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The 37TH annual LA Asian Pacific Film Festival- Sept. 23 to Oct. 2

For over three decades, LAAPFF has presented over 5,000 films by Asian & Pacific Islander talent- promoting the development of API filmmakers

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The 37TH annual LA Asian Pacific Film Festival (Graphic via Visual Communications)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF), presented annually by Visual Communications (VC), announced this week that the first set of films that will screen as part of the 37th edition of the Festival, which will be a hybrid event taking place virtually and in person at select cinemas in the Los Angeles area from September 23 to October 2, 2021.

The Festival will open on Thursday, September 23 at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center’s Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles with the Los Angeles premiere of Ann Kaneko’s MANZANAR, DIVERTED: WHEN WATER BECOMES DUST, a poetic look at the unexpected alliance formed by Native Americans, Japanese American WWII incarcerees, and environmentalists to defend their land and water from Los Angeles.

“Visual Communications looks forward to sharing the stories that intersect and converge movements such as MANZANAR, DIVERTED,” says Francis Cullado, Executive Director of Visual Communications. “From emerging to established filmmakers, the Festival continues to celebrate artists who are making an impact in our communities.”

Following Opening Night, LAAPFF will showcase new works as part of Centerpiece Weekend at the Aratani Theatre and Regal L.A. LIVE. Highlights include the Los Angeles premieres of: Iman Zawahry’s AMERICANISH, the first American Muslim rom-com directed by an American Muslim female filmmaker; Sujata Day’s comedy-drama DEFINITION PLEASE, which she also stars in; Christopher Makoto Yogi’s Sundance hit I WAS A SIMPLE MAN, starring Constance Wu; Dante Basco’s directorial debut THE FABULOUS FILIPINO BROTHERS; and Suzanne Kai’s long awaited crowdpleaser from Tribeca, LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE & TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES, about the legendary Rolling Stone editor and writer Ben Fong-Torres.

LAAPFF is a proud Academy Award®-qualifying film festival for the Short Film Awards. Recipient(s) of the Film Festival’s Golden Reel Award for Narrative Short Film will be eligible for consideration in the Animated Short Film/Live-Action Short Film category of the Academy Awards®.

This Festival is the only one of its kind in the world to have earned this qualification. Some highlights from the shorts lineup include the World Premiere presentations of: Candace Ho’s CHASING CLOUDS, a narrative short about a Taiwanese American woman forced to confront the harsh reality of her mother’s dementia; Paolo Bitanga’s NIGHT & DAY, a documentary short from the Philippines about a mother′s home that comes alive once a year when her many children return for the holidays; and Dakota Camacho’s FANA’GUYAN, a short dance film that explores ending violence and generating healing through embodiment, intimacy, and ancestral creativity. FANA’GUYAN will screen as part of Pacific Cinewaves, programming which represents LAAPFF’s commitment to amplify Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities from Hawai’i, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Guåhan (Guam), Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Samoa, and throughout the Pacific region.

“It is an honor to work in this landscape and witness the rise of storytellers from Asian & Pacific Islander communities,” said Eseel Borlasa, Programmer & Festival Operations Director of Visual Communications. “Each year, the Festival is proud to share these diverse perspectives, and we hope to continuously bridge understanding and build empathy and solidarity amongst our audiences. That collective work of storytelling to audience impact helps put values into action. LAAPFF believes in that work, and we are proud to be part of the process.”

Visual Communications is proud to continue their partnership with HBO for the fifth annual HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries, a short film competition which showcases cinematic storytellers of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

The finalists were selected from hundreds of submissions and were judged by a distinguished panel of HBO executives, industry leaders and fellow APA filmmakers. The three winning films exemplified this year’s competition theme: “Taking the Lead.” Jess X. Snow’s LITTLE SKY, Jesse Gi’s NEH, and Urvashi Pathania’s UNMOTHERED will premiere at LAAPFF on September 25, and debut on HBO Max on September 27.

This year, the Festival will also continue to host C3, a space for creators to converge and celebrate creative communities. These consist of both virtual and in-person panels and conversations.

Established in 1983, LAAPFF is the largest festival of its kind in Southern California, and the premier showcase for the best and brightest of Asian Pacific cinema. It was recently named one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazine.

For over three decades, LAAPFF has presented over 5,000 films by Asian & Pacific Islander talent, and continues to expand its commitment to nurturing new talent and promoting the development of Asian & Pacific Islanders both behind and in front of the camera. The Festival is proud to be an Oscar® qualifying fest for the best short film Academy Award category – either live action or animation.

