Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 7, February 15, 2019

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Photo by kathclick / Courtesy Bigstock


F E B R U A R Y 1 5 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 0 7 • 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



Patricia Nell Warren, author of ‘The Front Runner,’ dies at 82 One gay-themed book saved countless lives By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Patricia Nell Warren, the Montana-born lesbian who saved many gay lives with her landmark book “The Front Runner,” died on Feb. 9 at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica after an almost three year struggle with lung cancer. Warren was 82. “Up until her last moments, she was very clear,” Warren’s close friend Gregory Zanfardino told the Los Angeles Blade. “And she was constantly getting emails all the time from young people and older people who literally told her ‘The Front Runner’ saved their lives. That book still, to this day, inspires people.” “The Front Runner” was published in 1974,

Patricia Nell Warren in 2013. Blade photo by Karen Ocamb

five years after the Stonewall riots, one year before California officially decriminalized homosexuality; the first to print the word “gay” on the cover and the first to make the New York Times bestseller list.

The story explores the deep struggles of a closeted conservative Vietnam veteran Harlan Brown, 39, who gave up his own dream of running in the Olympics and of coaching prospective Olympic athletes at a prestigious college out of fear of being exposed as gay. When he and gay distance runner Billy Sive, 22, fall in love at a small New England college, the world of sports rears up against Sive representing the U.S. in the Olympics, where he meets with a horrific end. Brown “knows he’s gay and attracted to men, but he refuses to let himself feel, to let himself be that person he knows he is, because of his repressive Bible-taught family upbringing and military background,” Warren wrote for TheFrontRunnerMovie. com. “When Harlan finds himself falling secretly in love with Billy Sive, the conflict only intensifies and almost drives him mad, until he is finally ‘human’ enough to give in and let himself be in love.”

Warrren wanted to confront “stereotypes of gay males as limp-wristed liberals is embedded in people’s minds. Harlan is a crusty gay ex-Marine, a drill-sergeant kind of guy. I wanted to confront readers with the inner reality of such a man because I know they exist.” “There is still a struggle for LGBTQ representation and it was especially acute in 1974 when Warren published ‘The Front Runner,’” Steven Reigns, West Hollywood’s first official Poet Laureate, tells the Los Angeles Blade. “I was far from athletic and yet I identified and empathized with Billy. It also felt subversive to read this gay novel by a lesbian who, at one point, edited my mother’s favorite publications—Reader’s Digest. The book illuminated for me that we were everywhere.” Find a more extensive tribute at www. losangelesblade.com, including discussion about making “The Front Runner” into a movie.

LA Lakers’ new player Reggie Bullock is an LGBT ally Bullock has tattoo of his murdered trans sister on leg By STAFF REPORTS In a homecoming of sorts, 27-year-old Reggie Bullock returns to the basketball court at the Staples Center to play for the LA Lakers. Four years ago the 6’7’’ Kinston, N.C., native was a rookie player for the LA Clippers. Unknown to most in the LA LGBT community, however, is Bullock’s activism for LGBT equality, especially for the trans community. A new Vice Sports documentary follows his journey after his sister Mia Henderson’s 2014 murder in Baltimore. The murder was the second of a trans woman of color in the city that summer. Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts vowed a full investigation but suspect Shawn Oliver, 46, arrested after police found his DNA under Henderson’s fingernails, was acquitted of all charges on Jan. 12, 2017. Bullock told the LA Times that his last text to her was, “I love you.” His activism honors his sister, whose name Bullock has tattooed

Reggie Bullock during practice on Feb. 9 in Philadelphia. Photo by Ty Nowell courtesy the Los Angeles Lakers

on his left leg over a rainbow heart with “LGBTQ” written at the top. Last month, Bullock spoke with Advocates for Youth’s YouTube series ‘Kikis With Louie’ host Louie Ortiz-Fonseca. He told OrtizFonseca that the tattoo, which he got shortly

after Henderson’s death, became a teachable moment as he educated himself on trans issues. It wasn’t until after the tattoo had been complete that he understood he’d made a grievous error. “I wasn’t educated enough — that’s pretty

much dead-naming her,” Bullock said, noting that he rectified the mistake with a second tattoo. “She loved dance, she loved fashion and she was very loud when she’d get in arguments, but she was a backbone of support,” he said. “She was just a power source to the community.” On the court he also wears sneakers with “Equality” written all over them and his sister’s name etched on the sole. He has spoken about his desire to have the NBA adopt rainbow-colored uniforms, even for just one game, as a way to recognize the LGBTQ community. Bullock, who was at the time playing for the Detroit Pistons, was the first active player to ride on the NBA Pride’s float during last year’s New York City Pride March. One in 2,600 transgender women of color between 14 and 34 years old is a homicide victim compared to one in 12,000 in the general population, according to “Unerased: Counting Transgender Lives,” a project of media outlet Mic. The LA Lakers are scheduled to play the LA Clippers on Monday, March 4 at the Staples Center.



Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles Survives Board votes to continue, gives unanimous support to Duran By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com It’s been a couple of rough weeks as in-fighting among members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles spilled out into the press with a tornado of accusations of sexual harassment thrown against GMCLA Board Chair John Duran and Executive Director Jonathan Weedman. The ugliness was frustrating for GMCLA board members who had ordered full, thorough and independent investigations with a final report concluding that the claims had no merit. But the reports were filed with Human Resources, which demands privacy. The ugly tornado of controversy became an existential threat as about 50 members tried to push the two leaders out of the gay legacy organization, with board members, reliable donors and corporate givers following behind. It looked like the final curtain was about to come down on the 40 year old institution. But on Wednesday night, Feb. 13, at a rented office space at 9200 Sunset Boulevard, the GMCLA board held a special meeting and by a vote of 13-0 with two abstentions, decided to continue as an organization and rebuild the camaraderie that is home to so many. Before the vote, at the invitation of new board member Deborah Villar (Antonio Villaraigosa’s sister), the board heard from about 40 chorus members who attended the open portion of the meeting. Why did they think GMCLA should continue? Some spoke about homelessness, others about the HIV/ AIDS crisis. “This is a home. It’s not just any other organization,” said one, as if speaking for all. “They spoke very eloquently from the heart,” Duran later told the Los Angeles Blade. A big cheer went up with the unanimous vote. “It was a very unifying moment,” says Duran. The singing members then left as board members moved to consider HR issues. But first, board member Steven Hamilton said he wanted to get something out of the way. Duran recalls the moment etched indelibly into his heart. “John Duran – what you’re going through right now, on behalf of our organization, is so terrible to watch. You’re bearing the brunt of all the bad PR,” he recalls Hamilton saying.

Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles via John Duran’s Facebook page

“Your colleagues are going to take away your mayor’s title and it’s upsetting that they know nothing of the facts. We all know everything about the facts because we reviewed all the reports and the claims and determined that there is nothing here to support any of these allegations,” Duran quotes Hamilton as saying. “And I think it’s important for you tonight that we give you a full vote of confidence to continue as our chairman.” Duran was grateful. “It means a lot to me because sometimes I wonder if I’m getting in the way with all this negative publicity floating out there,” he told them. “They all spoke up and said, ‘Absolutely not! We know the truth. People are entitled to their ignorant opinion without knowing any of the facts. But we know the truth.’ And so they voted unanimously with a full vote of confidence for me to continue as chairman of the Gay Men’s Chorus.” Duran says the “mob mentality” that has been out to get him was disconcerting. But he forced himself to rally and fight back, posting a long message on Facebook that articulates his side of the controversy.

Duran fumes just a little. “Just because I’m the serving mayor doesn’t mean I have to give up my humanity or my sexuality,” he says. “I’ve never hidden any part of my personality from anyone. If you’re paying attention, you know I’ve had very strong attitudes about being sex-positive and is part of my being a leader in this movement for 40 years. “We created a culture, we created a subculture and part of that has been that there is no shame in our sexuality or presenting it for full public observation,” he continues. “For so many decades, we were told be silent, don’t come out, don’t ask, don’t tell, keep it in bedroom. Those were all the messages we got as if the demonstration of our human sexuality was something to be embarrassed over. That sort of shame has probably caused more alcoholism, suicide, and mental health bills than anything else in the LGBT community so there’s no room for that.” Duran says GMCLA’s major Voice Awards fundraiser will probably be recast as a smaller-scale event to lift up the unity and brotherhood felt at the end of the meeting.

“We’ll work through” the financial situation, Duran says, noting that the organization has faced dire financial situations before. When he first joined the Chorus in 2008, the organization was $500,000 in debt. Duran expects the next big concert in April to celebrate their 40th anniversary will be important. Aside from fundraising, he also says the board has to figure out how to fit GMCLA into the greater civic life of Los Angeles since so much of LGBT culture is now assimilated. But that will be figured out by the next board since, after 20 years, he plans to leave at the end of his term in late summer. But, Duran says, “I won’t leave them leave if they’re financially unstable.” As to the gang of 50 who worked so hard to oust him, Duran says that anger is “tempering off.” One of the rebel leaders approached him during a members meeting on Monday and apologized. Both said they hoped to “figure it out” and pull the Chorus back together. “We’re like a family,” Duran says. “We got into a squabble and we’re figuring it out.”

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Did Beverly Hills Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli lie to LA LGBT Center CEO Lorri Jean? Looks like Spagnoli lied about crime stats, too By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com “Meet Beverly Hills’s new police chief, Sandra Spagnoli,” wrote Amy Ephron in her chic-ish Aug. 2016 Vogue profile of the “33-year veteran known for her high ethical standards.” After an almost year-long search, Spagnoli had been hired five months earlier as Beverly Hills’s first female top cop, a position she previously held in the cities of Benicia in Solano County and suburban San Leandro in Alameda County. The fawning article focused on those high standards. “’I think of myself as a volunteer,’ Spagnoli says, her almost aquamarine eyes fixed in a clear, constant gaze,” Vogue gushed. “’Every day I hear my father’s words. He grew up in Europe during the World War II era, and when I started down this path, he said, ‘Treat people fairly and don’t abuse that power.’” “It’s a refreshing sentiment to hear from a police chief in these socially fractious times,” Vogue concluded. Two years later, Beverly Hills Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli is the focus of more than 20 lawsuits brought by police employees alleging racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia. She is also the subject of the grassroots BHPD Crisis campaign— organized by former Beverly Hills City Council candidate Vera Markowitz—to raise awareness about the lawsuits and the money being spent to protect the chief who has sworn to protect the city. Among other costs, the city settled a $2.3 million lawsuit last December filed by former Capt. Mark Rosen. In fact, according to legal declarations and depositions in the Rosen case provided to the Los Angeles Blade by his attorney Bradley Gage, in her first month as chief, Spagnoli “retaliated” against Rosen after he reported “unfair pay and discriminatory treatment of gay female employees to Human Resources (HR) and Chief Spagnoli.” Another note in Gage’s presentation of “undisputed facts” filed Aug. 31, 2018 in Superior Court in that successful Rosen case was a declaration from Lt. Davis: “Lt. Davis refused to lower the evaluation of a

