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Brooklyn Pride is the Next Big Celebration in a Month Honoring Stonewall 50! 21-24

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


Trans, non-binary actor Garcia (right, seen here with co-star May Hong) makes their film debut in Netflix’s production of Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City.”




June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

In This Issue COVER STORY “Tales of the City” back! 32 STONEWALL 50 Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera monument planned 04 Virtual Stonewall Forever launched 05 Vibrant celebration in Queens 10 Tough times for bars 12 | June 6 - June 19, 2019

POLITICS Trump gutting trans health protections 14

Stonewall: The Opera 46

BUSINESS Putin fights to regain Stoli trademarks 16 FILM Elton John, Halston on the big screen 36 BOOKS Esteemed novelist Jaime Manrique is Colombia’s truth teller 44



City Monument to Honor Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera Queer icons slated to receive permanent recognition for their historic activism BY MATT TRACY & PAUL SCHINDLER


monument honoring LGBTQ icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will be erected down the street from the Stonewall Inn, the city announced on May 30. The monument will reside at Ruth Wittenberg Triangle at 421 Sixth Avenue at Christopher Street and Greenwich Avenue and will be the product of the She Built NYC initiative through, a project led by First Lady Chirlane McCray that sought opinion from the public regarding which women the city should honor. The monument will honor the historical significance and longtime commitment to LGBTQ rights of the two activists, who were major figures in the local fight in the decades following Stonewall — a pivotal period that saw not only the political aftermath of the riots but the emergence of the AIDS crisis, as well. Political leaders, trans activists, and members of the wider LGBTQ community gathered at the LGBT Community Center on May 30 to formally announce plans for the monument. Mayor Bill de Blasio, McCray, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, “Pose” star Angelica Ross, and out gay city lawmakers Corey Johnson, Daniel Dromm, and Jimmy Van Bramer were among those on hand, as well as Marsha P. Johnson’s nephew, Al Michaels. “Our history helps define our present and shapes our future,” McCray said, as artwork depicting Rivera and Johnson was unveiled by Matthew McMorrow, an out gay senior aide to the mayor. “The contributions of too many women, LGBTQ people, people of color, and people living on the margins of society have been obscured or erased entirely... These stories must be told, heard, and celebrated.” McCray added, “Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are undeniably two of the most important foremothers of the modern LGBTQ movement.” Michaels, Johnson’s nephew, stepped to the podium and reflected on his aunt’s legacy. He recalled her vibrant personality and care for others, saying that she told him never to apologize for who he was. “She had $15 in her pocket, and with that $15 she became mayor of Greenwich Village, started a revolution, and sadly died a violent death,” Michaels said. “But today Marsha and Sylvia are having their day, getting their monument. If that’s not a New York story, I don’t know what is.” Cecilia Gentili, a trans leader who served as the director of policy at GMHC and has founded Transgender Equity Consulting, became emo-



Renderings of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera unveiled at the LGBT Community Center event on May 30.


Chirlane McCray and her husband, Mayor Bill de Blasio.

tional as she stressed the importance of creating monuments honoring trans people, including trans people of color. “Me, as a trans person, I see myself reflected,” Gentili said, wiping away tears. “Me, as a person of color, I see myself reflected. Me, as a former sex worker, I see myself reflected. Me, as a person who lived in this city for 10 years as an undocumented person, I see myself reflected.” Elected officials praised the work of Rivera and Johnson and pushed for the advancement of transgender rights and visibility in the years to come. Council Speaker Johnson underscored the importance of not just electing new LGBTQ

councilmembers, but also finally electing trans councilmembers, while Van Bramer told a story from 2000 when he was arrested for protesting the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and wound up spending his time in jail next to Rivera. “At 3 o’clock in the morning as I was in a cell, I heard the legendary Sylvia Rivera giving it to the police officers in a way that could not be repeated right now,” Van Bramer, who represents the Queens neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria, and Dutch Kills. “They were having a discourse about where she should be placed. They said she should be placed with the men. She said, ‘Bullshit. That’s not where I’m going.’” The She Built NYC Committee, which recommended the monument for Johnson and Rivera, noted in a written statement that Rivera and Johnson’s “determination and commitment to coalition building have made New York City, the nation, and world more just and fair.” She Built NYC has already approved the design for a monument to Shirley Chisolm, the first black woman elected to Congress, slated for Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, while four other women — blues singer Billie Holiday, mid-19th century civil rights pioneer Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías, the first Latina president of the American Public Health Association, and 19th century GermanAmerican lighthouse keeper Katherine Walker — have also been chosen to be honored with

➤ MARSHA P. JOHNSON & SYLVIA RIVERA, continued on p.30 June 6 - June 19, 2019 |


LGBT Center Unveils Virtual Stonewall Monument Take a step into queer history with this interactive experience


A scene from the documentary that is part of the web and app-based Stonewall Forever experience created by jointly by the LGBT Community Center, Google, and National Park Service.



n honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan has teamed up with the National Park Service and Google to launch a virtual, interactive “living” monument on the web and via an augmented reality app complete with videos and information on LGBTQ history. The virtual monument, dubbed “Stonewall Forever” and virtually based in Christopher Park outside of the Stonewall Inn — site of the Stonewall National Monument created by President Barack Obama — allows folks to click around to learn about various periods in queer history, even dating back to the years before June 1969 riots at Stonewall. The project also includes a short documentary featuring interviews with LGBTQ people who recalled the atmosphere for queer folks during the Stonewall era and told stories of how people in the community pushed back against police resistance and organized the kind of activism that sparked change in the city and beyond. The virtual monument — which can be viewed on desktop or mobile device — also includes interviews with LGBTQ pioneers of the Stonewall era as well as audio clips, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other historic documents of the past. | June 6 - June 19, 2019

“Creating Stonewall Forever with support from Google presented the rare opportunity to broaden the story of the Stonewall Riots and provide a richer, more diverse narrative about one of the most influential events in the fight for LGBTQ equality,” said Glennda Testone, the Center’s executive director. “We were proud to serve as the conduit to the community to bring a wide variety of voices to the narrative, particularly from people of color, young people, and the trans community, and are honored to be part of preserving LGBTQ history.” The project was funded through a $1.5 million grant from Google first announced two years ago, a year after the Stonewall National Monument was dedicated. The project allows folks to contribute photos and text of their own, fostering a collaborative effort to tell the stories of the community. Numerous activists and celebrities have already provided their own pieces. “While the Stonewall Riots happened 50 years ago, we were inspired by the idea that the LGBTQ movement is very much alive today in people all around the world,” said Jesse Juriga, who serves as the creative director at the Google Creative Lab. “We wanted to use technology to rethink the idea of what a monument can be and make a living monument — one that everyone, everywhere can


The Stonewall Forever app takes users to Christopher Park, site of the Stonewall National Monument.


The open source nature of Stonewall Forever allows users to share their own experiences.

visit and everyone can add to — to continue to grow this history and make it as inclusive as possible.” LGBTQ history has entered the spotlight as WorldPride arrives in New York and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall riots quickly approaches. The city rolled out plans on May 30 to create two monuments honoring two trailblazers, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who were major figures in the movement to advance LGBTQ rights in the years following the events at Stonewall.

Also just in time for Stonewall 50, the city is also on the verge of giving landmarked status to six sites that have played key roles in LGBTQ history: The LGBT Community Center at 208 West 13th Street, the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse at 99 Wooster Street, James Baldwin’s residence at 137 West 71st Street, Caffe Cino at 31 Cornelia Street, the Women’s Liberation Center at 243 West 20th Street, and Audre Lorde’s residence at 207 St. Paul’s Avenue on Staten Island.



No Religious Out For New York Adoption Agency Faith-based group must comply with anti-discrimination policy, federal judge finds BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


federal district judge in Albany has rejected a lawsuit from a Christian adoption agency that sought to resist efforts by New York to bring it into compliance with the state regulation forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the adoption process. New Hope Family Services, Inc., is an “authorized agency” under the New York Social Services Law, and brought suit against the Office of Children and Family Services (OFCS) in an effort to maintain its policy of not recommending or placing children with same-sex couples or unmarried different-sex couples as adoptive parents. Judge Mae A. D’Agostino, on May 16, denied New Hope’s efforts at an injunction against OFCS and


New Hope Family Services lost its bid to win a religious exemption from LGBTQ discrimination in its adoption work, but its representation by the Alliance Defending Freedom suggests a likely federal court appeal.

dismissed the case. New York State amended its Domestic Relations Law in 2010 to make clear that both unmarried

and married adult couples have the right to adopt regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the following January OCFS notified all “authorized agencies,” including New Hope, about the change. The agency did not, however, formally adopt a new regulation reflecting the law’s amendment until late 2013. Under that regulation, rejecting prospective adoptive parents’ applications could only be done if they refused to cooperate with an adoption study, were “physically” or “emotionally incapable” of caring for a child, or if the adoption were not “in the best of interests” of the child. In 2016, New Hope was notified that it had to formalize the state’s nondiscrimination policy in its own regulations. New Hope’s noncompliance with that policy came to OCFS’ attention early last year,

and the state threatened to strip the agency of its authorized status. At that point, New Hope, represented by the anti-LGBTQ litigation group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed its lawsuit. The suit claimed First Amendment religious free exercise and 14th Amendment equal protection violations. Judge D’Agostino found that a 1990 US Supreme Court decision, Employment Division v. Smith, clearly applies here. In Smith, the court ruled that there is no religious free exercise exemption from complying with neutral state laws of general application, upholding the denial of unemployment benefits for a Native American man fired after he failed a drug test but who argued that his use of peyote was part of a religious ritual. New

➤ RELIGIOUS OPT-OUTS, continued on p.7


SCOTUS Won’t Review Trans Student Access Win Cisgender complaints about Pennsylvania school reforming bathroom policy hit dead end BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


he Supreme Court, on May 28, announced it will not review a lower court decision that rejected a challenge mounted by cisgender students upset that their school district decided to let transgender students use bathroom and locker room facilities consistent with their gender identity. The high court’s action leaves in place a ruling from the Philadelphia-based Third Circuit Court of Appeals, rejecting both constitutional and statutory claims made against the Boyertown, Pennsylvania, school district. Two anti-LGBTQ litigation groups — Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Harrisburgbased Independence Law Center — brought the suit on behalf of several


cisgender students challenging the Boyertown policy, implemented in 2016, contending that it violated constitutional right of bodily privacy under the 14th Amendment, created a “hostile environment” in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 — which bans sex discrimination by schools that get federal funds — and violated their right of privacy under Pennsylvania law. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the ACLU’s National LGBT Rights Project joined the case, representing the Pennsylvania Youth Congress Foundation, which intervened as a co-defendant to help the school district defend its policy. This lawsuit is part of a national campaign by ADF to bar transgender students from accessing bathrooms and locker consistent with their gender identity and, further,


Circuit Judge Theodore McKee wrote the Third Circuit’s ruling allowing the Boyertown, Pennsylvania, schools to continue their trans-friendly facilities policy that the Supreme Court has declined to review.

to deny trans people any protection under federal law — a goal that the Trump administration is aggressively pursuing, as well.

Though ADF has lost a series of such “bathroom” cases, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reversed the Obama administration’s guidance to schools that they allow trans students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. In August 2017, District Judge Edward G. Smith refused to issue a preliminary injunction against the school district’s policy while the case was pending. In their appeal to the Third Circuit, the plaintiffs lost before a unanimous three-judge panel. Writing for the panel, Circuit Judge Theodore McKee cited an amicus brief by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association stating that policies barring access to “privacy facilities” consistent with a student’s gender

➤ TRANS STUDENTS, continued on p.7 June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

➤ RELIGIOUS OPT-OUTS, from p.6 York’s non-discrimination requirement, D’Agostino found, is not targeted at any particular religious belief or organization. Any burden on New Hope’s religious practice, she found, is offset by the state’s legitimate interest in preventing anti-LGBTQ discrimination. D’Agostino noted an April decision by the Philadelphia-based Third Circuit Court of Appeals, rejecting a similar argument by a Catholic agency, which found that if every attempt to enforce an anti-discrimination policy against a private agency with religious objections is deemed “hostility to religion,” then that policy is essentially meaningless. D’Agostino, noting that OFCS had in the past commended New Hope on the quality of its services, urged the two parties to “seek out some compromise to their current dispute without further judicial

➤ TRANS STUDENTS, from p.6 identity “have detrimental effects on the physical and mental health, safety, and well-being of transgender individuals.” Another amicus brief McKee pointed to was from the National PTA and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) warning that forcing trans students to use bathrooms or locker rooms that don’t match their gender identity causes “severe psychological distress often leading to attempted suicide.” McKee noted the school district renovated its bathroom and locker facilities to increase privacy and also requires trans students to meet with counselors to gain approval for using facilities consistent with their gender identity. Responding to the plaintiffs’ claim their right to privacy was violated by individuals they believe are from the opposite sex seeing them partially clothed, the Third Circuit agreed with Judge Smith that the policy was “narrowly tailored” to meet a “compelling interest,” while privacy rights under the Constitution are not absolute. The “surprise” cisgender students experience at finding themselves “in an intimate space with a student they understood was of the opposite biological sex” does not equate, McKee | June 6 - June 19, 2019

intervention.” The law, however, is clear, she concluded. “Ultimately,” she wrote, “OCFS stands on firm ground in requiring authorized agencies to abide by New York’s non-discrimination policies when administering public services… [T]he current record does not show religious persecution or bias.” New Hope is likely to appeal, since its pro bono representation by ADF suggests that it is willing to persist to an appellate level. ADF and other anti-LGBTQ religious forces have been looking for a vehicle to get this issue to the Supreme Court, hoping that the new conservative majority there might cut back the Smith precedent or even overturn it. The Third Circuit case in Philadelphia might provide such a vehicle, but so may this one, and the Supreme Court is more likely to grant review if the issue has been addressed by more than one federal appeals court.

wrote, “with the very drastic consequences that the transgender students must endure if the school were to ignore” their needs. The Third Circuit drew support from the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Ash Whitaker’s suit against a Wisconsin, school district, where the court found that excluding a trans boy from using the boys’ restroom violated Title IX. The court also pointed to pro-transgender rulings by four other appellate circuits that have found that anti-transgender discrimination violates federal laws forbidding sex discrimination. The emerging consensus among courts of appeals will be up for Supreme Court debate next fall’s term when it reviews the Sixth Circuit’s decision in favor of Aimee Stephens, a trans woman who successfully sued her former employer, the Harris Funeral Homes, for job discrimination based on sex. A decision not to review a court of appeals case does not constitute a ruling on the merits. Whether Title IX mandates the Boyertown policy was not squarely before the court, and the justices may have denied review because they were already committed to consider whether federal sex discrimination laws cover gender identity discrimination in the Harris Funeral Homes case.


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Important Facts About DOVATO This is only a brief summary of important information about DOVATO and does not replace talking to your healthcare provider about your condition and treatment. What is the Most Important Information I Should Know about DOVATO? If you have both human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, DOVATO can cause serious side effects, including: • Resistant HBV infection. Your healthcare provider will test you for HBV infection before you start treatment with DOVATO. If you have HIV-1 and hepatitis B, the hepatitis B virus can change (mutate) during your treatment with DOVATO and become harder to treat (resistant). It is not known if DOVATO is safe and effective in people who have HIV-1 and HBV infection. • Worsening of HBV infection. If you have HIV-1 and HBV infection, your HBV may get worse (flare-up) if you stop taking DOVATO. A “flare-up” is when your HBV infection suddenly returns in a worse way than before. Worsening liver disease can be serious and may lead to death. ° Do not run out of DOVATO. Refill your prescription or talk to your healthcare provider before your DOVATO is all gone. ° Do not stop DOVATO without first talking to your healthcare provider. If you stop taking DOVATO, your healthcare provider will need to check your health often and do blood tests regularly for several months to check your liver. What is DOVATO? DOVATO is a prescription medicine that is used without other antiretroviral medicines to treat HIV-1 infection in adults: who have not received antiretroviral medicines in the past, and without known resistance to the medicines dolutegravir or lamivudine. HIV-1 is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It is not known if DOVATO is safe and effective in children. Who should not take DOVATO? Do Not Take DOVATO if You: • have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine that contains dolutegravir or lamivudine. • take dofetilide. What should I tell my healthcare provider before using DOVATO? Tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you: • have or have had liver problems, including hepatitis B or C infection. • have kidney problems. • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. One of the medicines in DOVATO (dolutegravir) may harm your unborn baby. ° You should not take DOVATO if you are planning to become pregnant or during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a different medicine if you are planning to become pregnant or become pregnant during treatment with DOVATO. If ° you can become pregnant, your healthcare provider will perform a pregnancy test before you start treatment with DOVATO. ° If you can become pregnant, you should consistently use effective birth control (contraception) during treatment with DOVATO. ° Tell your healthcare provider right away if you are planning to become pregnant, you become pregnant, or think you may be pregnant during treatment with DOVATO.

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June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

SO MUCH GOES INTO WHO I AM HIV MEDICINE SHOULD BE THE LEAST OF IT. Reasons to ask your doctor about DOVATO: DOVATO can help you reach and then stay undetectable* with just 2 medicines in 1 pill. That means fewer medicines† in your body while taking DOVATO You can take it any time of day with or without food (around the same time each day)—giving you flexibility DOVATO is a once-a-day complete treatment for adults who are new to HIV-1 medicine. Results may vary. *Undetectable means reducing the HIV in your blood to very low levels (less than 50 copies per mL). † As compared with 3-drug regimens.

