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Ruben Diaz A Hot Potato Once More 03

Indictment in Trans Killing in Chelsea 08

Now, Pride Insurance? 15

LGBT Russians, Allies Liberate Brighton Beach Page 06

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COVER STORY LGBT Russians, allies liberate Brighton Beach 06

PERSPECTIVE Time for resistance to Sessionsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; drug war 28

CRIME Deadlines looms on sex abuse survivor relief 04

TRAVEL A New York State equality vacation 30

HUMAN RIGHTS Taiwan high court okays marriage equality 13

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A Charles Ludlam anniversary 34

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May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Ruben Diaz, Sr., Aims to Return to the Council Notorious Bronx homophobe’s bid puts New York pols on the spot

MICK MEENAN

State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. (just right of center, in white jacket and hat), leading a massive rally against same-sex marriage in the Bronx in 2011.

BY ANDY HUMM

S

tate Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., 74, has a bad back and wants to take over the closer-to-home City Council seat opening up this fall in the South Bronx, including parts of Parkchester, Soundview, Unionport, and Castle Hill. His record of virulent anti-LGBTQ bigotry and opposition to women’s reproductive freedom has some political leaders condemning his bid, others — including out gay Councilmember Corey Johnson, who hopes to become speaker next year — avoiding comment, and at least one giving him a maximum donation for the Council to get him out of the Senate so that he can be replaced by someone more moderate. What’s more, one of Diaz’s leading opponents in the Council primary is the out gay Elvin Garcia, who previously served as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Bronx borough director with responsibilities with the LGBTQ community as well. While New York politicians generally love to condemn anti-LGBTQ bigots out of the state and champion boycotts of states like North Carolina with anti-LGBTQ laws, some are clearly reluctant to oppose Diaz because of his base in his Pentecostal congregation and his backing by the Bronx County Democratic machine that also made his son, the more moderate Ruben Diaz, Jr., borough president. Diaz, Sr., is famed as an antiLGBTQ extremist. In 1994 when he was serving on the Civilian Com-

GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

plaint Review Board, gay activist Daniel Dromm, then co-chair of the Queens Lesbian & Gay Pride Committee, demanded his removal, writing, “Mr. Diaz said that gay men and lesbians are ‘cursed’ and that we fall under the same category with ‘thieves, slanderers, murderers, idolaters, drug addicts, misers, swindlers, and criminals.’ Furthermore, he has condemned the Gay Games and mocked Council Member Tom Duane saying, ‘Does he (Duane) think I would tremble with fear, and run and kneel before this insignificant uncircumcised Philistine?’” Diaz wrote at the time “that the Gay Games, to be held in New York that June, would lead to an increase in AIDS cases and to wider acceptance of homosexuality by young people.” After serving on the City Council, Diaz was elected to the State Senate in 2002, voting against every major LGBTQ rights initiative right up to opposing GENDA, the transgender rights bill, this year in a key committee vote. In 2003, he filed a lawsuit against the Harvey Milk High School, settling it only when the school made clear it does not restrict itself to LGBTQ students. In 2009, he compared abortion to the Jewish Holocaust, drawing the condemnation of the Anti-Defamation League. Also in 2009, he led a rally of 20,000 against same-sex marriage at City Hall. In 2011, he led a similar rally in the Bronx and his lesbian granddaughter Erica Diaz showed up to counter-protest. When Diaz, Sr., said he loved her, Erica said,

“You cannot tell someone that you love them and stay silent when people call for their death. ‘Love’ is empty when you say someone’s life isn’t natural.” Dromm, now a councilmember from Jackson Heights, said, “I am very much opposed to having Diaz in the City Council. He would be a voice against all the progress we’ve made over the last few years. He remains an anti-gay bigot who has never taken back the horrible things he said about the community. Diaz took Ted Cruz around the Bronx. Then he took Trump around the Bronx. He is Donald Trump in Democrats’ clothing. It goes beyond anything acceptable. It is not just LGBT rights, it is a woman’s rights to choose, and many other issues. We need to stop anyone progressive — a union or an individual — to think it is acceptable to give Ruben Diaz a donation.” Dromm is especially upset that Diane Savino of Staten Island — a member of the State Senate’s breakaway Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) that caucuses with the minority Republican senators to keep mainstream Democrats out of power — gave Diaz a maximum $2,750 donation. But Savino says she is doing it for strategic reasons. “I’m a practical politician,” she said. “Diaz is one of the solid ‘no’ votes in the Senate on reproductive rights, marriage, GENDA — issues important to LGBT community and women’s reproductive health rights. We need a pro-LGBT person in that seat.” The people of the Bronx, Savi-

no said, should demand that the County Committee select a progressive candidate for the special Senate election should Diaz win the Council seat. “In the Council,” she said, “Diaz can do no harm to anyone on those issues. If he loses the Council seat, he’ll still be in the Senate. If he was smart, he’d go to the Stonewall Club and ask for their endorsement.” Savino may also be hoping for a new member of her caucus from the Senate district, though she said that no commitments had yet been secured from possible candidates in the district, which is close to that of Jeff Klein, the IDC leader. Rose Christ, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, said, “I’d prefer Diaz held no elective office,” but would not say whether he would be less damaging in the Council than he is in the Senate. Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, said, “If Democrats isolate him and the IDC isolated him, he wouldn’t be able to do damage,” but he also demurred on whether it would be better to have Diaz on the Council and out of the Senate. “Any candidate who normalizes or treats Ruben Diaz with respect is disrespecting the LGBT and women’s community,” Roskoff said. Out gay City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer said, “I believe I first heard the name Ruben Diaz, Sr., in 1994. I was a young gay man excited about the Gay Games

DIAZ, continued on p.12

3


CRIME

Deadlines Loom on Sex Abuse Survivor Relief Archdiocese claims due by July 31, as legislators scramble to broaden offenders’ liability BY PAUL SCHINDLER

A

s the deadline approaches for victims of sexual abuse by local priests to file claims under a special fund established by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, legislators in Albany looking to provide more broad-based relief to survivors are scrambling to move bills through the State Senate and Assembly in advance of the Legislature’s adjournment in late June. Several survivors of childhood victimization, including 47-yearold Shaun Dougherty, a Long Island City restaurant owner, appeared on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on May 15 to urge other victims to enroll in the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, a fund established by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. That fund, in its first phase, was open to survivors who had already made claims against the archdiocese. In its second phase, the program is accepting enrollment from survivors coming forward to the Church formally for the first time. The deadline for registration is July 31. “This is a unique opportunity that generations of children haven’t had,” said Dougherty, who noted that survivors are giving up no other options simply by enrolling. If they accept a settlement through the fund, however, they must agree to waive their right to any future claims. The fund is administered by Ken Feinberg, who was the special master who oversaw the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Dougherty suffered three years of sexual abuse by a priest beginning at age 10 while he was a student at a Catholic elementary school in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. For Dougherty, years of silent shame were followed by many more years in which his parents refused to belief his account of the abuse he suffered. Only after a statewide grand jury convened by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office in 2014 concluded that he had in fact been abused among other youth

4

COURTESY: LAWYERS HELPING SURVIVORS OF CHILD SEX ABUSE

Abuse survivors Shaun Dougherty (center) and Brian Toale (right) with Jerry Kristal of Lawyers Helping Survivors of Child Sex Abuse, at a May 15 press conference at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese did Dougherty regain the trust of his parents — just two years before his father’s death. Today, Dougherty is fortunate is his business and in his relationship with his wife, but even though the diocese back in Pennsylvania acknowledges the harm done him, he has no legal recourse. And though he has no claims against the New York Archdiocese, he is an advocate here and in Albany for reform to help other survivors. The Dolan fund is limited not just in only aiding abuse survivors in New York, but also in which survivors here it will assist. The Archdiocese of New York only encompasses Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx along with several upstate counties. Victims abused in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island have no similar recourse to the Diocese of Brooklyn or the Diocese of Rockville Centre. The fund also only covers abuse suffered at the hands of priests or deacons, not that perpetrated by other Church employees or even priests who do not report directly to the Archdiocese. Mick Meenan, a 50-year-old journalist and former deputy editor at Gay City News, has been in touch for the past year with his high school alma mater, Fordham Prep in the Bronx, about forced oral sexual assault he said he suffered from Fernand Beck, his religion teacher. Though Fordham fired Beck and its president has

apologized to Meenan, he is unable to register with the archdiocesan fund for compensation for that abuse. Separately, however, he is preparing a claim regarding abusive behavior by one of his Bronx parish priests. Though advocates for abuse survivors recommend that any eligible victim register with the Dolan fund, they are separately pressing Albany to take action that would relax what is one of the most stringent statutes of limitations facing abuse victims. Under current law, victims of childhood sexual abuse must either make a criminal complaint or file a civil lawsuit by age 23. Experts on the trauma children face as sexual abuse victims agree that it can often take decades for a survivor to come to grips with their experience and be ready to come forward. Early this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his support for a plan to eliminate all limits on the time a victim can come forward with a criminal complaint, allow civil suits to be filed for up to 50 years after any abuse, and allow a one-year look-back window for abuse survivors whose cases couldn’t be brought under current law to step forward. The announcement cheered survivors’ advocates but so far the governor hasn’t taken any concrete steps to further that pledge. In the meanwhile, Senate Republicans have blocked action on out gay Manhattan Democrat

Brad Hoylman’s Child Victims Act, which goes even further than the proposal Cuomo discussed by eliminating any time limitation on filing civil suits. Pressing for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he is the ranking member, he was told by the Republican chair, John Bonacic from Sullivan County, that at the direction of Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, the bill would instead be diverted to the Rules Committee, where Hoylman said “it will never see the light of day.” According to Hoylman, denying his request for a hearing, despite the fact that the requisite onethird of committee members had signed on in support, represented a breach of “rules and protocol,” which he likened to the use of a “nuclear option” by the Senate GOP leadership. Frustrated at the lack of debate about the issue, Hoylman said he merely hears vague concerns from Republicans about “false claims” clogging the courts. The bill, he explained, is opposed not only by groups such as the State Catholic Conference of Bishops and the Boy Scouts, but also by insurance companies that are “vehement” in their objections. “So it’s the old Albany story,” he said. “Corporate interests versus the needs of the little guy. This is an issue of the utmost importance to the survivors and their families.” Hoylman’s hope, at this point, is that Cuomo will step forward in the remaining weeks of the session with a governor’s program bill. Saying he is optimistic that is what Cuomo is planning, Hoylman said, “It would be a significant unifying step and move the conversation forward in both houses.” Even with that, he acknowledged, “it is a tall order given the waning days.” Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, the sponsor of a similar bill in her chamber, however, noted that “three weeks left in Albany is an eternity,” given how back-loaded the real legislative work is every

ABUSE SURVIVORS, continued on p.47

May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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COVER STORY

LGBTQ Russians, Allies Liberate Brighton Beach With Chechen crackdown, torture in mind, émigré community shows pride in Brooklyn

STEFANO GIOVANNINI ANDY HUMM ANDY HUMM

Yelena Goltsman, the co-president of RUSA LGBT.

BY ANDY HUMM

T

he first Brighton Beach Pride, led by RUSA LGBT, a group for Russian LGBTQ émigrés, drew 300 marchers to the uncharted territory — for gay demonstrators — of the boardwalk in a Brooklyn enclave of Russians and other Eastern Europeans on Saturday, May 20. The overcast skies greatly diminished the number of regulars on the boardwalk and beach, but the marchers shone with elation at every step. “We are doing something historic here,” Lyosha Gorshkov, copresident of RUSA LGBT told the crowd at the rally. “I was forced to leave my country [Russia] because of being LGBT. I had no place to go. I had no friends. Now all of you are my friends. We have to make Brighton Beach safe for all of us!”

STEFANO GIOVANNINI

The first Brighton Beach Pride drew more than 300 marchers.

6

ANDY HUMM

Public Advocate Letitia James with RUSA LGBT co-president Lyosha Gorshkov.

Journalist and human rights advocate Masha Gessen.

Journalist Masha Gessen, who also fled the anti-LGBTQ Putin regime and has been warning Americans about the dangers of Trump’s authoritarianism, said, “This is what pride looks like! Pride is political! Over the last few decades, people may have forgotten that. Pride is about going into a place that can be frightening. It was wonderful to see people waving at us.” Locals in their apartment buildings and in restaurants on the boardwalk were indeed waving to the marchers, clapping, and taking pictures with their cell phones. Some were amused and a few looked a little agitated as they spoke to the media, but there were no incidents. Ann Northrop, a longtime lesbian and AIDS activist, said, “We are all pioneers here today. It takes vision and courage to be here today, whether in Brooklyn or in Russia,

but we have the privilege of bringing a message of freedom and justice all around the world.” Northrop invited students from the Social Justice club at Leon M. Goldstein High School in Manhattan to this event after speaking to them in their school, and they joined the march along with representatives of ACT UP, Queer Nation, Out in Rockaway, Queens Pride, Rise and Resist, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Dignity/ New York, the Alliance for Positive Change, the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. Public Advocate Letitia James told the crowd, “We are Russian and we are gay and we are welcome here! I am the only elected official here, but as you grow they will all come out! You will put steel in their backbones. I was there when we first marched in Bedford Stuyvesant and they said we

ANDY HUMM

A banner at the start of the march in Brighton Beach.

ANDY HUMM

Anvar Lapitpv of RUSA LGBT won asylum in the US from Uzbekistan.

Many participants in Brighton Beach focused on the plight of gay men being persecuted and tortured in Chechnya.

couldn’t. Now everyone comes out for Pride in the ‘hood. And everyone will come out for Pride on the beach. I will always stand up for the marginalized.” Anvar Latipov, an asylee from Uzbekistan and a volunteer at RUSA LGBT, said, “What’s happening in Chechnya is terrifying.” He added that given his experience in Uzbekistan, “I know how scared they are. They cannot accept themselves and they cannot be accepted by society.” Elvira Brodskaya, a Russian asylum seeker also with RUSA LGBT, said, “We can’t be free in the motherland. Here we can be free!” Yelena Goltsman, the founder and co-president of RUSA LGBT who emceed the rally, said, “In 2008, few people would come to our group. Look what we have today! The difference between 2008 and now is huge. Believe in something and go there!” No one was pretending that all problems for these LGBTQ émigrés were solved when they were allowed to live here. “We’re surrounded by Russians, but it’s like they’re all frozen in time with these old Soviet values,” Gorshkov, who now lives in nearby Midwood, told the New York Times. “I get nonstop abuse from everyone in the neighborhood: women in my building, men outside of bars, even children.” But for one afternoon at least, he and his comrades were able to walk through their home turf proud of who they are. May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


POLITICS

Solidarity with Imprisoned Gay Chechens Vigil held at Washington Square as reports surface US resisting help for refugee seekers

ACT UP’s Eric Sawyer addresses the crowd.

