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Guns N’ Roses cut song with homophobic, racist lyrics from album reissue

The track ‘One in a Million’ has been omitted

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Guns N’ Roses (Screenshot via YouTube)

Guns N’ Roses is releasing an expanded box set of their 1987 album “Appetite for Destruction,” which will include demos and unreleased tracks. However, one song is notably missing from the track list.

“One in a Million,” which features Axl Rose singing homophobic and racist lyrics, will not be included on the reissue, Pitchfork reports.

On the track Rose, who also wrote the song, sings, “Immigrants and fa*gots/They make no sense to me/They come to our country /And think they’ll do as they please.”

He also sings the lyrics, “Police and nig*ers/ That’s right/ Get out of my way/ Don’t need to buy none of your/ Gold chains today.”

Speaking with Rolling Stone in 1989, Rose explained that he was describing “bad experiences” he’s had with gay people and immigrants.

“Maybe I should have been more specific and said, ‘Joe Schmoladoo at the 7-11 and fa*gots make no sense to me,’” Rose said at the time. “That’s ridiculous. I summed it up simply and said, ‘Immigrants.’”

Rose also defended his use of the word “ni*ger” saying that the word “doesn’t necessarily mean black.”

“Why can black people go up to each other and say, ‘ni*ger,” but when a white guy does it all of a sudden it’s a big putdown?,” Rose said. “I don’t like boundaries of any kind. I don’t like being told what I can and what I can’t say. I used the word ‘ni*ger’ because it’s a word to describe somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem. The word ‘ni*ger’ doesn’t necessarily mean black.”

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Sports

NY Rangers forgoes Pride jerseys & stick tape for team Pride night

“NYC Pride was not made aware in advance of our participation in last night’s ceremonial puck drop that Pride jerseys would not be worn”

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Out Broadway star and actor Michael James Scott prepares to sing the National Anthem at the opening of the NY Rangers Pride Night 2023. (Photo Credit: The New York Rangers/NHL)

NEW YORK CITY – New York LGBTQ+ Rangers fans were disappointed after the National Hockey League team forwent wearing the team’s special warm-up jerseys and using Pride stick tape during the team’s 7th annual Pride Night Friday.

The Rangers had promoted Friday night’s Madison Square Garden home game against Vegas Golden Knights, saying players “will be showing their support by donning pride-themed warm-up jerseys and tape in solidarity with those who continue to advocate for inclusivity.”  But ultimately the team wore their “Liberty Head” jerseys in warmups instead.

After the game, a 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, the Rangers released a statement: “Our organization respects the LGBTQ+ community and we are proud to bring attention to important local community organizations as part of another great Pride Night. In keeping with our organization’s core values, we support everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs.”

In an emailed statement to the Blade Sunday Dan Dimant, Media Director for NYC Pride | Heritage of Pride, Inc. said:

In recent years, numerous National Hockey League (NHL) franchises including the New York Rangers have introduced a series of “Pride Nights” to engage the LGBTQ+ community. NYC Pride has been honored to take part in these celebrations, including as recently as last night at Madison Square Garden.

NYC Pride was not made aware in advance of our participation in last night’s ceremonial puck drop that Pride jerseys and rainbow tape would not be worn as advertised. We understand and appreciate that this has been a major disappointment to the LGBTQ+ community in New York and beyond. We are communicating these concerns with NY Rangers and NHL leadership as we continue to discuss the ways these organizations can work toward inclusion.

NYC Pride has a duty to both support our partners and hold them accountable. We are committed to continuing our relationships with the NY Rangers and the NHL and maintaining substantive dialogue with them about meaningful allyship with the LGBTQ+ community.”

ESPN reported that the team’s annual Pride Night was celebrated throughout the game in other ways. Fans were given a pride-themed fanny pack as a giveaway. The exterior and interior lights at Madison Square Garden were illuminated in rainbow colors. The Rangers also made a charitable donation to the Ali Forney Center on Pride Night, the largest agency dedicated to LGBTQ+ homeless youths in the country.

ESPN noted that Andre Thomas, co-chair of NYC Pride and Heritage of Pride, participated in the ceremonial puck drop.
(Photo Credit: The New York Rangers/NHL)

The Rangers’ Pride Night was held 10 days after Ivan Provorov, the alternate captain for the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers, opted out of participating in the team’s Pride Night charity event before the game Tuesday, claiming a religious exemption based on his Russian Orthodox faith.

Provorov, 26, was the only member of the Flyers to not take part in the pre-game exercise on the ice. A video tweeted by the team’s official account shows the rest of the players wore special Pride Night-themed black jerseys with the traditional Flyers logo on the front and rainbow-colored names and numbers on the back; Many of the players practiced using hockey sticks wrapped in rainbow-colored tape known as Pride tape. Both the sticks and the jerseys were auctioned off after the game with the Anaheim Ducks, to raise money for local LGBTQ+ charities. 

The defenseman, who was born in Russia, told reporters after their victory, “I respect everybody and respect everybody’s choices,” adding that he declined to take part in the warmup “to stay true to myself and my religion.” 

After Provorov opted out of participating in the Flyer’s Pride Night charity event the NHL put out a statement that said players can decide which team and league initiatives to support.

“Hockey is for Everyone is the umbrella initiative under which the League encourages Clubs to celebrate the diversity that exists in their respective markets, and to work to achieve more welcoming and inclusive environments for all fans,” the league said. “Clubs decide whom to celebrate, when and how — with League counsel and support. Players are free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”

New York Rangers: Sights and Sounds | Jan. 24 2022 Pride Night:

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Movies

Billy Porter tackles new role in ‘80 for Brady’

Fashion icon on the importance of dressing up

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Billy Porter’s new film ‘80 for Brady’ opens Feb. 10. (Image courtesy Paramount Pictures)

Billy Porter — the Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner — needs no introduction, especially to the many fans of his character Pray Tell on Ryan Murphy’s hit TV series “Pose.”

