Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 3, January 18, 2019

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J A N U A R Y 1 8 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 0 3 • 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



Marriage activist Diane Olson dies at 65 Olson fought for marriage equality with spouse Robin Tyler By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com She was the quiet one, the blond political spouse who stood by the side of her activist/comic wife during LGBT civil rights demonstrations and media events promoting the right for same sex couples to marry. They were the first lesbian plaintiffs to file what became the successful lawsuit that helped bring marriage equality to California. To borrow from the song, Diane Olson was the wind beneath Robin Tyler’s wings. Olson passed away from brain cancer on Wednesday night, Jan. 16, at the couple’s home in North Hills surrounded by family and friends. Olson was 65. Their lives were not all politics, however. Olson joined Tyler’s early 5-Star International Tour Company for lesbians and for 20 years they travelled around the world, stepping among seals in the Galapagos, posing with King Penguins in

Robin Tyler and Diane Olson in Oct. 2011 at a Gloria Allred-sponsored party in West Hollywood to watch Chaz Bono on “Dancing with the Stars” Photo by Karen Ocamb

Antarctica, swimming with a baby elephant in Thailand, and getting close to wildlife everywhere. Olson’s favorite destination was Botswana, Africa. Olson came to the fore during the battle for marriage equality, reminding the media that she was the granddaughter of Gov. Culbert Levy Olson, the first elected Democratic Governor of California, who ran on a platform promoting ‘separation of Church and State.’ He would have been

proud to officiate at their wedding. Olson and Tyler worked within the Freedom to Marry movement but they became frustrated after Tyler retired and her union, AFTRA, would not extend medical benefits to Olson since they were not legally married. Their friend attorney Gloria Allred agreed to take the case, pro bono. For four years, the couple went to the Beverly Hills Courthouse on Valentine’s Day with other activists to demand a marriage

license, which they were denied. Finally, on Feb. 12, 2004, Allred filled a lawsuit on behalf of Tyler and Olson and Rev. Troy Perry and Phillip Ray de Blieck (already legally married in Canada) for the right to marry in California. That lawsuit was later combined with lawsuits from San Francisco, leading to a decision in May 2008 declaring the constitutional right to marry for same sex couples. On June 16, 2008, media from around the world carried what Tyler would later call their “Big Fat Jewish Lesbian Wedding” in front of the Beverly Hills Courthouse. Some opposed the Jewish ceremony, officiated by Rabbi Denise Eger, because it might offend the religious right. But Olson thought it was a sharp reminder of the separation between church and state. In 2012, Olson developed lung cancer that metastasized into brain cancer in 2016. After treatment, they continued to participate in LGBT politics—especially the grassroots battle against Proposition 8 in 2008. They also traveled until the couple’s last yearly visit to Cancun in Oct. 2018. At the time of her death, Olson and Tyler had been married over 25 years, legally married for 10 ½. Funeral plans are pending.

Out Cathedral City Mayor Greg Pettis dies at 63 An active member of the Democratic Party By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Greg Pettis, the affable, hard-working Democrat who assumed the mantle as Cathedral City’s openly gay mayor last month, died Tuesday afternoon Jan. 16 from complications related to gastric bypass surgery, his family told the Desert Sun. Last August, the 5-foot-10, 282-pound Pettis told political blogger Cindy Uken that he intended to have weight-loss surgery at Riverside Community Hospital after becoming ill in January 2018 and frankly assessing medical issues that included high

blood pressure, high cholesterol, three ulcers and a regime of 11 medications. “I’m excited for the change,” Pettis told The Uken Report, adding that what he longed for was to “get healthier” and satiate his “desire to live longer.” Pettis suffered complications last October. He was taken to Eisenhower Health on Jan. 9 following a City Council meeting. He died about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, Uken reported. “I am extremely saddened by the sudden death of Greg Pettis,” out Palm Springs City Councilmember Geoff Kors told the Los Angeles Blade. “Greg recently became the first openly LGBT mayor of Cathedral City. He was a compassionate and talented elected official, working to improve the lives of everyone in his community, state and nation. He always stood up for the most vulnerable, leading efforts on asylum and

immigration, economic development, social justice, and creating programs to reduce poverty and expand education opportunity. Greg was a kind person with a wonderful sense of humor. I will miss my colleague and friend and know his legacy will live on in all the people he helped.” Born on Dec. 15, 1955 and raised in Duarte in the San Gabriel Valley, Pettis moved to Cathedral City in 1979. Pettis was elected to the Cathedral City Council in 1994 after nearly 15 years in the hospitality industry. “Mayor Pettis will be remembered for his progressive legislative ideas, supporting civil rights and social justice for all people, and at the same time, working hard to bring economic development to the city he loved to call home since 1979,” a city news release said. Pettis was a ubiquitous fixture in Democratic Party circles, receiving

a Democratic National Committee appointment through Democratic Municipal Officials to be one of 75 California superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention in 2016 where he supported former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. Pettis caused some political consternation by going to work for Republican State Sen. Jeff Stone from 2014-2015. The two knew each other when Stone was on the Temecula City Council and when they both served on the Southern California Association of Governments in 2013, where Pettis served as president. “Greg was like a mini Governor of California because the organization is so massive,” Stone told the Uken Report, noting that Pettis helped him evolve on LGBT issues. “He was the poster child for public service,” Stone said. “It is a loss for the entire county. He was so good at helping people.”



Is the Beverly Hills Police Chief a homophobe? Los Angeles LGBT Center demands answers By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com The news is pretty astounding to grasp. How could a presumably progressive city such as Beverly Hills hire, harbor and promote a bigot? But that’s what more than 20 lawsuits allege. “Beverly Hills paid $2.3 million to settle a lawsuit against its police chief as allegations of racism and anti-Semitism swirl,” the Los Angeles Times headline blared last December. But buried in articles by The Times and other media outlets is the fact that at least two out lesbian employees have filed lawsuits, too, alleging blatant discrimination by Chief Sandra Spagnoli. Additionally, some of the lawyers note that Spagnoli actually has a history of biased comments about race, age and religion. There have been “significant issues in potentially dozens of former cities where the chief worked,” attorney Eric Gruzen told the Los Angeles Blade, “and what we see is a pretty consistent patter of pretty awful behavior.” Gruzen’s firm JML Law in Woodland Hills represents Lisa Weller, employed with the Beverly Hills Police Department since Sept. 2001 as a civilian traffic control officer. In March 2015, Weller was promoted to Supervisor but after Spagnoli was hired, things changed. “Upon Spagnoli’s hire and continuing throughout Plaintiff’s employment, Spagnoli regularly made disparaging remarks about lesbians in the workplace,” Weller’s lawsuit alleges. “On one occasion while referencing lesbian women, Spagnoli stated: ‘the thought of what they do together makes me sick.’” Weller also alleges that in or about April 2016, “when Spagnoli became aware that a female employee was lesbian, Spagnoli made it clear that she was disgusted by lesbians and commented ‘eww’ and ‘gross.’ Spagnoli commented regarding Donna Morris, who is a lesbian: ‘Don’t let her touch me.’ Spagnoli further commented ‘make sure she does not stand next to me’ in photos for national safety, telecommuters, and dispatcher appreciation week.’”

