Lynch to the rescue! Comedienne to co-host telethon beneﬁtting LA LGBT Center, Page 02
A U G U S T 2 1 , 2 0 2 0 • V O LU M E 0 4 • I S S U E 3 4 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M
Jane Lynch to host star-studded LA LGBT Center telethon Sept. 12 KTLA event replaces COVID-blocked gala By KAREN OCAMB
The novel coronavirus has been a devastating force since it hit U.S. shores in early 2020. Since March, Los Angeles County has identiﬁed 223,131 positive COVID cases and 5,273 deaths, the County Department of Public Health reported on Aug. 17. Though the county has ﬁnally started collecting LGBTQ-speciﬁc data, there is yet no report on how many cases or deaths might be people from the LGBTQ community, though State Sen. Scott Wiener’s LGBT health data collection bill is headed for a vote on the ﬂoor of the California Assembly. LGBTQ people are also not counted among the more than 30 million people who have ﬁled for unemployment beneﬁts, though many are part of the workforce for the shattered hospitality and hotel industries. A new national report shows that the hotel industry alone is undergoing “an historic wave of foreclosures,” according to an Aug. 18 press release from the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Vastly underreported, however, is the COVID impact on nonproﬁts that are seeing fewer grants and contributions as the need for help grows. The Los Angeles LGBT Center, for instance, has nearly 800 employees providing services for more LGBT people than any other organization in the world. “When COVID-19 hit, the demand for our existing services actually increased — such as health care, support for LGBTQ seniors and homeless youth, legal services, and policy advocacy. Plus, we saw new needs emerge, including growing numbers of people who had lost their jobs and were struggling to get enough food,” says Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “As the Center has done for 51 years, we’ve risen to meet these changing needs. And we’ve done so at the very time that fundraising has declined dramatically.” But, Jean says, “without more help, this is not sustainable.” The Center put out a clarion call for help and friends in the entertainment community responded. On Sept. 12, the Center will hold a virtual “Love In Action” telethon on KTLA. The telethon “is an important opportunity for those who are unfamiliar with the Center to understand how vast its impact is for the LGBTQ community — from homeless youth, medical services, education to seniors and HIV and STI testings… that save lives,” says KTLA 5 news anchor Cher Calvin. Calvin is co-hosting “Love In Action” with Emmy Award-winning actor, comedienne and game show host Jane Lynch. “We raise money every year through a gala for the LGBT Center and, of course, we can’t have that gala this year,” Lynch tells the Los Angeles Blade in a phone interview. “But the need for the services of the LA LGBT Center is as strong as ever. There are kids still out on the street who need help and people who need medical help. And so, it’s not like with the pandemic that the need has gone down. In fact, it’s increased.” Celebrities and politicians joining the telethon include Billy Porter, Cyndi Lauper, Sia, Margaret Cho, Lily Tomlin, Melissa Etheridge, RuPaul, Andrew Rannells, Cynthia Erivo, Wilson Cruz, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Adam Schiﬀ. Lynch’s long association with the Center began when she ﬁrst arrived in LA in 1992. “I started hanging out in the community there,” she says. Lynch went to all the galas, did “The Breakup Notebook: The Lesbian Musical” at the Center, then her own play, “Oh Sister, My Sister” in 2004, directed by Jill Soloway. “Jane Lynch is very funny indeed, ﬁlled with more characters than Jonathan Winters on LSD,” the Backstage critic wrote about the play. After that, Lynch joined the Center board for several years and even completed the California AIDS Ride in 1996. “I did San Francisco to LA, baby,” she jokes. “I love it [the Center]. I’m a big supporter. I love Lorri Jean.” The “Glee” star has lauded Ellen DeGeneres — who was honored by the Center after coming out in 1997. “You were at the height of your fame and you came out. And that just blazed a trail for me,” Lynch told the talk show star during a spot on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in 2010. “It made it so much easier for me what you did.” Lynch declined to comment on DeGeneres’ current troubles with her show. Lynch enthusiastically commented on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden 02 • AUGUST 21, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
(photo courtesy Lynch)
picking Sen. Kamala Harris for his vice- presidential running mate, however. “I love that he picked Kamala. I was so excited. I’m so happy,” Lynch says. “She’s not only the ﬁrst Black woman [VP candidate], but the ﬁrst Asian woman. She’s just sharp as a tack and she has a way about her that is no nonsense….She’s the future, not just of the Democratic Party, but I think of America.” Jean stresses the need to vote in the November election, especially since the Trump administration is trying to suppress voting by mail. “No president has done as much to reverse the progress made by LGBTQ people than has Donald Trump. He has been relentless in taking away our rights and protections,” Jean tells the LA Blade. “Moreover, his racism, pathological lying and ﬂouting of the U.S. Constitution threaten our very democracy,” Jean says. “I’m talking to every family member, friend and colleague I know who lives in a swing state to make sure they VOTE, regardless of whether Biden or Harris were their ﬁrst choices. Now is not a time to be complacent or uninvolved because reelecting Donald Trump would set us back decades.” The “Love In Action” telethon will be held on Saturday, Sept. 12 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm Paciﬁc Time. It will be live on KTLA 5 and streamed live online at ktla.com and the lalgbtcenter.org/love.
Uber, Lyft to cease California operations AB5 blamed for loss of 220,000 jobs By BRODY LEVESQUE
Hundreds of thousands of ride-sharing drivers and their customers in California are set to lose Uber and Lyft operations on Friday as those companies are shutting down after a court ordered them to comply with the state’s gig economy law. Uber employs approximately 140,000 drivers in California and Lyft employs roughly 80,000. As a result, 220,000 Californians will lose their jobs in the middle of a the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying recession. For many freelance LGBTQ people working on the Golden State’s gig economy, driving for these companies has been much needed part-time work or in many cases as a principal means of earning of living. The battle lines were drawn a year ago when the California General Assembly passed AB5, which was drafted with the ride-sharing companies speciﬁcally targeted, that essentially implemented restrictions on how companies doing business in the state classiﬁed their workers. The law required that both Uber and Lyft reclassify their workforce of independent drivers as full employees, and further mandated that the companies provide healthcare and beneﬁts to all the drivers in their system and pay additional taxes. AB5 workers “can generally only be considered contractors if they perform duties outside the usual course of a company’s business.” AB5 took aﬀect in January of this year and a suit, California v. Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., CGC-20-584402, launched by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, to force the companies into compliance. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman issued an injunction Aug. 10 but put a stay in place allowing the companies a 10-day period to appeal, which now expires Friday. Sources at both companies tell the Blade that compliance is simply “not aﬀordable nor feasible.” The Blade spoke with one driver who identiﬁes as gay and works in the LA Metroplex and regions around it. His experience working with both Uber and Lyft prompted him to support the move by the state to regulate the ride-sharing companies. Because of an ongoing dispute he asked not to be identiﬁed. “What a lot of riders don’t understand is that drivers assume all of the risk. If something goes wrong, the responsibility lies with us,” he told the Blade. “On one occasion, I had three drunk passengers who got into my car soaked in jungle juice. I earned roughly $5 for the ride, wasn’t able to drive for three days, and had to pay $180 for a professional to get the stains out of my cloth seats. Lyft support was awful. They reimbursed me $30 for cleaning and refused to pay a penny more even after I showed them the cleaner’s invoice.” He continued, “We are responsible for everything about the car. Maintenance, fuel costs, cleaning. You better not be planning on selling your vehicle, because your car’s value will rapidly drop. Granted, any prospective driver should know these things signing on. Heaven forbid we get into a wreck while driving as our personal auto policies won’t cover us. The deductible on Uber’s insurance is $1000, and on Lyft’s it is $2,500,” he added. The other factor is the actual income from working as independent contractors. Over the past four years both companies have implemented drastic cuts in rates, making an impact on driver’s earnings. The driver that the Blade spoke with said that even “more annoying” was that he was driving for Uber as well as Lyft and Uber increased its percentage cut of the fare charged, plus the company takes the full booking fee. “If the only way Uber and Lyft can maintain proﬁtability in our market is by exploiting its 04 • AUGUST 21, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Lyft and Uber are planning to cease California operations on Friday.
