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Bright Light Bright Light announces album, drops single

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Bright Light Bright Light will release his fourth album, “Fun City,” on Sept. 18 (Image courtesy YSKWN!)

Bright Light Bright Light (aka Rod Thomas) celebrated the announcement of his upcoming album “Fun City” over the weekend with the release of its first single, “This Was My House.”

The Welsh international pop star has been a staple of the international LGBTQ+ music scene for over a decade, with three previous albums under his belt – as well as numerous tours, both a solo artist and has support alongside pop royalty like Elton John, Cher, Erasure, Ellie Goulding and The Scissor Sisters. He curates, hosts and serves as the DJ for regular afternoon dance parties in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and uses his music as a platform for equality, raising fund for organizations such as The Trevor Project, Ali Forney Center, Hetrick-Martin Institute, ACLU, and Elton John AIDS Foundation.

The new single is described by the artist as “a sugar-rush of dancefloor pop” and features longtime Madonna backing vocalist duo Niki Haris and Donna De Lory. Produced by Initial Talk (known for his recent reimaginings of Dua Lipa, Janet Jackson and other pop artists), “This Was My House” was originally written as a “banner-waving ode to LGBTQ+ safe spaces” but “should ring universally true to individuals worldwide who are struggling to find peace and refuge during the current political climate and public health situation.”

“The song is about how the safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community have been fractured of late with a palpable uprising of anti-LGBTQ+ and xenophobic rhetoric, which is scarily even more real now as these public spaces are closed for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Bright Light Bright Light about the origins and evolution of the song. “LGBTQ+ people – most notably trans women – are attacked and killed at an alarming rate, and so this song is a fierce statement that every living person deserves to feel safe in the place they call home, whoever you may be.”

As for “Fun City,” the artist calls it a “meticulously crafted collection of ’80s-inspired disco-pop” that he “built as a statement of perseverance during restless times.” Drawing sonic inspiration from the legacy of iconic LGBTQ+ artists like Sylvester, Erasure, Scissor Sisters, and Hercules & Love Affair, the album “aims to capture the spirit of the queer trailblazers” that came before him, and examines “the ways marginalized people stay strong, focused and creative through times of social and political hardships.”

“The idea of a deeply flawed but still beautiful world is what the album is about, so I thought it was a fitting image for how the LGBTQ+ world has had to find laughter and solidarity in face of prejudice through history, dancing through pain and living for love in spite of hate,” he says.

With vocals recorded on the empty dancefloor of East Village gay club Bedlam, “Fun City” will be released by Bright Light Bright Light’s own label YSKWN!, in partnership with Megaforce Records and The Orchard, and will include collaborations with a yet-to-be-announced “who’s who” of LGBTQ+ icons and musical trailblazers.

It drops on September 18. You can listen to the new track below.

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Actor Richard Dreyfuss mocks trans people in misogynistic rant

Dreyfuss ranted about subjects reported to include trans people, Barbra Streisand, the MeToo movement and women in general

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Dreyfuss walked onto the stage wearing a blue floral pattern house dress, pausing to turn away from the audience and shake his hips suggestively, actions that were caught on multiple mobile phone video footage posted online. (Screenshot/YouTube)

BEVERLY, Mass. – Patrons at The Cabot theater in the suburban Boston township of Beverly were all set to celebrate the 49th anniversary viewing of the classic 1975 Steven Spielberg horror film ‘Jaws,’ along with a question and answer with one of the film’s stars actor Richard Dreyfuss, when from the minute Dreyfuss appeared on stage, the event derailed.

Dreyfuss walked onto the stage wearing a blue floral pattern house dress, pausing to turn away from the audience and shake his hips suggestively, actions that were caught on multiple mobile phone video footage posted online. Then two stage hands appeared and tore the dress off the actor who then took his seat opposite the event’s moderator.

According to Variety and the Boston Globe’s reporting, Dreyfuss ranted about subjects reported to include trans people, Barbra Streisand, the MeToo movement and women in general. As attendee Diane Wolfe described it to the Boston Globe, “[Dreyfuss] said that the parents of trans youth, allowing them to transition, was bad parenting and that someday those kids might change their minds.”

Facebook/social media advertisement for the ‘Jaws’ screening by The Cabot.

A number of members of the audience took offense and left the venue. On The Cabot Theater’s Facebook page one attendee wrote: “This was disgusting. How could the Cabot not have vetted his act better. Apparently (I found out too late), he has a reputation for spewing this kind of racist, homophobic, misogynistic bullcrap.”

The Cabot has since limited commenting on its page.

The Cabot’s executive director J. Casey Soward on Sunday apologized in a statement that read:

“We regret that an event that was meant to be a conversation to celebrate an iconic movie instead became a platform for political views. We take full responsibility for the oversight in not anticipating the direction of the conversation and for the discomfort it caused to many patrons,” Soward said. “We are in active dialogue with our patrons about their experience and are committed to learning from this event how to better enact our mission of entertaining, educating and inspiring our community.”

WBSM News Talk Sports Radio 1420AM in New Bedford–Fall River reported that The Cabot also sent an email, that the station had been forwarded, to those who purchased tickets apologizing.

“Dear Cabot Patrons,

I am writing to address an important matter concerning last night’s event with Richard Dreyfuss at The Cabot.

We deeply regret that Mr. Dreyfuss’s comments during the event were not in line with the values of inclusivity and respect that we uphold at The Cabot. We understand that his remarks were distressing and offensive to many of our community members, and for that, we sincerely apologize.

At The Cabot, we are committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of our community. The views expressed by Mr. Dreyfuss do not reflect our beliefs, and we do not endorse them in any way.

We take full responsibility for the oversight in not anticipating the direction of the conversation and for any discomfort it caused.

We are taking immediate steps to ensure that such an incident does not happen again. This includes more rigorous vetting of our event participants and more proactive communication strategies to keep our audience informed.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support of The Cabot.

We value your feedback and are dedicated to learning from this experience to better serve our community.”

The actor has a lengthy record of anti-trans remarks and bigotry. He has directed transphobic rants about trans youth affirming their gender and has taken aim at the Academy of Motion Pictures & Sciences calling out the Academy’s diversity efforts in a 2023 PBS’ Firing Line broadcast saying that the Academy’s focus on diversity “makes me vomit.”

