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Gina Quattrochi Dies at 63 02 Tumult in North Carolina 05 David France On Surviving a Plague 14

Even 2016 Had Its Highlights

© GAY CITY NEWS 2016 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

FREE | VOLUME FIFTEEN, ISSUE TWENTY SIX | DECEMBER 22, 2016 - JANUARY 04, 2017


COMMEMORATION

Gina Quattrochi, Indefatigable Fighter for HIV Housing, Dies Activist willing to break free from prevailing spin led Bailey House for quarter-century-plus BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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fter fighting a two-year b at t le w it h c a nc e r, longtime AIDS housing activist Gina Quattrochi succumbed to the disease on December 13. “Gina’s commitment and dedication to her work and her tireless advocacy leave an indelible and permanent legacy,” the board of directors at Bailey House said in a statement. “Her life touched countless people, and her vision and passion left a deep impact on those who knew her.” Quattrochi was the chief executive at the agency starting in 1991. At that time, Bailey House was already operating Bailey House, later named Bailey-Holt House, at the west end of Christopher Street as a congregate residence for people with AIDS. During her tenure, Bailey House opened a service center in East Harlem and a second housing residence in East Harlem. Currently, Bailey House offers a range of services to some 1,800 clients with AIDS and other illnesses throughout the city. “Gina’s prior work was as an employee-side labor lawyer,” Charles King, the chief executive at Housing Works, wrote in a remembrance of Quattrochi on the Housing Works website. “Fighting for the underdog was in her genes. She was most passionate about advocacy with and for homeless people living with HIV and AIDS — especially young people. Like those of us who started Housing Works, she was totally committed to proving that housing is an essential HIV intervention that ranks at least as highly as medical care, if not higher.” While Quattrochi frequently worked closely with other activists and agencies, she was not above occasionally breaking ranks and offering a perspective that was rare and refreshing and that departed from the prevailing spin being deployed by her peers. Quattrochi was among the activists appointed by Governor Andrew

Gina Quattrochi and City Council Health Committee chair Corey Johnson at a 2015 press conference.

Cuomo to the task force that drafted the Plan to End AIDS, an ambitious undertaking that aims to reduce new HIV infections statewide from the estimated 2,500 in 2014 to 750 a year by 2020. While the plan is supported by solid science, it has not been supported financially by the Cuomo administration. At an August 2015 meeting that was little more than a pep rally for the plan, Quattrochi was the sole advocate to ask about funding and she estimated that it would cost $500 million to implement. Other comments at the meeting tended to blunt the sharp challenge she was posing to Cuomo’s leadership. Later at the gathering, Tracie M. Gardner, an assistant secretary in the state health department who oversees mental health programs, blamed the State Legislature for the paltry state dollars for the plan. “Ideally, the Legislature would have come up with its share,” she said. “That is not what happened… There has to be buy-in by the Legislature.” Longtime AIDS activist Peter Staley complained that the plan was being judged by the amount of money being allocated for its implementation. Dan O’Connell, then the head of the state’s AIDS Institute,

said, “I think we have everything we need in our hands today to get this done…I don’t want us to disable our activism by saying, ‘If we don’t have $500 million, we can’t do this.’” Quattrochi lived long enough to see a longtime goal fulfilled –– extending services at the city’s HIV/ AIDS Services Administration (HASA) to financially-qualified people with HIV. Prior to the implementation of HASA for All, the unit only helped house, insure, and feed people who had an AIDS diagnosis. At a 2015 press conference on the steps of City Hall with City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who represents Chelsea, Quattrochi described a conversation with a friend whose son was recently diagnosed as HIV-positive. He was struggling to find housing and the mother asked for advice. “I had to ask that stupid question that we have to ask every time: ‘Does he have AIDS?’” Quattrochi said. “If we are serious about ending this epidemic…we have to provide housing.” The Plan to End AIDS relies on giving anti-HIV drugs to HIV-negative people to keep them uninfected and treats HIV-positive people with those drugs so they are no longer infectious. Housing, nutrition, and

other services help people adhere to their anti-HIV drug regimens so they can remain non-infectious. Quattrochi served on multiple boards and was the recipient of numerous awards that recognized her contributions to AIDS causes and to health matters generally. At the dedication of the NYC AIDS Memorial on December 1 in the West Village, she received an honor from the city health department. “Gina was full of life, full of passion, and she loved her children and so many other people in her life so fully that we are left with an incredible void,” King wrote. “I will deeply miss her.” In a statement, Gay Men’s Health Crisis praised Quattrochi. “We mourn the loss of Gina Quattrochi, who was a force of nature in the fight against the epidemic, transforming the conversation about HIV/ AIDS and homelessness,” the statement read. “Her perseverance and innovation as the CEO of Bailey House has been critical in delivering housing programs and services to those living with HIV/ AIDS in New York City and beyond.” Regina Quattrochi, who was 63 and lived in Harlem, is survived by her two adult children, Giovanni Quattrochi and Anna Lenes.

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


COVER STORY

St. Clement’s Episcopal Church

Even 2016 had its highlights

A Free Christmas Concert December 24th at 8pm at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church - “The Theater Church” at 423 West 46th Street, New York, NY will be offered to New York City. The choir comprised of Broadway notables, Julliard and Manhattan School of Music Students, some of the well-known singers of cabaret and instrumentalists join under the baton of Mr. Mark Janas of Manhattan School and leadership of Mr. Darryl Curry, Minister of Music, to perform traditional and newly written music of the season.

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All Are Welcome POLITICS

CRIME

Sidewalk Caroling out-side of the church at 7:30pm till 8pm 12/24/2016 Candle Lite Christmas Eve Choral Communion with Strings and Brass 9:30pm Christmas Day Communion 11am

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An elector from the losing team

San Antonio 4 declared innocent

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Matt McMorrow joins de Blasio administration

All on board for a cappella

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PERSPECTIVE

OPERA

Bring Who You Are. The filing period to take the next Police Officer Exam begins on December 27, 2016. Visit our website for further details.

When facts don’t matter

The Met takes on the Middle East

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GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

NYPDRECRUIT.COM 212-RECRUIT An Equal Opportunity Employer

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POLITICS

An Elector Showing Up for the Losing Team Amidst a bittersweet moment wrapping Campaign 2016, a bright flash of trans visibility BY MELISSA SKLARZ

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BIll Clinton, an elector from Westchester County, with Melissa Skarz, from Queens County, right behind him.

COURTESY: MELISSA SKLARZ

ecember 19 was t he day the Electoral College voted for the next president of the United States. Chosen as an elector in New York State, I spent the day in Albany as part of the Hillary Clinton team. It was in October when I was having dinner with a friend in the East Village that my phone rang with a call from the leader of Hillary for America New York. “We are building a slate of electors for the Electoral College and want to know if you would like to be an elector,” was the pleasantly surprising news. We shared a giggle over the scale of her ask, and I told her I would be honored and privileged. When she swore me to secrecy, I rolled my eyes. “Of course,” I replied; I had just been asked to be one of 538 people in America to select Hillary as our next president. With two US senators and 27 House members, New York gets 29 electors, and I would be one of them. Once Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy in early 2015, I committed to spending as much time and money as possible to insure she was elected. The campaign started asking me to take on simple things, which I did with glee, and then asked me to represent it as a surrogate. After getting good reports about me, they asked me to do more. In time, they liked me, then loved me, and then made me part of the campaign family. I protested that they were overreacting, and they loved my “humility.” I was invited to events. I went to the Brooklyn CNN debate between Hillary and Senator Bernie Sanders. I went to small gatherings. And then, I was selected as a New York delegate for Hillary at the July Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. As a trans New Yorker and Democrat, I have been involved in politics and advocacy for almost 20 years. I started being mentored by Tom Duane, Kevin Finnegan, Maura Keaney, Chris Quinn, and

An elector's name plate in the New York State Senate chambers on December 19.

Dr. Barbara Warren. I have been involved in many groups –– from the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats to the Stonewall Democrats to the Pride Agenda, as well as community-based non-profits. And now this. I was going to pick a president.

But then the unexpected happened. Hillary Clinton did not win. She was not going to be president. That still-shocking and disappointing conclusion settles over my life like unpleasant morning dew, everyday. Whenever I hope it is just a bad dream, another crazy tweet

rolls out or a new unqualified Cabinet pick is named. But I have been taught that half of life is just showing up. And I promised the team, the campaign, and the Democratic Party I would do my job, in spite of great sadness and intense disappointment. And so, I would not be picking a president, but I would be showing up to support my candidate. Our New York elector slate was an esteemed group, led by former President Bill Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo and including the mayors of New York, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, as well as the state comptroller and attorney general and Democratic leaders in the State Senate and Assembly. Our delegation also included labor leaders, immigration advocates, gay and lesbian people, Anastasia Somoza, the disability rights leader and friend of Hillary’s, and a smattering of other advocates, myself included. The convening of the electors is completely choreographed, with nothing left to chance. We were

LOSING TEAM, continued on p.12

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

North Carolina HB2 Repeal Fails GOP legislators renege even after Charlotte rolls back its rights law BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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midst an overheated w a r b et we en Nor t h Carolina’s Republican Legislature and its new Democratic governor-elect, the Legislature has cratered a deal to which it had agreed under which it would repeal its notorious HB 2 –– known nationally (and mockingly) as the “bathroom bill” –– in return for the Charlotte City Council repealing the human rights ordinance that the GOP had used to justify its draconian assault on the privacy rights of transgender people. The inaction by the Legislature on December 21 sparked immediate outrage among LGBTQ advocates. Even with the prospect the offensive measure might be struck, many of them had voiced varying levels of unhappiness with the loss of local rights protections being the price of achieving that. The controversy began this past spring after Charlotte amended its municipal human rights ordinance, adding sexual orientation and gender identity to other existing prohibited grounds for discrimination and guaranteeing that transgender people using public restroom facilities would be able to access those consistent with their gender identity. As the measure was due to take effect, the Republicanled Legislature, in emergency session, rushed through a measure barring municipalities from enacting a variety of local measures, including civil rights protections that went beyond those guaranteed in state law. The law, HB2, not only prevented local LGBT nondiscrimination progress while the prospects for statewide protections remain dim, but it also explicitly barred people from using a public restroom facility inconsistent with the gender marker on their birth certificate. Without undergoing gender reassignment surgery, a transgender person cannot alter their birth certificate, so the measure effectively outlawed many trans North Carolinians from access to appropriate bathroom facilities. The storm that erupted over the

regressive measure quickly hurt North Carolina, which lost an estimated $600 million dollars in business, including the cancellation of future NBA and NCAA championship games. Polls by the Human Rights Campaign and Equality North Carolina indicate that the controversy contributed to Republican Governor Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor who eagerly signed the measure, losing in a close reelection battle against Democrat Roy Cooper, the attorney general who declined to defend HB2 in court. McCrory refused to concede defeat for almost a month, and after he did so, the Republican Legislature rushed through a series of curbs on the future governor’s powers, which McCrory signed last week. Despite that bad blood, Cooper was willing to work with GOP legislative leaders in the hopes of achieving a deal to get rid of HB2. On December 19, the Charlotte City Council overturned the explicit protections for transgender people accessing public bathrooms and two days later repealed all of the LGBT rights amendments adopted this past spring. On several occasions prior to McCrory’s loss in November, Republicans had proposed much the same deal to Charlotte to no avail. LGBTQ advocates had said civil rights protections in Charlotte should not be traded for the lifting of onerous prohibitions statewide. This week, however, advocates seemed to recognize they would have to accept what HRC described as “a deal [Cooper] brokered with state lawmakers” –– unhappy as they were with the compromise. HRC’s statement was cautious, focused largely on the need “to chart a new course guided by the state's values of dignity and respect, not discrimination and hate –– and to ensure non-discrimination protections exist in cities, towns, and across the state of North Carolina.” In the same release, Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, was more direct, saying, “The problem has never been Char-

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

HB2 STAYS, continued on p.35

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CRIME

San Antonio 4 Win Declaration of Innocence Court demolishes child sex abuse charges that kept four lesbians in jail for years BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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ometimes justice is severely delayed, but finally arrives. On November 23, seven of the nine judges of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal bench, announced agreement that the felony child abuse and indecency convictions of four lesbians arising out of alleged incidents in the summer of 1994 must be set aside. A majority of the panel concluded the women had succeeded in proving their innocence, while two members of the court concurred to the extent of finding that the women would not have been convicted if newly available scientific evidence had been presented to the jury. Kristie Mayhugh, Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, and Anna Vasquez, who came to be known as “The San Antonio 4,” fought for more than two decades to vindicate their innocence, being championed by investigative journalists and a documentary filmmaker. As revealed in the court’s opinion, they were framed by a vengeful brother-in-law seeking to use spurious child abuse charges as evidence in a hotly contested child custody dispute. Judge David Newell wrote the opinion for the court, joined in full by Judges Cheryl Johnson and Bert Richardson, and in part by Judges Sharon Keller and Michael Keasler to the extent of the finding that the new evidence would have led to acquittal. The concurring opinion was by Judge Elsa Alcala, who was joined by Judge Lawrence Meyers. Together, Newell, Johnson, Richardson, Alcala, and Meyers went beyond finding that the new evidence would have resulted in an acquittal and concluded that, in fact, the four women had proved their innocence. “We are asked to decide whether the newly available evidence of innocence undermines the legally sufficient, but hard-to-believe version of events that led to the convictions of these four women,” Newell wrote in his opinion. “We hold that it does and that these four women have unquestionably established that

Mug shots of the four women wrongly convicted in a 1990s San Antonio child sex abuse case, in which they spent nearly two decades in prison.

they are innocent of these charges.” The two opinions from the court rehash the allegations, testimony, and factual findings at great length. What the case boils down to is that an ex-husband seeking to win a custody dispute intimidated his two young daughters, aged seven and nine, into inventing a fantastical story of sexual assault at the hands of their mother’s lesbian sister, the sister’s partner, and two other women (partners) who were their friends. The girls had been left with their aunt for a week, and the father evidently hoped to use the concocted stories as evidence against their mother’s fitness in the custody dispute. It later came out that the father had brought similarly bogus charges of sexual assault against other individuals and that his mother, the children’s grandmother, may also be implicated in how the false allegations were hatched. The case against the four lesbians occurred against a backdrop of national hysteria in the 1980s and ‘90s about child abuse, with some prosecutions embracing weird notions of satanic cults and lurid rituals ensnaring many innocent adults, particularly operators of child-care centers. “Expert witnesses” were sometimes presented, purporting to be able to determine whether children were recounting these stories accurately. The most egregious cases did not involve eyewitness testimony by adults of actual sexual assaults, and many of the “experts” who testified were later exposed as having relied on faulty science or engaged in suggestive interviewing techniques that telegraphed to impressionable youngsters what the questioners wanted to hear.

