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LOCAL

02 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

RuPaul inducted into the California Hall of Fame From ‘messy’ drag queen to honored superstar By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com From a drag club performer driven to be a superstar in New York City, RuPaul Andre Charles has illustrated how an authentic talent can attain success. On Dec. 11, Charles, a native of San Diego, was inducted into the California Hall of Fame by Gov. Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom among nine others in “the 13th class of icons who embody the state’s spirit of innovation and achievement.” “California is a state not just of dreamers, but of doers who pride themselves on being on the leading edge,” said Gov. Newsom. “That entrepreneurial spirit and the incredible diversity, daring and perseverance of our beloved state is demonstrated in the lives and the journeys of those honored tonight.” The First Couple has been trying to challenge and deconstruct images of “toxic masculinity,” which Charles has successfully

RuPaul Charles was inducted into the California Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy the California Museum

accomplished through entertaining artistry, especially on his award-winning show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” produced by World of Wonder. “There is perhaps no one person that has done more to dismantle the limiting “man box” we put our boys and men into than RuPaul,” First Partner Sibel Newsom said

during her presentation. “As a native of this great state, being inducted into the California Hall of Fame is especially heartfelt because it comes from where my dreams were born, it comes from home,” Charles said in a statement. “When I first started doing drag, I could be messy and have a lot of unbridled fun.

But once I got famous, I had to represent what people expected of me. I still have fun in drag but it’s in a very controlled atmosphere,” Charles told the Los Angeles Blade on the occasion of receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “Drag is language that communicates with your immediate environment,” Charles noted. “I’ve always said, ‘you’re born naked and the rest is drag’ and I truly believe that. Everything you wear once you get out of the shower is drag.” The official state biography that accompanies the honor also notes that RuPaul “is married to Australian rancher Georges LeBar, whom he met on the dance floor in 1994 at Limelight Disco in New York City.” RuPaul, the first drag queen inductee, joins other LGBTQ icons who’ve been inducted since 2006: Sally Ride, Billie Jean King, Alice Walker (who identifies as “curious”), Harvey Milk, David Hockney, George Takei, and Joan Biaz, who identifies as bisexual. Magic Johnson, a straight man, seems to represent people with HIV.

Bernie Sanders drops Cenk Uygur Controversial candidate focused on D.C., not the 25th district By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Cenk Uygur, talk show host and producer of the online opinion outlet “The Young Turks,” decided he no longer wants endorsements in his 25th congressional race, enabling Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to retract his Dec. 12th endorsement after a massive backlash over Uygur’s past sexist, homophobic and other bigoted statements. “Going forward from today I will not accept endorsements, so it means Bernie

Sanders has not endorsed me,” Uygur said, the New York Times reported, noting he did not “want to damage” his potential backers. The 25th CD seat, recently vacated by former Rep. Katie Hill, has become a hot contest with Hill and a slew of Democratic and progressive organizations backing Assemblymember Christy Smith, the only woman in the race, against Uygur and a number of Republicans, including antiLGBTQ former Rep. Steve Knight and George Papadopoulos, a Donald Trumpassociated felon. The Los Angeles County Democratic Party was furious and called for Sanders to un-endorse Uygur. “This man has spent decades, including up until recently, attacking women, the LGBTQ community, Jews, Muslims, Asian Americans and African

Americans,” said out LADPC Chair Mark Gonzalez in a statement. “His vulgarity, his hate speech and divisive rhetoric have no place in our party. This man has  endorsed bestiality, said women are  genetically flawed, that Jews and Muslims are  wasting their lives and live in a fantasy land, said gay men cannot be  sexually harassed, was sued for racial discrimination and has flippantly  used the n-word repeatedly on television, gave a platform to  KKK leader David Duke, mused about  assaulting a female TV anchor after sex  and so much more.” Uygur told the Santa Clarita Signal on Dec. 12 about his history of bigoted remarks: “I’ve apologized. They were made when I was a politically incorrect Republican.”  But Uygur’s past bigotry, for which he was

pushed out of the Justice Democrats group he co-founded, are not the only marks against him. He does not live in the district; his main campaign issue is corruption in Washington D.C., as opposed to issues in the district; and while he told SignalSCV that the recent Saugus High School shooting was on his radar, he was fundraising as Smith rushed to the scene. “The night of the event I was with grieving families and really trying to work to pull our community back together,” Smith told the Los Angeles Blade last month. “I got home to find out that he had been raising money online and boasting about fundraising totals. Probably from his mansion in Newport Beach. That act alone I found singularly disqualifying for the kind of District that he hopes to represent.”


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04 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

LOCAL

Tammy Billik on the loss of a loved one Camp Widow helps the grieving By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com It’s the holiday season and thanks to the publicity of Hallmark Channel’s controversial pulling, then restoring commercials showing a lesbian wedding kiss, more Americans are aware of samesex couples integrated into scenes of family togetherness. Ironically, however, despite the tremendous tragic loss many LGBTQ people and allies experienced during the AIDS crisis, the acceptance of marriage equality is now enabling mainstream society to grasp the devastation an LGBTQ person feels losing a loved one. There have been glimpses, such as Oprah’s interview with protégé Nate Berkus in 2005 after the interior designer lost his longtime partner, photographer Fernando Bengoechea, in the 2004 Sri Lanka tsunami. Berkus is the keynote speaker at a Feb. 29 day-long Camp Widow event at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Tammy Billik tells the Los Angeles Blade while baking holiday cookies. Last year, Billik lost the love of her life to cancer. The event is being produced by Soaring Spirits (www.soaringspirits.org), an organization focused on helping widows and widowers with the grieving process and learning how to live again. The cost is $50 “so that everyone can attend and there will be scholarships for those who cannot afford,” she says. Billik is a lawyer and award-winning Hollywood casting director, including the “Ellen” show where Ellen DeGeneres’ character famously came out in the historic “Puppy Episode.” She was mentored by the late Stephen Kolzak, head of casting for NBC television in the 1980s, who challenged Hollywood’s homophobia as an AIDS activist. “He really inspired me to get involved with the LGBT movement,” Billik says. As a direct result of Kolzak’s mentorship, Billik joined the Center’s board for 13 years and is still active. She also joined the Human Rights Campaign board at the behest of then-executive director Elizabeth Birch. “I spent a lot of time figuring out how to best

Jackie , Eli and Tammy Photo courtesy Tammy Billik

move the entertainment industry forward on our issues,” she recalls, as well as being active in grassroots organizing. “Anything to raise our visibility and to strengthen our voice.” Billik lost Kolzak and many other friends to AIDS, preparing wills as a volunteer at APLA and holding their hands as they lay dying. “It was gut wrenching because so many of them no longer had the support of their families, and yet almost all of them wanted to leave everything or something to their families, and wanted to be remembered in a positive way by their families,” she says, “even though many of those families had deserted them.” But nothing prepared Billik for the loss of her spouse, who she officially wed on Dec. 30, 2014. “Jackie was my spouse for 20 years. She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in May of 2017, and she passed away on July 4th, 2018,” Billik says. “It’s a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer that doesn’t respond well to traditional treatments, and

therefore you have to kind of try and poison it out of the body with chemo and hope that it hasn’t metastasized. But in Jackie’s case, it had. We were not aware of the severity of it.” At one point, they thought Jackie had gone into remission but in May of 2018, it came roaring back. “It was really like somebody poured gasoline on a fire. It just raced through her body. By the time she was rediagnosed, which was June first or second, we only had a month left. We didn’t know that. “I never thought she was going to die. I always just envisioned that she would be okay, even though when I did my research, I realized that the survival rate for this type of cancer was quite low. But somehow, it never occurred to me that that would actually happen,” she says. Because Jackie was slipping, the couple had a houseful of family and friends who’d flown in for a big July 4th party. “We didn’t know she was going to die that day, and then her body just shut down. It happened very, very quickly,” Billik says.

Before she died, Jackie said, “You know, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I really feel at peace.” Billik told her: “I hope you feel the love.” Jackie replied, “I do. I really do.” The first holiday season was very difficult for Billik and their seven-year old son. “That’s been both a challenge and a real blessing for me, because I had to go on,” she says. “He is an incredible kid and he was very close to her, but he also has that youthful way of looking at life, which is he moves forward. That’s been great for me to have a reason to get up every day, and somebody to take care of, and who needs me.” This year, however, “some the cobwebs have cleared,” Billik says. “I’m really feeling the feelings. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. What’s left are the feelings. It’s hard to go through a holiday without somebody you spent the last 20 holidays with.” Billik is looking forward to participating in Camp Widow, to be of service, learn and share stories with others still grappling with grief. For more info, visit www.campwidow.org.