Beverly Hills Police Chief Spagnoli Photo courtesy Beverly Hills Police Department

Weller says Spagnoli created a work environment that was “intimidating, hostile and abusive” and targeted her for illtreatment at work that resulted in the city demoting her from Supervisor to Traffic Control Officer with the resulting cut in pay and benefits. Dona Norris is being represented by Bradley C. Gage of Goldberg & Gage, also based in Woodland Hills. He also represents Renato Moreno and Michael Foxen, both of whom work for the Beverly Hills Police Department. Norris is a civilian employee with the police department. The “ew” and “gross” comments were allegedly made by Spagnoli about Norris. In this case, in the spring of 2016, Foxen and a Captain met with two members of Human Resources “to argue for a gay female employee pay to be equal to the pay for straight males. They refused. The Captain and Foxen asked if the unequal pay was because employee is a lesbian.” Neither of the two HR employees “denied that sexual orientation was a reason for different treatment.” The three allege retaliation after a discrimination investigation is prompted by complaints from other Beverly Hills Police Department employees. Discrimination by law enforcement is not

new territory for Gage, who told the Los Angeles Blade that he previously worked with attorney Dan Stormer on Sgt. Mitch Grobeson’s groundbreaking lawsuit against the LAPD. “It’s “mind-boggling to me” why the City of Beverly Hills continues to employ the police chief who has been accused of using derogatory terms for people,” including blatant anti-Semitism, “all kinds of offensive statements and behavior,” including “forcing male employees to have with her or they get no promotion.” Gage’s case—one of his 10 against the city—is set for June 3; Gruzen’s case is set for July 29, though he expects a delay. “I am greatly alarmed at the prospect of a Beverly Hill Chief of Police who is not only a horrible bigot, but who is injecting her bigotry into decisions within the department. The City has already settled a multi-million dollar discrimination lawsuit against the Chief because of antisemitism. Lawsuits don’t get settled for that kind of money if there is no truth to the accusations. Now there are equally appalling allegations of anti-LGBT remarks and behavior,” Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri Jean told the Los Angeles Blade. “I’m surprised the people of Beverly Hills

aren’t up in arms.” The lawsuits raise another issue. “How can members of the LGBTQ community feel safe in Beverly Hills if the Chief of Police is promoting anti-LGBT animus?’ Jean asks. “Many LGBT and allied organizations hold events in Beverly Hills and we need to know that our community will not face a homophobic or transphobic police force. Further, the Center has long had many supporters, clients and board members who live in Beverly Hills. Many Beverly Hills residents are members of our community and many others have LGBTQ family members. All of these people are entitled to a Chief of Police who will treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve and which the law of our state requires.” Jean says she is sending representatives to the next Beverly Hills City Council meeting on Feb. 5 “to demand that the City Council fully investigate these allegations and that they also make a public statement that bigotry of any kind--specifically including anti-LGBT bigotry--has no place in the Beverly Hills Police Department. The Chief should be required to make a similar statement. And if the Chief is shown to have acted as alleged, she should be terminated immediately.”






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Teachers’ Strike Disrupts LA Schools New HRC Study Critiques California LGBTQ Student Inclusivity By SEAN SHEALY Tens of thousands of teachers in the greater Los Angeles area walked off the job early Monday morning, Jan. 14, leaving the nation’s second largest school system in chaos. The strike negatively impacts the work, academic, and daily routines of nearly half a million students and their families, including LGBTQ students, teachers, and their families. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have unsuccessfully urged teachers to return to the negotiating table, but buoyed by support for their first strike in 30 years, the teachers said no. They note that despite the extremely costly government shutdown, the school district and the state has billions of dollars held in reserve. “In broad terms, this is about much more than pay,” Garcetti told the LA Times. “This is about the soul of our schools and the way L.A. does or does not build a culture to collectively invest in our future.” A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) told the Los Angeles Blade that schools will remain open and meals will be provided, but it’s unclear how many students would attend classes. A recent Human Rights Campaign survey reports that California’s LGBT students often suffer from higher levels of stress and lack of feelings of inclusivity. Staff in the LAUSD who work with LGBT students fear that a prolonged strike could have a farreaching, unforeseen negative impact for those students. LAUSD has had programs in place to mentor and assist its LGBT students since the mid-1980’s, starting with Project 10, which has since evolved into the district’s Human Relations, Diversity, and Equality (HRDE) program run by LAUSD Student Health and Human Services staff. Dr. Judy Chiasson, one of three principal administrative staffers for the HRDE, outlined to the Los Angeles Blade the successes and programs implemented by her office. She also has oversight for the district’s LGBT pupils, as well as its

Screencapture courtesy CBS News

educators and other staff members who work directly with students. “The main goal for us is to ensure that we are always looking for opportunities—multi level—always envisioning the needs of our LGBTQ students,” Chiasson said. “We are keenly aware that relationships between students, parents and our staff are setting a tone for conversations that are supportive.” A key critique in the HRC study was that in California schools “many parents and educators refrain from talking about or advocating for LGBTQ inclusion because it feels taboo or because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing.” Another critical point was that “only 32% of LGBTQ youth feel safe in the classrooms.” Chiasson disputed those findings, saying the LAUSD is fully committed to the provisions of AB 537, the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 and was an early pioneer taking steps to prevent bullying and abuse in its schools since the early 1990’s. “Another area that LAUSD has been a leader in was that our schools do not or have not enforced or set policies towards gender dress and appearance,” she said. “The LAUSD

has also fully embraced the provisions of AB 9, [Seth’s Law, that enhances the Safe Place to Learn Act with additional tools for bullying prevention] and we work daily to ensure compliance and also maintain awareness of situations that may be a problem or issues that need addressing.” The HRC study indicated that only 32% of respondents said that they could definitely be themselves at school followed by only 5% being out to their teachers and 13% being non-binary Chiasson said that within any school system, especially diversified ones like the LAUSD, there will be students who may feel disenfranchised. But her staff and the greater LA area schools personnel work hard to communicate with parents, students, and school staff to promote a more stable and inclusive environment for the schools. The Los Angeles Blade reached out to Dr. Vincent Pompei, the San Diego-based Director of the HRC Foundation’s Youth Well-Being Project and one of the author’s of the report. Citing the report, Pompei was asked if only 20% of LGBTQ youth in California hear positive messages about being an LGBT

person in schools, how much greater is that problem in the LAUSD versus districts in rural or agricultural areas, such as Fresno or the Central Valley in general? “Our data highlights that districts across the state, from the largest cities to the most rural communities, must take action and advocate for inclusivity and equality in schools -- including by training staff, ensuring curricula are LGBTQ-inclusive and supporting LGBTQ student clubs, to create safe, affirming and welcoming schools” Pompei replied. Chiasson noted that other districts have emulated LAUSD as they implemented their own programs. She felt that LAUSD personnel would work hard to lessen the strike’s impact on the LGBTQ students. But the experience of Justine Gonzalez, a former candidate for LAUSD’s Board, appears to align more with the HRC report. “As a graduate of LAUSD and a transgender parent to an LAUSD student, I’ve witnessed first hand the District’s inability to create safe and inclusive environments for our LGBTQ families. I genuinely believe that inability comes from a lack of resources and investment in the District’s teachers and staff,” Gonzalez



Justine Gonzalez with daughter Photo courtesy Justine Gonzalez

wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Blade. A 2017 internal audit of LAUSD’s anti-bullying initiatives and efforts,” Gonzalez wrote, “found that most schools did not record any bullying incidents as required by District policy, maintain or use Bullying Complaint Logs, or provide high quality training on bullying prevention to teachers and staff on an annual basis. It also found that the number of staff that oversee the District’s anti-bullying initiatives and efforts were notably low.” The last LAUSD walkout in 1989 lasted nine days. Approximately 32,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) including school nurses, counselors and librarians are asking for better pay, smaller classes, fewer standardized tests, greater charter school regulation and oversight plus adding more counselors, librarians and nurses. “Here we are on a rainy day in the richest country in the world, in the richest state in the country, in a state as blue as it can be, and in a city rife with millionaires, where teachers have to go on strike to get the basics for our students,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told a crowd gathered in the pouring rain Jan. 14 at John Marshall

