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Anne Rice, LGBTQ Icon, advocate & literary genius passes away

Writers are priceless. Go where the pleasure is in your writing. Go where the pain is. Write the book you would like to read ~ Anne Rice

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Anne and Christopher Rice in Los Angeles, 2017 (Family photo via Christopher Rice Facebook)

LOS ANGELES – Many are called “icons.”  Anne Rice truly was one. She passed away yesterday at age 80 from a stroke.  Her son Christopher, a prolific writer in his own right, was by her side.

He posted of her death on her popular Facebook page:

“Earlier tonight, Anne passed away due to complications resulting from a stroke. She left us almost nineteen years to the day my father, her husband Stan, died. The immensity of our family’s grief cannot be overstated. As my mother, her support for me was unconditional — she taught me to embrace my dreams, reject conformity and challenge the dark voices of fear and self-doubt. As a writer, she taught me to defy genre boundaries and surrender to my obsessive passions. In her final hours, I sat beside her hospital bed in awe of her accomplishments and her courage, awash in memories of a life that took us from the fog laced hills of the San Francisco Bay Area to the magical streets of New Orleans to the twinkling vistas of Southern California. As she kissed Anne goodbye, her younger sister Karen said, “What a ride you took us on, kid.” I think we can all agree. Let us take comfort in the shared hope that Anne is now experiencing firsthand the glorious answers to many great spiritual and cosmic questions, the quest for which defined her life and career.”

The post has been already shared hundreds of thousands of times, with nearing fifty thousand comments of condolences.

One fan called her “our generation’s Mary Shelley.”  Another pointed out that in the creation of the vampire genre, there are only two real Creators: Bram Stoker and Anne Rice.

“For me, vampires are the heroes, the mystical heroes, the international stars of the monster pantheon, I love them the best,” she has remarked about her fictional children. “They dressed the best.”

Anne Rice wrote over 40 novels, and certainly, the cornerstone of those were her Vampire Chronicles.   One of the best-selling novels of all time, Interview with the Vampire, was published in 1976 and kicked off the Chronicle series. 

She is credited with the creation of the passionate and sensual horror genre, as well as the dark erotic goth movement itself. 

Her work presented a fictional experience that mirrored LGBTQ realities.  Her characters were carnal, three dimensional and exhibited fluid genders and sensualities. The blood bourn contagion of vampirism seemed to mirror the real-world experience of AIDS that many gay men were living through. Her work as a result, found a deep and abiding fan-base in the LGBTQ world. She stated that her vampire creations were representative of the “outsider in all of us.” Her queer following appeared to agree and loved her for her truth and candor.

“The gay reviews of my literature have been the most satisfying I have ever read,” she stated.

She never betrayed that love and loyalty of her LGBTQ population.  She publicly rejected her Catholic upbringing and its ties to homophobia, “I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control,” she stated in a public pronouncement. She considered herself a gay activist and was never comfortable with constraining people with gender identification.

Of transgender people, she stated, “They have a lot to teach us. When people have sacrificed that much and gone through that much to find themselves, and do what they believe is right, they are going to have spiritual lessons to teach us.”

In many ways, she did not see herself so much as an LGBTQ ally, but as a community member herself. “I think I have a gay sensibility and I feel like I’m gay, because I’ve always transcended gender, and I’ve always seen love as transcending gender. In my books, I’ve always created bonds of love that have transcended gender. But I’ve never associated AIDS with vampires, myself. I’ve always been very much a champion of gay rights, and art produced by gay people—whether it was the early Frankenstein movies that had such a gay sensibility to them, or any art created by gay people. I’m highly sensitive to it. I have a gay sensibility.”

Even with her intrinsic connection to the community, Anne did admit to some trepidation when Christopher came out as gay himself. She told the Advocate in 2000: “People respond in very different ways to what being gay means. And there’s still an enormous amount of fear in America. There are still hate crimes. There is still a lot of consciousness-raising that has to be done–but not with us. I was worried, as anybody would be, that Chris would face obstacles and prejudices. But I did not love him one drop less.”

The Rice family in San Francisco circa 1986. Stan, Christopher, and Anne
(Family Photo via Christopher Rice on Facebook)

For future writers, Anne left this advice: “On writing, my advice is the same to all. If you want to be a writer, write. Write and write and write. If you stop, start again. Save everything that you write. If you feel blocked, write through it until you feel your creative juices flowing again. Write. Writing is what makes a writer, nothing more and nothing less. — Ignore critics. Critics are a dime a dozen. Anybody can be a critic. Writers are priceless. —- Go where the pleasure is in your writing. Go where the pain is. Write the book you would like to read. Write the book you have been trying to find but have not found. But write. And remember, there are no rules for our profession. Ignore rules. Ignore what I say here if it doesn’t help you. Do it your own way.”

