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Bruce Vilanch To Attend The LGBTQ Palm Springs Film Festival

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

Desert Sun
Xochitl Pena, The Desert Sun Published 5:29 p.m. PT Sept. 15, 2017


When Cinema Diverse premiered in 2008, the lineup was 15 films, including “Shelter,” a coming-of-age romance produced by J.D. Disalvatore.

Ten years later and with 91 films, the line-up has grown significantly, but it still includes a screening of “Shelter,” a coming-of-age romance produced by J.D. Disalvatore.

Resurrecting the inaugural event film is part of the special programming intended to help celebrate the LGBTQ film festival’s 10th anniversary, Thursday through Sept. 24 at Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, said Michael C. Green, Cinema Diverse festival director and executive director of the Palm Springs Cultural Center.

“It’s interesting because J.D. Disalvatore just passed last week … and she was such an icon in Los Angeles in terms of lesbian filmmakers and was just really such a part of our history. And we’ll have a special moment before we screen that film to kind of honor her memory,” he said.

Another “big deal” festival event is a planned appearance by Armistead Maupin, the immensely popular author of “Tales of The City” series of novels which spawned a few television miniseries.

The opening night will feature a screening of “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” a film by Jennifer Kroot which tells the story of the renowned author from conservative to gay rights pioneer and includes interviews with Sir Ian McKellen, Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis. It will be followed by a Q&A with Maupin and a presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award. He then will sign copies of his new memoir, scheduled to be released in October.

“We’re getting advanced copies of his new memoir that’s coming out. We’re going to have it early so he’ll be signing copies of that. I’m really excited,” said Green “That’s going to be the big big deal.”

Right before the Maupin screening, audiences will see an 8-minute short called “Zeitgeist 1977,” a tribute to the first gay and lesbian film festival in San Francisco 40 years ago.

“So that’s kind of fun. It was the first in San Francisco, they were using Super 8 film and they were mostly getting it developed in Harvey Milk’s photo shop and (there’s) just a lot of history with it. It’s kind of cool and it’s ironically the same exact time Armistead started writing and got his first book published,” added Green.

While last year saw many films that addressed the divide between mainstream religion and the LGBTQ community, this year has a prominent selection of movies that touch on the international treatment of the LGBT community.

“I think a lot of it is immigration being a big topic. There are so many people from so many parts of the world that are trying to immigrate,” said Green. “They are escaping persecution because they are LGBT. It’s a very poignant topic.”

The film festival closes on Sunday, Sept. 24, with a full slate of films including the Palm Springs premiere and 10th anniversary of the docu-comedy “Laughing Matters …The Men,” from filmmaker Andrea Meyerson and featuring six comedians including Bruce Vilanch and Andre Kelly. Meyerson, Vilanch and Kelly are all expected to attend the festival, said Green.

“It was actually filmed in Palm Springs at Gay Pride in 2006 and it came out as a film in 2007 but it never has screened in Palm Springs ever … so that’s gonna be a lot of fun too,” he said.

Another closing day highlight is the screening of the third season of the Emmy-nominated “Eastsiders” produced by Kit Williamson and John Halbach, who married in Joshua Tree, live in Silver Lake and enjoy weekend trips to Palm Springs. The screening includes four episodes filmed on location in 16 different states from New York to Silver Lake and one episode shot in Palm Springs in July.

The filmmaking duo, who also appear in the show, are excited to bring most of season three to Cinema Diverse after a screening at OutFest in Los Angeles and a sneak peek at SeriesFest in Denver. They appreciate the interaction with other filmmakers and like-minded filmgoers.

“When you go to film festivals like these it’s a great way to meet other filmmakers who are passionate about the same kind of work. It’s also a great way to connect with audiences who are specifically seeking out LGBT content like ours. So they’ll come to this festival knowing that they want to see gay stories and if they weren’t familiar with our show before they could find our show there,” said Halbach.

“Yeah, we’re in a vacuum as filmmakers, as the storytellers … and I think it’s important to stay connected with the people that engage your work,” added Williamson who also writes and directs the series.

READ MORE: Popular LGBT series ‘Eastsiders’ films episode in Palm Springs

The show, which started as a web series on YouTube in 2012, follows gay couple Cal, played by Williamson, and Thom, played by Van Hansis as they deal with infidelity and life. Halbach plays a straight guy named Ian. Other show characters include Constance Wu from “Fresh of the Boat” who plays Kathy, Stephen Guarino of Showtime’s “I’m Dying Up Here” who plays Quincy, Willam Belli who plays Douglas and Traci Lords who plays Cal’s mother. Season 2 is currently available on Netflix.

