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Best of LGBT LA 2019

Your picks for the city’s best in nightlife, food, activism and more

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Readers of the Los Angeles Blade began nominating their picks for our 2nd annual Best Of LGBT LA awards in early fall. And after more than 15,000 votes over 40 categories, we can finally reveal the winners, some incredible choices and very special people among them.  

The Los Angeles Blade is pleased to salute them and wants to give special thanks for Sean Loeffel of Spoonfed LA and Bar Joe for hosting our winners and helping make our Best Of LGBT LA Awards truly a magnificent honor.

BEST DRAG QUEEN

Shangela (Courtesy of Shangela)

Winner: Shangela

The only contestant to compete on three separate seasons of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Los Angeles Blade fan favorite Shangela is eternally enshrined in global pop culture amber, as creator of the versatile interjection, “Halleloo.” In music video and solo stage performance, Shangela continues to impress, and is still earning new fans, for her work alongside Lady Gaga, in “A Star Is Born.” Although her name was unjustly absent from the Best Supporting Actress nods during this week’s Academy Award nominations, it’s comforting to note that Shangela has further cemented her status as an eternal All-Star, by slaying her peers and emerging as the winner in this fiercely competitive category.

Jackie Beat (Photo courtesy of Jackie Beat)

Runner-Up: Jackie Beat

Being the target of an acidic quip from Jackie Beat is like getting a hickey from Kenickie — it leaves a shameful mark, but can also be worn as a badge of honor. Tell that to our Best Drag Queen winner, Shangela, of whom Beat remarked, “The only thing better than actually winning this award is being named Runner-Up to someone half my age, who is most famous for popping out of a box and yelling, ‘Halleloo!’ What a fucking honor. Just kidding! I love you, Shangela… CONDRAGULATIONS!” When not insulting winners, Beat can be found on stage, in “Golden Girlz Live!” and touring with Sherry Vine, in their “Battle of the Bitches” show.

BEST REAL ESTATE FIRM (Tie)

(Photo courtesy of The Collective Realty)

Winner: The Collective Realty

This hip, 100 percent LGBT-owned boutique real estate firm hosts charity events through the year, whose past beneficiaries have included The Trevor Project. At their West Hollywood and Silver Lake/Echo park offices, buyer and seller expectations are exceeded by a team of fierce negotiators, representing everything from estates to condos. Owner Anthony Vulin assures that all of his mortgage brokers and appraisers are vetted as LGBT friendly, so you can invite them into your home with confidence. The Collective Realty also advocates for LGBT home ownership and nondiscrimination, by lobbying statewide, and in D.C.

(Photo courtesy of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties)

Winner: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties

Taking you through the home buying or selling experience, and being by your side during life’s greatest moments: That’s the mission and the reward, of those who work at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. “As Realtors, we have the obligation to be culturally competent, to understand the needs of our clients, and to guide them toward wise decisions in their real estate choices,” says president and CEO Mary Lee Blaylock, who also notes, “Working with the LGBT community is a privilege. Our sales associates take pride in their ability to represent the interests of their clients, and to help them navigate the diverse array of communities throughout the Southern California area. We are grateful to have earned your readers’ trust and it is our pleasure to continue to serve all.”

BEST MUSEUM OR ART GALLERY

Modern design, beautiful gardens, open spaces, and spectacular views of Los Angeles make Getty Museum a cherished institution. (Image from Getty Museum website)

Winner: The J. Paul Getty Museum

Cultivating a curiosity about, and enjoyment and understanding of, the visual arts is the J. Paul Getty Museum’s mission, one achieved by collecting, conserving, exhibiting, and interpreting works of outstanding quality and historical importance. The Museum is also continually producing exhibitions, publications, scholarly research, public education, and programming in the visual arts. These elements are enhanced by the uniquely evocative architectural and garden settings at the Getty Villa in Malibu, and the Getty Center in Los Angeles, which houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts and photography.

Runner-Up: LACMA

Since 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has been devoted to collecting works of art that span both history and geography, mirroring Los Angeles’s rich cultural heritage and uniquely diverse population. Today, LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection of more than 135,000 objects that illuminate 6,000 years of art history, from new and unexpected points of view.

BEST FITNESS OR WORKOUT SPOT

(Photo courtesy of Equinox West Hollywood)

Winner: Equinox West Hollywood

With a design reminiscent of classic local nightclubs of the 1950s and ’60s, high energy meets high drama, at this 35,000-square-foot fitness club. Offering a full complement of classes, trainers, equipment, and amenities that facilitate high-performance living, the iconic West Hollywood location features one of the largest and most luxurious spas Equinox has to offer, along with a Kids’ Club, and rooftop sundeck. “If it’s not fitness,” they say, “It’s not life.”

(Photo courtesy of Barry’s Bootcamp)

Runner-Up: Barry’s Bootcamp

Known for a workout that’s military-level tough, but administered by instructors more likely to inspire cries of victory than tears of regret, Barry’s is a true local success story. Founded in West Hollywood in 1998, its strength and cardio interval fitness experience provides an immersive, high-intensity, one-hour workout that’s fun and effective.

BEST GROCERY STORE

Trader Joe’s (Photo courtesy of Trader Joe’s)

Winner: Trader Joe’s

Fast service and friendly faces at the checkout make those long lines at Trader Joe’s well worth the wait — but it’s the tempting free samples and addictive signature products that explain the chain’s loyal following. As for their win in this category, certain elements of the Los Angeles Blade staff wholeheartedly agree with our readers, having succumbed on many occasions to the sweet siren call of those Milk Chocolate Macadamia Nut Laceys Cookies. Not a cookie person? They’ve got a cake or a pie for that.

(Photo courtesty of Gelson’s Market)

Runner-Up: Gelson’s Market

Our readers’ love for Gelson’s is real, although it’s worth noting that Martin Sheen, as fictional character Robert, gives a shout out to the superiority of their rotisserie chicken, in the latest season of “Grace and Frankie.” Granted, he shops in San Diego — but whether it’s the meat, seafood, wine, or deli selections, consistency is a hallmark of this national chain. So, Los Angeles, the compliment applies.

BEST LGBT SPORTS LEAGUE

(Photo courtesy of Gay Varsity League)

Winner: Gay Varsity League

California’s largest LGBT Recreational Sports league welcomes and unites all, regardless of sexuality, gender identity or athletic ability. There are no try-outs, and attendance at practices, although certainly encouraged, is not mandatory. Even the dress code is casual. Yes, you’ll look good in VGL Apparel, but rocking your favorite comfortable clothes is not a scandal. Just dress to express, park your offensive language on the sidelines, and leave the nudity where it belongs: at home, or in the lobby of your very liberal workplace. Finally, a sports league that not only gets you moving, it totally gets you!

Members of WeHo Dodgeball. (Photo courtesy of WeHo Dodgeball)

Runner-Up: WeHo Dodgeball

Take your gym class trauma and consign it to history. From prom queens to drag queens, you never know who will be on the business end of those soft rubber “no sting” balls that are the humane hallmark of WeHo Dodgeball. Their membership, which numbers in the thousands, is united by a desire to make elimination-based competition fun, party down at GYM Sportsbar after each match-up, and participate in fundraising efforts that benefit local charities.

MOST LGBT-FRIENDLY WORKPLACE

Winner: AIDS Healthcare Foundation

AIDS Healthcare Foundation was started 31 years ago by a handful of friends, who sought to provide AIDS hospice care to predominantly gay men who were being shunned by their employers, landlords, and families. Today, AHF is a $1.5 billion organization serving more than 1 million, 60 thousand patients in 43 countries. “A respect for diversity has been embedded in our DNA since our inception,” says Senior Director of Communications Ged Kenslea, “and that’s reflective in the number of affinity groups we work with, including Impulse United, LOUD, BLACC, FLUX, In The Meantime Men’s Group, and SPARK. In our overseas clinics, we do not import doctors or staff from the U.S. We hire local professionals to manage our sites and facilities, and to treat our patients. So both inside AHF and in our external relations, we listen to, and participate in, the diversity of conversations and life experiences.”

(Photo courtesy of City of West Hollywood)

Runner-Up: City of West Hollywood

BEST HAIR SALON

(Photo courtesy of Shorty’s Barber Shop)

Winner: Shorty’s Barber Shop

Founded by Chris Bair in 1999, with only four chairs, Shorty’s Barber Shop now boasts 26, along with a staff whose diversity mirrors that of the community they love. “When you walk in,” Bair notes, “there’s always somebody you can connect with, who will make you feel comfortable.” And when you walk out with some merch (the styling putty and soy paste are customer favorites), you can feel good about that, too. All of their products are ethically created, and never tested on animals. Besides the perfect cut, Shorty’s also puts a premium on giving back, by working with the likes of Concrete Hero, AIDS Project Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

(Photo courtesy of Chaz Dean Studio)

Runner-Up: Chaz Dean Studio

Chaz Dean Studio prides itself on capturing the essence of its clients, by helping them create a look that feels authentic, yet also reveals a side of them that they have never seen. The stylists, all experts at cut and color, are able to achieve your goal without heat or chemical damage. Best of all, the look you walk out the door with will be easily maintained at home.

BEST DANCE PARTY

Winner: Salvation Saturdays at The Abbey

Whether you’re at The Abbey for a liquid pick-me-up, going there to pick somebody up, or just getting picked up (it’s a massively popular Uber and Lyft drop-off/pick-up point), Salvation Saturdays is a must, for anyone cruising their way through Boystown. Dance floor bottle service, go-go dancers who identify as male, female, or somewhere in-between, and beat-keepers hand-picked by resident DJ Dawna Montell whip the welcoming crowd into a fabulous frenzy. A team dedicated to maintaining the multimillion-dollar lighting and sound system make sure the gyrating guest next to you isn’t the only source of quality stimulation.

(Photo courtesy of DTLA Proud)

Runner–Up: DTLA Proud

DTLA Proud’s mission is to strengthen and empower the local LGBTQ and ally community in Downtown Los Angeles through visibility, volunteerism, partnerships and events — and what better way to be visible than by getting your groove on, at the festival’s popular pop-up water park? Nightlife promoters were part of the team that founded DTLA Proud, and have worked hard to ensure their DJs are drawn from a diverse lineup of musical styles and identity spectrums.

BEST BARTENDER

Tyler Booth (Photo courtesy of Booth)

Winner: Tyler Booth

There’s nothing down low about the moves Tyler Booth busts, when he two-steps from behind the bar to entertain the crowd, in full-on “do-si-do” mode. Self-described, and confirmed by our voters, as “an awesome dude,” Booth is an actor whose charm and skills are definitely not the stuff of some fictional role. Buoyed by Flaming Saddles owners Chris Barnes and Jacqui Squatriglia to up country western’s queer quotient, this buff bartender is a tall drink of water, who knows how to authoritatively snap the cap off a brewsky, or mix a cocktail with tender loving care.

Kimber Bering (Photo courtesy of Bering)

Runner-Up: Kimber Bering

Known for spiking the drinks she serves at The Abbey with words of encouragement that deliver a sense of intoxication all their own, Kimber Bering created some of the menu’s signature cocktails — including, as a tribute to Prince, The Paisley Peach. As local winner of the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, she represented LA in 2016, and has gone on to judge that competition. Bering performs around town, and can be found on Spotify, as “Kimber Chronic.”