“We’re so fragile that we can’t have our feelings hurt,” he also said. “We don’t know how to stand up and bop the bully in the face.”

Deadline reported that Dreyfuss apparently made similar comments at a Friday night Jaws screening at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. “I live in Mass, but the Cabot showing was all booked so I saw him in NH on May 24,” a Facebook commenter wrote. “He made anti-gay remarks that night too.”

The actor has not responded to requests by multiple media outlets for comment.

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Movies

Queer ‘TV Glow’ a surreal horror gem

Challenging and surprising us in a way that feels thrillingly audacious

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Justice Smith and Bridgette Lundy-Paine in ‘I Saw the TV Glow.’ (Photo courtesy of A24)

In an age when so much of our consciousness is fixated on screens, it’s no surprise that the year’s most effectively soul-shaking horror film so far should be about precisely that.

It’s certainly not the first movie to take on the topic. Using television and computer screens to evoke creepy chills was a “thing” even before David Cronenberg used “Videodrome” to blur the lines between the physical world and the electronically conveyed imitation of it we often substitute for the “real thing.” In “I Saw the TV Glow,” however,  the focus is not so much about the natural fears that arise from our reliance on technology to help us navigate our lives – the dangers of artificial intelligence or the violation of privacy to manipulate us or make us vulnerable – as it is about something much more primal. Filmmaker Jane Schoenbrun’s second feature might center on our fears around pop culture obsessions and the dangerously delusional fantasies they inspire, but its real agenda lies in a somewhat less obvious direction.

Tapping into shared millennial memories about the kid-friendly fan-culture fodder our televisions fed us in the 1990s, Shoenbrun’s movie revolves around Owen (Justice Smith), whose early teen years take place within that era. Reserved, anxious, and out-of-step with the conventional expectations embraced by his parents (Danielle Deadwyler and Limp Bizket frontman Fred Durst), seventh-grade Owen (Ian Foreman) finds himself drawn to lesbian ninth-grader Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine) when he spots her reading a book about a TV show called “The Pink Opaque.” His fascination, partly fueled by the “forbidden” nature of a series that airs past his strictly enforced bedtime, leads the two into a secretive friendship, in which they bond over the quirky fantasy it presents – in which two teen girls with a psychic connection battle monsters together despite living on opposite sides of the world – and come to experience it as an escape from reality, which reflects and helps to alleviate their own respective unaddressed personal traumas.

Fast forward to roughly a decade later, when Owen, now working in a go-nowhere job at the local movie multiplex, reunites with his former friend – surprisingly, considering that she had disappeared around the same time that their favorite TV obsession was canceled abruptly, with a never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger left as a final discordant note. She tells him a disturbing tale of being trapped inside “the world of the show” after memories of “The Pink Opaque” began to blend with reality in her mind, suggesting that their own identities are somehow tied to its two heroines and that its outlandish mythology is somehow more “real” than the lives they remember living themselves – and triggering a similar process in Owen after their encounter leaves him questioning his own memories of the series and its influence over his fate.

Anyone who has seen Schoenbrun’s debut feature – “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” (2021), which, like “I Saw the TV Glow,” premiered to acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, putting the nonbinary filmmaker in the upper bracket of rising talents to watch – will know that their unique narrative approach has a way of keeping the viewer off balance, and that’s something that works brilliantly to give the newer feature its disconcerting impact. Though it incorporates elements of the “body horror” subgenre to elicit some squirmy moments, it’s more unsettling than outright scary, achieving its creepiness by undermining our perceptions and reminding us of the unreliability of memory – in essence, by removing the illusion of certainty from our experience of reality, calling everything we assume about it into question. We aren’t the first to note the similarities between the filmmaker’s approach and that of David Lynch, whose disorienting nonlinear style would have obvious parallels to theirs even if it wasn’t peppered with visual callbacks to some of the latter director’s iconic work; far from being mere imitation, however, it’s the use of a shared visual language to take us on a surreal and sometimes nighmarish journey, which operates under the malleable rules of dream logic as it shape-shifts its way through a narrative that feels as much like free-association as it does a story. 

What makes it particularly effective is that it captures the kind of cultish fandom those of latter generations feel around the precious TV memories of their youth – frequently around the kind of loopy, outlandish sci-fi fantasy shows like the one at its center – and the reasons why such pop culture fodder have such appeal for anyone who, like its two protagonists, feels like an outsider in a world that seems to have no place for them. We’ve all felt like that at some time or another, no matter which generation we are from, so we can relate – just as we can relate to the experience of revisiting a show we loved from our youth and finding it different than we remembered, something this movie deploys brilliantly to hook us into its premise and spark our own paranoid fantasies about mind control over the broadcast waves, supernatural or otherwise.

But while Shoenbrun’s film succeeds masterfully at triggering all those “hidden message” fantasies that emerge in our pop culture – the hubbub over “backward masking” on rock albums comes to mind, or the uproar over the demonic influence of role playing games like “Dungeons and Dragons” – it delivers a much more existential level of fear almost through its stylistic approach alone. By challenging not only our memories of the past but our perception of the here-and-now, “I Saw the TV Glow” pulls the rug out from under our belief in a concrete reality. Further, by following its saga through several stages of life – it follows Owen over a course of 30 years – it drives home the inevitable connection between aging, loss of control over our own minds, and ultimately, death itself as the fate which awaits us all. 

Yes, that sounds pretty grim, and melancholy to boot – but after all, why shouldn’t a horror film embrace those qualities? And like the best horror films, this one finds a transcendent beauty in the twisted darkness it shows us, even if it offers us little  – beyond the escapist fantasies we cling to from our youth, that is – to comfort us as we face the grim uncertainties of our own lives.

How it accomplishes that is something we’ll leave you to discover for yourself, but we would be remiss not to note the movie’s deeply queer/trans subtext – both its lead characters are ostracized for non-conformity in their sexual or gender orientations, though most of that is conveyed “between the lines” rather than explicitly explored – which brings a tangible and resonant layer of metaphor to the proceedings.

Admittedly, “TV Glow” might not be the kind of horror film for all fans of the genre – its nonlinear style and surrealistic resistance to concrete interpretation are sure to alienate those looking for a more easily-digestible experience. Nevertheless, it’s a rare genre film that steps outside its expected boundaries to challenge and surprise us in a way that feels thrillingly audacious – and that’s more than enough for us to jump on board.

