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04 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
NCLR’s Kate Kendell steps down and into LGBT history Longtime advocate says it’s time for a younger leader By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org LGBT politicos nationwide were struck by the March 15 announcement that National Center for Lesbian Rights executive director Kate Kendell was stepping down after more than 22 years of service advancing social and economic justice through the lens of LGBT civil rights. “Kate literally changed the world. Her leadership in advancing the rights of LGBT people from being criminals to being able to marry has transformed the lives of millions of people. She always pushed the envelope and was a constant voice for our movement to embrace our communities’ diversity, partner with others and embrace a progressive agenda,” Geoff Kors, Palm Springs City Council member and former Equality California Executive Director, tells the Los Angeles Blade. “They broke the mold when they made Kate Kendell. And while her leadership at NCLR will be missed, her legacy will live on in the work of generations of LGBTQ civil rights advocates who will stand on her shoulders,” says Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, noting that NCLR is currently co-representing Equality California in Stockman v. Trump, a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s transgender military ban. Kendell’s passionate commitment to justice and human dignity helped her grow the small San Francisco-based national nonprofit, founded in 1977, into a powerhouse legal advocacy organization. “I had no idea when I took the job as legal director in 1994 or even as executive director in 1996 that I would be in the role this long, that I would be a part of some of the most powerful resonant and culture-changing moments in the LGBTQ movement, or that I would be able to look back on a 22-year run with such a profound sense of gratitude and humility,” Kendell tells the LA Blade. “It just really felt like this was the right time for me—I hit 58 next month—to pursue whatever my next chapter is. And it’s the right time for NCLR to have a new, obviously younger leader,”
Kate Kendell Photo Courtesy NCLR
The NCLR board and management team is working on a succession plan. The search for the new executive director will officially launch on April 1. “[Kate] is full of love, and love for justice, and has consistently parlayed that into programmatic firsts for NCLR among LGBTQ groups: first transgender rights project; first youth project; first project focused on rural areas; Born Perfect campaign, and more. Kate and NCLR have a full, varied and evolving docket that demands their firstclass talent, including a docket of protecting all families and children that is foundational to many of our other successes,” Mary L. Bonauto, longtime attorney with GLAD (GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders), tells the Los Angeles Blade. “Personally, she has been a valued colleague and friend and I’m going to sorely miss her indomitable presence, her support, her insight and her sense of humor,” Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the LA LGBT Center, says. “She has done her work with a rare and admirable combination of selflessness, courage and integrity. LGBTQ people everywhere have better lives thanks to her leadership.” Then there’s marriage equality. In 2004, the week before Valentine’s Day, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office called saying Newsom was going to begin
issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples on Feb. 9. She bucked the idea since the marriage victory in Massachusetts had prompted calls for a federal constitutional ban on same sex marriage. Eventually, however, Kendell jumped onboard and helped make Feb. 12, 2004 historic with the marriage of lesbian icons Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. That marriage and thousands of others were invalidated by a court, leading to the consolidated case In Re Marriages—argued before the California Supreme Court by NCLR’s trans Legal Director, Shannon Minter. “In 2004—at a time when many in the Democratic Party were not ready to support marriage equality—Kate was a force whose advocacy and leadership gave us the courage to marry over 4,000 same-sex couples,” California Lt. Gov Newsom tells the Los Angeles Blade. “That’s just one in a long list of fights Kate and NCLR have taken on, and won, to benefit LGBTQ folks across the country. I am grateful for her counsel and friendship, and for her decades of bold leadership at the forefront of the movement for equality.” Four years later, in May 2008, marriage equality became legal in California. But waiting in the wings was the anti-gay initiative Prop 8. “I knew Prop 8 was an existential threat
and I knew it had a very good chance of passage. But it was impossible to get people to focus on it because everybody was still elated that we’d won marriage and they couldn’t believe that California voters would vote to take away marriage!” Kendell says. “So when Prop 8 passed—I remember the entire night. I remember the growing feeling of dread and nausea. And I remember a sleepless night absolutely devastated and then having to face the next morning. It was a brutal, brutal experience” that left her seriously depressed for six months. But there was an upside. “I believe that had it not been for Prop 8, we wouldn’t have won marriage as quickly as we did in this country. It shocked the shit out of people that we could see marriage taken away at the ballot box and it galvanized and energized a huge new generation of LGBTQ folks to engage in the fight. And that moment really changed everything, in terms of our momentum,” Kendell says. “Having worked side-by-side with Kate Kendell—including as co-counsel in a number of path-breaking cases—for three decades,” says Jon Davidson, former Legal Director of Lambda Legal, “we collectively owe her a huge debt of gratitude, as we certainly would not have made the progress we have but for her many years of hard work.”
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06 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Gays Against Guns joins March For Our Lives in LA From Orlando to Parkland, New York to LA, #Enough By REBEKAH SAGER As Los Angeles prepares for the national March For Our Lives happening on March 24 in Washington, D.C. and various “sister events” in other cities around the country, the founders of the group Gays Against Guns (GAG) are busy rallying the troops. Catherine Marino-Thomas is one of the founders of the original GAG group, based in New York City. She told the Los Angeles Blade that after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, she knew she was going to have to do something about gun control. She and some other activists called a meeting and in June of 2016, GAG was born.
Bobby Heller and Abe Gurko originally founded a Los Angeles chapter in 2016. Gurko told the Advocate in 2016 that after reading an article in The New York Times about a Gays Against Guns die-in, he reached out to chapter member, Kevin Hertzog and said he wanted to get involved. Hertzog suggested Gurko start his own chapter. Today more than 14,000 people follow the national GAG Facebook page, with 600 and counting following the group’s Los Angeles page. There are eight national chapters nationwide. “The New York chapter has been our primary inspiration,” Graham Kolbeins, Los Angeles GAG organizer and the social media outreach coordinator, told the Los Angeles Blade. “Kevin Hertzog from GAG NY has been immensely helpful in connecting us with the
groups like the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which hosted several meetings in late 2016, to help in coalition-building with other organizations focused on gun control in the LA area,” Kolbeins adds. But even after 20 children were gunned down in their elementary school in Newtown, Conn., 58 people killed and 851 injured at the Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, and 49 adult lives were taken at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, it appears that the Feb. 14, mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 were killed, is the sea-change advocates for gun reform have been waiting for – and the charge is being led by high school students. The passion and dedication of the Parkland High students remains unfazed, despite the size of the opponent they face
– the National Rifle Association and its 5 million members. Emma Gonzalez, 18, a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High shooting, has emerged as a leader in the students’ fight to make assault rifles harder to come by. Gonzalez, who wears her hair in a buzz cut, refers to herself as a Cuban bisexual. She’s been attacked and vilified by the likes of Maine Republican Leslie Gibson, a lifelong NRA member. He recently took to Twitter to call Gonzalez a “skinhead lesbian” and denounced her as a “bald faced liar.” Since Gibson’s tweet, Democrat Eryn Gilchrist decided to challenge him as the only candidate for the seat, filing her candidacy just before the deadline. Gilchrist has already garnered an enthusiastic backing from Maine’s Democratic Party. And Gibson quickly withdrew from the race
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MARCH 23, 2018 • 07
A Gays Against Guns die-in protest on a sidewalk in Los Angeles in August 2016. Photo Courtesy Gays Against Guns Los Angeles
in humiliation. Student journalist and Parkland High activist, David Hogg, spoke on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” about the death threats and right-wing conspiracy theorists (many of whom are assumed NRA members) accusing him of being a “crisis actor.” “The only time you’re ever [doing] anything that actually matters is when people try stopping you. And that’s what’s going on here,” Hogg said. The latest push has six Stoneman Douglas High students, all survivors of the shooting, release a video on March 16, lending their voices to the #noNRAmoney campaign, which calls on elected officials and candidates to take a pledge to refuse all donations, endorsements, and support from the National Rifle Association and to pursue common-sense gun legislation. In the video,
the students ask their fellow students across the country to take part in the campaign. Marino-Thomas says it’s important to remember that this is a generation of kids who have been doing lockdown drills since kindergarten. “I think it’s pretty fair to say that have literally done this since they walked into a school classroom and the idea that all those drills all those years didn’t really help them I think drove them into the spotlight,” Marino-Thomas says. From school walkouts, leading to nearly a million kids protesting across the country on March 14, to protests on Capitol Hill with a display of 7,000 pairs of shoes honoring all the children killed in America by gun violence, and a looming midterm election year with voting age students primed for change, the momentum for gun control
might prove difficult to tamp down. “After watching the gun control debate in congress stagnate for years (due in large part to politicians in the pocket of the NRA), it’s been beyond inspiring in this past month to watch student activists across the country cut through the gridlock and demand real legislative action. These kids know their own lives are on the line, and they’re singularly focused on creating significant change. It’s powerful to watch their leadership,” Kolbeins says. He adds, “We’ve also been inspired by the Gays Against Guns activists from New York and around the country who have brought this fight to politicians’ door steps in Washington D.C. and elsewhere, staging die-ins, getting arrested, and employing direct action tactics that hearken back to the time of ACT UP. The gun control movement has never felt more urgent
and we are not backing down… When the LGBTQ+ community rises and raises our voices in protest, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish,” Kolbeins says. The official organizers of the march in Los Angeles have said: “On March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Los Angeles to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today. March in Los Angeles or march in your own community. On March 24, the collective voices of the March For Our Lives movement will be heard. In Los Angeles, the march begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 24, at 603 S. Spring St. in Los Angeles. For more information on the March For Our Lives protest in downtown Los Angeles, search eventbright.com listings.
