Page 1

Council Votes to Shelter Youth Up to 24 04

Remembering Bob Smith 14

A Letter to Harvey Milk 33










Album cover shoot for “Aladdin Sane,” 1973.



In This Issue COVER STORY Bowie in Brooklyn: The man the earth fell for hard 28

COMMUNITY St. Pat’s for All still leads the way 06

CRIME Abel Cedeno menaced at court 05

FILM Evan Rachel Wood compels, repels in “Allure” 29

“Pharma Bro” pinkwashing ploy at sentenching 15

A heroine too too in “A Wrinkle in Time” 31

HEALTH Meth deaths surging again 08

MUSIC Glam dystopia via Felix & the Future 36

Alan Hollinghurst on unspoken legacies 32


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Council Votes to Shelter Youth Up to 24 Ending intransigence, sources say de Blasio embraces reform pushed by advocates BY PAUL SCHINDLER


y unanimous votes on March 7, the City Council approved three measures aimed at strengthening shelter options for homeless youth in New York, including a long contested move to raise the age limit for eligibility in youth shelters to include those 21 to 24 years old. The State Legislature last year authorized localities to provide youth-specific shelter to such young adults, but to date the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) had publicly resisted that expansion, citing cost and the complexity of contracting with qualified service providers. This week’s Council vote indicates its ability to override any potential veto by Mayor Bill de Blasio, but three sources with direct knowledge of conversations with the administration on the matter told Gay City News that both the mayor and DYCD now support the expansion of youth shelter to those 21 to 24 and could be ready to implement it by next January. Neither de Blasio’s office nor DYCD, however, responded to several requests in recent weeks to clarify their position on the legislation. The Council action on March 7 involved three separate measures. Intro 410-A, sponsored by Speaker Corey Johnson of Chelsea, requires DYCD to develop a plan for housing all runaway and homeless youth (RHY) and to report annually on their status. In a written statement, Johnson said of his measure, “There are few crises more heartbreaking than that of youth homelessness. Sadly, this is a crisis that disproportionately impacts the LGBTQ community, of which I am a proud member. We must do everything we can to help all of our young people… Every young person who needs shelter deserves access to youth-specific services and this plan will set the framework for getting us there.”



City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Ali Forney Center executive director Carl Siciliano at a late 2015 press event.

Bronx Councilmember Vanessa Gibson sponsored Intro 490-A that extends the duration that RHY can spend in emergency housing, from 30 to 60 days in crisis centers and from 18 to 24 months in transitional independent living facilities. “By extending shelter time limits, we are giving runaway and homeless youth much needed stability and providing them with an opportunity to make the good and healthy choices that will keep them on the pathway to success,” Gibson said in a written statement. “These are young people who are alone, abandoned, and often fleeing abusive situations at home. It is our fundamental responsibility to remove every barrier to young people’s success.” Out gay Bronx Councilmember Ritchie Torres was the sponsor of Intro 556-A, which requires DYCD to implement shelter services for young adults 21 to 24. The agen-

cy’s current programs require young people to leave its facilities by the time of their 21st birthday. “I’m convinced that expanding the safety net of shelter to those in greatest need from 21 to 24 years old will have a real impact in saving lives,” Torres said, in a written statement. “Homelessness leaves runaway youth vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation, contact with the criminal justice system, STDs and, worst of all, suicide.” Advocates for homeless youth hailed the Council action as muchneeded relief in their efforts to address the city’s RHY crisis. “I am overjoyed by the passage of the RHY bills, and am especially jubilant by the passage of the bill to raise the age,” Carl Siciliano, founder and executive director of the Ali Forney Center, which serves homeless LGBTQ youth, said in an email message. “I have been calling for this for 20 years,

since Ali Forney was murdered at the age of 22. Raising the age will greatly reduce the suffering of homeless LGBT young people on our city’s streets; it will save lives. I am profoundly grateful to Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Ritchie Torres for their compassionate leadership in sponsoring the bill. I am also deeply grateful for the many members of our LGBT community who joined us in advocating for this, and am especially grateful for the many young people who had the courage to advocate for one another.” Jamie Powlovich, executive director of the Coalition for Homeless Youth, in an emailed statement to Gay City News, said, “Today’s unanimous vote in favor of three City Council bills that will drastically impact the lives of homeless young people in NYC is groundbreaking. CHY applauds Speaker

SHELTERING YOUTH, continued on p.7

March 15 – 28, 2018 |


Abel Cedeno Allegedly Menaced by Dead Youth’s Brother Kevon Dennis, 18, also faces charges of felony robbery with a dangerous instrument from the day his brother Matthew McCree was fatally stabbed



Abel Cedeno in a Bronx courtroom last week, flanked by his attorneys, Christopher R. Lynn and Robert J. Feldman.



s Abel Cedeno was leaving Bronx Criminal Court on March 6 with his family and a police escort, he was threatened by Kevon Dennis, 18, the brother of Matthew McCree, whom Cedeno fatally stabbed in their Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation classroom last September while, he has said, defending himself against pummeling by McCree and Ariane Laboy, a friend of McCree’s who got slashed by Cedeno in the incident. Cedeno’s older brother, José Ortiz, saw a young black male “pull his pants up like he is going to hit someone.” As court officers got between the male and Cedeno, Ortiz heard the male say, “I don’t give a fuck, I’m gonna fuck him up.” “One of state police pushed him out of the way,” Ortiz said. “Two or three court police held him down. Two other court police told us to get out. If there was no one there, he could have hit Abel.” The court officers’ report says that Dennis shouted, “I could have gotten him!” Dennis was given a summons for disorderly conduct returnable on May 22. His attorney, Andrew Rendeiro, who works from the same address as McCree family attorney Sanford Rubenstein, said his client “denies making threats” — though the eyewitness testimony | March 15 – 28, 2018


Assistant District Attorney Nancy Borko, who is leading the manslaughter prosecution of Cedeno.

from Cedeno’s brother and the arresting officers say otherwise. It has emerged that Kevon Dennis was also arrested on September 27 — the same day as the school melee that ended in the death of his brother, McCree — on a string of charges, the most serious of which is a B felony for first-degree robbery using a dangerous instrument. Cedeno co-defense counsel Christopher R. Lynn argued that Dennis’ September 27 arrest “has to be related” to the death of his brother and may have involved trying to seize evidence from one of the 25 classroom witnesses to the incident. Based on Dennis’ arrest for threatening Cedeno, Lynn has asked the Bronx district attorney to bar him from the courthouse for the remainder of Cedeno’s trial on manslaughter charges in McCree’s death. Patrice O’Shaughnessy, spokesperson for the Bronx DA’s office, said Lynn’s request would have to be addressed before the judge at Cedeno’s next court date on April 23. Lynn is also concerned about how District Attorney Darcel Clark’s series of meetings with McCree’s family and their attorney, Rubenstein, might affect how the charges against Dennis are treated. McCree’s mother, Louna Dennis, is suing the city for $25 million and was accompanied by Rubenstein at court. Lynn said, “Outside the building when I alerted reporters that Kevon was arrested, they

Louna Dennis, Matthew McCree and Kevon Dennis’ mother, with the family’s attorney Sanford Rubenstein, who has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the Department of Education in connection with McCree’s death.

asked Ms. Dennis and Rubenstein for a comment. The mother denied it and Rubenstein said he was detained ‘for exercising his First Amendment rights.’” Dennis told reporters she was not a witness to the assault attempt by her son Kevon. “We don’t know what happened,” she said. “Abel is not worth the energy.” Oddly, the New York Post ran a whole story about the incident without identifying the arrestee by name and referring to him as “a pal” of McCree’s rather than his brother. Louna Dennis once again lashed out at Cedeno’s two defense attorneys, who have been asserting their client knew her son McCree and Laboy to be gang members, leading him to fear for his life when they attacked him. “I know who my son was,” she said. “He was not a gang member or a bully.” She made the comment after being shown a picture by a reporter of Laboy displaying gang colors. Lynn says that his investigator has evidence that McCree and Laboy were recruited into the 800 YGZ gang by McCree’s older brother. Based on confidential records from the Department of Education that are illegal to release, the Daily News reported on February 20 about a May 2014 memo that had been presented to the grand jury that said Cedeno’s mother

CEDENO MENACED, continued on p.8



Sunnyside Leads St. Pat’s Season with Inclusion The parade that opened up Irish pride to the LGBTQ community is in its 19th year


The lead banner in the St. Pat’s for All Parade.

Grand marshal Dan Barry, a New York Times columnist.


Parade co-chairs Brendan Fay Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy.


Barred from marching in its home borough on March 4, the Staten Island Pride Center headed to Sunnyside.


The Lavender & Green Alliance, which will also be on Fifth Avenue on March 17.

Transgender activist Melissa Sklarz, who is waging a primary challenge to first-term Queens Assemblymember Brian Barnwell.



n its 19th year, St. Pat’s for All continued to roll along, surrounded by a city, state, and nation that have seen many changes since it began — some of them hastened by the event itself. Leading off New York City’s St. Patrick’s parade season, St. Pat’s for All is one of many parades that now include LGBTQ people — though not the one in Staten Island — but the parade that runs from Sunnyside to Woodside in Queens the first Sunday in March was the very first. The celebration began March 2, with a benefit concert at the Irish Arts Center on Manhattan’s West Side, which attracted a full house in the midst of yet another nor’easter. Now getting ready to open its brand new home on 11th Avenue, the Irish Arts Center continues to use its intimate black-box space for events like the concert, hosted by Irish-American playwright/ novelist Honor Molloy, with lots of music curated by Dublin Culture





The parade was lousy with bagpipes.

The LGBTQ Big Apple Corps Band.

Many viewers sported shamrock fashions.

Connects’ Brian Fleming, who took advantage of the nasty weather to rope in several extra Irish musicians whose flights weren’t leaving New York City any time soon. Each year, the concert serves as a fanfare for St. Pat’s for All Weekend. Co-chairs Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy welcomed the crowd and introduced this year’s grand marshals: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dan Barry and nuclear disarmament activist Dr. Kathleen Sullivan. Young members of the Shannon Gaels, an Irish athletic club, recited the lyrics to the folk song “I Come and Stand at Every Door.” Poet Caridad del la Luz aka “La

Bruja” drew laughs when she said, “I’ve always thought of the Irish as the Puerto Ricans of white people,” then performed her poem “Poor to Rico.” Throughout the evening, attention was drawn to the needs of the people of Puerto Rico still recovering from hurricane damage. A cavalcade of music, dancing, poetry, and craic (aka hijinks) followed, with an interval in the middle for everyone to refresh themselves with food and drink. The musicians performing included Mick Moloney, along with Athena Tergis, Donie Carroll, Niamh Ní Bhriain, and percussionist Fleming. Congressmember Joseph Crowley, leader of the Queens

County Democratic Party, joined in on guitar, accompanying singer Cathy Maguire. Dancers from the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance were featured, and cellist Leah Rankin duetted with Fleming. Several faces missing from the crowd were remembered: Edie Windsor, longtime St. Pat’s supporter and LGBTQ rights icon; Mary Audrey Gallagher, PFLAG supporter and mother of City Councilmember Daniel Dromm; Gilbert Baker, creator of the Rainbow Flag (who led the parade last year); and human rights activist General James P. Cullen.

ST. PAT’S FOR ALL, continued on p.26

March 15 – 28, 2018 |


Corey Johnson and his colleagues for their leadership in making long overdue changes to the DYCD homeless youth system. It is unfortunate that in a city as progressive as NYC we had to pass laws to force the administration to do something that could have been done voluntarily, but are extremely grateful for the dedication of the City Council to do the right thing on behalf of the countless homeless young people and providers who have been pushing for these changes for several years.” “New York’s runaway and homeless youth — some of our city’s most vulnerable — must have unfettered access to shelter, and we’re glad to see widespread Council support for that concern today,” said Beth Hofmeister, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s Homeless Rights Project, which, working with Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, has pushed the city for years to acknowledge this population’s right to shelter. “We laud Speaker Corey Johnson and the City Council for championing this legislation, and urge Mayor de Blasio to enact these reforms immediately.” The push to expand the age range for serving homeless youth gained momentum in the years since former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in 2010, convened a commission to study issues facing the RHY population. That commission’s report, released by DYCD, advocated raising the eligibility to 24, but the issue languished, even with the determined efforts of a coalition of advocates working as the Campaign for Youth Shelter. In a February 20 letter to de Blasio, the City Council, and DYCD Commissioner Bill Chong, roughly 20 organizations and Democratic political clubs, reiterating the history of the issue dating back to 2010, noted that the state had in January issued regulations based on last year’s authorizing legislation and urged the city to “immediately implement” the higher age for eligibility. “For a number of years, the goal of raising the youth shelter age has been a cornerstone of our New York City LGBT Community’s efforts to protect homeless LGBT youth,” the letter stated. “We have | March 15 – 28, 2018

advocated for this change because the current mechanism for sheltering young adults does not work for most LGBT youths in the 21-24 age group, who fear violence and harassment in the adult shelter system, thus forcing many to sleep in the streets and subways and even to resort to survival sex.” The letter concluded by arguing, “New York City will not fully succeed in the goal of becoming a safe and supportive environment for homeless LGBT youth until the age is raised.” Separate from the advocates’ action, Speaker Johnson and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, on February 7, wrote to DYCD’s Chong protesting the agency’s recent letters to service providers that the age of eligibility would not be raised. Johnson and Adams urged Chong to reverse course and also institute an immediate moratorium on discharging youth in shelters when they reach 21. Noting that legislators in Albany — led by Democratic Assemblymember Helene Weinstein of Brooklyn and Staten Island Senator Diane Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference — had acted at Adams’ “urging and request,” that the state had since issued the authorizing regulations, and that Johnson, Gibson, and Torres’ legislation was pending, the two wrote, “It is hard to believe that our City, known for its compassionate and progressive policy toward young people who are not able to find love and shelter at home with their families, would lag behind so many other jurisdictions — including State and Federal law — in raising the age for youth shelter to 25. Research has established that a young person’s mind and abilities remain in formation and transition through their 25th birthday. It is clear that forcing youth to return to the harsh realities of homelessness at the age of 21 is penny-wise and pound-foolish.” Clearly, Johnson’s Council colleagues agreed — at least all 48 whose votes were recorded last week. In more than four years in office, de Blasio has never vetoed legislation from the Council, and reports of his coming around on the issue suggest he is not likely to begin on measures that enjoy unanimous support.



