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WeHo widens its Small Business Saturday horizons

Locals to rally in support of mom-and-pop businesses

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Small Business Saturday, gay news, Washington Blade

A wide array of WeHo businesses plan to participate in Small Business Saturday. (Photo courtesy of West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce)

The Nov. 30 Small Business Saturday event, done the West Hollywood way, is as much a date-specific destination event as it is a way to woo shoe-leather shoppers to brick and mortar businesses time and time again—and this time around, sweet deals, swag, and celebs beckon you to start the holiday shopping season by standing in solidarity with a favorite local merchant, or making a first-time transaction at a new discovery.

That call to action was first made a decade ago, when American Express conceived Small Business Saturday (SBS) as a next-day follow-up to Black Friday. Focused on the notion of making “a big impact in your community,” SBS sees locals rally in support of mom-and-pop businesses (or, for those lucky 10 percenters, pop-and-pops and mom-and-moms).

Locally, the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (WHCC) has been on board since year one, says WHCC President/CEO Genevieve Morrill. That first time around, she recalls, “We just bounced off the platform that AmEx provided,” which gifted swag to participating businesses. WHCC provided helium tanks to local participating stores, with which to breath life into those AmEx-supplied, SBS logo-emblazed balloons.

“Then, the next year,” Morrill recalls, “we set up some hubs in different locations on the street, that would have Shop Small bags to give out.” In the coming years, they added a celebrity element, with longtime WHCC member Steve Valentine, of Valentine Group Public Relations, often called upon to use his connections to bring some star power to SBS. Bruce Vilanch, a Valentine “get” and a past participant, will be back this year. “Steve has those relationships,” notes Morrill. “And Bruce is a natural fit for us. People like him, and Leslie Jordan, are so specific to West Hollywood. We like to use our locals.”

You’ll find those local known names at four locations along the WeHo SBS route.

From 12-1 p.m., KTLA 5’s Emmy-winning Wendy Burch brings some journalistic flavor to Gelato Festival (8906 Melrose Ave.). Joined by her son, Brady, Burch and Gelato Festival’s master chefs will generate some artisanal flavors from the Festival’s classroom kitchen. Those flavors, including the intriguingly named Blueberry Basil, will be on sale for the day, while supplies last.

From 1:30-2:30 p.m., trainer’s gym Dogpound (627 N Robertson Blvd.) welcomes NBC4 award-winning anchor Robert Kovacik, who will sweat it out in one of the fitness classes. And no joke: Broadway star, Emmy-winning writer and Renaissance funnyman Bruce Vilanch will be good for a killer zinger or two (dozen), when, from 2:30-3:30 p.m., he presides over the modeling of “lift-tech” men’s underwear, at Rounderbum (802 N San Vincente Blvd.).

Golden Globe-winning actress Elizabeth Rohm, co-owner of RYU (Respect Your Universe), gives you a sneak peek at their spring 2020 collection. The event, 4-5 p.m., pulls double duty: It’s also the debut opening of their LA location (945 N Fairfax Ave.).

Giving back is the primary concern of WeHo SBS’s charitable component, which sees local participants earmarking a percentage of their Nov. 30 profits to a worthy cause. That effort has raised over $20,000 over the years, with past recipients including The Foundation for The AIDS Monument and the City of West Hollywood Homeless Initiative.

This time around, the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Art and Culinary Arts program is the charity of choice. The program, as noted on the Center’s website, is “an intergenerational training program for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness and low-income LGBT seniors.”

Based at the Center’s commercial kitchen in the Anita May Rosenstein Campus, the program “engages youth, ages 18–24, to learn basic culinary skills alongside students from the Center’s Senior Services programs.” Graduates of the program top off their training by completing a 100-hour internship with local restaurants, catering companies, and food service businesses (SBS participant Gelato Festival is a current participant).

Segueing nicely into the notion of culinary art, SBS participants include Carerra Café (8251 Melrose Ave.), offering Shop Small lattes. Customers at Duff’s Cake Mix (8302 Melrose Ave.) will get 10 percent off on purchases—and Frank’s Chop Shop (8209 Melrose Ave.) delivers sweet and savory pastries to customers.

More info to follow on the SBS’s participants (every last one of them, in fact)—but let’s first circle back to the article’s opening salvo, which posits SBS as a call to action far beyond Nov. 30.

