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Jane Lynch hosts star-studded LA LGBT Center telethon on KTLA

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The novel coronavirus has been a devastating force since the airborne virus hit U.S. shores in early 2020. Since March, Los Angeles County has identified 223,131 positive COVID cases and 5273 deaths, the County Department of Public Health reported on August 17.

Though the County has finally started collecting LGBTQ-specific data, there is yet no report on how many cases or deaths might be people from the LGBTQ community, though State Sen. Scott Wiener’s LGBT health data collection bill is headed for a vote on the floor of the California Assembly.

LGBTQ people are also not counted among the more than 30 million people who have filed for unemployment benefits, though many are part of the workforce for the shattered hospitality and hotel industries. A new national report shows that the hotel industry alone is undergoing “an historic wave of foreclosures,” according to an Aug. 18 press release from the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

Vastly underreported, however, is the COVID impact on nonprofits that are seeing fewer grants and contributions as the need for help grows. The Los Angeles LGBT Center, for instance, has nearly 800 employees providing services for more LGBT people than any other organization in the world.

“When COVID-19 hit, the demand for our existing services actually increased — such as health care, support for LGBTQ seniors and homeless youth, legal services, and policy advocacy. Plus, we saw new needs emerge, including growing numbers of people who had lost their jobs and were struggling to get enough food,” says Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “As the Center has done for 51 years, we’ve risen to meet these changing needs. And we’ve done so at the very time that fundraising has declined dramatically.”

But, Jean says, “without more help, this is not sustainable.”

The Center put out a clarion call for help and friends in the entertainment community responded. On Sept. 12 will hold a virtual “Love In Action” telethon on KTLA.

The telethon “is an important opportunity for those who are unfamiliar with the Center to understand how vast its impact is for the LGBTQ community — from homeless youth, medical services, education to seniors and HIV and STI testings… that save lives,” says KTLA 5 news anchor Cher Calvin.

Calvin is co-hosting “Love In Action” with Emmy Award winning actor, comedienne and game show host Jane Lynch.

“We raise money every year through a gala for the LGBT Center and, of course, we can’t have that gala this year,” Lynch tells the Los Angeles Blade in a phone interview. “But the need for the services of the LA LGBT Center is as strong as ever. There are kids still out on the street who need help and people who need medical help. And so, it’s not like with the pandemic that the need has gone down. In fact, it’s increased.”

Celebrities and politicians joining the telethon include Billy Porter, Cyndi Lauper, Sia, Margaret Cho, Lily Tomlin, Melissa Etheridge, RuPaul, Andrew Rannells, Cynthia Erivo, Wilson Cruz, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Adam Schiff.

“The Los Angeles LGBT Center is a hands-on lifeline for so many in need in the LGBTQ community on any given day of the year. From healthy-cooked meals, hot showers, and emergency beds to medical, legal, and educational programs among a myriad of other services, the Center assists youth experiencing homelessness, seniors, and so many in between,” said longtime LGBTQ ally Ariadne Getty, President and Executive Director of The Ariadne Getty Foundation, the telethon’s presenting sponsor. “With COVID-19, the needs and services have dramatically increased and, naturally, so has the need for more funds. As an ally and advocate of the community, I continually put my resources behind the Center when needed. This is a drastic call for help. The Love in Action live telethon is what the LGBTQ community does best: takes a problem and proactively asks members of the community to join in and support those who are in the greatest need.”

Telethon co-host Jane Lynch’s long association with the Center began when she first arrived in LA in 1992. “I started hanging out in the community there,” she says.

Lynch went to all the galas, did “The Breakup Notebook: The Lesbian Musical” at the Center, then her own play, “Oh Sister, My Sister” in 2004, directed by Jill Soloway. “Jane Lynch is very funny indeed, filled with more characters than Jonathan Winters on LSD,” the Backstage critic wrote about the play.