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO

A

Timothy Lunceford.

crowd of well over 100 demonstrators gathered at Washington Square Park on the evening of May 18 to bring attention to the plight of LGBTQ Chechens, roughly 100 of whom have been reported kidnapped by officials and tortured in secret prisons in the Russian republic. Organized by longtime activist Timothy Lunceford and Rise and Resist leader Jay Walker, the protest attracted the support of RUSA LGBT, a network of New York-area Russian descendants, as well as of members of Rise and Resist, Gays Against Guns, and ACT UP. One hundred of the demonstra-

RUSA LGBT’s Nina Long addresses the demonstrators. GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

tors wore pink triangles in honor of the estimated number of gay men rounded up in Chechnya. The protesters drew attention to reporting earlier in the day from BuzzFeed News that the US State Department was being unhelpful in efforts by American activists to facilitate the departure of LGBTQ Chechens from their country. BuzzFeed reported that the Russia LGBT Network said as many as 40 gay men are in hiding in Chechnya but that the Network was “discouraged” by conversations it initiated with US embassy officials there. Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, a strong ally of the Kremlin’s Vladimir Putin, has denied there is any crackdown on gays, saying, there are no LGBTQ people

there, that “in Chechnya we just don’t have this problem.” A vigil in solidarity with LGBTQ Chechens was also held in San Francisco that evening, organized by the Bay Area Queer AntiFascist Network. RUSA LGBT, whose leader Nina Long is seen here addressing the demonstrators, was among the organizers of the May 20 LGBTQ Pride March in Brighton Beach (see previous page), the first such event hosted by Russian-speaking activists in the nation. — Additional reporting by Paul Schindler

Rise and Resist’s Jay Walker.

7


CRIME

Chelsea Vigil Remembers Mx Bostick One week before suspect’s indictment, community voices anger, determination BY PAUL SCHINDLER

F

ive days after the May 7 death of Mx Bostick, a transgender Chelsea resident who suffered a blow to the head on April 25, more than 100 transgender New Yorkers and their allies gathered at the site of the crime to honor Bostick’s memory and demand action on issues from police responsiveness to jobs, housing, and media portrayals. Bostick was attacked with a blunt blow to their head at about 10:30 p.m. on April 25 on Seventh Avenue between 29th and 30th Streets. The victim was declared brain-dead on May 4 and expired three days later, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. On May 19 — a week after the vigil was held — District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., announced the indictment of a 26-year-old homeless man, Joseph Griffin, on a first-degree manslaughter charge in Bostick’s killing. Shortly after the victim was found, Griffin was arrested on a felony criminal mischief complaint of jumping onto the hood of a taxi near 352 Seventh Avenue, across the street from where Bostick was attacked,

GAY CIT Y NEWS

GAY CIT Y NEWS

Mariah Lopez Ebony of STARR, the Strategic Transgender Alliance for Radical Reform, speaks.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay Democrat who represents the West Side.

and smashing in its windshield. The vigil for Bostick was held at 6 p.m. on May 12 on the block of Seventh Avenue where Bostick was felled. The rally, facilitated by LaLa Zannell, the lead organizer at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, and Cecilia Gentili, the assistant director of policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, emphasized the theme “Black Trans Lives Matter.” The vigil was the second gathering of the day to honor Bostick, with another event held at the Brooklyn Community Pride Center. Mariah Lopez Ebony, who heads STARR, or Strategic Transgender

Alliance for Radical Reform, a group founded by the late Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, focused on the housing crisis facing the transgender community. “The issue is not the NYPD but the Department of Homeless Services,” said Lopez Ebony, who herself had spent the day in court trying to gain access to Marsha’s House, which provides shelter to LGBTQ people in their 20s. Bostick’s last known address was the Bowery Residents’ Committee shelter at 127 West 25th Street, where Griffin, the suspect in her killing, is said to also have once been a tenant.

The NYPD is describing Bostick’s killing not as a hate crime but rather as a “dispute between neighbors.” Chelsea State Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, who has led the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act to victory 10 times in the Assembly, only to see it stalled in the Republican Senate, told the crowd that whether or not the killing was a hate crime, Bostick would not find themself in the vulnerable position they were on the night of the killing if they were a straight, cisgender, middle class or upper middle class Chelsea resident. Tabytha Gonzalez, a staff member at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, emphasized the significance of employment discrimination in marginalizing transgender lives. Gonzalez, alluding to the ambiguity in how Bostick’s gender identity has been discussed, also said, “It’s not about a label. It’s about a life.” Earlier on May 12, Pony Knowles, the national engagement manager at Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, told Gay City News that SAGE and the Anti-Violence Project had

BOSTICK VIGIL, continued on p.9

Trans Victim Killed in Chelsea Misgendered Mx Bostick reported at first as trans woman, something advocate says “we cannot know” BY PAUL SCHINDLER

W

hen a transgender victim of a head blow was declared braindead on May 4 , the NYPD identified them as a “female” and later gave their name as “Brenda Bostick.” Written statements from elected officials and victims’ advocacy groups — as well as media reports, including several in Gay City News — identified Bostick as a 59-yearold transgender woman who lived on West 25th Street in Chelsea. Since then, however, people who knew Bostick, including several so-

8

GAY CIT Y NEWS

LaLa Zannell, the Anti-Violence Project’s lead organizer, noted that “trans people are required to navigate different gender expressions to access different social services.”

cial service providers, came forward, on social media and in other ways, to say Bostick identified as a trans man with the first name Kenneth. Gay City News reached out to several social service providers who spoke about Bostick on social media but has not heard back from them. Several LGBTQ advocacy groups, meanwhile, trying to clarify the issue of the victim’s gender identity, are saying that Bostick identified alternately as Kenneth and Brenda, perhaps depending on the circumstances of the situation they found themself in or perhaps due to the fluidity of their gender identity. “We cannot know this person’s

gender identity,” said Pony Knowles, the national engagement manager at SAGE, or Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders. “The only person who can really tell us had their voice extinguished by this crime.” According to Knowles, groups including SAGE and the New York City Anti-Violence Project joined together with transgender leaders to discuss how to address the question of identifying Bostick’s gender and honoring their memory. Knowles acknowledged the statements of several individuals who provided social services to Bostick,

MISGENDERED, continued on p.9

May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


 BOSTICK VIGIL, from p.8 convened a meeting of transgender leaders to discuss how best to describe Bostick’s gender identity in honoring them. The best information people at the meeting had was that Bostick alternately identified as Brenda and Kenneth (see story on page 8). “We cannot know this person’s gender identity,” Knowles said. “The only person who can really tell us had their voice extinguished by this crime… Using both names would… be appropriate. But using just Ken-

 MISGENDERED, from p.8 but explained that conflicting information from them is not altogether surprising. Knowles pointed to an insight from LaLa Zannell, the lead organizer at the Anti-Violence Project, that “trans people are required to navigate different gender expressions to access different social services.” The result, Knowles said, is that “we are forced to sit with the very uncomfortable feeling of not being able to honor the victim.”

neth or Brenda wouldn’t be.” A friend of Bostick’s was at the rally but too upset to speak to the crowd or the media. That friend was said to have been told by Bostick, “You know the Met Life Building… Well, some people call it the Pan Am Building. Some people call me the Met Building, some people call me the Pan Am Building. But I’m still that big and I’m still standing.” Elizabeth Rivera, an HIV specialist at the Latino Commission on AIDS, focused her anger on both the NYPD and the media. “We found out about this attack

a week later,” she said. “We found out about this attack only after they died.” Turning to media representations of trans lives, Rivera added, “I hold you responsible for the stigma that continues.” Michael Adams, the executive director of SAGE, whose offices one block below the site of the crime hosted the mourners at the conclusion of the vigil, noted the proximity of his organization to the crime site and the role Chelsea plays in the life of LGBTQ New Yorkers, saying, “Someone was murdered in our home on holy

ground.” Out gay West Side State Senator Brad Hoylman, who is stymied in his efforts to win approval of GENDA by the implacable opposition of Republicans who control the Senate, said, “Our hearts are breaking. Our hearts are despondent in the heart of Chelsea.” People with information about the attack on Bostick can contact the NYPD at 800-577-8477 or in Spanish at 888-577-4782. Naila Siddiqui, Griffin’s Legal Aid attorney, did not return a call seeking comment.

Knowles said that during the meeting of trans leaders, Elizabeth Rivera from the Latino Commission on AIDS, recommended referring to the victim not by first name but with the title “Mx” to distinguish from Mr. or Ms. “Using both names would also be appropriate,” Knowles said. “But using just Kenneth or Brenda wouldn’t be.” On its website, the Anti-Violence Project wrote, “AVP has learned of the death of Mx Bostick a 59-year-

old Black transgender person in Chelsea. Since issuing our alert, we have learned that Mx Bostick identified as transgender, and used alternating names to identify themselves. To honor that, we are using Mx, an honorific that does not connote gender.” That statement emphasized the importance of Bostick identifying as a transgender person and noted that the victim’s death is the 10th known slaying of a trans person in the US in 2017.

On May 7, the New York City medical examiner’s office ruled that Bostick’s death was a homicide and resulted from “complications of blunt impact injury of head,” and on May 19, Joseph Griffin, a 26-yearold homeless man, was indicted on a first-degree manslaughter charge in the killing. Griffin had been arrested across the street from where Bostick was found for jumping onto the hood of a taxi and smashing in its windshield around the time of the attack.

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11


DIAZ, from p.3

competition, which took place in our city that year. Senator Diaz, at the time a member of the CCRB, spoke out against the games with vile and overtly homophobic remarks. He spread fear and hatred of those with HIV and AIDS. It was shameful then, and it’s shameful now. I can never forgive him for those comments, made at a time when so many were dying, when so many in our community were struggling for equality and dignity. Sadly, the senator’s career has been filled with statements and actions against our community. It’s disgraceful. All of it. And I urge all to oppose his run for City Council.” Public Advocate Letitia James was the only citywide official who would respond to an inquiry about Diaz. Neither Mayor Bill de Blasio nor Comptroller Scott Stringer responded, but James wrote in an email, “To truly stand as a city that welcomes every person regardless of sexual identity, gender identity, race, religion, or immigration status, our elected officials must represent values of equality, inclusion, and acceptance. Reverend Ruben Diaz Senior has a long record of supporting bigoted and discriminatory policies, and he has no place in the New York City Council or any other elected office.” Those seeking to be elected speaker by their Council colleagues next year — when Melissa MarkViverito steps down due to term limits — have to deal with the fact that Diaz is the favorite in the race and they may need his vote and the support of the Bronx County machine. Councilmembers Johnson, Mark Levine, and Robert Cornegy, Jr. — contenders for the leadership post –– did not respond to repeated inquiries about Diaz. The only speaker contender to take Diaz on was Julissa CopelandFerreras of Queens, writing in an email, “Our communities deserves progressive elected officials that reflect their values and respect basic human rights. The Reverend and I have fundamental differences in values, especially around LGBTQ and women’s rights. You can’t be a progressive person and not support a person’s right to love who they want or a woman’s right to choose.” When Cornegy was reported to be supporting Diaz, the Jim Owles

12

ELVINGARCIA.NYC

Elvin Garcia, an out gay former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, is contesting the District 18 City Council district seat in the Bronx that Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., is also seeking.

Club issued a release saying, “Robert Cornegy and any other elected official who supports Diaz’s Council bid should be rightfully vilified by the LGBTQ and pro-choice communities. Given this highly objectionable endorsement, loyal NYC Democrats resisting the disastrous polices enacted by the Trump Administration will also now view Cornegy as a totally unsuitable candidate for Speaker of the City Council.” Cornegy did not return a call for comment. Johnson did not comment on Diaz’s candidacy for this story, but last year twice visited Diaz in the hospital. Diaz told the New York Post, “If I become a councilmember, I would definitely consider him for speaker, among others. I consider him a good human being. In my moment of suffering, Corey came to see me. I would stand next to him anytime.” Johnson told the Post, “[Diaz] and I don’t agree on a couple of issues but I also try to work with everyone.” Jim Owles’ Roskoff told the newspaper, “I’m speechless. I’m very good friends with Corey but I can’t condone this visit. Diaz has done so much damage to the LGBT community and women’s rights… I wouldn’t dignify him with a visit. I wouldn’t want to win with a vote from him.” Asked why the county organiza-

tion is going with Diaz, Garcia said, “It’s the same old musical chairs” in the Bronx, where favored elected politicians move between Albany and City Hall, often being selected in a party process for a special election rather than through a primary. “Part of my pitch to the voters is that elections are about the future.” Describing himself as “a homegrown candidate who went through the public schools and who just happens to be openly gay,” Garcia added, “We need new leadership for the Bronx — elected representatives able to make decisions for all constituents regardless of age, sexual orientation, or race.” He said Diaz wants the Council seat to secure “a Cadillac retirement.” Another Diaz opponent is Amanda Farias, 25, an aide to Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley of Queens. “Every day we are working hard on safeguarding our neighborhoods from the Trump administration and we cannot afford any Trump-like legislators on our most important level of government — City Council,” she said. Garcia has been endorsed by Dromm as well as State Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, an out gay West Side Democrat, who said, “We need new lifeblood in the Democratic Party — energetic young

talent that want to serve — and Elvin is a smart, thoughtful guy. His opponent is a bigot and hatemonger and a homophobe. After the Orlando massacre, I gave a speech on the floor of the Assembly imploring my colleagues to stop the hate and there is no bigger hatemonger than Reverend Diaz. If people are really serious about stopping the hate that led to the Orlando massacre, we need to stop it here in our own backyard and stand up to the hatemongers here.” In the most recent filings with the city’s Campaign Finance Board, Diaz had raised $97,066 from 224 donors, Garcia $58,241 from 649 donors, and Farias $28,852 from 534 donors. While Diaz does well in the district, it is also one of the lowest turnout districts in the city, and an energetic progressive who can expand the electorate has a chance. Stonewall’s Christ said, “I hope we can have a more progressive member. The current councilmember [Annabel Palma who is termlimited] has been quite supportive.” Michael Blake, a progressive assemblymember from the Bronx who recently got elected a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, got hit with a firestorm of criticism when campaign filings showed he had made a $1,000 donation to Diaz’s Council bid. After a story exposing the donation in the Post, Blake apologized and said he was asking for the return of the donation. Blake, who is African-American, told Gay City News, “I never endorsed anyone” in the Council race and does not anticipate doing so, though he said it was possible for an out gay candidate to be elected there. Blake acknowledged that if someone were saying the kinds of things Diaz has said about gay people “against black people, I can understand the defensiveness. If you feel someone is attacking you, you’re going to feel frustrated.” Blake is due to be honored by Stonewall and while Christ said she discussed the Diaz donation with him before he tried to recover it, she would not comment on whether there were discussions of withdrawing the honor. Diaz, who did not return a call seeking comment, will be a political hot potato for as long as he lives. May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


HUMAN RIGHTS

Marriage Equality Triumphs in Taiwan

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High court, by lopsided margin, orders change in law, bars discrimination BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

