Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

Best of LGBTQ+ LA 2022

Our fifth annual special issue celebrates your favorites in nightlife, dining, activism, and more

Published

on

Welcome to the fifth annual special issue of the Best of LGBTQ LA.

The Los Angeles Blade is thrilled to celebrate the best of our community and all of the accomplishments that have been made throughout this past year. It was the year things were supposed to get back to “normal,” but really didn’t. During a year that started with an insurrection and ended with a new pandemic surge, here are some highlights of Los Angeles living, from drag to streaming services, that demonstrate the best of LA’s LGBTQ community.  

Los Angeles Blade readers nominated finalists; the top five vote getters in each category were then added to the final ballot. Thousands of Blade readers then voted and the winners are presented here. The Blade staff congratulates each of this year’s winners and finalists.

Best Drag Queen: Rhea Litré

Courtest of Rhea Litré

Rhea Litré describes herself as drag’s “Baddest Bitch.” It is not because she is “a bitch” but because she is bad at being one. LA Blade readers agree and have named her “Best Drag Queen” for a second year in a row. Last year, Litré decided to set up a live virtual drag show. According to Litré, “On March 16, 8 p.m. Pacific Time, we gave birth to the first digital drag show of its kind.” Litre went on to say, “There has been drag online for a long time, but as far as a conceptualized, produced show, that had never been done before.” You can find more information on Litré’s Instagram – quarantinequeendragshow

Editor’s choice: Jasmine Masters


Best LA-Based Drag Race Contestant (so far): Gottmik

Courtesy of Gottmik’s Facebook

Gottmik (Kade Gottlieb) was the first-ever transgender man to compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race and was a finalist in the show’s 13th season. Challenging the definition of modern drag and shaking up the “cis-tem” is intrinsic to Gottmik’s image and power. Gottmik’s work is a testament to the fluidity of the individual. Their career has taken them to the height of celebritydom as a makeup artist for some of Hollywood and New York’s biggest marquis names. Vogue called their look and style a kind of “show-stopping” glam. Los Angeles is lucky to be home to this revolutionary whirling dervish of talent.

Editor’s choice: Shangela

Best Drag King: Prinze Valentino

Prinze Valentino via Facebook

Prinze Valentino is a genderqueer performing artist who came to Los Angeles from Detroit. Each time Prinze steps foot on the stage he puts his passion into each movement with purpose and enthusiasm. He strives to be an empowering queer role model for the LGBTQ+ community. LA Blade readers think he hit that goal and voted him the best.

Editor’s choice: Landon Cider

Best Drag Show: ELOTERIA at Redline

Courtesy of Redline DTLA

Located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, Redline is one of the newer gay bars to hit the scene, and LA Blade readers love ELOTERIA, the Redline Saturday night drag show.

Editor’s choice: Makeout Mondayz at Rocco’s

Best Happy Hour: Rocco’s Tavern WeHo

Rocco’s Happy Hour is set in a sexy cocktail lounge. Rocco’s provides West Hollywood with a mix of weekly events featuring an open floor plan with lots of outdoor space. Friendliness is a brand trademark, and LA Blade readers seem to agree (especially those who like to start dinking early.)

Editor’s choice: Beaches

Best Neighborhood Bar: Abbey and Chapel

Los Angeles Blade photo 

“The bartenders are amazing, very friendly and conversational!” The Chapel is the gay dance club in the heart of WeHo, the sister venue of The Abbey. LA Blade readers have declared it the best of Los Angeles’ most popular gay nightclubs. Go and enjoy the amazing DJs. Owner David Cooley has been an enormous supporter of the community with numerous fundraisers, the founding of the Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing project and supporting numerous LGBTQ organizations.

Editor’s choice: Hamburger Mary’s

Best Outdoor Dining/Drinking: Rocco’s

Launched in May 2019, Rocco’s is known as a popular LGBTQ bar, winning the LA Blade Best Happy Hour for 2022. Two years ago, Rocco’s won the Best Neighborhood Bar award and this year and last, Rocco’s has won for Best Outdoor Dining. Rocco’s is an inclusive space with LGBTQ décor that celebrates LGBTQ pride and history. The LA Blade’s readers chose Rocco’s as having the best outdoor dining due to its continued agility throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Editor’s choice: La Boheme

Best Brunch: Santolina

Courtesy of Santolina

At Santolina, each dish on the menu tells a different story. The cuisine is a unique fusion of Tel Aviv meets California. Chefs Michael Teich and Burt Bakman infuse vibrant herbs into a health conscious offering that LA Blade readers definitely have eaten up and named as Best Brunch 2022.

