TRANS ACHIEVERS MEET ADVOCATES MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN LA, PAGE 19 Photo by Jon Viscott
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04 • JANUARY 12, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Democrats preparing for 2018 elections
Diane Feinstein made her position on DACA clear in a congressional meeting at the White House on Jan. 9.
California state races will be key to retaking House By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org Donald Trump marketed himself to voters as a smart, rich, world-class dealmaker, a brand image reinforced by his reality TV show “The Apprentice.” That is far from the image presented in an explosive new book by media writer Michael Wolff, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” however, in which Trump’s senior staff portrays the president as petulant, childlike, ignorant, and an “idiot.” Wolff’s book confirms a conclusion many pundits have reached— that Trump is mentally unstable and unfit for office, an issue of prime importance to the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities as he continues to roll back progressive gains made in the Obama era. Though they may privately express concern, Republican loyalists in Trump’s administration and in Congress, hoping to pass their ultra-conservative agenda, are not expected to invoke the 25th Amendment, declare him incapacitated and remove him from office. Nor are they expected to
launch impeachment proceedings, unless absolutely forced to if Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation finds obstruction of justice and/or collusion with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 elections for a proTrump outcome. A number of Democrats, such as California Rep. Maxine Waters, have called for Trump’s impeachment and independent mega-donor Tom Steyer has spent millions promoting it on television. But not all Democrats are convinced that promising Trump’s impeachment is the best way to win back the House and Senate in the 2018 midterm elections. “Impeachment, it’s not something you ought to welcome. It’s not something you ought to be ready to — it’s not something you want,” New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee with constitutional expertise, told Politico late last December. What if “it would tear the country apart too much” to do it? But impeachment promise or not, the Democrats are preparing for an all-out fight. Democrats must retain their existing seats and win 24 House seats and two Senate seats to regain control of Congress. And despite the excitement of the #Resistance movement, those wins will not be easy. In addition to the solid cult of Trump, many
of the Republican seats are gerrymandered, with challengers to the incumbent being slightly to more extreme. Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for instance, announced that he’s running to replace retiring Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Arpaio, 85, was pardoned by Trump after a conviction for criminal contempt. He’s best known for proudly practicing racial profiling and housing detainees in an outdoor “concentration camp.” His main primary opponent is Kelli Ward, a former state senator and Trump ally. Also running in the GOP primary in August is anti-LGBT Rep. Martha Elizabeth McSally, a retired Air Force Colonel. The winner of the GOP primary will face centrist Democrat Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, an out bisexual who in 2013 Elle magazine dubbed “America’s most colorful Congresswoman.” Perhaps Steve Bannon, Trump’s former white nationalist strategist, will offer to run Arpaio’s campaign. Bannon was a key onthe-record source for Wolff’s salacious book about Trump. He has subsequently offered a groveling apology but has not recanted his damaging statements—leading to his loss of powerful backing from Trump, his financial angels, the Mercer family, and his media throne, the Westside Los Angeles-based Brietbart News.
That ignominy of rejection comes after the humiliating loss by Bannon’s Alabama Senate pick, racist, anti-LGBT Judge Roy Moore who lost to Democrat Doug Jones, much to the delight of Jones’s gay son Carson and campaign supporters, the Human Rights Campaign. But whether Bannon has really turned from white supremacist electoral superman into political kryptonite for the 2018 elections remains to be seen. He thrilled California Republicans at their convention in Anaheim last October—where his rambling remarks touted the assured upcoming victory of Roy Moore and failed to even mention the vulnerable Republican seats the Democrats are counting on winning. “Victory begets victory. We don’t have a problem with ideas. We have a problem of understanding how to win. It is about winning. Nothing else matters. If you want to take your state back, if you want to take your country back, you’re going to have to roll your sleeves up,” Bannon said. “We pulled off the win by having the RNC and the Republican establishment put their shoulder to the wheel with the Trump campaign state by state.” There are Trump strongholds in California, which is presumably why Rep. Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, feels so comfortable being a waterboy for Trump regarding the Russian
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JANUARY 12, 2018 • 05
Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, says his group has been working to register LGBTQ voters for the 2018 midterms.
Bisexual Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema could face disgraced former Sheriff Joe Arpaio in the general election.
Photo Courtesy of Zbur
investigation. California will surely be a test case for the presumption that reliable Republican voters always have better turnout in the midterm elections and incumbents usually win reelection. Not this time. Democrats—especially Democratic women— are energized by such Trump tweets as this one from Jan. 2: “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” The reelection climate in Southern California looks so bad for Republicans, on Jan. 9, Rep. Ed Royce announced he was foregoing the hassle. Out LA County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez was thrilled. “Ed Royce’s retirement is indicative of the Democratic Party’s momentum leading in to the 2018 midterm elections. There are a plethora of qualified Democratic candidates who were already looking to challenge Mr. Royce, and now that they are facing an open seat in a district where President Trump has a 60% disapproval rating and Royce himself has a 36% approval rating, we couldn’t be more excited. Gonzalez said in a press release. “We are looking forward to a Democratic victory in the 39th
Congressional District of California.” The next day, Jan. 10, longtime LGBT nemasis Rep. Darrell Issa (49th District) announced he, too, would not seek reelection, saving Equality California the other progressive organizations a lot of time and money to defeat him. Other Republicans on the Democratic target list are: Steve Knight (25th District — Northern Los Angeles County and Simi Valley) Jeff Denham (10th District — Central Valley including Modesto); Dana Rohrabacher (48th District — Coastal Orange County); David Valadao (21st District — Central Valley including part of Bakersfield); Mimi Walters (45th District — Inland Orange County including Irvine); Duncan Hunter (50th District — Inland San Diego County); and Devin Nunes (22nd District — Fresno and Tulare counties). The races are not only high priority for the Democratic Party but for Equality California, as well. The statewide LGBT organization was the first to endorse Hillary Clinton for president and has started vigorously engaging in congressional races, as well as state and local races. “We have been doing voter registration in all those targeted districts for the last four months to increase the number of LGBTQ people who are voting,” Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, tells the Los
Angeles Blade. “We are educating people on how bad these folks are and how they have voted against our interests—in particular, to decimate the healthcare program which really harms LGBTQ people. That’s one of our highest priorities.” Zbur says Equality California is still in the process of evaluating candidates in a host of races, but has already endorsed bisexual Katie Hill, Executive Director at People Assisting the Homeless, against Steve Knight in CD 25 and civil rights attorney Emilio Huerta, board member and officer at the Bakersfield AIDS Project, against David Valadao in CD 21. “Katie Hill’s values of inclusion and equality are in stark contrast to those of Steve Knight, who voted to add an antiLGBTQ provision that would have allowed sweeping taxpayer-funded LGBTQ discrimination to the National Defense Authorization Act. Katie Hill will bring Democrats and Republicans together to fight for government programs that benefit everyday Californians,” says Zbur. “Emilio Huerta has been strong and active ally in the fight for LGBTQ equality and social justice,” said Zbur. “His values of inclusion and acceptance run counter to those of conservative Congressman David Valadao who has voted consistently against LGBTQ protections.
Electing Emilio Huerta to Congress is a high priority for Equality California.” Perhaps the hardest race in which to endorse is between moderate Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 84, the 25-year incumbent seeking reelection, and progressive state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, 50, both of whom have been extraordinarily good for the LGBT community. Progressives are calling for younger leadership—but on Jan. 9, Feinstein proved that age has its strategic prerogatives—defying Republican leaders and, as the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, releasing the transcript of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a major piece of evidence in the Russian-collusion investigation. The same day, Feinstein sat across from Trump at a bipartisan meeting he called to prove he could work a deal on immigration— and she called for a “clean” bill on DACA, coming back to comprehensive immigration reform later. Trump immediately agreed, causing confusion in both the Democratic and Republican ranks. But time’s running out on the DACA program, with Trump’s arbitrarily imposed March deadline—though paperwork needs to be completed by the end of January. At stake are thousands of lives—and no doubt, thousands of votes in 2018.
06 • JANUARY 12, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
#Time’sUp say fed up women
Oprah Winfrey got her close up at the 75th Golden Globes and the #metoo movement may have found a Presidential candidate. But wait, there’s more... Photo Courtesy Golden Globes
Oprah and that line of black dresses By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com Politely defiant radicalism appropriated the Golden Globes on Jan. 7 as the best televised party in Hollywood was usurped by classy women fed up with being treated as second class citizens. The evening of talented women dressed in black to show solidarity against long standing male privilege, sexual harassment, and unjust economic disparities culminated in 10 minutes of fervid inspiration as Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. de Mille Award, the first black woman to receive the prestigious award. Winfrey wed the erudite simplicity of abolitionist Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech with the outrage of “Network” news anchor Howard Beale who encouraged his audience to yell: “I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!....I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have,” Winfrey said, adding that the “MeToo movement that grew out of the tsunami reaction to stories if sexual harassment
and abuse includes women in all industries forced into the economics of consent. “For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.” Keenly aware that she was serving as a role model for millions, Winfrey concluded with: “So I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “me too” again.” The entire next day, pundits were asking if Winfrey would run for president. Best friend Gayle King, who initially ruled it out, said Winfrey was “intrigued” by the idea. But the real hope for change lies in concrete action now, say the 300 Hollywood women who launched the #TimesUp initiative to fight sexual harassment and gender inequality in the workplace. The new Time’s Up website includes a “Know Your Rights” section prepared by the TIME’s UP Legal, Legislative and Policy Committee, and an initial $13 million legal defense fund to help less-privileged women protect themselves from sexual misconduct and the potential fallout from reporting it. As if taking a lesson from the ACT UP of
old, the “sisters” are politely defying the mainstream male expectation of silence. Now Silence=Consent and the sisters ain’t having it, some as simply snidely as Natalie Portman’s ad-libbed introduction of the “all male nominees” for Best Director. “‘Lady Bird’ won one of the two Best Picture awards, its lead actress won one of the two Best Actress trophies, and the screenplay was nominated as well. Yet Greta Gerwig was missing from the Best Director category, as if she wasn’t the one at the helm of its excellence,” Kevin Fallon wrote at The Daily Beast. Later Barbra Streisand, the only woman to ever win Best Director in Golden Globes history—in 1984 for ”Yentl”—tweeted: “In my humble opinion, I was very disappointed that director Dee Rees and her powerful film @mudboundmovie wasn’t even nominated.” Dee is the lesbian director of the critically acclaimed Netflix film, ”Mudbound.” Other major rejected contenders were Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman”) and Angelina Jolie (“First They Killed My Father”). All eyes are now on the upcoming SAG Awards and especially the Oscars—Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman who won a Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker. The Oscars will be held on March 4 this year, with the nominations announced on Tuesday, Jan. 23. That’s just two days after the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards are broadcast live on TNT and TBS on Sunday, Jan. 21.