ALPHONSO‡ Living with HIV

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Could DOVATO be right for you? Ask your doctor today. | June 6 - June 19, 2019



Vibrant Celebration of LGBTQ Pride in Queens Many thousands flock to Jackson Heights to kick off historic month BY MATT TRACY/ PHOTOS BY DONNA ACETO


he music reverberated through the streets of Jackson Heights, Rainbow and Transgender Flags waved at every corner, and a huge, diverse crowd celebrated Pride in a big way on a warm Sunday afternoon in Queens. The annual Queens Pride festivities on June 2 kicked off at around noon when a wide variety of groups ranging from advocacy and neighborhood organizations to religious groups and politicians marched from 89th Street to 75th Street along 37th Avenue. Out gay Queens Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who founded Queens Pride nearly three decades ago and formerly served as a public school teacher, stopped at the end of the parade route to reflect on the origins of the annual celebration. The event is rooted in a series of events during the years leading up to its 1993 launch, including the 1990 murder of Julio Rivera, a Puerto Rican gay man who died after suffering a vicious hate-driven attack at the hands of three white men, as well as the subsequent battle over the Children of the Rainbow, which was a proposed LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum staunchly opposed by some Queens neighborhood officials. “The idea [of the first Queens Pride Parade] was to show people that we are your family, your friends, and your neighbors and we live in Queens,” Dromm told Gay City News. “Because during the Rainbow Curriculum they were trying to portray us as those people who live in Greenwich Village.” Fast-forward to 2019, Queens Pride is among the most successful and well-attended events of its kind in the city — but Dromm wants to make sure locals remember that the fight for LGBTQ rights is far from over. “In the beginning it was really about visibility, but today it remains about visibility,” Dromm said. “When we let people know that we are your family, friends, and neighbors marching in the borough of Queens and they recognize us, I think it breaks down barriers.” He added, “What I like about Queens Pride is that anybody can just jump into the parade route and march with us. Queens Pride is very community-based. In many ways, we got everything we want right here in Jackson Heights.” Following the parade, Pride-goers flocked to a street festival featuring food, tents, and live entertainment hosted by “Pose” star Dominique Jackson. Numerous politicians were on hand, including out gay Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, US Senator Chuck Schumer, New York



Rainbows were everywhere as Queens hosted Pride Month’s first major event on June 2.


A young spectator sports the Stars and Stripes and the Rainbow Flag.

Attorney General Letitia James, Queens Borough President and district attorney (DA) candidate Melinda Katz, City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, State Senators Jessica Ramos and Michael Gianaris, and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz. Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez initially tweeted she was feeling under the weather, but she ultimately showed up at the post-parade festival. Brooklyn Councilmember Brad Lander and Queens Councilmembers Donovan Richards and Rory Lancman, who is also running for DA, were also in attendance. But among all politicians present, out queer Queens DA candidate Tiffany Cabán dominated the scene, making the biggest splash of all by drawing a massive crowd of supporters who marched with her in the parade. Countless Pride-goers were also seen donning Cabán shirts at the festival, while flyers supporting her campaign were seen throughout the area and

plastered on nearby storefronts. Ocasio-Cortez, who recently endorsed Cabán, reiterated her support for the candidate when she arrived. “If you don’t know, now you know — Tiffany Cabán is going to be our next Queens district attorney,” Ocasio-Cortez said to a crowd of fans at her team’s booth, before pointing that the candidate has pledged to end cash bail and stop prosecuting people for marijuana-related offenses. The atmosphere in Queens was lively and jubilant as the temperatures climbed into the 80s and the sun beamed down on a crowd that seemed to grow as the afternoon progressed. Jeremy Arena and Ric Orias, from Brooklyn and Manhattan, respectively, sat on a sidewalk in the shade as they enjoyed Pride. “It’s the first Pride of all the boroughs this month, and it’s a good way to begin Pride,” said Arenas, who explained that the diverse nature of Queens Pride is what makes the borough’s event so special. Another attendee, Naomi Chalfin, was enjoying some food with her boyfriend after the parade. Coming from Briarwood, Queens, Chalfin said she wanted to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. “I’m here today to show my support,” Chalfin said. Even as clouds rolled in and a light rain gave way to a brief, but intense downpour, attendees braved the conditions and continued celebrating. The sun eventually came back out and the Pride celebration continued in full force, marking a successful kick-off to a month-long slate of events surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots as well as WorldPride coming to New York City. June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

East Midtown Welcomes the LGBTQ+ Community as We Celebrate WorldPride 2019! Throughout June, the East Midtown Partnership has planned a wide array of activities that will make East Midtown Manhattan your destination of choice for WorldPride 2019 festivities, including:

AIDS MEMORIAL QUILT DISPLAYS 18 Quilt panels will be on display at 9 unique locations

LGBTQ+ BLOCK PARTY WITH SUNY Join us on the afternoon of Friday, June 21, on East 55th Street between Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue, when we partner with the State University of New York for an afternoon of festivities, including food, music, and a Drag Fashion Show!

EAST MIDTOWN GIVES BACK TO THE TREVOR PROJECT Throughout June, almost twenty East Midtown businesses will         Trevor Project.

Visit us at for details

East Midtown Partnership • 875 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022 • 212-813-0030 | June 6 - June 19, 2019



A Proud History Ending in Park Slope Longtime Brooklyn gay bar Excelsior says it’s closing BY COLIN MIXSON


t had a good run. Two, actually! Park Slope’s preeminent queer hangout will close its doors on July 31 after 20 years in the neighborhood. Excelsior owners Richard Kennedy and Mark Nayden announced the closure of the gay bar in a June 3 Facebook post, crediting community pride for the watering hole’s longevity — and rising rents for its closure. “More than ever, rising costs, like rent and taxes, make your neighborhood bars and restaurants struggle every day,” read the post signed by Kennedy and Nayden. “Twenty years of serving this community is something we are proud of, and in this WorldPride Month we plan on celebrating each and every day.” Excelsior first opened at a Fifth


Excelsior Bar, located on Fifth Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets in the South Slope, will close July 31.

Avenue location in the mid-Slope around the turn of the century, where it served a crowd of mostly gay men for 15 years, before shutting its doors for a few months in

the face of rising rents. At the time of the 2014 closure, Matthew McMorrow, an out gay senior aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, wrote an impassioned op ed

lamenting the bar’s 2014 closure. Excelsior’s 15-year run, he wrote, was noteworthy for a gay bar that opened before New York State even had a gay rights law. “By just about any standard, 15 years is a short amount of time. But to measure history by the life of a local gay bar, it was a pretty remarkable 15 years,” wrote McMorrow. “When Excelsior opened its doors, no state recognized same-sex marriage. But that didn’t stop gay people from falling in love.” Excelsior did not stay closed long. Partners Kennedy and Nayden brought their neighborhood bar to a larger, two-floor storefront located further south, between 15th and 16th streets on the commercial thoroughfare. Park Slope’s queer community is still served by lesbian spot Ginger’s Bar and Xstasy Bar and Lounge, both located on Fifth Avenue.

Therapy Temporarily Closes Popular Hell’s Kitchen gay bar is shutting down — for now BY MATT TRACY


herapy, a popular gay watering hole in Hell’s Kitchen, has been forced by the city to shut down temporarily after a neighboring building was deemed structurally unstable. The bar located at 348 West 52nd Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, will remain closed until the building at 350 West 52nd is partially demolished, according to the city Department of Buildings (DOB), which is overseeing the matter. Another establishment — Stiles Farmers Market at 352 West 52nd — was also forced to shut down. “I know this will be hard to understand but it is out of our control,” said a notice posted on Therapy’s website. “We love you and will update you as we learn more. Please keep us in your thoughts.”



It’s not a happy Pride season for Therapy, which is temporarily shut down while an unstable building next door is repaired.

It is not immediately clear what exactly went wrong with the building next to Therapy, but the city issued vacate notices just as Priderelated festivities were heating up

during what will be an historic June featuring WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. DOB records show that the building next to Therapy received vacate orders as far back as 2017. Out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who represents Hell’s Kitchen, indicated in a tweet that the issue may have been building up for some time. “It is shameful that the owner of 350 W. 52nd Street has allowed that building to deteriorate over the course of many years,” Johnson said, adding, “it is imperative” that the bar and market reopen as soon as possible. Therapy posted on Facebook shortly after midnight on June 1 announcing that bar representatives were in touch with city agencies as well as Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and out gay State Senator Brad

Hoylman, who are all among elected officials representing the area. Contractors and engineers were slated to begin necessary work on the affected building later that day and Therapy posted to Facebook in the afternoon showing what appeared to be construction work underway. A timetable on a potential reopening date has not been announced, but DOB officials confirmed that Therapy could re-open once engineers determine that the site is secure and safe for the public. Therapy, which opened in 2003, hosts drag shows five nights per week and boasts happy hour specials and nightly DJs. It sits across the street from another popular gay night spot, Industry Bar. Multiple attempts to reach the owner of Therapy by phone were unsuccessful. June 6 - June 19, 2019 |


Rainbow Flags Burned at Harlem Gay Bar “The timing of it is quite disturbing,” the bar’s owner said BY MATT TRACY


atrons at a gay bar in Harlem on May 31 were met with a terrifying scene outside the establishment when, suddenly, two Rainbow Flags were set ablaze — and nobody knows who did it. Alexi Minko, who owns Alibi Lounge at 2376 Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard near West 139th Street in Manhattan, recalled the moment when the flags were set on fire just hours before LGBTQ Pride Month kicked into gear. “You could see the flames,” he said. “We rushed out and contacted the fire department.” The scene unfolded shortly after 1 a.m., cops told Gay City News, and rainfall quickly extinguished the fire before it could spread into the bar. Police quickly arrived at the scene, but authorities were not


Rainbow Flags are seen moments after a vandal set them on fire at Alibi Lounge in Harlem, early in the morning a day ahead of the start of Pride Month.

immediately able to track down any suspects. The NYPD has deployed its Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate the incident and Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the state police’s Hate Crimes Task Force to assist

the NYPD where necessary. In the meantime, Minko said, authorities have been diligently working to gather and review video surveillance footage in search of any possible leads. “They’ve been really handling the investigation in a professional way so far,” he said. The sudden act of vandalism was a shock to Minko not just because there were flames raging outside, but because the bar had never experienced any incidents of homophobia in the three years since it opened. “The timing of it is quite disturbing,” Minko said. “I was almost wondering if they knew it was Pride or if they just did it because they were trying to get attention.” The flag burnings have caught the attention of TV shows like “The View” and numerous elected officials, including Cuomo, Senator Kristen Gillibrand, and out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson,

among others. Johnson described the incident as a “terrible crime” and “a grim reminder of how much work we need to do 50 years after Stonewall — including here in my beloved NYC,” while Gillibrand called it a “disgusting act of bigotry and cowardice.” Minko, a former human rights attorney, said he launched the bar after realizing there were no gay bars in Harlem. He wanted to provide a space for folks who could visit close to home — especially a blackowned space — and he moved forward with his plans to open the bar on Pride Weekend in 2016. The bar has received wide support from the local community in the days since the incident, Minko said. “It’s been quite amazing,” Minko said. “At a community level, we’ve been overwhelmed by the level of support, love, and affection from our neighbors.”

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Trump Gutting Trans Health Protections Administration unraveling key Obama-era nondiscrimination provision BY MATT TRACY


he Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on May 24 moved forward with an anticipated proposal to gut Obamacare rules protecting people on the basis of gender identity in healthcare settings. The proposed rule — recently previewed by Gay City News — targets a 2016 provision of the Affordable Care Act that included gender identity under the definition of sex discrimination. The administration foreshadowed the proposal in a court filing late last month when it stated it was expecting “to be able to publish a proposed rule, which, if finalized, may moot” a case challenging the protections under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in “any health program or activity” funded with federal dollars or part of the ACA health marketplace. That case, which is ongoing, was mounted by Franciscan Health (formerly known as Franciscan Alliance), a healthcare system of 14 hospi-


President Donald Trump has escalated his fight against LGBTQ rights — and his policies have been especially harsh on transgender folks.

tals in Indiana and Illinois which states on its website that it is “continuing Christ’s mission in our Franciscan tradition.” The rule Trump is trying to replace states that health services offered by hospitals must be provided on an equal basis to trans people as well as women who have had an abortion and must be covered by health insurance plans. The proposal paves the way for medical professionals to refuse to carry out procedures that are

part of gender reassignment surgery and to provide other health care services for trans people. HHS did not immediately return requests for comment regarding the rule on May 28. The move marked the second time in May the administration had issued a proposal aimed toward curtailing the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people in healthcare settings. A separate proposed rule on May 2 gives health care workers and institutions the ability to cite “moral” or “religious” reasons to refuse care for patients. LGBTQ groups and health-based organizations reacted with disgust after the administration’s latest proposal. David Stacey, the government affairs director at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a written statement that Trump is undermining “crucial” nondiscrimination protections. “The administration puts LGBTQ people at greater risk of being denied necessary and appropriate health care solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Stacy said.

➤ TRANSGENDER HEALTH, continued on p.53



St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th Street

June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. & Allies

LGBT Pride Celebration John Wade Award Janet Weinberg, in memoriam Honorees Fabio Cotza Maria Rodriguez Jahaira Gonzalez Hands In 4 Youth - GSA at PS/MS 29, Melrose Emcees Vivika Westwood Mugler Jahlissa A. Ross Performances by The Reina Project Sasha Washington Red carpet by Tym Moss and Appolonia Cruz

Wednesday, June 5 6 PM to 9 PM

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Putin at War To Regain Russian Control of Stoli Kremlin strongman litigating foreign ownership of vodka trademarks, country by country BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


awsuits brought by the Russian government in multiple countries around the globe to recover the trademarks for Stolichnaya vodka were brought on direct orders from Vladimir Putin, the current Russian president, in 2000. “I request urgently to take measures directed to restoration and protection of the rights of the state concerning intellectual property in the sphere of production and turnover of vodka products, and also for detection and bringing to account of the persons involved in violation of these rights,” reads a poorly translated version of Putin’s order that was filed in the lawsuit pending in US federal court. “Report on the results monthly.” The order was signed by “V. Putin” and dated March 13, 2000. By November of that year, the Russian Ministry of Agriculture had created regulations that allowed it to implement Putin’s demand. By July 2001, an “interdepartmental working group” was established that had nine members, including senior officers from Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, the tax police, the General Prosecutor’s Office, and the Federal Security Service. While the order discusses “vodka products,” the Russian government appears to be pursuing only the Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya vodka brands, which are owned by Yuri Shefler and Alexey Oliynik and Spirits International (SPI), their company. Russkaya, a third vodka brand that SPI owned, has already been returned to the Russian government. The small number of monthly reports that were filed in the US lawsuit mention the three SPI brands. The only non-SPI brand that is discussed, and only once, is Russian Standard vodka. The 2006 reference to Russian Standard says that the company may “contribute a considerable share of its income in the form of royalties



Russian President Vladimir Putin has a keen interest in Russia regaining all trademarks for Stolichnaya worldwide.

one other Russian effrom the current sales fectively stole the vodka to the State.” Russian trademarks. Published Standard did not rereports say they paid spond to an email seek$285,000 for them in ing comment. 1997. Following the colThe Stolichnaya brand lapse of the Soviet Union was embroiled in controin the early ‘90s, the versy in 2013 when LGeconomic scheme put BTQ activists called for in place was to privatize a boycott of Russia and the many businesses Russian products after that had been owned by that country enacted the government. A coman anti-gay propaganda mission was supposed law that barred posito determine fair prices tive depictions or advofor those businesses, but cacy of LGBTQ causes many were purchased or people. After selling by private citizens, often Stolichnaya, now called Soviet Union governStoli, as an authentic ment employees, at very Russian vodka for years, low prices. From 1948 SPI insisted it was a Latuntil the ‘90s, Stolichvian product and later a naya was owned by the European product. Russian government. In 2018, SPI made Over time, Putin has overtures to the LGBTQ STOLI VODK A constructed a “tribute community by commem- Stoli Vodka, distancing itself from the brand’s fororating Harvey Milk, the mer control by the Russian system” that “severely punishes disloyalty first, openly gay elected government, honored gay while allowing access official in California, on rights icon Harvey Milk on an edition of its bottle to economic predation a Stoli label. Milk was several years ago. on a world-historic scale assassinated in 1978. for the inner core of his The labeling angered some of Milk’s friends, notably elite,” Karen Dawisha wrote in her longtime activist Cleve Jones. This 2014 book “Putin’s Kleptocracy” year, Stoli has produced a Stone- Who Owns Russia?” The press speculation is that Shefler and Puwall 50 commemorative label. The allegation in the lawsuits is tin had a falling out. SPI’s offices that Shefler, Oliynik, and at least in Russia were raided by police at

least 25 times and Shefler faced criminal charges. He left Russia and SPI moved its headquarters to Luxembourg. The Russian government seized the vodka trademarks in Russia and has sued for their return in roughly 30 countries. To bring the lawsuits, the Russian government gave the trademarks to Federal Treasury Enterprise Sojuzplodoimport (FTE) and Moscow Distillery Cristall, two private Russian entities, and authorized them to sue to recover them. The US lawsuit began in 2004, was suspended for some time, and restarted in 2014. The case is now engaged in issues over discover, and documents from lawsuits filed in other countries were placed in the federal courts database by the parties. According to published reports, the Russian government has recovered the trademarks in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. An attorney who represented Russia in the Netherlands predicted that win would result in another 13 European countries giving the trademarks to Russia in a European Union proceeding, according to a document filed in the US lawsuit. Russia lost in Brazil. Lawsuits in the US, Australia, and Greece are ongoing. Gay City News could not determine the location or status of the other lawsuits. Recognizing that it may lose the trademarks and perhaps be required to compensate Russia for trademark infringement, SPI filed a counterclaim in 2016 asking that the money it has spent promoting the brand over the years be counted toward any judgment against it. The company has been buying whiskey, rum, wine and tequila brands to expand its product portfolio. The company’s use of Stoli versus Stolichnaya is an apparent attempt to effectively create a different brand that it can continue to use if it loses the trademark. The Austrian court would not allow SPI to do that. SPI Group did not respond to an email seeking comment. June 6 - June 19, 2019 |