BEST STRAIGHT ALLY

Ariadne Getty (Photo courtesy of Getty)

Winner: Ariadne Getty

Ariadne Getty has described herself as an “introvert” — but her public work paints a different picture, one of a determined, tireless, and engaged activist working to make a better world for her two gay adult children and LGBTQ youth all over the globe. As President and Executive Director of the Ariadne Getty Foundation, last year she pledged $15 million to launch the GLAAD Media Institute, which brings advocacy trainings to national and international LGBTQ organizations. She also pledged $2 million to help build the LA LGBT Center’s Anita May Rosenstein Campus, which will host more than 100 new beds and apartments for LGBTQ youth and seniors. Earlier this week, she made sure LGBTQ issues were center stage, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual meeting of world leaders. The Ariadne Getty Foundation hosted LGBTQ-focused events showcasing global CEOs and LGBTQ activists calling for positive change. She also appeared on several panels, speaking about the urgent need for LGBTQ acceptance. She is a recent addition to the Gay Men’s Chorus of LA board of directors, the recipient of the Los Angeles LGBT Center Vanguard Award, and the namesake of GLAAD’s newly launched Ariadne Getty Ally Award. Getty’s recognition by the Los Angeles Blade as “Best Straight Ally” is proof our readers are anything but reserved, in their appreciation of this introvert’s empowering words and deeds.

Joely Fisher (Photo courtesy of Fisher)

Runner-Up: Joely Fisher

With great comedic timing and a glint in her eye that makes even the most lavender-leaning guy think fondly of the road not taken, LGBTQs, and anyone high up on the human decency spectrum, admire this awesome ally’s longtime labors on behalf of the community, whether through public declarations of support, personal friendships, or the roles she chooses to accept.

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR

(Photo courtesy of Revolver Video Bar)

Winner: Revolver Video Bar

Gay-owned and operated, Revolver Video Bar has been a West Hollywood staple worth stampeding to for more than 30 years — and not just because of the buzz created by their $2 tequila and vodka drinks, 3-9 p.m., on Saturdays and Sundays, respectively. Karaoke and drag shows cast their spell on customers, while live DJs and go-go dancers turn up the heat on already smoking-hot cruisers and boozers.

(Photo courtesy of Hamburger Mary’s)

Runner-Up: Hamburger Mary’s

There’s no beef to be had with Hamburger Mary’s WeHo, whose generous menu of drag entertainment makes everything between the buns all more fun to gobble up. And you can feel good about losing your shirt at Drag Queen Bingo: Besides basking in the glory of rotating hosts Roxy Wood, Willam, and Calpernia Addams, all proceeds go to charity.

BEST NON-PROFIT

(Photo courtesy of Project Angel Food)

Winner: Project Angel Food

Man cannot live by bread alone — but for those impacted by life-threatening illnesses, the more than 11,000 free meals cooked and delivered every week by Project Angel Food feeds their nutritional needs, while bringing comfort and hope into their homes. In addition to this service, Project Angel Food provides nutritional counseling, to ensure those in Los Angeles County struggling with illness will not be burdened by hunger and malnutrition. “A world where every sick person is fed, nourished, and loved” is their vision, backed by the core values of empathy, integrity, inclusiveness, and joy.

(Photo courtesy of Los Angeles LGBT Center)

Runner-Up: The Los Angeles LGBT Center

Every year, more than half a million people representing the full diversity of the community access their free or low-cost programs, in the areas of Health, Social Services and Housing, Culture and Education, and Leadership and Advocacy. Looking fit and feeling fierce at age 50, the Center is steadfast in its mission to fight against bigotry, while building a better world, and is always ready to welcome new guests and volunteers — or have you help spread their message of love, by scoring some sweet swag from their online store.

BEST DJ

DJ Morningstar (Photo courtesy of DJ Morningstar)

Winner: DJ Morningstar

You get back what you give, as demonstrated by the winner in our Best DJ category. Describing the vibe at the LGBT clubs he plays as consistently “fun, freeing, energetic, friendly, and loving,” DJ Morningstar (Kian Amiri) says the gay community “essentially saved my life,” by making him feel valued, and supporting the liberal ideology he embraces. Pride events are among DJ Morningstar’s favorite gigs, and a chance to deliver what the people want: “A big, booming, female voice; powerful soul on top of an energetic dance beat.” The gay community, “is always on the right side of history, no matter the cause,” he says, which allows him to be “unapologetically outspoken” without “worrying about repercussions, as you would at straight, corporate clubs.”

DJ Asha (Photo courtesy of DJ Asha)

Runner-Up: DJ Asha

“I think these are very special places to DJ,” says DJ Asha, of her work at LGBT venues, including Micky’s and Beaches. “People need a safe space, a place,” she noted, “where they can be free to express themselves, make friends, look for love, hook up, or whatever.” The open-format DJ, who hosted LA Pride six times, is not locked down to a specific genre — so you’ll always hear a variety of sounds, within one set, no matter what crowd she’s playing to.

BEST LGBT RED CARPET EVENT

Winner: GLAAD

The world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, every year at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles holds a dynamic red carpet that draws some of Hollywood’s most iconic celebrities in support of equality. One reader posted, “it rivals the Golden Globes and it’s held in the same room.” J- Lo, Leo, Taylor, Mary J., Britney, Cher, Madonna, just to drop a few names, have posed and mingled with our community, joining with GLAAD to protect all that has been accomplished and to creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.

(Photo courtesy of OUTFEST)

Runner-Up: OUTFEST

Over the past three decades, OUTFEST has showcased thousands of films from around the world, educated and mentored hundreds of emerging filmmakers and protected more than 20,000 LGBTQ films and videos. The red carpet rocks with glam poses, celebs and future celebs. OUTFEST has become one of Hollywood’s most important film marketplaces.

BEST ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORTATION

(Logo courtesy of Lyft)

Winner: LYFT

We all love a good pick-up app. How about a Lyft? The more politically correct of the two major ride-sharing services, Lyft has 100 percent, 24-hour coverage of Los Angeles and you can be on your way to anywhere in just a few minutes. Just open the app and you’re almost there, whether you need a luxury ride or one to carry the whole gang. Lyft is rated 4.8 out of 5 stars but Los Angeles Blade readers give it 5 stars.

(Logo courtesy of Uber)

Runner-Up:  UBER
Uber is everywhere too and when it was first launched it had the feel of a truly luxurious chauffeur service. The shine is still there and many people still prefer it.

BEST PET BUSINESS OR VET

(Photo courtesy of West Hollywood Animal Hospital)

Winner: West Hollywood Animal Hospital
The go-to vet practice of many people in West Hollywood because it offers modern full-service Veterinary services every day.  It has a hometown feel; it’s founder Dr. Monica Revel, DVM, was born and raised within one mile of its location and it shows. Pet lovers come from around SOCAL like a return home: “I wouldn’t take Max anywhere else unless it’s an emergency and we live in Laguna where we relocated 4 years ago from Beverly Hills. (
9000 N Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069)

(Photo courtesy of VCA-Miller-Robertson Animal Hospital
)

Runner-Up:  VCA-Miller-Robertson Animal Hospital
Home to Dr. Mark Nunez, last year’s winner in this category. Full disclosure: Dr. Nunez is the primary care doctor for our publisher’s senior dog, Lilly. “Mark is always fully engaged and he listens without judgment and corrects without scorn,” said one commenter. (
8807 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069)

BEST LGBT SOCIAL GROUP (TIE)

Winner: PRIDE RECOVERY LA
Provides addiction treatment for the LGBT community, through LGBT-affirmative therapy, group and individual therapy, and psychiatric care, but it’s their after care and support program that one reader cited as the reason they are a winner: “They are my family,” the reader posted, “I can always go home and know I will be OK.” (
8300 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90048)

(Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce)

Winner: Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
LAGLCC describes itself as “the premier advocate of the Los Angeles Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender business community, representing hundreds of businesses, advancing common business interests, economic growth, and equality in the workplace and society for its LGBTQ members, businesses, and allies by providing educational, networking, and community building opportunities.” The group’s monthly mixer functions are must-attend features of the local social scene.

(Photo courtesy of AIDS Lifecycle)

Runner-Up: AIDS LIFECYCLE
For many people the fundraising marketing that precedes the 545-mile San Francisco to Los Angeles bike ride is about much more than AIDS; it’s about family and community at its very best. Not only do you get to pedal forward in life, you get to ask people to pay it forward. AIDS Life Cycle represents our community at its very best.

BEST PLACE TO LIVE

Winner: West Hollywood

There’s just no place like it. What can we say? A lot, actually. The little town of 39,000 residents remains Los Angeles’ hottest destination for the entertainment industry with its boutique hotels, celebrity-owned restaurants, unparalleled nightlife and shopping and world-renowned events like the HBO Emmy Party, Sir Elton John’s Annual Oscar Party, LA PRIDE and the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval, the largest Halloween street party in the world. West Hollywood continues to set the standard for progressive, creative individuals on the cutting edge of trends and new ideas, working together as a community in one of the most exciting destinations in the country. And it is home to one of the largest concentrations of LGBT people in the world.

Runner-Up: Beverly Hills

At the other end of the rainbow is Beverly Hills, pot of gold included. It’s an aspirational town for sure and there are more Mazarattis, Rolls Royces and Bentleys sold here than anywhere in the world. It’s quiet, sequestered, manicured and intensely beautiful and the perfect place for wealthy LGBT families. And there are many. It’s where West Hollywood gets its water supply as they are always reminding.

BEST HOTEL

(Photo courtesy of W Hollywood)

Winner: W Hollywood
It seems Los Angeles Blade readers know a thing or two when it comes to family and friends from out of town: they all want to experience Hollywood. It’s perfectly located, giving easy access to Universal, DTLA, Pasadena, all points west. And while you’re family is visiting, you and your friends can visit one of the best pools in town as a bonus. (
6250 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028)

(Photo courtesy of Kimpton La Peer)

Runner-Up: Kimpton La Peer
“Imagine a space where art, music, fashion, poetry, film and architecture intertwine to a cacophony of spatial harmony,” says Icelandic-born, Los Angeles-based cutting edge designer Gulla Jónsdóttir, of the new Kimpton La Peer. Consider it for a weekend staycation for you and your honey. (
627 N La Peer Dr, West Hollywood, CA 90069)

BEST DOCTOR/MEDICAL PROVIDER

(Photo courtesy of Cedars Sinai)

Winner: Cedars Sinai Urgent Care
One of the world’s best hospitals, not surprisingly, also runs the best Urgent Care locations in the nation. Cedars-Sinai’s urgent care facility in Beverly Hills keeps extended hours seven days a week, providing immediate healthcare needs that are not life-threatening. You’ll walk in and find expedited service from some of the world’s best doctors. (
8501 Wilshire Blvd #150, Beverly Hills, CA 90211)

Dr. David Alajajian. (Photo courtesy of Pacific Oaks Medical Group)

Runner-Up: Pacific Oaks Medical Group
One of the earliest responders during the AIDS crisis, Pacific Oaks Medical Group is a leading community provider of medical care to our diverse community. And the group’s recent addition of Dr. David Alajajian is apparently a big hit with our readers. (
150 N Robertson Blvd #300, Beverly Hills, CA 90211)

BEST CAR DEALERSHIP

(Photo courtesy of Beverly Hills BMW)

Winner: Beverly Hills BMW
This dealership is located on Wilshire just east of La Brea, displaced from Beverly Hills during construction of the Purple line, but it remains the go-to BMW dealership for many of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills’ BMW owners. The immaculate shop runs like clockwork and there’s never a wait. Last year at SUR, they delivered $200,000 worth of cars and leather jackets to our Best Of awards. Our readers apparently have not forgotten. (
5070 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036)

Runner-Up: Mercedes Beverly Hills
Mercedes is the most popular luxury brand in the several zip codes surrounding West Hollywood and 9 out of 10 local owners work with Mercedes of Beverly Hills to keep their cars current and in top condition. (
9250 Beverly Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210)

BEST PRO LOCAL ATHLETE

LeBron James. (Photo courtesy of James)

Winner: LeBron James
LeBron and the Lakers are both reader favorites. Our readers were over the moon about his decision to join the ranks of prominent Angeleno sports stars when he moved west from Cleveland. One reader wrote: “LeBron is almost as magic as Magic and I admire him for taking a pioneering stand for people of color and justice.” His solidarity with Colin Kaepernick resonated with our readers as a fitting addition to the ever progressive Lakers, just after the team’s first ever LGBT night.

