Losangelesblade.com, December 31, 2021, Volume 05, Issue 53

Page 1

(Blade photos by Michael Key and Michael Lavers)

COVID, insurrection, and a new president among year’s top stories, PAGES 03-09



Revisiting the top local news stories of 2021 COVID drama, Newsom recall, and 40th anniversary of AIDS By BRODY LEVESQUE

This past year started with the initial roll-out of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to combat the coronavirus, which had a devastating effect on California and the nation as hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their lives in the pandemic. Hospitals were overwhelmed to the point of focused selective triage care with many in the Los Angeles region erecting overflow tents in parking garages and lots to handle the overflow. There were so many deaths that local funeral homes and the medical examiner’s offices in Los Angeles and neighboring Orange County acquired refrigeration trucks to deal with the crisis and influx of the dead. The state as a whole was still under lock down with masking requirements, safe distancing, remote office and schools a ‘new normal’ for Californians. There were those who defied the mandates. The Blade started its 2021 coverage with gay circuit party impresario Jeffrey Sanker’s Palm Springs based White Party Entertainment throwing a New Year’s Eve weekend bash in Mexico, despite recommended Mexican public health guidelines and COVID-19 mandates. The outrage echoed across the Southland as well as nationally as pictures and stories of the event including the Blade’s coverage went viral. The LGBTQ community was deeply impacted by the pandemic as venerable bars, restaurants, and other community safe spaces shut down, unable to survive the economic disaster brought on by the pandemic. Community leaders pled for people to maintain the COVID-19 mandates and get vaccinated as they became eligible. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told Angelenos: “Nobody should be gathering at a big party, and nobody should be gathering in a small party, as well. These are the ways that this virus will spread to your loved ones. Some who won’t be taken from us will spread to others and those people will be taken from us. It’s all it takes to set off a dangerous and often deadly chain of events.” In a Jan. 15 op-ed, the mayor wrote, “I know there is some hesitation around this vaccine, particularly among Black and LGBTQ+ Angelenos. Generations of unequal access to quality care, rooted in systemic inequity, only deepened by COVID-19 … But I want to assure anyone reading: every vaccine reaching our communities is safe. … Our doctors, nurses, and paramedics are already receiving it, and our medical experts would not allow it into our hospitals if they didn’t believe in it.” At the beginning of March a prominent resident of West Hollywood and a virtual icon in the LGBTQ movement passed away. Ivy Bottini, 94 was on the front lines fighting progressive causes from women’s rights to LGBTQ+ rights. In 1983, Bottini founded AIDS Network LA, the first AIDS organization in Los Angeles. It served as a clearing house for collecting and disseminating information. In 1984, Bottini helped co-found AIDS Project Los Angeles, now APLA Health. As the pandemic wore on last spring, the lack of the LGBTQ communities are still not being tracked in data collection frustrated and angered many including State Senator Scott Wiener who authored a bill last year that passed through the legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in the fall of 2020 that mandates gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data related to the COVID testing in California. The recall effort against Newsom picked up steam during the spring bringing swift condemnation and opposition from Equality California, LGBTQ lawmakers and community leaders plus LGBTQ+ elected officials throughout California. Newsom said the effort to remove him from office was a “Republican recall” fueled by backers of former President Trump. “I am not going to take this recall attempt lying down,” Newsom said in a tweet. “I’m going to fight because there’s too much at stake in this moment.” The recall effort became a reality when by early May there were enough signatures to make it a ballot initiative. The Republican-led drive to remove Newsom from office stemmed from growing frustration over the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and what many voters felt were serious missteps in the governor’s handling of the crisis. By early summer, even with the state starting to open up and ease the COVID-19 restrictions, it also became apparent that the traditional annual celebration of Pride month was not going to happen again. June also marked the 40th anniversary of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In a month-long series, former Blade news editor Karen Ocamb wrote about the terrible toll of the disease

and the efforts to find a way to treat what had been a fatal infection. An incident at the Wi Spa in Koreatown, made viral when an Instagram user “cubaangel” posted a video of herself angrily confronting a staff member at the Spa accusing them of letting a disrobed transgender person into the women’s section of the business, led to ugly street protests that turned violent and were ultimately broken up by the Los Angeles Police Department. Months later it was determined that a registered sex offender and serial predator was responsible. The rise of a deadlier variant of the coronavirus known as Delta made headlines and also led to a battle over ‘proof’ of vaccination to gain admittance to the bars, nightclubs, and

Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM avoided a recall in 2021 after voters rejected the GOP-led effort. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

restaurants in West Hollywood and around the LA region. Late summer brought the news that the first openly gay diplomat appointed as the United States Ambassador to Luxembourg in 1999 by President Bill Clinton, died at 88. James C. Hormel, heir to the Hormel meat packing fortune, was a longtime philanthropist who parlayed his financial interests and contributions as a longtime Democratic Party activist and donor, into actively pursuing LGBTQ+ equality and civil rights. In September, Newsom beat back the recall effort in the special election. For the state’s LGBTQ community in particular a collective sigh of relief as the governor has been a longtime ally. In October, Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton officially entered the 2022 race for California’s 28th State Senate District. She would be the first openly transgender State Legislator in California’s history if elected. In November, the United States Navy christened and launched the U.S. Naval Ship Harvey Milk. The ship is named after slain openly gay LGBTQ+ rights activist and former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, who along with LGBTQ+ ally Mayor George Moscone was assassinated by disgruntled former Supervisor Dan White, in their offices in San Francisco City Hall on November 27, 1978. As the year draws to a close 2021’s ending will mirror its beginning as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health received confirmation of its first case of COVID-19 with mutations consistent with the new Omicron variant, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health told the press in mid-December. Sadly, too, another LGBTQ+ ally and icon Anne Rice passed away in December at age 80 from a stroke. Her Out son Christopher, a prolific writer in his own right, was by her side. LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 31, 2021 • 03


