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An older man in Mart Crowley’s ‘Band’

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“…If we…if we could just…not hate ourselves so much. That’s it, you know. If we could just learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much.”

Perhaps it’s that line, spoken in the final moments of The Boys In The Band — written by Mart Crowley who died on March 7 at 84 years old — that has infused the 1968 play with its immortal reputation as the first gay play, like it or not, to depict us with a degree of verisimilitude.

In retrospect, it’s interesting to note that my exposure to Crowley’s Boys occurred while I was studying acting at Goodman School of Drama at the Art Institute of Chicago, between 1969 and 1971. Rarely having seen more than one gay male character on the stage or the screen at a time, for an impressionable young actor to witness eight (or nine) of them was astounding. Not only could you see yourself up there on the stage or on the Silver Screen, you could see who you might become (ye gods) or, if you were an aspiring thespian, who you might one day portray.

While Goodman was teeming with a homosexual population (staff, faculty, students), that didn’t translate to any form of gay liberation even as Stonewall came and went during my tenure there. The male acting students who flamed in the hallways butched it up in the classrooms (even under the tutelage of the most effete of instructors) and when playing a homo, they would play the character like they imagined a straight man would play gay so their portrayal resulted in an inauthentic mess which more often than not received high praise.

So, you can imagine when I saw some real queer actors, in addition to some actors who could really play queer, in roles that were written as authentically as any modern American gay voice ever to emerge from a typewriter.

It was a turning point in my consciousness—a Stonewall moment, if you will—and the reason that I would spend the next fifty-plus years defending Mr. Crowley’s brilliant play.

While Boys is what Crowley is most celebrated for, he also spent time in Hollywood as a producer on Hart to Hart and wrote several other plays including a lovely memoir, A Breeze From The Gulf.

The grousing that I heard about The Boys In The Band had a familiar ring to it, resembling the voices of the characters depicted in The Boys In The Band: the poisoned barbs, the wicked one-liners, the character assassinations when Michael throws a drunken birthday party for his bestie, Harold, the Queen of Mean. And most of these negative pronouncements came from my gay brethren.

So what was the beef? “Those guys were so stereotypical, so gaaaaaaaay.” “They were so swishy.” “They were mean.” “They were self-loooooathing.” “I don’t want people to think I act like them.”

From the time I first saw Crowley’s play and today, I cannot count the number of parties I’ve attended that have very closely, if not almost identically, resembled the one he so eloquently paints in The Boys In The Band. If there’s a difference—and I suppose there is—it’s that we live on an equal playing ground now with the knowledge that everyone hates themselves to a degree. From the innumerable talk shows devoted to the subject and the hundreds of self-help books, not to mention the television shows devoted to deliverance from low self-esteem, it is a catastrophic epidemic in this country and not exclusively the province of gay men.

The condition that Michael and his cohorts suffer from is the human condition. This is not to suggest that Crowley didn’t intend for Michael to have internalized this notion in 1968 (the year Boys takes place), five years before the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. It was virtually impossible for us to believe, or behave, otherwise—again, something Crowley depicts with meticulous honestly. His “boys” ooze vulnerability.

Over the decades, I had a spectacular ride with Boys, beginning in the early Seventies with a Staged Reading in Provincetown that was scheduled for one performance and lasted most of the summer. Later in the decade, after having seen the movie several times, I found myself in a windowless office in Hollywood doing temp work to pay the bills, gossiping with the cute guy in the adjoining office who was doing the same thing. His voice was so familiar.

Oh my God, it turned out to be Frederick Combs, the accessible one in Boys—the one who brought LaCoste shirts into fashion, the one everyone fell in love with—and the one who directed me in Robert Patrick’s T-Shirts and Harvey Fierstein’s The International Stud (Part One of Torch Song Trilogy), the two one-acts that put me on the map.

In the Eighties, I played Michael again—this time in Des Moines, Iowa, back-to-back on a bill with Robert Chesley’s Jerker in which I played J.R. Under the umbrella title Then & Now, it was a long and energizing evening. Finally, in the Nineties, I did a Celebrity Reading Fundraiser for the Victory Fund (again playing Michael) produced by Steve Tyler with Bruce Vilanch, Gordon Thomson, Chad Allen, Greg Louganis, and Michael Jeter.

In 1998, I was honored to introduce Mart at the Palm Springs International Film Festival which celebrated the 30th Anniversary of The Boys In the Band.

And so now I bid adieu and express appreciation to an inspiring playwright who granted me permission to discover Michael by playing Michael at various junctures over three decades.

