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APLA Health, others challenge county on STD funding Tense emergency meeting addresses ‘escalating epidemic’ By RANCE COLLINS
The feeling of uncertainty was palpable in the room of public health professionals representing nonprofit and governmentassisted organizations from across Los Angeles County. This was not the first time, nor would it be the last, where a collective cry for resources was deemed critically necessary. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of the County’s Department of Public Health (DPH) led the tense emergency meeting, which was called for by APLA Health last Jan. 31 to address what APLA Health Chief Executive Director Craig Thompson called an “escalating STD epidemic” that is at the crisis level. APLA Health believes, Thompson wrote, that “the County is neglecting opportunities to maximize all available funding sources for STD programs and funding.” The meeting, with other community and health organizations experiencing the same frustrations, was intended to “develop comprehensive long-term solutions to the County’s STD epidemic.” In October 2019, the California Department of Public Health released a report for 2018 indicating a sharp increase in the number of reported syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia cases. Syphilis, in particular, showed a dramatic spike over the 10 previous years: the 25,344 diagnoses represents a sharp rise of 265% from 2008, according to the state report. There were 232,181 cases of Chlamydia in 2018, up 56% over the past decade; there were 79,397 cases of gonorrhea, up 211% from 10 years ago. STD rates were highest among people between the ages of 15-24, African-Americans, and those who are gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with other men, according to the State Public Health Department. “Underlying drivers of the increases of
Blood testing at Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic. (Photo courtesy Los Angeles LGBT Center)
STDs relate to a complex web of social factors,” the report read. “Some people diagnosed with STD have experienced substance use, incarceration, the exchange of sex for money/housing/other resources, poverty, homelessness and disparities in access to care.” Last month, the LA LGBT Center, a top service provider for the screening and treatment of STDs and HIV/AIDS, took public offense over the county’s changed funding rules and requirements at a time when the state itself showed the three STDs hitting their highest rates in 30 years. APLA Health made the problem clear before the meeting. “The County contracting process is problematic and routinely disrupted by community politics, adequate government funding to address the epidemic is not forthcoming and service delivery is clearly failing to reach the most impacted populations,” they noted. Ferrer, DPH’s Chief Medical Officer Dr.
Jeffrey Gunzenhauser and Director of HIV and STD Programs Mario J. Perez sat at a table in the front of the room facing the organizations’ representatives as the discussions kept circling back, over and over, with the answers always coming down to money. Ferrer explained the vast majority of the DPH’s funds come from donors and grants, not from the state or the county. As such, the state has curbed funds to the DPH under the assumption that the amount of private funding makes governmental supplementation less necessary. But with less coming in from the state, cuts to contracted organizations were immediately necessary – though they were made without much warning. The DPH has temporarily extended some financial assistance to some organizations while the controversial situation is resolved. “We agree there needs to be more attention across the board,” said Ferrer.
“We’re doing the best we can to increase the resources, but we obviously need more help and we need more resources.” The exact amount more is uncertain and an exact figure was never nailed down during this prolonged discussion. At some point in recent years, the figure $30 million was floated, but as to what the number is right now, no one had a concrete answer. The idea was raised by some attendees of bringing forth a state of emergency for the STD epidemic, although this route was not met with much reaction from the county public health team. What they do have is a four-point plan. The plan itself, presented by Guzenhauser, took some time to fully articulate, as the discussion around the plan’s effectiveness was immediately brought into question. Ferrer, Guzenhauser and Perez welcomed participation in helping to craft a more detailed plan, but as the meeting droned on in more and more circular discussions around the needs for money, it was unclear what future action might entail. As it stands, their plan reads not unlike the basic talking points of any STD prevention program -- addressing education, screening, treatment and funding. The points seemed fairly universally acceptable by attendees, but as the primary providers of STD assistance, it always came back to the need for funds to accomplish these goals. As the meeting adjourned some two hours after it began, more questions were left than answers. The DPH, the LA LGBT Center, APLA Health and other affected organizations are likely to be continuing this conversation, debate and long-term planning throughout the year. But for now, they are reliant on the hope that the financial issues can be resolved so they can continue providing and expanding treatment the STD epidemic.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MARCH 06, 2020 • 03
Sanders, Biden and the primary wins in California Former vice president has a unique tie to LA By KAREN OCAMB
There was something very California about it. Former Vice President Joe Biden was in Baldwin Hills delivering his victory speech live on TV after having won 10 out of 14 Super Tuesday states when a protester dashed onstage with a “Let Dairy Die” sign. A security guard quickly wrangled her away. But another young woman jumped onstage, pursued by Biden spokesperson Symone D. Sanders who wrapped an arm around the protester and hauled her off as numerous women, including Dr. Jill Biden, surrounded the candidate. The video of the incident went viral, with tweets nicknaming Sanders after Wakanda warrior General Okoye, among other superlatives. Sanders responded with a kind of snarky Lizzo brush-off moment of her own: “I broke a nail. #SuperTuesday,” she tweeted. But the moment is an interesting Hollywood-ish metaphor for the turn of events in the race to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. The 31-year-old political operative – who was a spokesperson for Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016 before she abruptly quit – literally took an opponent off the field. The young black millennial represents politicos and voters willing to set aside ideological purity to beat Trump. “My politics are not tied to Bernie Sanders and they are not tied to Joe Biden,” Sanders told Politico for a magazine profile last year. “I have great respect for Senator Sanders and I have great respect and admiration for Vice President Biden. If I didn’t, I would not be working for him right now. But he does not define me.”
Sanders added that she has “never agreed 100 percent with anybody I’ve gone to work for” and she has “obviously” disagreed with Biden and even donated $250 to Pete Buttigieg. But, she told Politico, she believes Biden can win over black voters “and the Rust Belt workers who went for Trump in 2016.” She wants to tell her niece and nephew that she was “actively out there working” to get Trump out of office. Biden’s “Joe-Mentum” started in South Carolina where the deflated onceinevitable candidate was resurrected after embarrassing defeats in Iowa, New Hampshire and a Sanders blowout in Nevada. Forty-seven percent of South Carolina voters waited for, then acted upon the Feb. 28 endorsement by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the highestranking African American in Congress. “I know Joe Biden. I know his character, his heart, and his record. Joe Biden has stood for the hard-working people of South Carolina. We know Joe. But more importantly, he knows us,” Clyburn tweeted. “In South Carolina, we choose presidents. I’m calling on you to stand with @JoeBiden.” “I know where this country is: We are at an inflection point,” Clyburn said at a news conference, saying he was “fearful” for the future of this country. “It is time for us to restore this country’s dignity, this country’s respect.” “Today people are talking about a revolution,” Biden said at that news conference. “What the country’s looking for are results. What they’re looking for is security. What they’re looking for is to be able to sustain and maintain their
06 • MARCH 06, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Former vice president JOE BIDEN in Los Angeles on Super Tuesday night.
