Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 5, February 1, 2019

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F E B R U A R Y 0 1 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 0 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



Marianne Williamson announces run for president Joins list of four other female candidates By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Self-help author and metaphysical guru Marianne Williamson announced her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination at a rally at The Saban Theatre in Los Angeles Jan. 28. The event, which was live-streamed, featured Williamson diagnosing the state of the union in much the same style as she delivered her popular A Course in Miracles lectures during the AIDS crisis—erudite, deep and spiritually confrontational with tongue-in-cheek jokes. “What I have seen in my career is what happens when people fall down,” Williamson said as a kind of inside joke. “People don’t usually come to me because things are going well.” Williamson, who co-founded Project Angel Food in 1990 with grief expert David Kessler, focused on the “spiritual and moral

Marianne Williamson announced her candidacy on Jan. 28. Screen grab from live-stream

rot” eroding the economy, thanks to huge corporate conglomerates. Williamson said she was shocked but not

surprised by the election of Donald Trump and the populist nationalism he inspired, which she attributes to economic despair. “It was going to be an authoritarian populism or it was going to be a progressive populism, but it was going to come up from the bottom of things,” she said. Williamson called for an approach “where the consciousness is such that we recognize that if you are not addressing issues of human despair and if you are not addressing the character defects of your whole nation; if you are not addressing ways in which we have to change, then no matter what changes on the outside – you can have low unemployment but what does that matter? We talk about the GDP being the wage and the measure of our happiness. Really? Meanwhile we have the opioid addictions. We have the chronic despair. We have depression. We have the high suicide rates. We need to look beneath the waterline,” she said. America has to have “a presidency aligned with the higher angels of our nature,” she said. “One person has harnessed fear for

political purposes. We need to harness love for political purposes….I need you to think of this as something bigger than just electing me. It’s so much bigger than electing one person. It’s about an uprising of the American spirit. It’s about the uprising of the democratic spirit. That is what needs to happen now.” Williamson is the fifth woman in a longer list of people expressing an interest in becoming President of the United States in 2020: Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced an exploratory committee; Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii have declared their candidacies. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar would be the sixth woman if she jumped in after much encouragement, including from out MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. Williamson’s announcement was largely overshadowed by instant top-tier candidate Kamala Harris appearing at a live CNN town hall that night.

Producer, activist Greg Willenborg dies in WeHo Public funeral slated for Feb. 5 By CRAIG APPELBAUM Longtime West Hollywood resident Greg Willenborg, who parlayed his early success in entertainment into a lifelong dedication to LGBT and political activism, died Jan. 24, at his home in West Hollywood. He was 60. Born in Florida, Willenborg moved to California in 1982 and soon after started his own entertainment production company, Willenborg Productions Inc. The independent production company focused on film and event productions, creating original content that aired on ABC, NBC, PBS, Disney, Bravo and other channels. He also produced live events, including programs that celebrated such luminaries as Ray Charles and Oprah Winfrey. Willenborg was equally as accomplished in political circles, having worked on numerous political campaigns in California and nationwide. Additionally, he was

Greg Willenborg in Bhutan Courtesy Jeff Rosenberg

one of California’s 55 Electoral College voters (everyone learned in 2016, the Electoral College determines who wins the presidential election, versus the popular vote). He voted for Barack Obama and for Hillary Clinton in 2016 after raising over $2 million for her presidential campaign. Willenborg also worked on campaigns for U.S. Congressmember Lou Correa and former

U.S. Congressmember Loretta Sanchez. Willenborg served on the board of Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, and was an early promoter of marriage equality long before same-sex marriage became legal in the US. Friends recall a man whose passions in life were traveling and living large. He visited over 150 countries, including North

Korea and had planned to visit Antarctica next month. He occasionally traveled with friends, including his long-time friend Jeff Rosenberg. “Once you were his friend you were his friend for life,” said Rosenberg. Willenborg was most loved for his kindness and generosity, said Rosenberg. For the past several Christmas holidays, for example, Willenborg rented vans and took friends to downtown Los Angeles where they handed out gifts to the homeless. These gifts often included socks and blankets, phone cards and Starbuck’s gift cards. “He was just really a good, generous person,” longtime political activist Diane Abbitt told the Los Angeles Blade. Willenborg was well known within the West Hollywood and Los Angeles sober communities, as well, contributing to the Van Ness Recovery House, among other recovery organizations. A funeral service open to the public will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 12:30 p.m. at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Church of the Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive in Los Angeles.



WeHo candidates neglect LGBT issues at forum By CRAIG APPELBAUM Homelessness, affordable housing, development, traffic, mass transit and the burgeoning cannabis business dominated the discussion at the Jan. 29 West Hollywood City Council Candidate Forum. The forum— sponsored by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles—was moderated by out KNBC reporter Robert Kovacik who asked questions drafted by the Chamber and voters. Nine of the 11 candidates seeking three council seats in the March 5th election participated: current City Councilmembers Lindsey Horvath, Lauren Meister, and John D’Amico and challengers Brendan Hood, Duke Mason, Shawn Davis Mooney, Marquita Thomas, Tom Demille and Sepi Shyne. Candidates Jack Cline and Eric Jon Schmidt did not participate. The candidates largely agreed on the issues, including the discomfort at being pressed to answer big questions in 45-second responses. Some themes were carried over, such as Mason’s call for the city to reassess the zoning map, which would help figure out what new development should go where and what neighborhood housing should be preserved. When asked about the city’s nightlife, Mooney noted that “we’re all kind of grown up and married” but he’s “fine” with the bars on Santa Monica Boulevard and the Sunset Strip. Meister said more venues were needed on the Strip with the demise of the House of Blues. “Less hotels, more venues,” she said. Thomas noted that extended hours are coming and that is a public safety issue, as well as an increase in noise for nearby residents. But as the 150-minute forum stretched on, it became increasingly clear that while seniors, the homeless, Russians and diminishing middle class were all being addressed—no one was talking about the city’s renowned LGBT population. What made the benign neglect even more striking is that all of the candidates are gay and lesbian, except straight incumbents Horvath and Meister. And during his final two minutes, instead of talking about the need to “Save Boystown,” the spirit that got him elected in 2011, D’Amico pointed to his husband, smiled and talked about how happy he is living in West Hollywood. “West Hollywood remains a hub of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) culture

and a tourist destination for gay and bisexual men around the globe. The City is also home to a large number of gay and bisexual men — roughly 40% of the city’s population,” reports the city’s 2013 Community Survey. “Thirty-nine percent of all respondents to the West Hollywood Community Study survey selfidentify as gay men; another two percent of respondents identify as bisexual men. The percentage of gay and bisexual men living in West Hollywood has held constant over the past 15 years with similar figures reflected in surveys conducted in 1998, 2000, and 2006,” the survey said. However, there appears to be an exodus of LGBT residents as rents for both apartments and small businesses continue to rise. Only Mooney briefly touched upon the issue, promising to keep alive the legacy of ACT UP and LGBT history. But no one addressed the need to retain the LGBT community and its culture, with which the city has been so long proudly identified. Isn’t LGBT history as

valuable as an old Hollywood house? Additionally, no one thoughtfully addressed the need for social services, including help for people with HIV/AIDS, even though the 2013 Community Survey reported that the “cumulative number of people living with HIV and the cumulative number of people living with AIDS continued to increase” in West Hollywood. And no mention was made of the city’s drug and crystal meth problem or the alarming increase of STDs in WeHo. A 2019 Community Survey is apparently underway. But the “Community At A Glance” graphic provided for prospective business owners makes no mention of the LGBT community at all. It does indicate, however, that about 80% of the city’s 35,797 (a 2016 figure) residents are white. That statistic and general impression of White WeHo has been more popularized since the death of young black escort Gemmel Moore in 2017 at the WeHo apartment of white political activist Ed Buck. Rallies by activists from the

black community have alleged malfeasance on Buck’s part, though the Sheriff’s department concluded that Moore died of an accidental drug overdose. The death of a second gay African-American man, Timothy Dean, at Buck’s apartment only intensified the belief that whites are treated with unaccountable deference in West Hollywood. Though there is an ongoing investigation into Dean’s death, the candidates were not prohibited from discussing WeHo’s image problem. It was a point made by Jerome Kitchen as the forum was ending. Kitchen, who identified himself as a friend of one of the deceased men, loudly asked why none of the candidates had addressed the deaths. He was considered a disrupter and shouted down. Several candidates mentioned the importance of West Hollywood “values,” but no one really discussed what those values are and how they are maintained.