lesbian employee over 40 years old when Spagnoli asked him to do so. In response, Spagnoli called him disloyal.” Later Davis declares that he “believed Spagnoli’s order was based on [employee Donna] Norris’ sexual orientation.” In Gage’s Exhibit 11, Davis declares: “On or about spring 2016, Captain Tony Lee, Chief Spagnoli, and Lt. Davis were having a conversation. During the conversation, it was brought up that Donna Norris and her partner have a child. Norris’ domestic partner was referred to as her wife. Chief Spagnoli looked disgusted and said, ‘you mean she’s a lesbian?’ When Lt. Davis confirmed that Norris was a lesbian, Chief Spagnoli said, ‘ew, and gross.’ Then Chief Spagnoili said something to the effect of well don’t let her touch me. She also said, make sure she doesn’t stand next to me when they take photos for dispatcher appreciation week. The photos for dispatcher appreciate week never occurred.” Before the Beverly Hills City Council meeting on Feb. 5, Spagnoli had a phone conversation with Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri Jean, who had commented for a previous story Los Angeles Blade story on the chief. Jean says Spagnoli’s public affairs person was on the line throughout the conversation. “Basically [Spagnoli] was calling to tell me that the allegations are false. That she never said the things that she’s been alleged to say about one of the lesbians on the force. She told me that her mentor at the Police Academy was, as she put it, a ‘gay woman,’ and that they remain close to this day,” Jean told the Los Angeles Blade Feb. 13. Spagnoli also told Jean that she had set up an advisory panel and she didn’t have anybody LGBT on it and she could use Jean’s help with that. “Essentially she was defending herself against the allegations,” Jean said. “I told her that I felt that it was critical that an independent investigation be conducted into the allegations that were made because if the facts were as she said they were, then she would be vindicated by a truly independent investigation. And that was going to be very important—that an independent entity would look at this and reach some conclusions.” However, Jean added, that alone was not enough. “So far, the public has heard

nothing from her about what she believes— which is important for us to hear, in terms of knowing what the chief of police at the Beverly Hills Police Department believes. But even if she were uncomfortable talking about her personal beliefs—which I didn’t really understand why she would be—it was important that she make a statement at the very least about what was acceptable and not in the operation of the Beverly Hills Police Department. She needed to make it crystal clear that discrimination of any kind— including against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people—would not be tolerated.” Jean said she explained why this is important, “not only for the many LGBT residents in Beverly Hills or the many families who have LGBT members but for those of us who regularly have events in Beverly Hills or travel to Beverly Hills who don’t live there. We needed to understand from her own words that we could expect the same level of protection and respect that everybody else gets in Beverly Hills.” Jean said she offered help but “she has not taken me up on that offer yet.” Jean also said that Spagnoli indicated that an independent investigation would be “forthcoming.” Spagnoli has not made any pro-equality statements. Instead, the city released a PRproduced video in which she speaks directly to camera saying “it’s time to set the record straight.” “As the men and women of our Police Department put their lives on the line each and every day, it is very difficult to standby and listen to the egregious statements and misrepresentations that have been made,” says Spagnoli. “When I was hired in 2016, the City Council wanted a culture change in the Police Department, most notably to address lack of accountability, low staffing and low morale….As a recent independent review of our police department confirms, we are on the right track. There is not a crisis in the Beverly Hills Police Department, the morale of the department is strong and our new crime prevention techniques are making a difference.” Beverly Hills spokesperson Keith Sterling told the Beverly Hills Press that the Spagnoli video reflected “the city’s position on the campaign and the issues allegedly affecting the department.”

There was no mention made by Beverly Hills city councilmembers during their Feb. 5 meeting of a new statement or a new investigation In fact, Councilmember Robert Wunderlich said: “We have investigated robustly.” “I’d like to assure our residents and I want to assure our officers that we would not and do not tolerate discrimination in the police department or in any other aspect of the city,” Wunderlich said. “I also would also hope that our city would have enough trust in us to know that we here on City Council do not tolerate discrimination.” “Does anyone in our community actually believe the five of us would tolerate racism, anti-Semitism or homophobia? The answer is a resounding no,” said Councilmember Les Friedman. “We are opposed to antiSemitism, racism and homophobia, and we will and have continued to investigate any claims in that regard.” LA LGBT Center Public Policy Director Dave Garcia spoke at the meeting. “I reiterated the importance of a thorough and independent investigation that is as transparent as possible under the law,” Garcia told the Los Angeles Blade. “I also reminded the city council that the hate crimes report for LA was recently published and showed hate crimes on the rise, again, in most major cities around the country including Los Angeles.” Garcia also noted that what the city council says about LGBT people matters, encouraging them “to be absolutely clear that they do not in any way condone homophobia,” he said. “The real proof will be in whether a truly independent and comprehensive investigation takes place.” Wunderlich concurred with Garcia. “The rise in hate crime is unfortunately true and it’s terrible,” he said. “I also agree with gentleman when he said the rise in hate crime begins at the top. But no component of that exists on our city council. I really hope it wouldn’t be necessary to say this but you do have my support for the LGBTQ community….Serious allegations have been made, undoubtedly. And we treat them very seriously. We have investigated them robustly.” Wunderlich noted that Spagnoli had organized a town hall the week before “publicizing that same hate crime and discussing the city’s response to the rise in



Beverly Hills Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli Photo Courtesy Beverly Hills Police Department

hate crime.” The Los Angeles Blade was not notified of any such town hall meeting. One question that might have been raised is whether the City of Beverly Hills actually keeps hate crime statistics, which are not officially listed in the police department’s crime reports. On that, Rosen and Norris attorney Bradley Gage believes the city council believes Spagnoli’s report that crime is down in Beverly Hills when, in fact, it is up. “During the recent City Council meeting, several citizens expressed support for Chief Spagnoli because of her claim that she has

reduced crime,” Gage told the Los Angeles Blade. “That claim was made in a Press Release dated January 17, 2019 in which Ms. Spagnoli claimed crime is down (last sentence p. 1) However, Trial Exhibit 536 dated, January 15, 2019 (2 days earlier) refutes the chief’s claims. “The Spagnoli memorandum attaches a Management Partner’s Report from October 2018 that discusses crime in Beverly Hills. Starting at p. 12 you will see that in every category of crime reported, crime is actually going up under Chief Spagnoli, not down. It appears citizens have been duped,” Gage says.

“The Chief claims that morale is strong. Yet, the City has been sued at least in part because of her actions by at least the following people: Lisa Weller (gay female); David Brandon; John Doe; Keryann Hayes; Clark Fong; Greg Rout; Alicia Johnson, Anne Lunsman, Dona Norris (lesbian), Mark Rosen, Mike Foxen and Shan Davis (three straight men who stood up for the rights of Weller and Norris and then were retaliated against in part because of seeking equality for all people regardless of sexual orientation) Ren Moreno, and Tania Schwartz. “Many others have filed complaints with

HR, or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, but have not yet filed a lawsuit,” he continues. “I have seen three such DFEH complaints, and I am aware of several other employees going to HR with complaints. Don’t you think with at least 14 people suing and around 20 total complaining there is a crisis? How can morale be up with so many complaints?” If the video is the extent of Spagnoli’s prized ethics? And if no investigation is actually “forthcoming,” will LGBT organizations such as the LA LGBT Center re-think using Beverly Hills as a venue for their gala events?



Mayor Duran says he will not resign as WeHo City council discord escalates Councilmembers call for mayor to resign over harassment allegations By SEAN SHEALY In a series of social media posts Tuesday, Feb. 12, three of West Hollywood’s five city council members, Lindsey Horvath, Lauren Meister and John D’Amico demanded that John Duran, their fellow councilmember and the city’s mayor resign over unsubstantiated allegations of sexual harassment. The controversy was originally ignited by an allegation made against Duran by a man the Los Angeles Times identified as Jason Tong, a young member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. Tong alleged that Duran inappropriately pushed his fingers into the waistband of Tong’s underwear last October as they were dressing for a joint concert with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Mexico City at the chorus’ performance home at the Alex Theatre in Glendale to launch its 40th anniversary. The Chorus board ordered an independent investigation during which Duran said he did not know Tong or do what Tong alleged, which would have had to have happened 15 minutes to curtain in a crowded changing room. Duran provided the investigator with the names of five witnesses who confirmed Duran’s story. Tong could not provide witnesses, withdrew his complaint, and subsequently resigned. While many construed the withdrawal as evidence that the allegation was untrue, others sympathized with Tong who they believe relented in the face of Duran’s powerful position as Mayor of West Hollywood. The LA Times also reported that two more people had come forward—but neither of them had filed a complaint with the GMCLA board or HR or gone through any of the procedures outlined to the membership. After the investigator’s report was filed, the GMCLA board took no action, which they would be obliged to do in upholding their fiduciary responsibility to avoid a lawsuit. According to Joshua Schare, the Media Affairs and Marketing Manager for the City of West Hollywood, Duran’s participation in GMCLA is completely unrelated to his council duties and his official functions as mayor. The call for Duran’s resignation came

West Hollywood Mayor John Jude Duran. Photo Facebook

as Robert Oliver, vice chair of the city’s Public Safety Commission, protested his fellow commissioners’ silence over the growing controversy by submitting his own resignation on Feb. 11. Horvath, Meister and D’Amico—who are all incumbents seeking re-election— seemed to suggest that the allegations against Duran alone were sufficient reason to call for him to resign. “I continue to condemn sexual assault and harassment in all its forms and understand the importance of creating a safe environment in West Hollywood for residents, staff, appointed officials and visitors, regardless of gender and sexual orientation,” D’Amico wrote. “Recent allegations regarding John Duran are dividing us and our attention, moving the city away from the important work we do,” he added. “To get our city back on track John Duran needs to step away from being Mayor immediately and consult his conscience about what happens next.” “West Hollywood as a city is suffering as a result of the numerous and repeated allegations against Mayor Duran,” Meister wrote. “I believe that Mayor Duran should

do what’s best for the city — in this case, it would be to step down from the position of mayor, and perhaps, step away from the council position so that he can focus on these issues and the city can focus on moving forward.” “First and most importantly, I condemn in the strongest terms sexual harassment and assault in all its forms,” Horvath wrote. “Throughout this time, I have been in close contact with our City Manager and City Attorney, as well as my colleagues. Last night, I also spent time talking with former Commissioner Robert Oliver, who spoke out at last night’s Public Safety Commission meeting, as well as other long-time members of our community. “It is for this reason that I believe it is time for our Mayor to step away from his role on the Council,” she continued. “Our City cannot focus on the work of the people when we have to address new and numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, including whether our Mayor used his title to solicit sexual favors.” WeHo City Attorney Mike Jenkins told the Los Angeles Blade that California law does not give a city council the ability to remove one of

its members. Jenkins appeared to appreciate the idea of him conferring with the GMCLA’s counsel to allow him to review the findings of the independent investigator in the Human Resources report to see if he concurred with the board’s assessment that the allegation against Duran was without merit. Late Feb. 13, Duran took to Facebook to argue his case, explaining the ugly power struggle at Gay Men’s Chorus of LA, where he has not resigned but will stay on until the end of his term. “Those of you who know me,” he wrote, well know the answer. HELL NO. I have stared down the KKK, the White Aryan Resistance, right wing judges and Presidents. I am not beholden to any blog or media storm. And being sexual does not equal sexual harassment. No means NO! But you gotta say “no!” first. I hope that West Hollywood never loses its edge, its sexual appetite, its flirtatiousness, its sexy people, its nightclubs and children of the night. Freedom also includes sexual expression in art, In music. And in this very short life. And now, back to the craziness …… If my colleagues shorten my Mayoral term - so be it. I didn’t wage this fight for 40 years to cower now.....”


