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Adam and Adam, meet for New Year’s Eve (out of town)

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Let’s face it: Avoiding a disastrous New Year’s Eve can be a task more daunting than escaping the Titanic, as it fills with deadly torrents of twitchy, James Cameron-directed water. But do it right, and you’ll end up with a sweet memory that lasts as long as Rose’s lifespan. Choose unwisely, and you’ll find yourself white-knuckling the countdown to midnight, like Jack, just prior to his drama queen bob into icy oblivion.

We’re not going to let that happen. To that end, here’s a fabulous foursome of New Year’s Eve geographic locations, and their destination events. First though, let’s answer a nagging question: Why the decades-old movie reference, to begin a roundup about starting next year on a high note? Because it’s history, baby — just like 2018 will be, so very soon. Now follow our finger, and count backwards, slowly, from four:

Clothing optional, and not just on New Year’s Eve: The Triangle Inn Palm Springs is one of the sunny town’s 17 gay resorts. (Via triangle-inn.com)

#4 PALM SPRINGS

Randy Garner, Public Relations Manager for the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, made the case for a visit — not just as the sand seeps to the bottom of 2018’s hourglass, but any old time. Palm Springs, he noted, “has the largest collection of gay resorts in the world.” There are17 of them, including Inndulge Palm Springs, The Hacienda at Warm Sands, Santiago Resort, and Triangle Inn Palm Springs (a clothing-optional resort). Also, it’s safe, or a least gay-friendly, to make a religion out of talking politics, while there: “We are happy,” Garner said, “to be the first city in the nation to have an all-LGBTQ city council.”

What progressive agenda they’ll push through next year remains to be seen — but on Dec. 31, it’s a sure thing Palm Springs will have its share of pretty pink planks worth adding to your platform. At Saguaro Palm Springs, their “Drag Me To 2019” New Year’s Eve Disco Gala has Miss Rusty Waters presiding over a lineup of live entertainment that’s as fun to gorge on as the complimentary, buffet-style appetizers. Over at Chill Bar Palm Springs, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum, and HIV-positive Filipino-American artist/activist Ongina emcees, with DJ Gary Stewart. Tips for the Chill GoGo Boys are a no-brainer, as this is a free event (they do suggest “pre-ordering your champagne, to ensure your favorite brand is available when the clock strikes midnight”). For details, check out visitgaypalmsprings.com.

Get thee to Broadway, before Jan. 6: Peppermint (center) as Pythio, The Oracle of Delphi, and the “Head Over Heels” ensemble. (Photo by Joan Marcus).

#3 NEW YORK CITY

On Broadway, the beat goes on at “The Cher Show” — but the Go-Go’s-infused “Head Over Heels” will close on Jan. 6. See it now, or your first exposure will be somebody’s spirited, but comparatively lacking, high school production. And that would be cheating yourself.

So much more than a jukebox musical (nothing sinister about that, given the music), it’s Jeff Whitty’s original book, adapted by James Magruder, that give this production its spine. A bevy of broadly drawn royal court characters and their (mostly) loyal subjects find themselves on a hero’s journey toward redefined gender roles and same-sex awakenings, often at the same time. Most of the folks on deck are much more forward-thinking than the 16th century source material would suggest (it’s based on James Shirley’s “The Arcadia”). And why not? The show earns its fairy tale ending, and prods us to ponder what this modern life would be like if the casual acceptance of preferred pronouns presented here had a few good centuries with which to further percolate.

Queer-positive content notwithstanding, it’s still worth the trip to see Bonnie Milligan’s beautifully calibrated comedic turn as a privileged princess/older sister. She’s a standout, and not just because of her frequent time spent on stage. On the other end of that scale, a few brief put plot-pivotal scenes are all Peppermint needs, to leave a lasting impression (and make Broadway history, as the first transgender woman to create a principal role). Scoop up some of the last seats, at headoverheelsthemusical.com.