The season 3 episode filmed in Palm Springs follows couple Quincy and drag queen Douglas, whose car breaks down in the desert while on their way to a drag gig. The idea for this episode came after a fan of the show, who owns a vacation rental in Palm Springs called The Burton House, reached out to them via Instagram and said he’d love to host them for a filming of the show. So Williamson came up with this Palm Springs-specific episode.

This will be Williamson’s second time to Cinema Diverse. He starred in a movie “Kiss Me, Kill Me” which screened there about two years ago.

“We love to go to festivals like these and I think it’s really important to support other people’s work. Having been making the show for five years now we understand what a miracle it is that anything ever makes it across the finish line and I think when anything gets done that should be celebrated,” said Halbach.

If you go

What: Cinema Diverse: Palm Springs LGBT Film Festival, presented by the Palm Springs Cultural Center

When: The film festival runs Sept. 21-24 at Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs. The Best of the Fest screenings is Sept. 29 and 30 at Mary Pickford Theatre, 36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City.

Tickets: VIP Pass $279, Producer Pass $229, Director Pass $199, Cinema Six Pack $72, Opening night screening and after party $35, individual screening tickets $13.25

Information: (760) 880-4921 or (760) 324-7333 or

Stoli® Vodka Honors the Legacy of LGBTQ Bartenders in the Movement for Equality, Kicks Off Fourth Annual Key West Cocktail Classic Competition

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

PR Newswire
Stoli® Vodka Honors the Legacy of LGBTQ Bartenders in the Movement for Equality, Kicks Off Fourth Annual Key West Cocktail Classic Competition
Mar 01, 2017, 08:57 ET

4-27-2013 3-29-19 AM

NEW YORK, March 1, 2017 /PRNewswire/—Today, Stoli® Group USA, LLC in partnership with the Key West Business Guild, is returning to New York to kick off the world’s largest annual LGBTQ bartending competition, the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic. Now in its fourth year, the competition will feature more contestants, participating cities and charitable donations than ever before.

In addition to recognizing the talents of the industry’s top LGBTQ bartenders, the Cocktail Classic celebrates the role that gay bars have played in the movement towards equality as original community centers. The competition will culminate in Key West, FL, a diverse and accepting city with a thriving LGBTQ community.

The world’s largest annual LGBTQ cocktail competition, The Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, returns for its fourth year, showcasing the creativity and talent of mixologists and bartenders in the LGBTQ community. Seventeen regional finalists will compete for the 2017 Cocktail Classic Champion title at the Grand Finale during Key West Pride 2017.
The world’s largest annual LGBTQ cocktail competition, The Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, returns for its fourth year, showcasing the creativity and talent of mixologists and bartenders in the LGBTQ community. Seventeen regional finalists will compete for the 2017 Cocktail Classic Champion title at the Grand Finale during Key West Pride 2017.
The Fourth Annual Key West Cocktail Classic finale is generously being hosted and judged by actor and musician, Jai Rodriguez, and past as well as returning celebrity judges include president of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart Milk; writer and Emmy Award-winner, Bruce Vilanch; American Idol’s Latoya London; fashion designer and nightlife personality Andrew Christian; and Key West’s drag queen star, Sushi.

“Every year we look forward to bringing together the people, charities and business that make up our extraordinary LGBTQ community,” said Patrik Gallineaux, Stoli’s National LGBTQ Ambassador and Brand Manager. “While our mission is to recognize the most talented and innovative bartenders, community will always be at the heart of Cocktail Classic. It has been a privilege to support and grow together over the years.”

A maximum of six LGBTQ trade staff and/or allies from 17 cities across North America will be selected to create an original cocktail using Stoli Vodka as their primary ingredient. A panel of judges and 100 eligible audience members will evaluate each cocktail based on taste, balance and presentation, as well as each bartender’s authenticity, knowledge, and creativity in presentation and performance.

The finalist from each regional competition will win a six-day, all-inclusive trip to participate in a week of events and celebratory entertainment culminating in the grand finale during Key West Pride 2017. In addition to being named the 2017 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic Champion, the winner of the final event will ride in the Key West Pride Parade as Honorary Grand Marshall and receive:

$12,500 grand prize for a pre-selected charity of his/her choice;
a victory celebration and charity check presentation at champion’s home bar hosted by Stoli Vodka;
and an all-expense paid exclusive Stoli Vodka destination event
The first runner up to the 2017 Champion will also receive $2,500 for their chosen charity.