Do it your own way. She did, and it was fabulous.

One entity for which Anne Rice held fascination was ghosts. She felt they were evolving as humankind is, and finding more and thorough ways to communicate with us. As Anne now finds the answers to her “cosmic questions” and meets these entities she only before imagined, maybe she will find a way through the veil. Maybe we will not have heard the last from her.

We can only hope.

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

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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Actor Richard Dreyfuss mocks trans people in misogynistic rant

Dreyfuss ranted about subjects reported to include trans people, Barbra Streisand, the MeToo movement and women in general

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Dreyfuss walked onto the stage wearing a blue floral pattern house dress, pausing to turn away from the audience and shake his hips suggestively, actions that were caught on multiple mobile phone video footage posted online. (Screenshot/YouTube)

BEVERLY, Mass. – Patrons at The Cabot theater in the suburban Boston township of Beverly were all set to celebrate the 49th anniversary viewing of the classic 1975 Steven Spielberg horror film ‘Jaws,’ along with a question and answer with one of the film’s stars actor Richard Dreyfuss, when from the minute Dreyfuss appeared on stage, the event derailed.

Dreyfuss walked onto the stage wearing a blue floral pattern house dress, pausing to turn away from the audience and shake his hips suggestively, actions that were caught on multiple mobile phone video footage posted online. Then two stage hands appeared and tore the dress off the actor who then took his seat opposite the event’s moderator.

According to Variety and the Boston Globe’s reporting, Dreyfuss ranted about subjects reported to include trans people, Barbra Streisand, the MeToo movement and women in general. As attendee Diane Wolfe described it to the Boston Globe, “[Dreyfuss] said that the parents of trans youth, allowing them to transition, was bad parenting and that someday those kids might change their minds.”

Facebook/social media advertisement for the ‘Jaws’ screening by The Cabot.

A number of members of the audience took offense and left the venue. On The Cabot Theater’s Facebook page one attendee wrote: “This was disgusting. How could the Cabot not have vetted his act better. Apparently (I found out too late), he has a reputation for spewing this kind of racist, homophobic, misogynistic bullcrap.”

The Cabot has since limited commenting on its page.

The Cabot’s executive director J. Casey Soward on Sunday apologized in a statement that read:

“We regret that an event that was meant to be a conversation to celebrate an iconic movie instead became a platform for political views. We take full responsibility for the oversight in not anticipating the direction of the conversation and for the discomfort it caused to many patrons,” Soward said. “We are in active dialogue with our patrons about their experience and are committed to learning from this event how to better enact our mission of entertaining, educating and inspiring our community.”

WBSM News Talk Sports Radio 1420AM in New Bedford–Fall River reported that The Cabot also sent an email, that the station had been forwarded, to those who purchased tickets apologizing.

“Dear Cabot Patrons,

I am writing to address an important matter concerning last night’s event with Richard Dreyfuss at The Cabot.

We deeply regret that Mr. Dreyfuss’s comments during the event were not in line with the values of inclusivity and respect that we uphold at The Cabot. We understand that his remarks were distressing and offensive to many of our community members, and for that, we sincerely apologize.

At The Cabot, we are committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of our community. The views expressed by Mr. Dreyfuss do not reflect our beliefs, and we do not endorse them in any way.

We take full responsibility for the oversight in not anticipating the direction of the conversation and for any discomfort it caused.

We are taking immediate steps to ensure that such an incident does not happen again. This includes more rigorous vetting of our event participants and more proactive communication strategies to keep our audience informed.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support of The Cabot.

We value your feedback and are dedicated to learning from this experience to better serve our community.”

The actor has a lengthy record of anti-trans remarks and bigotry. He has directed transphobic rants about trans youth affirming their gender and has taken aim at the Academy of Motion Pictures & Sciences calling out the Academy’s diversity efforts in a 2023 PBS’ Firing Line broadcast saying that the Academy’s focus on diversity “makes me vomit.”

“We’re so fragile that we can’t have our feelings hurt,” he also said. “We don’t know how to stand up and bop the bully in the face.”

Deadline reported that Dreyfuss apparently made similar comments at a Friday night Jaws screening at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. “I live in Mass, but the Cabot showing was all booked so I saw him in NH on May 24,” a Facebook commenter wrote. “He made anti-gay remarks that night too.”

The actor has not responded to requests by multiple media outlets for comment.

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Estimated 1.6 million attend Madonna concert in Rio

Free event took place on Copacabana Beach on Saturday

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Madonna performs on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Beach on May 4, 2024. (Screen capture via Reuters YouTube)

RIO DE JANEIRO — An estimated 1.6 million people on Saturday attended Madonna’s free concert on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach.

The concert, which was the last one as part of Madonna’s Celebration Tour, included a tribute to people lost to AIDS.