08 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Family Equality Council’s Impact Awards focus on visibility Designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent honored By AUSTIN MENDOZA The importance of visibility and vulnerability dominated the 2018 Family Equality Council’s Impact Awards Gala on March 17, at Universal Studio’s Globe Theatre. This year’s ceremony honored interior designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, stars of the TLC show “Nate and Jeremiah by Design” and Johnson & Johnson’s Care with Pride Initiative, now in its seventh year. “It’s more important than ever that we celebrate those who use their platform to advocate for our right to form our families, and protect our children from discrimination. Loving families like Nate and Jeremiah’s and high impact programs like Care for Pride are exactly what we need to remind our country that love wins and to remind America what real family values look like,” Family Equality Council CEO Stan J. Sloan told the Los Angeles Blade. Brent told the Los Angeles Blade that he and Berkus “believe in opening up the doors and letting people know that we love the way you love…everything about us is the same, and as cliché as the saying is, love is love.” The couple didn’t set out to be role models when creating their show, he added, but simply wanted to “be honest and vulnerable” and to expose young LGBTQ viewers to a gay couple on television. “Call Me By Your Name” actor Armie Hammer presented the couple with the Murray-Reese Family Award, describing them as having “a perfect house…and a perfect life,” adding, “there’s not a better couple in the world to receive this award.” Berkus and Brent were repeatedly interrupted with rousing applause accepting the honor. “Both of us have always believed that visibility and vulnerability are the birthplaces of real transformation,” said Brent. They lamented that LGBTQ history has been dominated by a societal expectation of shame, and shared that in their show, “through the exercise of design, we break down barriers and normalize the way our family exists to people in the middle of the country who may not know a family with two dads at the heart and at the helm,” said Berkus. Visibly emotional, Brent ended the speech
Jeremiah Brent, Nate Berkus, Armie Hammer at Family Equality Council’s Impact Awards Gala March 17, 2018 at Universal Studio’s Globe Theatre. Photo by Getty Images for Family Equality Council
by mentioning the couple’s young daughter, Poppy, and telling her, “This room is full of people that care.” Actress/singer Olivia Holt introduced the Johnson & Johnson honoree, saying the Care with Pride Initiative celebrates the LGBTQ community through social media, participation in Pride events and by donating $1 to an LGBTQ advocacy organization for every photo shared through their Create a Photo app. “A brand that stands for something is two times as powerful as one that doesn’t,” said Reed Harris II, accepting the award on behalf of the organization. He also shared an anecdote about an employee’s son coming out and thanked the parents in attendance for allowing their children to be vulnerable and unconditionally loved. “The qualities you embody as a family—love, acceptance, pride, togetherness—are qualities that we all need to embody as individuals and as a country,” Harris said. Event emcee actor/comedian Alec Mapa told The LA Blade that he is dismayed
that “cruel, hateful laws” negatively affect families with LGBTQ parents like his own. He praised the Family Equality Council’s work in providing information and resources to those families who don’t have it. “Love is love is love, and love is what makes a family—it doesn’t matter if it’s by blood, by adoption, gay or straight or lesbian,” actress Constance Marie said, adding that she has imparted this value of acceptance to her young daughter. “Queer Eye” actor Karamo Brown gave a call to action in his speech, imploring that “if [Parkland student gun control advocates] can rise up and work fearlessly in the face of that terrible moment, then we have no excuse not to rise up in this moment and work just as fearlessly for a better tomorrow, too.” Lola Jessika, in perhaps the most emotionally charged speech of the gala, shared how she used her opportunity appearing in Uber’s annual Pride commercial to be vulnerable and come out as pansexual to her family. “Embracing our
vulnerability can be risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love, belonging, and joy,” she said, inviting her daughters to join her onstage as she received a standing ovation from the audience. In his remarks, Sloan talked about Family Equality Council’s work to fight Attorney General Jeff Sessions and discriminatory state laws that are preventing 117,000 youth currently waiting for families from being adopted by LGBTQ parents. Galvanized, the crowd donated over $378,000 to support Family Equality Council’s work for LGBTQ youth seeking families, research, advocacy, and offsetting the cost of adoption for lower income LGBTQ parents, among other initiatives. To end the night, singer Debby Holiday performed “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” a song co-written by her father Jimmy Holiday for Jackie DeShannon in 1968. The song aptly represented Family Equality Council’s message: “If you want the world to know that we won’t let hatred show, put a little love in your heart.”
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MARCH 23, 2018 • 09
California Sen. Toni Atkins makes history — again Lesbian official sworn in as Senate President Pro Tem By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com At this critical moment in America democracy, the California Senate seems progressively prescient in picking a down-toearth woman, a married lesbian who has fought her way up from Appalachian poverty, to serve as their President Pro Tem. At 2:14 p.m. on March 21, in an historic ceremony in the State Capitol, Senate Republicans and Democrats shattered glass ceilings and unanimously voted to hand San Diego Sen. Toni Atkins the gavel of power as the first woman, the first LGBT individual, and the first person to lead both the Senate and the Assembly since 1871. The moment should be a universally Pinned Tweet. The often politically divisive legislators effusively praised Atkins’ authenticity, genuine consideration for others, and her willingness to listen. But gay San Francisco Sen. Scott Wiener noted, don’t mistake Atkins’ kindness for weakness. “She’s pretty damn tough,” he said, “but she has never forgotten where she comes from, ever.” Atkins’ childhood was spent in the poverty of Appalachia with no running water. Perhaps the most surprising comments came from Senate Republican Leader Pat Bates of Laguna Niguel who revealed that about 48 hours after the Democratic Caucus selected Atkins as their successor to Sen. Kevin de León, Atkins reached out to Bates. Atkins said she looked forward to the opportunity to sit down with the Republican leader and hear “what you think we need” to move forward on issues such as homelessness, substance abuse and addiction. “We’re going to disagree,” Bates said, but we “want our paths to merge at some point.” The nationally divisive Trump elephant balloon bouncing in the background of some observers’ minds had been pierced, expelling the hot, hateful rhetoric into an imperceptible wheeze. Instead, Bates said she and Atkins talked about political partnership. “You will have my ear,” Atkins told Bates. “We were all sent up here to find solutions,” said Bates. The chamber applauded. Ironically, around the same time Bates was talking about possible of bipartisanship, former Republican Gov. Arnold
Toni Atkins sworn in by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, as wife Jennifer LeSar, Sen. Kevin de Leon and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom look on, March 21 in Sacramento. Photo Courtesy Atkins
Schwarzenegger and Ohio Gov. John Kasich were in Los Angeles at a forum organized by a new group intent on shaping the California GOP. As of Jan. 2, 2018, Republican voter registration in California is 25.4%, on par with No Party Preference at 25%. New Way California is the brainchild of conservative Republican lawmaker Chad Mayes, “who was ousted as the party’s Assembly leader after he worked with Democrats on climate change legislation,” the AP reports. Inside the Capitol, Atkins, 55, was talking about change, as well—changing the culture so the inequality of “the good old days” is no longer the norm. “The future is now,” said Atkins. “Diversity is our destiny. Inclusion—a reflection of our character. But it’s not just about who we are—it’s about what we can do—together.” But Atkins said she’s not interested in happy rhetoric. “I’ll be happy when we get results,” she said. “And I’m willing to work with anyone willing to shake off the shackles of zero-sum thinking and put some big ideas on the table for the people of California.” And that means an end to petty intraparty bickering. “If you think I might not care enough about the historical rivalry which
separates the Senate from the Assembly,” Atkins said, “you’re right, I don’t care at all about the old fights and frictions.” Never has a scolding about duty sounded so compassionate and conciliatory as Atkins tackled the “hard truths” about the workplace sexual harassment allegations roiling Sacramento, resulting in the resignations of three lawmakers, so far. “Great policymaking doesn’t exempt policymakers from personal responsibility,” the new Senate leader said. “True culture change—holding ourselves to a higher standard—requires the active, every day, enlightened participation of every person who works in and around this Capitol,” said Atkins, adding: “I pledge to you, that will be our mission and our mandate.” Atkins insisted that everyone be treated with respect, noting that while they have their differences, “we have more in common.” And, she said the legislators will succeed “or we fail together.” “As the Chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, I speak on behalf of our entire caucus in saying that we cannot wait to see all that she does to improve the lives of all those in our state who, like her, have lived
their lives with the odds stacked against them,” out Assembly member Evan Low told the Los Angeles Blade. “There are young girls and LGBTQ children across California — and back in Appalachia — who will see the news out of Sacramento today and know that their futures are a whole lot brighter because of the trails Toni has blazed,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “Toni’s understand of the challenges that are faced by women, whether it’s in the home, raising a family in poverty, in the workplace taking on sexual harassment—she is a true fighter and ally and a believer in women’s equality,” Atkins’ mentor, out former State Sen. Chris Kehoe told the LA Blade. “The women of the Legislature, the men of the Legislature, the women of the third house, could not have a stronger ally. She will fight to make this happen. But she’ll fight it in a Toni Atkins way. She’ll reach out to people. She will listen. She will build consensus. She’ll find common issues and she’ll move it forward—but she will make change.” Read more about Atkins not missing the “Anita Hill moment” in my interview with her on the Los Angeles Blade website.