Meth Deaths Surging Again City health department reports big increases in 2014, 2015, and 2016

oids were found in 82 percent of those deaths.” Through September of 2017, the city is reporting 1,068 overdose deaths attributable to any drug though the 2017 data are provisional. Fentanyl, a particularly deadly opioid, is implicated in the opioid overdose deaths that are currently being described as an epidemic across America. Fentanyl may have played a role in some of the city’s meth overdose deaths. The city health department is reporting that 10 of the 61 meth overdose deaths in 2015, or 16 percent, involved fentanyl, and 16 of the 55 deaths the following year, or 29 percent, involved fentanyl. In February, the city health department reported that fentanyl “has been found in heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and ketamine, as well as in benzodiazepines and opioid painkillers acquired from nonpharmaceutical sources.” The city health department has launched,

a website that links meth users to harm reduction services or services that can assist them in ending their meth use. It has also contracted with Gay Men’s Health Crisis and Housing Works, two HIV services organizations, to deliver services to meth users. Deaths from meth overdoses are generally viewed as uncommon among researchers and the deaths are frequently attributed to another drug, such as an opioid, that the user was taking along with meth. The science is clear, however, that meth alone can and does kill people. The increase in overdose deaths attributable to meth may be explained by drug traffickers, often reported to be aligned with Mexican drug cartels, manufacturing purer and more powerful meth and importing it into the US market. As with opioids, users may smoke, snort, or inject their usual amount of meth without realizing that they are getting a far greater amount of the drug. Meth kills in several ways “Ingestions of large doses of the drug can cause more serious consequences that include life-threatening hyperthermia above 41°C, renal and liver failure, cardiac arrhythmias, heart attacks, cerebrovascular hemorrhages, strokes, and seizures,” said a 2009 study in Brain Research Reviews. At 41°C, a person’s body temperature is at 105.8°F, which is well above the temperature at which heat stroke occurs. In a meth overdose, an elevated body temperature

is a “universal presenting symptom, with lethal overdoses generally associated with extreme hyperthermia,” said a 2014 study that was published in Pharmacology & Therapeutics. That study said that the clinical diagnosis of hyperthermia comes at a body temperature at 104°F. While the HIV activist group ACT UP founded a Crystal Meth Working Group that is continuing to work on the matter there has otherwise been little in the way of a recent grassroots response to meth use in New York City. In 2003 and 2004, the last time that methamphetamine seized the attention of New York City’s gay male community, Peter Staley, a former ACT UP member, paid for a series of ads that ran on bus kiosks in parts of Manhattan demonizing the drug. He was eventually joined by other activists who held town hall meetings and took other actions to confront the drug’s impact. The major concern then was that meth was and remains associated with an increased risk for acquiring HIV. “Everybody knows it’s a really persistent problem right now and much more diverse than it was 15 years ago,” Staley told Gay City News. “It’s not just the plague survivors, HIV-positive white gay men in their 40s and 50s. It is a very diverse population from an age perspective and the racial diversity seems to be much more diverse. We have very little public health discussion about it now… I’m hoping for new activism, a new discussion.”

knife was a butter knife and there are no reports that Cedeno ever brandished it or any other weapon prior to the incident in September 2017. Rubenstein was peppered with questions from reporters about how the confidential report was obtained and whether he had anything to do with it. He kept saying, “Ask the Daily News.” Lynn filed multiple complaints for disciplinary infractions by Rubenstein about the emergence of

the confidential DOE records with the New York State Appellate Division’s Second Department, where Rubenstein is admitted to practice law. The Second Department, however, has declined to pursue them. Lynn also filed his complaint with State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “It was a knowing violation to release confidential materials from the DOE,” Lynn said. Asked if she was aware of students, including her son, ever

carrying weapons, Dennis said, “There should be no knives in school!” On March 8, the Post reported, “More kids were busted for knives and boxcutters in the fourth quarter of last year than in any quarter over the past two years, according to NYPD statistics.” In New York’s less safe neighborhoods, students have been carrying knives for self-protection



hile still well below overdose deaths attributable to opioids, methamphetamine overdose deaths in New York City rose by more than 200 percent in 2015 and 2016 compared to the number of such deaths in 2013. The city health department is reporting that there were 55 methamphetamine overdose deaths in the city in 2016 and 61 such deaths in 2015. There were 18 overdose deaths attributable to meth in 2013, putting the increases in both years at over 200 percent compared to the earlier year. Compared to the 35 meth overdose deaths in 2014, the increases in 2015 and 2016 are smaller, but altogether the data are clearly indicating a trend of increases in deaths attributable to crystal. Compared to the 35 deaths in 2014, the 2015 deaths represent a 74 percent increase and the 2016 deaths represent a 57 percent increase. For a 2016 story published in Gay City News, the city health department reported 13 crystal overdose deaths in 2013 and 34 such deaths in 2014. The agency regularly revisits and revises its data in light of new information. The original data showed a 160 percent increase in deaths in 2014 over 2013. The new data has that increase at 94 percent year over year. In a February press release, the city health department reported that in 2016, there were “1,374 confirmed overdose deaths” and “opi-


had told the school that she once discovered a knife in her son’s backpack. Louna Dennis told the Daily News she was “anonymously leaked” the records. Rubenstein, who is doing his best to try this case in the press, told the Daily News the revelation “shows that the school and the Department of Education was on notice and knew a danger existed” from Cedeno. But Lynn said the



Peter Staley, who paid for ads to combat crystal meth in New York more than a decade ago, hopes to see renewed activism on the issue.

CEDENO MENACED, continued on p.9

March 15 – 28, 2018 |



for decades if not longer. When metal detectors are installed, the students stash the knives outside during the day and retrieve them to protect themselves going home from school. Lynn said police had Cedeno take off all of his clothes after Septemberâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stabbing incident and that forensic analysis showed no blood on them, â&#x20AC;&#x153;confirming the autopsy that McCree succumbed to a single blow from the knife.â&#x20AC;? While a cellphone video of the incident emerged last month showing McCree charging Cedeno and hitting him about the face before getting stabbed, Rubenstein responded that a longer version of the video shows Cedeno charging into the classroom before the stabbing. But Lynn said there is yet newer video of Cedeno in the hallway before the incident that confirms his clientâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s statements to the grand jury and press that he had left the class after being harassed and walked back into the room slowly to demand who was harassing him. According to a police summary of one student witnessâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; statement, McCree responded to Cedeno, â&#x20AC;&#x153;It was me. Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s up?â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; meaning â&#x20AC;&#x153;What are you going to do about it?â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; before charging across the classroom at Cedeno, who said he feared for his life based on knowing McCree to be a gang member who had beaten up a friend of his and might possess a weapon himself. An autopsy of McCree showed multiple bruises on his hands from the blows delivered to Cedeno. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I snapped,â&#x20AC;? Cedeno said previously. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I thought I was going to die.â&#x20AC;? Cedenoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s two hours of testimony to the grand jury contributed to the charges against him being reduced from second-degree murder to manslaughter. Cedeno is suing the city for its failure to enforce the anti-bullying laws and to protect LGBTQ students â&#x20AC;&#x201D; not seeking punitive damages but instead stepped-up enforcement. In his suit on behalf of McCreeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mother, Rubenstein cites the lax enforcement of the stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Dignity for All Students Act antibullying mandates and focuses on the lack of metal detectors in McCreeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s school. | March 15 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 28, 2018

Most advocates for students oppose metal detectors. The Post reported on March 10 that in December 2016, a 14-yearold girl at Cedenoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s school was being bullied in a manner similar to him and that after â&#x20AC;&#x153;other students beaned her with a corncob and called her a â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;fat bitch,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; [she] was handcuffed and tackled by school safety officers, who sat on the asthmatic girl as she yelled, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t breathe.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? In a lawsuit against the Department of Education and others, the girl alleges she was tasered twice and when her mother arrived and asked that her daughterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s handcuffs be loosened because her hands were turning purple, the mother was pushed to the ground by police. The girl also says her cousin was thrown against a wall by police when the cousin tried to come to her aid. Inside the Bronx court on March 6, Judge Armando Montano rejected a defense motion to dismiss the charges against Cedeno â&#x20AC;&#x201D;something not unexpected â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and set the start of his trial for April 23. Cedenoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lawyers, Lynn and Robert J. Feldman, made the motion to dismiss based on what they called a â&#x20AC;&#x153;faulty presentation to the grand jury.â&#x20AC;? Their other motions â&#x20AC;&#x201D; related to suppression of evidence and whether Cedenoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cell phone was searched without a warrant â&#x20AC;&#x201D; will be dealt with by the trial judge. Nancy Borko, the assistant district attorney handling the prosecution, said Cedeno gave verbal consent to his phone being searched. Lynn said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We just hired a forensic psychiatrist who is reviewing Abelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s videotaped confession and prior treatment record for depression since 14, and I am sure the People will want to hire their own expert to review my expertâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work.â&#x20AC;? Cedeno, who is out on bail and living at an undisclosed location because of death threats against him allegedly from those associated with McCree and Laboy, was surrounded by police and court officers â&#x20AC;&#x201D; as well as family members â&#x20AC;&#x201D; as he entered and exited the courthouse, though that precaution barely prevented further tragedy in this case. Cedenoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mother, Luz Hernandez, said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard for a mother. I have to be strong for him and my other kids.â&#x20AC;?





Bill de Blasio Mayor

Gregg Bishop Commissioner





A Fist as Resistance An artist explains their submission for the LGBTQ memorial in Hudson River Park BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


or Cassils, a “gender nonconforming trans masculine visual artist,” their submission to the LGBT Memorial Commission presented an exciting opportunity and a challenge. “When we have these monuments, there’s always the problem with representation,” the artist told Gay City News. “When we go to representation, it’s who do you represent and who are you not representing?” Cassils, who uses the pronouns them, they, and their, was among 40 artists who responded to a 2016 request for proposals to design and build a memorial in Hudson River Park, a state park that runs from 59th Street to Battery Park on the West Side of Manhattan. The memorial will honor the 49 people killed by a gunman in an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. Governor Andrew Cuomo conceived of the memorial for the victims in the Pulse massacre to “stand as an international symbol against ignorance, hate, bigotry, and gun violence,” read the executive order that created the commission. Cassils, who uses just the one name, proposed erecting a 40-footlong wall that was five feet high and built entirely of castings of “fist imprints collected from LGBT activists across the United States,” their submission to the memorial commission read. A “fist is not specific to any race, gender presentation, or sexual orientation, however it is an index of the fight,” the submission read. The activists were to be nominated through a website that Cassils would have launched and they would have been accompanied by a small film crew to document casting the fist imprints first in clay and then later in bronze. This process was meant to prove that this piece of public art was representative of the broader community. “The act of civic engagement isn’t | March 15 – 28, 2018


Cassils’ rendering of their proposed wall, showing the use of the castings of activists’ fists.

just when it’s unveiled, it’s part of the process to get there,” Cassils said. This “Wall of Resilience,” as Cassils titled it, memorialized the Pulse victims, but also struck at Donald Trump, who continues to press Congress to fund the construction of a wall on the border between the US and Mexico. Cassils’ wall would be curved, demonstrating that the fists had altered its structure, and its lower height showed that it was not insurmountable. “It’s purposely not a very high wall,” Cassils said. “Yes, there’s a wall, but it’s not a very high wall. It can be overcome. There is this physical momentum that you can see encapsulated in the piece… No matter where you stood, you would always be able to see over the wall.” Cassils’ submission parted company with most of the other proposals. Twenty-three of the 40, including the three finalists, incorporated rainbow elements, with Gilbert Baker, the creator of the Rainbow Flag, not surprisingly suggesting that the memorial should be an 80-foot flagpole supporting a 20 by 30-foot Rainbow Flag. While recognizing the Rainbow Flag as “very important,” it is “a symbol that has been watered down and corporatized,” Cassils said. The process of selecting the final design was rushed, or “efficient” as one member of the 10-member commission said. Commissioners first met on September 20, 2016 and they


Cassils’ rendering of the portion of Hudson River Park where the LGBT Memorial would stand before and after installation of their design.

had until November 18 to present Cuomo with five designs, though they ultimately gave him three choices. Cuomo was supposed to choose the winning design and announce it between December 5 and December 31. He delayed his announcement until June 2017, Pride month, guaranteeing that the announcement had more press coverage than it might otherwise have received. “I was really excited about the proposal, and then I never heard anything,” said Cassils, whose design was not among the three finalists. “That was the first public art thing that I’ve ever applied for, and I actually pumped that proposal out in 36 hours.” The three designs submitted to Cuomo were by Jordan Eagles and Spilios Gianakopoulos, Moshe Yehosuoua, and what would be the winning design by Anthony Goicolea.

Among the 40 designs, only 25 complied with the submission instructions by Gay City News’ count. It is unclear if the 15 that did not comply were disqualified. While the state parks department released the 40 submissions in response to an open records request, the agency did not release any documents indicating how any of the submissions were scored. Certainly, Cassils was far more attuned to current politics than any other designer and far more in touch with the current state of mind of many LGBTQ activists. Their design used the “fist strike as an act of resistance” and they avoided specific identities in the piece. “I wanted to make something that could incorporate a myriad of representations without getting stuck on the specifics of subjectivity,” Cassils said.



A Great Comic and a Good Man Family, friends, colleagues, fans, caregivers flock to Bob Smith’s finale at Carolines BY KATHLEEN WARNOCK


poster with a large color picture of Bob Smith stood on the landing as guests headed downstairs at Carolines. “Sorry for your loss” from the staffer was followed by the realization that, damn, Bob Smith was a good-looking guy. Smith, 59, died after a 10-year, full-tilt battle with ALS, long known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, on January 20. Media reports noted that he was the first out gay comedian to appear on “The Tonight Show” and reported on his career, from solo comedy to his appearances with Funny Gay Males to his TV writing, his novels and books of essays, and the many other accomplishments he managed to cram into an overfull, too-short life. The crowd that filled Carolines was there to remember all these things, but even more so the man, the partner, the friend, the father, the brother, the supportive colleague, and the Nature Boy. Since Smith’s chosen family included many top-notch creatives, the celebration was beautifully produced, paced, curated and had excellent production values. The performers worked hard to keep from crying, but they also “killed,” the term comics use for delivering a great set. The show was organized and hosted by Judy Gold and Eddie Sarfaty, two of Smith’s best friends and fellow comics. “Finally, Bob is headlining at Carolines,” Gold began. Sarfaty, who’d replaced Smith in Funny Gay Males, and was his roommate when Bob received his ALS diagnosis, spoke of the emails, calls, and texts he’d been getting: some from friends and colleagues and others from people who’d never met Smith, but wanted to tell how he’d changed their lives with his comedy and writing. The remaining Funny Gay Males, Jaffe Cohen and Danny McWilliams, took to the stage to reminisce about their partner. They talked about the language of their own they’d developed as they worked together: catch phrases,



Bob Smith, at a 2010 benefit for the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, wielding the oven mitts that were a running joke with his friend and fellow comedian Eddie Sarfaty.


