Losangelesblade.com, Volume 2, Issue 24, August 17, 2018

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A U G U S T 1 7 2 0 1 8 • V O LU M E 0 2 • I S S U E 2 4 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M

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State to audit LA County child welfare system, again Sen. Lara raises questions about protections for LGBT youth By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors welcomes a review by the California State Auditor of child safety protections for LGBT youth in the county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Will this audit address why DCFS can’t fix its child welfare system? The audit was requested Aug. 8 by out Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita), and Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) after the horrific death of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos on June 21. “I welcome the state audit,” said Board Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Fifth District Antelope Valley region where Avalos was killed, at the Aug. 14 Board meeting. “I’m hoping that this audit will benefit not only L.A. County, but every county in the state.” The state legislators requested the audit in response to reports that DCFS received at least 13 calls since 2013 from school administrators, a teacher, a counselor, family members and others specifically alleging that Avalos was the victim of abuse. In late June, Avalos’ mother Heather Barron and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva were arrested on suspicion of murder. Social workers had previously reported Leiva was a gang member. Weeks after the boy’s murder, DCFS deputy director Brandon Nichols acknowledged that Avalos “said he liked boys,” adding homophobia to the motivation. In a Los Angeles Times interview published June 26, DCFS Director Bobby Cagle confirmed “that callers said Anthony or his six siblings were denied food and water, sexually abused, beaten and bruised, dangled upside-down from a staircase, forced to crouch for hours, locked in small spaces with no access to the bathroom, forced to fight one another, and forced to eat from the trash.” Cagle added, however, “that despite the years of severe abuse alleged in Anthony’s home, it was ‘premature’ to say that Anthony’s case represented a failure of the child welfare system,” The Times reported.

Anthony Avalos died on June 21. Photo Courtesy the Family

DCFS presented the results of its own internal investigation at the Aug. 14 board meeting and concluded that the agency was not to blame for Avalos’ death, nor did the case resemble the 2014 murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez from Palmdale, whose mother and boyfriend were convicted of murdering Gabriel and believed the boy was gay. “Our first and foremost priority is the safety of our County’s children, so when a child dies, we must ask ourselves what could have been done differently,” Cagle said in an Aug. 14 statement. “Transparency and accountability are important to the Department, and so I welcome review by external partners to help ensure we are pursuing all possible efforts that promote child safety. We appreciate the independent report by the Office of Child Protection and agree with all of the recommendations. DCFS will continue to pursue enhancements and improvements in our services for atrisk children and families.” The audit will ask whether DCFS has adequate practices to identify and protect LGBTQ youth, who represent 19 percent of foster youth over age 12, according to a 2014 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA. “The heartbreaking deaths of Anthony and Gabriel demand that we search our souls and commit to a thorough response by all levels of our government,” said Lara, a member of

the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and vice chair of the Legislative LGBT Caucus. “It has been six years since the California State Auditor reviewed child safety in Los Angeles, and I hope that County leadership will welcome this as an opportunity to improve its practices, particularly when it comes to protecting LGBT youth who are more likely to face abuse and rejection by their families.” The request letter asks the auditor “to identify any breakdown in processes and recommend systemic solutions that would improve child safety.” The auditor will review whether safety, risk and reunification assessments are timely and accurate, including background checks on all individuals in a home who have access to a child; whether child abuse and neglect investigations are timely and thorough; whether DCFS performs regular and thorough wellness checks on children in its care; whether DCFS is transforming its practices and processes in response to deaths of children for whom it had responsibility or previous contact; and what are the root causes of any deficiencies. The California State Auditor investigated similar issues in its 2012 audit of DCFS. “Widespread deficiencies found in L.A. County’s oversight of abused children” reads The Times March 30, 2012 headline. That audit found that “the county did not

follow state laws requiring the results to be reported to the state Department of Justice’s child abuse database,” which made it difficult for social workers to check records before placing children. “The audit also reported that county workers have removed thousands of children from their parents and placed them with family members without performing required safety assessments,” The Times reported, including criminal background checks. Then-DCFS director Philip Browning “said the county and the auditor had disagreed about whether the law required such a detailed study before children were placed in the homes.” Corri Planck, a program director at the City of West Hollywood, and her wife Dianne Hardy-Garcia experienced DCFS’ deficiencies first hand. In 2005, they fostered 2-year-old Sarah Chavez, whom they planned to adopt. Suddenly, the toddler was removed and returned to her maternal aunt and uncle. Months later, Sarah was dead and her relatives were on trial for murder. “It is our hope that, in addition to the criminal trial, there will continue to be a focus on the legal, medical, and social services institutions that should have protected her, but failed to do so,” Planck told IN Los Angeles magazine in 2005. “All these breakdowns allowed her to be returned to what was clearly an unsafe home.”


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‘Conversion therapy’ fraud bill passed by California Senate False claims have riled up evangelicals By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Gird your loins. California lawmakers just passed a bill to make it harder to entice shame-filled parents with advertised false promises of a “cure” for homosexuality. By a vote of 25 to 11, state senators passed Assembly Bill 2943 that makes “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts”—plugged by the religious right as “conversion therapy”—a violation of California’s consumer fraud laws. Debate over the bill also boldly underscores why it is imperative to have LGBT elected officials at the table or on the floor arguing how legislation has a personal impact. “This is a very personal issue to me,” Assemblymember Evan Low, chair of the California LGBT Legislative Caucus, said in introducing his bill before passage by the Assembly. “Growing up with so much hate, I, too wanted to find out if I could be changed and if anything could work because of the societal pressures that we have. There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing that needs to be changed.” The out members of the State Senate also offered personal stories in the last minute debate Aug. 16 before the bill passed. Out Sen. Scott Wiener introduced the bill on the Senate floor and outlined its merits. “This critically important bill protects LGBT people from the fraudulent practice known as ‘conversion therapy,” he said. It prohibits fraudulent business practices “where people sell services that say, ‘if you pay me money, I can make you no longer LGBT.’ There is absolutely no medical or scientific basis to support the sale of these supposed healthcare or physiological services. Indeed, ‘conversion therapy’ is nothing short of physiological torture.” Wiener noted that California already bans such harmful practices for youth. “This unacceptable rate of suicide happens because we are told by society that there is something wrong or sick or amiss about who we are. And that we need to change to be ‘normal.’ Well, we don’t need to change and we certainly shouldn’t allow people to commit fraud by selling services that harm

people and that don’t work,” Wiener said. Wiener squarely took on the false assertions made by the religious right. “I want to be very clear what AB 2493 does not do, contrary to some of the claims that have been made during this legislative process,” Wiener said. “This bill does not prohibit the sale of the Bible—that’s an argument that we’ve heard—that’s untrue. It does not in any way prohibit free speech. It doesn’t prohibit anyone from speaking with a counselor, including a religious counselor regarding their sexual orientation, as long as no money is exchanged, as long as no services are sold. Colleagues, this bill is long over due. We should be protecting people from fraud. That’s what we do in this legislature in this state.” So-called “conversion therapy” has been

thoroughly discredited by all major mental health organizations, with the American Psychological Association saying efforts to “change” sexual orientation through therapy have “serious potential to harm young people.” The bill to which Wiener referred was passed in 2012, authored by then-California State Sen. Ted Lieu. It prohibited state licensed mental health providers from practicing such “therapy” on minors under age of 18, calling it “psychological child abuse.” Bill co-author Sen. Ricardo Lara also spoke on the floor. “Conversion” therapy implies there is something wrong with you, somehow you’re not normal,” he said, beliefs that led to the horrendous murders of 8-old Gabriel Fernandez and 10-year old Anthony Avalos at the hands of their parents.

Lara also referred to his bill, SB 524, signed into law by Gov. Brown in 2016, to regulate residential homes. The bill was intended to put a dent in the billion-dollar “troubled teen” industry, which feeds off unscrupulous promoters peddling “parental-rights” arguments to con concerned fundamentalist parents into sending their “troubled teen” to camps, advertised as providing “tough love” to change youth through abusive “reparative therapy.” “We as legislators have a responsibility to protect Californians from harmful and deceptive practices. All Californians should be celebrated, cherished, and loved for who they are,” Low said after the bill passed the Senate. “I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for affirming their support for those in the LGBT community who need it



State Sen. Scott Wiener Screencapture Courtesy Equality California

most by voting for this bill.” “For far too long, LGBTQ Californians have been psychologically abused by sham therapists who are supposed to be caring for their emotional well-being,” says Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “We’re deeply grateful to Assemblymember Low, Senate Pro Tem Atkins and Senators Wiener, Lara and Galgiani for their leadership today—and to every member of the Senate who voted to protect LGBTQ Californians from these dangerous, harmful practices.” Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, has been challenging these harmful, unscientific practices for decades, as thriving business for unlicensed and unscrupulous evangelical and Catholic “reparative therapists” such as Joseph Nicolosi at the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), based on Encino, California. “This bill will put both consumers and practitioners on notice that taking money for ‘conversion therapy’ is consumer fraud under California law,” Minter tells the Los Angeles Blade. “That is important to ensure that individuals who are financially harmed by false claims that therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity know that they are entitled

to compensation under California law. It will also help deter these fraudulent practices by shining a spotlight on unethical practitioners who defraud vulnerable consumers by peddling quackery and lies.” Nonetheless, AB 2943 is the new tip of the spear for political evangelicals who insist that the bill will prohibit the sale of the Bible and ban free speech. Even the once vaunted conservative Federalist.com challenged reliable watchdog Snopes as a “sneaky liar” after its explanation. “Sure, it is virtually impossible that California will immediately attempt to ban the sale of the Bible itself. Not even the hard Left in California has that kind of chutzpah. But citations of Bible verses in the context of declaring homosexual practice and transgenderism to be morally debased could indeed get one into serious trouble with the law if it comes in the context of selling or advertising a product or service,” Federalist. com’s Robert Gagnon wrote. “So you would be violating the law if you advertise that Christ can empower people not to engage in homosexual practice or not to identify as ‘gay’ or ‘transgender’ because such behaviors and self-identities are morally wrong, or if you offer to engage or actually engage in efforts to persuade people

