunately turns its heroine’s grief into a voyeuristic wallow, and Mexican-born director Guillermo del Toro’s excellent “The Shape of Water” might take home prizes. In fact, “A Fantastic Woman” is playing alongside this series of new work from Latin America, copresented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Cinema Tropical, across the street at the Film Society’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. The series, however, includes a number of films that experiment with form more adventurously. I got to preview two of them, “Rey” and “The Little Match Girl.” Additionally, “Solitary Land” uses found footage to depict the brutality of Easter Island’s colonization, and the documentary “Ruinas tu reino,” a portrait of fishermen’s lives, has been compared to avantgarde North American director Peter Hutton’s work. In the 2000s, films from Mexico and Argentina made a splash in the US. While Alejandro González Iñarritu’s “Amores Perros” and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Y Tu Mamá También” served as tickets to Hollywood for their directors, Argentine filmmakers like Lucrecia Martel (whose acclaimed “Zama” opens in April) and Lisandro Alonso have stayed at home and continued making uncompromising work. Given that 16 percent of the US population is Latino, we don’t get to see nearly as much Latin American cinema in theatrical release as the strength of recent filmmaking in the region and the potential audience here would demand, despite the continuing arthouse popularity of movies as different as “City of God” and “Embrace of the Serpent” over the past 15 years. “Neighboring Scenes” might of-




Feb. 28-Mar. 4 Film Society of Lincoln Center Walter Reade Theater 165 W. 65th St. $15; $12 for students & seniors bit.ly/2F2rKk1



Alejo Moguillansky’s “The Little Match Girl” screens on March 2.

Rodrigo Lisboa in Niles Atallah’s “Rey,” which screens on March 3.

fer your only chance in New York to catch what’s going on in the cutting edge of Argentine and Mexican cinema right now. The opening night film of “Neighboring Scenes,” Argentine director Anahi Berneri’s “Alanis” served up a few very difficult days in a sex worker’s life. There’s little titillation here: in the only fairly explicit sex scene, the title character’s (Sofia Gala Castiglione) dirty talk gradually becomes overtly hostile without her client noticing. The state degrades her more than the men who pay her for sex. In the opening scene, two government inspectors pretending to be johns barge in, arresting her roommate Griselda and subjecting her to a stream of condescending questions that assume no woman could possibly agree to sell sex without a pimp forcing her. If the narrative structure has hints of the Dardenne brothers’ “Two Days, One Night,” Berneri’s direction shows its own vision. She uses a fairly narrow aspect ratio, filling the screen with clutter and often creating frames-withinframes. Castiglione’s body often takes up half the screen. The actress’ real infant son Dante plays that of her character. A scene where Alanis is interrogated implicitly parallels the spectator’s desire to learn more about her with the cops’ more authoritarian demands to control her life. The film’s final 20 minutes suffer from the notion that a film about sex work must contain violence, but “Alanis” is otherwise fairly respectful and

shows Berneri’s skill at imagining her character’s world. Hans Christian Andersen’s fable “The Little Match Girl” has inspired so many films that MoMA once did a series showing them. Argentine director Alejo Moguillansky’s latest movie (Mar. 2, 9:15 p.m.) takes its title from Andersen’s story and incorporates chunks of it into the narrative, both depicting its protagonist, Marie (María Villar), doing an audio recording of it, and showing a montage of small girls lighting and blowing out matches. Moguillansky takes a postmodernist approach to high culture, throwing a wild array of material against the wall and hoping it all sticks. He uses wall-towall classical music (plus Ennio Morricone), includes images of a child watching Robert Bresson’s “Au hasard Balthazar,” and mixes the stories of a composer trying to create an opera with that of a nowelderly pianist relating his correspondence with German radical Gudrün Ensslin during the counterculture era. Moguillanksy’s “The Little Match Girl” has a charm akin to his gay compatriot Matias Piñeiro’s films about female college students engaging with Shakespeare. The director tends to favor closeups, usually taken from a static camera. The political references do seem somewhat shallow — I suspect one has to be Argentine to fully understand them — but “The Little Match Girl” becomes something more than a collage and less

than a totally coherent narrative while remaining entirely engaging the whole time. Chilean director Niles Atallah’s “Rey” (Mar. 3, 9 p.m.) tries to find a new visual language to describe the madness of colonialism. His film begins with Super-8 footage, full of simulated scratches and sound crackles. Portions of “Rey” feel like a fairly naturalistic ‘70s revisionist Western, in which French lawyer Orélie-Antoine de Tounens (Rodrigo Lisboa) interacts with the indigenous Mapuche tribe. The actors seem to be non-professionals portraying their ancestors. However, the rest of the film does serious damage to the idea of following a straightforward and believable narrative. For most of the first 10 minutes, all the actors wear clay masks and interact inside an obviously constructed indoor set. This contrasts with Benjamin Echazarreta’s evocative, misty outdoor cinematography. The closer Orélie comes to realizing his dreams of taking over the Mapuche nation — over and over he repeats the word “rey,” Spanish for “king” — the more he steers away from sanity. The film’s final half hour is a crescendo to an ending with a psychedelic montage of kaleidoscopes as Orélie mutters “Soy rey” obsessively. All this adds up to less than the sum of its parts. The film’s political statements about colonial racism stick with one less than its bizarre and imaginative imagery. In a North American context, Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man” does much of what “Rey” tries to, without going to such experimental extremes. March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc



A Second Spring Isabelle Huppert as a trivia stumper saved by KĂŠvin AzaĂŻs



Isabelle Huppert and KĂŠvin AzaĂŻs in Bavo Defurneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Souvenir,â&#x20AC;? which opens March 2 at the Quad.

BY GARY M. KRAMER elgian director Bavo Defurneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sophomore feature, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Souvenir,â&#x20AC;? is a lush, emotional romance he co-wrote and co-produced with his husband, Yves Verbraeken. At a pâtĂŠ factory, a lonely older woman, Liliane (Isabelle Huppert), meets Jean (KĂŠvin AzaĂŻs), a boxer. He recognizes her as a runner-up from the European Song Contest, where she performed decades before under the stage name Laura. She has since become a trivia question on a game show she watches with a drink in her hand. When Jean coaxes Liliane back into performing, the pair fall in love. As she stages a reluctant comeback, her relationship with Jean is tested. Huppert is a revelation â&#x20AC;&#x201D; she even gets to perform a few songs by Pink Martini â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and she makes Lilianeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s melancholy palpable. AzaĂŻs is adorable and enchanting as her champion and her lover. Defurneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stylized film is a throwback in the Douglas Sirk mold. He chatted with Gay City News via Skype about making â&#x20AC;&#x153;Souvenir.â&#x20AC;?


GARY M. KRAMER: What is striking about â&#x20AC;&#x153;Souvenirâ&#x20AC;? is its oldfashioned sensibility. Can you talk about your approach to the material? BAVO DEFURNE: Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s how I feel I should tell a story, and I think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s because thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s how I experience storytelling and film art. It brings you into a world that is not realistic, but real. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an emotional world, GayCityNews.nyc | March 1 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 14, 2018

SOUVENIR Directed by Bavo Defurne Strand Releasing In French with English subtitles Opens Mar. 2 Quad Cinema 34 W. 13th St. quadcinema.com a fantasy, a fairy tale. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to make it fake, I want to make it more true in that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stylized. I do like to blur things and detach a little bit from the everyday, which is depressing and very ugly. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s my taste. GMK: The film depicts the relationship between a 22-year-old boxer and a 60-something woman. What is the appeal of this May/ December romance? BD: Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a fountain of youth character â&#x20AC;&#x201D; this magic goblin in front of her â&#x20AC;&#x201D; while sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lost in the forest. First, sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s scared, then she learns that he really can help her find her way in that dark forest. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s deliberate that we show the sexuality between them in a romantic way. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m very romantic. We tickle the audience. GMK: Isabelle Huppert sings in the film, which is fun. What can you say about the music in the film and her performance? BD: She wanted to sing very much because she believes the voice is part of the character. The music


SOUVENIR, continued on p.32



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Always On Their Mind Pet Shop Boys offer worthy extras in re-release of early albums BY STEVE ERICKSON hen the Pet Shop Boys’ first single “West End Girls” became an American hit in 1986 (an earlier version released the previous year had flopped), it was easy to lump them in with groups like Erasure and Bronski Beat. They were a duo consisting of singer and lyricist Neil Tennant and keyboardist Chris Lowe. And they were gay, although Tennant was in the closet at the time and Lowe still hasn’t made any public statements about his sexuality. And while Tennant only came out upon the release of their fifth album, “Very,” neither man made much effort at hiding his


sexuality. It’s totally obvious what their hit “It’s A Sin,” from their second album “Actually,” refers to, and one of their best songs, “Being Boring,” clearly refers to the deaths of friends from AIDS and says, “When you’re young you find inspiration/ In anyone who’s ever gone/ And opened up a closing door.” However, their early lyrics revolved around a cynicism toward yuppie culture akin to the novels of Bret Easton Ellis, who was also a closeted gay man at the time. “Rent” bluntly says, “I love you, you pay my rent” and described a relationship of monetary and sexual dependency. As the band progressed, Tennant’s perspective matured and he dropped a lot of the snideness ex-

pressed on their first three albums, “Actually,” “Please,” and “Introspective,” which are now being reissued in remastered versions with lengthy bonus “Further Listening” LP/ CD/ MP3s containing B-sides, demos, and remixes appended. Their best song, “The Theatre,” is told from the point of a view of a homeless man being ignored by wealthy “patrons of the arts,” and expresses an anger that’s not far from punk rock, even if the musical backing is very different. Tennant developed into a lyricist in the sardonic but ultimately heartfelt tradition of Elvis Costello or Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry. After all, the Pet Shop Boys announced themselves to the world on “West