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Creating Change 2019 creates controversy, again Is the Task Force ducking the issues raised by the Israel-Palestinian protest? By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com For much of its 31-year history, the National LGBT Task Force’s Creating Change conference has been a mecca for intellects, movement leaders, grassroots activists and allies eager to engage in coalition building. The gathering created a cauldron of ideas, sparking analysis and sometimes messy debate over strategies for fighting institutionalized oppression and ugly anti-LGBT discrimination developing its own organized Religious Right movement in states around the country. And the conferences almost always made news. This year, Creating Change made news again— but not particularly favorably. In years past, LGBT reporters eagerly pursued thought leaders expressing powerful, political assessments of surviving under siege and their passionate strategies for confronting the struggles ahead. During the 1993 conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, for instance, radical, Marxist-leaning former director Urvashi Vaid surprised herself by calling for traditional 50-state get-out-the-vote organizing to combat the Christian Coalition. “We must develop a more proactive and clear political strategy” to “knit together” different efforts, she said, and build a powerful movement to secure a federal equality act and beat back Newt Gingrich’s revolution. NGLTF executive director Matt Foreman stunned the Creating Change audience in 2008 by calling HIV a “gay disease” and chastising the LGBT community for allowing HIV/AIDS to slip as a priority and spread among people of color through institutionalized racism and lack of access to healthcare. He received only a smattering of applause but the issue was hotly debated by activists once home. NGLTF executive director Kerry Lobel, who with Lynn Cothren brought Coretta Scott King and Dorothy Height to NGLTF, called Creating Change “the political hothouse of our movement,” the “incubator

of countless projects, campaigns, strategies and initiatives that help to bring our movement into the 21st century.” Lobel later served on the Coastside Jewish Community’s Board of Directors. One wonders how she or Foreman or Vaid would have handled Creating Change 2019, which made LGBT news for a disruption by the Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition and the Task Force’s muted response amid charges by national LGBT Jewish leaders and online commenters that the protest and reaction were anti-Semitic. On Jan. 24, as the opening plenary was getting underway in Detroit, a handful of activists started chanting “Free, free Palestine!” As they made their way onstage, Creating Change organizer Andy Garcia stepped aside and the lights dimmed. Undeterred, the leader, who identified herself as a Jewish, lesbian, transgender woman, proceeded to slam the Task Force for what she said was a continued “ban on Palestinian content and that has stretched into Jewish and Muslim content at this conference and we won’t stand for that.” She noted that the Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition submitted seven workshop proposals about Palestine and pinkwashing to Creating Change, all of which were rejected. “Pinkwashing” is a term derived from “whitewashing” applied to LGBT rights. Generally it suggests a marketing or political ploy that makes a product, person, or country appear pro-LGBT while diverting attention or covering up an opposite intent. The term was original coined by Breast Cancer Action in 1992 to expose companies that claimed to support the cause through pink ribbons while actually profiting from the illness, according to Self Magazine. The Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition wants “robust programing that reflects the Task Force’s so-called commitment to change, dignity and equality,” the Jewish trans lesbian leader said. “We want a conference and a space where radical queer and trans people, radical Jews, radical Muslims, radical Palestinians, radical people from across the globe and around the country can come together and discuss all parts of our liberation. And right now our content is being censored. Our liberation is being silenced and our voices are being shut down because the Task Force is too cowardly to have a conversation on one of the leading

social justice issues of our time—Palestinian freedom.” The leader blamed the ADL—the AntiDefamation League—for encouraging the Palestine ban “as part of a reaction to protests that took place in 2016.” That protest in Chicago left an indelible mark on the consciousness of anyone who heard about it. A Wider Bridge, an organization that promotes LGBT equality in Israel, was hosting a reception for Sarah Kala-Meir and Tom Canning from the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance when more than 200 yelling people crammed the hallways outside the third floor reception room, terrifying the guests and causing them to flee for fear of violence. The group opposed what they claimed is Israeli pinkwashing to deflect from its policies toward occupied Palestinians—but their message was lost in the storm of fear they created. The Chicago police were called, which lead to a slew of other issues. After the 2016 controversy, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey told the Washington Blade that the Task Force “does not have a policy stance on the Israeli Palestinian conflict….We are not an organization with an international mission.” But that did not satisfy the Coalition, which protested at Creating Change last year, as well. “I’m Jewish,” said the Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition leader at the Jan. 24 opening plenary. “I’m here to say that the ADL does not speak for me and the ADL does not speak for queers. In fact, if you look into their history, they have committed acts of severe violence against the queer and trans liberation movement. The ADL spied on the reason that many of us are here – Queer Nation. And they spied on ACT UP in the ‘80s. Is that an organization that the Task force should have a partnership with – one that pied on ACT UP? No. No. No.” This attack infuriated LGBT Jewish leaders. In 2012, the ADL, which monitors and educates about hate groups, submitted substantial testimony to support the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and has been actively involved with educating about hate crimes. But the accusation about ACT UP is true. As reported by the New York Times and others, the San Francisco offices, homes

and storage facilities of key ADL members were raided in 1993 as police investigated an illegal spy ring. They uncovered thousands of index cards with names of 12,000 Americans and 950 groups—including the NAACP, ACLU, and ACT UP. That scandal has been lost with time. But it was the chant at the end of the 15 minutes of seized protest time that unnerved many Jews and non-Jews alike. “Hopefully, one day – from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The group left the stage to a standing ovation. The phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is generally perceived as a call to eliminate the state of Israel. That alone was enough to set off howls of protest claiming the group called for the murder of Jews—three days before Holocaust Remembrance Day. They also charge the Task Force with anti-Semitism for not stepping in and stopping it. “We are deeply troubled that an uninvited group of disruptors breached the opening plenary of Creating Change to voice hate speech and slander against the Jewish community and our institutions, without action or consequence from the leadership of the National LGBTQ Task Force,” Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood and Tyler Gregory of A Wider Bridge wrote in an open letter to Executive Director Rea Carey demanding an apology. “The fifteen-minute disruption ended with calls of “from the river to the sea,” an anti-Semitic dog whistle from those wishing to see the Jewish State and its inhabitants disappear.” “Bruce Voeller, who founded the National Gay Task Force, and the Jews he invited to serve on its early board, such as pioneering activist Frank Kameny, would have been horrified at the present antiSemitism in the guise of anti-Zionism that has been allowed to take over the Task Force,” historian Lillian Faderman told the Los Angeles Blade. “They would not have felt welcome in this organization that they built. How tragic that this has been allowed to happen. The present leadership has a responsibility to put an end to antiSemitism in the ranks of the organization and to disassociate from it by apologizing in the name of the Task Force.” “The National ‘Task Force’ not only needs to apologize, but Non- self loathing Jews



Screen grab from video of the Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition protest at Creating Change 2019

need to be put in leadership positions on the board and in Executive positions. Until then, all donations to the task force must stop, and they need to be put on the National anti-Semitic organization list. Right now,” longtime activist Robin Tyler told the Los Angeles Blade. Carey made a statement from the stage on Jan. 27, which is apparently the only comment she is giving. “We are aware that some have expressed concerns about protests at Creating Change, including the protest on Thursday regarding Israel and Palestine,” she said. “As we have before, the National LGBTQ Task Force firmly condemns anti-Semitism. We

firmly condemn Islamophobia. We firmly condemn attacks on each other’s humanity. The perpetuation of white supremacy is harmful to all. There are a number of misunderstandings and misinformation being thrown around. As Kierra said Thursday night, we want and appreciate all feedback, and part of being in community together means holding each other as we evolve. We are committed to staying in respectful conversation as we move forward towards Creating Change 2020. For your feedback, please send an email to creatingchange@thetaskforce.org.” Few were happy with Carey’s response, fewer still were happy with what the late

activist Morris Kight used to call “oppression sickness” that seemed to dominate discussions on the Internet. Meanwhile, on the ground at Creating Change, TransLatin@ Coalition founder Bamby Salcedo told the Los Angeles Blade, the protest made no waves among the roughly 4,000 attendees. “No one was talking about it,” she said, unlike the huge #TransLivesMatter protest she staged at Creating Change, which not only yielded results but Salcedo was a plenary speaker this year. Nonetheless, many are questioning Carey’s leadership: why she didn’t see the protest coming and tackle the issue head-

on as a matter of importance to the LGBT community—once a trait of NGLTF. “Anything that happens under my watch is my responsibility, and I take it seriously. I and we are learning and I think we’re going to come up with some creative and concrete recommendations with how we can move forward for the conference, for the organization and for the movement,” Carey told the Washington Blade in Feb. 2016. What happened to that commitment? (The Los Angeles Blade is presenting the Open Letter and a transcript of most of the protesters’ remarks as op-eds so readers can be better informed.)



Parents of transgender kids share hardship stories on Capitol Hill By CHRIS JOHNSON The parents of transgender children met on Capitol Hill Wednesday to share stories about hardships their families have encountered, including anti-trans policies of the Trump administration. The parents gathered for a one-hour meeting at the Cannon House Office Building for a public meeting hosted by Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.), chair of the Transgender Equality Task Force. The meeting followed a two-day summit of the Parents for Transgender Equality National Council at the Human Rights Campaign building in D.C. Rachel Gonzales, who lives in the Dallas area and is the mother of three children, told the story of how her transgender daughter “became progressively anxious and depressed and angry” before she transitioned. “My husband and I were really at odds with how to handle her increasing need to feminize her presence,” Gonzales said. “And, as she became more aware of other people’s perception of her as a boy, she just hit a wall where she expressed to us that she could not go on any longer with anyone thinking she was a boy, that she needed Santa Claus to turn her into a girl. That changed, Gonzales said, when she allowed her daughter to transition socially by starting to wear girls’ clothing and growing her hair long. “She became happier and we changed her name and her pronouns, and she started to come back out of that dark cloud,” Gonzales said. “And we really were anxious about living in Texas, what that would be like, telling her classmates in school that her name and pronouns had changed and much to our surprise, her classmates’ responses were almost comical: Of course, she’s wearing a dress? Why wouldn’t she wear a dress?” Both Gonzalez and her transgender daughter testified before the Texas Legislature two years ago when lawmakers sought to pass an anti-transgender bathroom bill. The legislation ended up being defeated. Louis Porter II, formerly executive director of the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, talked about his experience raising his non-binary gender expansive child named Zeam, saying he was thankful for the support he found from fellow black elders in his Southern Christian tradition. “I haven’t met a parent yet who doesn’t