I

n Taiwan this week, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of China voted overwhelmingly that same-sex couples are entitled to marry and that anti-gay discrimination violates the Republicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Constitution. The May 24 ruling was greeted with relative equanimity by legislative leaders, who were ordered by the court to implement this decision by May 24, 2019. Otherwise, the court said, the decision would go into effect automatically, and same-sex couples would be entitled to marry. Only two justices dissented and one abstained in a court that press reports alternately say includes 14 or 15 members. This was the first ruling by an Asian high court to accept marriage equality as a constitutional right, although there might be political and ideological arguments about Taiwanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s significance in relation to the rest of Asia. The Peoplesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Republic of China considers Taiwan to be part of its nation that is just temporarily self-governing, and most countries do not recognize it as an independent nation. Still, there is no disputing that when this ruling goes into effect, Taiwan will be the first place where same-sex marriages can be performed in Asia with the imprimatur of legally recognized status. The opinion was released only in Chinese, but the court simultaneously issued an English-language press release summarizing the ruling in detail. The court was responding to petitions from LGBTQ rights activist Chia-Wei Chi and the Taipei city government, seeking a definitive ruling on whether the freedom to marry, protected by the Constitution, was limited by family law provisions of the civil code, which defines marriage as exclusively a different-sex institution. The court also had to confront the question whether excluding samesex couples from marriage violated the â&#x20AC;&#x153;peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s right to equalityâ&#x20AC;? guaranteed by the Constitution. The court found that both constitutional guarantees â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the right to GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

marry and the right to equality â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; were violated by the ban on samesex marriage. The court observed that the petitioner, Chia-Wei Chi, has been waging a campaign for same-sex marriage for more than 30 years. Although some progress had been made in getting the legislature to consider the issue, after more than 10 years of bills being introduced and debated, nothing has been brought to a vote. The court expressed concern about the frustration created by such a protracted legislative stalemate. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The representative body is to enact or revise the relevant laws in due time,â&#x20AC;? said the court. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Nevertheless, the timetable for such legislative solution is hardly predictable now and yet these petitions involve the protection of peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fundamental rights. It is the constitutional duty of this Court to render a binding judicial decision, in time, on issues concerning the safeguarding of constitutional basic values such as the protection of peoplesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; constitutional rights and the free democratic constitutional order.â&#x20AC;? The court said that the freedom to marry extends both to deciding whether to marry and whom to marry. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Such decisional autonomy is vital to the sound development of personality and safeguarding of human dignity, and therefore is a fundamental right,â&#x20AC;? the judges found. The court insisted that allowing same-sex couples to marry would not â&#x20AC;&#x153;alter the social order established upon the existing opposite-sex marriage.â&#x20AC;? The court said that the failure of current law to allow same-sex couples to marry â&#x20AC;&#x153;is obviously a gross legislative flawâ&#x20AC;? and that the current provisions â&#x20AC;&#x153;are incompatible with the spirit and meaning of the freedom of marriage as protectedâ&#x20AC;? by the Constitution. Moving to the equality issue, the court addressed the problem that the Taiwan Constitutionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Article 7, unlike the United Statesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; equal protection clause, itemizes protected categories, explicitly requiring equality â&#x20AC;&#x153;irrespective of sex, religion, class, or

ä&#x2030;´

TAIWAN, continued on p.22



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13


CRIME

Our Perspective NYC Sends a Message by Banning On-Call Scheduling By Stuart Appelbaum, President Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW orking in retail in New York City can be a tough way to make a living. Low wages and insufficient hours can make it a struggle just to get by. And, until now, retail workers have faced the brutal practice known as on-call scheduling. But finally, thanks Retail workers deserve to to a new law passed by the thrive, not just survive. New York City Council, with Mayor de Blasio set to sign it soon, on-call scheduling will be a thing of the past. The RWDSU is proud to have led the fight against on-call scheduling, which disrupts workers’ lives and their families’ lives by requiring them to keep themselves available when they are not scheduled to work with no guarantee of an actual work shift. We work with retail workers, both unionized and nonunionized, every day. And we know how on-call scheduling has made it impossible for workers to take a needed second job or plan for the basic necessities of their lives, including child care, education, or medical care. That’s why the passage of Intro. 1387 is so important. The law bans New York City The new law will restore employers from scheduling control and balance to the workers to be on call. lives of working people in Employers will not be able to New York City. cancel a shift within 72 hours of the start of the shift except under extreme conditions like a natural disaster. Employers can only add shifts within 72 hours with workers’ consent. The new law takes away from employers a cruel, exploitative computer-driven system designed to optimize employer profits while sacrificing any considerations for working men and women. It will restore control and balance to the lives of working people in New York City. We applaud the city council’s action, and look forward to the mayor signing this bill into law. The de Blasio Administration’s partnership with the RWDSU to support workers sets a national precedent that will be felt across the country. It’s important that more cities recognize the destructive effect of on-call scheduling and ban the practice. Retail workers deserve to thrive, not just survive. And banning on-call scheduling is an important part of setting an environment where retail workers can move forward and build better lives.

W

www.rwdsu.org 14

No Hate Crime Protections in West Virginia High court splits sharply on extending law to gays BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

A

sharply-divided West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has narrowly rejected the application of the state’s Hate Crimes Law to an anti-gay assault on two men. The court, on May 9, voted 3-2 that Steward Butler — who reacted to seeing two gay men kissing each other on a sidewalk in Huntington in the early hours of April 5, 2015, by exiting his car and slugging both men in the face — could not be charged with a hate crime. The West Virginia law, enacted in 1987, makes it a felony to willfully injure somebody because of their “race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation or sex.” According to the opinion for the majority of the court by Chief Justice Allen H. Loughry, II, since 1987 members of the legislature have introduced 26 bills to amend the law to add “sexual orientation” to the list, but none has succeeded. Butler was positively identified as the perpetrator because one of the victims managed to record the assault on his cellphone. “That video recording,” wrote the court, “as well as the statements taken from the defendant’s companions, were used to identify the defendant as the alleged perpetrator.” The Cabell County prosecutor presented the case to a grand jury, which charged Butler with two counts of battery and two violations of the Hate Crimes Law. Butler moved to dismiss the hate crimes counts, arguing that the statute did not apply to assaults motivated by the sexual orientation of the victim. Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell granted Butler’s motion, dismissing the hate crime counts. He found that “sex” and “sexual orientation” are “two distinct categories of potential discrimination” and that the legislature’s decision not to add “sexual orientation” to the statute, when many other states had done so, clearly signified its intention, so the court “cannot expand the word

‘sex’ to include ‘sexual orientation.’” The local prosecutor appealed this ruling. Perhaps not surprisingly, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office filed a brief supporting the dismissal, while Lambda Legal, which has been actively litigating the issue whether “sex” includes “sexual orientation” in discrimination statutes, filed a brief supporting the local prosecutor. A bare majority of the Supreme Court agreed with Farrell that the hate crime counts must be dismissed. Loughry rejected any contention that the word “sex” as used in the statute was “ambiguous.” As such, he wrote, it was not subject to “interpretation” but must be applied according to its “plain meaning.” “Affording the undefined term ‘sex’ its common and ordinary meaning,” he wrote, “we find the word to be clear and unambiguous and to have a very different meaning and import than the term ‘sexual orientation.’” To support this proposition, he cited definitions from four dictionaries and noted that all but five states have passed hate crimes laws but that no court has ever before interpreted those that do not specifically mention “sexual orientation” to apply to crimes committed because a victim was lesbian or gay. The chief justice also asserted that in a criminal case the court should use the “rule of lenity” to ensure that people have clear notice of what conduct is condemned by the statute, while insisting that the court’s ruling did not imply approval of Butler’s conduct. Butler remains charged with two counts of battery, he noted. “It is imperative to remember that it is not for this Court arbitrarily to read into a statute that which it does not say,” wrote Loughry. Justice Margaret L. Davis, joined by Justice Robin Jean Workman, dissented in an opinion that brought together the recent opinions accepting the proposition that discriminating because of a person’s sexual orientation necessarily involves sex

WEST VIRGINIA, continued on p.22

May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


COMMUNITY

Pride Parade Insurance Reg Trips Up Small Groups Military veterans, LGBTQ Democrats say new requirement might keep them from marching BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

T

he New York City chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) has marched in every Pride Parade since the chapter was founded in 2002, but it may not march this year after the group that produces the annual event required all contingents to get insurance coverage to participate. “Basically, we decided it’s becoming a nightmare,” said Denny Meyer, who founded and currently heads the New York City AVER chapter. For the first time, Heritage of Pride (HOP), which produces New York City’s annual Pride parade, festival, and related events, required all groups in this year’s march to supply a certificate of insurance after they register. Previously, only sponsors and larger groups in the parade had to have insurance. Vendors at the festival are also required to have in-

DONNA ACETO

Denny Meyer leads off the American Veterans for Equal Rights contingent in last year’s Queens Pride Parade.

surance and other documentation. James Fallarino, an HOP spokesperson, told Gay City News that the organization was working with groups that are confronted with the requirement for the first time to ei-

ther get insurance or to find some other solution. “As instances of terrorism have increased, we’ve had to tighten up this requirement,” Fallarino said. “We’ve been much more stringent and required it of all groups.” Meyer said he contacted two insurance brokers who queried insurance companies they work with. He was told that they would not issue a policy to his group. Had they been willing to write a policy, Meyer was told it would have cost $800 to $900 for the parade, a prohibitive price for his small chapter. “Both insurance brokers got back to me and they said they don’t want to touch it,” he said. AVER also needs a car for the event and is struggling to find one for the parade, which steps off on June 25 this year and runs from 36th Street and Fifth Avenue to the West Village. Between the insurance and the lack of a car, AVER

will likely not participate this year. “That’s probably 90 percent sure,” Meyer said. The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club is also struggling with the insurance requirement and complaining that HOP is being insufficiently responsive after saying it would assist the political group in obtaining insurance. “It’s an outrage,” said Allen Roskoff, the club’s founder and president. “It’s become so corporate that you need insurance to march on a public street… We tell them we’re a small group. We don’t know how to do it.” Fallarino told Gay City News that HOP is working effectively with contingents that are dealing with the insurance requirement for the first time and that they have had no complaints. “There are a variety of different

PRIDE INSURANCE, continued on p.31

Meeting. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Snack. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Sit. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Sit. PLAY. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Snack. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Sit. Snack. Meeting. Sit.

TAKE A BREAK FROM THE EXPECTED.

© 2017 New York Lottery. You must be 18 years or older to purchase a Lottery ticket. Please play responsibly. For help with problem gambling, call 877-8-HOPE-NY or text HOPENY (467369). nylottery.ny.gov

GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

15


Building Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;entre Les Morts PERSPECTIVE: L A Diar y

BY DAVID EHRENSTEIN

I

â&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Hardly surprising as I turned 70 this past February. But my health is good and my spirits high, so Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve probably got a reasonable amount of time ahead of me before the End Credits roll. But that hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stopped me from thinking about death and its consequences, as I have in earnest ever since the AIDS epidemic violently snatched away so many of my nearest and dearest â&#x20AC;&#x201D; turning the 1980s and â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;90s into one long string of funerals, prefaced by hospital visits where â&#x20AC;&#x153;putting on a brave faceâ&#x20AC;? was the all-important shade of virtual make-up required. And in this, I am joined by an entire generation of gay men and those who loved us. Marcel Proust felt the same way about World War I and the deaths it produced, noting to a friend, â&#x20AC;&#x153;In the terrible days we are going through, you have other things to do besides writing letters and bothering with my petty interests, which I assure you seem wholly unimportant when I think that millions of men are going to be massacred in a War of the Worlds comparable with that of Wells, because the emperor of Austria thinks it advantageous to have an outlet onto the Black Sea.â&#x20AC;? Yes, for Proust World War I was like science fiction â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and like AIDS, it decimated a generation This, in turn, evokes the query about how â&#x20AC;&#x153;realâ&#x20AC;? death may seem to us in any context or circumstance whatsoev-

        

er thanks to the AIDS pandemic. Prior to AIDSâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; cascade of horror, death had been an intermittent interloper in my life. It was initially associated with the elderly â&#x20AC;&#x201D; persons whose â&#x20AC;&#x153;time had come.â&#x20AC;? That meant it was at such a distance from pre-adolescent me I neednâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think about it. Of course I thought about it in 1964 when my father died, and again n 1987 when my mother expired. But in both instances I was prepared for it, and this knowledge of deathâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s imminence cushioned the blow. A nominal â&#x20AC;&#x153;fearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; of Death had never become an â&#x20AC;&#x153;obsessionâ&#x20AC;? for me because for the most part it was kind of a sudden â&#x20AC;&#x153;disappearing act.â&#x20AC;? I recall keenly when a little girl of my acquaintance who was my very age was struck and killed by a car crossing a street not far from my home. It was so passing strange I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t â&#x20AC;&#x153;take it personally.â&#x20AC;? I felt a bit differently about the death of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Kukla, Fran and Ollieâ&#x20AC;? producer Beulah Zachary (immortalized by the showâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s creator Burr Tillstrom as the puppet â&#x20AC;&#x153;Beulah the Witchâ&#x20AC;?). She died in the crash of a commercial airliner, which plunged into the East River on approach to LaGuardia. Too close to home for comfort. Woody Allen, of course, felt otherwise about death, declaring his terror of it from an early age and saying in adulthood that while knowing he would eventually face it he â&#x20AC;&#x153;just didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to be around when it happened.â&#x20AC;? This, in many ways, mirrors

ä&#x2030;´

EHRENSTEIN, continued on p.27

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May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


HEALTH

Tens of Thousands Join AIDS Walk Annual GMHC fundraiser gains resonance with DC threatening health care access

Twenty thousand participants joined this year’s AIDS Walk.

Alphonso David, the out gay counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Javier Muñoz, the out gay, HIV-positive star of “Hamilton.”

A contingent from the LGBTQ Congregation Beit Simchat Torah.

n a year when health care is front and center in the nation’s public discourse, 20,000 New Yorkers turned out for the 32nd annual AIDS Walk, sponsored by Gay Men’s Health Crisis and which raises funds for that agency and several dozen other AIDS services groups in the tri-state area. Outpacing last year’s haul by roughly $85,000, the event raised an estimated $4.59 million, ac-

cording fi gures from GMHC. “Thanks to our supporters, GMHC is leading the charge to demand access to healthcare — for those we serve and for all Americans,” Kelsey Louie, GMHC’s CEO, said in a written statement. “We issued the call, and AIDS Walk participants responded by showing up — to help people living with HIV; to help people in need of food, housing, and care; and to help certain elected leaders see what compassion looks like.”

Craig Miller, the event’s senior organizer, took more direct aim at Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act implemented during the Obama administration, saying, “The noise, negativity, and nonsense out of Washington cannot drown out this demand from New Yorkers: We refuse to allow healthcare discrimination against people with HIV, diabetes, heart disease, and dozens of other ‘pre-existing conditions.’ We are fighting lawmakers that seek to strip away

healthcare from millions. Our pre-existing conditions of compassion and unity will overcome efforts to divide and exclude.” This year, for the fi rst time, participants were free to choose between the customary 10-kilometer walk through Central Park and the Upper West Side and a five-mile run in the park. And, in addition to the pre-walk Opening Ceremony that featured a dozen or so celebrities, there was a post-walk show helmed by comedian Kathy Griffi n.

Matt McMorrow, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s liaison to the LGBTQ community, presents an official proclamation to GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie.

Comedian Kathy Griffin hosted the post-walk show.

David Hyde Pierce, a star of “Hello Dolly.”

West Side Congressmember Jerrold Nadler.

Frenchie Davis, from “American Idol.”

A group of volunteers from Morgan Stanley.

Jinkx Monsson, of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Attorney Michael Harwood, GMHC’s board co-chair.

