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Air Force football player becomes first openly gay service academy player

Bradley Kim is the only out team athlete in the Air Force, Army, Navy or Marines

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Bradley Kim (Photo via Instagram)

Bradley Kim, a defensive back for the Air Force Falcons, has come out as gay making him the first out athlete at a service academy.

According to OutSports, the sophomore came out to his teammates on Friday and received a standing ovation.

“They tell me they appreciate the fact that I felt confident enough, and they meant enough, for me to tell them,” Kim says.

After receiving a positive response from his teammates and head Falcons coach Troy Calhoun, Kim decided to make a public announcement on Instagram.

“I did not think this day would ever come, but I’ve finally reached the point where I am comfortable and confident enough with myself to say that I am gay,” Kim, who plans to serve in the military after graduating, writes. “It’s been a long road to get to this point and I definitely would not be here without the love and support of my amazing family, teammates and coaches here at the academy, and my equally amazing friends. I feel blessed to have such receptive and understanding people in my life.”

“I hope that I can serve as an example to those who are allowing their fear of acceptance to change who they are. I almost gave up my dream of playing division 1 football for fear of not being accepted by everyone, but today I am happy to say that I am a cadet at the Air Force Academy playing the sport I love with amazing people standing behind me and supporting me,” he continued. “If anyone feels like they don’t have a voice or feel like they are alone, just know there are plenty of people out there like you and me, and more that are willing to talk to you about it. God bless all and thank you to everyone who has made me feel comfortable to live my most genuine life.”

Jeremiah 29:11?? God made me this way for a reason. I did not think this day would ever come, but I’ve finally reached the point where I am comfortable and confident enough with myself to say that I am gay. It’s been a long road to get to this point and I definitely would not be here without the love and support of my amazing family, teammates and coaches here at the academy, and my equally amazing friends. I feel blessed to have such receptive and understanding people in my life. I hope that I can serve as an example to those who are allowing their fear of acceptance to change who they are. I almost gave up my dream of playing division 1 football for fear of not being accepted by everyone, but today I am happy to say that I am a cadet at the Air Force Academy playing the sport I love with amazing people standing behind me and supporting me. If anyone feels like they don’t have a voice or feel like they are alone, just know there are plenty of people out there like you and me, and more that are willing to talk to you about it. God bless all and thank you to everyone who has made me feel comfortable to live my most genuine life.?? Twitter/Instagram: @bradleykkim [email protected]

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Kim says he was also inspired to come out because of Conner Mertens, a former Willamette University football player who was the first active college football player to come out.

“The positive reaction Conner got from his team is probably the biggest reason I’m able to come out to my team,” Kim says. “He’s just a genuine person. He’ll reach out just to make sure I’m doing OK. Just the type of person Conner is helped me a lot.”

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Television

PBS ‘Disco’ is a Pride party you don’t want to miss

Rich collection of footage highlighting the music and fashion of the time

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Studio 54 in 1977. (Photo by Bill Bernstein; courtesy BBC Studios)

Anyone who was alive and old enough to listen to the radio in the 1970s knows that disco wasn’t just a genre of music. It was an entire lifestyle, centered around dancing in nightclubs to music that meshed R&B with new electronic sounds and an infectiously up-tempo beat – and at the height of its popularity, it had bled into the entire American culture. Every TV theme or movie soundtrack was flavored with a disco vibe, every musician seeking a comeback recorded a disco record, and every would-be dance dandy dreamed of sporting a pair of “angel flight” slacks to the disco every Saturday night.

If you didn’t live through it yourself, most of what you might know about this era is likely gleaned from its popular culture – the hot radio singles, the popular movies like “Saturday Night Fever,” the kitschy crossovers like “Hooked On Classics” and parodies like “Disco Duck” – after the skyrocketing popularity of the phenomenon had made it a golden ticket for anyone who wanted to capitalize on it. They were crossovers into the homogenizing mainstream, intended to commercialize the disco frenzy for consumers beyond the record stores and nightclubs, which became cultural touchstones, for better or for worse; but because their campy shadows still loom so large, anyone whose understanding of the “disco craze” has been gleaned only from TV or the movies is likely to remember it as a little more than a fun-but-silly footnote in late 20th-century American history.

Fortunately, PBS and BBC Studios have unveiled a new docuseries that sets the record straight – or perhaps we should say it “queers” the record, because it offers a detailed and savvy chronicle that illuminates the ties that bind the story of disco inextricably with an essential chapter of modern queer history, revealing its link to the liberation movement that blossomed in the ‘70s and continues to weave its thread through American society today.