A publicity shot of Bob as a young comic and author.

looks that meant everything, longrunning jokes that continued even after Smith lost the ability to speak and expressed himself through spelling into people’s hands and using his iPad. “He had a love of comedy that transcended everything,” Cohen said. The reminiscences were interspersed throughout with clips from Smith’s appearances and sketches he wrote for “MADtv.” Nora Burns and Frank DeCaro talked about spending time with Smith as his disease progressed, as others slipped away. Burns came to see him when he was in rehab, and at his apartment, and talked to him and read to him… from Smith’s books. They introduced several short videos from other comics and friends, including Steve Hasley, Kristen Becker, Erin Foley, and Andre Kelly, who promised Smith he would do “everything in my power to take that orange motherfucker down.” Gold reminisced about her long friendship with Smith, leaving the crowd giggling and hooting with stories from when they met in Provincetown, and she realized he was “the most generous comic I ever met,” to stories of how Smith was a much-beloved Funny Uncle to her two sons. Musician Ben Rosenblum gently mocked Smith’s lack of a “musi-

cal comedy gene,” then told of how Smith called him up and asked if he’d ever really listened to “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” They talked about what the song meant, and how true it is. Rosenblum then played and sang a sweet, slow version of the Irving Berlin classic. Much was made of Smith’s love for animals, especially his dogs, and one of the non-pros who spoke was Michael Shapiro, Smith’s neighbor, who often watched Bob’s dogs (both rescues) when he was away or unable to take care of them. Shapiro and his wife Susan became friends with Smith, and the neighbor concluded with, “Bob’s journey was awesome.” Many people knew that Smith had fathered two children for his great friend Elvira Kurt and her wife, Chloe Brushwood Rose, referring to himself as a “deadbeat donor.” “Our kids are the most immense gift Bob could give anyone,” Rose said. Kurt then took the mic for a riveting, heartbreaking, funny remembrance that recalled Smith’s voice, “which I miss so much,” and the many milestones they’d shared. “Bob never let himself sit in the pain. And he didn’t have to die to be liked that well.” As Smith lost his voice, he turned more to writing fiction and memoir, completing three novels and an essay collection before his death, and became a member of an informal group of writers who called themselves ASS (Authors Secret Soci-

ety), which met to have cocktails, discuss their work, and encourage each other. The members of ASS each chose a short selection of Smith’s work to read. James Hannaham, who read from “Openly Bob” noted that “Bob Smith is the only comedian I can think of who killed at his funeral.” John W. Bateman came up from Mississippi to read a section from “Way to Go, Smith,” while Patrick Ryan chose a passage from “Selfish & Perverse.” Mitchell Carroll and Christopher Bram both read pieces from “Treehab,” Smith’s collection of essays about his love of nature and learning to live with what he called his “you’re gonna die-agnosis.” Court Stroud, who met Smith and Sarfaty on a cruise (and ended up marrying Sarfaty), read a short piece from “Walking My Dog through the Valley of the Shadow of Death is a Nice Way to Start the Day.” Sarfaty shared his own memories, arriving onstage wearing a pair of oven mitts… another longrunning joke he and Smith shared. Sarfaty recalled how Smith thought about having Eddie do his bits when he was no longer able to do standup. “…and then I’m the guy who’s stealing jokes from the guy who’s dying of ALS?” Sarfaty talked about how Smith eventually needed the help of fulltime aides, Pierre and Larry, who grew to love him. Sarfaty and Smith’s other friend made it a point not to sanctify him: they recalled how stubborn he was, how messy, how bad he was with money. But it was Smith’s stubbornness that helped keep him going for so long, Sarfaty said. He accompanied Smith on long bus rides to Boston, where Smith tried without success to get into clinical trials for experimental ALS treatments. They traveled overseas in search of the latest treatments, and even when they were turned down or not able to find what they needed they took the time to see what there was to see in Israel, Turkey, and other

BOB SMITH, continued on p.41

March 15 – 28, 2018 |


â&#x20AC;&#x153;Pharma Broâ&#x20AC;? Played Up LGBTQ Donation at Sentencing Martin Shkreli pointed to $30,000 gift to LGBT Center year before Daraprim gouge BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


eeking to counter allegations that he is anti-gay, a pharmaceutical executive who was convicted of securities fraud last year and earlier vilified for increasing the price of a drug used by people with compromised immune systems included, in his sentencing memorandum, a letter he received from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center thanking him for a $30,000 donation. â&#x20AC;&#x153;[D]espite the mediaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s claim that the Daraprim price hike has disparately damaged the gay community, Martin has used his resources to support LGBT charitable missions that help improve communities,â&#x20AC;? the defense wrote in its February 27 sentencing memorandum that was filed on behalf of Martin Shkreli. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In 2014, well before Martin acquired Daraprim, Martin contributed $30,000 to The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.â&#x20AC;? In 2015, Shkreli was indicted in Brooklyn federal court on eight counts of wire and securities fraud. He was convicted on three counts in 2017 and sentenced to seven years in federal


Martin Shkreli testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in Washington in 2016.

prison on March 9 of this year. Shkreli was also required to forfeit more than $7.3 million in assets. The defense sought a sentence of 12 to 18 months and 2,000 hours of community service. Shkreli became infamous in 2015 when Turing Pharmaceuticals, a company he founded in 2014, purchased Daraprim, an anti-parasitic

drug that is used to treat toxoplasmosis, which can harm people with HIV. Daraprim also treats malaria and it can prevent a form of pneumonia that affects people with HIV. When Shkreli raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill, it caused an immediate outcry among AIDS activists and others. Shkreli earned the nickname â&#x20AC;&#x153;pharma broâ&#x20AC;? on social media. He was seen as emblematic of a pharmaceutical industry that is greedy and less interested in the health of patients. The defense argued that the price increase funded research into new treatments for diseases that get little attention from the pharmaceutical industry, including a better treatment for toxoplasmosis. â&#x20AC;&#x153;[I]n 2015, Turing raised money for its research department by acquiring the drug Daraprim and raising its price from $13.50 a tablet to $750,â&#x20AC;? the defense wrote. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Overnight, this business decision made Martin â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;the most hated man in America.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; As a result, Martin was also labeled as â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;anti-gay.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Since that time, as this Court well knows, Martin has been vilified in the press.â&#x20AC;?


PHARMA BRO, continued on p.16

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Health Department Gives Peer Support to OD Survivors City moves to prevent fatalities but remains skittish on safe consumption spaces BY NATHAN RILEY


nce she received the call, Cathy Kelleher dashed to the emergency room at Columbia Presbyterian and asked the man whose overdose had been reversed, “What can I do to help?” Hesitantly, he mentioned his need for a birth certificate, but the office in Puerto Rico closed after the hurricane. From this simple request, she knew a successful intervention might be possible. Kelleher is a trained peer, a person with “lived experience with substance use” as the city health department characterizes her job description. And when the department is alerted that an affiliated hospital is treating a non-fatal overdose patient, Kelleher and her coworkers travel to meet the patient. The goal is to be in the ER in less than an hour. The program is called Relay because the workers only show up after information has been relayed to them that there is a patient recovering from an overdose. Kelleher knew she could help the man get a birth certificate. Unlike emergency room personnel, her duties include personal contact in the days following an overdose. And what can be more helpful than accompanying a stigmatized person when they go to strange places? She called the city Department of Human Resources and arranged for the birth certificate’s retrieval and, with this critical document, she helped him obtain vocational train-

PHARMA BRO, from p.15

The defense included a January 28, 2015 letter from Jeffrey Klein, then the Center’s chief development officer and now its chief strategy officer, among the 55 exhibits included in its sentencing memorandum. The letter thanked Shkreli for his $30,000 donation and noted that he had also purchased tickets to four Center events. Such letters are routinely provided to donors by non-profits for tax purposes. The letter was sent roughly seven


ing as a food service worker. The overdose also gave Kelleher a chance to talk about naloxone. That drug is to overdoses what a defibrillator is to heart attacks. Take it and in a matter of minutes breathing is restored. Opiate poisoning leaves a person incapacitated, so another person must administer the medicine. An ingenious innovation now permits injection without using needles. A piece of plastic, with a tip like the one used in cold medicines, fits into the nose. Squirting half the solution into each nostril allows normal breathing to resume within two to five minutes. This medicine is the key ingredient for averting fatal overdoses. It is carried by emergency medical personnel, some police, and members of the public. With an hour training, anyone can administer naloxone. The city aims to distribute 100,000 of its kits, especially to family members and other people who know drug users. Already, 45,000 kits have been disbursed, so officials believe the goal is realistic. Kelleher has nearly 25 years experience in the field. In her last job, she ran a for-profit sober house, but she prefers the emphasis on helping people offered by the non-profit Relay Program. With her experience, empathy comes naturally and this, combined with her shared understanding of living with a habit, helps her establish trust with drug users who survive an overdose. The patient she met at Columbia Presbyterian had heard of fentanyl — a common additive to opioids that in-

creases the risk of overdoses — but she introduced him to naloxone. Another service that the Relay worker can offer is medically assisted treatment where a user’s life is stabilized with the help of methadone or buprenorphine to wean them from opioids. Only specially trained doctors may prescribe buprenorphine, the most convenient form of treatment because the medicine is taken in pills. New York City has 14 clinics where people on Medicaid or without insurance can access it. Relay workers call ahead and get a user an appointment at the appropriate clinic. The Relay Program is an effort to get care to people who are at the highest risk of having a fatal overdose. Dr. Hillary Kunins explained that after a person has an overdose, “they are at a higher risk” of having another and possibly fatal OD. The Relay Program is “also an opportunity to provide peer support” that hospitals can’t. The assistant health commissioner for the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention, Care and Treatment, Kunins expects that the program will “reduce the risk of a reoccurrence” and introduce more naloxone kits to drug users, who themselves are the most likely people to be near someone becoming unresponsive after drug use. This is harm reduction done patient by patient, and it should save lives but it is doubtful that this program alone will turn the tide. Step by step by step New York City is dispensing naloxone kits. Homeless

shelters also have naloxone kits and train residents in their use. One obstacle is that about half the patients decline Relay help. After an overdose, they just want to get away. Isolating is their immediate reaction. Naloxone is only effective if it is in the right place at the right time. The city is close to releasing a feasibility study on allowing needle exchanges to permit users to bring the drugs they purchase on the street and ingest them on the premises in the presence of an overdose prevention worker. It’s a program that brings the user to the naloxone. There are such programs in 100 cities across the globe, and Canada is expanding its program from Vancouver to cities from coast to coast. Philadelphia and San Francisco will initiate programs this year. Kunins said that the health department’s feasibility study would be made public soon. But there is trepidation among city officials, with a fear of neighborhood backlash. She abruptly ended the interview when I moved the discussion toward safer consumption spaces. Unlike the AIDS crisis where gay men and their allies united into a politically potent force, drug users remain stigmatized and usually don’t come out to fight for the programs that will save their lives. The lack of a powerful voice from drug users and their allies leaves city officials worried that people who want drug users punished and not coddled will grab center stage, damning their good intentions.

months before the Daraprim controversy. Shkreli may have made the donations to play on the emotions of one of his investors. During trial testimony, Steven Richardson, who is gay and chaired the board of a failed Shkreli venture, testified that Shkreli made comments about seducing men during conversations. He stopped only after Richardson confronted him about the comments. In its sentencing memorandum, the government asserted

that Shkreli was manipulative and played on investors’ emotions. “Steven Richardson, for example, testified that Shkreli would say things about his personal life because ‘he thought [Richardson] would want to hear them rather than things he necessarily believed in,’” the government wrote. “Shkreli thus tried to cultivate Richardson by misrepresenting his personal life… In sum, Shkreli was adept at finding what he thought people wanted to hear. And he molded himself accordingly to deceive and

defraud.” The bulk of Shkreli’s ticket purchases and donations to the Center —$30,251 — were made prior to September 2014 when Richardson fired Shkreli from Retrophin, the company they were both involved in. In November 2014, Shkreli spent $75 on a ticket to the Women’s Event, a Center fundraiser, and $40 on a ticket to the Women’s Event After Party. The Center confirmed the Shkreli donation, but otherwise declined to comment. March 15 – 28, 2018 |


Indonesia Regresses; Country Music Association Reverses



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





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ear and horror among Indonesia’s LGBT community as gay sex ban looms” is the disturbing headline of a piece by Ben Westcott on Westcott begins his reporting with the story of a young gay man whose life could be drastically upended if the bigots have their way. “When Ael left home to go to school in Jakarta, his parents warned him to be careful in the big city. ‘Be a kind person,’ his mother told him. He worked hard and found a good job as a teacher in the sprawling Indonesian capital, but seven years later the 23-year-old is fearful for his future as a young gay man in a country which increasingly views homosexuality as a sin and, potentially soon, a crime. ‘Many people don’t like us... they don’t like us being

more visible, so they are preparing laws that can criminalize us,’ Ael, who asked for his surname to not be used, told CNN. Within weeks, lawmakers could vote on a new law that looks set to criminalize sex outside of marriage and homosexual sex in Indonesia, as part of wide-reaching changes to the country’s criminal code. ‘If the penal code is approved, I don’t know our future in Indonesia,’ Ael said.” The American press has been largely silent — or, at best, muted — on Indonesia’s anti-gay crackdown. Just before Christmas, the New York Times ran an article by Jeffrey Hutton on the subject: “Steven Handoko admits it wasn’t his most dignified moment. Naked as the day he was born, the bookish 25-year-old had been invited on stage by one of the strippers hired for a party at the Atlantis Gym. That hardly qualified as outrageous behavior in the red-light

district of Kelapa Gading in North Jakarta, where the Atlantis was located. Nearby were plenty of venues with suggestive names like the Playboy Sensation, massage parlors for straight men. The Atlantis was a gay sauna in a conservative country, but given the generally liveand-let-live milieu of the Indonesian capital’s night life, Mr. Handoko felt safe, if a little embarrassed. “But he wasn’t. Soon after he took the stage, the police stormed the premises. Officers herded naked, cowering men into the middle of the room and began taking photos, some of which — including one of Mr. Handoko — appeared on Indonesian social media within hours. He and 140 other men were taken away. “‘When a future employer Googles me, this is what they will see,’ Mr. Handoko, an aspiring journalist, said last week in an interview at Cipinang prison in Jakarta, where he has been held since the raid in May.” The week the Times article ran, Handoko was sentenced to two years and three months in jail. CNN’s Westcott points out that “despite its widely held Muslim beliefs, Indonesia’s population didn’t always openly discriminate against LGBT people. “‘Indonesia has a long history of tolerance towards queer communities. It’s always been described as one of the most tolerant countries in Southeast Asia to its queer population,’ Tim Lindsey, director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at the University of Melbourne, told CNN. “But a recent poll by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting released in January found 87.6 percent of Indonesians believed LGBT people were a threat to Indonesia while a 2013 Pew Research poll found 93 percent of Indonesians thought homosexuality was ‘morally unacceptable.’” In late January, Westcott, together with Mochamad Andri, wrote a terrifying piece on the vicious harassment of transgender women in the province of Aceh: “Police in a conservative province of Indonesia forcibly shaved the hair of a group of transgender women and made them wear men’s clothing, state media reported, in a crackdown on the LGBT

MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.25

March 15 – 28, 2018 |

PERSPECTIVE: Science-Based Public Health

Historic Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic: Back, Renovated, and Ready for a New Fight BY DR. MARY T. BASSETT


n New York City, we are close to winning a battle that for decades seemed unwinnable: the annual number of new HIV diagnoses has fallen to historic lows. The fear and stigma associated with sexual health is gradually being replaced with honesty and hope. Today, March 15, we mark a milestone in our efforts to end the epidemic of HIV — the reopening of the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic, a landmark building that dates back a century and was the epicenter of the fight to address the AIDS crisis. In Chelsea, the community knows the importance of neighborhood-based care; they saw how a public health crisis has the potential to devastate a community. So when the Chelsea Clinic shuttered in 2015 for much-needed renovations, the response was overwhelming. We realized we should have engaged advocates sooner, and once we did, they became vocal partners. As a result, the new Chelsea Clinic is even better than we had hoped. The community helped shape our in-

novative programs to end the epidemic of HIV and ensured that the clinic reopened sooner than planned. While today is a celebratory day, there is still much more work to do. In 2016, rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis rose across New York City, with Chelsea having the highest rates of gonorrhea and syphilis. We are also seeing too many new HIV diagnoses among women, and unacceptable disparities in who gets infected — 90 percent of new diagnoses are among Black and Latina women. And, of course, the right number of new infections for our city is zero. These challenges are taking place against the backdrop of broad attacks on sexual health initiatives by the federal government. On the heels of World AIDS Day 2017, President Trump dismissed all members of the HIV/ AIDS Presidential Advisory Council, and Congress has already slashed $5 million in sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To make matters worse, Presi-

dent Trump wants to allocate $75 million in his 2019 budget toward abstinence-only and “personal responsibility” education programs. The lesson is plan: wait to have sex until marriage in order to prevent pregnancy and STIs, including HIV. We know from many years of scientific, evidence-based research that this approach simply does not work. The fact is, the best way to reduce the incidence of STIs, including HIV, is through sex education and prevention programs. That’s why we are lucky to live in New York City with an administration and City Council that defies reckless federal actions. At the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic and its seven sister locations across the city, we are scaling up — not cutting back. It is critical that New Yorkers have access to high-quality, low- to no-cost sexual health care. The Chelsea Clinic has a dedicated area for “express testing,” where patients can be screened for STIs, including HIV, without seeing a doctor fi rst. The building is now bright and open, a physical representation of the judgment-free and welcoming care the staff offers.

Coming for a screening does not feel stigmatizing; rather, the clinic is a space that encourages people to simply take responsibility for their health and wellbeing. In addition to providing basic STI services such as testing and treatment, the Chelsea Clinic is at the forefront of HIV prevention and treatment. We provide immediate initiation of daily PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a pill that significantly lowers the risk of HIV infection; emergency PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), a medication for people who are HIV-negative and may have been exposed to HIV; and anti-retroviral therapy for people who are newly diagnosed or living with HIV. It took grassroots support to bring us to this historic moment. As the federal government retreats from its role as a public health leader, we need activists to continue to enact change and inspire others in the country to follow. Make sure your voice is heard. In the fight to end the epidemic of HIV and reduce STIs, the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic is a huge step forward. We are excited to welcome you back. Dr. Mary T. Bassett is commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.


Insurance Discrimination Against PrEP Is Ignorant March 5, 2018 To the Editor: In regard to “Rosenthal Takes on Insurers’ PrEP Blacklisting” (by Nathan Riley, Mar. 1, 2018), by preventing the transmission of HIV, PrEP is helping HIV-negative individuals stay negative and serving as a key prevention tool in the fight against AIDS. Unfortunately, some insurance companies are denying coverage to PrEP users, which makes about as much sense as denying coverage to someone because they’ve had their f lu shot. | March 15 – 28, 2018

Thankfully, New York State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal has introduced common sense legislation that would bar insurers from discriminating against those who are acting responsibly. PrEP has been proven to be over 90 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission. Not only does PrEP enable people to take control of their sexual health, it also saves hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to treat individuals with HIV. PrEP costs an average of $55,000 over five years to treat one patient, while the cost of a lifetime of HIV treatment can cost 10

times that amount. In recent years, we’ve seen progress in the fight to end AIDS as an epidemic as the number of people taking PrEP has increased. However, if we are to achieve the goal of ending the HIV/ AIDS epidemic in New York State by the year 2020, we should be encouraging more individuals to consider PrEP, particularly transgender women and young men of color who have sex with men, as they are at high risk of contracting HIV. In New York State, although PrEP use among Medicaid recipients increased by 20p per-

cent, 82 percent of new PrEP users were male, and 37 percent were white. Stigmatizing and discriminating against PrEP users is ignorant and dangerous. We applaud Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal for introducing legislation that will help New Yorkers access essential HIV prevention tools. Doug Wirth New York City The author is the president and CEO of Amida Care, a nonprofit Medicaid Special Needs Health Plan in New York City.




n the first of several nationwide actions initiated by high school students to protest the lack of meaningful legislative action on gun control, young people nationwide walked out of their classrooms on March 14 —

some for 17 minutes to commemorate the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, exactly one month before and others for longer rallies. Several such rallies were held across New York City on Wednesday, including a gathering of several hundred in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park,

sponsored by Borough President Eric Adams, State Senator Jesse Hamilton, City Councilmember Brad Lander, Lay the Guns Down Foundation,, and Gays Against Guns, a group launched in the wake of the June 2016 massacre at the LGBTQ nightclub Pulse in Orlando. Lane Murdock, a 15-year-old sophomore at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut, who was the moving force behind the National School Walk Out.

Students from the Brownsville Collaborative Middle School.

City Councilmember Brad Lander with youth affiliated with the social services group CAMBA.


A sweatshirt explains the goals of the March 14 student walk out.

A sign detailing New York’s largest beneficiaries of NRA money.

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March 15 – 28, 2018 |

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MEDIA CIRCUS, from p.18

community that has horrified human rights activists. â&#x20AC;&#x153;A group of 12 women were taken into custody during raids on five beauty salons early Sunday morning, North Aceh Police Chief Ahmad Untung Surianata told [Indonesian news agency] Antara. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The police chief said his men had shaved the womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hair off and given them menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s clothes to wear, as part of their â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;coachingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; to â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;become men.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x153;â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;In addition, the officers also nurtured them by way of having them run for some time and telling them to chant loudly until their male voices came out,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Surianata said the operation had been part of a campaign to prevent LGBT people from â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;adversely affectingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Indonesiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s next generation. The women were taken to a police station for â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;further guidance,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Antara said. One can only imagine what kind of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;guidanceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; they were offered. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The police chief later told CNN that the operation began as a response to complaints that women in the salons had been offering free services at their salons to high school boys, as well as reports of drug use in the area. He denied that it was specifically an anti-LGBT operation.â&#x20AC;? Thanks to Media Circus reader and commentator JTT for pushing me to write about this issue.

It didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t take long. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Less than one day after his appointment was announced,â&#x20AC;? Cindy Watts and Dave Paulson write in the USA Today Network affiliate The Tennessean, â&#x20AC;&#x153;former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has resigned from the Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation board of directors, following criticism from multiple members of the country music industry. â&#x20AC;&#x153;â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The CMA Foundation has accepted former Gov. Mike Huckabeeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s resignation from its board of directors, effective immediately,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; said Amber Williams, CMA vice president of communications and talent relations. The announcement follows criticism from members of the country music | March 15 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 28, 2018

dustry, as well as country music fans. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Jason Owen, co-president of Monument Records and owner at Sandbox Entertainment, called the appointment a â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;grossly offensive decisionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; in an email to the associationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s CEO Sarah Trahern and CMA Foundation executive Tiffany Kerns. Owen wrote that due to Huckabeeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s election to the CMA Foundationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s board, neither his companies nor anyone they represent would continue to support the foundation. Owen and his husband Sam are fathers to a young son and are expecting twins. Owen said that Huckabeeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stance on the LGBTQ community â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;made it clear my family is not welcome in his America...â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sugarlandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Kristian Bush visited Dodson Elementary School in Hermitage last week with the CMA Foundation. His manager Whitney Pastorek, who is a CMA member, penned an email to CMA executives questioning how many children in the schoolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s diverse population Huckabee would choose to welcome. â&#x20AC;&#x153;â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;What a terrible disappointment to see [the CMA Foundationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s] mission clouded by the decision to align with someone who so frequently engages in the language of racism, sexism, and bigotry,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Pastorek wrote. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;While Gov. Huckabeeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tenure in Arkansas may have resulted in valuable education reform over a decade ago, I find his choice to spend the past 10 years profiting off messages of exclusion and hatred (not to mention the gun lobby) to be disqualifying.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? Huckabee â&#x20AC;&#x201D; or Hucksterbee, as I like to call him â&#x20AC;&#x201D; is the publicity hound who showed up in faux triumph at the farcical 2015 liberation of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to abide by the law and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a ludicrous spectacle set to the tune of Survivorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Eye of the Tigerâ&#x20AC;? (he was sued for using the song and settled by paying the songwriter $25,000). He is also currently one of the chief arguments against heterosexual procreation, having spawned the ever-constipatedlooking Rump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders.





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ST. PAT’S FOR ALL, from p.6

Actress Maeve Price read a passage from Dan Barry’s searing New York Times story “The Lost Children of Tuam,” about the tragic fate of children born to unwed mothers in Ireland’s past. Irish writer and actor Malachy McCourt ended the evening’s official doings with some dark humor aimed at the current president and a singalong of the traditional Irish song “Wild Mountain Thyme.” The merriment continued in the lobby as Fleming drummed on a bench, someone else played the spoons, and Irish dancer Niall O’Leary whirled around the room. Many people were not headed straight home. March 4 dawned clear and chilly, and the MTA was mostly running, good news for parade-goers who in past years persevered through blizzards, rain, and no service on the 7 train. Many Sunnysiders throw open their homes for pre-parade gatherings, where the musicians warm up, Irish coffee and little sausages are consumed, and people pre-

pare their St. Patrick’s ensembles. One house on Skillman Avenue live-streamed the students of the McManus School of Irish Dance playing instruments, singing, and dancing on the front lawn to the delight of passersby on the street and the Internet. Parade officials, honorees, politicians, and their staffs gathered in Claret restaurant to chat, network, and stay warm until it was time to head to the parade’s stepping-off point at 43rd Street & Skillman. “I couldn’t be more honored to be here,” said grand marshal Barry, who was born in Jackson Heights and whose work often features Irish and Irish-American stories. He then joked, “I think there must have been a clerical error or misunderstanding.” “New York City has the largest Irish diaspora in the country,” Sullivan said. “And the Irish are leaders in nuclear disarmament.” At the concert and the parade, Sullivan congratulated Ireland on 100 years of women’s suffrage — a centennial mark the US has not yet reached. The parade has always drawn elected officials, and this election

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year’s pack of pols was large, ranging from reps who have marched since the first year to newly elected officials who have been told St. Pat’s for All is the place to be in Sunnyside and Woodside on March’s first Sunday. Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stopped by to address the crowd during the pre-parade speeches and drew loud cheers and a few “Gillibrand in ‘20” shouts. Gillibrand praised Irish-Americans and Queens residents as “our leaders, our first responders, the people who answered the call on 9/11. You’ve raised your voices, spoken out when things are wrong, standing up for refugees and immigrants. And that’s the only way anything changes in Washington: when regular people stand up.” Crowley’s contingent was greeted with chants of “Crowley! Crowley!” and “Speaker of the House!” The powerful Democratic veteran is considered a contender for the role if his party wins back the House in November. “I think there’s been a lot of change over the years,” Crowley said. “And I think Queens, and this parade, has been in the forefront of fostering it in New York City and the whole country. It offers civil engagement in a civil way that’s won over many hearts and minds.” “This is an essential Queens parade,” said Democratic City Councilmember Costas Constantinides, who has journeyed from Astoria, the next neighborhood over, to march in the parade for more than 10 years. “It’s one of my favorites.” “I’m here because my grandmother is from County Sligo,” declared State Assemblymember Michael DenDekker, an East Elmhurst Democrat. What he’s seen in the years that he’s marched includes “more young people getting involved and active, with New York being such a melting pot, you look at this parade, and you see Irish, Italian, Colombian, gay, and straight. Everyone wants to be associated with it.” The parade goes by Jimmy Van Bramer’s house. The city councilmember is another longtime participant, and this year he marched with his mother and husband. “When it started, there was a lot of opposition,” he recalled. “It was a courageous act from a loving place. And over the years, the pa-

rade grew as times changed, and the world became a safer and more equal place for LGBTQ people. This community grew to love the parade in a profound way, and it’s been so exciting to see it grow.” City Public Advocate Letitia James, a perennial marcher, joked that on St. Patrick’s Day her last name is Jameson, which drew a knowing laugh from the crowd. Elected officials who were introduced or said a few words from the podium included a host of Democrats, including State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, City Comptroller Scott Stringer (who received some “Stringer for Mayor!” chants), and Queens State Senator Michael Gianaris, who said: “This is the parade that changed it all.” Also in attendance were out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, out gay State Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell and his colleagues Catherine Nolan, David Weprin, Brian Barnwell (as well as his announced challenger, out transgender activist Melissa Sklarz), and Jo Anne Simon, State Senator Toby Stavisky, and out gay Councilmember Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn and his colleagues Jumaane Williams, also of Brooklyn, and Karen Koslowitz, Rory Lancman, and Francisco Moya, all of Queens. “It’s a Queens tradition,” said Borough President Melinda Katz. “We lead the rest of the country with the outspokenness of this borough.” Keeping up the tradition of the Irish government recognizing and participating in the festivities, newly-appointed Consul General Ciarán Madden said he’d been told what fun the parade is and found “it’s a fantastic celebration of diversity.” As usual, the marching groups covered a vast and diverse range. Dr. Tom Moulton led things off with Gilbert Baker’s giant Rainbow Flag, followed by the FDNY’s Emerald Society Pipes & Drums band, along with a fire truck packed with excited kids and an ambulance. Local Daisy, Brownie, and Junior troops of Girl Scouts followed. The crowds were thick at the starting point, with people lining the streets, leaning from windows, and holding up their babies and

