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Paul Richmond Soars with Phoenix and Butterfly Wings

“Taking pride in myself as an artist was my life raft,” he says.



Monterey Bay area artist Paul Richmond with his painting created for singer Dolly Parton

MONTEREY – Paul Richmond’s paintings are mind-blowing.  Filled with abstraction of color, motion, form and vibrancy, they focus on the unique identity of the subject and that subject’s inner life with its own abstraction of pain, joy and spirit.   They often blend beauty with whimsy, intrigue with eroticism. 

Paul has gained international notoriety, publication in numerous art journals and anthologies as well as exhibition in galleries and museums through the United States.  In his own words, ““My style weaves back and forth between realism and abstraction, usually incorporating aspects of both to varying degrees. There are common threads of personal narrative, self-expression, and the questioning of societal constructs around gender and sexuality.”

In full disclosure, I personally have been the subject of one of Paul’s paintings, a piece in his Promiseland exhibit called Echoes.  Seeing yourself from Paul Richmond’s perspective is not just seeing your face on a wall… he lets you see what your soul looks like.  

I recently caught up with him for an interview.

When you meet him, his boyish exuberant personality does not scream “serious artist”. He is accessible and outgoing. He laughs a lot and while not taking himself too seriously, demands due respect for his work. He is completely accessible, but after a few minutes of watching him work, you know you are in the presence of someone extraordinary.

He is an artist on the verge of soaring to great heights.  The wings with which he flies are not just his own, however.  The fluttering you may imagine hearing around him are not from him alone.

They are from his phoenix and his butterfly.  Two womanly forces – one that has inspired him, and one that has been a thorough and life-saving guiding force to his personal accomplishment.

The Phoenix:  Linda Regula

Linda Regula was Paul Richmond’s life-long art instructor. Paul met her when he was 4 years old.  She was the first person in his life who literally lived amongst their created art.  Walking into her home and seeing that environment, impressed him greatly.  She saw promise in him, and immediately told his parents that she would guide him in his talent.  

Linda’s art was both her expression and her release of the pain of abuse she had suffered.  She embraced the image of the phoenix, ““Being poor, shy, skinny, and motherless, I was bullied unmercifully as a child. When I was in the fourth grade, our teacher asked students to listen to a story about a phoenix, then to draw a picture of the mythical fire bird rising from ashes…Gathering up several crayons marked with names that I loved, I colored its feathers emerald green, ruby red, violet, and cobalt blue.

At last, satisfied that my Phoenix appeared to live within the drawing, I created a radiant yellow sun whose golden rays seemed to tease the bird into flight. I then drew glowing embers scattered beneath its feet, and colored black and brown residue clinging to its long legs to indicate that the great bird was rising from sooty ashes.”  Her phoenix was given a place of honor in her classroom, but was soon destroyed by her bully. ”Memory of that bully destroying my phoenix drawing still remains as if that magnificent fire bird, its feet coated with hot ashes, had actually walked across my brain.”

She communicated this to the young Mr. Richmond in age-appropriate ways, giving him the awareness that his own artistic expression was more than ideas and concepts, but a means to heal – should he need it.  When he entered fourth grade, the need for that outlet emerged.

His earlier school career had been in a Montessori environment, and after third grade, he was sent to a Catholic school.  His artistic and buoyant personality signaled his emerging sexual orientation and even before he could grasp his own self-awareness, he was badgered and abused himself.

He did not confide this to Linda, mostly due to shame and confusion he felt, but she became aware of his change in mood and demeanor.  When he finally did open up, enough, she encouraged him to “paint about it.”  His first painting expressing the situation was a work called “The Piece that did not fit.”  It was a painting of a puzzle with all the pieces (his classmates) fitting, and one odd piece that did hot…  himself.

As he dealt with suicidal thoughts in sixth grade, his ability to paint his feelings, and to express himself through Linda’s classes were the only things that kept him from exercising self-harm. “Taking pride in myself as an artist was my life raft,” he says. “Linda encouraged me to take all of those feelings and express them in art, I hadn’t really considered that before. I had seen her paintings and the way she used art to process her own life, but that was the first time I realized I could do that too — that art could be a way for me to deal with what was happening at school and in my life.”

The Butterfly:  Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton loves butterflies.  In many ways, they seem equally representative of her persona.  From humble beginnings, they transform into colorful fabulosity.  They are attention getting, fabulous and always soaring to new colorful heights.  They are the definition of Dolly Parton.

