(Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)
VP pick is longtime LGBTQ ally, Page 10 Preview of Democratic convention, Page 08
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Calif. salons, barbers set to defy state COVID shutdown Protest planned for Aug. 17 By BRODY LEVESQUE
and style on the sidewalk, I have lost 25% of my One of the many business areas hit hardest by A protest was held Aug. 11 at the state capitol. (Photo courtesy of the PBFC) yearly income. That’s going to represent a loss of California’s ‘Stay-At-Home’ COVID-19 orders and nearly $100,000 or one quarter of my year,” he rollback of re-opening of the state’s economy by said. “Worse is that many of my stylists depend Gov. Gavin Newsom has been the beauty, barber on those paychecks to survive and now they may salon, and cosmetology sector. lose everything they have including possibly being Many of those aﬀected are sole proprietorships homeless, which makes no sense,” he added. that are now struggling to ﬁnd ways to keep their PBFC membership did their own ‘contact tracing’ businesses from disappearing altogether. The Los by using customer data during the brief reopening Angeles Blade spoke with several salons around period to see if there was any uptick in rates of the region, including LGBTQ owned and operated infection that were veriﬁable and found that out salons that have been severely impacted. of 100,000 customers, there was minimal to no One out owner, who asked not to be identiﬁed, appreciable positivity rates Jones told the Blade. spoke frankly about his fears of facing permanent “The requirements that were spelled out by closure. Newsom during that time our membership was “Even with the ability to operate out in the open, allowed to operate had greater precautions which is ridiculous and cumbersome, I can only mandated than the so-called essential businesses aﬀord to keep one stylist working — that’s me, I’ve like say Home Depots or grocery stores and that had to furlough my six other stylists and it is not was before his mandatory mask order,” Jones said. fair,” he said. “Our stylists and even the barbers are required to “They have no idea what they’re doing; they follow procedures that are comparable almost to [Public Health] do not even take into consideration preparing for surgery right down to face shields the education we are required to have even in and gloves. normal times for hygiene and sanitation. We are Factored into the overall picture is that for better prepared to interact with our customers those who may survive, ballooning unpaid rent and take greater precautions,” he added. and expenses threaten to close salons regardless, The steps that salons and the industry take is Jones pointed out. exactly the reason that Gov. Newsom’s orders “My landlord has deferred my rent,” the salon make no sense says Fred Jones, legal counsel for owner told the Blade. “The problem is that I have the Professional Beauty Federation of California, lost all of my staﬀ, my income, and how am I going (PBFC). to repay the rent with limited funds when I open “We have growing data that our salons had again?” nothing to do with the increased number of The building anger at Newsom and state health positives. Some creative salon suite chains, oﬃcials has spurred a proactive movement within product distributors and others have developed the PBFC to defy the governor’s orders. a social media campaign to track and report how “That is why the PBFC has stepped up big time many services we performed during our sixto defend our livelihoods from a heavy-handed, week reopening and how little COVID contagions shoot-from-the-hip governor who is totally ﬁxated resulted,” Jones told the Blade this week. on the impossible task of stopping COVID dead in its tracks and marginalizing a well Newsom and state oﬃcials are ignoring science and data in regard to precautions taken educated, trained, licensed profession that he should be partnering with instead of kicking by PBFC membership and other salons to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. to the curb,” Jones said. “We have hundreds of hours of formal education in sanitation; “The CDC just issued a report on July 17 that showed there was a low probability of implemented stepped up safety protocols in our shops and booths; gathered contact transmission of COVID,” said Jones. “Newsom is not listening to the experts and the tracing data showing our eﬀectiveness in preventing the spread; and now have the backing science and data he claims that his orders are based on.” of the CDC. What more could our governor ask of his state-licensed professionals?” The state has nearly 621,000 licensed and registered salons and barbershops, Jones Jones tells the Blade that on Monday, August 17, there will be a massive reopening pointed out. The ongoing-shutdown-reopen shutdown cycle leaves many businesses eﬀort in deﬁance of the governor’s orders. facing a bleak future or in some cases no future at all. “He can no longer ignore the science, or disrespect our training, our license and our “To be fair, in response to our lawsuit and concerted #OpenSalonsNow campaign, ability to keep our beloved clientele safe. We will not allow him to continue to bury his Newsom did brieﬂy capitulate and allowed our shops to reopen back in late May, but he head to the rampant and growing underground deﬁance to his lockdown orders. It’s up to reimposed the latest round of lockdowns on July 13,” Jones said. us, as licensed professionals with a united and loud voice, to demand Newsom allows our The owner that spoke to the Blade echoed Jones’ frustration. heavily regulated and sanitary, safe businesses to reopen now,” Jones said. “Since this began and I closed when I was instructed to, with the ﬁrst shut-down then The Blade reached out to Newsom’s oﬃce for comment but received no reply. the reopening until last month, outside of the ridiculous modiﬁcation where I can cut 02 • AUGUST 14, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Takano ‘aghast’ at proposed UC aﬃliation with restrictive Catholic hospitals
Regent Chair Perez ‘will do everything’ to block healthcare discrimination By KAREN OCAMB
The California congressional delegation is “deeply alarmed” by proposed new healthcare rules governing the aﬃliation between the University of California and Catholic hospital systems that operate under religious restrictions. Hospitals such as Dignity Health and St. Joseph Health adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) set by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, not by medical professionals, New Ways Ministry reported last June. “Dignity Health operates by the ERDs at 17 out of 31 of their hospitals.” “The ERDs do not allow the prescription of any FDA-approved methods for preventing pregnancy including sterilization, elective abortion; assistive reproductive technology such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or the use of a surrogate for pregnancy; gender-aﬃrming care such as hormone replacement therapy or surgery or physician-assisted aid in dying,” The California Aggie reported June 5. “Some argue that partnering with Dignity restrict care to LGBTQ+ people, women, others argue more are harmed by not partnering.” A previous attempt to expand Dignity Health’s aﬃliation with UC San Francisco (UCSF) was called oﬀ last year after 1,500 UCSF doctors and hospital staﬀ signed a petition opposing the proposed expansion. The UC Working Group on Comprehensive Access (WGCA) was formed to ﬁnd a way forward but failed to reach a consensus. In August 2019, the WGCA presented two options: UC Health-backed Option 1 would allow existing aﬃliations to continue, understanding that some people might be denied care because of the hospital’s adherence to religious doctrine. Option 2 would discourage the continued aﬃliation. Evan Minton, a longtime California politico, was among the LGBTQ advocates who argued against the expanded relationship between UCSF and Dignity. He sued Dignity Health after his hysterectomy was cancelled because they learned he is a transgender man, about which he testiﬁed before Congress. The ACLU, which is representing him, argues that hospitals should not be able to “pick and choose” the care they provide to individual patients. 04 •
Out California Rep. MARK TAKANO
Meanwhile, there is some concern the coronavirus pandemic may impact the Regents’ decision. After all, “Catholic health systems control one in six hospital beds and are often the only location for treatment in some rural areas,” New Ways Ministry reported last June 17. The California congressional delegation wanted to register their disapproval. In their Aug. 5 letter to UC President Dr. Michael Drake and the UC Regents, 39 out of 45 members of the Democratic delegation expressed “serious concerns” over UC’s aﬃliations with hospitals and providers “that impose religious restrictions” limiting medically necessary care. “The consequences of denying this care are serious and can even be life-threatening,” they wrote. Led by U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village), and Mark Takano (D-Riverside), the letter , issued with the backing of a coalition that includes NARAL Pro-Choice California, Equality California, and the ACLU of California, noted that many of the signers strongly oppose the Trump administration’s Refusal of Care Rule, which they describe as a “dangerous, discriminatory regulation…designed
AUGUST 14, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
to allow health care institutions and providers to deny patients information and treatment based on personal religious or moral beliefs.” Given the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on “access to evidence-based health care,” the members wrote, “it is deeply alarming that the University of California, which has long been a national leader in comprehensive reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care, would be willing to involve its providers and patients in arrangements that subject them to religious rules that hold that basic reproductive health care is impermissible, and that directly exclude LGBTQ patients. Reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care is fundamental, basic health care, and we in California should stand strong in protecting it.” They “strongly urge” the Board to vote against Option 1. “’Option 1’ does not require that contracts with outside health systems aﬃrmatively state that religious directives will not apply to UC providers and students. It also does not state that hospital policies prohibiting gender-aﬃrming services for transgender people or reproductive health services violate UC’s nondiscrimination policy,” they wrote.