Lynch knows something about needing community support. In her book “Happy Accidents,” inspired by the It Gets Better project, she talks about internalized homophobia, her alcoholism and finding sobriety through community 12 Step programs in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

“I came out here from Chicago and I was sober about a year,” she says. “Finding programs mostly in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood kind of gave me a social life and gave me a support group. I found some friends who I’m still very close with today.

“I went to a lot of women’s meetings. I would sometimes go to two a day and not because I thought I would drink, but because I really enjoyed them. And I haven’t been to one in a long time. I go to one on Saturdays every once in a while. But I really was lifted by them. I actually was grateful that I was an alcoholic because I wouldn’t have stumbled onto this really great program — which is so much more than sobriety, although that’s why it exists. But it does go beyond that. It’s just a beautiful thing — some really great relationships and practicing those principles to this day.”

Lynch felt so connected to the Center, she joined the board for several years and even completed the California AIDS Ride in 1996. “I did San Francisco to LA, baby,” she jokes. “I love it [the Center]. I’m a big supporter. I love Lorri Jean.”

The “Glee” star has lauded Ellen DeGeneres — who was honored by the Center after coming out in 1997. “You were at the height of your fame and you came out. And that just blazed a trail for me,” Lynch told the talk show star during a spot on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in 2010. “It made it so much easier for me what you did.”

Lynch declined to comment on DeGeneres’ current troubles with her show.

Lynch enthusiastically commented on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden picking Sen. Kamala Harris for his vice- presidential running mate, however.

“I love that he picked Kamala. I was so excited. I’m so happy,” Lynch says. “She’s not only the first Black woman [VP candidate], but the first Asian woman. She’s just sharp as a tack and she has a way about her that is no nonsense.”

The Trump cult doesn’t know how to deal with Harris.

“They don’t know how to attack her with their juvenile insults,” Lynch says. “They’re trying different things. I think they called her ‘crazy Kamala.’ But isn’t it terrible that we’ve devolved to that level where we’re using not even grade school, but nursery school insults at each other. It’s really basically coming from one side. But I’m thrilled. I think she is the future of this party. She’s the future, not just of the Democratic Party, but I think of America – it’s going to be female and it’s going to be Brown.”

But electing the Biden-Harris ticket will not be easy.

“Barack Obama in 2008 to now is just an extreme reaction to that,” Lynch says. “I think it shook a lot of people’s psyches and not for the better.”

Lynch hopes America finds its “nice moderate, healthy” center after November 3rd. But, she adds, “I’m afraid. I’m scared, really. I think he [Trump] could get elected again. I think it’s easy. Or he could come between people getting to the ballot box and having their vote counted — that it could really make the results unclear. And it looks like he’s doing a concerted effort to make that happen. That’s what scares me.”

Jean stresses the need to vote in the November election, especially since the Trump administration is trying to suppress voting by mail.

“No President has done as much to reverse the progress made by LGBTQ people than has Donald Trump. He has been relentless in taking away our rights and protections,” Jean tells the LA Blade.

“Moreover, his racism, pathological lying and flouting of the U.S. Constitution threaten our very democracy,” Jean says. “I’m talking to every family member, friend and colleague I know who lives in a swing state to make sure they VOTE, regardless of whether Biden or Harris were their first choices.  Now is not a time to be complacent or uninvolved because reelecting Donald Trump would set us back decades.”

The “Love In Action” telethon will be held on Saturday, Sept. 12 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm Pacific Time. It will be live on KTLA 5 and streamed live online at ktla.com and the lalgbtcenter.org/love.

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The Giant Sleeps- Iconic Black pastor & HIV/AIDS activist Carl Bean dies

Rev. Bean was a guiding light in the fight to end the AIDS pandemic, the effort to provide support to those with HIV.

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Archbishop Carl Bean, courtesy of the Rev. Elder Russell E. Thornhill, Unity Fellowship Church Movement 

LOS ANGELES – In announcement tinged with sadness, the leadership of Unity Fellowship Church Movement broke the news Tuesday of the death of its founder, Archbishop Carl Bean.

