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So-Called Stonewall Vets Take on Heritage of Pride
Trump Moves Against LGBTQ Health
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
NEXT FOR RITCHIE:
CAPITOL HILL? OUT GAY BRONX COUNCILMEMBER EYES 2020 Page 06 MAT T TRACY
Out gay Bronx Councilmember Ritchie Torres at City Hall.
© GAY CITY NEWS 2019 | SCHNEPS MEDIA, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
FREE | VOLUME EIGHTEEN, ISSUE TEN | MAY 9 – MAY 22, 2019
May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
In This Issue COVER STORY Next for Ritchie: Capitol Hill? 06
POLITICS Gale Brewer’s deputy hails Focus on Family 14
REMEMBRANCE Lew Fidler, LGBTQ youth champion 05
Sex work decrim gets Albany traction 16
HEALTH Hepatitis A spike among gay, bi men 08
THEATER In “Safeword,” “Caroline’s Kitchen,” love hurts 22
CRIMINAL JUSTICE Council takes on Correction over trans inmates 10
MUSIC Grayson’s latest has echoes, but not enough voice 30
Taylor Mac’s biggest stage 24
WE MAKE PRIDE A YEAR-ROUND CELEBRATION
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Learn more at aarp.org/pride. GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
So-Called Stonewall Vets Squawk About Grand Marshals Williamson-now-Willson Henderson goes to war with parade producer Heritage of Pride BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
group that is best known for its founder’s false claim that he was arrested during the 1969 Stonewall riots and his Cadillac was towed by police during that event is loudly complaining because it was not selected to be a grand marshal in this year’s march. “It’s very clear that regardless of what anyone thinks of any Stonewall veteran, the reality is that the Stonewall veterans should have been picked as the leader of the pack,” Willson Henderson, formerly Williamson Henderson, the founder of the Stonewall Veterans Association (SVA), told Gay City News. “It’s a no brainer… Stonewall 50, you’re not going to pick the Stonewall veterans?” The group’s exchanges with Heritage of Pride (HOP), the organization the produces New York City’s Pride Parade and related events, began on April 25 when Henderson called HOP to make demands for SVA’s participation in this year’s march, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the riots that mark the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. SVA demanded an “honorarium,” five convertibles for its contingent, and that the group lead the parade. HOP had announced the grand marshals, who lead the parade, for this year’s march on April 11, two weeks earlier. The Gay Liberation Front (GLF), an LGBTQ rights group that formed immediately after the riots, is one of the five grand marshals. The GLF members represent the community’s history and early radical spirit. “Those were the three things and I told her that if all three cannot be met, we’re not interested,” Henderson said, referring to Zoe Gorringe, the HOP event coordinator who works primarily on the march. In a series of emails, which Gay City News has seen, that followed that conversation, HOP declined to meet any of SVA’s demands.
Williamson Henderson found the Stonewall Veterans Association in 1994, and since then many have questioned his claims about the events of June 1969 and no experts on the riots have backed him up.
Maryanne Roberto Fine and David Studinski, the HOP co-chairs, responded with the studied tone that HOP staff and volunteers use when dealing with conflict. “Members of SVA have also expressed concern as to the presence of participants in the Stonewall Uprising not being represented in the Grand Marshals,” they wrote in an April 29 email to Henderson. “We assure you that participants in the Uprising are among the contingent representing the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). With more than 700 groups in the March, we also fully expect individuals who participated in the Stonewall Uprising, along with many more Stonewall Era Trailblazers, will be present throughout this year’s March.” The HOP officials described the process for selecting grand marshals as an “open, transparent sys-
tem” that is “a careful deliberative process designed so that anyone in the entire community is able to engage if they so choose.” Anyone can nominate and lobby for a grand marshal, and groups and individuals can nominate and lobby for themselves. The nominees are vetted by HOP then voted on in a public meeting. The vote on this year’s grand marshals occurred last October. Not every person or group that gets votes accepts a grand marshal slot so HOP volunteers and staff first ask the top vote getter to be a grand marshal. With a refusal or no response, the second-place finisher is asked and on through the list until HOP gets a “Yes.” SVA was nominated and received votes. That GLF is a grand marshal suggests that group received more votes than SVA. Henderson has claimed since 1994, when the 25th anniversary
of the riots was celebrated, that he was arrested during the riots and that his Cadillac was towed from the scene of the riots by police. Henderson also claims that SVA was founded in July 1969, the month after the riots. SVA was founded following the 25th anniversary celebration. Henderson has no arrest record from 1969 nor does his name appear in the criminal court docket books from that time. Outhistory. com, a website administered by historians David Carter and Jonathan Ned Katz, obtained the police records from the riots. They list the people arrested and contain a complaint made by a Volkswagen owner who said her car was damaged during the melee. They do not mention Henderson or a Cadillac. Carter’s 2004 book, “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution,” the definitive account of that event, does not mention Henderson. Henderson was arrested twice in 1978 during a dispute with his fellow tenants in an East 14th Street apartment building. Those charges were dismissed and the arrest records are sealed, but they are discussed in a 1978 article by playwright Robert Chesley in Gaysweek. Henderson discussed his Cadillac in that article, but said nothing about a 1969 arrest or the car being towed at Stonewall. He was also arrested for prostitution and coercion in 1977 under the name Chad Lawson. He pleaded guilty in that case. The SVA members are also incensed by an encounter that Julian Sanjivan, HOP’s volunteer march director, had with Rusty Rose, an SVA member, on April 27 at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center where Sanjivan works. When pressed by Rose about SVA’s role in the march, Sanjivan, who uses the pronouns they, them, and their, apparently declined to discuss it saying they were at work. “Being a QPoC does not exempt
➤ SVA VERSUS HOP, continued on p.5 May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
Lew Fidler, Homeless Youth Champion, Dies at 62 Former Brooklyn councilmember led ﬁght for LGBTQ shelter beds during Bloomberg years BY PAUL SCHINDLER
ew Fidler, who during 12 years on the New York City Council played the leading role in rallying public dollars to address the stark shortage of homeless youth shelter, particularly those providing safe space for LGBTQ young people, died on May 5 at the age of 62. Fidler was found unconscious on the floor of a Queens movie theater the day before and taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he died. Police did not respond as to whether they are investigating any possible crime. The New York Post reported that sources said none was suspected, but an autopsy would be performed. From 2002 through 2013, Fidler represented neighborhoods in southeastern Brooklyn including Mill Basin, Canarsie, and Sheepshead Bay. As chair of the Youth Services Committee during the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Fidler was both vocal and effective in steering city funds to provide more shelter beds for homeless youth and to create shelter space where queer youth, often victimized in congregate care facilities, could safely stay. At the time, Fidler estimated, roughly 3,800 city youth found themselves without a place to sleep on any given night — with a third to more than 40 percent of them identifying as LGBTQ. “I want the record to clearly show that the leader of the effort around homeless and runaway youth who were LGBT was Lew Fidler, from Brooklyn,” Christine Quinn, the out lesbian Council speaker during Fidler’s final eight years in office, told Gay City News on Sunday. “He didn’t get one vote from this; in fact, his opponents used it against him. But in his position as chair of the Youth Services Committee, no one was a fiercer fighter for LGBT homeless youth than he was. It was not an issue he was well versed in when he became chair, but he took the time to learn it and to listen to the advocates. As the father of two sons, he was shocked
SVA VERSUS HOP, from p.4
you from the dynamics of privilege, especially the intersection of gender and age,” Kelsie Jones, an SVA member, wrote in an April 29 email to Sanjivan. “As a masculinepresenting non-binary identifying young person, you need to check your privilege and your attitude when speaking with your elders, especially those who present and identify as female.” GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
NEW YORK CIT Y COUNCIL
As chair of the City Council Youth Services Committee, Lew Fidler was the leader in the fight to expand housing opportunities for homeless youht, including those who are LGBTQ.
at the way these youth were disregarded and he was not going to let it happen on his watch.” Over several budget cycles, the Bloomberg administration, even after appointing a task force on LGBTQ homeless youth, zeroed out city spending on appropriate shelters, and Fidler was the councilmember who fought to restore and increase funding. “Lew Fidler was a true champion for New York City’s homeless youth,” said Carl Siciliano, the founder and executive director of the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest provider of housing for homeless queer youth. “He was able to add 70 youth shelter beds as chair of the Youth Committee, and fought like hell to prevent Mayor Bloomberg from cutting those beds. When it came to protecting homeless youth, he had the heart of a lion. Literally hundreds of youths over the past decade have slept in beds instead of subway cars because of Lew. We have lost a hero, and I have lost a great friend.” Kate Barnhart, director of New Alternatives for Homeless LGBT Youth, which provides services to help homeless young people transition to stable adult lives, said, “Lew Fidler was one of the rare politicians who was willing to take a
Gay City News has observed Sanjivan in multiple public meetings for over two years when they or HOP were criticized, sometimes angrily. If they responded, it was typically with a polite, “Thank you for your feedback.” Beginning in 2018, HOP adopted a code of conduct for volunteers that requires them to conduct themselves with respect for others both inside and outside the organization. Sanjivan was a proponent of that code.
stand for what he believed in. He was a strong advocate for homeless youth, and was not willing to put up with excuses or obstacles to getting them services. His advocacy was responsible for creating the range of services we have today. Without him, many more youth would be suffering on the streets of New York.” In December 2010, in the midst of his advocacy for homeless youth, Fidler penned an op ed for Gay City News entitled “Alone and Sleeping on the Street: Happy Holiday.” Other tributes to him also noted his work on behalf of homeless youth. In a written statement, out gay Council Speaker Corey Johnson noted that Fidler, whom he termed “a giant in New York City politics,” was “a passionate champion for runaway and homeless youth. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of those young people had their lives changed for the better because of Lew’s tireless work. He was their pitbull.” In a tweet on Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who served on the Council with Fidler for eight years, said, “Lew embodied courage and compassion. He was a champion and protector to runaway youth and some of the most vulnerable kids in our city.” Since leaving the Council, Fidler worked for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, where he remained active in pressing the cause of homeless youth. In a written statement Sunday, Adams said, “Lew was of great assistance to me in my formative political years. As a result of his assistance, we later became colleagues, and during my tenure as borough president he has served as a vital member of my team. As an elected official, Lew was truly committed to fighting long and hard for those he served. He always stood up for what he believed in, with true courage in his convictions. Lew was a man of high integrity and strong moral values.” Fidler is survived by his wife Robin and their two sons, Max and Harry.
In their email, Studinski and Fine wrote that it was “inappropriate” for “Rusty to engage with Julian on a clearly HOP-related issue while Julian was at work, and to disregard Julian’s multiple requests that they continue the discussion when Julian was not at work.” Referring to the Jones email, they wrote, “We are extremely concerned by the tone and content of Kelsie’s ad hominem attacks on Julian in her follow up email, in-
cluding references to their immigration status, gender identity and employment. These are not only inappropriate, but counter to the shared goals of our movement for respect, equality and liberation.” The SVA members are unmoved. “It’s a great insult to the Stonewall veterans and it’s making a mockery out of gay history,” Henderson said. “It’s rude, it’s ignorant, it’s disrespectful.”
Undaunted, Ritchie Torres Eyes Historic Next Step With House run looming, Bronx pol reﬂects on past, future, and his identity BY MATT TRACY
ut gay Bronx City Councilmember Ritchie Torres carries himself with confidence these days because, after all, he has “enjoyed overcoming the odds.” A product of the borough who grew up in public housing, endured fierce battles with depression, and was once told he had no business running for office, Torres indeed overcame the odds in 2013 when he became the first openly gay person elected to office in a borough that he says is “widely seen as the most conservative one.” Now the councilmember — who has since developed into a powerful political force in New York City — could take that a step further by becoming the first openly LGBTQ black or Latinx person to be elected to Congress and the lone LGBTQ member of the New York City congressional delegation if he emerges victorious in the 2020 contest to replace outgoing Represenatative José Serrano in the 15th district. “It’s an historic race,” Torres said during a May 7 interview with Gay City News. ”I’m black, I’m Latino, I’m LGBT. I’m a millennial. I’m a child of the Bronx. My values and beliefs are shaped by who I am and where I come from. It’s true of most people but it’s true of me especially.” Although Torres, 31, has yet to formally declare his candidacy, he said multiple times during this interview that he is “running for Congress.” He outlined his priorities moving forward, reflected on his work in the City Council, and opened up about the looming congressional race that is already shaping up to consist of a crowded Democratic primary field. Assemblymember Michael Blake and homophobic Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr., have both announced bids for the seat, while Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera, among others, has admitted interest. But just how Democratic some of those candidates are is an important distinction. Diaz, who
MAT T TRACY
Councilmember Ritchie Torres is not yet an announcing candidate, but numerous times referred to “running for Congress.”