As a young teenager, Paul Richmond held the ultimate butterfly, Dolly Parton, up as a role model.  “As I got older, I became more aware of her personality and who she was, I just really related to her.  There were a lot of similarities actually between her and Linda, because they both have the backstory of growing up in poverty in the mountains;  Both had really adorable Southern accents. They are both creative inspiring people who really shine a big light in the world. So, Linda was first, but I think it was kind of natural for me to latch on to Dolly as a role model because she was so similar in many ways to the role model that I already had.”

Paul’s youthful determination to meet The Butterfly paid off.  He persuaded both his parents and Parton’s handlers to allow him to bring her a piece of art when she opened Dollywood. He was 12 years old.

Years later, inspired by a Dolly reference on his website, The World of Wonder gallery in Los Angeles contacted him and asked him to submit a piece for their Dolly-Pop exhibition.  He created a fanciful piece.  In the canvas, Dolly appears in the Glinda Good Witch bubble above the yellow brick road in front of a 4-year old boy who stands transfixed… wearing a pair of grown woman’s high healed shoes.  A huge butterfly is featured prominently in the painting. 

A print of the painting also ended up in Dolly’s dressing room. “I was really trying to just capture my childhood fascination with Dolly and I thought the Wizard of Oz, would be a perfect metaphor for that. Meeting Dolly in Dollywood, as a kid was such a, such a meaningful important part of my childhood, and I wanted to represent the feeling she really opened up a whole world to me that I knew I wanted to be part of, and that I wanted to someday venture out into from the little conservative town that I lived in. Experience more of this big colorful amazing world for which Dolly was the entry point,” Paul told me.

The Phoenix Rises and the Butterfly Sings

Linda Regula died in July of 2020.  Her passing intensified Paul’s commitment and involvement in an organization they had co-founded called the You Will Rise Project.

Its logo is the phoenix.

You Will Rise provides “a multimedia showcase for people of all ages who have been bullied to share their stories through the arts. Submissions can include visual art (paintings, drawings, sculptures, videos, etc.) as well as poetry, song lyrics, short stories, or other creative expressions that best capture their personal experiences. The You Will Rise Project asks only that contributors be truthful and real. No corrections or alterations will be made to the works that are posted on the site.”

Shortly after Linda’s passing, Paul heard from Parton’s art director.  They wanted to commission a Paul Richmond painting for Dolly Parton’s living room…  a painting of butterflies.

Paul had a great conversation and shared about his back story, about Linda, and his love of Dolly.  He told them about You Will Rise, and an online fund raiser they were doing for a scholarship in Linda’s name.  “Well, I think that Dolly would really like to be part of that,” the director stated.

On Saturday, October 17, You Will Rise and ArtCOZ (the Artist Colony of Zanesville) presented a virtual event honoring Regula’s legacy and established the Linda Regula Legacy Scholarship Fund for young people who utilize artistic expression to communicate their personal experiences with adversity. 

The event included the donation of a rhinestone-studded autographed guitar from Parton’s personal collection.  

And Dolly Parton sang a livestream tribute to Linda.  The butterfly serenaded the phoenix.

“It was really beautiful to see the intersection of these two incredible women. Two women who were so important to me, come together in this way, at this event.  It was really powerful. It meant so much,” Paul says.

Country & Western music superstar singer Dolly Parton accepting a gift of a drawing from a younger Paul Richmond
(Photo Credit: Paul Richmond Facebook)

As for the future, Paul continues both his art and his activism.  He has a renewed passion to the You Will Rise Project.  He is a driver behind the Re-Drawing Masculinity project for which he is both and instructor and model, along with transgender artist   Briden Schueren . The workshop is designed to introduce the fundamentals of figure drawing and anatomy.  The project website states: “Masculinity means more than bodies with a penis. This workshop is all-inclusive and anyone being inappropriate or disrespectful will be disconnected and banned.”

Paul seeks to also emulate his role model, Parton, the Butterfly.  He says of her recent contribution to the fight against COVID 19: “Dolly has never been somebody who was interested in trying to make political statements she’s always been much more about spreading love and acceptance of everybody. I felt like this was such a meaningful way for her to contribute something so important right now.  Then to also make a video of herself getting the vaccine to help hopefully inspire those who might have fears about it. Maybe she can reach people that others can’t.   That’s kind of how she’s always operated she, she really, she doesn’t want to be divisive she truly wants to help, and she uses her platform to do that and I really respect that.”

