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Taking on a new fight with ‘Members Only’

Events of today echo the earliest days of the AIDS crisis

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(Photo courtesy Los Angeles Theater Center)

When playwright Oliver Mayer debuted his groundbreaking “Blade to the Heat” over two decades ago, people saw it as an “AIDS play.”

The saga of a closeted Latino fighter struggling with the secret of his sexuality within the hyper-masculine world of professional boxing, it was set in the late 1950s – long before the first documented cases of HIV began to appear.  Even so, its story about navigating a secret stigma within a homophobic environment resonated with audiences of the ‘90s in such a way that drawing parallels to the era of AIDS was inescapable.

Now, Mayer has returned to the world of “Blade” in a sequel, “Members Only,” which picks up the threads of the original play in 1982 – placing its characters in a historical moment when the epidemic – with all its life-and-culture-changing implications – was poised to descend upon the world.

Doing so has allowed him to explore directly the topic which was only obliquely touched in his original piece, of course; but it would be a mistake to think “Members Only” is an “AIDS play” – at least, entirely – any more than its predecessor. Mayer may now be able to address the subject within his narrative, but he weaves it among the threads that continue through the lives of the old characters and into to the lives of the new; more than that, he uses all of those threads to connect, once more, the issues of a bygone era to those that face us now.

“Members” once again centers on boxer Pedro “Pete” Quinn; still fighting and still closeted, he has gone on to a championship career.  When a young female boxer who trains at his gym is confronted by harassment and misogyny, he takes her under his wing; but even as he assumes the role of her protector, he finds himself facing new threats of his own – from two former “frenemies” planning to make a film about a tragic incident in his past, and from a mysterious new sickness emerging within the world where he lives his secret life.

“Members Only,” while it relies heavily on plot points which originated in “Blade,” is a stand-alone piece – to a point. It’s not necessary to have seen the original, or even to be familiar with its storyline, to be able to follow the action.  Even so, the surviving characters carry a lot of pre-existing emotional weight, and audiences who have not experienced their previous history firsthand may have difficulty getting sufficiently invested in them before things start getting heavy.                                                          

Those who were there for the first part of the journey, however, will likely be absorbed from the moment the lights come up to reveal protagonist Pedro Quinn – played here, fortuitously and remarkably, by Ray Oriel, reprising the role he took on in the history-making 1996 Mark Taper production of “Blade” – re-enacting the climactic moments of the original play to set the ground for what is to come over the next 90 minutes. 

In either case, this world premiere production mounted by the Latino Theater Company at LATC transcends standard narrative conventions by presenting the story and its characters through a ritualized approach which elevates them to the realm of myth.  Emotional connections are forged at a deeper, primal level, and the specifics of conflict serve to illuminate repeating patterns that resonate within the larger context of shared cultural experience. Audience members are reminded throughout that they are not just seeing a play; they are also participating in a tribal ceremony.

This is accomplished by director José Luis Valenzuela through his imaginative staging, which takes place on what is essentially a bare stage – over which hangs a complex of jumbo screens, evocative of those over a boxing ring, upon which real-time video of the action is periodically broadcast – and incorporates choreographed, ceremonial scene transitions that are part of the action instead of interruptions to it.

It’s also reflected in the performances of the excellent cast, who heighten their style just enough to transform their characters into archetypes while keeping them grounded in the “real” world of the play. Oriel uses the weight of his history in the role to give a powerful presence to Quinn, as he takes this modern-day Latino Oedipus on a redemptive journey from self-loathing regret to heroic atonement. Jon Huertas, of “This Is Us,” is charismatic as Vinal, Quinn’s former rival on his own quest for resolution; and Gabriela Ortega is lovably scrappy as Lone, Quinn’s female protégé.  Perhaps most unforgettable is Marlene Forte, as Sarita, who embodies the transformation from vengeful Fury to merciful Mother with remarkable dexterity. Also deserving special mention is Darrin Dewitt Henson, who brings grace and understanding to his turn as Quinn’s gay doctor, who becomes the face of AIDS even as he warns of its coming.

