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23 years of Billy Masters

Aretha contrarian, sex in the rectory, Armie, P-town and David Drake’s junk

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Provincetown Playhouse’s David Drake bares it all for his art. (Photo by Tim Atkinson, courtesy David Drake)

“All of my best friends are gay.  I support the community.  I love the community.  They love me.  That has nothing to do with this.” — Kim Kardashian speaks out about possibly accusing Tyson Beckford of being gay after he criticized a photo of her booty.  Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

Nobody ever questioned Aretha Franklin’s talent — certainly in its prime, it was beyond reproach.  But one rarely heard of a fun-loving Aretha who loved people.  She wasn’t that kinda diva.  It takes a special skill to come off badly in your own autobiography, but Auntie Ree did it in “Aretha: From These Roots.” 

As with everything, she lived on her own terms.  PETA didn’t like that she wore furs?  She started wearing them onstage.  People criticized her weight?  She wore dresses with spaghetti straps (which must have been made of airplane wire).  A personal shopper informed her that purple was the only color that didn’t suit her?  She showed up at the next concert in purple.  People gossiped about her skipping Whitney’s funeral?  She sent a largely incoherent and endless fax to the press saying nothing that defended herself and fueled a feud with Dionne.  She was always Aretha — spaghetti-strap, fur-wearing, purple, petty Aretha.  But when she strolled onstage and plopped her purse on the piano (she reportedly didn’t trust anyone backstage), it was magic.  The queen is dead — long live the queen.

Did you hear about the latest church sex scandal? 

For several years, the Pennsylvania Attorney General has been investigating six Catholic Church dioceses in the state.  According to the 900-page court document, over 300 priests have been accused of sexually assaulting and grooming children in their parishes. The ringleaders are alleged to have been a “gang of four priests” who worked together.  The report claims that when a priest found a boy he felt was, um, “compliant,” he would give him a gold cross to wear around his neck.  “The crosses were markings of which boys had been groomed for abuse,” says Attorney General Josh Shapiro.  “One boy was forced to stand on a bed in a rectory, strip naked, and pose as Christ on the cross for the priests.”  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times — nothing good happens in the rectory.

As you probably know, churches are non-profit organizations and are typically granted tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.  Last week, the IRS granted such an exemption to a new church called the Pussy Church of Modern Witchcraft!  The group claims that they “come together to form a congregation of adherents to our female born, lesbian-feminist-based religion beliefs and traditions.”

That all sounds fine and dandy, but the group that formed this “church” is the Transgender Exclusionary Radical Feminists!  And it’s exactly what you think it is — and kudos to them for not trying to hide their bigotry.  “Males are not permitted to participate, regardless of how they identify.”  This sounds like it could be a plot point on the new “Charmed” series — coming soon to The CW.

The good news — Disney’s first openly gay character appears in the upcoming live-action film, “The Jungle Cruise.” The bad news — the guy playing the gay character is straight.  The upshot — people are pissed.  Because apparently acting is no longer “acting.”  Only Jews can play Jews, lesbians can play lesbians, etc.  It was not long ago that gay actors bemoaned the opportunities to play straight parts.  “I’m an actor – I can play any role,” they’d say in frustration.  I do hope they all remember this when the only roles available to them are the gay best friend.

Armie Hammer is appearing in the Broadway play “Straight White Men” alongside trans performer Kate Bornstein.  At one of the preview performances, Kate began the play with the opening line — “Good evening ladies, gentlemen, and the rest of us.”  Well, this was too much for one woman in the audience, who exclaimed, “You’re not welcome here!”  It is reported that the woman and her husband frequently interrupted the play by booing. 

Armie later tweeted, “To the woman in our audience who felt it was appropriate to yell, ‘You’re not welcome here!’ at Kate Bornstein, our beloved friend, co-worker, and now family member…feel free never to come back.” 

This led to another audience member tweeting back that she sat behind the woman and her husband.  Armie asked for the specific seat number, which the lady provided.  It still begs the question — if audience members are being disruptive, why aren’t they dealt with by the theater right then and there?

Last week was the 40th annual Carnival celebration in Provincetown. 

To commemorate the event, they had 40 Grand marshals.  One of the honorees was the beloved Bruce Vilanch, which was fortuitous since he happened to be in town to perform two shows at The Crown & Anchor.  We recently did a Queery Q&A with Vilanch for the Los Angeles Blade, which you can read online.

Another honoree was David Drake, the new artistic director of the Provincetown Theater.  He also directed and stars in the theater company’s current offering, Terrence McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!,”which runs through August 30th.  If you don’t know the play, the entire cast is nude at various points.  As luck would have it, some footage from the show has fallen into our hot little hands.  If I’m not mistaken, this will provide the first public viewing of the fabled Drake Dick.  And it’s just as big as you heard, as you’ll see on BillyMasters.com.

