Arts & Entertainment
Fire lit by ‘Paris is Burning’ still glows, on ‘Pose’
Take away its time capsule footage of gritty 1980s New York City, and the creative expressions and personal challenges charted in “Paris is Burning” seem, in ways both inspiring and sobering, utterly contemporary.
Seven years in the making, Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary introduced NYC’s African American and Latinx Harlem ball culture to a global audience. Between origin stories (“shade came from reading”) and the definition of a House (“a gay street gang”), “Paris is Burning” follows voguers, drag queens, and trans women on their quest for respect and recognition—not just in the form of towering trophies awarded in categories like “Town and Country” and “Executive Realness,” but also from a society, the film’s current press notes, “rampant with homophobia and transphobia, racism, AIDS, and poverty.”
Now, nearly 30 years later, a digitally restored version of the film is getting a national roll-out, opening locally July 5, at Landmark Nuart Theatre (11272 Santa Monica Boulevard).
Its June run at NYC’s Film Forum was a fitting full-circle journey.
Karen Cooper, director of the nonprofit indie and foreign art film mecca, booked “Paris is Burning” for its original American theatrical premiere, after screening it at an independent film market in NYC.
“Audience reception was tremendous,” Cooper recalls, of the 1990 run. “The first show (afternoon!), on a Wednesday, sold 89 tickets. The reviews were very strong. Vincent Canby, in the New York Times, was particularly enthusiastic, and the Times had tremendous clout in those days.”
This time around, audience and critical reception “have both been positive,” Cooper says. “The cultural climate has done a huge shift, in that LGBTQ people are no longer ‘invisible.’ I think the film is not ‘shocking”’ in the way it may have been nearly 30 years ago—but neither is Fellini or Pasolini, and they remain great filmmakers.”
Joined by cast members Freddie Pendavis and Sol Pendavis, “Paris” director Livingston was on hand at a June 15 Film Forum screening, for a conversation moderated by artist and filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris.
Two days later, Jevon Martin introduced a Film Forum screening, “in hopes that they [contemporary audiences] would tie into the fact that the LGBTQ community is still homeless now, just as it was back then.”
The same community needs are present today, notes Martin, who serves as executive director of Princess Janae Place, an organization he founded in 2015 to honor its late namesake by “educating the LGBTQ community on their rights to housing and addressing the needs of the LGBTQ community, with emphasis on TGNC [Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming] people of color.”
Martin, who knew many of those featured in “Paris,” served in NYC as father of the House of Khan, then father in the House of Legacy. Currently, Martin contributes to the ballroom scene as “the creator of the transman realness category.”
Martin has “been a part of ballroom since the late ’90s, helping others and spectating. I walked my first butch realness category at Paris is Burning ball, at the Minisink Townhouse in Harlem, when my auntie Paris [Dupree] was alive.”
Of Dupree, one of those featured in the film, Martin recalls her as “a butch queen. She was a showgirl and a straightforward person. Paris didn’t take no sh*t from anyone, and you didn’t mess with Paris. Everyone knew that if you did, you would get knocked!” (“That’s gay slang for ‘beat up,’ ” Martin notes, for the uninitiated.)
Dorian Corey, another from the film, “was also my auntie, a showgirl and seamstress,” Martin says, calling her “elegant, beautiful, kindhearted, and stern. She wouldn’t hold her tongue either. What you saw was what you got. She never sugar-coated anything.”
Corey, Martin recalls, “sewed clothes for a lot of people, and everything she wore was designed by her. Nobody messed with her, either. It just so happens that when she passed away, her apartment on 140th Street was left to her close friend, and some guys came by to get some clothes for Halloween. They found the mummified body of a man, in a garment bag in the closet, with a bullet hole in his head.”
That scenario may well play itself out on the small screen, as Martin says the Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk, and Ryan Murphy-created FX series “Pose” (set in the same era as Livingston’s “Paris”) has woven the documentary’s people and events into its own plot.
“But told in a unique way,” he notes. “By that, I mean the storylines of the characters are similar, but the details are changed, so as not to be the same.”
Martin cites, as one example, the character of Angel Evangelista (played by Indya Moore), whose experience on the show is reminiscent of Tracey “Africa” Norman, “a transwoman and a model. Nobody knew she was transgender. She was later found out.”
Martin, who was cast as a ballroom judge in two episodes and can be seen in the background in other ballroom scenes, says, “We are still filming. So hey, you never know what other areas I might be cast in. Plus, Season 3 has been announced!”
The “Paris is Burning” effect, Martin says, “is very positive. The film is our history. These are the people that were the limelight of that era. Some are still alive today to tell their stories. Those that have passed on have left their legacy to pave the way for the new kids.”