Top 10 national news stories of 2021

Capitol insurrection, COVID cancellations, and a new president #10: RNC creates Pride outreach coalition Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, in a video announcement at a Log Cabin Republicans dinner honoring Melania Trump and attended by former President Trump, announced the creation of the LGBTQ outreach Pride coalition — much to the consternation of internal critics. Following calls on her to resign from anti-LGBTQ conservatives like Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, McDaniel defended the coalition by saying it was a continuation of the LGBTQ initiative set up with Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign — which had enjoyed success by doubling the LGBTQ vote for the Republican candidate after the previous election. McDaniel wrote an apology letter for poor communication over the creation of the new initiative, which led Democrats to criticize Republicans over the perceived backtracking on LGBTQ outreach. #9: Caitlyn Jenner makes waves as gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner, in a free-for-all recall election in California seeking to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom, made waves as a Republican gubernatorial candidate, breaking new ground as a transgender candidate while facing criticism for being out of touch. Early on in her candidacy, the former Olympic champion said she was against transgender kids in sports, citing a need to protect women in athletics. Jenner later modified her position by saying potential players who had gone through the transition process should “of course” be allowed to compete. Jenner became an unlikely popular figure in conservative media, appearing on Fox News and Newsmax. At the end of the day, Jenner performed poorly at the polls, taking two percent of the vote as Newsom survived the recall effort.


CAITLYN JENNER ran for California governor but won just 2 percent of the vote.

HRC President ALPHONSO DAVID was fired in September.

issue in the days preceding the Transgender Day of Remembrance. #6: HRC president fired after being ensnared in Cuomo affair The president of the Human Rights Campaign was terminated from his role this year following a public dispute with the board after being ensnared in the damning report detailing accusations of sexual misconduct against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Alphonso David, who had previously served as counselor to Cuomo, was revealed in the report by New York Attorney General Letitia James to have kept a personnel file of one of the female employees alleging sexual misconduct, then having assisted in efforts to leak that file to the media in an attempt to discredit her. Although the Human Rights Campaign board initially stood by David, the organization later announced an independent review of the matter, which David said he welcomed. David took to Twitter and criticized the board for having privately asked him about resigning, which prompted his termination. #5: Equality Act all but dead in Congress Although LGBTQ rights advocates had hoped President Biden would be able to deliver a campaign promise to sign into law a long-sought update to federal civil rights law that would include LGBTQ people, legislation known as the Equality Act is all but dead in Congress. The U.S. House, acting quickly on Biden’s campaign promise to sign the Equality Act into law within the first 100 days of his administration, approved the legislation in February, although it had fewer Republican votes compared to when the chamber last passed the measure. But the Equality Act, contorted by critics who claim it endangers women’s rights and privacy, went no further in Congress. In the Senate, where Sen. Joe Manchin has declined to support the bill and Sen. Susan Collins has withdrawn her support, the legislation never got a vote — either on the floor or in committee. No route appears open for the bill.

#8: Supreme Court issues non-ruling in Fulton case The U.S. Supreme Court, amid fears it would render a decision this year that would enable #4: Buttigieg, Levine confirmed by Senate sweeping discrimination against LGBTQ people, in historic firsts instead handed down a ruling in Fulton v. City In a pair of historic votes, the U.S. Senate this of Philadelphia limited to the facts of the case at year confirmed two presidential appointees — hand and with no major impact. Pete Buttigieg and Rachel Levine. In a unanimous ruling, justices issued a Buttigieg was confirmed as transportation decision in favor of Catholic Social Services, secretary, making him the first openly gay which sought a First Amendment ruling to refuse person to win Senate confirmation for a child placement with same-sex couples over PETE BUTTIGIEG and RACHEL LEVINE won Senate confirmation this year. Cabinet-level role, while Levine was confirmed a religious exemption, but it was based on the as assistant secretary for health, making her the approach of the City of Philadelphia enforcing its first openly transgender person to win Senate confirmation for any position. contract with the foster care agency. Although Buttigieg was confirmed with bipartisan support, that quickly faded as the supply Both sides claimed a small victory. The American Civil Liberties Union, which had argued chain crisis emerged and Buttigieg faced criticism for his approach to the issue. before the Supreme Court in the case and sided with the City of Philadelphia, said the ruling For Levine, the road was different. During her confirmation hearing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), “will not affect any foster care programs that do not have the same system for individualized began his inquiries with the words “genital mutilation,” which formed the basis of his rude, exemptions that were at issue here.” invasive questioning. Levine was confirmed by a narrow vote of 52-48. #7: In grim record, at least 46 trans people killed #3: States enact measures against trans kids in sports, health care In a grim milestone, at least 46 trans people were killed by the time of the Transgender Day Drawing on anti-trans fears, states defied federal laws against discrimination and enacted of Remembrance, reaching a new record in the time the deaths have been recorded. measures against transgender kids in sports and access to health care, leading to a wave of The violence has consistently had a disproportionate impact on transgender women of color. litigation in the next battleground for the LGBTQ movement. Among the deaths that brought the tally to a new record was Marquiisha “Quii” Lawrence, a Among the most stringent measures was a law in Arkansas, enacted by the legislature 28-year-old Black transgender woman who was shot and killed in her home in Greenville, S.C. overriding a veto of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, instituting criminal penalties for providing transitionPresident Biden, who had brought attention to the issue of anti-transgender violence as a related care to youth. Other states, including Florida, Texas, and West Virginia, enacted laws presidential candidate, issued a statement recognizing the 46 deaths and was briefed on the 04 • DECEMBER 31, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

NATIONAL prohibiting transgender girls from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity. LGBTQ legal advocates were quick to file litigation against the measure in court, arguing they violate the prohibition on discrimination based on sex in schools under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Judges have blocked measures from going into effect as litigation moves forward.

After insurrection, Biden inaugurated and reverses Trump anti-LGBTQ policies

#2: Coronavirus continues to rage, nixes LGBTQ events Despite hopes the The Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol shocked the world. coronavirus would fade with the emergence of in terms of sheer numbers, as hospitalization rates continued vaccines, the pandemic continues to rage amid breakthrough to climb to new highs. infections and refusal of a large percentage of Americans to Pride celebrations were among the events cancelled as the get the shot, leading to additional deaths and cancellation of pandemic continued through the summer. Large cities like LGBTQ events. Los Angeles and Boston opted not to have not to have events More than 386,000 deaths due to coronavirus were at all, while D.C. had a much scaled-down event in which Vice reported this year, making it deadlier than the previous year President Kamala Harris participated.

