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Posts Tagged ‘United States’

‘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?)

Bruce Vilanch, Chris Hendricks, Roslyn Kind and More Slated for MY NEXT BREATH Fundraiser

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Broadway World
Bruce Vilanch, Chris Hendricks, Roslyn Kind and More Slated for MY NEXT BREATH Fundraiser
Mar. 6, 2017

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An evening of music and comedy will serve as a fundraising event for the filming and editing of the documentary project “My Next Breath” (mynextbreathfilm.com/about), hosted by Bruce Vilanch, with musical performances by Chris Hendricks, Roslyn Kind and Mary Wilson, on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at Catalina Jazz Club 6725 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028.

The evening features the comedy of Kathy Buckley and Geri Jewell. Under the musical director of Michael Orland with director/producer and David S. Zimmerman, the event will include special surprise guests.

Program: 8:00 pm show (6:00 pm doors / VIP Seating – 6:30 pm doors / General Seating). Tickets here.

My Next Breath is a documentary that takes a journey inside the world of an intensive acting class, and finds out how the artists are able to be thoroughly open enough to create from a true and sacred place inside. The documentary also shows the profound impact the workshop has had upon its participants years later and how it facilitated a powerful imprint among each of the members the group.

 


 

Academy Awards 25 Years Ago: Not So Different From Today

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

New York Times
Academy Awards 25 Years Ago: Not So Different From Today
By BRUCE FRETTS
FEB. 24, 2017

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From the moment the host Billy Crystal was wheeled onstage wearing a straitjacket and a face mask à la Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs,” viewers knew the 1992 Oscars were not going to be normal.

“It was a bit like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” Jodie Foster, the “Silence” star who won best actress that year, recalled in a telephone interview. “You were being catapulted from one surreal experience to the next.”

The circumstances surrounding the Academy Awards 25 years ago were not so different from the ceremony set for Sunday: Presidential politics served as the backdrop (in that case, Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown, whom Mr. Crystal jokingly compared to that year’s self-destructive cinematic rebels Thelma and Louise, were trying to unseat President George Bush). Major social issues played out at the podium (then it was homophobia and sexism), and black filmmakers were making inroads. But in 1992, four of the five best-picture nominees were among the year’s top 20 domestic box-office hits; this year, that’s true for only two of the nine contenders (“Hidden Figures” and “La La Land”).

“In those days, people still believed the recipe to make a popular film was to make a good film,” Ms. Foster said. “The way the economy has shaped the industry over the last 25 years, it’s ghettoized films into either big, dumbed-down mainstream movies that are trying to attract as many audience members as possible, and movies that are substantial and meaningful, which are relegated to a different sphere.”

I asked winners, nominees and one of the show’s writers about that year’s most memorable moments.

The Show Opener

A review in The New York Times described the 1992 ceremony as “uncharacteristically lively,” and that began with the first bit the writers devised for the host. “It’s a great entrance for Anthony Hopkins in the movie, so we knew it would work with Billy,” Bruce Vilanch, one of the telecast’s writers, said in a recent telephone interview. “It was kind of irresistible.”

One-Armed Push-Ups

Jack Palance doing one-armed push-ups at the Academy Awards in 1992. Credit Craig Fujii/Associated Press
The bizarre mood was struck early when best supporting actor went to Jack Palance, Mr. Crystal’s co-star in the western comedy “City Slickers.” Mr. Palance gave, as The Times put it, a “cheerfully unprintable acceptance speech.”

“It was an odd thing to say at the Academy Awards,” Mr. Vilanch said, recalling a specific line in the speech. “But that was Jack. He was a genuinely strange and scary guy.”

Then, in a display of his virility, the 73-year-old character actor dropped to the floor and did one-armed push-ups. Backstage in the writers’ room, “we looked at each other and said, ‘We have to go with this — it’s too funny.’” Thus began a run of on-the-fly jokes from Mr. Crystal (“I was just given a bulletin: Jack Palance is now on the StairMaster”) that stretched through the night.


A Family First

For supporting actress, Mercedes Ruehl won for “The Fisher King,” but it was one of her competitors, Diane Ladd, who made Oscar history. She was the first mother to be nominated along with her daughter (Laura Dern) for the same film, the Southern drama “Rambling Rose.” Ms. Dern and Ms. Ladd also presented the award for best visual effects to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

“When I was standing on that stage, and I looked out at my peers and then over at Laura, it was a great honor,” Ms. Ladd said. “I had to fight to keep from crying.”

