Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 43, October 25, 2019

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O C TO B E R 2 5 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 4 3 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M



14-year-old Calif. cheerleader abused with anti-gay slurs By STAFF REPORTS The father of a 14-year-old freshman cheerleader in California is speaking out after his son was abused with homophobic slurs and threatened physically at his high school on Oct. 18. The young victim, who has not been identified because he is a minor, had attended a prep rally where he was allegedly confronted by some members of the Adrian Wilcox High School Chargers’ football team who had directed homophobic slurs at him. School officials are still trying to piece together exactly what happened and asked for the Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) to investigate. In an interview with the Mercury News in San Jose on Oct. 21, the father of the cheerleader said that both his son and an unidentified female member of the cheerleading squad had been harassed and physically threatened. “We are fearful for his safety — now more

Adrian Wilcox High School

than ever,” the father said. The father indicated to the Mercury that his son had elected to return to classes. Jennifer Dericco, a spokeswoman for Santa Clara Unified School District told the Los Angeles Blade and Bay Area media outlets in a statement, “At Santa Clara Unified School District, we proactively work

to create an environment that embraces diversity and we do not tolerate harassment or bullying of any kind.” A SCPD spokesperson, Capt. Wahid Kazem told media outlets that his department has assigned two investigators to determine if any crime had been committed. Kazem acknowledged that there were conflicting

reports of the incident. On Oct. 19, an anonymous person posted a petition at Change.org, stating that; “At a football game on October 18th, members of the Wilcox High School Varsity football team chanted homophobic slurs (including “f-g”) at a male member of the cheerleading team. They called him ‘gay’ for cheerleading for THEIR team, and showing up every game to cheer them on.” The petition which had garnered nearly 3,826 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon, also noted; “While many people are aware of this incident, there is a slim chance much will be done to change this behavior by tweeting/ posting about it,” the petition, posted anonymously, stated. “The main purpose of this petition is to call the administration and football coaches to attention, so they can investigate this incident.” Continues at losangelesblade.com

ACLU slams Yuba Community College on anti-trans provision School provider says it’s “not subject” to the ACA’s non-discrimination rule. By STAFF REPORTS The ACLU of Northern California sent a letter to the Yuba Community College District and Tri-County Schools Insurance Group on Oct. 22 demanding they remove a provision in the district’s employee health care plans that discriminates against transgender people, with a blanketexclusion for gender-affirming care. ACLU client Brian Condrey, an English Professor at Yuba College, was refused health care coverage for his daughter Stella,

Brian Condrey

who is transgender. As a result, Condrey spent thousands of dollars so Stella could obtain medically necessary care that had been unlawfully denied to her.

‘’[A]ll the Condrey family’s claims of coverage for Stella’s gender-affirming care were denied on the basis of an explicit exclusion in your health plan,” reads an excerpt from the letter. “This exclusion, which appears on page 246 of the TriCounty Schools Insurance Group (TCSIG) Employee Health Plan … provides that the following care is not a covered benefit: “[c] harges for services, supplies or treatment for transsexualism, gender dysphoria or sexual reassignment or change, including medications, implants, hormone therapy, surgery, medical or psychiatric treatment.” The ACLU further noted that the only written explanation Condrey received regarding the exclusion was a letter from Delta Health Systems, the Third-Party

Administrator for the Health Plan, in November 2017 alleging that Yuba’s provider, TSCIG, “is not subject to the [Affordable Care Act] non-discrimination rule. Therefore, the charges were denied correctly and no allowance can be provided.” “This was blatantly illegal under California law which explicitly says you can’t discriminate based on gender identity,” Elizabeth Gill, a senior staff Attorney with the ACLU of Northern California and the National ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in an emailed statement. “It’s really distressing that in the year 2019, a public college in California would be engaged in this type of explicit discrimination against transgender people.” Continues at losangelesblade.com

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David Mixner is retiring After 60 years of service, the activist wants some time for himself By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com After 60 years of activism, the Tyler Clementi Foundation’s 2019 Individual Upstander Award presented on Oct. 23 may be the last honor David Mixner accepts in person. His new play, “You Make Me Sick,” scheduled to premier on Dec. 9 in New York, will be his public swan song. And then he’s going to retire, write, travel and “have some David time,” Mixner tells the Los Angeles Blade. “I am going to retire in some way due to a combination of reasons,” Mixner says. “My first action was in June 1959 when I did volunteer work every weekend for John Kennedy. And I’ve been of service for 60 years as of this past June, which is a long time.” Health is also a major factor. “I’ve had 11 surgeries and eight stays where I was critical in intensive care – some of them pretty brutal – and that’s taken a toll on me and my ability and my energy. And I have some other illnesses that I’m struggling with” he says. “But my voice will still be there and my writing, even though it takes a little longer and it’s a little more difficult to focus.” Surprise: Baby boomers are aging. “I wake up, I feel 21, laying in bed,” he says. “I move a leg and suddenly I feel 40. I put the legs on the floor, I feel 69. I stand up and I feel 73.” But Mixner’s not resentful about slowing down. “You know, that’s not a bad thing. I mean, if you look at what’s happening in America, I think there is this spectacular generation following us,” he says. “There are the kids at Parkland and the transgender youth who are bearing the brunt of our society’s oppression — but fighting with such nobility! And autistic 16-year-old Greta Thunberg leading the fight against climate change. I see nothing but hope.” Mixner does have a problem with the current use of the word “queer,” though – a term he still considers a slur. “It’s almost impossible to keep up with what people want to be called. And I respect all of it and I understand all of it,” he says. “But my first reaction [at hearing “gay” shunned and “queer” accepted]—my God,

“You Make Me Sick” Play photo courtesy Mixner

we almost walked out of the Democratic Convention in 1992 en masse if Bill Clinton wouldn’t say ‘gay’ in his acceptance speech!” But then, Mixner laughs. “This is just a sign of our success. We wanted the right to be who we were and we’d been so successful at it, people are fighting for themselves exactly how they want to be viewed.” Still, “I will always hate the word ‘queer’ because it was a derogatory term all my life. If people want to embrace it and remove the power from it, more power to them. I’m just not one of them. And I have the same right as everyone else does: I can define myself the way I want to define myself. And it can still be a work in process, even if 73.” Though he’s not in good health, Mixner says “I’m happy as can be. I’m very spiritual.” He has written a book with Brad Goldfarb called “From Fear to Dreams” that he hopes to get published next year. “I also am going to take some David time,” including time with friends, trips to Morocco, Iceland to

see the Northern Lights on New Year’s Eve, and one last Safari in South Africa. Looking over his long life of activism, he feels his time spent in 2006 with his two cats Sheba and Uganda in his remote bright yellow house at Turkey Hollow in Sullivan County, N.Y. was crucial. “It was the most important thing I ever did,” Mixner says. “Nature healed me of the trauma of HIV/AIDS, which I hadn’t dealt with in reality. I was able to make the transition from a major fundraiser, which everyone kept insisting that I be, to a writer through the blog.” But trauma is hard to shake. “I kept a roll of my friends who died and it ran to 308 people,” says Mixner. “I lost the most valuable people in my life. I gave 90 eulogies over those years for young men under 40 because I was a good speaker. So you can’t come out of that where you literally go from someone’s funeral to visiting someone else in the hospital and not be scarred.”

Then the recognition of age hit him. Mixner is fortunate to have lots of young friends who genuinely care about and for him – but their interests diverged. “I no longer wanted to go to the bars,” he says. “I’d much rather have a dinner party with my friends, as people do when they get older. And then I realized I had no friends to do that with. I would guess that 85% of people my age that I knew I could share a history with died in the epidemic.” No, “you don’t ever heal,” Mixner says. “What you do is find a place for the grief so it doesn’t interfere with the rest of your life—whether it’s meditation or spiritual or conversations like this every once in awhile. And writing. All my plays have been done since I’ve been in intensive care. “So I refused to live in the past,” says retiring activist icon David Mixner. “I refuse to be a victim. The best way to heal is to be into the future, to make things better for other people.”

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GLSEN’s Eliza Byard sees optimism in the dark Education group continues to push back against Trump policies By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Eliza Byard looks like she has a Ph.D. in history from Yale. But while comfortably erudite, the GLSEN executive director also has a knack for listening and responding as if on two tiers simultaneously — answering in a way anyone can understand while also throwing in textures of complex context. A resolutely sharp New Yorker with a deep appreciation for the significance of Hollywood images, Byard was born at the apex of the 60s Youth Movement — the end of the colorful Summer of Love and the beginning of the gritty fight for liberation — as if being a warm-hearted warrior was in her blood. The late Dr. Virginia Uribe, the lesbian Fairfax High School science teacher who founded Project 10 in 1984, was an inspiration. Uribe’s death last March, Byard tells the Los Angeles Blade, was “a tragedy beyond words. Virginia Uribe was a trailblazer and a treasure. At GLSEN, we were honored to recognize her with our Respect Award in LA [in 2012]. And she wasn’t just an inspiration to me, personally, and to our movement, generally — it is so hard to get to the point in our movement, in my life, where our heroes pass away. But she was such an important figure as an inspiration – she just got things done ... She was so important to GLSEN and so important to generations of students. She was an inspiration and someone I looked up to very much.” This year’s GLSEN’s Respect Awards on Oct. 25 at the Beverly Wilshire honor Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon Studios, actress Octavia Spencer, “Riverdale” and student Elle Smith for their “significant impact” on the lives of LGBTQ youth. The honorary co-chairs are a who’s who of purposeful Hollywood same sex coupledom, including Simon Halls & Matt Bomer and Greg Berlanti & Robbie Rogers. “In this moment when our government is being weaponized against us, I am particularly grateful to folks who work in culture and popular culture, who are holding

Eliza Byard Photo by DFree / Courtesy Bigstock

the line in terms of the inclusion of LGBTQ people — particularly for the students we work with,” Byard says. “It means the world that representation continues to be robust and expanding, that the universes that Hollywood creates include us.” “And as there is a concerted effort to erase us from protection and to erase us from two federal data sets and all those kinds of things, just being in LA and being with a creative

and business community that remains committed to the representation of LGBTQ people in the world that they create and put out across the globe, is hugely important. It means so much to get to celebrate some of those people.” After her meeting on Capitol Hill with the Equality Caucus Oct. 22, Byard was both hopeful and clear-eyed about these dangerous times.