dignity.” Biden won big in South Carolina but Sanders’s win in Nevada frightened many politicos worried about close down-ballot races after democratic socialist Sanders doubled down in praising the late Cuba dictator Fidel Castro, freaking out voters in Florida. Tom Steyer dropped out, as did Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar who soon endorsed Biden. Joe-Mentum before Super Tuesday was building. And that seems to be the motivating factor that helped Biden win in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maine and Texas where Bernie Sanders was expected to do well. A huge percentage of voters said the late endorsements helped make up their minds. That seemed even more evident when, without money or organization or a grassroots ground game, Biden also swept the South with wins in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama,
Arkansas and Tennessee, thanks in large part to the huge turnout from black and women voters. Meanwhile, Trump wasn’t waiting on Russian bots to sow discord among Democratic voters. He constantly tweeted about how the Establishment was stealing the nomination from Sanders, as it had in 2016, he asserted. He also tweeted at billionaire Mike Bloomberg who spent $660 million in ubiquitous ads around the country banking on a Super Tuesday strategy – with only a win in American Samoa to show for it. Billionaires Bloomberg and Styer dropping out proved that money can’t buy the Democratic presidential nomination. California has experience with that – in 1998 when relatively moneyless Gray Davis, with strategy by Eric Bauman and the grassroots Stonewall Democratic Club, pulled out a win against millionaires
Jane Harmon and Al Checchi in the June 1998 gubernatorial primary. More than 1.3 million California voters turned their ballots in early by mail. But like many other regions on Super Tuesday, in-person voters in West Hollywood and around Los Angeles County experienced long lines, long wait-times and major problems with the new $300 million voting machines. When asked how long she’d been standing in line at the Laurel Elementary School on Hayworth in West Hollywood, one woman voter in her mid30s told the Los Angeles Blade, “Since I was 21.” One of two poll workers checking in voters said the turnout had been heavy but operating the new machines was “messy.” And while the line of prospective voters snaked around the corner, the auditorium itself was empty and the machines lifeless. Sanders, registered as an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has been campaigning in California since losing the 2016 primary to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He missed the CNN LGBTQ Town Hall in LA while recuperating from his heart attack but he was the first and only presidential candidate to tour LA’s Skid Row with AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein, talking about the homeless and housing crisis at AHF’s refurbished Madison Hotel on Aug. 6, 2019. So it was no surprise to LA politicos that the Associated Press and other media outlets called California in Sanders’s favor, especially in anticipation of early progressive vote-by-mail results. But after Nevada and South Carolina and the moderate Buttigieg and Klobuchar endorsements – supposedly to halt Sanders from securing an insurmountable delegate count -- the question became: How many delegates would the two men split going into the convention? By mid-day March 4, the day after Super Tuesday, of the 1,991 delegates needed to win nomination, 1,215 delegates have been declared. Biden had 566 delegates; Sanders had 501. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar had
an additional 147 delegates among them. Tulsi Gabbard, who is inexplicably still in the race, had one delegate. But it is still a long way until the July 13-16 Democratic Party Convention in Milwaukee, Wis. Meanwhile, Super Tuesday in California yielded a number of successful down-ballot primary races. LGBTQ ally Assemblymember Christy Smith left snarky Young Turks sexist homophobe Cenk Uygur in the dust in the CA-25 district race to fill the congressional seat vacated by bisexual Rep. Katie Hill. Longtime anti-LGBTQ former Rep. Steve Knight, who Hill defeated, clawed his way to second place behind GOP Mike Garcia in trying to challenge Smith in both a special May 12 runoff to fill six months left on Hill’s time and in the November general election for the seat outright. Former Trump staffer George Papadopoulos barely made a mark. In another much-watched contest in the CA-50 district, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who was maliciously reviled in his previous race against
Vermont Sen. BERNIE SANDERS in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy AHF)
disgraced (now convicted) Rep. Duncan Hunter, is sitting back watching gay San Diego talk show host Carl DeMaio slug it out with anti-LGBTQ former Rep. Darrel Issa in the who-is-best-for-Trump Republican match. In a nail-biting state legislative race, with thousands of ballots still to be counted in the highly contested Senate District 5 race, it looks like out Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) is in first place ahead of Republican Jim Ridenour and will advance to the November general election. The sweet spin is that the lesbian beat anti-LGBTQ Democrat Mani Grewal. “If Eggman wins in November, she will make history as the first openly LGBTQ+ woman of color to serve in the California Senate — potentially alongside Abigail Medina, who is running in Senate District 23,” says a press release from Equality California. “Susan Talamantes Eggman is the champion that Central Valley Voters want and deserve fighting for them in Sacramento. We are proud to support
Susan’s campaign because we know she’ll roll up her sleeves and tackle homelessness, veterans’ issues and LGBTQ+ civil rights,” says Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “We’re confident Susan will win in November, and we’ll be with her every step of the way.” In the San Diego area race for the CA53, it looks like lesbian Georgette Gomez, who could become the first openly LGBTQ Latinx member of Congress, will be in a run-off with longtime LGBTQ ally Sara Jacobs. There is still a 30-day window before all the votes are tallied but the two women are the top vote-getters in a crowded field of 15 candidates. And it looks like out Assemblymember Todd Gloria is likely to become the next Mayor of San Diego. On the local LA County level, it looks like a run-off between LA City Council President Herb Wesson and State Sen. Holly Mitchell for the 2nd Supervisor seat being vacated by Mark Ridley-Thomas, who appears to have won his City Council race in the 10th district. As did longtime LGBTQ ally Kevin De Leon in the 14th district. And incumbent District Attorney Jackie Lacey is just over 50%, which, if it holds, means that she’s defeated an intense effort by progressive prosecutors George Gascon and Rachel Rossi to oust her and institute deeper judicial reforms. Two very special races of note: longtime LGBTQ politico Jackie Goldberg won her reelection bid to the LA Unified School Board, despite vicious attacks by her charter school-supporting opponents. And lesbian Deputy DA Sherry Powell won her totally grassroots contest for Superior Court Judge Office No. 97 outright – beating rich attorney Timothy Reuben 64% to 36%. The primaries aren’t over yet, of course, and there are ample opportunities for Biden to stumble, Sanders to recover and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to play a major unconsidered role. And, as Washington Blade Political Correspondent Chris Johnson described
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MARCH 06, 2020 • 07
LOCAL S.C. win fuels Biden’s political comeback in his report, there is still plenty of room for LGBTQ voters to have an even bigger impact. “Hopefully her historic candidacy will get the attention and credibility it deserves,” longtime out Latina politico Ari Guttierez tells the Los Angeles Blade after she and her 9-year old daughter Emma Arámbula met Warren in the heart of East Los Angeles. And what role will former Mayor Pete Buttigieg play after Biden wistfully compared him to his own late son Bo Biden, the former Attorney General for Delaware. “We sent a message,” Buttigieg, 38, said, “to every kid out there wondering if whatever marks them out as different means they are somehow destined to be less than, to see that someone who once felt that exact same way can become a leading American presidential candidate with his husband at his side.” Chad Griffin, former president of the Human Rights Campaign, cast his ballot for Biden, a man he has long known. “America needs a leader in the White House who can help us navigate the tremendous challenges we’re facing on all front – someone who has a tested record of success, and an enlightened vision for the future to guide this nation back onto the path of progress,” Griffin said in a statement posted to Twitter. “I’m proud to endorse him and will fight like hell to get him elected.” It was Griffin who enlightened Biden about marriage equality. Anti-gay marriage Prop 8 was on everyone’s mind as President Barack Obama faced reelection in 2012. Obama campaign advisors David Axelrod and David Plouffe reached out to gay GOP strategist Ken Mehlman, former chair of the Republican National Committee who engineered President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, for advice since Mehlman was part a Griffincreated federal challenge to Prop 8. But while almost everyone was on board with Obama coming out in favor of marriage equality before the election, including
Vice President JOE BIDEN with JOHNNY and JOSIE WARD-LOMBARDO at a party at the home of their parents, SONNY WARd and MICHAEL LOMBARDO, in 2012. (Photo courtesy Michael Lombardo)
Michelle Obama, nothing happened. As Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigative reporter Jo Becker put it in her monumental book on Prop 8, “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality,” Griffin felt bans like Prop 8 “sent a signal that there was something inherently wrong with gay men and lesbians” and permitted state sanctioned bullying and anti-LGBTQ laws. He’d asked Obama if there was anything he could do to help him “evolve” more quickly – especially since the pro-Prop 8 side wanted to use Obama’s opposition to their advantage. But the president put him off. Then, on April 19, 2012, Griffin attended a gay Democratic fundraiser he’d helped put together at Obama’s request at the home of Michael Lombardo, an HBO executive, and his husband, Sonny Ward, an architect. He wanted to ask Biden, the guest of honor, directly about marriage equality but he knew the answer. “But as he watched the hosts’ two children, ages 5 and 7, press flowers and
08 • MARCH 06, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
a note into Biden’s hand, he changed his mind,” Becker writes. “They were in the home of two married men and their family. The Obama campaign wanted the support of the gay people in this room. The vice president should have to answer to them. When it was Griffin’s turn to speak, he said: ‘When you came in tonight, you met Michael and Sonny and their two beautiful kids. And I wonder if you can just sort of talk in a frank, honest way about your own personal views as it relates to equality, but specifically as it relates to marriage equality.’” Biden was clearly uncomfortable – he had sided with Obama in the issue. But then he totally surprised everyone. “’I look at those two beautiful kids,’ Biden began,” Becker reports. “‘I wish everybody could see this. All you got to do is look in the eyes of those kids. And no one can wonder, no one can wonder whether or not they are cared for and nurtured and loved and reinforced. And folks, what’s happening is, everybody is beginning to see it.
‘Things are changing so rapidly, it’s going to become a political liability in the near term for an individual to say, ‘I oppose gay marriage.’ Mark my words.’” Apparently, a dam had broken because Biden didn’t stop, asking aloud, what’s the problem? “’And my job — our job — is to keep this momentum rolling to the inevitable,’” Biden said, stunning everyone in the room. And he did keep the momentum going, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and answering the question directly and authentically. “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden said, noting that Obama, not Biden, sets policy. But the cosmos had changed and the Obama camp wasn’t happy. “He probably got out a little bit over his skis, but out of generosity of spirit,” Obama said, as if it was another Biden-ism. But shortly thereafter, Obama formally, if stiffly, came out in favor of marriage equality. And in his Inaugural Address on Jan. 21, 2013, Becker reports, “Obama drew a straight line from the civil rights fights based on race and gender to the current struggle for marriage equality. ‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,’ the president said, ‘for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.’” “Joe Biden is a man of uncommon decency and integrity and heart,” Michael Lombardo tells the Los Angeles Blade. And perhaps, if Biden becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, he will use that decency as a tool in the 2020 election fight against profoundly indecent Donald Trump, with an assist from Wakanda coalition builder, Symone D. Sanders.
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Coronavirus: Take precautions but don’t panic Tips to prevent catching new super flu By KAREN OCAMB
The new coronavirus has “now reached outbreak proportions and likely pandemic proportions,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News on March 1, as six deaths were reported in the U.S. during the height of flu season. There have been about 3,000 deaths globally, 2,803 of which have been in China’s Hubei province, where the outbreak is believed to have started last December. Though there is still much unknown about the new emerging virus, scientists do know that the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, is a highly contagious respiratory illness, easily spread through coughing and touching infected surfaces. It is most dangerous among the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions such as a compromised immune system. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. Someone experiencing those symptoms should initially treat the illness as if it is the regular flu – self-isolate, get plenty of bedrest and take over-the-counter flu medication. If the symptoms persist for more than two days, visit a doctor or a local clinic. Most of the initial cases have cleared up under treatment after two weeks. “This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average - everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious,” says Dr. James Robb, a Fellow of the College of American Pathologists, who was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses as a professor of pathology at the University of California
San Diego in the 1970s. “The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth,” says Robb. Because coronavirus is preventable and treatable in most cases with access to healthcare, Fauci says it is not time yet to close schools or ban large gatherings. “We are not at the stage for mitigation for this right now,” he told NBC News. “It may come to a point when you have enough community spread that you switch from trying to contain it coming into the country or contain it from spreading and trying to protect yourself and your community. We’re not there yet.” Most of the coronavirus cases have been in Washington and Northern California, in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. The Los Angeles County Public Health Department reports there is no cause for alarm for Angelinos. “At this time, there is no immediate threat to the general public and no special precautions are required. Los Angeles County residents, students, workers, and visitors are encouraged to engage in their regular activities and practice good public health hygiene, as this is the height of flu season across the County,” the Public Health Dept says on its website. Robb says COVID-19 is “most likely to be widespread in the U.S. by mid to late March and April” and he has some advice: 1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc. 2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light
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switches, elevator buttons, etc. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove. 3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip - do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors. 4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts. 5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been. 6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands. 7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on
your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!” Robb also says stock up on: latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves; 60% alcohol-strength hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves; zinc lozenges, “proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx.” It is critical to take care of yourself and others. “Humans have never seen this snake-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it,” Robb concludes. “Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available.”
