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India Nixes Colonial Era Sodomy Ban 04

Wigstock 2.HO 22 & 30

Documentary Recalls Antonio Lopez 26

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S E R V I N G G AY, L E S B I A N , B I A N D T R A N S G E N D E R N E W Y O R K

NEW QUEER MUSIC TROYE SIVAN, ANNA CALVI, AND JANE LYNCH, TOO Pages 16 & 21

HEDI SLIMANE/ COURTESY OF TROYESIVAN TROYESIVAN.COM

Troye Sivan’s sophomore album album, “Bloom “Bloom,”” is his bid for gay pop stardom.

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FREE | VOLUME SEVENTEEN, ISSUE NINETEEN | SEPTEMBER 13 – SEPTEMBER 26, 2018


Introducing

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September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


In This Issue COVER STORY New queer music: Troye Sivan, Anna Calvi & Jane Lynch 16 & 21 REMEMBRANCE Janet Weinberg dies at 63 05

PERSPECTIVES Mr. Cuomo’s shame 14

5 Betties in All on Stage 24

Is there any honor in White House anonymity? 15

HEALTH Cuomo pressed hard on overdoses 06

FILM In “Assassination Nation,” Salem is truly possessed 26

MEDIA Schneps acquires Gay City News’ parent company 13

OPERA Munich remains an essential stop 28

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GayCityNews.nyc | September 13 – September 26, 2018

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HUMAN RIGHTS

India’s Sodomy Ban Falls Supreme Court eloquently rules for LGBTQ rights in world’s largest democracy BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

I

n a ruling that affects almost 18 percent of the world’s population, the Supreme Court of India ruled on September 6 that the Victorian-era Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code — the ban on “unnatural sex” that has been used to penalize same-sex activity — violates the fundamental rights of LGBTQ people. Building on a pioneering ruling by the Delhi High Court and repudiating a decision by a twojudge panel of the Supreme Court that had reversed the High Court ruling, a five-judge panel of the 31-member Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, drew on legal developments in numerous other countries to interpret the Indian Constitution as a bastion for human rights and identifying personal sexual freedom for LGBTQ people as a fundamental part of those rights. As is customary in the high courts of British Commonwealth countries, the Supreme Court’s ruling is not set out in any single opinion. In this case, the fivejudge panel produced four substantial written opinions. Chief Justice Misra’s 166-page opinion was joined in full by Justice A. M. Khanwilkar. Each of the other justices on the panel produced their own opinions, amounting in total to an extraordinary outpouring of human rights rhetoric, totaling 495 pages in the PDF file released by the court. India did not have any sex crimes statutes before the British colonization of the country beginning early in the 19th century. London imposed imperial rule atop the existing structure of local governments and eventually insisted that India enact a penal code drafted by British lawyers, modeled on English law, which itself derived from the sexual prohibitions imposed by the Catholic Church when it was Britain’s established church prior to the English Reformation during Henry VIII’s reign. Section 377 of that colonial

4

MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS/ GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

Indian Supreme Court Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

code, enacted in 1860, introduced a foreign legal concept into Indian society, making it ironic that those defending the sodomy ban today pointed to the decriminalization of gay sex in Western democracies to argue that the plaintiffs were attempting to impose Western values regarding individual sexual freedom on Indian society. The road to the September 6 ruling was a long one. More than a decade ago, a nonprofit AIDS services and advocacy group, NAZ Foundation, filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court, making a powerful argument that the existing sodomy law was an impediment to confronting the AIDS crisis in India. After lengthy proceedings and much deliberation, the High Court issued its ruling in 2009, finding that Section 377 was inconsistent with guarantees of liberty and privacy in the Indian Constitution. Unlike the US, where the right to appeal a trial court ruling is limited to the litigating parties, in India anybody affronted by a court decision can petition to appeal it. The Naz Foundation ruling, greeted by jubilant street demonstrations and waves of LGBTQ people coming out for the first time, provoked orthodox religious forces to file a

petition with the Supreme Court. Even though the government had never made an effort to repeal or modernize Section 377, it did not seek to appeal the Delhi High Court ruling and was reluctantly dragged into the case. The slow-moving appeal before a two-judge panel of the Supreme Court in Koushal v. Naz Foundation resulted in a 2014 ruling that reversed the lower court, refusing to invalidate a statute that the new state of India after World War II had deliberately decided to keep, while amending or repealing other provisions of the colonial penal laws. The Koushal court minimized the significance of what it was doing, claiming that only a tiny portion of the Indian population identified as gay so the constitutional claim was trivial, almost beneath its attention. The ruling threw fear into the LGBTQ community, as many had come out in reaction to the earlier decision and were worried that they were now open to police harassment, employment and housing discrimination, shunning by their families, and violence on the streets. Those fears were realized to some extent, but the massive celebrations and new openness of the LGBTQ community in the

wake of the 2009 Delhi opinion, which was generally well received in the press, began a gradual shift in public opinion toward greater acceptance. In fact, the current government, much more conservative than its predecessors on many issues, did not made defending Section 377 a priority as advocates of repeal generated a deluge of petitions to the Supreme Court from prestigious groups and individuals willing to put their reputations on the line over the issue. In January of this year, a panel of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Misra, heard arguments about convening an enlarged panel of judges to reconsider the Koushal decision. Other recent decisions — including ones from the Supreme Court recognizing the equality rights of transgender people and the privacy rights of all Indians put in danger by new government technology used to track the identity of the nation’s 1.3 billion people — contributed to a shifting view on Section 377. The privacy decision, by a nine-judge panel of the court, had included biting comments by several judges criticizing the Koushal decision as inconsistent with basic precepts of the Indian Constitution. When Chief Justice Misra appointed himself to head a new fivejudge panel to hear the reconsideration of Koushal, commentators widely agreed that the court would definitely overrule the 2014 decision and strike down Section 377 as it applies to private, consensual adult sex. After gleeful press reports of July oral arguments in the case, the only suspense was how wide-ranging the opinion would be. Indeed, the government pleaded with the court to limit its decision narrowly to sexual acts and refrain from ruling on other kinds of anti-LGBTQ discrimination or on same-sex marriage. Chief Justice Misra’s opinion is likely to be the most quoted and

➤ INDIA, continued on p.33

September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


REMEMBRANCE

Janet Weinberg, Leader in Health, Social Services, Dies at 63 At Community Center, GMHC, longtime activist among pioneers who built LGBTQ New York BY PAUL SCHINDLER he death of Janet Weinberg, a longtime lesbian activist who held senior positions at the Educational Alliance, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and Manhattan’s LGBT Community Center, has drawn tributes from LGBTQ community leaders nationwide. Weinberg, 63, died suddenly on September 1 and is survived by her longtime partner and wife of seven years, Roz Richter, an associate justice on the New York State Appellate Division’s First Department bench in Manhattan. During the past four years, Weinberg served as the executive vice president for programs and operations at the Educational Alliance, a nonprofit group that works with 50,000 residents of the Lower East Side and the East Village to provide services to strengthen families. In a written statement, the group said, “Over the course of her life, Janet dedicated herself to improving the lives of others through her work in the fields of healthcare and social services. All who interacted with her knew the depth of her talent, kindness, and generosity… Her expertise, strength of character, and friendship will be truly missed by her colleagues.” Alan van Capelle, the group’s CEO, in a Facebook post, wrote, “The world has lost an incredible woman and the LGBT community has lost a fierce advocate. Many of us have lost a friend, a second mother, a sister, and mentor. It was a blessing that she was all of these things to me.” Joe Tarver, the vice president of operations at the group, wrote, “I met Janet in the early 2000s when we both worked in LGBT organizations and I soon realized what a leader she was in the movement. I would see her at rallies, fundraisers, lobby days in Albany, and many other venues critical to the community’s quest for equality and justice. She was always upbeat and positive no matter the situation or circumstance. Such a rare character trait.” Prior to her tenure at the Educational Alliance, Weinberg served for nearly a decade at GMHC, first as the group’s senior managing director of development and legislative funding and later as its chief operating officer. Weinberg secured the group’s first-ever federal appropriation to support its efforts to address crystal meth use among its clients. The total federal funding for that effort over time amounted to $1.8 million.

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GayCityNews.nyc | September 13 – September 26, 2018

DONNA ACETO

Janet Weinberg, 1955-2018.

GMHC credits her with dramatically expanding its mental health and substance abuse programs, an effort that culminated in 2017 with the group opening a dedicated clinic to address those needs. Kelsey Louie, GMHC’s CEO, in a written statement, said, “Janet’s legacy of compassionate stewardship and strategic planning helped make GMHC what it is today: an agency on the forefront of our collective work to end the AIDS epidemic.” Prior to joining GMHC in 2005, Weinberg for many years was the development director at the LGBT Community Center. The Center, in a written statement, said, “The Center Board of Directors and staff — past and present — join countless others in mourning the unexpected passing of Board alum and former staff member Janet Weinberg. Janet’s ferocity of kindness and human spirit, fierce activism, and unwavering commitment to justice led the way for many of us. Janet’s leadership has left a lasting impact on our Center and our lives, and her presence will be deeply missed.” Carmen Vazquez, who worked with Weinberg for many years at the Center, wrote on Facebook, “Janet was a friend and mentor and fellow conspirator in my early life at the LGBT

Community Center. Nothing of what I was able to accomplish at the Center would have been possible without her. She was funny and wise and suffered no fools. Her embrace of me was a blessing I needed.” Weinberg, who was raised in New Jersey and graduated from the City University of New York, began her career as an occupational therapist, a role in which she oversaw the work of more than 1,000 other therapists. In 2012, at the age of 57, Weinberg was diagnosed with breast cancer, an experience about which she wrote for a publication from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where she received treatment. Writing that her cancer was caught early, she said, “I got through the experience,” adding, “I honestly feel like I’m one of the luckiest people I know.” Weinberg also recalled what she learned from becoming a fierce breast cancer screening advocate. “When I was diagnosed, I went on a onewoman crusade to make sure that every single person I knew was going for her mammogram,” she wrote. “I can’t begin to tell you the stories I heard. From my friend who is a physician, I heard, ‘I’m too busy.’ This physician happens to work in a hospital. I said to her, ‘Excuse me? Now tell me why you’re really not going.’ Once we broke it down, she wasn’t going because she really didn’t like the experience. When we broke it down further, it wasn’t about the machine that’s very horrible; it was about the experience of exposing yourself. I heard that story from a lot of LGBT people. They don’t go to regular doctor appointments. They don’t go for regular mammograms. It’s just an uncomfortable experience to come out to doctors every time.” The staff at Sloan Kettering, Weinberg reported, “did pretty well with” Richter being on hand for her treatments, “but other patients and some volunteers did not.” Though she gave Sloan Kettering good marks for her care there, she said, “I want hospitals to think about where there might be opportunities to improve their sensitivity toward LGBT people, to break down barriers that discourage people from taking care of their health.” Among the many roles Weinberg played in the LGBTQ community, she was a board member of the NYC AIDS Memorial, which sits opposite the former site of St. Vincent’s Hospital

➤ JANET WEINBERG, continued on p.9

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HEALTH

Cuomo Pressured to End Overdoses Hundreds marched August 31 demanding public health approach BY NATHAN RILEY

A

t its largest demonstration ever, End Overdose NY tried to shame Governor Andrew Cuomo into introducing comprehensive changes that will bring down the number of opioid-related deaths. The protestors from the harm reduction community who support a public health approach dramatized their criticism by marching from the New York City morgue on East 26th Street, where dead users are brought, to the governor’s Midtown office on Third Avenue. The protesters, numbering more than 200, filled three city blocks during the August 31 march, marking International Drug Overdose Awareness Day by carrying signs pleading for an end to overdoses. The organizers publicized the

DONNA ACETO

A casket carried by protesters symbolize the 72,000 Americans lost to drug overdoses annually.

success of efforts in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says have reached a tipping point, with the number

of fatal overdoses declining. These declines buck the national trend of most states, including New York, seeing an increase in fatalities. Rhode Island convened a task

force shortly after the 2014 election of Governor Gina Raimondo that drew on the resources of state health agencies and the Brown University School of Public Health. The task force steered clear of abstinence programs for opioid addiction and promoted medically assisted treatment. That state trained physicians to provide drugs like methadone and buprenorphine to opioid users, dramatically reducing their risk of a fatal overdose and protecting the users from going to jail. Such programs also lowered costs by keeping the prison population down. In a crucial innovation, Rhode Island made these legal drugs available to prisoners and, upon their release, connected them to physicians who provide these services. Ex-prisoners who are denied

➤ OVERDOSES, continued on p.7

CRIME

New Pot Arrest Policy Still Stigmatizes People of Color, Councilmembers Warn BY NATHAN RILEY

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hree city councilmembers warned late last month that the Police Department’s new marijuana arrest policy, which took effect on September 1, will not stop arrests of people of color. Donovan Richards and Rory Lancman, both Queens Democrats, criticized the carve-outs in the city’s new policy of issuing summonses rather than arresting people for smoking pot in public. People without a prior criminal history who have identification will simply be given a criminal summons and be allowed to continue on their way. But people with prior criminal histories will be treated more harshly. A person on parole or who has warrants for failure to appear or answer a summons will still go

6

COURTESY OF COUNCILMEMBER REYNOSO’S OFFICE

Councilmembers Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, and (not pictured) Rory Lancman criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new marijuana arrest policy that went into effect on September 1.

to jail. A parolee can be sent back to prison for toking on a joint. According to a June New York Times story about the new policy, Police Commissioner James P O’Neil said, “If you have a propen-

sity to commit crimes… the consequences should be higher.” But marijuana arrests offer no public safety benefit, according to a study by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. His office will

not prosecute these crimes even if a person is held overnight. Richards, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee, knocked the policy with a bit of street wisdom. “When white people smoke they can still go to Yale, when people of color smoke they go to jail,” he said. Statistics show that 86 percent of the people arrested for pot in New York are people of color, and Lancman, who chairs the Committee on the Justice System, vented his frustration at Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has failed to acknowledge that focusing on a criminal history means harsh policies will fall primarily on people of color because white people don’t have comparable histories.

➤ POT POLICY, continued on p.7

September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


OVERDOSES, from p.6

medically assisted treatment often go back to heroin and are at a high risk of a fatal overdose. This risk also applies to users in 12 Step programs who abstain but receive no other medical intervention, lose their tolerance for the drug, and then relapse by returning to their former dose with fatal consequences. There is widespread consensus that when it comes to opioid use, medical intervention offers higher retention rates and greater success than abstinence-based programs. Nationally, 2017 saw a new high in overdose deaths at 72,000, more deaths in one year than the total for American soldiers killed in Vietnam. But the three New England states bucked this trend by actively bringing public health measures into their small towns. Services like needle exchanges and medically assisted treatment that were widely used in big cities became available. New York has yet to establish this system either in its prisons or in upstate communities. One major concern here is that progress on establishing safer consumption spaces, where drug use is supervised by health professionals, is at a standstill. After many months of delay, Mayor Bill de Blasio in May approved such a program provided that the State Health Department supported it. Nobody expects any further progress until after the November gubernatorial election. In the meantime, overdose deaths are a daily event. Safer consumption spaces allow users to test their drugs for fentanyl, a highly potent opioid that

POT POLICY, from p.6

With obvious disgust, Lancman said that “the fact that the mayor does not see this” is inexplicable. Councilmember Antonio Reynoso from Brooklyn joined Richards and Lancman at the August 30 news conference on the City Hall steps in calling for legalization of adult use of marijuana and wiping prior pot arrests off the books. Legal Aid attorneys from the Bronx and Brooklyn warned that the city’s Administration for Children’s Services still investigates parents who use pot and that the

is used to cut heroin in the eastern half of the US and implicated in a growing number of overdose deaths. Users consume their drugs in the presence of overdose prevention workers who intervene when a user lapses into such a deep stupor that they might stop breathing. Those health workers can also connect users to treatment programs. Naloxone is a drug that is injected nasally and quickly restores normal breathing. This is one area where New York has achieved progress, but the results fall short of reducing the number of overdose deaths, which have been climbing since the start of this century. In 2017, the Drug Policy Alliance released a 21-page report on responding to the crisis that included decriminalization of drug use — ending the buy and bust tactics that disrupt the lives of drug users and their supplier and replacing it with a public health approach. This is the gold standard for ending the stigma surrounding drug use and offering users comprehensive health care. Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera gave this approach a rousing show of support, telling the marchers, “Addiction is not a moral failure. The moral failure is the leaders who won’t stand up” for making the changes that will save lives. The hundreds of marchers were drawn from groups like VOCALNY, Bailey House, Housing Works, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the Drug Policy Alliance, St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction, and the Harm Reduction Coalition. Repeatedly, they voiced their mourning for the loss of 72,000 of “their brothers and sisters.”

arrests and fingerprint checks left immigrant New Yorkers vulnerable to deportation actions by ICE. The June story in The Times reported, “The new policy, which will take effect on September 1, will not curb police officers’ power to stop and search people who they think are smoking marijuana. And because it exempts from the no-arrest policy certain people with criminal records, many of them black, it is unlikely on its own to shift the focus of marijuana enforcement away from the nonwhite New Yorkers who have for decades been the targets of arrests.”

