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Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles replaces key leadership team posts

Says fundraising efforts have been successful

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Steve Holzer (left) replaces John Duran as Board Chair of Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and Lou Spisto (right) replaces Jonathan Weedman as the group’s Executive Director.

It’s almost like the fates decided to dump a chorus of scandalous outrage on West Hollywood’s LGBT community at the same time. But this week, as if in harmonic lockstep, there was movement on almost every one of them.

Latisha Nixon, mother of Gemmel Moore, filed a civil suit against Ed Buck just as the West Hollywood Sheriff’s office announced it has reopened its investigation into Moore’s death; the West Hollywood City Council race is finally over; and John Duran has resigned as Mayor of West Hollywood, bowing to public pressure after a sexual misconduct complaint by a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) drew fierce criticism.

GMCLA has been busy cleaning up after a multi-layered-whammy of bad PR.

Executive Director Jonathan Weedman had been accused in December 2017 of inappropriate contact with a 20-year old Chorus member, who he had hired to work in his home. GMCLA Executive Board members ordered an independent investigation which determined there was “insufficient credible evidence of wrongdoing by Weedman.”

And though the Board accepted the findings and no action was taken, Weedman’s contract was not renewed.

Simultaneously the group faced a much more high-profile storm.

A more recent and separate internal investigation focused on West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, also dropped after investigators found “no sufficient evidence” to substantiate complaints by a chorus member. Duran was accused of inserting his fingers into the underwear waistband of a young Chorus member.

After the Board, on which Duran was Chair, also accepted those findings the chorus membership was left reeling and pressure was applied. Duran eventually agreed to immediately step down as Board Chair and leave the Board altogether in August 2019.

The Chorus was left to face an existential choice.

And at an executive session of the Board on February 13, board members decided against dissolving GMCLA in the face of $175,000.00 debt load. This despite Board members, reliable donors and corporate sponsors distancing themselves from the 40 year old LGBT institution.

The Chorus needed to regroup.

Slow forward to this week: GMCLA announced that Steve Holzer, a Board member and member of the chorus for many years, will replace Duran as Board Chair.

“The chorus has been a fundamental part of my life for the past 16 years,” said Holzer. “I’m delighted that Lou Spisto has graciously agreed to step in to serve as our Interim Executive Director. We’ve known Lou personally as an incredible resource on the Board.”

Spisto, a TONY-nominated producer will become the group’s interim Executive Director having served on the Board of GMCLA. He is well regarded financial turnarounds for two major arts organizations in Southern California.

“I am delighted to continue work with my friends here at GMCLA in this new role and honored to be asked to step in at such a critical time. I’ve loved this organization since the days of Artistic Director John Bailey in the 90’s and I know that GMCLA’s very existence is essential to the community we represent and to the great Los Angeles.”

GMCLA says it has raised over $75,000 and that its upcoming concert “Turn Back Time: The Best of the last forty years of GMCLA” is selling well.

Spisto says that “beyond the concert, we are doing what must be done to give GMCLA long-term stability.”

No final announcement has been made on the group’s largest fundraiser of the year, the Voice Awards. Last year the Voice Awards raised more than a quarter of GMCLA’s annual 2 million dollar budget.

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Los Angeles

LAPD: Body found on fire hanging in tree in Griffith Park likely a suicide

The person’s age, identity and gender have not yet been determined, but they are believed to be a person who frequents the park

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Screenshot/YouTube KABC ABC 7 LA

LOS ANGELES – The body of an unidentified person deceased found hanging from a tree near the Griffith Park’s merry go round was likely a suicide a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department said Tuesday.

The body was discovered at around 12:30 p.m. on fire and hanging from a tree. Los Angeles City firefighters put the flames out and LAPD detectives investigated and found no signs of foul play, determining that most likely the cause of death was suicide.

“It appears to be self-immolation,” said LAPD detective Michael Ventura. “This is going to be somebody who brought some gasoline, brought some lighters. We have had, they are rare, but we do have cases where people will self-immolate. Or they choose to set themselves on fire.”

The person’s age, identity and gender have not yet been determined, but they are believed to be a person who frequents the park on a regular basis Ventura said.

Independent freelance journalist Vishal P. Singh, who was on scene tweeted about the incident:

KABC reported:

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or dial 988

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Los Angeles

LAPD respond after protestors disrupt LA City Council vote on homeless

All of City Council left except for Councilmembers Raman, Harris-Dawson, & Bonin who have previously voted against the expansion of 41.18

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Jonny Peltz/Twitter

LOS ANGELES – After protestors angrily voiced opposition and one charged towards the council dais disrupting the LA City Council’s impending vote Tuesday on a mass expansion of 41.18 zones, which will prohibit encampments of unhoused persons near schools and daycare centers, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Riot Squad was called-in.

The meeting erupted into chaos after a member of the public who was speaking climbed over a bench and charged toward Council President Nury Martinez. Police quickly filled the council floor to apprehend the person and another member of the public. Activists screamed at police, and at least one audience member attempted to spray water on officers.

Martinez abruptly recessed the meeting as dozens of activists in the room chanted “Abolish 41.18!” – a reference to the city law prohibiting homeless encampments at libraries, freeway overpasses and other locations.

Jonny Peltz, a freelance reporter for Knock LA, a nonprofit community journalism project, live tweeted the proceedings.

KTLA reported the Council voted to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of city schools and day care centers after protesters again rallied against the expanded motion.

The final vote on the motion 11-3 in favor of the widespread ban.

Before the updated motion passed, camps were banned within 500 feet of facilities deemed sensitive, such as schools, day care facilities, parks and libraries but only if those areas have been designated for enforcement.

Tuesday’s vote means a blanket ban on encampments within 500 feet of every private school and day care centers in the city.

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Los Angeles

LAPD increases patrol force by 200 in Hollywood to combat rising crime

“If you come here to commit crime, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted, you will be jailed or imprisoned,” said O’Farrell

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Courtesy Los Angeles Police Department

HOLLYWOOD – The Los Angeles Police Department has been deploying additional resources over the past seven months as the neighborhoods around Hollywood have experienced sharp increases in petty thefts, robberies, shootings and homicides.

On Wednesday, Out Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell hosted an event to spotlight more aggressive actions being taken by the LAPD and other city officials to stem the uptick in crime in the heart of the City’s entertainment district.

“If you plan to come to Hollywood to commit crime, you are not welcome,” said Councilmember O’Farrell. “All Angelenos should feel safe where they live and work. By bringing additional LAPD shifts to Hollywood, we are strengthening the holistic approach my office is taking to public safety – one that brings unarmed services to people in distress, while ensuring our LAPD officers have the necessary tools to effectively prevent and address crime.”

“If you come here to commit crime, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted, you will be jailed or imprisoned,” said O’Farrell adding; “There is no permissiveness in Hollywood. We’re not going to permit or tolerate that.”

Screenshot KABC ABC 7 Los Angeles

“That’s really basically about 200 more officers out on the street here on Hollywood Boulevard. “They’re going to be on foot, they’re going to be in patrol cars, they’re going to be on horseback, they’re going to be on bikes,” LAPD Deputy Chief Blake Chow told attendees and reporters attending the event.

Graphic via KABC ABC 7 News LA

Year to date, Hollywood has seen a 75% increase in homicides and 35.6% increase in shots fired, while robbery and theft have risen by 19.4% and 24.7% respectively, compared to 2021. This latest effort to enhance public safety follows Councilmember O’Farrell’s groundbreaking work to bring the CIRCLE program, the City’s first unarmed model of crisis response, to Hollywood, in addition to supporting a City budget that accounts for attrition rates within LAPD’s ranks.

“People need to feel safe when they’re in Hollywood,” said Deputy Chief Chow. “We’re thankful to Councilmember O’Farrell for these additional resources and look forward to quickly putting them to use to prevent, deter and address crime.”

“Public safety requires robust collaboration and an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said James Hegler, Director of Operations for the CIRCLE Program. “We’re proud of our successful working relationship with Councilmember O’Farrell and LAPD, which helps us bring unarmed services to Angelenos in need so that LAPD can focus their resources on actual crime.”

“Public safety is an essential part of a thriving local economy,” said Kathleen Rawson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Hollywood Partnership. “As Hollywood emerges from the pandemic, having officers on the street and available to respond to calls is necessary for our businesses to safely keep their doors open and welcome visitors back to this iconic boulevard.”

In addition to deployment of added LAPD resources, O’Farrell on Wednesday introduced a motion that, when approved by the City Council, would strengthen LAPD’s presence in Hollywood with additional officer shifts.

The $216,000 effort would be funded directly by O’Farrell’s office as part of his comprehensive approach to public safety in Hollywood a spokesperson said in a statement.

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