PET SHOP BOYS “Please: Further Listening 1984-1986” “Actually: Further Listening 1987-1988” ”Introspective: Further Listening 1988-1989” Parlophone/ Rhino Releases Mar. 2 Rhino.com/releases

End Girls” with the opening couplet “Sometimes you’re better off dead/ There’s a gun in your hand that’s pointing at your head” and a

PET SHOP BOYS, continued on p.29


The Met When It’s Good “Parsifal,” “Pagliacci,” and the Like, Please BY DAVID SHENGOLD t’s a real if rare pleasure to walk out of the Metropolitan Opera thinking, “That was an extraordinary performance, worthy of the company’s highest legacy.” I felt that after — and indeed during — February 20’s “Parsifal.” Wagner’s final opera deals meaningfully in redemptive miracles; above all what mattered here was Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s luminous, detailed take on the testing, gorgeous score, with its sublime architecture and choral depth. The gifted (and mercifully out) Canadian conductor, whose status as music director was just accelerated to begin next season, got and transmitted the specialness of “Parsifal” the first time out. Plus François Girard’s unhackneyed 2013 production, simplified and improved in focus in this restaging, held up beautifully. Michael Levine’s sets for the two



outer acts were spare yet magically transformed by David Finn’s lighting and Peter Flaherty’s videos (deserts, heavenly bodies). The intervening Klingsor Act, with its unsubtle vaginal symbolism and tacky costumes, at least furnished as comparable a contrast as the (relatively) cheesy music of the evil magician — roughly but aptly delivered by Evgeny Nikitin, in improved German — and his Flowermaidens. Act Two’s thwarted seduction scene also held some challenges for Evelyn Herlitzius, a Kundry singularly lacking in plush tonal resources, and Klaus Florian Vogt’s shortbreathed title hero, who did better in floatier passages. But the soprano’s dramatic commitment fueled some thrills (the tenor kind of coasts by on Aryan looks, but that works in this part) and she summoned up more legato solidity than she had on previous broadcasts. Peter Gelb’s plans to utilize her unorthodox talents as the “Frau ohne

Schatten” Amme sound justified. The central performances held over from 2013 — René Pape’s lyrically approached, unusually (for this artist) committed Gurnemanz and Peter Mattei’s gorgeously sung, wrenchingly enacted Amfortas — must rank among the finest operatic assumptions of our day. Alfred Walker made a very solid Titurel, and one noted Ian Koziara’s incisive Fourth Sentry and Haeran Hong’s limpid First Flowermaiden. A deeply moving and inspiriting performance. On January 8, the Met revived yet another David McVicar production: the founding dual pedestals of verismo , “Cavalleria rusticana” and “Pagliacci.” As when the staging appeared in 2015, the Leoncavallo backstage drama emerged amusing as well as exciting. The Mascagni tragedy preceding it remains one of the current Met’s weakest shows: a drab,

needlessly dark “community ritual” style exercise, carried out largely in darkness contradicting the music (and the story’s Sunday morning setting). Santuzza’s blocking is inert; by contrast, the set revolves pointlessly and Andrew George’s ludicrously inapposite wannabe Brooklyn hipster choreography for a trio upstaging Alfio’s entrance music remains in place — one of the silliest things on view on any New York stage. But the evening wasn’t wasted. Roberto Alagna appeared in both leading tenor parts, a feat he pulled off here in 2009. Turiddu has always been among the French/ Sicilian tenor’s more convincing roles, while Canio takes vocal resources he doesn’t really have — “Vesti la giubba” proved pretty perfunctory — but can finesse in his current leathery but forthright form. No one would mistake his sound for

MET WHEN GOOD, continued on p.29

March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc

PET SHOP BOYS, from p.28

chorus about dead-end poverty. No number of dance beats will cover that dread up. The Pet Shop Boys started out deliberately resurrecting disco and distancing themselves from the macho legacy of rock; in fact, they have released a series of numbered remix collections called “Disco.” Nevertheless, this music has an edge and a desire to serve as something more than a simple soundtrack for a night out. “Domino Dancing” ventures into flamenco-inspired guitar and Latin beats. Its lyrics describe a dance club that sounds like something out of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.” The overtones of AIDS, rather than simple heartbreak, come across even stronger in its demo version included on “Introspective: Further Listening,” which cuts out most of the verses and submerges Tennant’s vocals in a haze. “Suburbia” evokes America’s gun culture, even if that wasn’t the group’s in-