announced his run not long after after he sparked outrage when he spouted homophobic nonsense about LGBTQ people and out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, brands himself as a “conservative Democrat.” Torres doesn’t see the 76-yearold Diaz as a Democrat at all. “No one is more hostile to LGBT equality than Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr.,” he asserted. “The councilmember has a right to hold whatever beliefs he wants, but he is running in the wrong primary. He should be running in the Republican primary. The question is: Do the voters in the South Bronx want to support a Republican to be the representative of the most Democratic district in America? That is an experiment.” With Diaz’s presence in the race, Torres painted a picture of a field of contenders who reflect several fault lines in the district, from ideological and cultural differences to a generation gap. “[Diaz] is a creature of the right,
I am a creature of the pragmatic progressive left,” said Torres, who is more than four decades younger than Diaz. “He’s a leading voice of opposition to LGBT equality, I am an LGBT trailblazer in the Bronx. So the race is about the future of the Bronx. Who we elect as our congressperson in the 15th district will speak powerfully about the values of the borough. It is by far the most consequential race in the Bronx in decades.” Torres has injected himself into the mix for an office that he considers to be a “natural progression” from his role in the City Council because it would allow him to wield more power on a number of fronts, but most notably his signature area: housing. Citing statistics about the hundreds of thousands of people on public housing waiting lists and the backlog of folks languishing in homeless shelters, Torres emphasized the need for a stronger push toward eradicating the city’s affordability crisis. “I’ve come to recognize that the
policies in housing and health care are largely set at the federal level,” Torres said. “If you’re a progressive problem solver who is on a mission to fight poverty in New York City, the impact can only be at the federal level. That’s why I’m running for Congress.” During his first bid for City Council in 2013, Torres was a newcomer in every sense of the word — from the idea of governing to living as an out gay man. He managed to dispatch a handful of other contenders in that year’s Democratic primary before cruising to victory in the general election, but it didn’t come without turbulence. He witnessed instances of homophobia from other politicians along the way. “I’ll be honest. It was unnerving,” Torres said. “It was terrifying for me as an openly LGBT 24-yearold to run for public office and to run so visibly and openly.” Fast forward to 2019 and much has changed, even as multiple anti-LGBTQ politicians still lurk in the Bronx and elsewhere in the five boroughs. Torres, now in his second term, feels much more secure with his life. The notion of running a campaign as an out gay person isn’t as daunting as it was before. That’s not to say the status quo is sufficient — and Torres is well aware of that. He said one of his “highest priorities” as a congressmember would be to work on the Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act and related federal laws to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That bill is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives within days but almost certainly will die in the GOP-led Senate. The Bronx councilmember’s body of work on queer issues speaks for itself. He currently has a bill pending in the City Council that would certify LGBTQ-owned small businesses similarly to the way the city incentivizes funding for minority
➤ RITCHIE TORRES, continued on p.7 May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
➤ RITCHIE TORRES, from p.6 and women-owned businesses. He also led efforts to secure millions of dollars to establish LGBTQ senior centers in every borough, passed a law that allows LGBTQ shelters to serve youth up to the age of 24 years old and, among other initiatives, established the first Department of Homeless Services shelter for queer young people up to the age of 30 known as Marsha’s House, which is in his borough. “It was the first time an elected official asked for a shelter to be brought to his district,” Torres claimed. “That was unusual, but it was the right thing to do and I was the right person to do it.” He is also keeping tabs one of the LGBTQ community’s most affected demographics: transgender women women of color. He blasted the city’s Department of Correction after the agency voiced its opposition to a task force dedicated to transgender women in city custody, a move that Torres said was “unacceptable” and “demonstrates that there continues to be prejudice against trans people — not only among everyday people but policymakers.” He also recently signaled a willingness to embrace the plight of sex workers when he signed onto a letter demanding an investigation into the NYPD’s Vice Squad amid allegations that police have been mistreating sex workers. The councilmember waded into the waters of the debate on the decriminalization of sex work, saying he is “supportive and I see the advocating on behalf of sex workers as a part of a larger shift towards decriminalization and decarceration.” Issues that aren’t directly viewed LGBTQ issues affect the queer community, as well. Torres is calling on the city to pour more money into “bridge” programs that help educate workers, an issue that ties into his wider belief that the disappearance of jobs represents the greatest challenge facing our society beyond climate change. That, he said, is in and of itself an LGBTQ issue, because “whatever affects the general population will affect LGBT people of color even more and trans people of color to an even greater extent. When one group sneezes, the other group GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
gets the flu.” Torres’ track record of success on LGBTQ causes underscores the significance of diverse representation in politics, but it is also important in light of the lingering presence of homophobes like Brooklyn Councilmember Chaim Deutsch, Bronx Councilmember Fernando Cabrera, and Diaz. Torres conceded that he is a “pragmatist” and must work with lawmakers like them to advance issues important to his constituents and vulnerable communities across the city. “We should be open-minded and inclusive but not so open-minded that our brains fall out, and not so inclusive that we lose our identity,” he said. Having to work with lawmakers in Washington would be an entirely new endeavor, of course. Torres is stepping up his criticism of Donald Trump as he eyes an office that would put a check on the president, who has cozied up to religious conservatives by advancing multiple rules that give health care providers a right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. “It’s hard to imagine a more sinful president than Donald Trump — that he’s become the champion of the religious right,” Torres said. Whether Torres would be dealing with Trump if he is elected to Congress remains to be seen. In the meantime, he is “impressed” with the slate of presidential candidates he has seen on the Democratic side and is inspired by the out gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. “He’s calm, collected, yet compelling,” Torres said. “No matter where his candidacy goes, he should be remembered as a trailblazer.” Torres, too, was calm and collected during this interview, but clearly driven to shake up the race in the 15th Congressional District — regardless of who his competition might be or the homophobia of an already-declared candidate. He now navigates the political realm as a veteran pol who feels prepared to take a step that once seemed unimaginable. “Here I am, six years later, the first LGBT elected official in the Bronx, and I’m running for Congress,” Torres said. “So the lesson learned in my life, even in the darkest moments, is to never lose sight.”
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Hepatitis A Spike Among Gay, Bi Men in NYC Infections mostly seen among black and Latino men in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens BY MATT TRACY
ew York City health officials say they have seen 17 cases of hepatitis A among men who have sex with men so far this year, triggering a new campaign by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to raise awareness about an infection that has long been known to disproportionately affect gay and bisexual men. Vasudha Reddy, director of enteric disease in the city health department’s Bureau of Communicable Disease, told Gay City News that the infections have mostly been seen among black and Latino men who live in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. The men who have been infected range from 19 to 54 years of age. Reddy noted that there are normally between zero and three hepatitis A cases per year among men who have sex with men, though there were 11 last year. The city is currently on pace to see roughly 51 cases this year in that demographic. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person unknowingly ingests a small amount of stool from an infected person through sexual contact
NYC DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE
One of the ads, seen running here on Instagram, that the city produced as part of its campaign targeting gay and bisexual men after seeing an uptick in cases of hepatitis A in that population.
or through food and other contaminated objects. It affects the liver and can range in severity from a mild case that lasts a few weeks to a severe case that has the potential to drag on for months at a time. Most people infected with hepatitis A are able to fully recover, but hospitalizations can occur and, in rare cases, people can die. Ten of the 17
men who have sex with men infected in the city this year were hospitalized as a result of the infection, but no deaths have been recorded. None of those 17 patients had received the hepatitis A vaccine despite the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that provides guidance on vaccine-preventable disease — having recommended since 1996 that all men who have sex with men be vaccinated. The rise in infections has prompted the city department of health to reach out to healthcare providers and remind them to offer the hepatitis A vaccine, which confers long-term immunity, to their patients. In April, the city responded to the uptick in cases by launching a campaign targeting gay and bisexual men via prevention-focused ads on LGBTQ websites, three social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), and gay dating apps like Grindr. Ads produced by the city health department read, “It’s just a little prick... get a hepatitis A vaccine.”
➤ HEP A, continued on p.9
Caster Semenya Loses Testosterone Rules Appeal Two-time Olympic gold medalist has faced discrimination for more than a decade BY MATT TRACY
outh African Olympic track star Caster Semenya has lost her challenge to recently enacted rules governing testosterone in female athletes, dealing a major blow to her right to compete in a sport that has increasingly become targeted by transphobic conservatives. Semenya, who has nabbed two Olympic gold medals as well as a pair of gold medals at the World Championships, decided last year to mount a legal challenge in the Court of Arbitration for Sport after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) — a governing body in athletics — announced in April of 2018 that there would be new rules requiring women athletes with high levels of testosterone to lower their levels. Semenya has long been subjected to humiliating, onerous, and highly controversial sex testing dating back to 2009 due to the widely held assumption that she is intersex, compounded by racist slurs regarding her physical appearance.
TAB59/ WIKIMEDIA COMMON
Olympic track star Caster Semenya is seen carrying a South African flag during the 2012 London Olympics, where she won the gold in the 800 meter.
Throughout the challenges she has faced, Semenya has consistently emphasized that her testosterone level is naturally occurring. If Semenya wishes to compete again under the new rules, she will be required to take medication to lower her testosterone levels. The new rules have been described as a direct attack on Semenya because many of the races affected un-
der the new regulations were ones she is known to compete in, including the 800-meter competition, which she won during the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Semenya echoed the view that she is being singled out in a public statement she released after the May 1 ruling. “I know that the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically,” Semenya said. “For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger. The decision of the CAS will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.” The bias in the court’s 2-1 ruling was so obvious that the court itself admitted that the ruling was discriminatory — but maintained that such a decision was necessary. “The panel found that the DSD Regulations are discriminatory but that, on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimina-
➤ CASTER SEMENYA, continued on p.9 May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
âž¤ HEP A, from p.8 The city has already seen 37 hepatitis A infections this year in the general population after there were 61 total cases last year. Officials said they typically see 5060 cases per year in the general population, with those cases often involving people who have traveled internationally to countries where inadequate sanitation infrastructure allows the infection to run rampant. This latest wave of hepatitis A infections in the city comes roughly two years after a whopping 135 cases of hepatitis A popped up in
âž¤ CASTER SEMENYA, from p.8 tion is a necessary, reasonable, and proportionate means of achieving the legitimate objective of ensuring fair competition in female athletics in certain events and protecting the â€˜protected classâ€™ of female athletes in those events,â€? the court noted in a statement. Following the ruling, former and current athletes as well as key LG-
the five boroughs in 2017, with 57 percent of those cases among men who had sex with men. The increase in cases this year follows a wider pattern seen in other parts of the US, but affected states are overwhelmingly reporting that homeless people and drug users â€” not necessarily men who have sex with men â€” are making up the majority of the cases. Hepatitis A is spreading at an alarming rate in Florida, where the state health department has reported 954 cases statewide thus far in 2019, after seeing 549 total cases in all of last year. The Virginia Department of
Health announced on April 25 that there had been 45 cases of the infection in that state this year, while the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services counted 84 cases between November 2018 and April 22 of this year. In addition to being vaccinated, Reddy stressed that maintaining hygiene is crucial to preventing the spread of hepatitis A. â€œThe best way to prevent hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated.â€? Reddy said in a phone interview on April 30. â€œItâ€™s also important to always wash your hands before touching food, after using the bathroom and changing diapers, and before and
after having sex.â€? Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E all affect the liver but can be spread in different ways. According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis B is transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids â€” and from mothers to infants at birth â€” while hepatitis C is mostly transmitted through blood but can also be sexually transmitted, though that is rare. Hepatitis D infections occur in those who have contracted hepatitis B and can be prevented by receiving the hepatitis B vaccine. Hepatitis E is primarily spread through consuming contaminated food and water.
BTQ figures voiced support for Semenya. Billie Jean King, the out lesbian former number one womenâ€™s tennis star in the world who debunked gender myths of her own when she defeated Bobby Riggs in a 1973 tennis match known as the â€œBattle of the Sexes,â€? tweeted, â€œI am disappointed by todayâ€™s decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sports, which will prevent Caster Semenya from competing as her authentic
self. [Caster], I stand with you.â€? Even Martina Navratilova, the out lesbian tennis star who has made waves in recent months for transphobic comments about how trans women are â€œcheatingâ€? when they compete in womenâ€™s sports, called the ruling unfair. â€œThe verdict against Semenya is dreadfully unfair to her and wrong in principle,â€? Navratilova said, according to Reuters. â€œShe has done
nothing wrong and it is awful that she will now have to take drugs to be able to compete. General rules should not be made from exceptional cases and the question of transgender athletes remains unresolved.â€? Though the 28-year-old Semenyaâ€™s formal public statement was lengthy, she was much more succinct in a social media post on May 1, writing, â€œSometimes itâ€™s better to react with no reaction.â€?
. . GAYCITYNEWS #")!&$" (%('$*
GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
Correction Opposes Task Force on Trans Inmate Issues City jails ofﬁcials resist accountability as Council moves on ﬁve bills BY MATT TRACY
fficials from the city’s Department of Correction stumbled at various points and were challenged by councilmembers and advocates at a May 1 City Council hearing about the treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming and intersex (TGNCI) people in DOC custody. They made one point crystal clear, however: the department opposes proposed commonsense legislation that would implement a task force focusing on policies surrounding TGNCI people in city jails. The first two of five proposed bills that were discussed, Int. 1513 and Int. 1514, would require DOC facilities housing TGNCI people to provide access to comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment, while Int. 1530 and 1532 would direct the department to create and report on an independent appeals process for those who are denied housing requests — an apparent response to concerns that the department is failing in its responsibility to house people in accordance with their gender identity. The final bill, Int. 1535, calls for the task force. “While we appreciate the spirit of collaboration of [Int. 1535], the department cannot support this legislation,” said Faye Yelardy, the assistant commissioner for the DOC’s Office of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harassment Prevention, who went on to justify the department’s opposition to the bill by saying the task force should not exist if it consists of people who do not have a correctional services background. “In addition, we have serious concerns about potentially sharing sensitive and confidential information with individuals who lack authority to possess access to this information,” Yelardy added in her testimony in front of the Committee on Criminal Justice. The DOC did not commit to fully supporting or opposing any of the other bills. On some pieces of legislation, officials indicated a desire to make changes before considering support. On others, the department condescendingly sug-
JOHN MCCARTEN/ NEW YORK CIT Y COUNCIL
Criminal Justice Committee Chair Keith Powers speaks during a May 1 hearing on five bills related to the treatment of transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex inmates in city jails.