Gus Kenworthy. (Photo courtesy of Kenworthy)

Runner-Up:  Gus Kenworthy
Since the Seoul winter games everyone has been in love with Gus and his sexy Instagram and love of dogs. Who wouldn’t want to be loved by Gus? Sorry Adam, we love you too but, hey.

BEST PUBLIC OFFICIAL

Adam Schiff (Photo courtesy of Schiff)

Winner: Adam Schiff
No congressman has been more consistent in his criticism of Donald Trump than congressman Adam Schiff, the U.S. Representative for California’s 28th congressional district since 2013. With the Dems now in majority control of the House, Shiff wields significant power over the fate of Trump as House Intelligence Committee chairman. On LGBT issues he bats 1,000 and in our estimation he’s a smart man, an avid reader of the Los Angeles Blade’s Karen Ocamb.

(Photo courtesy of West Hollywood City Council)

Runner-Up: West Hollywood City Council
A uniformly progressive city council comprised of longtime gay rights activists, advocates and allies of the LGBT community. Mayor John Duran, Mayor Pro Tempore John D’Amico and Council members Lindsey Horvath, Lauren Meister and John Heilman are known for fast-acting government responsiveness and well attended, well-run meetings. The city ranks among the best-run local governments in America.

BEST HOUSE OF WORSHIP

(Photo by Annie Wells/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images. Courtesy of Kol Ami)

Winner: Congregation Kol Ami
Since its founding in 1992, Kol Ami has become an important leader in the Jewish, LGBTQ and West Hollywood communities. Kol Ami’s commitment to progressive spirituality, diversity, inclusion and social justice is celebrated nationwide. It is known for being innovative while remaining rooted in Jewish tradition and practice. Rabi Denise L. Egers broke barriers to create a more inclusive Reform movement that has resulted in more LGBTQ inclusion at Synagogues worldwide. (
1200 N La Brea Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90038)

(Photo courtesy of InVision Church)

Runner-Up: InVision Church
Since MCC left West Hollywood about a decade ago, there has been no LGBT specific Christian Church service in the area but that changed when pastor Josh Johnson brought his spirited Invision Church to WeHo. In services held every Sunday at the Sunset Strip’s famed Viper Room, Invision gives the LGBTQ community its own down home, rollicking and near evangelical place of worship. (
8852 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069)

BEST LGBT BUSINESS

(Photo courtesy of My 12 Step Store)

Winner: My 12 Step Store
RJ is widely considered to be one of the hardest working people in the sobriety community, not above working the register, helping customers select gifts for their loved ones, or packing items he ships out to customers around the world. My 12 Step Store is an exceptional and rare model of service to the LGBTQ community, part community center and part business, selling inspirational and motivational sobriety themed gifts. My 12 Step Stores sober mixers are one of the most popular events on the mix and mingle calendar. (
8730 Santa Monica Blvd B, West Hollywood, CA 90069)

(Photo courtesy of Chi Chi LaRue’s)

Runner-Up: Chi Chi LaRue’s

From the bright pink exterior to the exclusive state-of-the-art merchandise and apparel inside, Chi Chi LaRue’s stands out, loud and proud, as West Hollywood’s only gay-owned and operated adult boutique. (8861 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069)

BEST COFFEE SHOP

(Photo courtesy of Alfred’s Coffee Melrose Place)

Winner: Alfred’s Coffee Melrose Place
It’s like a very intentional selfie. It’s a little embarrassing how indulgent and fun it is, this coffee shop where everyone is drop dead gorgeous but somehow it’s still all about the coffee. You’ll find it in the heart of LA’s trendiest retail destination, proudly brewing Stumptown Coffee Roasters. (
8428 Melrose Place, Los Angeles, CA 90069)

(Photo courtesy of Blue Bottle Coffee)

Runner-Up: Blue Bottle Coffee
They seem to be popping up everywhere, this one part Oakland, one part LA coffee house is not cheap but it is certainly delicious. (
8301 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048)

BEST LOCAL BREWERY

(Photo courtesy of Arts District Brewing Company)

Winner: Arts District Brewing Company
One of Los Angeles’ few craft brewpubs, opened December 2015 in Downtown LA’s historic Arts District. With an on-site, 15-barrel brewhouse capable of producing 3,300 barrels of beer each year, Arts District Brewing Company debuted with nine original beers and now offers 30+ all brewed on-site. Enjoy an entertainment area with a photo booth and multiple classic bar games available, including pinball and Skeeball machines. (
828 Traction Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90013)

Runner-Up: Santa Monica Brew Works
Just a group of guys who share a mad love for great beer and the City Of Santa Monica. The brewery’s “Beach Brewed” philosophy is said to embody “the spirit of the world-renowned Santa Monica lifestyle. (1920 Colorado Ave C, Santa Monica, CA 90404)

BEST RESTAURANT

(Photo courtesy of Tortilla Republic)

Winner: Tortilla Republic
It’s Viva Mexico at its very finest. Every bite will have you saying “F*uck Trump and his crazy wall” because the best food in the world comes from our neighbor to the south. It’s a Los Angeles Blade favorite. (616 N Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069)

(Photo courtesy of Bottega Louie)

Runner-Up: Bottega Louie
Get ready WeHo! The
Gourmet Market, Patisserie & Café located in downtown Los Angeles will soon open on Santa Monica Boulevard and life will never be the same. (700 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90017)

BEST CHEF

Susan Feniger (Photo courtesy of Feniger)

Winner: Susan Feniger, Border Grill
Iconic culinarian, author, and entrepreneur Feniger has been helping to define the culinary landscape of Los Angeles since 1981. She’s opened a host of successful restaurants, but Border Grill remains her crowning achievement. Opened with co-chef and business partner Mary Sue Milliken in 1985, its modern, street-food-inspired Mexican cuisine has been defining the city’s culinary landscape ever since. As if having an iconic LA eatery and being a celebrity chef weren’t enough to make us love her, Susan is also an out and proud member of the community, currently sitting on the board of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Jon Rollo (Photo courtesy of Rollo)

Runner-up: Jon Rollo, Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop
Revolutionizing the gourmet fast-casual dining experience the “Commander-in-Leaf” of Greenleaf has always had an appetite for fresh ingredients and living a healthy life – something he embodies with the farm-to-face concept of his restaurant, where he uses local, fresh, natural, organic ingredients to create dishes that are both delicious and wholesome. In his free time, you can find Jon working out at Barry’s Bootcamp, training for a triathlon, and raising his daughter and son with husband, Joey Gonzalez.

BEST LOCAL TV PERSONALITY

James Corden. (Photo courtesy of Corden)

Winner: James Corden
This Tony-winning actor may be from the other side of the Atlantic, but as the host of “The Late, Late Show,” he’s been regularly taking over the streets of Hollywood to film celebrity flash mobs, musical numbers, and the spectacularly popular “Carpool Karaoke” since 2015 – and that makes him as much an Angeleno as anyone. It’s no wonder we’re proud to lay claim to him; smart, funny, and talented, he’s got a pure love of “show business” that makes his late-night talk show a must-see event for millions.  He’s also a strong LGBT ally who uses his public platform to promote LGBT equality – for instance, by performing a song in protest of Trump’s intended trans military ban in 2017.

Alexander Rodriguez. (Photo courtesy of Rodriquez)

Runner-up: Alexander Rodriguez
The iHeart radio personality is one-third of the all-gay Latinx panel on “Glitterbomb,” LATV’s explosive pop-culture talk show that offers a queer Latinx perspective on entertainment news. Along with fellow hosts (actor Enrique Sapene and EW senior editor Patrick Gomez), he brings wit, humor, and first-hand experience into the show’s look at Hollywood A-lister life.

BEST MARIJUANA DISPENSARY

(Logo courtesy of MedMen)

Winner: MedMen
Founded in 2010 by Adam Bierman and Andrew Modlin (who are also CEO and president, respectively), this Culver City-based company has grown up to be one of the leaders in the burgeoning legal cannabis industry, dedicated to “writing the book on the modern cannabis industry, from how facilities are designed and constructed to setting the bar on quality and excellence.” They’re also the single largest financial supporter of progressive marijuana laws at local, state, and federal levels. But what’s probably most important to the many satisfied consumers at their elegant boutiques in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills (as well as four other locations in the Los Angeles area) is their philosophy that standards, practices and reputation matter – and the high quality of the product that results from it.

(Photo courtesy of Zen Healing West Hollywood)

Runner-up: Zen Healing West Hollywood
With two locations, this longtime (since 2003) local-fave dispensary scores high Yelp ratings for its outstanding customer service and wide selection. As they say on their website, “Whether you vape, rollup, or use a piece, Zen Healing has a strain for you.”

MOST COMMITTED ACTIVIST

Madonna Cacciatore. (Photo courtesy of Cacciatore)

Winner: Madonna Cacciatore
She moved to LA as an actress, after a regular role on a short-lived TV reboot of “The Fugitive” gave her a taste of Hollywood; but it’s her dedication to another calling that has brought her true prominence in our local community. A longtime LGBT activist, she made a splash in the headlines when the LA Times featured a photo of her holding hands with then-partner (now wife) Robin McWilliams in their cover story on June 26, 2015, when the Obergefell victory made marriage equality the law of the land – but she had already been building her leadership role in the community for years as the director of special events at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. In 2018, she was chosen as the new executive director of Christopher Street West – giving her the opportunity to bring her years of experience to the table as she shepherds the non-profit, which has faced challenges in the last few years, toward the 50
th anniversary of LA Pride in 2020.

Ari Gutiérrez Arambula. (Photo courtesy of Arambula)

Runner-up: Ari Gutiérrez Arambula
A tireless community leader, Ari is dedicated to increasing support and quality of life for the LGBTQ and gender non-conforming members of the Latinx community and their families – a community for which she has been an advocate for 30 years. She is the founding Advisory Board President of the Latino Equality Alliance, and the co-founder of HONOR PAC, a non-profit organization providing advocacy, leadership development and public education that honors cultural traditions and is accessible to youth and their parents.

BEST LOCAL PRO SPORTS TEAM

Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
They may have lost the 2018 World Series to the Boston Red Sox, but LA’s “Boys In Blue” will never lose the hearts of the city they’ve called home since 1958. Part of the reason is the team’s determination to connect with the community by embracing diversity. In the words of Erik Braverman, the Dodgers’ vice president for marketing, communications and broadcasting who spoke to the Los Angeles Blade for a 2017 article, “LGBT people are as important to the organization as any other community.” For six consecutive years, the Dodgers have hosted an official LGBT night, and for the past two have made it an official kickoff party for LA Pride.

(Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers)

Runner-up: Los Angeles Lakers
Just as it is with the Dodgers, love for the Lakers is part of our city’s DNA. In 2018, the basketball organization hosted its own first-ever LGBTQ Pride night, honoring first active openly gay NBA player Jason Collins with the Laces of Unity Award (recognizing individuals in sports who have significantly contributed to the LGBTQ community) and featuring Amanda Palmer, the first female and first openly lesbian referee in NBA history, as the night’s honorary team captain.

BEST HOME FURNISHINGS

(Photo courtesy of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams)

Winner: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Started in North Carolina back in 1989, this elegant furniture company began with the simple idea of providing “comfort for all,” and nearly 30 years later, its signature store in Beverly Hills is a must-visit for any Angeleno with an eye toward decorating their home with stylish and modern home furnishings. In addition, its founders are activists and advocates for the LGBT community – Gold is co-founder of Faith in America, a nonprofit that educates people about the harm religious bigotry causes LGBT Americans that recently merged with the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and has served on the board of HRC for the past seven years, and Williams is known for his philanthropic work for equal rights; together, the men received a Groundbreakers Award from NYC’s Housing Works, dedicated to ending AIDS and homelessness.

(Photo courtesy of Josh Johnson Home)

Runner-up: Josh Johnson Home
A Tennessee native who became known as “Sparkle Josh” during his stint in HGTV’s “Design Stars,” this flamboyant celebrity interior designer has a design philosophy of “Livable Luxe,” which he describes as the pairing of affordable elegance with functional practicality, and his status as a celebrity designer has made him a designer to celebrities — or anyone who wants to live like one.

BEST PERFORMING ARTS VENUE

Winner: Walt Disney Concert Hall
This downtown landmark, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and opened in 2003, is not just part of the Los Angeles Music Center – with its sleek, shining, non-linear design, it’s an icon of urban architecture and a signature LA building, and with its hear-a-pin-drop acoustics, it’s a world-class performance hall. Intended as a gift to the people of Los Angeles by Lillian Disney (widow of Walt), who in 1987 donated $50 million to fund a venue that could serve as a tribute to her late husband’s devotion to the arts and to the city, today it fulfills that purpose by providing a home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, as well as by hosting variety of artists and events from around the world.

(Photo courtesy of Geffen Playhouse)

Runner-up: Geffen Playhouse
Founded by Gilbert Cates in 1995, and named for its donor, music executive David Geffen, this not-for-profit theater company is housed within a historic 1929 building – one of the first 12 structures built in Westwood Village – that was once the Masonic Affiliates’ Club for students and alumni of UCLA. In its two venues there, the Geffen mounts eight top-quality theatrical productions per season, showcasing both new works and time-honored classics, often performed by familiar actors from film and television – one of the definite perks of living in a movie town.

BEST DAY TRIP

(Photo courtesy of Palm Springs)

Winner: Palm Springs

Los Angeles’ relationship with its neighbor in the desert goes back to the 1920s, when the town’s growing status as a getaway spot made it appealing to Hollywood’s rich and famous as a quick and easy escape from the rigors of their glamorous everyday lives.  It serves much the same purpose today, but it’s grown into an internationally recognized resort destination – which means world-class entertainment, luxurious hotels, and glittering casinos await any Angeleno ready to make the 90-minute drive (OK, only if there’s no traffic) to get there. It’s not just about pampering yourself, though that’s part of the allure; there is also a thriving cultural scene, lots of nightlife, magnificent restaurants, a weekly street festival, and an annual week-long celebration of the Modernist architecture long embraced as a definitive part of the city’s identity. Of course, Palm Springs is something of an LGBT Mecca, too – but odds are good that, if you’re reading this, you already knew that.

(Photo courtesy of Avalon, Catalina Island)

Runner-up: Avalon, Catalina Island
Located on the southeast end of Santa Catalina Island, Avalon has been a popular destination for visitors since the early 1900s. Like Palm Springs, it has always attracted the glitterati crowd, from film stars to presidents, and is known today for its resorts and casinos – along with the numerous other attractions offered by a picturesque seaside community. Only a short ferry ride away, it’s one of the best opportunities for Angelenos to have a sun-soaked mini-vacation and still be home in time to feed the pets before bedtime.

BEST MOVIE THEATER

Winner: Arclight Hollywood
In a city built by the movies (and those who love them) it’s no surprise that the favorite pick is this landmark multiplex on Sunset, which is home to 15 screens (including the historic Cinerama Dome) that feature state-of-the-art projection and sound technology, and amenities like a gourmet snack bar, no commercials before the show, and – a favorite flourish for convenience-hungry Angelenos – reserved seating that eliminates the need for standing in a long line. On top of all that, Arclight offers an impressive selection of movie offerings, from the biggest entertainment blockbusters to the edgiest indie art films, all in the name of catering to the sophisticated interests of its cinema-loving clientele. As a bonus, moviegoers stand a good chance of seeing some of their favorite stars off the screen as well as on – it’s a popular location for the people who make movies to go and sit in the audience for a change.

(Photo courtesy of Pacific Theaters at the Grove)

Runner-up: Pacific Theaters at the Grove
Offering its own kind of Hollywood appeal, this elegantly designed multiplex in the heart of one of the city’s most popular malls (adjacent to the historic Farmer’s Market). It’s a haven for film lovers, with its own state-of-the-art auditoriums that feature large screens, surround sound, and luxury stadium seating – and if you want to pair your moviegoing experience with a meal, the Grove location ensures a wide selection of nearby eateries that will be perfect for discussing what you’ve just seen over lunch or dinner.

BEST LIVE MUSIC

(Photo courtesy of Hollywood Bowl)

Winner: The Hollywood Bowl

Steeped in history — it’s seen the likes of everyone from Billie Holiday to Billy Joel — the Hollywood Bowl reigns, as Southern California’s premier destination for live music. Its iconic concentric-arched band shell is recognized the world over, just as sure as the venue itself is recognized by our readers as the best of the best.

(Photo courtesy of The Greek Theatre)

Runner-Up: The Greek Theatre

Located within Griffith Park, the historic Greek Theatre stands as one of the nation’s most beloved and recognized outdoor entertainment destinations. This iconic venue has also served as a site for numerous high school graduations, community events, and backdrops for television shows and motion pictures.

Theater

Calling unseen LGBTQ playwrights, This could be your big break!

The 14th annual Summer Playwrights Festival will take place over ten exciting days from Friday, July 7- Sunday July 16th, 2023

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

HOLLYWOOD – In a world that seems increasingly governed by Tik Tok performances, and streaming media through our phones, the godmother/father of all media still rules supreme: live theater.

Psychologists have studied it and found that theater patrons flex their brains more, develop critical thinking, dig deeper into self-awareness and open up deeply felt empathy. A scientific project found that after a live theater production, the viewers “showed changes in their attitudes towards racial discrimination, income inequality, welfare, corporate regulations, wealth redistribution, and affirmative action. They also increased their charitable giving after the performance.”

While he never followed a YouTube influencer, the challenger to society’s mores, Oscar Wilde said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”

The Road Theatre Company , a multi award-winning theater named as one of the top ten intimate theatre companies, is the wellspring of Los Angeles’s creative theater. It represents everything theater should, and must be, to feed the imaginative and critically thinking mind and soul of America. Its mission is not to just to present theater, it is to create it. Located in the heart of the Noho Arts District, the company is an ensemble of 150+ theatre artists fiercely committed to the development of new plays. To further that mission, the company has launched Under Construction, a collaborative group of new and established playwrights dedicated to socially and politically relevant storytelling for the American stage. 

Taylor Gilbert, the founder and artistic director told me, “The Road Theatre Company was started when a group of actors, including myself, were in a very bad play. We left the stage after its second performance. We cleared out the dressing room and said, ‘We can do better than this!’ We walked into Jerry’s Deli and started brainstorming. Two months later, with a group of fellow actors from all over, we opened in a very dreary but exciting warehouse district and have been true to our mission since: To produce politically and or socially relevant new work not previously seen in Los Angeles. Now 31 years later we are still striving to do just that.”

LGBTQ and ally authors and playwrights, here is your chance to be discovered!

Fourteen years ago, after over a decade and a half of success producing new plays, the Road Theater Company expanded the initiative to find new work by launching the Summer Playwrights Festival.

The festival is now one of the largest staged reading festivals in the nation.

The concept is simple. Playwrights submit their work blindly, their identity is essentially anonymous, and the hundreds of submissions are vetted by a group of designated readers.  Those readers then elevate finalists to the artistic board who make the final decisions. The ten winners from that process are presented as the stage readings which comprise the festival. The 14th annual Summer Playwrights Festival will take place over ten exciting days from Friday, July 7- Sunday July 16th, 2023.  Each reading is followed by a talk-back with the playwright and director. 

Playwright submissions come from all over the country, and the festival is a great opportunity for LGBTQ writers to get their stories heard and presented. “We have playwrights who have done nothing, we have playwrights who have been produced on Broadway,”  Taylor tells me. “You can be from any background of writing and if your play is good, we’re going to look at it. We’re going to read it.”

She continues, “We’re not looking for any specific thing, we’re just looking for a writer who trips our mind a little bit. We’re looking for something that’s exciting and new and young. It’s interesting for us to be able to look at a play that we can cast in any way we feel possible — opening up our casting and to do conscious casting that reflects a more diverse and more inclusive festival and company.”

“I think at this point in time, we’re probably looking at things for a cast of around four or five people. Such a cast gives the opportunity with the smaller budget that we have in order to be able to produce more shows during the year. That doesn’t mean that we can’t do a reading of a play that has a larger cast than that. And it doesn’t mean that we won’t produce it. “

Taylor gives some insight into what submissions would speak to her, “When I read something that I feel is honest and real and close to someone’s heart. That’s what draws me into a piece. And it doesn’t mean it has to be pedestrian, which it can be, or somewhat fantastical. We appreciate storylines that include LGBTQ+ stories. We did one last season. It was fantastic production, that piece. We love being able to produce whatever we feel is so beautifully written that it just needs to be seen.”

Past playwrights that have been accepted  have included John Patrick Shanley, Steve Yockey, William Mastrosimone, Harrison David Rivers, Jami Brandli, Lisa B. Thompson, Franky D. Gonzalez, D.L. Coburn, Lisa Loomer, Sharr White, Marisa Wegrzyn, Craig Wright, Wendy Macleod, Lucy Thurber, Mo Gaffney, Keith Huff, Brett Neveu, Scooter Pietsch, Craig Pospisil, Julie Marie Myatt, and Martyna Majok. 

 Artists performing the readings have included Bryan Cranston, Laurie Metcalf, Jason Alexander, Zachary Quinto, Ann Cusack, Kathy Baker, Jennifer Tilly, Perry King, Rondi Reed, Tom Irwin, Nancy Travis, Gregory Harrison, Gale Harold, Robert Pine, Michael O’Neill, Harold Gould, Jon Polito, James Eckhouse, Lila Crawford, and Zoe Perry.

ONLINE SUBMISSION INFO: 

To submit your play, use this link: https://roadtheatre.org/event/summer-playwrights-festival-14-submission-info/

– Each submission is read and evaluated by Road Company members with recommendations made to the Artistic Board and SPF Producers who then read and evaluate the recommended scripts and make the final choices for the plays that will be given staged readings at SPF14.

-Each play receives a minimum of two reading evaluations. The SPF14 staff regrets that we do not provide feedback on any submitted materials.

-This year, SPF will strive to further reduce bias from our evaluation process, while at the same time taking into consideration race, gender, and other factors in our choice of plays. We are asking the playwrights to remove all identifying information from their scripts.

-Plays of any length or genre are eligible.

-To be included in SPF 14, the work must remain unproduced on the west coast and unpublished through July 16, 2023.