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Aerosmith | Friday & Sunday, August 16 & 18

Wu-Tang Clan | Saturday, June 15

Billy Ray Cyrus | Tuesday, August 20

The Revivalists | Friday, June 21

GIs of Comedy | Wednesday, August 21

Joe Rogan | Friday, June 28

Boyz II Men | Friday, August 23

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Jim Gaffigan | Saturday, August 24

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Impractical Jokers | Thursday & Friday, July 11 & 12

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Nick Kroll | Friday, July 12

Norm MacDonald | Friday, September 6

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Ari Shaffir | Saturday, September 7

Josh Groban | Saturday, July 13

Vic DiBitetto | Saturday, September 21

Tyler Henry: The Hollywood Medium Friday & Saturday, July 19 & 20

J Balvin | Friday, September 27

Sarah Silverman & Friends | Saturday, July 20

Kathleen Madigan | Saturday, October 5


Brit Floyd | Friday, July 26

Lewis Black | Friday & Saturday, October 11 & 12

Gladys Knight | Friday, July 26

Jo Koy | Friday, October 18

Kenny Wayne Shepherd | Saturday, July 27

Friday, July 5

Rob Thomas | Saturday, July 27

Steve Martin / Martin Short: Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t | Saturday, October 19

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Shin Lim | Saturday, January 11, 2020

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Loverboy | Saturday, September 28

Joe Bonamassa | Friday & Saturday, August 2 & 3

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On Memorial Day’s Eve, Trans Lives Remembered Hundreds rally in New York in the wake of three black women’s shooting deaths PHOTOS BY DONNA ACETO/ TEXT BY PAUL SCHINDLER


he shooting deaths of three transgender women in just five days’ time this month brought hundreds of trans activists, anti-gun advocates, and allies to Washington Square Park on the Friday evening of Memorial Day Weekend in a Keep Your Hands Off Our Trans Bodies rally called by the New York Transgender Advocacy Group (NYTAG). The gathering — which was co-supported by several dozen other groups including Black Lives Matter, Black Trans Media, the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, DecrimNY, Equality New York, Gays Against Guns, Harlem Pride, Housing Works, New Alternatives for Homeless LGBT Youth, Queerocracy, the Reclaim Pride Coalition, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, the Translatinx Network, and VOCAL-NY — at moments reflected the frustrated anger over an epidemic of violence against transgender women, especially women of color, sweeping the nation.


Three recent shooting deaths of transgender black women were only a part of what demonstrators decried during the May 24 Keep Your Hands Off Our Trans Bodies rally in Washington Square Park.

Olympia Perez, the content director of Black Trans Media, castigated groups outside the black transgender women’s community that show up at rallies but do nothing of substance to help. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 26 transgender people died in violent attacks last year, with at least five more fatalities in 2019.

On May 19, Michelle “Tamika” Washington, a 40-year-old black transgender woman was fatally shot in North Philadelphia’s Franklinville section, according to the Philadelphia Gay News. The day before, Muhlaysia Booker, a 23-yearold black trans woman, was shot to death near a golf course in Dallas, just one month after she was brutally attacked on a street there. On May 14, a 21-year-old black transgender woman, Claire Legato, succumbed to head injuries she suffered when she was shot on April 15 in Cleveland. The violence against transgender people comes at a time when the Trump administration is advancing anti-trans policies from the military to public schools, health care, and homeless shelters. Carmen Neely, who heads up Harlem Pride, told the crowd, “Stigma is weaponizing murderers.” Christina Herrera, the founder of the TransLatinx Network, told the crowd, “Here as sisters and brothers, we are hurting.”

➤ TRANS LIVES REMEMBERED, continued on p.53

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Are You Ready for WorldPride Yet? Brooklyn to the Bronx and West Chelsea, too, June is well underway


Showing the colors at last year’s Brooklyn Pride Multicultural Festival.

Members of the Batala New York Afro Brazilian Samba Reggae Percussion Band in last June’s Brooklyn Pride Twilight Parade.

Dance, theater, and performance venue House of Yes is celebrating Brooklyn Pride on June 8 when Whitney Day and DJ Morabito headline an evening of love, music, freedom, and equality. There are numerous other Pride-related events on tap at the venue throughout the month of June. To find out more information, visit its website at



et in the spirit of WorldPride and Stonewall 50 at the numerous LGBTQ-related events around the city in the weeks ahead. There is a diverse slate of events, too, from Brooklyn Pride and comedy nights to film screenings, festivals, bike rides, and more. Check out our list of upcoming events — and check back in the June 20 and June 27 issues for even more Pride festivities later in the month!


Buddies enjoying themselves at last June’s LGBT Community Center Garden Party.

Laughs & Songs From John Burns When: Fri., Jun. 7, Wed., Jun. 26, and Sat., Jun. 29 at 7 p.m. Where: The Duplex Cabaret Theatre., 61 Christopher St. at Sheridan Sq. John Burns returns to the Duplex for three evenings of laughs, songs, and drinks. Tickets are $25, plus a two-drink minimum. Buy tickets & find more information at Brooklyn Pride 5k Pride Run When: Sat., Jun. 8 at 10 a.m. Where: Bartel-Pritchard Sq. near 15th St. & Prospect Park West, Park Slope Kick off your Saturday morning with a 5k Pride Run through Prospect Park! Every runner in the race will receive a Brooklyn Pride Run | June 6 - June 19, 2019

T-shirt and a custom engraved Pride Run medal after finishing. Prizes will be awarded to winners of their respective age groups. Participants are encouraged to register under their respective gender identity. Learn more at Brooklyn Pride Multicultural Festival When: Sat., Jun. 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Where: Fifth Ave. between First and Ninth Sts., Park Slope Community organizations and businesses will line the streets of Brooklyn throughout the day for this festival before the Pride Parade. There will be stages and entertainment. To find out more in-

formation about registration, visit Brooklyn Twilight Pride Parade When: Sat., Jun. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Where: Parade starts at Lincoln Pl. and ends at Ninth St. and Fifth Ave., Park Slope Cap off your day with a special celebration at the 23rd annual Twilight Pride Parade — the only nighttime parade in the entire city. Brooklyn Pride’s website,, notes that the registration deadline is coming soon. Find out more at House of Yes Pride Celebration When: Sat., Jun. 8 at 10 p.m. Where: 2 Wyckoff Ave. near Jefferson St., Bushwick

Drag and Comedy in Greenpoint When: Sun., Jun. 9 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Where: 113 Franklin St. between Kent St. and Greenpoint Ave., Greenpoint Head on over to Threes Brewing in Greenpoint to watch drag queen host Ducky Sheaboi and six others take on WorldPride with a night of burlesque, comedy, drag, and dance. Plus, there will be a costume contest. New York Botanical Garden’s WorldPride Night When: Sat., Jun. 15 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Where: New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd. at Fordham Rd., the Bronx Enjoy an evening complete with Brazilian art, culture, and design along with Samba dancing, caipirinhas, and music from Brazilian artists and DJs. Tickets are $38

➤ LISTINGS, continued on p.22



Funny man John Burns appears at the Duplex on June 7, 26, and 29.

➤ LISTINGS, from p.21 for non-members (adults 21+) Buy tickets and find out more information at

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Spill The Tea at Harlem Stage Pride When: Sat., Jun. 15 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Where: Harlem Stage Gatehouse, 150 Convent Ave. at W. 135th St. Harlem Stage is marking its second annual Pride program with “Spill the Tea,� an event highlighting the experiences of gay black men in the South. Author E. Patrick Johnson will discuss his collection of oral histories for his book “Sweet Tea� and the forthcoming documentary based on that book. Tavia Nyong’o will moderate the discussion, while the Illustrious Blacks aka ManchildBlack and Monstah Black will perform. Tickets are $15. Buy tickets and learn more at y639ulv5. Outcinema Where: SVA Theatre, 333 W. 23rd St. When: Mon., Jun. 17 through Wed., Jun. 19 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Celebrate LGBTQ Pride on film for three days of screenings, Q&As, and open bar after-parties. “Adam,� “Deep in Vogue,� and “Wig� will be featured and all tickets include an open bar post-screening party. Tickets start at $30. Find out more information and buy tickets at Family Movie Night Where: Hudson River Park’s Pier


The Folsom Street East Festival takes place on June 23 on West 27th Street.

45 at W. 10th St. When: Fri., June 21 from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Family movie night will feature Disney/ Pixar’s tale of a young musician, Miguel, who heads to the land of his ancestors — and then he meets a friend who helps him find out about his family’s stories and traditions. Everyone in the family is invited — and it’s free! Find out more at The 1 Bronx Pride Rally, March & Festival Where: E. 161s St. and Grand Concourse, the Bronx When: Sun., June 23, beginning 11 a.m. There is a month of events celebrating the LGBTQ community in the Bronx, but one of the main events takes place June 23 when Deborah Cox, La Insuperable, and others will perform at the 1 Bronx Pride Rally, March & Festival. Honey Davenport of “RuPaul’s Drag Race� and actor/ model Chavis Aron will also be on hand. The rally and march take place at E. 161st St. and Grand Concourse, and the march travels to the festival site at

➤ LISTINGS, continued on p.24 June 6 - June 19, 2019 | | June 6 - June 19, 2019



Deborah Cox is among the highlights of the June 23 1 Bronx Pride Festival.

➤ LISTINGS, from p.22 149th St. and Third Ave. Find out more at Folsom Street East Festival Where: West 27 St. between 10th and 11th Aves. When: Events all weekend; festival on Jun. 23, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Head to the Folsom Street East Festival to celebrate S.L.U.T.S. (Sex, Love, Unity, Trust, and Safety) in your favorite leather, fetish, or kinky


A team helping out with serving the gourmet food at last year’s Garden Party..

gear. The festival will close out NYC Fetish Weekend and proceeds will go to the New York City Anti-Violence Project and the Tyler Clementi Foundation. Buy tickets and find out more information at LGBT Community Center Garden Party Where: Pier 97, Hudson River Park at W. 59th St. When: Mon., Jun. 24 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The LGBT Community Center is partnering with restaurants and chiefs to create the annual Garden Party to help kick off WorldPride

Week. Eat food and dance while the sun sets at this official WorldPride event. Proceeds support The Center. Visit to find out more information. Black Flame Where: Mood Ring at 1260 Myrtle Ave. between Hart and Cedar Sts. When: Mon., Jun. 24 at 8 p.m. A spotlight on black queer comedians hosted by Solange Azor, Walter Kelly, and Mila Myles. The event is free to attend. Find out more information at

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Muhlaysia Booker was found dead in the street in Dallas early on May 18, just one month after she had been the victim of a separate suspected hate crime assault.



ere’s Amna Nawaz of the PBS NewsHour: “The most recent killing took place last Sunday in north Philadelphia. Michelle ‘Tamika’ Washington, 40 years old and a longtime advocate for the LGBTQ community, was shot several times. Her death came one day after Muhlaysia Booker was found dead in Dallas. Booker was just 23, and just weeks before her death, she was attacked in a mob-like beating after a minor traffic accident. One week before those murders, 21-year-old Claire Legato was shot in the head in Cleveland. She was killed after an argument between her mother and the suspected shooter. Earlier this year, two more black transgender women, Ashanti Carmon and Dana Martin, were also killed. Last year, more than two dozen transgender people were killed. And according to a 2018 Human Rights Campaign report, there were at least 128 trans people killed in 32 states since 2013; 80 percent of them were people of color.” As the LGBTQ communities celebrate Pride Month, we must all be hyperaware that the people represented by one of the letters in the Great Amalgam are literally fighting for their lives. The Ls, Gs, Bs, and Qs Are doing pretty well, all things considered. We’re not merely finding tolerance, a word I’ve grown to hate. People tolerate snotty, screaming brats running around restaurants or preposterously ugly dogs ruining the

aesthetic splendor of Central Park. I want a lot more than tolerance. We’re finding acceptance and celebration. Sure, there’s a lot left to fight for. Until every lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer person on the planet has the same right to freedom from oppression — I’m looking at you, Chechnya, and you, too Brunei — none of us will be free. But the Ts, with whom we share Pride Month, are still facing murderous persecution on a daily basis right here in the so-called Land of the Free. It takes tremendous bravery — bravery that I, for one, don’t have — to entertain even the idea that one’s own body doesn’t reflect the identity hidden beneath it, let alone the courage to transform it on any level, from manner of dress to, in many cases, surgical intervention. Amna Nawaz’s terrifying list at the beginning of this column testifies to the hostility — and the heroism, too —trans folks face and demonstrate every day of their lives, lives that are all too often cut short by transphobic violence. Nawaz is interviewing Beverly Tillery of the New York City Anti-Violence Project: “Beverly, it’s worth noting we are speaking on the same day the Trump administration has rolled back some healthcare protections for trans people. Earlier this week, there was another rule they put in place allowing federal shelters receiving funds to turn away trans people serving — seeking services there. There’s also the efforts to push a transgender military ban here. What effect have all of these even just proposals had

on the trans community?” Tillery’s response: “I mean, talk about a complete slap in the face. You know, the timing is really important to note here because, on the heels of these homicides, where the community is already reeling, for the administration to, one after the other, release these proposed guidelines and rules this week, it’s clear that they do not care about the trans and gendernonconforming community.” Uhhhh, Beverly? Could I speak with you privately for just a sec? You say that “it’s clear that they do not care about the trans and gendernonconforming community.” I think that’s a little mild, Beverly. In fact, I think it’s a gross, outrageous, and cowardly understatement. The administration obviously cares very much about the trans community. The words hatred and contempt come to mind. And “slap in the face?” It’s more like a knife in the heart. Let’s not put namby-pamby tact before honest and deserved rage. It’s not that the Rump Administration doesn’t care. The fact is, the administration hates the trans community. Its actions evince a total lack of respect for human life. We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the rights of fetuses. Would that such rights extended as far as those of us who breathe. It’s the nature of the world we live in that a six-week-old fetus means more to Rump, Pence, and their hypocritical base than adult humans, complex beings with fullyformed brains who feel the pain of rejection and social hostility — not to mention the bullets of the mob — because their genitalia doesn’t conform to their unquestionable gender identity. God, how I wish that on one of his snatch snatching escapades Rump had found a dick where he expected a vagina to be. Come to think of it, maybe that’s the problem. Consider this the latest unsourced rumor: Back in Rump’s pussy-grabbing days, before the religious right chose to overlook his little peccadilloes, he pulled one of his boorish sexual assaults on a preop trans woman and has been traumatized ever since. Oh, to have been the proverbial fly on the wall for that one. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook. June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

Stonewall 50/ WorldPride: The Biggest Celebration Ever Gay City News covers all angles in commemorating half-century of LGBTQ progress


Gay City News editor-in-chief Paul Schindler accepts an award on the newspaper’s behalf from the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City at its May 23 Pride Kick-Off Gala.


Gay City News’ new logo being introduced in its June 20 issue.



hen Gay City News was founded in 2002, New York State did not yet have a gay rights law and samesex couples could not get married anywhere in America. In fact, almost a third of the states still outlawed sexual conduct by gay people, which made criminals of LGBTQ community members. Seventeen years later, the community — here in the US and worldwide — has made huge strides. Same-sex couples can now marry legally in almost three dozen countries and major international organizations, such as the United Nations, make LGBTQ rights a critical focus of their work. At every step along the way, the editors and reporters at Gay City News have been there, telling the community’s stories from on the ground. The newspaper broke the news in 2006 that thenSenator Hillary Clinton said she had “evolved” and would support | June 6 - June 19, 2019


The massive rainbow on Fifth Avenue for the annual LGBTQ Pride March.