As Paul and I finished our talk, he commented with a twinkle of an eye, “There are things coming up that I can’t yet tell you about for this interview.  But stay tuned.”

I got butterflies….

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For better and for worse, Oscar makes history again

The biggest queer moment of the night was Ariana DeBose’s historic win as the first out woman to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress



Jessica Chastain accepts the Oscar for Lead Actress (Screenshot/ABC)

HOLLYWOOD – By the time you read this, the biggest moment from this year’s Oscars will already be old news – but before we can move on to a discussion of what the wins and losses reveal about the state of LGBTQ+ representation, inclusion, and acceptance in the Hollywood film industry, we have to talk about it anyway.

When Will Smith stepped up onto that stage at the Dolby Theatre to physically assault Chris Rock – a professional comedian, doing the job he was hired to do in good faith that he would be safe from bodily harm while doing it – for making an admittedly cheap and not-very-funny joke, it was a moment of instant Oscar history that overshadowed everything else about the evening.

There’s been enough discussion about the incident that we don’t need to take up space for it here – tempting as it may be – other than to assert a firm belief that violence is never a good way to express one’s disapproval of a joke, especially during a live broadcast that is being seen by literally millions of people.

Smith, whether or not he deserved his win for Best Actor, succeeded only in making sure his achievement – which could have been a triumphant and historic moment for Black representation in Hollywood, not to mention an honorable cap for his own long and inspiring career – will be forever marred, and the palpably insincere non-apology that replaced what could otherwise have been his acceptance speech was only a textbook example of putting out fire with gasoline.

Yet that polarizing display also allows us a springboard into the much-more-important subject of queer visibility in the movies, thanks to another Smith-centered controversy (and there have been so many, really) from the early days of his career that sheds a lot of light on the homophobic attitudes of an industry almost as famous as playing to both sides of the fence as it is for the art it produces. 

Back in 1993, riding his success as a hip-hop artist-turned actor and springboarding from his “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” fame into a movie career, Smith appeared in the film adaptation of John Guare’s critically-acclaimed play “Six Degrees of Separation,” playing a young con artist who preys on a wealthy Manhattan couple (played by Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing), convincing them to give them money and even move into their home before they eventually discover the truth after coming home to find him in bed with a male hustler.

Unsurprisingly (it was 1993, after all), some of the play’s homosexual content was “softened” for the film version, but Smith was still called upon to perform in a scene depicting a kiss between himself and co-star Anthony Michael Hall. After initially agreeing, he abruptly changed his mind (due to advice from friend-and-mentor Denzel Washington, who warned him that kissing a man onscreen could negatively impact his future career) and refused to do the kiss, necessitating the use of camera trickery to accomplish the scene.

Decades later, Smith expressed regret at the choice, saying it was “immature” and that he should have gone ahead with the kiss – but the story nevertheless provides some insight about the pressure placed on actors in Hollywood to appear heterosexual for their audiences, no matter what.

Despite advancements, that pressure continues today – and Smith, whose unorthodox and publicly rocky marriage already has put him under an arguably unfair microscope, has also been alleged (most notoriously by trans actress Alexis Arquette, who made controversial comments about the couple shortly before her death in 2016) to be participating in a sham marriage in an effort to conceal both his own and his wife’s queer sexuality, may well have been feeling it when he was moved to assert his masculinity at the Academy Awards.

True or not, such rumors still have the potential for ruining careers in Hollywood; and while it may be a facile oversimplification to assume that homophobia was behind Smith’s ill-advised breach of decorum, it’s nevertheless a topic that goes straight to the heart of why the Academy, even in 2022, has such an abysmal track record for rewarding – or even including – openly queer actors on Oscar night.

Granted, things have improved, at least in terms of allowing queerness to be on display at the ceremony. On Sunday night, out Best Actress nominee Kristen Stewart attended with her fiancée, Dylan Miller, with the couple sharing a public kiss on the red carpet as they arrived for the festivities; the trio of female hosts – which included out woman of color Wanda Sikes alongside fellow comedians Amy Schumer and Regina Hall – called out Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill with a defiant joke during their opening presentation.

Jessica Chastain – who won Best Actress for playing unlikely LGBTQ ally and AIDS advocate Tammy Faye Baker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” – made an emotional speech decrying anti-LGBTQ legislation and advocating for all people to be “accepted for who we are, accepted for who we love, and to live a life without the fear of violence or terror.”