06 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

NATIONAL

HISTORIC: House impeaches Trump Lawmakers approve articles for abuse of power and obstructing Congress By CHRIS JOHNSON In a historic move, the U.S. House voted Wednesday to impeach President Trump, accusing him of high crimes and misdemeanors as defined under the U.S. Constitution that warrant his removal from office. The House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump, one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress. The vote for Article I: Abuse of Power was 230-197 and the vote for Article II: Obstruction of Congress was 229-198. The votes were basically party-line with all Republicans unified in voting against impeachment and nearly all Democrats voting “yes.” Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), a former Republican, joined his Democratic colleagues in voting for impeachment. The exceptions to the party-line votes were Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who voted “no”; and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.), who also voted “no” and has announced plans to leave the Democratic Party. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) voted for the article on abuse of power, but not obstruction of Congress. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who has built a reputation for antagonizing her competitors in debates, voted “present” on both articles. The charge of abuse of power is based on allegations Trump withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine to solicit from the nation’s president an investigation into Joseph Biden, Trump’s potential political opponent in the 2020 election, and whether Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for the systematic interference in the 2016 election. But for the charge of obstruction of Congress, the House was expected to impeach Trump for refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry by responding to congressional subpoenas. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opened the debate on the House floor Wednesday before the impeachment proceedings began by saying Trump “gave us no choice” but to impeach him. “Our founders’ vision of a republic is

President Trump was impeached this week, setting up a trial in the Senate. Blade file photo by Michael Key

under threat from actions from the White House,” she said. “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It’s tragic the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary.” Speaking about the danger of foreign interference in U.S. elections, Pelosi pointed to a nearby white poster board she brought to the floor depicting an American flag and the words: “To the Republic for which it stands…” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) the senior openly gay member of the House, didn’t hold back Wednesday on the House floor when he accused Trump of having “betrayed our national security and undermined the security of our elections.” “This wasn’t an attack on Vice President Biden,” Cicilline said. “It was an attack on our democracy, and if we do not hold him accountable today, we will no longer live in a democracy. We will live in a dictatorship where any future president will be free to abuse their office in order to get re-elected.” Also speaking out on the House floor in favor of impeachment was Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), another one of the seven openly gay members of the House. “This is not about a single call or a single transcript,” Pocan said. “This is about a perfect storm — months of activity directly ordered by the President to his senior Cabinet and political appointees. Months

of activity led by this President to pressure the Ukrainian government to conduct investigations into his political rivals.” “There is no question about it: This was a clear and orchestrated plan laid out by this president, inviting a foreign power to interfere in our democracy,” Pocan concluded. The night before impeachment vote was set to take place, the coalition group “Nobody Is Above The Law” held more than 600 rallies throughout the country in all 50 states in support of Trump’s impeachment. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, declared in a statement the nation’s leading LGBTQ rights group supports the impeachment of Trump, saying he “has proven time and again that he believes he is above the law and not beholden to the United States Constitution.” “Trump’s ongoing efforts to undermine the 2020 election by soliciting foreign interference is unacceptable, deeply dangerous and an affront to the fundamental democratic principle of free and fair elections,” David added. “Because of these troubling facts, the Human Rights Campaign supports the impeachment of Donald Trump. The impeachment process is a constitutionally guaranteed process for preserving accountability and the integrity of our democracy. Now, Congress must ensure a conclusion consistent with law.

Any question about whether Democrats from more moderate districts would back impeachment faded away as many of them, including Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), signaled their support. Among them was Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), the first lesbian mom in Congress, who declared she’d support impeachment in an open letter to constituents on Sunday. “After reviewing the public testimony from non-partisan public servants and officials appointed to their roles by the President himself — as well as the final House Intelligence Committee report — I have decided that this week I will vote yes on both Articles of Impeachment,” Craig wrote. “No elected leader is above the law.” But there was no question about disunity on the Republican side. Each of the Republicans has been lockstep behind Trump as the impeachment inquiry has proceeded. Trump reacted to the impeachment in live time as he spoke at a rally in Battle Creek, Mich., crowing in delight that, “every single Republican voted for us.” “The Republican Party has never been so affronted but they have never been so united as they are right now,” Trump said. Trump also counted three Democratic votes against impeachment as a victory for him. “The Democrats always stick together,” Trump said. “Think of it: Three Democrats went over to our side,” he said. He added: “That’s unheard of.” Charles Moran, managing director of Log Cabin Republicans, told the Washington Blade the Trump impeachment process in the House ignores reality. “LGBTQ Americans are safer, more prosperous and have more opportunities now than any other time in history,” Moran said. “The Democrats in Congress announced their intent to impeach President Trump before he was even sworn in. The American people aren’t buying this sham impeachment, and come November, Democrats won’t have anything to show for it.” The next step in the process is for the U.S. Senate to hold a trial based on the impeachment articles approved by the House. A conviction would result in Trump’s removal from office, but that requires a two-thirds vote of senators present — a high hurdle that would require 20 Republican senators in the chamber to defect.


LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • 07

NATIONAL

Tumultuous week for Hallmark after banning lesbian kiss Reversal of decision triggers more protests from far-right groups By JOHN PAUL KING At the end of a tumultuous week for The Hallmark Channel, on Monday, Dec. 16, the pay television network announced it would reverse its decision to pull several ads featuring a same-sex kiss. The controversial commercials were among a series of six ads for Zola, a wedding planning website, which had been airing on the Hallmark Channel since Dec. 2. In all of the ads, couples standing at the altar for their wedding wonder if guests might have arrived on time and bought them better gifts if they had used Zola to create a custom wedding website. Most of the ads include a same-sex couple; while only one focused specifically on the lesbian brides, the two women were shown kissing in several of them. According to the New York Times, the ads that featured same-sex kissing were pulled after the channel deemed their content “controversial.” The decision was made by executives at the network after the antiLGBTQ hate group, “One Million Moms,” published a petition urging Hallmark to “please reconsider airing commercials with same-sex couples.” One Million Moms is a division of the conservative American Family Association, an organization that defines its mission as the “fight against indecency,” and which has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group for the “propagation of known falsehoods” and the use of “demonizing propaganda” against LGBTQ people. Following the posting of the petition, antiLGBTQ comments began to flood Hallmark’s online message board, such as one from an unnamed user who said, “Why would you show a lesbian wedding commercial on the Hallmark Channel? Hallmark movies are family friendly, and you ruined it with the commercial.” On Thursday, Hallmark notified Zola via email that it was pulling four of the ads – the ones featuring a kiss between the

The kiss by two brides in a Zola commercial that touched off a major controversy this week.

two women – because the channel is “not allowed to accept creatives that are deemed controversial,” according to an account representative from the television network. On Friday, a Hallmark Channel spokesman implied in a statement that “overt public displays of affection… regardless of the participants,” was against the network’s current policy. However, later that evening, Hallmark’s parent company, Crown Media Family Networks, issued a statement saying, “The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.” The response from Zola was one of both surprise and skepticism. The company’s chief marketing officer, Mike Chi, commented that Zola had previously run ads featuring samesex couples on the channel without incident. He also observed that the ads including kisses between same-sex couples were allowed to remain on the air. Chi pointed out, “The only difference between the commercials that were flagged and the ones that were approved was that the commercials that did not meet Hallmark’s standards included a lesbian couple kissing. Hallmark approved a commercial where a heterosexual couple kissed. All kisses, couples and marriages

are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark.” Outcry was swift from the LGBTQ community and its advocates. In a statement from GLAAD, president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said, “The Hallmark Channel’s decision to remove LGBTQ families in such a blatant way is discriminatory and especially hypocritical coming from a network that claims to present family programming and also recently stated they are ‘open’ to LGBTQ holiday movies. As so many other TV and cable networks showcase, LGBTQ families are part of family programming. Advertisers on The Hallmark Channel should see this news and question whether they want to be associated with a network that chooses to bow to fringe anti-LGBTQ activist groups, which solely exist to harm LGBTQ families.” In addition, GLAAD created a petition calling on the network to reinstate the ads. Pro-LGBTQ voices also took to social media, with hashtags #boycotthallmark and #BoycottHallmarkChannel trending on Twitter over the weekend. Then, on Sunday afternoon, Hallmark president and CEO Mike Perry issued a new statement, saying, “The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused. Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision,” The statement goes on to stress Hallmark’s commitment to “diversity and inclusion,” saying it has “the track record to prove it” and citing its publication of LGBTQ greeting cards, previous commercials featuring same-sex couples, and recognition it has received from HRC and Forbes for its inclusive business practices. It also announces the company’s plan to work with GLAAD on how “to better represent the LGBTQ community,” as well as its intention to reinstate the commercials from Zola. Shortly afterward, GLAAD issued a statement, with Ellis saying, “The Hallmark Channel’s decision to correct its mistake sends an important message to LGBTQ people and represents a major loss for fringe organizations, like One Million Moms, whose sole purpose is to hurt families like mine. LGBTQ people are, and

will continue to be a part of advertisements and family programming and that will never change. GLAAD exists to hold brands like The Hallmark Channel accountable when they make discriminatory decisions and to proactively ensure families of all kinds are represented in fair and accurate ways.” Speaking on CNN immediately after Hallmark’s announcement was released, Ellis confirmed the network’s statement that Hallmark and GLAAD would be working together, saying, “We’re talking with them, we’ve been talking with them all weekend, because they want to do the right thing, and I think that the quick decision was the right thing. And now we have to watch and see what they do in the future.” On Monday, One Million Moms doubled down on their homophobic agenda in an email blast sent out to subscribers on the American Family Association email list, in which it reiterated its talking point that homosexuality is “a sinful lifestyle that Scripture clearly deems as wrong” and pointed to Bible verses Romans 1:18-32 as proof. The referenced passages describe samegender sexuality as “dishonorable passions” and proclaim that “those who practice such things deserve to die.” The email goes on to declare that “Hallmark, Zola, etc. and all that make up those companies will ALL bow to the Lord,” before calling on Hallmark to once more pull the offending ads and “to keep sex and sexual content – including the promotion of homosexuality – out of its programming.” It closes by asking for signatures on its petition against the network’s move toward more LGBTQ-inclusive content. The organization’s latest action comes after GLAAD’s chief communications officer, Rich Ferraro, told Salon late Sunday, “The Hallmark Channel’s decision further delegitimizes One Million Moms, a facade that is actually run by the American Family Association (AFA), which is designated as a hate group… Most brands know to ignore the One Million Moms – or the ‘One Meddling Anti-Gay Mom,’ as we call them. “[The] Hallmark Channel’s reversal sets a true precedent that this fringe project of the AFA should not to be taken seriously or given any credibility by brands or the media.”