Also in NYC, swingers of the jazz variety have multiple reasons to swoon, at the legendary Birdland Jazz Club, which recently added a downstairs space that’s heavy on Broadway stars, classic cabaret, and emerging theater artists. In the main room, at 8 PM and 11 PM, the Birdland Big Band plays. In the Birdland Theater, Monday night “Cast Party” open mic host Jim Caruso presents a hand-picked roster of singers and comedians, for “A Swing Swang Swingin’ New Year’s Eve,” also with 8 PM and 11 PM shows. For reservations, visit birdlandjazz.com.

If that’s not your cup of tea, drink to the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and the ensuing advances made, at the very place “where Pride began” — the Stonewall Inn, on Christopher St. Their New Year’s Eve offering has goings-on on two levels, each with its own DJ, plus “tons of fun, excitement, and surprises.” See thestonewallinnnyc.com for more info.

 

Circus of earthly delights: Puerto Vallarta’s White Party happens Dec. 28-Jan. 1. (Photo courtesy of White Party Entertainment)

#2 THE WHITE PARTY PUERTO VALLARTA

Are you a boy whose visions of buff, anthropomorphic sugar-plums dancing in your head are occasionally interrupted by equally vivid dreams of running away and joining the circus? If so, rest easy, find your tribe in sunny, sexy, Puerto Vallarta. Dec. 28-Jan. 1, White Party Entertainment will offer all manner of largely shirtless celebrations, taking place at the Almar Resort and its Mantamar Beach Club. Anil Patel, Director of Operations for White Party Entertainment, promises their Dec. 30 themed event will bring sexiness back to the circus. No baggy clown costumes here, folks, only glitter, muscle, skin, and, of course, sand.

“What’s so great thing about being in Puerto Vallarta,” Patel said, “is that the parties, the dance floor, are literally on the beach. The water is just spectacular, there’s amazing music, and fireworks at the main event. It’s a tropical getaway like no other, a true destination event.” And why stop when the clock has run out? Sunday and Monday’s after-hours “Climaxxx” parties rage on until 10 AM, and the Jan. 1 pool party is sponsored by Scruff — and for those who miss festivities this time around, White Party events return to that same sunny beach in 2019, in May (for Pride), Presidents’ Day Weekend, and Thanksgiving. More info at jeffreysanker.com.

Oliver’s army: The owner of Downtown LA’s Redline says his bar will be a base for more community organizing in 2019. But first, on Dec. 31, the place drips in diamonds. (Photo courtesy of Redline)

#1 LOS ANGELES

Beef up that final countdown by getting your protein fix, bookended with some buns, hon, at Hamburger Mary’s WeHo. The serendipitously named Wendy Ho hosts their star-studded New Year celebration, with a 10 PM drag show, and countdown to midnight. Visit hamburgermarys.com/weho to make your (strongly suggested) reservations. And if a staycation’s not in the cards, head to Las Vegas, where their Hamburger Mary’s, a cheeky staff member assured us, has “plenty of drag, honey.”
Marilyn Monroe might have staked her claim on BFF status with diamonds, but Redline bar is suing for temporary custody — with a “Dripping in Diamonds” theme for New Year’s Eve. Busy, busty, basically brilliant drag queen Marta Beatchu hosts and performs, alongside the Diamond Boys dancers, at this dance party event. Expect DJ Josh Peace to spin “house, some Spanish, and top 40s,” said Redline owner Oliver Alpuche. “He really gets you going, to dance the night away.”

There’s no cover — and cover your complimentary champagne for that midnight toast (during, and slightly after, the confetti drop). On Jan. 1, the place is closed, so the staff can recharge and ready for 2019 — a year in which, Alpuche said, Redline will do its part to “stand up, and demand change. You’ll see us supporting the community, by giving space for meetings, getting information out, and becoming aware. That’s how you create change.” Be part of the change, and never miss a good party, by keeping an eye on redlinedtla.com.