New York State adopting marriage equality. When Andrew Cuomo signed marriage equality into law in 2011, he gave his first two interviews to Maureen Dowd at the New York Times and Gay City News’ founding editor-in-chief Paul Schindler. 2019 is a defining moment in the history of the LGBTQ community — nowhere more than here in New York City. It was June 28, 1969 when patrons of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village fought back against a police raid, the sort of harassment typical of that era. After several nights of disorder, a new community had been born. The events of that week became the cornerstone of the modern gay rights movement. A community of millions, most of whom had lived their lives quietly, often in secret and in fear, became visible and politically engaged. The world would never be the same. As New York marks the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, the city plays host as well to WorldPride,


The official logo for Stonewall 50/ WorldPride.

an event that with an opening and closing ceremony, a human rights conference, and dozens of other events planned, will draw an estimated four million out-of-town tourists. Gay City News’ Pride issue, which hits the streets on June 27, is the must-have resource guide to the events of Pride Weekend, which will also, of course, include the annual LGBTQ Pride March, on June 30, along with another human rights march earlier the same day. As it has been for almost two decades, Gay City News will be indispensible to coverage of Stonewall 50 and WorldPride events. In recognition of the key role the newspaper plays in the community, the city’s largest LGBTQ political club, the Stonewall Democrats, hon-

ored Gay City News with a special award at its Pride Kick-Off Gala on May 23. City & State New York is honoring editor Schindler as one of the Pride Power 100 in its June 24 issue; in 2010, the newspaper also honored him, as one of the Power Matrix 13 Power Players in the community. Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of, writing of the newspaper’s influence, said, “Gay City New editor Paul Schindler’s always strong opinions make the paper kind of a must-read even outside the community.” “The 50th anniversary of Stonewall and WorldPride provide a moment to reflect on and celebrate the huge strides the LGBTQ community has made,” Schindler said. “And looking at the work that remains to be done reminds all of us at Gay City News of the crucial mission we continue to have.” To be part of the June 27 Stonewall 50/ WorldPride edition of Gay City News, contact Ralph D’Onofrio at 718-260-2510 or rdonofrio@



Honorees, Chasten Buttigieg Highlight Stonewall Bash Gay City News recognized for decades of coverage in the community


Chasten Buttigieg.



olitical leaders, LGBTQ activists, and special guest Chasten Buttigieg helped kick Pride season into gear at the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City’s annual event on May 23 at the M1-5 Lounge in Tribeca. Gay City News was among the honorees, along with Andy Marra, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education


Honoree Andy Marra, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Educaiton Fund.

Honoree Carmen Neely, president of Harlem Pride and co-chair of NYC Pride and Power.

Fund; Carmen Neely, the president of Harlem Pride and a co-chair of NYC Pride and Power; Tamara Rivera, council representative of the New York City District Council of Carpenters; and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who was unable to attend due to inclement weather in Buffalo that prevented her travel. Current and former out gay elected officials were also on hand, including Manhattan Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman, Queens

City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, and former Bronx Councilmember Jimmy Vacca. Numerous other elected officials representing virtually every level of government — including Congressmember Nydia Velázquez, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, and Queens Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman — were also in attendance.

➤ STONEWALL DEMS, continued on p.29

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➤ STONEWALL DEMS, from p.28 In honoring Gay City News, Stonewall president Rod Townsend praised the newspaper for keeping queer New Yorkers in the loop on the most important news for the past several decades. Gay City News founding editor-in-chief Paul Schindler accepted the award on behalf of the publication and briefly acknowledged those who have helped ensure that the critical stories of the LGBTQ community are told, even amid the sometimes-contentious relationship between members of the press and those who wield power. “What I have learned over the years from all the years at Stonewall is that you have accepted the fact that there are political activists and there are those of us who report on the political world,” Schindler explained. “I’ve always had good interactions, honest discourse, and appreciation for the fact that you may not like every story, but you have respect for what we do and you open yourselves and your work up to us. I’m appreciative and I think in a democracy that’s very important.” Rivera spoke of the importance of gender and racial and ethnic equality while reflecting on her own professional journey, noting that she entered the workforce standing alone as the only LGBTQ Hispanic woman among her fellow carpenters. She voiced a sense of optimism for the future, saying, “Our family here is grow-


The Gay City News crew on hand included Paul Schindler’s husband Bert Vaccari, Matt Tracy’s boyfriend Latiff Robbins, Tracy, Schindler, and longtime contributors Nathan Riley and Duncan Osborne — not to mention the photographer snapping this shot, Donna Aceto.

ing bigger and stronger. Together we’re unstoppable.” Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s husband Chasten, who introduced himself as a middle school teacher from South Bend, Indiana, took the time to tell his deeply personal and tumultuous coming out story. Growing up in northern Michigan, his family was not receptive to his sexuality and he wound up homeless for a period of time and even considered committing suicide. His loved ones came around to accept him — his parents walked him down the aisle when he married the mayor last year — and he said he stresses that point as he travels the country campaigning alongside his husband.

“Not a single day goes by on the trail by that I’m not cornered by somebody who tells me their story,” Buttigieg said. “’I just came out to my dad, it didn’t go very well. What do I do?’… I was at LaGuardia a couple weeks ago waiting for a flight. An older gentleman said, “You’re Chasten Buttigieg, right?’ Yes. ‘So what do I do?’” Buttigieg told the crowd to celebrate Pride, but then make sure to march for those who don’t have a voice, for those who continue to be victims of discrimination and who face rejection from their families and friends simply for being themselves. “We’re just getting started,” he said. “I look forward to marching with you this summer.”


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➤ MARSHA P. JOHNSON & SYLVIA RIVERA, from p.4 monuments. Johnson and Rivera were active in postStonewall political organizing efforts at both the Gay Activists Alliance and the more radical Gay Liberation Front. Outspoken in their advocacy for queer youth, people of color, and gender nonconforming folks, the pair soon became disenchanted with what they viewed as their invisibility in GAA and GLF. In 1970, they formed STAR, the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a short-lived organization that focused on demanding change while providing shelter and food for homeless queer youth and young adults. STAR briefly maintained a shelter for young people in the East Village. The use of the name transvestite at that time reflected the evolutionary nature of both Johnson and Rivera’s self-identification and of gender nonconforming people’s self-identification as a group. Though both Johnson and Rivera came to self-identify as transgender women, historical accounts of their activities in the years just before and after Stonewall have them presenting alternately in men and women’s styles. A critical question raised by their monument being located near the Stonewall Inn and announced on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots is what role each woman played in the events of late June 1969. Historical and scholarly sources universally agree that Johnson was at Stonewall at the time of the initial police raid. David Carter, whose 2004 book “Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution” is the most thoroughly researched history of the June ‘69 events, concluded that Johnson was likely among the very first bar patrons to actively resist, in violent fashion, the NYPD raid. Rivera’s claims to have been involved are more problematic. Eric Marcus and Martin Duberman, who both wrote histories in the early 1990s that were based largely on interviews with the subjects they were chronicling gave credence to Rivera’s accounts of her involvement. Carter, on the other hand, omitted Rivera from his book altogether, and later told, “I am afraid that I could only conclude that Sylvia’s account of her being there on the first night was a fabrication.” Carter pointed to the lack of corroboration from “credible witnesses who saw her there on the first night,” to several intimates of Johnson’s who said she told them that Rivera was not there, and to the changing nature of Rivera’s accounts of that night. In one telling, bar patrons were pelting cops with pennies and quarters; in others, they, improbably, had Molotov cocktails at their disposal. Randy Wicker, an out gay man who became involved in LGBTQ rights activism in the 1950s and lived with both Rivera and Johnson, told Gay City News on the morning of May 30 that the discussion surrounding who was or was not at Stonewall shouldn’t overshadow the re-



Cecilia Gentili reaches out to Al Michaels, Marsha P. Johnson’s nephew, as Council Speaker Corey Johnson looks on.

cent news about the city erecting a monument. But he nonetheless recalled what Johnson told him about the night when Stonewall protests commenced. “Marsha herself, she never really discussed Stonewall beyond that she was there and that it was when her gay activism started,” Wicker said. “But I think the reality is they were both there. Bob Kohler and Marsha said Sylvia came down later in the night while it was still going on and she was very taken up with the fight and I’m sure all her activist instincts came in.” The truth about the events surrounding Stonewall have become, over the past 50 years, notably contentious, and considerable care is warranted in trying to tell the story. The New York Times, which was given an exclusive about the monument’s announcement by the de Blasio administration a day ahead of the May 30 announcement, didn’t even try to tackle this question. Instead, using the journalistically dubious device of the passive voice, the newspaper reported, “They are also believed to have been key figures in the June 1969 Stonewall Uprising.” For some, the nuances of these historical questions apparently seem to be a distraction from what they see as a larger truth. McCray, the mayor’s wife who in 1979 penned an essay for Essence Magazine titled “I Am a Lesbian,” told the Times, “The LGBTQ movement was portrayed very much as a white, gay male movement. This monument counters that trend of whitewashing the history.” At the May 30 press conference, McCray said that Rivera and Johnson played “a leading role at Stonewall.” Whether or not history has been whitewashed, there is no doubt that Johnson, born in 1945 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Rivera, born in 1951 in the Bronx, were seminal figures in New York’s LGBTQ history. After youths in which they survived through sex work, the two were determined, passionate, often angry advocates for marginalized communities. John-

son continued as an organizer throughout her life and was active in ACT UP during her final years, though people who knew her were also aware of her struggles with mental health challenges, issues chronicled in news reports and histories of the LGBTQ movement. Days after the 1992 LGBTQ Pride March, Johnson’s body was found floating in the Hudson River. Though her death was officially ruled a suicide, some of her friends, including Rivera, suspected foul play, and rumors of a fight being witnessed and a man claiming to have killed “a drag queen named Marsha” have been repeated for years. Rivera moved in and out of activism after the immediate post-Stonewall years. By the 1990s, however, she had revived STAR, in part to focus attention on what is now recognized as an epidemic of violence against trans women. Author Michael Bronski chronicled her battle with the LGBT Community Center over what she saw as its neglect of queer youth — a fight that had her banned from the Center for a period of time in the ‘90s. As New York State moved toward adopting a gay rights law early in this century, she was outspoken in her anger at established queer leaders who left gender identity out of that measure — an omission only rectified this year. No less an activist than Riki Anne Wilchins, writing in the Village Voice in 2002, the year of Rivera’s death from liver cancer, said, “In many ways, Sylvia was the Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement, a term that was not even coined until two decades after Stonewall.” As for the monument, city officials say a designer has not yet been determined — but Wicker said there should be at least one requirement. “While I really doubt it, I would like to know if there are any trans people involved,” he said. “A trans person should design a monument like that.” June 6 - June 19, 2019 |


Cuomo Surrogacy Law, Panic Defense Ban Governor moves on two LGBTQ-related measures before end of session BY MATT TRACY


ust weeks before the end of the legislative session, Governor Andrew Cuomo on May 31 put pressure on state lawmakers in the State Legislature to legalize gestational surrogacy and ban the use of socalled gay and trans panic defense. Gay and trans panic defense law as it stands allows defendants to attempt to downgrade charges against them by using, among other reasons, a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity as an excuse for their actions. The existing ban on gestational surrogacy — which entails having a child through a surrogate who has no biological relation to the child or the parents — forces couples to travel outside of the state to have children and disproportionately affects LGBTQ parents. Cuomo unsuccessfully sought to include the measures in the budget earlier this year. Speaking alongside advocates for both causes, the governor ripped the current state of those two laws as “the legal codification of homophobia� and said he would be “shocked� if State Legislators fail to pass the laws before leaving Albany when the session concludes on June 19. “Both are discriminatory, stereotyping, and anti-LGBTQ,� Cuomo said from his Manhattan office. “That’s what they are.� Cuomo and state legislators are facing opposition from the Catholic Church, which opposes the surrogacy bill that is carried in the upper


Governor Cuomo, surrounded by advocates, speaks at his Manhattan office on May 31 about the path forward on legalizing gestational surrogacy and banning the use of so-called gay and trans panic defense.

chamber by out gay Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman and in the lower chamber by Westchester County Assemblymember Amy Paulin. Some women’s groups and advocates have argued that it could negatively impact surrogates. Cuomo defended the proposed surrogacy law, claiming it would provide ample protection for women carrying the babies. The measure would, for example, direct parents to pay for a health insurance plan covering medical treatment for the surrogate throughout the pregnancy and for several months after the baby is born. Hoylman, who opted to have his own children through gestational surrogacy, told Gay City News in a phone interview May 31 that the bill’s strong protections also shield New Yorkers who would otherwise resort to traveling to other states where surrogacy laws are not as robust.

“I had to travel over 3,000 miles to San Diego to have my kids,� Hoylman said. “We can instead pass the best surrogacy laws in the country to protect surrogates and donors and parents.� Hoylman, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led the first hearing on the bill in that committee on May 29. Lawmakers are sounding confident in the possibility of passing the gay trans and panic defense bill and Hoylman expects it to clear the upper chamber. However, there are two different versions of the bill in the Assembly: One is led by out gay Manhattan Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, while Queens State Assemblymember Brian Barnwell carries the other bill. O’Donnell’s bill bans gay and trans panic defense up to charges of second-degree murder and Barnwell’s version is extended to first-degree murder. It is not clear how successfully gay and trans panic defense could be applied in cases of first-degree murder considering that those cases often involve premeditated killings or the killing of police officers and firefighters. A spokesperson for O’Donnell did not respond to emails seeking an update on the status of those bills. Nonetheless, Hoylman said he supports both versions and believes one will clear the Assembly. “It’s an outrage and we need to strike it from our books. We will pass it,� Hoylman said. “I’m grateful for the governor’s support of our legislation.�

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Non-Binary Actor’s Debut in New “Tales” Garcia is trans man Jake in revival of Armistead Maupin’s classic the first one. Through my research, I saw the show and that it had this long queer history. My character doesn’t come in until seven or eight books into the series. It was interesting that Armistead wrote someone similar to me, as a trans person.

BY GARY M. KRAMER rans, non-binary actor Garcia makes an auspicious acting debut in “Tales of the City,” premiering June 7 on Netflix. This reboot of the popular series based on Armistead Maupin’s popular books opens with Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) celebrating her 90th birthday. However, the party does not last long — she is soon being blackmailed and must sell 28 Barbary Lane. One of the units in the apartment in the building is rented by Jake (Garcia), a trans man who lives with his lesbian girlfriend Margot (May Hong). As the couple faces the prospect of needing to find a new place to live, they also reconfigure their relationship. Jake is attracted to and wants to start seeing men. How things play out (in true soap opera style) is best left for viewers to binge on. Garcia spoke with Gay City News about making “Tales of the City” in a recent phone interview.


GARY M. KRAMER: The series is based on


Garcia and May Hong with (obscured) Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis in the Netflix production of Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City.”

the popular books. When — or did — you read them and how did you identify with the characters and stories? GARCIA: I had no idea “Tales” existed until the audition, so I immediately did research on Armistead and the books. Someone gifted me

KRAMER: How did you create Jake and put a Garcia spin on the character? GARCIA: I think it was the opposite. The writers made him for me. Jake is a little over two years into his transition, and I had transitioned just two years at the time of my audition. Jake’s exploration with men is close to an experience I had last summer. It was overwhelming in the best sense: someone is interested in putting this on screen. I didn’t know trans men until working on this with [episode director] Silas Howard and [series writer] Thomas Page McBee. A character like Jake made me happy and excited. But I also thought: What does this mean? It’s a vulnerable role because Jake is complex

➤ TALES OF THE CITY, continued on p.33

Knowing Which Way the Wind Blows Buddy film pairs a gay weatherman with a Latino gardener BY GARY M. KRAMER api Chulo,” the affable new comedydrama by out gay writer/ director John Butler, chronicles the charming, tender bromance that develops between Sean (Matt Bomer), a gay weatherman in Los Angeles, and Ernesto (Alejandro Patiño), a married-with-kids day laborer he hires to paint his deck. Their friendship develops because Sean is lonely. He pays Ernesto for his companionship. However, over time, each man sees a way of helping the other; they are able to give the other man something he wants — even though it is not necessarily something they would want for themselves. In a recent Skype interview, the Irish Butler said he came up with the idea from his observations driving around Los Angeles and




Matt Bomer and Alejandro Patiño in John Butler’s “Papi Chulo.”

his outsider perspective. “I was looking at the relationship between the working class Latino community in Los Angeles and the middle class gay community in West Hollywood,” he explained. “It’s under-explored, and I’m interested in stories with a gay everyman and, in this instance. with a Latino everyman, and how they might interact.” As a buddy movie, “Papi Chulo”

does not play up the gay or Latino migrant angle. Butler deliberately does not make the story about the gay character’s anxieties about sexuality or the misery of the migrant experience in America. “It’s hard to make an apolitical film in 2019,” Butler said. He succeeds brilliantly, however, in having written and directed a film where absolutely nothing is made whatsoever about Sean’s

sexuality. It is not an issue in his workplace, for Ernesto, or for anyone the men encounter. Sean is not defined by his sexuality, nor does it negatively impact how he is perceived by others, which is refreshing. What “Papi Chulo” does show is how the emotionally adrift Sean copes with his loneliness (or, rather doesn’t) after his last relationship ends. “The media tells us you can get whatever you want, but there is no app for [curing] loneliness,” Butler observed. “You enter into transactional relationship with your own parameters and hopes. I like the idea of a potential hookup that goes off the rails. I’ve experienced great kindness and friendships on apps. That’s lovely to think about, but it was interesting to push this idea in

➤ PAPI CHULO, continued on p.33 June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

➤ TALES OF THE CITY, from p.32 — he’s struggling with his relationship with Margot, whom he loves, but he’s excited by being perceived differently by the world. These are things I have been dealing with. How do I play this character in all his vulnerability? It was fun and exciting to play. KRAMER: Did you base Jake and Margot’s relationship on someone from your life? GARCIA: Yes and no. I would always joke with past lovers: What would you do if I was a boy? I didn’t know I wanted to transition. They asked if that’s what I wanted. I was single when I started to fully perceive as male and I was working

➤ PAPI CHULO, from p.32 a different way.” Sean is a gay man who simply wants what everyone wants — love and happiness. He projects that onto Ernesto as the characters bond in going boating on a lake and hiking in the mountains, and Sean talks about his feelings. That Ernesto knows little English makes him a good listener. But the guys do sing along to Madonna’s “Borderland” in the back of a Lyft after attending a party together. “Ernesto brings the music into Sean’s life, and he lightens the scene,” Butler said about one positive impact the Latino man has on him. Elaborating on the dynamic between his characters, the filmmaker added, “I like the idea of two lonely people connecting in a city. I was reading think pieces about an epidemic of gay loneliness. This strain of loneliness pertains to members of the gay community who have not built a family biologically or logically — to borrow Armistead Maupin’s term — and a man who has built a family who is happier than a guy who has it all. Who are these humans, and how do they interact?” Butler lets viewers find out by letting his film unfold at its own pace and allowing the comedy and drama to gently interact. “It’s told in a measured way,” he explained. “All my films are on that scale. It’s a replication of the human experience. Life is absurd and | June 6 - June 19, 2019

at my first gay bar and that was a whole world — to be desired by men and interested in men. I didn’t have a Margot, but I pulled from my personal life.

