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“Dirty Looks: On Location” brings queer history back to life in L.A.

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Laura Aguilar’s “Plush Pony” series will be on display at the former site of the iconic L.A. lesbian bar or the same name on July 23, as part of “Dirty Looks: On Location” (Image courtesy of On Location)

Lovers of local queer culture have a fantastic opportunity to experience it throughout July with “Dirty Looks: On Location,” an arts festival which focuses on “celebrating L.A. queer history in the streets that wrote it.”

According to the festival’s planners:

“On Location began in 2012 in the bars and community centers that fill New York City. Putting screenings or performances in everyday spaces brought new life to the works, focusing on the social nature of art making in the city.  But there were other stories to tell. On Location 2018 was organized in Los Angeles by 13 local curators, artists and promoters, playing with venues and meeting places that defined queer life in Los Angeles – 31 spaces across the 31 days of July, charting a progression of culture(s) using one month’s time.”

“Dirty Looks” is a widespread program of events and “happenings” featuring local musicians, artists, cultural icons and community leaders.  It aims to capture the creative and historic queer pulse of Los Angeles by “animating and activating historic sites of queer cultural exchange.”

With events ranging from traditional film screenings to drop-in installations, and re-activations of long-closed historic Los Angeles LGBT venues and bars, On Location fosters community-minded dialogues to tell stories through a collage of film and urban space.

The festival explains it’s mission as follows:

“Ours is a distinct urban sprawl – there is no city that feels quite as diverse, vast or chaotic as L.A. We have also witnessed the erasure of many queer communal spaces, a byproduct of gentrification, apps and online culture or the AIDS crisis. Our festival celebrates thriving spaces while also paying homage to the lost lesbian bars, bookstores or significant storefronts from which political activism once erupted. Through fun summer screenings and shows featuring local musicians and artists, we look back to move forward with a deeper understanding.”

The festival kicked off on July 1 with a 50th Anniversary of L.A.’s first homosexual film festival held in the summer of ’68, at “the sexploitation-centric”  Park Theater.  It’s too late to catch that (a shame, it sounds like fun!), but there are still plenty of other special nights to plan for.

A list of highlights includes re-activations of three closed lesbian bars (Boyle Heights’ Redz, El Sereno’s Plush Pony and North Hollywood’s Moonshadow), along with other iconic closed LA spots (CUFFS, Piano Bar The Other Door, and others); there’s also a preview night for a documentary on Silverlake’s iconic Circus of Books, a retrospective of the work of Zackary Drucker, an event celebrating the work of the late photographer Laura Aguilar, a screening of Gregg Araki’s iconic LA film Nowhere, Future Ladies of Wrestling event at Moonlight Rollerway, and many more.

For festival information and tickets, you can visit http://dirtylooksla.org/

The full schedule of events is below:

Sunday, July 1, 7PM – A Most Unusual Film Festival (50th Anniversary of the first L.A. homosexual film festival) Dynasty Typewriter at The Hayworth

Monday, July 2, 7:30PM – Brontez Purnell’s Unstoppable Feat: The Dances of Ed Mock at Downtown Independent

Tuesday, July 3, 9PM – Mar Citlali & Fabian Guerrero at Plaza

Wednesday, July 4, 5PM – Future Ladies of Wrestling at Moonlight Rollerway

Thursday, July 5, 8PM- human bridge at Mota (formerly Circus of Books, Silverlake)

Friday, July 6, 8PM – The Masque (with Xina Xurner + Trap Girl) at World of Wonder

Saturday, July 7, 9PM – CUFFS at Hyperion Tavern

Sunday, July 8, 3PM –  Zackary Drucker: Hard to look at, REDCAT

Monday, July 9, 9PM – Jewel’s Catch One at Union Nightclub

Tuesday, July 10, 11AM – 11PM – Venus Flytrap at CineFile Video

Wednesday, July 11, 7:30PM – The Dark Side of Tomorrow at The Egyptian Theater Thursday, July 12, 8PM, Hustler White at The Studs Theatre

Friday, July 13, 9PM – Escandalos Angeles with sCUM at Club Chico

Saturday, July 14, 4PM – 2AM – Fred Halsted Retrospective at Eagle LA

Sunday, July 15, 7PM – A Peek inside Circus of Books: first look at the in-progress documentary, Circus of Books