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Queer representation did not sit quiet at Emmy Awards

This year- 50% of the best drama series, 25% of the best comedy, & 60% of the best limited series featured LGBTQ characters or plot lines

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Gay actor Murray Bartlett won Best Supporting Actor for a Limited or Anthology Series for The White Lotus (Screenshot/YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – The pandemic is over (in award show world anyway), and glitz and glamour have returned. That is the prevailing impression from this year’s 74th Annual Emmy Awards. The show was stunning and exciting from the outset, but even with the pomp and loud noise of celebration, a queer presence was not to be drowned out.

The tone of representation was launched immediately as announcer, queer comic, Sam Jay, looking sharp in her black tuxedo, took the mic. On camera even more than host Kenan Thompson, Jay was a presence and a personality and decidedly queer. If her gay power was not enough, the point was made when Thompson and out actor Boen Yang joked on stage. Thompson accused Yang of a comment being “a hate crime”, Yang retorted “Not if I do it. Then it’s representation.”

Representation was going to be made this evening. The visibility was significant considering, according to the GLAAD Where We Are on TV Report, out of 775 series regular characters only 92 are LGBTQ (less than 12 percent). That 11+ percent is a record high of LGBTQ characters in all of TV history. The record was set by an increase in lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters, but a decrease in gay male characters from the previous year.

For the Emmy nominations, 50% of the best drama series nominees, 25% of the best comedy, and 60% of the best limited series featured LGBTQ characters or plot lines. As far as queer talent, that was more sporadic, heavily slanted towards “supporting categories” and often with queer talent all in the same category against each other.

Regardless, we showed up, as did other individuals who scored recognition for their identities. Some of the key LGBTQ representative moments included:

  • Early in the show, Hannah Einbinder did a hard flirt from the stage for Zendaya, saying that she was not on the stage to present, but rather to stare at the beautiful actress.
  • Gay actor Murray Bartlett won Best Supporting Actor for a Limited or Anthology Series for The White Lotus. He thanked his partner Matt, but strangely did not mention the famous “salad scene” (Google it…)
  • The White Lotus also won the Best Limited or Anthology series category, and bisexual Mike White won Best Director for Limited Series as well. White is the son of gay clergyman, author, and activist Mel White. They appeared on the Amazing Race as a father and son team.
  • Jerrod Carmichael won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing of a Variety Special for his heartfelt Rothaniel in which he comes out as gay as part of the show. Carmichael wowed in a brilliant white, flowing fur coat over his bare medallioned chest.
  • Out actress Sarah Paulsen and Shonda Rhimes, who singlehandedly is responsible for 17% of all LGBTQ characters on TV, presented the Governors Award to Geena Davis for her organization Institute of Gender in Media.  The mission of the organization is representation of women in media. Davis stood before a video featuring various women artists including transgender actress Laverne Cox. The organization is the only public data institute to consistently analyze representations of the six major marginalized identities on screen: women; people of color; LGBTQIA+ individuals; people with disabilities; older persons (50+); and large-bodied individuals in global Film, Television, Advertising and Gaming.
  • Lizzo broke RuPaul’s streak to win Best Competition program. RuPaul showed up later in the show do present a major award anyway. Lizzo has not felt the need to label herself in the LGBTQ spectrum but has said, “When it comes to sexuality or gender, I personally don’t ascribe to just one thing. I cannot sit here right now and tell you I’m just one thing. That’s why the colors for LGBTQ+ are a rainbow! Because there’s a spectrum, and right now we try to keep it black and white. That’s just not working for me.”

Beyond the rainbow scope of queer representation, intersectional, iconic and historic representation was also on hand:

  • LGBTQ icon Jennifer Coolidge won Best Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series for The White Lotus. It was her first award win ever. Squeals of delight could be heard in space from gay Emmy watch parties. OK. I don’t know that for a fact, but I would put money on it.
  • LGBTQ icon Jean Smart won Best Actress in a Comedy Series for Hacks, a series of which its producer called about “women and queer people.”
  • Lee Jung-jae became the first South Korean actor and first Asian actor to win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Squid Game
  • Zendaya became the youngest person ever to win in the leading acting categories two times as she won for the second season of “Euphoria”
  • Hwang Dong-hyuk became the first South Korean to win Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for Squid Game
  • Sheryl Lee Ralph won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Abbott Elementary becoming only the second black woman in history to win in this category after 35 years.  Jacké Harry won for 227 in 1987. “I am an endangered species,” she sang as her acceptance. “But I sing no victim’s song.”