GayCityNews.nyc | September 13 – September 26, 2018

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Despite Trans Bias Claim, Mayor Sticks With Park Slope Y De Blasio condemned his gym after non-binary member charged they faced harassment BY COLIN MIXSON

M

ayor Bill de Blasio is refusing to say if he will stop his daily crosscity commutes to work out at the Prospect Park YMCA after he blasted the gym’s staff for allegedly violating a transgender person’s civil rights. A mayoral spokesperson repeatedly dodged questions about whether de Blasio will curtail his beloved pastime of traveling 11 miles from Gracie Mansion to the Ninth Street facility following a transmasculine nonbinary person’s report of being kicked out of its locker rooms, instead focusing on the steps the city will take to prevent future incidents. “[The Commission on Human Rights] is going to train the staff [at the Prospect Park YMCA] to ensure it doesn’t happen again. That’s what’s important here. Thanks,” said Eric Phillips. The Prospect Park YMCA came under fire after BuzzFeed reporter Branson LB, whose sex was assigned woman at birth, published a firstperson account on August 30 that described their “humiliation” after employees forced them

ELIZ ABETH GRAHAM

No comment: Mayor Bill DeBlasio, seen here outside his beloved Prospect Park YMCA in 2014, refused to say whether or not he would stop working out at the gym after a non-binary patron claimed its staffers violated their civil rights on two separate occasions last month.

out of two locker rooms on separate occasions last month. Branson reported the incidents to the city’s Human Rights Commission, claiming their treatment violated the provision of the New York City Human Rights Law — which then-Councilmember de Blasio voted for in 2002 — that entitles a gender non-conforming person to use facilities consistent with their identity. And Phillips told a separate BuzzFeed reporter that what happened to Branson was “unacceptable” following initial news of the incidents, but again ignored queries about whether his boss would boycott the gym in the aftermath. De Blasio, a former Park Slope resident who represented the neighborhood on the City Council, has continued to patronize his onetime local gym — often under escort by police motorcade — since moving into Gracie Mansion in 2014, leading critics to blast his habit as wasting taxpayer money and unnecessarily polluting the air. But the mayor insists on working out at the

➤ PROSPECT PARK Y, continued on p.9

CRIME

25-to-Life for Rashawn Brazell’s Alleged Killer in Separate Murder Kwauhuru Govan brutally killed Sharabia Thomas year ahead of gay man’s slaying BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

T

he convicted killer of Sharabia Thomas, who is also accused of murdering Rashawn Brazell in 2005, was sentenced to 25-to-life for kidnapping and killing the 17-year-old Thomas in 2004. “He has served periods of incarceration before,” said Leila Rosini, the senior assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case with Danielle Reddan, an assistant district attorney, in Brooklyn Supreme Court on September 7. “Incarceration did not change his life… This case absolutely demonstrates that society needs to be protected from this man.” After four of Thomas’ relatives spoke, including her two sisters, Rosini referred to the “tortuous and depraved manner in which Sharabia Thomas was killed” and asked for and received the maximum sentence for Kwauhuru Govan, 40, who lived in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. Thomas apparently fought with Govan before he strangled and beat her to death. His DNA was

8

COURTESY: BRA ZELL FAMILY

Rashawn Brazell was 19 at the time of his 2005 murder; his alleged killer, Kwauhuru Govan, was sentenced to 25-to-life in the brutal murder of Sharabia Thomas a year earlier.

in cells that were found under Thomas’ fingernails. Her dismembered body was discovered in two laundry bags in an alley in Bushwick. Both cases went unsolved for years, but in June 2016, the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad and the Brooklyn district attorney’s Cold Case Unit matched that DNA to a sample of Govan’s DNA that was uploaded to a national database following his 2014 arrest for armed robbery in Florida. He was arrested in Florida after his release from prison and extradited to New York. “You almost got away with it, but DNA doesn’t lie,” said Shaniya Thomas, Sharabia’s older sister, during the sentencing. Shaniya called Govan “a monster.” After linking Govan to Thomas, police realized that Govan lived across the street from Brazell. Police found that a bag that belonged to Govan and that had Brazell’s blood on it was recovered in the subway station where parts of Brazell’s body were discovered in 2005. Brazell, who was 19 at his death, was gay.

➤ GOVAN SENTENCE, continued on p.9 September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


➤ JANET WEINBERG, from p.5 in the West Village, where so many early AIDS patients got care and also died. Longtime AIDS activist Eric Sawyer, who served with her on that board, wrote on Facebook, “Janet was always giving of her service, leadership, and of herself. She will be missed by so many from our community.” Gabriel Blau, a co-founder of

PROSPECT PARK Y, from p.8

Prospect Park YMCA because it is where he feels most comfortable, his reps have said in the past. “He is staying close to the community where he raised his family, and where he has lived for 20 years,” spokesperson Wiley Norvell

➤ GOVAN SENTENCE, from p.8 Govan’s attorneys, Joshua Horowitz and Jonathan Strauss, asked for the minimum term of 15-to-life. As he has done since the start of both cases, Govan insisted

Equality New York, knew Weinberg from her support of the Stonewall Community Foundation and their common membership in Congregation Beit Simchat Torah. Of his relationship with her, Blau wrote, “One of the things I most appreciated about Janet (mostly) was her brutal honesty, and her willingness to push you. Her style was a common topic among those of us who were lucky enough to get her

support. She would say, ‘It wouldn’t be fair of me to not be hard on you.’ And so she was. And she would remind you of your promises, check that you’d stuck to a plan.” Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers whose wife is CBST Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, wrote, “I loved my conversations with Janet. I looked forward to them; I always learned from them… and felt such

support from her.” Urvashi Vaid, a lesbian leader for decades whose many leadership positions included the helm at the National LGBTQ Task Force, wrote simply of Weinberg, “The kindest, most thoughtful, smart, loving of friends.” Weinberg’s family asked for privacy for a period of mourning. According to GMHC, a celebration of her life will take place later this fall.

told the Brooklyn Paper, Gay City News’ sister publication, in 2015. The same can’t be said for Branson, however, who wrote that although they will continue to patronize the gym, they now feel out of place in all of its locker rooms. “The truth is, I don’t feel comfortable in any of these spaces,” Bran-

son wrote. YMCA officials are investigating Branson’s allegations of civil rights abuse, according to a representative, who confirmed employees at the Prospect Park branch will be trained to accommodate the needs of transgender patrons. “The YMCA deeply regrets that

a member felt unwelcome at one of our branches,” said spokesperson Erik Opsal. “The YMCA is also partnering with the NYC Commission on Human Rights to provide training to our staff as part of our ongoing commitment to being a safe, inclusive, and welcoming space for everyone we serve.”

that he is an innocent man during the sentencing proceeding. “I am sorry for the family’s loss, but I am not the culprit,” Govan told Judge Joanne Quinones, who presided over the trial. “I just ask you to look over the evidence before you

make a decision and send me away for life for something I did not do.” Desire Brazell, Rashawn’s mother, attended the sentencing with roughly two dozen of Thomas’ friends and relatives. She briefly commented after the proceeding.

“The only thing I’m going to say is this is Sharabia’s family’s day and I’m glad they got what they deserved,” she told Gay City News. A hearing in the Brazell case before Quinones is scheduled for October 31.

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9


MEDIA

Schneps Acquires NYC Community Media, Community News Group With 300,000 circulcation, new company dominant news source in NYC, Westchester, Long Island of family-owned newspapers, websites, and magazines and the city’s most powerful name in community journalism, with decades-old brands.

BY SCHNEPS COMMUNICATIONS

T

he three leading local media companies serving the five boroughs of New York City along with Long Island and Westchester have now become one. Schneps Communications, a family-run business owned by Victoria and Joshua Schneps, has acquired NYC Community Media and Community News Group, one of the largest publishers of community newspapers, niche publications, websites and events in New York State. Together, Schneps, NYCCM and CNG offer unmatched reach in the five boroughs of New York City, as well as Long Island and Westchester. The combined company will be known as Schneps Community News Group and will have a total printed weekly circulation of more than 300,000 copies and a digital reach of more than 2.5 million page views per month, and will host more than 40 events every year. “We will clearly have the largest reach of any local media company in New York City across print, digital, and events,” said Joshua Schneps, SCNG Chief Executive Officer. “We can now offer companies large and small, seeking to reach an individual neighborhood or the entire City of New York and its surrounding region, the most cost-effective and efficient means of marketing.” Each borough and Long Island have a group of distinctive media assets, some dating back as far as 1908. “Our brands are as grassroots as it gets and produce awardwinning content that both our readers and advertisers trust,” said Victoria Schneps, Publisher and President of SCNG. With the uncertainty of the media landscape both locally and nationally, Schneps has prospered by investing in content not only in its newspapers and niche publications, but through successful digital assets and events

JEFF YAPAL ATER

Joshua Schneps, Vicki Schneps , Les Goodstein, and Jennifer Goodstein smile as they predict a bright future for the new company, which is the largest print, digital events company in the New York market.

that have created a diversified media company. “This acquisition will allow us to reach a scale that will create unique opportunities for clients that want to target their marketing and work with proven brands,” said Victoria. “In addition, our knowledge and success around digital and events will be a boon to many of CNG’s exceptional outlets,” Joshua added. NYCCM and CNG were owned and operated by husband-andwife team of Les and Jennifer Goodstein. Les was a News Corp executive who led the initial formation of CNG through a series of acquisitions, while Jennifer acquired NYCCM, with its group of titles in Manhattan, from their previous owner. In 2014 Les and Jennifer acquired CNG from News Corp, bringing the group back to its roots as a family-owned business. Les and Jennifer Goodstein were advised on the sale by Gary Greene of Cribb, Greene, and Associates. Schneps Communications has grown since the founding of The Queens Courier, by Victoria Schneps in her home in 1985, to become the preeminent publisher of community newspapers, leading digital websites and assets,

GayCityNews.nyc | September 13 – September 26, 2018

business-to -business and live events.

events,

Its media assets include: The Queens Courier The Courier Sun The Ridgewood Times The Times Newsweekly El Correo Noticia LI The Long Island Press Brownstoner.com Brownstoner Magazine QNS.com The North Shore Towers Courier LIC Magazine BORO Magazine LeHavre Courier Cryder Point Courier Queens in Your Pocket Aspire College Magazine Best of Long Island Best of Brooklyn Best of the Boro The World’s Fare The Kings, Power Women and Stars business events hosted throughout NYC and Long Island The Power List events Real Estate Award and Conference Events Senior Health Expos Kids Expos About CNG and NYCCM New York’s largest collection

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13


LET TER FROM THE EDITOR PRESIDENT & PUBLISHER Victoria Schneps-Yunis CEO & CO-PUBLISHER Joshua Schneps

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

FOUNDING EDITOR IN-CHIEF & ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER

y the time some of you read this, Andrew Cuomo — barring a colossal fail on the part of public opinion poll after public opinion poll — will have been nominated for a third term as New York’s governor. I am not writing about who should win the Democratic nomination on September 13, but rather about the future of progressive politics. This past weekend, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, the New York State Democratic Party sent out a mailer targeted to Jewish voters charging that Cynthia Nixon, the governor’s challenger, has been “silent on the rise of anti-Semitism” and has taken positions on the conflict in the Middle East that she has not. The sin of falsehood, here, was compounded by one of the most egregious slanders that can be leveled against a person. In fact, Nixon and her wife, Christine Marinoni, are members of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the nation’s oldest and most storied LGBTQ Jewish community, and they are raising their children as Jewish. Hours after the mailer surfaced, CBST’s senior rabbi, Sharon Kleinbaum, and her wife, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of

PAUL SCHINDLER

editor@gaycitynews.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR DUNCAN OSBORNE

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Mr. Cuomo’s Shame

B

Teachers, issued a statement reading, in part, “We have both maintained our neutrality in the primary between Governor Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon. We know them both well, and Sharon is Cynthia’s Rabbi. Cynthia is no anti-Semite. It’s a baseless lie.” The state Democratic Party and Cuomo quickly retreated from this outrageous attack. Geoff Berman, the party’s executive director, termed the mailer “wrong and inappropriate” and pledged to pay for a mailer on Nixon’s behalf. The governor said it was “inappropriate” and “a mistake,” even as he disclaimed any prior knowledge of it. Cuomo can’t evade responsibility with a few words and a directive to investigate how the mailer came about. The buck stops with him, someone well known as a micro-manager. The attack on Nixon recalls other unfortunate statements made by or attributed to the governor. In 2008, as the state’s attorney general and a supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, he said of her rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference.” In 1977, when his father, Mario, was running against Ed Koch in that year’s mayoral race, signs surfaced reading, “Vote for Cuomo, Not the

Homo.” Nineteen-year-old Andrew, a key figure in the senior Cuomo’s campaign, was widely suspected of being behind the gay-baiting of Koch. When asked about the incident by Gay City News in 2002, Andrew Cuomo at first challenged whether the incident had in fact occurred before denying any responsibility for it. Despite the state party and the governor’s disavowal of the flyer and its repudiation by Rabbi Kleinbaum, gay men on Facebook this week continued to dog Nixon over a video of her ordering a bagel — suggesting not only that she knows nothing about Jewish cuisine but also that she ignored the men of color serving her and the Jewish customers surrounding her. This is just despicable. This whole episode is a telling warning for progressives as we consider a hoped-for post-Trump future. Among all the post-mortems of the 2016 campaign, it is widely agreed that the Democrats simply failed to convince enough Americans that they are fighting on their behalf. We can have a politics where we work earnestly — even as we at times disagree — to shape solutions that meet the crying needs of Americans of all stripes. Or we can borrow the ugly tactics of Trump and his ilk and divide people for partisan gain while delivering no new answers. That’s the test that our elected officials face. This week, Andrew Cuomo flunked that test.

PERSPECTIVE: Insider Trading

The Dos and Don’ts of LGBTQ Politics BY ALLEN ROSKOFF

A

cardinal rule in politics is that you don’t claim endorsements that you don’t have since you are sure to get caught. But the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club has done just that. In its bid to elect a slate headed by former State Senator Tom Duane, CRDC sent out a mailer claiming the endorsements of Congressmember Jerry Nadler and State Senator Brad Hoylman — neither of whom endorsed its slate. Last year, the club made the same claim regarding Council Speaker Corey Johnson. If you can’t be honest about your endorsements, why should anyone trust you to elect Supreme Court judges? CRDC happens to be running against a slate headed by civil rights

activist Ronnie Eldridge, who has been consistently active in federal, state, and city politics dating back to the Vietnam War — and a confidant of Robert Kennedy’s and a special assistant to Mayor John Lindsay. It was Eldridge who orchestrated Lindsay issuing the nation’s first executive order barring discrimination in city employment based on sexual orientation. Full disclosure: I am running on the Eldridge slate. This Primary Day, voters have a clear choice with a slate headed by consistently progressive activists headed by Eldridge — or a slate headed by Duane, who maintains that those who did not support Christine Quinn are self-hating homosexuals while aligning himself with anti-gay Bronx Councilmember Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr. If you live in Chelsea or

Hell’s Kitchen and want to see progressive judges serve us in the State Supreme Court, please vote the Eldridge slate. Habitat for Humanity has plans to create more than 100 units of “LGBTQ-friendly” senior affordable housing within Community Board 2’s boundaries on Elizabeth Street in Manhattan. Terri Cude, chair of CB2, does not support the project and sent a letter to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development asking, “Will this project provide any preference, set-aside, or other priority for affordable housing based on sexual orientation?,” knowing full well that it is against the law to do so. What is be-

➤ DOS AND DON’TS, continued on p.15

September Month 13 – xx September – Month 26, xx, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Not Your Joe Klein’s Anonymous BY ED SIKOV

L

ike most of you, I’m sure, I greeted the recent unsigned Times op-ed piece by a senior member of the Rump administration with unadulterated glee. It painted a gratifyingly ugly portrait of dysfunction, secret rebellion, and presidential madness that confirmed what most Americans already suspected — that Rump is an out-of-control cretin whose aims, many of his advisors privately agree, must be thwarted for the good of the nation. The situation is so bad, the anonymous senior staffer wrote, that several of his or her colleagues actually considered invoking the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which provides the vice president with the power to take over the government in the event the president can no longer function in the role by reason of illness, either physical or mental. My merriment was cut short, however, by the New Yorker’s Masha Gessen, who pointed out why the anonymous op-ed piece was nothing to celebrate. Gessen, a fiercely intelligent and fearless writer, was born — and lived much of her life — in Russia. She has said she was “probably the only publicly out gay person in the whole country.” The mother of three moved to the US in 2013 after Russian authorities began floating the idea of taking children away from their LGBTQ parents. Unlike Rump, she is not a fan of Vladimir Putin. “Only the day before the Op-Ed was published,” Gessen writes, “excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new

