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Lady Gaga fans accused of writing fake ‘Venom’ reviews to help ‘A Star is Born’

The films will battle it out at the box office



Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in ‘A Star is Born’ (Screenshot via YouTube)

“A Star is Born” and Marvel’s “Venom” both hit theaters on Friday after much hype and anticipation but Lady Gaga fans have weaponized social media to make sure one film is the weekend’s top earner.

As the release date draws near, negative reviews of “Venom” began to pop up. However, some of these reviews appeared to be copied and pasted to multiple bot accounts. Other reviews trash “Venom” and offer the alternative of seeing “A Star is Born” instead.

A Lady Gaga fan spilled to BuzzFeed that the negative reviews were organized by Little Monsters.

“It’s us Gaga fans creating fake IDs to trash the Venom premiere,” a fan told BuzzFeed. “They both are getting released on the same day, so we want more audience for A Star Is Born.”

Despite the battle, both films appear to be doing well in different respects. “Venom” only holds a 32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes but is expected to break the October box office record. “A Star is Born” may not draw in as many numbers but the film and its stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga have already received critical acclaim buzz.




End-of-year lineup offers holiday feast for queer movie lovers

Gripping ‘Saltburn’ features stellar performances



Alison Oliver, Jacob Elordi, and Barry Keoghan in ‘Saltburn.’ (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios Prime Video)

Looking back, we’d have to say that 2023 has been good to fans of outstanding cinema. From summer’s existential one-two punch of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” to an iconic filmmaker’s delivery of a new masterwork with “Killers of the Flower Moon,” we’ve already seen enough top-notch artistry on the big screen to know there are going to be some tight races in this year’s awards season.

But don’t start making your Oscar predictions yet, because there’s still more to come, including Ridley Scott’s Joaquin Phoenix-starring “Napoleon” and Yorgas Lanthimos’ darkly fantastical sci-fi comedy “Poor Things,” not to mention Timothèe Chalamet in a purple frock coat as “Wonka.” And as our annual Blade Holiday Roundup of current-and-upcoming movies clearly shows, even if most of them aren’t exactly “seasonal” in terms of tone or subject matter, there are sure to be quite a few queer (or queer-related) titles in the mix to make the competition even more interesting.

In fact, a potential awards juggernaut is already in theaters: SALTBURN, the second film from Oscar-winning writer/director Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”), which premiered at this year’s Telluride Festival and represents the latest ascension in the rise of two sensational young actors. Jacob Elordi (“Euphoria,” “Priscilla”) is likely more familiar to many viewers – his blend of impossibly good looks and authentic talent have gained him a lot of attention for a range of reasons, and both those qualities are put to good use here. But it’s Barry Keoghan (“Dunkirk,” “The Banshees of Inisherin”) who is the real breakout star of this twisted, darkly comedic psychological thriller as Oliver Quick, a working class boy who earns a scholarship to Oxford and becomes infatuated with rich-but-sensitive fellow student Felix (Elordi). Invited to spend the summer at his boy crush’s family estate (the “Saltburn” of the title), he gradually becomes enmeshed within their privileged dynamic – and to say anything more than that would be to spoil the “can’t look away” fun that makes this savage, stylish, and sexy mindf*ck of a movie into something you can’t wait to watch multiple times. Also starring Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Alison Oliver, Archie Madekwe, and Carey Mulligan in a delicious supporting turn, it goes into wide release on Nov. 22.

Another title now in theaters is NEXT GOAL WINS, from Oscar-winner and auteur-on-the-rise Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit,” “Thor: Ragnarok”), in which the uniquely whimsical New Zealand filmmaker presents his take on the “true sports” genre. It’s a comedic-but-inspirational underdog tale centered on the American Samoa soccer team, which after a brutal 31-0 FIFA loss in 2001 hired a down-on-his-luck maverick coach to turn themselves around in hopes of qualifying for the World Cup. Waititi’s infectiously winning blend of quirky absurdism and heartfelt sentiment makes this an automatic must-see, even if its handling of a trans character – real-life soccer player Jaiyah Saelua (played by Samoan “third gender” actor Kaimana), considered by FIFA as the first trans woman to compete in a World Cup qualifier game – has met with mixed response. Still, it’s one of two current films boasting the return of the exquisite Michael Fassbender (the other is David Fincher’s “The Killer,” which should also be on your list), so we think it’s worth seeing anyway; that way you can make up your own mind about the controversy over its approach to trans inclusion. Also starring Oscar Kightley, David Fane, Rachel House, Beulah Koale, Uli Latukefu, Semu Filipo, and Lehi Falepapalangi, with appearances by Will Arnett and Elisabeth Moss.

Also currently on big screens is Todd Haynes’ MAY DECEMBER, which reunites the revered queer indie film pioneer with longtime muse Julianne Moore and casts her opposite Natalie Portman in the true-story-inspired tale of an actress who travels to Georgia to meet a woman – notorious for an infamous tabloid romance, years before – that she is set to play in a movie. Loosely suggested by the real-life story of Mary Kay Fualaau, who was imprisoned for having sex with an underage pupil and later married him, it’s steeped in the kind of uncomfortable ethical-and-emotional danger zone that is a hallmark of Haynes’s best work, so it’s no surprise that it brings out the best in his two lead actresses. The buzziest performance in the film, however, comes from “Riverdale” star Charles Melton, who has drawn raves as Moore’s husband. Distributed by Netflix, it will stream on their platform starting Dec. 1 – but why wait when you can see it in theaters now?

Bringing a double appeal for movie buffs who are also lovers of classical music is MAESTRO, going into limited release Nov. 22 before it begins streaming on Netflix Dec. 20, which stars Bradley Cooper – who also wrote and directed – as legendary conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein and documents (among other things) his relationships with both wife Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan) and longtime male partner David Oppenheim (Matt Bomer). Though initially plagued with criticism over Cooper’s use of a prosthetic nose to play the Jewish Bernstein, endorsement from the late musical genius’s family and positive reviews of his performance have helped that conversation fade into the background, and the biopic – which also stars Maya Hawke, Sarah Silverman, Michael Urie, Brian Klugman, Gideon Glick, and Miriam Shor – looks poised to be a winner.

Releasing in limited theaters Dec. 1 and expanding wide on Dec. 8 is EILEEN, adapted from Ottessa Moshfegh’s acclaimed 2015 debut novel, finally hitting screens nearly a year after a splashy debut at Sundance. Set in Boston of the mid 1960s, it tracks the relationship that develops when a young woman working at a juvenile detention center is drawn in by the allure of a new and glamorous older colleague (Anne Hathaway), who may also be drawing her into something much more dangerous than a workplace flirtation. With a screenplay by the author (alongside husband Luke Goebel) and direction by William Oldroyd, it’s been described by co-star Hathaway as “‘Carol’ meets ‘Resevoir Dogs’” – and that’s enough to make it irresistible, as far as we’re concerned.