“Stoli’s work through the Key West Cocktail Classic is an example of how companies can use their resources to make a difference both large and small,” stated Matt Hon, Executive Director of the Key West Business Guild. “From the charitable monetary donations to general awareness, the Cocktail Classic has significantly impacted our local community by becoming a destination event for the city of Key West. In 2016, we saw tourism and revenue increase by 20-percent on the island during Pride!”

The 2017 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic Tour Schedule:

Kick Off: New York, NY: Boxers – March 1
Dallas, TX: Round-Up Saloon – March 6
San Diego, CA: Rich’s – March 22
Los Angeles, CA: The Abbey – March 25
Denver, CO: Hamburger Mary’s – March 27
Atlanta, GA: Swinging Richards – March 30
Miami, FL: Score – April 5
New Orleans, LA: Oz – April 12
Philadelphia, PA: Franky Bradley’s – April 18
Washington, D.C.: Nellie’s Sports Bar – April 24
Chicago, IL: Sidetrack – April 26
Dayton, OH: MJ’s on Jefferson – May 1
Boston, MA: Club Cafe – May 4
Toronto, ON: Gladstone Hotel – May 11
Portland, OR: CC Slaughters – May 16
Vancouver, BC: Numbers Cabaret – May 18
Northern California (San Francisco): Club 21 – May 22
Finale: Key West, FL: Bourbon St. Pub– June 10
Last year’s Champion, Rocky Collins from the Round-Up in Dallas proudly competed for DIFFA/Dallas and which raises funds for organizations that support education programs, treatment and direct care services for people living with or impacted by HIV and AIDS. Rocky also won a matching $5,000 donation to the Wesley House Family Services in Key West, an organization he represented on behalf of the Key West Business Guild. Rocky’s winning cocktail and presentation best embodied the spirit of the Key West community and the heart of the competition. Named ‘The Key West Kitty Kat,’ Rocky’s original Stoli cocktail is made with 2 oz. Stoli Vanil, 2 oz. coconut simple syrup, 1.5 oz. pineapple juice, 0.5 oz. key lime juice, coconut cream, grenadine, cinnamon and garnished with a pineapple slice and served over ice.

For more information about the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic including how to apply, rules, guidelines and the full schedule of events, visit

About Key West Business Guild

The mission of the Key West Business Guild is to promote LGBTQ travel to Key West through marketing and the promotion of specialty events; to support gay-owned, gay-managed, and gay-friendly businesses; to strengthen the Gay community’s position within the local community by supporting relevant LGBTQ issues. The KWBG was founded in 1978 by 8 local gay business owners and has grown to approximately 400 members, which work together to continue efforts to brighten the rainbow over the island, an island now known as Gay Key West. Promotion of events, such as Key West Pride, Tropical Heat and Womenfest, has made Key West a year-round LGBTQ travel destination. For more information visit

About Stoli Group, USA
Stoli Group USA, LLC is a U.S. importer and marketer of alcoholic beverages, headquartered in New York City. Stoli Group USA is a subsidiary of SPI Group based out of Luxemburg, one of the world’s most dynamic wine and spirits organizations. Formed in 2013, Stoli Group USA’s current portfolio of brands includes the Stolichnaya® brand of premium vodkas and Stoli Ginger Beer, ultra-premium elit®Vodka, Louisiana-distilled Bayou® Rum, artfully designed KAH® Tequila, Achaval-Ferrer™ from Argentina, and Arinzano wines of Spain.

Media Contact:
Patrick Rizzuto
Golin for Stoli Group, USA
T. +1 212.373.6015

SAGE honors Vilanch, Jewel Thais-Williams in L.A.

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Washington Blade
SAGE honors Vilanch, Jewel Thais-Williams in L.A.
March 10, 2017 at 11:38 am EDT | by Karen Ocamb


LOS ANGELES — The fundraiser for SAGE USA March 4 in the Hollywood Hills felt like a reunion, a coming together of a generation of LGBT people with shared memories and a desire to confront aging, an issue, SAGE Board Development chair Bill Weinberger said, he heretofore had avoided thinking about. Honorees Jewel Thais-Williams and Bruce Vilanch, however, exemplify how LGBT people can age as respected elders with grace, continued activism, and humor.

Weinberger introduced Phill Wilson, founder of the Black AIDS Institute, whom he has known since the early 1980s. Shortly after, Wilson discovered he was HIV positive. He noted that while “many of us were dealing with whether we would survive or not, SAGE has always believed we would.” Wilson shared how Thais-Williams bravely opened Jewel’s Catch One Disco as a refuge for LGBT people desperate for a place where they could be themselves.