➤ DOS AND DON’TS, from p.14 ing proposed is desperately needed housing that will welcome LGBTQ seniors in partnership with SAGE and the community. Want two words why the LGBTQ community should support Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal for term limits for Community Board members? Here it is: Terri Cude. Any attempt to choose a different location is just a tactic to defeat the project. If there is a second location, then let’s build two for the homeless. Shame

book, ‘Fear,’ added to the ever-accumulating picture of chaos, mendacity, fear, embattlement, and contempt for the President even within his senior staff. But, while the content of the anonymous Op-Ed is not newsworthy, in the sense of providing new information, the fact of its publication certainly is.” Focusing on the fact that the op-ed writer is anonymous, Gessen points out that this is precisely the problem: “While this may be the country’s salvation in the short run, it also plainly signals the demise of some of its most cherished ideals and constitutional norms. An anonymous person or persons cannot govern for the people, because the people do not know who is governing.” “I don’t doubt the editors’ serious intentions,” Gessen goes on, “though I happen to disagree — the content of the Op-Ed does not strike me as newsworthy. But that’s not the point. The thing about autocracies, or budding autocracies, is that they present citizens with only bad choices. At a certain point, one has to stop trying to find the right solution and has to look, instead, for a course of action that avoids complicity. By publishing the anonymous Op-Ed, the Times became complicit in its own corruption.” This was the moment that turned my already-fading joy into Mother’s sick headache. (I’m Mother.) Gessen is right; the manifest content of the op-ed is not news. Every noncrank account of this White House presents a portrait of incompetence, chaos, and corruption. I’d argue, though, that what makes it news-

worthy is the fact of its existence, the claim that a secret group of senior staffers is deliberately trying to thwart Rump and his agenda, a claim made by one of the conspirators. I’m hoping that this inner circle has a secret handshake. A secret handshake would, as they say, be awesome. Gessen continues: “The media are being corrupted every time they engage with a nonsensical, false, or hateful Trump tweet (although not engaging with these tweets is not an option). They are being corrupted every time journalists act polite while the President, his press secretary, or other Administration officials lie to them. They are being corrupted every time a Trumpian lie is referred to as a ‘falsehood,’ a ‘factually incorrect statement,’ or as anything other than a lie. They are being corrupted every time journalists allow the Administration to frame an issue, like when they engage in a discussion about whether the separation of children from their parents at the border is an effective deterrent against illegal immigration. They are being corrupted every time they use the phrase ‘illegal immigration.’” Gessen is on a tear; I haven’t been as excited by a piece of journalism since I don’t know when. She goes on: “The author… refers to the ‘unsung heroes’ of the Administration, the people who, he writes, work to insulate their departments from the President’s whims, tantrums, and, it seems, eyes — insuring that actual policy is sometimes the very opposite of what is described in Trump’s public rhetoric. The problem here

is with the term ‘unsung heroes,’ which usually refers to people who are hidden from the public eye, not to public persons who intentionally conceal the substance of their actions. A lack of transparency in government is a constitutional crisis in the making, not an unrecognized feat of heroism. Also, one must note that the author of the Op-Ed is very much singing his own praises, albeit anonymously. (For now, anyway. His, or her, identity will almost inevitably be revealed.)” I’m fond of Gessen’s skeptical perception of the public nature of a private act: the anonymous staffer decided, on his or her own, to write a hit piece attacking Rump and got it published it in a very widely read newspaper, thereby “singing his own praises” to a readership of millions. “I would even argue that by claiming, anonymously, to have usurped some of the power of the Presidency, the author has separated himself from the people, rendering the phrase ‘we as a nation’ doubly false,” Gessen continues. “Yes, it’s complicated,” she concludes. “We are, as a nation, grateful that James Mattis actively muffles Trump’s outbursts, but we should also be aware that he is laying the groundwork for Defense Secretaries to act against the wishes and possibly even the orders of future Presidents. This is part of the degradation that the author describes in this passage, while failing to acknowledge that he has been an active perpetrator of that degradation, not a passive victim.”

on Cude and her sycophant followers.

Brooklyn Congressional candidate Allard Lowenstein, and former Congressmember Fred Richmond were all closeted. Former State Senator and Councilmember Vincent Gentile created a firestorm in 2002 when he voted against the gay rights bill while in the State Senate, after pledging to support it to win LGBTQ support in his initial race. We were furious knowing he himself was gay. We outed him and he denied it. It was really terrific when civil rights attorney Tom Shanahan appeared on

NY1 and spoke about having sex with Gentile while he served as an intern to the senator. There was another young man who worked on his staff who came forward to complain about being sexually harassed by Gentile. Gentile is simply a sad sack who always put his failing career ahead of the rights of our community. Then there was Carl Kruger, who voted against the Marriage Equality bill on the State Senate’s first at-

I wrote in my last column about Brooklyn’s history in gay politics. In this column, I will focus on Brooklyn present. Brooklyn has a large LGBTQ opulation but lags behind Manhattan and Queens in the number of out elected officials. However, the borough seems to outnumber all others in the number of closeted elected officials. As I wrote previously, former City Council President Carol Bellamy, former

GayCityNews.nyc | September 13 – September 26, 2018

➤ ANONYMOUS, continued on p.32

➤ DOS AND DON’TS, continued on p.32

15


MUSIC

Stadium Play for Gay Pop Troye Sivan’s sophomore album is frank and ambitious BY STEVE ERICKSON t age 23, Troye Sivan’s second album “Bloom” positions the South African-born, Australianraised, LA-based singer for world stardom. (He’s also an actor, who will be seen in the forthcoming film about so-called conversion therapy, “Boy Erased.”) Though “Bloom” is clearly mainstream pop, he hasn’t played it safe in singing about aspects of gay life, including sex. While he doesn’t always use male pronouns when singing about his lovers, his lyrics are frank. Compared to the way heterosexual men like Prince and The Notorious B.I.G. wrote about their sex lives and fantasies, “Bloom” is quite tame, but it treats a young gay man losing his virginity through anal sex and heading to Grindr for casual hookups nonchalantly, as the subjects

A

HEDI SLIMANE/ COURTESY OF TROYESIVAN.COM

Troye Sivan just released his second album, “Bloom.”

of catchy pop songs rather than scandalous transgressions. In an interview with the website Them, he talks about being a closeted teenager: “Before coming out, I remember distinctly feeling like there was a delay on my life. All my friends were doing just dumb stuff

that kids do, like making out with people at parties and starting to date, and just, you know, getting their first girlfriend or boyfriend.” The album’s first song, “Seventeen,” describes one of the consequences of not being able to date in the open: a teenager’s encounter

with an older man. Its chorus emphasizes Sivan’s desires: “I went out looking for love when I was seventeen/ Maybe a little too young but it was real to me.” However, things get darker and far more ambivalent on the song’s verses, which acknowledge the experience’s predatory overtones, with Sivan singing, “Can’t tell a man to slow down/ He’ll just do whatever he wants.” By kicking off “Bloom” with this song, I think Sivan is saying something about his audience and media reception. He appeals to a lot of gay teenagers and young men, but he’s also been called a twink ad nauseam, placed in the position of representing a category that’s pretty dubious to start. He looks younger than his age: he could still convincingly play a teenager in a film. His public persona expresses a campi-

➤ TROYE SIVAN, continued on p.23

Danger and Pleasure Anna Calvi explores gender’s fluidity, female alienation, and hope BY STEVE ERICKSON

T

he first indication that out queer British singer Anna Calvi’s “Hunter” was going to be something special came with the June release of the music video for its first single, “Don’t Beat the Girl Out Of My Boy.” Without breaking into a narrative, it uses dance and lighting to suggest a wide range of emotions between men and women. Most of it consists of Calvi dancing with a man who grabs her chest under bright red lighting. It never overtly depicts rape, but the experience seems to test the boundaries of consent; the portion of the video that takes place under flashing blue lights is particularly disturbing. It expresses something about the difficulties women have living out relationships with men without the threat of violence (which it

16

DOMINORECORDCO.COM

Anna Calvi has just released “Hunter.”

never depicts, but remains just at the boundary of). The song’s lyrics stress the importance of recognizing men’s feminine qualities, as one can tell from the title, but playing with gender is a running theme

through the album. It’s quickly apparent that PJ Harvey looms large as an influence over “Hunter,” but Calvi’s music has a melodramatic, near-operatic streak all its own. Her voice leaps

to falsetto near the end of “Hunter.” Harvey herself has cited Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds as an inspiration, and much of “Hunter” evokes the same Gothic swamp blues. In fact, Bad Seeds bassist Martyn Casey plays on the album, along with Portishead’s Adrian Utley, who contributes keyboards. Calvi’s lyrics and sensibility evokes the punk poetry of ‘70s Patti Smith, who kicked off her debut album “Horses” with a re-write of Van Morrison’s “Gloria” in which she reclaimed male rock’n’roll lyrics about lusting after women even though Smith is heterosexual. Without even listening to the lyrics on “Hunter,” the album’s title and song titles like “As A Man,” “Alpha,” and “Don’t Beat the Girl Out Of My Boy” suggest the extent to which it expresses the idea that

➤ ANNA CALVI, continued on p.23

September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


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September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


NYC WORKS ★

C E LE B R ATI N G L ABO R I N TH E B I G APPLE


Meet the Real Power of the Labor Movement;

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Latonya Crisp Recording Sec’y

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TWU Local 100 | Union Headquarters | 195 Montague Street | Brooklyn, NY 11201 | Tony Utano, President

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NYC WORKS CELEBRATING LABOR IN THE BIG APPLE

Grand marshal is the head of the class Michael Mulgrew, chief of United Federation of Teachers, led festivities BY JAMES HARNEY Michael Mulgrew is no stranger to being up front. He spent a decade in front of classrooms teaching English at William E. Grady High School in Brooklyn, but at 10 am on Saturday, Sept. 8, Mulgrew was in front of a different, much larger gathering, as grand marshal of the 2018 New York City Labor Day Parade. Since taking the helm of the 189,000-member United Federation of Teachers, the city’s teachers’ union, in 2009, the Staten Island native has used his leadership position to advocate for smaller class sizes, more city and state funding for public schools, increased parental involvement in their children’s education, and less reliance on standardized testing. Under Mulgrew’s leadership, in 2014 the UFT won a

GRAND MARSHAL: Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, was grand marshal of the 2018 New York City Labor Day Parade and March. United Federation of Teachers

teachers’ contract with the city that included an 18 percent pay raise.

He serves as a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers; an executive board member of New York State United Teachers, executive vice chairman of the city’s Municipal Labor Committee, and on the executive board of the New York City Central Labor Council. His UFT bio mentions that the veteran union leader “actively promotes issues that include economic fairness, immigration reform, equality and social justice.” When the Central Labor Council tapped Mulgrew to lead this year’s parade, he joined such local labor union luminaries as Thomas VanArsdale of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, John J. Sweeney and Denis Hughes of the AFLCIO, Peter Ward of the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, Lillian Roberts of DC 37, and Mulgrew’s pre-

decessor as UFT president, Randi Weingarten, who have led New York’s signature labor union march. “I’m proud and honored I was chosen this year to be the grand marshal of the parade,” the veteran union leader told Community News Group. “The Central Labor Council said to me, ‘your union is out front on labor issues, especially lately since unions have been under attack; we wanted you to be at the head of our march.’ But this is not just about spreading the message on the day of the parade; it’s also about the week leading up to the parade, spreading the message about workers’ rights. Having those rights is the only way we’re going to be able to fi x the income disparities in this country.” Mulgrew said he sensed “a new wave of energy inside the labor movement in

New York,” and pointed to his own union as a prime example. “The UFT is at the lowest number of people who are non-union, about 400 out of a union of nearly 200,000. That’s phenomenal,” he said proudly. “More than ever, [workers] are embracing the value of unions.” He warned, however, that labor unions “should never, ever, stop moving forward at all times,” and continue to fight to protect workers’ rights to fair wages, adequate healthcare coverage, and retirement benefits against forces that would try to strip those away. “If someone had said 15 years ago that Wisconsin would be the most unfriendly state in the country for labor unions, I would have said ‘no way in hell,’ ” Mulgrew said. “But now that’s the case.”

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NYC WORKS CELEBRATING LABOR IN THE BIG APPLE

Once again, Fifth Avenue the place for the parade BY PHOEBE VAN BUREN Roughly 50,000 labor union members and supporters took their fight down Manhattan’s storied Fifth Avenue for the annual New York City Labor Day Parade on Sept. 8. Since its inception in 1882, the parade has become a banner event for the labor movement not only in the city, but across America. “It’s really viewed throughout the country, even outside the city, as the signature kind of event for the Labor Movement,” said Vincent Alvarez, who is the president of the New York City Labor Council, which puts on the parade. “Even though it’s a parade, it’s a march — it’s a march for rights.” The architects of the parade, Matthew MacGuire, who was a machinist and secretary of the Central Labor Union, and Peter MacGuire, who was a carpenter, secre-

tary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, had come up with an idea to introduce a labor holiday. On a Tuesday in 1882, they brought together 30,000 people in Union Square, meaning that workers had to forfeit the day’s wages to attend. The march was so popular that it was held again one year later, sparking a campaign for a Labor Day across the country. Congress named the fi rst Monday of September as Labor Day in 1894. Masses of union members and their supporters have marched across the city most years, barring periods that it didn’t happen due to several reasons, such as poor attendance as people began viewing the holiday as the fi nal weekend of summer and leaving the city. The parade has its own fl air, however, differing from

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all of the other parades in the city because it is 100 percent participatory, meaning that anyone can join, Alvarez said. “If you are part of the labor movement, a family member, neighbor, friend of the movement, we say march. If you’re a worker in the city whose industry is under attack, we say march,” he said. In the 1800s, participants marched down Broadway, but that changed in 1959 when it moved to Fifth Avenue. A permit for the stretch is almost impossible to secure these days but an existing agreement between the Labor Council and the city allows it to continue on that route. This year, it will be led by Grand Marshal Michael Mulgrew, who is the president of United Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2, while the chair is Lester Crockett, Regional President, CSEA-AF-

AMERICAN VALUES: Local 764 Wardrobe union member Andrae Gonzalo Associated Press / Bryan R. Smith marches. SCME Local 1000, Region 11. And with each year comes different campaigns. In 2018, revelers saw many “Count Me In” signs and banners from construction workers, referring to a campaign against including non-unionized construction workers in big developments across the city. Doing so puts workers at risk since not everyone has proper safety training, Alvarez said. Since the parade was the

Saturday before the primaries, the New York City Labor Council also puts resources into advocating for candidates it supports for office. Beyond being a time-honored New York City tradition, the parade is a way for workers to come together and show the public just how many people are fighting for them. “We show our strength and show our solidarity by marching together,” Alvarez said.


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32BJ SEIU and Airport Workers on Historic Quest for Economic and Social Justice Change often comes after years and years of hard work. No one knows this better than low wage workers. On Labor Day, they are taking a step back to look at their progress towards the ongoing fight still ahead of them. Six years ago, Andrea Bundy was struggling to survive on just $7.25 an hour while working as a cabin cleaner for a subcontractor at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. She struggled to make ends meet and take care of her daughter. Many of Andrea’s co-workers talk about similar, everyday struggles. Their stories are now well known. In 2012, subcontracted airport workers at LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and the John F. Kennedy International Airport started organizing for a union, higher wages and benefits with 32BJ

SEIU. The historic campaign has been wildly successful, as 9,000 low-wage workers organized themselves into 32BJ SEIU and nearly doubled the minimum wage at New York’s airports. But it didn’t come without a struggle. In the airports campaign, the broad aim was not to organize workers at a few subcontracting companies here and there, but to organize the entire airport industry. 32BJ SEIU successfully organized thousands of workers in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and won a commitment from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Board of Commissioners to a $19 minimum wage for 40,000 employees at Newark, JFK and LaGuardia working for multiple employers. This sectoral approach has helped 32BJ SEIU in the past 20 years organize nearly 100,000

new members up and down the East Coast in the airport, security, cleaning, residential building and food service industries, and 90% of those members are covered under industry-wide “master” contracts that multiple employers sign onto. Organizing the majority of workers in an industry actually reduces the incentive for employers to fight unionization because companies are no longer competing against

each other in a race to the bottom for the lowest labor costs. Unions can create a floor for wages and benefits in the market, which raises job standards throughout the industry, thereby reducing employee turnover and improving the quality of services. It’s not easy but it can be done and in fact, it’s already making life better for thousands of workers. And another remarkable thing that

has come out of these efforts is the realization that raising standards for wages and benefits is not only an antidote for poverty for these workers of color but an economic stimulus for the communities in which they live. Unions remain the best vehicle workers have to fight for better wages, benefits and working conditions and by actively participating in our democratic process we can still speak to the aspirations, direct interests and core values of all working people. It’s been unions that are pushing a bold vision for issues beyond the workplace, including expanded social security, progressive taxation, affordable health care and prescription drugs, extended sick time and family leave, childcare benefits, pre-K for all children, no-cost college and reduction of student loan debt.