MET WHEN GOOD, from p.28

youthful, but he has plenty of vocal energy and still looks good onstage; he shows far more attention to shaping particular characters than his younger rival Vittorio Grigolo, showboating his way through the new “Tosca” staging. As before, baritone George Gagnidze also appeared in both works, providing serviceable vocalism and routine. Ekaterina Semenchuk is welcome back at the Met. She sang Santuzza’s incredibly difficult music with considerable accomplishment — many high notes soared aloft above ensembles — if with rather generalized dramatic involvement. It would take a Simionato or Cossotto to enliven McVicar’s passive take on the character. Aleksandra Kurzak (Nedda) retains trills and agility from her earlier high coloratura phrase; her enlarged voice remains attractive if somewhat lacking in evenness and dynamic shading. Playing opposite her real-life husband Alagna, Kurzak created a credible, rounded character. Rihab Chaieb made the rare excellent Lola dramatically and vocally, and Andrew Bidlack’s Beppe (a shade too American in diction) GayCityNews.nyc | March 1 – 14, 2018

tent, with a gradual introduction of ominous sound effects, especially on the nine-minute “full horror” remix. Tennant understood the power of combining bitter lyrics with an upbeat tune, especially since the Pet Shop Boys’ first two albums are so drenched in irony. “Introspective,” which consists of six lengthy songs (the shortest is about six minutes and the two longest run over nine minutes), has a different feel than “Because” and “Actually.” Those two albums offer nightmarish visions of a society that’s given up on the liberating dreams of the ‘70s and gone to the mall, implicating gay men as part of this: they synthesize Madonna’s “Material Girl” and the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant.” The group might have been guilty of wanting it both ways for the fact that they could be mistaken for an endorsement of the Thatcherism and consumerism that “Because” and “Actually” critique. However, songs like “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money),” “Rent,” and

“Hit Music” search for ways to engage critically from a perspective that rejected punk’s blunt “fuck you” and now looks like the birth of “poptimism” with a culture quickly shifting to the right. “It Couldn’t Happen Here” has a name suggesting an alternate-history in which the Nazis successfully invaded and occupied Britain. “What Keeps Mankind Alive?,” a demo included on “Introspective: Further Listening” that would be re-written in more euphemistic form as the “Introspective” track “It’s Alright,” makes their true leftism pretty clear. It may be coincidental or not that the Pet Shop Boys stopped having hits in the US around the time Tennant came out. They’re still releasing new studio albums — the last one was the 2016 “Super,” with another on the way some time this year — and a glance at their YouTube videos reveals that they still have a worldwide following: I’ve seen comments in Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. Back when “West End Girls” climbed the US charts, I’m

unsure anyone would have guessed at their longevity or the eventual deepening of Tennant’s songwriting skill, but the group has influenced artists as different as The Postal Service and Lady Gaga (who’s performed onstage with them). Even David Bowie liked them enough to collaborate on his song “Hallo Spaceboy.” Out of all this music, “Actually” is the album that hangs together the best. “Introspective” benefits from production by the brilliant Trevor Horn (ABC, Art of Noise), but it comes off as an only partially successful experiment. These reissues contain a quantity of bonus material that dwarfs the original albums’ length. Little of it is filler. However, only diehard fans will need to own three different versions of “It’s Alright” and four of “Always On My Mind.” The Pet Shop Boys’ best was to come, on their fourth album “Behaviour” and “Very,” but they had already accomplished a great deal by the time they released “Introspective” in 1988.

sang and acted charmingly. It speaks poorly for the opera world that a scratch baritone like Alessio Arduini has made an international career based — one assumes — on youthful looks alone; he was utterly prosaic and tonally gray in Silvio’s gorgeous music. Nicola Luisotti functions comfortably in the verisitic idiom — the orchestra never went off the rails — but he chose some mighty slow tempos along the way.

“Rueckert Lieder,” a rarish choice for soprano and notable for the sublime “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”; and Robert Schumann’s Mary Stuart poems —a fascinating cycle far more welcome than the omnipresent “Frauenliebe und –leben”, not least because the texts stem from an actual woman. All received thoughtful, musicianly treatment. Curiously, when the program’s final set was reached — Wagner’s “Wesendocnk Lieder,” with their harmonic and melodic pre-echoes of “Tristan” — both artists yielded to exaggerated dynamics and overemphasis. But the three encores (Schumann, Liszt, Wolf) returned the crowd to the highest realms of Liederabend contentment. Thank goodness Carnegie continues to program high-level vocal recital events (flag Lawrence Brownlee and Myra Huang on April 24). Next season, Lincoln Center’s Great Performances has abandoned them.

the last few years, many important French operatic landmarks like “Marouf” and “Le pre aux clercs” have been unearthed, with fine casts. Genre-bending pastiche has also figured in the Op-Com’s plans. Librettist and dramaturg Eric Reinhardt crafted “Et in arcadia ego” with director Phia Ménard using the works of Rameau to explore — in projected titles rich in painfully Gallic metaphysical tweeness about mortality, if with occasionally stunning images thanks to Menard’s “industrial elements” set (think huge Glad bags). Definitely not worthy of export, though it’s the kind of thing BAM and the Armory like to import on the basis of a few hip production photos. This was just not good. I’ve rarely heard such savage booing for the production team in France. Had it been an unstaged concert, the evening would have been a triumph, as Les Talens Lyriques played brilliantly and bracingly under Christophe Rousset and the very theatrically graceful mezzo Lea Desandre sang with beauty and style. Watch for her rise.