In cases like this one, children who later sought to recant their testimony were threatened with retribution by adults. One of the two girls in the San Antonio prosecution later recanted as an adult despite her father’s threats, and he retaliated by initiating proceedings threatening her custody of her own children. A key piece of “scientific” evidence in this case was testimony by a doctor that a scar on one of the girls was evidence that she had been sexually abused. The court found that this could have prejudiced the outcome, since the conflicting stories told by the two girls under questioning and at trial provided weak direct evidence in support of the charges. The doctor has recanted her earlier testimony, pointing to more recent scientific evidence showing that the scarring in question was not evidence of sexual abuse. At the original trials, the children’s aunt, Elizabeth Ramirez, was tried individually for sexually assaulting one of the girls, and totally refuted all the charges against her, but was convicted and sentenced to 37 years for aggravated sexual assault of a child and 15 years for indecency with a child. The other three women, tried together for assaulting both of the girls, also denied any inappropriate conduct, but were each convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency with a child. They were each sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for the first count and 10 years imprisonment for the second. The court of appeals, in “nearly identical opinions,” upheld all these verdicts, and the women each remained in jail until 2012 or

2013. After the case was taken up by investigative reporters and then documentarian Deborah Esquenazi in her film, “Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four,” new evidence was developed and habeas corpus proceedings were initiated, questioning the validity of the original convictions and seeking declarations of innocence. First, the women presented the claim that new science made the medical testimony in their cases faulty, which led to a 2013 ruling by Judge Mary Roman that the verdicts should be set aside, since it was more likely than not that the women would not have been convicted without valid scientific corroboration that sexual assaults had actually taken place. Roman’s ruling led to the release –– subject to the possibility of a new trial –– of Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, and Cassandra Rivera a year after Anna Vasquez was let out of jail on parole. Roman’s conclusion was as far as two of the judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals were willing to go. But the habeas corpus hearing on a claim that the women were actually innocent brought out substantial evidence explaining how these allegations had been made up as part of the custody battle, together with testimony from a forensic psychologist, Dr. Alexandria Doyle, who examined three of the women and subjected them to a variety of psychological tests, leading to her compelling testimony that “the original claims were fantastic –– nothing similar to what is typically seen in true child sex abuse cases ––but that the recantation [by one of the girls as an adult]

ABUSE CHARGES, continued on p.35

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


CIVIL LIBERTIES

College Wrestler’s HIV Conviction Thrown Out Missouri appeals court finds Michael Johnson was ambushed by evidence state withheld BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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he M issou r i Easter n District Court of Appeals has reversed the jur y conviction of Michael L. Johnson, an HIV-positive AfricanAmerican man, on felony charges of recklessly infecting another man with HIV and exposing others to HIV, for which he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The appeals court found in a December 20 ruling that the prosecution violated court discovery rules by ambushing Johnson at trial with selective excerpts from recordings of telephone conversations he had in jail, thus depriving him of a fair trial. The St. Charles County prosecutor now has to decide whether to retry Williams, who was convicted in May 2015 for events that occurred in 2013. Johnson, a championship high school wrestler from Indianapolis, moved to St. Charles, Missouri, in 2012 to attend Lindenwood University, where he had had been recruited for the wrestling team. On January 7, 2013, he went to the student clinic complaining of perianal warts and seeking STD testing. He tested positive for gonorrhea and HIV. A few weeks later, Johnson had unprotected oral and anal sex with another Lindenwood student whom he had met on social media. That student, who testified at the trial that Johnson had not disclosed he was HIV-positive, experienced symptoms a few weeks later, went to a hospital emergency room, and was diagnosed with gonorrhea and HIV. After a follow-up HIV test, doctors informed the student that his HIV infection was recent. The student testified he had been abstinent for a year before having sex with Johnson, so Johnson was the only person who could have infected him. The student contacted Johnson and they met in Johnson’s dorm room, where the student told Johnson he was HIV-positive and they had sex again. The student maintains that Johnson still did not disclose he was HIV-positive. When the student noticed that Johnson’s social networking profiles con-

Michael L. Johnson's conviction was thrown out based on the finding he did not get a fair trial.

tinued to not disclose that he was HIV-positive, he contacted the St. Charles Police Department, whose investigation turned up five other people who had sex with Johnson, all of whom claimed Johnson had not disclosed his status. In his jury trial, Johnson admitted when he learned of his HIV diagnosis, so the critical issue was whether he had disclosed to his sexual partners. Johnson testified he had informed each of them before engaging in sex, except for one man he had sex with before learning of his infection. Prosecutors impeached Johnson’s testimony by playing excerpts from the jail telephone recordings, in which Johnson stated that he was worried that people would not want to be his friend if they learned about his HIV status, that he was “pretty sure” he had disclosed his HIV status to his sexual partners, and that he was “unsure” about how to tell people about his status. This summary in the court’s opinion of the prejudicial statements extracted from more than 24 hours of telephone calls does not indicate who the other parties were on the calls and whether all three statements came from the same call. Johnson’s trial lawyer had objected to the introduction of these edited recordings, which were only revealed to her the morning the trial opened, May 11, 2015. The prosecutor claimed that the informa-

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

tion had been sent to the defense lawyer’s office the previous Friday, a state holiday when her office was closed. Eighteen months before, the defense, following court rules, had requested discovery of “any written or recorded statements and the substance of any oral statements made by the defendant” relevant to the charges against him. The prosecutor is obligated to respond within 10 days and supplement its response with any new relevant information it acquires. That duty extends to include any information that might be obtained through reasonable inquiry. The 24 hours of recordings of Johnson’s phone calls included two calls from as far back as October 2013, just weeks before the defense filed its discovery request, and one call from just a few days before the request. Yet the state waited a year and a half to turn this information over, and even then played games to avoid defense counsel learning of them until the morning the trial started by sending them over on a Friday holiday before a weekend. Defense counsel objected, but the trial judge overruled, stating the defense had a few days in possession of the recordings before they were offered in evidence and so was not prejudiced. The jury convicted Johnson on every count except the charge involving the man he had sex with prior to learning he was positive. In addition to the 30-year sentence for infecting one other student, he received 14 years for recklessly exposing another person, and five and a half years on each of three charges of “attempting” to expose other people, with the sentences to run concurrently. Johnson raised two issues on appeal. First, he challenged the fairness of his trial because of the state’s “ambush” tactics with the recording. Second, he claimed that the prison sentence was “grossly disproportionate” to the offenses, in violation of the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Because the appeals court agreed with his first issue, it did not rule on

the Eighth Amendment claim –– the one of greater substantive concern regarding cases of this type. The state candidly admitted before the appeals court that it “intentionally withheld the recordings from the defense to gain a strategic advance,” wrote Presiding Judge James M. Dowd for the appellate panel. “If we disclose to the defense they’ll tell their client,” the state explained. “And I’m not impugning anyone’s integrity, I’d do the same thing: Hey, they’re listening to your conversations, shut up. So we don’t disclose them until towards the end.” Dowd pointed out that the state’s strategy was exactly what the discovery rule was intended to avoid. “We find that this discovery violation likely resulted in Johnson’s genuine surprise at learning on the first day of trial that the State had prepared to use the untimely-disclosed recordings against him, since at no earlier point had Johnson learned that the State –– and not just the county jail –– had the recordings in its possession, nor had he learned that the State planned to use them at trial.” The court rejected the state’s argument that because everybody knows that their prison phone calls are being recorded, there is no fundamental unfairness in failing to disclose them before trial, Dowd pointing to prior Missouri court rulings directly addressing that point. The relevant knowledge, the appeals court held, would be that the prosecution has the recordings and plans to use them at trial. “Johnson was forced to make critical strategic decisions –– such as whether to seek to avoid trial by pursuing a plea bargain, whether to waive his right to silence and testify, and what particular defense to raise –– without being timely furnished highly prejudicial, properly-requested discovery,” Dowd wrote. “The State had more than a year and half to prepare its case with the benefit of its chosen excerpts of Johnson’s jail phone recordings… Even as an inadvertent mistake, such untimely

HIV CONVICTION, continued on p.35

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POLITICS

Matt McMorrow Joins de Blasio Community Affairs Shop Former Pride Agenda government affairs director to lead LGBTQ outreach on eve of election year BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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atthew McMorrow, a Park Slope gay activi st who s er ve d a s director of government affairs at the Empire State Pride Agenda during the final several years of that group’s existence, has been named a senior advisor in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Community Affairs Unit. In a written statement released on December 16, de Blasio said, “The Community Affairs Unit connects my administration and New Yorkers, establishing deep partnerships across our city of neighborhoods. Matthew brings with him years of advocacy experience to his new role as Senior Advisor and is a strong addition to this team. The LGBT community, and the city as a whole, will benefit greatly from Matthew’s service.” At the Pride Agenda, McMorrow worked on initiatives the group pursued in the years after marriage equality was enacted, though progress on those issues –– including a transgender civil rights law, a ban on so-called “conversion therapy” for minors, and the Child-Parent Security Act, which would strengthen the legal relationship between children and their non-biological parents and end the state’s ban on gestational surrogacy contracts –– was stymied by the intransigence of the State Senate’s Republican leadership. ESPA wound down its operations without enactment of the long-stalled Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, but advocacy by the group and McMorrow led to regulatory action by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration late last year to extend state human rights law sex discrimination and disability discrimination protections to transgender New Yorkers. In advocacy work with New York City, McMorrow contributed to the decision by the health department to ease what previously had been cumbersome restrictions on transgender people changing the gender marker on their birth certificates.

Matt McMorrow, speaking at a November meeting of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City called to discuss the LGBTQ community's response to Donald Trump's election.

Since the Pride Agenda left the scene early in 2016, McMorrow spearheaded an effort to build an LGBTQ-focused political action committee to press the community’s agenda in Albany and across the state. The group, Equality New York, played a modest role in the 2016 state legislative races, though its slate of endorsed candidates –– all of them Democrats –– failed in the primary goal of improving the party’s standing in the Senate, where the defection of six of its members have in recent years denied it the control its numbers would otherwise warrant. With Democrats once again holding 32 of the 63 seats next year, it’s uncertain –– perhaps unlikely –– that the party can unite to assume leadership, and then let pro-LGBTQ measures get floor consideration. In an interview last week, McMorrow said that his work with the group, for which he takes no compensation, would continue. Prior to joining the Pride Agenda, McMorrow served for three years as president of the Lambda Independent Democrats, a Brooklyn LGBTQ political club. In his new post with the city, McMorrow replaces Elvin Garcia, who divided his time between directing the Community Affairs

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

Unit’s Bronx efforts and working with the LGBTQ community. Garcia recently left city government to pursue a 2017 bid for the City Council from the South Bronx. Making the LGBT portfolio only a portion of somebody’s job is now seen as “unwieldy” in the administration’s view, according to McMorrow, a perspective likely enhanced, he said, by the “doom and gloom” over what the LGBTQ community can expect from Donald Trump’s upset victory on November 8. Even more than most public sector jobs, politics inevitably play a role in community affairs work, even if not explicitly, and McMorrow acknowledged that his job will be to represent the mayor, his agenda, and the agencies he oversees. That he will be doing so as de Blasio gears up for reelection next November can only add to the political atmosphere in which he carries out his day-to-day activities. De Blasio has a strong base among LGBTQ voters, having bested his out lesbian primary competitor in the 2013 Democratic primary, then-City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, within the community. The mayor’s only prominent primary opponent to date, Queens State Senator Tony Avella, also has a strong record with the commu-

nity, but comes into the race carrying the baggage of having been one of the rump Senate Democrats who helped Republicans stay in control. In looking forward to his new work, which he began last week by familiarizing himself with a broad range of LGBTQ initiatives across city agencies, McMorrow noted that de Blasio “has a very strong record on LGBT issues and a willingness to do more.” Working with LGBTQ groups and leaders, he said, he would “be able to bring suggestions from the community to the mayor’s attention that would be welcome.” At the same time, he noted that while alerting the community to “possibilities” for progress on issues of concern, he would also play a role in “managing expectations.” “In advocacy, working with partners to realize change is a necessity,” McMorrow said in the mayor’s written release. “I bring that same spirit to this new role, ensuring the city remains an ally and a partner of the LGBT community for equality and justice.” McMorrow told Gay City News that his portfolio would likely include, among other areas, work on transgender issues, including school safety and economic empowerment, and HIV prevention and treatment.

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ADVOCACY

Using Tax-Exempt Financing, SAGE to Own Its Home Partnership with city’s Economic Development Corporation allows senior advocacy group to secure its future BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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LOSING TEAM, from p.4

treated like VIPs in the State Senate, a place that knows how to treat VIPs. Each of us was allowed to bring along a guest, and I chose Dan Tietz, the chief special services officer at the city’s Human Resources Administration, who is a dear friend and know politics and politicians. Over breakfast in the Senate War Room, everyone was looking around to see who was there and who was not, sharing small talk, snapping selfies and real photos –– all the basics of any gathering. In time, President Clinton and Governor Cuomo arrived and the room gravitated to hover within their orbits. Watching Bill Clinton work the room was something; charismatic, he knew the key players by name. To those of us he didn’t know, he was polite and friendly. After another hour, as we got down to the real business of the day, I received a piece of paper telling me that beyond casting my vote, I’d have another part –– of one line –– in the ceremony. At its con-

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GAY CITY NEWS

emonstrating the extent to which the community has broadly integrated itself into the civic life of New York City, the leading organization serving LGBTQ seniors in New York City will purchase its Manhattan headquarters using financing made possible by the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC). “Were it not for the bond financing, we probably would not have been able to do this,” said Michael Adams, the chief executive at Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). The $8.2 million in bonds are issued by BuildNYC, a corporation that is administered by the EDC, and that has issued roughly $3 billion in bonds since 2011. The bonds will be purchased by JPMorgan Chase and will pay 3.24 percent in interest, a rate about 20 percent below what SAGE would pay if it used a commercial loan from a bank, according to Johan Salen, the executive director of BuildNYC. By using bond financing, as opposed to a loan, SAGE avoids the requirement of having to raise a down payment, which would be prohibitively expensive. And its debt service will be less than what it currently pays in rent so the agency will realize sub-

SAGE executive director Michael Adams in the group's Seventh Avenue offices in Chelsea.

stantial savings of about $3 million over time. “That’s why using bond financing is such a great option,” Adams said. SAGE will now own two floors in the Seventh Avenue building it calls home in Chelsea. The bonds will finance the purchase of its offices on the fifth floor. In 2011, SAGE spent $2.7 million in city capital dollars to buy the 15th floor where it houses its major services, such as its

clusion, after Chris Quinn motioning to adjourn, I was to second the motion. Starting with prayers, songs, and pledges, we moved on to the rules, then the nominations, and then the voting, all elaborately charted, with each of us knowing full well that Hillary and her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, would get all 29 votes. I, meanwhile, decided to improvise with my last word. I like to think I’m reasonably canny and have a sense of the moment. If Hillary were to be president, the moment would be hers. But this wasn’t happening. In an assemblage of political people, it was a bittersweet moment for the losing team. The moment was ours. And so I decided to amend my one line from, “Thank you, Mr. President [Governor Cuomo, elected to lead the convening]. I second the motion that the 2016 Electoral College of the Great State of New York be adjourned” to “Thank you, Mr. President. On behalf of all transgender New Yorkers, I second the motion...” What’s the worst that could happen? They couldn’t fire me.

meal program. The higher price for the fifth floor reflects the hot real estate market in the city. “That’s the nature of Manhattan real estate, which is why it’s so hard for non-profits to own,” Adams said. Had SAGE relied on city capital dollars this time, it may have had to pay a higher interest rate

And so, at the end of the formal proceedings that lasted a mere 25 minutes, Chris made her motion and I seconded it in my chosen style. There was murmuring and some heads turned. Somehow people got that I went off script. With a sheepish grin, I looked around –– to smiles, heads nodding, thumbs up, and even a little grin and nod from the governor. What is the point of representing a tiny minority if you don’t give your community a shoutout from your seat at the table? Afterward, I was the belle of the ball, or at least I was in my head. Many of my fellow electors came over to offer their praise. Trans people –– 75,000 of us in New York –– have struggled to gain visibility and be taken seriously by the rest of the state. I was thrilled to win for all of us this significant moment of public recognition. Surely, my fellow electors couldn’t have been all that surprised. President Barack Obama’s last day in the White House is January 20. I don’t know what happens after that. I was an expert up until November 8. Now I am not. I still

TAX-EXEMPT, continued on p.20

have my interests and my concerns and my career, and remain focused on the drive for visibility that my seconding motion signified. But what will America look like and what will I do? I believe in the progressive roadmap Hillary Clinton laid out for America, and for many of the American majority who agreed with me and her, the next four years will be difficult. I expect that my trans community will suffer under the new president, so lacking in any basic human empathy. But I know I did my best. I gave until I could not give more. But I will get up and give more tomorrow and expect to be at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21. I hope and expect to see all of you there with us. Our lives and values need to be seen and heard, and again I will do my part. Melissa Sklarz is a longtime political activist and currently the director of development for Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF).

