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Candidate Forums, Endorsements & Anti-LGBTQ Ties in Public Advocate’s Race 04-05 & 12-13

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Candidate Forums, Endorsements & Anti-LGBTQ Ties in Public Advocate’s Race 04-05 & 12-13

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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

COREY EYEING MAYORAL RUN VOWS SMALL-DOLLAR CAMPAIGN, FREE OF BIG MONEY “INFLUENCE” MAT T TRACY

Page 06

Council Speaker Corey Johnson chats with the press near the Brooklyn Bridge Monday afternoon about his exploration of a mayoral campaign.

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In This Issue COVER STORY Corey eying mayoral run 06

PERSPECTIVE Trump science: only Americans are human 16

MILITARY SCOTUS removes two roadblocks to trans ban 08

IMPACT AWARDS Fourth annual honors March 28 19

COMMUNITY Right wing trollers, city scrutiny target Desmond 10

THEATER “The Prom”: lessons amidst merry mayhem 22

POLITICS City money for vigilante patrol 15

MUSIC Sneaks’ pop move on her terms 23

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Boys to Men 20

January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


CRIME

Brutal MAGA Attack on Gay “Empire” Star Jussie Smollett hospitalized after racist, homophobic pair ambushed him BY MATT TRACY

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ussie Smollett, the out gay AfricanAmerican star of Fox TV’s “Empire,” was hospitalized after a pair of individuals who identified themselves as Trump supporters hurled homophobic and racist slurs at him before they punched him, poured a chemical substance on him, and “wrapped a rope around” his neck like a noose, according to the Chicago Police Department. Smollett was walking in the 300 block of East North Lower Water Street — just blocks from North Michigan Avenue’s fabled Magnificent Mile retail district — at 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning when the two individuals pounced on him, according to police. He managed to escape, and the attackers fled the scene before Smollett made his way to Northwestern Hospital. He is currently listed in good condition. “Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” the Chicago Police Department said in a statement. “Detectives are currently working to gather video, iden-

T WIT TER.COM/ JUSSIE SMOLLET T

Jussie Smollett (right), pictured with fellow “Empire” star Bryshere Gray, escaped a racist, homophobic attack by individuals shouting MAGA slogans early Tuesday morning in Chicago.

tify potential witnesses, and establish an investigative timeline.” Smollett had just arrived back in Chicago from New York and was walking to order food when he was attacked, sources told TMZ. At that point, one person said, “Aren’t you that faggot ‘Empire’ n*****?” As they fled, the attackers yelled, “This is MAGA country.” A letter addressed to Smollett was sent to Fox Studios last week saying, “You will die black fag,”

with “MAGA” written on the top left-hand corner, according to ThatGrapeJuice.net. Advocates and LGBTQ groups extended their best wishes to Smollett and called for swift action in the case. “Jussie is not alone,” the New York City AntiViolence Project (AVP) said in a tweet. “Gay Black men are some of the most vulnerable to experiencing violence in the LGBTQ community and this must continue to be addressed, disrupted, and challenged on all fronts.” GLAAD cited findings from AVP showing that the severity of hate crimes against LGBTQ people has increased in the past several years. “Our hearts are with Jussie Smollett today,” GLAAD said in a Twitter post. “This attack must be investigated thoroughly.” The 36-year-old actor, who came out as gay in 2015, has starred in a variety of films dating back to the 1980s when he was in “The Mighty Ducks.” He has played multiple LGBTQ-related roles, including in “Empire” as well as the film “The Skinny,” which followed five African-American friends from Brown University who reunite in New York City for Gay Pride Weekend.

Queens Anti-Gay Attacks, NYPD Inaction Called Out Officials stand with gay couple who say tattoo parlor owner assaulted them BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH

C

ommunity leaders in Jackson Heights gathered last week to say hate has no place in their neighborhood. During a January 22 press conference at 78th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, out gay City Councilmember Daniel Dromm called on the NYPD to charge the owner of Village Moon with a hate crime after he allegedly muttered anti-gay hate speech to two patrons in early November. “The NYPD should act in the best interest of the survivors — not further victimize them,” said Dromm, who added that he was sad that, in 2019, people still believe they can use hateful terms like “faggot” and get away with it. “We call upon the police to right this wrong,” he added. This past November 3, Elmhurst resident Jeremy Valarezo and his husband, Joseph Sokolowski, purchased a pipe at Village Moon, a tattoo and body piercing shop located at 7801 Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights. After making their purchase, store employee Moham-

GayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH

Joseph Sokolowski and husband Jeremy Valarezo say they faced a stream of homophobic slurs and physical assaults from Mohammed Hoque, the owner of a Jackson Heights tattoo parlor, Village Moon, they were patronizing in November.

med Hoque insisted on photocopying Valarezo’s driver’s license. When Valarazo and his husband objected to the request, “that’s when Mohammed came in at 1,000 percent with rage in his eyes,” said Valarezo. Hoque allegedly began spewing hate speech at the couple including the term “faggots.” According to Valarezo, Hoque followed the couple out of

the shop and allegedly punched Valarezo in the chin, injuring his lip, and then hit Sokolowski. Police were called to the scene and arrested Sokolowski and Hoque; the storeowner was subsequently charged with two counts of assault, and the victim was booked for criminal mischief. According to police, during the dispute, Sokolowski damaged a store mannequin, worth $500, after allegedly pushing it to the ground in anger. According to the couple, they told police about Hoque’s language as soon as they arrived on the scene and attempted to show video footage. But they claim the NYPD did not want to classify the incident as a hate crime. Police stated that the Hate Crime Task Force is aware of video and looking into it, but that no information was provided at the time of the incident to indicate that it was a hate crime. “We stand behind each other in Queens,” said Borough President Melinda Katz, who along with Councilmember Rory Lancman and former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a candidate for public advocate, were among officials showing their support for the couple.

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POLITICS

Advocate Candidates Rocked By Anti-Gay Ties Three contenders face questions over donations, endorsements BY MATT TRACY

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ublic advocate candidates spout an abundance of pro-LGBTQ messages, but several of them have connections to anti-gay politicians and some have misrepresented those ties in questionnaires for local political groups. Brooklyn Councilmember Jumaane Williams and former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who are likely to be among two of the top candidates in the race to replace former public advocate Letitia James, falsely told the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City that they had not donated to or endorsed any anti-gay politicians. And Manhattan Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, also a candidate in the race, has blown off years-old concerns from the LGBTQ community by welcoming the endorsements of homophobic Bronx City Councilmembers Fernando Cabrera and Ruben Diaz, Sr. Williams and Mark-Viverito both donated to Brooklyn Councilmember Chaim Deutsch, who has an extensive history of anti-gay rhetoric and has spent years voting against the rights of the community. Mark-Viverito donated $500 to Deutsch in 2013 when he was running for City Council and then endorsed him in his reelection campaign in 2017, while Williams gave Deutsch and Cabrera $1,375 apiece in 2017. Mark-Viverito’s donation came more than three months after a video was posted on YouTube of Deutsch attacking his opponent for having the support of a group that he said had an “agenda with gays and lesbians,” comments reported at the time in Bklyner. And according to the co-president of Russian-speaking network RUSA LGBT, Deutsch admitted that he voted against banning gay conversion therapy in 2017 because he thought people should have a “choice” to be “cured” from homosexuality.” Mark-Viverito answered “no” on the questionnaire when asked whether she had ever “endorsed or financially supported any candidate for public office or current elected official with a track record of working against LGBTQ equality. A spokesperson for the former speaker claimed in a statement to Gay City News that Mark-Viverito’s donation “came before she had any knowledge of Chaim Deutsch’s anti-LGBTQIA remarks. Mark-Viverito’s response, however, didn’t add up. Even if she was unaware of Deutsch’s publicly known position before giving his political committee $500, she certainly was aware of it when answering no on the recent Stonewall survey. She was serving as speaker while the Brooklyn councilmember voted repeatedly

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WILLIAM AL ATRISTE/ NEW YORK CIT Y COUNCIL

Manhattan Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez doesn’t seem fazed by the LGBTQ community’s 2017 concerns over his connections to homophobic politicians.

against gay rights. She was a prime sponsor of a ban on conversion therapy and was present when Deutsch voted against that — though that vote came after the 2017 endorsement. When Mark-Viverito endorsed Deutsch, she said that he had “experience, compassion, and dedication” and that he had “made it a priority to stand up for senior citizens, students, and the most vulnerable among us. I am proud to endorse his re-election to the Council.” Still, the former speaker’s campaign reiterated her ignorance of Deutsch’s record and attacked her opponents in the race when she said that “unlike some public advocate candidates, Melissa would never donate to a candidate who she knew had an anti-LGBTQIA record.” Williams said his answers on the questionnaire were an “oversight” and maintained he did not remember donating to Deutsch in the most recent election cycle. Williams vowed to donate to pro-LGBTQ organizations. “I did answer that in a way that I felt was honest, it was brought to my attention. I regret that and apologize,” Williams said during Stonewall’s endorsement meeting. “I look forward to working with Stonewall.” The councilmember further said that he is “very proud of being an ally” and that he wants to work to better understand what he can do to “be a better champion” for the community. “I know I’ve done some things that have made some people uneasy,” he said. “I want to work that out because I’ve been proud to stand with the community for a long time, including with transgender women of color who are dying with impunity.”

Meanwhile, Rodriguez is also facing new questions over his ties to anti-gay candidates less than two years after he publicly aligned himself with the elder Diaz, which prompted Stonewall and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club to rescind their endorsements of him in his own re-election campaign for City Council. Rodriguez is surrounding himself with the same homophobes yet again — this time in his bid for public advocate — and he’s even getting a boost from the leader of a right-wing Christian political party from the Dominican Republic. Aside from endorsements, Rodriguez also donated $2,000 to Cabrera on August 28, 2017, according to campaign finance records. Cabrera made headlines when he traveled to Uganda after that nation passed a law outlawing homosexuality and banning folks from even sympathizing with LGBTQ folks. He also has rallied with Alliance Defending Freedom, a far-right group that most recently has been representing Masterpiece Cakeshop baker Jack Phillips of Colorado as he remains embroiled in legal battles over his refusal to serve gay and transgender customers. Diaz Sr., a longtime fi xture in New York City politics who re-joined the City Council last year after spending more than a decade in the State Senate, was among the most vocal opponents of marriage equality before it passed in 2011. In 1994, he wrote that the Gay Games, to be held in New York that June, “would lead to an increase in AIDS cases and to wider acceptance of homosexuality by young people.” In a video posted on Twitter earlier this month, Cabrera was seen praying over petitions for Rodriguez’s candidacy for public advocate. Several others, including Rodriguez, were also present as the group asked God to help him succeed in the race. A January 25 article published by Tamboril News, a Spanish-language news outlet, notes that Diaz, Sr. endorsed Rodriguez at an event during which where both politicians were seen raising their hands in unity. In endorsing Rodriguez, the elder Diaz stressed a need to strengthen the communities of faith, according to Tamboril News. Among others present at that event included Federico “Quique” Antún Batlle, who leads the right-wing Social Christian Reformist Party in the Dominican Republic. A spokesperson for Rodriguez told Gay City News last week that he “has always supported the LGBTQIA community and stands for equality for all.” The Rodriguez campaign did not respond to an inquiry from Gay City News on Tuesday regarding endorsements he has received from politicians who have a track record of fighting against gay rights. January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

LGBTQ Clubs Endorse Advocate Candidates Jim Owles, Stonewall, and Brooklyn’s LID make their picks BY MATT TRACY

T

hree different candidates in the race for public advocate have earned endorsements from local LGBTQ political groups, reflecting no clear-cut favorite in the community ahead of the February 26 special election. The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club backed Brooklyn Councilmember Jumaane Williams on January 19, while the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City opted to support Manhattan Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, who is the only openly gay candidate in the race. Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn rounded out the endorsements when they voted to support former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito of East Harlem. Williams earned the backing of Jim Owles just days before Gay City News revealed that he and Mark-Viverito provided false answers in a Stonewall questionnaire regarding their history of endorsements and donations to antiLGBTQ candidates. Both candidates donated to homophobic City Councilmember Chaim Deutsch, who represents south Brooklyn, Mark-Viverito endorsed him in 2017, and Williams also donated to Bronx Councilmember Fernando Cabrera. Mark-Viverito and Williams addressed the concerns during a Stonewall endorsement meeting on January 23. The former speaker said she believed she answered truthfully when she provided answers for the questionnaire, despite giving $500 to Deutsch in 2013 after he attacked his opponent for having the support of a group that had what he said was an “agenda with gays and lesbians.” Mark-Viverito’s endorsement of Deutsch four years later came after she watched him vote against several LGBTQ-focused measures during her time as speaker. During that same meeting, Williams also addressed his answer on the questionnaire, noting that he “did answer that in a way that I felt was honest, it was brought to my attention. I regret that and apologize.” While those candidates were sidetracked by that dramatic twist of events, O’Donnell stepped in and stole the spotlight during the Stonewall endorsement meeting when he vociferously insisted his independence from powerful interests such as the Democratic Party establishment, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and corporations like Amazon. The 58-year-old Democrat pointed to his refusal to compromise on same-sex marriage during the years when the bill he steered to passage in the Assembly in 2007 failed to clear the Senate. The Marriage GayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

MAT T TRACY

Out gay Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell won the Stonewall endorsement.

MICHAEL SHAIN

Melissa-Mark Viverito, seen here at an LGBTQ Pride Prom held at the Queens Museum in 2016, captured the endorsement of Brooklyn’s Lambda Independent Democrats in her race for public advocate.

Equality Act was ultimately signed into law in June of 2011. Among other LGBTQ-related accomplish-

ments, O’Donnell noted that he was the prime sponsor of the Dignity for All Students Act, an anti-bullying measure that became law in 2010 and was implemented in 2012. “I was told, ‘If you settle for civil unions, if you take out the trans community, we’ll pass it tomorrow,’” O’Donnell recalled about his efforts on marriage and bullying during his brief statement in front of Stonewall’s membership. “I said, ‘Hell no, I don’t compromise on people’s rights.’” O’Donnell also underscored his overall track record in nearly two decades in the Legislature, where he has spent most of his time working against a GOP-held Senate. “I’m not asking for your vote because I’m gay,” O’Donnell declared. “I am asking for your vote because I’m the most qualified and most experienced.” Stonewall president Rod Townsend, who had expressed concern in recent days about the misleading answers provided by Mark-Viverito and Williams, said his club’s endorsement of O’Donnell reflects the assemblymember’s body of work in the state legislature over the years. “Our membership voted last night to bring Danny’s fierce brand of advocacy forward not just as a voice of LGBTQ New Yorkers, but for all New Yorkers as our next public advocate,” he said the morning after the vote. One day after Stonewall, Lambda threw its support behind Mark-Viverito, who had outlined her LGBTQ platform in an exclusive interview with Gay City News in December. Among other initiatives, Mark-Viverito plans to push for legislation to support LGBTQ entrepreneurs, increase services for LGBTQ seniors, and expand funding for HIV testing, care, and services. Jared Arader, who was elected president of Lambda at the meeting in Greenpoint on the same day as the endorsement, said in a written statement that Mark-Viverito’s record “aligns with what we, as LGBTQ Brooklynites, value most.” “Her campaign has focused its LGBTQ platform on inclusivity — from LGBTQ-owned businesses, community liaisons for city agencies to senior housing and increased assistance for LGBTQ youth, among other things, which really spoke to our members,” Arader said. Following the endorsement, Mark-Viverito said she was “honored” to have Lambda’s support. “It is because of organizations like LID that we have seen a progressive tide in Albany and strong opposition to the Trump administration’s bigotry and extremism,” she said. “This isn’t just one community’s fight, it is all of ours. It’s not just moral, it’s personal.”