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Los Angeles

Gay celebs to help Project Angel Food deliver 2,000 Thanksgiving dinners

The Hollywood-based charity provided 1 million meals in 2020 to people with COVID, cancer, HIV/AIDS & more

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Courtesy of Project Angel Food

LOS ANGELES – Melissa Rivers and some of L.A.’s best known out gay celebrities will be pitching-in this Thanksgiving to help Project Angel Food provide a holiday meal to thousands of critically-ill clients and their caregivers. 

The holiday helpers include KTLA-TV’s Gayle Anderson, actors Megan Hilty, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Peter Porte as well as 2018 Los Angeles Blade Best of Gay L.A. Winner Chef Stuart O’Keeffe, among others. 

In 2020, with the coronavirus raging, Project Angel Food delivered a record 3,000 traditional turkey dinners, and a total of one million meals last year. 

Over the past 32 years, Project Angel Food has delivered more than 13 million meals to people with serious medical issues since its start in 1989. It was founded by Marianne Williamson, along with David Kessler, Ed Rada, Howard Rosenman and Freddie Weber; At first, it was an outreach program of the Los Angeles Center for Living,

“That was the height of the AIDS crisis, so everyone in Hollywood converged upon Project Angel Food to make it successful and to take care of our people who were dying,” CEO Richard Ayoub told the Los Angeles Blade. “Bette Midler, Judith Light, Sheryl Lee Ralph. Elizabeth Taylor. Shirley MacLaine, Whoopi Goldberg, the list goes on and on and on.” In recent years that list went on to include Halle Berry, Adam Lambert, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and even Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. 

Chef Stuart O’Keeffe with Harry Connick Jr. (Screenshot via O’Keeffe YouTube)

What’s important to Project Angel Food’s clients, however, isn’t so much who’s delivering as much as what they’re bringing and why, Ayoub said. 

“Today we have about 2,400 clients,” he said, noting at least 500 of them are living with HIV as their main diagnosis. ”These long-term survivors of AIDS and HIV, they’re the ones we want to continue to honor and celebrate and take care of, so they’re going to need us as long as it takes, and we’re going to be there for them.”

But then there is what Ayoub called “the second pandemic:” COVID-19. “The people with diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, people who are immune-suppressed, they are the most susceptible to get COVID. And if they get it, they’re the most likely to die,” he said. “So we want to make sure that they don’t get out of their houses if they don’t have to, and that they get all the right food that they need to keep them healthy.”

And the same inflation problems plaguing all of us have hit the Vine Street nonprofit, too, Ayoub said. 

“Our goal is to continue to feed the people we have, and by doing that, it is costing us more money today than it did last year,” said Ayoub. “We just bought a brand new van, the very same kind of van we bought last year. But it costs $10,000 more because of supply chain problems. Food is 30% more. Fuel: We’re paying $5 a gallon when you and I drive around town. Now, can you imagine doing that times 12? We have 12 vans that cover all 4,500 square miles of our county.”

Ayoub noted that as many Americans get together this week for the traditional feast, politics may divide us, but there’s one essential thing that brings everyone together: Food.

“It’s one of the basic needs of any human being, and that is a nonpolitical issue,” Ayoub told the Blade. “I think that’s why we have Democrats and Republicans and independents supporting us and have always supported us, because you can’t argue with someone who is sick and homebound and has the need for a meal that will nourish them and in some cases, help them heal.” 

Project Angel Food may have attracted some famous names to help out, said Ayoub, but right now the charity has some very immediate needs that everyday people can help them meet.

“Three things people can do. One, they can volunteer. We have a shortage of volunteers in our kitchen for the first time in our history,” he said. “We need your help. Of course, we always accept donations, and angelfood.org/donate is a good place to go. And then third, spread our message. Get our message out there to your friends and family, and just make sure everyone’s aware that there’s no one else in L.A. County that does what we do at Project Angel Food.” 

Click here to find out more about Project Angel Food, its mission and the Thanksgiving food drive.

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Los Angeles

‘There’s no place like home,’ The Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing

“This is probably the most important home I’ve ever had- My new home is my sanctuary. It is safety. It is my place of peace”

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Ariadne Getty (Photo courtesy of Ariadne Getty)

LOS ANGELES – The impact of a philanthropist’s work on a community may often be felt although the public at large may not actually be informed on the character of that person sometimes mistaking the physical recognition such as naming rights on buildings as ego driven.

This simple truth is hardly applicable to the Ariadne Getty Foundation’s founder and namesake, Ariadne Getty, as her work is not driven by ego, instead an unyielding devotion to community.

In Los Angeles the Getty family name can be found in public spaces that enhance the culture and education of Angelenos, the two most notable being the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center and the Getty Research Institute Library.

At LA’s central library one of the largest exhibition spaces carries the family’s name.

