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Music loses a beloved queer icon as Ari Gold passes from cancer at 47

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Ari Gold (Image via Facebook)

NEW YORK – Ari Gold, the groundbreaking gay singer/songwriter and DJ who became a fixture of the New York dance music scene in the 2000s, came to the end of a long battle with cancer on Sunday when he passed away of leukemia. He was 47.

News of his death broke publicly when Ru Paul Charles, a longtime friend who Gold described as “the closest thing I’ve known to a mentor,” posted a tribute to the music artist on his Twitter account, saying “Until we meet again, dear friend. @SirAriGold Love always, Ru.”

Born to Orthodox Jewish parents in the Bronx, Gold’s musical gifts were discovered early when he sang at his brother Steven’s bar mitzvah at the age of 5. The performance opened the door for a professional career as a child singer and actor, in which he contributed vocals for children’s records, television shows such as “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus” and “Jem,” and over 400 commercial jingles. He also sang back-up vocals for Diana Ross.

It was after his graduation from NYU that his adult career began in earnest. He became popular performing his original music – which included explicitly gay love songs – in New York clubs like Joe’s Pub, Barracuda, Avalon, CBGB’s and many others, eventually drawing from this material to record a self-titled debut album in 2001. It won him an award for Outstanding Debut Recording at the 2002 Outmusic Awards and brought him to the attention of songwriter Desmond Child, resulting in a collaboration that yielded the single “I’m All About You,” which reached the top 10 on the UK charts for dance music and the top 20 for pop.

Gold went on to release a total of seven albums of original compositions and remixes, including 2004’s “Space Under the Sun” (which featured “Wave of You,” the video for which was the first by an out LGBTQ+ artist to world-premiere on Logo) and 2007’s “Transport Systems,” which gave him his first debut on the Billboard top 10. The latter recording included the song “Where the Music Takes You,” which won him the Grand Prize at the 13th Annual USA Songwriting Competition.

Through all his output, he was known for unabashedly embracing a proud queer sensibility and a message of sex positivity – a combination that has led many to call label him an LGBTQ “trailblazer,” and perhaps reached its pinnacle with his infectious (and controversial) 2015 single, “Sex Like a Pornstar,” which was released with an age-restricted video.

In his later career, Gold released some of his albums under the names Sir Ari Gold and GoldNation.

His musical talents led to many collaborations, both as a performer and as a songwriter, with stars including Boy George, Kevin Aviance, Sasha Allen, Adam Joseph, and Dave Koz. He became a staple performing at Pride Festivals, and his music was featured in several films. He also modeled for magazines like W and VIBE; he was chosen as one of “The 9 Hottest Men in NYC” by H/X magazine and one of the hottest men in the world by DNA magazine.

In 2007, he took on a supporting role in Ru Paul’s film “Starrbooty,” playing the character of Tyrone Cohen.

Gold’s battle with cancer began in 2013 when he was diagnosed with myelodsplastic syndrome (MDS), a blood cancer which can be cured with a bone marrow transplant. During treatment, he started a podcast called “A Kiki From the Cancer Ward” in order to continue being creative. He recorded seven episodes, with guests including Charles and Aviance, Drag Race finalist Peppermint, and trans actress and icon Laverne Cox.

After receiving a transplant, Gold was declared “cancer free” in 2019, but in the days before his death it was revealed in an Instagram post by his elder brother Elon that he was once again battling leukemia at MSK Sloan in New York.

After news of his death broke, social media flooded with tributes and remembrances from many of Gold’s famous friends.

Cox tweeted: “I’m so utterly devastated that you’ve moved on today. But I know you’ll be watching over me as you always have. I’m so grateful to have known you. I’m better because you have been a part of my life. My brother! I love you so much! Rest in Power!!”