Of particular interest will be if and how the #MeToo movement incorporates pay inequality—an issue Patricia Arquette raised in 2014 when accepting her Best Supporting Actress Oscar. But now there’s jawdropping proof of the gapping disparity. USA Today reported that four-time Oscarnominated actress Michelle Williams was paid less than $1,000 to re-shoot scenes in “All the Money in the World” after director Ridley Scott decided to cut out accused gay sexual predator Kevin Spacey and replace him with Christopher Plummer. Supporting actor Mark Wahlberg reportedly received $1.5 million for his supporting role re-shoot. To heighten the insult, Wahlberg and Williams—who received a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination for her performance and brought #MeToo founder Tarana Burke as her Golden Globes date—both have the same talent agency, William Morris Endeavor. However, Wahlberg is apparently “good pals” with WME head, Ari Emanuel. WME is now being sued by actor Terry Crews who says that WME agent Adam Venit groped him at a party. Crews also says he met with Emanuel. “Crews expressed fear of retaliation from Venit for reporting the incident, but Emanuel reportedly apologized for him and assured Crews that Venit ‘did not have that level of power despite his title as head of the Motion Picture Department,” Variety reported Oprah Winfrey is also represented by WME.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JANUARY 12, 2018 • 07
When Versace raised money for AIDS
Gianni Versace walks the runway in 1991 Photo courtesy Michael Anketell
New controversy over Ryan Murphy film and Versace’s HIV status By Karen Ocamb firstname.lastname@example.org The family of murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace is not happy with gay producer Ryan Murphy’s latest endeavor, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace:
American Crime Story,” a 9-episode anthology that premiers Wednesday, Jan. 17 on FX. In particular, they are angry that the series suggests Versace was HIV-positive when he was murdered by gay hustler Andrew Cunanan on the steps of his South Miami Beach mansion on July 15, 1997. The family says that they had no involvement with the series and consider it a “work of fiction,” adding that Maureen Orth’s 452-page book upon which the series is based— Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed
Manhunt in U.S. History — “is full of gossip and speculation” and “second-hand hearsay that is full of contradictions.” One example: “Orth makes assertions about Gianni Versace’s medical condition based on a person who claims he reviewed a post-mortem test result, but she admits it would have been illegal for the person to have reviewed the report in the first place (if it existed at all),” the family says. “In making her lurid claims, she ignores contrary information provided by members of Mr. Versace’s family, who lived and worked
closely with him and were in the best position to know the facts of his life.” Orth says she conducted 400 interviews, including with Miami Detective Paul Scrimshaw who told the Vanity Fair contributor that he reviewed Versace’s autopsy results. “I had to know whether Gianni Versace was HIV-positive or not, and I was able to find out from autopsy results that he had tested positive for HIV,” C ON T I N U E S ON PAG E 0 9
08 • JANUARY 12, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
What’s up with Sessions’ pot crackdown?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week announced a crackdown on newly loosened marijuana laws.
No substantive change and no enforcement By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com The attorney general was not invited to President Trump’s Camp David retreat with cabinet members and top GOP congressional leaders; he backed down on fighting for Trump’s ban on allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military; and he is withstanding hurricane force winds calling for his resignation after rescinding the Obama-era Cole memo on Jan. 4 that allowed for a more passive Justice Department policy toward cannabis laws, especially in states where marijuana is legal and a booming, jobcreating, tax-generating industry. Recreational pot became legal in California on New Year’s Day, joining eight other states, including Colorado, Washington and Nevada with laws allowing regulated recreational use of marijuana; 29 states and D.C. already allow the use of medical marijuana. But even Trump-voting Republicans recognize pot’s potential value: Colorado has already generated hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue and now anyone over the age of 21 in California is permitted to carry up to one ounce of pot without fear of being busted. Sessions’ new memo leaves enforcement of harsh federal marijuana laws up to regional federal prosecutors at the expense – his critics argue – of going after pill-pushers
to quell the burgeoning opioid crisis. And how now should U.S. attorneys regard the 2014 amendment by California Democratic Rep. Sam Farr and Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher attached to the federal budget prohibiting the Justice Department from using federal funds to prosecute medical cannabis businesses? “The attorney general of the United States has just delivered an extravagant holiday gift to the drug cartels,” said Rohrabacher. “By attacking the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly favor marijuana legalization, Jeff Sessions has shown a preference for allowing all commerce in marijuana to take place in the black market, which will inevitably bring the spike in violence he mistakenly attributed to marijuana itself. He is doing the bidding of an out-of-date law enforcement establishment that wants to wage a perpetual weed war and seize private citizens’ property in order to finance its backward ambitions.” California state officials reacted swiftly. Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Bureau of Cannabis Control Chief Executive Lori Ajax indicated Thursday that they would defend the state’s marijuana law if one of the four federal prosecutors in California decided to enforce the federal law that equates pot to heroin. Additionally, Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer said he will re-introduce a bill to make California a sanctuary state, prohibiting state employees from providing federal agents with the names, addresses and other pertinent pot-related information.
But since Sessions did not call for strong enforcement or a substantive policy change, consumers and investors are wondering why he made the announcement in the first place. “The announcement was largely symbolic,” Patrick Moen, general counsel of Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based venture capital firm that invests in marijuana businesses, told the Associated Press on Jan. 6. “This kind of stunt will not have a substantial effect on the industry.” On the other hand, Sessions badly wants to jump-start the failed “war on drugs,” for which he famously criticized former President Barack Obama. “You can’t have the president of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink,” Sessions said at the time. During a 2016 Senate hearing, he was more morally simplistic. “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” he said. In fact, he once said the KKK was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.” But statistics don’t back up him up. “The data from the federally funded National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows a downward trend in the use of cannabis by teenagers—both in the country as a whole and in the majority of states where the drug is legal,” reports Newsweek. California is very familiar with FBI and DEA raids on pot farms that produced safe marijuana for medical marijuana dispensaries before the 2014 budget amendment. The 2001 federal raid in West Hollywood was traumatic. Scott Imler,
author of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, passed by California voters in 1996, worked with the City of West Hollywood to set up the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center to strictly provide terminally or chronically ill patients with medical marijuana with a doctor’s note. Imler, who the FBI investigated for drug distribution, went on a hunger strike after the Oct. 25, 2001 DEA raid. He was joined by a number of AIDS activists, including ACT UP/ LA’s Pete Jimenez who needed the marijuana to alleviate side effects from his 35-pills-a-day AIDS meds to relief from his neuropathy. “Some days, it feels like razor blades are cutting into my skin,” Jimenez said at the time. “Then, there’s the diarrhea and vomiting from AIDS medications.” Jimenez died of AIDS on April 13, 2012. He was 48. California established the Bureau of Cannabis Control, which is linked to the public health department with lots of facts and resources, including these handy tips: You can consume cannabis on private property but you cannot consume, smoke, eat, or vape cannabis in public places. Property owners and landlords may ban the use and possession of cannabis on their properties. Additionally, you cannot consume or possess cannabis on federal lands like national parks, even if the park is in California. It is illegal to take your pot across state lines, even if you are traveling to another state where cannabis is legal. Take the tips seriously - Jeff Sessions is watching.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JANUARY 12, 2018 • 09
Versace involvement with HIV cause was never a secret C ON T I NU ED FR OM PAGE 07 Scrimshaw told Orth. Orth writes that Versace kept his HIV status secret to not endanger a proposed public offering of stock in his fashion empire, estimated at $1.4 billion. Versace signed an agreement with Morgan Stanley to manage the initial offering in the United States on July 10, 1997. He was murdered five days later. “The consequences to his business would be incalculable. Certainly the public offering would be jeopardized,” she writes. Murphy defended his series to Entertainment Weekly. “The Versace family has said it’s a work of fiction — it is not a work of fiction,” Murphy says, adding that the book “has been discussed and dissected and vetted for close to 20 years.” Orth “is an impeccable reporter and we stand by her reporting. Our show is based on her reporting so, in that way, it is not a work of fiction, it’s a work of nonfiction obviously with docudrama elements. We’re not making a documentary.” But both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times book reviewers reported that Orth was wrong about Versace’s HIV status. In an April 11, 1999 review for the New York Times, then-Washington correspondent Frank Bruni writes that “the breadth and thoroughness of Orth’s research are often staggering,” but “Orth often loses her footing.” “When Cunanan was found on a houseboat there, dead from a gunshot to his head, just eight days after Versace’s murder, the case was pretty much closed. An autopsy showed that Cunanan had not contracted H.I.V., disproving some speculation about what triggered his spree,” Bruni writes. In her March 24, 1999 column, http:// articles.latimes.com/1999/mar/24/news/cl-
20344 the L.A. Times senior fashion writer Valli Herman-Cohen notes that Orth is a fourth-generation Californian married to ‘Meet the Press’ moderator Tim Russert. “Her book claims that Versace was HIV positive, which the Versace family has repeatedly denied. During the manhunt, police were testing a theory that Cunanan killed Versace in revenge for transmitting AIDS to him…. But as it turned out, according to the medical examiner, Cunanan was HIV negative. Apparently rumors had circulated in South Beach that Versace had AIDS when he appeared gaunt, weak and emaciated in 1995. A Versace associate told Orth that by the end of that year, the designer “could barely walk half a block.” But his health improved six months before his murder, Orth writes, because he was taking the miracle new AIDS medication. “My time with Gianni which was well over a year,” Michael Anketell tells the Los Angeles Blade. Anketell founded the California Fashion Industry Friends of People Living with AIDS benefit that honored Versace in 1991 at the Century Plaza Hotel. “I saw him with great stamina when in the throws of his work, but when I visited him in Milano he seemed quite tired and frail. Just my observation. We had great talks about LA and my coming of age in La La Land. He was fascinated by the famous people I had come to know and how serendipitous life can be.” Anketell and a steering committee launched the fashion show fundraisers in 1987 to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles. Even though designer Perry Ellis had died of AIDS, it was hard to get people to turn out. With a few exceptions such as Elizabeth Taylor and Bette Midler, “Hollywood was as squeamish about the whole issue of AIDS as was the rest of the country,” Anketell writes in his book Heavenly Bodies: Remembering Hollywood
and Fashion’s Favorite AIDS Benefit. “Finally, because fashion and entertainment are so integrally part of people’s lives, it can also be easy to forget that, first and foremost, they are industries and, like businesses, do not want to be associated with any issue that might offend any segment of their potential customer base.” The Versace show was the fifth benefit for APLA and by 1991, Hollywood had stepped up. But this was the “first full blown retrospective of his career,” Anketell says. “It was a big deal. People flew in from all over the world” to honor the designer who dressed and was close friends with Princess Diana, Elton John, Cher, George Michael and created that famous red jacket Michael Jackson wore in “Thriller.” Since this was to benefit people with HIV/ AIDS, the designers were responsible for 50% of the budget and the whole look of the show. Versace’s team designed the entire ballroom, flying in a backdrop from the La Scala opera house that looked like an Italian garden, using Versace fabric for tablecloths and lampshades. Elizabeth Taylor dropped by during rehearsals and walked out with an armful of clothes, Anketell says. “Gianni’s brother Santo told me not to worry about money. They would pay for everything,” he says. That included flying in the Fab Five top super models— Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, and Claudia Schiffer—all of whom donated their time. There were hitches, of course. When it was announced that Versace would be the honoree, Cher’s manager called Anketell to say she wanted to be a presenter. But Cher had stiffed Anketell in 1989 in the show honoring Bob Mackie. Though there was a whole segment devoted to the singer’s Mackie outfits, Cher failed to show up until the middle of the benefit when she came
in a motorcycle jacket and torn jeans to underscore a tiff. Anketell nervously agreed to have Cher present Versace at the tribute. “We were getting ready for her to go out and she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and she thought she looked fat. She refused to go out,” he recalls. Anketell quickly resorted to Plan B, made his way through his bodyguards to get to Sylvester Stallone and asked him to introduce his close friend Versace. But by the time they got backstage, Cher changed her mind and decided to go on after all. “They got into a tiff, she pushed him and he fell over. He isn’t a tall man and he wore lifts,” Anketell says. But he got up, brushed himself off, cast aside the remarks prepared for Cher and winged it. “Gianni was like a brother to him—this Italian brotherhood,” says Anketell. “To hear Stallone talk from his heart—he always plays the macho man and here he was at an AIDS benefit introducing one of his closest friends. It was quite moving.” “Gianni could never understand why we chose him to be honored instead of Armani,” says Anketell. “It was because of his grace and how open he was about being gay.” Anketell says he was devastated to hear about Versace’s murder. “I can’t explain how much grief I felt. I worked with Gianni for over a year on the show. I was a guest in his house,” says Anketell, who is now battling cancer. “And when someone you know dies so unexpectedly—this unpreparedness washes over you. I couldn’t talk for a couple of days. It was just such a shock.” “Young people don’t understand what it was like for us during those days” Anketell says. He hopes Ryan Murphy’s series will get people interested in the Gianni Versace he knew.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JANUARY 12, 2018 • 11
“I think that’s made me a better competitor.”
– Adam Rippon, on being the first openly gay U.S. athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics, Jan. 7, 2018 via ThinkProgress.
“I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn’t believe in paying their female co-hosts the same as their male co-hosts.” - “Will & Grace” co-star Debra Messing to gay-favorite cable E!’s Giuliana Rancic on the red carpet at the Golden Globes Jan. 7, 2018.
