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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

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

Friday, March 24th, 2017

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

Bruce_Vilanch_and_Jewel_Thais-Williams_insert

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 sagetable.org.

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

Bruce_Vilanch_and_Jewel_Thais-Williams_insert

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 sagetable.org.

Bruce Vilanch Takes in The 25th Anniversary Of The Abbey

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

WeHoVille
The Abbey, Which MTV Called “The Gayest Bar on the Planet,” Turns 25
Wed, May 25, 2016 By Staff

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It started out as a quiet coffee bar and 25 years later has developed a reputation that led MTV to call it the “gayest bar on the planet.”

That is The Abbey, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last night with a crowd of hundreds of people and dozens of celebrities such as Michael Sam, Ross Mathews (“Hollywood Today Live”), Candis Cayne (“I Am Cait”) and Heather McDonald (“Chelsea Lately”). And then, of course, there was Bruce Vilanch, Gilles Marini (“Teen Wolf”), Jai Rodriguez (“Queer Eye”) and Noah Galvin (“The Real O’Neals”).

The Abbey Food and Bar, its formal name, has evolved quite a bit since David Cooley, a native of Solon, Ohio, opened a coffee shop on Robertson Boulevard in 1991. That was before the era of Starbucks, when people wondered how anyone could make money selling coffee. Cooley did. The Abbey was an alternative to the bar scene in WeHo’s Boystown and attracted people in recovery attending AA meetings down the street.

In three years, Cooley moved across the street and transformed The Abbey into a bar. As it is today, The Abbey then was an open space – open doors, open windows, a patio and a fountain — a striking contrast to the typical dark and secretive gay bar.

One measure of its popularity is the fact that at one point it was the single largest purchaser of vodka in the world, and helped popularize the flavored martini trend. It was a hangout for Elizabeth Taylor, whose last public appearance was at The Abbey with her dog Daisy. It has evolved in other ways, with a larger heterosexual clientele, something Cooley has welcomed in this era when gay people have gained more and more acceptance. Soon it will even have its own reality TV show.

The Abbey grew physically, taking over a second building, with a patio in the middle, totaling 14,000 square feet. It now has more than 200 employees. Recently Cooley acquired Here Lounge on the Abbey’s north side. It is going to be integrated into The Abbey as the Chapel.

For last night’s celebration The Abbey was decked out in elaborate white from wall-to-wall, and had a full ensemble orchestra playing throughout the private event. Midway through the evening, Cooley, was presented with a Key to the City by Mayor Lauren Meister.


Bruce Vilanch Talks What Really Goes On Behind The Scenes At The Oscars

Friday, February 26th, 2016

New York Post

What really goes on behind the scenes on Oscar night
By Michael Riedel February 25, 2016 | 7:16pm

vilanch

 




Bruce Vilanch, one of the funniest writers in Oscar history, has no doubt Chris Rock will go for the, um, white elephant in the living room Sunday night.

“There’s no way he can ignore it,” Vilanch says of the Oscars So White controversy. “He’ll have something brilliant to say. He deals with big issues. But this year is insane anyway. The presidential race is a carnival. We have a reality TV show host .?.?. That’s a first. Even Ronald Reagan couldn’t claim that label!”

Vilanch, whose Broadway-bound musical “Sign of the Times” debuts this summer atConnecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House, wrote 23 Oscar shows. He’s not on this year’s telecast, but I thought it’d be fun to get his behind-the-scenes take on the biggest award of them all (sorry, Tonys!).

The telecast, he says, is mapped out months in advance, but most of the writing is done on the fly while the show is live.

“You’re in a little room offstage, where the host ‘lives’ when he or she isn’t onstage,” he says. “A bunch of writers are huddled around a monitor, trying to prepare a joke about whoever just won.”

The best off-the-cuff joke Vilanch and his team came up with was aimed at Michael Moore. Accepting an Oscar for “Bowling for Columbine” in 2003, Moore denounced George W. Bush for sending America to war for “fictitious reasons.” The audience booed.

