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Posts Tagged ‘LGBT’

‘Kings & Queens in Their Castles’ is an intimate look at LGBT lives

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

The Washington Post
‘Kings & Queens in Their Castles’ is an intimate look at LGBT lives
By Michele Langevine Leiby April
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When Tom Atwood decided to launch himself into fine art photography, it was mostly because he wanted to see a different image of gay men. Until not long ago, most photographic images of gay men fell into one of two categories: a display of the ravages of AIDS or a paean to the idealized, sexualized beauty of the masculine form (usually nude or in advanced stages of undress).

Atwood’s new book, “Kings & Queens in Their Castles,” offers an alternative view. His style, the photographer says, is a studied melange of portraiture and architectural photography.

“I try to challenge my subjects by showing as much of their environment as possible in the frame of the camera,” he says. “I also use a wide-angle lens and a wide depth of field so that both the subject and the background are in focus.”

Atwood, 45, a self-proclaimed autodidact, has no formal background in photography or art history. His approach was honed through trial and error and a passion for his subject matter.

“I started out photographing gay people at home because I am gay and knew a lot of gay people,” he says. “And I think a lot of gay men especially have a flair for design and live in some really playful places.”

Atwood’s subjects in “Kings & Queens” include more than 160 members of the LGBT community. They’re urban and rural, famous and anonymous, beautiful and plain, extraordinary and decidedly ordinary. His work, displaying an intimacy sometimes bordering on voyeurism, captures LGBT men and women in the process of living their private lives.

Some of today’s tumultuous social movements rely on a fair amount of identity politics. This book isn’t about that. Says Atwood: “I thought it would be interesting to photograph this group of people just in everyday moments since, for most people, their sexuality is a part of who they are, but it’s not the predominant part of who they are.”

Here are six of the book’s compelling stories:






Don Lemon

When Atwood arrived at Don Lemon’s Harlem home, the CNN anchor was getting ready to walk his dog. “He’s very friendly, very easygoing, very approachable,” Atwood says. “I realized he’s just a really a social person that’s part of a neighborhood.” He shot Lemon sitting on a skateboard on his balcony, his neighborhood as a backdrop. “I really wanted to shoot people in their everyday environment and show what their private lives are like rather than focus on their public images.”

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Holly Taylor and Alison Bechdel

Atwood photographed the women in the garden of their Jericho, Vt., home. Holly Taylor, a self-declared “compost maven,” and Alison Bechdel, a cartoonist and the author of the Broadway musical “Fun Home,” live in the woods. “I love this photo,” says Atwood, himself a Vermonter. “I think it really shows a real Vermont sensibility in a number of ways. They’ve got a garden. They chop their own wood. They heat their house with wood.”





Mother Flawless Sabrina

Considered a pioneer in the transgender and gay communities, Mother Flawless Sabrina ran a national drag pageant enterprise between 1959 and 1969 that put on shows across the country, culminating with an extravaganza in New York. The 77-year-old lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side surrounded by a bevy of quirky possessions: a 1980s-era telephone with giant buttons, wigs strewn about, jewelry draped on an ornate desk. “She’s a female impersonator, which I guess is a little different from a drag queen, but don’t ask me the difference because I’m not sure I know,” Atwood says.

 

James McGreevey


The former governor of New Jersey will always be famous for the 2004 news conference in which he publicly came out of the closet, his pained wife by his side. “My truth is that I am a gay American,” he declared. Today McGreevey is a Prius-driving resident of Plainfield, N.J., where Atwood photographed him, clad in shorts and a hoodie, pruning ivy in front of his house. “He did go through some difficult times,” Atwood says, “but he seems to be still happy and proud and willing to share his life through this book.”

 

 





Bruce Vilanch

Loyal viewers of the television game show “Hollywood Squares” will surely recognize the unruly mop of comedian Bruce Vilanch, whom Atwood photographed ferrying groceries back to his West Hollywood apartment. “I think this is a fun shot because Los Angeles has a lot of outdoor/indoor living spaces,” Atwood says, and Vilanch’s apartment building has hallways that are outside rather than inside.




Randal Kleiser

“I don’t think it’s that common to keep barn animals in Los Angeles,” Atwood says of the menagerie of pets that share the home of film director Randal Kleiser. “It was an otherwise suburban ranch house.” Kleiser, known for such films as “Grease” and “Big Top Pee-wee,” enjoys a spectacular view of the L.A. skyline from his swimming pool. “I like that there’s this strong light from the side in this picture and you can see a lot in both the foreground and background,” the photographer says. (Can you find BOTH horses?)

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

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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 Judge At 2016 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Out
In Key West With the Best LGBT Bartenders in America
BY GLENN GARNER
FRI, 2016-06-17 17:00

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Last weekend, Stoli hosted 15 LGBT bartenders from across North America for the 2016 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic. More than just a bartending competition, the winning selection was one-part amazing bartender and one-part amazing cocktail, while showcasing Stoli’s dedication to the community.