From the runway on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to each new episode of “Pose,” Martin notes the ballroom scene “has been brought to mainstream,” showcasing “the glitz and glam of our community. Yet there is still much work to do, to make sure we are all safe from discrimination and physical abuse.”
One thing that still bothers Martin, as stated in comments prior to June 30’s NYC Pride March, “is that Pride was built on the backs of transwomen of color, and that’s been whitewashed and erased. The existence of the Pride March has been turned into a corporate parade. Year after year, it’s being diluted from Stonewall being a riot.”
Like those in “Paris is Burning,” Martin says, contemporary TGNC people of color “want visibility. We want people to know why we are celebrating, and not lose the true meaning behind Pride.”
Los Angeles Rams are hosting preliminary Cheerleader Auditions
The Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders are known for their commitment to community service and performances during Rams home games at SoFi Stadium
AGOURA HILLS – The Los Angeles Rams are hosting preliminary Cheerleader Auditions for the 2023 season starting on Sunday, April 2. During the preliminaries, candidates will participate in an “Across the Floor” round that will consist of a combination of movements and exercises before candidates are selected to advance to the Semi-finals.
As part of the Semi-final round, candidates will learn a choreographed routine and perform in front of a panel of judges.
Candidates interested in auditioning must be 18 or older by Sunday, April 2 and must register online at therams.com/auditions by Friday, March 31 at 3:00 p.m. PT.
The finalists will be announced on the Rams website the following day on Monday, April 3 at 4:00 p.m. PT at therams.com/cheerleaders. Final auditions will take place on Sunday, April 16 at the team’s practice facility at Cal Lutheran University.
The Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders are known for their commitment to community service and performances during Rams home games at SoFi Stadium. The Rams Cheerleaders pride themselves on representing the best of Los Angeles and the Rams organization. Since 2016, the Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders have provided more than 1,700 hours of community service in the Southern California region.
In addition, the Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders travel internationally to represent the Rams and engage with fans in the team’s international marketing areas including Mexico and Australia, as well as military bases in other countries for NFL Pro Tours. For more information, please visit www.therams.com/cheerleaders.
Echo Theater Company presents ‘That Perfect Place’
A beautiful imagining by writer/performer Brent Jennings of what his mentally challenged brother might have said, had he been able to speak
LOS ANGELES – The Echo Theater Company presents That Perfect Place, a beautiful imagining by writer/performer Brent Jennings of what his mentally challenged brother might have said, had he been able to speak.
”I grew up a long, long time ago. In the ‘60s to be exact,” says Jennings. “A time that now seems like some sort of aberration, or invasion of inspiring aliens because there’s never been another time like it. A time of real and substantive change, a time of hope, a time of endless possibilities, all of our voices mattered. Encased in that reality were families struggling with the domestic or familial challenges of their households. Families like the one I grew up in. The stories presented in That Perfect Place are a representation, a musing, a meditation on the lives of the family I grew up a part of, presented by its most challenged member. A member that may have been the most soulful, wisest and compassionate one of us all. Thank you for allowing me to explore this, my passion project, with you.”
Brent Jennings is a veteran stage, television and film actor based in Los Angeles with a career spanning almost 40 years. Most recently, he was seen on television in the lead role of Ernie Fontaine in the critically acclaimed television series Lodge 49, and he has appeared in the recurring role of Grandpa Willie in the hit CW drama All American for the past four seasons. Other credits include multiple episodes of All Rise; Snowfall and the new comedy How to Be A Bookie for HBO Max. Other recent credits include Insecure and Young Sheldon.
April 2 – April 23
• Sundays at 7:30 p.m.: April 2, April 9, April 16, April 23
Echo Theater Company
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039
FREE in the Atwater Crossing (AXT) lot one block south of the theater
For more information visit:
MMA fighter Jeff Molina comes out as bi after being outed
“TLDR: im bi. Not the way I wanted to do this but the chance to do it when I was ready was taken from me” – Jeff Molina
OLATHE, Ks. – UFC bantamweight Jeff Molina, who goes by “El Jefe” in the octagon, came out as bisexual Friday in a tweet that revealed he had been outed by someone who shared a video of him being intimate with another man.
“Welp.. this fucking sucks,” he wrote. “TLDR: im bi. Not the way I wanted to do this but the chance to do it when I was ready was taken from me.”
In the moving and very personal post, Molina explained that “I’ve dated girls my whole life and suppressed feelings I had throughout high school being on the wrestling team, throughout college pursuing MMA, and even after making part of the dream happen and getting into the UFC.” Molina has been a part of UFC since 2020.
👇👇👇 pic.twitter.com/zho13QHXeT— Jeff Molina (@jmolina_125) March 17, 2023
Last Pride Month, Molina showed his support for the LGBTQ+ community by wearing rainbow shorts during a fight, and was the only one to do so. He found himself on the receiving end of anti-gay backlash for that.