-Early submissions are strongly encouraged.

-No agent is required.

-ONLY electronic copy applications are accepted. No hard copies, please.

PLAY FORMAT GUIDELINES (SPF14):

-All scripts must be in a PDF file format.  No hard copy submissions will be accepted.

-Please remove ALL identifying information about the playwright from the script. 

-The title of your file should be the title of the play only.

-Plays must be paginated and include a list of characters.

-Please include a synopsis of your play on the submission form.

SUBMISSION WINDOW (SPF14):

-We will accept submissions for SPF 14 between February 1st  through 11:59 pm on March 15, 2023.   We cannot accept any plays past this deadline, so please plan accordingly.

-Plays of all lengths (ten-minute, one-act, full-length) are eligible for submission during this time.

-Official SPF 14 selections will be announced by June 7, 2023.

SUBMISSION FEE (SPF14):

-$20 for scripts over 30 pages (full length) and $15 for scripts under 30 pages (short form).

-The fee can be submitted via this link: SPF Submisson Fee 

Upon payment, you will receive two emails in your inbox. The first will be a receipt of payment and the second will include details with script submission instructions.

If the fee is a financial hardship, please email [email protected] to have it waived, no questions asked. 

FOLLOW THE ROAD FOR THE LATEST UPDATES:

For all inquiries and further information, contact:  
www.facebook.com/roadtheatre 
www.instagram.com/roadtheatre
 
www.twitter.com/roadtheatre
 
www.youtube.com/roadtheatrecompany

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

Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs: Trans/Nonbinary artists, plus Beyoncé & Harry Styles

The 65th annual Grammys served up a night of LGBTQ significance as Beyoncé and Kim Petras both make history

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Harry Styles accepts the GRAMMY for Album of the Year (Screenshot/YouTube GRAMMYs)

LOS ANGELES – The 65th annual GRAMMY Award Ceremonies held Sunday evening at the Crypto.com Arena saw a significant LGBTQ+ presence and wins in several categories including a GRAMMY for Best Solo Pop Duo/Group Performance awarded to Out Trans artist Kim Petras along side nonbinary artist Sam Smith for their song “Unholy.”

Madonna was on hand to introduce the duo, and in doing so, seemed to shout praise to the entire queer community. “Here’s what I have learned after four decades in music. If they call you shocking, scandalous, troublesome, problematic, provocative, or…dangerous. You are definitely on to something. So I am here to give thanks to all the rebels out there forging a new path, and taking the heat for all of it. You guys need to know, all you trouble makers out there, you need to know your fearlessness does not go unnoticed, you are seen, you are heard, and most of all you are appreciated.”

While online chatter seemed obsessed with Madonna’s physical appearance, there is hope her message reached queer teens, currently under the ire of current conservative politics, in the same way the singer elevated HIV positive people in the 1980s by not only accepting them, but calling them heroes.

Kim Petras & Sam Smith accept the GRAMMY for their duo “Unholy.”
(Screenshot/YouTube GRAMMYs)

Sam Smith insisted that Kim Petras give their acceptance speech so that she could experience the full effect of being the first transgender woman to receive the award in the Recording Academy’s 65 year history.

Petras acknowledged Madonna’s effect as an icon when she said in her acceptance speech, “I want to thank Madonna for always fighting for LGBTQ rights, I would not be here if not for Madonna.”

She also called out SOPHIE, the transgender Grammy-nominated DJ, producer and recording artist who died in Athens after a tragic accident. “I just want to thank all the incredible transgender legends before me who kicked these doors open for me so I could be here tonight. SOPHIE, especially, my friend who passed away two years ago, who told me this would happen and always believed in me. Thank you so much for your inspiration, SOPHIE. I adore you and your inspiration will always be in my music.”

“I grew up next to a highway in nowhere, Germany, and my mother believed me that I was a girl and I wouldn’t be here without her and her support,” Petras concluded her historic speech. “Sam, thank you, you’re a true angel and hero in my life and I love you. And everyone who made the song, too, I love you guys. Sorry, I didn’t write down the names. I love you.”

Longtime LGBTQ+ ally Harry Styles received a GRAMMY for Album of the Year for his Harry’s House. Styles also picked up a GRAMMY win Best Pop Vocal Album for Harry’s House. Earlier Styles received a GRAMMY trophy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical also for Harry’s House.

Beyoncé, who was the most nominated artist going into Sunday’s ceremonies, made GRAMMY history breaking the record for the most wins ever by an artist. In her acceptance speech where she mentioned her late uncle who died from HIV/AIDS she acknowledged the queer community for their support and “for inventing the genre” of dance music, which she honors in her album.

“I’m trying not to be too emotional. I’m trying to just receive this night. I want to thank God for protecting me. Thank you, God. I’d like to thank my uncle Johnny who’s not here, but he’s here in spirit.

I’d like to thank my parents, my father, my mother for loving me and pushing me. I’d like to thank my beautiful husband, my beautiful three Children who are at home watching.

I’d like to thank the queer community for your love, for inventing the genre. God bless you.

Thank you so much to the GRAMMYs. Thank you.”

She also posted a thank you note on Instagram celebrating the three awards she won earlier in the evening: Best Traditional R&B Performance (“Plastic Off the Sofa”), Best R&B Song (“Cuff It”), and Best Dance/Electronic Recording (“Break My Soul”).

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden walked on stage during the ceremonies to a standing ovation.  GRAMMYs host Trevor Noah, who introduced her, described her as “the only person in the world who knows which of tonight’s songs the President sings in the shower.”

The First Lady presented two awards – the Song of the Year and the new award “Best Song for Social Change.”

Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour won the new social change award. His song Baraye has been described as the anthem of the Mahsa Amini protests in Iran.  Biden described the song as a “powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights.”

He was arrested on September 29, 2022 – two days after his song was released on social media – and was released two days later. He is not allowed to leave Iran. 

Biden then presented Song of the Year to Just Like That by Bonnie Raitt.  She kissed Raitt on the cheek. 

Vanessa Valdivia, Press Secretary for Biden told the traveling press pool:  “The First Lady was honored to be asked by the Recording Academy to announce the GRAMMYs’ first Social Change award to Shervin Hajipour for his song ‘Baraye’. As a steadfast champion for women and girls around the world, the First Lady was inspired by his song that served as an anthem for freedom and women’s rights.”

2023 GRAMMY Award Winners

* Winners in bold

Album of the Year:
Harry Styles – Harry’s House
ABBA – Voyage
Adele – 30
Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti
Beyoncé – Renaissance
Mary J. Blige – Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe)
Brandi Carlile – In These Silent Days
Coldplay – Music of the Spheres
Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
Lizzo – Special

Song of the Year:
Bonnie Raitt – “Just Like That”
Gayle – “abcdefu”
Lizzo – “About Damn Time”
Taylor Swift – “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)”
Harry Styles – “As It Was”
Steve Lacy – “Bad Habit”
Beyoncé – “Break My Soul”
Adele – “Easy On Me”
DJ Khaled feat. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, JAY-Z, John Legend, and Fridayy – “God Did”
Kendrick Lamar – “The Heart Part 5”

Record of the Year:
Lizzo – “About Damn Time”
ABBA – “Don’t Shut Me Down”
Adele – “Easy On Me”
Beyoncé – “Break My Soul”
Mary J. Blige – “Good Morning Gorgeous”
Brandi Carlile feat. Lucius – “You and Me on the Rock”
Doja Cat – “Woman”
Steve Lacy – “Bad Habit”
Kendrick Lamar – “The Heart Part 5”
Harry Styles – “As It Was”

Best New Artist:
Samara Joy
Anitta
Omar Apollo
Domi & JD Beck
Muni Long
Latto
Måneskin
Tobe Nwigwe
Molly Tuttle
Wet Leg

Best Alternative Music Album:
Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Arcade Fire – WE
Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You
Björk – Fossora
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down

Best Alternative Music Performance:
Wet Leg – “Chaise Lounge”
Arctic Monkeys – “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball”
Big Thief – “Certainity”
Florence + The Machine – “King”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs feat. Perfume Genius – “Spitting Off the Edge of the World”

Best Rock Performance:
Brandi Carlile – “Broken Horses”
Bryan Adams – “So Happy It Hurts”
Beck – “Old Man”
The Black Keys – “Wild Child”
IDLES – “Crawl!”
Ozzy Osbourne feat. Jeff Beck – “Patient Number 9”
Turnstile – “Holiday”

Best Rock Song:
Brandi Carlile – “Broken Horses”
Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Black Summer”
Turnstile – “Blackout”
The War on Drugs – “Harmonia’s Dream”
Ozzy Osbourne feat. Jeff Beck – “Patient Number 9″

Best Rock Album:
Ozzy Osbourne – Patient Number 9
The Black Keys – Dropout Boogie
Elvis Costello & The Imposters – The Boy Named If
IDLES – Crawler
Machine Gun Kelly – Mainstream Sellout
Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa

Best Metal Performance:
Ozzy Osbourne feat. Tony Iommi – “Degradation Rules”
Ghost – “Call me Little Sunshine”
Megadeth – “We’ll Be Back”
Muse – “Kill or Be Killed”
Turnstile – “Black Out”

Best Solo Pop Performance:
Adele – “Easy on Me”
Bad Bunny – “Moscow Mule”
Doja Cat – “Woman”
Steve Lacy – “Bad Habit”
Lizzo – “About Damn Time”
Harry Styles – “As It Was”
DJ Khaled feat. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, JAY-Z, John Legend, and Fridayy – “God Did”

Best Solo Pop Duo/Group Performance:
Sam Smith & Kim Petras – “Unholy”
ABBA – “Don’t Shut Me Down”
Camila Cabello feat. Ed Sheeran – “Bam Bam”
Coldplay & BTS – “My Universe”
Post Malone & Doja Cat – “I Like You (A Happier Song)”

Best Pop Vocal Album:
Harry Styles – Harry’s House
ABBA – Voyage
Adele – 30
Coldplay – Music of the Sphere
Lizzo – Special

Best Dance/Electronic Recording:
Beyoncé – “Break My Soul”
Bonobo – “Rosewood”
Diplo & Miguel – “Don’t Forget My Love”
David Guetta & Bebe Rexha – “I’m Good (Blue)”
Kaytranada feat. H.E.R. – “Intimidated”
RÜFÜS DU SOL – “Intimidated”

Best Dance/Electronic Album:
Beyoncé – Renaissance
Bonobo – Fragments
Diplo – Diplo
Odesza – The Last Goodbye
RÜFÜS DU SOL – Surrender

Best Rap Album:
Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
DJ Khaled – God Did
Future – I Never Liked You
Jack Harlow – Come Home the Kids Miss You
Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry

Best Rap Song:
Kendrick Lamar – “The Heart Part 5”
Future feat. Drake and Tems – “Wait for U”
Jack Harlow feat. Drake – “Churchill Downs”
DJ Khaled feat. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, JAY-Z, John Legend, and Fridayy – “God Did”
Gunna and Future feat. Young Thug – “Pushin’ P”

Best Rap Performance:
Kendrick Lamar – “The Heart Part 5”
DJ Khaled feat. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, JAY-Z, John Legend, and Fridayy – “God Did”
Doja Cat – “Vegas”
Gunna & Future feat. Young Thug – “Pushin P”
Hitkidd & GloRilla – “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)”

Best Melodic Rap Performance:
Future feat. Drake and Tems – “Wait for U”
DJ Khaled feat. Future and SZA – “Beautiful”
Jack Harlow – “First Class”
Kendrick Lamar feat. BLXST and Amanda Reifer – “Die Hard”
Latto – “Big Energy (Live)”