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Books

Architecture junkies will love new book on funeral homes

‘Preserved’ explores how death industry evolved after WWII

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(Book cover image courtesy of Johns Hopkins University Press)

‘Preserved: A Cultural History of the Funeral Home in America’
By Dean G. Lampros
c.2024, Johns Hopkins University Press 
$34.95/374 pages

Three bedrooms upstairs. That’s a minimum.

You need a big kitchen, a large back room would be a bonus, you want lots of bathrooms, and if you can get a corner lot, that’d be great. The thing you need most is a gigantic all-purpose room or maybe a ballroom because you’re planning on a lot of people. As you’ll see in the new book “Preserved” by Dean G. Lampros, not all living rooms are for the living.

Not too long ago, shortly after he took a class on historic preservation, Dean Lampros’ husband dragged him on a weekend away to explore a small town in Massachusetts. There, Lampros studied the town’s architecture and it “saddened” him to see Victorian mansions surrounded by commercial buildings. And then he had an epiphany: there was once a time when those old mansions housed funeral homes. Early twentieth-century owners of residential funeral homes were, in a way, he says, preservationists.

Prior to roughly World War II, most funerals were held at home or, if there was a need, at a funeral home, the majority of which were located in a downtown area. That changed in 1923 when a Massachusetts funeral home owner bought a large mansion in a residential area and made a “series of interior renovations” to the building. Within a few years, his idea of putting a funeral home inside a former home had spread across the country and thousands of “stately old mansions in aging residential neighborhoods” soon held death-industry businesses.

This, says, Lampros, often didn’t go over well with the neighbors, and that resulted in thousands of people upset and lawsuits filed. Some towns then passed ordinances to prohibit such a thing from happening to their citizens.

Still, funeral home owners persevered. Moving out of town helped “elevate” the trade, and it allowed Black funeral home operators to get a toehold in formerly white neighborhoods. And by having a nice – and nice-sized – facility, the operators were finally able to wrest the end-of-life process away from individuals and home-funerals.

Here’s a promise: “Preserved” is not gruesome or gore-for-the-sake-of-gore. It’s not going to keep you up all night or give you nightmares. Nope, while it might be a little stiff, it’s more of a look at architecture and history than anything else.

From California to New England, author Dean G. Lampros takes readers on a cruise through time and culture to show how “enterprising” business owners revolutionized a category and reached new customers for a once-in-a-deathtime event. Readers who’ve never considered this hidden-in-plain-sight, surprising subject – or, for that matter, the preservation or re-reclamation of those beautiful old homes – are in for a treat here. Despite that the book can lean toward the academic, a good explanatory timeline and information gleaned from historical archives and museums offer a liveliness that you’ll enjoy.

This book will delight fans of little-know history, and architecture junkies will drool over its many photographs. “Preserved” is the book you want because there are other ways to make a house a “home.”

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Sports

NFL kicker Harrison Butker doubles down on his extremist remarks

‘Unapologetic’ Catholic he said then compared himself to saints and martyrs, claims to be victim of hate in new speech

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Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker speaking at a fundraising gala in support of Regina Caeli Academy May 24, 2024. (Screenshot/YouTube Daily Wire)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In his first public comments since delivering a controversial commencement address, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker doubled-down on his extremist right-wing remarks that were widely criticized for misogyny, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and disrespect toward the president of the United States. 

Referencing the theme of Friday night’s fundraising gala in support of Regina Caeli Academy — “Courage Under Fire” — Butker vowed that the “shocking level of hate” he had received will not deter him from being “unapologetic” about his Roman Catholic faith.

“If it wasn’t clear that the timeless Catholic values are hated by many, it is now,” Butker said, as first reported by the anti-LGBTQ+ right wing outlet, the Daily Wire. “Over the past few days, my beliefs, or what people think I believe, have been the focus of countless discussions around the globe.”

As the Los Angeles Blade reported, the three-time Super Bowl champion’s address to a private, Catholic-run liberal arts college in Kansas on May 11 has sparked outrage from women, advocates and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community, football fans and even Catholic nuns. A petition on Change.org demanding the Chiefs fire Butker has more than 226,000 signatures as of press time. 

But Butker has also found support from prominent Chiefs teammates Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelcie, who each defended his right to his opinions while distancing themselves from his words. Butker noted that support from teammates Friday night: “As the days went on, even those who disagreed with my viewpoints shared their support for my freedom of religion,” Butker said.

The NFL player said that in the face of adversity, he put his trust in “the Lord’s Providence and… the Holy Ghost,” to applause from the crowd. He compared the backlash he’s experienced in the past two weeks to the trials of medieval martyrs and ancient saints who faced lions, saying: “In reality, any courage I’ve shown will lead to some small suffering, and it will lead to some people maybe never liking me, but that could be God’s will.”

Butker’s number 7 jersey is reportedly the most popular men’s clothing item on NFL.com. Even though he drew criticism for suggesting female-identified graduates consider being a “homemaker” over pursuing a career, women’s jerseys are sold out.

“It cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker,” Butker said during the commencement speech he delivered at Benedictine College, as the Blade reported. His other remarks compared LGBTQ+ Pride month events to biblical “deadly sins,” denounced “dangerous gender ideologies” and the “diabolical lies told to women,” and spoke out against abortion, in vitro fertilization and surrogacy, as well as President Joe Biden. 

Butker, 28, criticized Biden’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and questioned his devotion to Roman Catholicism, calling him “delusional.” Speaking directly to the men in the audience, the athlete advised them to “be unapologetic in your masculinity,” and to “fight against the cultural emasculation of men.”

“In my seven years in the NFL, I’ve become familiar with positive and negative comments,” Butker said in Nashville Friday. “But the majority of them revolve around my performance on the field. But, as to be expected, the more I’ve talked about what I value most, which is my Catholic faith, the more polarizing I’ve become. It’s a decision I’ve consciously made, and one I do not regret at all.”


The event also featured speeches by Daily Wire hosts Matt Walsh and Michael Knowles, and was sponsored by Bentkey, The Daily Wire’s kids entertainment streaming service, according to the Daily Wire.

