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An evening of fun with “Wicked Pagan Gays”

An outrageous clan resettles in West Hollywood



Krista Conti, Nathan Tylutki and Jeff Dinnell in “Wicked Pagan Gays,” photograph by Stephen Todt.

With a title like “Wicked Pagan Gays,” one might walk into the theatre expecting an outrageous evening of blasphemy, lewdness, and debauchery – with copious amounts of gratuitous homosexual fornication and at least a little bit of full-frontal nudity thrown in for good measure.  Fair warning: that’s not what you’ll get.

The play, which is currently in its World Premiere run at the Zephyr Theatre on Melrose, is a comedy of manners which focuses not on the physical acts its name evokes, but rather on the conflict between different religious beliefs within the culture – or at least, within the microcosm of the culture reflected by the handful of gay men who populate it.

That doesn’t mean it’s a dry and dusty think piece, though.  As written by Jeff Dinnell, whose long-running real-life “cocktail-fueled debates” with credited co-creator Greg Archer provided the inspiration for the script, “Wicked Pagan Gays” is more along the lines of an intellectual farce, reminiscent of one of those old-fashioned screwball comedies that thrived on stage and screen in the 1930s and 40s (that classic paean to feminine cattiness, “The Women,” comes to mind)  – full of fast-talking characters, zingy one-liners, slick cynicism, and ridiculous coincidences.

Set in present-day West Hollywood, the plot revolves around two gay thirty-something men who were once part of the same circle in a small town “up north” in California.  Jeff (played by Dinnell himself) is a recent transplant to L.A., an aspiring playwright and self-proclaimed atheist who hopes to start a new life in the big city; Greg (Nathan Tylutki) is a struggling journalist and spiritual seeker, who is fascinated with mysticism.  Following “signs from above,” Greg is led to reconnect with Jeff, and manages to talk his skeptical old acquaintance to form an uneasy partnership in pursuit of an as-yet-unspecified financial venture.

In addition to their widely opposing views on religion, things are complicated by Greg’s relationship with Douglas (Ian Dick), Jeff’s personal nemesis from their home town.  There’s also Jeff’s flamboyant gay Christian roommate (Jordan Green), a fresh-out-of-the-closet former child star (Eric Allen Smith) who believes in astrology, a hippie-chick (Krista Conti) who espouses the power of pyramids, and a B-list celebrity fitness guru (Emily Jerez) whose previous partnership with Greg ended in disaster – for him, at least.

Jordan Green, Jeff Dinnell, and Eric Allen Smith in “Wicked Pagan Gays,” photograph by Stephen Todt.

The ensuing zaniness that results from the interaction of all these characters is best left to be discovered first-hand by the audience; suffice to say that Jeff, who serves as a kind of foil to all their off-the-deep end flavors of fanaticism, ends up being just as entangled in the mess as all the rest of them, if not even more so.

As directed by L.A. theatre veteran Kiff Scholl, the production moves at a fast and furious pace.  This is a good thing, given the wordy nature of the script and its potentially intimidating philosophical arguments.  The high-minded concepts being batted around in the dialogue are grounded by Scholl’s focus on the more directly human; he wisely guides his actors to show us what their characters want, rather than what they think, and as a result the whole thing comes off as a sharp satire on behavior instead of a pretentious game of verbal ping-pong.  As for his staging, Scholl is somewhat limited by the lack of depth available to him in the Zephyr’s intimate space, but he manages to keep things flowing with enough movement and variety that the action never seems confined or static – no small feat for a play as simultaneously light and heavy as this one.

The actors are also adept, for the most part.

Dinnell is believable and personable as Jeff (as he should be, given the clearly autobiographical nature of the role for him), and yet allows the less pleasant aspects of the character – the bitchy, bitter, small town queen-iness of him – to come through without trying to polish them out in favor of likeability.