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POLITICS

Corey Says He’s Looking at Mayoral Run Speaker vows campaign with small donations, free of big money “influence” BY MATT TRACY

H

e’s running! Or at least he’s considering it. New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced in an email to his supporters on Monday morning that he is “thinking about running for mayor of New York City” in 2021— and he’s taking a page out of the progressive playbook to make his case. Johnson, who is the first HIV-positive person and first gay man to be speaker, acknowledged that it is “a big decision, I know, but I love this city and am committed to making it a better place for all.” The 36-year-old said he will accept a maximum of $250 in contributions per individual and is refusing to take money from lobbyists, corporate PACs, or real estate developers and their employees, signaling an early intention to steer clear of the big-money controversies that have dogged politicians in recent years. “As much as I love New York, we are capable of so much more,” said Johnson, who is serving his second term representing Greenwich Village, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen. “And New Yorkers are fed up with our pay-to-play political system. They know that real estate developers and lobbyists have had too much sway for too long.” Johnson spoke to reporters near the Brooklyn Bridge on Monday afternoon, where he explained that he opted to implement his strict campaign finance limitations in order to demonstrate transparency. “The whole point of this is to show that no one is going to have influence,” he said in his first public comments since announcing a potential 2021 bid. “We have such a good public matching system in New York City that that $250 is going to get an eight-to-one public match. I think I can do this on small dollars.” Candidates are legally allowed to accept individual contributions of up to $2,000. Johnson pointed to income inequality, the crumbling subway system, and the serious issues surrounding the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) among the main problems that need to be addressed in the city, but said he did not want to get too deep into the issues this early. For now, he cited his own life experience and his existing body of work as a city councilmember and speaker to illustrate why he would be a serious contender in the race. “I grew up in public housing, my family had no money, and I came to New York at 19 years old with two bags,” Johnson said. “I never thought being speaker was possible. I never thought

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DONNA ACETO

Johnson speaking with Gay City News in his City Hall office on January 9 of last year, just days after becoming Council speaker.

about standing here in front of you all.” The New York Times reported on Monday morning that Johnson would start hosting fundraising house parties beginning in March. One of his potential opponents in the 2021 race, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, is also planning to host similar parties, according to the Times. “It’s just going to be close friends that have always supported me,” Johnson said of the house parties. “These are going to be low-dollar events. The maximum I’m taking from individuals is $250, so I’m going to try to pack as many people into the room as possible.” Johnson could face a crowded field of contenders in the race to replace Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is one year into his second and final term. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., has declared his candidacy for mayor and has an estimated $803,208 in his war chest for 2021, according to city Campaign Finance Board records, while Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who has made his ambitions clear, has piled up an estimated balance of $1.8 million. Adams trails only Stringer, who has an estimated $2.3 million on hand. Johnson showed $88,481 on hand as of last Friday, though he told reporters that his contributions have increased by “a lot” following his announcement. Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn has often been mentioned as a potential

mayoral candidate, but he ruled himself out of the last race and is now consumed by increased responsibilities in Washington as chair of the House Democratic Caucus following the ousting of Queens/ Bronx Congressmember Joe Crowley, who was soundly defeated in last June’s primary by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who Queens County Politics reported is also exploring a mayoral run, has a balance of $308,656, which is fifth on the list of candidates with 2021 citywide election accounts. The speaker pointed to the “huge stockpiles of money” amassed by other candidates and said he needs to be prepared to keep up with them. “I think it’s going to be very, very hard,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to be easy to get thousands of contributions at $250. It’s going to take a lot of hustle and a lot of legwork.” Should he decide to run, Johnson is confident that he can pull it off because he believes his transparent approach will resonate with New Yorkers who have lost trust in the political process. “I’m really open. I’m open about my HIV status, I’m open about the fact that I’m sober from drugs and alcohol for nine and a half years, and I’m open about the struggles that I’ve faced,” he said. “So I haven’t tried to play things in a cute way. I try to live my life the way I live my life and this is another step in that direction.” January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


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7


MILITARY

SCOTUS Stays Two Trans Military Ban Injunctions Pentagon implementation still faces one hurdle after ruling that didn’t address merits BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

T

he Supreme Court, on January 22, agreed to US Solicitor General Noel Francisco’s request that it stay the two nationwide preliminary injunctions issued in December 2017 by federal district judges on the West Coast blocking President Donald Trump’s ban on military service by transgender individuals from going into effect. It is important to note upfront that the court’s action was not a ruling on the underlying merits of the case nor did it halt all the injunctions blocking the transgender ban from going into effect. The high court’s action involved only two of the four nationwide injunctions that have been issued by district courts around the country. Another critical issue is the question of whether the ban the military plans to implement — announced by former Defense Secretary James Mattis in February of last year — is sufficiently different from what Trump proposed in 2017 that it is no longer a constitutionally impermissible categorical ban. The vote was 5-4, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan indicating that they would have denied Francisco’s applications for stays. Although the stays from the high court mean that the Trump administration’s transgender military ban is no longer blocked by those two injunctions, it is still blocked by an injunction issued by a federal judge in Baltimore. The Supreme Court issued these two stays “pending disposition” of the Trump administration’s appeal of the two rulings in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and any appeal for high court review that results. While issuing the two stays, the Supreme Court denied the solicitor general’s petitions to leapfrog the Ninth Circuit and take its appeals directly to the high court. The Ninth Circuit has not yet ruled on the administration’s appeal of the

8

DEFENSE.GOV

Is former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ transgender ban sufficiently different than what President Donald Trump proposed in 2017 to pass constitutional muster?

two West Coast district court rulings. The Supreme Court’s action did not immediately allow the Defense Department to implement the ban. That awaits a ruling by District Judge George L. Russell, III, who is still considering the government’s motion to dissolve the nationwide preliminary injunction issued in Baltimore on November 21, 2017, by District Judge Marvin J. Garbis, who retired this past June. The case was then reassigned to Russell. On November 30, Russell issued his only ruling in the case so far, largely affirming an August ruling by Magistrate Judge A. David Copperthite on disputed discovery issues. At that time, Russell rejected the administration’s contention that some of Copperthite’s “findings of fact” were unreasonable. Key among those findings was Copperthite’s conclusion that Defense Secretary James Mattis’ version of the ban announced in February 2018 was still a ban on military service by transgender people, despite differences from the original version the White House described in an August 2017 memorandum. Earlier this month, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit vacated a similar preliminary injunction that Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued on October 31, 2017 and directed her to reconsider her conclusion that Matts’ version of the ban was essentially the same as the one Trump originally laid out and on

which she issued her 2017 injunction. The DC Circuit panel unanimously ruled, based on the government’s allegations about the differences between the two policies, that her conclusion was “clearly erroneous.” The DC Circuit’s ruling is not binding on Russell, because Maryland is under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, but it may influence his thinking. The government’s position in all four of the pending cases challenging the constitutionality of the ban is that the Mattis policy was significantly different from the version of the ban described in Trump’s August 2017 memorandum — and so all four preliminary injunctions against that August 2017 version should be vacated. The key is that the administration contends that the Mattis policy, which bans service by individuals who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, is no longer a categorical ban of all transgender service members, as described in Trump’s notorious tweets of July 26, 2017. For one thing, the Mattis carves out an exception, allowing transgender individuals who are already serving to continue doing so despite being diagnosed with gender dysphoria, although those who have not transitioned when the new policy goes into effect will not be allowed to do so and still re-

main in the service. This exception, of course, contradicts the government’s argument that individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria are not fit to serve. For another thing, the Defense Department contends that because not all individuals who identify as transgender have either been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or desire to make a medical transition, the disqualifying factor has effectively been shifted by the Mattis policy from gender identity to gender dysphoria. Consequently, the administration argues, the district courts’ conclusion that the ban discriminates on the basis of transgender status in violation of equal protection no longer applies. Instead, the ban is based on a medical condition — a factor on which the courts have always shown deference to military expertise and judgment. The Supreme Court’s action does not grant the government’s request to dissolve the two 2017 preliminary injunctions from the West Court district courts — by Judges Marsha J. Pechman in Seattle and Jesus Bernal in Riverside, California. So, the stays should not be interpreted as rulings on the merits. The high court is merely agreeing to the administration’s request to stay the effect of those injunctions while the Ninth Circuit decides whether to dissolve them. In the meantime, all four district courts are dealing with contentious arguments, with the government refusing to comply with the plaintiffs’ discovery demands, making it difficult for the courts to proceed with the cases. These cases are raising significant issues about the extent to which the government should be forced to disclose details of its decision-making process that are crucial to determining whether the policy they are now defending was adopted for constitutionally impermissible reasons. Attention now focuses on Judge Russell in Baltimore, whose even-

➤ MILITARY BAN, continued on p.9

January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


CIVIL RIGHTS

Cuomo Signs GENDA, Conversion Therapy Ban Long-stalled LGBTQ rights measures finally enshrined in state law BY MATT TRACY

N

ew York Governor Andrew Cuomo on January 25 signed into law the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the state’s ban on conversion therapy practiced on minors. Cuomo signed the bills at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan 10 days after they were swiftly approved by the State Legislature. The two measures sailed through the Assembly and State Senate in the beginning of the legislative session after years of stalled action while the Republicans controlled the upper house. GENDA, which adds gender identity and expression as a protected class in the state’s human rights and hate crimes laws, was long stalled, winning only Assembly passage, after advocates called on the state to take further action in light of the limited scope of the 2002 Sexual Orientation Nondiscrimination Act, which only protected people on the basis of sexual orientation. The other law signed last Friday outlaws the practice of so-called conversion therapy practiced on minors by health professionals. The New York City Council passed a similar measure in 2017, but that law only banned people from charging for services intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or the gender with which they identify. The two bills and other progressive measures, including a state version of the DREAM Act, were rapidly approved by lawmakers after voters in the state flocked to the polls in November and voted out

➤ MILITARY BAN, from p.8 tual ruling on the government’s motion to dissolve Judge Garbis’ preliminary injunction will decide, at least for the moment, whether the transgender ban goes into effect or remains blocked while the litigaGayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

T WIT TER.COM/ NYGOVCUOMO

Governor Andrew Cuomo, flanked on the right by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, is joined by advocates as he signs GENDA and the ban on conversion therapy.

a number of conservative Republican State Senate incumbents. In the September Democratic primary, six of the eight members of the the Independent Democratic Conference, who had been elected as Democrats but caucused with Republicans, were also defeated. Out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, who spearheaded the campaign to pass the LGBTQ rights laws, noted during Friday’s press conference at the Center that the bills’ enactment coincides with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. “2019 will go down in history in that regard, but also because of the bills we are signing today,” Hoylman said. “It’s also more appropriate because it was transgender and gender nonconforming people who lit the spark, who began the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement. We stand on their shoulders today.” Before signing the bills into law, the governor called Friday an

“emotional” day and pointed to the progress the state has made on LGBTQ rights. “We are once again sending a clear and proud message that there is no place for hate in our state, and anyone who engages in bigotry and discrimination will be held accountable,” Cuomo said. LGBTQ groups celebrated the news after the governor signed the bills into law. Gabriel Blau, one of the founders of Equality New York, a group that since 2016 has worked to forge a united voice for LGBTQ New Yorkers, said, “With today’s historic signing of GENDA and the ban on conversion therapy, New York has once again shown its residents, and the country, where its values stand. From Sylvia Rivera and all who fought at Stonewall 50 years ago to today has been a long journey. It is not over, but we have certainly reached a long-awaited milestone. Equality New York is grateful to the governor, his staff,

the legislators in Albany, and our colleagues in the LGBTQI Advocacy Coalition.” Noah Lewis, who chairs the New York City Bar Association’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Rights Committee, underscored the importance of legislative action geared toward state and local protections for transgender New Yorkers. “While courts have long found transgender people to be protected under the New York State Human Rights Law, legislative recognition of transgender equality sends a powerful message of respect at a time when it is urgently needed,” he said. Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the leading Washington-based LGBTQ lobbying group, said, “These laws will literally save lives, and their passage would not have been possible without the tireless work of advocates and allies across New York over the last decade.”

tion continues. If Russell follows the lead of the other district judges, he will deny the motion and Solicitor General Francisco will likely petition the Supreme Court to grant a stay similar to the ones issued on January 22. But if Russell finds the DC Circuit’s analysis of Judge

Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling persuasive, the ban may go into effect, even as all four cases challenging the ban continue to be fiercely litigated by the plaintiffs. As to the stays issued on January 22, the Supreme Court said that if the government is unhappy

with how the Ninth Circuit rules and appeals to the high court but that petition is denied, “this order shall terminate automatically.” If the high court grants review in the Ninth Circuit cases, the stay would remain in effect until it rules on the government’s appeal.

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COMMUNITY

Trollers Bring Threats, City Scrutiny to Desmond Young Brooklyn drag queen, parents determined, saying show must go on BY COLIN MIXSON

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he family of an 11-yearold Brooklyn boy known internationally as one of New York’s most talked about drag queens continues to receive death threats, as well as investigatory visits from city social workers, weeks after writers for conservative and pro-life websites ignited a firestorm over his recent performance at a Williamsburg bar. Mom Wendy Napoles said haters of her son Desmond Napoles — who performs in drag as Desmond is Amazing — filed more than 150 complaints with the city’s Administration for Children’s Services after his December show at 3 Dollar Bill, a Williamsburg gay bar. Video of that performance went viral when critics attacked the performance as exploitative “pedophilia” because Desmond wore a crop top while accepting cash from the crowd. Each of those complaints necessitates its own 60-day investigation, resulting in almost daily home visits from agency inspectors — some of whom arrive as late as 3 a.m., according to Napoles. “We’re prisoners in our own home,” she said. “They’ll come anytime.” The mom, who said she vets all of the venues where Desmond performs to ensure they’re safe and appropriate, blasted her son’s critics as homophobes, claiming it’s perfectly legal for a child to preform at a bar if accompanied by an adult. “No clothes came off my child,” she said. “I don’t understand how people can believe he was stripping. There was a lot of homophobia there.” A Child Services spokesperson would not comment on any individual case, but said the agency’s policy is to consolidate duplicate complaints, all of which are screened by a state registry that determines whether they merit an investigation by local authorities. But Desmond — whose mom said is depositing all the money

10

CAROLINE OURSO

Young Brooklynite Desmond Napoles — seen here near Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope in drag as Desmond is Amazing — is not letting a bout of outrage from right wingers over a recent performance stop his passion for performing, because he says his shows bring many others sheer joy.