The delegation also rejected the proposition that the affiliation is necessary “to expand health care access to underserved communities. In fact, hospitals with Catholic religious directives often prohibit many types of medical services that communities of color critically rely upon, particularly in the areas of reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive health, where some of the deepest racial health inequities exist. Indeed, patients of color, low-income patients, people living with HIV and AIDS, and others who experience health disparities and systemic barriers to health care access are most in need of science-based, comprehensive care that is not limited by religious restrictions.” Moving forward with Option 1, “will send a message to the nation that it is permissible to impose such limits on care, just as the Trump administration has sought to do with the Refusal of Care Rule,” the delegation wrote, urging the Regents to vote to reject ‘Option 1’ and “contracts that impose religious restrictions on UC providers and patients.” “We, as members of the California delegation, are fighting against members of the Trump administration but we’re really aghast at the idea that within California, which should be using all of its muscle to ensure that discrimination does not occur in healthcare,” Takano told the Los Angeles Blade. “The way they push back on this is they’re saying they need to reach more people of color and low-income people.” Takano also noted that the LGBTQ community in Riverside County and all over low income areas – Latinos and African Americans, in particular — don’t have access to HIV counseling and healthcare services. “This is still one of the most significant healthcare challenges – the continued spread of HIV among low income people and people of color” who may not have access to or may not have even heard about PrEP, Takano said. “And this cannot be solved by entering into discriminatory contracts that will inhibit the ability to reach out to these populations. So, I reject the notion that they’re going to reach more low-income people and people of color who need healthcare.” Takano challenged UC Health to come up with alternatives. “We should not be stuck with
JOHN A. PEREZ chair of the California Board of Regents (Courtesy Regents)
providers who insist on discrimination,” he said. “This really got brought to the Regents’ attention because UC San Francisco was trying to get into a four- hospital agreement with Dignity Healthcare. But we blocked them,” UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Perez told the Los Angeles Blade. “It was clearly the pattern of discrimination against LGBT folks, in particular transgender folks, but also the limitations on reproductive healthcare.” The issue is personal for Perez. “I have a friend who went into emergency labor and was refused a medically necessary tubal ligation, which put her in very dangerous circumstances,” said Perez, an issue he addressed in open session. “If you got an emergency room open to obstetrics and somebody comes in, in emergency labor, for you to put these constraints that are not based on science or medical best practice is fundamentally at odds with our obligation and our standards and our values as a public university hospital system.” Perez, who notes that he is one of three out LGBTQ Regents, is adamantly opposed to Option 1. “I will do everything in my power to make sure Option 1 is never adopted,” Perez said. “I believe that running a hospital or a health system and making decisions based on anything other than science — the medical best interest of the patient — is tantamount to the corporate practice of medicine, which California expressly prohibited by law.” Perez notes that the “thorny issue” raised by Option 1 has not yet been put forward. Meanwhile UC Health is focused on fighting the COVID-19 crisis. He disputes the notion of temporarily disregarding state and UC non-discrimination laws and core values to expand healthcare to low income people of color. “We’re serving not only our patients, but we’re providing broader assistance to folks in other communities that aren’t part of our hospitals,” Perez said. “So, for example, Imperial County is about the most significantly impacted County in the state and we’re taking patients from Imperial County -- not only in San Diego and Irvine, but as far away as Davis. We’re right now focused on direct patient care and direct research and helping turn the corner on COVID. And I think that really does speak to why nobody within the health operations has put this forward at this point.” LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 14, 2020 • 05
Rising LGBTQ stars, historic platform for Dem convention New language recognizes trans women of color, nonbinary people By CHRIS JOHNSON
With election season in high gear, Democrats are preparing an unprecedented convention next week that includes a mixture of live and virtual events, including components seeking to highlight the party’s commitment to the LGBTQ community. The lineup leading up to Joe Biden’s speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination includes visibility for high-profile LGBTQ Democrats, including Pete Buttigieg and Danica Roem, as well as ratification of a national platform that includes the words “transgender women of color,” Virginia Del. DANICA ROEM (D-Manassas Park) and former “non-binary,” “non-conforming” and Mayor PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-South Bend) are set to have roles at “confirmation surgery” for the first the Democratic National Convention. (Blade photos by Michael Key) time. Those LGBTQ components will be integrated into the convention, which during the time of the coronavirus has been downsized to a largely virtual event, although operations will remain based in the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Wis. Buttigieg, who performed well in the primaries, was given a primetime slot for a speech Tuesday night. That’s a high honor in a convention where many participants — with the exception of Biden and his newly selected running mate Kamala Harris — will be given short times to speak as opposed to time for a major address. Meanwhile, Virginia State Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William), is set to have a role at the Democratic convention, although the exact nature of her presence is at this time unclear, Democratic officials told the Blade. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement choosing Roem to have a role at the convention “was an inspired decision.” “In 2017, Roem made history beating Virginia’s self-described ‘chief homophobe,’” David said, referring to former State Del. Bob Marshall. “Alongside [Minneapolis City Council member] Andrea Jenkins, she began a revolution for increasing LGBTQ representation in government inspiring a community hungry for a seat at the table.” Roem won’t be the first openly transgender person to address a major party convention. That distinction belongs to Sarah McBride, a transgender advocate for the Human Rights Campaign now running for a seat in the Delaware State Senate, who addressed the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Joe Solmonese, CEO of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, told the Blade the integration of LGBTQ rising stars in the event underscores Biden’s commitment to the community. “Vice President Biden very clearly sees that LGBT people are part of the fabric, and they will be part of the fabric of the convention,” Solmonese said. “We’re asking lots of people to participate in all sorts of different ways.” Also during the convention, Democrats are expected to ratify the quadrennial party platform, which includes many planks in support of LGBTQ rights, including a commitment to transgender health and support for the Equality Act, which would comprehensively ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination as a form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act 1964. Delegates are currently voting on the platform and voting closes Saturday night, a Democratic National Committee spokesperson said. Among them is language making the document the first to recognize transgender women of color, gender non-conforming people and the non-binary community. 08 • AUGUST 14, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
COVID continues to delay trials in LA County courts By BRODY LEVESQUE
Pointing out that the courthouses in Los Angeles County were not designed architecturally for ‘social disdaining,’ the presiding judge of the Superior Court announced Monday that some trials face further delays. Judge Kevin C. Brazile announced in a statement that he has ordered postponements in civil jury trials until January of 2012 with exceptions for non-jury civil trials excluding small claims and traffic courts trials postponed until November 16. Brazile’s order will allow some criminal proceedings to move forward in September and after Oct. 5 in cases that can be heard by a judge without a jury and in full compliance with public health orders on social distancing and facial covering protocols. “The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has expressed concerns to the court about commencing jury trials and bringing jurors into county courthouses given the current COVID-19 numbers and trends,” Brazile said. “Courthouses are not designed to facilitate social distancing given their fixed configuration.” Brazile also noted that remote courtroom solutions that would allow some hearings to proceed are being considered although in criminal proceedings the defense must consent. Additionally because of California legal mandates as well as ethics there will be some appearances that would not be able to utilize the remote option. Regarding remote hearings in civil matters Brazile noted, “The court cannot mandate remote appearances in civil trials due to logistical and evidentiary issues.” Brazile also noted that all non-jury trials scheduled from Monday to Sept. 8 — other than small claims and traffic trials and any case statutorily required to proceed — are continued until further notice. Family law evidentiary proceedings, other than restraining order hearings, that can be completed within two court days may be held. Otherwise, such proceedings cannot commence before Nov. 20, except as authorized by the supervising judge. Most LA County dependency hearings have been held virtually since June 22 The order issued Monday states: Prescheduled appointments are required for inperson services from the Clerk’s Office, court support services, and/or the Self-Help Centers. Appointments may be made the same day for persons seeking Restraining Orders who have completed paperwork and arrive at the courthouse no later than 3 p.m. For telephone or video assistance, or to schedule an appointment, the telephone number for each courthouse is listed at the courthouse entrance and posted on the Court’s website (www.lacourt.org). Access to proceedings shall be limited to the judicial officer presiding, Court personnel, parties, counsel, witnesses and those members of the public (including news reporters/media representatives) who can be accommodated in the designated courtroom while enforcing mandatory social distancing of at least six (6) feet. The determination of courtroom capacity shall be made by the Judge or Commissioner presiding in the courtroom. Parties and counsel are strongly urged to avoid in-person appearances and make use of technology to appear remotely whenever possible. For more information visit lacourt.org.