Bob the Drag Queen introduced Madonna before the concert began. Pabllo Vittar, a Brazilian drag queen and singer, and Anitta, a bisexual pop star who was born in Rio’s Honório Gurgel neighborhood, also joined Madonna on stage.

Congresswoman Erika Hilton, a Black travesti and former sex worker, and Rio Municipal Councilwoman Mônica Benício, the widow of Marielle Franco, a bisexual Rio Municipal Councilwoman who was assassinated in 2018, are among those who attended the concert.

“Madonna showed that we fight important fights for the human rights of Black (people), young (people), women and LGBTQIA+ people, and against all injustice, discrimination, and violence,” said Associaçao Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals), a Brazilian trans rights group known by the acronym ANTRA, on its X account. “What they call identitarianism’ is our subversion to the retrograde and conservative tackiness that plagues the country.”

The Associated Press reported the concert was Madonna’s biggest ever.

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Brittney Griner considered ending her life in Russian prison

In a sit down interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, the WNBA star spoke about the “mistake” she made in hurriedly packing for her trip to Russia

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ABC News Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts interviews WNBA star Brittney Griner for a primetime special. (Photo Credit: ABC News)

CONTENT WARNING: The following story discusses suicide ideation.

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Her first few weeks behind bars in a Russian prison took a terrible toll on Brittney Griner, the out lesbian WNBA star who is breaking her silence on the ten months she was held on drug-related charges. 

“I wanted to take my life more than once in the first weeks,” Griner told ABC’s Robin Roberts in a primetime interview Wednesday. “I felt like leaving here so badly.”

The two-time Olympic gold medalist and nine-time WNBA All-Star, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, said she ultimately decided against suicide, partly because she feared Russian authorities would not release her body to her wife, Cherelle Griner. 

While Cherelle and the White House worked to gain her release, Brittney reflected on what she admitted was the “mistake” that landed her in Russian detention. 

“I could just visualize everything I worked so hard for just crumbling and going away,” Griner told Roberts, who is co-anchor at Good Morning America and is herself an out lesbian and former college basketball player.

Griner, 33, was arrested on Feb. 17, 2022, at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow. Authorities said they found vape cartridges in her luggage containing cannabis oil, which is illegal in the country.

Griner told Roberts that was the result of a “mental lapse” on her part — packing the cannabis oil cartridges in her luggage, Griner said that she had overslept on the morning she was leaving for Russia to play during the WNBA’s off-season, which is how many of the league’s vastly underpaid players earn a living, compared to NBA players. 

So, she packed while she was “in panic mode,” Griner said. 

“My packing at that moment was just throwing all my stuff in there and zipping it up and saying, ‘OK, I’m ready,’” she told Roberts.

After landing in Russia, Griner realized that she had those two cannabis oil cartridges in her luggage as Russian security officers inspected her bag at the airport. She recalled the moment as a sinking feeling. 

“I’m just like, ‘Oh, my God.’ Like, ‘How did I– how did I make this mistake?’” Griner said. “I could just visualize everything I worked so hard for just crumbling and going away.”

Russian authorities immediately arrested Griner, but her trial would not take place for five months. She described the horrible conditions of her imprisonment during that delay, saying that she didn’t always have toilet paper and that the toothpaste they gave her had expired about 15 years ago.

“That toothpaste was expired,” she said. “We used to put it on the black mold to kill the mold on the walls.”

“The mattress had a huge blood stain on it, and they give you these thin two sheets,” she added. “So you’re basically laying on bars.”

On July 7, 2022, Griner pleaded guilty at her trial to drug charges, admitting that she had the vape cartridges containing cannabis oil but stating she put them in her luggage unintentionally. She testified that she had packed the cartridges by accident, and had “no intention” to break Russian law.

Roberts pressed Griner on this point: “You know there are those who say, ‘Come on. How did you not know that you had cartridges in your luggage?’”

“It’s just so easy to have a mental lapse,” Griner replied. “Granted, my mental lapse was on a more grand scale. But it doesn’t take away from how that can happen,” she explained.

Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison on Aug. 4, 2022, and in October 2022, a judge denied the appeal filed by Griner’s attorneys.

The sentence landed Griner in a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia.

“It’s a work camp. You go there to work,” said Griner. “There’s no rest.” Her job was cutting fabric for Russian military uniforms.

“What were the conditions like there?” Roberts asked.

“Really cold,” Griner said. So cold that her health was impacted and she decided to chop off her long dreadlocks.

“What was that like losing that part of you, too?” Roberts asked Griner.

“Honestly, it just had to happen. We had spiders above my bed — making nests,” she said. “My dreads started to freeze,” she added. “They would just stay wet and cold and I was getting sick. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to survive.”