Monday, July 16, 9PM – Queer Karaoke with Karen Tongson at The Other Door (formerly Moonshadow)

Tuesday, July 17, 7PM – The Night Is Young at Mercado La Paloma

Wednesday, July 18, 7:30PM – Myra Breckenridge at The Black Cat

Thursday, July 19, 9PM – Handbag Factory Rooftop Party

Friday, July 20, 7PM –  Oral Histories of Queer Resistance at LACE

Saturday, July 21, 4PM – The Pirate and MGM’s Freed Unit at Mandrake

Sunday, July 22, 9PM – San Cha, Sister Mantos + Anna Luisa Petrisko at Silver Platter

Monday, July 23, 8PM – Laura Aguilar’s Plush Pony Series at the former site of Plush Pony

Tuesday, July 24, 7:30PM – All About Alice at Echo Park Film Center

Wednesday, July 25, 12PM – 2AM – The Hanged Man, 1971 at Bullet Bar

Thursday, July 26, 8PM – Tetsuo: The Iron Man rescored by Lauren Bousfield + Naomi Mitchell at Akbar

Friday, July 27, 11:59PM – Gregg Araki’s Nowhere midnight screening at The Vista

Saturday, July 28, 8PM – The Obscured Sky, undoing (part of LA Freewaves’ AINT I A WOMXN festival) at Los Angeles State Historic Park

Sunday, July 29, 9PM – All the films of Xandra Ibarra at the former site of Redz

Monday, July 30, 7:30PM – Queer Wikipedia-thon at Cuties Coffee

Tuesday, July 31, 7PM – Tagame’s VHS Pornspiration, Tom of Finland Foundation

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Arts & Entertainment

After COVID hiatus, John Waters resumes touring schedule

‘Every single thing is different after COVID’

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John Waters is on the road again. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

For the first time in nearly two years, writer and filmmaker John Waters will be appearing on stage this fall before live audiences in the Baltimore-Washington area, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Waters, who lives in Baltimore, is scheduled to bring his spoken-word holiday show, “A John Waters Christmas,” to The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., on Dec. 15, and Baltimore Soundstage on Dec. 21. He’ll also be at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Nov. 29 and The Vermont Hollywood on Dec. 2.

Waters’ holiday shows were cancelled in 2020 due to the theater closings and travel restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some book signings for fans were converted to Zoom sessions. He last toured the country in November and December of 2019.

This year, with vaccinations on the rise, Waters has made a few in-person appearances, including a concert with gay country crooner Orville Peck in Colorado in July, where he was “special guest host”; a Q&A session with fans in Provincetown in August and a music festival last weekend in Oakland, Calif. He’s scheduled to visit another 18 cities between now and the end of the year, including a weekend in Wroclaw, Poland, where he’ll be honored during the American Film Festival there in November.

Waters said he has completely rewritten his spoken-word shows to reflect changes brought about by the COVID pandemic. “I haven’t done it in a year and a half,” he said in an interview with Town & Country magazine. “Every single thing is different after COVID. You cannot do the same show. Nothing’s the same.”

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Notables

Former LA Blade Editor Karen Ocamb, journalist of the year awardee

The AIDS crisis was her entry into the movement for LGBTQ equality. She had worked in LGBTQ and independent media for nearly 30 years

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Karen Ocamb, journalist of the year awardee 2020 at the Los Angeles Press Club gala (Photo by Troy Masters)

LOS ANGELES – Former Los Angeles Blade editor Karen Ocamb was awarded Journalist of the Year for 2020 at the 63rd annual Los Angeles Press Club’s Southern California Journalism Awards gala, which was held Saturday evening at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Press Club was founded in 1913 and honors journalists through its annual National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and SoCal Journalism Awards.

The annual gala is held to celebrate the best of Southern California journalism and features and honors journalists working in all media platforms of print, radio, television or digital (online). Ocamb won in the category of ‘print’ with a circulation under 50,000. Her fellow nominees were Lina Lecaro, LA Weekly and Hayley Munguia, Long Beach Press-Telegram.