Yes, there was a day in the not long ago past where the mention of a single same sex spouse, or a renegade pro-lgbtq comment, made our queer hearts spill over. Those days are passed. We are getting a place at the table. Representation is starting to stand up and be heard.

For those who rightfully seek it, and seek more of it, the best advice came from Sheryl Lee Ralph: “To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream, and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t  come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like, this is what striving looks like, and don’t you ever, ever give up on you.”

Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie: 74th Emmy Awards:

Murray Bartlett accepts the Emmy for Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for The White Lotus at the 74th Emmy Awards.
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Daisy Edgar-Jones knows why ‘the Crawdads sing’

Actress on process, perfecting a southern accent, and her queer following

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Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya Clark. (Photo courtesy Sony/Columbia)

Daisy Edgar-Jones is an actor whose career is blossoming like her namesake. In recent years, she seems to be everywhere. LGBTQ viewers may recognize Edgar-Jones from her role as Delia Rawson in the recently canceled queer HBO series “Gentleman Jack.” She also played memorable parts in a pair of popular Hulu series, “Normal People” and “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Earlier this year, Edgar-Jones was seen as Noa in the black comedy/horror flick “Fresh” alongside Sebastian Stan. 

With her new movie, “Where the Crawdads Sing” (Sony/Columbia), she officially becomes a lead actress. Based on Delia Owens’ popular book club title of the same name, the movie spans a considerable period of time, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Blade.

BLADE: Daisy, had you read Delia Owens’s novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” before signing on to play Kya?

DAISY EDGAR-JONES: I read it during my audition process, as I was auditioning for the part. So, the two went hand in hand.

BLADE: What was it about the character of Kya that appealed to you as an actress?

EDGAR-JONES: There was so much about her that appealed to me. I think the fact that she is a very complicated woman. She’s a mixture of things. She’s gentle and she’s curious. She’s strong and she’s resilient. She felt like a real person. I love real character studies and it felt like a character I haven’t had a chance to delve into. It felt different from anyone I’ve played before. Her resilience was one that I really admired. So, I really wanted to spend some time with her.

BLADE: While Kya is in jail, accused of killing the character Chase, she is visited by a cat in her cell. Are you a cat person or do you prefer dogs?

EDGAR-JONES: I like both! I think I like the fact that dogs unconditionally love you. While a cat’s love can feel a bit conditional. I do think both are very cute. Probably, if I had to choose, it would be dogs.

BLADE: I’m a dog person, so I’m glad you said that.

EDGAR-JONES: [Laughs]

BLADE: Kya lives on the marsh and spends a lot of time on and in the water. Are you a swimmer or do you prefer to be on dry land?

EDGAR-JONES: I like swimming, I do. I grew up swimming a lot. If I’m ever on holidays, I like it to be by the sea or by a nice pool.

BLADE: Kya is also a gifted artist, and it is the thing that brings her great joy. Do you draw or paint?

EDGAR-JONES: I always doodle. I’m an avid doodler. I do love to draw and paint. I loved it at school. I wouldn’t say I was anywhere near as skilled as Kya. But I do love drawing if I get the chance to do it.

BLADE: Kya was born and raised in North Carolina. What can you tell me about your process when it comes to doing a southern accent or an American accent in general?

EDGAR-JONES: It’s obviously quite different from mine. I’ve been lucky that I’ve spent a lot of time working on various accents for different parts for a few years now, so I feel like I’m developed an ear for, I guess, the difference in tone and vowel sounds [laughs]. When it came to this, it was really important to get it right, of course. Kya has a very lyrical, gentle voice, which I think that North Carolina kind of sound really helped me to access. I worked with a brilliant accent coach who helped me out and I just listened and listened.