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Sports

Trans high school athlete booed at Oregon state track meet

She’s been targeted by some of the biggest names in transphobic circles as well as the usual band of anti-trans trolls across social media

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Aayden Gallagher, a sophomore at Portland's McDaniel High School shown here as she won the 6A 200-meter state title for Oregon girls. (Screenshot/YouTube)

EUGENE, Ore. — Aayden Gallagher is a girl. She’s also a sophomore at Portland’s McDaniel High School and happens to be transgender. For that, the 10th grader was booed by grown adults Saturday, because she was the fastest runner to cross a finish line in one event at a state championship track meet. Those boos can be heard in videos that have since gone viral. 

Ever since, she’s been targeted by some of the biggest names in transphobic circles as well as the usual band of anti-trans trolls across social media. 

Gallagher was one of eight girls competing in the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A 200-meter final at her state’s championship meet at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. She won that race by two-tenths of a second, finishing at 23.82 seconds, with Roosevelt High School sophomore Aster Jones closely behind at 24.02. 

Last month, it was Jones who finished first and Gallagher second, at the Sherwood Need for Speed Classic. But coming in second doesn’t generate outrage, even when Gallagher won the silver in the 400 on Saturday. 

The crowd is heard booing again in videos posted online showing Gallagher receiving her gold medal. 

Those videos were shared with venom by anti-trans athlete activist and failed former college swimmer Riley Gaines. As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Gaines is a paid shill for the anti-inclusion organization, Independent Women’s Forum and now heads The Riley Gaines Center at the Leadership Institute, an anti-LGBTQ+ right-wing training center for conservative youth in Arlington, Va. 

The booing clips were also spread by Chaya Raichik, the social media menace behind the account “Libs of TikTok.” The Southern Poverty Law Center designates Raichik as a propagandist who “mobilizes right-wing extremist groups in violent attacks against” against LGBTQ+ people and institutions.

Amplifying Gaines and other mudslinging haters are reporters from every corner of the media, including People magazine and the Christian Post, which went so far as to misgender Gallagher and, for no apparent reason, deadname out transgender NCAA champion swimmer Lia Thomas. 

Instagram is rife with social media posts from around the world denouncing Gallagher for “destroying women’s sports” by barely winning one race. 

Aayden Gallagher, a sophomore at Portland’s McDaniel High School was the fastest runner to cross a finish line in one event at the state championship track meet.
(Screenshot/YouTube)

The bottom line, however, is that Gallagher competed according to the rules. She did not cheat; Oregon’s policy, as dictated in the OSAA Handbook, clearly states that students can compete on the athletic team that aligns with their self-declared gender identity, without the need for medical intervention. The policy “allows students to participate for the athletic or activity program of their consistently asserted gender identity while providing a fair and safe environment for all students.” It does not require that trans student-athletes undergo transition-related medical treatment prior to competing.

That policy matches Connecticut’s Interscholastic Athletic Conference guidelines on transgender participation, which are the target of an ongoing federal lawsuit brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing cisgender student-athletes. 

Of course, Gallagher did get her flowers, too, not just thorns. Genderqueer nonbinary pansexual biologist, Dr. Juniper Simonis saluted her for being “a strong, fast student-athlete.” 

Best of all, Oregonian sports columnist Bill Oram called out the “bad-faith internet cretins who are exploiting her identity for a belt-notch in the culture wars,” while conceding in an op-ed, “I get it if parents are mad,” and “I do not know what the answer is.”

“But what I do know, and I’m confident saying here, is that judgment cannot be handed down by a mob of people who are limited to the binary device of cheers and boos… The presence of a trans athlete led to additional security during the medal presentation. Law enforcement wasn’t there to protect the rest of the competitors from the trans athlete. No, it was there to protect the athlete from adults who were so spun up by her existence and her athletic excellence that they might resort to violence.

“Nobody deserves that. Certainly not a child.”

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Sports

Riley Gaines is fundraising to ‘defend the truth’ by spreading lies

The fifth-place swimmer-turned-activist hosts a weekly podcast for the right wing, anti-LGBTQ+ sports website Outkick

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Riley Gaines giving a speech during a recent event of The Riley Gaines Center at the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Va. (Screenshot/YouTube- The Leadership Institute)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two years after Riley Gaines swam at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, slower than four other cisgender women and no faster than a transgender woman, the former University of Kentucky graduate is making bank off her ignominious fifth-place finish. 

Gaines already hosts a weekly podcast for the right wing, anti-LGBTQ+ sports website Outkick and is a paid shill for the anti-inclusion organization, Independent Women’s Forum. Now, the 24-year-old is heading up The Riley Gaines Center at the Leadership Institute, an organization described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “right-wing… home to a number of prominent politicians and activists on the American right.” It was founded by Morton C. Blackwell in 1979 and is based in Arlington, Va. 

As The Nation reported in 2022, Blackwell was the youth director for Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign. In its 45-years of existence, his nonprofit institute has been “funneling right-wing students from campus groups into the conservative machine,” with alumni that includes former Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist and ‘conservative provocateur’ Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe. The institute claims that Blackwell has likely “trained more political activists than any other conservative”—more than 200,000—with over 1,700 conservative clubs and newspapers on campuses nationwide.

And now, Riley Gaines is the institute’s new poster child. 

“Join my team and help protect women, free speech, and common sense,” says the website promoting Gaines’ new platform. “My team of Ambassadors and I are building a movement of students, athletes, and concerned citizens who are fed up with the attack on our freedoms and rights — and who dare to defy the dangerous gender ideology that’s spreading rampant and unchecked throughout society.”

“Through the Riley Gaines Center at the Leadership Institute, Riley will create powerful leaders to combat radical leftist ideology in their schools, their communities, and nationwide,” says on a page soliciting contact information to “get exclusive updates from Riley.” 

A page offering a way to request Gaines’ “help” makes this bold statement: “Riley is building an army of patriotic women, men, students, athletes, parents — and patriots who stand up for the truth — to combat radical transgender ideology before it takes over America.”

Gaines, who has made frequent appearances on right-wing propaganda programs on cable television and traveled the country touring campuses to promote both transphobia and her book, Swimming Against the Current, has recently ditched the rant that made her famous. That’s the one she’s trotted out ever since tying with transgender national champion swimmer Lia Thomas in March 2022: Gaines has repeated ad infinitum how upsetting it was to leave Atlanta without a trophy. 

