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Katya returns to drag after hiatus

the star announces upcoming stage show and new podcast

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Katya (Photo courtesy of Instagram)

Katya’s drag hiatus is over. She made the announcement on social media tweeting, “The Bitch is Back” along with a gif of Catwoman.

She also revealed that she plans to rename her stage show because she’s in a better place mentally.

“My stage show ‘Help Me I’m Dying’ will likely be re-titled, mostly due to the fact that I am no longer dying. I can’t wait for you to see it. It is going to be incredible and I am quite sure you will all love it. Peace,” Katya tweeted.

Katya, real name Brian McCook, told fans drag was being put on hold for mental health reasons in January. The ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum has been open about her struggles with anxiety and drug addiction in the past.

“I don’t have a drug crisis right now, because I’m sober. I’m taking care of myself today. And that is the reason why I’m happy. But I need to choose carefully the projects that will not, you understand,” McCook said in an Instagram Live.

She stepped down as co-host of “The Trixie & Katya Show” on Viceland with Bob The Drag Queen filling in for the remainder of the season. No word when Katya will return to the show.

Fans were ecstatic for Katya’s return which happened sooner than some expected.

Katya’s already gotten back to work behind the scenes announcing a new podcast, “Whimsically Volatile.”

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Sports

Misogynistic & homophobic remarks by NFL player sparks outrage

Those in attendance laughed in support of Butker when he mocked Pride month as he cited a recent article headlined: “‘A step back in time’

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Harrison Butker (Screenshot/YouTube Benedictine College)

ATICHSON, Kan. — Addressing a friendly audience at a private, Catholic liberal arts college, three-time Super Bowl champion Harrison Butker spoke from his heart about his faith and revealed his personal beliefs as a cisgender man about women and the LGBTQ+ community. 

In his 20-minute commencement address at Benedictine College on Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs kicker said LGBTQ+ Pride month events are an example of biblical “deadly sins,” denounced “dangerous gender ideologies” and the “diabolical lies told to women,” declared a woman’s most important title is “homemaker,” and offered his take on abortion, in vitro fertilization and surrogacy, as well as President Joe Biden. 

Butker, 28, criticized Biden’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and questioned his devotion to Roman Catholicism, calling him “delusional.” Speaking directly to the men in the audience, the athlete advised them to “be unapologetic in your masculinity,” and to “fight against the cultural emasculation of men.”

The pro football player announced that God had given him a platform to speak and that, “I have no other choice but to embrace it,” he said. 

Those in attendance laughed in support of Butker when he mocked Pride month as he cited a recent article by the Associated Press, headlined: “‘A step back in time’: America’s Catholic Church sees an immense shift toward the old ways.” The article detailed the institution’s shift “toward the old ways” and highlighted Benedictine’s rules that “seem like precepts of a bygone age,” which include “volunteering for 3 a.m. prayers” and “pornography, premarital sex and sunbathing in swimsuits being forbidden.”

“I am certain the reporters at the AP could not have imagined that their attempt to rebuke and embarrass places and people like those here at Benedictine wouldn’t be met with anger but instead met with excitement and pride,” said Butker. “Not the deadly sins sort of Pride that has an entire month dedicated to it, but the true God-centered pride that is cooperating with the Holy Ghost to glorify him.” Butker went on to say that only by surrendering one’s self to Christ will anyone find happiness. 

“Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity,” the NFL’s senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer Jonathan Beane said in a statement addressing his comments. “His views are not those of the NFL as an organization. The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, called Butker’s speech “inaccurate, ill-informed and woefully out of step with Americans about Pride, LGBTQ people and women.”

“Those with expansive platforms, especially athletes, should use their voices to uplift and expand understand and acceptance in the world,” she said in a statement. “Instead, Butker’s remarks undermine experiences not of his own and reveal him to be one who goes against his own team’s commitment to the Kansas City community, and the NFL’s standards for respect, inclusion and diversity across the league.”

Butker called on religious leaders “to stay in their lane and lead,” and told women their place was in the kitchen and the maternity ward.  

“I’m beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me, but it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker,” said Butker, and his words were met with thunderous applause. 

“It is you, the women, who have had the most diabolic lies told to you. Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world,” Butker said.

The Chiefs did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but someone who handles social media for Kansas City posted on X that Butker doesn’t even live in Kansas City but in a suburb 30 miles outside city limits, in a now-deleted tweet. 

Someone then posted an apology using that account:

And Kansas City’s mayor himself apologized, also on X, saying “A message appeared earlier this evening from a City public account. The message was clearly inappropriate for a public account,” he posted. “The City has correctly apologized for the error, will review account access, and ensure nothing like it is shared in the future from public channels.”: 

Butker’s comments earned him comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale, both in his words and in how his beard appeared similar to one of the Hulu series’ characters. 

You can watch Butker’s commencement address in full here: 

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Sports

Engaged lesbian teammates spoil Caitlin Clark’s WNBA debut

Connecticut Sun fans saw the powerful duo of Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner lead the home team to victory

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Former college basketball phenom Caitlin Clark at the WNBA Draft Press Conference, April 15, 2024. (Screenshot/YouTube WNBA)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The sold-out crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena came to see former college basketball phenom Caitlin Clark in her professional debut, but thanks to two women in love with one another, fans also saw the powerful duo of Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner lead the home team to victory. 

The Connecticut Sun broke the Indiana Fever, 92 to 71, on the league’s regular season opening night.

Clark, the WNBA’s number one draft pick, finished with 20 points on 5-of-15 shooting, 4-of-11 on 3-pointers, 6-of-6 free throws. The 22-year-old also had 3 assists, 2 steals and 10 turnovers. But considering this was her WNBA debut, it was a lousy start: Clark went scoreless in the first quarter and missed her first four shots before finally getting on the board midway through the second period.

The Fever offense was overpowered by Thomas, who led the Sun with 13 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for her ninth career triple-double, which extends her all-time record to 12 if you include the playoffs. 