Country singer Kacey Musgraves won the coveted Album of the Year award for her album “Golden Hour” marking the end of a Grammys award show filled with plenty of queer women representation. Musgraves, who also won Country Album of the Year, has emerged as an LGBTQ ally in the country music world. She has spoken up for more LGBTQ inclusion in country music and her song “Follow Your Arrow” was hailed as a pro-LGBTQ anthem. She also took home Best Country Solo Performance (“Butterflies”), and Best Country Song (“Space Cowboy”) Awards for a total of four winning categories. Lesbian singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile won three awards during the pre-telecast including Best Americana Album for “By the Way, I Forgive You” and Best American Roots Song and Best American Roots Performance for “The Joke.” She received the most nominations of any woman this year and became the first LGBTQ person to win Kacey Musgraves accepts Album of the Year at the 2019 Grammys. Photo is a screen grab from CBS broadcast awards in those categories. While accepting the award for Best American Roots Performance, she shared that she came out in high school at age 15. She says she never was invited to high school parties or dances. “I never got to attend a dance. To be embraced by this enduring and loving community has been a dance of a lifetime,” Carlile said. “Thank you for being my island.”

QUOTES “If you are the individual who called in 1974, we would like to speak to you about what you saw.” - Police Cmdr. Greg McEarchern to reporters at a press conference on Feb. 6 about new leads in the 1970s San Francisco “Doodler” serial killer cold case.

“When I need hope, I often look to history—specifically the history of black artistic excellence in America.” - Laverne Cox in an op-ed for Time about one of her idols, 20th century singing legend Marian Anderson.

“She is a Marine Corps mom, a tremendous woman, a proud supporter of military families and she just recently went back to teaching art classes at a Christian school. Thank you, Karen,”

-President Trump praises Karen Pence at the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 7 for accepting a teaching position at the Immanuel Christian School, which upholds anti-LGBT policies.



‘Black queer people are victimized every day’ Jussie Smollett attack highlights growing problem of hate crimes By MARIAH COOPER Stacey Long Simmons, director of advocacy at the National LGBTQ Task Force, vividly recalls the time, as a young college student, she was walking outside of campus and a group of white men slowed down and shouted, “N-word bitch go home.” Simmons hails from Queens, N.Y., where she admits racist incidents did occur but being verbally attacked like that was a “shock to my system.” While the men harassed her for being a black woman she has no doubt that they could have easily swapped out the adjectives to harass her for being a black, bisexual woman. “If I had been walking down the street holding my girlfriend’s hand at the time I’m sure it would have been you ‘black dyke B-word’” Simmons said. “I don’t think we ever really know why we get attacked. The point is for us to recognize that in the eyes of many we’re problematic no matter what point they enter into whether it’s the race lens, the sexual orientation or gender identity lens.” It’s a reality that the black LGBTQ community faces every day but it came to the forefront when it was reported that “Empire” star Jussie Smollett suffered an allegedly homophobic and racist attack. At around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 in Chicago, Smollett was walking from a Subway restaurant when he alleges that two men dressed in black called him “Empire faggot n—er” to get his attention. The actor alleges that the attackers put his neck in a noose, poured “an unknown chemical substance” on him and ran away. Smollett also reported to police that the assailants yelled “MAGA country” during the attack. A few days prior to Smollet’s alleged physical attack, an anonymous letter was sent to Cinespace Studios where “Empire” is filmed. The letter read, “You will die Black fag” and contained a white powder, later identified by a HAZMAT unit as aspirin. Chicago police are currently investigating the incident as a hate crime. David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, told the Blade that the LGBTQ black community is “surprised but not shocked” by the attack.

The alleged racist and homophobic attack on actor Jussie Smollett is being received differently in different communities. Photo by starfrenzy / Courtesy Bigstock

“One of the prevailing sentiments I continue to hear from black queer people generally is how frustrating it is that people seem to be surprised at this occurrence,” Johns says. “Black queer people are victimized every single day. I was just thinking about what we’ve experienced just this year reflecting upon Kevin Hart and the jokes about killing his gay son. I mourned the loss of the life of a young, black boy [Giovanni Melton] in Las Vegas because his father killed him suspecting that he was gay last year. Ed Buck, a white donor in Hollywood, is still walking around free as two gay black men have died at his household in the last year. Many of the media outlets that are covering Jussie’s story now didn’t even acknowledge that earlier this year there was a black trans woman [Keanna Mattel] that was murdered by a pastor in Detroit.” These aren’t new stories for the black LGBTQ community but Smollett’s story was met with skepticism from some on social media who questioned why Smollett was outside getting food at such a late hour. Smollett also initially refused to hand over his phone to police to corroborate his and

his manager’s story that they were on the phone with each other during the time of the attack. He has since handed over redacted phone records to police. Simmons says she noticed people doubting his story as soon as it made the rounds on media outlets. “It was just an immediate discounting. People saying ‘Who would be outside in Chicago at that time of night in the cold?’ It’s like people are out in the cold all the time. If you’re hungry you’re going to get something to eat. It’s almost as if people’s minds wouldn’t allow them to accept the fact that these types of violent attacks happen. I think there is a level of ignorance or refusal to accept the fact that these things happen on a day-to-day basis,” Simmons said. It’s a reaction that Janaya “Future” Khan, Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder and campaign director of media, democracy & economic justice for Color of Change, is all too familiar with. Khan, who is black, queer and gender non-conforming, says that the race aspect of Smollett’s identity gave him reason to be questioned in the minds of some people. “Black people historically are not believed when we say something has happened to us, especially when we say something has happened to us because we’re black. When you have to go to the same policing institutions that have historically not believed you, that criminalizes people that look like you disproportionally, that brutalizes people that look like you based on race, it’s a very impossible moment,” Khan told the Blade. Although the LGBTQ community has had its own complicated and sometimes violent history with police, being black is an added layer of discrimination. “I think people in society have been conditioned to not believe people who look like Jussie, who look like me,” Khan said. “It’s pretty disgusting. People also historically have not believed anyone in the LGBT community when they say these things have happened to them. But there’s a way that they’re able to assimilate into society around whiteness that you just cannot as a black person. The discrediting of Jussie, the need for a particular kind of irrefutable proof, is something that black people and people of color are very familiar with.” Khan has their own personal story about being torn between two integral identities. In July 2016, Black Lives Matter was invited to march in the Pride parade in Toronto. Khan

and the rest of the group marched proudly in the parade using chants such as “Michael Brown say his name” and taking a moment of silence to sit in memory of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. In what proved to be a controversial move, the group declared to the crowd that they wanted police floats to be removed from the Pride marches and parade. Some in the crowd began to boo and social media became a firestorm of death threats toward Khan. “I can tell you as someone who lives as a black person and also identifies as nonbinary and queer some of the worst kinds of malice I’ve experienced as a black person have come from the LGBTQ community and it feels like a betrayal,” Khan says. “Now if you’re a black person police continue to brutalize our community and historically that’s also been true of the gay and lesbian community. Stonewall was a riot and it happened because police were brutalizing the LGBTQ population. Somewhere along the line because more seats at the table increased there’s a huge tension point because police at Pride made people of color and black people within the LGBTQ community incredibly uncomfortable. A lot of the contradictions and a lot of the biases and racism really came to a head.” Black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde famously argued that, “There is no hierarchy of oppression.” “Within the lesbian community I am Black, and within the Black community I am a lesbian. Any attack against Black people is a lesbian and gay issue, because I and thousands of other Black women are part of the lesbian community. Any attack against lesbians and gays is a Black issue, because thousands of lesbians and gay men are Black,” Lorde wrote in 1983. Simmons agrees that trying to separate identities isn’t helpful to make progress. “It’s almost as if the majority of the country refuses to acknowledge the racism that black people experience and black people who aren’t as LGBTQ-affirming as we would like them to be want you to not discuss what you experience as a LGBTQ person because they feel like you’re trying to privilege your LGBTQ identity over your black identity. That’s asking people to carve themselves up in many ways that isn’t fruitful or productive,” Simmons says. Continues at losangelesblade.com


• Replace the unsightly

Hustler building with a magnificent cultural hub on the Sunset Strip

• Bring a world-class public

art gallery to WeHo and invest another $1 million in arts funding

• Generate new revenue for

the city to help fund critical services

To read who’s supporting YES on B: www.yesonbforweho.com Ad paid for by Yes on Measure B, Residents to Preserve the Sunset Strip; committee major funding from 8431 Melrose VE Zachary Vella



Will Romney forget ’94 pledge to back gay rights? Advocates wonder if new senator will support Equality Act By CHRIS JOHNSON Nearly a quarter century ago when Mitt Romney was seeking to unseat the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, the Republican hopeful made a commitment that stood out from other politicians in the GOP: To be a champion of gay rights. Now that he’s finally been elected to the U.S. Senate 24 years later, some are wondering whether Romney will conveniently forget about that pledge as Democrats say they’ll make a push to advance the Equality Act, legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include LGBT people. After all, Romney has taken different positions on LGBT rights since 1994 and he’s representing conservative Utah in the U.S. Senate, not progressive Massachusetts. In a letter dated Oct. 6, 1994 to the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, Romney said he was “not unaware” of Kennedy’s commitment to gay rights, but said as a Republican in the U.S. Senate, unlike his opponent, he could “make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern.” Romney said he discussed with Log Cabin the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill introduced at the time by the late Rep. Gerry Studds of Massachusetts that would have banned anti-gay discrimination in employment. Romney said he’d co-sponsor the legislation and “if possible broaden [it] to include housing and credit.” That hypothetical bill as described by Romney is essentially three-sevenths of the Equality Act as it was introduced in the last Congress by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). The Equality Act seeks to ban anti-LGBT discrimination not only in employment, housing and credit, but also in public accommodations, jury service, federal programs and education. The bill has yet to be introduced this year, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has signaled it would be a priority under the new Democratic majority. Also in the 1994 letter, Romney said he’d support a bill to create a federal panel to find ways to reduce gay and lesbian youth suicide. Although he said “Don’t Ask, Don’t

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) promised in 1994 to Log Cabin he’d back gay rights. Photo by Gage Skidmore / Courtesy Flickr

Tell” was a “step in the right direction” from the military’s administrative ban on gays in the military, Romney called it “the first of a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.” Romney, despite the Republican wave that year against then-President Bill Clinton in 1994, lost to Kennedy. But Romney continued to pursue political office, becoming governor of Massachusetts a decade later and unsuccessfully running to become president of the United States in 2008 and 2012. Over the years that followed, Romney struck a markedly different tone on LGBT rights than the views he articled in the 1994 letter to Log Cabin — many times offering contradictory positions. Staying true to his reputation as a flipflopper, Romney offered different positions on non-discrimination protections for LGBT people. With regard to ENDA, Romney said in 2006 during an interview with the National Review Online the measure would be an “overly broad law that would open a litigation floodgate and unfairly penalize employers at the hands of activist judges.” In 2007, he had yet another position on “Meet the Press” and said ENDAlike laws should be left to the states. In his previous position in political office, Romney used his power to undermine

gay rights instead of seeking to make them a mainstream issue. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney fought tooth-and-nail against the 2003 decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court instituting marriage rights for gay couples in the Bay State. Romney revived an antiquated law in Massachusetts forbidding non-residents from marrying in the state and called for a U.S. constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage nationwide. (Romney has never deviated from his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment.) During the 2012 election, Romney was held accountable for his 1994 letter to Log Cabin by moderator Chris Wallace during the Dec. 11, 2011 Republican primary debate. Romney clarified he meant in the missive as a Republican he’d have more opportunities than Kennedy to advance gay rights, not be better than Kennedy himself on the issue. “I do not believe in discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation,” Romney said at the time. “At the same time, I oppose same-sex marriage. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.” Based on the “evolution” of Romney on the issue of gay rights (to borrow a phrase used by Obama on his views on same-sex marriage) support from Republicans on LGBT rights or the Equality Act in the Senate seems unlikely.