A Surprise From Space

More emotional moments played out as George Lucas received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from his old friend Steven Spielberg and, in a bit of technical wizardry, the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, complete with a floating Oscar. Another satellite link allowed the acclaimed Indian director Satyajit Ray to accept his honorary Academy Award from his hospital bed in Calcutta; he died 24 days later at 70. “Gil Cates, who produced that show, loved technology,” Mr. Vilanch said. “He always had remotes.”

Gay-Rights Protesters

Many Oscar ceremonies come with some controversy, and the 1992 show had its share. Gay-rights advocates picketed over villainous characters in “Silence” as well as in “J.F.K.” (Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for best supporting actor for his turn as a gay man put on trial and acquitted for an alleged conspiracy to kill the president) and in the just-released “Basic Instinct,” which starred Sharon Stone, who was also a presenter. “It was a good discussion, but it was also very stressful,” Ms. Foster said.

The protesters could take solace in the fact that Howard Ashman — who had died a year earlier at 40 — became the first person lost to AIDS to win an Oscar: best original song for “Beauty and the Beast.” His longtime companion, Bill Lauch, accepted the award on his behalf.

A Toon Dispute

Disney’s wildly popular “Beauty and the Beast” stirred up discord when it became the first animated film nominated for best picture, which didn’t sit well with some Oscar purists. “They created the best animated feature category after that because they didn’t want more cartoons nominated for best picture,” said. Mr. Vilanch. (Only “Up” and “Toy Story 3” have managed the feat since.)


Streisand Slight

The night’s loudest contretemps surrounded Barbra Streisand, who was passed over for a best director nomination even though her drama “The Prince of Tides” snagged a best picture nomination. The group Women in Film cited sexism. “In some circles, they said I took her slot,” said John Singleton, who at 24 became the youngest and first African-American best director nominee, for his searing debut, “Boyz N The Hood.” “What people don’t know is that I’m a huge Barbra Streisand fan. She signed my application to get me into the Directors Guild.”

Mr. Crystal gracefully defused the situation with a satirical lyric during a musical number. Referring to “The Prince of Tides,” he crooned, “Seven nominations on the shelf, did this film direct itself?” The cameras quickly cut to Ms. Streisand, laughing appreciatively.

Rookie Mistake

Mr. Singleton lost best director to Jonathan Demme for “Silence,” but he had higher hopes of winning best original screenplay. Yet the award went to another first-timer, Callie Khouri, for the feminist road-trip saga “Thelma & Louise.”

“I was trying not to jinx myself, so I wrote an acceptance speech in pencil,” Ms. Khouri said. “By the time I opened it up, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, so I just winged it. I forgot to thank the producer, so that was fairly horrifying.” (For the record, Mimi Polk Gitlin produced the film.)

A ‘Silence’ Sweep

The biggest winner, of course, turned out to be “The Silence of the Lambs,” which became only the third film in history, after “It Happened One Night” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” to sweep the top five awards: best picture, director, actor, actress and adapted screenplay (by Ted Tally, based on Thomas Harris’s novel).

“Three years earlier, I had won best actress for ‘The Accused,’ and I was the only person nominated from the film, so I was by myself,” Ms. Foster said. “But for ‘Silence,’ it was really extraordinary — we kept winning, one after the other, and we all met backstage. I remember everybody was really hot and sweaty, and we all had our arms around one another.”

Postscript

That wasn’t the only happy ending. Five months later, Mr. Crystal, Mr. Vilanch and his fellow writers Hal Kanter, Buz Kohan, Robert Wuhl and David Steinberg took home Emmys. “We won for throwing out the script and rewriting it on the spot,” Mr. Vilanch said. “That’s Hollywood.”

Bruce Vilanch Spoke At The Black Cat LGBT Protests Feb 11, 2017

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Advocate
Bruce Vilanch Spoke At The Black Cat LGBT Protests Feb 11, 2017
BY ADVOCATE.COM EDITORS
FEBRUARY 11 2017 6:35 PM EST

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When a rally tonight in Los Angeles honors the Black Cat protest — which preceded Stonewall by two years — it will be a reminder to President Trump and his administration that protest works.

“You put a microphone in front of me, I’m going to talk about Trump,” said Mitch O’Farrell, the Los Angeles city councilman who is helping organize the rally, which begins at 8 p.m. outside the Black Cat Tavern.

O’Farrell says the Trump administration’s anti-equality agenda is backfiring. “Their authoritarian and anti-constitutional executive orders are galvanizing other historically oppressed communities into greater solidarity,” he said. Trump is giving Americans “an opportunity for us to be more enlightened and stand in stronger solidarity.”

The Black Cat protest in 1967 was itself a turning point triggered by authority. Undercover officers had gone on New Year’s Eve to the tavern in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles and waited until the clock struck midnight, when partygoers would kiss. It was illegal to kiss a person of the same sex. As partners embraced, the officers took out their badges and started violently making arrests.