The truth is, NCAA officials had only one fifth place trophy, so they handed Gaines the sixth place trophy to hold for photographs, and promised to send hers by mail. To be clear, there was no sixth place finisher; USC’s Laticia Transom finished seventh. And as Swimming World magazine reported in 2022, “Thomas is listed ahead of Gaines on the official results page, which indicates that Thomas touched ahead of Gaines by less than one hundredth” of a second. 

“Ok that’s fine, she worked hard, just like I worked hard, there’s no question there,” Gaines told the conservative outlet Daily Wire in 2022, when she was first interviewed about this. “But can I ask why she gets the fifth-place trophy before I do? Especially last night, she just won the national title.”

While Gaines has endlessly repeated her outrage about the trophy in speaking engagements and on television, she has apparently decided to not repeat something she said about Thomas in her interview with the right-wing outlet: 

“I am in full support of her and full support of her transition and her swimming career and everything like that,” insisted Gaines, “because there’s no doubt that she works hard too, but she’s just abiding by the rules that the NCAA put in place, and that’s the issue.”

Now, two years later, Gaines deadnames Thomas and misgenders him, calling him a man who “stole top spots from me and my fellow female athletes.” 

That’s an excerpt from an email the institute sent to conservatives on May 14, which opens with Gaines’ latest plea for cash based on apparent lies and misstatements. 

“It was the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had,” the email begins. “I had just given a speech when agitators stormed the room.” She’s regaling readers with her account of what happened during her Turning Point USA-sponsored appearance at San Francisco State University in April 2023. 

“A man — wearing a woman’s dress — punched me twice. Then I spent three hours barricaded in a classroom while leftist college students just outside the door yelled the most obscene things at me, including, “f*cking transphobic b*tch!” All because I said things like… men are men — and men are not women… there are only two sexes… men have no business being in women’s locker rooms and playing in women’s sports.” 

Gaines shared video of this on social media that shows, well, a not very warm welcome at SFSU, but no evidence of her claims of being assaulted and held captive.

Turns out, the university police didn’t see anything, either, and closed the case. “UPD conducted an investigation and after interviewing involved parties and reviewing available video footage found that claims of crimes committed were unfounded,” wrote UPD in an email, as reported by a student newspaper, the Golden Gate Express.

Given that she lacks any evidence to support her pitch for funding, Gaines shifts her plea to appeal to “conservative principles:”

“I write to you because I know you’re rational. And more than that, you’re an American who believes in conservative principles.

“You love our country.

“And you understand that conservative principles have guided America — a country that has done the most good of any country,. anywhere.

“But leftists today not only challenge those basic truths, they want to blow up the very foundations of our country and construct something completely different.

“They’re radically changing the answer to the question “What is a woman?” to the point that if you say a man cannot be a woman, you will pay for it dearly.

“This issue is at the very core of what it means to be an American. If you and I do not have the right to free speech — and the ability to speak basic, commonsense truths – – then we have lost our country.”

So, that’s what Gaines is doing two years after finishing fifth. Canadian Taylor Ruck won that competition as a student from Stanford in 2022, and this summer, the four-time Olympic medalist is headed to Paris with Team Canada. Immediately after competing in Atlanta, neither Thomas nor Gaines talked to the reporters covering the championship. But Ruck did. 

As the Los Angeles Blade reported, I asked Ruck her thoughts on Thomas. She said she heard “the chatter” about her, but was focused only on her own performance and apparently didn’t consider it unfair for Thomas to compete. “Competition is competition,” said Ruck, who added that she relished the challenge Thomas represented. “I was excited to race against someone who swims so fast.”

Isabel Ivey finished second in 2022, representing the University of California Berkeley. This past March, she was part of the University of Florida’s championship team in the 800 Freestyle Relay, the school’s first national title since 2010, as Swimming World Magazine reported.

Kelly Pash of the University of Texas came in third ahead of Gaines and Thomas in 2022, and finished second in this year’s 200 fly championship final at the NCAA Championships in March, according to Big12sports.com

And the fourth best swimmer that day in March 2022 was Stanford’s Lillie Nordmann, . She’s now the captain of the swim team, a junior, and an activist. Not against transgender inclusion, but for sustainability. 
“I’ve always been very passionate about the environment and trying to reduce my carbon footprint,” Nordmann told the Stanford Daily school newspaper last month. “I also wanted to foster a community where student athletes could collaborate.”

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Music & Concerts

The Voice crowns its very first LGBTQ winner with Asher HaVon

After 25 seasons, The Voice has crowned Asher HaVon. Asher is more than a voice, he is the spiritual representation of equality itself

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Asher HaVon (Screenshot/YouTube COMCAST-NBC Universal The Voice)

HOLLYWOOD – So, the LGBTQ pundits and culture watchers were… wrong. Or at the very least, anticipating “history” way before its time. After frustration over American Idol’s inability to crown an LGBTQ winner, they held high hopes for a new competing star-making vehicle, The Voice.

In 2011, The Advocate burst with excitement saying “There’s no need to wait on NBC’s new vocal competition, The Voice. The show boasts four gay contestants — two men and two women — heading into the battle round, where they will be coached by the likes of Blake Shelton, Cee Lo, Christina Aguilera, and Adam Levine. And while a couple of them might be eliminated in the next few weeks (in the battle round, teams of eight are whittled down to four when teammates face each other in a sing-off), chances that there will be a lesbian or gay singer competing to become the first “Voice” are strong.”

Well. Not so strong. All of the LGBTQ contenders were eliminated. As were others over the years that even included a young transman singing with his father as one of the show’s few duet contestants. American Idol did end up crowning an LGBTQ winner in its 18th season.

That was then… and this is now. After 25 seasons, The Voice has crowned Asher HaVon its winner. It is no wonder, as Asher’s vocal tone is hypnotic, rich, and blows through your auditory senses. Listening to him hit certain notes in his vocal runs can bring you to a flood of emotional tears. At least, it did for me.

It did for coach Reba McIntire as well. 

The significance of Asher HaVon’s win goes beyond just a queer identity. It is adorned with a depth of representation and visibility. When Asher stepped on stage, he brought culture, diversity, history, and identity. 