In 32BJ,

We Win!

Airport workers won a wage increase to $19 an hour —one of the highest in the nation—because we came together in union with 32BJ to demand the good jobs we deserve. Thanks to our fight, the Port Authority has voted to increase wages over the next five years that will get all 40,000 airport service workers at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports to $19 an hour. Find out more: www.seiu32bj.org/airports 32BJ SEIU 32BJSEIU

32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country. 25 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011 • www.seiu32bj.org

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NYC WORKS CELEBRATING LABOR IN THE BIG APPLE

Labor pains, and labor gains

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STATE OF THE UNION: (Above) Union activists and supporters rally against the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, case, in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan on June 27. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that public employee unions cannot require nonmembers to pay fees. (Left) The New York State Nurses Association called for more staffing to better care for New Yorkers at 14 of the city’s private hospitals in 2015. (Below) Crown Heights Tenant Union tenants and activists protested outside the Bedford Union Armory building in Crown Heights in 2016, demanding the city reverse the RFP given to Slate Property Group to convert the armory building into 330 apartments.

File photo by Paul Martinka

Associated Press / Richard Drew

Associated Press / Karla Ann Cote

BY PHOEBE VAN BUREN Since the Labor Movement took hold of New York City in the 1800s, its workers have fought for fair wages, reasonable hours, and important benefits. With every new government comes new fights, and with new fights, come opportunities to improve workers’ lives, its leaders say. Whether it be against developers behind some of the biggest building ventures in the city or media employees working for the chance to unionize, New York workers are now facing a myriad of issues. The larger movement is at a crossroads right now, as it will need to start using its money and members to keep members while coming to an agreement politically, according to one expert. “It’s going to fi nd itself spending resources to keep members they are already have,” said Ed Ott, who has spent 40 years in the Labor Movement and is a lecturer at the City University of New York’s Murphy Institute Worker Education and Labor Studies. “We have to fi nd out how to keep what we have and what our political situation is at this point.” Perhaps the biggest labor issue of the 2018 came when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, that people who are represented by a public unions but aren’t members don’t have to pay fees. As a result, unions expect that they will lose 10 to 30 percent of their members and the money that comes with them. To help unions suffering from the ruling, the New York City Central Labor Council has been working to stabilize unions and prepare them with the support they need to keep operating effectively, Vincent Alvarez, the president of the Council, said. While it struggles to recover from the Supreme Court decision, the movement is also experiencing a political divide. “There are many workers split in the Labor Movement who supported and continue to support Trump. We have other unions who are adamantly opposed,” Ott said. Trump supporters can be found in trade unions, while those who oppose the president include the teachers and nurses unions. As workers across the country fight to keep their unions alive, New York workers, nearly a quarter of those who are unionized, have been involved in several campaigns for their rights this year. The “Count me In” campaign launched in response to the developer behind Hudson Yards on the city’s west side using a mix of union and non-union labor. This can create safety hazards, as the nonunion workers may not be properly

trained, Alvarez said. “It’s an issue that’s extraordinarily dangerous and a tremendous amount of danger that exists in construction.” In July, workers at retail store H&M urged the company to negotiate with them for a fair contract that would include the elimination of making workers take back-to-back closing and opening shifts without at least 10.5 hours rest, ensuring a minimum number of hours per week, and the right to time off after five consecutive days worked. Members of the New York City Council got behind the workers and urged the company to

CITY MEDIA LLC • NYC WORKS • SEPT. 13, 2018

come to the table. And people working in digital media, an increasingly volatile industry, are battling to unionize and strike deals with their employers that would ensure job security, fair wages, and benefits. In August, workers at culture blog Thrillist went on strike after their company refused to reach an agreement with the union. Graduate school unions have been hard at work too — Columbia University employees urged officials to meet their demands to put an end to issues with late paychecks, rent increases, and inadequate medical coverage they

say interferes with their ability to provide the best education possible. Even as they face these new challenges, the problems that come from the government are still the same, Alvarez said. “There’s always the broader attacks on working people from the government.” In 2018 and beyond, workers will have to continue to come up with innovative ideas in order to effectively keep their unions and their livelihoods strong, according to Ott. “Old forms may not work in new capitalism and new forms are gonna be have to be created,” he said.


American workers built our past.

American workers can build our future, too. www.americanmanufacturing.org

NYC WORKS – ADVERTISEMENT

Buy America This Labor Day 9PJ:FKKG8LC Let’s try an experiment. It’s Labor Day weekend, when we take a moment to appreciate the contributions made to America by its working men and women. It’s also a weekend when we barbecue. So while you’re at one, ask a friend this question: Do you think New York’s public projects, paid for with your tax dollars, should be spent on American-made goods whenever possible? I bet you know the answer you’d get: “Of course!” That response is in line with statewide and national polling that finds majorities of voters think American-made spending plans for public projects are a good idea. And they are. By guaranteeing that domestic manufacturers are given the first shot when our government repairs a highway or builds a bridge, Buy America laws promote domestic economic growth. They create an incentive for companies to set

up shop in America, and that means more jobs in New York. And more jobs in New York means an expanded tax base and a smaller burden on the social safety net. And they don’t soak taxpayers. Buy America laws always include waivers if domestic material is prohibitively expensive or only available in limited quantities. Here’s an example of domestic preferences applied: A

few years ago, when the Metropolitan Transit Authority went looking for 15,000 tons of steel to replace the upper deck on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, it ended up buying it on the cheap from stateowned companies in China. That’s a lot of business for government-subsidized steelmakers on the other side of the planet, which instead could have put American workers on the job.

By comparison, the recent Tappan Zee Bridge construction project was partially funded by federal money, and was therefore stuck to Buy America rules. And it just so happened that New York officials found it cost-competitive to purchase all the steel required for the new span from U.S. manufacturers. The results? Making it in America saved more than $1.5 billion and years of construction time. It also nearly 8,000 American jobs in the production of its construction material. While you’re at that barbecue, ask your friend which deal made more sense. New York last winter moved to bring its state-level procurement policies into line with federal ones. It now requires the use of American-made iron and domestically melted and poured steel for any and all work on road and bridge projects over $1 million. It also requires the use of domestic iron and do-

mestically melted and poured steel for all contracts over $1 million awarded by the Dormitory Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Bridge Authority or the Thruway Authority. It would be good to see all New York agencies implement such rules in their procurement policies. But this is a good start, because when correctly applied, buying American supports American jobs. New York’s tax dollars should remain in the state and national economy – and not be used to promote jobs overseas, especially when costcompetitive and quality goods are available here at home. They’re a good idea, and they’re good for our economy. So, next time you find yourself using a piece of public infrastructure, ask yourself a question: Do I know where this bridge or road was this made, and by whom? With strong Buy America rules, you’ll know the answer.

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NYC WORKS CELEBRATING LABOR IN THE BIG APPLE

Labor in New York BY PHOEBE VAN BUREN The New York City Labor Movement has spanned more than four centuries, dating back to the 1600s. Over time, the key players have changed but the problems remain very much the same. It would be nearly impossible to put together an exhaustive list of all of movement’s events in The City That Never Sleeps, but we’ve compiled a brief history showing how workers have fought for their rights time and time again:

1882 Approximately 30,000 Knights of Labor convene at City Hall for an unofficial march that would become the city’s fi rst Labor Day Parade. The event was held on a Tuesday, meaning that workers had to give up a day of wages to attend. Matthew and Peter MacGuire proposed the day be named Labor Day to celebrate workers. The parade was held the following year, inspiring a campaign for the holiday across the country.

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1894 Congress names the fi rst Monday of September Labor Day.

1909 Roughly 20,000 women, primarily Jewish, working in shirtwaist factories, walked out of the job in protest of unfair wages, working conditions, and hours, marking the fi rst mass strike by women in United States history. The following year, the women’s demands were met.

1911 A fi re broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village, killing 146 garment workers after they became trapped in the building due to locked exits and only one fi re escape. The tragedy was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in American history.

1930s Folk singer Woody Guthrie performs at Webster Hall in support of union workers.

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1954-1968 One million black workers enter the Congress of Industrial Organizations, sparking a new campaign from black workers to use labor issues to win the fight for racial justice. During that time, tensions rise as some unions refuse to make any changes to their traditions.

1959 In a milestone event for the Labor Movement, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations merged to create the AFLCIO, the largest federation of unions in the country. That same year, the Labor Day Parade moves to Fifth Avenue, where 115,000 union workers and their supporters celebrated the day. Also in 1959, city fi refi ghters decide to unionize in a bid to win a pay increase.

1960 Union leaders urge the city to set a minimum wage of $1.25 per hour, asking that the state or Congress raise the rate.

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1. Steven Wallaert, head of Patco’s local 291 in Norfolk, Va., center, shakes hands with Patco President Robert Poli, left, during the parade in 1981. At right is Wallaert’s wife Connie. Wallaert, whose picture was published nationwide when he was taken away in chains by federal authorities, said: “They put me in chains symbolically and this is a symbol that they can keep Patco in chains.”2. Horse-drawn carriage drivers supported by the Teamsters Union march. 3. Local 361 iron worker and Brooklynite Robert Farula carries an American flag during the 2012 parade. 4. Former mayor Ed Koch marches in the parade on Fifth Avenue on Sept. 7, 1981. 5. Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale, center, vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, and New York’s Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo wave to New Yorkers as they march in 1984. 7. Members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union wave from a float in 1961. 7. Union members march up Fifth Avenue. 8. Stagehands Local 1 Union member Al Cittadino rides a motorcycle up Fifth Avenue. 9. Members of 1199 Service Employees International Union march up Fifth Avenue in 2015’s Labor Day Parade and March.

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NYC WORKS CELEBRATING LABOR IN THE BIG APPLE

through the years 1961 The Brotherhood Labor Party demands a $1.50 minimum wage, and six-hour, five day a week work schedule. In December, city labor leaders announce they will support a New Year’s Day strike for a 20-hour work week. The city labor commissioner jump-starts negotiations to avoid a strike that may affect streetlights.

1964

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City Council passes a bill that raises minimum wage to $1.50 an hour, boosting the paychecks of approximately 400,000 workers. In return, business owners sue, alleging that the pay raise is unconstitutional.

1965 Governor Nelson Rockefeller vetoes the $1.50 an hour wage, arguing that the raise would force businesses owners to take their work elsewhere.

1967 More than 6,000 handymen, elevator operators, porters, and custodians strike to protest building owners’ assertion that complying with union contracts would mean that they would have to raise rents. The strike affected 1,000 apartment buildings across the city.

1970 Letter carriers in Brooklyn and Manhattan walk out on the job, beginning the fi rst mass work stoppage in the history of the United States Post Office Department. The strike grew to 210,000 employees, causing President Richard Nixon to declare a state of emergency and deploy the military to New York City post offices.

1971

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Approximately 20,000 New York City police officers refuse to report for duty during the fiveday NYPD work stoppage after a lawsuit that would have increased pay for police and fi refi ghters is struck down. Officers said they would still respond to serious crimes, but would not participate in regular patrolling duties. As a result, the city was patrolled by as few as 200 officers at some times.

1985 Roughly 14,000 workers from 45 hotels walk off the job to protest unfair wages in the fi rst walkout in the history of the Hotel and Motel Trade Council of the AFL-CIO.

2005 Starting on Dec. 20, during the busiest shopping week of the year, New York City transit workers went on strike for two days, stopping most bus and subway service. This was a result of a breakdown in negotiations for a new contract over retirement, pension, and wage increases.

2016

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Supporters of the “Fight for $15” campaign win big when a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour is signed into law along with a 12week paid family leave policy. CITY MEDIA LLC • NYC WORKS • SEPT. 13, 2018

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New York City Brags About the Expansion of UPK, But… New York City Must Provide Wage Parity for The City’s Public Center-Based Day Care and Head Start Employees Employees working for public center-based early education centers are being cheated out of thousands of dollars of income over their careers by the City of New York. And the City is doing nothing about it. For years these dedicated public day care and Head Start employees have made exceptional sacrifices to work in their profession. The City’s response has been to pay them tens of thousands of dollars less than their public school counterparts, even though they are mandated to hold the same education and state education credentials. These employees have provided high quality early childhood education services to New York City’s children and toddlers for nearly two generations. The City has created a multi-tier wage disparity program with Early Learn, Head Start and UPK teachers and other staff earning disparate and lower wages, it seems, because the majority of employees are women and women of color – and many are heads of households. This not happening in Alabama or Mississippi. This is happening in progressive New York City. In fact, a retention crisis has developed in many centers caused by the lack of wage parity. Early childhood education staff earn their credentials and often leave for the public schools. Across the city many centers experience inordinate turnover rates when staff leave the jobs they love for better paying jobs in public schools or other career opportunities. It is the children who suffer because staff retention is necessary for young minds to flourish. The toll on staff and families in these communities-in-need is also particularly painful. It is discrimination at its lowest form. The City of New York cannot pretend to ignore it anymore. New York City must act now to end this thoughtless crisis in child care by providing necessary funding for salary/benefit increases to the staff at the unionized nonprofit early childhood education centers across the city. The time for change is now! Name (print): _____________________________________________________________________________ Address: ________________________________________________________________________________ Date: ____________________ District Council 1707 AFSCME | 420 West 45th Street New York, New York, 10036 | 212-219-0022 CITY MEDIA LLC • NYC WORKS • SEPT. 13, 2018

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NYC WORKS CELEBRATING LABOR IN THE BIG APPLE

Lights! Camera! Unions! BY JAMES HARNEY Labor — who does it, for whom, and what, if any, is acceptable compensation for it — is a never-ending story. Through the decades, the employeremployee relationship has spawned its own vernacular: walkouts, work stoppages, slowdowns, demonstrations, layoffs, strikes, riots, unions. From time to time, clashes between labor unions and management — and sometimes, the individuals who have emerged at the forefront of those clashes — have drawn the attention of Hollywood’s spotlight. Here are a few noteworthy movies that have crossed the silver screen in recent years:

gling colleagues to go on strike after Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, tries to one-up business rival William Randolph Hearst by raising the prices that the “newsies” have to pay to buy newspapers from Pulitzer’s distribution centers.

‘On the Waterfront’ “On the Waterfront” was a 1954 movie directed by famed Hollywood director Elia Kazan that depicted union violence and corruption and racketeering on the Hoboken, N.J. waterfront. It featured a star-studded cast that included Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Rod

‘Hoffa’ “Hoffa” was a 1992 fi lm biography of the notorious union boss Jimmy Hoffa, chronicling 40 years of his life, his rise to the top spot in the rough-and-tumble International Brotherhood of Teamsters, to his leadership of a violent strike, to his sinister involvement with organized crime, to his well-publicized clashes with U.S. Attorney General Robert

jealous of her closeness with the labor activist, as well as fierce opposition from her employers. The movie climaxes with the workers voting to form a union. In addition to Fields’s Best Actress Oscar win, the 1979 fi lm also won an Oscar for Best Original Song for the theme song, “It Goes Like It Goes.” And in 2011, “Norma Rae” was chosen to be preserved in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, because it is “culturally, aesthetically or historically significant.”

‘Harlan County, USA’ “Harlan County, USA” was a 1976 documentary about labor tension in the coal-mining industry, in which director and workers’ rights advocate Barbara Kopple fi lmed a 1972 strike by miners at the Brookside Mine in rural Kentucky. After the miners join a union, the mine’s owners refuse the labor contract. Once the miners walk off their jobs, the owners bring in “scabs” top replace them. The strike dragged on

High points in “Newsies” include a confrontation between Jack, his compatriot Les Jacobs and Pulitzer in the publisher’s office, a refusal by Brooklyn-based newsies to join the Manhattan newsboys’ strike, and a climactic ambush of the distribution center and destruction of all its newspapers.

‘Norma Rae’ Starring Oscar-winner Sally Field, “Norma Rae” was based on the true story of Crystal Lee Sutton, a worker in a textile mill in a small North Carolina town where the pay is low and the hours long. Inspired by a rousing speech from a visiting labor activist — and af-

F. Kennedy during a federal investigation into Hoffa’s infamous mob dealings, to his unsuccessful bid to re-take control of the Teamsters, to his violent death in a hail of gunshots, presumably fi red by a mob hitman. It ends with Hoffa’s body being taken away in the back of a truck, to an undisclosed location. Exactly where Jimmy Hoffa’s body is buried remains the stuff of organized crime lore.

