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Queery: Joe Landry

Longtime publisher answers 20 gay questions

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Joe Landry is Executive Vice President of Pride Media and group publisher of Out Magazine and The Advocate. (Photo courtesy Landry)

In 1992, when Joe Landry walked into my offices on Broadway at Bleecker Street in New York City, I knew someone special had arrived. He was all brains, brawn and handsome with a Boston accent for days and that’s exactly what I thought an advertising salesperson should be.

“Why would you,” I asked, “want to sell ads in a gay magazine?” Joe had been highly recommended by the art director of my magazine, QW, a glossy gay magazine that was the only LGBT media serving New York City at the time. “This is what I want to do. It’s the contribution I want to make,” I recall him saying earnestly.

He was on the team and an instant hit.

QW was heavy lifting and loads of turbulent, fabulous fun, yet we were in the thick of an epidemic and it seemed almost every day someone close to one of our 15 person staff was consumed by the AIDS crisis, either through their own illness, a partner’s illness, imprisonment (most of the staff was in Queer Nation and ACT-UP) or death.

(In the end, the death of the magazine’s financial partner, William Chafin, and several team members, forced me to close operations.  A year later I launched a newspaper that continues to this day, Gay City News.)

We were perhaps naive, but determined to change the world.

Joe, like me, has stayed the course with LGBT publishing and has done so for many of the same evolving reasons; fighting AIDS and gaining LGBTQ equality has been an all-consuming, near half-century struggle. Passion roped him in and has kept him here.

Publishing has served as a way to lead, educate, listen, communicate, promote diversity and to advocate to the wider world the value of our community. 

“When I moved to Boston in the late ‘80s I was walking down the street and somebody handed me a brochure. It said gay people are “going to go to hell.” I was like, “this is wrong,” Joe said in a recent ad for Lexus posted on Out.com.

“That’s how I got started into gay publishing; I wanted to change the world.”

He has done so by skillfully navigating the world of publishing and has, since joining the Advocate in 1994, been key to its survival.

The Advocate began as a newsletter for Los Angeles activist group Personal Rights in Defense and Education (PRIDE) in direct response to 1967’s police raid on the Black Cat Tavern.  

The magazine has gone through dozens of hands and many iterations, but Landry has survived at its helm longer than anyone in its history.

Lexus OUT100 with Joe Landry **Episode 1** from Daniel Gomez Bagby on Vimeo.

Today it is owned by Pride Media and includes Out magazine, Plus magazine, Pride.com and the soon to be launched Chill brand. Management was recently backed by Oreva Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment firm that also owns cannabis magazine “High Times,” in a buyout of the company. Joe is group publisher of The Advocate and Out Magazine.

Oreva Capital CEO Adam Levin told Reuters he was “looking for brands that have strong emotional ties with a community.”

“To go from people getting beat up by the police for assembling as gay people to marriage equality in my lifetime, is something that is mind-bending to me,” says Landry.

The world has changed a lot since Joe’s 1992 foray into LGBT publishing, not to mention the medium itself.

“I was at a restaurant tonight in San Francisco and I watched as a gay couple discussed hashtags they should use for their food which, when it arrived, they were photographing with their phones to the web,” he told me in a phone interview from San Francisco.

“Things have really moved along, haven’t they? Hashtag: “Who are these people,” and hashtag: “what do they want now,” I asked.

“That always been our job,” he said in typical Joe fashion.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Well, my mother “sort of” caught me. I was 18. We had a long tearful talk on her bed. She offered to pay for me to go to therapy which was extremely surprising since she never offered to pay for anything else. I told her that if she wanted to spend her money on therapy she should go herself. I had already come to terms with being gay.This was 1982 in Leominster Massachusetts. Totally radical. She did ban my boyfriend from coming into her house so he would pull into the driveway and I would dash out.

Who’s your LGBT hero?
Larry Kramer. I was walking down the street in NYC in 1991 during gay pride weekend. I had just moved to NYC the weekend prior. Larry Kramer was speaking in Union Square during a rally pleading with us to love one another. He unapologetically set the world on fire during the AIDS crisis and never backed down. He’s the bravest person I’ve ever met.

What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
Wow. I loved the Spotlight Lounge on Cahuenga. It’s closed now. It’s the only place where my trans best friend and I could each pickup a man. It was seedy and the drinks were cheap. It was fantastic.

Describe your dream wedding.
Eloping to Iceland.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I’m passionate about travel. It opens your minds to different people and points of view and therefore expands your perspective on the world.

What historical outcome would you change?
Hillary Clinton should be President. That being said I doubt the #metoo movement would have altered the cultural landscape so dramatically if she had won.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The HRC Equality Rocks concert during the Millennium March on Washington. Not only was I front row for Chaka Khan but George Michael sang a duet with Garth Brooks. It was history making.