INTERNATIONAL

08 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

LGBT hotels in Cuba: Military-owned resorts seek ‘pink money’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson won re-election in a landslide last week. Photo by Chatham House via Flickr

LGBT Brits to lose EU protections in Brexit The results of last week’s elections in the U.K. have all but assured the country will soon leave the European Union. The BBC reported Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party now has 365 seats in Parliament, compared to the 203 seats that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party secured. Activists with whom the Blade spoke said Brexit could prove harmful to LGBTQ Brits because some of the European Union’s human rights standards will no longer apply to the country. “Brexit will happen and LGBT+ people will lose the legal protection against discrimination that is enshrined in the E.U.’s Charter of Fundamental Rights,” said Peter Tatchell, a prominent British LGBTQ activist who is director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, in an email to the Blade. Tatchell noted the U.K. will “still have the safeguards of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights” once the country leaves the European Union. OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern in a statement to the Blade said the Conservative Party under former Prime Minister David Cameron supported marriage rights for same-sex couples. Stern also noted Johnson voted for civil partnerships and had openly gay advisers. “One hopes this history means that the rights and recognition the LGBTQ community has enjoyed from the government of the U.K. in recent years will remain relatively unchanged,” Stern told the Blade. “However, the election results bring destabilizing uncertainty,” she added, while noting the U.K’s 2010 Equality Act that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation is based on the European Union’s Equal Treatment Directive that was adopted in 2006. “How nondiscrimination laws based on E.U. law will fare in the aftermath of Brexit is unknown,” said Stern. Stern told the Blade there are also concerns “about the future of” efforts to update the country’s 2004 Gender Recognition Act — which allows trans Brits to legally change their gender with the approval of medical and legal professionals — “under a more conservative government in an era of global anti-trans rhetoric.” It remains unclear whether Johnson’s government would support activists’ efforts to allow trans people to legally change their gender in the U.K. without medical or legal intervention. Tatchell agreed with Stern’s concerns over trans rights under Johnson’s government. Tatchell also told the Blade that “further advances seem doubtful” on other issues that include universal access to PrEP in the U.K. and compensation for men who were convicted under homophobic laws. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Editor’s note: Tremenda Nota is the Blade’s media partner in Cuba. This article was published on Tremenda Nota’s website on Dec. 5. Blade International News Editor Michael K. Lavers translated the article from Spanish into English. CIEGO DE ÁVILA, Cuba — The Gran Muthu Rainbow Hotel, which opened on Dec. 5 in northern Ciego de Ávila in the center of the island, is the first property of its kind conceived expressly to serve clients from the LGBTI+ community. An article that  Radio Surco  published declares the new hotel’s profile “reaffirms Cuban authorities’ intention to promote respect for sexual diversity.” Rafael López Alcaraz, corporate director of Muthu Hotels in Cuba, guaranteed that staff who are specially trained to work with LGBTI+ tourists will provide services, according to statements the broadcaster published. The National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) oversaw the training, according to a post published in April on the Facebook page of the institution directed by Mariela Castro that falls under the Ministry of Public Health. CENESEX “will help with the selection and training of the personnel who will work there; and in addition to collaborations with events, promotions, campaigns,” said the group. Nevertheless, in September it became known the Pernik Hotel, located on the eastern part of the island, denied services to transgender clients and had even allowed that discrimination in a manual for the property’s employees. “Transgender men and women will not be allowed into the ballroom in their transformation (sic) persona,” said the manual that Chirly Morenza Vázquez, who coordinate’s CENESEX’s network for trans people, shared on social media. The incident took place the same week a Catalan business announced it would be in charge of administrating Cuba’s second LGBTI+ hotel, this time in Cuba, starting in 2020. “We are very happy to bring our support to the LGBTQ+ community in Cuba,” wrote Juan Juliá, founder and president of Axel Hotels, the chain that will be in charge of the Telegraph Hotel in the capital’s oldest neighborhood, on Facebook. TREMENDA NOTA

Trudeau calls for conversion therapy ban in Canada Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for a ban on so-called conversion therapy in his country. Trudeau in a letter he sent to Attorney General David Lametti on Dec. 13 directed him to work with Diversity, Inclusion and Youth Minister Bardish Chagger “to amend” Canada’s Criminal Code “to ban the practice of conversion therapy and take other steps required with the provinces and territories to end conversion therapy in Canada.” Trudeau on Oct. 21 won re-election, even though a picture of him in brownface that emerged before the election sparked outrage and tarnished his reputation. Trudeau’s Liberal Party lost its majority in Parliament. The conversion therapy ban is part of Trudeau’s government’s priorities for its second term. Trudeau in 2017  formally apologized  to those who suffered persecution and discrimination under Canada’s anti-LGBTQ laws and policies. A law that added gender identity to Canada’s nondiscrimination and hate crimes law took effect in 2017. Canada would become one of a handful of countries to prohibit conversion therapy if the ban becomes law. MICHAEL K. LAVERS


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NATIONAL

10 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

Absolut Vodka at vanguard of LGBTQ engagement Iconic brand among first to embrace its queer customers By SCOTT STIFFLER Pride parade-goers given to grouse about the sheer volume of corporate floats, logos, and swag may well have a point about oversaturation. Yet as the year of Stonewall 50 winds down, it’s worth noting that for the longest time, mainstream brands wouldn’t be seen in public, even in June, with the community they now unabashedly woo. Notable exceptions exist. American Airlines, IBM, and Wells Fargo have long been present, year-round, in LGBTQ-specific media—but beyond paying Pride month lip service, most high-profile players have yet to establish a presence. Apple and Starbucks, for example, cannot claim so much as a single tear sheet from the gay press, or a mainstream ad featuring LGBTQ content. Absolut Vodka, however, has spent decades sending a message of solidarity as clear and potent as its product. To date, the progressive Swedish company has spent $31 million+ on LGBTQ marketing, and donated $40 million+ to LGBTQ charities. It launched a campaign with Equality California, joined others in suing the Trump administration for rollbacks to transgender rights, and have been partnering with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation since 1989, when it became a founding sponsor of the GLAAD Media Awards. Absolut’s direct marketing to the community began in 1981, the company’s timeline notes, with full-page back cover ads in The Advocate and After Dark magazines. Although the first spirit maker to do so, other recognizable names were engaging at the time, says Mike Wilke, a former journalist and founder of AdRespect. org. In his capacity as an LGBTQ ad historian, Wilke notes the pre-Absolut presence of Casablanca Records, Yves Saint Laurent, Jägermeister, Coors, and Pernod Ricard in After Dark—the 1968-1983 soft-pornish entertainment magazine whose shirtless cover boys flew off the shelf and under the bed of many a gay man coming into his own. Even so, “These were all mainstream ads,” Wilke says, noting it would be years before anyone ventured outside the realm of coded content. Absolut imagery included a purple-

Absolut Vodka has spent decades sending a message of solidarity as clear and potent as its product.

laced corset worn by a gender-nonspecific individual, and a ruler with “8” at every inch marking. “At the time, we called it ‘gay vague,’ ” recalls Todd Evans, of Rivendell Media, who places advertisements for the National LGBT Media Association (this publication is among its members). “It was ‘gay’ to you and me, but the mainstream world might not know it.” Wrote Stuart Elliott, in an October 2011 New York Times article charting Absolut’s 30-year track record, the company “ran its regular ads in the L.G.B.T. media; the 1981 placements were ‘Absolut Perfection,’ with a halo hovering over the bottle. More recently, the brand has sponsored ads that are tailored for the market.” Still, says Wilke of the early 1980s, associating one’s mainstream product with the gay community “was risky.” (This was less than a decade since the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.) That lingering stigma was about to have company. As Absolut entered the fray, Wilke recalls, other major advertisers “were actually starting to show interest in the gay market. Then AIDS happened, and everything pulled

back.” Rather than retreating, Absolut doubled down. “They continued to advertise through the ’80s,” notes Evans, “buying every back page ad that was available in gay media,” as well as hosting special events at brick and mortar establishments. “It was no secret,” says Evans, “that drinking was a big part of gay culture, so it made sense to have a consistently maintained presence [in print and at bars]. It was an inexpensive way to own the market, and it earned them the thankfulness of the community… Any national advertiser coming into our media, it’s a big deal, to this day. And if you’re over 50, chances are you’re still an Absolut patron, because you remember that time in our lives, of not having acceptance.” As often happens when untapped markets reveal their profit potential, other spirit makers came pouring into the pages of LGBT (pre-“Q”) magazines and newspapers. But by that time, says Wilke, Absolut had “maintained their presence for many years, building loyalty and name recognition. So I’d say they’ve been highly successful at being known as one of the most gay-friendly brands of all

time, even when they had fierce competition for the gay dollar. A number of competitors were doing, in my opinion, a very good job at marketing. But they got there much later.” With increased cultural visibility came gay-specific ad content. In 2000, an “Absolut GLAAD” ad sung the organization’s praises— and in 2008, the “In an Absolut World” ad had pumped-up baseball fans in the foreground, implying approval of the message on the scoreboard behind them (“Mark will you marry me?—Steve”). Absolut was also an early adopter of a little show called “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” becoming a presenting sponsor in 2011, while it was still airing on Logo. “That was a real risk,” says Evans. “Either the show was going to take off, or it wasn’t. So it shows a level of willingness to keep moving forward.” “In the early days,” says Wilke, “we were thrilled to be validated by a major advertiser… Speaking as a gay man who pays attention to this stuff, I feel more excited when I see a great ad that speaks to me, more than I do with a general market ad. I think it’s a natural reaction, and that’s why it’s done.” Continues at losangelesblade.com


Spark more joy. $1 of every Holiday Pride Pack will be donated to amfAR.

