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LA queer synagogue brings 1920s Berlin cabaret to life

Jeremy Lawrence performs ‘Lavender Songs – A Queer Cabaret in Weimar Berlin’ at Beth Chayim Chadashim

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Actor and writer Jeremy Lawrence brought a sense of 1920s Berlin to life at Beth Chayim Chadashim. (Photo by Jan Wilkens)

Berlin in the 1920s — between the two World Wars — was a hedonistic metropolis enjoying an era of creativity and sexual freedom that was unprecedented in modern world history. Theaters, bars and nightclubs attracted thousands of visitors every night, enjoying songs, dance and glamorous cabarets.

Boundaries of reality and illusion, social and political differences and the sexes — even gender — blurred. The “Golden Twenties” was a period of cultural enrichment, shortly before the Nazis came to power and destroyed the diversity of Berlin’s nightlife, indeed Germany itself.

Jeremy Lawrence, a New York artist, brought that era to life in a performance of “Lavender Songs – A Queer Cabaret in Weimar Berlin,” held Oct. 13 at Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC), the world’s first queer synagogue founded in 1972. For more than 20 years, Lawrence has worked to translate the songs of Weimar Berlin into English, performing them in New York. His BCC performance was an exclusive preview of the East Coast premiere of his new show, calling the synagogue his “spiritual home.”

Lawrence, who transformed himself into Tante (aunt) Fritzy, took the audience on a stroll through some of Berlin’s hot spots of queer life: Tiergarten, the legendary city park where anonymous sexual encounters were commonplace; gay bars where Tante Fritzy met all kind of men – from communists to national-socialists; and a ménage à trois in the bedroom of a married couple.

Tante Fritzy, a “sucker for happy endings,” sang about her quest for the enjoyment of desires and the sadness of unrequited love. Berlin was a fast-moving city, where lusty encounters were quick and easy and Tante Fritzy lived it.

She delighted the audience with her salacious humor, her charm and her lust for life. Her songs, characterized by distinctive simplicity, were deeply moving and soulful. One audience member said Tante Fritzy’s journey made vivid how vibrant and open Berlin was 90 years ago, something that seems almost unimaginable considering what happened when Hitler rose to power.

The parallels to today’s America are obvious.

For Jeremy Lawrence, the 1920s are a reminder for a democracy’s fragility, yet as much as it is a political system that fosters cultural freedom it can change quickly.

“In the face of the Trump ascendency,” he says, “it couldn’t be more important to show today’s audiences how the cabaret artists of the Weimar Era responded fearlessly to the rise of Hitler with subversive satire and ebullient sexual naughtiness.”

In a Q&A that followed the performance, Lawrence emphasized the role of satire in resistance.“Resist!” he proclaimed. Queers and Jews, after all, shared the same plight during the Nazi era and were also the writers and performers of German political cabaret. At the end of the performance, Tante Fritzy went back to her Berlin apartment and transformed back into a regular, working-class man.

Wistfully moved by current political events, he concludes with a sentence with a double meaning — relevant in the 1920s and again today.

“Be careful out there, he is not going away.”

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Online Culture

Tom Daley: Bad Dad Jokes!

Terrible jokes, but I love them! Not sure if Lance does…

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Los Angeles Blade Screenshot via YouTube

LONDON – British Olympian and gold medalist diver Tom Daley along with his husband D. Lance Black pass along some really terrible ‘Dad’ jokes.

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Celebrity News

Out Trans Munroe Bergdorf is covergirl as Cosmopolitan UK celebrates 50

“I believe the people want trans inclusion, racial equality, to end misogyny so women and girls feel safe walking home at night”

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Courtesy of Cosmopolitan UK

LONDON – Starting this upcoming Friday, January 21, customers standing in the queue at checkout tills and newsstands across the United Kingdom will be greeted by the sight of model and Out Trans activist Munroe Bergdof smiling back at them from the cover of the 50th anniversary special edition issue of Cosmopolitan UK.