of Christ’s power to transform in this area, you will be in violation of California AB 2943, at least so long as your advertising or efforts involved in any way an exchange of money for goods or services,” The Federalist.com says. “Consequently, selling religious or secular books (pamphlets, videos, audios, etc.), holding conferences, teaching courses in a college or seminary where tuition is paid, giving a speech at a paid venue, counseling people for a fee, or perhaps even posting online articles in a site that requires a paid subscription, in which it is asserted (in whole or part) that it is morally wrong for people to engage in homosexual practice or identify as “gay” or “transgender,” all could be treated as a violation of California Assembly Bill 2943,” asserts Gagnon. In fact, an anti-LGBT panel in Washington DC July 26—“Parental Rights: A Matter of Religious Freedom?” —co-sponsored by the anti-LGBT James Dobson Family Institute ( JDFI) and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International and featuring Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council—spent a lot of time talking about ways to circumvent Low’s bill through use of the “parental rights” argument. Anti-LGBT James Dobson Family Institute Public Policy Director Jenna Ellis

described “what’s at stake.” “This is a very dangerous bill and essentially, any book, any counseling, anything that discusses same sex attraction and is against that or trying to counsel away from that would be under the consumer fraud protection element of California’s law,” Ellis said. “The people who are not interested in protecting religious freedom, who are not interested in protecting parental rights, they are very shrewd to not just openly say, ‘We don’t want you to advocate against same sex attraction. We don’t want to advocate against these worldviews and moral issues that strike at the heart of traditional values and the family,’ but they’re willing so far as to say that this is fraud. That’s what’s going on in the United States and then even globally.” “They want to take away any effort that a parent has to place that [confused] child in any type of ‘counseling’ or ‘psychotherapy’ to deal with what they’re going through,” said JDFI Executive Director Dr. Tim Clinton. Out California Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman is “not worried about the GOP using” the bill in arguments before the midterms. “The people who will vote for [Republican gubernatorial candidate John] Cox and the rest of the Trump cronies are already poised to do so.”



Adam Spickler makes California history as first trans man to hold elected office With no opposition, Spickler is appointed Cabrillo College Trustee By STAFF REPORTS Longtime Santa Cruz County resident Adam Spickler, a transgender man, ran for a seat on the seven-member Governing Board of Cabrillo Community College. Spickler was seeking to replace Gary Reece, 72, a retired Pasatiempo resident who has held the seat for more than two decades. But because he ran unopposed, he has been appointed to the post— becoming the first openly transgender man to hold elected office in the state of California. Spickler, 48, a senior Santa Cruz County analyst and administrator since 2013, is no stranger to electoral politics. He is a longtime local Democratic Party leader and has spent over a decade working for elected officials in the California State Senate and Assembly representing Santa Cruz County and the Central Coast. He has already compiled a long list of endorsements from local and state officials. Spickler ran through his political resume when speaking with the LA Blade Aug. 14, pointing out that one of his former bosses, California State Senate Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Bill Monning, has been extremely supportive of him. Spickler transitioned during his five years as the Senator’s Senior District Field Representative working on policies and constituent services. Monning— whose district stretches from San Luis Obispo northward along the Central Coast and includes the County and City of Santa Cruz—has publicly praised Spickler. “Before I took the position with Senator Monning, back in 2007 I worked as a field representative for Assemblyman John Laird, who is openly gay,” he said. “He (Laird) had also been an elected member of the Cabrillo Board of Trustees.” Laird and Mark Leno were the first two openly gay men to serve in the California legislature. Laird is currently Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency. Serving on the Cabrillo board is important to Spickler. “Since graduating Cabrillo in 2002, I’ve got an associate’s degree in child development. I’ve always wanted to give back in a number of ways. I think that what I experienced (at Cabrillo College) helped shaped me,”

Adam Spickler is making a bid for a seat on the seven-member Governing Board of Cabrillo Community College. Photo Courtesy Spickler

he said. “The way I look at things, I believe students of all ages, backgrounds and education levels should have access to Cabrillo College’s world-class academic and occupational learning environment.” Additionally, he said, “after 10 years as a Democratic Party member in Santa Cruz, I think that people have seen that I listen and that I’m a bridge builder who gets things done.” In his non-political life, Spickler administers government contracts for county housing, child welfare, development, employment and human services. He’s also been a volunteer commissioner with the Santa Cruz County Equality Opportunity Office for the past four years and currently helps out the local GLBT Alliance group. “I think that the best part of being so involved is that Santa Cruz and the county is a trans-rich community---and allies in the queer community are awesome. Plus, I have been able to be a role model, especially for LGBTQ youth,” he said.

Spickler said he will be an advocate for marginalized students who may be juggling school and work, as he did during his college days at Cabrillo. He is concerned those students are falling lower on the state’s list of priorities as lawmakers and officials seek to improve two-year graduation and transfer rates. “I am also very interested on finding ways to continue to fund California’s Promise Community College program signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in October last year,” he said. Spickler said he’s not trying to make history, but he did acknowledge that it is exciting to be part of a greater trend in politics that has recently seen trans candidates Danica Roem elected to the Virginia statehouse in 2017 and Lisa Middleton elected to the Palm Springs City Council in 2018, as well as the Aug. 14 Democratic primary victory in Vermont of Christine Hallquist—who made history as the first transgender person in America

to win a gubernatorial nomination from a major political party. “I’ve chosen to be a bridge builder where possible in my community based on my trans identity, based on my queer identity,” Spickler said. “It’s helped me access things that other people have the privilege of just having in life: being comfortable in a space, being able to make other people at ease with me so we get to the business of whatever the business is and get beyond identity politics.” “Only two openly transgender women and no openly transgender men — have been elected to office in California to date,” Elliot Imse, Senior Director of Communications at the LGBTQ Victory Fund told the LA Blade. Imse added that there was at least one other openly transgender man, Martin RawlingsFein, running in a California race. RawlingsFein is hopeful to secure a seat on the school board for the City of San Francisco. (Reporting by The Los Angeles Times, the staff of the LA Blade, and wire service reports.)



Injured gay Amtrak passenger slowly recovering Officials no longer responding to California incident By STAFF REPORTS Aaron Salazar, the 22-year-old gay Portland State University student who was found critically injured and near death on the railroad tracks just outside of Truckee, Calif., last May 15, was well enough to be moved to the Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Englewood, Colo. Salazar had been a passenger on Amtrak’s California Zephyr Train traveling from Denver to Sacramento on a return trip to his university in Portland, Ore. Sonia Trujillo, Salazar’s cousin and spokesperson for the family, told the Los Angeles Blade Monday, Aug. 13, that the decision to move him was two-fold: to have him closer to family members and because Craig Hospital is globally recognized for specializing in spinal cord injury and traumatic brain Injury rehabilitation. On Tuesday, another cousin, Austin Sailas, reported the following on Facebook: “I am posting this special update as it is almost three months since Aaron was found and an amazing development has happened...Aaron has once again began to speak. I just spoke to him through Facetime on his mom’s phone, and he recognized me and said hello! We are very excited to share this with our GoFundMe page family. When asked about the train, he sadly cannot remember, which…the doctor said is normal due to a mix of both the injury, and his brain protecting him from the traumatic event, although with time, and therapy he might be able to remember things on his own.” The investigation into the circumstances surrounding Salazar’s severe injuries has stalled, according to Trujillo. She said that Amtrak investigators and Amtrak’s Police Chief Neil Trugman have ceased directly communicating with the family. Now all communications are being handled by Amtrack’s corporate attorneys. Trujillo added that Amtrak investigators continue to maintain that Salazar intended to harm himself. Amtrak’s last public statement in May said that the corporation was “deeply saddened by the significant injuries to one of our customers. The Amtrak Police

Aaron Salazar with his sister Alyssa at Craig Hospital, Englewood, Colo., Aug. 13. Photo Courtesy Salazar Family

Department reached out to more than 300 customers, crew, and friends in support of this investigation. The individuals who noted interactions with Salazar shared that he had expressed to them a number of life concerns and challenges.” The statement also noted: “We are unable to comment on Mr. Salazar’s medical condition, but note that a fall from a moving train would cause significant injury. There is no evidence of a physical altercation occurring while Salazar was traveling on Amtrak.” A spokesperson for Amtrack declined to comment on allegations that the investigation was currently stalled. Instead the spokesperson referred to an earlier statement, also from May; “We have been in contact with Mr. Salazar’s parents and provided them updates on the investigation. Out of respect for the family, we are declining

to share any additional details of interviews with customers, crew, and friends and encourage everyone to avoid speculation.” The family is extremely frustrated by the lack of initiative from the Amtrak police, Trujillo told the LA BLADE and is petitioning to have the Federal Bureau of Investigation take over the investigation. She maintains that the injuries sustained by the young student were the direct result of a horrific beating. The congressional delegations of both Oregon, where Salazar is a student, and Hawai’i where he resides with his mother, sent official inquiry letters to Amtrak asking for further details after Salazar’s story became public. As of Monday, Aug. 13, they have not received an answer, Congressional sources told the LA Blade. As Salazar continues to recover in Englewood, the family posted a “thank you”

on the “Justice for Aaron” Facebook page linked to the GoFundMe page that the family hopes will help defray the medical expenses they are incurring. “We would like to take the time to thank everyone in the City of Reno/Truckee, California area. Although this tragedy shook our family to its roots, your people’s love, support, and solidarity has proven that love will always trump hate. The largest small city also has the largest heart. Thank you everyone, we will make sure to keep in touch with the many new friends, and family we met here. Although Aaron has a long road of therapy as he continues to heal, we pray you all will continue to follow our updates, and continue to spread the positive energy, and love as it is definitely working. We love you all, The Salazar Family” Reporting by the staff of the Los Angeles Blade and wire service reports



Trans artist/activist Casey Hoke dies at 21 Family, trans community and allies heartbroken By STAFF REPORTS Casey Hoke, a transgender artist, activist and national public speaker dedicated to helping others combat marginalization, died in Pomona, according to a family statement on his Facebook page. He died on Aug. 8. “My family is heartbroken. We ask for privacy, but at the same time want to make sure Casey’s friends and connections know,” Hoke’s brother Ryan Benjamin Hoke said in a statement. He later added in an email to the Los Angeles Blade: “Casey lost his battle with mental illness.” Hoke, 21, was well known in the national Trans community, particularly among the younger generation for his dedication to the LGBTQ community, especially in his art and in art history. Hoke came out as a transgender male in high school, worked as an organizer and peer educator at his high school’s Gay/ Straight/ Transgender Alliance and was selected as a Point Foundation scholar at

Casey Hoke led the Los Angeles Blade’s Pride contingent at LA Pride 2018. Los Angeles Blade Photo by Troy Masters

California State Polytechnic University of Pomona for graphic design communications. Hoke contributed to the Huffington Post and MTV News, had given TEDx Talks, and was working on QueerArtHistory.com,

an educational resource for all to learn about the visual storytelling of LGBTQ+ identity through time. “Casey was a beloved member of the Point Family and the love and warmth he brought

to every space he was in will be missed,” Point Foundation Executive Director & CEO Jorge Valencia, told the Los Angeles Blade. “Casey’s family told us how proud he was of his Point community service project, (QueerArtHistory.com) and that we in the Point Foundation would ask that folks go see the incredible work that Casey was doing. Dr. Eliza Byard, the Executive Director of GLSEN, told the LA Blade that she was deeply shocked and saddened by Hoke’s sudden passing. “I have known Casey since he was in high school and he was a remarkable force of light, love, art, and power in the world who worked with GLSEN at every level,” Byard said. “He was a sitting member of our board of directors and also often contributed his artwork to our cause. I am so grateful to have known and worked with him. He touched so many lives and he will always inspire me to press on and stop hate.” Casey Hoke was interviewed for the LA Blade’s June cover story, “Generation Next.” The memorial service will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to the Pride Center at Cal Poly Pomona in memory of Casey Hoke.