After a bloody insurrection on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol incited by President Trump, Joe Biden brought with him a sense of renewal and a promise of unity after was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, reversing anti-LGBTQ policies early on during his administration. Biden on his first day in office signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against anti-LGBTQ discrimination in Bostock v. Clayton County to fullest extent possible. Days later, Biden signed an executive order reversing President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, leading to a policy that would enable transgender people for the first time ever to enlist in the armed forces. In another reversal, Biden issued a White House proclamation to recognize Pride month after Trump failed to issue an official notice for each of his four years in office, with the exception of a solitary tweet in 2019. In the proclamation, Biden urged LGBTQ people to “accept nothing less than full equality.”



Top 10 international news stories of 2021

Out Olympians, conversion therapy bans, Polish crackdown

By MICHAEL K. LAVERS | mlavers@washblade.com The Women’s Tennis Association has suspended The Biden administration’s pledge to champion LGBTQ tournaments in Hong Kong and throughout China in response rights abroad was the dominant international story in 2021, to the disappearance of Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis star, after but anti-LGBTQ crackdowns and efforts to expand rights also she publicly accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual made headlines around the world over the past year. Here are assault. Diplomats from the U.S. and other countries will also the top 10 international stories of 2021. boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. “The Federation of Gay Games continues to monitor the #10: Botswana Court of Appeals decriminalizes samesituation in Hong Kong regarding COVID-19, the National sex sexual relations Security Law and all other aspects that affect the safety and The Botswana Court of Appeals on Nov. 29 upheld a ruling security of our event,” Sean Fitzgerald, co-president of the that decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in Federation of Gay Games, told the Blade in a statement after the country. the Women’s Tennis Association announced it had suspended Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) all of its tournaments in China. “We are committed to hosting challenged the colonial-era criminalization law. Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong in November 2023.” Botswana’s High Court in 2019 unanimously ruled the law was unconstitutional. The Batswana government appealed the #6: Anti-LGBTQ crackdowns continue in Hungary, Poland decision. The governments of Hungary and Poland in 2021 continued “Today is a momentous day in history, a victorious win in their anti-LGBTQ crackdowns. ascertaining liberty, privacy and dignity of the LGBTIQ persons The European Commission in July announced legal action in Botswana and definitely, this judgement sets precedence for against Hungary after a law that bans the promotion of the world at large,” said LEGABIBO CEO Thato Moruti after the homosexuality and sex-reassignment surgery to minors Court of Appeals ruling. took effect. Hungarian lawmakers in November approved a resolution that paves the way for a referendum on LGBTQ #9: LGBTQ athletes compete in Summer Olympics issues. A record number of openly LGBTQ athletes competed in the The European Commission in September threatened to Summer Olympics in Tokyo. withhold funds from five Polish provinces that have enacted Laurel Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand, became so-called LGBTQ “free zones.” Polish lawmakers have also the first out trans person to compete in any Olympics. Quinn, sought to ban Pride marches and other pro-LGBTQ events. a non-binary trans person who is a member of the Canadian women’s soccer team, won an Olympic gold medal. #5: LGBTQ candidates elected throughout the world Tom Daley, a British Olympic diver who is married to Dustin LGBTQ candidates won elections throughout the world in Lance Black, also medaled during the games. 2021. Two transgender women — Tessa Ganserer and Nyke #8: LGBTQ activists, journalists arrested in Cuba Slawik — won seats in the German Parliament in September. LGBTQ activists and journalists were among the hundreds Emilia Schneider in November became the first openly trans of people who were arrested during anti-government protests person elected to the Chilean congress. in Cuba on July 11. Victor Grajeda in November became the first openly gay Maykel González Vivero, director of Tremenda Nota, the man to win a seat in the Honduran congress. Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba, was violently Openly gay Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Idan Roll is the arrested near Havana’s Revolution Square during one of the youngest person in his country’s new government that formed protests. in June after long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man who live-streamed the first ouster. Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz is also openly protest that took place in San Antonio de los Baños, remains in gay. custody. He faces an 8-year prison sentence. The protests took place against the backdrop of mounting #4: Efforts to ban conversion therapy gain traction food shortages, a worsening economic crisis, human rights More countries moved to ban so-called conversion therapy abuses and criticism over the government’s response to the in 2021. pandemic. Thousands of Cuban Americans on July 26 marched A Canadian law that prohibits the widely discredited practice to the Cuban Embassy in D.C. in support of the protesters. in the country will take effect in January. French lawmakers on Dec. 15 approved a bill that would ban #7: Gay Games in Hong Kong remain in doubt conversion therapy in their country. The 2023 Gay Games that are scheduled to take place in Measures to prohibit conversion therapy are also before Hong Kong remain in doubt amid growing concerns over legislators in Finland and New Zealand. The British Parliament China’s human rights record. in 2022 is expected to debate a bill that would ban conversion Gay Games Hong Kong in September postponed the event therapy in England and Wales. until 2023 because of the pandemic. Brazil and Malta are two of the countries that already ban Hong Kong’s National Security Law, which human rights conversion therapy. activists say makes it easier for authorities to punish anyone in the former British colony who challenges the Chinese #3: VP Harris acknowledges anti-LGBTQ violence as government, took effect in 2020. Upwards of 2 million Hong cause of migration Kongers took part in pro-democracy protests the year before. 06 • DECEMBER 31, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

Two men in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munzahim)