For Key West, the competition has become an annual favorite, drawing in visitors from all over for Key West Pride weekend. A local pillar of the LGBT community and visitors for nearly 40 years, the queer-friendly Key West Business Guild welcomed Stoli with open arms.

“Having the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic attached to our Pride gives us the opportunity to have some very fabulous people come and visit,” said Matt Hon, executive director of the Business Guild. “Having these bartenders who are traveling in from 15 different cities that have never been to Key West before, they’re having their first experience here and finding out how fabulous and gay Key West really is.”

The weekend kicked off with a sunset cruise under a light drizzle of rain. It wasn’t enough to ruin the party though as contestants, friends, and Key West locals filled the deck, dancing with cocktails in hand. It was an intimate mixer that quickly built long distance friendships bound to last for years.

The next day, the competition began at 801 Bourbon Bar where I sat alongside fellow judges, Bruce Vilanch and Jai Rodriguez. The first six contestants took turns winning over the crowd with their high octane personalities and strong but tasty drinks. Next, we made our way a block down to Aqua where six more competitors whipped up their best Stoli concoctions. Nine drinks into my shift as guest judge, I was sure I was about to pass out in Jai’s lap (there are worst places to end up blackout drunk).

With 12 master mixologists narrowed down to six, they progressed to the finals alongside the three fan favorite contestants who won immunity from the preliminaries. In front of a massive audience of Key West Pride goers, they took to an outdoor stage right in the middle of Duval Street and in front of Bourbon Street Pub.

As they pulled out all the stops to impress judges, Bruce Vilanch, Latoya London, Stuart Milk, and local drag superstar, Sushi, the bartenders were critiqued on personality, concept, cocktail appearance, taste, and their overall knowledge of Stoli and Key West.

The competition was followed by performances from Jai and Latoya, which included covers of Nick Jonas and Barbra Streisand as well as some original music. As the tension built, we patiently waited to hear the winners of the third annual Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic.

Crowned in first place for his concoction, the Key West Kitty Kat, Rocky Collins AKA “the last top of Dallas” received the partygoers’ approval (below). Tying for second were Carly Morrison of San Francisco and Thuy Nguyen of Atlanta. Coming in third place, Flawless Shade from Portland, Oregon, was the competition’s first drag competitor.

Earlier in the weekend, Stoli’s National LGBT ambassador, Patrik Gallineaux, gave Out some insight into the significance of the competition:

“It’s all about giving back while having fun and celebrating the unique heritage of bartenders throughout history. I had to drive two hours as a kid to go to my nearest gay bar. That was the first time I ever felt happy and accepted, and for me, the gay bar was a community center. And the bartenders were so stellar. They made me feel safe and accepted.”
Gallineaux’s experience is similar to many. Just that night, the point was made very clear when tragedy struck Orlando. Four hours south at the exact same time, we were drinking and enjoying each other’s company much like those at Pulse were doing.

The next morning, there was an unmistakable heaviness in the air. It felt wrong to wake up and celebrate Pride on a day like that day, but days like that day made Pride so important. We continued with the day’s events as planned but when we hugged our old friends and new acquaintances, we lingered just a bit longer. Instead of just drinking in decadence and debauchery, we were very aware of what we were celebrating.

A Pride Parade of local establishments and the Stoli family marched down Duval Street behind a banner that read “Key West Stands with Orlando.” Afterward, we made our way to La Te Da, a locale where Gallineaux presented two checks to Collins for charities of his choice. (Collins chose the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, in Dallas, and Wesley House in Key West.)

Then, we marched to the Atlantic Ocean in silence to honor those who had lost their lives earlier that morning. As we reached the pier, Stuart Milk of the Harvey Milk Foundation stepped to the front to say a few words. I tried to get through the crowd to hear him but the pier was covered in people. I took off my shoes and walked through the water, watching over the side through people’s legs to see this great activist address my community.

With wet sand between my toes, I looked around at my brothers and sisters. All were sharing the same grief. Strangers hugged each other and cried together. It was the first time I’d seen my generation truly come together to support each other.

Bruce Vilanch Master Of Ceremonies At Portland Pride This Weekend

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

KGW.com
Portland Pride Festival downtown this weekend
by Sara Roth, KGW.com Staff
Posted on June 13, 2014 at 3:10 PM
Updated today at 11:41 AM

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PORTLAND – Members and allies of Portland and Southwest Washington’s LGBTQ communities will gather Saturday and Sunday at Tom McCall Waterfront Park for the Portland Pride Festival.

It was a little less than a month ago that a judge struck down Oregon’s gay marriage ban and same-sex couples regained the right to marry, making this celebration even more joyous for festival-goers.

Comedy writer Bruce Vilanch is this year’s Master of Ceremonies for the festival, which will feature music acts, the Trans March, a block party, and the annual Pride Parade.

The waterfront park festivities were scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The parade kicks off Sunday at 11 a.m., when thousands of people will participate in the march through downtown.
To participate, you must register to walk. There are no same-day signups.