Medical marijuana hero Scott Tracy Imler dies at 60 Battled Bush administration for AIDS, cancer patients By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com The announcement was sudden and shocking. “I am very sad to share with all his friends on Facebook that Scott Tracy Imler passed away this morning here in LA. He died in his sleep. Scott was 60 years old,” his husband George Leddy wrote in an Aug. 10 morning post. “We have been together for thirty years. We were married for nine years. I will miss him very much. We gave each other the best years of our lives. I will post details on his funeral here on his page. Thank all of you who loved him and struggled with him on so many fronts.” West Hollywood Mayor John Duran,

Scott Imler Photo Courtesy Facebook

described how Imler was a hero to AIDS, cancer and other patients with debilitating illnesses who discovered that medical marijuana helped fight nausea after chemo treatments and swallowing toxic AZT another AIDS medications, fighting the “wasting syndrome;” it also helped

fight glaucoma and epileptic spells, which impacted Imler. But the Drug Enforcement Administration lists cannabis as a Schedule I drug, with no “currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” equating it with heroin. Scott served as pastor at the Methodist Church at Fountain and Fairfax in West Hollywood. The church became a “sanctuary” for medicinal marijuana users. “[I]t took a lot of work with law enforcement to make it happen,” Duran writes. Imler served about 1,000 patients at that church— “the first in Southern California.” Imler joined with northern California medical marijuana advocate Dennis Peron in writing the successful 1996 Proposition 215 that allowed for the legal use of medical marijuana, with conditions. He then founded and ran the not-for-profit Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center co-op on Santa Monica Blvd near Gardner, a center that

came about with help from Duran, the City of West Hollywood and Wells Fargo Bank. But the DEA launched the pot wars from 1998-2004. On Oct. 25, 2001, the heavilyarmed DEA raided LACRC with little courtesy notice to West Hollywood sheriffs and local elected officials. US Attorney General John Ashcroft wanted to make an example of Imler. He and two others were not allowed to offer a “medical necessity” defense in court and therefore they took a plea with no time for incarceration. The federal government confiscated LACRC under the “drug asset forfeiture laws” as ACT UP/LA and others staged ongoing protests in a parking lot across the street. Imler then fought with the homophobic Methodist Church, which eventually evicted him, one of several major problems he and Leddy survived. “RIP Rev. Scott,” writes Duran. “A hero in the national AIDS movement. We shall not forget you my dear friend.”


If you need me, I’ll be on my Bat Phone.”

– Lesbian Ruby Rose in last tweet before quitting Twitter after backlash over being cast as Batwoman in upcoming CW series.

“I’m interested in leadership because I think I have that unique skill set.” –Adam Spickler, running unopposed for Cabrillo College board of trustees, thus California’s first trans male elected official, to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

“@SenJohnMcCain is a war hero & American patriot who laid his life on the line for the defense of our democracy. Trump, a craven 5x draft-dodger, refusing to recognize McCain’s legacy & leadership goes beyond the pale! At long last @ POTUS, have you no sense of decency?”

– California Rep. Jackie Speier Aug. 14 tweet on President Trump refusing to mention McCain’s name before signing a bill named for the ailing Republican senator.

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, died surrounded by family at her home in Detroit on Aug. 16. The great icon was 76. The legendary music icon, who has been struggling with serious health issues for several years, was very thin when she last performed in public on November 2, 2017 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s 25th anniversary gala. Franklin started singing gospel in her father C.L. Franklin’s Baptist Church in Detroit. Her father was a famous civil rights activist in the 1960s, organizing a significant march in Detroit that featured Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Aretha Franklin became famous after signing with Atlantic Records in 1967 and producing such extraordinary hits as “Respect,” “Natural Woman,” “Spanish Harlem,” and “Think,” earning her the title “Queen of Soul” by the end of the ‘60s. Franklin went on to record a total of 112 charted singles on Billboard, the most of any female artist in Billboard’s history. After Franklin left Atlantic for Arista Records in 1979, she had a range of success, from a brief star cameo turn in “The Blues Brothers” to filling in for Luciano Pavarotti at the Grammys in 1998 and singing the opera aria “Nessun dorma” to wild acclaim. Franklin won 18 Grammy Awards and was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 9, 2005 and she made President Barack Obama shed a tear singing “Natural Woman” to singer and songwriter honoree Carole King at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015. “I feel very, very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from, and where it is now,” Franklin told WDIV in 2017 after deciding to perform only a few shows after her next album. – Karen Ocamb


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Trans student, 12, target of Facebook threats in Oklahoma ‘We have open hunting seasons on them kind’ By STAFF REPORTS An elementary school in Achille, Okla., shut down for two days after violent threats were posted on Facebook explicitly targeting a 12-year-old transgender student. The private “Achille ISD Parents Group” Facebook page was apparently created by and for parents of the school children. But a wildfire was ignited when one parent found out the trans student used the girl’s bathroom at Achille Elementary, which serves pre-kindergarten through 8th grade. “Jamie Crenshaw began colluding the hate crime by posting a warning in the Achille ISD Parent Group on Facebook. She dehumanized the child by saying, ‘Heads up parents of 5th thru 7th grade girls. The transgender is already using the girls bathroom. We have been told how the school has gone above and beyond to make sure he has his own restroom yet he is still using the girls. REALLY….looks like it’s gonna be a long year. We have made school board meetings over this situation last year but nothing seems to be changing. This is the same kid that got an trouble as soon as he transferred two years ago for looking over the stalls in the girls bathroom. Enough is enough,” tagging Burney Crenshaw, the online activist group Hatewatch reported, noting that all spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors were made by Crenshaw. Another commentator, David Williams, chimed in: “Ty Hays you know we have open hunting seasons on them kind. Aint no bag limit in them either.” Eddie Belcher, 79, of Broken Arrow in suburban Tulsa, wrote: “If he wants to be a female make him a female. A good sharp knife will do the job really quick.” The parents of Maddison Kayleen Kleeman filed an emergency protective order on Friday, Aug. 10 against Burney Crenshaw in Bryan County Court. Mother Brandy Rose told CBS affiliate KXII that her daughter had only used the girl’s room once. Additionally, she noted, her daughter did not “peer” over or under bathroom stalls, as Crenshaw claimed. The Blade called the Crenshaws, who own Crenshaw Chemical & Fertilizer, located

Brandy Rose, the mother of a trans student in Oklahoma, said her daughter only used the girls’ room one time. Screencapture Courtesy CBS12

in the neighboring town of Colbert. The person who answered told the Blade there would be no comment and hung up. The Blade also got a “no comment” from Frontier Airlines, the corporate bosses of Kevin Lee Bickerstaff, 58, who told the Facebook group: “Just tell the kids to kick ass in the bathroom and it won’t want to come back!” Bickerstaff is involved in the MidSouth Youth Rodeo Cowboys Association of Oklahoma. He is also a member of the Texoma Junior Rodeo Association—whose former president is Burney Crenshaw. Oklahoma does not have a law guarding transgender people against discrimination and last February, the U.S. Department of Education withdrew guidance protecting trans students under federal law. A spokesperson for Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss told the Blade that it has sent memos clearly stating that the USDOE will not process any complaints from transgender students experiencing discrimination in schools. “LGBTQ is not a category in hate crime legislation and state statues. Worse, trans persons are invisible in Oklahoma,” Oklahoma City-based trans activist Paula Sophia Schonauer, a social worker, told the Blade. “I’m a retired police officer. When I’d take reports similar to this, this type of

threat is what crossed the legal line, as long as those threats were specific.” Schonauer added: “These kinds of comments are common for trolls. I have experienced many of the same kind, in different roles as a trans advocate, when I’ve encountered this hate before. But this time it is different. It’s a kid.” Bryan County Sheriff Johnny Christian says deputies are currently investigating the Facebook posts and could file charges. He says most of the responses were from parents outside the Achille area—some even from out of state. Christian confirms that Maddison Kayleen Kleeman’s family has a protective order against the parent who made the comment about using a knife. The Achille ISD (independent school district) superintendent Rick Beene said the “Achille ISD Parent Group” is not endorsed by their school district. “Our kids, our parents, most of our community is very, very good people,” he told the Blade, “very open to all ethnicities, all populations and really, we’ve got a group of kids that love each other. We know of no bullying, as far as this one situation is concerned.” Beene does not anticipate further school closures. Other parents, however, are concerned.