10 • MARCH 23, 2018
Christopher Wylie Photo via UK Channel 4 News/YouTube
Gay whistleblower emerges; Nixon for guv and more
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Christopher Wylie—the 28-year-old Canadian vegan whistleblower who gave Donald Trump’s lawyers a new headache—is gay. Wylie is the source behind the explosive revelation about how Cambridge Analytica’s data mining scheme targeted 50 million unsuspecting potential voters on Facebook with personalized political advertising. The Trump connection runs through Steve Bannon, then editor of Breitbart News, who became a senior Trump campaign and administration adviser. Bannon learned about SCL Group’s work using psychological information in cyber warfare during international elections and brought the idea to hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, who helped bankroll SCL Group’s subsidiary Cambridge Analytica, according to London-based The Observer. The Observer reporter Carole Cadwalladr describes Wylie as: “Clever, funny, bitchy, profound, intellectually ravenous, compelling. A master storyteller. A politicker. A data science nerd.” Additionally, Wylie claims he ended up creating “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindf--k tool.” “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s proﬁles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on,” Wylie said, who left Cambridge Analytica in 2014. He told Facebook about the misuse of their account information in 2016. The revelations prompted Facebook’s market value to drop $35 billion after Mark Zuckerberg was publicly accused of doing little to protect users’ privacy and doing nothing to get back or destroy the misused data. In a statement, Facebook said: “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of what we do, and we require the same from people who operate apps on Facebook.” – Karen Ocamb
“I love New York, and today I’m announcing my candidacy for governor.” —Bisexual actress Cynthia Nixon announcing on Twitter March 19 that she’s running for governor of New York.
“My nightly skin routine is pretty easy. Use a gentle cleanser, hydrating serum, check to make sure Stormy Daniels is raising enough money for her legal fees, and a night cream for glowing skin in the morning!” – Olympic ﬁgure skater Adam Rippon on Twitter March 19.
“My offer of employment to Mr. McCabe is a legitimate offer to work on election security.”
— Gay Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan on his job offer to deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who was ﬁred by Attorney General Jeff Sessions 26 hours before McCabe’s retirement, thereby denying McCabe his pension.
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12 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Gun reform would be a ‘miracle’ in this Congress As marchers prepare to protest violence, advocates anticipate midterms By CHRIS JOHNSON A new energy has emerged around gun control efforts amid preparations for the March For Our Lives in Washington, but observers have low expectations for that translating into meaningful action from Congress in the short term. Mark Glaze, a D.C.-based consultant and co-founder of Guns Down, said the energy instead should be directed toward getting voters to the polls in the mid-term elections to create a more favorable climate in Congress for gun control. “In the short term, if Congress produces anything, that will be a miracle,” Glaze said. “But the bottom line is for real change to happen, we need to elect a pro-gun safety majority to Congress and the state legislatures. For me, all of this activity has to build to real change in November. That’s the bottom line.” Gun control advocates have clear demands: They include an expansion of background checks to gun sales online, through private sellers and at gun shows; a ban on semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines; and extreme risk laws that allow individuals to petition courts to bar someone from obtaining firearms if they’re deemed a risk to themselves or others. Media reports on Wednesday suggested Congress was prepared to enact a modest form of gun control as part of an omnibus spending bill. According to The Hill newspaper, the package will include the bipartisan Fix NICS Act, which would encourage states to report more frequently to the current criminal database. The omnibus bill is also set to include funds for a House-passed school measure aimed at spotting signs of potential gun violence and enhancing school security. Chris Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday the omnibus measure falls short of any real action on gun reform. “Candidly, from Brady’s perspective, that does not go far enough,” Brown said.
Gun control advocates have low expectations for immediate change but are hoping to elect a pro-safety Congress. Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers
“We have gaps that are material in the background check system. Simply providing money to states and federal agencies to put names into the system that they’re already required to put in, while a step, is a tiny big step forward.” Citing polls that show 97 percent of Americans favor enhanced background checks, Brown said those people “are looking for closing the gaps in that system.” “That means closing the private sale loophole that allows people to buy guns without a background check over the internet, and it means closing the gun sale loophole, and it also means making sure that people can’t buy a gun if a background check hasn’t come back in 72 hours, as the shooter did in Charleston,” Brown added. Asked by the Washington Blade what is possible in the near term as the march takes place, Brown said “meaningful legislation” exists in Congress and is growing in support, but the real focus for the momentum is after the election. “And if we don’t get that changed, to be clear, from Brady’s perspective, if we do not get that change legislatively now, that will be our absolute priority to help educate and register voters nationwide, and they will vote on this issue, we are confident, if we give them the right information, come November,” Brown said. “So if we don’t get the change away, we will make this a top priority issue in the mid-terms...consistent with what the American people want.” An estimated 500,000 to 750,000 attendees
are expected to descend on Washington for the March For Our Lives. The emphasis of the march is safety from gun violence in schools in the aftermath of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead. Just this week, another shooting took place at a high school in Maryland in which two people were wounded and the teenage shooter killed. The tragedy at Parkland has captured media attention and galvanized the gun reform debate in ways the mass shooting that most directly impacted LGBT people, the 2016 tragedy at Pulse nightclub that killed 49 people and wounded 58 others, hasn’t been able to achieve. Subsequent shootings at a country music concert in Las Vegas with a death tally of 58 and at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that killed 26 also didn’t have the same impact. Glaze attributes the newfound energy after the Parkland massacre to the “Chinese water torture” of recurring mass shootings that have led the dam to break. “When you have catastrophic mass shooting after catastrophic mass shooting in a short timeframe, at some point, something snaps and people start to take control of their own safety,” Glaze said. “There have been more than a dozen school shootings just in 2018 and at some point, people just say enough.” The fact that victims of the Parkland shooting were from a relatively affluent white neighborhood has prompted questions about racial influence on the gun debate.
On Monday, the National LGBTQ Task Force unveiled a report underscoring gun violence primarily affects victims in racial minority communities. The report calls for policies such as repeal of “Stand Your Ground” laws and challenging police violence through demilitarization, but also criticizes linking gun violence to mental health problems on the basis that it stigmatizes those with mental health issues. Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán, a senior policy counsel at the Task Force and the lead author of the report, said in a statement the organization wants to focus on “lifting up Black and brown voices in the gun violence debate because they are routinely ignored by policy makers and are at far greater risk by the nation’s current gun policies than white America.” “Gun violence is an LGBTQ issue, we are more likely than our non-LGBTQ peers to be the target of gun violence — all too often the victims of hate or at the abusive hands of law enforcement,” Rodríguez-Roldán said. Glaze acknowledged “a racial component” to the gun debate, which is why he said proponents of gun control should be mindful of having diverse voices in their approach. “That’s something that we in the movement have worked hard to address,” Glaze said. “The reality of gun violence in America is that most of the gun violence in this country happens everyday in shootings across the country that don’t make the headlines, and it is primarily focused on black and brown communities that need a louder voice.”
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• 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.
