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U.S. Pride organizers debate in-person vs. virtual events for 2021

Some cities eye fall for possible return of parades, festivals

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Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
It’s unlikely we’ll see crowds like these at Pride for some time. (Photo by Jon Viscott; courtesy City of West Hollywood)

Pride organizers across the country are grappling with COVID restrictions for a second year and debating whether some, modified in-person events are possible in 2021 as the vaccine rollout continues.

Christopher Street West-Los Angeles Pride, which has organized one of the nation’s largest Pride celebrations each year since the early 1970s, states on its website that it will hold this year’s celebration June 11-13. But like several other large U.S. cities, it has yet to announce what type of events it will offer.

“Stay tuned for announcements about what we’re [safely] planning,” the website statement says.

L.A. Pride spokesperson Chris Prouty, similar to officials with Pride organizations in other cities, told the Blade that L.A. Pride organizers are carefully watching the unfolding developments associated with the COVID-19 pandemic to determine what type of events might be possible in June.

“As the pandemic continues to affect the way all organizations plan for events, CSW/LA Pride is committed to producing a safe but impactful Pride 2021 for the communities we serve,” Prouty said. “We’re developing a variety of programming that will be announced soon and will continue to include input from local health officials, community-based organizations and non-profits,” he said. “We encourage other Prides across the country to do the same.”

The San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and Celebration organization announced on March 24 that it will hold several smaller in-person events throughout the month of June. But similar to last year, its traditional Pride Parade and celebration at the city’s Civic Center, which in past years have drawn thousands of participants, were cancelled this year.

“Knowing how deeply people miss being together, we’ve worked tirelessly with our partners at City Hall, public health, and elsewhere to ensure a number of incredible, safe experiences,” said San Francisco Pride Executive Director Fred Lopez. Among the outdoor in-person events planned are two evenings of film screenings on June 11-12 at the San Francisco Giants baseball stadium.

In a break from its Pride events in past years, in which thousands of LGBTQ visitors from other cities and states attended San Francisco Pride, organizers this year have bluntly asked people from outside the Bay Area to stay away.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not yet recommend leisure travel, and the organization’s leadership respectfully asks visitors from outside the region to reconsider their attendance,” San Francisco Pride organizers said in a statement.

Like LGBTQ Pride organizations in several of the nation’s largest cities, Washington, D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance is planning to hold several virtual Pride events during the traditional Pride month of June and is considering at least one in-person event for October — a smaller Pride parade.

Also like other cities, the traditional June Capital Pride Parade and Festival, which have attracted more than 250,000 participants and spectators in past years, have been cancelled this year following last year’s cancellation, according to Capital Pride Executive Director Ryan Bos.

Bos said a “reimagined” parade called Paint the Town With Pride is being planned for June 12 that will consist only of asking LGBTQ residents and supporters to decorate their homes or businesses with creative outdoor displays or signs with LGBTQ Pride messages. He said the locations of the displays will be released by Capital Pride so people can visit the sites while complying with COVID safe-distancing rules.

Bos said Capital Pride will organize a possible Pride Brigade of peoples’ vehicles to travel together across the city to view the displays on June 12. He said the displays are planned to be in place through the month of June to enable people to visit the sites when convenient for them. Detailed plans for D.C.’s Pride events can be viewed at capitalpride.org.

D.C.’s two main Black Pride events — a conference and outdoor festival that have drawn more than 3,000 participants up until 2019 and that traditionally take place during Memorial Day weekend — have been cancelled this year for the second year in a row.

According to Kenya Hutton, deputy director of the D.C.-based LGBTQ organization Center for Black Equity, which coordinates Black Pride events in about 45 cities across the country, said D.C.’s Black Pride will hold several virtual events over Memorial Day weekend, with details available on its Facebook page.

Heritage of Pride, the group that organizes most but not all of New York City’s LGBTQ Pride events, has announced several Pride events throughout the month of June, including a virtual Pride March on June 27 with “to be determined in-person elements.” In years prior to COVID restrictions, the New York City Pride March has drawn many thousands of participants.