drivers, then should they really be conducting business in our state? They’ve had months to prepare for the possibility of this court ruling, but all they’ve done is anticipate a win in either the courts or at the ballot box for Prop 22, all while launching scare campaigns targeting drivers,” he told the Blade. Lawyers for both companies argued in court that since the business model of both companies was based upon independent contracting, neither ﬁrm actually makes a proﬁt. According to Quartz magazine in a recent article regarding the lawsuit, converting drivers from independent contractors to full-time employees “would initially cost approximately $3,625 per driver, which would boost Uber’s annual operating loss by more than $500 million and Lyft’s by $290 million.” Brad Polumbo, a libertarian-conservative journalist and fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education wrote in a recent commentary for the foundation; “Essentially, California legislators put these companies in an impossible position. It makes perfect sense that they’d leave the state in response. It’s clear that despite the good intentions behind the ride-sharing regulation, this outcome will leave all Californians worse oﬀ. “All thanks to the naive intervention of Sacramento regulators who thought they could plan the market. Moreover, the millions of Californians who beneﬁt from and rely on cheap, accessible ride-sharing services will be out of luck,” he said. The pain of this action by the ride-sharing companies to cease operations in California will also have a negative impact on customers, many of who cannot aﬀord more traditional means of ride hailing such as the taxi industry. Others will lose out on the delivery of food and a cheap means to run errands, make appointments for medical, personal, or other reasons. This past April in a press conference the Blade asked Gov. Newsom if he’d be willing to work with lawmakers on a solution to what many saw as a ‘job-killer’ as AB5 has had far reaching impacts on many other gig economy jobs. The governor said that he disagreed with that characterization of the law but then oﬀered no further indication that he was working toward a solution. The Blade spoke with a source Tuesday at Uber who said that notiﬁcations were going out to drivers and customers alike this week and unless a solution is brought forward by lawmakers in Sacramento, riding sharing for Californians would cease.
Suspect sought in attack on three trans women in Hollywood
Police seek public’s help in locating alleged perpetrator By BRODY LEVESQUE
In a tweet Tuesday, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell conﬁrmed that the Hollywood Division of the LAPD was investigating an alleged hate incident that was recorded on a mobile phone and posted to Instagram. I spoke with @LAPDHollywood Capt. Lurie and he assured me that a full investigation has been launched and detectives are making signiﬁcant progress. My oﬃce will continue to monitor the situation until there is full resolution. The Instagram video showed two groups engaged in what appeared to be a street brawl between three trans women of color and a mixed group of other individuals who at one point threw an electric scooter at one of the women. The LAPD is asking the public’s assistance in identifying a man who harassed and robbed a group of transgender women in an incident being investigated by LAPD as a hate crime. On Aug. 17 at approximately 2:15 a.m., the suspect reportedly approached the victims and oﬀered to buy them merchandise at a store on the 6500 block of Hollywood Boulevard. The suspect refused to pay for their merchandise and the victims left. Later, the suspect allegedly approached one of the victims with a metal bar and demanded her shoes and bracelet. In fear, the victim complied, the suspect grabbed her by the hand, and they walked together for a short distance before she was able to escape. A short time later, the suspect assaulted one of the original victim’s friends with a bottle and knocked her to the ground. Both victims are transgender women, and the suspect allegedly made derogatory remarks about their status during the crime. The LAPD describes the suspect as a 25-year-old male, Black, black hair, brown eyes, standing at six feet tall, and weighing approximately 180 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black tank-top and black shorts. A photo of the suspect was released by the LAPD. “The City of West Hollywood has been made aware of an incident being investigated as a possible hate crime against members of the Transgender community this past Monday in Hollywood. The images in videos of the event posted online are alarming — especially as bystanders did nothing to help these victims. Let’s be extremely clear: as a community we must rise up against hate in all of its forms,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath. “[…] The City is outraged by the disproportionate impact of discrimination and violence experienced by Transgender and gender non-conforming people and our City is deeply committed to amplifying voices, to raising awareness, and to creating spaces for education and empowerment. People in the Transgender community are, unfortunately, very often the victims of violence and
The LAPD released this image of a man wanted in connection with the assault of three trans women.