LAAPFF will announce its full lineup on Wednesday, September 1, 2021. Ticketing for the general public will be available starting Monday, September 13, 2021 at 12:00pm PT.

For program information, please visit festival.vcmedia.org.

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BenDeLaCreme’s new solo show is wonderful ‘wedded’ bliss

“BenDeLaCreme is…Ready to be Committed” plays Dynasty Typewriter at the Hayworth Theatre (2511 Wilshire Blvd.) Thursday-Sunday, May 12-15

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BenDeLaCreme has a heart-to-heart with her problematic wedding cake. (Photo by Liz Nicol)

LOS ANGELES – If you plan to tie the knot in the United States this year, you’re in good company. Sidelined for the past two years by COVID, relaxed public gathering protocols mean that 2022 will see an unusually high amount of packed pews and reception halls.

Indeed, wedding prep website theknot.com puts at 2.6 million the number of matrimony mishegas expected to take place this year. But before you apply for a marriage certificate or book an officiator, may we suggest seeing the new solo show from world-renowned, multi-talented, preternaturally capable drag queen BenDeLaCreme?

Billed as a “narrative-cabaret,” BenDeLaCreme is…Ready to be Committed sees she of the eternally sunny disposition vow to take herself into thoroughly unexplored territory, by getting married. The project proves to be a bit of a fixer-upper, as DeLa isn’t even engaged… or dating—a minor matter for someone whose obsessive attention to detail, drill sergeant-like way of rallying the troops, and laser-focused eye on the prize would put even the most exacting Bridezilla to shame.

Highly capable as she is, DeLa’s also got an aggressive streak of naivete which renders her oblivious to roadblocks both major and minor. Thus, the breezy primer on putting together a wedding becomes the prism through which societal expectations, perfectionism, and self-image get a thorough dressing down and a drag queen-level makeover that redefines them for the modern age.

Performed at a quicksilver pace and in a manner that mashes up everything from burlesque and vaudeville to high camp, history, philosophy, and puppetry, Ready to be Committed deserves the blanket description of “art” just as surely as DeLa has earned the moniker of “artist.”

And that assessment of actor, director, writer, and producer (DeLa serves as all four on this production) is based on a very early performance in July of 2019, at NYC’s Laurie Beechman Theater. The performance was meant to be a prelude to a national tour, which is finally under way after numerous COVID-caused delays.

So what does it say about our abovementioned quadruple threat that precious little about the show’s script and delivery has changed between 2019 at the Beechman and last week’s performance at NYC’s Sony Hall? The short answer is, BenDeLaCreme knows what she’s doing, and delights in doing it. See the below Q&A for proof.

Scott Stiffler, for The Los Angeles Blade (Blade): All of the same basic plot points and subject matter seem to remain in place, from when you premiered the show back in 2019. Has the COVID era that delayed your present tour informed the material?

BenDeLaCreme (DeLa): With the time I’ve found myself with, I’ve been working to up the ante on the production values. I was wondering if anything would hit differently now in a COVID world, but I really find the exploration of how we view love and relationships in our culture holds pretty fast and if anything feels, I think, even more immediate and relevant. We’ve all gone through something that’s emphasized how important connection and even the act of being physically present with somebody is, which I think has only helped the material… 

Blade: You’ve had several successful solo shows starring  DeLa, but this one shows us facets of her character previously addressed but not fleshed out. Why use this as a vehicle to do so?

DeLa: I have explored a lot of different subjects through DeLa, from science to religion, but I’ve never really had her touch on something that is sort of more personal and intimate to the character. She’s always been sort of pretty aggressively asexual and just sort of oblivious to the idea of partners or relationships, so this is the first time that I’m really bringing her there. And I think part of why it works is because she doesn’t even really realize she’s going there.

Blade: How do you play that cluelessness in a way that doesn’t get the character, or the show, stuck in one place?