Actor, director and musician John Cameron Mitchell, perhaps best known as the creator of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” posted on Instagram: “What a light and a pioneer in pop. He was out long before it was fashionable and took so many artistic risks. Loved him. What a sweetheart. Wishing his friends and family peace of heart and mind. Rest In Peace dear Ari.” Gold’s music was prominently featured in Mitchell’s film “Shortbus.”

Also on Instagram, Tony and Emmy winner Billy Porter paid tribute to Gold, with whom he had a long and enduring friendship, with a moving post: “Wow, I can’t believe I’m typing these words…. R.I.P. Ari Gold, you were truly a trailblazer in so many ways. You lived freely, unapologetically and proudly. I promise to continue pushing forward in your memory. I’ll make sure the world continues to see and respect our community as you always knew they should.”

On Facebook, Legendary Deee-Lite manager and music producer Bill Coleman wrote: “I’ll always remember Ari as a talented, unapologetic, committed, forthright, fierce, supportive, stylish, Wonder Woman-lovin’, body positive, proud and sexy life force to be reckoned with. He was on a mission. Our paths crossed many times over the decades – both business and personal. I appreciated Ari’s strident voice and his willingness to speak up for others. He was one of ours. Rest in power, love. You left the world changed.”

Los Angeles Blade publisher Troy Masters recalls: “In the early 90s I interviewed Ari for Gay City News and he and I had a long conversation about him as a high school bon vivant which led me to give him a nickname which he loved and embraced for many years, ‘Madonna of the yeshiva.’

“It was so much fun in his apartment sitting on his bed for some reason and my mind kept wandering,” said Masters. “He was the last person I said farewell to in 2015 when I left NYC and moved to LA. He spotted me on 9th Avenue, shouting my name and I somehow heard him. I crossed the street and we had an emotional embrace. I’m so glad he was in my life.”

In tribute to her cousin, Meryl Sherwood shared a few favorite videos with the Blade. You can watch those below, as well as videos for some of Gold’s most beloved songs.

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Julia Scotti, the movie, is just Funny That Way

Life is funny that way—not working out quite the way we thought it would. And that is ultimately the point

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Graphic courtesy of Susan Sandler

WHITING, NJ. – “You are a piece of work, Julia!” Simon Cowell blurted during her landmark America’s Got Talent debut.  Julia Scotti had just completed her audition for the show that ended not only with a standing ovation, but with the revelation that she had once upon a time been a stand-up comedian named Rick. As that news crossed the faces of the four judges, their collective jaws dropped. “I mean like you come out as the nice little granny school teacher all sweet and then you go into your routine and like WHOA. Talk about surprises – they are never ending with you, are they?” Cowell finished.

With Julia Scotti, the surprises never end.

Her latest surprise for the public is a gem of a film, Julia Scotti: Funny That Way.  It is a documentary of her journey from the days of Rick, the up and coming comic who performed on bills with Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld to Julia, who is wowing millions.

Of her transition, Julia has remarked. “It is NEVER an easy process whether you’re a public figure or not. You are essentially killing your old self and ending your old life. And with that comes the history you’ve built with friends and family. Some are very accepting, but most are not. That is why the suicide attempt rate for Trans  folk is still at 41%.”

Funny That Way does not spare us the heart-breaking fallout from the virtual “death’ of Rick Scotti.  Filmmaker Susan Sandler weaves Julia’s story, the losses and damage, to her rebirth, healing and the reuniting with her kids after a 15-year estrangement.

Julia and Susan sat down with us on the podcast Rated LGBT Radio to talk about the film.  “This is a story and like all stories, there is a beginning and a middle and an end. In the end, I want the audience to know there is HOPE. It is bumpy at times, joyous at times.  It is not just isolated to my life. You can have that in your life when you walk through that door of your own truth and come out the other side and when you look back on all you went through, you go ‘what the hell was I so afraid of?’ Look how happy I am.” Julia explains.

Susan had never directed a documentary before, but as one of Hollywood’s master story tellers, and a Golden Globe nominee, she was unfazed.  “The impetus behind this film was falling in love with Julia, her, then and now.  If you are working from a really rich, complex, compelling character –which is Julia—that is the GIFT. All of my nerve endings, my story telling, told me this was dynamic documentary, and that’s the form in which I wanted to tell it.”