Dorothea Roeschmann’s Zankel/ Carnegie recital on February 13 with the sensitive, indefatigable Malcolm Martineau at the piano affirmed that the German soprano remains a singer to treasure. Since her lyric/ soubrette days at the Met, the timbre has darkened. Initially — in the first two Schubert “Mignon Lieder” — her tone sounded a trifle brittle, but it soon expanded into greater bloom. Given how fully she puts over the German texts, her fundamental use of legato is exemplary; she retains the ability to spin, even as occasionally she takes extra breaths in long lines. The program included a standalone Schubert ballad, “Nachtstueck,” with its High Romantic aestheticized death; Mahler’s

A brief trip to Paris afforded a visit to the delightful, historic building of the Opera Comique — where I actually heard my first opera (as opposed to operetta) at the age of 11. Since then, the theater has undergone many regime changes. In

David Shengold (shengold@yahoo.com) writes about opera for many venues.



Fashion’s Incomparable Dean Museum at FIT has gone all Norman Norell NORELL: DEAN OF AMERICAN FASHION


Designer Norman Norell was born Norman David Levinson in Noblesville, Indiana.

BY DAVID NOH he image of Lauren Bacall, sleek and leonine, throwing her head back in husky laughter at, say, 21 or El Morocco, poured into a skintight sequin sheath, has always seemed to me the visual essence of the sophisticated Manhattan we all came here seeking. In this case, the shimmering gown would have been designed by a man with a name as euphoniously alluring as Bacall’s herself, Norman Norell (1900-72), whose couture genius is being celebrated at the Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology, with the exhibit, “Norman Norell: Dean of American Fashion.” There is also a big, beautiful Rizzoli book, “Norell: Master of American Fashion,” written by designer Jeffrey Banks (who curated the show with museum deputy director Patricia Mears) and Doria de la Chapelle. It is easily one of the best fashion exhibits in recent memory — and maybe the most beautiful — for these dresses are real jewels in themselves, masterpieces of refined understatement in the most luxurious of fabrications and diabolically clever cuts, creating that distinctive 1950s Vogue-Dovima glamorous hauteur. Even the earliest gown, from 1932, a crisp white organdy tea gown — to be worn of a summer’s afternoon — with a wide-brimmed picture hat, its salient feature a pair of enormous puffed sleeves, has this irresistible cachet, showing just how very early Norell’s genius evinced itself.





Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology Seventh Ave. at W. 27th St. Through Apr. 14 Tue.-Fri., noon-8 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free fitnyc.edu/museum/exhibitions/norell.php


Norell grew up wearing sailor suits, and he produced countless versions throughout his career.

A Norell heathered oatmeal wool jersey shirtwaist dress with silk scarf and belt from 1971.

And, yes, occupying pride of place front and center in the gallery is a trio of sequinned Norells owned by lifelong fashionista Bacall, who would wear Norell to a Dior fashion show and left a huge chunk of her fabled wardrobe to the school’s archive, including some 300 pairs of Pucci shantung pedal pushers. “Because you never know when you’re going to need them,” chuckled Mears. “But so many celebrities loved Norell. Monroe owned several pieces, Ava Gardner, Greer Garson, Judy Garland, Streisand, Dinah Shore, also Gloria Swanson and Doris Day, whose films ‘Zaza’ and ‘That Touch of Mink’ we are showing clips from because Norell, who started as a costume designer, did them. “Bacall’s pieces represent some of the archive’s finest Norells, and it was an added compliment that she had been a model and was so devoted to him, the ultimate compliment. With Norell, you could combine his sequins with a day jacket. He wore a Peterson sailor suit as a child [nee Norman David Levinson, in Noblesville, Indiana] — as all well-to-do kids did — which led him to do nautical themes throughout his collections, way before Gaultier. And he did pant suits even before Saint Laurent. He revolutionized ready-to-wear, making it luxe, totally functional but with glamour. “I had always wanted to work with Jeffrey, whose books I’ve always admired, as well as his presentations at Parsons. I knew Norell was a lifelong obsession of his, from when he was a little boy