Is Wedding Fever contagious? Think twice before you catch BenDeLaCreme’s bouquet. (Photo by Liz Nicol)

DeLa: One of the things that I really love about this camp tradition is there’s a really fun thing where the audience gets to be in on something they also know the writer and the actor are in on, but the character is not. You can constantly give a commentary because the audience can tell that the writer and the character are actually thinking almost opposing things. From the beginning of the show she is sort of meandering and unfamiliar, but we can see what she’s missing and what complexity and nuance she’s unwilling to look at—so that by then end, when she finally arrives, I think there’s a satisfaction that she is completing this journey, and I think it works specifically because she has this wide-eyed, ditzy demeanor that lets people come at things from a fresh place… But it [both character and plot] definitely goes in unexpected directions. I think that people expect “a gal goes out there looking for ‘the one’ and we see the results of it”—but I really, in the writing process, tried to take it in a direction that spoke to something more universal, about how we relate to those ideas whether we find ourselves with someone or not… We all deal with the stories we’ve been told about what love should be, about what relationships should be, what true love is. That really messes with people’s perception and their ability to have a real connection as opposed to comparing it to this ideal fairy tale.

Blade: It’s funny that in order to deconstruct the fairy tale world, you often use puppets—something just as make-believe and fantastic—as a comedic foil or divisive device.

DeLa: Puppetry has spoken to me since I was a little kid. I fell in love with the Muppets and Jim Henson’s work only a few years before I discovered drag. I mean, Miss Piggy was basically my first drag queen. The kind of camp drag that I love, that I’ve always been pulled towards through Varla Jean Merman, Charles Busch, it’s very much in the same world as this puppetry storytelling. They’re kind of these larger than life, sort of ridiculous characters that we have to use our suspension of disbelief to belief to believe are really grounded and live in a real universe. But for some reason they’re so inviting and colorful and fun that we’re willing to go on that journey and when you’re dealing with something that’s big and campy like a drag queen or big and campy like a puppet, you are willing to go  be sort of led down more complicated paths… I want things to stay fun and lighthearted. I want audience to laugh and have a great time, but I also really like to explore some ideas that are a little more complicated than the character of DeLa could ever wrap her head around. So she needs somebody else who can lead her into these subjects and some of these subjects are maybe a little too heady and hard to get into in a playful setting unless it comes from some ridiculous inanimate object come to life.

Blade: Let’s talk a little about your body of work with the great Jinkx Monsoon. As we’ve previously noted, the two of you are working a buddy/comedy team dynamic that draws from the classics but also brings something new to the table. How did that dynamic develop?

DeLa: Jink and I have known each other for a long time, well over a decade at this point. We were both sort of up-and-coming performers in Seattle when I first came across her. I thought, “This queen is really working in the same world. We have the same sensibilities. We better join forces now or we’ll wind up being each other’s competition.” So when we started, there was more of maybe an even-keeled, more expected give-and-take. We were less oppositional. It [being warring besties who eventually reconcile] really started once we moved into creating these Christmas shows. I have always had my sort of naïve, wide-eyed character on stage and she has always had her boozy, brash character—but when we bump up against each other, it brings out new levels of it. I mean, the Jinkx and DeLa version of DeLa is infinitely dumber than any other version of DeLa, and Jinkx is more kind of cynical and snarky than she can be. We really do balance each other out well and I think a big part of it is we have these very oppositional characters, who we use to say the same things. Both Jinkx and I as artists, as writers, have a lot of the same mission statements. We feel similarly about the holidays and the difficulties of it, and the importance of community, the importance of creating your own rules and your own life. But through the characters… You know, DeLa has to not get it so aggressively that we know the writer gets it. And Jinkx has to be so pushed to the extreme that it is blocking her ability to experience joy that we [the audience] understand we’re at opposite ends of the same commentary.

Blade: Commetary. That brings us to the end—of Committed when I saw it in 2019, the awesome Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Special (2000), and your 2021 holiday stage show with Jinkx. There’s so much innuendo, rancor, camp, and gleefully sexual content throughout—but every show ends at a place of earned sincerity, with a serious, even sober, message about the importance of community. That’s really tricky to pull off.

DeLa: I do always do that within in my shows and the shows I do with Jinkx, but I’d say it’s less of an obligation and more of a mission statement. I mean, everything else is really fun—but if it lacks that heart, it’s not the show I care about making. It’s gotta have that sincerity and that vulnerability. But vulnerability and sincerity are hard sells these days. People do not feel comfortable with something that they perceive as too schmaltzy or too sincere—and I think that it’s all those cynical digs [preceeding the sincerity] that allow people… You know, it’s sort of this ratio: You can give them 90% dick jokes and snark and then they will go with you in that 10% of genuine, intimate, vulnerable emotion—and that’s why I love it, and that’s why I love the camp and the puppets and all of it. People will go there with you. I think there’s something about artifice that leads to truth when truth alone is too scary for people.