“I saw the post from Hate Trackers and my heart sank as I read words that immediately shocked and then horrified me. Having never heard of or been to Achille, I Googlemapped it and found that geographically it is closer to Texas,” Sara Cunningham, founder of the Oklahoma City-based group “Free Mom Hugs,” told the Blade. “I reached out to Kimberly Shappley with Equality Texas. She assured me she would alert the proper authorities there,” she continued. “Free Mom Hugs issued an open letter to the school and we are hopeful to hear from them soon as this news is horrifying. If any good can come from this, let it be that today in Oklahoma, the power of fear and ignorance has been exposed and the good and educated people of Oklahoma are not having any part of it!” Cunningham told the Blade that the letter offers support and resources, such as LGBTQ sensitivity training. “We have a beautiful, vibrant transgender community here in Oklahoma City,” Cunningham said. “What would it look like if we brought in a transgender individual and sat at a table with the principal there and just simply shared our stories?” Reporting by Los Angeles Blade, Hatewatch, KXII CBS12 Ardmore OK



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‘Defining moment for trans equality’ Hallquist wins Dem nomination in Vermont governor’s race By CHRIS JOHNSON In a historic victory, Christine Hallquist won the Democratic nomination Tuesday to become the next Vermont governor, making her the first transgender candidate ever to obtain a major party nomination in a gubernatorial race. The Associated Press declared Hallquist, former CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, won the Democratic nomination in Vermont at 9:14 p.m. shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Hallquist obtained 48 percent of the vote, compared to 22 percent for environmental activist James Ehlers, 21 percent for progressive activist Brenda Siege and 8 percent for high school student Ethan Sonneborn. (Vermont has no age requirement for candidates.) Should Hallquist succeed in the general election in November, she’d be the first openly transgender person elected as a governor in the United States. In a statement to the Blade in May, Hallquist said her win in November would be a “positive signal for all LGBTQ people” because she would be the first transgender governor and represent a rural state. “Typically, rural communities have been viewed as less affirming,” Hallquist said. “Marginalized communities have historically had problems with winning executive positions. For too long leadership has been associated with masculinity and the dominant culture. Vermonters choosing me, a trans woman, as their governor, would expand the realm of possibility for generations to come. My success would mark a new milestone in acceptance.” Hallquist was endorsed by LGBT rights groups, including the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund. Annise Parker, CEO of the Victory Fund, said in a statement Hallquist’s victory is “a defining moment in the movement for trans equality” at a time when few transgender officials are in government. “Many thought it unthinkable a viable trans

Christine Hallquist has become the first transgender candidate to win a major party nomination to run for statewide office. Photo Courtesy Hallquist

gubernatorial candidate like Christine would emerge so soon,” Parker said. “Yet Vermont voters chose Christine not because of her gender identity, but because she is an open and authentic candidate with a long history of service to the state, and who speaks to the issues most important to voters.” According to the Victory Fund, 13 openly trans people are serving in elected office in the United States. The Victory Fund has endorsed seven transgender candidates this election cycle. Another transgender candidate seeking statewide office this year was Kim Coco Iwamoto in Hawaii. A former member of the Hawaii Board of Education, Iwamoto sought the Democratic nomination to run for lieutenant governor, but came up short in the primary on Saturday. Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund, said Hallquist’s victory “cannot be overstated.” “Our mission as an organization is deeply rooted in bringing transgender people into the center of society, and Christine’s nomination is a massive step forward in that fight,” Keisling said. Democratic National Committee Chair

Tom Perez also commended Hallquist in a statement, calling her win an “inspiration to LGBTQ people everywhere.” “We are excited to stand behind her and the entire slate of fantastic Democratic nominees in Vermont,” Hallquist said. “There’s no doubt that Christine and her fellow nominees will join a strong ticket this November that will fight for our values and serve as dedicated advocates for Vermont’s working families. Vermont voters know that Democrats have their backs and share their values, and they’re ready to organize to turn more seats blue this November.” Hallquist’s Republican opponent in the general election will be incumbent Gov. Phil Scott. A moderate who signed into law gun control legislation, Scott faced a challenge from a conservative candidate, but came out on top in the primary. Political observers say Hallquist faces an uphill battle in the general election against the incumbent Republican. The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and Nathan L. Gonzales have each rated the race either solid or safe Republican. Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, called Hallquist’s win

“a historic breakthrough” and predicted she’ll be the focus of tremendous media attention, but said the road ahead is difficult. “On the one hand, Vermont is clearly liberal, except on guns,” Sabato said. “On the other, it’s going to be very tough to beat Gov. Phil Scott, who is one of three moderate GOP governors leading in blue states this year (Massachusetts and Maryland are the other two). For Hallquist to win, Scott will have to make some big mistakes, or there would have to be the ‘blue’ wave tsunami that Democrats hope is coming.” Despite the challenge Hallquist faces in the general election, it should be noted she won more votes in the Vermont primary than her Republican opponent. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Hallquist won 27,381 votes compared to the 23,857 votes Scott won. Hallquist is one of four LGBT candidates who’ve won the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018. The other three are Rep. Jared Polis in Colorado and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in Texas, who could be the first openly gay people elected governor in the United States, as well as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who’s bisexual and seeking re-election.



New Trump admin memo on Obama order alarms LGBT advocates 2014 directive barred anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among fed’l contractors By CHRIS JOHNSON In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the Trump administration has issued new guidance that seeks to uphold “religious freedom” in the implementation of former President Obama’s executive order against anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors — a move troubling to LGBT rights supporters. The Aug. 10 guidance from the Labor Department purports to “incorporate recent developments in the law regarding religionexercising organizations and individuals” with the enforcement of the executive order, taking note of the narrow ruling in decision of Colorado baker Jack Phillips as well as other recent rulings in favor of religious freedom, such as the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The guidance also takes into account recent executive orders signed by President Trump in favor of “religious freedom,” saying they “have similarly reminded the federal government of its duty to protect religious exercise — and not to impede it.” Trump signed a directive last year with the stated purposed of bolstering religious freedom under federal law and his order ensuring faith-based organizations have access to federal grants. “In line with the longstanding constitutional requirement that government must permit individuals and organizations, in all but the most narrow circumstances, to participate in a government program ‘without having to disavow [their] religious character,’ OFCCP staff are instructed to take these legal developments into account in all their relevant activities, including when providing compliance assistance, processing complaints, and enforcing the requirements of EO 11246,” the guidance says. As a result, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs under the Labor Department is instructed to take into accounts “religious freedom” when enforcing Executive Order 11246 in numerous ways,

Former President Obama signed an executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors Blade File Photo by Michael Key

barring the agency making a “condition the availability of [opportunities] upon a recipient’s willingness to surrender his [or her] religiously impelled status.” Signed by Obama in 2014, EO 11246 prohibits anti-LGBT discrimination among companies that do $10,000 a year or more in business with the U.S. government in addition and barrs discrimination against federal workers who are transgender. The instructions seem aimed at allowing religiously-affiliated non-profits to discriminate against workers for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender despite the executive order. Heretofore, religiously non-profits, including religious schools and universities, were required to abide by the executive order and received no religious exemption. The latest directive is one of two issued by the Labor Department on Aug. 10 related to the Executive Order 11246. But the other directive doesn’t seem aimed at nondiscrimination protections or “religious freedom.” It calls for “a portion of future scheduling lists” to include focused reviews on three authorities OFFCP enforces: EO 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. LGBT rights groups said the “religious freedom” directive is an attempt by the Trump administration to gut the nondiscrimination protections in the executive order — which covers an estimated 34

million workers, or about 22 percent of the Americans workforce — and demonstrates the negative impact of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. Sharon McGowan, legal director for Lambda Legal, said her organization has “serious cause for concern” the OFFCP will interpret the mandate with broad view and allow for exemptions to discriminate under the executive order. “Apparently, this Administration believes – correctly – that rescinding the EO outright would cause a huge public and politically damaging outcry,” McGowan said. “So instead, they are trying to accomplish the same end through different means.” The directive comes down from the Labor Department about a year-and-a-half after the White House announced in a statement Trump would keep the executive order in place and is “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights,” a statement contradicted by subsequent anti-LGBT actions from the Trump administration. McGowan said nothing in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision compelled the Labor Department to issue the directive, but Lambda is “not surprised to see this administration seize on the decision as a way to justify its ongoing assault on the civil rights of the LGBT community.” “We hope that non-discrimination has become part of the standard operating procedures for the overwhelming majority of federal contractors, and they will continue to recognize that a workplace open to all is not only the right thing to do, but also makes smart business sense,” McGowan said. “But in the same way that the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision has embolden anti-LGBT forces to paint themselves as the victims of LGBT equality, these directives from OFCCP sends an encouraging signal to those individual employees within these larger entities who want to insist on a license to discriminate.” Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement “is an attempt to encourage businesses to take taxpayer dollars and then fire people for being transgender.” “Religious organizations have ample protections under federal law, but they are not allowed to use federal money to discriminate against people,” Tobin said. “The language of this directive is so broad

and so vague because it is part of a long line of attempts by this administration to sow confusion and encourage any employer to act on their worst prejudices. No employer should be allowed to use taxpayer dollars to fire someone because of who they are.” A Labor Department spokesperson said in response to the Washington Blade’s inquiry about the directive OFCCP “will follow the law” and non-discrimination provisions in the executive order remain in place. “FCCP remains committed to enforcing compliance with all of the protections in EO 11246, Section 503 and VEVRAA,” the spokesperson said. “Collectively, these laws prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.” The Masterpiece Cakeshop decision was in favor of Phillips, but was based on the facts of his case and didn’t find a First Amendment right to refuse to make custommade wedding cakes for same-sex couples as he was seeking. As a result, LGBT nondiscrimination protections remain in effect in the aftermath of the decision regardless and any instructions to take the ruling into account when enforcing them shouldn’t be enough to change their outcome. Dale Carpenter, a conservative law professor at the SMU Dedman School of Law who’s written about LGBT rights, echoed those views and said nothing in the guidance is cause for alarm. “Indeed, on its face, that guidance purports only to require what is already mandated by the Constitution, federal statute, or executive branch policy,” Carpenter said. “I don’t foresee any significant erosion of EO 11246 protections.” Embedded in the directive is a sign more is to come. The instructions conclude with a line saying they remain in force “in anticipation of an addition to the department’s regulatory agenda followed by rule-making informed by public comment,” suggesting future changes to the executive order — a religious exemption or a revocation — are forthcoming. Asked the about those words and the nature of any new rule, the Labor Department spokesperson said, “The Department cannot comment on a future rule-making.”