ST. PAT’S FOR ALL, continued on p.27

March 15 – 28, 2018 |


ST. PATâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S FOR ALL, from p.26

dogs. Nearly all of them â&#x20AC;&#x201D; babies and dogs â&#x20AC;&#x201D; were festooned with St. Patrickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Day paraphernalia. The big St. Patâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s For All banner was held up by a contingent including Fay and Walsh Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Arcy, the grand marshals, Consul General Madden, Democratic District Leader Deirdre Feerick, and other friends and supporters. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This crowd gets it,â&#x20AC;? said Councilmember Dromm, whose involvement with the parade dates to before it was started, when gays and lesbians demonstrated each year at the Manhattan St. Patrickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s march and were turned away and arrested. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This parade celebrates New York City, and all the people who have come here, from the Irish to everyone else.â&#x20AC;? Other groups, in rough order, included the Queens Center for Gay Seniors, the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, Queens County Young Democrats, the Stonewall Democrats, the New Visions Democratic Club, the Lesbian & Gay Democratic Club of Queens, and Malachy McCourt and his wife of 52 years in a horse-drawn carriage. And, as usual, there were protesters with homophobic signs, doubled in number from last year â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that is, four rather than two. One woman hid her face behind her sign when people tried to take her picture. The Shannon Gaels marched with a giant net, and their young athletes, in uniform, showed their mastery of hurling, bouncing the balls on the long wooden sticks. County Laois marchers gathered behind a huge banner, and the McManus School of Irish Dance showed their steps. Sunnyside Community Services had a group, as did Children in Crossfire, an international group that helps children in war-torn areas. The crowd favorite stiltwalkers drew applause, followed by the Fitzpatrick Academy of Irish Dance. From the mobile stage on a flatbed truck, Brian Fleming led the St. Patâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Allstars, a group of musicians including Paul Howells and Katelyn Richards in their first St. Patâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s For All Parade along with fellow musicians Alice Smyth (harp), Matthew Christian (fiddle), and Fleming (bodhran and cajon), | March 15 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 28, 2018

playing both traditional and pop tunes. They were followed by the Niall Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Leary School of Irish Dance and the Brehon Law Society. The Triangle Factory Coalition carried a large banner in memory of the victims of the 1911 Triangle Factory Shirtwaist fire. Then came the County Tyrone Society, followed by the Irish Arts Center, the SAOL Project, Conradh na Gaeilge (Cumann Chaitlin agus Thomais Ui Cheirigh) â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the Brooklyn Gaelic Speakers Society â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and Soirse Palestine. The Big Apple Marching Band, complete with flag corps, was of course on hand, in addition to Pride for Youth/ MPowerment from Long Island, the Irish Rep Theatre, the LGBTQ Catholic group Dignity, and the Lavender & Green Alliance, which will also be marching in the Fifth Avenue Parade on March 17. PFLAG also had a delegation, along with the New York Area Bisexual Network, the Metropolitan Community Church, the AIDS Center of Queens County/ Knockout HIV, OUT Rockaway, and the Pride Center of Staten Island, in Queens because it was not welcome in its home borough, which held its parade on Sunday, as well. Bringing up the paradeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rear were Transportation Alternatives, the Ethical Humanist Society of Queens, the Sunnyside/ Woodside Action Group, Women of Queens, the Sunnyside United Dog Society (another crowd favorite), and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, the rakish radical marching band and dance troupe that has become a fixture at St. Patâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s for All. Construction workers up on the elevated 7 tracks peered over the rails to check out the marching groups as they headed into the home stretch. At paradeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s end, groups gathered for pictures, hugs, the occasional musical jam, and then most headed to the many local pubs for post-parade refreshments. At least half a dozen restaurateurs along the Roosevelt and Skillman Avenue corridors offered traditional music sessions that kept the party going long after the barricades were removed and traffic began to flow again. As the afternoon deepened into twilight, people continued to celebrate, and a lone, kilted figure, carrying his pipes under his arm, went from one party to the next.

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The Man the Earth Fell For Hard Brooklyn Museum celebrates the art and many identities of David Bowie


David Bowie in 1966.


Bowie in a 1966 publicity photo for the Kon-rads.


Bowie in 1973.

DAVID BOWIE IS Brooklyn Museum 200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Ave. Near Grand Army Plaza Through Jul. 15 Wed., Fri.-Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thu., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. $16; $10 for students & seniors


Bowie with William Burroughs in 1974.

BY DAVID NOH somehow remember David Bowie’s 1979 appearance on “Saturday Night Live” as if it were yesterday, for it was a pretty defining moment in my life. I was getting ready to go out for my basic Saturday evening revels, which, back then, involved what to me now seems a bewildering and exhausting agenda of people and places, which might change superficially, depending on certain new places opening, as they seemed to do with spectacular regularity in those heady days, but always included three staples, in this order: Studio 54 first, for sheer glam and celeb spotting, the Mudd Club, for a New Wave punk respite from

I 28


Bowie photographed by Peter Gabrield in 1992.

all that glossy disco (and also for those inevitable hot nook sessions in the always teeming loo, where those straight boyz in skinny jeans and ties always seemed to escape from their

girlfriends), and, lastly, the Paradise Garage, for the deep, elemental funk — better than any high to be found in my admittedly full pockets — where they would have to sweep me out with the garbage noon Sunday. So, there I was, trying to put an outfit (and my party head) together, with the TV on, when I saw it. Or them, I should say: David Bowie, in a Thierry Mugler dress, singing “TVC 15,” backed by avant-garde downtown denizens Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi — also in drag — doing their then revolutionary semaphoric hand gestures. I frankly lost it, because you have to under-

BOWIE, continued on p.38

March 15 – 28, 2018 |


A Disturbing Bond Evan Rachel Wood is compelling and repellant in “Allure”


Julia Sarah Stone and Evan Rachel Wood in Carlos and Jason Sanchez’s “Allure.”

BY GARY M. KRAMER here is something fascinating about watching a character make a series of increasingly bad decisions on screen. On that score, Laura (out bisexual actress Evan Rachel Wood), the reckless lesbian protagonist of the discomfiting drama “Allure,” surely does not disappoint. Brothers Carlos and Jason Sanchez, who wrote and directed this intriguing film, may or may not reveal why Laura is so self-destructive, but viewers open to exploring her disturbing behavior will find this daring film compelling. Laura’s poor judgment is obvious from her first scene, which involves having rough sex with a blindfolded guy. When he goes soft during the act, she calls him a “faggot,” suggesting Laura equates sex with abuse. She works as a house cleaner for her father William’s (out gay actor Denis O’Hare) company. Mindful of his daughter’s problems, he tries to protect her — but she is her own worst enemy. And trouble comes easily. When Laura cleans Nancy’s (Maxim Roy) house, she becomes attracted to Eva (Julia Sarah Stone), Nancy’s 16-year-old daughter. What begins with innocent flirtation and a shared smoke in time leads to Laura inviting Eva to live with her after the teen fights with her mother. It’s creepy and predatory, but Laura seems blinded either by her attraction to Eva or the power she is able

T | March 15 – 28, 2018

ALLURE Directed by Carlos Sanchez and Jason Sanchez Samuel Goldwyn Films Opens Mar. 16 Cinema Village 22 E. 12th St.

to wield over her. “Allure” soon becomes more unsettling. The two drink, take drugs, share a bed, and kiss. Still, the inappropriate relationship demands understanding. Is Laura attracted to the young girl because she longs to recapture a lost youth or does she simply enjoy controlling her? Is Eva interested in Laura because she pays attention to her and provides a more interesting life than her uptight mother? Or is this her expression of teenage rebellion? The film provides a few clues to answering these questions. When a detective approaches Laura investigating Eva’s disappearance, she resorts to locking the teen in a room to prevent their living arrangement from being discovered. But she also tells Eva she is her soulmate and kisses her passionately. The vulnerable and pliable Eva seems to be in the thrall of some type of Stockholm Syndrome,

ALLURE, continued on p.30



Murder and Other Games Laurent Cantet revisits classroom drama in “The Workshop” THE WORKSHOP Directed by Laurent Cantet In French with English subtitles Strand Releasing Opening Mar. 23 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St.


Matthieu Lucci and Marina Foïs in Laurent Cantet’s “The Workshop.”

BY GARY M. KRAMER he French filmmaker Laurent Cantet, who won the Cannes Palme d’Or for his 2008 film “The Class” about a high school teacher and a multicultural classroom, returns to the teacher/ student dynamic with his latest drama, “The Workshop.” This engrossing new film is set in La Ciotat, a coastal town in southern France where novelist Olivia Déjazet (Marina Foïs) is leading a summer workshop for teens struggling in school. She is helping them build their communication abilities and their confidence. The group of seven students of varying ethnicities are writing a novel, set in their hometown, about a murder. Olivia’s background in writing thrillers will help guide their narrative and develop their writing skills. Cantet’s film is very talky as the characters discuss who should be murdered and how gory it should be, as well as the motive, the history behind the crime, and its discovery. When an Arab student, Ma-


ALLURE, from p.29

which may put off some viewers. For those who hang in without judgment, the tension ratchets up as Eva goes out in public where she could be discovered and when Laura’s disabled brother, Benjamin


lika (Warda Rammach), suggests the killing be a racist attack on a person of color, Antoine (Matthieu Lucci) suggests the reverse — that a white man should be slain by a black or Arab man. This is the first of his many provocations. Antoine is largely shunned by the other students for his attitudes, which suits him just fine. Olivia becomes fascinated by Antoine, whose right-wing leanings become more apparent over the course of the heated summer sessions. Antoine swims to keep fit, but it’s also a metaphor for him cooling off. Handsome and very body-conscious, he is considering joining the French Army. Olivia’s willingness to allow Antoine to speak his mind during the creative sessions leads to accusations she is defending him, but she does insist he leave the workshop after he goes too far at one point. When she visits Antoine at home that night to discuss his behavior, what is intended as a friendly exchange soon becomes much more intense. The push-pull between teacher and student becomes the

focus of the second half of “The Workshop” and makes this slowburn film crackle. Antoine is clearly interested in his teacher, filming her surreptitiously with his phone and reading one of her novels and then critiquing it in a way that upsets her. He is the perfect foil for a woman who believes she has the upper hand but may not be as savvy as she thinks. Olivia, in turn, looks Antoine up on social media, seeing videos of him with his friends involving a gun. She is intrigued by him and asks if she can interview him about his life for her work. Antoine reluctantly agrees. Is Olivia mining her student for material for her next bestseller? Is there a romantic attraction between the teacher and her student? Does Antoine have some ulterior motive regarding Olivia? “The Workshop” teases out these questions in the conversations between the two, in the process hitting salient points about both identity and identity politics. Cantet communicates the nature of the relationship visually

(Joe Cobden), comes over for an awkward birthday celebration. Why Eva doesn’t run for help at the first opportunity is not fully clear, nor is the question of whether William is aware of Laura’s dangerous behavior. What is evident is the length to which Laura will go in crafting lies

to hide her secret. Her rashness is precisely what makes this curious film so absorbing. As Laura walks the tightrope of presenting a public identity while hiding a private one, “Allure” invites viewers to puzzle out what motivates her. Is there sexual abuse in her

in shots such as one of Olivia writing in her home at night while Antoine, in her yard, is seen reflected in the window. As the film builds its suspense ambiguously, viewers will be absorbed filling in the blanks as Olivia and Antoine slowly reveal more of themselves to each other. When Antoine tries to get Olivia’s goat by saying something incendiary, she responds coolly by just blinking and looking at him with incredulity. The teacher for the most part remains remarkably composed and unflappable in the face of provocation. The performances by Foïs and Lucci are pitch-perfect. Olivia may be seen as haughty by her students, who mock her Parisian accent, but she has a genuine interest in helping them, including Antoine. Foïs’ achievement is subtle, as she projects intelligence and curiosity, but also a hint of fear and uncertainty as the game of one-upmanship with Antoine becomes more heightened. Making his film debut, Lucci is magnetic portraying a teenager whose cockiness and confidence belie what is really going on inside his head. He creates an enigmatic character who continuously surprises viewers with his outbursts and actions. He is absolutely riveting to watch. So too is “The Workshop.”

past as is suggested? Is she mentally unstable? When is Laura truly being herself? Watching Laura reinvent herself from situation to situation can be exhausting — especially when she takes her anger out on Eva

ALLURE, continued on p.31

March 15 – 28, 2018 |


A Heroine Too Too “A Wrinkle in Time” opts for an icon rather than a relatable character BY STEVE ERICKSON oments in Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” adapted from Madeleine L’Engle’s classic 1962 children’s novel, are stunning, especially in their use of color. Yet in the end, this is the kind of film that feels the need to have a soundtrack featuring Sade literally serenading its heroine telling her she’s “the flower of the universe.” She can’t be just any other girl, even one who accomplishes amazing feats. She has to be a perfect role model for all the girls in the audience, especially young African Americans who don’t have a lot of friends and get called geeks. When Meg (Storm Reid) reels off a list of her flaws, the disparity between how she views her life and how “A Wrinkle in Time” perceives her become glaring. It’s undoubtedly true that everyone sees themselves differently than others do and that being an African-American girl makes one’s struggle for self-esteem harder. But “A Wrinkle in Time”’s answer to these problems isn’t a more mature and positive assessment of Meg’s personality; it’s adding her to a list of the 20th century’s greatest heroes. DuVernay values Meg as an icon more than a character. But characters make better subjects for fiction. As “A Wrinkle in Time” begins, Meg’s astrophysicist father (Chris Pine) has mysteriously disappeared. She is teased at school and does not fit in. Her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is heartbroken by her husband’s vanishing. Her younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) takes Meg and her classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) to meet three eccentrically dressed and made-



ALLURE, from p.30

one minute and then coddles her the next. One of the most disquieting moments has both women shirtless and hugging, with Eva’s expression | March 15 – 28, 2018

Directed by Ava DuVernay Disney In wide release

up angelic guides — Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) — who traveled down to Earth to help find her dad. Using a magical practice called “tessering” (whose effects gives the book and film their name), they travel to various worlds and learn about the vast degree of evil that’s captured Meg’s father, which she needs to combat. The film’s visual style is its strongest asset. DuVernay and cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler’s sensibility is surprisingly hip and psychedelic. (A character quotes two lines from Outkast’s “Git Up, Git Out,” although the script then needs to inform the audience that they’re taken from that song.) I suspect DuVernay read Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin as well as L’Engle and watched Gaspar Noé’s “Enter the Void,” avant-garde director Jordan Belson’s shorts, and the outer reaches of anime. On the most superficial level of eye candy, “A Wrinkle in Time” has a great deal

going for it. The color range of Schliessler’s cinematography is astonishing. Even the scenes where Meg and her brother are standing around in nature have clearly been digitally altered, but rather than looking like a video game backdrop, they’re seductive. “A Wrinkle in Time” says goodbye to naturalism almost as soon as it begins, and DuVernay proves more than up to the challenges that come with such extensive use of special effects. Many people have celebrated the fact that she’s the first female African-American director to get a budget as large as $103 million. All that money was put on the screen imaginatively, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of contemporary Hollywood genre films. Perhaps it’s in the nature of fairy tales to be simplistic, but most of the last half of “A Wrinkle in Time” consists of Meg demonstrating, over and over, her superiority to the people around her. Placed in a landscape of phony façade houses, she recognizes its unreality. Ditto

for “sandwiches” that resemble real food; her brother discovers they’re made of sand by biting into one. When offered the possibility of becoming a corrupt doppelgänger of herself, which is an “improvement” by white beauty standards, she refuses, while her brother gets temporarily possessed by an evil spirit. L’Engle was a Christian who thought of her books as religious allegories in the spirit of C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia” series, also science fiction/ fantasy aimed at children. DuVernay’s film takes its spiritual overtones in a more general direction; as you can tell from the reference points I cited above, it seems to have roots in the late ‘60s/ early ‘70s counterculture, pushed toward Afro-futurism at best and the New Age at worst. The political text of DuVernay’s past two excellent films, “Selma” and the anti-prison racism documentary “13th,” is forced to become subtext here. When she centered a film around Martin Luther King, DuVernay acknowledged that he cheated on his wife. Making a film in which a 12-year-old black girl saves the world is a large statement. But the plot is simplistic in the worst way I feared when I learned DuVernay was making a children’s film. “A Wrinkle in Time” would be much stronger if it recognized that a girl’s actions don’t need to be up there with Gandhi , Mandela, and Einstein to tame her demons and give her self-respect.

clearly signaling distress. Wood delivers a haunting, nervy performance. It is hard to look away from Laura, even when she is at her worst. Her fights with Eva and William are disturbing in part be-

cause viewers understand what each character is thinking. While it is not easy to like Laura, it is also difficult to watch her hurt the ones she loves and who love her. As Eva, Stone makes her character’s trans-

formation impressively credible, while O’Hare provides fine support as Laura’s concerned father. “Allure” is no easy film. Like its troubled protagonist, it is both captivating and distressing.