On what do you insist?
Honesty.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I posted a photo of my beloved dog cheetah who i’m obsessed with.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Sex, Lies and Videotape.”

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in energy. Positive attracts positive and negative attracts negative. We have control over the energy we put out and therefore attract. You can call if God, Allah, Krishna, Buddha or Karma.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
I’ve built my career on bringing parties together. The LGBTQ community and the business community. My goal from the onset was to change the world through commerce. Find a way to work with your partners. You’re better off together.

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Remove the scientist responsible.

What would you walk across hot coals for?
My loved ones.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
People that stand in judgement of anyone in our community bug me the most.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
That’s a hard one. Cabaret, Female Trouble, Basic Instinct.

What’s the most overrated social custom?
Valentine’s Day. Who needs a manufactured holiday to show someone you love them?

What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I don’t covet. I plan a course of action to accomplish or I move on.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That all of your feelings both bad and good pass without having to change them with mind altering substances.

Why Los Angeles?
You can live life in Los Angeles. My tenure in New York was not about living but about working. My life in LA is balanced. I have space to contemplate. I also travel alot which helps with my traffic induced anxiety. Driving from Hollywood to Westwood everyday is a nightmare.

Here’s a little flavor of the day!

Deee-Lite – Groove Is In The Heart from Uporot on Vimeo.

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Online Culture

LGBTQ+ friendly Netflix could lose a quarter of its subscribers

70% of survey respondents use Netflix the most, meaning it has higher usage than any other streaming service—by a 60% margin

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LOS ANGELES – Streaming service Netflix which is home to LGBTQ+ friendly fare including the smash hit series Heartstopper, Queer Eye, Uncoupled, and Grace and Frankie along with a robust portfolio of other queer friendly content is poised to lose a staggering quarter of its subscribers.

In a recent survey conducted by REVIEWS.org, a organization staffed by teams of experts who rate and review connected home services and products including Mobile & Wireless; TV & Streaming; Home Security & Smart Home along with other web based offerings surveyed 1,000 Americans to gauge their streaming habits in 2022 and found that 1 in 4 are planning to leave Netflix this year. 

Based on the report’s findings,  that could be over 18 million US subscribers—and an estimated $272 million in lost subscriber revenue for the streaming company. The experts noted that Netflix has had a difficult 2022, losing nearly 1.2 million subscribers in the first two quarters of 2022 and recording subscriber loss for the first time in a decade. 

The company hopes to add one million new subscribers in the third quarter, but the report questions if the streaming company face another loss of that magnitude.

The survey noted that nearly two-thirds of respondents cited Netflix’s increasing cost as a reason for leaving.

  • Netflix’s Basic one-screen plan went up by 11% in January 2022 for the first time in three years.
  • Meanwhile, Standard and Premium plans increased 20% and 25%, respectively, in the same time period.

The REVIEWS report also pointed out that Netflix currently has the highest average plan cost among the eight most popular streaming services in the United States. And that is leading 30% of surveyed subscribers to share their password with people outside their household.

Graphic via REVIEWS.org

Netflix cost vs. competitors

Streaming serviceAverage monthly costNumber of plans
Netflix$15.15Three plans, no ads
HBO Max$12.49Two plans: With and without ads
Hulu$9.99Two plans: With and without ads (does not include Hulu Live+)
Amazon Prime$14.99One plan, no ads
Disney Plus$7.99One plan*
Paramount+$7.49Two plans: With and without ads
Apple TV+$4.99One plan, no ads
PeacockTV$7.49Two plans: With and without ads
Graphic via REVIEWS.org

Data as of 09/05/22. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
* Does not include Disney bundle

Another issue with those surveyed was lack of content. 1 in 3 respondents said Netflix no longer has the shows they want to watch and then 30% said that they use other streaming services more.

The report notes that Netflix became popular for licensing many TV shows and movies for streaming before the company developed its own original programming. In recent years, those shows and movies have left Netflix for other streaming services—mainly to build the libraries of WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, Walt Disney Company’s Disney+, and NBCUniversal’s Peacock—leading to ‘the streaming wars.’

Graphic via REVIEWS.org

The report’s findings state that the average American is subscribed to 4 streaming platforms:

  • 78% subscribe to Netflix
  • 46% are Disney+ subscribers
  • 42% subscribe to HBO Max
  • 33% are Peacock subscribers
  • 26% subscribe to Hulu
  • 22% are Apple TV+ subscribers
  • 5% subscribe to Hulu
  • 5% are Amazon Prime subscribers

The survey also found that 70% of respondents use Netflix the most, meaning it has higher usage than any other streaming service—by a 60% margin!