Omarosa, Trump deserve each other In new book, one greedy egomaniac writes about another one

PETER ROSENSTEIN is a LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

The latest installment of our obscene reality show, otherwise known as the Trump presidency, has one of the characters, Omarosa, fired and writing a book about Trump, calling him a liar and a racist. Trump in response calls her a low life. Well it takes one to know one as they say. The crazier part of all this is why anyone would think this is news. It would have been more newsworthy, though not believable, had she written that in one-on-one conversations he is actually a decent guy. Lest we forget, Omarosa is the nobody Trump turned into a reality TV star on “The Apprentice.” She tried to convince us that through editing he made her into the ‘bitch’ that season; now we know it didn’t require editing. Reading her Wikipedia page you find out “in the 1990s, Omarosa worked in the office of Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton Administration.” She later stated the job had been “a very difficult environment, because they don’t believe in training. They just kind of throw you in the fire.” Gore’s former office administrator, Mary Margaret Overbey, has said Omarosa “was the worst hire we ever made.” She was later transferred to the Commerce Department via the White House personnel office. Cheryl Shavers, who then served

Omarosa Manigault Newman Photo by kathclick / Courtesy Bigstock

as the department’s under secretary for technology administration, has said that at the time, Omarosa was “unqualified and disruptive,” adding, “I had her removed.” I won’t read the book but the media are giving her all the free publicity she craves. She lives for being famous and having people talk about her. They are certainly doing that on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and “Meet the Press,” where Chuck Todd got into the mud with her simply by having her on as a guest. She says she knew Trump was a racist from when he was doing “The Apprentice.” Yet she didn’t let that bother her when she agreed to work for his company and then took the White House job. Clearly to her it is all about money and fame, being connected to power, and the ensuing publicity that brings. She got all those things but must have known through it all people were laughing not with her, but at her. She has outdone even some of his most ardent supporters in what she has said about Trump prior to writing this book. “Referring to the 2011

White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, in which President Barack Obama mocked Trump, then in the midst of his ‘birther’ campaign and considering a run for the presidency, Omarosa said ‘Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, whoever disagreed, whoever challenged him — it is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.’” So will she now join those bowing down to him? I met Omarosa Manigault Newman once. It was at a cocktail party to honor David Shulkin after he was confirmed as Secretary of the Veterans Administration. Through some good investigative reporting we now know that was a fiasco in which he was complicit. At the party I chatted with Omarosa and also with General Kelly who was then Secretary of Homeland Security. She seemed pleasant enough. During our conversation I mentioned I had a letter with me for Ivanka, which was a copy of my Blade column, ‘An Open Letter to Ivanka’ and had hoped to meet someone at the party from the White House. Omarosa said she would be happy to take the letter and personally give it to Ivanka. That was at a time many of us thought Ivanka had some clout in the administration and was a decent human being. During our conversation Omarosa spoke proudly about her work in the White House and spoke glowingly of Trump. It was funny reading in the Washington Post that she was fired for “abusing the government car service.” At that cocktail party, which wasn’t an official event but a private party, she mentioned a couple of times how her driver had dropped her off and was waiting for her outside. I actually kidded her saying I have a driver too, he works for Uber. Turns out I never heard from Ivanka about the letter and Omarosa never responded to the two emails I sent her asking if she had delivered it. With Omarosa’s book we are treated to one greedy egomaniac writing about another one. It would be funny if one of them wasn’t the president of the United States.

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Vote for the homo, not the Cuomo for N.Y. governor Nixon is a true progressive who will fight the corporate agenda

Pauline Park led the campaign for the transgender rights law enacted by the New York City Council in 2002 and in 2005 became the first openly transgender grand marshal in the history of the New York City LGBT Pride March. She has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Cynthia Nixon’s challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo is generating attention for many reasons, not least because the former “Sex & the City” star brings Hollywood celebrity to what otherwise might be a dull

and uncontested re-election campaign by the dull and thoroughly anti-progressive Andrew Cuomo. But while I enjoyed the HBO television series and Cynthia Nixon’s role as Miranda Hobbs back in the day, her TV stardom has nothing to do with my decision to vote for her and endorse her for governor. The simple fact is that Democrats have a choice between a genuine progressive and a phony one when they go to the polls in September to vote for the Democratic nominee for governor of the state of New York. Nixon is running on a progressive platform that includes alternatives to incarceration, legalization of marijuana and driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers, including undocumented immigrants as well as a host of other important progressive agenda items foreign to Andrew Cuomo’s anti-progressive corporate agenda. In sharp contrast, Cuomo has surrounded himself with corporate lobbyists and his cronies are being convicted of corruption, including Joseph Percoco, one of Cuomo’s top aides who Cuomo has said is ‘like a brother’ to him and who was found guilty on three counts by a federal jury in March 2018. I don’t vote on the basis of identity politics alone or even primarily, but the fact that

Cynthia Nixon is openly queer is not at all an irrelevant fact, especially given Andrew Cuomo’s notorious role in organizing the ‘vote for Cuomo, not the homo’ smear campaign during his father Mario Cuomo’s race against Ed Koch for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York in 1977. And of course, Andrew Cuomo himself has tried to use identity politics against Nixon, most notoriously when he sent his attack dyke Christine Quinn out to publicly savage his rival in March 2018. Quinn was forced to apologize for calling Nixon an ‘unqualified lesbian’ and the former New York City Council Speaker has not been heard from since that disastrous gaffe. Cuomo often brags about his role in getting the marriage equality bill through the Republican-controlled Senate, but he never mentions the fact that he refused to support the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and actually undercut GENDA by signing an executive order instructing the State Division of Human Rights to add gender identity and expression to the list of categories under which it accepts complaints of discrimination. Nor does the governor mention the fact that he has almost single-handedly

kept the senate in Republican hands by prompting Sen. Jeff Klein to form the Independent Democratic Conference to split the Democrats and enable the IDC to prop up the Republican minority and retain control of the upper chamber of the state legislature; Republican control of the Senate has had significant consequences for the state, enabling Cuomo to block progressive legislation from coming to his desk. Republican control of the senate has also enabled Cuomo to boast about his ability to ‘reach across the aisle’ and work with Republicans in the senate as well as Democrats in the Assembly, even while concealing his crucial role of maintaining Republican control of the Senate. While the Democratic Party establishment has closed ranks behind Cuomo, progressives are flocking to Cynthia’s banner, including independents not closely associated with the party. And I will be casting my vote for Cynthia Nixon in the primary on Sept. 13. When it comes to the choice between Cynthia Nixon vs. Andrew Cuomo, my advice is this: Vote for the homo and not the Cuomo!

Tripping the Burning Man desert fantastic A transformative celebration of art, sex and equality at a price By JOHN PAUL KING

To the uninitiated, the idea of attending Burning Man may well seem like pure insanity. Taking place on a dry lake bed under the scorching summer sun of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, the festival is a week-long “happening” at which thousands of participants – or “Burners,” as they call themselves – gather to experience a counter-cultural explosion of ideas, art and camaraderie. Everything they need – food, water, shelter – they must bring for themselves. There is no running water, and there is no air conditioning to provide relief from the heat; there aren’t even any trees to provide shade. Hot winds frequently fan dust storms that cover everyone from head to toe. Such an inhospitable environment hardly seems like the ideal setting for a party. Yet for the approximately 70,000 people who gather every August at Black Rock City – the name given to the temporary settlement which rises, like a futuristic Brigadoon, to host Burning Man – there is nowhere else on earth that they would rather be. Burners travel from all over the world, alone or in groups, carrying their supplies and their gear to set up camp – often these are elaborately themed and decorated. They get around the festival site on foot, or on bicycles or even in “mutant vehicles” – specially built cars that reflect Burning Man’s creative atmosphere, and which must be approved by the festival authority in advance. They wear outlandish clothing, either cobbled together from eclectic thrift store finds or purchased from online merchants like Etsy who have learned to cater to the Burning Man aesthetic. Sometimes these outfits – which usually fall into one of two categories, “Glam” or “Geek” – are specially and elaborately made, just for the occasion. And frequently, Burners spend a lot of time at the festival wearing nothing at all. As for activities, there are plenty of things to see and do and experience. Performances,

DJs, celebrations, installations of mindboggling art, engineering and architecture – all of these are core elements of the Burning Man experience. So too, of course, is the climactic spectacle from which the festival takes its name, in which a giant wooden effigy is incinerated by flames that climb high into the desert sky. In between the events, there’s a surprising amount of gourmet food (courtesy of that “gift economy”) to be had, prepared and shared by over-achieving “foodie” burners, and certainly no shortage of alcohol. Drugs, of course, are illegal – but you’ll still find plenty of them there. There’s also sex. Lots and lots of sex. Free-spirited hedonism aside, Burners are drawn to the festival for the experience of belonging to a radical social experiment; they become part of an ephemeral village that relies on a “gift economy” – that is to say, there is no commerce or advertising, no exchange of goods and services, and everyone is expected to give and share what they have according to their own abilities. This springs from Burning Man’s ten “principals,” as officially penned by co-founder Larry Harvey in 2004; these also include communal effort, civic responsibility, and participation, as well as “radical inclusion”— an exhortation which makes the festival a popular destination for many within the LGBTQ community. Begun as a free event on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986, Burning Man was founded by Harvey (who passed away at 70 earlier this year after suffering a massive stroke) and Jerry James. It has continued annually ever since, from the last Sunday in August to the first Monday in September (Labor Day), and although it has grown from a small gathering into the massive production it is today, it’s managed to maintain its dedication to exploring “radical self-expression.” One thing that has changed, though, is the price tag. Admission is no longer free; ticket packages

for this year’s installment range from $425 - $1,200 – though there are “low-income” options available – and that doesn’t include various additional fees and charges, nor does it factor in the cost of travel or supplies. The high price tag is one of the reasons Burning Man has generated controversy in recent years. Despite being dedicated to inclusion and decommodification, it can’t be ignored that the festival’s attendees are overwhelmingly white, male and affluent. It has become a favorite gathering place for the Silicon Valley crowd, who use it as a networking opportunity (Tesla CEO Elon Musk, now exposed as a conservative SuperPAC donor, has said that the festival “IS Silicon Valley”), and every year sees a larger number of luxury camps set up by wealthy Burners as highly exclusive “gated communities” within Black Rock City. In 2014, a venture-capitalist billionaire threw an infamous party at one such camp – he even flew in models to provide company for his guests – and charged $16,500 for a wristband to get in. Campers who take seriously the festival’s egalitarian ethos have, unsurprisingly, been disgruntled by such displays of capitalistic privilege, leading to an accusation that Burning Man has become “gentrified.” Still, die-hard Burners are undeterred by such issues. Ask a Burner to define why they love the festival and you will get any number of answers. For some, it’s a social experiment; for others, it’s a spiritual retreat; for many, it’s a marathon rave. For all of them, it’s an escape from the everyday regimentation of their lives in what they call the “default” world – one which exerts such a powerful appeal that they are drawn to return, year after year, no matter what. What is it, exactly, that makes Burning Man so essential to its acolytes? The Los Angeles Blade reached out to the Glamcocks, a queer-centric theme camp at