Blade: One last question: Will you and Jinkx be touring with a new holiday show this year?

DeLa: We’ve not announced anything yet, but I think most people assume what is the truth—which is, we will back on the road with another Christmas how this next holiday season… and I think that’s something we’ll be prioritizing for years to come.

“BenDeLaCreme is…Ready to be Committed” plays Dynasty Typewriter at the Hayworth Theatre (2511 Wilshire Blvd.) Thursday-Sunday, May 12-15, at 8PM. Tickets are $45 general admission, $120 VIP (includes meet & greet and VIP access). For reservations: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bendelacreme-is-ready-to-be-committed-tickets-252455931487. Proof of full vaccination is required upon entry; name on vaccination card must match your ID.

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No mystery about Katherine V. Forrest – she’s a legend

Her decades-long career includes 24 books, anthologies, dozens of articles & book reviews for the Los Angeles Times & San Francisco Chronicle

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Terry DeCrescenzo (leaning in) & author Katherine V. Forrest (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

STUDIO CITY, Ca. – Katherine V. Forrest, 83, the beloved and legendary pioneer of lesbian fiction, was celebrated on Sunday, May 1 at the Studio City home
of Terry DeCrescenzo and wife Carol Cushman.

Katherine V. Forrest (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Forrest’s decades-long career includes more than 2 dozen books and
anthologies, editing hundreds of writers for major publishing houses
and authorship of dozens of articles and book reviews for the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle, among other mainstream and LGBTQ publications.


But Forrest is perhaps best known for her Kate Delafield Mysteries series chronicling the career of out lesbian LAPD Homicide Detective Kate Delafield (“Amateur City,” “Murder at the Nightwood Bar,” “The Beverly Malibu,” “Murder By Tradition,” “Liberty Square,” “Apparition Alley,” “Sleeping Bones,” “Hancock Park,” “High Desert”) which comes to an end with the publication of her 10th and final in the series, “Delafield.”

During remarks before giving a reading and in comments to friends, Forrest said she felt she had said all she wanted to say and was now eager to read the work of younger lesbians. 

Forrest also paid homage to DeCrescenzo’s home where she and her late partner, writer and psychotherapist Betty Berzon, held political gatherings, soirees, and a writers’ workshop with such participants as Paul Monette and Bernard Cooper. 

“I’m so grateful to be in this particular place because this house has so much history attached to it that it should go on the historical preservation list,” she said before reading a passage from the book that took place in that home.

The gathering was something of a Legendary Lesbian event, bringing
together some of LGBTQ Los Angeles’ most important founding lesbian
figures and allies in activism, literature, politics, academics, journalism and entertainment including Forrest’s wife Jo Hercus, Robin Tyler, Felice Picano, Monseratt Fontes, Torie Osborn, Terry Wolverton, Angela Marie, and many others.

DeCrescenzo noted that while the country celebrated May Day, honoring workers, for those enjoying tacos and champagne in the backyard she shares with her wife, that balmy Sunday was “Katherine V. Forrest Day” for lesbians in L.A.

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Out & About

Cathedral City LGBT Days returns this weekend

Cathedral City’s 6th Annual LGBT Days is California’s first Pride weekend event of this year

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Cathedral City LGBT Days 2019 (Photo courtesy of Cathedral City LGBT Days)

CATHEDRAL CITY – If you’re heading out to Palm Springs this weekend, be sure to check out Cathedral City’s 6th Annual LGBT Days, which is California’s first Pride weekend event of the year. 

“Our vision–as commissioned by the City–was to bring back LGBT Days after two years of cancellations, and honor the traditions of the first 5 years celebrating Cathedral City’s culture of equality and inclusion, while progressing the event to the next level in growth,” said Ryan Heil, an event producer at Soundskilz Productions, a national entertainment production agency with offices in Temecula, CA; San Antonio, TX; Park City, UT; and Atlanta, GA. 

He continued: “This event is about the LGBT community as a whole, and Cathedral City’s history in welcoming that community to the region and celebrating equality. The events exist to honor that legacy and to support the community that has settled down in this region for many years.”

With the City’s brand new amphitheater as a “gorgeous centerpiece,” Heil and his team wanted to create events that celebrate the key tradition of the Bed Race, foster awareness of the LGBT businesses and community at large in Cathedral City, and book national level talent that would create a buzz further and wider than in the past. 