When we’re showcasing Drake’s snake, it’s definitely time to end yet another column.  But we do have one more important thing to say — Happy Anniversary to ME!  Yes, way, WAY back in August of 1995, I was cajoled into writing my first column.  And now, 23 years later, week in and week out, we’re still here.  As they used to say in those ads that no longer run on television, “You’ve come a long way, baby!”  In fact, we’ve come all the way to our own website -— BillyMasters.com — the site where you’ll be coming before too long.  If you want to send me a question (or an anniversary greeting) you can write to [email protected] and I promise to get back to you before I celebrate my Silver Jubilee!  Until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.

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Movies

Celebrate Judy Garland’s centennial by watching her movies

The dazzling force of nature made 34 films

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‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ is one of Judy Garland’s iconic film roles.

When the world ends, aficionados will still be watching their favorite Judy Garland movies.

Queer icon Garland was born 100 years ago this year (on June 10, 1922).

Everyone knows how tragic much of Garland’s life was. MGM feeding her uppers and downers when she was a child. Bad luck with husbands. Getting fired from movies because of her addiction issues. Her death at age 47.

You can’t deny that Garland’s life was often a mess. Yet, it’s too easy to encase Garland into a box of victimhood.

Contrary to the misperception of her as a sad figure, Garland wasn’t a morbid person. She was a fabulous comedian and clown, John Fricke, author of “The Wonderful World of Oz: An Illustrated History of the American Classic,” told the Blade in 2019. Lucille Ball said Garland was the funniest woman in Hollywood, Fricke said. “‘She made me look like a mortician,’ Lucy said,” he added.

In the midst of the sentimentality and morbidity shrouding her legacy, you can readily forget Garland’s prodigious talent and productivity.

Garland was a consummate, multi-faceted, out-of-this-world talented performer. She (deservedly) received more awards than most performers would even dream of: two Grammy Awards for her album “Judy at Carnegie Hall,” a special Tony for her long-running concert at the Palace Theatre and a special Academy Juvenile Award. Garland was nominated for an Emmy for her TV series “The Judy Garland Show” and for Best Supporting Oscar for her performance in “Judgment at Nuremberg.”

Garland, a dazzling, force of nature on screen, made 34 films. There’s no better way to celebrate Garland’s centennial than to watch her movies.

Garland was renowned for connecting so intimately with audiences when she sang. She’s remembered for her legendary musicals — from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Meet Me in St. Louis” to “A Star is Born.”

But if you watch, or re-watch, her movies, you’ll see that Garland wasn’t just a singer who sang songs, and sometimes danced, in production numbers in movie musicals.

Garland was a talented actor. She wasn’t appearing on screen as herself – Judy Garland singing to her fans.

Whether she’s tearing at your heartstrings as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” performing brilliant physical comedy with Gene Kelly in the “The Pirate,” breaking your heart with “The Man that Got Away” in “A Star is Born” or unrecognizable as Irene Hoffmann in “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Garland is acting. Her performance etches these characters onto your DNA.

Picking Garland’s best movies is like deciding which five of your 20 puppies should go on an outing. But, if you’re cast away on a desert island, take these Garland movies with you:

“Meet Me in St. Louis”: This luminous 1944 musical, directed by Vincente Minnelli, has it all: Garland in top form, the Trolley song, Margaret O’Brien, along with a stellar cast, and the best Christmas song ever.

“The Clock”: This 1945 movie, also directed by Minnelli, showcases Garland as a gifted dramatic actress. Shot in stunning black-and-white near the end of World-War II, the movie is the story, set in New York City, of a young woman (Garland) and a soldier on leave (Robert Walker) who fall in love.

“Easter Parade”: Sure, this 1948 picture, directed by Charles Walters, is thought of as a light musical by some. But, who cares? It’s in Technicolor, and Judy’s in peak form – dancing with Fred Astaire.

“A Star is Born”: If you don’t know the story of this 1954 film, directed by George Cukor, starring Garland and James Mason, you’re not a member of queer nation. There have been other versions of “A Star is Born,” some quite good, but this is still the best. Garland should have gotten an Oscar for this one.

“Judgment at Nuremberg”: This 1961 film, directed by Stanley Kramer, will never be a date night movie. It’s long (3 hours, 6 minutes), grim (about Nazi crimes) and Garland is only in it for about seven minutes. But the story is gripping and Garland’s performance is mesmerizing. When you watch her as Irene, you won’t be thinking that’s Judy Garland.

Happy centennial, Judy! 

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Books

New ACT UP book is part history, part memoir

‘Boy with the Bullhorn’ chronicles hard work, grief, anger

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(Book cover image courtesy of Fordham University Press)

‘Boy with the Bullhorn: A Memoir and History of ACT UP New York’ 
By Ron Goldberg
c.2022/ Fordham University Press
$36.95/512 pages

The sign above your head shows what’s going on inside.