Tylutki has the showier of the two lead roles.  Greg is larger-than-life, the sort of hapless, self-absorbed near-buffoon that might come off as either an idiot or a con artist; but the actor finds the sincerity that keeps him from being either, as well as the vulnerability that makes him sympathetic despite his obvious narcissism.

There are some scene-stealing stand-outs in the supporting cast as well.  Green is hilarious as the roommate, Tyrell, and notches up the energy of the show every time he appears – which is only fitting for a bible-thumping black man who wears tight booty shorts and laments the fact that the boys are intimidated by the size of his equipment.  Jerez is equally energetic as the over-the-top Jillian Stark, a delicious parody of the self-promoting Hollywood hack whose perfect exterior hides an abyss full of personal demons.  Perhaps the most memorable turn of the evening comes from Conti, as Helene Aurora, the pyramid priestess, who manages to turn possibly the most out-there character in the play into the most sensible one with a performance that finds the perfect balance between kooky and down-to-earth.

Jeff Dinnell, Nathan Tylutki, and Ian Dick in “Wicked Pagan Gays,” photograph by Stephen Todt.

Overall, “Wicked Pagan Gays” is an enjoyable experience; it’s a show with enough meat on its bones to stimulate the minds, but it never takes itself too seriously to be funny.  That said, it’s worth adding that there are times when it feels like it wants to go further – like the farce should be a little broader, the characters a little more outrageous, the satire a little more savage.  One of the clearest through-lines in the piece is the way the characters are all so judgmental of each other.  Jeff repeatedly refers to Douglas, for instance, as the “Sanctimonious Gay,” but is himself, ironically, the most “judg-y” character of all.  This does not seem accidental, but rather an underscore to a dominant theme.  Likewise, the ultimate goals of all these people, regardless of any spiritual pretenses they may embrace or altruistic motives they may claim, are entirely self-serving.  It’s a clear commentary on human nature, and it comes across crystal clear.

It also makes the characters just a little bit hateful.  No matter how much we may like them (or even identify with them) during the course of the action, in the end we can’t help but see them as despicable, each in their own way.  The play is unapologetic about this, and that’s as it should be – but perhaps a slightly ramped-up stylistic dash of that screwball element might have managed to make them, if not a little less unsavory, at least a bit more palatable than they are in their present, more realistic incarnation.

This is, however, a minor quibble and a matter of personal taste.  “Wicked Pagan Gays” is amusing, smart, and irreverent – all things that make for a good time at the theatre – and definitely worth the trip into the heart of the Melrose district to experience for yourself.

Wicked Pagan Gays performs thru March 31st at:
The Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles CA, 90046.  Performances are Thu – Sat at 8pm and Sun at 7:00pm



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Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith named to Time’s Top 100 list for 2022

“In the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith”



Courtesy of Equality Florida

ST. PETERSBURG, FL. – Time magazine released its annual 100 most influential people list and this year one of the honorees was Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith. In the biographical sketch accompanying Smith’s listing, Time writer Kristen Arnett noted “in the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith.”

“I am deeply honored to be included in the TIME100,” said Smith, a Black, queer woman. “This recognizes decades of work not only by me, but by the dedicated team of volunteers, staff and supporters I’ve had the privilege to work with at Equality Florida.  Our work is far from done as Florida, once again, stands at the center of the fight against extremism and hate.  We are bearing the brunt of a governor willing to sacrifice the safety of children and destroy our most basic liberties in his desperate bid to be President. But this is not simply Florida’s fight. The wave of anti-LGBTQ, racist, freedom-destroying bills sweeping the country calls each of us to fight for our rights and, indeed, our democracy.”

The list, now in its nineteenth year, recognizes the impact, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals. 

Smith comes from a long line of activists and barrier breakers. Her grandparents helped form the Southern Tenant Farmers Union to fight for the rights of sharecroppers. While in college, Smith co-founded IGLYO, the world’s largest LGBTQ youth and student organization. She co-chaired the 1993 March on Washington that drew a million marchers and she was part of the first Oval Office meeting between a sitting President and LGBTQ leaders. In the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Smith and her team coordinated a national response including raising millions in direct resources for survivors and families of the 49 killed. 