CAROLINE OURSO

Desmond’s dad Andy Napoles, left, and mom Wendy Napoles receive almost daily visits from city social workers investigating complaints filed against them after their son’s December show at Williamsburg’s 3 Dollar Bill, but refuse to let their critics get them — or their son — down.

he makes performing into a trust fund he can’t access until he is 18 — isn’t letting the uproar over his passion get him down. The fifth grader, who rose to fame after being caught on camera dancing in a rainbow tutu at the city’s 2015 LGBTQ Pride Parade, said the joy he finds dressing up in wigs, skirts, and lipstick is only bested by the thrills his performances bring to his fans.

“I like performing so much,” Desmond said. “I like to entertain people. It makes them happy.” Ever since he could walk, the Brooklyn-born-and-bred youngster showed a performative streak, and his interest in drag dates back to when he habitually stole clothes from his mom — who is now her son’s assistant — to create genderbending characters he’d act out at home, Wendy Napoles said.

But after a six-year-old Desmond went trick-or-treating dressed as Elsa from the movie “Frozen,” Mom’s old duds just didn’t cut it anymore, and he started asking for his own feminine wardrobe, according to Napoles. “He went as Elsa for Halloween, and something really clicked for him,” she said. “After that, every time we went to the store, he wanted a skirt or a dress.” Unsure of their son’s burgeoning sense of style, Napoles and her husband took Desmond to a therapist, who advised neither discouraging nor encouraging his behavior, and suggested it could just be a passing phase. It wasn’t, said Mom. “It was never a phase for him, and soon dressing up at home wasn’t enough,” she said. “He wanted to dress up and go outside — then he wanted to perform.” Desmond made an early drag appearance in a music video for fellow queen Jinkx Monsoon — who won the fifth season of television’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” competition series — but his career really took off after his Pride appearance went viral, Napoles said. Since then, the boy has rubbed shoulders with RuPaul at the iconic queen’s DragCon convention, walked the New York Fashion Week runway as a model for designer Gypsy Sport, and signed with a talent company, which started booking shows for Desmond earlier this year, according to his mom. On stage, the tween wows spectators by doing impersonations of celebrities, including Gwen Stefani, whom he channeled during his so-called controversial performance at 3 Dollar Bill, and Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz from the film “Beetlejuice,” Napoles said. And although Desmond may have inherited his early wardrobe from his mother, she said his penchant for performing in front of an audience is uniquely his own. “He has no nervousness,” said Napoles. “He just gets up there. I don’t know where he gets the confidence. I could never do it. I would die.”

January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


COMMUNITY

A Chill LGBTQ Gathering in Astoria Queens Pride hosts its 26th annual winter gala fundraiser

DUNCAN PFL ASTER

Councilmember Daniel Dromm introduces honoree Melissa Sklarz (right) as Winter Pride chair Tina Arniotis looks on.

BY DUNCAN PFLASTER

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n Saturday, January 19, Queens Pride held its 26th annual Winter Pride gala fundraiser, the proceeds going to produce the June Pride Parade & Festival. The evening included a social hour of cocktails and appetizers followed by a banquet and awards ceremony at the World Astoria Manor. The evening’s three honorees were all transgender women, including longtime activist Melissa Sklarz, the New York City Anti-Violence Project’s LaLa Zannell, and Dominique Jackson, a star of FX’s “Pose.” Elected to a Democratic district leader post in 1999, Sklarz was the first transgender person to win public office in New York. In 2004, she was the first trans person to represent the state at the Democratic National Convention, and in 2016 Sklarz was the first transgender person to participate in the Electoral College. A primary candidate for the State Assembly this past September, she has now joined the staff of SAGE, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders. In her remarks, Sklarz mentioned how, in her political work, she has often been the only trans person in the room. Politics, she said, is less about ideas than about building relationships that will lead to coalitions advancing the community’s needs. GayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

Sklarz’s observations came just days after the trans community won a long-sought victory, with the passage in Albany of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. The same day, the Legislature also approved a ban on conversion therapy practiced on minors. Zannell was honored for her organizing work on behalf not only of AVP but also the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs as well as her advocacy for trans women generally, which included her participation in two White House briefings during the Obama administration. In a rousing speech, Zannell called out the gay community for largely ignoring its trans brothers and sisters, saying, “I wanted to teach us how to treat our trans and gender-nonconforming folks better. GENDA passing means nothing if queers and LGBT people ain’t respecting a girl like me.” Jackson, who is an activist as well as a model and “Pose” cast member, sent her cousin to accept the award on her behalf. City Councilmember Daniel Dromm, chair of the Finance Committee and a founder of Queens Pride, introduced the political dignitaries in attendance, including State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., Queens State Senator Jessica Ramos, City Councilmembers Donovan Richards and Costa Constantinides of Queens and

DUNCAN PFL ASTER

The AVP LaLa Zannell gave a rousing speech in accepting her honor.

Helen Rosenthal of Manhattan, former State Senator Tom Duane, and former Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley. Two candidates in the February 26 special election for city public advocate — out gay Manhattan Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell and former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Vi-

verito — were also on hand. Though neither Governor Andrew Cuomo nor Mayor Bill de Blasio attended, each sent a representative. After the solemnity of the awards presentation, the evening’s diverse and enthusiastic crowd hit the dance floor and partied away.

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POLITICS

GMHC Advocate Forum Focuses on HIV, Opioid ODs Candidates’ conversance with issues varied, many reverted to stump themes BY NATHAN RILEY

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he Gay Men’s Health Crisis had ambitions greater than performing a public service when it joined the New School in hosting a forum for the candidates in the February 26 special election for city public advocate. The group was looking for allies in the drive to end AIDS and reverse the epidemic of overdose deaths. Each of the nine candidates who showed up Wednesday night were expected to answer the same question, giving the audience a chance to compare their knowledge and their programs. The quality of the answers ranged from the thoughtful to the appalling. The grimmest answer came from a 10th person, Daniel Christmann, who isn’t a candidate but inveigled his way onto the stage of the New School Auditorium in Greenwich Village. He would place heroin users into “solitary,” making them go cold turkey to “cure” them. There is nothing unusual about this solution — heroin users are placed in this predicament in jails all over the US. The problem is that the approach has a long history of cruel failure. The deprivation produces obsessive thoughts about getting

JOHN MCCARTEN/ NEW YORK CIT Y COUNCIL VIA FLICKR

Brooklyn City Councilmember Jumaane Williams, a candidate in the February 26 public advocate special election.

high one more time — often with fatal results. By the time these unfortunate individuals get access to drugs, they have lost their tolerance and going back to their old high doses can lead to accidental poisonings. Melissa Mark-Viverito, the former City Council speaker, provided the answer GMHC was seeking — establish safer consumption sites where users can inject. If they go into a deep nod overdose, prevention workers can quickly restore normal breathing. As speaker, Mark-Viverito funded a study of safer consumption sites that demonstrated the program’s success in more than 100 cities in Canada, Europe, and Australia. This study persuaded Mayor Bill de Blasio, but the proposal for a one-year pilot

project languishes in Albany. To drive the message home, Grace Rauh, the NY1 reporter and moderator, asked each candidate if they supported safer consumption spaces and with varying degrees of enthusiasm they said yes. MarkViverto and Councilmember Jumaane Williams, without prompting, argued for these programs. Rafael Espinal, a councilmember from Bushwick, swallowed hard and simply answered “yes.” Attorney Dawn Smalls, who held a senior position at the Department of Health and Human Service during the Obama administration, said “only as a pilot program.” The evening started with Rauh asking the candidates what they would do to end HIV infection, which continues to fall heaviest on black and brown men in New York even as the overall rate of new infections in the city is at an historic low. Theo Chino, a self-professed bitcoin businessman and socialist, shook things up by saying, “I don’t have it. I’m not gay, so I don’t live with it,” and added that safe sex and condoms would prevent its spread. Smalls quickly injected, “You don’t have to be gay to get AIDS.” Espinal could only shake his head in dismay at Chino’s comment, saying, “My district has the largest number

of new cases.” He pinpointed stigma as the biggest obstacle. Only Mark-Viverito and Williams spoke of PrEP and PEP, the medications that inoculate people from the HIV virus and are responsible for pushing the number of new cases to lower and lower levels. Williams also spoke of stigma. “We have people who hide who they are,” he said, and place our “sisters” at risk. He called for increased funding for PrEP and PEP. Many of candidates focused on one specific program that they kept bringing up. Columbia University Professor David Eisenbach, who specializes in LGBTQ history, called for stopping the real estate lobby. Nomiki Konst, who was a surrogate speaker for Bernie Sanders in 2016, spoke of the multiple benefits of adopting Medicare for All. Benjamin Yee, an activist with the Young Democrats, hopes to encourage civic awareness so that the public can better express its preferences to elected officials. One notable absence from the event was out gay Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, who the same evening spoke to the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City just blocks away, coming away with the club’s endorsement.

After GOP Obstructionism, Lesbian EEOC Commissioner Out Chai Feldblum was trailblazer in two terms with the civil rights agency BY MATT TRACY

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former commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission told Bloomberg Law that she will not seek a third term with the agency after Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah blocked her reappointment and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to call a floor vote on her nomination before the January 2 deadline. Chai Feldblum, a former George-

12

town law professor who became the first out LGBTQ person to serve on the EEOC following her nomination by President Barack Obama in 2009, was accused by Lee of having “radical views on marriage.” Lee’s obstruction of a vote on the nomination meant President Donald Trump’s slate of EEOC nominees were denied confirmation and by January 1 the agency, responsible for enforcing the employment nondiscrimination provisions of the Civil Rights Act, lacked a quorum. Trump’s re-nomination of Feld-

blum had come as a surprise, though no more than three commissioners can come from any political party so his slate of three nominees was required to include at least one Democrat. In a tweet, the Human Rights Campaign said Feldblum “more than deserved to be confirmed for another term” and blasted McConnell for refusing to schedule a full Senate vote. A spokesperson for McConnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding his

refusal to have called a vote prior to the end of 2018. The Victory Institute, which works to bolster LGBTQ leaders in all levels of government, could not be reached for comment. The impact of having an openly LGBTQ member on the commission was evident in 2015 when Feldblum joined the 3-2 decision finding that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is sex discrimination under the Civil Rights

➤ FELDBLUM, continued on p.13

January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Public Advocates Hopefuls Address LGBT Center Crowd Anti-trans violence, homeless youth among evening’s leading topics BY NATHAN RILEY

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s the campaign for New York City public advocate races toward a February 26 special election to replace Letitia James, who took office as state attorney general on New Year’s Day, roughly 200 people turned out to hear from eight of the candidates at the LGBT Community Center on January 16. The vacancy has brought Melissa Mark-Viverito, the City Council speaker during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term, back into city politics after a stint with the Latino Victory Fund. She was the first candidate of the evening, and she filled the room in the resonant tones of a person skilled at introducing herself. “I was raised by strong women who wanted equality and justice,” the former speaker said. “They wanted respect and I will fight for that respect for all groups.” Then moving quickly into the heart her vision of progressive politics, Mark-Viverito said, “It is through community dialogue that we make government nimble.” She promised to work to protect transgender women from an epidemic of violence as well as a wave of arrests by the NYPD on charges of loitering for prostitution. And she warned that enormous challenges face the poorest New Yorkers with “this administration” in Washington threatening to take over the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), a prospect she termed “scary.”

➤ FELDBLUM, from p.12 Act. Two years earlier, she had been a leader in the commission making a similar finding regarding gender identity and expression. In multiple posts on Medium. com, Feldblum fiercely defended herself against Lee’s allegations, noting that she “did not recognize the person Senator Lee was talking about” and that she cares “deeply about preserving religious pluralism in our country — even if that GayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

Out gay Upper West Side Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, who was the lead sponsor of the 2011 Marriage Equality Act, prefaced his remarks by saying, “New York saved my life,” recalling his opportunity to attend CUNY Law School and become a public defender. He proudly announced that when de Blasio circulated a letter inviting Amazon to come to the city that contained no details about what the state and city were offering the company, he refused to sign despite personal entreaties from the mayor. He called for a millionaire’s tax to fund the MTA and talked about securing funds for LGBTQ youth at the Ali Forney Center. O’Donnell also said that he spurred an investigation into fellow Democratic Assemblymember Vito Lopez’s sexual harassment of women. That investigation of the former Brooklyn Democratic leader led to “the first time a sitting member” of the Assembly was forced to give up their seat over such conduct, he noted. Jumaane Williams, the Brooklyn city councilmember who ran for lieutenant governor with Cynthia Nixon in last year’s Democratic primary and startled the political world by winning in Manhattan and Brooklyn, summed up his career saying, “I’ve helped people lift up their voice to be heard.” He acknowledged that he had changed his mind about issues like marriage equality and women’s right to choose but asserted that for years he has been supportive on

both counts. He promised to work to close Rikers Island and to save the MTA and NYCHA. Councilmember Rafael Espinal, Jr., from Bushwick, stressed the need to improve outer borough neighborhoods, saying he was dismayed as a teenager when the Daily News called his high school the worst in New York City. He is considered the “nightlife candidate” for his role in creating the position of deputy mayor for nightlife, and when asked if he would support clubs with back rooms for sex, he said if it were regulated and safe he would be open to it. Assemblymember Michael Blake from the Bronx spoke out against the violence facing transgender youth, but was quizzed about his relationship with the anti-LGBTQ legislators like Councilmember Reuben Diaz, Sr. He said that he asked Diaz to return contributions he had made to him. Dawn L. Smalls, an attorney with the prestigious law firm of Boies, Schiller and Flexner, came to New York City after working as the chief regulatory officer for the US Department of Health and Human Services, the third largest rulemaking agency in the federal government. She called for revising the City Charter to give the public advocate subpoena power, an idea repeated throughout the evening. She voiced pride in her role in a $65.5 million settlement giving thousands of au pairs who were paid $4.35 an hour back pay to meet the federal minimum wage of $7.25. She pledged to

help the homeless, but when asked about LGBTQ youth needing shelter, she paused and said “the majority” of the homeless are children under six and these families had the biggest need. Benjamin Yee, active in the Young Democrats, said he supports community empowerment but did not go into detail, saying the audience could read about it on his website, BenjaminYee.com. Asked by out gay Bronx Councilmember Richie Torres — one of the evening’s two moderators, who noted that he had graduated from Bronx Science High School — whether he supported changing the high school admission test to give black and brown students more opportunities to attend the city’s academically strongest schools, Yee said the system has worked well for over 100 years and that the solution is to create other special high schools. The question of opening up more opportunities for black and Latinx students has created a divide with some AsianAmerican leaders, whose community has historically done well in testing for top high schools. Torres was joined in moderating the forum by former Manhattan Councilmember Ronnie Eldridge, who now hosts a weekly public affairs program on CUNY TV. The event was convened by the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, and the Lesbian & Gay Democratic Club of Queens.

means protecting religious organizations whose views I disagree with.” Feldblum told Bloomberg that she was hoping to see Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recommend someone else for the Democratic seat. “There are lots of incredibly talented people who can serve,” she said. But on Wednesday, President Donald Trump nominated only one member from the slate he’d earlier submitted — Janet Dhillon, who

is Burlington Stores Inc.’s general counsel and would fill one of the commission’s Republican seats. His other Republican nominee from last year’s slate, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Daniel M. Gade, withdrew his name from consideration in December. Trump has found no Democratic nominee to replace Feldblum, but with three members the agency would once again have a quorum of commissioners. More importantly for the president, he would finally

gain majority control of the EEOC — two years into his term. The Justice Department is at odds with the position that the agency, with Feldblum on board, adopted regarding sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. The EEOC would undoubtedly revise its position to be in line with the Justice Department. Trump has also nominated Sharon Fast Gustafson, an attorney in private practice in Virginia, as the EEOC’s general counsel.