“The Equality Caucus brings together an incredibly diverse group of members of Congress, who are committed to the idea that LGBTQ people should have full equality and that we need to take actions where we understand the problems, and protect them,” she says. “I was so heartened by just the profound understanding that this is a population of young people who need support, who need actions, and who are currently in the cross hairs of a lot of misinformation and vicious targeting.” The history scholar framed the times. “We are at a moment where everyone needs to mobilize in defense of our country remaining a pluralistic democracy. We’re at a moment where everyone needs to mobilize in the face of the deeply rooted racism that is being used right now to tear our country apart,” Byard says. “If we do not deal with the legacy of slavery in this country, if we do not deal with the effort right now by a small group of people to seize and hang on to the reins of power, we will squander the legacy of decades of works to create real and meaningful advances in the lives of LGBTQ people across this country.” “We need to understand,” she continues, “that Trump is only a symptom of the problems that we face right now. Trump is a convenience to a larger group of people who are interested in undermining institutions that have made our equality possible. And, from my world and from GLSEN’s world, there are organized interests that would like to do away with public education. They’re pretty interested in doing away with civil rights enforcement by the Department of Education as a whole.” Byard’s on a roll. “And we need to recognize that, if we do not all stand together, we surely will all fall separately,” she says. “And the issues now are urgent. They are sharp, and they are time bound. We need to ensure that everyone in our communities, everyone who’s LGBTQ across every category of community that there is in this country, needs to be thinking about mobilizing to vote, to protect our institution, to be invested in the equality and the equity of every other member of our society. Because, when we do not tackle fundamental philosophies, they are there to be used against you. The good news is there is nothing we can’t do if we pull together and focus on it.” Byard says Trump and his administration



Eliza Byard and Wilson Cruz Photo courtesy of GLSEN

have tried to reverse decades of progress for LGBTQ youth — but the fight for equality has touched so many hearts and minds, activists and ordinary people on the ground are fighting to keep that progress intact. “I believe that Trump’s interest in sustaining his own power means that he doesn’t care, which means that he’ll sell us out pretty quickly,” Byard says. “We also know very clearly that the vice president [Mike Pence] has a distinctly anti-LGBTQ agenda. He and his wife live their lives that way. And he himself, in terms of GLSEN’s issues, devised the voucher program for Indiana that has sent more than $19 million directly to schools that discriminate against LGBTQ people.” “We also see a movement around the world to use LGBTQ, particularly transgender people, as a wedge issue in places where there are authoritarian figures who want to grab power,” she says. “And there are very active efforts across Eastern Europe and in parts of Latin America to talk about trans

issues as a way to divide voters that might otherwise find common cause with each other.” In fact, anti-LGBTQ issues have become an issue around which dispirit groups can find common ground and do a lot of harm. LGBTQ youth saw “tremendous progress” in reduction of violence between 2005 and 2015 that had “material benefit for LGBTQ students” that directly contributed to “their better chances of doing well in school and sticking with it, and graduating and going on to college, as well as just living a healthier and happier life. In 2017, we saw this progress slow and really plateau in a way that was unbelievably discouraging, because there had been such progress previously. And it’s taken a tremendous amount of direct action on the part of the current Administration to slow that progress.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “made it her first job to withdraw protections for transgender students,” she notes “and across the administration, efforts to remove

LGBTQ people from regulation and from anti-discrimination language has really made us a top target.” However, while not giving anything away on the new National School Climate Survey, for which they just closed data collection, Byard says “I’m hoping what I think we will see is whether the goodwill of the education community and the very focused efforts of people on the ground to mitigate the impact of the violence emanating from the presidential administration is having an effect. And for me, seeing the plateauing continue rather than a resurgence of violence, would represent a victory, and the results of a great deal of work.” GLSEN, Byard notes, has been fighting for non-discrimination policies for LGBTQ youth for almost 30 years. “When we started our work, people didn’t even think that you were LGBTQ before you went to college,” she says. “But now what we’ve found in working with professionals across K through 12 education, is that there

is an overwhelming professional consensus among educators and healthcare providers and school settings and school mental health providers that LGBTQ youth, not only do they exist, but it is the job of a professional educator to make sure that they’re safe and affirmed at school.” “More than 80 percent of school based mental health providers say it is their job to support and affirm an LGBTQ student who comes to them for help,” she says. “Among teachers, and if the figure is close to 80 percent, and among principals it’s around 60 percent. And what’s important, is that there is this overwhelming sense of responsibility and goodwill, and the work to be done is to ensure that every educator out there has the tools and training that they need to know what to do”. As a sign of hope, the historian and social justice warrior says, “I think it’s so important to always remember there are so many more of us than there are them, when it comes to the wellbeing of LGBTQ youth.”



Katie Hill refutes Republican ‘smear campaign’ Calif. Democrat denies ethics rules breach By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com California Republicans were expected to launch a major 2020 offensive to win back the six congressional seats they lost to Democrats in 2018. And with Donald Trump as a model for ugly tactics, it should not be surprising that GOP operatives would exploit bisexual Rep. Katie Hill’s private pain as she suffers through an acrimonious divorce. After all, salaciousness in the name of traditional family values has long been a feature of Republican dirty tricks from salivating Stormy Daniels fans. But there is a particularly audacious twist to this attack. RedState, the conservative online site that originated the first rumor, claims the LGBTQ press made them do it. “A story in Metro Weekly covering a resolution introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) condemning Sec. Ben Carson’s comments about transgendered people, which identified Hill as a ‘lesbian’ seemingly prompted Hill’s estranged husband to out her on an entirely different issue,” RedState reported on Oct. 10. “Out lesbian?!? Then why has she been sleeping with her (male) finance director for the past year at least?” wrote Kenny Heslep who filed for divorce in July, requesting spousal support. “I couldn’t dispute this if she was still holding to being bisexual. But but being with her husband (me) for almost 15 years and then leaving me for another MAN, not woman, whom she is still seeing, is not her being a lesbian. Bisexual yes, as I will back up her claims to this. But not lesbian alone.” Heslep, who lives in LA and didn’t explain how he came across the news items in the local LGBT Washington D.C.-based paper, did not offer any supporting evidence of the alleged affair with Graham Kelly, Hill’s former finance director and current legislative director. The allegation, if true, would be a violation of House ethics rules and possible cause for an investigation of one of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s favorite newcomers, having appointed Hill vice chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee that is now involved with the impeachment inquiry

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) Blade file photo by Karen Ocamb

into Trump’s fitness for office. After there were no media bites on that report, RedState upped the ante, publishing a nude photo of Hill brushing the hair of someone seated in front of her, along with text messages among Hill, Heslep and an apparent young female campaign staffer with whom the married couple seemed romantically engaged. Twelve days later, Hill was forced to deny having the rumored affair with a staff member but refused to indulge in the sensationalist idea of a “throuple.” Conservative critics called on Hill to resign, claiming national security was at stake since she could have been blackmailed. Others linked the affair to the #MeToo movement since the workplace power dynamic means any employee cannot have a “consensual” relationship with an employer. There are no ethics rules that apply to campaign workers, though Hill critics apparently think it’s a good idea to create some. For the record: Hill was 30 when she ran for Congress from the 25th District; the unnamed campaign staffer with whom she and her husband allegedly had an affair was 22. As the leaked text messages indicate, Hill was breaking off the extra-marital

relationship before she entered Congress. “Allegations that I have been involved in a relationship with Mr. Kelly are absolutely false,” Hill said in the statement to Politico. “I am saddened that the deeply personal matter of my divorce has been brought into public view and the vindictive claims of my ex have now involved the lives and reputations of unrelated parties.” Neither Heslep nor Kelly responded to requests for comment from the Washington Post. “Intimate photos of me and another individual were published by Republican operatives on the internet without my consent,” Hill said in the statement. “The fact is I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me,” she continued. “I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain.” The accusation of sexual impropriety, she said, “is despicable and will not succeed. I, like many women who have faced attacks like this before, am stronger than those who want me to be afraid.” Hill promised to keep working. “This smear campaign will not get in the way of the work I am doing every day to move our

district and our country forward. I am truly grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from colleagues and constituents alike, and I know we will get through this together.” Hill said she’s notified Capitol Hill police about the distribution of the photos without her consent. “Revenge porn” is against the law in California. Hill has also spoken with Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (DMd.) about the matter. Hoyer declined to comment to the Post and a spokesperson for Pelosi said she was headed to Baltimore for the funeral of her brother. “Congresswoman Hill has been a champion for the 25th District. The voters sent her to Washington to defend healthcare, stand up for middle-class families and fight for equality — and that’s exactly what she’s done. This shameful, anti-LGBTQ smear campaign is a despicable invasion of privacy, and we won’t dignify it with a response. Neither should the media,” Samuel GarrettPate, communications director for Equality California, told the Los Angeles Blade. As the Blade goes to press, Politico reports the House Ethics Committee has launched an investigation into allegations against Hill.