Smith’s recognition comes as Florida has taken center stage in the right wing, anti-freedom agenda aimed at erasing LGBTQ people from classrooms, propagandizing curriculum, censoring history, banning books, and putting politicians in control of personal medical decisions.

“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ presidential ambitions have fueled bills like Don’t Say Gay, the Stop WOKE Act, a 15-week abortion ban, and dangerous national rhetoric that seeks to dehumanize LGBTQ people in service to the most extreme segment of his base,” Equality Florida stated in a press release Monday.

The 2022 TIME100, and its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, with related tributes appear in the June 6/June 13 double issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Friday, May 27, and online now at

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Blow your mind with today’s hottest Queer TV- 2nd annual OutFronts

Queer television is here, and it is just getting started to shine.  Buckle your rainbow belts, this unicorn is ready to fly



WEST HOLLYWOOD – Back in the day, getting a whisp of any queer media, whether it was a short “gay” movie or a quick queer themed storyline, was hard to come by. Sure, there was OutFest started in 1982 by some UCLA students. Roseanne kissing a girl, a lesbian wedding on Friends, and Ellen’s bursting media’s mind before it crashed and burned her.

Not anymore. OutFest has made that clear with its second annual OutFronts, a four-day hybrid festival. Queer television is here, and it is just getting started to shine.  Buckle your rainbow belts, this unicorn is ready to fly.

The festival combines free-to-view virtual panel discussions with ticketed in-person events as part of the Los Angeles area’s Pride season. The festival kicks off on Friday June 3rd and extends through Monday, June 6th. It features episodic premieres, advanced screenings, and both in-person and virtual discussions with the talent from some of the most exciting LGBTQIA+ programs available on television today.    

The in-person festival events include:

  • QUEER AS FOLK presented by Peacock  This is the world premiere screening of the new Peacock series, a vibrant reimagining of the groundbreaking British series exploring a diverse group of friends in New Orleans.  The program includes a panel talkback with cast and creative team.
  • “Love, Victor” presented by HULU and DISNEY+  It is the show’s third and final season, and OutFronts is proud to show the premier episode of the season!  The program includes  “Love, Victor’s” showrunner and young cast present to discuss the impact of the show’s run, what we might expect from season 3, and bid a farewell to the groundbreaking series.  
  • QUEER FIREFIGHTERS ONSCREEN AND IRL Queer firefighters on TV sit down with their real-life counterparts to discuss being queer and saving lives. The in-person discussion will include Ronen Rubenstein (9-1-1: Lone Star), Brian Michael Smith (9-1-1: Lone Star), Traci Thoms (Station 19), others.
  • LEGENDARY   LEGENDARY is the groundbreaking competition series now in season 3 on HBO Max.   The OutFronts program includes LEGENDARY host and MC Dashaun Wesley will conduct a talk-show style look back at some of the most earth-shattering moments from the show’s history, and a candid talk about all the unfolding drama of the current season.

The virtual events include:

Topic panels  

  • Presented as virtual panels, these panels cover hot queer television topics. These include exploring social media influencers who have used their clout to cross over into the acting world – with Gigi Gorgeous, Kalen Allen, and Boman Martinez-Reid. Another panel looks at “TV’s Queer Pioneers”, with actors who were among the first to regularly appear as three-dimensional queer characters on television, including Wilson Cruz, Amber Benson, and Jane Sibbett. A panel looking to create the next icons spotlights actors who have created some of the most impactful queer characters of recent years, including Harvey Guillen (WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS), Javicia Leslie (BATWOMAN), Brandon Scott Jones (GHOSTS), and Vico Ortiz (OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH).