“Jewel has been a leader, a hero, and a visionary and an advocate for a long, long time,” Wilson said. “Jewel was one of those ‘bridge’ people,” linking the LGBT African-American community to organizations such as AIDS Project Los Angeles and her alma mater, UCLA. You always speak up, whether you’re afraid or not.”

Thais-Williams joked that she was honored to be honored, having spent the last 42 years at Catch One “partying,” adding that she will turn 78 in a couple of months. “To be of service to my community has been a great joy,” she said. “But there is still a lot of work to do. Remember to always reach out to those in need.”

“There has never been a more important time to come together,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams told the diverse crowd of SAGE board members, staffers and supporters at the elegant home of James Frost and William Yi. “We are living in very challenging times,” a notion received with a knowing chuckle for its understatement.

A civilization is historically measured by how it cares and supports its children and most vulnerable and how it supports its elders, Adams said, not just the “right kind of elders….We owe it to our elders, the pioneers who paved the way for the equality we celebrate today….We need the wisdom of our pioneers, our elders.”

Demographic estimates predict that there will be 6 million LGBT people age 65 years or over in America by 2030. That sets the stage for a potentially disastrous future since, as SAGE notes, LGBT seniors are “twice as likely to be single, twice as likely to live alone, and four times more likely to be without children than their heterosexual peers.”  And, Adam said, facilities that take care of the aging population are “woefully unprepared” to take care of LGBT seniors who fear having to go back in the closet in order to get care and treatment without discrimination.

In introducing comedic writer/actor Bruce Vilanch, SAGE Board co-chair Elizabeth Schwartz—whose co-chair is former LA-based board activist Kevin Williams—said Vilanch’s appearances on “Hollywood Squares” were “instrumental in shaping gay images.” Watching him, “we didn’t have to speculate obsessively” about whether he was gay “as I did over Kristy McNichol.”  She was also grateful that he was also out about being chubby. Vilanch, she said, has a “tireless dedication to the LGBT community.”

In accepting the handsomely shaped glass award, the legendary Oscar writer said that when he was told he was being honored by SAGE, his first thought was: “You have the wrong envelope,” referring to the Best Picture mishap at the Academy Awards.

However, a recent interview with a young journalist underscored that he is now arcing “into my dotage.” The young gay man had no idea who Ted Mack was, though “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour,” the variety-show precursor to shows like “American Idol,” launched the careers of such future celebrities as Pat Boone and Ann-Margret.  The young man sat stone faced at the mention of her name.

“When queens don’t know who Ann-Margret is, we’re in trouble,” Vilanch said to an uproar of laughter.

“Senior gays are not venerated,” he said. “But we are valued because we can pick up the check or write it.”

As to his decision to be openly gay at a time when being out was a brave decision, Vilanch noted that he worked in the more accepting entertainment industry. But early on, he worked as a journalist writing features for the Chicago Tribune and tried to get gay stories into the paper. Vilanch cited a quote that stuck with him: “A faggot is a homosexual gentleman who just left the room.” He determined to be “the faggot who stayed in the room.”

LGBT progress is result of taking action. “We did the bravest thing—we came out and that changed everything,” Vilanch said. But the LGBT community cannot rely on help from outside. “We have to do it for ourselves….[and] we’re not done yet.”

SAGE CEO Michael Adams also announced the launch of a new initiative in conjunction with AARP—SAGETable— to build “intergenerational connections in the LGBT community” by “breaking bread with your LGBT family on May 18. Visit

Is It Okay To Make Fun Of Caitlyn Jenner?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Instinct Magazine
Is It Okay To Make Fun Of Caitlyn Jenner?
Instinct Staff | September 6, 2016

Boy Culture interviewed legendary comedy writer Bruce Vilanch, who had his own opinions on the joke and the response to it:

BC: Bette Midler recently took it on the chin when she was perceived as mocking Caitlyn Jenner for being trans.

BV: Personally, I thought that was insane. She wasn’t making a joke about transgenders, she was making a joke about the monetizing of transgenderism, which is being done by Caitlyn Jenner.

BC: I guess the waters are muddied because people want to mock Caitlyn, and she’s so famous for being trans.