In the cover story interview conducted by PinkNewsUK gender and identity journalist Vic Parsons, Salvadoran-American filmmaker, actor, model, and intersex rights activist River Gallo, along with writer, stylist and consultant Aja Barber, Bergdof discusses career, climate change and global warming, cancel culture, pronouns and the future of Trans rights.

“I hope there’s a young trans girl looking at this cover thinking: ‘I can do it too and who I am is not going to hold me back,’” she says.

Bergdorf adds: “I believe the people want trans inclusion, racial equality, to end misogyny so women and girls feel safe walking home at night.”

“I don’t think we have ever been as enlightened as a people as we are now, even if there is a lot of misinformation around. I do feel like the spark has been lit. Less people are passively accepting what they have been presented with and that’s an incredible thing.”

In a commentary piece written for London-based fashion and cultural media outlet Grazia in February 2018, Bergdorf noted;

A woman is more than a vagina, than her ability to bear children, the gender she was assigned at birth, a socio-economic class, marital status or sexual history – yet every one of these points has been used to define and control a woman’s place in society. This is why feminism must serve as an inclusive tool of liberation for all female identities and experiences, not just some. This is where so many women are still getting it wrong.”

[…]

I long to see more cisgender women in positions of influence standing up for trans women, making people aware of issues that may not affect all of us, but that we should all care about deeply.

[…]

We must learn to see all women’s experiences as worthy of being listened to within feminist discourse. Because the fact is not all women possess a functioning reproductive system, not all women have a vagina, not all women’s vaginas are pink. So, when ‘pink pussies’ are used as imagery intended to unify all women, what they are actually doing is excluding a large amount of women from feeling like they have a voice within feminism.”

Bergdof deleted her Twitter account due to the torrent of transphobic abuse she received on the social media platform PinkNewsUK reported.

“Tired of being a punching bag. Twitter is not a safe app for transgender people,” she wrote.

The activist called on social media platforms take more action to combat the abuse directed at transgender people and women online.

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Sports

Out soccer player calls out ‘homophobic abuse’ from crowd

The Adelaide United player said he had “no words” to describe his disappointment at being the target of anti-gay insults from the crowd

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Photo courtesy of Josh Cavallo Instagram

ADELAIDE, Australia – Professional soccer player Josh Cavallo, who became the only openly gay top-flight male professional footballer last year, told his Instagram followers over the weekend that he experienced “homophobic abuse” during his last game. 

The Adelaide United player said he had “no words” to describe his disappointment at being the target of anti-gay insults from the crowd at AAMI Park during his team’s Saturday game against the Melbourne Victory.

“As a society it shows we still face these problems in 2022,” he wrote. “This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold these people accountable. Hate never will win. I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”

Cavallo added that he was also targeted after the game online. 

“To @instagram I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received,” he said. “I knew truely being who I am that I was going to come across this. It’s a sad reality that your platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) said it was “shocked and saddened” to hear Cavallo’s reports of “homophobic bullying,” according to the Guardian

“Our players, staff and fans have the right to feel safe on and off the pitch,” APL CEO Danny Townsend said. “There is no place for bullying, harassment or abuse in Australian football and we have zero tolerance for this harmful behaviour.”

The APL is working with both teams to investigate the incident, adding that sanctions will be issued to anyone involved. 

In a statement, Adelaide United Chief Executive Officer Nathan Kosmina said that the team was “appalled” at the “verbal abuse” that Cavallo received. 

“Adelaide United is proud to be an inclusive and diverse football club, and to see one of our players subjected to homophobic abuse is disappointing and upsetting,” he said. “Josh continues to show immense courage and we join him in calling out abuse, which has no place in society, and it will not be tolerated by our Club.”

The Melbourne Victory added that it “sees football as a platform to unite fans no matter what background. Spectators found to have breached these standards will be banned from future matches.”

At the end of his Instagram message, Cavallo thanked those sending him positive messages, love and support. 

“Love will always win,” he said. 

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