BLADE: While I was watching “Where the Crawdads Sing” I thought about how Kya could easily be a character from the LGBTQ community because she is considered an outsider, is shunned and ridiculed, and experiences physical and emotional harm. Do you also see the parallels?

EDGAR-JONES: I certainly do. I think that aspect of being an outsider is there, and this film does a really good job of showing how important it is to be kind to everyone. I think this film celebrates the goodness you can give to each other if you choose to be kind. Yes, I definitely see the parallels.

BLADE: Do you have an awareness of an LGBTQ following for your acting career?

EDGAR-JONES: I tend to stay off social media and am honestly not really aware of who follows me, but I do really hope the projects I’ve worked on resonate with everyone.

BLADE: Are there any upcoming acting projects that you’d like to mention?

EDGAR-JONES: None that I can talk of quite yet. But there are a few things that are coming up next year, so I’m really excited.

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LA Blade Exclusive: L Morgan Lee, Broadway’s newest icon sings her truth

She is the first ever trans actress to receive a Tony Award Nomination & the first trans performer to be in a work that has won a Pulitzer

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L Morgan Lee exclusively photographed by Andrey Strekoza for the Los Angeles Blade June, 2022

NEW YORK CITY – “I am just a girl,” L Morgan Lee tells me. That simple statement is her self-definition, a girl taking life one step at a time.

To the rest of us, L Morgan Lee is so much more. She is the award-winning actress starring on Broadway in the hit show of the season, A Strange Loop. Her singing talent matches that of any legendary diva, she is creating landmark theatrical projects on womanhood and New York Times articles are being written about her. She is the “girl” in the spotlight now.

She is also, the first ever transgender actor or actress to receive a Tony Award Nomination.

While she is not the first trans performer to be seen on a Broadway stage, she seems to have broken the glass (or some might say, cement) ceiling of being recognized in the upper echelon of talent. She is the first transgender performer to be in a work that has won a Pulitzer. While the Pulitzer recognizes the author, whom she was not, certainly her creative input was weaved into the final book of the play.

L Morgan has journeyed a complex path to self-awareness. “For me, even in terms of being trans, the idea of being anything outside of what I was assigned at birth was just laughable and crazy to me as a child,” she says. “It just, it made no sense. It was not something that I was comfortable saying out loud to anyone or voicing. How would I be looked at by my parents, by anyone else? So, I would sit and dream. The dreaming is, I think, what forms, much of so many queer people’s lives and experiences.   Those dreams become our lifelines. I would dream and dream. I have a memory of when I was maybe six years old, in the middle of the night, looking up at my ceiling in my bedroom. Waking up soaked with tears. Saying, if I could wake up and be a girl, a girl, everything would be okay.” She adds. “That is why I am so excited to have gotten my first opportunity to be on Broadway, excited to have gotten a Tony nomination. Because I know that there is some kid somewhere, who is also looking up at the ceiling saying that same thing.”

L Morgan’s first adventure into performing was as a kid and ironically projected her future identity fluidity: she costumed up and performed “Karma Chameleon” in nursery school. She allowed herself to explore her true identity under the guise of a Halloween costume quite a few years later. She went in fully fashion glammed drag, and it changed her world forever. “The minute I did it, I felt a jolt of energy I had never felt before. I finally felt free in so many ways. It’s as if like it’s as if I finally got to breathe.”

When she started work on A Strange Loop, she had been cast under the assumption that she was a cisgender man playing female parts. As the years of work into the play went on, L Morgan’s transgender journey escalated, and she attempted to resign from the play as she realized she was no longer the person they thought they had hired. Not only were they aware, as many close loved ones can be, of her journey, but they embraced her and assured her that she belonged more than ever.

“The characters I played allowed me to, in some ways hide until I was able to be more public about who I am. And once I did that, it certainly brought another layer of depth to what I was doing. I have been that much more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve grown. Transition has settled in more. So, both my viewpoints about the show, the people I’m playing, and my lens of life in general, has evolved through the process. So, certainly the woman I am today, views the show and the script, and the characters I play in a very different way than I did when I first sat down to do it in 2015.” 

