NEIGHBORHOOD EMERGING AS HOT LGBT DESTINATION IN SOCAL, PAGE 24
A U G U S T 2 4 2 0 1 8 • V O LU M E 0 2 • I S S U E 2 5 • 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
04 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Prolific producer Craig Zadan, an appreciation in sin.” There’s no evidence Reagan actually said that—but he might have. The TV biopic aired on Showtime. “By being out and proud, Craig Zadan helped blaze a path for so many others in Hollywood to follow,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “He was a truly visionary leader who spoke to our hearts and souls through his prolific and profound work…[O]ur hearts go out to all who loved Craig, especially his life partner, Elwood Hopkins, and his producing
partner, Neil Meron.” “We met when Craig was doing Cinderella in the nineties and geeked out over all things musical,” friend Brad Bessey, former executive producer for Entertainment Tonight, told the Los Angeles Blade. “Craig’s gift was that it was never about him, it was always about honoring the material, the music, the artists, the legacy, and the audience. Being the ultimate fan made him the ultimate creator.”
Project Angel Food raises money and hope
Craig Zadan (left) and Neil Meron Photo Courtesy Zadan Meron Productions
Zadan and Neil Meron produced ‘Footloose,’ ‘Hairspray,’ the Oscars and more By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com The entertainment world was shocked to learn that prolific gay producer Craig Zadan died Monday night, Aug. 20, at his home in the Hollywood Hills of complications from shoulder replacement surgery. He was 69. Zadan and Meron productions have earned six Oscars, 17 Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, two Peabody honors, and a Grammy, Variety reported. The team’s “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” for NBC on Easter Sunday is nominated for 13 Emmy Awards, as is their Lifetime TV movie “Flint,” produced with and starring Queen Latifah, about the water contamination crisis in Flint, Mich. I met Craig and Neil in 1995 to talk about their NBC movie “Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story,” about a respected Washington National Guard Colonel who was forced out under the gay military ban. The film was co-produced by Barbra Streisand and the film’s star, Glenn Close, and co-starred Judy Davis.
They were genuinely attentive, ebullient and passionate. Craig’s broad smile buoyed his description of their mission: 1. bring back musicals; 2. elevate biopics; 3. unapologetically infuse diversity into all their endeavors. And they did, with soul. In 1997, they produced Disney’s “Cinderella” for ABC with singer/“Moesha” actress Brandy as Cinderella, co-producer Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother, Bernadette Peters as the evil stepmother; Filipino actor Paolo Montalban as The Prince, Whoopi Goldberg as his mother and Victor Garber as his father. It was groundbreaking. “Seeing a princess with box braids like mine and a fairy godmother like Whitney, who could have been my own mother or any one of my aunties, gave me and girls who looked like me a glimpse at an early age of why it is necessary to demand representation of all types of people playing all times of roles in films,” Martha Tesema recalled on Mashable in 2017. Craig and I stayed in touch periodically via email, important during controversies such as when CBS refused to air “The Reagans” in 2003. A leak revealed a scene with President Ronald Reagan ( James Brolin) turning to wife Nancy ( Judy Davis)— who suggested helping people with AIDS— and replies: “They that live in sin shall die
“People make fun of LA for being self-involved and shallow — bite me, we’ve got Project Angel Food,” said Debra Messing, the beloved “Will and Grace” star who was honored with celebrity stylist Chaz Dean on Aug. 18 at the 28th Annual Angel Awards, a gala fundraiser for Project Angel Food. This year, Project Angel Food will serve more than 600,000 meals to people with AIDS and terminally ill residents of Los Angeles. Messing talked about a teacher who she watched go through stages of AIDS over her three years at NYU’s graduate acting program in 1990. “He was no longer teaching, he was living alone, had very little money and he was declining. My fellow students, in between classes and rehearsals, cooked meals for him and delivered them to his apartment,” Messing said. “Years after, I searched for a place to help put all these feelings and it wasn’t until my new friend and television roommate, Eric McCormack, invited me to co-host Project Angel Food Divine Design that I found a place for them.” “Angel Food, like so many types of organizations, work under the radar — they’re always in the community, they’re always doing good, but they’re not always in the public eye, so some people aren’t even aware of the good work that they’re doing,” said “Get Shorty” actor Lidia Porto, who joined other celebrities including Pauley Perrette, Charo, and Charlie Sheen. “We have 1,300 people who rely on our meals everyday and it’s growing. We have 80 [new] people we need to feed. We raised some money tonight and we’re going to feed most of them. I am not going to stop until I get funding for all 80 — we’re going to feed all of them because no one deserves to go hungry,” Executive Director, Richard Ayoub told the Los Angeles Blade, adding a plea for volunteers. “Project Angel Food is part of a statewide pilot program where we are providing healthy meals to people with congestive heart failure and the hope is that we bring down healthcare costs. We have seven clients on that program so far. Five of the seven have been on it for a month so far and all five have stayed out of the hospital for over a month, which is a huge achievement for someone with congestive heart failure because they’re the highest users of MediCal and the hospital system. We have already saved the state and us taxpayers thousands of dollars,” says Ayoub. “Our goal is for our meals to be something that a doctor can write a prescription for just like they do for medicine because food is medicine. We have registered dieticians work with our chefs to create these recipes but to also make sure that the food is tasty.” ANTHONY MASTRACCI
ICONS OF STYLE A C E N T U R Y O F FA S H I O N P H OTO G R A P H Y, 1 9 1 1 - 2 0 1 1
Image: Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1995 (detail), 1995, David Sims. Chromogenic print. Courtesy of David Sims. © David Sims. Text and design © 2018 J. Paul Getty Trust
Through October 21, 2018 at the Getty
06 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
DeVos to trans students: Screw you! EQCA and California Legislature decry explicit trans segregation By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org One key through-line in the 2016 hit film Hidden Figures shows African American “human computer” Katherine Johnson running across NASA’s Langley campus to get to a “colored” bathroom. Pharrell Williams even composed the song “Runnin” to underscore the indignity of that gender bias and racial segregation in the early 1960s. When Johnson’s boss realizes how this is inhibiting her ability to concentrate on calculating astronaut John Glenn’s trajectory into space, he desegregated the bathrooms, regardless of state laws and custom. And while numerous instances in the film are fictional, Glenn personally asking for Johnson to calculate the trajectory for his historic February 1962 Friendship 7 orbit around the Earth is true. How ironic, then, that Alex Howe—a transgender man highlighted in a recent devastating Politico report on Education Sec. Betsy DeVos’ blatant anti-trans discrimination—is now happily studying physics and computer science at a Vermont college. The indignity of being publicly forced to use a bathroom facility that does not accord with one’s gender identity is just as discriminatory in 2018 as the racial bias was in 1962, something Howe and others complained about to DeVos, only to have their complaints callously dismissed. In Howe’s case, he had a long walk across his Texas high school campus to use two unisex stalls in the middle of a large building away from his classrooms since his Prosper Independent School District prohibited him from using the closer boy’s restroom. “It was isolating and alienating,” Howe told Politico about his experience starting as a 16-year old junior at Prosper High School, 40 miles outside Dallas. In addition to a hostile school environment and bullying with inadequate administrative response, conservative parents argued that they didn’t want Howe rooming with their kids during away competitions for the debate team. “He was forced to room alone and he was ostracized for who he is,” debate coach
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, Tony Thurmond, Evan Low. Photo Courtesy Equality California
Aaron Renaud, a Howe ally, told Politico. “That was what the [school] administration considered a compromise.” “I was counting down the days until I graduated,” Howe said. He wrote a letter to his school district on June 14, 2017, asking “the administration to treat other transgender students according to their gender identity in the future.” Valerie Little, the District’s Title IX compliance officer, said a “full investigation” was conducted into his complaint and told Howe that “you were provided with equal access to all school facilities as there was a plan in place for you use a particular restroom which was gender neutral,” Politico reported. “The evidence does not show that your academic performance or educational opportunities, while at PHS, were negatively affected.” On the contrary, Howe’s mother, Stacey Burg, told Politico. The teenager struggled with depression. “He would see his therapist and they would increase his antidepressants,” she said. “He would say it’s schoolwork and debate, but I thought
it was more. He was stressed all the time. He was upset, he was depressed, he was anxious. He would get angry at home.” Howe filed an official complaint with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights on June 22, 2017, which federal investigators dismissed six months later. “Additionally, as Betsy DeVos, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education has stated, each school has a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe environment. Some states and school districts have found adopted policies and practices that protect all students, including transgender students,” the federal dismissal letter said. Politico reviewed 107 complaints of bias filed by trans students with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights since January 2014, including “at least six involving students who were denied access to bathrooms of their choice and five that were dismissed” by the Trump administration. The media outlet also noted the GLSEN study on the serious physical
and emotional health consequences of not using a bathroom that fits the student’s gender identity. Recognizing the bias and health concerns, the Obama administration issued a directive in May 2016 alerting school districts that trans students are allowed to use any bathroom that align with their gender identity under the protection afforded them by Title IX. Shortly thereafter, however, 13 states asked a federal judge for an injunction on the Obama directive, which was upheld in October 2016 nationwide. In February 2017, Trump rescinded the Obama directive and DeVos removed all trans bathroom-access resources from the Education Department website. In March 2017, the hammer fell with the Supreme Court saying it would not hear a high-profile case brought by a Virginia high-school student, sending it back to a lower court. Just as white movie-goers vicariously experience the painful indignity of sexism and racism in NASA and cheer when the leading hidden figures overcome their particular
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 24, 2018 • 07
Equality California Legislative Manager Jo Michael at podium; Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, Tony Thurmond, Evan Low and Blanca Rubio Photo Courtesy Equality California
obstacles in 1962, so do California’s LGBT politicos and allies empathize with the similar anguish of the transgender students’ experience in 2018—thanks largely, they say, to the political machinations of Education Sec. Betsy DeVos. “The nation’s strongest antidiscrimination laws are in place here and we at Equality California continue to work every day to improve school climates for LGBT young people,” Jo Michael, Equality California’s Legislative Manager, at an Aug. 20 news conference called in Sacramento to tell DeVos to “Do Your Job” and to promote Assemblymember Thurmond’s AB 2153, that would provide teachers and school staff with the training they need to support LGBTQ students. “It’s unconscionable for the US Department of Education to not protect transgender students or any students. We all know how hard it can be to get through high school under the best of circumstances,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “California can’t afford to lose any students. Our economy needs them. And
our California Dream and our California principles demand that we stand behind them – every single one of them.” “It is imperative in our obligation as public officials that we stand up for all individuals in our schools,” said out Assemblymember Evan Low, chair of the LGBT legislative Caucus. “What you see illustrated here today is that strong commitment reaffirming the affirmation the importance of the work that we have ahead of us and our focused approach on the policies in an inclusive society, not an exclusive one.” The “abdication of the Education Sec. is very stark,” he added. “We’re calling on Betsy DeVos to do her job,” said Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, who is running to State Superintendent, “to do the job of what an Education Secretary should do: protect and defend every student in our state and country and provide a quality education. “It is sad that many of our students don’t have the right to use the bathroom of their choice, that they don’t have the ability to be safe on their campus, freed from bullying,
free from isolation,” Thurmond added. “It is our responsibility to support all students and when Sec. DeVos says she does not think it is her job to support or defend transgender students, leave it to California as a leader to say that she must! We call on her to carry out the duties that she was appointed to carry out and to send the message to the president and the federal government that we must support, protect, and cherish all of our students.” Equality California and the California LGBT Caucus also released a letter to DeVos, which reads in part: “Most troubling about this [Politico] report is the fact that the dismissal of these complaints by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) appears to have happened at your direction. “Since your confirmation last year, we have heard you say, repeatedly, that “all children” deserve a quality education and that “every child” deserves a safe and supportive learning environment. But it has become increasingly clear that to you, “all children” does not include those who
are transgender — and that when you say, “every child,” you really mean, “every child whose gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.” “Such an egregious failure to protect transgender public school students from discrimination, bullying and harassment is a dereliction of your duty to enforce federal civil rights laws, but appears to be part of a larger campaign by the Administration to dehumanize transgender Americans. “As you are aware, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., (Title IX) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.” There may be some question as to whether DeVos is aware of that still standing federal definition. But Equality California and LGBT lawmakers intend to reminder. And DeVos should care: who knows if maybe one day trans computer scientist Alex Howe will lead the new Space Force.