Available in Indica, Hybrid and Sativa blends. @lowellfarms | lowellsmokes.com | @lowellsmokes

Celebrate Chanukah at Congregation Kol Ami Join in Congregation Kol Ami’s lively celebration of the Festival of Lights Friday, December 27 at 7 pm 1200 N. La Brea Ave. in West Hollywood Bring your Menorah for 7:00 PM Community Candlelighting in the parking lot Services at 7:15 pm and Chanukah Oneg at 8:30 PM with Latkes for everyone! Bring a New Children’s Book in Spanish for our Guatemalan mission to the town of San Antonio Aguas Caliente

TO RSVP

www.kol-ami.org/form/shabbat-chanukah.html Or call (323) 606-0996 And a very Happy Chanukah and Happy New Year from Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood’s Reform Syngagogue


12 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

VOLUME 03 ISSUE 52

On the record with Gov. Newsom: One year of California for All Tackling homelessness, natural disasters, healthcare challenges

Gavin Newsom is governor of California.

(Editor’s note: The Los Angeles Blade and the Bay Area Reporter are participating in a new effort by California Gov. Newsom to reach out to LGBTQ, ethnic and minority residents too often overlooked in state policy discussions. This is the first of his quarterly columns. – Karen Ocamb) There’s no state in America quite like California. In troubled times for the nation, California is where the American Dream is alive and well. The most diverse state in the world’s most diverse democracy, California is big-hearted, thriving, inclusive and bold. This year, we’ve been working to build a California for All. Governing by our values of growth and inclusion, we have made principled yet practical investments in our people and our future. Making sure that those investments are built to last, we have budgeted responsibly for the years ahead. Our balanced, on-time budget created the largest rainy day fund in state history and paid down California’s wall of debt. That budget addressed the biggest challenges we face. Today, I will share our work to tackle the high cost of living in California, prevent and prepare for emergencies, and combat homelessness. First, we’re working to confront the state’s affordability crisis. It is our state’s

foundational economic challenge, which threatens lives and threatens futures. The things that make it possible to get ahead – housing, health care, saving for your kids’ college or your retirement – are getting farther out of reach for Californians. When I took office last January, I got to work to make life more affordable for all. Together, we expanded healthcare subsidies to middle-class Californians. We took on rising prescription drug costs by seeking to establish the nation’s largest single purchaser system for drugs. We helped put higher education within reach of more Californians by providing two free years of community college to first-time, full-time students and negotiated tuition freezes at California’s universities. We also put money back in the pockets of California parents by doubling the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and adding a $1,000 credit for families with children under the age of six. We eased the financial burden on parents by repealing the sales and use tax on diapers. Second, we are making sure that California is ready for the next natural disaster, and that communities still recovering from catastrophic wildfires have what they need to rebuild. We invested $1 billion to build disaster resiliency, response and recovery – including funding the pre-positioning of emergency response teams in times of high-risk wildfire conditions. We launched Listos California, a statewide network of community organizations that build disaster resiliency in vulnerable communities. We also moved the state toward a safer, affordable and reliable energy future by drafting wildfire safety and accountability measures and working with the legislature to create a $21 billion wildfire fund. Finally, we’re working nonstop to confront the statewide crisis of homelessness, which impacts 130,000 Californians in every corner of our state. We’re pursuing solutions that work. We made a historic $2.75 billion investment — the most California has ever spent — on programs to fight homelessness and build

more housing. That amount included $650 million in Emergency Homelessness Aid to cities and counties so that they can implement the best local solutions for their communities. We’re also striking at the root causes of homelessness, including the unacceptable lack of housing construction and unscrupulous landlords who price-gouge their tenants and unfairly evict them. We negotiated and signed the nation’s strongest statewide renter protections and worked with technology companies to secure $4.5 billion toward California’s housing crisis. We’re “all in” on tackling this crisis because it is a major quality of life issue not just for the person sleeping on a sidewalk, but for everyone in their community. We recognize that every homeless individual is someone’s child, parent, or friend. Many times, they are our service members, who served honorably in our military and fell onto hard times after they got home. These individuals are often struggling with mental illness or substance abuse. They deserve better than the reckless rhetoric and heartless cuts to the social safety net that Washington is offering. They deserve the thoughtful solutions that we are pursuing in California, in partnership with local governments, the private sector, and philanthropists statewide. Make no mistake, we have so much more work to do. There are still too many Californians who do not get to share in the prosperity that they help to create. For them, and their children – and California’s continued leadership in the nation and the world – we must boldly confront our remaining challenges. These challenges demand bold solutions, and above all, the courage for a change. Fortunately, we have no shortage of courage here in California, a state of dreamers and do-ers who are not afraid to take risks for what’s right. In the year ahead, we’ll continue to work hard and aim high on behalf of all Californians, and everyone who looks to our state as a beacon of hope.

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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • 13

‘Mrs. Maisel’ inspires us to resist injustice New season of hit show highlights racism, sexism in early 1960s

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

My newest crush is a gorgeous rose petal pink sun hat! Recently, I first eyed the object of my affections. It was worn by Miriam “Midge” Maisel as she lounges by the pool in Miami. Do I need to say that the hat perfectly matches her bathing suit and beach shoes? Aficionados, rejoice! On Dec. 6, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” season three began streaming on Amazon Prime. The show was just nominated for a Golden Globe for Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy. At times, this show featuring a jilted New York City, midcentury housewife turned stand-up comic is vexing. Its world is so privileged! Still, I find myself as addicted to “Mrs. Maisel” as a movie addict is to popcorn. Why am I stuck on this show? Because it combines the style of “Mad Men” (Sinatra! Gorgeous costumes!) with jazz, Lenny Bruce and proto-feminism. If you haven’t entered the Maiselverse: Miriam, a.k.a. Midge, Maisel is a 1950s housewife. She’s living a comfortable life in Manhattan with her husband Joel and their children. Joel flops when he tries his hand at stand-up comedy. But, despite this, everything’s fine. Until, that is, Joel cheats on her. Most of us in Midge’s shoes would get drunk with our buds. Not Midge. She goes to a Greenwich Village comedy club. She’s never done stand-up before. But that’s no problem for her. Leaping to the stage, telling jokes about Joel, going topless,

Photo Courtesy Amazon

getting arrested – Midge becomes Mrs. Maisel, the new comic sensation. In 1958, a woman doing comedy about her own life

was almost unheard of – revolutionary! Susie (Alex Borstein), impressed by Midge’s talent, becomes her manager.

Along the way, Joel becomes less of a jerk and a more loving ex. Midge breaks off her engagement with her boyfriend Ben when she gets an opportunity to go on tour opening for the popular African-American singer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain). In its current season, Midge and Susie go on tour with Shy – going from Las Vegas to Miami to Harlem. They’re moving from 1959 into the early 1960s. It’s “the 60s, man!” Things are changing! We’re in the JFK era! Lenny Bruce and Mrs. Maisel talk about “smoking weed” on a TV late night show. Midge refuses to do an ad for the (then) emerging anti-feminist, anti-queer, rightwinger Phyllis Schlafly. (Passing up some needed bucks to do this.) Yet, as always with “Mrs. Maisel,” many things haven’t changed. The sexism and racism shown in the show are still with us – even if in more subtle forms. Men are given a chance to make mistakes, Mrs. Maisel says in one of her comedy sets. “Why isn’t a woman allowed to fail,” she asks. “I can’t stay here!” Shy says to Midge when she says she’ll get something for him from his room in “their hotel” in Miami. “This is the South!” Though we never see Susie with another queer women or at a gay bar, this show is queer in its DNA. There’s Jane Lynch as the imperious Sophie, who Susie’s been suckered into managing. Wynda Sykes appears as the great “Moms” Mabley. Midge remains friends with Shy after he tells her he’s gay. (Given the era, Shy has to be in the closet.) Still, I can’t help wishing to see more of Susie’s queerness and back story. Given the time the show’s set in, I don’t expect her to be out to anyone – even Midge (with whom she’s formed a Thelma and Louise types woromance.) Yet, couldn’t we see Susie having a beer in a dyke bar? Out of the blue, Susie tells Midge that she has a law degree. Nothing more is said about it. Like Midge, I wondered: What? Despite those caveats, as I’ve said in the Blade before, “Mrs. Maisel” inspires us to resist injustice. For fuel for resistance and mid-century glitz and glam, check out “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”


14 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

IMPEACH: Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors History will be kind to Dems holding president accountable

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

If you listen to the debate in Congress, you’d think according to Republicans we have the ‘perfect’ president and what the Judiciary Committee is doing is antiAmerican. Let us take a look at what is American to its core — our Constitution. It is the Constitution that gives Congress the authority to impeach and remove “The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States” upon a determination that such officers have

engaged in treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. It is also made clear in the Constitution that, “The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the ‘sole’ Power of Impeachment.” Sole power means they don’t have to go to the courts to mandate the president turn over requested papers and other information. If they subpoena him and others in his administration and the president obstructs their work by telling those individuals they don’t have to recognize the subpoenas Congress has every right to decide to impeach him without going to the courts as the mediator as some Republicans and even some talking heads on the cable networks are suggesting. It is really not a stretch for anyone with a brain to understand how Donald J. Trump committed what are easily defined as high crimes and misdemeanors. When he was sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 2017, he put his hand on a Bible and swore to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.” He has clearly failed to do that. By obstructing the work of Congress and not answering to any subpoenas he has not protected the Constitution. By abusing his powers

as president and trying to bribe a foreign government to do him a personal favor while withholding funds approved by Congress and important to the defense of not only our ally Ukraine but to the United States as well he is not preserving, protecting or defending the Constitution. Listening to Republicans defend Trump was an incredible experience and often played like a sick comedy act. First, those like Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Doug Collins (R-Ga.) thought if they yelled more, then their lies would seem like the truth. Then there was Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) who every time he opens his mouth reinforces his reputation as the dumbest member of Congress. Then there is Rep. Matt Goetz (R-Fla.) who challenges Gohmert for that title but is also the vilest and nastiest member of Congress. They, along with Trump, disparaged government officials and civil servants who in most cases were hired by Trump. They denigrated veterans who had been decorated for valor defending the country for President Bonespurs who used a phony excuse to get out of serving. Now the Democratic House will vote to impeach and send the two Articles of Impeachment voted by the Judiciary