Best Música Urbana Album:
Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti
Rauw Alejandro – Trap Cake, Vol. 2
Daddy Yankee – Legendaddy
Farruko – LA 167
Maluma – The Love & Sex Tape

Best Americana Album:
Brandi Carlile – In These Silent Days
Dr. John – Things Happen That Way
Keb’ Mo’ – Good to Be…
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raise the Roof
Bonnie Raitt – Just Like That…

Best Comedy Album:
Dave Chappelle – The Closer
Jim Gaffigan – Comedy Monster
Randy Rainbow – A Little Brains, a Little Talent
Louis CK – Sorry
Patton Oswalt – We All Scream

Best Music Video:
Taylor Swift – “All Too Well: The Short Film”
Adele – “Easy on Me”
BTS – “Yet to Come”
Doja Cat – “Woman”
Kendrick Lamar – “The Heart Part 5”
Harry Styles – “As It Was”

Best Music Film:
Various Artists – Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story
Adele – Adele One Night Only
Justin Bieber – Our World
Billie Eilish – Billie Eilish Live at The O2
Rosalía – Motomami (Rosalía TikTok Live Performance)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – A Band A Brotherhood A Barn

Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media:
Germaine Franco – Encanto
Michael Giacchino – The Batman
Hans Zimmer – No Time to Die
Jonny Greenwood – The Power of the Dog
Nicholas Britell – Succession: Season 3

Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media:
Encanto
Elvis
Stranger Things: Soundtrack from the Netflix Series, Season 4 (Vol 2)
Top Gun: Maverick
West Side Story

Best Remixed Recording:
Lizzo – “About Damn Time (Purple Disco Machine Remix)”
Beyoncé – “Break My Soul (Terry Hunter Remix)”
Ellie Goulding “Easy Lover (Four Tet Remix)”
The Knocks & Dragonette – “Slow Song (Paul Woolford Remix)”
Wet Leg -“Too Late Now (Soulwax Remix)”

Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical:
Harry Styles – Harry’s House
Bayn – Adolescence
Robert Glasper – Black Radio III
Father John Misty – Chloë and the Next 20th Century
Wet Leg – Wet Leg

Producer of the Year:
Jack Antonoff
Boi-1da
Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II
Dahi
Dan Auerbach

Additional reporting by Brody Levesque

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

Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Movies

Belgian Oscar contender strikes ‘Close’ to home

Exploring gender expectations we force upon our children

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Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele in ‘Close.’ (Photo courtesy of A24)

When queer Belgian director Lukas Dhont debuted his first feature film “Girl” at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, it made quite an impression. As winner of the Caméra d’Or prize for Best First Feature, as well as the Queer Palm Award and a Jury Award for Best Performance for its star Victor Polster, it was quickly acquired by Netflix and catapulted Dhont onto the international cinema scene. He was even named on the Forbes “Europe 30 Under 30” list of business and industry professionals to watch.

Not all the attention heaped on his movie was positive, however. The tale of a teen trans girl seeking a career as a ballet dancer, it raised sharp objections from some queer and trans commentators for what they perceived as a sensationalized approach to gender dysphoria and self-harm, not to mention for the casting of cisgender actor Polster in the leading role; though other queer and trans voices – including real-life trans ballerina Nora Monsecour, who inspired the story and consulted with Dhont and co-screenwriter Angelo Tijssens during the writing process – were quick to defend the movie, the controversy nevertheless created a blemish on its reputation, and that of its filmmaker, too.

Now, Dhont is back with his second full-length film, and while it certainly marks an escalation of his success, it’s not without its own detractors. “Close,” based on experiences from his own childhood and again co-written by Tijssens, also took Cannes by storm, winning the Grand Prix Award this time, and has gone on to accumulate accolades from other festivals and awards bodies around the world; yet its subject matter, perhaps inevitably, has opened the filmmaker up to another round of criticism from queer observers who are uncomfortable with the story he has chosen to tell – or at least with the way he has chosen to tell it.

It centers on two young teen boys, Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele), tightly bonded best friends who start their first year of secondary school after a summer spent together in innocent but intimate companionship working on Léo’s parents’ farm. When new schoolmates begin to make comments about the closeness of their relationship, Léo begins to distance himself from Rémi, becoming involved with hockey and pursuing a camaraderie with the rougher, more athletic boys on his team instead; first confused, then devastated by his abandonment, the heartbroken Rémi is moved to a public schoolyard confrontation with his former friend, further driving a wedge between them and setting the stage for an unthinkable turn of events.

The film’s provocative title is partly a nod to psychologist Niobe Way’s book, “Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection,” which documents a study of intimacy among teenage boys – frequently using the term “close friendship” to describe their relationships – and was one of Dhont’s inspirations for making the film. More than that, however, it’s an important clue to what his movie is all about. Though the director revealed before making “Close” that it would be about a “queer character,” there is no suggestion, either explicit or implicit, that its two teen friends have a sexual relationship with each other, or even that such a thing has ever crossed their minds; they are simply two boys, comfortable with each other in that tender and trusting way that only boys at their age can be. Likewise, there’s no bullying, no aggressive or even “microaggressive” shaming; it’s only their schoolmates’ perceptions that introduce the suggestion this friendship might be something more – but that’s more than enough to sour the sweetness between them, forcing us to question why some ways of being “close” are only OK for boys until they start to become men.

More to the point, perhaps, it begs the question of how this kind of low-key homophobia, so culturally ingrained that it is perpetuated without a flicker of awareness, remains persistent in a community that should know better. We don’t see a lot of the adult world in “Close,” but what we do see leads us to an impression that most of the grown-ups around Léo and Rémi are intelligent, educated, compassionate, and sensitive; their parents are unconditionally loving, and more than welcoming of the close companionship between their respective offspring. Yet throughout the film, throughout the boys’ conflict and beyond, there is no adult figure in their lives who seems willing or able to broach the subject of sexuality, or to show by example that there’s nothing about being queer – or even being perceived as queer – to be ashamed of.

These things, of course, are part of the criticism that has been leveled at the movie. Without positive messaging to counter its bleak narrative, some have seen “Close” as perpetuating a bevy of toxic tropes. Though we try to avoid spoilers, it’s hard to discuss a movie like this without revealing that something tragic happens, and many have expressed disappointment that Dhont’s film “punishes” its gay characters – even if we’re never sure they’re really gay. Further, in the absence of any affirmation of queerness (or even non-traditional masculinity), some have been troubled by an assumed reinforcement of a homophobic status quo within its narrative.

We can’t – and won’t – argue with any of those points. “Close” is a challenging film in the same way as “Tár,” another controversial title among this year’s awards contenders, in the sense that it presents a problem and doesn’t offer a solution or tell you how to respond to it – yet unlike “Tár,” it encourages us to feel things for its characters, and the consequences here are much more tragic. That might be especially true for queer men, certainly of older generations but still among today’s youth, for whom the film may trigger traumatic memories that hit particularly close to home. That means, when it comes to deciding if you’re up to the substantial challenges of watching it, you’re on your own. (SPOILER ALERT: it’s rough going, emotionally speaking.)

Still, “Close” is a beautiful film on a lot of levels. In the most literal sense, it’s visually stunning, framed with an almost tactile up-close intimacy and brimming with the preternatural light that glows through Frank van den Eeden’s delicate cinematography; in a larger sense, it strikes a resonant chord for anyone who has ever (is there anyone who hasn’t?) experienced the terrible pangs of losing a childhood friendship, an unforgettable hurt it captures with heart-rending authenticity. Though we want our coming-of-age stories to be uplifting, there are some kinds of pain that cannot be erased, and it’s to Dhont’s credit that he doesn’t try. He wants you to feel those feelings, and his movie is delicately crafted to make sure that you do, complete with the remarkable performances he elicits from his two underage stars.

That doesn’t make it easy to watch, of course, but for those who are willing to take it on, it offers plenty of food for thought; and if the observations it makes about the gender expectations we force upon our children make you uncomfortable, then it’s accomplished what it set out to do in the first place.

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Sports

GLAAD re-teams with NFL for ‘A Night of Pride’

Out bi NFL player RK Russell joins music and Hollywood stars in Phoenix Wednesday night, Feb. 8, at the Sheraton Downtown

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R.K. Russell courtesy of GLAAD

NEW YORK – Even if you’re not into “sportsball” or don’t have plans to watch the Super Bowl next Sunday, there’s a super queer party in the works in Phoenix that will put some glitter on the gridiron. 

GLAAD is once again teaming-up with the National Football league for a star-studded event that will spotlight LGBTQ+ inclusion in professional sports. It also highlights the NFL’s commitment to LGBTQ+ NFL players, coaches and league personnel and out LGBTQ+ NFL Legends, like R.K. Russell. 

The former defensive end and free agent came out as bisexual in 2019, and was part of last year’s A Night of Pride with GLAAD and the NFL, ahead of Super Bowl LVI. He’ll be joined by another out football player, Byron Perkins, the Hampton University defensive back and Chicago native who last year became the first player at any of the nation’s 101 HBCUs to come out as gay.

This year’s spectacular takes place Wednesday night, Feb. 8, at the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix, and features a performance by recording artist and LGBTQ+ ally Betty Who

Also on hand: Tempest DuJour and Joey Jay of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Lance Bass, G Flip, Mynx DiMilo, Justine Lindsay, Meredith Marks of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City and Braunwyn Windham-Burke of The Real Housewives of Orange County, Big Brother Winner Taylor Hale, Shaun T, Justin Sutherland of Top Chef, Paige Mobley, Asher Grodman, Liz Jenkins and content creators Ashley & Malori. 

The invite list also includes State Rep. Daniel Hernandez (D-Ariz.), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Tim Ellis, the league’s EVP & CMO as well as GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, among others. 

In addition to the celebrities, famous names, music and cocktails, GLAAD is promoting the event’s panel discussions on the power of visibility and representation as well as the power and the promise of the next generation of NFL active players. The evening will also feature a panel discussion moderated by Yahoo!’s senior reporter Daniel Artavia about how professional sports can drive LGBTQ+ acceptance forward and help combat discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, including amateur and student athletes.

The red carpet rolls out at 6 p.m. MST, followed by panels and performances at 7 p.m. 
The league has made big strides toward greater acceptance since Michael Sam made headlines when he came out as gay before the NFL Draft nine years ago this month, in Feb. 2014.

More than a dozen retired NFL players have come out as LGBTQ+, including Ryan O’Callahan, who took part in last year’s GLAAD/NFL event. But it wasn’t until June 2021 that an active NFL player, Carl Nassib, came out as gay, and found almost universal acceptance and support. Nassib was with the Raiders at that time and had a one-year contract to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His future in the NFL is unknown.

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Books

New bio illuminates Liz Taylor’s decades of support for queer community

‘Without homosexuals there would be no culture’

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(Book cover image courtesy of Harper)

‘Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon’
By Kate Andersen Brower
c.2022, Harper
$33/513 pages

In the mid-1980s, actor Roddy McDowell threw a dinner in honor of Bette Davis’s birthday. Davis, a queer icon, thought it was “vulgar” when Elizabeth Taylor and actress Pia Zadora, tried on each other’s diamond rings. “Oh, get over it, Bette,”  Taylor, an actress, philanthropist and queer icon, told Davis.

One Friday in 1998, Taylor learned that a friend of her assistant had died, alone, with no money for his burial, from AIDS. Taylor wanted her business manager to arrange for the man who had died to be buried. She was outraged when she learned that this couldn’t be done ASAP. “We will not fucking wait until Monday,” Taylor said, “We will do it right now.” 