“Hopefully that vision and execution this year puts Cathedral City’s LGBT Days celebration “on the map” and in the conversation about some of the best Pride festivals in the state and nationwide,” said Heil.

Like all events and businesses coming out of the last 2 years, one of the biggest challenges in dealing with this weekend has been staffing, Heil acknowledged. 

“From our sponsors to our partners to years-long participants in the Bed Race, everyone is hurting for good help. When staging a production like this, we rely on a network of great partners and contractors and service provides, and everyone is struggling to operate at full capacity. But we have a great team in place and tremendous guidance from the City and Christopher Parman, the City Special Events Director and founder of LGBT Days, and with everyone’s hard work we are on track to make the event a great success.”

The weekend is chock full of fun events, noted Heil. “In addition to the signature Bed Race and KGAY Champagne Brunch on Sunday co-hosted by Bella da Ball and KGAY’s John Taylor, we are very excited to welcome back the legendary comedian/activist/ author and creator of ‘Sordid Lives,’ Del Shores, who will stage his new live comedy show tonight at the CV Rep Theater.” 

Following that, the 6 bars of the CCGBA welcome attendees to an informal bar crawl to get out and celebrate with the community and our local businesses.  

“Tomorrow, we have an amazing festival lineup from 4pm – 10pm featuring the Channel Q/GED Magazine T Dance and Lawn Party in partnership with the world famous Abbey Bar from LA; followed by the headline Pop2000 concert on the Agua Caliente Main Stage, hosted by Lance Bass and featuring multi-platinum artists O-Town, Ryan Cabrera and LFO,” added Heil. “During the festival, we will have emcees Mayhem Miller and DJ Alex D, hot air balloon rides in the Equality Balloon, food, drinks, games and more.”

While there are activities at both the Civic Center and Amphitheater, the event is also being celebrated around town at their partner venues in the CCGBA.(Cathedral City Gay Business Association). “So get out and check out the fun, and come celebrate with everyone!” Heil enthused! “It will be beautiful and sunny, so remember to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water along the way!”

Amongst the numerous celebrities, artists, community leaders and Coachella Valley visitors attending is singer/entrepreneur Lance Bass, who is thrilled to be a part of the weekend festivities.

“It’s great to be part of California’s first pride of the year. Cathedral City and this whole area is one of mine and my husbands’ favorite weekend getaways. It’s the one place I feel like I can relax and enjoy myself!”

A number of new sponsors have joined Cathedral City LGBT Days to support the event, including Agua Caliente Casinos, who has secured naming rights to the Agua Caliente Civic Center Stage and Agua Caliente Main Stage at the Cathedral City Community Amphitheater; local law firm Burke, Williams and Sorenson, LLP and VW of Palm Springs is the official automotive partner.

Media partners include KGAY; Channel Q; Gay Desert Guide; NBC Palm Springs; and the Gay Entertainment Directory (GED) Magazine. Their official spirits sponsor Beam Suntory will be sampling Jim Beam, Effen vodka and Hornito’s tequila cocktails to patrons.

A number of local bars including: AMP Sports Lounge, Barracks Bar, CCBC Resort Hotel and Runway Bar; One Eleven Bar and The Roost Bar Lounge will host satellite events throughout LGBT Days weekend. Bud Light NEXT will be pouring its new zero carb super crisp beer at all the bars, while sister brand BABE Wine is providing sparkling wines and rosé for the Champagne Brunch.

********************

Hey Cali! Are you ready to celebrate the 1st PRIDE of the year 🏳️‍🌈

Cathedral City LGBT Days returns this weekend 3/25-3/27 with a HUGE LINE-UP of entertainment 🤩

FRIDAY 3/25 – Del Shores comedy performance not to be missed!

SATURDAY 3/26 – T-Dance with world-famous The Abbey and host Nick Masc along with DJ Jeffree, Alex D, Mayhem Miller and the Abbey Dancers for the Channel Q T Dance & Lawn Party at Cathedral City LGBT Days! Followed by the Pop2K Tour Headline Concert hosted by Lance Bass with O-Town, Ryan Cabrera and LFO and The Old Gays!

SUNDAY 3/27 – BED RACE EXTRAVAGANZA 🛌

For all info and tickets visit cathedralcitylgbtdays.com

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