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Glamcocks, a queer-centric themed group, has been a staple of Burning Man since 2010. Photo Courtesy Facebook

Burning Man since 2010, to get an answer. One member said, “When you combine the vast amount of energy, the music, the art, and the amazing gifts and unique perspectives people from around the world are bringing to the event, the harshness of the desert environment fades away. What’s left is truly magic. It’s awe-inspiring.” Another touched on the transformative nature of the experience, adding, “It really changes you. It’s made me more open, more willing to say yes to new things. I feel supported and encouraged to express myself in brave new ways and I bring that energy back to the ‘default’ world with me.” A gay man who is in recovery underscored the inclusiveness of the festival. “I had an amazing experience,” he said. “I saw no barrier between gay and straight… and being sober I obviously had some hesitation, but they have

12-step meetings every day. I love that.” Still, the thing for which Burning Man is most known – by those who have been there and those who have only seen it in pictures – is the art. From the beginning, art has been a crucial part of the festival’s mission to promote self-expression, and as its profile – and pocketbook – has grown, so has the ambition of the artists who participate and the scale of the work they produce. Immense interactive sculptures, designed around annually-announced themes, have become the hallmark of Burning Man, and this year promises to offer an amazing crop. Though it’s impossible to know what will appear on the “Playa” before it actually shows up, there are a number of planned “honoraria” contributions based on this year’s theme of “I, Robot.” The festival website has the full list,

but a few of them include: BABA YAGA’S HOUSE, by Jessi Sprocket Janusee of Reno, Nev. – “The house of Baba Yaga will rise from the playa straddling it’s mechanical chicken legs. Ascend her staircases to test the old witch if you dare. If you are strong of will, feeling bold and willing to show vulnerability she may allow you to venture within her sanctum.” BLOOM, by Peter Hazel of Reno, Nev. – “Peter and his team are bringing back the 40-foottall jellyfish from 2017. From a distance, this piece looks like a single large creature, but upon arriving one will realize it is comprised of thousands of smaller jellyfish, swimming in a sea of tentacles and lights. Visitors are able to climb up inside to the top of the jellyfish dome to have an incredible view of the playa.” Continues at losangelesblade.com

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Photo By Billy Masters


Long before Ellen, Boy George, “Will & Grace,” and RuPaul, there was Bruce Vilanch. You may know him from writing the most memorable moments on the Academy Awards, or from touring as Edna in “Hairspray,” or from being front and center on “Hollywood Squares,” or from writing for Bette Midler. No matter how you know him, and even if you don’t know him by name, one thing is certain — Bruce Vilanch always leaves you smiling. To this gay boy growing up in a Boston suburb, that weirdly wonderful creature who regularly popped up on television brought endless joy – and promise. It proved that somehow, somewhere, there were more people like me; that I could fit in, thrive, work, and more than anything else, have a fabulous time. It seemed like it was a party wherever Bruce showed up. “Donny & Marie,” “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour,” “The Paul Lynde Halloween Special” and “The Star Wars Holiday Special.” Was it as much fun as it seemed? Vilanch sighs. “Even sex sometimes isn’t as fabulous on the inside as it seems from the outside!” He regularly uses his gifts to benefit causes close to his heart. He’s been a tireless advocate for gay rights, raised countless dollars for the fight against AIDS and regularly participates in Pride events – you name it and Bruce has done it. When I ask what drives him, he says, “Renting my body was not an option.” I remember being part of the invited audience for the dress rehearsal before he hit the road in “Hairspray,” slipping into Edna’s slippers. The first person in his dressing room afterwards was his beloved mother, Henne – who was immortalized in the 1999 documentary about Vilanch, “Get Bruce!” Bruce was still in full makeup (see photo). Henne gushed, “You were WONDERFUL.” She turned to me and said, “Isn’t my son wonderful?” He certainly is!

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? I’ve never been in. Before Stonewall, the concept of being publicly out didn’t exist. And I’ve been around since before Stonewall. Shocking, I know. In addition, I was always fooling around with girls, until I realized that any woman I wanted to make a life with deserved more than a guy who would be trolling around looking for other guys. I chose to live an authentic life. When they say homosexuality is a choice, that’s the choice they’re talking about. Who’s your LGBT hero? If I have to pick just one out of the herd, I guess it would be Noël Coward. He lived the life he wanted to live and nobody seemed to make a bother about it. Plus he was funny as shit. What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? I am of the Studio One/Rose Tattoo era. I was too late for the Coconut Grove in its prime and now I don’t last as late, so I can’t enjoy Reflex in its prime, which is about 5 a.m. Describe your dream wedding. It’s a thrupple. I’m not sure who the other two guys are, but one of them dresses left and the other dresses right and I’m the centrist. What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? I’m a tribal Jew, so I’m concerned about my tribe. Working on AIDS-related causes for so many decades has made me more interested in other minority health issues, and being on the board of the LA LGBT Center has certainly gotten me involved in that. Of course, I am dogged about the arts and censorship and preservation and restoration. And I worry — Tiffany Haddish — she really ready? What historical outcome would you change? I try not to indulge in magical thinking. Magical drinking is enough. What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? Probably Woodstock, but that’s just because I am a boomer. I wasn’t really a hippie, I wasn’t really a rocker, I wasn’t really a stoner, but the idea of half a million people hiking into the woods to hear music and to tell the previous generation that there was a new world hatching is still pretty memorable. On what do you insist? Pleasure. And free WiFi. What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? Probably a postcard eulogy of a friend. They’re thick on the ground now...again. But this is not because of a

plague. This is Mother Nature and Father Time, who are both non-binary. If your life were a book, what would the title be? There was a documentary about me called “Get Bruce!” Maybe the book will be “Had Bruce!” With a much larger cast. If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do? By that time, I will be married to a Martian. What do you believe in beyond the physical world? An ethical dimension. What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? Xanax. Just when we thought we had climbed the mountain, they moved the mountain. I don’t blame them for being depressed and a bit shell-shocked. Still, our enemies eat a lot of sugar and have boundless energy, and we have to shut down divisive politics amongst ourselves and confront the common orange evil. What would you walk across hot coals for? A swimming pool, and in a big hurry. What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? Anyone who tells you if you disagree with them, you are worse than Hitler. And that’s an awful lot of gay people. We’re woefully intolerant of each other and rather than finding common ground, we carpet bomb. This isn’t new, but it is especially annoying in the era that began on November 9, 2016. What’s your favorite LGBT movie? “Get Bruce!” of course, OK, that wasn’t even nominated for a GLAAD Award, even though part of the movie was my acceptance speech when I personally won a GLAAD Award. Aside from that, I am very partial to an indie drama called “Parting Glances,” which was the first AIDS movie that I can recall. If you don’t think you can handle it, know that the young Steve Buscemi is one of the leads and that alone should get you to Netflix and chill. What’s the most overrated social custom? “How are you,” “Thoughts and prayers,” “Sorry for your loss,” referring to rich kids as “children of privilege.” What trophy or prize do you most covet? The World’s Largest Penis, which is not the same as the World’s Largest Dick, which I have already been called. What do you wish you’d known at 18? That pizza wouldn’t make me happy for more than a minute. Why Los Angeles? I’m deeply shallow.



Shears endears Scissor Sisters frontman out with catchy new solo record By THOM MURPHY

Jake Shears is his usual goofy, endearing, musically refreshing self on a new solo record. Image Courtesy Freida Jean Records

Like the emcee in “Cabaret,” Jake Shears invites us into his new eponymous solo debut album, a smart, eccentric and at times outlandish record that feel like its own self-contained cabaret performance. Shears is best known as a founding member of the pop group Scissor Sisters. The group went on hiatus in 2012 following the album “Magic Hour,” a Billboard No. 1 album on the Top Dance/Electronic chart which featured the single “Let’s Have A Kiki.” Shears has since appeared alongside Kylie Minogue in the 2015 single “The Other Boys,” published a memoir and made his Broadway debut in “Kinky Boots” — coincidentally in the same role played by Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie last summer. But in his first solo album (out last week), the 39-year-old singer seems interested in branching out from his previous work, experimenting with country and blues. The album begins with a short “Introduction” that serves as a show opener and cements the performative element of the album: Piano and orchestra bounce along merrily and end with a drum roll that leads into “Good Friends.” Complete with bluesy piano and a saxophone solo, this track sets a fun, upbeat tone for the rest of the album. Shears hits his signature nasally falsetto in the bridge, putting him in his usual disco-ish vocal territory. It’s a solid start for the record and a fair sample of the whole. The lead single “Creep City” is the theatrical climax of the album, due in no small part to the delightful music video. Under Mac Boucher’s direction, the curtain opens on Shears as the glamorous, seductive cabaret master — feathers, chapeau and all. And as if a reference to Cabaret’s “Money Money,” he sings: “Get me out of this creep city/I’m flat broke and I don’t need pity right now.” Throughout the song, the lyrics buzz with the smart aleck wit of the best Scissor Sisters songs. “Sad Song Backwards,” one of the best cuts, has a country sound. The chorus has the feel of Nashvillebased singer Margo Price’s “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” but a few clicks faster and with a strong theatrical component. Shears’ country stylings feature both a horn section and back-up singers better suited to Broadway than Nashville, but are a natural fit. Perhaps the most clever track is the single “Big Bushy Mustache.” The album cover shows a pajama’d Shears with a prominent mustache lounging on a green antique couch. With his typical sense of humor, the singer winks at fellow follicle enthusiasts: “I want a porn star handlebar/And a neon pink Mustang as my second car.” But despite its clever lyrics, the song is less musically innovative than many of the other tracks. Shears instead opts for a more straightforward rock ’n’ roll sound. The song “Mississippi Delta (I’m Your Man),” an ode to Shears’ current home of New Orleans, sounds as though it could have been recorded by Elton John, and the influence of “Superstition” on the song “Clothes Off” is unmistakable. There is also the pervasive influence of Queen and ‘70s disco throughout the album. But for Shears, variety is virtue. And if it’s his musical eccentricity that keeps him out of the American mainstream, it’s also what makes him so endearing.