Vice President Kamala Harris throughout 2021 acknowledged that antiLGBTQ violence is one of the “root causes” of migration from Central America. Harris in June raised the issue during a meeting with Visibles Executive Director Daniel Villatoro, Ingrid Gamboa of the Association of Garifuna Women Living with HIV/AIDS and other Guatemalan civil society members that took place in Guatemala City. State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who is openly gay, a few weeks earlier told the Blade that protecting LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers is one of the Biden administration’s global LGBTQ rights priorities. Immigrant rights activists who remain critical of the Biden administration’s immigration policy note Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place. The so-called Remain in Mexico policy that forces asylum seekers to pursue their cases in Mexico has also been reinstated under a court order. “To be a trans person is synonymous with teasing, harassment, violence and even death,” Venus, a transgender woman from La Ceiba, Honduras, told the Blade in July during an interview in the city. #2: LGBTQ Afghans desperate to flee after Taliban regains control LGBTQ Afghans remain desperate to flee after the Taliban regained control of the country on Aug. 15. Two groups of LGBTQ Afghans that Stonewall, Rainbow Railroad and Micro Rainbow evacuated with the help of the British government arrived in the U.K. in the fall. Some of the Afghan human rights activists who Taylor Hirschberg, a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also a Hearst Foundation scholar, has been able to help leave the country since the Taliban regained control of it are LGBTQ. A Taliban judge in July said the group would once again execute gay people if it were to return to power in Afghanistan. Rainbow Railroad and Immigration Equality are among the groups that continue to urge the Biden administration to do more to help LGBTQ Afghans who remain inside the country. #1: Biden commits U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad The Biden administration in February issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who is gay, in May told the Washington Blade the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is one of the five global LGBTQ rights priorities for the Biden administration. The White House in June named then-OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern as the next special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad. The State Department in October announced it would issue passports with an “X” gender marker.

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In memoriam: Remembering queer lives lost in 2021 Activists, artists, and politicos who changed the world

By KATHI WOLFE Alber Elbaz, acclaimed fashion designer whose celeb clients The many acclaimed LGBTQ+ people and allies who died in included Meryl Streep, died at 59 from COVID-19, on April 24 2021 include: in Paris. Laura Weinstein, a transgender activist in Colombia died Paul Kellogg, who led the Glimmerglass Opera in on Jan. 2 four days after she was hospitalized with difficulty Cooperstown, N.Y. and, later, simultaneously, led the New York breathing. She was director of Fundacion Grupo de Accion y City Opera died at 84 in a Cooperstown hospital on April 28. Apoyo a Personas Trans (GATT), a trans rights group. Alix Dobkin, the folk singer who celebrated lesbians and Siegfried Fischbacher, the magician, who with the late Roy made the iconic 1973 album “Lavender Jane Loves Women,” Horn, performed in Las Vegas as Siegfried & Roy, died on Jan. 13 died at 80 on May 19 from a brain aneurysm and a stroke at at 81 from pancreatic cancer. her Woodstock, N.Y. home. Bob Avian, a choreographer, director and producer died Kay Tobin Lahusen, gay rights activist and photographer, at 83 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. from cardiac arrest on Jan. 28. died at 91 on May 26 in West Chester, Pa. With his frequent collaborator, Avian worked with some of Rusty Warren, a 1960s comedian, called a godmother Broadway’s most well-known and longest-running shows, of the sexual revolution, died on May 25 at 91 from chronic including “A Chorus Line.” obstructive pulmonary disease at a caregiver’s home in Lagura Sophie Xeon, a.k.a. Sophie, a transgender producer and Hills, Calif. performer whose music was known as hyperpop, died on Jan. Douglas S. Cramer, who produced “Dynasty” and other 30 in Athens at 30 after an accident. popular TV shows, died at 89 from kidney failure at his Martha’s Cloris Leachman, the Academy and Emmy Award-winning Vineyard home on June 4. actress who performed in numerous movies and TV shows Madeline Davis, the first openly lesbian delegate to a from “The Last Picture Show” to “Young Frankenstein” to “The national political convention (the Democratic 1972 convention) Mary Tyler Moore Show,” died at 94 at her Encinitas, Calif. home. died on April 28 at 80 from complications from a stroke at her Joseph Sonnabend, a physician who helped to establish the Amherst, N.Y. home. AIDS Medical Foundation (now Amfar), died at 88 on June 24 in Richard J. Meislin, a New York Times editor and journalism a London hospital from complications from a heart attack. pioneer, died at 68 from Merkel cell carcinoma at a Manhattan Carmen Vazquez, a force in the world of LGBTQ rights died hospital on June 25. on Jan. 27 in Brooklyn at 72 from complications of COVID-19. Paul Huntley, for decades the hair stylist and wig designer Sandie Crisp, a.k.a. the Goddess Bunny, a transgender for Broadway stars from Carol Channing to Alan Cumming, actress, model and muse to West Hollywood’s avant garde, died at 88 in London on July 9. died on Jan. 27 at a Los Angeles hospital at 61 from COVID-19. Mat George, co-host of the podcast “She Rates Dogs,” died Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the acclaimed poet, who published at 26 in Los Angeles on July 17. He was hit and killed by a car. gay poet Allen Ginsberg’s groundbreaking work “Howl,” died on Gil Wechsler, who designed the lighting for more than 100 Feb. 22 at his San Francisco home at 101. Metropolitan Opera productions, died at 79 from dementia on James Levine, the Metropolitan Opera maestro and July 9 at a Warrington, Pa. memory-care facility. acclaimed conductor, died at 77 on March 9 at his Palm Springs, Sally Miller Gearhart, a prominent LGBTQ rights activist, Calif. home. In 2018, the Met fired him after investigating died July 14 at 90 in Ukiah, Calif. allegations of sexual improprieties. Louise Fishman, an artist whose work expressed her Robina Asti, a World War II veteran, mutual fund executive feminist, lesbian and Jewish identity, died on July 26 in and oldest active flight instructor, died at 99 in her daughter Manhattan at 82. Coca Astey’s home. Asti, who transitioned in the 1970s and had James Hormel, America’s first openly gay ambassador (to lived as a woman for four decades, applied for survivor benefits Luxembourg under President Bill Clinton), died at 88 in San from the Social Security Administration after her husband Francisco on Aug. 13. died in 2012. Her application was denied. Asti, represented by Barbara Kannapell, a renowned deaf activist, died at 83 Lambda Legal, successfully fought against this. As a result of her from complications from hip surgery on Aug. 11 in Washington, advocacy, the rules regarding survivors benefits were changed. D.C. Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros, resident choreographer of Saleem Kidwai, co-editor of the groundbreaking anthology Miami City Ballet, before he became director of the National “Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History,” Ballet in Peru, died on Feb. 26 at 63 at a Lima hospital from died at 70 at a Lucknow, India hospital on Aug. 30. COVID-19. Carl Bean, 77, a minister and AIDS activist died in a Los John Stephen Hunt, writer and global rights activist died at Angeles hospice on Sept. 7. He helped make the 1970s Motown 85 in Chicago. hit “I Was Born This Way” into a gay Pride anthem. Pat Collins, a Tony Award-winning lighting designer, died on George Malkemus, who helped Manolo Blahnik’s shoe March 21 at her Branford, Conn., home at 88 from pancreatic designs to become known worldwide, died on Sept. 16 from cancer. cancer at 67 at his Manhattan home. Judge Paul G. Feinman, the first openly gay judge to be Tommy Kirk, child star of “Old Yeller” and other Disney appointed to New York State’s highest court, the Court of movies, died at 79 at his Las Vegas home on Sept. 28. Appeals, died on March 31 at 61 in a Manhattan hospital from Ganga Stone, who co-founded God’s Love We Deliver, an acute myeloid leukemia. organization that delivers meals to people homebound with Allen Jesse Carroll, who owned bars and nightclubs in AIDS and other diseases, died at 79 on Sept. 29 in a Saratoga Washington, D.C., including lesbian bar Phase 1 and gay Springs, N.Y. health care facility nightclub Ziegfeld’s-Secrets, died at 79 on April 14 from heart Marcia Freedman, the first American-born woman to serve failure. 08 • DECEMBER 31, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