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO

I

GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

17


POLITICS

With Human Rights in Crisis, Courage Honored OutRight Action International signals its determination

GAY CIT Y NEWS

US Representative Mark Takano, Justin Vivian Bond, the evening’s MC, Blanche Wiesen Cook, Kenita Placide, Jessica Stern, and Caleb Orozco.

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

A

t its annual Celebration of Courage, OutRight Action International, which defends the rights and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer people worldwide, presented its Felipa De Sousa Award to Caleb Orozco, the man who last year successfully challenged the sodomy laws then still in place in Belize. The May 15 event also honored Blanche Wiesen Cook, a John Jay College history professor best known for her multi-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, where she documented the lesbian relationship between the first lady and reporter Lorena Hickok. At a press availability prior to the gala, held in the United Nations Delegates Dining Room, Orozco and St. Lucia-based Kenita Placide, who is OutRight’s Caribbean advisor, both discussed their concerns that anti-LGBTQ forces in the region may be emboldened by the perception that the Trump administration, with strong support among right-wing US evangelicals, is indifferent to human rights concerns, especially regarding the queer community. “If the US regresses in setting the value of respect for diversity that means the rest of us become expendable in our own countries,” Orozco said. Jessica Stern, OutRight’s executive director, echoed that fear, noting that neither President Donald Trump nor Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had made a public GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

statement about the incarceration, torture, and killing of gay men in Chechnya. “Some other governments will ask, ‘Can we even stand for LGBTI rights?,” Stern warned. “This, I think, is part of the Trump effect… This could set us back more years than we could imagine.” In formal remarks to the gala, Stern elaborated on that theme, saying, “What happened in the US election in November matters globally, not just for those of us who are US citizens. Without knowing it or being prepared for it, we left behind a decade where the US had become a champion for LGBTI rights across the world.” She then assured the crowd that OutRight will not slacken in its vigilance, saying, “When one government fails — the US or any other — there are 192 other governments that are members of the United Nations that are responsible for upholding LGBTI rights. And OutRight serves as a watchdog and needle in the side of every one of them.” US Representative Mark Takano, a California Democrat who is the first out LGBTQ person of color to serve in Congress and was one of the evening’s presenters, said that Donald Trump’s victory in November should be understood as part of a global rise in “anti-cosmopolitan illiberalism. “Liberal democracy itself is under assault,” he said, not only at home, but around the world, as well. “It’s not enough to defend our institutions here. There is a global threat.” The evening also honored Logo TV.

21


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party affiliation,â&#x20AC;? but the court did not see this list as a barrier to protecting equality for gay people (or, it added, people with disabilities). The judges said the classifications listed in Article 7 â&#x20AC;&#x153;are only exemplified, neither enumerated nor exhausted.â&#x20AC;? The court saw sexual orientation as a classification governed by the same equality principle. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic that is resistant to change,â&#x20AC;? wrote the court. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The contributing factors to sexual orientation may include physical and psychological elements, living experience, and the social environment. Major medical associations have stated that homosexuality is not a disease. In our country, homosexuals were once denied by social tradition and custom in the past. As a result, they have long been locked in the closet and suffered various forms of de facto or de jure exclusion or discrimination... Impacted by stereotypes, they have been among those lacking political power for a long time, unable to overturn their legally disadvantaged status through ordinary democratic process. Accordingly, in determining the constitutionality of different treatment based on sexual orientation, a heightened standard shall be

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WEST VIRGINIA, from p.14

discrimination. As far as the dissenters were concerned, the term â&#x20AC;&#x153;sexâ&#x20AC;? in the statute is not ambiguous but the prohibition of willfully injuring somebody because of their sex clearly includes the facts of this case. Davis built her argument by running through the developing case law before making this striking assertion: â&#x20AC;&#x153;If a man stands on a corner kissing a man and is beaten because he is kissing a man, has he been assaulted because of his sex? Yes, but not simply because he possesses male anatomical parts; rather, the crime occurred because he was perceived to be acting outside the social expectations of how a man should behave with a man. But for his sex, he would not have been attacked.â&#x20AC;? Davis continued, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The indictment in this case properly alleged the attack occurred because of the victimsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; sex. Certain individuals are

applied.â&#x20AC;? This appears to be the equivalent of the US legal concept of a â&#x20AC;&#x153;suspect classificationâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a basis for discrimination that is not allowed without a good justification. The court rejected any idea that reproductive capacity has anything to do with the freedom to marry, pointing out that different-sex couples may marry even if they cannnot have children. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Disallowing two persons of the same sex to marry, for the sake of their inability to reproduce, is a different treatment having no apparent rational basis,â&#x20AC;? wrote the court. Without being able to read the original Chinese text, it is hard to assess whether the ruling leaves much leeway to the legislature to consider alternatives to true marriage equality. The clear implication of the Taiwan rulingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s English summary, however, is that same-sex marriages would have to include all the usual legal rights accompanying opposite-sex marriages to meet the equality test the court embraced. The local English-language press in Taiwan reported that none of the major parties responded with opposition to the ruling, which was quickly embraced by Premier Lin Chuan, who ordered coordination among government agencies to draft a legislative proposal in response.

targeted for violence because they are perceived to violate socially-established protocols for gender and sex roles. The perpetrators in such instances have drawn conclusions that the victim has contravened certain unspoken rules, and the bias-motivated crime thus ensues.â&#x20AC;? For Davis, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The pertinent question is not whether the statute contains the words â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;sexual orientation.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Rather, it is whether the crime was committed because of the victimsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; sex. The phrase â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;because of sexâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; encompasses the actions taken against the victims in this case.â&#x20AC;? Davis also pointed out that allowing the hate crime counts to proceed did not make the Supreme Court â&#x20AC;&#x153;both judge and jury,â&#x20AC;? as it would still be up to the prosecutor to prove the discriminatory intent required by the statute. Because this decision did not address any federal constitutional issues, it cannot be appealed by the prosecutor to the US Supreme Court. May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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EHRENSTEIN, from p.16

Andy Warhol’s pronouncement that death was “too abstract. I just say that they’ve ‘gone to Bloomingdale’s.’” Needless to say Bloomingdale’s was filling up fast for Andy as so many of those he knew and loved had gone there — some through suicide, like dancer Freddie Herko and actress Andrea Feldman, others from what might be called “slow motion suicide,” like Edie Sedgwick. AIDS picked up the pace considerably. You might say HIV made death more “abstract” for Andy than ever, as silence descended over the usually voluble pop artist whenever the subject arose. Perhaps Andy felt he’d “said all he had to say” about death in his paintings — what he called his “Fashion and Disaster series” — canvasses devoted to car crashes, the electric chair, and dead celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. The death of the latter in a car crash holds a special place in American pop mythology as he was quite young (24 is ‘before his time,” indeed), just on the verge of what would have been a spectacular career, and gay. But gayness was whispered about both in Dean’s day and Andy’s. He was gayer than IKEA on Superbowl Sunday, yet so strong was the social prohibition against talking about being in any “polite” conversational context, no one dared mention it. That’s not the case anymore, and the “wake-up call” of AIDS has a lot to do with it. For me that “call” first came surreptitiously in 1979. I was in San Francisco visiting my friend filmmaker Warren Sonbert. A friend of his came to his house unexpectedly — rail-thin, completely bald, and emotionally at loose ends. He was returning an opera recording he had borrowed from Warren. Yet his manner indicated something truly operatic was bubbling inside him. When he left, Warren said his friend was apparently dying of “some sort of cancer” whose origin his doctors knew nothing about. Worse still they had no way to treat him. That night Warren and I went to see “Alien,” which had opened theatrically that day. The image of an interstellar monster planting its progeny in the body of a human GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

that was then split open in order to give it “birth” became a central horror movie image. It was also, for me, an image of what AIDS would do to so many people in the years to come — Warren among them. Hibiscus from the Cockettes theatrical troupe was an early AIDS casualty, and the first “big name” I came across to succumb. Rock Hudson was the “name” that far more people knew. But for me there was also countertenor Klaus Nomi, philosopher Michel Foucault, photographer Peter Hujar, playwright Charles Ludlam, to name but a few. AIDS took its greatest toll on the personal level. But it was on the personal level that AIDS took its toll for me. That meant Sonbert, gay activist Vito Russo (who had also become an AIDS activist because of the disease), filmmaker Marlon Riggs whose “Tongues Untied” spoke of what it meant to be black and gay as no one (not even James Baldwin) had ever done before, singersongwriter Michael Callen, matchless queer artist/ filmmaker/ theatrical impresario Jack Smith (“Flaming Creatures”), and Derek Jarman, the British experimental filmmaker who explored gayness in a way never before ventured in such seminal works as “Caravaggio” (1986), “The Last of England” (1987), and Edward II (1991). I accompanied Derek and his muse Tilda Swinton around LA when he came for a visit and, armed with his video camera, shot images that became part of “The Last of England.” So in a way I was “on the set” of that great piece of cinematic poetry. Derek’s determination to work despite the disease that was killing him was boundless. His last film, “Blue” (1993), was made after he’d lost his sight. In place of images, he simply had a blue motion picture screen with snatches of dialogue, poetry, and music as accompaniment as he went not at all “gently” into that far from “good night.” And then there were the funerals. Two were special favorites. Lance Loud’s 2002 memorial service was held in the garden of Los Angeles’ Chateau Marmont and, in addition to the family of this famous gay “reality television” pioneer and rock singer, sundry luminaries including Van Dyke Parks,

China Cammell, Danny Fields, and Chi Chi LaRue were assembled for the send-off — none knowing the first thing about the other. Half a dozen years earlier, Advocate editor and gay man about LA Richard Rouilard, facing his death from AIDS, had made the arrangements for his ashes to be spread at sea. “Just drop me off in the Bu,” he’d said. “Somewhere off the coast of David Geffen and Sandy Gallin.” We did so in a boat ride whose soundtrack was “Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall” and Maria Callas intoning Richard’s favorite aria “Ebben? Ne andro lontana” from “La Wally.” Many have noted that at the height of the epidemic funerals became great places to cruise. Poor taste perchance? Well life goes on after all. And circa 1995, after the development of several drugs to aid those who had seroconverted it went on at a new level. But death goes on, too. And will continue to do so as long as we live — and long after it. W.H Auden put it perfectly: “He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working

week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong. The stars are not wanted now; put out every one, Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun, Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; For nothing now can ever come to any good.” Those are the last lines of his “Funeral Blues,” a poem made incredibly popular thanks to the 1994 British comedy “Four Weddings and a Funeral” –– the funeral being that of one of the film’s principal gay character, played by the out gay Simon Callow. His character died of a sudden heart attack, not AIDS. But being a 1994 release, “Four Weddings” arrived right on time for a great number of funerals, and the image of good cheer amidst sadness was much appreciated then. It still is. And that in turn leads to my favorite mot juste uttered many years ago by noted LA wit Eve Babitz: “Death is the last word in other people having fun without you.” I like to think of it that way. It sure beats “Bloomingdale’s.”

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PERSPECTIVE: The Long View PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN

jgoodstein@cnglocal.com FOUNDING EDITOR IN-CHIEF & ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER

Time for Resistance to Jeff Sessions’ Drug War

PAUL SCHINDLER

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Jeff Sessions at the White House with President Donald Trump on February 9, the day the attorney general was sworn in.

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28

I

t’s a question of will; you want to solve the drug problem, give them the max, says Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the man Donald Trump chose to be his attorney general. In line with that thinking, Sessions is torpedoing a three-year experiment that encourages leniency before its impact could be examined. Sessions’ recent memo to U.S. attorneys nationwide demanded that criminal charges be determined by the weight of the drug seized. Wasting no time in responding to the AG, California’s new Democratic US senator shot back that Sessions’ new approach is nothing more than the old policy of overcrowding the prison system by focusing on “the neighborhood street-level drug dealer, instead of addressing the core issues of addiction and getting folks into treatment.” Speaking to a conference of the Center for American Progress, Kamala Harris warned, “That is not justice. That is not smart on crime.” Then she got fierce: “I believe we have to stop this.” The newly emerging consensus about drug use was succinctly de-

scribed years ago by the then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. “Drugs have destroyed many people, but wrong policies have destroyed many more,” he said. Government aggression is the biggest problem. Sessions’ approach defies the wisdom Annan and so many more have articulated. In this century, 7,184 New York City residents have died from opioid overdoses. The number has been rising for six years. Last year, 1,075 died –– a total greater than the combined deaths from homicides and vehicular accidents. The quickest way to reduce overdose death is by opening spaces where users consume drugs with sterile syringes that avoid the risk of infections and those who overdose get immediate help. When a person stops breathing, their window to stay alive is measured in minutes. Safer consumption spaces solve this problem by having staff on hand with breakthrough medications like Naloxone to restore normal breathing. Sessions’ right-wing ideas don’t play well in New York City, where the supporters of safer consumption spaces (SCS) have a far greater shot at impacting policy than the draconian inclinations of a former

Alabama prosecutor. Responding to Sessions’ dunderhead proposal, the New York Daily News ran a long story on May 20 about an outdoor shooting gallery on an abandoned railroad bed in the South Bronx. The News didn’t talk to the police, they talked to the drug users who wanted help but did seem as though they were ready for abstinence. A SCS would move users out of this unsavory outdoor setting. Harm reduction advocates have a neat way of promoting this new service — by letting the public experience it, inside a pop-up Safer Consumption Space assembled in a hilly South Bronx park earlier this month. Fred Wright, a community organizer at VOCAL-NY — which advocates on behalf of people living with HIV as well as drug users and former inmates — did a presentation inside a green tent. Those of us on hand entered a waiting room with a display of kits that help injecting users and smokers avoid infection and mouth sores. There was a tray fi lled with NYCbranded condoms with lube and pamphlets answering health questions useful to drug users. Clean syringes were there, as well, but the room’s educational focus was not only on how to avoid HIV but also on preventing hepatitis C infection. Most drug users know about the importance of using sterile needles, but they seldom understand the importance of using sterile cookers, as well. Most drugs are dry; water must be added and then heated to create a solution that can be injected. Cookers that have been used over and over are at risk of becoming contaminated by the user’s body fluids. Ideally, cooking gear should be thrown out after one use. Educational intervention on this level could curb both HIV and hep C infection, and advice given in a SCS spreads quickly into the drug user underground. The crack kit at the SCS includes a rubber stopper at the end of the pipe so lips don’t get burned and crack. The interlaced copper strands used in the kitchen scouring pad Chore Boy are pushed inside the pipe to fi lter the smoke so that melted particles don’t enter the

SESSIONS, continued on p.29

May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Dying to Get Out of Chechnya BY ED SIKOV

“D

ozens of gay men who fled persecution in Chechnya are hoping to find safety in a handful of countries that have volunteered to help,” writes Kevin Ponniah of BBC.com. “Activists are in talks with five countries, two of them non-EU, the Russian LGBT Network told the BBC. Nine men have already been granted visas. Two of them went to Lithuania, which has announced its involvement. ‘It’s very important to act, because they are suffering,’ Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told the BBC.” As I discussed in the last issue of Gay City News, at least 100 gay men have been sent to a concentration camp in the wretched Russian republic, where they have been systematically tortured and, in at least three cases, killed. These murders are being committed in an absurd and obviously-going-to-fail attempt to rid Chechnya of all gay men by the beginning of Ramadan on May 26. The situation for those men who have been imprisoned has not improved over the last two weeks, although, as the BBC reports, nine other gay men have been granted visas by moral nations with moral leaders. Needless to say, the United