The organization’s traditional Pride Rally will take place virtually on June 25 featuring prominent LGBTQ speakers, according to a statement released by Heritage of Pride. Its traditional PrideFest and Pride Island events “will also return on June 27, with further details to be revealed at a later time,” the statement says. It says at least three other events, including a Human Rights Conference, will be held virtually.

Reclaim Pride Coalition, a separate New York City organization, announced it will hold its 3rd Annual Queer Liberation March for Pride on Sunday, June 27. The in-person march will include safety precautions, mask distribution for those who don’t have a mask, and other risk reduction strategies, organizers said in a statement.

“The struggle for Queer Liberation cannot wait for the passing of the pandemic, as COVID-19 has made surviving even more difficult for far too many of our most marginalized community members,” one of the organizers said in the statement.

The Baltimore-based Pride Center of Maryland has announced the 45th Annual Baltimore Pride Festival will take place over the weekend of June 18. The announcement says the event will consist of an “innovative Pride celebration that will incorporate virtual and social-distance considerate, intimate in-person experiences to make Baltimore proud,” but no further details were given.

A spokesperson for Chicago’s Pride Fest 2021 said the annual two-day street festival held in the city’s well known LGBTQ neighborhood of Boys Town had been scheduled for June 19-20 but has been postponed due to city COVID restrictions. The spokesperson, Esmeralda Bravo, said organizers are working closely with city officials to determine the best date to reschedule the event, which could be in August or September.

In Florida, statements released by organizers of Miami Beach Pride and the Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival in Wilton Manors, the small LGBTQ-friendly city located just outside Fort Lauderdale, say both will be in-person events. The Wilton Manors parade and festival are scheduled for June 19. Miami Beach Pride says it will hold several events from Sept. 10-19, with the largest being a festival in Lummus Park that’s expected to draw 125,000 participants.

However, organizers of the Miami Beach Pride say a “contingency hybrid event plan is also in place should the planned [festival] event be disrupted by unknowns due to COVID-19.” The contingency plan calls for a significantly reduced number of attendees for the festival and other possible restrictions required by Miami Beach officials.

Boston Pride, the organization that had hoped to host Boston’s 50th anniversary Pride events in June, announced the events in June had to be postponed due to COIVD restrictions. The group said in a statement that it was working with city officials to reschedule the Pride events, which include a parade and festival, for the fall “if all conditions are in place for such events.”

For the second year in a row, Seattle Pride has renamed itself “Virtual Pride 2021” due to COVID restriction on large gatherings, organizers said on the group’s website. It is scheduled to take place online with several events, including entertainment performances, scheduled for June 26-27.

“While we are all missing the Parade, Virtual Pride is our opportunity to commemorate the past, celebrate new wins for equality, and get encouragement for the work yet to come, and quite frankly it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun,” organizers said on the event’s website. “Stay tuned for your link to register for this FREE event,” the organizers said.

InterPride, a coalition of LGBTQ Pride organizations in the U.S. and in other countries, is in the process of compiling a comprehensive list of virtual and in-person LGBTQ Pride events in 2021 that’s expected to be completed in a few weeks. Julian Sanjivan, the group’s co-president, said the list will be available on the website: interpride.org.

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Everything you need to know about WorldPride 2021

Party in Scandinavia with the happiest people on Earth

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Confetti rained down in New York’s Times Square at Stonewall 50 WorldPride New York’s closing ceremony two years ago. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

By Mikey Rox| NEW YORK – It’s been two years since Stonewall 50 – WorldPride NYC 2019 became the largest international Pride celebration in history, but the “bye” year of 2020 wasn’t due to the pandemic. 

The global celebration has been held every odd-numbered year since 2017 given its massive logistical undertaking (with sporadic celebrations in 2006, 2012 and 2014 before then), and WorldPride Copenhagen – Malmö 2021 couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Hundreds of thousands of cooped-up queer revelers and allies will flock to the twin host cities in Denmark and Sweden, respectively, from Aug. 12-22, to party with the happiest people on the planet, a delightful distinction provided to the Scandinavian countries by the United Nations’ famous World Happiness Report. (The United States ranked No. 19 in the most recent report, FYI.) 