Where culture is king

KRAMER: What do you think of this storyline as it relates to trans visibility and experience? The show has many trans talent in front of and behind the camera, but a cisgender actress plays a major transgender role. GARCIA: We were well into the filming when I realized Olympia was playing trans. She’s grandmothered in from the original series. I worry that people will focus on that rather than the care and

➤ TALES OF THE CITY, continued on p.35 serious and hilariously funny.” “Papi Chulo” plays with the rules of the buddy film subgenre, adhering to some elements, but subverting others. This is Butler’s strength in his approach, and why his films (which also include “Handsome Devil,” and “The Bachelor Weekend”) are so disarming. He includes signposts, such as cleansing rain — Sean is a weatherman, after all — to deliver an emotional payoff. But he also features only a few scenes of Ernesto alone to underscore that this story is about the impact the two men have on each other. The absence of Ernesto from parts of the story (because Sean’s point of view is the focus) makes viewers want to see more of him. Such is the magic of Butler’s film (and Patiño’s performance). Bomer is also extraordinary in the film, playing Sean in a way that captures his self-pity and humility but also his humanity. The director applauded Bomer’s commitment, intelligence, and courage in playing the role. As for finding his own personal happiness (outside of making films), Butler said, “I’m a work in progress. I’m not in a position to offer anything that sounds close to wisdom on that. It’s the job of a lifetime for all of us. But I’d never underestimate the value of friendship for making you happy.” PAPI CHULO | Directed by John Butler | Blue Fox Entertainment | Opens Jun. 7 | Village East Cinema, 189 Second Ave. at E. 12th St.;

June 15

June 19

The Lonely Island

June 22




Scapegoating... And Then Resistance Josh Howard chronicles “Lavender Scare,” Frank Kameny’s activism BY GARY M. KRAMER osh Howard’s powerful documentary “The Lavender Scare” uses David K. Johnson’s 2006 book of the same name to explore the stories of gay men and lesbians who were fired from their government jobs during the Cold War era because of their sexuality. The film features interviews with subjects like Navy veteran Carl Rizzi, who worked for Post Office, and Joan Cassidy, a captain in the Navy Reserves, who talk about how their careers were ruined because they were gay. In an animated sequence, Madeleine Tress, a federal government employee voiced by out lesbian actress Cynthia Nixon, recounts the probing — and demeaning — interview she endured with the FBI. Other stories feature Drew Ference, voiced by out gay actor T.R. Knight, whose sexuality affected his foreign service job in Paris. Howard deftly traces the lives of these men and women and the horrific discriminatory experiences they faced. There is disturbing testimony from Peter Szluk, a State Department security officer of that era who targeted gays and lesbians, denying them rights and due process and offering them no opportunity to confront their accusers. “The Lavender Scare” also showcases the efforts of the late Frank Kameny, a pioneering figure in the LGBTQ rights movement, who fought back against his firing. In a recent phone interview, Howard spoke about his inspiring documentary.


GARY M. KRAMER: This story is actually, unfortunately, quite timely, as we see a new effort to purge the military of transgender service members. What resonated about this particular history that you wanted to adapt this book for a documentary? JOSH HOWARD: When I came across the book, I didn’t know about this particular aspect of gay history. I was shocked by the story and it seemed like a story that needed



The late Frank Kameny, seen here in 2010 with Josh Howard, director of “The Lavender Scare,” based on the 2006 book by David K. Johnson.

to be told. I was working on and off for 10 years, but as time went on, it had a relevance I wasn’t anticipating that it would have. KRAMER: You set the history, provide horrifying examples, and then present the story of an individual, Frank Kameny, who made a difference. What can you say about your approach? HOWARD: I spent most of my career at “60 Minutes,” and they would drum into our heads, “Don’t tell me about an issue, tell me someone’s story that illustrates the issue.” That’s the approach I took. I read Johnson’s book. He did a brilliant job uncovering the documentary proof of this. When I read about individual characters, I thought — this is a documentary, and we could do a movie with real people and real stories. KRAMER: Can you talk about the interviews in the film? They are quite remarkable. HOWARD: Many of the interviews came from David [K. Johnson] and people who appear in his book. We went back to them and interviewed them. Jill Landes, my associate producer, was able to track down the three government officials who appear in the film. In a way, those are my favorite interviews. The victims’ stories are compelling and

heartbreaking, but on some level we know what they are going to say. I had no idea if the government officials would defend their actions, apologize for them, or discuss how they felt about what they were doing. They provide a whole different level of insight into the thinking of the government at that time. KRAMER: How did you decide what stories to include? HOWARD: That was hard to do. There was not a lot of video material to work with. The Lavender Scare happened in private, and people didn’t talk about what was going on. It was a challenge. We tried to pick a number of stories where each one would illustrate a different aspect. Madeleine Tress — we had the most extensive FBI files. Drew Ference — we were able to track down his brother and niece and a colleague who worked with him at the embassy at Paris. Tress died, but we had a transcript of a print interview she did with [David K.] Johnson, so we used animation and Cynthia [Nixon] reading Madeleine’s words. Drew we could create graphics that brought to life the letters he was writing home. [T.R.] Knight’s voice brought his personality to life. KRAMER: Johnson states in the film that no gay men or lesbians

were ever proven to have betrayed their country. Why do you think there was such fear toward LGBTQ people? HOWARD: Because the government told us we should be afraid. We were in the middle of the Cold War and fearful of the Soviets. “The Kinsey Report” comes out and we hear about community of homosexuals threatening the morals of the country. It became a really good political tool. The Republicans ran with it. That’s why there are so many great parallels today. During the 1950s, there was a premium placed on conformity after the Depression and World War II. Anything that fell out of that structure was not only looked down upon, but feared. KRAMER: You give Frank Kameny his due, illuminating a life that served a purpose beyond what he could have imagined. What inspired you about his efforts? HOWARD: Frank loved being a gay activist and he devoted his life to it. He was a Harvard-trained astronomer at the beginning of the Space Race, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. Who knows what good Frank could have done for the country had he not been fired? That’s lost potential not just for the individual, but for the country. We figure somewhere around 5,000 people had been fired before Frank. He was the first of thousands of people who said, “Wait, this doesn’t make any sense! This is wrong!” He had determination, confidence, and stubbornness to start this movement. I spent three days with him in 2010. It was such an honor to be in his presence. I see him as the Rosa Parks or Susan B. Anthony of the LGBT movement. He doesn’t have the fraction of the recognition other people have. He could be the subject of his own doc. KRAMER: How do you think you would have fared as a gay man

➤ LAVENDER SCARE, continued on p.35 June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

➤ LAVENDER SCARE, from p.34 in the 1950s if you worked for the government? HOWARD: That’s a fascinating question. I don’t know what I would have done. I assume I would have been fired. I am openly gay now, but I wasn’t during my long career in broadcast journalism. In the

➤ TALES OF THE CITY, from p.33 work that the show did. But the representation is phenomenal. You have people from all over the spectrum and all these storylines. Jake saying we’re queer, and Margot saying she wants to be a lesbian. A gay, biracial couple. Shawna is doing her own thing [a threesome]. There are all these layers and complexities, including a co-op with drag queens. These characters are not surface-level identity — you see their stories. That representation blends well to tell multiple stories from the queer community. KRAMER: The series also shows the difficulties that trans people have had historically in finding work and housing, as well as facing discrimination and more. Can you talk about how things have (or haven’t) improved over time? GARCIA: It’s rough. We had three trans women shot and killed this week. I think it’s changed over time in the sense that we’re getting our foot in the door and people are interested in us. Laverne Cox and Asia Kate Dillon are speaking on trans and non-binary people’s behalf. It’s a slow change. I can’t speak on how much it has changed because sometimes it feels like we’re taking steps back. Now that we can change our gender identity to X, that’s a very small space that trans and non-binary people deserve. There’s so much work that needs to be done. KRAMER: Family is an important theme in “Tales.� Jake has a close, if contentious, relationship with their biological family but they also create a family with the folks at Barbary Lane. Armistead talks about a biological family and a logical family. Can you talk about the importance of family? GARCIA: Armistead is a witty guy. I love him and the shit that | June 6 - June 19, 2019

1950s, you didn’t have to be gay — you could be fired for appearing to be gay. Heterosexuals were fired for having friends who were gay! THE LAVENDER SCARE | Directed by Josh Howard | Full Exposure Films | Open Jun. 7 | Cinema Village, 22 E. 12th St.; cinemavillage. com

comes out of his mouth. Wow. It’s so spot-on. As a queer person, it is so important to find people outside of your family. Unless you come from a super supportive biological home — and I don’t know anyone like that, myself included. They had to create their own home away from home, their own Barbary Lane. When I was in San Francisco and was at the premiere party, I met an older gay couple who said they moved to San Francisco because of Armistead’s books. Wanting to find a place to accept you because you have no place — I have done that. Because my own family loves me but not in the way I need them to. Or they don’t use our pronouns the way we want them to. We find a way to survive by creating homes that accept us and tell us we love us and are important and worth being alive. If people watch and feel there are people out there just like them and leave a not-okay situation to create their own Barbary Lane — I hope that happens. KRAMER: Was there an Anna Madrigal in your life? A fairy godmother type? GARCIA: [Laughs.] Yes, my old mentor, who is the reason I even started acting. We met at a train station in downtown Chicago. I performed a poem [at a club], and a month later they asked me to be in their play and introduced me to this whole new world of theater. Meeting other queer youth that had the same interest in creating theater that represented brown and black youth and giving me the space to share my voice and express it. Had it not been for that, I wouldn’t be in NYU, or New York, or in “Tales.� This was someone who cared and believed in me — that I can act and be a performer. I was 17, and that was my Anna Madrigal. TALES OF THE CITY | Netflix | Premieres Jun. 7





Flamboyantly Gifted ‘70s Gays The lives of Elton John and Halston hit the big screen BY DAVID NOH ocketman,” the lavish Elton John biopic, has opened with the kind of ballyhoo not seen in quite some time. An entire event space focusing on the film has been set up at Soho Dolby, where you can wander through rooms that resemble the various sets in the film (John’s original family home, a massive white grand piano, the Troubador Club in LA, and more), stare at walls covered with memorabilia, and enjoy tea, sandwiches, and scones — all of this while “Bennie and the Jets” stuttering away on the sound system. I actually had more fun there than at the actual film, which is big and splashy and tabloidy, but you come away knowing not much more about John (and nothing about his indispensable collaborator, lyricist Bernie Taupin) than you did about Freddie Mercury from “Bohemian Rhapsody,” also big and splashy and tabloidy, and also directed by Dexter Fletcher. At a very warm and ingratiating press conference, Fletcher said that he hadn’t wanted to make a conventional biopic at all and, with producer John’s blessing, used his song catalog to attempt something looser and more visceral — which might work better for you than it did for me. And, rather than slavishly recreate John’s infamous, flamboyant wardrobe — “because no matter how careful you are, someone will always say, ‘But you got the shoes wrong!’ — Fletcher had costumer Julian Day work more from his impressionistic memory of the outfits. The real test, Fletcher said, would have been if John found even one costume he said he wish he’d worn himself. The outrageous first change, in fiery orange with a horned helmet, managed to get the desired reaction from the star. Fletcher also confided that John had gifted his screen doppelgänger Taron Egerton with a heart-shaped diamond earring, the first item of




Taron Egerton as Elton John in Dexter Fletcher’s “Rocketman,” now playing citywide.

value he, who would soon become a legendary shopaholic, bought with his initial success. The tirelessly talented Egerton wears this very special memento in the film. Another big gay, highly influential star of the 1970s also is the subject of a film, and a far more satisfying one it is. “Halston,” unveils the life of the great American designer, who died too soon in 1990, age 57, of AIDS, but whose clean, elegant, ingeniously cut and draped garments remain timeless, sensuous, and highly covetable. He escaped a straitlaced Iowa upbringing and came to New York where he first made his mark as a Bergdorf Goodman milliner, creator of Jackie Kennedy’s famous pillbox. His own minimal but luxe line of clothing became hugely successful, worn by every celebrity and peaking with the introduction of his signature perfume, a complete revolution in that line of product. Halston was charismatic and tall, dark and androgynously pretty of face, maybe the handsomest of

all couturiers, but, like the club he practically called home during its short run, Studio 54, he crashed and burned, largely through hubris. With a huge payday and an expressed wish to dress all women at every economic level, he sold his name and company with the intention of creating a line to be sold at JCPenney. A classic battle between his own desire for creative freedom and the corporate bottom line ensued, with him finally being ousted from his own company. The party life took its toll, with too many late, intoxicated nights, as did his own fame, for the designer became convinced of his invincibility, and his behavior took on a megalomaniac strain particularly hard on intimates and staff. His final days were sad and reclusive, but I, who worked and played at 54, can easily recall when it was the Versailles of the discos, with him its Sun King, arriving with his entourage of top models all decked out in his latest look (like parachute skirts that billowed to the rhythm of the dance floor, as The Village People’s “Macho Man”

blared forth), or lounging on the main banquette in full view of everyone, passing a joint of angel dust to the likes of Warhol, Capote, Diane von Furstenberg, and Potassa, then reigning trans goddess of Manhattan. I interviewed the film’s gifted director Frédéric Tcheng and producer Roland Ballester about their movie, undoubtedly one of the best, most comprehensive fashion films ever. The project really started with Ballester, who became acquainted with Halston’s niece, Lesley Frowick, through her brother, George, a good friend of his. Leslie was the family member who was closest to Halston, and had worked with him at the end, when he really needed someone like a family member he could trust. “A few years ago,” Ballester began, “she came to me and wanted to do something about him. I counseled her to write a book about him first, which she did, published by Rizzol in 2014. “When I read the book, I realized

➤ HALSTON, continued on p.48 June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

OPEN HOUSE DESTINATION: BMCC SATURDAY, JUNE 22, 2019 Call or Text (347) 305-4497


Pack your bag, grab your boarding pass, and head to Tribeca on June 22 to see why Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) is the right college destination! BMCC is ranked among the top five community colleges in the U.S. and personifies the excitement and culture of New York City. BMCC attracts ambitious individuals of every age who are seeking intellectual enrichment and a supportive environment to start or continue their college career. Students benefit from leading associate degree programs in STEM, business management, criminal justice, liberal

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arts and nursing, in addition to career-focused continuing education. BMCC offers flexible day, evening, weekend and online classes as well as support services | June 6 - June 19, 2019

including academic advisement, tutoring, child care, LGBTQ services, financial benefits, counseling and mentoring to help students balance college life with family

ships with surrounding businesses to offer students a range of opportunities and resources. The BMCC value includes an affordable, high-quality education that pays off. Graduates are reaching greater levels; prepared for what comes next and creating a clear path to their dreams.

Attend the Open House on Saturday, June 22 to tour the main campus, try out a minilesson with a professor, and feel what it’s like to and professional obliga- be a BMCC Panther! tions. Reserve your spot BMCC has forged cng transfer agreements with top colleges, and mainStart Here. Go Anytains unique partner- where.



