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Embattled Golden Globes scramble for show of diversity

Sincerity of message left in doubt

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Jodie Foster kisses wife Alexandra Hedison during Sunday’s broadcast of the Golden Globes. (Screen capture via YouTube)

HOLLYWOOD – Going into Sunday’s Golden Globes presentation, you already knew the Hollywood Foreign Press Association would be doing damage control.

One week before, the Los Angeles Times published a scathing investigative report that called into question – yet again – the legitimacy of the influential organization behind the awards, citing the body’s lack of diversity, its oft-questioned ethical and financial practices, and its penchant for bestowing its honors on the films and shows whose studios had done the best job of wining and dining its members.

If that were not enough, in the days leading up to the awards the HFPA was blasted by the Time’s Up organization (along with many prominent Hollywood voices) on social media for omitting several strongly favored Black-led films from this year’s top categories. Finally, on the very morning of the ceremony, the charity ran a full-page paid ad in the Times proclaiming the fact that, out of the HFPA’s 87 members, not a single one is Black.

So, as the 78th Golden Globes began, the HFPA had a lot more on its agenda than simply handing out trophies in a ceremony that has come to be seen as the most significant precursor to the all-important Oscars; it also had to make a convincing case for itself as the sole arbiter of who gets those influential trophies. Whether or not they succeeded might well have turned out to be irrelevant, by the end.

For anyone who tuned in to NBC’s bicoastal awards broadcast without having heard or seen anything about the controversy, things might not have seemed that different, at first. Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were in fine form, and if their sly banter contained a considerable amount of humor at the expense of the HFPA’s sketchy reputation, that was nothing unusual – after all, poking fun of the Globes has always been a Hollywood pastime.

As things went on, though, it would have been impossible for anyone not to take note of the seriousness with which the evening was occasionally hijacked by such moments as the introduction of Spike Lee’s children, Satchel and Jackson, as “Golden Globe Ambassadors,” or the sudden appearance of three high-ranking HFPA members to offer a thinly disguised mea culpa in the form of a pledge to move the organization toward “a more inclusive future.” These gestures, marked with a level of pomp that made them feel all the more perfunctory, did little to encourage confidence in the organization’s sincerity.

Far more effective were the awards themselves. While no Black-led films made the cut in the nominations for Best Motion Picture Drama (that award went to the Chloé Zhao-directed “Nomadland”), some did take prizes in other major categories.

Both of the Leading Performance categories in Motion Picture Drama went to Black winners. Andra Day was named Best Actress for her powerful performance as the titular jazz icon in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” a film that documents the decades-long persecution of Holiday by the American government over her anti-racist song “Strange Fruit.” The Best Actor prize, in a win that felt both inevitable and well-deserved, was posthumously awarded to Chadwick Boseman for his searing star turn in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

The Best Supporting Actor award went to Daniel Kaluuya, for his work in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Among the competitors he beat out was Leslie Odom Jr., nominated for his performance as Sam Cooke in the Regina King-directed “One Night in Miami.” King joined Zhao and Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Women”) as one of three female nominees for Best Director – a category that has previously only included five women in its entire history. Zhao took the win, becoming the first Asian-American female to do so.

The sole Black winner among the television categories was John Boyega, awarded Best Supporting Actor in a Series for his performance in “Small Axe.” The only other Black nominee, Don Cheadle (for his role in “Black Monday”), lost to Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso”), whose self-effacing acceptance speech was one of the evening’s most markedly humanizing moments.

As for LGBTQ representation, many of the categories featured films that included LGBTQ characters, storylines, and performers. In the awards for television, the most obvious nod to queer audiences was the win by “Schitt’s Creek” for Best Comedy Series, and by its beloved star Catherine O’Hara for Leading Comedy Actress. Ryan Murphy’s “Ratched,” which had received nods for out actresses Sarah Paulson and Cynthia Nixon, failed to score a win.

On the movie side, Murphy’s screen version of the Broadway musical “The Prom,” about the fight for queer inclusivity at a high school, also ended the evening empty-handed, as did “Two of Us,” a lesbian-themed French drama up for Best Foreign Language Film category. But there were wins too; the aforementioned acting honors for “Billie Holiday” and “Ma Rainey” came for films that incorporated the bisexuality of their real-life subjects; “The Life Ahead,” which featured a significant trans character, won for Best Song; and Rosamund Pike took the award for Best Actress in Comedy/Musical for playing a lesbian grifter in “I Care a Lot.”