Susan took five years to research, document and interact with Julia’s past.  She went through old footage of Rick Scotti’s stage acts and restored many of them so they could be used in the film. She brought on composer Matt Hutchinson for a beautiful score, and animator Sam Roth for whimsical cartoons that tie the story together.

Before the filming started, Julia had just re-connected with her son Dan, and daughter Emma.  A decade and a half ago, when Julia announced to her then spouse that she was in fact a woman transitioning, her then-wife retaliated by taking their kids away.  Dan and Emma spent their whole adolescence not knowing Julia at all. The story of that pain is told in Funny That Way.  Susan wanted to show the relationships real-time in the film as they came to reconnect with Julia. “We were just at the beginning stages of reconciling,” recounts Julia. “I did not want them feeling like I was just reconnecting with them because I wanted them in this film. I did not want to distance them even more.”

Dan and Emma were onboard, however.  Also on board, albeit only by phone, was Kate. Kate was  Julia’s last wife, described as Julia’s “love of her life”. Kate supported Julia emotionally and spiritually through out the entire transition process.  One of the most poignant moments in the film was Julia hearing Kate describe the end of their relationship.  Kate’s support was significant, but once Julia became fully Julia, it was evident to both that their relationship had changed and they had to let it go.

Susan captured many live moments of Julia’s evolving life.  She caught the very first time that son Dan ever called Julia “his mother” and the effect was pronounced.  Also caught in the film was a moment when Julia and Dan are watching Rick’s old stand up routines.  One such performance  takes Julia by surprise—it was a routine that she had not remembered ever doing.  It was a set where then Rick expressed his revulsion to transgender women in no uncertain terms.  Julia sat shocked.

“My sensibilities have been ‘woked’, I think that is the term for it.” She told me about that experience. ”Thinking back, I was going through issues and aware that something was not right internally. It frightened me to no end.  Looking at that clip, I am totally ashamed of what I did. It embarrassed me.”

“I knew it was me. I knew I was there. But I don’t feel a connection with that person.  That is the truth.”

The film does not dwell long on the past shames and regrets.  It arcs to the present where an adult daughter gets to see her parent’s comedy routine for the very first time.

Some of the greatest joy in the film is witnessing the growing relationship between Julia and son Dan. Dan is sweet and compassionate, and they both have a deep love of comedy.  Through their discussions and collaboration on things funny, we witness something decidedly not funny, the deep re-kindling love they have for each other.

The film will make you laugh, and cry, and laugh again.  New clips of Julia’s now famous turn on America’s Got Talent shows her more personal reflective moments over a life changing triumph.

The only regret director Sandler has about the film is how it will be brought to the public. “I am happy to be brining the film now for the people who have an appetite for it. For the truth, the humor, the complete emotional honesty.  But I mourn. I mourn the moments not being able to sit with you in a theater. And experiencing the film with you. It was supposed to be seen by audiences, and then give them the opportunity to go down the street and see Julia live at a club.”  But, life is funny that way—not working out quite the way we thought it would.   And that is ultimately the point.

Editor’s Note: The film was originally slated for theatrical release which was delayed then put off by the coronavirus pandemic.

Julia Scotti: Funny That Way is available now on digital platforms! That means you can rent or buy it online, at places like iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and more.

Here’s the full list of where you can find it. 

DIGITAL

iTunes
Amazon
Google Play
Xbox
VUDU
FandangoNow
Vimeo On Demand

CABLE / SATELLITE

iN Demand Movies
Verizon
AT&T
Vubiquity
DirecTV
Dish
Telus

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Gigi Gorgeous to launch ‘Queerified’ podcast

The now-celebrated star and activist fist began her rise to stardom with the creation of her YouTube channel in 2008

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Gigi Gorgeous via YouTube

HOLLYWOOD – We all know there are a lot of podcasts out there, but there is always room for one more – especially when it comes from Gigi Gorgeous.