Moreover, Romney’s comments in 1994 were based squarely on gay rights and didn’t address the issue of transgender rights. Now the LGBT movement and Democrats insist on transgender inclusion as trans voices have become more prominent, Romney could get out of his 1994 promises under the excuse the issue has changed. If Romney were to support the Equality Act, he’d be going beyond his state in LGBT non-discrimination protections. In 2015, the state enacted a LGBT non-discrimination law, but — consistent with other protected classes in the state — the law doesn’t cover public accommodations and religious institutions are given broad leeway to engage in anti-LGBT discrimination, even for non-ministerial positions. The Equality Act, in contrast, would make anti-LGBT discrimination in those areas illegal. Liz Johnson, a Romney spokesperson, had no comment when asked by the Blade if he still holds his 1994 view supporting pro-gay non-discrimination legislation in employment, credit and housing, nor whether he’d now support the Equality Act. Despite the trend in Romney’s views, LGBT rights groups were optimistic about Romney returning to his 1994 position and backing gay rights now that he’s finally accomplished his 24-year-old bid to win election to the U.S. Senate. Jerri Ann Henry, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said her organization hasn’t yet met with Romney, but “so far all indications are he will continue to be supportive” of gay rights as he promised Log Cabin in 1994. David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, was hopeful Romney would support the Equality Act when asked if the organization has reached out to him about his 1994 comments. “HRC is working to ensure every member of Congress knows the pressing need for the Equality Act,” Stacy said. “For LGBTQ people, discrimination is a real and persistent problem — yet we face a patchwork of protections across the country. No Americans’ civil rights should be determined by their zip code. We hope that Sen. Romney will do the right thing and heed the voices of the business community, Utahns from all walks of life, and the overwhelming majority of Americans who are calling for this crucially important legislation to be passed into law.”

Councilmembers HORVATH & D’AMICO are Champions for LGBTQ Rights While Washington, D.C. is trying to take away our hard-fought rights, Councilmembers Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico are working tirelessly to “RESIST” and protect them. Horvath and D’Amico have a long history of making West Hollywood a beacon of human rights and social justice. As Mayor, Lindsey created a Resource Guide to LGBTQ youth that was made available in 88 cities in L.A. County. As Councilmember, she created “transition guidelines” that were adopted by our state Attorney General. An architect and project manager, John served as co-Director of Policy and Planning at AIDS Project L.A. Working together, Horvath and D’Amico have: fought to protect marriage equality; supported programs to achieve “HIV ZERO,” sober living, and prevent LGBTQ youth suicide; and made WeHo one of the safest, most discrimination-free communities in the country. In these uncertain times, it is critical to re-elect Councilmembers like Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico — candidates who know how to protect our rights locally.

COUNCILMEMBERS LINDSEY HORVATH & JOHN D’AMICO ARE ENDORSED BY Rep. Adam Schiff State Senator Ben Allen Assemblymember Richard Bloom L.A. County Assesor Jeffrey Prang West Hollywood Councilmember John Heilman Estevan Montemayor, Christopher Street West/L.A. Pride Board President

Stonewall Democratic Club Equality California

Paid for by West Hollywood United to Support Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico for Council 2019. This advertisement was not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate. Funded by Keff Times LLC, 9040 Sunset LLC, and Harper Enterprises, LP.

Paid political advertisement.



Will resignations lead to anti-LGBT GOP takeover in Va.? Lawmakers call for Fairfax, Northam to step down amid scandals By LOU CHIBBARO JR. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and the state’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, this week continued to resist calls for their resignations following scandals that have rocked the state and the Democratic Party of which all three are members. Although most political observers think it’s now unlikely, if all three were to resign around the same time, the Republican Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, Kirkland Cox, a staunch conservative and outspoken opponent of LGBT rights, would become governor. Under the Virginia Constitution, Cox, as governor, would have the authority to appoint the next lieutenant governor and attorney general, who would remain in office until the next general election, according to most political observers. Cox would likely pick fellow Republicans from the Virginia Senate or House of Delegates who share his hostile views on LGBT issues to fill the Lt. Governor and Attorney General positions, many observers believe. “That would be a catastrophe,” said Alexandria transgender resident Kris Ammradit, who was among more than 120 mostly Alexandrians that turned out Sunday night, Feb. 10, for a town hall “Listening Session” organized by gay Virginia House of Delegates member Mark Levine (D-Alexandria). Levine said he called the gathering of his constituents and other nearby residents to give them a chance to inform him of their views on the dramatic developments engulfing the state that are touching on issues of racism and sexual assault. “I want you to just say what’s in your heart and what’s on your mind,” he said in welcoming the crowd to the event, which was held at the historic black Third Baptist Church in Old Town, Alexandria. With Northam struggling over how a racist photo appeared in his medical school yearbook page in 1984, he and Herring admitting to having used blackface makeup years earlier, and Fairfax accused of sexual assault by two women on separate occasions in 2000 and 2004, the notion that all three

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has resisted calls to step down. Blade file photo by Michael Key

might resign remains possible. Levine and the four other openly LGBT members of the Virginia General Assembly, all Democrats, have joined their fellow Democrats in the legislature in calling for both Northam and Fairfax to resign, despite the fact that the two — as well as Herring — have strong records of support for LGBT rights. Under the Virginia Constitution, Fairfax would be next in line to become governor if Northam should resign and Herring would become governor if both Northam and Fairfax resign. Levine told the Blade shortly before convening his Sunday night Listening Session that he is confident the “worst case” scenario that Cox would become governor and he would appoint an anti-LGBT lieutenant governor and attorney general will not happen. He said that with most Democratic officials only calling for Northam and Fairfax to resign, if those two agree to resign, Herring would become governor. And Herring, Levine said, would appoint LGBT supportive and progressive Democrats to serve as lieutenant governor and attorney general. Levine noted that the state constitution says the governor has authority to appoint a

lieutenant governor when there is a vacancy for that office and has authority to appoint an attorney general when that office is vacant only when the General Assembly is in recess. The constitution says the General Assembly, which is currently Republican controlled, is authorized to appoint an attorney general when it is in session. With Fairfax facing an intense onslaught of women’s rights activists and Democratic leaders across the country calling for his resignation, and with Northam making it clear he will not resign, observers say the most likely development could be a Fairfax only resignation. If that happens, Northam would be expected to appoint another Democrat to replace Fairfax as lieutenant governor. But not everyone agrees with that line of succession. Experts on the Virginia Constitution point out that the constitution says the governor has authority to appoint replacements for vacancies in all high-level state offices unless the constitution or state laws call for a different means of succession for a specific position. University of Virginia law professor A.E. Dick Howard, an acknowledged expert on the Virginia Constitution, has provided information to news media outlets, including the Blade, about the possible succession of the lieutenant governor’s position if Fairfax was to resign. Howard told the Blade in an email that a state law declares that when there is a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s position “the duties of that office shall be discharged by the President pro tempore of the Senate.” Howard said although it doesn’t say so explicitly, the law suggests that the governor could still appoint a replacement for the vacant position, at which time the state Senate President pro tempore would withdraw from carrying out the duties of lieutenant governor. But others have told the Washington Post that Republican lawmakers interested in retaining GOP control of state government offices could threaten to file a lawsuit to challenge an attempt by Northam or another Democratic governor to appoint his own person to become lieutenant governor. The current President pro tempore of the Virginia Senate is Stephen Newman (R-Lynchburg), another staunch conservative with a long record of opposition to LGBT rights and progressive causes. In 2006, Newman was one of the lead sponsors of the Marshall-Newman Amendment, which

banned same-sex marriage in Virginia. In recent years he was among the Republicans opposed to Medicaid expansion in Virginia. Levine, an attorney, said he believes the state constitution makes it clear that the governor can appoint a lieutenant governor and attorney general if those two offices become vacant. “If the governor and lieutenant governor were to leave office, even if they both did it at once, the Constitution of Virginia is very clear,” Levine said. “The Attorney General would become governor – no ifs, whats or buts,” he said. “And the attorney general could then appoint a new lieutenant governor and a new attorney general once he becomes governor,” said Levine. But Levine noted that the new governor could not appoint a new attorney general until the General Assembly is in recess, which is expected to take place in two weeks. Levine said he would expect that under the now unlikely event that Northam and Fairfax decide to resign they would wait to do so until after the General Assembly goes into recess so that the new Democratic governor could appoint their replacements. “So as long as all three don’t leave at once, gay folks don’t have to worry about a terrible situation,” he said. Except for Levine, the other LGBT members of the General Assembly have remained mostly silent on the controversy swirling around Northam, Fairfax, and Herring. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington) and Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William County), who became the nation’s first seated transgender member of a state legislature last year, issued short statements on social media last week calling for Northam’s resignation. They and the other two LGBT Virginia lawmakers – Del. Mark Sickle (D-Fairfax County) and Del. Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) – joined Levine, Ebbin and Roem along with all other Democrats in the House of Delegates and Senate in signing onto separate joint statements calling for Northam and Fairfax to resign. A Washington Post-George Mason University poll last week found that Virginia residents were evenly split over whether Northam should resign, with 47 percent of those polled saying he should resign and 47 percent saying he should not. Continues at losangelesblade.com





City of West Hollywood California 1984



To liberate Palestine, embrace LGBT Israelis Many are working for peaceful solutions

Joe Goldman, a former Point Foundation scholar, is based in Los Angeles.

