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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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Sports

Mavericks’ Reggie Bullock, finalist for NBA award for LGBTQ+ advocacy

The NBA announced this week the guard-forward is one of the finalists for its 2022 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award

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Reggie Bullock (Dallas Mavericks/YouTube)

DALLAS – While San Francisco is celebrating the Golden State Warriors’ huge Wednesday night Game 1 victory over the Mavericks in the NBA Western Conference Finals, LGBTQ groups in Dallas are cheering on Dallas’s Reggie Bullock for his work off the court. 

The NBA announced this week the guard-forward is one of the finalists for its 2022 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award, which honors players who have made strides in fighting for social justice and advocating for equality.

Other finalists include the Milwaukee Bucks’s Jrue Holiday, the Memphis Grizzlies’s Jaren Jackson Jr., the Minnesota Timberwolves’s Karl-Anthony Towns and the Toronto Raptors’s Fred VanVleet.

The NBA said Bullock’s push for LGBTQ equity stems from the 2014 murder of his sister, Mia Henderson, a transgender woman.

“Bullock has focused on acceptance of all people by working to create truly inclusive communities through neighborhood engagement and national efforts around the LGBTQ movement, including participating in the NYC Pride March, the GLAAD Media Awards, and NBA events for LGBTQ youth and allies,” according to an NBA news release. “Most recently, as part of the Mavs Take ACTION! initiative, Bullock participated in a courageous conversation as part of the HUDDLE series to uplift the trans community, amplify community organizations who are working to support and protect LGBTQ individuals, and create opportunities for allyship.”

Since joining the Mavs a year ago, Bullock, 31, has teamed-up with groups that include Abounding Prosperity, Dallas Southern Pride, House of Rebirth, The Black-Tie Dinner, the Resource Center, as well as the Muhlaysia Booker Foundation. That organization was founded in memory of a trans woman murdered in Dallas.

On this year’s International Day of Trans Visibility, March 31, Bullock joined the founder of the Muhlashia Booker Foundation, Stephanie Houston, and Leslie McMurray, Transgender Education & Advocacy Associate for a session titled, Voices Unheard, Uplifting Trans Perspectives. 

He shared memories of his sister Mia and how her murder motivated him to use his platform as an NBA player to fight for equal rights and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community.

Bullock has also started his own charitable organization, RemarkaBULL, which provides housing and support to members of the LGBTQ+ community in need. Through RemarkaBULL, Bullock wrote an open letter to the NCAA protesting Idaho’s anti-trans student-athlete House Bill 500, which was signed into law by Gov. Brad Little in March of 2020. The law is on hold pending a review by a federal court.

The winner of the Social Justice Award will be announced during the Western Conference Finals, now underway. The winner receives $100,000 donated to the charity of their choice, and the other finalists receive $25,000 donations for their organizations. Bullock’s charity of choice is Kinston Teens, which empowers young people to engage in activism and community development.

In Wednesday night’s Western Conference Final game 1, Bullock scored 12 points, shooting 3/10 3-pt and 3 rebounds in the Mavericks’ 87-112 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Game 2 is set to tip off Friday at 9 p.m. ET, Golden State leads 1-0.

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Television

New trailer gives first glimpse into new ‘Queer as Folk’

The highly-anticipated return looks poised to make some welcome improvements as it reinvents the beloved series for a new era

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Courtesy of PEACOCK

HOLLYWOOD – Depending on who you ask, the soon-to-be-dropped reimagining of “Queer as Folk” could well be the biggest LGBTQ television event – or the biggest mistake – of the year.

The groundbreaking original British version of the series, created and written by Russell T. Davies in 1999 (decades before his recent triumph with “It’s A Sin” introduced him to a new generation of queer viewers), has already had an American adaptation in 2000, and each of these installments has its own legion of fans – many of whom have expressed their qualms (to put it mildly) over the entire idea of a new reboot.

That, however, hasn’t stopped Davies from joining forces with writer/director/creator Stephen Dunn (“Closet Monster”) to executive produce one for Peacock. 

Shade from old-school fans aside, the highly-anticipated return of the franchise looks poised to make some welcome improvements as it reinvents the beloved series for a new era. This time, the story promises to deliver a much more diverse assortment of characters than the group of predominantly white gay men featured by its predecessors, with a story centered on a group of LGBTQ friends in New Orleans as their lives are transformed in the aftermath of a recent tragedy.

The new iteration also scores points by employing queer actors to portray all its queer roles – resulting in an impressive lineup of names on its cast list including Ryan O’Connell (“Special”), Johnny Sibilly (“Pose”), Devin Way (“Grey’s Anatomy’), Jesse James Keitel (“Alex Strangelove”), Fin Argus, Candace Grave, Benito Skinner, and Juliette Lewis, and even Kim Cattrall as a “martini-soaked, high society Southern debutante with trailer park roots.” 

Of his reason for getting on board a new adaptation of his show, Davies says, “I’m very proud of what we achieved in 1999, but in queer years, that was a millennium ago! As a community, we’ve radicalized, explored, opened up, and found new worlds – with new enemies and new allies – and there was so much to be said.

Stephen pitched a brand new version of ‘Queer as Folk’ with so much imagination, insight, and crucially, joy, that I simply couldn’t resist. I thought it was about time the title belonged to a whole new generation. The 2022 show is more diverse, more wild, more free, more angry – everything a queer show should be.”