Since its founding in South Los Angeles in 1982, the denomination has had open arms and embraced Black LGBTQ Angelenos and many in the LGBTQ movement and beyond consider it the first Christian church in the United States to welcome Black LGBTQ people.

Courtesy of the Rev. Elder Russell E. Thornhill, 
Unity Fellowship Church Movement 

Tributes to Bishop Bean have begun to pour in from around the country as people remembered the dynamic and engaging man of faith.


“Archbishop Carl Bean was an inspiration. Bean cared about LGBTQ+ / same gender loving people when few others did – and consistently dedicated his life to improving the lives of people in our community. From reminding us all that we were ‘born this way’ in his music and Unity Fellowship Church movement and ministry to creating the first organization in Los Angeles focused on helping Black and Latino HIV/AIDS patients when no one else would – Bean’s legacy will live on forever,”
said  David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition 

Bean’s work in the areas addressing the AIDS/HIV pandemic was noteworthy on its own. According to the Los Angeles Sentinel“Archbishop Carl Bean started the Minority AIDS Project (MAP) in Los Angeles. MAP was the first community HIV/AIDS organization that focused on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS transmission in the black community during a time when the disease was considered to be relatively new.” 

In an emailed statement to the Blade, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation(AHF), the largest global AIDS organization today and which began its journey providing care and services to HIV/AIDS patients 35 years ago in Los Angeles providing hospice care to people dying of AIDS, mourned the passing of Bishop Bean.

Archbishop Carl Bean was my brother in the struggle for the last 35 years. We marched through the fire together during the height of the pain and the dying. Regardless of the pressures that could have divided us, we were always there for each other,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF.  “An irreplaceable part of our history is retired with his death. However, a small piece of his legacy of service lives on at the Carl Bean House, which started as a hospice and still serves today as sacred ground and a place of healing.  Rest in the peace you richly earned dear friend and comrade.”

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Archbishop Carl Bean and thank him for his profound and visionary compassion and dedication to marginalized populations be they people with AIDS, people of color, LGBTQ people of color and more,” said Cynthia Davis, MPH, an AHF Board Member.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO, Lorri L. Jean  wrote;

Today, the Center joins people throughout Los Angeles mourning the loss of Archbishop Carl Bean. Through the Unity Fellowship and the Minority AIDS Project, Rev. Bean was a guiding light in the fight to end the AIDS pandemic, the effort to provide support to those with HIV, and his lifelong advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ people.

His mission was driven by a sense of justice and deep faith. His work—especially on behalf of Black people with HIV—was inspirational not only to those who provide services to people with HIV/AIDS but to all of us in the LGBTQ movement for equality.

We have lost a leader, but his presence will live on and serve as a beacon for all who believe we can make the world a better place through love and a shared commitment to social justice.

Robert Boller the Los Angeles based Project Angel Food’s Director of Programs sent a tribute in memory of the late prelate;

Archbishop Carl Bean passed away in Los Angeles on Tuesday, September 7, 2021. This was the passing of a legendary LGBTQ+ AIDS activist, founder of the Unity Fellowship Church in South Los Angeles, and visionary pioneer behind the Minority AIDS Project. His 1977 Motown hit “I Was Born This Way” became an anthem of LGBTQ+ empowerment in the late seventies and inspired Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.

That’s how the world remembers Carl Bean. 

Project Angel Food has a more personal connection. We remember him as a friend, and as a partner in bringing life-saving meals to those with HIV/AIDS― no matter where they lived, and no matter the color of their skin. His fierce commitment to the ideal that love is for everyone, and caring for people with AIDS aligned with OUR vision, our values, and our call.