“I’m just doing what I do,” said Thomas, in a post-game interview with ESPN on the hardwood. “This is my game.” 

Her fiancée, meanwhile, had 20 points and moved into fifth place on the all-time WNBA scoring list, and Thomas spoke about Bonner following the game. 

“I think she’s underrated,” Thomas told ESPN. “Fifth, all time? I mean, come on! It’s unheard of, and at her age? She’s incredible. She makes it look easy out there.” 

Bonner, 36, passed former Phoenix Mercury teammate — and ex-wife Candice Dupree — who finished her career with 6,895 points and last week was named head coach at Tennessee State University.  Bonner did so on a layup in the middle of the third quarter. She now has 6,901 points, and, after a timeout, raised her hands before the crowd to acknowledge the accomplishment.

Thomas, 32, has been dating Bonner since the COVID lockdowns of 2020, when they spent time together in the WNBA “bubble,” as the Los Angeles Blade reported following their engagement in July 2023. 

Bonner, the mother of twin girls with Dupree, also was a major reason for Clark’s early offensive struggles, hounding the guard who before this was the NCAA’s all-time Division I scoring leader. 

Earlier in the game, Clark managed a steal around the foul line and drove the length of the court before sinking the ball. She later added two free throws and hit a 3-pointer with 29.9 seconds left in the first half. Clark finished the opening 20 minutes with seven points, sinking two of her seven shot attempts. The Fever trailed 49-39 at the break. 

Late in the third quarter, the Fever staged a comeback and closed within six points, with the score 63-57, thanks to two free throws by Clark. But Indiana never got closer the rest of this first game of the season.

DiJonai Carrington and Tyasha Harris each added 16 points for the Sun, who finished the 2023 regular season with a 27–13 record and were the third seed in the 2023 WNBA Playoffs. 

Those 27 wins were the most in franchise history. Unfortunately, they lost 81–92 to the New York Liberty in a must-win game four of the semifinal series to end their season. 

Last month, team president Jennifer Rizzotti accepted the Team Leadership Award at the Connecticut Voice Magazine Honors Gala in Hartford, Conn. She accepted this award on behalf of the Connecticut Sun as the organization continues to lead efforts in DEI and supporting creative and inclusive spaces for those in the LGBTQ+, underrepresented and underserved communities.

Jennifer Rizzotti accepted the Team Leadership Award at the Connecticut Voice Magazine Honors Gala in Hartford, Conn. (Photo: Dawn Ennis/CT Voice)

Next up for the Sun: The Washington Mystics visit Uncasville on Friday, while the Fever host the Liberty on Thursday.

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Notables

Jimmy Carter’s grandson believes his granddad nearing the end

“There’s a part of that faith journey that you only can live at the very end. And I think he has been there in that space”

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Former President Jimmy Carter being interviewed by CBS News in 2006. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News)

By Jill Nolin | ATLANTA, Ga. – The grandson of former President Jimmy Carter provided an update on his grandfather’s condition Tuesday at the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy, which was the first held since the former first lady’s death.

Grandson Jason Carter said he visited his grandfather at his home in Plains a couple weeks ago to watch an Atlanta Braves baseball game.

“I said, ‘Pawpaw, people ask me how you’re doing, and I say, I don’t know.’ And he said, ‘well, I don’t know myself,’” Jason Carter said during the event at the Carter Center in Atlanta. “He’s still there.” 

Jimmy Carter, who at 99 years old is the longest lived president, has been in hospice care since early 2023. Rosalynn Carter, his wife of 77 years, died in November.

Jason Carter said he believes his grandfather is nearing the end.

“There’s a part of this faith journey that is so important to him, and there’s a part of that faith journey that you only can live at the very end. And I think he has been there in that space,” Jason Carter said. 

His grandfather’s time in hospice care has been a reminder of the work Rosalynn Carter did to advance caregiving and mental health, he said.

“The caregiving associated with mental health and mental illness is so crucial and so fundamental to the work that we all do in this room and to her legacy that it is remarkable and important, and we’ve all experienced it very first hand over the last year so we give thanks for that as well,” Jason Carter said. 

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Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Georgia Recorder and is republished with permission.

The Georgia Recorder is an independent, nonprofit news organization focused on connecting public policies to the stories of the people and communities affected by them. We bring a fresh perspective to coverage of the state’s biggest issues from our perch near the Capitol in downtown Atlanta. We view news as a vital community service and believe that government accountability and transparency are valued by all Georgians.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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GLAAD Media Awards

Journalist Erin Reed wins Best Blog at 35th annual GLAAD awards

Los Angeles and Washington Blade(s) contributor, journalist Erin Reed, took home a GLAAD media award for her reporting on LGBTQ+ laws, people

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Montana State Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D-Missoula) with her fiancée journalist Erin Reed at the 2024 GLAAD Media awards held in New York City. (Photo courtesy of Erin Reed)

NEW YORK – Los Angeles and Washington Blade’s contributor, journalist Erin Reed, took home a GLAAD media award this past Saturday as she was honored for her reporting on LGBTQ+ laws, people, and moments around the world with special emphasis on in-depth reporting on issues affecting the trans community, of which she along with her fiancée Montana State Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D-Missoula) are part of.

Reflecting on her recognition by the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization winning for Outstanding Blog: Reed said:

When I started reporting on queer and trans issues several years ago, I never envisioned myself becoming a journalist in this space. Instead, I was simply trying to help people understand where to get their healthcare resources, what laws challenged those resources, and what they could do to advocate for themselves through the legislative process and courts. I moved to writing long-form content almost two years ago when I realized that major media outlets were leaving a giant void in reporting on queer and trans issues.

I have been so blessed to be in the position I am in, where I can tell our stories every day. I cannot do this without standing on the shoulders of giants—the trans kids I saw tonight at the Gender Cool Project, the trans elders who fought for our healthcare long before us, and the activists in every single state messaging me every time they see something important. I also could not do it without all of you, the subscribers who make this work sustainable.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You make this work worth it.”

