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Reading the Queens

Who reads the reader? Roy Tomko will tell you.

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Roy Tomko via Instagram

In the heady days before COVID-19 precautions shuttered the clubs and bars that were home away from home for many of us, drag queens counted on those man caves for the lion’s share of their income—and we relied on them as healing truth-tellers, whose acid-tongued observations made “reading for filth” among the most crowd-pleasing arrows in their queeny quivers.

But when these wise men in wigs have their own troubles to bear, who among us will walk a mile in their heels, and point them to the light? No! Don’t go to the light! Who reads the reader?

Broadcasting from his home base on the east coast with a message as custom-made as the best-fitting wig you’ve ever worn comes Roy Tomko, whose IGTV show—“Reading the Queen”—is not another Tik Tok drag show. There are no lipsynchs or death drops. But there are drag queens, and there is death. More precisely, life after death, as Tomko uses his gifts as a psychic and spirit medium, to, as the title implies, read his drag queen guests.

Roy’s Instagram Page.

Having made its debut in late November 2020, “Reading the Queen” is a product of our pandemic era. Although Tomko had been aware of his heightened perceptions from childhood, it was not, his website notes, “until recent major shifts in the world (COVID-19) that inspired Roy to focus his gift to help others.”

And if you’re going to help others, why not start with giving a little leg up to our drag artists, who’ve spent the past year devoid of their usual platforms for expression? For those familiar with the reality TV formula that “Reading the Queen” uses as a structural template (think “Long Island Medium”), Tomko’s focus on drag talent puts a refreshingly candid, anything goes spin on the proceedings—as does his own identity as a gay man whose unabashedly “sensitive” nature amplifies the self-confidence necessary to put his queens at ease. The resulting banter between out, gay host and out-there guest anchors the show in Must-See territory, with occasional OMG moments where the reality of accepting all of this as reality gets, well, frickin’ real.

That said, detractors and debunkers determined to deny anything happening here other than intuition and wishful thinking will find no shortage of straws to grasp at—but as the metaphor implies, even when bundled, straws have a way of slipping through the firmest of fists.

That’s the Blade’s way of saying believe it or not. We watched quite few installments of “Reading the Queen,” and the only thing we can say for sure is that drag queens have unusually well-calibrated bullshit detectors that we’ve yet to see go off during or after a reading.

In fact, raves via many a queen’s social media are plentiful. Rhea Litre, after her reading, said to the Los Angeles Blade, “OMG. My eyes have been completely opened. I used to be so afraid of the spiritual world, but that was just because I was afraid of it. I think once you remove fear from a situation, you can understand it a bit more. At least that’s what happened to me! Roy is a true professional and I absolutely adore him.”

Asked about any paranormal fallout, Litre noted no incidents of significance after the fact, but did tell us the experience confirmed her intuition upon moving to Las Vegas, and talk of her late grandfather during the reading with Roy has colored her perception of their relationship.

“I felt such weird energy around when I moved my granddad’s stuff into my house,” recalled Litre. “I think he just wanted me to know he was there. Ever since the reading, I feel his spirit but it’s nice. I wear his necklace everyday. I feel closer to my granddad more than ever.” 

The Blade recently spoke with Tomko about the unique alchemy of “Reading the Queen,” but started with a discussion about coming out, coming into his own.

Blade: Not to sound crass right out of the gate, but what are you, Roy Tomko? I mean, how do you define your own abilities, in terms of using them to help others?

Roy Tomko: I identify as a psychic [spirit] medium. I believe that most mediums are psychics, but a lot of psychics are not always mediums. A medium is someone who can connect with a loved one that has crossed over to the other side. So when you do a mediumship reading, you are communicating with a loved one that has passed, and providing a healing message of love from the spirit to their sitter.

A psychic reading is when someone is coming to you for guidance, for predictions, to kind of see what might be going on in their life: Can you feel into a situation that’s happening? Could you give me a prediction, could you o see where an outcome might be? And a lot of times, I don’t go more than a six-month prediction time zone, because we all have our own free will, and the free will, of course, guides [and can change] the path of that individual. 

Blade: Are there any similarities between coming out as an LGBTQ+ and coming out as a person with special abilities, aka gifts?

Tomko: I never hid who I was, as far as my sexuality. I embraced it, and was very fortunate to have very loving parents who empowered me, who stood behind me, and propelled me—and I’m 100 percent grateful to have that upbringing… The thing was, I just felt I could not come out twice within the same time frame, with two different things. So I was very, very selective with who I told about my gifts. When I finally did come out and start to tell people, I will be honest with you: I think people accepted my being gay [more easily] than my being a psychic medium. And the reason for that is because, I feel, people have their own religious belief. People don’t always see this as a very  open or welcoming experience. People are also very afraid of the unknown, or afraid that someone might find something out about you that no one else would know, because of your ability. That’s when they get frightened and back away; So I did lose [friends] when the initial rollout happened.

Blade: That’s unfortunate, that people think, “Oh, here comes Roy down the hall. He’s gonna know what I did last night by the time he gets here.” Is that the case, or are we just projecting?

Tomko: I don’t have it on all the time. No psychic medium should walk around, open, 24/7, reading every Peter, Paul, and Mary. 

I ask permission at the beginning of a reading. I say, “Do you allow me to connect with you?” When I get permission, that is when we go ahead with the reading. 

Blade: When we initially spoke, you recalled how the idea for “Reading the Queen” came during a group viewing of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” during which you all wondered what it would be like if you did a reading with RuPaul. The idea stuck, and you consulted your spirit guides, then woke up the next morning and…   

Tomko: And I was like, “Oh, my God. I’m gonna reach out to a couple of people and see what happens. So Call Her Six, I love her  aesthetic, everything about her, and I felt a connection with her. I sent her a message on Instagram. She responded. She was like, “Let’s hop on a call, let’s do it and [after the reading] she said to me, “Honey, I’m the start but let me tell you, that ball’s gonna go rolling and you’re going to be on fire—and it’s just progressed [from there, the first reading, November 2020].

Blade: Besides the fact that they are biologically programmed to give good interviews, what makes the drag queen angle of your show unique?

Tomko: They are more free-spirited. It allows for a more fun, unconventional way of reading… When you blend these two worlds together, the spirit world and the LGBTQ+ community, it’s just a beautiful thing, and I’m just very touched by it. I’d like to do more work with the LGBTQ+ community, where I can provide more healing… But at the end of the day, these guests of mine, these drag queens, are just normal individuals. You take the makeup off, and it’s just another person sitting in front of you who’s looking for a message.”

If you are interested in booking a private reading, visit a few of these links for more information.

Instagram: @celebt10

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CJZ9aNphx9H/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

“Reading the Queen” episodes on YouTube:

Sasha Colby:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu3yewBZe2g&t=0s”https://youtu.be/Lu3yewBZe2g​

Candy Buttons:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNbEYGX4vto&t=0s”https://youtu.be/BNbEYGX4vto​

Androgyny:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YrEIsIzTPI&t=0s”https://youtu.be/9YrEIsIzTPI​

Holly Dae:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7Gs_iVW6Ss&t=0s”https://youtu.be/w7Gs_iVW6Ss

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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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