“The three highest-grossing films last year were all carried by women.” - Barbra Streisand on Twitter decrying Golden Globes failure in Best Director category, naming “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins.
Gay screenwriter Paul Rudnick summarizes the Twitter-verse reaction as Carson Jones gives Vice President Mike Pence an historic “side-eye” as his father Doug, who defeated extremist Roy Moore, is sworn in as senator from Alabama. – Karen Ocamb
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12 • JANUARY 12, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Trump fires all members of HIV/AIDS council without explanation New appointees expected to be named later this year By CHRIS JOHNSON With no explanation, the White House late last month terminated members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS amid widespread discontent with President Trump’s approach to the epidemic. After six members of PACHA resigned in June, the White House terminated the remaining 16 members without explanation via a letter from FedEx. Scott Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/ AIDS activist and senior attorney for Lambda Legal, was one of the six who resigned in June over Trump’s inaction on HIV/AIDS and said on Twitter the remaining members were fired. “No respect for their service,” Schoettes said. “Dangerous that #Trump and Co. (Pence esp.) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed.” Sources with knowledge of PACHA said many council members were fired even though additional time remained on their terms as advisers. The terminated members, sources said, were given the option to reapply after Tuesday. Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of the Riverside, Calif.,-based LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution, was a remaining member of PACHA and confirmed they were fired, but said the “explanation is still unclear.” “I can only speculate,” Maldonado said. “Like any administration, they want their own people there. Many of us were Obama appointees. I was an Obama appointee and my term was continuing until 2018.” Maldonado said “ideological and philosophical differences” with the administration are a potential reason for the terminations. As an example, Maldonado cited a recent Washington Post report the Centers for Disease Control is banned from using words like “diversity” and “transgender” in budget documents. The CDC director has denied those words are banned.
President Trump fired all members of PACHA last month. Blade file photo by Michael Key
“I was co-chair of the disparities committee, so much of my advocacy and policy references surrounded vulnerable populations, addressing issues of diverse communities, specifically looking at the impacts of the LGBT community, namely, the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS to people of color, gay men, transgender women,” Maldonado said. “And a lot of those key vulnerable populations are not being prioritized in this administration.” Maldonado added he intends to publish an open letter to the community about his termination on Friday. Also among the terminated members was Patrick Sullivan, a professor of epidemiology at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. “My reaction is that our focus should be on the policies that PACHA addresses,” Sullivan said. “These issues are critical to people’s health, and are critical to making new HIV infections rare. At PACHA’s last meeting in August, the Council urged the Administration to affirm the National HIV/ AIDS Strategy through 2020. Doing this would be a great way for the administration to set the tone and lay out national roadmap of priorities for a new PACHA.” Created in 1995, PACHA has provided advice starting in the Clinton administration
and into the George W. Bush and Obama administrations on policy and research to promote effective treatment and prevention for HIV — maintaining the goal of finding a cure. In September, Trump signed an executive order that renewed PACHA along with 31 other presidential bodies for an additional year. Trump’s termination of council members isn’t the first time an administration cleaned house on PACHA. The Obama administration eliminated all of George W. Bush’s appointees before making new appointments. Kaye Hayes, executive director of PACHA, affirmed the council members were terminated on Wednesday, but said there’s more to the story. “They were also thanked for their leadership, dedication and commitment to the effort,” Hayes said. “Changing the makeup of federal advisory committee members is a common occurrence during Administration changes. The Obama administration dismissed the George W. Bush administration appointees to PACHA in order to bring in new voices. All PACHA members are eligible to apply to serve on the new council that will be convened in 2018.” Jim Driscoll, a gay Nevada-based HIV/ AIDS activist who supported Trump in 2016, said replacement of PACHA members “is standard practice” for a new administration.
“Now they need to find bona fide community people with appropriate expertise and the ability to adapt to the changed political circumstances,” Driscoll said. “It is fully understandable why a president would not want people who oppose his policies and might be happy to see him impeached serving as his HIV advisors. That would serve the needs of neither the president nor of people living with HIV-AIDS.” But Maldonado said the termination of PACHA members during the Trump administration is only partially consistent with the Obama years. “It is common for appointees to be terminated and for folks to kind of want their own people in,” Maldonado said. “I think where the discrepancy comes in is why a year later, No. 1? Two, many of us, our terms were over earlier this year and we were sworn back in, and three were stayed on nearly four months after an executive order was signed continuing the council.” In June, six members of PACHA resigned their posts in protest over what they called inaction from Trump on the global HIV/ AIDS epidemic. An estimated 1.2 million people have HIV/AIDS in the United States and 37 million have the disease worldwide. Chief among the reasons was the absence of leadership at the White House on HIV/ AIDS. To date, the White House has yet to appoint a director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, which was one of the reasons the six members of PACHA resigned in June. Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal also sought massive cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, including $150 million on HIV/ AIDS programs at the Centers for Disease Control and more than $1 billion in cuts from global programs like the PEPFAR Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria. The Republican-controlled Congress has thus far continued to fund these programs at previous levels. Maldonado noted the PACHA terminations are taking place at the year’s end after the June resignations, which he said is “a little too coincidental.” “The timing is a little bit unorthodox compared to what the Obama administration’s approach was,” Maldonado said.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JANUARY 12, 2018 • 13
Blast from an ugly past
Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann may run for U.S. Senate. Blade file photos by Michael Key
Romney, Bachmann reportedly mulling Senate bids By CHRIS JOHNSON Shakeups in the U.S. Senate led to news this week that two prominent Republicans and former presidential candidates who have anti-LGBT records — Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann — may run in 2018. Following passage of tax reform legislation, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced he’d retire after four decades in the Senate, opening the door for Mitt Romney, who had publicly mulled the idea of running for the seat. Meanwhile, former Rep. Michele Bachmann said on the Christian Broadcasting Network she’s considering a run for the seat in Minnesota being vacated by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) amid allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Bachmann, however, said she’s not certain and would consult God on whether she’s being called to pursue the open seat. “If you’re going against the tide in D.C., if you’re trying to stand for biblical principles, and you stick your head up, the blades come whirring and they try to chop you off,” Bachmann said during
the interview. “We’re trying to be wise. Should we do this? Shouldn’t we do this?” Both Romney and Bachmann have extensive anti-LGBT records as public officials. As Massachusetts governor, Romney most famously sought to limit the 2003 Goodridge decision at the Massachusetts Supreme Court making the Bay State the first with marriage equality and became a national spokesperson in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have banned samesex marriage nationwide. According to MassEquality, Romney abolished the Governor’s Commission on GLBT Youth and rescinded an executive order prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in the state workforce. True to his reputation as a flipflopper, Romney has also stated contradictory positions on LGBT issues. As a U.S. Senate candidate in 1994, Romney told Log Cabin Republicans he’d co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and would seek to expand it to include housing and credit, but later in 2006 said he doesn’t support ENDA and in 2007 called it a state issue. A longtime favorite of social conservatives, Bachmann has an anti-LGBT record that has animated her career as far back as 2004 when she also championed
the Federal Marriage Amendment and said “Gays live a very sad life” and “it’s part of Satan.” In the course of her career in Congress, Bachmann voted against hate crimes protections legislation, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. She was elected to Congress too late to have voted on the Federal Marriage Amendment in either 2004 or 2006. In 2012, both Romney and Bachmann in pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination staked out anti-LGBT positions and continued their push for a U.S. constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage nationwide. Bachmann ended up losing the nomination to Romney, but Romney came up short in his bid to unseat President Obama, who went on to serve a second term. Both candidates signed a pledge with the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage committing themselves to back a Federal Marriage Amendment; defend the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in court; support legislation allowing D.C. residents to vote on its same-sex marriage law; and appoint a presidential commission to “investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters.” But after his defeat in the 2012
election, Romney made some surprising statements that struck a different tone in contrast to his anti-LGBT record. Romney recommended Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer veto a “religious freedom” bill seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination. (Brewer took that advice and vetoed the bill, unlike Mike Pence, who as Indiana governor signed a similar measure and was forced to sign a “fix” amid criticism from the LGBT community and business advocates.) After the mass shooting in 2016 at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that killed 49 people and wounded 58 others, Romney took to Twitter to say he and his wife would “say a special prayer for the LGBT community that was the focus of this attack.” But Romney hasn’t publicly turned around from his opposition to same-sex marriage. In 2014, Romney said he still opposes same-sex marriage and it could be “generations” before the negative impact of marriage equality is determined. Fred Karger, a gay consultant to Republican presidential candidates and himself a candidate for president in 2012, said Hatch is retiring to make room for Romney because the Mormon Church pushed out the former “in favor of a more obedient Mormon Church member.” “Mormon Church leaders have
been on a full-time mission for over a year to do just that,” Karger said. Noting the history of antagonism between President Trump and Romney, who has called him unfit to serve in the White House, Karger predicted friction between the two if Romney is elected. “It’s a case of the Mormon Church trumping Trump and his desire to keep Mitt Romney 2,000 miles away from Washington,” Karger said. “It will be fun to see Romney try and take on President Trump as he has in the past, only to be annihilated by the far more savvy politician.” Bachmann hasn’t changed her tune at all. Earlier this year, Bachmann said President Trump was elected to the White House despite the odds against him because the Obama administration issued guidance requiring schools to allow transgender kids to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity, or as she put it “just issued a sheet of paper and said, overnight, every single public school in the country would have to have the girls’ bathrooms open to the boys and the boys’ bathrooms open to the girls.” The advancement of transgender rights, Bachmann said, was too much for God, whom she “answered the prayers of believers beseeching him, and he’s given us a reprieve.”
14 • JANUARY 12, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Gay couples begin to marry in Australia Same-sex couples began to legally marry in Australia on Jan. 9. SBS News reported Diana and Deanne Ribeiro tied the knot shortly after midnight local time in the Melbourne suburb of Balaclava. The Sydney Morning Herald reported Kylie and Lisa Caro — a lesbian couple who began dating in 2014 and are raising a daughter together — are among the other same-sex couples who exchanged vows on Tuesday. “We’re both still on cloud nine,” Kylie Caro told the Sydney Morning Herald after the wedding. More than 60 percent of Australians who took part in a non-binding postal plebiscite on whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples said “yes.” The Australian Senate approved a same-sex marriage bill less than three weeks after the country’s Bureau of Statistics announced the results of the plebiscite. The Australian House of Representatives nearly unanimously approved the measure on Dec. 7. The bill received royal assent from Governor General Peter Cosgrove two days later. Australian law says couples must wait 30 days to get married once they apply to do so. A handful of same-sex couples were able to exchange vows last month after they received waivers because of health and other specific circumstances. “Australia said YES, Parliament said YES, and now all LGBTI couples can finally say YES (and I do) in Australia,” wrote Alex Greenwich, co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality who is also a member of the New South Wales Parliament, on his Twitter page. MICHAEL K. LAVERS
Immigrants rights advocates gathered in front of the White House on Monday. Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers
Salvadoran LGBT activists criticize loss of protected status LGBT rights advocates in El Salvador have sharply criticized the Trump administration’s announcement that Salvadorans will no longer receive protected immigrant status in the U.S. Salvadorans have been able to receive temporary residency permits through the Temporary Protected Status program since two earthquakes devastated the Central American country in 2001. Up to 200,000 Salvadorans in the U.S. have TPS, which allows people from countries that have suffered war and/or national disasters over the last two decades to receive temporary residency permits. They have until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave the U.S. or face potential deportation. “Following the 2001 earthquake, El Salvador received a significant amount of international aid to assist in its recovery efforts, including millions of dollars dedicated to emergency and long-term assistance,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a press release. “Many reconstruction projects have now been completed. Schools and hospitals damaged by the earthquakes have been reconstructed and repaired, homes have been rebuilt, and money has been provided for water and sanitation and to repair earthquake damaged roads and other infrastructure. The substantial disruption of living conditions caused by the earthquake no longer exist.” Nielsen said the 18-month delay in ending TPS for Salvadorans will “provide time for individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the” U.S. and “provide time for El Salvador to prepare for the return and reintegration of its citizens.” “Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution addressing the lack of an enduring lawful immigration status of those currently protected by TPS who have lived and worked in the United States for many years,” she added. “The 18-month delayed termination will allow Congress time to craft a potential legislative solution.” Dozens of immigrant rights advocates who gathered outside the White House on Monday sharply criticized the Trump administration’s decision. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a statement said ending TPS for Salvadorans “will in no way make Americans safer, stronger or more prosperous.” El Salvador has one of the world’s highest per capita murder rates. MS-13 — which Salvadoran immigrants who fled their homeland’s civil war in the 1980s formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s — and other violent street gangs operate throughout El Salvador. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains pervasive in the country. “It is important to remember there is a large number of LGBT people who are among the people affected by the cancellation of TPS for El Salvador,” Ámbar Alfaro of ASPIDH Arcoiris Trans, a trans Salvadoran advocacy group, told the Washington Blade after the Trump administration made its announcement. “For LGBT people who return to the country after living in a place with opportunities, it will be like going back 60 years in terms of everything they have achieved.” “The United States is a country of opportunity, to develop freely,” she added. “There are public policies that regulate and support the LGBT community.” Nicolás Rodríguez, executive director of El Salvador G, a gay Salvadoran blog and website, agreed with Alfaro. “The LGBTI community is going to suffer because of the cancellation of TPS,” Rodríguez told the Blade on Monday. “They will return to a country where a different picture is sold, where there is a different reality where being an LGBTI person can cause them to become victims of discrimination.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS
In adults with HIV on ART who have diarrhea not caused by an infection IMPORTANT PATIENT INFORMATION This is only a summary. See complete Prescribing Information at Mytesi.com or by calling 1-844-722-8256. This does not take the place of talking with your doctor about your medical condition or treatment.