“We got a queer running for president if that ain’t about as ugly as you can get.” — Sevier County (Tenn.) Commissioner Warren Hurst during a public gun debate Oct. 21, via HuffPost.

“We have a situation in this country right now that is temporary, but even in this temporary time, it becomes extra important because those who don’t want us here are emboldened in their beliefs.” – Judy Shepard commemorating the anniversary of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Time to Thrive Conference.

“We mutually agreed to a sixmonth lease with the Oracle Mall in Reading as part of a longer-term strategy for us as we look to expand our international presence.” — Statement from Chick-fil-A after U.K. outlet announced closure after LGBTQ protests, via BBC Oct. 18.

HIV/AIDS was a major subject at the Oct. 10 HRC/CNN town halls. But actually venturing into Downtown LA to donate time, money and effort walking roughly five miles to show support for APLA Health’s 35th Annual AIDS Walk is a real sign of commitment. The theme this year was “AIDS Has Met Its March,” joining the event with the advances in HIV prevention through PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Recently, Gov. Newsom signed a bill that enables pharmacists to provide PrEP and PEP without a doctor’s prescription and prior authorization from an insurance company. Over its 34 years, AIDS Walk Los Angeles has raised more than $88 million to fight the disease. According to LA County there are 60,946 people living with HIV in the county, which has devised its own strategy to reduce the number of HIV and APLA Health AIDS Walk Photo by Brian Lowe, via APLA end the AIDS epidemic “once and for all.” Roughly 10,000 people participated in AIDS Walk Los Angeles, Alex Medina, director of communications at APLA Health, tells the Los Angeles Blade. And while the Oct. 20 event is over, fundraising is still open until Nov. 15. So far, the 37-year old organization has raised $1,527,786 of an $1.8 million goal. The turnout this year is an increase over last year, Medina says, with students taking it upon themselves to block the usual protesting homophobes. “They’re advocates. It’s encouraging,” he says. “It’s heartening to hear that even as hate crimes go up, we still do have advocates doing what’s right.”



Black LGBT leaders rebuke Trump for ‘lynching’ tweet Comparison to impeachment called ‘simply revolting’ By CHRIS JOHNSON Black leaders in the LGBT community are rebuking President Trump for comparing the impeachment inquiry against him to lynching — a practice that claimed the lives of thousands of black Americans over the course the nation’s history. David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, called the comparison between the two “grossly irresponsible and ignorant.” “Trump’s misdirected comparison is reflective of the work that still remains to ensure all Americans are aware of the legacy of racial terror that was lynching and the threat of lynching Black people,” Johns said. Johns, who said he spent the last weekend at the National Memorial for Peace in Montgomery, Ala., said Trump should visit the Equal Justice Initiative — an Alabamabased organization that seeks to challenge racial and economic injustice. The House impeachment inquiry proceeded this week based on evidence Trump improperly made U.S. government aid to Ukraine conditional to investigating his potential political opponent Joseph Biden. Among those who testified was Bill Taylor, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who expressed concern about a quid pro quo in now-public text messages. In apparent frustration with the inquiry, Trump on Tuesday compared the process to lynching. The tweet — perhaps intentionally — created an uproar in the media. After all, the U.S. president was comparing an impeachment process explicitly permitted under the U.S. Constitution to extrajudicial lynching. According to the Tuskegee Institute, 4,743 people were lynched in the U.S. between 1882 and 1968. Not all were black: The number counts 3,446 African-Americans and 1,297 whites. More than 73 percent of these lynchings occurred in the South.

Black LGBT activists have rebuked President Trump over his comparison to the impeachment inquiry against him as a ‘lynching’ Blade file photo by Michael Key

Alphonso David, who’s black and the new president of the Human Rights Campaign, drew on these numbers in his own tweet condemning Trump’s remarks as “simply revolting.” “Learn your history, @realDonaldTrump,” David tweeted. “From 1882 to 1968, at least 4,743 lynchings occurred in the U.S. Of those lynched, 3,446 were Black. To compare an inquiry into your alleged corrupt behavior to the murders of innocent Americans is simply revolting.” White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said Tuesday during a gaggle with reporters at the White House Trump was “not comparing what‘s happened to him with one of our darkest moments in American history.” “He’s just not,” Gidley added. “What he’s explaining clearly is the way he’s been treated by the media since he announced for president. The word impeachment was used about this president the day he was elected and before he was even sworn into office.” But Trump has a history of racist rhetoric both as a presidential candidate and president. Most recently, he tweeted four Democratic congresswomen of color should go back to their home countries and

attacked the late-Rep. Elijah Cummings for representing a district filled with “rats and rodents.” Earl Fowlkes, CEO of the D.C.-based Center for Black Equity, was among the black leaders condemning Trump for his latest tweet. “It’s unfortunate that Thump would evoke a term which has such a painful connotation for African-Americans to describe his self inflicted political missteps,” Fowlkes said. “Trump’s blatant disregard for the rule of law is the core of his alleged ‘suffering.’” Trump invocation of lynching recalls a similar comment now-U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas made in 1991 during his confirmation process, which was marred by allegations of sexual misconduct from Anita Hill. Faced with the threat of losing Senate confirmation, Thomas testified the process was a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.” Thomas was ultimately confirmed on a narrow basis. John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University, said in a statement Trump and Thomas both made “clear distortions” of lynching, but Trump’s tweet may similarly be helpful to the U.S. president. “Unfortunately, in our time of increasingly divisive politics and words, powerful but deplorable language may be effective for Trump, at least in the sense that it is more likely to bring him sympathy and support rather than condemnation, especially among those he is counting on to re-elect him as president in 2020,” Banzhaf said. One exception to black LGBT leaders’ condemnation of Trump was Rob Smith, a gay black conservative political commentator and member of the proTrump group Turning Point USA. Smith told the Washington Blade “the same do-nothing ‘leaders’ seeking to create moments for themselves over an inarticulate tweet” had nothing to say last year about Trump signing into the law the First Step Act. “I have spent time lobbying on Capitol Hill to get the First Step Act passed,” Smith said. “I have talked to the African-Americans whose lives were changed by that legislation. I have

been in the East Wing of the White House when the president addressed hundreds of young African-Americans and brought one Somali-American immigrant onstage to lead a prayer. When you have seen actual change, you become less concerned with a tweet, as ill-advised as it may be.” The First Step Act has released an estimated 3,000 prisoners who were incarcerated for nonviolent crime, 91 percent of whom were black. Smith accused civil rights leaders of being pre-occupied with Trump’s Twitter account and not working to advance their communities. “I’m not particularly interested in the comments of pseudo-leaders who aren’t interested in doing anything to truly help Black or Gay and Lesbian America on a national level when a Democrat isn’t in office,” Smith said. “And that includes any hacks from GLAAD, HRC or GetEqual who have shared their ‘thoughts.’” Republican lawmakers in Congress largely distanced themselves from Trump’s tweet. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said “that’s not the language I would use,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.C.) said the tweet was “inappropriate in any context” and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a staunch Trump defender, sought to justify the tweet by saying “the president’s frustrated.” One exception was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a one-time Trump critic who has become a stalwart Trump defender. Asked about the comment, Graham said, ‘This is a lynching in every sense. This is unAmerican.’” Nadine Smith, who’s black and executive director of Equality Florida, drew on a conspiracy theory in her condemnation of Trump’s tweet: The president is blackmailing Graham. “It is not surprising Trump has used the term lynching to inflame and distract from self-inflicted charges of corruption and possible treason,” Smith said. “Racism is the centerpiece of his appeal to his diehard base. I find the silent cowards and lapdog defenders in his party to be even more appalling. He must have all the dirt on Lindsey Graham.”



Senate Dems buckle on trans service in defense talks: Source Accusations called ‘inaccurate’ as NDAA talks continue By CHRIS JOHNSON In a rare display of intraparty fighting over LGBT rights, a senior Democratic aide is accusing Senate Democrats of buckling in efforts to overturn the transgender military ban as part of closed-door negotiations for major defense spending legislation. Amid negotiations for the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill, the senior Democratic aide last week faulted Senate Democrats for failing to push for inclusion of the “Harry Truman” amendment introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and approved by the U.S. House as part of the legislation. “There is deep concern that Senate

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), second from right, joins transgender service members in the Capitol Rotunda before the State of the Union Address on Feb. 5, 2019. Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key

Democrats led by Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are not fighting hard enough to retain the reversal of Trump’s transgender military service ban in the final NDAA conference report,” the aide said. “Ten House Republicans joined with House Democrats to pass the Speier amendment.