The social-media star, TV personality and transgender activist has announced the launch of “Queerified,” a weekly podcast she will co-hosted with longtime best friend Marc Lamentac – better known as Mimi. Timed for a Pride Month premiere, the show will be built around discussions between the two friends, touching on topics such as growing up queer, life lessons and successes, and the celebration of “queer joy” every day. Gigi and Mimi will also be joined by special guests in the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond.

Says Gorgeous in a statement, “On ‘Queerified,’ I wanted to start a conversation that is empowering, entertaining and humorous, having an open dialogue about the issues and experiences that made me the person I am today.”

The now-celebrated star and activist fist began her rise to stardom with the creation of her YouTube channel in 2008. Still a student at a high school in Toronto, she posted beauty, fashion and makeup tutorial videos, while offering viewers encouragement and inspiration to stand up to bullying and harassment by expressing themselves authentically. encouraging viewers to express themselves in the face of bullying and harassment. At the age of 19, she came out in a video as a gay male, and in 2013 announced that she was a transgender woman.

The next year, she documented her transition on YouTube, eventually laying the groundwork for the documentary “This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.” In 2019, she published the memoir, “He Said, She Said: Lessons, Stories and Mistakes From My Transgender Journey.” The same year, she married fellow activist Nats Getty, a model, artist, and designer whose fashion line Strike Oil is currently being sold at Saks to benefit Pride charities.

“Queerified” – which launches Wednesday, June 16 – is produced by podcast network Ramble, a division of Cadence13. Chris Corcoran, chief content officer for the companies, says, “Gigi has a larger-than-life personality, and an equally powerful voice as an activist. As Pride is celebrated around the world, we’re excited to welcome Gigi and Mimi to the Ramble and Cadence13 family.”

The show’s producers have set up a toll-free hotline (in the U.S.) for listeners to offer feedback and leave comments for Gigi and Mimi, at 844-QUEERYS (844-783-3797). “This is totally a space that’s safe for you,” reads the description for their podcast.

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Colton Underwood, Greyson Chance+ more Amazon Live Pride Festival!

Greyson Chance and former Bachelor star, Colton Underwood, will be streaming live to discuss how they show their Pride, answer fan questions

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SEATTLE, WA. – Happy Pride Month! Amazon Live is hosting its first-ever Pride Festival this Thursday (6/10) and Friday (6/11) from 3-6pm ET. Your favorite celebrities and influencers, including recording artist, Greyson Chance and former Bachelor star, Colton Underwood, will be streaming live to discuss how they show their Pride, answer fan questions, and share their top Pride picks across fashion, beauty, books, movies, and TV.

Customers can watch HERE via desktop, mobile, or through the Amazon Live Shopping app on Fire TV. Customers can interact directly with the celebrities and influencers via live chat, and easily shop the products and brands discussed through a carousel that updates in real-time.

The scheduled events are as follows:

DAY ONE (6/10):

  • 3PM ET: Greyson Chance will perform from his upcoming EP Trophies, releasing on June 25, and share his curated selection of Pride merch.
  • 4PM ET: Jo Duree will stream a “get ready with me,” inviting viewers to do their makeup alongside her as she shows top tips and tricks.
  • 5PM ET: Pride House LA is throwing the ULTIMATE pride variety show! Featuring top products, you will be fully entertained with special guest performances and amazing talent!

DAY TWO (6/11):

  • 3PM ET: Colton Underwood will discuss his life, answer viewer questions, and share the products that help him show off his pride.
  • 4PM ET: Jake Warden will demo a Pride makeup look.
  • 5PM ET: Olga Von Light will discuss her coming out story, and share some favorite Pride related merchandise and why the products are meaningful to her. 

We’d love to have you join! Check out this blog post for more information about how Amazon is celebrating Pride Month.

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