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Louisiana Governor’s LGBT Anti-Bias Order Nixed State judge rules Democrat John Bel Edwards exceeded his constitutional powers BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

A

MARIE CONSTANTIN/ OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

trial judge in Louisiana ruled on December 14 that an Executive Order by Governor John Bel Edwards forbidding antiLGBT discrimination in the executive branch of the state government and by state contractors violates the Louisiana Constitution and its laws. Judge Todd W. Hernandez, of the 19th Judicial District in East Baton Rouge, said that Edwards' order violates the separation of powers established by the Louisiana Constitution and is outside the governor’s authority to “faithfully execute the laws.” Edwards, a Democrat, promptly announced that he would appeal this ruling. Hernandez’s decision came in a lawsuit filed by the Louisiana Department of Justice and Attorney General Jeff Landry, a self-de-

Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards.

scribed Tea Party Republican, who challenged the governor’s authority to extend anti-discrimination

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

rules to categories not already covered by state law. In an indication that Edwards and Landry are

engaged in a political turf battle, likely related to their differing political philosophies, Hernandez also ruled on a countersuit filed by the governor, in which Edwards challenged Landry’s refusal to approve attorneys who were being retained by executive branch agencies to represent them in litigation. Landry argued that Edwards’ order, issued shortly after he took office early this year, inappropriately establishes “a newly created protected class of persons not recognized by current law.” Landry also contended that the restrictions placed on state contractors violated the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution and “certain First Amendment rights and privacy interest rights established by the Louisiana and United States Constitutions,” according to Hernandez’s opinion.

ANTI-BIAS ORDER, continued on p.17

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BOOKS

When Activists Made a Difference David France chronicles how the grassroots response to AIDS changed the face of patient advocacy BY NATHAN RILEY avid France’s masterly new history of the battle against AIDS does double duty: chronicling the exciting but desperate mobilization against the fatal epidemic while also offering inspiration to activists –– many from that earlier fight, but many more who are younger –– who must today confront the reality of Donald Trump as president. AIDS came at a time when the gay rights exuberance unleashed by Stonewall was already under sharp attack. In 1977, Anita Bryant successfully waged a “Save Our Children” repeal fight against a gay rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida, spawning fundamentalist copycats in other cities. By 1981, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and in New York Mayor Ed Koch –– who while in the US House of Representatives had earlier co-sponsored the first federal gay rights bill with Bella Abzug –– would backpedal big time before a lesbian and gay business group. “I respect people who are against gays for religious reasons,’ he said to a silent room,” France writes. “‘Prejudice is a matter of conscience.’” Just weeks after Koch made those remarks, the New York Times would report, for the first time in the mainstream press, on clusters of gay patients who had fallen ill with mysterious ailments that seemed to have shut down their immune systems. These overlapping stories are expertly sketched by France in a history that often reads like a thriller. Comprehensive in scope and depth, “How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS” expands on a narrower slice of the story that he told in his 2012 documentary film, which was titled simply “How to Survive a Plague.” The probability that AIDS resulted from sexual transmission was recognized almost immediately –– and rejected just as quickly by the community, much of which angrily rejected the idea that their fun had fatal consequences. Fearful that their civil liberties were under attack, gay men held tight to their new-found freedom. “Sexual abandon,” France writes, in his pithy style that enables him to convey significant and persuasive generalizations, “was a means not only of release, but also of liberation, a utopian ideal, and a necessary antidote to years of repression.” Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, one of the book’s many heroes –– and complicated personalities –– speculated that too much semen overloaded the immune system, shutting it down. “Though soft-spoken Sonnabend was quick to disappointments and muffled rages,” France

D

writes. “He held people to towering, often impossible standards, and he was prone to interior furies against those who disappointed him or systems that failed his moral test.” Neatly drawn characters like Sonnabend course through France’s book for the simple reason that he lived it. When Reagan went to Washington, France moved to New York; his reporting reflects his front-row seat during the worst of the plague years. Somewhere along the way in all his observations and reporting, he learned a fundamental lesson of history: nobody knows what they are doing and over time events show that we have all made mistakes. Frustrating missteps cost lives, but fortunately medicine ultimately triumphed.

HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS By David France Alfred A. Knopf $30; 640 pages

Joining Sonnabend in his push against AIDS were two of his patients, Michael Callen and Richard Berkowitz. The intimate friendship between these two men –– which enabled them to share the down and dirty of their sexual adventuring –– led them in time to the discovery of safe sex. Berkowitz, who had once worked in a deli, learned he could make a better living as a dom for hire. But when AIDS struck, he and the

RANDOM HOUSE

KEN SCHLES/ COURTESY: RANDOM HOUSE

14

Author David France.

David France's new book on the plague years documents the hardwon victory of citizen advocacy.

freewheeling Callen swore off sex to avoid infecting their partners. Their article in the New York Native, the leading gay newspaper of the day, warning in dire terms against promiscuity, won them no friends. It was greeted with fury. “Berkowitz soon realized he and Callen had been on the wrong track,” France writes. “It wasn’t promiscuity per se causing AIDS, but a certain type of promiscuity. Sex could be safe. Why hadn’t this occurred to him so clearly before?” The two men drafted a pamphlet in “frank and sometimes playful language” running through –– and measuring the risk involved in –– a whole range of erotic behaviors, including mutual masturbation and kissing, but also, “leather, bondage, discipline, spanking, titplay, verbal, worship, teasing, affection, humiliation, gadgets, toys, etc.” Coining the phrase safe sex, they taught gay men the importance of condoms. Their selfpublished work became a bestseller reviewed in The New York Review of Books. And it worked: gonorrhea cases plunged by 73 percent in San Francisco and 50 percent in New York. Harm reduction offered gay men a way to have sex and stay healthy. It would be another seven years before harm reduction began providing IV drug users the same sort of protection when the first needle exchanges gave them access to sterile injection equipment. One critical takeaway from France’s account is how a small number of thoughtful people had an outsized impact on the eventual success in taming –– if not curing outright –– AIDS.

AIDS ADVOCACY, continued on p.15

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


AIDS ADVOCACY, from p.14

But the process also worked in the other direction, with large numbers of people in unison perpetuating error. Groupthink caused the AZT fiasco, which became an object lesson for those hoping to find a cure. Lying on the shelf at pharmaceutical giant Burroughs Wellcome, the drug produced some early positive results though with frequent enervating side effects –– and then nothing. The virus came back strong, the opportunistic infections returned. AZT had received the fastest approval in FDA history, and the drug company inflamed the public by charging $10,000 a year –– more than the vast majority of patients could afford or insurance would cover. ACT UP’s dramatic, furious reaction to the price gouging turned the group into a political powerhouse able to force price concessions. But, the victory was for naught: AIDS remained unvanquished. Still, ACT UP had achieved widespread credibility, and when one of its committees, Treatment + Data, began to look at the science, evaluate the process for approving new medications, and think about how to recruit a patient population to test those meds, the pharmaceutical industry and the public health establishment listened. Treatment + Data is the star of France’s book. Rejecting holistic and homeopathic approaches based in suspicion of traditional medicine, its members were insistent that science and statistics be used to pick a medicine. Their approach was not embraced across the board in ACT UP, with some radicals unwilling to trust Big Healthcare. Those tensions, along with differences that ran deep between gay men and feminists, would splinter the group. Treatment + Data seceded to form the Treatment Action Group. By the mid-90s, progress on a post-AZT breakthrough, even a cure had dimmed, with despair widespread. At what looked to be the low point, with opportunistic infection treatments delaying but not avoiding deaths, novel new drug combinations began to show remarkable success in keeping the virus from replicating. Correct formulas, at first painstakingly settled on, produced immediate and unmistakable results. Patients

who were given days or months to live walked out of the hospital after starting combination anti-retroviral treatment, many finding in short order they were able to resume a work life they had given up on. France’s book is full of striking and novel profiles even of those AIDS figures we think we know best. Larry Kramer is present in all his vehement glory –– with his singular ability to inspire, but also to drive people away with his intermittent but spectacular flameouts. The success of scientists and activists to work together is attributed, as it was in the 2012 documentary, to an astounding stroke of genius by Peter Staley, a gay man with AIDS who made the most of his opportunity to address the annual international AIDS conference in San Francisco in 1990. President George H.W. Bush was a no-show in San Francisco, and in an act of political contempt chose instead to attend an event honoring the gay community’s arch nemesis, North Carolina Republican Senator Jesse Helms. Staley asked the scientists to stand and join him in this chant: “Three hundred thousand dead from AIDS, where is George?,” a powerful first step toward a fruitful peace treaty. “But let’s be fair here — when we make mistakes, what’s the fallout?,” he told the crowd, referring to his fellow activists. “Some people become offended and begin to hate ACT UP. Whereas, when government or the scientific community makes a mistake, such as the now-legendary delays in bringing aerosolized pentamidine to market, thousands of people can die.” A true war against AIDS was never possible because the battle was left to drug companies, each of whom set out the parameters of their efforts to minimize the risk of losing vast amounts of money. "Nothing like a Manhattan Project emerged," France writes. Free enterprise medicine –– abetted by a government at first inert and later often inept –– allowed tens, then hundreds of thousands to die. Their stories were harrowing, with the epidemic cutting a medieval swath through the gay community and elsewhere. America limped toward the finish line, finally discovering the medicines to outflank the virus, but the victory is tarnished by its unconscionable delay.

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

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Reading Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


䉴

ANTI-BIAS ORDER, from p.13

Landry’s reference to “class of persons� is inaccurate, since Edwards’ order protects everybody against discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity, regardless of whether they are gay or non-gay, transgender or cisgender. Hernandez, however, ruled that Edwards’ order was “unlawful� because it “creates new and/ or expands upon existing Louisiana law as opposed to directing the faithful execution of the existing laws of this state.� His action, the judge found, was “an unlawful usurp [sic] of the constitutional authority vested only in the legislative branch of the government.� Hernandez did not cite any prior Louisiana court decisions to support his ruling, likely because the state courts have never before addressed this question. Instead, he embraced his literal reading of the Louisiana Constitution, which “declares the office of the Governor as the ‘Chief Executive Officer’ of the State of Louisiana and he/she shall see that the laws of this state are faithfully executed.� Hernandez also cited a statute that he said provides that “the sole purpose for the issuance of an executive order is to provide the office of the Governor with a mechanism to ‘faithfully execute the laws of the State of Louisiana.’� Hernandez did not, however, accurately quote that statute, which actually reads: “The authority of the governor to see that the laws are faithfully executed by issuing executive orders is recognized.� This is not, on its face, restricted to the laws of Louisiana, and the governor’s oath of office –– as well as the attorney general’s –– requires support of both federal and state laws, including the federal and state constitutions, both of which provide “equal protection of the laws� to all people. In the 1996 Romer v. Evans ruling that struck down Colorado’s Amendment 2 –– a voter initiative that banned the state and its localities from enacting sexual orientation anti-discrimination protections, the US Supreme Court established that such discrimination by the state violates “equal protection of the laws�

under the 14th Amendment. Edwards’ order, then, is consistent with his obligation to see that the laws are faithfully executed, although there might be some controversy about extending this to gender identity absent a Romer-type ruling on that ground. So far, the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction covers Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, is the only appellate bench that has recognized a constitutional equal protection claim by a transgender public employee, but the logic of Romer v. Evans would surely cover such a claim, as well. But Hernandez concluded that Edwards’ action “extends beyond the lawful parameters of executive order authority and its adoption and implementation is found to be either a creation of new law and/ or an expansion of existing law. In either case, this is a violation of the separation of powers doctrine of the Louisiana Constitution and is an infringement upon the constitutional authority vested solely upon the Legislature of the State of Louisiana.� The judge rejected Landry’s other constitutional claims, but without explanation. Turning to the governor’s counterclaim, Hernandez found that Louisiana law specifically authorizes the attorney general to approve or disapprove lawyers being engaged by executive branch agencies, but found that the AG would have no supervisory authority over their work or what positions they take in representing the state. Hernandez declined to rule on Edwards’ request for a ruling that the office of the governor is superior to the office of the attorney general when a dispute about legal policy arises, finding that there was no actual dispute before the court. To express a view on the governor’s request in the abstract, he concluded, would be akin to rendering an “advisory opinion� beyond the authority of the court. Edwards’ request for the ruling, however, suggests that aggressive political jockeying likely lies ahead for Louisiana as it proceeds through four years of a Democratic governor and a Tea Party attorney general.

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

                                       

     

   

   

To Advertise, Call GAYLE GREENBERG 718-260-4585 | Gayle@GayCityNews.com 17


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BY KELLY COGSWELL

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ur ing t he presidential debates, every time Republ ica n ca nd idate Donald Trump opened his mouth he lied, and Democrats had a field day presenting the screen-captures of a tweet he’d claimed never to have written, videos of him saying things he’d denied, photos of him chatting with shady characters he said he didn’t know. What a delusional ignoramus, we thought, and wondered who would vote for such a buffoon who got caught in every fib like a three-yearold child who denied eating chocolate even though her face was smeared with the stuff. Likewise, who would get hung-up on the false kerfuffle over Clinton’s servers and emails when the story was debunked a dozen times a day? As it turns out, the only delusional members of the American electorate were ones who believed that facts matter. Masha Gessen nailed the problem in her essay, “The Putin Paradigm,” in The New York Review of Books, in which she explains why fact-checking doesn’t work when dealing with tyrants like Trump, or his role model Putin, who repeatedly and enthusiastically lies in the face of hard evidence. Putin claimed, for instance, after invading Crimea and eastern Ukraine, that no troops were on the ground despite plentiful proof. Then later announced that, of course, there were. So what? The thing to remember, Gessen writes, is that, “His subsequent shift to truthful statements were not admissions given under duress: they were proud, even boastful affirmatives made at his convenience. Together, they communicated a single message: Putin’s power lies in being able to say what he wants, when he wants, regardless of the facts. He is president of his country and king of reality.” Gessen goes on to assert that when reality itself is under attack, the only solution for the opposition is to shift from fact-based arguments to finding “a way to tell the bigger story — the story about the

lies rather than the story of the lies; and the story about power that the lies obscure.” She admits that this is harder than it sounds, particularly for the American media which is all about reporting the facts, and doesn’t even like to report those unless they have been confirmed a dozen times.

changeable beliefs governed my world. Ever since, I’ve struggled with just how much weight to give words. Why bother calling a chair a chair when somebody could call it a dog and insist I put a leash on it? This is why I sometimes abandon writing for visual art, and why I became an activist in the first place.

NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS

Seth J. Bookey, Anthony M.Brown, Kelly Jean Cogswell, Andres Duque, Michael Ehrhardt, Steve Erickson, Andy Humm, Eli Jacobson, David Kennerley, Gary M. Kramer, Arthur S. Leonard, Michael T. Luongo, Lawrence D. Mass, Winnie McCroy, Eileen McDermott, Mick Meenan, Tim Miller, Donna Minkowitz, Gregory Montreuil, Christopher Murray, David Noh, Sam Oglesby, Nathan Riley, David Shengold, Ed Sikov, Yoav Sivan, Gus Solomons Jr., Tim Teeman, Kathleen Warnock, Benjamin Weinthal, Dean P. Wrzeszcz

When Facts Don’t Matter: Activism in the New America

Masha Gessen, in a December 13 piece in the New York Review of Books, nailed the issue of why Donald Trump's lies are so hard to counter.

For anybody who cares about democracy, this new embrace of the blatant lie is even more disturbing than Mike Pence’s hatred of women and queers, Trump’s obvious incompetence and greed, his surrealistic, nihilistic anti-appointments, his ties to white supremacists, and his explosions of rage that will soon be able to express themselves with nuclear launch codes. American social progress, after all, has been built on facts and on reason. When Sojourner Truth cried out, “And ain’t I a woman?,” she wasn’t just tapping the sympathy of white women, but appealing to their brains –– and eyes –– to consider just what disqualified her from that category. LGBT arguments for legal equality are likewise just that: arguments. With reasons and facts and logic. Everything Trump rejects, and everything his presidency could unravel. Post-fact, I feel 12 years old and confronted with an abusive mother who was never persuaded by them. Our arguments always sounded like dialogue from some absurdist play. I’d declare, “The earth is round,” and offer physics, math, proof, and she’d answer, “Cherry Jell-O.” Like with Trump, it didn’t matter if she knew she was lying, or was psychotic and actually believed what she said. Either way, her stated and

When language itself is debased by lies, when “signs” are tampered with, and words don’t persuade, we are left with the physical world, the act, the signified. Somebody, of course, has to concern themselves with the facts, and keep rebutting Trump’s factory of lies, but resistance now, more than ever, requires images, and gestures, also our irrefutable flesh. Stories can be made about that, too, but we can at least attempt to shape our own narrative even if we have to do it with an audience of six, or 12, or 20 passersby. And we can also try to control how our bodies appear in the media, continuing to release our own videos and press releases like the small Russian activist group, Pussy Riot, which really gets under Putin’s skin. And as far as words go, when it comes to telling the larger political stories and finding ways to approach the truth, we can’t just offer alternative narratives, we have to find ways to demolish false ones, unmask Trump’s desire for total power, even go undercover to plant seeds of dissent in the echo chambers and chat rooms the fascistic and ascendant “alt-right” has constructed for itself. We must also be willing to identify the ordinary people around us who can be brought to reason one by one by one.

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: In Trump’s Wake

Two Sides of Fear’s Coin BY SAM OGLESBY

O

LYNAS

n November 10, over breakfast, I was surpr ised a nd delighted when my partner of 34 years looked up from his cereal and said, “Let’s get married !” We were happy when same-sex marriage became legal nationally last year, but like many couples, gay and straight, we had mixed feelings about the institution of marriage. My partner was of the “so what, it’s just a piece of paper” frame of mind. I didn’t push it even though I thought getting married and showing our love was much more than a document. Like so many things in life that involve big decisions, but lack urgency, we put marriage in the “pending” category and as time went by, we thought about it less and less. Until the recent presidential election when Donald Trump was declared the winner. After his “proposal” that morning, I asked my partner what had changed his mind about getting hitched and he replied that we had better do it now while we could, because the political landscape could get pretty scary and with a Trump-rigged Supreme Court it was not inconceivable that gay people could be deprived of their basic civil right of matrimony. So on a recent Thursday morning, we did the needful thing and took the 6 train to City Hall for a marriage license. Exiting the subway at Foley Square, I walked up to a very tall New York City policeman and said, “I want to get married! Where do I go?” Pointing in the direction of a large building on Worth Street, he replied, “It’s over there, but don’t do it! Don’t do it!” We laughed and thanked the humorous cop for his advice. Our journey toward marriage had started out on a merry, comic note. I felt we were sitcom characters out of “I Love Lucy.” The next two hours in the City Clerk’s Office, queuing, passing through security, mostly just waiting for our number, A370, to appear on the screen went by in an unreal, dreamlike flash. There, we were with hundreds of other couples waiting to

Donald Trump's election has put rights at stake, but also given a greenlight to harassment.

get married. A pair of women sitting next to us, one Asian-American, the other black, had flown in from Arizona because they wanted to tie the knot in New York City. A lone Pakistani man, whose number followed ours, said he was there to document that he was not married. “No plans for marriage?,” I asked. His answer was an eye roll and that South Asian head nod that can mean almost anything. A loner my whole life who had never felt part of any group, somehow I began to feel for the first time that I belonged to the human race, that all of us there, waiting with numbered tickets, were playing in the same band. Our marriage license in hand, we settled into an impromptu wedding breakfast that was the most delicious food I’d ever had even though it was from a street vendor’s cart. We both sat on nearby fire hydrants and basked in the sun, sipping our coffee, talking about a trip to Tiffany’s to buy rings. The license was good for 60 days and had to be validated with a civil marriage cer-

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

emony performed by a licensed officiant. So we had plenty of time. Meanwhile we talked about plans that all about-to-be marrieds discuss –– what friends to tell, what kind of party we wanted to have, and whom to invite. But for me, it was mostly about the ring. I had never worn any kind of ring on my finger during the 77 years of my life and the prospect of having some sort of band on my hand filled me with delight and trepidation. Delight for all of the obvious reasons and trepidation triggered by the fear of “coming out” to everybody I knew. Even those straight Republican friends who were not very keen on the whole gay thing. The moral dilemma of lying about my sexuality was not so great a challenge when I was a single person. “What people didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them” was my philosophy in cases of people dear to me who did not understand homosexuality. But now with that band of gold on my finger, there was no more dodging the truth. Our first attempt to buy rings

was foiled when we couldn’t get into Tiffany’s because of blockades “protecting” Trump Tower from demonstrators on Fifth Avenue. We found a cozier, more friendly branch of the store in Soho and bought our rings there. Now it only remained for us to set the date for the civil marriage ceremony and we would be husbands! In the days that followed, news reports told of ugly fallout from the Trump victory, describing attacks on minorities, including gay people, by those emboldened by the election upset. But that wasn’t something my partner and I simply read about from afar. Several people in his office made derogatory remarks about “faggots” and “queers” and one colleague told him the following “joke”: Who gets married on Friday and fired on Monday? Answer: A queer. When he got home from work that day, I could tell he was dejected and I asked him what was wrong. There was a long silence before

FEAR COIN, continued on p.20

19


PERSPECTIVE: Days of Future Past

Bringing Back Those Loyalty Oaths BY BRUCE KOGAN

T

he biggest reason I supported Hillary Clinton in the election was her commitment to LGBT rights across the globe. President Barack Obama and his first secretary of state created the first administration to support our rights to simply be in the world. Obama and Clinton never wavered on that. I think we can safely say that commitment will be gone come January 20, 2017. No more protests about gay genocide in the Third World. AIDS funding will be cut to the bone, and no one will be taught to be fruitful and multiply safely or maybe multiply a little less, but safely in any event. Abstinence programs will be pushed, and evangelicals will preach to the Free World about how God hates gays with the fervor of the late Fred Phelps. Tony Perkins of the Family

FEAR COIN, from p.19

he told me that he didn’t want to go through with our marriage, at least not right now. There was no discussion or argument between us. Being together for 34 years, we had gotten beyond bickering and debates. "Should I take back the rings?," I asked him. Without speaking he nodded, “yes”. Not wanting to go back to the Soho Tiffany’s branch –– some-

TAX-EXEMPT, from p.12

and it would have taken longer, perhaps months longer, to complete the financing. Today, sellers may not be willing to wait. “Now, you really can’t do that because no seller is going to wait that long,” Adams said. In 1983, when the city sold what is now known as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, the community was required to raise the $150,000 down payment, an amount that was reduced to just under $105,000 in the 1984 deed.

20

Pennsylvania Avenue as well as both house of Congress. Gays shared top billing with godless Communism back when I was a lad. Now, we are at risk for sharing it with Muslims and immigrants. If Tony Perkins and his ilk have their way, creativity of thought about how to defeat those who practice terrorism will not be tolerated: unless you support a rigid fundamentalist Christianity –– with Orthodox Jews given honorary Aryan status, as an exigency, like the Japanese were by the Axis Powers during World War II –– they’ll be no place for you working at Donald Trump’s State Department. The stage is set and as we wait to see who all the assigned players are, Trump’s Cabinet picks offer me no hope. I do hope, though, that Ernie is dead; I know he wouldn't have wanted to live to see this.

Research Council is already staking out the territory. He’s pressing for a thorough State Department purging of gays and our allies. He’s calculating he has a friendly ear at the White House and, particularly with Mike Pence in the room, it looks like he may be right. Maybe next we’ll have the House Un-American Activities Committee resurrected with an emphasis on Muslims and gays. Might be interesting as to how we define a fellow traveler now. Joe McCarthy is getting his long-lost vindication for his brand of politics. Seeing the story on Perkins took me back to the 1980s and a client of mine when I was an investigator at the State Crime Victims Board. His first name was Ernie, and he was a gentle little man living at an SRO in Manhattan. One fine day, someone took an iron pipe and fractured his jaw, and when it healed it was misshapen. That someone did that because he didn’t like gay people. We got to talking, and there was

a lot to Ernie. Back in the late ‘40s, he graduated from Columbia University with a degree in East Asian Studies. Columbia was the place you went to for that credential at the time. But there would be no place for him in the Foreign Service for which he studied and strived. Dean Acheson and John Foster Dulles, who served Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, respectively, as secretaries of state, were not employing anyone who did not think that Chiang Kai-shek was a sainted Christian freedom fighter. And if you met Ernie even briefly, you knew there was no closet he could have retreated to. More than three decades after Ernie left Columbia, a young man, then in his late 30s, met him and got to personally see what the effect of McCarthyism was. I’m now older than Ernie was at the time and –– God help me and all of us –– I now see the return of an evil enforced orthodoxy that is infecting 1600

how, I felt it a terrible loss of face–– I went to the flagship store on Fifth Avenue which was now open, the demonstrators having left Trump Tower. I was treated well and able to return the rings without having to answer the embarrassing question of why. I think Tiffany’s, in its wisdom, knows better than to ask such questions. And I did have my “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” when the kind salesperson asked me if I

would like to have a cappuccino, which was impeccably served to me in a bone china cup. We may not have gotten married, but even an “almost marriage” has its moments –– the excitement at the City Clerk’s Office when we got that piece of paper that said Marriage License and the special feeling we had selecting our rings at Tiffany’s as the salesperson offered us a flute of champagne and other customers cast approving glances

our way. Sometimes in life you just have to be happy with less than 100 percent. Maybe one day my partner will change his mind. Then we’ll buy back the rings and, as they used to say, he’ll make an honest man of me!

The city financed the deal, initially charging the Center 12 percent on the $1,350,000 in principal, and the payments began at just over $3,500 a month and then grew to just over $10,600 a month two years later. The interest was capped at 15 percent, but it could also never fall below nine percent. The monthly payments varied according to projections for how long it would take to pay off the loan. Ed Koch, then the mayor, wanted to put the 75-year-old building up for auction, but he was opposed by other elected officials and the local community board. “Both symbolically and practi-

cally, it says we’re here for the long haul,” Adams said of the current SAGE purchase, adding that in 2016 the city is a more supportive entity. “It certainly reflects progress in terms of local government being a partner now,” he said. The city is not taking on any risk with the SAGE deal, and there is no tax on the interest that the bonds pay. “The city and the EDC, we’re not taking on any risk,” Salen said. “We looked through all of their financials. It’s a complete due diligence on the borrower.” SAGE, which was founded in 1978, serves 2,600 New York City clients

and operates four other centers in the city. It also has 28 affiliates across the nation. The agency is building 145 units of senior housing in Brooklyn and 82 units in the Bronx. As an owner, SAGE can now renovate its cramped offices, which support both its local and national programs, though the logistics of a renovation will be difficult since on a recent visit to the offices, it appeared there was no space to spare. “That’s why we have to own it,” Adams said. “If you don’t own it, you’re not going to invest in construction.”

Bruce Kogan, a retired investigator at the New York State Crime Victims Board, is a longtime LGBT activist in Buffalo and the former president of the Stonewall Democrats of Western New York.

Sam Oglesby is a New York Citybased writer who has published four memoirs and is the recipient of the 2014 New York Press Association Award for Best Feature article.

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

May You Live in Predictable Times BY ED SIKOV

“D

uring his election campaign, Donald Trump claimed he was ‘better for the gay community’ than Hillary Clinton. He even stated in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in August that he would protect ‘our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.’ This is the opening of a brilliant opinion piece, headlined “Trump’s Cabinet: a who’s who of homophobia,” that was written for the Boston Globe by New York’s very own Michelangelo Signorile, who becomes more eloquent and knowledgeable with every passing year. The op-ed is illustrated with a photo of Der Drumpf (Drumpf is the Trump family’s original German name) clasping hands with Peter Thiel, the gay reactionary billionaire Drumpf supporter who cofounded PayPal, as Vice-Presidentelect Mike Pence appears to scowl on the side. One wonders which “hateful foreign ideology” Der Drumpf is referring to. Could it possibly be the Russia of Drumpf’s BFF, Vladimir Putin? Under Putin’s dictatorship, Russia has become the most homophobic major country on earth, not to mention one of the least democratic. Drumpf’s sick bromance with the Russian tyrant scarcely bodes well for any easing of the vicious anti-gay attacks that currently rack that wretched country. Signorile continues: “But what about a hateful domestic ideology that is a much greater threat to the actual rights of LGBTQ citizens in the United States? “So far, Trump’s transition team, led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence — the Indiana governor with a history of anti-gay positions and actions, including signing the draconian Religious Restoration Freedom Act in 2015 — appears to have given payback to anti-gay Trump supporters, including the Family Research Council, designated a hate group in 2010 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which

described the group as a ‘font of anti-gay propaganda throughout its history.’” The Religious Restoration Freedom Act –– which Pence was forced eventually to backpedal from with a new law, which had its own stark shortcomings –– would have made it possible for caterers, for instance, to assert that having to cater gay couples’ wedding receptions–– despite the catering company being a “public accommodation” subject to nondiscrimination laws of general application –– is an infringement on their religious rights. Conceivably, racists who consider African-Americans to be less than human could refuse to serve them as well on religious grounds, but in point of fact, this law was aimed strictly at us. This isn’t to say that racism has become unacceptable in this country. Far from it. But with the exception of Breitbart.com, the neo-Nazi news outlet formerly run by Drumpf’s chief strategist and senior counselor, Steve Bannon, it’s generally considered to be outside the limits of polite conversation. Here’s more of Signorile: “FRC’s Tony Perkins, who helped write the GOP platform, considered among the most anti-LGBT GOP platforms in history (and which promotes so-called ‘reparative therapy’), endorsed Trump, in a speech at the RNC, and helped turn out white evangelicals for Trump in percentages equal to or surpassing former GOP presidential candidates. “It’s not surprising, then, that Ken Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state and FRC senior fellow, was named domestic policy chair of the Trump transition team. Blackwell has compared homosexuality to arson and kleptomania, and in an interview with me at the 2008 GOP convention he explained the comparison: ‘I believe homosexuality is a compulsion that can be contained, repressed, or changed… That is what I’m saying in the clearest of terms.’ Kay Coles James, former vice president of FRC, is also on the transition team, as is Ken Klukowski, former director of FRC’s center for religious liberty, and Ed Meese, former attorney general under Ronald Reagan, who