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14 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Pulse survivors to join March For Our Lives ‘Fighting alongside these teens to take our country back’ By MICHAEL K. LAVERS firstname.lastname@example.org Survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre are among the hundreds of thousands of people who are expected to take part in Saturday’s “March For Our Lives” for gun control in D.C. Brandon Wolf, vice president of the Dru Project, a gun control advocacy group, and José Delgado, who also survived the massacre, are expected to march with a contingent from the Human Rights Campaign. Wolf was with Christopher “Drew” Leinonen and his partner, Juan Guerrero, when a gunman opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016. “Saturday’s march is a celebration of the power and impact of the survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” Wolf told the Blade on Wednesday. “It’s a memorial for 17 lives lost on Feb. 14, and it’s an awakening of the American electorate.” “I am thrilled to be fighting alongside these teens to take our country back from the scourge of gun violence and the gun lobby,” he added. Leinonen and Guerrero were among the 49 people who were killed in what was then the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Nearly half of the massacre’s victims were LGBT people from Puerto Rico, which Hurricane Maria ravaged on Sept. 20, 2017. A gunman less than two weeks later killed 58 people and injured more than 500 others when he opened fire during a country music festival in Las Vegas. Leinonen’s mother, Christine Leinonen, founded the Dru Project in honor of her son. She is expected to lead the HRC contingent that will take part in the “March for Our Lives.” HRC’s annual Lobby Day and Equality Conference will be taking place this week in D.C. Christine Leinonen, Wolf and Delgado are among those who are scheduled to speak at the events. The “March For Our Lives” will take place less than five weeks after a gunman killed 17 people inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Christine Leinonen, mother of Christopher ‘Drew’ Leinonen, one of the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre, speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016. She is among those who will be taking part in the ‘March For Our Lives’ in D.C. on March 24. Blade file photo by Michael Key
Rick Scott visits a makeshift memorial to the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla., on June 14, 2016. He faced widespread criticism over his failure to publicly acknowledge the massacre’s LGBT victims. Blade file photo by Kevin Naff
A student at Great Mills High School in Great Mills, Md., on Tuesday shot two students before a school resource officer fatally wounded him. The trial of Noor Salman — the widow of the gunman who opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub who allegedly helped her husband plan the massacre and misled officials who were investigating it — began last week in a federal courthouse in downtown Orlando that is roughly two miles from the nightclub. Students across the country on March 14
walked out of class to protest gun violence. Ricardo Negron-Almodovar is the director of Proyecto Somos Orlando, a Hispanic Federation program that provides resources to LGBT Latinos in Central Florida. NegronAlmodovar, who is originally from Puerto Rico, survived the Pulse nightclub massacre when he and a woman ran out of the building. Negron-Almodovar, who is also planning to take part in the “March For Our Lives,” on Tuesday told the Blade he “had hoped for the adoption of common sense policies and
changes — both from the government and from people in general — that would make individuals less inclined toward acquiring and using the type of weapon used in the shooting.” “Survivors, elected officials and other sectors came together asking, begging for these changes to be enacted,” he noted. “It didn’t happen.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott and state Attorney General Pam Bondi faced widespread criticism after the Pulse nightclub massacre over their reluctance to publicly acknowledge its LGBT victims. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sparked outrage among LGBT activists when he announced his re-election campaign less than two weeks after the massacre. The Florida Republican in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas massacre has faced renewed criticism over his position on gun control. Scott on March 9 signed into law a $400 million bill that, among other things, raises the minimum age to buy a gun in Florida from 18 to 21 and bans the sale of bump stocks. The law also creates a program that would allow teachers and other school employees to be armed. Wolf and other survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre have met with Stoneman Douglas students who lobbied Florida lawmakers to pass a gun control bill. Equality Florida on March 10 honored Emma González — the openly bisexual president of Stoneman Douglas’ Gay-Straight Alliance who is among the organizers of the “March For Our Lives” — at its annual Miami gala. The National Rifle Association filed a federal lawsuit against the law that Scott signed the day before Equality Florida honored González. “After Vegas, Parkland and most recently Maryland, we have to force those in the position to make decisions to see that the majority of the people they serve want to feel safe and want change now,” Negron-Almodovar told the Blade. “This is why on Saturday we march.” Wolf echoed this message. “To be a survivor means to be a warrior,” he told the Blade. “It also means to be part of a family you never knew you had.” Wolf added “survivors of tragedies like Pulse and Las Vegas are rallying around the Parkland students because we are family now.” “Our mission will be to empower them, protect them and amplify their message,” he told the Blade.
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16 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 02 ISSUE 06
I survived Pulse and am ready to March For Our Lives Parkland students need our help to defeat NRA By BRANDON WOLF It has been nearly two years since the worst night of my life. On June 12, 2016, a gunman entered Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, just a few yards from the bathroom where I stood, and opened fire. What at first sounded like a music malfunction turned out to be gunshots. Armed with an assault rifle and countless rounds of ammunition, the shooter killed 49 people, including my best friends, Drew Leinonen and Juan Guerrero. For the past 20 months, I have committed myself to saving this country from gun violence. At first, my involvement felt like a coincidence. I instantly became an unwitting voice for other survivors and victims of mass shootings across America. But as the weeks went on, my voice and message steadied. I railed angrily on a broken political system that would cast aside mass violence as a pop culture phenomenon. I called out lawmakers that leveraged Orlando’s pain to get a leg up on the campaign competition. And I begged for legislation that would stop these things from happening again. I felt an obligation, a responsibility to keep those 49 Pulse victims from dying in vain. I felt challenged to ensure that Drew’s voice didn’t die on the dance floor with him. That’s why the news of a shooting in Parkland, Fla., felt like a gut punch. In one instant, all the pain and trauma of Pulse came flooding back and I wondered if I had failed those students. I considered the hours spent fighting for change and wondered if it had all been in vain. I wondered if I had let Drew down once again. Then a miraculous thing happened: the survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School opened my eyes. The first time I met these students, I was saddled with my sense of failure and regret. I stood with
It’s been nearly two years since the massacre at Pulse in Orlando. Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers
half a dozen of them and tried to think of words of encouragement to share. But I was speechless. How could I possibly have anything to share when, after 18 months of work, I had come up empty? How could I look them in the eyes when I had failed them, just like so many others before me? And just when my silence turned to discomfort, that incredible group of students locked themselves in a hug around me and told me that things would be alright. That is why March For Our Lives is so important. And it’s the reason I will be in Washington, D.C. marching alongside the incredible students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas. They have gathered around the people of this country, wrapped in a big group hug, and reminded us that the future is still bright. In one month, these teenagers have taken on one of the most polarizing issues in our nation’s history, amassed a social media army, and threatened the very
existence of the gun lobby that currently cripples our political system. But they cannot win this battle alone. Where I once grappled with grief and regret, I am now filled with hope and determination. When this new community of survivors takes to the streets to demand justice, we must all be there to lift them up, clear their path, and protect them from the pitfalls ahead. The LGBTQ community has seen more than its share of horror and pain. All too often, we are the targets of violence and hatred. But what the Pulse shooting taught me is that we are not victims, we are warriors. And just like so often before, it is our duty to take to the front lines of progress and fight for the change this country deserves; this time with new allies by our side. See you on March 24 when we March For Our Lives. Brandon Wolf is vice president of TheDruProject. Reach him via thedruproject.org.
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MARCH 23, 2018 • 17
Guns are an LGBTQ issue Equality California advocates for tougher laws
Valerie Ploumpis is Equality California’s National Policy Director based in Washington, D.C.
The nation’s political calculation on guns may have begun shifting—finally—when students across the country streamed out of classes like algebra and English II for the student-led National Walkout Day on March 14. Galvanized by the murders of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, students from Parkland, Fla., to Livingston, Mt., from New York to California formed human peace signs on football fields, knelt in school hallways, and carried handmade posters demanding that Congress take action to stop mass shootings. Millions watched approvingly, thrilled by the image of young people denouncing the National Rifle Association’s stranglehold on lawmakers and
demanding that our elected leaders act on an issue that has paralyzed them for decades. This was hardly the first time our nation’s young people demonstrated greater moral clarity than adults in positions of power. In October 1963, more than 200,000 students staged a boycott of Chicago’s then-segregated public schools. Sixty years earlier, hundreds of young textile workers marched from Philadelphia to President Teddy Roosevelt’s home in New York to demand child labor laws. And every year since 1996, LGBTQ students and their allies across the country have spread awareness about the effects of bullying and harassment through GLSEN’s Day of Silence. First, the obvious: United States gun deaths from accident, suicide and murder far outnumber those in the rest of the world. The clear solution—controlling gun ownership and banning civilian ownership of military-style weapons—has reduced gun violence in every country that has enacted such laws. Polls have repeatedly shown that the American public, including gun owners, supports commonsense gun restrictions. But the political might of the NRA has thus far stymied serious, lasting compromise. Chief among the recipients of NRA campaign donations is President Trump, who opined after the Florida shootings that a teacher with a gun “would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what had happened.”