Committee on to the Senate for a trial. We already know the result of that trial; it will not convict the president. In fact, Senate Majority Leader ‘Moscow Mitch’ has already said he will coordinate the trial with the president’s lawyers and do all he can to ensure no more dirt on the president comes out in that trial. So why did Democrats bother? There’s a simple answer to that question and it is about history and the future. History will judge what this Congress and its members did and impeaching this president who has committed high crimes and misdemeanors against the people will be seen as the right thing to have done. It is also about the future. This president unless stopped will continue to do what he has been doing and without any effort to call him to account future presidents of both parties will see this behavior as acceptable and that is and should be unacceptable to any decent person. We must fight for our democracy and to protect our Constitution if future generations of Americans are to have a government they can be proud of and one the rest of the world can look up to.


Cadillac of Beverly Hills welcomes the LGBT community. ‘It’s not your grandmother’s Cadillac,’ says General Sales Manager Ron Elkhoury. Photo by Troy Masters

In Beverly Hills, the Cadillac of Cadillac dealerships Automaker has earned its LGBTQ rainbow stripes By SCOTT STIFFLER

With a mandate to expand the brand’s legacy, a drive to exceed client expectations, and a cutting-edge facility whose wide-open design speaks to the transparency with which they conduct themselves, Cadillac of Beverly Hills is a wake-up call to the sleepy old way of doing business. The sleek, sprawling, super-modern facility, located on the marquee corner of Robertson and Wilshire, had its Grand Opening last week— by which point they had already established themselves as a formidable presence. Since first welcoming the public on Sept. 10, notes General Sales Manager Ronald Elkhoury, “In the western region [14 states west of the Mississippi], we have been the number one Cadillac dealership, in sales volume and customer satisfaction.” It’s that latter distinction, notes Elkhoury, that makes the former one possible. “This is not your traditional auto dealership that you go into, and are attacked by salespeople with tacky techniques,” says

Elkhoury. “And you feel that right away. There’s no pressure at all. It’s a place where you’re able to relax, and encouraged to just hang out.” And people do—at five distinct lounges, where they can chill with Netflix and warm up with Starbucks coffee. This cultivates a “painless, enjoyable experience,” says Elkhoury, who likens time spent at the dealership to “when you were five, and you went to the toy store. You had a good time while you were there, and you left with something you really liked. And that made you happy.” Speaking at the Grand Opening, Steve Carlisle, GM Senior Vice President and President, Cadillac, declared the dealership to be “absolutely awesome. It is the latest and newest, most up-to-date Cadillac facility. We couldn’t be prouder.” From the lighting and surface areas to fabrics and furniture, “No detail was overlooked,” notes General Manager Lonnie Bennett. “All of it was designed at the highest standard, and with the idea in mind of reflecting where

Cadillac has been—and where it’s going.” The history of Cadillac design is on display throughout, telling that story with stunning photographs of iconic automobiles culled from the company’s own collection, and hung in a manner that invites the sort of admiration and contemplation one would expect to experience in an art gallery. “They spared no expense,” says Bennett, of Cadillac’s in-house design team, “because Cadillac’s return to Beverly Hills, after a 30year absence, has to be right.” Elkhoury notes the one-of-a-kind dealership establishes a new gold standard for the manner in which their luxury vehicles are presented. As such, this “elite pilot dealership” boasts aesthetics and amenities befitting the global reputation not just of their brand, but also of their namesake neighborhood. At the Grand Opening, the Mayor of Beverly Hills, John Mirirsh, concurred, saying he commended Cadillac, “for meeting the city’s expectation for a luxury brand in the design of

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this store. We were very particular about who occupied this space,” the mayor noted, “because we have a reputation in Beverly Hills that must be upheld. Only Cadillac could have done this, and we are proud to welcome them back.” Dynamic though the surroundings may be, Cadillac of Beverly Hills is ultimately a vehicle for, well, vehicles. There are 400 of them on site, of the new, used, and certified varieties—but it’s the contemporary models, says Elkhoury, whose modern exteriors and tech-infused interiors make Cadillac “more relevant, more appealing than ever before.” On the showroom floor, you’ll find 2020 models. These are, says Carlisle, fueling a “global momentum that continues to accelerate, with new and compelling products such as the revamped 2020 XT5.” Carlisle cites “new crossovers and sedans, including the XT6 and CT5” as bold declarations that “the brand is redefining itself for a new generation of customers for whom luxury and technology are inextricably linked.”

The design and tech may be thoroughly modern—forward-looking, in fact—but some things will never change, promises Elkhoury, who says their unparalleled “customer experience” is “what makes the brand stand out. And your customer journey is going to be smooth in all stages—from the moment you walk in, to the moment you leave with the car and take that first picture that ends up on social media.” Okay, so in terms of iconic luxury product, stellar customer service, and fabulous new facility, consider those boxes are checked— but what’s Cadillac’s track record with this publication’s target audience? “Our pledge to the LGBTQ and allied community starts at the core of the company’s policies,” says Anne Roberts, of Cadillac Communications. “It is an integral part of our mission to build a workplace of choice and an inclusive culture that welcomes and celebrates a diverse workforce.” Those values, says Roberts, also “extend

outside the walls of our company into the community, through the dedication of our General Motors PLUS Employee Resource Group” as well as LGBTQ-inclusive advertising campaigns and promotional events. Cadillac also earns its LGBTQ rainbow stripes, so to speak, for being the first automaker to join the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. And, adds Roberts, “We stand before you today as the first and only automaker to sign both the Equality Act and Amicus Brief supporting the prevention of LGBTQ discrimination.” Echoing that steadfast commitment from corporate, Elkhoury has a promise of his own for the community—the Beverly Hills community. “This is just the start of the journey,” says Elkhoury, of the young dealership. “That’s why we want people to know we are the new generation. We’re here, and we’re here to stay. If there’s something you need, Cadillac of Beverly Hills is going to be there for you.”

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MUSIC

18 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

Making sense of Christmas lyrics What is figgy pudding? Who wants seven swans as a gift? By JOEY DiGUGLIELMO

Christmas carols, as you have undoubtedly noticed, are full of archaic phrases. Figgy pudding? Round yon virgin? And would you really be excited about receiving three French hens on the third day of Christmas (or whenever)? Here’s your decoder ring. 1. CAROL: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”

LYRIC: “now bring us some figgy pudding” MEANING: Figgy pudding (aka plum pudding or Christmas pudding) is a British Christmas culinary staple, according to NPR. It’s evolved over time but today means more dessert than pudding in an American sense. It’s a steamed cake with raisins, currants and brandy. 2. CAROL: “Angels We Have Heard on High”

LYRIC: “in excelsis deo” (pronounced: in ehk-shell-sees day-o) MEANING: “Glory in the highest to God” 3. CAROL: “Here We Come A-wassailing”

LYRIC: “here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green …” MEANING: wassailing is an old English word for caroling, as the song is sometimes sung. 4. CAROL: “Good King Wenceslas”

Ever pause to consider Christmas carol lyrics? Many sound odd to 21st century ears.

LYRIC: “Hither page and stand by me, if thou know’st it telling/yonder peasant who is he?” MEANING: This carol tells of a king braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a peasant on the Feast of St. Stephen (Dec. 26). He’s asking his page (young male assistant or servant; hmmmm …) the identity and location of the peasant. 5. CAROL: “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

LYRIC: pretty much the whole thing, WTF? MEANING: First off, in Christianity, Christmas is 12 days running Dec. 25-Jan. 5 (the eve of Epiphany), preceded by Advent. The origin and meaning of the song and gifts mentioned are unknown. It’s widely thought to have originated from a

children’s memory game/exercise with the gifts chosen as larks. It’s a pretty fowl song — six of the gifts named are birds. 6. CAROL “Silent Night”

LYRIC: “round yon virgin, mother and child” MEANING: gathered around the blessed Virgin Mary. Yon is an antiquated word for “that one.” 7. CAROL: “Deck the Halls”

LYRIC: “troll the ancient yuletide carol” MEANING: to sing an old Christmas carol in full, joyous voice *honorable mention: gays, of course, have long had fun with the line “don we know our gay apparel,” which simply mean to put on one’s party clothes. 8. CAROL: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

LYRIC: “God rest ye merry gentlemen/let nothing ye dismay” MEANING: A Shakespearean-era way of expressing good wishes, let nothing upset you this season. 9. CAROL: “The Christmas Song”

LYRIC: “chestnuts roasting on an open fire/Jack Frost nipping at your nose” MEANING: chestnuts are edible nuts from chestnut trees, a group of deciduous trees and shrubs. How they got associated with the holidays is a bit murky — undoubtedly the lyrics of this 1945 Robert Wells/Mel Torme song are heavily responsible. Jack Frost is a personification of frost, ice, snow — basically any harsh winter weather. He’s a variant of Old Man Winter. 10. CAROL: “Baby It’s Cold Outside”