08 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Another child dies despite DCFS awareness Death comes one month before Sen. Lara orders state audit By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the death of healthy, almostthree-year-old Damien Ventura on July 3 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The child’s death occurred one month before out State Sen. Ricardo Lara ordered a review by the California State Auditor of child safety protections, especially for LGBT youth, at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Until recently, Ventura’s death had not been reported in the news as had the horrific death of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos on June 21 and the 2014 murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez from Palmdale, both of whom prosecutors believed were murdered by family members because they were thought to be gay. Lara and two Republican colleagues, Sen. Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita), and Assemblymember Tom Lackey of Palmdale) ordered the state audit on Aug. 8 after reports indicated 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. While two-year-old Damien Ventura’s story is not specifically gay-related, DCFS has developed a good working relationship with RaiseAChild, an organization that helps LGBT people foster and adopt children. DCFS features an African-American lesbian couple on its website and in a video to encourage LGBT adoption. However, almost in Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde fashion, DCFS seems to have both the sunny-good deeds side and its opposite, with individual social workers who, for whatever reason, fail to protect children suspected of being at-risk. “All of us at DCFS are deeply saddened by Damien’s death. The death of any child in our community is tragic and heartbreaking. We are cooperating with the Los Angeles Police Department in their ongoing investigation and are conducting our own internal examination of Damien’s case
Damien Ventura in a family photo taken two days before his death. Photo Courtesy Elizabeth Ventura LA Times
seeking to answer critical questions around what happened,” Bobby Cagle, director of Children and Family Services, said in an Aug. 20 statement to the Los Angeles Blade. Additionally, the coroner has not yet disclosed the cause of death. But an Aug. 19 Los Angeles Times story about Damien’s death is revealing. DCFS was “contacted twice about Damien in January but found insufficient risk to take urgent action,” according to “heavily redacted case records released by DCFS.” The documents show that a mandated reporter who is required by law to report suspected child abuse, “called the child protection hotline about Damien on Jan. 19,” The Times reports. A DCFS social worker “designated the matter for response within five days, rather than immediately or within three days, the records show.” But three days later, on Jan. 22, a mandated reporter said law enforcement had been asked to do a home-check at Damien’s mother’s home. The referral report said the referral “was marked as ‘evaluated out,’ which means that it did not proceed, either because the allegation, if true, would not rise to the level of child abuse or because it was a duplicate.”
A redacted LAPD report indicates that two officers went to the house on Jan. 22 “to assist with investigation and to check on the welfare of the minor.” The Times reports: “A medical report from that day included in the case file described the findings of an examination of suspected child physical abuse and neglect. Some results were marked as ‘within normal limits,’ but others describing the condition of his skin, head, eyes, ears, back, buttocks and extremities were redacted.” A social worker conducted both a “safety assessment” and “risk assessment” and concluded “that there were no children ‘likely to be in immediate danger of serious harm,’ the case record shows,” assessing the risk as “moderate” despite also noting drug use and an arrest record by a primary or secondary caregiver. “The recommendation was ‘do not promote’ to a case, according to the assessment. Police declined to comment on the case other than to say it is an ongoing investigation,” The Times reported. DCFS has placed Damien’s social worker on desk duty. DCFS presented the results of their own internal investigation into Anthony Avalos’ death at the LA County Board of Supervisors
meeting on Aug. 14 and concluded that the agency was not to blame. They also indicated they are cooperating in all investigations. The state audit request letter from Lara and his colleagues 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. Like other groups and communities working closely with LA County to help protect at-risk children and provide loving foster and adoptive homes, the LGBT community has a right to know why DSCF has failed to prevent the deaths of children for whom they are responsible.
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10 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Anti-LGBT Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter indicted But will voters in his conservative district care? By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org It’s an odd trifecta. For a good part of the day, cable news focused on split-screen coverage of two trials with enormous political consequence: Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen were found guilty of eight felony counts each, with Cohen directly implicating Trump in two campaign finance crimes. Meanwhile, in San Diego, a federal grand jury indicted Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife Margret, his campaign manager, for misuse of campaign finances and wire fraud. “The indictment alleges that Congressman Hunter and his wife repeatedly dipped into campaign coffers as if they were personal bank accounts, and falsified FEC campaign finance reports to cover their tracks,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said in a statement. “Elected representatives should jealously guard the public’s trust, not abuse their positions for personal gain. Today’s indictment is a reminder that no one is above the law.” “Congressman Hunter believes this action is purely politically motivated,” Michael Harrison, a spokesman for Hunter, told The Hill in an email. “The charges against Rep. Hunter are deeply serious. The Ethics Committee deferred its investigation at the request of the Justice Department,” Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. “Now that he has been indicted, Rep. Hunter will be removed from his committee assignments pending the resolution of this matter.” The serious question for the republic now is: Will voters care? Democrats trying to retake the House hope so. They’ve been working to win six solid Trump GOP seats in California with some Republican red districts starting to swing more into “tossup” or “lean Republican” territory. But for all the volunteers who’ve turned out and all the money contributed to Ammar Campa-Najjar, the former Obama administration official, Hunter’s lock on the 50th congressional district seemed assured — Larry Sabato’s
Rep. Duncan H. Hunter was indicted along with his wife this week for campaign finance violations.
Crystal Ball has Hunter “safe” and up by 7 points. After all, it’s a legacy seat: together Duncan Hunter and his father have held the seat for 40 years. But last August, Hunter fans got a surprise—headlines saying the offices of his former campaign treasurer had been raided by the FBI. They seized computers and documents in their investigation into whether Hunter (R-Alpine) had violated campaign finances rules by using campaign funds for personal use. The search warrant was revealing. “It was the more than $1,300 in video game purchases by Hunter’s campaign that first drew the attention of federal election officials and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Hunter blamed his son for the video game purchases, saying he had used the wrong credit card. Other unusual spending by Hunter’s campaign included a nowinfamous airplane ride for the family rabbit and payments to nail salons, his children’s private school and a Phoenix resort,” the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. Hunter told Politico he did nothing wrong. “I was not involved in any criminal action,” Hunter said. “Maybe I wasn’t attentive
enough to my campaign. That’s not a crime.” Hunter also has repeatedly pointed out that he reimbursed his campaign around $62,000 for money he used for such expenditures as oral surgery, gifts from Disneyland and a family trip to Italy. Though he easily won his safe San Diego seat by nearly 27% in November 2016, his loose ethics and possible criminal behavior prompted six opponents in the June 2018 primary, including two Republicans. “We need to bring Integrity back to the 50th District. We cannot stand for this!” tweeted GOP challenger Andrew Zelt, who failed to make the top two in the jungle primary. Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a communications consultant, came in second with 17.5% to 47.4% for Hunter. CampaNajjar noted that it was the first time Hunter received less than 50% of the vote in one of the most conservative districts in California. Voter registration in that district is 41.6% Republican, 27.4% Democrat and 25.13% no party preference. San Diego voters have been aware of Hunter’s alleged impropriety since at least March 2017 when the House said they were delaying their own investigation into Hunter
in deference to the Department of Justice. The Office of Congressional Ethics voted 5-0 to recommend that the committee review allegations concerning Hunter “because there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Hunter converted campaign funds to personal use to pay expenses that were not legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. “Rep. Hunter has shown a blatant disregard for the rules, spending tens of thousands of dollars from his campaign for his personal benefit,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement at the time. “This is the most egregious Congressional spending scandal since Aaron Schock. We are glad to see the Office of Congressional Ethics voted unanimously for an investigation and will be closely following the FBI’s criminal investigation in Congressman Hunter.” “Last year, Congressman Hunter became Continues on page 14
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12 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are scheduled for Sept. 4 to decide the conformation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Committee member Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) tweeted Aug. 14 a reminder that Republicans are still blocking the release of records “from several years that Kavanaugh worked in the White House. Americans deserve to see those documents.” NCLR’s Shannon Minter notes that Kavanaugh is so “hyper-partisan,” the American Bar Association “downgraded Kavanaugh’s ranking based on interviews with more than 90 fellow judges and colleagues who described him as ‘less than adequate,’ ‘sanctimonious,’ ‘insulated,’ and ‘immovable and very stubborn.’” HuffPo’s Michelangelo Signorile argues that Kavanaugh “was there for all of it” when President George W. Bush pushed for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, an Aug. 15, 1998 memo released to the Washington Post by the National Archive under the Freedom of Information Act, shows Kavanugh’s raunchy state of mind serving as associate counsel for independent counsel Ken Starr, who was investigating President Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky. Kavanaugh proposed explicit questions such as: “If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?” “If Monica Lewinksy says that she gave you oral sex on nine occasions in the Oval Office area, would she by lying?” “If Monica Lewinksy says that on several occasions you had her give oral sex, made her stop, and then ejaculated into the sink in the bathroom off the Oval Office, would she be lying?” “If Monica Lewinsky says that you masturbated into a trashcan in your secretary’s office, would she be lying?” Reminder: credible sexual harassment allegations did not prevent confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the high court.
“Truth isn’t truth.”
– Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd Aug. 19 about the complexities of Trump testifying before special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I was surprised. I tell you truthfully, I wanted to be nominated. I think Ryan Murphy is very, very special.”
- Judith Light to The Hollywood Reporter about her 2018 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace.’
“I have personally dealt with suicide within my own family, intense bullying in high school, and – on top of it all – myself and the man I’ve been in a relationship with for a long time (@hrhblakeknight) have both experienced shootings within our hometown school systems, and have witnessed the heartache that takes place in affected communities after such tragic events.” - Actor Garrett Clayton coming out Aug. 20 on Instagram.