gested the measures aren’t necessary because the systems currently in place are already sufficient for LGBTQ people in custody. That position was later blasted by advocates, including attorneys who have represented numerous transgender inmates, who said trans people continue to face problems in city jails. It was only last year that the department started housing individuals in custody based on gender identity in accordance with an executive order issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2016. Yelardy said the department supports “the spirit of” the bills requiring mental health and substance abuse treatment at the jails, but appeared to suggest they might not be necessary, stating that the DOC “will continue to ensure” that all people in its custody would receive health care access “whether legislated to or not.” The DOC also sounded tepid about an independent appeals process created by the City Council. Officials at one point said the DOC is designing its own appeals process that would allow for review by “parties not involved in the original decision process,” and that they hope to work with the City Council toward legislation that “supports fairness and safe housing for all.” Currently, appeals are handled internally. Committee Chair Keith Powers of Manhattan rejected the department’s plea for longer time, stating that an independent appeals process is long overdue, as it was supposed to be implemented in 2014. “We’re five years past when you were supposed to set one up,” he said. “And now you’re asking for more time?” The DOC had less to say about the bill requiring reporting on the appeals pro-
cess. Yelardy said the DOC “supports the general premise” of bill, but added the department seeks to work with city councilmembers “on the metrics and wording” to avoid duplicating information already provided to the Board of Correction, an oversight body. The DOC stated that, according to the most recent statistics, there are 50 transgender people in custody, including three transgender men. Throughout the hearing, the DOC repeatedly called itself a “national correctional leader” in housing people based on gender identity, but advocates weren’t buying it. Deborah Lolai, who is a criminal defense attorney and LGBTQ crime specialist with the Bronx Defenders, said the DOC has not properly followed de Blasio’s executive order requiring that people be housed in accordance with their gender identity. “I have to say, contrary to what has been testified, that is not happening,” said Lolai, who noted that she represents hundreds of transgender people every year. “The majority of trans women who I represent who have been incarcerated have been in a male facility. Contrary to what has been testified to, they are not there by choice.” Multiple attorneys who testified also rejected the DOC’s assertion earlier in the hearing that the department strives to act within 24 on requests by those who wish to be placed in transgender housing. Among the transgender people she has represented, Lolai said, no such requests have been processed within 24 hours — and that the DOC sometimes makes its decisions based on an entirely different standard. “It seems to me from patterns that I’ve been seeing that the department largely determines decisions based on how feminine a woman presents,” she said. Incarcerated TGNCI individuals have experienced significant danger nationwide, regardless of whether they are in local custody or federal custody. Immigrants seeking asylum have been particularly affected, perhaps most notably in the case of Roxsana Hernandez, a Honduran woman who died in the custody of Immigrants and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last year and was found to have suffered bruises consistent with abuse, according to an independent autopsy. In another case, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the National Immigrant Justice Center took legal action against ICE last month after another transgender woman from Honduras, Nicole Garcia Aguilar, continued to be held in custody six months after successfully winning asylum in the United States. May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
Health Care Providers Win License to Discriminate Trump administration issues “right to deny” service rule with sweeping scope BY MATT TRACY
n one of multiple anticipated moves designed to dismantle health care protections for LGBTQ people and women, the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on May 2 announced a final version of a new rule that will give health care workers and institutions the authority to use “religious” or “moral” objections to deny care to patients. And, the administration is, separately, veiwed as being on the verge of issuing new rules targeting Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which protects patients on the basis of gender identity. Those rules changes would likely target transgender people more directly. President Donald Trump, speaking from the Rose Garden at the White House on May 2, said “physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students, and faith-based charities” are protected under the new rule, and the administration reinforced its commitment to enforce dozens of laws aimed at protecting “conscience” rights. The new rule is broad and leaves open nu-
President Donald Trump in the White House Rose Garden on May 2 announcing the administration’s new “right to deny” health care rule.
merous questions about how far health care providers could go in their quest to discriminate. In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign warned that the new rule could not only scale back abortion rights, but also target lesbians who seek in-vitro fertilization care, single women, interfaith couples, hormone therapy,
transition-related care, and HIV/ AIDS prevention and treatment. The rule was poposed in January 2018 and has already gone through the customary commenting period during which the public was allowed to voice comments, many of which related to queer-related care. On page 153 of an HHS document pertaining to the rule, the agency noted a series of court cases involving gender dysphoria and stated, “In the event the Department receives any such complaints, the Department will consider them on a case-by-case basis,” further adding to uncertainty surrounding the future of transgender-related care. The document dismissed comments expressing concern that LGBTQ people could suffer from discrimination in their health care under the new rule. HHS said one of those comments was “general in nature” and “did not assist in estimating” how it would affect religious beliefs or moral convictions, while the agency said another comment identifying health disparities faced by LGBTQ people “did not explain the extent to which such disparities are the product
➤ LICENSE TO DISCRIMINATE, continued on p.13
Trump Set to Dismantle Trans Health Care Protections In court ﬁling, HHS reveals it could soon target Obamacare antidiscrimination rule BY MATT TRACY
he Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated in an April 5 court filing that it soon expects to propose rules paving the way for hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies to refuse care for transgender patients. That revelation emerged in a court case brought by a small, religiously conservative medical group challenging protections implemented under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health coverage and care. That section of the law bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability — and HHS said in 2016 that transgender folks were covered under the sex discrimination provision of that rule. The administration has embarked on a quest to unravel that interpretation, and it is moving to leapfrog the ongoing court case by implementing the changes before any decision
comes down in the case. HHS, in its court filing, stated that the agency is expecting “to be able to publish a proposed rule soon, which, if finalized, may moot this case.” The full details of any rule change looming in the near future are not immediately clear, but the administration is widely expected to impose protections for those who claim religious objections to providing care for trans folks. A spokesperson for HHS, which is headed by former pharmaceutical lobbyist Alex Azar, avoided questions about the potential rules, saying only that the agency has “no updates at this time.” The lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s rule regarding transgender care was brought by Franciscan Health (formerly known as Franciscan Alliance), a healthcare system encompassing 14 hospitals in Indiana and Illinois that states on its website it is “continuing Christ’s mission in our Franciscan tradition.” Franciscan Health brought the case in the
federal district court in Northern Texas, whose judge, Reed O’Connor, is a favorite among social conservative and has issued a broader ruling, currently stayed, finding the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. The National Center for Transgender Equality told Gay City News that the organization is bracing for the Trump administration to announce the rule changes. “This rule poses a direct threat to the wellbeing of nearly two million transgender people across the country,” said NCTE spokesperson Gillian Branstetter. “Withdrawing the 2016 guidance from the Obama administration threatens to turn back the clock on much of the progress insurers, providers, and trans advocates ourselves have made in recent years. We will oppose any rule that lets doctors pick and choose who to treat.” Once HHS announces any new rules, the public is provided with a 60-day comment period during which folks are allowed to voice their
➤ TRANS HEALTH CARE, continued on p.13 May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
âž¤ LICENSE TO DISCRIMINATE, from p.12 of the lawful exercise of religious beliefs or moral convictions.â€? The agency argued that studies regarding the way state LGBTQ laws address disparities facing LGBTQ folks do not provide â€œa reliable basis for inferring an answer to the questions at issue here.â€? The administration clearly signaled its policy direction last year when the HHS Office for Civil Rights opened a new Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom and appointed Roger Severino â€” who previously served at the antiLGBTQ Heritage Foundation as the director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society â€” as its director. In a written statement, Severino put his own spin on the new rule, saying it â€œensures ensures that health care entities and professionals wonâ€™t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience.â€? But the announcement elicited vociferous condemnation from health care advocates who say it amounts to a license to discriminate. The Human Rights Campaignâ€™s government affairs director, David Stacy, said the new rule â€œthreatens LGBTQ people by permitting medical providers to deny
âž¤ TRANS HEALTH CARE, from p.12 thoughts on pending changes before the rules are officially implemented. While opponents of any proposed rule change face long odds thwarting a proposed rule change put forward by the administration during that comment period, NCTE and the Transgender Law Center (TLC) have joined forces in a campaign called #ProtectTransHealth to encourage folks to make their voices heard during the 60-day window. â€œOur goal is that the public speaks out and supports health care protections for trans people, and also to highlight that the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land and that legally trans people are still protected from discrimination,â€? said Anna Castro, who serves as a spokesperson for TLC. The Transgender Legal Defense GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
critical care based on personal beliefs.â€? â€œThe administrationâ€™s decision puts LGBTQ people at greater risk of being denied necessary and appropriate health care solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,â€? Stacy added. â€œEveryone deserves access to medically necessary care and should never be turned away because of who they are or who they love.â€? The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an umbrella organization for civil rights advocacy groups, also fired back at the administration immediately following the May 2 announcement. â€œHHSâ€™s final denial of care rule will substantially harm the health and well-being of many â€“ in particular women and transgender patients,â€? said Vanita Gupta, the organizationâ€™s president and CEO. â€œThe government should protect all patients from discrimination, not make it easier for those in the health care system to discriminate. The rule is also arbitrary and capricious and exceeds the scope of the laws that it seeks to enforce. This rule must be scrapped.â€? Further announcements from the administration regarding the unraveling of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act are expected within days.
and Education Fund, noting that the Trump administration has yet to propose any new rules, declined comment for this story. In its response to the Franciscan Health suit, the Trump administration referred to other ways in which it is backtracking on transgender rights protections â€” in federal employment and education law â€” advanced during the Obama years, noting, â€œThe United States has returned to its longstanding position that the term â€˜sexâ€™ in Title VII does not refer to gender identity, and there is no reason why Section 1557, which incorporates Title IXâ€™s analogous prohibition on â€˜sexâ€™ discrimination, should be treated differently.â€? The Trump administration has increasingly stepped up its attacks on transgender people and the LGBTQ community at large.
âž¤ TRANS HEALTH CARE, continued on p.14
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Manhattan’s Deputy Beep Praises Anti-LGBTQ Group Matthew S. Washington admires Focus on Family, anti-gay faith leaders, shares their sermons
City News to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office, he updated his bio to add “tweets are my own” alongside his name and job title. “I am pro-life, and attended a pro-life rally, on my own time, on Saturday,” Washington told Gay City News. “I am sorry that my twitter feed was not labeled appropriately, and it is now.” Brewer, who has long been a supporter of abortion rights and LGBTQ rights, defended her positions on those issues while stressing that Washington attended the rally and tweeted about it during his personal time. “Everyone knows where I stand: access to abortion is legal and must remain so, which is what I said at Planned Parenthood’s Saturday rally; equality and empowerment for the LGBTQ community are a basic human right, which I’ve said
on many other occasions; and the First Amendment allows everyone to have their own opinion,” Brewer told Gay City News. “The fact that a deputy borough president attended an anti-abortion rally on his own time — and tweeted that he did — doesn’t impact my stances. I’ve reiterated to my staff that any social media feeds must be labeled that their opinions are their own.” Washington, until this week, was not in compliance with that edict. In addition to serving under the borough president, Washington is also listed on the board of directors at the city’s Economic Development Corporation, where he handles capital and expense funding programs and serves as an office liaison for Manhattan economic development projects. He previously served as chair of East Harlem’s Community Board 11. Washington’s budding career
in New York City public service, however, hasn’t stopped him from spreading homophobic sermons and promoting homophobes. He frequently retweets posts by Carter Conlon, a senior pastor at Times Square Church who has said queer people must be set free “from homosexuality and other lifestyles that are a robbery of what God intended them to be,” and he routinely retweets another hate-filled homophobe — Pastor Jim Cymbala — who once said during a sermon that “men who have sex with men” are “wrongdoers” who “will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Washington appears to be a close follower of Cymbala, who serves as a pastor at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. In March of 2018, he tweeted a link to Cymbala’s book and directed followers to a link where they can purchase the book. “God shows up in the lives of 7 people in #TheRescueBook by Pastor Jim Cymbala,” Washington tweeted. Among the most shocking examples of Washington’s admiration for homophobes was seen in 2017 when he retweeted a sermon during which another Times Square Church pastor, Patrick Pierre, asked, “Are you having sexual encounters or performing sexual acts of any kind outside of biblically-defined marriage, which is between a husband and a wife?” Pierre then noted that “it’s alarming” how many people are “living in fornication” and ”sexual sin.” “What’s even more alarming is when people are living in open disobedience to the word of God but refuse to turn,” Pierre added. Washington’s tweets from the May 4 rally remain posted on his Twitter account at @MatthewStephenW.
gender school children. In 2017, DeVos scaled back the Office for Civil Rights’ investigations of discrimination against LGBTQ students and in 2018 the Department of Education said it would no longer probe complaints
by transgender students who are unable to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. The Trump administration has also rejected the Obama Justice Department’s view that sexual orientation discrimination, like
that based on gender identity, is a form of sex discrimination already forbidden under federal law. That question will be tested in three cases the Supreme Court this week agreed to take up in its new term beginning in October.
BY MATT TRACY
anhattan Deputy Borough President Matthew S. Washington on May 4 used the Twitter profile on which he identifies in his official capacity to promote an infamous anti-LGBTQ and anti-women’s rights group known as Focus on the Family — and that’s only the latest example of his deep history of amplifying the messages of homophobes in the city. Washington posted a photo from the crowd at Focus on the Family’s anti-abortion rally in Times Square and wrote, “#AliveFromNewYork Thank you @FocusFamily.” During the days leading up to the rally, Washington also retweeted the bigoted organization’s April 22 tweet previewing the event. Focus on the Family’s website represents a mixture of homophobia, transphobia, and attacks on women’s reproductive rights. The site blasts bans on so-called gay conversion therapy, saying, “We also support an individual’s right to counseling for unwanted homosexuality,” and the organization also offers a guide explaining how parents should talk to their children “about homosexuality.” The site refers to transgender people in offensive ways by criticizing the “prominence of transgenderism” while telling parents, “Nobody can really change from one sex to the other.” In a written statement, Washington did not distance himself from the organization. He only expressed regret that he had not altered his Twitter bio to include a disclaimer indicating his tweets only represent his own views. On May 6, after inquiries from Gay
➤ TRANS HEALTH CARE, from p.13 Most recently, transgender service members were banned from the military, while Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has mounted a multi-pronged assault on trans-
T WIT TER/ MAT THEW S. WASHINGTON
One of Manhattan’s two deputy borough presidents, Matthew S. Washington, is a big fan of the rightwing Focus on the Family, a staunch opponent of LGBTQ and women’s reproductive rights, and has often retweeted the sermons of anti-gay pastors.