Editor’s choice: Hamburger Mary’s

Best Bartender: Cesar Morales at Beaches

Cesar Morales at Beaches via Instagram 

Beaches has become a gathering place for the social media creator and influencer community that has endorsed Cesar as a “super sweet and friendly” bartender who provides the very best in the hospitality Beaches has become known for. Cesar exemplifies The Beaches motto:  ‘Be wild and free and look good doing it.’

Located in the heart of West Hollywood, Beaches is a strong, conceptually driven and fashionable LGBTQ+ focused hybrid restaurant and lounge.

The two-story space offers two full bars and VIP seating areas where guests can take a breather, have a cocktail or enjoy our one-of-a-kind California Cuban Cuisine. Enthusiastic patrons won’t be able to resist the pull of the energy on the main room equipped with a first-class lighting and sound system; the venue houses a DJ booth with the latest DJ equipment. 

Editor’s choice: Eric Lutz at Rocco’s

Best DJ: Kimber Chronic

Kimber Chronic via Facebook

Kimber Chronic is an American DJ pop singer, songwriter, and music producer. She is known for working closely with the LGBTQIA+ community through her transgender activism. Named a “Hero of Diversity” by Stoli Vodka for her inspiring journey that began in the gritty heart of Detroit, Kimber is hands on in bringing her vision to life “of creating an arsenal of music that is married with visual themes of addiction, lust, and ferocity.”

Editor’s choice: DJ Morningstar

Best Restaurant: Bottega Louie

Courtesy of Bottega Louie

Bottega Louie adds this year’s LA Blade Best Restaurant 2022 to their long list of awards. The restaurant, which seemed to tease us mid-construction for centuries, boasts sweet and savory gourmet dishes, and valet parking. “They make ordinary items not so ordinary,” effuses one happy patron. LA Blade readers agree. It’s very likely the best place in Los Angeles to see and be seen. Hit the patio after you faint over the desserts.

Editor’s choice: Night+Market

Best Coffee Shop: Alfred Coffee Melrose Place

Los Angeles Blade file photo

Stylish yet whimsical coffee shop serving coffee and juice, plus salads, sandwiches, and pastries.

Editor’s choice: Starbucks

Best Radio or TV Station: KTLA

This year, KTLA partnered with the Los Angeles LGBT Center and aired the “Love in Action” telethon hosted by Cher Calvin and Jai Rodriguez. The telethon supported the LGBTQ community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The telethon has raised several million dollars and featured a host of LGBTQ celebrities and allies. LA Blade readers sent back the appreciation to KTLA by naming them the best station in LA.

Editor’s choice: KCET PBS

Best Cannabis Business: Med Men

A recent review says, “Great experience there – my first time – and was greeted with a smile and good energy at the front door. Customer service was excellent – they asked what I liked, then swiftly showed me options and pricing and I was out the door in less than 4 minutes – literally. Plenty of easy parking too and five minutes from home – I think I found my new dispensary. Thanks MedMen.” LA Blade readers obviously agree.

Editor’s choice: Cannabis Café

Best LGBTQ-Owned Business: Out of the Closet Thrift Store

When you shop at Out of the Closet, 96 cents of every dollar goes back into HIV care and services. The chain is owned and operated by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles-based charity that provides medical, preventive, and educational resources for patients. “All of the proceeds go toward AIDS research. Love the cause and the workers were great,” observes one patron. LA Blade readers see it similarly.

Editor’s choice: The Abbey

Best LGBTQ Social Group: Impulse Group LA

Los Angeles Blade file photo

Winning this category for the second year in a row, Impulse Group LA was founded in 2009 by Jose Ramos. It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a stronger and healthier community for gay men. Hosting more than 400 events annually in 25 cities across the globe, Impulse seeks to create a brave space to engage, support, and connect our community.

Editor’s choice: AIDS LifeCycle

Best House of Worship: Kol Ami

Los Angeles Blade file photo

In 2019 and 2021, Congregation Kol Ami won the award for Best House of Worship. In 2020 it won Editor’s Choice, and now wins the award again for the Best House of Worship this year. Kol Ami is an important leader in the Jewish, LGBTQ, and West Hollywood communities since its founding in 1992. Rabbi Denise L. Egers broke barriers to create a more inclusive Reform movement that has resulted in more LGBTQ inclusion at synagogues worldwide. (1200 N La Brea Ave, West Hollywood)

Editor’s choice: Metropolitan Community Church, InVision Church (tie)

Most Committed Activist: Jose Ramos

Jose Ramos via Facebook

Jose has been described as “a fierce LGBTQ/HIV activist, leader, founder and president of Impulse Group, AFH Director of Western Sales, triathlete and former General Manager at Target North Hollywood.” An activist since he was 14 years old, Jose launched Impulse from his kitchen table in 2009. Of the name for the group, Jose explained to WEHO Times, “The name came because we felt that there was this very short time when we are about to have sex, that we may have the impulse to use protection or not; to ask questions about sexual health or not. It’s a split second when you make a decision about your health. Knowing that there is that urge, that impulse to act on your desires, we thought that the name “Impulse” fit really well with how we could help with moment of instinct–that split second. We wanted to empower gay men to make the best decision.” LA Blade readers salute his commitment to our community.