Arriving in theaters on Feb. 10, Porter will star as a Super Bowl half-time show choreographer, opposite Oscar winners Sally Field, Rita Moreno, Jane Fonda, and Tony winner Lily Tomlin, in the feel-good comedy “80 For Brady,” a comic homage to popular quarterback Tom Brady.

Porter rocketed to superstardom when he originated the role of Lola in the Tony-winning Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” just over 10 years ago. But show business was always in his blood.

“I started singing in church at a very young age,” he says. “By fifth grade the bullying had stopped and in middle school I got involved with theater. I dreamed about being on Broadway and becoming the male Whitney Houston.”

Porter knew he was onto something when he won $100,000 on Star Search, in 1992 but he never expected success would come easy. 

“I took all of the necessary steps to prepare myself for a career in show business,” he says. “There have been moments of frustration, but no one is entitled to anything.

“I’ve practiced acting every day for decades. I went to Carnegie Mellon. I went to graduate school at UCLA. To this day, I still take singing lessons. I have the patience of Job. My best advice for anyone who wants to become a professional is to practice – even when no one is looking.”

How did Porter prepare himself for a trajectory in acting and a career in fashion? “I decided at a very young age to dress for the job I wanted, not the job I have,” he explains. 

The “Oscar” dress, which made Porter a viral sensation, wasn’t something that “just happened.” In 2013, while Porter was in Chicago doing previews of “Kinky Boots,” he met with fans at the stage door after every performance. “It was right at the time when social media was taking off, especially Instagram photos, and I was dressing geek chic.

“When I looked at the news the day after the first performance I saw pictures of myself and I looked like a bag lady. From that moment on, I dressed up every day. After every show, before I went out the stage door to go home, I dressed up.” From then on, any candid photos that people did take of Porter were not only flattering but trend setting. “For three years, while I was on Broadway with ‘Kinky Boots,’ I dressed up after every performance, just to go out to the car to go home.”

In 2019, just a year before the pandemic hit, Porter started to gain attention for some of the most fabulous outfits that have ever adorned any human. At the Grammy Awards, he wore an embroidered suit and pink cape. That same year, at the Academy Awards he wore the famous black fitted tuxedo and velvet gown created by Christian Siriano, accompanied by six-inch Rick Owens boots.

The gender-fluid outfits worn by Porter that are now famous the world over were not intended to be labeled. “All of the outfits I have worn aligned with the roles I was playing. The term ‘non-binary’ never occurred to me.”

And now Billy Porter has become an inspiration for celebrities like Harry Styles, who posed on the cover of Vogue last year in a Gucci dress. “You said that, not me,” Porter insists I disclose.   

“I have a calling,” he admits. “It is funneled through artistry. 

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Books

A balanced look at whether to have children

New book, ‘So When are You Having Kids?’ makes no judgments

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(Book cover image courtesy of Macmillan)

‘So When are You Having Kids?’
By Jordan Davidson
c.2022, Sounds True, Macmillan
$28.99/356 pages

Your mother lingers way too long in the children’s department.

She sighs over tiny suits and little sneakers, running her fingers along soft blankets, hugging plush animals. You know what she wants but you’re not ready; she might be sure but you’re not. Maybe baby for you or, with the new book “So When are You Having Kids?” by Jordan Davidson, maybe not.

It’s the thorniest of decisions, “one of the biggest you’ll ever make.” It’s personal, but even strangers want to know; the questions start in your 20s and end when you’ve acquiesced or aged, although having kids is not a given or a thing-by-committee. So how do you quiet the busybodies and make the right decision for yourself?

First, says Davidson, ask yourself if you even want children, and after you’ve looked inward, “it’s worth looking outward” at expectations, culture, and things that “shape our understanding of parenthood.” Ask around, to see why others had children but don’t be surprised if you get cliches. Throw out the idea that children fulfill you or that they’ll take care of you when you’re old. Know that genetics, religion, and your parents’ parenting styles will affect you; and that if you’re queer or Black, there’ll be other factors involved in having and raising a child.

Should you decide to the positive, you may still have reservations.

Don’t give in to the romance of having kids; it’s hard work, and expensive in both money and time. Remember that perceptions of good parenting have “shifted over time” and that having a childhood exactly like yours probably won’t be an option for your kids. If you have a partner, communicate your thoughts, hopes, and divisions of household labor and childcare.

Finally, decide how you’re going to become a parent. Will you give birth, choose IVF, adopt, foster, or kick the decision down the road?

Says Davidson, the mere ability to ask these questions and decide “is in many ways a privilege.”

Chances are that if you hear a screaming baby, you have one of two reactions: you cringe and look for an exit, or you notice and shrug. Either way, “So When are You Having Kids?” is a book for you.

There are many, many parenting books on miles of shelves, and a number of books on being childless, but author Jordan Davidson pulls the two subjects together here with thoughtfulness, candor, inclusiveness, and a refreshing lack of judgment. This is a book that doesn’t promise answers, though: it’s meant to give readers – whether they want kids, don’t, or are ambivalent – an in-one-place, balanced look at myths, truths, pros, cons, and rarely-considered points for an informed decision. It also, perhaps most importantly, offers comforting reminders that there is no right or wrong, no matter what Mom says.

“So When are You Having Kids?” is like having a big sister to bounce ideas with, or a break-out session in your living room. It’s like asking Baby Maybe questions you didn’t know you had. It’s help when you need it in that department.

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

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Online/Digital Streaming Media

My Unorthodox Life’s Ra’ed Saade dishes up Reality TV spunk

Is America’s Reality TV genre ready for frank discussions on open relationships?