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Harris brings diversity, LGBTQ ally to ticket Biden makes historic decision as convention nears By CHRIS JOHNSON | firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Biden made history Tuesday by selecting Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as the ﬁrst woman of color as a vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket, and a rising political star who has demonstrated a commitment to the LGBTQ community. Harris is a relative newcomer to Washington, but her record on LGBTQ rights extends back to her tenure as a district attorney for San Francisco and California attorney general as well as her work during her ﬁrst term as U.S. senator. That’s made her a favorite among LGBTQ people, many of whom still wear “For the People” shirts from her presidential campaign. “I grew up in a community and a culture where everyone was accepted for who they were, so there wasn’t a moment where it was like, ‘OK, now let’s let this person in,’” Harris told the Los Angeles Blade in 2019. “Everyone was a part of everything. It was about community. It was about coalition building. It was about equality, inclusion.” Rick Chavez Zbur, executive director of the LGBTQ group Equality California, congratulated Harris in a statement for being the pick, calling his home state senator “an exceptional choice.” “Throughout her career, Sen. Harris has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to civil rights and social justice for all LGBTQ+ people,” Zbur said. “As vice president, we are conﬁdent she will continue Vice President Biden’s tradition of using the oﬃce to champion and advance full, lived LGBTQ+ equality — and equality for the diverse communities to which LGBTQ+ people belong.” The crown jewel of Harris in terms of her LGBTQ record is her decision as California attorney general not to defend Proposition 8, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage enacted at the ballot in 2008. “I declined to defend Proposition 8 because it violates the Constitution,” Harris said in a statement in 2013. “The Supreme Court has described marriage as a fundamental right 14 times since 1888. The time has come for this right to be aﬀorded to every citizen.” After the U.S. Supreme Court restored marriage equality to California in 2013, Harris oﬃciated the wedding of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley, Calif., the ﬁrst same-sex marriage performed in California after the landmark decision. Additionally, Harris instructed clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples with “no exceptions” despite complaints from oﬃcials in more conservative parts of the state. In 2015, Harris declined to certify a measure that obtained enough signatures to get on the state ballot to institute the death penalty for homosexual acts, which became known as the “Kill the Gays” initiative, bucking her requirements as California attorney general. Before that time, as district attorney for San Francisco, Harris worked with the California Legislature to pass legislation barring the use of gay or transgender panic defense in court. As a result, California in 2014 became the ﬁrst state to ban
the plea. Since becoming a U.S. senator in 2016, Harris has taken major steps to lead eﬀorts on LGBTQ rights, including the introduction of proLGBTQ legislation in addition to drawing attention to the anti-LGBTQ Sen. KAMALA HARRIS (D-Calif.) was chosen by Joe Biden as the 2020 Democratic Party policies of the Trump administration. vice presidential candidate. (Photo courtesy of CNN) After the Trump administration aﬃrmed it wouldn’t allow people to LGBTQ aﬀairs. identify themselves as LGBTQ in the 2020 U.S. Census, Harris Harris, however, faced criticism when she said Pete Buttigieg introduced legislation that would require the Census Bureau was “a bit naive” for bringing up the struggle of being a gay to include questions on the Census, as well as the American American when asked about diversity issues, even though Community Survey, asking respondents whether they’re he explicitly said “there’s no equating the two experiences.” LGBTQ. LGBTQ and Black activists were split over whether Harris was When a transgender immigrant from Honduras, Roxsana right to denounce Buttigieg. Hernandez, died from AIDS complications after being held in But Harris has faced criticism from progressives who say immigration detention, Harris and other senators demanded her career has been too aligned with support for the police at answers. An autopsy concluded Hernandez wasn’t physically a time when law enforcement and police brutality are under abused before her death. heavy scrutiny. Harris fought to keep a non-violent prisoner Harris and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) had called on locked up in state prison, openly defying a 2011 Supreme U.S. Attorney General William Barr to revoke a 2017 Trump Court decision ordering the state to reduce overcrowding, administration order declining to enforce Title VII of the Civil according to a report in The American Independent. Rights Act in cases of anti-transgender discrimination in the Critics of Harris in terms of LGBTQ rights point to legal workforce. That request was renewed after the Supreme ﬁlings she signed in 2015 as California attorney general Court determined in June anti-LGBTQ discrimination is defending the state prison system in refusing to grant unlawful under Title VII, but the memo still hasn’t been transgender surgery to inmates. Among them was Michellerescinded. Lael Norsworthy, who was formerly incarcerated at Mule Among other Senate Democrats, Harris is among the coCreek State Prison in Ione, Calif., for second-degree murder. sponsors of the Equality Act, comprehensive legislation that “Norsworthy has been treated for gender dysphoria for would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban anti-LGBTQ over 20 years, and there is no indication that her condition discrimination as a form of sex discrimination. has somehow worsened to the point where she must obtain Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, sex-reassignment surgery now rather than waiting until this said based on Harris’ record, Biden made “nothing short of an case produces a ﬁnal judgment on the merits,” says one brief exceptional choice” for his running mate. signed by Harris. “Throughout her groundbreaking career, Sen. Harris has Harris was able to secure a change that led to Norsworthy been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community, being able to obtain the procedure upon parole, the ﬁrst in standing with us when many, even sometimes those within the Untied States, outlining a procedure for inmates to obtain her own party, did not,” Davis said. “As a presidential candidate, gender reassignment surgery. Harris spoke with deep understanding of and empathy for But according to information the Blade obtained last year the issues our community faces. It’s clear the Biden-Harris in a public records request, few transgender inmates were ticket marks our nation’s most pro-equality ticket in history.” able to obtain the procedure under the new policy. U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) praised Harris in an As of 2019, only seven prisoners ever got the male-tointerview with the Blade on Tuesday. female procedure out of 130 who asked, and 10 out of the 51 “I’m delighted that my home state Sen. Kamala Harris will inmates who requested female-to-male gender reassignment be the next vice president of our country,” Takano said. “She surgery obtained it. The California prison system has updated comes to this opportunity well qualiﬁed, well prepared and I its policy on transgender inmates, but hasn’t yet made deﬁnitely look forward to campaigning for the Biden-Harris changes speciﬁc to gender reassignment surgery. ticket. I think it’s a winning ticket and it’s a ticket about the Jillian Weiss, a New York-based transgender advocate who future.” has been critical of Harris’ handling of trans inmate cases, As a 2020 presidential candidate, Harris was among the said via email to the Blade she believes the vice presidential contenders for the Democratic nomination who unveiled a candidate “has moved beyond her previously limited comprehensive plan for LGBTQ Americans. Among other understanding of transgender rights.” things, Harris promised to create a White House advocate for