Streets along the parade route will close to traffic during the march.

Bruce Vilanch To Appear At Stoli Original Key West Cocktail Classic

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Gay South Florida
Stoli Original Key West Cocktail Classic finale May 29-31; stars include Andrew Christian, Bruce Vilanch
May 27, 2014

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News release from Stephen Murray-Smith of Florida Keys & Key West and Key West Business Guild:

The Stoli Original Key West Cocktail Classic is a national LGBT bartending competition in partnership with the Key West Business Guild inviting trade staff from our community’s most exciting LGBT entertainment venues to showcase their skill and authenticity in creating Stoli Original cocktails in key markets across the country.

The winner of each local event will receive a Stoli Bartender Kit or gift basket, their picture and winning recipe at KeyWestCocktailClassic.com, media exposure, and an all-expense paid trip to Key West (accommodation and airfare compliments of the Key West Business Guild) for the Finale including a welcome party at Island House on May 29th and day of “fun in the sun” on May 30th. The finale event on Saturday, May 31st will be held on world-famous Duval Street on a specially constructed stage in front of the Bourbon Street Pub and hosted by National LGBT Ambassador for Stolichnaya Patrik Gallineaux and streamed live across the world. The final ceremony will run from 5 to 8 PM.

The celebrity judging panel will include star of network TV including “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”, Broadway, and so much more, Jai Rodriguez, clothing designer Andrew Christian, legendary funnyman Bruce Vilanch, Senior Vice-President for Stoli USA Lori Tieszen, and locally well known Key West personality and star of internationally televised annual New Year’s Eve high heel drop Sushi.

The Regional mixologist winners arriving this week to compete with their signature Stoli Key West Cocktails hail from LGBT bars in San Diego, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale, Provincetown, Denver, and Washington DC.

The national winner will receive the title of Stoli Original Key West Cocktail Champion 2014, a bartender “Dream Library” of 50 hand-selected essential trade books, an additional national exposure via the opportunity to design the signature Stoli Original cocktail menu for national LGBT program Stoli Guy 2014, and $5000 for the winner’s pre-selected LGBT or LGBT friendly charity of choice.

Come out Saturday May 31 at 5 PM and support Key West as the island hosts this national fun event.

Boycott Called for Brunei-Owned Hotel Group—Cleve Jones, Bruce Vilanch On Board

Monday, April 21st, 2014

fRONTIERS LA
Boycott Called for Brunei-Owned Hotel Group—Cleve Jones, Bruce Vilanch On Board
April 17, 2014

 

4-27-2013 4-11-25 AM

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the Beverly Hilton Hotel was part of the Dorchester Collection. It is not. A correction has been made in the text below.

UPDATE, April 17, 5:40 p.m.
According to this story, “the LGBT rights group behind the secret conference for high-dollar LGBT donors [the OutGiving Conference] announced Thursday it has cancelled plans to hold the event at the Beverly Hills Hotel following news that its owner, the Sultan of Brunei, would institute policy in his country to punish gay people with death by stoning.”

Brunei, located on the north coast of Borneo in Southeast Asia, is set to enact a new penal code permitting death by stoning for multiple offenses including adultery, rape, publicly declaring oneself non-Muslim and being involved in same-sex relationships. A predominantly Muslim nation that is adopting Sharia Law under Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, this new code will replace the previous sentence of 10 years in prison for gays.

Brunei has now come under fire from the United Nations. Rupert Colville of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that utilizing the death penalty for so many offenses “contravenes international law.”

He also said that “under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited.”

Here in Los Angeles, many are calling for a boycott of two hotels that are connected to Brunei.

The Dorchester Collection is a series of luxury hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, an arm of the Ministry of Finance of Brunei. In Los Angeles, these hotels include the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air. The same sultan who wants gays to be stoned to death owns these hotels, and it’s reasonable to assume that profits from the prestigious properties filter back into his country of origin.

Since February of 2013, a group called Dump the Beverly Hills Hotel has been advocating for a boycott based on the country’s 10-year prison sentence for gays, asking the following question: If you won’t eat at Chic-Fil-A, why would you dine, drink or sleep at the Beverly Hills Hotel?

Activist Cleve Jones posted to his Facebook a message alerting his friends and followers to the connection between the Dorchester Collection hotels and the Sultan of Brunei. Among those who chimed in, former Stephen F. Kolzak award-winner Bruce Vilanch posted:

The Dorchester, The Beverly Hills Hotel, Plaza Athénée, Hotel Meurice, Principe di Savoia, Hotel Bel-Air, Coworth Park, 45 Park Lane, Le Richemond and Hotel Eden.—all owned and opeated by the Dorchester collection, an arm of the government of brunei. lots of nice places to boycott starting now!”

Queer as Folk’s Michelle Clunie wrote, “Protest. Boycott. I am in and ready for anything. And I live about a mile away from the hotel.”