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14 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Rep. Hunter indicted on corruption charges Continued from page 10 aware of expenditure issues confronting his campaign committee. Out of an abundance of caution, he took corrective action in consultation with the FEC and, ultimately, he and his wife personally repaid the campaign approximately $60,000,” Hunter’s attorneys said in response. “Congressman Hunter intends to cooperate fully with the government on this investigation, and maintains that to the extent any mistakes were made they were strictly inadvertent and unintentional.” At a town hall meeting, Hunter was unshaken by the irregularities. “I am not going to make excuses for it,” he said. “It was my responsibility for my family, for the charges my kid made, that’s on me….And I take responsibility for it. I fixed it, and as far as I am concerned, end of story.” And with that, Duncan Hunter Jr. resumed the congressional life he apparently inherited from his anti-LGBT father. Hunter senior, a “born-again” Baptist, was a staunch conservative “family values” congressional vote from 1981 to 2009. His son has had a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign since he was elected. But just how anti-LGBT is Duncan Hunter Jr.? He actively seeks to set back LGBT civil rights. Hunter and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (RMo) set the stage for the anti-transgender service members ban that Trump has been advocating since his tweet of July 26, 2017. Many viewed the team attack as another bow to Trump—Hunter was the second member of Congress to endorse Trump after Rep. Chris Collins—who has been virtually maniacal about eliminating any clue of Barack Obama’s presidency. The Congress members declared that transgender open military service was part of Obama’s social engineering of the armed forces after Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban on June 2016. Trans troops started receiving medical care on Oct. 1, 2016 and changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system. In August 2017, Hunter and Hartzler led the House effort to pass an amendment to the annual defense policy bill to prohibit the Pentagon from paying for gender transition surgeries and hormone therapy as part of military’s health care system. “Figure out
Ammar Campa-Najjar is the Democratic nominee for Duncan Hunter’s seat and faces an uphill fight despite this week’s indictment. Los Angeles Blade Photo by Karen Ocamb
whether you’re man or a woman before you join,” said Hunter. “U.S. taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill.” After some reported behind the scenes maneuvering by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, opposition from 24 Republican lawmakers and the refusal of Speaker Paul Ryan to bring the bill to the floor, the amendment was dropped. But that wasn’t the end of it. The anti-LGBT team appealed to Vice President Mike Pence and along with Pence-whisperer, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and a few White House players, the trans ban was brought to Trump who tweeted out the new policy. Hunter was thrilled. “The President’s decision was the absolute right decision. National security should trump social experimentation, always. It’s about time that a decision is made to restore the warrior culture and allow the U.S. military to get back to business,” he posted on his official website on July 26, 2017. Interestingly, before he caved to Trump’s orders, Mattis did not object when Navy Sec. Spencer said “any patriot” should be allowed to serve, echoing other commanders supporting their trans service
members. Equality California and the State of California filed a lawsuit to stop the trans ban, one of four such lawsuits nationally. Interestingly, the Hunter’s military service has been one of the attributes voters note when explaining their approval of him. But the federal grand jury indictment may change some minds. As Roll Call points out, the indictment notes that Hunter was unhappy about not getting a tour of a military base in Italy when he and his family visited—using campaign funds to pay for the trip—and said: “Tell the Navy to go f*** themselves.” The indictment also accuses Hunter of lying about campaign funds used as personal expenditures, saying the money was for “wounded warriors.” “Hunter tried to justify using campaign funds to pay for a family trip to Italy in November 2015 by visiting a Navy installation but was told that only a particular date was available, the indictment alleges. That’s when he was reported to have made the offensive comment to his chief of staff,” Roll Call reports. “To conceal the use of campaign funds to pay for the Italy trip, Hunter’s wife Margaret told California Republican
campaign treasurer that the charges were mostly ‘military/defense’ related.” However, an email to a friend indicates the trip was a family-oriented. “Hunter’s wife also concealed a number of improper campaign expenditures by saying they were for wounded veterans. In March 2015, Hunter spent campaign funds buying shorts for himself. According to the indictment, Margaret counseled him to buy the shorts at a golf pro shop so that they could falsely describe the purchase later as ‘some [golf] balls for the wounded warriors,’” Roll Call reports. She also spent $216.50 of campaign funds at Dick’s Sporting Goods, telling the campaign treasurer she was buying goods for a wounded warriors dove hunting event. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says enough is enough. “The charges against @Rep_Hunter, one of @ realDonaldTrump’s first supporters in Congress, are further evidence of the rampant #CultureOfCorruption among the Washington GOP today,” Pelosi tweeted Aug. 21. “@SpeakerRyan must call on Hunter to resign immediately.”
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16 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Mass. is ground zero in fight for trans rights In a first, state voters face referendum on bathroom access By CHRIS JOHNSON Massachusetts will be ground zero in the fight for transgender rights on Election Day when state voters will decide whether to approve or reject a referendum aimed at compromising public bathroom access for transgender people. The referendum, Question 3, seeks to repeal an update to the state’s nondiscrimination law approved by the Massachusetts Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in 2015 barring discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations, including hotels, restaurants as well as public restrooms. Should voters decide to repeal the law with a majority vote of “no” on the referendum, transgender people would still have recourse under state law if they faced discrimination in employment, housing and education, but not if they’re turned away in bathrooms or other public accommodations in Massachusetts. David Topping, field director for Yes on 3, said the campaign is “working every day” to ensure Massachusetts voters know what’s at stake for transgender people if the referendum fails. “It means transgender people can be transgender at home, they can be transgender at work, they can be transgender at school, but they can’t go out in public and be transgender,” Topping said. Topping said Yes on 3 is “building a robust campaign” that includes staffers in major cities, such as Boston and Worcester. In terms of finances, Topping was reluctant to disclose goals, but said the campaign has a more than $1 million budget and reserved $1 million in airtime for TV ads throughout Massachusetts. The stakes are high not just for transgender people in Massachusetts. The referendum marks the first time a transgender non-discrimination measure will come before voters at a statewide level. The results will likely impact the national discussion on such protections. Kasey Suffredini, president of strategy
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed a law barring discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations.
at Freedom for All Americans, said the coalition seeking to uphold the law recognizes the outcome of the vote will have bearing outside Massachusetts. “It’s a fight of tremendous local significance because it impacts the very basic ability of transgender people to just about their daily lives in public,” Suffredini said. “It also has national significance because it is the first statewide vote on transgender nondiscrimination protections in our country’s history, and the anti-transgender activist who put this question on the ballot have said if they are successful in Massachusetts, they will work to roll back LGBT protections across the country.” The question was placed on the ballot as a result of anti-trans groups gathering enough signatures for a voter-initiated referendum. In 2016, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin certified opponents of the law submitted 34,231 qualified signatures to out the measure up for a vote, which is slightly more than the 32,375 names needed. The referendum will be the latest in a series of votes across the United States in recent years on transgender access to restrooms and public accommodations.
In 2015, Houston voters rejected by a wide margin the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which would have banned discrimination against LGBT people and other groups in a range of areas, including employment, housing and public accommodations, after opponents inflamed fears about transgender people using the restroom, falsely suggesting the measure would enable child molestation. Things changed this year. In Anchorage, Alaska, voters upheld a portion of the city ordinance barring discrimination against transgender people in bathrooms and public accommodations by a 52-47 margin. The turnabout in this referendum three years after the Houston defeat was credited to transgender people in the city bringing their personal stories to the forefront. Topping was in Houston for the HERO campaign in 2015 in the last two weeks before Election Day. Recalling the disappointment when the results came in, Topping added the national movement has learned much since that time. “What we’ve learned from Houston and Anchorage is that when you talk to voters directly about what our opposition is saying,
we can bring them back,” Topping said. “What we do is we talk to voters at the door, over the phone, and explain to them why this fight is so important and help them process any concerns that they may have about the law, whether it’s about safety, whether it’s about what it means to be transgender or just in general what the law is actually.” Suffredini said Yes on 3 is “absolutely” applying lessons from earlier battles at the ballot over transgender rights and highlighting the stories of transgender people because there’s “no better way to destroy myths and stereotypes.” “The core of our efforts is elevating transgender voices and telling transgender stories so that voters can actually see through the misleading information that our opponents put out about who transgender people are, what non-discrimination protections do and see that we are not the same as everybody else, but that protecting us from discrimination really doesn’t impact the welfare of anybody else,” Suffredini said. The final vote on the referendum could be a nail-biter. A poll from WBUR radio in May found a slim majority of Massachusetts voters — 52 percent — want to uphold the anti-discrimination law, while 38 percent would vote to repeal it. Despite those numbers, Topping expressed confidence Massachusetts voters will affirm transgender rights at the ballot in November. “I am confident that Massachusetts voters will vote yes this year, but we can’t take that for granted,” Topping said. “We have a staff building across the state, having volunteer actions every single day when we’re talking to voters and where we really making sure that we’re discussing this campaign and talking to people about what it means to be transgender.” That win, Topping said, will send a signal throughout the rest of the country that voters will reject attempts to undermine transgender rights whenever they’re put up for a vote at the ballot. “I think that, hopefully, Massachusetts can set an example to the rest of the country that when these protections go the ballot, we will win every single time no matter where we are,” Topping said. The No on 3 campaign didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment for this article on why repeal of the transgender non-discrimination law is necessary.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 24, 2018 • 17
Threatened Oklahoma trans schoolgirl’s family raising money to move The kindness of strangers emerges By STAFF REPORTS After violent threats, the family of transgender schoolgirl Maddison Kayleen Kleeman is trying to move away from Achille, Okla., their small rural town near the Oklahoma-Texas border. The Los Angeles Blade reported Aug. 14 that Kleeman, 12, had been the target of a group of adults in a private Facebook Parents Group page devoted to the elementary school she attends. Members of the group were angered by her use of a girl’s bathroom and the apparent affirmation of her gender identity by school staff. Kleeman’s parents were forced to seek protective orders, the county sheriff’s office launched an investigation and one adult has
Maddison Kayleen Kleeman Photo Courtesy the Family
been suspended from his job. The story went viral on social media and
was spotted by Anne Babb, a writer and journalist based in Oklahoma City, whose first thought was that the group was wrong. Her second thought was to start a GoFundMe to help the family move. Babb then spoke with Kleeman’s mother, Brandy Rose, and they created a GoFundMe page. “I was just like, ‘Well, that’d be a blessing to be able to move out of the area,’” Rose told NBC News about their conversation. “That’s when she told me that her and a neighbor of hers had been discussing it. They thought that it would help us to start a GoFundMe page Move4Maddie to get the funds to move … I thought that was very sweet and amazing and a blessing, so she set that up for us.” Babb initially wanted to set the fundraising goal for $15,000 but decided to start with $10,000. When contributions reached that goal in the first 22 hours, she increased the goal to $15,000. That figure has since been exceeded. “I never imagined that we’d get the donations that we’ve gotten, because I mean
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it’s strangers,” Rose said. “I didn’t expect strangers to do that. But it’s been amazing.” As of Aug. 20, the donations had reached nearly $25,000. “I hope we get our ducks in a row so we can move to Houston as soon as possible,” Rose told NBC News. “We just want to do it the right way, so it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, but that is our plan—to just get out of this little town.” Oklahoma does not have a law protecting 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 DeVos told the LA Blade that it has sent memos clearly stating that the USDOE will not process any complaints from transgender students experiencing discrimination in schools. Reporting by NBC News and the staff of the Los Angeles Blade
18 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Do Brazil’s gay-friendly certified cities protect LGBT residents? Discrimination, violence persist in popular tourist destinations By FELIPE ALFACE PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Brazil’s tourism board has certified seven cities — Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Recife, Salvador, Porto Alegre, Florianópolis and the country’s capital of Brasília — as gay-friendly destinations. But are these cities doing enough to protect their LGBTI residents? According to a report issued this year by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation’s Public Policies Analysis Directory, the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro had the highest number of complaints of LGBTI-related crimes in 2017. The Federal District in which Brasília is located had the most complaints per 100,000 people. The data contained in this study is based on complaints to the Dial 100 service the Brazilian Human Rights Ministry reported. The Dial 100 service was created specifically to map information around human rights violations based on factors that include prejudice and homophobia. This data would then be used to support the creation of new public policies and programs designed to help the LGBTI community cope with discrimination and educate Brazilians around issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Dial 100 website notes the service received 1,720 complaints of violations against LGBTI people in 2017. These statistics include 193 homicides, which are 127 percent higher than the previous year. So how can Brazil, with those numbers and the highest rate of transgender murders in the world, ever be considered gay-friendly by Embratur, the country’s tourism board? According to “Depois do fervo” (“After the party is over”), a documentary that focuses on the everyday life of LGBTI people in Florianópolis, the answer is simple: The beach city in southern Brazil has a lot to give as far as natural beauty and seasonal opportunities — like carnival and the city’s Pride celebration — to attract “pink money.” Florianópolis has beaches that are popular with gay men from across the region. It is therefore important for local
The scene in downtown Florianópolis, Brazil. Photo by Rodrigo Soldon / Courtesy Flickr
officials to project to tourists an image that has nothing to do with the everyday life of LGBTI people living in the city, which, according to the last Census in Brazil has the highest concentration of LGBTI people within the country. Another counterpoint to Florianópolis’ gay-friendly moniker can be seen in the number of cases of violence the Association in Defense of Human Rights (ADEH), a local advocacy group, documents, which averages 70 a month. ADEH encourages local residents who are attacked because of their sexual orientation and gender identity to go to the organization first because it is the ones dealing with “gay issues,” which further highlights how unprepared police officers and other public service providers in cities that are considered to be gay-friendly are in dealing with LGBTI-specific issues. ADEH actually provides one of the only places to meet, discuss and judicial and psychological support in the city. “Florianópolis is a gay-friendly city as long as the tourist has money to spend in local businesses,” “Depois do fervor” director Matheus Faisting told the Washington Blade. “We don’t have enough public policies to promote the city as a capital where LGBT phobia is fought against, for example. It is all a question of marketing used to promote the city to a niche with high purchasing power while not really worrying if these LGBT tourists will actually be safe during their stay here. One of the things that surprised me while researching for the movie was
that there are much more cases of violence against LGBT people than I already knew. The numbers are high but that reality is under shown to attract pink money from tourists.” Porto Alegre, the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, is another example of a certified gay-friendly city where the reality of its LGBTI residents is different. The state from the outside seems to be in the forefront of LGBTI issues, since two emblematic wins for the community took place there: The first civil union recognized by the Brazilian Supreme Court before same-sex marriage was approved across the country in 2013 and the first adoption by a same-sex couple. According to Priscila Leote, president of the State Council for the Promotion of LGBT Rights, an organization that is part of the Rio Grande do Sul state government, those two legal victories should not be seen as a barometer of where the state is with regards to supporting LGBTI rights, since they are individual cases and don’t represent the sense of abandonment members of the community in Porto Alegre and across the state feel. Leote said members of the community feel abandoned, in part, because there is a lack of places to get together and simply be part of the community. Porto Alegre has a general shortage of LGBTI-identified places to gather, including gay bars and night clubs. There are also few options to support Leote’s group to further LGBTI-specific issues in the city.