Coming to Hulu on Dec. 6 is WE LIVE HERE: THE MIDWEST, a documentary from filmmakers Melinda Maerker and David Miller that explores the lives of several LGBTQIA+ families in the American heartland; these include a trans/queer family with five children in Iowa expelled by their church, a gay Black couple with a young daughter facing homophobic and racial prejudice in Nebraska, a gay teacher in Ohio trying to create a safe space for queer students, and a lesbian couple homeschooling their bullied son on a farm in Kansas. Profiling families who struggle to remain part of a region in which they have deep roots, it’s a snapshot of a precarious historical moment in time when anti-queer legislation and sentiment is rapidly multiplying across the country, forcing queer Midwesterners to endure a clash of values as they strive to build lives in the communities they love in the face of mounting discrimination.

Another much-anticipated release comes on Dec. 22 with ALL OF US STRANGERS, the latest effort from “Looking” creator Andrew Haigh – whose 2011 “Weekend” places high on the list of all-time great queer romance films – starring top-shelf UK thespians Andrew Scott (“Sherlock,” “Pride,” “Fleabag”) and Paul Mescal (“Aftersun,” “The Lost Daughter”) in a ghostly romantic fantasy loosely adapted from Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel “Strangers.” In it, a melancholy Londoner (Scott) strikes up a relationship with a mysterious neighbor (Mescal) through a chance encounter that leaves him increasingly preoccupied with memories of his past; returning to his suburban childhood home for a visit, he finds it occupied by his parents (Claire Foy, Jaime Bell), who seem to be living in it exactly as they were when they died there, three decades before. An ethereal meditation on grief, nostalgia, and, ultimately, love – both the romantic and familial kinds – that leans more into the metaphysical than the supernatural as it weaves its disquieting tale and is somehow more haunting because of it, it’s already a fixture in the pre-awards-season chatter. Put this one on your list in bold letters.

On Christmas Day, if you’re looking for that perfect “big event” family movie to take in after the presents have been unwrapped and the feast devoured, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect candidate than THE COLOR PURPLE, which is not a remake of Steven Spielberg’s 1985 movie of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel – though Spielberg, along with the original film’s co-star Oprah Winfrey and its composer Quincy Jones, as well as Walker herself, is one of its producers – but rather the film adaptation of the Tony-winning 2005 Broadway musical version of the book. Confused? No need to be, though we must admit the film’s advertising campaign may have contributed to that feeling by all-but-erasing any clue that it’s a musical. But with a superstar cast headlined by Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, Halle Bailey, and H.E.R., along with a proven score of powerful songs by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, it will all make sense after you sit back and let yourself be immersed in what’s sure to be a reverent and heartfelt celebration of Black culture, history, and heritage, told through the experience of an uneducated and impoverished Black queer woman in rural Georgia of the early 1900s, that fully honors the transcendent spirit of its timeless source material.

And lastly, speaking of Christmas, this December won’t disappoint the sentimentalists out there for whom the season wouldn’t be the season without one or two of those much-ridiculed but secretly adored holiday romances, a genre which – after years of clinging to a stubborn “straights only” policy – has finally blossomed with a whole queer-inclusive subgenre of its own. In fact, Hallmark – the channel that, let’s face it, is pretty much synonymous with the whole phenomenon – has no less than 40 heartfelt Christmas love stories slated for broadcast, and among those are at least three which will be must-sees for queer fans: CHRISTMAS ON CHERRY LANE (premiering Dec. 9), starring out actor Jonathan Bennett (“Mean Girls”) and Vincent Rodriguez III as a gay couple trying to expand their family among two other intertwined stories; FRIENDS & FAMILY CHRISTMAS (premiering Dec. 17), featuring Ali Liebert and Humberley Gonzalez (“Ginny and Georgia”) as a pair of lesbians who get set up on a date for the holidays and find themselves connecting more than they expected; and though it centers on a straight romance, CATCH ME IF YOU CLAUS (premiering Nov. 23) has sure-fire queer appeal thanks to its out-and-proud star, “King of Hallmark” actor Luke Macfarlane (“Bros”), playing it straight as Santa’s son, who meets an aspiring news anchor (Italia Ricci) just in time to spice things up for the holidays. 

Go ahead and watch them all, we won’t judge you. Happy holidays and happy viewing!

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Queer allyship figures prominently in Streisand memoir

‘My Name Is Barbra’ filled with dishy revelations about Hollywood, D.C.



(Book cover image courtesy of Viking)

‘My Name Is Barbra’
By Barbra Streisand
c.2023, Viking
$47/970 pages

Have you been told you’ll never amount to anything? That an angry rodent is better looking than you?

If yes, don’t worry.

Barbra Streisand (hello, Gorgeous!), the EGOT-winning (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), divine, queer icon has been told and called much worse.

“An ‘amiable anteater’?,” Streisand, 81, writes in “My Name Is Barbra,” her eagerly anticipated, recently released, memoir, “that’s how I was described at nineteen in one of my first reviews as a professional actress.”

She was then playing a “lovelorn” secretary in the show “I Can Get It for You Wholesale,” Streisand recalls. “I could see the comparison,” she writes.

But the demeaning comparisons kept coming. Over the next year, she remembers people  likened her to “a sour persimmon,” “a furious hamster,” “a myopic gazelle,” and “a seasick ferret.”

Streisand worked on “My Name Is Barbra” (whose title is the same as her acclaimed album and TV special) for more than a decade.

At nearly 1,000 pages, it makes “War and Peace,” seem like an Instagram post.

Streisand name-drops more often than your nutty uncle curses during Thanksgiving dinner. Rarely a paragraph goes by without a dishy mention of celebs and politicos she’s friends with, slept with, argued with, been mistreated by, or worked with: from her BFFs Bill and Hillary Clinton to Warren Beatty to Stephen Sondheim to Larry Kramer to Sydney Chaplin.

Take Beatty. Streisand and Beatty have been friends since they were young and in summer stock. Yet, “Did I sleep with Warren,” she wonders about Beatty, who’s known as a ladies man, “I kind of remember. I guess I did. Probably once.”

Sidney Chaplin starred with Streisand in the Broadway production of “Funny Girl.” After Streisand rejected his efforts to begin an affair, he harassed so much, that Streisand, for the first time, developed stage fright. She worried that she’d throw up on stage.

Streisand’s memoir is sprawling. There’s an ellipses, seemingly, every nanosec.

If it were written by almost anyone else but God, the Queen of the Universe (Streisand), you might think: this is too much. The audio book of the memoir is a 48-hour listen; it’s a couple- day read in hard cover or e-book format.

But, “My Name Is Barbra,” wasn’t penned by one of the lesser mortals. It’s by Streisand, the greatest, or among the greatest, in the pantheon of queer icons.

With her talent, persistence and guts, she’s earned the right to name-drop, to safeguard her legacy and to go on as long as she wants. Why rain on her parade? 

“Looking back, it was much more fun to dream of being famous than to actually be famous,” Streisand writes. “I didn’t like all the ridiculous stories they made up, or the envy my success provoked.”

Reading “My Name Is Barbra,” whether in print or as an audio book, is like spending an intimate evening with Streisand. It’s Streisand talking to you (and, maybe a small group of your queer friends and allies).

You’re there, drinking it in, as she dishes on everything from her mother (who makes Mommie Dearest seem like June Cleaver) to her love of coffee (it has to be Brazilian coffee) ice cream.

