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Melissa Sklarz Dives into Queens Race 04

Bank Street Honors Bella Abzug 20

Basil Twist Back at HERE 30

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In This Issue COVER STORY Tribeca’s rich queer cinema offerings 32

PERSPECTIVE Baby dykes at risk in school to prison pipeline 19

POLITICS Hell’s Kitchen Dems for Cuomo 05

THEATER Tina Fey’s “Mean Girls” win 27

Resistance gears up for Pride season presence 06

Charles Busch’s latest big, beautiful dare 28

HEALTH Overdose battle leads to City Hall sit-in 10

BOOKS Richard Avedon, Mike Nichols & “whatever” 38

A Triumphant “Angels” 26

“IT’S JUST FLIRTING.” Sexual Harassment YOU REPORT IT. WE GET IT. LET’S END IT. At the NYC Commission on Human Rights, we investigate claims of sexual harassment in the workplace and are ready to fight for you.

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April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Melissa Sklarz Dives into Queen Race Longtime transgender leader taking on first-term Assembly incumbent BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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or the past several decades, Melissa Sklarz has amassed a wideranging portfolio in local LGBTQ and Democratic activism. An out transgender woman, Sklarz served on the Police Commissioner’s LGBT Advisory Committee that established standards for police interactions with the trans community; she’s been a copresident of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City and a board member at the Empire State Pride Agenda; she was elected a judicial delegate to screen potential Democratic candidates for judgeships — first in New York County and later in Queens — and also a community board member in her old Manhattan neighborhood; and she was a 2016 presidential elector who cast one of the 29 votes that New York delivered to Hillary Clinton. Now, Sklarz is aiming to make political life her full-time day job. In the September 13 Democratic primary in Queens’ 30th Assembly District, she is challenging first-termer Brian Barnwell, who himself two years ago ousted a fellow Democratic incumbent, Margaret Markey. The district, which is roughly 46 percent white, 26 percent Latinx, and 23 percent Asian, stretches from Middle Village and Maspeth through Woodside into portions of Astoria and Long Island City. A Long Island native with a political science degree from SUNY Buffalo, Sklarz in a recent interview told Gay City News, “Running for office and politics have been a life-long dream… I spent 20 years as an activist, as an advocate, as a Democratic Party person, trying to advocate for my ideas, my policies, and my people running for office. This is my opportunity now.” Seizing her opportunity now, in Sklarz’s telling, is related both to the climate in the country since the 2016 presidential election and to what she views as the backwardlooking posture of her opponent. “America looks very different

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PAUL SCHINDLER

FACEBOOK.COM

Melissa Sklarz speaks to Gay City News at Karu Café on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens.

Melissa Sklarz at a Brooklyn Loves Melissa fundraiser at Excelsior in Park Slope this past weekend, with Alan Fleishman, Daniel Tietz, and Christopher Murray.

today with the election of Donald Trump,” she explained. “I can no longer be comfortable living my life day to day without doing everything I possibly can do to make a difference and to secure an America that resonates for me.” Barnwell’s voting record in Albany raises troubling questions for progressives already worried about the conservative direction of Washington. He voted no on out lesbian Deborah Glick’s Reproductive Health Act, which would update the state’s 1970 abortion rights law to fully encompass all guarantees provided by the US Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which many women’s health advocates worry is in mortal danger from a Trump Supreme Court. He also opposed then-Assemblymember Francisco Moya’s New York State Liberty Act, which would restrict state and local law enforcement involvement in federal government immigration roundup efforts. Of Barnwell’s vote on women’s reproductive rights, Sklarz said, “Roe v. Wade is now 40 years old. It is under attack from religious people. The terms and conditions are narrowed every day. The idea of women’s reproductive health has been diminished and restricted. I believe in the right of women to have control of their own bodies and their own health. To be a Democrat in New York, this is not

a radical idea.” In similar fashion, Sklarz painted Barnwell as out of New York’s Democratic mainstream on immigration rights, as well, saying, “I don’t know how far the federal government is going to go as they continue their war on immigrants. The idea that immigrants are the problem in America is stunning in its inability to understand who we are as a nation and what our nation is. The idea that in this day and age that we have to create a law to protect immigrants in New York blows my mind. The idea that someone in the Democratic Party believes that this is not part of our agenda is unacceptable.” In an unmistakable sign of how attitudes toward the LGBTQ community have changed in recent years — at least here in the city — Sklarz is clearly running as the candidate in step with where her party is, despite the fact that she is several decades older than her opponent. “In the aftermath of the election of 2016, I think it’s important for a progressive perspective here in the neighborhood,” she said. “I think the rights of women and immigrants and poor people are important. I see myself as a candidate of the 21st century.” Sklarz also sees herself as a party insider. As a member of the Queens Northern Regular Democratic Club and “part of the team

led by [Congressmember] Joe Crowley,” the county leader, she said, “I do all the petitioning. I do the canvassing. I support all their candidates. I do all of the work that’s called on for any operative in New York.” Her access, in turn, has afforded Sklarz important relationships, she said. “I’ve worked with three mayors of New York,” she said. “I’ve worked with three governors... I’ve worked with the current speaker, the previous speaker. I have lots of Assembly relationships. I’m ready to take my place and be part of the team.” Two years ago, Barnwell captured attention for his campaign with his fiery opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to turn a Maspeth hotel into a homeless shelter. Noting her own experience with homelessness more than a quarter century ago — as she was facing her gender transition while struggling with substance abuse — Sklarz sounded a unifying theme on what is a thorny issue for many neighborhoods. “Once I was able to have a roof over my head, I was able to look for work and change my life,” she said. “I think my experience on this issue can resonate with people. Now I own a home. I’ve owned a home for 11 years, but I remember when

MELISSA SKLARZ, continued on p.14

April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Progressive Hell’s Kitchen Club Sticks with Cuomo Neighborhood’s newest Dem organization supports all incumbents except IDC’s Marisol Alcantara BY NATHAN RILEY

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ight in Cynthia Nixon’s backyard, just weeks after the actor and activist announced her Democratic primary challenge to Andrew Cuomo, the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats — a progressive newcomer on the local political club scene — voted Thursday night to endorse the two-term governor for reelection. The club held its first endorsement meeting for statewide offices April 5, and elected officials showed up to make personal pleas for support. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli appeared and described the duties of his office, talking about leveraging his office’s control of the state employees’ pension funds to insist that corporations hire women and minorities for their boards of directors. He also talked about working with shareholder activ-

DONNA ACETO

Governor Andrew Cuomo vanquished challenger Cynthia Nixon in an endorsement vote by the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats.

ists to press corporate America to abide by the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, despite President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the US from it. Club members had the chance

to compare Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and her primary opponent, Brooklyn City Councilmember Jumaane D. Williams. Hochul, who appeared on behalf of the governor, emphasized her

record of supporting women’s issues including the right to choose in Republican districts in western New York State. She also argued that she and Cuomo are steadfast supporters of the long-stalled Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a transgender civil rights measure, despite what she said was opposition from many upstate New Yorkers. “I am laser focused on bringing our country back� from Trump’s reactionary policies, said Hochul, who reminded the club that 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the first time women voted in New York State elections. Williams, for his part, promised to turn the lieutenant governor’s office into the state equivalent of the city’s public advocate role. “I will speak against the governor,� he promised. “The emperor

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HK DEMS, continued on p.13

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GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

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POLITICS

Resistance Bloc Likely to Seek Pride Parade Slot Again Heritage of Pride, for now, signals it will not agree to large set-aside BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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or the second year in a row, Heritage of Pride (HOP), the organization that produces New York City’s annual Pride Parade and related events, may be facing demands that it admit a resistance contingent to the march. “We want a resistance contingent and we want it to be bigger than 200 people,” said Jamie Bauer, a longtime LGBTQ and AIDS activist, who was proposing one demand that could be made of HOP, while speaking at an April 7 strategy meeting of roughly a half dozen groups held at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “If they don’t give it to us, we will take it.” The meeting was called by the Queer Caucus of the Democratic Socialists of America and drew members from Rise and Resist, ACT UP, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Gays Against Guns, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other groups. While the meeting came to no consensus about their exact demands, the participants appear to be leaning toward staying engaged with HOP and coming to some resolution that will allow them to march under their own terms. Activists were told that contingents would not have more than 200 people. Also, this year the march, reversing the downtown direction of marches in years past, will start at 16th Street and Seventh Avenue and head south on the avenue, then turn east on Christopher Street and back north at 12th Street and Fifth Avenue. The march will end at 29th Street and Fifth Avenue. The meeting showcased the ongoing friction between some community activists from a number of groups and HOP over their presence in the annual Pride Parade and longstanding objections to the major corporations that represent a small number of all groups in the annual event, but have a highly visible presence with large floats and contingents. More recently, some groups have objected

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DONNA ACETO

The resistance contingent in last year’s LGBTQ Pride March, where it was given a forward spot by Heritage of Pride.

DONNA ACETO

A rump faction from Hoods4Justice jumped into the resistance contingent and brought the march to a halt in front of the Stonewall Inn, resulting in arrests.

to how the march is policed and to the presence of police groups, such as GOAL, the Gay Officers Action League, in the parade. “We would like to keep negotiating,” said Brandon Cuicchi, a member of ACT UP, the AIDS activist group, at the meeting. “Our main goal is still to get the NYPD out of the parade.” In 2016, HOP resisted letting Gays Against Guns in the parade. The group formed just days after a gunman’s June 12, 2016 killing of 49 people in an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and well after registration for the march had closed. Corey Johnson, then a member of the City Council and now its speaker, gave his slot in the march to the group. The contingent approached 1,000 people. Last year, Rise and Resist agi-

tated for a resistance contingent in the parade and eventually won a spot close to the front. That effort began several months before the march. The argument then was that Donald Trump winning the White House required a clear statement from the LGBTQ community. Hoods4Justice, an activist group, jumped in with the resistance contingent. Twelve members of the group were arrested after they halted the parade by handcuffing themselves together just yards from the Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riots that mark the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. They timed their blockade to occur just as the NYPD’s marching band, which was leading GOAL, arrived near the Stonewall. “We’re here to declare that to-

day’s Pride and coming Prides are a no-cop zone,” June, a member of Hoods4Justice, told Gay City News last year prior to the blockade. There have been similar protests in Pride Parades in Washington, DC, Chicago, Minneapolis, Toronto, and Phoenix. The groups at the April 7 meeting ultimately took a “temperature check,” which is an informal procedure that allows a vote on a number of proposals and provides a sense of which positions have support. Mostly, the groups favored staying engaged with HOP. There was some support for joining parades in other boroughs. There was little support for skipping the Manhattan parade and holding an alternative unpermitted march or for joining the parade and engaging in civil disobedience during it. Collectively, the activists have dozens of years of experience. They know that the Manhattan march is the largest in the city and participating can boost the visibility of any group. Organizations that join the festival, which, like the parade, occurs on the last Sunday in June, can see a boost in fundraising. In a written statement, HOP wrote that the results of the 2016 general election gave “strong reasoning” for admitting the resistance contingent last year. “A year later, we know the decisions of the Trump Administration and Congressional majority are affecting our community at an intersection of multiple issues,” HOP said. “There are hundreds of groups seeking the platform of the March to show resistance to their oppressors, and we have a responsibility to share that platform fairly. At this time, the only organized contingent in the 2018 NYC Pride March will be the People of Color Contingent, coordinated in partnership with the Audre Lorde Project. We request that all organizations represented by Rise and Resist in regard to this request should register individually, and will be placed into the order of March in the same balanced process we use for placing the hundreds of registered groups.” April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Bank of America Straddles Question of Financing Guns Once a leading LGBTQ ally, financial giant parts company on assault rifles, North Carolina discrimination BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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ith leading LGBTQ groups supporting gun control measures since the 2016 killings of 49 people in a Florida gay nightclub, a major US bank that was once strongly allied with the community is loaning tens of millions to Remington Outdoor as part of the gun manufacturer’s pre-packaged bankruptcy. “Bank of America is trying to play both sides of the coin here,” said Cathy Marino-Thomas, a member of the steering committee of Gays Against Guns, which was founded in 2016 days after the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando. “It is very hypocritical of them to say, on the one hand, they are not going to support companies that produce assault weapons, but, on

BANKOFAMERICA.COM DONNA ACETO

Gays Against Guns marched in last year’s Pride March as part of the resistance contingent.

the other hand, they are looking to bail one out.” Bank of America, along with six other banks, will loan Remington $193 million with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Regions Bank each lending $43.2 million and the remaining four kicking in smaller

amounts. Remington’s bankruptcy filings show that Bank of America has been the gun company’s primary banker, with the bank operating 18 of Remington’s 24 active bank accounts. The bankruptcy was filed on March 25. Remington is asking the court to approve the

Despite a statement this week by Anne Finucane, vice chair of Bank of America’s board, that the financial giant will no longer lend to gun manufacturers that make assault rifles, B of A is part of a bank syndicate providing Remington Outdoor with a $193 million loan in a structured bankruptcy.

loans and to keep Bank of America as its banker. On April 10, Anne Finucane,

BANK OF AMERICA, continued on p.25

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GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

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FAMILIES

Birth Mother Can’t Challenge Wife’s Parental Rights Mississippi Supreme Court rejects any consideration of anonymous sperm donor BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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uling on a custody contest between a birth mother, Kimberly Jayroe Strickland, and her former same-sex spouse, Christina Strickland, on April 5, the Mississippi Supreme Court blocked Kimberly’s effort to contest Christina’s parental status. Most states employ what is known as parental presumption in automatically recognizing the spouse of a woman who gives birth as a parent to the child, but the Mississippi court made no mention of that doctrine, instead relying on what is called “equitable estoppel” to prevent Kimberly from contesting Christina’s rights as a parent. As a result, the state’s high court refrained from resolving a critical question of same-sex family law. Five written opinions were signed by different combinations of judges on the nine-member court, with none representing the views of a majority, but taken together they produce a holding that an anonymous sperm donor’s role in the child’s birth is irrelevant in determining the rights of the birth mother’s former spouse. The high court reversed a ruling by Judge John S. Grant, III, of the Rankin County Chancery Court, that the lack of a waiver of parental rights from that sperm donor prevents Christina from being recognized as the child’s legal parent. The case is complicated because most of the story played out before marriage equality came to Mississippi in 2015 and also due to that state’s retrograde legislature neglecting to adopt needed statutes concerning parental rights in cases when a woman or a couple uses an anonymous donor’s sperm. Christina Strickland and Kimberly Jayroe began their relationship in 1999 and in 2007 finalized the adoption of a child, E.J.. Because Mississippi did not allow joint adoptions by unmarried couples, only Kimberly was the legal adoptive parent of E.J.. In 2009, the couple traveled to Massachusetts to marry, even though their

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LAMBDALEGAL.ORG

Christina Strickland scored a victory in her claim to parental rights in a complex ruling from the Mississippi Supreme Court that shed no light on the underlying question of whether both mothers in a lesbian marriage are presumed to be entitled to parental rights regarding a child born to one of them.