Produced and directed by Louise Lockwood and Shianne Brown, “Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution” – which broadcast its first episode on June 18, and is available for streaming in its entirety for subscribers via the PBS website – charts disco’s origins, success, and demise across a trio of episodes for a comprehensive look at the whirlwind of forces that surrounded and catapulted it into American consciousness. It explores the phenomenon as a vibrant and thrillingly inclusive cultural wave that originated within a blended underground of marginalized communities in New York City, at private loft parties and underground dance clubs, and grew until it had saturated the world. It highlights the sense of empowerment, made tangible in the opportunity and elevation it offered to artists who were queer, female or people of color, and yet it still welcomed anybody who wanted to join the dance with open arms. It was a chance to celebrate, to feel good and have fun after an intense period of social strife in America, which meant it went hand-in-hand with the sexual liberation that was also exploding across society. Most importantly of all, perhaps, it came with a laid-back vibe that gave you permission to let loose in ways that would have shocked your parents; in retrospect, it’s hard to imagine how anybody could resist.

Yet of course, there were people who did; and when the juggernaut that was disco inevitably began to lose steam as a result of its ubiquity and the perceived decadence of its hedonistic lifestyle, it was their voices that emerged to tell us all that “Disco Sucks” – a catch phrase that is perhaps almost as much a cultural touchstone as some of the genre’s biggest hit records.

That’s the broad overview that most people who remember the disco era already know, but “Soundtrack of a Revolution” gets much more granular than that. Much of the enlightening detail is provided, as one might expect, through a rich collection of contemporary footage highlighting the sights and sounds – the people, the parties, the music, the clubs, the fashion – of the time. Counterpoint to that material, however, comes through modern day interviews with key figures who were present for it all, whose memories help connect the dots between the evolution of disco and the societal environment in which it took place.

Of course, most audiences who are drawn to a documentary about disco will likely be coming – at least partly – for the music, and fortunately, this one gives us plenty of that, too. Better still, it gives us deep dives into some of the most iconic tracks of the seventies, not just spotlighting the artists who recorded them, but the DJs and tastemakers whose ideas and innovations built the very sound that fueled it all. Some of these pioneers may be gone, but they are represented via archival footage, and many who are still among us offer up their insider perspectives through candid filmed interviews that are woven throughout the series. There’s a first-person reliability that comes from allowing these participants in the history to tell their own part of it for themselves, and it gives the series an atmosphere of authenticity – not to mention an influx of free-wheeling, colorful personality – that can’t be achieved through the observations and analysis of expert “talking head” commentators. 

It’s these voices that also help to impress upon us the feeling of freedom and acceptance that developed in those early disco clubs, where people from minority cultures could come together and feel safe as they danced to music that came from others like them, and the frustration of watching as it was co-opted by a (mostly white and heterosexual) mainstream and watered down into a pale mockery of itself – something that “killed” disco long before hate-fueled backlash from a racist, misogynistic, homophobic culminated in the infamous anti-disco rally at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, as documented in the series’ final episode.

Yet although it stops short of blaming homophobia and bigotry for the genre’s collapse, “Soundtrack of a Revolution” leaves no doubt of its influence over the environment that surrounded it, nor of the impact of the subsequent AIDS crisis on stopping the advance of queer liberation that was at the heart of the disco movement in its tracks – and in an election year that might make the difference between preserving or dismantling the ideal of Equality in America, the story of disco’s audacious rise and ignoble fall feels like a particularly apt warning message from the past.

Even so, one of the many gifts of the series is that it reveals a continuing creative lineage that, far from being cut off with the “death” of disco, has gone on to evolve and expand into new genres of dance and musical expression. Disco, it seems, never really died; it just went back into the underground where it was born and continued to develop, reinventing itself to meet the taste and match the needs of new generations along the way.

We could all take a lesson from that.

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a&e features

GMCLA’s ‘Solid Gold’ Gala: Honoring LGBTQ+ Champions with Iconic Diva Tributes

“Solid Gold” show will feature tribute to the music of Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and Whitney Houston

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GMCLA's SOLID GOLD, one performance only. Sunday, June 30 at Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles is honoring champions of the LGBTQ+ community and celebrating the music of three iconic divas at its annual gala fundraiser Sunday, June 30 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

Celebrating our history through the music we love

GMCLA’s “Solid Gold” show will feature the music of superstars Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and Whitney Houston, performed by the chorus’s 150 members in front of a live band with dancers. The show will include a special three-song medley joined by stars from the Drag Race universe Priyanka and Latrice Royale.

Immediately after the show, the party will move to GMCLA’s annual Gala Fundraiser, where they’ll honor Senator Alex Padilla and his wife Angela Padilla with their Civic Voice Award, and the HBO series We’re Here with their Artistic Voice Award.

GMCLA will honor Senator Padilla for his decades of work in politics as an advocate for immigrants, community building, the climate crisis, and voting rights. They will honor Angela Padilla for her work on mental health issues through her organization FundaMental Change. GMCLA will recognize We’re Here for shining a light on the impact of anti-LGBTQ legislation on the community in the South.

Alex Padilla, U.S. Senator, California.

“We deeply honor Senator and Mrs. Padilla for joining us at the Gala,” says GMCLA executive director Lou Spisto. “Each of them has dedicated many years of their life’s work to make our region a more vibrant and inclusive place, and to make the lives of all who live here healthier and safer.”