The parents of transgender kids shared hardship stories on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Blade photo by Chris Johnson

worry, but when your child is transgender and black, you worry even more so,” Porter said. Priya Shah, a gender and sexuality studies teacher in Orange County, Calif., recalled crying last year when Kennedy during his response to President Trump’s State of the Union address, mentioned parents raising transgender children. “Our daughter who was identified male at birth came to me before her seventh birthday, looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Mom. I’m a girl. This is the situation,’” Shah said. “In a way I think we had known about that for a long time and that it was coming.” On the first therapy sessions the family had, Shah said her daughter told her, “I’ve known since I was four, but I thought you would hate me, and I thought people wouldn’t love me.” “She didn’t even know the word transgender, she didn’t know that it was something that you could be, and she was so scared to even tell her family,” Shah said. At her daughter’s private school in California, Shah said her daughter wasn’t allowed to transition and was forced to wear a male uniform and go by her old name and male pronouns. “She would come home every after school and rip the uniform,” Shah said. “One day I found a picture of her that was taken at school and she ripped it in half and said I hate myself.” At that time, Shah said she started teaching her daughter through home schooling and sued the school, which ultimately changed

its policies and started training its principals. Shah said her daughter now is a straight A student and in programs for gifted students. “It’s a constant battle,” Shah said. “We still have parents in Orange County who want to be able to discriminate against transgender children, there’s teachers that ask if they cannot teach our children.” Keisha Michaels, who’s black and a social worker, became emotional when she recalled the mortality rate for transgender women of color. “We worry, we know the number, we know the statistics,” Michaels said. “We realize that transgender women of color, black transgender women, are murdered — I’ll just have to say it — at ridiculous rates in this country. And we worry, my husband and I, we worry every day about it.” A common theme among the parents at the meeting was the need to pass the Equality Act, which would amend federal civil rights law to explicitly include LGBT people and ban antitrans discrimination in schools. JR Ford, a D.C.-based cybersecurity expert who lives in D.C., talked about the importance of the legislation to ensure protections for transgender kids. “The Equality Act would help to provide protections across an entire nation for transgender youth, so they can know that they exist,” Ford said. “We can leverage stateby-state regulations and policies…It’s more beneficial for all children in this country to

be protected, and so the Equality Act really is essential for essential human rights.” Sarah McBride, a transgender advocate and spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said during the meeting the Equality Act would be introduced in the “coming weeks.” Rep, David Cicilline (D-R.I.) has sponsored the legislation in the U.S. House and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) has sponsored the legislation in the Senate. Another theme was the anti-transgender polices of the Trump administration. When Obama-era guidance requiring schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity was rescinded in 2017, Ford said he approached the White House from the street and shouted at the leaders inside. Jessica Girven, the mother of a transgender daughter in the U.S. military stationed in Germany, became angry when she recalled the Trump administration rescinding the policy ensuring non-discrimination for transgender kids in school. “The assistant secretary of defense under Obama issued an inclusive affirming policy at all Department of Defense schools and MWR facilities around the world,” Girven said. “So, for the first time, families didn’t have to worry what happens when we move?…Will my child not be able to go to school? Will we be able to rent a house? We had this beautiful policy for four months. It was one of the first things that was rescinded under this administration.” One participant in the meeting who shared an unexpected story was Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who talked about her soon-to-be 21-year-old transgender grandson Isaac and his process of transitioning. “I asked him, I said, ‘Growing up was this an issue for you because our family’s very close, he always seemed very happy. He said, ‘I just never knew it was an option, and, you know, I felt loved and accepted in the family.’” Schakowsky said her grandson is preparing to have gender reassignment surgery for a double mastectomy and has had eggs frozen to ensure he can be a biological parent in the future. Other lawmakers in attendance were Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) as well as Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Gil Cisneros (D-Calif.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.).


“Empire” star Jussie Smollett was hospitalized in Chicago after suffering a brutal attack early Tuesday morning that is being investigated as a possible racist and homophobic hate crime. Media outlets reported that Smollett landed in Chicago, where “Empire” is currently filming, from New York City late Monday night. Around 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Smollett was walking out of sandwich chain Subway when he was approached by two men in ski masks. “Aren’t you that fa**ot ‘Empire’ n**?” the men allegedly yelled at Smollett. The men proceeded to beat Smollett and fracture his rib. The assailants reportedly poured bleach on Smollett and fastened a noose around his neck. The suspects fled the scene and Smollett was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was treated and discharged a few Letter sent to Jussie Smollett hours later. Courtesy ThatGrapeJuice.net via TMZ ThatGrapeJuice.net reported that Smollett had been the target of a homophobic and racist threat sent to Fox Studios in Chicago eight days before the physical attack. The letter, addressed to Smollett, spelled out the words “You will die black f*g” in cut-out letters. The Chicago Police Department told E! News they are currently investigating the incident as a “possible” hate crime. “Overnight, the Chicago Police Department received a report of a possible racially-charged assault and battery involving a cast member of the television show Empire,” CPD Chief Spokesman Anthony Gugliemi told E! News. “Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime. Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline.” Smollett portrays gay musician Jamal Lyon, the son of music mogul Lucious Lyon, on the hit Fox series. Smollett publicly came out as gay in a 2015 interview with Ellen DeGeneres. He has been a board member of the Black AIDS Institute, hosting its annual “Heroes in the Struggle.” “Of all the things that Jussie is and does, in his heart he is first and foremost an activist. He has been on the frontline in the fight against HIV/AIDS for over 15 years,” then-BAI CEO Phill Wilson said of Smollett last year. – Mariah Cooper

QUOTES “The Left Tries to Ban Christianity in Texas”

– Erick Erickson headline in The Resurgent Jan. 23 slamming three pro-LGBT state bills.

“What newly elected AZ democrat senator wore to work.”

- GOP Alabama state auditor Jim Ziegler on Facebook trying to shame bisexual Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for wearing a dress and thigh-high boots to work with Alabama Sen. Doug Jones nearby, prompting Ziegler to essentially announce a 2020 challenge for Jones’ seat.

“We saw Jackson, and his pain, as he assured us that he could never hurt a child. But did we ever truly see these young boys?” - Los Angeles Times writer Gerrick D. Kennedy, a lifelong Michael Jackson fan, after seeing the documentary “Leaving Neverland” accusing the pop star of child sexual abuse.



Exploring Pete Buttigieg’s path to the White House Mayor should look first to the LGBT community for support: experts By CHRIS JOHNSON Pete Buttigieg would make history if he becomes the first openly gay Democratic presidential nominee — and his path to the nomination may depend on whether the LGBT community supports him in his pursuit. The mayor of South Bend, Ind., last week declared he has created an exploratory committee, which is considered the first step in a presidential run, emphasizing a “fresh start” for the nation and touting the rejuvenation of his city as mayor in his announcement. Robby Mook, who’s gay and served as campaign manager for Hillary Clinton in 2016, weighed in on Buttigieg’s potential run in an email to the Blade. “The key will be to stand out from the crowd and be able to drive your own message,” Mook said. “He certainly has a unique story to tell and this contest is wide open. There is no front runner.” Chris Massicotte, a gay political consultant for the D.C-based DSPolitical, said LGBT support would be key in getting Buttigieg’s campaign off the ground. “With the expected number of declared candidates to number in the dozens I think what the mayor needs to do is to first acknowledge that he has a natural national base in the LGBT community and quickly solicit low dollar contributions from our community,” Massiciote said. Those donations, Massicotte said, would be essential in ensuring Buttigieg has a place on the debate stage among other Democrats in the primary process. “Criteria for qualifying for the primary debates starting this summer is going to go beyond polling, and will also measure the number of grassroots donors a candidate has,” Massicotte said. “If Mayor Buttigieg can realize his grassroots fundraising potential he will get on the debate stage. Once he does that, he will stand out and shine as the youngest person on the stage with one of the most impressive resumes beyond just elected office. With this kind of field, it is anyone’s game.”

Pete Buttigieg should look to the LGBT community first in his bid for the White House, experts say.

Even with LGBT support, political experts say this will be an uphill fight in a crowded field of Democrats who have greater name recognition than Buttigieg. Buttigieg has a built a resume that includes being mayor of South Bend, Ind., military service in Afghanistan and a 2017 run to become chair of the Democratic National Committee, but he’s competing against Democrats who are U.S. senators — and possibly a former vice president and the 2016 Democratic nominee. Daniel Pinello, a gay political scientist at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was blunt in his assessment of Buttigieg’s chances in the 2020 race. “Since World War II, no presidential nominee of either major party has had the political credentials of just being the mayor of a city of 100,000 people,” Pinello said. “Rather, the overwhelming majority of modern Democratic and Republican nominees have been either a vice president, a United States senator or a governor.” Pinello added former President Eisenhower was “a very unusual exception” to this rule because he had name recognition

from World War II as is President Trump, although he was recognized “in large measure due to his unique business and media history’s creating substantial national name recognition, too.” “In contrast, how many American voters today would recognize Pete Buttigieg’s name let alone know how to pronounce it?” Pinello said. “So his current chances of securing the Democratic nomination are absolutely non-existent.” Instead of pursuing the White House, Pinello concluded Buttigieg “would be far better advised to run for governor of Indiana first.” Also questioning Buttigieg’s decision to run for president was Rufus Gifford, who unsuccessfully ran to represent Massachusetts’ 3rd congressional district in 2018 and raised money for the Democratic National Committee and former President Obama’s presidential campaigns. “I don’t know what his email list looks like,” Gifford said. “I would imagine it’s probably pretty decent, but certainly doesn’t measure up to the Warrens and the Bernies and the Kamalas of the world just because of the work they’ve done historically, so he’s going to have to pound the pavement.”

Gifford, who said he hasn’t yet endorsed a candidate for 2020, added the LGBT community would be a “logical audience for him at the outset” and Buttigieg should work that circuit hard from a fundraising standpoint. “I will say this, though, the LGBT community sees real allies in this field, so it’s not like he’s running 20 years ago when there would have been one candidate who’s head and shoulders above the field on LGBT issues,” Gifford said. “The fact that he is, of course, openly gay matters, and the community will respond to that, but it’s hard when you have real champions of LGBT equality in the field already.” Gifford said Buttigieg has a “tough road” ahead and the key going forward is “hard work, diligence and message.” “I think his message does resonate very much, very, very much, but the question is does it resonate enough to help put him over the top against candidates who have equally compelling messages,” Gifford said. “I think that’s his big challenge considering he’s obviously at a massive institutional disadvantage because of just who he is, because he does not have a national profile.”