Editor’s choice: Queen Victoria Ortega

Favorite Public Official: Robert Garcia

Los Angeles Blade file photo

Garcia celebrated his 44th birthday on Dec. 2 and is a gay Latino originally from Peru. First elected to the city council in April 2009 to much fanfare as the Council’s youngest, first Latino male, and first gay person of color. He became Long Beach’s first gay mayor in 2014 with 52.1% of the vote

Garcia has deep ties to the Democratic Party’s leadership. In the 2020 campaign he was a prominent surrogate for Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign, later becoming a strong supporter of President Joe Biden. During the course of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic the mayor has acted in concert with California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s measures including masking mandates and the push to get Californians vaccinated.

The pandemic tragically impacted Garcia directly when in summer of 2020, he lost his mother, Gaby O’Donnell, and stepfather, Greg O’Donnell, to COVID. His mother was a medical assistant who immigrated from Peru when the mayor was five years old.

Editor’s choice: Lindsey Horvath

Most LGBTQ-Friendly City: West Hollywood

City of West Hollywood 

For the third year in a row, West Hollywood has won the award for the Most LGBTQ-Friendly City. As noted previously, West Hollywood has its “boutique hotels, celebrity-owned restaurants, unparalleled nightlife and shopping, and world-renowned events.” The inclusive city, one of America’s best run cities according to some, has multiple LGBTQ bars, restaurants, and nightlife and it’s no surprise that the LA Blade readers continue to choose West Hollywood as the Most LGBT-Friendly City. 

Editor’s choice: Palm Springs

Best Local Pro Sports Team: The Dodgers

Courtesy of the LA Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers franchise wins for a second year in a row. With six World Series championships and 23 National League pennants since its beginnings in Brooklyn in 1890, The Dodgers are committed to a tradition of pride and excellence. The Dodgers are dedicated to supporting a culture of winning baseball, providing a first-class, fan-friendly experience at Dodger Stadium, and building a strong partnership with the community. With the highest cumulative fan attendance in Major League Baseball history and a record of breaking barriers, the Dodgers are one of the most cherished sports franchises in the world.

Editor’s choice: The Lakers

Best Real Estate Firm: Oppenheim Group

Courtesy of the Oppenheim Group

Made famous by the reality show, Selling Sunset, the award-winning Oppenheim Group is a professional real estate brokerage serving buyers and sellers of luxury property in Los Angeles and Orange County. The brokerage is comprised of a close group of talented Realtors, led by the firm’s president and founder, Jason Oppenheim. A recent client exclaimed, “I would not have known about Oppenheim Group if it was not for the show. Oppenheim Group is all about professional upmarket real estate, which you effectively deliver. You showed us such lovely and beautiful homes. I liked the fact that the agents research the history of the properties, have knowledge on the area of the property/rooms and work hard to sell a property. Now looking forward to the next season where we can see more beautiful homes. Well done Brett, Jason and team!”

Editor’s choice: Compass

Best Ally: Debbie Allen

Debbie Allen received one of the 2021 Kennedy Center Honors and is receiving the 2021 Governor’s Award at the Emmys. She can now add LA Blade’s Best Ally 2022 to her award shelf. Allen was the producer of a landmark “A Different World” episode addressing AIDS and the Black community, and told AFROPUNK, “I’m happy to be here for World AIDS Day and to be working with AIDS Healthcare Foundation, it’s really just to highlight this war, this global war that we’re still in.”

Editor’s choice: Congressman Adam Schiff

Best Salon Spa: Shorty’s Barbershop

It is no contest. Shorty’s Barber Shop has won the Best Salon/Spa Award for the fourth year in a row. With amazing products and great haircuts, Shorty’s is a local favorite. In terms of its high quality products, all of them are ethically created and never tested on animals.

LA Blade readers continue to sing Shorty’s praises, “When you walk out with some merch (the styling putty and soy paste are customer favorites), you can feel good about that, too. Besides the perfect cut, Shorty’s also puts a premium on giving back, by working with the likes of Concrete Hero, AIDS Project Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.”