Zombies With Milquetoast Messaging Jim Jarmusch plays at politics, but chronicles weariness BY STEVE ERICKSON ne could guess that a zombie film directed by Jim Jarmusch would be painfully hip. With a cast featuring Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Iggy Pop, and Tom Waits, “The Dead Don’t Die” doesn’t disappoint. Frustratingly, Jarmusch brings nothing new to this overworked sub-genre. (The press kit notes 55 zombie-themed movies or TV shows were released in 2014.) The film grasps for political subtext in a lazy, secondhand way. In the end, its zombie apocalypse is quite cozy. The small town of Centerville, whose name is lifted from Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels,” is guarded by three cops: Cliff (Murray), Ronnie (Adam Driver) and Mindy (Chloë Sevigny). One fairly ordinary day, TVs start flickering and animals act strangely. TV anchor Posie Juarez (Rosie Perez) relays news about polar fracking doing permanent damage to the earth, which seems to lead to the dead rising from their graves. Soon, the cops, as well as eccentric swordswoman Zelda (Swinton), are fighting an infestation of zombies who can only be killed by destroying



Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny, and Adam Driver in Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die,” which opens June 14.

their heads. The film also takes in the stories of two other groups of three people, although it devotes less time to them: a trio in their 20s riding in a car and teens confined to a juvenile prison. Working with a large ensemble cast, Jarmusch returns to Cliff and Ronnie for the bulk of the film; the subplots about the more racially diverse younger characters feel tacked on. “The Dead Don’t Die” makes a few stabs at smirky postmodernism. They don’t do the film much good. Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA — and

composer of the score for Jarmusch’s “Ghost Dog” — has a cameo as Dean, a delivery driver for Wu-PS, whose trucks show the group’s logo. Country singer Sturgill Simpson’s “The Dead Don’t Die” is the only song the characters are able to hear through their radios; in fact, the CD single is available for sale at a gas station. Ronnie remarks, “It’s the theme song” early on, prefiguring the fact that he and Cliff are aware that they’re in a movie. Murray breaks character to call Jarmusch a dick because the director only showed him the script scenes in which he appeared. The film never gives us a reason to care about any of this, nor is it very funny. The film’s tone is featherweight, which makes its aspiration toward political commentary a bit silly. Having Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi) wear a red hat that reads “Keep America White Again” isn’t exactly deep. (At this point, the grammatical redundancy is a more cutting dig at Trumpists than the racism.) It’s a bigger problem that “The Dead Don’t Die” is such a blatant homage to George A. Romero’s zombie films, especially

➤ THE DEAD DON’T DIE, continued on p.39

Provocation, But No Bites Anthropologist stirred the pot, but pawns declined to play BY STEVE ERICKSON n 1973, Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés set out to test the human race’s capacity for violence when he placed six women and five men in the pressurecooker quarters of a large raft and set them on a journey across the Atlantic. Forty-five years later — and five years after Genovés’ death — Swedish director Marcus Lindeen has made a documentary about this project. One can see all kinds of parallels in Genovés’ ideas that don’t have much to do with legitimate scientific inquiry, from the religious cults formed in the late 1960s and early ‘70s to the way contemporary reality TV shows manipulate their participants by isolating them and using other means to amp up the drama. (He set the stage for “Big Brother.”) Startlingly, the events of “The Raft” come to an optimistic conclusion about human nature. Genovés looks much worse than the people he tried to use. Genovés was initially inspired by his experience briefly being taken hostage, which led to a fascination with violence and the roots of con-




The crew of 11 aboard the 1973 Acali raft that crossed the Atlantic.

flict. Mexican actor Daniel Gimenéz Cacho delivers a voice-over as Genovés in English. A very diverse crew Genovés gathered from around the world set sail on the Acali from the coast of Spain. They slept side by side and used the ocean as their toilet. Genovés tried manipulating them, mostly sexually, and brought a priest onboard as a taunt. He expected an African-American woman, Fé Seymour, to wind up sleeping with an Angolan, the only black man on the Acali, for reasons explicable only by racism. He didn’t

allow the crew to bring any books and wanted them to pass the time singing and telling stories to each other. The raft faced potential danger from other vessels and bad weather. Lindeen reunited the seven surviving Acali passengers (all but one of them female), He had a set representing the raft’s exact dimensions constructed on a Swedish black soundstage. “The Raft” films its passengers, now in their 60s and 70s, and has them interact with each other, reflecting on their past experience. It avoids conventional interviews. Fortunately for Lindeen’s purposes, extensive silent 16mm archival footage of the original passage was filmed, so we get to see their appearance and behavior at the time of the voyage. “The Raft” doesn’t literally re-enact the voyage or have anyone roleplay the past straightforwardly. Instead, it recognizes the impossibility of repeating that experience — that’s very clear from the difference between the way the raft looks then in the sea and now on a set, even if it’s an exact replica — but suggests the value of

➤ THE RAFT, continued on p.39 June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

➤ THE DEAD DON’T DIE, from p.38 “Dawn of the Dead.” It lifts a line about the undead being drawn to things they loved in life. When Romero had his zombies head to a shopping mall in 1978, it said something fresh about consumerism, especially combined with a level of over-the-top gore presented in a manner that was both disturbing and funny. “The Dead Don’t Die” just repeats Romero’s critique of the emptiness of consumer culture. That wouldn’t matter if it were consistently witty, but it doesn’t keep up the uncanny weirdness of Sara Driver and Iggy Pop’s zombies moaning “coffee” and pouring the drink down their throats — and all over themselves. The zombies keep calling out the name of whatever they’re attracted to: one disembowels a human while saying “free cable.” There’s lots of violence in “The Dead Don’t Die,” but relatively little gore due to the fact that the zombies’ heads disappear into a puff of FX-generated black dust. The only scene that aims for gravity (and achieves it) is a massacre near the end.

➤ THE RAFT, from p.38 trying to bridge the past and present. “The Raft” doesn’t push its larger context home. Genovés started from his own unfortunate experience and announced the Acali experiment with seemingly noble intentions yet proceeded in a way that sabotaged them. That’s a telling point about arrogant entitlement bigger than just one man. The more we learn about the way the Acali passengers were selected, the clearer it is that they were chosen in a method geared for maximum provocation. How could the project discover the truth about human nature when the goal seems to be orgies, racism, and, possibly, violence? British critic Kevin Maher wrote that “the crushing disappointment of the film is that nothing really happens.” His definition of “nothing’ is rather limited, but the way “The Raft” defies easy misanthropy and “Lord of the Flies”-inspired notions about human nature is actually the least disappointing thing about it. The mayhem that | June 6 - June 19, 2019

Ironically, Jarmusch’s direction of actors, especially Driver and Murray, continues his trademark deadpan style. In “Stranger Than Paradise,” he depicted a post-punk blank generation as well as anyone. While his visual style has moved on from his early minimalism, his fondness for symmetrical framing of actors persists. But Driver and Murray’s affectless performances convey a pessimistic resignation. (Swinton acts much livelier.) It’s the end of the world as they know it and they’ll trudge on. They can’t go on, but they must. If the film evokes anything real about American life, it doesn’t lie in overt social commentary but in its sense that the country’s current mood is pained, weary exhaustion. Whatever Jarmusch’s intentions, this film is about struggling with depression. THE DEAD DON’T DIE | Directed by Jim Jarmusch | Focus Features | Opens Jun. 14 | Angelika Film Center, 18 W. Houston at Mercer St.; | Nitehawk Cinema Williamsburg, 136 Metropolitan Ave. at Berry St.;

ovés expected didn’t transpire. If the media called the Acali “the sex raft,” it didn’t live up to their hype. Placed into a stressful situation, the Acali’s passengers kept the peace quite well, with Genovés eventually realizing that he was the only person onboard who was finding the experience extremely difficult. Lindeen creates a productive tension between the differing texture of the past and present. If the images of the past are real (and shown in degraded film footage), those of the present are stylized to the point of looking like experimental theater. His ability to talk to the venture’s surviving participants allows him to create a dialogue with film of their past. If the Acali’s voyage was an experiment that happily failed the expectations of its creator, “The Raft” brings the hybrid documentary back from festival cinema cliché. THE RAFT | Directed by Marcus Lindeen | Metrograph Pictures | In English and various languages with subtitles | Opens Jun. 7 | Metrograph, 7 Ludlow St. btwn. Canal & Hester Sts. |

Labyrinth Dance Theater presents Conceived, Choreographed and Directed by Sasha Spielvogel

Celebrating and Honoring Thirty Years of Love, Loss and Hope; Gay Life in NYC 1965-1995

Come Back Once More So I Can Say Goodbye June 14th–17th, 2019 The Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater 405 West 55th Street, NYC (at the Corner of 55th St. & 9th Ave.)

Benefitting GMHC Ali Forney Center Live Out Loud and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Special Thanks to:

Honorary Host Committee: John Cameron Mitchell Terrence McNally and Tree of Stonewall





Backsliding in LGBTQ Film Representation 2018 offered less diversity, y, prominence p in queer cinema roles The lack of racial diversity among LGBTQ characters was just as glaring: There was a 15 percent decrease in LGBTQ characters of color in 2018 when compared to the previous year, with GLAAD noting that less than half of queer characters consisted of people of color. Latinx representation dipped significantly, dropping from 28.5 percent of characters last year to seven percent this year. Animated films, which are popular among younger demographics and can serve as a vehicle through which children can learn about diversity, boasted no LGBTQ characters at all for the first time in five years. The dismal numbers across the board came three years after the film industry became engulfed

BY MATT TRACY n the surface, it initially might seem encouraging that there was a slight increase — 5.4 percent — in LGBTQ characters in movies produced by major film studios last year. But dig a little deeper and it’s not all that pretty: LGBTQ characters played key roles in only half of those films, there were fewer queer people of color starring in those roles than in 2017, and there were no trans characters in any of those films, according to GLAAD’s 2019 Studio Responsibility Index report. And while GLAAD counted 45 LGBTQ characters in films last year, they weren’t very visible. A majority of them were seen for less than three minutes and 16 were on screen for under a minute.



Bradley Cooper and out bisexual Lady Gaga in “A Star Is Born.”

➤ STUDIO RESPONSIBILTY, continued on p.41

Mayor de Blasio Must Properly Fund Meal Programs for Senior Citizens 9P9<K?=@EB<C# 88IGEPJ;@I<:KFI “Without my senior center, I would have no food to eat.” That’s a direct quote from a senior who wrote the New York City Department for the Aging about dependence on meal programs at senior centers. This senior is not alone. Across New York City, hundreds of thousands turn to senior centers and home delivered meals to meet their daily nutritional needs. In fact, more than half (56%) of New York City’s seniors report that the meals they eat at senior centers account for their primary daily food and nutrient intake. These meals are key to preventing seniors from going hungry. The need cannot be stressed enough. And yet for years, City Hall has not been providing adequate funding to


keep pace with the growing demand for - and cost of - senior meals programs. And the nonprofit organizations around New York that prepare and serve these vital meals have been forced to fill a multimillion dollar funding gap created by City Hall. Currently, the Department for the Aging overall budget accounts for less than 1% of the total City budget. That insufficient funding is only exacerbated

by the fact that aging New Yorkers make up the fastest-growing demographic - while the percentage of seniors living in poverty has increased, especially in the Bronx, where 28 percent of seniors now live below the poverty level. The problems of poverty, health and livability are even worse for seniors of color, according to findings from a report AARP New York released last year titled, “Disrupting

Disparities: Solutions for New Yorkers Age 50+” With the fast-growing population and poverty numbers comes the need for more meals. In the last three years alone, there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of seniors accessing meals. And those meals have become more expensive, increasing 18 percent in the last decade. But here’s the kicker: New York City spends 20 percent below the national average on senior meals, despite the fact the everything is more expensive in the city. We recently joined senior advocacy organizations LiveOn NY and Project FIND to call on Mayor de Blasio to increase funding by $35 million to cover the full cost of the approximately 13 million meals that are served annually at senior centers and through home delivered meals. Every senior deserves

access to a quality, nutritious meal. Kitchen staff and senior center professionals responsible for ensuring the availability of these meals must be paid a competitive, living wage (they mostly have not received raises in many years). And nonprofits shouldn’t be forced to cover the gaps left by the city’s inadequate funding. These basic investments are integral to ensuring the dignity of New York’s older adults and to promoting a fair city for all ages. We are committed to ensuring New Yorkers can age safely – and with dignity – in our city. We want an age-friendly city that cares for its seniors. We won’t stop the pressure on Mayor de Blasio until he does the right thing for all seniors across New York. For America’s richest city, it is not too much to ask of City Hall.

June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ STUDIO RESPONSIBILTY, from p.40 in the #OscarsSoWhite controversy stemming from the lack of racial diversity in award-winning films. Small gains in LGBTQ representation in subsequent years â&#x20AC;&#x201D; such as Disney introducing a gay character in the 2017 edition of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Beauty and the Beastâ&#x20AC;? and, of course, the best Oscar given to the African-American LGBTQ film â&#x20AC;&#x153;Moonlightâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; were erased with the poor showing in 2018. In fact, Disney produced no LGBTQ-inclusive films in all of 2018, according to GLAAD. Universal Pictures led the way among major studios with six LGBTQ-inclusive films, while Warner Bros. trailed right behind with five. And of the 19 films produced by Lionsgate, only one was LGBTQ-inclusive. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s unclear how this yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s films are on pace to compare to films unveiled in previous years, but GLAADâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s president and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, noted in a statement attached to the report that the precarious media landscape in an era of industry mergers presents as a â&#x20AC;&#x153;real concernâ&#x20AC;? for the future.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;This consolidation may mean a more difficult path to distribution for films that are not major blockbuster or tentpole releases,â&#x20AC;? Ellis said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Studios may be more hesitant to invest in new types of content, and decisions on what gets green-lit and who is involved are made by a smaller group of people.â&#x20AC;? LGBTQ-inclusive films and TV shows nonetheless managed to find success at the Golden Globes and Oscars this year, with numerous films grabbing nominations â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but not all of those films had LGBTQ characters. â&#x20AC;&#x153;A Star is Born,â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bohemian Rhapsody,â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Favourite,â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Green Bookâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;Viceâ&#x20AC;? were all nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the most LGBTQ-related films ever to be nominated â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and many went on to win awards in different categories. Meanwhile, the FX show â&#x20AC;&#x153;Pose,â&#x20AC;? which highlights New Yorkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ball scene in the late 1980s, landed two Golden Globe nominations and individual actors were also nominated for their respective roles in that show.






Feeding Your Pride Since 1985

#FeedYourPride #WorldPrideNYC


Choral Evensong


Join the Church of the Epiphany, an Episcopal church, at its Choral Evensong service on the Day of Pentecost, Sunday, June 9 at 5:00pm, in celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride month.





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LGBTQ+ clergy will lead the service, with the Rt. Rev. Mary D. Glasspool preaching, and music sung during the service was all composed by members of the LGBTQ+ community. Organ music will begin at 4:45pm. Conclude your Sunday afternoon with this candlelit, quiet, reflective service of beautiful choral music, scripture, and prayer.



For more information or directions, please visit our website at






Estimate | June 6 - June 19, 2019



Genius Times Eight Profoundly moving “Octet”; joyless “Happy Talk,” “Enter Laughing”


Justin Gregory Lopez in Dave Malloy’s “Octet,” directed by Annie Tippe, at the Signature Theatre through June 16.

BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE ctet,” Dave Malloy’s new chamber choir a cappella musical at the Signature, marvelously directed by Annie Tippe, is a work of absolute genius brilliantly rendered and profoundly moving. The premise is simple: eight members of a support group for Internet addiction gather for a weekly meeting. The format is similar to a traditional 12-Step meeting where members tell of their struggles. The diverse stories cover everything from dating to gaming, and at one point a character describes the types of content that cause Internet addiction: recreational, informational, social, sexual, and political. It’s hard to imagine any of us who don’t fall into at least one of those areas of obsession today, whether or not it rises to the level of addiction. We hear the story of a woman devoted to a virtual relationship, a man who can’t stop playing candy-based games, and a married couple in bed focused on their individual screens. What resonates through each of the stories is the longing for real human connection and each character’s awareness of and grief over the isolation and inherent soul-sucking emptiness of a device-focused life. We



feel the pain of the characters and their struggle as the virtual life is revealed as a toxic, debilitating illusion. What makes this so powerful is that successful a cappella singing demands a level of connectedness between the singers that borders on the intimate. That, of course, is the antithesis of the subject matter and creates a compelling dramatic tension throughout. The cast — Adam Bashian, Kim Blanck, Starr Busby, Alex Gibson, Justin Gregory Lopez, J.D. Mollison, Margo Seibert, and Kuhoo Verma — sing together perfectly. Malloy’s music ranges from lush hymns that celebrate innocence and serenity found in nature to rhythmic songs and heartfelt ballads. As in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” Malloy’s melodic lines and harmonics are consistently original and always serve the characters, allowing us to feel their struggles on an elemental level. The dramatic journey of loss and the hope for redemption are moving and at once timely and classic. Emily from “Our Town,” revisiting her town after her death, says, “Oh earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you.” In “Octet,” we are asked to examine ourselves on the hope we can connect with our fellows more meaningfully. That’s certainly something the


Nico Santos, Susan Sarandon, and Marin Ireland in Jesse Eisenberg’s “Happy Talk,” directed by Scott Elliott at the Pershing Square Signature Center through June 16.

earth needs right now. Here’s a character we’ve seen quite often: the amateur theater actor who thinks they are a great “artiste,” who contrary to the teachings of the Russian acting teacher Stanislavski loves themself in the art, rather than the art in themself. It’s a character who shows up in Dickens and most trenchantly in the writings of Canadian author Robertson Davies. This character is usually running away from something and is almost always a figure to satirize, like the entire cast of “Waiting for Guffman.” In the case of Jesse Eisenberg’s tediously rambling play “Happy Talk” at The New Group, that character is Lorraine. She has plenty to run away from. Her husband Bill suffers from MS, which has rendered him largely speechless, and her mother is busy dying offstage. For company, she has only her mother’s caretaker Ljuba, who is really more of a captive audience. Lorraine is playing Bloody Mary in an amateur production of “South Pacific,” from which this play has lifted its title, and amidst all her talk about the “thea-tah,” she is trying to broker a green card marriage between Ronny, a flamboyantly gay man in her theater group, and Ljuba. Ronny is broke, and Ljuba has saved up a lot of

money and a marriage would let her bring her daughter over from Europe. At one point Jenny, Bill and Lorraine’s daughter, shows up to berate her mother for being a distracted and egotistical parent. The play is sporadically amusing, but it’s not what one would call a comedy. When Lorraine sinks deeper into psychosis and denial, ultimately sabotaging Ljuba’s plans, it shifts into a psychological thriller, of sorts, for the last 20 minutes or so. In other words, the story lurches rather than unfolds, seeking for a coherence it never achieves. It’s no surprise, given the material, that Susan Sarandon as Lorraine seems lost. She goes from creepily jejune to community theater Norma Desmond without any other depth or nuance. The few attempts to show us the sad woman underneath the performance are shallow and obvious, and Eisenberg defaults to the song “Bali Hai” to find a believable emotional moment as Lorraine sings to her non-responsive husband. Marin Ireland is serviceable as Ljuba, though her accent is more suited to a cartoon character. Nico Santos is quite good as Ronny, though his character’s comedy comes mostly from hackneyed, gay musical theater clichés. Tedra Millan

➤ HAPPY TALK, continued on p.43 June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ HAPPY TALK, from p.42


as Jenny projects one-note hostility. Were her character not so obnoxiously self-involved, she might have been sympathetic and provided a clue to Lorraineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s darker, destructive side. This is a play that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know where to go. Where it should go is back to the drawing board. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Enter Laughing: The Musicalâ&#x20AC;? is just the kind of oldfashioned show tailor-made to validate the opinion of people who hate musicals. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s formulaic and dated, with a bland score and shallow characters. Even with an upbeat and energetic revival by the York Theatre, it feels like being trapped under a dusty afghan that has spent 40 years in mothballs. The show is based on Carl Reinerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 1963 play of the same name that ran for more than a year. Set in 1938, it tells the story of David Kolowitz, a good-hearted schlub bitten by the theater bug. So, rather than become a pharmacist to make his Jewish mother proud, he gets involved with a small theater troupe. The title, by the way, comes from a stage direction David reads aloud from the script at his very first audition. In addition to the nagging mother, we have the girlfriend who gets the wrong idea when David kisses another girl in rehearsal, Davidâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fantasies of being a star, and a naughty comic â&#x20AC;&#x153;Butlerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Songâ&#x20AC;? about â&#x20AC;&#x201D; gasp! â&#x20AC;&#x201D; sex. This song requires a glossary of all the 1930s movie stars with whom fantasy David is having sex. At the end, after all kinds of purportedly hilarious missteps, David is off to the world of showbiz, singing â&#x20AC;&#x153;So Long, 174th Street.â&#x20AC;? That, by the way, was the title of this musical originally in 1976 when it lasted 16 performances. Though this production under the direction of Stuart Ross bounces along good naturedly, it canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do much more. The talented cast includes the remarkable Alison Fraser as Davidâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mother, Farah Alvin as the sex-starved actress in the company David joins, and David Schramm as Marlowe, the theater manager who sings â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Butlerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Song.â&#x20AC;? Chris Dwan as David is a young song-anddance man whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s charming and talented. These performances | June 6 - June 19, 2019

/cbV]`1O`O1WZS\b]O\aeS`aeWbV A\O^aV]ba(AOg1VSSaS ÂľOZ]\UZWTSVWab]`geWbVO^^`]^`WObSU`WbO\R U`OQSBVSe]`RaO`SeSZZac^^]`bSRPgbVS ^V]b]aPcbbVSWZZcab`ObW]\aW\\]eOg ]dS`eVSZ[bVSaSeSZZO`bWQcZObSRO\RS[]bWdS US[a/Zg`WQOZ[S[]W`e`WbbS\W\^`]aSO\R dS`aSA\O^aV]baVOaOc\WdS`aOZ[SaaOUSbVOb eWZZO^^SOZb][O\g`SORS`aÂś TOQSP]]YQ][AOgQVSSaSbVSe]`ZRWaeObQVW\U CAROL ROSEGG

Chris Dwan in â&#x20AC;&#x153;Enter Laughing: The Musical,â&#x20AC;? directed Stuart Ross, at the York Theatre through June 16.

compensate â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but only somewhat â&#x20AC;&#x201D; for the material. Still, the show makes no demands on the audience, and it wants nothing more than to divert and charm. But in the world of truly original pieces like â&#x20AC;&#x153;Octetâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;Hadestown,â&#x20AC;? itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a relic best left to history. I was left to exit, yawning. OCTET | Signature Theatre, 480 W. 42nd St. | Through Jun. 16: Tue.-Fri. at 7:30 p.m.; Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. | $35 through Jun. 11; then $99 at or 212-244-7529 | One hr., 40 mins., no intermission HAPPY TALK |The New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St. | Through Jun. 16: Tue.-Fri. at 7:30 p.m.; Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. | $40-$135 at or 212-279-4200 ENTER LAUGHING | York Theatre Company, 619 Lexington Ave. at E. 54th St. | | Through Jun. 16: Tue.-Wed. at 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat at 8 p.m.; Thu., Sat.-Sun. at 2:30 p.m. | $25-$75.50 at or 212-935-5820 | Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

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Colombia’s Gay Truth Teller Jaime Manrique’s new novel explores forbidden love


Novelist Jaime Manrique, who last month received the prestigious Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle.

BY CHRISTOPHER MURRAY he Colombian-American writer Jaime Manrique, author of the powerful new novel “Like This Afternoon Forever,” is both an imp and an iconoclast. The poet, novelist, and teacher, who turns 70 this month, just received the prestigious Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle. “I was glad to receive it before I kicked the bucket,” he winkingly told Gay City News recently over cheeseburgers and fries at the Village Bistro close to his home in Greenwich Village. The new book, the award, as well as his birthday and all the Stonewall 50/ WorldPride hoopla have Manrique looking forward as well as back, with both a hard gimlet stare and the sparkly eyes of the child he was growing up in tranquil Barranquilla where the Rio Magdalena pours into the Caribbean Sea. “I lived in Barranquilla until I



was six and then Bogota,” he said. “Bogota was much smaller then, before the climate changed. It was very rainy and cold and green, and I loved the mountains surrounding the city. I would cut classes and go hiking or go see movies with Chaplin or Laurel & Hardy, Mexican movies, and ‘Tarzan, King of the Jungle.’ Now Bogota is incredibly polluted. They have yellow alerts and people walking around wearing masks.” Manrique emigrated to Florida with his mother in 1966 and then spent years alternately in New York, Venezuela, and Bogota with his partner of 30 years, the late painter Bill Sullivan. His new book tells the romantic and tragedy-laced story of two priests — like Manrique, also country boys who moved to the bustling capital — whose love is threatened by the violence of a country with a long history of oppression. It’s been named one of 10 best new Latinx reads of the summer by Rigoberto

➤ JAIME MANRIQUE, continued on p.45 June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

â&#x17E;¤ JAIME MANRIQUE, from p.44 Gonzalez, writing at, who notes the book â&#x20AC;&#x153;reckon[s] with the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;false positiveâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; scandal, in which the military lured unsuspecting civilians to their deaths and then presented the bodies as defeated insurgents in order to inflate their victories.â&#x20AC;? The coupleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s commitment to each other clashes with their shared commitment to social justice and bettering the lives of their parishioners. Both homosexuality and the legacy of the governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s decadeslong conflict with the Communist guerrilla FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia) remain highly charged issues in Colombia. Manriqueâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s driving them into a collision course with each other in â&#x20AC;&#x153;Like This Afternoon Foreverâ&#x20AC;? reveals once again how the personal is always political and not ever like a car in the middle of a traffic jam that always stays in its own separate lane. The novel is serious stuff, but reads, as the gay novelist Christopher Bram notes, â&#x20AC;&#x153;as quick and intense as a fairy tale, yet as real and brutal as contemporary Latin America.â&#x20AC;? The novel was first published in Spanish last year, though Manrique wrote it in English. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve heard from several seminarians and an ex-priest in Colombia


Originally written in English, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Like This Afternoon Foreverâ&#x20AC;? was first published in Spanish.

who were very moved because in some ways they felt the book told their story,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;They became disenchanted with that life and had left the Church and thanked me for telling that story, the first book in Colombia that has.â&#x20AC;? Spoiler alert: The book is based on actual events. The BBC reported that Father Richard Piffano, 37, and Father Rafael Reatiga, 35, â&#x20AC;&#x153;were found shot dead in a car in southern Bogota in January, 2011. The priests had agreed to a suicide pact after one of them was diagnosed with AIDS, but contracted

hitmen because they could not bring themselves to carry it out.â&#x20AC;? The relatives of the priests continue to claim their deaths were the result of an armed robbery and to deny that they were lovers. Manrique heard the priestsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; story soon after his partner Sullivanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s death from AIDS had sent him into a â&#x20AC;&#x153;nervous breakdown,â&#x20AC;? he said. For his research he went to their neighborhoods in Bogota and talked to young men enrolled in seminaries. Both suicide and homosexuality remain forbidden among the Catholic faithful. Manrique calls far right Colombian President IvĂĄn Duque MĂĄrquez, elected last June, â&#x20AC;&#x153;very homophobic.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s trying to repeal the gay marriage law and change the curriculum in schools to not teach any gay history,â&#x20AC;? he said. The social stigma of homosexuality and the nationwide PTSD from cultural and political violence ensured the novel would be controversial in Colombia, but Manrique is no stranger to his art becoming incendiary. Following the publication of his satiric novel â&#x20AC;&#x153;Colombian Gold: A Novel of Power and Corruptionâ&#x20AC;? in 1983, Manrique was â&#x20AC;&#x153;kicked out off the country pretty much,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I insulted a government official. I accused him of corruption. They charged me with â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;disrespect of authority.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Somebody told me they had a warrant for my arrest. After that, I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t go back for 20 years.â&#x20AC;? A few weeks ago in his speech at the ceremony for the Whitehead Award, Manrique said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Once more, the queer people of the world, indeed all of humanity, are under the threat of totalitarianism. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why we as writers must endeavor to write with our fingers and our minds afire. For wherever we find racism, homophobia, and misogyny entrenched, we must march toward that evil structure

and tear it down.â&#x20AC;? Recalling that evening, he said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;At first I wanted to write something funny and then say â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;thank youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s it. But then my current boyfriend said, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;No, Jaime, you have to have to use it to inspire people to get out here and do something.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? The current political climateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stakes reminded Manrique of when he first heard about the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I had read it in Time magazine or something and I remember thinking, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Oh, my God, this is happening!â&#x20AC;&#x2122; I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t believe it. I thought, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Maybe thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hope for me, that I will be happy someday, that things will be better for homosexuals.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? As for the upcoming celebration of Stonewallâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 50th anniversary, he said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;In the past 50 years, it has changed a lot for us as people being gay and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a different world we live in. We donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to hide anymore, we can be out anywhere we want to, but that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mean that gays are easily accepted everywhere. They are many places where the prejudice remains, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all under the skin.â&#x20AC;? When asked what he will be doing for Pride this year, Manrique noted that heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be in the parade on a float with other LGBTQ writers sponsored by Barnes & Noble. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m thinking about maybe going in drag as Divine.â&#x20AC;? LIKE THIS AFTERNOON FOREVER | By Jaime Manrique | Akashic/ Kaylie Jones Books | $11.96 | 244 pages Jaime Manrique will read from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Like This Afternoon Foreverâ&#x20AC;? in conversation with Dr. Lawrence D. Mass at the Bureau of General Services â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Queer Division, LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., room 210, on Jun. 13 at 7 p.m. A $10 donation is suggested.

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Stonewall Sings in a New Century New York City Opera debuts Iain Bell, Mark Campbell work June 21 BY ELI JACOBSON n June 21, New York City Opera presents the premiere of “Stonewall,” a newly commissioned opera by British composer Iain Bell with a libretto by Mark Campbell in a production directed by Leonard Foglia. The production honors the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and the 75th anniversary of New York City Opera. Gay City News spoke to Michael Capasso, the general director of City Opera, as well as the composer and the librettist about this new work depicting the events before, during, and after the riots that erupted on June 28, 1969.


ELI JACOBSON: Mr. Capasso, “Stonewall” is your baby: you came up with the concept, hired the artistic team and put it on the season schedule. What made you commission this piece? MICHAEL CAPASSO (General Director, New York City Opera): We are the only opera company in the world that has committed to an LGBTQ-themed work in Pride Month. This is installment number three. When I realized that the City Opera 75th anniversary and the Stonewall 50th celebration coincided, it was a no-brainer. JACOBSON: Iain Bell, you were born 11 years after the Stonewall riots — in 1980. I suspect few among the creators were around Greenwich Village when this happened 50 years ago. Yet how has it affected your life and in what ways? What does Stonewall mean to you as an historical event? How are you presenting it for an audience in 2019? CAPASSO: Stonewall changed the world. I grew up in a conservative Italian family with no tolerance for the gay lifestyle. But I am in the theater and I have always been surrounded by gay people. They are, to me, just people and should be treated as you would any other. Stonewall made that happen. IAIN BELL (Composer): Had it



Lisa Chavez, Jordan Weatherston Pitts, and Liz Bouk from the New York City Opera cast of Iain Bell and Mark Campbell’s world premiere “Stonewall,” directed by Leonard Foglia.


“Stonewall” composer Iain Bell.

not been for the bravery of the community and allies standing up to prejudice and oppression, I believe the rights I now have as a gay man would have been a lot slower in arriving. As a citizen of the UK, I am able to marry, raise a family, have equal rights in the workplace, and be legally protected from societal discrimination based on my sexuality. Had the community born out of the Stonewall Riots not shone

such a bright light on the rights of our gloriously diverse community, we may not be where we are now... though it is clear we still have a long way to go. We face global attempts to have these rights rescinded and various members of the LGBTQ+ community still struggle to receive the legal legitimacy they deserve. I feel this will be particularly resonant to a 2019 audience, given that this worrying lurch to the right is

so front-and-center as an issue. Beyond the mythology that has arisen of that sweaty, sticky summer night in the Village, first and foremost, the events of June 1969 represent that archetypal “Enough is enough” moment where a diverse community finds the strength in itself to say, “No more.” MARK CAMPBELL (Librettist): We reaped some benefits of so many good battles we fought in the 1960s in this country: against racism, misogyny, pollution, war, homophobia, etc. — and yet we’re still fighting those same battles today. The current administration has very clearly and unapologetically shown that it will do everything in its power to strip away the equality we worked so hard to achieve. An opera about Stonewall reminds today’s audiences that we cannot take our rights for granted, that we must always be ready to stand up and fight for what we believe in. JACOBSON: Mark, there have been many books and historical accounts written by and about the participants and survivors of the Stonewall riots. Are your characters in the opera libretto historical persons or are they composites based on real people? Did you use historical sources and if so, which ones? CAMPBELL: I created the central characters in the libretto for “Stonewall” based on the diverse people I’ve had the privilege to know and love as a gay man who has lived in downtown New York for several decades. Although I researched the subject pretty thoroughly, the opera is a work of the imagination, not a “docu-opera”; it is much more about the spirit of the event than a faithful reenactment, and tries to capture how a group of people came together with humor, rage, and finally hope to rise up against the police. At the same time, I felt it was important to remind younger generations how difficult it was to be LGBTQ+ in 1969 and so show how many of

➤ STONEWALL: THE OPERA, continued on p.47 June 6 - June 19, 2019 |


Brünnhilde for President Christine Goerke’s self-assured d heroine her anchors Götterdämmerung” BY ELI JACOBSON he Metropolitan Opera concluded its “Ring Cycle” with a “Götterdämmerung” (seen April 27 at the matinee season premiere), which consolidated the strengths of its performers for a triumphant finale. Philippe Jordan’s conducting improved with each opera — the clarity and forward-moving lyricism of his interpretation were a constant. After a sloppy “Das Rheingold” and an uneven “Die Walküre,” Jordan found his footing with a vibrant reading of “Siegfried.” “Götterdämmerung” highlighted the maestro’s narrative abilities: Jordan’s storytelling was masterful, using orchestral color and detail to illuminate the action and create drama. There have been more profound, epochal interpretations of Wagner’s opus, but this one had consistent life and energy. The cast was strong from top to bottom. There were several interesting debuts. Austrian tenor Andreas Schager made a confident, masterful debut as the more mature Siegfried. Like his alternate, Stefan Vinke, Schager has a highplaced true tenor sound, stage savvy, and impressive stamina. His voice is all bright metal, lacking the softer colors that Vinke summoned. In Act III, Schager’s Siegfried nailed the high C and triumphantly held on to it for several extra beats. A former operetta singer, he is a stage animal with abundant vocal and theatrical energy. Finding one viable, let alone excellent Siegfried has been an im-