“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” — James Baldwin Protesters interrupting a plenary at the Creating Change conference is hardly surprising. After all, a culture of protest and disruption on behalf of multiple causes run the gamut at the Creating Change Conference, part of its reputation. But disruptions chanting, “From the sea, Palestine will be free!” is a whole newlevel. It goes against the very values of inclusion, rejection of binaries, and embrace of complexity that Creating Change and the broader movement for LGBT equality stands for. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” is a rallying cry for Israel’s destruction. The call brings shivers to Jewish Israelis and the vast majority of global Jewry, especially since genocide that wiped out one-third of our people remains in living memory and just months after the worst anti-Semitic attack against us in American history at the hands of an armed right-wing extremist in Pittsburgh. This mindset fails to honor the need for self-determination and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Anti-normalization delegitimizes Israelis’ identities in ways that no other nation would ever be treated in LGBT spaces. I can’t fathom fellow activists telling an LGBT person who identifies as Saudi Arabian, Chinese, Palestinian, or Iranian that their identities or countries shouldn’t exist. The offensive battle cry only emboldens

extremists in Israel and their supporters abroad toward embracing anti-democratic norms, pushing for full annexation of the West Bank and leaving millions of Palestinians there as unrecognized, second-class citizens. I’ve witnessed firsthand how antinormalization gets used to silence legitimate critique, having been told I’m “not a real Jew” for my anti-Occupation activism and fear of the Occupation’s impact on Israeli society for the past half-century. To me, ending the Occupation and creating the momentum for an eventual two-state solution is the only way to secure Israel’s existence as a truly Jewish democratic state. Acknowledging that the nation of Palestine exists only enhances my Zionism; they are not mutually exclusive concepts. So you want to end the Occupation and liberate Palestine? Get to know LGBT Israelis, many of whom have been leading progressive movements in Israel. Israel’s LGBT community is on the front lines of the very anti-democratic, xenophobic, illiberal sentiments that are pervasive throughout the current Israeli public. They need our partnership, not our scorn. Perhaps LGBT activists everywhere should get to know the legendary Hagai El-Ad. He once ran the Jerusalem Open House, which is perhaps the most intersectional organization on the planet, serving the needs of wildly diverse LGBT people straddling the geopolitical and religious faultlines from secular Jews of West Jerusalem to religious Muslim Palestinians in West Bank cities under the Occupation. El-Ad went on to run the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the country’s ACLU. And despite ongoing threats from the Israeli government (including to lose his citizenship) and its supporters, he now runs B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. There’s also Avi Buskila, a candidate in the upcoming progressive Meretz party primary and the former executive director of Peace Now, Israel’s indigenous peace movement. Look at Chen Arieli, who is a scion of Israel’s progressive movements as the co-chair of the Aguda - the Israel National LGBT Task Force and a former aide to proudly antiOccupation MK Merav Michaeli. And there’s my dear friend Mickey Gitzin, who runs the

Israel office of the New Israel Fund, which has provided over $300 million to progressive Israeli civil society since 1979. Progressives would love my friend Anat Nir, who is also running in the Meretz party primary on an inspiring platform of optimism to bring disengaged Israelis to the polls. Labor MK Itzik Shmuliis challenging Israel’s entrenched wealth inequality and strengthening its weakened social safety net. The centrist Yesh Atid party just added activist Idan Roll to its Knesset list and launched a massive LGBT policy plan. LGBT leaders are challenging the Israeli political system to cease the downward spiral of dehumanizing the other, which gets to the very core of resolving the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Boycotting Israelis only creates a larger vacuum for extreme rightwing forces to scare the moderate center, which doesn’t want to keep ruling over another nation in perpetuity. Boycotts deny muchneeded political and financial support for our progressive partners on the ground who need us now more than ever. There are countless ways to help liberate Palestine and empower progressive Israelis without boycotts. Support groups like NIF its grantees (including Association for Civil Rights of Israel and B’Tselem). Take a look at A Wider Bridge’s capacity-building programs for LGBTQ civil society that include everything from Israel’s LGBTQ refugees programto Ma’avarim, which focuses on empowering Israel’s trans* community. At home, get involved with J Street, which played a decisive role in flipping Congress in 2018 with fearless leadership demanding pro-Israel, pro-two-state solution foreign policy. And simply acknowledging that LGBT Israelis are worthy of existing along the lines of their nationality and sexual orientation and gender identity/expression doesn’t cost any financial or political capital. Ending the Occupation requires more than being against something, it requires a vision for a future in which self-determination for both peoples is a reality. What we saw at Creating Change - and in too many progressive spaces - is a denial of the right to exist for one group at the expense of liberating another, which is simply a non-starter.

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Will we ever have a gay president? At this rate of progress, it’s an inevitability

Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.

Will we ever have a gay president? Probably, at some point, right? And I know what some of you are thinking? We had James Buchanan. The guy just before Lincoln who kind of tapped out of the whole thing right before the Civil War, the one who Andrew Jackson referred to him and the man he lived with as “Miss Nancy and Aunt

Fancy.” He’s generally regarded as our worst president, Buchanan that is. So, let’s not rush to name any LGBT centers after him. Fast forward to last month, when 37-yearold, and sadly taken, mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg threw his hat into the ring of Democratic contenders to take on Trump. On paper, Buttigieg has it all — a degree from Harvard, he’s a Rhodes Scholar, a veteran, a last name school children will ruthlessly mock for a generation. But will it ultimately be Buttigieg? Probably not. It’s a crowded field. And his last name is just not what we need right now. But it’s interesting that his candidacy isn’t bigger news. Maybe the whole ‘the first openly gay person to …’ just isn’t that big of a deal anymore? And while I think most of us agree that it won’t be Buttigieg, it seems generally assumed that one day we will have an openly gay president. An informal poll on my Facebook page saw that a majority of folks out there, almost four out of five, believe that one day we will have one of ours sitting in the Oval Office.

Two things sort of point to this inevitability. First, let’s look to Colorado. That state, one I would consider by no means reliably blue in its political make-up, elected its first openly gay governor, Jared Polis. I’m guessing if you asked Coloradans just 10 years ago if that were possible in their state, the majority would have said no. Asked then if they would like Polis to be governor, I’m sure the majority would have asked if there was anyone else available. But besides Polis, there’s Oregon’s Gov. Kate Brown and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both winning statewide elections recently. I mean, it will take a while for say, Mississippi, to elect an LGBT politician, but when have we ever held our breath for states like that to do the right thing anyway? Beyond what Colorado has shown us, it seems that liberal ideas over time just ultimately win out. And it’s just not that they win, people come around on them, from seemingly very little support to outright majorities in the span of a generation. Two of those — marijuana, and gay marriage —

seem to be the best examples here. Then you have non-political, just general queer visibility in America; queer entertainment like “Drag Race” is now mainstream. Buttigieg himself remarked on this trend. Telling reporters at one of his Washington events that “when I came out, Mike Pence was the governor of Indiana, when I joined the military, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was the law of the land, and when it first crossed my mind that I might run for office someday, I believed that coming out would be a career death sentence.” Coming out certainly hasn’t been a death sentence for him. But, in some ways, it wasn’t the headline grabber it once was either. Americans can move surprisingly fast on social issues, especially it seems on LGBT issues. And if we carry on at this rate, a gay person in the White House is not just a question to kick around on social media, but an inevitability for sure.

Gus Van Sant, Hollywood enigma Out director revives Robin Williams recovery drama with Joaquin Phoenix By BRIAN T. CARNEY

Despite a long and distinguished career as a writer and director, out filmmaker Gus Van Sant remains somewhat of a Hollywood enigma. He’s been openly gay for decades, yet remains a little reclusive and guards his private life carefully. He didn’t start making movies (and didn’t come out) until his 30s. Unlike other LGBT celebrities in Hollywood, he says his coming out probably didn’t have a big impact on his career. “I don’t know, actually,” Van Sant says in a Blade phone interview. “You can never really tell. I’m sure it has affected some things, but none that I can see.” Van Sant’s sexuality also does not seem to have directly impacted his work as a filmmaker. “I’ve done lots of different types of stories,” he says. While he’s often cited as one of the founders of the New Queer Cinema movement, not all of his movies have LGBT characters or themes. While certain themes (alienation, isolation and unrequited love) and character types (loners, hustlers and thieves) keep popping up in his work, his movies have covered a dizzying array of subjects and styles. They range from mainstream Oscar contenders like “Milk,” “Finding Forrester” and “Good Will Hunting” to indies and cult classics like “To Die For,” “Drugstore Cowboy” and “My Own Private Idaho,” and to esoteric art house fare like “Promised Land” and “The Sea of Trees” that were openly jeered when they opened at European festivals like Cannes. Despite some bankable stars and funding from Amazon Studios, Van Sant’s latest movie, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot,” now available on Amazon Prime, seems destined to be one of his cult classics. When the movie was released last summer, it received positive reviews, but failed to find an audience in a crowded release schedule. “Don’t Worry” is based on the memoir of the same name by quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan (1951-2010). Callahan became a quadriplegic at the age of 21 as the result of a car accident following a night of bar hopping. Callahan’s friend, who was driving, walked away without a scratch. Callahan

would never walk again. After years of AA meetings and physical therapy, Callahan became sober and gained partial use of his arms. He learned to draw by holding a pen between both hands. His sense of humor was very dark and his drawing was often rough and simple; his work is reminiscent of artists like Gahan Wilson, Charles Addams, William Steig and James Thurber. His cartoons were published by the Willamette Week newspaper in Portland, Ore., and often resulted in boycotts and protests against the paper. Van Sant became aware of Callahan’s memoir through his friend Robin Williams who played the wily therapist in “Good Will Hunting” (1997). “Robin Williams had optioned the book and wanted to play John Callahan,” Van Sant says. “In the ’90s, I developed a couple of screenplays for him, but by the time a final script was ready, he chose to do other projects.” Van Sant is not sure why Williams never played Callahan. “Possibly he thought this one was too risky. Thinking of his career, he needed to play it safe. Or he might not have liked the script. Or he might not have known how to approach the character.” After Williams’ tragic suicide in 2014, Van Sant returned to Callahan’s story. “I started over after Robin’s death. The original script was focused on Callahan’s search for his lost mother. He had a lifelong obsession with finding her (and) would drive around looking for her.” All he knew about her was that she was a red-haired Irish Catholic schoolteacher who gave him up for adoption when he was born. Callahan did discover her name, but never located her. Van Sant refocused the story on Callahan’s efforts to reclaim his life after the accident. “It’s an alcohol recovery movie,” he says. “I tried to match up some of the ideas of the Twelve Steps to things that happened in his life.” The final script tells Callahan’s redemption story in a fluid non-linear fashion that freely

moves back and forth between his life before and after the accident. “I tried to keep things logically and thematically connected so that audiences wouldn’t get lost,” the filmmaker says. Van Sant also decided to highlight the character of Donny, the openly gay man who was Callahan’s AA sponsor. The deep friendship between a straight man and a gay man, free of sexual tension, is something not often seen in mainstream movies. “According to Callahan’s book,” Van Sant says, “John really credited him with saving his life. Donny was a gay man in Portland, Oregon from a wealthy family. We couldn’t locate his family, but we know he died in 1985 or so. He’s sort of lost to history.” To play the challenging role of John Callahan, Van Sant turned to his old friend Joaquin Phoenix. Van Sant had directed Phoenix in his break-out role of the delightfully dim-witted Jimmy Emmett in “To Die For” (1995). A close friend of the Phoenix family, Van Sant had also directed Joaquin’s brother River in “My Own Private Idaho” (1991) and sister Rain in “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” (1993). Joaquin Phoenix had started his Hollywood career as a child actor with appearances in “Murder, She Wrote,” “Hill Street Blues” and other television series, including an ABC Afterschool Special. “He had also made some movies when he was younger, most notably ‘Parenthood’ and ‘Space Camp,’ but after that he decided to quit acting. By the time I worked with him, he was 20 and newly coming back to acting.” “To Die For” was a success for both star and director, but Van Sant and Phoenix didn’t get the chance to work together again until “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot.” “It was over 20 years between our movies together,” Van Sant says. “By then he had done so many giant things in different movies. He was a very outstanding, developed actor.” Working together again was interesting, Van Sant says, “because he was way more experienced and yet he was still somebody I knew as a friend. It was sometimes funny.”