What Is Mytesi? Mytesi is a prescription medicine used to improve symptoms of noninfectious diarrhea (diarrhea not caused by a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection) in adults living with HIV/AIDS on ART. Do Not Take Mytesi if you have diarrhea caused by an infection. Before you start Mytesi, your doctor and you should make sure your diarrhea is not caused by an infection (such as bacteria, virus, or parasite).
Possible Side Effects of Mytesi Include:
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Mytesi (crofelemer): • Is the only medicine FDA-approved to relieve diarrhea in people with HIV • Treats diarrhea differently by normalizing the flow of water in the GI tract • Has the same or fewer side effects as placebo in clinical studies • Comes from a tree sustainably harvested in the Amazon Rainforest What is Mytesi? Mytesi is a prescription medicine that helps relieve symptoms of diarrhea not caused by an infection (noninfectious) in adults living with HIV/AIDS on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Important Safety Information Mytesi is not approved to treat infectious diarrhea (diarrhea caused by bacteria, a virus, or a parasite). Before starting you on Mytesi, your healthcare provider will first be sure that you do not have infectious diarrhea. Otherwise, there is a risk you would not receive the right medicine and your infection could get worse. In clinical studies, the most common side effects that occurred more often than with placebo were upper respiratory tract (sinus, nose, and throat) infection (5.7%), bronchitis (3.9%), cough (3.5%), flatulence (3.1%), and increased bilirubin (3.1%).
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Should I Take Mytesi If I Am: Pregnant or Planning to Become Pregnant? • Studies in animals show that Mytesi could harm an unborn baby or affect the ability to become pregnant • There are no studies in pregnant women taking Mytesi • This drug should only be used during pregnancy if clearly needed A Nursing Mother? • It is not known whether Mytesi is passed through human breast milk • If you are nursing, you should tell your doctor before starting Mytesi • Your doctor will help you to decide whether to stop nursing or to stop taking Mytesi Under 18 or Over 65 Years of Age? • Mytesi has not been studied in children under 18 years of age • Mytesi studies did not include many people over the age of 65. So it is not clear if this age group will respond differently. Talk to your doctor to find out if Mytesi is right for you
What Should I Know About Taking Mytesi With Other Medicines? If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medicine, herbal supplements, or vitamins, tell your doctor before starting Mytesi.
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Rx Only Manufactured by Patheon, Inc. for Napo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. San Francisco, CA 94105 Copyright © Napo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Please see complete Prescribing Information at Mytesi.com. NP-390-26
• Upper respiratory tract infection (sinus, nose, and throat infection) • Bronchitis (swelling in the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs) • Cough • Flatulence (gas) • Increased bilirubin (a waste product when red blood cells break down) For a full list of side effects, please talk to your doctor. Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or does not go away. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
RELIEF, PURE AND SIMPLE
Mytesi comes from the Croton lechleri tree harvested in South America.
16 • JANUARY 12, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 02 ISSUE 01
Falling in love with resilience Fighting for DACA and against cancer By JOSE GUEVARA I emigrated from El Salvador at the age of 10 and succeeded academically in this new country, learning English in three years. In middle school, I realized I did not have a Social Security number — and my life changed. I knew I was different and I felt ashamed for being marginalized and left out of many academic opportunities because of that lack of documentation. After seeing the injustice immigrant students like me face daily, I decided to fight back and resist the Trump presidency by advocating for immigration rights in Los Angeles. As we see the possible end of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), our shift has been toward legalization, not merely crumbs from the Obama administration. But having nine digits and a work permit from the DACA program allows me to feel closer to who I am: an American In high school, I discovered I was different, again. I was the only gay student in my small charter school. In 11th grade, I came out. Hearing derogatory terms daily, I founded the first GSA in school. Having to deal with my sexuality and legal status could be seen as traumatic. However, they have been empowering experiences. I see school as a safe haven where my gender, sexual orientation and immigration status should not be a barrier. To me, learning is universal and brings us all together. The hardest impediment I’ve had to overcome has been my illness. I was in 11th grade when what started as a six-hour wait in the emergency room turned into a ninemonth stay in the hospital. I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Having no control of my body and being more dependent on my parents was horrific. My dad is the reason I am still here today. He said, “Son, as much as I love you, if you give up now you might as well tell all these people to stop wasting their time, and tell me to start planning your funeral. Is this how you really want to end your last days on earth, in a hospital bed?”
I was dumbfounded. Holding back tears, I hugged him and knew I had to fight. I had already overcome so much, I knew I could do this. I pushed myself to return to high school after a few months of chemotherapy and completed my work by the end of the summer with all “A” grades. In college, cancer returned again, twice. I went for a routine appointment with my doctors and a CBC blood test showed that my white blood cells were reproducing abnormally. My leukemia had returned. Recovery took a year. But in spring 2015, a small amount of leukemia was found in my bloodstream again, I went into treatment for a year and received a bone marrow transplant. My mother was the donor—she has given me life, twice. As I write this, my cancer is back. I am fighting. This year has been about falling in love with Resilience. I’m the worst fear of the Trump administration: an undocumented, queer man, who is ill and fighting hard for his life. I am privileged to have private insurance through the hard work of my mother, whose immigration status is also under threat. My mother is a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) recipient—another group under attack. These are folks who have built a life here for 10-plus years. They are mothers and fathers of children who are U.S. citizens. Folks who have worked hard to build their American Dream. Undocumented Americans, much like “Dreamers,” who were given so little, who have to pay a fee to this government every 18 months to work, but yet have overcome and thrived. Folks who deserve as much protection as “educated” “deserving” immigrants deserve.
I have taken it upon myself to make sure their story is known because our movement is intersectional. I have fallen in love with resilience. And I have fallen in love with myself—all of me. The femme queers are leading this movement! I have fallen in love with telling my own story and saving my own life. I am tired of waiting for the American public to decide that I am worthy—worthy of education, worthy of healthcare, worthy of life. Worthy of humanity. This president tells us that we are worthy of protection—but only if we throw our own community under the bus. We dismiss this narrative. We will not sell out our family, our own safety. How could I live with myself if I traded my family for a green card? Yet this is the game this administration is trying to play with me and nearly 800,000 others, along with 325,000 TPS recipients and more than 11 million undocumented folks living in America. This year has been hard but it’s also been the year that we marginalized folk woke up. We showed up for each other. We realized our liberation is embodied in everyone’s liberation. I’m majoring in political science at Cal State LA and want to earn a master’s degree in public policy to fight for underrepresented communities. One day, I want to be in Congress. I want to make policy for others who deal with unforeseen circumstances like I have, and for them to know that they can succeed. I am not a story of sadness but a story of resilience.
Jose Guevara is a student at Cal State LA, and a community organizer. #FreeLuis.
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JANUARY 12, 2018 • 17
Call a doctor. Call a doctor, now. Is the CDC ready for another pandemic?
Christopher M. Kane is a freelance writer with a professional background in nonprofit communications, most recently, with organizations in the healthcare/research space. He lives with his husband in Washington, D.C.
Call a doctor, preferably, one who’s employed by a government agency that was created to respond to mass casualty pandemic illness. Do it while you still can. There was a major uproar in December when the Washington Post reported that that the Trump administration had ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) not to use “seven dirty words”— “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” But a week later, Slate revealed the supposedly banned words were in fact selected by CDC career employees, not political appointees, in an effort to protect funding for their research. Think about that. And think about how it’s consistent with the Trump administration’s tendency to curb the influence of experts and deny epistemic knowledge. Of far greater concern than the threat of terrorism is the inevitability of another virus that could make AIDS look like conjunctivitis. To advance his immigration agenda, President Trump claimed all Haitians have AIDS, according to the New York Times, a remark the White House disputes, of course. But it tracks with his familiar racism and insensitivity. It also displays a shocking lack of understanding about public health and disease. In “AIDS and its Metaphors,” Susan Sontag
cautioned against “many of the enduring Eurocentric presumptions about others, starting from the fantasy that peoples with little reason to expect exemption from misfortune have a lessened capacity to feel misfortune.” Writing before epidemiologists knew for certain where AIDS began, Sontag explained: “The fact that illness is associated with the poor...reinforces the association of illness with the foreign: with an exotic, often primitive place. Illustrating the classic script for plague, AIDS is thought to have started in the ‘dark continent,’ then spread to Haiti, then to the United States and to Europe. Africans who detect racist stereotypes in much of the speculation about the geographical origin of AIDS are not wrong.” A virus doesn’t discriminate against potential hosts and in an interconnected world with some 44,000 airports, the question is not whether a contagious disease will spread across oceans but rather when and how quickly. All affected communities, regardless of their relative wealth, will suffer terribly from the next pandemic. I choose the word “next” deliberately. Americans in this moment are dealing with a flu outbreak poised to be as destructive as in the 2014-2015 season, the worst in recent years. And the Ebola virus, whose origins also trace back to the African continent, remains a potent threat. And herein lies the concern with Trump. In 2014, a Liberian national unwittingly brought Ebola to the United States and under the wise counsel of public health officials, the Obama administration decided against administering travel bans. They would not have effectively prevented all people infected with the disease from entering the country and only would have worsened the situation by cutting off the supply of international aid workers to affected countries that, generally, have limited resources and a limited ability to contain the outbreak. When American health workers were dispatched to Liberia that year and returned stateside for treatment after they contracted Ebola, Trump tweeted: “Ebola patient will be brought to the U.S. in a few days - now I know for sure that our leaders are incompetent. KEEP THEM OUT OF HERE!”
