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Jim Provenzano has arrived in ‘Now I’m Here’

Survival and identity resonate

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Author Jim Provenzano. (Photo credit: Gooch)

In today’s digital world, many book authors take pains to ensure that their work is perceived to be relevant for a generation raised on endlessly streaming, quickly digestible narrative content.

Jim Provenzano, whose latest novel, “Now I’m Here,” is drawn from his own experiences growing up as a gay teen in rural Ohio, is not one of those authors.

“I’m fine being an old fogey who’s still talking about the 1970s and ‘80s,” he says.  “I’m not actively seeking out that audience. If they find me, that’s great, but I’m trying to tell a story that took place before all that.”

Provenzano, who will be reading from “Now I’m Here” on Oct. 12 at West Hollywood’s Book Soup, has built a following with his gay-centric novels, starting with “PINS,” his 1999 book about gay high school wrestlers which found its way onto college reading lists and held its place on the gay best-seller list well into the following year.  His biggest success came with 2011’s “Every Time I Think of You,” which won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Romance.  Its 2014 sequel, “Message of Love,” was a finalist for the same prize.

With his new book, he has turned away – at least somewhat – from the genre that brought him those accolades.

“That’s a genre where there’s no reality,” he says.  “There’s no reference to anything that puts it in real time and space, and I wanted to go back to that real-world context.  So, this one looks and feels like a romance, but the real world enters into it and it becomes historical literature.”

Set in a fictional Ohio town like the one Provenzano grew up in himself, “Now I’m Here” is the story of Joshua and David, two teenagers who fall in love in 1978.  Their passionate affair grows into a life together in the face of religious intolerance, “rehabilitation therapy,” and – perhaps most significantly – the heartbreak of AIDS.

Provenzano knows he may be alienating some of his fans, but he’s willing to take that chance.

“Some of the readers who liked my last two books – they’re probably going to be upset.  I’m sorry, but this is the actual gay experience.  This is not about happy gays, and romances.  I fell into that category for a while, and I did well by it, but this time I’m writing for older gay men who survived the AIDS crisis.”

“I’m micro-marketing,” he admits. “It might be a downfall for me, but this one is all for the people who ‘get it.’”

He balks at the suggestion that another story about AIDS – whether by him or by anyone else – is unnecessary.

“I’m sorry, but it was a huge pandemic and it’s been shunted to the sidelines.  It’s like saying, ‘We don’t need another Vietnam novel, or another Civil Rights Era novel.’  Well we do need those things, actually.”

“I’m never going to not write about it,” he adds.

“Now I’m Here” also deals with religious intolerance, another subject that remains a continuing source of struggle for the gay community – especially in the small towns of rural America.

“Where I was raised in Ashland, Ohio,” he says, “there were churches everywhere – but I never got into it.” He adds, only half-joking, “I would have crushes on boys, and if they asked me to church I would say, ‘Sure!  But that was the extent of my involvement.”

Even so, religion was an inescapable influence.  “They were all around us,” he says.  “In the book there’s a lot of that – you can see Christian teenagers influencing things that go on in the story, there’s a strange and eccentric radio preacher who gets into the lives of the kids.  It’s woven into the book because it was woven into the culture I grew up in then.”

He’s adamant, however, that no parallels should be inferred with the institutionalized religious bigotry being promoted today.
“Now, of course, they’re so disgustingly overbearing – I don’t want to compare it to now, because it’s so horrifying what they’re doing in the name of politics.”

There is one element of the book, however, that the author hopes will resonate with today’s culture – the subject of music, and that of one certain band, in particular.

The music of Queen plays a significant role for Provenzano, both in his life and in the book.  The two young protagonists have their first date at a Queen concert, and the band’s music is a continual thread throughout their story.  Even the title is taken directly from a Queen song.

“I’ve been thinking about this novel for 23 years, and it started and stopped, and started and stopped – but when the Queen movie was announced, I really got a kick in the butt,” he says.

He adds, with a laugh, “I have to make sure people know I didn’t just jump in on this, I’ve really been working on it for years!”

He’s quick to point out that capitalizing on a coincidence of timing with “Bohemian Rhapsody” (which releases early in November) is not the only reason he’s happy about the inclusion of Queen in his book.

“At the first reading we had, in San Francisco, the Q&A session turned into people communing about what it meant to have had a front man for one of the greatest rock bands on earth who flaunted his gayness, who joked about it,” he says.

“That’s what resonates, I think.”

It’s here that he concedes at least some desire to reach the younger crowd.  “Even if you’re not going to read the novel,” he says, “at least listen to this music. Get an idea that things happened in a time before that were fabulous, and that were different.  That’s what the book is for me, it’s sharing a lived experience, a different life that probably doesn’t exist for a lot of people anymore.”

Apart from that, is there anything else he hopes the modern generation of gay readers will get out of “Now I’m Here?”