May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
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GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
Sex Work Reformers Rally in Albany DecrimNY gains traction, as Senate acts on vacating trafﬁcking victims’ convictions BY NATHAN RILEY
n an historic turn in Albany, efforts to back away from criminalizing sex work have achieved lift-off. DecrimNY, a new coalition, has gained remarkable visibility pursuing its goal to “decriminalize, decarcerate, and destigmatize” sex work. It has demanded an investigation of the NYPD Vice Squad and, on Monday, the State Senate signaled it will take up a bill to fully wipe clean the criminal records of sex trafficking victims — a measure already passed by the Assembly in previous sessions. More than 100 activists, including many sex workers, rallied on the Million Dollar Steps at the State Capitol on May 7 holding signs reading, “Communities need more resources, not more policing.” They were joined by legisla-
Activists from DecrimNY rally and lobby in Albany on May 7.
tors sympathetic to the coalition’s soup-to-nuts program for ending the criminalization of sex work. The coalition of more than 30 organizations was announced in
February, in the wake of a 188 percent increase in city arrests for loitering for the purposes of prostitution after a long period of decline. In prior years, 85 percent
of arrests were among black and Latinx people, a large number of them transgender women, leading activists and Legal Aid attorneys to charge that the arrest policy was a ban on “walking while trans.” An unusually high number of arrests were in Jackson Heights, a heavily immigrant neighborhood. Prostitution arrests of undocumented residents can lead to deportation. Brad Hoylman, an out gay West Side state senator who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has joined with Assemblymember Amy Paulin of Westchester in the push to repeal the loitering law that Hoylman said in a statement is “used to profile, harass, and arrest transgender people and people of color.” A second priority of Decrim NY is expanding the “vacature law” that passed in 2010 and wipes clean
➤ SEX WORK DECRIM, continued on p.17
May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
➤ SEX WORK DECRIM, from p.16 the records of person coerced into sex work by sex traffickers. The original law only vacated prostitution-related arrests, explained Chelsea’s Richard Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Health Committee and lead sponsor of the expanded protections that would also vacate convictions for other crime, like larceny, that sex traffickers force their victims to commit. In the Senate, Jessica Ramos of Queens sponsors the legislation. She is the chair of the Labor Committee and one of the new legislators who ousted Independent Democratic Conference senators last year after they had spent years in coalition with the Republicans. Her speech in Spanish at the rally drew rousing cheers from the crowd. Her district includes Jackson Heights — ground zero in the recent binge of police arrests. The vacature bill was approved by the Senate Codes Committee the day before the demonstrators arrived, in a sign of a close working relationship between Albany’s Democratic leadership and De-
GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
crimNY. Criminal records make it more difficult for sex workers to obtain jobs, forcing them to remain in their criminalized activity. Gottfried voiced optimism that the Assembly will approve the measure once again this year. DecrimNY stresses that repealing prostitution laws is both a racial justice issue and a matter of equity for LGBTQ youth, who Legal Aid reports trade sex at “seven to eight times the rate of their cisgender, heterosexual peers.” Joining the coalition are the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the New York City Anti-Violence Project, and Gay Men’s Health Crisis. The coalition’s steering committee includes people of color and trans individuals with histories of sex work, several of whom spoke at the Albany rally stressing that they need housing and jobs if they are to leave sex work. They rejected framing the issue as a matter of being “rescued” from sex work, but rather said it was a question of the richest country in the world providing shelter and food to its young people. Many of the coalition’s leaders
obtained their experience from existing reform organizations, like the Red Umbrella Project and the Urban Justice Center’s Sex Workers Project. Both of those groups are non-profits, which cannot legally lobby for legislation. DecrimNY, which is not a non-profit, is free to press Albany for legislative reform of laws affecting sex work. As Gay City News earlier reported, the coalition is asking for an investigation of the NYPD Vice Squad. In an April 5 letter, Ramos, Assemblymembers Ron Kim from Queens and Dan Quart from Manhattan, and out gay Bronx City Councilmember Ritchie Torres called the Vice Squad “a traditional hot bed of corruption.” (A massage parlor sex worker in Kim’s district died trying to escape an NYPD raid.) The four legislators asked the city Department of Investigation and the NYPD’s inspector general to open an investigation into “recurring incidents” and a culture of “misconduct.” They asked “if the Vice division is meant to solve victim-based crimes, why is prostitution included,” and warned it is
“dangerous and offensive to conflate willing participation in the sex trade with human trafficking.” The resources expended on the Vice Squad, they wrote, contrast sharply with skimpy budget for the Sex Crimes Unit, which is “undertrained” and “understaffed.” Meanwhile, members of the Vice Squad have been found to run prostitution rings, intimidate sex workers into giving free sex to avoid arrest, and grope sex workers in order to determine their biological sex. NYPD conduct leaves sex workers “at best fearful, and at worst” filled with “dread,” the four wrote. Kate Mogulescu, a Brooklyn Law School professor and a member of Decrim NY’s Policy Working Group who was in in Albany on May 7, said that for decades sex workers were jailed without trial because they couldn’t afford the cash bail. Next January, when the new bail reform law takes effect, they will receive a desk appearance ticket and appear in court at a later date with their lawyer. Legislation fully decriminalizing sex work is still being drafted in the Assembly and the Senate.
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Inter-Ivy Resentment Masquerades as Political Journalism BY ED SIKOV
eaningless erudition,” is it? This New York Times article, by Jay Caspian Kang’s recent New York Times article, “How Pete Buttigieg’s Meaningless Erudition Made Him the ‘Smart’ Candidate,” is a snotty hit job. It begins with what Kang evidently considers to be humiliating for Mayor Pete: he’s no longer fluent in the Norwegian he learned. Kang seizes on the fact that Buttigieg forgot most of his Norwegian, as though this revelation was the product of Kang’s ace reporting, whereas in fact the information came from Buttigieg himself — in Norwegian. And what the hell is the point of the scare quotes around smart? “In his weeks on the national scene, Buttigieg has built a brand squarely aimed at a certain kind of liberal intellectual — the type whose prose-driven, subjective, humanist view of the world has lately fallen out of style, replaced by data analysis and ideology. His unassuming face now seems to be everywhere. The blitz has felt less like a presidential campaign than a liberal-arts variety show — a best-case scenario for what happened to Max Fischer from ‘Rushmore.’ A few weeks after the musician Ben Folds told a story about playing a duet with the candidate, a Buttigieg adviser tweeted a video of Mayor Pete ‘tickling the ivories’ before a talk at Scripps College. Even his choice of song — Spoon’s ‘The Way We Get By’ — fit the brand, nailing a demographic of upper-middle-class dads who wax nostalgic about their college radio shows and the professors who taught them to love James Joyce. As Notre-Dame burned, Buttigieg offered his sympathies in French.” Oh. So not only did he forget Norwegian (the language he used to say that he had forgotten Norwegian). Pete Buttigieg speaks conversational French, Spanish, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, and Farsi, so even if he did forget his Norwegian, he can rely on six other languages — plus English — to get by
on. Gimme a break, Jay. And get this: “I don’t doubt that Mayor Pete, a Harvard graduate and the son of two professors, is genuinely smart. Nor do I think the excitement about his candidacy has been driven entirely by the polyglot fetishes of my media colleagues. He speaks in a calm, thoughtful manner with a touch of a young Dustin Hoffman’s charm. The candidacy of an openly gay man has genuine symbolic importance.” It’s all a symbol, huh? This article is symptomatic of a recent trend in both Buttigieg’s coverage and the responses to the coverage. The leftierthan-thou crowd (of which Kang may or may not be a part; his article is so full of snark that it’s not clear what his politics are) makes it a point to complain about Buttigieg’s race and gender. And it’s no surprise that this camp’s loudest voices on social media are as white and male as he is. Buttigieg’s absolutely flabbergasting candidacy thereby makes a magician’s shift from real value to symbolic value. No. This is wrong. The homophobic jerks who heckle him at events aren’t symbolic. The courage Mayor Pete demonstrates when he faces down those assholes isn’t symbolic either. And it’s worth noting that Jay Caspian Kang is a graduate of Bowdoin College and Columbia University. Not exactly the opposite of the dads “waxing nostalgic” about their liberal arts college days. Kang ends the piece with this: “My fear is that such a system might look a bit like Buttigieg mania: an insidious game in which entire lives of experience, or even exactly matching credentials, get overshadowed by the dilettantish longing of the upper middle class. The Mayor Pete bubble should serve as a portent of what might happen if we strip away every objective measure of merit, however problematic or biased, in favor of how someone’s idiosyncratic talents make us feel. Consider that the person [writer Anand] Giridharadas and others have described as the opposite of Donald Trump isn’t Elizabeth Warren, a self-made public intellectual and policy expert from a more rural
and blue-collar background than Buttigieg’s campus roots, but an erudite 37-year-old mayor who seems most intent on dazzling the country with his academic feats of strength.” Oh really? As far as I can tell, Buttigieg seems most interested in running for president. And it’s not as if he’s been bragging about his linguistic skills. Yes, the media has been entertaining itself with his accomplishments, and he certainly hasn’t let them down. But that’s a far cry from tossing off a campaign speech in Farsi. And I agree completely about Warren; when was the last time a community college graduate ran for president? I would like to give Kang a grade. In the not-so-good old days, professors at schools such as Bowdoin, Columbia, Harvard, and such would award certain students what was called a Gentleman’s C, which is to say that they’d have flunked if their names hadn’t been Vanderbilt or Astor. I think Jay Caspian Kang merits a much higher grade than that — I found his article annoying but wellwritten, challenging, and certainly not stupid — but for the sake of a cheap pun, I’m awarding him a Caspian C. From CNN’s “Five Things Newsletter”: “A new Quinnipiac University poll finds that 70 percent of voters (including 86 percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic) say they are open to electing a gay president. The same poll also discovered, however, that only 36 percent of voters (including 40 percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic) think the United States is ready to elect a gay president.” Frankly I don’t think Pete has a Cherry Garcia’s chance in hell of being elected president. Still, I resent the question. If we had to wait until America was “ready” for a gay or lesbian president, we’d still be afraid of the mailman discovering our subscription to The Advocate and no grandma would ever be told the truth about their grandkid’s sexuality. Follow @Ed Sikov on Facebook and Twitter. May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
STONEWALL DEMOCRATIC CLUB OF NYC p r e s e n t s
Generic PrEP to Arrive Next Year, Gilead Says
t h e
Advocates say move not coming fast enough
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k i c k o f f
REVOLUTION & EVOLUTION 1 9 6 9
Members of ACT UP and other AIDS activists, on May 4, protested Gilead’s PrEP monopoly in Columbus Circle, at the nearby Trump International Hotel and Tower, and outside the East 52nd Street headquarters of BlackRock Financial Group, the pharma giant’s leading investor.
e v e n t
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HON. KATHY HOCHUL ANDY MARRA CARMEN NEELY Lieutenant Governor, New York
BY MATT TRACY
eneric PrEP is coming — but not just yet. Gilead Sciences announced on May 8 that it would release its patent on Truvada for PrEP next year, but many advocates are holding short of celebrating because they say the need for generic HIV prevention medication is too immediate to wait any longer. On page 35 of an Securities and Exchange Commission quarterly filing, Gilead stated that “[p]ursuant to a settlement agreement,” it would remove the patent on emtricitabine and tenofovir, which are two ingredients in PrEP. The company also indicated that Teva Pharmaceuticals would be the one company allowed to launch generic PrEP. Gilead did not immediately respond to a request for comment in the hours following the disclosure. The development, nonetheless, represented a major shift after Gilead became engulfed in widespread criticism during the growing movement led by the PrEP4AllNow Collaboration and other activists who have demanded a generic version of PrEP. The pharma giant has been blasted not only for ripping off consumers by charging a price far higher than in many other nations, but for raking in immense profits even though the US government GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
technically owns the patent, having funded scientific advancements that benefited the company. The move also came shortly after government forces started to mount pressure on Gilead. Advocates found that the company had made more than $3 billion on PrEP, prompting seven US senators to write a letter last month to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar seeking more information about government patents on the medication. And the Washington Post reported in April that the Justice Department is looking into whether Gilead ran afoul of the government patent. Dr. Aaron S. Lord said in a written statement via BreakThePatent. org that the announcement is “a victory for the LGBTQ+ community, for HIV activists, and for US taxpayers,” but that it is merely the beginning of a longer fight. “Even their announcement today leaves Gilead with exclusive rights to Truvada as PrEP for another 15 months and Teva as the only generic manufacturer on the US market,” Lord said. “This will do little to reduce the price in a way that will increase access and PrEP4All remains suspicious of the terms and lack of transparency surrounding the Teva settlement. I have to ask, what’s to stop them — other than a desire for profit margins — from releasing the rights now?”
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President, Harlem Pride Co-Chair, Black & Latino LGBTQ Coalition
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May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
Not Your Lin-Manuel Mirandaâ€™s Hamilton Betsy DeVos, accepting conservative think tank award in New York City, draws ďŹ re
Members of the United Federation of Teachers were a big part of the gathered protesters.
PHOTO BY DONNA ACETO/ TEXT BY PAUL SCHINDLER
lexander Hamilton/ My name is Alexander Hamilton/ And thereâ€™s a million things I havenâ€™t done/ But just you wait, just you wait.â€? Thereâ€™s a million things US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hasnâ€™t done either, but also a myriad of steps she has taken, most of them â€” in the eyes of progressives from teachersâ€™ unions to LGBTQ advocates â€” destructive. And thereâ€™s no enthusiasm for waiting to see what comes next. So, when DeVos arrived in New York on May 1 to accept the Alexander Hamilton Award from the right-wing Manhattan Institute, activists turned out in force to show their resistance. Groups from Rise and Resist and Revolting Lesbians to the United Federation of Teachers and Raging Grannies took to the street opposite Cipriani 42nd Street and managed to hoist a sign on the second story bridge between Grand Central and the Grand Hyatt reading, â€œHands Off Our Schools.â€? Teachers are upset with DeVos not only because of her strident hostility toward their unions, but also for her championing of charGayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
ter schools at the expense of a stepped-up commitment to supporting quality public schools. The education secretaryâ€™s lobbying on behalf of charter schools in her home state of Michigan has been widely criticized for damaging public education there while creating a network of private options that have fallen well short of her promises. DeVos has also been a leader in the administrationâ€™s reversal on the federal government guarantee of transgender studentsâ€™ access to bathroom and locker room facilities appropriate to their gender identity, and she has weakened oversight of sexual assault and harassment cases, not only on college campuses but also in high schools and lower grades. Dozens of protesters on East 42nd Street, marching in a wellorganized oval, chanted, â€œBetsy Betsy full of lies/ We will never privatize,â€? â€œNo hate, no fear/ Betsy youâ€™re not welcome here,â€? â€œKeep God out of the classroom,â€? and â€œHey hey, say what?/ Not a single budget cut.â€? Jo Macellaro, a member of Revolting Lesbians, was able to bring her protest so close to DeVos as she entered Cipriani that she could have thrown a pie in her face. Ah, but where have all of New Yorkâ€™s neighborhood bakeries gone?