As for Dunn, he explains, “I wanted to create a new groundbreaking version of this show for this moment. Our new ‘Queer as Folk’ is set in New Orleans — one of the most unique queer communities in North America – and I am immensely proud that the new series is comprised of an electric ensemble of fresh characters that mirror the modern global audience.

If there’s one person who is able to see ‘Queer as Folk’ and feel less alone, or who now feels more supported and seen, our job is done. In the true spirit of the original, our show doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of our community, but above all else, the series is about people who live vibrant, vital, unapologetically queer lives.” 

Jacklyn Moore, who co-wrote the new series with Dunn and Executive Produced alongside him and Davies, adds, “I believe deeply in the power of storytelling to make people feel seen, but all too often I feel as though queer and trans representation in art is limited to extremes. We are either shown as saintly heroes bravely surviving a bigoted society or two-dimensional queer-coded villains that feel airdropped in from some previous era. With ‘Queer as Folk,’ we aimed to depict queer characters who live in the messy middle. People who are complicated. Who are funny and caring and flawed and sometimes selfish, but still worthy of love. Still worthy of narrative. As a trans woman, I’m excited to take steps to move past telling stories that seem to just be arguing for our basic humanity. My hope is that Queer as Folk is one such step.”

We’re sure we speak for the rest of the eagerly-waiting fans when we say that we all hope that, too. We can all find out together when Peacock begins streaming the new “Queer as Folk” on June 9.

Queer as Folk | Official Trailer | Peacock Original

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Events

The universe comes out to jazz and violins and you’re invited

LA prides itself as home of the stars. Don’t limit yourself to the mere mortal stars of Hollywood, when the universe is opening its doors

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Past Sunday Afternoon Concerts in the Dome (2018) Photo credit: Irina Logra

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – Starlight, starbright: Bathing yourself in the magnificent skies has returned to Los Angeles as the historic Mount Wilson Observatory announces… shall we say it… a heavenly lineup for its 2022 program.

The program offers something for everybody: From the universe-fascinated who want to observe and soak up astronomical knowledge to the bright light and musically discerning who are there just for the mind-blowing beauty alone. 

Since its founding in 1904 by astronomer and visionary George Ellery Hale, Mount Wilson Observatory has played host to some of the most important discoveries in modern astronomy. Located on Mount Wilson, a 5710-foot (1740-meter) peak in the San Gabriel Mountains of the Angeles National Forest, Mount Wilson Observatory (MWO) features the Snow Solar Telescope (largest in the world from 1905-1908 and the mountain’s first installation), a 60-inch telescope (the world’s largest operational telescope from 1908-1917), and the 100-inch Hooker telescope (which featured the world’s largest aperture from 1917-1949). Mount Wilson Institute has independently operated and maintained the Mount Wilson Observatory since 1989 under a long-term agreement with the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

The observatory offers a series of tours throughout the season for the scientific tourist in you. For the mechanically inclined, you can take an engineering tour of the huge telescopes and understand how they have enabled historic discoveries. For the stargazers, there are public and private tours to actually use the telescopes and peep in on our nearest planetary and constellation neighbors. For the gazers who want to keep things even closer to home, take a look right into our own Sun with the Lunt Telescope.

There is no better way to observe the universe than to do it wrapped in gorgeous music. The observatory steps up and takes advantage of the dome’s sensational acoustics by presenting Sunday Afternoon Concerts in the Dome. Top jazz, violinist, brass talents and more will perform in events at 3:00pm and 5:00pm May 22- October 21. The season aesthetics are capped off with [email protected] Observatory in the later summer months which explores sound art in the dome, plein-air painting and sculpting.

It would be a shame to visit the observatory for its visual and auditory sensual offerings alone, however. For those who want to deepen their mind, the season also offers an incredible roster for the astronomy intellect. Lectures from the top experts include discoveries of the deep space mission, women scientists at the observatory, the work of George Ellery Hale, and more.

The gates to Mount Wilson’s acreage opens at 10:00am every day and close at 5:30. Visitors can hike the grounds, gaze at the telescope domes that dot the landscape, and browse through the Historic Museum in the Lecture Hall.  Members from the Los Angeles Astronomical Society will gather around the grounds during each of the events during the season and set up specialty telescopes for a view of various night sky objects while attendees await their turn to look through the grand telescopes in the domes.

Los Angeles prides itself as home of the stars. Don’t limit yourself to the mere mortal stars of Hollywood, when the universe is opening its doors to experience stellar wonders that will really blow your heart and your mind. We hope to see you at the observatory to experience magnificence together.

For more information:  

Concerts: https://www.mtwilson.edu/concerts 

Engineering Tours: www.mtwilson.edu/engineering-tour

Public Ticket Nights:  mtwilson.edu/public-ticket-nights

Private Telescope Reservations: mtwilson.edu/observe

Solar Viewing: mtwilson.edu/solar-observing

Tours: mtwilson.edu/weekend-docent-tours

Mt. Wilson Observatory: https://www.mtwilson.edu 

MWO Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WilsonObs 

MWO Twitter:  https://twitter.com/mtwilsonobs MWO Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mtwilsonobservatory

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