in Washington, DC, and would make regular visits to the finest store in town to inspect the Norells in stock. I really wanted this show to be created and seen through this designer’s eye, as well as the collection of bridal designer Kenneth Pool, because half of the show is from his collection.We’re historians, so we love to get this different and unique kind of perspective. It was truly an honor and privilege to tell the story through Jeffrey’s eyes.” I cornered the always suave and soigné Banks in the gallery and asked if he had ever met the great man himself. “I met him about a month before he died,” Banks smiled, “He was doing a trunk show at Bonwit Teller. It was a month shy of my 18th birthday and I was working for Ralph [Lauren]. I think I told him I was going to the dentist and I ran to 56th and Fifth and was hiding behind the columns, gazing at my hero. Pat Mori, one of his models, saw me and came over, asking ‘Would you like to meet Mr. Norell?’ She brought me over to him, and I don’t think I said more than four words to him and he to me. He was extremely shy, like me. Actually, there’s a picture in the book which documents this that was done about 15 minutes before I met him. The New York Times was taking pictures of the event and, going through their photo archive, I found it.” I told Banks that, after the almost grotesque excess of fashion, especially in this last seasonal

showing, which literally had clown outfits and a lot of sheer craziness parading down the runway by some of the top names in the business, the cool, calm, and collected ethos of Norell’s work is like a palate cleanser. “That’s what I love about him,” Banks replied. “There are about two dozen truly timeless garments here, which, if she could could fit in them, any woman would be happy to wear and they’re like 30 to 40 years old! They have this incredible, timeless quality, and the reason they look so good is because of the way they were made, with the best fabrics. Norell bought all his fabrics in Europe, even the silk linings, and the way they were constructed was the great revelation when we started to work on this show. That’s why we have this one dress turned inside out, so you can see how it was made. “I have a whole chapter in the book about how the clothes were made. He would have 12-inch hems because, as he said, ‘For this kind of money you want to be able to lengthen or shorten it.’ Who does that, instead of urging women to just buy a new dress? Who would pipe the seams with chiffon? That is like couture workmanship, but they were all strictly ready-towear. Lauren Bacall would say, ‘I like this dress, but could you do it in black?’ And he would, but he would invoice it through Bonwit or Saks or Bergdorf’s because he felt it would be disloyal to his store who was loyal to him.”

NORMAN NORELL, continued on p.32

March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc

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LEMPER & DIETRICH, from p.23

she had any good stories about her infamous producers, Fran and Barry Weissler. “After I did ‘Chicago,’ I did a onewoman show at Joe’s Pub and did a satire on the Velma Kelly num-

NORMAN NORELL, from p.30

Norell was gay in a high pressure business at a conservative time, and I wondered if he was, with all of his hard-won success, happy. “I think he was happy, but he didn’t socialize with his clients because of his shyness,” Banks said. “If he had not been a designer, Norell would probably have been happy as an interior decorator. He loved buying antiques and showing off his apartment. His social life was basically antique shows on Saturday, theater every once in a while, and spending most of his time with his cabine of models, whom he took with him on his trips to Europe to buy fabric. “He did have a boyfriend. John Moore was a designer, but not happy, an alcoholic who was drunk by 10 every morning. He was considerably younger than Norell and had gone to Parsons when he was considerably older than the other students, but he was a couple decades younger than Norell. For that time, it was kind of scandalous, although they were very dis-

SOUVENIR, from p.27

is Pink Martini, and I was happy to work with them. Yves and I wrote the lyrics for the three songs and we met Thomas Lauderdale [Pink Martini’s pianist] and magic happened. It was a great and crazy experience. One song became an earworm on the set, the electrician and staff were singing it for days. I must thank “Songwriting for Dummies.” It’s by the guy from the band Survivor who wrote “Eye of the Tiger.” GMK: Usually it’s a gay man helping an aging, faded diva. Why did you choose to make Jean straight and a boxer? BD: A lot of my moviemaking, including my short films, are about archetypes. Jean is an archetype of masculinity — youth and strength.


ber where I was upside down on a chair — before I had my herniated disc, which I feel was caused by that. I had one leg over the chair and was singing, ‘What are they doing to me? They’re not paying me enough, and they’re standing in the wings making sure I don’t

deviate from the part or invent new lines.’ She was this crazy woman coming at me with her klunkers and diamonds, screaming, ‘You have to do this.’ “They came to see me, and I think they thought I went a little far and ever since then, they’ve

been a little mad at me. My agent said, ‘You shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you. They’re super powerful producers,’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s comedy and conceptual.’ They’ll never hire me again, but I don’t care. I do have to say they were always very respectful to me.”