Editor’s choice: Ole Henriksen Face/Body Spa:

Best Car Dealership: Honda of Hollywood

Honda of Hollywood exudes excitement to help its Los Angeles clients. “We take the time to explore the features that are important to you and our knowledgeable staff is here to answer all of your questions. But what would buying a new car be without a test drive first? Visit Honda Of Hollywood where we’ll get you out on the road to find a Honda vehicle perfectly suited to your needs,” they state. “Super easy, great service,” confirms one happy reviewer. LA Blade readers have test driven them into being the Best Car Dealership of 2022.

Editor’s choice: Mercedes Beverly Hills

Best Doctor/Medical Provider: AIDS Healthcare Foundation Clinics

An Editor’s Choice winner two years ago for Most LGBT-Friendly Workplace, AIDS Healthcare Foundation Clinics has won Best Doctor/Medical Provider for the second year in a row. They represent the consistently excellent work of doctors, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, med techs, benefits counselors, and support staff at 14 AHF Healthcare Centers and satellite clinics throughout Southern California. In its quest to rid the world of AIDS, this nonprofit organization provides cutting-edge medicine and advocacy in 43 countries. Locally, says AHF Senior Director of Communications Ged Kenslea, “Our ‘circle of care’ concept starts with free and accessible HIV testing. When called for, AHF then provides swift linkage to care and follow-up treatment. We try as best we can to keep the focus on the patient by serving as their partner in care, in order to make it easier for them to adhere to their medication and care regimens to help them achieve their best selves, health and wellness-wise.”

Editor’s Choice: Los Angeles LGBT Center

Best Fitness or Workout Spot: LA Fitness

One happy reviewer reports,So happy to be back. Great gym. Can’t wait to use a locker again but I’m grateful they are being careful of covid. Clean, well-organized, and courteous staff for a much better price than the social club gym.” LA Blade voters agree.

Editor’s choice: Equinox

Best Home Furnishings: Living Spaces

Since December 2016, Living Spaces has brought a pressure-free furniture shopping experience to Los Angeles. Its two-story showroom boasts a variety of styles for every room in the house. Living spaces also carries hundreds of customizable styles in a special-order program. Living Spaces is so committed to offering their clients superior products at the best price, they will match a competitor’s price and take off an extra 10%. For that, and many other reasons, LA readers consider them the year’s best.

Editor’s choice: Restoration Hardware

Most LGBT-Friendly Workplace: City of West Hollywood

Courtesy the City Of West Hollywood (Facebook)

The City of West Hollywood regularly makes history. It was the first city in the nation to have a majority-LGBTQ governing body with its inaugural City Council when the city was incorporated in 1984. Today, the City Council is majority-LGBTQ and majority female. Starting in the darkest days of the AIDS crisis, West Hollywood became a beacon of hope in proving social services and support to LGBTQ community members and it has led the way in advocating for full LGBTQ equality. LGBTQ history-making extends to the city’s deep commitment to building an affirming work environment for LGBTQ employees. It’s no wonder the City of West Hollywood receives high marks from the community as the most friendly workplace for LGBTQ people.

Editor’s choice: Most LGBT-Friendly Workplace: Los Angeles LGBT Center

Best Non-Profit: Ariadne Getty Foundation

Courtesy of the Ariadne Getty Foundation

Founded in 2004, The Ariadne Getty Foundation works with partners worldwide to improve the lives of individuals and communities through financial investments and social activism. AGF is proud of its achievements and continues to ensure positive social and political change to further improve lives worldwide. Its namesake, Ariadne Getty, was voted 2020’s Best Ally by readers and presented the 2021 Hero of the Year Award by Los Angeles Blade publisher, Troy Masters.

In addition to her key support of LGBTQ journalism, major donations to GLAAD and others, this year saw the opening of The Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing, a cutting-edge 70,000-square-foot building in Hollywood with 98 affordable housing units for seniors ages 62 and above, LA Blade readers certainly noticed.

In the last decade Ariadne has become an increasingly visible LGBTQ philanthropist, encouraging other people of means to back Queer causes. As the mother of two, Nats and August, she has embraced gender fluidity and also championed trans rights. Getty has also been the recipient of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Vanguard award (2018) as well as receiving award-winning magazine, Variety’s Philanthropist of the Year award in 2019. 

Editor’s choice: Project Angel Food, Equality California (tie)

Best Pet Business or Vet: Laurel Pet Hospital

Laurel Pet Hospital via Facebook

Located in the heart of West Hollywood, Laurel Pet Hospital has “general practice veterinarians and specialists in internal medicine, surgery, and dentistry, we provide high-quality medical care at a reasonable price. Our facility includes a well-stocked pharmacy, in-hospital surgery suite, digital X-ray equipment, dental radiography, endoscopy, ultrasound, CO2 laser capabilities, and a closely supervised hospitalization area.” Compassionate advice and optimal care are key values.