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LEGAL

City Conversion Therapy Ban Challenged Orthodox psychotherapist represented by leading anti-gay litigators BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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lliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the anti-gay Christian legal organization based in Scottsdale, Arizona, has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of New York City’s law prohibiting the practice of conversion therapy. The suit, which was filed in US District Court in Brooklyn on January 23, comes in response to a bill enacted by the City Council in November 2017, which became law on January 5 of last year after Mayor Bill de Blasio returned it to the Council unsigned — though he did not veto the measure. ADF’s action came the same week as Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a state law banning conversion therapy, but the city measure is probably the broadest push back against conversion therapy enacted in the nation. State laws on the subject, including the one approved in Albany this month, limit their bans to the provision of such therapy to minors by licensed health care professionals and designate the offense as professional misconduct. The city law, by contrast, applies to “any person” who provides such therapy for a fee to any individual, not just minors, and it imposes civil penalties ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per violation. The measure does not contain any express exemption for religious counselors or clergy, but presumably if they do not charge a fee for their services they are not subject to the law. Legal challenges to the state conversion therapy bans, of which there are now more than a dozen, have so far been unsuccessful, but it is not clear that the sweeping city law will benefit from some of the legal doctrines that states have successfully marshaled to defend their laws. Most importantly, the state laws fall comfortably within the traditional state role of regulating health care delivery by licensed practitioners, and by being restricted to minors, they rest

14

FACEBOOK.COM

Mathew Shurka, an activist against conversion therapy who was forced into the discredited treatment for five years as a youth in Long Island, with State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Matthew McMorrow, an aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, on the day the Legislature approved state legislation banning the practice, with provisions much narrower than those being challenged in the city’s 2018 law.

within the state’s traditional function of parens patriae, caring for the welfare of minors, which can at times mean defending minors from well-meaning but harmful actions of their parents, such as refusing blood transfusions or medication for serious illnesses. ADF is asking the court to issue a declaration that the law is unconstitutional and to issue an injunction against its enforcement. ADF has found a seemingly sympathetic plaintiff, Dr. David Schwartz of Brooklyn, a “counselor and psychotherapist practicing in New York City who has a general practice but who has regularly had, and currently has, patients who desire counseling that the Counseling Censorship Law prohibits.” “Counseling Censorship” is a term coined by ADF to describe Local Law 22 in order to underscore the First Amendment basis of its challenge. The complaint describes Schwartz as an Orthodox Jew whose patients come mainly from the Chabad Lubavitch ultra-orthodox community. Schwartz cites the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson as an authority supporting the practice of conversion therapy. The description of his practice does not mention child patients, stating: “Dr. Schwartz works only with willing patients

— patients who voluntarily walk into his office and talk with him because they want and value his counsel. And Dr. Schwartz does nothing to or with his patients other than listen to them and talk with them.” Schwartz states his fear that the city law will be used against him. ADF was smart to avoid mentioning minors, since that would run afoul of the new state ban on conversion therapy. ADF positions its case primarily as a challenge to government censorship of free speech and free exercise of religion. The complaint insists that the only therapy Schwartz provides is “talk therapy,” eschewing the cruel practices that were described in a New Jersey court a few years go in a case brought by emotionally damaged patients of JONAH, a Jewish conversion therapy organization that involved parents effectively forcing their teenage children to subject themselves to bizarre “therapeutic” procedures to “change” their sexual orientation. Without indicating the age range of his patients, the Schwartz complaint says that he “does not view it as the psychotherapist’s role to rebuke patients or to tell them the direction they ‘ought’ to go.” Some of his patients, the complaint states, “come to him seeking his assis-

tance… in reducing their same-sex attractions and developing their sense of sexual attraction to the opposite sex.” Schwartz insists that he “does not attempt to increase opposite-sex attraction or change same-sex attraction in patients who do not desire his assistance in that direction. In working with patients who desire to decrease same-sex attraction or increase their attraction to the opposite sex, Dr. Schwartz never promises that these goals will be achieved.” Schwartz, the complaint states, “does not use electro-shock therapy… [and] does not recommend that patients view heterosexual pornography or that they subject themselves to painful or other adverse stimulations in response to undesired sexual thoughts. Dr. Schwartz simply listens to what his patients share with him, and talks to them.” The complaint acknowledges that some of these patients are unsuccessful and others simply stop the therapy, but claims that Schwartz has had success with some patients who have “over time” experienced “changes” that “have enabled [them] to enter into heterosexual marriage that they desired.” Interestingly, the complaint refers repeatedly to “reducing” same-sex attraction without ever asserting that Schwartz claims to have “eliminated” such attraction in his patients. Proponents of conversion therapy typically shy away from formal documentation of outcomes, insisting that patient confidentiality precludes providing concrete examples. The complaint cites no published scientific authorities supporting the efficacy of talk therapy in changing sexual orientation. ADF’s legal theory here is that the city’s law is a content-based regulation of speech “aiming to suppress the dissemination of ideas and information about human sexuality and the human capacity for change in this area” and

➤ CONVERSION BAN, continued on p.18

January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Levin Funds Patrol Tied to Anti-Gay Assault Brooklyn councilmember aids Orthodox group that detained, beat Taj Patterson BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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ity Councilmember Steve Levin, who is a member of that bodyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Progressive Caucus and an LGBTQ community supporter, has given at least $64,500 in Council discretionary funds to a Brooklyn community patrol that attacked a gay AfricanAmerican man in Williamsburg in 2013, leaving the man blind in one eye. Levin, who was first elected to the City Council in 2009 and is now serving his third term having benefited from the one-time change to the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s two-term limit, represents a district that includes Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and other Brooklyn neighborhoods. In Williamsburg, the large Orthodox Jewish community is ostensibly protected by the Shmira Volunteer Patrol, which also uses the name Williamsburg Safety Patrol. In December 2013, Shmira members set upon Taj Patterson, now 28, when he was observed walking in the street on Flushing Avenue in Williamsburg. He suffered a broken eye socket, bruises, abrasions, and was left blind in one eye. No charges were ever filed against Patterson. This patrol and others serving Orthodox Jewish communities say that they merely detain criminal suspects until police arrive. Witnesses to the attack who testified in the trial of one patrol member described a mob of roughly 20 men. Videos showed the men racing in cars to the site of the attack at roughly the same time. Pinchas Braver and Abraham Winkler pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment in the attack. Charges against Aharon Hollender and Joseph Fried were dropped. Mayer Herskovic refused a deal and his non-jury trial took place in 2016 before Judge Danny Chun in Brooklyn Supreme Court. He faced multiple counts of unlawful imprisonment, assault, gang assault, and menacing. Herskovic was convicted because his DNA was found on Pattersonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sneaker that had been pulled from his foot by the same man who jabbed a thumb in his eye and kicked him in the face, Patterson testified during the trial. That man took the sneaker and tossed it on to a nearby roof where police recovered it six days after the attack. Herskovic was sentenced to four years in prison in 2017, but was allowed to remain free while he appealed. Last year, a state appeals court found that the evidence at trial was â&#x20AC;&#x153;legally sufficient to establish the defendantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,â&#x20AC;? but after using its â&#x20AC;&#x153;independent factual review power, we conclude that the verdict of guilt was against the weight of the evidence.â&#x20AC;? The conviction was reversed and Herskovicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s

COURTESY OF TAJ PAT TERSON

Taj Patterson, a black gay man who lost vision in his left eye after he was attacked on Flusing Avenue in Williamsburg in 2013 by members of the Shmira Volunteer Patrol.

lante group, and is entitled to justice.â&#x20AC;? The cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s motion said the patrol was a â&#x20AC;&#x153;hatefilled mobâ&#x20AC;? that decided â&#x20AC;&#x153;to illegally attack an innocent victim while cloaked in the dark of night,â&#x20AC;? that the attackers were acting on a â&#x20AC;&#x153;sadistic urge to violently beat Taj Patterson,â&#x20AC;? and that the attackers knew â&#x20AC;&#x153;that their conduct was illegal.â&#x20AC;? The city also said that Pattersonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s attackers â&#x20AC;&#x153;allegedly belongedâ&#x20AC;? to â&#x20AC;&#x153;an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood safety patrol.â&#x20AC;? Citing a statement issued by the patrol in 2014, Levin wrote in an email that only one of the five men who faced criminal charges, Winkler, was a patrol member and that he was expelled from the patrol in 2014. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The assault on Mr. Patterson is incredibly serious and I firmly believe that anyone who took part in the assault must face the consequences,â&#x20AC;? Levin wrote in an email. â&#x20AC;&#x153;That said, I have not seen evidence that Williamsburg Safety Patrol, as an organization, took part in or condoned the assault on Mr. Patterson nor have I seen evidence that they have protected any of their volunteers from investigation or prosecution. In fact, they moved to remove one of their volunteers, Mr. Winkler, when he was charged with taking part in the assault.â&#x20AC;? Andrew Stoll, Pattersonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s attorney, suggested in an email that Levin should just pay the money to his client. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Since [the patrol doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t] even carry insurance to cover the mayhem in their wake, maybe he should just make that check out to Taj Patterson instead,â&#x20AC;? Stoll wrote. â&#x20AC;&#x153;But then again, Taj Patterson doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have a truckload of wealthy campaign donors, and I doubt Councilmember Levin would attend Tajâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wedding, as he did the wedding of Joseph Fried, who was arrested and charged with assaulting Taj, and who was being prosecuted at the time of the wedding and charged with criminal contempt of court on allegations he illegally photographed a sex abuse victim at the trial of Nechmya Weberman, a Satmar counselor who is now serving a 50-year sentence.â&#x20AC;?

indictment was dismissed. The issue was that the DNA sample was small and tested using high sensitivity DNA testing. It was also a mix of Pattersonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s DNA and Herskovicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s DNA. The result was that the ratio that expresses the confidence that the DNA belongs to a particular person was lower than what is usually found with larger and unmixed samples. Patterson has filed lawsuits in state and federal court against the patrol, individual members of the patrol, and the city. The federal case has been dismissed though Patterson has appealed that dismissal. The state lawsuit is ongoing. Levin first supported the patrol with $9,000 in the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 2011 fiscal year. Since then he has given the patrol $15,000 in 2016, $16,500 in 2017, $12,000 in 2018, and $12,000 in the 2019 fiscal year. In a motion filed last year in federal court by the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Law Department, the city said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;It is beyond dispute that plaintiff) 1233   2 &, &8  appellant Taj Patter$ 8 5: 9*8 9 son was the victim of a horrific hate crime                     !"#  $%%!  % !&'   perpetrated by a vigi%  ! ! !     !          (  $

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15


PERSPECTIVE: Snide Lines PRESIDENT & PUBLISHER Victoria Schneps-Yunis CEO & CO-PUBLISHER Joshua Schneps

Big Trump Science: Americans Are World’s Only Humans

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16

NO MORE DEATHS

A human being/ border agent is seen pouring out water left for immigrants in desert areas near the US-Mexico border in a clip from film compiled between 2010 and 2017 by No More Deaths, an Arizona humanitarian group that works to end deaths among migrants in that area.

BY SUSIE DAY

N

ow that the government shutdown has ended, the Trump administration has turned to hard science to bolster its argument for a border wall. The proposed 2,000-mile barrier, which would bar thousands of Latin Americans from illegal entry into the United States, received timely support today, with the announcement of a breakthrough scientific discovery. According to top anthropologists at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, only United States citizens — unique among any other people on planet Earth — possess qualities identifying them as true Homo sapiens. “I feel so clean – so human!” exclaimed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “Frankly, there was something sub-par about those socalled ‘people’ invading our democracy. They’re… pushy. And their screaming kids — so ungrateful for those shiny new NASA space blankets. Hurtful.” Nielsen, who currently faces an FBI investigation for denying to Congress the existence of Trump’s policy separating immigrant families, asserted that this scientific breakthrough fully justifies the allotment of $5.7 billion for the wall. “It totally vindicates President Trump for calling immigrants rapists, murderers, terrorists, whatevers. Given this newfound scientific data, what could you expect from these humanbeing-wannabes?”