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Netflix’s My Unorthodox Life star Ra’ed Saade (R) (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

HOLLYWOOD – If you are like many who have reacted harshly to Real Friends of WeHo, you may feel a bit hopeless regarding reality television and its representation of gay men. 

For all its misses, the reality TV genre still explodes across broadcast and streaming services. There are endless contests, there are weird matchmaking gimmicks and through it all, you can still find some gay fingerprints. And of course, there is Drag Race.

One of my personal guilty pleasures has been various “Real Housewives” franchises. Each franchise seems to study the behaviors of women who possess big egos, lots of money and are plied with a sloshing amount of alcohol. Sitting back in an armchair, shoveling popcorn and watching, is gay man, and executive producer, the boss and god of the Real Housewives world, Andy Cohen… (and oh yeah, me.)  There is a perverse pleasure observing a hetero world where the Higher Power is gay and watching them all descend into madness.

It is all theatrical and somewhat staged, of course. We are the fourth wall of their world, and situations are played out and exaggerated for our benefit, and from the accounts of the people we are observing, only represent a fraction of their real lives. 

Against this backdrop, Netflix’s My Unorthodox Life plays on this voyeuristic concept but is refreshingly unique and insightful. While it certainly has Real Housewives trappings, it centers around the uber-wealthy and has even had Jill Zahn, an OG New York Real Housewife, drop in to give advice, the core is less about superficial squabbles and more about cultural oppression and the quest for personal empowerment. 

The show centers around Julia Haart. Her life is literally “unorthodox” as her story arc describes her escape from the orthodox lifestyle of the ultra-conservative Haredi Jewish Community in Monsey, New York. In season one, three of her four children follow her and she mentors them into living life in the secular world as they each make personal strides to find their own unique identities. Julia herself becomes a fashion and design mogul, married to an incredibly wealthy husband Silvio Scaglia Haart, and best friend to her gay business partner, Robert Brotherton. Robert and Julia could not be more “Will and Grace” if they tried. Julia ends season one trying to matchmake Robert and find him true love. Apparently, she did not need to bother, as he had already been working on something off camera on his own.

As the sun rises on season two, we see seismic shifts have been made in the relationship statuses of the cast. Julia is now going into a divorce war with Silvio, and her oldest daughter has left her husband and their marriage which had been originally rooted in Haredi orthodox standards. Robert on the other hand, is no longer single, but has a boyfriend, with whom he has had a seven-year relationship.

Enter Ra’ed Saade, the boyfriend. Handsome and positive with a killer smile, he is somehow reminiscent of a male, Lebanese, gay Mary Richards as Lou Grant defined her in the classic sitcom.

Lou: You know what? You’ve got spunk…

Mary: Yeah, well (slight giggle)

Lou: I HATE spunk!

Ra’ed has spunk. In every sense of the word—double entendre intended. Will America “hate” his brand of spunk?

 Mary, in her day, was one of the only single working women representations on network TV. Ra’ed is the first gay Arab man on Netflix reality TV. He is sex positive and allows himself to be a walking commercial for open relationships. On the show, he mixes a deep sense of romance and being the ultimate boyfriend, a superior friend and confidant, with being frequently horny, or as he himself describes it, “a slut.”  

Ok, so maybe Mary Richards never called herself a slut.

While Ra’ed is from Lebanon, he seems to have lived elsewhere most of his life.  This is not unusual, he tells me, “The majority of the population of Lebanon live outside. We have more Lebanese people in Brazil than there are in Lebanon.” Ra’ed was born in Dubai, moved to the Philippines, lived in Holland, and then spent his high school years in Saudi Arabia. He credits those high school years as being the ones that shaped him. “Saudi Arabia is a very conservative, Muslim country. There is when I discovered that I was a homosexual gay man. Surviving three years in Saudi Arabia as a homosexual man and keeping it to myself, acting and putting on… doing all the things you do when you’re acting to cover up. That shaped a lot of things for me in my life. All the trauma of that period made me into this funny guy that knows, if I survived that, I could survive anything… I was considered an abomination and could have gotten up to the death penalty, especially in Saudi Arabia, and especially during the time that I was there. It was very frightening and scary. I didn’t tell a soul other than the people I was sleeping with, of course they knew.”   

When he came to America and Syracuse University, everything changed. He met Robert.  “It was like, opening a cave and letting the puppy come out. I smelled freedom. I felt I saw the rainbow colors in the sky every day. I just obviously fell in love. And here I am. I feel like I’ve arrived.”

It was with that survival instinct that gave him the courage to go for the Middle East edition of The Voice, and to audition for America’s Got Talent. When he hit the AGT stage, the audience loved his personality. His act?  Not so much. He got booed off.

Spunk.

In the second season of My Unorthodox Life, Ra’ed and Robert starred in the first episode describing how they were living together.  While the show misleadingly implied that their relationship was new, it was not only not new, but tried and true.   “Rob and I have been soul mates for 16 years. We know each other through thick and thin, through rich and poor, famous and non-famous and good and bad. All of it. We know each other inside and out,“ Ra’ed told me on a recent Rated LGBT Radio discussion.

Haart’s eldest daughter Batsheva was harsh when Ra’ed revealed that he believed in open relationships. She advocated for the couple to break up immediately. She made her comments right to Ra’ed’s face on camera. 