“When we debriefed last year,” says Morrill, of SBS 2018, “the feedback we got was, ‘How can we maximize local shopping beyond just one day?’ I think Small Business Saturday is an important day, but I also view it as an ‘awareness day.’ ”

To build awareness, WHCC is positioning billboards outside the city limits, touting the virtues of West Hollywood merchants. Some SBS participants will continue with special perks and promotions for the duration of the holiday season, and shoppers can plead their case in the great “naught or nice” debate by appealing directly to not one, but two, variations of Santa, in his “Hunky” and “Rock and Roll” incarnations (seen, respectively, at the pickup lines for the Santa Monica Blvd. and Sunset Strip shuttles).

Morrill also mentions, and not just in passing, how WHCC intends to build upon broadening the very notion of what constitutes a small business.

“Over the years,” Morrill says, “We started to realize the significance of the freelance, entrepreneur, and E-commerce market.” Those elements will continue to be represented, when these new economy merchants partner with brick and mortar participants.

Long-term, WHCC is looking forward to presenting its West Hollywood Small Business Initiative. Two and a half years in the making, the document recommends, Morrill says, “ways to entice small, unique businesses to open here. We need to rethink how we look at zoning codes and fee structures.” Although the Initiative focuses on retail, it also “takes a hard look at where the business environment is going,” and asks how to nurture “the live/work environment, the home-based business.”

For Nov. 30, however, brick and mortar is king, and coming out to put your cash where your choppers are is all important. Visit wehochamber.com/shopsmall for more info, including the full list of participants. See that list below to plan your route.

Atacama Home, B2V Salon, Block Party, The Bord Room Barber Shop, Candle Delirium, The, Chad Allen Method, Chroma Studio, Coco Queen, Conservatory, Custom Comfort Mattress, Dogpound, Drip Doctors, Employees Only, Fred Segal, Gelato Festival, The Gendarmerie, Grande Maison, Jaffa, Kitchen24, Miniluxe, My 12 Step Store, NARS, Pura Vita, Pleasure Chest, Pura Vita, The Real Real, RYU (Respect Your Universe), Shape House, Sunset Kids, Sutton, Tom Tom, Unplug Meditation, Urth Caffe, Vanity Girl Hollywood, Voda Spa, Weho Bistro, and Zen.

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Theater

Broadway gathers to honor Sondheim in Times Square

They were gathered to pay homage to legendary Tony, Academy Award, and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim

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Broadway gathers to honor Stephen Sondheim (Screenshot via YouTube)

NEW YORK – Light snow flurries swirled around the stars of theatre and stage of New York City’s ‘Great White Way’ as they gathered Sunday in Times Square- members of every Broadway company assembled singing in a powerful chorus “Sunday,” the powerfully emotional act one finale to “Sunday in the Park with George.”

They were gathered to pay homage to legendary Tony, Academy Award, and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. That piece being performed had garnered Sondheim a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985.

Broadway’s best were joined by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sara Bareilles, Josh Groban, Kathryn Gallagher and Lauren Patton at ‘Sunday’ Performance in Times Square.

The man who was heralded as Broadway and theater’s most revered and influential composer-lyricist of the last half of the 20th century died at 91 Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut.

“This felt like church,” Bareilles told Variety after the performance on Sunday. “In his remembrance, we did what theater does best. We sang and raised our voices and came together in community.” 

Variety also noted that during the celebration, Miranda offered a sermon of sorts. Foregoing a speech, he opened Sondheim’s “Look I Made A Hat,” an annotated anthology of the composer’s lyrics, and read from a few passages before the crowd.

“Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George memorial for Stephen Sondheim

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Movies

‘Tick, tick… BOOM!’ explodes with the love of Broadway

A perfect film for fans of musical theater

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Andrew Garfield shines in ‘Tick, Tick… BOOM!’ (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

If you are a person who love musical theater – or if you know someone who does – then you know there is something about this particular art form that inspires a strong and driving passion in those who enjoy it, often to the point of obsession. For this reason, perhaps it’s no surprise that those who work in musical theater – the creators, performers, and all the other people who make it happen – are often the biggest musical theater lovers of all.