Editor’s choice: Wag

Best Grocery/Supermarket: Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s returns to the top of the heap having been named LA Blade’s Best Grocery for 2019 and 2018. In June 2021, Trader Joe’s gave all its stores nicely cut and potted rainbow roses in celebration of Pride month. Heidi Leindecker, an assistant manager for Trader Joe’s told mycustomer.com, “Trader Joe’s is a role model for hiring diversity and practicing inclusion. The company cultivates a positive image when it comes to inclusion and its brand amongst employees and consumers. Trader Joe’s puts the employee first and makes sure that everyone is treated with integrity and respect. Employees are treated equally in the same manner as customers are treated equally. As employees are treated well, the feeling naturally overflows to the customers’ positive shopping experience.” LA Blade readers feel the love.

Editor’s choice: Pavillions

Best Museum or Art Gallery: Getty Center

Courtesy of the Getty Center

Editor’s choice: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Best A&E Venue: Hollywood Bowl

County of Los Angeles 

Last year the Hollywood Bowl won for Best Virtual A&E Events. This year it is the Best A&E Venue, which demonstrates that live or virtual, in the eyes of LA Blade readers, it is the best. Since its opening in 1922, the Hollywood Bowl has been the premier destination for live music, hosting everyone from Billie Holiday to The Beatles to Yo-Yo Ma under the iconic silhouette of its concentric-arched band shell.

Editor’s choice: Greek Theater

Best Outside LA Getaway: Palm Springs

 Los Angeles Blade file photo

Palm Springs is so interested in attracting the LGBTQ community that its Visiting Greater Palm Springs website calls out the community specifically. “Ready to take a hiatus from virtual events and Zoom meetings? We don’t blame you. The desert has long been a soothing oasis for the LGBTQ community with its poolside siestas, innovative cuisine, trendy shops and outdoor activities, but now, more than ever, those things have become more than luxuries. They are necessities for self-care and rejuvenation. Consider the following list of hot spots and activities and make a splash—literally—with your best LGBTQ getaway yet,” states author Greg Archer. LA Blade readers apparently are ready to pack their bags and happily head to the desert.

Editor’s choice: Las Vegas

Best Hotel: Le Parc

The Le Parc Suite Hotel is a groundbreaking boutique hotel in West Hollywood featuring sophisticated suites and a sky deck overlooking Los Angeles.

Le Parc Suite Hotel’s extraordinary renovation embraces the local arts community and memorializes the city of West Hollywood’s diversity. Already a well-known retreat for rising stars and trendsetting celebrities, Le Parc combines the city’s design-forward aesthetic with residential-style suites. Its new LOVE mural, designed by large-format fine artist Scott Hile, of Free Spirit Fine Art, embodies the spirit of Le Parc Suites. 

Editor’s choice: Sofitel Beverly Hills

Best LGBTQ Event: OutFest

Los Angeles Blade file graphic

Each year since 1979, OutFest has been a staple film festival in Los Angeles, held during LA’s Pride season and growing in importance to become the world’s largest such festival. 

Today, it is one of Los Angeles’ most anticipated such events, even hosting events across the country. It has garnered the attention of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences and even helped open the new Academy Awards Museum, hosting the billion dollar facility’s first live and in person event, Outfest Legacy Awards Gala in November. Outfest also hosts year-round programming that gives artists, filmmakers and entertainment professionals the opportunity to discover their voice, provide the pathways to the visibility of their work by all members of the public, and assure that their legacy will live on for generations to come.

Outfest strives to increase LGBTQIA+ visibility, strengthen understanding and create meaningful change by building empathy for our cause among the general public and the LGBTQ community by honoring excellence in telling the stories of our community.

Editor’s choice: DTLA ProudOutFest

Best Streaming Program Performance: Ben Aldridge

Courtesy of BritBox

Out British actor Ben Aldridge had two prominent roles streamed by LA Blade readers this year. He is well regarded for his role in “Pennyworth” as Bruce Wayne’s father, Thomas, the action-packed prequel story that was picked up by HBO Max this year. It was likely Aldridge’s other critically acclaimed role seen on Brit Box that thrilled Blade audiences. In “The Long Call,” he plays a gay man returning to an evangelical community that had rejected him years earlier. He is now a detective being asked to solve the mystery of a body found on the beach. Aldridge has had a great year, also being nominated for a GLAAD Award.

Editor’s choice: Ewan McGregor- Halston (Netflix)

Best Streaming Service: Amazon

Amazon Prime has so many LGBTQ-themed movies that it has constructed a top 20 list. The movie “Rocket Man” from 2019 tops the list. The list includes 2019’s “Halston,” 2020’s “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan,” and “Lez Bomb” and “Believer,” from 2018. 