Spisto says the “Solid Gold” show also honors artists who have made an incredible contribution to the community:

“We can hardly imagine music that doesn’t play a significant part in our lives. These great artists span many decades, the 60s, 70s, 80s, into the 90s and of course, Dionne Warwick continues to inspire us today,” he says.

GMCLA performances at Disney Hall are a tradition in LA. (photo courtesy GMCLA)

Powerful choral tribute

For anyone who’s never seen the GMCLA perform, Spisto describes it as an overwhelmingly emotional experience.

“When 150 men sing together, they create a beautiful noise that’s really powerful, and it reaches across the footlights in a way that makes it hard not to feel a connection and an emotion,” he says. “When predominantly men sing love songs to and about men, simply singing those lyrics becomes very powerful, and you won’t experience that anywhere else.”

“We celebrate our community as much as we celebrate music,” he says.

The fundraising Gala supports all the work that the GMCLA does across the community. GMCLA works with the public school system to provide choral programs and empowerment programs in high schools through its Alive Music Program, which has reached more than 85,000 public school students over ten years. The Chorus also performs more than 30 free public shows across the community every year.

Spisto says these programs reflect the GMCLA’s commitment to building up the community.

“GMCLA has changed hearts and minds for 45 years now. GMCLA has participated in the movement to speak about who we are, sing about who we are, and fight for our rights,” he says.

“Things have become easier and we don’t live in the world of 1979, and it certainly differs from the world we faced when AIDS devastated our community. But we still face tough times, and we still need voices like this chorus to stand up for the Greater Community.”

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles: Solid Gold and Gala Fundraiser will take place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and Ballroom, 300 E Green St, Pasadena, CA, Sun June 30, 3pm. You can purchase tickets at https://www.gmcla.org/

GMCLA’s Ongoing Mission

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles: Solid Gold and Gala Fundraiser take place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and Ballroom, 300 E Green St, Pasadena, CA, Sun June 30, 3pm. Tickets at https://www.gmcla.org/

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Arts & Entertainment

Netflix’s ‘Outstanding’ Documentary Reveals Queer Comedy Icons’ Impact on LGBTQ+ Rights

How Queer Comics Broke Barriers & Sparked a Comedy Revolution

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Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution. (L to R) Trixie Mattel, Scott Thompson and Margaret Cho from Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution. Credit: Courtesy of Netflix/© 2024 Netflix, Inc.

A Landmark in LGBTQ+ Entertainment

To say that the world of stand-up comedy has a long history of homophobia would be putting it mildly. Netflix’s new documentary “Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution” takes viewers on a journey through this complex history, highlighting both progress and ongoing challenges.

From Taboo to Triumph

Any queer person who has lived long enough to remember when Sandra Bernhard openly flirted with Madonna on “Late Night With David Letterman” — a deliciously transgressive pop culture moment remembered fondly in “Outstanding” — can also certainly recall the horrific anti-queer bigotry spouted by comics during the same era, just to get a laugh.

Filmmaker Page Hurwitz captures these moments, offering younger viewers a stark look at the past and a celebration of queer progress in entertainment. The film, shot over two years ago at “Stand Out,” a landmark performance at LA’s Greek Theatre, is now streaming on Netflix.

A Star-Studded Celebration

“Outstanding” features an impressive lineup of LGBTQ+ comedy icons, including Lily Tomlin, Sandra Bernhard, Wanda Sykes, Eddie Izzard, Rosie O’Donnell, Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Todd Glass, Hannah Gadsby, Scott Thompson, Judy Gold, Bob The Drag Queen, and Joel Kim Booster. These performers have been instrumental in forging a new comedy landscape where queer comics can authentically share their experiences.

While the film celebrates progress, it also acknowledges ongoing challenges, calling out figures like Dave Chappelle for perpetuating harmful attitudes. However, the focus remains on the empowerment of queer voices in comedy.

More Than Just Laughs: A Cultural Shift

“Outstanding” is not merely a record of performances. It’s a sweeping look at the history of queer repression in American entertainment culture and the impact of LGBTQ+ comedians in changing societal attitudes. The documentary gives members of the queer community a chance to feel seen and represented.

Hurwitz builds her chronicle by letting the comics tell their own stories. Extensive interviews feature stars, commentators, writers, and scholars recalling their experiences growing up queer and seeing how LGBTQ+ people were portrayed in mainstream culture. These narratives are supplemented with clips from television and film, news footage, and performance excerpts that provide context for the rise of queer-centric comedy.

‘Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution’ TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

From Coded Characters to Out and Proud

The film traces the evolution of LGBTQ+ representation in comedy:

  1. Pre-Stonewall era: Coded characters like Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Rip Taylor
  2. 1970s: Comedians like Lily Tomlin, Robin Tyler, and Pat Harrison pushing boundaries
  3. AIDS era: Activist comedians like Sandra Bernhard, Scott Thompson, and Margaret Cho using humor to combat backlash
  4. Modern day: A diverse generation including Eddie Izzard, Wanda Sykes, Hannah Gadsby, Bob the Drag Queen, and Joel Kim Booster

Spotlight on Unsung Heroes

“Outstanding” elevates lesser-known trailblazers, particularly Robin Tyler. After becoming the first queer comic to come out publicly on national television in 1978, Tyler faced career setbacks but became a pivotal figure in LGBTQ+ rights activism.