Like many incredible vocalists, he comes from a church foundation. Reba McEntire was a wise coach choice, relating to a broad reach of American sensibilities. She is one of the rare entertainers who is beloved by fans across the broad political spectrum. She is traditional, but an ally. 

In a bit of irony, there is a segment of his hometown that still are keeping his LGBTQ status in the closet. The Selma Times Journal brags about his “historic win”, but when they write about it, they are referring to the fact that he is the first winner from Alabama. They do not mention his LGBTQ identity at all.

Not sure how they could miss it. Asher presents in full-beat makeup with gorgeous nails to diva quality eye makeup and lashes. His costuming was never anything less than fabulous. His song choices placed him in a pantheon of LGBTQ-worshipped goddesses that included Adele, Beyonce, Whiney Houston, Patti LaBelle, Toni Braxton, Tina Turner, and Donna Summer. He was not only courageous to take on their groundbreaking hits, but did so with the talent to impress with his own versions of them.

As Asher stands on stage, he also represents a proud black man living in the spirit of America’s civil rights movement. He truly does represent Selma Alabama, and its fight for equality significance is part of his DNA and his history. In 2015, when President Barack Obama visited the city, Asher sang for him in front of a crowd of 200,000 at the famed Selma Bridge crossing.

While the significance of that event is not lost on him, Asher calls it one that he “will never forget”, he tells the Montgomery Advertiser that The Voice “is different because it is the Asher HaVon that most people never got a chance to see. I am free. I am walking in the authenticity of who I am, while sharing my gift. That means so much more to me than any other experience than I’ve ever had in life.”

While Asher carried his legacy, the history he represented, and his authenticity into every performance he gave over the show’s run, it was his pure talent that put him on top.  It was so impressive that it even broke through the show’s premise of four celebrity coaches battling it out for a win. Under that guise, each of the coaches pleads with America to vote for their protégés.

Asher had most of them pleading for him instead. He initially received three “chair turns” at the outset where Chance the Rapper, Dan & Shay, and Reba were the celebrities campaigning for him to pick them. John Legend was the hold-out. Asher, ever the diva connoisseur, had already picked Reba in his mind and would have picked her no matter what anyone else had said.

Legend, later in the season, shared that he received a phone call from his dad who declared not only that he was rooting for Asher, but that Asher was “THE” voice of the season. Both Legend and Chance declared Asher to be “the best vocalist on the show” several times in their feedback statements.

While Asher’s win and authenticity should bring a source of joy to LGBTQ fans, it also is a big boost for his coach and main champion, Reba McEntire. While the show has put a full-throttle on Reba as the “queen of country” and showered her with adoration, she has had some difficulty in wowing many of the auditioning singers onto her team. Asher represents a significant win for her, as well as her being also the coach for first runner-up Josh Sanders, when she starts the next season against Gwen Stefani, Michael Bubble, and Snoop Dogg. The latter two are newcomers and Stefani boasts only one previous win years ago, but a loss in her one previous match-up against McEntire.

For the future Voice contestants, Reba has some serious creds to play. 

For the rest of us, in the LGBTQ community, in the dance clubs, and in the hearts of ones needing a new diva to love, Asher has arrived.

Asher HaVon and Coach Reba perform Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald’s “On My Own” during The Voice finale.

******************************************************************************************

Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] 

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Sports

Nuns denounce Harrison Butker’s speech

The Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica and the L.A. Chargers join GLAAD, as others come to defense of Kansas City Chiefs kicker

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Photo courtesy of The Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica.

ATCHISON, Kan. — As anyone who’s ever attended a Catholic-run school knows, the first rule about nuns is, don’t do anything that will draw their ire. Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, whose commencement address this month at Benedictine College has been heavily criticized for misogyny and homophobia, has violated that rule by pissing off the pious sisters of Mount St. Scholastica.

“The Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica do not believe that Harrison Butker’s comments in his 2024 Benedictine College commencement address represent the Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts college that our founders envisioned and in which we have been so invested,” the nuns wrote in a statement posted on Facebook, adding “We reject a narrow definition of what it means to be Catholic.”

“Instead of promoting unity in our church, our nation, and the world, his comments seem to have fostered division,” the nuns wrote. “One of our concerns was the assertion that being a homemaker is the highest calling for a woman. We sisters have dedicated our lives to God and God’s people, including the many women whom we have taught and influenced during the past 160 years. These women have made a tremendous difference in the world in their roles as wives and mothers and through their God-given gifts in leadership, scholarship, and their careers.” 

Photo courtesy of The Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica.

The vast majority of the comments in response to the post expressed gratitude to the sisters for standing up for women. 

As the Los Angeles Blade reported, the NFL player called on female graduates to aspire to be homemakers, like his wife, in his May 11 commencement address. Butker, who has won three Super Bowl rings, made no mention of his own mother, an accomplished physicist

“I’m beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me, but it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker,” said Butker.  “It is you, the women, who have had the most diabolic lies told to you. Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world,” Butker said.

Ever since that remark, along with his comments against abortion, IVF, “dangerous gender ideologies” and his comparison to Pride month as one of the biblical deadly sins, Butker has been hounded by critics and followers on his social media

“I didn’t graduate with an engineering degree and become a Rocket Scientist to cook some dude’s dinner!” said one. “I am Christian and I have a PhD. Thanks to generations of feminists, I was able to study. I was able to have a family. I was able to do both. I was able to have the choice. You should be ashamed,” said another. 

And there was this comment on Butker’s Instagram post captioned, “For the greater glory of God.” 

“Bro…your boss @nfl just agreed with the majority of women….maybe you should stick to the locker room….I mean, you went after women and pride month in one fell swoop…@chiefs can you get a refund and pick up a practice team player? Asking for millions of successful women who can not have children and have jobs outside the home.”

She’s referring to the NFL statement putting distance between the league and Butker’s remarks: “Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity,” said the NFL’s senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer Jonathan Beane earlier this month. “His views are not those of the NFL as an organization. The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

Pearl Jam rocker Eddie Vedder reportedly took time to bash Butker from the stage of the band’s Las Vegas concert Saturday night, noting that two of the band members in the opening act, including its lead singer, are women.

“The singer, Jessica, and the keyboard player, Patti, they must not have believed that ‘diabolical lie’ that women should take pride in taking a back seat to their man,” Vedder said, according to Variety. “There should be pride in homemaking if you’re a man or a woman… it’s one of the hardest jobs and you should definitely take pride in it, but you’re going to benefit by giving up your dreams?” said Vedder. “I couldn’t understand the logic, so I’m questioning it in public right now… It’s not a graduation speech.”