We hope Senate Democrats will reverse course and make this a top priority in the negotiations.” The “Harry Truman” amendment, named for the executive order President Truman signed in 1948 to desegregate the military, would reverse the trans military ban the Defense Department implemented in April

as a result of direction from President Trump. The measure would not only restore trans military service, but prohibit the U.S. armed forces from discriminating against LGBT service members. The amendment states the military must consider applicants based on genderneutral occupational standards and military occupational specialty, but “may not include any criteria relating to the race, color, national origin, religion, or sex (including gender identity or sexual orientation) of an individual.” Further, the amendment states any Defense Department personnel policy for members of the armed forces “shall ensure equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces, without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, and sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation).” Continues at losangelesblade.com

Elijah Cummings dies at Baltimore hospital Md. Democrat chaired impeachment committee, backed state’s marriage law By MICHAEL K. LAVERS Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings died on Oct. 17 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Cummings, 68, represented Maryland’s 7th congressional district, which includes portions of Baltimore, since 1996. Cummings most recently chaired the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is among the committees leading the impeachment inquiry against President Trump. The Associated Press notes Cummings backed needle exchange programs as a way to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Cummings in October 2012 was the last member of the Maryland Democratic

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) died in a Baltimore hospital on Oct. 17, 2019.

congressional delegation to publicly back the state’s same-sex marriage law. Cummings spoke with the Washington Blade about the issue less than a month before Maryland voters upheld the statute in a referendum. “I respect and support the decision of the Maryland legislature and will vote in support of Question 6,” said Cummings.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are among those who mourned Cummings’ death. “Congressman Cummings leaves behind an incredible legacy of fighting for Baltimore City and working to improve people’s lives,” said Hogan in a statement. “He was a passionate and dedicated public servant whose countless contributions made our state and our country better.” Trump, who has previously attacked Cummings, in a tweet extended his “warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings.” “I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader,” tweeted Trump. “His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace.” LGBTQ activists in Maryland also mourned Cummings death. “What a terrible loss for the people of Baltimore and of Maryland,” tweeted

Maryland LGBT PAC Treasurer Brian Gaither, who is also the co-founder of the Pride Foundation of Maryland. Maryland state Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery County) described Cummings as a “servant, leader and statesman.” Maryland state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) also mourned Cummings. “There are no words to sufficiently convey the depth of our sorrow when we learned of the passing of this great man,” wrote Washington on her Facebook page. “We in the 43rd District, Baltimore City, Maryland and worldwide have been blessed to count on him as a friend and mentor. He has been with us in every fight. A strong and steady light in what was too frequently a dull and dismal political landscape. A champion who gave a full-throated voice to our hopes and our outrage.” Continues at losangelesblade.com



Northern Ireland marriage equality law takes effect Same-sex couples in UK country to begin marrying in 2020 By MICHAEL K. LAVERS A law that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland took effect on Oct. 22. Northern Ireland’s Stormont Parliament has not met since the country’s coalition government collapsed in 2017. The British Parliament in July voted to force Northern Ireland to allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot and to decriminalize abortion.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in England, Wales and Scotland since 2014. Ireland in 2015 became the first country in the world to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples through a popular vote. The BBC reported the first same-sex weddings in Northern Ireland are expected to take place early next year. “Change has finally come today and we are on the way to being equal with our fellow citizens,” tweeted Belfast Pride after the law took effect. “It has taken many years of work to get this far.” Paul Twocock, chief executive of Stonewall, a British LGBTQ advocacy group, also applauded the law. “LGBT people in Northern Ireland have

A law that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples and decriminalizes abortion in Northern Ireland took effect on Oct. 22.

waited for too long for marriage equality and we can’t wait to see same-sex couples across

Northern Ireland marrying the person they love,” said Twocock in a statement.

Costa Rica campaign seeks to bolster marriage equality support By MICHAEL K. LAVERS More than 30 groups have joined a campaign designed to increase support for marriage rights for same-sex couples in Costa Rica. Sí, Acepto (“Yes I accept” in Spanish) formally launched in August and includes ads that feature LGBTI Costa Ricans’ relatives, friends and teammates. The campaign also includes workshops on the issue that will take place across the country. “This first phase is real stories that talk about (people)’s experience as a dad, as a mom, as an uncle, as a brother, etc., when they realized someone in their family was gay or lesbian,” Sí, Acepto Project Manager Gia Miranda told the Washington Blade last month during a WhatsApp interview from Costa Rica. Miranda added those featured in the ads also talk about how they “now understand” their loved one’s sexual orientation or gender identity “doesn’t change their love

for that person one bit.” Freedom to Marry Global has also provided support to the campaign. “Advocates in Costa Rica have built a powerful campaign rooted in conversation as the engine of change,” Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, told the Blade in a statement. “It’s been proven time and time again — in the U.S. and across many countries in Latin America — that when people hear why marriage matters to their gay and lesbian neighbors, as it does to them, and talk about personal stories and shared values, support for the freedom to marry grows.” Costa Rica lawmakers face 2020 marriage deadline The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is based in the Costa Rican capital of San José, in January 2018 issued a landmark ruling that recognized same-sex marriage and transgender rights. Then-Costa Rican Vice President Ana Helena Chacón announced her government

was going to comply with the ruling, which the court announced weeks before the first round of the country’s presidential election. Carlos Alvarado, who publicly supports marriage rights for same-sex couples, was elected president of Costa Rica in April 2018. His opponent in the election’s second round, Fabricio Alvarado, made his opposition to the issue a centerpiece of his campaign. The country’s Supreme Court last November gave members of the Costa Rica National Assembly a deadline of May 26, 2020, to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ decision takes effect. Opposition to marriage rights for samesex couples remains high in Costa Rica, even though the country is seen as a champion of human rights in the region. Costa Rica this month challenged Venezuela’s campaign for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council. The Washington Post on Thursday reported Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said his embattled

government “faced a ferocious campaign” after the country won with the support of Cuba and other allies. Protests against the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, began in April 2018. Nicaraguan LGBTI rights advocates are among those who have fled to Costa Rica since the protests and the crackdown against them began. “Costa Rica is a very important pillar for all of us in Central America,” Miranda told the Blade, while adding that conservative and anti-LGBTI attitudes persist. “Costa Rica is a pillar for human rights.” Wolfson said he remains confident the campaign will pave the way for same-sex couples to legally marry in the country. “As Costa Rica prepares to usher in a new era of recognition and respect for all families, the Sí, Acepto campaign will ensure that this landmark marriage victory will unite the country under the shared values of the Costa Rican people,” he told the Blade.

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We need press freedom Is the idea of ‘the truth’ crumbling? By REP. ADAM SCHIFF (Editor’s note: Rep. Adam Schiff, who represents California’s 28th congressional district from Burbank to West Hollywood, is the man of the hour for what seems like 24 hours, seven days a week as Chair of the House Intelligence Committee and the lead inquisitor of witnesses testifying in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. As with grand jury testimony, witness depositions are taken in secret – in this case with questions asked by committee Democrats and Republicans looking into Trump’s phone call admission that he withheld congressionally-appropriated arms and funds to Ukraine until the new president of that country agreed to dig up dirt on Trump’s anticipated 2020 rival, Joe Biden and his son Hunter, to help with Trump’s re-election campaign. Abusing the office of the presidency for personal gain is apparently the focus right now of possible articles of impeachment. Whether Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, restricts the inquiry to Ukraine or expands it to include violations of the Emoluments Clause or other high crimes and misdemeanors remains to be seen. For stepping up and seriously doing his Constitutional duty, Schiff has been repeatedly threatened, harassed and excoriated by Trump, his supporters and Trump’s minions in the media who place loyalty to Trump over honestly informing the public. On Oct. 23, two dozen conservative Republicans barged into the secure congressional office suite to disrupt testimony, claiming the press should be allowed in, too. The stunt fooled no one since Democrats already promised to hold open hearings and make complete testimony transcripts public, minus classified information. Remarkably, in the midst of this ongoing historical moment, Schiff – whose district includes the Los Angeles Blade — took time

Rep. Adam Schiff

out to record a video congratulating the Washington Blade on 50 years of serving the LGBT community. While his edited video was applauded enthusiastically at the Blade’s Oct. 18 gala, his message on the importance of press freedom is critical for a larger audience to absorb. Here is a transcript of Schiff ’s full message – Karen Ocamb Good evening. I’m Congressman Adam Schiff and I proudly represent California’s 28th congressional district I sorry that I can’t be with you tonight, but I wanted to extend my congratulations to the Washington Blade on your 50th anniversary. For half a century now, the Blade has been an incredible resource for the whole country. Supporting quality journalism has always been a priority for me. Years ago, I founded the Press Freedom Caucus, a bipartisan caucus dedicated to promoting international press freedom and speaking out for journalists overseas who face detention or even death for their work. And journalists in many nations still face immense dangers just for doing their jobs while autocrats the world over seek to reign in or silence independent voices that can

hold the powerful to account. Press freedom is under threat around the world but it’s deeply distressing to see here at home the President and his allies adopt the same rhetoric we’re accustomed to seeing in dictators. It shouldn’t be controversial or partisan to say that say that journalists aren’t the enemy of the people and just because the President doesn’t like a story, doesn’t mean it’s fake. The truth is we need good journalism now more than ever. We’re already in a world of ‘alternate facts’ and I am concerned it could get even worse. The advent of artificial intelligence has enabled the creation of realistic “deep fakes,” machine created photos and videos that are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. I worry how technologies like this could be used by foreign or domestic adversaries and whether we’re truly prepared and whether the idea of the truth is crumbling. But I do know that the best anecdote – maybe even the only anecdote – is the fearless and important work of journalists like all of you at the Washington Blade. So once again, thank you for all you do and here’s to another 50 years of incredible success.