To understand how Porto Alegre is an example of a city that is only LGBTI-friendly on paper, one can use the example of its Pride parade. The parade became a part of the city’s official calendar this year but it is also set to take place without any financial support from the mayor’s office for the second year. “Even the date offered to us to throw this year’s Pride as a part of the calendar of the city is a problem, since we have done it for 21 years in the park and on the date they offered, the park is not available to receive our Pride,” said Leote. Leote also said anti-LGBTI violence in Porto Alegre remains a problem. The Reference Center for Victims of Violence in Porto Alegre, which the local government created, on its website says it is prepared to assist every victim of violence, whether they are a child, a woman, an elderly person or a member of the LGBTI community. But that information is not widely known and Leote said she feels the people working in those centers aren’t equipped to assist LGBTI people because they are not properly trained. So, most violence complaints are received by e-mail at the State Council for the Promotion of LGBT Rights or forwarded to it by the Dial 100 service or even officers at police stations who receive them. Porto Alegre is one of few places in Brazil that has a city law against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation. Activists nevertheless remain critical of the mechanisms in place to report it. “One of the biggest problems of being LGBT in Porto Alegre, or even in Brazil as a country, is that we advance a lot in sexuality and identity discussions, but most people aren’t prepared to back themselves up politically as a part of the LGBT community,” said Leote. “We don’t elect LGBT candidates. So, we see advances in ways and freedom to express ourselves as we are but in the political sphere we haven’t graduated yet.” “Because we still don’t have public policies more importantly to help us being safe as we are in a place where violence rates and religious fundamentalism are growing faster than we can organize ourselves politically to fight against those things that work to oppress us as a community,” she added. The Blade has reached out to Embratur for comment.
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20 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 02 ISSUE 25
The Catholic sex abuse scandal and the fight for equality Looking at the link between celibacy and power
Gabriel S. Hudson, Ph.D., teaches at George Mason University’s Graduate School of Education and The Schar School of Policy and Government. He is the author of ‘Christodemocracy and the Alternative Democratic Theory of America’s Christian Right.’ (Photo by Oliver Lawrence)
The recent findings of a grand jury report on the Archdioceses of Pennsylvania are horrific but, sadly, not surprising. The latest revelation that hundreds of Catholic Church officials raped and molested thousands of vulnerable children in their care fits a continued pattern of violation and cover up. Even one-time progressive Catholic heroes like now disgraced Cardinal Roger Mahony who gave sanctuary in Los Angeles to poor refugees from Central and South America have been seduced by internal Church politics, giving succor to and shielding pedophile priests from accountability. The findings span decades. Tragically, many survivors will never see their perpetrators brought to justice since it appears each specific abuser cannot be held to account. But it is clearer than ever that the Catholic Church as an institution requires a new round of serious reforms. The causes of such widespread abuse are complicated and should not be over simplified to a single doctrine or hierarchy, or even specific psychological determination such as pedophilia. Reform requires real scrutiny and one policy in dire need of reexamination is the celibacy requirement of priests. Over and over again, history tells us that sexual abuse is often the result of repression.
When healthy outlets for sex are denied, the libido is expressed in surreptitious and destructive ways. It is impossible to know how many men went into the priesthood as a way to escape aspects of themselves they dared not name. We may assume that this denial played an integral role in the perpetuation of abuse. Celibacy was not always a requirement of the papacy. For the first eight centuries of the Church’s existence, popes and priests had wives and children. Some even had mistresses and children by them. When celibacy was introduced at the Second Lateran Council 1139, the new requirement was justified by appeals to greater holiness—but in fact had little to do with denying the flesh. Celibacy was part of a symbiotic relationship the Church developed with Europe’s ruling class. Like most things in history, celibacy derived from a desire to consolidate wealth and power. A post-Charlemagne Europe had unified into a distinct political unit with the Catholic Church its primary cultural determinant. The medieval feudal economy separated populations into monarchs, landowners, and serfs. The succession of status and wealth required strict inheritance laws. The tradition throughout Europe for hundreds of years was for each family in the landed gentry to have one son go into the priesthood. The Church then acquired that son’s portion of his family’s inheritance because celibacy prevented legitimate heirs. Generation after generation, this tradition allowed the Church to siphon off a considerable portion of the aristocracy’s wealth—so much so that by the time of the French Revolution, the Church owned more land in France than the king. In return for this gradual acquisition, the Church offered theological legitimacy to the ruling class. Medieval prosperity theology taught peasants to be happy with having little wealth or control over their lives while justifying the “divine right of kings” and rule of the few. The democratic revolutions that gave us modern, liberal democracy were rebellions against the Church as much as the crown. Concepts such as religious freedom
and separation of powers derive from earlier critiques of the Church’s unquestioned authority. The continuance of democracy requires a similar review. Though less powerful now, the Catholic Church still commands an outsized political influence grounded in moral authority. It still legitimizes candidates and regimes using moral high ground as its currency of power. The breadth and depth of the clergy sex abuse scandal should provoke Renaissancelevels of reevaluation of this influence. Then, as now, the Church’s teachings on sex and relationships are a tool to cement inequality. If the sex abuse scandal causes society to question the Church’s moral authority, so too should its political implications be reexamined. While not all Christians oppose LGBT rights, opposition to full equality is nearly the exclusive domain of Christians. For decades, LGBT advocates have argued that majority moral disapproval is an inadequate justification for unequal treatment under the law. While correct, this argument concedes morality to those opposed to LGBT rights. If the sex abuse scandal teaches us anything, it’s that this defensive posture is unnecessary. Unlike the nebulous claims of supposed harms of granting marriage equality used for years to delay progress, sexual repression and its subsequent abuse cause demonstrable, undeniable harm. The old formula for power still holds sway today—though it should not. The Church controls the state by controlling bodies and controls bodies through the control of sex. We cannot afford to continue separating the power dynamics of repression and oppression. Regardless of what internal reform the Church finally implements, equality advocates now have an effective antidote against the poison of shame. We, too, may unequivocally claim the moral high ground and couch our policy preferences in the context of righteousness. Equality is politically superior to inequality because personal authenticity is morally superior to repression.
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22 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
20 years of ‘Q&A: Queer in Asian America’ A personal reflection
Alice Y. Hom is the host of the Historically Queer Podcast, stories of activism by LGBTQ People of Color, then and now. Find her on Twitter @AliceYHom @HQueerPodcast or HistoricallyQueer.com.
Aug. 24, 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of “Q&A: Queer in Asian America,” an anthology I co-edited with David L. Eng. The book paved the way for Queer Asian American Studies and helped build the Queer Theory field. But more importantly, the significance of Q & A was its “narrative plentitude,” a term coined by Viet Thanh Nguyen, at a time when that wasn’t a reality for Asian American queers in academia or in our communities. This anthology brought together academics, activists, and cultural workers who submitted articles, roundtable interviews, personal essays, and artwork that represented a vibrant queer Asian America. David still gets emails from gay Asian Americans who struggle with the whiteness of the queer community and the dominant
racial images of masculinity that don’t reflect Asian American men. They share the difficulties of being an academic in a racist institution/department and the difficulties of coming out. I’m often approached at community events with people telling me Q & A made them feel like they belonged and helped them get through some hard times. Janet Francendese, a forward-thinking editor at Temple University Press, approached David about the book in 1993. He was in the literature field and wanted a lesbian co-editor with a different discipline. I was in my first year in the Ph.D. History program at Claremont Graduate University, after completing my MA program in Asian American Studies at UCLA. We wanted to include activists, artists, writers, and academics, taking two-plus years to gather submissions and another 18 months for peer review, revisions and finally, publication. Q & A won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay and Lesbian Non-Fiction Anthology and the Association of Asian American Studies award for best Cultural Studies Book. But I’m more proud that Q & A brought together Asian American Studies and Critical Race Studies in Queer Studies at a time when this wasn’t advisable, acceptable or valued in academia or society. Our generation was engaging on the politics of identity and raising the interwined consciousness of homophobia, racism, and sexism during a time of rampant discrimination. There have been fundamental shifts since then and I’m
incredibly proud Q & A had a part in this cultural change. Q & A represented a collective desire to see ourselves in our multiplicity of identities— evident at the momentous book launch party at The Village at the Ed Gould Plaza of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center in November 1998. Sponsoring organizations included: LAAPIS (Los Angeles Asian Pacific Islander Sisters), GAPSN (Gay Asian Pacific Support Network), O Moi (Vietnamese Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Network), NAPAWF (National Asian Pacific American Women’s Network), and the Asian American Writer’s Workshop. There was a sense of being seen and validated. Martin Manalansan, Kale Fajardo, and I are now working on Q & A 2.0. Here are some comments about our first edition. Sandip Roy, Q & A author and writer: “Whoa. 20 years. I think it [my essay] was one of the first pieces I wrote for an Asian anthology and really the beginning of even thinking of myself as Asian because honestly when I came to the U.S. and to the Bay Area, the larger mostly white gay community did not consider South Asians really Asian. I remember a white roommate telling me I’d have better luck going to Latino bars like Esta Noche than the Asian ones like In Touch. Q & A was really important for me to figure out my place with the Asian queer community.” Crystal Baik, Asian American Studies, UC Riverside: “I’ve taught the Q&A: Queer in Asian America anthology in my courses (Ethnic Studies and Gender & Sexuality Studies) and
can’t underscore, enough, how important this collection is. Q&A’s interdisciplinary approach and its rich archive of historical, cultural and media sources have helped my students to engage methods and concepts like women of color feminism, queer diaspora, and cinematic apparatus. The different formats of the pieces (i.e., essays, roundtables, conversations) also provide students with different entry-points to read critical materials that link theory to praxis and everyday life.” Efren Bose, Lecturer, Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University: “I remember being floored by all the great scholarship by people I knew like Eric Wat, Diep Tran, and Alice Y. Hom. Our community of Q/TAPIA (Queer/Transgender Asian Pacific Islander Americans) was emerging at that time and to have a book that chronicles what we were about and what should be studied is still amazing.” Eric Wat, Q & A author, writer, and lecturer in Asian American Studies: “I know it [Q & A] was useful to me because of the variety of essays--personal, political, and academic. It was intersectional before it became a buzzword.” Dr. Anna Kim, San Diego State University: “I read it in my Asian American women’s experiences class as an undergrad, and Alice Y. Hom, the author, came to speak to us. She talked about what it was like to wear a tie around her mama and family. Definitely was one of the first times I met an author and integral to my process of coming out sometime later that year.”