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Steiger, Pat Henning and Eva Marie Saint, with a soundtrack composed by the legendary Leonard Bernstein. It told the story of the conflict between a cold-blooded union leader and a disenchanted dockworker. The dockworker had been a talented boxer on the rise until a powerful mob boss persuaded him to throw a fi ght. But when a longshoreman is murdered before he can testify in an investigation into the mob boss’s violent control of the waterfront, the dockworker courageously decides to testify himself.

‘Silkwood’

‘Newsies!’ “Newsies!” was a Disney musical based on the real-life New York City newsboy strike of 1899. Starring Christian Bale, and featuring Ann-Margret, Robert Duvall and Bill Pullman, the 1992 movie centers around the story of struggling newsboy Jack “Cowboy” Kelly, who spurs his equally young, equally strug-

gests that the “accident” may have been murder, but the case has never been solved. In real life, Silkwood’s death gave rise to a 1979 lawsuit, Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee. The jury rendered a verdict of $10 million in damages to be paid to Silkwood’s estate, at the time the largest amount in damages ever awarded for that kind of case. Eventually, the estate settled for a $1.3 payout.

ter poor working conditions at the mill start becoming hazardous to workers’ health, including her own — Norma Rae is moved to rally her beleaguered colleagues to unionize. She encounters anger from a fi ancé

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Released in 1983, “Silkwood” starred Meryl Streep in a role inspired by the life of Karen Silkwood, a whistle-blowing worker and labor union shop steward who died in a mysterious car accident while on her way to meet with a news reporter investigating alleged wrongdoing and serious safety defects at the Kerr-McGee plutonium plant where she worked. The movie sug-

for nearly a year, and confrontations between strikers and scabs often became violent, with even Kopple and her cameraman beaten in one incident. Clashes were often punctuated by gunfi re, and in one, a miner was killed. Kopple and her crew spent years with the families depicted in the fi lm, documenting how they suffered while striking for decent wages and safer working conditions, and how some miners contracted Black Lung Disease. “Harlan County, USA” won Kopple an Oscar for Best Documentary.


NYC WORKS CELEBRATING LABOR IN THE BIG APPLE

Ratting out the scabs! The story of Scabby the Rat, the inflatable star of many a picket line BY JAMES HARNEY It was early September, 2016. Labor Day had come and gone, and a new semester at the Downtown Brooklyn campus of Long Island University was supposed to have begun. But instead of standing at the front of their classrooms, faculty members — embroiled in a salary dispute with the university’s administration in which replacement educators had been brought in — were marching on the sidewalk outside the school’s main building on Flatbush Avenue, waving placards and chanting slogans. And Scabby was there. For more than 40 years at labor unions’ picket lines around New York, Scabby the Rat — an inflatable charcoalgray rodent with a bubbly pink underbelly, pointed claws, reddish eyes and protruding buck teeth, has often loomed silently nearby, a six, 15, 20, or even 25-foot-tall snarling sym-

bol of protest against real or perceived mistreatment of employees by management. “New York is still a labor union town,” says Senior Professor of Journalism Dr. Ralph Engelman, a former vice president of the LIU Faculty Federation. “Bringing out the rat to embarrass the university and call attention to its attack on labor was something we felt was very important.” Workers who have crossed picket lines to replace union workers have historically been vilified as “scabs,” or “rats,” but “Scabby” didn’t begin appearing at picket lines, demonstrations, or marches until 1990, in Chicago. That’s when the Chicago branch of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers union approached Big Sky Balloons and Searchlights, based in suburban Plainfield, Ill., and asked owners Mike and Peggy O’Connor to design and produce a larger than life inflatable rat that

would send a menacing message alongside a union demonstration. “He [the union official] turned down Mike’s first design, saying, ‘No I want it to look meaner,’ ” Peggy O’Connor remembers. “So Mike tweaked it to give it more snarl, with meaner-looking nails and teeth and that nasty pink belly. That’s what they wanted.” As it turns out, that’s what a lot of striking or demonstrating labor unions wanted. “Scabby” is now in such demand that Big Sky now produces seven sizes of the inflatable vermin, ranging from 6-feet-tall models priced at nearly $2,600 to 25-footers that cost almost $10,000. The price includes a blower, with an extension cord, to inflate the balloon, and stakes to hold it in place on the ground. O’Connor estimated the firm makes “about 50 in a year,” and has expanded their line of inflatable protest bal-

RATS!: Union activists hoisted the giant, inflatable rat outside a residential development in Gowanus in 2015, alleging worker exploitation by the File photo by Jason Speakman contracted construction company. loons to include a “corporate fat cat [a pompous-looking, feline wearing a suit and grabbing a construction worker by the neck in one hand, and a money bag in the other], a “greedy pig,” a cockroach, and a Border Patrol agent. “We once even designed an inflatable bedbug for a group protesting a New York hotel that had bedbugs,” she said. “We’re in the balloon business; they asked for it, so we made it.” In the past, victims of “Scabby the Rat” have chal-

lenged its legality — and lost. In 2011 that National Labor Relations Board ruled that the inflatable rodent was a symbolic form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. And in 2014, a Brooklyn federal judge upheld the right of a laborers’ union to use “Scabby” in its demonstration. “In an era in which attacks on labor are taking place on multiple fronts, it’s particularly important for unions to fight back,” Engelman said. “The use of the rat at our lockout was part of that fight.”

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NYC WORKS CELEBRATING LABOR IN THE BIG APPLE

Gladly riding the Local

union rate put those workers at risk. In the end, it’s those workers who suffer. He thinks Saturday’s parade “shows that unity brings strength, that we’re the working class people who build and move everything around the city.”

Four workers tell why they value union membership BY JAMES HARNEY

Dave McIntosh Journeyman, Plumbers Union Local 1

“My boys rely on me, I needed to work in a place that’s unionized, where I don’t have to worry about layoffs the way people do working in the private sector,” Diaz said. “I feel a lot more secure knowing I’ve got the protection provided by Local 100.” That’s why she feels union workers should “go out there [and march] in force,” in New York City Labor Day Parade and March on Saturday, Sept. 8, “to show that union presence.”

There are more than one million unionized workers in the New York metropolitan area — policemen, firefighters, schoolteachers, letter carriers, longshoremen, hospital workers, construction laborers, electricians, hotel and motel employees to name just a few — toiling for some 300 union locals, some with predictable names, like the American Postal Workers Union, or the New York State Nurses Association; others with such unique identities as Tile, Marble and Terrazzo Local 7, or the Heat & Frost Insulators Locals 12 & 12A. Many have interesting personal stories about their paths to union membership, and why they value that membership. Here, Community News Group profiles four such workers:

Barrington Anderson Professional mover, Local 814, International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Gloria Diaz

Photo by Caleb Caldwell

Photo by Zoe Freilich

Train operator, New York City Transit, Transport Workers Union Local 100

Diaz is a single mother who lives in Bensonhurst with her three sons, ages 21, 16 and 11. For a while, she worked as an operations assistant for a marketing fi rm based in East New York, then later went into business for herself, running a small home improvement company. Neither, she says, provided the fi nancial security and healthcare benefits she wanted for her family. “The marketing company didn’t really offer benefits, and with my own company, if no customers came in, I didn’t make any money. I was out there fending for myself,” Diaz said. In 2009, Diaz took the exam to become a New York City Transit train operator. She passed, but then waited six long years before she got the call in 2015 to come in for training. “They put me in a training program that lasted eight months, and it was rigorous,” she said. “NYC Transit holds trainees to a high standard of perfection, which I understand, since as a train operator you’ve got thousands of lives in your hands at any given time.” But Diaz was up to the challenge, and in October she’ll mark her third year as a train operator. She says she’s grateful for the opportunity, and for the security she gets as a member of Transport Workers Union Local 100.

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Anderson has been a member of the Teamsters local representing professional movers in the city since 2005. The work takes him to jobs all over the city, and at times even as far as towns in New Jersey. The work can be tough at times, and he says he wouldn’t even think of doing it without the wage and healthcare protections his union local provides. “I live with my wife and six children in Yonkers,” Anderson, 40, said one day last week during a break from a job at a large hotel in midtown Manhattan. “Being in this union helps me maintain a fair wage and get the coverages I need for my family.” Anderson is so convinced of the value of union membership that he spends some of his down time doing union outreach work. “I represent the freelance movers who aren’t affi liated with one company or another,” he explained. “When they look for jobs and are looking for information within the union, I’m one of the guys to go to.” Anderson says the moving industry in New York is often infi ltrated by non-union workers, a practice he thinks is a bad idea. “There are some ‘fake unions’ out there that aren’t really unions,’ he said. “Their members aren’t certified, they can’t OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] cards to do jobs on some of the newer developments being constructed these days. Unions are important because they protect us in the event of injuries on the job. Companies that try to get by with non union labor to save money and pay their workers less than the

McIntosh, a 13-year member of Plumbers Union Local 1, likes to stay busy. “I wear a couple of hats for Local 1,” McIntosh, 43, readily admits. “Out in the field, I’m a full-time plumber. I was recently elected for my second term on the Local 1 fi nance committee. And I also teach an orientation class — we call it the Heritage Class — for new union members.” The class, which McIntosh teaches two nights a week at the Trade Education Center in Long Island City, is intended to give new members “an idea about unions, what they’re about, and a taste of labor history.” He says the Heritage Class particularly resonates with him because of his own, sometimes rocky, path to union membership. “I was working as a non-union plumber, and did some work as an apprentice, but it was a farce,” McIntosh recalls. “I knew union members made higher rates of pay and had benefits, but this was before the Internet and smartphones, and I didn’t know anything about how to get into a union. I fi gured you had to be a friend of a friend, I thought it was a closed situation.” That changed, he says, when a friend gave him the phone number to the local Plumbers Union hall. On a whim, he called it, left his phone number with a secretary and, to his surprise, got a return call asking for resume. The conversation led to McIntosh signing on with the union “at the absolute lowest entry level, plumbers helper.” In the years that followed, he worked his way up the union ladder from a helper in the service division, to a journeyman in the higher-paying new construction division, attending training classes at night to become more skilled at his trade. He excelled so well in those classes that he was eventually asked to teach them. “I’ve been doing it now for about four years, working as a plumber by day and teaching incoming union members by night,” McIntosh says. “I feel like it’s me giving back to the organization that’s provided such a great opportunity for me.” The married father of three, who lives with his family in Teaneck, N.J., says joining the Plumbers Union


NYC WORKS CELEBRATING LABOR IN THE BIG APPLE changed his life, and he’s a firm believer in its value. “I’m convinced that labor unions are the only viable vehicle for upward mobility. We are the middle class. If an employer is not paying a decent rate of pay, how are workers supposed to get medical coverage for their families, and to have enough money to live on when they retire? Asked why the parade is important, McIntosh said: “I hate to sound jaded, but what are the two things that matter to politicians? Money, and votes. So by turning out in force for the Labor Day Parade, and putting our boots on the ground, so to speak, we’re showing what kind of a force we can be in the political arena.”

Construction engineer, Local 14, Crane & Heavy Equipment Operators Union When Stephens stood before a meeting of Local 14 of the Crane & Heavy Equipment Operators Union in Flushing, Queens in June, 1987, she broke the union’s glass ceiling, becoming the union’s first woman member. The milestone didn’t surprise her; becoming a construction engineer for Local 14 — the union her father, Monroe, had belonged to as a laborer for many years — was a goal she had pursued for several years. What did surprise her was the applause. “About 300 men at the meeting applauded me for fi nishing the training,” Stephens remembers. “It was overwhelming. Then I was told that I was officially in the local. A couple of days later, I went to work as a full-fledged unionized construction engineer.” That moment was the culmination of a road that had begun when she was a young woman who was disenchanted with fi nance classes at Pace Univer-

Photo by Trey Pentecost

Evet Stephens

sity, and with law enforcement courses at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and decided she wanted nothing as much as a career as a construction engineer. “My dad was old fashioned, he didn’t want his daughter working with men who used bad words all day, but when he saw I was undeterred, he relented and drove me to the Local 14 offices,” she said. After trips between union offices in Manhattan and Queens, Stephens completed and submitted the necessary paperwork.

“The man at the union hall looked at me and said, ‘Don’t waste my time. Are you sure you want to do this?’ I said yes, I’m sure.’ Somehow I convinced him,” she said. She was accepted for training in November of 1982, and four years later was inducted into the union as its fi rst woman member. “I went through the same learning and training as any man would do,” Stephens recalls. “When I fi rst started working on jobs, the men would look at me as if to say, ‘What are you doing here?’ It took some time for them to get used to it, but they fi nally realized that I was serious, and that I was going to show up to class every single time, they came around.” After 31 years as a construction engineer at various job sites in the metropolitan area, Stephens says she is “as satisfied now as I was then,” and notes that now, there are “25 to 30” women members of Local 14. “It is a long time coming,” she says of other women joining the union. “It didn’t happen for the fi rst few years. It wasn’t like [women] were pushing in the door to [become construction engineers].” But Stephens has never regretted her career choice, and insists that “unions are what made this country. You have job security when you’re with a union; you’re able to make a decent living and take care of your family. Hiring non-union workers is dangerous; they have no training whatsoever. We’re constantly doing training, doing refresher courses for everything we’ve learned, the industry is changing and we’re studying to change with it.” The parade “shows solidarity for the workingclass man and woman, and it shows that as union members they’re safer, more efficient, and qualified to get the job done.”

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September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


MUSIC

Coach Sylvester Does the Great American Songbook Jane Lynch joined by Kate Flannery in Carlyle debut BY DAVID NOH s Sue Sylvester on “Glee,” she was everybody’s favorite mean high school coach. Jane Lynch has ditched that track suit for more sophisticated apparel and appears in cabaret at the Café Carlyle through September 22. A veteran of Broadway’s “Annie” in the role of the mendacious Mrs. Hannigan, she spoke to me about this important club debut via phone from Los Angeles and made a particular point of emphasizing that she is not doing it alone. “Kate Flannery [Meredith in “The Office”] and I have been friends for decades and we’ve been touring this musical act for about four years now,” Lynch said. “We created ‘Two Lost Souls’ specifically for the Carlyle, where we always wanted to play. We pitched it to them, and they gave us these dates! “We’re gonna be doing songs we love. Kate has a way of being unpredictable and I’m more precise and she ends up blowing everything apart, so it’s fun that way and we have a great dynamic. We’re doing ‘Two Lost Souls’ from ‘Damn Yankees,’ ‘Bei mir bis du schon’ — two Irish Catholic girls — that should work really well [chuckles]. It’s the Barry Sisters’ rendition, they were a Yiddish sister act, and we’re also doing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus,’ a lot of crazy things. It’ll be a lot of fun and, as a matter of fact, I’m heading over to her house momentarily to do a little singing rehearsal. “We also have a Christmas album, ‘A Swingin’ Little Christmas,’ which did very well last year — it was number eight on the Billboard chart. We traveled that Christmas show from mid-November to Christmas Eve in various cities, versions of Christmas songs we still listen to that were recorded in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. The show’s a lot of fun, mostly big band sounds.” Lynch admitted that music from

A

JAKE BAILEY

Jane Lynch appears at the Café Carlyle with Kate Flannery through September 22.

the Great American Songbook is her go-to, explaining, “We have a wonderful band that is basically a jazz bunch, and when you’re jazz you can really do anything. Our music director, Tony Guerrero, is a real throwback to that era and he will be with us in a quartet.” There will also be lots of patter, she assured me, adding, “This had to be a duet show, because I never want to to be alone up there on the stage. Kate is a terrific partner, and we love doing it. I think we’ve

GayCityNews.nyc | September 13 – September 26, 2018

kind of an Eve Arden/ Kaye Ballard energy.” I first became aware of Lynch through her hilarious work with Christopher Guest in his piquant satirical films and, when asked to name her favorite among them, said, “‘Best in Show’ because that was the first one, but I love them all. ‘A Mighty Wind’ was a transcendent experience because of the music. We actually toured with that music for two weeks. We all got into a bus and toured, which

was so much fun.” Lynch’s Emmy award-winning “Glee” broke so much ground, especially in its presentation of gay characters — the Darren Criss/ Chris Colfer duet of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was frankly one of the most dazzlingly romantic things I have ever seen on the boob tube — as well as Becky (Lauren Potter), Lynch’s disarming little factotum on the show who has Down syndrome. “You asked if it was easy for me to play such a mean character as Sue. Oh, yes, laughably easy! It was so much fun to play her arrogance. And Becky was an important character, also, because it showed that Sue had a soft spot for Becky and could be vulnerable, except Becky was such a pistol, with nothing vulnerable about her. She was a really tough kid.” Lynch described the drug overdose death of “Glee” star Cory Monteith as “very sad. He was a really, really nice guy, a really good guy. If that quality exuded from him on screen, it was because it was for real.” Lynch had her own substance issues in her past — with alcohol — and when I observed in regard to that how hard show business can be, she responded, “That feels like a lifetime ago. But, really, I don’t find it to be a hard business. In the beginning, it was tough but I really don’t have any emotional memory of it. I think the biggest thing that happened to me was I stopped taking things personally and everything became a lot easier after that.” Lynch always projects a bracing joy, whether it’s hosting the Emmies (“seems a lifetime ago, but I was nervous”), yakking on a talk show, or filling up a screen with her talent. I remember being at a New York press screening for “Julia and Julia” full of jaded critics and such, but when she made her en-

➤ JANE LYNCH, continued on p.23

21


PERFORMANCE

Drag, Trans, Next Gen Artists Share Stage Wigstock 2.HO revives a tradition, changing it in the process

BOB KRASNER

Wigstock 2.HO co-producers Lady Bunny and Neil Patrick Harris.