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

has written for FRC’s blog.” (Edwin Meese! Edwin Meese! Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch….) The issue suddenly making it more difficult to engage seriously in a discussion of LGBT rights in this brand-new era of Drumpf is the punditocracy’s voguish aversion to “identity politics” –– or, put more precisely, the stubborn limitation in public discussion of the term “identity politics” to refer only to black people, women, immigrants, Muslims, gays, and trans folks, as though the angry white middle class doesn’t have its own distinct and definable identity. None of the groups accused of perpetuating politics based on identity will ever transcend the aspersion cast by the term “identity politics” until some very popular public figure points out the basic unfairness of the term and manages to rally some considerable support around the idea that angry, undereducated white people – precisely the voters who provided Der Drumpf with his Electoral College victory –– cast their ballots on the basis of their own interests just as we do. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the vicious homophobes who will soon serve in Drumpf’s cabinet were selected precisely because of their identity politics –– hideous anti-gay crusaders are nothing if not exemplars of a most reactionary identity. It’s just that the identity they promote is a fictional notion of an all-white, all-straight, non-trans America that they view as “the good old days.” What are the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family if not throwbacks to the days when gay people let the straight world harass us, subject us to electroshock “therapy,” and generally encourage us to kill ourselves? That, my friends, is at the core of their identity. Signorile goes on to blast one of Drumpf’s many billionaire Cabinet nominees: “Trump named as his education secretary nominee Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, whose family’s foundation has given millions of dollars to groups working against LGBT equality — including FRC, as well as the National

Organization for Marriage, which received $500,000. DeVos and her husband, Richard Jr., heir to the Amway fortune, helped lead a successful ballot measure to ban marriage equality in their state in 2004, donating $200,000 to the effort. They have also donated several million dollars to Focus on the Family, which promotes reparative therapy for gays. In 2001, at an evangelical conference, DeVos explained that her work in public education, promoting ‘school choice,’ is a way [to] ‘help advance God’s Kingdom.’” Amway, it bears remembering, is a pyramid scheme (also known as “multi-level marketing”) in which employees recruit other employees, who then pay their recruiters a portion of their sales. This corporate structure is illegal even in China, which does not, shall we say, put great curbs on questionable business practices. (It was China, after all, that gave its consumers baby formula made from human hair.) Thus “God’s Kingdom,” in the DeVos sense of the term, appears to be a vast celestial Ponzi scheme, where, to paraphrase “It’s a Wonderful Life,” every time a person gets defrauded, an angel gets his wings.

“God’s Kingdom,” in the DeVos sense of the term, appears to be a vast celestial Ponzi scheme, where, to paraphrase “It’s a Wonderful Life,” every time a person gets defrauded, an angel gets his wings. The Family Research Council, Focus on the Family… these organizations are notorious for the antigay hate they promote. Trump’s promise to protect the LGBTQ community is as much of a boldface lie as his stupendously false claim that “millions” of illegal votes were cast for Clinton. The supposedly ancient Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times,” has no application to today. These times aren’t interesting at all. They’re entirely predictable. Follow @edsikov on Twitter and Facebook.

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FILM

Representing Is Important; Content Matters, Too 2016 offered glimpse of the cinema more diverse filmmakers could create BY STEVE ERICKSON oonlight” director Barry Jen k i n s h a s sa id t hat if people don’t have images of themselves, they’ll start to feel like they don’t exist. Jenkins’ film has given an unprecedented amount of visibility to gay African-American men –– at least in cinema. (TV shows like “The Wire” and “Empire” have beaten him to the punch.) This visibility is undeniably positive, but where do we go from here? 2016 was a terrific year for films by women and people of color. Can we work from this outstanding moment toward an American film culture that has room for blockbusters, a genuinely diverse independent sector, and regular releases of subtitled films from around the world? If Hollywood opens up to the point of hiring women and people of color to do nothing but direct superhero films and “Star Wars” sequels, it may be a pyrrhic victory. Of course, employing a more diverse set of filmmakers is a worthy goal in and of itself, but it won’t automatically lead to a more subversive group of films. Does anyone remember the controversy over Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty?” Did anyone see “Fifty Shades of Grey,” erotica made by and for women that managed to be more sexist than most softcore porn aimed at dudebros? When Pauline Kael sang the praises of “trash” over Oscar-bait in 1969, I doubt she could have imagined a future in which most Hollywood genre films cost $150 to $200 million and need to gross $500 million worldwide to break even while the independently made “Spotlight” wins the Best Picture Oscar. Hollywood can’t be bothered to make realistic films about LGBT life, but the “X-Men” series has staged an elaborate allegory about the struggle for LGBT rights. Do people still have images of themselves if their on-screen alter egos’ skin is blue and they have superpowers? My lists of 2016’s best, the runners-up, the undeservedly ignored, and the worst follow:

"M

A24

1.“Toni Erdmann” (Maren Ade) Reviewed in this issue on page 24. 2. “Moonlight” (Barry Jenkins) The pitfalls of American masculinity, summed up in three precise sections: fear of difference, a tendency to resort to violence (especially when faced with gayness), and emotional repression coupled with swaggering machismo. Given the drug-war timing, Jenkins’ subject matter screams “realism,” but his direction is dreamlike and trippy.

3. “No Home Movie” (Chantal Akerman) The late bisexual Belgian filmmaker gazed into the void left by her mother’s death and couldn’t go on living. None of this is stated explicitly in her documentary “No Home Movie,” which chronicles her mother’s last few years, but it finds eloquent visual metaphors for grief and emotional darkness.

4. “‘Til Madness Do Us Part” (Wang Bing) A four-hour Chinese documentary about a mental hospital for the involuntarily committed is lucky to get a week-long run in New York, as Wang’s film did. Recalling the spirit of Frederick Wiseman, it goes for intensity over pretty pictures and gives a vivid X-ray of the repressive nature of contemporary Chinese society, where mental patients are fed drugs and given nothing to do all day.

GRASSHOPPER FILM

ICARUS FILMS

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Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali in Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight,” based on a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Natalia ‘Nelly’ Akerman in daughter Chantal Akerman’s film “No Home Movie."

Kim Min-hee and Jung Jae-young in Hong Sang-soo’s “Right Now, Wrong Then.”

FEAR COIN, continued on p.20

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


FILM

A Good Year in Queer “Moonlight,” “The Handmaiden” top a strong field in LGBTQ cinema BY GARY M. KRAMER he year in queer film 2016 had both notable achievements — Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight,” about three stages in the life of an AfricanAmerican man, chief among them — and some dubious ones. “Sea of Trees” by out filmmaker Gus Van Sant was critically panned and barely got a theatrical release. When it did, audiences stayed away in droves. Here is a rundown of the year’s best LGBTQ films:

T

STRAND RELEASING

Best Gay Male Film: “Moonlight” by Barry Jenkins shrewdly investigates what it means to be black and gay in a world suffused with the drug culture. The film’s sensitive moments and indelible, internalized performances keep “Moonlight” from playing into stereotypes, illuminating the characters’ humanity. Runner Up: Andrew Ahn’s “Spa Night,” about David (the remarkable Joe Seo), a Korean American grappling with his sexuality, his parents, and the reality of a justout-of-reach American Dream, was simply astonishing. From the hothouse sexual atmosphere of the spa to the prosaic challenges of Asian-American assimilation, “Spa Night” is an immersive debut that captured the tensions of sexuality and family.

Joe Soe in Andrew Ahn’s “Spa Night.”

Best Lesbian Film: Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden,” a mesmerizing adaptation of lesbian author Sarah Waters’ celebrated Victorian-era novel “Fingersmith,” was the year’s most highly satisfying Sapphic drama. The narrative twists are as breathtaking as the rich vivid colors, ornate interiors, and luscious exteriors that made Park’s film visually stimulating.

MAGNOLIA PICTURES

Kim Tae-ri in Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden.”

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

Runner Up: “Summertime,” Catherine Corsini’s beautiful and moving lesbian romance from France, addresses femininity and living one’s truth in a not-always accepting environment. Best Documentary: “Hockney,” Randall Wright’s marvelous and profound portrait of the artist, captures its subject through a mosaic of quotes from Hockney, anecdotes by his friends, and outstanding archival footage and photographs. The film showcases and emphasizes the painter’s way of seeing, and its allows audiences to see Hockney in a new way, as well. Runner Up: “Tickled,” a strange cautionary tale by David Farrier, a New Zealand pop culture reporter turned filmmaker, explores the world of “competitive endurance tickling.” When he receives a homophobic response to his query about this fetish subculture, Farrier uncovers a weird and wild wormhole. Most Homoerotic Sequence: The “No Dames” dance number from “Hail, Caesar” not only fea-

tures clever lyrics sung by soon-tobe lonely seamen, but Channing Tatum’s expression when caught with another man’s ass in his face was priceless. And the bit where he is sandwiched between two dancing male behinds was especially delicious. Runner Up: “Dirty Grandpa” It was hard to suppress a smile whenever Robert De Niro goosed Zac Efron’s ass. Most Seductive Male: Naked and lying in bed, Luis Alberti was muy caliente as Palomino Cañedo, who seduced and deflowered Sergei Eisenstein (Elmer Bäck) in Peter Greenway’s hypnotic “Eisenstein in Guanajuato.” Runner Up: In Tim Kirkman’s “Lazy Eye,” Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis) was simply irresistible as he reunited with Dean (Lucas NearVerbrugghe), his ex, for sex. Best Male Butt: In the love scene between Ryan (Jake Choi) and Ning (James Chen) in Ray Yeung’s charming “Front Cover,”

LGBTQ CINEMA, continued on p.32

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FILM

False Faces for a Global Economy German comedy “Toni Erdmann” riffs on generational divides, international upheaval BY STEVE ERICKSON aren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann” is cinema, the real thing. A 162-minute German comedy might sound like a barrel of oxymorons to some spectators. However, Ade brings both visual and verbal wit to bear on a number of essentially serious subjects: the business community, what richer countries are doing to poorer ones, the legacy of the counterculture, father/ daughter relationships. Although made with German money and a largely German cast, most of “Toni Erdmann” is set in Bucharest. While it offers a few glimpses of Romanian poverty, particularly in a cutting, unsubtitled scene where a character searches for a toilet in the countryside, it doesn’t wallow in grime. In fact, its look, which focuses on pristine, glossy white settings, conveys a lot about what it means to be an upper middle class European

M SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller in Maren Ade's "Toni Erdmann."

TONI ERDMANN, continued on p.25

Funhouse for the Common Man With “I, Daniel Blake,” Ken Loach captures the anger, despair rife in Western democracies BY STEVE ERICKSON hat a di f ference t wo mont hs makes! W hen I first saw British director’s “I, Daniel Blake” in early October at the New York Film Festival, I found its tale of an unemployed man’s struggle extremely moving but a bit heavy-handed. After the election, that excess now seems like righteous, well-placed anger. The title character (Dave Johns) tries to navigate the dregs of the British welfare state with the few tools he has, including a pencil, a spray can, and an extremely weak body. (He’s just suffered a massive heart attack.) It’s a shock to watch the film and realize that working-class people having the right to health care without worrying about how they’ll pay for insurance is taken for granted in other societies. Loach depicts England as a dysfunctional welfare state; the resonance for a Trump-governed America is clear, as we wait to see if Obamacare and Medicare will be stripped away from

I, DANIEL BLAKE

W

JOSS BARRATT/ SUNDANCE SELECTS

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Dave Johns and Hayley Squires in Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake.”

us. At the start of the film, Daniel Blake wants to go back to work, but his doctor advises him to rest. He enters the British welfare system, with its dizzying array of systems designed to help

Directed by Ken Loach Sundance Selects Opens Dec. 23 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. ifccenter.com Lincoln Plaza Cinema 1886 Broadway at W. 62nd St. lincolnplazacinema.com

people at varying levels of ability, but he quickly discovers that it’s really intended to discourage people. A man who’s never owned a computer, he now finds himself dependent on strangers to fill out forms online. At one office, he makes friends with Katey (Hayley Squires), a single mother with two children. She soon becomes

I, DANIEL BLAKE, continued on p.31

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


TONI ERDMANN, from p.24

TONI ERDMANN Directed by Maren Ade Sony Pictures Classics In English and German with English subtitles Opens Dec. 25 Film Forum 209 W. Houston St. filmforum.org Lincoln Plaza Cinema 1886 Broadway at W. 62nd St. lincolnplazacinema.com

right now. Dirt has been gentrified away, but it obviously exists; in fact, it may be making a comeback in a few years. The future of its prosperous characters probably lies in Asia. One question raised by “Toni Erdmann” is how Ines Conradi (Sandra Hüller) and Germans like her wound up in Bucharest in the first place. She praises the generation of Romanians who grew up alongside her for their “international” values, but a Romanian

colleague suggests that this isn’t always such a positive quality. Her job will lead to Romanians losing theirs. Ines has just enough of a conscience to be bothered by this, but not enough to do anything about it for most of the film. As Ade describes Ines in her film’s press kit, she is “the daughter who chose a life very far removed from the ideals her father instilled in her as a child when she decided to go into a conservative, performance-oriented field that embodies the very values he used to despise.” Winfried (Peter Simonischek) is a music teacher in Germany. He’s a prankster; in the film’s opening scene, he tries to convince the mailman that the package he’s carrying is either a bomb or outrageous pornography. His work seems to be drying up, and his mother is dying. His daughter Ines works as a successful consultant in Bucharest. Disguised as “Toni Erdmann,” he shows up there unannounced, claiming to be a consultant as well and actually gets a freelance job from a bigwig in the company Ines works for. Disappointed by the way she fits so complacently into the business world,

he tries to shake her life up, but she just views him as an aging hippie with no ambition. Still, their paths continue to cross during the month he spends in Bucharest. The film’s title comes from the late comic Andy Kaufman’s boorish alter ego Tony Clifton, who drank, smoke, and womanized his way to total obnoxiousness. Winfried’s love for disguises and makeup is signaled from the very early scenes, where he dons corpsepaint to play piano at a children’s party. It’s still a surprise when he approaches Ines and two of her friends as they’re waiting for a table wearing an ugly –– and obvious –– long brown wig and uglier false teeth. Later in the film, he adopts yet another disguise: a seven-foot-tall Yeti suit. These doublings are matched by the changes in Ines’ personality depending on whom she’s around. With her boss, she’s incredibly uptight, to the point of being overtly hostile; she tells him, “I’m not a feminist or I wouldn’t tolerate you.” With her father, she seems like the voice of reason. Hüller does a terrific job of calibrating the precise amount of tension in her face needed for these

scenes. However, when she’s with her co-worker boyfriend, with whom she plays odd sexual games, or other friends, she relaxes and shows a playful side that reveals that she is her father’s daughter after all. She may not put on any disguises, but she shifts personae depending which one will benefit her. “Toni Erdmann” suggests that one has to be capable of such shape-shifting in order to succeed in today’s business world. The antics of Winfried are a mere parody of that. One hundred sixty-two minutes of German yuppies dealing with their eccentric parents may sound like a slog, but the first time I looked at my watch, 100 minutes had passed. For all its thematic virtues, “Toni Erdmann” is also one of the year’s most entertaining films. Many films that run half its length are much harder to sit through. On the festival circuit, it’s also reached a surprisingly wide consensus about its quality. Sony Pictures Classics has positioned it as its holiday subtitled crossover hit for winter 2016/ 2017. I hope its faith in the film’s ability to attract American spectators is warranted.