10 • AUGUST 14, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Federal agents target nonbinary Portland protester ‘I am a marginalized sitting duck’ By KAELA ROEDER
Denied medical attention, misgendered, jumped and aggressively handcuﬀed. These are the abuses that Juniper Simonis, a genderqueer nonbinary pansexual person, suﬀered after federal authorities took them into custody last month during a protest in the city. Simonis was drawing property lines with surveying chalk in front of the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in downtown Portland on July 10. Simonis three days earlier attended a vigil at the same location to honor Summer Taylor, a Seattle protester who was hit and killed by a car in early July. Federal authorities violently disrupted the vigil. In the days between the vigil and Simonis’ arrest, they traced the property lines of the federal building in chalk to help protesters avoid trespassing. Simonis also frequently shouted from a distance at agents, asking why the vigil had been disrupted. Simonis, a 35-year-old quantitative ecologist, has been involved in the protests in Portland since they began in late May. Simonis has marched, provided medical attention and put out ﬁres at the demonstrations — often helping to keep the peace. “(We) are there to put our bodies, and our lives, and our money and energy towards protecting those who are standing up for their rights right now,” they said. Simonis believes federal agents targeted them because of the information they have been collecting and sharing on social media. This information included the property lines of federal buildings, photos of agents with their badge numbers, and details about federal police funding. Simonis also said they feel they were targeted because they are “visibly queer and trans,” and visibly disabled because of their use of a service dog. “I am a marginalized sitting duck in some respects,” they said. While Simonis said what happened to them was traumatizing, they do not want their experience to detract from the Black Lives Matter movement. Simonis also believes they survived their detention because they are white. “We can’t have everybody focusing on the white people getting kidnapped when Black people are still getting killed dayto-day,” they said. Federal agents during the July 7 vigil stormed the area. Simonis suspects federal oﬃcers were targeting a speciﬁc protestor in the crowd for arrest, but to their knowledge, no arrests were made. Simonis described the vigil as peaceful and said there was no provocation for the agents to disperse it. Amid the disruption, while federal oﬃcers were moving back towards the building’s entrance, they threw a ﬂashbang grenade at Simonis and their service dog, Wallace. The agents who conducted the raid were unknown to Simonis, and they couldn’t determine what organization or bureau they represented. “I was super pissed,” said Simonis. “I spent the next 36 hours trying to ﬁgure out who these guys were.” After fruitless calls to the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County Police Department to help identify the
JUNIPER SIMONIS said federal agents targeted them because of the information they have been collecting and sharing on social media. (Photo courtesy of Simonis)
federal agents, Simonis decided to take matters into their own hands. Knowing the federal agents in question often stood outside the building watching protestors, Simonis decided to research where the property lines of the building are. They wanted the agents to explain why they had disrupted a peaceful vigil, without risking being arrested for trespassing. On July 8 and 9, Simonis marked the divide between federal and public property with chalk to ensure their safety. “I wanted to stand on the sidewalk and fucking yell at these people, and I wanted to know where I was legally allowed to do that,” Simonis said. For two days, Simonis documented agents moving in and out of the federal building and eventually identiﬁed the oﬃcers as members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service. Simonis on July 9 said they saw multiple federal agents storm out of the building towards them when they were on the southeastern corner of it. Simonis, who was aware of the arrest of other protestors throughout Portland, said they expected to be “snatched.” But, the agents retreated back into the building. Simonis at 8:30 p.m. on July 10 returned to the federal building to touch up the chalk line and continue protesting. As they were ﬁxing the lines near the front entrance, Federal Protective Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents surrounded Simonis, threw them to the ground and handcuﬀed them. “They do not say anything. They don’t say, ‘stop.’ They don’t say, ‘what are you doing?’ They don’t say ‘get oﬀ our property’ … they don’t say anything. They just streamed out of the front of this building and snatched me,” Simonis said. Simonis provided the Washington Blade with a video of their arrest. Simonis said oﬃcers used mace and separated them from their service dog. “As someone who already has PTSD, who already has almost
12 • AUGUST 14, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
been killed multiple times, including by someone grabbing me from behind, what I instantly get shunted into is a ﬁght or ﬂight response,” they said. Simonis was detained in handcuﬀs in the building foyer for an hour before being taken down to the basement. There, agents told them they were under arrest for spray painting federal property. “Even though everything I had in my hands was chalk — it was clearly chalk — they just assumed I was doing something illegal, even though I knew I wasn’t, and I had all of the documentation to show them that I wasn’t,” Simonis said. When Simonis was taken into the federal building foyer, an oﬃcer oﬀered medical attention, but Simonis requested a trained medical professional ﬂush their eyes and tend to their open wounds. Two Portland Fire and Rescue members arrived an hour later, but Simonis said they only made matters worse. According to Simonis, the medical team did not properly ﬂush their eyes, mouth and nose with pressure. Rather they splashed saline solution from an IV bag into the aﬀected areas. Simonis also said the medical team did not remove their contact lenses, even though they repeatedly asked them to do so. Simonis asked repeatedly for additional medical attention, including treatment for open cuts on their body. They were denied additional help. Throughout the time Simonis was in federal custody, they said they were repeatedly misgendered. The agents exclusively referred to Simonis, who identiﬁes as nonbinary and has two forms of identiﬁcation legally identifying them as a woman, as “sir.” Despite the fact Simonis’ driver’s license and passport both identify them as a woman, the medical services receipt also listed their gender as male. Simonis was then taken to the adjacent Mark O. Hatﬁeld Federal Courthouse after two hours in the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, and was held in a cell without access to a lawyer, phone call, sanitizer or water. Simonis was still separated from their service dog when they were at the courthouse, and did not have access to their medication. Simonis said agents threatened to take their dog to a shelter, telling them their dog “would not be there when you get out.” Simonis was released on petty charges roughly six hours later. They are still awaiting a court date for failure to comply with a lawful order and assaulting, resisting or impeding oﬃcers. Oﬃcials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Protective Service and Department of Homeland Security did not respond to the Blade’s requests for a comment. Portland Fire Rescue and the Mark O. Hatﬁeld Courthouse have also not returned requests for comment. Simonis has not proceeded formally with charges but plans to in the near future. They are planning to pursue a variety of legal actions, including individual and class action lawsuits. “I have been getting all of my legal ducks in a row … while also trying to heal and support the movement,” they said.