MedMen supports DTL A Proud 2018. Pershing Square, August 24th-26th.
DTLA’s queer community soars to new heights, like its skyline Neighborhood emerges as hot new core of LGBTQ life in SoCal By JOHN PAUL KING
For decades now, the City of West Hollywood has been considered the “Gay Mecca” of Southern California, where LGBTQ pilgrims from all over the world have come to live, work, and play. While WeHo’s historic status as a hub for queer life and culture is not likely to change anytime soon, another neighborhood in the larger Los Angeles community has lately been on the rise as a new hot spot for LGBTQ life in L.A. That neighborhood, of course, is Downtown, lovingly referred to – by almost everybody – as DTLA, and this weekend it will provide the breathtaking backdrop for the Los Angeles Blade’s “Pride in the Sky” event at the OUE Skyspace. Los Angeles Blade will partner with U.S.
Bank to present Visibility Awards honoring 11 important LGBT influencers and activists in entertainment, legal, political and services – including U.S. Bank Vice President Hany Haddad, WeHo Transgender Advisory Board member James Wen, ONE Archives Executive Director Jennifer Gregg, and AHF President Michael Weinstein, among others. The event will also benefit the Blade Foundation, whose mission is to fund enterprise journalism projects focused on LGBTQ and other underrepresented communities and to create scholarships for LGBTQ journalists. “Pride in the Sky” is also a celebration of the third annual DTLA Proud Festival, which, beginning Friday night, will place the weekend’s spotlight squarely on downtown. An enormous, queer-centric block party,
Proud Festival takes over the neighborhood’s iconic Pershing Square and transforms it into a raucous wonderland. There’s food, drink, dancing, entertainment, shopping – even a water park. There’s also community outreach and a significant amount of space dedicated to acknowledging and preserving LGBTQ heritage and history. And it’s meant to be a diverse, inclusive safe space where everyone can celebrate and be celebrated, regardless of their race, their gender, or how they identify. In a lot of ways, it is a kind of microcosm highlighting the very qualities that make DTLA so appealing to the queer community. Oliver Luke Alpuche, a Highland Park native who moved downtown in 2009, sensed that appeal from the beginning, and has played a major role in nurturing its growth.
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This weekend brings a celebration to Downtown LA. Photos Courtesy DTLA Proud
“The first couple years I loved it,” he says. “There was this great sense of community, not only the LGBT community but the community in general.” He noticed that something was missing, though. He says, “You could walk down the streets and see gay couples holding hands, and in all the bars… but where was that comfortable place where they could actually meet, and just hang out?” He decided to do something about it. Along with Zachary Beus, he came up with the idea for Redline, a “premier nightspot” intended to provide a meeting place for DTLA’s LGBTQ community. The bar opened its doors in 2015, and quickly became a major fixture in the downtown scene. That was just the beginning. “When we
were talking about our grand opening for Redline, we wanted to do a block party,” he says. “That got scrapped, because we had a two-day notice to open. About a year after we opened – and Precinct DTLA had also opened – we were noticing that there was this amazing force happening downtown, and we said, ‘let’s revisit this block party idea.’ Everyone was on board, and it snowballed into something even larger than we had anticipated.” What it snowballed into was DTLA Proud Festival – along with DTLA Proud, the nonprofit organization founded by Alpuche to “strengthen and empower the local LGBTQ+ & ally community in Downtown Los Angeles through visibility, volunteerism, partnerships and events.” Right now, of course, that translates into putting on another successful
festival; looking ahead, it involves turning some of those proceeds into proactive efforts to raise the LGBTQ profile in the downtown community on an everyday basis, such as a “gay-borhood map” highlighting all of the neighborhood’s gay-identifying businesses, as well as continued participation in DTLA’s annual “Night on Broadway” event, which last year drew over 250,000 people and allowed DTLA Proud “to showcase the queer community, and the best that it has to offer, to the larger LA community,” as Alpuche puts it. Perhaps most significantly, there are plans for a new downtown LGBTQ Community Center – officially announced at DTLA Proud’s pre-festival Gala, from which 100% of the Continues on Page 35
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26 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
PRIDE The Los Angeles Blade, LA’s weekly LGBT newspaper, is pleased to partner with U.S. Bank to present PRIDE IN THE SKY, an event in celebration of the emergence of DTLA as a core neighborhood for the Los Angeles LGBTQ community, honoring some of the people and organizations playing a key role in making that happen. PRIDE IN THE SKY will feature a red-carpet mixer and a ceremony honoring the work of these tireless advocates with our first-ever Visibility Awards. The event is to be held from 6-8 p.m. Saturday on the 70th floor of OUE Skyspace in Downtown Los Angeles. Tickets are sold out.
Photo Courtesy Haddad
Photo Courtesy Malkin
U.S. Bank Vice President, District Manager at U.S. Bank
Variety magazine/TV personality, Senior Events and Lifestyle Editor
Hany has worked with U.S. Bank for more than 14 years and you are likely a beneficiary of his generosity. He has directed nearly $1 million in U.S. Bank donations to various LGBTQ non-profits and causes in the greater Los Angeles area, during that time. Haddad’s work with a diverse range of nonprofits is prolific and has earned him this recognition. Haddad has supported LGBTQ organizations and causes for years, including Los Angeles LGBT Center, Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and DTLA Proud.
Marc is one of the most visible faces in Hollywood. You will find him on just about every red carpet in town, asking personal questions of entertainment’s most important personalities, formerly for E! Entertainment and now as an editor at Variety magazine where he will serve it up. He has undergone something of a transformation in more than one sense and has an incredible story to tell. Marc is a benefactor to many LGBTQ non-profits, giving both time and money.
Photo by Karen Ocamb
transgender activist and member of the West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board Wen is one of the most widely respected men in West Hollywood and very humble. He serves on the West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board and has helped bring attention to an escalation of violence against trans people and the high suicide rates with which the community grapples. He recently caused a stir at a West Hollywood City Council meeting where he defended the city’s statement requesting removal of Donald Trump’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star against a Trump supporter.
Photo Courtesy Gregg
ONE Archives Foundation, Executive Director It’s often the documentarians who play the most vital role in providing historians with information on any community. Jennifer’s work in shaping our legacy is unmatched as she has helped enhance ONE Archives, already the largest repository of LGBTQ materials in the world. Founded in 1952 as ONE Inc., the publisher of ONE Magazine, ONE Archives Foundation is the oldest active LGBTQ organization in the United States. In 2010, the ONE Archives Foundation deposited its vast collection of LGBTQ historical materials with the USC Libraries. Today, the organization is dedicated to promoting this important resource through diverse activities including educational initiatives, fundraising, and a range of public programs.
Photo Courtesy Martinez
Mi Centro and Latino Equality Alliance Executive Director Eddie Martinez is the executive director of Latino Equality Alliance located at Mi Centro LGBTQ Community Center in Boyle Heights. For the past two years under the leadership of Martinez, Latino Equality Alliance has been able to uplift 50 LGBTQ youth leaders and educate over 400 parents in the eastside communities of Los Angeles to promote family acceptance, healthy school climate, and academic success. His 20-year career in public service included the wonderful journey of building community support for the AIDS Monument at Lincoln Park and educating LGBTQ married couples throughout the State of California on social security.
Los Angeles Blade and U.S. Bank host Pride In The Sky Honoring visibility of LGBTQ life in DTLA during DTLA Proud By TROY MASTERS firstname.lastname@example.org
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 24, 2018 • 27
Photo Courtesy King
Photo Courtesy Weinstein
Photo Courtesy Sibilly
Photo Courtesy Alpuche
Michael Weinstein AIDS Healthcare Foundation, President
Actor and FX “Pose” cast member
Oliver Luke Alpuche
By 1997, the combination drug cocktail was working and the dying and devastation of HIV/ AIDS was subsiding. But Jeffrey realized that AIDS wasn’t over, especially for Black gay men, even if the epidemic wasn’t snatching lives every moment, “We came out of the dying and found ourselves living,” King says. “But how do we move forward? And what are we doing with our lives in the meantime?” King brought together an informal collective of Black gay men to wrestle with the dilemma. They realized they could not wait or expect to rely on someone else to save them—they had to act on their own behalf, beyond HIV/AIDS to the health and wellness of Black gay/bi/ same-gender-loving men, many of whom bore scars from the homophobia within the Black community while also not being fully embraced by the LGBT community. Jeffrey’s work has contributed measurably since to giving proud expression to a new generation of Black gay men.
Michael Weinstein can be credited for saving lives around the world and on a scale few non-profit agencies can imagine. He founded an AIDS hospice at a time when no hospitals would care for “gay cancer” patients and has built it into the world’s largest AIDS organization that literally reaches around the globe and exceeds $1 billion in support. His most recent endeavor is helping to transform Los Angeles’ homeless crisis, particularly in Downtown Los Angeles, renovating the city’s many dilapidated Single Residency Hotels and giving apartments to deserving homeless people. He is noted for his willingness to ask tough questions and his reluctance to always embrace every medical breakthrough without consideration of the full cultural and epidemiological impact.
We watched and wept as Billy Porter sang an AIDS cabaret to a young actor playing his lover on FX’s “Pose.” If you haven’t seen that scene, Johnny plays Perez Costas, the lover of Billy’s character. “Pray Tell,” you will pardon the gushing, but it was a profound moment on an extraordinary television program that deserves everyone’s attention. We suggested an Emmy! But Johnny represents every budding actor who moves to Los Angeles with a dream of making it and so much more. When NYTimes. com recently promoted a cartoon of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in love, Johnny, not a Trump fan, took to Facebook in protest. “Being gay is not a punchline. Being gay is not an insult. The more you perpetuate this idea, the more you add fuel to fire of this toxic masculinity & threatened safety of queer people around the globe. Be better.” It was classically layered Johnny. He is known to push back fast and hard on anti-trans and antiblackness narratives online. He is a protector of the ones he loves.
The man of the moment is busy transforming Los Angeles’ Downtown scene. He founded Redline, DTLA’s popular LGBTQ bar and helped launch the visibility of the community downtown into the stratosphere. He recognized the power of the community and the need for expression and so founded DTLA Proud, which has become one of the region’s most dynamic Pride celebrations. This weekend the event will attract tens of thousands and proceeds from the sale of tickets will help establish a new LGBTQ Center for Downtown.
In The Meantime Men’s Group Executive Director
DTLA entrepreneur and DTLA Proud founder
Photo Courtesy GMCLA
Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles is the leading Gay Men’s Chorus in the world and under the leadership of Jonathan Weedman, its visibility has soared. In October, the chorus welcomes Mexico City’s Gay Men’s Chorus to celebrate a new choral offering, Dos Coros Uno Voz. The work of the Chorus goes way beyond Los Angeles, with a robust outreach to area high schools and a new program to nations abroad. Its outreach work has spanned the decades of the AIDS crisis to the age of Resistance.
Photo Courtesy Thais-Williams
Activist, LGBT community pioneer, founder of Catch One and director of the Netflix documentary, Catch One will receive a special Editor’s Award Jewel is a legend in Los Angeles. Her work in the community covers the gamut. She helped found the world’s first AIDS Service Organization, focusing on the needs of people of all colors. Jewel has been a leader, a hero, and a visionary and an advocate for decades, linking the LGBT African-American community to organizations such as AIDS Project Los Angeles and her alma mater, UCLA. You could call her the mother of all of us but she is almost certainly regarded as the mother of nightlife in LA, creating a racially diverse nightclub that dominated this town. Thais-Williams likes to say that she spent the last 40+ years at Catch One “partying.” Approaching 79, Jewel says her greatest joy is her service to her community. “But there is still a lot of work to do. Remember to always reach out to those in need.”