These are two of the entertaining, moving, and revealing stories told about Taylor in “Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon” by Kate Andersen Brower.

Many bios written about celebs have the shelf life of a quart of milk. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with Brower’s bio of Taylor.

Taylor, who lived from 1932 to 2011, was, for most of her life, not only a celebrity – but a household name, a worldwide subject of admiration, titillation and gossip.

But Taylor was so much more than catnip for the paparazzi. She was a feminist, an often underrated actress, businesswoman, senator’s wife, addict, mother,  lover of animals, a proponent of gun control, an opponent of anti-Semitism, philanthropist and queer history hero.

Yet, despite the hype, glam and all that’s been written about Taylor, many aren’t aware of the multi-facets of her life.

In “Elizabeth Taylor,” Brower, a CNN contributor, who’s written “The Residence,” “First Women” and “Team of Five, “First in Line,” gives us an informative, lively bio of Taylor.

It is the first authorized biography of Taylor. Usually, this is the kiss of death for a biography. Few want their family members to be revealed as three-dimensional people with not only talent, but flaws.

Thankfully, Brower’s Taylor bio escapes the trap of hagiography. Brower began writing the biography after talking with former Sen. John Warner, who was married to Taylor from 1976 to 1982. (Warner died in 2021.) 

Warner was one of Taylor’s seven husbands. He and Taylor remained friends after they divorced. Warner connected Brower with Taylor’s family who wanted the story of Taylor to be told. Brower was given access to a trove of new source material: to Taylor’s archives – 7,358 letters, diary entries, articles, and personal notes and 10,271 photographs. Brower drew on unpublished interviews with Taylor, and extensively interviewed Taylor’s family and friends.

In her 79 years, Taylor did and lived so much, that telling the story of her life is like trying to put the Atlantic Ocean into one bottle of water. Yet, Brower makes Taylor come alive as an earthy, glam hero with flaws and struggles.

Taylor, who performed with Burton in Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” was as proficient at cursing as the Bard was at writing sonnets. “I love four-letter words,” Taylor said, “they’re so terribly descriptive.”

She was renowned for caring for friends and strangers. During Sept. 11, Taylor was in New York. She paid for a toothless woman, who was looking for a job, to get teeth, and comforted firefighters. A firefighter wondered if Taylor was really at his firehouse. “You bet your ass, I am,” Taylor said. 

Taylor loved her children. Yet, her kids were often (due to her work) left with nannies or enrolled in boarding schools.

Due partly to life-long back pain sustained from an injury she sustained while filming “National Velvet” when she was a child, Taylor struggled with a life-long addiction to pills.

In “Elizabeth Taylor,” Brower illuminates Taylor’s decades of support and friendship with the queer community. Early in her career, she formed close friendships with queer actors Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift and James Dean. “Without homosexuals there would be no culture,” Taylor said.

Decades later, it’s easy to forget how horrible things were during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s. Brower vividly brings back the horror and the tireless work Taylor did for AIDS research. At a time when people wouldn’t use a telephone touched by someone with AIDS, Brower reports, Taylor would hug patients with AIDS in hospices. She jumped into bed to hold her friend Rock Hudson when he was dying from AIDS when no one would go near him, Brower writes.

“I’m resilient as all hell,” Taylor said.

There couldn’t be a better time for “Elizabeth Taylor” than today. In our era, when many would like to erase LGBTQ people, Taylor’s legacy is more important than ever. 

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

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Notables

Autistic poet’s work layered with ‘multiple levels of awareness’

Leslie McIntosh on coming out and learning he is neurodiverse

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Leslie McIntosh (Photo courtesy of McIntosh)

(Editor’s Note: One in four people in America has a disability, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Queer and disabled people have long been a vital part of the LGBTQ community. Take two of the many queer history icons who were disabled: Michelangelo is believed to have been autistic. Marsha P. Johnson, who played a heroic role in the Stonewall Uprising, had physical and psychiatric disabilities. Today, Deaf/Blind fantasy writer Elsa Sjunneson, actor and bilateral amputee Eric Graise and Kathy Martinez, a blind, Latinx lesbian, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy for the Obama administration, are only a few of the numerous queer and disabled people in the LGBTQ community. Yet, the stories of this vital segment of the queer community have rarely been told. In its series “Queer, Crip and Here,” the Blade will tell some of these long un-heard stories.)

Before he could even read, Leslie McIntosh knew he wanted to be a writer. “My Dad got me this little desk with a drawer in it,” McIntosh, 38, who is Black, male presenting, male attracted and autistic, said in a telephone interview.  “I was learning the alphabet when I was two.”

McIntosh, who was born in Newark, N.J. and grew up in  Atlantic City, had a precocious ability to decode words. “I would scribble in this notebook until I learned how to write and form words,” he said.

This scribbling – this desire to be a writer – wasn’t just a childhood thing for McIntosh. The writing bug stuck to him. Today, McIntosh is a poet and “fictionist” whose work has received national recognition. He has been awarded residencies and fellowships from Breadloaf, Callaloo, Millay Arts, The Watering Hole, Zoeglossia and other programs.

His poetry has appeared in “Beloit Poetry Journal,” “Foglifter,” “Obsidian,” the forthcoming anthology “In the Tempered Dark: Contemporary Poets Transcending Elegy” and other publications. He is an assistant poetry editor at Newfound.

McIntosh, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Montclair State University in 2006 and a Psy.D. from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2019, is also a psychologist with a private practice. He lives, he wrote in an email to the Blade, “on the stolen land of the Munsee Lenape, currently known as Hudson County, NJ, USA.”

This reporter read with McIntosh (and Avra Wing) last fall at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. McIntosh is a vibrant performer with a mesmerizing presence. (The reading was an event held by Zoeglossia, a fellowship program for disabled poets.)

In a wide-ranging conversation, McIntosh talked with the Blade about coming out, learning he was autistic, poetry and Bayard Rustin.

Growing up was complicated for McIntosh. “People would read — understand — that I was queer and on the [autism] spectrum,” he said, “before I even knew what that meant.”

There was a lot of repression in the early part of his life. “A lot of what you think about coming out didn’t happen to me,” McIntosh said.

McIntosh wasn’t diagnosed as autistic until five years ago. But, looking back, he reflected that he was different from neurotypical people.

“I would invent these alternative realities in my brain,” McIntosh said, “I would give these people sexual adventures and things like that.”

McIntosh would compartmentalize. “I wouldn’t attribute what was happening to me,” he said. “It was a lot of world building about what having a boyfriend would look like.”

College was a new start for McIntosh. There, his universe expanded. He met people, who he said, were “separate from the toxicity of high school.”

The characters in the alternative realities in his brain couldn’t keep up with the intensity and speed of the people he was interacting with in real life. “I had to experience things in real time,” McIntosh said, “It had to be me. That’s when my coming out began.”

Being queer in the early 2000s wasn’t easy for McIntosh. He didn’t feel quite at home in Southern New Jersey. “It’s hard being gay anywhere,” he said, “especially, where I come from.”

Even a college campus in the aughts wasn’t perfectly safe for a Black male. How do I frame myself? Who do I tell? When do I tell them, McIntosh wondered.   

McIntosh went into psychology because he wanted to be of service. “Here’s a secret,” he said, “what’s helped me to be successful wasn’t the degrees I’ve earned.”

“What’s helped me clinically and humanly,” McIntosh said, “to relate as one person to another are things I learned outside [of his degrees].”

McIntosh can evaluate and diagnose his patients. “I can quote unquote treat them and bill insurance companies,” he said, “but that isn’t a lot of my practice.”McIntosh works with patients to help them conceptualize their lives and what their needs are. “I feel like a lot of therapists being directive discourages patients from relying on their own wisdom,” he said.

McIntosh was going through his training in psychology when he began to think he might be autistic. He felt a bit shameful about this because of the way the behavior of autistic people is often pathologized.

“They treat the behavior of autistic people – such as stimming – as needing treatment,” McIntosh said, “they create a behavior plan to make them stop doing it.”

Being diagnosed as autistic was freeing for McIntosh. It gave him a feeling of control. “I can advocate for myself,” he said. “I can say I have this condition. This is unfair. We need to have a conversation.”

Race has always been at the intersection of his life as a Black, queer, autistic man, McIntosh said. While he was earning his Psy.D, the one Black faculty member in the program left it. “After that it was all white hetero cisgender people,” he said.

Thankfully, his family has always been supportive of him. “I’ve been out to them forever,” McIntosh said.

McIntosh got into poetry when he was preparing to go away to his first year of college. He became entranced by “Def Poetry Jam.” “I saw myself in it,” he said, “looking at that screen, I knew I was a part of it.”

Poetry makes his neurodivergence livable for McIntosh. “It gives me a place where it isn’t something I have to navigate around or over,” he said, “It gets center stage. Without poetry, it would be a burden.”

Every creative person has a quirk about them, he added.

“Leslie McIntosh’s poems mean a great deal to me because of the original and even visceral way they navigate the personal and the historical,” Sheila Black, a poet and Zoeglossia co-founder, emailed the Blade. “Making abundant use of historical fact and context but always shaping this toward a personal lyrical vision.”

“The world of Leslie’s poems is layered with multiple levels of awareness – the double and even triple consciousness of race, sexuality, disability,” Black added. “His poetry is always animated by an acute sense of human vulnerability and the longing for a better, brighter more just world.”

When he was just out of college, McIntosh learned about Bayard Rustin, the queer, Black civil rights icon. “His existence blew my mind and my heart,” he said. “Here is this unsung civil rights hero – a mentor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Virtually unknown because he was Black and openly gay in the 1950s.”McIntosh wanted to know how this could be. Being a poet, he imagined a story. 

McIntosh wrote poems in the form of letters — “epistles” — from Bayard Rustin. For these poems, he created Imal, an imaginary character. “I didn’t want to be part of the story,” he said. “It was easier to imagine the story without me in it.”

Later, McIntosh thought leaving himself out of the story was due in part to his neurodivergence. “I was using Imal to create a version of myself that deserved to be loved,” he said, “and who cared back.”

“I had rooms of people fight for my coat, letters from Martin Luther King with my name on them,” McIntosh writes in the voice of Bayard Rustin in his poem “Epistle: The Verisimilitude of Ruin,” “But that didn’t matter — I wanted a forgotten alley or a dim phone booth … Make believe you haven’t drowned at the drag of a man’s thinly carpeted thigh, the gravity of the smell.”

McIntosh isn’t interested in reading the poems he might have written if he’d been neurotypical. He’s proud to be neurodiverse. “I like the poet that I am,” he said, “I don’t think any other iteration of myself could have written these poems.”

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Sports

Jacob Caswell is 1st-Ever Nonbinary Runner of the year

The 25-year-old New Yorker finished first in the nonbinary category of last fall’s NYC Marathon & 172nd overall in 24 and a half minutes

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Rob Simmelkjaer, CEO, NYRR (left) Jacob Caswell (center) Ted Metellus, Sr. VP, Events & Race Director of the TCS NYC Marathon (Photo Credit: New York Road Runners)

NEW YORK – The highlight of Thursday’s 42nd annual NYRR Club Night in Midtown Manhattan was another historic first for Jake Caswell and the New York Road Runners. The 25-year-old New Yorker was awarded the first-ever nonbinary Fred Lebow Runner of the Year award for their major accomplishments. 

Caswell won 13 NYRR races in 2022, including the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon, the RBC Brooklyn Half Marathon and the legendary TCS New York City Marathon. 