ALIX DOBKIN, James Hormel, and Venus Thrash were among the prominent LGBTQ people who died in 2021.

in Israel’s Parliament, known as the Knesset, died from renal and heart disease at 83 on Sept. 21 at her Berkeley, Calif. home. Brian Carney, Blade TV and film critic, died at 58 from complications associated with congestive heart failure and advanced kidney disease on Jan. 28. Stephen Karpiak, a pathbreaking researcher who advocated for elders with AIDS and against ageism, died from kidney damage from an infection at 74 on Oct. 16 at Manhattan hospital. Elaine Romagnoli, a fixture of New York nightlife and creator of the lesbian bars Bonnie & Clyde’s, the Cubby Hole and Crazy Nanny’s, died at 79 on Oct. 28 at her Manhattan home. Etel Adnan, an acclaimed Lebanese American writer and artist, died at 96 in Paris on Nov. 14. Scott Robbe, 66, a progressive activist and TV-film-stage producer, died in hospice care at his sister’s Hartford, Wisc. home on Nov. 21. He was a prominent founding member of two New York City direct action groups: ACT UP and Queer Nation. Stephen Sondheim, 91, the acclaimed, award-winning composer – one of the most notable composers of the 20th century – died on Nov. 26 at his Roxbury, Conn. home. His many musicals include: “Company,” “Follies” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sunday in the Park with George.” Adolfo Sardina (a.k.a. Adolfo), the fashion designer who won worldwide fame for dressing Nancy Reagan, died at 98 at his Manhattan home on Nov. 27. Stu Rasmussen, 73, the first openly transgender mayor in America, died on Nov. 17 from prostate cancer at his home in Silverton, Ore. where he served as mayor for two terms. Antony Sher, a British actor acclaimed for his interpretations of Shakespeare, died at 72 on Dec. 2 from cancer his Stratfordupon-Avon, England home. Marie-Claire Blais, an acclaimed French Canadian novelist, often compared to Virginia Woolf, died at 82 on Nov. 30 at her Key West, Fla., home. Venus Thrash, a nationally acclaimed Black, lesbian, Washington, D.C. poet, who wrote her first poem when she was in first grade, died at 52 on June 19 from heart disease at the MedStar Washington Hospital in D.C. Linda Lopez McAlister, a philosopher and founder of the feminist journal “Hypatia,” died at 82 from heart failure at her Albuquerque on Nov. 9. bell hooks, the trailblazing Black feminist writer whose groundbreaking work focused on race, class, gender, justice and discrimination, died at 69 from end-stage renal failure at her Berea, Ky., home on Dec. 15.

The year in photos

A coup attempt and the appointment of LGBTQ officials to the Biden administration mark a tumultuous year (Blade photos by Michael Key and Michael K. Lavers)

Donald Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol in a coup attempt on Jan. 6. LGBTQ activists join the marches and rallies for voting rights on Aug. 28.

Assistant Secretary of Health Adm. RACHEL LEVINE speaks at the International LGBTQ Leaders Conference on Dec. 2.

The tenth anniversary of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal is celebrated in a ceremony on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Sept. 20.

D.C. is on lockdown on the eve of the U.S. Presidential Inauguration.

Pete Buttigieg is met with a positive response during his Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 21. LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 31, 2021 • 09



Top 10 pop culture moments of 2021

A gay Playboy cover boy, a Satanic lap dance, the ‘Pose’ finale, and Colton’s drama By JOEY DiGUGLIELMO | joeyd@washblade.com

It was a memorable year for pop culture, as productions resumed after COVID lockdowns. Here’s our list of the top 10 pop culture moments of 2021. #10: Lesbian nuns get it on in ‘Benedetta’ Director Paul Verhoeven (“Basic Instinct,” “Showgirls”) delivered his latest film “Benedetta,” which tells of an Italian nun in the 1600s who receives erotic visions of a nude Christ as well as stigmata before having a lesbian relationship with a novitiate in her convent. The title character (played by Virginie Efira) plays “a randy nun whose religious visions and lustful cravings are rolled into a single ball of blasphemy,” as the New York Times wrote. “Verhoeven might have aged, but his love of the lurid has dimmed not one bit.” The Times also said the movie “presents lesbianism as a middle finger to church power.” A modest release, it gained steam on the festival circuit and screened in competition at Cannes. #9: Sapphic love in ‘Squid Game’ (SPOILER ALERT) It was subtle but the relationship between players 067 (HoYeon Jung) and 240 (Lee Yoo-mi) on the “Gganbu” episode of “Squid Game,” Netflix’s monster K-drama, was embraced by fans as a tale of doomed lesbian love. While other teams use the 30 minutes allotted for a nerve-wracking series of marble games, the two young women spent all but the final seconds of their time telling each other their life stories. Player 240 loses intentionally, sacrificing her life for her partner’s. She expresses her love just before getting shot. The show has been deemed Netflix’s “most watched series.”