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‘Crazy Rich’ comedy Rom-com with gay side story ends summer with laughs By BRIAN T. CARNEY

Constance Wu in ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’ Photo courtesy Warner Bros.

Although there are technically still a few days left, the 2018 Hollywood summer movie season has unofficially come to a glittering end with the sumptuous new rom-com “Crazy Rich Asians.” Besides being breathtakingly beautiful and deliciously funny, the movie is groundbreaking: it’s the first studio movie in 25 years to feature an all Asian cast. (The last was “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993.) Based on the global best-selling novel by Kevin Kwan, “Crazy Rich Asians” is the story of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu of the TV series “Fresh off the Boat” and the web series “Eastsiders”), a professor of economics at New York University who has been raised by a single mother. She’s been dating the charming Nick Young (newcomer Henry Golding) for a year and she’s delighted when he invites her to fly to Singapore to attend his friend Colin’s wedding and meet his family. There’s only one problem. Nick has never told Rachel that he’s rich — filthy rich. He’s the heir to a huge fortune and his very traditional Chinese family expect him to return to Singapore, find a rich and well-bred wife and run the family business. Nick’s snobby family and society friends quickly make it clear that Rachel will never be good enough for him. The opposition to Rachel is led by Nick’s formidable mother, the steely Eleanor (expertly played by Michelle Yeoh of “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). Besides her considerable wealth, her troops include her haughty sisters-in-law and her sweetly domineering motherin-law. And while Colin supports Nick’s plans to propose to Rachel, the rest of the wedding party, drawn from the spoiled sons and daughters of the Singapore elite, do not approve of Rachel and try to break the couple up. While Nick and Colin are able to escape the raucous bachelor party, Rachel is trapped on a party island with the bride (a vacuous highfashion model) and her vicious friends. She is subjected to brutal pranks and, more seriously, learns that Nick has failed to tell he about some of his past romances. Luckily, Rachel rallies some troops of her own: her college friend Goh Peik Lin (played by rapper and actress Awkwafina, who is also heard on the soundtrack), Nick’s gay cousin Oliver T’sein (Nico Santos from NBC’s “Superstore”) and Nick’s cousin Astrid (Gemma Chen of “Humans”). In their own way, all three are fighting against the strict rules of the Singapore elite and help Rachel navigate her way through the wedding. While the ending is never really in doubt, director Jon M. Chu and his skillful cast and crew make the journey delightfully suspenseful. The screenplay by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim is full of very funny situations and characters, zippy oneliners and genuinely tender moments. Their adaptation of Kwan’s sprawling novel is occasionally clunky. The profusion of underdeveloped minor characters gets confusing; some of them seem to appear only for cheap laughs or because they will be in the inevitable sequel. (The novel is the first book in a trilogy.) The gorgeous cinematography by Vanja Cernjul is a visual valentine to the people, sights and tastes of Singapore. The cast looks great in splendid shimmering couture by Mary E. Vogt; the city looks amazing; and the shots of food are droolinducing. But, Cernjul and Chu are also masters of tone, and the movie takes on highly effective surrealistic and satiric overtones when things turn ugly.



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A modern twist on a 70’s classic, one LGBT character at a Time Netflix racks up the Emmy nominations and proves streaming has the power in TV By SUSAN HORNIK

Isabella Gomez Photos Courtesy Netflix

While it didn’t snag an Emmy award nomination, “One Day At a Time,” is coming back for a third season early next year. A revamp of television icon Norman Lear’s classic sitcom, the Netflix series follows divorced, single mom Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado) a veteran of the Iraq war dealing with the effects of PTSD and keeping her beautiful CubanAmerican family strong. In the hit, soulful series, teen daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez) is a newly out lesbian, trying to figure out life’s challenges after her dad refused to accept her sexual preference. Last season, Elena started dating Syd, (Sheridan Pierce) the first gender nonconforming character on the comedy series. At the Television Critics Press Tour, the Los Angeles Blade’s spoke to executive producer Gloria Calderon-Kellett about what will happen to Elena’s character, as she “deepens” her relationship with Syd. “This young, gay woman has her first partner and we are going to see what that looks like,” noted Calderón-Kellett. “We haven’t gotten to see the trials and tribulations of gay teens and so to follow Elena and Syd as they get closer and navigate their relationship will be really rewarding this year. The viewers will be very happy.” As the character has aged, viewers can expect a more adult Elena, said Gomez. “We see her grow and get more comfortable in her relationship. This is her first real one; they are dealing with what real couples struggle with, like with communication,” Gomez said. Outside of her love life, Elena will be coming into her own self now, acknowledged Gomez. “She is 17 years old, becoming more mature and understands what is going on a lot more.” “She is now a lovely young lady!” Gomez enthused. While Gomez had expected negative backlash on social media for portraying a gay Latin teen, she has been thrilled with how supportive viewers have been. “I have read literally four or five things in the three seasons I have worked on the series, which is insane. It’s just unheard of. I feel so privileged not only to play this cultured smart, multi-layered woman, but also for how the fans have supported me, on this and any project I take on.” Gomez has received many letters from gay teens who have appreciated her character being represented on-screen. But what has truly “blown her mind the most” is the outpouring of support from women who are in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, who delayed their coming out. “They say to me, ‘had I known a character like Elena Alvarez, my life would have been easier. I wouldn’t have felt quite so alone.’ Because they had no one representing them on television; it was inaccurate, through male gays, and it just wasn’t good.” She continued: “With the younger ones—thankfully, our generation is a little more accepting, so it’s easier for them to come out.” After season one, Gomez felt a bit of pressure to play the character as accurately and realistically as possible. Upon receiving an outpouring of love and messages from the fans, the young, straight actress realized that she was a vessel for something very important. “I didn’t want to mess it up. I haven’t had the experiences that Elena has. But I know that if ever I make a mistake with the character, the fans would let me know and I would treat this as a learning experience.” A moment of introspection came up for Gonez during the second season, where there was a discussion of colorism. Gomez is born and raised in Colombia, and most of her family still lives there. Initially. they had trouble understanding why Gomez was playing an lgbtq character. “They were like, ‘what does this mean? Are you gay now?’ I definitely see more of a resistance to being gay there.” Thankfully, Gomez’s parents are very open minded. “I have been very lucky. But it’s not always the case in the Latinx community.” With Rita Moreno playing her grandmother, Gomez is thrilled to go to set each day. “Rita has 86 years of experience! I learn something new each time I am around her!” Sneak Peek: look out for singer Gloria Estefan as she guest stars on “One Day At a Time” during the third season.




Two-door beauties Dodge Challenger, BMW 13S offer spunk, panache By JOE PHILLIPS

Dodge Challenger GT

Want the scoop on coupes and convertibles? They’re not as popular or practical as crossovers, hatchbacks or other rides built for hauling cargo and companions. But they sure are sexy. That’s why some vehicles with beaucoup doors, like the BMW below, are cleverly designed to look like two-door turn ons. DODGE CHALLENGER GT $35,000 Mpg: 18 city, 27 highway Zero-60 mph: 6.3 seconds

Keeping track of the hot Dodge Challenger is, at times, a challenge. Along with major trim levels — from the base SXT to the GT, R/T, R/T 392, SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat — there are a slew of variants, like the R/T Scat Pack, R/T Shaker, SRT Hellcat Redeye, SRT Hellcat Widebody and, well, you get the picture. All showcase the Challenger’s nostalgic muscle-car looks. This includes the old-school grille, a sweeping hood that seems to stretch two football fields and a trunk the size of Kansas. Compared to a Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro, the Challenger is a land yacht, but in a good way. Large 19-inch wheels, sturdy brakes and solid suspension make for smooth sailing on all kinds of roads. The GT debuted last year and is the only model with all-wheel drive, a major plus in bad weather. The 305hp V6 is reasonably fuel efficient and plenty powerful, though it’s no V8 Hemi engine (which is available in the higher-performing and higher-priced Challenger models). The retro cabin, with a pleasing array of simple dials and gauges, is a bit plasticky but also spacious. And there are plenty of modern features, including heated steering wheel, heated side mirrors, backup camera, interior ambient lighting and smartphone integration. All in all, the Challenger GT is a nice step up from the base model yet doesn’t break the bank. BMW I3S $49,000 Range: 180 miles (114 miles battery-only) Zero-60 mph: 6.8 seconds

Alas, sexy may not be the word to describe the BMW i3 electric vehicle. But the sliced-and-diced design certainly gives it personality, somewhere between cute and quirky. The funky shape cleverly disguises two rear doors and a hatchback, which are all a blessing when loading/unloading passengers or packages. An optional 2.4-gallon fuel tank extends the range to 180 miles, which is more than enough for most daily drivers. And the tree-hugger cabin is made from recycled and renewable materials. BMW’s latest tech and safety gear is here, with a floating infotainment screen, gear-selector knob on the steering wheel, on-street parking locator, pedestrian warning, collision alert and much more. This year, there’s the new performance version, the i3s. It’s lower to the ground than the base model, with bigger tires for better grip and zip around curves. Along with some special exterior styling, there’s a surprise inside: the bizarro bright-blue seat belts, which are the same vibrant color as in the BMW logo. Most impressive is the Sport mode, with quicker acceleration and tighter steering to help the i3s break away from being just another EV. It works, because this is one fast and fun ride that also happens to be eco-friendly. BMW I3S

Mercedes E400 4Matic Cabriolet

MERCEDES E400 4MATIC CABRIOLET $69,000 Mpg: 20 city, 26 highway Zero-60 mph: 5.2 seconds

The E-Class often sets the standard for midsize sedans, wagons, convertibles and coupes. The latest generation is no exception, especially with the coupe and convertible — two primo rides that share the same DNA. Yes, the coupe is a hair sexier, thanks to unbroken lines of sheetmetal flowing gracefully from front to back. But with the top down and the wind blowing in your hair, the cabriolet can’t be beat. Available in rear-wheel or 4Matic all-wheel drive, this sensuous soft-top has 10 layers of acoustic insulation to muffle outside noise. Toodling to the beach via freeways and back-country roads is a joy, with a surprising amount of legroom for rear-seat passengers. On hot days, sun-reflecting material keeps the seats cool. For chilly nights, the headrests blow warm air directly on your neck. Using a smartphone, you can start the car and even park it remotely. And a special windshield wiper system prevents fluid from spraying into the car with the top down. The list of other add-ons seems endless, from upgraded paint and massaging seats to an aromatherapy system, semiautonomous driving and 64 shades of ambient lighting. But there’s a catch: such extras can boost the price to nearly $100,000.