“I just thought in 2022 people would be a little more open-minded and not pieces of shit. But I guess I was wrong,” Molina said at a post-match news conference last June.
Jeff Molina goes *off* about the negative comments he received for wearing UFC's pride month shorts.— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) June 5, 2022
"I just thought in 2022 people would be a little more open-minded and not pieces of sh*t. But I guess I was wrong."#UFCVegas56 | Full video: https://t.co/mOxnqIFGCb pic.twitter.com/aKeVUUeXyg
After coming out on Friday, he added: “At the end of the day I know my character, morals, and who I am as a person. As much as I’m getting hated/shitted on I’m getting an equal amount of support & it means a fuck ton.”
In fact, Molina received immediate support from fellow MMA fighters Chris Curtis and from fans with huge numbers of followers.
The real ones don't care man. Be happy with you and the rest will fall into place. Glad you can finally get it off ya chest. Fuck the haters— Chris Curtis The Action Man (@Actionman513) March 17, 2023
Saddens me that you weren’t able to do this on your own terms, horrible thing for that person to do, but you know who you are and I’m sure this will resonate with someone going through the same thing in the MMA space. Thanks for even sharing.— MS (@UFC_Obsessed) March 17, 2023
In his coming out tweet, Molina explained why he had waited until now, and in doing so, had some harsh words for anti-LGBTQ fans of MMA: “The thought of my buddies, teammates, and ppl I look up to looking at me different let alone treating me different for something I can’t control was something I couldn’t fathom. In a sport like this where a majority of the fans being the homophobic cocksuckers they are I didn’t see myself doing this during this part of my career.”
Molina said he wanted to be known for his skills and his dedication to his sport and not as “the ‘bi UFC fighter’ that I’m sure would just be translated to ‘gay UFC fighter.’”
And he had this to add: “To the awful disturbed person that decided to post this…I hope it was worth it,” Molina wrote.
Currently, Molina’s record is 11-2, but he is under suspension by the Nevada Athletic Commission for allegedly betting on a UFC fight, according to CNN.
While he waits for the investigation to conclude, Molina is spending his time watching MMA fights and enjoying Starbucks, which he tweeted and was subsequently ribbed for his choice of beverage.
I could be riding a Harley while eating pussy and still be getting called a fruit 🤷♂️— Jeff Molina (@jmolina_125) March 18, 2023
STAGE RAW announces 2023 Theatre Awards Finalists
This year, Stage Raw is recognizing productions in venues of all sizes, rather than focusing entirely on venues of 99-seats or fewer
LOS ANGELES – The Stage Raw Theater Awards celebrate excellence on Los Angeles-area stages. This year’s Stage Raw “I’m Still Here” Theater Awards Party will recognize productions that opened in the calendar year 2022.
Stage Raw is a community funded professional journalism website that was launched in 2014, in response to the decline of arts coverage in local mainstream and alternative media.
The Awards party will be held Monday night, April 17, 2023 at the Sassafras Saloon, 1233 N. Vine Street in Hollywood. Tickets are $20 for everybody, if purchased in advance. $25 at the door. (Capacity is limited and tickets will no longer be available once that capacity is reached.) Admission includes complimentary food, music, dancing and a cash bar. All proceeds will be used to support the professional journalists of Stage Raw, and their ability to continue covering Los Angeles-area theater.
Tickets can be purchased here: (Link)
Be sure to use the discount promo code “StageRaw” to bypass the $2.50 ticketing fee. (This is a service of ticketing agency onstage411.com).
CHANGES FROM PRIOR STAGE RAW AWARDS CEREMONIES:
This year, Stage Raw is recognizing productions in venues of all sizes, rather than focusing entirely on venues of 99-seats or fewer.
Also, Stage Raw has changed its system of allocating recognition in response to the flaw in prior years of excluding excellent productions that were unable to attract a “quorum” of contributors. This year, each Stage Raw contributor has been allocated a number of votes, in proportion to the number of Stage Raw-reviewed shows they saw, and they have cast their votes to any person, production or in any category they choose.
Explains Founding Editor Steven Leigh Morris: “The hoped-for effect of this system is to diversify the number of companies receiving awards by honoring the generational, ethnic, gender and aesthetic diversity of our individual contributors, who will each be selecting award winners.”
And finally, the entire feel of the event will be more of a party than an awards show. The actual ceremony will be 30-45 minutes dedicated to announcements, and the presentation of the “Queen of the Angels” and “Lifetime Achievement” awards. All of the other awards recipients will be named during this ceremony and can retrieve their awards at a table.