union was not recognized back home, and Kimberly took Christina’s last name. The following year, the Stricklands decided to have a child using anonymously donated sperm from a Maryland sperm bank. Kimberly, whom they jointly decided would bear the child, signed the sperm bank’s form providing that she would “never seek to identify the donor” and that the donor would not be advised of her identity. In the Maryland clinic, Kimberly was recognized as a married woman and Christina was identified as her spouse in its paperwork. The two women signed the form acknowledging they were participating in the insemination process as a married couple and would both be parents of the resulting child. According Justice David Ishee’s plurality opinion, “Christina testified that she was involved in and supportive through every step of the conception and pregnancy.” She also testified that the couple

had planned to travel to Massachusetts for the baby’s delivery so that their marriage would be recognized and both be recorded as parents on the birth certificate. Six weeks before her due date, however, Kimberly gave birth to the child, Z.S., in an emergency cesarean section procedure in a Mississippi hospital. Since Mississippi did not recognize their marriage at that time, the birth certificate shows Kimberly as the only parent. Over the next two years, the women functioned as a family unit, raising both E.J. and Z.S. as co-parents. Christina stayed home for the first year of Z.S.’s life, while Kimberly worked full time. Christina testified that both children call her “mom.” After the women separated in January 2013, Christina continued to visit both children and paid child support and medical and daycare expenses for Z.S. Here the case took a strange twist: in August 2015, while still married to Christina — and at a

time when, due to the US Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling two months earlier, Mississippi was legally obligated to recognize the couple’s marriage — Kimberly married a second spouse, whose name and gender are not identified by the court. Kimberly is, however, identified by the court as Kimberly Jayroe Strickland Day. That marriage prompted Christina to file a divorce petition in Harrison County Chancery Court on August 31, 2015. Two months later, Kimberly filed a motion for a declaratory judgment that her second marriage was valid and her first marriage “dissolved” in Rankin County Circuit Court. Christina answered with a counterclaim for divorce and legal and physical custody of both children, who were then living with Kimberly. She also sought to be named as Z.S.’s legal parent. The two cases were consolidated in the Rankin County court. On May 17, 2016, Judge Grant issued an order declaring that Christina and Kimberly’s 2009 Massachusetts marriage was valid and recognized in Mississippi and therefore that Kimberly’s second marriage was void. This led the women to negotiate an agreement that since Z.S. was born during their marriage, they would jointly pay all school expenses for the child, and that Kimberly would retain physical and legal custody of E.J., the adoptive child. They agreed to let the chancery court decide custody, visitation, and child support issues for Z.S., child support and visitation issues for E.J., and the question of Christina’s parental status toward Z.S. Grant’s final judgment of divorce, in October 2016, ordered Christina to pay child support for both children and held that Z.S. was born during a valid marriage. But, he ruled, Z.S. was “a child born during the marriage, but not of the marriage,” so both women were not considered to be Z.S.’s parents. Grant viewed the anony-

MISSISSIPPI MOMS, continued on p.9

April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


MISSISSIPPI MOMS, from p.8

mous sperm donor as “an absent father” whose legal parentage “precluded a determination that Christina was Z.S.’s legal parent.” The court held that she was, however, entitled to visitation with Z.S. under a doctrine called “in loco parentis,” which dictated that acting as a parent and bonding with the child entitled Christina to visitation even though she has no legal relation to Z.S. Christina appealed, arguing that because Z.S. was born while Christina was married to Kimberly, Christina should be deemed the child’s legal parent, and that the anonymous sperm donor, who had no relationship to the child, could not possibly be considered its legal parent. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with Christina that the sperm donor is out of the picture and should not be considered a parent. Justice Ishee’s opinion, for himself and three other justices, declared that Grant’s finding that the sperm donor was the child’s “natural father” was erroneous as a matter of law. “[W]e never before have determined what parental rights, if any, anonymous sperm donors possess in the children conceived through the use of their sperm,” he wrote. “As such, this is an issue of first impression.” That is a startling statement coming from a State Supreme Court in 2018, when donor insemination has been around for half a century and most states have adopted legislation on the subject. The only statute regarding donor insemination, Ishee noted, is a provision barring a man from seeking to deny paternity when a child is born to his wife via the procedure. “How,” asked Ishee, “on the one hand, can the law contemplate that a donor is a legal parent who must have his rights terminated, while at the same time prohibiting the non-biological father of a child conceived through [artificial insemination] from disestablishing paternity? These two policies cannot co-exist.” It would be “intrusive, timeconsuming, and expensive,” he argued, for a judge to have to determine that an anonymous sperm donor, who never intended to be GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

the parent of the child, had “abandoned” the child, thus making the child available for adoption by their mother’s spouse. In her appeal, Christina raised alternative arguments in support of her claims to be Z.S.’s parent. First, she asked the court to determine a question not addressed in Mississippi law: “Whether children born to married parents who give birth to a child via [artificial reproductive technology] with sperm from an anonymous donor are entitled to the marital presumption that both spouses are their legal parents.” Alternatively, she asked whether the US Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling “requires Mississippi to apply laws relating to the marital presumption of parentage in a gender-neutral manner so as to apply equally to married same-sex couples.” And she also asked whether the doctrine of “equitable estoppel” could be used to preclude a birth mother from trying to “disestablish her spouse’s parentage of the couple’s marital child based solely on the absence of a genetic relationship, when the child was born as a result of anonymous donor insemination, to which both spouses consented.” Christina argued that Grant’s order violated her constitutionally protected liberty and equality interests by failing to recognize her parental relationship with Z.S. Ishee’s opinion focused only on “equitable estoppel,” which he held precluded Kimberly from now disavowing the words and actions that Christina relied on in acting as a parent to their child. The judge rejected Kimberly’s argument that the decision to have a child through donor insemination was solely hers and that her marriage to Christina at the time was irrelevant. Ishee found that “the evidence in the record belies this assertion,” and cited chapter and verse, right down to the birth announcements the women sent out, which identified the women as “two chicks” who had “hatched” the child. Since Kimberly represented to Christina all along that Christina would be a parent of Z.S., the doctrine of equitable estoppel blocks

MISSISSIPPI MOMS, continued on p.43

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HEALTH

Safe Consumption Delay Prompts City Hall Sit-In Advocates demand de Blasio release study of facilities where drug users have medical support

JARON BENJAMIN/ HOUSING WORKS

Housing Works CEO Charles King being dragged out of City Hall by police after staging a sit-in.

BY NATHAN RILEY

C

hanting “no more overdoses,” 75 angry New Yorkers packed the steps of City Hall on April 5 and then a smaller group staged a sit-in at the gates leading to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, forcing police to eject them. The demonstrators were making an emotional plea to the mayor that he release a feasibility study about safe consumption facilities that give drug users medical supervision while they are getting high. In such spaces, users consume product they buy on the street under the watchful eye of an overdose prevention worker. Should a user slip into unconsciousness, these workers are only steps away and can administer naloxone, a public health wonder drug that reverses overdoses and restores normal breathing. There have been thousands of overdoses at such facilities in cities like Frankfurt, Sydney, and Vancouver, but nobody — as in zero — has ever died. On February 5, Dr. Mary Bassett, the city health commissioner told a City Council budget hearing that “the public health literature is clear.” Despite that definitive statement, de Blasio has kept the health department study under wraps. The City Hall protesters last week charged that in the 59 days since Bassett’s testimony, there had been approximately 236 overdose deaths in New York. Charles King, the CEO of Housing Works, an AIDS services group, opened the protest on a personal

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note. “Today marks the 14th anniversary of the death of Keith Cylar, one of the co-founders of Housing Works and my life partner for some 15 years,” he said. Then adding that he was speaking “not just on behalf of people living with AIDS and HIV, but also on behalf of people who use drugs,” King said, “Keith spoke with particular passion and urgency. He was not only a black gay man living with AIDS, he was also addicted to drugs his entire adult life. And whether it was long-term degeneration caused by AIDS or long time use of cocaine that caused his cardiomyopathy, and whether the heart attack would have happened anyway or was triggered by the crack he smoked that night, his death certificate says he died of a drug overdose. I will go to my grave knowing that if someone had been with him at that moment who knew how to intervene, he might well be standing here with us today.” Also in impassioned remarks, Kassandra Frederique, the New York State director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “Safe consumption spaces are critical to saving lives. We don’t need a report to tell us what we already know, what we need is leadership.” The mayor, she added, isn’t “leading the parade, he’s following it.” As other speakers addressed the crowd, King and about a dozen others went inside City Hall and tried to enter de Blasio’s suite of offices. When refused at the gate leading to the mayor’s wing of the building, they sat down chanting “no more

MIKOLA DE ROO/ HOUSING WORKS

Demonstrators on the steps of City Hall on April 5 protesting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s delay in releasing a feasibility study on safe consumption spaces.

overdoses.” Police approached a limp Charles King and, with some difficulty, dragged him out of the building. Some others among the demonstrators were also carried out, while some stood up on their own. Police made no arrests either inside or out, and the rally on the steps lasted an hour and a half. The mayor, arriving at City Hall in the middle of the demonstration, decided against walking through the protest. In 2016, Corey Johnson, an out gay city councilmember who then chaired the Health Committee and is now Council speaker, put a $100,000 appropriation into the health department budget to pay for the safe consumption space feasibility study, at a time when overdose deaths in the city had reached 1,300 a year, more than the combined total from vehicle accidents, homicides, and suicides. King said the report was finished in December, but the mayor has so far declined to release it publicly. In an email, Johanne Morne, director of the AIDS Institute in the State Department of Health, said flatly, “Safe Consumption Spaces have shown success in other countries.” The idea, she continued,

should be “an item of consideration” for “interventions in response to the opioid epidemic.” In a strongly argued editorial in February, the New York Times declared the safe consumption space approach a “rigorously tested harm-reduction method” that has “proved incredibly effective at slashing overdose deaths.” Councilmembers Mark Levine of Manhattan, chair of the Council Health Committee, and Stephen Levin of Brooklyn, chair of the General Welfare Committee, support the program. The citywide coalition of treatment providers, medical professionals, and harm reduction activists are boiling over with anger at a delay that prevents drug users from gaining timely access to a life-saving medicine. A drug user overdosing is helpless and depends on another person to help them regain normal breathing. Safe consumption spaces are specifically designed to meet this emergency and also allow health professionals to begin a constructive engagement with users about other means of reducing the harm caused by their drug habit. April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Radical Visions, Tangible Wins Martin Duberman asks how much more just queer activism has made society

ALAN BARNETT

Author and CUNY history professor emeritus Martin Duberman.

and plays. He has chronicled the lives of important figures on the left and in the LGBTQ comistorian Martin Duberman asks munity. “Has the Gay Movement Failed?” is a fascia provocative question in his soon to be released book, “Has the Gay nating read. In arguing that the LGBTQ movement in 2018 should be making common cause Movement Failed?” To use the construct that Duberman employs with those organizations on the “Straight Left,” in exploring this question, which is that broad- as Duberman calls them, that are working on ly speaking the movement is divided between addressing income inequality, poverty, and radicals, as represented by the early 1970s prison reform and opposing war, racism, and Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and some smaller other ills, Duberman recalls that GLF made a groups that exist today, and mainstream orga- concerted effort to align with far left groups. nizations, as represented by the Human Rights GLF launched in 1969 soon after the Stonewall Campaign (HRC), the answer depends entirely riots that mark the start of the modern LGBTQ on which movement you are talking about. And rights movement. So this linkage was intrinsic by any objective measure, it is the radical move- in our movement. Or maybe it was not. GLF, which shut down in 1972, attempted to ment that failed. Duberman, a distinguished professor of his- link up with the Black Panthers and support tory emeritus at City University of New York, is the Cuban revolution. These moves were conthe author of 30 fiction and non-fiction books troversial even within GLF. While Huey Newton, a Panther leader, had published a letter in which he wrote, “We must relate to the hoEXPIRES SOON: mosexual movement,” the linking was unsuccessful because, as Duberman notes, “neither the Panthers nor the Castro$50 FREE FREE ites sought support Gift Card! Premium Channels! Installation! (Courtesy of Satellite Deals) for 3 mos. (up to 6 rooms) from homosexuals — whom they in fact despised.” In 2018, Duberman $OOR΍HUVUHTXLUH\HDUFRPPLWPHQWZLWKHDUO\WHUPLQDWLRQIHHDQGH$XWR3D\)UHH3UHPLXP points to Southern&KDQQHOV$IWHUPRV\RXZLOOEHELOOHGPRXQOHVV\RXFDOOWRFDQFHO ers on New Ground, BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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UNIVERSIT Y OF CALIFORNIA PRESS

Martin Duberman asks whether the gay movement has failed, and the answer likely depends on what gay movement you have in mind.

HAS THE GAY MOVEMENT FAILED? By Martin Duberman University of California Press $27.95; 272 pages Jun. 8 publication

the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE, the LGBT Poverty Collective, Women of Color Against Violence, now known as INCITE!, and the defunct Queers for Economic Justice as inheritors of the GLF mantle. Unlike GLF, these groups have sustained their work over time though they tend to be underfunded and some can be highly insular. It’s not clear how they will be a vanguard in any sort of realignment of the LGBTQ community’s agenda. Then the far left agenda itself is problematic. Like GLF’s still-undefined liberation agenda, the far left, including in the LGBTQ community, has always been very good at offering general critiques of social conditions and the work of mainstream groups. It has been much less suc-

DUBERMAN, continued on p.13

April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


HK DEMS, from p.5

has no clothes,” he argued, citing corruption and high rents as failures of the current administration in Albany. When questioned about a Council vote on making it easier for transgender New Yorkers to change their birth certificates, Williams acknowledged he had abstained over concerns about a specific portion of its language. Hochul, DiNapoli, and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the only other statewide elected officials besides Cuomo, also received the club’s nod. Specific tallies from the secret ballot were not announced. Despite the announcement last week that the renegade Independent Democratic Conference in the

DUBERMAN, from p.12

cessful at proposing concrete goals and describing how those goals will be achieved. Duberman offers this criticism at one point. In a discussion about hate crimes laws, Duberman notes that some far left LGBTQ groups oppose these laws because they see them as only contributing to mass incarceration and not addressing the conditions that produce hate crimes. He quotes one “LGBTQ radical activist” saying “putting our energy toward promoting harsher sentencing takes it away from the more difficult and more important work of changing our culture so that no one wants to kill another person because of their perceived membership in a marginalized identity group.” Duberman writes, “We could use a few more specifics, of course, about how to ‘change our culture,’ and can perhaps be excused for wondering in what distant millennium that change is likely to occur. In the interim, I think it’s fair to question whether the evidence that hate crime laws don’t reduce hate crimes is airtight.” I did want a more thorough analysis of the achievements of mainstream groups. Duberman opens the book by conceding that the past 50 years have produced a “remarkable change in attitude toward sexual minorities in the United States.” That didn’t happen GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

State Senate would abandon its alliance with Republicans who control that chamber and rejoin the regular Democratic Conference, the Hell’s Kitchen Dems vowed to continue opposing IDC members facing primary challenges. The club endorsed former Councilmember Robert Jackson in his challenge to Marisol Alcantara, who immediately joined the IDC after her 2016 election to a Senate seat representing the West Side. Jackson lost to Alcantara two years ago and is eagerly preparing for a rematch. The club also endorsed four local state legislative incumbents — Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried and Linda Rosenthal and Senators Liz Krueger and out gay Brad Hoylman. Gottfried, Rosenthal, and Krueger each addressed the club.

by accident. Months after GLF was founded, the Gay Activists Alliance was founded to pursue civil rights for the LGBTQ community. Mostly known for protests and zaps, GAA also used standard political tools to pursue goals and it spawned similar groups that recruited queer people to run for public office, lobbied office holders, and donated to and volunteered on political campaigns. The result, now some 50 years later, is that 22 states have laws that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and 20 of those 22 also bar discrimination based on gender identity. The protections offered by these laws vary. The policy that barred LGBTQ people from serving openly in the military was overturned in 2011, and the US Supreme Court required all states to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in 2015. There are other actions that contributed to these gains, such as LGBTQ people coming out, and that changed the culture. While it cannot be measured, I suggest that the cumulative effect of the battles for these legislative and legal wins and those other actions was to produce the “remarkable change in attitude” that Duberman reports. The proponents of liberation or “changing our culture,” whatever that means to the far left, cannot point to any similar record and so the answer is yes, that movement has failed.