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GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

25


Things to Celebrate from 2016 When great live performances trump hate BY DAVID NOH

A

“The Band’s Visit” When I heard that my favorite modern musical composer, David Yazbek, was working on a musical version of this winsome 2007 Israeli film, I got excited for, like Yazbek, I am enraptured by Middle Eastern music, and couldn’t wait to see what he’d come up with. He surpassed all expectations with this sublimely funny and true study of a culture clash between Egyptians and Jews in a miserable nowhere little burg. The theme is really loneliness and the search for love and, as drolly book-written by Itamar Moses, brilliantly directed by David Cromer, spectacularly designed by Scott Pask, and acted by a cast you just love, each and every one of them, the adorable sad sacks, it is stirringly original, relatable, universal, and blah-blahblah (as one of Yazbek’s ultra-terrific, at times hysterically jaded lyrics would have it). There is real romance on the stage of the Atlantic Theater (through Jan. 8, 336 W. 20th St.; atlantictheater.org), as well as bitingly hilarious satire,

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“Sweet Charity” I was never a huge fan of this Bob Fosse/ Neil Simon Broadway reduction of Fellini’s “Nights of Cabiria,” which always struck me as misogynistic and condescending to the “lower orders” of taxi dancers and the like. How wonderful it is to report that Leigh Silverman’s reduction of the reduction works like a minimalist charm, creating a tiny, sleazy, claustrophobic world for its ever-innocent dumb-as-dirt heroine to go searching for love in all the wrong places. A stripped-down, all-girl band serves up the Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields songs with amazing brio, Joshua Bergasse’s choreography really cooks in its way, divorced, as it is, from all that famed Fosse-glossy, and Clint Ramos’ costumes are genius, from the “hippie-wear” of the “Rhythm of Life” (I craved every single outfit) to the very weird but very right micro-mini dress Charity (Sutton Foster) wears much of the time –– half hospital gown, half six-year-old’s painting smock, with many a revealing flash of panty, to emphasize her aching vulnerability and everpresent tendency to embarrass herself. Matching the bold fearlessness of this costume choice is the performance of Foster, her best, most emotionally deep one yet (and that’s truly saying something). Was there really ever such a triple threat as she, all the while bringing that essential element which often eluded the great stars of yore –– being completely human the entire time? The show is also a terrific workout for her rarely seen comic chops and, in triumphantly underlining Charity’s basic doofusness, like in the slapstick closet seduction scene, she evoked the very best of comediennes like Carol Burnett, Madeline Kahn, and Ruth Buzzi. While the very intimate Signature theater space lends itself beautifully to Silverman’s contracted vision (Foster was often a mere five feet away from me), it also has the disadvantage of a distinctly limited number of seats (hard-to-get tickets are

now going for $500). This means, especially after Ben Brantley’s asinine “meh” review in the Times, which may have killed any possibility of a Broadway transfer, that much of the world will never see Foster make this role her own and, like Danny Burstein in “Fiddler on the Roof,” even surpass its originator. What a shame, for, in this much darker and deeper “Charity,” the devastating ending of it is simply riveting, with its heroine, alone in the dark and spotlit, the sad gamine of gamines, staring at the possible nothingness before her and repeating the words, “You should see yourself.”

MONIQUE CARBONI

nd so, 2016 ends with both a bang (of the most unsettling proportion with the incoming POTUS’ myriad threats) and a whimper (all of us, in reaction), yet the Agnes Moorehead Awards for the 10 Best Live Performances –– the Aggies, if you will –– still need to be bestowed upon the worthy. I should start by noting that I recently sat through the entirety of La Moorehead’s 1944 film “Mrs. Parkington,” for which she received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Scandalously, Moorehead, like Garbo, like Stanwyck, like Cary Grant, never won an Academy Award. She certainly deserved one for her epochal performance in “The Magnificent Ambersons,” but “Mrs. Parkington” is another story. In it, she plays the Baroness Aspasia Conti, who is supposed to be French, and Aggie is so vairy, vairy Franch –– in almost a heavy Teutonic, not soufflé-light Gallic way –– it kind of hurts. She is supposed to be a world-class, raving beauty courtesan type, but all the massed effort of MGM, i.e. Irene on the clothes, Sydney Guilaroff on the hair, Jack Dawn on makeup and diva favorite Joseph Ruttenberg as cinematographer, weren’t quite able to create this effect. It’s like when I had to suspend belief in “A Little Night Music,” with Elaine Stritch playing a former scandalously successful courtesan, over whom men died, singing about her many “Liaisons” –– never mind when I saw Margaret Hamilton do it. You just thought, “Oh, Granny is a compulsive liar, too!” (Aggie did wear the bustle marvelously in “Mrs. Parkington,” though.) And now, the awards:

and this is embodied in the New York theater’s new star of the year, Katrina Lenk. World-weary does not even begin to describe this gorgeous Israeli desert rose, adrift in a dusty Nowheresville. Whether extolling the non-joys of her dull, tiny town –– very funny here –– or, in a magical encounter with Tony Shalhoub’s loser Egyptian orchestra leader, recalling the beauty of vintage movie stars Umm Kulthum and Omar Sharif in Yazbek’s loveliest, most haunting song, she lifts the production into a stratosphere of refined intelligence and sensuality. Indeed, I would recommend every aspiring young actress go and just watch the way she moves, from the cynical shifts of her body during the humorous, self-deprecating numbers to her enchantingly wafting arms.

Sutton Foster in "Sweet Charity."

“The End of Summer” S.N. Behrman was one of the most graceful and literate of American playwrights with a huge reputation in his day that has, sadly, not continued in our time. Why? He is simply too sophisticated, subtle, and –– horror of horrors! –– unironically romantic to fit today’s bang ‘em over your head obviousness and anti-intellectualism. His specialty was that trickiest of genres: the drawing room comedy with an important statement to make beneath the filigreed, witty dialogue and posh setting. Metropolitan Playhouse did him proud with its revival of one of his best, a 1936 vehicle written for the incomparable light comedienne Ina Claire. The cast –– especially Kelly Cooper, who had the charisma and suaveness of no less than Cary Grant (with something deeper about the gray matter) as a maybe-charlatan doctor bent on controlling his patients –– was a top-to-bottom delight. Alexander Harrington’s direction was spot-on and rife with delicious details (like the unerringly curated 1936 songs playing as you entered the theater, which set the mood perfectly). Sidney Fortner’s costumes were at times opulently glamorous (and completely reflective of the work of this fine artisan), and Cao Xuemei’s set design was the best in this this theater yet, a total, painstakingly executed replica of a charming summer house on the more privileged of the rocky shores of Maine.

CELEBRATE, continued on p.27

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


CELEBRATE, from p.26

“The Crucible” I confess I trudged toward this show with a heavy heart, not really in the mood for Arthur Miller’s shrieking, religiously duplicitous brats (many of whom also appeared way back when, in the 1937 Claudette Colbert movie “Maid of Salem”), or the direction of white-hot Ivo van Hoeve, who absolutely ruined “The Little Foxes” and “View from the Bridge” for me. What a pleasant surprise, then, to rediscover this warhorse, brilliantly rethought and updated, transformed into thrillingly bravura theater, with its final, harrowing scene between the tortured central Puritan couple –– Ben Whishaw (miraculously surprising here) and Sophie Okonedo (perhaps the greatest actress around today), achieving not only real, heartbreaking tragic depth, but the ever-elusive quality of redeeming, authentic spirituality to absolutely illuminate Miller’s words. Two directorial touches haunt me to this day: that wolf (actually a rare Tamaskan dog, obtained with great effort by genius animalwrangler Bill Berloni) who wandered out into the eerily haunted classroom set and looked at the audience as the first act curtain fell, and that silvery, cobweb-like filament of saliva that ever so slowly dripped from Tavi Gevinson’s lower lip during her most distraught moment while confessing her witchy sightings.

JAN VERSWEYVELD

Ben Whishaw in "The Crucible."

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

Christine Ebersole at the Cafe Carlyle I don’t think there’s a singer on this planet I’d rather hear. Her range –– Broadway musical, operetta, country, pop, soul –– is unlimited, and it all came together marvelously at her engagement, “After the Ball,” devoted to the experience of being an empty-nester parent. In the course of this exquisitely conceived gig, she sang some of the greatest songs ever composed in this country, and she was literally great on every single one of them. Result: pure musical heaven, this magical meeting of the very best vocalist with the very best material to be found. The fact that she’s a great, ageless beauty doesn’t hurt, either, as there were visual, as well as aural, moments of splendor, like the way she sinuously, sensuously reclined her body during a spellbinding medley of Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays” and Jerome Moross and John La Touche’s “Lazy Afternoon.” Ebersole and her collaborators have an uncanny knack for perfect medleys, and the one which she dedicated to her three adopted children, consisting of “Wait Til You See Her” with an utterly shattering “Little Green,” Joni Mitchell’s aria about the child she gave up for adoption (and later found), was the evening’s emotional highlight. There has been so much false scuttlebutt in recent years about Ebersole’s supposed wacky political beliefs and her fanatically pressing them on her co-workers in the theater, that it’s a positive pleasure for me to denounce them as lies, spread by bitches all too eager for a misogynistic catfight scenario between her and Patti LuPone in their upcoming show, “War Paint.” I caught the two divas at their Times Talk on December 13, and it was a radiantly sincere love fest between the two, so let the Broadway haters chat away in their delusional snake pit.

CHRISTINEEBERSOLE.COM

“Sunday in the Park with George” at Encores! This benefit performance of Sondheim’s artiest show, among other things, made me finally get Jake Gyllenhaal, whom I’d always regarded as a pretty boy, blessed with more looks than talent –– and, yes, I was not a fan of “Brokeback Mountain,” that gay film made by a lot of straight people. He came through for the first time for me with the Encores!’s “Little Shop of Horrors” –– I thought, showing previously unexpected farcical chops –– but as George Seurat he really blew me away with a totally unexpected, quite fine singing voice (“Carousel"’s Billy Bigelow, “Oklahoma"’s Curley –– he’s ready for any of them) and a performance of startling sensitivity and force, every bit the equal –– and a lot more vulnerably human –– than Mandy Patinkin, who originated the role. Annaleigh Ashford played Dot, Seurat’s muse, and, while she couldn’t quite erase the memo-

ry of Bernadette Peters at her most entrancing (who could?), she was, nevertheless, quite delectable, bringing her own solid voice and original comic timing to the part –– underwritten as it is, as is so much of this show. (I can’t help wondering if Sondheim’s “Company” and “Follies” might not also have benefited from a draft or two more of their books, if only to deepen and enrich the scaffolding.) And, if ever there was a luxury cast, this one was it, with the starry likes of Phylicia Rashad, Zachary Levi, Lauren Worsham, Ruthie Ann Miles, Brooks Ashmanskas, and Claybourne Elder filling in, in small parts.

Christine Ebersole.

Norbert Leo Butz at 54 Below On the male side of things cabaret, this show was based on Greek goddesses who resembled the women in this wondrously chameleonic star’s life, and, like Ebersole’s engagement, it was educational, besides being a powerful lot of smokin’ music. Butts’ sheer joy in performing is always tonic –– he’s a show-off, all right, but like Cagney, the exuberance is fully earned with the protean talent so evident at all times. Backed by the best band to be found anywhere, this was a gleeful, raunchy, down to earth, and in-your-face helluva good time, enlivened by raucous covers of pop songs done so originally and so well that, with the right marketing, one could almost see Butts deserting Broadway, getting into recording, and playing stadiums around the world. His rendition of “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” mined genuine and devastating dramatic gold from that maudlin chestnut, all of it marked by that stirringly propulsive beat, underlining all the moaning mournfulness. And I never thought I would want to hear “Come on Eileen” ever again, but as pogo-performed by the electrifyingly energetic Butts, I can now see myself screaming for it the next time I catch him. Ani DiFranco at New York Society for Ethical Culture I caught this tireless activist/ singer/ songwriter a few very sad days after Election Night, at this highly appropriate, graciously intimate space, and don’t think I could have had a better therapist. Factor in the wonderful Lizz Winstead to comment humorously and, more importantly, angrily about all this shit going down now, and you had an evening that was not only funny, stirringly musical, of course, but also deeply healing. I think it was my personal best double bill since a long ago Radio City concert that brought together –– wait for it–– Patti Labelle and Richard Pryor. DiFranco’s concerts always bring out a divinely heimische crowd of gays, quite fabulous lesbians, die-hard hippies, and West Side bookworms, and it was one of those rare New York nights when everyone really did feel like family. I had just been given the attempted runaround trying to get to the venue by the phalanx of cops in front of nearby Trump International hotel. “Where ya goin’?,” they asked as I passed the security barricade on Central Park West. “Guest of the hotel,” I blithely replied, proceeding to walk on and completely bypass the entrance to that Trump Dump. You really thought I was going to go out of my way around the block to get to Ethical because of our new “President” Oompa Loompa? Duran Duran at the Apollo The 1980s pop power band returned to Gotham, and put on a brilliant show that also proved that cute can, indeed, age very well. With a full-scale and quite lavish staging in terms of lighting projections and marvelous sound,

CELEBRATE, continued on p.31

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THEATER

Songs of Myself Two new musicals romanticize less admirable human qualities BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE ear Evan Hansen” is the story of a boy whose lie spins out of control, explodes across social media, and takes on a life of its own, at which point truth becomes irrelevant. If there were ever a musical for our time awash in so-called fake news, this is it. Even more disquieting is the notion that when Evan’s lie is finally uncovered by the people most hurt by it, they choose not to expose him because the lie made people feel good and everyone needs to feel good. What we’re talking about is suicide, an incredibly difficult event to understand or accept. Evan is a troubled, socially inept teen, a loner who shies away from human contact. When a therapist suggests he write letters to himself as encouragement, he does so. One letter is stolen by a bully, Connor, who subsequently, and for reasons unknown, kills himself. The letter, addressed “Dear Evan Hansen” is presumed to be a suicide note. Evan never knew Connor but through a series of events is thrust into what’s left of Connor’s family, who come to believe what is false because it comforts them. And so the legend grows that Connor wasn’t the disturbed young man who had tormented his parents but a poetic soul longing for expression, hurting in a cruel world. Evan is swept along as the story goes viral, gratified at finally being noticed and celebrated and basking in the attention and approbation he’s receiving. For those of you who are paying attention, this is how religions are created and how Donald Trump took the White House. As for Evan, after he finally comes clean, his mother comforts him by saying people will forget. While that may be the case, the truly insidious truth is that in adopting a palatable narrative, the characters avoid harsher truths and moral questions and absolve themselves from responsibility in a tragedy. As I said, a musical for our time. Mine is admittedly a contrarian view of a musical that had powerful regional and offBroadway runs and has moved to Broadway with glowing reviews. Despite my disquiet over the story’s morality, this is, for the most part, a well-made musical. Though Steven Levenson’s book is sketchy and characters’ motivations are often undeveloped, he has a terrific sense of the language of teens and both the harshness and tenderness of that time of life. The rock-infused music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are appealing, if not overly sophisticated, but they seem appropriate for the simplistic nature of the story. If it feels somewhat formulaic, that’s consistent with a tale that wants its darkness… but not too much. If anything, the show points up how much of social media today is inherently

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MATTHEW MURPHY

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Ben Platt and Rachel Bay Jones in Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul's "Dear Evan Hansen."