The discovery was announced in Washington at ICE headquarters this morning by Assistant Director Henry Heinrich, who described it as a major paradigm shift. “This is a real morale booster,” said Mr. Heinrich. “I’d bet my opposable thumbs on it — the ones I use for strangling. And hey, being Caucasian helps, but this isn’t a ‘master-race’ thing. Just look at all the black people in the Trump administration.” The administration sees this as one of the few victories to emerge from the 35-day government shutdown. “Fifty-four thousand Customs and Border Protection agents and officers had to work without pay,” Heinrich continued. “They were understandably mad as hell. But we at ICE tried to keep our family together. So during downtime, we’d hang out with the grunts and watch hours and hours of the best American TV and online video. ‘Fox and Friends.’ Breitbart. Old McCarthy HUAC hearings — when witch hunts meant something. That old silent, “The Birth of a Nation.” Anything with Ann Coulter…” Heinrich said that, as they watched, they realized an amazing thing. “Again and again, we saw American citizens embodying nobility, reason, self-actualization. Traits we think of as human. Conversely, non-Americans — Mexicans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, and, of course, Muslims — appeared not to have these qualities. We were stumped. So we went to the Homeland Anthropological Institute for Racial

Security. “Researchers at HAIRS went to work and, after conducting several warrantless searches, confirmed that these disgruntled government employees had stumbled onto the key to Western Civilization. To quote the study: ‘United States citizens are human beings! Everybody else is just a proto-person.’” This reporter immediately set out to verify these findings by selecting certified American citizens and asking them how they felt about non-citizens “illegally” attempting to cross America’s southern border. “Any idiot knows immigrants aren’t human,” said David Plunderton, who owns a string of paleo fast-food restaurants in Wichita, Kansas. “Like, I know because, when I see patrol agents on the news roughing them up and depriving them of water in the desert and tearing them from their children and throwing them into camps — I don’t care. What more proof you want?” Interestingly, retired political science teacher and avowed liberal Helen Backford holds a similar position. “There’s broader consensus for this science than you might think, dear,” she said. “In 2006, Congress passed the Secure Fence Act. True, it only allotted $1.4 billion to build a 700mile wall. But then-Senators Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Charles Schumer voted for it. Even now, it looks like House Democrats, although they’re against an actual wall, will propose over $5.7 billion to enhance border security.” What this means, speculated Backford, is that although the liberal Democratic establishment may describe Latin American immigrants as human, “we do not believe, in our hearts, that they’re our kind of human. And look, dear, if you really want a different opinion, you’re going to have to stop interviewing white people.” Scholars predict this breakthrough — besides inspiring more and better MAGA merch — will transform academic disciplines, particularly anthropology. “It could reconfigure the concept of evolution, itself,” surmises Dr. Wendell Bloodworth, senior fellow at The

➤ TRUMP SCIENCE, continued on p.17 January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

In the Long Term, We All Die BY ED SIKOV

F

rom the Associated Press, via the Military Times: “Long term, lawyers and activists battling to ensure that transgender people can serve openly in the US military are convinced they will prevail. Short term, they are braced for anguishing consequences if the Trump administration proceeds with its plan to sharply restrict such service. The US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote Tuesday, gave the administration the green light to put the policy into effect even as legal challenges continue. “‘I’m absolutely optimistic with respect to the long-term prospects,’ said Sharon McGowan, legal director of the LGBT rights group Lambda Legal, which is pressing one of the lawsuits. ‘The question is: How long is the long term?’” Good question, Sharon. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 vote, to allow Rump’s nutty ban on transgender people serving in the military to take effect, despite the fact that there are still legal challenges to the ban pending in the courts. The reactionary majority on the court — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh — did exactly what we expected of them by putting bigotry ahead of civil rights. How these subhumans can sleep at night is beyond me. Maybe they’re vampires and simply don’t sleep at night. Maybe it turns out that the whole sunlight-destroys-vampires bit is a myth. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to discover that in point of

➤ TRUMP SCIENCE, from p.16 American Homunculus Foundation. “Although we still believe our species began in Africa, we’re now starting to see that those individuals who migrated north and westward across the Atlantic Ocean —who came of their own free will, and not in a slave ship — developed more advanced traits as they went. Finally, they reached the North American continent, just below GayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

fact the United States is governed by the undead. How else to explain the open and irrational animus against the trans community demonstrated by the Executive and Judicial Branches of the government? That they’re really a bunch of vampires is as good an explanation as any, though it’s kind of unfair to vampires. “McGowan and other activists see parallels between the battle and the 17-year saga involving the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy that prohibited gay men and women from serving openly in the armed forces,” the AP reporter, David Crary, continues. “After prolonged controversy and litigation — as well as the discharge of more than 13,000 military personnel — Congress repealed the Clinton-era policy in 2010, and gay service members were able to serve openly beginning in 2011.” Andy Blevins, who served in the Navy from 2007 to 2011 and underwent three investigations related to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell before he was finally discharged, is now executive director of OutServe-SLDN, which represents LGBTQ military personnel. “Blevins grows emotional in describing the ‘daily struggle’ to keep his sexual orientation a secret before repeal of ‘don’t ask,’” Crary writes, “yet he suggested that currently-serving transgender people face even tougher circumstances. They were told in 2016, in the waning months of the Obama administration, that they would be able to serve openly, then were jolted in 2017 when President Donald Trump tweeted his intention to ban all transgender people from the military. ‘They were told it’s OK to be transgender... then the rug is

pulled out from under these dedicated service members,’ Blevins said.” Integral to any mainstream article about the LGBTQ community is the verbal equivalent of the clown car, and this article is no different. I suppose it’s considered a journalistic obligation to include our adversaries and their rancid opinions, but do they always have to be the same people? (Answer: yes, because there are fewer and fewer people out there who are willing to go on the record as card-carrying members of the asinine bigot community.) “Supporters of Trump’s efforts include” — wait for it — “Tony Perkins, a Marine veteran who is president of the conservative Family Research Council. He says the courts should not interfere with the ability of the US president as commander in chief to set military policy.” Perkins, who is the go-to guy for reporters needing an asshole to offer a quote in order to provide — what is the word? — ah yes: balance. As always, Perkins obliges. “The Pentagon isn’t in the business of equality,” Perkins said recently. “Either the military’s priority is protecting America — or it’s helping people on the path to selfactualization. It can’t do both.” Perkins is correct; the Pentagon it’s not in the business of equality. We have the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for that. The military is not a branch of government. Unfortunately, when the commanderin-chief is an even bigger asshole than Tony Perkins is, military policy does fall under the purview of the bigger of the two competing assholes, in this case President Bone Spurs.

Canada and above Mexico, where, around the year 1776, they became fully human. “Those who migrated in other directions,” continued Bloodworth, “have remained essentially bipedal primates. Latin immigrants? I’m not even sure if they’re primates. We won’t really know until we can arrest more of them.” The psychiatric field is also expected to undergo major changes in the wake of this study. Dr. Ziggy

Schadenfreude, author of “I’m OK, You’re in an Immigrant Detention Camp,” observes, “Although we psychotherapists continue to encourage healthy self-concepts in our patients, we now feel that a healthy self-concept for an American citizen should be an advanced state of megalomania. Mere narcissism just won’t cut it.” With the government shutdown at least temporarily over, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered Presi-

Personally, I’ve never seen the appeal of the military for gay people, transgender people, and other marginalized groups. It seems to me that you’d end up spending literally years with fascists and fascist sympathizers. Then again, my parents paid my college tuition, which the military covers in exchange for service, and they also had the financial wherewithal to ship me off to Canada had I been drafted during the Vietnam War. (Just to make sure, I registered as a conscientious objector when I turned 18, even though the war was over.) My point is that people choose to join the military for reasons that have nothing to do with a desire to participate in the world’s greatest killing machine. “But Lambda Legal’s McGowan said top military commanders have said there were minimal problems related to the Obama administration’s moves to allow transgender service,” Crary continues. “The Trump policy, she said, ‘has nothing to do with national security or unit cohesion — it’s about throwing red meat to a portion of Trump’s political base.’” Crary concludes, “For LGBT rights leaders, Trump’s proposed ban is only one of several attacks on transgender Americans. They also cite a Justice Department memo concluding that civil rights laws don’t protect transgender people from workplace discrimination and the scrapping of Obama-era guidance encouraging school officials to let transgender students use bathrooms of their choice.” I don’t know about you, but for me, reading things like this just makes me want to throw up. I mean, what is the fucking problem? “Justice Department?” My ass. Follow @edsikov on Facebook and Twitter.

dent Donald Trump February 5 as the date for his State of the Union Address. Soon, at the House of Representatives, Trump will proclaim his scientifically bestowed powers over lives on this planet. To millions of exhausted Americans, fearing another government shutdown, he will proclaim his humanity. Susie Day is the author of “Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power,” published by Abingdon Square.

17


LEGAL

Is False Charge of Transphobia Defamation? Texas Chicken & Burger sues trans women who said they were denied service BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

W

hen attorney Ben Crump stood outside the Stonewall Inn last August with five clients who were charging that a Texas Chicken & Burgers outlet had denied them service because they are transgender and gender non-conforming, he noted that the civil rights movement had advanced because racial prejudice and its attendant violence was caught in pictures that prompted demands for change. “We’re going to see if the transgender community can get justice when it’s on video,” he said at a press conference last year announcing the state lawsuit the five filed that month. The lawsuit may yet make history or at least mark a change in the LGBTQ community’s status, but not in the way that Crump envisioned. Responding to the lawsuit, Texas Chicken & Burgers filed stills from the outlet’s video showing the five apparently ordering and an order ticket, a credit card receipt showing that one of the five paid for the food they ordered, and the group refusing the food and receiving a cash refund. The chain also filed a counterclaim saying that accusing it of discrimination was defamatory. The lawsuit was filed “with intentional disregard for the truth, and the efforts undertaken by Plaintiffs on social and traditional media to paint TC&B as an organization that condones and engages in discrimination of any kind are wholly without merit and do nothing other than strengthen TC&B’s damages for defamation,” the company wrote last year. This may be the first such lawsuit. Gay City News wrote to the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in Boston, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) asking if they had ever seen a lawsuit charging, in effect, that being called anti-LGBTQ was defamatory. Only NCLR responded, with a spokesperson writing in an email “[T]his would be the first

➤ CONVERSION BAN, from p.14 “does not adopt the least restrictive means to pursue a compelling government interest.” The government, the suit asserts, “has no cognizable interest at all — let alone a compelling interest — in preventing citizens from hearing ideas that those citizens with to hear in a counseling relationship.” The suit argues that the law both prohibits and compels speech, in the sense that it “effectively requires Dr. Schwartz to tell the patient that no change is possible, which Dr.

18

DUNCAN OSBORNE

Attorney Ben Crump, Jonovia Chase, attorney Gennaro Savastano, Daniele Marino, Jahmila Adderley, and Deja Smith at the August 9 press conference outside the Stonewall Inn.

we’ve seen.” Arthur Leonard, a law professor at New York Law School who blogs about legal matters at artleonardobservations.com and publishes in Gay City News, wrote in an email “Offhand, I can’t recall a case where somebody sued for damages for the false imputation that they were anti-LGBT. It would be an interesting turn of the screw, wouldn’t it?” Gay City News wrote to seven other law professors who teach First Amendment law or comment on LGBTQ legal matters and heard back from an eighth who was referred by one of the original seven. “I’d just note that until very recently, saying that someone was gay counted as ‘defamation per se’ in New York,” wrote Brian Soucek, a law professor at University of California at Davis Law School. “That meant you didn’t have to prove that your reputation was injured; it was just assumed. So it’s amazing that in a few short years, the opposite — calling someone anti-LGBT — is now being seen as defamatory. That’s progress.” The plaintiffs — Daniele Marino, Deja Smith,

Jahmila Adderley, Janovia Chase, and Valerie Spencer — have also encountered a business owner, Waheed Khosdal, who fiercely protects his brand. Khosdal has twice sued competitors in federal court for trademark infringement. One case was settled and the other is ongoing. The 32-location chain was itself sued in federal court by a competitor for trademark infringement. That case was settled. The five charged that they were refused service in the early morning hours on May 28. Smith recorded three brief videos on her phone after the time when they said they were denied service and posted them on her Instagram page. The three received views ranging from more than 15,000 to more than 33,000 views as of January 29. Actress Laverne Cox posted one of the videos on her Instagram page, where it has received nearly 330,000 views as of January 29. The lawsuit received media coverage when it was filed. Attorneys for the restaurant chain and for the plaintiffs either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

Schwartz does not believe to be true.” The complaint also argues that the law violates the First Amendment rights of patients who want to receive talk therapy to change their sexual orientation. And, of course, it focuses at the end on the Free Exercise Clause, arguing that Schwartz “has a right to use his professional skills to assist patients to live in accordance with their shared religious faith, including the religious mandates of the Torah and the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and other respected Orthodox Jewish authorities based

on the Torah.” ADF further argues that because the Council enacted the law knowing that “it was hostile to and targeting practices particularly associated with persons and communities adhering to traditional religious beliefs,” it is “not a neutral law of general applicability,” even though it nowhere mentions religion. All the attorneys listed on the complaint are staff attorneys of ADF based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and no member of the New York bar is listed. January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


COMMUNITY

2019 Impact Awards Set for March 28 Gay City News’ fourth annual community honors in Long Island City Queen Hon. W. Franc Perry, New York City Civil Court Judge Jeffrey S. Trachtman, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP Jeremiah Johnson, Treatment Action Group/ Rise and Resist Jerry Allred, Brooklyn Pride Kaz Mitchell, Circle of Voices Inc Lee Soulja-Simmons, NYC Black Pride Marcy E. Carr MSW, Pride Center of Staten Island Matthew Skinner, Hon. Marcy Kahn & Hon. Joanne Winslow, The Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission Michael Narain, Out My Closet Mohamed Q. Amin, Caribbean Equality Project Monica Prata, Nouveau She Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Lambda Legal Patricio Manuel, Professional Boxer DONNA ACETO

Honorees Edie Windsor and former Governor David Paterson greet each other at the 2017 Impact Awards.

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

F

or the fourth year running, Gay City News will honor outstanding achievement in New York’s LGBTQ community and from among its allies in a gala Impact Awards evening. This year, the event takes place Thursday, March 29, from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City, a change-up from previous years when it was held in Park Slope. Over the past three years, the newspaper, in what one honoree termed “warm evenings of community-building,” has honored luminaries including Edie Windsor, Governor David Paterson, Brendan Fay, Stuart Appelbaum of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Callen-Lorde’s Wendy Stark, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance’s Glenn Magpantay, Cathy Marino-Thomas, OutRight Action International’s Jessica Stern, Jay W. Walker from

GayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

Gays Against Guns, Tom Duane, the Anti-Violence Project’s LaLa Zannell, Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Faisal Alam, Glennda Testone, and the Pipeline Project’s Clarence Patton. This year, the honorees are: Anne Maguire, Revolting Lesbians/ Irish Lesbian & Gay Organization Andy Marra, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Brian Downey, Gay Officers Action League Charles King, Housing Works Chynna Pitlock, Queens Center For Gay Seniors Cristina Herrera, Translatina Network Daniel Tietz, Bailey House, Inc Donna Aceto, Photographer Darnell L. Moore, Author Dr. Ross Hewitt, MetroPlus Health Plan Floyd Rumohr, Brooklyn Community Pride Center Harmonica Sunbeam, Drag

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THEATER

Boys to Men Gifted teen leads elite gospel choirr while singing s in his own key BY DAVID KENNERLEY n 2013, “Choir Boy” wowed audiences with its lyrical, striking portrayal of a gutsy senior fighting to find his voice in a boarding school gospel choir. The drama, filled with soulful, a cappella songs — but don’t call it a musical — was written by a relative unknown named Tarell Alvin McCraney. Since then McCraney’s stock has skyrocketed, largely due to his Oscar-winning screenplay for “Moonlight” a couple of years ago. So it’s no surprise that the powers that be at the Manhattan Theatre Club decided to revamp the show and bring it to Broadway, in an elegant production helmed by the original director, Trip Cullman. Cullman wisely brought back Jeremy Pope in the lead role of Pharus. Pope’s deft evocation of the effeminate tenor, who faces homophobia and hatred as he assumes his well-earned spot as choir director, has only deepened over time. If you want to see Pope, catch him before he departs on February 24 to star in “Ain’t Too Proud” on Broadway. Young Pharus has the deck stacked heavily against him. Not only is he a teen on the cusp of manhood navigating peer pressure, but he’s also a gay black male figuring out how to forge an identity that feels authentic. Pope imbues the challenging role with a blend of sass, shame, and profound dignity. Not that “Choir Boy,” drawn from McCraney’s own childhood, is merely a coming of age, coming out story. The elite, largely black Drew Prep School for Boys has a strict code of conduct. The boys, under the firm hand of Headmaster Marrow (Chuck Cooper), do their best to balance religion, honor, and raging hormones, all while testing the boundaries of masculinity. Pharus’ cruel nemesis, Bobby, is a “legacy” student (Headmaster Marrow is his uncle) and enjoys all the perks that come with it. Bobby thinks he’s immune to the consequences of bullying Pharus with ugly homophobic slurs. Pharus would rather suffer in silence than be a snitch, which would break the honor code. Bobby, as embodied by J. Quinton Johnson, is no one-note villain — he’s got emotional pressures of his own. In this all-male universe, the boys establish a range of complex bonds. David (Caleb Eberhardt), the conflicted introvert who’s set his sights on becoming a minister, develops a crush on another student. At first, Pharus’ strapping roommate (John Clay III), a baseball star and fellow choir boy, registers as a protective big brother. But could their friendship