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MELISSA SKLARZ, from p.4

I didn’t. And I think my voice will resonate in that conversation.” While Sklarz pointed out that “had the mayor worked with the community and the community board, they could have reached a better understanding of the needs of people to have housing in New York City,” she also credited de Blasio with “working very, very hard to try to house the 60,000 people without a roof over their heads.” Sklarz is also a big booster of the action Governor Andrew Cuomo took in late 2015 to ensure that state law nondiscrimination protections based on sex are interpreted to protect transgender New Yorkers. The Gender Expression NonDiscrimination Act has languished for more than 15 years in the State Senate, and some advocates have complained that Cuomo’s implicit support — at least until last week — for the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference to give their support to the Republican leadership has effectively blocked any action on GENDA. They also worry that executive action in pro-

tecting the trans community could be undone by a future Republican governor. Sklarz doesn’t buy either argument. Cuomo’s action, she noted, was not an executive order but rather a determination by the State Division of Human Rights that critics had 90 days to challenge — and did not. She also alluded, somewhat elliptically, to the fact that there have — to date, at least — never been enough votes in the Democratic Conference to guarantee GENDA’s passage. In fact, the only time GENDA got a committee vote, when Democrats controlled the Senate in 2010, it went down to defeat. That said, Sklarz agreed that enactment of GENDA would be “important,” and said she looks forward to working with out gay Senator Brad Hoylman on the bill. But as someone who, while a board member at the Pride Agenda, worked closely with the governor on his 2015 transgender rights announcement, Sklarz gives no quarter to anyone who questions its efficacy or permanence. Among other issues Sklarz em-

phasized in her interview with Gay City News was transportation — particularly for residents of Maspeth and Middle Village who are isolated from the subway system. While acknowledging the need for measures to curb congestion, particularly in Manhattan, she said imposing surcharges on taxis and Uber-type services was a more appropriate response than placing an $11.25 levy on commuters driving into Midtown and Downtown. Just a matter of days after the interview, the Legislature and Cuomo essentially came to the same conclusion, though most observers concerned about the spiraling congestion crisis doubt that step will, in itself, have sufficient impact to turn the problem around. Barnwell, in his initial public responses to Sklarz, has pushed back on her critique of his record, suggesting to City & State New York that she had “probably never read” Moya’s bill limiting cooperation with federal immigration efforts and insulted residents who opposed the de Blasio homeless shelter plan as “racists.” He also faulted her for supporting his 2016

opponent Markey, even though she voted against marriage equality, while questioning why he wasn’t more progressive. Sklarz herself acknowledged she was never able to sway Markey on GENDA, taking the assemblymember’s absence on one occasion the measure came up as the only victory she would get on the issue. Transgender activists have sometimes questioned whether they get the kind of support from the cisgender queer community that trans folks have for decades lent to lesbian and gay causes. Sklarz appears unworried about that. “I know a lot of people, LGBT and non-LGBT,” she said. “I’ve worked very hard. People respect that. I’ve fought many battles. Won some and lost many. People respect that… People have a pretty good idea of who I am and what I represent as a candidate. And I think they’ll show up.” If the turnout this past weekend at a Brooklyn Loves Melissa fundraiser at Excelsior in Park Slope is any indication, Sklarz may just be right about folks showing up.

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April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


POINT HONORS RONAN FARROW BY PAUL SCHINDLER

A

t a splashy April 10 fundraiser at the Plaza Hotel, the Point Foundation, the nation’s largest scholarship fund for LGBTQ college students, honored journalist Ronan Farrow, who last October broke open the Harvey Weinstein scandal with investigative reporting he published in The New Yorker. In his remarks at the Plaza, Farrow made explicit mention of something that has long bubbled beneath the surface in public discussion about him, namely that he is “part of the LGBT community.” Five years ago, the New York Post’s Page Six quoted a friend of Farrow’s describing him as sexually active with both men and women, but in his remarks this week he did not specify whether he views himself as gay, bisexual, or in some other fashion. Farrow made the remark while talking about “some of the journalism I’ve been most proud to be involved… a series of reports I did highlighting the challenges transgender Americans face in different

DIA DIPASUPIL/ GETT Y IMAGES FOR POINT FOUNDATION

walks of life.” He continued, “Being a part of the LGBT community… which recognized that reporting I was doing early on and elevated it, and has been such a stalwart source of support through the sexual assault reporting I did involving survivors who felt equally invisible… that has been an incredible source of strength for me.” Farrow, while noting how improved the media’s coverage of the LGBTQ community has become, said, “But the truth is, in reporting these stories, you realize we’re the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.”

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GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

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15


EVERYTHING FOR THE HOME Get Those Pictures Hung Up! Overcoming the inertia that sets in when contemplating wall decorations BY CAROL HEADLEY

P

ersonal touches turn an apartment into a home. Hanging pictures, whether they’re personal photographs or artwork, can really change the character of a room. Unfortunately, many of us do not know the proper ways to display pictures on a wall. Design maven Martha Stewart advises that the first step is to gather all of the pictures that are in consideration for hanging. This will enable a person to see what is available and edit their selection based on the space available, theme, or color scheme.

Having the artwork there enables a person to move it around like a puzzle until the placement feels just right. Next, plan on hanging artwork at 57 inches on center, according to the renovation experts at Apartment Therapy. “On center� means the middle of the photograph or painting will always be at 57 inches, as this measurement represents the average human eye height. This height is regularly used as a standard in many galleries and museums. When the goal is to hang multiple pictures, treat the entire grouping as a single unit. This means HANGZ.COM

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creating the layout and finding the center of the middle piece of the grouping. To make picture grouping easier, use paper templates with arrows to indicate whether the artwork will be hung horizontally or vertically. These templates can then be easily taped to the wall and rearranged until the grouping is ideal. There are no hard-and-fast rules concerning frames, meaning they do not all have to match. But placing framed artwork side-by-side can give a person a feel for whether the images and the frames work together in the space. Some people like to use frames of similar colors and sizes. Others want the eclectic mix-and-match appeal. It’s ultimately up to the homeowner. Measuring is key to hanging a picture correctly on the wall. Take into consideration the type of attachment, whether it’s Drings, sawtooth hangers, wire, or other fasteners on the back. Measure from the top of the frame to the hanger. Measure the wall to achieve the 57-inch on center loca-

tion, and then calculate where this falls within the height of the artwork and frame top. Adjust accordingly and mark. Then measure the distance from the frame top to the hanger location on the wall. Be sure to take the weight of the picture into consideration when selecting hanging hardware. Wall anchors may be needed if measurements determine a wall stud will not help secure the artwork — to keep the frame sturdy in the drywall. Home improvement resource Today’s Homeowner also suggests using self-adhesive rubber bumpers to the bottom corners on the back of the frame before hanging so that the picture will not damage the wall and will help it hang level. It can take a few attempts to hang pictures correctly, but with practice it should come with greater ease. The good news is there are new products constantly being evolved to make picture hanging easier, including those that enable removal and relocation of artwork without damaging walls. April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

17


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN

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

Fake Gay News

PAUL SCHINDLER

editor@gaycitynews.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR DUNCAN OSBORNE

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

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

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THELASTLINEOFDEFENSE.ONLINE

A 2015 picture of Ricky Ruvpump, whom Fallis Gunnington of thelastlineofdefense.online fingered as Vice President Mike Pence’s lover.

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

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18

BY ED SIKOV

“M

ike Pence Being Accused of Having Sexual R el at ion sh ip with Gay Pornstar Is Fake News” is the attention-grabbing headline of a piece in an online rag called “Business 2 Community.” It’s all pretty breathless in tone; writer Shawn Rice appears to think he’s informing readers of something terribly vital. “There is no truth to a report that a gay pornstar is now alleging that he and the current Vice President of the United States previously had a sexual relationship when the two were at a ‘pray the gay away camp.’ Pence has been the subject of many fake news, photographs, tweets, and memes, especially with regards to his religious beliefs. This is just another one in a long list of them. Where did this fake news originate? The Last Line of Defense published the fake news article on March 20, 2018, alleging with the salacious headline that Pence was caught having had a sexual affair with a gay Asian pornstar back in 2002.” The story to which Rice refers is this, by one Fallis Gunnington: “This Monday, another hardcore erotic film star came forward to tell a tale of sexual debauchery with a resident of Pennsylvania Avenue. But

this time, the alleged romp partner was Vice President Mike Pence. The homosexual Asian film actor, Nguyen Jolie, who goes by the sobriquet ‘Ricky Ruvpump,’ released a tell-all book of his experiences in the adult film world, ‘Ricky Ruvs Rife.’ In the book, Jolie makes mention of attending a ‘pray the gay away’ camp in 2002, run by Pence and his wife, Karen. He goes on to expound on several instances when he and the future Vice President were intimate together, at times, in explicit detail. For instance, this excerpt, from page 71: ‘He was very friendly, like a caring grandfather. His hands were smooth and smelled like cocoa butter. He told me I was beautiful and touched my lips with his thumbs. He gently pushed me back onto the piano that he had just been playing and told me he was going to “tickle my ivories.” He was a very warm and somewhat sticky lover.’” Here’s just another example of the liberal media unfairly attacking team Trump, conservative Christians, and righteous people everywhere, right? There’s only one problem. The Last Line of Defense is explicit satire. For one thing, Fallis Gunnington? That should be enough to tip anyone off. Second, The Last Line’s Facebook page contains this blunt statement: “Allow me to clarify for those of you too dense to read the 400 subtle

hints and 16 actual disclaimers on this clearly labeled political satire page that promotes an entertainment website: You will find no ‘journalism’ here. There are no sources. We don’t pretend to be able to back our claims. In short, please take your interview questions and your holier than thou opinions and shove them straight up your pooper.” Weirdly, Rice himself quotes the following notice on the bottom of the Last Line of Defense article’s webpage, calling it a “disclaimer”: “sat·ire ~ sa t ( )r — noun; the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, OR ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. If you disagree with the definition of satire or have decided it is synonymous with ‘comedy,’ you should really just move along.” Wait just a doggone minute. Could it be the case that Shawn Rice’s piece in Business 2 Community is also satire? Have we really gotten to the point of having fake fake news? This is all too confusing. Mother is getting one of her sick headaches. In other news: Alexander Pope ridicules rape in epic poem. Speaking of fake news, I’ve been musing lately on the differences and similarities between fake news and no news, with missed-the-point-entirely news thrown in as an additional complication. As a media critic, I cut my teeth on the AIDS epidemic, an era in which nothing in the news could be trusted. I clearly remember the years when the New York Times waited until Tuesday to publish any news of the epidemic. Why? Because that was the day the Times published the section of the paper called Science Times. Thus articles about AIDS only appeared alongside stories about the mating behavior of rhesus monkeys, recent archaeological discoveries in Turkey, and Jane Brody’s latest exhortation to eat more cabbage. There was next to no coverage of the devastating impact AIDS was having on the hundreds, then thousands of human beings affected by the disease. Only after the more-orless openly gay cooking columnist Craig Claiborne took the executive editor Abe Rosenthal to lunch and told him that he really ought to be

FAKE GAY NEWS, continued on p.19

April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad

Baby Dykes in Danger: The School to Prison Pipeline

a confident, “don’t fuck with me” stride. My classmates, anyway, were okay. I wasn’t actually bullied for being a dyke, which was good, because I didn’t know I was one yet. That was in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and I had no role models. Not one student or teacher was out — though rumors burned hot. He’s a faggot. She’s a lezzzzzz. I didn’t see myself in the hiss, but try to imagine myself in school now that things have changed, kind of. Having a woman teacher I know for a fact is a dyke. Wondering whether or not to go to a meeting of the Gay Straight Alliance. A 2015 study found that LGBTQ youth were 91 percent more likely to be bullied than kids perceived as straight. I wonder if it was always like that,

or if the problem is worse now that kids like me can put a name to their difference — and so can the other kids. I don’t think I would have dared. It would have gotten back to my mother whom I can’t imagine as anything other than a panicky homophobe even in her dementia, afraid someone might think she is gay because she used the word girlfriend. We don’t talk enough about how vulnerable young queers still are. We especially don’t talk about lesbian and bi girls. Earlier this year, Joel Mittleman, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Princeton, crunched the numbers in an ongoing “Fragile Families and Childhood Wellbeing Study” and discovered that LGBTQ teens were 29 percent more likely to be suspended or expelled than their straight peers. But when he broke it down by sex, he found that there was almost no additional risk for boys. It was queer girls who skewed the numbers, being 95 percent — NINETY-FIVE! — more likely to be disciplined at school than their straight peers. I don’t know how to fathom that. Not just that it happens, but that I didn’t know. Or that the school to prison pipeline isn’t just for young black men. Mittleman noted that “… sexual minority girls are dramatically overrepresented in the juvenile justice system in a way that sexual minority boys are not.” Become known as a “disciplinary” problem, pretty soon they just call the cops. No matter that half the times young dykes get in fights it’s because they finally decided to fight back against their tormenting bullies.

I’d known that dykes were overrepresented in prison, but I thought it happened during sentencing. Didn’t realize it went as far back as this. And that our lost lives were in the hands of teachers and administrators who destroyed our futures just for liking other girls. Or for being a little masculine, a little butch. Mittleman blamed school staff for 62 percent of the cases, noting that parents themelves reported behavioral problems for the other 38 percent. I’m suspicious of those reports, suspicious that some of those parents were like my Southern Baptist mother who, if I had come out, or been caught with a girl, would have dragged me to the preacher, then the shrink. Maybe I would have ended up in one of those conversion camps. I would certainly have rebelled. Been labeled a “disciplinary problem.” All for kissing a girl, refusing to giggle coyly at the sight of pimply faced boys. Why didn’t we know? Does anybody care? These are not idle questions. The fact is we almost never hear about the problems of young lesbians and bi girls. Even queers, even lesbians who rage against the prison industrial complex which gobbles up black men by the millions are largely mute when it comes to the dykes of all races that represent almost 42 percent of the rapidly expanding population of women’s prison. Feminists are silent, too.

It was media-sponsored terrorism and had no news or policy value at all. Its purpose was simply to further terrify an already terrified community. We would (or should) consider this fake news today — fake on a more sophisticated level than Pence’s satirical encounter with Nguyen Jolie, but fake nonetheless. Relegating AIDS to the pages of Science Times promoted the (fake) idea that it was purely a medical problem — that there was no social element to the crisis at all. The many, many gaps in the Times’ coverage of AIDS, not to mention the outright falsehoods the paper printed, led me (for one)

to be deeply skeptical of not only the Times but of media in general. Living through that period was rather like living in 1863 and finding no coverage of the Civil War except in the back of the Sports Pages. The Times has gotten way, way better since then; gay people have a place at the table (or trough, depending on your politics). And I’ve become a bit less skeptical (read: more gullible, perhaps) of the news media in general. I tend to believe what the folks on MSNBC tell me, whereas I wouldn’t watch Fox News if you paid me. That’s why you don’t see Media Circus coverage of Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, et. al. Life is too short.