The Chiefs’ NFL rivals, the Los Angeles Chargers, also mocked Butker in a Sims-style video on X, showing an animated, bearded Chiefs player with his number 7 toiling in the kitchen. It’s a blink or you’ll miss it moment at 2:55. 

GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis was among those who immediately denounced Butker’s comments, calling them “inaccurate, ill-informed and woefully out of step with Americans about Pride, LGBTQ people and women.”

But Butker does have his supporters, including the wife and eldest daughter of Kansas City Chiefs CEO. Clark Hunt himself has not commented publicly.

“I’ve always encouraged my daughters to be highly educated and chase their dreams,” Tavia Hunt wrote on Instagram, alongside photographs of herself with her children. “I want them to know that they can do whatever they want (that honors God). But I also want them to know that I believe finding a spouse who loves and honors you as or before himself and raising a family together is one of the greatest blessings this world has to offer.”

25-year-old Gracie Hunt, the oldest daughter of Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt, had this to say on FOX & Friends: “Well, I can only speak from my own experience, which is I’ve had the most incredible mom who had the ability to stay home and be with us as kids growing up,” she said. “And I understand that there are many women out there who can’t make that decision. But for me and my life, I know it was really formative and in shaping me and my siblings into who we are.”

 Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones also voiced support for Butker in a post on social media, declaring: “I love you @buttkicker7! My brotha.” 

Actress Patricia Heaton, a conservative Christian anti-abortion activist who TV viewers may remember from “Everybody Loves Raymond,” also weighed-in in support of Butker, in an Instagram video. 

One thing is for sure, if Butker wants to join his teammates at the White House when President Biden invites the Chiefs to celebrate their Super Bowl championship, he will be welcomed despite his disparaging remarks about President Biden. Butker referred to him as “delusional” in his commencement address. 

“What I can say is all of the team, per usual when there is a championship team, gets invited,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on May 17. “I don’t have anything to add on their attendance or how that looks, but the team is always invited. Everyone on the team is invited.”

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Events

LA LGBT Center celebrates with stars at annual gala raising $1.6M

Cynthia Erivo, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lena Waithe, Zaya Wade, Jewel, MUNA, and more Help Los Angeles LGBT Center Raise $1.6M

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(L-R) Joel Kim Booster, Susan Feniger, Francis Dennis Pond, and Joe Hollendoner pose for a photo onstage during the Los Angeles LGBT Center's Annual Gala at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on May 18, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Araya Doheny/Getty Images for the Los Angeles LGBT Center)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles LGBT Center held their annual Gala Saturday night. which celebrates the unwavering dedication and remarkable achievements of LGBTQ+ leaders and advocates.

Held at the Shrine Auditorium just off the USC campus in the University Park neighborhood, The Center Gala with about 900 supporters and a bevy of entertainment celebrities was able to raise $1.6M to support its ongoing lifeline services and advocacy programs.

The Center honored Cynthia Erivo, Mickalene Thomas, and MUNA for their contributions to the LGBTQ+ community. The Gala was hosted by actor, writer, and comedian Joel Kim Booster, and featured a special performance by power pop trio MUNA—who were surprised onstage by music icon Jewel for a rendition of the chart-topping hit, “Silk Chiffon.”

Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award-winning and Oscar-nominated actress, singer, songwriter and producer Cynthia Erivo was honored with the Rand Schrader Award. Jada Pinkett-Smith presented her with the honor, which recognized her for her stellar achievements in entertainment and activism championing the LGBTQ+ community. During her remarks, Erivo spoke about the impact of Wicked and the importance of art in polarizing times.

“We are, as we all know, living through intensely polarized times. It seems that, all over, we are keen on seeing the world in black-and-white, rather than embracing the difficult (but beautiful) complexities of our humanity,” Erivo said. “I see it as no coincidence that the universe urged a director by the name of Jon M Chu to take on the mammoth task that is Wicked…As I stand here in front of you: Black, bald-headed, pierced, and queer, I can say I know a thing or two about being the other. Elphaba’s story is… about how a colorful, powerful, magical woman—despite being disparaged, demonized, and discriminated against—becomes a hero. Wicked is a reclamation and a reimagining of the labels used against her. It is the proclamation of her right to exist in all her power. If that sounds familiar to you colorful, magical people in this room—it should.”

Award-winning multidisciplinary artist Mickalene Thomas, considered one of the most influential visual artists of our time, was honored with this year’s Vanguard Award. Tasha Smith presented the award in recognition of her advocacy and commitment to intersecting complexities of Black and female identity within the Western canon.

“As our community faces unprecedented challenges, we all have a responsibility to create change,” said Thomas. “Each and every one of us in the room has a responsibility in our own small ways—wherever you are, however we involve ourselves within the community. It takes one person.”

The Gala’s live programming included an auction and special musical performance by power pop trio MUNA. MUNA was also presented with the Leslie Jordan Award for Excellence in the Arts presented by singer-songwriter Jewel.

“Our queerness is about working toward so many things that feel so hard to imagine,” said MUNA’s lead singer Katie Gavin. “Our queerness is overwhelmed by all the big things that we want for this world, but we try anyway and make each other laugh along the way. So, in Leslie’s honor today, we say: ‘Watch us twirl, daddy.'”

The Los Angeles LGBT Center uses funds raised by its annual Gala to support its holistic model of care—services that are accessed more than 500,000 times per year by LGBTQ+ people. This year, according to CEO Joe Hollendoner, the Center has been responding to nearly unprecedented levels of hate and hate-related violence, as the LGBTQ+ community in California experiences a political backlash. 

“When our political opponents are at their worst, your Center is at its best,” said Hollendoner. “Nearly every day, I see a new young person arrive at our Anita May Rosenstein intergenerational Campus, failed by the systems meant to care for them. But unlike the parents, schools, or religious institutions that have turned their backs on these teenagers, I see the Center opening our doors and welcoming these youth into a community like none other.”

To emphasize the Center’s commitment to this fight, Joel Kim Booster announced the debut of the organization’s new PSA, titled “We Are Family,” voiced by award-winning actress Jennifer Garner. 