Tyler organized and produced the first three national marches on Washington for LGBTQ+ rights, including the 1987 “mock wedding” of hundreds of queer couples — the largest act of civil disobedience by queer protesters in U.S. history. Her legacy as a queer activist warrior was firmly cemented when, alongside partner Diane Olsen, she filed the first lawsuit against California for the right to be married, leading to a seven-year legal battle that helped pave the way for nationwide marriage equality.

The Power of Visibility

Speaking to the Los Angeles Blade, Tyler reflected on her journey: “The best thing that happened to us is that we didn’t get picked up, because then we could go and be free. It takes your life away, having to live a lie. We gained our freedom and lost nothing.”

This sentiment encapsulates the documentary’s central message: without being visible, we are powerless — which is why the forces against us are so fixated on erasing us from view.

A Celebration of Community and Progress

“Outstanding” not only makes us laugh but also showcases the camaraderie among these comedic revolutionaries. United by their refusal to stay “inside the lines” drawn by a bullying profession or an intolerant culture, these performers have achieved a shared victory that extends beyond individual success to the entire queer community.

The palpable sense of camaraderie among these comedic revolutionaries — for, true to its title, Hurwitz’s documentary makes it clear that they were and are exactly that — helps to underscore the feeling that their biggest victory is a shared one, which eclipses their individual success and extends to the entire queer community.

Why “Outstanding” Matters

This Netflix documentary is more than just entertainment; it’s a vital piece of LGBTQ+ history. By illuminating the inside forces of queer comedy across the years, it offers both a celebration of progress and a reminder of the ongoing fight for equality.

A Must-Watch for Pride and Beyond

“Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution” is essential viewing for Pride Month and anyone interested in the intersection of comedy, LGBTQ+ rights, and cultural change.

It’s a testament to the power of laughter in driving social progress and a victory lap for the entire queer community. It feels like our victory lap, too.

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Arts & Entertainment

Abbey launches new era with star-studded party

Cher, Ricky Martin, Jean Smart among celebs spotted at the Weho club’s relaunch party

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Music icon Cher poses with Abbey owner and Mistr CEO Tristan Schukraft at the Abbey's relaunch party in West Hollywood June 20.

WEST HOLLYWOOD — It was a star-studded affair at the Abbey Nightclub Thursday night, as a veritable who’s who of West Hollywood showed up to kick off the gay club’s new era, including icons Cher, Ricky Martin, Jean Smart and Bianca Del Rio.

The Abbey was bought last year by Tristan Schukraft, the “CEO of Everything Gay” who’s behind the Mistr pharmacy, the Tryst Hotels and Circo nightclub in Puerto Rico, and who claims to own 75% of the commercial strip on Fire Island.

Musician Saweetie (centre) with Rocco’s owner Lance Bass (right)

Schukraft says he plans to maintain the Abbey’s reputation as a home and flagship nightclub for the LGBTQ community in Los Angeles and beyond.

“I’m going to add my own personal touches to it. I’m going to bring in some new DJs, mix in some new talent, keep it fresh,” Schukraft says. “We’re going to do some new once-monthly events, a new night on Thursday nights at the chapel, expand the dance floor, but at its core, we’re going to keep the Abbey what it is, and that’s the most popular gay bar in the world.”

Revelers were treated to a surprise appearance by Cher, who told the crowd about her lifelong appreciation of the gay community, while servers passed out bowls of her Cher-lato gelato.

“The first gay guys I ever met, I was 9 years old … and I remember saying to my mom, ‘Where have you been hiding these guys? Who are these guys, and why aren’t the other guys as fun as these guys?'” Cher said. “I’ve had ups and downs in my career and you guys have never left me.”

The Abbey has been an important home for people across the LGBTQ spectrum, says actress and singer Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, best known as the star of the FX series “Pose.”

Musician and actor Ricky Martin strikes a pose.

“I’ve always felt safe and comfortable here. That’s the reason it’s always felt special to me,” she says. “What would a world be if there wasn’t a place for us to congregate and have communal togetherness?”

Lance Bass, the former NSYNC popstar who now owns Rocco’s nightclub across the street from the Abbey, was also among the revelers Thursday night. Though the clubs are competitors, he says the Abbey is a special place to him and describes former owner David Cooley as one of his best friends.

“This is the place I came to when I wanted to come out. This has always been my safe space,” Bass says. “My favorite memory was years ago meeting Liz Taylor right there in front of the fireplace, and it was amazing.”

Other stars spotted at the party included recording artist and actor Ricky Martin, star of HBO’s “Hacks” Jean Smart, drag icons Bianca Del Rio and Manila Luzon, musician Saweetie, comedian Bruce Vilanch and “Glamorous” star Graham Parkhurst.