The queer community was fed up with regular police brutality and took what was a highly unusual step: they organized a protest on February 11, 1967.

The founders of that protest would also create a group — Personal Rights in Defense and Education, or PRIDE — and that group created a newsletter called The Advocate. That newsletter became the magazine you’re reading now.

A lot has changed in 50 years. At tonight’s rally, for example, police are taking part in commemorating history. But LGBT Americans also have to contend with President Trump, whose policies are met repeatedly with protests. The Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration included millions of people across multiple cities all over the world. Protests broke out the next weekend at airports when Trump signed an executive order that implemented his Muslim ban at the border. Last weekend, a queer solidarity rally was held outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City after Trump threatened to sign a “religious freedom” order, which would make it optional for federal workers to recognize same-sex marriages so long as they cite a religion that says it’s immoral.

This weekend, as Los Angeles marks history, it will also be speaking directly to Trump and the likes of attorney general Jeff Sessions. Late Friday night, Sessions’ Justice Department filed a legal brief that effectively ends the Obama administration’s protections for transgender students. They had been guaranteed, for example, the right to use bathrooms and other facilities that match their gender identity.

O’Farrell says the Black Cat proves that protest works.

“It just underscores the power of the U.S. Constitution and how we always lean towards advancements,” he said. “One misguided president being in office can not and will not reverse all of that progress. Understandably, there is a lot of anxiety fear and chaos created by what he’s doing, but we will prevail over all of that and we have the Constitution, and we have our level of sophisticated activism. The LGBT community knows how to effect change and that is one of our great strengths.”

Other speakers scheduled to be at the Black Cat rally tonight include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the cast of Queer as Folk, actors Wilson Cruz, Guillermo Díaz and Darryl Stevens, plus comedians Alec Mapa and Bruce Vilanch, executive director of Equality California Rick Zbur, and editor in chief of The Advocate, Lucas Grindley.

New Vilanch musical plans a tuneful, funny flashback that’s relatable

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

New Haven Register
New Goodspeed musical plans a tuneful, funny flashback that’s relatable
By Joe Amarante
07/22/16, 12:25 PM EDT

4-27-2013 3-49-54 AM

CHESTER >> In the news: Rancorous politics, nuts with guns, hateful cults of death and a drug-overdose “epidemic.”

In the theaters and galleries, meanwhile? Maybe a chance to catch your breath.

“I think theater as an escape is completely wonderful,” said director Gabriel Barre the other day, before rehearsals for the new musical “A Sign of the Times.” “There’s nothing wrong with that and a lot of entertainment can and should provide an ability to transport an audience; let’s call it that instead of escape.”

But what Barre is really drawn to, he said in a phone interview, is a show that can do that as well as “make you look at your life in a different way.”

“For me, I want people to be transported and laugh and have a good time and be dazzled and be surprised, of course,” Barre said. “But I also want them to think a little bit and to be emotionally moved, as well.”

Barre is directing “A Sign of the Times” at The Terris Theatre in Chester — about a woman from the sticks who moves to New York City in the 1960s amid the era’s backdrop of women’s liberation, the civil rights movement and anti-war protests. The musical runs from July 29 to Sept. 4 at Goodspeed Musicals’ development theater on North Main Street.

The title is based on the Petula Clark song, and Barre said it’s relatable.

“It’s quite interesting to juxtapose this song, and the protests of the ’60s that are depicted in this show, with the protests that are happening today,” Barre said. “And what’s remarkable to realize is… the signs of the times in the ’60s are not that different — sadly perhaps, tragically perhaps — than the signs of these times.

Still, Barre & Co. are creating a musical from scratch here, which is always daunting.

“That’s sort of the fun of it for me,” said Barre, who’s done several new shows at Goodspeed’s Terris Theatre as well as established musicals elsewhere and at the main Goodspeed theater in East Haddam.

Barre likes the older musicals, but he enjoys the challenge of the development process, too — “making sure the shows are clear, not too long, not too short. I’m really looking at it as a dramaturge, as an advocate for the audience.”

This one involves taking older songs — many by British singer Clark — and weaving them into “a completely new and original story.”

That was one of the first challenges that writer Bruce Vilanch had to face on the project. You know Vilanch — the hefty, blonde-haired writer who was head writer for the Academy Awards for years, not to mention “Hollywood Squares,” where he also occupied a square near Whoopi Goldberg. He also played Edna Turnblad in “Hairspray” on Broadway and has written for Bette Midler and Diana Ross shows.