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Director Gus Van Sant has thrived in both mainstream and more indie-leaning cinematic fare. Photo courtesy Amazon Studios

Van Sant rounded out the cast of “Don’t Worry …,” with a combination of rising stars and Hollywood veterans. He cast Jonah Hill in the pivotal role of Callahan’s sponsor Donny. Rooney Mara (“Carol”) plays Callahan’s girlfriend Annu; Carrie Brownstein (“Portlandia”) is Callahan’s frustrated caseworker; and Jack Black is Dexter, the drunk driver who was behind the wheel when Callahan suffered his life-changing injuries. There are also delightful performances from the members of Callahan’s support group, including Beth Ditto, Udo Kier, Kim Webber, Mark Gordon and especially Ronnie Adrian as Martingale, a gay artist who recites his poetry about penises. After watching “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot” on Amazon Prime, it may be time to schedule a Gus Van Sant retrospective.

Every LGBT movie fan should see “Milk,” the rousing and insightful biopic of assassinated gay rights activist Harvey Milk. Star Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black won Oscars for their work. Van Sant was nominated for Best Director and the film was nominated for Best Picture. After that, a Van Sant retrospective is a matter of personal taste. In the mainstream mode, there’s “Good Will Hunting” which introduced Van Sant to Robin Williams, who won an Oscar for his bravura performance, and made stars of newcomers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who won Oscars for their screenplay. Van Sant was nominated for Best Director but did not win. The delightfully campy thriller “To Die For” helped introduce American audiences to Nicole Kidman, She plays an aspiring television

personality who enlists two hormonal teens (Joaquin Phoenix and Matt Dillon) to help her in her schemes. The final image of Kidman is a haunting one. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s “Henry IV,” the queer classic “My Own Private Idaho” stars Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix as hustlers struggling to survive on the streets of Portland (Van Sant’s adopted hometown and a frequent setting for his movies). The Van Sant retrospective can include some of the music videos he’s directed for artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Elton John, Tracy Chapman, Chris Isaak, k.d. lang and some of the Beat Poets. What’s next? Van Sant says he’s “working on a screenplay, but there’s nothing ready to shoot yet.”

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Two enchanted evenings A grim ‘Cinderella’ and a vibrant ‘Uganda’ both uplift and delight By JOHN PAUL KING

‘Cinderella’ runs through March 10 at the Ahmanson Theatre, more info and tickets at centertheatregroup.org. Andrew Monaghan and Ashley Shaw perform. Photo by Johan Persson

Jamar Williams and Kameron Richardson star in ‘Witness Uganda,’ now showing through Feb. 23 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, more info and tickets at thewallis.org. Photo by Kevin Parry


Sir Matthew Bourne, as his many fans know, doesn’t do “traditional.” The Tony and Olivier-winning British choreographer became an internationally-known sensation with his groundbreaking, all-male imagining of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” in 1995; understandably controversial, it was also hugely successful, going on to become the longest-running ballet production in history. For his “Cinderella,” now onstage at the Ahmanson Theatre, he hasn’t pushed things quite that far outside of the box, at least not in terms of gender – although he does swap out the heroine’s fairy godmother with a decidedly male guardian angel. Still, anyone expecting a children’s tale set in a magic kingdom is going to be very much surprised. Drawing inspiration from Sergei Prokofiev’s score, which was composed during the darkest days of WWII, as well as from the classic British movies he grew up watching on TV, Bourne has reimagined the story as a melancholy romance set against the blitz-ravaged backdrop of wartime London – stripping it down to its bare bones in the process, and building upon it a new, entirely adult story. Instead of a prince, there’s a fighter pilot; instead of a ballroom, a dance hall; instead of a midnight retreat down the steps of the palace, a furtive exit into the nighttime streets after making love. In this incarnation, Cinderella is a grown-up – a bit of a frumpish plain Jane, at first, but warm and bursting with life. To her stepfamily have been added three brothers as well as the usual sisters – and yes, one of them is gay, keeping up with the out choreographer’s tradition of queer inclusion and visibility. Her sharp-shouldered stepmother is a grandiose, would-be femme fatale, à la Joan Crawford, whose cruelty edges beyond petty jealousy into sadistic, even murderous territory, and her father is a wheelchair-ridden silent husk of a man. Though it may sound a bit gloomy, Bourne’s “Cinderella” is crafted with the director’s usual blend of charm, whimsy, humor and imagination. His company, New Adventures, is dedicated to “dance theater,” as opposed to ballet, and “theater” is a better description of what you will see here – though the dancing is world-class, to be sure, executed with breathtaking grace and prowess, it’s the performers’ equallyexquisite acting skills that convey the emotional layers that bring the story home. Add the elegantly theatrical design of Lez Brotherston’s set and costumes, rendered in a palette which slowly blooms from the washed-out grays of a black-and-white film into the technicolor dreamscape that grows around the love story, and Bourne’s cinematic sensibilities transport us wholly into both worlds of his vision – the grim reality of a war-torn home front and the feverish swirl of a romantic fantasy coming to life in its midst. “Cinderella,” like most of Bourne’s work, is a lushly romantic fantasy, but it’s moored by the bittersweet recognition of inevitable tragedy. A happy ending is by no means a sure thing, here; magic slippers aside, it’s easy to imagine a final parting between Cinderella and her “Prince” from which no guardian angel can save them – and that makes the love story resonate far more deeply. The original “Cinderella” seems to promise eventual rescue from a world of woe, but Bourne suggests instead that we must grab our happily-ever-after in the here-and-now. With bombs falling from the sky, you never know if it’s going to be your last chance.

If Bourne’s “Cinderella” is darker than you might expect, “Witness Uganda,” at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, is much lighter. To our western ear, at least, with its preconceptions about Africa, it’s a title that conjures thoughts of distress, danger, and despair – but while those things may encroach around the margins of this “documentary musical” by husbands Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould, its narrative is in fact a tale of hope. An autobiographical piece exploring Matthews’ real-life experiences as a volunteer in Uganda after being expelled from his church choir for being gay, it follows his efforts to teach a handful of poor children after the education charity for which he was working turned out to be corrupt. As it tells the true – albeit fictionalized “for dramatic purposes” – story of his eventual establishment of the Uganda Project (a non-profit devoted to raising money for the education of his African wards), Matthews’ script takes on wider-ranging issues around the experiences of people of color – not just in Africa, but in America, too – while also focusing on his own efforts to find a place for himself as a queer man. The narrative is engaging and affecting enough, but it’s the personality of the piece -- the sheer, exuberant brightness of it – that stays with you. In a musical score that blends traditional African rhythms and styles with the familiar pop-flavored rock sound of modern musical theatre, Matthews and Gould manage to give expression to myriad voices that have been, all too often, disregarded by the white, heteronormative culture we live in; but these are not the sounds of anger, of bitterness, or of discontent – instead, they are uplifting anthems of endurance, of triumph, of community. Better still, the cast of “Witness Uganda” brings an explosion of talent to the mix, so much so that the performance space feels almost too small to contain them; led by Jamar Williams (as Griffin) and 12-time Grammy nominee Ledisi, they turn every musical number into a show-stopping powerhouse, while fully and directly connecting with the audience around them. It’s not only breathtaking, it’s inspiring; to see and hear this diverse and enthusiastic ensemble perform these songs is to experience the life-changing power of theatre firsthand. Their acting is great, too. Williams is engaging and endearing, a perfect queer hero in a role that requires him to neither “butch it up” or be flamboyant – a welcome and muchneeded change of pace from the usual gay stereotypes we’ve been trained to accept. Ledisi serves as a kind of high-priestess figure throughout, delivering blockbuster vocals all along the way; Kameron Richardson is compelling as a boy with whom Griffin forms a particularly strong connection, and Amber Iman stands out strong as his older sister and protector; and Emma Hunton is fully of brassy heart as Griffin’s longtime roommate who joins him in his charitable mission. The biggest stars of the show, though, are Matthews and Gould, who, besides writing and composing, also served as director and musical director, respectively; it’s their ten-year labor of love that comes to life in “Witness Uganda,” from both of their experiences volunteering in Africa, from their passion for musical theater and from their determination to make inclusive, activist theater both for and by marginalized people within the culture. They’ve created a show that deserves – no, demands – to be seen; the Saturday night performance in the small Lovelace Studio Theatre was not full, and it should have been. Grab your tickets and tell a friend.

B E A U T Y I S A B*T C H “One of the most ENTERTAINING and hysterically funny shows I have ever seen!” –Broadway World

’S SHE ! K C A B

“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

NOW PLAYING! THROUGH MARCH 24 TIX & INFO MissAmericasUglyDaughter.com PHONE LINE: 323.285.2078


Greenway Court Theatre

544 N. Fairfax Ave. LA, CA 90036



Gay, lesbian TV critics assess the 2019 lineup ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘Batwoman’ among new season standouts By SUSAN HORNIK

The CW’s ‘Batwoman’ played by Ruby Rose is among the most anticipated new shows. Photo courtesy the CW

The Television Critics Press Tour is underway and there are some unexpectedly great upcoming shows with LGBTQ characters would should all be excited about. The Los Angeles Blade’s Susan Hornik spoke to reporters about their thoughts.