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Beirut explosion damages LGBTQ group’s oﬃces Zeidan on July 22 was in A massive explosion Helem’s oﬃces when he that killed more than 200 spoke with the Blade in a people in Beirut on Aug. Zoom call about the impact 4 nearly destroyed the the crises and the pandemic oﬃces of Lebanon’s oldest has had on Lebanon’s LGBTQ advocacy group. LGBTQ community. Helem’s oﬃces are “You’re not exaggerating located less than a mile when you say things are from the city’s port where really bad,” said Zeidan. the explosion took place. Zeidan noted to the Blade Helem Executive Director that Helem at the beginning Tarek Zeidan on Monday of the pandemic launched told the Blade during a food and clothing drives. Skype interview the blast Zeidan during the Zoom damaged buildings up to call also said Helem was 10 miles away. working to create what he “You can imagine how described as a “community close we were,” said kitchen” to provide people Zeidan. “Nothing much in need with hot, nutritional inside the center remains: meals twice a week. Zeidan Doors, windows, ﬁxtures, also said Helem worked with furniture, everything was the American University blown out.” of Beirut to create a clinic Zeidan said the within its medical center explosion injured several that would provide free Helem staﬀers. diagnostic services to “They had to be taken LGBTQ people. to the hospital that night A massive explosion that destroyed large swaths of Beirut on Helem is among for their wounds to be Aug. 4, seriously damaged the oﬃces of Helem, a Lebanese LGBTQ advocacy group. (Photo courtesy of Tarek Zeidan/Helem) the organizations that stitched, but thankfully no participated in last October’s one lost their life,” he said. anti-government protests Helem was founded in that forced then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign. Prime 2001. Its oﬃces are located in Beirut’s Mar Mikhael and Minister Hassan Diab and his Cabinet on Monday resigned Gemmayzeh neighborhoods, which Zeidan described amid growing outrage over the blast. to the Blade as “the most vibrant … most LGBT-friendly Zeidan is among those who police tear gassed on Sunday neighborhoods in the entire Arab World, much less in during anti-government protests in Beirut. Zeidan’s voice Lebanon and in the city.” Zeidan said a lot of bars, coﬀee was hoarse when he spoke with the Blade on Monday. shops, art galleries and nightclubs were located in the area. “Yesterday it wasn’t outrage,” he said. “It was rage. It was “All of that has been destroyed,” Zeidan told the Blade. rage against everybody: Not just the people responsible, “The entire area has been brought down.” not just the people that ran the port, not just the political Zeidan said most of the buildings in the area that remain sponsors. It was rage against subsequent governments, of standing are not structurally sound. Zeidan added “nothing subsequent bad governance and corruption and murder inside” Helem’s oﬃces “is salvageable.” and theft and the deliberate impoverishment of the Zeidan and his partner live more than a mile away from Lebanese people and the fattening of the pockets of the the blast’s epicenter. political elite and ruling class.” Zeidan told the Blade the explosion caused “one entire Zeidan told the Blade the Lebanese people have side of the house to sort of implode inwards with all the launched their own relief eﬀorts without assistance from glass” and “the living room ﬁxtures blew inside as well.” their country’s government. Zeidan said Helem volunteers Zeidan said his partner was in the room “that sort of and staﬀ “immediately joined” them. exploded, but thankfully he wasn’t hurt.” “Many of our volunteers are out on the streets cleaning “I was not in the house,” said Zeidan. “I just came back up debris or assisting the makeshift community kitchens,” and saw the carnage and went down and saw the same.” he said. “We’ve dedicated funds to support people who are Initial reports indicate a ﬁre that ignited more than 2,700 seeking shelter from the community, particularly because tons of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port since so many places are unlivable, even if they are structurally 2013 sparked the blast. The explosion took place against sound.” the backdrop of Lebanon’s economic and political crises that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated. MICHAEL K. LAVERS 14 • AUGUST 14, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Gay El Salvador politician makes history SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — A groundbreaking El Salvador National A s s e m b l y candidate hopes to make history as the ﬁrst openly gay man elected ERICK IVÁN ORTIZ (Photo courtesy of Iván Ortiz) to the country’s legislative body. Erick Iván Ortiz is among the candidates that members of Nuestro Tiempo, a new political party, have chosen to run in the National Assembly elections that are scheduled to take place on Feb. 28, 2021. Ortiz, 29, has an economics degree from the Higher School of Economics and Business in El Salvador. He also studied human rights at Luis Amigó Catholic University in Medellín, Colombia, and participated in a social leadership development course at George Mason University. Ortiz told the Blade his social activism began a decade ago with a speciﬁc focus of defending democracy, promoting institutions and transparency and young people’s participation in politics, among other issues. “[My work] began in a very diﬃcult context for El Salvador because it was a moment in which we were facing an attack on democracy due to the attempt to tie up the Constitutional Court,” said Ortiz. “We joined forces with diﬀerent sectors of the population to make ourselves clear, and at that young age I saw myself as an agent of change.” Following the 2014 presidential campaign in which LGBTQ issues were used in a negative way, Ortiz, along with other people who were uncomfortable with what happened, decided to organize themselves. They formed Colectivo Normal in 2015. Colectivo Normal has since used cultural and political advocacy to advance their cause, using the arts as a strategy to spark new conversations in order to change the narratives around the LGBTQ community. After a process of deconstruction and constant learning within the collective, members met with diﬀerent LGBTQ organizations in a round table in which the Salvadoran LGBTI Federation was created. “I have been able to train alongside El Salvador’s best trans activists like Karla Avelar, Karla Guevara, Ambar Alfaro, Paty Hernández, among other people, and better myself,” Ortiz told the Blade. ERNESTO VALLE
VOLUME 04 ISSUE 33
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.