THE 2023 STAGE RAW AWARD FINALISTS/RECIPIENTS:
Ahmed Best, Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies, Echo Theater Company
Dean Harada, Tea, Hero Theatre at Inner-City Arts
Lap Chi Chu, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,
Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum
Hsuan-Kuang Hsieh, The Great Jheri Curl Debate, East West Players
Nick Santiago, Green Day’s American Idiot, Chance Theatre
Ann Beyersdorfer, Afterglow, Midnight Theatricals at the Hudson Theatre
John Iacovelli, The Brothers Paranormal, East West Players
Cindy Lin, Untitled Baby Play, IAMA Theatre Company
Rachel Myers, Power of Sail, Geffen Playhouse
Aimee Carrero, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Geffen Playhouse
Alexandra Hellquist, On the Other Hand We’re Happy, Rogue Machine Theatre
Michael Matts, Angels in America: Perestroika, Foolish Production Company
Eileen T’Kaye, A Doll’s House, Part II, International City Theatre
Brent Grimes, Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies, Echo Theater Company
John Rubinstein, Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground, New Los Angeles Repertory Theatre Company, Theatre West and Hudson MainStage Theatre
Alex Alpharaoh, Wet: A DACAmented Journey, Greenway Court Theatre
Colin Campbell, Grief: A One-Man Shitshow, The Broadwater
Ben Moroski, Dog, The Broadwater
Jesús I. Valles (Un)documents, Latino Theater Company
Judy Carter, A Death-Defying Escape!, Hudson Guild Theatre
Hugo Armstrong, Uncle Vanya, Pasadena Playhouse
Kevin Ashworth, A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney, Theatre Planners at the Odyssey Theatre
Ramón de Ocampo, Hamlet, Antaeus Theatre Company
Jenny O’Hara, Little Theatre, Rogue Machine Theatre
Zachary Quinto, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Geffen Playhouse
Jennifer Shelton, A Doll’s House, Part II, International City Theatre
Michael A. Shepperd, Valley Song, International City Theatre
Kalean Ung, Macbeth, Independent Shakespeare Co.
Nancy Lantis, The Sandman, Eclipse Theatre LA and Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival
Ahmed Best, Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies, Echo Theater Company
Will Block and the ensemble of All is True or Henry VIII, The Porters of Hellsgate Theatre Company
Gregg T. Daniel and the ensemble of Radio Golf, A Noise Within
Can’t Pay? Don’t Pay!, The Actors’ Gang
Anna in The Tropics, A Noise Within
Blues for an Alabama Sky, Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum
The Colored Museum, Loft Ensemble
Freestyle Love Supreme, Pasadena Playhouse,
If Nobody Does Remarkable Things, Pandora Productions at the Garage Theatre
The Inheritance, Geffen Playhouse
Masao and the Bronze Nightingale, CASA 0101 and the Japanese American National Museum
James Fowler, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Open Fist Theatre Company
Carla Ching, Revenge Porn, Ammunition Theatre Company
Bernardo Cubria, The Play You Want, Road Theatre Company
Kelly McBurnette-Andronicos, The House of Final Ruin, Ophelia’s Jump
Murray Mednick, Three Tables, Padua Playwrights at the Zephyr Theatre
PRODUCTION EXCELLENCE IN QUEER STORYTELLING
Interstate, East West Players
DISTINGUISHED MUSICAL REVIVAL
Oklahoma! Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Open Fist Theatre
The Penelopiad, City Garage
Roe, Fountain Theatre
Uncle Vanya, Pasadena Playhouse
The Road Theatre Company (The Play You Want, Beloved, Bright Half Life, According to the Chorus)
Maria Gobetti and Tom Ormeny (Victory Theatre Center)
Frédérique Michel and Charles Duncombe (City Garage)
QUEEN OF THE ANGELS
The SB116 Coalition (Teri Ball, Beatrice Casagran, Elina DeSantos, Emmanuel Deleage, Martha Demson, Christopher Maikish, Leo Marks, Marc Antonio Pritchett and Vanessa Stewart)
The 2023 Stage Raw “I’m Still Here” Theater Awards Party is supported through the generous sponsorship of the following companies and individuals: Antaeus Theatre Company, Crimson Square Theatre, Dina Morrone, DEMAND PR, The Geffen Playhouse, The Hudson Theatres, IAMA Theatre Company, Lucy Pollak Public Relations, Macha Theatre Company, Ophelia’s Jump, Road Theatre Company, Sandra Kuker Public Relations, Santa Monica Playhouse, Sierra Madre Playhouse, Theatre 40, Theatre of NOTE, and The Victory Theatre Center.
A timely biography of drag queen Doris Fish
An eye-opener to queer life in Sydney and San Francisco
‘Who Does That Bitch Think She Is? Doris Fish and the Rise of Drag’
By Craig Seligman
Tennessee, home of Dollywood, just passed legislation banning “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.”
“If I hadn’t been a girl, I’d have been a drag queen,” Dolly Parton has said. (Make of that what you will, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.)