Other highlights for the evening included the unveiling of three short films directed by National Anthem director Luke Gilford, who profiled three different clients of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The videos were presented by RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni Symone, Valentina, and Laith Ashley.

Comedian Dana Goldberg presided over the live auction, which featured prizes from longtime LGBTQ+ advocates and musical icons, Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera.

This year’s Gala was supported by Presenting Sponsor: Gilead Sciences, Inc. Platinum Sponsors include Glamazon L.A.—Amazon’s LGBTQIA+ Affinity Group and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Gold Sponsors are Contractors State License Schools and Construction Insurance Agency, PS, and U.S. Bank. The event’s Official Airline Partner is American Airlines.  

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Television

‘Interview with the Vampire’ returns in triumph

Long-awaited season 2 continues to get story exactly right

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Assad Zaman and Jacob Anderson star in 'Interview with the Vampire.' (Photo courtesy of AMC)

When AMC debuted its long-awaited series adaptation of “Interview With the Vampire” – Anne Rice’s seminal proto-postmodern horror novel that set the stage and paved the way for a decades-long literary franchise that has kept millions of readers, queer and straight alike, passionately engaged since first reading its thinly veiled allegorical document of life as a being with heightened awareness on the edge of human existence – in 2022, we were among the first to sing its praises as a triumph of narrative storytelling,

We were not the last. The series, created by Rolin Jones in collaboration with Christopher Rice – the original author’s son and a successful horror novelist in his own right – and the late Anne Rice herself, was one of its season’s best-reviewed shows, earning particular praise for its writing, in which the queer “subtext” of Rice’s original works was given the kind of unequivocal full weight denied to it in the Brad Pitt/Tom Cruise-starring Neil Jordan-helmed film adaptation from 1994. 

Though purist fans of the original boom series took occasional umbrage to some of the show’s leaps – changing the historical period of the story to illuminate themes of racism and deepen its resonance for those living as “others” on the fringe of society, and making the book’s protagonist, Louis Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson), a closeted Black Creole man in early 20th-century New Orleans – the series won most of its naysayers over by its season finale. It delivered a deliciously subversive, unapologetically queer interpretation that remained true to Rice’s original gothic re-imaginings while expanding the scope to encompass social and cultural factors that have become central to the moral and ideological conflicts that plague us in the first quarter of the 21st century.

To put it bluntly, the show’s willingness to embrace the story’s countercultural queer eroticism and place its transgressively amoral “moral compass” front and center was more than enough to smooth over any nitpicking over faithfulness to narrative detail or tone that might otherwise have kept Rice’s legion of acolytes from signing on to the new-and-contemporized vision of the book that Rollins built as the foundation for his daunting project.

Now, after a buzz-tempering delay borne of last year’s actor’s strike, the series has returned for its second season. And we’re happy to assure you that its feet hit the ground running, keeping up both passion and narrative momentum to pick up the story with electrifying energy after leaving off (at the end of season one) with the shocking murder and seeming elimination of Lestat (Sam Reid), the exquisitely amoral “rock star” vampire who served as both protector and lover of Louis, and the departure of the latter and his perpetually juvenile “daughter,” Claudia (Bailey Bass) on s quest to find others like themselves.

Fans of the book might, in fact, find new reasons to take exception to the show’s adaptation, which, as in season one, makes significant departures from the original narrative. After moving the story’s setting forward by roughly half a century, Louis and Claudia’s secretive sojourn now takes place in the traumatized landscape of post-WWII Europe, and spins a scenario in which the two ex-pat vampires, navigating their way through the perils of Soviet-occupied Central Europe after the fall of the Nazi regime, spend time in a refugee shelter while investigating rumors of old-world vampires who might provide a link to their “family history.”

When we rejoin this pair of relative fledgling vampires, their undead existence is a far cry from the decadent elegance they enjoyed in the New Orleans setting of season one. Enduring a near-feral existence as they make their way through a war-ravaged landscape, they find no shortage of prey in the aftermath of the Third Reich, but the “creature comforts” of their former “afterlives” are now only a memory. Louis is devoted, as always, to Claudia (now portrayed by Delainey Hayles, presumably due to scheduling conflicts for original actor Bass, who is set to reprise her role from “Avatar: The Way of Water” in the next installment of filmmaker James Cameron’s high-dollar sci-fi franchise), but remains haunted by his vampire maker and former lover Lestat, whose undead corpse remains buried on another continent but whose charismatic presence manifests itself in his private moments, nonetheless. In the first episode, the pair have used their supernatural wiles to journey into the “old country” long associated with their kind, tracking human tales of monstrous terrors in the night in hope of connecting with more of their kind. Louis, as always, struggles with his compassion for the mortal beings around him, while the more savage Claudia simply sees them as prey, and holds little hope of finding other vampires, if they even exist. For her part, Claudia has forgiven – but not forgotten – his refusal to ensure Lestat’s demise by burning his body, and is now solely focused on finding others like her.

Of course, the adventures of these two undead companions are only half the equation in “Interview With the Vampire.” The past is, as always, merely a flashback, as Louis relates the story of his afterlife experiences to mortal journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian). In the present, the skeptical Molloy casts doubt on the truth of his memories, forcing the vampire to re-examine them as he goes. Perhaps more interestingly, in the long game of a series which, if it comes to full fruition, will eventually encompass the entire Rice vampire saga, these contemporary scenes give us a look at the relationship between Louis and Armand (Assad Zaman), revealed in the season one finale to be not a mere servant in Louis’ household but a centuries-old fellow vampire who is now Louis’ lover and companion.

Fans of the books, of course, know that Armand plays a significant role in the story of the past, too, and while we won’t spoil anything, we can say that history begins to unspool as season two progresses – but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. For now, what we can say is that season two’s first episode, while it may veer away from the familiarity of Rice’s original tale in service of reimagining it for 21st-century audiences, continues the first season’s dedication to breathing thrilling new life into this now-iconic, deeply queer saga; superb performances all around, an elegantly cinematic presentation and literate writing, and a lush musical score by Daniel Hart all combine to sweep us quickly and irresistibly into the story, making us not just fall in love with these vampires, but want to be one of them. 

That, of course, is the gloriously sexy and subversive point of Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles,” and this long-awaited series continues to get it exactly right.

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