Levi Miller and Storm Reid in Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”



Legacy of the Unspeakable Alan Hollinghurst’s latest novel explores echoes and variations across the generations BY GARY M. KRAMER ut gay novelist Alan Hollinghurst, who won the 2004 Man Booker Prize for “The Line of Beauty,” will appear at the 92nd Street Y on March 29 at 8 p.m. in support of his new novel, “The Sparsholt Affair.” The book opens in the 1940s at Oxford, where three male students each become enamored with the handsome “new man,” freshman David Sparsholt. As the novel progresses, it jumps through the decades, mostly following David’s gay son, Johnny, who is seen first as an adolescent, then as a young man in 1970s London, and later as a 60-yearold. The novel’s title, which refers to a scandal that unfolds almost entirely off-page, has ramifications for both the decriminalization of homosexuality and Johnny’s place in the world. The author chatted recently via Skype about his new book, his penchant for depicting intergenerational romance, and affairs that he has had.



GARY M. KRAMER: The first part of the book has Freddie, an Oxford student recounting the experiences he observed or heard of regarding David Sparsholt. The rest of the book takes readers in a different direction with Sparsholt’s son, Johnny. Can you talk about why you took this approach to the novel? ALAN HOLLINGHURST: Freddie is an ambiguous character. We only know him from his own account, written 30 years ago. He is creating — as people do when they write memoirs — a fictionalized version of himself. It’s unclear what he feels — chasing after Jill, this unavailable woman—and the goings-on of his queer friends and his intense interest in them. The first part of the book has clear parallels with a shift in the background with what can be said and accepted. Big historical


By Alan Hollinghurst Knopf $28.95; 417 pages



Man Booker Prize-winning author Alan Hollinghurst appears at the 92nd Street Y on March 29.

Alan Hollinghurst’s new novel is “The Sparsholt Affair.”

things are not directly mentioned; the slow social changes brought about by the 1967 decriminalization of homosexuality and the new world of openness of going to gay bars and clubs that were more clandestine and illegal. There is slow emergence into a new life, not a dramatic change. That produces echoes, repetitions, advances, and variations.

themes of aging and intergenerational relationships in your work, going back to your first novel, “The Swimming-Pool Library.” Are you considering your own mortality? AH: No. I’ve written about intergenerational friendships, and I think there are references in that — where gay people in the past have a mentor or someone who inducts them into a world of what in those days was secret behavior. In my earlier novel, “The Spell,” there’s the shy middle-aged man, brought out by a younger man on the scene. The idea that you can learn things from another generation has always interested me. The cross-generation affairs in this book take that further. It’s not something I feel I’ve seen written about. The amorous, erotic feelings of Ivan [in “Sparsholt”] and his fascination with Johnny’s father, who is notorious and famously handsome.

GMK: I like how your characters say one thing when they really want or mean the opposite. It’s very much about the manners and mores of the times they live in over the decades. AH: We are a famously hypocritical and repressed race. I have a large interest in behavior. I reveal, like Henry James, hinting and speculating what lies behind commonplace things people are saying and being constrained by social forms. A lot of this book is about things that are unspeakable, which is why the sexual event that happens in the fi rst part is not spoken of. I felt I’d treat the scandal in the book in the same way. GMK: There is much talk about aging and talk about gerontophilia in the book. You often depict

GMK: Family is also a key theme in “The Sparsholt Affair,” with David and Johnny both reinventing their families. Can you explain the father/ son dynamic? AH: I’ve perhaps not written directly about father/ son relationships before. I’ve done the generational thing of the gay father

92nd Street Y 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St. Mar. 29 at 8 p.m. $22-$28;

figure before. It has something to do with growing up a sensitive, passive, observant person, with an insensitive father. There are conflicts with their temperaments, but they are linked by sexuality. The younger generation seized a freedom the older one failed to do. Johnny’s coming out in 1974 London is more difficult because of the stain of the family name. He can’t get away from it. It complicates his own coming out and adds to his self-consciousness. GMK: There are several affairs in the book: from a seduction and a scandal to a celebratory event and a business transaction. What can you say about an affair you had? AH: [Laughs]. It wasn’t like any of those. I’ve tended to have affairs with people younger than myself. I didn’t have affairs when I was Johnny’s age. I think that the interest and tensions of crossgenerational affairs are deep in me the way the older person is a teacher-enabler to younger one, and the younger one is rejuvenated. That’s something I’ve learned from affairs I’ve had. That and the inevitable tensions when the older man is more settled and the younger is changing and restless. March 15 – 28, 2018 |


Shared Histories Unlikely voice in inspiring musical about Harvey Milk but he also shares a dark



Adam Heller, Michael-Bartoli, Julia Knitel, and Cheryl-Stern in “A Letter To Harvey Milk,” at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row through May 13.

BY DAVID KENNERLEY L e t ter to Harv e y Milk” is one of those rare musicals that dares to confront both LGBTQ history and Jewish history. And it does so with visceral wit, grace, and a full heart. With an imaginative if unfocused book by Ellen M. Schwartz (who also wrote the lyrics), Cheryl Stern, Laura I. Kramer (who also composed the music), and Jerry James, this plucky chamber musical recalls the fateful day in 1978 when Harvey Milk, the first out gay elected official in California, was savagely shot dead along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. Yet the tale, set in the City by the Bay eight years after the murders, is conveyed by an unexpected source — Harry Weinberg, an elderly, widowed Jewish butcher originally from Long


Island. Even more surprising is that it’s told via a fantasy letter he writes to Milk for an intro writing class at the local senior center. Harry’s teacher, a mousy young lesbian woman named Barbara, becomes his champion and confidante. She wears a gold Star of David necklace that helps seal their bond. The piece heralds Milk as a martyr who radically changed the lives of the LGBTQ community. “Harvey Milk died for me,” Barbara proclaims. The fearless activist, who was also Jewish, gave her and countless others the courage to burst out of the closet and be counted. Milk’s example was a wake-up call, finally breaking the silence. For Barbara in the mid-1980s this was no small achievement, since this was during the peak of the AIDS crisis, when silence equaled death. For his part, Harry not only knew Milk and may have witnessed the shooting, | March 15 – 28, 2018

Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row 410 W. 42nd St. Through May 13 Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed & Sat. at 2 p.m. Sun. at 3 p.m. $79-$99 Or 212-239-6200 Ninety mins., no intermission

secret involving pink triangles that is as harrowing as it is moving. All this plays out under the watchful gaze of Frannie, Harry’s doting wife, who is deceased yet still very much with him. And because Frannie is a noodge, she does more than just watch. The buttinski steals the show with her running commentary on the proceedings, lobbing good-natured brickbats of disapproval, often in song. “A Letter To Harvey Milk” embraces the power of storytelling, which reveals not only where we came from but where we’re headed. It also explores the complex bonds of friendship and the dangers of getting too close. Under the direction of Evan Pappas, the ensemble is spot-on, adding complex lay-

MILK, continued on p.43



Losing Our Minds Four shows where reality — and sanity — are in question EDWARD ALBEE’S AT HOME AT THE ZOO



Jill Paice and the cast of Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee’s “Jerry Springer — The Opera,” at the Pershing Square Signature Center through April 1.

Paul Sparks and Robert Sean Leonard in Lila Neugebauer’s staging of “Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo: Homelife & The Zoo Story,” at the Pershing Square Signature Center through March 25.

Pershing Square Signature Center 480 West 42nd Street Through Mar. 25 Tue.-Fri. at 7:30 p.m.; Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $50-$85; Or 212-244-7529 Two hrs., with intermission

BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE erry Springer — The Opera” is a joyfully explosive satire of culture both high and low. With music and lyrics by Richard Thomas and the book and additional lyrics by Thomas and Stewart Lee, like the TV show that inspired it, “Springer” is completely over the top. Thomas and Stewart quite literally recreate “The Jerry Springer Show” in the first act — the wonderful set is by no less than Derek McLane — and then the plot goes gleefully off the rails as Jerry is shot and goes to Hell. The juxtaposition of train wreck TV and Wagnerian myth mines the ridiculousness of both forms and yet does it with such good humor and affection that it’s impossible not to be enchanted. You will marvel at the marriage of outrageous vulgarity and often gorgeous music — and how well it works theatrically. Director John Rando pulls out all the stops and the company revels in the mayhem he’s unleashed. The performers are simply exquisite, all with extraordinary voices and credits in some very serious music. Here, though, they let it all go, with fantastic performances by Luke Grooms as God, Sean Patrick Doyle as the transsexual prostitute love interest who doubles as the Angel Gabriel, Jill Paice as a girl who wants to stay a baby, and Tiffany Mann as Shawntel, the wife who secretly longs to be a pole dancer. As Jerry Springer, Terrence Mann





Pershing Square Signature Center 480 W. 42nd St. Through Apr. 1 Tue.-Fri. at 7:30 p.m.; Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $95-$135; Or 212-279-4200 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

New York Theatre Workshop 79 E. Fourth St., btwn. Bowery & Second Ave. Through Mar. 25 Tue.-Wed., Sun at 7 p.m. Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $25-$69; o Or 212-460-5475 Two hrs., 40 mins., with intermission

(since replaced through the end of the run by Matt McGrath) doesn’t do much singing, but he does a great impression and holds the center of the piece with style and understated comedy — the only thing understated in this whole undertaking. As the Warm-Up Man and Satan, Will Swenson combines his extraordinary bass baritone voice with his unique comic gifts to deliver one of the most memorable performances of the season. The show works because it takes the silliness seriously. As satires go, it’s sophisticated, excellently crafted, and my own personal new guilty pleasure. One of the first things you’ll notice — and quickly come to feel — is the visceral effects of space in Lila Neugebauer’s thrilling staging of “Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo: Homelife & The Zoo Story.” Performed in a wide white box covered with seemingly random scribbles, designed by Andrew Lieberman, the first play, “Homelife,” adds only an armchair and a floor lamp, and the

second, “The Zoo Story,” has an arc of park benches. The brilliant and economic theatricality comes not just from how these elements divide the space as art but also from the palpable tension among the characters as evidenced by how they move in relation to one another. “Homelife” is a relatively new play written as a prequel to “The Zoo Story” from 1959. In “Homelife,” Ann and Peter question their life and relationship — whether their cozy domesticity has killed their passion, leaving them with two daughters, two cats, and two parakeets. From the haunting first line, “We should talk,” Ann coaxes Peter into a flirtation about a life with more danger, more madness. The tragedy is that, while extreme ideas are tossed about, there is a strong sense that neither Peter nor Ann will act on them, their fully checked ids suppressed in their apartment on East 74th Street. For a brief moment the yawning space between them closes, only to open up again as Peter heads out to Central Park

GOOD FOR OTTO Pershing Square Signature Center 480 W. 42nd St. Through Apr. 8 Tue.-Fri. at 7:30 p.m.; Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $85-$125; Or 212-279-4200 Three hrs., with intermission

to read. In the park, Peter’s quiet reading is disturbed by Jerry who arrives from behind, saying, “I’ve been to the zoo.” From there, he basically traps Peter into listening to his stories, and Peter’s nature prohibits him from leaving or even fighting back. Jerry is animalistic, the antithesis of Peter, and their verbal battles and ultimately a battle over a particular bench unleashes the more elemental parts of Peter he has suppressed. In a final quiet moment, we see on Peter’s face how his world has been shattered. The actors are simply wonderful in the piece. Katie Finneran plays Ann with fierce comedy and sharp focus a loving wife who yearns for more. Paul Sparks is exciting, dangerous, and sad as the uncontrolled Jerry. Robert Sean Leonard gives a marvelously understated performance as Peter. The first play provides more context for Peter, which adds depth to Leonard’s portrayal. As Albee writes in a production note, he always felt the part was un-

LOSING OUR MINDS, continued on p.35

March 15 – 28, 2018 |


Into the Light “Black Light” at Joe’s Pub is a magical musical experience BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE ith a combination of New Age ideas, Southern Gothic storytelling, and supernova star power, Jomama Jones is blazing through Joe’s Pub with a new show, “Black Light.” Jones is the female alter ego of playwright and musician Daniel Alexander Jones, and the sensitive show weaves together a variety of stories and 12 exquisite songs from Jomama’s life. The wide-ranging topics include her frenemy in high school, a fascination with science, and memories of her Aunt Cleotha who guarded the house at night from the porch so Jomama and the rest of the family could sleep. Particularly moving are Jomama’s tales of her summers in the South in the middle of the last century and her youthful impressions of a distant and hard Cleotha. Her aunt had seen murderous racial violence firsthand, and she finally tells the young Jomama the reason she keeps watch is because “they are always out there.” It’s a chilling, transformative moment for the character. Jomama deftly balances the darkness with more lighthearted stories and a joy in life that is infectious and endearing. The recurring theme of the piece is the need for each of us to be a witness in our lives, which Jomama defines not as a passive act but as an engaged presence in the world and its events — in all shades of light and dark. As the story evolves, it comes as no surprise that




derwritten. Leonard conveys how Peter’s structured life keeps danger — and passion — at a careful distance. And when that space is violated literally and metaphorically, the challenge is insurmountable. Of course, this is the brilliance of Albee’s work — it’s the little things that do us in. These plays have seldom been done as well. “An Ordinary Muslim” is an ambitious, provocative, and painfully beautiful new play from first-time playwright Hammaad Chaudry. The play, which recently had its premiere at New York Theatre Workshop, tells the tale of a family from Pakistan living in London and caught between the desire to assimilate into British life and their need to maintain a connection to their cultural traditions. It is a poignant look at the way a | March 15 – 28, 2018