Ariadne Getty’s significant philanthropic efforts however, are more focused on a marginalised community and aren’t comprised of a grouping of public spaces adorned with plaques. This quiet unassuming mother of two instead prefers to direct efforts into funding organizations that directly benefit the LGBTQ+ community.

Her foundation has been underwriting the efforts of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and GLAAD. Getty joined the board of directors of the latter in 2016 and on Feb 1, 2018 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Getty pledged $15 million to the organization, which focuses on media and increasing the visibility and acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

Getty is the mother of two twenty-something children who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and is the mother-in-law to a high profile Trans social media influencer who is married to one of her kids. While naturally focused on the younger set as a result, she also has deep compassion for LGBTQ+ seniors telling journalist Karen Ocamb in an interview this past January;

I’m particularly excited about the seniors,” Getty says. “My heart goes out to them so much because they’ve lost lots of their friends and they’re lonely and the Center [LA-LGBT] provides such a hub of activity. And I love the fact that we’re going to be joining the youth with the seniors, because the seniors will be able to educate the youth about really the history and the hardships of getting to where we are today, where we still have so far to go. But this is a far cry from being gay in the ’40s or the ’50s — let alone during the ’80s with AIDS. I think people, as they get older, get afraid of new things like technology and I think that the youth can help the seniors with just staying up to date and feeling a part of that side. That’s definitely the thing that makes me the happiest: they’re in a Center where they’re surrounded by people. There’s no room for loneliness.”

Getty had a dream. “My goal has always been that I’ll be somebody that would give to community, to be a part of philanthropy on a larger scale,” she told Ocamb. “It’s been many years that I’ve known that — I can’t shy away from the question completely — that I would inherit money. And the first thing that I did was set up the foundation and that’s become my passion.” 

The Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing is a result of Getty’s focus. Located on the LA LGBT Center’s Anita May Rosenstein Campus off Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood, the 70,000-square-foot building has 98 affordable housing units for seniors ages 62 and above. It also has a series of large common spaces and interconnected courtyards and areas for its residents tied to the larger Rosenstein campus. While the building bears the Getty name, the focus very much reflects the spirit of her ambition to offer a secure and communal safe space for LGBTQ+ seniors.

The lack of affordable housing in this country is at an all-time high and presents even greater hardships for the LGBTQ community given the many biases which continue to exist. It’s an even greater problem amongst LGBTQ seniors,” Getty told journalist Greg Hernandez in a Blade interview conducted in March of 2020.

Getty’s assertion that a lack of housing presents greater hardship for LGBTQ+ seniors has been backed by studies released by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law and in a study that showed LGBTQ+ people are being left out of generational wealth for many reasons including family rejection, systematic barriers and a lack of financial education.

With almost half of LGBTQ+ adults saying they have been excluded by a family member or close friend as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, a lack of familial financial support is a common problem for many in the community.

It is that disconnect from family or death of a partner or spouse that leaves a substantial portion of LGBTQ+ seniors alone. Many of them at risk for homelessness which has reached epic crisis levels in Los Angeles.

An estimated 65,000 LGBTQ seniors live in Los Angeles—68 percent of whom live alone. Many struggle to afford housing and other necessities. They are four times less likely than their heterosexual counterparts to have children and grandchildren to support them and twice as likely to live alone.

These factors were reflected in the high demand during the application process to become a potential resident of the Getty Foundation/LA Center Senior Housing two years ago.

Courtesy of the LA LGBT Center

On Tuesday the formal dedication in a press-only event culminated the years-long process that opened the Senior Housing, celebrating the latest resource for the community. The process though had also been very much affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to the Tuesday event, the in-house communications team at the LA LGBT Center interviewed Getty.

The Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Center is the “cherry on the top” which completes the Center’s dream of building an intergenerational campus—congratulations! How do you feel knowing that the Senior Center is finally open, particularly when we experienced delays due to the pandemic?

I’m feeling a big sigh of relief knowing there are more LGBTQ seniors who finally have the housing and care they need and deserve. For decades, LGBTQ seniors have been on the frontlines advocating for equality. Without the progress they achieved and their personal sacrifices, the LGBTQ community would not have the same rights it does today. Covid-19 has been incredibly challenging, but even before the pandemic, LGBTQ seniors faced disproportionate rates of homelessness,” Getty answered.

Unfortunately, the pandemic deepened disparities, making the The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s The Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Center an urgent need not only for the Los Angeles community, but as an example and inspiration for communities nationwide. It’s only right that we meet this urgent need and repay their decades of hardships with the services LGBTQ seniors need to live and age with dignity and respect. The Senior Center is another step towards achieving that goal and ensuring that the most vulnerable seniors receive the care they deserve.”