(Photo courtesy Netflix)

(Photo courtesy ABC)

(Photo courtesy SBS Productions)

(Photo courtesy FX)

(Photo courtesy Netflix)

#8: Olly’s big year It was a big year for Olly Alexander, the Years & Years singer. He drew raves for his role in the five-part British series “It’s a Sin” as Ritchie, one of a group of gay U.K. men dealing with AIDS in the ‘80s. In March, Alexander announced that his band was now a solo venture. Kylie Minogue showed up as guest artist on a remix of single “Starstruck” in May. In October, Years & Years guested on Minogue’s song “A Second to Midnight.” A full album is expected in 2022. Alexander performed a sensuous cover of the Pet Shop Boys’ “It’s a Sin” with Elton John at the BRIT Awards in May. #7: Bretman dons bunny ears Bretman Rock, the 23-year-old Filipino YouTuber and beauty influencer known for his makeup tutorials and MTV reality show, made history as the first openly gay man to make the cover of Playboy magazine. Aside from Playboy’s late founder, Hugh Hefner, Rock is only the second man to appear on the cover (in July, 2020, Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny was the first). Sporting a nipple-baring bustier and the famous bunny ears, Rock called the historic moment “so surreal” on Instagram. Sadly, the issue is digital only as Playboy suspended its print product in 2020 after 66 years citing COVID “disruption.” Model Ariel Nicholson became the first trans person on the cover of Vogue in September. She was featured with seven other models dubbed “Generation America.” #6: Ewan bends over for ‘Halston’ Straight actor Ewan McGregor drew strong reviews for his portrayal of late gay designer Roy Halston Frowick (who died of AIDS in 1990) in the Netflix miniseries “Halston,” which premiered in May. Another Ryan Murphy-produced project, “Halston’s” five episodes follow the designer’s work with Liza Minnelli, booming business, drug use and comeback. McGregor, no stranger to screen sex scenes and nudity (he even filmed one with Jim Carrey in “I Love You Phillip Morris”), gets pounded by soon-to-be-boy-

friend Ed (Sullivan Jones) in the first episode, though ultimately, the series focuses more on drugs than sex. He won an Emmy for the role in September. #5: ‘Pose’ wraps The groundbreaking FX series “Pose,” wrapped in June and was lauded for being the first show to center on trans women of color and cast trans actors in its roles. The show, which depicted New York City drag ballroom culture of the ’80s and ’90s, only ran for three seasons (26 episodes) but followed the characters over the course of a decade. Created by Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy, the New York Times called the show “a celebration, a juicy soap and one of TV’s most kinetic and dance-intensive shows.” Star Billy Porter told the Hollywood Reporter in May he’s been HIV-positive since 2007. In September, Mj Rodriguez, who plays Blanca, was the first trans actor to receive an Emmy nomination.



Top 10 pop culture moments of 2021

#4: JoJo makes ‘Dancing’ history YouTuber JoJo Siwa, 18, one of Time’s “most influential people in the world” last year, came out as pan (she’s also comfortable with “queer” and “gay,” she said) in January. In September, the dancer/singer made history on the 30th season of “Dancing With the Stars” as the first contestant to compete with a same-sex partner. She and Jenna Johnson came in second.

#3: Marvel depicts gay superhero “Eternals,” the 26th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was released in November, features the franchise’s first LGBTQ superheroes with Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), a genius inventor, who’s married to Ben (Haaz Sleiman) and father of Jack. The couple even gets an onscreen kiss. Though the movie itself drew mixed reviews but solid box office, the inclusion was widely praised. “Seeing a powerful gay superhero kiss his husband and feeling the reaction in that theater was a real-life example of why it is important for our stories to be told – especially in films that travel to big cities and small towns around the world,” Variety noted. Several countries in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, et. al. — denied release; others only agreed to a version that edited the love scenes. “It made these Arab countries look so ignorant and pathetic,” Sleiman told Variety. “I have no respect for those governments.” #2: Colton Underwood comes out — and it gets messy The 29-year-old former NFL linebacker, whose alleged virginity gave him a novel angle on “The Bachelor” two years ago, came out in April on a “Good Morning America” interview. This month, a six-episode reality show dubbed “Coming Out Colton” arrived on Netflix in which he comes out to family and friends and learns gay culture. In November, an online petition with more than 35,000 signatures asked Netflix to cancel the series because of stalking and harassment allegations that Underwood’s ex-girlfriend, Cassie Randolph (his choice on “The Bachelor,” though they didn’t end up marrying), claimed in a 2020 restraining order. The order was dropped, but the incident as well as the docuseries raised gay eyebrows. “To some, that appears more like a monetized career move than an unvarnished emotional reckoning,” the New York Times wrote. #1: Lil Nas X scores big with ‘Montero’ Out rapper Lil Nas X proved he’s not a onehit wonder when his single “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100 in April. Its video, which depicts the artist giving Satan a gay lap dance, won “Video of the Year” at the MTV Video Music Awards and People’s Choice Awards and three Grammys are pending. The accompanying album, “Montero,” dropped in September at No. 2 to solid reviews and featured two other Hot 100 top-10 hits. Nas shot to fame in 2018 when his song “Old Town Road” became the longest-charting No. 1 song in Hot 100 history. 12 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • DECEMBER 31, 2021

(Photo courtesy Walt Disney Studios)

(Photo courtesy Netflix)

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(Photo courtesy Columbia)