The real star, though, is Mayer, who, in revisiting the themes from “Blade,” succeeds in both reasserting them and bringing them into an updated relevance.  The struggle to reconcile opposing cultural identities is, if anything, timelier today than it was in the period settings of either play; Quinn’s dilemma of being gay within a homophobic community still feels uncomfortably relevant in 2018, and Lone’s quest for acceptance as an equal in the male-dominated world of boxing has inescapable resonance in the era of #TimesUp and #MeToo.  There’s also deft exploration of intolerant traditional values within the Latino community – and all communities of color, for that matter – as well as the pernicious projection of self-hatred which manifests in bigotry and violence.

Lastly, he underscores everything with the insight that triumph is temporary. Even as Quinn approaches victory in the conflicts that have shaped his life, new battles loom in the shadows of the future; he can prove his strength against another man but he is powerless against the ravages of time and age, and wider acceptance of his sexuality comes even as a gay plague is on the horizon.  The fight is never over, whether for one or for all, and – as the play’s ending makes powerfully clear – there’s always a punch that you don’t see coming.

“Members Only” runs at Los Angeles Theatre Center Oct. 25-Nov.18.  For tickets and more information, visit thelatc.org.

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Jinkx and DeLa deliver pitch-perfect holiday comedy

The Return of The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE!” comes to LA for one show only: Saturday, December 18, at The Theatre at Ace Hotel

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Jinkx Monsoon & BenDeLaCreme (Photo by Jiji Lee)

NEW YORK – Touring through December 30 with a new, essential viewing installment of their annual holiday stage show (skipped last year because of COVID-Number-You-Know), drag queens Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme need about five minutes of stage time to prove they’ve earned their place in the pantheon of mismatched comedy duos.

From the time they set up the show’s premise to the moment they send their swooning audience back into the larger world hoarse from excess laughter, the writer/performers work a binge-worthy buddy dynamic informed by the kinetic stage antics of Martin and Lewis, the pitch-perfect timing of Bob and Ray, the contempt-breeding familiarity of Eunice and Mama, and the fourth wall-breaking rivalry of Looney Tunes characters. (“Duck Season,” insists DeLa’s Bugs, answered by a “Rabbit Season!”-spouting Jinkx, in full-on Daffy mode.)

If some of the above pairings don’t ping your radar, no worry. Rest assured the carefully calibrated Christmas concoction created by DeLa and Jinkx knows its herstory. You can see it clear as day, in the DNA of each character: DeLa is stick-up-posterior organized and proper—the rigid product of too many traditional Christmases in Connecticut. Jinkx is a vulgar vixen whose idea of decking the halls is hitting the bars—and the back alley after last call.

Each bristles at the other’s extremes, oblivious to their own. Thus, the show is a series of escalating scenarios, where their oil and water makeup threatens to fracture the friendship beyond repair.

But how did things get to such a point? After entering the stage to raucous applause (seen by this scribe on Dec. 4, the second of two shows at NYC’s Town Hall), Jinkx and DeLa acknowledge the down time (“two years gone”) between these annual Yuletide stage shows, during which each gives their own take on the bill-paying indignities of Cameo bookings.

All is well—but soon enough, we’re introduced to an all-new character whose chemistry with DeLa does not sit well, at all, with Jinkx (a study in delayed or devoured pleasure, depending upon whether she stops short or imbibes from her omnipresent cocktail glass). It doesn’t help at all that the budding new bestie is a saccharine-sweet, larger than life, anthropomorphic peppermint retrieved from the bottom of DeLa’s comedically oversized purse.

Peppi the Peppermint (puppeteered by DeLa) is a bottomless well of mint-based puns and newborn-innocent questions about the meaning of words. The script hands Jinkx a half-dozen or so chances to stew in her juices before boiling over, when Peppi’s vocabulary comprehension skills are portrayed as wildly inconsistent (multisyllabic words are understood perfectly, while the meaning of simple ones prove elusive).