White House mum on anti-LGBT meeting with Ginni Thomas LGBT advocates slam ‘shocking’ effort to lobby Trump By CHRIS JOHNSON The White House remains silent on President Trump’s reported meeting with anti-LGBT activist Ginni Thomas, the spouse of conservative U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, despite objections from LGBT rights advocates who say the meeting was inappropriate. On Monday during the White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders ignored the Washington Blade, which was prepared to ask questions about the discussion. (The White House spokesperson has declined to call on the Blade for more than a year.) No other media outlet asked about the meeting. The New York Times reported over the weekend that Trump met last week with anti-LGBT activists led by Thomas in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. During the meeting, Trump was reportedly “listening quietly” as members of the group denounced transgender people serving in the U.S. military. The meeting came the same week the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on court orders barring enforcement of his transgender military ban, essentially allowing the antitrans policy to go into effect. In addition to decrying transgender military service, the anti-LGBT activists said women shouldn’t serve in the military “because they had less muscle mass and lung capacity than men.” They also said the Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality is “harming the fabric of the United States” and sexual assault isn’t pervasive in the military, according to the New York Times. The New York Times reported the White House didn’t respond to a request to comment on the meeting for the article, nor did Thomas. Jennifer Pizer, law and policy director at Lambda Legal, said the meeting between Thomas and Trump was concerning.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders hasn’t responded to questions about President Trump’s reported meeting with Ginni Thomas. Blade photo by Michael Key

“It is no secret that Justice Thomas’s Supreme Court opinions often embrace the most extreme of far-right-wing perspectives, and routinely work to erode the wall of separation between church and state,” Pizer said. “But while the reactionary nature of his approach is well known, it’s still shocking to hear that his wife is leading a delegation of religious and political extremists in overt, aggressive political lobbying of the president on issues actually pending before the Supreme Court at this very moment.” It’s not unusual for Trump to meet with anti-LGBT activists. For example, last year, heads of anti-LGBT advocacy groups met with Trump in the White House after he announced his decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Afterwards,

those leaders emerged from the White House to thank Trump for anti-LGBT policies, such as the ban on transgender military service and “religious freedom” orders seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination. As the Blade has reported, Trump’s meetings with anti-LGBT advocacy groups represent the restored influence of those organizations after they were shut out for eight years during the Obama administration. Some have criticized the Thomas meeting as inappropriate not just because anti-LGBT policies were discussed, but also because a sitting U.S. president shouldn’t meet with the spouse of a justice on the Supreme Court. Pizer said the meeting between the spouse of a Supreme Court justice and Trump smacks of a violation of separation of powers.

“One of the most fundamental principles of our constitutional system is that the three branches of government must be independent of each other, with the Supreme Court charged to check and correct unconstitutional actions of the political branches,” Pizer said. “The court is not to be just one more political branch. Although we all know that reality sometimes falls short of that principle, every Supreme Court justice must nonetheless take proper steps to maintain the appearance of impartiality. It is truly appalling to see such a brazen violation of that basic standard.” Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of the LGBT media watchdog group GLAAD, is calling on the White House to issue “official bookkeeping notes” on the meeting.



Lawmakers urge Pompeo to condemn Chechnya crackdown

Jesús Antonio Pujol Irastorza is the mayor of Nogales, Mexico, which borders the U.S. Photo courtesy of Enrique Morales

Mexico border city assisting LGBT migrants NOGALES, Mexico — The mayor of a Mexican border city that has provided assistance to LGBTI migrants says President Trump’s continued demand for a border wall is a political “tactic.” Jesús Antonio Pujol Irastorza told the Blade on Jan. 23 during an interview at his office — less than a mile south of the Nogales port of entry — that his administration is “prepared for issues of violence,” referring to one of Trump’s justifications for a border wall. “It is a tactic to go to certain people who want to build this wall…to say, look Congress, look Senate, we need to build this wall because groups of 5,000, 10,000 people who want to stay in the country are coming,” added Pujol. Official statistics indicate 233,000 people live in Nogales, which is in Mexico’s Sonora state. The city borders Nogales, Ariz. Daniel Hernández, one of four openly gay members of the Arizona Legislature, represents Nogales, Ariz., in the Arizona House of Representatives. The two cities are collectively known as Ambos Nogales or Both Nogales. “It is practically one city divided by the border,” said Pujol. “Many have relatives, friends who live there, and many people live there and then come to work here.” Pujol, who is a member of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party, was elected on July 1, 2018. A group of roughly 45 LGBTI migrants from Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico arrived in Nogales last November from Tijuana. Pujol’s administration provided them with food, clothing, blankets and rooms in two hotels near the border and access to one of the four migrant shelters in the city. “We received them like any other migrant, like any other person who comes, seeks help,” Pujol told the Blade. “We received them, we took care of them.” Pujol said many of the migrants with whom he spoke said they had relatives or friends in the U.S. He told the Blade some of them said they had suffered racism and other discrimination in their home countries or states, but he added most of them migrated because of a lack of economic opportunities. “They are looking for better opportunity,” said Pujol. “[It is] practically the same reason for any migrant who wants to go to the U.S.” A group of 16 transgender and gay migrants from Central America asked for asylum in the U.S. at the Nogales port of entry in August 2017. LGBTI Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans were among the thousands of migrants who arrived in Tijuana last November with hopes of seeking asylum in the U.S. U.S. Army troops who were deployed around Nogales installed concertina wire with razors on top of the border fence in anticipation of the migrants’ arrival. Shipping containers temporarily blocked two of the six vehicle lanes on the U.S. side of the Nogales port of entry. Pujol spoke with the Blade two days before the Trump administration announced it would begin its controversial pilot “remain in Mexico” program that will force some migrants who ask for asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry south of San Diego to remain in Mexico as they await the outcome of their cases. The first asylum seeker who was sent back to Mexico under the program arrived in Tijuana on Tuesday. The partial federal government shutdown over Trump’s demands for border wall funding ended on Jan. 25. Pujol acknowledged some Nogales residents have criticized “the president of the United States for his comments that he makes” against migrants and Mexicans. Pujol also told the Blade the Trump administration’s decision to deploy troops and install razor wire along the border fence is “a tactic of intimidation.” “We here on the border are already used to Border Patrol, to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on the border,” he said, noting Mexicans who want to enter the U.S. sometimes have to wait hours at the Nogales port of entry. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

More than 60 members of the U.S. House of Representatives this week urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to publicly condemn the anti-LGBTI crackdown in Chechnya. U.S. Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and the other lawmakers in their letter also urged Pompeo to pressure the Russian government to end the crackdown. “The U.S. is a beacon of hope and freedom for the world, as it stands up for the dignity and human rights of all people everywhere,” reads the letter. “This situation is no different. It is incumbent on you to reaffirm these principles and publicly condemn violence against the LGBT community in Chechnya, and to utilize all of the tools available to you to pressure the Russian government into ending these atrocities.” The Russian LGBT Network earlier this month said at least two people have been killed and upwards of 40 others have been detained in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucasus, since late December. Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, in 2017 reported Chechen authorities had arrested more than 100 men because of their sexual orientation. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe last November released a report that documents extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses against LGBTI people in Chechnya. The U.S. House and Senate have both approved resolutions that condemn the crackdown. Igor Kochetkov, executive director of the Russian LGBT Network, this month filed a formal complaint about the most recent detentions with Russia’s Investigative Committee. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov — a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — and the Kremlin have either denied the reports or downplayed them. Deputy State Department Spokesperson Robert Palladino in a Jan. 17 statement said the State Department is “deeply disturbed” by the latest reports from Chechnya. 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 crackdown. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

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An open letter to Task Force CEO Rea Carey We are deeply troubled over anti-Semitic Creating Change protest By RABBI DENISE EGER & TYLER GREGORY (Editor’s note: During Creating Change’s opening plenary on Jan. 24, a handful of protesters took the stage to demand that the Task Force allow them to discuss their “Free Palestine” cause. At the end, they chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” – a slogan widely construed as calling for the elimination of Israel. Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood and Tyler Gregory of A Wider Bridge were furious and demanded an apology from Executive Director Rea Carey. Here is their letter. – Karen Ocamb)

Dear Ms. Carey, We are deeply troubled that an uninvited group of disruptors breached the opening plenary of Creating Change to voice hate speech and slander against the Jewish community and our institutions, without action or consequence from the leadership of the National LGBTQ Task Force. Video evidence and firsthand accounts of the incident describe anti-Semitic insinuations about the work of A Wider Bridge as “Pinkwashing,” falsehoods about the important work of our partner, the ADL (AntiDefamation League), and about motivations of donors to the LGBTQ Task Force itself. The 15-minute disruption ended with calls of “from the river to the sea,” an anti-Semitic dog whistle from those wishing to see the Jewish State and its inhabitants disappear. These actions were anti-Semitic, homophobic, and transphobic: The continued silence in response to chants calling for the destruction of Israel is dangerous for those living in Israel, Jews and non-Jews alike, for Jews around the world, and for those who care about and are committed to democracy. This type of hate speech allowed to go unchecked festers into discrimination against American Jews and Israelis. Slandering our valuable institutions like the ADL with invented charges like the perpetuation of violence against the

LGBTQ community, is another divisive dogwhistle that echoes anti-Semitic myths of the all-powerful Jew wreaking havoc on the oppressed. This is similar to recent dog whistling from the leaders of Women’s March, Inc. against the Jewish community. Hate speech against LGBTQ Israelis goes unchecked at Creating Change. Would the Conference allow activists to proceed with slander against LGBTQ activists of any other nationality? To the extent that few expressed disappointment to the Task Force about this disruption, we are not surprised. Many LGBTQ Jews reject Creating Change as an unfriendly environment for authentic engagement. And those that remain are unwilling or unable to express themselves on this matter. This incident echoes events that transpired in 2016, when A Wider Bridge’s reception featuring leaders from Jerusalem Open House ( JOH), the city’s LGBTQ Center, was violently disrupted and shut down by a similar uninvited group of disruptors. These remarkable LGBTQ leaders from Israel had spent the last six months helping their community heal and recover from the trauma of anti-LGBTQ violence at the Jerusalem March for Pride & Tolerance. They expected to be supported and embraced by the U.S. LGBTQ community at Creating Change. Instead, the protesters denied their humanity and silenced their voices, and the conference tragically did little to provide for their safety and security. After the 2016 event, dozens of LGBTQ leaders, civil rights attorney Roberta Kaplan sent a letter to the Task Force, signed by LGBTQ leaders across the country, to unequivocally express collective and deep concern about what transpired.