SESSIONS, from p.28

lungs and cause serious damage. Prohibition may force drug users to buy illegal substances with dangerous impurities, but ingenious public health advocates fi nd ways to reduce infections and teach users new skills to protect their health. “Harm reduction is about developing competencies,” said Joyce Rivera, executive director of St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction (SACHR) a Bronx needle exchange that wants to open a safe consumption room as soon as officials permit it. (Full disclosure: I’m a former chair of St. GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

States is not one of them. “The government of the mainly Muslim region has denied the crackdown and said homosexual people ‘simply don’t exist’ there,” Ponniah continues. This denial on the part of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov is, of course, asinine. On the one hand, we don’t exist; on the other, they’re torturing and killing somebody for some reason. Also according to the BBC, the Russian daily newspaper Novaya Gazeta is claiming that its reporters, who originally broke the story, are being threatened with “retribution” after the paper first reported this horrific story in April. These threats are “reprisals against journalists,” a spokesperson for the paper said, continuing, “We urge the Russian authorities to do everything possible to prevent actions aimed at inciting hatred and enmity towards journalists, who are doing their professional duty.” Dan Avery, writing for NewNowNext.com, has this to say: “By now, reports about atrocities committed against gay men in Chechnya are widespread, with stories of detainees being electrocuted, beaten, sodomized, and even murdered. Rescue networks have been working tirelessly to get victims out of the region, but even though UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the

reports of this abuse ‘cannot be ignored,’ a representative for the Russian LGBT Network told BuzzFeed, ‘We were informed that the US is not going to issue visas for people from Chechnya.’ The UK has similarly signaled it wouldn’t issue visas, either.” Subsequent to BuzzFeed’s initial posting on the State Department’s stance on US visas for would-be refugees, the news site reported that “the Russia LGBT Network spokesperson clarified that the US had not yet formally denied any visa applications. But the group was not facilitating applications to the United States because it was so discouraged by their conversations with the US embassy. Avery found a Tweet from Linus Linkevicius, the Lithuanian foreign minister, saying, “Today is zero-tolerance day against hatred, fear, discrimination of all forms of sexuality. Denying reality is not an option.” If only our tweeter-in-chief had the balls to tweet about anything that mattered, let alone the torture and murder of gay men. Avery goes on: “In all, the Russian LGBT Network has helped evacuate approximately 43 men from Chechnya, with dozens more in hiding throughout Russia. One victim, who fled to Moscow after being held for nearly two weeks, told Vice News he was picked up after messages from him were found on another gay man’s phone. ‘The same night, they started torturing me just the same as the others,’ recalls ‘David’ (not his real name). ‘They wanted to know who we knew, the ones that were part of the LGBT

community.’ David says the jailers used electricity to get them to divulge the names of other gay men. ‘For many, the tips of their fingers were bursting because the electricity was coming out of the bodies that way,’ he recalls. Prisoners were also forced to beat each other up, their wounds left untreated. ‘When the wounds started to rot, they put bags on us,’ he says. ‘They put bags on our heads.’ “After weeks of complaints, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin finally authorized an investigation into abuses in the region. Days later, the Russian ambassador to Israel declared an inquiry had concluded that ‘there are no victims of persecution, threats, or violence.’” Oh. That’s reassuring. Even Teen Vogue has demonstrated more interest in tortured and murdered gay men than the US Department of State. Secretary Rex Tillerson has, to my knowledge, said nothing at all about it. But Teen Vogue found and printed this ominous quote as part of its coverage of the story: “‘You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,’ Alvi Karimov, a spokesperson for the president of Chechnya [Kadyrov], told the Russian news agency Interfax. ‘If there were such people in Chechnya, law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.’”

Ann’s board.) Successfully completing small steps — like using drugs in a health conscious way –– promotes self-confidence, affi rming the drug users’ sense that they are capable of taking care of their health. This is a profound act of dissent, challenging the stereotype of users as helpless throwaways. And it’s an approach light years away from Sessions’ faith in cruelty. The railroad bed the Daily News reported on is a few blocks from St. Mary’s Park where VOCAL-NY and Boom Health, a multi-service program that offers needle exchange in the Bronx

and elsewhere, set up the SCS green tent model. Boom Health has space nearby available for safer consumption, in the midst of a neighborhood that has the highest rate of opioid ODs in New York State. The Daily News story pulls no punches in describing the area’s opioid crisis: “Its 2015 tally — 18.8 per 100,000 people — dwarfs the national rate of 4.1 per 100,000. If the neighborhoods were a state, it would trail only West Virginia in a ranking of those with the highest rates of all drug overdose deaths.” The space is available, the agency is willing, the clients are

ready. The only barrier is official approval. The SCS approach costs a fraction of the expense of imprisoning a drug user-dealer, and from day one it stops OD fatalities. City elected officials endorse resistance when it comes to Trump. In this year’s election, most face little opposition. This is a perfect moment for them join the resistance Sessions and his misguided crackdown with a call for safer consumption spaces. “How many more have to die before you join the fight?” was an ACT UP rallying cry. Surely it applies to this epidemic of overdoses fatalities.

Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.

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TRAVEL

An Equal Rights Vacation Exploring New York State’s legacy in advancing freedom an anchor for a great getaway

EMPIRE STATE DEVELOPMENT/ NYS DIVISION OF TOURISM

The National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House in Rochester, where the pioneering suffragette was arrested for trying to cast a vote for president in 1872.

BY ROSS D. LEVI

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ost LGBTQ New Yorkers know that our state was the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement at Stonewall. Some know that the women’s rights movement was born here as well. Still others are aware of the state’s prominent role in bringing an end to slavery. Particularly this year as New York celebrates the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in this state, it’s a great time to explore that proud legacy of furthering freedom and make it part of a New York State vacation. On July 19, 1848, 300 women and 48 men packed into the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls to declare to the world the radical notion that all men and women are created equal. In 1872, Susan B. Anthony was arrested at her home in Rochester for simply attempting to vote for president. And in 1917, New York became one of the first states to grant women the right to vote, with the nation following suit three years later. Today, visitors can visit the sites so central to that struggle, as well as those connected to other trailblazing women. The Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls includes the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Wesleyan Chapel, where the First Women’s Rights Convention was

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held. Also in town, the National Women’s Hall of Fame features the stories of more than 200 distinguished women inducted there since 1969. Just an hour away in Fayetteville, the Matilda Joslyn Gage House was a center for suffrage work, a stop on the Underground Railroad, and home to Gage’s sonin-law, L. Frank Baum, the author of “The Wizard of Oz.” Not far away in Rochester, the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House is where the pioneering leader for women’s rights lived, wrote, and organized. Still further west, the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum in Lucy’s hometown of Jamestown shows off her legacy as a one of the first female leaders in television production. Down in the Hudson Valley, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Steepletop presents the history of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who came to represent the liberated women of the Jazz Age. In nearby Hyde Park is the only national historic site dedicated to a first lady — Eleanor Roosevelt — featuring her charming Val-kill home. On Staten Island, the Alice Austen House Museum features the story and works of one of America’s earliest and most prolific female photographers, who enjoyed a 50-year relationship with her companion Gertrude Tate. New York’s history is equally important when it comes to achieving

EMPIRE STATE DEVELOPMENT/ NYS DIVISION OF TOURISM

The John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid recalls the life and work of the famed and doomed abolitionist.

equality for African Americans. New York was where brave “conductors” on the Underground Railroad like Harriet Tubman secured safe passage for slaves escaping north. New York abolitionists like Frederick Douglass dedicated their lives to creating a freer America. New York State was also home to the Niagara Movement, a precursor to the 1909 founding of the NAACP. The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Central New York’s Auburn is where Tubman lived and worked for social betterment. Nearby in Auburn, the Seward House Museum tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state, who joined his wife in playing important roles in the antislavery and women’s rights movements. Not far away in Peterboro,

the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark chronicles the activities of one of the nation’s most powerful abolitionists who purchased the freedom of hundreds of slaves. In the Adirondacks, the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid is the home and grave of the ardent abolitionist who attacked Harpers Ferry to gain arms for a campaign to liberate slaves. The nearby North Star Underground Railroad Museum in Ausable Chasm explains the region’s importance in providing passage to Canada. Out west in Buffalo, Forest Lawn Cemetery is the final resting place for Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American women

EQUALITY VACATION, continued on p.31

May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


EMPIRE STATE DEVELOPMENT/ NYS DIVISION OF TOURISM

The Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls.

EQUALITY VACATION, from p.30

elected to Congress, and Mary Burnett Talbert, founder of the Niagara Movement. In other areas of civil rights, New York was also a national leader. New York City has mustsee historic LGBTQ sites like the Stonewall National Monument and the new NYC AIDS Memorial. Up in the Thousand Islands-Seaway region, the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum in Oswego tells of how President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought 1,000 refugees from Europe to the only shelter for Nazi Holocaust survivors in the US. Out west in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, the Robert H. Jackson Center in

PRIDE INSURANCE, from p.15

options,” Fallarino said. “We prefer to handle it on a case-by-case basis… We spend a lot of time every year working with the groups.” Gay City News only found the two groups that were having a difficult time meeting the insurance requirement. For larger groups that have existing liability policies, getting insurance coverage for the parade is a simple matter of buying an inexpensive or no cost rider that covers them for the event. “We routinely extend our existing liability insurance for off-site events and did the same for this year’s (and prior years’) NYC Pride March(es),” Wendy Stark, the executive director at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, wrote in an email. “We incur no additional GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

Jamestown was home to the Supreme Court justice who was the chief US prosecutor at the postwar Nuremberg trials. We New Yorkers have much to be proud of when it comes to our heritage of fighting for justice. What a great way to spend some of your vacation this year — celebrating that legacy. A downloadable NYS Equal Rights Destinations Travel Guide and a list of historical equal rights events across the state are available at iloveny.com/equalrights to help you plan your trip. Ross D. Levi is vice president of marketing initiatives at the Empire State Development/ NYS Division of Tourism, and coordinator of I LOVE NEW YORK LGBT.

cost for this.” Gay Men’s Health Crisis produced a certificate of insurance that covers it for the festival and that was deemed sufficient for the parade as well. “GMHC was not asked to buy insurance,” Eric Sawyer, a spokesperson for the AIDS services group, told Gay City News. “What they did require for this year was a certificate of insurance for the Pride festival.” In addition to concerns about terrorism, Fallarino said that the city, HOP’s own legal counsel, and “a number of different entities” had advised the organization to require all participants to have insurance. Meyer said the lawyers were likely the problem. “I get the impression they let lawyers in and they screwed it up,” he said.

BRINGING MANHATTAN to BROOKLYN 943 Coney Island Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11230 646.494.7227 | AtlasSteak.com 31


THEATER

Breaking the Rules of Attraction British import explores thorny complexities of love and transgender identity BY DAVID KENNERLEY ow can we ever know who we’re really attracted to? That’s the question at the heart of “Rotterdam,” a searing, thoughtful drama by Jon Brittain about a lesbian couple who, in fact, may not be a lesbian couple. If this sounds rather cryptic, that’s the point. Relationships between any two people can be messy enough, but when one has a gender identity crisis, all bets are off. The tangled narrative of “Rotterdam,” now at 59E59 Street Theaters as part of the Brits Off Broadway series, feels raw and immediate. Alice has had a rough time coming to grips with her sexuality. A coming-out email to her parents languishes on her computer yet she cannot bring herself to hit send. Her partner of seven years, Fiona, is having an even rougher time with her own identity. On New Year’s Eve in their flat in Rotterdam, she announces that she has always identi-

ROTTERDAM

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Brits Off Broadway 59E59 Theaters 59 E. 59th St. Through Jun. 10 Tue.-Sun. at 7:30 p.m. Sat. at 2:30 p.m.; Sun. at 3:30 p.m. $25; 59e59.org or 212-279-4200 Two hrs., 20 mins., with intermission HUNTER CANNING

Anna Martine Freeman and Alice McCarthy in Jon Brittain’s “Rotterdam,” directed by Donnacadh O’Briain, at 59E59Theaters through June 10.

fied as male and now plans to start living as Adrian. Alice, who loves Fiona dearly, is as flummoxed as she is blindsided. Does this mean that she’s straight? Will Adrian have to quit the lesbian book club? If all this weren’t dicey enough, Lelani (Ellie Morris), a flamboyant, free-spirited young coworker, starts opening Alice’s eyes to the wonders of the city — and to the option of straying from her partner. Alice’s ex, Josh

(Ed Eales-White, skilled at injecting sardonic comic relief), won’t let her forget that she broke his heart years ago when she dumped him for Fiona. He calls Alice a “massive dyke” with equal parts bitterness and affection. “Rotterdam” is billed as the first transgender-themed play to win the prestigious Olivier Award and was a sold-out hit in London’s West End. New Yorkers are lucky to have access to this first-rate production, which

features a clever backdrop (designed by Ellan Parry) fitted with multiple doors, closets, and cubbies that suggest a variety of locales, and an inspired selection of throbbing Euro synth-pop tunes from the likes of Depeche Mode, Robyn, Christine and the Queens, and Kraftwerk. This highly engaging, intricate character study threatens to collapse under the weight of so much emotional baggage, but the finely tuned

ROTTERDAM, continued on p.47

Music and Art Three new musicals arrive for season’s end BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE tripping down Sondheim is a trend this season, and theater is much better for it. On the heels of the artfully shaved “Sweeney Todd,” still packing the diminutive house at the Barrow Street Theatre, comes CSC’s comparably pared down mounting of “Pacific Overtures.” In both cases, the reductions serve the pieces extremely well and they emerge as powerful, compelling, and pretty much required viewing for anyone who admires Sondheim and loves musical theater. In the case of “Pacific Overtures,” the show has been cut down to a taut 90 minutes without intermission. As directed and designed by John Doyle, “Pacific Overtures” is staged on a scroll that runs the length of the reconfigured theater. Using only

PACIFIC OVERTURES

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JOAN MARCUS

Kelvin Moon Loh, Austin Ku, George Takei, Marc Oka, and Thom Sesma in Stephen Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures” at Classic Stages through June 18.

a 10-person company, some pieces of fabric, and a few props, its focus is on the language, the music, and the story. The imposition of foreign culture on Japan beginning in 1853 and continuing to the present is chilling and, as performed in modern dress, the production reads as a bitter look back at how a culture is subsumed and largely erased, all in

the quest for progress. The score is one of Sondheim’s most complex, relying at times on the pentatonic (Japanese) scale, and the lyricism and poetry resonate of the devastation being practiced on the country. With new orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick for a smaller orchestra, every note counts — and is beautifully placed.