BY CHARLES BATTERSBY here’s nothing worse than middle-aged New Yorkers complaining about how the city has changed since the “good old days” — but it’s wonderful when cranky old coots get up and actually do something to recreate the lost wonders of the city. That’s exactly what drag queen Lady Bunny and Neil Patrick Harris did with Wigstock. The longrunning outdoor festival of drag performances was held in New York for nearly 20 years in the 1980s and ‘90, but fizzled out back in the early 2000s. The event was resurrected as Wigstock 2.HO at Pier 17 on September 1, as a day-long festival with scores of performers, wig cannons, the world’s oldest drag queen, and several close contenders for that title [snap!]. Aside from being a fun show, it also illustrated how cultural attitudes toward gender identity and drag have changed since the ‘90s. There was no shortage of middleaged queens talking about how the city used to be cooler in the Back When Times — back when Frankie Knuckles was DJing, when Union Square was still a “needle park,” and when the Club Kids roamed the streets from the Limelight to Pyramid. Naturally, these cultural references were lost on half the audience. Among the longtime Lypsinka fans

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22

were some drag enthusiasts who weren’t even born when Divine still walked the Earth. To these younger attendees, drag means RuPaul’s reality TV series, and Wigstock is something from the history books. I spoke to Dany Johnson, who not only directed Fogo Azul, a Brazilian drum corps that opened the show, but was also the stage manager of Wigstock from 1989 through the early 2000s. She said the younger members of the band “had no idea what [Wigstock] was. I sent them a link to Tom Rubnitz’s movie and the other movie from 1995.” According to Johnson, even the “Woodstock” reference is lost on some of the youngsters. This younger generation might also have trouble remembering social attitudes about gender expression and gender identity in the 20th century. Some of the performers at Wigstock 2.HO straddle the line between drag queen and trans performer who happens to do drag. Actress Candis Cayne, who performed at Wigstock in the ’90s and also has worked in contemporary film and TV, told me, “To me, drag is what you do, and trans is who I am. I take trans roles, but I also I take cis roles. When I perform on stage in a lot of makeup, I’m a trans drag performer. One is your identity and the other is fun.” About Wigstock in the ‘90s, Cayne said, “Back when I started drag, it was still a very fringe thing on the edge of society. We were do-

BOB KRASNER

Trans icon Amanda Lepore.

BOB KRASNER

Sherry Vine, Jackie Beat, Lady Bunny, and Bianca Del Rio hit all the right notes in establishing the day’s tone of daffiness, dirtiness, and defiance.

ing it then for an outlet to be creative, glamorous, and to perform. Because for a lot of us that was our only outlet.” Also on hand was Peppermint, who audiences might know from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and her current work on Broadway, in the musical “Head Over Heels.” Asked about being openly transgender before achieving fame as a drag performer, she said, “It’s important to make the distinction that many

trans women may not want to be considered drag queens. Because it promotes the idea that being trans and being a woman and feminine is a put-on. Something that is fake, that’s not serious… The idea of ‘a man in a wig’ or ‘a man in a dress’ is attached to drag — but it’s also attached to negative stereotypes about transness.” I also asked Peppermint about

➤ WIGSTOCK 2.HO, continued on p.31

September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


➤ TROYE SIVAN, from p.16 ness that’s fallen out of fashion but which a lot of gay men obviously find attractive and refreshing. Much of the press leading up to the release of “Bloom” has been unabashedly objectifying. “Bloom” contains only 10 songs and runs 36 minutes. Sivan knows enough to keep listeners wanting more, releasing a fairly brief album rather than the bloated releases that many artists have dropped this year. Within that length, it’s relatively varied, alternating between ballads and club bangers. The former show off both his singing talent and emotional range. “The Good Side” features a beautiful, stripped-down arrangement that relies mostly on acoustic guitar but uses reverb, delay, and Autotune on Sivan’s overdubbed vocals to haunting effect.

➤ ANNA CALVI, from p.16 gender is a fluid construct and all people contain elements of masculinity and femininity. She’s said that “As A Man” is about the way women are seen as stronger for acting more masculine, but men are rarely encouraged to act more feminine. On “Alpha,” she sings, “I’m an alpha/ I divide and conquer… my body’s still on.” Yet the song isn’t a simple denunciation of the concept of male power represented by the “alpha male.” Calvi clearly identifies with the sexual desire expressed in the song; if anything, she wants to turn it in a healthier direction by having the song’s narrator constantly emphasize her desire to

➤ JANE LYNCH, from p.21 trance it seemed the entire theater exhaled — “Oh, great, her!” — testament to the kind of instant and potent audience rapport she has. “On that film, Meryl was so great, such a pro,” Lynch recalled. “She’s so easy and she makes it look so easy. I learned a lot from watching her. It’s not brain surgery, it’s about taking it easy. “I don’t really talk about personal stuff, but, yes, I am happy and I have a partner. I’m from Chicago, which I still love, but I live in LA. It’s very hot right now, but I adore

“Postcard” is also a gorgeous ballad, based around piano. Many writers have dissected the thinly veiled metaphors about anal sex on the title track, and Sivan seems to now regret the fact that the song has given him a reputation as a devoted bottom. But beyond any specific act, it’s a very good description of a nervous young man’s introduction to sex, without the dark undertones of more underground artists like Perfume Genius and Xiu Xiu. The lyrics on this album recognize the physicality of his relationships throughout. “Postcard” describes the feel of lying next to his lover’s body. The production on “Bloom” isn’t particularly leftfield, but it avoids the compressed, ultra-trebly sound of much contemporary pop. The more uptempo, dance-oriented songs consistently serve up catchy

melodies. “Plum” rides an electronic hook. Sivan has always found his biggest success in the club scene in the US: the first single from “Bloom” “My My My!” peaked at #80 on the American pop chart but topped Billboard magazine’s Dance Club Songs chart, and last year he collaborated with EDM producer Martin Garrix on “There For You.” As far as mainstream pop releases in 2018, Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener” is Sivan’s only competition for the crown so far, so it’s no surprise that she pops up for a duet with him on “Dance To This.” He obviously made “Bloom” with two things in mind: he expects it to be extremely popular and he wants to represent gay men in a field where even out singers frequently stick to love songs directed at “you.” Pop music is still far from a safe space for LGBTQ people — take

Eminem’s dis of rapper Tyler, the Creator (who has spent the past year strongly hinting that he’s queer without fully coming out) as a “faggot” and “bitch” on his new album “Kamikaze,” released the same day as “Bloom” — but Sivan is bringing it closer to a place that incorporates open expressions of the realities of gay men’s lives. As critic Patrick Crowley has written, Sivan is taking inspiration from the “bad girl” phases of female singers like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. But if their sexed-up images pleased straight male record buyers, Sivan singing love songs explicitly directed at men might piss them off. Nevertheless, “Animal,” which ends “Bloom,” feels like a bid to play arenas.

please her lover while achieving her own pleasure. “Chain” describes another sexual encounter, this one initiated by another woman who “took me to the back seat and said, ‘Don’t breathe,’” that stretches gender roles. The title track refers to feeling constrained by them; instead, Calvi sings, “I’ll be the boy, you’ll be the girl” repeatedly. All the progressive ideas in the world wouldn’t matter if Calvi didn’t also know how to make a kick-ass rock’n’roll album that comes close to her influences’ quality. Her guitar solos on “Indies Or Paradise” and “Alpha” aim for Stooges’ guitarist James Williamson’ speaker-shredding noise. Utley’s keyboards are deployed subtly and atmospheri-

cally. On “Hunter,” Calvi sings over a track dominated by synthesizer and a mechanical drum machine. Throughout the album, Calvi combines raw guitar playing with precise, near-robotic drumming, even when the latter seems to be played by a human. She weaves hooks from overdubbed vocals into her songs. Calvi has picked up the feminist elements of Harvey songs like “50 Foot Queenie” and “Sheela-Na-Gig” (even if Harvey herself hates the word), and expanded greatly upon them, with a cinematic embrace of sweeping emotional dynamics. The media constantly tell us that young men are horribly alienated, and that this is a social crisis. “Hunter” speaks for equally alienated women, who are just as blind-

sided by changing expectations about what they are supposed to achieve, but who playfully ignore and step all over the rules about what men and women are required to be in Western culture. The album never preaches. Calvi’s lyrics don’t come off like a treatise inspired by academic theory about gender roles as a social construct, even if it may be the source of some of her ideas. The world described by “Hunter” is dangerous, but it’s a ground where women can experience pleasure and take control over their sexuality, too. Anger and tension fill Calvi’s music, but so do beauty and hope.

it, and I think I could be happy doing anything here. “I never lived in New York but I go there a lot for work and adore it every time. I’m going up Sunday to do some more episodes of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’” on which she has a recurring role. Lynch works constantly on TV, also popping up in all sorts of movies, and seems, luckily, to be doing only and whatever she wants to do. “I worked for several years in non-Equity theater before I got a job at Second City,” she said of the famed Chicago theater company.

“I’m a character actor so that’s a different thing than ingénues. For women in this business, it’s a tough row to hoe when you’re not a character actor. People project sex onto you and men will take advantage of that. Regarding any #MeToo experiences, Lynch said, “Men weren’t atracted to me in that way. They’d think of me as a man. No, I didn’t get that treatment. And, if that limited me in terms of roles, I didn’t even notice it, never had that view of it. I never had any career goals, just kind of stumbled into everything. As they say, you make a

plan and God laughs. Apart from ‘Mrs. Maisel,’ I’ve been working on an initiative for NBC to clear the animal shelters for the last four years. We are challenging America to adopt all the animals in shelters all over the country. We’ve managed to hook up 150,000 pets with 150,000 forever homes. I, myself have four dogs, all rescue.

GayCityNews.nyc | September 13 – September 26, 2018

TROYE SIVAN | “Bloom” | Capitol Records | troyesivan.com

ANNA CALVI | “Hunter” | Domino | annacalvi.com

JANE LYNCH & KATE FLANNERY | “Two Lost Souls” | Café Carlyle. 35 E. 76th St. | Through Sept. 22: Tue.-Sat. at 8:45 p.m. | $75-$200, with a $25 food & drink minimum at bit.ly/2CJPiuf or 212-744-1600

23


THEATER

Getting All Up In There Absurdist comedy features five intense, intrepid women — all named Betty BY DAVID KENNERLEY hen I first heard about Jen Silverman’s feminist piece, “Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties,” I assumed it was about women’s empowerment in the age of the “Me Too” movement — an angry polemic against a president bent on rolling back women’s reproductive rights after grabbing them by the pussy. I was only partly correct. To be sure, this sublime, absurdist comedy champions women’s empowerment in a maledominated world. But it was first staged just before the rage-inducing 2016 presidential election and prior to the burst of revelations of famous men in powerful positions abusing women. This work is obsessed with female genitalia, but in a good way. The full title is “Collective Rage: A Play In 5 Betties; In Essence, A Queer And Occasionally Hazardous Exploration; Do You Remember When You Were In Middle School

W

JOAN MARCUS

Ana Villafañe and Lea DeLaria in Jen Silverman’s “Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties,” directed by Mike Donahue, at the Lucille Lortel through October 7.

And You Read About Shackleton And How He Explored The Antarctic? Imagine The Antarctic As A Pussy And It’s Sort Of Like That.” We witness the Betties examining their pri-

vates with handheld mirrors. In fact, the word “pussy” is mentioned more than 40 times over the course of the brisk, 90-minute piece. The collective rage felt by these Betties certainly has urgency. Betty #1, expertly embodied by Dana Delany, is a rich, subjugated housewife who lives on the Upper East Side. An alcoholic news junkie, she is not only angry about the state of the world (dire stories about deadly Lyme disease, octogenarian suicides, housewives who have AIDS) but also at her smug, domineering husband. She discovers boxing as a safe outlet to unleash her fury. Betty #2 is a downcast, mousy housewife — played with tender pathos by Adina Verson — who yearns to shed her inhibitions and roar like the lion she was meant to be. The feistiest of the bunch is Betty #3, a highfemme, bisexual Latina fed up with being mistreated at her job at Sephora who takes control of her own narrative by becoming a theater di-

➤ 5 BETTIES, continued on p.25

‘Tis a Pity She’s a Bore Recreating a movie, “Pretty Woman” never finds its heart BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE he Hollywood prostitute Vivian Ward, the character at the center of the movie-now-musical “Pretty Woman,” consistently refers to herself as a “sure thing.” She’ll deliver the basic goods, no need for any extraordinary attention or seduction. What she promises is a mechanical, largely impersonal transaction — a simulacrum of passion — with no kissing on the mouth because that’s too intimate. Utter lack of intimacy also defines the apparent approach the creators of the musical — now at the Nederlander, with a book by J. F. Lawton and the late Garry Marshall and a score by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance — took in translating the 1990 movie to the Broadway stage. This is a mostly faithful, if workmanlike recreation of the movie with the addition of a banal pop-rock score — an attempt to provide that “sure thing” for undemanding fans of the movie who can be satisfied with a healthy dose of splashy theatrics while seeing their favorite scenes live on stage. It’s an attraction rather

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24

ANDREW ECCLES

Samantha Barks and Andy Karl in “Pretty Woman the Musical.”

than a work of theater, something that pops up frequently on the Broadway scene these days. While it’s cheap, flashy, and tedious, “Pretty Woman” is also pretty much review-proof, and ticket pre-sale has been healthy. Where “Pretty Woman” has always rankled is in its conceit that with enough money, anyone can become a princess. This isn’t a moral judgment about sex work. Instead, it’s a matter of the plot, having established that Vivian works

the streets, minimizing the tension between the worlds of Edward and Vivian, turning her into a street corner Cinderella merely by draping her in some designer duds, a high school dropout who, having turned tricks to survive for a dozen years or so, is suddenly poised and elegant overnight. Of course this is a fantasy — a very popular one. The “instant princess” trope is an enduring narrative staple. Stephen Sondheim wrote about it in “Saturday Night,” in a wry song about how reality and fantasy collide: “In the movies, when a girl has come from the wrong side of the tracks/ In a week, she has a wealthy chum who can buy her presents at Saks.” The comedy of the song comes from its acknowledgement that real life is considerably more prosaic. But why not just sit back and enjoy the dream rather than getting all curmudgeonly about it? If the show were better crafted, that would certainly make for a worthwhile evening. “My Fair Lady” is not realistic — and it’s wonderful. Then there’s that other musical about a very rich man exploiting a plucky — if very young — woman to

➤ PRETTY WOMAN, continued on p.25 September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


䉴

5 BETTIES, from p.24

rector and YouTube star. Ana VillafaĂąe brings a brash authenticity to the role. Then there’s Betty #4, a socially awkward butch lesbian (she prefers the term “queerâ€?) played by a droll Lea DeLaria, who tinkers with truck engines, guzzles canned beer, and seethes about being ignored and not fitting in. Finally, there’s Betty #5, played with quiet finesse by ChauntĂŠ Wayans (yep, she’s part of the comic Wayans family dynasty), who self-identifies as a “gendernon-conforming, masculine-presenting, female-bodied individual.â€? Although she shows no outward signs of rage, she does seem to have the hots for Betty #1, a student at the boxing gym she owns. Given the Pirandello-esque slant of “Collective Rage,â€? succinctly describing the plot is as pointless as it is impossible. Let’s just say it involves Betty #3 recruiting the other Betties to act in her “play within a playâ€? (“5 Betties in Search of Themselves,â€? perhaps?). Naturally, the rehearsals are a chance