Her arrest came around the same time as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, further increasing tensions between Russia and the U.S. But as the Los Angeles Blade reported on Dec, 8, 2022, Russia agreed to release Griner in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

However, before winning her freedom, Griner revealed authorities forced her to write a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“They made me write this letter. It was in Russian,” she said. “I had to ask for forgiveness and thanks from their so-called great leader. I didn’t want to do it, but at the same time I wanted to come home.”

Griner said her heart sank upon boarding the plane to freedom and finding that Paul Whelan, another American the White House said was “wrongfully detained,” wasn’t leaving Russia with her.

“I walked on and didn’t see him, maybe he’s next. Maybe they will bring him next,” she said. “They closed the door, and I was like, are you serious? You’re not going to let this man come home now.”

Griner recounts on the experience in “Coming Home,” a memoir set to be released on May 7. 

988 is the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and is available 24/7 via phone, text or chat to everyone of all ages, orientations and identities. If you are a transgender, nonbinary or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860. LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. You can still also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day, and it’s available to people of all ages and identities.

Additional resources:

If you are in a life-threatening situation, please dial 911.

If you are in crisis, please dial 988 or contact Rainbow Youth Project directly at +1 (317) 643-4888

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Ellen launches new comedy tour & jokes about demise of her show

Ellen discussed her show’s cancellation on the 1st night of her comedy tour which she says will be taped for a Netflix special

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Ellen DeGeneres (Screenshot/YouTube Access Hollywood)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Returning in a stand-up performance this past week, Ellen DeGeneres appeared on the stage of the Largo at the Coronet Theater in the heart of West Hollywood Wednesday night in a sold-out show, the comedian joked about the abrupt end of her daytime ratings behemoth talk show two years ago.

Rolling Stone journalist Krystie Lee Yandoli was in the audience and reported that DeGeneres addressed the end of ‘Ellen’ in her opening routine:

“I used to say that I didn’t care what other people thought of me and I realized…I said that at the height of my popularity,” DeGeneres said, prompting the audience to erupt in laughter. “It is such a waste of time to worry about what other people think…Right now I’m hoping you’re thinking, ‘This is marvelous, I’m so happy to be here.’ But you could be thinking, ‘Let’s see how this goes.’”

Wednesday’s gig marks the first night of DeGeneres’ Ellen’s Last Stand…Up Tour, which she noted a new Netflix special was to be taped this fall. According to Rolling Stone Netflix declined to comment on the news. A representative for DeGeneres did not respond to a request for comment.

In the summer of 2020 a firestorm erupted around the talk show host in the wake of revelations from staffers that she presided over a “toxic” workplace environment for years, and the accompanying allegations that a woman who built an empire on the “niceness” of her persona is in reality one of the meanest people in the business.

In August, Variety magazine reported that her show has ousted three senior producers in the wake of accusations of racial insensitivity, sexual misconduct and other problems behind the scenes at the talk show.

Three senior producers — executive producers Ed Glavin and Kevin Leman, and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman — have been ousted from the Warner Bros.-distributed syndicated strip following damning allegations raised in recent reports by Buzzfeed and Variety.

“Ellen” veterans Mary Connelly, Andy Lassner and Derek Westervelt will remain at the show as executive producers alongside host DeGeneres. Connelly, Lassner and Westervelt have been with the show since its inception in 2003.

In a phone call at the time with the Los Angeles Blade, a spokesperson for Warner Brothers confirmed the departure of the three former executives.

The news was broken to the staff of the show after what Variety described those sources knowledgeable as saying that it was an emotional remote video teleconference between DeGeneres, the newly appointed producers and staffers.

Then in May of 2021, in an announcement made to the show’s staff yesterday and in an interview DeGeneres gave The Hollywood Reporter, it was reported that the show was ending its 19 year daytime television run in 2022.

Rolling Stone reported that in her stand-up set this past week, DeGeneres kicked off with a recap of what she’s been up to since her talk-show ended: gardening, a lot of sweatpants-wearing, and collecting chickens as pets. She joked that as someone who once hosted a daily show, she appreciates the plight of the chicken who has to lay an egg every day. Still, most of the routine found her grappling with having become Public Enemy No. 1 — a whiplash turn from her once-firm reputation as the happy-go-lucky talk-show host who ended each episode telling her audience to “be kind to one another.”

“What else can I tell you?” she mused, mock-reflecting on her recent past before adding sarcastically, “Oh yeah, I got kicked out of show business. There’s no mean people in show business.” 

“The ‘be kind’ girl wasn’t kind,” DeGeneres continued. “I became this one-dimensional character who gave stuff away and danced up steps. Do you know how hard it is to dance up steps? Would a mean person dance up steps? Had I ended my show by saying, ‘Go fuck yourself,’ people would’ve been pleasantly surprised.”

At the conclusion of her set, the crowd gave DeGeneres a standing ovation, prompting her to return to the stage for a candid conversation with the audience. DeGeneres called on people one by one as they asked questions and shared messages of gratitude.