Her growth within the show, and the growth of the show itself are intertwined. Certainly, some of the magic of the show is that it is not “performed” as much as it is lived out of the souls of the actors in it. L Morgan describes, “The experience of A Strange Loop has been beautiful, complex, layered and ever evolving, for me in particular.  Every time I’ve come back to the rehearsal room with this project, my own lens has been slightly evolved or has moved forward in some ways.”

“The piece is as strong as it is because the lens itself, the lens through which the story is told, is very specific and very honest. Inside of that specificity, there are lots of complications and layers and messy stuff. There are things that you don’t ‘talk about out loud’ taboo to discuss. There are things that people see as problematic. There are so many things inside of all of that, but it’s honest and it’s human. It is a 25-year-old, who’s about to turn 26, sort of raging through life, feeling oppressed and unseen and shouting out to find how he fits into the world. It is how he can find his truest voice in a world that doesn’t really allow him to feel like he’s enough. Because it is so specific about those things the show touches so many different people.”

L Morgan demonstrated coming out as a confident transgender actress, with her vulnerabilities unhidden, on the opening night of the play and decisions she made as she stepped into the public spotlight. “I feel a responsibility. It feels like a dream, it feels wonderful. It feels exciting. It’s like everything I’ve ever asked for but the, the most poignant feeling for me is the responsibility. How could I show up for that person that needs to find me.”

“On my opening night on Broadway, we were trying to figure out what I was going to do with dress and hair and all these things. You only get a first time once. You get your debut one time. So how do I make the most of this moment? I felt raw and excited. I needed to show like the most honest and clear-cut version of me I could. I needed to show my shaved head because that’s something that’s important to me. It’s something, I almost never show. I stepped out revealed, exposed and vulnerable on the very public red carpet, speaking to cameras with my buzzed head. Our relationship with hair runs very deep, especially for trans people, and there was something about it, that just felt like, I needed to do it. That kid somewhere under the covers needs to see this trans woman who is in her Broadway debut and she’s in a pretty dress and she has a shaved head, and she seems like she’s comfortable. Then when you hear her talking about it, you hear about her vulnerability and hear that she felt nervous, and you hear that she was dealing with dysphoria and she was dealing with confidence and she was dealing with all these things that we attached to our hair and she reveals those things. Not only because they’re true but because when we reveal Our Truth, our humanness, there is universality there. There is connection inside of our vulnerability.”

While the Tony nomination escalates her Broadway experience, L Morgan does not lose sight of her mortal existence. “On the day that the Tony nominations happened, I fell apart, completely losing it in my bedroom. Then I realized, I still needed to get a couch, and clean up the apartment. I still feel regular. It’s been a wild dream and at the same time, your real life just keeps on going. I am just trying to put one foot in front of the other.”

On the night of the Tonys. L Morgan will be up against some heavy hitters. Not the least of these is Broadway Legend Patty LuPone. L Morgan is ok with that. Her dream has been to see her face in one of the camera boxes on television of the nominee hopefuls.  

“The biggest reason I do, what I do is one because I love storytelling. My experience is black, my experience is trans, but I’m just, I’m just a woman. I am a woman who had a trans experience. That’s my story. I know that somewhere there’s s a kid, as I have said, who is just like I was. It is extremely important for me to make that kid proud and make that kid feel seen and make that kid know that it’s possible.” 

“I want that kid to be able to know that most importantly, they already are who they are dreaming to be. The world is telling you something different, but you know who you are. There’s nothing wrong with you, there is nothing wrong with us. The world has never told us that we were an option.”  

“That kid needs to find my story. They need to know that we exist. It is the reason it took me so long to be public about things and to start speaking, because I wasn’t seeing enough examples. There’s a quote, ‘she needed a hero, so that’s what she became.’ I really live by that.”

She needed to see a transwoman Tony Nominee. So that’s what she became.

When they call the winner on Tony Night, it will be between a Broadway legend and Broadway’s newest icon.

However it goes, another ceiling has been broken forever, and somewhere a trans girl in hiding will realize her dream too can come true.

*********************

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