➤ STONEWALL: THE OPERA, from p.46 the characters I imagined are persecuted in their daily lives, among them a butch lesbian who is harassed on the subway and mocked by the police, a Dominican gay man who loses his job as a teacher, a gay teenager who was forced to run away from home and now lives on the streets, and a woman who was made to undergo conversion | June 6 - June 19, 2019


Christine Goerke and Andreas Schager in the Metropolitan Opera production of Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung.”

possible challenge since Wagner’s “Ring” premiered. In the “golden age” of Wagner singing at the Met in the 1930s, there was only Lauritz Melchior. The Met miraculously found two superb Siegfrieds this season. Less imposing but effective was the low-key villainy of Eric Owens as Hagen. Owens doesn’t possess the deepest, darkest bass out there yet Hagen’s lower range suits him better than Wotan’s does. It was interesting seeing a black man portray Hagen, who has an ingrained bitterness yet perverse pride in his outsider status. Evgeny Nikitin’s strong stage presence and imposing bass were somewhat wasted on Gunther — he needed more detailed direction to create a con-

vincingly weak character. Edith Haller, the other debutant, made the passive Gutrune an affirmative dramatic presence bringing an interesting mix of insecurity, seductiveness, and corruption to the character. Her mature soprano has womanly warmth but also some edge which also added character. Mezzo-soprano Michaela Schuster is another veteran German artist who brought biting textual detail and authority to Waltraute’s long narrative. Tomasz Konieczny scored again as a haunting ghostly Alberich in his one scene. Strong trios of Norns and Rhinemaidens compounded the uniformly strong ensemble casting. Christine Goerke’s Brünnhilde provided a firm, constant focal

therapy by her parents to “fi x” her attraction to women.

a joy to be able to wink to various elements of 1960s music-making throughout, so riffs are explored and harmonic progressions are occasionally more reminiscent of those of popular music of the time than opera. More explicitly, I also wrote two jukebox songs (lyrics by our librettist Mark Campbell), which are in the style of pop music of the time, opening Part II of the opera. These have been recorded

JACOBSON: Iain, does your score reflect the popular music of the late ‘60s by Janis Joplin, Diana Ross, and The 5th Dimension or is it more classical or contemporary? BELL: Though the opera is sung by un-amplified operatic voices, with an orchestra in the pit, it was

point to the evening. Her tone is not as imposing as some earlier interpreters of the role — the volume is generous but not overpowering. Goerke’s soprano lacks the unbroken column of heroic tone of a Flagstad — consistently, Goerke must slim down the breadth of her dark soprano in order to surmount high tessitura. There have also been more profound interpreters of the Valkyrie turned mortal. Yet Goerke’s sound has warmth and femininity as well as dramatic power, and she has solutions for every vocal challenge thrown her way. I always felt that Goerke had a deep. honest connection to the character and sincerity in her delivery of text. Her large eyes and broad features create an excellent stage face that is expressive right up the highest balcony. Goerke’s open and positive offstage personality (so evident in her social media and public interactions) also illuminates her Brünnhilde, one character who chooses love over power or wealth. She remains honest and true to herself. It is Brünnhilde, not Wotan, who saves the world from the Ring’s curse. That positive energy and honesty provided a radiant hopeful center in Wagner’s dark universe. Goerke’s self-possessed heroine anchored the evening. I will pass over the Lepage production as so much has already been said. This edition of Wagner’s “Ring” was about people taking center stage and not technology — it was the performers who provided abundant spectacle for the eye and ear.

by the one and only Darlene Love, who sounds astonishing! JACOBSON: What do you want the audience to take away from this story and apply to their own lives — gay or straight — in 2019? CAMPBELL: I’d like nothing more than the LGBTQ+ community to embrace “Stonewall” as our

➤ STONEWALL: THE OPERA, continued on p.55


HALSTON, from p.36

that she was describing a real person — not a one-dimensional icon — and this appealed to me. For a director, there was only one that appealed to me, Frédéric, because I loved his ‘Dior and I,’ for the way he put the craftsmen — the embroiderers and seamstresses — on equal footing as the designer, and wasn’t someone just interested in models and beauty.” Tcheng admitted, “I had no real experience in fashion, but like many people, I appreciated it for its beauty and creativity. I think the business often gets dismissed as being superficial, which I think is unfair because it actually employs millions of people, and if you took away that economy, the world would just collapse. “I know I have a track record of fashion films but I am really a film person, first and foremost. But I did do ‘Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,’ and was involved with ‘Valentino: The Last Emperor,’ which I co-produced and edited. With this one, I wanted to make a film that my niece could relate to, or my straight friends. “For us, the business story was really the hook which made the film bigger than just Halston, or even New York in the 1970s. It was also about the 1980s and Reaganomics, which is still happening. Everything now is a financial decision, and for a creative person how do you navigate that? It’s something I live through daily, this tension of business versus creativity.” Researching the film proved challenging, because, as Ballester said, “A lot of his archive was viciously and needlessly destroyed in the big corporate takeover of his company. They destroyed the videotapes of his shows, and they had all the dresses. Halston had personally saved a few things, and donated all of it to Lesley, the niece. He told her right before he died, ‘When you want it, you will have the material to tell my story.’ That was a huge burden on her for many years.” Tcheng added, “And that’s how we inherited the tape. I told the producers, ‘I want more.’ So they talked to the Warhol Museum, which found the most incredible amount of things thought to be lost, like Halston in China [a much publicized promotional trip, 1980] tape! And Roland went to NBC again and again, asking for tapes. Finally a box arrived, which we opened, and there they were! “It was total detective work, and so thrilling to discover not just tapes and footage but the memos between the businessmen and lawyers, hidden reports about the behavior problems of Halston. One report exposed all of the abuse he’d hurl at his staff [in the later years, stressed by the moneymen and drug abuse]. Back in the day, it was something they just had to deal with.” Ballester interjected, “Halston’s lawyer is a great writer, so his memos were not boring, almost like screenplays because reading them, you feel you were there. One I particularly loved was 30 pages long, like a soap opera.”



Halston and Liza Minnelli as seen in Frédéric Tcheng’s “Halston,” now playing at the Quad.

Tcheng observed, chuckling, “We managed to catch him in a lie, during his filmed interview, about Halston’s office locks being changed. But we were indeed lucky to have this amazing trove.” The fabulous interviews they scored really add richness to the film, especially because everyone from Halston’s BFF, a moving but decidedly wary Liza Minnelli, to the gorgeous posse of models who accompanied him everywhere and were dubbed “The Halstonettes” (Pat Cleveland, Karen Bjornson, Alva Chinn, Chris Royer prime among them) to cherished members of his technical staff are all so colorful and forthcoming. Flamboyant original Elsa Peretti, the renowned jewelry designer for Tiffany, was his model and maybe the one woman he loved most, although he was decidedly gay, with an explosive, drugged-out Venezuelan lover, Victor Hugo, who both inspired and tortured him. Tcheng said, “Elsa tried to pull a Marlene Dietrich with us, wanted to talk but didn’t want to be seen, although we had an appointment with her. But we managed to find this raw interview she did a few months after Halston passed in 1990. She was like in a trance, completely out of this world, but her responses were so genius. As for Liza, it was not easy. We had to turn her no’s to yes. It took a year for her to trust us, largely because we had talked to friends of hers, like Marisa Berenson and Karen Bjornson, who’d had a good experience with us. So, obviously we were not hacks out for blood, and that wait — our second to last interview — was good because the last thing you want is getting someone who will then say nothing. She was guarded and careful with what she said but it was a very friendly, not antagonistic situation to walk into. She was really nervous, because she had been burned before with things she said becoming sensationalized in print. She was very careful, but so gracious and gave us a

lot of her time. Hey, she’s Liza Minnelli, so she can turn it on anytime she wants to show that star power. You put her in front of the camera and something happens! I asked Tcheng if he came away liking the man: “Some people had warned me that I might not. You have to find your own Halston. I personally fell in love with him although he keeps you at a distance with the sunglasses and cool attitude. But you want to know more and pierce the mystery. At first he was like a movie star I was studying, but I was surprised at how much I related to him: the gay story and the 1960s, with their oppression, also him always being the champion of models of color. There’s that footage of him dressing Iman for her very first fashion show, and also plus-size models, like Pat Ast [his chief vendeuse who became a rambunctious Warhol superstar]. Who has a Pat Ast around today? “Of course, he had his problems. He remains a kind of enigma to me but the fact that he rose above his conservative, Midwest beginnings and was able to express himself and be rewarded I could relate to. I am French and was an engineer in my previous life, but moved to New York to be a filmmaker. New York has that power to be whomever you want. I also appreciate his engineering of clothing, those patterns that look like Cuisinart explains so much about this guy. All the critic said his stuff looked so easy but it took an incredible amount of work. But he never boasted about it. He believed in freeing and liberating women’s bodies in their clothes, and he worked really hard.” ROCKETMAN | Directed by Dexter Fletcher | Paramount Pictures | Playing citywide HALSTON | Directed by Frédéric Tcheng | Samuel Goldwyn | Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th St.; June 6 - June 19, 2019 | | June 6 - June 19, 2019



Victory Fund Picks Cabán; Stonewall Backs Katz LGBTQ political groups, officials split in Queens district attorney primary race BY MATT TRACY


ueer Latina Tiffany Cabán this week won a significant LGBTQ boost in her run for Queens district attorney, with the endorsement of the Victory Fund, a Washington-based group that helps elect out candidates across every level of government nationwide. At the same time, the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, the city’s largest LGBTQ political group, has opted to back Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in the race. The endorsements come less than a month before the June 25 primary election to fill the seat previously held by the late Richard Brown, who served as Queens DA for more than two decades before acting DA John Ryan stepped in on an interim basis shortly before Brown’s May 3 death. Former Houston Mayor Anise Parker, an out lesbian who is president and CEO of the Victory Fund, said in a written statement that Cabán is “a passionate advocate for fair and equitable criminal justice reform and understands that every decision made by a district attorney’s office impacts the lives of real people. Stonewall’s membership on May 29 voted to support Katz, who was first elected borough president in 2013 after serving on the City Council and in the State Assembly. In a written statement, Stonewall’s president, Rod Townsend, said, “For over 25 years, Melinda Katz has shown in her work in the New York Assembly, New York City Council, and as borough president that she will fight for LGBTQ New Yorkers. In a time when civil rights are being eroded at the federal level, she recognizes the role our local justice system can play in protecting and advancing the LGBTQ community and all marginalized New Yorkers.” In a tweet hours after Stonewall’s endorsement, Katz thanked the club for supporting her campaign. “I’m so proud to be endorsed by the largest LGBTQ+ Democratic organization in NYC and look forward to partnering with them as we fight for equality in our justice system,” Katz stated. The 31-year-old Cabán laid out her platform in an April interview with Gay City News and described a campaign focused on decriminalizing and destigmatizing sex work while eradicating criminal justice abuses in the borough that have unfairly targeted people of color. In most cases, she said, she wouldn’t request cash bail or fight parole and she has vowed not to go after sex workers, their customers, or landlords and spaces facilitating sex work. In a Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club



Tiffany Cabán at the annual St. Pat’s For All inclusive parade in Queens.


Borough President Melinda Katz at the Gay City News Impact Awards in March.

questionnaire earlier this year, Katz and Cabán each explicitly said they support the legalization of sex work. Cabán has since clarified her stance on that, saying she believes in decriminalization, while Katz, according to the Queens Eagle, said during a March forum that she is supportive of a diversion court where those arrested on sex work-related charges would typically see their charges dropped after completing mandated steps. Noting that her queer Latina identity has

shaped her career, Cabán spoke during the interview with Gay City News about the impact of criminal justice issues on the LGBTQ community. She explained that a transgender woman she represented could not afford bail, was thrown into a holding area with men, and, denied her hormone treatments, was growing facial hair for the first time in a long time. She further noted that although the Manhattan Detention Center has housing for transgender women, only some trans women are placed there while the rest are thrown into solitary. Cabán has vowed during her campaign to bring that kind of focus on LGBTQ issues to the DA’s office. She said she is “proud” to have the Victory Fund’s support and, if elected, would ensure that LGBTQ people in Queens “are protected, defended, and celebrated, and that their experiences are centered in our policies and practices.” “As a queer Latina, I grew up with few elected officials that looked or sounded like me,” Cabán explained. “Victory Fund is working to change this by electing members of the LGBTQ community to public office — creating a whole new generation of diverse and representative leadership.” Cabán has generated the most individual donations of any candidate in the race thus far, and state election data indicates she has $151,356.25 on hand after hauling in $256,673.41. Katz leads all candidates in the race by bringing in $560,141 in the last cycle, and she currently has $907,019 on hand. It is not currently clear how much traction Cabán is making against an incumbent borough president who has twice won Queens-wide races, but the Victory Fund’s endorsement adds to a growing list of leaders and organizations that have thrown their support behind the progressive candidate. In addition to support from Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and groups such as the VOCAL-NY Real Justice PAC, Cabán has landed endorsements from other LGBTQ organizations and political leaders including the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer — who himself is running for borough president in 2021 — and former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon. Katz, who is 53, has also amassed a strong base of endorsements consisting of dozens of unions, hundreds of community leaders, nearly two dozen elected officials, and a number of community organizations. Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Gregory Meeks, the Queens County Democratic Party, and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx are among her backers. June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

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June 6 - June 19, 2019 |

➤ TRANSGENDER HEALTH, from p.14 “Everyone deserves access to medically necessary care and should never be turned away because of who they are or who they love.” Doug Wirth, president and CEO of the non-profit health plan Amida Care, which specializes in providing care for low-income New Yorkers including those living with or affected by HIV, said the rule would disproportionately affect transgender people. “This latest development means that our transgender neighbors will face even steeper barriers to care, and is in direct opposition

➤ TRANS LIVES REMEMBERED, from p.18 Toward the end of the rally, NYTAG co-founder Kiara St. James called on all transgender women in the crowd to come to the front for a moving moment of hugs. In a written statement posted on Facebook, NYTAG said, “We ask not just for justice for these three women, but also call on the institutions that are designed to protect every-

to the Trump administration’s stated goal of Ending the Epidemic by 2030,” Wirth said in a written statement. The recent proposals follow the administration’s numerous other recent attacks on the LGBTQ community, including a ban on transgender service members in the military, a separate proposal to require homeless transgender people to stay in shelters consistent with their biological sex rather than gender identity, and a State Department policy of denying American citizenship to some children, born overseas, of bi-national samesex parents.

HHS also made waves earlier this year when the agency granted foster care agencies in South Carolina an exemption from government regulations banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Since Trump took office, the administration also rescinded an Obama-era guidance regarding the rights of transgender students, sided with the anti-LGBTQ Masterpiece Cakeshop baker in court cases, and sought to cut off key funding sources for HIV research despite having pitched a so-called plan to stop the HIV/ AIDS epidemic.

In a telling statement on page 116 of a 204-page document, the administration signaled that it welcomes anti-LGBTQ policies implemented by local governments across the nation, stating that “local entities are better equipped to address issues of gender dysphoria or sexual orientation and the sometimes competing privacy interests with sensitivity, especially when young children or intimate settings are involved.” Trump’s latest proposal will now undergo a customary 60-day commenting period to give the general public an opportunity to respond before it goes into effect.

one, and ask them to uphold the laws and protections for the Trans community.” Barely a week after the New York rally, a black transgender woman was found dead in a Dallas lake in a case that police there are describing as “homicidal violence.” The death represents the third time in less than a year that a trans woman has been killed in that city. Police found 26-year-old Chynal Lind-

sey shortly after 5:30 p.m. on June 1 in White Rock Lake at 4100 West Lawther Drive in the northeastern part of Dallas. In addition to Booker’s May 18 death, in October of last year, Brittany White was murdered and found in a vehicle just southeast of the city center. This cluster of cases has raised questions about whether there is a serial killer targeting black trans women in Dallas.

“Right now, we don’t have the evidence to substantiate that,” Dallas police Chief Reneé Hall said during a press conference on June 1. He said the department reached out to the FBI for assistance, but otherwise has no apparent leads. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 26 transgender people died in violent attacks last year, with at least eight more fatalities in 2019.

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“Stonewall” librettist Mark Campbell.

➤ STONEWALL: THE OPERA, from p.47 opera. I’d also love for straight people to understand that our fight is their fight and that every one of the LGBTQ+ characters in the opera are their children, their friends, their parents. BELL: First and foremost, LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. We all benefit from a society that embraces the many voices, differences, and ideals of its members, but these rights can never be taken for granted, nor can we lapse into laziness. Be that spark that lights the dark, | June 6 - June 19, 2019

be that voice that says, “No... enough” when you witness injustices. We will all be better off for it. CAPASSO: This is a story of people. I hope the audience will identify with the characters as people, not just gay people. STONEWALL | New York City Opera | Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Time Warner Center, Broadway at 60th St. | Jun. 21, 22, 27 & 28 at 7:30 p.m.; Jun. 22 at 2 & 7:30 p.m. | $20-$300 at nycopera. com,, or by calling 212-721-6500



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