As she closed out the night she told the audience:

“Honestly, I’m making jokes about what happened to me but it was devastating, really,” she said. “I just hated the way the show ended. I love that show so much and I just hated that the last time people would see me is that way.” 

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WNBA star Brittney Griner’s interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts

The out lesbian basketball player discusses her arrest, imprisonment and the backlash since being freed from a Russian gulag

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ABC News Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts interviews WNBA star Brittney Griner for a primetime special. (Photo Credit: ABC News)

NEW YORK  — ABC News announced it will air its exclusive interview with Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner on Wednesday, May 1, with a “first look” on Good Morning America and the actual primetime special that evening on “20/20.”

The interview is Griner’s first sit down since her release from a Russian prison to discuss the events of February 17, 2022, for which she was arrested, tried and convicted. 

Griner was interviewed by GMA co-host and out lesbian Robin Roberts, who played basketball throughout her four years at Southeastern Louisiana University and was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012. 

In a clip from “Prisoner in Russia: The Brittney Griner Interview,” Griner is asked by Roberts for her reaction when she realized that she had vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which is illegal in Russia, in her luggage, Griner said, “My life is over right here.” 

“I was just so scared for everything because there’s so much unknown,” Griner told Roberts.

ABC News

In its news release, ABC reveals that in the special, “Griner talks candidly for the first time about her harrowing arrest and time in prison, where she describes feeling ‘less than human’ and the suicidal thoughts she had while being detained. She also talks about navigating the Russian penal system and the anguish she experienced being what she calls a political prisoner.

The special reveals new details about the negotiations behind the prisoner swap that led to Griner’s release and goes home with her as she unzips her duffle bag from Russia, sharing a few personal possessions she says got her through the ordeal.”

The promotional material also reveals Griner addresses backlash she experienced both while in prison and upon her release in December 2023. 

Roberts also speaks with Griner’s wife, attorney Cherelle Griner, about her role in rallying for Brittney’s release. It’s not mentioned whether Cherelle discusses expecting their first child this summer, as the Los Angeles Blade has reported.

In addition to this special, Griner has partnered exclusively with ESPN and Disney Entertainment Television to share her story through various projects on their platforms. A documentary feature from ESPN Films and scripted series development with ABC Signature are in the works. Cherelle Griner serves as an executive producer on those projects. 

Brittney Griner’s memoir, “Coming Home,” is available in bookstores and online on Tuesday, May 7.

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Jodie Foster honored at TCL’s Chinese Theatre handprint event

Foster holds the distinction of being the 2nd person to win multiple Oscars before age 30 & the only openly LGBTQ woman to win 2 Oscars

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Jodie Foster at her Hand & Footprint Ceremony outside Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre Friday, April 19, 2024. (Screenshot/YouTube ET)

HOLLYWOOD – Celebrated Oscar winning actor Jodie Foster marked her 10th wedding anniversary to her wife director Alexandra Hedison with her addition to a legendary list of Hollywood stars, by leaving her hand and footprints in cement outside Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre on Friday.

The ceremony was emceed by her longtime pal and friend actor Jamie Lee Curtis and Turner Classic Movies host, television personality Benjamin Mankiewicz. As she added her handprints, footprints, and autograph to the cement casting she took her shoes off and went barefoot.

“The person that I have to thank the most, really, is my wife Alex, who I cannot believe was so generous to give up our 10-year anniversary day to come and do this with me,” said Foster, adding, “This is my life,” she told the standing room only crowd. “I love my life, and I’m so grateful that all of you guys think I’m OK.”

Foster’s over fifty year career in Hollywood has seen her win Oscars for her performances in the category of Best Actress for 1988’s film The Accused and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. She was also nominated as Best Supporting Actress for the 1977 film Taxi Driver, 1995’s Nell. This past year Foster was nominated for her role as Best Supporting Actress in 2023’s Nyad.

Nyad, is a biographical sports drama film about sixty-year-old swimmer Diana Nyad’s multiple attempts in the early 2010s to swim the Straits of Florida, starred Annette Bening in the leading role as Foster portrayed Bonnie Stoll as Nyad’s athletic trainer. 

Also attending Friday’s ceremony was Diana Nyad who stood alongside Foster’s wife.

Foster holds the distinction of being the second person to win multiple Oscars before the age of 30. She is also the only openly LGBTQ woman to win two Academy Awards for acting, although she was not publicly out until after both wins.

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Elton John & Bernie Taupin awarded Library of Congress’ Gershwin

Elton John & Bernie Taupin: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song will air on PBS April 8 at 8pm local time

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Bernie Taupin and Elton John awarded Library of Congress’s Gershwin Prize. (Screenshot/YouTube The Hill)

By Rob Salerno | WASHINGTON – The Library of Congress honored legendary songwriting duo Elton John and Bernie Taupin with the prestigious Gershwin Prize at a lavish ceremony and tribute concert in Washington, D.C. March 20, that will be broadcast on PBS on April 8.