Classic Stage Company 136 E. 13th St. Btwn. Third & Fourth Aves. Through Jun. 18 Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 3 p.m. $71-$126; ovationtix.com Or 866-811-4111 $30 lottery on Today Tix app Ninety mins., no intermission

As the plot unfolds, what is arguably one of the most sublime songs in musical theater, “Someone in a Tree,” captures the pivotal moment at which the country is basically sold down the river — and how few people could understand what was

PACIFIC OVERTURES, continued on p.40

May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

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THEATER

Faux Stakes, Real Laughs TBTB launches loving revival of Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical classic BY TRAV S.D. he summer of 1967 — 50 years ago, now! –– is remembered today for many things. It was the “Summer of Love” — the Beatles released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and the Monterey Pop Festival brought together many of the top musical acts of the day. But it was also known as the “long, hot summer,” when race riots erupted across the United States. It was a tumultuous time of radical change — and in the middle of it all, a brilliant actor, director, and playwright named Charles Ludlam broke away from John Vaccaro’s experimental Playhouse of the Ridiculous to found his own Ridiculous Theatrical Company, bringing with him a troupe of actors who would become legendary, including Mario Montez, Black-Eyed Susan, Lola Pashalinski, Bill Vehr, and John Brockmeyer. Ludlam’s brand of the style known as “The Ridiculous” was multi-faceted. A large portion of the company was openly gay. Drag performance was central to their art; “Camille” was to become one of Ludlam’s most famous roles as well as one of his most famous plays. Camp comedy was central to the Ridiculous sensibility, as was a firm grounding in the classics. Ludlam was just as likely to tweak the nose of Shakespeare or Wagner as he was Hollywood movies or vaudeville. High and low were thrust together in their work and New York audiences loved them for it, packing the company’s Sheridan Square theater for two decades until Ludlam died of AIDS in 1987. Ludlam’s lover and right hand, Everett Quinton, then took over leadership of the company and managed to keep it going for another decade. Unthinkably, New York has now been without a Ridiculous Theatrical Company for 20 years, although its influence is everywhere — not just on stages, but in film and television. In his 1984 biography, “The Divine Bette Midler,” James Spada quoted the star as saying, “I got a great deal of my early inspiration from Charles Ludlam.” On the occasion of the company’s 25th an-

THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE

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Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row 410 W. 42nd St. Through Jul. 1 Tue.–Wed. at 7 p.m. Thu.–Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 3 p.m. $52.25; tbtb.org or 212-239-6200 ANITA AND STEVE SHEVETT

Philip Campanaro, Charles Ludlam, Black-Eyed Susan, Everett Quinton, and Ethyl Eichelberger in the 1986 production of “The Artificial Jungle.”

CAROL ROSEGG

Rob Minutoli, David Harrell, Alyssa H. Chase, Anthony Michael Lopez, and Anita Hollander in Theater Breaking Through Barriers’ revival of “The Artificial Jungle,” through July 1 at the Clurman Theatre.

niversary, John Waters gushed, “I used to run away from Baltimore to New York as a teenager just to see them.” Fiftieth anniversary commemoration events are already underway. A public reading and panel discussion with original cast members was presented at CUNY’s Martin E. Segal Theatre Center on May 15, and Theater Breaking Through Barriers (TBTB) is marking the occasion with the first New York revival of Ludlam’s last completed play, “The Artificial Jungle,” currently in previews and opening on June 8 (with readings of several other Ludlam works to take place on June 5, 12, and 19). Everett Quinton will direct. “Our most recent production, last season’s ‘The Healing,’ was a heavy, ultra-realistic drama,” said Nicholas Viselli, artistic director of TBTB. “So I thought our next production ought to be a comedy. As it happens, our general manager Steve Asher also used to be the managing director

of the Ridiculous. He reminded me that we are coming up on the 30th anniversary of Charles Ludlam’s death. That seemed rather a grim occasion for us to mark, but we also quickly realized that the 50th anniversary of the Ridiculous happens around the same time. The show will also be open during Pride Month. So it all tumbled into place. I like to say the project chose us.” “The Artificial Jungle” is a hilarious Hollywood noir parody owing much to movies like “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” The Ridiculous aspect is that the events of the story are transplanted to a pet shop, a highly unglamorous setting where the stakes are absurdly small. The tale is told compactly, with a cast of five. For this reason, noted Quinton, “The Artificial Jungle” comes in second only to the two-hander “The Mystery of Irma Vep” as the Ridiculous Theatrical Company’s mostproduced play nationwide. Yet the current production will be its first

New York City revival. As it was the last play Ludlam ever appeared in, its selection will have even more significance. “It’s a perfect little play, perfect story, perfect for actors,” Quinton said. “But it’s hard to play. It demands one thousand percent of your energy. We’re lucky to have a group of extremely talented people in the cast. It feels like a miracle.” Perhaps even more miraculous: TBTB is an integrated company that is, according to its mission statement, “dedicated to advancing actors and writers with disabilities and changing the image of people with disabilities from dependence to independence.” Three of the five cast members are amputees, and one is legally blind. “People tend to think of disability as limiting,” Viselli said, “but we want to show how the possibilities for people with disabilities are actually limitless. ‘The Artificial Jungle’ is a high-energy physical comedy, and yet the demands of the play are not an issue. The ongoing issue for us is always more, ‘Are we going to be able to do this without the audience being afraid for the actors?’ Because the actors themselves know they can do it in a way without compromising or dumbing it down and everyone is on board with that. That’s what this company is all about.” Added Quinton, “Charles would have been very happy with this group.” For information on staged readings of Charles Ludlam’s “Turds in Hell” (Jun. 5), “Der Ring Gott Farblonjet” (Jun. 12), and “Galas” (Jun. 19), visit tbtb.org. May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


Katrina Lenk’s One-Two Punch Season’s brightest new light talks about having arrived in NYC

The Stonewall Chorale presents Carmina Burana with FULL orchestra

Celebrate Pride with the country's first gay & lesbian chorus! Saturday, June 10 @ 8 pm Holy Apostles(28th & 9th) in Chelsea

K ATRINALENK.COM

Katrina Lenk receives the Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theatre as part of the June 5 Theatre World Awards.

BY DAVID NOH triple threat and then some, Katrina Lenk is an actor I’d never of heard before seeing her illuminate David Yazbek’s stunning “The Band’s Visit” at the Atlantic Theatre Company earlier this year. Then, later in the season, this exquisite apparition — no other word, really — came out on stage in Paula Vogel’s “Indecent” and began singing the most soul-satisfying song, “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” that was like one gorgeous present to the audience. I was thrilled to hear her and castmate Adina Verson reprise that song as a highlight of the always sparkling and resolved to have a serious sit-down with this dramatic chameleon who can be both a blasé Egyptian Muslim woman and a Jewish lesbian starring in Scholem Asch’s “God of Vengeance” (the subject of Vogel’s backstory piece) but, in reality, hails from Iowa. “I still can’t quite believe my luck in landing these two projects,” the vibrant, vivacious actress told me

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GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

Tickets $25 in advance, $30 at the door Buy online at stonewallchorale.org

when we met at the citizenM Hotel on West 50th Street. “I’m so thrilled that ‘Indecent’ kept moving forward because I started with it two years ago at Yale. And to get to bring it to Broadway is a pretty unique and amazing experience.” I told Lenk that “Indecent” is almost singlehandedly bringing brains and sophistication back to Broadway, the land of “Shrek, the Musical,” “Aladdin,” and every other dreary family-oriented piece of cheese aimed at 10-year-old minds, if that. To sit in the Cort Theatre and watch it come to vibrant life, you feel, as people did back in the 1960s and ‘70s, that hip downtown had finally arrived uptown. Smiling, Lenk responded, “I was just thinking back to all of the crazy things we did in previous versions. One was the ‘Ain’t We Got Fun’ number, which started as a big production number, and Adina and I did cartwheels off one another while someone was doing a split. It was just crazy. “What was really neat about

KATRINA LENK, continued on p.44

THE HORNBLOWER INFINITY | 353 WEST STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10014 MONDAY, JUNE 19TH, 2017 | 5:30PM - 9:00PM | CHECK-IN 5:30PM & BOARDING AT 6:00PM

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FILM

Fitting In, Standing Out John Butler’s fresh take on the high school buddy flick BY GARY M. KRAMER he Irish import “Handsome Devil” is out gay writer/ director John Butler’s absolutely charming coming-of-age story about two boarding school roommates. Ned (Fionn O’Shea) is a wiry, red headed, music-loving gay outsider, while Conor (Nicholas Galitzine) is a closeted star athlete on the rugby pitch. The film may tread familiar gay teen angst territory, but Butler wisely has the pair connect as friends rather than lovers, a choice he discussed. Via Skype from Ireland, the filmmaker spoke about “Handsome Devil” with Gay City News.

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GARY M. KRAMER: What was your inspiration for “Handsome Devil?” JOHN BUTLER: The experience of being young is one of ritual humiliation, and that experience is amplified for LGBT kids. As a teen, I was always embarrassed at one level or another. It’s emotional au-

Directed by John Butler Breaking Glass Pictures Opens Jun. 2 Cinema Village 22 E. 12th St. cinemavillage.com

more than to fit in was to stand out.

BREAKING GLASS PICTURES

Fionn O’Shea and Nicholas Galitzine in John Butler’s “Handsome Devil.”

tobiography — not the facts, but the feelings. I’m 50 percent Ned and 50 percent Conor: a gay boy madly into sport, but also a very pretentious music fan and self stylized outsider — the whole “look at me/ don’t look at me” thing. They are both me, and it was fun to pull them apart and have them drift together.

GMK: What were you like as a teenager? JB: I was good at soccer, not rugby; that was the sport of my childhood. But I thought it impossible to be both gay and an athlete. I had great friends, some of whom I still have. I was reasonably happy. I also had that thing that all kids have — the only thing you want

GMK: Like “Handsome Devil,” your previous film “The Bachelor Weekend” [aka “The Stag”] dealt with male bonding. Can you talk about this theme in your work? You make homoerotic things feel unthreatening. JB: I’m interested in gay-straight alliances. I’m interested in men — obviously I’m interested in men! [laughs] — and how men relate to each other. I make comedies and buddy films. It’s a reflection of my

FITTING AND STANDING, continued on p.42

Marlene’s Movies Icon of 20th century film takes center screen at Metrograph BY DAVID NOH arlene Dietrich, a star of many accomplishments and fecund longevity, was one of the last century’s most remarkable women in having made herself a literal human mirror to history. In the hometown that she deserted, Berlin, Dietrich is still very much alive — her spirit evoked on many street corners, its museums filled with her artifacts — but she hasn’t been celebrated in this country for years. To right that wrong, Metrograph is presenting a film series in her honor through July 8, something that holds the promise of making this a more glamorous summer

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Metrograph 7 Ludlow St. Btwn. Hester & Canal Sts. Through Jul. 8 metrograph.com/series/series/85/ marlene

METROGRAPH.COM

Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 “The Blue Angel,” screening May 27, made Marlene Dietrich an international star.

that we’ve seen in years. No star/ director collaboration was ever more thrillingly consistent than the seven films she did with Josef von Sternberg, who made her

METROGRAPH.COM

Stanley Kramer’s “Judgment at Nuremberg” screens on June 4.

a star when he cast her in the international 1930 success “The Blue Angel” (May 27). You can see how he transformed her from the plump, blowsy cabaret singer who though perhaps not as ambitious as Sally

Bowles was even more heartless, to a flawlessly gleaming goddess who gave even Garbo a run for her money. (The difference between the two is that Dietrich was fun, fully enjoying her stardom while working with far better directors.

DIETRICH, continued on p.37

May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


METROGRAPH.COM

Marlene Dietrich starred with Anna May Wong in von Sternbergâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Shanghai Express,â&#x20AC;? screening on May 26.

ä&#x2030;´

DIETRICH, from p.36

In the rather slow going â&#x20AC;&#x153;Moroccoâ&#x20AC;? (May 27) her Hollywood debut, sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s still a tad chunky, but the face is to die for, photographed by genius Lee Garmes, who perfected the â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dietrich lighting,â&#x20AC;? a high key spotlight that made her cheekbones cavernous. Here is dead sexy, flirting with Foreign Legionnaire Gary Cooper, at his most beautiful and androgynous, and brazenly kissing a female nightclub patron on the mouth while dressed in the menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tuxedo that was both a scandal and a revolutionary style setter. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dishonoredâ&#x20AC;? (May 30, Jun. 3) her World War I spy drama, is basically a one-woman show â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; what else could it be with character lugs Victor McLaglen and Warner Oland as her leading men? She delivers the goods, starting as a louche street whore who impersonates an innocent, braided Fräulein (showing off her talent for comic mimicry) and winding up in front of a firing squad, the essence of cool as she checks her lipstick in a soldierâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s saber blade. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Shanghai Expressâ&#x20AC;? (May 26) was the teamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s biggest success, one of Hollywoodâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most splendidly exotic entertainments, with her as notorious prostitute Shanghai Lily, who shares a train compartment with the exquisite Anna May Wong (â&#x20AC;&#x153;One of them is yellow and the other is white, but both their souls are rotten!,â&#x20AC;? declaims an outraged parson). Von Sternberg was able to create entire, uniquely magical worlds on the Paramount lot, be it a teeming, opium-scented China or 18th century Russia for the lavishly outrageous â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Scarlet Empressâ&#x20AC;? (May 25), with Dietrich as Catherine the Great. Sex was usually the main topic of the directorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s films, and he charts the Russian empressâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; rise to GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

METROGRAPH.COM

Billy Wilderâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 1948 â&#x20AC;&#x153;A Foreign Affairâ&#x20AC;? screens on June 1.

power as a matter of penis by penis, with future politician John Lodge, rock star handsome with long hair, and insane Grand Duke Sam Jaffe, leering like a deathâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s head version of Harpo Marx, portraying two of her victims. She ends up possibly mad herself, with all the bells in Russia tolling her royal triumph, as she proudly stands next to her infamous horse. (I first saw this as kid on late, late night TV in Hawaii and wondered if the tropical heat and my fatigue were making me hallucinate certain images.) Things had to calm down after that, and the coupleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s swan song, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Devil is a Womanâ&#x20AC;? is a quieter, almost chamber piece of a movie, based on the oft-filmed Pierre Louys novel (with a script by John Dos Passos!). I think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s their best, a sumptuous evocation of Belle Epoque Spain, framing Dietrich as temptress Concha Perez, in Travis Bantonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s jaw-dropping layers of lace, fringe, mantillas, high combs, and spit curls. Dietrich favored this one above all because she said she was at her most beautiful in it, but I love her for how funny she is in it â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a really sterling and brazenly histrionic high comic performance â&#x20AC;&#x201D; hilariously abetted by two priceless character women, Alison Skipworth, as her venal mother, and Tempe Pigott, as a one-eyed female pimp. But even the so-called throwaway number in the von Sternberg canon, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Blonde Venus,â&#x20AC;? has considerable merit. Raunchily pre-Code, Dietrich goes from blissful maternal domesticity to whoring in New Orleans and winding up being kept by a very young tyro named Cary Grant. Von Sternberg has fun with and subverts the clichĂŠs of the soap opera here, and threw her into the wildest number they ever conceived.

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DIETRICH, continued on p.42

37


OPERA

“Dutchman” Flies Under Nezet-Seguin’s Baton Carnegie cheers for Oratorio Society’s Bach “Mass in B Minor” vocal achievements of Wagner and Glueckert. Given Wagner’s popularity here and the fact that audiences will travel to see his works –– as they do for Handel, another fact that eludes the Met management — it seems odd that only five performances were scheduled. Let’s hope Wagner’s Dutchman visits these shores again before too many years pass.