LYRIC: “I simply must go (but baby, it’s cold outside)/the answer is no (but baby it’s cold outside) …” MEANING: Controversial lyrics that took on new meaning in the #MeToo era, where no means no more fully at face value. This year’s new “woke” version by John Legend and Kelly Clarkson change the lyrics to “I simply should go (text me when you get home)/Oh, I’m so supposed to say no (mm, I guess that’s respectable) …


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2019 XT5 FWD: Must qualify for $2,000 Lease Loyalty Program, Eligible customers who have a current Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet or GMC Lease through GM Financial and lease one of the new and unused GM models. Payments are for a 2019 XT5 FWD with an MSRP of $42,690. Closed-end lease. Option to purchase at lease end for an amount to be determined at lease signing. GM Financial must approve lease. Take retail delivery by 12/31/19. Mileage charge of $.25/mile over 24,375 miles. $0 Security deposit required. Previous Loaner with 3,102 miles. Stock # KZ217708L. Residency restrictions apply. © 2019 General Motors. All Rights Reserved. Cadillac® XT5® 2019 XT4 Premium Luxury FWD. Must qualify for $1,250 Lease Loyalty Program, Eligible customers who have a current Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet or GMC Lease through GM Financial and lease one of the new and unused GM models. Payments are for a 2019 XT4 Premium Luxury FWD with an MSRP of $46,585. Closed-end lease. Option to purchase at lease end for an amount to be determined at lease signing. GM Financial must approve lease. Take retail delivery by 12/31/19. Mileage charge of $.25/mile over 32,500 miles. $0 Security deposit required. Late payment and early termination fees apply. Lessee is responsible for insuring the lease vehicle. Lessee pays for maintenance, repair, excess wear and disposition fee of $595 or less at end of lease. Contact dealer for details. Not available with some other off ers. Pictures may not represent actual vehicles. Previous Loaner with 4,697 miles. Stock # KF115272L. Residency restrictions apply. © 2019 General Motors. All Rights Reserved. Cadillac® XT4®.


BOOKS

20 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

Gone too soon? Stuff lives on in new book ‘Mobituaries’ By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

photo courtesy Simon & Schuster

Dust to dust. That’s supposedly what we all become again when we exit, stage left: we are made of dust and we’ll just be a pile of it when we die. But is that all or can we hope to live on as a line in a page somewhere? As in the new book “Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving” by Mo Rocca and Jonathan Greenberg will someone remember? Nothing lasts forever. If you’re old enough to read that, you’re old enough to know its truth: everything and everybody ends eventually and some leave without fanfare. We might not even see them go because, as Mo Rocca muses, “not everyone has gotten the send-off they were due.” That set-things-right need for closure launched Rocca’s “Mobituary,” which is “an appreciation for someone (or some thing) who didn’t get the love she or he deserved the first time around.” Take, for instance, “the long s,” which looks something like a small F and which can be found in the Declaration of Independence. It ceased to be used in late 1803 and is gone but not forgotten. Women don’t wear hobble skirts anymore and men don’t wear codpieces; doctors don’t believe phrenology helps diagnose your obsession with cats; encyclopedias won’t help a young author-to-be who thinks he’s gay; and you can no longer visit Prussia because it hasn’t existed since early 1947. But things don’t just disappear. People do, too. Once upon a time, every man wanted to dress like a guy named Beau Brummel. We don’t talk about Ada Lovelace these days or her 19th-century computer programming work. Few people know who Moses Fleetwood Walker is and even in today’s political climate, Billy Carter’s name is rarely mentioned. Reputations can die ignominously, TV shows get canceled and careers fade away (or sometimes end with a President’s life). Complacency can die, as can grace. But sometimes, just when we think life is filled with nothing but death, demise and unpleasantry, it can return on the tops of champagne bubbles. The first thing — perhaps even the only thing — you need to know is that “Mobituaries” is absolutely delightful. Promise yourself two minutes with this book and you’ll close its covers a half-hour later. Dip in for a little nostalgia (when did station wagons depart, anyhow?). Step back in time to witness the acts of people who made big impacts but are now largely forgotten. See how celebrities can eclipse other celebs, even in death. Like with a bag of potato chips, watch yourself reach into this book for another handful because authors Mo Rocca and Jonathan Greenberg don’t wade in too deeply; instead, they give readers just enough to whet appetites but not so much that we get full. And as with any feast, literary or otherwise, you can nibble without thinking you must have a helping of everything. Rattle around and you’ll find that “Mobituaries” is gently humorous, kindly inclusive and plain fun to read. Have it nearby and you’ll know that this book won’t collect dust. ‘Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving’ By Mo Rocca and Jonathan Greenberg Simon & Schuster $29.99 375 pages


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22 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

FILM

‘Little Women’ a smart, richly realized period romance Latest adaptation flavored with post-modern irony By JOHN PAUL KING

Timothée Chalamet and Florence Pugh in ‘Little Women.’ Photo courtesy Sony Pictures

If you are one of those people who has heard of “Little Women” for your entire life yet somehow never got around to reading it, you might have trouble following second-time director Greta Gerwig’s respectfully deconstructed new film adaptation of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel. That is not meant to be read as a negative; it’s merely a mild warning that someone expecting straightforward linear storytelling from a film based on a 150-year-old book might have to pay close attention in order to keep up with what’s going on, since the director takes a decidedly contemporary narrative approach in this smart, richly realized period romance – for a romance it is, albeit one flavored by post-modern irony. Gerwig was hired by Sony Pictures to write the script for the planned adaptation – the eighth big-screen incarnation of the novel – back in 2016, before her awards-season victory lap following the release of “Lady Bird,” her feature directing debut. The success of that film resulted in the studio asking her to direct “Little Women” herself. It was a smart decision. With the same razor-sharp insight and humanistic wisdom she brought to her previous effort, Gerwig lovingly dissects Alcott’s 19th century tale to illuminate it from within, jumping back and forth through time in order to connect the dots between the narrative’s themes, and inviting audiences to ponder the way those threads still run through our contemporary culture today. Despite the potentially jarring narrative style, it’s not necessary to know the plot going in; but to sum up, “Little Women” is the story of the four young daughters of the March family – Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth – as they grow from young girls into young women. Nurtured by a loving mother (whom they call “Marmee”) in the absence of their father, who is ministering to wounded soldiers in the wake of the Civil War, they also form bonds with their wealthy neighbor and his handsome grandson, Laurie, helping to shape their lives as they grow toward adulthood. It’s a straightforward saga from a modern perspective, though the book has been lauded as groundbreaking for its time – its subtle challenge deeply encoded cultural expectations influenced generations of young female readers who related to its four heroines’ misgivings about the constrained social roles that await them in adult life, and was praised by renowned critic and author G.K. Chesterson for having “anticipated realism by twenty or thirty years.” It’s precisely those forward-thinking qualities that Gerwig brings to her reinterpretation, and they help her to create a movie that is neither merely a well-made and pleasant period drama, nor a savvy, subversive think piece, but a film that works equally well as both. The production values are a contributing factor, of course. The obvious high quality of the filmmaking talents involved behind the scenes provides a solid base from which Gerwig can build her vision; Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography evokes the natural-light-infused grainy glow of the great mid-seventies period films of directors like Kubrick and Altman, the costumes by Jacqueline Durran underscore important themes by capturing the subtle variations of women’s attire mandated by fashion and social class, and the score from Oscar-winner Alexandre Desplat strikes a delicate balance by maintaining the restrained conventions of 19th-century music while letting a more modern, free-spirited playfulness run throughout. It’s in the performances, of course, that the film is able to break free from the conditions of its 150-year-old source

material. Emma Watson (Meg), Florence Pugh (Amy), and Eliza Scanlen (Beth) all bring heartbreaking honesty to their roles, while Laura Dern’s Marmee is a sublime portrait of idealized motherhood that transcends sentiment through the authenticity of her compassion. Meryl Streep delivers a characteristically layered supporting turn as cantankerous-but-kind-hearted spinster Aunt March, and Chris Cooper rises above the maudlin tendencies of melancholy-but-sweet neighbor Mr. Laurence. To single out Timothée Chalamet’s Laurie when every performance is a standout might be egregious, especially in a film that is ultimately about women; but the young actor brings such a sense of immediacy to each moment that he cannot be overlooked. Indeed, he’s a young actor whose charisma makes him the focus every time he’s onscreen, and he does not waste that gift. He takes this notoriously opaque, underwritten character and gives him a powerfully multidimensional specificity that makes us see the fragile, confused human heart that beats beneath his sometimes callow, often faithless surface and makes us love him as much as the March girls inevitably do. Even so, the movie belongs to Saoirse Ronan, and appropriately so. As Jo, she is every bit the plucky female “All-American Girl” heroine, but her version of that stereotype looks like modernday girl power. She makes the character’s journey a struggle to hold onto that power, from naïve overconfidence through personal hardship to humble-yet-emphatic reclamation of her own agency, and she takes us with her every step of the way. She also takes on the double duty of serving as a stand-in both for author Alcott, who wrote Jo with clear autobiographical parallels, and director Gerwig, who in her vision takes on the burden of speaking feminine truth in a medium dominated by masculine power, just as Alcott did when she fought against the insistence of her publisher (male, of course) that she marry off her proto-feminist heroine at the end of the book. The writer lost that fight, compromising to meet his demands in order to ensure publication, and inevitably resulting in enduring criticism that “Little Women,” for all its supposed progressiveness around women’s rights, ultimately validated the ruling paradigm that a woman who wasn’t a wife and a mother was irrelevant. By taking on the author’s mantle, however, Gerwig gets the last word for both of them. She makes the real-life history of Alcott’s creative dispute part of Jo’s story as well, both subverting the intention of the imposed “happy ending” and exonerating the author by portraying her – or at least her fictional alterego – as a savvy, self-aware woman who knew she was winning the war by surrendering the battle. The fact that the director simultaneously makes us hope for that same happy ending simply serves to highlight the skill with which she navigates the complex myriad of perspectives she brings to her film. It’s because of this that Gerwig – just as with her debut effort – becomes the real star of her movie without ever stepping in front of the camera. She establishes herself here as a female auteur – a rarity in the still-misogynistic Hollywood film machine – that has the personal vision it takes to bring home the narrative’s ultimate truth that these “Little Women” chafe at the boundaries forced upon them by society, and that each, in their way, nurses a longing to break free. That’s something with which most of us – male or female, gay or straight, or anywhere between either of those increasingly outdated binaries – can surely relate, and it makes “Little Women” a sure bet for a trip to the movies this holiday season.