In a distant second place is HBO Max with a 10% share of respondents and Disney+ takes third place with 6%. Every other streaming service is under 5%.

So can anything beat Netflix the REVIEWERS.org asked? Their answer was “Right now, no. But rising prices, a lack of content, and increased competition could lead 1-in-4 subscribers to cancel their Netflix subscription within the year.”

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Television

‘Modern Family’ creator returns to form with hilarious ‘Reboot’

Show about a show ditches tired mockumentary format

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The cast of ‘Reboot’ on Hulu. (Photo courtesy Hulu)

TV veteran Steven Levitan already had a lot of success as a writer, showrunner, and producer before the premiere of “Modern Family” – a series he co-created with Christopher Lloyd – in 2009. That show turned out to be a cultural phenomenon, helping to redefine and normalize the representation of LGBTQ relationships on TV by including a gay couple within its ensemble of central characters while also becoming a long-running fan-favorite, winning scores of awards (including nine primetime Emmys) and being nominated for scores more before airing its final season in 2020. Even with a resume that includes shows like “Wings,” “Frasier,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” and “Just Shoot Me,” that’s got to be considered a career-topping triumph.

Now, Levitan is back with a new show, “Reboot,” which premiered on Hulu Sept. 20, and from its very first pre-credit sequence it signals a welcome return to the same rapid-fire comedic style that kept “Modern Family” on everybody’s weekly watchlist for 11 years – still inclusive, with prominent queer characters and storylines, but thankfully without the mockumentary format.

“Reboot” is a good-naturedly irreverent send-up of the Hollywood entertainment machine featuring “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star Rachel Bloom as Hannah, a TV writer who gets greenlighted on her pitch for a revival of “Step Right Up,” a beloved sitcom from the early 2000s. She manages to convince the original cast to reprise their roles as the show’s “wacky family” – despite their complicated offscreen history – by promising to adapt the show for a contemporary audience, eliminating the corny, outdated humor and shifting toward a more sophisticated, realistic tone. At the first table read, however, Hannah’s plan for a reimagined series is met with a significant obstacle – the unexpected presence of the original sitcom’s creator, Gordon Gelman (Paul Reiser), who has wielded his industry clout to insert himself into the mix as a showrunner and ensure that “woke” ideas about comedy don’t get in the way of the laughs.

Obviously, this scenario provides a ripe field for jokes about the cultural conflicts that have become a fact of life in 2022 – mostly around the differing attitudes between older and younger generations, always a sure-fire bet for relatable comedy. The “OK Boomer” sparring at its core is common fodder these days, but Levitan and his creative team know comedy well enough to make it feel fresh – and their secret is to make sure that the characters are always the main attraction.

In this case, they’ve given us plenty of them to choose from. Besides Hannah and Gordon, whose rivalry for the reins quickly becomes just one of many thorns in their relationship dynamic, we also get the leading players of “Step Right Up”: Reed Sterling (Keegan-Michael Key), a Yale-trained thespian who ditched the show’s first run to pursue a movie career that never materialized; Bree Marie Johnson (Judy Greer), a once-popular star who left showbiz for a now-failed marriage to an obscure Scandinavian Duke; Clay Barber (Johnny Knoxville), a “bad boy” stand-up comic known less for his talent than for being a train wreck; and Zack Jackson (Calum Worthy), a former child star who seems to have reached his mid-20s without actually growing up. Rounding out the main ensemble is Krista Marie Yu as Elaine, a young production exec transplanted from the tech industry whose fish-out-of-water incongruity provides a necessary outsider perspective amid the show-biz histrionics that surround her.

There’s a host of supporting characters, too – a roomful of writers, for instance, hilariously bridging the generation gap with their common love of comedy even as they clash over cultural values. Drawn in broad strokes, all of them could easily be dismissed as generic tropes, stock figures updated to fit the latest cultural zeitgeist; that they come off as fully realized human beings instead of lazy stereotypes is a testament to Levitan and the real-life writers’ room responsible for bringing them to life.

It’s also a testament to the actors who play them. Key and Greer have the biggest challenge, in many ways; their characters, cut from the same egocentric cloth as so many other parodies of vain and pretentious Hollywood stars and clearly designed to be adorably insufferable, come off in early episodes as simply insufferable. As the season progresses, fortunately, their skill as performers permits them (and their characters) to rise above the flaws and foibles and win us over. The ever-reliable Knoxville does what he does best – sending up his own wild-man persona – and occasionally reminds us that he’s not a bad actor, when he gets the chance; Worthy, an ex-Disney-kid also spoofing his own real-life image, likewise injects surprising doses of winning humanity as the show goes on.