QUOTES “Never in my life did I believe we would see a viable gay candidate for president. From the moment he entered the race he touched lives, perhaps none more than the young LGBT people around the world who saw in him their hopes and dreams.” –
Angelinos may recognize actor/singer Alex Newell from his star turn in the hit series “Glee,” Broadway, and numerous LGBTQ fundraisers. Newell’s latest role is in NBC’s curious musical hit, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” In the March 1 episode, he explored his character Mo’s questions about gender, sexual orientation, and societal acceptance. Mo is a “gender nonconforming millennial jack of all trades – DJ, apartment building manager, conﬁdant for acquaintances with magical abilities.” And Mo can sing! But in order to sing in the church choir, he sheds his preferred fabulous outﬁts and presents as a male to not be cast out by the parishioners, even though the pastor welcomes him. “Mo originated as a 31-year-old bisexual black woman. Nothing that I am,” Newell told The Hollywood Reporter. “Well, black, but I’m deﬁnitely not 31! That’s how it started off, and when they couldn’t ﬁnd what they were looking for, I was brought in. And I think the essence of Mo really was me in a way and they modeled the role around me.” The church episode reﬂects his personal story. His father was a deacon, his mother sang in the choir and every woman was “auntie.” But then he started recognizing his sexuality. After he came out on “Glee,” returning to church was uncomfortable. “I just said, ‘I don’t need to be where I’m not wanted anymore’ and so I stopped going,” he told the paper. But things changed and now he’s welcomed and loved. “I don’t think that anybody has to choose anything in this life,” Newall says. “You do what you want and you make the best out of it.”
Former U.S. Ambassador Rufus Gifford, who backs former vice president Joe Biden for president, told BuzzFeed News about Pete Buttigieg.
“My main issue when I was a kid wasn’t my sexuality, it was more my body. My body issues are so linked with my gender issues. It’s all linked with each other. I still struggle having my top off.” - Out
non-binary singer Sam Smith, 27, to Australian TV show, Page Six Feb. 28.
“I don’t talk politics anymore. I tried the ﬁrst couple of years [after my transition]. I went back to Washington to make some changes and, to be honest, I just got fed up. I don’t even want to get involved anymore.” – Trans onetime Trump fan and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner to Hollywood Reporter, Feb. 26.
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Biden scores major comeback in Super Tuesday rout A disappointing night for Sanders, Warren, Bloomberg By CHRIS JOHNSON Coming back from disappointing results at the start of primary, former Vice President Joseph Biden won big on Super Tuesday by routing his competition for the Democratic presidential nomination in multiple states. By early Wednesday, the Associated Press declared Biden had won or was leading in most of the 14 states up for grabs. In particular, Biden had a strong showing in the South, which has a heavy black electorate that turned out for him during the South Carolina primary and resurrected his campaign. Speaking at a celebration in Los Angeles, a joyous Biden (who initially mixed up his wife and his sister on stage before saying, “They switched on me!”) declared victory. “Just a few days ago, the press and the pundits declared the campaign dead,” Biden said. “And then came South Carolina, and they had something to say about it. And we were told by the time we got to Super Tuesday it would be over. Well, it may be over for the other guy.” The states where Biden won or had a strong showing were Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. In some cases, such as Minnesota, Biden won in places in which he had never set foot as a presidential candidate and opened zero field offices. Prior to Super Tuesday, Biden enjoyed a boost of support earlier in the week with a bevy of new endorsements, including from former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who bowed out of the race. Although Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) won Colorado, Utah and Vermont, the results disrupted the media narrative from just weeks ago that the Democratic socialist was an unstoppable force in winning the Democratic nomination. Consistent with his performance in the 2016 primary, Sanders was unable to win states in the South. In Texas, Sanders — who has considerable
support in the Latino community — fell short, with Biden unexpectedly winning the race with about 34 percent of the vote. As of Wednesday morning, the AP had yet to call Maine or California. The results in California, which as the largest state in the country would have the largest share of delegates and is a heavily Democratic state, weren’t known at press time. Visit washingtonblade.com for updates. As of late Tuesday, Sanders had fewer votes for the Democratic nomination than he had at this point in 2016, according to the Washington Post. With Biden’s strong showing in the Democratic primary, calls will likely increase for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who was a moderate alternative to Biden — to drop from the race. The AP reported Bloomberg was assessing his plans in the aftermath of the results. For context, Bloomberg spent $43 million on advertising in Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama, but Biden spent $772,000 on advertising in those states, according to CNN reporter David Wright. Biden won all three. The Super Tuesday results were even more disappointing for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who had an abysmal showing in every state and finished an embarrassing third place in her home state of Massachusetts. Meanwhile, exit polls from NBC News revealed voters who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual of transgender made up one out of every 10 people who voted in the Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday. Broken down on state-by-state basis, Maine and Massachusetts had the highest percentage of LGBTQ-identified voters in their primaries. In both cases, 13 percent of voters told the exit poller they were LGBTQ, according to an analysis from the Human Rights Campaign. According to NBC News, Democratic voters who identify as LGBTQ are substantially younger than the Democratic electorate as a whole. A
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Former Vice President JOE BIDEN delivered a political earthquake, winning big on Super Tuesday and taking the lead in the delegate count.
third of LGBTQ people were younger than 30 years old while 65 percent of the LGBTQ voters today were under 45. The exit polls, however, don’t reveal the candidate with whom LGBTQ voters were aligned on Super Tuesday. Earlier polls indicated the LGBTQ Democratic voting bloc is most aligned with Sanders and Warren, although that may have changed in recent days as Biden gained momentum. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the exit polls demonstrate on Super Tuesday LGBTQ people “showed up in record numbers and cemented our status as a crucial constituency to court.” “LGBTQ people and our rights have been on the ballot for decades, compelling us to register to vote and participate in politics rather than let others decide our rights for us,” David said. The Human Rights Campaign hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the primary, but David commended each of the Democratic candidates for their commitment to LGBTQ rights. “2020 marks the most pro-equality field of Democratic presidential candidates in U.S. history,” David said. “Our power has continued to grow and candidates are seeing us increasingly for the critical voting bloc we are and have pursued us vigorously, releasing policy after policy providing more details about their LGBTQ platforms than any other Democratic
primary field in history.” In a related development this week, Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide, threw his support behind Biden. “I am proud and excited to endorse Joe Biden for president,” Obergefell said in a public Facebook post. “We have the opportunity to change our nation for the better in November, and I believe Joe is the candidate who can make that happen.” The Ohio widower, whose heartwarming story of fighting to have his name on his late spouse’s death certificate helped turn the tide in favor of marriage equality, was the lead plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges, which led the Supreme Court to rule for same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015. Obergefell is the latest in a wave of Democratic public figures who have thrown their support behind Biden in the aftermath of former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) dropping out of the race. Other prominent members of the LGBTQ community who have endorsed Biden include former Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin. In 2016, Obergefell appeared at Democratic fundraisers with former President Obama and endorsed Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.