I

20

MAT THEW MURPHY

John Clay III (rear) and Jeremy Pope in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Choir Boy,” directed by Trip Cullman, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through March 10.

blossom into something more? Naturally, disciplinarian Headmaster Marrow is a father figure, and the guest lecturer displays paternal qualities as well. He’s a disheveled genius, played by none other than the veteran dramatist Austin Pendleton, who slyly shakes up the boys’ routine and challenges them to stretch their horizons. “Choir Boy” explores the vagaries of homophobia. Bobby and his sidekick, Junior (Nicholas L. Ashe, also from the original run), are inseparable, so much that their relationship has a whiff of queerness. Pharus has been a pariah for acting swishy since he was eight years old, yet hasn’t had a true homosexual experience. “Don’t gay mean to be with another man. You seen that?,” Pharus asks his roommate. “Sick of people calling me something I ain’t doing. I’m just Pharus.” What really sets this show apart are the alternately joyous and prayerful musical numbers, masterfully integrated into the proceed-

ings. Stripped down to the barest of essentials, without a note of music, the gospel and popsoul songs cut to the bone. The bittersweet music unifies the disparate students, underscoring their shared humanity. The most powerful was a heart-wrenching version of “Motherless Child,” sung in the locker room by boys feeling light years away from their own mamas. In a duet complete with intentionally hokey choreography by Camille A. Brown, Bobby and Junior sing a song that echoes the boy’s journey: “Through mistakes we learn to gather wisdom, life’s responsibility falls in our hands.” The tune rings a bell; is it an old spiritual? Nope. As Pharus eagerly explains, it’s the late 1980s hit “Boys to Men” sung by New Edition. CHOIR BOY | Manhattan Theatre Club | Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St.| Through Mar. 10: Tue.-Wed., Sun. at 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. | $79-$249 at ChoirBoyBroadway.com | One hr., 45 mins., no intermission January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


THEATER

Super Gay Teen Tale Coming out journey through a comic book world

MIKIODO

Keith Weiss and Kory Alexander Majansky in Chris Weikel’s “Secret Identity,” directed by Mark Finley, at the Flea through February 2.

BY DUNCAN PFLASTER hris Weikel’s new play “Secret Identity” dives into the complex world of teenage bullying, framing it through the lead character’s escape into his beloved comic books. Sixteen-year-old JT (Keith Weiss) is closeted to everyone, but is nevertheless dogged by the homophobic taunts of his nemesis, Mal (Zachary Gault). Even JT’s straight buddy and partner-in-nerddom Reg (Nicky Maindiratta) says that JT’s ideas for the comic they’re planning to write together are “gay.” The sympathetic teacher from school, Mr. Loomis (David Leeper), and JT’s mother (Jamie Heinlein) mean well, but can’t do much more than worry about the awkward young man. It’s not until Trey (Kory Alexander Majansky), a handsome new student who knows JT from their elementary school soccer days, starts being his friend that JT allows himself to begin to open up to a world beyond the comics. But as he does so, the comics in his head begin to come to life. Guise (Michael Flood) is the protagonist of JT and Reg’s comic, with the camouflage powers of a chameleon, which parallel JT’s need to hide in the real world by sidestepping bullies or making them laugh. Still, JT finds himself more interested in the enigmatic and brawny Paladin (the hilarious Michael Joseph Murray), who — like Trey himself — may become a friend or a foe. Reality

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GayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

and fantasy mix as JT navigates the treacherous world of teen camaraderie, discovering who can be counted on as an ally. The play has a lot to say about maturing as a gay man in a world that doesn’t value queerness or otherness, and how good friends can get you through the harder parts. Weikel clearly has a lot of experience with and a deep love for comics, and it shows: deep cuts and fun geek jokes abound. The mostly-young cast is uniformly great, believably hitting the right shades of teen angst. Director Mark Finley deftly helps them navigate the tricky swings from ‘80s-style teen comedy and drama to superhero origin story. The production is also well served by the great costumes (Ben Philipp), set design (Scott Mancha), and sound design and original music (Morry Campbell). The producer, TOSOS (The Other Side Of Silence), is the oldest professional LGBTQ theater company in New York, and it consistently presents interesting queer work, including the upcoming revival of “Street Theater,” the late Doric Wilson’s classic play about the Stonewall Riots, which will be part of this year’s Stonewall 50/ WorldPride celebrations. SECRET IDENTITY | The Flea, 20 Thomas St., btwn. Church St. & Broadway | Jan. 31, Feb. 1-2 at 7 p.m. | $32 at tososnyc.org/secretidentity

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THEATER

Two Takes on America’s Divide In “Prom,” lessons amidst merry erry y mayhem; mayhem Colin Quinn falls short BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE t’s difficult to think of any situation more fraught with drama (with a capital “D”) than a Midwestern teenager agonizing over prom. Okay, maybe a narcissistic Broadway actor reeling from an excoriating review. These two seemingly unrelated worlds come crashing together in the new musical “The Prom,” which despite a ridiculous set-up manages to be adorable, political (in a soft-focus sort of way), and thoroughly entertaining. Think of it as a backstage story gone slightly off the rails mashed up with a tale of teenage angst, as if “The Bandwagon” were spliced with “Dear Evan Hansen.” It’s not quite satire, but it’s not quite serious either. Still, thanks to a witty book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin with often-hilarious lyrics by Beguelin and catchy music by Matthew Sklar, “The Prom” for all its contemporary topicality is delightfully and unabashedly a classic musical down to the footlights. When Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickson get horrible reviews for an instantly closed musical based on Eleanor Roosevelt, they discover their images as selfish celebrities are hurting their chances for continuing in show business. Along with a cater-waiter, Julliard grad Trent Oliver, and a 20-year veteran of “Chicago,” Angie, who has never gone on for Roxie Hart, they decide that aligning themselves with a cause will be just the ticket to relevance… and career rescue. After a quick flip through Twitter, they discover Emma, a young woman in Edgewater, Indiana, who is being vilified for wanting to take her girlfriend to prom. They hitch a ride with Trent’s non-equity tour of “Godspell,” and they’re off to save the day. Or so they think. Emma, who proves to be more mature and resourceful than the actors, is perfectly willing to fight her own battles, with the assistance of her sympathetic school principal. The actors arrive, and all is disrupted, which provides the main action

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Angie Schworer and Caitlin Kinnunen in Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin, and Matthew Sklar’s “The Prom,” directed by Casey Nicholaw, at the Longacre Theatre.

of the play. In traditional musical fashion, even among the chaos, hearts and minds are changed. The well-intentioned but essentially clueless actors manage to affect change, even as they become a bit more selfless (which requires maxing out credit cards), the closed minds of the town are opened, and everyone kisses and dances at the end. This last can’t possibly be a spoiler. I already told you: it’s a very traditional musical. With direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw, the show is a complete romp. The entire company is practically perfect, hitting just the right balance of overthe-top antics and believable, if absurdly heightened, characters. The actors are played by Broadway veterans and master comics Christopher Sieber as Trent, Brooks Ashmanskas as Barry, Angie Schworer as Angie, and Beth Leavel as Dee Dee. As one would expect in such an undertaking, each gets a feature number, and they all shine. Caitlin Kinnunen as Emma is a terrific counterpoint to the excesses of the theatrical cohort. She

starts out grounded and cautious, but enough showbiz savvy rubs off so that she is quite dazzling by the end. She’s certainly not Gypsy Rose Lee, but Emma does take to the spotlight and, not surprisingly in a modern tale, finds that social media is her medium. The show looks as fresh and vibrant as it did when it opened late last year. This review was delayed because Leavel was out at the first performance I attended. (Her standby, Kate Marilley, was outstanding.) My high school didn’t have a prom (long story), so I’m especially glad that I got to go to this one twice. It’s got to be difficult in the current culture to do political humor. There’s so much of it — and so much tragicomedy in day-today living — that the real challenge is trying to come up with something original that goes beyond the obvious and advances the conversation. Colin Quinn’s new show “Red State Blue State,” is intermittently funny, but it’s also labored. He

has nothing particularly interesting to say that hasn’t been said before. The culture is divided; free speech is problematic; Trump is a “compulsively tweeting totalitarian psychopath.” Quinn wanders the stage, and he tries to be balanced in his skewering of people and topics. No one, except Trump, really comes in for anything more than a poke. The jokes are often so predictable that by the time they land, they’ve lost their punch. There are high points, such as a riff on the Founding Fathers, but those are offset by extended segments including snarky one-liners about each of the 50 states, most of which could have been culled from the humor pages of “Reader’s Digest.” This is too bad. Quinn has been really wonderful in pieces such as “An Irish Wake” and even his more political pieces like “Unconstitutional” and his history of the world “Long Story Short,” but in addition to trying to balance being edgy and inoffensive, he seems

➤ COLIN QUINN, continued on p.23

January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


MUSIC

Pop on Her Own Terms In “Highway Hypnosis,” Sneaks embraces the wider audience udience she deserves deserv BY STEVE ERICKSON emember when songs with production as eccentric or minimal as Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?,” Missy Elliott’s “Work It,” and Clipse’s “Grindin’” could be major hits? Eva Moolchan, a queer woman who works as a one-woman band under the name Sneaks, certainly does. The ambition and achievement of her latest album, “Highway Hypnosis,” jumps to the big leagues. Her 2017 EP “It’s A Myth” stretched the limits of handmade minimalism: it consisted almost entirely of her vocals and bass guitar on top of a cheap drum machine. (One song departed from that by adding synthesizer to the mix.) Although it was a satisfying listen, it suggested that Sneaks needed to eventually branch out. “Highway Hypnosis” still feels thoroughly DIY, but it engages with pop music to a far greater degree. The songs that were released earlier as singles, like “Hong Kong To Amsterdam” and “Money Don’t Grow On Trees,” mix post-punk with hip-hop and dance music. The album’s credits don’t say anything about who played the instruments on it, suggesting that Moolchan did it all. (She produced it with Carlos Hernandez and Tony Seltzer.) In Merge Records’ press release for “Highway Hypnosis,” Moolchan clarifies her perspective, saying that she “takes up space among the patriarchy” and “ joins the resistance forged by queer black feminists who create, explore, empower, conquer, and play bass.” The complete lack of respect for genre boundaries on “Highway

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➤ COLIN QUINN, from p.22 to be struggling to find a coherent theme and through-line, so the impact of his usually trenchant take on the world turns out muted and bland. GayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

STEPHANIE SEVERANCE

Eva Moolchan, a queer woman who works as a one-woman band under the name Sneaks, steps up with “Highway Hypnosis.”

Hypnosis” is implicitly political. What kind of music is “natural” for a queer African-American woman to make? Moolchan pushes her voice to its full capacities, going back and forth among singing, rapping, speaking, and even whispering on the same song. This is becoming increasingly common in contemporary music, from the mainstream to the underground. She loops and overdubs herself, performing alongside multiple versions of her own voice. Sneaks emerged from the punk scene in Baltimore and Washington, DC, but her music is completely free of any aggression. “Highway Hypnosis” has a hushed, gentle quality, even though it frequently integrates woozy electronics. If she wanted to, Sneaks could release a whole album of bangers. But “Highway Hypnosis” also emphasizes its experimental side. The 90-second “Addis” plays its entire backing track backwards. “Saiditzoneza” is similarly brief and frag-

mentary, with the title (the only word used in the song) repeated over a distorted drum machine and static. “Holy Cow Never Saw A Girl Like Her” sounds like the intro to a more conventional rock love song, with Moolchan singing the title line over distorted bass guitar, but full instrumentation never kicks in. It doesn’t develop beyond that point and ends before hitting the minute mark. Sneaks seems to be deliberately frustrating listeners’ expectations with it, although “And We’re Off” turns out to be the song it could have turned into. “The Way It Goes” uses sampled horns over a Latin-influenced beat to expand Sneaks’ sound. It embraces hip-hop on her terms, with a section where she raps about skateboarding. “Money Don’t Grow On Trees” is based around an odd synthesizer sound that never actually turns into a melody. The final song, “Hong Kong To Amsterdam,” shows the full poten-

Perhaps that’s because this production is a tryout for distribution of the show on Audible. That would explain the effort not to offend audiences on either end of the political spectrum, but it’s the death knell for effective comedy.

THE PROM | Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th 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. | $49$169 at theprommusical.com/tickets or 212-239-6200 | Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

tial of Sneaks’ pop side. It begins with a drum machine doing its best to ape a tennis ball slamming hard against a wall. (This album’s ag percussion never sounds remotely percuss like a real drum kit.) When the song fully fu kicks in, Moolchan delivers her vocals in a singsong flow, carefully enunciating “I’m ca running a mile, I see to it r and I go with it.” A clipped synthesizer supplies texture. The song is tuneless aside from the vocals, but it’s as extremely catchy while remaining extrem left-field (although no more so than hit singles like Lorde’s “Royals” and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.”) The music videos for it and “Money Don’t Grow On Trees,” made from 16mm footage of a European tour, also seem to announce Sneaks to the world beyond small clubs in the US. “Highway Hypnosis” reflects both a love of pop music and a distance from a present when it means vacuous male artists like Post Malone and Ed Sheeran. Sneaks’ lyrics show she is self-aware about introducing herself to a wider audience with this album. The title track opens it, beginning with her whispering “highway hypnosis” in her best ASMR voice, followed by “oh my gosh, ‘Highway Hypnosis’ is coming out on Merge Records, get it today.” “Ecstasy” ends with the line “long live Sneaks.” This music’s playfulness and free will are intoxicating. “Highway Hypnosis” finds joyful common ground between ‘80s artists like ESG and Delta 5 and the best production of The Neptunes and Timbaland. SNEAKS | “Highway Hypnosis” | Merge Records | mergerecords. com

COLIN QUINN: RED STATE BLUE STATE | Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Ln. | Through Mar. 3: Tue.Sat. at 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 2:30 p.m.; Sun. at 6:30 p.m. | $67-$97 at ticketmaster.com or 800-745-3000 | One hr., 15 mins., no intermission

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FILM

Playing With Passions, Not Fire Anita Bryant’s comeback meback turf hosts drag bar, bathroom debate small town.