The LA Press Club judges noted in their decision bestowing the award, “Karen Ocamb’s passionate reporting of the struggles of the LGBTQ community and journalists covering LGBTQ issues during the pandemic earns her a Print Journalist of Year award.”

She was also a runner-up in two other categories securing second place in ‘Pandemic Reporting Digital’ (Online) with awardee Jon Regardie, Los Angeles Magazine, “A Month Inside the COVID-19 War Room with Mayor Eric Garcetti” securing first place. (Karen Ocamb, Los Angeles Blade, “Seeking Truth in the War on the Coronavirus”)

Ocamb also secured second place in the category of ‘Commentary: on political, social, cultural, investigative, judicial, economic or other serious subjects.’ The awardees were Ryan Lo and Chandra Bozelko, Reno Gazette Journal, “Klobuchar’s Own Central Park Five Situation” (Karen Ocamb, Los Angeles Blade, “Strong at the Broken Places”)

Ocamb, who now works in media relations for Public Justice, a national nonprofit progressive legal advocacy organization that has been fighting for civil rights, environmental protection and consumer and workers’ rights for more than 35 years, was the founding news editor of the Los Angeles Blade in 2017.

After spending the 1960s as a student against the war in Vietnam, fighting for civil rights and exploring the counter-cultural movement, Ocamb joined CBS News in New York and learned to be a journalist under the mentorship of such icons as Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Bob Schiefer. Her final job for the network was producing the 1984 Olympic coverage for CBS News affiliates at TV City in Los Angeles.

Free to pursue her social justice passions and discuss her opinions, Ocamb volunteered on the ballot campaign for West Hollywood cityhood. It was during this time that her friends started dying of AIDS. By the late 1980s, serving as a quasi-healthcare worker was not enough and Ocamb returned to journalism, this time freelancing for Frontiers News Magazine and other gay press publications.

The AIDS crisis was her entry into the movement for LGBTQ liberation and equality. She has worked in LGBTQ and independent media since then, culminating in her position as news editor and reporter for the Los Angeles Blade.

Los Angeles Blade publisher Troy Masters, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and former LA Blade News Editor Karen Ocamb at the 63rd annual Los Angeles Press Club awards gala.
(Photo courtesy of Troy Masters)

In 2019, Ocamb won a special recognition award from LGBTQ media watchdog group GLAAD.

“After initially starting her career at CBS News and producing the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Ocamb joined the LGBTQ press in the 1980s after more than 100 friends died from AIDS,” GLAAD said in a release at the time. “She has since become a leading force and champion for LGBTQ media. She is known for her smart, fair, and professional writing style as well as her staunch dedication to shining the spotlight on underreported LGBTQ people and issues.”

Troy Masters, publisher and founder of Los Angeles Blade, said of Ocamb’s award, “There is truly no one I have worked with over the past 35 years in LGBT journalism who has a greater integrity or devotion to the community than Karen.  Her work always explores the evolution of every subject she covers, giving it rich and lucid context that helps the stories jump off the page.  She always knows when more than a ‘just the facts’ story is needed and she steps it up in a way that bridges generations and ideas.  She’s the writer and editor I always dreamed of having and I can think of no one more deserving of this honor.”

The 63rd annual Los Angeles Press Club’s Southern California Journalism Awards gala held Saturday evening, October 16, 2021, at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.
(Photo By Troy Masters)

Editor’s note links to the stories submitted and judged are here, here, here, and here.

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a&e features

Michael Kearns, the Godfather of LGBTQ+ authenticity

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level

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Michael Kearns by Keida Mascaro

HOLLYWOOD – The arc of LGBTQ+ history over the past 50 years has been one of constant upheaval and evolvement. From a period when it was both illegal and insane to be gay, through the achievement of being able to serve openly in the military, to marriage equality and the ability to create families to today’s fight against the tyranny against Trans people, the movement has not stopped to take a breath.

Michael Kearns, the first recognized “out” actor on the Hollywood landscape, has been a visible presence through it all. More importantly, he has always” been visible on the gay scene. In the seventies he epitomized the free love and erotic freedom that many gay men lived. He was featured in classic gay porn movies and did a PR stint as the face of the “happy hustler.”  