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Libel Law and the LGBTQ Community Coral Ridge Ministries listed at hate group

truth, or “actual malice.” Later, the courts expanded this strict standard to public figures. The thinking was, those who thrust themselves into the limelight in an effort to affect change on a particular public issue or controversy should expect caustic criticism. In the recent Coral Ridge Ministries ruling, the judge cites the Sullivan case on page after page. Coral Ridge Ministries, as an outspoken media entity, is a “public figure,” the court said. Therefore, to prevail, Coral Ridge Ministries had to show that the Southern Poverty Law Center acted with actual malice against the ministry when it characterized it as a hate group along with neo-Nazis, skinheads, white nationalists, the KKK, and Holocaust deniers. The judge said Coral Ridge Ministries failed to prove that the SPLC acted with actual malice.

By DR. AIMEE EDMONDSON An anti-LGBTQ ministry just lost in court in the Deep South. U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson of the Middle District of Alabama said the Southern Poverty Law Center was within its rights to call Coral Ridge Ministries a “hate group.” As President Trump pushes to “open up” libel law, the Coral Ridge Ministries case pushes us to examine broader points: Should we roll back the current strict standard on libel, so it’s easier to collect damages? How did we get our current libel law anyway?

President Trump and libel

The Coral Ridge case Coral Ridge Ministries, started by the late Rev. D. James Kennedy in Florida, “opposes homosexual conduct” but “has nothing but love for people who engage in homosexual conduct,” the federal court said, adding that “it (the ministry) views homosexual conduct as ‘lawless,’ ‘an abomination,’ ‘vile’ and ‘shameful.’” The mega-church is known around the world, with its prominent evangelical Presbyterian ministers broadcasting on television and sending out mass email newsletters. The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery listed Coral Ridge Ministries as one of 1,200 hate groups in the United States, and that listing made the ministry ineligible for the AmazonSmile charitable giving program. Coral Ridge Ministries sued Southern Poverty Law Center, Amazon.com, and Amazon’s charity, alleging defamation. However, Judge Thompson said Southern Poverty Law Center was within its rights to call Coral Ridge Ministries a “hate group,” dismissing the case on Sept.19. Thompson, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, was the second African American federal

The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the church as a hate group

judge in the state. He grew up in Tuskegee, Alabama, and graduated from Yale College (1969) and Yale Law School (1972). Judge Thompson’s 141-page decision concludes with these summaries: Southern Poverty Law Center’s listing of Coral Ridge Ministries as a “hate group” is protected by the First Amendment Amazon’s exclusion of Coral Ridge Ministries from its charitable-giving program does not violate the federal Civil Rights Act “Coral Ridge joined many other public figures around the country in the national discussion about the rights of gay people. When it did this it opened itself up to criticisms about its views,” wrote Judge Thompson.

The Sullivan standard on libel My new book, “In Sullivan’s Shadow,” describes the context for the landmark 1964

U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established our modern standard on libel claims (New York Times v. Sullivan). Throughout the Jim Crow South, authorities had used libel to punish media and stifle criticism of white supremacists well into the 1960s. Montgomery’s police commissioner, Lester B. Sullivan, sued The New York Times for $500,000 because a full-page ad in 1960 criticized brutal police tactics against civil rights protesters in the South. The ad, entitled “Heed Their Rising Voices,” solicited funds to help pay Dr. Martin Luther King’s mounting legal bills as southern police and courts sought ways to punish his civil rights activism. Sullivan won in Alabama courts. But a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the newspaper and four African American ministers, including Dr. King, who also were named in the suit. Successful libel claims against public officials, the high court said, must prove reckless disregard for the

As a candidate and as president, Donald Trump said he wants to alter libel law to make it easier to sue members of the media and collect big damage awards. The U.S. Supreme Court’s lone African American, Justice Clarence Thomas, also says it’s time to revisit the protections created in Sullivan. This urge to silence the critic has long been a tempting response to unwelcome commentary. Fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison was jailed in Baltimore for publishing a critical report — in 1829 — about a shipment of slaves to New Orleans. Weaponizing libel undermines accountability and squelches debate. The next time you hear someone call for gutting the current libel-law standard that protects free speech and free press, please think about the outcome of the Coral Ridge Ministries Media case.

Aimee Edmondson, Ph.D. is Associate Professor and Graduate Director at E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University. She is author of “In Sullivan’s Shadow: The Use and Abuse of Libel Law During the Long Civil Rights Struggle.”

Filmmaker Arthur Dong talks representation, intersection, and Hollywood in new book “Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films” By JOHN PAUL KING

If any proof is needed of the intersectionality of the LGBT community, look no further than award-winning filmmaker Arthur Dong. As a gay Chinese American (he’s a native of San Francisco’s Chinatown), Dong is keenly aware of each of his identities – something that has informed his work, not only an award-winning documentary filmmaker, but as a historian, author and curator whose work centers on Asian American, and LGBTQ stories. His first book, “Forbidden City, USA: Chinatown Nightclubs 1936-1970,” received the American Book Award. Now, he’s followed it up with “Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films,” a comprehensive yet intimate look at the Chinese American role and influence in Hollywood. From some of the earliest films set in America’s Chinatowns to the contemporary artists remaking the face of Hollywood, Dong takes the reader on a guided tour of ChineseAmerican film history, from the hyperstereotyped portrayals of Chinatown Tong Wars to the exoticized romances starring glamorous actresses like Anna May Wong and Nancy Kwan. He highlights the issues and challenges of Hollywood’s history. Filled with extensive imagery from the author’s extraordinary personal collection, the book unearths hidden gems from film history, bringing to light the work of Chinese and Chinese American artists whose work in film around the world has been all but lost to history, and enhancing his narrative with extensive interviews with Hollywood actors, directors, and producers, including Ang Lee, Nancy Kwan, Justin Lin, James Hong, Joan Chen, Wayne Wang, and David Henry Hwang, and writer Amy Tan. We talked to Dong about his book, and why he believes the history it presents is relevant to everyone, and not just the ChineseAmerican or Asian-American communities. Read our conversation here, and then pick up a copy of his book, now available from Angel City Press, to peruse it for yourself.

and in this book I was able to do that, both subliminally and through the actual stories of LGBT Asian-Americans like Esther Eng, who was a filmmaker that lived openly as a lesbian in the thirties and forties – which is incredible, when you think about it, especially within the Chinese-American community in San Francisco.

Arthur Dong Photo Courtesy Dong

LAB: Your book is obviously intended, first and foremost, to record and preserve these histories while also bringing them into wider public attention. Were you trying also trying to offer a particular perspective on them? AD: There’s no one, full attack on it, it’s a very complex story to tell – but to simplify it, you could say I come to it as a film lover and a film historian, and as an Asian-American and a gay Asian-American as well. Beyond that, I’m also interested in making sure that Chinese-American film history is a part of that, and it hasn’t been. I wanted to fill that void – but as a member of the gay community, that’s an important part of the story as well. With all my work, wherever I can, I will draw that into the complete story,

LAB: You also look at Hollywood’s history of “yellowface” performances by white actors in Asian roles, like the infamous case of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s, where Mickey Rooney gave a heavily-stereotyped performance as Audrey Hepburn’s Japanese landlord. AD: That was a comical portrayal, and it provides an easy excuse for the producers to say, “Well, this was just a comic character, we didn’t know what we were doing.” In the book, I’m trying to trace are the more subtle yellowface portrayals, like the ones in “The Good Earth,” where MGM Studios and the producer, Irving Thalberg, really tried to create a sensitive portrayal of the Chinese. They cast the main characters in yellowface, but in the thirties, this was common practice – this was what Hollywood did. In 1937, when the film was released, a San Francisco Chinese American publication, “The Chinese Digest,” actually endorsed it as a good chance for Americans to get a more sensitive look at what the Chinese were all about. So, in historical context we can see that not only did mainstream white Americans embrace “The Good Earth,” some of the Chinese-American community did, as well. We look at some of these portrayals, and we say, “Well that’s just ridiculous, how did that happen?” There was a reason for it, and I think that’s important to look at, if we want to understand the complexity of yellowface casting as we see it today. LAB: Many people today might think of representation as a contemporary issue; but there have always been objections to these kinds of casting choices and the cultural

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Photo Courtesy Dong

stereotypes they project, haven’t there? AD: It’s not very well documented, but there’s a long history of protests and objections – all the way back to 1919, with the film “The Tong Man,” starring Sessue Hayakawa. It was a love story, but it was steeped in Tong wars, opium dens, hatchet murders, and some of the worst characterizations of the Chinese in America at that time. The Chinese community in San Francisco launched the first legal protest against a film, as far as I know, and they filed an injunction to stop it from being shown. Unfortunately, the presiding judge at the time refused to honor that injunction, and let the film be shown – and the local theater there in San Francisco, the Rialto, exploited this situation, and actually put out an ad to convince the public to come and see this

movie before the Chinese community had it pulled away. People flooded the theaters and it broke box office records. That showed the hunger of the general public for this type of storytelling, and it also showed producers and theater owners how lucrative it was to tell these kinds of stories – and that kind of storytelling was perpetuated. In 1962, there was a film called “Confessions of an Opium Eater.” It was about opium dens, it was about slavery, it was about lecherous Chinese men after girls, and the local ChineseAmerican activist community, here in Los Angeles, protested that film – and it ended up being the catalyst for the formation of the East West Players, which is a still an active, very prominent theatrical troupe. So, the current protests didn’t come out of

nowhere, they were already happening – but that kind of storytelling is still perpetuated, even up to the present day. LAB: How do you think that we can persuade the entertainment industry to do better? AD: I think we need to recognize that Hollywood is a big machine; it works on a mix of commerce and art, and we have to understand that, if we want to deal with it. And we need to deal with it, because these issues of representation really stretch across many different communities, and the images projected by Hollywood, the stories they tell, go all around the world. We need to be careful of what those stories are, and how those images are projected.