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Love Hurts Fraught dramas where painful secrets, ecrets, infidelity, and food collide BY DAVID KENNERLEY afeword,” the latest queer-centric drama written and directed by S. Asher Gelman (his surprise hit “Afterglow” ran for over a year OffBroadway) begins with the loud, piercing crack of a whip. The daring dramatist knows how to grab our attention, and over the course of the next 100 minutes, he never lets go. The whip, as it happens, is wielded by a stunningly gorgeous male Pro Dom clad in black fetish gear. The target is a muscular Sub, stripped to his underwear, on his knees. They are playing in the Dom’s dimly lit “dungeon” in a Manhattan high-rise, and we can’t look away. Cut to a sleek, tastefully appointed apartment on a floor below where Chris (Maybe Burke), a smart-alecky, genderqueer nurse practitioner, is visiting their neighbor, Lauren (Traci Elaine Lee), a former chef, the two bonding over glasses of wine. Although the pair had never officially met before, they strike up an instant friendship. When Chris and their partner, Xavier (Jimmy Brooks in a soulful, understated turn), come over for dinner a couple of weeks later, one of those bizarre, only-in-NewYork coincidences occurs. Turns out Xavier is the Dom, a sort of BDSM sex therapist. And Lauren’s husband, Micah? He’s the Sub, and neither Chris nor Lauren has a clue. The cast makes the most of this exceedingly awkward moment. For the remainder of the play, we see how this unlikely foursome (each about 30 years old) navigate the thorny situation they’ve created for themselves. Will Lauren, who becomes fascinated by Xavier’s profession but is “repressed as fuck,” get wise to her hubby’s dark secret? “Safeword” is a rare play that attempts to pull back the curtain on the BDSM subculture. Sure, we see the giving and receiving of
Joe Chisholm and Jimmy Brooks in S. Asher Gelman’s “Safeword,” at the American Theatre of Actors through July 7.
pain, but also the aftercare, where the Dom tenderly consoles the Sub. We witness the therapeutic power of extreme role-play, and it’s surprisingly alluring. Micah (Joe Chisholm), a head chef who spends his days at his tony French restaurant making countless decisions and barking orders to the staff, values his precious sessions as a way to cede control to someone else. Oddly enough, being bound and bullied elicits a supreme sense of freedom. And despite the near-nudity and intense intimacy with another man, he insists it’s not sexual and he is not gay. We believe him. Scenic designer Ann Beyersdorfer has taken over the theater with her painted scrims featuring a black-and-white sketch of a cityscape. The bi-level construction allows us to contrast the action in the BDSM playroom with that in the apartment below. Jamie Roderick’s lighting design works overtime to intensify the mood. To be sure, the script has some wooden patches, and the plot feels contrived — couldn’t Micah find an effective Dom anyplace else but in his own building? Perhaps it’s simply a wicked twist of fate. As Chris wryly observes, “The universe
works in mysterious ways.” Across town at 59E59 Theaters, a parallel dynamic is being played out in the harrowing and hilarious “Caroline’s Kitchen.” The besieged chef here is Caroline (Caroline Langrishe), a woman in her 50s with her own cooking show, filmed in her sprawling London home. Think Martha Stewart with longer hair and a British accent (this production was brought across the pond as part of 59E59’s Brits Off Broadway series). On television she displays perfect culinary technique in a perfect kitchen, but when the camera is turned off her life is anything but. She’s a chef on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Under the razor-sharp direction of Alastair Whatley, the convergence of unfortunate events in “Caroline’s Kitchen” is so relentless it’s wildly comical. While no one seeks out a Pro Dom to cope with life’s mounting pressures, the characters manage to inflict heavy doses of pain on one another. The overscheduled and possibly alcoholic Caroline is a dreadful mother to her 21-yearold son, Leo (Tom England). A Godfearing Christian, she’s in utter denial that Leo is gay and suffering
a devastating heartbreak. She also refuses to accept that he’s vegan. Her husband Mike (Aden Gillett), a self-absorbed finance wiz, is a crusty blowhard who has never shown Leo an ounce of fatherly love. Caroline answers the news of Mike’s affair with a younger woman by having a spiteful fling of her own — with their carpenter, Graeme (James Sutton), no less. Not only are Caroline and Graeme mean to each other, but his ailing wife becomes a casualty as well. There are a hundred other sticky subplots swirling around the kitchen, including one involving Caroline’s shrill, lonely assistant (Jasmyn Banks), which are impossible to detail here. When Caroline brandishes a gleaming chef’s knife and sets it on the kitchen counter early in the first act, we suspect it will be used to inflict pain at the play’s climax. I won’t spoil the surprise. None of selfish cynics bother to listen to each other. Rather, they talk at one another and interrupt often. Global warming, real estate, celebrity, adultery, corrupting the nation’s youth, macerated strawberries, golf, cigarette smoking, Syria, religion, champagne, paparazzi, forgiveness, and Armageddon are just a few of the topics crammed into this breakneck-paced, 90-minute, merciless satire. I would say that playwright Torben Betts has thrown in everything but the kitchen sink, but that’s in there as well. SAFEWORD | Midnight Theatricals at the American Theatre of Actors, 314 W. 54th St. | Through Jul. 7: Mon.-Tue., Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat. at 3 p.m.; Sun. at 2 & 7 p.m. | $69$89 at safewordtheplay.com | One hr., 40 mins., with no intermission CAROLINE’S KITCHEN | 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St. | Through May 25: Tue..-Sat. at 7 p.m.; Sat.Sun. at 2 p.m | $55-$70 at 59e59. org | Ninety mins., with no intermission May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
Who Are You?... And, Who Am I? Identity and our fragile hold on what it means goes for surrealism, they go for special effects and I wanted to make it subtle and literalize it in the world. You don’t have to go too far to see how strange and weird the world is. A dark hallway can look like the strangest thing you’ve ever seen in your life. I had fun finding low-key ways of making it very bizarre.
BY GARY M. KRAMER he twisted queer thriller “The Skin of the Teeth” opens with John (Donal Brophy), who is white, preparing for a date with Josef (Pascal Arquimedes), a younger, cute, and slightly insecure African-American man. When Josef arrives, the guys drink a little wine, eat a little food, and have a deep though awkward chat. Later, the two take a pill, dance a little, and then… well, it’s best to let viewers experience what happens next. Writer/ director Matthew Wollin’s film, an intense, provocative little drama — it could work very well as a stage play — keeps one of the characters and most of the audience guessing about what is going on. But puzzling things out is what makes “The Skin of the Teeth” so intriguing. As characters assume multiple roles, questions about identity are raised. Wollin addresses themes of truth and trust, race and sexuality as one character encounters what might best be described as a surreal nightmare — if that isn’t too much of a spoiler. The filmmaker chatted via Skype with Gay City News about his curious film.
GARY M. KRAMER: For an icebreaker, I thought I would ask you one of the inappropriate questions one of the characters in the film poses: Are you a top? MATTHEW WOLLIN: [Laughs.] No one has asked me that before! Can I defer that question? KRAMER: The evening between John and Josef can be described as awkward. What prompted you to depict their date in this way? WOLLIN: I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the right dynamic between the characters. In earlier drafts, they were meeting for the first time — or farther along in their relationship. I deliberately settled on a turning point so there was this slightly-charged awkwardness. I spent time finessing that because it’s difficult to depict awkwardness. GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
TL A RELEASING
Pascal Arquimedes and Donal Brody in Matthew Wollin’s “The Skin of the Teeth,” which opens May 10 at Cinema Village.
especially complicated for marginalized communities. So, it’s how one’s sense of identity gets deconstructed and how one builds an identity.
TL A RELEASING
Matthew Wollin, the screenwriter and director of “The Skin of the Teeth.”
I refined the dialogue and made sure there were specific moments where the relationship shifted. KRAMER: The guys talk about power and being open, and embarrassment about being affectionate in public. What observations do you have about this idea of protecting or expressing who you are? WOLLIN The narrative hook is to start in a way that you have just enough info to determine some things but not enough to fill in all the gaps. You have a grasp of who they are, but the narrative progression makes you think it’s going in one direction — then it branches off. To talk about the openness and power is to talk about the stability and mutability of identity and that decision to live openly or keep part of yourself to yourself. That’s been on my mind as a gay man coming of age, and this idea of how you figure out who you are and sorting out how people perceive you and what you like or don’t like. That’s
KRAMER: You play with the characters and the audience, creating a sense of unreality in a very real — and very intense — situation. Can you discuss your purpose for this approach to the material? WOLLIN: With respect to the surreality, I went in knowing I wanted to make a film that had weird things going on. I love nonreal movies. I was looking for a way to put that in the narrative and build it in a way without weird special effects. The trick is to keep a hard grasp on how much strangeness was going on for the characters and the audience. Anytime you play with fantastical things, it can get away from you. The film is never totally real or unreal. KRAMER: I love that you take ordinary things — Scrabble, masks, dental floss — and make them ominous and surreal. Can you describe your thought process for that? WOLLIN: With the choice of surreal things, they do have significance and have signposts back to things that happened, and that’s helpful to read the film and how real or unreal it is. They are not completely random. It’s not hard to make an ordinary thing seem weird. I like doing that. It’s super fun. So, for the floss — move a normal object to a different room in a different time of day. When cinema
KRAMER: The film addresses themes of truth and trust — how we adjust ourselves to answer a question in a way that we say the truth, what we think they want to hear, or what we think is the best answer in that situation. What are your thoughts about this? WOLLIN: It’s hard for me to understand what someone’s true self is. Asking how people express who they are when there are different forces at work — how do we know who they are at a core level? It’s you perceiving you, and how you perceive how they perceive you. How you think of yourself is more contextual than it really is. As soon as a situation changes, it’s easy to change how you are. Perhaps that’s just how I am. When I am unsure, I tend to get overly confident about what I’m saying. You can see that in the film in how people react to uncertainty. KRAMER: Are you making a statement about how we find coping mechanisms to deal with stressful situations? WOLLIN: I hadn’t thought of it in terms of coping. There’s a moment in the date when Josef pries into John’s partying and drug history. He imagines something he doesn’t know about and he thinks he wants that. It’s not an accurate representation, but it’s easy to commit those fallacies about things in the world: it will make me feel different or grow as a person. He’s being a different person or a fuller version of himself. THE SKIN OF THE TEETH | Directed by Matthew Wollin | TLA Releasing | Opens May 10 | Cinema Village, 22 E. 12th St.; cinemavillage.com
Giving the Queer Clown His Voice Taylor Mac moves to the biggest stage With “Gary”
Nathan Lane in Taylor Mac’s “Gary: A Sequel To Titus Andronicus,” directed by George C. Wolfe, at the Booth Theatre through August 4.
advertising opportunity.” “Gary” is a kind of reclaiming as well. The play grew out of a commission to adapt Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Of Shakespeare, Mac said, “I love him. He was an incredible writer. It’s unbelievable how gifted he was. I find the combination of philosophy and poetry at the same time to be liberating. It’s super-inspiring. I love to say the language and I like to act in the plays, but the things I struggle with are how the politics of so many of them are about the rebelling again the status quo, but then tend to shore it up.” And so in “Gary,” Mac has taken three very minor characters — a clown, a midwife and a maid, one of them only mentioned in passing in the “Titus” text — and explores imaginatively what might have happened to them after the wholesale carnage that famously ends what may have been Shakespeare’s first hit, in 1594. “I’m more interested in telling stories about people who have less power in their lives,” he explained. How queer is the character of the clown, Gary, played by Nathan Lane? “He’s queer because he’s my version of him,” Mac said. “He’s very queer. Everything I write is going to be queer.” Earlier queer writers, like Tennessee Williams, he said, wrote coded texts about ostensibly heterosexual characters, “They’re so wonderful because there’s just a bunch of queers on the stage,” Mac said. He didn’t know Lane before working on “Gary,” and said, “It’s kinda fun to work with someone who’s been a clown most of his career. Without speaking for him, I think he’s been trying to branch out a bit from his clowning to his desire to do Eugene O’Neill and Tony Kushner and Beckett. That mirrors the character of the clown who wants to be more. That parallel has been really fascinating to watch.” Does the human decimation in “Gary” represent the community’s losses from AIDS? “That’s always in the conversation in my plays,” Mac explained. “I’m a child of the AIDS epidemic. I don’t know how I could make plays that aren’t about that. ‘A 24-Decade History of Popular Music’ was about AIDS and about communities being torn apart, but I can’t say that I consciously went after that in this show.”
with a bunch of Radical Faeries at an alternative event to the big parade,” Mac said of his plans to join the separate Reclaim Pride march and rally on Pride Sunday. “We can’t let Macy’s take over the parade and use our holiday as an
GARY: A SEQUEL TO TITUS ANDRONICUS | Booth Theatre, 222 45th St.| Through Aug. 4: Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m.; Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $39-$275 at telecharge.com
BY CHRISTOPHER MURRAY hen the theater artist Taylor Mac left me a voicemail to set up our recent interview, my phone’s voice recognition program sent me a text of the message that started out, “Hi, it’s Anna Mike again.” Well, no, it wasn’t. Still, knowing Mac and his penchant for embracing the unexpected, I could almost imagine a quick whipping up of a whole evening’s entertainment about “Anna Mike,” her griefs, her triumphs, her nights, her days, and her sleazy, sleazy ways. At 45, Mac has become one of those rare artists whose audience members tend to internalize his specifically celebratory yet serious queer worldview. Once you’ve drunk the gay grape Kool-Aid, you’re in. It’s sort of like being bitten by a bald werewolf in frilly drag: you’re going to start howling Judy Garland tunes sooner or later. Following the triumph deluxe of Mac and his collaborator, musical director/ arranger Matt Ray, with “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music” — in development beginning in 2012 and culminating in a one-time-only 24-hour performance in Brooklyn in 2016 — this Jack-andJill-of-all-trades theatrical received a Genius Grant from the MacArthur Foundation and was short-listed for a Pulitzer. But now, Mac’s biggest, most high-profile work yet, “Gary: A Sequel To Titus Andronicus” has opened on Broadway. In a largely favorable review, The New York Times called it “the unlikeliest bird to land on Broadway in many a year.” Mac is a pretty unlikely bird himself. His quintessentially queer world tends to be kinda amped up. Things are “super-important” or “super-inspiring.” His own gay coming of age is marked with his coming out at the AIDS Walk in San Francisco in his native California in 1987. That was 32 years ago, and 18 years before that was Stonewall in 1969. “It’s one of our first historic events,” Mac told Gay City News a few days before the “Gary” opening. “One that queers can claim as their own, where the queers were so loud they couldn’t be ignored.” Of the upcoming WorldPride and Stonewall 50 anniversary, he said, “Well, I love a gathering. I love it when a community gets together and celebrates a milestone or just creates ritual for themselves. Queers don’t tend to have had rituals of queerness as children, ones not dictated by a heterosexual perspective. So, anniversaries like this are super-important, they’re our holidays.” “I’ll going to be working a comfort tent in Central Park, welcoming people, and hanging out
COURTESY OF DKC/O&M
The inimitable Taylor Mac has queered “Titus Andronicus.”