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24 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

FILM

Holiday ‘Bombshell’ Two dramas mine recent history with flawed but worthy results By BRIAN T. CARNEY

Charlize Theron and John Lithgow in ‘Bombshell.’ Photo by Hilary Bronwyn Gale; courtesy Lionsgate

Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates and Paul Walter Hauser in ‘Richard Jewell.’ Photo by Claire Folger; courtesy Warner Bros.

In an interesting development, two of this year’s big-name holiday releases try to turn (relatively) recent events into contemporary political parables. Neither completely succeeds, but both offer some fascinating moments and great performances. Directed by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, with a script by Billy Ray (“Captain Phillips” and “The Hunger Games”) from a 1997 “Vanity Fair” article by Marie Brenner, “Richard Jewell” is a cautionary tale about investigations gone wrong and the resultant media frenzies. During the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Jewell was working as a security guard at Centennial Park, an official entertainment venue. Jewell spotted a suspicious package, alerted police and helped officials clear the area, saving countless lives from a nail bomb explosion. Although he was initially hailed as a hero, Jewell was soon considered a suspect in the crime, based on his checkered history as an overzealous security officer and the fact that he fit the FBI’s “lone wolf” profile. Unknown FBI agents leaked his name to Kathy Scruggs, a reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Jewell and his mother became the subject of an intense media circus and an extensive criminal investigation. Jewell was eventually exonerated; it was subsequently discovered that the bomb was planted by terrorist Eric Rudolph who also bombed a lesbian bar and two abortion clinics. The movie gets off to a promising start as a character study of the quirky Jewell, a law-andorder fanatic who continually oversteps the boundaries of routine security jobs (for example, he illegally stops cars that are driving near the campus where he works) and who collects a large arsenal of guns in the small apartment he shares with his mother. Unfortunately, what starts out as a nuanced portrait of Jewell becomes a reactionary tirade against the government and the media. The tone is set when we see a bumper sticker on the wall of Jewell’s lawyer (Watson Bryant played by Sam Rockwell) that says he fears the government more than he fear terrorists. The FBI agents, led by Jon Hamm, are brutal and corrupt. They’re also fond of using homophobic slurs. Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) trades sex for information and the rest of the press corps is equally lazy and venal. The reactionary tone is sealed when Eastwood stages several climactic scenes against the Confederate flag (which was part of the Georgia state flag at the time). Despite some great performances (Paul Walter Hauser is amazing as Jewell, Kathy Bates is deeply sympathetic as his mother and Nina Arianda is a welcome breath of fresh air as Bryant’s secretary), LGBT audiences can safely skip “Richard Jewell.” The poster for “Bombshell” announces that

the movie is “based on a real scandal” which is both the strength and weakness of the movie. The expose of rampant sexism and harassment at Roger Ailes’ right-wing media empire is simultaneously horrifying, enthralling and entertaining, but the movie is far too eager to lay all of the blame solely on Ailes. The chic script by Charles Randolph tries to weave together the stories of three women at Fox News, all of whom are sexually harassed by network head Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). Real-life Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) is at the top of the journalistic game but is fighting to keep her position; real-life Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) is fired for refusing Ailes’ sexual advances and files a lawsuit against him; ambitious newcomer Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), an invented character, is quickly taught the price she must pay to advance at Fox News. While the dialogue is snappy, the script overall doesn’t hang together very well. Except for one brief elevator ride, the three women never meet onscreen, and Theron gets a lot more screen time than her castmates. Further, Kelly is a welldefined character, whereas Carlson remains a blond cipher and Pospisil is an odd collection of unconnected quirks. With a few exceptions, most notably Doug Brunt (Mark Duplass as Kelly’s supportive husband) and Jess Carr (out actress Kate McKinnon as a closeted lesbian who befriends Pospisil), the supporting characters are also not well developed. Theron and Lithgow turn in magnificent performances, but Randolph’s script turns the story into a battle between Kelly and Ailes (and to a lesser extent Carlson) instead of a story of broader patterns of discrimination. Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch (a wonderful Malcolm McDowell) only gets a brief cameo at the end when he appears to fire Ailes and there’s no consideration of how the other men at Fox News help maintain the toxic environment. More importantly, Randolph doesn’t pay any real attention to the women who prop up Ailes’ empire. Why do Ailes’ wife Beth (Connie Britton), his lawyer Susan Estrich (Allison Janney), his gatekeeper Faye (out actor Holland Taylor in an uncredited role) and his rising star Judge Jeanine Pirro (Alanna Ubach) enable his behavior? For example, there’s a chilling moment where Faye buzzes Kayla into Ailes’ inner office knowing all too well what will happen to the young woman when she steps inside. Unfortunately, Randolph and director Jay Roach waste the moment. Despite these significant flaws, is “Bombshell” worth the time during the busy holiday season? The answer is yes. Roach keeps things moving at a confident and suspenseful pace, the lead performances are superb and it’s great fun to spot the real-life celebrities and the Hollywood celebrities who play them.


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Due at lease signing is $0 customer cash or trade-in equity and includes - $600 GM Select Market Incremental CCR, and $1,500 GM Competitive Lease (Must qualify for either GM Competitive Lease) FOR THIS OFFER Total Due signing $2,075 includes - first month payment, $650 Acquisition fee, $80 documentation fee, $30 Electronic license filing fee. Does NOT INCLUDE - sales tax, license fees, and any applicable government fees. MSRP:$34,355.00 Subject to vehicle availability LL193069 . Must lease through GM FINANCIAL, on approved above average credit. Lessee is responsible for Excess wear and tear plus $.25 per mile for mileage over 10,000 miles a year. Disposition fee of $595 due lease end. $_0_Security deposit waived on Tiers A+/A. Picture may not represent actual vehicle. See dealer for detail

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26 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

AUTOS

Holiday haulers Honda Passport, Lincoln Nautilus among crossover standouts By JOE PHILLIPS

Dashing through the snow just got a lot more fun with some smartly designed midsized crossovers. Sure, each has a blemish or two (just like so many of us), but none is a deal-breaker. Most offer plenty of spunk, from decked-out cabins to engines that can haul ass. While holiday crowds and congestion can bring out the Scrooge in me, driving each of these rides turned out to be an ode to joy. HONDA PASSPORT $32,000 MPG: 19 city/24 highway Zero-60 mph: 6.2 seconds

MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV GT

As if there weren’t enough crossovers to choose from on dealer lots, Honda decided to shoehorn in another one. Slotted between the compact CR-V and full-size Pilot, the Passport is the best of both worlds. This ride is roomier than the CR-V, with a raised suspension and acres of cargo space for suitcases and holiday presents. And though it’s built on the same chassis as the heftier Pilot, the Passport is six inches shorter and about 100 pounds lighter. This means decent fuel mileage and easier parking. My test vehicle was surprisingly quiet and came in the top-of-the-line Elite trim level, which is $12,000 more than the base model. Goodies included heated/ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, LED interior lighting, auto-dimming side mirrors, wireless smartphone charging pad and all-wheel drive. But I could have done without the push-button shifter on the console. Pushing a button to change gears is just not intuitive, so give me a stick shift any day. While there’s no 360-degree camera, I did appreciate all the other safety features, like automatic high beams, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitor, parking sensors and more. The hands-free liftgate and integrated voice controls came in handy on a few shopping treks to Tysons. While this is no speed racer, accelerating from a standing start was much better than expected. So was the precise steering and nimble cornering. And the cabin, with its ample amenities and soft-touch materials, was akin to riding in an upscale Acura. LINCOLN NAUTILUS $42,000 MPG: 19 city/26 highway Zero-60 mph: 6.8 seconds

Perhaps Lincoln renamed its top-selling MKX crossover the Nautlius because of the sea of luxury features. All the usual creature comforts are here, plus optional surround-view camera, massaging seats and a sparkling 19-speaker Revel stereo. There’s also the swanky Black Label trim level, where — for a $15,000 premium — you enter a world of free carwashes, annual detailing and a concierge to run your errands. Yes, seriously. Think of it as having your own personal Santa. Of course, even entry-level Lincoln owners get

pampered, with free pickup and delivery for regular maintenance, as well as a limited-time membership in Clear—the service that lets you bypass long security lines at airports. Compared to the dated MKX, the Nautilus has a stylish new front, glitzy grille and fivetier headlights. While the angled liftgate with sporty rear spoiler brings to mind a sexy Porsche Cayenne, the overall design seems more like a sculpted land yacht — in a good way. Despite the old-school cool, there’s plenty of today’s tech: rear entertainment system and wireless charging for smartphones and such. Along with the typical safety gear, Lincoln threw in a nifty system for hands-free driving. There are some downsides, though, like the dated console and hard plastic interior trim. As with the Honda Passport, you have to push buttons to shift gears instead of using a good ole shifter. And beware: A fully loaded Nautilus can easily top $60,000. Still, the power, handling and fuel economy are just as good as the competition. And for anyone who geeks out on retro chic, this ride is hard to beat. MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV GT $42,000 MPGe: 74 (gas-electric mode) Zero-60 mph: 9.2 seconds