Best Indie Streaming Service: Brit Box

Turn on your TV and head to the UK! No travel, no stress – just the best and biggest collection of British television in the U.S. and Canada on the digital video subscription service, BritBox. The streamer was created by two British content powerhouses—BBC Studios and ITV, the UK’s biggest broadcaster. BritBox features exclusive premieres, celebrated lifestyle and current series and iconic favorites, along with daytime dramas — most available within 24 hours after their UK premiere. BritBox also offers excellent curation, live programming and a user-friendly experience.

Editor’s Choice: Revry

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

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Celebrity News

LGBTQ ally Olivia Newton-John has died at 73

Newton-John had been battling breast cancer for over three decades, her first cancer diagnosis in 1992 when she was 44

Published

on

Olivia Newton-John (Family provided photograph/Facebook)

SANTA BARBARA – In an announcement on Facebook Monday, John Easterling, the husband of singer and actress Olivia Newton-John relayed the news that she had died at age 73.

Newton-John had been battling breast cancer for over three decades, her first cancer diagnosis in 1992 when she was 44. Although she had previously seen her cancer in remission, in 2017 she was diagnosed again.

In October of 2020 in an interview with The Guardian the pop star and actor spoke about her third diagnosis of cancer. “Three times lucky, right?” she smiles warmly. “I’m going to look at it like that. Listen, I think every day is a blessing. You never know when your time is over; we all have a finite amount of time on this planet, and we just need to be grateful for that.” She genuinely sounds as if she means every word.

The cancer’s return in 2017 was, she told The Guardian, not unexpected. “It’s been a part of my life for so long. I felt something was wrong. It’s concerning when it comes back, but I thought: ‘I’ll get through it again.’”

Olivia Newton-John (Photo by Michelle Day)

What of her health problems? “I don’t think of myself as sick with cancer,” she says firmly. “I choose not to see it as a fight either because I don’t like war. I don’t like fighting wherever it is – whether it’s outside or an actual war inside my body. I choose not to see it that way. I want to get my body healthy and back in balance. Part of that is your mental attitude to it. If you think: ‘Poor me,’ or ‘I’m sick,’ then you’re going to be sick.”

The popstar-singer was arguably best known for her breakout role in Grease, the 1978 American musical romantic comedy film based on the 1971 musical of the same name by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, which co-starred Oscar nominated actor John Travolta.

Travolta paid tribute to his co-star in a post on his Insta:

Newton-John was an ally to the LGBTQ community who was appreciative of her LGBTQ fans. In an interview with Logo/MTV she noted: “The gay fans have always been very loyal, they are a really great audience and have always been there for me.”

Out actor George Takei tweeted his remembrance:

In addition to her husband she is survived by her 36-year-old daughter, Chloe Lattanzi. 

The family asked for donations to be made to her cancer organization, the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, in lieu of flowers. 

Continue Reading

Movies

Director of ‘They/Them’ on queering the horror genre

John Logan puts conversion therapy where it belongs

Published

on

Kevin Bacon introduces his not-so-friendly staff in ‘They/Them.’ (Photo courtesy of Peacock)

Even if you’ve never heard of John Logan, the odds are pretty good you’ve heard his words.

That’s because the former playwright, now writer and director of the new horror film “They/Them” (premiering on Peacock Aug. 5), has been bringing his literate sensibilities to Hollywood screens for more than two decades now, earning three Oscar nominations during a career that has included screenplays for movies ranging from “Gladiator” to “Sweeney Todd” to “Star Trek: Nemesis,” not to mention a pair of James Bond blockbusters (“Skyfall” and “Spectre”). He’s also the man behind “Penny Dreadful,” Showtime’s Victorian horror “mashup” series that became a cult sensation during its all-too-brief three season run.

Now Logan has returned to the horror genre he loves to make his debut as a feature film director, and he’s brought more than just a queer sensibility. He’s brought a whole bloody queer story, as well.

Diving headlong into classic ‘80s slasher movie territory from its very first frames, “They/Them” brings together a collection of queer teens at a retreat deep in the woods – the Whistler Camp, run by third-generation proprietor and chief counselor Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon) – where their parents have sent them in hopes of making them straight. Though the staff seems friendly and understanding enough at first, it’s not long before the “therapy” starts to become more aggressive; to make matters worse, a sinister outside presence seems to be menacing the camp, and the campers, led by trans nonbinary rebel Jordan (Theo Germaine), are soon fighting for their lives as well as their identities.