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Buttigieg leaves mark as gay candidate, secures political future Experts hope to see him on statewide ballot in Indiana By CHRIS JOHNSON Pete Buttigieg threw in the towel this week after a hard-fought presidential campaign, but observers agree he made a mark on American politics — and not just because he broke barriers as a gay presidential candidate. Before Buttigieg launched his campaign more than a year ago, few people knew about the gay South Bend mayor with presidential aspirations. But by the time he suspended his campaign, few people were unaware. Those who follow him closely recognize despite his exit, Buttigieg has a bright political future. Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Buttigieg excelled at taking advantage of being a gay presidential candidate, mobilizing LGBTQ voters and the LGBTQ donor base, but at the same time was “not allowing that to deﬁne his campaign.” “He was not the gay candidate,” Parker said. “He took advantage, but didn’t allow it to swamp the overall message of his campaign.” Buttigieg isn’t the ﬁrst openly gay presidential candidate. That distinction belongs to Fred Karger, who campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, although he never was allowed on the debate stage or achieved traction in the polls. But Buttigieg did achieve other ﬁrsts as a gay candidate, such as being the ﬁrst openly gay person in a debate for presidential candidates of a major party. Demonstrating on stage he was politically astute, Buttigieg was clear, inspirational and, if needed, ferocious. His questioning of Elizabeth Warren on how she intended to pay for her proposed initiatives contributed to the once ascendant candidate’s downfall in the polls. The bigger prize for Buttigieg was his success in the early primary states in Iowa and New Hampshire. Although a ﬁasco in vote counting marred his victory in Iowa, Buttigieg walked away with the most delegates in the state, making him the ﬁrst openly gay person to win a state contest in a presidential primary campaign. In New Hampshire, Buttigieg won a close second place to
Bernie Sanders. Tearful over those early victories in Iowa and New Hampshire were many gay men who thoughtful they would never see the day when a gay presidential candidate would do so well. Among those who witnessed Buttigieg’s wins ﬁrsthand and recognized their impact was New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley, who’s gay and said Buttigieg’s candidacy “opened the closet door for millions worldwide.” “Pete serves as a role model for all young people wanting to be accepted and loved,” Buckley said. “The very act of kissing his husband when he announced radically changed America in that instant. It is not just that Pete is gay that made his candidacy remarkable but for a 37-yearold, small-town mayor from Indiana to rise overnight to become a national contender for the presidency is breathtaking. Winning Iowa, coming in a close second are achievements that have escaped many seasoned candidates for decades.” Being a gay presidential candidate had little precedent and Buttigieg faced criticism at times for being too gay and not gay enough, but many of Buttigieg’s supporters were excited about the prospect of electing a gay person to the White House. In Iowa, for example, as Buttigieg crosscrossed the state, his audiences were the ones who brought up LGBTQ issues and being gay in a positive way. He didn’t have to pander for their votes as a gay candidate. That enthusiasm materialized with success on the day of the Iowa caucuses. At the end of the day, however, Buttigieg won’t be the Democratic presidential nominee, nor did he achieve his ultimate goal of winning election to the White House as the ﬁrst openly gay president. Parker, however, said that misses the point. Buttigieg, she said, was basically unknown, a “new entry” at the Democratic primary and “didn’t have enough runway” to connect with voters to gain the support that would have been necessary. Calling his entrance into the primary a “standing start,” Parker said Buttigieg was nonetheless able to enjoy early success in Iowa and New Hampshire because he had one-on-one conversations in the state, which she said voters there value, and demonstrated he’s a “genuine,
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nice thoughtful guy.” One could say the timing of Buttigieg’s exit was an act of self-interest. Polls consistently showed Buttigieg struggled with the black electorate, which was evidenced in the South Carolina primary when Buttigieg walked away with a single-digit performance. A similar drubbing on Super Tuesday would have cemented that image of black and minority voters not liking him, tainting his future political endeavors. By bowing out before the results, Buttigieg avoided that permanent perception. Buttigieg’s record as South Bend mayor was cited as a source of concern for black voters, including his handling of a shooting of a black man by a white police officer, his termination of a black police chief who was investigating racism on the police force and a housing initiative that eliminated low-income homes, many in black neighborhoods. At the same time, there were indications — including focus group results from Buttigieg’s campaign — that black voters had trouble accepting a gay candidate for president. Parker, however, bristled at the notion black voters wouldn’t support Buttigieg calling that “absolute and utter B.S.,” insisting black voters at the end of the day would support whomever is the Democratic nominee. “You have to have hard conversations sometimes,” Parker said, demonstrate an awareness and concern for issues black voters care about, but if that happens, black voters will lend support to an LGBTQ candidate. As evidence, Parker pointed to the election of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her own success winning election as mayor of Houston, asserting an LGBTQ candidate is “the best candidate” for the black community. Looking at it another way, Buttigieg’s decision to exit at that time could be seen as a bold decision for the Democratic Party that will play well in posterity. By throwing in the towel, Buttigieg minimized the split of the moderate vote in the Democratic primary, clearing the way for former Vice President Joseph Biden’s tremendous wins on Super Tuesday. Buttigieg essentially sacriﬁced himself for a candidate who’s closer in ideology to Buttigieg than either Sanders or Warren.
PETE BUTTIGIEG dropped his presidential bid after a disappointing showing in South Carolina.
Buttigieg’s exit, followed the next day by Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) decision to suspend her campaign, was the catalyst for an avalanche of new support for Biden. With the two candidates no longer a factor in the primary, big name endorsements immediately rolled in for the former vice president. LGBTQ endorsements included former Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the case that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide. The Biden campaign counted 125 new endorsements after Buttigieg exited the race on Sunday, bringing the total endorsements to more than 1,500. If Biden continues to remain strong in the Democratic primary after Super Tuesday, or even go on to win the Democratic nomination, Buttigieg could get credit for helping that to happen. Spencer Kimball, a professor in political and sports communication at Emerson College, said candidates dropping out and subsequently endorsing Biden “had varying effect around the country” on Super Tuesday. In the aftermath of the earth-shattering campaign and graceful exit, Buttigieg’s personal political future is bright. Already speculation has emerged he could pursue statewide office, but may seek chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, which he sought in 2017, as his next step. Continues at losangelesblade.com
‘I’ve not seen anything quite like that bridge’ AIDS Healthcare Foundation leader travels to Colombian border city By MICHAEL K. LAVERS LOS ANGELES — AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein in January visited a Colombian border city that remains on the frontlines of the Venezuelan refugee crisis. Weinstein on Jan. 14 visited AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s clinic in Cúcuta, which is less than 10 miles from the Táchira River that marks Colombia’s border with Venezuela. Weinstein also traveled to the Simón Bolívar International Bridge that links the two countries. “I’ve been to a lot of difficult, desperate circumstances,” Weinstein told the Blade during an interview at his Los Angeles office. “I’ve not seen anything quite like that bridge.” “You think about what does it take for a mother to … trek with a two-month-old baby or somebody to put an elderly person in a wheelchair knowing that they’re going to have to travel this incredibly long distance and not even knowing where their destination is going to be,” he added. “There’s nothing waiting for them.” The Cúcuta clinic opened in September 2018. AIDS Healthcare Foundation on its website notes the clinic currently has 892 “registered patients” with 856 of them receiving antiretroviral drugs and nutritional support. AIDS Healthcare Foundation also says 60 percent of the more than 7,250 HIV tests the clinic has given support “the Venezuelan population.” Weinstein told the Blade the clinic serves Venezuelan migrants, Venezuelans who come to Cúcuta and return to their country and local residents. Weinstein said gay men and transgender people are among the clinic’s patients. “(The clinic’s) primary mission is ARV treatment and the laboratory because that’s what they couldn’t get elsewhere,” Weinstein
told the Blade. Weinstein noted the Brazilian government donated antiretroviral medications to the clinic before Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s anti-LGBTQ president, took office in January 2019. Weinstein told the Blade this aid “hasn’t been cut off.” The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has also given AIDS Healthcare Foundation a grant to help run the clinic, but Weinstein noted the funding requires his organization to purchase brand-name drugs that are “10 times” more expensive than generic ones. Venezuela, which has the world’s largest known oil reserves, was once one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries. Venezuela’s worsening economic and political crisis has prompted millions of people to migrate to Colombia, Brazil and other countries. Venezuelan HIV/AIDS service providers in Caracas, the country’s capital, and other Venezuelan cities with whom the Blade has spoken have said Venezuelans with HIV/AIDS have died because of a lack of antiretroviral drugs in the country. Statistics from the Pan-American and World Health Organizations, the Venezuelan Ministry of Health and other agencies note the number of people with HIV in the country increased from 97,000 to more than 120,000 from 2010-2018. Police in February 2019 raided the offices of Fundación Mavid in the city of Valencia in Carabobo state and confiscated infant formula and medications for people with HIV/AIDS. Police also arrested three human rights activists who work for the Venezuelan HIV/AIDS service organization. A source in Venezuela with whom the Blade spoke days before the Fundación Mavid raid said three condoms and a bottle of lubricant costs the equivalent of a month’s salary for someone who is making minimum wage. Food and fuel shortages and blackouts are among the myriad other issues that Venezuelans with HIV/AIDS, along with everyone else in the country, continue to face. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in September
AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein (center) at his organization’s clinic in Cúcuta, Colombia, on Jan. 14. (Photo courtesy of AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
2018 approved $5 million to “help alleviate the gaps in the provision of HIV treatment in Venezuela.” The Global Fund last month allocated an additional $19.8 million grant over the next three years to fight malaria in the country. Weinstein told the Blade that access to antiretroviral drugs in Venezuela has begun to improve in recent months, but lab tests and other basic HIV/AIDS-related services remain unavailable. Weinstein also said AIDS Healthcare Foundation is working with Red Venezolana de Gente Positiva, a coalition of Venezuelan HIV/AIDS service organizations, to potentially open a clinic in Venezuela. Weinstein met with Red Venezolana de Gente Positiva General Secretary Eduardo Franco and Alberto Nieves, executive director of Acción Ciudadana contra el SIDA, a Caracas-based HIV/AIDS service organization, when he was in Cúcuta.
Weinstein told the Blade that Colombians remain “very sympathetic” toward the Venezuelan people and their plight. “In their hard times the Venezuelans helped them,” said Weinstein. “They feel badly for what is happening and what their circumstances are.” Colombia and the U.S. are among the dozens of countries that have officially recognized National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president. Cuba is among the nations that continue to back President Nicolás Maduro. “There’s no optimism about change,” Weinstein told the Blade. “Nobody thinks that it’s going to improve anytime soon.” Weinstein further described Guaidó as “weak” and added there is little hope that he will be able to oust Maduro from power. “No one’s seeing a light at the end of the tunnel,” added Weinstein.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • MARCH 06, 2020 • 15
VOLUME 04 ISSUE 10
It’s Biden vs. Sanders for the nomination Who can best help down-ballot Democrats?
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.