In “My Name Is Barbra,” Streisand doesn’t explicitly call herself a queer icon. But her connection and allyship with the LGBTQ community are a through line in the memoir.

Streisand notes that queer people were the first to see her when she first performed at the Lion, a gay bar, and the Bon Soir, a small  club in the Wet Village in New York.

 “I believe we all have certain needs in common,” Streisand writes, “we want to be happy, we want to be loved, we want to be respected, no matter what our sexual orientation…No one should have to live a lie.”

Streisand was an executive producer of “Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story,” a 1995 TV movie about an Army nurse who was discharged because she was queer.

Sometimes, Streisand has had arguments with other LGBTQ legends. She wanted to make a movie of Larry Kramer’s iconic play “The Normal Heart.” But she and Kramer had different views of how the film should be made. Kramer, Streisand writes, wanted more explicit sex scenes, than she did in the movie. She feared that if it was too graphic, the film might turn off the mainstream audience.

She was disappointed that she couldn’t film Kramer’s play. “There are some love affairs you never quite get over,” Streisand writes, “I fell in love with a play…pursued it, won it, lost it.”

Streisand, Jewish, female, creative, assertive, born poor in Brooklyn, refusing to have a nose job, is the ultimate outsider in a culture that prefers women to be docile, middle-class and to conform to cookie-cutter beauty standards. Is it any wonder that queers are drawn to her?

Whether you’re queer, hetero, an outsider or insider, you’ll be riveted by “My Name Is Barbra.”

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

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A holiday book for Christmas lovers and haters alike

‘The Jolliest Bunch’ chock full of relatable anecdotes



(Book cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks)

‘The Jolliest Bunch: Unhinged Holiday Stories’
By Danny Pellegrino
c.2023, Sourcebooks
$27.99/239 pages

It’s a hard choice to make.

When someone asks you about your favorite holiday, you have to think. Do you pick a spring holiday with bunnies, hearts, or leprechauns? Or something grand with parades and flags? Then again, stuffing yourself with stuffing is pretty awesome and that whole Santa-reindeer-elf bit is pretty appealing. Do you have a favorite holiday or, as in “The Jolliest Bunch” by Danny Pellegrino, do you just pick them all?

We’ve all had ’em: legendary stories attached to holidays that are best forgotten – for at least a little while, until they become family lore. Take, for instance, the various stories Pellegrino tells, beginning with a shout-out to his mother, Linda.

Linda, controller of all holidays, who invites the family over for Christmas Eve at 6 o’clock and then, like clockwork, freaks out at 5:10 “for approximately forty-nine minutes.” Linda, who rents chairs for the holiday from a local funeral home. Linda, who once fashioned a passable angel costume from a woman’s white shirt.

For a holiday we love, we’ll do almost anything to be home with family, including taking a cross-country ride with a half-drunk driver who’s on her way to see a former lover with six kids. For a holiday we love, we hold onto Christmas Past by welcoming gay ghosts into our lives. We work retail and endure the same eight holiday songs on every store speaker, then go home and watch the same four holiday specials on TV. We hope we get the gift we didn’t ask for. We celebrate with family and friends “and sometimes we’re surrounded by people we don’t like all that much.”

And then there are the traditions and the things that make the holiday a holiday: a string of beloved lights that a childhood pet nearly destroyed. Cookie cutters in the shape of the south end of a cat. Enjoying “Midwest comfort foods… that are incredibly delectable and anything but healthy.” Knowing that you’ve wrapped the 100% exact right gift for someone you adore, but also knowing “that even the most special presents are not as important as how you make them feel.”

So, here’s the brilliance of “The Jolliest Bunch”: no matter who you are, man or woman, gay or straight, author Danny Pellegrino has a universal memory to share that’s hilariously close to something you’ve experienced. Awkward relatives, check. Meals gone wrong, check. The gift you wanted more than anything, check. Bad holidays at a stranger’s house, yep. Decorations that are older than you are, uh-huh. It’s like he was at that same get-together.

This may make you cringe, but you’ll also laugh because Pellegrino is a funny writer with a keen eye for a great (and relatable) story. Just beware, though: holidays also bring out nostalgia, longing, missing, and regrets, so watch your heart.

In his introduction, Pellegrino says this book is for holiday haters as well as for those who start singing Christmas carols in August. That means “The Jolliest Bunch” is for you, and reading it’s an easy choice to make.

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

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Bishop Carlton D’Metrius Pearson, LGBTQ ally & pastor dies at 70

In 2004, the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops Congress declared Pearson’s teaching about hell to be heretical



Bishop Carlton D’Metrius Pearson/Facebook

TULSA, Okla. – Bishop Carlton D’Metrius Pearson, an influential voice in the international Christian world and a supportive LGBTQ affirming ally died Sunday night Nov. 19, in hospice care due to cancer in Tulsa at age 70.

Pearson began his career in ministry after moving to Tulsa in 1971, to become a student at Oral Roberts University, Carlton was invited by Oral Roberts himself to join the World Action Singers on his nationally-aired TV specials, eventually becoming an associate evangelist with the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association in 1975. In 1977, Pearson launched his own ministry, Higher Dimensions, Inc., traveling across the United States with a small ministry team.

In 1981, with the help of his college roommate, Gary L. McIntosh, who is now President of the Church Growth Network and Professor of Christian Ministry and Leadership at Talbot School of Theology, Pearson started Higher Dimensions Evangelistic Center, with 75 people attending its first service in Jenks, Oklahoma.

Quickly outgrowing the small, storefront location in Jenks, the Center eventually settled at 8621 South Memorial Drive in Tulsa, becoming an integrated, multi-ethnic, cross-cultural congregation of more than 5,000 members.

A national television program launched in the mid-1980s, “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right,” expanded Pearson’s outreach to a national and international audience, becoming at that time one of only two African American preachers with a nationwide television ministry. Frequent appearances on the powerful Christian Trinity Broadcasting Network elevated his stature globally.

He gave counsel to multiple U. S. Presidents, as well as a number of international presidents, kings and other leaders, who were won over by his intelligence, charm, humor and kindness.

At the height of his popularity, Pearson had a shift in his theological beliefs, and began to preach that Jesus did not just die for and save Christians, but for all mankind, and that no one goes to hell as we’ve known it.

This became known as “The Gospel of Inclusion,” a form of Christian theology known as universalism. This shift in belief caused churches, upon whose stages he once frequented, to close their doors to him, shut down his annual conference and caused his church to dwindle from thousands to only dozens.

In 2004, the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops Congress declared Pearson’s teaching about hell to be heretical. The finding came a year after Pearson defended his views at a doctrinal forum, the Associated Press reported.

“Because of our concern for the many people that could be influenced to adopt this heresy and in so doing put at risk the eternal destiny of their souls, we are compelled to declare Bishop Carlton Pearson a heretic,” wrote Bishop Clifford Leon Frazier, chairman of the joint college’s doctrinal commission, according to Religion News Service.

His theological shift was dramatized in a major motion picture, Netflix’s “Come Sunday,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Lethal Weapon), LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah, Atlanta) and Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, The West Wing).