For fans of 2020’s subversively sincere and heroically explicit “The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special” (currently available on HULU), Peppi the Peppermint is to this show as Nanog (DeLa’s “dairy nogmother” puppet) is to that one—a seemingly harmless confidant who transfixes DeLa while alienating Jinkx. In addition to this forward-moving narrative device, “The Return of The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE!” benefits from mounting several of the production numbers from “Holiday Special,” complete with a six-person dance ensemble drawn from that show’s cast.

Benefitting from on-point costumes that crystallize the essence of their character, the ensemble is especially effective in DeLa’s dense little ditty about all the essential elements of a Connecticut Christmas. Later on, in a number that takes jabs at the story of the virgin birth and its 33-year aftermath, one dancer—as the adult Jesus—becomes the cross that the Christ child is crucified on. Played as a seconds-long tableau within the song’s fast-paced choreography, it’s long-lasting satire at its most devastating and damning. 

That’s only one of several WTF? moments in the show, the best of which they save for late in the game. Having earned sustained hoots and hollers throughout the nearly two-hour show, the broad comedy gets toned down a few dozen notches, with our freshly reconciled Jinkx and DeLa in an exchange about the gift of friendship and the power of community. There’s a grounded sincerity to that moment, with no expectation, or delivery, of a punchline. That’s a tough act to sell when you’ve been playing to the back of the house all night—but it works, and it’s wonderful. 

“The Return of The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE!” comes to the Los Angeles area for one show only: Saturday, December 18, at The Theatre at Ace Hotel. Produced and directed by BenDeLaCreme, co-written and co-created by BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon, and associate produced by Kevin Heard. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit jinkxanddela.com

Saturday, December 18 – Los Angeles, CA (The Theatre at Ace Hotel)

Sunday, December 19 – San Francisco, CA (The Palace of Fine Arts Theatre)

Tuesday, December 21 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)

Wednesday, December 22 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)

Thursday, December 23 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)

Friday, December 24 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)

Sunday, December 26 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)

Tuesday, December 28 – Vancouver, BC (Vogue Theatre)

Thursday, December 30 – Portland, OR (The Newmark)

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Golden Globes announces diverse slate of nominees

But is it diverse enough to quell controversy?

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Billy Porter and Michaela Jae Rodriquez in POSE (Image courtesy FX)

[NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect corrections from the originally published version. The previous HFPA membership included no Black members, instead of no people of color as initially reported. Additionally, it was previously stated that the awards ceremony would take place on the Golden Globes’ You Tube channel; however, a format for the presentation has yet to be officially announced.]

HOLLYWOOD – If any doubt remained that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has fallen spectacularly out of favor, it was summarily erased by the fact that the sole celebrity on hand to help announce the list of nominations for its 2021 Golden Globe Awards was Snoop Dogg.

That’s not a dig against Snoop Dogg. The eminently lovable rapper is an icon who manages to float effortlessly between worlds within the entertainment industry, thanks to a reputation for enthusiastic self-parody and a proven tendency to be pretty much game for anything – and frankly, watching him read the service manual for a vintage sewing machine would likely be more entertaining than sitting through a list of award nominees being recited (with perfunctory reverence, of course) by even the most accomplished of screen thespians.

Still, the glaring absence of any representative from the industry which the HFPA exists to honor is proof that the organization is still a long way from recovering from the scandal that broke in the wake of a Los Angeles Times investigative report earlier this year, which revealed that its nearly 90-person membership included no Black members and provided damning details about its long-alleged unethical practices – including the influence over its voting process by gifts, paid travel, and other perks from studios and networks behind the potential nominees and winners.

The bombshell report, which was published mere days before the Golden Globes presentation last February, led to an embarrassing award show in which the revelation of the winners was eclipsed by the organization’s scramble to do damage control.

Leaning into a too-little-too-late show of diversity among the ceremony’s performers and presenters, and sending some of the HFPA’s high-level representatives to the podium in a desperate effort to spin the situation with a not-quite-apology for its previous shortcomings (followed by an unconvincing promise to do better), the organization seemed only to have dug itself deeper into the hole of bad publicity that threatened to put an end to the awards body’s 78-year existence, once and for all.