DEAR EVAN HANSEN Music Box Theatre 239 W. 45th St. Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sun. at 7:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. Or 212—239-6200 $79-$175; telecharge.com Two hrs., 25 mins., with intermission

self-involved and presentational, allowing people to skirt by deeper issues all the while garnering attention. On some level, a deeper humanity is minimized, but that’s the world we live in. The cast, too, is bright and energetic. Ben Platt in the title role gives a detailed, if sometimes overly mannered performance that manages to make Evan appealing if not necessarily sympathetic. He’s a strong, focused singer, and if he flips up into falsetto too often blame the score. Platt’s technique is spot-on. Other notable performances include Mike Faist as Connor who has a quirky appeal as does Will Roland as Evan’s snarky friend (and co-conspirator) Jared. Kristolyn Lloyd is terrific as Alana, a girl who jumps on the social media bandwagon, and Rachel Bay Jones is adorably idiosyncratic as Heidi, Evan’s mother. Michael Greif directs with style, and David

A BRONX TALE Longacre Theatre 220 W. 48th St. $50-$187; telecharge.com Or 212—239-6200 Two hrs., 10 mins., with intermission

Korins’ set with Peter Nigrini’s projections convey the overwhelming power of social media in today’s world — for good or ill. Despite my reservations, it is easy for me to understand the appeal of this show, even though from a dramatic and character standpoint the piece is unsatisfying. As theater or dramaturgy, Evan being let off the hook is not the same as his finding redemption, hard as this piece tries to make those two things the same. It’s a false equivalency: the former is facile, the latter is literature. Tedium sets in early in “A Bronx Tale: The Musical.” Based on Chazz Palminteri’s one-man show about his life growing up in –– you guessed it –– the Bronx. It’s the story of a young man torn between the romantic life of a gangster and the

HUMAN QUALITIES, continued on p.31

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


THEATER

Neither Here Nor There The dynamic cacophony of restless New Yorkers in transit, rendered a cappella BY DAVID KENNERLEY n Transit” bills itself as “Broadway’s first a cappella musical,” destined to “make history.” Indeed, under the guidance of director/ choreographer Kathleen Marshall, the skillful cast delivers terrific renditions of jazzy pop tunes and power ballads with nary a woodwind, string, or drum. Instead, the ensemble, alternately led by beatbox masters Steven “HeaveN” Cantor and Chesney Snow (the role is so taxing they alternate shows), provides the musical accompaniment along with the singing. Not to mention all manner of wild, percussive beats and sound effects. Every sound is produced by a human voice. And what better setting to showcase this art form than the New York subway system, where the polyrhythms of the city and its restless denizens often converge to create a glorious symphony. In this subterranean realm, a steady stream of yearning, alienated humanity is bent on getting from point A to point B. But what about the journey? For skeptics wondering whether a Broadway tuner can float without the aid of an orchestra, “In Transit” firmly whisks any doubts aside. Deke Sharon (“Pitch Perfect”) is the vocal arranger. It may also be the first musical in which the book, music, and lyrics together are credited to four creators: Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Oscar winner for “Frozen”), JamesAllen Ford, Russ Kaplan, and Sara Wordsworth. Yet this too-many-cooks approach may explain the disjointed book and awkward tone. Is this a savvy, gritty, slice-of-life urban drama or a frothy, Disneyesque comic fairy tale? Is it a love letter to New Yorkers or an infomercial for the MTA? Like those frantic subway riders in transit, it’s neither here nor there. One moment, the sassy token booth clerk (or whatever they call

“I

JOAN MARCUS

Justin Guarini and Telly Leung in Broadway’s first a cappella musical, “”In Transit.”

them nowadays) inexplicably struts down a runway wearing a gown made of yellow MetroCards, and the audience squeals with delight. Later, a sketchy guy urinates on the subway platform, and the audience squirms. “In Transit” attempts to quash stereotypes but there’s just no avoiding them in such multi-character endeavors (a cast of 11 plays more than 40 roles, if you count train announcers). First we meet Jane (a highly appealing Margo Seibert), an aspiring actress hoping for her big break, marking time as an office temp. Then there’s the good-looking former Wall Street whiz (James Snyder) now down on his luck, who becomes smitten with Jane. There’s also Ali (Erin Mackey), reeling from her breakup with Dave (David Abeles), who has since moved on. Then there’s the stylish gay couple, recently engaged and working on communication issues. Trent (an exceptional Justin Guarini, of “American Idol” fame) is still closeted with respect to his family, while his partner, Steven (Telly Leung, from “Glee”), threatens to call off the wedding if he won’t come out to his Christian-right mom. Trent refers to Steven as his roommate. The show dutifully checks off the all-too-familiar tropes of underground travel in New York: sardinepacked cars, unexplained delays, nasty smells, homeless people, garbled PA announcements, Dr. Zizmor posters, manspreading, and so on. It helps that the production is

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

staged in the relatively small, proscenium-free Circle in the Square Theatre, increasing the intimacy that matches the a cappella sensibility. Donyale Werle’s set is a dead ringer for an MTA subway station and features an ingenious conveyor belt running down the length of the stage, replicating the forward motion of a subway train. The wispy story threads don’t carry much weight, and you can see major plot resolutions from several train stops away. The “together but alone” theme is driven home with a sledgehammer, while the message of learning to be “happy in the moment” is nothing we haven’t heard before. Despite the bumps, “In Transit” is a fun ride if you focus on the wonders of the a cappella sound effects, music, and lyrics. Jane’s song about temping until landing

IN TRANSIT Circle in the Square Theatre 235 W. 50th St. Performance schedule varies $89-$159; InTransitBroadway.com One hr., 40 mins. with no intermission

a plum acting gig is particularly catchy: “I do what I don’t really do, so I can do what I do,” she croons, with a dash of self-deprecation. Also a hoot is the number “Four Days Home,” sung while Trent and Steven are visiting Trent’s hometown, deep in the red state of Texas. “We’re in separate rooms. The frustration starts to pile up. All our porn is on the cloud and it won’t come through on dial-up!”

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OPERA

Musical Conflicts in the Middle East “Nabucco,” “Salome” on the Met stage this season BY ELI JACOBSON s fa r back as Biblica l times, the Middle East region has been a cauldron of tribal warfare and power struggles. These conflicts also figured in the historical background behind the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays we celebrate this month. Opera also has its share of Mideast conflicts, as witnessed on local opera stages in November and December. Racial and religious conflicts in ancient Jerusalem and Babylon provide the backdrop for Verdi’s “Nabucco” which opened at the Metropolitan Opera on December 12. Plácido Domingo and James Levine, two legendary operatic lions in winter, reunited as the titular tyrant and maestro in charge. When dealing with latter-day Domingo as baritone, one either concentrates on what he has or on what he hasn’t. No, he hasn’t the deeper resonances or tonal weight of a true baritone –– lowvoiced declamation requires little glottal grunts because Domingo can’t expand the tone down there. Occasionally, note values within a phrase sound improvisational. What is still there is a slightly worn but still attractive warm timbre, impressive volume, a flowing legato line, and a commanding, energetic stage persona unusual for a performer over 70. His Babylonian king has the authority of a born ruler and pathos in defeat. In this instance, the cup was much more than half full. Levine was not quite the firebrand in the pit he was when this production premiered in 2001. But he conducted with point, clarity and control utilizing precise, energetic gestures. As the witchy, bitchy Abigaille, dramatic soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska had lots of attractive tone everywhere except for skimping chest tone on the low end. Her soprano took on a particularly voluptuous sheen in broad expansive phrases (one longs for her “Forza” Leonora and Amelia in “Ballo”). It is not a quick-moving

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Patricia Racette in the title role of Strauss' "Salome."

voice and some of the rollercoaster runs were approximated and her second act cabaletta was trillless. Monastyrska still tends to drop consonants and sing mushy homogenized vowels. However, one should not quibble with such effortless generosity of tone and volume, and Monastyrska revealed some feisty diva attitude absent from her impeccably vocalized Aida. Fellow Ukrainian Dmitry Belosselskiy was a rich-toned, imposing Zaccaria except for one or two of the lowest notes for which he had to take higher options. Luxury casting extended to the supporting roles of Fenena and Ismaele –– Russell Thomas as Ismaele sang with a burnished, ringing tenor, and Jamie Barton in Fenena’s Act IV solo provided the best solo singing of the evening. Donald Palumbo’s chorus once again had to repeat “Va Pensiero” after a deserved ovation. A near capacity audience (unusual at the Met these days) enjoyed what they saw and heard. You can see and hear and enjoy “Nabucco” in HD on Saturday, January 7 at 12:55 p.m. (metopera. org/Season/In-Cinemas). Strauss’ “Salome,” set in first

century Judaea, returned to the Met on December 5 after a long absence. Jürgen Flimm’s 2004 production is updated to resemble the outdoor patio of a Dubai resort hotel sometime in the 20th century. Patricia Racette replaced Catherine Naglestad in the title role, while Željko Lucic squared off against her as the prophet Jokanaan. Both artists were singing their first German roles at the Metropolitan. Tenor Gerhard Siegel was an amusingly neurotic Herod, finding manic humor in the despot’s paranoia. His concentrated tone combines the theatrical personality of a character tenor with the tonal thrust of a heldentenor. Nancy Fabiola Herrera’s rich-toned vituperative Queen Herodias resembled a dissipated Gale Sondergaard who becomes increasingly inebriated as the evening wears on. Kang Wang’s bright tenor blazed briefly as Narraboth in his Met debut. Met debutant Johannes Debus conducted a transparent, lyrical French impressionist reading of the score that accommodated a less than Wagnerian leading soprano. This was the closest I’ve heard in this score to Strauss’ famous request that his music be treated like “Mendelssohn fairy music,” but the element of sin-

ister darkness was absent. Racette and Lucic have become problematic for me in their usual Italian repertoire but seemed better suited to German opera at this point in their careers. Lucic’s foggy recessed tone and morose stage demeanor lack the vibrancy for Verdi baritone assignments. As Jokanaan, his hollow timbre and introverted manner suited a prophet of doom. Lucic produced huge volume –– high notes can sag flat but this was a convincing assumption overall. After more than 25 years on the operatic stage and several testing spinto assignments, Racette’s firm full lyric soprano has taken on a hard glassy edge. In the title role, she exceeded expectations and earned admiration without crossing the line into that mixture of amazement and revulsion a great Salome should evoke. This Judean princess was a knowing, sexually manipulative film noir vixen in a low-cut white silk evening gown –– think Jane Greer in “Out of the Past.” The metallic edge on her mature soprano, so jarring in Puccini, turned into a penetrating brilliance in Strauss that cut through the dense orchestration. High notes were secure but could be opaque with a slight beat. The only two strong vocal demerits were weak low notes (this is where the Wagnerian Salomes deliver more tone) and the lack of a true piano, which could have provided a touch of otherworldly weirdness and spoiled innocence to the character. Racette has worked out every moment, projecting specific meaning into the text. Her “Dance of the Seven Veils” showed that she is not a dancer, and her voluptuously rounded figure fully exposed is not that of a 16-year-old virgin. She paced herself cannily, maintaining stamina and freshness through an effective final scene. But Racette’s voice is reliable and musical without being stunningly beautiful or powerful, and her interpretation was intelligent without crossing over into the demented. A less than demented Salome makes for a less than memorable “Salom.”

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


CELEBRATE, from p.27

“Hadestown” Composer Anaïs Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin collaborated on this ultra-vivid and soulful retelling of the Orpheus myth at the New York Theatre Workshop. Thrillingly musi-

HUMAN QUALITIES, from p.28

straight-and-narrow, but painfully prosaic life of an honest working man. This is familiar stuff, but it’s better suited to a monologue than the sprawling, derivative musical now on Broadway. The show arrives feeling dated with echoes of “Jersey Boys,” “West Side Story,” “Guys and Dolls,” to name just three. Palminteri, who also wrote the book for this, strains to make a coherent narrative of it. The story starts out as the coming of age story of Calogero, Palminteri’s stand-in, and then veers off, introducing issues of race and conflict between neighborhoods that are clunky and clichéd. The characters are undeveloped, which makes emotional connection to any of them virtually impossible and renders them stereotypes. Worse, the use of Calogero as a narrator removes any immediacy from

I, DANIEL, from p.24

a part of his life, but she’s even more desperate. After breaking down at a food bank and then getting caught shoplifting, she turns to sex work. The past few Loach films were not bad, but they played like socialist variations on “Footloose” or “The Full Monty.” With “I, Daniel Blake,” he and screenwriter Paul Laverty have got their anger back. To be sure, there are places where Daniel’s struggles become unbelievable. He’s computer-illiterate to a degree that doesn’t ring true for anyone living in a modern urban society. I’d think that even 60-year-olds would know that you don’t turn in a handwritten résumé if you want potential employers to take you seriously. Similarly, Daniel needs someone to tell him that you don’t literally touch the monitor with a mouse. GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

JOAN MARCUS

they performed all the songs that provided the soundtrack to so many of our careless, partying salad days. Nice to observe that they all looked in fine fettle and –– thank God –– still hip, with no embarrassing clinging to the trends of their youth (see Genesis, frightening). John Taylor still has those razor cheekbones, girls, and Simon Le Bon’s amazingly healthy voice is, if anything, even stronger and better today. He was a marvelously suave and witty host to the evening, as well, properly awed by the greats who have preceded the lily white likes of him & Co. on that hallowed stage, and I suddenly wondered why he was never cast as a singing James Bond.

cal, visually splendiferous, and performed by a beautiful cast, with standouts being the rapturously funky Amber Gray and uber-bear Chris Sullivan, the sexiest guy seen onstage this year.

Chris Sullivan in the New York Theatre Workshop production of "Hadestown."

And that’s a wrap. To all my faithful readers, Happy New Year! 2017 seems to be the first truly bleak one we’ve had in I can’t remember how long. But, recently, I was watching Terry Zwig-

off’s wonderful “Crumb,” the 1994 documentary about artist Robert Crumb and his spectacularly dysfunctional family. Much of footage shot was during Nixon’s time in the White House, and I realize that we had an evil, megalomaniac president (although not stupid) back then, and people like the Crumbs –– alienated, isolated, severely depressed, and medicated, with odd, obsessive hobbies –– may have seemed like wack jobs then, but are today’s new normal. They and the similarly-minded artists and bohemians they hung out with –– like me and my friends –– really were the counterculture, against a backdrop of cheery conservative American go-getters of a very different dream. We survived all that then, and we shall survive this. And remember, a lot of excellent art –– far more than now –– was made during that time, much of it in response to the hell going around us. Contact David Noh at Inthenoh@aol.com and follow him on Twitter @In_The_Noh.

the story, bathing it all in a miasma of nostalgia that quickly cloys. The usually gifted Alan Menken’s score is largely pastiche as it careens from doo-wop to cocktail music to noisome easy-listening ballads. Particularly awful is a song “One of the Great Ones,” which recalls nothing so much as Dean Martin on a variety show from the 1960s. And “Roll ‘Em” is a complete knock off of “Luck Be a Lady” (the showstopper from “Guys and Dolls”) without the original’s style, melodic urgency, or sex appeal. As you might imagine given the derivative banality of the music, Glenn Slater’s lyrics are similarly lacking, with amateurish rhymes that thud into place. This is all too bad, not just because you’ll waste money and two hours on this show but for the waste of talent involved in the cast. Nick Cordero as the gangster Sonny has extraordi-

nary stage presence and charm. If the performance is reminiscent of the one he gave in “Bullets Over Broadway,” that’s because the characters are similar. But he’s a powerful singer who can make even a trite song seem lush. Richard H. Blake as Lorenzo, Calogero’s father, is equally strong. Bobby Conte Thornton makes a welcome Broadway debut as Calogero, with a fine voice and charming personality. Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks are credited with direction, and there are some fine moments, particularly in the creation of the street life on Beowulf Boritt’s imaginative set. Choreography by Sergio Trujillo is fresh and often exciting. None of this, however, is sufficient to overcome the lack of anything breathtaking or new in this tale, making it as bland and predictable as an oft-read bedtime story. Lord knows, it certainly came close to putting me to sleep.