QUEERY 20 QUESTIONS FOR ABDULLAH HALL
28 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Photo Courtesy Hall
By JAKE FINNEY
From the moment I first listened to Abullah Rasheen Hall talk about Trans Chorus LA, I was immediately charmed by their passion for uplifting the LGBTQ community, particularly youth and those who identify as trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary. Abdullah identifies as gender non-conforming and uses the pronouns they/them/their. Most others I have spoken to warmly refer to them as “Abi.” Originally from Philadelphia, Abdullah has adopted Los Angeles as their hometown. A graduate of Hollywood High School, LA City College and Cal State LA., they’ve invested in this community wholeheartedly. When they’re not busy working at Paramount Pictures, they’re either singing with Trans Chorus LA, serving on the board of Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team, judging QUEST - the Transgender Advocacy Pageant, or volunteering with HRC. Abdullah not only sings with Trans Chorus LA, they’re also the artistic director and they provide encouragement to other chorus members. “I tell the choristers every Sunday ‘the fact that you woke up and got here is a victory. The fact that you worked and you made it through the week and you put up with all the bullshit and complaining, and you still did it, you still thrive and you’re still alive, that is a victory.’” Abdullah is full of wisdom, much of which is drawn from their mother and grandmother. When talking about the intersectionality of racism and transphobia, they offered the following: “Already being a minority of color, I apply the same thinking to the trans community…We’re all being oppressed, but I have to survive, I have to thrive. My grandmother used to say ‘People died for you to vote and to go to school.’ I remind the chorus that there are people before us whose shoulders we stand upon, now it’s time for us to use the platform, open up our mouths, to sing and present and be there.” When I asked Abdullah where they see the chorus in the future, what is their dream venue, their first response was Hollywood Bowl (mine too.) With that much courage and conviction, I truly believe that performance will happen one day. How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? I came out at the tender age of 25. I grew up Muslim and my mother converted to Evangelical Christian. My mother was the hardest person to tell because I was very fearful of losing her love and support. I am one of the fortunate ones not only did she embrace me but she told me about faith. She said, “Your walk with the Higher power is your walk” and it is not up to anyone else to decide. Whenever I talk to a person on the verge of “coming out” I say tell the hardest person because once you do others’ opinions will not matter.
queery ABDULLAH HALL How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? I came out at the tender age of 25 I grew up Muslim and my mother converted Evangelical Christian. My mother was the hardest person to tell because I was very fearful of losing her Love and Support. I am one of the fortunate ones not only did she embrace me but she told me about faith. She said “Your walk with the Higher power is your walk” and it is not up to anyone else to decide. Whenever I talk to a person on the verge of “Coming Out” I say tell the hardest person because once you do others opinions will not matter. Who’s your LGBT hero? Each and every one who paved the way for me to be here in the 21st century. I stand upon the shoulders of the Unnamed to be Me a Black Queer GNC who works at a major movie studio and Queer AF! Special Shout Out to Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, James Baldwin, Sylvester, Bayard Rustin. What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? I remember when the Abbey was a coffee shop. I miss Jewel’s Catch One and The Study. TRUNKS will always be my hometown favorite. Describe your dream wedding. What’s a wedding, lol? What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? Children’s education because these are the future leaders and seniors because one day I’ll be one and in Queer communities we seem to forget both of these issues. What historical outcome would you change? Slavery. What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? Meeting Rosa Parks, John Lewis and Corey Booker. On what do you insist? Equality for all!
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? Auditions for the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles (Sept 9th Open Rehearsal & Sept. 16th Auditions) If your life were a book, what would the title be? Fantastic Voyage! If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do? Refuse to listen to science ever again. What do you believe in beyond the physical world? I believe that we are all part of this amazing Universe and their infinite power beyond our physical world and being. We have only tapped into a little drop of our source energy. What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? Become more inclusive of the trans community — this has been 40+ years in the making, yet most of our LGB family thinks it’s new history. Learn to look at the entire queer experience. What would you walk across hot coals for? World peace — really I believe in it. What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? That if you are Black, smart and articulate you want to be white. No, I’m just smart. What’s your favorite LGBT movie? MOONLIGHT What’s the most overrated social custom? Do folx even have these anymore??? I think we need some of them to come back. What trophy or prize do you most covet? Ha…Ha…. Really I can’t pick one so I’ll just say EGOT What do you wish you’d known at 18? That I didn’t have to hide being Queer. Why Los Angeles? Because where else can a messenger (the meaning of my name) live but in the city of Angels (they are messengers). Even though I live in Pasadena *lolololol*
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30 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Trans Chorus of LA is a rising voice of visibility Diversity is the key to harmony as the group expands By JAKE FINNEY
Photo Courtesy Trans Chorus of LA
“From victim to victorious” is how Abdullah Rasheen Hall describes their vision as artistic director of Trans Chorus LA (TCLA), boldly shifting the media’s narrative of transgender victimization to one of victory and celebration. “I look for us to bring a light and a voice, and through song you can uplift people. We’re visible through our voices.” Now entering their fourth season, TCLA is focused on developing their sound and seeks new members. Anyone interested in joining must attend an open rehearsal on Sept. 9 at the Gay Men’s Chorus of LA’s (GMCLA) oﬃces, located at 8920 Sunset Blvd., Suite 200 in West Hollywood. Auditions will follow on Sept.16 and singers will prepare 16 bars of two contrasting songs, sight read, pitch match and interview. TCLA was partly inspired by an episode of “Glee” featuring a 200-member transgender chorus and brought to life with the support of the GMCLA. In a short time span, they have already made numerous public performances and joined singer-songwriter Maggie Szabo for a video performance of “Don’t Give Up” as part of LGBT Pride Month. “The chorus shows people what a trans man or trans woman looks like, or what a gender non-conforming person or intersex person looks like” says Hall. Being out and visible has inspired audience members as young as 14 years old to approach choristers after seeing a show because they have never seen a group of people like them before, or because they want to be a part of a community they have just discovered. “I want young, trans-identiﬁed children to stand strong and tall, not to hide. You are always going to have people throwing things at you, there are always going to be the arrows and slings, but if the community of black people I had grown up in hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be here…I would have been too scared, I would be hiding,” Hall explains. “My mother used to say, don’t let anyone dull your shine.” Following a somewhat turbulent year that brought changes to TCLA’s leadership, Hall and fellow chorister Kathryn Davis saw to it that the group stayed together, especially since members consider TCLA their family. The membership exempliﬁes the understated diversity of the trans community, including members whose ages range from their early ‘20s to early ’70s, and they welcome anyone with a trans or gender nonconforming identity. The TCLA family rehearses every Sunday with a break for a communal style potluck dinner. When new members join or guests attend rehearsal, choristers welcome them into the fold by wrapping around them in a circle and serenading them with “You Have More Friends Than You Know” – the chorus’ signature song. Many trans people experience dissonance with their voice, and in the case of some trans men, they experience changes in vocal sound due to hormone therapy. Simon Howe, a trans man who moved from his home state of Tennessee to LA ﬁve years ago and started testosterone just one year ago, shares how one night his friends took him to see TCLA perform the “Ziggy Stardust” album on stage and he knew he had to join. “My voice was still going through changes, it was a little higher pitched than I would have liked, and I was really self conscious about how it sounded. So I thought joining will not only help me feel more conﬁdent and help develop my voice, it will allow me to be a part of the greater community… everyone is loving and kind.” Sarah Parlow recalls dropping out of her high school chorus because of bullying. “TCLA is a safe space where you can work on those things that you probably wouldn’t get into in a traditional chorus setting” she says. “There is real power in using your voice and being heard. I transitioned 23 years ago in a world that didn’t want to hear my voice, and if they did want to hear it was only if it was criticized or scrutinized, so because we as TCLA have this opportunity now to use our voices we should. Not every trans person in the country can do that right now. We’re in this very speciﬁc, privileged bubble in that we can not only use our voices here in LA but represent to the rest of the country.” Howe adds: ”TCLA not only reminds people that we’re here, but it also lets other trans people know that you are more than just your label.. and for people in the community that aren’t trans, it shows them that we’re here and we’re just as capable as y’all are.” Upcoming TCLA performances in 2018 include DTLA Proud, Lambda LitFest, LA, Chamber Orchestra Grand Ave. Arts Festival and Palm Springs Pride. In 2019, TCLA will perform with the Gay Men’s Chorus of LA and Vox Femina and shoot more videos to broaden their social media outreach. More information on auditions and upcoming performances can be found on the Trans Chorus LA’s Facebook page.
2018 FEATURED DESIGNERS
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SLS Hotel / Beverly Hills, California Live Auction / Cocktails & Light Supper
An evening of inspiration driven by the power of design. Nine of Southern Californiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most extraordinary designers will create one-of-a-kind pieces, exclusively for this event.
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Alliance provides the basic necessities of life - food and shelter - to people struggling with poverty, homelessness and HIV/AIDS.
Special Thanks to Our Host Committee
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32 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
New LGBTQ entertainment platforms are streaming everywhere A quick guide to some of the best content By JOHN PAUL KING
A scene from popular Facebook Watch series ‘Strangers.’ Photo Courtesy Beachside and Facebook Watch
Every year, as summer approaches its end, there is a sort of “entertainment let-down” that happens. The big movies have all come and gone, and television has become a wasteland of reruns – even the big summer shows on streaming platforms have all been dropped and binged. For LGBTQ audiences, these doldrums can be even more depressing; queer content is typically rare enough as it is, and during this bleak annual stretch it might seem to be completely non-existent. Fortunately, we now live in an age where demand and availability can come together on the internet – and there are plenty of great options to be found there. At the top of the list comes an entry from a surprising source – Facebook. The social media platform launched its “Facebook Watch” feature a year ago, and among the many video offerings it presents is an original program which demands the attention of LGBTQ viewers. “Strangers,” which online outlet The Mary Sue heralded by saying “One of the Best Shows on Television is Actually on Facebook,” is an episodic series created by Mia Lidofsky. It stars Zoë Chao as Isobel, a twenty-something Air BnB-er navigating her pathway to adulthood, and features Meredith Hagner, UCB Comedian X Mayo, Kyle Allen, and Kathleen Munroe. After a first season which received raves from critics, the show is now in it’s second round of episodes, in which Isobel switches from host to renter when she moves across the country with her best friend, Cam. On the cusp of 30 and now living in NYC, it’s Isobel’s year to explore, starting with a new neighborhood each episode. As a woman living fully in the bi-sphere — bisexual, biracial, and now bi-coastal— Isobel is saying yes to life and asking the most difficult question: where do you belong when you’re in between everything? There’s still time to get caught up on all the previous episodes before the season two finale drops on Sunday, Aug. 26. Both seasons can be found at facebook.com/ StrangersSeries/. Another intriguing piece of digital content is “Grosse Misconduct.” Created by out actor Colby Ryan and cowritten with his writing partner, Anne Schroeder, it’s a show depicting an eccentric Human Resources team as they navigate personal and professional struggles under the leadership of their high-maintenance director. Launched in June, this workplace comedy veers from the dramatic to the absurd as it features four lead characters — two of which represent the LGBTQ community, who are played by Ryan himself (creator/ writer/exec producer and a gay actor) and Pooya Mohseni (Iranian-American transgender actress/ activist). The show offers a refreshing take on LGBTQ representation in front of the camera in that there is no “coming out” story. No one is struggling with gender identity; the writers’ aim was to create and celebrate characters that better represent the full spectrum of our LGBTQ communities, and that are identifiable and relatable to all audiences. This diverse and exciting web series can be found at grossemisconduct.com/ and features six all-too-short episodes.