Five minutes of Fox News would take five years off my life, and it just ain’t worth it. All of which is to say that fake news can be the deliberate absence of news as well as downright dishonest reporting. When the so-called paper of record failed to cover a catastrophic medical crisis that any conscious person could see was devastating New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and on and on, it was every bit as fake as reporting that Mike Pence fucked Ricky Ruvpump.

PRINCETON.EDU

Joel Mittleman, a Princeton sociology Ph.D. candidate, reports on the risks lesbians and bisexual females of color face in getting suspended or expelled from school and in entering the criminal justice system.

BY KELLY COGSWELL

I

’m trying to remember what school was like. Having to beg permission to pee. Grades that seemed almost arbitrary. Hallways where boys regularly grabbed or pinched my ass. I didn’t know if they did that to all the girls, or just me, because I never told anyone or even thought about it. Why would you? I was taught girls were always in danger. Always prey. Don’t wear short skirts or make-up. Don’t call attention to yourself. I didn’t, but walking home from high school white guys from the neighborhood would still inch along behind me in their cars. Sometimes they’d say something, sometimes they’d just lurk. That’s when I started to walk like the black guys, with

FAKE GAY NEWS, from p.18

covering the AIDS crisis more thoroughly did Rosenthal slowly began to change his policy of willful ignorance. But then, in 1986, came the notorious William F. Buckley Jr.’s purely evil op-ed column in which he seriously advocated a policy whereby the US government would forcibly round up all HIV-positive people in the country and tattoo them at the site of their presumed initial infection. Gay men, for instance, would be held down on gurneys while government-commissioned tattoo artists would permanently disfigure their asses. GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.

Follow @edsikov on Facebook and Twitter.

19


BELLA ABZUG REMEMBERED ON BANK STREET

COURTESY OF LIZ ABZUG

At the street naming ceremony last month, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Liz Abzug, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Eve Abzug hold up the sign for Bella S. Abzug Way.

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

B

ella Savitzky Abzug, who with her election to the US House of Representatives in 1970 from a West Side district became the embodiment of the rising political voice of America’s women, was honored in March, the 20th an-

niversary of her 1998 death, with a street naming at the corner of Bank Street and Greenwich Avenue in the West Village. Abzug, who was born in the Bronx in 1920 and raised there, lived at 37 Bank Street for 20 years. Abzug won election as a progressive, anti-war reformer in an upset primary victory over longtime Dem-

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COURTESY OF LIZ ABZUG

Bella Abzug, 1920-1998, was the most potent embodiment of womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s political power when she arrived in Congress in January 1971.

ocratic Congressmember Leonard Farbstein. Though her district was then eliminated after Census-dictated redistricting, Abzug went on to serve two more terms in a configured West Side district. In 1976, she chose not to seek reelection, instead waging a Democratic primary fight for the US Senate, which she narrowly lost to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who went on to serve there for 24 years. In 1977, Abzug fell just short of making it into the mayoral primary run-off that pitted Mario Cuomo against the victor, her fellow House member Ed Koch, who served at City Hall for 12 years. Abzug was known for her relentless advocacy of peace, labor and civil rights, and other progressive causes â&#x20AC;&#x201D; as well as striking hats with which she cut an indelible figure. She was the first member of Congress to introduce gay rights legislation, her approach being a full-scale incorporation of sexual orientation into the protections afforded by the 1964 Civil Rights Act against discrimination based on race, religion, sex, and other categories. Curiously, for many years after that, the LGBTQ community pursued a narrower focus on winning employment protections only. It was not until 2015, with the introduction of the Equality Act, that LGBTQ advocates and their allies on Capitol Hill returned to the com-

prehensive vision Abzug laid out 41 years earlier. At the street-naming ceremony for Bella S. Abzug Way on March 29, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;She was a strong voice with a thick New York accent for those who needed her most, namely the poor and marginalized. Bella was truly ahead of her time, championing issues like gay and civil rights well before many of her peers. Those issues are still very much relevant today, and I am delighted that her legacy will live on forever at the corner she called home with her family, friends, and constituentsâ&#x20AC;Ś It is an honor well deserved for a true New York icon.â&#x20AC;? City Comptroller Scott Stringer said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bella Abzug was a role model for so many women who were blocked from entry into the corridors of power. She was a tireless, tough-as-nails trailblazer, who embodied the very best of New York. As a leader and advocate for peace, for labor, for civil rights and gender equality, she never hesitated to speak out.â&#x20AC;? Abzugâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s two daughters, Eve and Liz Abzug, in a joint statement, said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;My sister and I are thrilled that our great mom is finally getting the recognition in her beloved Village and on the street where our family joyfully lived and which was part of the district she represented as a congresswoman in the 1970s.â&#x20AC;? April 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


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April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


PARK SLOPE HOSPITAL SCORES 100 AT HRC BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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FACEBOOK.COM

New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in Park Slope.

BANK OF AMERICA, from p.7

the vice chair of Bank of America’s board, told Bloomberg TV that the company will no longer lend to gun manufacturers that produce assault rifles. Remington manufactures such weapons. A Bank of America spokesperson told Gay City News that the Remington loan was made before Finucane announced the bank’s new position. Following the Pulse shooting, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which generally does not take positions on matters not explicitly linked to queer community objectives, and other LGBTQ groups announced their support for gun control measures. Bank of America was once seen as an ally of the LGBTQ community. It has consistently scored 100, the highest score, on the Corporate Equality Index, an annual ranking produced by HRC that measures the extent to which companies have pro-LGBTQ policies and positions. It was among companies that opposed North Carolina’s HB2, a 2016 state law that overturned local laws that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and required transgender people to use public bathrooms that are consistent with the gender on their birth certificates, which could often mean that they end up using the wrong bathrooms. While HRC never called for a boycott of North Carolina, its organizing in response to HB2 becoming law was effectively that. CompaGayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

nies pulled business from the state or canceled plans to open facilities there. Bank of America, which is headquartered in Charlotte, said the law should be repealed. In 2017, Bank of America ran afoul of HRC when it supported state legislation in North Carolina that was advertised as a repeal of HB2, but had been rejected by HRC. “Bank of America and [Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina] actively participated in brokering a law that will extend discrimination against countless LGBTQ people across the state of North Carolina with particularly significant and permanent harm to transgender people,” Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program, told the Charlotte Observer last year. HRC went on to reject $325,000 in financial support from Bank of America. HRC did not respond to a request for comment from Gay City News for this story. Published reports on the bankruptcy suggest that Remington wants to avoid liabilities that may result from a class action lawsuit charging the company with selling an estimated 7.5 million faulty guns. And gun manufacturers have seen a downturn in sales since Donald Trump was elected to the White House and Republicans maintained control of Congress, though sales have increased since the February mass shooting in a Florida high school.

ew York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital has joined only 417 others hospitals nationwide in winning designation as a Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The 591-bed teaching hospital, located on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, won the designation in the 11th edition of the HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index, which assesses the LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices of participating hospitals. Scoring is based on four criteria: LGBTQ Patient-Centered Care, LGBTQ Patient Services and Support, Employee Benefits and Policies, and LGBTQ Patient and Community Engagement. Last year, NYP Brooklyn Methodist established an LGBTQ

Healthcare Task Force, comprised of employees from across the hospital. The task force’s initiatives included LGBTQ healthcare training for staff, implementing rainbow badge clips so LGBTQ patients can identify advocates on staff, and gender-neutral bathroom signage. The staff training included a specialized effort with Emergency Department Liaisons. In collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine, NYP Brooklyn Methodist, whose history dates back 135 years, provides specialized services in advanced and minimally invasive surgery, neurosciences, orthopedics, digestive and liver disorders, and cancer and cardiac care. The hospital houses Centers of Excellence for bariatric surgery and breast imaging, a cancer program accredited by the Commission on Cancer, and a New York State-designated stroke center.

For more news & events happening now visit www.GayCityNews.nyc

25


THEATER

A Heartbreaking Comedy of Hope The monumental revival of “Angels in America” is an unqualified triumph

BRINKHOFF & MÖGENBURG

James McArdle and Andrew Garfield in “Millennium Approaches,” part 1 of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” directed by Marianne Elliott, at the Neil Simon through July 1.

BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE f you have seen “Angels in America” in any of its previous incarnations — the original 1993 Broadway production, the fine 2003 HBO film, many regional productions, or the 2010 Signature revival, you may understandably wonder whether you should see it again, invest another eight hours of your life in Tony Kushner’s complex, sprawling, and abstract meditation on life and love, AIDS, angels, activism, faith, passion, and the entire world. The simple and inescapable answer is: you must. The sheer brilliance of Marianne Elliott’s production, imported from London’s National Theatre, and the extraordinary virtuoso performances by the stellar cast will leave you emotionally and intellectually exhilarated — and drained —particularly if you see both parts in one day, which is highly recommended for the full impact of the experience. It is both hilariously funny and achingly sad, and what’s remarkable is that 25 years after the original productions of the two parts, “Millennium Approaches” and “Perestroika,” the plays are still relevant and gripping. For those of us who remember the 1980s, saw how

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26

AIDS tore up gay culture, and went to too many funerals of friends we loved, Kushner’s rage was cathartic — and comforting. In his poetry and abstraction, there was a kind of shared, very public mourning for the cruelty of a largely inexplicable disease and the realization that those in power didn’t care that an entire swath of the population was dying while being actively ignored. Even so, life would find a way and the struggle would continue. A quarter of a century later and 18 years in to the new millennium, it’s clear it did not bring the promised enlightenment and that the struggles are still real, if somewhat changed. PrEP has significantly slowed the transmission of HIV, nor is the virus an automatic death sentence. Yet there are still nearly 40 million people worldwide living with HIV. The infamous lawyer Roy Cohn, who figures prominently in the plays, has moved out of the shadows of history thanks to his mentoring of one Donald Trump during the president’s early career. The nation throbs with rage and ignorance, fueled by a hostile administration, religious posturing, and a media thriving on — and so all too eager to stoke — the fires of divisiveness. Seen against this backdrop, “Angels in America”

BRINKHOFF & MÖGENBURG

Nathan Lane and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett in “Perestroika,” part 2 of “Angels in America.”

takes on mythic and metaphoric proportions that give the piece a wrenching immediacy that seizes the audience’s mind and heart and refuses to let go. The complex and intertwining plot lines have characters meeting and interacting in reality and in each other’s hallucinations. Its scale resists easily description. The natural and supernatural co-exist as Prior Walter, a young man and former drag queen stricken with AIDS, is visited by ghosts of his ancestors, also named Prior Walter, who herald the arrival of an angel, who calls him a prophet. Meanwhile Joe Pitt, a transplanted Mormon in New York who is struggling with his homosexuality, falls under the mentorship and manipulation of Cohn. Joe’s wife Harper is a valium-addicted woman at sea and despairing. Cohn is diagnosed with AIDS and is visited by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, whom he sent to the electric chair in 1953. Prior’s lover Louis can’t take the pressure of the illness and abandons him. Fortunately, Prior’s friend Belize, another former drag queen and now a nurse, is there to help. He also happens to be Cohn’s nurse. The angel arrives and tells Prior that Heaven — supposedly a beautiful city, like San Francisco — is

ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES Neil Simon Theatre 250 W. 52nd St. Through Jul. 1 Both parts: Thu. & Fri. at 7 p.m. Or Sat. at 1 & 7 p.m. Part 1, “Millennium Approaches,” only: Wed. at 1 p.m.; alternating Sun. at 2 p.m. Part 2, “Perestroika,” only: Wed. at 7 p.m.; alternating Sun. at 2 p.m. $49.50-$249 for each part Ticketmaster.com or 800-745-3000 Part 1: Three hrs., 30 mins., with two intermissions Part 2— Four hrs., with two intermissions

in upheaval, left that way by God’s preference for human life. Prior is charged with spreading the world for humans to “stop moving” in order to restore order in Heaven, and as the angel says, “The great work begins.” In part two, Joe’s mother arrives

ANGELS, continued on p.27

April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


THEATER

Making Fetch Happen Tina Fey’s caustic high school comedy sashays from screen to stage BY DAVID KENNERLEY roadway’s ravenous addiction to sourcing popular movies for the stage and setting them to music shows no signs of abating. In recent seasons we’ve seen “Legally Blonde,” “Bring It On: The Musical,” “Kinky Boots,” and “Groundhog Day,” among others. And let’s not forget that the longest running tuner on Broadway, “The Phantom of the Opera,” is based on a movie. Two movies, in fact. Yet each of these musical reboots must face a crucial litmus test. Does it offer substantially more depth, more heart, and more verve than the source material to justify a $15 million investment? In the case of the latest entry, “Mean Girls,” inspired by the 2004 teen comedy starring Lindsay Lohan that skewers the cutthroat social gyrations of high school, the answer is definitely, fervently yes. Granted, the creative team is impressive, but by no means a guarantee of success. Tina Fey, who wrote the movie screenplay but had zero credits writing for theater, does a fine job with the book, with a focused story and a witty, ofthe-moment script, with zingers like “Stop picking at the emotional zit that you can’t pop.” Fey has wisely shifted the time period from 2004 to today, injecting this “Mean Girls” with a fresh relevance. Smartphones and social media now dominate, offering new chances for meanness. The dialogue is flecked with topical references to being “woke” and jabs at the current president, always good for a laugh. Casey Nicholaw, of “Something Rotten” and “Book of Mormon” fame, works his gleeful trademark magic as both director and choreographer. The musical numbers, with a score composed by Jeff Richmond (Fey’s husband) and Nell Benjamin, are as exuberant and eye-popping as any you’ll find on Broadway. The dizzying choreography is an improbable mix of tap dancing, animalistic fighting, trust falls, and Vaudeville-

MEAN GIRLS

B

ANGELS, from p.26

to save him from his sexuality, Harper goes off the rails, Cohn is disbarred and dies as Rosenberg watches, and Belize steals Cohn’s questionably obtained AZT for Prior and others. Joe and Louis find each other and enter into a sexual relationship that ends badly. HarpGayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

August Wilson Theatre 245 W. 52nd St. Tue. at 7 p.m.; Wed-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m. Sun. at 3 p.m. $149-$260; meangirlsonbroadway.com Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

JOAN MARCUS

Grey Henson, Barrett Wilbert Weed, and Erika Henningsen in Tina Fey, Jeff Richmond, and Nell Benjamin’s stage adaptation of “Mean Girls.”