John Griffith TV Critic/Executive Director, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics Frankly, to me, TV’s still having a tough time putting up shows that I call “Beyond LGBTQ” — i.e. shows that don’t just feature characters in the rainbow, but actually resonate deeply as grippingly human or richly funny because the humor’s incredibly universal in some way. I, of course, applaud shows that trumpet gay, lesbian, bi, trans and gender-fluid characters, but too often—even when the show’s creators are in the LGBTQ neighborhood themselves—the characters and themes come off to me as self-congratulatory, overly earnest, somehow self-conscious, still stereotypical and just not truly special. I feel the same about all characters in TV and even movies in general. I’m not THAT cranky—I’d just settle for genuinely entertaining, but even then . . . Anyway, I wanna first complement “The Walking Dead” and Ross Marquand for making us forget heroic, one-armed Aaron on that zombie drama is gay. He cares, loves, freaks out over zombies and bitches about other people just like all the other characters on the show. The writing’s pretty sharp this season in general, so I’d put this long-running hit’s new batch of episodes on the top of my LGBTQ winter/spring TV shows to DVR list. While I remain devastated that Comedy Central cancelled the sublimely ridiculous “Idiotsitter,” “The Other Two,” a just-premiered comedy with a random premise, is helping me nurse my wounds. Drew Tarver is perfectly dry as a sadsack New York actor with a sweet adolescent brother who’s suddenly a huge pop star. That music biz plot is incidental really to Tarver’s personal issues, which includes crushing out on his superhot roomie, a straight “bro” who is totally fine masturbating in front of him. The show’s balance of satire and “Girls-esque” angst was a little wobbly in the first episode, but the show’s already worked out its tonal kinks to become a uniquely sweet-hearted addiction. No wonder it’s been renewed for another season. Another highlight is “Killing Eve” season two! Sandra Oh as a spy and Jodie Comer as the psychopathic assassin she’s after and is attracted to . . . that’s a serious draw, especially after Oh’s character stabbed Eve in season one’s finale. I also like “The Red Line,” where Noah Wyle plays a man who’s cop-husband is shot dead. Thats the starting point of this groundbreaking network drama, produced by “Selma” director Ava DuVernay and Greg Berlanti. CBS, you’re looking more interesting! Hulu’s adorable new comedy, “Shrill” lets “SNL” star Aidy Bryant’s good heart and self-effacing Mary Richards-esque humor shine in this comedy about a journalist at an alternative weekly newspaper. Bonus: Hedwig himself, John Cameron Mitchell, plays her jaded boss. When it comes to shows in general, I’m especially keen on catching “Pennyworth,” EPIX’s “Gotham” prequel that shows a young Alfred Pennyworth (dreaaaamboat Brit star Jack Bannon) working security for Bruce Wayne’s billionaire dad Thomas in groovy ‘60s London. Brit retro-pop star, Paloma Faith absolutely kills it as his nemesis, a totally new villainess named Bet Sykes. Mark my word, she’ll soon be your favorite new bad girl. I am also excited about PBS’s miniseries version of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” with Dominic West as poverty-stricken, bread-stealing Jean Valjean and David Oyelowo as vile police guard turned inspector


Javert. Also, DC’s “Doom Patrol” is the most interesting, entertaining, satisfying superheroes show to come along in a long while.

Malcolm Venable, Senior Editor, TVGuide.com

Two shows that stand out most are Showtime’s “Black Monday” and “Boomerang” on BET. On the first, although a character is revealed to be gay, I’m most interested in seeing Andrew Rannells, who’s openly gay, play a character who’s straight. And on “Boomerang,” one of the male supporting characters is a masculine,bi/sexually fluid guy. He puts a new face on fluidity for black men that I felt was surprising and has the potential to open up the audience to see faces it hasn’t before on the network.

Brian Whisenant, Editor, Awardswiz.com

It’s been great to have “Will & Grace” back on network television, and I even considered watching “Grey’s Anatomy” again thanks to the very cute (and out) Jake Borelli (I settled for YouTube clips instead!) Many of my most recent queer discoveries have come from Netflix. I absolutely loved “Ander and Omar” on the Spanish show “Elite” (which also included a murderously sexy throuple) as well as the recent hit “Sex Education” with the fantastic Ncuti Gatwa as gay teen Eric. Both of those shows will be getting second seasons. After watching “Sex Education,” Netflix suggested I watch “Degrassi: Next Class,” which I quickly binged thanks to several delightfully queer characters. Too bad the show is still in limbo without a renewal in sight. But my favorite LGBTQ characters are on two recent Dorian Awardwinning shows. The entire cast of “Pose” is perfection, and I absolutely can’t get enough of both David and Patrick on “Schitt’s Creek.” Of the new shows, I’m most intrigued by “Batwoman.” I have a soft spot for Greg Berlanti and the CW and love that David Nutter is directing the pilot. I also have high expectations for Ruby Rose in the iconic role.

Shrill Photo courtesy Hulu

Trish Bendix, Freelance critic

Some shows I am particularly excited about: The return of “Vida,” which is a cast of Latinx queer women/nonbinary people and run by out EP Tanya Saracho. I love “The Other Two” on Comedy Central — unapologetic gay content. Obviously thrilled about the return of “The L Word” as that will provide several queer women in one single show in relation to each other — something that we rarely get to see. “Broad City” stars two queer women in a very grounded but hilarious universe full of LGBTQs and POCs. “Pose” is incredible — the performances, the stories, the people in front of and behind the camera. It’s a true community-based show. Lena Waithe continues to infuse queerness and blackness into her work in a way that has never really been allowed before, because networks are trusting creatives like her to dictate their own narratives and it’s paying off. Can’t wait for her TBS pilot, “Twenties.” I look forward to seeing how “Abby’s” does, with bisexual lead, Natalie Morales. There are things to look for and forward to, but the majority of programming today is still very cis straight and white, with maybe a pop of color or queerness every once in a while to fill a quota. The change is happening but it’s still slow — mostly because the programming reflects an audience based on the cis white straight guys in charge of networks.

Degrassi: Next Class Photo courtesy Netflix




‘Next’ from Ariana New album features Broadway, trap, pop, R&B and more By THOM MURPHY

Ariana Grande is out with a new full-length album just six months after her last. ‘Thank U, Next’ is a stylistic inverse of her 2018 album ‘Sweetener.’ Image courtesy Republic

It’s hard to imagine someone more on top of music world than Ariana Grande right now. It’s been less than six months since the release of “Sweetener,” which just won the Grammy for best pop vocal album of 2018, and Grande is already out with a follow-up. “Thank U, Next” is the fifth album from the 25-year-old singer and focuses on a darker side of her relationships. The album’s release around Valentine’s Day is no doubt a strategic choice, but an interesting one at that. “Thank U, Next” is a breakup album and functions as the B-side of the more cheery “Sweetener.” The album cover art suggest as much, which, like “Sweetener” features an upside-down picture of Grande, but this time in black in lieu of pastels and platinum blonde. In between the release of the two albums came Grande’s widely publicized break-up with SNL cast member Pete Davidson. But shortly after the split, Grande released the new album’s titular single, “Thank U, Next,” which became her first Billboard no. 1 single in the U.S. If we’ve learned anything from Taylor Swift, it’s that break-ups are an inexhaustible source of song material. But Grande has none of Swift’s vengeful hyperbole. Instead, she treats her past relationships with playful sarcasm that nonetheless celebrates her independence. “Thank U, Next” does this in a clever way: “Plus, I met someone else/We havin’ better discussions/I know they say I move on too fast/But this one gon’ last/’Cause her name is Ari/And I’m so good with that.” At this point the high quality of Grande’s musical output is a given and “Thank U, Next” doesn’t disappoint. But her ability to tap into the current cultural moment before it becomes cliché should not be sold short. “Selfcare” has become the operative phrase governing millennial attitudes toward romantic relationships and friendships and Grande has written the “self-care” anthem. The album opens with “Imagine,” a sexy R&B song that sets the tone. R&B has always been an important element of Grande’s music, but here it returns as the dominant influence for the first time since her 2013 debut “Yours Truly.” But even if R&B carries the day, she still pulls from a variety of places, including Broadway show tunes and trap music. “NASA” is another excellent track. It starts with a play on Neil Armstrong’s famous phrase, spoken by none other than drag performer and three-time “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant Shangela: “One small step for woman, one giant leap for womankind.” And the song is full of clever wordplay. “Baby, you know time apart is beneficial/It’s like I’m the universe and you’ll be N-A-S-A” goes the pre-chorus, followed by the line “You know I’m a star; space, I’ma need space” in the chorus. “Ghostin” begins with sweeping synth sounds, creating a spacy, ethereal effect. Like the rest of the album, the production value on this track is extraordinary. It’s too slow for radio, but is not to be overlooked. “Bloodline” is another great track and hearkens back to her sound on the 2016 album “Dangerous Woman.” The video for the most recent single “Break up with your boyfriend, I’m bored” has gained attention for Grande’s almost kiss with the girlfriend of her love interest in the video. It’s a suggestive choice for an artist who is particularly admired in the gay community. What’s missing from “Thank U, Next” are the big dance tracks that have featured prominently on her last three albums — “Into You,” “Break Free,” “One Last Time,” “Problem” and “no tears left to cry” all come to mind. The single “7 rings” perhaps comes closest. The tune is adapted from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things,” but with a trap-influenced twist. Like much new pop music, getting into it requires more than one listen but it quickly becomes a ruthless earworm. The song is innovative, but far from the best track on the album. The album shines brightest on tracks like “Bloodline,” “Ghostin,” “NASA” and “Needy.” But it struggles to measure up to “My Everything” (2014) and “Dangerous Woman,” which have set an almost impossibly high bar. Nonetheless, it’s a great complement to “Sweetener” and has more than enough substance to keep us hooked until the next one.



For aspiring collectors, this art fest is ‘Superfine’ Up-and-coming names thanks to a discriminating audience By JOHN PAUL KING

Tracy Piper’s ‘Truth,’is a limited edition print of 50, 20-by-16 inches and goes for $125. Image courtesty SuperFineLA

If you’ve always wanted to dabble in art collecting, but never thought it was quite within your budget, the Superfine! Art Fair, which comes to LA from Feb. 14-17, might be just what you’ve been waiting for. The curated street festival was created by partners – in business and in life -- James Miille and Alex Mitow, in 2015. “Alex is a photographer,” explains Mitow. “He was navigating the art world as an emerging artist, and I was sort of an outsider who had been around art for a long time but was never really in it from a business perspective, and I started to see what was going on. The market wasn’t really accessible to the people who could be buying art.” To answer the growing divide between the insular world of art and a public that appreciated art but couldn’t afford to buy it, the couple made it their mission to “empower collectors at all stages of their journey” and provide “the ability to take home work that they love, within their budget,” as well as to bring “joy and excitement into the art of collecting art.” Superfine!, as a result, is a brisk, fun sales atmosphere for exhibitors and collectors to come together. Begun as part of Miami Art week four years ago, the festival has evolved as Miille and Mitow built a team of driven arts professionals to make the magic happen year-round in New York, Miami, Washington D.C., and now Los Angeles, and more cities each year. “We’re kind of the inclusive, accessible art fair,” says Mitow. “That’s where we’ve positioned ourselves.” He goes on to explain, “There’s a lot of discrimination in the art world – about who is an art collector. We’re about redefining the profile of who loves art and wants to put it in their homes.” Part of that is about money – something the festival addresses by focusing on “an accessible pricing bracket.” With 90 percent of the artwork on offer ranging from $100-$5000, Superfine! makes for a truly approachable art experience where fledgling collectors can find something amazing on a budget that’s comfortable to them. Mitow says that diversity is also a big factor. Sellers often see people who don’t fit a narrow demographic – essentially affluent, older white people – as not being interested in purchasing art. Changing that perception, he says, “means including an outsized proportion of female artists, LGBTQ artists, artists of color – that’s kind of our M.O.” “We do curate,” he continues, defining their style as “accessible yet challenging,” but he says their “diverse exhibitor base” is really because they reach out for a diverse audience. As he puts it, “We create programming that’s geared toward the audiences that we serve.” For the LA debut of Superfine!, the festival will include a roster of more than 250 artists. Mitow says there will be a lot of highlights for audiences looking to connect with “really incredible” LGBTQ artists.