Richard Robin came up with the basic story idea and Vilanch took it from there, in later collaboration with Barre and the music staff led by Rick Fox and Joseph Church.

“I’m proud of the way we’ve woven these songs into the life of this young woman, Cindy, who’s from the Midwest and comes to New York to find her purpose in New York,” said Barre.

These types of shows — from tuneful “Bikinis” to the Queen tune-fest “We Will Rock You” — can be very thin in plot and real meaning. But this one is not just a jukebox musical, said Barre, although it does crank out the 1960s hits of Clark, Lesley Gore, Nancy Sinatra and others.

“We have six main characters who all have their own subplots and relationships. So we have a plot that’s very plausible… It’s more than a thin membrane that links the songs.”

Barre said the team is concentrating on the tone of the show. “We’re really investing in these characters and hope everyone else will, as well — taking the material seriously in the right places, but also having lots of fun here and there.”

Being a Terris show, the audience will help determine how that works and help the show find the right balance, Barre said.

Why Petula Clark music (“Downtown,” “I Know a Place”) as a focus? In the show’s notes, Vilanch says he always thought Clark’s songs sounded like they were from a musical.

“Like country songs, in a way, these songs have great character,” said Barre.

Barre said most of us know the tunes “but we sometimes dismiss the lyrics and just sing along. But in the context of a show, they actually (fit) quite well and come quite easily out of the mouths of characters that Bruce and Richard have drawn here.”

So much so that it sounds like a contemporary musical, Barre said.

And like watching the Abba musical “Mamma Mia!” the audience will have fun seeing “that engineering going on” and how the songs are justified.

There’s comedy with the music, of course.

Barre called Vilanch a “great, great person with a big heart… I’ve actually worked with him before on some benefits… I love watching him put together jokes and, of course, he’s been a laugh riot in rehearsals, which I expected. But what’s really surprising to me is his encyclopedic knowledge of … musical theater… He just knows every show that’s ever been done, who starred in it, when they left… But he knows a lot about the world (too).”

And there’s plenty of dance, said Barre, crafted by choreographer JoAnn Hunter and mainly performed by an ensemble of 10 dancers.

“The whole show was conceived by me and JoAnn and the team… as a constant flowing spectacle that never stops, in a way,” said Barre. “Even the transitions are all choreographed.”

If it works, the show indeed will transport viewers to not just another troubled time but a magical place.

“I think that (parallel) is one of the things that makes this show not just fluff or trivial or a jukebox musical that you can just go and escape… but that it’s a show that will actually remind people that Americans are still trying to find what it (America) is and who we are and what does it mean to be American.

“What does it mean to be patriotic? Does it mean you commit to the country as it is or can you be just as patriotic and be committed to changing it?”

Cindy (played by Ephie Aardema) goes from being an amateur photographer to a professional in the show, which gives the show license to use projections of images from the era, too. And evocative images are certainly a sign of both times, too, for bad or good.

Curtain times are Wednesday at 2 and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., July 29 at 8, July 30 at 3 and 8, and July 31 at 2 and 6:30. Tickets ($49 or less) are available a 860-873-8668 or online at goodspeed.org.

Bruce Vilanch Awarded WeHo’s Rainbow Key Award Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

WeHoVille
WeHo Rainbow Key Awards Ceremony
Tue, Jun 21, 2016 By Staff

4-27-2013-4-01-43-AM

WeHo’s annual Rainbow Key Awards ceremony will take place Wednesday at the City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica. There will be an informal reception at 6 p.m. to be followed by an awards program at 7 p.m. During the event, the names of the 49 victims who were killed in the recent Orlando mass shooting will be called out.

The first two recipients of the Rainbow Key Award, in 1993 — AIDS activist, comedian, writer and actor Bruce Vilanch, and AIDS activist and actress Carole Cook — will attend.

Nominations for Rainbow Key Awards are received by the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, which makes recommendations to the West Hollywood City Council. The council selects award recipients. This year’s Rainbow Key Awards honorees are:

— Jay M. Kohorn, civil rights attorney.

— Mark Lehman, lawyer and board chair of the National AIDS Monument Foundation.

— Carol Taylor-DiPietro, one of the creators of the first Gay Nights at Disneyland.

Ruth Williams, former director of advocacy for the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles, longtime community volunteer.

— The West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, which provides housing for people with limited income, including those with HIV/AIDS who have special needs.

Past honorees have included activists, artists, civic leaders, educators and community organizations. Contributions, whether by an individual or a group, may be in many forms, including the arts, community action, humanitarian action, sports, medicine, armed services, leadership potential, benefit to the global gay and lesbian community or in other ways. More than 125 Rainbow Key Awards have been presented during the past 23 years.