esque shimmying with cafeteria trays. The challenge, of course, was to flesh out undeveloped characters, intensify key emotional moments, and cut out the extraneous bits, without alienating a rabid fan base that wants to see the familiar yet still be surprised. On that score, the creators have hit the sweet spot. Most of the key plot points are retained. Sixteen-year-old Cady (a remarkably fluid Erika Henningsen), after years of being homeschooled in Africa, lands at North Shore High in a wealthy Chicago suburb and, despite her dorky ways, is adopted by the supreme clique known as The Plastics. Cady, more comfortable hanging out with the artsy misfits Damian (Grey Henson, who shines as the outspoken gay maverick) and Janis (Barrett Wilbert Weed), joins The Plastics as a joke. She secretly sabotages the queen bee Regina (Taylor Louderman, in top form) by tricking her into eating “weight loss” bars that are actually loaded with empty calories. What Regina really loses is her slim figure and her alpha status, and, well, you can guess who steps in to fill the void. Complicating matters is Cady’s crush on dreamboat Aaron (Kyle Selig), who happens to be Regina’s ex-boyfriend and is strictly off limits. And then there’s the dreaded Burn Book, a scrapbook of student photos with bitchy, scath-

er leaves for San Francisco. Four years later, Prior is still alive, to his surprise. As he says at the very end of “Perestroika,” “The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you. More life. The great work begins.” This message of cautious hope,

ing comments, that gets into the wrong hands and causes heartbreak, betrayal, and revenge. One page even accuses a certain student of masturbating with a frozen hot dog. They don’t call it “Mean Girls” for nothing. The movie’s most famous quip, “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen,” was preserved but did not land. Instead, a later twist on that line earned guffaws. Scott Pask’s set is a marvel of high-tech wizardry, where dazzling video images create the backdrops, allowing for split-second scene changes. Think “Dear Evan Hansen” on a cocktail of Red Bull and Adderall. Evoked even more successfully than in the movie are the surreal, highly theatrical scenes of students morphing into vicious wild animals, fighting each other for survival, and highlighting what Cady sees as alarming parallels between the ecosystems in high school and the Serengeti. “Every food chain has its acme,” she declares. Not that novel insights are the musical’s strong suit. It trots out the same tropes from nearly every teen musical: Be yourself. Fight for your right to fit in. Embrace your inner nerd. Be careful what you wish for. Calling people ugly won’t make you more beautiful. And if the delightfully engaging “Mean Girls” isn’t enough to sate your appetite for musicals drawn from movies, take note. Another tuner, based on a hit 1995 movie also set in high school, is currently in development — “Clueless: The Musical.”

as simple as it is on the surface, lands with surprising impact. It is ultimately the only possible prophecy, and one we need today as much as we did a quarter of a century ago. Elliott’s production mines all the artistry of the text with sublime attention to detail. Kushner’s original stage directions stated the play

should be presented simply, with no blackouts between scenes, so its theatricality would reflect its structure. Ian MacNeil’s set is largely a series of forms framed with neon on turntables that assemble into rooms and different locations. Paule Constable’s lighting uses darkness

ANGELS, continued on p.30

27


Charles Busch’s Big, Beautiful Dare Master of pastiche comes up a winner with his confession weepie BY DAVID NOH nbelievable as it seems, genius campmeister Charles Busch has never tackled pre-Code women’s pictures, namely those soakedhankie epics of beleaguered mother love like “Madame X,” “Blonde Venus,” or “Frisco Jenny.” Consider that genre now officially done, to a side-splitting fare-thee-well, for “The Confession of Lily Dare” is Busch in peak form, both as writer and performer. He’s surrounded by the most wonderful ensemble cast to be found anywhere in the world, delivering both deep laughs as well as the most disarming heartbreak, in an ingenious production that delivers on every imaginable level. “I’ve always had a penchant for these tour-de-force vehicles, where actresses age from being young and beautiful to hagdom,” Busch said, sliding into a booth at Odessa, definitely in need of a refuel after the workout of his third performance of the highly demanding show. “I always wanted to do that myself and strangely never have, really. Everything you write is personal — you can’t help it, whether you realize it or not. I’m someone who had a mother who died when I was seven. I’ve always been a sucker for any kind of mother love drama: one of my favorites, which is unavailable today, is ‘The Blue Veil’ with Jane Wyman. I used to watch it on the 4:30 movie; it’s based on a French film [‘Le voile bleu’] and there’s some problem with the rights. Joan Blondell was nominated for an Oscar for it. There was a little tiny genre of these films in the early 1930s, all based on ‘Madame X’ — I’m not one for film noir or Westerns — only these obscure little sub-genres no one’s ever heard about. I may be deluding myself, but I’d like to think that someone who’d never seen one of them would still have a good time at this play.” In this vein, Busch has gotten to play a nun in “The Divine Sister,” a glamorous white diva caught up in 1932 China in love with a savage warlord in “Shanghai Moon,” a

THE CONFESSION OF LILY DARE

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Theater for the New City 155 First Ave., btwn. Ninth & 10th Sts. Through Apr. 29 Tue. at 7 p.m. Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sun. at 3 p.m. theaterforthenewcity.net/lilydare. html

MICHAEL WAKEFIELD

Charles Busch in the title role of his “The Confession of Lily Dare,” at the Theater for the New City — with limited seats left! — until April 29.

perky teen surfer chick in “Psycho Beach Party,” and more. He said that he thought himself lucky to have had all of these opportunities to do his movie fantasies, “Like, wouldn’t it fun to be a devastating concert pianist?” “With the addition of the word, ‘cunt!,’” I interjected, to use a decidedly un-PC term that keeps hilariously cropping up in his oeuvre. “Yes,” he laughed, “but you’ll notice I have the lovely, immaculate actress Jennifer Van Dyck here saying the most filthy things. But I won’t say them. Although I did say ‘cunt-face’ in ‘The Divine Sister.’ “My brand of genre parody is so close to the genre that it could not only be a comment on it, but can also reach the same emotional goal. So here, if I‘m doing a tearjerker, I would like to draw some tears.” That he manages to do, miraculously, in the midst of so much campy fun. I know the maternal confession genre through and through, and yet still found myself misting up during the play’s final moments of raw emotion, which Busch plays beautifully, superbly lit by Kirk Bookman, to evoke those jaw-dropping movie star closeups

of the 1930s. Another such moment is when he and his faithful accompanist Mickey (Kendal Sparks, adorable) find themselves down and out, reminiscing about the good old days when they were in the chips. “I met him when I wrote a children’s musical years ago [‘Bunnicula’], and in this case I really wanted to sing the song and not to a track. So I needed an experienced musician, and Kendal can play the piano. He’s a darling, with a total sweetness. I wrote the part for him, which I enjoy doing for people.” Busch agreed with me that this was the “Frank McHugh” role, and, as for Howard McGillin, expertly oily, as the suave villain of the piece, “I told him he was ‘Warren William’... these obscure actors, as if anybody wouldn’t know who they were! [Laughs.] I’ve adored Howard for years and only worked with him once before, a one-night fundraiser of ‘Bell, Book and Candle,’ with him as Jimmy Stewart and me, not as Kim Novak, but some variation of all those crazy leading actresses who played it in stock: Roz Russell, Lana Turner. Just a reading but I had all these

costume changes, even within scenes, like when I went out into the kitchen and returned in a new caftan, very 1972.” If any performer has come close to actually stealing a show from Busch, it’s Van Dyck, who is now officially my new favorite New York actress for the hilarious and dazzling range she displayed in a plethora of roles, from crusty bordello madam to decadent German baroness to New York cop to aristocratic foster mother to a key illegitimate infant. I told Busch that she was lucky he isn’t really Helen Lawson or Ethel Merman, who would have had her role cut to ribbons out of competitive jealousy. “It’s a cliché, but you really are better with good people that make you rise to the occasion. I’m the star of the show but also the playwright, and it behooves me to get people to get all the laughs. I told an actor once, ‘You will be so spoiled after this because I will set you up as it’s in my best interest that you get the laugh, and when it’s my turn you stay clear. “We were doing ‘The Third Story’ at La Jolla Playhouse and were having a terrible time finding an actress for this frosty lady scientist. Jonathan Walker was playing my lead, a ‘Steve Cochran’ type, and Julie Halston told me, ‘He lives in my building and is married to this wonderful actress, Jennifer Van Dyck.’ We called her agent and she came in and read one line, I think, and we asked her to please play this role.

CHARLES BUSCH, continued on p.29

April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


CHARLES BUSCH, from p.28

“We’ve done a number of shows now, and she can play anything, also trouser roles, as she has a kind of Hepburn quality, too. A great actress, who does lots of TV stuff, ‘Law and Order’s, and is the First Lady of audiobooks, lots of awards for that. She’s in this wonderful marriage — they are like the Bonnie and Clyde of the resistance, always getting arrested.” Matching her, accent for accent, is the ultra-gifted Christopher Borg, as everything from an innocent juvenile (a “Gavin Gordon”) to that bastard’s foster dad (a “John Boles”), who sounds like FDR. “He’s a total chameleon, a stalwart of downtown, many theater awards. I had needed someone to play the Evil Eunuch in ‘Judith of Bethulia.’ I had seen him in some plays and was close to [gay playwright] Doric Wilson, who died, and I saw Christopher there. So, in the spirit of Doric and Off-OffBroadway, I was talent-scouting his memorial. I was like, ‘Psst… how would you like to be in my play as the Evil Eunuch, but you gotta shave yourself from head to toe!’” Holding the whole show together is narrator Nancy Anderson, doing her version of that priceless character actress, Isabel Jewell, who always seemed to be playing a doomed floozie: “I’ve always admired her a lot, from when we did a benefit of ‘Valley of the Dolls,’ with her as Jennifer and me as Helen Lawson. She understudied Glenn Close in ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ you know, and went on once. There was something of it on YouTube, which was taken off, but when she sang ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye,’ the audience was cheering. I wrote the part for this fine actress.” Guiding them all with delicious verve and perfect pace is director Carl Andress, who, for years now, has been George Cukor to Busch’s Katharine Hepburn. “Carl just gets me and is always a pleasure to work with. Met him when he was 24 and my dresser in the early days when I was doing all these events in drag as this grande dame of the theater, as I felt more comfortable that way than as myself. He was very helpful, picking out drag for me and also my eye during rehearsals. At this one GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

Manhattan Theatre gala, I was doing this monologue I’d done a million times and they asked me if I could cut a few lines in the middle for time constraints. Carl said, ‘You can’t, as that would totally blow it.’ I took his advice and he became my director, as well as one in his own right gradually. He has assembled a great team of designers to work with on sets, costumes, lighting, sound, so helpful with a low budget like we have.” Jessica Jahn, who did his costumes, was particularly helpful. “Only one costume — my first one [utterly hilarious]. The others we culled from Theater Development [Fund] workshop, an incredible resource. But we needed someone with a real eye to pick out our very specific needs, from the racks of thousands of costumes they have there. Then Carl and I went out there to Astoria so I could try on what she pulled. “They were just what we wanted but I was a little dubious about the one I wear as [sensational cabaret artiste] Mandalay. It’s that formfitting gold sheath and I’m not as thin as I was. It worked but I have never forgotten this review of Bette Davis in ‘Dead Ringer’ which described her as ‘exuberantly uncorseted, her waistline is like a gunnysack of galoshes.’ [Laughs.] For my final costume, I wanted something very simple of silk crepe with a scoop neck in a solid color. She said, ‘Well, okay. I‘ll try…’ and found the most perfect dress, as if I had designed it myself, almost willed into being.” If you want to see this show, good luck, as it’s pretty sold out with a very limited run. For the productions he does at Theater for the New City, Busch never invites critics or press. “I was out to dinner with Martha Plimpton last night, and she asked me why I didn’t. I told her it’s such a short run that by the time the reviews came out we would be in the last week and we’re sold out anyway. But with this and the last two I did, they were so good that I kind of regretted it. These shows are fun because we throw them up quickly and it whets my appetite for performing, but it sure is a lot of work. “I’m in a kind of a bind, career-

CHARLES BUSCH, continued on p.31

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THEATER

Magic in the Making Basil Twist revives “Symphonie Fantastique” for its 20th anniversary BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE ho knows where inspiration comes from? For master puppeteer Basil Twist, it came accidentally in the form of a small, broken aquarium found outside his East Village studio. He patched it up, filled it with water, attached a bit of fabric to a coat hanger, and started swirling it around in the water. And then he thought, “What else can I do?” Two decades later that prophetic “What else?” has turned into a now-classic piece of art, “Symphonie Fantastique.” First performed in a small downstairs theater at the HERE Arts Center, where I saw it in 1998, the piece has since been seen around the world and in several revivals in New York. Now in honor of its 20th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of HERE, the piece is being revived. It is a moving and thrilling combination of abstract art, puppetry, and music. For this revival, the piece is performed in a 1,000-gallon tank framed in black, so the audience only sees a wall of glass, behind which the magic happens. Berlioz’s symphony is played live by pianist Christopher O’Riley — positioned in front of the tank and the only human we see — though there are five puppeteers working behind the scenes. The puppets are all abstract. They’re simple pieces of fabric, feathers, and abstract plastic shapes. However, these quotidian objects take on lives of their own as they’re manipulated through the five movements of Berlioz’s symphony and transformed by movement and Andrew Hill’s lighting. Adding life to inanimate objects is what makes “Symphonie Fantastique” so compelling. As Twist told Gay City News, “Anything can be imbued with life and animated. It doesn’t have to be a representational thing. You can take all those materials and fabrics, and you pattern them and change them, and then you make the character come alive.” Twist added that what he is doing is playing

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ANGELS, from p.27

with great sensitivity, using specific points of illumination to striking theatrical and emotional effect. And then, there’s the cast. There are barely words to describe Andrew Garfield’s brilliant performance as Prior. He tackles the role with a no-holds-barred ferocity

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HERE Arts Center 145 Sixth Ave. at Dominick St. Through Jun. 17 Tue.-Sat. at 8:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 4 p.m. $30-$100; here.org Or 866-811-4111 55 mins., no intermission

RICHARD TERMINE

A scene from Basil Twist’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” at the HERE Arts Center through June 17.

with the conventions of puppetry and the visual arts. “One hundred years ago, Kandinsky was creating pure shapes and colors that weren’t necessarily referring to something, and I thought it would be a cool idea,” he explained. Twist calls puppetry “one of the highest art forms,” and he’s been doing it throughout his life. “When I was growing up I was shy and puppetry was sort of a coping mechanism,” he said. “I could hide behind the couch and stick a puppet up.” When he was in school he did a book report on Ancient Greece and did it with a puppet in a toga. It was an ideal mechanism for engaging with people in an indirect way, he discovered. Twist came to puppetry through his family. His mother was an amateur puppeteer and he is “squarely of the ‘Sesame Street’ generation.” His maternal grandfather, Griff Williams, was a big band leader who loved puppets and had a set of marionettes made of his band. (You can see the puppets on display in the basement area at HERE.) Twist never met his grandfather, but the marionettes were passed down to him, “and that sort of sealed the deal,” he said. Twist has a long history of wonderful pup-

and focus that are often literally breathtaking. His technique as an actor combined with the integrity of the portrayal and his inherent presence are something you won’t see often in a lifetime of theatergoing. It is a performance that will resonate for years to come. Nathan Lane is equally galvanizing as the nefarious Cohn. His performance

petry including some of my favorites, the Player King and Queen in “Hamlet” for The Public in Central Park, “Arias with a Twist,” and for the Broadway productions of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Oh, Hello.” Starting out, Twist performed in clubs a lot, such as Boy Bar, Jackie 60, a variety of drag shows, and “an abstract thing to an Yma Sumac song.” The huge, positive response to that is what made him want to do a more extensive non-representational show, which in time led to “Symphonie Fantastique.” In talking about the power of puppetry to move people and create art, Twist rejects the notion that when audiences enter a theater they accept various conventions. “Suspension of disbelief, my ass,” he said. “It’s just belief.” The experience of believing that a piece of silk can actually come alive is what creates the art. In performance, Twist added, “I feel this effect. A part of the brain is activated and [the audience] believes something exists. There is a life that they can see, and they connect with it.” There is certainly no shortage of life in “Symphonie Fantastique.” It is wild and whimsical and a very welcome return. “Having it be downtown in this really special, intimate venue really felt right,” Twist said. “I did this for a while and traveled it around the world, and now I’m happy to be home.”

has the hardness, dazzle, and clarity of a perfect diamond. James McArdle as Louis brings life and sympathy to an oftenunlikable character. Here, his struggle is highly relatable and his unresolved journey beautifully reflects the reality of the world around him. Louis and Joe, performed with extraordinary depth

and range by Lee Pace, are the two characters most grounded in reality, who have neither visions nor visitations but must slog through their daily existence desperately seeking answers. Denise Gough as Harper gives an intense performance as Joe’s wife.