䉴

PRETTY WOMAN, from p.24

bolster his image. That show, “Annie,â€? is also a delight. Each of these shows uses a situation’s unreality to explore some human truths and we come to care for the people. And, both shows have unforgettable scores. “Pretty Womanâ€? has neither score nor substance. The most memorable scene in “Pretty Woman,â€? the movie, is when Vivian, dressed to the nines, returns to the store from which she was previously turned away and upbraids the clerks with her line, “Mistake. Big mistake.â€? In the musical, that moment gets a huge laugh because the entire audience knows it’s coming, but it’s cold and harsh. The moment is essentially the same sort of dramatic triumph as when Eliza finally gets “the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plainâ€? right, but here Vivian’s anger is vengeful and mean-spirited, whereas Eliza’s joy at her success fills a theater. The big mistake is that “Pretty Womanâ€? leaves out the humanity‌ and you’ll forget the songs by the time you hit the sub-

to uncork more rage. And plenty of laughs. Under the attentive direction of Mike Donahue, this is a crisply paced production with smart flourishes that heighten the delirium. Dane Laffrey has devised an artful, minimalist set where large props literally drop from the ceiling. The jumbo proscenium becomes a screen where outrageous, extended sentences are projected, serving as witty intros to each new scene. This absorbing, crazy quilt of a play is more than just a series of goofy sketches. Each of these Betties is a richly articulated, often vulnerable, full-fledged character. As with these Betties, “Collective Rage� urges us to muster the courage to hold up a mirror, reach deep within, and break out of our comfort zones so we can be the best version of ourselves possible. COLLECTIVE RAGE: A PLAY IN 5 BETTIES | MCC Theater | Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St. btwn. Bedford & Bleecker Sts. | Through Oct. 7: schedule varies | $49-$99 at mcctheater.org | Ninety mins., no intermission

way. For Eliza — and Annie, as well — the good fortune is earned. In “Pretty Woman,â€? though Vivian comes to love Edward, it’s really never clear why — and that’s just weak playwriting. Nor is there any discernible reason why Vivian goes from being tolerated as a wealthy guest’s plaything at the Beverly Wilshire to being the hotel’s darling‌ except the clothes. Dramatically, it’s nowhere near enough. Jerry Mitchell’s by-the-numbers direction doesn’t allow for any emotional connection. The characters simply move through the scenes. Fortunately, the simulated sex between Edward and Vivian is a lot less graphic than when I saw this show in Chicago earlier this year, and that’s a blessing. The rest of the staging is blandly derivative. The second act opens with a blatant knockoff of “The Ascot Gavotteâ€? from “My Fair Lady,â€? but without the wit. There is a character called Happy Man — I kid you not — who weaves through the street scenes making the world of

GayCityNews.nyc | September 13 – September 26, 2018

➤ PRETTY WOMAN, continued on p.35

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FILM

Drawing the Moment Illustrator Antonio Lopez comes alive in James Crump’s documentary BY GARY M. KRAMER ames Crump’s striking documentary “Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco” celebrates the Puerto Ricanborn, New York-based illustrator whose life was as vibrant and colorful as his drawings. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Lopez (1943-1987) cemented a reputation in work for The New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, and Vogue, among other publications. The film features stunning photographs and film clips as well as interviews with former models Jessica Lange and Patty D’Arbanville and makeup artist Corey Tippin. Lopez suggested Tippin hone his makeup skills professionally, and the then-teenager followed the illustrator and his romantic and business partner, Juan Ramos, from New York and Andy Warhol’s world to working in film and fashion in Paris. Tippin recently chatted with Gay City News about Antonio Lopez.

J

GARY M. KRAMER: What were your first impressions of Antonio Lopez’s work?

COURTESY OF FILM MOVEMENT

Antonio Lopez, in a photograph by his lover and business partner Juan Ramos.

COREY TIPPIN: I responded strongly to his drawings in The New York Times. They were so powerful. He realized in his drawings what was in people’s minds. He was able to make the emotion, style, the type of silhouette real. KRAMER: How did you come to work with him? TIPPIN: The day I first met him, I was a teenager at Parsons. Antonio and Juan came back

to FIT — where they had been students — and taught a course in the Fashion Illustration Department. They appeared with the world’s most fabulous supermodel of the day, Cathee Dahmen. I couldn’t believe what I saw! I was asked to come up onto the platform and pose with Cathee. He picked me out of the crowd. Antonio had chosen me, so I felt special. Later on, he asked me to be in a fashion show, and, thus, I felt I was kind of, naively, being courted. In the beginning, our relationship was sort of a romance in a sense, but he was romancing lots of people at the same time — which I suspected. We went through that phase of being very sort of romantic. We weren’t a good match, though. Personally, I wasn’t attracted to him that way. I think we tried to have a little relationship, but the chemistry wasn’t there. KRAMER: You became a makeup artist, at his suggestion. What it was like to be involved in the forefront of fashion? TIPPIN: I don’t think I realized I was in the

➤ ANTONIO LOPEZ, continued on p.27

Salem Possessed “Assassination Nation” misfires in critiquing our social media world BY STEVE ERICKSON ake an op-ed about social media’s negative impact on teenage girls and the rest of us, adapt it into a narrative film somewhere between Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” and Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers,” and you have Sam Levinson’s “Assassination Nation.” You’ve also got the worst new film I’ve seen in 2018. If it belly-dives as cinema, it’s a very telling symptom of American culture’s inability to come to terms with the impact of Facebook and Instagram. Theoretically well-intentioned, it reproduces the objectification of young women it’s supposedly devoted to criticizing. It seems to think that pedophilia and slut-shaming came into existence around the time Mark Zuckerberg invented his social network. Levinson operates on a largerthan-life, gaudy, cartoonish canvas, drawing from the aforementioned films, Paul Verhoeven, and even gory video games to tell his story of four wronged girls in a new (and literal) Salem. The film ends with a song whose only lyrics are “fuck that,” repeated over and over on top of grating electronic music. Its attitude level is unquestion-

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26

NEON

The cast of Sam Levinson’s “Assassination Nation,” which opens September 21 citywide.

able, but this is more akin to a trip to a Hot Topic store than a Sleater-Kinney concert. A hacker leaks information about the citizens of Salem, starting with its homophobic mayor, who is revealed as a gay cross-dresser. Lily (Odessa Young) is the main suspect. She hangs out with her three best friends: trans girl Bex (Hari Nef), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), and Em (singer Abra). When the hacker releases data on almost everyone in Salem, its men pick up arms against the

girls. Lily opens the film by saying she doesn’t know if she’ll survive the night. Right off the bat, “Assassination Nation” gives us a lengthy trigger warning whose onscreen text is printed in red, white, and blue, in case anyone didn’t know how thoroughly American murder, sexism, and homophobia are. Of course, this is a boast about how badass the film will be rather than any thoughtful concern toward the audience. One of the problems with “Assassination Nation’ is its confusion of shallow topicality with genuine politics. Toward the end, one girl speaks in a video about the many mixed messages America sends to teenage girls regarding sex, what they can achieve in life, and how they should express themselves. But like much of Levinson’s dialogue when he wants to make a point quite directly –– as in a scene where teenagers discuss the effects of porn on their sex lives –– this comes off as preaching disguised as youth’s real thoughts. He needed to achieve the eloquence of the “cool girl” monologue Gillian Flynn wrote in “Gone Girl” (book and film) about the ways women have

➤ ASSASSINATION, continued on p.27 September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


ä&#x2030;´

ANTONIO LOPEZ, from p.26

forefront until I looked at it in hindsight. Antonio said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Why not be a makeup artist?â&#x20AC;? I wore makeup myself. I put it on [models] Jane Forth and Donna Jordan. It made total sense. There were a handful of professional makeup artists then. It wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t the profession it is today. But a fashion makeup artist interpreting fashion through makeup was rare. So right away, I started to get jobs and calls, and I worked with Yves Saint-Laurent. And then the film â&#x20AC;&#x153;Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Amourâ&#x20AC;? came out, and everyone thought we were real movie stars, so I started getting jobs. What helped was I had access to Yves Saint-Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. They would hire me to do a cover of Italian Vogue and everyone would see it. KRAMER: You made the film â&#x20AC;&#x153;Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Amourâ&#x20AC;? with Warhol. What do you recall about him? TIPPIN: My mother got the Village Voice. It had a column that Andy Warhol was casting â&#x20AC;&#x153;Romeo and Juliet,â&#x20AC;? and my mother called

me and said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Go to the Factory!â&#x20AC;? So, I did. We got in the service elevator â&#x20AC;&#x201D; it was 1966 or â&#x20AC;&#x2122;67 â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and I went up and got off the elevator and was in the Factory. Fred [Hughes] and Paul [Morrissey] appeared, and they asked me questions. Then Andy came out, and he said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Come to a party tonight at Betsey Johnsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s loft for a party for Antonioni,â&#x20AC;? and I said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I know Antonio!â&#x20AC;? And he said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;No, Antonioniâ&#x20AC;? and wrote it down for me. I wish I still had that piece of paper! KRAMER: I am actually more enamored with Juan Ramos than Antonio having seen the film. What was he like? TIPPIN: He was beautifully groomed all the time. Smelled heavenly, perfectly short hair, crisp shirts, shaved. He was small in stature, but noble. Desirable. Very quiet and observing, but he had a silly side to him. Very much a contrast to Antonioâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s personality. The greatest thing about Juan was his voice. He had this perpetually hoarse voice that really carried. You could

â&#x17E;¤ ANTONIO LOPEZ, continued on p.35

        

             

                                      

ä&#x2030;´

ASSASSINATION, from p.26

to contort themselves to please a sexist culture, but heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not talented enough. The cinematography of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Assassination Nationâ&#x20AC;? borrows from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Spring Breakers,â&#x20AC;? as well as Dario Argento and Mario Bava, with its use of purple and red colored gels, but Marcell RĂŠv settles all too often for a clumsy pastiche that suggests a hallucinatory unreality derived from too many hours online rather than drug use. Criticizing this film for its lack of subtlety would obviously miss the point; its DNA can be traced back distantly to Frank Tashlinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s over-the-top satires of the 1950s media. But if â&#x20AC;&#x153;Spring Breakersâ&#x20AC;? was equally blunt, it managed to be complex in its treatment of female sexuality â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; while upfront in Korineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lustful depiction of nudity, it made similar points about the way girls are simultaneously told to objectify and empower themselves and used pop music in a way that both respected it and critiqued its limits. The triple-split-screen scene in â&#x20AC;&#x153;Assassination Nationâ&#x20AC;? showing a wild party, set to Cardi Bâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bodak

Yellowâ&#x20AC;? played at high volume, is a pale echo of Korineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bacchanalia. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Assassination Nationâ&#x20AC;? gets brownie points for casting a transgender actress to play Bex, but she is written to express a generic sassiness. In fact, all of the central quartet seem like a middle-aged manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fantasy of hip teenage girls. The filmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s critique of American culture isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t exactly off-base, as when a manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s live-streamed suicide instantly gets seven million views. But thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a sense of bad faith here. Earlier forms of media always take up arms against their younger competition, as when Billy Wilderâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Kiss Me, Stupidâ&#x20AC;? showed violence on every TV screen within the film. Now TV is far more respectable, and the press kit for â&#x20AC;&#x153;Assassination Nationâ&#x20AC;? quotes a study saying that teenagers get more depressed the more time they spend on social media. But it seems clear that weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re undergoing a technological change akin to the early days of the printing press, and investigating how youth like these characters interact with social media, having grown

GayCityNews.nyc | September 13 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; September 26, 2018

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â&#x17E;¤ ASSASSINATION, continued on p.35

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OPERA

Bavarian Holiday Munich remains a vital home to opera the more beautiful music. Vidal’s early baroque roots showed in his lean style and frequent semi-parlando effects. Zaharia, clearly a budding star, has a gorgeous middle and top voice, though it took her two arias to warm up to its full sheen. If she can summon better trills, she’d be a great Constanze. As the inevitable “second” couple, Elena Sancho-Pereg (Eurilla) showed a monochrome but perfectly apt, agile soprano and grace onstage; high-flying American tenor David Portillo (Pasquale) scored a triumph with the squire’s meta-musical aria evoking different musical instruments and techniques. Joining the dance sextet, star baroque bass Francois Lis (Caronte) offered an incisive cameo. Ivor Bolton’s conducting was sometimes overemphatic — words were tough to hear in the ensembles — but the stylish Muenchner Kammerorchester (with two harpsichords) played with high distinction.

BY DAVID SHENGOLD unich seems an essential operatic tourist destination. The Bavarian State Opera, historically strong, is rocking out under Nikolaus Bachler. As manifest in two astonishing March Carnegie concerts, principal conductor Kirill Petrenko is — welcomely without much hype or projected ego — among today’s most accomplished maestri. Beyond this, Munich offers unbelievably rich and varied museums and architecture, fantastic parks, easy transport (including bicycles), and distinctly LGBTQ neighborhoods and festivals. The annual opera festival reprises the company’s season highlights and marks the rare major European company performing throughout July, while offering a jumping-off place for the nearby Salzburg and Bayreuth festivals. The grand, central National Theater presides, but the company also uses a striking Art Nouveau structure called the Prinzregenentheatr and — very occasionally — the tiny baroque CuvilliésTheater, in which Mozart premiered “Idomeneo” in 1786. On July 29, Haydn’s musically rich 1782 “Orlando Paladino” filled the Prinzregenentheatr. Never a great dramatist, Haydn achieved relative success here with a beautifully scored “dramma eroicomico” based on Ariosto’s epic of besotted love. Mainstream opera direction in Central Europe frequently involves adding unscripted characters and appending texts, essentially to make the composer and librettist’s work more an extension of the director’s personal mythology. This can yield brilliant results. Or not. It certainly interferes with audiences’ initial introduction to rare fare like “Orlando Paladino.” Axel Ranisch, a film director, brought his usual milieu with him, writ large. Not only did the action — largely outdoors in the libretto — take place in an increasingly destroyed art cinema (spiffily designed by Falko Herold) but filmed sequences appeared: a silent entitled “Angelica und Medoro,” and many “behind the scenes” sequences, without exception upstaging and distracting from orchestral or vocal events. Too often, one could sense that the audience was watching, not listening. The added characters were a middle-aged couple who owned the arthouse, where their daughter doubled as concessions girl and — in the other plot — the sorceress Alcina. Mezzo Tara Erraught had fun with this part but despite hype the voice strikes me as unspecial if large, with the lower end rather commonplace. In the initial, bury-the-overture film, she catches her father (actor Heiko Herz) getting off on

M

28

WILFRIED HÖSL / COURTESY OF BAVARIAN STATE OPERA

Edwin Crossley-Mercer and Adela Zaharia in the Bavarian State Opera’s production of Haydn’s 1782 “Orlando Paladino.”

pictures of “Rudolfo,” the glamorous star of “Angelica und Medoro,” the impossibly handsome Edwin Crossley-Mercer. A fine, highly intelligent bass-baritone, Crossley-Mercer could star in “Anderson Cooper: The Opera.” Rudolfo, playing Orlando’s rival Rodomonte in the plot, largely — and fluently — stormed and raged. But long video sequences detail his eating a sandwich (way overshadowing the leading lady’s big aria) and being abducted by Heiko, who ties him up and seems to try and coax him into porn with the blindfolded Orlando, all this on a vast rocky shore. In the film, Rudolfo stalks off, but when back in the cinema context, he pairs off with the paunchy, bearded Heiko. Take it from a paunchy, bearded reviewer: this is strictly wish fulfillment on (coincidentally paunchy, bearded) director Ranisch’s part. The opera’s lieto fine (happy ending) merrily explores all the possible pairings of the characters, but the whole staging seemed to be an exploration of Ranisch’s crush on — in a group of singers striking for their good looks — his hunkiest cast member. There was much skillfully evoked to enjoy here, but the nominal romantic triangle got rather lost, despite a trio of strong performances from tall, model-figured Adela Zaharia (Angelica), fine Mozart tenor Dovlet Nurgeldiyev (Medoro), and Mathias Vidal (crazed dynamo Orlando). As in Handel’s “Orlando,” the title character has the more dramatic and Medoro

The next night, the main theater staged “From the House of the Dead.” Patrice Chéreau’s Aix staging, seen at the Met in 2009, remains hard to beat for coherent treatment of Janácek’s Dostoevsky-based final opera. The work has strands of a narrative and three big monologues instead of a conventional plot. Alas, director Frank Castorf muddied things maximally, introducing mimed text with subtitles on a huge video screen that severely upstaged and undercut key musical and vocal points. Spanish (!) spoken text prolongedly divided the final two acts. Castorf’s direction and skilled design team maximized squalor, failing to properly introduce almost any of the characters — admittedly a tough job here — and adducing as many 20th century German iconographic clichés about Russia in its grab-bag way as as von Sternberg’s “The Scarlet Empress.” But again the musical side was very strong, led by Simone Young with commendable force and clarity of detail. Only some brass smudging suggested an orchestra anxious for vacation in another two days. Veteran Slovak bass Peter Mikulás made Goryanchikov vivid and idiomatic. Of the episodic piece’s three real “leads,” the very best vocalism came from today’s leading Czech tenor, Ales Briscein (Luka). American Charles Workman, a Europe-based tenor who’s a stylistic chameleon and a deft singing actor, found lyricism in Skuratov’s music, but Castorf mistakenly had him channel batshit crazy from the start. Bo Skovhus — made up to cover his autumnal handsomeness in welts — took time to warm up and never matched Peter Mattei’s lega-

➤ MUNICH, continued on p.35 September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


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29


PERFORMANCE

Wigstock Best Served with Sense of Self Even with drag’s mainstreaming, stellar vets still thrill

BOB KRASNER

BOB KRASNER

Event co-producer Neil Patrick Harris closes the show with a reprise of his starring role in “Hedwig and The Angry Inch.”