So much of our history is oral history; hearing how our relationship with Archbishop Bean and Minority AIDS Project came about. Today, 76% of our clients are people of color, but that wasn’t always the case. It’s my understanding that when we were founded in 1989, many of our first clients were gay white males in Hollywood and West Hollywood. In 1994, with the Ryan White CARE Act, we had to take a hard look at who we were serving, and recognized a need to reach out to other communities, especially communities of color.

This is when Project Angel Food first partnered with Archbishop Carl Bean and Minority AIDS Project. The Minority AIDS Project was led by Carl and operated out of his Unity Fellowship Church on Jefferson Boulevard between La Brea and Hauser. They helped us expand throughout South Los Angeles and all the way to Long Beach.

When I joined Project Angel Food in 1997, another church was acting as our distribution point for South Los Angeles, but with the death of that congregation’s AIDS minister in the early 2000’s, we needed to find a new home. That’s when we reunited with Archbishop Bean, who was happy to take us in at Minority AIDS Project. Their community center became our South Los Angeles distribution center.

Here’s how it worked: our Project Angel Food staff driver would drop off meals at Minority AIDS Project, then a volunteer from that area, who we called “Mr. Chris,” would make deliveries to our clients from there. He rarely ever missed a delivery day for nearly 15 years; he said it was his personal mission. 

One day the regular driver was out, so as the Dispatch Manager I jumped into the field and took the meals to Unity Hall to meet Mr.Chris. As I entered the hall a big handsome charismatic gentlemen greeted me with a smile and a deep, “Hello and Welcome.” I still hear that booming voice in my head that resonated with the power of love.

I returned his greeting and went about my business. When I saw Mr. Chris, he laughed and said, “I see you met the big boss.” That was how I came to meet Archbishop Carl Bean.

Project Angel Food, Los Angeles and the world lost an icon of the AIDS movement. Archbishop Dean was instrumental in our growth and into the inclusive agency we are today. His legacy reminds us that we are all worthy of love and hope “Love IS for Everyone.”

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LAPD seeking registered sex offender in June Wi-Spa incident

The suspect has a lengthy criminal history which includes nearly a dozen felony convictions for crimes ranging from sex offenses to burglary

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Photo Credit: City of Los Angeles Police Department

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has charged 52-year-old Darren Merager, a registered sex offender, with five felony counts of indecent exposure stemming from a viral video incident of an alleged exposure at the Wi-Spa on June 23, 2021.

The spa, which is located in the 2700 block of Wilshire Boulevard in the Westlake/Koreatown neighborhood, had been the focal point of targeted violent protests against Trans people by far-right extremists the Proud Boys and other radical right-wing groups after the incident was posted to Instagram and went viral.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Blade Thursday via phone, Los Angeles Police Department Public Information Officer Tony Im confirmed that an arrest warrant has been issued for Merager, whose last known residence is in Riverside County East of Los Angeles, but Merager was not in custody as of Thursday evening he said.

Five individuals, four females and a female minor, had come forward to report the indecent exposure incident to the LAPD. Detectives assigned to LAPD’s Rampart Division conducted interviews of victims and witnesses, reviewed the evidence, and ultimately corroborated the allegations.

The investigation was presented to the LA County DA’s Office for filing consideration and Merager’s actions were deemed criminal. The suspect has been a registered sex offender since 2006 as per California Penal Code 290, due to indecent exposure incidents in 2002 and 2003. 

Merager has a lengthy criminal history which includes nearly a dozen felony convictions for crimes ranging from sex offenses to burglary and escape. In December of 2018, investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s West Hollywood substation arrested Merager on seven felony indecent exposure counts, stemming from allegations of indecent exposure in front of women and children at West Hollywood Park.

Merager is currently awaiting trial on the seven counts which were first filed in 2019 by the LA County DA’s office according to court records obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

In poster distributed in December of 2018 by the LA County Sheriff’s Department, Merager is described as “claims to be female in order to gain access to women’s locker rooms and showers.”