In an email to the Blade, Getty’s children Nats and August Getty expressed their admiration and support for their mother’s charitable work as now physically evident with the completion of the Senior Housing.

“We couldn’t be prouder to have a mom who cares so deeply for the LGBTQ community. Since we came out as queer, our mom and her foundation, The Ariadne Getty Foundation’s commitment to LGBTQ equality has only deepened – and the new Los Angeles LGBT Senior Center’s Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing is a standing tribute to that commitment.  Because of her advocacy and philanthropy, she has helped create a home where LGBTQ seniors can live and age with dignity and respect.

As out-queer, young adults, our ability to be our authentic selves comes on the back of the tireless advocacy of LGBTQ elders. It is only right that these seniors receive the care and support they deserve. We are thankful our mom has helped make that a reality.” 

In addition to Getty’s foundation, the Senior Housing received support from investors and government agencies, including the City of Los Angeles; Los Angeles County; City of West Hollywood; State of California; California Community Reinvestment Corporation; Federal Home Loan Bank of California; and Wells Fargo Bank.

Courtesy of the LA LGBT Center

Also partnering was property management company Thomas Safran & Associates. In a phone interview Tuesday, the company’s President Jordan Pynes told the Blade that community was the primary focus that was incorporated into every aspect of the design. From the physical layout to the interconnectivity with the center’s main campus, every element was purpose driven to make sure that residents had the ability to mingle and build that sense of community.

Joining in the interview call, Kevin Napoli, co-founder of the LENA Group, Inc. told the Blade that all the elements of the design were based on the larger campus, but stressed that the focus was on the interconnected courtyards and common spaces. The effect to engender interactions between all members of the center’s community and the seniors.

Senior Housing residents will have access to the full range of wraparound services and support provided by the Center, including case management; home-delivered meals; in-home care and benefits assistance; connection to health and mental health care; HIV support and wellness; counseling and support groups; and more than 100 monthly activities and events provided for free or at low-cost.

“We are immensely proud to finally open the doors of The Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing following months of construction interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic—but the wait was worth it,” said LA LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “Just in time for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays, our residents can celebrate with each other in a safe, warm environment where they are able to live freely and fearlessly as their authentic selves. We have many reasons to be grateful this year, and are particularly thankful for Ariadne Getty, her foundation, and our affordable housing developer partner Thomas Safran & Associates, who stepped up to work with us to improve the lives of many low-income seniors!”

This is probably the most important home I’ve ever had,” said new resident Lisa Chilton. “For 10 years, whether it was renting a room or sleeping on various sofas, I had been in many other people’s space, trying to stay small, and following their schedules. My new home is my sanctuary. It is safety. It is my place of peace.”

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Los Angeles

Group says enough signatures submitted to recall Councilman Mike Bonin

Anger and public dissatisfaction over L.A.’s homelessness crisis has fueled the efforts to oust Bonin who represents Council District 11

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Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin via Twitter

LOS ANGELES – Recall Bonin 2021, a group working to remove Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin announced Wednesday that it had collected and submitted more than 39,000 signatures in support of a recall measure of Bonin. The signature petitions were required to be submitted by end of business day November 10, 2021 to Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott.

According to Wolcott’s spokesperson, 27,000 signatures are required and if the signatures submitted Wednesday are verified, the petition would trigger a special election to be held in April or May 2022. Bonin’s current term ends in December 2022 and the recall will not affect his run for re-election. He is one of the openly gay currently serving city councilmembers which includes Mitch O’Farrell.

Anger and public dissatisfaction over L.A.’s homelessness crisis has fueled the petitioner’s efforts to oust Bonin who represents Council District 11, the Westside neighborhoods of Brentwood, Mar Vista, Venice, Westchester and Playa del Rey.

“This recall campaign is an extravagant waste of taxpayer money, a thinly disguised attempt to derail my efforts to provide real solutions to our homelessness crisis, and the latest in a series of recall attempts to silence strong progressive voices,” Bonin said in a press release after he was served the recall notice in June.

“Under Mike Bonin’s watch, the humanitarian crisis of the homeless population is growing exponentially. Taxpayer money is squandered. Fires. Struggling local businesses. Crime is rampant and rising. Neighborhoods and schools are unsafe. We feel afraid to visit public beaches and community parks,” the Recall Bonin 2021 campaign’s website reads.

Bonin said in his statement that the campaign is backed by right-wing forces and constituents who have fought to stop housing, shelter and services in the coastal neighborhoods, “leaving people to die on the streets.”

In an acknowledgment of the recall effort’s likely triggering a special election Bonin took to Twitter asking for support from residents.

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