For Abbey founder David Cooley, the party was an opportunity to celebrate his 33 years of running the club and a handoff to a successor who will continue his legacy.

He had a few words of advice for Schukraft as he launches the Abbey’s new era.

“When people say no or you can’t make money, push forward. Follow your dreams,” Cooley says.

Schukraft, still in awe of his recent acquisition, reflects on the responsibility and opportunity ahead.

“I never thought in a million years I was going to own the Abbey. When you’re here, it’s still so surreal,” Schukraft says. “The Abbey is iconic and so important to the gay community, and Fire Island is deeply as such. These opportunities come about and you have to take advantage of them when they’re there.”

Bianca Del Rio and Jean Smart strike a pose.

Manilla Luzon.

Michaela Jaé Rodriguez

Saweetie

Bruce Vilanch

Graham Parkhurst, Glamorous.

Jean Smart.

Photos by Rob Solerno for Los Angeles Blade

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Events

WeHo is co-sponsoring 1st ever Inglewood Pride Festival, June 22

The pride event, co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood, will offer live entertainment, DJ sets, and free food

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Graphic: Creative House Gallery/WeHo Times

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood is co-sponsoring the first annual Inglewood Pride Festival in the City of Inglewood on Saturday, June 22, 2024. Events are set to take place at the Creative House Gallery at 122 N Market Street and outdoors in the Historic Market Street Shopping District.

The pride event, co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood, will offer live entertainment, DJ sets, and free food. An RSVP was required and has already sold out.

Inglewood Pride Festival 2024 will be an indoor/outdoor event with plenty of options to captivate and educate the community. Booths will provide resources to the LGBTQ+ community, and there will be a wide range of sponsor vendors. The festival offers free food, free entry, and a family-friendly environment.

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health will also be on hand to provide mpox vaccinations and offer information and resources on various health concerns, including COVID-19 vaccines.

The event schedule is as follows:

GALLERY SECTION
12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Guest Red Carpet Photos
$50 Grocery Gift for Best Dressed

CABANA SECTION
12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
DJ TLA Storm
70s, 80s, 90s R&B/Soul/Deep

GALLERY
2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
County of Los Angeles Presentation (Cholesterol)
Roberto Luno, Emergency Preparedness; Public Health Nurse, Einique Forris, Health Educator

CABANA
3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Di P-Nasty
Hip-Hop/R&B/Latin; Dance Contest

CABANA
6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Artist Performances

To learn more about this event, visit:
Inglewood Pride Festival

The Creative House Non-Profit:

The Creative House Gallery is a non-profit art gallery with a goal of helping the community transition, survive, develop, and thrive through art access and art education.

The Creative House Gallery is committed to enhancing the quality of life through artistic programming that serves all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, and economic statuses, with an emphasis on marginalized, underserved, and underrepresented persons.

The Market Street Shopping District:

Since Inglewood’s founding in 1908, Market Street has served as the central shopping district. When automobiles came to Market Street in the 1920s, sidewalks were installed to serve pedestrians. In 1927, the chain store S.H. Kress was built at 233 S. Market Street with a signature architectural style. J.C. Penney moved to 139 S. Market Street in 1940.

The late 1960s brought city and county facilities just south of Market Street. During the 1990s, a rehabilitation of Market Street brought street trees and new tenants. Today’s Market Street district has art galleries, bookstores, the Inglewood Senior Center, and the light rail Florence Boulevard station.

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist. Murillo began his professional writing career as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! newspaper. His work has appea

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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Online/Digital Streaming Media

Amazon Prime’s series ‘The Boys’ gets fascism

If the series points to what’s happening now in the world feels too blunt, perhaps it’s because it’s the blindingly obvious

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Images courtesy of Amazon Prime Videos

FAIRFAX, Va. – Perhaps nothing else in media gets the nature of modern fascism better than Season 4 of the Boys.  For those who haven’t seen it, this Amazon Prime show is a gory, dark drama/comedy series about a world where superheroes are real, managed (fairly poorly) by a mega-corporation, and who are–for the most part–entirely awful human beings whose absolute power has corrupted them absolutely.

When the first season aired in 2019, its best moments were linked to events in the real world. Season 2 built on this, exploring how a world with actual Nietzschean supermen could devolve into fascism and fascist ideology.

Seasons 2 and 3’s primary antagonist superheroes were Homelander (imagine a Superman raised by white supremacists) and Stormfront (an actual German Nazi from WWII who was brought back from cryogenic stasis). The show’s reflection of the evils of the real world became more and more direct as the seasons progressed, but there was still a bit of a distance from reality. It was easy to treat Stormfront as something altogether different from modern Americans. A viewer could still see the evil character as a cartoonish relic from another country in a bygone age.

Season 4 of The Boys, however, has dispensed with even the pretense that it isn’t talking directly to the situation in the U.S. today. It asks the question, “what if Fascism came to America, and half the public really, really liked it?” 

While some critics have panned the new season for its overly blunt analogies, they do reflect real life rather than science fiction. Our country is now seeing serious proposals that would normally be red flags.