High School in the Los Feliz district. “Here we are in a fight for the soul of public education,” Caputo-Pearl added while calling for the district to reinvest from its $1.86 billion in reserves and the millions in new money promised by the state. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten joined CaputoPearl and UTLA membership at the rally and in a press release January 13, the openly lesbian head of the ATF noted: “L.A.’s teachers need two and three jobs to afford rent, and they’re teaching in classrooms with 40 or 50 students, in schools without counselors, librarians or nurses.” LAUSD Superintendent Beutner has said a neutral fact finder found that if the district met all of the teachers’ demands, LAUSD would be bankrupt in two to three years, according to KTLA. “We remain committed to resolve the contract negotiations as soon as possible,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said at a Monday news conference, which he has since repeated. “We urge them to resume bargaining with us anytime, anywhere, 24-7. We’d like to resolve this.” UTLA sources told the Los Angeles Blade

that much of the failure to negotiate a new contract and meet at least half way on other union demands is Beutner’s unwillingness to hear out the union’s concerns. “He has his own agenda which is not in touch with the daily classroom realities that teachers’ face. Not mentioning the host of social and other outside family issues that can affect students. Basics such as even having enough to eat—even the diversity within the minority groups within the school system,” the source said. Weingarten also castigated Beutner and the LAUSD’s claims. “The district is crying poverty, but this is about choices: Do we deny public schools the resources they need, then push a privatization and charter agenda to solve it? Or do we strive to make every public school a place where teachers want to teach, students want to learn and parents want to send their kids?,” she said. “Austin Beutner isn’t fooling anyone. We’ve seen this slashand-burn agenda play out before, and as the people in the classroom every day, we know: Scarcity is not a strategy that actually helps kids learn. L.A.’s teachers are willing to strike until they get the resources they need

to do their jobs effectively.” Beutner, a former Los Angeles deputy mayor and an investment banker, has only been on the job less than one year and has no prior experience in education. Union organizers claim that the superintendent is trying to privatize the district, encouraging school closures and flipping public schools into charter schools union officials argue. (Charters are privately operated public schools that compete with the public school system for students and the funds they bring in.) “Beutner claims his plan to reorganize the district would improve services to students and families,” a UTLA source said. “How can it when needed funding is pulled from already struggling schools in the LAUSD and dumped into charter schools which frankly have a dubious track record?” “Our students need all of us to prioritize and invest more in education, from the City of Los Angeles, to the County Board of Supervisors, to our newly elected California State Legislature and Governor,” Gonzalez wrote. “The truth is that we all have skin in the game.” – Karen Ocamb contributed to this report.



Will Kamala Harris announce on MLK Day? Fred Karger surveys the field By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a leader in the #MeToo movement, announced her intention to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” Tuesday night, Jan. 15. She joins an expanding list of 2020 candidates that now include Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. But all eyes are on California Sen. Kamala Harris, especially after her precise questioning of President Trump’s Attorney General nominee William Barr that was so impressive, Trump ally Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Lindsey Graham uttered the word “impressive” immediately after Harris surrendered her time. Wide speculation is that Harris—whose life centers around civil rights and the struggle for equality, as she details in her new book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey”—will announce that she is forming an exploratory committee to run for president on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21. She has already been posited as the female version of Barack Obama, with whom she is friends. But unlike Obama who had to publicly “evolve” into acceptance of marriage equality, Harris was front-and-center in the fight against Prop 8 in California, both as a district attorney in San Francisco and as California Attorney General, refusing to defend the anti-gay marriage law just as had her predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown. Just as Gillibrand referred to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on the Colbert show, other Democratic candidates will appeal to the LGBT community. But between Prop 8 and her statewide run for Attorney General, Harris handily won over LGBT voters with the backing of such groups as Equality California. “We were overjoyed to be the first couple married in California after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Proposition 8,” Kris Perry, a plaintiff with wife Sandy Stier in the federal Prop 8 case, told the Los Angeles Blade. “What delighted us even more was the solidarity and support we felt when then-Attorney General Harris ran across San Francisco City Center to join us the court clerk’s office to officiate our wedding in the presence of hundreds of supporters. We will never forget the love and kindness

Kamala Harris at an Equality California gala in Los Angeles in 2010. Blade photo by Karen Ocamb

she showed us that day.” “As the declaration season for Democratic presidential candidates begins we are bound to see many qualified individuals. When we see names like Kamala Harris on the list, we remember when she was the chief law enforcement official in California, she ensured that equality for the LGBTQ+ community was a priority,” Jeff Zarrillo, Prop 8 plaintiff with husband Paul Katami, told the Los Angeles Blade. “After winning our lawsuit, the 9th Circuit quickly lifted the stay and on that day we tried to get a marriage license in order to be the first male couple married in Los Angeles since Prop 8 was dead,” Zarrillo said. “When the registrar declined us because he hadn’t received a directive from the state, AG Harris picked up the phone and called the LA registrar and told him to give us the license. She said something powerful to him, ‘Enjoy it.’ We met with AG Harris that next weekend at San Francisco Pride and she gave us the biggest congratulatory hug and we were able to thank her in person for her unwavering support over the length of our lawsuit and for continuing to keep California at the forefront

of LGBTQ+ equality.” But not so fast, says Los Angeles-based Fred Karger, the first openly gay candidate to run for president from a major political party in 2012. Don’t discount “impressive” South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the second gay man seeking his party’s nomination. “It looks like he will run and I very much hope that he does,” Karger told the Los Angeles Blade. “Mayor Buttigieg has a great resume, is smart and if he goes, it will send a powerful message to the LGBTQ citizens of the world. Even though he’s new to the fight, the LGBTQ Community and our leaders will likely give him a great reception.” Karger notes that, like him, Buttigieg will be a longshot, especially with such a formidable and large field of candidates. But, Karger said, “he could break away from the pack if the entire LGBTQ community would get behind him with all of our resources and might. Then he could have a real shot. New Hampshire would be a good place for him to start and he should be in there yesterday. Iowa with its Caucus system is early impossible for a newcomer without $30 million to use for organizing,

but New Hampshire might afford Pete an opportunity to finish in the money next year in the first primary in the nation and give him the national exposure that he would need. Of course if he’s able to get into the early debates, anything is possible. We’ve seen that before.” After his historic 2012 run against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Karger has focused on exposing the Mormon Church’s business dealings using their taxexempt status. Karger thinks the church is operating behind the scenes again, as they did during the battle over Prop 8. “I believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) is working overtime to get its most prominent member, freshman Utah Sen. Mitt Romney in a position to challenge Donald Trump,” said Karger. “Romney’s run twice before in 2008 and 2012, and if Trump falters or doesn’t run for reelection, Romney is waiting in the wings and ready to leap into the race with the hope of being the Republican nominee again. So while all the action looks to be on the Democrat side, there could be a big Republican surprise on the horizon.”


That face! That voice! That broad smile! Icon Carol Channing, the beloved Broadway star of “Hello, Dolly!,” died of natural causes early Jan.15 in Rancho Mirage, her out gay publicist and friend B. Harlan Boll wrote on Facebook. Channing was 97. “It is with extreme heartache, that I have to announce the passing of an original industry pioneer, legend and icon, Miss Carol Channing,” Boll wrote. “Saying goodbye is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I know that when I feel those uncontrollable urges to laugh at everything and/or nothing at all, it will be because she is with me, tickling my funny bone.” Born on Jan. 31, 1921, in Seattle, Channing began performing on Broadway at 19. Her star turn in 1949 as Lorelei Lee singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Carol Channing Friend” in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” was rivaled Photo by Allan Warren via Wikimedia Commons only by Marilyn Monroe four years later in the popular film. Channing won her first Tony Award in “Hello, Dolly!” in 1964, then went on to win two more Tony Awards, plus a lifetime achievement award. On opening night audience members lingered, ‘‘hoping a miracle would happen, the curtain would rise and the show would go on again,” the late Hedda Hopper wrote in the Los Angeles Times in January 1964. “Broadway said, ‘Hello, Dolly!’ It will be a long time before it says good-bye.” “Carol’s talent was unique,” Jerry Herman, who wrote the music and lyrics for “Hello Dolly!” told the LA Times. “She created the character of Dolly and she made the show, as much as any of us did.” “We don’t have Hamlet or Lady Macbeth,” Channing told Theater Week magazine. “Dolly is our classic.”

QUOTES “Being First Partner is about inclusion, breaking down stereotypes, and valuing the partnerships that allow any of us to succeed.”

- Jennifer Siebel Newsom on Twitter on why she chose “First Partner” instead of the “First Lady” as the governor’s wife.

“Be careful to avoid characterizing [GOP Rep. Steve King’s] remarks as racist. It is ok to attribute to others as in ‘what many are calling racist’ or something like that.” – NBC News senior standards staffer regarding the Republican’s comments on white supremacy, per Yashar Ali at Huffington Post Jan. 15.