Schadenfreude, sex toys, $20 and Batwoman So many injustices, so little time By BILLY MASTERS

Chelsea Handler plays a power dyke on ‘Will & Grace’ this season. Photo Courtesy Facebook

“Is there anything more satisfying than seeing recent photos of someone you once lusted after now looking hideous? I also recognize: 1) this makes me a terrible person and 2) it is the definition of schadenfreude — which is delightful with a cup of tea.” ― Billy Masters. Since he assumed the presidency, Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been routinely vandalized. Last week, it was completely destroyed. In response, the West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously to remove the star. There’s just one problem — the star isn’t in West Hollywood, and the City Council has no jurisdiction over the Walk of Fame. What the City Council actually did was pass a resolution to recommend to the Hollywood Walk of Fame that Donald Trump’s star be removed. Sounds like a big waste of time to me. We live in dangerous times. And that was epitomized at Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport. TSA (or whatever they call it in Germany) flagged “suspicious content in a luggage piece” around 11 a.m. on a Thursday. An announcement went out over the PA, “Can the gentleman with the multiple unknown objects in his luggage please step forward and explain them?” The 31-yearold man sheepishly skulked to security. When asked what was in the suitcase, he murkily said “technical stuff.” The terminal was evacuated and the airport tweeted the following: “Due to police investigation concerning a piece of baggage, check-in at Terminal D is currently restricted.” The bomb squad arrived and gave a long, hard look at the questionable items. It was quickly determined that the suitcase was heavily laden with “sex toys,”including a vibrator which the man claims he bought for his “girlfriend.” Hunky Stephen Amell is in hot water after being photographed wearing a T-shirt that read, “I’m not gay, but $20 is $20.” It didn’t help that he wore the shirt at Vancouver Pride, to say nothing of the implication that sexuality can be bought. More accurately, it sounds like Stephen Amell can be bought, and I think 20 bucks is a bargain! Actress Ruby Rose has just been cast as Batwoman and will appear in several shows on the CW, including “Arrow” and “Supergirl,” before transitioning onto her own series. Not only that, but Batwoman will be a lesbian. So, who is this Batwoman? We all know Batgirl and Catwoman. Turns out, the character of Batwoman was first introduced by DC Comics in 1956. Critics claim her romance with Batman was invented to dispel rumors that the Caped Crusader was gay (which wasn’t a particularly large leap given his close relationship with “ward,” Robin). Catwoman first appeared in the comics way back in 1940s. But, apparently, she didn’t quite do the trick. We’re thrilled to tell you that Wilson Cruz will be returning to “Star Trek: Discovery.” You’ll recall that early in the first season his character (the spousal equivalent of Anthony Rapp’s character) was killed off. During that season, Cruz’s contract for the show was as a recurring cast member because he was also filming “13 Reasons Why.” This year, he’s billed as a full cast member and is around all season long. How do they explain his “death”? Is he real, or a dream, or a hologram? All we know is he’s not solely in flashbacks and he’s not a ghost. Remember all that hoopla over Scarlett Johansson being cast to play a woman who lived like a man? The argument was that only a transgender person should play the role. Fine — I don’t agree with it, but fine. So, can you explain to me why nobody is upset that Chelsea Handler will be playing a “high-powered lesbian” on an episode of “Will & Grace” next season? It’s probably OK since Eric McCormack plays Will. During my recent jaunt to Provincetown, I caught Thirsty Burlington in “The Cher Show” — not to be confused with the upcoming Broadway musical of the same name. Burlington is spectacular at channeling Cher in a way that, frankly, makes you actually think you are watching Cher! All live singing, spontaneous pater (more than Cher ever does), costume changes, videos — all in the confines of the intimate Cabaret room at the Crown & Anchor. A fabulous show and definitely a must-see. You can get tix at OnlyAtTheCrown.com. Our “Ask Billy” question is from Ben in Chicago. “I just saw a photo of Zac Efron’s brother. WOW, he’s gorgeous too. What do you know about him?” Remember how hot Zac was before he became all jacked and (dare I say) too big? That’s what his 26-year-old brother Dylan looks like. He’s done two Ironman triathlons, and this year he ran the Boston Marathon with Zac cheering him on. Dylan may have brawn, but he’s also got brains — he has a BS in Economics from Cal Poly. You can get a better idea of his physical attributes on BillyMasters.com. When I’m extolling the virtues of brotherly love, it’s time to end yet another column. Did I mention that Dylan Efron writes poetry? “A Brotherly Thing,” which he wrote in sixth grade, begins thusly: “My brother is a movie star / And is only sixteen / He doesn’t have a job yet / Still, he thinks he is the queen.” Out of the mouth of babes! Methinks the Efron lads might want to check out BillyMasters.com — the site where all queens are welcome! If something’s on your mind, write to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before Batman and Robin race to give Stephen Amell that $20! So, until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.



DTLA PROUD Weekend, Aug. 24 through Aug. 26, will celebrate its third year with an enlarged and expanded Arts and Entertainment festival. The event has grown from a block party to a full fledged Pride celebration. Photo Courtesy Instagram


Los Angeles Taco Festival 2018, Sat. Aug 18 @ 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Grand Park (200 N. Grand Street). Every year, the LA Taco Festival™ attracts thousands of Angelenos to taste the many different styles that taco vendors have to offer. This year will feature past favorites like Kogi BBQ and Epic Tacos, along with newcomers who may surprise even seasoned taco fans. Enjoy live music and fun games in the beautiful setting of Grand Park, days ahead of DTLA PROUD. And eat up for a good cause; proceeds from the event are donated to Jovenes, Inc., a non-profit organization helping LA’s homeless youth. This year’s event is presented by Jovenes, Inc., the American Beverage Association, and AltaMed Health Services with the support of La Barca Grill & Cantina. Tickets available at LATacoFestival.com. Grand Park Sunday Sessions Presents The DoOver, Sun. Aug. 18 @ 2:00 PM to 8:00 PM at at Grand Park (200 N. Grand Street). Returning for the 6th summer, Sunday Sessions celebrates Los Angeles’ contribution to the American-originated, globally embraced art form of House music. Honoring LAs vibrant music scene, creativity, and boundary-pushing music-making, Grand Park brings the best House music artists to the city’s central gathering place where you can relive the memories, celebrate the hit-makers and connect with the community feel of dance and music. Guests can purchase food from food trucks and cocktails (21+ only) from the bar and enjoy the sounds of summer in a beautiful setting right in the middle of the city.


DTLA PROUD GALA, Mon. Aug. 20 @ 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at Otium (222 South Hope Street). The downtown LGBTQ community gets it’s 3rd Pride celebration under way by inviting you to attend the PROUD GALA, honoring our DTLA PROUD supporters, community leaders, elected officials, and sponsors. DTLA has emerged as one of the region’s most important Pride

celebrations. Indulge in mouth watering hor’dourves handcrafted by renowned chef Timothy Hollingsworth. Organizers write: “Arrive in your strongest cocktail party lewks and walk down the olive tree lined runway past The Broad Museum from Grand Avenue to the architectural gem that is Otium.” It’s the new gay way of LA. Valet parking is available but ride share service is urged. $150 per person or $250 per duo (Early Bird: $125 per person or $200 per duo).


AFTER DARK: Night Swim, Thu. Aug. 23 @ 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM at Mondrian Hotel (8440 Sunset Boulevard). Luxuriate in West Hollywood’s most stunning pool, at night and in unusual sophistication. You can enjoy a topshelf cabana option and bottle service. Your wish will be granted, poolside, soaking in the luxuriant music, swaying to the palm trees in the heat of the night. Add it to your remaining summer Thursday night special treat. You won’t be disappointed but you will need to make reservations at facebook.com/Mondrian/.


The Trans Justice Awards, Fri. Aug. 24 @ 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at Globe Theater (740 South Broadway). Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER) presents the group’s first annual fundraiser. The event promises “a catered dinner, speakers, performers, cocktail hour, and much more.” Expect plenty of celebrity guest appearances, amazing food, and great company. Trans Student Educational Resources is a youth-led organization dedicated to transforming the educational environment for trans and gender nonconforming students through advocacy and empowerment. TSER also teaches trans activists how to be effective organizers, believing “justice for trans and gender nonconforming youth is contingent on an intersectional framework of activism. Ending oppression is a longterm process that can only be achieved through collaborative action.” For more information visit

transstudent.org/tja DTLA PROUD WEEKEND, Fri. Aug. 24 @ 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM, Sat. Aug. 25 @ 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM, Sun. Aug. 26 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM at Grand Park (200 N. Grand Street).Over the past three years, Oliver Alpuche and friends have created a sensational LGBT Arts and Entertainment festival, one of the most exciting Pride celebrations in the nation. The event combine visual arts with music and a grass roots diversity that can only be achieved with great intention. It’s a joyous display of Queer diversity, with 3 days of music and entertainment. The Los Angeles Blade is one of many sponsors of this evolving event. We see it becoming something like Burning Man times Coachella divided by New York’s 1990s Wigstock. For more information visit dtlaproud.org.


PRIDE IN THE SKY, Sat. Aug. 25 @ 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM @ OUE SkySpace (633 West 5th Street). The Los Angeles Blade and U.S. Bank present PRIDE IN THE SKY, With this inaugural event, the Los Angeles Blade and U.S. Bank team up to begin an anual tradition of honoring some of the most influential local LGBT names in media, banking, entrepreneurialism, activism, social services and non-profits. Marc Malkin, Editor of Variety magazine; Eddie Martinez, Executive Director of Mi Centro and Latino Equality Alliance; Hany Haddad, U.S. Bank VP and philanthropist; Jeffrey King, In the Meantime Men’s Group ED; Oliver Alpuche, creator of DTLA Proud; Michael Weinstein, AHF President, among others. Join us on the 70th floor of Los Angeles’ most iconic building as we gather in celebration of DTLA’s growing LGBT community. For more information visit Facebook.com/LosAngelesBlade.

E-mail calendar items to tmasters@losangelesblade.com two weeks prior to your event. Space is limited so priority is given to LGBT-specific events or those with LGBT participants. Recurring events must be re-submitted each time.

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