For LGBTQ film lovers who are going through withdrawal after the bounty of Outfest earlier this summer, there are also some promising feature length works available as Video-on-Demand releases: “Brotherly Love” is a tender coming-of-age drama directed by Anthony J. Caruso, who also stars alongside Derek Babb, Chance McKee and David Blackwell. It’s available through iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. Based on the Lambda Literary Award-nominated novel “Seventy Times Seven” by Salvatore Sapienza, the synopsis for this topical romantic drama reads: “Which call do you answer? The one you feel from God or the one you feel about your authentic self? This is the dilemma at hand for Brother Vito (Caruso) as he must decide between becoming a Brother or declaring his love for Gabe (Derek Babb). Shot entirely in Austin, TX and with a local cast and crew, ‘Brotherly Love’ is a fresh take on the traditional gay love story.” “Porcupine Lake” screened at this year’s Outfest. A tender, female-centric coming-of-age drama, it stars Charlotte Salisbury, Lucinda Armstrong Hall, Delphine Roussel, and Harrison Tanner; it was directed by Ingrid Veninger. Available through iTunes and Amazon. It’s the story of two 13-year-old girls who meet up early summer in Port Severn, a small town in Ontario, and become “more than best friends.” They share personal secrets, fears, grievances and daredevil challenges. By the end of the summer, Bea and Kate have irrevocably influenced each other, and the course of their lives have changed in ways they can’t yet foresee. Through an intimate and authentic portrait of Bea’s awakening into selfhood, this story invites us to imagine a new model for a young girl’s first love story — one told from the inside out. “My Life With James Dean” is a French, LGBTQthemed tribute to cinema. Directed by Dominque Choisy, it features Johnny Rasse, Mickael Pelissier, Nathalie Richard and Juliette Damiens. Available through iTunes. Invited to present his first feature film in Normandy, young director Géraud Champreux has no idea this film tour is about to change his life. From wild stampedes to woeful screenings, from trawler trips to drunken evenings, Géraud ends up finding inspiration in an unlikely town at the end of the Earth. “Venus” is colorful and witty trans-themed comedy that enjoyed a successful and critically acclaimed festival run this year, directed by Montreal-based filmmaker Eisha Marjara, and starring Debargo Sanyal, Jamie Mayers, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Zena Darawalla and Gordon Warnecke (“My Beautiful Laundrette”). Available beginning September 4 at wolfeondemand.com/. Directed with a breezy style and featuring a cast that conveys warmth and humor, it’s the story of a South Asian-Canadian transgender woman, Sid, who sees her life flipped on its head when she meets the teenage son she didn’t know she had. Her biological immigrant family, boyfriend and chosen family – and ultimately her own sense of self – are challenged in surprising and heartfelt ways, as genders, generations and cultures collide in this comedy about modern family life.
34 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Treat yourself to a few flavorful restaurants in downtown LA DTLA Proud weekend dining tips By SUSAN HORNIK
Border Grill in downtown Los Angeles is home to renown lesbian chef Susan Feniger and is one of several tasty options on your way to this weekend’s DTLA Proud Festival. Photo Courtesy Border Grill
If you are heading to DTLA Proud or attending Los Angeles Blade’s Pride In the Sky this weekend, there are some great local restaurants that can fill you up before you get your high heels on to dance or get transported to the 70th floor of the USB tower. No matter what you like to eat, Los Angeles Blade would like to suggest some, mostly queer dining treats, that are sure to complement your proud palate. But there’s a ton happening downtown this week, including the famous LA Food and Wine Festival, hosted, of course, by a lesbian food celeb. Susan Feniger, co-owner/chef of Border Grill tells the Los Angeles Blade, “DTLA Proud is this weekend, and I’m so glad I’ll happen to be downtown Friday night to help everyone kick off the festivities. I’ll be hosting Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival ‘Heat on the Street’ event starting at 7:00PM over on Grand and 1st, serving up some delicious Peruvian Poke Tostadas with the Border Grill team. Come say hi and get some food before you head off to your next stop. It’s going to be a great weekend for partying downtown.” You can find out more at lafw.com, but there’s restaurants aplenty downtown, so here are a few other ideas. South City Fried Chicken 724 S Spring St “South City Fried Chicken at Corporation Food Hall is the perfect place to come with friends and fill up on delicious, authentic and tasty fried chicken sandwiches before the craziness of celebrating pride in downtown begins.” —Chef Sammy Monsour Preux & Proper 840 S Spring St Preux & Proper offers the best happy hour everyday which makes it the perfect spot for delicious bites and fun cocktails before you venture out to celebrate Pride. “Our open air first floor neighborhood barroom is the perfect place to come with friends to start the celebrations and enjoy happy hour which is offered every day before heading out to celebrate pride in downtown!” —Chef Sammy Monsour Casita Del Campo 1920 Hyperion Ave Casita Del Campo makes authentic Mexican food like Carnitas, tacos and their chips and salsa are incomparable with amazing vegetarian and vegan options to fill up on before heading to downtown to celebrate Pride. “Casita Del Campo has been a part of the LGBTQ community for 56 years since they
opened offering super-friendly staff and a fun atmosphere filled with color and great music making it the perfect place to come enjoy a margarita on the patio or at the bar before heading to downtown to celebrate pride” — Casita Del Campo, Owner, Robert Del Campo Umani Burger 738 East 3rd St. Umani Burger has great locations throughout Los Angeles, and the one that is closest to Pride downtown, is in the Arts District. Come on down and grab one of their fantastic Impossible burgers, which are new on the menu, or their tasty fish tacos. Plan Check Kitchen Downtown 1111 Wilshire Blvd. Plan Check Kitchen has so many terrific entrees on the modern comfort food menu. The sweet potato waffle fries are to die for! Many delicious craft cocktails to be devoured during brunch too. Tlayuda 5450 Santa Monica Blvd. Tlayuda is a women-owned cozy eatery in East Hollywood, just a few exits away from DTLA. “We serve delicious, homestyle cooking inspired by Oaxacan cuisine. Looking forward to meeting you all!”—owner, Laura Guerrero La Golondrina 17 Olvera Street If you want a Mexican brunch while listening to mariachi, head to Olvera Street for La Golondrina, the first Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, opening in 1924 at what is now City Hall in DTLA. At the time, it was called Casa La Golondrina (the House of Swallows), and moved six years later to its current location, where it has stayed since 1930. Pizzanista! 2019 E. 7th St., Los Angeles Pizzanista has several yummy vegan and regular pizzas on their menu. A fan favorite is the macaroni and cheese, which the owners developed a recipe based on their Southern roots. They use five different cheeses on top of their hand-tossed sourdough crust with homemade marinara sauce. Muddy Paws 3320 Sunset Blvd. Silver Lake Animal lovers will love Muddy Paws, a petthemed coffee shop which serves organic, freshly roasted coffees and teas, raising money for over 18 local animal rescues. Their motto is “have a cup, save a pup,” as 10 percent of every cup goes to saving a pet’s life.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 24, 2018 • 35
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Continued from Page 25 proceeds will go toward its capital campaign. Alpuche says, “Things are happening, and we’re so excited to be a part of that growth, to curate and make sure that downtown stays as accepting and inclusive as possible. That’s what DTLA Proud is about, and what we want to ensure will continue.” When asked to sum up the appeal of DTLA for the queer community, Alpuche says, “I think for me it’s the fact that we’re integrated within the overall community. You have amazing restaurants opening up, celebrity chefs are everywhere; you have amazing architecture, the historic theatres are there – there’s so much that’s offered that’s not specific to the gay community, but it’s engaging to the gay community. It’s not separated, everything is for everyone down here.” “It’s more of a whole city being integrated versus being a separate area. That’s what makes it exciting, and comfortable.” As a leader of the DTLA community, Alpuche can be expected to sing the praises of his neighborhood. But what about others, who are not so deeply invested? Many of them echo his glowing sentiments. Waylon Allison, a longtime downtown “scenester” who has lived there since before its revitalization, says, “There’s a fusion now between the queer and the straight communities. Everyone’s free to be just who they are, regardless of gender or sex or how they want to label themselves. It’s become a safe haven, whereas five years ago it was a little, you know, weird – just to dress up, express yourself – especially downtown.” A veteran of some of the edgier LA queer events of decades past, Allison says that now, “Downtown is the core of that scene.” He also thinks that what helps the present-day nightlife here stay vibrant is social media – something the “underground” community, of which he proudly proclaims himself a part, did not have in the old days. Parties, such as Danny Fuentes’ “Sex Cells” and other ongoing events, are hosted throughout DTLA – not just in the “official” gay bars – and provide a fundamental part of the community’s social scene. “These younger people really understand how to work social media, they use it to get the word out and to stay connected in between the events.” That connection, he says, also translates into the neighborhood’s daily life. “The underground party scene is very communal – everyone knows each other, like an extended family, and it’s their life.” He goes on to explain, “Like with me, for instance, it’s every day, it’s part of who I am. It’s an integral part of my existence – and down here, everybody who’s part of that scene tends to live their lives that way. It’s not like a ‘weekend warrior’ thing, where people just go out and party on the weekends but won’t represent it in their everyday life.” Jeremy Lucido, a photographer and longtime fixture of LA’s queer art scene, also talks about how the downtown “vibe” fits perfectly to his lifestyle. He says, “As a photographer, I wanted a place with high
ceilings for my backdrops; a downtown loft made sense. Living in downtown was the first time I got a sense of community, from getting to know the shopkeepers on my daily routine, to always running into someone you know everywhere you go. It feels like my own little Mayberry – well an urban version of it, with taco stands and dog pee, that is.” He says the mutual support he feels from the other members of the community is a big part of why he loves it. “As a queer artist who lives, works and plays in downtown Los Angeles I know the importance to have not only an LGBTQ presence but a community I can be proud of. I am active as much as I can be in the queer DTLA community, and the one thing that sets downtown apart is we don’t see each other as competitors or rivals, but instead as allies and peers. It is indeed a community where I feel surrounded by family.” John Ison, who works in Orange County but lives downtown, is also proud to call the neighborhood home. “I’ve always wanted to live in a high-rise in a big city,” he says, “and DTLA made my wish come true. It’s not NYC, but it’s the closest thing to Manhattan that we southern Californians can get.” He elaborates, “It’s like a dirty Disneyland. With the high concentration of historic neighborhoods, dramatic skyline, museums, galleries, architecture, bars, restaurants and food trucks, and its highly diverse population, walking downtown is like visiting an amusement park.” Even though he doesn’t participate much in DTLA’s nightlife, Ison has a deep understanding and appreciation for the area’s gay history. “DTLA has great social significance for gays – it was a center of gay politics, and activism before Stonewall. The ONE Institute was located on Hill St near 3rd (Grand Central Market), and Pershing Square was a big cruising area in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. For decades it has been ignored by mainstream gays -- despite its cultural significance – but I think it’s safe to say it is now clearly and firmly on the map. He also has an enthusiasm for drag, and points out that DTLA’s venues have embraced and encouraged the art form through events such Precinct’s weekly “Queen Kong,” which features both local and internationally famous drag queens. His overall impression of the DTLA community is much the same as Lupache’s. He says, “DTLA has always attracted gays, but in the context of the art, punk and avant-garde scenes that welcomed straights as well as gays. It may or may not have been very ethnically diverse. At present, DTLA is not so much a segregated haven for LGBTQ people (like, arguably, WeHo), but it is a place where LGBTQ people can contribute in the context of a larger commitment to diversity.” He does add, however, “The REAL dividing line in DTLA is class. Most gays living downtown are ‘affluent’ or rich or trust fund kids, like their straight counterparts. The poorer ones might live outside DTLA, or be in some of the hotels or Skid Row
housing. The middle class is shrinking at a much faster rate here than elsewhere.” This brings to the forefront the most obvious obstacle to establishing DTLA as a truly inclusive environment for the LGBTQ community – or any community, for that matter. The resurgence of downtown has meant that real estate in the area has skyrocketed. With average rental costs in the neighborhood listed at around $2450 a month, finding an affordable place to live is out of reach for a large percentage of the population. This is not news, of course, and it’s true of the entire Los Angeles area. It’s also true that DTLA is not even the most expensive neighborhood – though some of its most extravagant properties are among the priciest in the city, the average is somewhere in the middle range. What is true is that, as of now, DTLA seems to have a shortage of options available for lower-income residents seeking a place among its inhabitants. Many buildings sit vacant, their owners holding out for high-dollar tenants looking to join the ranks of downtown’s elite or tap into the area’s lucrative retail scene. Like Ison, most downtown residents are keenly aware of the obstacles that exist for those facing economic hardship in their community. Allison comments, “We need something down here that can provide resources and services – especially for homeless youth, or for struggling LGBTQ kids. Monetary, or food services, housing placement – that stuff is really important.” It’s too early to know, yet, whether DTLA Proud’s planned community center may take much-needed steps to bridge this gap. If, like Los Angeles’ LGBTQ Center, it offers advocacy and programs aimed at helping distressed segments of the population to find their footing, it could go a long way toward helping downtown truly live up to the shining ideal it has of itself as a place that embraces everyone. In the meantime, though, it’s not necessary to have a downtown address to reap the benefits of DTLA’s thriving cultural scene. Whether you like drag shows and queer dance parties, or just fine dining and theater – not to mention the abundance of museums, galleries, and shops to be found in the area, any one of several public transit hubs will put you within walking distance. As Alpuche puts it, “there’s always something happening,” and you can be right in the middle of it, whether or not you can afford to live there. If you want a taste of what downtown has to offer, DTLA Proud Festival runs Aug 24-26 at Pershing Square. Advance tickets for Saturday and Sunday (the first night is a free, family-friendly event) can be purchased at www.dtlaproud.org (where you can also find the entertainment lineup and schedule). The Los Angeles Blade’s “Pride in the Sky” event takes place from 6-8 p.m. on Aug. 25 at OUE Skyspace, 633 West 5th St., Los Angeles.