Last night, you made the sign with a slogan, firm words, a poke to authority – and now you carry it high, yelling, marching, demanding that someone pay attention. Now. Urgently. As in the new book, “Boy with the Bullhorn” by Ron Goldberg, change is a-coming.

He’d never done anything like it before.

But how could he not get involved? Ron Goldberg had read something about ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, and he heard they were holding a rally near his workplace. It was 1987, he’d never participated in anything like that before, but whispers were everywhere. He and his friends were “living under a pervasive cloud of dread.”

He “was twenty-eight years old… scared, angry, and more than a little freaked out” about AIDS, he says.

Couldn’t he at least go down and hold a sign?

That first rally led Goldberg to attend a meeting, which, like most, as he came to realize, were raucous and loud and “electric.” Because he was “living fully ‘out and proud’,” and because he realized that this was an issue “worth fighting for,” he became even more involved with ACT UP by attending larger rallies and helping with organizing and getting his fellow activists fired up. He observed as women became involved in ACT UP, too. Monday night meetings became, for Goldberg, “the most exciting place in town.”

There, he learned how politics mixed with activism, and why ACT UP tangled with the Reagan administration’s leaders. He puffed with more than just a little ownership, as other branches of ACT UP began spreading around the country. He learned from ACT UP’s founding members and he “discovered hidden talents” of his own by helping.

On his years in ACT UP, Goldberg says, “There was hard work, grief, and anger, surely, but there was also great joy.” He was “a witness. And so, I began to write.”

Let’s be honest: “Boy with the Bullhorn” is basically a history book, with a little memoir inside. Accent on the former, not so much on the latter.

Author Ron Goldberg says in his preface that Larry Kramer, who was one of ACT UP’s earliest leaders encouraged him to pull together a timeline for the organization and this book is the result of the task. It’s very detailed, in sequential order and, as one reads on, it’s quite repetitive, differing basically in location. It’s not exactly a curl-up-by-the-fire read.

Readers, however – and especially older ones who remember the AIDS crisis – won’t be able to stop scanning for Goldberg’s memories and tales of being a young man at a time when life was cautiously care-free. The memories – which also act as somewhat of a gut-wrenching collection of death-notices – are sweet, but also bittersweet.

This book is nowhere near a vacation kinda book but if you have patience, it’s worth looking twice. Take your time and you’ll get a lot from “Boy with the Bullhorn.” Rush, and it might just go over your head.

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

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Sports

Trailblazing Scots pro soccer athlete comes Out and inspires others

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, saying “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders”

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Screenshot/YouTube

EDINBURGH – Two weeks after making headlines as the first-ever senior Scottish pro soccer player to come out as gay, Zander Murray is revealing the impact his courageous decision has had on at least one closeted player. Murray tweeted a message he received that shows the difference an athlete coming out can make. 

“I just wanted to tell you that you’ve been a massive inspiration for me to come out to teammates and family,” the anonymous player told Murray, according to the tweet. 

“As a young footballer I find it difficult to be myself as it is but being gay and keeping it secret was so challenging. It felt amazing when I told my teammates, they were super supportive.” 

Murray shared the message with a heart emoji and the words: “Makes it all worthwhile young man.”

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, the Gala Fairydean Rovers, on September 16, explaining “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders.”

Screenshot/YouTube

As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Jake Daniels of Blackpool came out as gay in May, the first U.K. male pro soccer player to come out in more than 30 years. Justin Fashanu was the first in Britain men’s soccer to come out back in 1990. Homophobic and racist media reports drove Fashanu to suicide eight years later. 

Reaction to Murray’s coming out last month has been “incredible,” he’s told reporters. One of those reaching out to congratulate him was Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley. The U.K. diver sent him a DM, Murray told a British interviewer. 

“He messaged me while I was on my way back from football training in a car with four boys. I had tears in my eyes seeing his direct message, and I messaged him back.

“I said, ‘Look I am in a car on the way back from football with four boys and I’ve got tears in my eyes and I don’t even care.’”

Prior to coming out, Murray had been “living in fear 24/7,” he told Sky Sports. “I can’t explain it. You’re hiding your phone in case you get messages from friends, constantly double-checking if you have a team night out, you’re cautious with what you’re saying.

“It’s very hard, especially for myself, I’m a character in that dressing room. I’m not quiet in that dressing room, I like to have the banter and to get stuck in, so very challenging.”

But Murray said he couldn’t have decided to come out “at a better time, at a better club.” So why now? He posted the answer on Instagram with several bullet points, including:

  • “Gay male footballers in the UK need role models. 
  • Majority are terrified to come out to friends/family/teammates (trust me a few have reached out already!).”

STV Weekend News Sunday, September 18, 2022 Zander Murray

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