Armed teachers, he mused, should be paid “a little bit of a bonus.” To be clear, arming teachers—as Emma Gonzalez, the student leader who survived the Stoneman Douglas shooting, said on “60 Minutes” — is a “stupid” idea. Equality California has long spoken out in support of commonsense gun restrictions, but our advocacy became full-throated in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, which took the lives of 49 people— most of them young, queer and Latino. California now has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. As of Jan. 1, 2018, residents are no longer able to purchase an assault rifle— defined as any semi-automatic, centerfire rifle or semi-automatic pistol that lacks a fixed magazine and has one of a number of features that include a protruding pistol grip or a folding or telescoping stock. All such rifles must be registered with the California Department of Justice by June 30, 2018. Two pending cases in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will determine whether Californians who own detachable magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition can keep them. California also has some of the strictest ammunition-related laws in the country. As of January 1, 2018, it is illegal to import into California ammunition purchased in another state. Californians can purchase ammunition online but only if it is first shipped to a licensed vendor, rather than
a home address. Background checks to buy ammunition will start in July 2019, and buyers must pay a $1 state fee for a background check at the point of sale. A complicated tangle of social factors— anti-LGBTQ violence, hate crimes and significantly higher levels of poverty, homelessness, drug use, depression and suicidal ideation—too often puts LGBTQ people into proximity with guns. According to the Trevor Project, lesbian, bisexual and gay youth are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide than straight youth. And 40% of transgender adults said they have attempted suicide, of whom 92% said they had tried before the age of 25. Our community and society will be safer when there are fewer guns in circulation. As Rep. Mark Takano, a former classroom teacher and gay congressman representing Riverside County, pointed out, “California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation…but without a federal assault weapons ban, which expired eight years ago, there are loopholes that make it relatively easy to obtain military style assault weapons in spite of strong state gun control laws.” Equality California agrees. A national crisis like gun violence can only be solved with national solutions. That’s why we’ll be out in force at the “March for Our Lives” in solidarity with the youth who are our nation’s last best hope.
18 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Young, gay, black and very political The activation of an already activated generation
Darryn Harris is a political strategist and the founding president of Black Los Angeles Young Democrats. Find Sea Change on Facebook.
Earlier this month, I spent time with my mother and my aunt. Since they are both in their 70s, we usually eat a tasty meal, enjoy a beverage, and talk A LOT, including about politics. It has only been a little over a year since then-Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump clinched the election over front-runner Hillary Clinton yet, with this roller coaster of an administration, it feels like it’s been a lifetime. Mom and Auntie wanted to know, “Darryn, what in the world is going on in Washington?” I found myself at a loss to explain. As a younger voter, I have never experienced so much overt racism, sexism, homophobia, underlying prejudice and hate coming from the White House. One thing is for sure: this is not normal! I told my
family and friends that instead of focusing on the White House turmoil, I keep sane by paying attention to all of the positivity and organizing taking place across our nation. The day after the inauguration, people on every continent participated in the Women’s March, advocating for legislation and policies defending and improving protection for human rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, racial equality, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the natural environment, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights. Last summer, my friends and I replaced our LA Pride swag with protest banners, and participated in LA’s Resist March. To us it wasn’t just about identifying as a member of the LGBTQ community, but celebrating that all Americans and dreamers are more powerful when we unify our unique, diverse, and intersectional voices. Ironically, Nonetheless, for an administration that appears to thrive on division, it is definitely bringing many of us together! Growing up, my parents played Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Newsflash! From the Women’s March to Black Lives Matter and everywhere in between—this revolution is indeed being televised, streamed and going viral! Recently, thousands of students across the U.S. participated in the National School Walkout in protest against gun violence after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And instead of advocating for change in
our separate silos, as we have done for decades, today’s movement highlights the intersectionality of power. It is important to remember that impeachment starts in the House of Representatives, now controlled by a Republican majority. So Democrats need to win a House majority in November 2018 before any consideration of misconduct could begin. Personally, I am using my spare time volunteering with Congressmember Karen Bass’ Leadership PAC, Sea Change, which is supporting the resistance movement and training and mobilizing an army of volunteers in Southern California to do strategic voter education, engagement, and registration by knocking on doors and phone banking to take back the House. That way, we have a better chance of fighting Trump’s policies, which are rolling back decades of social progress and ripping away protections for people, including LGBTQ folks, and leading to devastating funding cuts in public education, healthcare, environmental protections, and services for low-income Americans. Trump is undermining the ability of our government to function with his evershifting cabinet of unqualified billionaires, his willingness to ignore Congressional mandates and laws, and his focus on loyalty to him personally over loyalty to the nation—otherwise known as patriotism. He is also threatening America’s ability to play a leading role in the world, with his disregard
of long-standing treaties and agreements, his ignorance of other countries, and a foreign policy that appears bent on driving us toward war. I know that my work at Sea Change is not in vain. We are standing up for the rule of law, and for immigrants, women’s rights, working families, children, and basic human rights at home and abroad. And as a volunteer in the resistance, I am participating in a transformation, a national awakening. With results! Democrat Doug Jones won a Senate upset in Alabama and Danica Roem defeated an anti-LGBTQ incumbent to become the first openly transgender state legislator in Virginia. Even here at home in California, activism has led two sitting members of Congress to announce their departures: Darrell Issa and Ed Royce. Since We, the People, have begun to understand our power, progressives are now winning at state and local levels all over this country. Most importantly, we are winning in areas that have been labeled as “conservative” and unwinnable. The latest was Democratic House candidate Conor Lamb’s victory over Trump’s choice in a reliably Republican seat— a district that Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016. So when Mom and Auntie want to know what’s going on, I tell them the world is changing, and sometimes that means a lot of crazy for a while. As a gay man, though, I am just overwhelmed with pride. And I am encouraged to fight on! Join me!
The lost art of safer-sex messaging In-your-face posters, video assembled by ONE Archives Foundation By ROB WILLIAMS
“Lost & Found: Safer Sex Activism,” on display now through June 24 at West Hollywood’s One Gallery, is a provocative exhibit of safer sex media from the 1980s and 1990, examining 30 years of safer sex messaging represented through in-your-face posters, installations and video assembled by the ONE Archives Foundation. The objects show how activists, artists and health professionals tried to creatively communicate safer sex practices in a sex-positive fashion during the peak of the AIDS epidemic. As you enter the gallery, a freestanding acrylic box containing thousands of used needles collected by Clean Needles Now pricks the observer and sets the tone of the small but forceful exhibition. A few feet away, visitors can watch an HIV-positive IV-drug user and prostitute discussing his preference to abstain from condom use, as he advocates for clean needle access, on 1990s archival footage of the APLA educational television show AIDS Vision. Works never before publicly presented
are included alongside some of the most iconic works of the AIDS crisis, such as Gran Fury’s Kissing Doesn’t Kill: Greed and Indifference Do. While some of the objects were produced for the mainstream public, others focus on specific ethnic and/or erotic communities. Many of the more explicit posters were intended for display in gay bars and bathhouses and use tongue-in-cheek expressions coupled with erotic images to communicate in a playful manner. “In opposition to moralizing rhetoric that stigmatized sexuality, safer sex activists sought to affirm sexual expression and pleasure while promoting knowledge about ways to protect oneself,” reads a gallery label. The exhibit purposely provokes viewers congruent to the intentions of the original messaging. A few feet deeper into the exhibit, finds a collection of PSA videos, including a safer sex tutorial showing a woman using a vibrator to masturbate and a condom being placed on an erect penis.
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A floor-to-ceiling, X-rated comic strip, originally published in the booklet Safer Sex Comix, is wallpapered to the back wall of the gallery. The comic booklet, produced by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, was later used as propaganda by Senator Jesse Helms in his campaign to withhold federal funding from AIDS education programs. “The comic books do not encourage and change [sic] any of the perverted behavior,” Helms said on the Senate floor. “I believe that if the American people saw these books, they would be on the verge of revolt.” Jennifer Gregg, executive director of the One Archives Foundation, said the purpose of the exhibit is to educate communities of color and the younger generation about the importance of safer sex activism. “Today the rates of infection in Los Angeles County are pretty dire — two in five black men, one in five Latino men, and one in 10 white men who sleep with men are infected,” Gregg said. “This exhibition is meant to educate the public about the lives
that we lost, but also the resources and knowledge that we have gained over the last couple of decades.” Located at 626 North Robertson Blvd. in the heart of West Hollywood, many visitors to the exhibit will enter as experts on the message being communicated — whether a contributor to the safer sex voice and/ or the intended recipient of its messaging, then and now. Without viewing the exhibit, each person can judge the impact of these works and safer sex messaging by how HIV and AIDS has affected them personally. But only by viewing the exhibit, can we understand the remarkable energy and creativity employed to communicate the consequences of sex without shaming it. Lost & Found is organized by the ONE Archives Foundation utilizing holdings from the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries, the largest LGBTQ archive in the world. It runs through June 24, 2018, with a second phase of the exhibit set to run in 2019.