“The trauma inflicted on me by conversion therapy is now illegal. This law will save many lives.”

– “Conversion therapy” survivor and NCLR’s Born Perfect Co-Founder Mathew Shurka on passage of an anti-“conversion therapy” bill by the New York State Legislature on Jan. 15.



Barr hints at continuing anti-LGBT policies at Justice Dept. Trump nominee grilled over past homophobic comments By CHRIS JOHNSON William Barr, President Trump’s pick to become the next attorney general, held his cards close to the vest on LGBT issues Tuesday during his confirmation hearing, but hinted upon confirmation he’d pursue the anti-LGBT policies of his predecessor Jeff Sessions. The answers from Barr suggest he’d continue to uphold the Justice Department’s view that LGBT people aren’t protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964, which bars sex discrimination in the workforce. Additionally, Barr suggested he’d uphold religious freedom even at the expense of anti-LGBT discrimination. In his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr recognized the increasing number of hate crimes in the United States, including LGBT people, and pledged to address them under the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. “We can only survive and thrive as a nation if we are mutually tolerant of each other’s differences, whether they be differences based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or political thinking,” Barr said. “And yet, we see some people violently attacking others simply because of their differences. We must have zero tolerance for such crimes, and I will make this a priority as attorney general if confirmed.” But under questioning on LGBT issues from Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Barr indicated enforcement of the hate crimes law would likely be the extent of his pro-LGBT advocacy at the Justice Department. Booker initiated the questioning on LGBT issues by referencing a 1995 article Barr wrote for a conservative Catholic publication that laments growing acceptance of the LGBT movement compared to religious communities. Asserting the 1995 article demonstrated a view being LGBT was immoral, Booker asked Barr whether he still holds those views, Barr replied “no,” but disputed the article conveyed anti-LGBT views. After Booker insisted he was quoting the

William Barr hinted during his confirmation hearing he’d continue anti-LGBT policies at the Justice Department. Blade photo by Michael Key

actual language, Barr said he’d inform the committee about his views. Barr reflected on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling for same-sex marriage. “If I had been voting on it at the time — my view is that under the law, under the Constitution, as I originally conceived it before it was decided by the Supreme Court, marriage was to be regulated by the states, and if it was brought to me, I would have favored martial unions, single-sex,” Barr said. When Booker interjected he was questioning Barr about his views in the 1995 article and whether the LGBT movement is immoral, Barr expressed a need for tolerance. “In a pluralistic society like ours, there has be to a live-and-let-live attitude, and mutual tolerance, which has to be a two-way street,” Barr said. “My concern, and the rest of the article addresses this, is I am perfectly fine with the law as it is, for example, with gay marriage, perfectly fine, but I want accommodation for religion.” When the New Jersey Democrat interjected LGBT youth are disproportionately bullied at schools, Barr interrupted to recognize anti-

LGBT hate crimes. Booker acknowledged that before adding many LGBT youth report they are missing school because of fear of being bullied and are disproportionately homeless. Booker asked Barr whether he thinks laws “designed to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination contribute to what you describe as a breakdown for traditional morality.” Barr replied “no,” but added, “I also believe there has to be accommodation to religious communities.” Booker acknowledged, “You and I believe in freedom of religion,” but shifted the focus to anti-gay workplace discrimination. Barr replied, “I think’s that wrong.” When Booker asked whether that means the Justice Department should protect LGBT kids from harassment and hate crimes and pursue efforts to protect the civil rights of LGBT Americans, Barr replied. “I support that.” Referencing his opening statement, Barr said, “As I said in the beginning, I’m very concerned about the increase in hate crimes.” But when Booker asked Barr if he sees a role for the Justice Department in banning anti-LGBT discrimination, the nominee had a different take. Barr replied, “If Congress passes such a law.” Barr then referenced the petitions currently before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking clarification on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in the workplace, applies to cases of anti-LGBT discrimination. “I think the litigation going on now on Title VII is what the the 1964 act actually contemplated, but personally, I think —,” Barr said. Before Barr could finish and venture an opinion on Title VII, Booker interrupted and asked to verify whether lawmakers contemplated including LGBT people in Title VII. Barr rejected that idea, saying “no.” “I think it was male-female that they were talking about when they said sex in the ’64 act,” Barr added. Booker then interjected again by conflating anti-LGBT discrimination with sexual harassment: “So protecting someone’s basic rights to be free from discrimination because of sexual harassment is not something the Department of Justice should be protecting?” Playing with one of the many U.S. Senate coasters before him on the witness stand,

Barr insisted the onus is on Congress to make the law. “I’m saying Congress passes the law, the Justice Department enforces the law,” Barr said. “I think the ’64 act on its face — and this is what is being litigated, what does it cover? I think for like three or four decades, the LGBT community has been trying to amend the law.” Booker interrupted again before Barr could finish, saying the Obama administration’s Justice Department “was working to protect LGBT kids from discrimination.” (The Justice Department in the Obama years asserted anti-trans discrimination was illegal under Title VII, but took no position with respect to the law on anti-gay discrimination despite pleas from LGBT rights supporters.) When Booker asked if Barr would pursue the Obama administration practices, Barr replied, “I don’t know what you’re referring to.” “I’m against discrimination against anyone because of some status, their gender or their sexual orientation or whatever,” Barr continued. Hirono picked up where Booker left off, asking Barr directly about the Justice Department’s friend-of-the-court brief before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals arguing anti-gay discrimination isn’t covered under Title VII. As Hirono noted, both the Second Circuit and the Seventh Circuit have “rejected the department’s argument” about the law. The Hawaii Democrat asked Barr if he’d appeal those decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court. In response, Barr seemingly referenced the petitions before justices, noting, “I think it is going up to the Supreme Court.” When Hirono asked if DOJ will continue to argue Title VII doesn’t bar anti-gay discrimination, Barr initially declined to answer directly. “It’s pending litigation and I haven’t gotten in to review the department’s litigation position, but the matter will be decided by the Supreme Court,” Barr said. Hirono responded: “That sounds like a ‘yes’ to me. The department will continue to push the argument that has been rejected.” At this point, Barr tipped his hand on his view Title VII doesn’t cover anti-gay discrimination. Continues at losangelesblade.com



N.Y. advances trans rights bill, ‘ex-gay’ ban ‘We righted a 16-year-old wrong by passing GENDA’ By CHRIS JOHNSON With Democrats in control of the New York Senate for the first time in a decade, lawmakers on Tuesday sent to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo two long-awaited pro-LGBT measures — one banning widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy, the other banning anti-transgender discrimination. The New York Senate approved the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which amends the New York Human Rights Law to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, public spaces and education, by a vote of 42-19. The Assembly later approved the legislation by a 100-40 vote. On the same day, the New York Senate approved legislation prohibiting conversion therapy for youth by a vote of 57-4. The Assembly approved the legislation by a vote of 135-3. Juli Grey-Owens, executive director of transgender-led Gender Equality New York, said in a statement approval of GENDA “sent the strong message that our state supports the free expression of gender identity and the right of gender-expansive New Yorkers to be our authentic selves.” “We thank our leaders in the Assembly and Senate who have supported our community with explicit and permanent protections from discrimination,” Grey-Owens said. “The passage of GENDA not only represents the final chapter in the fight for legislative equality, but also sends a strong message across our state that there will no longer be any excuse for discrimination against those who are transgender and non-binary.” The vote on GENDA essentially brings to an end a fight of 16 years in seeking to the pass the legislation. The New York Assembly has passed the legislation 11 times over the years, but 2019 marks the first time the New York Senate has approved the bill. (Last year, GENDA was killed by committee vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.) New York Assembly member Danny O’Donnell, who’s gay, commended the New York Legislature for advancing the proLGBT measures. “Across our state and our country, LGBTQ

The New York Legislature sent a transgender protections law to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Blade file photo by Michael Key

Americans face discrimination for who they are; suffering violence, being kicked out of their homes and struggling to find acceptance,” O’Donnell said. “Today we righted a 16-yearold wrong by passing GENDA and protected countless young people from the hateful fraud of conversion therapy.” Once GENDA becomes law in New York, Wisconsin will be the only state in the country with a statewide banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity. Although neither GENDA nor the “ex-gay” therapy ban were laws in New York, Cuomo

during his tenure sought to enact the goals of those measures through executive order. In 2015, Cuomo directed New York’s Division of Human Rights to interpret state law barring sex discrimination to apply to cases of anti-trans discrimination. In 2016, Cuomo banned public and private insurers in New York from covering conversion therapy. Cuomo in a statement commended the legislature for approving GENDA, saying the actions stand in contrast to anti-trans policy under the Trump administration. “At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to roll back the hard

won rights of transgender Americans, New York State is once again stepping up for full equality and equal protections under the law,” Cuomo said. “We were the first state in the nation to issue regulations prohibiting harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, and continue to fight this federal administration’s despicable attacks on trans people. This is an issue of basic fairness, and today marks an historic day for those in the LGBTQ community who fought tirelessly for the passage of this bill.”



