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COVID-19 crisis can’t keep a good (Jackie) Cox down

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“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 12 contestant Jackie Cox. (Photo courtesy of VH1)

We’re navigating the current COVID-19 crisis as best we can—but each day we go without a kick-ass national response forces us to admit how little we’ve learned from what pandemic-themed science fiction, countries with universal health care, and people who cut their own hair have been trying to tell us for years.

Yeah, everybody’s pretty much making it up as they go along—and in the case of entertainers displaced from the shuttered clubs, bars, and theaters that are sources of income and as well as community, stay-at-home drag queens are keeping the cobwebs off their wigs by entertaining fans in the digital realm.

The Blade recently reached out and touched one such indefatigable gal (via email), to get her take on innovation in this time of isolation.

Thanks to her presence as a contestant on the currently-airing Season 12 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the whole world has been discovering what New York City has known for years: There’s nobody out there quite like Jackie Cox.

Born in Canada, the Star Trek-loving “Persian princess of drag” wears her nerdy nature, Iranian heritage, obsession with Disney, and love of ’80s/’90s pop culture as badges of honor. Pin those badges on a dress as pick-and-choose accessories, and they work just as well on the “Drag Race” runway as they have on the cabaret stages of New York City, where writer/performer Cox fashioned and refined sharp, sassy, clever, campy, and occasionally political persona that’s put more than one smile on the hard-to-please faces of Mama Ru and Michelle Visage.

That persona changes slightly according to what hat Cox wears. As writer/star, she put her own spin on Barbara Eden’s iconic bottle-dweller, in the three-part “I Dream of Jackie” series, which followed the adventures of a magical genie who emerged from underneath the stage of Manhattan’s Laurie Beechman Theatre to find a chaotic and cynical world that was no match for her sweet, optimistic nature. Also at the Beechman, Cox appeared in a series of shows with The Hell’s Kitchenettes, an Andrew Sisters-like trio of singing waitresses whose wacky schemes to save their diner always backfire, but never fail to bring it back from the brink of disaster. And last year, also at the Beechman, Cox and frequent collaborator Chelsea Piers put the Romy and Michelle/Laverne & Shirley friendship dynamic into a blender, added some iconic songs from the ’80s/’90s, and created the tasty comedic smoothie that was “Jackie & Chelsea’s High School Reunion.”

The Blade: What can we expect to see on April 18’s Digital Drag Fest show?

Jackie Cox: I’ll be bringing back “The Jackie Cox Variety Show” for a fourth installment that features new segments, songs, and a couple surprises as well as good old nerdy fun! (That may or MAY not include a Star Trek bit!) I’ve had such a blast doing the last couple of shows—and for those who haven’t yet seen me perform, this is a chance to see what Jackie Cox is all about!

Photo via Jackie’s Facebook

Blade: Has this forced time away from public performance impacted your creativity, creative output, and approach to using online/social media as an expression of your artistry?

Jackie: I think this time away from performing on stage has definitely given us a new frontier of what drag can be in the future, and live performance in general. Having the ability to connect with fans through live streaming platforms presents a lot of fun ways to creatively think outside the box. I’ve been finding myself actually able to engage with fans online in meaningful ways that I probably wouldn’t have been able to if I had been traveling and performing all over the country as was originally planned.

Blade: Spoilers and gag orders aside, tell us everything you can/want, about part of “RDPR” Season 12?

Jackie: Participating in this season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has truly been a dream come true. I learned so much about myself and about my drag from participating in the competition! Spoilers aside—I think from what the audience has already seen, this season is filled with so much talent, personality, and heart!

Blade: Have you had any notable virtual interactions with fans during this period of social distancing?

Jackie: Well, the fans have CERTAINLY been vocal and I must say, I feel a bit behind in how the kids talk these days! But I’m learning!! (Cool Aunt here.)

That said, I’ve been trying to engage with fans as much as I can. I have had so many fans reach out saying they feel represented by who I am and what I’m doing on the show. I’ve also had fans who are either too far away, or otherwise would be unable to come see a live show, and are just so thrilled they get to see live drag from the comforts of their own homes!

Photo via Jackie’s Facebook page

Blade: The all-clear is called and we’re allowed to gather in public again. What are the first things you’re going to do?

Jackie: Definitely go have a good laugh and a margarita (and HUGS!) with friends at any of my favorite bars in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC! I miss salty rims!

Don’t miss Jackie Cox! She’ll bring “The Jackie Cox Variety Show” to StageIt.com’s “Digital Drag Fest” series on Sat., April 18, 11 AM Pacific. Runtime: 30 minutes. A limited number of tickets ($10 per household) are available, in the spirit of creating the intimate vibe of a live performance. To order, click here.