We have politicians supporting things like the mass arrests of political opponents; open discussions of seizing power for generations; the institution of a state religion; the eradication of transgender people; the execution the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for treason; and dispensing with the constitution. And yet, just like in the Boys, many people don’t see these ideas as a threat. In fact, some actively welcome them.

While I was watching the new season, I was struck by how many times I found myself ticking off things that I wrote about in my book, American Fascism, and in Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.

The show fundamentally gets that, at its core, fascism is indeed the politics of us and them. Fascism frames everything as a fight between the good, pure herrenvolk against the atheistic, hedonistic profligates destroying the country; as a battle between the real Americans versus those who would destroy them.

At every opportunity, The Boys reminds viewers that corporations, the media, politicians, celebrities, and commentators will all ruthlessly exploit this for their own ends, even if many of them aren’t buying what they’re selling. 

The show acknowledges this directly. Season 4’s new superhero villain is Firecracker, who’s basically a young and pretty female version of Alex Jones. She admits that she doesn’t actually believe the culture war conspiracy-theory baloney she peddles. It is transactional: her viewers get to feel outraged and powerful, and she gets the power.

Almost everyone in this fascist ecosystem is spouting vranyo, a Russian word which loosely translates as “useful lies that most people know are lies”, and the villains are fine with that. The outrage bait, and the rubes who do believe the vranyo, give them that power.

While watching Season 4’s first three episodes, I was often surprised by the writers’ familiarity with, and understanding of, fascism’s less obvious aspects. In one episode the megacorp Vought puts on an Ice Capades-style show whose theme is that saying “happy holidays” is a war on Christmas and Christians…but does so in a smiley-happy upbeat way, complete with music in a major key.

This is a classic example of the phenomenon described in Hacker and Pierson’s book, “Let Them Eat Tweets,” where corporations exploit cultural grievances to build political movements friendly toward their own bottom line. The book draws a direct line between right wing populist movements and the corporations using them as a vehicle to put politicians in place who will ensure the government takes a very hands-off approach to their shenanigans (and profits). 

The show’s writers get the difference between istina (the real truth), pravda (the truth we create), and vranyo.  They fundamentally understand how news outlets can create pravda with the “firehose of falsehood” model.  The news media in The Boys is 100% on board with fascism, with some of the parody hardly being parody at all.

When three pro-superhero dupes are murdered (by superheroes), the corporate-controlled media in the show blames it on “socialists”, while elevating the deceased to martyrdom. It’s not hard to see shades of Horst Wessell in this. 

The Boys also understands that “us versus them” fascism requires an enemy, ideally “enemies [who] are at the same time too strong and too weak,” as Umberto Eco wrote in his essay on Ur-Fascism. He was referring to Jewish people when he wrote it in 1995; but in Season 4 of the The Boys, the writers correctly identified the .5% of the population in the US that meets Eco’s criteria for targeting by fascism: transgender people.

As Eco noted, “Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders.”

When we meet Firecracker at a convention for conspiracy theorists, she tells her gullible and adoring audience that Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey are operating a secret child trafficking ring that will home-deliver “a child forced to have trans surgery.”

Later, when Homelander is whipping up a crowd, he tells them that “They want to replace you with some Godless, non-binary socialist like them. Their depraved leader commands it.” He next tells the crowd that “we are the defenders of real Americans.” 

After the rally, Fircracker tells reporters, “”If she (a protagonist) really cares about women, why does she let these transgenders into girls’ bathrooms?” The Boys is perhaps the only mass market media to have correctly recognized that fascist movements globally have zeroed in on transgender people as their primary target.

The pairing of superheroes and fascism is a natural one, too. Eco noted that, “in [fascism] everybody is educated to become a hero. In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology heroism is the norm.” It’s almost certainly not a coincidence that completely amoral, vain, petty, narcissistic, thin-skinned,  fascist Homelander repeatedly tells his audiences of adoring fans, “You’re the real heroes,” without believing a word of it.

Homelander sees people as “toys” who exist only to boost him to his rightful place as ruler. Umberto Eco perfectly captured Homelander’s attitude towards people: “the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler.” At the same time, the masses who support Homelander and his aspirations believe that they are the best sort of “real Americans.” Or, as Eco put it, “the members or the party are the best among the citizens.”

Even the gory, blood-soaked tone of the series captures an important element of fascism. In Robert Paxton’s 2005 book The Anatomy of Fascism, he describes how a key characteristic of fascism is the beauty of violence when dedicated to the group’s success. Fascism glorifies this violence and disdains existing legal restrictions on their exercise.

In Season 4, the baddies deliberately amp up tensions and hostility to spur their supporters to even more violent acts directed against the opponents of superheroes. All the while the mob is dressed in red, white, and blue.

The Boys explores a world where the Nietzschean supermen are free to use unspeakable levels of violence for petty personal reasons and in pursuit of power, without repercussions.  It directly answers the question of what could happen if a leader with the personality of Homelander legally had the right murder anyone they wanted on a whim. Unsurprisingly it’s a dystopian bloodbath, with Homelander keeping those around him in line with violence and extreme levels of intimidation.