During the commercial, the writers began screaming out jokes. Steve Martin, the host that year, grabbed one. After the break, he walked out, smiled and said: “It’s so wonderful backstage. The stagehands are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his car.”

But when things go wrong, there’s little a writer can do but stand clear.

Vilanch worked on the 1989 telecast, whose infamous opening number featured Snow White and Rob Lowe, who attempted, sadly, to sing a parody of “Proud Mary.”

The opening was Oscar producer Allan Carr’s idea — and it killed his career. Snow White goes to Hollywood and meets great stars of the past: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Vincent Price, Alice Faye and Cyd Charisse.

“In Allan’s mind, those old stars looked like they did when he was a kid,” says Vilanch, 67. But by 1989 they looked “kind of embalmed.”

Vilanch was also backstage in 1995 when David Letterman did his much-derided Oprah-Uma-Uma-Oprah routine.

“I had suggested it might not be the best thing for TV boy to come out and make fun of their names, but it appealed to Dave’s love of the perverse,” Vilanch says. “He was having a horrible time anyway. He kept saying he felt like he was in a hostage crisis.”

On the other hand, when Jack Palance won for “City Slickers” in 1992 and did one-arm pushups onstage, the writers spun gold: “Billy Crystal was the host and he said, ‘This is too good — we have to respond to him.’?” Crystal turned it into a running gag.

Vilanch advises this year’s presenters and nominees to avoid banter.

“Unless you’re really good — like Will Ferrell or Ben Stiller — just come out and say something about the category,” he says. “Don’t make people who aren’t funny try to be funny.”

By the way, the Oscar telecast isn’t much of a pay day for a writer. “It’s viewed as an ‘honor,’?” Vilanch says, “though sometimes the gift basket is nice.”





Bruce Vilanch Talks Showbiz, Politics in Coral Springs

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

South Florida Gay News
Bruce Vilanch Talks Showbiz, Politics in Coral Springs
BY JW Arnold 01/28/2016 12:31 pm

4-27-2013 4-08-15 AM

For Bruce Vilanch, controversy is a laughing matter.

Media Bids – Humane Society
The writer and comedian is bringing his one man show to The Rrazz Room in Coral Springs on Saturday and he has no plans to shy away from any of those traditionally taboo topics of polite conversation.

SFGN caught up with him on the phone while he hurried to finish up the script for the Producers Guild Awards last weekend. While the Producers Guild is incredibly diverse, he said, it’s also neither televised nor immune from the after effects of the controversy surrounding the Oscar nominations a couple of weeks ago.

“It’s Hollywood,” he said. “It’s the town industry and the city is full of people who don’t want to be branded as racist. It’s a lighting rod for publicity. Nobody understands the nominating process.”

Vilanch, who has also written 25 Oscars ceremony scripts, attributes much of the anger to “sour grapes from people who were eligible but not nominated. That makes it sound petty.”

“There’s certainly a problem in the industry and the Academy is trying to address it,” he explained. “We’re talking about art, not industry.”

He pointed out that while the 20 nominees in the acting categories were white, they were nominated by 1150 actors who are members of the Academy and still more diverse than the other branches, such as the writers and directors who also select the nominees in their professions.

“I’ve written the show 25 times and every year there’s something,” Vilanch said. “This issue just won’t go away.”

He also plans to talk politics. Not surprisingly, Vilanch is a proud Democrat:

“I’ll wind up voting for Hillary like everyone else with a brain. The Republicans are not an option,” he explained.

South Florida audiences should expect to hear Vilanch’s opinions about the current crowd of hopeful Republican candidates.

“They’re all such clowns. You don’t have to say anything, they write their own material,” he said with a hearty chuckle. “And there is Sarah Palin standing up and blaming Obama for her son being a lunatic. Imagine if Obama’s kids were as cracked out as hers.”

Of course, Vilanch will be armed with plenty of dishy Hollywood stories, too, although he warns he is not a conventional stand up comic.

“I’m a storyteller and I’ve been party to a lot of stories,” he again chuckled. “I was a child actor, you know. I never became a child star or we’d be talking from rehab. I love telling these stories about the behind the scenes in Hollywood and the ridiculous jobs I’ve had. It’s so hard to choose now.”