A Wider Bridge reached out to the Task Force to address these issues and create a welcoming and safe space for all LGBTQ people, including Jews and non-Jews, who care about Israel. While the Task Force asked A Wider Bridge to reflect upon the events that transpired, we were never consulted about any proposed policy changes affecting the Jewish community at the conference. It is not surprising that this silence has created an ugly situation once again. Once more, the marquee convening of American LGBTQ activism has been hijacked by a small, vocal group that seeks to silence diversity of identity and thought. Our aim is not to silence dissenting voices around the issues of Israel/Palestine with which we disagree. Accepting and providing space to differing voices around the conflict should be encouraged, especially to resolve our differences. We recognize that the lives and experiences of LGBTQ Palestinians and Arabs are just as much a part of our rich and diverse community as LGBTQ Israelis and Jews. Anti-Semitism, slander, and chants calling for the erasure of Israel must not go unchecked at Creating Change. If so, what kind of change are we creating? Are we truly building the inclusive future the National LGBTQ Task Force claims to be working to achieve? We call on the National LGBTQ Task Force to issue a formal apology to the Jewish community, remove these hateful activists and all forms of hate speech from the conference, and develop a permanent solution that excises this festering problem from our community. We look forward to hearing concrete steps from you so that together we can move forward to create a more accepting and welcoming community.

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Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition at Creating Change 2019 Protest group issues call to ‘Free Palestine’ By CANCEL PINKWASHING COALITION (Editor’s note: A small group of protesters from the Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition protested at Creating Change for roughly 15 minutes in which they chastised the Task Force for alleged censorship and advocated for their “Free Palestine” cause. Their remarks prompted a backlash. Here are the remarks of the group’s leader, who identified herself as a Jewish, lesbian, transwoman. – Karen Ocamb).

Hi! We’re the Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition. We’ve been protesting pinkwashing and censorship at the Task Force since 2016 and we’re back again because there is a continued ban on Palestinian content and that has stretched into Jewish and Muslim content at this conference and we won’t stand for that. As they just said, we’re here in Detroit. Detroit has been the home of some of the most virulent anti-Semites in American history. From Father Tom [sic] McCoughlin to Henry Ford, an avowed Nazi – there has been a history of anti-Semitism that Jews, Muslims and radical accomplices have been struggling against in Detroit and around the country for decades. We at Creating Change and the Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition want there to be a robust programing that reflects the Task Force’s so-called commitment to change, dignity and equality. By the way – the anti-Muslim ban ad in all of your programs – we want there to be robust Muslim and Jewish programing at this conference. This year there is no Muslim programing at this conference. There is one Jewish session and it’s a caucus. In a town with this history, in a state that elected the first Palestinian woman to the US Congress, there is still a ban on Palestine at Creating Change because the Task Force is afraid that people are going to come here to seek their full liberation and donors might get mad.

The ADL – the anti-Defamation League – has a partnership with Creating Change. They encouraged this ban – this Palestine ban at Creating Change as part of a reaction to protests that took place in 2016. I’m Jewish. I’m here to say that the ADL does not speak for me and the ADL does not speak for queers. The ADL spied on the reason that many of us are here – Queer Nation. And they spied on ACT UP in the ‘80s. Is that an organization that the Task Force should have a partnership with – one that spied on ACT UP? No. No. No. We want a conference and a space where radical queer and trans people – radical Jews, radical Muslims, radical Palestinians, radical people from across the globe and around the country - can come together and discuss all parts of our liberation. And right now our content is being censored. Our liberation is being silenced and our voices are being shut down because the Task Force is too cowardly to have a conversation on one of the leading social justice issues of our time – Palestinian freedom. This is a huge issue in the queer community. Clap if you want a free Palestine.

Clap a little bit louder. Come on. There’s people here at this conference who want a free Palestine. Last year, we protested at this conference. We did a guerrilla session out in the hall because we submitted seven workshops about Palestine and pinkwashing to Creating Change – all of them were rejected. Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said the Task Force does not have an international mission and wants to focus on global issues and yet did a fundraiser with an Israeli dance party that March. International agenda? That looks like one to me. That looks like a bias to me. That looks like a systemic attempt to silence Palestinian voices and radical Jewish and Muslim voices at this conference. We are not going to have it any more. We have continued to attempt to try to have a dialogue with the conference. We have not been met in good faith. Dozens of Jewish and Muslim activists have given their time and their emotional labor to educate Creating Change and the Task Force and we have been met with stone-cold silence, censorship and bans. We’re not going to stand for that any

more so we’ve gone up here, we’ve taken the podium at the plenary, and we’re telling all of you that we’re going to be here, we’re going to keep coming back, we’re going to keep protesting this conference – we’re going to keep forcing the issue of a free Palestine – part and parcel of queer and trans liberation – until the Task Force lets us have the discussion that we deserve in this place they call an indispensible resource for queer and trans activism and LGBTQ liberation in the United States. I’m Jewish, I’m a lesbian. I’m a trans woman. And my liberation cannot be had without Palestinian liberation. This conference is not a space for activism and change unless Free Palestine can be discussed in these conference halls. Until that moment, this is not Creating Change – it’s creating chains. We say Free Palestine and we’re going to keep coming back because this is an intersectional issue – like this chant that so many of you probably already know: From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls have got to go.…Hopefully, one day – from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.

A queer voice of color finds expression in ‘Witness Uganda’ Musical doc makes West Coast premiere at Wallis Annenberg Center By JOHN PAUL KING

When 23-year-old Griffin Matthews was kicked out of his church choir for being gay, he couldn’t have known it would launch him on a path that would change his life. At the time, he was an actor in New York, struggling and broke, but the expulsion stung him so deeply that he bought a one-way ticket to volunteer in Uganda. Now, years later, the theatre dream project that grew from the seed planted by that fateful decision is about to have its West Coast premiere. “Witness Uganda,” billed as a “documentary musical,” is the story of Matthews’ experiences in Africa; how he hoped that to help better people’s lives in a place where he could explore who he was, only to learn that the schoolbuilding program was corrupt – and how he turned his disillusionment around after meeting a group of local children who couldn’t afford the cost of schooling, and deciding to set up a makeshift classroom and teach them himself. Matthews co-wrote the show with Matt Gould, another African volunteer he met after

a mutual friend connected them. “We met in New York,” says Matthews. “Matt had been a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa for two years while I was working in Uganda, and one of our friends said, ‘Hey there’s another guy in musical theatre who’s been to Africa and is really passionate about it, you guys should meet!’ And when we met it was like – immediate chemistry.” The two became partners – both in the romantic and creative sense. They’ve been together for twelve years, married for two. “We had so much to talk about,” Matthews continues, “and we were also trying to figure out what to do about the fact that we’d seen all these things.” The answer they came up with was “Witness Uganda,” a show they originally conceived as a fundraiser to benefit the Uganda Project, a non-profit Matthews set up in 2005 to pay for the education, food, and health care of the Ugandan children he had taken under his wing – most of whom have now completed high school and are finishing up college. The show

took on a life of its own and eventually enjoyed an Off-Broadway run – though that production met with mixed feelings from its creators. As Matthews explains it, “It’s really difficult to get a raw story out when people are swirling around to make it commercial, to clean it up for audiences.” Gould elaborates, “We felt that audiences were ready for something grittier, something that felt more authentic than just a cartoon on stage.” So, for the show’s rebirth in Los Angeles, the two have reworked things to get back in line with their original vision, and Matthews himself has stepped into the director’s chair. “I always had a vision for what I thought the show could be,” says Matthews. “It’s been a humbling journey for me to step into the director’s space and try and put the vision forward.” He also says that “Witness Uganda” has taken on an added urgency in the new world that has developed since he and Gould began the project in 2008. “When this show premiered, to be completely honest, he says, “we were under a

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Cast members during rehearsals: ‘Witness Uganda’ runs Feb. 5 – 23 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. For more information or tickets, visit TheWallis.org/Witness. Photo courtesy Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

very different administration.” He continues, “Now there’s this great division, and political uproar over borders and of how we’re dealing with our neighbors all over the world. I think the show tackles some of those issues head on.” “We like to brand it as a protest piece,” he adds. Politics aside, Gould says, their show is ultimately a personal story. “Certain facts have been conflated,” he says, “some things are condensed – but this is Griffin’s experience, going over there and meeting this group of kids, and finding out that doing aid work and helping people can be really… complicated.” Bringing “Witness Uganda” into 2019 has also underscored the positive cultural changes that have occurred for queer people of color since they began working on it. Matthews says, “When we started writing this, there were two places for queer men of color to go in the theatre – either ‘butch up’ and be a ‘leading man,’ or put on a dress and heels. If you were anything in between, you

were in the chorus.” Television has played an important role in changing that status quo. As an actor, Matthews is also a regular on the Netflix series, “Dear White People,” and he says his experience there has been joyful. He gushes, “For the first time in my career I’m playing a gay man of color who is not the side character. I have a full storyline, I have a full existence. It’s been so moving to be working on a show where I feel seen – where it’s not just, ‘Come in and be sassy.’” Even if “the culture is shifting,” he adds, “you still don’t see queer actors of color in musicals, leading the charge. We are still trying to break that barrier, to say that our stories are valid, our expressions of self are valid, and we’re actually not that different from you.” With “Witness Uganda,” Matthews and Gould are doing their part to work for that goal. With a cast rich in performers of color, a song score drawing on influence from African musical tradition, and script featuring the experience of a queer black man as the center

of its multi-cultural narrative, it provides an opportunity for many oft-disregarded voices to be expressed – and its creators have worked to make it as authentic as possible. “I think the goal is to get the grittiest, dirtiest, sexiest version of the story that we can tell,” says Gould. “We want audiences to come in and feel – not that they’ve seen a show, but that they’ve had an experience, they’ve been to this place that we had the opportunity to spend time in.” As for Matthews, he says, “For me it was always a piece that wanted to be a conversation-starter, to ask questions and ask the audience to think about what the answers are for them personally.” He’s quick to add, “I’m hoping audiences come away inspired, and also feeling hopeful again.” Of course, the two also want their show to entertain – and with a cast that includes 12time Grammy nominee Ledisi (“an amazing goddess,” says Gould), Jamar Williams, Amber Iman, and Emma Hunton, they feel sure it will. As Gould puts it, “I think it’s going to be an experience that folks in L.A. won’t have had before.”