The president has a clear affinity for travel bans. And there’s every reason to expect that if an outbreak develops under his administration, Trump will pursue this against the advice of doctors and researchers and healthcare workers who have already explained why it’s a terrible idea. This would unfold amid a fraught political climate. The CDC, the agency tasked with containing pandemics, has felt such a chilling effect from the top that employees were compelled to edit out seven words with which, they assumed, the Trump administration is likely to take issue. Among these, “evidencebased” and “science-based.” Meanwhile, the CDC has 700 vacancies, including “several positions in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, which regulates some of the world’s most dangerous bacteria and viruses and manages the nation’s stockpile of emergency medical countermeasures,” according to the Washington Post. Read Richard Preston’s “Crisis in the Hot Zone” to see how close we came to a catastrophically deadly Ebola pandemic. It
chronicles how brave government workers contained an outbreak of Ebola Reston, so named for the Washington, D.C. suburb in which it was discovered. It could have been as virulent as Ebola Zaire, a nearly identical virus that killed 90 percent of patients affected in a 2003 outbreak. It could also have happened under a government that disenfranchised those researchers, scientists, and doctors who are our only hope. Preston was told by an expert that Ebola is “interesting”—in the sense that one can call “interesting” the prospect of being confronted by a cobra that’s agitated and poised to strike. Amid new revelations that have intensified doubts about the president’s fitness for office, it’s time to assess our nation’s preparedness for an outbreak of pandemic illness. It’s time to revisit the lessons learned from AIDS, as well as close calls with Ebola and Influenza. It’s time to let doctors and researchers do their job of protecting us and the nation without fear of political retaliation.
with Pink Martini’s Thomas M. Lauderdale
Fri, Feb 2 at 8pm The Theatre at Ace Hotel
“devilish funny bones and heavenly vocal chords” —Evening Standard UK
cap.ucla.edu 888-929-7849 #CAPUCLA
Michaela Ivri Mendelsohn Photo Courtesy Mendelsohn
Meet 5 trans activists making a difference in LA Authenticity matters as these trailblazers have shown By DAWN ENNIS
A change occurred in 2017 that went largely unnoticed: attitudes toward transgender people shifted from controversies over bathroom issues to the majority of Americans agreeing that trans service members should be allowed to serve in the military. Marking the moment, the Los Angeles Blade created a Transgender Advocate category for the upcoming “Best of” issue. However, nominee Maria Roman suggested that instead of the nominees competing against each other, we should highlight their accomplishments. We agreed. Here are five extraordinary trans activists making a difference in LA. – Troy Masters
Michaela Ivri Mendelsohn bought her first El Pollo Loco restaurant in 1988, adding several more by the time she transitioned in 2004. Now she owns six, the largest chain of El Pollo Loco restaurants in Southern California. Ownership compelled Mendelsohn to launch a transgender employment program. “Since I was a child I always felt like ‘the other’ and was often treated as such,” Mendelsohn told the LA Blade in an email. “Breaking through my own barriers — I wanted to help others do the same. Six years ago, when we hired our first transgender employee, I sat down with Kristy (a trans woman of color) and listened to how she had been treated by her other employers. I was shocked and for the first time realized how lucky I was to have transitioned as the boss of my own company. It was then I decided to start hiring more transgender employees in my restaurants and eventually start a program to pave the way to open the door with businesses throughout the country to do the same. “We hired over 40 tradespeople of color into our restaurants and founded TransCanWork to open doors at businesses nationwide to increase the hiring of transgender employees,” she says. “We train companies in diversity and use our jobs board to advertise their open positions to the transgender community. We will ramp up our efforts on this work in 2018,” which includes lobbying. “Our work with Senator [Ricardo] Lara in Sacramento resulted in the passage of SB 396, which now requires all California companies to include harassment training of management to include gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation,” she says. Mendelsohn is also on several boards, including serving as Vice Chair of the Trevor Project, a board member of Mayor Garcetti’s L.A. Workforce Development Board, and is working with the Los Angeles Community College District and other institutions to “normalize” trans lives. “This White House is bringing all the hate and prejudice to the surface, which exists whether we like to admit it or not,” Mendelsohn says. “The pushback by people of decency is giving us an opportunity to heal this hatred and move on.”
ON THE COVER: Trans Can Work founder and Pollo West Corp CEO Michaela Mendehlsohn is pictured here with 3 trans women who are succeeding thanks to the agency’s good works. From left to right: Jessye Zambrano, Pollo West Manager; Marie Hernandez, TransCanWork Program Associate; Michaela Mendelsohn, TransCanWork founder; Kayla Ward, Grinder.
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Karina Samala is chair of the Transgender Advisory Council at the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission and serves on nine other voluntary boards, including the West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board. Perhaps unknown to her colleagues, Samala has a degree in chemical engineering from the Philippines, which led to 12 years of top secret work as a senior engineer for defense contractor Northrup Grumman. “I was going back and forth, going to work in a suit and tie during the day, because of my work,” says Samala. “Back then, there was not even a word for ‘transgender.’ It was not even on the books at the time, and I had to lie, because I would not be able to get my secret security clearance, because of the work I did. I had to lie. Back then, the question was, ‘are you a homosexual?’” Finally, Samala says, “I decided to just quit my job, because I saw the need to help the community. I saw the hate crimes, the discrimination from police profiling, lack of legal and medical services and so forth. And I wanted to live a life true to myself.” Samala was instrumental in changing policies at the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD, which in 2012 produced the historic Transgender Guidelines for police interaction with the transgender community. But she still faces hate speaking at public meetings. “Somebody from the public comes up to the microphone, saying to me that I am an abomination to the Lord and to the Bible,” she says. Samala is a trans icon, having won several beauty pageants and producing pageants through the Imperial Court of Los Angeles/ Hollywood, where she is an empress and president of the board of directors. The court provides tens of thousands of dollars each year in education scholarships to trans youth and other people in need. “A lot of the girls call me ‘Mother Karina,’” Samala says. “They come up to me and they say, ‘I need help.’ ‘I need medical help.’ ‘I don’t have insurance.’ And they’re undocumented. They’re getting their hormones on the streets. So there are a lot of issues that they have. We talk to everyone, the homeless and especially the women of color.” But LA cares. “We are very lucky that we live in a city that is very proactive and very accepting and very supportive of our community, and I am very truly, truly grateful.”
Maria Louise Roman is a former HIV Commissioner for the Los Angeles County and member of the board for both the TransLatin@ Coalition and the West Hollywood Advisory Board. She currently works with atrisk transgender women as a counselor at APAIT Health Center in Los Angeles. An inspiration to many in LA, the 47-yearold Puerto Rican woman began her journey of self-discovery at age 19, surviving the streets to become an outspoken activist and role model. She is engaged to musician Jason Taylorson, with a wedding planned for later this year. Roman is also an actress who’s appeared in a number of movies, including the film short “The Transfigured Body: A Requiem in Celebration of Gwen Araujo,” about the brutal murder of 17-year old Gwen Araujo in Newark, Calif., in 2002. Four men used a “trans panic” defense, claiming Arajuo deceived them into believing she was a cisgender woman. AIDS drove Roman to become an activist. “A lot of my friends who were trans were dying from HIV, and it sort of forced me to feel that I wanted to be part of the solution,” Roman says. “So when a position opened up at a nonprofit agency, I took it, as a health educator. For the first time, I really found my voice, and I discovered my passion: I could influence discussions, and advocate not only for myself but for other women like myself.” Roman says her job at the APAIT Health Center is finding “housing for people who are living with HIV.” She hopes to find resources to create a shelter for transgender women. In 2018, Roman says, “We have to sort of step up our game, and start creating things like the Translatin@ Coalition, which is an organization that focuses on serving our own people, We have to really entrench ourselves in every aspect from politics to social services to the media.” Roman adds, poignantly: “We see trans visibility at its highest point—but people are struggling with the same issues I struggled with 20 years ago: lack of employment, lack of education, lack of resources. So, the issues are still the same, although there is more visibility.”
Karina Samala Photo Courtesy Samala
Maria Louise Roman Photo Courtesy Roman
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Bamby Salcedo Photo Courtesy Salcedo
Bamby Salcedo is president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, which she says is “the very first trans-led organization providing services, direct supportive services to trans people here in Los Angeles.” Salcedo knows the territory, having started as an HIV/AIDS educator and Transgenderos Unidos leader at Bienestar, after which she spent eight years as the Health Education and HIV Prevention Services Coordinator at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “I don’t consider myself an activist,” Salcedo says. “I just feel like a piece of the puzzle. I consider myself a pawn in the game. Having said that, the murder of Gwen Araujo activated something inside of me, for me to understand and realize there was a lot of work that needed to be done to bring awareness about our issues, particularly the violence that we experience in our society. Since then, I’ve been very active in the community, about 18 years now that I’ve been moving and shaking and organizing.” Salcedo’s trans, LGBT, Latina and HIV/ AIDS work also intersects with issues such as immigration and incarceration. She advocates getting involved in local politics, learning about elected officials, and visiting their offices. “They’re here to serve us, not the other way around,” she says. But because of the way politics works, “they basically serve those who give them the most. And we need to change that. We need to hold them accountable for what they do. We need to fight the power.” Salcedo is also pragmatic. “There have been gains, but the current political climate is not helping,” she says. “To fight the oppression we experience, we need to be able to understand our individual power, but also our collective power,” forming alliances “with other people who understand our struggle.” On Jan. 5, Salcedo announced the expansion of The TransLatin@ Coalition through The Center for Violence Prevention & Transgender Wellness and a bigger space to provide a multitude of services at 3055 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 350.
Ashlee Marie Preston is an activist who rose to prominence as the first trans editor-in-chief of Wear Your Voice magazine, then gained international notoriety when she confronted Caitlyn Jenner over her Republican political views at a Trans Chorus of Los Angeles performance August 26, 2017. “I don’t think there was ever a moment I consciously chose activism,” says Preston. “It was never a profession so much as it was a passion. I feel that ‘activist’ was originally a descriptor assigned to me by those who’ve benefited from my contributions.” Preston has worked as a consultant on cultural competence and issues around “diversity, inclusion, and the social impact media has on trans people.” She has also used her media platforms to enable trans women to tell their own stories. Preston is also on the board of TransCanWork. “I recognize that true economic empowerment doesn’t mean saving trans people, it means giving us tools and resources to save ourselves,” she says. “Full economic empowerment means establishing alliances outside of the traditional LGBTQ sphere and actively shaping the inclusive society in which we wish to live.” In an Dec. 29 press release, Preston announced her intention to run for the District 54 State Assembly seat that Sebastian RidleyThomas vacated for health reasons. “The most effective strategy in countering trans erasure is to double down on our visibility,” she says. “In 2017, the United States witnessed nine brilliant transgender people take political office (some even making history), and it was absolutely glorious. We no longer have to hide out in the shadows. We know how to survive; but it’s time we truly thrive. We don’t need an invitation to access our greatness. Let’s keep showing up to spaces that haven’t always embraced us traditionally; in order to change the course of history.”
Ashlee Marie Preston Photo Courtesy Preston
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22 • JANUARY 12, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
QUEERY 20 GAY QUESTIONS FOR JOHN ERICKSON
queery JOHN ERICKSON How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? I came out when I was 21 and that hardest person I had to tell was my maternal grandmother. She died by the time I came out to my mother, father, and sisters. She is the crux of who I am as a person and activist and I just wish I had been able to tell her who I am while she was alive.
John Erickson is a Ph.D. candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University and a force in West Hollywood politics and activism. Photo Courtesy Erickson
By TROY MASTERS firstname.lastname@example.org How is it possible that I just met John Erickson? I called him up today and the conversation went something like, “I need your help and thought because you are on the WeHo LGBT leadership council you might have recommendations for someone I should feature in our regular Q&A proﬁle, Queery.” He instantly rattled oﬀ a list of recommendations for what he called “such an honor.” I was struck by the depth of his list and, well, I was sold. John knew not only the marquis community names (who shall go nameless here) but also people who deserve recognition yet rarely get it. John Erickson is the man behind a million things you know and love, including the upcoming Women’s March in Downtown LA. “I am on the team, just let us know what you need.” The Resist March. “I worked on Resist March with the whole team and it changed my life.” Hollywood NOW. “I was so touched that Ivy Bottini covets the letter of apology she received from them.” Wait! “You read the Queery column? “I think I should ask you,” I said. He ﬁnally said yes. In 2017, Gov. Brown appointed John to the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, the ﬁrst man so appointed. He serves as the President of the Hollywood Chapter for the National Organization for Women; is on the board of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board; and he serves on the Board of the ACLU of Southern California. He is also Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Stonewall Democratic Club. He co-founded the digital publication the Engaged Gaze and covers LGBTQ history, feminism, masculinity studies, and American religious history for a variety of publications. Most recently, John worked for the City of West Hollywood as the Community Events Technician and was City Council Deputy to Councilmember Abbe Land. He also served as the President of the West Hollywood Municipal Employees Union (WEHOME), AFSCME Local 3339, AFL-CIO. The Los Angeles Blade is proud to call him a friend and an ally.