The 35th Annual GLAAD Media Awards:

Honorees Jennifer Hudson & Orville Peck took the stage with host Ross Mathews as Loren Allred & Scott Hoying  performed live. (Photos: GLAAD/Getty Images)

GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, introduced by Attorney General of New York Letitia James, said in part: “Ten years ago when I started at GLAAD, It was a much different landscape…And now we have the urgent need to protect it all. Our latest poll shows that more than half of American voters are turned off by candidates who are anti-trans. Hating us is becoming a losing proposition. We have to keep telling our stories, raising our voices, pushing back on the rhetoric.”

GLAAD presented the following awards onstage in New York:

  • “Our America Who I’m Meant to Be – Episode 3” received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Journalism – Long-Form presented by Don Lemon
  • Family Karma received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Program presented by the cast of We’re Here (Jaida Essence Hall, Latrice Royale, Priyanka, Sasha Velour)
  • Melissa Etheridge: My Window received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Broadway Production presented by Uma Thurman
  • “Jennifer Hudson Surprises HIV Activist with $10,000” The Jennifer Hudson Show received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Variety or Talk Show Episode presented by Carla Gugino and Mary McDonnell
  • Red, White, and Royal Blue received the GLAAD Media Award for Queer Fan Favorite presented by Cody Rigsby and Beanie Feldstein

GLAAD also announced these winners in an offstage video reel in New York:

Outstanding Podcast: Las Culturistas (iHeart)

Outstanding Film – Streaming Or TV: Rustin (Netflix)

Outstanding Documentary: Beyond the Aggressives: 25 Years Later (MTV Documentary Films), Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures), and The Stroll (HBO | Max Documentary Films)

Outstanding New Series: The Last of Us (HBO)

Outstanding Kids & Family Programming or Film – Live Action: Heartstopper (Netflix)

Outstanding Broadway Production: Melissa Etheridge: My Window, by Melissa Etheridge

Outstanding TV Journalism Segment: “New York City Gay Bar Deaths Classified as Homicides” (NBC News Now)

Outstanding Live TV Journalism – Segment or Special: “Indiana Students Put on LGBTQ-Themed Play Themselves After it’s Canceled By the School” Yasmin Vossoughian Reports (MSNBC)

Outstanding Print Article: “As Drag Bans Proliferate, Maren Morris Goes Deep With Drag’s Biggest Stars on Why the Show Must Go On” by Stephen Daw (Billboard)

Outstanding Online Journalism Article: “The AP Interview: Pope Francis Says Homosexuality Not a Crime” by Nicole Winfield (AP.com)

Outstanding Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia: 7 Remarkable Trans Elders Share Lessons for the Next Generation” (them.us)

Outstanding Blog: Erin Reed – Erin in the Morning

Spanish Language – Outstanding Online Journalism Article: Personas mayores LGBTQIA+ ‘tienen que regresar a un clóset para poder buscar vivienda‘” por David Cordero Mercado y Joaquín A. Rosado Lebrón (PeriodismoInvestigativo.com & ElNuevoDia.com)

Spanish Language – Outstanding Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia: “Conoce a la primera diputada negra y trans de Brasil” por Natalia Barrera Francis, Joyce García, David von Blohn, Paula Daibert y Claudia Escobar (Descoloniza – AJ+ Español)

GLAAD previously announced Special Recognition awards for The Dads (Netflix), Love in Gravity, Relighting Candles (Hulu), Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce (AMC Theatres), The Tennessee Holler, Yes I Am: The Ric Weiland Story, Drag Latina (Revry / LATV), Enamorándonos (UniMás), El sabor de la navidad (ViX), Wendy, perdida pero famosa (ViX)

GLAAD also previously announced that +Life Media received the Barbara Gittings Award for Excellence in LGBTQ Media.

The following winners were announced at the 35th GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles on March 14th:

Outstanding Drama Series: Yellowjackets (Showtime)

Outstanding Comedy Series: Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)

Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series: Fellow Travelers (Showtime)

Outstanding Film – Wide Theatrical Release: Bottoms (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Outstanding Film – Limited Theatrical Release: Monica (IFC Films)

Outstanding Reality Competition Program: RuPaul’s Drag Race (MTV)

Outstanding Music Artist: Renee Rapp, Snow Angel (Interscope)

Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist: David Archuleta (Archie Music)

Outstanding Children’s Programming: “Blue River Wedding” Ada Twist: Scientist (Netflix)

Outstanding Kids & Family Programming or Film – Animated: Hailey’s On It! (Disney Channel)

Outstanding Magazine Overall Coverage: Out

Outstanding Video Game: Baldur’s Gate 3 (Larian Studios)

Outstanding Comic Book; Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, written by Alyssa Wong (Marvel Comics)

Outstanding Original Graphic Novel/Anthology: Four-Color Heroes, by Richard Fairgray (Fanbase Press)

Outstanding Scripted Television Series – Spanish Language: Las Noches de Tefía (Atresplayer)

Outstanding TV Journalism – Spanish Language: “Adolescentes trans relatan su experiencia” Noticiero Telemundo (Telemundo)

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Online/Digital Streaming Media

Deliciously queer ‘Dead Boy Detectives’ a case worth taking on

A light-hearted, smart, and complex sensibility behind the fantasy

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The cast of ‘Dead Boy Detectives.’ (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Believe it or not, there was once a time when the Hollywood entertainment industry didn’t take comic books very seriously — but then, neither did anyone else.

In the early days, comics were dismissed by most adults as childish fantasy; indeed, those with a penchant for clutching pearls saw them as a threat to their children’s intellectual development and therefore to the future of America itself. Their popularity could not be denied, however, and Hollywood, ever eager to capitalize on a trend, was certainly hungry to get a piece of the action.