“Yes,” he says.  “A good story.”

Jim Provenzano will sign, discuss, and read from “Now I’m Here” at Book Soup (8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood) on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.  Also appearing will be singer-composer Dudley Saunders, who will perform acoustic versions of Queen songs.

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18-year-old Out YouTuber, TikTok creator & entertainer celebrates first year

“I told myself for a long time, I was like, ‘One day, if I have someone to come out with, then I will come out”

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Los Angeles Blade photo montage

LOS ANGELES –  JoJo Siwa marked her first year of being an Out member of the LGBTQ+ community this past weekend in a series of photos and posts on her Instagram reflecting on the personal milestone achieved.

“🏳️‍🌈In the last 365 days I’ve felt more love than ever. A year ago today I posted this picture and shared with the world that I was gay🌈 I get asked a lot “was coming out scary for you”… and the answer is yes of course, anything that’s different about you is scary, however… it’s what makes me… me. so I had no fear with sharing it with the world❤️ I also get asked a lot “your demographic is so young are you worried about telling kids your gay”…. Truthfully I feel like I was put on this earth to be a role model for kids, and letting all the kids of the world know that loving everyone for who they are no matter what is something that I will always believe in and always share❤️ please never forget that no matter who you are, what you look like, who you LOVE that you are absolutely perfect. thank you for showing me the most love throughout this year and throughout my entire life. I love you all❤️🙏🏼🏳️‍🌈” Siwa posted.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly she said that she was inspired to reveal the truth about her sexuality earlier this year after falling in love with girlfriend Kylie Prew.

“I knew since I was little that I was never straight, I knew that. But I also was never like, ‘Oh, I’m gay,'” said Siwa.

She added, “I told myself for a long time, I was like, ‘One day, if I have someone to come out with, then I will come out.”

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Celebrity News

Thierry Mugler, iconic gay French fashion designer, dies at 73

Often, Mugler’s embrace of gay iconography overshadowed his House of Mugler world-class designs

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Photo Credit: Official Facebook page of Manfred Thierry Mugler

VINCENNES, France – Thierry Mugler, the openly gay, French fashion icon who dressed celebrities from Lady Gaga to Beyoncé, died Sunday at his home in Vincennes, France, outside of Paris. He was 73. 

His death was announced on his Instagram. According to a press release, Mugler died of natural causes. 

“May his soul Rest In Peace,” the post read.

Mugler was a beloved figure in the LGBTQ community who fought extensively for queer rights. Throughout his career, which started in the 1970s, he showcased many trans models, like Connie Fleming, Teri Toye and Roberta Close. 

In one of his more iconic runways, legendary drag artist Lypsinka opened his 1992 show at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, wearing four looks while exuding the Mugler’s trademark high-camp. 

Often, Mugler’s embrace of gay iconography overshadowed his world-class designs. 

“The outwardness of designers embracing being gay wasn’t then a thing,” Paul Cavaco, the fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar during Mugler’s heyday, told the New York Times. “People knew but you didn’t really talk about it. It was considered not chic. And here he was sending drag queens like Lypsinka down the runway.”

Cavaco added that even at Harper’s Bazaar, one of the most adventurous American fashion magazines at the time, Mugler’s clothes were passed over.

Still, Mugler dressed some of the world’s top supermodels and most famous celebrities in his broad-shouldered and sharp-tailored designs during his career.

In George Michael’s 1992 “Too Funky” video, Linda Evangelista, one of the most accomplished and influential models of all time, donned a Mugler design, as many did in the video. He also created flamboyant and theatrical looks for musical stars like Diana Ross, David Bowie and George Michael.

Part of what set Mugler apart from other designers of his time was his unique view of what fashion should be. 

“I don’t believe in natural fashion,” he told the Times in 1994. “Let’s go for it! The corset. The push-up bra. Everything! If we do it, let’s do the whole number.”

The House of Mugler, his brand, described the famous designer as a “visionary whose imagination as a couturier, perfumer and image-maker empowered people around the world to be bolder and dream bigger everyday,” in a LinkedIn post

Though he retired from fashion in the early 2000s, Mugler has still left his mark on the current fashion landscape. Some of today’s biggest celebrities – including Katy Perry, Rihanna and Cardi B – have worn iconic Mugler garments. 

In 2009, Beyoncé wore a Harley-Davidson corset designed by Mugler for a George Michael video. Lady Gaga donned a famous suit-dress and hat from Mugler’s 1995 collection in her 2010 music video for “Telephone.”

Mugler even briefly resurfaced in 2019 to create Kim Kardashian West’s infamous “wet look” at the Met Gala. 

Heartfelt messages from celebrities that Mugler has worked with poured in on social media and beyond after the news of his death broke. 


On her website, Beyoncé wrote: “Rest In Peace, Thierry Mugler.”