Because of this, “tick, tick… BOOM!” (the new film directed by Lin-Manuel “Hamilton” Miranda and written by Steven “Dear Evan Hansen” Levenson) might be the most perfect movie ever made for such fans. Adapted from an autobiographical “rock monologue” by Jonathan Larson, it follows the future “Rent” composer (Andrew Garfield) for a week in the early 1990s, when he was still an unknown young Broadway hopeful waiting tables in a New York diner. He’s on the cusp of turning 30, a milestone that weighs on his mind as he prepares for a showcase of a musical that he hasn’t quite finished – even though he’s been writing it for eight years. With limited time left to compose the show’s most crucial number, his race against the clock is complicated by major changes in his personal life; his lifelong best friend Michael (Robin de Jesús) has quit acting in favor of a five-figure career in advertising, and his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp) is moving away from the city to accept a teaching job and wants him to come with her. With reminders everywhere of the ongoing AIDS epidemic still raging in the community around him, and with his own youth ticking away, he is inevitably forced to wonder if it’s time to trade in his own Broadway dreams for a more secure future – before it’s too late.

As every musical theater fan knows, the young composer’s obsession with time (hence the title) is laced with bittersweet irony in the context of what eventually happened in his real life: the day before “Rent” opened on Broadway and became a smash hit that reshaped and expanded the boundaries of what musical theater could be, Larson died of an aortic aneurysm at the age of 35. He never lived to see the full fruition of all those years of hard work, and that tragic turn of events is precisely what makes “tick, tick… BOOM!” relevant and provides its considerable emotional power. In that light, it’s essentially a musical “memento mori,” a reminder that the clock eventually runs out for all of us.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s not also a celebration of life in the theater, and Miranda is probably better suited than anyone to make us see that side of the coin. Now unquestionably in the highest echelon of status as a Broadway icon, he came of age in the era of “Rent,” and he takes pains to make his depiction of Manhattan in the ‘90s as authentic as possible.

Capturing the era with touches like Keith Haring-inspired murals and the use of “Love Shack” as a party anthem, his movie keeps Larson’s story within the context of his time while drawing clear connections to our own. His reverence for Larson – whom he cites as a seminal inspiration for his own future work – manifests itself palpably throughout. Yet despite that (or perhaps because of it), so does an infectiously cheery tone. Yes, things get heavy; there are hardships and heartbreaks at every turn, because that’s what a life in the theater means. But at the same time, there’s just so much fun to be had. The camaraderie, the energy, and the joy of simply living in that world comes leaping off the screen (often thanks to the enthusiastic choreography of Ryan Heffington) with the kind of giddy, effortless ease that might almost make us jealous if it didn’t lift our spirits so much. No matter that the lead character spends most of the movie second-guessing his path; we never doubt for a moment that, for him, the rewards of following his passion outweigh the sacrifices a thousand times over.

That’s something Miranda also understands. His movie drives home the point that the joy of doing theater is its own reward, and he’s willing to prove it by turning up in a bit part just for the sake of being a part of the show. And he’s not the only one. The screen is littered with living legends; in one memorable sequence alone, a who’s-who of Broadway’s brightest stars – Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Andre DeShield, Bebe Neuwirth, Joel Grey, and at least a dozen more – serve as a high-profile backup chorus of extras for a song at the diner, but there are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos in almost every scene. It almost feels like a gimmick, or an effort to turn the movie into a “spot the star” trivia game for hardcore fans – until you realize that these are the best and brightest people in their field, who have willingly chosen to show up and participate even though they did not have to. They are there purely for love, and you can see it in their faces.

Miranda scores big across the board as a director – this is his feature film directorial debut, which confirms the standing assumption the man can do anything. But “tick, tick… BOOM!” is a star turn for its leading player, and full credit must also go – and emphatically so – to Garfield, who surpasses expectations as Larson. The one-time “Spiderman” actor trained extensively to be able to master the demands of singing the role, and it shows; he comes off as a true musical theater trouper, worthy beyond doubt of sharing the screen with so many giants. Even better, he integrates that challenge into the whole of a flamboyantly joyful performance that makes Larson endearingly, compellingly three-dimensional. It’s a career-topping piece of work.

The rest of the principal cast – a refreshingly inclusive ensemble that reminds us that Larson was instrumental in making Broadway a much more diverse place – are equally fine. De Jesús gets a long-deserved chance to shine as Michael, and Shipp brings a quiet calm to the easily-could-have-been-overshadowed Susan that makes her the perfect balance to Garfield’s high-octane energy.

Joshua Henry and Vanessa Hudgens contribute much more than their stellar vocal talents to their pair of roles as Larson friends and collaborators, and there are delicious supporting turns by Judith Light and Bradley Whitford – who gives an affectionately amusing and dead-on accurate screen impersonation of Broadway legend-of-legends Stephen Sondheim, one of Larson’s (and Miranda’s) biggest influences and inspirations, who accordingly looms large in the story despite his relatively short amount of screen time.