Long before a pill could protect you, Safer-Sex posters were a hallmark of early AIDS activism and shaped a generations response. Images courtesy One Archives
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22 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
QUEERY 20 GAY QUESTIONS FOR JI STRANGEWAY
queery JI STRANGEWAY How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? I never came out because I never lied about my sexual orientation or pretended to like boys. Who’s your LGBT hero? Joan Jett. Although she never officially came out, she had the balls to live her life authentically and is a great role model for young women. What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? In-N-Out Burger. Describe your dream wedding. It would be in a disco.
Photo Courtesy Strangeway
By TROY MASTERS firstname.lastname@example.org
What makes Ji Strangeway stand out? She’s a world-changer. Throughout her life Ji’s world wasn’t big enough, so she changed it and created one that’s more inclusive of her reality. Born in Laos of Vietnamese heritage, Ji’s world first changed when she immigrated to Colorado where she grew up. When she discovered it wasn’t diverse enough, she moved to New York City. Currently she’s a film director, author and poet residing in Los Angeles. She’s also an idealist exemplified by her groundbreaking debut novel, Red as Blue. “I want to show teens that no matter how dark or how hard things are, or how invisible you feel, it’s always worth holding onto your highest ideal. You need that to save you and pull you through,” says Strangeway. Her cross-genre hybrid graphic novel is innovative. Ji’s progressive writing style combines prose/ screenplay/graphic novel illustrations in a post-punk lesbian love story. It’s about two teens finding hope and the transformational power of creativity in overcoming adversity in the 1980s. “The story of Red as Blue was huge for me to write because it covers so many things burning in my heart….the teenage angst I felt growing up gay in a toxic, violent, conservative, close-minded environment, facing racism, bullying and homophobia every day.” This allegorical Lord of the Flies meets LGBTQ Romeo and Juliet novel touches on many themes— the punk rock scene, life in the Reagan Era, school battle zones and high school shootings. “Unless you ran with the ‘Barbie-and-Ken crowd,’ you were invisible, excluded, not considered part of the American narrative. That permitted a lot of hatred and prejudice,” says Strangeway. “Anything pre-internet I consider the Dark Ages (1980s) according to my frame of reference— immigrant, Asian, gay and pretty hated-on all my life for those reasons. I journeyed to the Dark Ages to create two characters who find an impossible love—a kind of love in a world where nobody felt it was either right or possible. This journey is a way to reinvent the true ‘American Love Story.” “I want to show today’s generation, as well as future generations, that the transformational power of creativity is vital to overcoming adversity. And love is the answer—it is and always will be. “Red as Blue offers youth today a perspective, a frame of reference in gratitude for how far we have come today.”
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? The banning of circus animals and hunting of elephants. What historical outcome would you change? I would like high school shootings and gun violence to end. What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? When my gay brother invited me to a Beyoncé concert at the Rose Bowl. I realized what feminism meant in a living-breathing way when I saw who she really was, what she represented, how real she was, and how hard she works to deliver perfection in her performances. Beyoncé is one of the few role models in the celebrity world who shows that hard work pays off and that her success is not based on following the herd or entitlement. On what do you insist? Rice with Thai food. I am appalled when Asian restaurants don’t include rice with their entrees. They should be ashamed. Their mothers
would never feed them food without rice so why break such a sacred rule? That’s like eating spaghetti sauce without pasta! What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? A gif of a fuzzy cat doing Pilates better than I can. If your life were a book, what would the title be? “I am America” If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do? Assuming it’s for the worse, I’d make them eat spaghetti sauce without pasta. What do you believe in beyond the physical world? Freedom. What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? I’m apolitical. What would you walk across hot coals for? French fries. What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? That lesbians have no taste in music or fashion. What’s your favorite LGBT movie? “Nune” made by yours truly. What’s the most overrated social custom? Birthdays. Everybody celebrates the day they were born and getting older. I celebrate being timeless. What trophy or prize do you most covet? I’d like to get the Pulitzer Prize. What do you wish you’d known at 18? That I was actually beautiful. Why Los Angeles? Because it feels like home.
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24 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
‘Simon’ easy to love Gay teen rom-com is touching, clever By BRIAN T. CARNEY
Nick Robinson and Katherine Langford in ‘Love Simon.’ Photo by Ben Rothstein
In the opening moments of the heartwarming new gay rom-com “Love Simon,” the title character says, “I deserve a great love story and I want someone to share it with.” Thanks to director Greg Berlanti and his talented team, Simon gets a great love story and gets to share it with us. Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is a teenager living in the suburbs of Atlanta. He knows he’s gay, but he’s not ready to come out yet. He knows his family and friends will be supportive. The problem is internal; he’s just not ready to embrace that new image of himself. That’s a refreshing take on the familiar comingout story. Things start to change when Simon forms an online friendship with a fellow closeted classmate who calls himself “Blue.” Unfortunately, the search for his elusive electronic pen pal gets disrupted when their emails are discovered by another classmate who starts to blackmail Simon. Not surprisingly, everything ends well for Simon, but the journey to the sweet finale is agreeable and inventive. Robinson’s assured performance provides Simon with a goofy charm and a pleasant physicality. At his best, Simon is thoughtful, clever and affable. But being in the closet also brings out his worst traits. As his frustrated mother (Jennifer Garner) notes, he’s frequently been withdrawn and moody, and under the control of his blackmailer, he thoughtlessly manipulates his friends to help the blackmailer get the girl he wants. Berlanti, openly gay writer/director of the iconic gay movie “The Broken Hearts Club” and producer of several LGBTfriendly superhero shows currently running on the CW, directs the teen drama with a light and effective touch. His tight collaboration with cinematographer John Guleserian and composer Rob Simonson keeps things moving at a brisk pace that nicely balances the serious and the comic. Screenwriters Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker bring Becky Albertalli’s book to vivid cinematic life; Simon’s casual voiceovers are an especially effective touch. The supporting cast is strong and interesting, especially Garner and Josh Duhamel as Simon’s parents. Natasha Rothwell nearly steals the show as Ms. Albright, the frustrated director of the school’s dreadful production of “Cabaret.”