Trump’s executive order scam ‘The hydroxychloroquine of economic policy’
President Trump has just perpetrated one of the bigger scams of his presidency, trying to make people think the executive orders he signed actually mean something. He is using one order delaying payroll taxes in his ongoing effort to undermine Social Security and Medicare. In addition, most people don’t realize they will be billed for the whole amount sometime in the future. Delaying payment of these taxes for those who are employed will do nothing for the unemployed who are the ones really in need of help. Respected economist Paul Krugman tweeted, “I don’t know if anyone else has said this, but payroll tax cuts are the hydroxychloroquine of economic policy. They won’t do anything to solve the employment crisis, but will have dangerous side effects. Yet Trump remains obsessed with them as a cure.” To Trump and his administration sycophants like Mark Meadows and Steve Mnuchin this is all a great political game that they think will help him win votes. Instead of meeting with Democrats to hammer out a negotiated package, Trump is off playing golf and signing these generally useless executive orders, which will be trashed as soon as a congressional package is agreed to. The scam is evident if you look at the orders more closely. As reported, “He is ordering a payroll tax deferral, not a cut, meaning the taxes won’t be collected for a while but they will still be due at a later date. On housing, he instructs key officials to ‘consider’ whether there should be a ban on evictions. He also insists that state governments pick up the tab for some of the unemployment aid.” It is all one big PR stunt. The administration had one of the bigger Trump a-holes, Peter Navarro, go on “Meet the Press” and say the president is looking for Democrats to negotiate a package and they need to agree to a middle ground. Well, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer have already agreed to negotiate a middle ground. In May, the House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act—a $3.4 trillion stimulus package that the
president and the Senate refused to even respond to. Now it’s August, nearly three months later, and “Moscow Mitch” announced a $1 trillion bill he cobbled together for which he can’t even get enough Republican support to get passed in the Senate. So he and Trump are negotiating from a bill that everyone knows in the end will need Democrats’ support if it has any chance to get passed in the Senate. Pelosi and Schumer have come back and said they would meet McConnell and the president in the middle and have come back to the table with a $2 trillion bill. But the president and his representatives won’t budge. Trump won’t even sit down to negotiate as he is busy playing golf in New Jersey. One of the main sticking points appears to be that Democrats understand the need to provide money to states and cities to help balance their budgets. Those are the budgets that pay for basic services including police, fire, sanitation, teachers, social workers, judges, nurses and other healthcare workers. Democrats understand because of Trump’s bungling of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting need to close down the economy for so long that states and localities will lose billions in tax revenue. They, unlike the federal government, cannot pass deficit budgets as their budgets by law must be balanced. So the money to help pay for these services can only come from the federal government. The Federal Reserve has agreed with Democrats now is not the time to worry about the federal deficit if we are to see our economy recover once the pandemic has eased. After Democrats announced their $3 trillion package in May, Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell spoke and “crystallized the choice before legislators: more, expensive fiscal support or prolonged economic damage.” He added, “Additional fiscal support could be costly but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.” The question is will the American electorate fall for Trump’s scam? I think after some thought the answer will be a resounding NO!
16 • AUGUST 14, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
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Terry Angel Mason is a Los Angeles resident.
Surviving COVID nightmare against all odds I’m 63 and have lived through AIDS, malaria, and Typhoid fever On the evening of March 25, I found myself walking down Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles past a homeless woman who had positioned her tent at the corner of a busy intersection. I was a bit irritated because her tent made it almost impossible for me to get across the street to the other side. To make matters even worse, I was extremely ill and could barely breathe. While walking toward the hospital, I was somewhat disappointed because I couldn’t physically make it to the hospital I had initially wanted to go to. I was so ill that I decided to go to a medical center nearer to my home. When I finally reached the hospital I immediately noticed there were numerous tents set up outside to treat the hundreds of people who were infected with COVID-19. Being that it was late at night, I was able to easily get into the emergency room without having to wait in a long line. Once at the front desk, I struggled to get my identification out of my wallet. Seeing how ill I was, the attendant quickly input the information and called an attending nurse to take me to an examining room. I was greeted by another nurse who took my temperature and other vitals. After she left, an X-ray technician entered the room and took a few photos. When the technician was finished, a young doctor entered the room and I immediately picked up his negative attitude. I was startled that he was a physician due to his youthful appearance. He introduced himself and explained that he was one of the attending physicians at the hospital. He said to me, Mr. Mason, “I believe you have COVID-19, but there is nothing we can do to help you. You will have to go back home and quarantine.” After the doctor gave me blunt instructions, he abruptly left the room leaving me lying there on the examining table. When he exited, it was as though he left the door open for death to enter. In despair, I began to put my clothes back on, only to be interrupted by another doctor whom I had not been introduced to. He said to me, “Where are you going?! I just reviewed your X-ray and it appears you may have pneumonia and a temperature (classic symptoms of COVID-19). I’ve arranged to admit you now and I’m sending you directly to the ICU.” After reaching the ICU, nurses hurriedly hooked me up to a heart monitor and IVs that administered fluids and other needed medications. Suddenly, I realized how ill I was. I’m a 63-year-old African-American male who has survived full-blown AIDS, malaria, and Typhoid fever (while teaching in Africa), cancer, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Fear gripped me like an armed bandit and a sense of hopelessness came over me as I was forced to accept the fact that the odds were against me. After being in that particular hospital for seven long days with substandard care, I knew I had to check myself out or I would die. But before I did, two ICU nurses — one male and one female — entered my room dressed in protective gear similar to what an astronaut would wear. I immediately expressed my dismay about being left unattended for what seemed like days on end. I complained about the cold food and the fact that I was connected to so many monitors and IVs, It was almost impossible to walk to the restroom and there was no one there to assist me. Their response was that the hospital was overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and they simply could not provide me with quality care. What I did not know is something most people my age would never imagine and this is still true today: If a hospital is overwhelmed in the midst of a pandemic, they follow a preset protocol; that being to focus on the patients who are younger and stronger who may have a greater chance of survival. It is no secret that under these conditions some hospitals tend to give less attention to older COVID-19 patients who have pre-existing health issues that would make their recovery almost impossible. To my dismay, newscasts have emphasized that as of today, nearly 4 million people in the United States are confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 and 160,000 have died.