The problem was that the studio lackeys assigned to adapt the comics for the screen during those “golden years” were never actually fans of the comics themselves. The result was a parade of kitschy – if occasionally stylish – low-budget serials, kiddie matinees, and “B movies” which operated, for the most part, at the level of cartoons, and mindless ones at that. Even in the 1960s, when comics like “X-Men” had begun exploring mature themes and turning the comic book into a counterculture phenomenon, the best that Hollywood – now deploying the then-relatively new medium of television – was a “Batman” series that felt even campier than the corny serials of three decades before.

Yet despite being treated as a throwaway genre with no cultural significance or intellectual value, the popularity never went away – and with the generation that grew up with comics now old enough to be working in Hollywood themselves, a new burst of creativity began to infuse the screen’s version of the genre with the kind of nuance and sophistication that fans had always known was there. Fast forward to 2024, when comics-based content dominates not just our movie screens – nobody needs to be told about the way it has shaped (some would say crippled) the mainstream film industry for the last decade or so – but all our other screens, as well. And while much of the material that has resulted from this obsessive fascination with comics (and comics-adjacent material like “Star Wars” and other similar fantasy franchises) often suffers from the same safe “appeal to the LCD” mentality that robbed the vintage stuff of its potential, the artistry of creators who are fans themselves has also resulted in a lot of genuinely good storytelling.

In the latter category, we offer up “Dead Boy Detectives” – a new series derived from a supplemental thread in renowned comics creator-turned-bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s groundbreaking “Sandman”, which debuted last week on Netflix  – as a counter to the increasingly popular notion that comic books have hamstrung the industry’s creativity.

Based on characters and storylines that emerged during the original run of Gaiman’s iconic book (published by DC Comics via its Vertigo imprint), it’s a fresh, funny-yet-emotionally engaging supernatural saga in which two ghosts who died in their youth – the titular “Dead Boys” – operate a detective agency in London, solving mysteries for other spirits who need closure before moving on to the afterlife.

The boys – Edwin (George Rexstrew) and Charles (Jayden Revri) – are not themselves quite ready to depart the earthly plane, however; on the contrary, they operate on the lam, making sure to keep one step ahead of Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste, reprising her role from Netflix’s acclaimed “Sandman” adaptation) so that she can’t drag them out of it before they’re ready. Something of a mismatched pair (both died at the same English boarding school, but 60 years apart), they nevertheless have established a fondness for each other and a dynamic together that makes them an excellent team in solving the supernatural crimes they encounter in their work. Their biggest handicap is the difficulty of dealing with the living – who, for the most part, cannot see or hear them – when it becomes necessary in an investigation. Fortunately for them (and for the story, of course), they find a solution to that issue during episode one.

Enlisted by the ghost of a Victorian child to rescue the human medium – Crystal Palace (Kassius Nelson), possessed by a former boyfriend who was actually a demon (David Iacono) – that has been trying to help her “cross over”, the detectives find themselves with a living ally who can not only interact with them, but also with the “real” world in which they do their work. With Crystal  on the team, they are soon called to an American seaport town to investigate the disappearance of a child – who, it turns out, has been abducted by a witch (Jenn Lyon) intent on draining her youthful essence in pursuit of her own immortal beauty. We don’t want to give anything away, but during the course of the case they not only incur her wrath, they set off alarm bells on the “other side”, calling attention to the fact that two AWOL souls are still lingering in the human world.

Things get worse for them in the second episode, when Edwin attracts the interest of the local “Cat King” (Lukas Gage, “White Lotus,” “Down Low”) and subsequently finds himself cursed to remain until he has “counted all the cats” in town – a daunting and maybe impossible task. 

Though jumping into the second installment might feel like getting ahead of ourselves, it’s important to look ahead for the sake of exploring the show’s deliciously pervasive queerness, so forgive the spoiler-ish leap; because it is Edwin, who died in an era long before being openly attracted to other boys could even be discussed, let alone accepted, that serves to root the story’s tension into a real-life context that helps all the supernatural nonsense connect with relatable real-world experience and emotion. Uncomfortable more than a century after his death with the secrets of his own sexuality, he finds himself hampered by his jealousy of the obvious growing attraction between his literal BFF and the new girl psychic who has joined their team – as well as vulnerable to manipulation from both the witch who has it in for him and the Cat King who… well, let’s just say that Edwin’s cat-counting curse could be easily lifted if he would only accept another way to appease the libidinous (and far from unappealing) feline monarch.

It’s best we stop there, before we reveal too much; the series – developed by Steve Yockey and produced by (among others) original author Gaiman and out queer TV impresario Greg Berlanti – sets up its story arc very plainly from the beginning, so savvy viewers will read the subtext long before any definitive events take place, but much of what makes it fun is watching how it all unfolds.

Suffice to say that, with engaging performances from all its players, a light-hearted, smart, and complex sensibility behind all of its fantasy elements, and a palpably queer vibe that leaves plenty of room for allies to jump on board, too, it’s one of the more worthwhile (and meaningful) “comic book” stories to hit our screens in a long while.

Maybe more importantly, it’s also entertaining, which makes it easy for us to recommend “Dead Boy Detectives” as a case you’ll definitely want to accept.

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Books

‘Mean Boys’ raises questions of life, death, and belonging

“Mean Boys” can make you squirm. For sure, it’s not a beach read or something you’ll breeze through in a weekend

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(Boom cover image courtesy of Bloomsbury)

‘Mean Boys: A Personal History’
By Geoffrey Mak
c.2024, Bloomsbury 
$28.99/267 pages

It’s how a pleasant conversation is fed, with give and take, back and forth, wandering casually and naturally, a bit of one subject easing into the next with no preamble. It’s communication you can enjoy, like what you’ll find inside “Mean Boys” by Geoffrey Mak.

Sometimes, a conversation ends up exactly where it started.

Take, for instance, Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” which leads Mak to think about his life and his inability to “cull the appropriate narratives out of nonsense.” Part of that problem, he says, was that his living arrangements weren’t consistent. He sometimes “never really knew where I was living,” whether it was Berlin or California, in a studio or high-end accommodations. The parties, the jokes, the internet consumption were as varied as the homes and sometimes, “it didn’t really matter.” Sometimes, you have to accept things and just “move on.”