John, 76, and Taupin, 73, are known for a fifty-year career of hit songs that have become pop and rock music standards, including “Tiny Dancer,” “Your Song,” and “Goodbye, Yellow-Brick Road.” 

“Elton John and Bernie Taupin have written some of the most memorable songs of our lives. Their careers stand out for the quality and broad appeal of their music and their influence on their fellow artists,” says Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. 

The story of their longstanding collaboration was dramatized in the 2019 film Rocketman, named for the 1972 single that became one of John’s signature songs.

The Tribute concert is hosted by POSE star Billy Porter and features performances by Garth Brooks, Charlie Puth, Brandi Carlile, Joni Mitchell, Annie Lennox, Marin Morris and Metallica covering some of John and Taupin’s greatest hits. Many of these artists have recorded covers or duets of their songs, or have been covered by Elton John in the past.

Established in 2007, the Gershwin Prize recognizes lifetime contributions made to popular music. Elton John is the first openly gay recipient of the honor.

John and Taupin met in London in 1967 after they both responded to an ad looking for people to collaborate on songwriting. John was a pianist and Taupin a lyricist. From there, a nearly sixty-year partnership was born.

Elton John has been since been feted with all four of the major performing arts awards – the Grammy, Oscar, Tony, and most recently, the Emmy for Farewell from Dodgers Stadium at this year’s Emmy Awards. He is only the third gay man among the 19 people who have achieved this distinction.

John is also known for his philanthropic work, having founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1986 at the height of the HIV epidemic, after losing his close friend Freddie Mercury. The Foundation has raised more than $600 million to support HIV prevention and care in more than 60 countries. The Foundation also hosts Elton John’s annual Academy Awards viewing party fundraiser in Hollywood. In recognition of his philanthropic work, John was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998.

“If you’re successful, you have to give back. That was my mantra in 1980 when I got sober, and it’s been my mantra ever since,” John told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

Taupin has also shared an Oscar win with John and been nominated for two Grammys.John first came out as bisexual in a Rolling Stone interview in 1976, a revolutionary act for a mainstream musician at the time. Later, in 1992, he would come out as gay also in Rolling Stone.

Elton John & Bernie Taupin: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song will air on PBS April 8 at 8pm local time, and will be available to stream on PBS.org and the PBS app.

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

Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Colton Underwood opens up about fertility struggles

On a new podcast Daddyhood the former Bachelor star says learning he had a low sperm count was “not a great feeling”

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Reality star Colton Underwood joins Hoda & Jenna to reveal his latest project, a new series called “Daddyhood” and — spoiler alert — Underwood says he and his husband, Jordan C. Brown, are on a “path to parenthood.” He also opens up about their difficult journey, saying, “I’ve had, already, some fertility struggles and it’s time we talk about this.” (Screenshot/YouTube NBC Today)

By Rob Salerno | LOS ANGELES – Former Bachelor star Colton Underwood wants to end the stigma around fertility treatments by letting the world follow his and his husband’s journey to create a child together on their new podcast Daddyhood, available now on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube.

In an interview with People Magazine, Underwood opens up about he and husband Jordan C. Brown began the process of creating a child shortly after they got married last year. Underwood says they’ve created embryos and are in the process of implanting them in a surrogate.

But before they could do that, both men were tested to ensure their sperm were viable. While Brown’s sperm count was normal, Underwood says his sperm count was too low. The couple both wanted to contribute sperm so that they wouldn’t know who was the genetic parent of their offspring, and could treat the child as equally there.

“I mean right away, my husband gets his results back for his sperm count and he had incredible, great numbers, and I got mine back and all my sperm was dead. And I think immediately I was just like, ‘Oh, what does this mean? It means I’m sterile and can’t have kids now.’ And it was not a great feeling,” he told People.

Underwood says he hopes that talking about it can help reduce the shame around fertility difficulties.

“I think one of the reasons why men don’t talk about it is it’s sort of a blow to the ego. They’re just like, ‘Why me, I’m an alpha man? How can I not do the most simple task a man can do?’” he said.

His doctor helped Underwood realize that parts of his lifestyle were causing his low sperm count, and put him on a plan to get his numbers up. 

“My doctor did list the most common reasons why sperm count could be low and I was doing literally everything you could possibly do to kill your sperm, which was hot tub and sauna, baths. Exercising more than four or five times a week actually has an adverse effect on sperm. Pelotoning, riding a cycle or a bike,” he said. “And then I was taking synthetic testosterone. I was prescribed testosterone after my days in football and what my body went through. So I was quite literally doing everything you possibly could do to hurt your sperm count.”