creet. Norell bought him an apartment right across the street from his place. Norell lived in a duplex in Amster Yard, in Turtle Bay, right next to Katharine Hepburn on East 49th Street.” Norell helped Moore businesswise after he graduated from Parsons, and was such a big booster of him that he threatened to return his Coty fashion award one year when Moore wasn’t nominated. “But Moore’s biggest claim to fame was designing Lady Bird Johnson’s inaugural yellow satin coat and gown. President Johnson wanted her to look terrific so he actually flew to New York to Norell’s showroom to talk about him designing her gown. Norell said, ‘I’m very flattered but there’s a young man you should meet. He’s from Texas, like you and Lady Bird, and I think you should have a Texan do it.’ “Moore did some sketches in yellow, for the yellow rose of Texas, and Lyndon liked what he saw, but said, ‘It doesn’t look rich enough. I want her to look like Jackie. Put some fur on it.’ So John added the

sable cuffs and it was the biggest PR he ever got. Norman never had a lot of money — this was before the days when designers had huge licensing deals. When he died, he had half a million. He left a good part to John and the rest to Parsons. John quickly drank up most of what Norell had left him, closed up his business and flew back to Texas to run his family’s antique business. He was still drunk and still complaining about not having been left more money, years after Norell’s death.” Liquor and drugs have proved the undoing of so many fashion talents, and Banks observed, “There’s so much pressure and even more today when you have to design not just collections, but pre-collections, there’s the licensing and having to design stores and ad campaigns. Norell’s was a simpler time. He had only one license, for his perfume, and that made more money its first year than he had ever seen. He was able to buy out his backers and own his company. He also did scarves, in-house, which expressed his love of color. They sold for $75-80, a lot

of money in the 1950s, but women loved them as it was one way to have have an affordable Norell, printed in Switzerland and handrolled in Italy. “You can still get the perfume at Bergdorf’s and Saks and Selfridges in London. The perfume was sold to another company and then to others, and was changed and became awful, but they have now gone back to the original formula and bottle, which is only slightly different because now it’s done in Baccarat, real crystal, not glass. It costs $1,000. What does the perfume smell like? Jasmine, very distinctive, and I cannot tell you how many people said, ‘I have to tell you that my mother or grandmother wore Norell.’ When they did the ad, there was no girl or spokesperson or model, just the bottle, revolutionary at the time. “This show is the culmination of a lifetime dream. I’ve had folders full of Norell images for at least 10 years — to honor this great, great designer who, like Halston, Bill Blass, Stephen Sprouse, hailed from Indiana.”

I like this high contrast. She is fragile, feminine, unsure, and unhappy, and he’s the opposite. Kévin is like the character he plays.

comeback and the fight to be relevant in an ever-changing world. She is from yesterday, so what role can she play today? A 23-yearold is like a century older than an 18-year-old. We are all dealing with the question: Am I still relevant? Does the world still need me? Do I still connect in the world? That’s the question — to find a way to be yourself. I don’t want to be nostalgic and say the past was better. That’s not true. It’s over. But I’m obsessed with the past and how people live. It’s harder to see what’s happening now. We’re too close to it. You can’t use the past as a manual for today. You need to use your brain and be open to what’s happening. Jean is so different from Liliane, and they complement each other very much.

work in a pâté factory. What is the worst job you ever had? BD: After I finished film school, and had made some short films, I worked in telemarketing. I didn’t do it very long. I was 23 and this younger guy next to me asked, “Are you the Bavo Defurne?” I said, “If that exists, it would be me.” He was a film student and his world crumbled because I was working there. It was a big disillusion. He saw the reality of an experimental gay short-filmmaker is that you have to do these shitty jobs. For “Souvenir,” I made the telephone job into a pâté factory, because it’s more cinematic and photogenic. The factory is one of my favorite sets. It’s our version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” We needed a high contrast between the song and dance world and where she really is.

GMK: What observations do you have about giving up something you love as Liliane and Jean both do? BD: What should I give up? I wouldn’t know, but it’s like a sacrifice for something better or more important or glorious. My short “Saint” is about Sebastian and giving up things. I didn’t realize that theme! Is that something that I can translate to my real life? I don’t know… GMK: What are your thoughts about comebacks? Do we all get a second chance in life? BD: It’s about the struggle of a

GMK: Jean and Liliane both

March 1 – 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


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

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

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 | March 1 – 14, 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.



March 1 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 14, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


This Is Not My Play Medieval actors outrunning the Black Death BY DAVID KENNERLEY he Amateurs,” by Jordan Harrison, a 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist for “Marjorie Prime,” is a formidably ambitious morality play within a morality play preoccupied with survival. But under the muddled direction of Oliver Butler, it is freighted with too many ideas for its own good. Set in 14th century Europe, the eager comedy follows a motley band of nomadic actors bent on delivering the Holy Scriptures to the masses. The gutsy Harrison, however, refuses to follow the rules, allowing his characters to think and speak in contemporary mode. Meta-theatrics abound. Larking (Thomas Jay Ryan), the company leader who plays God in their productions, is described, sarcastically, as a “big strapping slice of man-meat.” But all is not well. The troupe is trying to outrun the Black Death, and it becomes clear that parallels are being drawn to other plagues like the AIDS pandemic (soon after one of the actors mysteriously dies, his secret male lover develops hideous KS-like lesions) and the World War II Holocaust. For much of the proceedings, we view clunky itera-