May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
â€œClemenza,â€? â€œWalkuereâ€? Win Cheers Seasonâ€™s best Mozart revival; Goerke engaging as Bruennhilde BY DAVID SHENGOLD urely the best Mozart revival of the season was the uniformly well-cast â€œLa clemenza di Titoâ€? (seen April 11). The 1984 production, directed and designed by the late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle in neo-Classical style (Giambattista Piranesi a central referent visually), holds up well for what it is â€” not to all tastes, especially not the drab male choral costumes, but apt for the opera seria style and intertextually linked to Ponnelleâ€™s earlier â€œIdomeneo.â€? Most writers seem to have forgotten that both of these now frequently encountered Mozart works had been staged at City Opera a few years before the Met took them up; but the Ponnelle stagings marked a beachhead in their acceptance by American audiences. Though he couldnâ€™t negate the camp effects of Vitelliaâ€™s aircraft-carrier panniered dress, revival director Peter McClintock made the action vivid, helped by the considerable dramatic talents and insights of his two leads, Matthew Polenzani (Tito) and Joyce DiDonato (Sesto). These two exemplary artists, frequent colleagues, offered
RICHARD TERMINE/ METROPOLITAN OPERA
Joyce DiDonato as Sesto, Matthew Polenzani as Tito, and Elza van den Heever as Vitellia in Mozartâ€™s â€œLa Clemenza di Tito.â€?
these roles to Chicago audiences in 2014, but their portrayals here had deepened and remained astoundingly detailed and affecting musically. Both dealt in beautifully layered dynamics and showed acute weighing of texts, decoration, and musical phrasing. DiDonatoâ€™s slight but thrilling pause before the second â€œGuardamiâ€? as Sesto beseeched Vitellia in â€œParto, partoâ€? made my jaw
drop. Polenzani and DiDonato gave us worldclass performances. Ying Fangâ€™s Servilia looked and sounded enchanting, needing only more attention to consonants in her cantilena music to achieve perfection. Emily Dâ€™Angelo, a very young and gifted Canadian mezzo, played Annio ardently, with bright, pleasing tone; with more experience, she may well attain the distinction in phrasing her senior colleagues showed. Christian Van Horn made Publio livelier than usual and sang â€œTardi sâ€™avvediâ€? very well; sometimes his tonal center drifted in ensembles. As Vitellia, Elza van den Heever entered wholeheartedly into Ponnelleâ€™s amusing but distinctly misogynistic â€œJoan Collinsâ€? concept; her large soprano sounded healthy, but in this august company her runs and turns lacked precision. The Metâ€™s â€œDie Walkuereâ€? (April 25) proved a highly enjoyable performance, well cast and largely well acted despite the often silly and pointless stage effects â€” those amateurish shad-
âž¤ MET CHEERS, continued on p.30
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GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
Serious NYC Cultural Legacies Abel Ferrara’s doc on a real movie man; Stonewall 50 at La MaMa BY DAVID NOH
rascible veteran indie director Abel Ferrara is having quite the season, with a retrospective going on now at the Museum of Modern Art (through May 31; moma.org), which included his “Pasolini,” made five years ago, with Willem Dafoe in the title role, depicting the last days of the controversial director’s life when he was brutally murdered by supposed rough trade, a demise, however, still shrouded in mystery. I caught Ferrara’s documentary, “The Projectionist,” at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 28, and I think it’s my favorite of all his films. Its simple theme is obsessive movie love, especially as felt by film exhibitor, Nicolas Nicolaou, who owns three independent movie houses in New York — Cinema Village and two long-established family-friendly venues, Bay Ridge’s Alpine Cinemas and Forest Hills’ Cinemart. A Greek immigrant from Cyprus who came to New York as a child, he became entranced by the screen early on, and found entry-level employment in various theaters, hustling away,
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
Movie house owner Nicolas Nicolaou in Abel Ferrara’s documentary “The Projectionist.”
before finally realizing his dream of owning them himself. A lost, much grittier, and more affordable New York — the place I moved to in the 1970s — comes alive in the film, amidst waves of deep
nostalgia that are not so much rose-hued as they are (and I mean this in the most affectionate way ) “La Vie en Scuzz.” Nico personifies the
➤ CULTURAL LEGACIES, continued on p.27
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May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
âž¤ CULTURAL LEGACIES, from p.26 kind of innately rebellious product of a traditional, heavily ethnic background who, energized by Manhattanâ€™s â€œanything goesâ€? ethos, especially then, had to invent himself, in the most gratifyingly triumphant way. As he says in the film, through canny wheeling and dealing all of his life he is now a rich man, but â€” and this is truly exceptional â€” not a greedy one. He could have easily sold off any one of his theaters to make way for yet another highrise for the rich, but such is his love for not just movies, but audiences, with the sincerest showmanâ€™s desire to provide the mot pleasurable film-going experience imaginable, he has stayed his beloved course. Besides having a totally lovable, down-toearth heterosexual mensch to fall in love with at the center of his film, Ferraraâ€™s doc had, surprisingly, more frontal male nudity than Iâ€™ve seen in quite a spell. You see, while Nico has been a lifelong supporter of art house fare, in the early days he supported that predilection by also being involved in the porn industry. which, pre-video, was a booming one, especially for gay male audiences. A plethora of homo sin palaces existed in the now Disneyfied Time Square area: the Eros, Adonis/ Cameo, Big Top, Kings, and more. Copious clips of mustached clones hooking up in a matter of moments, followed by thrusting close-ups of their junk, reminded me of the singular openness Ferrara has shown in the past, with his democratic attitude toward balls-out nudity (Harvey Keitel in â€œThe Bad Lieutenantâ€? or Gerard Depardieu in â€œWelcome to New York,â€? for example). A highlight of the film is when Nico takes Ferrara on a bracing walking tour of the region, remembering where each and every grindhouse existed, now mostly tourist-friendly cockpits of the banal. He notes that there was often action off-screen, as well as on, in these places and that it never bothered him, as he chalks it up to human nature. â€œEven in non-porno theaters, things happen in the dark,â€? he said. It was good to discover that this man also has a happy personal life, with a family, having married a nice Greek girl who helps run his businesses from Cyprus and is a sculptor in her own right. â€œYou represent the ever-dwindling soul of the Manhattan I moved here for,â€? I told him at the swellegant, intimate after-party at his posh East Village club Vinyl. â€œI love movies!â€? he said. â€œThey taught me so much as a young Greek immigrant who only knew two sentences in English. At Cinema Village, I let young filmmakers who would probably never have their films theatrically released here, rent my theater so they can do just that, and my other two cinemas, the Alpine and the Cinemart, which is the oldest running independently-owned theater in the city, since 1925,
âž¤ CULTURAL LEGACIES, continued on p.39 GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
L A MAMA
Byungkoo Ahn and Gihieh Leeâ€™s â€œ13 Fruitcakesâ€? runs at La MaMa June 13-16.
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Kings and Things… The Bard, Miller, a new musical work har hard for the money BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE hakespeare is ever adaptable to the times, and so Sam Gold’s production of “King Lear” seems tailormade for our Trumpian times. It’s garishly, gaudily gilded, garrulous, and gruesomely gory in telling the tale of a kingdom beset by chaos, power struggles, betrayals, shifting allegiances, and ultimately destruction. Sadly, it is also largely incoherent, unfocused, and rambling over its three-and-a-halfhour course. At the center of it all is the wonderful Glenda Jackson. That she has taken on one of the theater’s most complicated and demanding roles at the age of 83 is an impressive feat. The physical stamina and memorization alone required to undertake Lear would be daunting for most lesser actors. Under Gold’s direction, however, her depiction of a jealous monarch who divides his kingdom between two daughters, Goneril and Regan, while disowning a third, Cordelia, who is not sufficiently obsequious — touching off a civil war — seems like a gimmick rather than a deeper exploration of the play and the choice to cast a woman in an iconic male role. Jackson’s performance is characterized primarily by snarls, tics, and grimaces and swiftly become predictable and tiresome. Gold often appears to work consciously against the text, hobbling the language’s lyricism and, so, flattening out the lead character and the production as a whole. There is an entire scene where the now-mad Lear encounters the Earl of Gloucester — after Gloucester has been blinded under the direction of Lear’s daughters and cast out into the wild — where Jackson seems to have no idea what Lear is talking about. The text’s natural arcs have been corrupted so confusion reigns. Yes, Lear has lost his senses, but compromising the cadence of the poetry robs it of its emotional heft, making it simple rambling. The rest of the company scarce-
Tracy Letts and Annette Bening in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” directed by Jack O’Brien at the American Airlines Theater through June 23. BRIGIT TE L ACOMBE
ly fares better. Jayne Houdyshell, who like Jackson is a theatrical treasure, is lost as Gloucester. As with Jackson’s Lear, she assumes a kind of generic masculinity that never feels organic. Equally lost is Sean Carvajal as Edgar, Gloucester’s son who feigns madness to escape death when he is falsely accused by his bastard brother Edmund of plotting against their father. Edgar ultimately saves his father and becomes king, but Carvajal plays him as whiny and weak. The dichotomy between Edgar’s nobility cloaked as pretended madness and Lear’s descent into derangement is central to the play as written, but it is totally lost here. Elizabeth Marvel reduces the evil Goneril to a cartoonish cliché. Only Pedro Pascal as the illegitimate Edmund, a stock Shakespeare villain, seems to know what he’s really about, bringing clarity, sexuality, and grounding to his role. The production values are remarkable. Miriam Buether’s gold set is a masterpiece of simplicity, particularly as lit by Jane Cox, and the original score by Philip Glass is rich and sophisticated. In the end, though, one can’t help but be reminded of the old saying about all that glitters. In revisiting Arthur Miller’s wartime drama “All My Sons,” the biggest surprise is the realization that the play is set in a time when patriotism meant car-
ing authentically about America and those who served it and unethical business practices were anathema to cultural norms. In other words, as this solid, workmanlike production currently at Roundabout makes clear, it is not the sort of greatness to which the nation is currently being exhorted to return. Set in 1947, the plot concerns the Keller family. Joe Keller, the patriarch, runs a factory he rebuilt after a scandal involving defective parts shipped for the war effort that caused planes to crash. Joe’s partner is currently in jail, having taken the fall for the shipment, while Joe was cleared of wrongdoing. He and his wife Kate live comfortably in the Midwest. One son, Larry, disappeared during the war. Their other son, Chris, has returned home to run the factory. Chris plans to marry former neighbor Ann, who had been Larry’s girlfriend and is the daughter of Joe’s jailed ex-partner. Kate resents this, refusing to believe that Larry has died. The once-placid domesticity is further disrupted when Ann’s brother George shows up, opening old wounds and reawakening questions about responsibility for the tragedies the factory caused. The Kellers must, in the end, confront the truth they have largely suppressed. The play’s obvious political implications for today justify its revival, but its gauzy nostalgia, simplicity, and moralism make it seem dated
Glenda Jackson in the title role of Sam Gold’s production of “King Lear,” at the Cort through July 7.
all the same. The production is solid, to be sure, with Tracy Letts, looking scarily like Dick Cheney, giving another masterful performance of bluster and denial as Joe. Annette Bening as Kate hits all the marks perfectly, giving the character a complexity and fragility at the emotional center of the play. Benjamin Walker as Chris slowly opens up to his own moral center, and his love for Ann and is consistently believable. Francesca Carpanini is excellent as Ann, who somehow finds a way to go on amidst the upheaval around her with a firm grasp on reality. Under the direction of Jack O’Brien, on a gorgeous realistic backyard set by Douglas W. Schmidt and with period costumes by Jane Greenwood, the story’s sustained tension is palpable. The play is, it’s true, a little stilted to contemporary ears, but it’s worth noting that at least part of that is due to our nation having lost something important and elemental that no backward-looking revisionism can restore. The best thing one can say about “Tootsie,” the new musical based on the 1982 hit movie, is that it is what it is. And what it is is an easily entertaining, traditional musical that makes few demands
➤ WORKING HARD, continued on p.29 May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
MAT THEW MURPHY
Santino Fontana in the title role in Robert Horne and David Yazbekâ€™s adaptation of the film â€œTootsie,â€? directed by Scott Ellis at the Marquis Theatre.