Missed the show? Get your fill of Cox by following Jackie on Twitter (JackieCoxNYC), on Facebook (click here), and purchase merch by visiting jackiecoxnyc.com. On Sat., April 25, 3 PM Pacific, Jackie, Silky Nutmeg Ganache, and Pandora Box comprise Pop Culture Hero Coalition’s “Community Strong Identity Panel,” at Holocon. It happens live, at twitch.tv/popculturehero.

Photo via Jackie’s Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/JackieCoxx21

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Movies

Celebrate Judy Garland’s centennial by watching her movies

The dazzling force of nature made 34 films

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‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ is one of Judy Garland’s iconic film roles.

When the world ends, aficionados will still be watching their favorite Judy Garland movies.

Queer icon Garland was born 100 years ago this year (on June 10, 1922).

Everyone knows how tragic much of Garland’s life was. MGM feeding her uppers and downers when she was a child. Bad luck with husbands. Getting fired from movies because of her addiction issues. Her death at age 47.

You can’t deny that Garland’s life was often a mess. Yet, it’s too easy to encase Garland into a box of victimhood.

Contrary to the misperception of her as a sad figure, Garland wasn’t a morbid person. She was a fabulous comedian and clown, John Fricke, author of “The Wonderful World of Oz: An Illustrated History of the American Classic,” told the Blade in 2019. Lucille Ball said Garland was the funniest woman in Hollywood, Fricke said. “‘She made me look like a mortician,’ Lucy said,” he added.

In the midst of the sentimentality and morbidity shrouding her legacy, you can readily forget Garland’s prodigious talent and productivity.

Garland was a consummate, multi-faceted, out-of-this-world talented performer. She (deservedly) received more awards than most performers would even dream of: two Grammy Awards for her album “Judy at Carnegie Hall,” a special Tony for her long-running concert at the Palace Theatre and a special Academy Juvenile Award. Garland was nominated for an Emmy for her TV series “The Judy Garland Show” and for Best Supporting Oscar for her performance in “Judgment at Nuremberg.”

Garland, a dazzling, force of nature on screen, made 34 films. There’s no better way to celebrate Garland’s centennial than to watch her movies.

Garland was renowned for connecting so intimately with audiences when she sang. She’s remembered for her legendary musicals — from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Meet Me in St. Louis” to “A Star is Born.”

But if you watch, or re-watch, her movies, you’ll see that Garland wasn’t just a singer who sang songs, and sometimes danced, in production numbers in movie musicals.

Garland was a talented actor. She wasn’t appearing on screen as herself – Judy Garland singing to her fans.

Whether she’s tearing at your heartstrings as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” performing brilliant physical comedy with Gene Kelly in the “The Pirate,” breaking your heart with “The Man that Got Away” in “A Star is Born” or unrecognizable as Irene Hoffmann in “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Garland is acting. Her performance etches these characters onto your DNA.

Picking Garland’s best movies is like deciding which five of your 20 puppies should go on an outing. But, if you’re cast away on a desert island, take these Garland movies with you:

“Meet Me in St. Louis”: This luminous 1944 musical, directed by Vincente Minnelli, has it all: Garland in top form, the Trolley song, Margaret O’Brien, along with a stellar cast, and the best Christmas song ever.

“The Clock”: This 1945 movie, also directed by Minnelli, showcases Garland as a gifted dramatic actress. Shot in stunning black-and-white near the end of World-War II, the movie is the story, set in New York City, of a young woman (Garland) and a soldier on leave (Robert Walker) who fall in love.

“Easter Parade”: Sure, this 1948 picture, directed by Charles Walters, is thought of as a light musical by some. But, who cares? It’s in Technicolor, and Judy’s in peak form – dancing with Fred Astaire.

“A Star is Born”: If you don’t know the story of this 1954 film, directed by George Cukor, starring Garland and James Mason, you’re not a member of queer nation. There have been other versions of “A Star is Born,” some quite good, but this is still the best. Garland should have gotten an Oscar for this one.

“Judgment at Nuremberg”: This 1961 film, directed by Stanley Kramer, will never be a date night movie. It’s long (3 hours, 6 minutes), grim (about Nazi crimes) and Garland is only in it for about seven minutes. But the story is gripping and Garland’s performance is mesmerizing. When you watch her as Irene, you won’t be thinking that’s Judy Garland.

Happy centennial, Judy! 

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Books

New ACT UP book is part history, part memoir

‘Boy with the Bullhorn’ chronicles hard work, grief, anger

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(Book cover image courtesy of Fordham University Press)

‘Boy with the Bullhorn: A Memoir and History of ACT UP New York’ 
By Ron Goldberg
c.2022/ Fordham University Press
$36.95/512 pages

The sign above your head shows what’s going on inside.