When he was 12 years old, Mak’s father left his corporate job, saying that he was “called by God” to become a minister. It created a lot of resentment for Mak, for the lack of respect his father got, and because his parents were “passionately anti-gay.” He moved as far away from home as he could, and he blocked all communication with his parents for years, until he realized that “By hating my father, I ended up hating myself, too.”

And then there was club life which, in Mak’s descriptions, doesn’t sound much different in Berghain (Germany) as it is in New York. He says he “threw myself into night life,” in New York Houses, in places that gave “a skinny Chinese kid from the suburbs… rules I still live by,” on random dance floors, and in Pornceptual. Eventually this, drugs, work, politics, pandemic, basically everything and life in general led to a mental crisis, and Mak sought help.

“I don’t know why I’m telling you all this,” Mak says at one point. “Sometimes life was bad, and sometimes it wasn’t, and sometimes it just was.”

Though there are times when this book feels like having a heart-to-heart with an interesting new acquaintance, “Mean Boys” can make you squirm. For sure, it’s not a beach read or something you’ll breeze through in a weekend.

No, author Geoffrey Mak jumps from one random topic to another with enough frequency to make you pay close to attention to his words, lest you miss something. That won’t leave you whiplashed; instead, you’re pulled into the often-dissipated melee just enough to feel almost involved with it – but with a distinct sense that you’re being held at arms’ length, too. That some stories have no definitive timeline or geographical stamp – making it hard to find solid ground – also adds to the slight loss of equilibrium here, like walking on slippery river rocks.

Surprisingly, that’s not entirely unpleasant but readers will want to know that the ending in “Mean Boys” could leave their heads swirling with a dozen thoughts on life, belonging, and death. If you like depth in your memoirs, you’ll like that — and this.

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

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Online Culture

Online safe spaces for queer youth increasingly at risk

“Social media [are] where young people increasingly turn to get information about their community, their history, their bodies & themselves” 

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Los Angeles Blade/Bigstock

By Henry Carnell | MIAMI, Fla.  – “They had LGBTQ-inclusive books in every single classroom and school library,” Maxx Fenning says of his high school experience. “They were even working on LGBTQ-specific course codes to get approved by the state,” he said, describing courses on queer studies and LGBTQ Black history. 

No, Fenning didn’t grow up in Portland or a Boston suburb. Fenning graduated from a South Florida high school in 2020. Florida’s transformation from mostly affirming to “Don’t Say Gay” has been swift, he says. “It feels like a parallel universe.” 

Fenning, who just graduated from the University of Florida, follows the developments closely as the executive director of PRISM FL Inc., a youth-led LGBTQ nonprofit he founded at 17. “I’ve watched so many of the things that I kind of took advantage of be stripped away from all of the students that came after me,” Fenning says. “It’s one thing to be in an environment that’s not supportive of you. It’s another thing to be in an environment that’s supportive of you and then watch it fall apart.”

“It’s just gut-wrenching,” Fenning explained, describing how Florida’s increasingly hostile legislation has transformed the state he has lived in most of his life. 

Most recently, Florida passed HB3, “Online Protections for Minors,” which bans youth under 14 from having social media accounts. Youths aged 14 and 15 need parental consent before getting accounts and any minor must be protected from “harmful content” online.

Unlike the previous legislation, which came predominately from the right and directly targeted issues like gender-affirming healthcare or DEI, HB3 is part of a bipartisan push across the country to regulate social media, specifically for youth. HB3 was co-sponsored by Michele K. Rayner, the openly queer Black member of the Florida Legislature, alongside many of her colleagues across the aisle. Similar national legislation, like Kids Online Safety Act, includes 68 Democratic and Republican sponsors.

Shae Gardner, policy director at LGBT Tech, explains that this legislation disproportionately harms LGBTQ youth, regardless of intentions or sponsors. 

Gardner says that while all these bills claim they are for the safety of kids, for LGBTQ youth, “you are putting them at risk if you keep them offline.” She explains that “a majority of LGBTQ youth do not have access to affirming spaces in their homes and their communities. They go online to look like that. A majority say online spaces are affirming.” 

Research by the Trevor Project, which reports that more than 80% of LGBTQ youth “feel safe and understood in specific online spaces” backs this up. Specific online spaces that are under target from legislation, like TikTok, are disproportionately spaces where LGBTQ youth of color feel safest.

“For LGBTQ people, social media has provided spaces, which are, at once both public and private, that encourage, and enhance … a great deal of self-expression that is so important for these communities,” confirms Dr. Paromita Pain, professor, Global Media Studies & Cybersecurity at University of Nevada, Reno. She is the editor of the books “Global LGBTQ Activism” and “LGBTQ digital cultures.”

Fenning emphasizes that with bills like “Don’t Say Gay,” in Florida — and other states including North Carolina, Arkansas, Iowa, and Indiana — LGBTQ youth have less access to vital information about their health and history. “Social media [are] where young people increasingly turn to get information about their community, their history, their bodies and themselves.” 

At PRISM, Fenning works to get accurate, fact-backed information to Florida youth through these pathways, ranging from information on health and wellbeing to LGBTQ history to current events. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Often youth tell him “I wish I learned this in school,” which is a bittersweet feeling for Fenning since it represents how much young LGBTQ youth are missing out on in their education. 

Morgan Mayfaire, executive director of TransSOCIAL, a Florida advocacy group, said that these internet bans are an extension of book bans, because when he was a teen, books were his pathway into the LGBTQ community. “For me it was the library and the bookstores that we knew were LGBTQ friendly.” Now 65, Mayfaire understands that “kids today have grown up with the internet. That’s where they get all their information. You start closing this off, and you’re basically boxing them in and closing every single avenue that they have. What do you think is going to happen? Of course, it’s going to have an impact emotionally and mentally.”