2 killed, 40 detained in Chechnya crackdown

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated the United States’ commitment to a strategic partnership with Egypt.

Pompeo trip to Egypt prompts calls for U.S. aid cut Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Egypt last week has prompted renewed calls for the U.S. to cut aid to the country over its antiLGBTI human rights record. Pompeo on Jan. 10 met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo. Deputy State Department Spokesperson Robert Palladino in a readout of the meeting said Pompeo “reiterated the United States’ commitment to the strategic partnership with Egypt and in its fight against our common security threats, including terrorism and the Iranian regime’s malign influence.” “The secretary thanked President Sisi for his leadership in advancing religious tolerance, including by promoting the equality of all Egyptians,” said the readout. “The secretary also emphasized the importance of the protection of human rights and the vital role civil society plays in giving a voice to all citizens to help address their countries’ challenges.” Pompeo in a speech he delivered at American University in Cairo on Jan. 10 reiterated the same message. “As we seek an even stronger partnership with Egypt, we encourage President Sisi to unleash the creative energy of Egypt’s people, unfetter the economy, and promote a free and open exchange of ideas,” said Pompeo. “The progress made to date can continue.” The State Department notes Egypt received more than $1.34 billion in aid from the U.S. in fiscal year 2017, with nearly $1.24 billion of it going to “peace and security sectors.” Egypt received nearly $1.45 billion in aid from the U.S. in fiscal year 2016. El-Sissi has been in power since he ousted then-President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, a now outlawed Islamist group, in 2013. The State Department’s 2017 human rights report notes the arrest of LGBTI people are among “the most significant human rights issues” in Egypt. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

A Russian advocacy group this week said at least two people have been killed and upwards of 40 people have been detained in the latest anti-LGBTI crackdown in Chechnya. The Russian LGBT Network in a press release said a “new wave of illegal detentions in Chechnya based on the alleged sexual orientation of victims, both men and women” began late last year with the detention of an administrator of a social networking group. “It was followed by other numerous detentions,” said the Russian LGBT Network. “The Russian LGBT Network learned about this situation in the beginning of January 2019. There is information that around 40 people were detained, both men and women. At least two people died as a result of torture.” Igor Kochetkov, a prominent Russian LGBTI activist, in the press release said, “it is impossible to name the precise number of victims.” “However, we know that the detentions are conducted by the law enforcement officers, and the victims are detained in Argun [a town outside of the Chechen capital of Grozny].” Chechnya is a semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucasus. Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, in April 2017 reported Chechen authorities had arrested more than 100 men because of their sexual orientation. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe last month released a report that documents extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses against LGBTI people in Chechnya. The Associated Press on Monday reported a spokesperson for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov — a close ally of Russian President of Vladimir Putin — described the reports to the Interfax news agency as “complete lies and don’t have an ounce of truth in them.” President Trump — who is under increased scrutiny over his alleged involvement in the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election — has not publicly commented on the anti-LGBTI crackdown. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Dr. Mathilde Krim


July 9, 1926 to January 15, 2018

Accomplished scientist, compassionate humanitarian, indefatigable AIDS activist.



Warning signs of an ailing democracy The system matters as much as the struggle

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)

These are oddly troubling times. It seems every week a new democratic norm is violated at too rapid a pace to sustain the requisite outrage. This past week alone it was revealed that the FBI worried the President of the United States was acting as an asset of a hostile foreign nation. President Trump routinely dismisses the free press as the “enemy of the people,” attacks law enforcement agencies for investigating him, and undermines the cause of democracy by openly castigating America’s allies. Worst of all, the usual mechanisms of accountability fail to restrain Donald Trump. The problem, of course, is bigger than one person. In many ways, Trump is merely a manifestation of undemocratic and eliminationist thinking that has long plagued our republic. Only now, these viruses are disseminated from the bully pulpit by the office tasked with defending against them. This is not mere partisan hyperbole. The implications for undermining democracy are too serious to overstate, especially for vulnerable populations. In recent decades, the arc of history has certainly bent toward justice for LGBT people. Fifty years after Stonewall, the myriad of rights achieved is encouraging, but not invincible. The beast of prejudice still nibbles at the edges of hard won victories. All around the country, challenges to LGBT rights come in the form of religious

exemption laws, adoption bans and thinly veiled political condemnations. The critical point to remember is that these threats to individual rights are not distinct from the trend of democratic erosion. They are symptomatic. Though each little battle seems petty, targeted, and distinct, retaining and even gaining ground in this political climate requires a holistic framing. Theorists have long recognized the warning signs of an ailing democracy, but teaching them always felt remote and hypothetical. Whenever I lectured on a democracy falling apart, I referenced tinpot dictatorships and fledgling states, not my own country. But now, the same alarm bells ring perpetually in the U.S. I’m reminded of Irish poet William Butler Yeats’ poem The Second Coming. Though less familiar than some of his other works, its words sting with an urgent pertinence for our present with lines like: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,” “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,” and “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Though he died nearly a century ago, his words directly address a time such as this. Yeats is credited for being prescient about the 20th century. He foresaw the rise of fascism, the Holocaust, and military industrial complex long before those nightmares became reality. His predictions were not the products of clairvoyance but a trenchant grasp of human nature. Our tendency to “otherize,” exclude and eliminate is universal. The targeted identities may vary from age to age, nation to nation, but the impetus to discriminate remains consistent. All that is required for the center to fail to hold is a critical mass of apathy coupled with ignorant tribalism. It now seems as if the center is not holding. Democratic institutions such as a free press, rule of law and evidence-based consensus are slipping away. The current nominee for Attorney General has a questionable allegiance to the rule of law. Federal judges are ignored based on which president appointed them. Every bedrock institution or Northern star is too easily dismissed as a partisan agenda, so we lack a foundation on

which to stand and fight. Put bluntly, LGBT rights are undergirded by democracy. The system matters as much as the struggle. A foundational respect for the rights and equality of all individuals regardless of identity must exist for any group to flourish—but a society cannot have equal treatment under the law without a robust defense of the living law. It cannot counter unfair discrimination without respect for evidence-based evolving institutions. Democracy cannot protect against tyranny of the majority if it cannot hold its potential tyrants accountable. What threatens full equality most now is bland consent to the nebulous slippage of democratic values. A tell-tale sign of the slide into authoritarianism is constantly attacking the very notion of ethics and evidence-based institutions such as science, academia, journalism and judicial review. That lays the groundwork for a denial of rights that always seems impossible until it’s realized. Vigilance is paramount. Marriage equality is far from permanent. Employment discrimination is still perfectly legal at a federal level. But LGBT rights are not distinct from broader cultural trends. Neither are they separate battles from parallel attacks on immigrants, religious minorities and women. If the center does not hold, it is because it is systematically divided: democratic institutions require a resistance to division itself. Yeats was right about human nature. But the slouching beast he predicted is not inevitable. The threat can be resisted with a fuller recognition of its dangers. Fighting for LGBT rights - all rights really - means fighting for democracy. Attacks on a free press are attacks on equality. Attacks on the judiciary are attacks on equality. Attacks on electoral legitimacy are attacks on equality. Some may have fretted over fascism too easily in the past and cried wolf too frequently. But make no mistake—this threat is real, the wolf is at the door. To paraphrase Welsh poet Dylan Thomas—it’s up to each of us to rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light. Fight division. Fight exclusion. Fight indifference. Fight for the democratic system that makes equality possible.