BV: Exactly. Anybody who would make that leap is out of their mind. It’s not a joke about transgenders, it’s a joke about this person who will do anything to remain in the public eye—and who is not our friend, by the way. She’s more to be pitied than censured. There’s no accounting for the taste of some. You find generally in communities like in the gay community that activists have no sense of humor. They areso sensitive about everything. And to jump on Bette Midler is kind of like, “Excuse me? Where’ve you been for the last 50 years?” Well, you know, probably in Trinidad, Colorado, deciding what you wanted to look like, I don’t know.

That alone would get me in jail. That remark. You know, you’re not allowed to say anything!

Bruce Vilanch

Bruce Vilanch Hosted Very Successful Project Inform AIDS Walk Raising 2.7 Million Dollars July 19th

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

Bay Area Reporter
AIDS Walk ‘re-energizes’ HIV fundraising
by Sampson McCormick
July 23, 2015


Last weekend’s AIDS Walk San Francisco saw a resurgence in fundraising that left organizers pleased, especially in light of donor fatigue when it comes to HIV/AIDS causes.

The July 19 event at Golden Gate Park saw about 20,000 participants raise $2.27 million for Project Inform, the lead nonprofit, and 42 other Bay Area agencies. The total is slightly larger than last year’s $2.24 million. (Last year, Project Inform said that $2.3 million was raised, but Executive Director Dana Van Gorder said a mistake was made in the 2014 projection.)

Under sunny skies last Sunday, walkers and others were upbeat during the opening ceremonies.

“We’ve taken major steps as a community, and in this country. We’ve achieved marriage equality, the Confederate flag has come down in South Carolina, the trans community will be able to serve in our military, and the Supreme Court has ruled that health care is a fundamental right,” declared an energetic Van Gorder from the podium in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow, referring to recent U.S. Supreme Court victories on marriage and health care, and recent news that top Defense Department brass are working on a plan to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military.

“The idea of that should give us the courage to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Van Gorder added.

The tone of the day was similar to that of an upbeat church revival, blended with the swagger of a neighborhood block party, a celebration of justice, community, and progress, all while serving as an urgent reminder of the need for diligence in a fight that a community is determined to conquer.

The event began with a crowd that filled most of the seats and lawn area of the meadow by 10 a.m., and there was never a dull moment as Culture Shock, a popular Oakland-based dance troupe, opened the ceremony, followed by a rousing gospel number from another Oakland-based group, The Messengers of Hope. The gospel choir was created and led by Ernest Larkins, 44, who’s lived with HIV for over 25 years. Larkins created the group, not only to sing songs of hope, but to challenge the views and stigma of HIV in the black church.

“There is a lot of work to be done, and music is how we push the message of hope in the community,” he said.

There were wide variations of messages delivered about the need for action and continued commitment in how the community battles the disease. Speakers and guests included AIDS Walk founder and senior organizer Craig R. Miller, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Joe Wilkins, elected officials, AIDS activists, and corporate sponsors.

Emmy Award-winning writer and comedian Bruce Vilanch served as emcee for the ceremony, helping to keep an already energetic crowd in good humor, praising the work of Project Inform and the steps being taken to further encourage safe-sex practices.

“It’s great that we have options like PrEP now, we take those around my house like Flintstones vitamins,” Vilanch quipped, referring to pre-exposure prophylaxis that studies show can prevent HIV if taken as prescribed.

While embracing the lighthearted references toward the new drug, Jen Dowd, a retail services manager at UCSF who has been participating in the AIDS walk for 14 of the 15 years that she’s been there, feels that public enlightenment around sexual health options is mandatory, and needs to continue in order to make a difference. Her motivation to attend AIDS walks, fundraise, and advocate for treatment options was fueled by an AIDS-related death of a close friend who was an event coordinator in 2006.

“If I can eliminate the amount of suffering of someone living with AIDS, I do what I need to do,” Dowd said.

UCSF boasted the top spot for AIDS Walk fundraising, raising over $107,000.

The attendees, varying in age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and walk experience remained in good spirits throughout the six-mile trek. Afterwards they were treated to music from local bands and even an underwear show by Stag Condoms models, which work to make condom use look and feel sexy.

As the walk portion of the afternoon came to an end, participants were greeted at the finish line with more celebrating as AIDS Walk organizers announced the grand total raised. In a post-walk email, Van Gorder said that the fee paid to MZA, which produces the event, was $162,500, a decrease from a couple years ago.

Bruce Vilanch In Provincetown August 20 – 22 With The Skivvies

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Bruce Vilanch and Nick Cearley, Lauren Molina (aka The Skivvies) and special guests will be in their underwear Aug 20-21-22 in Provincetown. They may even be walking in their undies during the Carnival Parade on Aug 20