Apart from the genius of putting conversion therapy into a horror movie where it belongs, Logan’s movie scores high points all around for solid LGBTQ representation. Indeed, it’s as much a rousing queer empowerment story as it is a horror tale, and though hardcore horror geeks might find its scares to be relatively tame, it reaches beyond shock value to turn the genre itself into a vehicle for cinematic queerness – something long overdue for the countless queer audiences who have always been drawn to horror.

The Blade talked with Logan about his vision for “They/Them” on the eve of the film’s world premiere at LA’s Outfest. Our conversation is below.

BLADE: Queer audiences have always loved horror movies, but horror movies haven’t loved them back until recently. Is that part of the reason behind this one?

JOHN LOGAN: That was the entire reason behind this one. When I was a kid, it would have meant so much to me to see a gay hero in a horror film. It’s a genre that SHOULD celebrate queerness, because horror is about the “other” – about the realization that people are not all the same. But queer characters in the ‘70s and ‘80s were mostly nonexistent, or they were jokes, or victims, or killers. They were never admirable people you’d aspire to be. And horror cinema has always had a very complicated relationship with gender and sexual identity, even back to the 1930s and the classic Universal cycle of horror films – except for “Frankenstein,” made by a queer filmmaker, where the most sympathetic character is the monster.

When we engage with storytelling in cinema, we want to see ourselves represented in some way. I wanted to write the movie that I didn’t get to see when I was 14 or 15 years old.

BLADE: You mentioned wanting to see a gay hero. One of the things that stands out about your movie is that none of these kids are “scream queens.” They’re all pretty heroic.

LOGAN: We wanted to take the tropes and subvert them completely. So, we have joyously celebrated things like, “There’s the camp in the woods, and it’s scary, and there’s a masked killer, and the killer uses different weapons,” and all the things I personally love about slasher movies – but it’s all in service of the great subversion, which is that these kids are not victims. They are not running and hiding, they are fighting for their identities. They are heroes.

BLADE: Speaking of subversion, the setting isn’t the only “camp” in the movie. There’s a lot of humor in it, from a certain perspective.

LOGAN: [Laughs] I would like to think there’s a “raised eyebrow” throughout. I mean, we have a singing and dancing musical number in it, we have some outrageous humor in it, as well. It’s meant to be a sort of exuberant exploration of the queer lifestyle in all its forms, from the most extravagant to the most romantic to the most erotic – as extreme as we could possibly get it. But it’s all played very straight, which is a testament to the actors, really.

BLADE: That’s another thing that stands out. You have a terrific cast, and Theo Germaine is a charismatic lead.

LOGAN: Thank God Theo fell into my lap. The movie begins, essentially, with Jordan’s face and it ends with Jordan’s face, so I knew it was really going to be important to find the right actor. Theo is so extraordinary, they’re so accessible to the audience. My heart breaks watching that character, because they’re emotional, but they’re empowered and strong – and that’s all from Theo.

Also, I’m not trans, I’m not nonbinary, and I’m also 60 – so I had to ask Theo to help me understand this character – not just the language around them, but how this young, trans, nonbinary human being moves through the world. And not only Theo, but Quei Tann and all the other actors were very generous with their own experiences, which is what, for me, makes them seem very authentic on screen, because they are playing versions of themselves that they can believe in.

BLADE: That’s the difference authentic representation can make.

LOGAN: Yes, and it also helped that the process of shooting really mirrored the story, in a way. None of the actors knew each other, and they were suddenly in Georgia, all slammed together in the middle of nowhere with no phone reception – and gradually, they built this tribe, this family, going through an experience much like the campers in the film go through. It was amazing to watch how they bonded and got together.

BLADE: One last thing – for the cinema buffs among our readers, it will be impossible not to notice shots and references that seem like nods to some of their favorite classics of the past. Are those on purpose?

LOGAN: All intentional. I may never direct another movie as long as I live, so I want to tip my hat to all the movies I love. There are shots that are a direct mirror of ‘Psycho,’ for example, or ‘Blue Velvet,’ or obscure slasher movies like ‘The Burning’ that nobody would know but me – and I worked really close with my DP, Lynne Moncrief, to find those moments. It felt important for us pay homage to the whole continuum of horror movies behind us, because we are building on all those as we try to step gingerly – or bravely – into a future where queer horror is finally the popular mainstream entertainment it deserves to be.

Continue Reading

Arts & Entertainment

If she was your girl, oh the things Peppermint would do to you

Performer talks love of Janet, new music, and political attacks on drag queens

Published

on

Peppermint recreates an iconic scene from Janet Jackson’s ‘If.’ (Photo courtesy Peppermint)

If she was your girl, oh the things she’d do to you. I’m not talking about Janet Jackson — I’m talking about Peppermint.