Nothing is more timely than cultural critic and writer Craig Seligman’s new work of queer history “Who Does That Bitch Think She Is? Doris Fish and the Rise of Drag.”
One day in the 1980s, Doris Fish, a San Francisco drag queen, sat for a shoot in a beauty salon. Sitting under a dryer, “curlers in his yellow fright wig, wearing a fuchsia top, turquoise pedal pushers, white peep-toe pumps and (too much) matching makeup, wide-eyed in what looks like despair,” Fish modeled for West Graphics, a local greeting card company, Seligman writes.
These greeting cards featured queer humor. “BOTH YOUR DOCTOR & HAIRDRESSER AGREE! THIS TIME IT’S GOING TO TAKE MORE THAN A COMB-OUT,” the caption to the card with Fish’s stunning beauty parlor photo, read.
Then, most gay people weren’t proud or irritated by these greeting cards, reports Seligman in his captivating history of drag told through the life of Fish, who was legendary in San Francisco from the 1970s until he died from AIDS in 1991.
The greeting cards were just funny to queer people at that moment, Seligman writes, “which was how the rest of the country saw them, too.”
“Yet it’s hard to envision their taking off the way they did a decade earlier,” he adds, “The very people who might once have been appalled to learn they had a queer family member were snapping up these artifacts of gay humor.”
This is one of the many insights into cultural changes in attitudes toward queer people and drag to be found in Seligman’s illuminating bio of Fish.
Fish was born into a middle-class, Catholic family in 1952 as Philip Clargo Mills in Manly Vale, a suburb of Sydney, Australia. (Even the most ironic novelist wouldn’t have come up with that name!)
Doris considered himself to be what we, today, would call cisgender, Seligman reports.
Fish’s Australian friends and family referred to Fish as “he” and “him,” Seligman writes. When Fish’s queer male friends called him “she,” it was “Mary camp banter,” not “gender confusion,” he adds. For these reasons, Seligman refers to Fish with masculine pronouns.
After a childhood spent quietly drawing, Fish became a star of the Sydney drag queen scene. He performed with, what Seligman calls a “psyche troupe” of drag queens, Sylvia and the Synthetics.
After moving to San Francisco in the 1970s, Fish performed in the beloved drag shows “Sluts a Go-Go” and “Nightclub of the Living Dead” as well as the outrageous sci-fi drag film “Vegas in Space.”
Fish, Seligman makes clear, was complex, talented, and creative. Along with being a drag queen, he was a sex worker and artist. Fish was disciplined in all these areas of his life, Seligman writes.
“All three of those personas centered on his gayness,” Seligman adds, “at a time when homosexuality was just beginning to make its way toward the center of the conversation in both of the countries [Australia and the U.S.] he called home.”
Fish’s life and work were entwined with queer history – from Club 181 to Anita Bryant’s vicious anti-queer “Save Our Children Campaign” to the heroic role that Dianne Feinstein (as mayor of San Francisco) played during the AIDS crisis. Many queer histories, especially of the AIDS crisis, focus on New York. Seligman’s work is an eye-opener to queer life in Sydney and San Francisco.
Seligman’s husband, Silvana Nova, was part of “Vegas in Space.” A hat tip to Seligman for working his spouse seamlessly into this thoughtful history.
Drag shows aren’t just entertainment. They accomplish “satire’s deepest dream: not just to rail against society, but to change it,” Seligman writes.
If only Gov. Bill Lee and his ilk could be changed by “Who Does That Bitch Think She Is? Doris Fish and the Rise of Drag.”
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Put this out gay trailblazer’s supportive coach in your bracket
Nate Oats is coaching the Crimson Tide & on the other side will be Kevin Willard, who is not just a seasoned coach, but a strong LGBTQ+ ally
BIRMINGHAM, Al. – When the 8th seeded Maryland Terrapins tipoff against No. 1 Alabama tonight in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships, it’s not just the players on the hardwood who will be working hard for the win.
Nate Oats will be coaching the Crimson Tide less than an hour from their home court as he sideline strategizes. And on the other side will be Kevin Willard, who is not just a seasoned coach, but a strong LGBTQ+ ally.
Willard was Derrick Gordon’s coach at Seton Hall when he transferred from UMass in 2015, a year after he came out as the first out gay Division I Men’s basketball in the NCAA.
Gordon has credited Willard for creating a comfortable environment, after he “bumped heads” with former UMass coach Derek Kellogg during his two seasons with the Minutemen. In contrast, he said he instantly connected with Willard, and told his teammates and Willard following his final season at Seton Hall that he wished he had another year of eligibility remaining. He’s said he considered Willard the best coach he’d ever played for.