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Big and small screen — a new age of queer entertainment Now can we have LGBT actors front and center in those depictions?

Brock Thompson is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.

I do love award season — the Golden Globes, the Oscars, all of it. Straight people have their ‘playoffs’ and what not, we have the red carpet and honoring the best of Hollywood. It’s sort of our thing, really. And out of all of the award season shows, the Globes has always been a favorite of mine. Why? Well, the whole thing is a little less stuffy than the Oscars and, as the night

goes on, everyone gets a little smashed on camera. It’s hilarious to watch. Just Google “Elizabeth Taylor Gladiator” and you’ll see what I mean. It was perhaps her finest hour. Something struck me as a bit odd, or at least interesting, while watching this year’s Globes. First, it was pretty gay. And secondly, that was hardly news. Yes, as I’ve mentioned the Globes and the like are fairly gay affairs to begin with, but this time the make up of artist, subject matter, and general films and programs being honored in one single year was the gayest I can ever remember. Think about it for second. From both the big and small screen you had “Pose,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “Boy Erased,” “A Very English Scandal,” “Green Book” and “Assassination of Gianni Versace.” That’s a lot. Anyone of my generation and before can tell you that for years we were absolutely starved to see representations of ourselves in entertainment. For so long we had little to go to. And it’s been fairly sparse even recently. I will still argue that we have not had a mainstream successful gay film since “The Birdcage.” And that movie came out,

so to speak, in 1996. Yes, I know what you are going to say — what about “Brokeback Mountain?” Well, again even that was 12 years ago, and even Hollywood was willing to only go so far with it. It lost to the calamity that was “Crash” at the 2006 Academy Awards in what still remains a sore spot for the gay community. Of those being honored this year, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was a favorite. And while some criticized the film for straightwashing Freddie Mercury’s queerness, I found a lot of that to be unfounded. Frankly, I thought his queerness, and more importantly his own struggles with it, were fairly front and center. But check out too “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Melissa McCarthy continues to amaze me. Yes, she’s sort of been pigeonholed into outlandish slapstick. But I’ve always found her to be a pretty meaningful actor. She’s fantastic as lesbian-writer-turned-fraud Lee Israel. That, and the film gives a great glimpse into 1990s gay New York. And, for television, “Assassination of Gianni Versace” was some of the best I’ve seen in years. Gripping, eerie and for those of us who remember

the Cunanan manhunt as it was actually happening, it was downright scary to watch. But of all those mentioned here, the best in gay goes to Ben Whishaw, winning for his excellent portrayal of Norman Scott, a former model/former blackmailer, in “A Very English Scandal.” Honestly, if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth getting Amazon Prime for. A three-part BBC miniseries both so deliciously absurd and remarkable, even more so when you learn it’s all a true story. But, of course I have to point out, of all the shows and actors honored, Whishaw was the only openly gay person playing an openly gay person. Sure, some of that’s still Hollywood’s problem to deal with. Essentially can out stars make it in the studio system? For years the answer, we were told, was no. But, it seems that cracks are starting to appear. If queer subject matter is now fodder for mainstream consumption, can we have queer actors front and center in those depictions? That appears to be our next hurdle to clear.

Fonda, Tomlin in top form, in Season 5 of “Grace and Frankie” Let’s do it again: Season 5 of “Grace and Frankie” beckons the binge viewer By SCOTT STIFFLER

“A lot of things happened before you came on the scene,” says one best friend to another, at a two-person, two-pig, squatterthemed slumber party, during which the title characters of “Grace and Frankie” are hellbent on crushing yet another risky scheme — this time, staking a literal claim on their right to exist where, and as, they please. It’s a telling quote from early on in Season 5 of show creator Marta Kauffman’s kooky and complex rumination on the examined life, as lived by a deliriously dysfunctional family of characters — aging seniors and young adults, gays and straights, dog and cat people — for whom the shocking revelations never stop. Be warned: Minor spoilers from 13 new episodes, now available in full on Netflix, await. But first, a primer. Set in the privileged spaces, and occasionally seedy pockets, of San Diego, “Grace and Frankie” upends the lives of perfectionist business executive and enthusiastic martini drinker Grace (Jane Fonda), and free-thinking, deep-toking artist Frankie (Lily Tomlin), when they arrive at a restaurant to, they suspect, celebrate the impending retirement of their divorce lawyer husbands (Martin Sheen, as emotionally reserved Robert, and Sam Waterston, as eternally exasperated Sol). When Robert and Sol reveal their 20-year gay affair, and a desire for divorces of their own, polar opposites Grace and Frankie put down stakes at the beach house those husbands pitched as an investment opportunity, but was, in fact, their love nest. What follows is an odd couple odyssey, during which the two women bond and start a business (vibrators designed for the older woman), while their exes retire for real, and figure out what to do with all that baggage, having emerged from the closet while in their 70s. Back at the beach house, Grace and Frankie are exploring romantic possibilities of their own. Frankie woos Jacob (Ernie Hudson, as her “yam man” farmer), and then discovers the limitations of a long-distance relationship.

Grace is forced into a do-over, after breaking up with her new beau, adventure author Guy (Craig T. Nelson), while he was under the memory-wiping influence of Ambien. Surgery-necessitating injuries, possible strokes, mean girl cliques, the mental deterioration of contemporaries, and incoming calls on a landline that compel attendance at yet another funeral are among the rites of passage for this stage in life, often handled with a telling glance or a muttered comment that speaks volumes, and gives voice to subject matter rarely tacked on television without the assistance of a laugh track (“Grace and Frankie” thankfully has none, but does benefit from effective transition music and calm, confident editing). The two female leads aren’t the only ones facing forced reinvention. Frankie and Sol’s adopted sons, Coyote (Ethan Embry, as a recovering addict) and Bud (Baron Vaughn, as a lawyer and the dutiful voice of reason) are also living together, and feeling the strain — while Grace and Robert’s daughters, Mallory (Brooklyn Decker as an overwhelmed mom) and Brianna (comedic standout June Diane Raphael, as the highly capable but generally disliked heir to her mother’s business throne) share, at first, little more than scar tissue not yet healed from their upbringing, at the hands of a mother more concerned with third quarter profits than kissing boo-boos. Although Frankie’s uncompromising liberalism is written too broadly, and Grace’s relentless perfectionism seems forced (on the page, at least), Tomlin and Fonda’s timing, delivery, chemistry, and gift for physical comedy makes the generally strong material soar to heights it would never reach in the hands of a lesser duo. And in the Robert/Sol relationship, the show earns its pathos, ranking high in the pantheon of fully fleshed-out, older gay men. It’s a thin field, to be sure, but still, “A” for the effort. This reporter’s ignorance of other examples aside, only the British sitcom “Vicious” cares to

explore an aging gay couple’s highs, lows, and cringe-inducing flaws with such gusto. Kudos, also, to the sheer amount of same-sex kisses Sheen and Waterston share. The queer smooch count from any given season of “Grace and Frankie” rivals the entire catalog of “Will & Grace,” original and reboot combined, and reminds the so-inclined viewer how many times that comparatively anemic sitcom deferred to tepid punchlines over authentic representations of gay intimacy. “Grace and Frankie,” however, has them in abundance: Robert sobbing in the middle of a store, when he realizes the scope of his betrayal to Grace, and Sol, making the case for his spouse to embrace activism, after so many years in the closet, while others fought for the wedding rings on their fingers. There are also moments that call into question whether men of a certain age were victims, or beneficiaries, of their time. “Maybe we’re the lucky ones,” says the serene John Getz, as John, an ex-priest who points to two canoodling twinks, while sharing a park bench with Robert. “When you come out young, these days,” John reasons, “it’s difficult to avoid the near-occasion of sin.” It’s among the show’s best gay-themed scenes, as the older generation seeks to reconcile, perhaps rationalize, their own unrealized potential. (There’s an equally effective moment in Season 5, when Robert finds himself in a leather bar, quizzing a patron about his gear.) “They have gay writers in the room,” said Tim Bagley, who plays Peter, the hypercritical director of Robert’s gay community theater group. “They’re not young guys, and I feel like the way these characters are written comes out of their experience in their own gay relationships. So there’s a certain amount of authenticity… As gay people, we know there are all different kinds of situations, because we design our own relationships, and don’t really conform to any heterosexual idea of what a relationship should be.” Those relationships are often at their best