Proposed reforms to the structure and practices of the HFPA were announced, and were promptly dismissed by Time’s Up as “window-dressing platitudes.” Major players in the industry announced intentions to boycott the Golden Globes; more than a hundred PR firms threatened to cut off the HFPA from access to their clients; high-profile talent publicly denounced the organization, with three-time winner Tom Cruise even returning his trophies. Perhaps most disastrous of all, NBC – the network which had been home to the Golden Globes broadcast – announced it would not be airing another one until at least 2023, saying that “change of this magnitude takes time and work” and that “the HFPA needs time to do it right”.

Despite all this, the beleaguered organization declared its intention to continue with its annual awards presentation, and following months of restructuring – in which the HFPA has attempted to diversify its ranks by adding new members, rewritten its bylaws, forbidden the acceptance of gifts, restricted compensated travel, and undertaken an effort to revamp itself from bottom to top – has tenaciously clung to relevance by announcing the nominees for this year’s crop of films and television shows in an early morning press conference marked by the non-participation of any of the potential recipients of those honors.

This means, of course, that it’s time to start gearing up for another awards season in which the dramatic changes wrought by the Covid pandemic upon the entertainment industry are sure to have a still-unpredictable effect on the outcomes, and to engage in a game of “armchair quarterbacking” as we attempt to predict how the honors bestowed by other awards bodies will impact the winners’ circle for the most coveted industry prize of all: the Oscars.

Traditionally, the Golden Globes have been seen as a bellwether for Academy Award inclusion, with many of the nominees and winners going on to eventual Oscar glory – but given the current still-ongoing boycott of the HFPA by so many of the industry’s most influential power-players, it remains to be seen if that long-standing assumption will hold true this year.

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at the nominees – with an eye to the diversity among the choices, particularly the inclusion of LGBTQ-relevant nominees among the contenders.

For television, Black actors Billy Porter (“Pose”) and Omar Sy (“Lupin”), as well as South Korean actor Lee Jung-jae (“Squid Game”), received nominations as Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series, while the equivalent Lead Actress category included Black actress Uzo Aduba (“In Treatment”) and Black/Puerto Rican actress Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (“Pose”) – who also makes history by becoming the first transgender performer to be nominated in this category, a feat she also accomplished at the 2021 Emmys. In the Comedy division, Black actor Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”) picked up a nod as Best Lead Actor, with Black actresses Issa Rae (“Insecure”) and Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”) included among the nominees for Best Lead Actress.

In the supporting categories (which are not divided into comedy and drama division), O Yeong-su (“Squid Game”) got a nod for Best Supporting Actor, with no nominees of color named within the Supporting Actress slate.

For performances in a Limited Series, Anthology Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television, Latino actor Oscar Isaac (“Scenes From a Marriage”) and French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim (“The Serpent”) made the cut for Best Actor, while Black actress Cynthia Erivo (“Genius: Aretha”) was nominated for Best Actress.

The big screen acting categories also included several nominees of color. Though there were no performers of color in the running for Best Lead Actress in a Motion Picture Drama, the Lead Actor slate includes three Black actors – Mahershala Ali (“Swan Song”), Will Smith (“King Richard”), and Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) – among its contenders. In the Musical or Comedy division, Latino actor Anthony Ramos (“In the Heights”) scored a nomination for Lead Actor, with Latino/Polish newcomer Rachel Zegler (“West Side Story”) earning a nod for Lead Actress.

In the Supporting categories (which again, are not separated into Drama and Comedy divisions), Black performers Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”) and Ruth Negga (“Passing”) joined Black/Puerto Rican performer Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”) on the list of Actress nominees, and while the Actor category contained no performers of color, deaf actor Troy Kotsur (“CODA”) made the cut, in a rare show of representation for people with disabilities.

When it comes to LGBTQ representation, however, the nominations fall considerably shorter. Among all the acting nominees, the only out members of the community are Porter and Rodriguez (each in their respective Lead Performance categories for “Pose”), Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) and Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”) for Lead Actress in a Motion Picture Drama, and Hannah Einbender (“Hacks”) for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Television Comedy. In addition to these, Azuba, Erivo, and Andrew Garfield (nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for “tick, tick… Boom!”) are noted for their vocal LGBTQ advocacy as allies. 