“He just made it comfortable for me,” Gordon told Glenn Clark Radio in an interview broadcast on March 22, 2022. “He said, ‘You know what, we’re more focused on who you are as a person and a basketball player and what you bring to the team.’ He voiced that over and over again. When I went on my visit, I just felt even more comfortable, met a couple of the guys. They made me feel right at home as well, so it was kind of like an easy decision. Coach Willard’s awesome. He’s an amazing guy.”
If you don’t believe Gordon, ask the West Virginia Mountaineers, who lost to the Terrapins in the first round last week 67-65. Maryland’s win “took the paint off the floor at Legacy Arena” in Birmingham, Ala., as Brendan Quinn wrote in The Athletic. He described Willard’s style of coaching this way:
“Willard paced the sideline, as he does. The man is intense. Doesn’t suffer fools. Serious stuff. No BS. Black eyes screwed deep in a bald head, no pupils. He regards things sideways, incredulous toward anyone who doesn’t come correct. It’s his whole thing. If Guy Ritchie cast a college basketball coach, it’d be Willard.”
Gordon told Glenn Clark Radio that he particularly recalled the kind of support Willard gave him in one practice early in his Seton Hall career, according to Press Box Online.
“I remember a particular situation that happened in practice — came down the court and I was wide open and I didn’t shoot it,” Gordon said in the 2022 interview. “[Willard] stopped practice and he said, ‘You’re not at [UMass] anymore. I trust you. I believe in you. Shoot the ball.’ Ever since then, my confidence was through the roof, especially dealing with I had to deal with when I was at UMass with that coach to playing under Coach Willard and him telling me that specifically, he just let me play my game.”
Last July, Gordon posted on Instagram that after playing a few seasons in Europe for Cyprus and Germany, “I decided to end my career as a professional athlete.”
Gordon is now 31, and he told his followers he is working on a book about his life “on and off the court,” in hopes he might “help gay young people, student athletes in particular and others who are struggling to pursue careers in professional sports or any career paths they chose without fear or shame.”
Since Christmas, he’s been sharing posts that include photos with his boyfriend, actor Scott Backman of Los Angeles, including one from last week, captioned: “Every time we’re together, it’s like falling in love all over again.”
Dance performance benefits LGBTQ+ seniors
“Abbale” performs March 30, 31, & April 1, 8pm, at the Broadwater Main Stage in LA- For tickets & further info visit the Broadwater’s website
LOS ANGELES – There’s always been an endless debate around the value of art to society at large. For some people, it’s a mere distraction from the struggles of everyday life; for others, it’s an enrichment.
That debate is not likely to end soon – any more than the debate over what IS art in the first place – but what happens when art and activism come together to make a tangible, quantifiable impact on the life of a community in need? Does it sway the balance enough to prove that art is more than just a trivial pursuit, but a fundamental element of human expression with the power to change our existence for the better?
That’s a pretty heady question, but when the art has as direct and uncomplicated a purpose as “Abbale” – a dance performance piece from LA’s Bodies in Play set to enjoy its premiere run at the Broadwater Main Stage March 30 through April 1 – it’s difficult to answer with anything other than an unequivocal “yes.”
Written, choreographed and performed by Andrew Pearson (founder and facilitator of Bodies in Play, an LA-based dance collective dedicated to producing works which “further the narrative through dance and movement” and invite a “challenge to conformity… through a lens just queer of center”), “Abbale” is a dance-theater memoir which weaves together the true stories of 3 fatherly relationships, spanning 3 decades and 3 different cultures, as one man tries to understand just what it means to fill “Daddy’s” shoes. Though the Broadwater run is its “official” premiere, it was previously presented in a workshop production which garnered rave reviews from commentators like Dana Martin of “Stage Raw” (who called it “compelling,” “provocative”, and “candid”) and Odyssey Theater Curator of Dance Barbara Mueller-Wittmann (who described it as “a tour de force”).
While it’s the debut of a new work from one of Los Angeles’ most acclaimed dance organizations, it’s also more than that: the premiere run of “Abbale” – a Hebrew word meaning “daddy” – will also serve as a food drive for the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Pride Pantry, which provides food staples for older community members in need. With 24% of LGBTQ+ seniors struggling to meet their food requirements each month, needless to day it’s a service that’s vital to the health and welfare of LA’s queer elders.
According to Pearson, the alliance between his newest performance piece and the Pride Pantry cause arose naturally from the content of the work itself.
“There are a lot of gay themes in the show,” he told the Blade, regarding its alignment with the Center’s mission. “One recurring theme is about food and/or feeding – food becomes a metaphor for an expression of love, specifically to one of the characters’ fathers – and I always wanted it to have some kind of a connection beyond the performance, some kind of connection beyond the stage. So, I was researching different organizations that had a similar ethos, or a connection to the some of these themes, and when I saw that the Pride Pantry was looking for food to provide for gay seniors, gay elders, it checked off so many different boxes that the show represents, so I just reached out to them and asked if they’d be interested in our show doubling as a food drive for them.”