BY DAVID SHENGOLD he Metropolitan Opera proved a good place to be on May 4, at the third performance given this season of Wagner’s “transitional” opera “Der fliegende Hollaender” (“The Flying Dutchman.”) Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the youthful, out gay Canadian anointed as the company next music director, achieved fine results in the pit, approaching the score in terms of early Romanticism (Weber, Marschner, Mendelssohn) instead of as prelude to the darker, more harmonically complex Wagner to come. The orchestra clearly made an effort for him, and the playing was clean and propulsive. One could limn a “deeper” interpretation of the music, but — barring genius singing actors in the two leads — this staging could scarcely sustain that. There’s little inherently interesting in what remains of August Everding’s 1989 production, here competently revived by Stephen Pickover, and both the Norwegians’ third act revels and the ghostly sailors’ response to them look pretty silly and unfocused. Still, Hans Schavernoch’s 19th century industrial sets seemed less oppressively dreary than I recalled, and at least there’s some contrast among the three acts. Lore Haas’s very solid costumes supply some color. Gil Wechsler’s lighting plot, generally strong on atmosphere, made awkwardly oldfashioned use of follow-spots on the principals, even through the scrims in the outer acts. The Hollaender was the highly accomplished German bass-baritone Michael Volle, one of today’s top choices in the role (and as Wagner’s Hans Sachs). He commands the style and phrasing and paced himself well through a conscientiously dark characterization. What he lacks, as when he played Mandryka in “Arabella” here, is much in the way of charisma, either vocal or visual. One appreciated his seasoned artistry but as a plausible object of an adolescent obsession he fell rather short; and

T

38

RICHARD TERMINE/ METROPOLITAN OPERA

Michael Volle and Amber Wagner in the Met Opera’s production of Wagner’s “Der fliegende Hollaender.”

his instrument, while strong and pliable, is not inherently memorable. Perhaps I have been spoiled for life by my first Met (and San Francisco) Dutchman, José van Dam. The still-young Senta, Washington State native Amber Wagner, made people sit up and take notice. At the Met, she sang Anna in “Nabucco,” a water-testing, highnote supplying minor role, in 2011, with a one-off “Ballo in Maschera” Amelia the following year. Meanwhile, in Chicago, she’s done Elsa (very strongly sung) and Elisabeth, and she has also amassed European experience. Wagner’s instrument is appealing and refulgent, as if made for this repertory. She slightly simplified the superhuman demands placed on her by the slow section of the work’s transfi xing central duet, “Wie aus die Ferne.” But better that than courting the disasters many other sopranos have endured there; and elsewhere she rang out confidently and sonorously. She seemed a nice North American young woman rather than a love-crazed Norwegian teenager, but the vocal contribution was pretty thrilling. Daland got a lively, capable reading from Franz-Josef Selig, no longer ideally steady but still an apt bass for this particular assignment. AJ Glueckert, an American tenor active in Germany, sang the

tough, not particularly sympathetic role of Erik very well indeed, save for one cruelly written high phrase near his third act plea’s end. He kept the sense of line the part rewards and so rarely gets. Ben Bliss, the Met’s current go-to tenor for youthful lyric sound, sang the Steuermann’s dreamy Act One ballad with memorably clean line and airy tone; the stomping-around drunk scene with the full chorus tested his dynamic limits more. One sloppy touch in Act One’s direction: both Daland and the Steuermann have a double-take when they each see that a much huger ship has pulled alongside overnight — but when the rest of the crew scampers onboard for their rope-pulling shanty, none of them even registered its fearful presence. Dolora Zajick’s aptly dour Mary — a new kind of assumption in the mezzo’s long career — sounded most like herself in the chested lower phrases, such as “Ich spinne fort!” The male chorus performed extremely well, though when some of them were relegated to play the Undead in the Dutchman’s ship, the vaguely sourced amplification dulled the impact of their song. In all, this was a happy evening, with high promise evident from Nezet-Seguin’s conviction and the

On May 8 at Carnegie Hall, Kent Tritle’s Oratorio Society tackled one of the great choral works, Bach’s “Mass in B Minor.” It was a stirring performance, though at times the choral sound had less evenness than this organization usually achieves. Some of the attacks and cutoffs were precise and breathtaking; yet sometimes Tritle’s unfashionably slow tempos in the more contemplative choral numbers yielded a certain amount of flatting, particularly among the sopranos. The orchestral playing, on the other hand, was immaculate and stylish, with special commendation due the flautists and oboists. The soloists were all musicianly and practiced oratorio singers. Leslie Fagan, reliably a fresh, bright soprano totally at home in this repertoire, met a fine match in tenor Lawrence Jones, a knowing stylist whose fine lyric voice has gained in power while retaining its shine and float. They sounded wonderful together in the transporting fluteaccompanied “Domine Deus.” Fagan and countertenor Christopher Ainslie also showed fine sensitivity in the increasingly rare art of duetting. His timbre is to me not the most pleasing, but he projects the music well; Bach seems to suit him vocally far better than the Handel and Cavalli I have previously heard him perform. Baritone Sidney Outlaw sang smoothly, with a nice sense of detail; occasionally his arias lay a bit low for his best range. Nice to see Carnegie so full of enthusiastic patrons cheering for Bach and his interpreters. David Shengold (shengold@yahoo.com) writes about opera for many venues. May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

39


GROUND HOG DAY: THE MUSICAL

PACIFIC OVERTURES, from p.32

happening at the time. There are many other memorable songs, particularly “Bowler Hat,” which tells the story of the loss of Japan’s ancient soul through a few accessories — bowler hat, monocle, and pocket watch. Similarly, the arrival of representatives from other countries looking for trade in “Please Hello” is nothing short of harrowing. Each of these contributes something essential to the story and the production’s emotional impact. The company is exceptional. George Takei is The Reciter, who sets the tale in motion and watches almost ghostlike over the events. Steven Eng is sensational as Kayama, the lowly magistrate thrust into an ever-expanding fortune, almost by accident. He sings “Bowler Hat,” and his transition takes him from meek country man to the hard, worldly man seduced by stuff and advancement, despite his wife’s suicide because of her belief he had been dishonored. Other standouts include Kelvin Moon Loh, with an operatic bass voice and a powerful presence as the Russian Admiral, among other parts. Austin Ku, Thom Sesma, Orville Mendoza, and Mark Oka all shine. And the wonderful Ann Harada plays comedy as the pimp forced to recruit new girls. As she observes in her frustration, “With appropriate veneering, even green wood has its charms.” Harada, like the rest of the cast, plays many roles — the original Broadway company had more than 30 performers — and she shows impressive range well beyond comedy. In an eerie echo of our own time, the cries to expel the “barbarians” and make Japan great again prove elusive and, in the end, impossible. For better or worse, one must deal with present realities, not nostalgic fantasy, even when that reality is grim. It seems like I never see the movies inspiring musicals these days, so I upon “Groundhog Day: The Musical” as a complete tabula rasa. With a book by Danny Rubin and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin (of “Matilda”), the result is one of the most delightfully diverting shows to hit Broadway in a while. Phil Connors, a disgruntled local weatherman has been assigned to go to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania,

40

JOAN MARCUS

Andy Karl and Barrett Doss in Danny Rubin and Tim Minchin’s “Groundhog Day,” directed by Matthew Warchus.

ANASTASIA

MATTHEW MURPHY

Christy Altomare and Derek Klena in Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty, and Lynn Ahrens’ “Anastasia,” directed by Darko Tresnjak.

to cover the groundhog. He’d rather chew glass and makes no bones about it. Stranded by a blizzard, he has to spend the night with his crew and wakes up to February 2 again and again. You can see the plot coming from as far away as Philadelphia, and Connors can’t get out of this incessant loop until he learns his lesson and becomes a nice guy. While that might sound like a nightmare for the audience as well as Connors, the bright book has a solid arc that sparkles with heart and hilarity. It’s so much fun to watch the loathsome Connors turn into a romantic leading man, even though you know that’s where it’s going. Andy Karl’s phenomenal performance as Connors, even with his leg in a brace after an injury that forced some early performances to be canceled, is the centerpiece of this show. Since his days in “Altar Boyz,” Karl has had an unmistakable magnetism on stage, and he channels all that talent into this role. Great as he is, he’s also got terrific material to work with. Minchin’s music and lyrics are delightfully mordant, revealing a dark worldview even when they’re bouncy, and make this a decidedly sophisticated and grown-up show. Matthew Warchus’ direction is masterfully comic without avoiding the human side of the characters, and Peter Darling’s choreography is perfect for the tone of the show, as it was in “Matilda.”

Broadhurst Theatre 235 W. 44th St. Tue.-Thu. at 7:30 p.m. Fri., Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m. Sun. at 3 p.m. $99-$159; telecharge.com Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

The rest of the tireless company is top-notch, especially Barrett Doss as the fledgling producer who has to deal with Connors throughout the day’s innumerable iterations. Doss manages to be jejune and tough at the same time, and her voice is outstanding. This is easily the happiest, most tightly crafted large-scale musical on the boards right now. I’d be happy to see it — wait for it — again and again. Sometimes being saddled with movie adaptations can work against a musical. That’s the case with “Anastasia,” based on a 1956 live-action movie and a 1997 cartoon. For all its good intentions, the musical doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be. Is it a frothy princess tale or serious story about a woman trying to discover who she is? For family entertainment, the assassination of Tsar Nicholas and his family during the Russian Revolution is not an easy nut to crack. Nor is the idea of Anastasia escaping death and desperately trying to reach the only living member of her family, her grandmother in Paris, the dowager empress. The deeper tale is intriguing but undeveloped. Lacking a defined focus, the show defaults to the princess-in-peril trope. Anya, a street sweeper swirled into the identity of Anastasia by two con men, has pluck and innate style, so it’s easy to believe that she’s royalty manqué. After a long and dangerous

August Wilson Theatre 245 W. 52nd St. Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m. Sun. at 3 p.m. $79-$249; ticketmaster.com Or 800-653-8000 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

trip to Paris, she finally meets her putative grandmother, but on the eve of being introduced as the late czar’s surviving daughter, disappears with the rakish young Dmitry who with his cohort Vlad provided the princess lessons. This synopsis doesn’t begin to cover all the events and subplots. Terrence McNally has made a strong effort, artfully dispatching a ton of exposition in a few scenes to get to the central conflict — Anya/Anastasia wrestling with who she is, before choosing the identity she knows to be true. Or at least that’s what we presume, though we are left with a mystery that is interesting and compelling, even if it takes too long to get to. The score with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens is tuneful, though not their best. The hit here is “Journey to the Past,” pulled from the animated version and a staple in cabarets for the past 20 years. Directed by Darko Tresnjak, the company is solid. Christy Altomare in the title role is a strong singer and charming. Derek Lena as Dmitry is an ideal leading man and a nice match for Altomare, with skillful and dynamic singing. John Bolton, as Vlad, delivers the role with great comic timing. Mary Beth Peil, an asset to any show in which she appears, plays the dowager empress with warmth and conviction. The sets, largely cinematic projections by Aaron Rhyne, are quite effective and may be a harbinger of a new style of technical design. They dazzle to be sure, but can make the experience distant and cold, like watching a live movie rather than something human and immediate. This show is sumptuous, lavish, and visually dazzling, with all the markings of a crowd pleaser. But at its conclusion, “Anastasia” somehow feels disappointingly unfinished and unresolved. May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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41


FITTING AND STANDING, from p.36

life. I’m friendly with straight and gay men, and they are just my friends. Conor and Ned didn’t have to hook up. That’s interesting to me — that their relationship doesn’t have to land at a level of sexuality, but at identity. It’s a buddy movie. GMK: What is your purpose in telling gay stories? JB: To make them mainstream. There are not enough gay happy endings. Comedy films have happy endings. Another gay publication asked me about the film’s fairy tale ending and I got quite annoyed, because in 2017 the ending should be achievable for any LGBT kid who is good at sport. Why do we have to live in the realm of fantasy?

DIETRICH, from p.37

To the strains of the licentious “Hot Voodoo” (which gay director John Schlesinger reprised with a drag queen singing it in 1975’s “The Day of the Locust”), a gorilla comes onstage, swiping at the blackface chorus girls. The beast then removes one paw, revealing the most beautiful white hand in all cinema. Yep, ‘tis Dietrich, a full year before “King Kong” made everyone go ape. Post-von Sternberg, she worked with most of the leading auteurs of her day. With Frank Borzage under Ernst Lubitsch’s sparkling supervision, she made “Desire” (Jun. 4), a creamy Deco soufflé in which she plays the chicest jewel thief, whose black and white Rolls Royces match her Banton ensembles. With just Lubitsch, she did “Angel” (Jul. 8) as an aristocratic British wife who enjoys hanging in a Parisian brothel run by Laura Hope Crews, some 30 years before Buñuel conceived of such a gambit in “Belle du Jour.” In it, she wears what was thought to be the most costly costume up to that time — a gold and jewel-encrusted dinner suit by Banton, which still gets regularly trotted out for exhibitions extolling the unparalleled luxury of Golden Age Hollywood. Billy Wilder directed her in 1948, in one of her best, “A Foreign Affair” (Jun. 1), which directly addresses the question of who was and was not a Nazi collaborator but in the most acerbically comic fashion. As

42

GMK: “Handsome Devil” contains some of the tropes of the coming of age/ coming out film, but they never feel forced. Can you talk about how you made the genre feel fresh? JB: I always thought it was in the genre of the American high school comedy film — John Hughes’s movies, “Election,” and “Dead Poets Society.” I wanted to make a film like those and update the homophobia. Some of those films don’t age well.

being like a woman. GMK: “Handsome Devil” also features an inspirational teacher, Mr. Sherry [gay actor Andrew Scott]. Did you have an inspirational teacher when you were in school? JB: I did. I had a great English teacher who taught me about “not speaking in a borrowed voice” as Mr. Sherry does. English and art and music teachers are invariably able to access you in a way. They have to be able to talk about authenticity.

JB: It doesn’t pick any sides. The truth is gray, there’s never any black and white. GMK: The music in the film is pretty significant, especially the use of the Rufus Wainwright song in the end. Can you talk about how you chose the tracks? JB: I was obsessed with getting that Rufus Wainwright song in the film. I wanted an LGBT song to close the film. The Housemartins’ song “Think for a Minute” was selected because I wanted the boys to sing in a high voice, a feminized voice, to expose them as weak.

GMK: Conor’s rugby coach, Pascal (Moe Dunford), is almost too homophobic. Can you talk about his character? JB: He’s true to my experience in the area of sports. I think the root of Pascal’s homophobia is that femininity is a perceived weakness. So all his comments are about gays

GMK: Mr. Sherry insists, “Reveal who you are if you dare!,” while Pascal insists that rugby is a way to “express yourself.” How does “Handsome Devil” reveal who you are and allow you to express yourself?

GMK: Why did you choose the title “Handsome Devil?” JB: It’s about masculine allure. Beautiful men making other men do stupid shit.