Numerous participants in the evening, whether male or female, queer or straight, took the opportunity to push gender boundaries with their couture for the evening (thanks for that, Timothée Chalamet). Elliot Page, joining Jennifer Garner and JK Simmons for a “Juno” reunion, became the first trans man to be a presenter at the Academy Awards. Finally, two beloved queer icons shared the stage for the evening’s finale, as Lady Gaga was joined by wheelchair-bound Liza Minnelli, frail but full of obvious joy at being there, to present the award for Best Picture.

The biggest queer moment of the night, of course, was also one of the first: Ariana DeBose’s historic win as the first out woman to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Accepting the award (for which she was considered by far the front-runner), De Bose proudly highlighted her queerness alongside her other intersecting identities, saying “You see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength and life through art. And that is, I think, what we’re here to celebrate.”

The evening’s other queer nominees did not fare so well. “Flee,” the Danish documentary about a gay Afghan refugee’s escape from his homeland as a teen, made history by scoring triple nominations as Best Documentary Feature, Best International Feature, and Best Animated Feature, but it went home empty-handed. Stewart – the only other openly queer acting nominee – lost to Chastain for Best Actress, and the divisive but queer-themed “Power of the Dog” lost its bid for Best Picture to “CODA,” as well as all of its multiple acting nominations – though its director, Jane Campion, already the first woman to be nominated twice for the Best Director Prize, became the third woman to actually win it.

Of course, the Oscar, like any other award, should be bestowed upon the most deserving nominee regardless of sexuality, gender, or any other “identity” status, and it seems unreasonable to expect all the queer nominees to win – though some might feel a little reparative favoritism wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing when it comes to balancing the scales. Even so, nobody has a chance to win if they’re not even nominated, and that’s where Oscar has repeatedly and persistently fallen short.

According to a recent report from Professor Russell Robinson, Faculty Director of Berkeley Law’s Center on Race, Sexuality & Culture, analysis of more than half a century of Academy Award acting nominations reveals that out of 68 nominations (and 14 wins) for performers playing LGBTQ roles, only two nominees – neither of whom went on to win – were LGBTQ-identified in real life.

While actors like Tom Hanks (“Philadelphia”), Sean Penn (“Milk”), Penélope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), and the late William Hurt (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”) garnered career-boosting acclaim along with their Oscars for playing queer characters, there are no equivalent success stories for queer actors playing straight roles – indeed, only eight openly queer performers have gotten a nomination for ANY role, queer or otherwise, in the entire history of the Oscars, and no transgender performers have ever received one at all.

While one might believe statistics like this are at least beginning to change, bear in mind that both of Benedict Cumberbatch’s two Oscar nods so far were for playing gay men, including this year’s “Power of the Dog” (the first was for playing real-life queer hero Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game”).

The topic of whether straight actors playing queer characters is appropriate at all is of course a hotly-debated one, with reasonable arguments – and queer voices in support of them – on both sides. We won’t attempt an in-depth examination of that issue here, but what is obvious even without the above statistics is that the Academy – or rather, looking at it from a wider scope, Hollywood itself – has a deeply-ingrained prejudice against queerness, regardless of how loudly it proclaims itself to be an ally.

Yes, progress has undeniably been achieved, especially within the last few years; the strong showing of films like “Moonlight,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and other LGBTQ-oriented titles on recent Oscar nights has gone neither unnoticed nor unappreciated.

Yet the Academy – as well as the industry it represents – has a pattern of responding to criticism over its inclusiveness in half-measures. It takes more than a hashtag to end sexual harassment of women in the workplace, no matter how many times it’s flashed on the screen during an awards show, and it takes more than a token nomination every few years to give an underrepresented population a fair place at the table, too.

This year’s ceremony was not without its missteps. The choice to bump awards from the broadcast for time while simultaneously devoting minutes to a James Bond tribute or a performance of a song (“We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Disney’s “Encanto”) that wasn’t even nominated; accompanying the annual “In Memoriam” tribute to the year’s dearly departed with a choreographed dance and vocal performance; the insensitivity of rushing some winners (like “Drive My Car” director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, accepting when his film won for Best International Feature) to finish their speeches while letting others continue uninterrupted; these and other ill-considered decisions had already blemished the show before “the slap heard ‘round the world” ever happened.