In 2007, Pearson helped lead hundreds of clergy members from across the nation in urging Congress to pass the Equality Act to even the playing field ending job discrimination measures against LGBTQ people and also a landmark federal hate crimes bill.

Openly queer Rev. Brandan Robertson, who serves as the Pastor of Sunnyside Reformed Church in Queens, New York and is also known as the “TikTok Pastor” noted:

Rev. Brandan Robertson with Rev. Carlton Pearson/Instagram

“I first met Carlton Pearson when I was a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and was beginning to wrestle with the idea that a loving God could damn a majority of humanity to hell.

Bishop Pearson was kicked out of his denomination for declaring that God’s love would win in the end, and he sat with me in a Whole Foods in downtown Chicago, listened to my struggles, and showed me that there was a better and truer way to be Christian.

Over the last decade, I was honored to call Carlton a friend as I’ve made my journey towards a more inclusive Christianity, and his encouragement and witness was a continued source of inspiration.”

Bishop Gene Robinson, a prominent openly gay theologian from the Episcopal Church said in a statement:

“The struggle for LGBTQ rights and acceptance has many heroes and saints who have pushed the Church to love and welcome all of God’s beloved children. When our history is written, surely Bishop Pearson will be remembered and celebrated for his courageous and prophetic voice for inclusion, and I give thanks for his life and ministry.”

A family statement released by his agent Will Bogle read:

“Pearson’s message and example of unconditional love, though it gained him the moniker of “heretic” by some in the Christian church, had a whole new world opened to him as a result. Non-Christians, as well as Christians who had left the church as a result of church hurts, abuse, hypocrisy, etc., loved the new message of love, healing and restoration. He leaves a legacy of love through the multiplied thousands of lives he touched during his time on earth and the impartation of grace and mercy he preached and exhibited to everyone he encountered.”

He is survived by his mother, Lillie Ruth Pearson, his son Prince Julian Pearson and his daughter Majesté Pearson.

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Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, 96, dies at home in Georgia

Carter is survived by the former president and their children Amy, Chip, Jack and Jeff; 11 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren



Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter addresses participants in the 2006 Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo Credit: The Carter Center)

PLAINS, Ga. – Rosalynn Carter, wife of former President Jimmy Carter, has died at the age of 96 at their home in Plains, Georgia on Sunday according to a spokesperson for the Carter Center.

In a statement the Carter Center wrote:

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a passionate champion of mental health, caregiving, and women’s rights, passed away Sunday, Nov. 19, at 2:10 p.m. at her home in Plains, Georgia, at the age of 96. She died peacefully, with family by her side.

Mrs. Carter was married for 77 years to Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States and the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, who is now 99 years old.

“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” President Carter said. “She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me.”

She is survived by her children — Jack, Chip, Jeff, and Amy — and 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. A grandson died in 2015.

“Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary First Lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right,” said Chip Carter. “Her life of service and compassion was an example for all Americans. She will be sorely missed not only by our family but by the many people who have better mental health care and access to resources for caregiving today.”

The Carter Center had announced on Thursday that on behalf of Jason Carter, grandson of President and Mrs. Carter, the former First Lady had entered hospice care at home. The center previously announced this past May that she was suffering from dementia, three months after former President Carter entered hospice care at home in February of this year.

“She and President Carter are spending time with each other and their family. The Carter family continues to ask for privacy and remains grateful for the outpouring of love and support,” Thursday’s statement read.

Carter will be buried in front of the modest ranch house in Plains that she and the former president had built in 1961 and always returned to, and never really left save for their stints in what Jimmy Carter humorously termed “government housing.” It was the first home they’d ever owned after Carter’s peripatetic military career had taken them all over the country, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

After the news of her death was made public, The Carter Center announced that in lieu of flowers, the Carter family requests that folks consider a contribution to the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program or the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers.

The White House released a statement from President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden
on the passing of the former First Lady:

First Lady Rosalynn Carter walked her own path, inspiring a nation and the world along the way.

Throughout her incredible life as First Lady of Georgia and the First Lady of the United States, Rosalynn did so much to address many of society’s greatest needs. She was a champion for equal rights and opportunities for women and girls; an advocate for mental health and wellness for every person; and a supporter of the often unseen and uncompensated caregivers of our children, aging loved ones, and people with disabilities. 

Above all, the deep love shared between Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter is the definition of partnership, and their humble leadership is the definition of patriotism.  She lived her life by her faith. 

Time and time again, during the more than four decades of our friendship – through rigors of campaigns, through the darkness of deep and profound loss – we always felt the hope, warmth, and optimism of Rosalynn Carter. She will always be in our hearts.

On behalf of a grateful nation, we send our love to President Carter, the entire Carter family, and the countless people across our nation and the world whose lives are better, fuller, and brighter because of the life and legacy of Rosalynn Carter.

May God bless our dear friend. May God bless a great American.

“Do what you can to show you care about others, and you will make our world a better place.” ~Rosalynn Carter

 Biography of Rosalynn Carter as provided by The Carter Center:

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s marriage to Jimmy Carter took her from a rural farming community to the White House. Showing the world a new vision of the First Lady, Mrs. Carter was a working partner and trusted advisor to the president, a participant in foreign and domestic affairs, and an astute political strategist. Widely recognized as the nation’s foremost advocate for mental health, she was actively devoted to building a more caring society.

The White House Years

Rosalynn Carter holds a baby at a camp for Cambodian refugees in Thailand, November 9, 1979.
(Photo: Jimmy Carter Library)

While assuming the traditional demands of presidential wife and official White House hostess, Mrs. Carter worked tirelessly to create what she described as “a more caring society.” She was the first presidential spouse to carry a briefcase to a White House office on a daily basis. As a result of her singular tenacity and southern gentleness, she was dubbed the “steel magnolia.”

Early in 1977, barred by statute from being chair of the newly established President’s Commission on Mental Health, Mrs. Carter became its honorary chair. In this capacity she held hearings across the country, testified before Congress, and spearheaded passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. She continued her work in the field of mental health throughout her life.

She traveled extensively overseas, promoting both her own projects and the president’s policies. In a history making trip to Latin America in 1977, she represented the U.S. Government and visited with heads of state from seven Latin American countries, sharing her husband’s position on human rights and helping to enhance democracy in our hemisphere. In Geneva, Switzerland, she became the first First Lady to address the World Health Organization.

Drawing from her own experiences as a working woman, wife, and mother, she spent many hours lobbying for support of the Equal Rights Amendment; she mobilized representatives from private voluntary relief organizations, labor, and the corporate world in an appeal that raised tens of millions of dollars for Cambodian refugees; and she brought together 23 leading organizations to develop solutions for problems of the elderly at a White House Roundtable Discussion on Aging. In choosing an unprecedented array of White House entertainment for American leaders and international officials, she showcased American culture, initiating public telecasts of White House performances featuring the world’s finest artists and musicians.

Immunizing children against preventable disease was a special focus of Mrs. Carter’s throughout her entire public service career. As governors’ spouses, Mrs. Carter and Betty Bumpers of Arkansas worked together in their respective states to promote vaccinations. Once President Carter was in office and in response to a measles outbreak, Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Bumpers again joined forces to make vaccinations a routine public health practice. By 1981, 95 percent of children entering school were immunized against measles and other diseases.