Erica von Schluetow, cabaret performer, Dietrich is a complex, ruthless, and enigmatic survivor, and poor Jean Arthur, as an uptight American politician come to clean up the ruins of Berlin, is simply no match for her, charming as she always is. Frederick Hollander’s wonderful song “Black Market” captures the essence of the time, and he is seen sardonically accompanying her on it. She would return to Germany in Stanley Kramer’s “Judgment at Nuremberg” (Jun. 4), as the widow of a Nazi officer who shows the human, yet ambivalent side of those who lost the great war. It’s a stirring, deep portrayal that has never gotten enough credit, especially coming from an actress who defied Hitler by refusing to return to her homeland to become its queen of cinema, and spent the war valiantly entertaining Allied troops near the battleground with a huge Nazi price on her head. “Stage Fright” (Jun. 3) is her Hitchcock entry, and a sophisticated honey, in which personality, and not suspense, drives the plot. As a huge and hugely narcissistic international star, Dietrich again shows her sly comic chops, especially when dealing with the always slightly annoying and wholesome Jane Wyman (pretending to be her replacement maid), constantly forgetting her name as well as the fact that she may have committed homicide. Murder figured in every-

body’s favorite, Wilder’s “Witness for the Prosecution,” as well, and she’s memorable as a suspect, once again showing off that talent for mimicry in a truly startling way. Driven to her wit’s end at one point, she screams “Damn you!” at her accusers, and the fury of her delivery makes you sit upright. Her appearance in Orson Welles’ brilliant noir “Touch of Evil” (May 25) is the series’ biggest in-joke. Welles and she had known each other for years; he used to saw her in half as part of his magic act during the war. But they supposedly never trysted because he preferred dark women, like her own erstwhile girlfriend, gorgeous Dolores Del Río. Here, she recycled the outré, brownface gypsy makeup she wore in her hit potboiler “Golden Earrings” to become the Mexican madam of a border town cathouse, and, once again, embodied the highest form of camp with her every line and movement. “Honey, you’re a mess,” she tells her bloated ex-lover sheriff (Welles). “You better lay off the candy bars.” Rouben Mamoulian once said his primary thrust in filmmaking was to create beauty and that he certainly did in “Song of Songs” (May 31), which came in the middle of the von Sternberg collaboration. Based on a warhorse story by Hermann Sudermann, it’s a hoary tale of love and redemption but never less than watchable, as she goes from innocent peasant maid (with

that eternal virgin braid across her head) to the most sinful lady anywhere, singing the deliciously sexy “Johnny” in a magnificent Hans Dreier-designed Art Nouveau boite. “The Lady is Willing” (May 29) is rarely shown and you can see why, as it has Dietrich playing a Broadway star who is overcome with mother love when an orphan baby pops up on her doorstep. Sickening, yes, but she’s charming in this Mitchell Leisen-directed confection, which is rife with his gay sensibility, from the oh-so careful arrangement of the Art Moderne sets to the chichi bare midriff outfits on the chorus boys who surround her in the allwhite musical finale. Here, Dietrich wears one of her most fabulous costumes, an Irene sheath completely made of shimmering silver bugle beads. Jamie Lee Curtis engaged to Dietrich’s grandson, J. Michael Riva, for a while and Dietrich gave the dress to her to wear to the 1984 Oscars. Curtis took the classic design and had it shortened with the sleeves removed, turning it into something an office manager would wear during a Reagan administration Christmas party. For a costume fiend like me, that’s a desecration on par with whoever spattered Picasso’s “Guernica” at MoMA. Thank God, the film still exists and is being shown so we can appreciate just a fraction of the infinitesimal care and canniness this star of stars put into her every effort, onscreen and off. May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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43


KATRINA LENK, from p.35

watching [director] Rebecca Taichman and Paula Vogel work together was while they may have an idea and then scrap it, the ghost of what had been remains. So no matter what changed, it was still marked by what it had been, so all the previous iterations of the play are still there, but like little shadows in the corners. “How did I land my part? My agents got for me one of those last-minute auditions where it’s like tomorrow. I had to read the play quickly and absorb it. Luckily, Rebecca was really great in the audition room. I had come in with something prepared, and she gave me some suggestions that were the exact opposite of that. She let me go into the hallway and prepare what she had given me before she let me back in the room. So I was in love with her and that’s a rare thing — to have a working relationship with a director, right off the bat. “It’s challenging, but in the best way like a really big piece of cake — I don’t know if I have room for it, but I’m gonna try! I love that we all get to play five or six characters, which all have a common thread and finding that out and the differences between them was really fun. It was all about each character’s subtle physicality and how they think of the world and carry themselves in it. It was really fun, yet challenging. I would get frustrated with myself: ‘Why can’t I figure it out?’ But when you do, all these doors open up in your mind. “This was the most collaborative experience I’ve ever had. Also, the cast would help figure it out for the transitions, like, ‘If you need to be there, I can go and get that and bring it.’ Such teamwork. Each character is influenced by the work of the other actors. Like you said, it’s very organic in the way things twist around each other. “The music is so beautiful. We now take it for granted, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the ‘God of Vengeance’ theme.’ But Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva actually wrote that when we were in the rehearsal room working. It did not exist before. This tonality came from them, witnessing us creating something while we influenced their melodic movement and vice-versa. “It was like a stew, just brilliant

44

K ATRINALENK.COM

Adina Verson and Katrina Lenk in Paula Vogel’s “Indecent.”

songwriting, composition, really. And the arrangements of ‘Ain’t We Got Fun’ and ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen’ were beautiful, so smart and with so much heart. We were spoiled, as we had them with us during the entire rehearsal process, and that’s quite unique. I love that Paula put ‘Bei Mir’ in Yiddish. We get to hear a joyful song from that culture. “Our choreographer, David Dorfman, was wonderful, another bright soul, generous person, and also extremely collaborative. He’d throw something at you, and maybe you’d make a mistake, but he’d say, ‘No, do that! I like it!’ He was also so open to Rebecca’s ideas. There was a lot of playfulness, let’s try this and see what happens, joyous, eclectic yet really grounded and athletic. And non-dance: I don’t think it’s intimidating or inaccessible to anyone who’s not a dancer. You can do it too, come up on stage and do it with us. He’s a good guy.” The show’s opening night, with a party after at Bryant Park was indeed festive, for so many reasons, attended by the hippest New York crowd imaginable. “It was my first opening night, on Broadway and it was pretty great, with such a sense of joy and accomplishment, sharing it with

the cast and creative team. To have us all be there was really thrilling, and the audience was fantastic, such great energy, you feed off on that.” A sociopolitical, non-linear show like this is a definite challenge for 2017 Broadway audiences, and Lenk observed, “The audiences really change. Our Sunday matinees are usually our best audiences, which isn’t usually the case. The older audiences respond in a quieter way. The younger ones come in and are so vocal and get things so quickly. I think they’re more accustomed to reading things and it being non-linear, maybe something to do with their phones, I don’t know. But the task of getting information from a screen isn’t foreign to the younger generation. It’s been a learning curve for all of us, just because they’re quiet doesn’t mean they hate it; they’re listening and taking it in. Box office-wise, we’re picking up. I hope the word is getting out and the Tonys are coming up so people are going, ‘I have to see that.’” The subject changed to her other triumph this season, “The Band’s Visit,” which was undoubtedly the best new musical. “That was another last-minute audition. I went in and was sure they were gonna say, ‘Get out of

here.’ But there was something in the room with [director] David Cromer and [composer] David Yazbek, like we were already working together in the room. Similar to Rebecca and Paula, but a very different style of working, and I felt at home right away. And Tony Shalhoub was just a dream of a coworker, generous and funny with so much heart. I’m looking forward to doing that again.” As far as its Broadway transfer is concerned, Lenk said, “They haven’t announced it officially but it’s looking good.” When I remarked how utterly convincing she was as a desperately bored, small-town Egyptian woman, from your first sight of her, in a louche stance, exuding the most world-weary savoir-faire imaginable, worthy of Anouk Aimée, she said, “You sort of steal from all sorts of places. The cast had a lot of — not enough — Middle Eastern actors or people who had relatives from Israel, so there was a lot of sharing details, like ‘this is how that would happen.’ And I also watched a ton of Israeli movies just to see what it’s it like to stand there. I’ve never been to the Middle East. The independent movie scene is really great there. I tried to get a sense of the people — they’re passionate but not sentimental at all. I’m drawn to that culture.” A highlight of the show was her song “Omar Sharif,” not just for her voice but for these utterly gorgeous wafting arm movements, which were the essence of seductiveness. I asked Lenk about this and she said, “That’s such a good song! Our choreographer was Lee Sher, an Israeli who has her own dance company. She came up with a lot of that stuff, but again, it was collaborative and it’s hard to say which thing came from where. “David Yazbek was very sparing with his comments to me, but when he made a comment you’d know exactly what he meant, very clear. He floated more on the periphery, I would say. That one was different from ‘Indecent’ because it’s a musical with songs written for it, so there wasn’t as much room to shift things around. He did change the key for me, which was nice. He’s also really funny so there was all

KATRINA LENK, continued on p.45

May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


ä&#x2030;´

KATRINA LENK, from p.44

this running comedic commentary going on during rehearsal.â&#x20AC;? The show was also a an absolute visual highlight of the season, in terms of its evanescent design and lighting: â&#x20AC;&#x153;The set was beautiful â&#x20AC;&#x201D; when we came in that first day of tech, we were like â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Ohhh.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; I love how simple and straightforward the set and the direction were, yet very detailed. Lenk, whose background is Prussian, grew up in Iowa, â&#x20AC;&#x153;for a little bit, and then Chicago. I started dance when I was three and was always singing and writing songs. I started the viola when I was six, and my parents were very supportive about my wanting to play and do things and great about enforcing discipline. You could not not practice. I hated them at the time for it but am now so grateful they taught me how to have discipline. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s one thing to want to do something but you have to keep doing it to get better, and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to wrap your head around when youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re a kid. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I went to Northwestern and my viola teacher was a professor there, so I planned on becoming a classical musician. I thought I could do that and dance and heater and singing, whatever, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fine. I had to narrow my focus down halfway through so I moved to music theater minor with a major in general music. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I did stop playing the viola for a while. I was in a rock band in Chicago and then LA, where I kept up with viola in my own way. I write my own music so it never really went away. I just stopped learning the repertoire and practicing six hours a day. It never seemed enough because I could have easily practiced for seven more.â&#x20AC;? Lenk came to New York officially five years ago, to be the replacement Arachne in â&#x20AC;&#x153;Spider-Man.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;I stuck my toe in New York in 2010 to be the understudy for the Kate Whoriskey production of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The Miracle Worker.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; I thought that was when I was doing the big move from LA. I gave up my apartment and was going to Noo Yawk. But the play closed a lot earlier than we thought. I went back to LA with my tail between my legs â&#x20AC;&#x201D; â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;I hate New York! Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m never going back!â&#x20AC;&#x2122; GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

â&#x20AC;&#x153;And then â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Spider-Manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; came through with auditions, and that was another audition where I thought I was horrible. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;They hate me!â&#x20AC;&#x2122; I was crying in the parking lot.â&#x20AC;? But she landed the gig. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Then I decided â&#x20AC;&#x201D; when you have a job and can afford to eat, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re like â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Yay! I can live here now.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; New York this time felt like home right away, and so I was in the show just under a year. And then â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Onceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; was casting for a replacement, conveniently looking for someone that played violin and could do a Czech accent. That was another coincidental lineup of Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m here and I can kind of do that. So one went right into another.â&#x20AC;? I was interested in hearing about Lenkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own music. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been compared to Kate Bush, Tori Amos, and BjĂśrk. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m a huge Prince fan, so a lot of it is influenced by his old school stuff. My main instrument is the viola â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a lot of string arrangements. I also like a rhythmic loop. I do this crazy other musical persona, a whole evening where I start by wearing a Marie Antoinette wig and crazy makeup and then all those things fall away. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve done it around the city and have a gig coming up August 14 at Sounds of the City.â&#x20AC;? Also coming up for Lenk is the prestigious Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theatre, which will be given to her as part of the Theatre World Awards on June 5. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I was just blown away by this, had no idea. Very high class â&#x20AC;&#x201D; they hand-delivered this envelope to the theater and inside was the letter that said I had won it. So classy and old school. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m just like, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Why? What?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Just baffling, and with all those other people who are so amazing to me!â&#x20AC;? Romantically, Lenk has â&#x20AC;&#x153;a longdistance thing right now, which maybe is okay because Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m so busy. It makes me think of all those sad stories like â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;All About Eve.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s drunk and alone, but sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s on Broadway. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an understanding between us, however, because this person is in show business, too, very supportive. I guess because in order to do it, you have to love it so much that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s almost like a child you would do anything for. It kind of gets in the way of my personal life!â&#x20AC;?

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May 25 - June 07, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


ROTTERDAM, from p.32

lead performances help keep the proceedings steady. Alice McCarthy brings an air of tenderness to the indignant, embattled Alice, grappling with taking care of her own needs while trying to support Adrian. Anna Martine Freeman is perfectly cast as Fiona/ Adrian, expertly handling the bumpy transition from woman to man on both an emotional and physical level. The entire enterprise is energized by Donnacadh O’Briain’s inventive staging, where scenes overlap and the action is kept moving at a fast clip. Characters randomly appear, dancing around passionately or putting the finishing touches on their outfits and gazing at the audience, which serves as a stand-in for a mirror. A shocking, climactic scene, where a distraught Adrian second-guesses his decision, is as heart-wrenching as any you’re likely to see on a New York stage this season. Also compelling is an earlier scene where Alice tries to grasp how long her partner has been hiding a secret. “It’s not like I’m trying to change,” Fiona says. “I don’t want to become a man. I… I think… I know… I already am one.” As it happens, the play serves as a primer for cis folks new to the transgender world. We learn, along with Adrian, how a binder makes breasts appear less prominent and about the effects of hormone therapy. There’s talk of strap-ons, mastectomy, and scrotoplasty. Choosing between the men’s and women’s toilets becomes a routine trauma. And yes, it can feel a bit didactic, like when the term cis is dutifully defined (“when your body and your gender match up”). Why Rotterdam? The Dutch city, forever second-fiddle to Amsterdam, is notorious for its unemployment, urban decay, and vast port where goods come and go, not a place many dream of calling home. It’s an apt way station for these intrepid souls — none of them actually grew up here. They are stuck or unsettled or marking time, plotting their move to leave the city so that their real lives can take flight.

䉴 ABUSE SURVIVORS, from p.4 session. “I’ve spoken to the most senior staff in the governor’s office and I am very optimistic that we will get something from them,” Rosenthal told Gay City News. “Senate Republicans, of course, are the ones that are blocking this. But I think with the governor’s leadership, there is enough momentum to finally address a heinous history in this state and in the nation.” Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment as of publication time. Hoylman could not conceal his contempt for hypocrisy about protecting children from abuse among his GOP colleagues. “Today the Senate is considering its 17th bill on sex offenders,” he told Gay City News on May 23. “These are press release bills, one-house bills that won’t be enacted, so the Republicans can go back home and put the fear in their voters that sex offenders will flood their communities.” Meenan, who said he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the abuse he faced as a youth and is currently battling his landlord in Housing Court, offered an even harsher assessment. “What does it take for these lawmakers to understand taxpayers foot the bill for pedophiles in lost wages, rents, incarcerations, etc.?” he said. “My possible eviction is a result of my religion teacher having my penis in his mouth.” GayCityNews.nyc | May 25 - June 07, 2017

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