He has no regrets. “I’m such an open book and it’s sometimes bad for me… I didn’t have any hesitation because I stopped caring what people think and I am shameless, as you’ve seen on many shows. I just know the truth that is the truth,” Ra’ed said to me about his stance.  “The truth of the matter is Rob and I have been together as friends as you know, sexually active or whatever for 16 years, I mean, there is no doubt the loyalties– the love, is there. There’s no doubt that I would jump off a cliff, I would take a bullet for Rob. All of these beautiful things– but when I’m going to Ibiza …Rob and I are going to go and flirt with everybody in the club. A lot of people do that in secret. It is okay to have an open relationship when you are honest and open with your partner and you guys have set the ground rules and you both are saying, yes, we agree, both say yes, we love, we love this idea. There’s no problem with this and it’s a way more fun lifestyle. I mean that’s the truth. When you’re in a relationship, you are together to lift each other up encourage each other and just build a beautiful life. You just don’t own another person, you know.”

Hi answer is direct, unapologetic and almost innocent. Spunk.

Will there be a season three of My Unorthodox Life? Ra’ed hopes so. “The assignment was my unorthodox life.” Even if season two was the final he feels “like I completed the assignment.” If there are more seasons, “There’s a lot of facets and a lot of a lot of dynamics in my life that are unorthodox so I would love to open up more in coming seasons.”

 In the meantime, while Mary Richards famously twirled and threw her hat in the air on a Minneapolis street corner, Ra’ed is tossing his on a New York City Time Square street corner. 

It is from there that he TikTok promotes his February 10thClub Ra’ed” DJ evening of Middle East disco sounds, a one-time event he hosts. He has proven that spunk is alive and well. 

The modern version is just a tad more exciting with a unique Arabic feel and a fun infectious rhythm.

Listen to the complete interview:

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

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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Out & About

“Fully Lit” plays LA’s The Wiltern Thursday

“This is my first time, touring, in a major way since the pandemic,” she noted. “Now, honey, it’s ready to set the nation on fire”

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Photo by Davide Laffe

NEW YORK – Who needs to “Hark” when you can “Halleloo”? Heralding its impending arrival in the City of Angels with the righteous reassurance of a “fierce, fabulous, and fiery” experience that flat screens and social distancing simply cannot supply, the Fully Lit Tour is a live stage show starring actor, performer, drag entertainer (and, yes, dancer) D.J. “Shangela” Pierce.

“It’s gonna be high-energy. It’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be on-stage performances and never-before-heard, behind-the-scenes stories, many of them about celebrities, as well as custom mixes, death drops, and more, baby,” said Shangela, of what to expect when the tour plays LA’s the Wiltern on Thursday, January 26.

The three-season “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant—still basking in the dewy glow of cinematic cred earned from her screen time with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in 2018’s “A Star is Born”—saw that upward trajectory continue, as one of three peripatetic drag ambassadors in the three-season HBO series “We’re Here.” Alongside Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka O’Hara, the trio travels from town to town, coaching and coaxing budding drag kids out of their shells, while angling to win heartland hearts and pry open closed minds (more on that later).

For the longest time up until now, having the “We’re Here” crew arrive unannounced at your humdrum day job was the only way to score same-room time with Shangla. This tour, she assures, changes all of that. 

But why “Fully Lit”? It’s so named, said Shangela, “because I’ve always had a spark for entertaining. But when I first started drag, that spark was lit even more in me. And now, through all of these fun, amazing milestones I’ve experienced in drag, I like to consider myself Fully Lit. So I’m gonna be sharing a lot of what’s led me to this moment,” she says, of a show that was conceived, written, and executed as a statement “about connecting people. Since the pandemic, we had to be so distant from each other—and now I’m really excited to come with a show that’s going to bring us all back together.”

But beyond the longtime fans for which Fully Lit functions as a mother and child reunion, Shangela says newbie fans will not emerge disappointed if they came to see the first drag entertainer to compete on “Dancing with the Stars” (and come in fourth, no less). Mentions of that recent gig, which launched her into the household name stratosphere, are liberally peppered throughout our interview.  

Savvy Shangela, always able to cut a rug but never known as a top-tier hoofer, won’t be passing on the opportunity to parlay her DWTS notoriety into live performance gold. “My four dancers and I have been working nonstop,” she told the Blade, while steeped in rehearsal two days before the tour opened in Boston on January 19. “This is my first time, touring, in a major way since the pandemic,” she noted. “Now, honey, it’s ready to set the nation on fire… In this 90-minute show, I wanna give fans everything they have come to expect from Shangela. And I’m going to be bringing a lot of my learning and excitement and energy from “Dancing with the Stars” into this project.”

That’s all well and good, we noted, but what will she be wearing? “Well, I mean, it’s Shangla,” she shot back. “I’m not coming on stage with a pair of socks, honey.”  

On the topic of naked displays and raw emotions, talk turned back to her work on “We’re Here”—which co-producer Shangela notes is not an elimination series where manufactured conflict often guides the narrative. “It’s a real-life docu-series,” she says, of the show. “I stress the words ‘real life’ because that’s exactly what we’re experiencing and that’s what I believe comes through when people watch the show.” But don’t confuse “real” with “professionally qualified.” Shangela credits the “We’re Here” track record of successfully nurturing aspiring drag performers to the fact that she’s “gone through a lot of the experiences” happening to “the daughters and drag kids I mentor. I’m not a trained therapist or licensed mentor or a coach in any way. I’m just a real person. So I try to put myself in their shoes and listen to them, but also listen to people who are not familiar with who we are and have opposition to us—and hopefully, bring them to a space where they are more open.”

Asked what she’s open to, we pointed out a rare case of box-not-checked from the pre-tour press material, which notes that as a drag performer, Shangela’s dug her heels into the good earth on six of our planet’s continents—which begged the question: Why hasn’t she parlayed this year’s career-high notoriety into a docu-series shadowing Shangela and other queens as they take up residency in the best (only?) club in Antarctica?