The fight for the Democratic nomination is now set: Joe Biden vs. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Contrary to Sanders’s view, it is not a fight over who is more progressive, rather it is a fight over big promises that might never be kept and a more rational progressive way to move us forward and recover from four years of chaos under Donald Trump. The fight is also over which nominee will help down-ballot Democrats the most. Who can help the members of the House of Representatives in swing districts keep their seats? Who can help Democratic United States Senate candidates in purple states win their races to rid us of ‘Moscow Mitch?’ There are hundreds of bills passed by the current Democratic House waiting to be passed again, this time with a Senate that will also pass them and send them on to a Democratic president who will sign them into law. So the nominee must be the person who can best make that happen. Both candidates are flawed yet both are better than the sexist, racist, homophobic pig in the White House. But from here through Milwaukee where Democrats choose their candidate let’s not continue to say “blue no matter who” and sit back on our hands. Instead let’s decide that yes blue but know who it is matters. Many including me don’t like that the two potential nominees are old white men. But then so is the president so we need to deal with it. One way to do that is have the nominee select a younger woman of color as a running mate. It is amazing to me that young people so enthusiastically support a nearly 80-yearold white man who just had a heart attack on the campaign trail. They clearly believe his promises of free healthcare, free college, forgiving their college debt and in essence having government provide for all of them
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regardless of their own or their parent’s economic circumstance. What they overlook is that Sanders won’t be able to do most of that even if elected president, as no president can wave a magic wand and get things done. Just look at the failures of Trump who was elected because he promised to open the coal mines, reopen factories, build a wall on our southern border and a host of other things he has not been able to do. His voters fell for his promises in the same way so many young people are falling for Sanders’s promises. If the young people supporting Bernie would take a moment to look at his 30-year record in Congress they would know the word compromise is not in his vocabulary. That is not a positive trait and has resulted in his never being able to pass any major legislation. He has never introduced legislation to move forward equality for women, the LGBTQ community, African Americans or any minority. Biden has made mistakes but has a record of moving us forward. He was wrong on Anita Hill and was wrong on the Iraq War. What he did right was be an early fighter for taking big money out of politics and climate control. He passed the Violence Against Women Act and took on the National Rifle Association, winning twice. First with passage of the Brady background check bill, and then with the passage of bans on assault weapons and highcapacity magazines. So Super Tuesday is now history. We move forward with a two-man race: Biden vs. Sanders. So far, 38 percent of the delegates have been awarded and no one is near the 1,991 needed to become the nominee. Next we should see Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg, both with no chance of being the nominee, do the smart thing and drop out.
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Trump’s incompetence goes viral Nature doesn’t take orders
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
President Trump last week called the coronavirus the Democrats’ “new hoax.” On the same day, Donald Jr. called its spread a “pandemic” and said that Democrats “seemingly hope that it comes here, and kills millions of people so that they could end Donald Trump’s streak of winning.” Setting aside the depravity of accusing one’s political opponents of rooting for the deaths of millions of Americans, how can a hoax cause a pandemic? Which is it? And which spreads faster, an actual virus or a wannabe dictator’s disinformation? Back when restaurants and airplanes had “no smoking” sections, some of us used to point out that smoke didn’t obey the signs. It floated right over from your smoking table to my nosmoking table. The president’s insistence on doubling down in minimizing the number of cases of the virus in the United States, and calling it a Democratic hoax, is like those “no smoking” signs: the virus isn’t listening. Demagogic politicians remind me of Charlton Heston as Moses in “The Ten Commandments,” holding up his staff and commanding the waters of the Red Sea to part: “Behold His mighty hand!” Also Shelley’s Ozymandias proclaiming in an inscription on a fragment of an ancient statue in the desert, “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Trump appears to think he has magic incantatory power: one word from him and a virus disappears, or the Constitution alters itself to let him do whatever he wants. What he wants and expects is not to be run out of office for his incompetence and recklessness. In H. G. Wells’s 1897 novel “The War of the Worlds,” invading Martians wreak havoc, but are ultimately defeated by microbes to which they have no immunity: “slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.” There are no Martians here. We hardly need an attack of the Pod People with a leader so pathologically self-absorbed that he decreased our preparedness for an outbreak. We could stand less arrogance and more humility, less certitude and more curiosity.
If we want those things, we will have to vote for them. While we’re at it, let us avoid false equivalency. In a dispute between, say, President Trump and Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, we should keep in mind that one is a lying grifter and the other is a distinguished immunologist. On Feb. 26 in the White House, as Dr. Fauci stood in front of him speaking, Trump (to use a vivid phrase by my friend Ernest Hopkins of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation) “looked like he wanted to smush him like a bug.” Trump put Vice President Pence in charge of leading the administration’s response to the virus. He was careful to say, “Mike is not a Czar.” As Nicole Wetsman of The Verge puts it, “Pence is not a public health expert, either. Instead, as governor of Indiana, he slashed public health spending and delayed the introduction of needle exchanges, which led to the state’s worst outbreak of HIV.” A droll piece at Breaking Burgh titled “Mike Pence Calls For Urgent Research Into Which Sin Coronavirus Is Punishment For” shows the narrowing gap between parody and reality. Trump’s war on science and the independent press preys on people’s credulity and desire for confirmation of their biases. Notice how I put that in the third person? It’s those gullible people over there who are the problem, not you and I exchanging pearls of wisdom in the coffee shop. Nevertheless, my friend Lauren noted on Friday morning that our Java House gang, once sarcastically dubbed “the brain trust” by former HRC president Joe Solmonese, may have to discontinue its daily gatherings if the virus comes to D.C. Say a prayer to the god of your understanding, as folks in The Program put it, that we may be well. You know the chatter about our various plans to fly in and out of Reagan National and Dulles? The virus is surely headed our way, as fast as you can say, “Behold His mighty hand!” Speaking of which, be sure to wash your own hands. Copyright © 2020 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.
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Bobby’s bustling business ‘Queer Eye’ design star unveils new line By JOEY DiGUGLIELMO email@example.com Bobby Berk, one of the “Queer Eye” Fab Five, has been making appearances unveiling his new line for A.R.T. Furniture. His designs are available at Ace Furniture (616 N. Western Ave.) in Los Angeles and Furniture Land (4310 San Fernando Rd.) in Glendale. Full details at arthomefurnishings.com. He spoke to the Blade last week by phone from his home in Los Angeles about his designs, his costars, his gal pal Taylor Swift, his Hollywood adventures and a whole lot more.
I can’t with everyone so I wanted to create a line that was accessible to almost anyone. I think it would have been kind of a dick move of me to talk on “Queer Eye” about how changing your home and help change your life and then go out and make a super expensive furniture line that nobody could afford. So I wanted to make sure I partner with a company like ART who is really good at finding that perfect happy medium on price points to where you’re getting good quality furniture but you’re also getting it at a price point that most people can afford.
BLADE: How’s 2020 been for you so far? BOBBY BERK: 2020’s been great, very busy. Just wrapped up shooting a podcast a few minutes ago, I’ve got your interview, then I’m running to do a live interview with Channel 9 in Sydney Australia. Been filming some additional shows, been doing a lot of stuff with “Queer Eye,” a lot of great things with my furniture lines, so 2020 already feels like it’s been a full year.
BLADE: What was the production timeframe roughly? BERK: I believe we started the process when I was filming season three and four so that would have been late 2018, I think. … We launched it by spring of 2019 … (which) that was for stores to be able to come look at it like Belfort. Then by the time fall hit, it was in a lot of stores. And now this spring … additional stores are getting it that we weren’t able to fulfill in the very beginning first order. We’re dong 10 in about two months, then we’re going to be launching the second collection as well.
BLADE: Tell us about your new designs. BERK: So my new furniture line with ART, it’s great because you know people ask me, fans from the show all the time, you know, “I wish you could decorate my house, I with you could pick out furniture for me,” and obviously
BLADE: How has the reaction been so far? BERK: It’s been a very great reaction. We have had to stage out when retailers like Belfort start to carry it simply
because there was such a great response to it, that we couldn’t open up all the stores that were wanting it. When we launched online, back in the fall, a lot of items instantly went out of stock, so it’s been a really great response. You know, it was a line that inspired by things that I would want in my own home so nice, cool, clean aesthetic that can really go with anyone’s decor. When I design, I always try to make sure I think about the ways a piece can not just look good in a home where people like modern, but also a traditional home. My sofas, for example, can bridge the gap between traditional, transitional and modern. BLADE: To what degree do you curtail or adjust your creative impulses into something you think will sell? Is there conflict in your own head between art and commerce? BERK: Uh, yeah, ‘cause for me personally, I would go very minimalist and modern, that’s more of my personal aesthetic, so I would always have to kind of find the happy medium between too modern and cold and still keeping it warm where more people will love it. BLADE: How do you have time to keep all this stuff going with the TV show as well? BERK: I don’t know (chuckles). I’m never home. I’m sadly
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gone probably 90 percent of the year the last few years so yeah, I’m just constantly on the road. BLADE: Is this pace sustainable? What if “Queer Eye” goes another 10 years? Will you rip your hair out? BERK: Uh, probably (laughs). No, this pace absolutely. is not sustainable, I think all five of us feel that way but we also know that you know there’s not always a chance that things will be going this well, so we all need to, not take advantage of it, but utilize the recognition we’ve gotten from “Queer Eye” to do other things. Because of course “Queer Eye” could go on for 10 more years or it may go on for one more year. We never know, so we all want to make sure we’ve found those certain things in our wheelhouse that we’re able to continue to focus on. Before “Queer Eye,” I had a design firm and retail stores so, “Queer Eye” has just opened up more doors for me to be able to do more things with that like my collection at ART. So yeah, is this sustainable how much we travel and work? No, it’s not. But all five of us know that we’re not always going to have the amount of opportunities we have right now, so we need to take advantage of all the opportunities that present themselves and then, you know, in five years — I have a four-five year plan of moving to Santa Barbara and having kids and not working as much. BLADE: On “Queer Eye,” the other guys spend a lot more face time with the heroes because you’re so busy remodeling. Do you ever feel left out? BERK: Yeah, yeah, you know. With the other boys, they’re part of the show, they’re literally physically with the hero. You know, Jonathan is cutting their hair, Karamo is having a great conversation and helping them with self help, Antoni is teaching them to cook, Tan is helping them with their clothes — they have to physically there with them whereas what I’m doing the hero can’t actually can’t see, it’s actually against the rules for them to see it, so I’m often kept away from them simply because they’re not able to see what I’m dong and we want to see a surprise. So we have, I’m sure you’ve noticed in newer seasons, I am with the heroes more, but season one and two, I was barely with them at all. When I would be asked by producers if I wanted to go on a shopping trip wth Tan and help with clothes, I’d be like, “No I’m busy, working, that makes no sense,” but then the show came out and it was like, “Oh, I’m so busy working I’m not on the show.” So, newer seasons, I have a bit more interaction wth the heroes than in the past. BLADE: How did you like Japan and what was challenging about taping there? BERK: I loved Japan, I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan before, it’s one of my favorite places, especially Tokyo. I love it there just because it’s so organized and clean and it’s such a respectable society. Some of the challenges filming there was space. People would sometimes think it’s easier to design a small space than a large space but it’s actually harder, especially in Japan where in rental spaces,
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you’re not allowed to hang anything on the walls, you’re not allowed to paint, you’re not allowed to do anything to the floors, so we had to get really creative on building functional loft furniture that we were able to make the space look super different than before without even painting or hanging a pice of art on the walls. BLADE: There’s obvious camaraderie between you and your co-stars. Were you concerned at first whether your personalities would jell? To what do you attribute that camaraderie? BERK: You know, the five of us from the start in casting, in final casting, there probably was between 40-50 guys around the various different design, fashion, food — what have you, and at first Karamo, Tan and I we just kind of gravitated to each other and were always hanging out. Then Antoni and Jonathan kind of came into the fold and none of us really thought, “Oh this is the Fab Five,” we just kind of naturally liked each other and I think the casting directors and executives from Netflix and Scout and ITV kind of saw that we had a natural chemistry, that we really naturally enjoyed each other and instead of it kind of being a competition, we were always in there telling each other what was going on and helping each other. So I think our camaraderie definitely helps. It’s not always a natural thing, you put five perfect strangers together who are with each other 24-7, but it’s grown definitely into kind of a sibling relationship. We’re brothers, we’re best friends, there are some moments where we want to wring each others necks, but the great thing about it is, we’ve spent so much time together, we really have developed a feeling of a sibling with each other. We can get mad at each other, but at the end of the day, we’re family, we’re brothers so we get over it and we’re very protective of each other. Sometimes it’s easy, most of the time it’s easy, but sometimes it’s hard. But I think that’s the thing with every relationship. BLADE: Are you going to Karamo’s wedding? BERK: Of course. BLADE: You helping with any of the design? BERK: Uh, a little bit, but I definitely can’t share what he’s shared with me. BLADE: What did you think of Jonathan’s decision to come out as HIV-positive? Had he shared you with that previously? BERK: I was the first on that he told even before we started filming “Queer Eye,” he and I both lived in L.A. at the time and so after casting, we became very close very quickly and he was over at my house all the time and he shared it wth me even before we started filming, so I’ve known about it for probably a couple years before he publicly came out about it, so it wasn’t a shock to me. I was happy that he had the strength to do that and that he’s able to help other people by being very public about his status.