hate and we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder and say, ‘enough!’ We thank Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell for opening this investigation. I urge anyone who has any information about the perpetrator of this hate crime to come forward immediately,” Horvath added. “The recent brutal attack in Hollywood of three transgender women is yet another reminder of the pervasive violence facing the trans community, especially trans women of color. These women deserve justice. We call on the LAPD and prosecutors to act quickly to ensure that this case is investigated as a hate crime,” Gil Diaz, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles LGBT Center wrote in a statement to the Blade Wednesday. “There have been more than 27 known murders of transgender or gender non-conforming people in the U.S. this year—the majority of whom were Black trans women. This sobering statistic only scratches the surface of the violence and abuse that trans people face every day in this country. This violence must stop,” Diaz said. “The Los Angeles LGBT Center remains committed to ensuring that all LGBT people—especially those most at risk in our trans community—can thrive as healthy, equal, and complete members of society. Until that day is here, our work is far from over.” Bamby Salcedo, a prominent activist and voice for the trans Latina community, noted the LAPD response. “The truth is that these type of situations continue to happen to our community and no one seems to care. Putting out a statement is not a solution to the violence that we experience. Maybe, just maybe, if our elected oﬃcials are intentional to #InvestInTransLives and our basic needs like housing, employment, educational and career opportunities, maybe, then maybe trans women wouldn’t have to be questioned about ‘why are you getting in and out of cars.’ “The violence that trans women experience is a direct result of the negligence from our elected oﬃcials and for not investing in trans lives. If our elected oﬃcials were more intentional in supporting the development of trans leadership, maybe this situation would not have happened in any city council district,” Salcedo said in an emailed statement to the Blade. “Also, what other evidence do they want? When are they actually going to do something? When are they going to arrest the perpetrators? There is clear video evidence and people’s handles to arrest and question people. Politicians always want to tell people what people want to hear. This is yet another reason why we should #DefundLAPD as they spend so much over time “investigating” and at the end do not investigate anything, they only spend oﬃce time writing meaningless reports that do not mount to nothing. A statement it’s not the solution and does not even address the root of the problem.” LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 21, 2020 • 05
Morris Kight, a gay American original One man’s story reﬂects the arc of LGBTQ history By KAREN OCAMB
Only if you knew what went before do you feel its absence. Today, crimped by the coronavirus crisis, the quiet streets of West Hollywood are haunted by gay activists of the past — the rallies against police harassment and the anti-gay Briggs Initiative, the AIDS vigils and ACT UP protests, and the ground troops organizing for pro-gay politicians in a consequential election year. Ubiquitous among the generations of activists was Morris Kight, the radical gay rights advocate with a theatrical cadence and genteel nod who adored the spotlight and brazenly asserted in a matter-of-fact manner that he had essentially founded all things gay in L.A. About half of that was true – though it’s hard to gauge with complete accuracy. Today, when TikTok makes originality commonplace, the younger LGBTQ community might not fathom how original this gay rights pioneer was when homosexuality was illegal and in an environment where more conservative gays and lesbians intensely squabbled with more radical LGBTQ activists who insisted on respect, not respectability. Kight, like Ivy Bottini, his lesbian feminist sister in the movement for gay and lesbian liberation, rebuked assimilation, while at the same time exercising his ability to command a mainstream stage the minute he walked through the door and demanding attention be paid for gays and other minorities during his more than 20 years on the Los Angeles Human Rights Commission. Morris Kight was 83 when he died at the Carl Bean Hospice in 2003. But for those who feel the absence of his theatrical activism, one wonders: what would Morris do if he were alive and thriving today? “He’d be very busy. He would probably have multiple phone lines,” says ally and Kight friend Mary Ann Cherry, the “hopelessly hetero” author of Morris Kight: Humanist, Liberationist, Fantabulist during a recent phone interview. “First let’s acknowledge that the needs have changed. When there’s a gay teen runaway, when a teen is abandoned by their family, they have places to go and if they don’t know about them, they quickly learn about them.” That’s considerably diﬀerent from the 1960s and 1970s when Kight handed out his card to homeless LGBTQ teens and oﬀered help with no strings attached. If Kight were alive today, Cherry’s best guess is that “Morris would be focused on the Black Lives Matter movement. They are out there, they’re doing it. They are determined and they’re very obvious and vocal about it.” And though Kight was known nationally, his focus was on a local level. “He would have been all over this homeless issue years ago,” Cherry tells the Los Angeles Blade. He would attend city council meetings complaining about years of economic injustice through development deals that “are now coming home to roost.” Kight would also be complaining against the cooptation of the LGBTQ liberation movement through the inﬂux of money, especially corporate money. “The gay community has become very respectable, so to speak, and they don’t want to be identiﬁed with the old hippie roots,” says Cherry. “And there’s also a need to dis-identify with the liberal ideology, because the truth is — not all gay people are going to be antiwar. And not all gay people are going to be pro-Black Lives Matter. We can’t assume anybody’s ideology based upon their sexual identity. And we make that mistake. And I think Morris made that mistake.” Gay couples were the same before the Supreme Court granted same-sex couples the freedom to marry, she notes. “We understand, we appreciate the importance of being able to marry the person 06 • AUGUST 21, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Author MARY ANN CHERRY and MORRIS KIGHT
(Photo by Karen Ocamb)
you choose to be with,” Cherry says. “But Morris always worried about the gay community becoming ‘heterosexuized’ — that they give into what the heterosexual community was about. And I think gay marriage kind of speaks to that — but it legitimizes people.” Kight was also opposed to the City of West Hollywood “appeasing” Coors Beer, as was Don Kilhefner, who co-founded with Kight the LA Chapter of the Gay Liberation Front, which confronted psychiatrists over their use of lobotomies and other “behavior modiﬁcation” practices, now known as “conversion therapy.” Kight also used his Rolodex when co-founding the LA Gay Community Services Center on Wilshire Boulevard in 1971. Kilhefner did not speak with Cherry for the book. Kight was opposed to letting Coors oﬀ the hook. The boycott against the antigay company started in the late 1970s when Kight’s friend, San Francisco activist Harvey Milk, sided with union truck drivers and started a long association between gay rights advocates and the labor movement, which became critical in defeating the anti-gay Briggs Initiative in 1978. Eventually Coors Brewing Company met the boycott demands, though patriarch Adolph Coors continued to contribute to antigay causes. “Morris thought Coors hadn’t really done what needed to be done,” Cherry says. “You really can’t force a corporation or even a family like Coors to change their values.” Kight and Kilhefner are linked together in LGBTQ history but that’s not the whole story. “When they had a cause in common, they were a great front. They really were very strong and powerful,” Cherry says. “But that was only around a cause — that wasn’t who they were as individuals.” Indeed, Kight’s relationship with Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, was one of mutual respect and allowances for human foibles such as Kight’s renowned self-aggrandizement. The two LA gay activists, along with homeless advocate Rev. Bob Humphries, co-founded Christopher Street West and the Pride Parade. Morris Kight: Humanist, Liberationist, Fantabulist, Cherry says, is “this man’s story about how one person can make a diﬀerence.” But this well-researched biography also serves a larger purpose, telling the unﬂinching but colorful arc of L.A. LGBTQ history through the life of this one dramatic original gay activist, Morris Kight.
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It’s official: Democrats nominate Biden
LGBTQ issues, speakers take center stage at virtual convention By CHRIS JOHNSON | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Democratic National Convention anointed Thursday night Joe Biden as the party’s presidential nominee, formalizing his wins in the primary with a roll call of delegates declaring votes for their home states. Delivering the roll call was Jason Rae, secretary of the Democratic National Committee, the first openly gay person to hold that role and the fourth in the party’s history since 1944. (Dorothy Bush held the position from 1944 to 1989 and read the roll call at 12 conventions.) LGBTQ people had representation in the nomination process. Pete Buttigieg, the gay former presidential candidate, declared the votes for Indiana, where he served as mayor of South Bend. Additionally, Judy Shepard, the mother of gay college student Matthew Shepard who was murdered in a hate crime in 1997, read the votes for Wyoming. High-profile speakers at the convention that night included former President Jimmy Carter, former President Bill Clinton, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a group of Democrats who collectively gave the keynote address, and former second lady Jill Biden. A former school teacher, Jill Biden gave her remarks from an empty school building in Wilmington, Del., urging the audience to elect Biden and oust President Trump from the White House so that children can safely return to classes amid the coronavirus epidemic. “And with Joe as president, these classrooms will ring out with laughter and possibility once again,” Jill Biden said. “The burdens we carry are heavy, and we need someone with strong shoulders. I know that if we entrust this nation to Joe, he will do for your family what he did for ours: bring us together and make us whole.” Prior to the official roll call, former first lady Michelle Obama, in a video speech for the Democratic National Convention, made a personal plea Monday for voters to reject President Trump. In her remarks drawing on her ability to connect personally with an audience, Obama urged Americans to back Joe Biden in the presidential election, drawing on the coronavirus crisis, economic hardship and call to action against racism in the United States. “You know I hate politics,” Michelle Obama said. “But you also know that I care about this nation. You know how much I care about all of our children. So if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they
JOE BIDEN is now the official presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, following this week’s virtual convention. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Former first lady MICHELLE OBAMA told viewers to vote for Joe Biden ‘like our lives depend on it.’