If you’re looking to be naughty and nice, there’s the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT. It’s naughty, because buying a Mitsubishi will brand you a rebel. After all, the automaker isn’t known for producing vehicles that push the design envelope. The cabins are often more practical than posh. And for many four-wheel Mitsu products, so-so reliability ratings haven’t exactly been a plus. Yet this crossover really is nice, with refreshed styling, updated seats and a sleeker center console for 2019. Plus, the Outlander PHEV is now the world’s best-selling plugin hybrid. I wanted to test it because a completely redesigned 2021 Outlander is in the works and will likely cost more when it arrives in showrooms. This Outlander can go up to 22 miles in all-electric mode, before switching to gas-electric mode. The base model is chock full of features, but the GT trim level is the one to pick. It offers keyless entry, surround-view camera and numerous safety features. There’s also a premium 710-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo with super-thumpin’ subwoofer in the back. Listening to it helped channel my frustration one afternoon when I got stuck trailing a granny for 20 minutes. Cornering isn’t as tight as I would like, but the allwheel drive is plenty grippy on slick roads. Another plus: This is perhaps the only plug-in hybrid that can actually tow anything. And while hybrids usually are more expensive than traditional gas-engine models, there are certain federal, state and local tax rebates/ incentives to help lower the price. Oh yes, the 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty is another nice touch, too.


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28 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

GOSSIP

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John reunite! And Lil Nas X makes more history By BILLY MASTERS

John Travolta donned a wig for his recent singing gig with Olivia Newton-John in Florida. Photo by Denis Makarenko/Courtesy Bigstock

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“Maybe when you stop enabling Donald Trump.” — Linda Ronstadt at the Kennedy Center Honors dinner, responding to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s musical question, “When Will I Be Loved?”  If you can’t handle the answer, don’t ask. When John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John announced they were reuniting for three “Grease” sing-a-long events in Florida, the events sold out immediately. It didn’t hurt that the duo was joined by three of their co-stars - Barry Pearl, Kelly Ward, and Michael Tucci - collectively known as the T-Birds (Didi Conn’s invitation must have gotten lost in the mail). Travolta thought it would be fun if his fellow T-Birds dyed their hair.  This made me wonder, what would Travolta do?  I am delighted to report that he donned one of the best wigs of his life. Actually, it was on the minimalist side, so perhaps it was a wiglet. He and Livvy turned up in their end-of-film attire for the Q&A, and even sang some of the songs.  You can see photos and even videos at BillyMasters.com. Social media had a problem with the snake Jason Derulo had in his tight black boxer briefs. Derulo explained, “I was not aroused. I was literally, like, getting out of the water. I don’t want to say I was shriveled up. I definitely didn’t have the cold shrivel.”  For those of you interested in what it looks like dry, Jason added, “It leans more to the front. If it’s on the side, and it’s just chilling on the side, it’s a semi.” This led to Derulo receiving an offer to do porn - ‘cause, you know, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, anacondas gotta breathe. CamSoda offered Derulo $500K to sit around in his boxer briefs and fondle the ferocious fella. So, basically, the anaconda didn’t even have to come out of hibernation!  Jason turned down the offer, saying “Imma need a wayyy bigger bag than that.”  Maybe Derulo has so much money he doesn’t need to fondle his undies for half a million bucks. We do know that Lil Nas X is doing just fine. According to “Forbes”, he’s the first gay man to appear on the list of highest-paid country acts. Of course, you can see his anaconda on BillyMasters.com. And, trust me, we didn’t pay him a cent! What’s new, Buenos Aires? I have wanted to say that for the past 24 years! At his inauguration, new Argentine President Alberto Fernandez was joined by his son, 24-year-old Estanislao. Not only does Estanislao have an alter ego in a popular drag queen named Dyhzy, he also wore a rainbow pocket square to the event. I suppose one could say he was rainbow high (yes, I’ve been dying to say that, too). The president previously described his son as “one of the most creative persons.”  When asked about Estanislao by the press, Alberto said, “My son is a rights activist in that community. I would worry if he was a criminal, but he is a great man. In that world, which I don’t know much about, he seems to be very respected and recognized. I have pride in my son. How could I not be proud?” Perhaps it’s just an Argentine tradition, but I enjoyed seeing El Presidente being sworn in while carrying a scepter and wearing a sash - kinda like Miss Universe. What a perfect segue to this week’s “Billy’s Holiday Gift Giving Suggestions.” I am surprised at how little most of us know about our LGBTQ history. If you want to fill that gap with some fascinating knowledge that’s also fun and colorful, pick up Frank DeCaro’s book “Drag: Combing Through the Big Wigs of Show Business.”  Sure, you’ll learn a lot about the impact drag queens have made throughout the history of...well, everything.  But it’s also a gorgeous coffee table book, which would be a great gift for anyone on your list. If you have a “Golden Girls” devotee on your list, why not buy them a “Golden Girls” Chia Pet. Oh, yes, if you have a green thumb (really any green extremity will do), you too could cultivate some sort of unctuous herb sprouting out of a clay head kinda shaped like Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White, or Estelle Getty (I think the Sophia one looks the best). You can find these anyplace cheap gifts are sold. While the original “Dynasty” was a guilty pleasure, the current incarnation is more guilty than pleasurable. I know you’re not watching, but it is fun - even if the cast is constantly changing. Continues at losangelesblade.com


CANNABIS CULTURE

30 • DECEMBER 20, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

Study finds little support for cannabis impacting cognitive abilities BOULDER, Colo. — The occasional use of cannabis during late adolescence is not independently associated with adverse effects on cognitive abilities in young adulthood, according to longitudinal data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. A team of investigators affiliated with the University of Colorado at Boulder assessed the impact of cannabis use on cognition, executive function, and working memory in 856 individual twins. Cannabis consumers were compared to their non-using twins in late adolescence and then again in their early twenties. Most of the cannabis consuming participants in the study reported occasional use of the substance, but not daily use. Authors found “little support for a causal effect of cannabis use on cognition. This conclusion is consistent with those from previous twin studies, which suggest that cannabis use does not cause a decline in cognitive ability among a normative cannabis using sample.” They concluded, “Results suggest that cannabis use may not cause decline in cognitive ability among a normative sample of cannabis users.” The findings are  consistent with several prior studies which also failed to show significant changes in either cognitive performance, brain morphology, or intelligence quotient due to cannabis exposure. Specifically, a 2018 literature  review  published in  JAMA Psychiatry  concluded: “Associations between cannabis use and cognitive functioning in cross-sectional studies of adolescents and young adults are small and may be of questionable clinical importance for most individuals. Furthermore, abstinence of longer than 72 hours diminishes cognitive deficits associated with cannabis use.”

Minn. regulators to expand medical cannabis access ST. PAUL, Minn. — Health Department representatives have  announced  forthcoming changes to the state’s medical cannabis program in an effort to expand patients’ access. Beginning in August 2020, those diagnosed with  chronic pain and/or age-related macular degeneration  will be eligible to receive medical cannabis recommendations. Regulators are also  amending  the program to allow cannabis products to be sold in the form of powders, gum, lozenges, and sublingual tablets, among other formulations. State law does not allow for the sale of herbal cannabis. Officials also announced that they would be expanding the total number of licensed

dispensaries operating within the state. An estimated 18,000 Minnesotans are registered to legally access medical cannabis products.

Potency of CBD products often mislabeled SEATTLE — The percentage of cannabidiol present in many commercially available CBD products differs from what is advertised on the label, according to an  analysis  commissioned by Leafly.com Authors lab tested 47 commercially available CBD-infused products. Products were purchased either online, at drug store chains, or at independent grocery stores. Twenty-three percent of the products possessed significantly lower percentages of CBD than advertised, a finding that is  consistent  with prior reports. An additional 11 percent of products contained no identifiable level of CBD. Fifteen percent of the products contained higher percentages of CBD than advertised. CBD-infused tinctures and edibles were most likely to possess accurate labeling. By contrast, CBD-infused capsules and water-based products were the least likely to be accurately labeled. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides no regulatory oversight on commercially available CBD products.

Medical cannabis well tolerated in older patients: study BE’ER-SHEVA, Israel — The use of herbal cannabis by older patients is efficacious and welltolerated, according to longitudinal data published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. Israeli researchers assessed the use of cannabis products in patients ages 65 or older over a period of 18 months. Participants in the trial suffered from cancer, chronic pain, sleep disorders, posttraumatic stress, spasticity, and other ailments. Of those patients who continued the use of medical cannabis for six-months or more, 79 percent reported either “significant” or “moderate improvement” from the treatment. The most commonly reported side effects of cannabis treatment were dizziness, fatigue, and dry mouth. Authors concluded, “Our results show that cannabis was well tolerated by most of our patients... [and that] most of the patients were satisfied with the treatment.” The findings are consistent with those of prior trials similarly finding that cannabis preparations are safe and effective for elderly patients. Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.


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Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 51, December 20, 2019  

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 51, December 20, 2019

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 51, December 20, 2019  

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 51, December 20, 2019

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