Nevertheless, this Oscar show felt more authentic than many in recent memory. There was a raw, unpredictable quality to it, perhaps rooted in the Academy’s controversial choice to relegate several “lesser” awards to a pre-show presentation, that manifested itself in the uncomfortable response of the audience to the often sharp humor of hostesses Sikes, Schuman, and Hall – who mercilessly skewered Hollywood’s say-one-thing-do-another approach to sexism, racism, homophobia and more throughout the show, often with visible apprehension over how their jokes might land.

Nervousness notwithstanding, their presence and their comedic calling-out of industry hypocrisy, along with the willingness of the celebrities in the house to laugh about it, was an element that lifted the proceedings enough to make them not only bearable, but sometimes even enjoyable.

That doesn’t mean the Academy can rest on its laurels. While it’s become common for their awards show – and all the others, for that matter – to serve as a kind of celebrity roast, where jokes are made and laughed at about the industry’s hot-button issue of the day, the persistent problems in Hollywood can’t be corrected just by allowing its workers to blow off steam by making fun of them once a year.

The film industry thinks that by going along with self-mocking humor about its own misogyny, racism, and homophobia, it gets a pass to continue ignoring the growing demand from the public to eliminate those same toxic ingredients from its standard recipe.

Perhaps the Smith incident, based as it seems to have been in a show of masculine dominance, will prompt some soul-searching within the entertainment community over its own rampant hypocrisy. Let’s hope so, because if the Academy Awards are ever to be truly inclusive in their representation of every segment of our society, no matter who they are or who they love, that’s something that has to happen first in the movies their prizes are meant to honor.

We’ve come a long way, to be sure, but we’re not there yet.


Jessica Chastain Accepts the Oscar for Lead Actress:

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First openly queer woman of color, Ariana DeBose wins an Oscar

It was DeBose’s first academy award nomination and Oscar. The awards ceremony was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood



Ariana DeBose in 'West Side Story' courtesy of Amblin Entertainment & 20th Century Studios

HOLLYWOOD – North Carolina native Ariana DeBose, who identifies as a Black-biracial queer Afro-Latina, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress Sunday for her portrayal of Anita in Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of West Side Story.

The film was based on the 1957 Tony award-winning Broadway musical production directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Arthur Laurents.

DeBose in the category for Best Supporting Actress has previously won a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. She was awarded the Oscar over her fellow nominees in the category including Aunjanue Ellis for King Richard, Kirsten Dunst for The Power of The Dog, Jessie Buckley for The Lost Daughter, and Dame Judi Dench for Belfast.

“Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus. When you look into her eyes, you see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro Latina, who found her strength in life through art. And that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate,” DeBose said in her acceptance speech.

“So to anybody who’s ever questioned your identity ever, ever, ever or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us,” she added.

It was DeBose’s first academy award nomination and Oscar. The awards ceremony was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and were hosted by Out lesbian comedian Wanda Sykes, actors Regina Hall and Amy Schumer.

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The Associated Press: Oscars Special, editor’s picks

For the first time in two years, the Academy Awards are rolling out the red carpet at Hollywood’s’ Dolby Theatre



Los Angeles Blade graphic

NEW YORK – As the entertainment, motion picture and film communities gather in Los Angeles for the 94th annual Oscars ceremony at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood Sunday evening, the editors of the Associated Press have curated the news agency’s top six stories prior to this evening’s gala.

Oscars set for return to normal, except all the changes

LOS ANGELES (AP) — For the first time in two years, the Academy Awards are rolling out the red carpet at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre for what the film academy hopes will be a…Read More

The Oscars are tonight. Here’s how to watch or stream live

The 94th Academy Awards are right around the corner with just enough time to squeeze in watches of some of the 10 best picture nominees before the lights go down in the Dolby…Read More

Oscar Predictions: Will ‘Power of the Dog’ reign supreme?

Ahead of the 94th Academy Awards, Associated Press Film Writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle share their predictions for a ceremony with much still up in the…Read More

List of nominees for the 94th Academy Awards

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nominees for the 94th Academy Awards, which were announced Tuesday via a livestream. Winners will be announced on March 27 in Los Angeles. Best actor:…Read More

Oscars to celebrate ‘Godfather,’ ‘Bond’ anniversaries

LOS ANGELES (AP) — James Bond didn’t get an Oscar nomination this year, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t be part of the ceremony. It’s the 60th anniversary of the first…Read More

Oscars celebrate May, Jackson, Ullmann and Glover

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Elaine May was the last to arrive and the first to leave at the Governors Awards on Friday in Los Angeles. Her fellow honorees, Samuel L. Jackson, Liv…Read More

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