As for “Abbale” itself, Pearson – a six-year veteran of the LA Contemporary Dance Company with an impressive list of career credits and accolades who serves on the faculty of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy – explains that it began with a series of ideas that arose from ruminations about the relationships he and his then-partner each had with their respective fathers, which opened up into a much larger conceptual scope that encompassed “all the iterations that a ‘daddy’ comes in.”
It turned out to be a bigger chunk than he could chew on his own, so he reached out to longtime frequent collaborator Lisa Owaki Bierman – an NYU-educated theater artist whose work has been performed across Los Angeles, from Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater to the Carousel at the Santa Monica Pier – for help.
“I came in with this very broad first draft which had way too much in it,” he says, “and she astutely said to me, ‘I think the personal relationships you’ve developed in this script are really fruitful and if we develop those further, then all these other themes you’re aiming to highlight will naturally come through.”
Their collaboration resulted in the initial showcase production, which took place in February 2020. Encouraged by the positive feedback and armed with observations about what worked and what didn’t, the pair geared up to build on the foundation they had created and expand the polish the piece into its finished form.
“Two weeks later, we were in lockdown,” Pearson says.
The pandemic-induced setback turned out, in many ways, to be a blessing in disguise.
“It was almost a saving grace for me creatively, because I couldn’t be choreographing in the studio, like I normally would be, so I got to develop and hone my writing practice, and I had Lisa to hold my hand the whole time as I was discovering my authorship, and my voice.”
Bierman also found it unexpectedly beneficial, thanks to an ill-timed additional circumstance in her personal life. As she told the Blade, “Not only were we in lockdown, but I had a baby. It was sort of a wild way to create a theater piece. Being in a pandemic, with absolutely no help with child care, or any of that stuff, it helped that Andrew was such a workhorse – the bulk of the labor, the writing and the generative stuff, was on his shoulders, and I could just go through the script at my own pace and then jump on Zoom to touch base with him.
“And it was helpful for me to have this to work on, because – especially in early parenthood – it’s easy to feel defined by that role, but to have a way to carve out space to be creative, during a time when nothing else would have been possible, I was so grateful that we had each other, and that we had this piece to be putting our attention on at that time.”
Now, the pair – along with Producer and Story Consultant Ben Jehoshua – are gearing up to put the end result of their collaboration onstage at the Broadwater in a partnership that makes it an especially important event – potentially even a life-changing one for LGBTQ+ seniors who rely on the LA LGBT Center for help with their basic food needs.
As Pearson explains, “Pretty early on in it we define a ‘daddy’ as a ‘giver’. That was the angle I was interested in, how this show could also be a catalyst for giving.”
Of course, the show won’t be over after its premiere run has ended – as its co-creator and solo performer happily tells us, “It will be touring up to San Francisco in June, so this is our kick-off for what hopes to be a life for this show.”
“Abbale” performs March 30, 31, and April 1, 8pm, at the Broadwater Main Stage in Los Angeles:
For tickets and further information, visit the Broadwater’s website.
Elton John’s annual Oscars WeHo viewing party raises $9 million
“We mustn’t forget that HIV is still causing needless suffering around the world and we must protect those most vulnerable to this disease”
By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Elton John and husband David Furnish’s annual Academy Awards Viewing Party, featuring special guests Eric McCormack and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, raised over $9 million for the global fight against AIDS via the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
The event, which took place at West Hollywood Park Sunday evening, attributed its success to the Foundation’s donors, sponsors, and supporters. The star-studded fundraiser included a performance by singer-songwriter and actress Rina Sawayama.
The guest list included Donatella Versace, Maren Morris, Fan Bingbing, Emma Watson, Wiz Khalifa, Heidi Klum, Dove Cameron, Hilary Duff, Brooke Shields, Lucien Laviscount, Noah Schnapp, Kesha, Rege Jean-Page, Saweetie, Stella Maxwell, Tyga, Sharon Osbourne, Sophia Bush, Maggie Rogers, Jenna Dewan, Julianne Hough, Smokey Robinson, Karen Pittman, Simona Tabasco, Michael Imperioli, and more. Dinner guests were gifted an exclusive Spotlight sunglass frame from the Elton John Eyewear collection.
“We mustn’t forget that HIV is still causing needless suffering around the world and we must protect those most vulnerable to this disease with testing and compassionate care,” said Elton John via a statement. “We can see an end to AIDS in our lifetimes, but first we must break down stigma and discrimination and provide equal access to healthcare to finally end the epidemic for everyone, everywhere.”
“Elton and I are so touched and elated by the generosity we’ve seen throughout this glittering and massively successful evening,” says David Furnish, Chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. “This funding will help us continue HIV and AIDS prevention and care programs across the world, save millions of lives and help countless people to have a brighter future.”