The more I watched, the more it became abundantly clear that the writers of The Boys get fascism at a fundamental level. Whether they have read Hacker, Pierson, Stanley, Eco, Paxton, or even me (I apologize if they did), I don’t know. Regardless, they capture so many of the crucial underlying aspects of a fascist movement.

If the show’s analogies to what’s happening now in the real world feel too blunt, perhaps it’s because they’re merely pointing out the blindingly obvious.

Season Four of The Boys is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

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TONY Awards

Queers clean up at 77th annual Tony Awards

It was a banner night for queer theatre artists at the 77th annual Tony Awards, honoring the best in Broadway theatre at the Lincoln Centre

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(Photo Credit: Tony Awards/Facebook)

NEW YORK – It was a banner night for queer theatre artists at the 77th annual Tony Awards, honoring the best in Broadway theatre at the Lincoln Centre in New York June 16. Some of the biggest honors of the night went to the revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along and the dance-musical based on Sufjan Stephens’ album Illinoise.

Merrily We Roll Along, which follows three friends as their lives change over the course of 20 years, told in reverse chronological order, picked up the awards for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Orchestrations. 

Out actor Jonathan Groff picked up his first Tony Award for his leading role as Franklin Shepard in the show, while his costar Daniel Radcliffe earned his first Tony Award for featured performance as Charley Kringas. 

Groff gave a heartfelt and teary acceptance speech about how he used to watch the Tony Awards as a child in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

“Thank you for letting me dress up like Mary Poppins when I was three,” he said to his parents in the audience. “Even if they didn’t understand me, my family knew the life-saving power of fanning the flame of a young person’s passions without judgment.”

Groff also thanked the everyone in the production of Spring Awakening, where he made his Broadway debut in 2006, for inspiring him to come out at the age of 23.

“To actually be able to be a part of making theatre in this city, and just as much to be able to watch the work of this incredible community has been the greatest pleasure of my life,” he said. 

This was Groff’s third Tony nomination, having been previously nominated for his leading role in Spring Awakening and for his featured performance as King George III in Hamilton. 

Radcliffe, who is best known for starring in the Harry Potter series of movies, has long been an ally of the LGBTQ community, and has recently been known to spar with Harry Potter creator JK Rowling over her extreme opposition to trans rights on social media and in interviews. It was Radcliffe’s first Tony nomination and win.

Lesbian icon Sarah Paulson won her first Tony Award for her starring role in the play Appropriate, about a family coming to terms with the legacy of their slave-owning ancestors as they attempt to sell their late father’s estate. It was her first nomination and win.

In her acceptance speech, she thanked her partner Holland Taylor “for loving me.” Along with Paulson’s Emmy win for American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, she is halfway to EGOT status.

The Sufjan Stephens dance-musical Illinoise, based on his album of the same name, took home the award for Best Choreography for choreographer Justin Peck. It was his second win.

During the ceremony, the cast of Illinoise performed “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!”, a moving dance number about a queer romance.

A big winner of the night was the adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel The Outsiders, which dominated the musical categories, earning Best Director, Sound Design, Lighting Design, and Best Musical, which earned LGBTQ ally Angelina Jolie her first Tony Award.

Also a big winner was Stereophonic, which dominated the play categories, winning the awards for Best Play, Featured Actor, Director, Sound Design, and Scenic Design.

Suffs, a musical about the fight for women’s suffrage in the United States, which acknowledges the lesbian relationship that suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt had in song called “If We Were Married,” took home awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score, both for creator Shaina Taub. 

Had Suffs also won for Best Musical, producers Hilary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai would have won their first Tony Awards. 

Other winners include Maleah Joi Moon for her lead role and Kecia Lewis for her featured role in the Alicia Keys musical Hell’s Kitchen, Jeremy Strong for his lead role in An Enemy of the People, and Kara Young for her featured role in Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.

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Notables

Beloved LGBTQ+ philanthropist Bruce Bastian dies at 76

Bastian co-created a word-processing program which later became WordPerfect as a graduate student at Brigham Young University

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Bruce Bastian (Screen capture via Mormon Stories Podcast YouTube)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Bruce Bastian, a successful Utah businessman and pioneering computer software developer who co-founded the word processing company WordPerfect before becoming a beloved philanthropist who donated millions of dollars to LGBTQ rights causes and the performing arts, passed away on June 16, according to an announcement by the LGBTQ organization Equality Utah.

“No individual has had a greater impact on the lives of LGBTQ Utahns,” Fox 13 TV News of Salt Lake City quoted Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams as saying. “Every success our community has achieved over the past three decades can be traced directly back to Bruce,” Williams was quoted as saying. 

Fox 13 reported that Bastian co-created a word-processing program which later became WordPerfect as a graduate student at Brigham Young University with co-founder Alan Ashton, who was a Brigham Young computer science professor. The two developed the software under contract with the city of Orem, Utah, but they retained ownership of it, according to Fox 13.