Throughout Jimmy Carter’s years in politics, Rosalynn Carter campaigned widely on his behalf and was considered his most fervent and effective supporter. Often lauded for possessing unique political skills, she admitted being more concerned about popularity and winning than her husband, though she noted, “…I have to say that he had the courage to tackle the important issues…”

The Early Years

She was born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on August 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia, daughter of Wilburn Edgar Smith, a farmer who also owned and operated the first auto shop in the county, and Frances Allethea Murray, a college graduate and homemaker. As a child, she was shaped by strong religious and family values and an early acceptance of hard work and responsibility.

When her father died of leukemia at age 44, Rosalynn’s mother had to go to work. Thirteen-year-old Rosalynn helped her mother with the housekeeping and caring for her siblings and grandfather. She graduated as valedictorian from Plains High School in 1944 and from Georgia Southwestern College in 1946.

In 1946, she married Jimmy Carter, who had just graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Mrs. Carter described her years as a Navy wife as a coming of age in which she developed the self-confidence to manage a household with three babies on her own while her husband worked and was often aboard ship.

Three sons were born in different Navy ports: John William “Jack” Carter, July 3, 1947, in Norfolk, Va.; James Earl “Chip” Carter III in Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 12, 1950; and Donnel Jeffrey “Jeff” Carter on August 18, 1952, in New London, Conn. Amy Lynn Carter was born 15 years later on October 19, 1967, in Plains.

After Carter left the Navy and returned home to run the family business upon the death of his father, Rosalynn began working alongside her husband, keeping the books for the farms and the farm supply business. During Carter’s contentious 1962 race for the state Senate, which he won after exposing a stuffed ballot box, she received her first taste of politics.

Though shy and anxious about public speaking, she became fully engaged in subsequent campaigns for his re-election and his bids for governor in 1966 and 1970. She campaigned full time on a separate schedule in the 1976 and 1980 presidential races.

As Georgia’s First Lady, Mrs. Carter led a passionate fight against the stigma of mental illnesses and worked to overhaul the state’s mental health care system. Her obligations in the governor’s mansion also called for entertaining visiting officials and diplomats, serving as liaison to civic groups, and using her influence as a public figure to advance immunizations of children and other charitable causes. She later observed that these experiences prepared her for the White House years.

The Carter Center and Beyond

After the White House, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter traveled worldwide to advance peace and health in the world’s poorest nations. Photo taken in Nigeria in 2007. 
(Photo: The Carter Center)

After what she called “involuntary retirement” to Plains in 1981, her working relationship with her husband expanded. In 1982, they together founded The Carter Center in Atlanta, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people at home and in the developing world through programs to alleviate suffering and advance human rights.

As emissaries for the Center, the Carters circled the globe many times on nonpolitical campaigns to eradicate Guinea worm disease and other neglected tropical diseases, increase agricultural production in Africa, monitor elections in nascent democracies, urge greater compliance with international human rights standards, and resolve conflicts. As a full partner providing direction and vision for the Center, Mrs. Carter accompanied the former president as an active participant, observant note-taker, and thoughtful advisor on high-profile peace missions, including in Bosnia, Cuba, Sudan, Ethiopia, and North Korea.

She established the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program to continue her work to combat stigma and discrimination against people with mental illnesses and promote improved mental health care in the United States and abroad. She chaired the Carter Center Mental Health Task Force, a group of individuals in a position to affect public policy; hosted an annual gathering of national mental health leaders to foster greater consensus on pivotal national policy issues; and established the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism to encourage accurate, in-depth reporting about mental health issues.

In 2000, The Carter Center and Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health established the Rosalynn Carter Endowed Chair in Mental Health to honor Mrs. Carter’s lifelong commitment to mental health advocacy. It is the first endowed chair in mental health policy at a school of public health, and its focus is on prevention of mental disorders and promotion of mental health.

In addition, Mrs. Carter’s devotion to service extended to other complementary areas. She saw the toll that caring for a loved one with mental illness had on a family and knew firsthand the burden of caring for a critically ill or aging family member. In 1987, Mrs. Carter founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers at Georgia Southwestern State University to support those who selflessly cared for others and build on her belief that “there are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” The Rosalynn Carter Institute began by helping caregivers in Georgia through direct service programs. Today it serves all family caregivers, which number over 40 million people in the United States. Under Mrs. Carter’s leadership, the RCI has increased public awareness of caregiver needs, advanced public and social policies to support caregivers, and become a catalyst for change.

In her unwavering dedication to others, Rosalynn Carter reunited with Betty Bumpers to form Vaccinate Your Family (founded as Every Child By Two) to campaign for timely infant immunizations. She was honorary chair of the call-to-action campaign, Last Acts: Care and Caring at the End of Life, a national coalition of individuals and organizations advocating more compassionate care for those who are dying, and distinguished fellow of the Emory University Department of Women’s Studies. And for more than 30 years during Habitat for Humanity’s annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, she would be found with her husband demonstrating advanced carpentry skills as they built homes for poor families.

As a lifelong resident of Plains, Mrs. Carter was an avid supporter of her hometown and a strong advocate for maintaining its historic integrity. She served on the boards of the Plains Historic Preservation Trust and the Friends of the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park. Mrs. Carter was an active member of Maranatha Baptist Church, where she served as a deacon.

A young Nigerian girl presents Mrs. Carter with flowers of welcome during the Feb. 15, 2007, tour of health work in the community of Nasarawa. (Credit: The Carter Center)

Among her many honors were the “Into the Light” Award from the National Mental Health Association; the Award of Merit for Support of the Equal Rights Amendment from the National Organization for Women; the Notre Dame Award for International Service; the Foundation for Hospice and Homecare Lifetime Achievement Award; United Seniors Health Cooperative Senior Advocate Award; the U.S. Surgeon General’s Medallion; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian recognition. In 2001, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Rosalynn Carter was the author of five books: her autobiography First Lady from Plains; Everything To Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life, a book co-authored with President Carter and inspired by their life after the White House; Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book For Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant); Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant), which was selected as the winner of the 1999 American Society of Journalists and Authors Outstanding Book Award in the service category, and Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis (with Susan K. Golant and Kathryn E. Cade).

Asked once how she would like to be remembered, she said, “I would like for people to think that I took advantage of the opportunities I had and did the best I could.”

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter’s life and legacy, reactions to her death:

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‘Nyad’ stays afloat thanks to stellar performances

An engaging story that provides visibility for strong, authentic queer characters



Jodie Foster trains Annette Bening in ‘Nyad.’ (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Biopics are the thing this year, it seems. 

So far, 2023 has brought us big-and-buzzy movies about a world-changing scientist (“Oppenheimer”), a pop culture princess (“Priscilla”), and an unsung hero of the Civil Rights movement (“Rustin”), with the much-anticipated “Napoleon” from Ridley Scott, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role, soon to come. All of these have centered on more-or-less well-known real-world figures. Even Rustin, whose long-obscured historical contributions have been amplified since the Obama era, can safely be said to have a more famous name than the woman whose story (or, at least, part of it) is told in “Nyad.”