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The arrival of “Love, Simon,” as multitudes of commentators have already pointed out, is a groundbreaking moment for positive LGBT representation and presence in mainstream cinema. While it’s undoubtedly the highest-profile release to focus on young people coming out, it’s certainly not the first. To celebrate this new milestone for LGBT inclusion, we’ve put together a list of other landmark movies that have tackled the same theme. In the era of streaming media, all of them should be readily available on one or more platforms, so look at this as a chance to catch up on some important titles you may have want to revisit. In chronological order: “My Beautiful Laundrette” (1985, dir: Stephen Frears) – Not so much a coming-out movie, but a must-see classic offering a positive depiction of gay love amid oppressive surroundings. Omar (Gordon Warnecke) is a young Pakistani in London whose entrepreneur uncle gives him a job restoring a run-down laundry and turning it into a profitable business; he enlists the help of a white street-thug (Daniel Day-Lewis), who is looking for a better life, to help him with the task, and the two oddly matched young men find themselves falling in love as they face the challenge of building both a business and a sanctuary for themselves in a community embroiled with racism, cultural intolerance and corruption. Audiences, gay and straight alike, adored it – the superb early work by director Frears, who has gone on to create a long list of acclaimed films, and Day-Lewis, here at the start of his remarkable acting career, certainly helped win them over – and it became one of the most lauded films of the ‘80s, still counted as one of the decade’s finest. “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love” (1995, dir: Maria Maggenti) – A funny, tender, and refreshingly non-exploitative teen lesbian romance about a troubled tomboy (Laurel Holloman) and a pretty rich girl (Nicole Ari Parker) who find first love with each other – much to the dismay of family and friends. Concentrating more of its attention on the development of a relationship than the process of coming out, it drew praise for its realistic portrayal of non-stereotypical characters. After its Sundance debut it enjoyed relative commercial success – sufficient to boost the careers of its two stars, along with supporting player Dale Dickey – and won the GLAAD media award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release. “Beautiful Thing” (1996, dir: Hettie MacDonald) – Originally made for British television, this kitchen-sink “dramedy” proved so popular it was released theatrically. Following the story of two working-class London teens (Glenn Barry and Scott Neal) who fall for each other amid the drug-and-alcohol-fueled drama of their council estate community, it’s based on a play by Jonathan Harvey (who also penned the screenplay) and appears on numerous lists of “essential” LGBT films. Featuring a sweet ending and a fun, retro soundtrack of songs by The Mamas and the Papas. “Edge of Seventeen” (1998, dir: David Moreton) – Another early entry in the gay-teen-coming-of-age canon, set in the ‘80s and starring Chris Stafford as an Ohio high school boy whose summer flirtation with a college student (Andersen Gabrych) starts him on the path toward coming to terms with his sexuality. A favorite at Outfest and many other LGBT-themed film festivals on the circuit, it received a limited theatrical release and garnered acclaim from many mainstream critics as well – an all-too-rare accomplishment for the time. It also features Lea DeLaria in a supporting role. “Get Real” (1998, dir: Simon Shore) – Another British film, also based on a play, about a gay 16-year old (Ben Silverstone) living in a rural town where homosexuality is viewed as the ultimate taboo. While cruising local restrooms, he finds his school’s star athlete (Brad Gorton) doing the same thing, which leads to a tentative romance and forces both boys to grapple with the idea of coming out. “But I’m a Cheerleader” (1999, dir: Jamie Babbit) – Though not well-reviewed by mainstream critics upon release, this deliberately “trashy” satire found a friendlier reception from festival crowds and commentators in the LGBT media, and it has since become a fondly-remembered cult favorite. Starring Natasha Lyonne as a high schooler whose parents suspect her of being a lesbian and send her to a conversion camp, where instead of being “cured” she learns to embrace her sexuality and helps to lead a rebellion among the other campers. Cute and quirky as it may be, this comedy was also deeply subversive for its time, and fearless in its condemnation of religion-based intolerance and bigotry; it also features a colorful cast that includes Clea DuVall, Melanie Lynskey, Cathy Moriarty, Michelle Williams, Mink Stole, and RuPaul in a rare non-drag role. “Latter Days” (2003, dir: C. Jay Cox) – Another festival favorite that met with opposition from the mainstream press, this highly personal romance from writer-director Cox also faced controversy over its portrayal of a young Mormon missionary in Los Angeles (Steve Sandvoss) who falls in love with his openly gay neighbor (Wes Ramsey) and is subsequently excommunicated, shamed by his family, and sent to a mental hospital to be “cured” of his homosexuality after he attempts suicide. Bleak as it may sound, it’s actually a watershed moment for gay moviemaking in that it offers the kind of sappy, crowd-pleasing love story (and yes, there’s a happy ending) that straight audiences had been enjoying since the beginning of cinema. For that reason, it’s a movie with a lot of fans (attempts to ban it by religious groups, Mormon and otherwise, likely only increased its popularity), and can still elicit a smile and a tear today. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mary Kay Place, and Jacqueline Bisset add some star power to the supporting cast – but the two leads are endearing enough to carry the movie on their own. “Pariah” (2011, dir: Dee Rees) – Like “Moonlight,” this movie is a double landmark in that, in addition to its depiction of a teenager coming out, it also portrays that process from the perspective of a person of color. It deals with 17-yearold Alike (Adepero Oduye), whose growing awareness of her sexuality brings even more turmoil to her alreadyturbulent home life. Expanded by Rees from an earlier short film, it was praised for its authenticity and for Oduye’s powerful performance, in addition to the work of Charles Parnell and Kim Wayans as Alike’s parents.
Before we loved ‘Simon,’ other movies paved the way The definitive list of Hollywood’s best By JOHN PAUL KING
Director Maria Maggenti’s 1995 lesbian love flick, ‘The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love’ Photo Courtesy Fine Line Features
26 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Alan Cumming’s instincts are right TV’s most fascinating out and proud star in a leading role By SUSAN HORNIK
Alan Cumming stars in ‘Instinct.’ Photo Courtesy CBS-TV
I remember the first time I saw Scottish actor Alan Cumming onscreen; it was for the film, “Circle of Friends,” with Minnie Driver. There was something about his swagger that mysteriously drew you in...I knew then that he had the potential to make it in Hollywood. And that’s exactly what has happened — Cumming continues to fascinate audiences. It’s no wonder why the New York Times called him “a bawdy countercultural sprite” and Time magazine named him one of the most fun people in show business. A tireless champion for LGBT civil rights and HIV/AIDS, Cumming serves on the board of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and works with many charities, including amfAR, The Trevor Project and the Ali Forney Center. The veteran actor is breaking new ground with CBS’ new procedural drama, “Instinct.” Adapted from the book, “Murder Games,” by James Patterson, Cumming plays an author and university professor who wrote a book that is inspiring a serial killer. At the Television Critics Press Tour, Cumming talked about why he was drawn to play this role. “Well, really just that it’s such a sort of confounding character. There’s so many different layers to it. He’s sort of a fuddyduddy professor, a bit of a dandy. He is a kind of former spy. He drives a motorbike. He’s gay….I guess the challenge was to make them all into one sort of whole person.” About the significance of his character being gay, Cumming said: “I think this is an incredible thing and also a terrible thing at the same time. It definitely was another layer to the character that makes it interesting to play.” He continued: “But socially and politically, especially in the time that we find ourselves in America, where gay people are being persecuted again and their rights are being removed. And the president is actively condoning, by his silence, violence and persecution against the LGBT community...I think it’s all the more important that we should have a character with a healthy, successful same sex marriage on network screens.” “I really do applaud everyone at CBS and (production company) Secret Hideout for having the courage to put this on right now in an environment or a climate that you might think possibly might not be the best time to do that,” Cumming acknowledged. “But I think it’s actually the perfect time. It needs to be done, and I’m really proud to be a part of that.” Cumming brought a bit of his own personal life to the role. “In terms of my marriage on the show, I was very conscious. You know, I am married to a man, (in real life) so I brought that to the table. But also, I was very conscious of the fact that I think most times when we see gay characters on American television especially, their gayness is, like, the prime thing. And there’s also the gayness is somehow a problem.” He added: “And what I think is really refreshing about this and what I was definitely advocating was that there’s a successful relationship and very supportive of each other, and it’s also the fourth or fifth most interesting thing about the character.” While Cumming is 52, he is a Scottish badass, recently doing his own stunt. “What’s funny when you do these things is when you have a stuntman. I always say stunt people look like inflated versions of you, because they’re big, muscley guys. It’s like someone’s inflated them, like the Michelin Man,” he quipped. “So what’s so great in this is I have two stuntmen—a motorbike stunt double and a punching stunt double. And my punching one looks really like my body type. He’s not all built. He looks kind of like me, except he’s 30 years younger than I am. It’s a very, very affirming thing to go in and see that a person 30 years younger than you is trying to be you!” Cumming enthused. And also, the other good thing is there’s a scene where I have to sort of bring down a serial killer. And they were all going,‘Oh, Alan, so the stuntman is going to do this.’ And they said, ‘Well, would you like to try once just to see if you can do it? We can use as much as we can of your face.’ I said, ‘All right.’ So I did it, and you know, I’m quite fit. And I did it and brought the man down. And all the crew clapped!” And I was, like,‘Are you clapping because I’m old, or am I’m butcher than you thought?! What’s going on here?!’ he joked. “I really like doing those things because it’s a bit out of my normal thing. But also, the fact is, the older I get, the more I enjoy doing whoopass kinds of things.” Gay television critic John Griffiths is excited about Cumming’s new series. “He was terrific as Eli on ‘The Good Wife,’ and now he gets to show his elegantly charming side as a not-too-twee crime-solver in the cozy tradition of entertaining whodunnits like ‘Barnaby Jones’ and ‘Cannon,’ etc. Just hope the scripts don’t go get bogged down in serial killer stuff — Cumming is too classy to be saddled with gruesome and silly plots.”
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28 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
CALENDAR 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.
Equality California Institute presents the third annual Fair Share for Equality convening, Wednesday, February 1, 2017. Image Courtesy EQCA
Sixth Annual Off-Sunset Festival, Sun. Mar. 25 @ 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM at Los Angeles Leather Pride (4200 Sunset Boulevard). Off Sunset Festival, LA’s Leather Street Fair is back for its 6th year as the closing event for Los Angeles Leather Pride’s week of events. Silver Lake takes months to recover from the 21 and over event. Enjoy live bands and DJ, gourmet food trucks, ice-cold beer and cocktails, artisans of every kind...all in the buff if you like that sort of thing. Oh, and there’s loads of top-notch, spectacle making music and performances. $20. For more information visit offsunsetfestival.com.