08 • AUGUST 21, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.” (The closing speeches from vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris and Biden occurred too late for this edition of the Blade. A prime time speech from Buttigieg on Thursday evening also came too late for this issue. Visit washingtonblade.com for updated coverage.) Joe Solmonese, CEO of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, told the Blade last week that 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 ratified 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. The platform contains language making the document the first to recognize transgender women of color, gender non-conforming people and the nonbinary community. Meghan Stabler, an Austin, Texas-based transgender advocate and member of the Democratic platform committee, introduced 26 amendments that were adopted as part of the draft platform to make the additions happen. In an interview with the Blade last week, Stabler said it was important to create a progressive platform that was “as fully inclusive as possible,” which she said means recognizing different components of the LGBTQ community as well as intersectional issues, such as criminal justice reform. “It isn’t about one particular issue,” Stabler said. “For trans people in society, we come up against everything from health care discrimination to criminal justice discrimination, and I don’t just mean by law enforcement, but also consider prosecutors, judges and even those that are in the jail system.”
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Power couple working to elect Biden
Meet Claire Lucas and Judy Dlugacz, Democratic activists extraordinaire By PETER ROSENSTEIN
As Democrats staged their virtual convention this week, two prominent party activists and fundraisers continued to work behind the scenes to elect Joe Biden president. Claire Lucas and Judy Dlugacz are a power couple widely known thanks to their work for human rights and equality. Each is a success independently, and together they have accomplished much to advance civil rights, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. Now their focus is on limiting Donald Trump to a single term as president. Lucas has dedicated her career to ﬁghting for equality at home and abroad. She was the recipient of one of the U.S. government’s highest honors, the “Distinguished Honor Award,” for her pioneering work on global LGBTQ equality when working at USAID. She is an international development expert, coalition builder, entrepreneur and philanthropist with more than 20 years of experience in both the private sector and government. “It is now more important than ever that we all come together and work hard to further the values and ideals that so many in this country cherish,” Lucas said. Dlugacz is a lifelong advocate, activist, and entrepreneur who has built a career on the simple but powerful ideal of doing good in the world. For more than 40 years, she has used her business acumen and passion for LGBTQ equality and acceptance to build two successful companies and contribute to landmark achievements nationally and internationally in the area of LGBTQ rights. “My goal in life may not be easy to achieve, making things better for all, but it is what has motivated all my work for more than 40 years,” Dlugacz told the Blade. These two women were born and grew up on opposite coasts. Lucas was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Southern California. Dlugacz was born in New York and grew up on Long Island. They were both successful when they met in 2008 on an Olivia cruise, fell in love, and have now been together for nearly 12 years. Lucas is a force in the Democratic Party and is using her contacts and abilities to help elect Biden president. “It is critically important that the Biden/Harris ticket win so that we can continue to improve on the progress we made before Trump was elected and began taking us backwards,” Lucas said. She has spent years as a leader in the Democratic National Committee and working for other Democratic presidential candidates. Lucas was extensively involved in the Hillary for America campaign, serving on its National Advisory Council, among other roles. She also assisted Sen. John Kerry in his bid to become president and served as his National Finance CoChair in 2004 and was an elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Gay Democratic activist Earl Fowlkes, past president of D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and former chair of the DNC’s LGBT Caucus, has worked with Lucas for years. “There are few people like Claire Lucas who can be counted on for anything you ask of them,” he said. “She has made a huge diﬀerence in the Democratic Party with her work to
ensure women and the LGBTQ+ community have their voices heard.” Lucas is currently chair of the LGBTQ Council at the Democratic National Committee; DNC Deputy National Finance Chair; and a member of the Joe Biden for President Finance Committee. Along with good friend Bruce Cohen (the Academy Award-winning producer), in just the last several months she has hosted and executive produced three large, star-studded fundraisers for Biden, CLAIRE LUCAS and JUDY DLUGACZ — seen here with their children Angie raising millions of dollars for the campaign. and Juan — say they are working to elect Biden to ‘move forward the ﬁght There is more to Lucas besides supporting to provide aﬀordable healthcare for all and economic and judicial equality.’ Democrats around the country. She also runs her own consulting ﬁrm, where she works creating inclusive and proﬁtable communities. She in 1973 was dominated by men. During her tenure leading is a recognized international expert having designed and the label, Dlugacz produced 40 albums and sold more than implemented U.S. government and multilateral policy and a million records. She oversaw the production of hundreds of concerts and events across the United States and around programs at both the macro and micro levels. Her last government position was as senior adviser the world. She was the executive producer of the ﬁrst HBO for Public-Private Partnerships at the U.S. Agency for comedy special featuring a lesbian performer, Suzanne International Development. She left in 2016 to volunteer full- Westenhoefer, and was nominated for a Chloe Award. She time for the Hillary Clinton for President campaign. At USAID, also worked with the Nepal Youth Foundation, where she she led eﬀorts to expand the creation and implementation raised more than $300,000 to help young women escape of strategic public-private partnerships and facilitated the indentured servitude. Together, Lucas and Dlugacz founded the LGBT Haiti Relief agency’s collaboration with the private sector to achieve its development and U.S. foreign policy objectives. Prior to Fund of the Red Cross in 2010. They have given back to joining USAID, Lucas held several leadership positions at the the community in many ways, not the least of which is as World Bank responsible for managing teams and processes political activists. While Dlugacz is focusing on Olivia these that resulted in the creation of numerous, multimillion-dollar, days because of the pandemic, together they continue to multiple stakeholder international development projects. be a major force in Democratic Party politics. They served Prior to that she worked for a number of organizations, on the LGBT Leadership Council for President Barack including the Pan American Health Organization, the Harvard Obama’s historic 2012 campaign for reelection, hosting six Institute for International Development as well as several lesbian roundtable discussions with Michelle Obama. Lucas consulting ﬁrms. Lucas earned her bachelor’s degree from and Dlugacz were the top LGBTQ and top overall women Pomona College; her master’s from Harvard University; and fundraisers for Hillary Clinton in 2016, raising more than $4 million. her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. “Judy and I did all we could for Hillary because we believed Dlugacz is the founder and president of Olivia Travel, the premier travel company for queer women. Named a “Best in her passionately,” Lucas said. Their philanthropy extends to some of the most impactful Company to Work For” by the San Francisco Business Times, the pioneering company specializes in experiences, organizations making progressive change, including the opportunities, and inclusion and provides a safe space Human Rights Campaign, the Victory Fund and Victory for queer women to be themselves, out and proud as Institute, Lambda Legal, the National Organization for they travel the world. To date, Olivia has taken more than Women, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Lucas is 300,000 women on more than 350 cruise, resort, riverboat, also chair of the Victory Institute. If all this isn’t enough, in 2018 they decided to start a family. and adventure vacations, providing them with unique experiences and featuring dynamic entertainers, speakers Through the organization KidSave, of which they are now supporters, they adopted two children from Colombia, and custom programming. “Olivia has attracted a multitude of celebrities and Angie and Juan. In addition, Dlugacz has a daughter and a inﬂuencers over the years, including Maya Angelou, Melissa grandchild from a previous relationship. “We are determined to do all we can to see Joe Biden Etheridge, Billie Jean King, Patti LaBelle, Gloria Steinem, elected president this year,” Lucas said. “His election will Bonnie Raitt, and Lily Tomlin,” Dlugacz said. Before Olivia Travel, Dlugacz co-founded Olivia Records, move forward the ﬁght to provide aﬀordable healthcare for a groundbreaking label. They specialized in women artists, all and economic and judicial equality. In turn that will lead and its success grew out of her vision for a more diverse to our country moving toward what we are all ﬁghting for, ‘a and inclusive music scene, which at the time of its founding more perfect union’.”
