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Matt Bomer wants to connect in ‘Papi Chulo’

LA backdrop and unlikely friendship prop

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Matt Bomer and Alejandro Patiño in ‘Papi Chulo.’ (Photo courtesy of Bankside Films and Blue Fox Entertainment)

 

UPDATE: “Papi Chulo” is available on DVD November 5.

Given the number of films that are shot on location in Los Angeles, there’s an entire cinematic sub-genre of movies that can be called “quintessentially LA.”

That might seem an overstatement, made from a standpoint of bias by someone who lives, loves and works here. After all, these movies are obviously widely varied in terms of content, theme, tone, or any other aspect that might otherwise connect them, beyond the commonality of their setting. But as any Angeleno will tell you, the location itself exerts such a palpable influence over what ends up on the screen that movies made in their city are as unmistakably bound together as if they were all telling different parts of the same story.

In a way, of course, they are. Los Angeles — despite the annoyingly persistent notion in popular imagination that it’s a place without character, culture or depth — is one of the world’s great cities, and, like all such places, it possesses an intangible presence that affects everything taking place within its borders; it becomes an immutable condition of the script, a universe unto itself reflected by all the characters who inhabit it. Whether you’re watching self-delusional film star Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard,” perma-stoned surfer Jeff Spicoli in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” or the two transgender sex workers of “Tangerine,” you know the City of Angels is in their DNA.

This is great for the locals; we relish movies that reflect our city back to us, we recognize all the sights and we feel as if we know all the characters. For those that live outside our sunny little bubble on the Left Coast, however, one has to wonder if such films sometimes feel like a look into an alien and not-very-relatable world.

Take, for instance, “Papi Chulo,” a new film set for release in June that stars Matt Bomer as a TV weatherman who strikes up an unlikely relationship with a Mexican day laborer. Written and directed by John Butler, it centers on an affluent gay semi-celebrity who pretends to be someone else when recognized and a middle-aged migrant worker with limited English who is savvy enough to hold his own at a swanky party in the Hollywood Hills — two people who might easily turn up in an Angeleno’s everyday life without being given a second thought, but who, for most everyone else, might seem not only unfamiliar but implausible.

In the film, Bomer’s character, Sean, is struggling with his newly-single status. He spends lonely nights in his elegant but empty house, listening to coyotes howl in the distance and leaving yet another unanswered voicemail on his former partner’s phone. Placed on leave by his TV station after an on-air breakdown in which his usual upbeat demeanor temporarily crumbles into tears, he sets about trying to remove the traces of his ex from his home, and hires a worker named Ernesto (Alejandro Patiño) in front of his neighborhood hardware store to help him paint his deck. Attempting to strike up a friendship, Sean starts opening up about himself and prods Ernesto to do the same despite the language gap between them. Before long, their work arrangement progresses to paid outings like boating in Echo Park and hiking in Runyon Canyon; Ernesto’s friends and family begin to tease him about the nature of his relationship with this new employer — and he begins to think they may be right.

There’s a lot packed into the situation described by that brief synopsis. The bringing together of these two characters from different worlds invites reflection on class, ethnicity and cultural attitudes toward sexuality. There’s lots of room for social satire about such contemporary pressure points as accidental racism, hipster gentrification, economic disparity, and white entitlement; yet as Sean reaches across all divides for a connection that can help him mend his broken heart, the story is able to open up into an exploration of the healing power of kindness and empathy.

For the first two-thirds, “Papi Chulo” works well on all those fronts. As the bromance between its two lead characters blossoms, they develop a precarious chemistry together that is both surprising and delightful. It’s a gentle comedy, but they give you laugh-out-loud moments that catch you off guard, and you find yourself more engaged by their uncertain, nebulously defined relationship than you think you should be.

A lot of that comes from the performances of the two actors. Bomer, whose ridiculously good looks often make one underestimate his acting chops, makes the potentially vacuous Sean into an endearing soul even in the moments where his privilege and his obsessions push him to the point of painful and humiliating faux pas; Patiño, in a performance that is both gloriously expressive and inscrutably subtle, transcends the risk of playing a character that could be perceived as expressing a stereotype of the wise Latino elder by turning Ernesto into the emotional center of the movie. Together, these two make us wish for more screen time devoted to their rapport.

It’s only in the film’s third act, when their friendship is put at risk by Sean’s refusal to deal with the grief over his lost relationship, that things lose their luster, a little. Without giving away too much, late-in-the-game revelations take the story into darker and more complex territory than it can adequately support, and the more-or-less definitive resolution the film devises for its characters feels a little rushed and hollow. That’s not enough to erase the fun of their earlier scenes, nor even to make us like them less in the end, but it does leave us feeling less uplifted than we were meant to feel — and also, perhaps, less satisfied.

Still, for LA audiences, such minor quibbles are nothing compared to a chance to see their glorious city on the big screen, and this film offers plenty of those; and for LGBTQ folk, it seems important to recognize that it’s also one of those rare occasions when a gay character is not only the leading role in a movie, but is actually played by a gay actor.

As for the rest of the world, “Papi Chulo” might well feel as inaccessible as the bubble they perceive us Angelenos to live in. Fortunately, even if it’s not perfect, it’s good enough that it may be able to bridge that gap for them as well as it bridges the one between its two mismatched buddies.

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Belinda Carlisle brings a heavenly Christmas Bash December 16th

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

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Courtesy of Belinda Carlise

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

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

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

Courtesy of Trixie Mattel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, pure Belinda.

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Listen to the full interview:

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

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

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Andy Grammer partners with Trans Chorus of Los Angeles

Celebrating how important it is to live your life, your authenticity, and to feel good about who you are

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Andy Grammer partnered with the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles (Screenshot via YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – In honor of Transgender Awareness Week, Andy Grammer partnered with the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles (America’s first Trans Chorus, embracing all members of the trans, non-binary and intersex communities) for a special live performance of “Damn It Feels Good To Be Me” – celebrating how important it is to live your life, your authenticity, and to feel good about who you are. What a special moment. In conjunction with the partnership a donation has been made by Andy to the TCLA.

A note from TCLA: “The Chorus really enjoyed the song and especially performing it with Andy around the piano. It was upbeat and expressed how important it is to live your life and your authenticity and to feel good about who you are. That is the thrust of our Chorus philosophy of moving from victim to victorious.”

Connect with the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles:https://transchorusla.org/

Andy Grammer – Damn It Feels Good To Be Me (featuring Trans Chorus of Los Angeles)

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Michael Kearns, the Godfather of LGBTQ+ authenticity

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level

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Michael Kearns by Keida Mascaro

HOLLYWOOD – The arc of LGBTQ+ history over the past 50 years has been one of constant upheaval and evolvement. From a period when it was both illegal and insane to be gay, through the achievement of being able to serve openly in the military, to marriage equality and the ability to create families to today’s fight against the tyranny against Trans people, the movement has not stopped to take a breath.

Michael Kearns, the first recognized “out” actor on the Hollywood landscape, has been a visible presence through it all. More importantly, he has always” been visible on the gay scene. In the seventies he epitomized the free love and erotic freedom that many gay men lived. He was featured in classic gay porn movies and did a PR stint as the face of the “happy hustler.”  

“That was my introduction to a lot of people,” Michael told me when we sat down for a chat on Rated LGBT Radio. “I kind of captured the zeitgeist of the times, the freewheeling seventies. We forget that there was that period of time when sexuality was joyful and exciting and thrilling.”

In the eighties he was visible in mainstream media as a gay man playing gay men characters. In 1983, Michael was cast in a minor role on the Cheers Emmy winning episode “the Boys in the Bar.”  He was instantly recognized for his gay sexual iconic status by LGBTQ audiences, even though the population at large did not know who he was. The casting director who fought for his casting was Stephen Kolzak, who would himself become a prominent AIDS activist before he died at 37 in 1990. Stephen casted Michael to make a statement. He wanted to signal to the LGBTQ community that Cheers had our backs. “He was one of the only ones that had the guts,” Michael remembers.

“There were a lot of stereotypes in television regarding gay portrayals. I was pegged and cast in some of those roles. I did play the stereotype, but rather than a straight guy playing those roles, I brought authenticity. I was real. Straight guys playing gay would always spoof the role. They were always ‘winking’ and signaling to the camera ‘I am not really that way.’  So, the performances are by in large horrible, even with some academy award winners. The actors were constantly saying that it was not who they were—if they weren’t making that clear on the talk shows, they were doing it in the performance itself.’ Michael says.

Michael soon morphed into an HIV positive man playing HIV positive characters, while off camera becoming a visible and vocal AIDS activist. “It was a new kind of cliché. They had to always make me look horrible. The ghastlier the better. They could not have an HIV character who looked normal—as I did when I arrived at the set. Finally, I had enough and refused to do that anymore.” Michael then immersed himself in theater where he found greater character honesty and truth.

 As gay men captured their identities in the 90s as husbands and fathers, Michael was there too—becoming one of the first gay men to adopt a child.  It is that role, as a father, that Michael has said is his greatest.

Today, Michael has been a driving force behind QueerWise, a multigenerational writing collective and performance group. Through QueerWise, Michael gives poetic voice to talent that would otherwise be voiceless. Its members include published poets, writers of fiction and non-fiction, playwrights, singers, musicians, social activists, dancers, actors artists and teachers. 

This weekend, on Sunday October 17th, QueerWise launches its latest work, The Ache for Home. 

“The Ache for Home is a video presentation of heartfelt stories from formerly homeless/unhoused individuals in and around West Hollywood. It was developed through a mentorship program facilitated by QueerWise members. The production represents citizens-turned-writers who share their inspirational stories from those glamorous streets and sidewalks, ranging from soaring self-acceptance to narratives of truth-telling defeats,” states Michael. The production can be seen on QueerWise’s YouTube Channel starting 5pm October 17.

The Ache for Home features a young cis male with a passion for music and art, who finds joy “when I can put a smile on someone’s face and give back”, a retired mixed race bisexual government worker who is a voracious reader and literacy advocate, two trans males share their experiences of living on the street, and a former resident playwright who was homeless for 44 days and nights in the city. “I am thrilled at our inclusion of transmen in this work,” Michael says. “It is a poorly represented community within a poorly represented community.”

On current controversies with media and transgender targeting, particularly the Dave Chappelle issue, Michael remarks, “I am glad it is generating passion. It is bringing up conversation on the plights of black trans women who are victimized at an alarming rate, we should not say victimized… we should say murdered. I am glad we are shedding light on that.”

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level. The Ache for Home takes its inspiration from the Maya Angelou quote, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Michael Kearns work has always encouraged us to go, and live, “as we are.” He is the amalgamation of eroticism, grief, healing, and appreciating the richness of life itself.

He is the godfather of LGBT+ authenticity. In earlier days, he may have represented sex, he may have walked us through a period of darkness and death into the arms of the creation of the new family. He has now brought us home, and when we look at him, we see a new quality.

Wisdom.

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

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

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Listen to the show here:

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