Oh baby, I don’t need to take anyone with me,” she insisted. “I’m Shangela. I’m ready to do a show right on the continent. It will happen. It will happen. Hopefully by the next time we talk, I’ll be able to say, “And now I’ve done all seven, thank you, Baby. Thank you so much!”

The Blade will continue to follow this important story as it presumably develops. In the meantime, Shangela’s Fully Lit Tour comes to LA at the Wiltern (3790 Wilshire Blvd.) on Thursday, January 26, For tickets: https://shangela.com/pages/tour.

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Online/Digital Streaming Media

Real Friends of WeHo proves to be the epicenter of…Something

The Daily Beast called it a “colossal gay nightmare” & “it stinks as badly as the alley dumpster behind The Abbey after jockstrap night” 

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Screenshot/YouTube MTV

HOLLYWOOD – The “groundbreaking” new reality show launched this week, and man, was there drama. Too bad it wasn’t on the show itself.

Across the meta-sphere, pearls were clutched, and faces were hand-palmed, and the comments went from bitchy and nasty to bitchier and nastier. The WeHo Times “didn’t hate it”, and “kind of related” (but, hello, the show is set in… WeHo.)

The Wrap called it a show “we didn’t need.” The Decider (whose decision is that you “skip” the show) describes the program as “just watching six gays proclaim that they ‘aren’t here for drama’ and ‘don’t tolerate foolishness’ even though they are now contractually obligated to be present for drama and endure an exhausting level of foolishness. It’s a given that none of this is real, but it should at least be entertaining.”   

Those were the nice reviews. 

The writer of the blogshere LGBTQ Nation claimed that the show turned his “brains into real skull goo” and wrote a meandering non-sensical massacre of a review to prove it. None were quite as vitriolic as the Daily Beast however, that called it a “colossal gay nightmare” and stated that it “stinks as badly as the alley dumpster behind The Abbey after jockstrap night.” 

I will have to take his word for that. I saw the show but have no desire to check out said dumpster.

Whether the vitriol is deserved or not, the viewers seem to have stayed away. Or at least, their interest did. The social media accounts for the show have a paltry number of followers so far. Only 3% of Google reviewers liked the show.  It currently has a .8 out of 5-star rating on IMDB. 

The show is really not that bad. Each of the guys has a reason for being on the show, and if they owned their individual motives rather than trying to be generalist and “representative,” the show could be intriguing.  

The biggest failure was in how the show rolled out in the first place. The show came on like a wrecking ball and landed right on itself. The opening claim that “West Hollywood is the epicenter of the gay world” was demonstrative of the arrogance that will likely kill it.

There are gay people in LA that would dispute that West Hollywood is the epicenter of the Los Angeles gay world, let alone the rest of the globe. San Francisco, New York and London may also have something to say about being gay centers. So, unless the intention was to piss off everyone not in West Hollywood, the opening line and its prominence in the promo for the show, was a big marketing mistake.

The next failure was rudeness and failure to “read the room” metaphorically. By forcing itself in between RuPaul’s Drag Race and Untucked programs, while stealing time from them, the show runners were completely clueless as to how eventful and anticipated those shows are to their viewers each week. Literally trying to force them to watch “Real Friends” was presumptive that the new show had earned the affection necessary to succeed in that program slot. It clearly had not.

Thus the show seems set up to fail. By promoting that it is thoroughly in love with itself, it has not given the audience a chance to know if we are really even interested in a second date. 

I personally am going back for one. The guys on the show are specific to the here-and-now of gay, design, fashion and entertainment West Hollywood life. It would be nice if they seemed conscious at all of the horror of AIDS we lived through there back in the day, or gave a passing interest to the current right-wing attacks on trans kids, but then their prototypes, the Real Housewives franchises, don’t try to be The View either.

Brad Goreski is featured as the name-dropping designer whose first episode confession is that he has been secretly feeding his husband chicken disguised as turkey. It comes off cuter than it sounds. Goreski is the mouthpiece for most of the show’s self-aggrandizement and I thought he was more charming when he was on What Happens Live, and was more… real.

Todrick Hall is the cast member supposedly of great controversy, and takes his chance to explain and be humble around it. If he was selling, I bought it. I was also mystified – his supposed “scandals” are nowhere near Erika Jayne or Jen Shah levels, but with all the attacks, you would think they were.

Up and coming actor Curtis Hamilton is intriguing, as he is using his participation in the show to come out as gay publicly. We will see how the show handles that, and how his life plays out, but if things do not go well, it is the time in one’s life where one needs friends.

Dorión Renaud is also an intriguing cast member. He is the CEO/founder of Buttah Skin. As an accomplished black gay man fighting against others with more privilege, he could be absolutely fascinating. So far, he is not. He has an emotional armor and seems on guard with a tone of toxic masculinity. He does have a moment where he admits to being painfully socially awkward.

It is at this moment, that rather than showing some compassion, social media influencer Joey Zauzig throws him out of the party for being “negative.”  Joey’s own story on the show needs some depth-infusion. He claims to have “a million followers” across various social media platforms while showing his Instagram page of 200-something thousand. For an “influencer”, that is not a lot.

The first episode features Joey’s engagement to his beautiful boyfriend. It is a story of how they fell in love looking at each other’s pictures and are now destined to be together for life. While that all could be true, the show did not take the audience along for the ride, so it all seems manufactured and artificial. There is no heartwarming emotional moment, at least, not for us.

Jaymes Vaughan, the final cast member, actually brings moments of romance tingles in scenes with his husband Jonathan Bennett. Their brief banter and impromptu kiss came off as authentic and real and charming. There is transparency that the producers actually wanted Jonathan for the show. He refused them, so they went with Jaymes. That disclosure was a bit embarrassing, and while getting more feelings for Jaymes because of it, it made you want to reject the show even more.