The biggest gay victory of the evening, arguably, was reserved for out film legend Jodie Foster, who not only won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in “The Mauritanian,” but gave viewers the treat of seeing her share an enthusiastic kiss on the couch with wife Alexandra Hedison before launching into her acceptance speech. It was perhaps the most memorable, and certainly the most unequivocally triumphant, among many such spontaneous, intimate surprises during the broadcast.

It’s that kind of unexpected authenticity that ultimately saved the Golden Globes, at least in the moment, from its sins. In a broadcast stripped of its usual lavish trappings by the necessity of producing a scaled-down-for-COVID version of one of Hollywood’s most excessive celebrity parties, what gradually became apparent was how little the Globes themselves – or any of the industry’s other self-congratulatory awards – actually matter in a world enveloped by much bigger concerns.

The movie stars, like the rest of us, were viewing from home; watching them negotiate the awkward fumbles and technical mishaps of the Zoom-style interface that is now painfully familiar to us all, seeing the way their unfiltered reactions mirrored our own, recognizing the tenderness and affection we share with our loved ones in the private moments we saw them share with theirs – these glimpses of common humanity felt far more significant than any of the accolades being awarded. The egalitarian sentiment they evoked, unintended and unforeseen, far overshadowed the heavy-handed efforts made by the HFPA to save face for its missteps.

Make no mistake though – those missteps matter. The Golden Globes have a long way to go before they can prove the sincerity of their stated intention to create a more diverse membership and promote a more inclusive industry. Last Sunday’s fumble of an awards show may have been elevated, in spite of itself, by the human element that crept in around its edges, but that’s not enough to get the HFPA off the hook.

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Belinda Carlisle brings a heavenly Christmas Bash December 16th

Her work evolves beyond the demands of the pop market while never losing its hooks and whimsy. it reflects Belinda’s evolving life

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Courtesy of Belinda Carlise

HOLLYWOOD – On December 16th, 7pm, the city of West Hollywood transforms into a piece of “Heaven on Earth.” An angelic supernatural deity from the sky won’t be delivering this gift, but rather an angel from iconic pop paradise.

That night, Belinda Carlisle makes a grand entrance and gives an eager audience the presence of a queen of pop, the most recent inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with her group, The Go-Gos.

It will be on that night that Belinda Carlisle hosts THE party event of the season with co-host, drag superstar, Trixie Mattel. One sings, one throws comedic shade, and a packed room at the Abbey will be losing their collective minds.  Not that the party itself isn’t all the reason you would need to get it on your calendar, the evening benefits a fantastic charity, The Animal People Alliance (APA), that intertwines the love for animals with the salve to human suffering.

Courtesy of Trixie Mattel

APA’s charter reads: “To provide high quality and compassionate care, of the highest standards, to neglected street animals in India and Thailand. We train and employ vulnerable people from the community, and pay living wages that help them improve their standard of living.”   The organization, by employing people who would otherwise be stateless and/or in poverty, has treated over 16000 street animals since 2014. Their programs for animals include rabies vaccinations, sterilizations and other emergency health aid.

Belinda sat down with me this week on the podcast RATED LGBT RADIO to talk about her life, her amazing career, her party and the strength she has achieved in standing up to both inner and outer demons.

She survives. She fearlessly opens herself up, and if anyone scrutinizes her past… she will lead the way.  She happily tells of being a member of the most successful all-women pop bands in history.  They sang and wrote their own songs, they played their own instruments. They did it on their terms. No men were needed or required. She candidly shares about her struggles with eating disorders and drug addiction. 

Belinda shows profound compassion for those struggling with addiction and darkness, “Addiction is a sickness…it is a disease of perception, you can’t see your effect on other people… It is a trap you feel you can’t get out of. Every addict has a heart and a humanity that is obscured by addiction. It is a horrible, horrible thing for anyone to go through. It is hard to remember that there is a heart under all that, there is something divine under all that darkness.”

Her interest focuses more on what came after she embarked on recovery  “My life is much more exciting since sobriety, even more exciting than the hey day with the Go-Gos. For anyone out there who is worried about aging, or life being over at a certain point—it’s not. Life is just the most amazing miracle and privilege.”

Her significance for the LGBTQ community, impacts many of the most vulnerable.  She is the mom of a gay man, activist and writer, James Duke Mason. His birth made her examine the trajectory of fame, drugs, and rock & roll in which she was on, careening threateningly close to disaster and death.