O C TO B E R 2 5 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 4 3 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M • 1 7


Photo courtesy AMENT


Zack Ament’s youth, beaming smile, and carefree laugh are merely a delightful surface of a truly purposeful character. I think of him as an old soul and a spiritual warrior in stealth mode. His modesty and jovial persona may camouflage these traits but what lies beneath is wisdom and it runs deep. If you’re in bad spirits, Zack will pick up on it and hone in with self-effacing, warm charm. He’ll listen and probably land in with some of the best advice you’ve heard that will leave you feeling better. It’s just who he is. Friends can count on him for that. I know this first-hand because he’s helped me on a number of occasions when I thought things were hopeless. This wisdom is inherent to who he is as a good human but his personal story refined him further. He’s been in the foxhole like the rest of us. When I first met him Christmas of 2010, he was fresh off being a hot mess. He had just two days sober somewhere shy of his 21st birthday. He said he was done fucking around and didn’t want to hide what it was like either. One of my first memories of our friendship was going to Kinkos with him to blow up his mugshot photo from a previous arrest for disorderly conduct. His face was bloated and eyes bloodshot. He was not “a vision for you.” He looked like Elijah Wood in a tragic afterschool special. He’d been through hell and in classic self-effacing Zack fashion shared this “glamour shot” whenever he told his story to a group of fellow recovering alcoholics. He was serious about turning his life around and being a better person. For the last nine years, I’ve been watching him do just that. Not only as a man, but as a professional. Several years ago, he and his husband embarked on a career with others to run a recovery program to help people kick addiction. I believe he sets a good example in his business while keeping that same upbeat, honest spirit I loved about Zack the day I met him in those early days of recovery. He’s found his calling and through it success; without changing who he is. Simply put, Zack is one of the good guys.


How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? I came out when I was 16. My parents were the people I most struggled with telling. Not only were they the first people I told—so I had difficulty finding the right words—but I also felt badly for keeping such a big secret from them for so long.

of your life-time? Well, I did just dress up as Kathy Griffin holding Donald Trump’s bloodied, severed head for Halloween. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s my most memorable pop culture moment, but it’s definitely the most easily recalled pop-culture moment for me right now.

Who’s your LGBT hero? When I was in middle school, the only gay kids I knew were these two twin brothers two grades ahead of me. They would set up a boombox during recess and sing, dance, and do acrobatics to the Spice Girls. I went to a private school in Brentwood, so you’d think more kids would have been out in the 90’s, but these two were literally the only ones. And they were so unapologetically themselves. So they are definitely two of my LGBT heroes wrapped up in one set of twins.

On what do you insist? That the dog be allowed to sleep in bed with us.

What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? Honestly, at night you can find me out with friends to a long dinner and the movies, or at home with Postmates, a book, dog and husband. Nightspots interest me less these days because I have found that I prefer to wake up rather early—especially weekends for what I like to call “Self Care Saturdays” and “Self Care Sundays”. Describe your dream wedding. On Nov. 11, 2017, I married the love of my life. My parents walked me down the aisle, my dad cried, and I said “I DO!” in front of 150 of our friends and family. What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? One non-LGBT issue that I am passionate about because it hits super close to home is the opioid epidemic. Across the US, almost 120 people are dying a day from opioids. When I speak to the older generations of LGBT men and women, I often have conversations about the AIDS crisis, and how these men and women lived in fear and sadness watching their loved ones around them die. This is happening today. Addiction is killing wonderful people at an alarming rate, plaguing our communities and destroying families. What historical outcome would you change? Trump. And every inhumane decision he has made since taking office; law that discriminates against LGBT people, very specific action taken to discriminate against transgender people, actions that have separated children from their parents in a thoughtless and frantic attempt to make his mark on immigration issues. I recently saw that law now provides American people to actually and legally adopt migrant children whose parents have been deported without informing the children’s parents. What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? My last Facebook post was a thank you to all the guests who attended a fundraiser I organized for addiction prevention. If your life were a book, what would the title be? … I’d need a ghost writer for this one If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do? No way. There are several reasons why I love being a gay man. Some reasons, I probably shouldn’t say publicly… But one thing I can say here is that I have had some very unique opportunities to grow as a human and understand the world around me through the various obstacles life has handed me. What do you believe in beyond the physical world? I believe in the laws of karma and unconditional love. I believe in prayer and listening to the universe or God through meditation. What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? Be louder. Insist that we come together more. What would you walk across hot coals for? Friends and family. And any country with beaches, cliff diving and monkeys. What LGBT stereo-type annoys you most? That transgender people live crazy lives because of what we see in the media. What’s your favorite LGBT movie? Beginners What’s the most overrated social custom? I’m not super into small talk these days What trophy or prize do you most covet? … a PhD What do you wish you’d known at 18? That adults are just older kids Why Los Angeles? I was born here, the weather is great, and we have it all in a close proximity to us; city, beaches, skiing, liberals, entertainment, and fun.



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Elio and Oliver, part II New ‘Call Me By Your Name’ sequel takes long way around By JOEY DiGUGLIELMO

‘Find Me,’ the sequel to ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ will be released Oct. 29. Image courtesy Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Unusually close father fixations, intense longing, the first flush of new romance that’s as scary as it is exciting, oh — and pretty much everybody here is bi. These are the major themes of “Find Me,” the sequel to “Call Me By Your Name.” Out Oct. 29, it continues the stories of the same-sex lovers Elio and Oliver that Andre Aciman introduced in his 2007 novel, memorably adapted into a 2017 movie with Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. I’m gonna stay pretty vague here and keep this as spoiler free as possible. If you want more on setting and premise, that’s easily available online. I went into this 100 percent blind and found the experience quite satisfying. “Call Me” director Luca Guadagino has said he’s planning a sequel of his own that would pick up a few years after the film (the book had an episodic final third not depicted in the movie) with Elio and Oliver navigating through the AIDS era. “Find Me” eschews that scenario altogether. “Find Me” really takes its time gathering steam. I can’t necessarily say that’s a bad thing — one of “Call Me’s” biggest charms (in both book and film form) was its unusually languid pace, which so deftly captured the feel of a lazy Italian summer in which Elio and Oliver discovered each other. The pacing, though, worked much better in the earlier book as it was more suited to the timeline of the story. For Aciman to take his same good, ole’ time covering — as in the books first section — just a few days’ time, often feels laborious. Not helping matters is how suddenly he’ll speed things up at whim. One particular same-sex romance in the middle section of the book dubbed “Cadenza” starts off with Aciman’s trademark detail in which no thought or action is deemed too fleeting or throwaway to not share. We’re treated to passages like: “… and then he asked if he could shampoo my hair, to which I said of course he could, and while the shampoo sat on my hair after he’d rubbed it in, I heard him wash himself, only then to feel his fingers rubbing and prodding my skull time and time again.” That’s all fine and good — sensory detail can be powerful — but then just a few pages later: “Thursday that week we met again at nine at the same restaurant. Friday for lunch. And then for dinner as well. After breakfast that Saturday, he said he was going to drive to the country …” It’s such an extreme pick up of the pacing you almost feel literary whiplash. Musical motifs form the books four sections — Tempo, Cadenza, Capriccio and Da Capo. Told in first person, it takes awhile in each section to figure out who’s speaking and where we are. And be ready to wait. I mean, really wait. Elio is first mentioned by name on page 107; Oliver is alluded to first on page 139. We first see his name on page 233. As one plods through this leisurely pace, it’s always in the back of the mind whether or not Aciman will deliver a satisfying enough finale to have justified his long roundabouts. That’s, of course, up to each reader to decide, but I would have preferred not spending so much time in the lives and passions of new characters like Miranda (who figures heavily in Tempo, the longest section at a whopping 117 pages) and Michel, a central figure in “Cadenza.” I was, at first, grateful to have been spared equally detailed prose about Micol, Oliver’s wife of many years, and how they ended up together. And yet, in retrospect, it would have yielded a bit more insight into Oliver, the more inscrutable of the central couple in “Call Me.” He ends up feeling like an afterthought here. Yes, we do get inside his head a bit in Capriccio and Da Capo, but it feels underdeveloped. In Cadenza, Aciman spends dozens of pages detailing Elio (a pianist) cracking a musical mystery (he’s given a handwritten score of murky origins). It’s mildly involving and ends up having some poignance, but ultimately factors — as is common with these types of red herring plot devices — way less in the grand scheme of the story than you’d think considering the attention it gets. Aciman’s biggest failure here is his inability to differentiate his characters enough as they navigate the throes and blushes of new love. Told always in first person, they narrate things like, “we were staring at each other, and yet neither of us was saying anything. I knew that if I uttered another word I would break the spell, so we sat there, silent and staring, silent and staring, as if she too did not want to lift the spell.” By the end of the book, we’ve been treated to three rounds of this sort of thing from three different perspectives but the voices aren’t distinct enough to justify such poring over these mini-moments. One might argue that’s the point — Aciman is noting how similar these mating rituals, this flirting is across the board, male or female, gay (more like bi) or straight. But he introduces, then tosses aside so cavalierly such major characters in his story while making us wait, almost masochistically, to discover the fate of Elio and Oliver, it ends up feeling more like a long trip around Robin Hood’s barn than the insightful dissection of human emotion he clearly intends it to be. In fairness, do these things ever really work? One thinks, of course, of everything from the recent “The Testaments” (the sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale”) to “Go Set a Watchman” (sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird”). Are these projects ever terribly satisfying? What would that even look like in Elio and Oliver’s world? Do we want them together setting up house with a white picket fence? We’d hate him if he’d killed one of them off. What does one do with this conundrum? Aciman has made a noble effort and the book is engrossing, even at his pace, which is actually saying something. But ultimately too much time is spent on rabbit trails with the goods way too rushed over in the final section (Da Capo is a mere 13 pages) to prove effective, much less as shatteringly evocative as “Call Me.”