BY GARY M. KRAMER he Gospel of Eureka” is out gay filmmakers Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s engaging and even-handed documentary about Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which narrator Mx. Justin Vivian Bond describes as, “a place where stories come to life.” This small town is home to the Christ of the Ozarks, the largest statue of Jesus Christ in North America. But, as this lyrical film shows, the town is also home to the Eureka Live Underground bar where drag queens lip-synch to gospel songs. The filmmakers juxtapose the gay bar’s entertainment with performances by Christian folks involved in the town’s production of “The Great Passion Play,” a dramatic reenactment of Christ’s

“T

MICHAEL PALMIERI

Charnay Malletti Cassadine in Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s “The Gospel of Eureka.”

last days. That show is performed for roughly 50,000 visitors a year. “The Gospel of Eureka” presents the story of a town where people of disparate beliefs live side-by-side in peace even as a battle is carried out over a proposed legislation to protect LGBTQ people from

discrimination and ensure transgender people access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. In a recent phone interview, Palmieri and Mosher spoke about “The Gospel of Eureka” and what they learned about life in this

GARY M. KRAMER: “The Gospel of Eureka” is expanded from your 2016 short, “Peace in the Valley.” How did you discover Eureka Springs and its stories and come to make two films about this town? MICHAEL PALMIERI: We were commissioned to make the short in the region with [the documentary producer] Field of Vision, but we knew there was a larger feature there. So, we continued filming to explore what was hinted at in the short in a broader context. It was always our intention to make the longer piece, the short just got us there. KRAMER: I assume the interviewees knew you are both gay and where your sympathies lied.

➤ EUREKA, continued on p.25

Dreams and Their Demise A young Turkish man’s epic quest to publish his novel BY STEVE ERICKSON n “The Wild Pear Tree,” Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan creates his own time and space to relate a period in the life of Sinan (Dogu Demirkol), a young man who aspires to be a novelist. Changes in Sinan’s appearance and that of his father Idris (Murat Cemcir) suggest a story line lasting more than a few years, but the precise time frame is hazy. The film’s 188-minute length is crucial to its accomplishments. Spectators develop a sense of living and growing up along with Sinan that verges on complicity, and there is time for a religious discussion between Sinan and two imams that seems to last half an hour, shot with stunningly casual virtuosity. But the depiction of time in “The Wild Pear Tree” speeds up as Sinan ages, just as it seems to do in real life. After graduating from college, Sinan returns to his hometown. He plans to save up enough money to publish his novel, “The Wild Pear Tree.” Staying with his father, he realizes that Idris has developed a serious addiction to gambling, which the older man’s job as a teacher

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THE CINEMA GUILD

Dogu Demirkol in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “The Wild Pear Tree.”

can no longer support. The habit has alienated Sinan’s mother Asuman (Bennu Yildrimlar) from her husband. Sinan spends his time walking around the town, meeting with old friends,

attempting to network to get his book in print, and growing increasingly bitter. Ceylan’s direction makes all the spaces in his film, interior and exterior, feel lived in. He uses hallways and doors to create frames within frames masterfully. Gökhan Tiryaki’s cinematography captures rural landscapes evocatively. “The Wild Pear Tree” is tied to a very specific location, with a lot of historical baggage: these characters are walking over Troy and Gallipoli. Critics reviewing “The Wild Pear Tree” have generally brought up plays by Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill rather than other films. Ceylan’s film has an epic examination of the minutiae of a young man’s life that reminded me of Arnaud Desplechin’s “My Sex Life… or How I Got Into An Argument” and that film’s obvious inspiration, Jean Eustache’s “The Mother and the Whore.” I’m guessing that there’s also something autobiographical to it, especially since parts were shot in Ceylan’s hometown of Cannakkale and the plot thread about Sinan’s novel could be a reflection on his struggle be-

➤ WILD PEAR TREE, continued on p.25 January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


â&#x17E;¤ EUREKA, from p.24 How did you gain their truth and get them to tell their stories? DONAL MOSHER: As soon as I step foot anywhere, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m read as gay. Randall [CEO of â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Great Passion Playâ&#x20AC;?] knew. I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t speak of it and he didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t speak it â&#x20AC;&#x201D; we were addressing each other for the film. Kent, who played Jesus, understood us both as gay and had intuition of the intentions we were going for, but it was never mentioned. At the Eureka Underground, we had access to that community. Depending on whom you were talking to, nothing was hidden but not everything was spoken either. Everyone had an understanding of what we were doing with the film. PALMIERI: I think talking about this stuff and being openly gay sets the table a bit. It makes it easier for access to certain people. The Evangelicals in the film were open and accepting and had a dialogue with us. They knew who they were speaking to. KRAMER: The film provides a nice sense of time and place and

â&#x17E;¤ WILD PEAR TREE, from p.24 coming a filmmaker. The weakest element of â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Wild Pear Treeâ&#x20AC;? is the way Sinanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perspective occasionally flickers in and out of dreams and fantasy. We see one of his conversations twice. When he climbs his way into a huge wooden horse and pokes out a window, he instantly wakes up and viewers can see that he dreamed this image. That wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be the filmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s last dream. Ceylan seems influenced by Luis BuĂąuel, down to a reference to â&#x20AC;&#x153;Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Age Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Or.â&#x20AC;? But with the exception of one shot near the end, the surreal aspects of â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Wild Pear Treeâ&#x20AC;? donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t add much to it. If Sinan is imagining portions of his life, the film doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t pursue the self-regarding implications there. The one scene devoted to extended conversation between Sinan and Asuman feels like a token attempt to explore their relationship in a film far more concerned with the connection between fathers and sons. Ceylan won the top prize at Cannes with his 2014 film â&#x20AC;&#x153;Winter Sleep.â&#x20AC;? While â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Wild Pear Treeâ&#x20AC;? GayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

history. How much research did you do and what did you discover being there? PALMIERI: On one level, you learn about the place when youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re there. We knew about Anita Bryant, but once we found out she tried to revive her career in Eureka we had to work it into the film. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s so much history there. We couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t work it all in. MOSHER: The history of the town is told to you by the people who live there. We spent a lot of time with an 80-year-old blind woman who knew the regionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s history. KRAMER: Do you think your film breaks or reinforces stereotypes about Christians, the Ozarks, and the LGBTQ community? Who or what surprised you? MOSHER: Our intention was not to reinforce the stereotypes. Jayme Brandt was the most surprising character â&#x20AC;&#x201D; youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d expect from his Christian shop that heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be a conservative Christian. But that was not the case at all. There are so many easy stereotypes about the South and Christianity, etc.,

may enjoy relatively minor exposure in the US, getting a two-week booking at Film Forum, his films always play in competition at the main European festivals. Without giving away the narrative, Sinan does not experience the same success in life. He expects a lot more than he receives. Ultimately, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Wild Pear Treeâ&#x20AC;? reflects on learning to cope with disappointment. Its extended length and distended structure demand something more of our time than the usual film and more attention than distracted viewing with one eye on a smart phone. Ceylan has created an elaborate edifice, akin to that wooden horse Sinan dreams about exploring, to show how hard it can be to live up to oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own ambitions. He also respects his characters enough to devote more than three hours to a thorough exploration of multi-generational disillusionment. THE WILD PEAR TREE | Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan | The Cinema Guild | In Turkish with English subtitles | Film Forum, 209 W. Houston St. | filmforum.org

that it was a tricky balance. These are people being indoctrinated to a religious system that can turn against [LGBTQ] rights. But that same system can build communities. There are enough negative representations that we could balance it out. PALMIERI: What is important in the way this film works is that we are showing stereotypical things and non-stereotypical things. When you see Randall, you think we are making fun of Evangelical Christians, but it goes deeper, so thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s more than you initially imagine. Likewise, the kid holding the sign against the 2223 ordinance who canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t answer the question asked to him is a stereotype of dumb people in the South. But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not that simple. What is dramatic about the kid with the sign is that heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s clearly there without knowledge of what heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s doing. That makes me sad. I have sympathy for him. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s painful because heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s becoming aware that heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not fully aware. That can make you mad, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also weirdly funny. The film works on these levels because the images are complicated.

KRAMER: I like that you juxtapose the dress up and performances of passion players and the drag queens. Did they make those same connections? PALMIERI: The town didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think of these connections as bluntly as we placed them. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a tourist, performative town, but we use the gospels as a means, as the baseline, to examine both sides of the issue to see where we end up. MOSHER: The drag queens have the upper hand because they understand â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The Passion Play,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; especially if theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve seen it or had contact with it. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a performative thing. But the people in â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The Passion Playâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t consider it a drag show. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re trying to be as clear as we can to articulate each subjectâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s point of view. For us, camp can be comical. It can be sacred and profane â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what we wanted to get at. THE GOSPEL OF EUREKA | Directed by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher | Kino Lorber | Opens Feb. 8 | Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th St. | quadcinema.com

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King Of Caricaturists Throckmorton Fine Art’s resurrection of Miguel Covarrubias BY DAVID NOH t has ever been a mystery to me why the great Mexican artist and autodidact Miguel Covarrubias (1904-57) isn’t better known today. At his height — from the 1920s through the 1940s — he was as well known as any dauber, prominently featured in popular magazines of quality, a recognized media hero, and revered as one of this country’s and Mexico’s leading cultural figures. He not only created many works of art but was also a serious anthropological writer of books on subjects ranging from Bali to pre-Colombian Mexico to the Harlem Renaissance. I have been enamored of this artist’s work from a childhood fascination with the 1930s, which, of course, led me to the greatest magazine of them all, the original run of Conde Nast’s Vanity Fair which ceased publication in 1936. On its striking covers and inside could be found Covarrubias’ dazzlingly virtuosic, brightly hued, supremely witty work. I had to wonder about this more vivid precursor to Al Hirschfeld (a self-admitted, devoted follower) who, with the swiftest, deftest strokes of brush or pencil, could limn the most accurate and hilarious — but always humane — of caricatures of the famous, especially in his “Impossible Interviews” series, featuring hilariously funny discourses between, say, Greta Garbo and Calvin Coolidge, Jean Harlow and Sigmund Freud, Sally Rand and Martha Graham, or Clark Gable and Edward, Duke of Wales, some of which are now on display as part of the permanent decor of Feinstein’s/ 54 Below. Then, in 1980, the memoir of that gorgeous Eurasian ballerina Sono Osato came out, with Covarrubias’ exquisite portrait of her on the cover, and that really sealed the deal. The reasons for Covarrubias’ relative obscurity, compared to other Mexican artists like the ubiquitous Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, range from his being typecast as a “mere caricaturist” and having done very few actual paintings that still exist to his unique, wide-ranging polymath areas of interest, like map-making, which has led some hidebound critics to decry him as a less than serious artist. Thankfully, a spate of recent Covarrubias exhibits should restore his name and reputation to much-deserved public recognition. “Miguel Covarrubias — a Retrospective” is currently running at Throckmorton Fine Art in New York, and the gallery describes it as featuring “a wide range of Covarrubias work that not only shows his power of synthesis — his ability to evoke the feeling, character and

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Miguel Covarrubias’ portrait of ballerina Sono Osato, which appeared on the cover of her 1980 memoir, “Distant Dances.”

the movement of such a broad mix of subjects — but also reflects the far-flung interests and intellectual curiosity Covarrubias brought to his work.” This frankly dazzling show includes many pieces from the collection of Covarrubias’ official biographer, Adriana Williams, who says, “In his case drawing is an essential weapon of the intellect that allows for the assimilation of the complexities of current events, and also the paradoxes of history. Thus, we often find in some of Miguel Covarrubias’ drawings not only very thorough field research, but also humor and irony.” Born in Mexico City, the son of civil engineer and Spanish aristocratic mother, he was an artistic prodigy who finished school at 14 and, largely self-taught, went to work for Mexican government ministries, producing illustrations for training manuals. Barely speaking English, he, like so many before and after, saw his destiny in New York City and moved there in 1924, age 19. The eminent, well-connected New York Times critic /photographer Carl Van Vechten, beneficent queer mentor to so many, introduced him to all the right people in that fervent era and, before long, the artist was toiling for Vanity Fair, Vogue, The New Yorker, Fortune, Harper’s Bazaar, and other impressive rags. Simultaneously, Covarrubias had fallen in love with the Harlem scene, then in the midst of its glorious Renaissance, and his sketches of that nabe’s daily life and sizzling jazz club scene, compiled in a book, “Negro Drawings,”

really helped to make his name, innovatively featuring, as they did, African Americans in an artistic spotlight. Highly attractive and popular, he befriended Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and W.C Handy, while hanging downtown with the likes of Eugene O’Neill and photographer Nickolas Murray. His circle of friends would soon include practically every Alist name imaginable: Georgia O’Keefe, Orson Welles, Merce Cunningham, Luis Buñuel, John Huston, Amelia Earhart, Nelson Rockefeller, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. His talent extended itself to many other fields, besides caricature, like theater design for such productions as “La Revue Nègre,” which made Josepine Baker a star, “Androcles and the Lion,” and a dance number for Rosa Rolando, whom he married in 1930, in the Garrick Gaieties’ “Rancho Mexicano.” After their honeymoon in Bali, Covarrubias, now a Guggenheim fellow and with a new-found passion for anthropology, produced the book “Island of Bali,” with photography by Rosa,. The couple eventually returned to live in Mexico City, where their home became a social hub for friends from all around the world. He taught ethnology and was appointed artistic director at the National Palace of Fine Arts, where he created an Academy of Dance. Covarrubias was fascinated with the pre-Colombian art of Mesoameria, especially that of the Olmec culture, theorizing that it predated the Mayan, well before any of this was confirmed by archaeology. Another highlight of his prodigious career was when he was invited to create a centerpiece for the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco, which resulted in a set of six murals entitled “Pageant of the Pacific” which were large-scale maps of various subjects like Fauna and Flora of the Pacific and Native Dwellings and Means of Transportation. After living what seemed like several lifetimes and producing a bewildering amount of work in several, disciplines, the kaleidoscopically brilliant world of Having separated from Rosa, Covarrubias came to an end with his untimely death in 1957, from septicemia blood poisoning, while he was working on the third volume of his important survey “Indian Art of Mexico and Central America.” Having always gotten a vibe from his work as a gay man, I asked his biographer Williams about his sexuality and she responded, “I knew Rosa intimately the last 10 years of her life and spent time in their house… Miguel had many affairs, as did Rosa. He was happy with her

➤ COVARRUBIAS, continued on p.27 January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


FILM

Fraught Thriller Too Far Afield An outsider’s bland look at class, ss, family famil tensions in Spain BY STEVE ERICKSON he concept of the “elevated genre film” has recently become fashionable. Critic Bilge Ebiri wrote an essay about it for Vulture last year, which offered a provisional definition: “The demands of genre — the jump scares, the spectacle, the pulse-pounding suspense, etc. — become secondary to the movies’ emotional undercurrents and the filmmakers’ aesthetic and thematic obsessions.” Its popularity is tied to a snobbery that only accepts the pleasures of thrillers or horror films if they’re tied to overt and explicitly progressive politics or made by directors with a pedigree in independent cinema. Thus, we get reviews of Luca Guadagnino’s “Suspiria” remake that treat him like a great artist while condescending to Dario Argento and his original masterpiece because Guadagnino can talk for half an hour about the feminist subtext and references to German history embedded in his film. Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s work has always contained strong genre elements, without comfortably fitting into conventional thriller modes. He uses them as a jump-off for investigations of morality and character. His latest film “Everybody Knows,” which was made in Spain, revises the narrative of his 2009 “About Elly.” But it comes off half-baked, as though he tried something as contradictory as mashing up Pierre Morel’s “Taken,” with its story of a middle-aged adult tracking down their kidnapped child, and the aesthetic of Jean Renoir’s “The Rules of the Game.” While the Iranian cinema that made a splash in the

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➤ COVARRUBIAS,, from p.26 until he became head of dance company and fell in love with a young [female] dancer, Rocío [Sagaón]. They had many gay friends in their circle of artists. When I was interviewing for the biography GayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

TERESA ISASI/ FOCUS FEATURES

Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem as Paco in Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows,” which opens February 8.