She had settled comfortably into maternal nurturement when Duke came out to her at the age of 14. Belinda had been impressed with Duke’s ability to explain the situation to her. She found out that he had been online with PFLAG for weeks learning about how to present his news to her, information to give and educated about key talking points. 

Appreciating their real life help of a young person in need, Belinda vehemently supported PFLAG, the Trevor Project and others ever since. “I am so glad I have a gay son, I can’t even tell you,” she says.

Artistically, she also continues to thrive.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally inducted the Go-Gos this year.  It was an honor 15 years in the making.  It should have been an obvious choice to put them there.

As the first all-female group making it big, they sang, wrote every note and played every instruments. The Go-Go’s, a 2020 American/Irish/Canadian documentary film directed and produced by Alison Ellwood, cast attention on the Hall of Fame oversight, and essentially made the case for how special the group actually was.

Belinda also recently released a new single Get Together a cover of the 1967 Youngbloods hit. The Youngbloods sang it at Woodstock in 1969 to make a statement about the divisions of the Viet Nam era in America.

Belinda sings it now, her voice pure, mature and as an anthem making a plea, if not a motherly order, to reconsider the divisions we are experiencing today.  She says, “We live in this age of outrage.  This song is ‘ok people, CHILL OUT’. All this divisiveness is not going to get us anywhere. It’s timely.”

Beyond Get Together, Belinda works on more new music including singles and a new album.  She continues to produce with the top song creators of the industry including award winning song writer Diane Warren and Go-Gos dates at the end of the year.

Her work evolves beyond the demands of the pop market while never losing its hooks and whimsy. it reflects the channeling of Belinda’s evolving life.  When she lived in France, she released a French collection.

As she delved into spirituality and the culture of Thailand, she released the powerful Wilder Shores, which blended a spiritual mantra into pop hooks. “Chanting is a science, it has a super power. It is not airy fairy,” she states.

The fact is, Belinda Carlisle continues arriving and thrilling.  She does not need to prove herself to anyone.  She has defined the next thirty years of her life as philanthropy.  

“I just wing it as I go along. I learned what it is like to work from the heart. Work in a way where you don’t care about any kind of outcome. That is how I am working now. I am just having fun, and doing just what I want. I am really lucky that way,” she declares.

Her party on December 16th at the Abbey appears right on track to bear that out.

Love, humanity, care of animals and a major splash of fabulousness enveloping an enthused audience.

In other words, pure Belinda.

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Listen to the full interview:

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Rob Watson is the host of RATED LGBT RADIO, a national podcast and he’s one of the founders of the evolequals.com.

A gay dad, business man, community activist and a blogger/writer, Watson is a contributor to the Los Angeles Blade covering entertainment, film, television, and culture with occasional politics tossed in.

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Andy Grammer partners with Trans Chorus of Los Angeles

Celebrating how important it is to live your life, your authenticity, and to feel good about who you are

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Andy Grammer partnered with the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles (Screenshot via YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – In honor of Transgender Awareness Week, Andy Grammer partnered with the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles (America’s first Trans Chorus, embracing all members of the trans, non-binary and intersex communities) for a special live performance of “Damn It Feels Good To Be Me” – celebrating how important it is to live your life, your authenticity, and to feel good about who you are. What a special moment. In conjunction with the partnership a donation has been made by Andy to the TCLA.

A note from TCLA: “The Chorus really enjoyed the song and especially performing it with Andy around the piano. It was upbeat and expressed how important it is to live your life and your authenticity and to feel good about who you are. That is the thrust of our Chorus philosophy of moving from victim to victorious.”

Connect with the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles:https://transchorusla.org/

Andy Grammer – Damn It Feels Good To Be Me (featuring Trans Chorus of Los Angeles)

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Michael Kearns, the Godfather of LGBTQ+ authenticity

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level

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Michael Kearns by Keida Mascaro

HOLLYWOOD – The arc of LGBTQ+ history over the past 50 years has been one of constant upheaval and evolvement. From a period when it was both illegal and insane to be gay, through the achievement of being able to serve openly in the military, to marriage equality and the ability to create families to today’s fight against the tyranny against Trans people, the movement has not stopped to take a breath.

Michael Kearns, the first recognized “out” actor on the Hollywood landscape, has been a visible presence through it all. More importantly, he has always” been visible on the gay scene. In the seventies he epitomized the free love and erotic freedom that many gay men lived. He was featured in classic gay porn movies and did a PR stint as the face of the “happy hustler.”  