BOBBY BERK says loss of anonymity, old family wounds occasionally haunt him. (Photo courtesy Gardner Group)
BLADE: Have you had many chances to get to know the original “Queer Eye” cast? BERK: Yeah, I was actually out with them all of them in L.A. two weeks ago. I’ve known Thom Filicia for years, again, before I was on “Queer Eye” as a designer, I really am a designer, so he and I have been in the same industry, we’re always at the same events, we’re always at the same trade shows. And then Carson (Kressley), I’ve known for years. All the others I had met throughout the years, but I’m definitely closest to Thom simply because we’re in the same industry and we’ve known each other so long. But they’re all so amazing, they’re all so lovely, it’s amazing hanging out wth them and seeing just how individually unique they all are, just like the five of us are, and how no matter how many years they’ve been apart since the original, when they get together, it’s like they’ve never skipped a beat, it’s cute. BLADE: So you’d be totally down to do a crossover special of some kind? BERK: Oh absolutely. BLADE: Do you like Thom’s design aesthetic? (Filicia, too, has presented at Belfort Furniture.) BERK: I think it’s beautiful. I think we have a very different design aesthetic. He’s definitely more transitional and
traditional, I’m definitely more modern and minimalist, although I would say that both him and I design for the client or for the home. So where my home is very minimal and there’s not a whole lot of stuff in it, for heroes on “Queer Eye,” I can be maximalist for people who want a lot of stuff. So his personal aesthetic is beautiful, he’s done some amazing homes, some amazing condo buildings. But yeah, I love it. BLADE: Did it bother you that Taylor Swift was, some would argue, rather late to the game in terms of being an LGBT ally? BERK: You know, of course we always wish somebody would be vocal from day one but I also can very much understand the pressure that she’s been through being basically owned by a record label and being told by a publicist and record labels what you need to say and shouldn’t say, what you shouldn’t get involved in. You know as quote-unquote celebrities, we’re always told, “Oh be as neutral as possible, you don’t wanna offend people on the left or the right, stay out of politics, stay out of issues,” which some of us find much easier than others. You know, I often get myself in trouble because I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. Jonathan’s the same way and so I can understand why she felt pressured to not not be an ally, but to not get involved publicly, you know what I mean? … I don’t hold it against her, all I can do is be as very happy that she is using her power to make a difference now and I couldn’t love her more. She’s one of the most sweet, humble, down-to-earth people I’ve met. … You never really know what to expect when you meet somebody like her because a lot of people I’ve met in Hollywood and entertainment come across as one thing and then you meet them in person and they are not at all that thing and it can be very sad and disappointing, so it was a great feeling when I got to meet her and hang out with her and realize that she really is what she portrays out there, she really is this sweet, loving girl who just wants to make the world a better place. BLADE: Who’s somebody you met who’s markedly different from his or her public persona? BERK: Hmmm, so yes. So RuPaul, I actually met in 2003, I was a manger at Restoration Hardware in New York and she came in looking for some knobs for some dresser she was doing and he was just the kindest, sweetest most lovely person and then after I had my own stores, he started coming in and shopping in my stores and he would come in and just the sweetest, warmest person. And again, on the show he’s the same way and I’m not saying that he’s not sweet and warm, but one thing I was surprised about when I see him for example at the Emmys, the first time I saw him at the Emmys, he wasn’t very warm, and I was like, “Huh, fame has changed him.” But our publicist at Netflix used to work on “Drag Race,” so he’s very close to Ru, he knows Ru very well, and I mentioned it to him I was like, “Wow, you know, I’ve met Ru multiple times and he’s always like the sweetest, kindest person, I don’t get that
from him anymore.” He was like, “No, he just doesn’t like being in the spotlight at events like this so he gets very shy and quiet,” so sometimes you think somebody is some way and they’re not and like. … I thought Ru had gotten cold, ‘cause this industry can do it to you, but then I find out that no, Ru is just as shy and terrified as the rest of us. BLADE: What was it like filming (Taylor Swift’s) “You Need to Calm Down” video. Surely all those celeb cameos — you were not all there at the same time I imagine? BERK: All of us were but Tan. He was filming the season finale of “Next in Fashion” that day, so Jonathan and I went from watching the runway show of Tan’s finale to directly to Taylor’s set and we met Antoni and Karamo there, so four of us were there together but Tan filmed his separately. BLADE: Was Ellen or Adam Rippon or any of those people there that day? BERK: Adam was there, he and I are actually friends. Hannah Hart was there, um — who else was there that day? They’re the only ones I remember being directly around us. The set was so massive and they filmed it over I think a week, so different celebs would come in at different times. Some would film in a studio in front of a green screen, for example Tan’s was shot in a studio, so yeah, we weren’t always there at the same time, that would have been chaos. Oh Todrick Hall was there as well. BLADE: How is (husband) Dewey? Do you guys get enough time together? BERK: No, we never get enough time together. Um, you know he is definitely a very private, very introverted, shy guy. He couldn’t care less about any of the Hollywood stuff, which is actually great. I actually prefer it that way because when I’m at home, I’m back in my normal life. But yeah, no, we can never get enough time together. He’s a surgeon. We’ve been together for 16 years and since “Queer Eye,” he’s just started working less. He’s in private practice, so luckily he’s been able to take a step back a little back. He usually only works about two days a week then meets me wherever I’m filming. BLADE: Do you know Nate Berkus? Do you like his stuff? BERK: I love Nate Berkus. His stuff is great. Both he and Jeremiah. Their taste is impeccable, they’re handsome as hell, they’re the best dads. Yeah, I like them a lot. BLADE: Do you miss your anonymity? BERK: Absolutely (laughs). BLADE: Give me an example. BERK: I miss just being able to go to the grocery store. Or to Starbucks. You know, I miss being able to just roam around and just do regular things. There’s so many positive things about this and I’m not complaining about the loss of it at all, but, you know, sometimes I wish I could
just go to the grocery store and go through all the fruit and shop around but I can’t really do that without getting stopped over and over over, so I just pretty much order everything online. Sometimes I’ll go into a Starbucks and a fan will be there and there’ll be a moment of the show that’s really touched them or helped somebody in their family, so they’ll start telling me a story in Starbucks and then be crying, then I’ll be standing there in line holding them and hugging them thinking in my mind, “Oh this is amazing, this is so wonderful, but I really just wanted to get my coffee.” You know, it’s a double edged sword. Sometimes I wish I could just run in, run out like I used to be able to. BLADE: Please don’t think I’m asking this because I think you look fat — I truly do not. This is just something I’ve been meaning to ask someone who’s done a lot of TV. Does the camera add 10 pounds? BERK: The camera adds 10 pounds of gay (laughs). Um, sometimes, yeah. But also when I started filming season five I was 210 pounds and now I’m like 183 so I went from being in very good shape before the show, to putting on a bit of weight during the show because our lives have just been so crazy to now really doubling down and focusing on fitness and not letting myself eat crap on set all the time and not work out. BLADE: What did you mean 10 pounds of gay? Are gestures magnified? BERK: Oh yeah, I’m always like, “Damn, do I sound that gay?” Yeah, and I also think it’s because the five of us together, we’re so comfortable together and able to be our true selves that sometimes we really queen out and not give a damn. It’s funny watching yourself. BLADE: Was it hard to summon the courage to be so open about your past? Leaving home at 15 and all that. BERK: It was hard because, you know, for quite a few years, I didn’t have a good relationship with my parents … BLADE: It’s better now? BERK: Oh yeah, it’s great now. But that’s why it’s a little hard because publicly talking about it, you know, it definitely made my mom sad, it definitely opened up old wounds, it took me awhile to be OK talking about it. Sometimes I’m still not OK. Sometimes ‘ll get asked about my relationship with my parents in interviews, not in this, but people will really pry and they’ll be like, “Oh well you know, on the show you talked about how horrible they were to you and blah blah blah blah blah, why are you talking to them now?” I’m just like whoah — if I’m able to say I’ve been able to reconcile with my family and we have a good relationship now, why would you try to open those wounds? Why would you try to hurt my mama? BLADE: Thanks for your time and good luck with your line. BERK: Thanks!