“Bruce was definitely a legend, running one of the most successful companies, and an out and proud gay individual,” his friend David Parkinson said in a 2022 interview with Equality Utah, Fox 13 reports. “Not only does he give his money, but he gives his time, he gives his connections, he gives his knowledge, to help change Utah,” Parkinson told Equality Utah, of which Bastian was a founding member.

Fox 13 reports that among the organizations to which Bastian was a generous supporter and financial donor were the Utah AIDS Foundation, Utah’s Plan-B Theatre, the Utah Symphony and Opera and Ballet West, and the University of Utah.

A Wikipedia article on Bastian’s life and career says that in 2003, he donated more than $1 million to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization. It says he donated $1.7 million in 1997 for the renovation of the University of Utah’s Kingsbury Hall in 2000 donated $1.3 million to support the university’s purchase of 55 Steinway pianos. The article says he also supported the university’s LGBTQ Resource Center on campus.

Both Fox 13 and Wikipedia report that in 2010 President Barack Obama appointed Bastian to the Presidential Advisory Committee of the Arts.  

Wikipedia, citing the OUTWORDS archive, reports that Bastian was born March 23, 1948, in Twin Falls, Idaho, was raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and served as a missionary in Italy. It says he received a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s degree in computer science from Brigham Young University. As an undergraduate, he served as director of the university’s Cougar Marching Band, the article says. 

It says Bastian married Melanie Laycock in 1976 and the couple had four sons before they divorced in 1993. It says Bastian later married Clint Ford. 

“Bruce’s impact reached far beyond Utah, as a leading supporter of the national marriage equality movement, and a major benefactor and board member of the Human Rights Campaign,” the Equality Utah statement says, as reported by Fox 13. “He has been a rock and pillar for all of us,” the statement continues. 

“Our community owes more to Bruce than we can possibly express,” it says. “We send our love, gratitude and condolences to Bruce’s wonderful husband Clint, and his friends and children.”

In a statement released on Monday, HRC said Bastian joined the HRC board in 2003. It says the following year he joined fellow HRC board member Julie Johnson to serve as co-chair of “the board’s successful effort to help defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment, a proposed amendment to the constitution that would have specified marriage as legal only between a man and a woman.” 

The HRC statement says Bastian passed away peacefully “surrounded by his four sons, his husband, Clint Ford, and friends and other family members.” The HRC and Equality Utah statements did not disclose a cause of death. 

“We are devastated to hear of the passing of Bruce Bastian, whose legacy will have an undeniably profound impact on the LGBTQ+ community for decades to come,” said HRC President Kelley Robinson in the HRC statement. “Bruce was in this fight, working at every level of politics and advocacy, for over here decades,” Robinson said. 

“He traveled all across this country on HRC’s behalf and worked tirelessly to help build an inclusive organization where more people could be a part of this work,” she said. ‘Bruce stood up for every one of us and uplifted the beautiful diversity of our community,” Robinson said. “It’s the kind of legacy we should all be proud to propel forward.”

The HRC statement says that in addition to his four sons, Bastian is survived by 14 grandchildren, two sisters, a brother, and numerous other extended family members. 

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Notables

Pete & Chasten Buttigieg on fatherhood

He’s a Harvard grad, Navy veteran, Mayor of South Bend, Ind. & Secretary of Transportation, but Pete Buttigieg has another title: Papa

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Pete and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, raise their two-year old twins, Penelope and Gus, in Traverse City, Michigan, where they recently moved full-time from Washington to be closer to family. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS Sunday Morning)

By Jonathan Vigliotti | (CBS Sunday Morning) TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – When it comes to handling a pair of toddlers, Pete Buttigieg, the unflappable Secretary of Transportation, may appear a little jet-lagged. Pete and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, raise their two-year old twins, Penelope and Gus, in Traverse City, Michigan, where they recently moved full-time from Washington to be closer to family.

The kids call Pete “Papa,” and Chasten “Daddy.”

He’s a Harvard grad, Rhodes scholar, Navy veteran, Mayor of South Bend, Ind., presidential candidate, and Secretary of Transportation, but Pete Buttigieg has another title: Papa. He and husband Chasten Buttigieg share with correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti their journey to parenting twins Penelope and Gus.

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Online/Digital Streaming Media

‘Making Gay History’: Podcast remembers Stonewall 55 years later 

One New Yorker is making sure that the events leading up to one of the most pivotal points of gay and American history are remembered

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Screenshot/'Making Gay History' website

By Gus Rosendale | NEW YORK, N.Y. (NBC 4 New York) – This month is the 55th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and one New Yorker is making sure that the events leading up to one of the most pivotal points of gay and American history are remembered through a podcast called “Making Gay History”. 

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Editor’s Note: Making Gay History is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that addresses the absence of substantive, in-depth LGBTQ+-inclusive American history from the public discourse and the classroom. To learn more go here: (Link)

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