“That was my introduction to a lot of people,” Michael told me when we sat down for a chat on Rated LGBT Radio. “I kind of captured the zeitgeist of the times, the freewheeling seventies. We forget that there was that period of time when sexuality was joyful and exciting and thrilling.”

In the eighties he was visible in mainstream media as a gay man playing gay men characters. In 1983, Michael was cast in a minor role on the Cheers Emmy winning episode “the Boys in the Bar.”  He was instantly recognized for his gay sexual iconic status by LGBTQ audiences, even though the population at large did not know who he was. The casting director who fought for his casting was Stephen Kolzak, who would himself become a prominent AIDS activist before he died at 37 in 1990. Stephen casted Michael to make a statement. He wanted to signal to the LGBTQ community that Cheers had our backs. “He was one of the only ones that had the guts,” Michael remembers.

“There were a lot of stereotypes in television regarding gay portrayals. I was pegged and cast in some of those roles. I did play the stereotype, but rather than a straight guy playing those roles, I brought authenticity. I was real. Straight guys playing gay would always spoof the role. They were always ‘winking’ and signaling to the camera ‘I am not really that way.’  So, the performances are by in large horrible, even with some academy award winners. The actors were constantly saying that it was not who they were—if they weren’t making that clear on the talk shows, they were doing it in the performance itself.’ Michael says.

Michael soon morphed into an HIV positive man playing HIV positive characters, while off camera becoming a visible and vocal AIDS activist. “It was a new kind of cliché. They had to always make me look horrible. The ghastlier the better. They could not have an HIV character who looked normal—as I did when I arrived at the set. Finally, I had enough and refused to do that anymore.” Michael then immersed himself in theater where he found greater character honesty and truth.

 As gay men captured their identities in the 90s as husbands and fathers, Michael was there too—becoming one of the first gay men to adopt a child.  It is that role, as a father, that Michael has said is his greatest.

Today, Michael has been a driving force behind QueerWise, a multigenerational writing collective and performance group. Through QueerWise, Michael gives poetic voice to talent that would otherwise be voiceless. Its members include published poets, writers of fiction and non-fiction, playwrights, singers, musicians, social activists, dancers, actors artists and teachers. 

This weekend, on Sunday October 17th, QueerWise launches its latest work, The Ache for Home. 

“The Ache for Home is a video presentation of heartfelt stories from formerly homeless/unhoused individuals in and around West Hollywood. It was developed through a mentorship program facilitated by QueerWise members. The production represents citizens-turned-writers who share their inspirational stories from those glamorous streets and sidewalks, ranging from soaring self-acceptance to narratives of truth-telling defeats,” states Michael. The production can be seen on QueerWise’s YouTube Channel starting 5pm October 17.

The Ache for Home features a young cis male with a passion for music and art, who finds joy “when I can put a smile on someone’s face and give back”, a retired mixed race bisexual government worker who is a voracious reader and literacy advocate, two trans males share their experiences of living on the street, and a former resident playwright who was homeless for 44 days and nights in the city. “I am thrilled at our inclusion of transmen in this work,” Michael says. “It is a poorly represented community within a poorly represented community.”

On current controversies with media and transgender targeting, particularly the Dave Chappelle issue, Michael remarks, “I am glad it is generating passion. It is bringing up conversation on the plights of black trans women who are victimized at an alarming rate, we should not say victimized… we should say murdered. I am glad we are shedding light on that.”

Michael’s work has been described as “collisions of sex and death, of eroticism and grief,” but he has truly dug to an even deeper level. The Ache for Home takes its inspiration from the Maya Angelou quote, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Michael Kearns work has always encouraged us to go, and live, “as we are.” He is the amalgamation of eroticism, grief, healing, and appreciating the richness of life itself.

He is the godfather of LGBT+ authenticity. In earlier days, he may have represented sex, he may have walked us through a period of darkness and death into the arms of the creation of the new family. He has now brought us home, and when we look at him, we see a new quality.

Wisdom.

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Rob Watson is the host of RATED LGBT RADIO, a national podcast and he’s one of the founders of the evolequals.com.

A gay dad, business man, community activist and a blogger/writer, Watson is a contributor to the Los Angeles Blade covering entertainment, film, television, and culture with occasional politics tossed in.

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Listen to the show here:

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