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FDA approves human trial for treatment to cure HIV Md. genetic engineering company hopeful gene altering process will work By LOU CHIBBARO JR. | email@example.com
American Gene Technologies, a Rockville, Md.-based gene and cell therapy company, announced on Aug. 11 that it has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin its first human clinical trial for a unique cell altering treatment that it believes will enable the immune system of people who are HIV positive to permanently eliminate HIV from their body. “AGT developed a new treatment to repair immune system damage done by HIV and allow natural responses to control the virus,” the company says in a statement announcing the approval for its clinical trial. “From its research, AGT believes a cure is attainable and is now taking the significant step of testing in humans.” The statement says AGT is conducting its Phase 1 clinical trials at sites in the Baltimore-D.C. area. It says the Washington Health Institute in Northeast D.C., Georgetown University, and the University of Maryland’s Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore will be the three sites for the trials. According to the statement, the Phase 1 trial will investigate the safety and efficacy of a product the company calls AGT 103-T, “a genetically modified cell product made from a person’s own cells.” It says the product and treatment should work to remove HIV infected cells from the body and “decrease or eliminate the need for lifelong antiretroviral treatment.” In an online virtual news conference held on Aug. 12, AGT Chief Executive Officer Jeff Galvin explained that the clinical trial involves a multi-step process of extracting blood from an HIV-positive person whose HIV is fully under control through anti-retroviral medication and immediately subjecting the blood to a process of Leukapheresis, which separates a type of white blood cells known as T-cells. Galvin said the T-cell samples extracted through that process will be sent to a lab, where they will be genetically altered in a process developed by AGT. He said AGT believes the genetically altered T-cells will make them resistant to HIV infection and enable them to do what HIV has prevented human T-cells from doing during the course of the 40-year plus HIV epidemic – to neutralize the virus and prevent it from harming the human body. Once the gene altering process is completed and an initial waiting period is used to allow the altered cells to multiply in the lab, the cells will be “reinfused” into the body of the person participating in the trial and from whom the original collection of T-cells was obtained, Galvin said. AGT has said in earlier statements that individuals
participating in the clinical trial will initially continue to take their regularly prescribed anti-retroviral medication while testing of their blood continues to determine whether the newly infused T-cells are killing or neutralizing HIV to a degree that will no longer make the anti-HIV medication necessary. C. David Pauza, AGT’s chief science officer and the company’s lead researcher in the development of the genetically altered, HIV resistant T-cells, stated at the news conference that under FDA protocol, the process must be shown to be safe and not have significant side effects on the first person to undergo the procedure before the procedure is performed on the second person to participate in the clinical trial. Pauza said he, Galvin and the AGT team consider the FDA’s approval of the clinical trial an important development brought about by years of research and laboratory testing. “This is momentous news that we have FDA approval to launch Phase 1 and conduct our first human trials,” he said in a statement. “We are beyond excited to reach this milestone. This brings us closer to our goal of transforming lives with genetic medicines,” he said. “Based on our successful commercial-scale product manufacturing runs and features of the product observed in our labs, this therapy has a high potential to be effective,” Pauza said. Galvin told the news conference that the current cost for the complete process of extracting cells from an HIV infected person, genetically altering the cells, and reinfusing the HIV resistant T-cells back into the person’s body is about $200,000. But he said he’s optimistic that the cost of the procedure will go down dramatically as it is used more frequently in coming years. Among other things, he said that the extraction of the T-cells and the genetic alternation process can be done through machines in an automated process that can lower costs. FDA spokesperson Monique Richards told the Washington Blade the FDA is prohibited by law and regulation from commenting on or acknowledging the existence of an “investigational new drug” application, known as an IND, or whether a clinical trial is taking place. “The FDA supports the safe clinical development of these products and we are committed to continuing to work collaboratively with industry and the medical and scientific communities to provide the information and guidance needed to help foster the advancement of these promising therapies,” Richards said in an email on Friday.
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AGT CEO JEFF GALVIN said genetically altered T-cells will make them resistant to HIV infection.
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Dr. Sa’ed Atshan is assistant professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College. He is the author of ‘Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique.’
Gay tahini controversy explained A rise in prominent Palestinians committed to LGBTQ rights In recent weeks, a local controversy over tahini, the sesame paste that forms the basis of hummus, LGBTQ rights, and Palestinian communal relations has made international headlines. Julia Zaher, a Palestinian citizen of Israel from Nazareth, has been at the center of this firestorm. She’s the owner of the Al Arz tahini factory. A mother, widow, and former teacher, she took over the family business in 2013 after her husband passed away from a heart attack. Zaher catapulted the business to its current success of millions in profit and exporting globally. She is also a philanthropist, with contributions to causes such as disability services, women’s organizations, and most recently, LGBTQ social welfare. The trouble started with Zaher’s decision to donate to The Aguda, an Israeli LGBTQ organization, to start a support hotline for queer Palestinian citizens of Israel. Her decision hit a sensitive nerve with many Palestinians, particularly after Aguda publicly expressed their appreciation for Zaher’s contribution on July 1. Some queer Palestinian activists publicly criticized Zaher for supporting an Israeli organization and not donating the funds to an established hotline run by Al-Qaws and Aswat, the two major queer Palestinian organizations. Many of these individuals are also concerned about pinkwashing: an Israeli state-led campaign to draw attention to Israeli LGBTQ rights in order to detract attention from Israel’s gross violations of Palestinian human rights. Other queer Palestinians expressed their understanding of Zaher’s decision, believing that having an additional hotline is beneficial. They recognize that there are queer Palestinians who would prefer to utilize Aguda’s hotline. For instance, individuals may feel more secure when it comes to anonymity or confidentiality, or they could have differences in opinion with the queer Palestinian organizations’ political platforms and approaches to community organizing. As I document in my recently published book, queer Palestinians are just as heterogenous as any population. Many of these individuals also recognize that Palestinian citizens of Israel often have no choice but to utilize services from Israeli institutions, such as government agencies, universities, hospitals, and employers; they do not believe in an exception prohibiting LGBTQ Palestinians from accessing resources within queer Israeli organizations. Then international media became involved, with some Palestinian activists accusing the New York Times of “erasing” Palestinian queer organizations, including their existing hotline service, from its coverage. These activists declined to be interviewed for the story unless the Times journalist agreed to not interview the Aguda, leading the journalist to reject that stipulation, and things took off on social media. However, missed by the media’s coverage of this controversy is that it actually reflects a growing openness toward LQBTQ people 14 • AUGUST 21, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