The Coral Springs appearance will be a homecoming of sorts. Vilanch’s grandparents lived in Miami Beach and he vacationed here as a child. Years later, his first job out of college was at the Miami Herald. His 95-year-old mother, who just passed away this year, was a snowbird in Boca Raton.

He sighed, “I’ve often thought maybe I could just pick up a little place there, but life gets in the way.”

‘The Outrageous Sophie Tucker': New York Jewish Film Festival Review

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

‘The Outrageous Sophie Tucker’: New York Jewish Film

Festival Review


SophieTucker_smaller

 

William Gazecki’s documentary recounts the life and career of the famed performer known as the “Last of the Red Hot Mamas


She was one of the most celebrated and successful performers of the 20th century, but few people are aware of Sophie Tucker today. Despite the loving tributes performed by Bette Midler in her concert appearances over the years, the “Last of the Red Hot Mamas” has lapsed into showbiz obscurity, something that William Gazecki’s loving documentary clearly hopes to correct. Recently showcased at the New York Jewish Film Festival, The Outrageous Sophie Tucker should have a long life in ancillary markets after its theatrical release later this year.


The film’s true auteurs are producers Susan and Lloyd Ecker, who became fascinated with the singer after seeing Midler delivering Sophie Tuckers jokes in her act in 1973. The film, part of the couple’s burgeoning cottage industry about the performer—they’re written a book and plan to create stage, film and television shows about her—features them prominently as talking heads alongside such figures as Barbara Walters, Tony Bennett, Bruce Vilanch, Carol Channing, Michael Feinstein and many others.

Read More Bette Midler Announces First Tour in More Than a Decade

There was no shortage of raw material from which to work, as the detail-obsessed Tucker compiled over 400 scrapbooks from 1906 to 1966 chronicling her life and career.

Tucker began her show business career singing at her Russian immigrant parents’ kosher restaurant in Hartford, Connecticut. She appeared on the vaudeville circuit, often performing in blackface, before eventually moving to New York and getting her big break with the Ziegfeld Follies. Ironically, she was soon let go when the other female performers refused to go on with her for fear of being eclipsed.

By 1929 she was arguably the biggest female star in the world, and she continued to be a major concert draw until not long before her death in 1966. She was never quite able to cross over to Hollywood stardom, although the documentary includes clips of her memorable appearance in MGM’s BroadwayMelody of 1938 opposite Judy Garland, to whom she became a mentor.

Her larger than life personality, bawdiness, uninhibited sexuality and willingness to celebrate her ample girth made her a unique performer, but it was her genius for self-promotion that truly served her well. Barbara Walters, whose father’s Latin Quarter nightclubs in Miami and New York regularly featured Tucker, amusingly describes how the performer would sign copies of her memoir after her shows, refusing to autograph anything else or even to make change (all the money was going to Israel, she would assure her customers). She also had a huge number of product endorsements, including her own line of soap.

Read More ‘The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer: New York Jewish Film Festival Review

Her friends were legion, including everyone from Al Capone, with whom she played cards, and J. Edgar Hoover who, the film purports, once asked to borrow one of her dresses. It wouldn’t fit, she assured him.

The film has its share of missteps, such as the awkward animating of old still photographs and the excessive commentary from the producers, with Lloyd Ecker even tearing up while describing Tucker’s death at age 79 nearly a half century ago. And some of the anecdotes related, including a second-hand account of U.S. soldiers blasting her recording of “My Yiddishe Mama” on the streets of Berlin after Germany surrendered as a tribute to a fallen comrade, seem more than a little apocryphal.

But for a younger generation who think that Madonna and Lady Gaga represent the heights of outrageousness, The Outrageous Sophie Tucker stands as a much needed reminder that they have a very large debt to pay.

Production: Innovative Films
Director/director of photography/editor: Wiliam Gazecki
Producers: Lloyd Ecker, Susan Ecker
Executive producers: Phil Ramone, Gene Schwam