It should be obvious by now that “tick, tick… BOOM!” is a delight for people who love musical theater. But what if you’re not one of those people? The good news is that there is so much to enjoy here, so much real enjoyment, so much talent, so much hard work on display that nobody will have any reason to be bored.

Even people who DON’T love musical theater.

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Books

James Ivory on movies, beauty — and a love of penises

If you enjoy film and wit you’ll love ‘Solid Ivory’

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(Book cover image courtesy of Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

‘Solid Ivory: Memoirs’
By James Ivory
C.2021, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
$30/399 pages

Few things have been more pleasurable to me during the pandemic than Merchant/Ivory films. COVID becomes a dim memory as I ogle the costumes, beautiful vistas from Italy to India, music and spot-on dialogue of “A Room with a View,” “Maurice,” “Remains of the Day” and other Merchant/Ivory movies.

For decades, fans from gay men to grandmas have enjoyed these films, directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant in partnership with the writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.

In “Solid Ivory,” Ivory, 93, gives us his memories of movie making, growing up gay, his decades-long romantic and professional partnership with Merchant and (you’re reading this correctly) the penises he has known.

If you believe that elders don’t enjoy sex, Ivory’s memoir will blow your ageism to smithereens.

From watching the movies he’s directed and knowing his age, you might think (as I did) that Ivory would be shy about talking of his sexuality. Wow, was I wrong!

Ivory appreciates penises as a sommelier savors fine wine.

Ivory knew that he liked boys early on. Ivory recalls playing at age seven with a boy named Eddy. He and Eddy were “putting our penises into each other’s mouths,” Ivory writes, “…I made it clear that Eddy’s dick must not touch my lips or tongue, nor the inside of my mouth. I had learned all about germs at school by then.”

Though Ivory and Merchant were devoted partners, they each had other lovers. Bruce Chatwin, the travel writer who died from AIDS, was Ivory’s friend, and sometimes, lover.

Chatwin’s penis was “Uncut, rosy, schoolboy-looking,” Ivory writes.

Ivory’s memoir isn’t prurient. His sexuality doesn’t overpower the narrative. It runs through “Solid Ivory” like a flavorful spice.

The book is more an impressionistic mosaic than a chronological memoir. Ivory, often, tells the stories of his life through letters he’s written and received (from lovers, friends and professional contacts) as well as from diary entries.

Many of the chapters in the memoir were previously published in other publications such as The New Yorker.

“Solid Ivory” was originally published in a limited edition by Shrinking Violet Press. The Press is a small press run by Peter Cameron, a novelist, and editor of “Solid Ivory.” Ivory grew up in Klamath Falls, Ore. He was originally named Richard Jerome Hazen. His parents changed his name when they adopted him.

Some of the most engaging moments of the memoir are when Ivory writes about what life was like for a child during the Depression.

Ivory’s father lost his savings when the stock market crashed, and his mother frequently gave food to “tramps” who came to the door.

His “eating tastes were definitely formed during the Depression,” Ivory writes.

Since that time, Ivory has lived everywhere from England to Italy. “But although I consider myself an advanced expert in the more sophisticated forms of cuisine,” Ivory writes, “My gastronomical roots remain dug deep in the impoverished soil of the American Depression.” Ivory became smitten with movies when he saw his first picture when he was five.

He and Merchant, a Muslim from India who died in 2005, fell in love when they met on the steps of the Indian consulate in New York in 1961. I wish Ivory had written more about the 30+ movies that he made (mostly with Merchant and Jhabvala, who died in 2013).

Yet, he provides tantalizing recollections of filmmaking, actors and celebs.

The chapters on “Difficult Women like Raquel Welch and Vanessa Redgrave” are fun to read.

Welch, a bombshell brat, doesn’t want to play a love scene in “The Wild Party.” During the filming of “The Bostonians,” Boston is captivated by the drama of Redgrave’s off-screen politics.

Ivory isn’t that impressed when in 2018, at age 89, he becomes the oldest Academy Award winner when he receives the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “Call Me By Your Name.” “Its fame eclipses even Michelangelo’s David and the Statue of Liberty,” Ivory says, with irony, of the Oscar statue.

If you enjoy the movies, beauty and wit, you’ll love “Solid Ivory.”

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