The LA DA’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment or provide a copy of the criminal complaint against Merager according to the Times. A Blade request has also gone unanswered as of time of publication Thursday evening.

In a lengthy interview with the New York Post first published Thursday morning, “Everything about the Wi-Spa was a bunch of garbage and lies,” Merager said.

Merager went on to claim a Trans female gander identity and says [she] is legally female in California and was in a jacuzzi in the women’s section when accosted by “Cubana Angel.” 

“She never saw me naked. I was underwater with water all the way up to my chest,” Merager told the Post and denies ever being erect or around children at the spa. Merager claims to actually be the victim of sexual harassment by transphobic women at the Wi Spa.

Merager is a tier-one California registered sex offender with two prior convictions of indecent exposure stemming from the 2002 and 2003 convictions and declined to comment on those convictions. In 2008 Merager was also convicted for failure to register as a sex offender.

A Trans activist who asked to remain unidentified told the Blade that the situation with Merager is a Trans person’s worst nightmare; “This is no different than the religious fundies claiming all gay guys are paedophiles and want to diddle little boys,” they said adding; “Horrible scenarios like this are used as justification to attack Trans people- this isn’t a trans person regardless of claims made, no this is a serial sexual predator, a criminal deviant.”  

Detectives are asking anyone who may be a victim or has additional information regarding this investigation to contact Rampart Detectives at (213) 484-3450. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). 

Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call the LA Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477) or go directly to www.lacrimestoppers.org.  Tipsters may also visit www.lapdonline.org and click on “Anonymous Web Tips” under the “Get Involved-Crime Stoppers” menu.

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LA County Supervisors appoint new head for commission on homeless

The Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness will hold its first virtual meeting on September 8, 2021 at 10 a.m

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Former Los Angeles County Counsel Mary Wickham speaking in 2019 (Photo Credit: Los Angeles County)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have appointed former Los Angeles County Counsel Mary Wickham as Executive Director of the newly formed Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness, effective Tuesday.

The Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness was established following the July 27 motion authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger and co-authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, to research and provide recommendations to the Board for a new homelessness governance model that is appropriate for Los Angeles County.

“It’s an honor to serve the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the residents of Los Angeles County as Executive Director of the Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness. I thank the Board for their leadership on this issue and look forward to working with the Commission to report back on governance models,” said Wickham who was hired as a 120-day retiree.

The commission will be made up of 12 members, with one appointed by each of the five Supervisors, one by the mayor of Los Angeles, three from the Los Angeles City Council president, two from the Councils of Government, and one nominated by the Contract Cities Association. The new Commission will be housed under the Executive Office of the Board.

“The Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness has brought together experts who will use their diverse perspectives to find clear, strategic solutions to the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles County,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. “I’m eager to see the commissioners, who bring representation from across the county, cut through the red tape to guide real results in our mission to provide housing, health, and mental health care to those on our streets. With the guidance of our former County Counsel Mary Wickham as the Executive Director, I am confident the next six months will result in thoughtful, effective outcomes.”

Wickham, who retired in July 2021 after 23 years of service, will lead the aggressive, in-depth study of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) governance to identify intrinsic challenges of the existing system and provide recommendations for improvement to the Board within a six-month time frame. Some of those recommendations will focus on the design of an enhanced framework that ensures an accountable governance.

After leaving her post as Los Angeles County Counsel, Wickham was appointed to serve as a Commissioner for the Superior Courts in the Criminal Division.

Prior to County Counsel, she served as Executive Director of the County Equity Oversight Panel overseeing all aspects of the Countywide Workplace Equity Program.

“Mary brings the experience needed to help facilitate this new Commission in tackling homelessness crisis,” said Celia Zavala, Executive Officer of the Board. “We are eager to support this new Commission who will offer solutions to the Board to help them navigate this multi-layered complex issue.”

The Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness will hold its first virtual meeting on September 8, 2021 at 10 a.m. For more information, visit bos.lacounty.gov.

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