Fenning says that social media and the internet were powerful to him as a teen. “I was able to really come into my own and learn about myself also through social media. It was really powerful for me, building a sense of self.” Gardner agrees, sharing that legislation like this, which would have limited “15-year-old me, searching ‘if it was OK to be gay’ online, would have stagnated my journey into finding out who I was.”

Gardner also explains that many of the bills, like HB3, limit content that is “harmful” or “obscene” but do not specifically define what that content is. Those definitions can be used to limit LGBTQ content.

“Existing content moderation tools already over-censor LGBTQ+ content and users,” says Gardner, “they have a hard time distinguishing between sexual content and LGBTQ+ content.” Pain emphasizes that this is no accident, “there are algorithms that have been created to specifically keep these communities out.”

With the threat of fines and litigation from HB3, says Gardner, “moderation tools and the platforms that use them is only going to worsen,” especially since the same legislators may use the same terms to define other queer content like family-friendly drag performances. 

In addition to being biased, it has devastating effects on LGBTQ youth understanding of their sense of identity, Fenning explains. “That perception of queer people as being overly sexual or their relationships and love being inherently sexual in a way that other relationships aren’t does harm to our community.”

Gardner acknowledges that online safety has a long way to go — pointing to online harassment, cybercrime, and data privacy—but that these bills are not the correct pathways. She emphasizes “everybody’s data could be better protected, and that should be happening on a federal level. First and foremost, that should be the floor of protection.” 

She also emphasizes that content moderation has a long way to go from targeting the LGBTQ community to protecting it. “Trans users are the most harassed of any demographic across the board. That is the conversation I wish we were having, instead of just banning kids from being online in the first place.”

Being queer on the ground in Florida is scary. “The community is very fearful. This [legislation] has a big impact on us,” explains Mayfaire. 

“I mean, it sucks. Right?” Fenning chuckles unhappily, “to be a queer person in Florida. In a state that feels like it is just continuously doing everything it can to destroy your life and all facets and then all realms.”

Despite the legislative steamrolling, several court wins and coordinated action by LGBTQ activists help residents see a brighter future. “There’s a weird tinge of hope that that has really been carrying so many queer people and I know myself especially this year as we’re seeing the rescinding of so many of these harmful policies and laws.”

Florida students protest the state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. (Photo courtesy Maxx Fenning)

For example, this March, Florida settled a challenge to its “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that significantly lessens its impact. Already, experts warn that HB3 will face legal challenges.

Pain emphasizes that social media is central to LGBTQ activism, especially in Florida. “There have been examples of various movements, where social media has been used extremely effectively, to put across voices to highlight issues that they would not have otherwise had a chance to talk about,” she says, specifically citing counteraction to “Don’t Say Gay.” That is another reason why legislation like this disproportionately harms LGBTQ people and other minority groups, it limits their ability to organize.

Fenning emphasizes that HB3 directly attacks spaces like PRISM, which do not just share information for the LGBTQ community, but provide spaces for them. “Foundationally it provides an opportunity for the community,” he says, but more than anything, it provides a space, where “you can you can learn from your queer ancestors, so to speak, and take charge.” And that is invaluable. 

******************************************************************************************

Henry Carnell is a reporter and researcher specializing in climate, science, technology, disinformation, and, sometimes, the LGBTQ community.

He is also a Williams College graduate and Mother Jones’ Ben Bagdikian 2023-2024 Editorial Fellow. He is also a fellow at the Washington Blade through The Digital Equity Local Voices Lab. Previously, they have worked at MIT Press and 5280 Magazine.

His reporting has appeared in ThemMother JonesInside Climate News5280, and LGBTQ Nation

This story is part of the Digital Equity Local Voices Fellowship lab through News is Out. The lab initiative is made possible with support from Comcast NBCUniversal.

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Celebrity News

Estimated 1.6 million attend Madonna concert in Rio

Free event took place on Copacabana Beach on Saturday

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Madonna performs on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Beach on May 4, 2024. (Screen capture via Reuters YouTube)

RIO DE JANEIRO — An estimated 1.6 million people on Saturday attended Madonna’s free concert on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach.

The concert, which was the last one as part of Madonna’s Celebration Tour, included a tribute to people lost to AIDS.

Bob the Drag Queen introduced Madonna before the concert began. Pabllo Vittar, a Brazilian drag queen and singer, and Anitta, a bisexual pop star who was born in Rio’s Honório Gurgel neighborhood, also joined Madonna on stage.

Congresswoman Erika Hilton, a Black travesti and former sex worker, and Rio Municipal Councilwoman Mônica Benício, the widow of Marielle Franco, a bisexual Rio Municipal Councilwoman who was assassinated in 2018, are among those who attended the concert.

“Madonna showed that we fight important fights for the human rights of Black (people), young (people), women and LGBTQIA+ people, and against all injustice, discrimination, and violence,” said Associaçao Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals), a Brazilian trans rights group known by the acronym ANTRA, on its X account. “What they call identitarianism’ is our subversion to the retrograde and conservative tackiness that plagues the country.”

The Associated Press reported the concert was Madonna’s biggest ever.

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Movies

It’s game, set, and mismatch in unfulfilling ‘Challengers’

Not quite a bisexual love story for the ages

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Mike Faist, Zendaya, and Josh O’Connell in ‘Challengers.’ (Photo courtesy of MGM Amazon)

For months now, most of the buzz around Luca Guadagnino’s newest film – “Challengers,” starring Zendaya as a professional tennis coach caught in an ongoing romantic triangle with a pair of male rival players – has been about how “bisexual” it would be.

After all, this was the man that brought us “Call Me By Your Name,” and even if the Italian filmmaker’s work has not always been that queer in focus, this premise was begging for it; and when the trailers started to drop, heavily laden with imagery that made the bisexual subtext blatantly obvious, the speculation – and the anticipation – only grew.