HANGING, from p.21

cy. Johnny Flynn is appealingly arrogant as Mooney. Some of the best writing in the play is shown off as Mooney, reveling in his bad boy affect that threatens the people of Oldham, tries to determine if he is “creepy” or “menacing.” In supporting roles, Reece Shearsmith as Syd, Harry’s assistant as a hangman who got fired for questionable behavior, is both sympathetic and hilarious. Sally Rogers as Alice, Harry’s wife, is touching as she falls under Mooney’s spell. So, too, is Gaby French as Shirley, who sees Mooney as a chance to escape from her suffocating parents. Maxwell Caulfield gives a wonderful turn in the second act as Albert, the best hangman, who shows up to call GayCityNews.nyc | March 1 – 14, 2018

Vineyard Theatre 108 East 15th St., btwn. Union Square E. & Irving Pl. Through Mar. 18 Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 3 p.m. $79-$99; VineyardTheatre.org Or 212-353-0303 90 mins., no intermission

tions of Noah’s Ark, the ultimate story of extermination. The troupe also stages a strained rendition of the Seven Deadly Sins that would barely pass muster in a grade school. There are only six actors, so one must portray two sins. Midway through, the story is stopped cold by an actor (a deliciously engaging Michael Cyril Creighton) playing an actor (named Gregory, who creates the sets and special effects for the productions) playing the Playwright (Harrison). Got that? So they bump up the house lights and the Playwright tries to elucidate the play’s motifs of hu-

manity and mortality and individuality. He tells anecdotes about his sixth grade health teacher explaining the origins of AIDS and gives a lesson on the increasingly naturalistic depiction of the Madonna and Child in art history — the evolution from icon to woman. “Maybe there’s no one in charge,” the Playwright says. “Maybe we can act for ourselves, maybe we can go off script.” Then Quincy Tyler Bernstine, the actress who plays the troupe’s leading lady, takes the stage to further discuss the value of going rogue. For sure, “The Amateurs” is yet another riff on Shakespeare’s “All

the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players,” which itself is a riff on similar themes that can be traced as far back as Petronius. It also recalls Pirandello’s absurdist gem “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” except here the characters are irksomely underdeveloped. In her extended monologue, Bernstine recounts her portrayal of Mrs. Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol,” where the line between herself and her character became hopelessly blurred. “I mean, who am I and who is the audience? Who are you? Please don’t answer. It’s not that kind of play.” Pity there are too many jarring themes and thoughts flying around onstage for us to figure out, or care, what kind of play this really is.

Harry out on the self-aggrandizing newspaper interview. The rest of the company is excellent at conveying the dreary sameness of life in Oldham. What ultimately motivates the characters and the play is McDonagh’s deliciously jaundiced view that with or without a fair trial or a rope, we are all too willing to hang one another. Tickets for the run at the Atlantic are scarce, though there is a cancellation line at every performance. Rumor is that the show is moving to Broadway. Don’t miss it.

son. The play is a pallid rip-off of Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros,” except that rather than being a shining pinnacle of existential theater, “Pete Rex” posits that guys should give up playing video games and be better boyfriends. Pete and Bo are best friends devoted to playing the Madden NFL 07 video game, but oblivious to the fact that dinosaurs are running rampant in their suburban Pennsylvania town. That is until Julie, Pete’s ex, shows up to warn them. Pete sacrifices Bo to the dinosaurs, which is necessary because Bo comes back as Nero, the dinosaur who proceeds to school Pete on how to be a better person. And, surprise, surprise, the whole endeavor turns out to be a dream! In a protoJungian catharsis, Pete confronts

the dinosaur as an archetype of childishness and learns that he must give up his childish ways and become an integrated adult — and not play video games when his girlfriend wants to talk. Thompson’s writing is juvenile and obvious. However, what life this play has comes from the players who throw themselves into the piece with gusto and conviction. Rosie Sowa as Julie is earnest and believable. Greg Carere is sympathetic as Pete and gives the role a depth the script does not. Simon Winheld as Bo and Nero is terrific, and his Paleolithic antics establish him as an excellent comedian with an impressive range. The performances of these fine actors will live on even as the play they’re in becomes — wait for it — extinct.


Michael Cyril Creighton and Quincy Tyler Bernstine in Jordan Harrisons “The Amateurs,” directed by Oliver Butler, at the Vineyard through March 18.

One of the challenges of New York theatergoing is that one is often witness to wonderful actors in less-than-wonderful plays. Such is the case with “Pete Rex,” a new play by Alexander V. Thomp-


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