So what’s in store for this year’s all-out progressive-flag-flying festival? Read on for more.

Two LGBTQ anniversaries in Denmark

If you can believe it, it’s been 70 years since Danish doctors in 1951 performed the world’s first successful genital reconstruction surgery, a medical marvel that provided hope to transgender people the world over. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Gay Liberation Front’s Danish chapter, which has been instrumental in blazing trails toward equality for the country. Look how far it’s come.

Opening ceremonies kick off in Copenhagen

In conjunction with Copenhagen Pride, WorldPride will officially start late afternoon on Aug. 13, but in adherence with COVID-19 protocols the opening ceremony won’t be held in WorldPride Square (at least not as of press time; things could – and probably will – change). That potential snafu notwithstanding, Denmark welcomes vaccinated U.S. travelers, and if any testing is needed, both PCR and antigen tests will be available free to everyone, including tourists, 24/7. Copenhagen is OPENhagen again.

WorldPride Square will be open for the rest of the fest

WorldPride Square, a makeshift village of sorts (similar to the Olympics) located within Copenhagen’s main square, will provide a gathering place for all attendees that have traveled far and wide. LGBTQ+ and non-governmental organizations spanning the globe will set up shop in the square to greet pedestrians, provide information, and invite folks to get involved. Art exhibits also will be a centerpiece of the village, alongside a street-food market and bars with plenty of space to relax. 

EuroGames will be held simultaneously

If you enjoy watching athletes compete in variety of sports that range from boxing and badminton to dancing and dodgeball, add the spectator-friendly EuroGames to your list of to-dos while you’re in Copenhagen. If you want to get hands-on, consider signing up to become a volunteer at the games, to be held Aug. 18-20; EuroGames’ website is currently accepting those applications. 

Spread out and explore other WorldPride villages

While WorldPride Square will serve as the jump-off for the 10 days of festivities, other available villages will allow crowds to spread out and explore their individual interests. In addition to Sports Village for EuroGames athletes and fans, other villages will focus on kids and families, youth, women, and the queer community, among others. Programs and content of these villages will be target-audience specific but open to everyone.

You might have a brush with royalty

Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, Countess of Monpezat, is patron of Copenhagen 2021, making her the first-ever royal to serve in the role for a major LGBTQ+ event. Say hi if you spot her; she knows a queen when she sees one.

Despite pandemic protocol, the show will go on

Organizers have said in an official statement that despite some COVID-19 restrictions, they’re “continuing to plan for full delivery of all Copenhagen 2021 events taking into account the guidance and recommendations” of government agencies. Doubling down, organizers have promised they will not cancel or postpone events. 

Now there’s only one thing left to do: Let’s go!

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels)

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Hollywood’s Peter Kallinteris Agency launching LGBTQ dreams

“It’s important to me to actively participate with a platform and space for the LGBTQ community. I want to make a difference and be a leader”

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Hollywood sign courtesy of the City of Los Angeles

HOLLYWOOD – Whether they’d admit to it or not the aspiration for most actors is to be sitting in the Dolby Theatre at some point in their careers, dressed in their finest fashion ensemble at the most prestigious event of the year and hear, “and the Oscar goes to [insert their name].” Conversely also true for the Emmy awards or the Tony awards, yet for many LGBTQ artists the path to that goal is fraught with obstacles and difficulties.

In 2018, a young Black actor from Atlanta, Georgia, was given a supporting role as Ethan in the surprise hit film Love Simon. That actor, Clark Moore, in interviews with host Rob Watson, journalists Dawn Ennis and Brody Levesque on RATED LGBTQ RADIO and separately with Teen Vogue’s Shammara Lawerence spoke of the difficulty landing roles like that of Ethan, but also the conflict inherent with how the film and television industry has seen LGBTQ actors.