ANGELS, continued on p.31

April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


CHARLES BUSCH, from p.29

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ANGELS, from p.30

Harper is increasingly unhinged as the myths sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s built her life around â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Mormonism and marriage â&#x20AC;&#x201D; are ripped away from her. Like the others, she has no choice but to continue moving and finds hope in her realization that â&#x20AC;&#x153;in this world, there is a kind of painful progressâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; what Shakespeare called â&#x20AC;&#x153;a glooming peace.â&#x20AC;? Coming at the end of a tempestuous ride, Gough in her quiet last scene has an understated power that makes the performance. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Belize is also a more reality-based character, delivering humor and perspective that is often moving. GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; April 25, 2018

Belize is a foil to Louis and Cohn, and Stewart-Jarrett makes him compelling and loving, a rare island of warmth in the cold world of the plays. Amanda Lawrence and Susan Brown take on multiple smaller roles, including the Angel and Joeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mother, respectively, and like the rest of the company shine in all of them. With this revival, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Angels in Americaâ&#x20AC;? becomes the â&#x20AC;&#x153;great workâ&#x20AC;? itself. It is at once historic and vital, an intimate love story and an epic. Kushner has called this a comedy, but in the sense that Dante meant it. It is life in all its confusing despair and beauty. If thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what you go to the theater for, do not miss this production.

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wise, because these shows with me in drag doing a parody arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t quite right for Manhattan Theatre Club or other uptown theaters. And do I, at my age, really want to do eight shows a week for 80-year-olds who are asleep before the show? With all the oxygen tanks and colostomy bags bursting, and not a single laugh â&#x20AC;&#x201D; I kid you not â&#x20AC;&#x201D; so by the time the subscription audience had seen it and my own very gay audience finally came in, who got everything and were wonderful, I was in a pretty bad state. Even with â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Divine Sister,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; which was a hit, that meant all these performances for $400 a week, horrible dressing rooms. Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the point?â&#x20AC;? Coming up for Busch are a full scale revival of one of his works â&#x20AC;&#x201D; which must remain nameless at the moment, as itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not been formally announced yet â&#x20AC;&#x201D; at the Cherry Lane in 2020, and it looks like the film version of his true classic, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Tale of the Allergistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Wife,â&#x20AC;? is finally a real go, starring Bette Midler and Sharon Stone. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been on and off the table for 17 years, with Bette attached for 15, but it seems to be moving along. I like the director, Andy Fickman, who did â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Parental Guidance,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; with her and Billy Crystal. He wants to have me very involved, which is rarely the case with the writer, and I keep updating my adaptation. It was very stagebound so Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve opened it up. There are more characters and her daughter figures more in it. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m very pleased

with it; it all looked dead a year ago but seems very alive now.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Allergistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Wifeâ&#x20AC;? is one of his plays with a very healthy regional life. â&#x20AC;&#x153;My big ones on that score are that one, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Die Mommie Die,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; and â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Psycho Beach Party,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; which gets a lot of college productions. Recently, they did a full run of my â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Times Square Angel,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; for which I got a nice big check. Andy Halliday had come up with the storyline with me over dinner back in 1984, so I sent him a nice check and he was very moved by it, as he had never received a royalty check before, and felt like a real writer! â&#x20AC;&#x153;I recently got a huge check from Greece â&#x20AC;&#x201D; no wonder they went bankrupt. I called my agent, but it was no mistake. I rarely go to any regional productions, but sometimes I look at photos of them online and donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even recognize the show! But a very sweet man sent me a videotape of an â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Allergistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Wifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; he did in Lisbon. It was all in Portuguese, which I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t speak, but there were subtitles, and all the jokes landed in the exact same places! â&#x20AC;&#x153;But this woman in Paris wanted to do a production of it and wrote me, asking, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;What is this Entenmannâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; I replied, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a comfort food. Not fancy or expensive.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Then she asked if I could make the characters not Jewish. I said it was kind of the point of the play and she wrote, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Well in Paris we have good and bad Jews.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; I thought, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;What is this, 1943?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; It never happened, so perhaps itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just as well. [Laughs.]â&#x20AC;?

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FILM

Tribeca’s Rich Offering of Queer Cinema Terrence McNally, Robert Mapplethorpe, murdered trans Filipina among diverse subjects tackled

COURTESY OF TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

Very young Terrence McNally and Edward Albee as seen in Jeff Kaufman’s “Every Act of Life.”

BY GARY M. KRAMER he Tribeca Film Festival, unspooling at half a dozen Lower Manhattan venues April 18-29, features several LGBTQ films and filmmakers. While not every queer-focused title was available for preview, a handful of features, documentaries, shorts, and special programs were. One of the highlights of this year’s fest is the world premiere of Jeff Kaufman’s “Every Act of Life” (Apr. 23, 8 p.m.; Apr. 24, 5 p.m.; Apr. 25, 6:15 p.m.; Apr. 26, 4 p.m.), a lovingly made documentary about the esteemed playwright Terrence McNally, tracing his life growing up in Corpus Christi in the 1950s through his extraordinary success in the theater. McNally candidly discusses his failed relationships with playwright Edward Albee, closeted in the 1950s when they were together, and actor Robert Drivas as well as his drinking — and how Angela Lansbury told him to stop. McNally also shares his thoughts about his intensely vulnerable characters and the themes of invisibility and connection that were the basis of plays of his such as “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” among others. “Every Act of Life” highlights many of McNally’s gay productions, including “The Ritz,” “Love! Valour! Compassion!,” and “Mothers and Sons.”

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COURTESY OF TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

Forrest Goodluck, Sasha Lane, and Chloë Grace Moretz in Desiree Akhavan’s “The Miseducation of Cameron Post.”

Though the film skimps on detailing the controversy surrounding McNally’s 1998 “Corpus Christi” and generally rushes through his late career work, it features fabulous photographs, letters, and archival footage. There are also wonderful interviews with a who’s who of theater, including Nathan Lane, Audra McDonald, Tyne Daly, Billy Porter, John Glover, John Benjamin Hickey, and many more. Though it may seem a hagiography, “Every Act of Life” clearly demonstrates that McNally deserves the genuflection. On the phone from Europe, where he is working on a play, out gay actor Hickey described McNally as “one of the biggest influences in my life as an artist. He is a writing and theatrical hero of mine. I’m so proud to be part of the film.” Hickey also appears on screen at Tribeca as Sam Wagstaff, benefactor, mentor, friend, and lover to the provocative gay artist Robert Mapplethorpe (Matt Smith) in Ondi Timoner’s eagerly awaited biopic, “Mapplethorpe” (Apr. 22, 9 p.m.; Apr. 23, 8:45 p.m.; Apr. 24, 6:30 p.m.; Apr. 27, 9:30 p.m.) — one of the titles unfortunately not available for preview. Loving the challenge of playing a real person, Hickey said he researched the role by reading Philip Gefter’s biography and seeing the documentary “Black White + Gray.” “You get to go to school,” he said.

COURTESY OF TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz in Sebastian Lelio’s Disobedience.”

“Research helped open doors for me to learn about the art world in 1970s New York. It was exploding. Sam’s collection presaged the idea of photography as fine art. I’m a huge fan of his taste. His eye was downright intimidating.” Hickey acknowledged, however, that he didn’t identify closely with Wagstaff. “I don’t feel we have that much in common other than being gay New Yorkers,” he explained. “He was such a huge influence and cultural force in the arts in the later part of 20th century. It was daunting because Sam was so incredibly handsome. He had extraordinary hair. I had Charles LaPointe make me a wig, which I loved wearing.” As part of Tribeca TV, the festival is hosting the world premiere of Melissa Haizlip’s and Samuel Pollard’s “Mr. Soul” (Apr. 22, 8 p.m.; Apr. 23, 5:45 p.m.; Apr. 25, 9:15 p.m.; Apr. 26, 6:30 p.m.), a terrific documentary about the landmark late 1960s/ early ‘70s WNET TV series “Soul!,” which was made by, for, and about African Americans. The show’s producer and frequent host, Ellis Haizlip, was a gay man who provided both a showcase for and a celebration of African-American singers — Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder, and Al Green among them — as well as poet Nikki Giovanni and writer James Baldwin. Interviewing Louis Farrakhan on the

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL Six venues downtown Apr. 18-29 tribecafilm.com

program, Haizlip dared to ask the leader of the Nation of Islam about homosexuality on air. “Mr. Soul” is an astonishing collection of interviews and archival footage of a program that was both of its time and ahead of its time as one talking head suggests. PJ Raval’s riveting documentary “Call Her Ganda” (Apr. 19, 6 p.m.; Apr. 20, 5 p.m.; Apr. 21, 5:30 p.m.; Apr. 24, 9:15 p.m.; Apr. 29, 8:30 p.m.) chronicles the 2014 death of Jennifer Laude, a transgender Filipina who was murdered by US marine Joseph Scott Pemberton. The film, which features gendernonbinary journalist Meredith Talusan following the case, addresses issues of transphobia, US colonialism, and justice — including some interesting wrinkles — to show how Laude’s death exposed some painful truths about gender-based violence.

TRIBECA, continued on p.33

April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


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â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Miseducation of Cameron Postâ&#x20AC;? (Apr. 22, 8 p.m.; Apr. 23, 6:45 p.m.; Apr. 24, 9:30 p.m.; Apr. 26, 3:15 p.m.) is bisexual filmmaker Desiree Akhavanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s (â&#x20AC;&#x153;Appropriate Behaviorâ&#x20AC;?) bittersweet adaptation of Emily M. Danforthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s novel about forging oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s independence in the face of repression. Cameron (ChloĂŤ Grace Moretz) is a teenage lesbian who loves Coley (Quinn Shephard). When they are caught having sex, Cameron is sent to Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Promise, a gay conversion therapy center. Of course, Cameron knows there is nothing wrong with her, and her same-sex desires â&#x20AC;&#x201D; which she sometimes acts on â&#x20AC;&#x201D; remain unabated. It is only through the friendship of fellow â&#x20AC;&#x153;disciplesâ&#x20AC;? Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck) that she finds a way to maintain her authentic, true self. As Cameron measures herself against her teen peers, she learns that weakness â&#x20AC;&#x201D; she experiences a series of hardships â&#x20AC;&#x201D; can in the end provide strength. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Miseducation of Cameron Postâ&#x20AC;? is a somber drama, and Moretz gives a compelling performance as the film builds to a quietly powerful conclusion. Another lesbian-themed film involving religious oppression at Tribeca is â&#x20AC;&#x153;Disobedienceâ&#x20AC;? (Apr. 24, 8 p.m.; Apr. 25, 7 p.m.), cowritten and directed by Sebastian Lelio, who adapted Naomi Aldermanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s novel. When her father, Rav Krushka (Anton Lesser) dies, Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns to London and the Orthodox Jewish community she abandoned. When she reconnects with Esti (Rachel McAdams), the childhood friend she loved, the women rekindle their forbidden romance. Alas, despite some heat in the bedroom scenes, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Disobedienceâ&#x20AC;? is top-heavy with didactic speeches and obvious symbolism. The actresses do their best, but Weiszâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s performance smacks of self-importance and McAdams is woefully miscast. As part of the Tribeca N.O.W. Showcase, which features independent online work, the comedy web series â&#x20AC;&#x153;Driver Edâ&#x20AC;? (Apr. 19, 8:30 p.m.; Apr. 21, 5 p.m.) has the title character (co-creator Jacob A. Ware) signing up for driving lessons because he is â&#x20AC;&#x153;living a lie.â&#x20AC;? He GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; April 25, 2018

told his online girlfriend that he is a professional racecar driver â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but he does not even have a license. When he meets Sweet Jody (Eddie Diaz), sparks fly as they put on their seat belts and Ed realizes he may be lying about more than just driving. This deadpan series offers three segments in its 10 minutes. Viewers will likely be curious to see where â&#x20AC;&#x153;Driver Edâ&#x20AC;? goes next. The Tribeca Immersive entry â&#x20AC;&#x153;Queerskins: A Love Storyâ&#x20AC;? (daily, Apr. 20-28 at the Tribeca Festival Hub, fifth fl., Spring Studios, 50 Varick St., just below Canal St.) is a virtual reality experience that has viewers sit in the back of a vintage 1986 Cadillac Sedan DeVille driven through a Midwestern landscape by the parents of Sebastian, who died of AIDS. As objects along the route come into focus, so too does Sebastianâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life. Illya Szilak â&#x20AC;&#x201D; who co-created the interactive film with Cyril Tsiboulski, an out gay man â&#x20AC;&#x201D; hopes viewers â&#x20AC;&#x153;create their conception of who Sebastian was through a box of objects.â&#x20AC;? The creators chose the VR format because, Szilak said, they were â&#x20AC;&#x153;interested in exploring the dynamic of embodied, material, historical, political, and social realities, and the human desire to transcend that.â&#x20AC;? The interactive storyteller explained that the nearly two-dozen objects in the box include items such as 3-D models of vintage Tom of Finland drawings. Viewers get to see nine of those objects in a 15-minute short. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The box changes and acts as a placeholder for Sebastianâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s character,â&#x20AC;? Szilak explained. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The objects are randomized, so each viewer gets a different set, and their responses to them will differ based on the objects and the viewerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own personal history. You come up with your own conception of Sebastian. If you are Catholic, you may have a relationship to a vintage statue of Mary with a broken nose. As the viewer, you put on a costume and enter someoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reality. We recognize your own history, bias, and perceptions construct the story. It is the real playing against the virtual, the imaginative, and memory.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Queerskins: A Love Storyâ&#x20AC;? should provide a heady experience one can only have at the Tribeca Film Festival.