In the show Sex and the City, New York City felt like another character in the show. WeHo does not feel present in this show by contrast. Unlike other similarly structured reality shows, the show’s production itself DOES seem like another character presence and is discussed on camera regularly. At this point, it is unclear if that breakdown of reality TV protocol is refreshing or irritating.

Goreski laid claim to being the epicenter of the gay world. In an interview Zauzig predicted “some people are not going to like us and some people are going to love us.”

So far, the lovers have not shown up, and the only epicenter to be seen is one of, potentially unfair, unprecedented disdain.

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

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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Movies

‘Women Talking’ is the timely film everyone should be talking about

Filmmaker Sarah Polley explores shocking abuse in culturally significant effort

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Ben Whishaw, Rooney Mara, and Claire Foy in ‘Women Talking.’ (Photo courtesy of United Artists Releasing)

With the Hollywood awards season well underway, the public conversation around movies these days is mostly around the movies that have begun to emerge as early champions. 

That makes this the perfect time to bring up “Women Talking,” a movie not many people have seen – yet – but that more people should be talking about.

Adapted for the screen and directed by Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley, it’s based on a 2018 novel of the same name by Miriam Toews (which itself was loosely based on real-life events in Bolivia), and set in an ultraconservative Mennonite colony, isolated from the wider world by both distance and strict religious tradition, in which dozens of girls and women have been drugged with animal tranquilizers and sexually assaulted in the night by a group of men over the course of several years – only to be accused of lying or told that their attacks and injuries were perpetrated by “ghosts or demons.” Now, they’ve now been offered a choice – either forgive their attackers and continue living in fear or leave the community and be expelled from the church; with only a few short hours to decide, a group of townswomen convene in a barn to weigh the dilemma, and to make the impossible choice of what to do.

In Toews’s book, and therefore Polley’s film, the shocking circumstances of the story are reimagined in an American setting, and the scenario is framed – in the spirit, perhaps, of an increasing sense of public conscience that favors commemorating the victims of violence over elevating the victimizers’ names in the cultural record – through the eyes of the women; we never see the faces of their attackers, nor hear their names. Their identities, in fact, are irrelevant; for these women, what matters is making an impossible choice whether to brave the unknown evils of a world outside their experience or resign themselves to endure the all-too-familiar evils to which they are accustomed, forced upon them by male elders who seemingly think of them as little more than human livestock.

That’s a position that feels unsettlingly relevant in the climate of today’s America, and though both book and movie were conceived and executed before the devastating Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade, the timing of “Women Talking” couldn’t be more powerful or relevant. In watching these onscreen women attempt to find justification within their faith to defy the strictures that leave them powerless and without protection, it’s impossible not to notice the reflected significance; though the arguments they rehash – obedience to the teachings of their church, accepted gender roles within their culture, the “rightful place” of women in society, and all the other well-rehearsed topics inextricably tied to the ideals of feminism and basic human rights – often feel to us like the antiquated rhetoric of a bygone era, we cannot help but be aware that the principles they struggle to define, considered by many of us to be long-settled and self-evident, are currently anything but.

That’s entirely the point, of course. Polley’s film derives considerable power from the juxtaposition of an old-fashioned lifestyle into a contemporary setting; most of what we see on the screen – clothing, mores and manners, the quaint routine of a daily life lived without technology and off the grid – belies any connection to the 21st century, and when we are occasionally reminded that we’re watching a story that takes place in modern times, it’s jarring.

Indeed, there’s an unabashedly “meta” effect that permeates throughout, heightened by a theatrical approach to the narrative that spends more of its time on dialogue than on action – after all, the title is “Women Talking” – and takes place mostly in a single location. The movie’s studied mix of emotion and intellect, its prominent agenda and its progressive political leanings, all land with us as if we were watching a play, rather than a movie. Yet Polley ingeniously expands into the cinematic realm to connect with us though our eyes as well as our ears, particularly with the use of rapid-paced flashback collages that cut away from a character to wordlessly convey crucial details of their backstory, deepening both our insight and our empathy in the process.  

She also takes pains to illuminate the emotional triggers – fear, rage, even guilt over perceived culpability – that bubble to the surface as her traumatized characters try to form a unified front; by tracking the way these lingering psychic scars affect the dynamic among this group of survivors, determining the positions they take and setting them at odds against each other, her movie helps open us up to empathy for those whose memory pain sometimes drives them to act against their own self-interest. Yet things aren’t unrelentingly grim, nor are they always somber; there are frequent interspersions of humor, appreciations of beauty, and expressions of love. It’s this focus on lived inner experience that keeps “Women Talking” grounded in the human and enables it to indulge in lengthy theoretical discourse about justice, ethics, and theology without feeling like an exercise in aloof didacticism.

To that end, a gifted ensemble of players, each obviously relishing the chance to do work of such substance, turns in a remarkably gripping collection of performances. Standing out in the showiest roles, Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley offer up unforgettable moments throughout the film, while a softer Rooney Mara serves as a warm and intelligent heart; screen veterans Judith Ivey and Sheila McCarthy bring depth and dignity to their roles as elders in this female contingent, with multi-Oscar-winner Frances McDormand leaving her stamp in a brief but indelible supporting turn; out gay actor Ben Whishaw shines as a gentle schoolteacher enlisted by the women to take the minutes of their meeting, a sole reminder that men can be allies, too; and nonbinary performer August Winter, cast as a transmasculine colony member, adds an affirming thread of queer inclusion to the mix, opening the door for one of the film’s most unexpected – and powerful – moments.