in traditionally conservative Palestinian society, particularly inside Israel. Nearly two million Palestinian Arabs reside in Israel today as minority citizens and indigenous people in their ancestral homeland. They must confront systemic racism and discrimination within a settler-colonial context, and struggle for equal rights within the state. The elected representatives of Palestinian Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) play important roles in enabling the Jewish Israeli majority to hear Palestinian voices. Two of these Palestinian members of the Knesset, Aida ToumaSuleiman and Ayman Odeh, have been particularly outspoken on LGBTQ rights as an intersecting struggle for equality. ToumaSuleiman is eloquent and known for her pioneering feminism and leadership. While Odeh, leader of the Joint List, the third largest faction in the Knesset, is also widely respected in their community. Last month, Odeh gave a televised interview with an Arab-Israeli channel, articulating the reasons he voted in favor of recently passed legislation outlawing gay conversion therapy. Odeh, who is married to a woman and posts photographs online of their family, addressed Palestinian citizens of Israel directly and unapologetically defended his position, referencing the insights of Arab medical professionals that conversion therapy is inhumane, psychologically damaging, and a form of torture. Of course, not all Palestinians are so progressive. Both Odeh and Touma-Suleiman have faced formidable opposition to their principled positions. They, and of course Palestinian LQBTQ people themselves, must deal with resistance from homophobes in Palestinian and Israeli communities, including homophobic politicians and religious leaders. Palestinians today are deeply splintered geographically, with varied experiences in diaspora or refugee communities, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and within Israel. The divides that Palestinians face are both external and internal, resulting from Israeli-imposed control and intra-communal political and social contestation. Increasing public debates surrounding LGBTQ rights further reveal these fault lines. As for the tahini tempest, Zaher has heard from queer Palestinians who appreciate her solidarity. Throughout all of the scrutiny she has faced, including backlash from both homophobes and a subset of queer activists, Zaher has maintained graciousness, emphasizing her belief in the importance of more social services for LGBTQ Palestinians. With her contributions, and those of others such as Ayman Odeh, there is a notable rise in prominent Palestinians who are committed to LGBTQ rights and progress. Palestinian citizens of Israel are leading the way.
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Rune Longoria is a queer- and trans-inclusive sex educator in Texas.
Queer communities need COVID relief now Lawmakers must show they give a damn
For those of us in the communities hardest hit, in the industries hardest hit, in the states hardest hit by COVID-19, relief cannot come fast enough. I live in the Rio Grande Valley, an area in South Texas that has been hit the hardest in the country by the COVID-19 virus. In the state, there is a record of more than 100,000 new cases per day, up 55% in July alone. Now, people in our region are dealing with recovering from a tropical storm. This pandemic caused me to lose my job. I am a queer- and transinclusive sex educator and have spent years addressing the erasure of trans, queer and disabled folks in discussions of healthy sexuality. My education eﬀorts are shaped by and complemented by my experience as a queer and trans sex worker. I used to teach out of a brick and mortar adult shop, but like so many small businesses during the pandemic, the shop closed. While small businesses have been allowed to open up again under the Phase 3 plan, I still can’t return to work because of my own health. A few months ago I contracted a virus, and while I do not know if it was COVID-19, I now have to use an inhaler for the foreseeable future. To keep myself and my community safe, I have been socially distancing myself from others. Right now, I can only do about 40% of my job. I can’t do in-person sex work, or in-person sex education. Forty percent is not enough to make ends meet. For my colleagues who are able to go to work, they are at risk of contracting the virus every day. Many of my coworkers are queer and trans people of color. Some have pre-existing conditions or children. Some of them are college students. Even if their paychecks average $200 a week, that $200 is the diﬀerence between making rent, paying bills, grocery shopping — or not. In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, a COVID-19 stimulus package. It is a necessary and desperately
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needed piece of legislation: COVID-19 cases in the United States climb every single day. Over 5 million people in the U.S. have been infected and over 160,000 have died. Latinx and Black people are three times more likely to become infected than their white neighbors, and three times more likely to die of COVID-19. Trans women and gender nonconforming communities who were already facing transphobia and transmisogyny are now facing high unemployment and delays in necessary health care. And yet, the Senate has still not passed comprehensive COVID relief. It is apparent that those in power don’t care about me and my community. They do not care about Black people, Latinx people, queer people, trans people, small business owners, or the people who rely on them. My community is one of the poorest in the United States. We don’t have any real mental health resources, and now we are isolated. Not being able to check in on my regulars is extremely stressful. Many of my customers have lower incomes; many use substances or self medicate for their mental illness. We have high rates of heart disease and diabetes and these factors make an already dangerous epidemic particularly lethal to folks like me, and to my community. Queer people in the work force need relief. LGBTQ people are more likely than the general public to have lost employment due to the pandemic. We need comprehensive and aﬀordable health care, paid sick time, paid family and medical leave, personal protective equipment for all health care providers and other essential workers, protective occupational safety and health standards for front line workers, and more. It is now up to the Senate to pass COVID relief to ensure that people like me, my colleagues, and members of my community get much needed relief. We deserve to feel safe and secure during this pandemic. We deserve leaders who give a damn.