That film, produced by Netflix and released on its platform Nov. 3, relates the saga of marathon swimmer – also author, journalist, and motivational speaker – Diana Nyad, who in 1978, at age 28, attempted and failed to become the first person to complete the swim from Cuba to Florida. Someone else (equipped with a shark cage) would go on to claim that record, but the movie picks up the saga when Nyad (Annette Bening), now 60, decides to try the swim again. To make her unlikely dream come true she enlists the aid of her best friend and former coach Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster), who reluctantly agrees to the challenges.

Bolstered by confidence, drive, and a determination to complete what she started long ago – not to mention a seasoned sea captain (Rhys Ifans) to guide her course and a team of experts brought in to help protect her from the dangers of the deep – Nyad embarks on a late-life quest to accomplish her seemingly impossible goal, refusing to give up the effort despite failure, fate, and the uncontrollable forces of nature itself.

As written by Julia Cox and co-directed by husband-and-wife team Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (“Free Solo”), “Nyad” fully embraces all the conventions of the sports-bio subgenre, from training montages to heartbreaking disappointments to adrenalin-pumping suspense, and – to its credit – manages to do so without feeling like a cookie-cutter repetition of formula. Part of this, of course, can be attributed to the “edginess” points it earns by focusing on an athletic hero that is not only female, but a 60-something gay female at that.

Another key factor is its adventurous environment and setting, which puts us into a world that most of us will never visit and forces us to imagine a feat almost none of us could hope to achieve. The thrill of the ride is more than enough reason to take the journey, and it’s easy to be sucked into the vicarious experience as we root the movie’s eponymous real-life heroine on toward a hoped-for triumph.

Still, it’s impossible not to observe a certain rote quality to the film’s approach. Even for those who go into “Nyad” without knowing her story (which, with the exception of those with an interest in the world of competitive long-distance swimming, is likely to describe most of us), it seems unthinkable that Diana Nyad won’t accomplish what she sets out to do – after all, why would a movie about her exist had she not done so? Presumably recognizing the same point, Chin and Vasarhelyi angle their movie toward the visceral, attempting to immerse us in a first-person experience instead of keeping us hanging on the eventual outcome. This is a story about a personal journey, about the friendship and teamwork that make it possible, and not a “will she make it or not?” nail-biter.

To that end, “Nyad” benefits most from the two stars who anchor it. As Nyad, Bening is an indomitable – sometimes imperious – spirit, driven to the point of obsession, and might well come off as something less than likable were it not for the perfectly balanced counterweight provided by Foster’s breezy, down-to-earth Stoll. There’s an easy chemistry between them, a symbiotic alignment that works to both their benefits. We like Nyad better because Stoll likes her, and we respect the easy-going Stoll more because Nyad does. These two film veterans allow us to see their characters reflected through each other’s eyes, heightening the emotional connection we feel toward both and giving the movie a loving heart – albeit a platonic one, since “Nyad” refreshingly focuses on a story of female friendship without imposing a perfunctory and unnecessary “Hollywood” love story into the middle of it – with which we can all relate even if we can’t wrap our heads around the intense physical and psychological pressure of being a long-distance open sea swimmer. 

Yet even with two superb performances leading the charge, there’s still an air of disingenuousness to “Nyad,” a showy, exaggerated sense of drama that feels designed to keep things exciting. After all, no matter how intense a real-life marathon swim might be for the person in the water, watching it from the perspective of an observer would mostly be a monotonous affair, and the film tries hard to keep itself moving briskly, leaning heavily into edgy cutting and a rapid-fire narrative style as it elides its way over the routine stuff between the obstacles and setbacks. It’s an understandable approach, but one that fails to generate real suspense, because (as noted above), Nyad’s eventual success feels like a foregone conclusion from the beginning, even when things lean hard into the stakes-raising drama of swimming with hungry sharks and poisonous jellyfish. As a result, when these things happen, they feel manufactured.

Indeed, some of the events in the narrative are manufactured, and while such examples of artistic license have always been standard practice in “fictionalizing” true stories on the screen, there have been criticisms leveled at the film’s representation of events – particularly its depiction of Nyad’s final swim, some details of which were poorly logged and subject to conflicting accounts from members of her support team. Those controversies are omitted or glossed over here, which can’t help but tarnish the movie’s clear intent to celebrate a queer hero.

Nevertheless, as a piece of old-fashioned, inspirational Hollywood entertainment, it works well enough, thanks largely to Bening and Foster, who elevate it to awards-worthy status in spite of itself. And if, in the long run, it doesn’t rise to the level of their performances, it’s still an engaging story that provides all-too-rare visibility not just for strong and authentic queer characters, but for strong and authentic older ones, too.

In Hollywood, that’s got to be almost as remarkable a feat as swimming 100 miles in the open ocean.

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Out & About

Comedian Quincy Bazen wants you to laugh through the darkness

Up-and-coming comedian Quincy Bazen isn’t afraid to dive into the dark and scary topics in his new show, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell



Comedian Quincy Bazen isn’t afraid to dive into the dark & scary topics in his new show, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. (Photo by Dante Velasquez)

By Rob Salerno | LOS ANGELES – Up-and-coming comedian Quincy Bazen isn’t afraid to dive into the dark and scary topics in his new show, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Family breakdowns, mental illness, suicidal thoughts, and the scariest topic of all for young gay men – turning 30 – are all fair game for the hilarious observations that make up the hour-long show that recently made its LA debut at The Virgil.

The newly minted tricenarian grew up in a military family and moved fourteen times before he finished high school, which inspired the title and much of the substance of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  

“Trying to carve out my own identity throughout all those moves and all those changes was not an easy thing. Especially when you’re in the closet, right? You’re already trying to latch onto anything you can so nobody’s paying attention or asking questions about like what’s really going on behind the curtain,” Bazen says.

Bazen says the show is his way of answering the question, “where are you from?” which has always been a tricky thing to answer. 

“I don’t really feel like I’m from anywhere. So, okay, what is the most authentic piece about me then I can give you? And yeah, I do struggle with mental health, and it’s been a lifelong struggle, but it’s something that I think that we have to find comedy because it’s the human experience,” he says. “I don’t want to make small talk about my life. I want to talk about it for an hour.” 

And Bazen’s comedy is unabashedly gay. From bits about topping and bottoming, being selfish in bed, his monogamous relationship with his British boyfriend, and reacting to his father’s discomfort with his being gay, Bazen always finds a uniquely queer and hilarious take.

“Queer comedy kind of stands in the face of everything that queer people are really brought up to believe,” he says. “I love to get on stage and act as faggy as I absolutely can. I just love to do it and I think it’s because I’m a little rebellious. I just I hated growing up being told I couldn’t, and now I’m just flying in their faces every single day.”

Bazen’s only been doing standup for a little over a year, but he has an obvious comfort and confidence on stage that he says comes from being a theatre kid since he was a child. While he’d previously been putting on musicals and creating web series, when the pandemic hit and everything was shut down, he had to find a new way to express himself. Comedy turned out to be a natural fit.