Who’s your LGBT hero? Mayor John Heilman. He’s one of the best people I know and the work he does for LGBT rights across the world inspires me on a daily basis. I’m proud to call him a mentor and a close personal friend. What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? I loved going to the French Quarter Marketplace. I have fond memories of hanging out there with friends and just watching the hours ﬂy by because we were having so much fun talking. Describe your dream wedding. Anything at the Hotel del Coronado, I go there every year with family and it is beautiful. What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? Women’s rights (although it goes hand-in-hand with LGBT rights) What historical outcome would you change? The election of President Donald Trump What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? The election of President Barack Obama (cue the debate of pop culture v history) On what do you insist? Show up and do the work. What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? My last Facebook post was a photo from the event “Tea with Alice and Me” that took place on Sunday, January 7, The event was a onewoman show featuring activist Zoe Nicholson, the work of suﬀragist Alice Paul, the author of the Equal Rights Amendment (which has still yet to be ratiﬁed), and how their lives intersect. I have the honor of serving at the President of the Hollywood Chapter for the National Organization for Women (NOW) and we were co-sponsors.
If your life were a book, what would the title be? Sleep? I relish the memories of when I was in high school and I could sleep all day. If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do? Nothing; I am who I am and I believe that I have no right to tell other people how to live their lives or whom to love (even though sometimes that same respect is not reciprocated). What do you believe in beyond the physical world? I live by the golden rule: “do to others what you want them to do to you.” We need more love and kindness in this world and I hope when I look back on my life, I achieved by living this motto to its fullest. What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? Relish in the victories we have but come back hungry for more because equality for all isn’t achieved overnight. It is a marathon not a sprint. What would you walk across hot coals for? My friends. As LGBT people, we do not always get to pick our families. However, we do get to choose our friends and I have some of the best. What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? That LGBT people are bad at sports. I am proud to be an All-American and National Champion in Men’s Volleyball. What’s your favorite LGBT movie? Angels in America What’s the most overrated social custom? Meetings! There are too many meetings these days and not enough work getting done. What trophy or prize do you most covet? My maternal grandmother’s briefcase; she carried it everywhere with her. What do you wish you’d known at 18? Trust your gut. Why Los Angeles? Graduate School. I left everything and everyone I knew back home in Wisconsin where I am from and started fresh. It was the most diﬃcult, but ultimately the best decision, I ever made.
California’s exclusively LGBTQ treatment center LGBTQ people are nearly 30% more likely than members of the general population to suffer from addiction. The LGBTQ population are 60% more likely to relapse following addiction treatment in traditional recovery programs. The same trauma that the LGBTQ community faces in everyday life - the trauma that lurks beneath the addiction - is replicated in traditional treatment because traditional treatment is a microcosm of the world at large. LGBTQ-specific treatment transforms the dangerous environment clients face every day and gives them the safety to work through their shame and create connections and community. That’s why we need LGBTQ-specific treatment, not only for drug/alcohol addiction, but for all substance and behavior addictions. At Pride Recovery Los Angeles, we’re here to address shame and build pride. Addiction Treatment for our LGBTQ Community. Covered by most insurance programs
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24 • JANUARY 12, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Interview with Ricky Martin Stepping out for Versace and into the spotlight By SUSAN HORNIK
Ricky Martin stars as Antonio D’Amico in the FX anthology series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. Photo courtesy FX
Once upon a time, Ricky Martin was “Livin La Vida Loca.” Nowadays, the gay actor/ singer has more of a family life, recently marrying his partner, Jwan Yosef, and is a loving dad to his nine year old twin sons. He is also very involved with charity work, raising millions of dollars to fight human trafficking and help Puerto Rico. “There is so much vulnerability now in Puerto Rico and that makes the kids there very vulnerable to human trafficking. These people come in and try to win over their confidence so they can suck them in. We must do whatever it takes to combat this.” Fans are eagerly awaiting his new FX series, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” which debuts on January 17th. Martin plays Antonio D’Amico, Versace’s partner of 15 years. At the Television Critics Press Tour, Martin talked about his first very thought after hearing gay executive producer, Ryan Murphy was focusing on the murder of the iconic designer for his “American Crime Story” series: he wanted to know who was going to portray Versace’s sister, Donatella. “He told me, ‘No one knows, but it’s Penelope [Cruz].’ And I peed a little bit!” Cruz and Martin have been longtime pals and have been collaborated on charity work. Martin talked about his first conversation with the real D’Amico. “The first thing that came out of my mouth when he picked up the phone, I said, ‘I’m so happy we’re talking. And I just want you to know that this is treated with utmost respect.’ He continued: “More than anything, there is a level of injustice with this story. I said, ‘If I have the opportunity to even talk about it and shed some light into this… It’s such an unfair scene for the world of fashion…’And I want you to know that I will make sure that people fall in love with your relationship with Gianni. “That is what I’m here for. I really want them to see the beauty and the connection that you guys had.’” Martin said that D’Amico was “extremely happy” about the conversation. Murphy cast Martin to play D’Amico, partially because Édgar Ramírez, who plays Versace, is close friends with Martin. “You were probably the first person I told that I was doing Gianni,” Ramírez said to Martin, during the panel. They made plans to
have a celebratory dinner when Martin got the call from Murphy. “I received a phone call from Ryan that said, ‘We need to meet.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, when and where? I’ll be there. Édgar is who I’m having dinner with tonight, so clearly something is in the air.’ During their dinner, Ramírez realized what was happening: “You’re going to be Antonio, I’m sure.” They were all my first choices,” Murphy said. “I did not know they were friends….I’ve worked with Ricky before and love him. I took him out to the Tower Bar and Grill. I really think he was texting with Edgar under the table.” “I had a sixth sense they would have wonderful respect and camaraderie and they did,” Murphy enthused. “I know Edgar. My brother, I love him,” Martin said to Murphy at dinner, to which Murphy replied, “That’s what I needed to hear. You’ve got the part.” Unfortunately, Versace’s family has not been pleased with the series. In a statement released to the press, they wrote: “The Versace family has neither authorized nor had any involvement whatsoever in the forthcoming TV series about the death of Mr. Gianni Versace. Since Versace did not authorize the book on which it is partly based nor has it taken part in the writing of the screenplay, this TV series should only be considered as a work of fiction.” Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions put out their own statement in response. “Like the original American Crime Story series, “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” which was based on Jeffrey Toobin’s non-fiction bestseller, The Run of His Life, FX’s followup, “The Assassination Of Gianni Versace” is based on Maureen Orth’s heavily researched and authenticated non-fiction best seller, Vulgar Favors, which examined the true life crime spree of Andrew Cunanan. We stand by the meticulous reporting of Ms. Orth.” In addition to Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Alexis Martin Woodall, Dan Minahan, Tom Rob Smith, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski are executive producing the series, which is based on Orth’s book, “Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History.”
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JANUARY 12, 2018 • 25
You can now entertain friends and family with some of the most intriguing movies of 2017. All of the films discussed below are available now on DVD or through streaming services and are sure to start some lively discussions over dinner or dessert. “Battle of the Sexes” is a thrilling recreation of the famous 1973 tennis match between feminist pioneer Billie Jean King (a fierce Emma Stone) and male chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs (a fascinating Steve Carell). The dazzling screenplay by Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”) clearly retells the public battles between King and Riggs, but also captures their private struggles. Andrea Riseborough is great as Billie Jean’s first girlfriend and Austin Stowall and Elisabeth Shue turn in fine performances as their conflicted spouses. Almost a year ago, first-time director Jordan Peele made an accomplished cinematic debut with “Get Out,” a troubling and thoughtful movie that uses both comedy and horror to create a chilling portrait of racism in contemporary America. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris, a black man who visits the family of his white girlfriend at their suburban estate. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are deeply sinister as her liberal parents. In the lush “A Quiet Passion,” legendary queer auteur Terence Davies creates a searing portrait of poet Emily Dickinson, played with fervent intensity by Cynthia Nixon. Jennifer Ehle and Keith Carradine turn in strong supporting performances as Dickinson’s sister and father who struggle to understand the unconventional and increasingly reclusive poet who remained largely unpublished during her lifetime. Salma Hayek is simply stunning as the title character in “Beatriz at Dinner.” She plays a holistic healer who is stranded at the home of a client (an excellent Connie Britton) when her car dies. The well-meaning client invites Beatriz to her dinner party that evening, but tempers flare when she meets fellow guest Doug, a repulsive businessman played with great relish by John Lithgow. Chlöe Sevigny turns in a richly layered performance as a conflicted dinner guest. Written by and starring “Saturday Night Live” regular Kyle Mooney, the delightfully quirky “Brigsby Bear” is about a sheltered young man whose carefully constructed world suddenly crashes down around him. To make sense of it all, he tries to recreate his favorite television show, a low-budget series about a bear with amazing gadgets and superpowers. Mark Hamill is both creepy and creative as the bear’s creator. Is she a murderess or is she being slandered by her naïve love-struck cousin? That’s the central question behind “My Cousin Rachel,” a lovely period drama based on the popular novel by bisexual author Daphne Du Maurier. Rachel Weisz is amazing inscrutable as the title character (she even refused to tell director Roger Michell if she thought the character was innocent or guilty). Holliday Grainger is equally enigmatic as Rachel’s rival and Pierfrancesco Favino is delightful as Rachel’s sexually enigmatic lawyer. “Patti Cake$,” developed by writer/director Geremy Jaspar at the Sundance Institute, is a raw family saga about three generations of powerful and outspoken New Jersey woman. At the center is a powerhouse performance by Australian actress Danielle Macdonald who learned how to rap and speak with a Jersey accent for the role. She plays Patty Dombrowski, a white working-class woman who dreams of becoming a famous rock star. New York cabaret singer Bridget Everett and acclaimed actress Catherine O’Hara turn in equally strong performances as her bitter alcoholic mother and her feisty grandmother. Based on the award-winning novel by Julian Barnes, “The Sense of an Ending” features a beautifully nuanced performance by Jim Broadbent (“Moulin Rouge” and “London Sky”) as a quiet camera shop owner who is forced to reexamine his life when he receives an unexpected legacy. Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Webster and Michelle Dockery are terrific as his ex-lover, his ex-wife and his very pregnant daughter. Finally, on a very different note, “War for the Planet of the Apes,” is a visually inventive and thought-provoking continuation of the latest franchise reboot. Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson (both of whom turned in several notable performances in 2017) are well-matched as deeply conflicted leaders on opposing sides of the inter-species struggle. Twentieth Century Fox is mounting a campaign for Serkis to be nominated in the Best Actor Category at the Academy Awards; his fine motion-capture performance as Caesar has already been recognized by several critic’s groups.
Movie greats of 2017 now streaming ‘Battle,’ ‘Quiet Passion’ among best LGBT releases of last year By BRIAN T. CARNEY
Kyle Mooney and Mark Hamill in ‘Brigsby Bear,’ one of many 2017 releases now available for home viewing. Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics
26 • JANUARY 12, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Queer movies to watch out for in 2018 One banner year is followed by a potentially stronger one By JOHN PAUL KING
Everyone deserves a great love story, but for 17-year-old Simon Spier, played by Nick Robinson, it’s a little more complicated.