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Quirky ‘Buzzsaw’ delights Comedy-thriller finds haunted paintings wreaking havoc in trendy L.A. By BRIAN T. CARNEY

Zawe Ashton and Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Velvet Buzzsaw.’ Photo courtesy Netflix

Satire. Horror. Restraint. These three words normally don’t go together, but they are the perfect way to describe “Velvet Buzzsaw,” the humorous thriller that premieres tonight (Friday, Feb. 1) on Netflix. Written and directed by Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler” and “Roman J Israel, Esq.”), “Velvet Buzzsaw” starts out as a breezy spoof of the elite Los Angeles art scene but turns by slow degree into a frightening horror movie. The opening scenes introduce us to the ensemble cast at various meetings and art openings. Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain” and Broadway’s “Sunday in the Park with George”) is wonderful as art critic Morf Vandewalt. As his name implies, his personality is both malleable and mercurial; he’s gay, but breaks up with his hot boyfriend to have an affair with a woman. Rene Russo (“Thor” and “The Thomas Crown Affair”) sparkles as Morf’s long-time frenemy Rhodora Haze, a famous punk rocker who is now a legendary gallery owner who celebrates avant-garde art. One of the artists she represents is Piers (John Malkovich) a celebrated painter who hasn’t produced any new work in years. Other employees of the Haze Gallery include Josephina (Zawe Ashton), an ambitious associate; Coco (Natalia Dyer), a naïve intern who quickly learns the ropes; and, Bryson (Billy Magnussen), an unpleasant handyman with aspirations of his own. The lead cast is rounded out by Toni Collette as Gretchen, a museum curator who moves to the private sector to make more money; Daveed Diggs as Damrish, an idealistic artist being courted by the high-end art market; and, Tom Sturridge as Jon Dondon, a rival gallery owner. The entire cast is excellent, turning in finely tuned performances. After the breezy opening scenes, the horror story kicks in when Josephina stumbles upon the body of her neighbor Victor Dease. The building superintendent tells her that Dease has left no heirs and an apartment crammed with dozens of eerie paintings, Dease has left instructions that the paintings be destroyed, but Josephina senses an opportunity. She brings the paintings to Rhodora and soon everyone is obsessed with the dead man’s creepy artwork and the money they can make from it. The paintings literally begin to haunt the greedy denizens and the art world, seeming to come to life, and soon the bodies begin to pile up, often in ways that ghoulishly mock the victims. Inspired by the work of Robert Altman, Academy Award nominee Gilroy is a masterful screenwriter and director. Like the screenplay, the pace is brisk and effective, never lingering too long in any one place. The script is full of witty jaded epigrams that sound completely natural from these characters. The camera glides effortlessly from character to character as it snakes through crowded openings and offices. Working closely with cinematographer Robert Elswit, editor John Gilroy, composer Marco Beltrami, VFX Producer David Feinsilber and Production Designer John D. Bissell, Gilroy expertly ratchets up the tension as the movie unfolds. The opening scenes take place in the beautiful sunlit expanses of swimming pools, posh galleries and sleek hightech offices, but the action slowly moves to dark hallways and alleys and empty halflit exhibition spaces. (Gilroy, in fact, says he was inspired to make the movie after he wandered through a contemporary art gallery after closing time.) The costume designs by Trish Summerville and Iris Mussenden are simply delightful and tell their own story. The cast starts out perfectly coiffed in the latest, trendiest L.A. fashions, but their carefully crafted looks start to unravel as the fear kicks in and fashion takes a back seat to survival. Their work with Toni Collette is especially scrumptious. In the midst of all the well-modulated comedy and horror, Gilroy also manages to find some moving moments where the characters drop their brittle pretentious facades to truly connect with each other. In one lovely sequence, Rhodora tells her old friend Piers, whose inspiration has dried up, that he needs to leave L.A. and get back in touch with his roots. This is part of the admirable restraint that Gilroy shows throughout the movie. While he never forgets that this is a “satirical thriller,” he is never mean-spirited or excessively gory. For gay male viewers, “Velvet Buzzsaw” has an added bonus: beefcake. Gyllenhaal, Magnuson and Diggs all do scenes with their shirts (and sometimes their pants) off. It’s an interesting and fun reversal of “the male gaze” that normally dominates mainstream filmmaking. With an adult libation is hand, “Velvet Buzzsaw” is an excellent way to spend a winter night. Just don’t watch it alone.



“One of the most ENTERTAINING and hysterically funny shows I have ever seen!” –Broadway World

“Grant’s soliloquy is SPELLBINDING, gossipy, heartbreaking ... SHOULD NOT BE MISSED.” –Will Call.org

Written and Performed by

Barra Grant

With Monica Piper Directed by Eve Brandstein



PHONE LINE: 323.285.2078 FOLLOW US: LAGayBlade10x10_r2.indd 1


Greenway Court Theatre

544 N. Fairfax Ave. LA, CA 90036

1/22/19 7:49 PM



Musical ‘DNA’ Backstreet Boys keeps it predictable but fun on first album in six years By THOM MURPHY

The new Backstreet Boys album features trademark harmonies and catchy songs but doesn’t attempt to break any new musical ground. Image courtesy RCA

Boy bands are one of pop music’s many curiosities. Often they disappear almost as quickly as they break onto the scene. One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer are recent examples. But the stranger phenomenon is the boy bands that manage to stick around for years and sometimes decades. After all, the appeal of groups is often more visual than musical, so what does it mean to mean to be a “boy band” when the members have long outgrown the name? Have they evolved into a legit pop music outfit? One might convincingly argue The Beatles were originally a boy band of sorts. Or are they riding the nostalgia train with pleasant if hardly innovative results? On new Backstreet Boys album “DNA,” it’s definitely the latter. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of their third album, “Millenium.” The enormous success of their diamond-selling-and-then-some album cemented the group’s place as pop music icons with the songs such as “I Want It That Way” and “Larger than Life.” And the Backstreet Boys were only one part of the larger late-‘90s boy band phenomenon. NSYNC, Hanson and LFO all experienced major success. Capitalizing on nostalgia, the Backstreet Boys and their forebearers New Kids on the Block even launched a major tour and released a compilation album together in 2011. Yet “DNA” is more than just the boy band’s eighth studio album. It follows after the biggest break in the group’s history, even longer than the official hiatus following the release of “Black & Blue” (2000). After the group reunited for the 2005 album “Never Gone,” they released music regularly — but with limited chart success — until 2013. Breaking a six-year gap at this point in their history makes something of a statement. And it may pay off since we’ve had long enough to miss them (if we were ever inclined to do so). Billboard reports this week early sales figures are strong enough that the group could have the top U.S.-selling album of the week. Yeah, it’s first quarter doldrums so competition isn’t stiff, but that’s still remarkable for a boy band 15 years past its prime. Remarkably, the original lineup is intact — AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Brian Littrell and even Kevin Richardson who left the group in 2006 but was back by 2012. Despite the intrinsic gayness of the boy band concept, none have followed in the steps of NSYNC’s Lance Bass and come out. All the “boys” are now married to women and have kids. “DNA” revisits the group’s fundamental musical makeup, which has been a recipe for success: multi-layered harmonies, simple lyrics, uptempo pop beats. The album’s lead single, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” charted on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s a catchy, inoffensive pop tune that sounds not unlike everything else on pop radio. Some of the vocal effects used on the bridge are even reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s “Delicate.” Singles “Chances” and “No Place” are mostly inoffensive and lean slightly country, which has the unfortunate side effect of reminding us that the five are not all equally talented singers. Like the lead single, the sounds could be sung by virtually any pop group today with much the same effect. “Chateau” is one of the more interesting songs on the album and it bucks the pop assimilation trend, sounding more like an outtake from one of their first albums. Perhaps it’s the nostalgic tone of the song (“Baby, I want you back”) that lends itself to this delightful anachronism. Instead of suggesting — as other cuts here seem to — that the Backstreet Boys are on the periphery of today’s pop scene, the song reminds us they used to be front and center. There’s a perennial formula for boy bands — good looks and catchy, digestible hits. But when they inevitably outgrow both the boyish looks and the music, things can seem either fun and nostalgic or stuck in a time warp. If the Backstreet Boys are still touring, then our own maturity seems plausibly deniable. And this is what groups like the Backstreet Boys continue to capitalize on, nearly two decades after they hit their peak. To say there’s nothing remarkable about the new Backstreet Boys’ album is to miss the point. What’s remarkable is the group’s ability to stick around at all and to continue packing arenas with devoted fans who remember the days when the Backstreet Boys were really on top.