It’s not surprising, given the talents of Polley and her cast (not to mention the expert cinematography of Luc Montpellier and a stirring score by Hildur Guðnadóttir), that “Women Talking” has quietly gained momentum as an awards contender – even though it doesn’t go into wide release until Jan. 20. Whether it can pick up more prizes than the buzzier titles currently leading the race remains to be seen. Even in a post-#MeToo Hollywood, female-led films are often overlooked for the big awards, and the industry’s supposed progressive leanings rarely prevent it from shying away from polarizing subject matter.

Incredibly, in 2023, the subject of women seeking freedom to have agency over their own bodies feels more polarizing than ever, and women are fighting for it under oppressive regimes from Iraq to Indonesia, let alone in parts of the USA.

That’s why, whether it wins any awards or not, “Women Talking” is still one of the most culturally significant movies on the shortlist.

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Books

Hoover is a conflicted, flawed human in new biography

‘G-Man’ explores how he created an unrivaled personal fiefdom

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(Book cover courtesy of Viking)

‘G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century’
By Beverly Gage
c.2022, Viking
$45/837 pages

“We’re sorry we can’t be in the front row to hiss — no kiss you,” two fans wrote in a telegram to Ethel Merman in the 1930s when they couldn’t make the opening of one of her shows.

The Merman friends were J. Edgar Hoover and his “right-hand man” Clyde Tolson.

“G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century” by Yale historian Beverly Gage is the first biography of Hoover to appear in 30 years. Gage has done the unimaginable. She makes you want to read about J. Edgar Hoover. “G-Man” won’t make you wish you were one of Hoover’s BFFs. It’ll compel you to see Hoover, not as a villainous caricature, but as a conflicted, flawed human being.

“G-Man” is not only a fascinating bio of Hoover, who directed the FBI from 1924 until the day he died on May 2, 1972 at age 77. It’s a page-turning history of the United States in the 20th century.

Hoover, who played a key role in the “lavender scare” of the 1950s, hated and harassed Martin Luther King, Jr. and engaged in an anti-Communist crusade, has “emerged,” Gage writes, “as one of history’s great villains, perhaps the most universally reviled American political figure of the twentieth century.”

In “G-Man,” Gates, drawing on recently released files, tells the story of how Hoover came to power and used the tools of the “administrative state,” to, as Gage writes, “create a personal fiefdom unrivaled in U.S. history.”

But, Gage makes clear, it’s a misreading of American history to think that Hoover was a lone, evil rouge.

During his time as FBI director, Hoover had the support of eight presidents (four Democrats and four Republicans) and of Congress. Gage documents how much of the American public, for most of Hoover’s 48 years as FBI director, shared his racist, homophobic and rabidly anti-Communist views. 

Hoover, a life-long D.C. resident, “embodied conservative values ranging from anti-Communism to white supremacy to a crusading and politicized interpretation of Christianity,” Gage writes.

“Far from making him a public scourge,” she adds, “these two aspects of his life garnered him the admiration of millions of Americans, including many of the country’s leading politicians, for most of his career.”

Hoover never openly identified as gay. He sent FBI agents out to warn anyone gossiping that he was gay to stop spreading rumors. Once, Hoover learned a D.C. bakery employee  had said he’d “heard the director is a queer,’” Gage reports. Hoover dispatched FBI agents, Gage writes, “to threaten and intimidate him into silence.”

There’s no evidence of Hoover having sex with another man. A story (told in an earlier bio) of Hoover wearing a dress at a gathering lacks credibility, Gage says. Because the woman who told the anecdote had been arrested for perjury.

But, using sources that weren’t available to previous biographers, Gage argues persuasively that Hoover and Tolson were for decades what we would call, today, a same-sex couple.

Beginning in 1935, Hoover and Tolson plunged into a whirl of nightlife – going to nightclubs and hanging with celebrities, Gage reports. 

Hoover kept some things about his relationship with Tolson private, Gage writes, “yet what is most striking about their budding relationship is not its furtive quality but its openness, vitality, and broad social acceptance.”

Hoover and Tolson vacationed together yearly in Florida and California.

Officially, their friends and colleagues, said the couple was “too masculine” to be queer, Gage writes, “reflecting a mid-century view of male homosexuality as something for ‘sissies’ and outliers.”

But, “Everybody knew about J. Edgar Hoover,” Gage reports Ethel Merman recalled decades later of Hoover in the 1930s. “A lot of people have always been homosexual. To each his own.” 

Neither Tolson or Hoover married or thought about marrying a woman. When Hoover died, he left most of his estate to Tolson. We don’t know what they did in the bedroom, Gage says, but Hoover and Tolson behaved like spouses.

Unfortunately, Hoover’s feelings for Tolson didn’t stop him from playing a crucial part in the “lavender scare” or from having the FBI monitor the D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society.

“G-Man” documents Hoover’s racism in sobering detail. Gates doesn’t downplay Hoover’s racism, role in the 1919 or 1950s red scare; lavender scare; or  harassment of Vietnam war protesters.

In “G-Man,” Gage helps us understand how Hoover’s views were formed: from his shame at having a mentally ill father to the “muscular, masculine” Christianity of his childhood to his life-long connection to Kappa Alpha, a racist George Washington University fraternity that believed in the “Lost Cause” of the South.

“G-Man”is an illuminating and engrossing read – with movie stars, history, gangsters and a humanized villain. 

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

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Sports

Musk on hockey Pride uproar: ‘Pendulum has swung a bit too far’

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov cited religious beliefs for why he refused to wear a Pride-themed jersey

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

SAN FRANCISCO – Twitter CEO and owner Elon Musk has joined the chorus of anti-gay voices on Twitter cheering-on the NHL player who sat out a warmup this week because he’d have to don a team jersey featuring rainbow colors. 

The controversy that resulted from Philadelphia Flyers’ defenseman Ivan Provorov’s decision in turn sparked outrage from LGBTQ+ activists and allies, as well as a pro-religious freedom backlash among conservatives, including a gay one followed by Musk.