Astoundingly, it has been projected that by September, more than 200,000 will be dead. It is important for older people to be careful, the reason being, if you are in a high-risk category like me, the likelihood of getting out of the hospital is slim. I slept for several hours in the same clothes I was wearing when I left the hospital, too weak to remove them. Hours later I was jarred out of sleep by a phone call from my brother-in-law who said, “Angel, I know what you’ve done (referring to checking myself out of the hospital) and you have to go back to the hospital! What he said made sense, though I was reluctant to do it. Nevertheless, I called the paramedics. When they arrived, I answered the door and saw there were four of them and I was relieved because I thought I was finally being rescued. But my hopes were soon dashed when one of them said, “Sir, we cannot take you to the hospital.” “Well I’m still going,” was my reply. “How are you going to get there? And he reiterated, “We are not going to take you!” I had already called my personal physician who called the hospital and I was given clearance to go there. I told them, I’m going and closed the door. I boarded a city bus while wearing my face mask. The ride seemed as though it took forever. Once there, I walked several blocks to the hospital entrance and it seemed to be the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I was literally at the point of collapsing by the time I got to the emergency room doors. To my dismay, the lobby was packed with people, but thankfully they took me ahead of everyone else. Since I already had a positive coronavirus diagnosis, I was taken immediately to ICU. Days went by and my condition had declined to such a degree that they feared I would not make it through the night. In spite of all of this, the doctors were furious with me because I refused intubation, which may have been the very thing that saved my life. Little did I know at the time that 89 percent of COVID-19 patients who are intubated eventually die. I went from ICU to a regular room four times. Eventually, they gave up on trying to intubate me and let me stay in a regular room. I was grateful that my friends and family were diligent in calling to inquire about the status of my condition. I recommend everyone who has a loved one in the hospital do exactly the same because it not only keeps the staff on their toes, moreover, it encourages the patients as well. During this time, my fiance Joel refused to let me die. Every day he would send me lighthearted videos to lift my spirits. Also, there were thousands of people all over the world diligently praying for me. At that time, the Centers for Disease Control did not know as much as they know now about COVID-19. People were being told to stay at home and quarantine (and not go to the hospital). I remember lying in my hospital bed watching President Donald Trump botch the whole thing as the numbers were increasing exponentially daily. He could have possibly saved thousands of lives had he acted promptly with leadership and integrity. Even today he continues to deny the facts about COVID-19 as countless Americans continue to die and become infected. When I came home from the hospital, I did not realize the whole ordeal would cause me to have PTSD, which I still suffer from. I also had to learn to walk again, and I still had breathing problems because my lungs were damaged. That was the beginning of months of recovery. I liken my experience to a war where thousands of people died. It seemed as if even though I was wounded and stranded in the midst of a nightmarish dream, an angel picked me up, carried me off the battlefield, to give me another chance at life. LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 14, 2020 • 17
‘Sunset Boulevard’ of broken dreams At 70 years, everything old is meaningful again By DAVID EHRENSTEIN
“I AM big! It’s the pictures that got small.” So goes one of many famous quotes from “Sunset Boulevard,” the 1950 Billy Wilder classic that celebrated its 70th anniversary on Aug. 10. Like many of the ﬁlm’s now-iconic lines, it is spoken by Norma Desmond, the forgotten silent screen goddess (fearlessly portrayed by real-life silent starlet Gloria Swanson) who serves as the grotesque centerpiece of Wilder’s cynical show business fable; it’s a proclamation of contempt, hurled against a Hollywood that has left her behind as it moves into an era that has no room for her larger-than-life ego. Wilder’s beloved ﬁlm noir, which he co-wrote with Charles Brackett, is one of those classics that stands the test of time. Equal parts bitter tragedy and shrewd satire, it’s a cautionary tale against the ephemeral allures of fame and fortune, as well as an indictment of an industry that exploits and then discards the very people who make it possible in the ﬁrst place. More than anything, it’s a warning against the dangers of holding on to the past in a world that moves forever forward. With themes like that, “Sunset Boulevard” is guaranteed to have something to say for audiences in any era – but thanks to a global pandemic, it’s a ﬁlm that has suddenly become particularly relevant. After all, if Norma Desmond were around in 2020, she would surely complain that the pictures had gotten even smaller. As we try to make sense of our new COVID place in the world, splitting our time between “working from home” and binge-watching reruns on television, the images we stream have become postcard-sized or even smaller, as the computer and phone become the New Cinema. Even the medium of streaming is being shattered into ever tinier fragments by the likes of Instagram, Quibi and TikTok. Not only that, our world itself has shrunk; the nightclubs and bars, dinners and awards ceremonies, all the red-carpet events that once deﬁned social life in Hollywood have disappeared. Our experience of The Fabulous has been reduced to ﬂeeting sound-bites and awkward livestreams. For those who are part of industry itself, the impact of these changes has been swift and profound. Even before COVID, the landscape of celebrity was already transforming. New avenues to fame had sprung from the virtual world of social media, driven by a generation of inﬂuencers who, like Norma with her fake fan-mail, could even “buy” followers to convince themselves of their own popularity by increasing the number of “likes” and “shares” they rack up. Complicating things further, the sheer amount of content now available, coupled with the high cost of producing it, meant that an actor’s famous name was no longer enough to ensure that a new ﬁlm would be a hit, no matter how much social media buzz they might have behind them; the Franchise Picture was now the only safe bet for studios – and in a world where a single well-timed tweet could shift the tide of popular opinion in an afternoon, even that was no guarantee. GLORIA SWANSON as Norma Desmond.
18 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 14, 2020
Now, months into the pandemic, even the brightest stars face an uncertain future. Everyone who was famous in January suddenly ﬁnds themselves canceled, irrelevant, dimmed and unsure of their path back to celebrity. The star machine of late-night television has become a pale imitation of itself, turning former supernova-caliber appearances into mediocre Skype calls and half-hearted attempts at staging a “feels-live” show. The exceptional has given way to the perfunctory, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that everyone involved would rather be doing something else. At the end of “Sunset Boulevard, Norma delivers her most famous line. “Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,” she purrs, as she prepares to slink down the stairs toward the camera for a comeback that’s never going to happen. As COVID continues to rage with no end in sight, how many real-life stars fear that they are facing the same fate? After all, there were few “Mr. DeMilles” left in the world even before the pandemic, and now they are virtually a thing of the past. In any case, productions have come to a halt, and if it was hard to get that close-up before, it’s next to impossible now. As for Sunset Boulevard itself (the place, not the movie or the Andew Lloyd Webber neo-opera based upon it), it has been decimated, like most urban haunts, by the epidemic, a place where a once-teeming urban existence has been replaced by miles-long swaths of badly boarded-up storefronts, graﬃtied with wheatpaste dreams of normalcy and an equality that has always been out of reach in LA. It would be easy enough during this state of aﬀairs to succumb to gloomy nostalgia for a world gone by, or to echo the hard-edged tone of “Sunset Boulevard” and devalue the things we have lost by decreeing that they were never worth that much to begin with. We are, essentially, in survival mode now, locked down for the duration – and happily so, if we have adequate food supplies, a well-functioning computer, a TV and streaming
services to help us pass the time. It’s a time to be thankful for important things we still have, not to bemoan the absence of trivial things we don’t. In the middle of an ongoing traumatic event, it’s often diﬃcult to remember that things won’t always be as they are. The day will come when the viral danger has passed, and though there will undoubtedly be some permanent changes to the way we live, it’s reasonably certain that we will, at last, return to some version of our “normal” world. When that day arrives, a resurgent entertainment machine will surely come back, too, eager to once more clamor for our attention (and our money) as it oﬀers up its seemingly eternal parade of stars. After what we are going through now, will we still be interested? Will we even be able to care? The answer to that question is hard to see, for now, but even within the cruel universe of “Sunset Boulevard” there is room for a glimmer of hope, and yet another of its famous lines may point the way to our path forward. Midway through the ﬁlm, Joe Gillis, Norma’s reluctant gigolo (William Holden), says to her, “There’s nothing tragic about being 50 – not unless you’re trying to be 25.” In context, it’s a gentle admonition over an obsession with youth and beauty, but it can easily be seen in a broader sense. For better or worse, we have been changed, and we can no more go back to who we were than Norma can convince Paramount to let her star in a movie about Salome. But it doesn’t have to be a tragedy. Instead, it can be a choice. We can retreat into the shadows to play parlor games with the other “waxworks” and mourn for our former glories, or we can pick up the pieces of our broken dreams and rebuild them into something bigger, better, and kinder. If Hollywood wants to come with us into that new world, it will have to do the same. (John Paul King contributed to this article.)
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 14, 2020 • 19
Ripa’s phony tributes to Regis?