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson doc premieres this weekend

Remembering 10 times iconic singer was there for LGBTQ community

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Janet Jackson’s two-part, four-hour documentary debuts this weekend. (File photo by Shilla Patel)

LOS ANGELES – Iconic singer Janet Jackson, a longtime LGBTQ ally, unveils her long-awaited documentary simply titled “Janet” on Friday, Jan. 28. It concludes the following night; each installment is two hours long. 

Jackson has said she spent five years compiling footage and creating the documentary, which airs at 8 p.m. both nights on A&E and Lifetime networks. It was produced by Jackson and her brother Randy Jackson and it’s timed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of her 1982 debut album. 

An extended trailer for the film reveals Jackson will talk candidly about her brother Michael and the 2004 Super Bowl incident, including the news that Justin Timberlake reached out and asked her to join him during his widely panned 2018 Super Bowl return performance. 

Prior to the pandemic, Jackson announced a new studio album and tour titled “Black Diamond,” but both were postponed due to COVID. No official word about the status of either, but speculation is rampant that she will finally release the new album once the documentary airs.

“Musically, what I’ve done, like doing ‘Rhythm Nation’ or doing ‘New Agenda’ or doing ‘Skin Game,’ creating those bodies of work with Jimmy and Terry, I feel like I’ve laid a certain foundation,” Jackson tells Allure magazine in a new cover story this month. “I would hope that I’d be able to continue if I choose to. You know what I mean? But only time will tell.”

As Jackson’s legion of queer fans awaits this weekend’s premiere, the Blade takes a look back at 10 times Janet was there for the LGBTQ community. 

1. “The Velvet Rope” project. In 1997, Jackson released her critically acclaimed sixth studio album “The Velvet Rope,” an introspective and deeply personal collection of songs that touched on her depression, but also tackled LGBTQ issues. On the track “Free Xone,” she spoke out forcefully against anti-LGBT bias. She also covered Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” without changing the pronouns in the love song, prompting speculation about her sexual orientation. But it was her international No. 1 hit “Together Again” that continues to resonate with LGBTQ fans. An upbeat, joyful dance song, it was conceived as a tribute to Jackson’s friends who died of AIDS.

2. GLAAD award. In 2008, Ellen DeGeneres presented Jackson with the Vanguard Award at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards. GLAAD’s president said, “We are delighted to honor Janet Jackson at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles as such a visible, welcoming and inclusive ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Ms. Jackson has a tremendous following inside the LGBT community and out, and having her stand with us against the defamation that LGBT people still face in our country is extremely significant.”

3. Ebony magazine interview about her sexuality. In 2001, Jackson gave an interview to Ebony magazine in which she was asked about her sexual orientation. “I don’t mind people thinking that I’m gay or calling me gay,” she said. “People are going to believe whatever they want. Yes, I hang out at gay clubs … I go where the music is good. I love people regardless of sexual preference, regardless of race. No, I am not bisexual. I have been linked with dancers in our group because we are so close. I grew up in a big family. I love being affectionate. I love intimacy and I am not afraid to show it.”

4. Video support for It Gets Better, Trevor Project. In 2010, Jackson recorded a video for the Trevor Project and later appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” to promote awareness of youth suicide. “If you’re LGBT you’re probably thinking you’re all alone, but you’re not,” she said in the video. “I can relate because I was one of those kids who internalized everything.”

5. “State of the World Tour.” Jackson’s LGBTQ support continued in 2017. Her tour’s opening sequence highlighted a range of problems facing the world, from famine and war to police brutality and included a call for justice and for LGBTQ rights.

6. “The Kids.” Jackson has always employed a diverse crew of professional dancers for her videos and tours. Some of her closest friends and collaborators over the years have been prominent out gay and lesbian choreographers, singers, dancers, makeup artists and designers. She lovingly refers to her backup dancers as “the Kids.”

7. NYC Pride performance. In 2004, Jackson performed for a packed audience at Pride Dance NYC at Pier 54.

8. “Will & Grace” cameo. In 2004, Jackson made a memorable cameo on “Will & Grace,” judging a dance-off between Jack and another dancer.

9. HRC, AIDS Project Los Angeles awards. In 2005, Jackson was honored by both the Human Rights Campaign and AIDS Project Los Angeles for her work raising money for AIDS charities.

10. Janet’s Blade interview. In 2006, Jackson granted an exclusive interview to the Washington Blade. It was one of the rare times she touched on the Super Bowl controversy and her brother Michael’s acquittal on child molestation charges, telling Blade Editor Kevin Naff, “I got all of that out of my system, that’s not what I’m feeling right now. I wrote about [those controversies] but I didn’t choose to put it out there on the album.” In the interview, Jackson also reiterated her support for marriage equality, said she’d never had a sexual relationship with a woman and revealed that she’d never met Madonna.

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