“That was my introduction to a lot of people,” Michael told me when we sat down for a chat on Rated LGBT Radio. “I kind of captured the zeitgeist of the times, the freewheeling seventies. We forget that there was that period of time when sexuality was joyful and exciting and thrilling.”

In the eighties he was visible in mainstream media as a gay man playing gay men characters. In 1983, Michael was cast in a minor role on the Cheers Emmy winning episode “the Boys in the Bar.”  He was instantly recognized for his gay sexual iconic status by LGBTQ audiences, even though the population at large did not know who he was. The casting director who fought for his casting was Stephen Kolzak, who would himself become a prominent AIDS activist before he died at 37 in 1990. Stephen casted Michael to make a statement. He wanted to signal to the LGBTQ community that Cheers had our backs. “He was one of the only ones that had the guts,” Michael remembers.

“There were a lot of stereotypes in television regarding gay portrayals. I was pegged and cast in some of those roles. I did play the stereotype, but rather than a straight guy playing those roles, I brought authenticity. I was real. Straight guys playing gay would always spoof the role. They were always ‘winking’ and signaling to the camera ‘I am not really that way.’  So, the performances are by in large horrible, even with some academy award winners. The actors were constantly saying that it was not who they were—if they weren’t making that clear on the talk shows, they were doing it in the performance itself.’ Michael says.

Michael soon morphed into an HIV positive man playing HIV positive characters, while off camera becoming a visible and vocal AIDS activist. “It was a new kind of cliché. They had to always make me look horrible. The ghastlier the better. They could not have an HIV character who looked normal—as I did when I arrived at the set. Finally, I had enough and refused to do that anymore.” Michael then immersed himself in theater where he found greater character honesty and truth.

 As gay men captured their identities in the 90s as husbands and fathers, Michael was there too—becoming one of the first gay men to adopt a child.  It is that role, as a father, that Michael has said is his greatest.

Today, Michael has been a driving force behind QueerWise, a multigenerational writing collective and performance group. Through QueerWise, Michael gives poetic voice to talent that would otherwise be voiceless. Its members include published poets, writers of fiction and non-fiction, playwrights, singers, musicians, social activists, dancers, actors artists and teachers. 

This weekend, on Sunday October 17th, QueerWise launches its latest work, The Ache for Home. 

“The Ache for Home is a video presentation of heartfelt stories from formerly homeless/unhoused individuals in and around West Hollywood. It was developed through a mentorship program facilitated by QueerWise members. The production represents citizens-turned-writers who share their inspirational stories from those glamorous streets and sidewalks, ranging from soaring self-acceptance to narratives of truth-telling defeats,” states Michael. The production can be seen on QueerWise’s YouTube Channel starting 5pm October 17.

The Ache for Home features a young cis male with a passion for music and art, who finds joy “when I can put a smile on someone’s face and give back”, a retired mixed race bisexual government worker who is a voracious reader and literacy advocate, two trans males share their experiences of living on the street, and a former resident playwright who was homeless for 44 days and nights in the city. “I am thrilled at our inclusion of transmen in this work,” Michael says. “It is a poorly represented community within a poorly represented community.”

On current controversies with media and transgender targeting, particularly the Dave Chappelle issue, Michael remarks, “I am glad it is generating passion. It is bringing up conversation on the plights of black trans women who are victimized at an alarming rate, we should not say victimized… we should say murdered. I am glad we are shedding light on that.”

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level. The Ache for Home takes its inspiration from the Maya Angelou quote, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Michael Kearns work has always encouraged us to go, and live, “as we are.” He is the amalgamation of eroticism, grief, healing, and appreciating the richness of life itself.

He is the godfather of LGBT+ authenticity. In earlier days, he may have represented sex, he may have walked us through a period of darkness and death into the arms of the creation of the new family. He has now brought us home, and when we look at him, we see a new quality.

Wisdom.

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Rob Watson is the host of RATED LGBT RADIO, a national podcast and he’s one of the founders of the evolequals.com.

A gay dad, business man, community activist and a blogger/writer, Watson is a contributor to the Los Angeles Blade covering entertainment, film, television, and culture with occasional politics tossed in.

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Listen to the show here:

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