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“Reading” is fundamental in Season 5, when Grace and Frankie square off against a formidable new foe: RuPaul, as Benjamin La Day. Photos by Ali Goldstein, courtesy of Netflix

during telling, if rare, mundane moments. “There’s one scene,” Bagley recalled, “when I’m sitting around the table with them [Robert and Sol], and I discover that Robert can sing. And I remember looking at them, and feeling really lucky, because it was a scene about them just being happy and supporting each other. So much of the show, they’re dealing with problems. And I was thinking what this scene is, is just showing the normalcy of these two men. They’re in love and finally able to be together, and have a fun time with their friend.” Peter, said Bagley, “started out as kind of a sweet guy, and a friend of theirs [Robert and Sol’s], and I think the writers have had fun making him more and more awful. At first, he was pretty normal and easygoing. Michael Gross played my husband, and we were caterers. Then, later on, they found a way to have me direct this theater group. I’m kind of

a bad director, and an awful person.” Season 5 finds Peter as a demanding guest of Robert and Sol, after they discover him curled up on the couch (the show’s goto metaphor for emotional retreat). “I can’t give away why, but I can tell you there is a new musical,” Bagley teased. “My character is hideous, but he has redemption, in his own way. You’ll understand, early on, why he does what he does.” As for this viewer’s bleary-eyed verdict on Season 5, having binge watched it way too close to deadline: It’s not quite the next step in evolution one might hope for, but it’s a welcome reminder why January (the new season’s annual premiere month) is a time of year worth looking forward to. Kauffman and company seem to have turned a corner that hints at weirder, wider, far more wonderful things to come.

The dream sequences and flashbacks of past seasons are replaced by bouts of magical realism, as when a drunken Grace is rattled by her (fully-awake?) conversation with Babe (Estelle Parsons), a deceased friend, whose subsequent encounter with Frankie appears to be a regularly scheduled appointment. And the eccentric final episode lays out an alternate timeline scenario that throws the relationship dynamics of Seasons 1-4 into utter chaos. Order, in the court of viewer opinion, or the lives of these characters, is not something the show’s creative team seems interested in courting. Good. A few more seasons in which the show itself embraces the newfound refrain of its two main characters (“F*ck it!”) is just what we’re going to need more of as we age, gracefully or otherwise.

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The Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City, located in the heart of the Entertainment Capital of Los Angeles and steps from Universal Studios and City Walk Hollywood is the perfect destination for anyone traveling to the Los Angeles area. The location is also a short drive to iconic landmarks such as the Hollywood Bowl, Pantages Theater, Walk of Fame, the legendary Sunset Strip and the high energy nightlife of West Hollywood. Relax and enjoy this AAA Four Diamond hotel, featuring breathtaking views of the Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles and Universal Studios from the spacious guestrooms. The luxurious beds will be sure to provide you with a peaceful night’s sleep. Rest and recharge with amenities that will make you feel right at home. Plan your trip by contacting their in-house reservations team that believes the experience starts with your call. They are available to assist with all your needs and help you to coordinate a memorable stay. Additional amenities include 24-hour room service, concierge, transportation services, Lobby Bar and a pool featuring oversize private cabanas. A Universal Studios desk located in the lobby is a convenient place to purchase your tickets and enjoy early admission to the park. After a fun-filled day at the park, soak in the California sun at the Hilton Universal Pool with a creative cocktail and appetizers at one of the firepits or rent a cabana for the day through www.dayaxe.com. Every Friday through Sunday evening, Café Sierra, located in the hotel lobby features an award-winning Seafood and Prime Buffet as well as Sunday Brunch. Indulge in King Crab, Sushi, Made to Order Mongolian Station, an abundant selection of entrees, salads, desserts and so much

more; voted the number one Buffet in California by Yahoo Travel and Reader’s Choice Best Buffet in Los Angeles by the Daily News. Life’s greatest moments happen at the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City, and your special day is no exception. Plan your unforgettable occasion in our stunning ballroom that is in the heart of the entertainment capital of Los Angeles. From intimate gatherings to large galas, our flexible 16,000 sq. ft. Sierra Ballroom and smaller event rooms can accommodate all your needs. Our catering team is committed to helping you host an extraordinary wedding – one that’s not only remembered but talked about. As experts in all facets of wedding planning, our team is devoted to ensure your wedding surpasses your greatest expectations, so you can focus on enjoying your celebration. As a Hilton Honor’s guest, enjoy all the benefits of your membership including complimentary wi-fi, Digital check-in and rewards points. For over 20 years, the hotel has proudly gone above and beyond the Hilton standard of service, as well as exceeding the AAA Four Diamond standards to ensure that every guest is taken care of. That is what makes the Hilton Universal City the hotel the guest’s choice when visiting Los Angeles. The team looks forward to welcoming you on your next visit to LA!


For most of my adult life I have made it a habit to travel far and wide and frequently. At last count I had visited 40 countries and made visits to every continent on Earth. But since moving from NYC to LA nearly four years ago, I have left the country only once to visit my partners family in Costa Rica. And so, that urge has started to come back strong. It’s time to plan. According to a report by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in recent years the LGBT travel market has experienced a general upturn. But in 70 countries around the world, including many of leading medical tourism destinations, LGBT visitors face real dangers and almost certain discrimination. According to a report by American Express, two-thirds of the LGBT travelers surveyed are worried about their safety and discrimination when travelling. The concern is not just about international travel. It’s also about travel to “Red” states where local laws and politics are often oppressive — think North Carolina. That is why the company urges its business partners to adopt an open-minded and egalitarian approach in dealing with LGBT travellers. LGBT travellers want to receive a genuine welcome like any other guests. They want to make sure they are accepted, can be themselves and feel secure. The report says that regardless of sexual orientation many travellers pay a lot of attention to the sustainability efforts of companies, towns and regions when choosing their holidays. According to a Deloitte survey of 8000 millennials in 29 countries, 87% valued companies with a socially responsible attitude. Companies that have embraced diversity and also operate in countries where LGBT rights are inadequate are expected to be seen as standing up for their principles at home and abroad. Companies including IBM, MasterCard and Google have joined an initiative called Open for Business in order to provide regions and countries with concrete advice on the issues LGBT people face. Some LGBT travelers make a conscious decision to only support countries — even states — with LGBT rights, while other more adventurous people are open to visiting countries where LGBT rights have not yet been established. Emerging destinations such as India, Indonesia and China feature prominently in the report, countries potentially visited by huge numbers of LGBT travelers. My partner are in the earliest stages of planning a January 2020 trip to Peru for his 60th Birthday. While likely a safe destination for LGBT visitors, we will deep dive on the research and will be looking to stay only in hotels that are proven allies for LGBT people. The Los Angeles Blade is pleased this special selection of a few travel and tourism companies that walk the walk.

Out and About travel for LGBT Wanderlust A Special Selection: Travelling far and wide By TROY MASTERS tmasters@losangelesblade.com

Travel somewhere friendly, green, clean, quiet and beautiful.


See Another Side of Southern California

Welcome to a true breath of fresh air Our sunny Southern California vibe meets stunning mountain landscapes to make for endless adventure. Indulge in our local culinary scene, catch a world-class show or step outside and explore miles of picturesque trails. Discover how Conejo Valley is the ideal place to unwind and see another side of Southern California.