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Mile-high fun — your Denver weekend Booming, bustling city is great place to vist By BILL MALCOLM
Denver is a millennial magnet and has grown 20 percent since 2010. The metro area now has 2.9 million people. Happily they put in an excellent light rail system in anticipation of the boom. The nearby Rockies offer plentiful recreation. The Amtrak ski train leaves every Saturday if you want to spend the day skiing. Gov. Jared Polis is a gay parent raising two children. The state makes millions in profits off marijuana sales. The economy is so strong that the local transit agency (RTD) is cutting service since it can’t find enough transit operators. In short, it’s an amazing and beautiful state that is worth a visit. What to do The Frontrunners meet Saturday at 9:15 a.m. on Capitol Hill at 9th and Downing for a run or walk through nearby Cheesman Park, which features great views of the Rockies. It’s a great way to meet locals and get travel tips. After, they go for brunch at the Buzz Café. The History Colorado Center at 1200 Broadway is a great way to learn about the state’s interesting history. Current exhibits include “The Chicano Movement in Colorado,” which chronicles the amazing Hispano and Mexican contributions to the state. Another exhibit chronicles the development of skiing in the state while still another showcases the development of craft breweries (which now total 300). You will also learn about the origin of the Denver boot and the Denver omelet. Finally, don’t miss the exhibit which chronicles the painful Amendment 2 which barred LGBT protections in 1992 only to be repealed in 1996.
Nearby you will find the stunning architecture of the Denver Art Museum, complete with hotel (The Art Hotel). Learn about the varied topography and plant zones of the state at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in City Park as well as the state’s interesting geography. Plus it features great views of the Rockies. Nightlife The Pride and Swagger at 450 E 17th Ave., is near the Hampton as is the very popular X Bar at 629 East Colfax. They pack them in for the nightly twofor-one drink specials which run until 8 p.m. The crowd is cute and friendly. Just up the road is Charlie’s which, like Xbar, has Sunday afternoon events. You will find Charlie’s at 900 E. Colfax Avenue. Where to stay I like the Hampton Inn Downtown on Sherman Street near 17th Avenue. It is actually in Uptown (just east of downtown) and close to the Capitol Hill gay bars and other neighborhood attractions. Nearby is the Warwick Hotel which is also nice but charges a resort fee. Avoid the downtown hotels along the 16th Street Mall for a more neighborhood feel in Uptown. Where to eat The authentic Mexican food at Las Delicias is very good. It’s at 439 East 19th Avenue. The Marczyk Market at 770 E 17th has great gourmet food to go. There is also a Hamburger Mary’s nearby. The Zuni Street Brewing Company has great craft beers and local fare
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The X Bar in Denver.
plus a food truck. Try the Zuni Street IPA. You can even bring your dog. You will find them in the trendy Highlands neighborhood west of downtown. Denver travel tips At 5,280 feet in elevation, you may notice the altitude difference which can cause various issues. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Take aspirin if you get a headache. You will probably adjust after 24 hours. Winters can be cold and snowy but neither lasts. After a storm, Chinook winds off the Rockies raise the temperature to the 50s and 60s with abundant sunshine 300 days of the year. Be warned, though, that it’s not uncommon to have a snowstorm in October or even April. It was 64 degrees the Saturday I was there although snow was predicted for Sunday. You are not in Chicago. Uptown has avenues while downtown has streets. So you can get confused if you are on 17th Street or 17th Avenue.
You won’t need a car since Denver has a great transit system (and bad traffic). RTD is the name of the agency that runs the light rail, buses and commuter rail. Useful resources Outfront Colorado is the local LGBTQ magazine which also has a great map of where the bars are. Westword is the weekly alternative paper which has lots of local events. Denver is ever changing and I find something new every time I visit. You will too. Bill Malcolm has lived in Colorado twice — in Boulder and in Snowmass — and currently travels there for his day job. His syndicated LGBTQ value travel column currently appears in GRAB Chicago Magazine, The Washington Blade, Q Notes (Charlotte) and other publications.
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ABA calls for marijuana banking access CHICAGO — The American Bar Association has adopted a resolution urging the passage of federal legislation facilitating banks and other financial institutions to legally interact with licensed cannabis businesses. The resolution calls for the “enactment of [federal] laws to ensure that it shall not constitute a federal crime for banks and financial institutions to provide cannabis-related services.” Under existing law, banks are discouraged from engaging with state-licensed marijuana businesses. In September, members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted 321 to 103 in favor of HR 1595: The SAFE Banking Act, amending federal law so that financial institutions may work directly with state-legal marijuana businesses without fear of federal repercussions. The bill now awaits action from the Senate Banking Committee. However, Committee Chair Mike Crapo (R-Ind.) has expressed opposition to the measure. In 2019, the ABA adopted a separate resolution urging Congress “to enact legislation to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.” With over 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is among the largest voluntary organizations in the world.
More seniors turning to cannabis NEW YORK — Cannabis use is increasing among those ages 65 and older, according to data published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers affiliated with the New York School of Medicine assessed trends in self-reported cannabis use among seniors. They reported that 4.2 percent of seniors acknowledged engaging in past-year cannabis consumption in 2018, up from 2.4 percent in 2015 and 0.4 percent in 2006. The study’s findings are consistent with those of prior papers similarly reporting an uptick in marijuana use among older Americans. According to a 2019 study published in the journal Gerontology & Geriatric Medicine, marijuana use among seniors is associated with selfreported improvements in pain management, day-to-day functioning, and in their overall health and quality of life.
Employers’ attitudes shifting on drug tests SUNNYVALE, Calif. — A growing number of companies are either abandoning marijuanaspecific drug testing programs or reducing the frequency with which they test, according to nationwide survey data compiled by the online recruitment website Simply Hired Incorporated. Fifty-five percent of hiring managers polled in the survey said that their companies do not test current employees for off-the-job marijuana use. Among those hiring managers who work for companies that do engage in testing, 40 percent said that “they do it less often than in the past.” Larger-sized companies (1,000+ employees) were far more likely to utilize preemployment testing for cannabis than were smaller-sized companies. Nearly 70 percent of hiring managers said that their company would be “okay” with an employee using cannabis while away from work “as long as the company remains unaware of it.” Among employees surveyed, 75 percent said testing positive for marijuana should not be grounds for automatic termination. Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. Visit norml.org for more information.
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Live, love, Lauv
25-year-old Calif. native releases EDM-laced debut album By THOM MURPHY When The Chainsmokers released their soon-to-be multi-Platinum single “Roses,” it felt as though EDM influence — a genre which has seen massive resurgence in the past decade — had been fully incorporated into the mainstream. With strong production values and generic lyrics, The Chainsmokers fully domesticated the EDM festival scene. In their distinctive softcore EDM, it’s hard not to see a through line to Lauv whose debut album “~how i’m feeling~” drops today. Even if his name is not as recognizable as some of his collaborators, which include Troye Sivan, Korean boyband BTS and Alessia Cara, his voice is now ubiquitous. His hit single “I Like Me Better,” released in summer 2017, is still a regular feature of radio and bar play. It’s his distinctive falsetto that is heard on the BTS hit “Make It Right,” which has been streamed nearly 90 million times on Spotify. And his recent collaboration with Troye Sivan “I’m So Tired…,” released as the lead single for “~how i’m feeling~,” has gone Platinum. It’s a mesmerizing success, currently sitting at over 450 million streams on Spotify, even more remarkable for an artist who is just now releasing his fulllength debut. If the new album is any evidence, Lauv — who has been coy on Instagram saying exactly how he identifies — has certainly not been idle the past few years. The new album has 21 tracks, clocking in at over an hour — robust by any measure. The 25-year-old singer styles himself as Gen-Z (though he’s technically — at age 25 — a Millennial) and his music seems to appeal explicitly to a college demographic. While retaining a soft, EDM-influenced pop sound, Lauv has traded up tiresome, generic lyrics in favor of a more personal message. The album frequently confronts issues of anxiety and depression without becoming overly heavy. The song “Sad Forever” is a good example. As he sings in the chorus, “I don’t want to be sad forever/I don’t want to be sad no more/I don’t want to wake up and wonder/what the hell am I doing this for/I don’t want to be medicated/I don’t want to go through that war.” The song maintains a tone of affirmation throughout. “Drugs & The Internet,” the first track on the album, is another that deals with personal difficulties: “traded all my friends for drugs and the internet/ah shit, am I a winner yet?” This move toward a more personal, even biographical tone in pop music anticipates, perhaps, a trend in pop music as Gen Z (who report significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression) becomes an increasingly important consumer and shaper of music. But within what is largely a cadre of soft-EDM pop, Lauv nevertheless infuses the album with musical variety. “El Tejano,” which features Sophia Reyes, is a bilingual song with a latin-influenced rhythm, not unlike Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes’ popular “Señorita.” “Changes” is a slightly slower tune that takes a break (somewhat) from the slow thump of the electronic rhythms that structure most of the album. Likewise, “Julia” makes a lovely contrast with its light piano accompaniment. It’s a rare glimpse into Lauv’s versatility as an artist, something that will become important for later albums. But that’s not to say that Lauv’s brand of EDM-pop has been exhausted — I imagine that it will continue to be a popular subgenre from another several years. Pop music had a parasitic relationship to rap in the late 2000s, but in the mid 2010s, EDM became the new host. And Lauv’s version of it is certainly one of the most compelling, particularly in wedding impeccable production with more than nonsense filler lyrics. “Sims” is a particularly brilliant example of this. It’s a clever play on traditional pop love narratives: “I wish that you and I lived in The Sims/we could build a house and plant some flowers and have kids/ but we’re both at some trashy Halloween party downtown/and I’ll probably never see you again.” The happy married life of his parents’ generation can only be rediscovered on a retro PC game like the Sims. It’s an album that has been tailor-made for a different generation.