As it turns out, “Challengers” wasn’t teasing us in vain – but it may not even matter, because after spending two hours and 10 minutes with these characters, it’s hard to imagine any viewer, whether straight, bi, or a total “Kinsey 6,” wanting to feel represented by them.

Told in a non-linear patchwork format, Guadagnino’s movie – penned by Justin Kuritzkes – chronicles the complicated relationship that develops when two high school tennis champs, boyhood friends Patrick and Art (Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist, respectively), encounter high-profile pro prospect Tashi (Zendaya) at the US Open juniors. Infatuated at first sight as much by her prowess at the game as by her looks or personality, they woo her together, resulting in a steamy but thwarted three-way experience that ends with her promising her phone number to the one who wins the next day’s match.

More than a decade later, Tashi and Art are a married, wealthy power couple with a child; they’ve risen to fame after Tashi, sidelined by injury into a career as a world-class coach, has helped Art rise to international prowess, while Patrick, who originally won the challenge to become Tashi’s lover, has sunken to the level of low-ranked has-been after brief professional success. Art has hit a slump in his upward trajectory, so to freshen up his game, Tashi enters him into a small-time “challenger” tournament where Patrick, now scraping by on his meager winnings from lower circuit events such as this one, is a “wild card” entry. The rekindling of old rivalries and complex feelings between this intertwined trio of “players” results in a final competition in which the outcome has more to do with unrequited personal passions than it does with tennis.

Ostensibly both a sports movie and a romantic drama, it’s a film that wastes no time in tying its two themes together for an exploration of how the competitive instinct that might be essential to one can be a major obstacle when it comes to the other. Thanks to its back-and-forth time structure, we are rushed through all the necessary twists and turns of a 13-year romantic triad quickly enough to recognize immediately that the need to “win” supersedes every other desired outcome for these three people; more than that, in the broad strokes that emphasize the quick deterioration of their affections in the pursuit of the “game” (a word we use here both literally and figuratively), it becomes obvious that none of them are capable of recognizing how much influence their lust for victory has over their relationships with each other. To put it bluntly, in an era when polyamory has gained traction as a legitimate variation on the spectrum of human commitment, “Challengers” reads a little bit like a primer on how NOT to do it right.

That might, of course, be a big part of the point. In a story about professional athletes driven by the urge for victory trying to negotiate the delicate balance of self-respect and selflessness required to maintain a successful romantic partnership – no matter how many partners may be involved – it’s probably an inescapable element of the plot that there would be a struggle to reconcile those two conflicting impulses. The trouble is that, here, the three characters involved are so far removed from typical human experience that it becomes difficult to relate to any of them. They operate within a privileged world that is out of reach for most of us, and the conflicts that arise in their triad dynamic mostly arise from pure ego. It’s hard to feel empathy for such individuals, frankly, especially when it’s clear that their own mindset is the greatest obstacle to fulfillment in their lives, both professionally and personally. They’re all spoiled brats, and unrepentantly so.

It’s because of this that “Challengers” comes off as the kind of glossy, old-Hollywood fantasy that is more about wish fulfillment than anything else. Each of its protagonists is impossibly attractive; fit, sexy, and living an enviable life even when they’re struggling just to get by. They are the kind of people many of us wish we could be – and that, ironically, perhaps makes us dislike them all the more.

None of this is the fault of the players, who uniformly give the kind of fully invested performance that illuminates the humanity of their characters beyond negative cliches. Zendaya, never shying from her role as master manipulator in the film’s twisted “long con” romance, makes us feel the visceral need for competition that eclipses her less imperative impulses toward personal connection. O’Connor (“God’s Own Country,” “The Crown”) and Faist (Broadway’s “Dear Evan Hansen,” Spielberg’s “West Side Story”) are not only eminently likable, but present an unvarnished and completely believable chemistry as would-be-lovers who can’t quite get past their self-judgment to embrace the obvious feelings they have for each other. The fact that we believe equally in their impulse toward the dazzlingly self-actualized Zendaya makes their performances all the more stellar. Unfortunately, within the larger context of the film, their appeal is tarnished by our ambivalence toward the dynamic the characters perpetuate between themselves.

And what of their sexuality? Is “Challengers” that rare mainstream movie that vaults over the film industry’s long-lamented “bi erasure” to present a bisexual love story for the ages? Not quite. Even if its ending (spoiler alert!) suggests that the entire movie has been about two men getting over their toxic masculinity to embrace their true feelings for each other, the fact that it never defines that relationship as a queer one and chooses instead to leave it up to our individual interpretation feels like something of a cop out. In the long run, perhaps, it’s a better tactic to avoid labeling its relationships in terms of sexuality, since the cultural “endgame” at stake has arguably more to do with normalizing diversity than amplifying an individual sense of identity – but even so, it can’t be denied that, when “Challengers” reaches its final moment, we’re left with a sense of ambiguity that feels far too “safe,” too much a capitulation to the fragile mainstream sensibility, to advance a sense of acceptance for the “B” in “LGBTQ.” In the end, it’s a movie that stops short of the mark for the sake of the lowest common comfort zone.

Which is why, sadly, we have to set “Challengers” aside as a failed – if well-meaning – attempt at providing visibility for the most traditionally invisible faction of the queer community, instead of the unequivocal validation of bisexual attraction we’re still waiting to see.

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Travel

Pride journey: Las Vegas

Start planning now for the October celebrations

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Las Vegas (Photo courtesy of Joey Amato)

By JOEY AMATO | Las Vegas, known for its vibrant and inclusive atmosphere, embraces LGBTQ culture with open arms, making it a thriving hub for the community. Iconic events like the annual Las Vegas Pride Parade and Festival bring together people from all walks of life to celebrate diversity and unity. The 2024 Las Vegas Pride festival is scheduled for Oct. 12, so start planning now.