BY BOB KRASNER remember seeing a flier on an East Village lamppost years ago, advertising something called Wigstock. This will be interesting, I thought. Talk about understatement — it was fascinating. I made it a point to go every year that I could (I was at almost every one), shooting God knows how much film and marveling at the creativity and outrageousness of everyone involved — and everyone was involved. There wasn’t much separation between the performers and the audience then, it was all one big communal gathering in a perfect setting that felt like our backyard. In the very early days in Tompkins Square Park, you could probably count the attendees without much trouble. There was no real “backstage,” and, for me, the real show was the audience. People filled the park with costumes of bold inventiveness, served with a sense of humor and a sense of self. Custom-made wigs defied gravity, and so did some of the queens, tottering on heels that may have been modified from stilts.

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The inimitable Lypsinka.

Some in the crowd reached the heights of self-expression commonplace during Wigstock’s early era.

In the days long before RuPaul was a household name, Lady Bunny and Scott Lifshutz had created a particularly unique event — one day a year when the denizens of the Pyramid’s drag scene, and anyone else, could parade about and be admired (and gawked at) in broad daylight. Of course, it was inevitable that the event would outgrow the park, and once it did it was never really the same. It was mounted at Union Square Park and then on a pier on the West Side, losing the charm of our East Village oasis. Please do not think, however, that I am not thrilled that Lady Bunny was once again onstage at Pier 17 on September 1, showing off her wigs, her legs, and her not-exactly-PC brand of comedy. For a somewhat pricey ticket, you got stellar talent, with Wigstock veterans Joey Arias, the Toilet Böys, Lypsinka, and hardcore performance art by The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black and Kembra Pfahler, alongside “Drag Race” stars Bob the Drag Queen and Peppermint. Justin Vivian Bond was her usual riveting self, and Amanda Lepore was, well,

Amanda Lepore (but that’s all she needs to be). Neil Patrick Harris (also a producer of the event) doing a number from “Hedwig and The Angry Inch” in character was a showstopper and, in fact, the end of the show. This year, it was really all about the show. While many audience members dressed for the occasion, they were in the minority and very few showed the kind of originality that was on parade back in the day. Comparing the latest edition of Wigstock to the original neighborhood dragfest is a bit like thinking about the way you miss your kids when they were younger. You know they had to grow up and you are glad that they are mature and healthy, but you can’t help missing how cute they were back then. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is a major sign that this culture has entered the mainstream, and Wigstock’s success was a stepping stone along the way. I still remember leaving Tompkins after another Wigstock, as RuPaul was standing on a bench trying to sell her T-shirts. Things have definitely changed.

BOB KRASNER

September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


➤ WIGSTOCK 2.HO, from p.22 trans performers taking on roles in mainstream entertainment, such as in “Head Over Heels” — where her character is of non-binary gender. With the entertainment industry trying to feature trans characters, there isn’t necessarily a trans actor ready to take on all of these roles, or to write and direct them. According to Peppermint, “Everyone wants an authentic performance and an authentic connection to the art. The best way to do that is to have trans people telling their own stories, or participate in telling their own stories.” But, she added, “It’s not necessarily that cisgender people can’t be involved in that. It’s about creating space that doesn’t exclude trans people.” I also spoke to trans icon Amanda Lepore and drag artist Sharon Needles, a pair of performers who perfectly sum up the influence of the trans community on the drag community, and vice versa. Readers may know Needles from “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Lepore is a model who describes herself as “the most expensive body on Earth,” due to her

BOB KRASNER

Peppermint, currently starring on Broadway in “Head Over Heels,” with Lady Bunny.

exquisitely sculpted doll-like features. Needles calls herself Lepore’s biggest fan — she even has a tattoo of Lepore on her shoulder, and recorded a single titled “I Wish I Were Amanda Lepore. Needles was too young to be in the original run of Wigstock, but recounted the tale of how she discovered a VHS copy of 1995’s “Wigstock: The Movie” documentary, saying she “hid it under my mat-

tress the way most teenage boys hid porn. I used it almost as a Bible and a manual to become who I am.” She went on to say, “I gives me goose pimples to think that I’m [at Wigstock] today being able to participate in something that meant so much to me cinematically as a kid.” About the club and drag scene near the end of the original run of Wigstock, Lepore said, “Drag was sort of dying in the club scene, and

it was sad. There were people holding onto it, but it wasn’t like it was in the ‘90s where everyone did drag. When ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ came, you would see super-young queens doing drag, and it was amazing. And Lady Gaga helped too, for the freak factor.” “I have to agree,” Needles chimed in. “The post-‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ world are people that want to do drag. But before, we needed to do drag. In a post-‘Drag Race’ world, drag queens become the celebrities of their communities — but before, we were considered the freaks of beauty and glamour and fashion. Being shocking and extreme was a necessity to us girls who came before ‘Drag Race.’ It softened the blow of how people approach drag queens, and I think that’s a good thing.” Needles impishly added, “But I also understand when people say ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ done fucked up drag.” In a promising sign of Wigstock 2.HO’s potential influence, I spied Lepore greeting Desmond Is Amazing, an 11-year-old fan, drag kid, and fellow performer at the show.

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➤ ANONYMOUS, from p.15

has VIP The tickets to give away TICKETS INCLUDE s0-"ACKSTAGEMEETANDGREET 6)0CHAMPAGNEHOURWITHTHEPERFORMERS s0HOTO OPWITHTHEQUEENSDURING s6)0CHAMPAGNEHOUR s!CCESSTOVENUEAT0s/PEN#HOPIN6ODKABARn0s2ESERVEDSEATINGINEXCLUSIVE6)0AREA ANDMEZZANINE s6)0GIFTBAG

Gessen concludes with a flourish: “In the last paragraph, the author uses a sleight of hand that has become so common that it is barely noticeable. He conjures ‘everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.’ This familiar sentiment seems utterly unrelated to the rest of the piece, but it is serving a purpose here. The author is claiming common ground with people ‘across the aisle’ — perhaps the people behind the very resistance that he put in condescending scare quotes earlier in the piece. He is also inveighing against politics. In doing this, he is lying twice. A person who works for probably the most aggressively partisan Administration in American history has no business asking anyone to reach across the aisle, and his implied claim of com-

➤ DOS AND DON’TS, from p.15

ENTER NOW! www.gaycitynews.nyc/drags 32

tempt. In response, we rallied at his sister’s Mill Basin home he used as his legal address. In reality, Kruger lived with his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s mother and brother about a mile away. Given a second chance, Kruger voted for the bill and then spent seven years in prison after being found guilty of corruption. He is still in the closet. In addition, I know of two closeted Brooklyn elected officials currently serving in office. I will abide by the custom of not outing an elected official who has not affirmatively done us damage. I don’t necessarily agree with that policy, and it angers me to see closeted public officials being such hypocrites. The Brooklyn County Democratic chair, Frank Seddio, is a close friend of mine — as is his wife, Joyce Becker. When Frank was in the New York State Assembly, he was a prime sponsor of the Marriage Equality bill. He took this position as a former police officer who represented a similar area of Brooklyn to those represented by Gentile and Kruger. Seddio’s entire state and city delegation all know that LGBTQ rights are a priority of their party’s leader. Frank and I don’t always agree on candidates but we do discuss each of them. We also discuss all things gay. Brooklyn’s method of picking

mon cause with bipartisanship is a lie. His other lie is juxtaposing ‘common ground’ and politics. Politics is not the opposite of common ground; politics is the very process of finding common ground and making it inhabitable. Trump has been waging war on politics itself for more than two years. The anonymous member of his Administration who is bragging about his membership in a secret government has just opened a second front in this war.” Gessen’s lesson? That the existence of a secret government of unelected officials, no matter how personally gratifying the revelation may be, is in nobody’s best interests — except perhaps of those Freemason-like bureaucrats who are manipulating a clownish nincompoop outside the ever-dimming light of public scrutiny. Follow @edsikov on Twitter and Facebook.

judges through a screening panel system adheres to reform principals and that system has chosen justices that are, by-and-large, progressive and intelligent — with the notable exception of homophobe Noach Dear. Brooklyn’s system works better then Manhattan’s, which has been highjacked by two operatives, Louise Dankberg and Joanna Saccone. Brooklyn’s recently elected district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, is an amazing human being. He has reinvented the position and made his office a protector of the rights of all people. He lacks the “lock ‘em up” mentality. He has taken on racism and ethnic profiling and is innovative in protecting the rights of the accused. I was touched to learn of his visit to the upstate Bedford Correctional Facility to learn about and assist elderly women who do not deserve to die in prison. I’ve observed many district attorneys in my time and Gonzalez is the most progressive and caring, with a good heart and a healthy conscience. He also cares deeply about the needs of the LGBTQ community and respects the rights of sex workers, as well. Coming up: the good and the bad of Brooklyn political players and the good, the bad, and the sleaze of Primary 2018.

September 13 – September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


INDIA, from p.4

influential, for obvious reasons. Much of it is taken up with a philosophical discussion of the Indian Constitution and theories about its interpretation. Misra fervently rejected any contention that a constitution is a static document with a meaning and reach fi xed when adopted. In sometimes flowery language, he asserted a dynamic approach to constitutional interpretation that requires courts to take account of changing knowledge and social attitudes and extend principles of freedom, liberty, and equality to ensure maximum protection for individual rights. At times, Misra sounds like recently-retired US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and he quoted extensively from Kennedy’s 2015 marriage equality and 2003 Texas sodomy opinions. Like Kennedy, he embraced the term “human dignity” as when he wrote, “We have no hesitation to say that Section 377 IPC, in its present form, abridges both human dignity as well as the fundamental right to privacy and choice of the

citizenry, howsoever small. As sexual orientation is an essential and innate facet of privacy, the right to privacy takes within its sweep the right of every individual, including that of the LGBT, to express their choices in terms of sexual inclination without the fear of persecution or criminal prosecution.” Misra emphasizes the theme of individual autonomy, just as Kennedy did in striking down the Texas sodomy law. “The sexual autonomy of an individual to choose his/ her sexual partner is an important pillar and an insegregable facet of individual liberty,” he wrote. “When the liberty of even a single person of the society is smothered under some vague and archival stipulation that it is against the order of nature or under the perception that the majority population is peeved when such an individual exercises his/ her liberty despite the fact that the exercise of such liberty is within the confines of his/ her private space, then the signature of life melts and the living becomes a bare subsistence and resultantly, the fundamental right of liberty of

such an individual is abridged.” The judge took special note of how Section 377 has been oppressive to the transgender community. “To change the societal bias and root out the weed, it is the foremost duty of each one of us to ‘stand up and speak up’ against the slightest form of discrimination against transgenders that we come across,” Misra wrote. “Let us move from darkness to light, from bigotry to tolerance and from the winter of mere survival to the spring of life — as the herald of a New India — to a more inclusive society.” Inspiring language of this type peppers the opinions written by Misra and his three colleagues. The five-judge panel unanimously agreed that constitutional concepts of privacy, autonomy, human dignity, and equality are inconsistent with Section 377 as it applies to private, adult consensual activity. Misra explained that other sections of the penal law, including some recently enacted, will stand, especially regarding sexual exploitation of minors and rape.

As requested by the government, the Supreme Court panel refrained from ranging beyond the direct question regarding sodomy, but its language might well be leveraged later to attack anti-LGBTQ discrimination and any bars to samesex marriage. This ruling may have profound consequences well beyond India, which is the world’s second largest country by population after China — which repealed its laws against gay sex in 1997 — and had been the word’s largest democracy to maintain criminal penalties for gay sex. The persistence of penalties for sodomy imposed by Britain on its far-flung 19th century empire continues to haunt the lives of LGBTQ people in many former colonies. The Indian Supreme Court’s action, relying on phrases and concepts that are common in the postcolonial constitutions of many of these countries, may prove a powerful example leading to similar rulings elsewhere. In India, meanwhile, the immediate reaction was an outbreak of more public celebrations.

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September 13 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc


ANTONIO LOPEZ, from p.27

always hear Juan’s distinctive voice in a crowd. He was also a great critic — extremely critical. I’m so glad we were friends. He had unflattering nicknames for folks he didn’t like, but we always got along. KRAMER: Do you ever look back on this time in your life and think, “My God! I can’t believe I lived that and did that?” TIPPIN: I can’t believe I survived it! My story was a lot of drugs and alcohol. I couldn’t believe they let me hang around. They didn’t drink or take drugs. I was a user and oblivious. We were young and undisciplined. To go to Paris at 18 or 19... I had no supervision and was wild. I found

PRETTY WOMAN, from p.25

hookers and drug dealers fun and appealing... or trying to. He later becomes the hotel manager. Okay. The cast does its job. As Edward, one has to feel for Andy Karl, who is handsome, a natural comedian, and easily one of the most talented leading men on Broadway. Yet, once again he is relegated to recreating the musical version of someone else’s famous movie role (“Groundhog Day,” “Rocky,” “Legally Blonde”). As Kit, Vivian’s mentor in the life, Orfeh delivers a brassy turn that breathes some actual life

MUNICH, from p.28

to miracles at the Met, but sang strongly, projecting Shishkov’s mania with interpretive power. The Tartar boy Aljeja doubled as a Lulu-does-Papagena eagle figure in a red spangly dress and was pawed by his “mentor,” Goryanchikov. Evgeniya Sotnikova sang him brightly with

ASSASSINATION, from p.27

up with the Internet their entire lives, is more productive than telling them to go for a walk (as Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” does in its passionless final GayCityNews.nyc | September 13 – September 26, 2018

myself in a lot of trouble. How I survived it! That I can remember any of it… I think because it was so powerful for me. I was still growing and absorbing. It was a very formative time. That’s why I remember it so distinctly. KRAMER: Was there ever a point where anyone or everyone thought, “I need to stop having fun and start to grow up?” TIPPIN: I think there’s an expiration date on everything. Being an ex-pat put the brakes on things. I was in Paris four or five years. I was modeling. Model agents signed me when “L’Amour” came out. I wanted to leave Paris. I was in a relationship there and I wanted to get out of it. I felt like I wanted to move. I left Paris and got a job with

into the undertaking. Eric Anderson as Happy Man is certainly charming, and it’s always great to see Jason Danieley, who plays Edward’s lawyer in suitably evil and smarmy style. The casting problem here is the performance of Samantha Barks as Vivian. She is not much more than a mannequin for Gregg Barnes’ recreations (with some nice interpretations) of the movie’s clothes. Banks’ singing is artless and often piercing, and her Vivian lacks any believable complexity. Worse, there is no chemistry between Banks and Karl, and that makes the show cool and dis-

Pierre Cardin that brought me back to the US, and I just stayed. For five years, I didn’t know anything about American pop culture and I wasn’t assimilating back easily, so that was a big shake-up for me. And then Antonio and Juan came back. You sense when it’s time to give it up and move on to stay fresh. Fashion was changing. It was getting more natural — which I detested. That’s why fashion is so punishing. You get left on the curb if you are known for something and can’t switch it up. ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970: SEX, FASHION & DISCO | Directed by James Crump | Film Movement | Opens Sep. 14 | IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. | ifccenter.com

tant when it should be hot and filled with sexual tension. There is no shortage of “fallen women” who have enlivened musicals over the years with complex, fascinating, and rich characters — Nancy in “Oliver,” Charity in “Sweet Charity,” the whole demi-monde of “The Life,” to name just three. Vivian Ward is not one of those. PRETTY WOMAN | Nederlander Theatre, 208 W. 41st St. | Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m.; Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun at 3 p.m. | $99-$275 at ticketmaster.com or 870-250-2929 | Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

the usual Russian disregard for Czech phonetics. In a powerful if often confusingly presented ensemble, we got outstanding work in small bass roles: Peter Lobert as an Orthodox priest mysteriously let loose to work a Soviet gulag, Callum Thorpe as Don Juan in the prisoners’ play (smutted up by Castorf and destroyed by

the videography), and Christian Rieger (fetishized in leather Nazi style) as the Commandant.

scene). “Assassination Nation” directs them to fight fire with fire, turning into a bloodbath in its final third. The overtones of real-life violence there feel like exploitation, not exploration. Ultimately, this

film pretends to be quite ambitious but settles for secondhand moralizing and storytelling.

David Shengold (shengold@yahoo.com) writes about opera for many venues. A review of the August 1 Bayreuth performance of “Parsifal appears as part of the online version of this story at gaycitynews.nyc.

ASSASSINATION NATION | Directed by Sam Levinson | NEON | Opens Sep. 21 citywide

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September 13 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; September 26, 2018 | GayCityNews.nyc

Gay City News - September 13, 2018  

September 13, 2018

Gay City News - September 13, 2018  

September 13, 2018