Chloe Grace Moritz stars in a film about the abusive practice of gay conversion therapy of a minor. Photo courtesy Desiree Akhavan
Photo courtesy Director Greg Berlanti
There’s no question that 2017 was a particularly strong year for LGBTQ representation on the big screen. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, of course (and I do mean a lot), but the last year gave us cause to hope. From the surprise Oscar win for 2016’s “Moonlight,” to the inclusion of prominent queer characters and stories in some of this season’s most lauded films, it’s been a good run; but apart from the hoopla and hype of the Oscars – where, hopefully, at least one or two of those abovementioned queer-relevant movies will snag an award or two – that’s all behind us Fortunately, 2018 looks to have a pretty healthy slate of LGBTQ-themed movies lined up for us as well. The highest profile film on the list, perhaps, is “Love, Simon.” Based on the popular Y.A. novel, “Simon vs. the Homo-Sapiens Agenda,” it’s the first big-studio, mainstream, wide-release movie featuring a teenaged coming out story. Directed by Greg Berlanti, and written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, the significance of its accessibility to countless young people struggling with their sexuality across the country is, in itself, enough to make this film extraordinary. Starring Nick Robinson in the title role, with Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr., and featuring Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel as Simon’s parents; it opens in March. In the meantime, this year’s Sundance Film Festival takes place later this month (Jan. 18 – 28), and will feature a number of promising LGBTQ titles Here are some of the highlights: “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” – Based on the acclaimed novel by Emily Danforth, this coming-of-age drama tells the story of a high school girl who is forced to go into gay conversion therapy after she is caught having sex with the prom queen. The film raises the age of its protagonist (she’s 12 in the book), but it will likely meet with controversy, just the same. Director Desiree Akhavan also co-wrote with Cecilia Frugiuele, and the title character is played by Chloë Grace Moretz. Sasha Lane, Forrest
Raul Castillo and Evan Rosado star in the screen adaptation of Justin Torres’ first novel, “We the Animals,” a the story of a boy trying to understand the adult world and his place in it. Photo provided by Cinereach and Public Record
Goodluck, John Gallagher Jr., and Jennifer Ehle also star. “The Happy Prince” – Out actor Rupert Everett stars as queer literary giant Oscar Wilde in this biopic which centers on the writer’s final days. Highlighting Wilde’s ironic wit and bemused detachment as he wastes away in exile after the scandal and imprisonment that brought his celebrated career to a disgraceful end, it can be expected to be a darkly comic exploration of an iconic gay genius. Colin Firth and Emily Watson appear alongside Everett, who also wrote and directed the film. “Lizzie” – Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart star in this biographical thriller about the infamous case of Lizzie Borden, who was tried and acquitted for the 1892 axe murder of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusets. Placing focus on the relationship between Lizzie and her live-in maid, director Craig William Macneill and writer Bryce Kass bring a queer angle to this oft-told true-crime tale. Also starring are Jamey Sheridan, Fiona Shaw, and out actor Denis O’Hare. “Quiet Heroes” – A documentary by director Jenny MacKenzie which looks at Salt Lake City, Utah, during the AIDS crisis – when every HIV patient in the entire city had to rely on a single doctor. It’s the story of her fight for the lives of a population that most everyone else in the religious, deeply conservative community was willing to let die. “We the Animals” – Based on Justin Torres’ semiautobiographical novel about three boys growing up in a dysfunctional, mixed Puerto Rican/white family in upstate New York – and the imaginary life of the youngest, who is awakening to the realization that he is gay. Directed by Jeremiah Zagar, who also co-wrote with Daniel Kitrosser, it’s an all-too-rare exploration of sexual identity in the Latino community. Starring Raul Castillo, Sheila Vand, Evan Rosado, Isaiah Kristian, and Josiah Santiago. “A Kid Like Jake” – Based on the 2013 play by Daniel Pearle, this drama centers on a precocious 4-year old boy who shows early signs of gender non-conformity and the
rift that develops between his two loving parents as they confront their views on how to handle it. Adapted for the screen by Pearl himself and directed by Silas Howard, this one stars Claire Danes and out actor Jim Parsons as the parents, and features Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, Emmy-winner Ann Dowd, and Amy Landecker in supporting roles. There are more to come later in the year, as well: “Disobedience” – Actually a 2017 film, but receiving U.S. release in April; a lesbian drama starring Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz, it’s the story of a woman who returns to the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where she grew up and is reunited with her childhood friend – inviting scandal from the community when their friendship begins to blossom into something else. Directed by Sebastián Lelio, who also helmed last year’s “A Fantastic Woman,” and co-adapted by Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz from the novel by Naomi Alderman. “Adam” – Based on a novel by Ariel Schrag, this one focuses on a teen boy who spends a summer in New York with his older sister, a lesbian and trans-rights activist, and meets the girl of his dreams – who thinks he is a trans man. It sounds potentially problematic, but with an adaptation by Schrag herself, hopefully it can pull off the delicate balance of humor and sensitivity that kept the situation from being offensive in the book. Directed by Rhys Ernst, and starring Nicholas Alexander in the title role. “Boy Erased” – Another high-profile effort, based on the memoir by Garrard Conley, about a teenager pressured by his family to attend a gay conversion camp (yes, the second film on this subject on the list). Actor Joel Edgerton – who also wrote and directed – stars, with Lucas Hedges as Conley, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as his parents, and Cherry Jones, Flea, Xavier Dolan, and Troye Sivan in featured roles. Smile, all you queer cinema fans. It looks like you have plenty of movie date nights to look forward to in the next 12 months.
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28 • JANUARY 12, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Bad night for LGBTQ films at 75th Golden Globes But thanks to Oprah, #metoo movement soars By REBEKAH SAGER
The 75th Golden Globes featured Hollywood actors donning all-black gowns and suits, and wearing #TimesUp pins in support of those who have spoken out about sexual harassment and to protest gender inequality. It was a hugely important night celebrating women and women’s stories. But many in the LGBTQ community were left puzzled by the lack of representation among the acting, directing and screenwriting category nominees and winners, even though #TimesUp resonates against homophobia too. While “Handmaid’s Tale” and “Lady Bird” (both LGBTQthemed projects) picked up awards, and there was a big win for Benji Pasek for Best Original Song, with “This Is Me” in “The Greatest Showman,” the night was entirely bereft of awards for LGBT roles, themed films or out actors. D.C.-based film critic and the founder of Cinema Siren, Leslie Combemale says the omission of out lesbian, gay and trans actors among the nominations is not unlike the traditional silencing of women in the industry that led to the current crisis. “It’s just a group of underrepresented people in the entertainment world that Hollywood doesn’t believe is capable of performing on that level… which is crazy,” Combemale told the Los Angeles Blade. “Look at the film, ‘Fantastic Woman,’” she says. “Here’s an example of a great transgender actor [Daniela Vega] with an amazing performance who wasn’t even nominated.” Combemale pointed out that many in Hollywood have remained closeted and that they are at fault here. “Until more gay roles become available to openly gay actors, then that’s going to continue to be part of the problem — people not feeling confident about being their true selves in that environment,” she says. John Paul King, the Los Angeles Blade’s film critic says, “There were a lot of excellent and diverse films nominated this year, and of course all the winners deserved to take home their prizes. And I think the fact that both Best Picture winners were very much driven by a female perspective – even though “Three Billboards” was written and directed by a man – was very telling.” Beyond LGBT issues, it was not an entirely challenged event on the diversity front, however. In a historic moment, actor Sterling K. Brown, star of the TV series “This is Us,” won for Best Lead Actor in a TV Drama. He was the first black actor to win in this category. Last year, he won Best Supporting Actor in a TV Drama for his role in “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story.” But it was Oprah Winfrey’s speech that was the highlight of the evening. The media mogul, actress, and producer was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award. She is the first black woman to win. Doing what she does best — inspiring and empowering — Winfrey talked about her own inspiration remembering
Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech ignited a frenzy of speculation about a 2020 presidential run. Photo by kathclick / Courtesy Bigstock
when Sydney Poitier became the first black man to win an Oscar in 1964 for “Lilies of the Field.” And what it meant to her as a little girl. “Up on the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen,” she recalled. “I had never seen a black man recognized like that before. What a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats, as my mom came through the door, bone-tired from cleaning other people’s houses,” Oprah said in her acceptance speech. “There are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this award,” she went on. Winfrey recalled the story of Recy Taylor, a black woman whose 1944 rape by six white men did not lead to any convictions. Taylor passed away last month at the age of 97. “She lived — as we all have lived — in a culture broken by brutally powerful men,” Winfrey said. “For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men, but their time is up.” Oprah brought Hollywood to its feet when she talked about the future of women in a world without discrimination and harassment. She gave a full-throated
clarion call for change that could resonate beyond Hollywood. “I want all of the girls watching here now to know, that a new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘me too’ again.” There were several straight actors nominated for playing gay roles, but none took home the trophy. Armie Hammer, Actor in a Supporting Role, for “Call Me by Your Name,” [Sam Rockwell won for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”] and Timothée Chalamet, Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama, also for “Call Me by Your Name” [Gary Oldman, won for “Darkest Hour”]. Emma Stone, Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy, for her role as Billie Jean King in “Battle of the Sexes,” [Saoirse Ronan, won for “Lady Bird”]. In television, Eric McCormack nabbed a nomination for his role as Will in NBC’s revived “Will & Grace,” [Aziz Ansari “Master of None” won]. “When someone who’s gay comes out as gay, everyone’s like ‘oh my God, I can’t believe it.’ But, when a straight actor plays gay, everyone says, ‘oh, he or she is so brave.’ That’s ridiculous. It does piss me off. Just like when a Jewish character is played by a Greek,” standup comedian, actress, Emmy Award winning television writer, and producer Judy Gold told the Los Angeles Blade. Combemale says the Globes missed the boat on a few films with LGBTQ actors and themes. She says “Mudbound,” Dee Reese, the director and half of the screenwriting team, who is black and a lesbian. “She’s a star. Eventually it will happen. It’s a great movie and that’s a big miss,” Combemale says. Also, she cites writer-director Angela Robinson for “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” who seemed to disappear from the radar. “And ‘BPM’ a French film was a huge miss. Internationally, it might be that gay and lesbian actors are playing gay characters and not in the U.S.,” she says. Combemale says she believes there were several options for lesbian actresses who could have played the Billie Jean King role in “Battle of the Sexes,” outside of Emma Stone. Although “Call Me by Your Name” was nominated for Best Motion Picture Drama, it has a gay director, Luca Guadagnino, and screenwriter James Ivory, neither of whom was nominated. Many were rooting for the film as it has several queer producers, including Guadagnino and Ivory, who would take home gold if the film won. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” won the award. C O N TI N UE S A T L O S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JANUARY 12, 2018 • 29
E-mail calendar items to email@example.com two weeks prior to your event. Space is limited so priority is given to LGBTspecific events or those with LGBT participants. Recurring events must be re-submitted each time.
Women’s March Los Angeles 2018, SAT JAN 20 @ 9:00 to 4:00 PM from Pershing Square (532 S Olive St) to Grand Park (200 N Grand Ave).
Los Angeles Multifamily Investor Networking Group, JAN. 13th @11:00 AM to 1:00 PM at The Collective Realty (8278 1/2 Santa Monica Blvd). Learn about WeHo real estate investment market from Will Tiao of Tiao Properties. In the gayest city of America you need to know how to close a deal. Co-hosted by Anthony Vulin of The Collective Realty, a nominee for Los Angeles Blades Best Gay Real Estate award. OC Town Hall with Rep. Mark Takano, JAN 13th @ 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM at Fullerton Public Library (353 W Commonwealth Ave, Fullerton, CA). Rep. Mark Takano, the nation’s first openly gay person of color to be elected to congress takes questions about the Trump Tax bill. Our community faces some real challenges because of tax code changes and you need to learn all about it. LA Artshow, JAN 13th @ 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM at Los Angeles Convention Center (1201 South Figueroa Street, South Hall). Los Angeles has emerged as a global epicenter of art & culture, with a distinct, interwoven multi-cultural influence unique to the city. The longest running venue for contemporary, modern, historic and traditional art in the US features over 100 galleries from 18 countries exhibiting painting, sculpture, works on paper, installation, photography, design, video and performance, and parties galore.
Fifth Anniversary of Falcon Studios Hustlaball, JAN 14 @ 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM at The Space (3460 Cavaretta Court, Las Vegas, NV). Billed as “the Most Hedonistic Gay Global Dance Party Weekend bringing HUGE DJs and TONS of the Over
Two Dozen of the Biggest Gay Adult Entertainers on EARTH back to SIN CITY for One Weekend You Will Never Forget!” Must be GEN and have loads of ROSES, Bro. $49 to $850. More details at facebook. com/HustlaballOfficial.