“The pendulum has swung a bit too far,” tweeted the Twitter, Tesla and SpaceX mogul. 

Provorov, 26, told reporters after the Flyers-Ducks game on Tuesday: “I respect everybody and respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.” 

Provorov, who is Russian-born, said his religion is Russian Orthodox, a Christian faith that equates same-sex marriage with Nazism and supports Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a divine mission in opposition to Pride parades and gay rights.

Following Provorov’s boycott of the pre-game fundraiser, in which every other member of the Philadelphia Flyers participated, social media erupted; Fans were divided over whether Provorov was exercising his freedom of religion or being homophobic. Although his coach, team and the National Hockey League supported his decision, some complained he should have been benched for the game. 

One NHL analyst, E.J. Hradek, even suggested Provorov should go back to Russia. 

Musk responded to a gay conservative’s RT of that video, who stated, “The gay movement, in about 7 years, went from “equal rights!” to “go f***ing die in a trench war if you don’t wear a pride shirt!” 

Musk’s response in turn drew attention to Maxwell Meyer of Austin, Texas, the policy chief at a venture capital firm who writes on Substack about his support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his “Don’t Say Trans or Gay” law, deadnames out transgender HHS Asst. Sec., Adm. Rachel Levine, and works for a fellow Stanford alumnus and California native who writes negative stories about Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.)

Meyer responded to Musk with a plea as a “gay American.” 

It’s important to note three things: First, that Provorov’s views were respected. He was not punished or disciplined for his refusal to take part in the warmup, which on special nights traditionally involves special jerseys. In fact, he has the support of his team, his coach, the NHL and many fans. 

Fox News reports sales of Povorov jerseys have skyrocketed, and are in fact selling-out at some retailers. 

The only people who lost anything that night were the LGBTQ+ charities that benefit from auctions of the Pride jerseys and Pride tape-adorned hockey sticks, given that the auctioneer had one fewer jersey and stick with which to raise money for those marginalized groups.

Second, someone needs to tell Povorov and his newfound supporters sexual orientation is not a choice. An analysis of the DNA of nearly half a million people from the U.S. and the U.K. concluded that genes account for between 8% and 25% of same-sex behavior.

And finally, as the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Musk’s tweet comes amid a continuing spike in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric on his social media site. Research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, Anti-Defamation League and other groups found that hate speech on Twitter rose after Musk purchased the platform.

Anti-gay slurs, in particular, increased from an average of 2,506 times per day to 3,964. 

The Blade reached out to Musk for comment but did not receive a response as of press time. Last summer, Musk was disowned by his out transgender daughter in her court filing, seeking to legally change her name and gender, and has frequently drawn criticism for tweeting anti-queer and other divisive memes.

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Celebrity News

Legendary musician David Crosby dies at 81

In a career spanning six decades Crosby’s influence was felt by generations of Americans. He was also an ally to the LGBTQ community

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David Crosby (Screenshot/YouTube 2metersessions)

SANTA YNEZ, Calif. – David Crosby, arguably one of the most popular and enormously influential singer-songwriter-guitarists of the last century known for his folk ballads and rock standards, has died at the age of 81.

In a statement released by his wife Jan Dance and family to entertainment media outlet Variety Thursday afternoon the family said:

 “It is with great sadness after a long illness, that our beloved David (Croz) Crosby has passed away. He was lovingly surrounded by his wife and soulmate Jan and son Django. Although he is no longer here with us, his humanity and kind soul will continue to guide and inspire us. His legacy will continue to live on through his legendary music. Peace, love, and harmony to all who knew David and those he touched. We will miss him dearly. At this time, we respectfully and kindly ask for privacy as we grieve and try to deal with our profound loss. Thank you for the love and prayers.”

A founding member of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and a two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, he was remembered in a Facebook post by former bandmate Graham Nash writing:

“David was fearless in life and in music,” Nash said. “He leaves behind a tremendous void as far as sheer personality and talent in this world. He spoke his mind, his heart, and his passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy. These are the things that matter most.”

In a career spanning six decades Crosby’s influence was felt by generations of Americans. He was also an ally to the LGBTQ community. In a May 2020 article, Rolling Stone writer Althea Legaspi, writing about the opioid overdose death of pioneering out lesbian musician Melissa Etheridge’s son, Beckett Cypher, who died at 21 noted that Crosby was the sperm donor.

Etheridge and Cypher, who met in 1988 during a video shoot, have two children — daughter, Bailey, and son, Beckett. For several years after their births, people speculated about the identity of the sperm donor for the children. In 2000, the couple revealed it was fellow musician David Crosby.

While the then-couple were vacationing in Hawaii, they met up with Crosby and his wife, Jan, and began discussing their want to have children, but they had a dilemma as to whom to have as a sperm donor. “And Jan said, ‘What about David?’ ” Etheridge told Rolling Stone. “It came from her, which was the best, most perfect way.” They thought it over for a year before they made the call. “For one, he’s musical, which means a lot to me, you know, and I admire his work,” says Etheridge. “And he has his own life, has his own family.”

Crosby told Rolling Stone he didn’t hesitate at his wife’s proposition that he be the donor. “Melissa and Julie are good people,” he said. “Nice set of values, they’re funnier than shit, and they’ve got courage. All rare stuff. You could see that they were in love with each other.”

Etheridge and Cypher split up in 2000, but they continued to co-parent. Etheridge is also the mother of twins, son Miller and daughter Johnnie.

Crosby’s support of the LGBTQ community was also expressed on his Twitter account:

Crosby earned 10 Grammy nominations and one win in his lifetime leaving behind a formidable contribution to the American Songbook.

A look back at his career is here on Variety: (Link)

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