While nominees Benedict Cumberbatch and Kodi Smit-McPhee (nominated for Lead and Supporting Actor, respectively, in a Motion Picture Drama for “The Power of the Dog”) play queer characters, both identify as straight in real life. The same is true for Ewan McGregor, nominated as Best Actor in a Limited Series for his star turn as the title character in “Halston”.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the Best Director of a Motion Picture category, long dominated exclusively by men, this year includes two women: Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”) and Maggie Gyllenhall (“The Lost Daughter”)

Whether or not these nominees – or any of the others, for that matter – end up following up their recognition today with nods or wins on Oscar night remains to be seen. In the meantime, we can find out who will take the HFPA’s honors on January 9, when the Golden Globes are scheduled to take place. According to a representative from Sunshine Sachs (the PR firm representing the HFPA), a format for the presentation has yet to be determined, so it’s still unclear if we will get a chance to see who actually shows up to claim a prize from an organization now relegated to pariah status by most of Hollywood.

A complete list of nominations is below.

Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy

“The Great” (Hulu)

“Hacks” (HBO/HBO Max)

“Only Murders in the Building” (Hulu)

“Reservation Dogs” (FX on Hulu) 

“Ted Lasso” (Apple TV Plus)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Drama

Brian Cox (“Succession”)

Lee Jung-jae (“Squid Game”)

Billy Porter (“Pose”)

Jeremy Strong (“Succession”)

Omar Sy (“Lupin)

Best Performance by an Actress, Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television

Jessica Chastain (“Scenes From a Marriage”)

Cynthia Erivo (“Genius: Aretha”)
 
Elizabeth Olsen (“WandaVision“) 

Margaret Qualley (“Maid”)

Kate Winslet (“Mare of Easttown”)

Best Director, Motion Picture

Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”) 

Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”)

Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Daughter”)

Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”) 

Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”) 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

Marion Cotillard (“Annette”)

Alana Haim (“Licorice Pizza”) 

Jennifer Lawrence (“Don’t Look Up”) 

Emma Stone (“Cruella”)

Rachel Zegler (“West Side Story”)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama

Mahershala Ali (“Swan Song”)

Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos”)

Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”) 

Will Smith (“King Richard”) 

Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) 

Best Television Series, Drama

“Lupin” (Netflix)

“The Morning Show” (Apple TV Plus)

“Pose” (FX)

“Squid Game” (Netflix)

“Succession” (HBO/HBO Max)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Drama

Uzo Aduba (“In Treatment”)

Jennifer Aniston (“The Morning Show”)

Christine Baranski (“The Good Fight)

Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)

Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (“Pose”)

Best Performance by an Actor, Limited Series, Anthology Series or Motion Picture made for Television

Paul Bettany (“WandaVision”)

Oscar Isaac (“Scenes From a Marriage”)

Michael Keaton (“Dopesick”)

Ewan McGregor (“Halston”)

Tahar Rahim (“The Serpent”)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

Leonardo DiCaprio (“Don’t Look Up”) 

Peter Dinklage (“Cyrano”) 

Andrew Garfield (“Tick, Tick … Boom!”) 

Cooper Hoffman (“Licorice Pizza”)

Anthony Ramos (“In the Heights”)

Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture

Ben Affleck (“The Tender Bar”) 

Jamie Dornan (“Belfast”) 

Ciarán Hinds (“Belfast”) 

Troy Kotsur (“CODA”) 

Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”)

Best Original Score, Motion Picture

“The French Dispatch” (Searchlight Pictures) — Alexandre Desplat 

“Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures) — Germaine Franco

“The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) — Jonny Greenwood 

“Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classic) — Alberto Iglesias 

“Dune” (Warner Bros.) — Hans Zimmer

Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy

Hannah Einbinder (“Hacks”)

Elle Fanning (“The Great”)

Issa Rae (“Insecure”)

Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”)

Jean Smart (“Hacks”)

Best Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television

“Dopesick” (Hulu)

“Impeachment: American Crime Story” (FX)

“Maid” (Netflix) 

“Mare of Easttown” (HBO/HBO Max)