Series panels  

  • Presented as virtual panels, these programs feature discussions of hot shows and their new season offerings:  a talk on SyFy and USA Network’s CHUCKY moderated by Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller, with CHILD’S PLAY franchise creator Don Mancini and cast members Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Zackary Arthur, and Bjorgvin Anarson; a one-on-one career-spanning conversation with comedy legend Paula Pell upon the release of GIRLS5EVA season two on Peacock; a discussion with the cast and creators of Freeform’s MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM in advance of the series’ final season; a talk with GENTLEMAN JACK creator Sally Wainwright and actor Lydia Leonard; a focused conversation with the queer talent and characters from Showtime’s smash-hit YELLOWJACKETS; as well as panels featuring talent from HBOMax’s SORT OF and THE SEX LIVES OF COLLEGE GIRLS, VH1’s RuPaul’s DRAG RACE, Prime Video’s HARLEM and THE WILDS, The CW’s TOM SWIFT and THE 4400, and HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL – THE SERIES from Disney Plus and Disney Branded Television.

The inaugural year of OutFronts saw nearly 70,000 participants from across the globe. This year should see even more. “It’s inspiring to know that one festival couldn’t possibly cover all the wonderful LGBTQIA+ stories being told on television today,” said Outfest’s Director of Festival Programming, Mike Dougherty. “The OutFronts by no means represents an exhaustive account of all that is queer in TV, but they do gather a multitude of brilliantly talented queer artists and allies whose diversity of perspective and experience are on full display in these funny, entertaining, and emotional conversations. I can’t wait to share them with the world.”

It’s time to join the Queer Television Fandom community, whether you want your seat to be in a happening LA theater, or in your own living room, your piece of the rainbow awaits! See you at OutFronts 2022!

All panel discussions will be free of charge to view online and via Outfest’s OutMuseum platform. The OutFronts are presented by IMDb and media sponsors are The Los Angeles Blade, ABC7 Los Angeles, Clear Channel Outdoor, Edge Media, KCET/PBS SoCal, Pride Media, Queerty, Rainbow Media, Autostraddle, and Variety. RSVP and view the full calendar of The OutFronts programming at


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more. He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine. He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Join Joel Kim Booster on ‘Fire Island’ this summer

Gay rom com features queer Asian cast



Joel Kim Booster stars in ‘Fire Island.’ (Image courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

It would be an understandable mistake to see Joel Kim Booster on one of the two “Out Traveler” magazine covers he’s gracing this month and assume he was just another sexy fashion model, but the 34-year-old Korean-American comedian is not having a moment in the blazing sun of queer pop culture just because of his undeniable talent for rocking a Speedo. 

He is actually in the middle of the publicity push for the upcoming film “Fire Island,” which he wrote and in which he co-stars with (among others) close friend Bowen Yang and comedy legend Margaret Cho, and which begins screening exclusively on the Hulu streaming service just in time for Pride month.

Directed by Andrew Ahn (“Spa Night”), it’s a movie that’s generating a lot of buzz, partly because it’s the first predominantly queer film to be backed by a major movie studio (Disney, through its Searchlight Pictures division). We’ve been burned too many times not to be skeptical about such a project, but anyone already familiar with Booster’s work will undoubtedly tell you it’s not likely to be another watered-down, safe-for-the-mainstream offering designed to check off boxes on the diversity agenda. Since he first made a splash with an appearance on “Conan” in 2016, he has gained a following among queer and straight audiences alike with his unapologetically gay, unabashedly sex-positive comedy, leading to what some might call a meteoric rise to the brink of superstardom through an acclaimed stand-up career, his roles on TV in shows like the short-lived sitcom “Sunnyside” (on which he was a regular), “Shrill,” and “The Week Of” (as well as his writing for shows like “Billy on the Street” and “The Other Two”), and his popular podcasts (“Urgent Care with Joel Kim Booster + Mitra Jouhari” and “The Joy Fuck Club”).