36 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
23 years of Billy Masters Aretha contrarian, sex in the rectory, Armie, P-town and David Drake’s junk By BILLY MASTERS
Provincetown Playhouse’s David Drake bares it all for his art. Photo by Tim Atkinson / Courtesy David Drake
“All of my best friends are gay. I support the community. I love the community. They love me. That has nothing to do with this.” — Kim Kardashian speaks out about possibly accusing Tyson Beckford of being gay after he criticized a photo of her booty. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. Nobody ever questioned Aretha Franklin’s talent — certainly in its prime, it was beyond reproach. But one rarely heard of a fun-loving Aretha who loved people. She wasn’t that kinda diva. It takes a special skill to come off badly in your own autobiography, but Auntie Ree did it in “Aretha: From These Roots.” As with everything, she lived on her own terms. PETA didn’t like that she wore furs? She started wearing them onstage. People criticized her weight? She wore dresses with spaghetti straps (which must have been made of airplane wire). A personal shopper informed her that purple was the only color that didn’t suit her? She showed up at the next concert in purple. People gossiped about her skipping Whitney’s funeral? She sent a largely incoherent and endless fax to the press saying nothing that defended herself and fueled a feud with Dionne. She was always Aretha — spaghetti-strap, fur-wearing, purple, petty Aretha. But when she strolled onstage and plopped her purse on the piano (she reportedly didn’t trust anyone backstage), it was magic. The queen is dead — long live the queen. Did you hear about the latest church sex scandal? For several years, the Pennsylvania Attorney General has been investigating six Catholic Church dioceses in the state. According to the 900-page court document, over 300 priests have been accused of sexually assaulting and grooming children in their parishes. The ringleaders are alleged to have been a “gang of four priests” who worked together. The report claims that when a priest found a boy he felt was, um, “compliant,” he would give him a gold cross to wear around his neck. “The crosses were markings of which boys had been groomed for abuse,” says Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “One boy was forced to stand on a bed in a rectory, strip naked, and pose as Christ on the cross for the priests.” If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times — nothing good happens in the rectory. As you probably know, churches are non-profit organizations and are typically granted tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Last week, the IRS granted such an exemption to a new church called the Pussy Church of Modern Witchcraft! The group claims that they “come together to form a congregation of adherents to our female born, lesbian-feminist-based religion beliefs and traditions.” That all sounds fine and dandy, but the group that formed this “church” is the Transgender Exclusionary Radical Feminists! And it’s exactly what you think it is — and kudos to them for not trying to hide their bigotry. “Males are not permitted to participate, regardless of how they identify.” This sounds like it could be a plot point on the new “Charmed” series — coming soon to The CW. The good news — Disney’s first openly gay character appears in the upcoming live-action film, “The Jungle Cruise.” The bad news — the guy playing the gay character is straight. The upshot — people are pissed. Because apparently acting is no longer “acting.” Only Jews can play Jews, lesbians can play lesbians, etc. It was not long ago that gay actors bemoaned the opportunities to play straight parts. “I’m an actor - I can play any role,” they’d say in frustration. I do hope they all remember this when the only roles available to them are the gay best friend. Armie Hammer is appearing in the Broadway play “Straight White Men” alongside trans performer Kate Bornstein. At one of the preview performances, Kate began the play with the opening line — “Good evening ladies, gentlemen, and the rest of us.” Well, this was too much for one woman in the audience, who exclaimed, “You’re not welcome here!” It is reported that the woman and her husband frequently interrupted the play by booing. Armie later tweeted, “To the woman in our audience who felt it was appropriate to yell, ‘You’re not welcome here!’ at Kate Bornstein, our beloved friend, co-worker, and now family member...feel free never to come back.” This led to another audience member tweeting back that she sat behind the woman and her husband. Armie asked for the specific seat number, which the lady provided. It still begs the question — if audience members are being disruptive, why aren’t they dealt with by the theater right then and there? Last week was the 40th annual Carnival celebration in Provincetown. To commemorate the event, they had 40 Grand marshals. One of the honorees was the beloved Bruce Vilanch, which was fortuitous since he happened to be in town to perform two shows at The Crown & Anchor. We recently did a Queery Q&A with Vilanch for the Los Angeles Blade, which you can read online. Another honoree was David Drake, the new artistic director of the Provincetown Theater. He also directed and stars in the theater company’s current offering, Terrence McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!,”which runs through August 30th. If you don’t know the play, the entire cast is nude at various points. As luck would have it, some footage from the show has fallen into our hot little hands. If I’m not mistaken, this will provide the first public viewing of the fabled Drake Dick. And it’s just as big as you heard, as you’ll see on BillyMasters.com. When we’re showcasing Drake’s snake, it’s definitely time to end yet another column. But we do have one more important thing to say — Happy Anniversary to ME! Yes, way, WAY back in August of 1995, I was cajoled into writing my first column. And now, 23 years later, week in and week out, we’re still here. As they used to say in those ads that no longer run on television, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” In fact, we’ve come all the way to our own website -— BillyMasters.com — the site where you’ll be coming before too long. If you want to send me a question (or an anniversary greeting) you can write to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before I celebrate my Silver Jubilee! Until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.
WE ARE HERE L.A.! UNITE ENERGY DRINK feel the
POWER Unite with PRIDE
38 • AUGUST 24, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Aretha Franklin: an appreciation Soul legend spun magic despite uneven musical output By JOEY DiGUGLIELMO
An assistant to Aretha Franklin handed out these autographed 8x10 glossies to fans gathered outside a stage door at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall during the singer’s ‘The Queen is On’ tour on Oct. 25, 2003. It was billed at the time as her farewell tour, but Franklin continued concertizing throughout the next 14 years. Photo by Kwaku Alston / Courtesy Arista Records
Aretha Franklin’s career accomplishments were, of course, impressive — 18 competitive Grammys (only Beyonce with 22 and Alison Krauss with 27 have her beat among women), first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a cultural gravitas in the culture that meant when the U.S. wanted to put its best foot forward — Obama’s inauguration, Pope Francis’ stateside visit — Franklin was the go-to performer (oddly, those two performances were among her less memorable musically). In a way, Franklin’s accomplishments are a bit curious. She was more a singles-oriented artist, so her various albums (often cobbled together from various recording stints not necessarily recorded with any cohesive statement in mind) never went through the roof. When the 1985 title “30 Greatest Hits” reentered the Billboard chart last week at No. 7 upon news of her death, it was her highest-charting album since her landmark gospel masterpiece “Amazing Grace” made it to no. 7 way back in 1972. There were also long stretches where Franklin went eons between albums and even when she did release them, they sometimes barely made blips on the charts. Beyonce is, of course, an arbitrary comparison in many ways — she and Franklin are of different eras — but a Beyonce album is always an event. All six of her studio albums have hit the top spot, while Franklin never once had a no. 1-selling album. During her hottest era upon first signing with Atlantic in the late ‘60s, the top spot proved evasive with 1967’s “I Never Loved a Man” peaking at no. 2, “Aretha Arrives” at no. 5, “Lady Soul” at no. 2 and “Aretha Now” at no. 3. Later releases sometimes tanked for decent records like “Through the Storm” (no. 55) and “What You See is What You Sweat” (no. 153), unthinkable numbers for a Beyonce or a Mariah Carey. Franklin was 47 when “Through the Storm” came out in spring, 1989. Carey was 45 when her last album, 2014’s “Me. I Am Mariah …” made it to no. 3. For some hard-to-pinpoint reason, Franklin never developed the fiercely loyal fan base that ensures veteran acts top 10 album releases even decades after their heydays. And although Franklin’s overall Billboard Hot 100 chart heft is impressive — she held the women’s record with 73 entries until Nicki Minaj broke it (mostly with a legion of “featured artist” cameos) last year — she only hit the no. 1 spot twice (with “Respect” and “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me,” a George Michael duet) compared to Carey’s 18 no. 1 Hot 100 hits, Rihanna’s 13 and Madonna and the Supremes’ 12 each. Franklin did rack up a bounty with 20 no. 1s on the R&B chart. And Franklin had a relatively meager three platinum (1 million copies certified) albums in her whole career (two were for compilations) and just one certified double platinum album (“Amazing Grace”). She never had a monster-selling legendary album like a “Rumours” (Fleetwood Mac, 20x platinum), a “Come On Over” (Shania Twain, 20x platinum), or a “Jagged Little Pill” (Alanis Morissette, 16x platinum). And yet could you imagine Twain or Morissette being called upon to perform for the pope or a historical presidential inauguration? Hardly. What I’m getting at is that despite an impressive track record in all the usual ways we measure music industry success, Franklin’s stats are not quite what you’d think they would be considering her cultural impact. There’s no question about it — her output is uneven. It’s hard to pinpoint why, but put any of her studio albums on at random and track for track, you’re just as likely to encounter filler as grandeur. There are moments to enjoy on them all — all of which I own — but efforts like “Hey Now Hey,” “You,” “Sweet Passion,” “Almighty Fire” and “La Diva” are erratic. “A Rose is Still a Rose” (1998) was her last great album although 2003’s “So Damn Happy” is underrated and quite good. Later efforts like “This Christmas Aretha” (2008) and “A Woman Falling Out of Love” (2011) are almost painfully bad despite glimmers of magic. So what gives exactly? In some ways I feel Franklin was underrated; in other ways I think it’s remarkable what she managed to achieve considering how up and down her overall quality — admittedly a subjective assessment — was. Franklin, especially in later years, did things her way. She would never have handed over a project to an outside producer the way, say, Loretta Lynn with her classic “Van Lear Rose” album that Jack White produced in 2004 or the way Johnny Cash did with his American Recordings series with Rick Rubin which gave him a nice victory lap in his final years. Impresario Clive Davis held some sway with Franklin — we can largely thank him for Franklin’s final studio effort, 2014’s solid “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics,” but only to a point. Even some of the ‘80s work they collaborated on like “Jump To It” (1982) and “Get it Right” (1983) (both of which Luther Vandross produced) are hit and miss. But while Franklin’s choice of material was often uneven, her interpretive abilities were nearly peerless. She knew how to unfurl her trademark improvised melismas with a finesse that never sounded overwrought as it often does in lesser hands (I’ve heard singers whoop and dip so recklessly they end up in different keys than they began). Were a lesser singer (and many have) to have taken the luxuries of tempo and pacing Franklin did on the title cut of her “Amazing Grace” album, for example, for most, it would sound ridiculously self-indulgent and extreme. Continues at losangelesblade.com
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