And Underwood is no stranger to putting his life on public display. After briefly playing in the NFL off season in 2014 and 2015, he competed on the reality show The Bachelorette before taking on the star role in the 2018 season of The Bachelor. He publicly dated Bachelor season winner Cassie Randolph for a year, ending amid allegations that he stalked her, leading to a restraining order. 

In 2021, Underwood publicly came out after saying he was blackmailed by someone who had spotted him at a bathhouse. He later starred in the Netflix reality series Coming Out Colton, which followed his journey learning about his sexuality and the gay community.

In a promo for Daddyhood, a supercut of interviews Underwood has done over the years highlights how often he’s spoken of how much he wants to have kids. 

Underwood says that Daddyhood will examine the issues that male couples face when seeking to have children, including medical procedures, legal issues, and the emotional toll that the journey can take. 

“I’m ready for this. I’m really excited to take this on,” he says of the podcast. “I cannot wait to share this dream with you.”

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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High flying & adored, Chita Rivera charts her path to heaven

Rivera who seemed immortal passed away at age 91. Her support of LGBTQ artists unflinching & she was personally touched by the AIDS crisis

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Chita Rivera being interviewed on the Red Carpet at a 2018 event in New York by ET. (Screenshot/YouTube ET)

HOLLYWOOD – She never danced Evita, but she was still “high flying adored.” Today, Chita Rivera has left the stage, but she clearly will never dance out of the hearts of all who loved, admired and respected her.

Clearly, she was a talent no one could reckon. Born in 1933 as Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero, Chita Rivera’s rise to stardom began with ballet classes at the age of 11. Her undeniable talent led her from the School of American Ballet to the spotlight of Broadway, where she broke ground as one of the first Hispanic women to achieve leading roles in theater during a time when representation was minimal.

She is known in critical circles as “the greatest musical-theater dancer ever.”  Jason Alexander has been one of the first Broadway voices to speak of her passing and said, “This extraordinary woman, the incomparable. Chita Rivera was one of the greatest spirits and colleagues I’ve ever known. She set the bar in every way. I will cherish her always. Dance in heaven, my friend.”

She was the original Velma Kelly in Chicago and racked up ten Tony nominations and two wins. Her performances were life changing. In 2009, she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to American culture.

It is not a surprise that she was revered at her passing. What was shocking was that she passed at all. If there was anyone who you could anticipate had the spirit and will to live forever, it was Chita Rivera. She somehow seemed immortal. 

And she loved LGBTQ+ people.

It was a mere decade ago when Rivera chose to celebrate her 80th birthday by headlining a sold-out show, Chita-A Celebration, at the August Wilson Theater. The event benefited Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS.

“The roar for her was deafening,” they report. After six rapturous standing ovations, Rivera stood proud, having raised $413,660 for the cause in that single performance. “I had no idea celebrating my 100th birthday would be so much fun,” quipped the then 80-year old.

If Rivera was at all a diva, she was a generous one. “I’m not comfortable with just me, me, me. That’s boring,” she has said. Rivera was publicly vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. She was among the luminaries who supported many AIDS benefit concerts and took a firm stance for equality. Through her philanthropic efforts, Rivera contributed to nurturing acceptance and championing the visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals in the arts.

Rivera was personally touched by the AIDS crisis having lost dozens of friends to the disease. She spoke publicly about it when she was performing in Kiss of a Spider Woman. “It’s a very difficult role for me to play in these times, when you’ve lost so many friends, and suddenly you’re standing there and you’re playing ‘Death.’ And you’ve just heard about some friends (who have died), you know? Sometimes it’s really, really hard. But then I get all kinds of things from it: I get strength from having to go right through it. When Larry Kert (her ‘West Side Story’ co-star) passed away, I thought I saw him in the balcony when I was singing ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman.’ There’s a lot going on. It’s a serious play, an important play. And this a good time right now because we need all of these channels open. We gotta get them in there to get the message out there.”

GLAAD put out a statement at her passing on Tuesday, “Broadway legend Chita Rivera has sadly passed away at age 91. Rivera spent much of her long career advocating for LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV and AIDS. Our hearts go out to everyone who loved her.”  

GLAAD president and CEO, Sara Kate Ellis, wrote her own personal tribute, “So sad to hear about the death of Chita Rivera. I had the pleasure of spending time with her at Remember the Ribbon: A Tribute to World AIDS Day in 2022. She spent much of her life advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV and AIDS. Sending love to her family.”

Rivera observed of her own legacy, “Many of the shows I danced in don’t exist on film, but they do exist in the memories of those who were in the theater for that single moment in time. And nothing can replace that.”

She lived her life in single moments. The record of what she accomplished is imbedded in hearts, minds, memories and the forever told stories of Broadway. She will always be known by reputation and by legacy. As she makes her way up the red carpet, we can only hope she is greeted by her throng of angels, all those who passed before her. They know the exact name that we, who she has left, should have for her.