âž¤ WORKING HARD, from p.28 on its audience. The story, in which a â€œdifficultâ€? actor impersonates a woman so he can get work, has been transplanted from the world of soap operas in the movie to the Broadway stage in the book by Robert Horn. The storyline and groan-inducing, obvious jokes are reminiscent of middling musicals from the 1950s, but the time-tested formula is a proven crowd pleaser, and if the result is only a fairly diverting evening thereâ€™s certainly a Broadway market that wants to see favorite movies turned into musicals. Put another way: â€œHadestownâ€? it ainâ€™t. David Yazbekâ€™s score is not his best, lacking the sophistication and emotion of â€œThe Bandâ€™s Visitâ€? as well as the flash of â€œDirty Rotten Scoundrelsâ€? and â€œThe Full Monty.â€? But, like the rest of the show, it mostly gets the job done. Similarly, Scott Ellisâ€™ direction and Denis Jonesâ€™ choreography serve the piece but deliver no special excitement. The real payoff comes from the spectacular performance by Santino Fontana as actor Michael Dorsey and his alter-ego Dorothy Michaels. He lights up the stage whenever heâ€™s on â€” which is virtually the entire show â€” and hits all the comedic and serious moments. Though the storyâ€™s woke, gendersensitive adaptation is labored, Fontana carries it off naturally, never making it too cumbersome. His singing, movement, and sheer joy in the performance carry the show with irresistible star power. GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
Fontana is supported by strong performances from Lilli Cooper as Julie, his co-star in the Broadway show, Sarah Stiles as Sandy, his crazy ex-girlfriend, John Behlmann as Max, a reality star turned actor, Reg Rogers as the egomaniacal director, and Andy Grotelueschen as Michael/ Dorothyâ€™s roommate Jeff, whose sardonic take on the events places him as the â€œnormalâ€? one in a comedy that spins out of control. Buckets of money have been spent on this production, with sets by David Rockwell, costumes by William Ivey Long, and lighting by Donald Holder. Special mention has to be made of the dressers and costume crew. Fontanaâ€™s quick changes are nothing short of marvelous and create real theatrical magic. In fact, everything about this production says that theyâ€™re in it for the long run. KING LEAR | Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St. | Through Jul. 7: Tue.-Sat. at 7 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 1 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $35-$159 at telecharge. com or 212-239-6200 | Three hrs., 30 mins., with intermission ALL MY SONS | American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St. | Through Jun. 23: Tue.-Fri. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $59$169 at roundabouttheatre.org or 212-719-1300 | Two hrs., 15 mins., with intermission TOOTSIE | Marquis Theatre, 210 W. 46th St. | Tue.-Thu. at 7:30 p.m.; Fri.Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun 3 p.m. | $79-$149 at ticketmaster.com or 800-745-3000 | Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission
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Echoes, Without Enough Voice In an early 2010s pop vein,, Grays Grayson’s persona obscured BY STEVE ERICKSON rayson is stuck in an echo chamber. The first sound on their EP “Head To Head” is their voice, massively overdubbed, singing “Hey!” on the intro “39.” The first full song, “Brother,” begins with a loop of them singing “ba-ba-da,” which continues throughout most of the song. The non-binary singer is particularly fond of using their voice to create a delay effect, so that they can speak in dialogue with themselves. Grayson contains multitudes, all inside themself. The glitchy production of “Head To Head” is au courant. The way they use their voice has precedents. The a cappella Japanese singer Hatis Noit samples and loops her vocals to make up for the lack of other instruments in her music. Serpentwithfeet turns his own voice into a one-man gospel choir. But his music tries to conceal its seams — one might think serpentwithfeeet recorded with an actual choir — while Noit leans toward the “modern composition” avant-garde. Grayson is making pop music: their singles “Brother” and “Cherry Pits” are perfectly accessible. “Head To Head” was produced by Aidan, who creates a space that’s not exactly murky or lowfi but isn’t slick either. He was apparently able to use an unlimited number of overdubs, and as a result “Head to Head” has a blown-out quality. It combines synthesizers with funk-lite rhythm guitar, but Grayson’s vocals dominate. “Cherry Pits” features simulated static, as though it were playing off scratchy vinyl. “New York Come Back To Me” uses handclaps as percussion. The EP is obviously a DIY production; it has ambi-
➤ MET CHEERS, from p.25 ow videos during the narrations! — of Robert Lepage’s production and Carl Fillion’s set. Revival directors Gina Lapinski and J. Knighten Smit crafted more interactive Personenregie among the characters than Lepage bothered to evoke in 2011, but still we’re left with inanities like Hunding’s Fabio-haired posse grabbing focus when Wotan’s anguish should dominate at the end of Act Two Philippe Jordan led a brisk account, marred only occasionally by brass flubs, and perhaps exciting rather than particularly penetrating. Only the Todesverkuendigung scene and the final father/
Grayson’s “Head to Head” will be released on May 10.
tions of finding a large audience, but even if it draws on early 2010s pop, no one would mistake it for Lady Gaga outtakes. In the video for “Brother,” Grayson stands by the sea. Shot in black and white, the clip brings out the song’s melodrama, as Grayson dances anxiously, with no attempt to lip-synch, for its entire length. The last shot offers the promise of escape from the relationship it describes and the imagery in the video, as a path through trees emerges. The visual is hampered by its obvious budgetary limits and time constraints — it looks like it was shot in an afternoon. Instead of expanding upon the song, it seems half-finished. Grayson’s lyrics often allude to difficult relationships with hints of violence and danger, as well as a quest for self-respect. “New York Come Back To Me” details living in the city as though
daughter colloquy really scored emotionally, partly because — for all her impassioned acting — EvaMaria Westbroek’s Sieglinde was marred by consistently shrill tone up top. Anything G or above found her splaying her arms semaphorically and hoping for the best. The exultant “O herstes Wunder” thus went for little. Stuart Skelton gave a highly creditable Siegmund vocally, singing with clarity and increasing dynamic nuance. It’s not the most ravishing timbre — and Jordan should have reined him in on the endlessly held cries of “Waelse!” — but he performed with considerable art and ardor. I was happy finally to see Christine Goerke’s committed, engag-
it were a lover. In “Come Out On Top,” they sing, “Why do I still care what happens to her?/ Why do I close my eyes when it gets worse?” The song’s aimed at a backstabbing lover who is now in a relationship with a woman. The chorus of “Moves” goes, “You won’t lay a finger on my figure/ You won’t touch me damn I’m eager.” “Cherry Pits” is a kiss-off to a lover who “bite every hand that feeds you/ baby know nobody needs you.” Grayson got their first buzz from Billboard magazine’s website featuring “Brother” in its “Pride” section. The lyric video for “Cherry Pits” begins with an image of them applying lipstick. They work as a model and makeup artist, with a love for fashion that’s coded feminine in American culture. But their Instagram page shows a variety of looks, from a suit and turtleneck to blonde curls and heavy makeup. They use image to communicate as much as their music. “Head To Head” is likable without having much staying power. Grayson has a distinctive sound, but none of the songs on their EP have particularly strong hooks. “Head To Head” feels pleasurable while I’m listening to it, but it has a common flaw of recent pop: going for vibe over songwriting. The production dominates, overwhelming much sense of Grayson’s personality. Their music is mildly leftfield without being genuinely experimental. If the lyrical focus on self-care is laudable, it’s reminiscent of much pop from the early 2010s and expressed fairly vaguely, without the complex emotions of Robyn or SOPHIE. GRAYSON | “Head To Head” | Drops May 10 | One Half Records
ing Bruennhilde, though her consistent onstage honesty made the warrior maid almost too human too fast. But she took the audience on a genuine emotional journey. The top has a new lightness and ease that reminded me of my firstever “Walkuere” Bruennhilde, Rita Hunter; and as ever Goerke scored strongly whenever chest tone was needed. Though he tripped early on scrambling up the awkward set, the fit Greer Grimsley roamed around so much as Wotan that he projected less than ideal Godhood. His bassbaritone, pleasingly free up top though not voluminous when the orchestral forces soar, has a kind of testosterone-fueled darkness that can get monotonous, but he’s
developed considerably more verbal and dynamic nuance in the last few seasons. Michaela Schuster brought her wealth of experience in character projection to bear, relishing every phrase, every syllable. Sometimes trenchant, sometimes yielding vocally, she made a striking impact. As Hunding, the dynamic bass Guenther Groissboeck boomed out loud and clear and bit into his text with vitriol; he reacted to others’ text just as individually. One wished Hunding had more to sing. The Valkyries — loudly cheered for the calisthenic visuals by a none too musical audience — sang generously, led strongly by Kelly Cae Hogan’s Gerhilde and Jessica Faselt’s Helmwige. May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
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After Infamy, Then What? Investigating the women snared by Charles Manson’s madness BY STEVE ERICKSON or a film about the Manson family, the most surprising thing about Mary Harron’s “Charlie Says” is that it’s actually pretty bland. It offers the promise of a revisionist take on a story that’s now very familiar (it’s based on Ed Sanders’ book “The Family” and, without credit, Karlene Faith’s “The Long Prison Journey of Leslie van Houten”), revolving around a feminist student’s attempt in the early ‘70s to rehabilitate three women who were brainwashed by Manson into killing for him. It devotes most of its time to Manson (Matt Smith) speaking to his followers and seeking success in the music industry, followed by the violence we all know. “Charlie Says” cuts back and forth between the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. In the latter scenes, Leslie van Houten (Hannah Murray), Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon), and Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón) start off the film in an isolation cellblock. Three years into their sentences, they are still devoted to Manson and mindlessly repeat “Charlie says…”
Sosie Bacon as Patricia Krenwinkel, Hannah Murray as Leslie Van Houten, Suki Waterhouse as Mary Brunner, Dayle McLeod as Gyspy, Kayli Carter as Squeaky Fromme, Julia Schlaepfer as Sandra Good, and Marianne Rendón as Susan Atkins in Mary Harron’s “Charlie Says,” which opens at the IFC Center on May 10.
slogans. Grad student Karlene Faith (Merritt Wever) arrives at the penitentiary with books
like “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and the desire to help them. Flashbacks show how they got seduced into a dangerous world. Manson hung out with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson and producer Terry Melcher, harboring dreams of becoming a rock star. When they didn’t pan out, “Charlie Says” suggests this sent him off the deep end. In most respects, “Charlie Says” avoids the “come dressed as a hippie” cosplay aspects of many films set in the ‘60s counterculture (although Matt Smith’s long hair and beard are obviously fake). It does not use wall-to-wall rock music, relying on Manson singing and playing guitar in the background instead. (The songs played in the film come from cult psychedelic bands like Love, Blue Cheer, and the 13thFloor Elevators rather than over-used boomer staples.) Guinevere Turner’s script ably shows how concepts like LSD-fueled “ego death,” which might be positive in some contexts, were exploited by Manson to control women. The film, however, ticks off a series of obvi-
➤ MANSON MADNESS, continued on p.33
Doubling Down In “Asako I & II,” loving identical men is a surface affair BY STEVE ERICKSON ost of the great films about doppelgangers are about women: “Vertigo,” “Persona,” “Mulholland Drive.” Japanese director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s “Asako I & II” departs from this tradition by having his heroine Asako (Erika Karata) fall in love with two men who look alike and are played by the same actor. It’s not a critique of male filmmakers’ fondness for female doubles, but it does suggest how aspects of the same personality could be split between two men. Unfortunately, “Asako I & II” never lives up to the “twist on ‘Vertigo’ based on female desire” reviews it got when it played the New York Film Festival last year. It’s too content to remain an ordinary romantic melodrama. The opening scene spells out the film’s themes rather bluntly. Asako attends a photo exhibit called “Self and Others” and seems particularly taken by a picture of two girls who look alike. Leaving the mall housing the art gallery, she’s still under its spell when she sees Baku (Masahiro Higashide) for the first time. He looks
Masahiro Higashide and Erika Karata in Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s “Asako I & II,” which opens at the Metrograph on May 17.
at Asako as children set off fireworks, and she returns his gaze. They meet and start kissing. Asako and Baku begin a relationship, but he
turns out to be rather flaky and disappears one evening. A few years later, she works in a coffee shop and meets marketing executive Ryôhei (also Higashide.) While he acts and speaks much differently from Baku, she thinks he’s the same man. They begin a much more stable relationship, but she learns that Baku has begun modeling and acting and is rapidly moving up in the world. The chance to re-connect with him proves dangerous for her and Ryôhei. The scene where Asako and Baku meet is shot and edited strikingly enough to make one think that “Asako I & II” is going to develop into something much different. When they first see each other, the two characters don’t appear in the same frame. Hamaguchi gets a lot of mileage of people staring at each other. Implicitly, they’re looking at the spectator, even if the film’s editing brings them together. (He returns to this kind of image in the film’s final shot.) He creates rhymes of the opening scenes an hour later, when Asako sees the same photo exhibit and she and Ryôhei embrace amidst a rushing
➤ IDENTICAL OPPOSITES, continued on p.33 May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
MANSON MADNESS, from p.32
ous points about the Manson family. Itâ€™s the second of three films about Manson to be released this year, following â€œThe Haunting of Sharon Tate.â€? Quentin Tarantinoâ€™s â€œOnce Upon a Time in Hollywoodâ€? hasnâ€™t yet had its public premiere, but it apparently addresses Manson and the Tate/ La Bianca murders in some way. Despite their authorsâ€™ wishes, â€œThe Familyâ€? and Vincent Bugliosiâ€™s â€œHelter Skelterâ€? (which was adapted into a made-for-TV movie) began the long process of mythologizing Manson into a demonic boogeyman with the power to commit mass murder by proxy. â€œCharlie Saysâ€? begins with an intertitle quoting Joan Didionâ€™s very common sentiment that their murders marked the end of the â€˜60s. Harronâ€™s debut film, â€œI Shot Andy Warhol,â€? showed her compassion for women whoâ€™ve been rejected by society and committed violence. â€œCharlie Saysâ€? doesnâ€™t avoid the Manson
IDENTICAL OPPOSITES, from p.32
crowd. These moments hint at a romanticism missing from the rest of â€œAsako I & II.â€? Hamaguchiâ€™s sensibility is too arty to embrace melodrama, but the film doesnâ€™t have enough substance to justify its air of gravity. The last half hour goes in a fairly dark direction, but instead of developing the characters, RyĂ´hei remains a pleasant yuppie while Baku offers a sense of danger and, when he reappears, a connection to celebrity. If Asako canâ€™t choose between them, it doesnâ€™t point to anything particularly deep. Although Hamaguchi has made nine films,
familyâ€™s crimes. Tex Watson passes the knife to Leslie mid-murder and invites her to take over, with her face getting splattered with blood as she stabs Rosemary LaBianca. If â€œCharlie Saysâ€? feels like a particularly edgy made-forHBO movie, itâ€™s blunt without being exploitative. Harron uses female nudity to show how Manson objectified women while telling them this was in the interest of their own liberation. But the filmâ€™s decision to depict a sparing amount of graphic violence glosses over reallife details that would make the women look like gleeful participants, as when Krenwinkel wrote in blood on the wall. â€œCharlie Saysâ€? does a good job of using visual style to differentiate between its moods. Since the Spahn ranch didnâ€™t have electricity, the scenes there are lit by candles, giving them an infernal orange glow. Even the exteriors arenâ€™t filled with Southern California sunshine. The jail looks properly drab. If one thinks of the â€˜60s as full of DayGlo color, the film deliber-
his 2015 â€œHappy Hourâ€? was the first one to really make an impression on the American and European festival/ arthouse circuit. More than five hours long, it takes romantic melodrama toward novelistic complexity. â€œAsako I & IIâ€? is relatively lengthy too, slightly under two hours. It covers 10 years in its charactersâ€™ lives, with several leaps in time and location. But the heft it aims for never arrives. Even its turn toward more difficult emotions near the end feels like an obligatory gesture away from rom-com territory towards phony seriousness. If â€œAsako I & IIâ€? had a stronger sense of humor, it couldâ€™ve mined comedy from its protagonistâ€™s indecision. At times, it heads for a more com-
ately sets out to disappoint that expectation. The release of two Netflix films about Ted Bundy this year and evergreen popularity of true crime books, TV shows, and podcasts has led to a debate about the ethics of depicting serial killers. More generally, is it dangerous to show how seductive dangerous men can be? Despite the inclusion of an interview with Sharon Tate (Grace van Dien) on TV, the film argues for the decency of murderers while barely paying lip service to their victims. Real compassion for both female killers and victims might require actually developing Tate and LaBianca as characters. â€œCharlie Saysâ€? is torn between a story everyone already knows and a new one about life after being branded public enemy #1. Itâ€™d be a much better film if it could devote itself to that latter story. CHARLIE SAYS | Directed By Mary Harron | IFC Films | Opens May 10 | IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. | ifccenter.com
plicated doubling, such as Asako and RyĂ´heiâ€™s interactions with her actress friend Maya (Rio Yamashita.) Even DJ Tofubeatsâ€™ droning electronic score, which suggests â€˜80s Philip Glass on a wobbly turntable, belongs to a more adventurous film. But the story remains fairly banal, and neither the direction nor performances lift it above. This film is scared shitless of its potential for mystery. ASAKO I & II | Directed by RyĂťsuke Hamaguchi | In Japanese with English subtitles | Grasshopper Film | Opens May 17 | Metrograph, 7 Ludlow St., btwn. Canal & Hester Sts. | metrogrpaph.com
If you are a survivor of child sexual abuse, New York law allows you to take action against the perpetrator and institution that protected him or her.