“The Underground Railroad” (Amazon Prime Video)

Best Supporting Actor, Television

Billy Crudup (“The Morning Show”)

Kieran Culkin (“Succession”)

Mark Duplass (“The Morning Show”)

Brett Goldstein (“Ted Lasso”)

O Yeong-su (“Squid Game”)

Best Picture, Musical or Comedy

“Cyrano” (MGM)

“Don’t Look Up” (Netflix) 

“Licorice Pizza” (MGM) 

“Tick, Tick … Boom!” (Netflix) 

“West Side Story” (20th Century Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Best Supporting Actress, Motion Picture

Caitríona Balfe (“Belfast”) 

Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”) 

Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”) 

Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”) 

Ruth Negga (“Passing”)

Best Picture, Foreign Language

“Compartment No. 6” (Sony Pictures Classics) — Finland, Russia, Germany

“Drive My Car” (Janus Films) — Japan

“The Hand of God” (Netflix) — Italy

“A Hero” (Amazon Studios) — France, Iran

“Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics) — Spain

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture

Paul Thomas Anderson — “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) 

Kenneth Branagh — “Belfast” (Focus Features) 

Jane Campion — “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) 

Adam McKay — “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)

Aaron Sorkin — “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama

Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”)

Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”) 

Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”)

Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”) 

Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) 

Best Motion Picture, Drama

“Belfast” (Focus Features) 

“CODA” (Apple) 

“Dune” (Warner Bros.) 

“King Richard” (Warner Bros.) 

“The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) 

Best Television Actor, Musical / Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”)

Nicholas Hoult (“The Great”)

Steve Martin (“Only Murders in the Building”)

Martin Short (“Only Murders in the Building”)

Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso”)

Best Supporting Actress, Television

Jennifer Coolidge (“White Lotus”)

Kaitlyn Dever (“Dopesick”)

Andie MacDowell (“Maid”)

Sarah Snook (“Succession”)

Hannah Waddingham (“Ted Lasso”)

Best Original Song, Motion Picture

“Be Alive” from “King Richard” (Warner Bros.) — Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Dixson 

“Dos Orugitas” from “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures) — Lin-Manuel Miranda 

“Down to Joy” from “Belfast” (Focus Features) — Van Morrison 

“Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)” from “Respect” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) — Jamie Hartman, Jennifer Hudson, Carole King 

“No Time to Die” from “No Time to Die” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) — Billie Eilish, Finneas O’Connell 

Best Motion Picture, Animated

“Encanto” (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures) 

“Flee” (Neon) 

“Luca” (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures) 

“My Sunny Maad” (Totem Films)

“Raya and the Last Dragon” (Walt Disney Studios)

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Belinda Carlisle brings a heavenly Christmas Bash December 16th

Her work evolves beyond the demands of the pop market while never losing its hooks and whimsy. it reflects Belinda’s evolving life

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Courtesy of Belinda Carlise

HOLLYWOOD – On December 16th, 7pm, the city of West Hollywood transforms into a piece of “Heaven on Earth.” An angelic supernatural deity from the sky won’t be delivering this gift, but rather an angel from iconic pop paradise.

That night, Belinda Carlisle makes a grand entrance and gives an eager audience the presence of a queen of pop, the most recent inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with her group, The Go-Gos.

It will be on that night that Belinda Carlisle hosts THE party event of the season with co-host, drag superstar, Trixie Mattel. One sings, one throws comedic shade, and a packed room at the Abbey will be losing their collective minds.  Not that the party itself isn’t all the reason you would need to get it on your calendar, the evening benefits a fantastic charity, The Animal People Alliance (APA), that intertwines the love for animals with the salve to human suffering.

Courtesy of Trixie Mattel

APA’s charter reads: “To provide high quality and compassionate care, of the highest standards, to neglected street animals in India and Thailand. We train and employ vulnerable people from the community, and pay living wages that help them improve their standard of living.”   The organization, by employing people who would otherwise be stateless and/or in poverty, has treated over 16000 street animals since 2014. Their programs for animals include rabies vaccinations, sterilizations and other emergency health aid.