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Top 10 movies of 2021

Spielberg dazzles and Campion triumphs By JOHN PAUL KING

As Hollywood struggled to adapt to the ongoing pandemic, 2021 brought us a surprisingly eclectic crop of movies – something clearly reflected by the Blade’s list of our 10 best-reviewed films of the year, which includes three musicals, three documentaries, and a western: #10: tick, tick… BOOM! Lin-Manuel Miranda makes another appearance on the list with his feature directorial debut, this adaptation of an autobiographical work by “Rent” composer Jonathan Larson that is possibly the most perfect movie ever made for musical theater fans. Following the young Larson as he grapples with the dilemma of whether to give up his Broadway hopes for an easier life and a more secure future, it’s an explosively energetic love letter to musicals that celebrates the joy of theater while honoring the legacy of a groundbreaking artist taken too soon by tragedy. The outstanding cast (which includes Bradley Whitford as the late Stephen Sondheim and a who’s-who of Broadway legends showing up at every turn) is led by Andrew Garfield, who surpasses expectations with a tour-de-force performance as Larson. #9: Ailey More than 30 years after his death, Alvin Ailey is still lauded as a trailblazing pioneer for his breathtakingly theatrical presentations exploring and uplifting Black experience in America – but even among dance aficionados, many people today would be hard-pressed to tell you much about his life. Jamila Wignot’s ethereal documentary attempts to correct that with a dreamy portrait of a genius who sublimated his entire being into the creation of his art – and better still, mines a bounty of exquisite performance footage to provide the gift of seeing dancers in motion as they execute the sheer visual poetry of his choreography. #8: In the Heights Onstage, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway musical was an infectious celebration of community, infused with a generous spirit of hope and driven by an irresistible Latin beat. On film, director John M. Chu delivers all that and more with breathtaking cinematic vision and a healthy dose of “magical realism” that does nothing to undercut the material’s streetwise swagger. Recapturing the elusive charm of the old-school movie musical while asserting itself as a product of its own time, it spotlights a dazzlingly talented ensemble (led by Anthony Ramos in an eminently likable performance) and delivers the almost euphoric refreshment of seeing a major Hollywood film populated almost entirely by people of color. That alone is enough to make it one of the year’s most important movies.

#7: Swan Song From director Todd Stephens comes this unexpected delight of an indie comedy, featuring underground cinema icon Udo Kier as “Mr. Pat,” an elderly hairdresser who breaks out of his nursing home to style a former client’s hair for her funeral. The improbably cast but brilliant star delivers a master class in subtlety and shade that ceaselessly entertains us as he sashays his way through a small-town odyssey that doubles as a meditation on the forgotten fabulosity of our queer elders – reminding us how much they’ve lived through, how much we owe them, and how much they still have to offer, all while keeping an irresistible smile on our face. #6: Benedetta Veteran Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven returns in top form with this slice of obscure-but-true history about the rise and fall of a 17th century nun, heralded as a prophet because of her intense religious visions until a secret lesbian affair draws the ire of the church hierarchy. True to the “Showgirls” director’s reputation as a provocateur, it’s a blend of social satire, psycho-sexual themes, graphic violence, and near-exploitation-level erotic imagery – but it’s also full of sly observations about religious hypocrisy, systemic oppression, and the way white heterosexual cisgender men keep the deck eternally stacked in their own favor. #5: Wojnarowicz: F*ck You F*ggot F**ker Chris McKim’s documentary about iconic AIDS-era artist David Wojnarowicz is comprehensive, immersive, and heavy with the almost corporeal substance of the late artist himself, a valuable historical chronicle made possible by the intensity with which he recorded his own life – and the skill with which McKim compiles that material to deliver him to us nearly three decades after his death. Revealing Wojnarowicz as an incendiary rebel who saw his own body as a weapon against a cruel and indifferent establishment, McKim honors him with a powerful film that not only informs, but inspires us to take up the torch of its subject’s righteous rage. #4: Saint-Narcisse The latest film from Bruce LaBruce is a deliciously subversive adult fairy tale set in the 1970s, in which a selfie-snapping narcissist reunites with his long-lost mother and goes on a quest to rescue his twin brother from a monastery where he is being kept as a sex slave. A blasphemous web of sex, incest, and revenge, it’s a campy, unabashedly queer psychosexual thriller that proves the iconoclastic Canadian director still delights in pushing our buttons. At the same time, it’s a sly satire of our modern, self-obsessed culture that forces us to question societal norms – and a welcome reminder that queer cinema can still be transgressive.

The Jets and Sharks face off in ‘West Side Story.’

#3: Velvet Underground Todd Haynes’ lavishly immersive chronicle of the proto-punk band that rose to ephemeral fame in Manhattan’s Warhol-dominated art world of the 1960s is more than just a music documentary, it’s a piece of pure cinema that exemplifies its genre while transcending it entirely. The veteran queer director doesn’t just give us the story of the Velvets in sights and sounds, he transports us to the time and place that allowed them to exist via a seamless blend of visuals, words, history, and, above all, music, providing a total sensory experience that feels like a direct portal into the era itself. #2: The Power of the Dog Jane Campion’s elegiac western has garnered awards buzz for good reason. In its character study of a domineering rancher who browbeats everyone around him until long-repressed feelings are sparked by his brother’s “sensitive” new stepson, her movie subverts more than one toxic trope, deconstructing the myth of the hyper-masculine cowboy hero while leaning into our pre-conditioned expectations about queer romantic narratives to set up a perversely satisfying surprise ending right before our eyes. With a powerhouse performance by Benedict Cumberbatch at its center, and boosted by sumptuous location cinematography, this visually eloquent period drama draws us in and leaves us shaken like few American films in recent memory. #1: West Side Story Steven Spielberg’s remount of Bernstein and Sondheim’s musical retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” achieves what doubters assumed would be impossible: a rendering that succeeds in bringing a contemporary sensibility to the classic material while leaving it fundamentally unchanged. Sumptuously re-staging this stylized 1950s story of racial conflict and violence for a more evolved era, it’s a new adaptation in which Spielberg’s unparalleled fluency in visual storytelling blends with Tony Kushner’s literate expansion of the original script for an effort that celebrates the original masterpiece while transforming it into something thrillingly new – and showcasing a spectacularly talented young cast, to boot. Purists may quibble and racists may be triggered by the purposeful omission of subtitles in Spanish-language scenes – but this career-capping triumph deserves all its accolades, nonetheless.