West in the ‘90s had a grounding in neo-realism and documentary, Farhadi’s work has never shared those influences. He has a degree in theater, although he only incorporated it into his cinema with his last movie, “The Salesman.” If Abbas Kiarostami’s “Close Up,” the most acclaimed Iranian film in the West until the release of “A Separation,” mixes element of narrative and non-fiction while sticking close to reality, Farhadi’s films never pretend to anything but extremely stylized fiction. The plot of “About Elly” pivots around the mysterious disappearance of the servant of a group of middle-class urbanites who have come to a rural lake for a weekend vacation. In “Everybody Knows,” Laura (Penélope Cruz) has traveled to Spain from her native Argentina for the wedding of her sister. Her unemployed husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín) stayed at home,

searching for work. Laura hits it off with her former lover Paco (a bearish Javier Bardem). Although Laura’s daughter has a good time flirting with a boy in the early scenes of “Everybody Knows,” she acts dazed and drugged at the wedding and then disappears. The rest of “Everybody Knows” is concerned with the attempts of Laura and the rest of her family to solve the kidnapping, which may be an inside job. “Everybody Knows” fits neatly into the Farhadi canon: it uses thriller elements as a pretext to explore class tension and how a family copes when its togetherness is tested. In this case, there’s also the fact that many of the characters are Argentine, but the setting is Spain, and a colonial legacy lingers over their interactions. Farhadi himself doesn’t speak Spanish, though he’s the sole writer on this script. (It’s the second film he’s made outside

I asked the question [of his sexuality]. The answer was no. In fact, he was a womanizer and had little flirtations when visiting his friend, Nicholas Murray.” Gallerist Pablo Goebel, who mounted the show “El Chamaco Covarrubias” last year in his

Mexico City gallery, eloquently described Covarrubias as possessing “an assurance, a sensuous even melancholy desire to depict with character what he is viewing, seeing, recording. The direct synthesis of his characters and their environment is exceptional and de-

Iran following the breakthrough of “A Separation.”) Maybe as a result, “Everybody Knows” has a bland, Euro-pudding quality. Despite the local references and the fact that this is a repeat pairing for Cruz and Bardem, the story could have been set anywhere. The film runs 133 minutes and suffers from a sense of excess. The section before the kidnapping runs relatively long but once it happens, it seems to exist only as a set-up. The real drama takes place afterwards, and largely among Cruz, Darin, and Bardem, despite a big ensemble cast and, at best, direction and acting that give a convincing sense of life spiraling out of control. “Everybody Knows” embraces melodrama openly. Cruz gives a larger-than-life performance, while Darin and Bardem embody middle-aged suffering in ways that are more complex than her character is allowed to. If Farhadi’s last two films, “The Past” and “The Salesman,” were flawed, they at least felt like no one else could have written and directed them. As much as “Everybody Knows” draws on “About Elly,” it loses something in shifting the setting from an Iran sketched with intimate knowledge to a Spain shot with “beautiful” cinematography that looks like dozens of middlebrow imports. It could’ve been made by a talented but uninspired director influenced by Farhadi. EVERYBODY KNOWS | Directed by Asghar Farhadi | Focus Features | In Spanish with English subtitles | Opens Feb. 8 | Angelika Film Center, 18 W. Houston St. at Mercer St., angelikafilmcenter.com/nyc | The Landmark at 57 West, 657 W. 57th St.; landmarktheatres.com

lightful.” MIGUEL COVARRUBIAS — A RETROSPECTIVE | Throckmorton Fine Art, 145 E. 57th St. | Through Feb. 23: Mon.-Fri: 10 a.m.-5p.m.; Sat, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. | throckmorton-nyc.com

27


OPERA

When Moor is Less, Maestro Supplies the Juice Devil gets his due in welcome me return of Boito’s Boiito s “Mefistofele” BY ELI JACOBSON ne of the most anticipated events of the 20182019 Metropolitan Opera season was the debut of podium superstar Gustavo Dudamel leading a revival of Verdi’s “Otello.” His conducting lived up to the advance hype and in certain areas exceeded expectations. Dudamel has made his mark as a symphonic conductor and indeed he revealed all the details of Verdi’s mature orchestration. He is also known as a dynamic musician and the Met Orchestra sounded newly energized as it hurtled itself headlong into Verdi’s score with thrilling attack. But under his baton, the orchestra also demonstrated the ability to turn on a dime with delicate and subtle playing. Less expected were Dudamel’s abilities as a musical dramatist — he drew out colors from the orchestra that brought Verdi’s tragedy to vivid theatrical life. In fact, the orchestra often outdid the singers in dramatic expression and intensity. Dudamel proved a worthy successor to such historical Met “Otello” conductors as Toscanini, Szell, Solti, Carlos Kleiber, and James Levine. Unfortunately, the new maestro’s skill could not overcome scheduled performers plagued by illness and vocal problems in a production that strands the story in a dramatically alienating, visually ugly neverland. I attended the December 28 performance to hear Julianna Di Giacomo as Desdemona since I had heard Sonya Yoncheva sing the role when the production premiered. Cover tenor Carl Tanner had stepped in for the indisposed Stuart Skelton on opening night and he also deputized for him on the 28th. Zeljko Lucic returned as Iago. From what I heard on the later Saturday matinee radio broadcast on January 5, Skelton never recovered his vocal form and was audibly stressed in the upper register. On the radio,

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KEN HOWARD/ METROPOLITAN OPERA

Zeljko Lucic and Carl Tanner in Verdi’s “Otello.”

Yoncheva showed that her headlong assault on the heavy soprano repertoire has widened her vibrato while shrinking her upper register, which is now plagued by shrillness and pitch problems. The two American alternates had no such vocal problems on December 28. While not terribly imaginative in his vocal or physical acting, Tanner had the role solidly in his voice and knew exactly what he was doing musically. The out gay former bounty hunter possesses an effortlessly powerful dramatic tenor with a bright ring. Unlike the plethora of baritonal Otellos in Met history (including Vinay, Vickers, and Domingo), Tanner has real tenor resonance from top to bottom, so rather than pushing the tone upward he soared up to the high B’s and B flats. This was not the blunt singing I had heard from him in the past. Tanner proved a dramatically basic Moor who wasn’t helped by Bartlett Sher’s production eschewing blackface while failing to provide any alternate signifier that Otello is “other.” One never got the sense that this man was a powder keg with a long fuse that Iago ignites. You have to

wonder what Tanner could do in this opera with intensive direction; the goods are there vocally. Desdemona used to be a role given to Aida voices like Caniglia, Milanov, and Tebaldi but recently has gone to mature lyric sopranos who have moved on from singing Mimi and Violetta. Di Giacomo’s firm, gleaming soprano had that heroic thrust too seldom heard in her confrontations with Otello. Di Giacomo soared above the grand concertato in Act III but could float her tone with a soft sheen in the Act IV “Willow Song” and “Ave Maria.” I’d love to hear Di Giacomo take on some of the youthful Wagnerian heroines like Elisabeth and Elsa. Lucic, whose glowering, recessive Iago was such a dead weight at the production’s premiere, seemed to be galvanized by Dudamel’s leadership. Though still saturnine and low-key in his villainy, he was full of insinuating menace behind the false façade of a laid back “regular guy” persona. His burly baritone roared out thrilling high notes in Iago’s “Brindisi” and “Credo” but also could whisper hauntingly in “Era la Notte.” Verdi turned Emilia from a leading character to a com-

primaria but Jennifer Johnson Cano made her a major player in her limited opportunities. Alexey Dolgov proved an excellent stage actor as Cassio but his Slavic tenor lacks Italianate flow and open vowels. Sher’s production was more hopeless than ever. Whatever specific dramatic direction that remained was lost amid the murk of Es Devlin’s projections that look like the aurora borealis or computer screensavers and Donald Holder’s shadowy lighting. No one onstage or in the audience could relate to this environment. On this occasion, Maestro Dudamel did not have to do as much damage control since all three singers had the vocal goods. But he and the Met Orchestra were driving the music drama, not the singers or production. Boito’s quirky and sprawling “Mefistofele” has always lurked at the edges of the standard repertoire waiting for the right combination of performers. Boito as librettist shifted the focus from the

➤ MEFISTOFELE, continued on p.29

January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


➤ MEFISTOFELE, from p.28 tragic love story of Faust and Gretchen (cencentral in the Gounod “Faust”) to include more e of Goethe’s epic poem such as Faust’s classicall interlude with Helen of Troy. Boito as composer oser takes all sorts of harmonic and structural left turns, keeping the audience on their toes while hile delivering heaps of old-fashioned Italian meloelodies and flattering vocal showpieces for bass, ass, tenor, and soprano. The Met cast three present and future stars tars in the lead parts. In the title role, rising star bass-baritone Christian Van Horn (the recipient ient of the 2018 Richard Tucker Award in a breakout kout season) stepped out in his first star role. Tall and imposing with a broad chest often stripped ped to the waist and long legs filling out the Devil’s vil’s red pants, he visually proved a worthy succescessor to Samuel Ramey in Robert Carsen’s 30year old production. If he was visually larger rger than life, vocally the American bass made de a rather human-sized Devil with a mellifluous ous bass-baritone a little short on decibels and on the lowest notes. Van Horn has gorgeous legato and firm tone but that spine-tingling suuperhuman quality was missing. As Faust, tenor Michael Fabiano showed d a tenor voice in transition that was suffering ng from not only a cold but also unresolved technih cal issues. Fabiano’s middle register is broadening and darkening revealing spinto potential but

K AREN ALMOND/ METROPOLITAN OPERA

Christian Van Horn in the title role of Boito’s “Mefistofele.”

his upper register simply cannot take pressure u without breaking. Difficulty navigating the paswitho saggio (upper middle break) resulted in some sagg stressed high A’s and B flats that shattered unstres der th the stress. When Fabiano took off the pressure — as in “Giunto sul passo estremo” in the final epilogue — a singer of some finish and elegance emerged. egan As Margherita, dramatic coloratura Angela Meade Mead initially seemed odd casting: she was unconvincing as a wide-eyed ingenue in the unco Garden Scene. The wide-ranging demands of Gard “L’Altra Notte” revealed a different and more ex“L’Alt citing singer who combined bel canto finesse in the fioritura flourishes with verismo intensity in he her diction and use of the chest register. Her death scene was moving. Jennifer Check looked glamorous as Elena in Jen the Classical Sabbath scene (she has slimmed C down a lot) but the voice sounded hollow and edgy with no warm core. The Met chorus outdid themselves in their varied tasks, even simulatthem ing grotesque nudity in the Walpurgisnacht Scene with relish. Scen Carlo Rizzi conducted Boito’s score with a C solid command but smoothed over some of the soli abrupt rhythmic changes that give the score ab its unique character. Carsen’s metatheatrical ca production blends wit, fantasy and mystery with panache. It was fun to see Boito’s t opera again in this production, and I hope we don’t have to wait 20 years for its return.

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January 31 - February 13, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Despite Divisions, Women Marched on January 19 Activists turned out on Central Park West, in Foley Square, at Grand Central

DONNA ACETO

“Human Beings” from Gays Against Guns represent women lost to gun violence.

DONNA ACETO

Hannah Simpson, a Jewish transgender woman, was among the speakers on Central Park West.

DONNA ACETO

Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke to the Women’s March Alliance crowd on Central Park West.

DONNA ACETO

Bryan Cranston, star of “Network,” stands on a window ledge at the Belasco Theater, to greet marchers as they were winding up.

DONNA ACETO

Gays Against Guns marching on January 19 on the West Side of Manhattan.

DONNA ACETO

The Workmen’s Circle, one of the oldest Jewish philanthropic groups in New York, joined the Women’s March Alliance event.

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO STORY BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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wo years after women and their allies in untold numbers turned out the day following Donald Trump’s inauguration to protest the new president, Women’s Marches were once again staged in numerous cities on January 19. As is not unheard of in protest movements, this year’s events were marred by internal divisions — in New York, specifically, competing charges of anti-Semitism and non-inclusiveness. The Women’s March Alliance, which has produced the New York event since 2017 and is not formally aligned with the Women’s March held in Washington, held a brief rally on Central Park West before marching from West 62nd Street to the West 40s. Leaders from the DC event, including Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, had approached the Women’s March Alliance last year to forge a relationship, but Alliance organizers voiced discomfort with Sarsour’s endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions aimed at Israel and, more importantly, with Mallory’s unwillingness to personally condemn Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, even though she has called out that organization’s anti-Semitic and homophobic history. The Alliance, in turn, was criticized for what critics said was a lack of inclusivity of women of color. When talks between the two groups failed to make headway, a separate Women’s March NYC was planned for Foley Square downtown. GayCityNews.nyc | January 31 - February 13, 2019

DONNA ACETO

Rise and Resist organizers disability advocates at Grand Central Terminal.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, the leader of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the city’s LGBTQ synagogue, was among a group of nine prominent rabbis who engaged in a lengthy process of dialogue with Sarsour and Mallory. While the rabbis, in a written statement, said, “We have not resolved our differences,” they also argued that “divisions between Jews and People of Color only serve to further the aims of white supremacists and their enablers, and to erase the strong presence in our Jewish communities of Jews of Color.” The group went on to say, “We encourage members of the Jewish community to participate in the Women’s March on 1/19/19. In Washington, DC, and New York City, there are contingents of Jews marching together, and those who wish to express Jewish pride and solidarity may wish to join them.” In a Facebook post, however, Kleinbaum elaborated, “CBST is not endorsing or formally participating in” either of the New York events and that for her the important goal is to “find a way to build toward the day after” the two gatherings. The Women’s March Alliance event on Central

DONNA ACETO

Support for transgender rights and transgender women was one theme in the January 19 march.

Park drew the larger crowd, with Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the highest profile speaker in a brief pre-march program. Ocasio-Cortez also spoke at the Women’s March NYC, and was joined there by other prominent women including Gloria Steinem, Kleinbaum, and her wife, teachers’ union leader Randi Weingarten. The direct action group Rise and Resist, unhappy with the Women’s March Alliance’s commitment to disability access, hosted a third event on Saturday at Grand Central Terminal, timing it for the afternoon so that its members could also participate in the morning rally that Women’s March NYC held in Foley Square. Gays Against Guns, ever seeking to raise the visibility of the gun regulation issue, fielded contingents in all three events.

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