With new EP, Orville Peck proves he’s no one-trick ‘Pony’ Spotlighting a legion of intersecting identities By JOHN PAUL KING
The musician known as Orville Peck requires a lot of adjectives to describe. Openly gay yet tantalizingly anonymous, he’s a Canadian singer-songwriter who hides his true identity behind both an evocative pseudonym and a fringed mask – an artistic choice made well before the advent of COVID-19. Yet despite all the symbolic barriers he throws between himself and his audience, he sings songs that are often almost painfully honest, pulling you in with his growling, resonant baritone before soaring to the velvety heights of an upper range that can make you fall in love – an effect only heightened by the built-in mystique of his stylish disguise. His 2019 debut album, “Pony,” made him one of the buzziest new names in music. A collection of standout tracks, delivered in a resonant baritone that pulled you in before soaring into the velvet heights of an upper range capable of making you fall in love, it established his mythic persona - the mysterious country crooner with a bad-boy past and a broken heart – while establishing him as a unique musical talent capable of transcending not only his genre, but his queer identity as well. Now, on his follow-up EP, “Show Pony,” Peck delivers a sextet of new tracks that double down on his considerable strengths. Featuring a more consistent “country” feel than its predecessor, which leaned hard into the twangy signature sound of its instantly iconic opening track (“Dead of Night”) but still took time for musical diversions like the Patti Smith-inspired “Buffalo Run” to allow for a show of versatility, it seems on the surface like a more traditional offering; but after listening to it even the first time through, this new mini-collection of songs quickly reveals that Peck, like some kind of cowboy provocateur, is bent on pushing boundaries even further this time around. The first two songs, “Summertime” and “No Glory in the West” are thematically-similar cowboy ballads that continue seamlessly in the singer’s familiar vein. In the first, Peck struggles for hope while lamenting the loss of long-gone past, while in the second he adopts a less upbeat pose as he catalogs the cold indignities of a dog-eat-dog world. Both songs feel uncannily apt to our own here-and-now, their contrasting emotional centers resonating deeply in a world of lockdowns, cancellations, social distancing, and constitutional crises; juxtaposed as they are here, they present a distinct look at the two sides of Orville Peck – the world-weary romantic and the jaded cynic – already displayed on his first album, but here revealed in stark relief, and engaged in a tug of war that reinforces and refines the singer’s reputation for capturing the nuance of loneliness. With the remaining four tracks, Peck pulls in ever-more unexpected directions. In “Kids,” another mournful lament, he finds consolation in the kind of long-term relationships that truly sustain us – those with the special people
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from our past with whom our connection can lift us up in trying times. It’s a refreshing message in a sea of popular music perennially focused on romatic love. “Drive Me, Crazy,” Peck’s spin on the “trucker ballad,” reflects on the metaphoric lessons learned from a life on the road, subtly poking fun at the cliches and maudlin sentimentality of the sub-genre that inspired it while never losing a drop of his affecting sincerity. It saves its most powerful touch for the final playout, in a spoken outro in which a lonely driver reaches out for connection via CB radio to a fellow trucker whose eye caught his in the rearview mirror; it’s a relatable impulse, rendered remarkable – even shocking – by gender, and it turns the song into a profound acknowledgement of the added feelings of isolation that “otherness” can bring. Even the EP’s most high-profile song, Peck’s duet with Shania Twain, challenges our expectations. Titled “Legends Never Die,” it’s a quintessential power anthem cut from the same cloth as so many classic collaborations between country artists in the past,. True to Peck’s style, the traditional gives way to his reinvention, transforming what usually comes with a presumption of romantic entanglement into a mutual celebration between two close friends who both know what its like to rise from the ashes – with any question of their relationship being soundly resolved by the accompanying video, which showcases a sequin-bedazzled Peck and Twain strutting and prancing together at a drive-in theatre full of queer patrons. The song is clearly the album’s bid for a hit – something Peck’s superstar collaborator can help deliver – and its infectious musicality, coupled with its affirming message of self-empowerment, would make it a deserving one. It’s the final cut on “Show Pony,” however, that goes the deepest. Peck finishes out his mini-album with a disquieting and unforgettable cover of “Fancy,” the 1970 Bobbie Gentry song about a young girl groomed by her mother to become a sex worker as the only possible escape from a life of poverty and hopelessness. Composed as a feminist anthem at a time when feminism was a controversial stance (how little things change), the controversy it engendered only cemented its classic status, and a 1990 cover by Reba McIntire became iconic in its own right. Now, with Peck’s growling, masculine bass taking on the first-person narrative, it becomes an intersectional anthem for anyone whose “otherness” has caused them to suffer in the shadows of economic and cultural repression. When Peck delivers the lyric, “Starin’ back from the lookin’ glass / There stood a woman where a half-grown boy had stood,” it’s surely the most electrifying moment on “Show Pony,” reinventing the song not by altering its original message, but by expanding and amplifying it, and then leaving us to ponder it in silence as the album fades to silence. Initially slated to drop earlier this summer, “Show Pony” was held back in
deference to the protests over the murder of George Floyd, though the singles “Summertime” and “No Glory in the West” were both released in May. When the EP finally became available on Friday, Aug. 14, it had become a hotly anticipated event, and judging from the reaction of fans and critics alike, it seems the verdict is that it was well-worth the wait. That’s a good thing for Orville Peck, not least because the artistic conceit of his mysterious persona could easily come to be seen as a gimmick if it failed
to capture audiences a second time – not that there was much chance of that. Thanks to his talents as a singer and songwriter, Peck has already proven he has a lot more behind the mask than just a catchy concept, or even just a pretty face. More than that, with “Show Pony,” he also proves that he is willing and able to use his spotlight to lift up a whole legion of intersecting identities, simply because of the one thing he has not kept secret – namely, his queerness – and that makes all the difference.
ORVILLE PECK is back with new music.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 21, 2020 • 19
Who will play Marvel’s Iceman?
Shia LeBoeuf and Colton Haynes both want role: report By BILLY MASTERS
“It wasn’t me.” — Kathy Griﬃn’s Tweet after Shia LeBoeuf in ‘Tax Collector.’ reports that there was a shooter outside the White House. I’m more than a little bit psychic - but you already knew that. Last week, I bemoaned life without “The View” (the show is on hiatus until Labor Day). I also mused whether Sara Haines would return now that her “GMA” oﬀshoot has been cancelled. Moments after the ink dried on that column, ABC began negotiations with Sara to return to “The View.” Since Abby Huntsman’s abrupt departure, there’s been an empty seat at the table. While that’s been ﬁne during the pandemic, it could get tricky in the fall given Meghan McCain’s imminent maternity leave. In news from the Marvel Universe, Wiccan and Hulkling, members of the Young Avengers, got married. While Marvel has celebrated samesex weddings before (most notably, the June 20, 2012 nuptials of Northstar and Kyle), this was a ﬁrst...this pair scurried oﬀ and had a quickie Vegas ceremony. How kitschy! It may have been spontaneous, but the boys have been courting since 2005. Speaking of Marvel, the company has secured permission to use the X-Men in their Marvel Cinematic Universe. And our very own Colton Haynes has a new goal in life - to play Iceman! According to insiders, Shia LeBeouf has already been approached, but that isn’t stopping Colton from taking his case to social media. Zac Efron has just been cast in a remake of “Three Men and a Baby.” The new ﬂick is being made for Disney+, so it’s kinda a homecoming for Zac, who made a name for himself with the company’s “High School Musical” ﬂicks. No word on other co-stars, or which of the “men” Zac will play, but my money is on Guttenberg. I’m calling this Reunion Week on “Billy Masters LIVE,” but that’s kind of a misnomer. I don’t believe these particular groupings have ever been assembled before. On Tuesday, Aug. 18, we pay tribute to the long-running musical review “Naked Boys Singing,” including members of the original creative team and cast. And on Thursday, well, even I can’t believe it. Our special “Hairspray” show will include the Tracy from the movie musical, Nikki Blonsky, and the Link from TV, Garrett Clayton. We’ll also have some special guests connected with the show. Stay tuned for a BIG surprise or two. Yes, summer sizzles on Billy Masters TV - on YouTube. Our shows last week kicked oﬀ with the dynamic Lena Hall, who you’ll remember from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” I knew she was wildly talented, but I didn’t know she was hysterically funny and smart as a whip. Speaking of smart, talented and funny, Fran Drescher returned to the show on Thursday to talk about her documentary on 20 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 21, 2020
REELZ, her rescue dog, and even introduce us to the workmen at her home - much to the delight of her worldwide fans who were commenting like crazy. Then, Broadway leading man Max von Essen discussed his livestream concert (which you can see on BroadwayWorld.com). The icing on the cake was the appearance of Max’s “Falsettos” co-star, Nick Adams. It was a lovefest all around, as you can see on BillyMasters.com/TV. Pandemic or not, Billy Masters stays away from Provincetown for no man. As it turns out, that’s exactly how many men I had - because, you know, there’s a pandemic going on. I did get to see some incredible shows - and it’s simply coincidental that all of these artists have appeared on “Billy Masters LIVE” (I’m not risking life and limb to see Vicki Lawrence Schultz). At the Crown and Anchor, I saw Judy Gold, Varla Jean Merman, and Edmund Bagnell. And at the Pilgrim House, I saw Branden and James. Make no mistake: these performers are all at the peak of their profession, and Ptown is lucky to have them during this crazy time. You can see the full reviews as well as other details on BillyMasters.com. Our “Ask Billy” question comes from Randy in London: “Cheers from the UK. Big fan. What has Mitch Hewer been up to? It’s been a minute. One doesn’t hear much of him anymore, but he was my guilty pleasure.” Mine as well, M8. For those of you who are not Anglophiles, Hewer was one of those bleached blonde twink types who appeared on such UK shows as “Britannia High.” He was even a stripper in the Take That musical, “Never Forget”. I don’t believe he’s done anything since leaving “Casualty” - at least nothing of note. While he is said to be heterosexual, it bears mentioning that he has played gay, such as on “Skins.” And we happen to have a video where he shows quite a bit of skin. Let’s just say even the Yanks will enjoy it...if you catch my drift. You can get some more visual clues on BillyMasters.com. When our answer is a stroke of genius, it’s deﬁnitely time to end another column. Before closing this week, I want to take a moment to remember a dear friend who you’ll know as Roman Heart. The porn superstar was truly as beautiful on the inside as he was on the outside - and that’s saying something. He also had a multitude of troubles, which we’d talk about well into the night. Rest in peace, my dear friend. Since there’s no rest for the wicked, I’m constantly busy writing the column, doing shows, and oodles of other things on BillyMasters.com - the site that is virus-free. If you have a question, dash it oﬀ to Billy@BillyMasters.com, and I promise to get back to you before I answer a question you haven’t asked...yet! Until next time, remember, one man’s ﬁlth is another man’s bible.