As for Bloom, essentially the main character though surrounded by an ensemble of zanies, she holds her own with all the juggernaut talent she used to make “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” a wildly popular cult hit; required to be a grounding force while dealing with her own whirlwind of personal and professional dysfunction, she succeeds more than well enough to anchor the show. Finally, Reiser brings his status as a venerable sitcom legend to give his old-school character an appropriate presence, while making him much more layered and likable than the Archie Bunker-ish throwback we expect him to be.

With such a solid cast doing the heavy lifting onscreen, “Reboot” is able to cast its satirical net wide enough to poke fun at our rapidly changing culture without losing the important human connection that keeps its never-ending bombardment of one-liners – something for which Levitan’s previous shows have been widely known and admired – from feeling hollow. That doesn’t mean the comedy ever lulls; on the contrary, even the show’s most tender and meaningful moments – which often take us by pleasant surprise – are punctuated by zingers. And while the series leans hard into the kind of uncomplicated vibe that usually marks popular mainstream sitcoms, it also lets itself play at more complex levels, getting a lot of comedic mileage out of the inescapable “meta” quality of being a show about a show – for example, the fictional series, like the real one, is produced by Hulu, just one such cheeky touch among many that make it feel more subversive and iconoclastic than perhaps it really is.

What might work even more to the benefit of “Reboot” than the considerable lineup of talent it boasts both on and behind the screen is its format – and we’re not just talking about its choice to eschew the mockumentary thing, a masterfully innovative tactic that has now become tired from overuse, even on Emmy-favored “Abbot Elementary.” In the new era of streaming content, the 23-episode season feels like an increasingly outmoded way of doing things; with only eight episodes to undertake, there’s far less chance of stretching the material (and our patience for it) thin, or of running out of ideas and undermining the show’s integrity with sub-par writing just to pad things out.

Unsaddled from that burden, “Reboot” manages to be laugh-out-loud funny throughout each episode of its first season. That alone is enough for us to look forward to season two.

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Books

‘Before We Were Trans’ explores a complicated history

Scholars ‘need to tread carefully and responsibly’

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(Book cover image courtesy of Seal Press)

‘Before We Were Trans’
By Kit Heyam
c.2022, Seal Press
$30/352 pages

Yes or no: before there were rockets, there were no astronauts.

No, there wasn’t a need for them without a vehicle to go where people only dreamed of going. But yes – the word “astronaut” is more than a century old. Words and labels matter, as you’ll see in “Before We Were Trans” by Kit Heyam, and time is no excuse.

On the evening of June 8, 1847, John Sullivan was apprehended by gendarmes while weaving down a sidewalk in London. Sullivan was wearing a few women’s garments, and was carrying more, all of it stolen. Because it wasn’t the first time he was arrested, he spent 10 years in an Australian penal colony for his crime.

“Is this story a part of trans history?” asks Heyam.

There aren’t enough clues to determine Sullivan’s truth, not enough “evidence that their motivation for gender nonconformity was not external, but internal.” The answer’s complicated by the fact that “transgender” wasn’t even a word during Sullivan’s time. Presumably, Sullivan was white but even so, we must also consider “that the way we experience and understand gender is inextricable from race.”

Surely, then, Njinga Mbande, the king of Ndongo, can be considered trans; they were assigned female at birth but presented themselves as king, as did Hatshepsut of Egypt. In precolonial Nigeria, the Ekwe people were gender-fluid, to ensure that there was a male in the household. Do political and social reasons fit the definition of trans?

In England, it was once believed that to dress like the opposite sex was to become that gender. In prison camps during World War I, men participated in plays to ease the boredom, and some ultimately lived permanently as women. Early history shows many examples of people living as “both.” Were they trans or not?

Says Heyam, “historians need to tread carefully and responsibly when we talk about the histories of people who blur the boundaries between intersex and trans.”

Moreover, can we allow that there’s probably some “overlap”?

The answer to that could depend on your current situation and mindset. Absolutely, author Kit Heyam dangles their own opinion throughout this book but “Before We Were Trans” doesn’t seem to solve the riddle.

Judging by the narrative here, though, it’s possible that it may be forever unsolvable. There’s a lot to untangle, often in the form of partially recorded tales that hark back to antiquity and that are shaky with a lack of knowable details. Even Heyam seems to admit sometimes that their thoughts are best guesses.

And yet, that tangle can leave readers with so much to think about, when it comes to gender. Ancient attitudes toward trans people – whether they were, indeed, trans or acted as such for reasons other than gender – absolutely serve as brain fodder.

This is not a quick-breezy read; in fact, there are times when you may feel as though you need a cheat-sheet to follow similar-sounding names. Even so, if you take your time with it, “Before We Were Trans” may put you over the moon.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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