Nobody said it would be easy. You have your eyes set on something but doing it will take time, sacrifice and effort. You’ll get things right, but you’ll also get in your own way before you get to where you want to be and if you don’t believe that, then read “Me” by Elton John. On and off through most of his life, John had a tumultuous relationship with his mother. She was sometimes angry, sometimes abusive, rarely loving, but she did one important thing for him: she introduced him to Elvis Presley’s music. Though John says he’d wanted to be a musician since he was very small, the 78 RPM his “mum” brought home opened a window for a huge record collection, a passion for seeing live music and a dream of playing in a band onstage. Soon, he was gigging with regional bands and accidentally meeting people who would help his career. At 19, he was still a virgin, still naïve about being gay and rather blithe about his natural ability to write music. That was OK, though; he’d met Bernie Taupin, who wrote lyrics over breakfast and together, they’d pen hits by lunchtime. At 22, John had fallen in love with a man, was no longer a virgin and “things (professionally) were starting to move, very gradually.” Just one year later, he performed for the first time in America. Through his early career, stardom gave John a delightful platter of surprises and he seized most everything that came his way: Singers he admired praised him, famous people he’d watched wanted to meet him. He later hobnobbed with royalty, both the music kind and the Buckingham Palace kind. He fell in love, married, divorced and fell into an obsession over something that made his life so, so much harder. There is a certain aura surrounding the first third of “Me,” and it’ll charm the socks off you: author Elton John writes about his childhood, quickly, before he leaps into the bits about his early career with a sense of wide-eyed awe at what life had just handed him. If he’d said “Gee whiz!” even once, you’d understand. Alas, after the kid-in-a-candy-store naiveté evaporates and his career takes off, John’s account of his youngmanhood seems jaded; he says he was “exhausted” by constant work and pressures, and the second third of his book shows that in the voice readers see. Here — in the stories of parties, recording sessions and industry goings-on — the tale starts to slip into that which plagues so many star biographies: name-dropping and seemingly unnecessary sameness. It would mar the book, were it not for the sense of droll humor that John continues to pack around his anecdotes. By the final third of this book, we get a settled John who’s clean, happier, less frenetic but still funny. Here’s where readers reach what is likely familiar, as though we’ve read this book before. But, of course, you haven’t because “Me” (also the title Katharine Hepburn chose for her memoir) is John’s first and only autobiography and enjoying it is easy.

Eye on Elton New autobiography zippy but lags in middle section By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

‘Me’ By Elton John Henry Holt $30 375 pages Image Courtesy Henry Holt




“Orry” play spills gay secrets of classic Hollywood, but focuses on heart In the era of Hollywood’s coded culture, one man was unabashedly out By JOHN PAUL KING

Nick Hardcastle as Orry-Kelly. Photo by Tony Duran

Orry-Kelly is an enigmatic name. It reveals nothing about the man who held it, but it carries a hint of mystery that makes you want to know more. As even the most casual fans of classic Hollywood can probably tell you, Kelly was a costume designer that dressed Hollywood’s biggest stars and costumed some of its most iconic movies; some of them might also be able to tell you he capped off his career with three Oscar wins out of four nominations. Beyond that, though, they’d likely be hard pressed to tell you more. In the decades since his death, only industry insiders and people who knew him personally had much information about Kelly’s private life outside of the essential biographical details and, perhaps, a few salacious tidbits of gossip. That changed when a relative found the manuscript of his memoir in a pillowcase that had gone untouched for 50 years; titled “Women I’ve Undressed,” it was published in 2015, at long last revealing his story to the world as only he himself could tell it. Now that story is about to hit the stage, as writer/performer Nick Hardcastle debuts his new play, simply titled “Orry,” at the Lee Strasberg Theatre in West Hollywood. It’s a theatrical distillation of the memoir in which the iconic designer returns to celebrate his own fabulous life on the occasion of his funeral, and for Hardcastle, it’s been a labor of love. He, like Kelly, is an Australian who came to America to pursue an entertainment career; they each found success before coming to Hollywood, Kelly in New York and Hardcastle in his native country. “The more I get to know him, the more I relate,” says Hardcastle. “I’m from a tiny little coastal town in New South Wales, just like him, and I couldn’t wait to get out of my small town, either.” He’s come a long way. Beginning as a host for a popular music video program in his homeland, he parlayed that into a multi-faceted career in which he’s piled up countless credits as a TV host – alongside dozens for film, TV, theatre and musical theatre acting. He’s also the co-founder of the Australian Theatre Company, which, like many of the other platforms from which he works, aims to promote cultural exchange between Australia and the US. He’s been in Los Angeles for the last seven years. “I’d always been aware of Orry-Kelly, since I lived in Hollywood,” he says. “I don’t know that I knew who he was before I moved here, but Orry has always been mentioned as an Australian pioneer in the film industry.” Still it wasn’t until he saw a documentary about Kelly – “Women He’s Undressed,” by another Australian, Gillian Armstrong – that he was inspired to create his own show about him. “This seemed like the perfect story,” he gushes, “this Australian who came over to New York in the twenties, who had a Broadway career before coming to Hollywood and creating an incredible legacy. After watching the film, I was so compelled by his story that I called the publisher of the memoir the next day and asked, ‘Who has the theatrical rights to this book?’ I was fortunate enough that I was the first person to make that call.” In developing the script, he worked closely with his director, Wayne Harrison, who was also his dramaturg. Hardcastle himself portrays Kelly – “He’s a fascinating character,” he says, “and he’s deeply flawed, which is great for me!”-with only two

other performers to fill in other roles around him. “It’s an intimate show, but it’s really quite a big show,” he stresses. “We do it all in as entertaining a way as possible. Orry was a showman, an artist and a performer – we’ve tried to incorporate music and film, and puppetry and song, all the things that speak to what his life was, so even though it is fairly intimate, hopefully it doesn’t feel small.” As for the story itself, one of the biggest challenges was deciding what to include. The dense memoir contains anecdotes and reminiscences from a man who had a personal and/or a working relationship with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and audiences were sure to be interested in hearing about that – but Hardcastle opted for a different focus. “There’s too much to cover in all that material that’s just not necessarily dramatic,” he says. “Orry lived such a full, and rich, and layered life – but when you want to see a whole life story onstage in 90 minutes, you need to find a narrative that audiences can connect to. It was really about the ‘heart connection,’ so that we really care, at the end, what he’s gone through.” “We had to isolate some things. We thought that his identity, and love, were the things that were going to connect the audience to his story. There was one relationship in particular that was very important, someone that was in his life for a really long time. That’s the relationship that we hone in on in the show, and, of course it was with Archie Leach.” Leach is better known, of course, by his professional name – Cary Grant – and the true nature of his long-term “friendship” with former roommate and fellow heartthrob Randolph Scott has already long been debated. Less well-known, however, is that he and Kelly, who were roommates in New York before coming to Hollywood, had an on-and-off-again love affair that lasted into the mid-thirties – at least, according to Kelly. “He’s my source material, the memoir is what I’m drawing from, but it’s not my comment on Cary Grant, at all,” Hardcastle is quick to point out. “Having said that,” he adds, “it’s still a comment on the system at the time – and let’s face it, that system still exists today.” “Orry went through the twenties in New York, where it was like a sort of Babylon,” Hardcastle explains, “Then he came to Hollywood where at first it was ‘anything goes,’ and then the Hays Code comes in – suddenly everybody has gone into hiding, and the studio is in control of your life. They change your name, change your identity, marry you off and move you three doors down the street from your lover, they give you drugs to keep you up and keep you down – it was just horrific, and I don’t think Orry ever wanted to be complicit in that way of life.” “He was not a ‘yes man.’ He was unapologetically honest, and I think that put a lot of people off.” Kelly’s distaste for the Hollywood closet was likely inconvenient for the power players in the film industry, and Hardcastle acknowledges that might be part of the reason his private life stayed buried for so long – a wrong he’s proud to help right. “I feel like I’m the custodian of his story, and that’s a huge privilege and responsibility, and I just can’t wait to share it with everyone.” “Orry” runs Nov 2-11 at Lee Strasberg Theatre in West Hollywood. For tickets and more information call 855-3269945 or visit www.Gentleman-George.com



Photo Courtesy Visity West Hollywood


Grand Park’s Downtown Día de los Muertos begins today from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at Grand Park Performance Lawn (Near Hill Street at 200 N. Grand Ave) Noche de Ofrenda is a free, family-friendly experience and part of a suite of events taking place during the season of Día de los Muertos, both at Self Help Graphics & Art and Grand Park. The Noche de Ofrenda event in Grand Park will feature a large-scale community altar produced by National Endowment Fellow and L.A. icon Ofelia Esparza, live entertainment and more than 35 altars produced by artists and community organizations. Noche de Ofrenda is a contemplative ceremony and night of reflection that connects communities to traditions and highlights indigenous practices during a contemporary celebration. *Part of Grand Park’s Downtown Día de los Muertos, the altars are open to the public from October 26– November 3, 2019.