Joe’s Pub Inside the Public Theater 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Through Mar. 25 Wed.-Sun. at 7 p.m. $45, plus food & drink minimum Or 212-967-7555 Ninety mins., no intermission

Daniel Alexander Jones as Jomama Jones, at Joe’s Pub through March 27.

the two totems bequeathed to Jomama from Cleotha are a flashlight (what she tellingly calls “an electric torch”) and a shotgun. Jomama’s stories are characterized by lyrical prose and evocative images. She draws us in with language and imagery and their clarity and passion touch the heart. What the black light reveals is magical. And then there are the songs. There are 12 in all, in somewhat varying styles ranging from rock and funk to homages to Prince, one of Jomama’s inspirations that becomes the crux of one of the show’s more hilarious passages. Jones as Jomama is a sensational performer with a stunning voice and range and the ability to imbue each song with just the right feeling. Her backup performers — Trevor Bachman

eration of immigrants neither fully Pakistani nor British struggles to find an identity. Though the play is set in 2011, it resonates even more strongly today against the backdrop of fascistic extremism, bigotry, and racism both in Europe and the US. How does a self-described “brown man” find his way in a white culture? Why does his wife seeking solace in her faith have to choose between business success and wearing the hijab? Chaudry’s characters are not purely sympathetic; he deserves a lot of credit for creating messy, confused, egotistical, and selfishly believable human beings rather than polemical pawns. Their struggles carry accumulated weight precisely because they feel so real. We don’t necessarily like these people, but we do feel for them, and that’s what gives this play its dramatic impact. Under the sensitive direction of Jo Bonney, the cast includes Purva

and Vuyo Sotashe — are spectacular singers and great foils for Jomama as she disappears and reappears in a series of five glittering outfits. The exceptional four-person band — including Josh Quat on guitar, Sean Dixon on drums, Tariq AlSabir on piano, and Michelle Marie Osbourne on bass — are fully integrated into the proceedings. While Jomama is definitely the star, the planets in her orbit are stellar as well. As Cleotha explains, “You look into the dark, all manner of things will be revealed.” In “Black Light” what is revealed is life in all its hues, the grim and the glorious. In the end, we come back to the question that opens the show, “What if I told you it was going to be all right?” Jomama gives us hope that that even in these turbulent and harrowing times that might, in fact, be truth.

Bedi as Saima and Sanjit De Silva as Akeem in excellent performances as the young couple most caught in the cultural conflict. Rita Wolf is dynamic as Malika, Akeem’s mother, morally absolute in her convictions of how things should be, even in the face of a changed world. Andrew Hovelson is remarkable as David, Akeem’s work colleague who tries to help but is ultimately alienated by Akeem’s crises. These characters inhabit a world in chaos, one that Akeem must escape to achieve any kind of integration or peace. Chaudry provides no clue if he will. Rather, he sends the audience into the night disquieted and thinking. David Rabe’s new play “Good for Otto” opens with a speech that mirrors the Stage Manager’s opening monologue in “Our Town.” Dr. Michaels, one of the psychiatrists at an under-funded New England fa-

cility, introduces us to his world in a burst of poesy that we never hear again in the long three hours that follow. As in “Our Town,” we see a collection of characters in a community, but what’s missing from Rabe’s play is an emotional connection with the audience that Wilder achieves in dramatizing both humanity’s quotidian moments and the complex significance of a strawberry phosphate in a life that goes by too quickly. The world of Rabe’s play is populated not by Wilder’s good people of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, but by the mentally ill in Harrington, Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, the program notes that the play was inspired by a book called “Undoing Depression.” It’s a series of strung-together vignettes about individual patients. Their stories can be affecting but

LOSING OUR MINDS, continued on p.36



Pushing Glam, Bowie, Gaga in a Dystopian Direction Felix and the Future combines pop mood, dark messages BY STEVE ERICKSON he out gay one-man band Felix and the Future has been recording for seven years now, but “Holy Hands, Vol. Two” is his debut album. It’s a direct followup to last year’s “Holy Hands, Vol. 1” EP and includes the previously released single “A Good Son.” Felix and the Future has also, in the past, released the singles “Drive” and “Family Tree.” Image is a huge part of his act, and he considers his videos as important as his music. “Holy Hands, Vol. Two” is an ambitious statement: a dystopian sci-fi concept album, with song titles like “Intergalactic Banshee,” “MoonMan,” and “A Voice From the Future.” The inspiration of early ’70s David Bowie, particularly his albums “Ziggy Stardust” and “Diamond Dogs,” hangs over it, but so does Lady Gaga and Klaus Nomi. Felix has covered Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love,” and his song “Karen” quotes a line from “Ice Cream Castles,” by Prince protégés The Time. The album opens and closes with “Karen,” describing an ambivalent attraction to a woman who embodies power. As Felix sings about Karen, she could represent the pull of substance abuse, a dangerous lover, or malign political forces. He relates, “With friends like you, I’d rather be six feet deep.” Still, he can’t pull himself away from her, and he offers to let her ride his coattails. The song has a tinge of misogyny and slut-shaming, as it attacks Karen for showing her breasts and tells her she doesn’t need to spread her legs. But in the end, “Karen” relates a complex and mutually destructive relationship, whose full nastiness is belied by the tune’s catchiness. The video for “Karen,” co-directed by Felix and Michael Saint-Onge (who also shot it), exorcises a lot of the demons of Felix’s repressive Mexican-American Catholic upbringing. Filmed in a church, it depicts Felix as a cleric, a chorus of muscular men, and a deliberately grotesque drag queen in a garish blonde wig embodying Karen as she swills wine and crawls on the floor. Felix does not exactly look like a garden-variety priest: his hair is initially dyed an odd shade of gray, his face covered with glitter, and he goes through



only because it’s difficult to watch people suffering. Rabe provides no deeper insights into the characters, so the evening is for the most part a


FELIX AND THE FUTURE “Holy Hands, Vol. Two” Self-released


“Holy Hands, Vol. Two” is Felix and the Future’s debut album.

several changes of hair color, makeup, and costume. The fact that some extras are wearing partial blackface has caused some controversy; Felix has justified it by pointing to the futuristic conceit of the song and video and, essentially, saying “Karen” doesn’t take place on a world with America’s racist history. This seems like a cop-out: it would be more meaningful to consciously play with dodgy imagery in an attempt to comment on it. Felix has a level of ambition that wants to rival Lady Gaga’s bizarre image-mad videos on a DIY budget. “Holy Hands, Vol. Two” relies entirely on electronics. “Karen” sets the stage for an album where Felix backs himself using fake strings, more obvious synthesized sounds, and a drum machine. The album draws on dance music genres like techno, but it also has a classic pop sensibility: Felix and the Future comes close to ‘80s groups like Soft Cell and the early music of the Eurythmics and Depeche Mode. “Intergalactic Banshee” is the album’s most experimental song, accompanying Felix’s voice with very sparing keyboards that get drowned out by his steadily building operatic swoon. The lyrics are full of references to false prophets in a sexed-up cyberpunk dystopia navigated by Felix. On “Candy Road,” Felix says he feels like “space trash on my knees/ wanting and waiting for things to pass.”

series of therapy sessions, lugubrious rendered. Having set all these stories in motion, Rabe spends the last half hour tying up the ends in a mechanical and forced way. Director Scott Elliott has assem-

In a press statement, he said, “Each character and song brings him [the album’s fictional protagonist] further into deep space… Felix is so enthralled by how beautiful they are he doesn’t realize how far into space he has gone.” The music sounds fairly upbeat, even anthemic, enough to be at home in a dance club. This project’s grimness isn’t fully apparent unless one listens to the words. Felix’s voice is likely to be a deal-breaker for some listeners. It comes from a musical theater tradition rather than a rock vocal one. When Felix and the Future began in 2011, he tended to strain for notes he wasn’t yet capable of hitting. Since his earliest singles, he’s become a technically more accomplished singer, but his voice still constantly aims to reach the limits of its abilities. Flirting with androgyny the way Felix does is out of fashion in most of the gay male community; he has zero interest in proudly proclaiming that he deserves equal rights because he’s normal and boring. Popular out gay singers like Troye Sivan and Sam Smith don’t wear makeup and dye their hair outrageous colors in their videos. Instead, Felix and the Future’s image and video connect with the drag scene and ‘70s glam rock. An occasional unsteadiness to his music and, more often, his vocals testify to the fact that he’s doing it all on his own. On the other hand, this sometimes leads to a raw quality that intriguingly contradicts the earworm-ready melodies. But closing “Holy Hands, Vol. Two” with a shorter “radio edit” of “Karen” may be overly ambitious right now. Felix and the Future’s “Karen” video is at

bled a stellar cast that includes Ed Harris as Dr. Michaels as well as F. Murray Abraham, Kate Buddeke, Laura Esterman, Mark Linn-Baker, Amy Madigan, Kenny Mellman, and Rhea Perlman. Each gets a star mo-

ment or two, but not much more. In the end, we leave not moved by the simple wonders of our world but grateful that we’re not more neurotic than we are. And that’s no way to spend an evening. March 15 – 28, 2018 |

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Atlanta | Boston | Chicago | Dallas/ Ft Worth | Detroit | Los Angeles | Miami/ Ft Lauderdale | New York | Orlando/Tampa Bay | Philadelphia | San Francisco | Washington DC | March 15 – 28, 2018


BOWIE from p.28

stand, this was a time when music and pop entertainment were as strictly segregated, culturally, as those clubs I mentioned. Sure, Joey, as we all knew, had a day job selling fluorescent merch at trend-central Fiorucci on East 59th Street, but he, like Nomi, was strictly downtown, freaky and decidedly not mainstream, so to see the two of them on “Saturday Night Life” felt like both a severe transgression as well as some kind of glorious recognition (and validation) of, well, us, and all kinds of gay stuff that would wait decades before even being considered fit for public consumption or discussion. And Bowie, of course, was responsible for this startling subversiveness, having plucked these queer as-yet-unknown novas from relative obscurity and thrown them in the face of an America he no doubt felt should have been more than ready already for them. He then followed this number up, later in the program, with what became my instant anthem, “Boys Keep Swinging,” with those joyous lyrics, “When you’re a boy you can wear a uniform, when you’re a boy other boys check you out…” Those words had the effect of making me — and an entire gay generation — feel mighty real, and damn sexy, ready to go out and triumph. Which I did that night — in a party sense — while hearing it played at various venues, all evening long. This special performance is featured in fabulously infinitesimal detail in the display cases at “David Bowie is,” a truly blockbuster celebration of all things Bowie, which just opened at the Brooklyn Museum. With this ceaselessly creative artist, God was surely in the details and, for everything, from a one-off TV appearance like this to concerts that filled the world’s largest arenas, Bowie exerted an intensely hands-on, rewardingly fecund control. The exhibit, which originated at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, charts Bowie’s career from his teenage years, growing up rockin’ and rebellious in England, to the final two decades of his life spent, like his friend and countryman John Lennon, in New York City. As with Lennon, too, Bowie was not a fan of Los Angeles, although he



Bowie in 1976.

The original photography for the “Earthling” album cover, 1997, in which Bowie wore a tattered Union Jack frock designed by Alexander McQueen.

A 1972 quilted two-piece suit designed by Freddie Burretti for Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” tour.

recorded his seminal “Station to Station” album there, while under the influence of a cocaine habit he described as “astronomic.” It was there that I had my one real personal encounter with him, while working at Brentano’s bookstore in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, having temporarily dropped out of college. I was working the front register when I looked up and saw him in full Ziggy Stardust mode, pale as a sheet, with bright orange hair and bizarre-making contact lenses in his eyes. And, yes, he was as high as a kite. Bowie’s estate opened its vast archive for this show, and we can only thank God that the man was a true hoarder. Something like 400 objects here include costumes of all his myriad personas, from Ziggy to the Thin White Duke, New Wave rocker to disco king, with especially memorable collaborations with Kansai Yamamoto and Alexander McQueen, who made that masterpiece of a tattered Union Jack frock coat Bowie sported with such aplomb. You will see original lyric sheets, album art, full music videos (including that “Saturday Night Live” appearance), photographs galore from his music and stage appearances (an intriguing-looking production of Brecht’s “Baal,” as well as his celebrated “Elephant Man” on Broadway), clips and memorabilia from his movies, including Nicholas Roeg’s haunting “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” That film was the inspiration for his final major artistic effort, the stage production of “Lazarus,” one

of the finest achievements of his career, built around a compendium of his songs, which had all the eeriness of the Roeg movie, but also morphed into a moving celebration of the happiness he found in New York, with his new family, second wife Iman, the supermodel, and their daughter. Iman, statuesque and agelessly gorgeous, was actually at the performance I attended at New York Theatre Workshop, but even more arresting was a certain feeling that permeated the entire theater during the performance. I experienced it not only as a visceral reaction to the music and ingeniously dramatic staging by Ivo van Hove, but in a deeply emotional sense, as well. Michael C. Hall’s brilliant performance echoed Bowie’s original dramatic template while also summoning up oceans of existential foreboding and fatalism that felt like a punch in the chest. I found myself tearing up a lot at odd moments, and not long after that, Bowie died of the liver cancer about which he had kept quiet, and it was almost as if his very spirit, leaving this earth he had so enriched and — in his way — changed, had permeated this space with a particularly heavy and sorrowful leavetaking. I have never experienced anything like this in the theater nor do I expect I ever will again. Walking through the Brooklyn Museum show, something else struck me, and indeed, it should anyone else with any kind of consciousness, and that was how gay it is. There is all that androgynous

drag, including more than a few dresses, as well as ladies’ accessories, early film footage of him in extreme maquillage, having his nails painted with glitter as clueless English schoolgirls went apeshit over him, and all kinds of homoeroticism in his many quite accomplished drawings on display. Hell, there was even a fullscale oil portrait he did during a period in which he used painting as therapy to recover from drugs, the subject being Yukio Mishima. Also quite telling, amusing, and prescient was a cartoon depicting him in his youthful, androgynous heyday, torn between using a male or female loo, presaging the queer identity wars going on right now. Happily, this show does not minimize or camouflage this actually quite benign sexual elephant in the room, even including his 1972 quote to journalist Michael Watts, “I’m gay, and always have been, even when I was David Jones,” his birth name. He later retracted this in 1983, a far more conservative time than the 1970s, in which closet doors were slamming shut again due to AIDS, and Elton John and Calvin Klein were getting married. He called the 1972 statement “the biggest mistake I ever made” in Rolling Stone magazine. In the big picture, it’s really a relatively small matter when one considers the generations of gay and otherwise-identified “different” kids who found both inspiration and support in his work, possessing, as it does, a truly inspiriting, universal appeal.