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FILM

Grace Jones Revealed Enlightening, poignant moments of a 70-year-old enigma BY GARY M. KRAMER ow does anyone approach the inimitable, indomitable Grace Jones? The singer/ actress/ model turns 70 this year and still has impeccably sculpted legs and cheekbones, a distinctive, throaty voice, her androgynous appearance, and an outré sense of fashion. She is utterly unconventional and totally alluring. In a remarkable documentary, “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami,” director and editor Sophie Fiennes reveals her subject’s essence in performances and personal moments. The film opens with the singer performing her hit song “Slave to the Rhythm” on stage, dressed in a mask in one scene and gyrating with a rainbow-colored hula-hoop in another. These performance scenes are a testament to her showmanship, and as adoring fans greet her outside the stage door there is no doubt she deserves the worship. But Fiennes is not looking to discuss Jones’ art and craft or person-

GRACE JONES: BLOODLIGHT AND BAMI

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Grace Jones, as seen in Sophie Fiennes’ “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami.”

al story and struggles. Instead, the film captures unique moments such as Jones being whisked back to her homeland, Jamaica, where she reconnects with her family. In a series of observational scenes, Jones talks with her mother and siblings about their collective history, drinks fresh coconut water, and shucks some tricky bivalve mollusks, observing candidly that she wishes her pussy was as tight as these mussels. “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami” conveys unmistakably that its subject does not mince words. She reacts badly to collaborators canceling studio time she paid for, and she pushes back regarding a performance where she claims she

Directed by Sophie Fiennes Kino Lorber Opens Apr. 13 Metrograph 7 Ludlow St, btwn. Hester & Canal Sts. metrograph.com BAMcinématek 30 Lafayette Ave. at St. Felix St. Brooklyn bam.org Film Society of Lincoln Center 144-165 W. 65th St. filmlinc.org has been made to look like a “lesbian madame in a whorehouse” — because her backup dancers are gyrating on a tacky set in negligéelike costumes. Jones later yells during a phone call about an unsigned contract and hotel room issues. Her anger is justified in each situation, and such scenes indicate how much harder the performer has to work to

get what she deserves — especially since she is doing the work. Her demanding behavior in such moments reveals more about Jones’ perfectionism than any interview might. Those episodes are also reflected in Jones’ song lyrics. When she sings “This Is,” her refrain “They tried to strip me of dignity/ but I still have tenacity” speaks volumes. Likewise, her song “Williams’ Blood” has more meaning after viewers meet Jones’ mother, Marjorie Jones (née Williams), and get snippets of her family history. Jones is absolutely hypnotic on stage. The dozen performance scenes are infectious, each one a riot of music, color, and style. Her appearances are dazzling, from her makeup — she does her eyebrows in one scene and “goes tribal,” painting her face, in another — to her wearing a sparkly bowler hat and some fabulous headwear. Jones also comments on her androgyny. Her remark that appearing masculine emphasizes “dominant

GRACE JONES, continued on p.43

Adrift in the Colonies A South American functionary is ignored by his Spanish king BY STEVE ERICKSON wo things describe Argentine director Lucrecia Martel’s characters: they’re never really alone and the help others offer them is rarely truly benign. Her debut, “La Ciénaga,” showed an extended family going to seed and placing themselves unknowingly in danger over the course of a humid summer. It borrowed from Renoir and Altman in its choice to avoid settling on a central protagonist. Her fourth and latest feature, “Zama,” orients itself far more around one man’s performance. In fact, lead actor Daniel Giménez Cacho’s turn shows great empathy for

ZAMA

T

34

STRAND RELEASING

Daniel Giménez Cacho in the title role of Lucrecia Martel’s “Zama.”

the title character. His personality is the antithesis of the proto-fascist blond madmen played by Klaus Kinski. Zama was born in South America but works for the Spanish Crown. He feels bored in the town where he lives and waits for a letter from the

Directed by Lucrecia Martel In Spanish with English subtitles Strand Releasing Opens Apr. 13 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. ifccenter.com Film Society of Lincoln Center 144-165 W. 65th St. filmlinc.org

Spanish king allowing him permission to transfer. Until then, he tries to avoid doing anything to anger those in power. He takes every job the region’s governors offer him.

While they have the ability to leave, he is stuck behind. Somehow, the king never gets around to replying to him. Giving up hope, he decides to join a group of soldiers heading after the bandit Vicuña Porto. Martel suggests the complexities of her country’s formation, adapting her script from Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 novel of the same name. Zama is as depressed as he is privileged. Giménez Cacho’s eyes are soulful and melancholy, often staring in the distance or at the ground. Zama goes through life in a daze. Others constantly refer to him as the “Corregidor,” a Spanish word left untranslated in the subtitles,

ZAMA, continued on p.36

April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


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MUSIC

A Noise Rap Scream of Alienation Words not always out front in “Lucas Acid,” but Kdeath has her say BY STEVE ERICKSON anowen,” the opening track on noise rap duo Moodie Black’s latest album, “Lucas Acid,” features feedback, blasts of electronic shrieks, and live bass guitar. It does not include anything resembling mainstream hip-hop production. The group, consisting of trans female vocalist/ producer Kdeath and guitarist Sean Lindahl, embraces the noise rap label — it appears as a link on the upper right-hand corner of their website, as well as a hashtag on this album’s page on the download site Bandcamp. But they have an equal claim on being a rock group, influenced by artists like Chrome, Cabaret Voltaire, Big Black, Slowdive, and Nine Inch Nails. Kdeath’s lyrics explore the difficulties of being an Afro-Latinx trans woman right now. However, “Lucas Acid” is not produced in a way that makes it easy to figure out exactly what she’s saying. Moodie Black are more interested in tex-

MOODIE BLACK

“V

ZAMA, from p.34

but which roughly means “mayor.” He and his eventual opponent Vicuña Porto are vulnerable people with baggage that’s been forced on them. It’s easy to watch contemporary or classic Argentine films and come away with the impression the entire country is white. (In reality, 10 percent of its population is made up of people of color.) Argentina’s conquistadors were more efficient at killing off its indigenous population than any other South American nation. Martel’s main characters in her contemporary films are always upper middle class white people, but their high social status does not protect them from sexual abuse, as in “The Holy Girl,” or from descending into a precarious mental state in “The Headless Woman.” In fact, “The Headless Woman” and “Zama” share much in common, despite their protagonists’

36

“Lucas Acid” Fake Four, Inc. Released Apr. 6 fakefourinc.com

ture than instantly understandable words. The music is often mixed louder than her vocals. Furthermore, she’s not a conventional MC: she generally speaks instead of following the beat closely and sometimes mutters a line and then screams the same words. “Sway” is the only song where she approximates a typical hip-hop flow. The idea of mixing hip-hop with shoegaze and industrial rock isn’t new. The Bomb Squad’s early productions for Public Enemy, which proudly sampled saxophone

squeals from free jazz records over funk beats, set the stage for this level of abrasiveness, as well as artists like the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Dälek, and Techno Animal. But the current cult status of Death Grips, who amazingly got signed to the major label Epic and proceeded to sabotage their career by leaking their second album for it and planning an album cover showing an erect penis, popularized this aesthetic. However, Moodie Black, who began in Arizona, relocated to Southern California, and currently live in Minneapolis, have been working for a decade — Kdeath’s first album, “Raphood & Authenticity,” was released in 2008 — predating Death Grips’ debut with the 2011 mixtape “Ex-Military.” (In fact, Moodie Black

gender and temporal differences. The former film gives a reason for its anti-heroine’s mental condition, beginning with a car accident where she may or may not have run over a child. For Zama, merely living in 19th century Latin America and being given a taste of power but not enough to truly have control over his life leaves him looking as though he needs a prescription for antidepressants. More than any other previous Martel film, “Zama” is driven around a central performance; “The Headless Woman” only starts to come together when the audience can focus on the world around the titular character. Zama is more self-aware about the extent to which he’s being controlled by the people who surround him; in Martel’s contemporary films, the presence of servants serves as a barrier between her main characters and their necessary confrontation with the uglier aspects of reality. It took eight years for Martel to

get the production funds to make “Zama,” despite patrons as powerful as Pedro Almodóvar and Danny Glover. In the end, money from eight countries, including the US, went into this film. I think the Argentine New Wave that emerged in the 2000s is one of the high points of this century’s cinema and Martel is its greatest director. Many critics and cinephiles feel the same way, but this has not led to commercial success for her films anywhere in the world, as far as I know. All four of her features have been distributed in the US — “The Holy Girl” was even released by Fine Line, a nowdefunct company owned by Time Warner — but North American audiences did not support them. The audience for subtitled films seems to be bottoming out. While Spanish is not a foreign language for much of the US population, there’s no reason to expect people of Mexican or Puerto Rican descent to automatically turn out for art films from Ar-

FAKEFOURINC.COM

In “Lucas Acid,” Moodie Black are more interested in texture than instantly understandable words.

have remixed Death Grips and collaborated with Dälek.) Artists like BLACKIE, clipping, and JPEGMAFIA have picked up on the noise rap scene, and echoes of it can be heard in more mainstream releases like Kid Cudi’s “Indicud” and Kanye West’s “Yeezus.” “Lucas Acid” does not reveal itself very quickly. Part of their aesthetic’s point is that the music communicates at least as much as the words and that it doesn’t wear a didactic message on its sleeve. The lyrics of “Sway” come across as an attempt at bragging that get tripped up by Kdeath constantly “see[ing] ‘death to a tran’/ all bad everywhere.” “Lips” states, “I’d be a problem if I could only get one second out my lips... I’m’a die with my fists clenched.” That song eventually abandons vocals to close out with a minute of completely distorted guitar and synthesizer. “Palm Trees” is the closest the group gets to a love song, and it stands out on “Lucas Acid” because it has some negative space

MOODIE BLACK, continued on p.43

gentina. “Zama” has points of contact with ‘70s North American Westerns, and it’s not anti-colonial in a crowdpleasing way like the Colombian film “Embrace of the Serpent,” an arthouse hit in the US a few years ago. Martel clearly identifies with the overdogs even as she criticizes them and calls attention to the way they use working class people. Her films are not easily digestible and resist snap judgments. I disliked “The Headless Woman” on a first viewing, but a second look led me to put it on my 2009 top 10 list. Perhaps “Zama” will go down smoother for novices to Martel’s work in context. The Film Society of Lincoln Center is preceding and overlapping its release with a retrospective of her brief oeuvre from April 10-15, including three rarities: the shorts “Dead King” and “Muta” and free screenings of “Light Years,” Manuel Abramovich’s documentary about the making of “Zama.” April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


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GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; April 25, 2018

37


BOOKS

Curious and Curiouser Avedon and Nichols, sheep and goats, and “whatever” BY DAVID EHRENSTEIN isexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.” So joked Woody Allen back in the day. That was almost as glib as Mike Nichols’ similarly “classic” quip that “homosexuality used to be the ‘the love that dare not speak its name’ — and now it won’t shut up.” These old chestnuts are worth recalling in light of “Avedon: Something Personal,” an oral history of the great photographer’s life and work by Steven M.L. Aronson in conversation with Avedon’s studio director Norma Stevens. Its major revelation is Richard Avedon’s seven-year love affair with Nichols. That the peerlessly sophisticaed photographer and the indubitably ingenious stage and screen director were close friends is surely no surprise. They would have tons to say to one another. But that many of their conversations took the form of pillow talk puts a whole new light on their relationship. “We had so much going for us,” Avedon recalls. “He’s above me intellectually of course, the way Renata [Adler, the writer and sometime girlfriend of Avedon] is, but I’m the artist so it evens out. And we’re equally corrupt. We were made for each other. At one point we even thought about running away together. Eloping, we called it — leaving our wives and our lives and moving to Gay Paree. I was the one who introduced Mike to Paris, that time when we shot the collections for the Bazaar — he loved it as much as me. We chickened out, but we were together for years, ‘til Mike met someone else and moved on — someone not worthy of him I might add. Later on we started things up again — there were sparks, but no fire. But we stayed best friends. And we’ll always have Paris.” Now isn’t that something? A gay version of “Funny Face” with Mike Nichols in the Audrey Hepburn role. That classic movie musical billed Avedon as “special visual consultant,” but quite obviously he had as much if not more more to

AVEDON: SOMETHING PERSONAL

“B

38

By Norma Stevens and Steven M.L. Aronson Spiegel & Grau $40; 720 pages

SPIEGEL & GRAU

“Avedon: Somethng Personal” an oral history by Steven M.L. Aronson in conversation with Avedon’s studio director Norma Stevens.

do with it on every level than director Stanley Donen. Having his idol Fred Astaire play a version of his public self was a special treat for him. A lot of the “Funny Face” spirit is evident in a series of pictures (a “photo-roman”) Avedon took for Harper’s Bazaar of Nichols with one of his favorite models, Suzy Parker, as a pair of sophisticates traipsing across Europe. The better part of Nichols’ life was devoted to such comic sophistication, starting with the legendary act he did with Elaine May. It was a collaboration of the mind rather than the heart or body that continued on and off for years after the initial comedy act skyrocketed them to fame. The act broke up and they went their separate ways, but stayed in touch so that a considerable number of years later they “reconciled” through two films she wrote and he directed, “The Bird Cage” (1996) and “Primary Colors” (1998). “Bird Cage,” an adaptation of the French farce “La Cage

aux Folles” (1978), centered on gay characters but no special knowledge of gayness was required for such a lightweight project and bisexuality played no role in it at all. The same can’t be said of Nichols’ masterful 2003 HBO adaptation of Tony Kushner’s epic play “Angels in America,” in which gay and bisexual characters dominate, with considerable light shed on their lives and the life of America at the height of the AIDS crisis. As for his own “bi-curiousness” Nichols is found in “Something Personal” to be treading softly: “I hesitate to talk deeply about Dick, because what’s ours, his and mine, when all is said? Is nothing just ours?” But considering the AvedonNichols affair outside of the “particular” and relating it to bisexality “in general” requires first a quick trip to the good Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, who in his famous 1948 “Sexual Bevaior in The Human Male” put it bluntly: “Males do not represent two discrete populations, hetero-

sexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories.” To address the lack of such a binary, Kinsey created his famous “scale,” registering same-sex activity from an infrequent “1” to an exclusive “6.” What that meant, of course, was that what we refer to as “bisexaulity” is in fact simply “the human condition” itself. Needless to say the culture Kinsey was doing his best to serve did not cotton to this appraisal, preferring instead a rigid separation of the “sheep” from the “goats.” Society largely assumes that most people devote themselves to the pursuit of one gender or another, putting one in either the gay or straight camp, despite the fact that this isn’t the way the world always works. In fact, many Kinsey “6’s” find amusement, even today, in encounters with those they view as “bi today, gay tomorrow,” assuming that their partner is utlizing bisexuality as a cover or what Roland Barthes would call a “structuring absence” of gayness. But bisexuality is real, accounting for those whose pursuits vary from one gender to another over the course of a lifetime. Think of Laurence Olivier, John Osborne, Marlene Dietrich, John Cheever, Burt Lancaster, Alan Bates, Nicholas Ray, and Jacques Demy, bisexuals all — with Demy going totally gay in his last years. Joe Dallesandro has openly declared himself to be bisexual, as did David Bowie (primarily in the early yeas of his fame) and Dominick Dunne (primarily in the later years of his). Marlon Brando

AVEDON, continued on p.39

April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


ä&#x2030;´

AVEDON, from p.38

was famously bisexual â&#x20AC;&#x201D; bedding James Dean among others including, it was recently revealed, Richard Pryor, the legendary comedian who famously told an audience of gays at an AIDS benefit that they could â&#x20AC;&#x153;kiss my ass!â&#x20AC;? One imagines he enjoyed kissing Brandoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. When Hakim Jamal, a follower of Malcom X, asked James Baldwin, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Are you a homosexual?,â&#x20AC;? the great man replied, â&#x20AC;&#x153;No Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m bisexual, whatever that means.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Whateverâ&#x20AC;? has figured more recently with Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey, Jr., who had their bi escapades but have never been voluable about them. Sheen has recently been outed by the National Enquirer whereas Downey, back when his heavy drug use led to periodic arrests, insisted on being incarcerated in the â&#x20AC;&#x153;gay sectionâ&#x20AC;? of Southern California prisons. Still, such â&#x20AC;&#x153;celebrity scandalsâ&#x20AC;? arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t the best way to regard the B in the acronym. Consider Gore Vidal, who while having far more relationships with men than women insisted on not only regarding himself as bisexual for the very reasons set out by Kinsey, but declared that all human sexuality must be seen that way. â&#x20AC;&#x153;There is no such thing as a homosexial person,â&#x20AC;? he grandly decreed â&#x20AC;&#x201D; even though as the creator of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Myra Breckinridgeâ&#x20AC;? he had authored the most sublime piece of camp since the heyday of Ronald Firbank and E.F. Benson. About gayness, Avedon is quoted at one point in his life saying, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I screwed up enough courage to go to one of George Cukorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;boys nights.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; The minute I walked in the door I had an attack of what Auden called â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;HPâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x201D; homosexual panic â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and ran out.â&#x20AC;? Obviously â&#x20AC;&#x153;la vie gayâ&#x20AC;? con brio was not for him. According to â&#x20AC;&#x153;Something Personal,â&#x20AC;? Avedonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bisexuality was no state secret. His first wife, Dorcas Nowell, whom he met when she was a 19-year-old bank teller and modeled for him (as Doe Avedon), was married to him from 1944 to 1949. They summered in Cherry Grove on Fire Island. You do the math. In 1951, he married a woman named Evelyn Franklin, who left him shortly atter the birth of their son, John. She died in 2004, the same year as Avedon. GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; April 25, 2018