Answering a question by Teen Vogue’s Lawerence centered on that conflict, Moore bluntly assessed the landscape telling her; “Historically, I think the reason why there haven’t been more gay roles or more gay actors playing roles that have lots of layers to them and lots of depths to them is because for whatever reason, people think that the story is done. We’ve seen the gay character. We know what he says. We know what he thinks. We don’t need to tell that story anymore, but if you think about it, we’ve had a full canon of stories about straight white men that stretch back millennia, and so we’re only scratching the surface,” Moore pointed out.

“If we can have stories about people all the way back thousands of years ago and we can still be telling the same story now about straight white men and their journey to self-discovery or redemption, there’s plenty of stories to tell of people of color and LGBTQ people and anybody who falls in the intersection of those two identities,” he added.

Yet in the age of digital moving beyond the traditional film and television as more and more content is streamed online- and there’s insatiable need by casting agencies for a wider diverse spectrum of actors, there are still obstacles in the path for LGBTQ actors, especially trans and disabled LGBTQ actors.

Enter Peter Kallinteris, who with his broad based knowledge and understanding of the critical needs of the LGBTQ actor community decided that the time has arrived to have specialized representation for that community.

“Looking to the past, Hollywood hasn’t been very kind to the Queer community. Throughout the history of cinema gay men were either played as effeminate, weak, airheads, and lesbians as tough softball or gym coaches, who are often played by straight people,” Kallinteris said. “Within the the broader culture, there are subcultures, just as within any community. They are nuances within each that will never find its way between the pages of a table read.”

“To create an authentic moment the space has to be made for those who’ve lived that life every day. Gay, Black, White or Straight ect, our experiences of the world are different depending on how we show up. In many cases that will determine our outcomes,” he noted. “Specialized representation is so important because without the lingering trauma, and continued hatred & fear toward our community the Queer division of PKA wouldn’t exist, we’d just be accepted. We have important stories to tell and will continue to be telling them. PKA is just the begging for all to feel safe and thrive.”

In a statement issued from his offices at the Sunset-Gower Studios, the former historic home of pioneering Columbia Pictures founded in 1918, Kallinteris reflected, “When I was a young Actor being gay was career ending.”

“Today it’s celebrated. It’s important to me to actively participate with a platform and space for the LGBTQ community. I want to make a difference and be a leader because I can.”

To accomplish this he launched the Queer Division of his PKA agency. “The Queer Division of  PKA was inevitable, a natural outgrowth of my own personal evolution first by coming out as gay man, from Artist to Agent. The timing was right to make an impact with talent,” he said.

“As my Agency grew I was able to gleam that there was a space beginning to open up by which I could represent the full spectrum of Queer humanity & sexuality within the arts. Not as one dimensional static caricatures, but as beings who’s emotions run the full gamut of the human experience. This was very exciting to me, I have a opportunity to effect change. I wanted to be apart of history Pioneering a movement,” he added. 

He said that his message to LGBTQ artists is simple. “I want talent to know they will be given the opportunity to be who they are, live their truth and work for who they are without rejection, humiliation, fear, or hopelessness. People perform at their best, live at their best. And do their best when they are happiest.  PKA is not just a brand, we are the LGBTQIA community. If life imitates art, then let’s represent it boldly!”

His expectations of the film and television industry’s reaction? “My inspiration to launch the Q.D. is truthfully representing talent that reflects the current needs for the industry, and to remain a permanent fixture within the industry that continues to grow stronger. I want the industry to understand I’ve created this environment specifically for the Queer community. I’m happy & honored to be the first Agency that represents this community in this way,” Kallinteris said.

Last week, PKA, whose clients include, Justin Jedlica (TV personality), Steven James Tingus (President George W. Bush’s lead for disability research and policy for eight years), Kate Linder (The Young and the Restless), Albert Lawrence (IMDB Host), Deric Battiste aka DJ D-Wrek (MTV’s Wild ‘N Out), and Leslie Stratton (The Swing of Things, Truth or Dare), announced the launch of the Queer Division in a video.

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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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