However, Johns, a stand-up comic in real life, does a terrific job of channeling the rage of Laverty’s screenplay. He starts at a high point of aggression and only gets more and more pissedoff at his treatment from there. Squires is a worthy foil. Almost everything we learn about Daniel relates to his job search, apart from his memories of his late wife. It becomes clear that the humiliation built into the system is a defining feature; it’s not some unintended bug. It’s no wonder that everyone around Daniel is turning to crime. One of his neighbors imports knock-off sneakers from China and sells them at a discount. Katey may be humiliated when Daniel discovers that she works as an escort, but she points out that she’s got 300 pounds in her pocket. Meanwhile, he goes on to sell off most of his furniture. There’s a danger that some people, particularly in the current American climate, will take

“I, Daniel Blake” as a conservative attack on big government and the welfare state. The film certainly shows how they can grind people down when they become oppressive. I wouldn’t bring this up if I hadn’t read a tweet interpreting the film precisely this way. A Marxist since the ‘60s, Loach isn’t arguing against big government –– he wants bureaucracy that exists to serve people, not alienate them. Whether such a functional UK has existed in his adult life is not a question I’m qualified to answer. The UK depicted by Loach pretends to serve people. It’s at least theoretically starting from a higher place than the current US government and culture, even in this film devoted to showing its flaws. An American remake would be even grimmer, a post-Trump remake probably even grimmer still. All of a sudden, the improbability of Daniel’s ineptness with computers doesn’t seem to matter very much.

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TOP 10, from p.22

5. “Right Now, Wrong Then” (Hong Sang-soo)

6. “Certain Women” (Kelly Reichardt) Evoking writers like Raymond Carver and Alice Munro (while actually adapting Maile Meloy), Reichardt’s trio of interlocking stories set in Montana evoke the mysteries of human behavior with a respect for our species’ foibles. The film peaks in its final third, a tale of obsession between Lily Gladstone and Kristen Stewart that can be read as erotic, friendly, needy, or just plain weird.

SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

With a consistency that would impress the Ramones, Korean director Hong has made his umpteenth variation on his favorite subjects –– soju liquor, filmmakers, young women –– told in an elaborately playful narrative. Hong’s films sometimes resemble Woody Allen’s, filtered through the French New Wave, but they’re not mere male fantasies: the guy usually don’t get the girl.

Isabelle Huppert in Paul Verhoeven's "Elle."

7. “Elle” (Paul Verhoeven) Just as America elected a sexual predator-in-chief, Verhoeven and (most crucially) Isabelle Huppert offered up a brutal, misanthropic, and darkly funny kick to the balls of rape culture. Without Huppert, this film might have seemed like a fantasy of female invulnerability; with her performance (the

best turn by an actress I saw this year), its rape survivor escapes the usual clichés about victimization or female strength while also refusing the mantle of nobility. 8. “Things to Come” (Mia Hansen-Løve) Isabelle Huppert served up her other great performance of the

year in Hansen-Løve’s much gentler showcase for her talents. This is the kind of film about the dilemmas of being a single middle-aged woman that doesn’t get made in Hollywood, and Huppert excels in its dramatic but relatively subdued ups and downs.

TOP 10, continued on p.33

LGBTQ CINEMA, from p.23

Worst Coming Out Film: Max Landis’ “Me Him Her,” about an actor (Luke Bracey) who wants to come out, is painfully unfunny even without the embarrassing

32

Jake Choi and James Chen in Ray Yeung’s “Front Cover.”

Elmer Bäck and Luis Alberti in Peter Greenway’s “Eisenstein in Guanajuato.”

twice-used sight gag involving a giant penis. Runner Up: “Fourth Man Out,” from Andrew Nackman, about a small town mechanic who comes out to his best friends, reinforced the stereotypes it was trying to break. Best Ellen Page Performance: The terrific Ellen Page’s finest screen work in 2016 was not actually a film but her documentary TV series, “Gaycation.” Traveling with her gay best friend, Ian Daniel, she explored LGBTQ life in Japan, Brazil, Jamaica, and the US. It’s a fun and informative trip worth taking.

STRAND RELEASING

Best Gay Teen on Screen: Stephen Cone’s modest, incisive gem “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party” had every character reveal themself in a look or a line of dialogue, and out actor Cole Doman made a striking film debut in the title role. Runners Up: A tie: André Techine’s sensitive “Being 17” and Stephen Dunn’s fantastic (and fantastical) “Closet Monster.”

STRAND RELEASING

it’s unclear whose naked ass is seen (even Yeung, when pressed to identify the actor, demurred, “I forget.”) Regardless of that ambiguity, “Front Cover” emphasizes that Asian-American men, long and unfairly desexualized on screen, are hot, and both Choi and Chen were fabulously sexy in their turns. Runner Up: Garrett Clayton’s cute caboose displayed at the end of “King Cobra.”

Runners Up: Her fierce turns in “Into the Forest” and “Tallulah.” Best Latin American Film: “From Afar” had Armando (Alfredo Castro) paying young men to bare their bodies, and eventually falling for — and becoming a father figure to — a young teen (Luis Silva) who robs him. The film, by Lorenzo Vigas, traverses interesting issues of expression and repression. Runner Up: Anna Muylaert’s “Don’t Call Me Son” has a teen (Naomi Nero) learning he was stolen from his birth mother. Reunited with his biological family, he causes

more conflict when he displays his penchant for cross-dressing. Like its characters, this film takes risks. Best Film Made By a Gay Man: Fashion designer turned filmmaker Tom Ford’s sophomore effort, “Nocturnal Animals,” about an art gallery owner (Amy Adams) and her ex (Jake Gyllenhaal) is as stylish as it is spellbinding. Runner Up: Ira Sachs’ poignant “Little Men” about two teens who become friends as their parents come into conflict.

LGBTQ CINEMA, continued on p.33

December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


TOP 10, from p.32

9. “I Am Not Your Negro” (Raoul Peck) Based on gay African-American author James Baldwin’s words, both published and unpublished, Haitian director Peck’s film amounts to an anguished, extremely powerful history of America from the ‘50s to the present, as we see Baldwin struggling to find reasons to remain optimistic as the country goes on killing black men. Peck’s montage of movie scenes, photos, TV footage, and newly shot images is potent, but the film’s real force comes from Baldwin’s words. 10. “The Mermaid” (Stephen Chow) The best “Hollywood”-style entertainment of the year actually came from China. Veteran Hong Kong-based actor/ director’s worldwide success –– which barely got released in the US –– created a raucous comedy about a community of mermaids in danger of being destroyed. For the most part, this is an extreme-

ly silly, enjoyable ride, but Chow isn’t afraid to get ugly and violent when he needs to. Runners-up: “10 Cloverfield Lane” (Dan Trachtenberg), “13th” (Ava DuVernay), “Arrival” (Denis Villeneuve), “The Handmaiden” (Park Chan-wook), “Little Men” (Ira Sachs), “The Lobster” (Yorgos Lanthimos), “Neither Heaven Nor Earth’ (Clément Cogitore), “Notfilm” (Ross Lipman), “Pervert Park” (Frida and Lasse Barkors), “The Witness” (James Solomon). Undistributed films that deserved a shot at American theaters : “Dead Slow Ahead” (Mauro Herce), “Like Cattle Towards Glow” (Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley), “Malgré la nuit” (Philippe Grandrieux), “El Movimiento” (Benjamin Naishtat), “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea” (Dash Shaw). Bottom 5: “Author: The JT Leroy Story” (Jeff Feuerzeig), “Captain Fantastic” (Matt Ross), “The Club” and “Jackie” (Pablo Larrain), “Nocturnal Animals” (Tom Ford).

I Get It At Home... Do You? To get Gay City News mailed directly to your home,

LGBTQ CINEMA, from p.32

Best Gay Film Made by a Straight Man: Matt Sobels’ stunning “Take Me to the River,” chronicles gay teen Ryder (Logan Miller), at the center of escalating tensions with his extended family during a reunion in the heartland. Runner up: Jay Dockendorf’s “Naz and Maalik” about gay African-American Muslim teens in Brooklyn who have just spent their first night together. The film gets by on the easygoing charm of

its two leads, Curtiss Cook Jr. and Kerwin Johnson Jr. Best Re-release: “Multiple Maniacs” John Waters’ crude — and crudely made — classic underground “celluloid atrocity,” long out of release, features one helluva performance by Divine. It was great to revisit Lady Divine getting a “rosary job” from Mink (Mink Stole), and raped by Lobstora, a 15-foot broiled crustacean. Here’s to more great LGBTQ cinema in 2017.

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December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


ABUSE CHARGES, from p.6

was credible.” Doyle testified that these women were not child sex abusers. The state prosecutors, called to defend their work in this case, “did very little throughout the whole hearing,” Newell wrote, “asking very few questions on cross-examination and declining to put on any evidence.” In summarizing why the women should not have been convicted and were, in fact, innocent, Newell wrote, “Applicants [the four women who were convicted] have presented considerable and extremely persuasive evidence to support their claim of innocence. The medical testimony relied upon to secure the convictions is now known to be unreliable. One of the complainants has not only recanted her testimony, she has provided eyewitness testimony that

HIV CONVICTION, from p.7

disclosure would be suspect under Missouri law, but here the State admitted that it purposely withheld the recordings from Johnson.” Dowd wrote that the “pretty sure” statement was “profoundly prejudicial” when it was used out of context to impeach Johnson’s testimony that he had disclosed his HIV status to his sexual partners. As a result, concluded Dowd, the state’s tactic had likely “prevented Johnson from

HB2 STAYS, from p.5

lotte. Charlotte's ordinance was a best practice employed in hundreds of cities across the country. The Charlotte City Council and mayor did the right thing by passing their ordinance.” Still, Sgro’s statement ended by focusing on what could be achieved once HB2 is off the books. “We look forward to working with Governor-elect Cooper to win protections community by community and statewide,” he said. Lambda Legal, which with the American Civil Liberties Union sued North Carolina over HB2, voiced more explicit dissatisfaction about the compromise. “LGBT rights aren’t a bargaining chip. Charlotte shouldn’t have had to repeal its ordinance in exchange for H.B. 2 to be repealed,” Lambda’s southern regional director, Simone

no assaults ever occurred and that she and her sister were forced to testify falsely against the Applicants. New psychological evidence corroborates Applicants’ claims that these allegations were generated through the manipulation of the complainants by their father in order to gain leverage in a custody dispute. Substantial evidence regarding a history of claims of abuse brought forth by the complainants’ father that we now know were equally false further corroborates the recantation evidence in this case. And evaluations of each Applicant showing that they are not sex offenders and have never engaged in deviate sexual behavior, further establishes the claims of actual innocence. When this new evidence is compared to the State’s exceedingly weak case for guilt, it is patent that the Applicants have unquestionably established their

claim that no jury could rationally find them guilty.” Noting that the burden of proving actual innocence is “Herculean,” Newell concluded that having met the burden, the women “have won the right to proclaim to the citizens of Texas that they did not commit a crime. That they are innocent. That they deserve to be exonerated.” Judge Alcala’s concurring opinion, substantially longer than Newell’s, goes into much more detail about the trial testimony and its flaws, describing the “astonishingly weak and excessively contradictory testimony that was introduced at the two jury trials in which the applicants were convicted,” and reciting with much more colorful detail the efforts undertaken by the children’s father to manufacture this case against their aunt and the other three women as part

of a scheme to wrest custody of the young girls from his ex-wife. Neither Newell nor Alcala provides any details about the consequences of the “actual innocence relief” granted to the four women. Are they entitled to compensation from the state for the years of prison time they served and the expense of proving their innocence? Will any prosecutors suffer consequences for having presented what was inaccurate and, in some cases, possibly perjured testimony? Will the father be prosecuted for suborning perjury by pressuring the girls to offer false testimony against the defendants? The immediate press reporting on the case was not enlightening on these points. Clearly, though, the Texas criminal justice system owes more to these four women than a judicial apology for having wrongfully convicted them.

preparing a meaningful defense –– i.e., one that was not sabotaged by the State’s deliberate untimely disclosure of highly prejudicial evidence –– and that timely disclosure of the statement would have affected the result of Johnson’s trial.” The trial judge abused his discretion in letting the state use this evidence, and the conviction was reversed and sent back to the county Circuit Court for a new trial. It is up to the prosecutor to decide whether to go forward. Since

Johnson has served only a small fraction of the 30-year sentence, there may be local pressure to have a new trial. In light of the evidence, which would be admissible the second time around now that it has been disclosed, it’s possible that Johnson will seek to strike a plea bargain for a shorter sentence. In the meantime, this case, which has attracted nationwide attention, shows that Missouri’s HIV-exposure law requires reconsideration, especially in light of the develop-

ments in medical treatment that have changed the calculus of risk in HIV transmission since the law was passed in 1988. HIV-positive people who adhere to their treatment regimens should be uninfectious, and negative partners using PrEP should be protected against infection. Infection by a positive person who does not disclose their status, however, is likely to remain a contentious issue in any debates over reforming current criminal statutes.

Bell, said in a written statement. “LGBT people in North Carolina still need protection from discrimination.” Grumpy acceptance, however, was not the end of the story. At the end of a long day in the state capital, legislators went home without delivering the repeal they had promised. Chad Griffin, HRC’s president, in a statement issued shortly after legislators went home, said, “Today, the public trust has been betrayed once again. Lawmakers sent a clear message: North Carolina remains closed for business. It’s been 273 days since Republican state lawmakers passed the hateful HB2 law, and they have resisted fixing the mess they created every step of the way. Even after Charlotte responded to the GOP leadership’s loathsome demand to repeal common sense protections that exist in more than 100 cities, Senator [Phil] Berger and

Speaker [Tim] Moore failed to make good on the ‘deal’ they brokered with Governor-elect Cooper to fully repeal HB2. Their shameful actions and broken promises subject LGBTQ North Carolinians to state-mandated discrimination, contribute to a heightened environment of harassment and violence, and will continue the significant harm done to the state’s reputation and economy.” “It is a shame that North Carolina’s General Assembly is refusing to clean up the mess they made,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a written statement. “The support for the LGBT community from political leaders, faith leaders, businesses, and everyday people that has emerged this year will not fade. These attempts to expel transgender people from public life will not be tolerated. The Legislature may not be willing to undo

their unconstitutional overreach and respect the rights of LGBT people, so we’ll just have to see them in court.” Even before the Legislature’s latest treachery, an old hand in the LGBTQ movement signaled his frank assessment of the situation. On Facebook, Matt Foreman, a former executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda and the National LGBTQ Task Force who now holds a senior post at the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, wrote, “I don't get the North Carolina “deal” –– yes, HB2 will go, but so did protections for LGBT people in Charlotte with no commitment to restoring them. And there's zero chances for a statewide nondiscrimination law. Why are we being told this is a breakthrough? This smacks of pure insider dealing at its worst.” Apparently, even insider dealing didn’t work this time.

GayCityNews.nyc | December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017

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December 22, 2016 - January 04, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc

Gay City News Dec 22 2016  

Gay City News, December 22, 2016

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