AOC, an ally for LGBTQ and Latino communities New book chronicles ‘Fearless Rise’ of progressive lawmaker By ROMAN NAVARETTE
“What am I supposed to be? According to you – What am I supposed to be?” In a book of essays on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that dropped last week, editor Lynda Lopez reﬂects on a moment growing up in which she was stereotyped and put in a box that she connects with a similar moment revolving around AOC when the then 28-year-old was running for Congress. It’s something we as gay Latinos also have had to overcome growing up even amongst our own traditional families. What am I supposed to be? Macho? We understand ﬁrsthand, stereotypical archetypes so when we see a young Latina from the Bronx beat her 10-term incumbent opponent, Joe Crowley in 2018, to become the youngest woman in Congress, we take notice and we rally around her. An ally to no end and someone who built their platform on the idea that marginalized communities deserve better. Gay men appreciate female beauty. Arguably it can be noted that the highest compliment a woman can get is from a gay man. Combine beauty with brains and amazing public speaking skills and you have gold. This is AOC. The red lipstick. AOC’s trademark and a symbol all its own for gay Latinos. Was it our mom rocking it while we were growing up or another Latina, Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, who ignited our love for it and taught us that Latinas who chose to go bold with red lips were fearless? When I was an undergrad at UC Berkeley in the ’90s, many Latinas on campus had a signature look. For some it varied – great style, full long hair, hoop earrings, boots in the winter. One staple never deviated – freshly applied red lipstick. It was a look. It was a sense of power and many times it could be viewed as a piece of armor. Another Latina back then also used it as her signature look as she was climbing the Latin music charts – Tejana, Selena Quintanilla. Gay Latinos revere Selena. In her book introduction, Lopez (the younger sister of Jennifer, another icon of the gay community) gives a nod to other Latinas who have also applied that red lipstick in small bathroom mirrors as they prepare to leave their apartments to conquer the world. It’s no secret that gay men love our female allies and they love us right back. AOC showed us just how much when she joined the judge’s panel earlier this year of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Que…Que? Could a member of Congress actually guest judge on a show that has become a part of our DNA? AOC made no secret of the fact that she is a huge fan of the show. While the Queens were in awe of the fact that she was there front and center for the Madonna-themed
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez oﬀers short, but powerful remarks while seconding Sen. Bernie Sanders’ nomination at the Democratic National Convention.
episode, she in turn gave them that respect right back acknowledging she was on their turf and praised them for their fearlessness – bucket list, checked. Our community relishes its ties to AOC. When we see her expressing how Rep. Yoho, called her a “fucking bitch” and then tried to give a half-ass apology after the fact, we not only feel the urge to rally around her, but we acknowledge our own mothers in this struggle. We think of our nieces or our daughters. We also thank people like Gabrielle Union and Janelle Monae for doing publicly what our community also does in a time like this – have AOC’s back. Like AOC, we know ﬁrsthand what it’s like to demand respect from our peers. We want to see ourselves as leaders. For a community that is inﬂuential we’ve yet to reach many heights. We are happy to enjoy this ride with one of our biggest allies and ﬁnd it amusing knowing that she is garnering support from the likes of Cardi B. and Ava Duvernay, with the former encouraging AOC to run for president in 2024. Certainly not out of the question. And we certainly want to see more of this Bronx-born Latina on the rise. “AOC is a new force of change for America’s next phase as a democracy and the idea of our social fabric, values and identity as a country and global leader,” said Honor Pac President Mario Ceballos. Originating in 2005, Honor Pac quickly became an authority on Latinx LGBTQ+ political action. Its board of directors is comprised of professionals committed to giving the LGBTQ Latinx community a voice in government aﬀairs. “The Latinx community, especially our young generations, embrace AOC’s vision because it is akin to our own idea
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of our culture’s collective strength, success, family and community. “I have no doubt that under an AOC vision, America will return to being a strong, respected nation but it will need, more than ever, to ﬁnd its role in a new world order that is more diverse, inclusive, and complex given the geopolitical, economic and climate change disparities and issues impacting our, nation, global community and planet,” added Ceballos. Ceballos is correct that the idea of inclusiveness is the very fabric that AOC’s rise was conceived on as best exempliﬁed in the popular Netﬂix documentary, “Knock the House Down.” It is here we learn the very core of AOC’s being. Beating the odds, advocating for the everyday people tired of feeling like the “other” and tired of being unheard – LGBTQ+ community amongst them. At the end of the documentary after she defeats Crowley, she takes a stroll with her long-term boyfriend, Riley Roberts, just outside the nation’s capital. A good-looking white male jogger passes her by and screams, “I love you!” She simply responds, “Aww…thank you”. In my mind there is no question – that is yet another gay man, proving her allure crosses all ethnicities within the LGBTQ+ community. When it comes to AOC, our community, doesn’t need to wonder who “she is supposed to be.” The answer is simple and who she has always been – one of our biggest allies, ﬁghting for our rights, amongst everyone else’s. Pick up a copy of “The Fearless Rise and Powerful Resonance of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez,” now.
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