Legend.

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Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] 

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Homophobic threat after HRC dinner in D.C. rattled Out actor

Bailey related a story from just this past October, when he was in Washington D.C. attending the annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner

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President Joe Biden, British actor Jonathan Bailey, & First Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the Human Rights Campaign's annual National Dinner on October 14, 2023. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

LONDON, UK – The London Evening Standard’s Culture Editor and weekly columnist Nancy Durrant recently sat down with award winning British actor Jonathan Bailey known for his comedic, dramatic, and musical roles on stage and screen.

The 35-year-old actor, who stars as Anthony Bridgerton in the Netflix streaming service series Bridgerton and as the character of Tim Laughlin, a fictional aide to Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy in the Showtime series Fellow Travelers, is openly gay.

Based on the book series by Julia Quinn, Bridgerton’s period drama storyline revolves around a fictional family and is set in the world of Regency era London during the social season where marriageable youth of nobility and gentry are launched into society.

During the interview with the Evening Standard about his role in Fellow Travelers, Bailey gave the publication rare insight into his own relationship status, and confirmed that he does have a partner, who he described as a “lovely man.”

As they discussed the actor’s new series Fellow Travelers, based on a 2007 novel by Thomas Mallon, in which he co-stars opposite Matt Bomer as Hawkins Fuller a World War II veteran and official at the State Department who vigilantly hides his homosexuality.

The story line of the two closeted gay political staffers who fall in love at the height of the 1950s Lavender Scare in the series chronicles their hidden romance over several decades, navigating through various historical events such as the Vietnam War protests and the AIDS crisis.

As the interview progressed the Evening Standard delved into a discussion comparing the storyline of the ‘Travelers’ and the current political and cultural landscape for the LGBTQ+ community with “rights for women and LGBTQ+ people are being rolled back across the world. Hate crimes based on sexuality have risen by 112 per cent in the last five years in England and Wales alone. How does he feel?”

Bailey related a story from just this past October, when he was in Washington D.C. attending the annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner, and had an opportunity to meet President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden.

Reflecting on the dinner he told the Evening Standard, “It was an incredible experience,” he said. “I met President Biden. I was there with Shonda Rhimes, she was being given an award, Matt Bomer was given another one; I was introducing him. My first political gala. I had the most amazing night; had a drink; couldn’t sleep; buzzing.”

However, it was his experience the next morning at a coffee shop that was rather jarring. He continued his narrative:

“I woke up the next morning, it was like a montage. Sunshine, I was like, this is brilliant. I went into a coffee shop, and I was wearing a Human Rights Campaign cap from the night before. And the young lady who I was ordering from recognised me from Bridgerton, we were just chatting.

“And a man arrived behind me and he said, ‘Are you famous?’ And I said something like, ‘I’m really famous for ordering coffee,’ which is actually quite an annoying thing to say,” he laughs. “And then he got my cap, and he pulled it off my head and he threw it across the room and he said, ‘get out of this fucking coffee shop, you queer.”

The room went still, Bailey told the Evening Standard. But he related that he walked over, picked up his hat, and put it back on his head. “If you don’t take that cap off, I’m gonna fucking shoot you,” it came again. “Where I’m from, people like me kill people like you.”

It was, of course, terrifying. But “in the moment, everything slows down,” he says. “No one knew what to do, apart from one girl, she was amazing. Angela, she came up, and she got her phone out and she said, ‘I’m recording this message, I think you are welcome in this country. And what you’re saying, I think, is appalling.’ That happened sort of five minutes in, and he left.”

The Evening Standard noted that the man was from Pennsylvania according to Bailey who apparently asked him, and what Bailey took from the experience, he said, is that “potentially, there is a kid who – that’s his father. That’s his uncle. That’s his teacher.” 

He pauses. “My life was threatened. My body believed it; my brain didn’t and it took me a while to really catch up with it. But I’ve got friends and security. There are so many people that don’t. They are surrounded by that every day, and the torment of what that must be like, the amount of fear that was generated… If that’s what children are surrounded by, they’re not going to be able to grow in any way.

“And of course, that’s not just an American story,” he continues. “It’s international. And it’s terrifying, that [here in the UK] we’re not looking after queer people, in terms of allowing them into the country. Because that is the reality; people’s lives are literally at risk.”

Before shifting into other topics, Bailey told the Evening Standard reflecting on both Fellow Travelers and the incident in the Washington coffee spot:

“People are still living in the closet. Or they’ve had a moment where they’re watching and they realise, that was their father’s story, or their mother’s story; or it’s people who have been affected by this, but for the first time are understanding the trauma.

“People are so shocked that this is such recent history, but the majority of people in the world are living under that sort of belief system. And people on Instagram message from areas in the world where just getting through the day without being outed is survival.”

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