Philbin said he never heard from former co-host after leaving show By BILLY MASTERS
“If Mr. Lawrence can produce a contract, signed by me and Mr. Lawrence on show at the Crown & Anchor. Also at the Crown is Varla Jean Merman, who popped the same page, at any time in history from the beginning of time, I will toast that in (out of drag) to discuss the challenges of laughing at the coronavirus. It was a contract, smear it with cream cheese and eat it on national television.” —Judge perfect way to end the week. You can see all of our shows on BillyMasters.com/TV. Judy Sheindlin addresses accusations of skulduggery regarding the sale of her You may not have heard of Alex Morse, but he’s the gay, 31-year-old mayor syndicated show’s library. While I assume she will prevail, I would really enjoy seeing of Holyoke, Mass., who is running for Congress. That alone would not make him her eat the contract on TV. column-worthy during our quarter-century Pandemic or not, August is typically the celebration. No, he made the cut because he’s slowest time in entertainment - at least in terms admitted to having had consensual sex with of consumption. When I cannot watch “The college students. Oh, did I mention he was a View” shortly after waking, I feel out of step with lecturer at the school in question? He made this the world. And when I cannot watch “The Talk” revelation after some of his students claimed shortly after breakfast, I know it’s August. And it was not consensual. He’s been accused of yet, in the midst of this wasteland, television “using his position of power for romantic or news continues to be generated — whether it sexual gains.” is speculation on if Meghan McCain will return I was shocked to read that Kevin McHale to “The View” after her baby is born (she claims tried to kill his boyfriend. That may be a bit she will); whether Sara Haines will return to harsh. What he actually did was “accidentally “The View” since her “GMA” oﬀshoot has been poison” him. Potato/Potahto. The “Glee” star cancelled; and what will happen to Michael served his boyfriend, Austin McKenzie, some Strahan...and his lisp? undercooked chicken sausage. In short order, I admit it: I got caught up in the tributes McKenzie got “superrrrr sick” and ran out to get to Regis Philbin. Then I started watching tested for the coronavirus...twice! After both interviews he gave. In a sit-down with Larry tests came back negative, they realized McHale King, Regis made a staggering confession when has simply given him salmonella. Oops! “He asked, “Do you keep in touch with Kelly Ripa?” should break up with me. I would,” said Kevin. “Not really, no. Never once did they ask me to Austin then posted this: “I left Twitter years go back … She got very oﬀended when I left. ago. I’m back on now to monitor my thirsty She thought I was leaving because of her. I was boyfriend, Kevin Mchale, who ‘accidentally’ gave leaving because I was getting older and it wasn’t me salmonella 5 days ago.” Regis Philbin told an interviewer that he never heard from KELLY RIPA right for me anymore.” Larry pressed - has Regis Our “Ask Billy” question comes from Tim after he left their show. (Photo by Keith Wills via Wikimedia Commons) heard from her? “Never have.” Counter that in Detroit: “Did you see those photos of Kit with all the tributes Kelly has shown up on — Harington? WTF?” inconsolable. Not all is as it seems. Think about that when you judge Ellen. For those of you who aren’t in the know, the “Game of Thrones” star was snapped Moving on to something far more important - the Rockettes have cancelled their walking down the streets of London with his right arm down his pant leg. From the annual “Christmas Spectacular” at Radio City Music Hall. When the Rockettes are series of snaps, many have speculated that Kit was simply adjusting his dick - which worried about kicking oﬀ, we’re doomed. we’ve all done from time to time. But his arm is so deep down there, I think he might What a week we had on “Billy Masters LIVE.” Tuesday kicked oﬀ with the outrageous have been trying to ﬂatten some boxers. Unless his dick is REALLY long. I guess Judy Gold - whose book, “Yes, I Can Say That,” is not only hilarious but also brilliant. It is you’ll have to check out BillyMasters.com and decide for yourself. a perfect book to read in these times of social media outrage and political correctness When we’re running longer than Kit’s kit, it’s deﬁnitely time to end another (I heartily recommend the audiobook, which Judy reads). We were joined by Wilson column. Speaking of long, this month we are celebrating 25 years of writing this Cruz. To say I’d wait a lifetime for Wilson is an understatement. We talked about our column. In some ways, it’s even more fun today. Believe it or not, back then I had to long friendship - complete with many heretofore unseen photos of him in various fax the column every week to some of my papers. And a few got theirs via snail mail forms of undress. He was thoughtful, witty, sincere, and dishy. Everything I’d want in - talk about timely! Should you need more of me (allowing for social distancing), a boyfriend...er, I mean a guest! Deﬁnitely worth checking out. write to Billy@BillyMasters.com, and I promise to get back to you after I ﬁnd the On Thursday, Provincetown during a pandemic was the topic. We started oﬀ with answer in my pants! So, until next time, remember, one man’s ﬁlth is another Edmund Bagnell - who you may know from Well-Strung. He is currently doing a solo man’s bible. 20 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 14, 2020
‘A Star is Bored’ a delicious work of fiction Carrie Fisher’s assistant pens irresistible novel By KATHI WOLFE
“If my life wasn’t funny, it would just be true,” the late actress, writer, screenwriter and gay icon Carrie Fisher wrote in “Wishful Drinking,” her memoir, which she performed in a one-woman show. I miss Fisher! She was loved by her legions of fans for her indelible portrayal of Princess Leia in the “Stars Wars” franchise and other performances — from Marie in “When Harry Met Sally,” to her cameo in a “Sex and the City” episode. Fisher, the daughter of Eddie Fisher and queer icon Debbie Reynolds, had bi-polar disorder and struggled with substance abuse. In “Postcards from the Edge” and other novels and memoirs, she wrote with wry humor about alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness and life as Hollywood royalty. Byron Lane, author of “A Star Is Bored,” was Fisher’s personal assistant for several years. This irreverent, yet poignant debut novel is the fictional story of 29-yearold Charlie Besson’s life as the personal assistant to the queer icon, actress and writer Kathi Kannon. Kannon, aged 59, renowned for starring as Princess Talara in the blockbuster film “Nova Quest,” is bi-polar and struggles with alcohol abuse and drug addiction. As with the case with Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Gracie Gold (Miss Gracie) lives next door to Kathi. From the get-go, Lane says the book isn’t an account of his experience as Fisher’s personal assistant. He isn’t Charlie and Kathi isn’t Fisher. You’ll know you’re in for a fun ride when you read Lane’s disclaimer. “This is a work of fiction...” Lane, the partner of novelist Steven Rowley, writes, “Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental, including, names, places, weapons and sexual acts.” “A Star Is Bored” is a coming-of-age novel. Charlie, who’s gay, grew up in Louisiana. When he’s 12, his loving mother dies. She didn’t mind that Charlie didn’t play sports as the other boys did. Knowing that he worshiped Princess Talara, she gave him a Princess Talara action figure. His father was another story. He’s abusive and homophobic. As a child, Charlie loved Oreos (but only for their filling). One day, after he realized that Charlie
had thrown the chocolate part of the cookies into the trash, his Dad made him eat the cookie remnants out of the garbage. His father was no fan of the Princess Talara action figure! “He thought female action figures were the reason I ‘ran like a girl,’” Lane writes. Even when he’s grown up and Kathi is interviewing him for the assistant job, Lane writes, Charlie says his father’s “masculine voice is still screaming at me, in my head...even while here, auditioning for a new role in Hollywood’s royal court.” It’s no wonder that on his way to his job interview with Kathi, Charlie, who’s been working the graveyard shift for a local news station, says his life “feels like rot.” It’s not surprising that his therapist says Charlie engages in “passive suicidal behavior” or that Charlie’s love life sucks. Hope enters his world when he becomes assistant to Kathy, who Charlie says is the “heroine of film, television, maybe my life.” Working for his idol, though life-changing, is far from easy. Kathi lives in a mansion that “looks like a carnival,” Lane writes, “like an acid trip...like heaven.” Kathi is friends with Meg Ryan and other celebs. She gives Charlie not only a gorgeous sweater and other swag but the inimitable nicknames “cockring” and “stepson.” She has, Lane writes, a moose head who “once saw Jack Nicholson nude.” Yet, Kathi is demanding – wanting Charlie to answer ASAP, 24/7 questions like, “Where’s that website with those things I hate in that store I love?” Kathi’s demands and sallies are often laugh-out-loud funny. But, there’s sadness in her story for us and for Charlie. She struggled with drug addiction and often resists taking her bi-polar meds. Despite these challenges, Charlie learns how to change his life as he works for Kathi. You’ll root for him as he looks for sex and romance – while knowing that the bond forged between Charlie and Kathi is its own love story. If you want to forget the pandemic, check out “A Star Is Bored.” It’s a scene-stealing read.
22 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 14, 2020
‘A Star Is Bored’ By Byron Lane
Henry Holt and Co. $26.99/352 pages
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