Now he’s poised to become a movie star with “Fire Island,” a gay romantic comedy set in the titular vacation retreat that dares not only to feature a cast made up entirely of queer characters, but doubles down by putting the focus on queer characters who also happen to be Asian. To top it all off, it gives Booster a chance to show off his literate side with a story – which concerns a group of gay best friends out for sexual adventure, and possibly even romance, on what might be their last trip to the iconic gay getaway – adapted from no less esteemed a literary source than Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

The Blade was fortunate enough to chat with Booster in the middle of this very high-pressure month before his feature film debut, and our conversation was informed by the kind of erudite and compassionate intelligence that has marked the young comedian’s career from the start.

BLADE: In your comedy, you’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from being raised as a Korean adoptee by white American parents in a deeply Christian midwestern community. Does that experience figure into the movie, too?

BOOSTER: Of course! As a transnational adoptee, my entire life I’ve been fighting against this nagging feeling of not quite fitting in – and that’s whether I’m around white people, or Asian people, or even some gay people. It’s tough, and it’s been such a paramount part of my life to find people who make me feel seen and accepted and to keep them close, so it felt really important for the theme of chosen family to stay in the forefront when I was making this movie. As much as it’s a “rom com,” it’s also about friendship – about relationships with people who, like I say in the movie, “fill in the gaps.”

BLADE: How did you hit on using Jane Austen as a source?

BOOSTER: It was really a lucky accident. I brought “Pride and Prejudice” with me on the first trip Bowen and I ever took to Fire Island. I would be lying there on the beach reading it and thinking, “It’s amazing how the things she was writing about are so relevant to what we’re experiencing on this island right now.” It was kinda wild, and it started out as threat, a joke – I would keep saying, ‘I can’t wait to write an all-gay adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ set on Fire Island,’ and people would boo and throw things at me. But after that I would always bring an Austen book with me to read on the island, because it felt special to me. There was just something so prescient about what she wrote, and about her observations on class, especially reading it in this place where we had sort of created our own class system, as gay men.

BLADE: When did it stop being a joke?

BOOSTER: Actually, my agent suggested that I should write it, because I was in between projects. I just had a pilot that was passed on by Comedy Central, I was depressed, I had nothing to do – so I ended up writing it as a half-hour pilot script. But nobody wanted it until Quibi [the short-form entertainment platform that launched and folded in 2020 after failing to meet projected subscription levels]. Say what you will about them, but they really invested a lot of money and time into new and young voices, and they took a lot of chances. They took a chance on me, and when they folded I had this script that I could point to which I had written and developed with them. This movie was a tough pitch to sell on just a log line, but I had this finished project, this complicated piece of work to show people, that was much more intricate than I think “Gay ‘Pride and Prejudice’” would maybe lead people to believe.

BLADE: Your movie is just one of several big queer titles on deck for 2022, including Billy Eichner’s rom com, “Bros.” How do you feel about that?

BOOSTER: Honestly, it really takes some of the pressure off. When we get, like, one gay movie a year, a lot of attention and scrutiny gets put on that movie and it’s expected to be everything to everyone in our community. And our community is huge, and it’s diverse, and there are so many stories that aren’t being told. I’m so glad Billy’s movie is coming out as well, he was my first comedy boss, and I’m really happy that people in our community are going to have two big gay rom coms to choose from.

BLADE: We haven’t seen “Bros” yet, but we’ve seen “Fire Island.” There’s a review embargo [until May 23], but I think it’s safe to say nobody is going to boo or throw things at you. Do you feel any sense of competition about it?

BOOSTER: My hope is that people love both, but it’s nice that if somebody goes to see my movie and says, ‘That’s not for me, I don’t see myself there,’ then a couple months later they’ll see Billy’s and they’ll have another shot at it. And I hope both of our movies are successful enough that they create a million clones. I hope it’s just the beginning.

“Fire Island,” which also stars Conrad Ricamora (“How to Get Away With Murder”) and a host of other familiar queer performers, premieres on Hulu on June 3. 

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