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Jussie’s plea Smollett back in trouble and Oprah tumbles By BILLY MASTERS
“They think I’m fucking dumb. I’m literally painted out to be this big, dumb idiot.” - Pete Davidson says what he believes his “Saturday Night Live” castmates think about him. I have my doubts. Nobody uses the word “big” in reference to Pete! Melania Trump recently proclaimed that not only has she never had plastic surgery, she’s against it, including any form of injections. If I were her, I certainly wouldn’t want anything within arm’s reach pumped into me. Countering her stance is a former roommate, who alleges that when the former Slovenian model/skier/whatever came back from a two-week vacation, she was considerably more “buxom.” Developing. Just to keep you in the loop, Jussie Smollett formally pleaded not guilty on six counts of felony disorderly conduct. When he was charged last year, there were 16 counts. So on the positive side, they’re going down something Jussie ought to get used to should he spend any time in the big house. He is due next in court on March 18. You may recall that little Frankie Muniz appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” two years ago. He recently dusted off his dancing shoes when he found himself in a dressing room with one of the show’s professional hoofers, Keo Motsepe. The duo doffed their tops and performed a semi-synchronized rendition of Ginuwine’s “Pony.” When posting the video, Muniz said, “I know I’m going to regret this later.” I suppose the only way to know for sure is to watch it on BillyMasters.com. I keep reading about these shows Oprah is doing around the country. People are paying big bucks to see O’s “Vision Tour.” Winfrey might wanna have her vision checked because last week, she fell onstage. During a “performance” in Los Angeles, Oprah said, “Wellness to me means all things in balance, and balance doesn’t mean all things are equal or at peace at all times.” And with that, she lost her balance and landed on her ass. Actually, that doesn’t do the fall justice. She kinda stumbled around, almost looked like she was about to attempt a cartwheel, and then fell flat on her ass. I can describe it so accurately because, yes, we have the video on BillyMasters. com - and it may be the best video since Beyoncé fell down that flight of stairs. Anyway, when she fell, the audience gasped. Oprah got up and laughed off the incident, saying, “It’s nice to be talking about balance and falling.” One of the biggest hits on Broadway is “To Kill a Mockingbird.” When the show opened last year, it starred Jeff Daniels. Then he left and the role of Atticus Finch was taken over by Ed Harris. It’s just been announced that when Harris leaves Broadway on April 19, he will be replaced by Greg Kinnear. Let’s play a little game I like to call “Who turned down that role?” Because, lovely as Kinnear may be, does anyone really think he was the producers’ first choice? Don’t you think there are a few actors in between Ed Harris and Greg Kinnear? OK, so maybe they couldn’t get Scott Baio. But what is David Faustino doing? By the by, the press release indicates that this will be Kinnear’s Broadway debut. Shocking! For years, the stars of “The First Wives Club” have talked about making a sequel. While nothing ever came of that, they’re doing the next best thing. Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton will reunite for “Family Jewels,” which is described as a multigenerational comedy. The ladies are
26 • MARCH 06, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
JUSSIE SMOLLETT pleaded not guilty to six counts of felony disorderly conduct.
forced to spend Christmas with their children and grandchildren after the man they were all once married to suddenly dies. And I’m sure hilarity will ensue. Our “Ask Billy” question comes from Tyler in Dallas: “Do you remember that hot criminal who became a model? Everyone was talking about him a couple years ago. Whatever happened to him? He was gorgeous.” That would be Jeremy Meeks, who strutted his stuff on the runway during New York Fashion Week after being released from prison in 2017. The socalled “hot felon” got a whole lotta media attention when his mug shot went viral in 2014. After serving just over two years in prison for possession of a firearm (he’d previously done nine years in prison for grand theft felony), he made the most of his second/third chance by cashing in on his chiseled cheekbones and pouty lips. If you’re one of Jeremy’s fans, you’ll be pleased to know that you can see a whole lot more of him. We’ve got a number of photos where he shows off every inch (close to double digits) of his excited appendage. Apparently prison agreed with him - as you’ll see on BillyMasters.com. When we’re trading one convict for another, it’s definitely time to end yet another column. Be sure to visit BillyMasters.com - the site that finds the best stories in the oddest places. If you have a question, send it off to Billy@ BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before the fat lady sings (or falls). Until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.
Queery: Ari Gutierrez The powerhouse volunteer leader answers 20 queer questions By LISA VASQUEZ
ARI GUTIEREZ (right), her daughter EMMA (center) and her wife CONNIE ARAMBULA (left). (Photo courtesy Gutierrez)
“Emma’s mom” – this was my first introduction to Ari Gutierrez Arambula at All Souls World Language School, where our children attend together. “Emma’s mom” quickly became Ari, the powerhouse volunteer leader at school. Serving on multiple parent-led committees and leading the marketing for our new performing arts program, she leverages her many talents to garner publicity and support for the school and to simply get things done. Ari is admirable in so many ways – she perseveres, unwavering in her desire and her fight for justice and equity for all – for the kids at our school, the LGBTQ youth she serves, and for any group of marginalized voices. And Ari succeeds in her fights – because, in addition to her steadfastness, she maintains an unassuming calm and a quirky sense of humor that attracts others to join her in her cause and charms even the toughest opponent. I have had the opportunity to witness this force not only at school, but also in the community. Last year, I was proud to support Ari as she was recognized at L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis’s Inaugural Pride Reception for her dedicated service, civic pride and numerous contributions. Most recently, she and her neighbors have taken on the City of San Gabriel upon learning that a developer plans to build a massive condominium complex on native land next to what is now the Alhambra Wash. Ari is a friend and a fierce ally to so many, including me. How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? I came out a year after college at age 22. The hardest person to tell was my mom because maintaining her love, acceptance and support mattered most to me. Who’s your LGBT hero? I am in awe of LGBTQ people of color and ethnic minorities who transcend their station in life to selflessly contribute to a movement that helps not just LGBTQ people but also their community at large. People like Bayard Rustin, Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, Frida Kahlo but also people from my own LGBTQ LatinX community who are everyday activists in the work they do including Roland Palencia, Laura M. Esquivel, Elena Popp, Myriam Gurba, Bamby Salcedo, Lester Aponte and many more.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? Nothing in L.A. comes close to the ambiance and camaraderie at the Bonham Exchange in my hometown of San Antonio in the early 80’s before HIV/ AIDS changed everything. In L.A., The Latina Lesbian Erotic Poetry Reading gatherings of the early 90’s were the best because they lifted-up our culture, our femininity and our intelligence. Describe your dream wedding. We married at a beautifully serene pocket park in South Pasadena where we previously shared family time with our then three-year-old daughter. I loved that it is Eddie Park, which was close to Edie Windsor’s name. We had a small group of close friends and the ceremony
was performed under an old Oak tree. A dream wedding is having friends and family affirm you and your new spouse’s love and commitment to each other – that’s what’s important. What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? Social justice in all its forms including access to education, a fulfilling career and being able to live and provide a good quality of life with your family and friends. What historical outcome would you change? The negativity of the Yes on Prop 8 campaign was very mean, hurtful and fear inducing. I wish that our society had been beyond accepting — through a ballot initiative — that type of hate against LGBTQ people or anyone else as acceptable. That’s why we HAD to fight back! What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? For me, 80’s pop music because it’s fun, soothing and brings back fond memories of the time. Every now and then I switch to 70’s and 60’s music for the same reasons.
orientation. Instead, I wish science would discover a way to assure families will accept and love their child no matter their gender identity, sexual orientation. What do you believe in beyond the physical world? Whatever its name – I feel there is certainly an energy beyond our physical world that creates life and brings us together as living beings who depend on love to survive as much as food and water. That is no coincidence. What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? Be strategic, use your skills and resources. What would you walk across hot coals for? My family. What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? That there are no LGBTQ people of color in communities of color and that people of color communities do not accept us.
On what do you insist? Loyalty, Honesty, Compassion.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie? Summer Lovers (1982)
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? I posted photos of my 9-year-old daughter meeting Sen. Elizabeth Warren and learning to Pinky Promise. It was a win on many fronts but I’m most excited of my daughter’sblossomingpoliticalawareness. She wants to meet Greta Thunberg next.
What’s the most overrated social custom? Getting to work on time.
If your life were a book, what would the title be? She was There When…The book would focus on important turning points in social justice in which I played a part.
What do you wish you’d known at 18? That people will try to stop your success because of who you are – don’t let them.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do? I would not change my sexual
What trophy or prize do you most covet? Good health and income now and in my retirement years.
Why Los Angeles? I came to Los Angeles for a career in advertising – I got that and a whole lot more!
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