The best books of 2021

Our favorites in fiction, non-fiction and children’s lit By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

There’s still a lot of winter left. That’s the fact staring you in the face. Once the holiday decorations are down, the toys are all put away, and you’ve rediscovered your gift certificates, what do you do with them? You buy books, of course. And to get you started, here are a few sure-fire picks for the Best of 2021: FICTION What would you do if life throws you a curve-ball? In “The Guncle” by Steven Rowley (Putnam, $27.00), gay man, former TV star, Palm Springs fixture, no-responsibilities Patrick is asked to take care of his niece and nephew for the long-term. He never wanted kids at all. He never wanted to fall in love with them, either. Cute, sweet, funny, heartfelt – what more could you want? You don’t have to have read any of the other Cork O’Conner novels to want “Lightning Strike” by William Kent Krueger (Atria, $27.00), which takes readers back to 1963, and a murder in small-town Minnesota. Cork O’Conner is a young teen then, the son of the local sheriff, and he knows that Big John Manydeeds couldn’t have possibly hung himself. But how does a boy go about proving something like that? For fans, that’s a can’t-miss question. For new fans, it’ll send you racing toward the rest of the Cork O’Conner series. Watchers of “The Handmaiden’s Tale” will absolutely devour “Outlawed” by Anna North (Bloomsbury, $26.00). In a small corner of Texas, at an unstated time, 17-year-old Ada is struggling to give her husband children, which embarrasses him, and that’s something only witches do. And so Ada is cast out of the community and heads north, to safety, where barren women are outlaws. This dystopian, feminist Western is dangerous and delicious. “Raft of Stars” by Andrew J. Graff (Ecco, $26.99) is a comingof-age story of two boys who are best friends, and one of them is abused by his father. Tired of seeing his friend hurt, the other boy shoots the man and both boys run away to escape what surely will be legal trouble and maybe even jail time. They’re running toward a lie, though, and they’re heading for a waterfall they don’t know is there. This is one of those books with heartbreakingly beautiful prose in a story that’ll leave you with sweaty palms. And finally, have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you’d taken a different path? In “The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano” by Donna Freitas (Pamela Dorman Books, $26.00), one woman has many options in her life, each one ending in a way she never thought possible. It’s like “Groundhog Day” with a twist that’ll roll around in your mind for days... NON-FICTION For every kid who grew up with a pile of comic books next to the bed, in a drawer, or in the closet, “American Comics: A History” by Jeremy Dauber (W.W. Norton, $35) is a must-have. Here, Dauber follows comics from their political roots to today’s activist cartoons, and how we went from Katzenjammer Kids to MAD Magazine to comix as we know them. The bonus is that Dauber puts comics into fascinating historical perspective. Did you buy your lottery ticket this week? If you did, it’ll make a fine bookmark for “Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live – and How Their Wealth Harms Us All” by Michael Mechanic (Simon & Schuster, $28.00). You might think twice about the bur-

dens of wealth after reading this book – and you might re-examine your thoughts on what one person’s wealth does to everyone else. Readers who love memoirs will enjoy “Punch Me Up to the Gods” by Brian Broome (HMH, $26), who writes about growing up, being in love with the boy who abused him, and the father who did, too. It’s a coming-out tale that’s sometimes funny and always graceful, one that will sometimes make you gasp, and that you’ll be glad you read. You know that feeling you get when you come across a stack of old magazines in the attic? That gentle, hometown, old-time feeling is extra-rich inside “The Ride of Her Life” by Elizabeth Letts (Ballantine, $28). This is the story of Annie Wilkins, aging, ailing, and alone, and the audacious cross-country ride she decides to take on a horse she’d just purchased. This feel-good story is set in the 1950s, and its neighborliness might make it be the perfect antidote for today’s world. Lastly, “The Redemption of Bobby Love” by Bobby and Cheryl Love with Lori L. Tharps (Mariner Books / HMH Books, $28) might be the most unusual memoir you read this winter. As a young man, Walter Miller ran away from a prison bus and to New York, where he renamed himself Bobby Love and went into hiding in plain sight. Love kept to the straight-and-narrow, fell in love, got married, and raised a family but 40-some years later, the law caught up with him. This astounding, impossible story, told alternately between both Loves, is one you’ll, um, love. CHILDREN’S BOOKS Based on a real event (the Mexican Revolution), “The Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna” by Alda P. Dobbs (Sourcebooks, $17.99) is the story of a young girl who becomes responsible for her Abuelita and her little sister when the Federales destroy their village and their home. This causes the trio to run north, one step ahead of those who wish to kill them, on a race to reach the border and make it to America. It’s an exciting read for 8-to-14-yearolds. Kids who love silly stories will enjoy “Egg Marks the Spot: A Skunk and Badger Story” by Amy Timberlake, the second in what appears to be a series. A whirlwind named Skunk and his very staid, very reticent friend, Badger are at odds again – this time, over a missing rock from Badger’s collection. There are chickens involved, a bit of a mystery, dinosaurs, and a lot of fun for your 7-to-10-year-old. Hint: find the first Skunk and Badger book; your child will want that one, too. For teens who enjoy unique memoirs, “Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville’s Famous Conjoined Twins” by Sarah Miller (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99) is the story of the Hilton sisters and their careers and lives. Born conjoined at the bottom of the spine, Violet & Daisy were “adopted” by a woman who ruled their lives. When she died, the girls were passed on to that woman’s heirs, who mishandled their careers and left them nearly penniless. This is a thrilling tale of legalities, Vaudeville, and two women determined to make their own ways, despite that they were conjoined forever. It’s the perfect read for any 14-and-older reader, including adults who love memoirs. So now, get to the bookstore. Hunt at the library. Don’t miss these excellent books for adults and kids – and Season’s Readings!