“David Jester, for instance, does these kind of precious paintings of men in pools, swimming – but they’re not sexual, they’re emotional paintings. They’re very beautiful.” “John Waiblinger, who’s based here in LA, does these portraits that redefine masculinity – photographs superimposed on backgrounds, almost seventies-ish but also really contemporary.” “Pansy Ass Ceramics - they’re these two guys from Toronto who are very quiet and shy, lovely guys. They make these amazing ceramics that are, like, very erotic. But cheeky. Not dirty, but really funny. I think everyone I know has a piece of theirs.” “They’re building a 600-square-foot-lounge area in the fair called ‘Pansyland.’” “And of course there’s my partner, Alex Miille. The series he’s showing is a new body of work for him, mostly dealing with the male body – he has some that are posed against lighted backgrounds, some that are more “high-conceptual.” The festival also features panel discussions, such as one called “Challenging Masculinity Stereotypes Through Art.” Set against the backdrop of the Pansyland installation, artists will tackle the difficult topic of how typical masculinity norms should be represented and re-evaluated through visual art. Says Mitow, “That one will be moderated by Zack Stafford, new editor-in-chief at the Advocate – one of Forbes’ ‘30 Under 30.’ He’s 28 and he used to be the editorial head of Grindr before he moved to the Advocate. It includes three artists from the fair, two who are gay men and one is a woman who does these incredible portraits of male couples.” Following that discussion will be a series of film shorts curated by the Miami-based OUTshine Film Festival. “They did a special one for L.A.,” Mitow says. “I gave them the directive of finding films that had a basis in Latin American queer identity – so we have a series of five short films all dealing with that concept, that will screen right after the panel.” Other highlights of the four-day event include the director-curated “This is America!” exhibition of diverse political art, the fair’s always-popular Young Collectors’ Ice Cream Social (Friday 2/15), and a Valentine’s Day Vernissage opening complete with cotton candy-topped champagne alongside live sax and DJ sets. The fair’s educational panels will feature artists, art luminaries and Hollywood notables, and a robust A/V program will be deployed throughout the fair. With all this diverse, accessible art, the Superfine! Art Fair seems like a must-do event for any art-loving Angeleno, queer or not. It’s a place where collectors, whether new or experienced, are bound “to discover the next masterpiece for the walls of their DTLA loft or bungalow in the Hills.” The Superfine! Art Fair takes place at DTLA’s Magic Box at The Reef (1933 South Broadway) from Feb. 14-17. Tickets range from $10 - $75. For more information and a complete list of artists and events, visit the festival’s Eventbrite page.

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Jake gets naked and Trump has Pecker in his pocket All the latest celebrity dish By BILLY MASTERS

Jake Gyllenhaal’s ‘unfortunate bangs’ are a distraction but there’s delight in watching the Neflix flick. Photo courtesy Netflix


“I don’t know why. I just...I always feel like I know him. I mean, maybe I have a little crush on him.” — Carrie Ann Inaba on David Muir. OK, which of us is gonna tell her? If I could have one gift for my birthday, it would be the Churro Donut from AMPM gas station. Doesn’t that sound like a bit of heaven? A churro and a donut? They make them overnight (yes, I recognize I am salivating over a food product cooked in a gas station) and in the morning, they go like hotcakes. Here’s the problem - I am rarely awake before noon. And by noon, they are sold out. I thought I came up with a perfect plan - to buy one before I fell asleep at 4 a.m. But they weren’t ready yet! If someone could figure out how I could have a fresh Churro Donut, that would be the best 50th birthday gift ever. With all the talk last week about David Pecker running photos of Jeff Bezos’ penis, few have mentioned the connection with Ronan Farrow. To recap, the Amazon founder claims that AMI, the parent company of “The National Enquirer” (published by Pecker), were trying to get him to refute his assertions that their exposé of his romantic affair was politically motivated. He says that’s why Pecker threatened to publicly publish pics of Bezos’ pubic area. Allegedly, Trump has Pecker in his pocket and has been using AMI to take down Bezos and his publication, The Washington Post. Did you follow that? Into this mess walks our very own Ronan Satchel Farrow Sinatra Allen O’Sullivan. He Tweeted that the National Enquirer made a similar threat against him. “I and at least one other prominent journalist involved in breaking stories about the National Enquirer’s arrangement with Trump fielded similar ‘stop digging or we’ll ruin you’ blackmail efforts from AMI. (I did not engage as I don’t cut deals with subjects of ongoing reporting.)” So, the question remains - does The Enquirer have pics of Ronan’s rod? Meanwhile across the pond, a gay porn star was fined 1,000 pounds for filming a gay threesome on a London subway car. George Mason, known to his fans as Hung Young Brit, shot the video with his boyfriend and an unidentified third man. The encounter took place on the Northern Line between Leicester Square and Waterloo stations. On that particular day, the entire journey took three minutes, including two stops. Perhaps they simply wanted to document the efficiency of the London Underground. The clip was shot in July of 2017, but he didn’t post it until February of 2018, and that’s when the problems started. A gay man saw the video online and reported it to the police. What’s interesting to me is that the clip clearly shows other people on the subway train. And yet none of them reported it. Just another day on the Tube. It is entirely possible that more people saw the video of this London subway threeway than Fox’s non-live “Rent.” “Rent” was the least watched live-ish musical in recent history. To put it in perspective, “The Sound of Music” with Carrie Underwood brought in SIX TIMES the viewership! People are using these statistics to explain why NBC has cancelled plans for “Hair: Live!” But, I would argue that NBC never had any intention of airing “Hair,” live or otherwise. It was a no-win situation - if they did the musical as written, they would be bombarded by complaints and protests about the nudity and the content. If they censored it, they would be blasted by everyone else. Speaking of musicals, we still may get a remake of “Gypsy.” As you’ll recall, Barbra Streisand’s long-planned turn as Nana Rose stalled at the station. But “Gypsy” is once again in development. Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”, is now in talks to direct the remake. Although Babs is no longer in the running, a new name has been floated - Melissa McCarthy. What’s interesting about that is the first time we heard of her singing was when she recorded a duet of “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”... with Streisand! Prophetic words, indeed.


Cannabis Culture Provided by NORML


Retail cannabis tax revenues surpass $1 billion State and local excise tax collections on retail adult-use cannabis sales surpassed $1 billion in 2018 — a 57 percent increase over 2017 levels, according to data compiled by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Annual excise tax revenues on adult-use cannabis sales ($1.04 billion) rivaled those for all forms of alcohol $(1.16 billion), the group reported. State-specific sales taxes on retail cannabis purchases also yielded an addition $300 million in revenue in 2018. Authors of the report estimated that cannabisspecific taxes would raise an estimated $11.9 billion annually if the product were legally available at retailers nationwide.

Patients substituting cannabis for anti-anxiety drugs

Taxes on adult-use cannabis sales surpassed $1 billion last year.

HALIFAX, Canada — Patients authorized to legally use medical cannabis frequently substitute it in place of benzodiazepines, according to a pair of new studies. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety. According to data compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control, benzodiazepines were attributed to over 11,500 overdose deaths in 2017. In the first study, Canadian researchers assessed the relationship between cannabis and benzodiazepines in a cohort of 146 patients enrolled in the nation’s medical marijuana access program. They reported that 30 percent of participants discontinued their use of anti-anxiety medications within two months of initiating cannabis therapy and that 45 percent did so by six months. “Patients initiated on medical cannabis therapy showed significant benzodiazepine discontinuation rates after their first follow-up visit to their medical cannabis prescriber, and continued to show significant discontinuation rates thereafter,” authors concluded. In the second study, investigators at the University of Michigan surveyed over 1,300 state-registered medical cannabis patients with regard to their use of opioids and benzodiazepines. They reported that 53 percent of respondents acknowledged substituting marijuana for opioids, and 22 percent did so for benzodiazepines. The studies’ findings are consistent with numerous other papers documenting patients’ use of cannabis in place of a variety of prescription drugs, particularly opioids and anti-anxiety medications.

Oral CBD aids children with autism: study TEL AVIV — The administration of plant-derived oral extracts containing cannabidiol (CBD) is associated with overall improvement in subjects with autism spectrum

disorder (ASD), according to clinical trial data published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology. Israeli researchers assessed the use of oral cannabinoid extracts in a cohort of 53 patients (median age of 11) with ASD over a period of at least one month. Oral extracts contained a 1 to 20 ratio of plant-derived CBD to THC. Subjects had no experience with cannabinoid treatment prior to the study. Seventy-five percent of subjects reported “overall improvement” in their ASD symptoms, specifically in the domains of hyperactivity, sleep, self-injury, and anxiety. The most frequently reported adverse effects associated with treatment were somnolence and changes in appetite. Investigators concluded: “Children with ASD commonly have comorbid symptoms such as aggression, hyperactivity and anxiety. There is an increase in the use of cannabidiol in children with ASD. Based on parents’ reports, our findings suggest that cannabidiol may be effective in improving ASD comorbid symptoms.” The findings are similar to those of other recent trials reporting that the use of CBD-dominant extracts reduces symptoms of ASD and is well-tolerated.

3 of 4 veterans would consider using medical cannabis NEW YORK — Seventy-five percent of military veterans say that they would consider using either “cannabis or cannabinoid products as a treatment option,” according to member survey data compiled by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). The organization represents over 400,000 veterans nationwide. Under existing federal regulations, physicians affiliated with the Department of Veteran Affairs are forbidden from providing medical cannabis recommendations, even in jurisdictions that legally permit private practitioners to do so. Overall, 83 percent of respondents expressed support for legalizing medical cannabis access, and 68 percent believe that the Department of Veterans Affairs “should allow for research into cannabis as a treatment option.” Proposed federal legislation to direct the agency to conduct clinical trials on the use of cannabis for PTSD and for other conditions is currently pending in the US House and Senate. Twenty percent of veterans surveyed acknowledged having previously used cannabis for medical purposes. Other studies have estimated that as many as 41 percent of veterans acknowledge having consumed cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Available data documents that cannabis is effective in the treatment of chronic pain and may potentially mitigate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, along with other conditions veterans commonly face. 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.

Spend Valentine's Day Weekend at LA's only LGBTQ+ owned and operated art fair.

Accessible, transparently priced artwork LGBTQ+ short film series curated by OUTshine Film Festival Immersive Pansyland installation by Pansy Ass Ceramics

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use code BLADE30 for 30% off all ticket types

Magic Box DTLA | 2.14-2.17 | 1933 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90007 LABlade_superfinead_10x10.indd 1

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