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GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
Reactionary Chic Bret Easton Ellis fancies himself a rebel, but he keeps score BY STEVE ERICKSON ret Easton Ellis’ first essay collection, “White,” tries to set a trap for anyone who dislikes it. Its title sets itself up as a provocation, daring one to call him racist. The truth of the matter is that “White” isn’t likely to trigger anyone. There’s nothing challenging about the rather banal opinions it expresses: millennials have been raised by a generation of helicopter parents and are now over-sensitive, so they spend all day on social media posting hyperbolically about Donald Trump and any world event they disagree with. If not an outright Trumpist, Ellis thinks it’s gauche to have a strong opinion about politics. The book’s only value comes when Ellis sticks to film criticism, where he actually does offer some insight. It makes one regret that he gave up writing novels in favor of podcasting, writing screenplays, and, according to “White,” getting into arguments with rich liberals at dinner parties. The best essay in “White” is mostly devoted to Paul Schrader’s “American Gigolo,” seen through the prism of Ellis’ adolescent libido, Richard Gere’s star persona, and its mainstreaming of gay aesthetics. Ellis can write extremely well about acting. His gayness is central to his writing about film, but his “millennial socialist” boyfriend comes across as a rhetorical device rather than a person. Even at the book’s sharpest, it veers off into innocuous but self-absorbed reflections on the ‘80s Brat Pack and hanging out with Judd Nelson. The structure is all over the map, and “White” is a depressing read because its strongest essays are its first few. He’s on shakier ground when he spends most of another essay criticizing “Moonlight” as a celebration of victimhood aimed at straight white liberals, but his larger points about the narrowness of acceptable gay male roles in American society and the way that organizations like GLAAD reinforce respectability politics instead of celebrating art that shows the messiness and complexity of LGBTQ life are on target. His arguments are weakened, however, by the fact that he uses himself as his main example of a gay rebel suffering under the reign of political correctness, spending pages whining about the negative reaction to tweets he made in 2013! Who belongs to “Generation Wuss,” again? Ellis has valid points about the way social media encourages us to express strong opinions while allowing anyone to search them and respond harshly. But instead of focusing on the damage this has done to ordinary people, as Jon Ronson did in “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” he complains about the martyrdom
CASEY NELSON/ KNOPFDOUBLEDAY.COM
Novelist and writer Bret Easton Ellis.
“White” is Bret Easton Ellis’ first book of essays.
of Roseanne Barr and Milo Yiannopoulos and how badly his his tweets about Kathryn Bigelow’s films being overrated due to her looks were taken. His pretense of being a contrarian who likes being upset by art and doesn’t give a damn about other people’s opinions is undercut by the sheer pettiness of some of his examples and his total inability to accept criticism and disagreement. He still remembers an argument from the mid ‘80s with a friend about whether the Bangles’ “Manic Monday” is a feminist statement. He throws out hot takes no one cares about, like preferring country singer Jamey Johnson’s “The Guitar Song” to Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly”, as though he were throwing the first brick at Stonewall. It would be an understatement to say that
the critical response to “White” has been negative, which of course plays into Ellis’ design. Isaac Chotiner conducted a sick burn of an interview with Ellis for The New Yorker that made his dandyish choice of aesthetics over politics look idiotic. But the literary establishment has always rejected him. As a friend pointed out to me, the reaction to “White” is replicating the original horror with which “American Psycho” was received. It took Mary Harron’s 2000 film adaptation for many people to see that the book was not an endorsement of Patrick Bateman’s attitudes and actions. If Ellis seems like an arrogant twit with no self-awareness about his lack of knowledge of the subjects “White” covers, does that mean his novels are worthless? Of course not, but the idea that artistry lies in being able to express insights one doesn’t hold personally is disappearing from American culture. His best novels, “American Psycho” and “Glamorama,” succeed precisely because their excess and complicity with the culture they describe are key to their accomplishments. (Here, Ellis describes Patrick Bateman as a nightmare version of himself.) As the blogger behind A Very Public Sociologist wrote about “Glamorama,” “It satirises consumerism through its affirmation, of taking vicarious pleasure from rubbing shoulders with luxury brands and exclusive people, not its denial. Therefore to be appreciated, the reader needs to be carried along the same fatal trajectories as Ellis’s characters.” By contrast, Harron’s “American Psycho” is far more detached and safer — it keeps reassuring the spectator that it’s a satire with progressive politics and that its violence will never get difficult to consume. The ideas behind “White” aren’t that different from the average essay published by the “Intellectual Dark Web”-oriented website Quillette, but Ellis speaks with a voice that’s personal to the point of sounding like a diary entry. He’s now aspiring to the numb, affectless tone of “Less Than Zero” as a refuge from present-day America. Sadly, even his best essays start out strong only to lose their thread halfway through and get lost in self-indulgent autobiography, name-dropping, and political posturing. The chapters of “American Psycho” consisting of Patrick Bateman’s music criticism are hilarious and revealing about Reaganite pop culture’s empty optimism; “White” is just as telling about the vapidity of recent American (“post-Empire,” in his terms) culture, but this time it’s a symptom rather than a satire. WHITE | By Bret Easton Ellis | Alfred A. Knopf | $25 | 261 pages May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
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GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
GOAL MARKS 37 YEARS OF NYPD VISIBILITY
Detective Brian Downey, GOALâ€™s president, with honoree Dominique (T.A.R.) Jackson, an activist, model, and star of â€œPose.â€?
BY PAUL SCHINDLER
he Gay Officers Action League celebrated its 37th anniversary in style â€” at the Edison Ballroom in the Theater District, a venue that Police Commissioner James P. Oâ€™Neill declared the most posh of all those heâ€™s attended for the dozens of NPYD fraternal organizations. The evening honored two NYPD officers â€” Lydia Figueroa and Detective Michael Dye â€” as well as two friends of GOAL, Krishna Stone, the director of community relations in the communications department at Gay Menâ€™s
Honoree Krishna Stone, who is director of community relations in the communications department at Gay Menâ€™s Health Crisis.
NYPD Commissioner James P. Oâ€™Neill with Ravi Satkalmi, a civilian technology expert who works for the department.
Health Crisis, and Dominique (T.A.R.) Jackson, an activist, model, and star of â€œPose.â€? GOALâ€™s president, Detective Brian Downey, opened the evening on a serious note, observing that with all the division in US society today, â€œLady Liberty is mourning.â€? But, he added, â€œher face is turned toward New York City and her torch draws power from the city.â€? Noting that all four of the eveningâ€™s honorees were people of color, Downey said, â€œWe need equity for people of color in this country and we need buy-in from people of color in this country.â€? Downey spoke of Dyeâ€™s role in his career
as that of a mentor â€” who walked alongside him in his fi rst LGBTQ Pride Parade â€” and thanked Stone for her critical help in connecting GOAL to activities and clients at GMHC. Stone, in turn, noted that GMHC had caught flak from another major local service organization for including GOAL in its jobs fair for transgender and gender-nonconforming clients, and said, â€œWe did not back down.â€? Commissioner Oâ€™Neill, in remarks to the crowd, said he had read widely about the police raid on Stonewall 50 years ago and â€œcould not imagine something like that happening in the NYPD of 2019.
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May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
KXjk\X_`jkfi`ZYli^\im`X>\fi^\Dfkq Ê9li^\i\og\ikËXe[=Xi\KXjk\dXb\in`ccj\im\lgFbcX_fdX]i`\[fe`fejc`[\i As the Culinary King of Queens, I’m so very fortunate to live in the most diverse and delicious destination in all of New York City. And I’m even luckier to be a Tastemaker for the World’s Fare, a celebration of global cuisine and culture, which will be held on May 18 and 19 at Citi Field. In the weeks leading up to the Fare, I’ll be proﬁling some of my favorite vendors from Queens and beyond. So far, we’ve explored wide-ranging international offerings, including Bangladesh, Colombia, and India. Today, we return to the United States of America for a look at George Motz, the Brooklyn-based burger maven who will be grilling up Oklahoma fried onion sliders. Motz is a fellow Tastemaker, and, like myself, something of an obsessive when it comes to the 1939 and 1964–65 World’s Fairs held in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. 9PAF<;@JK<=8EF I ﬁrst met George Motz back in 2006 at Meatopia III, a carnivorous birthday bash held by our mutual friend — the late, great meat expert and food critic, Josh Ozersky. Two years earlier, Motz had released “Hamburger America,” a documentary chronicling regional burgers, including the infamous “butter burger” from Solly’s in Milwaukee; the Guberburger, a peanut-butter-coated patty from the Wheel Inn Drive-In in Sedalia, Mo.; and the hatch green chile cheeseburger from the Bobcat Bite in Sante Fe, N.M. Motz, who I affectionately call “mutton chops,” due to his ample sideburns, prepared the chile-coated burger for the bash. Between 2006 and now, the 50-year-old ﬁlmmaker founded the Food Film Fest, wherein viewers watch short ﬁlms about various delicacies whilst eating them; wrote a state-by-state guide to hamburgers, also titled “Hamburger America;” created the Travel Channel show “Burger Land;” and wrote the “Great American Burger Book: How to Make Authentic Regional Hamburgers at Home.” For a guy who originally created a movie about burgers because no others existed at the time, Motz seems bemused about wearing the mantle of “burger expert.” “It became a sort of cult food ﬁlm, and I suddenly was asked my opinion of burgers in the media. And after 20 years of research, two TV shows, and four books, I think I can now safely call myself a
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hamburger expert.” At the World’s Fare, Motz and his team will be cooking up the Oklahoma fried onion burger, which he says has its roots in the original American burger from more than 100 years ago. The slider, which consists of nothing more than thinsliced Vidalia onion smashed into a ball of fresh beef, is
clearly greater than some of its parts. “The onions quickly caramelize and intermingle with a slice of American cheese. 19 This burger is heaven,” Motz rhapsodizes. I can’t wait to taste it. Motz and I share a common history with regard to the two original New York World’s Fairs: even though we were too
young to have attended then ourselves, we have relatives who did. “I grew up with stories my dad told of being at the Fair, it seems as if he never told the same story twice and he was clearly fascinated by the moment,” Motz recalls. “My grandfather was at the 1939 World’s Fair, so our home was deep in memorabilia from both Fairs. It has always been in my blood. And since state fairs have such an important role in the invention of the modern hamburger, I too am fascinated the New York World’s Fairs.” As a World’s Fare Tastemaker, Motz is excited for his two selections: Korzo, which specializes in authentic Slo-
CITI FIELD MAY 18 & 19, 2019 theworldSfare.nyc GayCityNews.nyc | May 9 - May 22, 2019
vakian food, and the pride of Woodside Donovan’s, which he says will be preparing authentic Irish delicacies for the festival-goers. The storied pub also cooks up one of the burger maven’s favorite cheeseburgers in all of New York City. Joe DiStefano is a Queensbased food writer, culinary tour guide, and author of the bestselling guidebook “111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss.” Sample George Motz’s Oklahoma fried onion burger at the World’s Fare at Citi Field (12301 Roosevelt Ave. in Queens, https://theworldsfare.nyc) on May 18 and 19 from 12 to 8 p.m. Tickets from $19 to $199 (children under 10, $5).
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May 9 - May 22, 2019 | GayCityNews.nyc
âž¤ CULTURAL LEGACIES, from p.27 were important to keep open, as generations of families have gone there together â€” and that tradition, those memories are precious.â€? The multitude of events celebrating Stonewall 50 includes more than a month of special performances at the venerable La MaMa (May 23 - June 30), fully in the tradition of this theater, which has presented queer artistsâ€™ work since being founded in 1961 by the fabulous Ellen Stewart, who we lost in 2011. That heritage is something its current artistic director, Mia Yoo, respects and is determined to carry on. AndrĂŠ De Shields, Harvey Fierstein, David Sedaris, amd Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are but a few of the hundreds of our tribe who have done work there. Of definite interest is the Stonewall series is â€œ13 Fruitcakesâ€? (Jun. 13-15 at 7 p.m.; Jun. 16 at 3 p.m.), a cornucopia of musical vignettes from South Korea by Byungkoo Ahn and Gihieh Lee that focus on 13 famous LGBTQ personalities
(including Eleanor Roosevelt, Alan Turing, Hans Christian Andersen, Gertrude Stein, Josephine Baker, and Frida Kahlo) and their enduring influence. Koreaâ€™s most famed drag performer, â€œMOreâ€? Zimin, is one of the cast members. Taylor Mac, whose very La MaMa-esque â€œGary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicusâ€? is baffling Broadway audiences uptown, will appear in the theaterâ€™s ongoing series, â€œCoffehouse Chronicles,â€? on June 8 at 3 p.m., discussing Off-Off-Broadway, where he first cut his glittering teeth. And, kicking off the festival is another world premiere, Nia O. Witherspoonâ€™s hip-hop musical â€œMessiahâ€? (May 23-25 & 30-31, Jun. 1 at 8 p.m.; May 26; Jun.. 2 at 5 p.m.), which posits the 16-yearold son of Black Panther parents, Malika, who dreams up a trans alter ego, Messiah, whoâ€™s a wiz at basketball and rapping. STONEWALL AT LA MAMA | La MaMa, 66 & 74A E. Fourth St.. btwn. Bowery & Second Ave. | May 23-Jun. 30 | lamama.org/stonewall
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