Belinda sat down with me this week on the podcast RATED LGBT RADIO to talk about her life, her amazing career, her party and the strength she has achieved in standing up to both inner and outer demons.

She survives. She fearlessly opens herself up, and if anyone scrutinizes her past… she will lead the way.  She happily tells of being a member of the most successful all-women pop bands in history.  They sang and wrote their own songs, they played their own instruments. They did it on their terms. No men were needed or required. She candidly shares about her struggles with eating disorders and drug addiction. 

Belinda shows profound compassion for those struggling with addiction and darkness, “Addiction is a sickness…it is a disease of perception, you can’t see your effect on other people… It is a trap you feel you can’t get out of. Every addict has a heart and a humanity that is obscured by addiction. It is a horrible, horrible thing for anyone to go through. It is hard to remember that there is a heart under all that, there is something divine under all that darkness.”

Her interest focuses more on what came after she embarked on recovery  “My life is much more exciting since sobriety, even more exciting than the hey day with the Go-Gos. For anyone out there who is worried about aging, or life being over at a certain point—it’s not. Life is just the most amazing miracle and privilege.”

Her significance for the LGBTQ community, impacts many of the most vulnerable.  She is the mom of a gay man, activist and writer, James Duke Mason. His birth made her examine the trajectory of fame, drugs, and rock & roll in which she was on, careening threateningly close to disaster and death.

She had settled comfortably into maternal nurturement when Duke came out to her at the age of 14. Belinda had been impressed with Duke’s ability to explain the situation to her. She found out that he had been online with PFLAG for weeks learning about how to present his news to her, information to give and educated about key talking points. 

Appreciating their real life help of a young person in need, Belinda vehemently supported PFLAG, the Trevor Project and others ever since. “I am so glad I have a gay son, I can’t even tell you,” she says.

Artistically, she also continues to thrive.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally inducted the Go-Gos this year.  It was an honor 15 years in the making.  It should have been an obvious choice to put them there.

As the first all-female group making it big, they sang, wrote every note and played every instruments. The Go-Go’s, a 2020 American/Irish/Canadian documentary film directed and produced by Alison Ellwood, cast attention on the Hall of Fame oversight, and essentially made the case for how special the group actually was.

Belinda also recently released a new single Get Together a cover of the 1967 Youngbloods hit. The Youngbloods sang it at Woodstock in 1969 to make a statement about the divisions of the Viet Nam era in America.

Belinda sings it now, her voice pure, mature and as an anthem making a plea, if not a motherly order, to reconsider the divisions we are experiencing today.  She says, “We live in this age of outrage.  This song is ‘ok people, CHILL OUT’. All this divisiveness is not going to get us anywhere. It’s timely.”

Beyond Get Together, Belinda works on more new music including singles and a new album.  She continues to produce with the top song creators of the industry including award winning song writer Diane Warren and Go-Gos dates at the end of the year.

Her work evolves beyond the demands of the pop market while never losing its hooks and whimsy. it reflects the channeling of Belinda’s evolving life.  When she lived in France, she released a French collection.

As she delved into spirituality and the culture of Thailand, she released the powerful Wilder Shores, which blended a spiritual mantra into pop hooks. “Chanting is a science, it has a super power. It is not airy fairy,” she states.

The fact is, Belinda Carlisle continues arriving and thrilling.  She does not need to prove herself to anyone.  She has defined the next thirty years of her life as philanthropy.  

“I just wing it as I go along. I learned what it is like to work from the heart. Work in a way where you don’t care about any kind of outcome. That is how I am working now. I am just having fun, and doing just what I want. I am really lucky that way,” she declares.

Her party on December 16th at the Abbey appears right on track to bear that out.

Love, humanity, care of animals and a major splash of fabulousness enveloping an enthused audience.

In other words, pure Belinda.

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Listen to the full interview:

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Rob Watson is the host of RATED LGBT RADIO, a national podcast and he’s one of the founders of the evolequals.com.

A gay dad, business man, community activist and a blogger/writer, Watson is a contributor to the Los Angeles Blade covering entertainment, film, television, and culture with occasional politics tossed in.

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