Last night, you made the sign with a slogan, firm words, a poke to authority – and now you carry it high, yelling, marching, demanding that someone pay attention. Now. Urgently. As in the new book, “Boy with the Bullhorn” by Ron Goldberg, change is a-coming.

He’d never done anything like it before.

But how could he not get involved? Ron Goldberg had read something about ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, and he heard they were holding a rally near his workplace. It was 1987, he’d never participated in anything like that before, but whispers were everywhere. He and his friends were “living under a pervasive cloud of dread.”

He “was twenty-eight years old… scared, angry, and more than a little freaked out” about AIDS, he says.

Couldn’t he at least go down and hold a sign?

That first rally led Goldberg to attend a meeting, which, like most, as he came to realize, were raucous and loud and “electric.” Because he was “living fully ‘out and proud’,” and because he realized that this was an issue “worth fighting for,” he became even more involved with ACT UP by attending larger rallies and helping with organizing and getting his fellow activists fired up. He observed as women became involved in ACT UP, too. Monday night meetings became, for Goldberg, “the most exciting place in town.”

There, he learned how politics mixed with activism, and why ACT UP tangled with the Reagan administration’s leaders. He puffed with more than just a little ownership, as other branches of ACT UP began spreading around the country. He learned from ACT UP’s founding members and he “discovered hidden talents” of his own by helping.

On his years in ACT UP, Goldberg says, “There was hard work, grief, and anger, surely, but there was also great joy.” He was “a witness. And so, I began to write.”

Let’s be honest: “Boy with the Bullhorn” is basically a history book, with a little memoir inside. Accent on the former, not so much on the latter.

Author Ron Goldberg says in his preface that Larry Kramer, who was one of ACT UP’s earliest leaders encouraged him to pull together a timeline for the organization and this book is the result of the task. It’s very detailed, in sequential order and, as one reads on, it’s quite repetitive, differing basically in location. It’s not exactly a curl-up-by-the-fire read.

Readers, however – and especially older ones who remember the AIDS crisis – won’t be able to stop scanning for Goldberg’s memories and tales of being a young man at a time when life was cautiously care-free. The memories – which also act as somewhat of a gut-wrenching collection of death-notices – are sweet, but also bittersweet.

This book is nowhere near a vacation kinda book but if you have patience, it’s worth looking twice. Take your time and you’ll get a lot from “Boy with the Bullhorn.” Rush, and it might just go over your head.

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

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Sports

Trailblazing Scots pro soccer athlete comes Out and inspires others

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, saying “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders”

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Screenshot/YouTube

EDINBURGH – Two weeks after making headlines as the first-ever senior Scottish pro soccer player to come out as gay, Zander Murray is revealing the impact his courageous decision has had on at least one closeted player. Murray tweeted a message he received that shows the difference an athlete coming out can make. 

“I just wanted to tell you that you’ve been a massive inspiration for me to come out to teammates and family,” the anonymous player told Murray, according to the tweet. 

“As a young footballer I find it difficult to be myself as it is but being gay and keeping it secret was so challenging. It felt amazing when I told my teammates, they were super supportive.” 

Murray shared the message with a heart emoji and the words: “Makes it all worthwhile young man.”

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, the Gala Fairydean Rovers, on September 16, explaining “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders.”

Screenshot/YouTube

As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Jake Daniels of Blackpool came out as gay in May, the first U.K. male pro soccer player to come out in more than 30 years. Justin Fashanu was the first in Britain men’s soccer to come out back in 1990. Homophobic and racist media reports drove Fashanu to suicide eight years later. 

Reaction to Murray’s coming out last month has been “incredible,” he’s told reporters. One of those reaching out to congratulate him was Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley. The U.K. diver sent him a DM, Murray told a British interviewer. 

“He messaged me while I was on my way back from football training in a car with four boys. I had tears in my eyes seeing his direct message, and I messaged him back.

“I said, ‘Look I am in a car on the way back from football with four boys and I’ve got tears in my eyes and I don’t even care.’”

Prior to coming out, Murray had been “living in fear 24/7,” he told Sky Sports. “I can’t explain it. You’re hiding your phone in case you get messages from friends, constantly double-checking if you have a team night out, you’re cautious with what you’re saying.

“It’s very hard, especially for myself, I’m a character in that dressing room. I’m not quiet in that dressing room, I like to have the banter and to get stuck in, so very challenging.”

But Murray said he couldn’t have decided to come out “at a better time, at a better club.” So why now? He posted the answer on Instagram with several bullet points, including:

  • “Gay male footballers in the UK need role models. 
  • Majority are terrified to come out to friends/family/teammates (trust me a few have reached out already!).”

STV Weekend News Sunday, September 18, 2022 Zander Murray

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