REVIEW: One dysfunctional family fights the culture wars in Taylor Mac’s ‘Hir’ Toward a socially progressive, non-binary future By JOHN PAUL KING

Zack Gearing, Cynthia Kania, Puppett, and Ron Bottitta (on floor) star in Taylor Mac’s ‘Hir’ at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, running through March 17 at the Odyssey Theatre. Photo by Enci Box

From the moment you walk into the theatre for the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble’s production of Taylor Mac’s “Hir,” you wonder what kind of eclectic madness you’ve gotten yourself into. Confronted by the motley, compulsively disorganized mess of a set that seems to overflow from the stage and encroach on the “safe space” of the audience, it’s clear there’s a lot going on in this play – and the first actor hasn’t even appeared onstage yet. The Odyssey production is the L.A. premiere of the play, which was written in 2014, just before the gender-bending, boundary-pushing playwright’s epic “24-Decade History of Popular Music” became an award-winning cultural phenomenon. Mac’s most autobiographical work, in some ways, “Hir” is a spectacle of an entirely different kind. It’s a portrait of a dysfunctional American family ravaged by the “culture wars,” devolving into chaos as they try to find stable ground in the ever-shifting landscape of ideological “correctness.” It’s also a work of darkly hilarious absurdity. Deliberately structured like the classic “family drama” plays of such 20th-century writers as O’Neill, Miller, and Sam Shepard (whose “Buried Child” allegedly served as direct inspiration), it takes us into the living room of a “typical” American household as the eldest son, Isaac, returns from three years of horrific combat duty in Afghanistan, dishonorably discharged for being a meth addict. All he wants is to be home again, but the home he remembers no longer exists. His tyrannical father, Arnold, has suffered a debilitating stroke, and his mother, Paige, has declared her independence from her former abuser; now she exacts merciless revenge by humiliating him and embracing radical ideas she knows would infuriate him. And then there’s Max, his little sister-turned-brother, whose trans-masculine journey has made him (or rather “hir,” the genderneutral preferred pronoun of the title) a grudging cultural guide for hir mother on the way to a socially progressive, non-binary future. That’s just the starting point. Isaac’s homecoming pits him against Paige, who finds herself having to defend her newfound freedom as he desperately tries to gather the pieces of the life she has rejected and put them back together. She has revolted against the patriarchy; he wants to rebuild it. Arnold, despite his occasional garbled protestations, can do little more than disappear further into the oblivion of his near-vegetative state, and Max is too much the moody teenager – doubly so because of the hormone treatments – to do anything but criticize and goad from the sidelines. These four characters are richly drawn by playwright Mac, who has managed to endow each of them with painful humanity while still using the broad strokes of social satire and absurdist theatre. Even so, as they enact the struggle for what the new world will be, they become a kind of disfigured archetypes – reflexively posturing and proclaiming with weary desperation and shot through with the inescapable dread of an uncertain future.

All of which seems very heady, in writing; onstage, however, thanks to Bart DeLorenzo’s sure-handed direction and an immensely talented quartet of actors, it’s gripping, clever, savage, funny, shocking, rousing, transgressive – all the things that make for a thrilling theatrical experience. DeLorenzo takes advantage of the Odyssey’s intimate space to mount the show as though it were happening in the audience’s own living room; this approach to the staging evokes one of those gritty, Norman Lear sitcom classics – one that combines the confrontational social commentary of “All in the Family” with the surreal suburban angst of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” – and allows us the illusion of safety afforded by knowing what we are seeing is “comedy,” even when it veers into topics that push our most uncomfortable buttons. Cynthia Kania, as Paige, is the rock on which the show is built; she exudes the cheery warmth and pluck of the iconic suburban housewife, yet underneath she is harrowed, desperate, even dangerous. She goes from doting mother to gleeful tormentor without missing a beat, and when the conflict inevitably escalates to the point of final, cataclysmic action, we already know she is ready to take it. She is a force to be reckoned with. As Isaac, Zack Gearing is similarly haunted; projecting an image of staunch-yet-sensitive masculinity, his persona feels hollow, unsteady, lost, and as he struggles to create order in the chaos of his childhood home, his palpable fear of losing himself makes him compelling and sympathetic even in his angriest, most oppressive moments. Ron Bottitta, as Arnold, is remarkable; at once grotesque and pathetic, he shambles around the stage like a re-animated shell, a pale shadow of the terrifying monster we are told he once was, and never seems anything less than human. Non-binary actor Puppett, as Max, is a lovably awkward doofus, combining the mercurial temperament of a hormone-ridden teenager with the fierce “wokeness” of a zealous social justice warrior; they bring heart and hope to the show, without sacrificing the edginess that makes their character a flash point for the show’s most extreme issues. There are a lot of other top-grade contributions that help make “Hir” work – the layered disarray of Thomas A. Walsh’s scenic design, for example, and the subtle messaging of Merrily Murray-Walsh’s costumes – but it’s this cast, and the guidance of their director, that makes it into one of those unequivocally superb evenings of theater that only come along once or twice per season. More than capable of conveying the inner complexities of their characters, they are also skilled enough with the language that they find the musicality of Mac’s words and make the play truly “sing.” As for those words, they will make you laugh a lot – this is a comedy, after all – but they will also provoke you, challenge you disturb you, outrage you; and at the end, when all the secrets and lies have been exposed, and all the questions have been raised, they won’t provide answers. In the theater of Taylor Mac, you have to come up with those on your own.

Hany Haddad, Vice President and Los Angeles Metro District Manager of U.S. Bank speaks to the crowd. Photo by Michelle DeVita

40 Awards were presented. Photo by Stephen Rutgers

Staff, donors and friends of Project Angel Food, voted Best Non-Profit, pose on the Red Carpet.

Arturo Jimenez and his partner Troy Masters, publisher of Los Angeles Blade. Photo by Michelle DeVita

Photo provided by Richard Ayoub

Best of LGBT Awardees and guests mingle in the garden ahead of the event at SpoonFed LA.

Host Tim Herzog presents Madonna Cacciatore with her Most Committed Activist Award.

Photo by Greg Hernandez

Photo by Michelle DeVita

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Tracy Evans is pictured here with Most Committed Activist Honoree Madonna Cacciatore. Selfie by Tracy Evans

The Band from InVision Church, the West Hollywood LGBTQIA Christian Church, stole the show with outstanding musical performances. Photo by Michelle DeVita

Project Angel Food Executive Director Richard Ayoub, Greg Hernandez of Greg In Hollywood and Eddie Martinez of Latino Equality Alliance. Photo by Greg Hernandez

Los Angeles Blade’s Best Of LGBT LA was a smashing success Great Food, delicious drinks, great entertainment and friends at SpoonFed LA

Karen Ocamb, Los Angeles Blade’s news editor, presented and accepted the HERO Award for Ivy Bottini, the 93-year-old lesbian icon who is retiring to Florida. Photo by Michelle DeVita

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‘Rent’ wasn’t live and Michael Jackson is back King of Pop suffers more accusations in 4-hour doc By BILLY MASTERS

The much ballyhooed ‘Rent: Live’ was a bit less live than planned. Photo Courtesy Rent Live

“Kevin, you’re not being attacked. You have to acknowledge what went on and acknowledge the pain of other people. That’s all anybody’s asking for. That’s it.” -Terry Crews on Kevin Hart’s assertion that he’s being attacked. As if… In about two weeks, your beloved Billy will turn 50. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Only 50? It seems as if he’s been around forever!” There’s a deeper reason mortality is on my mind stemming from my time as a student at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC. Before all those “Law & Order” shows, “Unsolved Mysteries” employed scores of actors in NYC - including many of my classmates. Most were cast as corpses in dramatic reenactments, and I wanted in. Despite numerous submissions, I never even got an audition and developed a complex. Could it be that nobody in New York City wanted to see me dead? I got my answer a few years later when an ex considered taking out a hit on me - but that’s neither hither nor yon. The point is, “Unsolved Mysteries” is poised for a reboot courtesy of Netflix. So I once again live in hope of being a victim of a violent crime. But the way things are going, I may simply die of old age. I am not a devotee of “Big Brother” but, I must confess, I got hooked when my pals Marissa Jaret Winokur and Ross Mathews competed on “Celebrity Big Brother” last year. When I saw this year’s crop of “celebrities”, I knew I’d tune in. After week one, here are my thoughts. First, in what other group would Ryan Lochte be considered “the brains”? I was perplexed when he kept talking about wanting to evict Diana. Who the hell is Diana? Turns out, he meant Dina - as in Lohan! Then Ryan formed a ride-or-die alliance with our own Jonathan Bennett - who ultimately took the fall for Lochte’s bad decisions. But here’s the most important thing I learned - who knew Bennett has a severe issue with flatulence? That’s the real value of these shows. Sitting at home, you think you’d want to be Bennett’s boyfriend. But I bet after one night of him farting away in bed, you’d be done! The nightly “After Dark” edition of the show frequently finds the celebs playing endless hours of poker. When Ryan described Jonathan’s hand as a “possible straight,” Bennett quipped, “Not since college.” Bada-bing! There’s been lots of buzz about Michael Jackson. First was news of “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” a stage musical based on his life that will debut at the Nederlander Theatre in Chicago on Oct. 29. Then there’s the new documentary that premiered at Sundance. “Leaving Neverland” clocks in at four hours and shines a light on the accusations of Jackson sexually abusing young boys. There are two main subjects. James Safechuck says that Jackson often gave him jewelry in return for “engaging in sexual acts” - one of which was a wedding ring he was given during a “mock wedding!” Choreographer Wade Robson says that Jackson once told him, “You and I were brought together by God” — and then tried to anally penetrate him when he was 14! Striking back, the Jackson camp points out that both Robson and Safechuck previously testified that Michael never did anything inappropriate. Since then, both filed unsuccessful lawsuits against the estate. Oh, did I mention that Jackson allegedly called semen “duck butter?” Based on that alone, I’m calling this a “must see.” Thank God HBO will air it later this year. The much ballyhooed “Rent: Live” was a bit less live than planned. Toward the end of Saturday’s dress rehearsal, Brennin Hunt broke his foot, thus thwarting most of the live telecast. And that’s why dress rehearsals are recorded - just in case. So, the Fox telecast featured the cast saying, “We have rallied together to rework the final act so that all of us - including Brennin and the original Broadway cast of ‘Rent’ - can perform it for you...live.” Ultimately, only the final 15 minutes of the telecast was live - although the show was performed live for the in-studio audience - with Brennin in a wheelchair. As to the original cast, they came out and sang the reprise of “Seasons of Love,” which, to be charitable, was more than enough. Ultimately, the major star was the show itself; and the production. Set on a sprawling soundstage, the camera work integrated the live audience seamlessly. While the cast was uniformly adequate for a TV adaptation miked within an inch of its life, I’ll focus on the positives and send kudos out to two people. First, the fabulous Valentina as Angel. The role was performed spectacularly, even if the singing was undeniably weak. The all-around MVP (including vocals) was Brandon Victor Dixon as Tom Collins. All in all, I expected nothing less - or, for that matter, more. Could it be that a star of stage, (small) screen, and song has had just a wee too much plastic surgery? And on one so young. Alas, for some people, it’s perfection or nothing at all. While the body of work is flawless in that cloned way, the face seems somewhat frozen. Below the belt... well, the first cut was definitely not the deepest.