Halloween Drag Queen Bingo is tonight from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM at Hamburger Mary’s (8288 Santa Monica Boulevard). Grab a wig and a card, get set, eat, love and bingo. That’s all you need to do score some major supportive bucks for the Disability Community Resource Center, the 40 year old west-side non-profit that houses differently abled people. Enjoy celebrity guests, a costume contest and you can score for a good cause. Free.

THU. OCT. 31

HAUNTED BEACH HOUSE is tonight from 9:00 PM to 2:00 AM at 240 Main Street, Santa Monica. Imagine a naked Knott’s

Scary farm! It’s really spooky, grab and play event with Alcohol, food and a huge line up of beautiful people (or are they?) and top artists, including two of America’s most in demand Producer/DJ’s, EC Twins (SONY MUSIC) and secret special guests! Last year Beyonce showed up with Kim Kardashian on a $5 million dollar crystal leash, like she ought to be. $75 at the door. A Scarytale of Los Angeles is tonight from 8:00 PM to midnight at The Hoxton (1060 South Broadway). Outdoor rooftop fun with one of the best poolside musical experiences in Los Angeles, a wild dance floor, great food, drinks and crazy costumes. It’s not a specifically LGBT thing but you are guaranteed to be spooked and have loads after loads of fun. $150. West Hollywood’s World Famous Carnaval is tonight from 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood from La Cienega to Doheny. Here’s what you ought to know: Yes, the Halloween Carnaval is free; Kids should probably sit this one out; Parking can be... scary...just walk to the event from afar; OMFG! There will be plenty of music; No, you can’t drink alcohol on the street; Don’t be a jerk and have fun. You will be dazzled by the artistic talents of some of Hollywood’s most fantastic special effects and makeup displays and the lively atmosphere. It is unmatched in the world. And it’s free.


Palm Springs Pride Festival 2019 LGBT Pride Weekend begins today from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM all over central Palm Spring. A weekend packed full of parties, festivals and live music, Palm Springs Pride 2019 is not to be missed. It’s billed as one of the most festive Prides anywhere and is the second

largest in California behind LA Pride. You won’t go wrong, if you can find your way there. If you haven’t found a hotel or don’t have a home to stay in yet, you may just have to rely on a friendly local. But that’s ok because there’s just so much to do you won’t even need a place. Get more details at pspride.org.


20th annual Dia de Los Muertos at Hollywood Forever : SACRED MIGRATIONS - MIGRACIONES SAGRADAS is today from 12:00 PM to 11:59 PM at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (6000 Santa Monica Boulevard). Hollywood Forever’s 20th annual Dia de los Muertos celebration will take place on Saturday November 2nd, 2019. This year, the guiding theme is the Monarch Butterfly and its winter home, the Mexican state of Michoacán. Michoacán is also one of the two cultural heartlands in Mexico where the ancient traditions of Dia de los Muertos have been celebrated the longest and most vibrantly. You will embrace the Monarch butterfly as a symbol of Dreamers and Immigrants whose personal journeys echo the annual migrations the butterflies make between Mexico and the U.S. The Monarch’s pending inclusion on the Endangered Species list is also an urgent call to love and protect our shared earth and share our gratitude for the beautiful migration of Dia de los Muertos from its homeland of Michoacán to the heart of Hollywood.

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

Say those words, and you’ll immediately feel the beat, the spirit, the heat of the legendary Donna Summer. Her songs smashed every record. Her story shattered every barrier. Now, the queen arrives direct from Broadway. After a twice extended, sold-out run at San Diego’s celebrated La Jolla Playhouse, SUMMER, The Donna Summer Musical, partied on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and is now strutting its way across North America on a National Tour. She was a girl from Boston with a voice from heaven, who shot through the stars from gospel choir to dance floor diva. But what the world didn’t know was how Donna Summer risked it all to break through every barrier, becoming the icon of an era and the inspiration for every music diva who followed. From Janet Jackson to Beyoncé, they all began with Donna.

Three actresses play the role of musical icon Donna Summer at different points in her life as “Diva Donna,” “Disco Donna” and “Duckling Donna,” while an inexhaustible ensemble of almost entirely women tear up the stage. Featuring choreography from Tony Award winner Sergio Trujillo, who won a Chita Rivera Award for Outstanding Choreography in a Broadway Show for SUMMER, and directed by Des McAnuff, the Tony Award®-winning director of Jersey Boys and The Who’s Tommy, SUMMER takes us through her tumultuous life and tempestuous loves. Including a mega-watt dream list of musical hits—including “Bad Girls,” “MacArthur Park,” “She Works Hard for the Money,” and “Last Dance”... SUMMER makes Fall the hottest season of all.

N O V E M B E R 5 -24 HOLLYWOODPANTAGES.COM 800-982-2787

Photo: Francesco Scavullo


“Toot toot, hey, beep beep!”



Nazi comedy “Jojo Rabbit” serves savage satire with a tender heart By JOHN PAUL KING

Roman Griffin Davis and Taika Waititi in “Jojo Rabbit” Image courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

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Not that long ago, stories about the Second World War were a staple in literature, movies, and television. This is hardly surprising; it was a monumental event in world history, so of course it was going to take a long time to process. Narratives about it, both fictional and true, saturated the popular culture for decades. Since the century turned, the global upheavals of a new millennium have inevitably overshadowed those of the generation that came before, and narratives about the war have become fewer and further between. That doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared; something about that particular conflict continues to call out to us from the past, and Taika Waititi’s latest effort, “Jojo Rabbit” – a black comedy hitting theaters on Oct. 18 – just might get to the heart of not only why we still feel the need to cast our gaze back upon it, but of why, more than 70 years later, it’s still important for us to do so. In its advertising, his film has taken pains to ensure that audiences know going in they will be seeing an “anti-hate satire.” It’s a savvy decision, given current sensitivity around the subject matter, but the description doesn’t quite live up to the sophisticated comedic exercise the New Zealand filmmaker delivers. Set in a German town near the end of WWII, it focuses on 10-year-old Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a lonely misfit of a little boy who zealously embraces the Nazi ideal; his father is away at the front, and his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) is frequently absent, leaving him to spend most of his time in the sole company of his imaginary friend – none other than an idealized version of his idol, Hitler himself (Waititi). His youthful contentment is shaken one day when he goes upstairs to investigate a noise in his empty house and discovers that his beloved mother is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie). Confronted with this revelation, he is forced to reexamine his beliefs even as the lie of Hitler’s Germany begins to crumble in the world outside. Based on the book “Caging Skies,” by Christine Leunens, Waititi’s screenplay for “Jojo Rabbit” charges forward with his now-familiar irreverent humor and gives us no time to be shocked that he’s giving us a comedy about Nazi Germany. It’s likely to be a little distasteful for some audiences, but it’s not exactly a first; many filmmakers have made fun of Hitler, from Charlie Chaplin to Mel Brooks. Waititi, though, goes into riskier territory, mining for laughs within the atrocities of daily life under a mad, authoritarian regime. Few filmmakers have dared such an effort – for instance, Roberto Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful,” which polarized critics in 1997 with its heart-tugging, tragicomic vision of existence in a concentration camp, and to which “Jojo Rabbit” has already been compared – and it has rarely gone well. Waititi, though, seems little concerned with perceived taboos about what constitutes fair game for humor. He’s playing the iconoclast here just as boldly as when he successfully transformed Marvel’s “Thor” franchise from pompous pseudo-myth to raucous buddy comedy in 2017’s “Ragnorok,” and he aims to win you over through sheer audacity. He willfully pushes the tone of his movie into the realm of the absurd, even the surreal – at times, it almost feels like a Terry Gilliam film – because he knows it is there where humor and horror meet. Nothing drives home the inherent absurdity of the most appalling human endeavors like finding yourself laughing in its face. There’s a kind of epiphany that can take place in that moment, a perspective from which one recognizes the deeply truthful human element in the mix; Waititi is gambling that he can take you to that threshhold, and – for the most part – he succeeds. Part of the reason has to do with his talent; his disarming quirkiness and inventive visual storytelling, coupled with top-notch performances from a cast that seems fully committed to his vision, goes a long way toward making it work. What elevates his film to the level of true cinema, though, is that he shows us this absurdity through the eyes of a child who accepts without question the racism and rhetoric of a demagogue. His understanding of what it all means – underscored by the buffoonish, childlike vision of Hitler he imagines – is unsophisticated and uneducated, because he’s only a boy, after all, but when we see it reflected in the adult characters around him, blindly following orders and clinging to the illusions in which they have so deeply invested themselves, it’s more difficult to reconcile the obvious gap between their humanity and their choices. What manner of mental hoops must these adults have had to jump through in order to maintain their childish trust in authority, and what encounters with other ways of thinking have they had to dismiss, devalue or ignore? Continues at losangelesblade.com





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Join us starting @ 6:30 at Wood & Vine (right across the street from the theatre.) Show your ticket and enjoy complimentary appetizers and a cash bar while you mix and mingle on their beautiful patio.



Washington Blade’s 50th Anniversary Gala The Washington Blade celebrated its 50th anniversary at a gala at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Wharf on Friday. Speakers included Mayor Muriel Bowser, philanthropist Ariadne Getty and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.). Entertainment was provided by singer Frenchie Davis. Washington Blade photos by Zach Brien and Vanessa Pham

Starry Skies With Scattered Sequins. Follow @WeHoCity for alerts on all spectacles from Russian songs to Carnaval thongs.

Halloween Carnaval & Russian Cultural Festival

City of West Hollywood California 1984

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