Mike Nichols was married four times â&#x20AC;&#x201D; to his first wife, singer Patricia Scott, from 1957 to 1960, and his second, Margot Callas, from 1963 to 1974, producing a daughter Daisy. Wife number three, Annabel Davis-Goff, married Nichols the following year and their alliance lasted through 1986 and saw the birth of two chidren, Max and Jenny. Then, in 1988, he married telejournalist Diane Sawyer and was still with her at the time of his death in 2014. Avedonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s art was that of ineffably glamour. Though he took up more â&#x20AC;&#x153;seriousâ&#x20AC;? photography in his later years, more than a touch of the â&#x20AC;&#x153;unseriousâ&#x20AC;? remained, as in a portrait of Oscar Levant in his last years thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s both honest and bouyant. Photographer, adventurer, and Kinsey â&#x20AC;&#x153;0â&#x20AC;? Peter Beard (one of the great beauties of the 20th century) notes that Avedon never slept with any of his models whereas he, Beard, did. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sexuality is the only truth,â&#x20AC;? he declares. But is it? Sex played a role in the creative lives of both Richard Avedon and Mike Nichols. Very obviously so in Avedonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s case. His work overflows with both women and men dispayed at their most erotically elegant. With Nichols less so. A number of years ago I interviewed the great Anne Bancroft, and of course discussed her performance as the rapacious Mrs. Robinson in Nicholsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Graduate.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Make it sexier,â&#x20AC;? he told her at one point. And picking up on the cues heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d offered about the way he saw her character, she said â&#x20AC;&#x153;Oh you mean angrier.â&#x20AC;? And he did. Sex as an expression of anger is a world away from the soignee sensuality of Avedon. But for Mike Nichols was â&#x20AC;&#x153;angryâ&#x20AC;? sexuality the â&#x20AC;&#x153;only truthâ&#x20AC;? that Peter Beard speaks of? Perhaps. Far better it be seen in stylistic terms â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Avedon light, Nichols dark â&#x20AC;&#x201D; than have it fall into the â&#x20AC;&#x153;Is it a choice?â&#x20AC;? pseudo-query lobbed at gayness by homophobes. Let us conclude with the words uttered by the great Jeanne Moreau in â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Troutâ&#x20AC;? (1982), one of the last works by that great bisexual film director Joseph Losey: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Homosexual. Heterosexual. People are either sexual or theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not!â&#x20AC;? In a word, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Whatever!â&#x20AC;?

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39


OPERA

Bicoastal Voices Opera and song by the Hudson and the Puget Sound BY DAVID SHENGOLD he Little Opera Theatre of NY offered a very pleasant surprise at Baruch’s impressive Performing Arts Center March 24 with “Piramo e Tisbe” by Hamburg-born Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783), a local premiere. One thinks of Hasse as Handel without the psychology; but the music (under harpsichordist Elliot Figg) was delightful and formally interesting in its lack of boundaries between numbers. The story, from Ovid, is familiar from its parody in “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” But the rude mechanicals’ Ninny’s Tomb is really Ninus’ Tomb, bringing us back to the world of “Semiramide,” and director Philip Shneidman smartly set the action in a contemporary Middle Eastern patriarchal culture where Tisbe’s mobility (and choice of partner) was circumscribed. Kristin Gornstein’s Piramo was sufficiently androgynous to interrogate the possibility of a same-sex couple bringing down paternal opposition. Gornstein and Kelly Curtin’s higher-flying Tisbe won much sympathy with their unpretentious but impassioned acting and their impressive mastery of baroque style. Both showed fresh voices under excellent control, capable of the needed musical refinements. Would that such fine singers had more places to practice their art in New York! As Tisbe’s enraged — and later sorrowful — Father, the experienced Brian Downen sang with style and agility intact. The new Vintage Baroque seemed to have shed the billed theorbo player, but the young players showcased energy and commitment. This production was highly worthwhile.

T

On March 1, Yannick NezetSeguin led his first “Elektra” with remarkable confidence and sweep — occasionally overpowering his strong cast but promising much for the company’s future. The late Patrice Chéreau’s direction remains highly impactful. Michaela Schuster made an as-

40

TINA BUCKMAN

Kristin Gornstein and Kelly Curtin as the title characters in Little Opera Theatre of NY’s production of Johann Adolf Hasse’s “Piramo e Tisbe.”

sured, idiomatic company debut as Klytaemnestra; like Mignon Dunn back in the day, she challenged tradition by really singing the oft-ranted part, doing so with handsome human dignity. Chrysothemis proved the best work Elza van den Heever has done locally, with a pleasingly forthright vocal line. Her high notes, if not blazing like the unforgettable Leonie Rysanek and Karita Mattila, dominated the evening decibel-wise. By comparison with her stupendous Chicago (2012) and Boston Symphony (2015) Elektras, Christine Goerke was 100 percent committed dramatically and made wonderfully rich sounds in the lower and middle registers but tended to thin out up top. Mikhail Petrenko’s Orest was resonant if not ideally sonorous or linguistically secure. Dramatically, however, the Elektra/ Orest recognition scene with Goerke at her most movingly vulnerable was among the high points. Jay Hunter Morris sang and acted Aegisth with clarity (if not much else). Of the rest, most striking were Tichina Vaughn’s booming, trenchant First Maid and Kevin Short’s Guardian. A strong evening. So, visually, was “Madama Butterfly” one week later, though Marco Armiliato in the pit proved foursquare and unimaginative. This lovely, moving production by

the late Anthony Minghella was the Gelb era’s calling card and remains its most consistently enjoyable bread and butter title. Albania’s Ermonela Jaho, if sometime a bit over-mannered in action, proved herself a fine if moderatescaled vocal artist in the lead: her best assets are dynamic flexibility and an ease on top that compensates for a patchy area in the lower passaggio. She certainly earned her ovation as Cio-Cio-San. With this show since the start, Maria Zifchak no longer has the freshness on top for Suzuki, but the rest of her voice remains rich and she gives a sympathetic portrayal keyed to each individual Butterfly. Shamefully “computer cast,” Roberto Aronica made a scratch, charm-free Pinkerton; Roberto Frontali now offers no vocal distinction but acted well. Among the unimpressive comprimarios, Hyung Yun (Yamadori) and Edyta Kulczak (Kate Pinkerton) delivered high quality portrayals. Seattle Opera offered an interesting — and overall successful — intervention into Berlioz’s 1862 opera “Beatrice and Benedict,” slimmed down to the lead romantic plot of the composer’s beloved Shakespeare’s “Much Ado.” Experienced Shakespearean director John Langs and conductor Ludovic Morlot folded back some of the dialogue — and more impor-

tantly, some of the concurrent plotting — of the play, including the entire betrayal story involving Don John, Claudio’s denunciation of his bride Hero, and her faked death and resurrection. (Yes, “Much Ado” is a comedy!) This was all to the good; but to add back that action, the team took other pieces of Berlioz’ choral works and set them to Shakespeare-derived text, this giving Claudio (the suitably hunky Craig Verm, in good voice) an aria and the chorus (decent, not outstanding) what to sing at the wedding — the Shepherds’ exquisite chorus from “L’Enfance du Christ,” no less — and mock funeral. Sometimes music was played under the (amplified) restored dialogue; Hero’s exquisite aria was divided in pieces. Mercifully we lost Somarone’s endless, unfunny main scene: instead, the inventive Kevin Burdette tackled an added song for Baltasar and assumed Dogberry’s function in uncovering the conspiracy: well done. More disturbingly, we heard only one verse of the score’s best number, the stop-time Duo Nocturne for Hero and Ursula: that’s just wrong. Berlioz as critic and memoirist denounced such monkeying-around (with Gluck, Weber, and Mozart operas) in no uncertain terms, yet he himself adapted Gluck’s “Orphee,” conflating several editions. After a slightly slow start March 10, what Langs and Morlot concocted, clearly directed by the former with some fine local actors knitted back into the plot, did make a satisfying totality. Deborah Trout’s colorful costumes contributed much to the festivities. Deploying real-life spouses Alek Shrader and Daniela Mack as the titular leads proved brilliant: they are attractive, highly intelligent performers who spoke as if trained actors. The tenor’s fine, always musically deployed voice recedes on the highest notes these days, and Mack’s lyric but plush voice had to stretch for hers — but they were very good — and should be cast together in a staged “Enfance

BICOASTAL VOICES, continued on p.43

April 12 – April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


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GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

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April 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


“in loco parentis” but “was not an equal parent with parental rights to Z.S.” The court sent the case back to Rankin County Chancery Court to determine custody using the customary standard focused on the best interest of the child. A “guardian ad litem” was appointed to represent the child in the proceedings. In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice William Waller, Jr., joined in part by four other justices, wrote that even though the court “can use common-law principles to render a decision here, the Legislature should speak directly to the recognition of the legal status of children born during a marriage as a result

of assisted reproductive technology.” Other opinions in the case challenged either the use of the equitable estoppel doctrine or the holding on what rights an anonymous sperm donor may or may not have, so the direction this case gives to lower courts in Mississippi is a muddle. Still, in this case, Christina has scored a victory to the extent that enough members of the court agreed with the equitable estoppel approach to make that part of the holding of the court, tossing the case back to the trial court to decide anew whether it is in the best interest of Z.S. for Christina to have joint or primary custody of the

child as a parent. Critically, however, the state’s high court, for now, has made no finding on the underlying question of whether a child born to a married lesbian couple is automatically deemed to be the legal offspring of both women. Under other circumstances, then, a Mississippi co-parent may find herself having to litigate this issue to protect her rights regarding a child she has been raising with her same-sex spouse. Christina is represented by Mississippi attorney Dianne Herman Ellis and Lambda Legal staff attorney Elizabeth Lynn Littrell. Kimberly is represented by Prentiss M. Grant.

being lost in a menacing and chaotic world. Moodie Black abandon the comforting elements of traditional hip-hop; while many people feel threatened by the smack-talking bravado of gangsta rap, it usually suggests that the MC is capable of making his way through a racist and violent world. Kdeath’s declaration on “Parished” that “I like to fuck bitches” leaps out as one of the album’s few conventional hiphop tropes, although she goes on to acknowledge her imperfections. Despite how some people might

interpret her name, when Kdeath mentions blood, it’s coming from her wrists. “Screaming” takes the band’s ethos to its limit: Kdeath says, “I ain’t really screaming, there’s no pain” and then instantly contradicts herself by emphasizing those lyrics by yelling them, while also taking potshots at music critics and mainstream rappers. The anger running through “Lucas Acid” feels like a response to what it feels like being a trans woman of color in Trump’s America. (The president gets cited by name here.)

But that oppression began long before his election, and Moodie Black started recording this album two years ago. Repeated listens reveal that it’s as carefully structured and arranged as it is nightmarish and assaultive. Moodie Black are up to something quite ambitious: an audio portrait of the alienation and pain of being a minority. “Lucas Acid” finally ends on a note of triumph and resistance — the chorus of the final song “Burn” repeats, “I don’t burn for you,” as Kdeath takes control over her own life.

and scary” qualities makes sense in light of what viewers learn about Jones’ strict father. Acting, she explains, was one way for her to deal with the difficulties she faced growing up with him. The documentary makes clear just how conscious Jones is of what she presents on screen, including when she is seen fully naked. Jones carefully constructs her image, both

on-stage and off. Viewers will no doubt appreciate the unfiltered candor of Jones’ remarks. In talking about a fight that broke out on live TV, she insists she “doesn’t strike without a warning,” but elsewhere says, “Sometimes you gotta be a high-flying bitch.” Provocatively, she also argues, “Men should be penetrated at least once to know what it is like to receive.” Fiennes is adept at capturing mo-

ments both big — such as Jones accompanying her mother to church, where Marjorie sings for the congregation — and small, as when Grace reveals her skill at playing jacks. The opportunity to see Jones strut on stage to perform “Pull Up to the Bumper,” as well as “Warm Leatherette,” “Love Is the Drug,” and “Nipple to the Bottle,” among other classics, is irresistible. Seeing her acknowledge she was surprised her version of “La vie en rose” became a disco hit

is gratifying. It is nice to see her appreciate an unexpected success. That kind of humility comes across throughout the film; Jones is not always seen as fierce or being a diva. She achieves a measure of poignancy when she talks about her late father’s “death eyes.” It’s a touching moment in a portrait that never aims to demystify Jones, but rather simply presents her as she is and shows Grace Jones just being Grace Jones.

whooped their cheers at the end.

minds in attendance on the Upper West Side and in hipster Hudson needed to be changed, but it sure felt good to have a young, diverse, stagewise, and committed cast sing the varied offerings, backed up by Blier on piano and Jack Gulielmetti on guitar. The admirable forces included Shereen Pimentel, Christine Taylor Price, sopranos; Nicole Flores Thomas, mezzo; Joshua Blue, tenor; Dimitri Katotakis, Jacob Schar-

fman, baritones; and Andrew Munn, bass. Emotional highlights for me were Pimentel’s distinctively tangy voice on “Big Yellow Taxi,” Munn’s forthright “Joe Hill” — and best of all, the whole company gently tackling Jean Ritchie’s “Now is the Cool of the Day” a cappella, leaving few dry eyes.

MISSISSIPPI MOMS, from p.9

her from arguing to the contrary in the context of their divorce proceeding. Grant’s award of “in loco parentis” status to Christina was insufficient, in Ishee’s view, to protect her legitimate interests. If Kimberly were to marry somebody else and petition for her new spouse to adopt Z.S., Christina’s “in loco parentis” status would not entitle her to prevent that adoption. If the court recognizes her as a parent, she could. Without ever mentioning the parental presumption, then, the plurality opinion reversed Judge Grant’s ruling that Christina acted

MOODIE BLACK, from p.36

and dynamics, although the song is dominated by guitars laced with vibrato. The production on “Lucas Acid” is maximalist, expanding into the whole soundscape. “Tuesday” messes around with Kdeath’s vocals, doubling them with distorted sonic doppelgängers and speeding up her line “tearing out my guts” for the chorus. Its music video matches this visually in its use of VHS-style glitches. “Lucas Acid” conveys a sense of

GRACE JONES, from p.34

BICOASTAL VOICES, from p.40

du Christ.” Chorister Shelly Traverse — a soubrette rather than the needed lyric — had bravely jumped in as Hero, and sang with increasing confidence. Avery Amereau’s Ursula sounded wonderful, and Daniel Sumegi’s resonant Don Pedro made a strong impression. There were some desertions at intermission, but the majority who stayed GayCityNews.nyc | April 12 – April 25, 2018

Steven Blier’s inimitable, valuable New York Festival of Song offered an inspiriting program March 3 at Hudson Hall upstate, after an initial show at Manhattan’s Merkin. “Protest” took in all manner of theater and popular songs expressing outrage or giving witness to injustice past and — in depressingly many cases — present. One doubts the hearts or

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

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April 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; April 25, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc

Gay City News - April 12, 2018  
Gay City News - April 12, 2018