The “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 9 runner-up has parlayed that success into a diversified career in music, theater, LGBTQ advocacy, and more. From her work with RuPaul as the first out trans woman competitor on that hit show to her groundbreaking role in “Head Over Heels” as the first trans person to originate a starring role on Broadway, to her work as a GLAAD board member, Peppermint is a force in the LGBTQ movement.

She’s not shy when asked about recent controversies involving Republican attacks on drag queens, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announcing he would pursue legislation making it illegal for a parent to take a child to a drag performance. In Arizona, the Trump-endorsed candidate for governor last month also attacked drag queens.

“I think the attacks are terrible and dirty,” Peppermint told the Blade. “They are trying and succeeding in distracting us from protecting the most vulnerable of our population — trans children. The drag entertainers are adults and it’s a fun celebratory scene that is inclusive of everyone and certainly not harmful. The only people supporting this are insidious and flat out lying or have probably never seen drag in real life.” 

Peppermint this week announced plans for a November tour of her new show and music. Specific dates are listed at the bottom of this article; visit peppermintonline.com for more information. 

But the main reason for a recent conversation with the Blade, was Peppermint’s viral video recreation of Janet Jackson’s iconic “If.” The song was the second release from Jackson’s 1993 “janet.” album, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Its accompanying video and choreography have proven timeless, influencing many other artists, including Peppermint. Her recent meticulous recreation of the video won tens of thousands of fans on YouTube and even led to a re-Tweet by Janet herself.

Jackson’s video created a stir when it was released, revealing a bold and overtly sexual Janet that many fans weren’t expecting. “If” features intricate choreography that depicted Janet grabbing the crotches of male dancers who simulated oral sex on her. The original video was also groundbreaking in its depiction of technologies that weren’t invented in 1993, such as web cams and touchscreens. 

“This song, the choreography is so iconic, professional dancers have seen it in other pieces over the years and it’s been a blueprint for so many songs and videos by other artists,” Peppermint said. “Just as people borrowed from Michael Jackson and ‘Thriller.’” 

Peppermint fell in love with Jackson’s music following the release of “Control” in 1986 and says she learned all the dance routines over the years.

“There’s something about the way her music and live performance is packaged and presented, it came off as memorable and iconic and forward thinking and progressive and made a big impact early on in high school,” Peppermint said. “I learned the moves to ‘If’ immediately and remember every chance I got in high school and in summer camp, if you were around me you were not safe because you were learning the Janet moves, I would force everyone around me to do the routines.”

Peppermint estimates she spent $30,000 on her “If” recreation and paid for it out of pocket. The video features 10 dancers with about 30 crew on set. It was filmed in one day and she says she studied all angles of the original performance to match the choreography. It took three takes to nail the iconic breakdown dance at the end of the song.

Angel Ayala created the costume; she hand-rolled the bones on the vest (Kim Kardashian recently purchased the original costume at auction for $25,000). Peppermint says she studied Janet’s jewelry and replicated it, scouring the internet looking for similar pieces and ultimately making some by hand to match the originals perfectly. 

“My look in replicating Janet’s look, I wanted it to be as close as possible, which I nailed except for the six-pack abs,” Peppermint said, “but I look sexy.”

She noted the importance of finding talented dancers since every moment in the video is tightly choreographed.

“I wanted to update it a bit and make it as inclusive as possible with trans and nonbinary dancers, queer dancers, people of color, which is similar to the original video with its mostly Asian cast,” she said. 

She says “If” is, of course, her favorite Janet video; while her favorite Janet song is “Throb” and her favorite Janet tour is the “Velvet Rope.” 

Peppermint says she’s never met her idol Janet, but hopes to one day, adding, “I did this for myself, it was a passion project.” Will there be another Janet tribute video? Peppermint says yes, sometime next year, but declines to specify which video she plans to recreate next. 

In the meantime, she’s focused on her upcoming fall tour and her own original music about a breakup titled “Letter to my Lovers,” a trilogy about the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship. “I wanted to do something that’s a love letter to the trans community and letting people know you’re deserving of love and deserve to hear a trans woman singing about love to some ‘90s R&B throwback.”

And for those who haven’t seen the Hulu rom-com “Fire Island,” Peppermint stars in the film.

Peppermint tour dates:

November 2 @ Chop Suey – Seattle, WA

November 3 @ Hawthorne Theatre – Portland, OR

November 5 @ The Chapel – San Francisco, CA

November 7 @  Troubadour – Los Angeles, CA

November 20 @ City Winery – Atlanta, GA

November 23 @Evanston SPACE – Chicago, IL

November 27 @ Ardmore Music Hall – Philadelphia, PA

November 28 @ Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA

November 29 @ City Winery – Loft – New York, NY

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular