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Merchants of Pride

LA Blade’s list of unique offerings, from gummies to fabulous bouquets

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Anheuser Busch presents its first-ever Pride branded Bud Light bottles. (Photo courtesy Anheuser Busch)

If you don’t want to deal with the massive crowds from LA Pride events, there are still many ways to celebrate Pride around town. Los Angeles is chock full of dynamic brands, glam hotels, lovely restaurants and hot nightclubs all of which strongly support the LGBTQ community. The Los Angeles Blade put together an alternative list of ways you can celebrate and still be part of the action.

AT PRIDE

This year, Verizon is the title sponsor of LA Pride, and will host the U.S. premiere of “5B,” a documentary that showcases the inspirational story of everyday heroes who took extraordinary action to comfort, protect and care for the patients of the first HIV/AIDS ward unit in the United States at San Francisco General Hospital.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown is launching a lineup of dedicated and festive offerings as part of its ‘Summer of Love’ campaign in support of the LGBTQ+ community from June-August 2019. The hotel has been committed to supporting the vibrant local community and sharing its neighborhood’s eclectic past and present with guests since opening in 2016.

With city-wide LGBTQ+ celebrations beginning with Pride Month in June and culminating with downtown’s own DTLA Proud Festival in August, Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown’s “Summer of Love” campaign will run all season long. While the West Hollywood neighborhood is widely associated as the Los Angeles hub for all things LGBTQ+ and has been the location of the LA Pride Festival each June since the early 1980s, downtown LA has been gaining momentum as a popular alternative for Pride celebrations and beyond.

The Hotel is celebrating the LGBTQ+ community with a series of “Summer of Love” offerings which include a monthly “Practice for Pride” yoga class, a “Walk in Our Shoes,” an LGBTQ+ walking tour, and weekly “Sungay” brunch offered in the hotel’s signature restaurant, Metropole Kitchen.

Andaz West Hollywood, centrally located on Los Angeles’ sunset strip, has a LA PRIDE WEEK Eat. Drink. Stay package, valid June 2–9, which offers guests a $100 food and beverage credit valid at all of the hotel’s dining outlets, a room category upgrade, and a 2 p.m. late check out. To book the Eat. Drink. Stay package, use promotion code: 100EAZ. LA Pride has a list of other great packages around WeHo if the Andaz is packed.

THE PRODUCTS

FLOOM has teamed up with Diversity Role Models, an organization whose vision is “a world where everyone embraces diversity,” to design PRIDE themed bouquets. FLOOM’s cut of the profits will be donated to them. This year’s Pride Collection will be available in London, New York, LA, San Francisco, and Chicago.

LGBTQ+ owned Magnolia and Vine is donating 25 percent of proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign for the month of June. Whether you’re heading out for parade festivities or just enjoying time with your crew, this brand supports all types of love.

MedMen is excited to partner with Equality California, the largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, by donating 15% of all limited-edition Pride product proceeds generated at all its California stores to advance LGBTQ equality for the month of June.

Participating products include: Lowell – Sativa pack and sativa single; Kiva – Drag Queen Camino; Mr. Moxey’s Mints – rainbow tin; THC Design – Flower 8th with rainbow sticker; Kush Queen – Rainbow bath bomb, relax 1:1; DomPen -3 pack vape and Dosist – DP50/DP200 Arouse.

FOOD & BEVERAGES

If you want to have a relaxing meal away from the intensity of Pride, head around the corner to WeHo Bistro, at the corner of La Cienega & Holloway. “Our restaurant is a delicious oasis of food and nourishing refreshments, with a restorative deep house vibe,” noted owner Jeff Douek.

“We offer a quieter elegance; a place to recharge the body and the stomach before continuing the party. The bistro is bursting with gay elegance on this gay pride high holiday. SO BOOK EARLY,” added Douek.

The new Rocco’s Restaurant WeHo will be the home for Pride week. DJ’s,live entertainment, great food and drinks.         

“We are really excited to host our very first pride at Rocco’s WeHo”. “Our outdoor patio will be the prime location to see all the pride festivities. Excited to give West Hollywood something exclusive with our live entertainment and newly launched Just Add X mixers (J.A.X.) that are exclusive to Rocco’s WeHo all pride long”.

The best in class cannabis brand, Kiva Confections, has teamed up with renowned drag queens Laganja Estranja, Peaches Christ and Heklina to celebrate this year’s Pride and launch special, limited edition, drag queen inspired Tropical Punch Camino Gummies, a fierce-inducing blend of energizing terpenes with sweet fruit and tropical flavors.

These gummies will be available for a limited time only at dispensaries throughout California. As an added element of support, Kiva will be making donations on behalf of the artists to three LGBTQ charities of their choice – Los Angeles LGBT Center, Harvey Milk Center For The Arts, and GLBT Historical Society.

Kiva’s Drag Queen Camino Gummy Bears (Photo courtesy MedMen)

Meal kit service HelloFresh just created Frozen Rainbow Cubes in honor of PRIDE Month. They are an at-home recipe anyone can make and pop into a glass of water or any liquid to add a delicious twist.

AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer with over 500 beer brands including Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois, etc. pushes for LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion. Bud Light will release limited edition rainbow-colored aluminum bottles in bars across the U.S. through June 30; $1 from each case sold will be donated to GLAAD.

Longtime supporter SKYY Vodka is the official partner for World Pride NY and LA Pride. They will be partnering with some of the original vogue performers to pay tribute to the people and history that have shaped LGBTQ+ culture today.

“At SKYY, our unwavering support of diversity and inclusiveness stems from our San Francisco roots,” said Melanie Batchelor, Vice President of Marketing, Campari America. “We have been a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights since our launch in 1992 and have always sought inventive ways to champion the queer community.

Over the years, SKYY has strived to go beyond standard corporate allyship, from campaigning for anti-discrimination legislation designed to protect transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, to partnering up with Amazon Prime’s groundbreaking Emmy show, “Transparent,” said Batchelor.

NEFT Vodka will launch a newly created limited-edition barrel just in time to celebrate LA Pride Week, with a portion of proceeds benefiting Project Angel Food throughout LGBTQ Pride Month. The festive new barrel will make its debut during the LA Pride Parade at a pop-up tent in collaboration with Tortilla Republic in West Hollywood, where NEFT cocktails and traditional Mexican fare will be available to consumers while they refresh and relax between festivities.

A colorful step-and-repeat showcasing this new design will be on display, creating a background of rainbow colored inspiration, along with an on-site photographer who will take photos for guests wanting a keepsake photograph that can be uploaded to social media. 

GETTING PRIDE READY

Upgrade Labs is offering a Rainbow Carpet Radiance package at their location in the Beverly Hilton that gets you right + tight in under an hour for $175, giving you glowing and toned skin, a trimmer physique and increased energy. The four components of the package include:

The Big Squeeze is a high-tech full body detox massage. This system gently removes excess water, slims the body + compresses the midsection, expels toxins, and boosts the immune system so you can look and feel your best in a matter of minutes. 

​Cryo Facials have been shown to increase cell rejuvenation, improve skin  tones with an immediate glow + rested appearance, reduce signs of wrinkles, puffiness + dark circles, boost collagen production & promote skin tightening.

Their full body, full spectrum infrared sauna promotes detoxification, enhances your immune system, boosts collagen production, and calms your nervous system. They have also added chromotherapy, or color therapy, which helps boost your mood and promotes an overall sense of harmony and wellbeing.

The RedCharger has effects that range from skin rejuvenation, improving brain and body functionality to improved skin and decreased inflammation as well as detoxing the body.

For Pride recovery, Upgrade offers a “Pride Recovery Drip” which helps with hydration, detox, and recovery for body, mind and spirit. The drip Includes glutathione, NAD, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. They can offer an additional unique nasal treatment for headache relief.

dOf course, while you are relaxation minded, you might just escape to the beach and visit SandSpa and Polished by SandSpa, with locations in both Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, are working with The Trevor Foundation, donating 20 per cent of the cost of spa services to the organization. Gretchen Tiernan and Megan Richardson are an amazing entrepreneurial, lesbian couple who are recently engaged!

Jonathan Van Ness is collaborating with DIFF Charitable Eyewear. The collection features rainbow gradient sunglasses which are launching just in time for Pride Month!

All frames in the collection are named, TOSCA, after the song that Michelle Kwan skated to when she won the world figure skating championship in 2003. The Tosca is an oversized acetate aviator and is available in 4 sunglasses colors, Rainbow gradient, Amber Tortoise with Brown frames, Rose Crystal, and Black and Grey frames.

Four blue light blocking lenses protect your eyes from the harmful rays that come from digital screens, prevent blurry vision, reduce the risk of headaches, help with getting a better night’s sleep, and are a must have item if you’re staring at a screen all day!

The collection retails for $85 and is available on www.diffeyewear.com

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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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