Quincy Bazen (Photo by Owen Devalk)

“I’ve been type-A since I was 6 years old,” he says. “I think that’s why stand up is so fun, because there’s no rules. You’re changing what you’re saying based on how other people are responding in the room. I think there’s a sense of ease in that.”

And 2024 is already looking like it’s going to be a big year for Bazen. He’s planning a tour of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in February and has a monthly comedy showcase in Los Angeles beginning in January. 

He’s also the co-host of the weekly Dom Pop podcast, where he and cohost Hayden Baker break down their favorite new and classic pop albums. That podcast will soon be holding its third annual Dommie Awards, which Bazen describes as “the unofficial Grammy Awards, they’re where the girls that you always want to win a Grammy get to win.”

All of this activity has proven to be a healthy antidote for the other major change in his life – turning 30. While he had dreaded the big 3-0 as “gay death,” he’s found instead that he’s thriving. “I feel like I was one of those really serious religious people in 2012, ready for the world end, and then I woke up on D-Day and I’m like, ‘Oh? It’s okay? I’m still here I’m still fine?’” Bazen says. “I’d like to think that I’m doing better than I was, but I’d be remiss or lying if I said that I was never anxious about it.”


Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Online Culture

TikTok video of Cody Conner, a Virginia Beach dad, is going viral

“I’m here to tell you that if your love makes somebody not want to be alive, it’s not love. That’s not love”



Cody Conner, a father of three kids gave a passionate speech to the Virginia Beach City Public Schools' board meeting supporting LGBTQ+ kids. (Photo Credit: Cody Conner/Facebook)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va, – Cody Conner, a father of three kids gave a passionate speech supporting LGBTQ+ kids during the Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ board meeting last month that was uploaded as a TikTok video that has since gone viral.

Conner excoriated the board for considering implementation of Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s anti-trans school policies.

“You are never going to find a right way to do the wrong thing and Governor Youngkin’s policies are wrong,” Conner told the board.

“Never in history have the good guys been the segregationist group pushing to legislate identity,” he said. “Never in history have the good guys been closely connected with and supported by hate groups like the Proud Boys. And the good guys don’t put Hitler quotes for inspiration on the front of their newsletters. News flash: they’re the bad guys. They’re the bad guys supporting bad policy. And if you support the same bad policy, guess what? You’re one of the bad guys too.”

“When you look around and see only the wrong people supporting what you’re doing, you’re doing the wrong thing.“ Now you’ve heard some speakers come up here and say how they love these kids but won’t accept them. I’m here to tell you that if your love makes somebody not want to be alive, it’s not love. That’s not love.

“Some of you are going to get up here and say ‘it’s the law.’ Well, I remind you that slavery and segregation used to be the law here in Virginia.”

“I just knew I couldn’t standby and do nothing, just let it happen and hope everything worked out ok and I also wanted to make sure my kid knew that I would stand up for them,” Conner explains as he begins to tear up. “My big job as a parent is not to tell my children who they are, it’s not to make the decisions for them, it’s not to live their life or decide what their life is going to be, but to show them the best way I know how to walk through this world.”

According to PRIDE journalist Ariel Messman-Rucker, Conner moved his family to Virginia Beach right before Youngkin’s policies passed and he worries about the future of his 13-year-old trans daughter who is now in the 8th grade. The family moved from rural Virginia to Virginia Beach so that their kid, who came out as trans a year ago, would be in a school system that would be supportive, but that all changed because of Youngkin.

The 42-year-old father told PRIDE he’s a quiet person and might not have made the choice to speak up if not for his kids.

Virginia’s Department of Education at the direction of the Governor has set out “model policies” for public schools that require students to use the bathroom and sports team that matches their sex at birth.

The policies require written instruction from parents for a student to use names or gender pronouns that differ from the official record, meaning that teacher can deadname students—refer to them by their prior name—if paperwork isn’t filled out by the parents and it requires the school to inform parents if a student is questioning their identity, according to 13 News Now.

LGBTQ+ rights activists including Equality Virginia have stated these policies will be especially detrimental to LGBTQ+ students who come from conservative non-affirming homes.

The Virginia Beach School Board in a 9-1 vote approved an updated policy for transgender and nonbinary students.

The new policy will require teachers to use pronouns and names that are on official record with exceptions for nicknames commonly associated with the student’s legal name. If a student requests anything else, teachers will be required to report it to the parents. Students must also use bathrooms and participate in sports teams that correspond to their assigned sex. 

@beezay22 #CapCut #virginia #virginiabeach #schoolboard #schoolboardmeetings #lgbtqiaplus #transrightsarehumanrights #protecttranskids #stoptransgenocide #fyp ♬ original sound – BeezayDad

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Record number of Southern Californians will travel for Thanksgiving

The Auto Club predicts 4.6 million Southern Californians will travel during the Thanksgiving holiday period this year



AAA Auto Club/Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – For the second year in a row, an all-time record number of Southern Californians are projected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The Auto Club predicts 4.6 million Southern Californians will travel during the Thanksgiving holiday period this year – a 3% increase from last year’s record number of travelers and a 3.5% increase from 2019, the last Thanksgiving holiday before the pandemic.

Nationwide, AAA is projecting this Thanksgiving to be the third busiest on record, with 55.4 million travelers expected compared to 58.6 million in 2005 and 56 million in 2019.

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five days from Wednesday, November 22 to Sunday, November 26.

By the Numbers

Thanksgiving 2023 CA Chart
Thanksgiving 2023 ACSC US

“Thanksgiving is one of the more popular holidays for people to travel to see family and friends so they can take part in annual traditions like turkey dinners and Black Friday shopping,” said Jenna Miller, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services. “Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA’s Thanksgiving travel forecast reflects people’s ongoing desire to get away and spend time with their loved ones.”

Top Destinations

Warm weather destinations, theme parks, and cruise port cities will be among the most popular destinations this holiday season. Nationally, AAA expects Florida cities, New York City, and Hawaii to be among the top U.S. destinations and internationally, some top destinations will include Cancun, Punta Cana, and European cities like Rome, Paris and London.

Locally, the top five destinations for Southern Californians will be:

1) Las Vegas

2) San Diego

3) Santa Barbara/Central Coast

4) Grand Canyon

5) Mexico cruises and resorts

Gas Prices

Southern Californians who drive to their holiday destinations will be getting some relief at the pump compared to last year when filling up for their getaways. Gas prices are averaging about 30 cents a gallon less than this time last year and have been continuously dropping since October, with most local metro areas averaging less than $5.25 a gallon. To find the cheapest gas prices closest to your location, use the AAA Mobile app, and visit to find the average gas prices at your destination or calculate the estimated gas cost for your Thanksgiving trip.

Travel Tips

  • If traveling by automobile, make sure your vehicle maintenance is up-to-date and your tires and battery are in good condition. AAA expects to respond to more than 90,000 calls for help in California over the Thanksgiving weekend.   If you need some help getting your vehicle road trip ready, visit to find a reputable AAA-Approved Auto Repair facility near you.
  • Air travelers should plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours before  domestic flights and three hours ahead of time for international departures. The Auto Club recommends people who drive themselves ot the airport to reserve a parking space to make sure you have one, download your airline’s app and check-in for your flight at home to avoid long lines at kiosks in the terminal.

Busy Roads

According to the transportation analytics firm INRIX, Wednesday, Nov. 22 in the afternoon and evening will be the busiest time for Southland freeways. The most impacted drive on that afternoon and evening will be I-5 North between Los Angeles and Bakersfield, which is projected to take 88% longer than normal with a three-hour travel time. Other heavily impacted routes will be I-15 South between I-10 and San Diego on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 26, and I-5 South between Bakersfield and Los Angeles on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 24. All outbound freeways are likely to be congested on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons before Thanksgiving, so drivers should expect longer travel times during those periods and plan to leave early.

About AAA

Started in 1902 by automotive enthusiasts who wanted to chart a path for better roads in America and advocate for safe mobility, AAA has transformed into one of North America’s largest membership organizations. Today, AAA provides roadside assistance, travel, discounts, financial and insurance services to enhance the life journey of 64 million members across North America, including 57 million in the United States. To learn more about all AAA has to offer or to become a member, visit

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Long-awaited ‘Rustin’ restores queer hero to the historical record

A career-making, Oscar-worthy turn for Colman Domingo



Coleman Domingo (with Aml Ameen, left) stars in triumphant biopic 'Rustin.' (Image courtesy of Netflix)

Though his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement were monumental, the late Bayard Rustin has long been considered one of America’s most unsung heroes. 

Now, that name (or the second half of it, at least) is the title of one of the year’s most highly anticipated movies, and if the real Rustin was anything like the Rustin delivered to us by star Colman Domingo in the film – and we’d like to believe that he was – it’s likely he’d get an ironic chuckle out of all that.

What the real Rustin was like, of course, is the essence of what “Rustin” – now playing in theaters for a limited run due before dropping on Netflix next week – aims to convey. Like all historical biopics, its essential goal is to present an iconic figure as a relatable human being, and thanks to a slickly crafted screenplay by Julian Breece and Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black, this one devotes much of its screentime to doing exactly that. But since their script must also address the additional challenge of educating a presumably unfamiliar audience about their subject’s place in history, they also apply the same knack for conveying both political atmosphere and cultural context that Black deployed with such success in 2008’s “Milk” to chronicle Rustin’s signature political accomplishment – spearheading the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his culture-shifting “I Have a Dream” speech – with all the succinct-but-nuanced precision necessary to get the point across.

The film – after establishing Rustin’s initial break with King (Aml Ameen) when threats to expose his homosexuality threatened to undermine the latter’s political viability – follows Rustin as he conceives the largest demonstration in history and sets about reuniting with his estranged comrade to make it a reality. Observing the interplay between politics and idealism as it interweaves the romantic dramas of Rustin’s fictionalized private life, it chronicles the various hurdles the pair face on the treacherous path toward fruition of their history-making plan.

Breece and Black’s screenplay – upon which the success or failure of “Rustin” as a worthy tribute to the queer man whose life it aspires to encapsulate hinges – succeeds to a higher degree than most biopics. By limiting its scope to a single chapter in Rustin’s career, it’s able to emphasize the qualities that define Bayard Rustin as both a man and a cultural hero, and that scores a lot of points; many ambitious biopics have settled for an idealized portrait in an attempt to define an entire life, only to fall short by ignoring or sugarcoating the darker corners that exist within any person’s tenure on Earth.

Still, a screenplay is only one aspect – albeit a crucial one – contributing to the success or failure of a film’s ambitions, and fortunately for “Rustin,” the other indispensable elements are all firmly in place, too.

To begin with, attention must be called to the direction by George C. Wolfe, a two-time Tony-winning theater veteran (“Angels in America: Millennium Approaches”, “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk”) whose screen credits include the much-acclaimed “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and who brings a larger-than-life sense of dramatic storytelling to the mix. Blending tried-and-true narrative approach with an internet-era edginess of flow, he manages to weave a story involving multiple important-yet-little-known historical facts and figures without being mired in clumsy exposition. 

Far more importantly, his finger is planted firmly on the human element, allowing factual details to become secondary to the insights he ekes from the history explored in his film. Though he never fails in delivering the emotionally weighted cinematic call to action his subject demands, he allows the personal to take center stage within historical events that far eclipse the individual lives of any of its players. The personal impact of warring ideologies – and of deeply ingrained cultural homophobia – comes to the forefront of the story as he tells it; driven by a freeform, improvisational-toned jazz soundtrack from Branford Marsalis, and informed by a commitment to lived truth over normalized homogenization, his film is clearly designed to cut through political posturing in pursuit of a scrupulously honest portrait of both its titular character and the vastly important sociopolitical movement in which its story is set.

Most important of all, however, is the contribution of the film’s leading player. As Rustin, Domingo is a singular force to be reckoned with, an unflinching and entirely approachable portrait of a man both physically and psychically scarred by a life of uncompromising activism. It seems a shame even to have to add that his identity as an out gay man lends an aura of authenticity that provides measureless value and impact to his performance; it’s a career-making, Oscar-worthy turn which in our view places him neatly as a front-runner for this year’s “awards season” honors. If the film lands solidly – and it does – it’s on the strength of this star-making performance.

There’s also a host of outstanding supporting performances, though Chris Rock’s turn as NAACP leader Roy Wilkins feels jarringly one-dimensional, in addition to being hampered by a less-than-convincing application of age makeup to bridge a gap of not-very-many years; yet “Rustin” can’t help but be slightly diminished by a permeating aura of Hollywood “gloss.” Well-intentioned as it may be, it’s a film with an obvious imperative to present its title character as a hero, though it must be said that, for queer audiences, Rustin’s refusal to obscure his own sexuality for the sake of political convenience renders such efforts unnecessary. Nevertheless, while it never flinches from presenting Rustin’s queerness or exploring the (arguably problematic) inconstancy of his romantic commitments, it conveniently avoids addressing more challenging aspects of his record – for example, his late-in-life evolution away from pacifism and embrace of neoconservative ideals in international policy – in service of cementing his reputation as a pillar of the modern human rights movement.

In the long run, of course, such matters do not erase his earlier contributions, nor can they be summarily condemned in the context of contemporary world politics. Yet we can’t help but feel that, by omission, they render a less than-fully-honest cinematic portrait of a man who, as a queer person of color, inarguably deserves his status – warts and all –  as one of the most impactful forces in the fight toward equal rights, regardless of either race or sexual identity.

That said, “Rustin” is still one of the most engaging and unflinchingly heartfelt films we’ve seen this year, a perfectly apt tribute to a towering figure who is only now – nearly a decade after receiving a posthumous Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama – receiving due credit for his impact on the fight for equality, and possibly the most overdue recognition Hollywood has ever bestowed upon a non-heteronormative public figure in recent memory.

There’s a reason it’s accompanied by a buzz, one that’s more than enough to make it a must-see for anybody “in the fight.” And if you can lend your support to Black-and-queer filmmaking by buying a ticket to see it in the theater before it streams on your TV screen at home, all the better.

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