“It’s great being the first nonbinary athlete of the year,” they told the Los Angeles Blade last night. “Being able to run as our authentic selves truly lets me and other athletes be at the start line and feel comfortable being there. I’m truly proud of my team and all the nonbinary winners tonight to show that we are here and deserve to be recognized for our achievements.”

As the Blade reported last November, Caswell finished first in their category in the 2022 TCS NYC Marathon, earning $5,000, for running the 26.2 mile race in 2:45:12. It was the first time in the history of the six major marathons around the world that organizers of the New York City Marathon awarded cash prizes to the top nonbinary runners. All three of the top nonbinary finishers are a part of Front Runners New York, a group for runners who are LGBTQ+. 

Jake Caswell via Front Runners New York

“Our local-run clubs are the cornerstone of our running community, and our NYRR Club Night was an outstanding way to celebrate their achievements from the past year,” said Rob Simmelkjaer, CEO of NYRR. “Congratulations to Jacob and our entire running community for inspiring us all with another tremendous year on the roads.”

Caswell finished 172nd overall- 24 and a half minutes ahead of the second place nonbinary runner, Zackary Harris of New York City. In 2021, Harris, 27, finished first in the nonbinary category, but at that time there were no cash prizes. Justin Solle, 28, also of New York, finished third of the 45 nonbinary runners. 

While most of that category’s runners hail from the Greater New York metropolitan area, there were also nonbinary runners from Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Washington State and even from Germany. 

The NYC race was only the second time a World Marathon Major race registered nonbinary competitors. Marathon organizers in Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin followed New York’s lead; Only the Tokyo Marathon has not, according to NBC News.

The New York Times reported the Philadelphia Distance Run became the first organization to offer equal prize money to nonbinary athletes in September 2021.

More than 500 individual runners and local run club members attended the club night held in the Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Center, honoring the best runners and teams in New York City, as well as celebrating the power of running.

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Sports

NY Rangers forgoes Pride jerseys & stick tape for team Pride night

“NYC Pride was not made aware in advance of our participation in last night’s ceremonial puck drop that Pride jerseys would not be worn”

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Out Broadway star and actor Michael James Scott prepares to sing the National Anthem at the opening of the NY Rangers Pride Night 2023. (Photo Credit: The New York Rangers/NHL)

NEW YORK CITY – New York LGBTQ+ Rangers fans were disappointed after the National Hockey League team forwent wearing the team’s special warm-up jerseys and using Pride stick tape during the team’s 7th annual Pride Night Friday.

The Rangers had promoted Friday night’s Madison Square Garden home game against Vegas Golden Knights, saying players “will be showing their support by donning pride-themed warm-up jerseys and tape in solidarity with those who continue to advocate for inclusivity.”  But ultimately the team wore their “Liberty Head” jerseys in warmups instead.

After the game, a 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, the Rangers released a statement: “Our organization respects the LGBTQ+ community and we are proud to bring attention to important local community organizations as part of another great Pride Night. In keeping with our organization’s core values, we support everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs.”

In an emailed statement to the Blade Sunday Dan Dimant, Media Director for NYC Pride | Heritage of Pride, Inc. said:

In recent years, numerous National Hockey League (NHL) franchises including the New York Rangers have introduced a series of “Pride Nights” to engage the LGBTQ+ community. NYC Pride has been honored to take part in these celebrations, including as recently as last night at Madison Square Garden.

NYC Pride was not made aware in advance of our participation in last night’s ceremonial puck drop that Pride jerseys and rainbow tape would not be worn as advertised. We understand and appreciate that this has been a major disappointment to the LGBTQ+ community in New York and beyond. We are communicating these concerns with NY Rangers and NHL leadership as we continue to discuss the ways these organizations can work toward inclusion.

NYC Pride has a duty to both support our partners and hold them accountable. We are committed to continuing our relationships with the NY Rangers and the NHL and maintaining substantive dialogue with them about meaningful allyship with the LGBTQ+ community.”

ESPN reported that the team’s annual Pride Night was celebrated throughout the game in other ways. Fans were given a pride-themed fanny pack as a giveaway. The exterior and interior lights at Madison Square Garden were illuminated in rainbow colors. The Rangers also made a charitable donation to the Ali Forney Center on Pride Night, the largest agency dedicated to LGBTQ+ homeless youths in the country.

ESPN noted that Andre Thomas, co-chair of NYC Pride and Heritage of Pride, participated in the ceremonial puck drop.
(Photo Credit: The New York Rangers/NHL)

The Rangers’ Pride Night was held 10 days after Ivan Provorov, the alternate captain for the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers, opted out of participating in the team’s Pride Night charity event before the game Tuesday, claiming a religious exemption based on his Russian Orthodox faith.

Provorov, 26, was the only member of the Flyers to not take part in the pre-game exercise on the ice. A video tweeted by the team’s official account shows the rest of the players wore special Pride Night-themed black jerseys with the traditional Flyers logo on the front and rainbow-colored names and numbers on the back; Many of the players practiced using hockey sticks wrapped in rainbow-colored tape known as Pride tape. Both the sticks and the jerseys were auctioned off after the game with the Anaheim Ducks, to raise money for local LGBTQ+ charities. 

The defenseman, who was born in Russia, told reporters after their victory, “I respect everybody and respect everybody’s choices,” adding that he declined to take part in the warmup “to stay true to myself and my religion.” 

After Provorov opted out of participating in the Flyer’s Pride Night charity event the NHL put out a statement that said players can decide which team and league initiatives to support.

“Hockey is for Everyone is the umbrella initiative under which the League encourages Clubs to celebrate the diversity that exists in their respective markets, and to work to achieve more welcoming and inclusive environments for all fans,” the league said. “Clubs decide whom to celebrate, when and how — with League counsel and support. Players are free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”

New York Rangers: Sights and Sounds | Jan. 24 2022 Pride Night:

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Movies

Billy Porter tackles new role in ‘80 for Brady’

Fashion icon on the importance of dressing up

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Billy Porter’s new film ‘80 for Brady’ opens Feb. 10. (Image courtesy Paramount Pictures)

Billy Porter — the Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner — needs no introduction, especially to the many fans of his character Pray Tell on Ryan Murphy’s hit TV series “Pose.”

Arriving in theaters on Feb. 10, Porter will star as a Super Bowl half-time show choreographer, opposite Oscar winners Sally Field, Rita Moreno, Jane Fonda, and Tony winner Lily Tomlin, in the feel-good comedy “80 For Brady,” a comic homage to popular quarterback Tom Brady.

Porter rocketed to superstardom when he originated the role of Lola in the Tony-winning Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” just over 10 years ago. But show business was always in his blood.

“I started singing in church at a very young age,” he says. “By fifth grade the bullying had stopped and in middle school I got involved with theater. I dreamed about being on Broadway and becoming the male Whitney Houston.”

Porter knew he was onto something when he won $100,000 on Star Search, in 1992 but he never expected success would come easy. 

“I took all of the necessary steps to prepare myself for a career in show business,” he says. “There have been moments of frustration, but no one is entitled to anything.

“I’ve practiced acting every day for decades. I went to Carnegie Mellon. I went to graduate school at UCLA. To this day, I still take singing lessons. I have the patience of Job. My best advice for anyone who wants to become a professional is to practice – even when no one is looking.”

How did Porter prepare himself for a trajectory in acting and a career in fashion? “I decided at a very young age to dress for the job I wanted, not the job I have,” he explains. 

The “Oscar” dress, which made Porter a viral sensation, wasn’t something that “just happened.” In 2013, while Porter was in Chicago doing previews of “Kinky Boots,” he met with fans at the stage door after every performance. “It was right at the time when social media was taking off, especially Instagram photos, and I was dressing geek chic.

“When I looked at the news the day after the first performance I saw pictures of myself and I looked like a bag lady. From that moment on, I dressed up every day. After every show, before I went out the stage door to go home, I dressed up.” From then on, any candid photos that people did take of Porter were not only flattering but trend setting. “For three years, while I was on Broadway with ‘Kinky Boots,’ I dressed up after every performance, just to go out to the car to go home.”

In 2019, just a year before the pandemic hit, Porter started to gain attention for some of the most fabulous outfits that have ever adorned any human. At the Grammy Awards, he wore an embroidered suit and pink cape. That same year, at the Academy Awards he wore the famous black fitted tuxedo and velvet gown created by Christian Siriano, accompanied by six-inch Rick Owens boots.

The gender-fluid outfits worn by Porter that are now famous the world over were not intended to be labeled. “All of the outfits I have worn aligned with the roles I was playing. The term ‘non-binary’ never occurred to me.”

And now Billy Porter has become an inspiration for celebrities like Harry Styles, who posed on the cover of Vogue last year in a Gucci dress. “You said that, not me,” Porter insists I disclose.   

“I have a calling,” he admits. “It is funneled through artistry. 

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Books

A balanced look at whether to have children

New book, ‘So When are You Having Kids?’ makes no judgments

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(Book cover image courtesy of Macmillan)

‘So When are You Having Kids?’
By Jordan Davidson
c.2022, Sounds True, Macmillan
$28.99/356 pages

Your mother lingers way too long in the children’s department.

She sighs over tiny suits and little sneakers, running her fingers along soft blankets, hugging plush animals. You know what she wants but you’re not ready; she might be sure but you’re not. Maybe baby for you or, with the new book “So When are You Having Kids?” by Jordan Davidson, maybe not.

It’s the thorniest of decisions, “one of the biggest you’ll ever make.” It’s personal, but even strangers want to know; the questions start in your 20s and end when you’ve acquiesced or aged, although having kids is not a given or a thing-by-committee. So how do you quiet the busybodies and make the right decision for yourself?

First, says Davidson, ask yourself if you even want children, and after you’ve looked inward, “it’s worth looking outward” at expectations, culture, and things that “shape our understanding of parenthood.” Ask around, to see why others had children but don’t be surprised if you get cliches. Throw out the idea that children fulfill you or that they’ll take care of you when you’re old. Know that genetics, religion, and your parents’ parenting styles will affect you; and that if you’re queer or Black, there’ll be other factors involved in having and raising a child.

Should you decide to the positive, you may still have reservations.

Don’t give in to the romance of having kids; it’s hard work, and expensive in both money and time. Remember that perceptions of good parenting have “shifted over time” and that having a childhood exactly like yours probably won’t be an option for your kids. If you have a partner, communicate your thoughts, hopes, and divisions of household labor and childcare.

Finally, decide how you’re going to become a parent. Will you give birth, choose IVF, adopt, foster, or kick the decision down the road?

Says Davidson, the mere ability to ask these questions and decide “is in many ways a privilege.”

Chances are that if you hear a screaming baby, you have one of two reactions: you cringe and look for an exit, or you notice and shrug. Either way, “So When are You Having Kids?” is a book for you.

There are many, many parenting books on miles of shelves, and a number of books on being childless, but author Jordan Davidson pulls the two subjects together here with thoughtfulness, candor, inclusiveness, and a refreshing lack of judgment. This is a book that doesn’t promise answers, though: it’s meant to give readers – whether they want kids, don’t, or are ambivalent – an in-one-place, balanced look at myths, truths, pros, cons, and rarely-considered points for an informed decision. It also, perhaps most importantly, offers comforting reminders that there is no right or wrong, no matter what Mom says.

“So When are You Having Kids?” is like having a big sister to bounce ideas with, or a break-out session in your living room. It’s like asking Baby Maybe questions you didn’t know you had. It’s help when you need it in that department.

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

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