JAN 15 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, MON JAN 15 @ 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM at California African American Museum (600 State Drive). Of particular interest is the panel at 11:00 AM on the Women of the Civil Rights Movement who played pivotal roles. Explore the roles of these women and the challenges they faced in the fight for racial equality. FREE.
WeHo Support Group for Gay & Bisexual Men, TUE JAN 16 @ 7:00 to 9:30 PM (contact organizers for location). Connect with other gay and bisexual men and exchange your life experiences with them and your everyday feelings, no matter what those feelings may be. For more details email at infowhsg@gmail. com.
Focus on Female Filmmakers, WED JAN 17 @ 7:30 PM at Egyptian Theater (6712 Hollywood Blvd). Women rule Hollywood and American Cinematheque puts a spotlight on female filmmakers with an evening of directors panels and short films, many of which will make their L.A. premiere. $12. Masculinity, Stereotypes, and Dating,
WED JAN 17 @ 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM at West Hollywood Library (625 North San Vicente). Dating in the gay community comes with stereotypes, titles, and categories: Masc 4 Masc, twinks, hunks, otters, bears, daddies... We idolize the perfect male physique, but so many of us don’t resemble the models. We place importance on being masculine, while femininity is reflected in much of our culture. We have a label for everything, but not everyone fits into a specific category. Contact Thrive Tribe Foundation for more details at (805) 874-2399.
LGBTQ LIFE: One Year After Trump, THU JAN 18 @ 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM at L.A. City Hall Council Chambers (200 North Spring Street). City Attorney Mike Feuer and the LGBTQ City Attorneys Employees Association will hold a free panel discussion and reception. CA Senator Ricardo Lara, Jocelyn Samuels, Executive Director of The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and Nancy Marcus, Law & Policy Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal are just a few of the local leaders who will attend. FREE.
Celebrate “Freedom to Marry,” SAT JAN 20 @ 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM at Palm Springs Cultural Center (2100 E Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs). Eddie Rosenstein’s nail-biting, untold story of how samesex marriage became law of the land, follows Evan Wolfson, the architect of the movement, and his key colleagues on the decades long battle. The film culminates in the dramatic victory at the U.S Supreme Court. Thanks to the generosity of local philanthropists Rich Weissman and J.D.
Horn, the film is presented free of charge. A great day to celebrate Palm Spring Cultural Center and jump for joy when they unveil its new name. Women’s March Los Angeles 2018, SAT JAN 20 @ 9:00 to 4:00 PM from Pershing Square (532 S Olive St) to Grand Park (200 N Grand Ave). Meet up at the corner of 5th and Hill Streets and demand the immediate impeachment of Donald Trump, a man serial sexual predator, from the Presidency of the United States. Last year 750,000 Angelenos filled the streets to protest a stolen election and to warn against dangers that are by now obvious. #TimesUp and time to #DoItAgain. Be part of history. Vist womensmarchla.org for more information.
DJ Bowie Jane at The Abbey, SUN JAN 21 @ 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM at The Abbey Food & Bar (692 N Robertson Blvd). Her debut single, Luv Bomb, described as “frighteningly catchy” by Music-Week UK, was a Euro sensation and now she’s ours. Bowie Jane’s the hottest thing to hit the WeHo scene in ages, a fresh and bouncy, energetic performer who thrives on getting the party going!
Los Angeles Blade Best of Awards, FRI JAN 26 @ 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM at Sur Lounge and Restaurant (606 N Robertson Blvd). You nominated them and then you voted for the top vote getters. Now find out who they are. LA’s best brands, best artists, best professionals, best artists, 25 categories and special guests. The event is free. www.losangelesblade.com/party
30 • JANUARY 12, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Billy Masters reigns in the New Year (but not quite himself) From blizzards back east to mudslinging in Hollywood By BILLY MASTERS
Well Strung is amazing eye and ear candy for the soul. Don’t miss their performance at the Los Angeles LGBT Center on Jan. 21. Photo Courtesy Los Angeles LGBT Center
“Get ready for some pounding. Some of us could see 8 inches or more. That’s too much – even for me.”
- Virginia Beach weatherman Blaine Stewart prepares residents for the blizzard with this Tweet.
I am by nature not a complainer - particularly when it comes to travel. I’ve learned to go with the flow. But last week, the flow was frozen and I was stuck in Boston during a blizzard. Normally, I would have taken the travel voucher AA was offering and flown back when the dust...er, the snow settled. But, honey, I had to get to the Golden Globes. By now you all know who won the awards. So I will move along to my random impressions. Maybe it’s just me, but when the long tribute to Kirk Douglas started, I thought perhaps it was the “In Memoriam” segment. Then they brought the legendary actor onstage - with daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta Douglas Spartacus Jones. While I appreciate the sentiment, it was a spooky sight - and I’m talking about Catherine! HBO’s after party never disappoints. Premier party planner Billy Butchkavitz put on quite a sumptuous soirée. I walked in behind Ricky Martin, who arrived with his “American Crime Story” co-star, Edgar Ramirez. Across the room, Nicole Kidman appeared trapped in conversation with Buzz Aldrin. At one point, she dragged in hubby Keith Urban. The trio posed for some photos and then Nicole deftly disappeared. This brings up an unrelated point - does Kidman even remember that she adopted two children with Tom Cruise? She’s always thanking her girls with Urban and never even mentions Connor and Isabella. As I was about to leave, in walked Mariah Carey with beau Bryan Tanaka in tow. She didn’t stay long – in fact, she was leaving as I finally made my way to her and said I was about to bring her some hot tea. Laughing, she said, “Darling, I could have used some hot tea!” Personally, I think if Mimi took even a sip of water, that skin-tight dress may have burst and taken out everyone’s eyes. More gossip from the evening can be found on my website. If you happen to be in Los Angeles, you should definitely be checking out a number of events at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. I often claim ownership of several performers. For instance, Well-Strung - the singing string quartet - are most certainly “my boys.” They will be doing a special show on Jan. 21 at The Center, which I suspect will be packed because of Chris and Trevor’s appearance on “The Amazing Race.” And then, on Jan. 27, Jenifer Lewis, will be doing a one-night-only benefit for The Center. It will also celebrate her birthday (on the 25th) and her memoir, “The Mother of Black Hollywood.” I’d tell you to get a ticket, but that show is already sold out. Still, check out The Center’s website for tickets and more information at LALGBTCenter.org. Many celebrities rang in the New Year wearing precious little. Ryan Phillippe Tweeted a pic of himself in a snowstorm, wearing only a hat and shorts. Why? Who knows? Who cares - he looks great, as you’ll see on our website. Hockey bad boy Sean Avery posted an Instagram shot of himself naked (full backal) inside a tropical outdoor shower. His buddy Andy Cohen commented, “I’m on my way.” Gus Kenworthy posted an outtake from his ESPN “Body Issue” pictorial, which was him trudging in the snow, naked, wearing only a pair of boots and carrying his skis and poles (the skiing poles, silly). You can see all on BillyMasters.com.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JANUARY 12, 2018 • 31
Wedding Cake is an especially urgent strain with some mystery. To understand it, you should be up on Durban Poison, a loyal sativa that gets you going like an energy drink. Allegedly, Wedding Cake is a mix of Girl Scout Cookies (itself a quite sweet OG Kush and Durban Poison hybrid) and Cherry Pie (a giddy mix of Granddaddy Purple and Durban Poison), so it’s got a whole lot of Durban Poison in it. A noted budsman I know, however, says that’s all wrong and that Wedding Cake (a strain also sometimes called Pink Cookies) isn’t Girl Scout Cookies and Cherry Pie but a combination of Triangle Kush and Animal Mints. For what it’s worth, I obtained some Cherry Pie too to see what’s up and it did echo Wedding Cake—a high that comes on fast and pleasant and a little trippy and sticks around and has a kind of cheap-sherbert-from-the-grocery-store-that’s-in-thosebig-tubs taste. Whatever Wedding Cake may be, it is essentially a meandering maze of wonky weed hybrids, sweet cookie crosses, and word of mouth. Its appeal is its slipperiness. The high is gently psychedelic—so are the buds themselves, which are an explosive light green, almost fluorescent—and after smoking some, it looked like everything I was seeing was viewed through 1/1000 shutter speed, that high-definition swirl of porous detail you see when you watch action shots of a basketball game, a stuttering glossy hyper-reality, which would’ve been terrifying if Wedding Cake didn’t really squash anxiety and calm you down. You feel more like you’re a viewer than a participant in whatever it is that’s going on in front of you. There is also a kind of rough-hewn sweetness to it, a touch of that expected cookie taste, some taut pine and mint too. A friend of mine swears by Wedding Cake. They say it helped them weather a recent shift from one depression medication to another amid the always tender jump from summer into fall into winter (and these days the emotionally devastating backand-forths between the three because global warming). Plain and simple, it made them feel happy—which is rare for them, but more than that, it made them feel stable, sturdy. Meanwhile, the “professional” medications coursing around in their body added chaos and confusion; their mental and physical wellbeing felt up in the air, on the whims of some doctors trying some shit out to see what works. This is not to say medicine of the Big Pharma-pimped, heavily researched, and put into a pill sort is bad, just that well, it sometimes feels like it’s not enough. Wedding Cake sustained them and guided them through some rough patches and put a smile on their face. I can really only imagine. (Brandon Soderberg)
Three Kings is supposed to be some sort of super-strain that combines the genetics of Headband, OG Kush and Sour Diesel. But Headband is already a combination of OG Kush and Sour Diesel. So you combine them and then combine them again with their offspring? It could be an interesting breeding strategy, I guess, if you want to keep pulling out certain traits. But in this case, inbreeding weed strains had the same downside as pure royal lineages were known to — it produced an idiotic dud. I like this weed far less than any of its forebears — except I don’t care too much for Headband either. My friend smoked a bunch of Headband one time and asked me, “Doesn’t it kind of make you feel like you are wearing a headband?” “That’s an expensive-ass headband,” I responded. It’s not that Three Kings — or Headband — doesn’t get you high. But its highness really isn’t that much better than just wearing a headband. Things are a little different, not better or worse, more awake or more relaxed. It doesn’t have the lift of an energetic get-some-shit-done buzz, but it also lacks the lull of a relaxing muscle loosener. Though Sativa-dominant, the hybrid Three Kings kinda cuts it down the middle in all the wrong ways. Or not even the wrong ways — it’s not a bad experience. It’s just like the most generic high ever: a plain white can with “high” printed on it. Or maybe it’s one of those gold-rush craft beers that thinks it can make a great IPA just by adding a bunch of hops. Which is a shame because the packaging of this high, the plant, is indeed regal. The bright green kush-y buds have an autumnal hint to them, the way the reddish fibers creep toward brown and gold at the same time. And the smell has an intoxicating freshness — lemon and pine and hops and sex all compacted down into a dense floral punch. When you light it, it almost seems to want to combust and dissolve into your lungs. It is really the prettiest weed I’ve smoked in a while. But like people who are too pretty, it is boring in the end. Perfectly lovely for a date, but not something you want to spend a lot of time with. So come on, down with the fucking monarchy already. Just because some strain had good parents doesn’t mean it’s gonna be good. (Baynard Woods)
Strength: 8 Nose: Used-up vanilla ice cream-scented air freshener Euphoria: 8 Existential dread: 5 Freaking out when a crazy person approaches you: 5 Drink pairing: Jeppson’s Malört Music pairing: Iglooghost, “Neo Wax Bloom” Rating: 8
Strength: 5 Nose: lemon and pine and hops and sex with a hint of nostalgia and butter Euphoria: 5 Existential dread: 5 Freaking out when a crazy person approaches you: 5 Drink pairing: Sam Adams Music pairing: Coldplay Rating: 5
Wedding Cake Photo by Brandon Soderberg / Courtesy Democracy In Crisis
Three Kings Photo by Baynard Woods / Courtesy Democracy In Crisis
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