March 15 – 28, 2018 |


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- | March 15 – 28, 2018

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

Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

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

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

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


Power Dyke Joe Carstairs Alive! Phoebe Legere takes on Marlene Dietrich’s butchest lover SPEED QUEEN Written & peformed by Phoebe Legere Dixon Place 161 Chrystie St., btwn. Rivington & Delancey Sts. Mar. 15-17, 23-24 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $19 at $22 at the door; $15 for students, seniors


Phoebe Legere as Joe Carstairs with Lord Tod Wadley, the doll Carstairs’ lover Ruth Baldwin gave her.

BY DAVID NOH he first I ever heard of Joe Carstairs (1900-93) was in Charles Higham’s 1977 biography of Marlene Dietrich, in which he described this fabulous lesbian Standard Oil millionairess who was so besotted with the diva that she wanted to esconce her on a private island in the Bahamas. Some years later, when I finally made it to Berlin, I spent a whole day in the film museum there, particularly the floor devoted to Dietrich and, with the appropriate strains of her singing Frederick Hollander’s “Black Market” on endless loop, discovered a cache of her personal color home movies. And that’s when I finally saw what Carstairs looked like, nearly yelping with astonishment, for here, c. 1938, was a shockingly timeless, butch — very butch — dyke, replete with crew-cut, swaggering attitude, and tattooed arms. A biography, “The Queen of Whale Cay,” by Kate Summerscale, came out in 1997, and now Phoebe Legere has fashioned a show about her, “Speed Queen,” playing through March 24 at Dixon Place. This production is simply a must for anyone interested in lesbian herstory, particularly one of its most glamorous, richly layered eras of the last century. Transforming herself from her usual wild, sizzlingly sexy, blondemaned vamp to an equally wild, short-cropped brunette, crossdressing tomboy, Legere delivers the most impressive display of her formidable,




Legere met Carstairs at Bobby Van’s in Bridgehampton just months before Carstairs’ 1993 death.

rafter-shaking, multi-octave singing, songwriting, piano-playing, and rambunctious histrionic talents to date. Carstairs was a true lesbian Lothario, and, changing behind a screen, Legere also impersonates a bevy of her lovers, including, besides Dietrich, the legendary saloniste Natalie Barney, Oscar Wilde’ infamous niece, Dolly, who brought Joe out, Garbo, Billie Holiday, Mabel Mercer, and Tallulah Bankhead, who sings a particularly catchy ditty bout her famed rivalry with Bette Davis, “Bitch Stole My Look.” Accompanying her at all times on this wildest of Sapphic journeys is her inanimate co-star, Lord Tod Wadley, a male doll given to Carstairs by the great love of her life, Ruth Baldwin, aka “Bobbie.” It was once the charming — and quite sensible — custom among lesbians of their era to give each other dolls, representative of the children they could not then dream of having, and the doll was even buried with her. But then there are so many fascinating aspects of Carstairs’ long and storied life: driving a Red Cross ambulance in World War I and then helping to rebury the war dead; inheriting millions of Standard Oil dollars as a young adult (her grandfather, Jabez Abel Bostwick, was a founding partner); starting her own business at 20, an all-female car and chauffeur service called X-Garage; buying the island of Whale Cay in the Bahamas for $40,000; and her deep interest in power boats, which led to her becoming a champion competitive racer.

Legere, who identifies as trans, described actually meeting the openly out and proud legend. “I had bought out my contract with Epic Records after I was sodomized by a record executive there. If I was to get into the #MeToo stuff I’ve experienced, it would take 100 interviews. I could also name a couple of very famous rock stars, but I don’t want to bring anyone down. In those days, women were not treated as human beings, and it’s only this year that people are talking about it, and that’s only because you can now finally get into trouble for it. “I had no money because my lawyers were soaking me dry, and my friend, Nile, the son of [writer] Terry Southern, took me out to the Hamptons, where I got a job at the restaurant Bobby Van’s. It was 1989 and there was no Internet, not even a CD player in the place, but I have a very good memory and know thousand of songs. People would say, ‘Play this, play that,’ and I became the toast of the town in Bridgehampton Everyone would come in — all the stars — Peter Beard, George Plimpton, Mick Jagger, and that’s where I met [her two champions] Hilary Knight and Tony Walton. “I look like a grande dame now, but then I had achieved a ravishing sexiness through peroxide and some kind of insane bootstrap operation, converting this tomboy into somebody people wanted to fuck! Joe was living there and had heard of me because I was all over the Hamptons press and also, in 1991, I had three hit movies and two hit records, including ‘Marilyn.’ Joe’s girlfriend, Jackie Ray, brought her, and Joe came on two canes, smiling from ear to ear, as I played all her songs like ‘Sand in My Shoes’ which I didn’t even know were her favorites. They were Bobby Short’s repertoire, which was also mine!” Legere then had no idea who Carstairs was, “although she certainly seemed like somebody. She put $500 in my tip jar and I spoke to her, and, as old as she was, she still had loads of charisma and was hot as a firecracker. I love those old-school dykes like her, with all her tat-

JOE CARSTAIRS, continued on p.41

March 15 – 28, 2018 |

JOE CARSTAIRS, from p.40

toos and beautiful men’s suits. In those days, I was living in a shack with no electricity or running water. I would ride my bike to and from work, past the richest people in the world who’d be leaving Bobby Van’s at 2 a.m., driving past me, and in the seven years I was there, Joe was the only person who ever offered me a ride home. “She had a brown and beige Rolls Royce with a chauffeur, and they put my bike in the back and they drove me the long way home. She put her hand on my thigh, doing the whole thing, and I was just loving her. She died three months later. Such a gift, a blessing. “There was no Internet and the book hadn’t been written, but, after she died, Jackie Ray filled me in. Jackie then took up with Bachoo Dinshaw, the Pakistani cement heiress, and they are all buried together — Joe, Bobbie, Jackie, Bachoo — in the same plot in Sag Harbor, with their pugs!” Legere then confided, “You know, I feel that Joe is still with me. Things have been happening

constantly, like when I went to Materials for the Arts in Long Island City, with my set designer, for the vintage mahogany 1928 motorboat I wanted made for this show. It was hard for her to visualize it, but we got our materials and took them to my storage space. And there, on the loading dock, was a 1928 motor boat! I took pictures of it from all angles with my iPhone, and we were able to make a splendid replica of it!” Indeed, that motorboat provides one of the major fillips of the multi-media “Speed Queen,” which is filled with all kinds of startling visual delights, including some sizzlingly sexy filmed nude love scenes. And wearing Carstairs’ mannish drag has been a truly liberating experience for Legere. “I’ve been trying to be a gorgeous woman for so long, but I think I look better as a boy. I feel so powerful, and this sense of power I want to develop for my custom clothing line for women. It is amazing how much personal power can be contained in your clothes.”

BOB SMITH, from p.14

places. “Bob didn’t beat ALS,” Sarfaty said. “But I’m sure ALS is really sorry it fucked with Bob Smith.” Some of Smith’s “Nature Boys” –– John Arnold, Michael Hart, Sarfaty, and Smith’s surviving partner Michael Zam –– read from his “Treehab” collection and talked about how much the natural world meant to Smith, and how much he hated the people who despoiled and exploited the Earth. Dick Cheney was a villain in one of Smith’s books, and the Koch Brothers were in his story “Coal in Your Stocking,” a reinvention of “A Christmas Carol.” Zam then took to the stage to talk about his life with Smith. They’d just begun their relationship when Smith was diagnosed, and together they figured out how to deal with it as the disease progressed, from workarounds like having power strips on the floor that Smith could use to turn things on when his hands grew too weak. “Adapting kept our lives going for a long time.” Eventually, Smith couldn’t man-

age the steps in their apartment, and had to move to a more accessible facility. Zam’s writing career took off: he authored the book of an Off-Broadway musical (“The Kid”), and with Jaffe Cohen was nominated for an Emmy for his writing on the miniseries “Feud.” “I would never in a million years take any of it back, even one day,” Zam said. The celebration wouldn’t have been complete without a musical number, and Broadway stars Ann Harada and Caitlin Kelly were joined by Sarfaty, Stroud, and Eric Kornfeld, accompanied by Jono Mainelli, for a version of “Mame,” customized for Bob Smith. It was funny, a little risqué, and sung with heart and passion. Gold and Sarfaty thanked the audience for coming, and gave way to a final audio and video: a recording of a call from Jay Leno, who reached out to Smith toward the end of his illness, and then Smith’s entire “Tonight Show” debut. It was a hit, a star-making performance: funny, on-target, flawless. Bob Smith was a handsome man, a very good man, and a great comic.

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Bel Canto Babylon at the Met Met revives John Copley’s production of Rossini’s “Semiramide”

lined them from earlier shows, and everything ran smoothly. The two ladies acquitted themselves well without that last ounce of star charisma and authority that separates the talented vocalist from the superstar. “Semiramide” requires superstars, and divas like Pasta, Patti, Melba, Sutherland, and Horne are what kept this opera from languishing in obscurity. Meade as the guilty Babylonian queen threw in elaborate embellishments spotlighting her upper range, including a brief tiny E natural in “Bel Raggio.” As originally composed for the declining Colbran, the part is not high so the embellishments raise the tessitura. I found Meade’s variations lacked Rossini style, evoking the late 19th century decorative songbird tradition, and some of her fast runs were approximated. However, she impressed in the two extended duets with DeShong and scored expressively with Semiramide’s final prayer “Al mio pregar t’arrendi” at the end of Act II. Dramatically, Meade knows how to model a golden crown, kick her train, and throw a sinister glare at an enemy.

DeShong possesses a creamy, even mezzo-soprano with accurate coloratura and seamless phrasing. Her soft-grained, medium-sized voice, however, lacks the thrust and impact of a Horne or an Ewa Podles. DeShong cut a rather diminutive, uncharismatic stage figure as Arsace, and Roy Rallo’s unspecific revival direction didn’t help her create a heroic protagonist. I was pleased with DeShong’s technical security, sympathetic timbre, and stylish ornamentation but her voice and personality don’t jump over the footlights. Both Camarena and Ildar Abdrazakov began their careers as Rossini specialists but in the last decade have branched out into bigger 19th century grand opera roles with voices that have gained in weight and breadth. Camarena in the dramatically superfluous role of Prince Idreno flaunted undeniable vocal star quality — his gorgeous tenor tone just soared out into the auditorium. He tossed in stentorian high C’s at the drop of a hat (one got away from him — probably a result of his recent indisposition). However, both Camarena and Abdrazakov struggled with the sixteenth notes and syncopated passage work. Abdrazakov as the villainous Assur, after some woolly scale work in the Act I ensemble, scored in Assur’s Act II mad scene. He also has great personal charisma and looked formidable with his hairy barrel chest stripped to the waist (the original Assur in this production was Samuel Ramey who stole the show — some thought the opera should have been retitled “Sammy Ramey Day”). Ryan Speedo Green as the high

priest Oroe emoted more than lowvoiced high priests usually do and poured lots of velvety chocolate bass-baritone goodness over his oracular statements. In the pit, Benini led an efficient, routinier reading of a cut edition that trimmed 45 minutes from Rossini’s jewel box of a score. The tempos ambled along steadily, gliding over the contrasting accents and subtle details that Rossini liberally worked into his orchestration. The Copley production is handsome and smoothly utilizes the old Baroque three section stage with intimate scenes played downstage “in one,” while grander scenes are prepared upstage and revealed by a raised drop. The staging, however, also revives the 19th century tradition of the tableau with serried chorus members moving and reacting in unison upstage and the soloists lined up in a row downstage. This does little to animate the static dramaturgy of Rossini’s adaptation of a Voltaire tragedy. John Conklin’s distressed Babylonian palace sets were painstakingly restored and strikingly relit by John Froelich. Michael Stennett’s glittery costumes, with towering headdresses for men and women, evoked “Beach Blanket Babylon” — and that is a good thing! “Semiramide” is an operatic masterpiece in a style that was soon to go out of fashion after 1823. In this rare revival, Rossini’s genius was honored not with flashing brilliance but a steady warm glow.

Stern brings warmth and dignity to what could have been a shrewish stereotype. The dynamic supporting cast members, who play multiple roles, include Michael Bartoli (an uncanny lookalike for Milk), Jeremy Greenbaum, Aury Krebs, and CJ Pawlikowski. The score, performed by a miniature orchestra on a prominent bal-

cony onstage, is a pleasing mix of moody ballads, charm songs, and rousing anthems, all with a distinct klezmer inflection. One heartbreaking number sung by Harry, “Frannie’s Hands,” recalls the famous Sondheim ode to marital devotion “In Buddy’s Eyes,” from “Follies.” Who knew that a play about Harvey Milk would have extra resonance in today’s world where

a renewed debate over guns is raging. In Harry’s poignant letter, set to music, he repeatedly appeals for tolerance, community, and peaceful resistance: “If enough of us hold hands, no one can hold a gun.” The musical, inventive if slightly schmaltzy, even offers handy advice on how to cope with tough times: “So tell a joke and have a nosh before the roof caves in.”

BY ELI JACOBSON emiramide” was Gioachino Rossini’s final opera for Italy, the last soprano role he composed for his wife Isabella Colbran, and the ultimate Italian opera seria in the classical tradition. It premiered in Venice in February 1823 and immediately afterwards Rossini moved to Paris. In France, Rossini eventually traded Italian opera for French grand opera and his first wife Colbran for the courtesan Olympe Pélissier. Finally, Rossini left operatic composition itself behind. According to musicologist Rodolfo Celletti, “Semiramide” represents “the last opera of the great Baroque tradition: the most beautiful, the most imaginative, possibly the most complete; but also, irremediably, the last.” Rossini harkens back to Baroque subject matter, musical structure, and forms and demands virtuoso coloratura technique from soprano, contralto, tenor, and bass. In 1990, the Met unveiled its first production in nearly a century for Marilyn Horne, utilizing the newly compiled uncut critical edition by Philip Gossett. After an absence of more than 20 seasons, the Met brought back John Copley’s “Semiramide” production spotlighting two emerging American bel canto stylists: Angela Meade and Elizabeth DeShong in the bravura roles of Semiramide and Arsace. Seen at the fifth performance on March 6, the cast was settled in, tenor Javier Camarena and conductor Maurizio Benini were recovered from the illnesses that side-


MILK, from p.33

ers to each character. Adam Heller expertly guides Harry from forlorn alta kocker to confident writer. Julia Knitel not only nails the role of Barbara, deftly portraying a parallel journey from timorous instructor to self-assured activist, but she delivers breathtaking vocals that are sweet and pure. As Frannie, Cheryl | March 15 – 28, 2018


Ildar Abdrazakov and Angela Meade in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Rossini’s “Semiramide.”

In a web exclusive at gaycitynews. nyc, Eli Jacobson writes about the recent Metropolitan Opera production of “Norma.”


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March 15, 2018