The city’s commitment to inclusivity is reflected in the diverse range of LGBTQ-friendly accommodations, ensuring that visitors feel welcome and respected. Beyond the nightlife, Las Vegas hosts a variety of LGBTQ-focused community organizations, support groups, and cultural events that contribute to the rich tapestry of the city’s inclusive ethos. Whether exploring the famous entertainment offerings or participating in community-driven initiatives, LGBTQ individuals and allies alike find a warm and accepting home in the vibrant tapestry of LGBTQ culture in Las Vegas.

Ever since I was young, I have always wanted to stay at Bellagio. Its iconic foundations have fascinated me for decades. The hotel stands as an epitome of luxury and sophistication, offering an unparalleled experience that seamlessly blends opulence, entertainment, and fine dining. From the moment you step into the grand lobby, it’s evident that Bellagio is committed to providing a world-class stay, especially when you glance at the ceiling adorned with Chihuly glass sculptures.

I stayed in a recently renovated room in the Spa Tower with an unobstructed view of the Vegas Strip and the fountains. The attention to detail is evident in the tasteful decor, plush furnishings, and modern amenities. Beginning at 3 p.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends, the choreographed water show set against the backdrop of the Las Vegas Strip is a mesmerizing display of artistry, combining music, light, and water in perfect harmony. It sets the tone for the exquisite experiences that await within Bellagio.

Bellagio is also home to the famous Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, a lush oasis that undergoes seasonal transformations, displaying stunning floral displays and thematic installations. This botanical escape provides a serene contrast to the lively atmosphere of the casino and the bustling Strip. During our stay, the staff were completing the new springtime exhibition, which gave us Alice in Wonderland vibes. 

For those seeking entertainment, Bellagio offers the spectacular “O” by Cirque du Soleil, a water-themed extravaganza that complements the hotel’s overall theme. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is another cultural gem within the hotel, featuring rotating exhibitions that display masterpieces from around the world.

Although it is possible to never leave the hotel, we wanted to experience other MGM Resorts properties, so we headed to LPM at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for dinner. LPM offers an exquisite dining experience that effortlessly marries Mediterranean charm with the vibrant energy of the Strip. From the moment you step through the entrance, you are greeted by an ambiance that strikes a perfect balance between sophistication and conviviality.

LPM’s interior is a visual feast, adorned with chic decor, warm lighting, and an intimate atmosphere. The combination of contemporary design elements and classic French accents creates a welcoming space that feels both elegant and comfortable. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or seeking a romantic dinner, LPM’s ambiance sets the stage for an unforgettable dining experience.

LPM’s menu is a culinary triumph, highlighting the rich and diverse flavors of the French Riviera. The emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients is evident in every dish. We began our meal with a variety of appetizers, including the Yellowtail Carpaccio, Escargots, and their signature Burrata prepared with heritage tomatoes and basil and topped with white truffles. For our main courses, we decided to focus on seafood entrees, so we tried the Lobster Risotto and grilled Chilean Bass. Both were prepared to perfection and paired very well together if you are looking to share entrees.

Of course, one of the biggest attractions of Las Vegas is the Strip itself. Spend a few hours meandering through each hotel and taking in the Vegas vibe. There is no other place in the world quite like it.

If you are in the mood for a little adventure, head to Area15, located about 10 minutes from the strip. Area15 is an immersive entertainment complex that blends art, technology, and entertainment in a unique and captivating way. Boasting an otherworldly exterior and a dynamic interior, Area15 is home to a variety of innovative experiences, including interactive art installations and virtual reality adventures. Its anchor tenant, the Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart, is a surreal supermarket-like environment filled with mind-bending art and hidden mysteries. The venue also hosts concerts and live events including Beyond Brunch, a variety show hosted by drag queen extraordinaire Andrew Ryan. The two-hour spectacle includes a wonderful buffet and performances by talented acts ranging from hoop dancers to Cirque-style entertainers. The show is well worth the price of admission; it is not your typical drag brunch.

Spend the afternoon touring Area15 or head to The Sphere, Las Vegas’s newest concert venue. Rock icons U2 opened the venue with a 40-night run, but guests can purchase tickets to Darren Aronofsky’s multi-sensory film “Postcard from Earth.”

For a trip down memory lane, especially if you are in you were born in the ‘70s or ‘80s, check out Retro by Voltaggio at Mandalay Bay. The restaurant owned by Top Chef stars, Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, takes diners on a nostalgic journey through time, blending modern culinary techniques with comforting flavors reminiscent of classic American dishes set in a retro-chic environment. The space is adorned with quirky memorabilia, neon accents, and a colorful palette that captures a sense of nostalgia without feeling overly kitschy, creating a welcoming environment for diners to unwind and enjoy the culinary adventure.

Retro by Voltaggio’s menu is a playful exploration of classic American favorites. We started our dinner with the deviled eggs with smoked trout roe along with the beet steak tartare, which was incredible. Next came the bluefin tuna ceviche served over coconut crushed ice. For our entrees we tried the trout meuniere, which was served in a lemon and caper sauce, as well as the lobster thermidor with lobster waffles — yes, you read that correctly. It was as delicious as it sounds.

Save room for the dessert cart, which contains innovative creations that satisfy the sweet tooth. Whether you’re a fan of nostalgic flavors or simply seeking a unique and enjoyable meal, Retro by Voltaggio is worth the visit.

After dinner, catch a performance of Michael Jackson “ONE” by Cirque du Soleil also at Mandalay Bay. The show is a captivating tribute to the King of Pop that seamlessly blends the magic of Cirque du Soleil with the timeless music and iconic choreography of Michael Jackson. From the moment the lights dim to the final bow, the show is a high-energy, emotionally charged celebration of the legendary entertainer’s life and legacy. This isn’t your typical Cirque du Soleil show and is more like a concert featuring all of Michael’s greatest hits, memorable dance moves, and state-of-the-art production. I felt like “ONE” is the type of concert Michael would have wanted to perform if he were still with us.

The thing I like most about Vegas is it is always evolving. Every time you visit, there is something new to see or do. Viva Las Vegas!

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