Rina Sawayama sang “Minor Feelings,” “Hold The Girl,” and “This Hell.” Elton John joined her on stage to perform a duet to the song “Chosen Family.”
“What a spectacular and memorable evening for our 31st Academy Awards Viewing Party,” says Anne Aslett, CEO of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. “We are blown away by the incredible support we’ve received tonight and want to thank every donor, sponsor and attendee who made the evening possible. We’re energised by the funding we raised together, which will significantly boost our life-saving work to ensure that all vulnerable people around the globe can access HIV testing, treatment and care.”
This year’s event, which took place on the 31st anniversary of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, has been instrumental in advancing global health equity for vulnerable groups. The Foundation has been able to raise millions for their life-saving work since the party’s inception in 1992.
Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.
The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.
TikTok to divest from Chinese parent if U.S. security deal fails
GLAAD’s annual Social Media Safety Index gave TikTok a failing score on LGBTQ+ safety, yet the app is popular, especially among LGBTQ+ youth
CULVER CITY – As the battle over TikTok posing a threat to U.S. national security and Americans continues to escalate, Shou Zi Chew, the chief executive of the Los Angeles-based video-sharing app, will make his first appearance before Congress to testify next week.
In contention is that TikTok is wholly and privately owned by Chinese parent company, ByteDance, which has raised bipartisan fears in local and state governments as well as in Congress of the app being used to collect and manipulate users’ data by the Chinese government or related entities.
The controversy surrounding misinformation, addictive content, censorship, and kids’ data allegedly being accessed by the Chinese government in addition to adults has seen several state governments ban the app entirely from state-owned mobile phones, computers, and data pads.
Shou Zi Chew, a Singaporean entrepreneur, will be attempting to skeptical lawmakers on Capitol Hill that his company’s social networking company poses no dangers to Americans, especially children.
TikTok’s LGBTQ+ following has generally positive experiences although there have been widely reported instances of users, notably transgender users seemingly targeted by the platform’s algorithms and having their accounts banned or repeatedly suspended.
Of greater concern is the staggering rise in anti-LGBTQ+ violence and threats on the platform prompting LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD, in its annual Social Media Safety Index, to give TikTok a failing score on LGBTQ+ safety.
Yotam Ophir, an assistant professor of communications at the University at Buffalo, who studies misinformation and extremism, told Scientific American journalist Helen Santoro in a December 2022 interview:
“It’s become pretty clear that the LGBTQ+ community is now at the heart of the new iteration of the culture wars that we have been unfortunately going through in recent years,” he says. This community has become “a staple of right-wing messaging and often propaganda.”
Scientific American reported the false claims and rhetoric used by right-wing extremists dehumanize and vilify the LGBTQ+ community and provoke stochastic terrorism, a phenomenon in which hate speech increases the likelihood that people will attack the targets of vicious claims.
Research has also shown that this type of rhetoric can motivate people to express and possibly act on their prejudiced views.
According to GLAAD, Media Matters for America, and the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI social media plays a crucial role in the spread of this stochastic terrorism to include TikTok.
TikTok to divest from ByteDance if U.S. security deal fails- Report from Yahoo Finance:
Vermont Christian school banned from state sports for anti-trans
The Mid-Vermont Christian School basketball team forfeited a tournament game rather than compete with a transgender student-athlete
QUECHEE, Vt. – A Christian school that chose to forfeit a girls’ basketball tournament game rather than play against a team with a transgender player has been banned from Vermont school sporting events, VTDigger reports.
The Vermont Principals’ Association, which oversees school athletics in the state, said Mid-Vermont Christian School in Quechee, Vt. will no longer be eligible to participate in any sports or any other sponsored activities.
Members of the Vermont Principals’ Association executive committee decided at a meeting Monday “that policies have been violated at the school level and thus there is an immediate determination of ineligibility for Mid-Vermont Christian in VPA sanctioned activities and tournaments going forward,” according to a statement posted online.
Specifically, the private religious school violated the organization’s anti-discrimination and gender identity policies, the organization told the school in its letter of ineligibility. Those policies allow athletes to play on teams that are “consistent with their gender identity” and prohibit discrimination “based on a student’s actual or perceived sex and gender.”
As the Los Angeles Blade reported, Mid Vermont Christian School head of school Vicky Fogg issued a statement last month, defending their decision to forfeit. “We believe playing against an opponent with a biological male jeopardizes the fairness of the game and the safety of our players,” said. “Allowing biological males to participate in women’s sports sets a bad precedent for the future of women’s sports in general.”
MVCS’s decision made headlines around the world, with opponents of transgender inclusion hailing the school for standing up for cisgender girls and women, and LGBTQ+ rights advocates and allies labeling the school transphobic and bigoted.
Administrators at the school did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
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