It’s the year of the Pig so get it started right by joining our Queer Trans Asian Pacific Islanders at LA’s Golden Dragon parade. See Feb. 9. Photo courtesy Asian Pacific Islanders


Meet Kamala Harris At David Cooley’s Home, Sat. Feb. 2 @ 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM at Cooley Home (location revealed after RSVP). The crossroads of Los Angeles where just about every community outreach occurs is The Abbey and when a major politician or celebrity comes seeking top-shelf attention they go to private homes in Hancock Park. So, it’s no surprise that our new Senator and now Presidential candidate Kamala Harris decided to do a fundraiser and outreach to the LGBT community of Los Angeles, she turned to David Cooley, owner of The Abbey, and asked him to host an event at his deluxe home. Well, you are invited and tickets are available online at secure.actblue.com/ donate/fr_hancockpark2019. Full Frontal Disco Saturday, Sat. Feb. 2 @ 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM at Akbar (4358 West Sunset). High-end Hollywood set design meets Disco, angels from above and the beautiful crowd. Special Guest DJ Brian T. (Restless Nites) and Midnight Choreography by Danny Dolan of The Sweat Spot, Disco Doll stylings by Emmy award winning Glen Alen and Disco Dolls Matt C. and Ziggy Banks make it sparkle. Dance Commanders Mario Diaz and Nelstar are joined by DJs Slash Fiction, Henry Self and Mick MiMaria. $5 at the rope.


Dysfunctional Family Drama HIR, Sun. Feb. 3 @ 2:00 to 5:00 PM at Odyssey Theater ( 2055 S Sepulveda Blvd). Bart DeLorenzo directs this darkly funny, shockingly absurd and endlessly surprising vision of a world in transition by MacArthur Genius Taylor Mac, reviewed in this issue of Los Angeles Blade. Somewhere in the suburbs, Isaac has returned from Afghanistan with a dishonorable discharge, only to discover a household in revolt. The insurgent: his mom. Liberated from an oppressive marriage to Isaac’s

father by his debilitating stroke, and with Isaac’s newly out transgender sibling as her ally, Paige is on a crusade to dismantle the patriarchy. Catch the LA premiere of HIR at Odyssey Theatre.


Witness Uganda: A Documentary Musical, Tue. Feb. 5 at 8:00 PM at Lovelace Studio Theater at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (9390 N Santa Monica Blvd). A groundbreaking documentary journey that’s been turned into “a vibrant, pulsating musical” (Associated Press), Witness Uganda is inspired by the true story of a young gay man’s trip to volunteer in a small village in Africa. But his sincere desire to help is tested against the backdrop of an incurable epidemic, corruption and a dangerous abduction that leaves him questioning everything he has ever known. After a successful off-Broadway run, this West Coast premiere at The Wallis in Beverly Hills is set to star 12-time Grammy nominee Ledisi, Jamar Williams (Wild Goose Dreams), Amber Iman (Hamilton) and Emma Hunton (Wicked). Tickets are $39.


Out and Rising: A Night of LGBT Music with APLA Health, Wed. Feb. 6 @ 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM at Voila Creative Studio (749 N La Brea Avenue). Join APLA Health for an intimate evening with queer recording artists and industry professionals. Your $25 donation gets you access to one of the coolest venues in Los Angeles, a reception with hosted food and bar, a moderated panel discussion and a showcase performance by surprise featured artist. Proceeds benefit APLA Health in its mission to achieve health care equity and promote well-being for the LGBT and other underserved communities and people living with

and affected by HIV. Admission is $25 at the door. Exposure presents Battle Royale: Lip Sync Battle Drag Show, Wed. Feb. 6 @ 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM at Redline Bar (131 E 6th Street). This monthly lip sync battle drag show promises some fierce performances with Hostess Essence Monroe leading the charge as Kendra Onixxx (Dragula S2), Amber Crane, Serena Infiniti Rose, Porshaa Lejayy, Kuren- C Windsor, Midknight Desires, and Malcolm Xtasy sync their plumped lips off. A Los Angeles Blade favorites.


Lunar New Year! Chinatown Celebrates Year of the Boar, Sat. Feb. 9 @ 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Chinatown Central Plaza (943 N. Broadway). In Chinese astrology, the year of the Boar denote a placid year as the Pig, as the year is called, loves to eat and sleep and get fat. But be cautious because the Rat makes fast friends with the Pig, meaning we should not become complacent this year or the Rat forces will eat us alive. Good message for the Resistance. Fireworks and food make this a fantastic Los Angeles tradition. Queer Trans APIs & Allies March at 2019 Golden Dragon Parade, Sat. Feb. 9 @ 11:00 AM to 3:30 PM at API Equality-LA ( 320 West Temple Street - courtyard behind the Los Angeles County Hall of Records). Join the Chinese New Year celebration as part of the events only LGBTQ contingent and welcome the Year of the Pig by showing off how beautiful and powerful our Queer Trans Asian Pacific Islanders (QTAPI) community and loving allies are during Chinatown’s largest celebration. Free.

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



Our Valentine Restaurant pick SpoonFed LA is Five Star comfort oasis By Staff

When Los Angeles Blade recently hosted its annual Best of LGBT LA Awards, people in attendance were stunned by the venue as much as they were thrilled with the event. SpoonFedLA (959 Seward Street), located behind towering palms and iconic shrubs at the corner of Romaine and Seward St. in Hollywood, an area populated by a movie lots and casting offices, including the new campus of QuiBi, Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s bid to marry Hollywood to Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes concept. Spoonfed is a brilliant spot and it’s open from 6:30 AM until 11:00 PM every day. And while it certainly caters to studio workers of the many surrounding soundstages, people who just want a nice place to sit and eat a salad during their brief lunch break, it’s actually a 5-star restaurant with a down-home, comfort food feel.

Join us on this special “Day of Love”! Enjoy a delectable $75 four course Valentine’s Day dinner prix fixe, a $35 Wine pairing for two, specialty cocktails and more! With live music by the Moana Trio.

Spread the love!




Cannabis Culture Provided by NORML

Gov. Ron DeSantis has told lawmakers to lift a legislatively imposed prohibition on the inhalation of medical cannabis.

Fla. guv seeks to lift ban on smoked cannabis TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has told lawmakers to lift a legislatively imposed prohibition on the inhalation of medical cannabis. Lawmakers imposed the ban in 2017 in response to the passage of a voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing the use and dispensing of medical cannabis. The ban prohibits registered patients from possessing marijuana “in a form for smoking” and bars the use of herbal cannabis except in instances where it is contained “in a sealed tamper-proof receptacle for vaping.” The 2016 constitutional amendment contained no such restrictions. DeSantis said that he opposed the legislature’s changes because they amended the law in a manner that was “not in accordance with what the amendment envisioned.” In May, a Florida Circuit Court judge ruled that the ban was unconstitutional. That decision was appealed by the administration of former Gov. Rick Scott. By contrast, Gov. DeSantis says that he will drop the appeal. Legislation was filed on Friday, SB 372, to permit patients to possess and inhale herbal cannabis preparations.

Cannabis extracts safe for autistic patients: study JERUSALEM — The administration of plantderived cannabis extracts is effective and well-tolerated in patients diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), according to data published in the journal Scientific Reports. Israeli investigators assessed the safety and efficacy of the daily administration of CBD-enriched cannabis oil (consisting of 30 percent CBD and 1.5 percent THC) in a cohort of 188 patients with ASD. Of those patients who continued treatment for six months and provided feedback to researchers, over 90 percent reported some level of symptomatic improvement -- including reductions in restlessness, seizures, and rage attacks. Approximately one-third of respondents reported a reduction in their intake of other medications. Authors concluded: “Cannabis as a treatment for autism spectrum disorders patients appears to be well-tolerated, safe and seemingly effective option to relieve symptoms, mainly: seizures, tics, depression, restlessness and rage attacks. ... [W]e believe that double blind placebo-controlled trials are crucial for a better understanding of the cannabis effect on ASD

patients.” The results are consistent with those of a prior Israeli study which concluded that the daily administration of CBD-dominant extracts was associated with “overall improvement in behavior, anxiety, and communication” in autism patients.

Vaporization ‘more efficient’ than smoking: study BALTIMORE — Vaporizing cannabis, as opposed to smoking it, is associated with greater THC concentrations in blood, according to clinical trial data published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology. A team of researchers from John Hopkins University in Maryland and the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina assessed cannabinoid concentrations in blood and in oral fluid following either marijuana smoking or vaporization. Authors concluded: “For whole blood, greater detection sensitivity for ELISA testing was observed in vaporized conditions. Conversely, for oral fluid, greater sensitivity was observed in smoked sessions. ... Vaporization appears to be a more efficient method of delivery compared with smoking.” Prior research by the same team published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationreported that vaporized cannabis is associated with more dramatic changes in druginduced effects than is smoked marijuana.

U.S. Virgin Islands enacts medical cannabis law CHARLOTTE AMALIE, VIRGIN ISLANDS — Democratic Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signed legislation into law last week establishing a regulated medical cannabis market in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act permits qualified patients to possess and access cannabis and cannabis-infused products from licensed dispensaries. Specified patients will also be permitted to cultivate their own marijuana. Under the law, regulators must finalize rules governing the program within 180 days. The Virgin Islands is the third U.S. territory to legalize medical cannabis access -- joining Guam and Puerto Rico. 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.

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