Transgender Day of Visibility, Wed. Mar. 28 @ 9 AM @ Los Angeles City Council Chambers, Tom Bradley Room at City Hall (200 N Spring Street, 27th floor). The Los Angeles City Council celebrates Transgender Day of Visibility with a reception honoring two change-makers in the community, as well as shine the spotlight on a recent pioneering report that aims to solve some of the critical issues facing the community. The event is free of charge but early arrival is encouraged. Tinder & Girls In Tech LA Present: A Fireside Chat with Tinder CTO Maria Zhang, Wed. Mar. 28 @ 6:30 PM @ Tinder Headquarters (8833 Sunset Boulevard). Girls in Tech LA provides a community for women who have an interest in technology, providing access to resources and a supportive local network. It’s a fantastic way to connect with other women and hear the inspirational stories
of leaders like Tinder’s CTO Maria Zhang. GITLA events generally sell out so you should email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit losangeles.girlsintech.org.
He’s Positive, I’m Negative: Why Prep Matters, Thu Mar 29 @ 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at WeWork Hollywood (7083 Hollywood Boulevard). The Baldwin Gentlemen and Bienestar Human Services discuss the role of PrEP in healthy relationships between gay men. A physician and health educator will be on hand to answer questions, dispel myths, and provide information on the latest advancement in science and medicine that help keep us safe. FREE to attend. RSVP at bit.ly/prep4sex
Allegiance, a new musical inspired by a true story, Sat. Mar. 31 @ 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM at Aratani Theatre (244 S. San Pedro Street). Inspired by the early life of actor George Takei in World War II internment camps, Allegiance explores the world that began unfolding when President Roosevelt excluded people of Japanese descent from public life.. Within months, 117,000 to 120,000 people of Japanese descent on the West Coast, twothirds of them native-born, were forced to leave their homes for relocation to inland camps. It’s the last day of the Los Angeles performance and a must see experience. Ticket prices vary at http:// allegiancemusical.com/. HIV + Aging Research Project: Thriving With HIV, Sun. Mar. 31 @ 9:00 AM to
5:00 PM at Annenberg Health Sciences Building at Eisenhower Hospital (3900 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage). Longterm survivors of AIDS and HIV know the toll it has taken on their lives, healthwise, psychologically, financially, spiritually, socially and even the way you age. Thankfully, there are experts who want to share their findings about the toll it has taken and the strategies you can deploy to make life better and more fulfilling. Cleve Jones will give the keynote prior to breaking out into a mix of facilitated discussions, panels, and presentations led by key researchers, advocates, and longterm survivors of HIV/AIDS. Free.
Building Allies: Turning Privilege into Change, Sun, Apr. 1 @ 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM at Q Youth Foundation (2801 West Valley Blvd Suite E). Do you know what to do when you witness transphobic behavior? Do you want to know how to be a better friend, coworker, family member, or partner to a transgender or gender nonconforming person in your life? Do you have questions that you might be afraid to ask? This threehour, experiential workshop will pull you out of your comfort zone and help you put your privilege to work. You’ll leave with real-life actions you can start taking today, to support the transgender and gender nonconforming people in your life. $55. Sunset Cocktail Party in Celebration of International Transgender Day of Visibility, Pernaud-Ricard USA want to raise a toast and celebrate your trans and gender nonconforming brothers and sisters. Elyx
House and Pernaud-Ricard will featured Jameson, Malibu, Absolut and Altos Tequila and announce a special program with Equality California. RSVP by March 26 to email@example.com.
Love Liza: The Exhibit, Wed. Apr. 4 through Apr. 29 (Mon and Tue exception) @ 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM at The Paley Center for Media (465 N. Beverly Drive). Do you love the diva daughter of Judy Garland? Liza Minnelli’s collection of photographs by Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, and David LaChappelle along with costumes from Liza’s career on stage and screen, private creations by Roy Halston Frowick and more tchotchkes than even Liza knew she had...it’s all on display in advance of the Profiles in History auction of 1,000 lots from her personal and professional life. The Love, Liza: The Auction in Los Angeles will be held in late May. For more information visit paleycenter.org.
Fair Share for Equality Convening, Fri Apr 6 @ 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM at Paramount Studios (5555 Melrose Avenue). Convening is a gathering of LGBTQ community leaders, legislators, and research experts focusing on the disparities in health and well-being that LGBTQ people continue to face. More relevant than ever that California’s LGBTQ community fights for it’s share in the age of Trump. Post event Reception: 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM @ Cat & Fiddle (742 N Highland Avenue). RSVP Tami Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
30 • MARCH 23, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
A column full of diva dish, from Liza to Jane to Adam Rippon A must-read tour de force on being a queen in LA By BILLY MASTERS
Liza Minnelli is up for grabs as 1,000 lots from her personal and professional life go up for auction at Love, Liza: The Auction in Los Angeles. Image Courtesy Paley Center Los Angeles
“Fuck off Caitlyn – you had your chance.” — Kathy Griffin responds to Caitlyn Jenner’s sudden realization that “As far as trans issues, this administration has been the worst ever. They’ve set our community back 20 years, easily.” And special kudos to Kathy Griffin as her Carnegie Hall concert sold out in 24 hours! She’s back! According to a recent study, the No. 1 retirement city in the United States for LGBT seniors is Fort Lauderdale! And I can tell you why. Prior to the ‘90s, Fort Lauderdale was THE gay vacation spot. Even when South Beach became popular, Fort Laud never completely lost its appeal. After the motels on the beach were demolished (including the fabled Marlin Beach Resort), the gays moved inland and Wilton Manors was born. Those people who were partying are now close to being seniors, and they want to live someplace warm. I once read that Fort Lauderdale has more gay businesses per capita than any other U.S. city. All those businessmen and retirees might explain how the city just elected an openly gay mayor! Congrats, Dean Trantalis! Meanwhile near my other home, RuPaul got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The gayla event was hosted by Miss Jane Fonda! Ru was also joined by his hubby, Georges LeBar, just days after explaining how their open relationship works. “I know that for him the person he loves the most on this planet is me. I know that; there’s no doubt in my mind. So if he needs to do something else somewhere else, I’m fine with that. He would never turn it into something that would make me feel uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t do that to him either.” Everyone wants a piece of Adam Rippon. When Justin Sylvester was interviewing Adam on live TV, the E! host put Adam on the spot and asked him out on a date the next time he’s in LA. Of course, Adam said yes...but not with any enthusiasm. Days later, Rippon finally met Sam Greisman, Sally Field’s son. It was a chance encounter at the HRC gala where Adam was getting the “Visibility Award.” Judging from the pic, I don’t believe sparks flew. But they met and I’m sure Sam’s happy. It should be noted that the gala took place in LA - sorry Justin. It was quite a week for Anderson Cooper. First, CNN announced that it was slashing his show in half to make room for the inestimable talents of Chris Cuomo, who we enjoyed so much during those hurricanes. Days later, Cooper made an announcement: “Benjamin and I separated as boyfriends some time ago. We are still family to each other, and love each other very much. We remain the best of friends, and will continue to share much of our lives together.” Before you shed a tear for the Cooper/Maisani breakup, fear not. We hear that Coop is dating a dashing dude from Dallas named Victor Lopez, who is a 33-year-old radiologist. This should not surprise anyone who remembers when Anderson was a guest on Andy Cohen’s show in July. When playing a game, Andy was asked what was Anderson’s biggest turn-on. The answer? “Latinos!” As I’m sure you know, Lorna Luft recently collapsed backstage in London and has since been diagnosed with a brain tumor. I was told that she’s in good shape and has flown back to LA for more tests. I thought back to when Liza had encephalitis and Lorna was pushing her in a wheelchair. Now Lorna’s down, and Liza (who has moved to LA) might be the one helping out. Who would have ever pegged Liza as the healthy sister? Speaking of Miss Minnelli, she’s auctioning off some memorabilia next month. The auction, called “Love, Liza”, will include over 1,000 lots, including the costume and infamous bowler hat she wore in the film “Cabaret,” her 1971 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, and several items which belonged to her parents. Profiles in History is organizing the auction, and it will take place in Calabasas sometime in late May. In the meantime, Liza is displaying her treasures at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills from April 4-29. I also went to Rockwell Table & Stage last week to see the divine Charles Busch in his intimate cabaret show called, “My Kinda 60s.” Accompanied by the solicitous Tom Judson, this pairing works beautifully because the audience loves them both. This is a particularly prosperous period for Busch. It was just announced that a film is being made of his Broadway smash, “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife.” In a bit of luxury casting, the two female roles will be played by Bette Midler and Sharon Stone - because when I think of comedy, I think of that wacky Sharon Stone! When Sharon Stone’s next project involves a Busch, it’s definitely time to end yet another column. For more than just the bush, check out www.BillyMasters.com - the site that’s certainly not allergic to nudity. Send your questions along to Billy@ BillyMasters.com, and I promise to get back to you before Rippon calls E! to arrange that date! Until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.
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Losangelesblade.com, Volume 2, Issue 6, March 23, 2018