Plan your trip at Conejo.com/Blade

Visit Conejo Valley An easy drive from the beaches of Malibu and 45 minutes from Los Angeles, Conejo Valley (Agoura Hills and Thousand Oaks) is where visitors can see another side of Southern California. With unique experiences, breathtaking beaches, incredible food and exquisite wine, Conejo Valley is an ideal retreat – with none of the crowds of nearby destinations. The area features 14 hotels boasting more than 2,000 hotel rooms to accommodate every visitor’s unique style and need. Conejo Valley also offers a very unique way to enjoy local wines. A new way to discover the beautiful wines of the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu Wine Safari allows visitors to mingle with exotic animals like zebras, camels, alpacas, bison and even Stanley the Giraffe (who just so happens to be a retired movie star). A trusty guide and driver team lead the adventure on a custom-built open-air safari vehicle, while guests take in the scenery and taste local wines. It’s the perfect opportunity to get away, relax and experience something “wild” with friends. From breweries to bars, and restaurants to wine tastings – Conejo Valley is the perfect getaway for any foodie. The Park Restaurant features not only great custom cocktails and fabulous food made from locally sourced ingredients – they also host the famous “Tomahawk” Ribeye steak that weighs 32oz and is the perfect shareable dinner dish. It’s a delicious way to start a night off right. There’s also the chance to savor award-winning desserts at Sweet Arleen’s, a three-time winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Delicious cupcakes, festive seasonal specials and sweet bread pudding are just the beginning. These desserts are all crafted to perfection and sourced with local ingredients. The renowned Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is not something to be missed. From walking tours through a replica of the Oval Office to stepping aboard Air Force One, this hot spot in Conejo Valley offers the ultimate way to travel through a president’s past. In addition to these interesting attractions, a walk outside the museum features sweeping views of Conejo Valley and a chance to check out a piece of the Berlin Wall. Conejo Valley also invites visitors to explore the local art scene with a trip to William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art. With a unique vision combining fine arts and sports, it’s the only art gallery inside of a football stadium in the nation. The art collection is a mixture of Rolland’s personal collection and artwork from the first half of the 20th century. There are new exhibits five times a year, making a trip here interesting and awe-inspiring at every turn. The gallery’s current featured exhibit, Traces: Revealing Secrets in Art and History, re-examines works of art to uncover what might be hiding in plain sight or just below the surface. Whether visitors are looking to plan a trip, browse what’s new, or already there, it’s time to explore the best of Conejo Valley. Head to Conejo.com/Blade to learn more.


Celebrate Family, Community, Diversity, & PRIDE. photo by: Bob Jagendorf

Todos Santos Plaza June 1st, 2019 12p-6p Concord, CA

This welcoming centrally located town, just 29 miles from San Francisco, offers access to unforgettable experiences in nature, cuisine, music and more. Visitors will immediately get inspired with a morning hike on beautiful Mount Diablo. There are a variety of trails to choose from and panoramic views that are incomparable. Those looking for a slightly more relaxing outdoor vibe can visit Markham Nature Park and Arboretum. Here you can walk along Galindo Creek while taking in 45 different kinds of fauna from California, Australia, South Africa and others. After indulging in the outdoors, discover something delicious indoors at the many eateries Concord offers. Concord restaurants boast cuisine from over 25 different countries and ethnicities. Happening January 18-27 is the 2nd Annual Comfort Food Week where over 30 restaurants will feature tasty comfort food selections including tomato bisque, grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, brats, risotto and cookie dough truffles. Then discover your new favorite craft beer along Concord’s Beer Trail with stops at four breweries offering multiple taps and tastes of microbrews and mouth-watering pub fare too. Coming up March 30th is the Spring Brews Festival at Todos Santos Plaza. Now in its 10th year, the festival features some of the Bay Area’s best microbrews and an equally tempting selection of food! Once the sun sets, the music starts. Experience it all at Vinnie’s Bar and Grill, Red Hat


Come celebrate with us, visit www.rainbowcc.org/concord-pride

Sports Bar or NICA Lounge. During the Summer, Todos Santos Plaza is filled with live music at Music & Market and Tuesday Night Blues. Picnic on the lawn in front of the main stage or grab dinner after the show at the many restaurants surrounding the plaza or grab coffee at Peet’s and dessert at Cream. For the serious music fan, head to the Concord Pavilion Amphitheater May through October when your favorite performers take the stage for thousands of fans. You can choose seats closer to the stage or take in the music under the stars on the amphitheater lawn. In June, the Rainbow Community Center Concord hosts Pride in the Plaza 2019. Check back for details on this can’t miss celebration at Todos Santos Plaza. One of the more attractive features of Concord is its access to other great towns and experiences. In just under an hour you can be sipping your favorite varietal in Napa or Livermore. Just a bit further away is Sonoma with it’s amazing shopping, wine tasting and food experiences. And Concord is a close BART ride away to San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley for dinner, shopping and San Francisco Pride, June 29 and 30, 2019. If you’re truly ready to immerse yourself in a Northern California original book your stay in Concord at any of its 9 hotels and find yourself at the start of your next great adventure in food, the outdoors, wine, beer and music. Concord is the perfect spot to relax, recharge and reinvent.

$20 off your first order eaze.co/Lablade


Washington guv to pardon those with marijuana convictions Olympia, Wash. — Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week his intent to provide an expedited process for granting clemency to those with past marijuana-related convictions. Under the proposed plan, those convicted of a marijuana misdemeanor after Jan. 1, 1998 will have their records vacated. It is estimated that 3,500 individuals will be eligible for expungement. “For decades, people have faced criminal prosecution for behavior that is no longer considered a crime in Washington,” the Inslee administration stated in a press release. “[F]orgiving these convictions will allow people to move on with their lives without these convictions causing additional burdens on people, their families, their employers and their communities. This is a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting injustices that disproportionately affected communities of color. A successful pardon of a marijuana possession conviction can assist with barriers to housing, employment and education.” Last year, California lawmakers enacted legislation mandating the automatic review and sealing of past marijuana-related convictions. In November, the newly elected governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer (D), publicly announced her intent to take executive action to automatically pardon former marijuana offenders. “Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that officials move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “It makes no sense to continue to punish people for actions that are no longer considered to be criminal in nature.”


Cannabis Culture Provided by NORML

Missouri county won’t prosecute minor marijuana offenses St. Louis — Minor marijuana possession offenses will no longer be criminally prosecuted in St. Louis County, according to a policy instituted last week by newly elected prosecutor Wesley Bell. Bell was sworn into office last week. The policy change mirrors that of Jackson County (Kansas City) prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who announced in November that her office would no longer charge offenders for marijuana possession violations. In 2017, members of the Kansas City chapter of NORML successfullyled a municipal initiative effort to decriminalize minor possession offenses. Nearly 30 percent of Missourians reside in either Jackson County or St. Louis County. Under state law, the possession of more than ten grams of marijuana is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. In recent months, District Attorneys in a number of municipalities around the country – such as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Norfolk, Virginia – have instituted similar policy changes.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week his intent to provide an expedited process for granting clemency to those with marijuana-related convictions. Photo Courtesy Inslee

Medical schools including cannabis in curriculum Pittsburgh — A growing percentage of colleges of pharmacy are instituting medical cannabis training as part of their curriculum, according to survey data published in the journal Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh contacted 140 U.S. schools of pharmacy regarding whether they include medical cannabis-related topics in their curriculum. Among respondents, 62 percent reported that they had instituted some level of medical marijuana training, while 23 percent answered that they intended to incorporate the topic to their coursework within the next 12 months. The study is the first inventory of medical schools with regard to the inclusion of medical cannabis-related topics to their curriculum. According to a 2015 evaluation of student pharmacists’ attitudes, 90 percent of respondents indicated that they favored the inclusion of medical cannabis instruction to their curriculum. (Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at paul@norml.org.)

Will 2019 be the YEAR YOU QUIT? If you’re a smoker who drinks, you may be eligible to participate in a smoking cessation treatment study at UCLA 

Must be between ages of 21-65

Free Smoking Cessation Medication

Free Smoking Counseling

Compensation of up to $405

Call: (310) 206-6756 Or visit: www.UCLAQuitSmoking.com

Friday January 25 2019


959 Seward Street Los Angeles, CA 90038 (On the corner of Seward and Romaine in Hollywood)

Complimentary food and drinks. Reserve your FREE ticket at BestofLGBTLA.com

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